Pambazuka News 500: Celebrating 500 issues for freedom and justice
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Books & arts, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Highlights French edition, 9. Cartoons, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Social movements, 15. Emerging powers news, 16. Elections & governance, 17. Corruption, 18. Development, 19. Health & HIV/AIDS, 20. Education, 21. LGBTI, 22. Racism & xenophobia, 23. Environment, 24. Land & land rights, 25. Food Justice, 26. Media & freedom of expression, 27. News from the diaspora, 28. Conflict & emergencies, 29. Internet & technology, 30. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 31. Fundraising & useful resources, 32. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 33. Publications, 34. World Cup 2010
Highlights from this issue
- ZIMBABWE UPDATE: ‘Government keeps coming up with defective constitutions’
- WOMEN & GENDER: Examining the impact of women beyond the numbers
- HUMAN RIGHTS: The rationality of revolt
- REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Stop sending refugees back to Mogadishu, UN tells rich countries
- SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Cape Town protest tactics sparks scrap between social movements
- EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging powers to challenge elite security council
- ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Second elections coming up in Liberia, Talks on Sudan’s Abyei break down
- CORRUPTION: British banks complicit in Nigerian corruption, says Global Witness
- DEVELOPMENT: A review of economic diversification in five countries
- HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Money for African health R&D fund slow to arrive
- LGBTI: Kenyan minister refuses to back down on LGBTI support
- RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: Russia elects first African councilman
- ENVIRONMENT: $100 billion needed so climate change doesn’t scupper MDGs
- LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: UAE has over 2,800 square kilometers of Sudan land
- MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: African women continue to be left out of media
PLUS: Jobs, Fundraising & useful resources and publications
*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
Pambazuka News: 500 issues for freedom and justice
Today we publish the 500th issue of the English language edition of Pambazuka News and in a few months, we celebrate our 10th anniversary. It is hard to believe that what started out as a casual initiative to enable activists and human rights organisations in Africa to keep up to date and in touch with each other via email should have evolved to what it is today.
So what has Pambazuka News become today? This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, for it is many things to many people. Despite its name, it is not a news service: yes, there is news to be found, and yes we try to summarise what we believe to be the most important developments across the continent in our Links and Resources section of the e-newsletter. But it’s more than that. The articles we publish are not (with very few exceptions) generated by journalists, but by a large (and growing) community of over 2,500 writers, academics, bloggers, activists, organisations and movements. In that sense, Pambazuka News is probably the most well established, yet completely unacknowledged, example of citizen journalism - and the newsletter came into being well before that jargon passed into common usage. Yet it is more than just a site for citizen journalism.
Pambazuka News was developed to nurture and support the development of a progressive pan-African movement that is committed to ensuring that the people of the continent can and will determine their own destinies. It was developed to enable people to ‘organise to emancipate themselves from all forms of oppression, recognise their social responsibilities, respect each other’s differences, and realise their full potential.’ 
What we have sought to do is to provide a platform, a space, for critical analysis from a pan-African and emancipatory perspective, that informs and arms those engaged in the struggles for social transformation and that enables them to have their voices heard above the cacophony of the outputs of corporate media. We have actively sought to enable connections of solidarity to be made across the continent and the African diaspora. We have sought to demystify ‘development’ by exposing the pillage and exploitation of Africa’s people and natural resources by the corporations, aid agencies, by the so-called ‘emerging powers’, and by our local elites. We have enabled numerous social movements and campaigning organisations to use Pambazuka News to advocate for progressive social policies. We have provided safe spaces where subjects such as sexuality and LBGTI issues can be discussed without fear. And we have encouraged debate and discussions on the critical issues of the day. In doing so, we have published perspectives that counter the superficial, patronising and often racist caricature about Africa that is so prevalent in international media, that counter the begging-bowl mentality of development NGOs and the aid industry who present Africans as passive objects of pity awaiting their patronage. But above all, Pambazuka News portrays the people of Africa as agents of change, people who, despite all the impediments, write their own histories in their every day struggles.
But if our goal has been to nurture a pan-African movement, we recognise that even within the movement there will be diverse perspectives that need to be aired and discussed. We have not shied away from airing the differences over subjects such as Mugabe’s land reform programme in Zimbabwe, on Darfur, and on Rwanda. Open, and non-sectarian discussion of differing perspectives is a precondition for clarity and, paradoxically, for building unity.
One of the guiding principles of Pambazuka News has always been that we have no competitors: where others develop newsletters, create new websites or take initiatives that are similar to ours, we celebrate and seek to give them publicity in the pages of Pambazuka News.
Our readership is relatively modest. We have about 26,000 subscribers, and some 600,000 unique visitors to the website over the last year. This readership has been built principally by word of mouth. We don’t know the actual size of the readership: articles from Pambazuka News are regularly published at AllAfrica.com, and on numerous other sites. Our reader surveys indicate that on average each subscriber forwards the newsletter to five other people.
The degree to which this community of readers and the 2,500 contributing authors have been able to interact with each other has hitherto been limited to writing articles, sending letters to the editor, or commenting on articles online. This is something that we are seeking to address. In the coming months we will be launching a new website that will enable greater interactions, space for members to post information about themselves, upload articles, initiate debates, organise campaigns, and participate in online forums to which leading intellectuals and activists will be invited to facilitate. A preview of what the new home page will look like is shown below.
Five years ago, we used to publish three or four original articles each week. Today, we receive so many submissions of thoughtful material that we have little choice but to publish between 20 and 30 articles a week. We know from many of you that the volume - and indeed length - of these articles is too great. Even we have problems reading and editing it all. If we had the resources, we would certainly want to provide shorter versions of many of the articles.
Are we just victims of our own success? In part, yes. Given the popularity of Pambazuka News, there are growing numbers of people who would like to be published with us. But I believe this increase in the volume of contributions is also a reflection of something much larger than Pambazuka News: over the 10 years of our existence, we have become increasingly aware that we are living in a new era of the rise of protest, the resurgence of activism, the re-emergence of social movements that refuse to be bowed, a clamouring for another world. There is, we believe, a growing loss of credibility in the empty mantras of many of our nationalist ‘leaders’ who have sold so many of the hard-earned fruits of independence, who have overseen the privatisation of public services, of land, of natural resources, created landlessness, unemployment (and even never-employment) and in the process accumulated vast amounts of personal wealth. The concept of ‘development’ has been emptied of any real meaning beyond being a process of accumulation by dispossession. There is a mood of discontent, of a search for alternatives to the ideology of looting and personal enrichment. It is that mood that is being reflected, we believe, in the content of the articles that are published in Pambazuka News.
In the coming period, as the world capitalist economy continues to spiral into crisis, as the drive to maximise profits prevents any reasonable measure to halt and reverse climate change, and as competition for access to natural resources escalates, Africa faces the threat of losing ever more of its control over its own destiny. An effective movement for justice and freedom is needed today as in no other time in history. If Pambazuka News can contribute towards building such a movement, then we will indeed have lived lives worth living.
 Mission statement of Fahamu – Networks for Social Justice http://www.fahamu.org
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Firoze Manji is editor in chief of Pambazuka News.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Championing the transformation of African society
A future full of opportunities
‘Through the voices of Africa and the global South, Pambazuka Press and Pambazuka News disseminate analysis and debate on the struggle for freedom and justice.’
As Pambazuka News reaches the point of its 500th issue, it offers an opportunity to assess its relationship to the global Pan-African movement and the tasks for the next 500 issues. From the masthead of Pambazuka, we are reminded that Pambazuka is a community of over 2,500 authors in networks committed to the struggles for freedom and justice. These struggles have been sharpened in this period with the burning questions of the unity of the peoples of Africa at home and abroad. Unity is indispensable in order for the peoples of Africa to live in peace, improve their quality of life, restore the natural environment, repair the human spirit and the earth. If these tasks seem momentous, they are so because the peoples of Africa at home and abroad are caught at the bottom of an international political, economic, information and technological system, that places profits before humans. It is this social system that threatens billions of peoples and the African peoples are threatened in ways that were inconceivable in the past.
All of the rising economic forces in the world (Turkey, India, Brazil, China, Vietnam, Korea and Malaysia) see Africa as the place for the new forms of accumulation of wealth, while the present intermediaries in Africa abet the plunder and destruction of human life and the environment. These intermediaries have dominated the African Union and registered themselves as obstacles for liberation and emancipation. New leaders from the struggles for health, environmental justice and peace are emerging, as the Pan-Africanists of yesterday become the obstacles for the integration and unity of the peoples. From Cape Town to Cairo and from Freetown to Addis Ababa, leaders who once used language of liberation have exposed their complicity in the restructuring of African societies for greater penetration. Robert Mugabe is the poster child of this outmoded brand of Pan-African manipulation.
In this statement on the challenges of Pan-Africanism today, we want to highlight five questions: First, how do we reverse the process of the dehumanisation of Africans at home and in the Diaspora? Second, how do we bring about complete transformation of the African continent so that the people can have a better quality of life? Third, what kind of social movements currently linked to Fahamu Networks for Social Justice can be vehicles for enhancing the struggles for better quality of life? Fourth, how would African societies and economies be transformed so that there is the re-education of Africans and the re-humanisation of the African people? Fifth, how do we support the women from the grassroots and grassroots community leaders who are rising for the cultural liberation to become the forerunners for the emancipation process?
As I write this week, the world continues to be transfixed by the news of the spectacular rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for more than two months. The San Jose mine – which produced copper and gold – collapsed on 5 August, leaving 33 men unaccounted for. After 17 days of drilling, rescuers made contact with these miners deep under the earth. The fact that the men were alive captivated the world and there ensued an international effort to save the lives of these men. What the international corporate media failed to illuminate in the general jubilation associated with the rescue was the fact that the basic cause of the accident was the greed for profits of the San Esteban Mining Company, which has a long record of total disregard of elementary safety norms. We now know from the workers themselves that in the past they had repeatedly denounced the lack of ‘minimal’ safety measures in the mine, which had been closed in 2007 after the death of two miners. This same mine reopened in 2008, even though the company had not complied with all safety standards. IPS reported that there were more than 191,000 workplace accidents “in Chile in 2009, including 443 deaths, and 155 deaths in the first quarter of this year alone.”
The race to save the miners has thrust working men and women into a spotlight and reminded the world about mining conditions all over the world. There were many lessons for the Global Pan-African movement. These lessons reminded the world of the value of human life and the importance of safety conditions in mines and other places of work. In Africa, the international spotlight is particularly important in light of the long history of appalling mining conditions of mine workers under apartheid.
The perseverance of the workers has transfixed the globe with millions of working peoples all across the world celebrating this story of human struggle and the complex operation to rescue them. Just as how the media mobilised the rescue as Reality Television without the real educational lessons, so Hollywood from time to time focused on the conditions of diamond mining in Africa as they did in the film ‘Blood Diamond’. Media sensationalism, without a fundamental commitment to pushing for health and safety of workers abounds in the mainstream media, and it is in the world of the social networking community to which Pambazuka belongs where there is an insurgent movement to link the struggles of workers in Chile to workers in Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela – in short the unification of the working peoples movement all over Latin America. The workers in Chile and the workers all over Latin America have reminded us that it is only prolonged and protracted struggles that can change the conditions of work that disregard the importance of human beings.
It was not by accident that the Mine Workers Union in South Africa form one of the strongest bases for the global Pan-African Movement. This internationally coordinated rescue of the Chilean miners assist those who want to draw attention to the current conditions of child labour in diamond, gold and coltan mines all across Africa; from Zimbabwe to Sierra Leone and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Central African Republic. It is important to remember that the conditions of mineworkers in Africa continue to resemble conditions of semi-slavery because many of the African governments fail to enforce labour laws on safety and health in mines.
The global Pan-African movement from the period of enslavement has been at the forefront of exposing the consequences of brutality, inadequate workplace safety standards and dehumanisation of ordinary working persons. During the last depression (in 1931), George Padmore wrote on the ‘Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers’ as he campaigned for the independence of Africa, the unity of the African peoples and global solidarity. Today, in the midst of the deepening depression with threats of currency and trade wars, we must be explicit in restating the reality that the way of doing business in Africa from the time of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the present has been a model that denied the humanity of Africans. The Chilean workers have now used this incident to bring the spotlight on the mining conditions in Chile. Pambazuka and this writer are using this 500th issue to dramatise the reality that all over Africa, that the conditions of working people today resemble the conditions of enslavement.
During the actual period of enslavement, the slave masters and their supporters attempted to crush the spirit of Africans. Enslavement sought to break the ability of Africans to see themselves as humans. The slave masters went so far as to conceive of an illness called Drapetomania, which according to them, came from Africans who wanted to resist slavery. The only cure for this disease was to whip the Africans.
Capitalism and slavery laid the foundation for the dehumanisation of Africans, and Africans cannot be healthy under capitalism. During the transatlantic slave trade and the processes of enslaving the Africans, the goal of the slave masters was to try strip the Africans of the characteristics that made them human. Some of these include speech, free thought, freedom to worship the African gods and goddesses and the freedom to build families. Racism and racial hierarchy reinforced the dehumanisation and the dehumanisation was enshrined in the law in the USA to the point where, according to the US constitution, Africans were three fifths of a human.
This dehumanisation did not cease after the fights against slavery. In order to justify the exploitation of Africans in the USA, the Caribbean and Africa eugenic theories were created and rationalised with religious and pseudo scientific justifications for the dehumanisation of Africans. Jim Crow in the USA was reproduced with colonial plunder and destruction producing western heroes such as Leopold of the Congo and Cecil Rhodes of Britain. Europeans rationalised their dehumanisation of the Africans under the rubric of doing ‘God’s work’. Racism and the dehumanisation of the African flourished under colonialism and apartheid and one of the fundamental tasks of Pan-Africanism was to elaborate the dignity of African peoples as humans. This task was undertaken under the leadership of the oppressed but the fifty years of independence has not significantly reversed this dehumanisation.
Whether it is the statistics from the millions dying of HIV/AIDS or the millions dying of hunger or the millions living in an unhealthy urban environment, Africans are treated like robots, mechanical objects to assist other people to get wealthy. The majority of the educated Africans who called themselves ‘evolved’, ‘civilised’, or ‘assimilated’ are the vectors of alienation and intellectual subservience to imperial forces. This alienation robs them of their ability to grasp the full impact of their complicity in the dehumanisation of Africans. It is for this reason that they have no qualms dining with leaders who carry out genocide, human trafficking, and the violation of women. Pambazuka News in the past 500 issues emerged within a community of Pan-Africanists who wanted to sharpen the tools of information and communication to link up with those forces who want to break from the leaders who sat by and watched genocide unfold. Pambazuka has also been a platform to expose the neo-liberal falsehoods that manipulate the truth about the deepening impoverishment of Africans. Readers of the most recent issue of Pambazuka will have read the clear exposure of the double speak of the so-called Millennium Development Goals by Samir Amin. In this analysis Amin argues that a system of the type that we have now has no future and that by 2015:
‘neither the MDGs nor NEPAD will make it possible to attenuate the seriousness of the problems and curb the resulting processes of political and social involution. The legitimacy of governments has disappeared. Thus conditions are ripe for the emergence of other social hegemonies that make possible a revival of development conceived as it should be: the indissociable combination of social progress, democratic advancement, and the affirmation of national independence within a negotiated multipolar globalization. The possibility of these new social hegemonies is already visible on the horizon.’
It is the multi-polar globalisation to which contemporary Pan-Africanism belongs and Pambazuka and its network of networks has been one important part of the affirmation of the unity of the peoples of Africa.
THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF AFRICAN PEOPLE
It was precisely because of the glaring condition of the dehumanisation as manifest in all the statistics from the United Nations that the international community continues to come up with gimmicks to divert attention from the miseries of exploitation. At first there was the ‘development decades’ but with the people getting poorer after each decade, the imperial overlords came up with the so-called Millennium Development Goals. Pambazuka has published numerous critiques of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and has successfully delegitimised these institutions before the African public opinion. It must be repeated and restated that prosperity and peace for Africans are not realisable within the context of the present socio-economic system. This is not the place to repeat the statistics about health, education, housing, access to water, and the rights of women and girls. Without a change in the international system and a break from the dominant economic forces, Africa will be dominated and exploited well into the 22nd century. For this reason, the Pan-African movement must break with the ideas and practices of international capitalism and a social system that is threatening to incinerate Africa. Global warming, forest fires, droughts, and all of the indices of dangers to the earth are evident in Africa. For these reasons, Pan-Africanism of today involves the global struggle to preserve the earth.
The Pan-African struggle today is first and foremost to transform African society so that people have a better quality of life. What Africa needs is not structural adjustment or poverty reforms or development strategies but a complete overthrow of the system; and in the words of Frantz Fanon, change from top to bottom.
Pambazuka has been championing the rights of workers, trade unions, domestic workers, women, youths, people of same sex orientation, disabled people, and people persecuted by xenophobia. It is not by accident that xenophobia and negative ideas about ethnicity, religion, and regionalism have been the tools to entrap the people in supporting their own oppression. The supreme example of this has been in the struggle for liberation in South Africa, where the workers are instigated to turn against their brothers and sisters from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Somalia, Nigeria, Mozambique and other parts of Africa. The South African government that could deliver stadiums, roads, rail networks and security for the World Cup finds itself unable to deliver water, electricity, education, housing, healthcare, and sanitation for its people. For good measure, the international media is coming to support the rulers of South Africa by claiming that the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) and workers are demanding too much. This same media cannot point the searchlight on the various forms of theft and plunder.
In the next 500 issues of Pambazuka, the strengthening of popular power in Africa will educate the people to fight for their rights so that these gimmicks about ‘progress’ and development reports do not hide the crimes against the African people. If in South Africa xenophobia has been the weapon of choice, in Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Egypt, and Somalia, militarism has been the clearest way for the African (mis)leaders to hold back unity and transformation for many years. These misleaders and their international sponsors understand the full potential of a united Africa at peace. And this is why at the moment the fires of war are stoked in the Sudan, the Congo, Nigeria, and Somalia.
SOCIAL MOVEMENT FOR TRANSFORMATION
When in 1999 African women issued the Zanzibar Declaration for a Culture of Peace, it was a signal that the grassroots Pan-African women were taking the lead in the struggle for the peaceful transformation of Africa. It is not by accident that Pambazuka came out of the same intellectual and ideological infrastructure that produced the Zanzibar declaration. Pambazuka News in the past 500 issues has steadfastly linked itself with forces in Africa struggling for peace, women’s rights and African Unity. Women such as Muthoni Wanyeki have emerged from national struggles in societies such as Kenya to register their voice as central to international struggles for the rights of women. Pambazuka News and its publishing arm Pambazuka Press (Fahamu Books) has been at the forefront of promoting the African Charter on Women’s Rights. And this link with networks of organised groups across the Pan-African world is reaching not just activists in the women’s movement but cultural forces that want to breathe a new life into Africa for the elaboration of our humanity.
When the people at the grassroots fully embrace the new life for Africa, it reverberates more in the songs on the streets, the market places, in the villages and in sites of cultural activities. This is one of the most significant forces that can never be held back by African misleaders who masquerade as leaders. The elementary requirement for the strengthening of these social movements are already on the ground, whether in the Bunge la Wananchi in Kenya, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa, Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace (SWVP), or Enough is Enough in Nigeria, and the anti-colonial forces in the Western Sahara. In fact, it is the spirit of anti-colonial forces in the Western Sahara, Palestine, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico,Cayenne, Mayotte, Reunion and other parts of the outstanding colonial world that reminds Pan-Africanists that colonialism is still with us and that there can neither be African unity nor a better quality of life for all the people as long as colonialism and imperial domination and occupation continue.
Pambazuka now belongs to the world of Ushahidi, the world that is sharing information on how to rescue the people in moments of extreme challenges. This is a world that knows no borders and no racial differences. In this Pambazuka carries forward the internationalism of the Pan African traditions.
RE-EDUCATION AND RE-HUMANISATION
There are many ways the Pan African challenges of today calls for a new witness and a new testimony for transformation. In short, the community to which Pambazuka belongs is one that emerged from human rights struggles but is now firmly within the camp of those working for the complete dismantling of the current structure of education so that we can move from education for submission and exploitation to a path of Pan-African education for reconstruction and transformation.
The same colonial and slave masters who dehumanised African peoples understood that dehumanisation require an ideological component to supplement naked force. Hence, the dominant form of education in Africa today remains a weapon for the oppression of the African people both on the continent and in the diaspora. It is now clearer that a large percentage of the education in Africa was to produce easily manipulated and unhealthy human beings. More than 50 years ago, Frantz Fanon wrote on the question of the link between unhealthy minds and the destructive education system. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o has been writing on the need for the ‘Decolonization of the Mind’. Popular Pan-Africanists such as Bob Marley called for the ‘emancipation from mental slavery.’ Progressive Pan-Africanists such as Julius Nyerere, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Kwame Nkrumah, and Amilcar Cabral have all articulated the importance of education for self-reliance and the moral education that inspires a heritage of sharing and generosity. It is not by chance that Pambazuka was represented in Tanzania at the Nyerere festival in April this year, where different progressive forces came together to chart a way for strengthening a new process of education. It is this qualitative transformation of African education that is now being reflected upon by new organs across Africa and beyond, whether it is the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) or the African language scholars who are working for African cultural renaissance in the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN). Pambazuka is integrated into the current struggle for humanisation of all people.
It is becoming clearer everyday that a scientific training that is integrated with African philosophical and knowledge ideas, including ubuntu, must be anchored in African languages. One of the major tasks in the next 500 issues of Pambazuka is to stimulate and mobilise progressive forces to harness material resources for the strengthening of African languages. The billions that are being stolen must be exposed with a view towards strengthening of those institutions within Africa that are dedicated to re-education and re-humanisation. It was Amilcar Cabral who reminded us that that African knowledge and cultures are like seeds waiting for the right conditions for germination. We can see the buds beginning to sprout across Africa, and everyday we see that many of the present rulers of Africa cannot provide the conditions for decent education in Africa. If education is the transmission of values within the society to the next generation, we know that the current values of greed, individualism, corruption, and competition are not the values that can restore the health and humanity of the African people.
The most recent issue of Pambazuka News pointed to the fact that Africa’s education must prepare Africans to be active in sites of technological revolutions that are on the way. Martin Luther King Jr reminded us that the worst thing to do is to sleep through a revolution. Pambazuka reminded its readers of the biotech revolution. Africa remains the continent that is richest in genetic resources. Foreign bio-anthropologists and bio-prospectors are scurrying around African villages to identify African plants and other biological resources over which they seek to deny access by indigenous Africans through the intellectual property rights of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The challenges of African education system on this front are twofold. First, it has to train Africans in the most positive aspects of the African knowledge system to conserve and prudently harness Africa’s biological resources for the improvement of the quality of life of the people. Second, in the emerging era of cognitive technology where Western scientists are seeking to further commodify life and control the human brain and genes for profits, Africa must educate and train the new generation in the principles of ubuntu and Africa’s ontological worldview of life and humanity to stand up for our collective humanity.
WOMEN AND GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP
We are reminded in the Pan-African struggles of numerous examples of those who espoused Pan-African ideas and yet exploited their brothers and sisters, whether in the USA, the Caribbean, South America, or Africa. We have examples of Pan-Africanists who are involved in the Africanisation of oppression, and wanted to reproduce hierarchies. In the decolonisation era, the class hierarchy was the most blatant in militarisation of the state and the society. Mobutism elaborated a form of rule that reproduced hierarchies and Pambazuka was born in the period of the struggles against Mobutism. We see these class hierarchies today when (mis)leaders like Robert Mugabe and Yoweri Museveni say that African unity requires a strong middle class. This class has simply been the instrument for plunder of Africa. In Liberia, former slaves went back and considered themselves better than other Africans while speaking of African independence and unity. Today in the Sudan and many parts of Africa, the hierarchy is expressed in class, religion and gender terms. Pambazuka will have to refine its tools to deal with the coming onslaught of those who want wars between ‘Arabs’ and Africans in Africa. Progressive Pan-Africanists oppose all forms of hierarchies and oppression. It is this intersection of the hierarchies that place the poor African women at the top of the ladder of oppression and dehumanisation.
So, the poor African women are in a multifaceted struggle for gender rights, sexual rights, human rights, for peace and for health. They are however at the forefront of grassroots forces creating a new definition of Pan-Africanism, emancipation, and liberation in the 21st century. These grassroots women daily tap into spiritual energies for renewal, and can be distinguished from the religions of division and the religions of greed and ostentation.
The real meaning of African emancipation is that we cannot liberate one section of the population and oppress another. Whether in Somalia where there are those who consider the Somali ‘bantu’ inferior or in other countries where social divisions are accentuated for easy rule, the Pan-African movement in the 21st century must dig deep to oppose all forms of oppression. The African women’s movements have been sharpening the redefinition of Pan-Africanism by breaking from the old male-centered ideas of Pan-African Unity. It is not by accident that their voices have been echoed in the past 500 issues of Pambazuka News and Fahamu Books.
LOOKING AHEAD TO A FUTURE FULL OF OPPORTUNITIES
Pambazuka News has been consistently winning awards as one of top websites changing the World of Internet and Politics.' I would like to extend my congratulations to the Pambazuka community as they celebrate this 500th issue. This organ has provided an impressive record of service and Pan-Africanists were brought face to face with the on-time capabilities of Pambazuka when the leadership jumped in to coordinate the celebration for Tajudeen Abdul Raheem when he joined the ancestors. It was in the outpouring of solidarity for Tajudeen and his family when the world was awakened to the depth and breadth of the new viral Pan-African movement that operates both within cyberspace and within spaces of real day to day struggles all across the globe. Open source ideas carry with it the creativity and energy of numerous constituencies who yearn for peace. For these reasons, Pambazuka has been uncompromising in its opposition to the plans of the United States for the establishment of the military command called AFRICOM.
Pambazuka must continue to break from the NGO orbit and continue to champion transformation of African societies. For Pambazuka to grow it must continue the struggle for the full electrification and unity of every nook and cranny of Africa. Youths all across Africa want health, housing, education and a good quality of life. These youths do not want to be manipulated on the basis of religion, regionalism, race and ethnicity. By its tradition, Pambazuka has lifted the quality of the practice of Pan-Africanism in the 21st century. If Pambazuka has been a catalyst in a community of activists, it is also true that the full potential is yet to be realised. When this potential starts to move from the budding stage to fully germinate, Africa and Africans will again register giant steps.
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* Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. His latest book is 'Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA', published by Pluto Press.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
What Pambazuka News means to the Pan-Africanist in me
It has been five years since I was introduced to Pambazuka News. Back then it was just one of those newsletters your boss tells you to read and brief him about. Things have changed.
Every Friday morning I wake up looking forward to reading the electronic newsletter. It is as if Pambazuka - which means ‘awaken’ in Kiswahili - is the one that wakes me up. In a way it does.
Since I started following it out of volition I have been awakened to the fact that there is more to the ‘pan-African world’ than meets the eye. It is a very complex mosaic of people of all shades and ideas.
As such, Pambazuka News is not a melting pot of ideas. Rather, it is a potpourri of praxis. In other words, what unites its readers and writers is not a singular idea of what Pan-Africanism is. Rather, it is how we can translate our contested ideas to liberate Africa and Africans.
Note, for instance, the clash of ideas between two seasoned Pan-Africanists that was sparked by the 400th Issue of Pambazuka News. In the 403rd Issue, Kwesi Kwa Prah questions Issa Shivji’s assertion that the ‘new pan-Africanism is rooted in social (popular) democracy’. If by this we mean ‘democratic socialism’ as defined by left and centre-left political positions, Prah queries, then it has adherents throughout the world. But, to him, this ‘is certainly not pan-Africanism’.
Prah then comes up with this counterpoint which indicates that the ideological battles on what is Pan-Africanism and who is a Pan-Africanist will rage on in Pambazuka News and elsewhere: ‘Some pan-Africanists are doubtlessly social democrats, but not all social democrats are pan-Africanists. Some pan-Africanists are right-wing conservatives while others are to the left of social democracy, indeed many have been, or are, Marxists (including Nkrumah in his final years). Indeed, pan-Africanists can be found within the whole spectrum of political colouring.’
It is this fact, that Pan-Africanism remains an ideological contest, which informs my current engagements in Pambazuka News. Sometimes it appears as an exercise in banality. However, it is an honest attempt to engage its whole spectrum of political colouring so as to come up with a workable Pan-African praxis. That is, to translate the idea into an action that is truly pro-Africa.
But how can you translate an idea into action when what you actually have is ideas? Do you then translate these ideas into actions? But how is that possible if such praxes are mutually exclusive?
For instance, when it comes to Sudan, how can one possibly translate the idea of another seasoned Pan-Africanist, Mahmood Mamdani, in tandem with that of Prah? Pambazuka News has been a battleground between what they theorise - and thus call for practice - on Darfur. Let’s relive it.
In the 425th issue of Pambazuka News Mamdani invokes Pan-Africanism as he call for the use of ‘the lessons Africans have learned in the struggle for peace and justice over the past several decades. He asserts that contrary ‘to what many think, this lesson is not that there needs to be a trade-off between peace and justice’. Rather, the ‘real trade-off is between different forms of justice’. He insists this ‘became evident with the settlement to end apartheid’ which ‘was possible because the political leadership of the anti-apartheid struggle prioritised political justice over criminal justice’. That lesson, he affirms, ‘has guided African practice in other difficult situations’.
But Mamdani’s call culminated in this suggestion – which Prah predicted, in the 430th issue, that many would swallow even though it left a bad taste in the mouth - in relation to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictment of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir: ‘The rationale was simple: where there was no victor, one would need the cooperation of the very leaders who would otherwise be charged with war crimes to end the fighting and initiate political reforms. The essence of Kempton Park [South Africa - SA] can be summed up in a single phrase: forgive but do not forget. Forgive all past crimes - in plain words, immunity from prosecution - provided both sides agree to change the rules to assure political justice for the living [in SA].’
To Prah, here Mamdani is pleading on behalf of al-Bashir and thus once again involved in what he dubbed ‘The Politics of Apologetics: Genocide Denial, Darfur Version’ in the 305th issue. In Prah’s invocation of Pan-Africanism, the problem is the foul ‘Arabisation of Africa’ in which al-Bashir is one, if not the prime, culprit. As such for him ‘a’ solution is an ICC ‘Judgment Day’.
Mamdani’s Darfur, as Prah calls it, is thus very different from Prah’s. So are their respective understanding of Sudan and Africa. In fact, in the 305th issue, Prah thus asserts: ‘Mamdani’s understanding of the so-called inclusive definition of an African makes Africanness very cheap. I say, “if everybody is an African, then nobody is an African”.’ Surely their Pan-Africanism must also be very different.
So, how does one explain these competing praxes which both claim Pan-Africanism? How does one make sense of them when they are coming from those who had or used to share more or less the same spectrum of intellectual-cum-ideological colouring? Is it because one of them has undergone a ‘methodological drift towards postmodernism’ in the other’s own ‘estimation’?
It is these kinds of contestations that make Pambazuka News such an important platform for making sense of what Africa is and ought to be for the sake of Africa. It is a space that helps me reflect on my roles and dilemmas of a Pan-Africanist in this age of ‘Out of One, Many Africas.’
© Chambi Chachage
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* 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 Pambazuka News.
Recovering our memory
In an era where Africa is often portrayed as a ‘basket case’ there are bright spots that doggedly show that this is no season for despair. While some work for the fragmentation of African states and others forecast the collapse of existing ones, we can boast of collectives working patiently to build a pan-African consciousness with the full knowledge that our desired future is in our unity; our strength is in our diversity and the path to tomorrow must be built across the bridge of solidarity.
Publishing 500 editions of Pambazuka News over a time span of 10 years is no mean feat. Marking this achievement in a period when many African countries are marking 50 years of independence is also very significant. In a season when conforming to externally generated neo-liberal moulds appears to be the norm, Pambazuka News strikes a different note, showing that true independence is expressed through the liberty to critically think and analyse for oneself in ones own context.
Through the years, Pambazuka News has provided space for challenging and very thought provoking articles and papers. It has been a unique space for students and policy makers who care to see global events placed in the context of their fundamental and systemic bases. It is this bent to dig beneath the surface and to provoke readers to action that has placed Pambazuka News well ahead of many other publications.
As an environmental justice activist, I have found the medium an indispensable help in my quest to fathom the forces behind the scenes that continually plunder the natural resources of Africa while degrading her environment and debasing her peoples.
Being concerned about bringing up a new generation of activists, I have found Pambazuka News an excellent tool. In a season when people prefer a quick dash to freedom, it is a gift to find a medium that recognises that the path to freedom does indeed often require a long walk. In a time when people thrive on sound bites, getting the youth to read materials that inspire them to productive actions does not come easy. For those of us who fed on the words of thinkers such as Franz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Amilcar Cabral, Cheik Anta Diop and Chinweizu, it has become hard to find young folks who can identify with those critical writers who questioned the flag of independence that is being celebrated today while millions go to bed hungry and diseased. Pambazuka News also serves as a trusted space for the introduction of new voices in our collective search for a truly independent Africa.
Whenever I make the statement that Africa is the centre of the world I am always met with laughter as though I just threw a joke. The truth is that our continent is truly the centre of the world. It is almost entirely surrounded by water and but for the deserts is easy to traverse from North to South and from East to West. The extensive coastline presents the continent with a great advantage of ease of communication. Her enormous resources ensure that she can more than meet the needs of her inhabitants. The list can go on.
Unfortunately, the distinct advantages have somehow turned out to be the route for her being ravished and despoiled. Rather than providing opportunities for defence against attackers, the coastline of Africa has provided the launching platforms for invaders from outside her shores over the years. Her array of natural resources has spelt more troubles than blessings for the continent.
This did not have to be so. One of the major weaknesses of the continent is the fragmentation set in place by the infamous scramble for Africa at the Berlin hunting party of 1884. The continent was not only physically partitioned among colonising forces and merchants, she had her cultural and socio-economic life severely altered. Without true African unity the continent remains fragmented and prone to exploitation and continual erosion of any strength with which she could liberate herself. Fragmented small states are prone to being dominated by bigger states. The saying a people united cannot be easily defeated is not a mere slogan. It has within it a truism that should instruct our leaders and indeed all Africans.
Today we may say that the number of conflicts on the continent has reduced. That is true. But we still have simmering conflicts, states in limbo and others waiting to explode or even implode. We see new scrambles everywhere: for crude oil, for solid minerals and now for land for the cultivation of agro fuels to feed machines in Europe and North America.
We need to urgently consider where the rain started to beat us, as our people say. Imagine an Africa that is truly united and able to utilise her resources for her development. Imagine an Africa that leads the way in a non-fossil or carbon based civilisation. Imagine an Africa that shows the world how to live within environmental limits. Imagine an Africa that is not a poster child of hunger, disease and conflict. That will be an Africa that thinks for herself. It is often said that a people get the government they deserve. This calls for a two-way interrogation.
This is the Africa that Pambazuka News presents building blocks for erection. One of the ways the publishers have made this easy for readers to access is through the regular offering of compiled Links and Resources. These links enable one to study, dig deep and analyse things for oneself. This is a very important service to all who wish to gain deep understanding of issues unfolding in our time. The scope of the links and articles offer opportunities for readers to build holistic knowledge and interpretations of situations and phenomena.
I see Pambazuka News also as a chronicler and reminder of our collective memories. Through this medium we build and equally recover lost memories for future action.
While we pause today to toast to 10 years of excellent service delivery, however, more grounds still need to be covered. Pambazuka News must continue to push on the pan African path, building on the achievements of the past years. More efforts must be made to reach the young as well as opinion leaders on the continent and beyond.
Pambazuka News is already being delivered through innovative media - such as twitter. More of such media needs to be further utilised to cater for our very mobile generation. It may be a huge target, but Pambazuka News must also aim to set the agenda for political leadership on the continent.
Together we press for justice. Until the victory!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Nnimmo Bassey is executive director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria. He will be a recipient of the 2010 'Right Livelihood Award', often referred to as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' for his work in revealing the ecological and human toll of oil production in Nigeria.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Next stop: pambazuka.org
Alemayehu G. Mariam
One can roam cyberspace in vain looking for informed public forums dedicated the causes of democracy, human rights and social justice in Africa. There just aren’t that many out there. In fact, I would wager to say there is only one: Pambazuka News. For the past decade or so, Pambazuka News has made its website available as an open forum for all types of critical thinking and debate on issues affecting Africa in English, Portuguese and French. It has a weekly readership, mostly in Africa, exceeding half a million.
I have been an avid reader of Pambazuka News for the past three years, and a regular contributor over the past year. I decided to make my move from reader to contributor for many reasons. I determined that Pambazuka News is genuinely dedicated not just to abstract discourse on the numerous ailments aching the continent, but that it was demonstrably committed to values and actions that could result in positive change for Africa and its people. I liked the fact that Pambazuka News is not just a forum for ‘moaning and groaning’ about Africa’s problems, but a place in cyberspace where concerned Africans can come together to soberly discuss problems, seek solutions and exchange ideas to help.
I have enjoyed the opportunity of meeting Africa’s public intellectuals (in contrast to the old armchair variety) on the webpages of Pambazuka News, and learning about the vital role civil society institutions can play in Africa’s transition from dictatorship to democracy. When I became a regular contributor, I thought that I could share some of my own ideas and concerns about human rights violations, stolen elections and corruption particularly in Ethiopia with others African intellectuals and Pambazuka News’ large African readership. It has been an enlightening experience. I have ‘met’ Africans from diverse backgrounds on the web pages of Pambazuka News; but despite their diversity, they all share a common bond of concern for Africa’s fate, and are passionate about doing their part to help out the continent or their little corner of it. I suppose that is one of the unique aspects of the magazine. All who wish to share their ideas and report on actions they have taken to improve the economic, political, human rights and other challenges facing the continent are welcomed. This reinforces my basic belief that the problems of the continent could be best understood and addressed not only by Africa’s intellectual vanguard but also through civil society institutions that engage ordinary Africans in grassroots participatory democracy.
Above all, I appreciate Pambazuka News as an institution because it focuses on all of the issues that I consider to be important to Africa’s future. I am deeply concerned about human rights violations in Africa and the entrenchment of dictatorship as democracy gasps for air. So is Pambazuka News. I am concerned about stolen elections in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, the Sudan or many other African countries. I am distressed to see civil society institutions in Africa being choked by African dictators, and thrilled whenever I see private individuals and organisations setting up workshops to train grassroots advocates and negotiators. I agonise over the issue of African poverty, illiteracy and dismal health care services. I am pained by the abuse and mistreatment and subordinated status of African women. My heart aches at the dismal conditions of Africa’s refugees and internally displaced. I am outraged by the so-called blood diamonds that have unleashed death and destruction in various parts of the continent, and child soldiers and the rape and pillage that takes place in the DR Congo, Somalia, and Sudan. I am very wary of the Chinese in Africa as they dump their cheap products in exchange for long-term resource contracts and military aid to Africa’s dictators. So are the readers and commentators of Pambazuka News.
I am very glad to have Pambazuka News as a cyber ‘convenience store’ open for me 24/7 to pick up the most current, critical and informed analyses and commentaries on Africa. But this ‘cyber-store’ would not have been possible but for the dedication and commitment of Pambazuka News’ editors and staff, none of whom I have had the pleasure to meet though I have communicated with some electronically. But what the editors and staff of Pambazuka News have done over the past few years is quite extraordinary. In addition to maintaining an exquisite website chock-full of informed analysis, they have also built up capacity to provide distance learning courses on human rights and social justice and are using information and communications technologies to promote effective dialogue, discussion and debate on African issues. They have used civil society institutions for conflict resolution and promotion of social harmony, particularly in Kenya in the aftermath of the controversial 2007 elections. They have a thriving publication arm that specialises in African issues.
These achievements are not the result of random occurrence, but the fruits borne of a labour of love for Africa and its impoverished people. I would like to recognise the founder of Pambazuka News and its umbrella organisation, Fahamu, Firoze Manji, for his vision, dedication and tenacity in promoting human rights, social justice and civil society institutions across the continent. He serves as an extraordinary role model for all of us interested in promoting change and achieving social justice through dialogue and reconciliation. The other dedicated editors and staffers also deserve high praise and admiration for maintaining such a high quality website and other vital services for all of us to use. They have proven that a few well-intentioned, skilled and dedicated individuals could make big contributions to improve the lives of ordinary Africans. They deserve not only our gratitude but also our support through donations, subscriptions and gifts.
I should like to argue that just as the richer countries have their think tanks to conduct research, engage in advocacy and perform policy analysis, the poor continent of Africa has Pambazuka News. As I ‘travel’ the vast emptiness of cyberspace looking for informed and intelligent analysis and solutions to African issues, I find myself stopping at the same sign post every week. As I make a turn, it is as if the narrator on the classic television series ‘Twilight Zone’, were telling me. ‘You're travelling through cyberspace, a vast vortex of ideas and knowledge; a journey into the wondrous land of Africa whose potentials are bounded by the creative impulses and imagination of its people. That's the signpost up ahead – your next stop, Pambazuka News.’
Kudos to the editors and dedicated staff of Pambazuka News on successfully completing their first decade of service to the cause of democracy, human rights and justice in Africa! We appreciate all you do! Thank you.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Alemayehu Mariam is a lawyer and professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, U.S.A.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Towards a people's progressive movement
Continuing the struggle
Dale T. McKinley
In our age of dumbed-down sound-bites passing for informed commentary and information, a corporate monopolised media that has no more than a passing and sensationalised interest in the lives and struggles of the majority of humanity, and a dominant political culture marked by insatiable greed and cynicism, the continued survival and indeed flourishing of any progressive project should be embraced and celebrated. Pambazuka News is such a project and its tenth anniversary and 500th issue milestone is all the more remarkable given its location in, and key focus on, the most marginalised and exploited of any part of our world: the African continent.
No doubt, there were many ten years back who would have opined that an internet-reliant undertaking such as Pambazuka News was simply a non-starter given the general dearth of electronic access amongst Africa’s population. Would it not simply reinforce the already elitist nature of most of Africa’s intellectual endeavour and further embed the NGO-isation of the myriad yet constantly vulnerable grassroots activisms across our continent? Well, it certainly could have but it didn’t, even if there might have been earlier moments when the doubters were licking their lips in anticipation of the ‘inevitable’.
There are two key reasons – one objective and the other subjective – why the Pambazuka project did not, and has not, succumbed to such an ‘inevitable’. Objectively, the last ten years has seen a popular flowering of internet access and use across the width and breadth of Africa. While it is axiomatic that such access and use still remains woefully restricted, especially in rural areas, the fact is that whether it is a run-down road-side stall in Bobo-Dioulasso or a swish café in Cape Town, the number of Africans able to hook into the internet has grown almost as fast as the creepers in the jungles of the DRC.
Subjectively, the Pambazuka pioneers understood that the project’s underlying principle of building a progressive movement committed to freedom and justice could only be realised if there was a truly Pan-African and internationalist foundation. Similarly, there was, and continues to be, an underlying commitment to provide an open forum encompassing a variety of forms on a wide range of issues and struggles – in other words, the antithesis of a privatising and niche-ing of intellectual and activist endeavour.
Combined, this has ensured that Pambazuka has been able to act as: a continental and international arena for lively debate-discussion-opinion; provide an open online portal for the sharing of news, information and activist struggles; and act as an important antidote to the geographical and political-ideological limitations of nationally-located media, knowledge generation and activist networking/strategizing.
As with any successful endeavour though, resting on one’s laurels is never a good thing. There remain some key challenges for Pambazuka.
There still remains too little coverage of, and participation by, African social movements and community organisations. More need to be sought out and actively encouraged to be part of the Pambazuka project. In this respect, it would be both useful and important for Pambazuka to undertake an audit of such progressive movements and organisations across the continent and provide a database of contact and basic organisational information.
Although somewhat understandable given their levels of political, economic and social development and location, South Africa and Kenya continue to hog too much of the continental limelight. A more dedicated focus on, and contributions from, the more ‘marginal’ states/areas in Africa can only strengthen Pambazuka’s foundational mission and principles and indeed, the knowledge and information about the rest of the continent by African progressives.
Given its continental (and international) social and politico-ideological importance and role, alongside its growing influence and impact on both state governance, social relations and the concomitant struggles of the majority poor, religion needs to take on a more central focus for Pambazuka.
There is no doubt that those on the left of the political spectrum need to more easily embrace comedy and satire, especially when we look in the mirror. Pambazuka can better provide such an outlet – both for the practitioners and receivers – by pro-actively encouraging and carrying out a great deal more political and social satire, cartoons and artwork.
In celebration and affirmation of Pambazuka’s ten years let us all build on the firm foundation already laid by continuing to write, critique and struggle about and through where we have come from, where we are and where we want to be.
VIVA PAMBAZUKA! FORWARD TO ANOTHER TEN YEARS!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Dr Dale McKinley is an independent writer, researcher, lecturer and activist in Johannesburg, South Africa.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Resisting hegemony: 10 years of Pambazuka News
In constructing Pan-Africanism in Africa, there is a critical role for a vibrant Pan-Africanist media to challenge the negative images and stereotypes of Africa in our globalised world. This is necessary on account of the fact that when Europeans colonised the African continent they not only colonised the land and its minerals and agricultural wealth, but how African people and their descendents were to be portrayed in the world. In other words, Europeans colonised information and knowledge about Africans in addition to colonising the African mind.
Pambazuka News is crucial in disseminating information about African people by African people and therefore in countering the distorted perceptions of Africa. As Chinua Achebe recently expressed: ‘People go to Africa and confirm what they already have in their heads and so they fail to see what is there in front of them. This is what people have come to expect. It’s not viewed as a serious continent. It’s a place of strange, bizarre and illogical things, where people don’t do what common sense demands.’
Pambazuka News is therefore a necessary forum for Africans to engage in debates and share critical information as to what is happening in other African countries and good practice, as well as to promote networking and ultimately facilitate the building of African unity in the continent. That Pambazuka is able to connect thousands of African and non-African people who are committed to a world built on the principles of solidarity, social justice, freedom and equality via the technology of the internet is a manifestation of the level of productive forces in the 21st century that are being harnessed for positive ends.
African realities continue to be dissected within the electronic pages of Pambazuka News, from environmental issues, food security, culture, sexuality, gender, social movements, politics, economic issues affecting Africa and military issues such as the hegemony of AFRICOM (African Command) – because the impact of colonialism and imperialism, along with its current manifestation (globalisation), is hegemonising in its reach. In order to challenge and control the processes and consequences of globalisation, Africans and progressive individuals from the North who are seeking a just world need spaces in which to forge alternatives, shape and influence debate and share information in order to resist hegemony from the North. The electronic news forum is also essential for Africans to articulate against the anti-people policies of tyrannical African governments, policies often implemented at the behest of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank and northern governments that continue to bind African economies to vulturistic neoliberal capitalism that African countries need to be weaned away from.
Pambazuka is part of the long historical continuum in the diaspora and on the African continent of Pan-African journals and newspapers set up as a forum for Africans and peoples of African descent to define their realities and challenge the status quo. At the beginning of the 20th century that reality was one of colonialism and imperialism and The Pan-African was set up in 1900 by Henry Sylvester Williams, who also organised the first Pan-African Association in 1897 and the first Pan-African Conference in 1900 in Westminster in London. Soon after this was the publication of Marcus Garvey’s ‘The Negro World’ with the setting-up of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914 in Jamaica and subsequently in New York. W.E.B DuBois founded the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in 1905 and its journal Crisis. Since these early Pan-African journals and newspapers, a plethora of others were born. In London, following the formation of the Pan-African West African Students’ Union (WASU) in August 1925, students launched their journal called WASU: the Journal of the West African Students’ Union of Great Britain in March 1926. In the USA, the Association of African Students (AAS) in the United States of America and Canada published The African Interpreter in 1943. Many other journals – too numerous to mention – existed throughout the 20th century (and prior) as platforms on which Africans and people of African descent could articulate their concerns and problems.
In the 1980s and 1990s there were magazines such as West Africa magazine, African Concord, Africa Events and several others that have since sadly collapsed.
As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, Pambazuka News should remain focused on providing a much-needed platform for African social movements, civil society organisations, progressive intellectuals, poets, campaigners, artists and writers to ‘write what they like’ in the Steve Biko tradition, a tradition that speaks to the problems, achievements and realities of African people both on the continent and in the diaspora. Nor must we gloss over our mistakes in implementing the colossal tasks of the developmental agenda for the African continent, but analyse them objectively, and of course seek to seriously learn from them as we move forward as diverse peoples in a continent full of potential.
Harnessing electronic media to globalise resistance to Africa’s continued hegemony is one of the many roles of Pambazuka News. Also, whereas the Western media is rarely interested in positive news about Africa, such positive ‘success’ stories are necessary. As African people, we must not only have a correct analytical diagnosis with which to understand, describe and explain our realities but such diagnoses will inform effective solutions to problems and issues. There is a critical dynamic between theory and practice and policy and action. More importantly, learning about successful individuals and communities overcoming and challenging social, economic, political, ecological and cultural problems provides inspiration in the transformation of our societies and the world. The capacity for hope in resisting hegemony is vital in the struggle for a better and more humane world.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Dr Ama Biney is a pan-Africanist and scholar–activist who lives in the United Kingdom.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News: A soap box or making soap?
Ten years ago, the twin towers had yet to come crashing down. A peace deal and transitional government had yet to come into being in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Olusegun Obasanjo had just taken office in Nigeria, while Thabo Mbeki was also beginning his first term as president of South Africa.
Enter Pambazuka News, launched in 2000 as a tiny text-based newsletter on a continent with miniscule email and internet connection figures. The first edition recorded on the Pambazuka News website only contained a short commentary on the DRC, followed by links to articles grouped under various subject categories. But the subscriber base rapidly grew into the thousands and subscribers started submitting their own letters and articles. As the newsletter and subsequent website grew, founding editor Firoze Manji would sometimes be seen to place his hand on his brow and say, with a worried and wondering expression on his face, something to the effect of: ‘What have we created?’
Fast forward to 2010. Pambazuka News has published 500 issues, a remarkable achievement for an internet-based information platform in an environment littered with websites that have died or are irregularly updated. There is hardly a major event or debate on the African continent that Pambazuka News has not been able to publish an article on.
But what is one to make of Pambazuka News and the impact it has had? Generally, it is notoriously hard to accurately quantify the impact of information. And Pambazuka News probably means as many different things to as many people who are subscribers. I remember one example, though, of someone who wrote in to the newsletter from West Africa saying that an article about someone making soap in East Africa had enabled her to get in touch with that person, find out how soap was made and begin making soap for herself.
In a technology environment where the spotlight tends to shine on the next great example of how gadgets are used for social change, this example strikes me as closer to the heart of what a platform like Pambazuka News has achieved. Whether it’s soap or ideas, what is the value of someone who reads an article on an important issue and finds themselves understanding something in a different way, or, even more dramatically, has their world view changed? What is the power of that if more than one person experiences the same change. 10? 50? 100? 1,000? Perhaps these people will never come together in the sense of revolutionary change, perhaps the majority of them will never participate further, but the space for awareness and the introduction of the power of uncertainty no doubt carry great significance.
Internet theorist Clay Shirky argues in his book ‘Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age’ (2010) that the tools the internet provides makes it possible to talk about a collective ‘cognitive surplus’ – a way in which we can all use our individual free time to participate in creating something that would not otherwise be possible. According to his argument, the internet enables us to treat free time ‘as a general social asset that can be harnessed for large, communally-created projects, rather than as a set of individual minutes to be whiled away one person as a time’.
The world’s collective ‘cognitive surplus’ is so large, he goes on to say, that even a tiny slice can have a huge impact, citing the example of Wikipedia as a case where people have come together to create something that wasn’t there before.
But there’s an important caveat: ‘The cognitive surplus, newly forged from previously disconnected islands of time and talent, is just raw material. To get any value out of it, we have to make it mean or do things. We, collectively, aren’t just the source of the surplus; we are also the people designing its use, by our participation and by the things we expect of one another as we wrestle together with our new connectedness.’
Shirky’s explanation is useful, perhaps, as one way of understanding Pambazuka News. In the context of an average of 24 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute by the end of 2009, and Twitter receiving close to 300 million words a day, Pambazuka News is a slice of the cognitive surplus. Providing the platform created the vehicle for people to share their views on Africa, with the urge to share being the driver – to share ideas, opinions and ways of seeing the world with a globally dispersed audience interested in a different Africa. And so before blogging was coined as a term, Pambazuka News was a kind of ‘post-it-by-email’ blog. Before Facebook, users hit the forward button on their email package instead of the ‘like’ button on their Facebook page.
Unfortunately, the idea only goes so far. Shirky frequently refers to the 2 billion new people included in the media landscape. But what about the three billion plus that aren’t there? Internet penetration in Africa is estimated at 10.9 per cent, compared to 58.4 per cent in Europe and 77.4 per cent in North America. With disparate figures like these, those who don’t get to participate risk (and already are) the subject of decisions taken by those who are able to benefit from their access to knowledge provided by the new media environment.
And Shirky’s picture of citizens voluntarily contributing to social good is perhaps a little utopian and doesn’t allow for the way in which powerful interests might direct cognitive surplus to their own ends. It’s probably also fair to say that cognitive surplus as a concept is probably under direct frontal attack. Media moguls and large corporates want to control information through pay-walls and exercise control over how we use the internet. And repressive governments are blocking internet and mobile phone access, scared of what happens when information really is allowed to flow freely amongst citizens.
In this context, Pambazuka News will become even more important as it seeks to continue to enable people to share information that challenges the prevailing status quo – a status quo that keeps so many of the planet’s people on the periphery.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Patrick Burnett is editor of Links & Resources, Pambazuka News.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
People creating change in Africa
I was asked to provide an overview of where Africa stands as many countries celebrate their 50th anniversary of independence. I wanted to begin with putting that task into context so that you, and particularly my African comrades, will excuse the gross generalisations and omissions where there are any.
In the 50 years since the decolonisation of Africa (I am not sure that we have yet achieved independence) we have seen a diversity of experiences: of advances, such as the toppling of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and of grave setbacks such as the political situation in Sudan. Today, throughout our continent, the struggle for the democratic aspirations of African peoples continues, and as we speak, the people of Africa are organising to claim these aspirations in magnitude and scope unparalleled since the struggle for decolonisation.
Meanwhile, in the West, the contradictions of liberal democracy and capitalism are manifesting economically, politically and socially, creating a scramble for reordering and reconsolidation. With this has come a call for alliance: ‘You are either with us or against us’, went the threat from the most militarised global power. Perhaps rather than alliance, it was a demand for renewed pledges of allegiance. And, many of our African leaders indeed joined and continue to participate in the ‘coalition of the willing’.
This is not the first time, and will likely not be the last, that capitalism is in crisis, nor that the losses of the elite have been socialised while their profits remain capitalised at the expense of the workers and the economically marginalised across the globe. But it is critical that the movement for social justice in Africa and the global South seizes this moment in order to make gains towards the realisation of just and equitable alternatives. While the 1990s saw the consolidation of democratic gains and the growth of civil society in many African states, such as in Kenya, it has become clear that the ever-expanding NGO–industrial complex that operates in a framework of poverty reduction (as though reduction is the bounds of our aspirations), separating and depoliticising service and advocacy, has devastating implications on the privatisation and sub-contracting of state service whether or not this be to ‘not-for-profit’ organisations, and has limited impact on the realities of economically oppressed Africans. I say ‘economically oppressed’ rather than ‘poor’ because poverty implies a permanent condition with no agency. Economic oppression has a survivor and a perpetration, the systems that maintain this oppression are intentional, institutionalised and structurally entrenched.
The ripple effect of the ‘global’ financial crisis threatens to worsen still the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable communities in Africa. Further, the reduction of Western aid, induced by the crisis, will challenge the perceived dependency between the global North and Africa. I say ‘perceived’, because as we all know, any greater look at aid, trade and development consistently shows that our Northern ‘partners’’ gains far outweigh our own in most developmental exchanges.
Yet with the rise of the economic and political clout of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and the shift in global power from West to East, Africa in this era, as in many others, is in a globally strategic economic and political position. What is yet to be decided is whether the continent will be a pawn or a player, achieving gains for its people or merely for the elite.
An ever-increasing militarisation on the continent, notably with the expansion of US ‘counterterrorism’ programmes and AFRICOM (African Command), also continues to serve and collude with a repressive and short-sighted elite in many African states. We are indeed here to focus on issues of peace and security in Africa. I am not certain that we have experienced real peace on the continent to date. In some states, like the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Sudan, as my colleagues will address later, we have seen the violence of war and pillage. In others that purport a semblance of peace, we experience the violence of corrupt ‘security’ services against the people in the interest of capital or the state, maintaining a state of fear and repression. And, certainly in all of Africa, the violence of economic oppression continues to ravage our societies.
These states of violence are further compounded by the stirring and manipulation of ‘popular’ fundamentalisms – be they ethnic, religious or cultural – that oppress all, while particularly seeking to control, among others, sexuality and reproduction, maintaining patriarchal dominance and the war on our bodies.
Let me give as an example here, Uganda. For some time, the Ugandan executive had been trying to push through repressive counterterrorism legislation, which was rejected by parliament. That is, until the September 11th acts of terrorism in the United States, when Uganda joined the coalition of the willing, enabling it nationally to justify sweeping measures that would violate press freedom and give the executive wide ‘discretion’ in determining who is a terrorist and how to act on suspicion of terrorism. Later, in 2005, the president made the highly unpopular decision to amend the constitution in order to scrap term limits. With the arrest (and eventual release) of the main opposition leader and the wide claims of rigging, the ensuing election process was largely criticised within and outside of the country. As the president’s fourth election approaches in 2011, religious fundamentalist fervour, supported by the Christian right in the US, provided another scapegoat to the president and his men as they drafted an anti-homosexuality bill.
The implications would have been a further deepening of control by the state on the people, with language in the bill that mirrored the most repressive of counterterrorism legislation, including arrest for ‘suspicion’ of homosexuality, internet and media censorship, and the encouragement of popular vigilante-ism. This time, having manipulated our own fundamentalisms, popular pressure against the bill was muffled. The infamous ‘Bahati bill’ eventually did not pass, according to the president because of Western pressure – a reason that did nothing to counter the preposterous argument that homosexuality is ‘un-African’.
What the president intentionally failed to acknowledge was the coalition of diverse organisations across Uganda who rallied together to fight the bill, understanding its undemocratic potential for all, and the support to the coalition from organisations and movements across Africa. While the bill was not passed, the government did not have to wait long until it was able to pass the Regulation of Interception of Communication bill, just three days after the July bombings in Kampala. The bill gives the state power to intercept communications whenever it is believed a life-threatening felony could be committed or information concerning threats to public safety, national security or national economic interest would be at issue. Most recently, Mbogua Mureithi, advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Al-Amin Kimathi, executive director of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, visited Kampala as human rights defenders and legal counsel to observe the trials of four of the nine Kenyans illegally renditioned to Uganda in relation to the 11 July bombings. Both Kimathi and Mureithi were entrapped and detained by Uganda’s Rapid Response Unit (RRU) following their arrival in Kampala on 18 September. They were held incommunicado and interrogated as to their alleged links with Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab by Kenyan, Ugandan and American interrogators. Mureithi was released and deported back to Kenya whereas Kimathi was held incommunicado until being charged with terrorism on 21 September, well after the 48-hour legal detention period. Again, relying this time on spreading Islamophobia, violations of the rights of African human rights defenders are silenced by fear. Kimathi and the Muslim Human Rights Forum are well known for their work trying to ensure that counterterrorism efforts are conducted within the boundaries of international and regional human rights standards, and Kenyan law.
The Ugandan example I give is just one to highlight the three walls African people find themselves trapped within – the first being repression by state apparatus whose interests are political and economic power at the expense of the people (often supported by foreign allies); the second being our own fundamentalisms, stirred at will by the state to ensure oppression has a semblance of consent (these fundamentalisms too are often resourced by outside agents); and the third being the interests of capital, multinational corporations and foreign governments that seek to exploit the resources of Africa and her peoples. A rock and a hard place, and an even harder place!
Indeed, the militarisation of the continent is not the only colonialisation that threatens Africa’s self-determination. A creeping, less ostentatious colonialisation of our lands, through land grabbing, as well as our natural resources, including our biodiversity, is sweeping the continent as global resources shrink with the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. The food and financial crises ignited a massive round of ‘land grabbing’, with agribusinesses leasing and buying large tracts of land to produce both food and fuel crops for export. As the attempt to frame these grabs as ‘developmental opportunities’ spreads, we are reminded of the colonial adage of ‘terra nullius’: well, there was nobody there, so it couldn’t have been stealing – ignoring the massive displacement of farmers and pastoralists and the effect of export food production on the urban poor. This insidious colonisation is common to both Western and Eastern powers.
In regards to natural resources, Canada is itself a superpower in the African mining sector. While Canada’s mining presence is relatively new in Africa, only South Africa is just ahead of Canada in the African mining industry. The value of Canadian mining assets in Africa has grown from US$233 million in 1989 to US$14.7 billion in 2007. While Canada has endorsed the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, voluntary codes of conduct and self-regulation need be made mandatory through national legislation to ensure internationally recognised standards for Canadian companies operating in Africa. In particular, we must demand recognition of communities’ rights to free, prior and informed consent.
Amidst these conditions, Africa has seen unequalled levels of civil resistance in the last five years from Egypt to Senegal, Guinea, Kenya and Zimbabwe. There is a line in a song I enjoy by a North American artist named Ani Di Franco that says: ‘Growing up during the plague of Reagan and Bush, watching capitalism gun down democracy, had this funny effect on me, I guess.’ Indeed, my generation and younger of Africans, who grew up during structural adjustment programmes that have turned our universities into private extensions of the corporate job market, who have only known the plagues of Hosni Mubarak and Robert Mugabe, from north to south, and who see no alternative in Morgan Tsvangirai, who have witnessed genocides, both political and economic, and indeed watched capitalism gun down democracy, well, it has had this ‘funny effect on us, I guess’. People-centred progressive movements are spreading across Africa and provide an important platform for the voices of the most marginalised to express their interests, provide services and create alternatives. These movements are key to entrenching democratic principles and provide one of the few viable avenues for participatory democracy, to hold states and governments accountable to the needs and demands of African peoples. Indeed, meaningful change in Africa has never occurred without the active participation of peoples movements. We have seen charismatic and visionary leaders, but Kwame Nkrumah would not have achieved independence without the market women of Ghana, nor Amílcar Cabral without the peasants of Guinea-Bissau or Julius Nyerere without the youth of Tanzania.
Today, African social movements are often deliberately marginalised from participation in key national and continental processes. They lack the resources, information and platforms to effectively drive processes of change. They face state repression – often violently – and are disparate geographically and/or by the issues they seek to address, and are unable to create networks across these lines thus lacking solidarity and access to learning. Notably, the generation of social movements emerging from Africa at this time have also been deliberately removed from the historic and theoretical frameworks and lessons that would strengthen the struggle for peace, justice, equity and accountability.
Through all of the challenges that we face as a globe and suffer most deeply in Africa, we must stop believing that a single solution, a silver bullet, will fix all. We must be willing to experiment and not simply keep implementing the same programmes or projects that we have for decades and expect a different result (I believe the Chinese call that madness). We must also remember, as Cabral said, that ‘nobody has yet made a successful revolution without a revolutionary theory’ (‘The Weapon of Theory’, Cabral, 1966). And so we must re-inject political theory into activism, not only relying on a dichotomous paradigm of left and right, socialist and capitalist, but embracing complexity and challenging ourselves to develop new political thought that is grounded in African practice and responds to our needs. We need to create long-term strategies that will dismantle from the crux the structures of power and privilege and transform our societies, from the individual to the state, putting at the centre of all decisions the economically, socially and politically oppressed peoples of Africa: farmers, women, workers, informal workers, queers, people living with disabilities. Together, we must end corporate control over production and consumption and support our small-scale farmers to create alternatives that will enable food sovereignty, meet the needs of low-income consumers and respect the rights of Mother Earth, as our Latin American comrades coined.
Long gone are the days that Africans believe that there are friends without interests at the state level or have hope in grandiose promises. However, perhaps together we can reignite the light of genuine solidarity between the peoples of Africa and Canada, solidarity based on the understanding of mutual gain from sharing and transferring knowledge, experience, resources – be it between our farmers, our indigenous peoples’ movements, our feminist movements, our movements for the earth. A true ally in any movement is always asked to do the work first within their own communities, and I believe this is what many of you here are doing – challenging Canadian policy to be fair and equitable. I am honoured to be part of the conversation and look forward to contributing to strengthening our solidarity.
I would like to end with the words of Thomas Sankara who said: ‘You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future.’ Let us have the courage to invent the future.
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* Hakima Abbas is Fahamu’s deputy director.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
A common loyalty to justice and equality
If anyone still needed evidence that Africa plays its active role in our world, Pambazuka News is the living proof. As an interactive forum for debate, its interventions from many different spheres of life are speaking truth to power without compromising true values of emancipation. Pambazuka News creates and provides access to inspiring reflections and exchanges, to soul searching and agitation, to comforting and unpleasant views. Its weekly posting has become a regular diet, not always easy to swallow or to digest, but painfully missed during the few short breaks it occasionally needs for regeneration.
Over and above being a creative and inspiring platform for explorations into daily struggles, its separately circulated ‘links and resources’ add tremendous value to all those eager to access more information on topical matters of concern and interest. Gender issues and machismo, land grab, contested sexuality, hegemonic and other imperialist interventions, kleptocracies and dictators all get their fair share. Those contributing to Pambazuka News take sides. Not always in agreement with each other, but always thought provoking.
Fascinating debates and politically/intellectually stimulating controversies (such as the recent exchange of arguments over the genocide in Rwanda) are the salt in the soup. A tasty and nutritious soup, that is, which also offers a lot to chew on. Social movement activism blends with scholarly reflections, academia and real life. The result is at times a truly African ownership claiming a say in this world. Pambazuka News has matured into an authoritative and credible voice.
Looking back at the achievements and celebrating our advances, we should also remember those who walked along and are no longer with us to share the fruits of what they stood for. Sadly, they are too many to mention. Two stand out for me. I remember them with special emotions: Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, whose life was taken far too early on the road in May 2009. His Pan-African Postcards were an integral part of Pambazuka News and set standards difficult to match. It was an adequate symbol of respect that Fahamu Books published a selection of his postings and thereby documented the profound depth of his reflections and interventions. In a different way he was what Dennis Brutus stood for with his troubadour politics. After a long life of permanent resistance to any form of oppression and betrayal of ordinary people, Dennis the poet-activist ultimately lost the final battle against cancer in December 2009. During 80 years he never compromised.
Both represented different but complementing faces in the wide panorama of people united in Pambazuka News, sharing the common loyalty to justice and equality, non-discrimination and humanism in respect of those who respect others and their social and political rights to a decent living.
Pambazuka News is an African achievement and represents the present and the future. It is a privilege and honour to be a member of its family. One can get addicted to its stuff. Viva Pambazuka News, viva!
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* Henning Melber is a member of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala,Sweden.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka: A newsletter with attitude
In preparing to write this short piece I went back to the beginning of Pambazuka and found that the first online edition was ‘Kabissa-Fahamu Newsletter No. 14’ published on 19 March 2001. There was just a short feature with a few links to other news sites which made the newsletter seem curiously empty. A reader, David Waller of ACORD in London, had responded to a survey of the newsletter sent out by email. He described Pambazuka as ‘a newsletter with attitude’. He also mentioned that it was only in English. Today Pambazuka is published in French and Portuguese with an Arabic version on its way. I wonder if Mr David Waller of London is still reading this ‘newsletter with attitude’? In another letter someone complained that the newsletter was too long for email, to which the editor, Firoze Manji, had replied:
‘Most of you responded that the value of the newsletter is in the broad range of issues covered. The problem, of course, is that the pace of events on the continent is so great that even a newsletter twice the size would leave many gaps.’
Now Pambazuka is probably four or five times its original size and is published twice a week and still there is much that is not covered in the newsletter. It’s easy to talk of Pambazuka’s achievements, the range of opinions and news covered, the ever-increasing categories in Links & Resources, podcasts, radio series, petitions and campaigns. But what is singularly most significant and which differentiates Pambazuka from other publications is its Pan-African coverage and perspective, along with its willingness to accommodate all our voices – activists, scholars, journalists, bloggers, on so many issues. I was talking to a fellow blogger the other day about censorship, not just censorship by governments and news media but self-censorship when we are afraid that if we tell the truth people may not like it and may find ways to attack us and, worse, attack us personally. But just as we have the right to write, we also have a duty to be honest and to speak the truth no matter how it might be received. I believe Pambazuka strives to do that.
In browsing through some of the early editions of Pambazuka, I was surprised too to find an article written by me in 2002 of which I had no memory. Still, I felt quite elated to discover I had contributed such a long time ago. I first met Firoze Manji in August of 2000 at a job interview for Fahamu. About two weeks after being offered a job at Fahamu, I discovered I had cancer and had to turn the job down. It was a particularly bad prognosis so I wasn't sure whether I would be alive, let alone find my way back into the Pambazuka family. But five years later Firoze invited me to write the weekly Africa blogging column, and in 2007 I took up the job of online editor. One of my fondest memories of that period was Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem’s Pan-African Postcard – which was always late. We used to joke about this but he never failed to submit his weekly column and Firoze would stay late just to upload it himself. Now I would like to thank everyone at Pambazuka, especially Firoze, for the continued opportunity to contribute on a regular basis.
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Seeing the continent in context
What distinguishes Pambazuka News from other online newsletters that focus on African issues is that Pambazuka News explores challenges facing the continent without reinforcing stereotypes about Africans. In other words, the newsletter does not portray Africans either as objects of pity or as photogenic objects. Instead, journalists and academics who write for Pambazuka News often write about Africans as active subjects of history who are capable of changing their circumstances.
The newsletter strives to make sure that people it gives space to are writers who are based in African countries they want to write about. It is people who have considerable knowledge of whatever African country’s politics they want to write about. It is not always a simple task to find Africans who are privileged enough to have the time to research and write articles, sometimes for free.
High levels of illiteracy prevalent in many African countries further preclude people from participating in academic debates. This is a challenge faced by many publications in Africa.
Perhaps, it is worth noting that this problem was partly created by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). When these international financial institutions imposed structural adjustment programmes on African governments, they also forced African governments to cut government funding to education (Caffentzis, 2000). In addition, the World Bank launched what it calls the African Capacity Building Initiative (ACBI) in 1991. The ACBI’s basic purpose is to build a ‘critical mass of professional African policy analysts and economic managers who will be able to better manage the development process,’ according to the World Bank ACBI document. To this end, a number of training institutions have been established. These institutions are supposed to offer ‘new or refresher training courses on issues critical to development management – for example, the exchange rate, agricultural pricing, industry tariffs, privatisation, social sector financing, and decision-making processes in general.’
It is not foolhardy to suggest that graduates from these institutions will probably not be too eager to write for a progressive newsletter like Pambazuka News.
Another challenge faced by the newsletter is that many people in Africa are not connected to the internet. It is reported that Africa has the lowest number of internet users in the world. This is because many African countries have no infrastructure and lack resources to improve the situation. Even a country like South Africa, which comparatively speaking is more developed than most African countries, has a small percentage of the population connected to the internet. A recent study found that out of the 50 million people living in South Africa, only about 5.3 million people use the internet.
Pambazuka News exist in this milieu. And, these are some of the factors that the newsletter has to overcome if the journal is going to remain relevant to people living in Africa.
For me, however, as I have explained in the introduction of this article, Pambazuka’s major achievement so far is that it is one of the few online newsletters that publish essays and articles that challenge the way we understand African politics and the manner in which African politics are presented in the mainstream media. Mahmood Mamdani (2009) argues that when Western media reports on African politics, ‘it seeks the dramatic, which is why media silence on Africa is often punctuated by high drama and why the reportage on African wars is more superficial than in-depth.’ He adds that reporting on African affairs is seen as an entry point for novice journalists, hence there are no Africa specialists.
In contrast, Pambazuka News publishes journalists and academics who write seriously about African politics. Unlike the Western media which operates on an assumption that ‘African tragedies happen in isolation’, devoid of any historical context, Pambazuka News publishes stories and news analysis that aim to contextualise social unrest or civil wars happening in the continent.
To deviate from the Western hegemonic modes of writing about Africa is a fundamental task of African critical thinkers. This is the decolonisation project that Ngugi wa Thiong’o speaks of, it is the idea that Frantz Fanon addresses in his writing. Thus, for me, Pambazuka News represent a forum that aims to give voice to the kind of counter-hegemonic criticism that celebrates an intellectual heritage embodied in the books such as the ‘Black Athena: The Afroasiatic roots of classical civilisation’ and the ‘African Origin of Civilisation: Myth of Reality’.
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* Mandisi Majavu is an activist, writer and a social scientist by training. He was online news editor of Pambazuka News in 2006.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Caffentzis, G. (2000). The World Bank and education n Africa. In S. Federici, G. Caffentzis & O. Alidou (Eds), A thousand flowers: Social struggles against structural adjustment in African Universities (p. 3 – 18). New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc.
Mamdani, M. (2009). Saviours and survivors: Darfur, politics, and the War on Terror. Cape Town: HSRC Press.
The World Bank. (1991). The African Capacity Building Initiative: Toward improved policy analysis and development management (This report was prepared under the direction of Edward V. K. Jaycox). Washington D.C.: The International Bank for Reconstrcution and Development.
Knowing better, understanding deeper
We must say that it is a great achievement, 500th issue and 10 years of Pambazuka News.
Being a publication coming from and mainly based in Africa, Pambazuka News has been offering us the perspectives from the Continent which is very much helpful for us, especially Chinese scholars who seldom have chances to visit Africa, to know better and understand deeper about the current situation in Africa and many debatable and international concerned issues.
Sincerely hope that Pambazuka News will have a more bright future in the next 10 years and we will continue to be her faithful readers as we used to be!
* Dr He Wenping is director of African Studies at the Institute of Western Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
A call to reclaim history, humanity, Africa and the commons
A call to foes
who plug their ears hoping
not to hear their conscience’s call
A call to friends
Wringing their hands
Waiting to follow the brave
To risk everything
To make humanity
A call to those
soooo Comfortable on the fence
Looking at suffering
Enjoying the spectacle
Of a family
seeking to reconnect
with all of its members
from South Africa
Is it not time to stop the 200 years and more of suffering of the people of Haiti? Isn’t more than 200 years of solitary confinement enough punishment for doing what humanity was in greatest need of: equality, freedom, justice, dignity?
Is it not time to stop and think about how best for humanity to become one again? Is it not time to end - select your words - the solitary confinement, exile, résidence surveillée, relégation, of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a country freed from apartheid?
Following the earthquake on 12 January 2010, alarm bells went off in the military and political power centres of the world. In the minds of the most powerful governments (those who got together to make sure that Aristide be taken out of Haiti), the first order of business was to secure and maintain their order on the island. Securing an order that for more than two centuries has been framed by constant punishment of those (and their descendants) who managed to break free from the rule imposed by the Code Noir issued in 1685 by the French monarchy.
That code rationalised the Africans to be movable property, not human beings. It was a way of legalising the beginning of a never-ending crime against humanity that can also be seen as a splitting of humanity, which, to this day, has not ceased.
Between 1792 and 1794, the convention declared the end of slavery. Then came Napoléon Bonaparte and the vengeful restoration of slavery everywhere. How virulent that process was, has been described in many books, among them C.L.R. James’s Black Jacobins and, more recently Claude Ribbe, Le Crime de Napoléon.
Following the failure to reinstate slavery in the place which had gotten rid of it without permission, France and its allies forced Haiti to pay compensation for the loss of property (the slaves and the sugar plantations).
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, his team and supporters, mostly the poorest of the poorest - Fanmi Lavalass - insisted that there be restitution. The compensation which had been paid from 1825 - 1826 through 1947 had to be given back to Haiti.
The case of Aristide’s kidnapping in April 2004 and subsequent imprisonment in South Africa, and the latter’s shameless opposition to his return to Haiti following the earthquake on 12 January 2010 is one of the most heartless crimes ever conscientiously and consciously committed by the so-called Western community on people in danger. It is like the collective raping of a people in the process of healing. It is like a repetition of the splitting apart that wrenched the Africans from their land and their families in order to feed the insatiable predatory monster in the process of being born across the Atlantic.
How wrenching the history of Haiti has been cannot be imagined by those who see themselves as the descendants of those who asked for compensation. The violators managed to pass themselves off as the victims of what has, since 10 May 2001, been recognised by the French National Assembly (Loi Taubira) as a crime against humanity. Pierre Nora, a famous historian, protested the passing of that law. Nora’s logic is not unlike the professor who, in graduate school, reminded me that historians could not apply the morality of the 20th century to what happened in the 19th century.
At the time, I could not think of the obvious answer (i.e. the Africans, back then, did not consider themselves as objects, but as human beings, as fully part of humanity, but since the Code Noir was the instrument for reducing them to objects, historians are supposed to submit to that legal document as if that document superseded what the Africans considered themselves to be.)
For the past five centuries, the mindset which has grown hand in hand with capitalism has blinded humanity to one of its fundamental tenets, namely that it is one and that its splitting apart must stop. What is at stake in Haiti is much bigger than how the jailers of Aristide and their allies would like to frame the issue.
But before calling on them to correct their ways, one should attempt to explain to ourselves and to them what has been happening to the commons, history and Africa. This is crucial for the simple reason that the so-called political and military leaders of the world have always looked at Africa and its history as an extension of the commons, to be enclosed at will for the purposes of benefiting the specialists of enclosing and keeping in mind that the enclosure movement has moved beyond land to assault what was once considered sacred: humanity’s conscience.
It is important to draw the attention of these masters of the enclosing process to how those who are being enclosed have seen and felt the process. Long before the splitting of the atom, humanity began to be split apart and became one of the most enduring roots of capitalism, a predatory system that is unaware of how predatory it is.
Africans from Africa (Kimpa Vita and the Antonins), on the way to the ships, on the ships themselves (Ayi Kwei Armah’s Two Thousand Seasons), in the Caribbean, in the Americas, refused to enter the equation being prepared for them to be fodder for something which is now called globalisation. The knowledge of how that history has unfolded is still embryonic, at best.
Why the vindictiveness against Haiti, against Aristide, against Fanmi Lavalass? What is it in the contemporary history of Haiti that frightens the ever-modernising enslavers?
What happened between 1791-1804 in Saint Domingue was not supposed to happen. The dominant mindset was certain that slaves could not think outside of what they were expected to be: slaves. However, a good half of them, at the time, had been born in Africa: free. They did not need to learn about freedom from the philosophers of the Enlightenment. Therefore, when the Africans resolved to free themselves and organised themselves accordingly, they achieved the unthinkable, the improbable, the forbidden.
For more than 200 years, the descendants of the revolution which went beyond the French Revolution have never forgotten what had been achieved through commitment, organisation, determination, emancipatory politics. At the same time, for more than 200 years, the descendants of those who were defeated have vowed to crush any person, and/or group of persons who might appear like carrying on in fidelity with the spirit of 1791-1804.
The descendants of the ones who committed crimes against humanity have vowed to keep Haiti as a source of the cheapest possible labour available to the US. Poverty must be maintained at all costs so that people are willing to work at any price that might be offered.
In order to demonstrate that the action of 1791-1804 was wrongheaded, the current leaders of the most powerful nations are determined to keep hammering away at the following lesson: Challenging power shall always be punished with the greatest severity. In cases where victory was achieved (as in 1804) the punishment shall be incalculably harsher.
According to such a view, Haiti shall get poorer and poorer and the richest nation on earth (for now) shall get richer and richer. The shameful inequality based on an even more shameful history of repeated crimes against humanity will continue smashing (as in the linear accelerators) the small matter we call humanity’s conscience. One day what is left of it shall be pulverized just in the same way that human beings were pulverized in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This experiment has been under way for the past five centuries. Now and then carriers of humanity’s conscience rise up. But like Aristide, like Fanmi Lavalass, like Pierre-Antoine Lovinski, the rule is: ‘smash them’.
If the final act being programmed (i.e. the annihilation of humanity) is going to be stopped, then allowing humanity to be one in Haiti could help suspend the looming fatal end of humanity.
Following the earthquake, if common sense and solidarity had prevailed, Aristide would have come back because at times like these, one would have expected those who had engineered his kidnapping and subsequent incarceration in South Africa to relent and allow the Haitian people to be one again.
It is never too late for common sense and solidarity to re-emerge, but, for that to happen, there will have to be the kind of worldwide mobilisation that brought about the formal end of apartheid. The cancer of apartheid without a formal capital has continued to spread. This is the only conclusion one can reach if one is going to explain how the South African government agreed to be the post-apartheid Robben Island for Aristide, with the apparent silent acceptance of all the African leaders.
Surely, in fidelity to those who did say enough is enough back in 1791-1804, one can do better than just watching and/or wringing our hands hoping for a happy ending?
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* Jacques Depelchin is co-founder of Otabenga Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity in the DRCongo.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Land is a political question
It is very nice to re-imagine the city. We can all start to imagine cities with good housing for everyone and then we can imagine affordable public transport and safe streets with beautiful trees, cool shady parks and welcoming schools, clinics, libraries and sports clubs. We can imagine and imagine cities where everyone’s humanity is respected and where everyone counts. It is very nice to imagine a city where no one has to live like a pig in the mud, where everyone is safe from fires, abuse, police raids, disconnections, evictions and political attacks.
But land and housing are the most urgent problems in our cities and there is a serious difficulty in resolving the issue of land and housing in our country. Land comes before housing and this difficulty comes when we all continue to pretend that the issue of land is not political. Until we accept that the issue of land is political this difficulty will continue to add more and more confusion.
The question remains very complicated when our country is administered by politicians, who talk about the struggle and about being for the people, while also pretending that the matter of land is not political. They have the power to use their political muscles to take the land back to the dispossessed but they prefer to pretend that the issue of land is not political. We know very well that we are the dispossessed and that we need justice. But the politicians and their NGOs continue to pretend that we are the ignorant ones who need to learn patience and to accept that fire safety workshops and forced removal to transit camps in human dumping grounds is really development.
Those who are in power today have the power to distribute our land fairly and freely to those who do not have land. Why have they betrayed us today? The answer is simple. If they do so they will be giving away the very power that makes them powerful.
Taking the land back will never be easy.
Taking the land back will require us to become and to remain the strong poor. A year ago we learnt a hard lesson. We learnt that South Africa is not a real democracy. The middle classes and even the working classes are free to debate and to discuss the future of the country. But we, as the poor, have been evicted from democracy. We were attacked and driven from our homes with the support of the police and the politicians looked. The Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) was silent and the Human Rights Commission was silent. We have learnt that there are many people who do not think that democracy is for the poor.
We need to make this democracy real for the poor. Therefore we need allies amongst those groups who are allowed to think and to speak for themselves in South Africa. They need to use their freedom and safety to stand with us and to defend us as we struggle for our own freedom. Our organisations and movements need to forge a living solidarity with progressive faith-based organisations, trade unions, professionals in all specialised fields, individuals and active citizens in general. We need to form a powerful national alliance for urban reform that will always be willing to defend the right of the poor to think, speak and organise for themselves. That alliance has to be political and willing to force the state and the rich to obey the people. It has to be clear that the social value of land must come before its commercial value. It has to be willing to take real action to achieve this. Therefore it has to be independent from the state. In our analysis Slum Dwellers International is a top down attempt by the state and the rich to control the poor by persuading us to accept our oppression.
Some of us have already joined this journey to a new urban order, not only by sitting in cool offices but by sweating in communities where we are busy organising, conscientising and being conscientised, as we organise and are organised by popular self education, meetings, camps and protests. Some of us have already lost our homes in the land of our birth as our punishment for struggling to access the well-located lands. It has been very evident to us that well-located land will never be brought before us by aircraft, but by sweat, beatings, arrests, and lies, water cannons, firing of live ammunition or even death. This is the price that those who are serious about the prize of ‘A New Urban Order’ must be prepared to pay.
One cannot begin any meaningful discussion of the urban crisis while the poor continue to be excluded from the conversations that are meant to build the very new urban order that is for all. This discussion can only begin once the dispossessed, those who do not count, count. We decided long ago not to accept the situation where some people talk about the poor and even for the poor without ever speaking to the poor. We have also paid a price for this decision but we will always stick to it.
There is no doubt that the work of the intellectuals, town planners, engineers, architects and other professionals is critical. We do need their skills. But for as long as they remain on their own, their knowledge is very fragile. We need to plan our cities together. I remain convinced that if all the work of the urban experts is done in isolation from the poor, those who are meant to benefit from it, then it will not solve the problem. The first problem is that despite all their education, the experts are often really ignorant of the real needs of the people. The second problem is that expert ideas, even good ideas that fit with the needs of the people, have no power on their own. An idea can only move into the world and start to reshape the world when it has a living force behind it. An idea that is worked out between the organised poor and the urban experts will have a living force behind it when the organised poor accept it as their own.
The issue of land and planning is too political, much more political than is recognised by many of us. It is too political and yet in most cases the state and the insensitive consultants pretend that it is only geo-technical feasibility that determines what is to be built, where and when. This has been very evident in many communities in Abahlali baseMjondolo settlements. People have identified well-located land and occupied that land themselves. But again and again we find that what may be well located land to the poor is not so to the state and consultants and what they consider to be well-located land is not so to the poor. In the Kennedy Road settlement the municipality have always used technical reports to justify eviction. Their reports have always said that the land is not good for human habitation while our middle class neighbours across the road enjoy their stay. Everyone knows that in fact the land is very well located. All that is required is land tenure, the provision of infrastructure and then an upgrade. In Protea South and Thembalihle in Johannesburg the land that the poor have identified and occupied for themselves is thought to be too good for them. But this is not said. Dolomite is the only frightening beast that can be used to scare and to justify eviction.
In his State of the Nation address Msholozi himself committed his government to acquire more than 6,000 ha of well located land for the poor. This promise came as a response to the struggles of the poor in the cities and towns across the country. Obviously if the state fails to acquire and redistribute this land, there is nothing that will stop the people from identifying and occupying such well-located land on their own. We will give this our full support as a movement. If the alliances that we want to make with the churches, trade unions, the intellectuals and the urban experts will support us in this then we’ll know that they are really on our side. For as long as human beings are living and dying in the mud and the fires any politics of patience is just another name for oppression.
But the issue of Msholozi’s promise is not just a question of whether or not the 6,000 ha is acquired and redistributed. There is also the question of who decides what is and what is not well located land. Land should not only be seen to be well located because it is identified by the state. The poor have a right to identify land that is well located for them. If our cities are to become just cities then we as the poor will have to strengthen ourselves by further organisation and mobilisation. We will all need the courage that was shown in the Symphony Way and Macassar Village occupations here in Cape Town. Our cities require a strong leadership from the poor with a real consciousness as to how the issue of land remains a fragile question. Organisation, mobilisation, active citizen participation and a clear political consciousness will enable a popular democratic rebellion that can put the will of the people against the will of the few to build our new cities. The transfer of land to the poor and even to the working class requires radical action. It requires an action with minimal transactions. All these formalities and protocols are not just technical matters. They are not neutral. These formalities and protocols are biased to the rich and against the poor and have therefore bred many informalities resulting in the creation of informal settlements.
Our new urban order can only be realised when the land that has already been occupied by the poor is transferred to them with the full assurance of land tenure. If more land is not made available for those who don’t already live in well-located occupations, then the poor can find the new land themselves. The state has a duty to invest in our communities and to support our occupations through building infrastructure and maintaining it, far before considering building subsidised housing projects. Land tenure must come first, then the provision of services and infrastructure and then housing projects.
The trend of sprawling growth in our cities shows that we may not have enough land in the nearby future. In that case it may be worth considering high-density development projects and decentralising access to all socio-economic amenities so that a new planning may begin. But without fair debates and open spaces for such conversations by all and at all levels this may not be achieved or, if it is achieved, it many not be achieved in a way that is just.
Our struggle and every real struggle is to put the human being at the centre of our society, starting with the most dispossessed who are the homeless. Washing away political discourse and narrowing the fragile political question of land into a complicated technical question will not help any of us at all. The organising of the poor that takes place in our disgruntled spaces is very important for any change. And in those discussions by the poor who are marginalised because they do not count in our society lie some of the significant answers that most of us fail to recognise. Instead the blame for the evil produced by poverty is easily shifted to the poor. The victims of an evil system find that they are presented as evil people. The state, like those who continue to live in luxury life at the expense of the poor, continues to see the demands expressed by the poor as illegitimate and unreasonable. In fact, of all the people in society, our demands are the most legitimate and the most reasonable because we are living in the worst conditions. The demands of those with the most money and power are the least legitimate. Logic as well as justice is on the side of our struggle to put the will of the many against the will of the few, which is the only way to turn our imaginings of a new urban order into reality.
I thank you all.
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* This presentation was given on 11 October 2010 at the Development Action Group National Conference, entitled ‘Re-imagining the City: A New Urban Order’.
* S’bu Zikode is the president of Abahlali baseMjondolo.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Shell oil’s ‘licence to kill’?
Abena Ampofoa Asare
Last month, Judge José A. Cabranes of the Manhattan-based federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a judicial opinion that sent international lawyers, human rights advocates and African environmental activists reeling. Cabranes ruled that transnational corporations who participate in gross human rights abuses cannot be held responsible for torture, genocide, war crimes and the like because, as corporations, their activities fall outside the jurisdiction of international law. The Pan-African Newswire described the court’s opinion as a corporate licence to kill. Judge Pierre Leval, also of the Second Circuit, issued a dissenting opinion describing the Cabranes ruling as an unprecedented ‘blow to the efforts of international law to protect human rights’.
The plaintiffs in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell) were the relatives of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dr Barinem Kiobel and other Ogoni leaders imprisoned, tortured and executed in mid-1990s Nigeria. Their crime was protesting the environmental devastation associated with Shell’s long tenure in the region. The Niger Delta violence, culminating in the execution of Saro-Wiwa, a non-violent playwright, businessman and organiser, exposed the brutal overlap between big oil’s financial imperatives and a military dictatorship’s state repression. The tragedy of the Niger Delta forced the world to acknowledge the human costs of doing business as usual in the midst of a military dictatorship. ‘This is it,’ Saro-Wiwa wrote just months before his death, ‘they [the Abacha dictatorship] are going to arrest us all and execute us. All for Shell.’
This lawsuit against the Dutch, British and Nigerian holdings of Shell Petroleum was thrust before the Manhattan federal appeals court under the Alien Torts Statute (ATS), an extraordinary 1789 law which allows non-citizens to file lawsuits in US courts for serious breaches of international law. As a puzzling relic of the first Congress, the ATS lay mostly dormant until the 1980s when creative lawyers began using the statute to bring cases of international human rights abuse to trial in the US. Since then, American federal court judges have been urged – unequipped and often unwilling – into debates about international human rights law as ATS lawsuits on South African apartheid, Bosnian genocide, chemical warfare in Vietnam and other atrocities appeared before their courts.
Last month, the Second Circuit’s foray into the murky waters of international law via the Shell suit led to the shocking assertion that there is ‘no historical evidence of an existing or even nascent norm of customary international law imposing liability on corporations for violations of human rights’. Another Second Circuit judge, Pierre Leval, violently disagreed with Cabranes’s ‘illogical’ and ‘strange’ misreading of international law. In a separately issued opinion, Leval described international law as explicit in condemning human rights abuse and silent on the issue of corporate civil responsibility. Silences in the law, Leval argued, must not be interpreted to undermine the spirit, intention and norms of the law – particularly when the stakes are so high. This new precedent, Leval warned, would ‘offer to unscrupulous businesses advantages of incorporation never before dreamed of … businesses will now be free to trade in or exploit slaves, employ mercenary armies to do dirty work for despot’s political opponents, perform genocides or operate torture prisons … ---all without civil liability to victims’. Leval condemned the Cabranes ruling as a boon to corporations ‘who earn profits by commercial exploitation or abuse of fundamental human rights’, by allowing them to ‘successfully shield [their] profits…. simply by taking the precaution of conducting the heinous operation in the corporate form’. If the Shell ruling stands, ironically, the legacy of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists who gave their lives fighting for corporate responsibility would now be attached to a legal decision shielding transnational companies that trample human rights.
Central to this legal controversy is a question that should not be lost in the crossfire: What does international law and custom prescribe for transnational corporations implicated in gross human rights abuse? Months before this ruling, legal experts at a Northwestern University roundtable triumphantly claimed that the ‘future has already arrived’ for international corporate social responsibility. Corporate respect for human rights was a foregone conclusion cemented over the past two decades when ‘primary elements of corporate social responsibility--- human rights, environment, labor, and anti-corruption priorities – prevailed in the halls of government, in the rule-making of international institutions, in courtrooms, and in a growing number of boardrooms.’[i] Fast forward a few months and the Shell decision exposes a starkly different reality: gains made in human rights efforts to rein in transnational business must be defended and expanded, or risk being lost. In reality, more than 15 years after Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death, the international community has yet to ensure that transnational corporations do not contribute to genocide, war crimes, mass incarceration and torture as they do their business around the world.
Part of this situation is historical: international law has traditionally responded to crimes against humanity and atrocity with individual criminal prosecutions. At Nuremberg, the international community affirmed a new standard by recognising that ‘crimes against international law are committed by men, not abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.’ For the first time, individuals, rather than states, were prosecuted for breaches of international law. This standard of criminal responsibility has held sway for the past 60 years.
Since Nuremberg, the international community’s response to glaring human rights abuse has been to create international tribunals, such as the International Criminal Tribunal of Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) and the Special Court of Sierra Leone, which have all been built upon the Nuremberg insight that flesh-and-blood men are to blame for atrocities. Even as these later tribunals have begun to chafe against such a narrow focus, they have adhered to the standard of pursuing only the individuals deemed ‘most responsible’ for atrocity. Increasingly, the Nuremberg emphasis on personal criminality seems less like revelation and more like restriction. Each year, more violence-scarred countries turn to truth and reconciliation commissions and other extrajudicial instruments to pursue broader notions of justice.
The creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has not altered international law’s focus on individual criminal prosecutions. At the 2002 Rome Conference, there were discussions about whether corporations should be included within the ICC’s purview. However, ideological and theoretical differences within the signatory countries torpedoed this proposal. There were some stakeholders who, theoretically, did not recognise the principle of corporate criminality in their own domestic law and others who were wary of imbuing the court with too much power. Given the ICC’s limited resources, the vision of a narrowly focused court prevailed at the expense of the more ambitious versions. Ultimately, the ICC would not seek to respond to the gaps in international law’s enforcement of human rights and instead would focus on bringing individual perpetrators to trial.
Although norms of international corporate responsibility have been articulated clearly, there are woefully few clear avenues to move from rhetoric to response. For the better part of two decades, the United Nations’ cognizance of the raw power of transnational companies has led to a number of exciting initiatives. As early as 1984, the UN sought to establish a Code of Conduct for Transnational Companies to issue both mandatory requirements and voluntary guidelines for business. However, partially because of the Cold War context, this comprehensive code was never adopted.
In 2000, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan created the Global Compact, an initiative encouraging company commitments to corporate responsibility standards. However, the Compact was voluntary, strictly incentive-based and ultimately unable to change how transnational companies do business. Subsequently, the UN Sub-Commission for Human Rights created the ‘Norms on the responsibility of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights’. Marked by bold rhetoric describing extensive human rights obligations for transnational corporations, in practice, these norms function as ‘soft law’ recommendations. At best, they constitute a core document about which to ultimately build more secure regulation mechanisms. Since their adoption in 2003, these norms have not led to regulations and thus have not been integrated into the practice of international law. Despite a decades-long effort in this arena, because the UN initiatives lack stringent enforcement mechanisms, they have not become part of the international legal system.
Into this gap enters the recent Second Circuit opinion dismissing the long history of UN efforts as aspirations, ideals and guidelines rather than as obligatory parts of the law. If Nuremberg’s call for individual moral responsibility was the main achievement of 20th century international human rights, the 21st century’s task will be to confront the institutions that create the conditions for genocide, atrocity and mass human suffering. The recent court judgment exposes the costs of the international community’s hesitance to stringently regulate transnational companies. It must also renew our determination to create mechanisms that dissuade corporations from valuing profit above human rights, and forums to assess liability and undermine impunity if and when they do. If this lawsuit is a clarion call about the need to enforce established human rights norms as law, it may become an important part of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s legacy and part of his continuing gift to the world.
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[i] David Scheffer and Caroline Kaeb, ‘The Five Levels of CSR Compliance: The Resiliency of Corporate Liability under the Alien Tort Statute and the Case for a Counterattack Strategy in Compliance Theory,’ Public Policy Roundtable, The Alien Tort Statute and U.S. Enforcement of Foreign Judgments, 4/29/2010- 4/30/2010
An October to Remember
Alemayehu G. Mariam
The great American novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote, ‘All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.’ On 6 October 2010, Birtukan Mideksa, Ethiopia’s First Daughter, also headed home from nearly two years of captivity to the ones she was forced to forsake: her daughter Hal’le, her long-suffering septuagenarian mother and 80 million of her countrymen and women who prayed and waited to see her walk free. It will be an October to remember.
THE STOCKHOLM SYNDROME
Dictator-in-chief Meles Zenawi says he freed Birtukan because she asked for a ‘pardon’; and ‘pardon’ he did in ‘words that are like a cloud of winged snakes’ (to quote the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) drifting aloft a sea of lies, damned lies, and total fabrications. The history of the law is replete with monstrous examples of false confessions: innocent individuals victimised into admitting atrocious crimes under duress, torture, threat of violence to themselves or loved ones, diminished capacity induced by extreme psychological and physical deprivation or mental impairment induced by prolonged and harsh solitary confinement or by trickery and deception.
Prisoners can be brainwashed to say anything by those who control them. Prisoners who have endured torture, extreme degradation and abuse have been known to do shocking things to please their captors and ease their own pain and suffering. Abused prisoners have been known to deceive themselves into believing the cruelty of their captors as acts of kindness. It is called ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. When the victim is under the total and complete control of her captor for her basic needs of survival and her very existence, she will say and do anything to please her captor. The victim will comply with any command or demand by her captor just to survive and remain sane, and not self-destruct by giving in to the terror and rage she feels for her helpless situation. It is ironic that Birtukan in this so-called pardon allegedly confesses and apologises for wrongdoings committed in Stockholm, Sweden.
It is not difficult to parade a prisoner before television cameras and force her to confess her ‘crimes’. Political and war prisoners subjected to torture, deprivation and psychological manipulation have been known to condemn themselves, their families, their countries, and even the Almighty. Brutalized prisoners have been known to collaborate with their torturers to inflict horrendous violence on fellow prisoners. Political prisoners in solitary confinement have been driven to hysteria and madness by their isolation. Political and war prisoners have committed suicide to end their suffering at the hands of the captors.
Birtukan was held for months in a dark room with no human contact except a few minutes a week with her mother and daughter. Fear, anxiety and despair were her only companions. Heartache knocked constantly on the door to her dark room needling her, ‘Did you do the right thing leaving three-year-old Hal’le to the care of your aging mother?’ Self-doubt kept her awake in that dark room where time stood still asking her the same question over and over, ‘Is it worth all this suffering? Give up!’ But a voice in her conscience would echo thunderously, ‘Like hell you’re going to give up, Birtukan. Fight on. Keep on fighting. Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’ In the end Birtukan signed Zenawi’s scrap of paper making exception to convictions of honour and good sense. We expected nothing less from such a great young woman.
ZENAWI WROTE IT, BIRTUKAN SIGNED IT!
What is written in the so-called pardon request is a transcription of what Zenawi said during his ignominious appearance at Columbia University a couple of weeks ago. Using forensic document examination techniques, it can be demonstrated to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that Zenawi is the invisible hand that authored the pardon document. Simply stated, Zenawi wrote the pardon to himself and had Birtukan sign it. It is just as simple as that. But scientific investigative techniques aside, we all know, as Mandela has taught us, that, ‘Only free men (and women) can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.’ Terms and conditions are always dictated to prisoners. Birtukan is no position to negotiate her release by pardon or any other means. Zenawi wrote down his release terms and conditions and ordered Birtukan to sign it. The alleged ‘pardon’ request could in no way be regarded as Birtukan’s voluntary confession of wrongdoing; it is Zenawi’s hallucination of Birtukan’s wrongdoing. It is hogwash.
Zenawi’s ‘pardon’ may be ‘real’ to his Western donors who want to ease their guilty-as-sin consciences for providing billions to support his dictatorship. For Zenawi’s apologists who will sell their souls for a patch of land to build a shack and throw in their grandmothers to sweeten the deal, it may be a real pardon. For the opportunists, brown nosers, derriere-kissers and mercenaries, it may be a legitimate pardon. But to any freedom-loving Ethiopian or any other reasonable human being, the ‘pardon’ is nothing more than the reveries of a self-absorbed megalomaniac garbed in legalistic hokum.
The fact of the matter is that an innocent person’s freedom is not negotiable or pardonable. An innocent person cannot ask for a pardon nor can a career criminal grant it. Zenawi makes a travesty of the institution of pardon, which has a long and honored history in human civilization; and occupies the highest position in the tradition of the law. Zenawi robbed Birtukan of her freedom. He did not free her by a ‘pardon’. Birtukan has always been free. Zenawi let Birtukan out of prison in 2010 for the same reason he put her in prison in 2008: enlightened self-interest. He jailed her to make sure she will not whip him at the polls. He let her loose to pander to Birtukan’s generation and hoodwink the international community.
Just last year, Zenawi emphatically and sadistically guaranteed that ‘there will never be an agreement with anybody to release Birtukan. Ever. Full stop. That’s a dead issue.’ Now he says she is ‘free’ to go because she scratched her initials on a scrap of paper. When his Western donor sugar daddies pled with him time and again to let Birtukan go, he told them to go to hell, hell, hell. When the Western donor fat cats unsheathed their gelatinous claws and threatened to withhold aid, he laughed in their faces. But he finally had to let Birtukan go (as he could never free her) not because he is a statesman, compassionate or squeezed by the donors, but because he is ghastly afraid of what Birtukan represents. She represents Ethiopia’s youth. She represents Ethiopian women. She represents the dreams and aspirations of 80 million people. She represents the ascent of freedom and democracy and the descent of dictatorship and oppression in Ethiopia. In sum, she represents the ‘future country of Ethiopia’.
Zenawi knows the youth and women of Ethiopia hold the key to his very survival and the permanence of the ethnic homelands (Bantustans) he has toiled for so long to create. He also knows they hold a deep grudge against him for chaining Birtukan in the dungeons of Kality while shackling them in what has become Prison Nation Ethiopia. By letting go Birtukan, Zenawi seeks atonement and redemption in the eyes of the young people and women of Ethiopia. It is his twisted way of asking them for a pardon. By releasing Birtukan, Zenawi hopes to release and unleash the good will and support of Ethiopia’s youth and women to himself and his regime.
It is laughable that Zenawi wants to be seen as magnanimous for granting ‘pardon’ to Birtukan. But self-delusion is the quintessential attribute of all dictators. Zenawi confuses the arrogance of vanity with magnanimity. When a thief is forced to return what he has stolen to the rightful owner, it cannot be said that he is a virtuous man or performed an honest act. When the slave master is forced to emancipate his slave from bondage, it cannot be said that he freed the slave. The slave was always free until enslaved by the slave master. As one cannot thank the thief or praise the slave master, neither can Zenawi expect gratitude for doing what he could never do: Free Birtukan! Magnanimity, he must know, is to the virtuous as vice is to the vicious.
But Zenawi missed a fine opportunity to be truly magnanimous. He could have simply said he let Birtukan out in the interest of justice or for humanitarian reasons. Better yet, he could have done it in strict compliance with his own ‘pardon law’ in a process that is perfectly transparent yielding an outcome that would have preserved Birtukan’s dignity while saving him face. He could have stunned his critics by following his own law and performing a simple compassionate act. He could have gained the grudging respect of his opponents and the admiration of all for acting so courageously and honorably. He could have generated so much good will for himself. He could have even seen a glimmer of his own humanity. But his vampiric addiction to victimising others, his irrepressible need to humiliate and suck dry the last drops of dignity from his opponents, the raging anger in his mind and the flaming hatred bottled in his heart will never allow him to become anything but what he is. But humiliating others is like throwing a boomerang which travels elliptically in the air and returns to the person who threw it. Zenawi did not humiliate Birtukan by forcing her to sign a scrap of paper confessing to wrongdoings she never committed. He humiliated himself by showing how petty, vacuous, small-minded and contemptible he is. But why waste ink or paper talking about a ‘pardon’ that is not even worth the paper it is written on.
We are happy Birtukan is out, no longer in the dungeon. It does not matter how she got out. We couldn’t care less if she got out by scratching her initials on a scrap of paper oozing with lies and fabrications. We do not care if she got out by singing praises to a dictator. To be perfectly frank, we don’t give a damn how Birtukan got out of Zenawi’s prison. We are just glad she is out and back with her daughter, mother and the rest of her family, and her people. If Zenawi wants us to thank him for letting her go, we will be magnanimously happy to do so, ‘Thanks for nothing!’
For the rest of us who love, admire and respect Birtukan, let us resolve from this day on never to mention the name Birtukan Mideksa with the word ‘pardon’ in the same phrase or sentence. It is blasphemy to say Ethiopia’s First Daughter and foremost patriot was pardoned and granted freedom by a universally condemned human rights abuser.
It is not about the past. It is about now! What time is it?
IT IS TIME TO CELEBRATE BIRTUKAN!
What a great young woman Birtukan truly is! What a genius she is! Birtukan signed that baloney passing off as a ‘pardon’ and walked straight out of prison. She proved that she is indeed Birtukan Invictus (the Unconquered), mistress of her destiny and captain of her soul. In a contest between beauty and the beast, brains trumped brawn once again. I can only imagine what she was thinking when she read the scrap of paper she was forced to sign. She probably chuckled a few times as she skimmed the paragraphs drenched in lies. I can imagine her gently reminding the so-called elders (shimagles), ‘Gentlemen, but you have forgotten so many of my others crimes. How could that be? Please, please, let me make a full confession.’
I, Birtukan Mideksa, in addition to all of the crimes I have confessed to committing as set forth fully in this pardon request, am also personally responsible for other dastardly crimes including global warming, global poverty, the global financial crises and recession, the war in Iraq, hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, USA, sunspots and the disbanding of the Mickey Mouse Club.
Oh, well! Let us just celebrate Birtukan. Let us celebrate her enormous sacrifices. Let us pay her homage for the long months she endured in solitary confinement in one of the worst prison systems in the world as documented in the 2008 US State Department Human Rights Report on Ethiopia. Let us thank her for standing up to dictatorship. Let us show her our genuine love, appreciation and gratitude for being an enduring symbol of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Ethiopia. Let us support her in anything she desires to do for herself and her family. Above all, let us embrace her for the moral courage she showed under the most inhumane circumstances.
Birtukan now has attained greatness reserved for the very few. She now walks in the very footsteps of Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. She must now walk the same long walk Mandela took to bring freedom to South Africa. She must now march the long march that Gandhi made to bring independence to India. She must now walk across many bridges like Martin Luther King to heal a nation divided by hatred. It will be a long walk and a protracted march to her dreamland of the ‘future country of Ethiopia.’ But I have no doubts, none at all, that she will one day enter triumphantly into that glorious ‘future country’ to the rhythmic ululations of millions of her people.
IT’S TIME TO TELL BIRTUKAN WE ARE MIGHTY, MIGHTY PROUD OF HER!
I want Birtukan to know that I am proud of her more than words can describe. I am proud of who she is and what she has accomplished in advancing the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. But there are a few other things I would like for her to know also. If she ever feels that she may have let us down while she was in solitary confinement, I want her to know that the pain and suffering she endured in the dark in total isolation has uplifted us for our lifetimes. If she ever has doubts that she could have done more for us while chained in Zenawi’s dungeon, I want her to know that she has done more in solitary confinement than a million of us put together sitting idly in freedom. If she ever experiences misgivings for signing a scrap of paper to reunite with her daughter, her mother and her people, I want her to know that we are proud – damn proud – she signed it to get the hell out of hell. If she ever thinks that she has to explain something she did or did not do, said or did not say, while caged in Zenawi’s prison, I want her to know that her actions speak louder than any words she may be able to utter. She has nothing to explain; her life of struggle and suffering for her people speaks volumes. If she thinks she could have done things differently or better, I want her to know that she did it all just right. We would not want her to change a thing. She spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She paid a high, very high price for speaking truth to power. But so did Mandela. She knows it comes with the territory for all great leaders. Above all else, we want her to know that we are mighty proud of everything she has done. Everything! She has nothing to regret, and everything of which to be proud.
IT’S ALSO TIME TO UNDERSTAND BIRTUKAN
Let us also understand Birtukan. It is true that she is a strong young woman of conviction and principle. That is why I call her Birtukan Invictus or ayibegere. But even the strongest steel exposed to the harsh elements suffers metal fatigue and bends. Let us remember that for the past two years Birtukan was denounced, vilified, strong-armed and manhandled. She was thrown into the dungeon of wrath and tears. She was beaten, tortured, bludgeoned and bloodied. She was thrown in solitary confinement. She was mocked, ridiculed, humiliated and disrespected. Zenawi has done everything he could to shatter her bones, cripple her body, break her heart, crush her spirit and confuse her mind; but her soul — the temple of her principles, her compassion, her decency, her courage and her bottomless love for her people — remains intact and unblemished. Zenawi could not touch it! Birtukan still stands tall, unbowed and unafraid.
I plead with all of her well-intentioned colleagues and supporters who surround her to take it easy and give her breathing space. A victim of solitary confinement, the worst form of psychological torture, needs time to heal and regain her inner balance. Let us always remind ourselves that Birtukan was kept in solitary confinement under the most degrading conditions. She was told she has been abandoned and forgotten by the world. She was told day and night that nobody cared about her, nobody gave a damn. She was told she will die alone in that dark cold room. Now she needs to be with her family and friends and the people who love and care about her to heal the deep psychological wounds of the silent torture of solitary confinement.
The winds of politics will sway their fickle cargo to and fro, but it is unfair and inconsiderate to hang out Birtukan in the political wind so quickly after she had spent so much time in solitary confinement. She needs to be left alone for awhile. She does not need to be burdened with problems. Though we all know that Birtukan is an ordinary young woman destined to do extraordinary things, we should not mistake her for ‘superwoman’ who can solve all problems for all people by waiving a magic wand. It has been taught that, ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.’ This is the season to honor Birtukan; it is the time show how proud we are of her. This the season for us to show her our love, respect and admiration. This is the time for her to rest her weary body and nurse her battered spirit. It is not the time or the season to put the burdens of discord, squabbles and dissension on her frail shoulders.
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN ETHIOPIA
Birtukan is let out of prison, but tens of thousands of others remain imprisoned for their political beliefs. We must continue to work arduously for the release of so many other political prisoners whose names and faces are known but to their families and their torturers. There are also other prisoners who are in dire need of help. These inmates inhabit a prison of their own making. They are the prisoners of hate ‘locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness’, as Mandela would describe them. They live in a prison of the closed mind dwelling in a body with a stone cold heart. Our sister Birtukan has been to hell and back; but her tormentors still live there. In the verse of Mark Spencer: ‘So here sits the prisoner / Shackled in his cell. / Wrestling with the demons, / Of his private hell.’
In the right season and at the right time, I have no doubts that Birtukan and her generation will free those shackled in the cells of their private hell because they know all too well the wages of hate. Birtukan and her generation will rise up and declare in the words of Martin Luther King, ‘We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.’ It is now the right time and right season to rededicate ourselves to Birtukan’s ‘future country of Ethiopia.’ No more bitterness, no more hatred, no more cruelty and no more inhumanity.
BIRTUKAN UNBOUND! PROMETHEUS UNBOUND!
I have had no greater honour in my life than pleading Birtukan’s cause at every forum and opportunity available to me since she was jailed in December 2008. Birtukan has been a source of great inspiration and strength to me. I have learned the true meaning of moral integrity and courage from her. I stand in awe of her for the price she has paid speaking truth to power. Though she is young, she has shown more wisdom than so many of her elders who have spent so much of our lives in pursuit of formal education.
There are countless individuals and groups throughout the world who have toiled so hard to see Birtukan free. Many of them worked quietly. I have seen many young people use modern technology to make Birtukan’s case known to the world. I have seen many young people flooding public events with flyers of Birtukan’s imprisonment, standing by the street side waiving banners and silently protesting at candle light vigils. I have seen some walking the halls of power in America and heard of others doing the same in Europe, Canada and Australia pleading for Birtukan’s release. Each and every one of them deserves our gratitude and appreciation. I believe all of us who have worked in Birtukan’s cause have done so not just because we believe Birtukan is an extraordinary leader and compassionate human being, but also because she the quintessential symbol of her generation. Our unshakeable faith in Birtukan is merely a reflection of our unwavering faith in her generation. I willingly confess that I truly, sincerely and genuinely believe in the existence of that wonderful dreamland which Birtukan has often described as the ‘future country of Ethiopia’!
God Bless Ethiopia! God Bless Birtukan Mideksa and Her Family! FREE ALL POLTICAL PRISONERS IN ETHIOPIA.
* Alemayehu Mariam is a lawyer and professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, USA.
* This article was originally published in The Huffington Post
* Read the statement (PDF) released by Ethiopian Women for Peace and Development on the occasion of Mideksa’s release.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Africa and the climate finance controversy
Let us accept Pat Mooney’s six theses about damaging new world trends: Loss of diversity; the threat of shock-therapy bio-engineering; the profusion of state-subsidised technological fixes (mainly unworkable); the disempowerment of those promoting ecologically- and socially-preferable alternatives; amplified state-corporate control over body politics and individual bodies implied by many of these fixes; and ‘corporatist’ politics at global and national scales directly linking state resources to crony-capitalist private profit.
Accepting these premises and turning our attention to Africa, the questions posed in this article are: How do such zany schemes get funded by global capital and multilateral financial institutions? Can we derail the techie agenda with a defunding strategy, by cutting off the financial lifeblood? And following logically: If lack of finance is a barrier to achieving alternative visions, how then might we break that barrier? The most challenging case, in which the money will flow fastest and most inappropriately – and where the need for an alternative, fair and just financing arrangement is most acute – is the climate crisis.
FINANCING EBBS AND FLOWS
Setting aside hard-to-predict Chinese flows or the purchase of vast swathes of African land by other countries (India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia), it does seem that elites lack solid commitments for external financing to make possible both private sector speculative projects and public sector infrastructural investment in Africa. In some periods there is an overflow of such finance, such as the mid/late-1970s, mid/late-1990s and late 2000s, when bubbly Northern markets pushed credit into the pockets – and often the overseas bank accounts – of Africa’s venal rulers, to be repaid by the impoverished masses mainly through intensified mineral and cash crop exports, with structural adjustment programmes as the banker’s squeezing technique.
Then came the 2008-09 economic meltdown, when within a six-month period, half the value on the world’s stock markets disappeared. Credit for even profitable firms became hard to get in the North, much less Africa. Other factors that dried up African financing included the mid-2008 commodity price crash (still nowhere near recovery), ongoing military strife in key sites, and worsening austerity conditions in the many rich donor countries which are cutting bilateral aid. While South Africa has received large financial inflows through emerging-market speculative funds, few private investors would put money into the rest of the continent.
Soon, however, a surplus of official multilateral credit became available, albeit with tight strings attached. Led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose member states granted the institution more than US$750 billion in new lending capacity in 2009, the multilateral banks were financially re-empowered by the crisis. This was highly inappropriate, for their liberalising ideology was a central cause of the contagion, especially the 1990s command to drop capital controls and trade restrictions.
The World Bank, too, has a surplus of monies for investment, hence found it acceptable in April 2010 to dump US$3.75 billion into the largest coal-fired power station on the continent, the Medupi project in South Africa, in spite of myriad problems. But does new-found Bretton Woods Institution wealth translate into African credit-worthiness? The multilateral financiers would like us to accept their affirmative answer, yet the evidence is mixed.
‘AFRICA IS GROWING AGAIN’
Judging by a raft of reports in 2009-10, as well as some offhanded comments by the World Bank’s leading economist for Africa, Shanta Devarajan, the neoliberal bloc is promoting a curious argument: Africa’s ‘growth has accelerated since the 1990s’ because ‘these countries adopted exactly the Washington Consensus policies in the mid-1990s… out of their own accord, out of domestic political consensus, rather than imposed from Washington or Paris or London. And I think that’s the point that people are not recognizing, that the actual policies that are generating the growth, are actually very similar to what was criticized in the structural adjustment era’.
It is easy to argue with Devarajan – because the ‘growth’ is mythical, since GDP does not record the extraction of non-renewable resources. Once one makes this correction, as even the World Bank did in 2006, the net wealth associated with most African countries’ economies is negative (see Bond 2006 and World Bank 2006, even if Devarajan could not quite come to believe his own researchers’ analysis).
It is also easy to rebut the hubristic argument that in Africa the Washington Consensus ideology was adopted by ‘domestic political consensus’. And it’s easy to show how ‘growth’ has been so distorted in Africa – accompanied by rising inequality and macroeconomic imbalances – as to be untenable for anything more than building neocolonial rail lines, roads, ports and energy systems aimed solely at extracting more minerals, petroleum and cash crops. Backward-forward linkages and indigenous manufacturing were generally not on any financier’s agenda, and few if any African elites (aside from SA industry minister Rob Davies) have made efforts to balance their economies in a sensible way. As an ideology and political bloc stretching from Washington to the technocrats and politicians who manage every African capital, neoliberalism has simply been impervious to its own recent and soon-to-reappear crises.
AFRICA’S ENVIRONMENTAL CREDITS
For most foreign investors, Africa has always been a compliant site for not only mineral/petroleum extraction, but also abuse of the continent’s ‘ecological space’. Being on-grid for resource extraction and environmental exploitation in this manner is a curse. The looting of Africa’s environmental resources, the lack of industrial development and the role of the great central African rainforest as a prolific sink for the North’s CO2 emissions, together give rise to the argument that the industrialised powers owe Africa – and many other South sites – a formal debt for using too much ecological space, and for ripping out non-renewable resources in an unsustainable manner.
According to the Ecuador-based advocacy group Accion Ecologica (2000): ‘ecological debt is the debt accumulated by Northern, industrial countries toward Third World countries on account of resource plundering, environmental damages, and the free occupation of environmental space to deposit wastes, such as greenhouse gases, from the industrial countries.’
The leading scientist in the field, Autonomous University of Barcelona’s Joan Martinez-Alier (2003), calculates ecological debt in many forms: ‘nutrients in exports including virtual water, the oil and minerals no longer available, the biodiversity destroyed, sulphur dioxide emitted by copper smelters, the mine tailings, the harms to health from flower exports, the pollution of water by mining, the commercial use of information and knowledge on genetic resources, when they have been appropriated gratis (‘biopiracy’), and agricultural genetic resources.’ As for the North’s ‘lack of payment for environmental services or for the disproportionate use of environmental space,’ Martinez-Alier criticises ‘imports of solid or liquid toxic waste, and free disposal of gas residues (carbon dioxide, CFCs, etc).’
How should this debt be repaid? Simply through forgiving financial debt? More than a quarter century ago, ‘debt-for-nature swaps’ were pioneered in Latin America as a way local elites could maintain contractual obligations to global finance (thus not losing out on credit ratings and international standing) while several rather unprincipled international environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) could tap into new donor pools to acquire ‘new enclosures’ for conservation purposes. Many organisations of indigenous people have been outraged, and today formally oppose the latest version of enclosures, the ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries’ (REDD) programme (Morales 2010).
Instead of such schemes, whose effects are to permit Northern polluters to continue business as usual and Northern financiers and ENGOs to gain greater control, those responsible for taking advantage of Africa’s natural resources should pay their ecological debt, according to the principle of ‘polluters pay’. This is an especially compelling argument, now that there is near-universal awareness of the damage being done by rising greenhouse gas emissions, and by the ongoing stubborn refusal by the rich to cut back.
However, demands by Jubilee South and others for no-strings eco-debt repayment plus dramatic cuts in Northern greenhouse gas emissions – to allow Africa its fair share of future industrial development – are the opposite of the elites’ strategy. Instead of repaying climate credits, the Northern capitalists have drawn African rulers into a financing game they much prefer: Carbon trading.
CARBON CREDITS, NOT CLIMATE DEBT
In 1997 at the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, the Global North offered to assist Africa financially through ‘Clean Development Mechanism’ (CDM) projects, in a context of declining overseas development aid associated with the end of the Cold War. Many African elites agreed, along with once reluctant environmental groups. Popular movements were unaware and uninvolved, and expert opinion was mixed about the efficacy and moral implications. The proponents of carbon trading argued that this would be the least painful – and least resisted – means of capping greenhouse gas emissions and allowing economies to adapt to new carbon constraints.
Market mechanisms – especially carbon trading and offsets – allow corporations and governments generating greenhouse gases to seemingly reduce their net emissions. They can do this, thanks to the Kyoto Protocol, by trading for others’ ‘certified emissions reductions’ (e.g. CDM projects in the Third World) or emissions rights (e.g. Eastern Europe’s ‘hot air’ that followed the 1990s economic collapse).
The pro-trading rationale is that once property rights are granted to polluters for these emissions, even if given not auctioned (hence granting a generous giveaway), a ‘cap’ can be put on a country’s or the world’s total emissions. It will then be progressively lowered, if there is political will. So as to minimise adverse economic impact, corporations can stay within the cap even by emitting way above it, by buying others’ rights to pollute.
CRASHING CARBON CAPITALISM
Although in 1997, this theory may been plausible, by 2010 it was clear that the main pilots had failed. CDMs fit within the broader carbon markets: Roughly 6.5 per cent of the US$125 billion in 2008 trades, a ratio that fell substantially in 2009. For those Africans who bought into carbon trading, there were howls of protest about an obvious injustice: The share of CDM financing to Africa continued to be disproportionately low, around 3 per cent of all CDM projects. Most credits emanated from South Africa, with its huge emissions and large cadre of environmental technical specialists.
Given the controversies already evident in myriad European Union Emissions Trading Scheme credibility crises, corruption cases and price volatility problems – with the 2008-09 ‘value’ of a tonne of CO2 falling from €30 at peak to less than €9, before adjusting to around €15 during 2010 – the question emerged whether CDMs were not fundamentally flawed as a strategy for climate financing (Lohmann 2006, 2010). The apparent demise of carbon trading in the 2009-10 legislative session of the US Senate made this strategy a losing proposition not only for Africa but also at the global scale.
Even without the expected Washington gridlock, mainly as a result of sabotage by powerful fossil fuel interests, carbon trading had crashed on its own terms by early 2010. ‘The concept is in wide disrepute’, reported the New York Times (25 March 2010), with US Senator Maria Cantwell explaining that ‘cap and trade’ (the US description) was ‘discredited by the Wall Street crisis, the Enron scandal and the rocky start to a carbon credits trading system in Europe that has been subject to dizzying price fluctuations and widespread fraud.’
But it is to left-wing critics of emissions trading that we turn for a more rounded critique, especially the Durban Group for Climate Justice, founded in 2004 in South Africa. Most in the climate justice movement argue that the carbon market is not working:
- The idea of inventing a property right to pollute is effectively the ‘privatization of the air’, a moral problem given the vast and growing differentials in wealth inequalities
- Greenhouse gases are complex and their rising production creates a non-linear impact which cannot be reduced to a commodity exchange relationship (a tonne of CO2 produced in one place accommodated by reducing a tonne in another, as is the premise of the emissions trade)
- The corporations most guilty of pollution and the World Bank – which is most responsible for fossil fuel financing – are the driving forces behind the market, and can be expected to engage in systemic corruption to attract money into the market even if this prevents genuine emissions reductions
- Many of the offsetting projects – such as monocultural timber plantations, forest ‘protection’ and landfill methane-electricity projects – have devastating impacts on local communities and ecologies, and have been hotly contested in part because the carbon sequestered is far more temporary (since trees die) than the carbon emitted
- The price of carbon determined in these markets is haywire, making mockery of the idea that there will be an effective market mechanism to make renewable energy a cost-effective investment
- There is a serious potential for carbon markets to become an out-of-control, multi-trillion dollar speculative bubble, similar to exotic financial instruments associated with Enron’s 2002 collapse (indeed, many Enron employees populate the carbon markets)
- As a ‘false solution’ to climate change, carbon trading encourages merely small, incremental shifts, and thus distracts us from a wide range of radical changes we need to make in materials extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal; and
- The idea of market solutions to market failure (‘externalities’) is an ideology that rarely makes sense, and especially not following the world’s worst-ever financial market failure, and especially not when the very idea of derivatives – a financial asset whose underlying value is several degrees removed and also subject to extreme variability – was thrown into question.
AFRICAN ADVOCATES OF CARBON TRADING
Notwithstanding the chaos and corruption, there are prominent supporters of environment and development – including at least three leading Africans – who continue promoting the emissions trade. For some, this can be attributed to substantial conflicts of interest, which arose in joint roles as climate cooling advocates and carbon traders. According to Michael Dorsey, professor of political ecology at Dartmouth College, ‘After more than a decade of failed politicking [on behalf of carbon trading], many NGO types... are only partially jumping off the sinking ship – so as to work for industries driving the problem. Unfortunately, many continue to influence NGO policy from their current positions, while failing to admit to or even understand obvious conflicts of interest’ (cited in Bond 2009).
In the highest-profile African case, Wangari Maathai, the former Kenyan deputy environment minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, such conflicts were not a factor. But there were certainly self-interested reasons for Valli Moosa, South Africa’s former environment minister (1999-2004), to promote carbon trading as minister at the critical 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. In the latter half of the 2000s, Moosa went on to preside over the IUCN and chaired the board of the continent’s largest energy company and CO2 emitter, Eskom, and became actively involved in the trade as a sideline. Then in March 2010, he was implicated, as a member of the African National Congress (ANC) financing committee, in unethically channelling tens of millions of rands in earnings to the ruling party by signing Eskom purchase orders for Medupi’s new boilers in a way that directly benefited the ANC, which in turn was financed by the controversial World Bank loan.
Moosa’s successor as minister of environment, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, was an apartheid-era youth spy for the white regime during the 1980s, who took control of the National Party in the late 1990s and then dissolved it into the ANC in exchange for the ministerial position (although in 2009 he was demoted to tourism minister). Van Schalkwyk (cited in Bond, Dada and Erion, 2009) argued in 2006 that ‘The 17 CDM projects in the pipeline in Sub-Sahara Africa account for only 1.7 per cent of the total of 990 projects worldwide. To build faith in the carbon market and to ensure that everyone shares in its benefits, we must address the obstacles that African countries face.’ At the International Emissions Trading Association Forum in Washington a year later, he insisted, ‘An all-encompassing global carbon market regime which includes all developed countries is the first and ultimate aim.’ Van Schalkwyk was nominated by South Africa to replace Yvo de Boer as UN climate negotiations director in early 2010, but his candidacy barely failed (to Costa Rican carbon trader Christiana Figueres).
Maathai, too, promoted carbon trading through her own Greenbelt Movement in the expectation that CDMs and emerging proposals for REDD would reward tree-planting in both her indigenous strategy as well as monocultural timber plantations. She was also the leading proponent of the document ‘Africa speaks up on Climate Change’, which fed into the ‘African Climate Appeal’, a statement which insists upon more CDM finance with fewer strings attached, especially for afforestation:
‘African governments should ensure that there is equity in geographical distribution of CDM projects and that this is entrenched in the international policy process. They should negotiate for the requirement of up front funding of CDM projects to be waived for many African countries who cannot afford it. The appeal calls upon African countries to embark on the development of CDM capacities and projects including capacity building and development of centers of incubation for CDM projects. African governments should explore possibilities of accessing grants to provide upfront funding for CDM projects and also project development and financing through bilateral arrangements’ (Matthai, 2009, p. 4).
Maathai criticised three existing funds – the Special Climate Change Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Bali Adaptation Fund – because these funds have not been able to address concerns of African countries on adaptation, namely:
‘[A]ccess, adequacy and equitable geographical distribution. The funds are largely inadequate and inappropriately structured; currently relying on a 2 percent levy on CDM projects. Access to the funds has been made difficult, among others, by bureaucratic bottlenecks of the Global Environmental Fund and the World Bank.’ (Matthai, 2009, p. 4).
DEMANDING DEBT REPAYMENT, BY THE NORTH
Instead of requesting more CDM carbon trading funds, many more civil society groups instead insisted on raising climate debt as the optimal financing route. In August 2008, African chapters of Jubilee South converged in Nairobi to debunk limited ‘debt relief’ by Northern powers and to plan the next stage of financial campaigning. Nairobi-based Africa Jubilee South co-coordinator Njoki Njehu concluded, ‘Africa and the rest of the Global South are owed a huge historical and ecological debt for slavery, colonialism, and centuries of exploitation’ (cited in Bond and Brutus, 2008, p. 1).
Behind African elite considerations is the threat to repeat their performance in Seattle in 1999 and Cancun in 2003, when denial of consent in World Trade Organisation negotiations was the proximate cause of the summits’ collapse on both occasions. On 3 September 2009, Meles Zenawi issued a strong threat from Addis Ababa about the upcoming Copenhagen conference: ‘If need be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threatens to be another rape of our continent’ (cited in Ashine 2009). To gather that power, Zenawi established the Conference of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change: chairpersons of the AU and the AU Commission, representatives of Ethiopia, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Chairpersons of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment and Technical Negotiators on climate change from all member states. They met at the AU Summit in Sirte, Libya in July 2009, agreeing that Africa would have a sole delegation to Copenhagen with a united front and demands for compensation.
The most important African negotiator – and largest CO2 emitter (responsible for more than 40 per cent of the continent’s CO2) – is South Africa (Bond, Dada and Erion 2009). Long seen as a vehicle for Western interests in Africa, Pretoria’s negotiators have two conflicting agendas: Increasing Northern payments to Africa (a longstanding objective of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, which requested US$64 billion per annum in aid and investment concessions during the early 2000s); and increasing CO2 outputs through around 2050, when the Long-Term Mitigation Scenario – South Africa’s official climate cap – would come into effect and emissions declines are offered as a scenario. In the meantime, Pretoria has earmarked more than US$100 billion for emissions-intensive coal and nuclear fired electricity generation plants due to be constructed during 2010-15, which would amplify Africa’s climate crisis, requiring more resources from the North for adaptation.
But the current South African environment minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, made a demand in September 2009: ‘We expect money. We need money to be made available... we need money as of yesterday for adaptation and mitigation’ (Sapa 2009). What Sonjica didn’t comprehend is that any just calculation of financing responsibilities for climate debt would identify South Africa as a debtor not creditor country.
The effect of the Africans’ rhetoric appeared to entail some immediate concessions. In September 2009, the European Union announced it would begin paying its climate debt, but only up to US$22 billion annually to fund adaptation, roughly one seventh of what EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas observed would be required by 2020 (US$145b). Some of that would be subtracted from existing aid. The EU damage estimates were considered far too conservative, as China’s mitigation and adaptation costs alone would be US$438 billion annually by 2030, according to Beijing. According to one report, the EU view is that emissions trading should be the basis of ‘much of the shortfall’: ‘The international carbon market, if designed properly, will create an increasing financial flow to developing countries and could potentially deliver as much as €38bn per year in 2020’ (Chaffin and Crooks 2009: 24).
Because this offer was widely judged as inadequate, Zenawi carried out a trial run of his walk-out threat just prior to Copenhagen, in November 2009 at a Barcelona UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) meeting. Sufficient concessions were not on the table, so his technical negotiators registered a protest. But at the crucial moment in Copenhagen, during the final week when heads of state would arrive to negotiate a new protocol, Zenawi diverted his own flight from Addis Ababa via Paris, where he met French premier Nicolas Sarkozy. Shortly thereafter, he announced the halving of Africa’s climate debt demands (Vidal 2009).
According to Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), this act had the effect of ‘undermining the bold positions of our negotiators and ministers represented here, and threatening the very future of Africa… Meles wants to sell out the lives and hopes of Africans for a pittance. Every other African country has committed to policy based on the science’ (cited in Reddy 2009, p. 1).
Then on 17 December, US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton offered what appeared to be a major concession (Clinton 2009, p. 1):
‘… in the context of a strong accord in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation, the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries. We expect this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.’
Yet there was no firm line-item in the US budget to this end, just a promise (the US had regularly broken similar aid promises in the past, and at the same time the US President Barack Obama was cutting back AIDS medicines funding to Africa). The private sources of finances alone could easily exceed US$100 billion, with CDMs at the time in excess of 6 per cent of the US$125 billion emissions markets. If, as predicted, the size of the 2020 carbon market reached US$3 trillion, it would take just 3.3 per cent dedicated to CDMs to reach the US$100 billion target. So given the private sourcing and likelihoods of loans not grants, Clinton’s offer could readily be rejected as meaningless.
However, several countries had insisted on climate debt as a negotiating framework even before Copenhagen, including Venezuela, Paraguay, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. But in Copenhagen, only Sudan stood out, partly because its UN Ambassador, Lumumba di-Aping, had such a visible role as G77 chief negotiator. At one point, when briefing civil society a week before the fatal Copenhagen Accord deal, he ‘sat silently, tears rolling down his face,’ according to a report, and then said, simply, ‘We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.’ For much of the continent, said Di-Aping, 2 degrees C globally meant 3.5 degrees C: ‘certain death for Africa’, a type of ‘climate fascism’ imposed on Africa by polluters, in exchange for which the Third World would get a measly US$10 billion per year in ‘fast track’ funding, although ‘US$10 billion is not enough to buy us coffins’. Agreeing with leading US climate scientist James Hansen, the Copenhagen deal on offer was ‘worse than no deal’, said Di-Aping, concluding, ‘I would rather die with my dignity than sign a deal that will channel my people into a furnace.’ As for the main negotiator, he had this prophesy: ‘What is Obama going to tell his daughters? That their [Kenyan] relatives’ lives are not worth anything? It is unfortunate that after 500 years-plus of interaction with the West we [Africans] are still considered “disposables”’ (cited in Welz 2009).
CONTINUING CLIMATE JUSTICE ADVOCACY
After this debacle, it was up to the Bolivian government to pick up the baton. In April 2010, the World Conference of Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, issued demands for a formal compensation mechanism for climate debt. The conference’s Working Group on Climate Debt (2010, p. 1) argued as follows:
‘Climate debt is an obligation of compensation that is generated because of the damage done to Mother Earth by the irrational emissions of greenhouse gases. The primary responsible for these irrational emissions are the so-called ‘developed countries ‘, inhabited by only 20% of the world population, and which emitted 75% of historical emissions of greenhouse gases.
‘These states, which stimulated the capitalist development model, are responsible for climate debt, but we shouldn’t forget that within these states, there live poor and indigenous peoples which are also affected by this debt…
‘The responsibility for the climate debt of each developed country is established in relation to the level of emissions, taking into account the historically emitted amount of tons of carbon per capita.’
The Working Group (2010, p. 2) made suggestions for payment as follows:
- The re-absorption [of emissions] and cleaning the atmosphere by developed countries
- Payment in technology (eliminating patents) and in knowledge according to our worldview for both clean development and for adaptation to developing countries
- Changes in immigration laws that allow us to offer a new home for all climate migrants
- The adoption of the Declaration on the Mother Earth’s Rights.
The Working Group also called for funding to be routed through the UNFCCC, ‘replacing the Global Environment Facility and its intermediaries such as the World Bank and the Regional Development Banks.’ A further suggestion was that ‘The financial mechanism must respect the sovereign control of each country to determine the definition, design, implementation of policy and programmatic approaches to climate change.’ As for timing, ‘The financial mechanism shall be defined and approved at COP16, and be made operational at COP17.’ These documents were based upon visionary civil society demands that had emerged over the prior months and years. Some earlier, very ambitious demands – such as the end of apartheid or access to AIDS medicines – were only won after years of struggle, after initially appearing equally audacious and unrealistic.
From the standpoint of civil society forces that have lost confidence in states, multilateral agencies, donors, corporations and ENGOs, how might debt repayments in the form of financing be best distributed? It became clear to many civil society groups in recent decades that postcolonial African governments were too easily corrupted, just as were United Nations and aid (and even international NGO) bureaucracies. One solution to the payment distribution problem appeared in 2009: The idea of simply passing along a monthly grant – universal in amount and access, with no means-testing or other qualifications – to each African citizen via an individual ‘Basic Income Program’ payment. According to Der Spiegel, the village of Otjivero, Namibia is an exceptionally successful pilot for this form of income redistribution (Krage 2009). First priority would be to supply a Basic Income Program to Africans who live in areas most adversely affected by droughts, floods or other extreme weather events. Logistically, the use of Post Office Savings Banks or rapidly-introduced Automated Teller Machines would be sensible, although currency distortions, security and other such challenges would differ from place to place. The Namibian case has much to recommend it, in part because it amongst the driest sites in Africa.
Such a strategy would be just an emergency salve on a burning problem: How to ensure that the greenhouse gas ‘polluters pay’ in a manner that first, compensates their climate change victims; that second, permits transformation of African energy, transport, extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal systems; and that third, in the process assures the ‘right to development’ for Africa in a future world economy constrained by emissions caps. Extremely radical changes will be required in all these activities in order not only to ensure the safety of the species and planet, but also that Africans are at the front of the queue for long-overdue ecological and economic compensation, given the North’s direct role in Africa’s environmental damage. The contemporary argument for climate debt to be paid is simply the first step in a long process, akin to decolonisation, in which the master – the polluting Global North – must know that not only is it time to halt the reliance on fossil fuels, but having ‘broken’ the climate, it is his responsibility to foot the clean-up bill.
CONCLUSION: CHANGING THE FINANCING POWER BALANCE
In contrast to financing for techie fixes via carbon trading – and similar strategies associated with other fields of bio-engineering – there is an alternative approach to financing based upon climate justice and an awareness of historic responsibility.
To get climate justice higher on the agenda will require higher levels of eco-social protest. So far the grassroots, NGO and labour components of various climate justice movements have developed extremely unevenly across space, with mainly Northern radical environmentalists only fusing with Southern economic justice advocates outside the 2007 Bali Conference of the Parties. The fusion of red and green influences was called the ‘Climate Justice Now!’ network, and after the elites’ Copenhagen summit fiasco in December 2009, gained momentum in an April 2010 ‘World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth’ in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
As for intergovernmental cooperation, it appears hopeless going into the Cancun Conference of the Parties 16. The Latin American left leadership will be squashed by the US and most of the United Nations, and although before Copenhagen the African elites engaged in rhetorical challenges to climate apartheid, their role was ultimately to polish the chains, not break them. Most African elites will follow the path of Moosa, van Schalkwyk and Maathai, and will have similar levels of success: Negligible or even negative.
Mooney’s theses about the false technological solutions rely upon flows of money to support the flows of bad ideas. But like many dysfunctional, malevolent or incompetent development projects over the ages, these flows can be halted if the balance of forces improves. Fortunately, when dealing with environmental financing, elites – especially in the World Bank, the United Nations and donor agencies – invariably choose unsustainable schemes, though unfortunately they never pay the price, leaving the damage to be carried by social and environmental victims.
Still, the elites’ record of financing climate change strategies does suggest a growing awareness of how impossible it is to commodify nature, turn environmental credits into derivatives, sell these in the global financial markets, dress them up with multilateral pseudo-credibility, and expect the inverted pyramid to stay aloft. The record of the carbon market’s demise in 2009-10 should encourage critics to include financing handles in their campaigning against technological eco-fixes. To move from demands for climate debt payment – now explicitly on the world agenda – to a broader agenda of ecological debt advocacy, is just the next step in connecting the dots between these related issues, and building African-led alliances that can ultimately prevail.
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* Patrick Bond is director of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Accion Ecologica (2000), ‘Trade, climate change and the ecological debt,’ Unpublished paper, Quito.
Ashine, A. (2009), ‘Africa threatens withdrawal from climate talks’, The Nation, 3 September.
Bond, P. (2006), ‘Resource Extraction and African Underdevelopment’ – Capitalism Nature Socialism, 17, 2, pp.5-25.
Bond, P. (2009), ‘A timely death?’, New Internationalist, January, http://www.newint.org/features/2009/01/01/climate-justice-false-solutions/
Bond, P. and D.Brutus (2008), ‘Ecological debt and our centre’s survival’, ZCommentaries, 21 August, http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/commentaries/3594
Bond, P., R.Dada and G.Erion (2009), Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society, Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
Chaffin, J. and Crooks, E. (2009), ‘EU sets out €15bn climate aid plan’, in Financial Times, 8 September.
Clinton, H. R. (2009), ‘Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’, Statement by the US State Department, 17 December, Copenhagen.
Krahe, D. (2009), ‘A new approach to aid: How a Basic Income Program saved a Namibian Village’, Der Spiegel International, 10 August.
Lohmann, L. (2006), Carbon Trading, special issue of Development Dialogue, Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, http://www.dhf.uu.se/pdffiler/DD2006_48_carbon_trading/carbon_trading_web_HQ.pdf
Lohmann, L. (2010), ‘Uncertainty markets and carbon markets: Variations on Polanyian themes’, New Political Economy.
Matthei, W. (2009), ‘African climate change appeal’, Nairobi, http://www.ecobuild-africa.com
Martinez-Alier, J. (2003), ‘Marxism, Social Metabolism and Ecologically Unequal Exchange’, Paper presented at Lund University Conference on World Systems Theory and the Environment, 19-22 September.
Morales, E. (2010), ‘Nature, forests and indigenous peoples are not for sale’, Presidential statement, 29 September 2010.
Reddy, T. (2009), ‘From African Walk Out to Sell Out,’ in Climate Chronicle, 18 December.
Republic of Bolivia (2009), ‘Submission to the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,’ La Paz, April.
Sapa (2009), ‘SA not “compromising anything” at climate change negotiations – Sonjica,” 15 September.
Welz, A. (2009), ‘Emotional scenes at Copenhagen‘, adamwelz.wordpress.com/.../emotional-scenes-at-copenhagen-lumumba-di-aping-africa-civil-society-meeting-8-dec-2009/.
Working Group on Climate Debt (2010), ‘We demand the enforcement of the payment of climate debt’, World Conference of Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth’, April, Cochabamba.
The bomb culture
Environmental pollution in the Niger Delta
The Willink Commission Report of 1958, which examined the fears of minorities and proposed ways to allay them in the fledgling nation, painted a graphic picture of the gross neglect of the Niger Delta. This was the same year that commercial exploitation of oil took root in Nigeria.
When the first oil well was drilled at Oloibiri, the people celebrated with the assurance that their fortunes would take an upward swing and their backwaters would become a symbol of transformation to be envied by others across the nation. Oloibiri was a symbol of hope.
Today, Oloibiri is a metaphor of neglect that has befallen the Niger Delta. The first oil well itself stands forlorn and has become a home for wasps and possibly scorpions. With polluted streams, land, and air, and with a dearth of social amenities, Oloibiri is a blight on the conscience of a nation that squanders its resources.
When the Willink Commission spoke of the neglect of the region, it referred to the infrastructure and its abandonment as the nation marched into independence. Today the situation remains the same despite the several billions of Naira budgeted, and disbursed for the purpose of bridging the development gaps.
THINGS HAVE CHANGED
The trouble is that things have not changed in the trajectory of the expectations built by oil companies and the governments who have held sway here. When Bayelsa State was created, there was less than 20km of paved roads in that area. The communities made do with roads raised on wooden stilts and occasionally, you would find concrete paved village streets, mainly products of communal efforts. Although the major means of transportation here includes motorised boats, there could not have been more than a handful of petrol stations in the area. Today, that is changing.
Move from Bayelsa to Akwa Ibom State. Visit Ibeno where Exxon's export terminal and other facilities are located and you see a clear picture of what neglect meant and still means. The link road from Eket to Ibeno is in such a sorry state you would wonder whether you were actually on the right track. Here and elsewhere, glittering oil company quarters, offices and other installations have paved roads within fenced and heavily barricaded compounds. In many of the cases, the only benefit that escapes their enclosures is the gas flares that spew poison into the poor communities.
In Egi, Rivers State, communities are in tussles with Total over the land grabs that go on there without consent from some of the land owners. Move westward to Ondo State, a boat ride to Awoye beyond Igbokoda brings you to a community on the Atlantic coast that used to be beautiful. Today, the activities of Chevron, through canalisation, have damaged their freshwater ecosystem by bringing in salt water from the sea. Their fisheries have been shattered and as is the case in most Niger Delta communities, the people have to depend on imported frozen fish. Though evidence of water supply contracts awarded by NNDC and the local wing exist, the water works at Igbokoda and Awoye are insults to the people as their taps are dry and Awoye people make do with wastewaters from oil company facilities.
Over the years, the people struggle, from the well-articulated stance of the Ogoni to the calm litigation efforts of communities, the path has been that of non-violence and the demand for basic environmental human rights. The demand for schools, health clinics and paved roads are not extraordinary requests to make of any local, state or national government. These are things that oil companies can equally do with a fraction of their massive profits.
It is time for government to address the environmental situation with the seriousness it requires. The oil spills, gas flares, and dumping of hazardous waste into the pristine ecosystems of the region, by oil companies, require the declaration of environmental state of emergency and action.
Bombs must not be allowed to blow up the needed focus if the socio-cultural as well as economic health of the region – and by extension the nation –is to be secured. The biggest bombs exploding daily in the region are the environmental pollution bombs and the oil thefts perpetuated by well-oiled and connected rogues.
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* Nnimmo Bassey is executive director of Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth Nigeria in Benin City, Nigeria.
* This article was originally published by Next.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Angola: Parliament splashes over US$43 million on BMWs
Rafael Marques de Morais
The Angolan ruling party, the MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola), has over the last two years been repeating its promise to keep a watch on the administration, the management of public resources and the wellbeing of Angolans. This article compares such promises with the reality, and shows how members of parliament have been serving their own interests rather than the interests of the people they supposedly represent.
On 16 June 2010, the National Assembly renegotiated a loan contract with the Banco do Comércio e Indústria (BCI) worth 3.21 billion kwanza (equivalent to US$35.7 million) for the purchase of 210 cars, the 2010 model of the BMW 535i series. These vehicles, valued at US$168,900 each, are for parliamentarians’ use on official business and are to be delivered by the end of the year only. The current budget for 2010 for the acquisition of vehicles for parliamentarians, officials and personnel of the National Assembly is 4.1 billion kwanza (equivalent to US$45 million).
After being sworn in following the September 2008 elections, members of parliament each received a lump sum of 11.2 million kwanza (equivalent to US$150,000 at the day’s exchange rate) for the acquisition of a personal car and other private purposes, at a total cost of US$33.9 million. On top of this, the National Assembly’s 2009 budget allocated 693.6 million kwanza (US$7.8 million at the time) for the purchase of 118 vehicles for parliament’s staff and a further 50 for parliamentarians’ use. On 27 March 2009, the National Assembly approved a contract with the dealership of BMW in Angola, Sadasa, to provide an additional 50 cars worth US$8.2 million. The total amount included the purchase of 41 BMW 540i at a price of US$179,000 each, and five BMW 550i for US$189,000 each. These cars have not been delivered yet, though they were paid for last year. The total cost for the purchase of 256 BMWs is US$43.6 million.
In its Budget Expenditure Report of 2009, the National Assembly states to have made payments of 2.3 billion kwanza (US$27.8 million at the time) to TCG and 460.3 million kwanza ($5.3 million) to Sadasa for the parliamentarians. The purchase of these vehicles represents the two main expenditures of the National Assembly in 2009.
At the beginning of the current year, parliament declared an outstanding debt of 282.7 million kwanza (US$3 million) to Sadasa.
The various financial reports on parliament’s accounts present discrepancies which make it difficult to establish the exact payments made and outstanding debts with certainty. There was money allocated in the 2009 budget for the National Assembly to purchase the cars, and there was a loan from the bank for the same purpose. Furthermore, the number of cars ordered was subsequently increased and the total cost transferred to the 2010 General State Budget.
Nevertheless, the accounting procedures of the National Assembly are aptly addressed by its own board of management. In its review of the 2009 Budget Expenditure Report, dated 23 June 2010, the board stated that:
a) ‘There is no inventory of assets, which make the financial statements unreliable.
b) ‘The accounting records are not supported by documented evidence, and there is no inventory.’
Three days after a new understanding was reached with the bank, the Speaker of the National Assembly Paulo Kassoma made a speech in honour of the Portuguese President Cavaco Silva. In the speech Kassoma referred to the economic crisis that the country was experiencing, and the effects of this on national reconstruction projects. In despatch 1702/GSG/1.1/2010 of 29 June, addressed to Paulo Kassoma, his secretary general, Eduard Beny, referred to:
‘The financial constraints experienced by the National Assembly results in part from the credit agreement entered into with the Banco de Comércio e Indústria (BCI) at the end of last year, for the acquisition of official cars for the parliamentarians of this legislature, at a value of 3 217 887 000 Angolan kwanza. We had a business meeting on 10 July of this year with the Chairman of the Board of BCI, which resulted in him expressing his complete willingness to reschedule or commute the debt in question.’
In principle, the debt incurred by the National Assembly must be paid back in full over a term of 12 months with funds from the General State Budget, according to the terms of an agreement between the National Assembly and the Finance Ministry. In its 2010 budget, the National Assembly made available a total of 3.7 billion kwanza (about US$40 million) specifically for the acquisition of 255 official cars. The repayment is to be made at the premium interest rate of 18 per cent. To date, the interest incurred has reached US$1.4 million.
In the initial contract, signed on 22 October 2009, BCI granted the National Assembly a loan of US$35.7 million for the acquisition of 190 BMW 550i sedans through a local private trucking company TCG, which in turn uses the Dutch-based Van Vliet Handel Holland BV as an intermediary.
The then-speaker of the National Assembly and current vice-president of the republic, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos ‘Nandó’, authorised the deal with TCG, a company belonging to the former commerce minister, Carlos Alberto Van-Dúnem, without the public tender process that the law demands. The first contract, for the supply of 190 BMW 550i vehicles, was cancelled in December 2009 in order to change to a different model and to increase the order by a further 20 vehicles, according to correspondence between TCG and the National Assembly. As a bonus, the company offered three 5 Series BMWs with special armour plating for the speaker’s fleet of cars. The managing director of TCG made this offer saying ‘we hope, by this gesture, to have steadfastly defended the interests of the Angolan state’. The speaker’s fleet has also acquired five 2010 model Lexus LX 570 cars, each priced at over US$131,000, with a total cost of US$655,000.
On 23 November 2009, a month after BCI granted the loan for the purchase of the BMWs, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) granted Angola US$1.4 billion in credit, meant to alleviate the impact of the global economic crisis on the country. This loan is the largest the IMF has granted to a sub-Saharan African country during the current crisis. On 6 August 2010, during the revision of the Stand-by Arrangement, the IMF expressed satisfaction with the improvement of Angola’s fiscal situation during the first half of the year, ‘on the back of tight expenditure restraint and higher oil revenues’. The IMF was referring to spending in the General State Budget.
For its part, the official state newspaper, Jornal de Angola, reported that ‘the Executive decided, on the recommendation of members of parliament, to cut public spending in this year’s revised General State Budget by 280 billion kwanza (US$3 billion US) so as to guarantee a more rigorous implementation of projects until the end of the year.’
The money budgeted by the National Assembly for the acquisition of luxury cars, according to the contract with TCG, is compared with the resources allocated for some essential expenditure in the General State Budget it approved for the year 2010.
The three tables below make possible a comparative analysis. The first compares the cost of the BMWs with some basic national programmes of health, education, water, youth, justice, job creation and income generation. Also included are the combined budget of seven provincial hospitals out of the 18 provinces, as well as the country’s only paediatric hospital, and the Lucrécia Paim Maternity Hospital, both of which are in Luanda. The government says it has put a priority on reducing the rate of infant and maternal mortality, which is currently among the highest in the world. UNICEF has noted the Angolan authorities’ efforts in reducing these statistics but believes the ‘situation remains unacceptable’ because the current situation puts Angola on a level with some of the poorest countries in the world, despite having a higher GDP (gross domestic product) per capita. UNICEF’s representative in Angola, Koen Vanormelingen, emphasises that ‘disparities in healthcare access are putting poorer families and those living in rural areas at risk’. Finally, given the urgent need to reform the justice system, and in the light of the president’s promise of a zero-tolerance policy on corruption, Table 1 also includes the budget of 10 of the 18 provincial courts and of the Supreme Court.
Table 2 compares the value of the parliamentarians’ fleet of cars with some essential programmes in three petroleum-producing provinces: Bengo, Cabinda and Zaire.
Table 3 contrasts the value of the parliamentary cars with investments made in higher education, bearing in mind the recent creation of six regional public universities without the most basic conditions for them to function. This table also includes the total budget of the faculties of the main public university, Agostinho Neto. This is by far the biggest higher education institution in Angola, and is responsible for educating a large proportion of the intellectuals hired by the government and the country’s professionals. The teacher-training and polytechnic institutes that the government has created in various parts of the country are also included in the budget comparison.
If we want to know whether the members of parliament value their personal interests above the common good, the answer is plain to see in the figures presented in the General State Budget that they approved.
The Revised General State Budget for the current year is 4.05 trillion kwanza, equivalent to US$44.5 billion.
The budget items set out in Table 1 and their respective values in kwanza are taken from the Revised General State Budget for 2010, with the exception of the BMW deal, the value of which, in US dollars, is taken from the initial loan granted by BCI. The purchase agreement was however supported by the General State Budget, in keeping with an agreement between the National Assembly and the Finance Ministry. The government programmes mentioned are at the national level, and the values given in dollars are based on an exchange rate of 93 kwanza to the dollar, the same as was used in the General State Budget.
The budget items set out in Table 2 and their respective values in kwanza are taken from the Revised General State Budget for 2010. Of the combined spending on each province, only the budget for Cabinda, at US$11.3 million, exceeds the allocation for the parliamentarians’ BMWs. Zaire and Bengo, provinces whose institutions are suffering from greater neglect, have budgets of less than what was set aside for the posh cars.
The budget items set out in Table 3 and their respective values in kwanza are taken from the Revised General State Budget for 2010.
NEW CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER, NEW PRESIDENTIAL POWERS
The MPLA achieved a crushing victory in Angola’s second legislative elections on 5 September 2008, with 81.64 per cent of the vote. This secured the MPLA 191 of the 220 seats in the National Assembly, with four opposition parties taking the remaining 29 seats.
When a new constitution came into effect on 5 February 2010, the National Assembly lost its constitutional prerogative to monitor the activities of the executive. The previous Constitutional Law (Article 83) established that:
‘Members of the National Assembly shall have the right, in accordance with the Constitutional Law and the Regulations of the National Assembly, to question the Government or any of the members thereof, and to obtain from all public bodies and enterprises the cooperation needed to discharge their duties.’
Article 101 (1) of the previous Constitutional Law stated the power for members of the National Assembly to ‘constitute parliamentary commissions of inquiry to examine acts of the Government and administration’. Furthermore, the same law granted these commissions the same investigative powers as the judicial authorities (Article 101, 3). Under the new constitution, the National Assembly’s powers for keeping a check on the executive is for practical purposes limited to receiving and discussing the general accounts of the state and of other public institutions subject to the law (idem, a), authorisation for the executive to enter into and grant loan agreements, (ibid, d) and discussing presidential legislative decrees (ibid, e). Even in matters of war and peace, the National Assembly has lost the constitutional capacity to authorise the executive, and is now able only to offer advice.
On 12 August 2010, the speaker of the National Assembly, António Paulo Kassoma, issued a despatch, number 02177/03/GPAN/2010, in which he temporarily suspended all monitoring or checking the activities of the executive. This decision was intended to ‘bring the monitoring role of the legislature over the executive into line with the new legal provisions’. But Kassoma also said that a legal instrument was in the process of being devised ‘that will establish the normative framework for the monitoring role of the National Assembly to be conducted effectively and efficiently’.
The constitutional expert Mihaela Webba has said that Kassoma’s decision ‘makes no sense’: ‘This creates a legal vacuum. The correct procedure is to use the current law and to devise a new law that revokes the old one as soon as it comes into effect,’ she explains.
Angolan national law includes legislation that is unconstitutional and only serves to undermine the legitimacy of the legal system. One example that reflects this concern is the law governing the Attorney General of the Republic (Law 5/90), which names the attorney general as the defender of the ‘socialist legal regime’ – a concept surviving from the one-party era and inapplicable today. Far more serious, however, is Law 5/90, which grants arbitrary and far-reaching powers to the president of the republic to tamper with the justice system at will, blatantly contradicting fundamental democratic principles and the Angolan constitution. Calls, made since 1992, to bring this law into line with democratic principles have been ignored.
In short, by voting for the new constitution, the members of parliament handed absolute powers to the presidency. In the name of the people and of democracy, they renounced their power to serve as a counterweight to the powers of the presidency.
They nevertheless continue to benefit from all the privileges that the government offers in a corrupt manner to its followers. In 2009 the National Assembly spent around US$2.5 million on Christmas hampers and an end-of-year cocktail party, according to that year’s budget. To put that in perspective, it is more than what was budgeted for Luanda’s Department of Health for the year 2010, for primary healthcare and programmes to fight infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. These programmes received a budget equivalent to only US$2.4 million for a city of almost 6 million people. That is similar to the cost of this year’s parliamentary Christmas hampers and cocktail party, the slight reduction in the US dollar price being the result of a change in the exchange rate.
The General State Budget for 2010 allocated 90.1 per cent of the available funds to central government and to Luanda, the capital city. This left only 9.4 per cent for the other 17 provinces of Angola, and 0.5 per cent for expenditure outside the country. Half of the provinces received less than what was budgeted for diplomatic missions and other expenses outside the country.
Table compiled from information in the revised budget for 2010
The disparities between the capital and the rest of the country demonstrate a policy of economic and social exclusion. But parliamentarians overlook this question thanks to institutional complicity. According to one MP, who wishes to remain anonymous, the question of the allocation of funds to the prime minister’s office came up during discussions on the budget revision in August 2010. The position of prime minister had been abolished in February 2010 with the creation of a vice-presidential position. The current speaker of the National Assembly, António Paulo Kassoma, held the job of prime minister until its extinction. The non-existent prime minister’s office receives an allocation of 7.3 billion kwanza (US$78.5 million) while its replacement, the Office of the Vice-President, has a budget of only 731.3 million kwanza (US$7.8 million). ‘We asked in parliament why there was this disparity, and why an allocation of money to an institution that did not exist. We received no satisfactory response, but were told instead to ignore the matter,’ the parliamentarian said.
Furthermore, the parliamentarian explained the major difficulty for members of the National Assembly to be critical of the General State Budget: ‘Such an essential document, which has taken experts a year to prepare, is given to us to read, sometimes in only two to three days.’ This comment illustrates that parliamentarians’ function has become largely symbolic.
For several years now, senior government officials’ obsession with top-of-the-range cars has become a serious drain on state finances. The executive spends a fortune lavishing its members and cronies with fleets of posh cars. This practice, in which the automobile symbolises power and prestige, has added to the number of schemes in which the regime steals or wastes state money.
Currently, Angola boasts one of the largest executives in the world, with 32 ministers and 55 deputy ministers and secretaries of state. The executive has also granted a further three top officials the status of minister, while 11 others have the title of deputy minister or secretary of state. The money spent on cars for these officials, whose privileges are greater even than those of members of parliament, also needs to be contrasted with the sums that the budget has allocated for citizens’ basic needs. Parliamentarians have shown themselves to be irresponsible in prioritising the purchase of luxury cars at inflated prices instead of fulfilling their duties on behalf of the voters.
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* This article was originally published by Maka Angola.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 See UNICEF press statement, 25 August 2010: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_55746.html
Somalia: The untruths about piracy
THE LIE: The navies and their mainstream media claim that they achieved a decline in piracy
THE REALITY: Never before in history have the cases of piracy around the Horn of Africa been so numerous as in these times (2010) and after the specific multi-national naval operations were launched at the end of 2008; with a thereafter continuously expanding force and naval presence never seen before around Somalia – even not during the Second World War. But at the same time, piracy has increased to an all-time high, with increased violence and escalating armed encounters.
THE LIE: The navies have to blow small, captured ‘piracy’ skiffs out of the water, because they ‘would endanger shipping’
THE REALITY: Most of the so called ‘pirate skiffs’ and little larger open fibreglass boats with an inboard engine destroyed by the navies were earlier stolen by criminal pirate gangs from legitimate fishermen and even from fisheries projects paid for by the World Bank and other donors. But, while the bored crews of especially British and other European warships obviously enjoy the target practice and destroy the boats, the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) even leaves big vessels like the MV RIM adrift, if – as in this case – it is convenient to NOT impound the ship for further investigations, though credible reports stated that the vessel had been an illegal weapons transporter for groups in Yemen. The ship was abandoned by the crew after they killed all their captors under the watch of the EU.
THE LIE: All shipowners whose vessels are held at the Somali coast lose money
THE REALITY: Certainly for small shipping companies, whose vessels are not – or not directly or indirectly – insured against those sea-jackings, a piracy case can sometimes even mean total bankruptcy. But a good number of vessels actually made more money during the capture than if they had been free to operate during the time of the hostage crisis.
This has to do with the fact that the shipping business is at the moment at a low, and many cargo vessels and tankers are sitting jobless at their anchorages and only cost their owners real money. But if a well-insured vessel is captured around Somalia, the insurance pays the shipowner not only the theoretical daily loss (some got around US$50,000 per day), but also the ransom and the costs of the – therefore often prolonged – ‘negotiations’ of the crisis management team and ransom delivery work of the risk management companies involved.
This can be a lucrative business and a win-win-situation for the shipowners and the pirates as well. Even the insurance industry profits from the Somali piracy, with new insurance forms springing up like the K&R (kidnapping and ransom) insurance, especially for the passage through the Gulf of Aden. Due to stiff competition among the insurers for this lucrative sector, it has now become much cheaper for the shipowner, who today only needs to pay as little as US$15,000 per voyage – much cheaper than to hire a bunch of British ex-SAS mercenaries and their guns. ‘At first the rates were a little higher than they should have been and then over time insurers realised they could reduce their rates and still make money,’ said K&R manager Greg Bangs.
No wonder that the UK opted to stand against UN measures to stop ransom payments and pirate business and is holding up UN planned sanctions against several pirates: London's finest lawyers and contractors come in and are not interested in having the flow of the money stopped. On the other hand, if piracy is not stopped beforehand, payment is the only safe way to get the ships and crews released.
Sure enough, the final bill is always paid by the end-user of the transported goods and therefore piracy does serious damage economically. In the layers in between, however, not only the pirates earn, and that lets certain people – even in high offices – not push for a real solution, which has to be implemented on the ground. Still, Guillaume Bonnissent at London’s Hiscox Ltd, the world’s largest underwriter for piracy coverage, says the only long-term solution to piracy is to help Somalia. ‘All the money would be much better spent in assisting the Somalis in capacity building,’ he said.
In addition to this, the Somali coastline has become a welcome dumping ground for no longer seaworthy vessels, whereby it is cheaper to stage a case of piracy or distress and sink the vessel than to follow international standards to properly dispose of the vessel at legitimate scrap-yards that adhere to environmental obligations.
THE LIE: The navies act under valid UN Security Council resolutions
THE REALITY: The navies have – according to international and Somali national law – no right whatsoever to enter the 200 nautical miles (nm) territorial waters of Somalia. The UN Security Council resolutions, to which the navies repeatedly refer, explicitly state that they would be only valid and applicable with the consent of the Somali government, i.e. the Somali parliament – which never has been given. A fictive letter [said to be] of former Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf was never produced, and a letter signed ‘on behalf of the Somali government’ by Mauritanian former UNSRSG (special representative of the secretary-general) Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah is legally nil and void.
THE LIE: EU NAVFOR (European Union Naval Force Somalia) has an agreement with the Somali government concerning the Somali waters and the fight against piracy.
THE REALITY: All that exists is a paper simply signed by the French ambassador to Kenya, Ms Elisabeth Barbier – for the EU – and by one Mohamed Ali Nur – ‘for the Host State’. Ali Nur signed the document without the knowledge of the Somali parliament in a clandestine meeting, claiming that he represented Noor Hassan Hussein (also known as Nuur Xasan Xuseen), who was at the time a prime minister in the cabinet of former Somali TFG president, Abdullahi Yussuf. The document is legally nil and void, because it was neither authorised nor ratified by the Somali parliament and does not give the navies of the European states any permission in Somali waters.
Neither the signature for the EU nor the one for ‘the Host State’ – Somalia – were accompanied by a seal or stamp. It is unbelievable how an agreement sanctioning such far-reaching consequences as outlined in the agreement – including the killing of Somali people by foreign forces – could have been handled with such carelessness and negligence of proper process and legal requirements.
But it is reminscent of the highly illegal attempts by the former high commissioner of fisheries for the EU, Mme. Emma Bonino, who tried – in the end unsuccessfully, because she was kicked out as EU Commissioner – to obtain illegally fishing licences from one of the Somali warlords.
Any issue touching on the sovereignty of Somalia is the prerogative of the Somali parliament – and in case it is touching the Somali territory, it is subject to a public referendum. The straight and legal way was completely and illegally circumvented.
Nuur Cadde, as he [Mohamed Ali Nur] is widely known, was rewarded for such a favour to the EU (in assumed high treason against his people and state). After he was relieved from the PM chair and cabinet, he was given the posts of Transitional Federal Government resident representative in Brussels as well as Somali ambassador to Italy, the former colonial power, which still serves as ill-advised lead-country for the European Union.
The legitimacy of that agreement also should be challenged from the European side. Italy is the only state in the newly empowered European Union, which still channels directly – and without EU consent – money to Italy's friends and warlords within the changing governing alliances of the Somali quagmire.
The fake EU NAVFOR framework is misused by states like Norway, which is not even a member of the European Union, but dares to send commando units under EU mandate in midnight raids into natural harbours of northern Somalia and commit outright murder by killing innocent fishermen from Somalia and Yemen.
IN ADDITION: Nobody gave the EU NAVFOR operation ATALANTA or any European entity the right to monitor fishing in the Somali waters. Though it might have been welcomed if the navies would assist the Somali government and people in the fight against illegal foreign fishing fleets, the fact that not a single of all those vessels fishing illegally, whose presence had been established and monitored over time, was repulsed by the navies, their ‘monitoring of fishing’ must be seen as mere economic spying on the natural resources of Somalia and, as many Somalis claim, the scouting for and protection of illegal foreign fishing ventures.
THE LIE: Somalia has no 200nm Somali waters
THE REALITY: Since 1972 the international community had respected Somali Law No. 37, which – similar to the legal provisions of other recognised nation states like Benin, Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Liberia and Peru – declared 200nm as the territorial waters with all the respective rights and duties.
Since 1989, when Somalia was one of the first 40 signatories who also endorsed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Somalia has – congruent to its territorial waters – an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nm, with all the rights and protection mechanisms the Common Law of the Sea provides to all coastal states. Somalia had declared and never given up these rights, but had to suffer from much illegal activity by foreign interests, which caused the African Union (AU) – at the time the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – at the Pan-African Conference on Sustainable Integrated Coastal Management (PACSICOM, Maputo, 1998) to decry specifically the constant violation of the Somali rights in Somalia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and H.E. the Egyptian Ambassador Ahmed Hagag as assistant secretary-general of the OAU – now the AU – declared that everybody must respect the 200 nm EEZ of Somalia.
Since 2009 Somalia has also a Continental Shelf Zone of 350 nm, based on international law and Somalia's claim documented and handed in by Somalia on 17 April 2009 to the UN and the International Seabed Authority before the deadline of 13 May 2009.
This timely and well-prepared filing must be seen independently from an ill-advised memorandum of understanding (MOU) between certain players from Somalia and Kenya about the common maritime boundary between those two countries.
While that MOU has been refused by the Somali parliament and therefore is also not listed any longer as legitimate by the UN, the legal claim laid according to international law concerning the Somali rights to the continental shelf up to 350nm stands firmly. The establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles is the right of all coastal states under international law.
THE LIE: All Somalis on the waters are pirates!
THE REALITY: Although the international community tries hard to overcome outdated piracy legislation by introducing the ‘circumstancial evidence’ as sufficient grounds for a pirate killing or an arrest, prosecution and jailing, legal and less legal pirate hunters want to see that already the carrying of a ladder in a boat is sufficient to prosecute someone for piracy, or to serve as reason for the trigger-happy ones to ‘take a group out’.
However, ‘like in real life’, the reality is that along the 3,300km long coastline of Somalia – the longest of an African nation – you find them all: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. You find the most gentle and hard-working fishermen, whose production is lifesaving for hundred thousands of Somalis in the communities, you find enterprising transporters of all necessary good from flour to petrol, you find local security groups defending the coastal areas and their waters, you find mafia-like militias hired by business adversaries to go after each others transports, ranging from rare or embargoed commodities to illegal drugs and weapons.You also find real pirate groups going after innocent merchant vessels, earmarked by an international network as good prey for quick and big ransom, and of course you find all the forms of the grey zones in between these categories.
The fact that it is impossible for an outsider to distinguish between the different people on boats around the Horn of Africa, is another reason why the local Somali governance must be strengthened to go after and stop the Bad, deal with the Ugly and help the Good. Such essential work cannot be left to the blurred vision of foreign navies or their spooks.
With the help of the international community in proper coastal development and the improvement of livelihoods for the Somali communities, piracy again will become an issue of the past!
THE LIE: There is no illegal fishing in Somali waters
THE REALITY: Illegal fishing continues, but as always, it has seasonal peaks. Licenses still continue to be issued illegally to foreign vessels despite a moratorium by the TFG government since April 2009.
The Somali fisheries laws and international regulations stipulate that only a recognised Central government could issue fishing licenses to foreign commercial ventures engaged in industrial fishing. Artisanal fisheries of the local communities is regulated by fishing cooperatives under the guidance of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, which could delegate these powers and responsibilities to regional authorities (but hasn't done so). Any foreign or joint venture involving industrial fishing vessels from abroad and the export of fish or other living marine resources, like rock-lobsters or sea cucumbers, requires a full license by the TFG. The TFG will only give out full licenses once a new fisheries legislation is in place and proper arrangements are made to enforce and control the regulations and off-takes.
Though the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) issued a report in 2005 stating that, between 2003-04, Somalia lost about US$100 million in revenue due to illegal tuna and shrimp fishing in the country's exclusive economic zone by foreign trawlers, the average annual loss to foreign marine resources looting in the Somali waters is estimated at around US$300 million.
The problem of illegal and overfishing is not only a Somali one: The annual consequential costs due to over-fishing of the oceans have reached US$50 billion, as calculated by the World Bank and the Food and Agricultural Organizaion (FAO). While losses at Wall Street due to the recent credit crunch have so far been calculated to stand at only US$1,5 billion, but allowing financial institutions and bankers to be ‘rescued’ by a US$700 billion rescue plan – using taxpayer's money – NOTHING is done to rescue the oceans!
THE LIE: The international community is helping Somalia and the Somalis
THE REALITY: Hardly any of the funds pledged with top-spin public relations campaigns through the mainstream-media have ever even been set up to be released. This is not only a Somalia problem and these global lies have now even been criticised by the G20 summit.
If some funds were released for Somalia they were for widely criminal WFP operations (now under UN investigations), weapons deliveries and training of Somali fighters, who actually could train their foreign trainers.
EU NAVFOR escorts for deliveries by ship of weapons, other military hardware or supplies – solely to the AMISOM troops – are listed by the navies as escorts of ‘humanitarian aid’.
While the bandwagon NGOs are kept quiet with well-funded ‘studies’ paid for by the intelligence groups, real help on the ground has declined to an all time low since the beginning of the civil war.
Somalia is earmarked to be kept at the lowest end of global misery, which is characterised by unnecessary death: Every hour throughout the world, over 1,600 people – most of them children – die from hunger and poverty-related diseases and millions of others struggle to survive without life's basic necessities of clean water, food, shelter, education and health care. While cynics proclaim that such would be necessary to slow the growth of human overpopulation, it has been proven over and over again that it is only a distribution problem and those who with military or economic powers maintain such inequality are guilty of the worst crimes against humanity.
On 28 October 2009, Barack Obama signed the largest military budget in US history, the 2010 Defense Authorization Act. It is the world’s largest military budget – in fact, at US$680 billion, it’s larger than the military expenditures of the whole rest of the world combined.
Today the cost of the Pentagon’s African operations is estimated to be at least US$1.5 billion and is growing annually, while the current global military budget is costing approximately US$160 million dollars every hour, with a minimum of around US$15 million being spent by the naval armada every day around the Horn of Africa.
THE LIE: The navies have to escort relief-food shipments to Somalia
THE REALITY: This is a legend – hardly any World Food Programme (WFP) ships can be escorted, as there are very few of them. It has been a legend even before, because never a WFP vessel with food for Somalia was taken for ransom.
This is because Somali businessmen have to come up with huge bonds in the million dollar range before any WFP shipment is sent to Somalia and this actually has fostered the monopoly of warlords in this business, which recently triggered internal oversight investigations revealing major fraud inside Somalia. But WFP food-aid delivery system still makes it mandatory that Somali businessmen have to come up with huge bonds secured in first-class banks before any food relief shipment is sent to Somalia.
Since these businessmen are very well respected by their clans, powerful and usually have their own militia, food shipments secured by these bonds are not attacked by other groups, who fear retaliation. This is reflected by the fact that not a single time and not in a single case a loaded WFP ship was seized for ransom – and therefore the naval escort is completely unnecessary. But still the ‘food escort’ argument is used by the navies as reason to maintain their presence in the area, con their taxpayers, increase their military spending and escalate the situation.
05. 06. 2005: MV SEMLOW – seized with 850 to of rice, due to clan-dispute (after tsunami) because WFP only wanted to deliver to one group.
September 2005: MV MITZOW – seized during offloading WFP food at Merka – business dispute (only seized for a couple of hours)
15. 02. 2007: MV ROZEN – seized after offloading WFP food on her way back – business-dispute
07. 05. 2008: MV VICTORIA – attacked in Kisimayo while under WFP contract – business dispute
08. 05. 2008: MV VICTORIA – seized after off-loading – business dispute – not under WFP
08. 10. 2008: MV AS-SALAAM – seized after off-loading WFP food on her way back to Dar es Salaam
07. 10. 2008: JAIKUR II – attacked – business dispute
December 2008: North Korean – ZANG ZASAN CHONG NYONHO (IMO 8133530). Chartered by WFP. She was attacked with small arms fire while under way back to Mombasa from Mogadishu harbour, just while leaving the harbour. One sailor injured? Reason for ‘farewell shots’ not known but business dispute presumed.
14. 04. 2009: MV SEA HORSE – Vessel hijacked by three skiffs and an unknown number of pirates, east of Mogadishu was released within five days for no ransom (just facilitation money) after it turned out that the vessel was supposed to go on a WFP charter contract. MV SEAHORSE then changed name to MV ELENI P and was captured again on 12. May 2010 while not transporting food.
Under the disguise of vessel escorts, several pure weapons-shipments were escorted by EU NAVFOR but classified as relief shipments. To use humanitarian cover for arms deliveries has been decried by most humanitarian organisations internationally and caused in Somalia serious future conflict for true relief shipments. This especially because under the naval operations along the Somali coast many Somalis were killed and over 450 are missing on the sea, who are suspected by the Somali communities to have been killed by the navies too without reporting these incidences.
This globalist scam has to end and friendly nations, who really want to help the starving Somali population, are advised to revert to the old system and deliver non-GMO and quality food-aid directly and clearly marked – so that also the recipients truly understand, who really helps them or who uses such scams to enrich a few or follow another agenda with an ulterior motif. Even US-based NGOs stated that US-Aid food aid is structured in a way that causes rather than reduces hunger in the countries where it is received.
THE LIE: Somalia needs to have Foreign Troops on the ground to stabilise
THE REALITY: To truly fix Somalia by force one would require at least 100,000 to 200,000 troops and be ready to still face a decade-long resistance against any oppressor. Putting just another few thousand on the ground – as the African Union has announced it will do by sending additional 2,000 from Uganda and another 2,000 from Guinea and Djibouti to boost the strength of the Mogadishu-stationed 6,000 from Uganda and Burundi who support the fledgling transitional federal government in its city hideout – would only increase the violence and the number of civilians who become regular victims in the crossfire.
It could also necessitate sending soldiers from other bordering states like Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, thereby driving the whole region into an escalating conflict and bolstering al-Shabab’s best argument for popular support to stand against the aggressors from the outside. In addition the international community – which is paying hefty sums of taxpayers’ money to the commanders of these foreign troops in order to see them deployed for little motivating pay – should be aware that they actually provide not only for chaos but also for a cheap whitewashing of regimes, which have themselves a very poor human rights record. To allow countries like Guinea to even shout ‘Here!’ in the bidding for the big bucks from the West, which such operations need to pay for the African Union forces, is appalling.
ECOTERRA Intl. states:
’What many people seem to not understand or for specific reasons refuse to understand is that more than half of the Somali dominion is based on the Somali seas and thus vital to the survival of the Somali people. Somalia has since 1972 as Territorial Waters (TW) and – overlaying the same area – since1989 as Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) an area of 825,052km² of Somali Waters and an additional 55,895km² as Somali continental shelf zone (CSZ), forming together the marine and maritime dominion of Somalia.
The sum of today's total internal land area of Somalia with its 637,657km² and together with the marine area provide for a total of 1,462,709km² of recognised total Somali area, which with the additional CSZ is expanding to the present Somali sphere of 1,518,604km². This without the 350,102km² comprising of the Ogaden (the Ethiopian-occupied ‘Somali Region’) with around 200,000km², Djibouti with 23,200 km² and the Kenyan-administered North-Eastern Province of 126,902 km² – the so-called Northern Frontier District, which together would give ‘Greater Somalia’ a sphere of 1,868,706km² or 0,37 per cent of the surface of earth.
The sovereignty over the Somali sphere extends to the air space over the territorial sea as well as to its sea-bed and subsoil, which is now extended to 350nm off the coast.
All creation in the present Somali Sphere of 1,518,604km² of earth – be it on the 637,657km² of land (42 per cent) or the 880,947km² of the waters and seabed (58 per cent) – has a right to life and must be respected.
These figures and this outline hopefully make it also clear to anybody what importance the marine waters have for the Somali people and the Somali nation and why many from the outside try to get their hands on this strategic territory and its natural resources, thereby trying to push the indigenous Somali interests back and condemning the Somali people to abhorrent poverty and war unless they would give up at least parts of the inheritance of the Pan-Somali Nation.
It must be noted, however, that while diversity provides stability, the strife for dominance by an outside aggressor within any given sphere leads ultimately to the annihilation of the aggressor.’
In short, the trends concerning the piracy phenomenon around the Horn of Africa are as follows:
- Though at present still the highest number of vessels ever is held at the Somali coast and the UN-led Somalia process has completely failed and has collapsed, the international attention concerning piracy has steadily declined and the suffering of hostage-crews as well as of the Somali people in general has reached a new all time high with little or no aid coming forward.
- Increased use of sea-jacked fishing vessels (often from Yemen) or dhows (often from India) to launch piracy attacks. Approaches/attacks then conducted by 2-3 small open boats with outboard engines and with 3-5 armed persons each in a concerted attack.
- Increased use of firearms on all sides. The shoot-to-kill and blow-em-out-of-the-waters policies adopted by several navies has led to an increased number of direct fire exchanges. The use of armed personnel and military on fishing vessels has lead to an overall increase of aggression and violence. Taking the attacked vessel and crew immediately under direct fire during a piracy attack was in earlier years unheard of, but is now common. Likewise the treatment of crews from countries, which have killed or arrested Somalis is declining.
- Targeting of larger cargo/oil/gas/chemical tankers has increased.
- Piracy-related incidents have increased in the Gulf of Aden (GOA) and far off the east coast of Somalia since the engagement of EU NAVFOR, NATO, CTFs and warships of non-aligned nations – now up to distances of over 1000nm from the nearest Somali coast.
- Negotiations to quickly free vessels are now often hampered by restrictive orders, legal changes and ill-conceived advice given to often-ignorant shipowners.
- Except for improved defensive measures on merchant ships, none of the other responses like the deployment of navies, killing or arresting Somalis as well as destroying of their boats and weapons, talks with proxy-leaders, training of so-called governmental forces etc had the slightest positive impact to improve the security of maritime traffic in innocent passage and none of these measures have curbed Somalia-based piracy around the Horn of Africa.
- Despite the presence of the naval armada and plenty of evidence concerning violations of the Somali EEZ of 200nm, no foreign-flagged vessels has been intercepted, which had been suspected or proven to carry arms as cargo and in not one single case e.g. the EU NAVFOR operation Atalanta – though they claim that they would ‘monitor fishing’ – has stopped a single foreign-flagged vessel from committing the crime of illegal fishing in the Somali waters, while all foreign fishing licences had been declared nil and void already in April 2008 by the Somali government and no new ones have been issued since.
- While billions have been and are spent to finance self-serving naval exercises – with those of the EU NAVOR Atalanta were now extended to 2012 – and pointless international conferences or contact-group meetings are dumped into the coffers of the United Nations including their agencies like the IMO, no aid whatsoever has been set free to improve the situation for the people along the Somali coasts, which especially along the central Somali coast is the only solution to truly safeguard against piracy.
- The recently predicted move of so-called ‘piracy’ closer to the strategically extremely important area around the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb ( already called in ancient times the ‘Gate of Scars’) has come true and shows once again the intricate relationship between the ‘piracy’ and wanted provocation of naval response.
- The decisive move by local elders against the pirate groups in central Somalia has led to the re-opening of piracy lairs in Habo and Bargaal in Puntland.
WISH-LIST FOR THE UN AND BAN KI-MOON
The list is long. Here only a few points in connection with Somalia:
- End the puppet-games and let the Somali people freely decide who their leaders shall be. You are not the Somali overlord and your special representative is not the president of Somalia.
- Order UNHCR to work proactively in solving the refugee-camp situations and not to increase ‘business’. Refugee camps are not like open-air festivals, and their success is not measured in ‘as-more-as-better’! Pay and promote UNHCR staff not based on numbers of refugees in a country.
- Order UNHCR to immediately reinstate special programmes and assistance for minorities among the Somali refugees.
- Order WFP never to bring any GMO-contaminated food or agricultural seeds into Somalia and put quality controls – including for pesticide residues – in place. Purchase most food aid locally.
- Tell the world honestly that the naval escorts actually are not necessary in the moment, because you deal with powerful warlords in Somalia to handle the food donated by global taxpayers and that they might only be necessary for a transitional phase when you change the present system and would push for fair and free food distribution.
- Squash UN Security Resolution 1851 immediately, because it is based on a fictive, never presented and – if existing somewhere – illegal letter, as well as a violation of international law.
- And last but not least: Have your own government of South Korea impose a strict ban for South Korea-linked illegal fishing vessels to stay out of the Somali waters – at once and for all time.
a) Imposing strictest control on all vessels entering the Somali waters, starting from the 350nm continental shelf zone and especially on foreign fishing vessels and waste-dumping ships. Compulsory installation and monitoring of all IOTC-authorised fishing vessels with Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) as well as gear and catch-control monitoring via satellite-transmitted NV-CCTV-real-time observation day and night.
b) Holistic development of coastal regions along the two Ocean coasts including fisheries and a coastguard, which is not financed by one of the shady ‘fish-for-protection’ deals of the past.
c) Strengthening of local institutions in regional self-governance.
d) All vessels, including naval ships must stay outside the EEZ, i.e the 200nm zone of the Somali Indian Ocean coast and outside the 50 per cent part of the waters of the Gulf of Aden, which belongs to Somalia, unless a permitted and secured approach to the three legitimate harbours Berbera, Bosaaso and Mogadishu has been received by legitimate authorities of the Somali government. In the Somali half of the Gulf of Aden as well as in the 350nm continental shelf zone of the Indian Ocean coast of Somalia foreign research vessels have to abstain from any activity.
e) An independent tribunal, authorised by the UN must carry out an independent assessment on the alleged duping of toxic and radioactive waste in Somalia, particularly in the area of the port of Eel Ma’aan, the Garowe-Bosasso road and Bosasso harbour; while the Italian Government must create a strong coordination among all the investigative Authorities (Procura della Repubblica) which have been, and still are, working on the issue of toxic and radioactive waste trade, to identify and neutralise the network of people and enterprises managing illegal waste trade and dumping. New evidence about how genes interact with the environment suggests that many industrial chemicals may be more ominously dangerous than previously thought. It is increasingly clear that the effects of toxic exposure may be passed on through generations, in ways that are still not fully understood. The EU must finally and fully implement its own toxic waste prevention measures in cross-border shipments and implement measures to curb illegal fishing as well as trade in illegally caught marine products.
f) Independent monitoring of the Somali waters with respect to illegal fishing and waste dumping must finally be funded and implemented.
g) Foreign Navies must contribute to peace-making and not be an obstacle to it by siding in or triggering further warfare on the waters around the Horn of Africa or commit crimes or injustices themselves. Foreign navies have to recognise and respect the sovereignty of Somalia as a whole and must not interfere into the internal affairs of Somalia by sidelining with certain regional or local authorities, warlords or elders without the knowledge or consent of the Somali government and parliament. If most of the considerable military expenditure of the naval forces around the Horn of Africa would be redirected away from reactive military pseudo-solutions and towards proactive economic reconstruction and poverty alleviation in the Horn and Eastern Africa, then the problem of piracy will be countered more effectively than with the present war on the waters.
h) The UN/US/EU-tool World Food Programme (FAO) – at present the best weapon of Global Governance – must abstain from following those classical lines:
‘In the end – they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, MAKE US YOUR SLAVES, BUT FEED US!’(The Grand Inquisitor, in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, by Fyodor Dostoevsky)
and the WFP as well as donor countries must guarantee to NOT deliver any food, which is derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or contains pesticide residues. Most food aid should be purchased locally or in the region and not persistently disrupt local agricultural producer regimes.
For further details and regional information see the Somali Marine and Coastal Monitor and the updated map of the PIRACY COASTS OF SOMALIA. See the archive at www.australia.to
TEL/SMS: +254-719-603-176 / +254-733-633-733
East Africa ILLEGAL FISHING AND DUMPING HOTLINE: +254-714-747090 (confidentiality guaranteed) - email: office[at]ecoterra.net
EA Seafarers Assistance Programme:
Tel: +254-734-437838 /+254-714-747090
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article was first published by ECOTERRA Intl.
* ECOTERRA Intl. is an international nature protection and human rights organization, whose Africa offices in Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania also monitor the marine and maritime situation along the East African Indian Ocean coasts as well as the Gulf of Aden. ECOTERRA is working in Somalia since 1986 and does focus in its work against piracy mainly on coastal development and pacification.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
'Go into the jungle of my mind'
Paperbacks, pictures and poetry
This time last week, Ngugi Wa’ Thiong’o was odds on favourite to receive this year’s Nobel Prize for literature. Unfortunately it went to Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. I have never read any of his work so I can’t really comment. It is said that as a young man he was a Marxist and now in his seventies has moved very much to the right. However like Ngugi, Llosa’s work is politically motivated with a sense of social responsibility. His statement that it is difficult for a writer to avoid politics in Latin America also applies to Africa:
‘Literature is an expression of life, and you cannot eradicate politics from life.’
The last time the Nobel was given to a South American was in 1982, when Gabriel Garcia Marquez author of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, was awarded the prize. There are so many books that it’s difficult to have a favourite, but if I were to list five, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ would be included. An anecdote worth mentioning is that in 1976 Marquez and Llosa, once close friends, had a fight in Mexico City. Marquez went to embrace Llosa who responded by punching him in the face, leaving him with a black eye. Apparently the exchange had something to do with Llosa’s wife, who had been consoled by Marquez during a marital separation. They have not spoken since.
I hoped Wa’Thiong’o would win and had decided to focus this week’s round up on art and literature. He didn’t win but I will stick with my original plan and review some of Africa’s art, music and literary blogs.
Moroccan writer, Laila Lalami has been blogging since October 2001, so not only is she probably one of the oldest bloggers in the world I would take a guess she was one of the first – if not THE first – African bloggers. I took a peep at her first post written on 1 October 2001 (she used to blog under the name ‘Moorish Girl’) which was brief and to the point:
‘Hello World. This is MoorishGirl’s first post.’
In her latest post, Laila claims the identity of Fodail Aberdeen, an ordinary man ‘of modest means’ who ‘spent the last week of his life, fighting for the return of his motorcycle.’ Fodail died after being beaten – possibly tortured – by Moroccan police in his home town of Sale:
‘The other reason you will not have heard about Fodail Aberkane is that he is the kind of victim who does not attract the attention of the English-language press. He is not a famous journalist, he does not run a political party, he has not run afoul of the Islamists, and he does not have any connection to terrorism. This particular victim is an easy one to ignore and to forget. When stories about Morocco are written, who will remember his name? Who, aside from his family, will mourn him? Who will hold his alleged murderers to account? Who will make sure that no other man or woman is beaten to death?’
KimaniwaWanjiru publishes an interview with Professor Abdilatif Abdalla, on ‘Prison Literature in Kenya’. Abdalla was imprisoned during the Kenyatta era for questioning the direction in which Kenya was moving. On the theme of political writing he comments:
‘I think it is more than just writing. Because by writing, such writers – especially those who were imprisoned because of their writing, and while in prison were denied writing materials – are at the same time defying the powers that be and making a very bold statement that there is no way that they can be stopped from expressing their views through writing. In other words, by doing so they continue to resist against the very system, which imprisoned and restricted them.’
Poefrika by Rethabile Masilo, whose blog is one of the oldest and most inspiring poetry blogs in the blogosphere, and who also contributes to Black Looks, publishes an excerpt from Dub Wise by Jamaican/American poet, Geoffrey Philp. (I recently met Geoffrey in Miami and received a copy of Dub Wise – a collection of poetry and prose on identity and family).
‘Go into the jungle of my mind, god,
and send forth from a temple there
just like during a storm the force you'll find,
the dark sound of slaves in a hold where
a black, no-longer-dormant sea builds to a swirl,
hurting with rage: send it with a south-to-north angle,
please, this grudge of ages. Grant freedom to those who
know your name and go to it, god of a great many people.
As for me, Red-Stripe and jerk make me who I am
and fill me with thought, I'm uninhabited and free.
I'm me. Bastard with new chromosomes to give.
Yes, this is my song. On the banks of the Orange river
a full life I have lived, after coming here as a giver
of tokens and karma. Yes, they brought me here
against my will, but this island is my home,
I wear my mask across it like a Dogon sun.
The face I wear is mine. I wear it and on a palette
mix it with spit and the verb of my tongue
to paint into a final version the things I see,
to woo all who in the past have thought
that your wonders, god, were for nought.’
Cassava Republic publishes an ‘iconic’ photograph of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Blew, walking side by side with James Robertson, the last British governor general, at the 1960 independence celebrations. They then asked eight Nigerian writers to comment on the photo.
My choice of responses is Carolos Moore, author of ‘Fela, This Bitch of a Life’:
‘The image of James Robertson, the last British Governor-General of Nigeria and Tafawa Balewa, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, celebrating the birth of what is today called NIGERIA is nothing unusual. It is an image that says that, for all practical purposes, it is all business as usual. Just a new arrangement of the same colonial, neocolonial and neoimperial package.’
Nnedi’s Wahala Zone by Nigerian American writer, Nnedi Okorafor has a post on book covers. I started reading her novel ‘Who Fears Death’ but haven’t got very far. I’m not very patient when reading novels and if they don’t grab me quickly, I tend to give up. I promise to try again.
Okorafor has just unveiled the cover of her latest novel, ‘Akata Witch’ and apparently there are rumblings about the skin tone of the character on this cover and on ‘Who Fears Death?’. Nnedi says the women are light skinned because that’s what they are – one is mixed race and the other an albino, so yes that makes sense. (Roll eyes!) As a way of defending herself, she goes on to discuss the issue of hair on other book covers – such as straight hair, when it should have been ‘dada’. Oh God! Here is the full illustration, which was changed from the second photo.
‘Here is the paperback cover. When they showed it to me, I was deeply annoyed with the wisps of straightened hair in this image. My character had dada hair, for goodness sake (basically dreadlocks. I'm not too fond of the word "dreadlocks" because such hair is in no way "dreadful". However, I occasionally use it for the sake of clarity).
But the image was what it was (Apparently, there are very very few stock images of black women with natural hair. It's problematic as heck). I had them tint the hair green, so it looks more like plants or cloth. I also had them darken her skin tone. Note, this was my first novel. It was not easy to ask for all this, but I did’.
Some other literary blogs worth visiting are: Kenyan Poet, Art Speak Africa, Molara Wood’s WORDSBODY, BOOK Southern African, Jude Diba, The Bookaholic Blog and StoryMoja.
And finally, Black Looks guest blogger Mia Nikasimo is back on form with her wonderful edgy poetry on transphobia, racism and life on London’s streets.
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at [url=Black Looks.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Nigeria’ s Golden Jubilee: Blood, tears and recrimination
On 1 October 2010, celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were marred by bomb blasts that killed 12 and injured 8 in Abuja. The Nigerian blogosphere has been torn between sadness for the innocent victims, anger at the perpetrators, and outrage at the federal government for its inept handling of events before and after the blast.
Nigerian Curiosity is outraged that the Nigerian government did nothing to prevent the blasts even though officials were warned:
‘Hours after the incident, it became clear that the media and even individuals were forewarned of the impending explosions. Yet, the Nigerian government argues that it was caught unaware. The inconsistency of that position, in light of further evidence, reiterates the failure of leadership that continues to destroy Nigeria. A failure of leadership that, once again, resulted in death.
‘Nigeria's security forces were warned of an impending attack at least five days before October 1st. Additionally, the perpetrators sent a warning to members of the media and other individuals on the day of the attack. The warning indicated the time and specifically mentioned that Eagle Square should be evacuated as an attack would happen. Given such information, it is unacceptable that the government did not do more to anticipate and prepare for the attack. There was no reason to not consider the warnings credible especially considering that MEND has blown up pipelines in the Niger Delta and even did the same in Lagos in 2009. As a result of the government's failure, many were injured and at least 12 died. Adding insult to injury is the fact that at least one foreign government alerted Nigerian authorities of a potential attack. And after the attack, Nigeria's Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, stated that the government was "caught unawares" but that the attacks "failed because the celebrations were a resounding success." This statement was absolutely inappropriate. Consequently, the failure to prepare does little to instill confidence in the government's ability to protect Nigerian and in fact reflects a failure of leadership at all levels.’
Naijablog also zooms in on the issue of failed leadership in Nigeria:
‘Why do Nigerian leaders fail their constituents or members so consistently, in politics, in commerce and elsewhere? Why does almost every young hopeful end up being such a tawdry disappointment? It cannot simply be on account of a repetitious failure of personality, or a renewed shortfall of moral fibre. An individualistic explanation cannot suffice. But why then is leadership in Nigeria such a seemingly insurmountable challenge?
‘Of the main routes into the seemingly impenetrable forest in search of the clearing of truth, one opportune path we might take is an examination of the master-slave relationship that is alive and well in Nigeria...
‘It seems to me that this state of affairs is often regarded as the natural order of things: some are born to own and control a household; others are born to clean it up in perpetuity. The pampered children of the elite are brought up with a sense that there are lesser humans among them. Other children are brought up with little sense of a destiny beyond the bondage of a life Sisyphus would recognise: the forever undone task of keeping the compound starched and clean...
‘Until the “problem of leadership” is unpacked, and trite formulations are discarded in favour of unflinchingly honest analysis, it’s hard to see how highly efficient and productive value-enhancing organisations can flourish in Nigeria; it’s also hard to imagine that Nigeria will get the political leadership it so badly needs. The way those who work for us are treated is the form that leadership takes.’
Fragments of a broken dream laments the absence of viable leadership alternatives for the 2011 presidential elections:
‘There is no doubt that Goodluck Jonathan is a better option to IBB, but there are still better options to GJ. If we trail the lane of history, it is clear that it is those cabal of SDP and the military elite that conspired in annulling our struggles for emancipation in 1993, this same elite class had incessantly hijacked the nation in different disguises since the first coup d’état in 1966, hence the major reason for our underdevelopment and national retardation. While in Lagos I wondered. Could it possibly be that my intuition was pacing above space and time? Or the Nigerian populace is not just ready for the kind of change an angry man like Nuhu Ribadu might bring to us? Such change which will surely take away a certain kind of liberty that we all enjoy through a corrupt system. With my little understanding of the affairs of governance, there is always a huge gap between the masses who demand an immediate, unconditional improvement of their situation, and the anti-change cadres who fears the scarcities that is likely to be created by such change.
‘This lot that turned independence from colonial rule to their advantage, are driven mostly by their thirst for power and social relevance. Until now Nigeria is still pretty much a one party state, a party of big people, run by big people and their only interest is empowering the already empowered. This elite class attach primordial importance and blind devotion to the cult they now call PDP, which in the end gives priority for the agendas of the cult over a rational study of the needs of the masses.’
Wetin Dey Happen wonders whether the confusion over the identity of the alleged perpetrators of the Independence Day bomb blast is not part of a political ruse:
‘Then, this evening word came that Raymond Dokpesi, media mogul and the Director of IBB's campaign for President, had been arrested in connection with the bomb blasts, and the evidence against him is that two "suspects" already in custody had exchanged messages asking if Dokpesi had "paid the balance" and setting out plans to meet in IBB's campaign office.
‘The world record pace at which "suspects" have been arrested by a police force which couldn't catch a cold if you injected it with swine flu, immediately raised my suspicion. That they now claim the existence of these "text messages" as proof of Dokpesi's and, by extension, IBB's involvement in what happened on Friday, tells me that clearly, Goodluck and his "advisers" consider themselves to be the smartest people in a country filled with retards.
‘It all seems so convenient that not only wasn't MEND responsible for the attack, IBB and his campaign director are. Throw in that IBB is easily Goodluck's stiffest challenger in the presidential race, and other far more sinister pictures begin to emerge.
‘Suppose MEND did it, and Goodluck knows it was indeed MEND, but has acted quickly to pin the crime on IBB in order to get him out of the way? That doesn't require a hell of a stretch. Or, suppose it really wasn't MEND? What if the whole thing was simply a plot by Goodluck and his advisers, led by Baba and Mr. Fix-It, designed to get IBB out of the way?’
Mr Fix Nigeria mourns the death of his friend, Tahir Hassan Zakari Biu, one of the victims of the Independence Day bomb blast:
‘What a shame. At the tender age of 27, Tahir's dream of a new Nigeria has been cut short by the failings of the same system he believed so much in. It was enough that some of us thought there was nothing really spectacular to celebrate about Nigeria at 50. Still, we believed and expressed hope in the possibility of a new dawn only to be thrown into mourning with this irredeemable loss on a day we mustered faith to celebrate 50 years of great expectations...
‘I use to help Tahir with his Facebook; he knew I was very active online and gave me his account details so I could do for him some of the things he couldn't do by himself. This morning, logging into that Facebook account threw me into deeper grief. I just can't believe he's gone...
‘I pray for his parents, his widow (they wedded only last year) and their little baby girl. Only the Almighty God can grant them the strength to bear this loss.
‘The time has come for us to wake up from our apathy as a people. Today, it's Tahir. We don't know when the next bomb will explode, where it will explode and who will be the next victim. The future of Nigeria is in the hands of its people. If we can rise in 2011 to determine with our votes, a new set of credible leaders who can give us a future, Tahir and all those who have died as a result of the failure of the Nigerian system, would not have died in vain.’
Scribbles from the Den reviews the just concluded 9th Africa Media Leadership Conference (AMLC) which held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania:
‘Are bloggers journalists? Are they operating ethically by upholding the rights and limitations of media freedom? If not, should bloggers be regulated by statutory boards? These and similar questions framed some of the key debates of the just-ended Africa Media Leadership Summit.
‘The three-day summit was attended by nearly 70 media owners, chief executive offers and editors-in-chief of leading media companies from East, West, Southern , Central and North Africa, plus the Horn of Africa, the Caribbean and the US. It was held in Tanzania’s former capital Dar es Salaam.
‘Meeting under the overarching theme of “Sustainable Media Business Models in the Digital Age”, delegates to the Africa Media Leadership Conference (AMLC) heard testimony of successful digital media business models already being run by some of their peers in Africa.
‘They also examined a range of challenges thwarting the sustainability of media and journalism on the continent, especially the lack of appropriate training and skilling among journalists and media managers, and poor editorial content, and suggested practical solutions on how to address these.’
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* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
World premiere: Ousmane Aledji’s ‘Traumatism’
Inspired by Aimé Césaire’s works, ‘Traumatism’ combines theatre with live video projection, dance and hip hop. This rhythmic interaction of metaphoric words serves as a medium of learning about Africa and enables the valorisation of historic knowledge. Ousmane Aledji proves once more that he does not stage any folklore. His theatre is a theatre of urgency, subtle and direct at the same time – a really contemporary work.
Aledji writes about “Traumatism”: How can one be optimistic when one is enraged? Is it possible to talk about independence without reminding colonisation? Thus, is it possible to talk about colonisation without becoming irate? Is it possible to create a new future without facing one's past?
In opposite to literature the theatre scene in Berlin and Germany is not yet open to African theatre. African creations are only presented at very special festivals. This is why we are even more glad to present “Traumatism”, the latest opus by one of the most brilliant and independent dramaturges of the African continent.
Ousmane Aledji will be available for interviews on October 26, 2010 from 10 a.m. onwards.
Rehearsal at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Theatersaal, 26.10.2010 at 12 a.m.
On October 28, 2010 there will be a public discussion with the director and his company after the performance.
To order tickets, please email email@example.com.
Entrance fee: €13, reduced €10
Judith Strohm, AfricAvenir International: 0162-9718519
Usha Adjamah: 0176-38402310
Panacea or predicament?: Kenya’s constitution and land rights
Kenya’s new constitution ushers in a new era in land management, but human rights activists say there is still a lot of work left to do. The constitution’s newly guaranteed land rights are still poorly understood, they say, by both the public and some politicians. Civic education is needed to help the public understand the new provisions, and pressure must be placed on the parliament to ensure land rights expertise is present in the make-up of the constitutional implementation committee.
‘There [were] a lot of outright lies about the chapters,’ says Odenda Lumumba, coordinator of the Kenya Land Alliance (KLA), referring to the debates and discussions about the constitution in the run-up to the 4 August 2010 referendum.
This is why awareness of the new constitution’s contents is still grey, he says, on the phone from KLA headquarters in Nakuru, north of Nairobi. Over the next months, what is needed is more civic education to help Kenyans understand the chapters pertaining to land rights and ownership.
For example, in the run-up to the referendum, some sections of the public wrongly thought the constitution prescribed a minimum amount of acres required to own land, Lumumba explains. This meant owners of small parcels of land thought (and still think) that their land would be expropriated if the constitution was adopted.
In fact, the new constitution stipulates that parliament must determine the minimum and maximum acreages that can legally be held privately. As it stands, no minimums have been set. In fact, most of the nuts and bolts of land laws have yet to be drafted by parliament. The constitution gives between 18 months and five years to draft policy on matters such as minimum and maximum acreages, how to protect spouses of deceased landholders and centralising zoning and re-zoning processes.
Civic education doesn’t just target everyday people, Lumumba adds. Some MPs are very poorly versed in the new document as well.
‘There is a need for a lot of education,’ says Akinyi Nzioki, director of the Centre for Land, Economy and Rights of Women (CLEAR) in Nairobi. CLEAR is already hosting civic education forums (most recently in the Rift Valley, the site of much opposition to the new constitution) around Kenya to educate women about their new rights to land.
‘The whole constitution talks about gender equality,’ she says. But even though it states that traditions and cultural practices surrounding land will be eliminated, Nzioki says, it does not mean they will be eliminated in practice.
‘You can have property laws but that does not mean the culture will change immediately. So the challenge is to begin to change those attitudes which are very entrenched.’
For instance, under the old constitution (informed by British law), widows could not inherit land from their husbands. Women who owned land would have to buy it, while men and boys had a ‘head-start’ because they could inherit land from their fathers.
The irony is that the majority of Kenya’s women live in rural areas and use land as their only means of livelihood, she explains.
Now, widows will be more protected when it comes to inheriting land, Nzioki says, but women must learn about these new rights so that they can exercise them. Much of CLEAR’s civic education focuses on putting the constitution into plain language, as well as sensitising Kenyans to progressive thinking when it comes to women and the right to own land.
Much of the Kenyan public’s and the media’s attention after the constitutional referendum has focused on the make-up of the committee that will oversee the implementation of the constitution. The 27-member committee will be formed by members of parliament, split 14–13 between Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU). A third of these must be women.
In early October, parliament finally approved the list of MPs to make up the CIOC (Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee) after delays and protests from backbench MPs. ‘It very clearly points out that we have not changed our mindset,’ Lumumba says, referring to the haggling that surrounded the proposed list.
This has taken attention away from the make-up of the commission for the implementation of the constitution (which is not the same thing as the CIOC). The bill that calls for the creation of the commission mentions several areas of expertise that must be present on the committee (for example, public sector management, gender relations or human rights), but land is not mentioned, Lumumba says. The implementing committee must ‘realize land issues,’ he says. Otherwise, the members cannot appreciate how important it is to make the National Land Commission a priority. ‘These are things which worry us,’ he says.
Aside from the power distribution in government, land rights were the next ‘big issue’ that the new constitution is meant to address. The lack of land rights representation is a problem, Lumumba says, because it was the land sector that caused the most confusion in debates around the new constitution.
The CIOC and the commission ‘might not be in a hurry’, Lumumba says, to constitute the National Land Commission, even though people’s expectations are very high when it comes to land. ‘Dilly-dallying in matters of land could set us in a predicament,’ he says.
SOMETHING STILL UNSOLVED
Beyond helping Kenyans understand their right to access land, historical injustices remain. ‘The constitution is good but … there are potential areas of conflict,’ Nzioki says. When it comes to land, something is still not solved. For example, at the turn of the century in the Rift Valley, the Maasai were evicted from their lands to make room for white settlers. The issue was not revisited by President Jomo Kenyatta at independence, and this has become a sore spot for people in the Rift Valley.
The new constitution presents an opportunity to deal with these left-over land issues. The government should create special programmes to promote integration, Nzioki says. ‘The constitution says Kenyans can settle anywhere but … I think these issues [of ethnicity] have to be addressed… People internally are still annoyed.’
Despite these shortcomings, Lumumba says, ‘The constitution is far better than any other dispensation on land.’ The KLA is urging parliament to establish the National Land Commission as soon as possible, so that land matters can be resolved before 2012. But the answer to righting land wrongs in Kenya doesn’t just lie with enacting the constitution. ‘[It] is just an element of the reform the country is hungering for,’ Lumumba says.
LAND RIGHTS IN THE NEW CONSTITUTION
Kenya signed the new constitution into law on 27 August 2010 with close to 70 per cent of support from voters. The previous constitution dated back to 1963 and was widely seen as concentrating too much power in the hands of the presidency.
The violence that followed the 2007 election is considered the catalyst that set the new constitutional process in motion. Along with the distribution of power, the new constitution is meant to address land distribution issues.
Section five of the constitution deals specifically with land, resources and the environment. Among the provisions are:
- equitable access to land for all Kenyans
- security of land rights
- sustainable management of land, as well as conservation and protection
- elimination of gender discrimination in law, as well as customs related to land and property (this also includes protecting dependants of deceased landholders, including spouses)
- to encourage land disputes to be settled through community initiatives
- the creation of a National Land Commission.
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* Beatrice Fantoni recently graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Carleton University. She has reported for the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The political economy of remittances in Ethiopia
A thankless job, but somebody’s got to do it!
Alemayehu G. Mariam
It is gratifying to know that Ethiopian-Americans are carrying their fair share of the load in helping the economy of their homeland. It was an eye-opening revelation to learn that Ethiopian-Americans contributed a cool US$1.2 billion to the Ethiopian economy this past year. That is only second to the amount generated by Ethiopia’s exports. Last week Elias Loha, manager of reserve management and foreign exchange market of the Ethiopian National Bank, fretting over ‘a cut in vital remittances from Ethiopians in the United States’ told Reuters, ‘We are concerned and worried that as a result of the financial crisis … some of the Ethiopians may loose their jobs and as a result they may stop sending money to help their families back home.’ Could that be a backhanded way of giving us a teeny-weeny bit of credit for the much-vaunted, stratospheric, ‘ten percent per year economic growth’ Ethiopian president Meles Zenawi gasbags about? Regardless, there seems to be manifest alarm in Zenawi’s officialdom that the Ethiopian-American goose may not be laying as many golden eggs as it has been previously because of the sub-prime mortgage debacle.
The US$1.2 billion figure came as a pleasant and unexpected surprise for many Ethiopians who regularly send money to their families or make remittances for other purposes. The official figure most likely underestimates the actual figure since the National Bank does not have the data collection mechanisms to accurately gauge the remittance flow in the informal channels or in the underground economy. For instance, a 2006 World Bank study suggested that if remittances sent through informal channels are included, total remittances in recipient countries could be as much as 50 per cent higher than the official record. What surprised most Ethiopian-Americans aware of the staggering contribution was the fact that remittances substantially exceed the total amount of U.S. aid given to Ethiopia. Evidently, such massive infusion of money could have significant and decisive implications for Ethiopian society, but there are few systematic studies on the impact of remittances on the Ethiopian economy. We do not know if the US$1.2 billion dollars we sent alleviated poverty or deepened the inequality in Ethiopia between remittance recipients and the vast majority of people who do not receive them. Did our remittances help reduce the poverty rate in Ethiopia or place an added burden on the poor by grossly distorting the local economy? Is the US$1.2 billion we sent last year or the hundreds of millions in prior years in some part responsible for the current high inflation, high food and fuel costs and stratospheric housing prices? Is there evidence to show that the billion-plus dollars we sent contributed to economic development in Ethiopia? Would a significant decline in remittances by Ethiopians in the U.S. have positive effects on the economy by alleviating inflationary and other pressures? What is the relationship between increased levels of remittances and the ‘brain drain’ of highly skilled workers from Ethiopia? Do our remittances provide economic buoyancy to help keep afloat the doomed ship of a ruthless dictatorship? We just don’t have the empirical data to answer these questions.
THE EVIDENCE ON REMITTANCES, GROWTH AND POVERTY
Although there are few studies on the impact of remittances on the Ethiopian economy, there is an emerging body of empirical literature on the subject in the Asian and Latin American contexts. The top recipient countries of recorded remittances include India (US$21.7 billion), China (US$21.2 billion) and Mexico (US$18 billion). Africa receives only four per cent of total remittances made to developing countries. The International Monetary Fund Yearbook (2006) reports that five African countries enjoy the highest remittance flows relative to their size (based on both ratio of remittances to GDP and export earnings). These include Lesotho, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Togo. The available data on the impact of international migration and remittances on economic growth and poverty is not definitive, but there seems to be general consensus that remittances have a positive impact on the reduction of the employment and poverty rates in recipient countries. For instance, a study of 74 low- and middle-income developing countries done by the United Nations Population Fund in 2006 concluded that there is a statistically significant correlation between remittances and a decline in poverty. The study suggested that a 1.2 per cent reduction in the poverty rate could be achieved by a ten per cent increase in the share of remittance in a country’s GDP. Other studies in the Asian context suggest that remittance inflows could accelerate entrepreneurial activity in households by obviating credit restrictions. According to the World Bank, the more remittances a country receives, the higher its creditworthiness and the easier access it has to international capital markets. Remittance inflows are also said to have multiplier effects (money used to create more money), making a significant contribution to savings and investments in recipient countries. One study of Tunisian workers, for instance, showed that workers who had limited access to bank credit or the financial market used remittances for investment purposes. Other reported benefits of remittances include improved financing in health care and education and reduction in child labour in recipient countries.
There is also a body of literature that casts doubt on the relationship between remittances and economic growth in recipient societies. There is some evidence to suggest that remittances in Latin America have had only short term positive impact on poverty by increasing the income of recipients, but no appreciable effect on economic growth. A number of other studies have suggested that the primary use of remittances in recipient countries is to raise the recipients’ level of consumption with the balance going into home building, debt repayment and the financing of future migration by other members of recipients’ households. Some scholars have argued that remittances indirectly but negatively affect labour supply in recipient countries by encouraging some recipient households to work less, creating a ‘moral hazard’ in which remittances spawn an informal ‘welfare’ system. Concern has also been expressed by some economists that large and sustained remittance inflows could result in the so-called ‘Dutch Disease’ problem, whereby remittances cause an increase in the real exchange rate (how much one currency is worth relative to another) and make the production of tradable goods (for example, exports) less profitable. For instance, a study of 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries showed that remittance inflows into these countries caused an increase in the exchange rate which reduced the value of exports and the competitiveness of the recipient countries’ export sectors.
DO OUR DOLLARS HELP OR HURT OUR PEOPLE?
There are few studies that have examined the relationship between remittances and economic consequences in Ethiopia. One of the few systematic and enlightening studies on the subject was done by Dejene Aredo of Addis Ababa University in 2005. Aredo’s study lends some interesting insights into the role of remittances and their impact on the economy, particularly in the urban areas. Aredo examined the effect of remittances (both domestic and foreign) on urban households that were ‘more vulnerable than rural households to different sorts of urban shocks’ (for example, effects of structural adjustment programs’ conditionalities on urban workers, higher rates of HIV/AIDS, withdrawal of government subsidies for targeted programs, higher rate of poverty among female-headed urban households, higher incidence of homelessness and unemployment, and disproportionate impact of global financial crises). Aredo found that a ‘considerable proportion of sampled households (16.63 per cent) received remittances from abroad.’ International remittances (77 per cent) exceeded domestic ones (23 per cent) ‘both in terms of volume and per capita flows.’ Urban households received remittances at a higher frequency during the month suggesting that remittances were used ‘largely to cover day to day consumption expenditures.’ Only 1.1 per cent of remittances in the sample were used for investment purposes, 1.7 for savings and 2.8 per cent for asset purchases. Aredo also found that women got more remittances than men from both international and domestic sources, suggesting that ‘remittances are a means by which poverty among the most vulnerable groups of society, i.e. female-headed households, is partially addressed.’ Based on his findings, Aredo suggests that ‘with increased remittances, it is possible to cover a substantial portion of the resource gap and reduce poverty by half by the year 2015.’ He also suggests implementation of a more comprehensive policy to tap into available Diaspora funds beyond the regime’s policies (e.g. removal of import tariffs on certain goods, land grants for home building, bank deposit in foreign exchange, etc.).
The jury is still out on the impact of remittances on the Ethiopian economy. The available data is insufficient to determine whether remittances from Ethiopians in the United States alleviate poverty, accentuate existing inequalities or contribute significantly to economic development, job creation and investments. The preliminary evidence suggests that remittances can cushion the ‘ever-deepening poverty and vulnerability to recurrent shocks’ of urban households, particularly female-headed ones. Aredo’s study appears to suggest that ‘in the absence of credit and insurance market (even in urban areas), vulnerable households attempt to smooth their consumption by partially relying on both sources of remittances (i.e. domestics and international), while households with stable and high incomes rely heavily on international remittance transfers for investment or other purposes (other than for consumption smoothing purposes).’
WHAT CAN WE DO AS ETHIOPIAN-AMERICAN ‘REMITTANCE DONORS’?
Remittances are essentially private transfers of wealth with potentially significant economic and political consequences in recipient countries. In Ethiopia, US$1.2 billion in remittances in one year appear to represent the largest source of foreign exchange earnings, rivaling and/or exceeding export revenues, foreign aid, foreign direct investment or other private capital flows. If we as Ethiopian-Americans collectively remit (‘donate’) well over a billion dollars a year, that effectively makes us a major stakeholder in the economic well being of our country. Obviously, the regime’s ‘concern’ with declining remittances has to do with the potential evaporation of foreign exchange reserves caused by job losses of Ethiopians in the U.S. World Bank data does not support their concern. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that there tend to be more remittances in an economic downturn, political crisis, natural disaster, famine or war than in normal circumstances. But as ‘remittance stakeholders’ our issues transcend the regime’s insatiable appetite for foreign exchange reserves. Our issues are different: Do we have an obligation to carefully analyse the economic impact of our financial transfers on economic growth and poverty in Ethiopia? Do we have any political or moral responsibility in the way our remittances are used in the country? Could we be spreading the ‘Dutch Disease’ to Ethiopia by massive remittance infusions? Do our remittances provide a mechanism to those in power to substitute remittances as anti-poverty programs and avoid long-term development efforts? If our remittances tend to increase income inequality between recipients and others, do we have an obligation to rectify that imbalance through remittances to charitable organisations? How can we help build institutional capacity without building and fortifying the current repressive dictatorship? Do our remittances indirectly support, prolong and entrench the one-party, one-man dictatorship in Ethiopia? These are questions properly put to Ethiopian economists.
In terms of prescriptive remittance policies, various scholars have proposed initiatives in three categories: 1) policies that maximise remittance savings in national financial institutions in recipient countries, 2) policies that promote investment among recipient households while minimising consumption, and 3) policies that are aimed at promoting infrastructure development funded totally or partially by ‘collective’ remittances. One area of exploration for Ethiopian-Americans should be ‘community development’ totally or partially funded by ‘collective’ remittances. For instance, some Mexican migrants in the U.S. have formed hometown associations that raise funds for their communities of origin and spend those funds on community development projects such as improving water supply and health and educational services. In some cases, their contributions have been matched by the Mexican federal and state governments. The Overseas Pakistanis Foundation, a non-profit organisation with headquarters in Islamabad provides investment advisory and facilitative services to returning Pakistanis who seek to establish businesses. At the institutional level, India and Pakistan have offered specialised incentives for their ‘Diasporic’ citizens to set up or expand businesses, particularly in economically backward or depressed areas. Commercial banks in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala have remittance policies that offer higher interest rates on term deposits and foreign currency denominated banking accounts. Undoubtedly, Ethiopian economists could develop a whole list of creative uses of remittances for maximum local benefits. Beyond the need for substantive policies, better data collection and analysis on the multifaceted aspects of remittances is needed. Without such data, much of the analysis and policy prescriptions are likely to be speculative and not particularly useful in maximising the positive impact of remittances on the Ethiopian political economy. Needless to say, it is awfully nice to know that there are some in Ethiopia who are concerned about the economic health of the Ethiopian-American goose that lays the golden eggs. But does the golden goose have to be a cash cow too?
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* Alemayehu Mariam is a lawyer and professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, USA.
* This article was originally published by Ethiopian Review
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Make global water crisis a top priority issue
In recent years, climate change seems to have elbowed out other environmental issues to become the number one global problem. But the alarming problems of water – increasing scarcity, lack of access to drinking water and sanitation, pollution, flooding – are equally important and an even more immediate threat.
On 28 July 2010, the UN General Assembly in a historic decision recognised the right to water and sanitation as a human right. This is a fitting recognition of the crucial importance of water to the survival of individuals and the basis for development of nations and indeed the world.
The extensive floods in Pakistan are also a current reminder of two things: The devastating impact of climate change on rainfall and the flow of water quantities; and the importance of properly managing water drainage, especially in the major rivers and waterways.
The increasing shortage of water in many countries has become a crisis. A decade ago, it was predicted that a third of the world's population would be facing water scarcity by 2025. But this threshold has already been reached. Two billion people live in countries that are water-stressed and by 2025, two-thirds of the world population may suffer water stress, unless current trends alter.
Even more dramatic, it is predicted that wars will be fought over water this century, just as wars were and are still being fought over control of oil these past decades.
‘The global population tripled in the 20th century but water consumption went up sevenfold,’ noted Maudhe Barlow of the Council of Canadians and an expert on the global water crisis in her book ‘Blue Covenant’.
‘By 2050, after we add another 3 billion to the population, humans will need an 80% increase in water supplies just to feed ourselves. No one knows where this water is going to come from.’
LOSS OF WATER SUPPLIES
There is a rapidly growing demand for freshwater but its supply is limited and decreasing.
Water supply is affected by the loss of watersheds due to deforestation and soil erosion in hills and mountains. There is also a severe depletion of valuable groundwater resources as water is taken up for agriculture and industry, and is being dug from deeper and deeper sources.
Mining of groundwater has caused the water-table to drop in parts of many countries including India and China, West Asia, Russia and the United States.
Agriculture uses 70 per cent of water because industrial agriculture requires large amounts of water. It takes three cubic metres of water to produce a kilo of cereals, and 15 cubic metres of water to produce a kilo of beef because of the grain fed to the cows.
A lot of surface water is also polluted and thus not available for human use, or if it is used, the polluted water causes health problems. Five million people die from water-borne diseases annually.
Water supplies are also being affected by climate change. Global warming is causing an accelerated melting of the glaciers and there will be less glaciers in the future.
For example, the Himalayan glaciers feed many of the great rivers in India, China and Southeast Asia, ‘The full scale glacier shrinkage in the plateau regions will eventually lead to an ecological catastrophe,’ according to Yao Tandong of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The acute water problems facing Yemen are described in the London-based Guardian on 27 February 2010. The country's capital Sana'a is predicted to run out of water in 2017, as four times as much water is taken out of its river basin as falls into it each year. Of the country's 21 main water aquifers, 19 are no longer being replenished after a drought and increased demand.
The water situation is so serious the government has considered moving the capital as well as desalinating coastal seawater and pumping it 2,000 metres uphill to Sana'a.
CONFLICT OVER WATER SUPPLIES
Water scarcity has also become a reason for conflict. This is especially when a source of water such as a major river serves more than one country.
The country or countries that have the upper reaches of the river can affect the volume of water flowing into the countries at the lower parts of the river.
In Africa, about 50 rivers are each shared by two or more countries. According to an issue of Population Reports, access to water from the Nile, Zambezi, Niger, and Volta river basins in particular has the potential to ignite conflicts.
It also describes how the Aral Sea Basin in Central Asia is beset by international conflicts over water among Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, which all depend for their survival on the waters of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers.
The Middle East has been running out of water. In that situation the grounds for conflict have increased. In his recent book ‘Water’, Steven Solomon describes the growing tension over the sharing of water resources of the Nile especially between Egypt and Ethiopia.
In the Jordan River basin, writes Solomon, ‘in one of the world’s political hot spots, Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and Syrians contest to control and divide the scarce resources of a region that long ago ran out of enough freshwater for everyone.’
There can also be similar competition for water within a country, for example between states that share the same river.
According to Population Reports, in the western US, farmers who want more irrigation water face off against urban areas that demand more water for households and other municipal uses.
In India, Karnataka state was in a water dispute with Andhra Pradesh over the height of a dam on the Krishna River, which could affect the amount of water available for use by both states.
PRIVATE VERSUS PUBLIC CONTROL OVER WATER SYSTEMS
Another issue is the fight over the systems for owning and distributing the scarce water resources. In her book, Maudhe Barlow describes the recent policies to privatise water, which until recently was under direct control of government authorities.
Privatisation was first carried out in Western countries and then spread to developing countries through World Bank loans and projects.
This has led to adverse effects on people’s access to water, according to Barlow, who also documents the fight by citizen groups in many countries to make water a public good, and to make access to water a human right.
WATER AS A TOP PRIORITY ISSUE
All the above issues should be taken with the same seriousness as climate change, because water is about the most important item needed by everyone, and its scarcity affects both human health and geo-politics.
As Solomon puts it: ‘An explosive new political fault line is erupting across the global landscape between the water Haves and water Have Nots…. Simply, water is surpassing oil itself as the world’s scarcest critical resource.
‘Just as oil conflicts were central to the 20th century history, the struggle over freshwater is set to shape a new turning point in the world order and the destiny of civilisation.’
Thus, water must be recognised as a crisis issue and solutions to the crisis should be at the top of the global and national agendas.
It is thus timely that the UN General Assembly, the world's top policy forum, has adopted the resolution that the right to water and sanitation is a human right. Operationalising this right so that all human beings have access to water, and that all countries have the capacity to obtain, manage and wisely use water resources, is an imperative.
* This article first appeared in IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters
* Martin Khor is the executive director of the South Centre based in Geneva. The South Centre paper can also be accessed at the South Centre website.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Towards highly qualified primary school teachers
The case of Malawi
With one of the lowest university enrollments in Africa, the debate on who gets access to higher education in Malawi is an incendiary affair. The debate has erupted once again with the announcement of the 2010 intake for the University of Malawi. Largely missing from the debate, however, is any discussion of the role of the university in Malawi’s teacher education system, the foundation for the education apparatus. I wish to argue here that much as we may think of primary school teacher training as outside the Malawian university system, teacher education could potentially offer a way out of the contentious equitable access quagmire. It could also offer another approach toward achieving the ‘technicolour’ dream of the new five universities being planned by the Malawi government, as announced by president Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika in May this year.
5 October is World Teachers’ Day, and its occasion this year provides us an opportunity to discuss issues such as teachers’ welfare, training and professional trajectory. In the following discussion, let us explore the question of the involvement of the Malawian university system in the teaching of primary school teachers. Let us examine some of the consequences that arise out of the absence of Malawian universities in teacher education, and what recommendations a new teacher education and development policy is making to address that problem. We need to put this discussion in both the local and the global context, commenting on the expressed wish by the government of Malawi to construct five new universities, while observing Asian, American and European countries making massive investments into their own higher education systems.
Considering the approaches used by countries whose educational models we follow, it has been somewhat of a curiosity that very few Malawian educators have given thought to linking primary school teacher education to the university system. It is imperative that we think seriously about the role of the university in the training of primary school teachers, argues Bob Moon, professor of education at Britain’s Open University and founding director of the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) programme. Moon points out how African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan and South Africa have long involved their universities in the training of primary school teachers.
He says the progression of university involvement in the training of primary school teachers has not been easy. The United States didn’t make the transition from independent teacher training to the university system until the 1930s. The British only started in the 1970s, while France did it in the 1990s, as did South Africa. According to Moon, Sudan is currently upgrading the qualifications of 130,000 primary school teachers in the Sudan Open University system.
In many countries, including Malawi, higher qualifications for primary school teachers always mean a ticket out of the classroom into administrative positions or other better paying careers outside the teaching profession. I heard the most poignant metaphor to illustrate the folly of this in a personal communication with a Malawian educationist who has given a lot of thought to these issues. Lexon Ndalama, executive director of the Association of Christian Educators of Malawi (ACHEM), told me in 2004 how illogical it was to use higher educational qualifications to entice teachers out of the classroom. ‘Imagine you have a nursery,’ began Ndalama. ‘Instead of giving the nursery your best resources to give it the best foundation for future growth, you deprive the nursery and instead devote your best resources to your other gardens.’
This is precisely what has been happening in Malawi, as expertly analysed in the National Strategy for Teacher Education and Development (NSTED) document. Completed in 2008, the NSTED document, Malawi’s most up-to-date recommendation for teacher policy, laments how the best teachers are always taken out of the primary school classroom and sent to secondary schools and other administrative positions. Another way of looking at the problem is to think of who we assign to teach in our primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions. We train our primary school teachers for two years only, and in many cases, we let them enter the classroom as a full time teacher only after a very brief orientation. This is how I trained as a teacher in the 1990s, under the Malawi Special Teacher Education Programme (MASTEP). In contrast, we insist on a rigorous university education for our secondary school and tertiary education teachers, whom we expect to make a good job out of the same pupils taught by teachers with a minimal professional qualification. There are several consequences that arise out of our reluctance to afford the best academic and professional training to primary school teachers. Let us examine just a few.
The absence of the university establishment in teacher education means that none of the most experienced researchers and intellectuals of which Malawi boasts make their expertise available to the training of Malawian teachers. As Paul Tiyambe Zeleza observed in his 1997 book, ‘Manufacturing African Studies and Crises’, there is a gap between what African scholars produce, and what African schools teach. In Malawi, as in many African countries, we have no tradition of sustained research in teacher training, teacher competence or best practices. We do not have much research into what contributes to a teacher’s effectiveness and greatness. Our universities are in turn deprived of experience in a crucial area of the development of the nation.
Another consequence is the dumbing down of a profession that is of primary importance. Teachers make up the largest number of civil servants in any ministry, and with the majority of these being primary school teachers, we have a large section of our professionals who are deprived of the benefits of a higher education. When you consider that teachers are supposed to be professionals in the same tradition as medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, economists, and others, it is surprising that we do not think of primary school teachers as deserving of the best education available. Our problem of difficult access to university education is most illustrated in the figures available: with more than 233,500 students in the Malawian secondary school system, our universities have space for a total of 8,000. Only 2,000 students have been offered places as first year students in the 2010 University of Malawi selection announced last week. And this is itself an improvement from previous figures.
The absence of university involvement in the training of teachers also contributes to the problem of access to university education in Malawi. This problem would take on a different shape if our teacher training colleges were to offer four-year university degrees. Not only would we be graduating 2,500 more degree holders every year, in addition to current numbers, the profession itself would also be transformed. The many gifted and brilliant young men and women who have never thought of a teaching career could be attracted to the profession by the allure of the opportunity to obtain a rare university degree.
One of the crucial issues discussed in the NSTED document is low teacher morale, poor motivation, and the low social status of teachers. The type of training and the kind of qualification which trainig produces are two of the factors contributing to the low morale, motivation and social status of Malawian primary school teachers.
We have a few teachers who are undeterred by these factors. They embrace their profession with zeal and passion, and inspire their pupils, against the odds. But they are very few in number. Researchers who study teachers’ classroom performance point out that teacher perseverance in the face of adversity often translates into inspiration for pupils. A recent article in the American magazine, ‘The Atlantic Monthly’, cited research by a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, Angela Lee Duckworth, and her colleagues, on teacher perseverance. Duckworth and her colleagues found that teachers who scored high on perseverance and had a passion for long-term goals were 31 per cent more likely ‘to spur academic growth in their students’.
Even more important as a teacher trait was life satisfaction, Duckworth and her team found. Defined as being content and satisfied with their lives, teachers who scored high on this trait had a 43 per cent success rate in the classroom than peers who reported low life satisfaction. It is confirming to see research results producing these conclusions, but these are matters of intuition to anybody who has been inside a classroom. It is not surprising that the perception of dwindling standards of education in Malawi and elsewhere (including the United States) is accompanied by rising anger and frustration among teachers.
The NSTED document is a bold attempt by the Malawi Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to address these particular problems. The teacher policy recommendations articulated in the document suggest a career path for teachers to receive rewards and promotions through a structure that offers continuous professional development tied to academic credit offered through collaboration between teachers’ colleges and our universities. The document is careful to recommend rewards for higher qualifications inside the education system, just falling short of calling for a university degree for every primary school teacher as a long-term strategy. Such a suggestion never fails to elicit questions about whether the Malawi government’s budget capacity can successfully absorb thousands of primary school teachers with university degrees.
Another unwarranted fear warns about the problems that could potentially be caused by too many university graduates. These are legitimate debates, but they do not warrant enough reason to delay much-needed reform in the teacher education system. The emphasis needs to be on highly qualified teachers, and strengthening our universities to be able to offer that kind of teacher education. In a press release to commemorate World Teachers Day this week, the Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) makes mention of the need to provide teachers with ‘adequate in-service trainings for all teachers so that teachers keep updated on emerging issues.’ The press release calls for opportunities for teachers to upgrade their academic qualifications by taking advantage of the proliferation of accredited universities in Malawi. TUM’s vision for teachers is right on the mark. The Malawi Mininstry of Education, Science and Technology is in fact already rolling out a national teacher professional development programme which will address the issues TUM outlines.
Many countries are already moving to construct as many universities as they can. These countries are convinced that in the 21st century, universities are key in producing the kinds of knowledge needed to transform economies and enhance livelihoods. In an article published in the May/June issue of the American journal, ‘Foreign Affairs’, Richard Levin, president of Yale University, describes efforts in this direction by focusing on the growth of Asia’s universities. Two years ago the Indian government announced a plan to construct a world-class university in each of its 30 states, later amended to 14 universities in states that don’t already have a comprehensive university. China, South Korea, Singapore are all pursuing similar goals, guided by the understanding that ‘greater access to higher education would be a prerequisite to sustained economic growth.’
The Malawi Government’s plans to build five new universities in the next ten years would seem to follow a similar conviction. As Levin argues, ‘In today’s knowledge economy … it is not subject-specific knowledge but the ability to assimilate new information and solve problems that is the most important characteristic of a well-educated person.’ It would be folly to wait until a learner was at the university before teaching these characteristics. In order to inculcate these abilities from a young age, Malawi needs to train primary school teachers to the highest quality feasible. In an unpublished essay, Master Kalulu, a seasoned and distinguished Malawian teacher educator, says teachers now operate in ‘situations that are global and dynamic in nature.’ He calls for a teacher education that enables teachers to ‘perceive education as a process of freeing curiosity, permitting individuals to go charging off in new directions dictated by their interest and unleashing enquiry.’
As we debate how to increase equitable access to higher education for all Malawians, let us also consider the foundational players in the educational system, primary school teachers and the institutions that train them. We should also think of ways to strengthen indigenous knowledge systems whose resilience has come under threat from research approaches that do not understand the role that local knowledge systems play.
Levin writes in the conclusion of his article, ‘Increasing the quality of education around the world translates into better-informed and more productive citizens everywhere.’ We can do no better than start with the teachers whom we entrust with the task of educating our little ones, our future leaders.
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* Steve Sharra holds a Ph.D. in Teacher Education from Michigan State University. He moderates Bwalo la Aphunzitsi, an online forum for Malawian teachers and educators. To join, write to email@example.com.
* This article was originally published by The Zeleza Post.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The diaspora’s gift to Africa at 50
In an analogy relevant to the diaspora, Julius Nyerere once likened those sent to school in Africa to messengers sent by villagers hit by famine and severe food shortage to borrow food from a far-away village. If they arrive in the better-off village and settle down to eat and end their hunger while forgetting the condition of those who had sent them, they are judged harshly.
Nyerere insisted that graduates of schools and tertiary institutions must take back to their villages the benefits of the knowledge imparted to them.
The relevance of this analogy is dramatised in both the local media and academic literature by the dollars and euros that gatekeepers of economies call ‘annual remittances’. In 2009 as much as US$8-billion was cited as the amount that entered Nigeria’s economy as remittances by the diaspora. These are easily measurable flows. Some of these values come in the form of equipment for rendering services such as medical equipment and pharmaceutical supplies for hospitals.
In 2008, my not-for-profit NGO, Africa Vision 525 Initiative, published volume one of a book series consisting of chapters by Professors Toyin Falola, Ali Mazrui, Mahmood Mamdani, Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja and others.
The Internet has facilitated a rapid and vast flow of intellectual outputs from the diaspora. Some focus on re-disseminating material published in Nigerian newspapers. Some focus on commentary on information received on events and the political dramas in Nigeria. There are those that are preoccupied with local events, with Ekiti, Ogun and Edo States being most favoured. There is also a category that cherishes throwing lavish insults at those who challenge their viewpoints. A valuable category broadcast deaths and obituaries. In recent times a growing number of Nigerian husbands are reported to have murdered their spouses.
It is significant that there is little production of commentaries on American affairs. It was a delight meeting an engineer based in Sao Paolo in Brazil at a Dakar conference on the United States of Africa. He emphasised engineering lessons for Africa from his Brazilian experience. The study of America and the Americas for the benefit of informing Nigerians is simply lacking.
In the field of political science, for example, there is little investment in research in the working of the American legislative system at local, state and federal levels. This could act as a potential guide for Nigerian practitioners using a system widely known to have been borrowed from the American tradition of power. When I interviewed a state legislator in Wisconsin, aides to a senator in Washington DC, and a local education policy-maker who was also teaching at Howard University, for lessons in relations between elected officials and their constituencies, it was greeted with much surprise. It was an undeveloped field.
In the field of literature, diaspora scholars have seen their mission more in reporting African writers to their American audience than in reporting the tradition of American literature to audiences back in Africa. At an African languages and literature conference held in Fez in Morocco, three poets who had traveled from Nigeria and a literature teacher from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, were grossly outnumbered by diaspora scholars working in North American universities. These diaspora scholars did not, however, present comparative studies of American and African literature. Little was reported on literature by African-American giants like Baldwin, Walker, Alison and even Dubois, let alone contemporary writers.
With the current severe collapse in infrastructure, the failure to use research funds and the rich library resources in the Americas, has been a loss to Nigerian academics and policy makers. When a group of scholars were working on a book on Nigeria’s foreign policy over the last 50 years, senior diplomats who gave us collective consultations were rather emphatic about severe weaknesses in the lack of research capacity and resources available to officials. The severity of the situation was dramatised by the more favourable comments that the first generation of diplomats exhibited, compared to recent decades.
On 24 September 2010, the American embassy brought Dr. Walker to talk to an audience dominated by medical doctors on what he called ‘street medicine’. His clients are destitute and sleep on streets in frost prone cities like Philadelphia, as well as more favourable cities like Florida and San Francisco. The most powerful part of his lecture was a short documentary film on his star patients. The shock value of the revelation that poverty exists among white people in America was palpable. It was clear that he expected it and wished to experience it. The shock for me was that despite the millions of Nigerians in the diaspora across US, this silence about poverty in ‘God’s Own Country’ was common among medical doctors. Perhaps telling it like it is about conditions in that country is mistakenly assumed to diminish the social power of a Texan or Minnesotan accent in a member of the diaspora come home to visit.
At a recent gathering of top university teachers charged with working out strategies for reviving the book culture in Nigeria’s academia, a suggestion that scholars should translate widely celebrated books from Nigeria and other parts of the world into their mother tongue was met with a combination of enthusiasm and panic. Those in panic were tormented by reported research which showed that countries like Indonesia, Japan, Holland, Portugal, Sweden and France who taught science subjects in their mother tongue achieved higher scores in scientific creativity. A mental fatigue gripped those confronted with the imperative of using their mother tongue to promote linguistic self-reliance.
The lesson is clearly that the diaspora carries a special intellectual burden towards building that form of power inside Nigeria and the rest of Africa. They have a rich tradition of ‘area studies’ and travel books and newspapers in their host countries to draw from. A strange version of ‘revolutionary thinking’ in the Washington DC area was deeply offended when I said, in an interview about my book ‘Discourses on African Affairs’ (Africa World Press), that I was conducting interviews to learn possible lessons from the American legislative culture. This was considered outrageous and reactionary, for how can we learn from imperialism? This bizarre form of intellectual isolationism will continue to make Africa fail to gain from the vast intellectual capacity and opportunities in its diaspora. It must end. To do so would be a vital birthday gift to all African countries that are turning 50.
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* Okello Oculi is executive director of the Africa Vision 525 Initiative.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
UPM to march on Jacob Zuma in Durban on 14 October 2010
Unemployed People's Movement (UPM)
UPM to march on Jacob Zuma in Durban on 14 October 2010
Unemployed People's Movement (UPM) press statement
1 October 2010
On 8 September 2010 the UPM in Durban sent a letter of demand to Jacob Zuma. His office acknowledged reciept of that letter (see below), but he has never given us the courtesy of a response to our demands. Therefore we have no choice but to take our desperation and anger to the streets. We will be marching in Durban on 14 October 2010 in support of the demands in the letter.
In addition to these demands, we are also demanding an end to the attacks on democracy from the ANC.
We reject the media tribunal and the information bill. These are quite clearly nothing other than attempts by the predator state to protect itself from public scrutiny. We are very aware of the class biases in the media. Our own movement has been written about as if it were criminal and as if our most basic and legitimate demand - for enough food to eat - is a threat to society, when clearly anyone in their right mind can see that it is poverty and hunger that are a threat to society. But censorship is never the answer. The answer to the elite bias in our media is to further democratise the media by breaking up the monopolies and supporting independent community media.
We also reject the ongoing repression of the movements and organisations of the working class around the country. We stand with our comrades in places like Hangberg and Harrismith and with organisations like the Landless People's Movement and Abahlali baseMjondolo as they confront the direct or indirect violence of the predator state.
We ourselves have suffered repression. Nozipho Mnetshana was kept under house arrest after the UPM occupied the supermarkets in Durban on 22 July 2009 to eat bread without paying in protest at food prices. Ayanda Kota was assaulted in a police van outside Parliament in Cape Town at the opening of Parliament this year. Right now Ayanda Kota is receiving threats from the ANC in Grahamstown. After the recent experiences of the Landless People's Movement in Johannesburg and Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban we take these threats very seriously.
We call on progressive organisations to unite in a militant and uncompromising rejection of the attacks on the media and on the independent organisations of the working class. A line has been drawn and it is the responsibility of all progressive individuals and movements to take a clear stand against the attack that the ANC is waging on our democracy. We intend to work with all the independent and progressive formations of the working class to defend and deepen democracy from below.
Nozipho Mnetshana, UPM chairperson in Durban: 079 3405 074
Dudu Kweyana, UPM deputy chairperson in Durban: 082 8278 199
Ayanda Kota, UPM chairperson in Grahamstown: 078 6256462
08 September 2010
To: The Editor
Open Letter to President Jacob Zuma
Dear Mr. President
The Unemployed People’s Movement is probably well known to you by now. We are mobilising the unemployed people of this city so that they can speak for themselves in ensuring that a labour absorbing economy is crafted in this country and that all public authorities, national, provincial and municipal, are geared towards building up a model of economic work which is kind to the working people of this land. We want decent work for all.
Mr. President, unemployment has reached alarming levels in this country; half of the population is unemployed. Last year alone we lost more than one million jobs and our economy continues to shed jobs. We live in permanent poverty. Millions of people have no work, no land and no housing.
It never occurred to us, not even in our wildest dreams, that the ruling party would become such a corrupt and predatory monster that has no regard for the unemployed and the poor. It never occurred to us that the ANC would become the lackeys of the ruling class, the new managers for the ruling class who are hell bent on squandering the resources of our land. The ruling party continues to produce millionaires and billionaires while the unemployed and the poor of this country are being pushed to the peripheries of our society. We are facing extinction in the form of hunger and poverty.
We therefore demand that you:
1. Take immediate steps to put the Right to Work in the constitution.
2. Immediately implement a guaranteed income of R2,000 per month for all unemployed adults.
3. Immediately bar all ANC leaders from competing for government tenders, including your cronies and girlfriends.
4. Immediately investigate all party leaders with unexplainable wealth.
5. Immediately begin a serious discussion about how to socialise the economy. Socialisation of our economy can end unemployment. Socialisation is not the same as Malema's confusion about nationalisation which is just a plan for more elite plunder.
6. Immediately withdraw the Protection of Information Bill.
7. Immediately investigate all party leaders with unexplainable wealth, including your son who is a billionaire, your wives and girlfriends and your cronies.
Mr. President, we stick to our demands and we will continue to organise the unemployed masses around the country and to engage in protest actions until they are met.
KZN chairperson of the Unemployed People's Movement
079 7405 074
Mandela Park’s Back-Yarders demand action at the national level
Letter to Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale
Mandela Park Backyarders Movement
12 October 2010
Dear Honourable Minister Tokyo Sexwale,
As Mandela Park Back-Yarders and residents living in Khayelitsha near Cape Town, we have decided to skip the rhetoric, and direct our message to you as the national head for Human Settlements.
Our direct message to you is the result of being consistently ignored by the Western Cape Minister of Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela.
The housing situation in Mandela Park has been volatile for a very long time and now we call on you as the head of the Department of Human Settlements to come and engage with the Mandela Park residents on a range of issues that mostly pertain to housing as well as service delivery in general.
The urgency of the matter is such that if collective action from leadership (both local and national) and relevant stakeholders is not taken, we could find this situation escalating to more drastic levels through protest and further civil disobedience. These actions, as you know, will often lead to people being attacked, injured by police and arrested – which means opening the community to unnecessary criminal charges and animosity (yes another Hangberg).
Our demands are as follows:
1) 50 per cent of the current and future construction in Mandela Park must benefit back-yarders in the community.
2) Fast track the rental stock in the area to accommodate those individuals considered to be earning too much to qualify for RDP stock. Just because some of us are working does not mean we can afford expensive bond houses.
3) Investigate further the rotten elements left by Thubelisha Homes in the area. The residents have proof that some of the staff that used to work for Thubelisha are renting out RDP houses to desperate individuals and families. We call upon you to follow this corruption to its core.
4) Our threats of protest are not always necessary if dialogue among people and leadership is honest and forward-thinking.
Western Cape Minister for Human Settlement Bonginkosi Madikizela has acknowledged the complexities involving the Mandela Park housing crisis but he has failed to work with the community to address this issue. As residents, we simply have no trust that he will ever listen to us again as he is showing crocodile skin characteristics.
He is on a campaign to label himself an innocent by making disturbing statements on a public platform that in Mandela Park there are groups that refuse to co-operate with his plans. He is often quoted in the media saying he does consult regularly with Mandela Park leaders and residents including back-yarders to resolve the issue and that the crisis doesn't exist.
IN SIMPLE TERMS THESE ARE 'BLUE LIES' MULTIPLIED!
A few days ago, Madikizela even had the audacity to come to Mandela Park for a media photo-op at the insistence of an SABC2 report about one house that was invaded 12 years ago. Yet, while in Mandela Park, he refused to meet with the thousands of back-yarders who continue to demand his time.
Today we witness some ‘special’ communities being developed and serviced while residents of Mandela Park are deeply disillusioned. We feel that we have been deserted by those with whom we put our trust. All MEC’s that were elected since 1994 have been unable to resolve the housing problems in our community and there has been little effort from the national government's side to intervene. There is not even one structure which the city can claim to have erected as part of the desired service delivery in the area since people started to move to Mandela Park in 1989.
Honourable Minister,. that you are well-informed about Mandela Park’s struggles is no secret. We also believe that your department was established to find a solution to our problem instead of recycling the lies we’ve been fed at the provincial level.
Hence the call for this engagement is urgent as the current construction of houses in the area is also proving to be mismanaged and corrupt. The development in Mandela Park is like a ship without its rudder – this can only end in increased anger in our community.
In the unfortunate circumstance that you are not available to meet with us personally, please ensure that an empowered representative from your office is availed to attend our weekly Sunday mass meetings.
For more information please contact: 0737662078 (Loyiso) or 0780241683 (Khaya).
The Mandela Park Back-Yarders
Cc: Deputy Minister Zoliswa Kota-Fredericks
Cc: Chairperson Beauty Dambuza in the National Assembly
Cc: DHS Director General
Cc: DHS Anti-Fraud & Anti-Corruption Unit
* The Mandela Park Back-Yarders is a voluntary nonprofit citizens’ rights group working for housing rights and against evictions in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha. We focus on providing legal support for residents, conducting workshops and democratic discussions about housing issues, as well as helping build the community’s negotiating power vis-a-vis government housing officials.
* Visit the Mandela Park Back-Yarders online. Or e-mail them. You can also follow them on Twitter or on Facebook.
The Gambia: Gender and human rights defenders detained
Coalition for Human Rights in the Gambia
Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang Sissoho were called on Monday 11th October by an NIA officer to report to the Public Relations Officer of the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA). Upon reporting to the NDEA office, they were directed to the Police Headquarters and eventually detained without charges. Within hours, they proceeded to the Banjul Magistrate Court, where a ruling was made for them to be detained until Tuesday the 12th October, 2010. On Tuesday the 12th, the two women went back to the magistrate court for hearing on a bail application by the Defence Counsel. They were denied bail by the presiding magistrate and sent to the female wing of the Central Prison in Mile2 for 8 (eight) days while investigation will be ongoing.
Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director and Amie Bojang Sissoho, Programme Coordinator, of the Gambia Committee for Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) have over the years been very active and effective in the promotion of gender, women and children's rights particularly as they relate to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other discriminatory practices.
GAMCOTRAP is one of the lead organisations working in the area of women and girls empowerment, FGM and other harmful practices that affect the lives and circumstances of women and girls in The Gambia. GAMCOTRAP's years of struggle and countless efforts have contributed significantly to the development of women and girls in The Gambia and elsewhere and has led to over 100(one hundred) circumcisers dropping their knives publicly and abandoning the practice.
The two ladies were detained since Monday 11th October, 2010 and allegedly charged with theft of 30 thousand Euros. They spent Monday night in police custody, and their application for bail that was due to be decided on Tuesday the 12th has been refused and the two women's rights defenders have been remanded for 8(eight) days.
In his ruling, the presiding magistrate, Mr Emmanuel Nkea noted that he was in a tight corner and found it difficult to decide because both prosecution and defence have failed to elaborate on the issue of whether the defendants will use their influence to interfere with the investigation of the police which the police say is incomplete. In the end he refused them bail and remanded them in custody at the Female Wing of Mile Two Prisons for 8 (eight) days after which they will proceed to court for hearing. The Prosecutor had asked for fourteen days to enable them complete their investigation.
However sources close to the office of the President have disclosed that the detention of the two ladies is an executive order.
It could be recalled that in May 2010 the office of the President set up a panel consisting of 7 (seven) NIA and Police Officers to investigate GAMCOTRAP on the management of a Spanish donor fund from YOLOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD. After a careful review of the issues through statements obtained and relevant materials, the panel concluded that the allegation was unfounded. However, upon submission of its findings, the Panel was dissolved and some of the members dismissed from the service of The Gambian Government. A second Panel was set up and while GAMCOTRAP was awaiting the outcome of the second investigation, the two women were remanded.
This is not the first time that GAMCOTRAP has been targeted by President Yaya Jammeh 's government . In 1999 the security of members of GAMCOTRAP was threatened when the president publicly said that he could not guarantee the safety of activists who are campaigning against FGM. This was followed by a policy directive from the then Director of Broadcasting of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) forbidding the staff from broadcasting on Gambia Radio and Television (state owned) messages that oppose FGM, or mention the medical hazards. Instead, only messages in support of the practice should be aired on the state owned media.
GAMCOTRAP reacted by sending an open letter to the President, the first to be done by a civil society organisation in The Gambia. It could be recalled that President Jammeh has systematically launched direct attacks on vocal human rights campaigners and activists. Last year he threatened human rights defenders with arrests. In September this year, human rights defender and Director of "Africa in Democracy and Good Governance", Edwin Nebolisa, was given six-month-imprisonment with hard labour and an additional ten thousand Gambian Dalasi (approximately US $ 330) fine by the Banjul Magistrate Court having declared him "guilty of giving false information" to President Yahya Jammeh's office. Nebolisa was arrested in March 2010 following a letter he allegedly wrote to President's office announcing the nomination of President Jammeh's daughter as a goodwill ambassador of Africa in Democracy and Good Governance. The magistrate also ordered for the indefinite suspension of Mr. Nebolisa's right-based organisation.
Recently, the government started the process of amending the NGO affairs Act in order to effect greater control and restrictions on the NGOs. The Coalition for Human Rights in The Gambia is calling on President Yaya Jammeh and his government to respect the constitutional rights of Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang Sissoho and to allow justice to prevail.
For more information, contact +221 33 867 95 87
- Inter African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development - (FAMEDEV)
- International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
- Syndicat des Professionnels de l'Information et de la Communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS)
- Rencontre Africaine pour le Défense Des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO)
- Amnesty International, Section Senegal
- Radio Alternative Voice for Gambians-Radio AVG
- Article 19
- Organisation Nationale des Droits de l'Homme (ONDH)
- Réseau Presse et Parlement du Sénégal (REPPAS)
- West African Journalists Association (WAJA).
Pluto author arrested and tortured in Belgium
Last Friday, 1 October 2010, during the ‘No Border Camp’, a convergence of struggles aiming to end the system of borders that divide us all, Marianne Maeckelbergh, a US citizen and professor at the University of Leiden, Netherlands was arrested for taking pictures while police were making arrests in Brussels, Belgium.
Maeckelbergh is a former Red Pepper worker, current contributor and a long-time global justice activist and the author of ‘The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement Is Changing the Face of Democracy’.
Having just entered Belgium, some two hours earlier, she witnessed violent arrests on the street. When Marianne began taking pictures, she was arrested. She was taken into police custody where she was violently dragged by her hair, chained to a radiator, hit, kicked, spat upon, called a whore, and threatened with sexual assault by the police. She also witnessed the torture of another prisoner also chained to a radiator.
This did not take place in a dark corner of the police station but out in the open, directly witnessed by police station authorities, who gave the impression that this was standard practice.
Police removed her ID card, USB stick, the camera with the photos on it, as well as 25 euros in cash. To date they have refused to return her property.
Roughly 500 people were arrested, many preemptively, including people involved in the No Border Camp and other protest activities including an alleged attack on a police station. Marianne has now been released but as of Wednesday 6 October 2010 at least four people are still incarcerated.
Your help is needed to secure the release of the remaining prisoners and to demand that the police are held accountable.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
If you are in the UK, call, email or fax Belgium’s UK Ambassador, H.E. Ambassador Johan Verbeke, to demand the immediate release of all prisoners and express your outrage at the torture, abuse, and unjust incarceration of Marianne and others.
Tel: 020 7470 3700
If you are based elsewhere, contact the Belgium Ambassador for your country. A list of ambassadors can be found on wikipedia, but please cross-check with another source before using as it appears to be incomplete and out of date in some cases.
African voices in opposition to the UNESCO-Obiang prize
Dear Executive Board Member:
I am writing on behalf of EG Justice, a non-governmental organization focusing on human rights and governance in Equatorial Guinea, to forward you a letter expressing the voices of hundreds of African individuals, across a wide spectrum of professions, in opposition to the UNESCO-Obiang prize.
As you contemplate a position on this prize, I hope you will consider these African voices, many from Equatorial Guinea itself, which are deeply concerned with the poor record of President Obiang on human rights and the rule of law.
The 127 signatories, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Graca Machel, Nobel Laureate Dr. Wole Soyinka and Dr. Chinua Achebe, call on you to cancel definitively the UNESCO-Obiang Prize and see that the funding for the prize be used to support education, a free press, and other much needed development areas in Equatorial Guinea.
Thank you for consideration. I, and my many colleagues, look forward to learning of your affirmative action to uphold the integrity of UNESCO and terminate this prize.
Attack on democratic rights in Obafemi Awolowo University
Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
Press Statement: Attack on Democratic Rights in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife: A Call for Intervention
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) secretariat was destroyed by security men on 5th October, 2010 by a directive of the Dean of Students' Affairs (DSA), Dr (Mrs.) Durosinmi, and supervised by the warden of the Fajuyi hall, where the secretariat is situated, Mr. Falope.
This is a continuation of the attacks previously launched against the organization by some students' union officials under the directive of the same DSA, and other university officials including the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Prof. Adesanya, the Chief Security Officer, Mr. Yinka Salami and the Chairman of the University’s Security Committee, Prof. J.A Fabayo, (find attached statement) in July, where several members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) were physically attacked, detained and their properties destroyed by the sponsored thugs. The aim is to extinct the organization and replace it with neo-fascist elements, but this has so far failed, as the organization was able to gather itself and continued to raise campaign on welfare demands of students and workers. Thus, the latest attacks are meant to give official cover for what has already being planned.
Elimination of leftist organizations on campus, especially DSM, which is seen as the arrowhead against campaign against under funding of education, privatization, commercialization, corruption (both within and without the university) and the management's maladministration, has been a major agenda of the university management under the headship of Prof. Micheal Oladimeji Faborode, the vice chancellor. It is ridiculous that the same university management that set up Investigative Panel into the July attack, as a result of massive outcry against the attacks, aside refusing to release the report of the panel for the past one month, is now launching another attack on the victims of the July attack.
We call for the Nigerian public, civil society, pro-democracy groups, labour movement, students' movement, socialist organizations, etc to prevail on the OAU management to stop turning the university into a jungle. Since his inception, Prof. Micheal Faborode administration has been one of continuous attacks on both progressive students' and workers' movements on campus. Several students' leaders have been and are still being victimized while the union was once banned because of its radicalism; the new union was only allowed to exist because it has the image of the management. For instance, a student journalist, Ayo Ademiluyi was refused graduation because a campus newspaper he edited published a story on the pension fund in OAU, which the university management found unsavoury.
We call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of those behind the July 12-14 attacks on leftist-students including university officials aforementioned and their thugs. We demand immediate compensation to all those whose properties were destroyed and end to victimization and management sponsored violence against activists.
Comrade Lawal Orsh (08036473893, 08059399178) Secretary General
* DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST MOVEMENT (DSM) Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife Branch 142.5, Block 3 Fajuyi Hall, OAU, Ile-Ife tel: 08036473893, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.socialistnigeria.org
Childhood mysteries: Looking at one's inner self
Review of ‘True Murder’ by Yaba Badoe
Until quite recently the mystery story was not well known to African writings, but this is changing rapidly. Yaba Badoe joins authors like fellow Ghanaian Kwei Quartey, author of ‘Wife of the Gods’, and Kenyan Mukoma we Ngugi, who wrote, ‘Nairobi Heat’,in bringing us this new genre.
‘True Murder’ is a suspense novel with two parallel mysteries woven together and set around three young girls at an English boarding school. The story is told through the voice of 11-year-old Ghanaian Ajuba, taken away from her mother and sent to England, to a Devon boarding school by her father. She makes friends with the confident and flamboyant Polly Venus and is slowly sucked into her life and dysfunctional family. The girls engage in the antics of childhood detective work.
In the first mystery plot, it becomes increasingly clear that a tragedy is in the making with each event taking Ajuba closer to the truth about her own mother and her friend.
In the second mystery, Polly introduces Ajuba and another girl, Beth, to the American magazine, ‘True Murder’ which they read secretly and avidly. Ajuba in particular is taken in by the ‘Principles of Detection’ which become useful when the girls discover bones wrapped in a cloth in Polly’s attic and decide to solve the mystery. The three girls complement each other: one is sympathetic, intense and cautious; another is impulsive, and self-assured; and the third is impatient and a daring go-between.
The two mysteries tell the tale of families being torn apart, of the cruelty which we unleash on those closest to us. Its also a coming of age story of two childhood friends joined together in their shared hurt, each finding different ways to cope with loneliness and loss. In some instances there are cultural-specific responses to events and situations but essentially, this is a universal story which explores family relationships, conflicting loyalties, infidelity, loss, jealously and the fear of looking at one’s inner self.
Badoe’s recreation of the English boarding school and middles class, which are mysteries in themselves, is uncannily accurate. I cannot help but imagine it is based on her own experience and observations. ‘True Murder’ is beautifully written, with crisp narratives and full of delicate descriptions of landscapes and colours and the sensual flirtations that pass between lovers. I particularly loved her description of music and the wonders of dance:
‘“To dance, Ajuba,” she would say, dragging me onto the veranda at Kuku Hill, “you must connect with the spirit between your legs and hips. Dance is sacred joy.” … and copying Aunt Rose’s movements, following the singers’ instructions on how to slither like soup, shoulders and hips swirling, a whip in motion, I learnt how to move, arms unfolding as my body looped and rolled.’
At times, I felt I transported back to my own teenage experience of the English boarding school. Shared baths, half-terms spent with strange English families and a constant longing for home. At others, I was miles away at home in West Africa, in a completely different cultural and family setting, and in between, a sensitive and excellently written novel of personal tragedy and childhood mysteries.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Yaba Badoe’s ‘True Murder’ (2009) is published by Jonathan Cape.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Continuing to 'fight the good fight'
Congratulations on your tenth anniversary! May you continue to fight the good fight.
It was my absolute delight to discover Pambazuka News about three years ago. I subscribe to the Green Left Weekly, an Australian newspaper which has similar aims as Pambazuka at a local and international level. They had published one of your articles and I decided to investigate. This proved to be one of the best decisions I made. I have since introduced your e-paper to many relatives, friends and colleagues.
Pambazuka shines a light on the stultifying darkness that overwhelmingly shrouds the perceptions of many in the West for whom Africa, the continent, is still regarded as one homogeneous basket-case; forever defined by its poverty, wars and its animals, just waiting for others to save it from itself. Through the platform of Pambazuka, this premise has been well and truly debunked. You have given voice to the vibrant and engaged people of Africa and its diaspora; people who are passionate about pursuing justice and exposing the corrupt parasites who continue to infect and pollute this continent.
On a personal note, thank you for publishing my contributions. I have no hesitation in paying the small amount requested if it facilitates Pambazuka in continuing its fight for justice and equality.
Information about Soviet World Youth Festival
I'm a historian at Yale University in the USA who just happened upon your online news service, and who has a special request. I'm writing a history of something called the World Youth Festival, a Soviet-sponsored event which met 13 times between 1947 and 1989. My research has taken me to Russia, Europe and across the USA. But sadly, I have not yet made it to look through African archives or interview African participants. I therefore would be especially grateful if you would put a call out to your readership in search of anyone who might be willing to speak with me about their experiences at the Festival, or who perhaps has written material (letters, diaries, memoirs) that they'd be willing to scan and share with me.
Write to Nick Rutter.
The boys who saved Nakuru: Heroes or criminals?
Isaac Newton Kinity
When the word leaked that the Kalenjin militia would attack and burn Nakuru town, the third largest town in Kenya in the early morning of the 21 January 2008, young boys, some of who had lost their parents in the previous attacks and killings in the span of over 14 years of mayhem, said enough is enough. It was the time when fleets of army trucks and private owned lorries, carrying women and children, youth and the elderly, some with deep cuts and others with burns and deep wounds, continued to flow to Nakuru town and through the town to other places like Gigil, Naivasha, Nyahururu and elsewhere for safety.
Before the militia attacked Nakuru, they attacked and burned Githima village within the Nakuru Municipality, Mwariki and Kiamunyi. In the early morning of 21 January 2008, the Kalenjin militia arrived in Nakuru town and without the slightest awareness that some brave young boys from Nakuru town were waiting for them, they started their mission.
Most of the Nakuru residents who were aware of the attacks had moved out of town with their belongings. The militia started by burning the Jua Kali garages and other buildings around. They did not know that they had already been surrounded by the young brave boys who had totally been convinced that the Kenya government was not ready to save the town and its residents, following the government’s previous inaction to save Kenyans from attacks and killings in Eldoret, Kitale, Kericho, Molo, Njoro, Githima and most horrifying the women and children who were burnt alive in the Kiambaa Church in Eldoret just a few weeks before.
As soon as the militia had burned a number of houses in Nakuru town, the young boys descended on the militia and killed most of them except a few who managed to escape. In the latter ours of the morning, many bodies of the militias laid dead. The young boys knew little that they had not only saved Nakuru town but they also saved Kenya from genocide. As the ICC comes closer day by day to prosecute the perpetrators of the 2008 post-election violence, Kenyans wonder whether those brave Kenyan boys who not only stopped the demolition of the third largest town in Kenya and deaths of it residents, but also stopped the would-be genocide, are heroes or criminals in the eyes of the ICC.
Abdilatif Abdalla: 'My poems gave me company'
Kenyan prison literature
Kimani wa Wanjiru
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Prison literature that delves into the horrid conditions and experiences of writers in prison, forms an important body of art in Kenya and Africa in general. Would you describe it as more than mere writing or do you feel they represent anything?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I think it is more than just writing. Because by writing, such writers – especially those who were imprisoned because of their writing, and while in prison were denied writing materials – are at the same time defying the powers that be and making a very bold statement that there is no way that they can be stopped from expressing their views through writing. In other words, by doing so they continue to resist against the very system, which imprisoned and restricted them.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: How important are these writings in describing and capturing a country’s history and development in the political, economic and social paths?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: It really depends on how they have been written, and also their background, because not all prison works, in general, do portray those aspects of the society. One could, for example, have written a novel which is purely about love, or a crime thriller for that matter, without any connections to the realities which could be identified with the country in question, but perhaps based on a purely artificial and very imaginary place. However, I think the majority of prison writings are important because, even if such a writer based his work on his personal experiences while in prison or detention, there is no way that he would be able to divorce them from the historical, political, economic and cultural developments of the country.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Kenya has its own generous share of literary material authored behind bars. It can, on the one hand, be closely linked to the democratisation of our society and an indicator that even jail has not and cannot dampen the fury of the pen, on the other hand. What are your thoughts?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: The prison writings in Kenya, which I am aware of are direct responses to the different political situations in which our country found itself. For example, during the colonial period we had works such as ‘Mau Mau Detainee’, by JM Kariuki, which, although was not written in prison, did, nevertheless, mainly dwell on the experiences which the author went through from 1953 to 1960 while he was detained by the British colonial government for being a member of the Mau Mau movement. Another one is ‘Mau Mau Author in Detention: An Author’s Detention Diary’ by Gakaara wa Wanjau. This was originally written in Gikuyu. As the sub-title indicates, this was a diary the author secretly wrote and kept, recording his experiences in different detention camps in Kenya where he was detained for a total of eight years between 1952 and 1960 as a result of his activities in the Mau Mau movement. Another one which is in the same league is ‘Freedom Fighter’, by J. Nyamweya. And there are several others.
The post-independence period gave us prison works like Sauti ya Dhiki, Ngugi wa Thiong’o's ‘Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary’ and the novel, ‘Devil on the Cross’; Alamin Mazrui’s anthology of poems, ‘Chembe cha Moyo’, which he wrote when he was detained without trial for more than two years in different Kenyan prisons after his play, ‘Kilio cha Haki’ (‘Cry for Justice’) was performed at the University of Nairobi; also Maina wa Kinyatti’s ‘Kenya: Prison Notebook’ and ‘Mother Kenya: Letters From Prison, 1982-1988’, both written during his six years’ imprisonment, to mention but a few.
One of the intentions and expectations of the jailer is to kill the spirit of the one jailed because of his convictions – especially if those convictions are political. But for the one who strongly holds on to them, prison or detention can never break such a person, but, I dare say, does quite the opposite. Because that which fire cannot burn only makes it harder. And this is manifested in these prison writings wherein you can see how stronger that prisoner or detainee has become and how more convinced he is and more committed to what he believes in, compared to before that person was jailed or detained.
Here we have mostly concerned ourselves with those writings, which were written within the walls of prisons. But, I think, it is also important to bear in mind that even those works which were written outside the confines of prison cells, but in an environment which was equally oppressive (in a wider prison, so to speak), should also be given a very serious consideration.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: The late Wahome Mutahi noted that ‘For many writers writing about their horrid experiences behind bars is often cathartic, therapeutic, if you may call it.’ Do you feel the same?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I quite agree with Mutahi’s observations. At least from my personal experience, one of the things which helped me to keep my sanity in the solitary confinement which I was in throughout the period of my incarceration at Shimo La Tewa Prison and Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, between December 1968 and March 1972, was my writing. My poems gave me company; and, in the process, we communicated with each other and, sometimes, argued with each other!
Solitary confinement, as the term itself denotes, is a very lonely kind of life; in fact it has within it elements of mental torture, which are partly designed to break you and kill your resistance and spirit. Just imagine, taking a social being who in his or her previous life before being imprisoned or detained was living among, and interacting with, his or her immediate family members, as well as the larger family of fellow human beings, and then suddenly force that person to live a life of absolute isolation and without even the very minimum of basic necessities of freedom. Now, in such a situation, one really needs to have something to hang on to.
Composing my poems was one the three major things which sustained me (the others being not regretting for what I did and caused me to be imprisoned, because I strongly believed that what I did was right and that I would do it again if a similar situation presents itself; and the third was my faith and religious belief that one should never lose hope as long as one can still breathe.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Would you say these literary works have contributed anything in the country and the continent at large?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I am inclined to think so. If nothing else, such works can at least help others who might find themselves in similar situations.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: You were imprisoned for 3 years and put in solitary confinement that resulted with the manuscripts of poems that were later on published as Sauti ya Dhiki. What was going on in your mind as you penned the poems later on published as Sauti ya Dhiki?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: As I mentioned earlier, writing those poems gave me sustenance, strength and the will to endure what I went through in prison. One of the very valuable things which solitary confinement gave me was the space (however tiny my cell was) and time (plenty of it since I was not allowed even to work, despite the fact that I continuously begged the prison authorities to allow me to do so) for reflection and stock-taking. It enabled me to test myself as far as my political convictions and beliefs were concerned. I sometimes jokingly say that I thank the Government that imprisoned me for having given me that opportunity to test my convictions.
Therefore, in ‘Sauti ya Dhiki’ one can find poems in which I keep on reawakening and reaffirming –again and again – my political convictions; also there are political poems which deal with the situation Kenya and Africa were in at that particular time; what I was mentally busy with – sometimes grappling with near uncertainties and doubts; my very personal and emotional feelings, such as longing and worries for the family members I left behind, as well as the torments of loneliness and boredom, which kept reminding me that they will never desert me. There are also poems which deal with matters cultural. Equally, what also occupied my mind was unceasingly thinking about how, once I am out of the prison gates, I will continue with the struggle to bring about meaningful changes in our country.
This exercise of composing my poems was comforting to me, but at the same time it was a dangerous undertaking, because in the process I was breaking prison rules and regulations which governed my solitary confinement. One of the restrictions, among many, was not to be allowed any reading or writing material. In other words, I was forbidden to write or read. I must tell you, that was very painful to me – especially the very cruel rule of not being allowed to read, since from the time I could read I have always been very fond indeed of reading whatever I could lay my hands on. Therefore, that restriction was like passing a death sentence to me!
So, for the first six months or so of my imprisonment I had absolutely nothing to read! It was after those very long six months, and after several times insistently requesting the Kamiti senior superintendent of prison – whenever he paid me his regular visits to check if the rules of my confinement are duly followed by the prison warders guarding me – to allow me to have something to read, was I finally allowed to have a copy of the Koran, but- and he emphasized on that- only the Arabic version, and not in translation. Little did he know that by allowing me to have only that Arabic version of the Koran he was handing me a very powerful instrument, which helped me a lot in soothing my internal pains and sufferings as well as strengthening my inner resolve even more! Or, maybe, he did know the power of the contents therein, otherwise he would not have insisted that it should not be in translation, thinking that I would not understand it in Arabic). Because in it I met characters in Islamic history, who were tortured to death and others harassed in various ways so that they denounce their newly-found faith, but they never relented; others who were lured to a better life if they would abandon Islam, but they preferred their poor lives in dignity and with their faith intact rather than wealth in humiliation; others who preferred imprisonment rather than “freedom” under subjugation and dictation; and many other similar situations. So, that particular copy of the Koran was more than enough for me. I did not need to request for anything else! However, it was after so many months that I was allowed to have a Kiswahili translation of it, by Sheikh Abdulla Swaleh Farsy, who was then the Chief Kadhi of Kenya.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: How did you get started?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: The acquisition of writing material was to come after about another six months. It was almost one year since my arrest in December 1968 that I managed to persuade one of my regular prison guards – who had turned to be sympathetic to me because of my politics – to get me a small piece of pencil. God knows how I treasured that! That, together with my weekly ration of rough toilet paper, which proved to be very useful as writing paper! I came to know how toilet papers could be useful in prison as writing material many years before my imprisonment, when I was reading Kwame Nkrumah’s autobiography (who became his country’s first president), which he wrote when he was imprisoned in James Fort Prison in his country, Ghana, by the British colonialists for agitating for his country’s independence.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: That must have fired the creative juices in you. How were the first steps like?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: Being in possession of these two very important and valuable materials – paper and pencil, I was now ready to start my poetical exploration within the solitary confines of the four walls of my cell at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. I wrote my very first poem in prison, titled ‘Nshishiyelo ni Lilo!; (roughly translated it means, ‘I Hold Fast to What I Believe In’) in September 1969. This particular poem was a sort of a letter to my elder brother, Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir, although at that time I did not have any possibility of sending it to him, because I was not allowed neither to receive nor send letters, even to my immediate family. This brother of mine was the main person who was responsible of my politicization during my teens, and I had promised him that I will never surrender even when I find myself in trouble with the government.
I also kept a diary in a coded language, and wrote a short novel called ‘Ni Haki Yangu’. After my release, I did not bother to put the finishing touches on the novel. I just lost interest in it. As for the diary, due to the fact that a long time had already passed, I could no longer decipher the codes as I had forgotten most of them. However, there is a very small part indeed which I still could remember, and which I deciphered. It was published under the title ‘The Right and Might of a Pen’, in the September 1985 issue of Africa Events, a monthly current affairs magazine published in London.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Ironically, the anthology of poems won you the 1974 edition of the Jomo Kenyatta Award for Literature, an award named after the very man who had imprisoned you after you questioned the direction he was guiding the country in the political pamphlet Kenya: Twendapi? (Kenya: Where Are We Heading To?). Did you find this ironical?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: Many people, and on many occasions, have asked me that very question. Yes, it sounds ironical. And sometimes it makes me feel uncomfortable to be associated with an award, which bears the name of the person whom I strongly feel had betrayed Kenya as a whole, and betrayed me personally. I say he betrayed me personally, because since the days when I was in primary school, when Kenya was still under British colonial rule, I used to regard Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as one of my heroes. For example, during those days the school day started with all the pupils assembling at the school courtyard and singing the British anthem, ‘God Save the Queen’, before they entered their respective classrooms. I remember how when I was attending primary school in a village called Takaungu I used to secretly and whisperingly substitute the word ‘Queen’ with ‘Kenyatta’ because I believed that he deserved that prayer more due to the fact that he was fighting for the rights of our country and its people. (There was only one student friend who knew about this ‘subversive and seditious’ act of mine and, thank God, he never betrayed me to the school authorities).
Now, when I answer this question I always emphasise that although that award was named after Kenyatta, he had nothing else to do with it. This award was the brainchild of Kenya Publishers Association, which also made the money for the award available. How it came that ‘Sauti ya Dhiki’ came to win it, or who the judges who decided so were/is still a mystery to me.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: You published ‘Kenya: Twendapi?’ (‘Kenya: Where Are We Heading To?’) close to 41 years ago. What are the circumstances that led to your publishing this pamphlet?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: Kenya: Twendapi? was the seventh in the series of occasional pamphlets I used to write, in consultation and cooperation with my political comrades, and which were clandestinely distributed. They were signed ‘Wasiotosheka’. This was the term which the first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, used in his public rallies to refer to us who were not satisfied with the situation in the country and who were opposed to the way the country was being governed. That is, we were ‘the disgruntled’ or ‘the dissidents’, as the government used to call us.
Now, allow me, please, to put the reason of writing and distributing this pamphlet into context. When this pamphlet was written I was 22 years old. But from the age of 19 years I was a member of the then opposition party, Kenya Peoples Union (popularly known as KPU), which was led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. At that time I had just started my second year as an accounts clerk at the Municipal Council of Mombasa.
KPU was legally formed and registered by the government as a political party in 1966. As you will see, this was just three years after Kenya attained its independence. The formation of KPU was necessitated by the fact that about two years after independence some of those who were in power (and it was a very powerful and very ruthless small group) had already started to divert from the path which Kenyans had charted during the independence struggle, and which was enshrined in the KANU Manifesto of 1963, which was a relatively radical document. Greed, which was manifested by this group through the amassing of wealth, mostly by foul and unjust means, and the unashamedly grabbing of land by the ruling class, was already in full swing. The rot had already set in. The government had also started to be intolerant of any opposing views, and did not want to listen even to its own members of government who saw things differently, and who offered suggestions on how things should be put right and, in the process, return to the path agreed upon while fighting for independence. In short this group was very arrogant and was behaving very badly indeed. They behaved as if the country was their personal property, and they did not have any qualms whatsoever!
Some of those who did not agree with the situation we then had in the country were the then country’s first vice president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who was also the minister for internal affairs. Others were Bildad Kaggia, who had by then already resigned as an assistant minister of education (but remained in KANU) because of his disagreement with the government’s policies, especially regarding the land issue; Achieng Oneko, then minister of information, and Tom Okello Odongo, then an assistant minister for finance, to name but a few, and several other nationalist figures. These patriots, when they saw that things were starting to go wrong, they first tried to change things from within. But after a while they realised that they were not – and will not – get anywhere. Hence the formation of KPU as the alternative.
When these patriots left the government and the ruling party, KANU, to join KPU, the regime rushed a new law through parliament, which was subsequently passed. This new law made it mandatory for any sitting member of parliament who resigned from the party which made it possible for him or her to be elected as an MP, to seek re-election. As a result, all those who ‘crossed the floor’, to use the parliamentary jargon, had to go back to their respective electorate to seek new mandate. The real purpose for the government to introduce this law was to threaten and stop other KANU members of parliament who also wanted to join KPU from doing so. In the ensuing by-elections (which were dubbed by the media as ‘the little general election’), – and despite the restrictions placed by the government in order to make KPU’s campaign near impossible, KPU garnered nine seats.
Within a short period, KPU became popular with the ordinary masses across the country. But there were also pockets of resistance against it among some elites in some communities, especially from the Central Province, but also from other areas. This opposition, in my opinion, stemmed mainly from two factors: The first one was due to independence euphoria: the argument which gained currency was that the government was only three years old and, therefore, some people were of the opinion that it was too early to paint it with a negative brush. They felt that it should be given more time to find its bearings. I vividly remember the difficulties some of us had during those days when trying to persuade such people that if things were not nibbed in the bud there and then, once this beast of a government grows fatter and stronger, it would overwhelm all of us and make it more difficult to bring about the required changes.
The second factor was based on this cancer, which continues to eat and destroy the very body of our country, namely what Koigi wa Wamwere rightly calls ‘negative ethnicity’. This ‘negative ethnicity’ was nurtured and perpetuated after independence, mainly by those who wielded the reins of power. And, as is apparent today all over the continent of Africa, the genesis of ‘negative ethnicity’ is the unequal distribution of the national wealth and resources. Jomo Kenyatta and his cabal were masters of this deadly game. It is no secret that certain selected communities benefitted from this at the great expense of the big majority of other Kenyans. Therefore, those who were beneficiaries of this unfair system were hostile to KPU, whose policies were based on social justice.
When KPU’s support among the Kenyan masses grew stronger, all the government’s radars read ‘danger’! It subsequently started to restrict its activities and harass and detain its leaders and its prominent supporters. And the Government’s naked intolerance and repression against KPU was to become more evident during the Local Government Elections, which took place in August 1968. In those elections, KPU fielded candidates across the country. In all, there were about 1,800 KPU candidates. Definitely, this was going to be the first big opportunity to electorally test the popularity or otherwise of these two sides: the ruling party, KANU, on one side and the first opposition party in independent Kenya, KPU.
But for some months before, there had already been indications that the Government had become unpopular among the people. The signs were clearly on the wall for all to see: that the government would lose these local government elections. And the KANU government didn’t have the courage to let the Kenyan people exercise their constitutional right to choose between the two sides. What it instead did was to instruct the retuning officers all over the country to disqualify all the KPU nomination papers. And, you know, what was the reason given by the government for those disqualifications? That all the KPU nomination papers were not correctly filled in! Not even a single one? Now, this reason could not be accepted even by the silliest of persons. In my opinion, the seeds of dictatorship in Kenya, which came to devour the very soul of this country for so many years after, were sown during that period.
Something had to be done against this very dangerous tendency. At the very least to speak out against it. So I made it the topic of the next pamphlet, ‘Kenya: Twendapi?’ In short, in it I argued – and I must admit – in a very angry and fiery language, that by behaving the way it did, the government had robbed the Kenyan people their constitutional right of peacefully and democratically electing their leaders. I also said that if it behaved in the same dictatorial manner in the 1970 general elections, then the only alternative for the people of Kenya would be to rise up and remove the Government by force!
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: That must have rubbed some people the wrong way. Kenya Twendapi? Is this still a relevant question to date?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: You ask me whether the question, ‘Kenya: Twendapi?’ is still relevant to-date, and whether the issues raised therein have been adequately addressed, more than 40 years later. My very brief answer is that I would like to believe that the question is still very relevant, because I think as a nation, we have not yet sat down to seriously and thoroughly discuss what kind of country we would like Kenya to be, and also have the courage to take practical steps to bring about the structural changes needed.
I know that we had the Bomas and also other several conferences have been held on this theme; but, in my opinion, those were more for public gallery in order to make Kenyans believe that attempts are being made to improve their situations. But, in actual fact, nothing concrete has been achieved from such gatherings. Instead we have only had some cosmetic changes. Because the real changes required in order to turn round the prevalent situation go against the very interests of the ruling class. Kenyans should not trust their future into the hands of this group. A lot of organisational and awareness work still needs to be done so that ordinary Kenyans themselves can determine their own future.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: The government took ‘Kenya Twendapi?’ negatively and led to your imprisonment. How was the publication taken by your family?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: The only member of the family who was aware of my writing of the pamphlets was my elder brother and mentor I mentioned earlier, Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir. He is the one who, during my teens, initially sharpened my political awareness by taking me along to his political public rallies. He was among the founder members of KANU at Limuru in 1960, and later he was among the leaders of the struggle for Mwambao, the 10 mile coastal strip, when the coastal people felt that they had been short-changed by some KANU leaders and were being regarded as foreigners in their own country. He also used to give me political books to read. Among the books which he gave me (and I vividly remember his insisting that I should read it seriously) was ‘History Will Absolve Me’, by Cuba’s Fidel Castro. This book, which was Fidel Castro’s defence in court when he, together with his comrades, were facing charges of attempting to overthrow by force the Cuba’s government, then led by Batista, was instrumental into formulating my radical politics.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Did you share the content of the article with your family members before you published it?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I remember showing him the draft of the pamphlet, ‘Kenya: Twendapi?’ His comment was that the tone and the diction used was very harsh, and he advised me to tone down the language. My stubbornness took the hold of me and I declined to do so. I was so angry with the government’s intransigence and dictatorial and arrogant behaviour that I did not want to dilute the expression of how I really felt.
One of the things which I very much appreciated, and still do, of this brother of mine was that he never imposed his views on me, but always allowed me to follow my ideas and beliefs, even if we did not see things eye to eye – as long as I was strongly convinced in what I believed. That is how he brought me up as far as views and ideas were concerned. And I thank him so much for letting me independently choose the path I wanted to travel on, and at the same time always reminding me to be cognisant of the likely result of my actions and to be ready to accept whatever fate will befall me as a result.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Did you think it would lead to your imprisonment?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: As for the thought that imprisonment was a likely possibility, yes, that I knew might be one of the prices I would have to pay. In fact, in my own idealistic way, I was prepared for anything even worse than that. For during the period I was writing the pamphlets prior to ‘Kenya: Twendapi?’, I received several verbal warnings from government authorities that I should stop. Among them was the then mayor of Mombasa, the late Abdalla Mwidau; the then old town chief, the late Sheikh Mohamed Fadhiluna, and the then coast provincial commissioner, the late Isaac Mathenge. And to them all, the answer was the same: Defiance!
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: How can you describe yourself? Who would you say is Abdilatif?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: The Greek philosopher, Socrates, was fond of saying, ‘Know yourself’. But he is also reported to have said – and I am paraphrasing him here – that knowing does not stem from knowledge per se but from the realisation that, in the first place, you know nothing. I wished I knew who Abdilatif was! That is a very difficult question for me to answer. I would like to believe that other people know better who Abdilatif is rather than Abdilatif himself. So, leave that question to them.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Take me through the journey of your life – when and where were you born? Are you the eldest or last born? How many are you in the family?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I was born in the Old Town part of Mombasa, in an area called Kuze, on the 14th of April, 1946. I am the third in the rank, sandwiched between my two elder brothers, Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir and Ahmad Nassir Juma Bhalo and my younger brother, Khalid Khamis and younger sister, Swafia Khamis. As you would see from their full names, I am a brother to all of them on the maternal side.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Where did you go to school? What are some of the memorable thoughts of your life while you were growing up?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I started my primary school education in Faza (also called Rasini), where my great uncle, Ahmad Basheikh, who – together with his wife, Bibi Sharifa Haji Fadhil, raised me since I was three years of age – had been transferred to teach at Faza Primary School. This was, and still is, a small village in the northern-most part of the Kenya Coast, a place which could be accessed only by sea. The town which is nearest to it, and which is more famous, is Lamu. But it was at Takaungu, where my great uncle, who was also a poet, was later transferred that I received most of primary education. In fact I did my Kenya Primary Education (KPE) there. And, to my very big surprise, I failed it! After that I did not continue with formal education. I just read books!
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: What did you want to do in life? Did you want to be in the academia?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I can’t remember of having had any concrete career ambitions as such, especially after having failed the final primary school examination and not pursuing formal education any further. However, this elder brother of mine, Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir, had wanted me to be a lawyer, and had enrolled me for a correspondence course so that after achieving the required qualifications I could ultimately pursue a degree course in Law.
But in those early days of my life, this profession was not very tempting to me, although I knew that if one were successful, one could earn a lot of money. I used to regard Law as a bourgeoisie profession, and I held a belief that lawyers’ main motive was just to make loads of money at the expense of other peoples’ problems. For example, I just could not convince myself on the fairness of the system that one had to pay a fortune to a lawyer in order to be represented and defended, when the legal system should have been designed in a simple way that one could be able to defend oneself and in a language the defendant understood, without the intervention of a third party.
And life in the academia was not at all on my agenda for my future. I didn’t even imagine or dream that I would one day end up in it!
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: What prompted you to choose your career in the academia?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I don’t think that I consciously chose it. It was due to the mixture of the then prevailing circumstances that I found myself there. My first academic post was at the Institute of Kiswahili Research, University of Dar es Salaam. In about July of 1972, I was made aware of the existence of a vacancy for an assistant research fellow in that institution, and I was advised to apply. That, to me, was a Godsend! I had been released from prison four months before, and had not yet even started to think about whether it would be possible for me to be employed, especially due to the nature of my ‘offence’, which landed me in prison in the first place. In those days if you were known to have fallen on the wrong side of the then Government, you ended up in a black list and you were regarded by the employers as unemployable.
So, I applied for it, went to Dar es Salaam for the interview, and was awarded it. I joined as an assistant research fellow, and after a short while I was duly promoted to a research fellow position, and later to a senior research fellow. I worked at that Institute for the maximum seven years the Tanzanian law could allow a non-citizen to do so. Near the expiry of my seven years, I was persuaded by the authorities to take Tanzanian citizenship in order to continue working with the Institute, but I could not let myself lose my Kenyan citizenship. That would have been very painful indeed for me!
After seven years in Tanzania, I left for London where I had gotten a job with the Kiswahili Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), where I also worked for seven years as a broadcaster. From electronic media I moved to print media in 1986, when for the next eight years I worked as editor-in-chief of a monthly current affairs magazine, Africa Events, which was published in London. And from there, I taught Kiswahili at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, till 1995, when I left for Germany, where I had been offered a post at Leipzig University as lecturer for Kiswahili Language and Literature.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: You have since published other works. Please give me an outline of the body of your works of art – the things that you have done – both in Africa and internationally.
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: Some of the publications that I have churned out include ‘Utenzi wa Maisha ya Adamu na Hawaa’ (an epic poem on the life of Adam and Eve), (Ed.) ‘Utenzi wa Fumo Liyongo by Muhammad Kijumwa’, ‘Introduction to T.S.Y. Sengo’s Shaaban Robert: Uhakiki wa Maandishi Yake’, ‘Wema Hawajazaliwa’ (a Kiswahili translation of Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born), ‘The Holy Qur’an: What the Shias Say’, a translation from Kiswahili of a book by Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir, co-compiler and co-editor of ‘Liyongo Songs: Poems Attributed to Fumo Liyongo’, (Ed.) ‘Mashairi ya Miaka Kumi ya Azimio la Arusha’, (an anthology of poems by various Tanzanian poets commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Arusha Declaration, Tanzania’s blueprint on Ujamaa and Self Reliance policy)
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Which one was the most challenging and why? Which one do you think is the lousiest and why?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: I can easily say that I regard ‘Sauti ya Dhiki’ to be my most challenging and rewarding work. Challenging because of the circumstances in which it was written, as well as the opinions and feelings expressed therein. Rewarding because of the way it was received by the reading public, and continues to be received even though 36 years have now passed since it was first published. There isn’t any which I regard as the lousiest.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Where do you draw inspiration for your works of art? Who was your role model in the industry?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: My inspiration comes mainly from the surroundings and the environment I am in. My main influence and role model as far as my poetry is concerned, are the two people I mentioned earlier, namely my great uncle, Ahmad Basheikh (who used to give me his poems to read before he went to recite them at Sauti ya Mvita, the radio station which existed in Mombasa till mid-1960s), and my elder brother, Ahmad Nassir bin Juma Bhalo, who is a major Kiswahili poet. I was also very much influenced by the poetry of the 19th century Mombasan poet, Muyaka bin Haji, who lived between 1776 and 1840.
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: Please give me some highlights of: Your happiest moments/memorable time; your trying/challenging time.
I must say that the period I spent at the Institute and the Dar es Salaam University in particular (which in the 1970s was Africa’s hotbed of revolutionary ideas), and my entire living period in Tanzania in general, was one of the happiest, most satisfying and most memorable periods of my life. Not only that I was living in a country whose then President, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, was one of the political thinkers who had a great influence on me, but also because Tanzanians received as one of their own.
My most trying and painful times were the years I lived in exile, especially after moving to London, without being able to go back home because of fear of being arrested due to the campaign me and my fellow Kenyans (namely, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Yusuf Hassan, the late Wanjiru Kihoro, Shiraz Durrani, Wangoi wa Goro and Nish Matenjwa) were waging against the KANU and Moi government, after the intensification of repression in the wake of the 1982 military coup attempt, when scores of people were killed by government agents, many were arrested and imprisoned, others were made to disappear without a trace, and many more Kenyans had to flee the country and seek refuge in foreign countries. We had started our activities in London by first forming the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya, with branches in several European and African countries, as well as in the USA; thereafter we formed the externally-based political party by the name of Umoja wa Kupigania Demokrasia Kenya (United Movement for Democracy in Kenya), again with branches in those other parts of the world; and also because of my involvement in the underground movement, MWAKENYA (Muungano wa Wazalendo wa Kuikomboa Kenya).
KIMANI WA WANJIRU: What are the other things that you like doing when you are not working? What are your hobbies etc.?
ABDILATIF ABDALLA: Reading is my most favourite hobby. Then comes listening to good music, and going to classical music or jazz concerts. I also like travelling to new places.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Kimani Wanjiru is managing editor/projects director of Kymsnet Media Services.
* This interview was first published on Kimani wa Wanjiru: Talking culture and the arts
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
in the proverbial accord of hand
and glove does the
sea flirt with you as
i watch from the plane.
– turbulence! -
land of Nkrumah, of gods and gold,
land of Ghana: wonsu saa biom.
your tears salted the sea once when
it beguiled you like a harlot, and
history taught your children to dread ships.
- turbulence! -
it is time for a new thought.
…time for a new thought.
i like flying.
it gives me a mischievous anonymity and places me
above time, above place. above history’s tears
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Donald Molosi is a writer, poet and classically trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). He is from Botswana and is a graduate of Williams College in the US. He has just spent 18 months studying Forum Theatre in Senegal, Uganda, France and England, and is currently working in New York City.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 162: AQMI, l'insécurité au Sahel, la France et AFRICOM
What if Mugabe dies?
NCA to begin mobilising for 'No Vote' campaign
The chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Dr Lovemore Madhuku, has said that from next week they will begin mobilising people to reject the constitutional draft that will be produced by the parliamentary committee. ‘The constitution that we will be campaigning against will not be different from Lancaster House. So it’s not accurate or not correct to say if you reject the constitution you are going back to Lancaster House. It won’t make a difference.’ He said it was not the NCA’s fault that government kept coming up with defective constitutions and putting them before the people to vote on.
Africa: $750 million needed to treat obstetric fistula until 2015
A report released by the United Nations calls for intensified investment in cost-effective interventions to address the problem of obstetric fistula. The document estimates that at least $750 million is needed to treat existing and new cases between now and 2015. Caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without timely medical intervention, the condition affects as many as 3.5 million women in the world. The report 'Supporting Efforts to End Obstetric Fistula', states: 'Obstetric fistula is one of the most devastating consequences of neglect during childbirth and a stark example of health inequity in the world. Although the condition has been eliminated in the developed world, obstetric fistula continues to afflict the most impoverished women and girls, most of whom live in rural and remote areas of the developing world.'
Africa: Examining the impact of women beyond the numbers
The African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWC), launched the 'Beyond Numbers' publication on Friday, 8 October 2010. This new publication is based on a qualitative study that was carried out in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Sudan. The objective was to reveal the impact of the women’s movement for participation and representation in political decision making in Eastern Africa.
The study considered the impact of a critical mass of women on such areas as institutional reform culture, service delivery, ability to challenge the status quo, change laws and policies that affect women at various levels of society.
Kenya: Mammography screening encouraged as breast cancer rises
Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer and the second cause of cancer deaths among women in Kenya, writes Mary Onyango, the vice-chair of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and also a member of the Kenya Breast Health Programme. Incidences of breast cancer are on the rise and those being diagnosed are getting younger. With this in mind breast screening and in particular mammography screening, which has saved the lives of women all over the world, is the way to go for women in Kenya, she says.
Liberia: Women find their voice with radio
'Voice for the voiceless' is the slogan adorning the walls of Liberia’s first and Africa’s second radio station for women. Situated down a bumpy, dirt track on the edge of the capital, Monrovia, the Liberia Women Democracy Radio (LWDR), claims it wants to advance women and promote change. In a country trying to rebuild itself after 14 years of civil war in which women bore the brunt of the violence, they remain the most vulnerable group in society.
Malawi: Ignoring patriarchy, female politicians rise
While in Malawi civil society is driving an effort to get female candidates into office, regardless of their political party, there still remain obstacles. This is despite the existence of the 50/50 programme: a campaign which aims to meet the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development, which commits countries to work towards the goal of having 50 per cent women in political and decision-making positions by 2015.
South Africa: A gendered view of the MDGs
Gender equality and women's empowerment are essential to South Africa's attainment of the MDGs. Women assume multiple roles, as mothers, leaders, students, decision makers, farmers, workers, voters, carers and much more. In each of these roles, the ability to be educated and healthy, to have voice and influence, to enjoy opportunities and choices are critical to the attainment of the goals. Without gender equality and women's empowerment, women are less able to reach their full potential, live a life of dignity, and be productive citizens. In this report, the Commission for Gender Equality seeks to provide an African-based mechanism for measuring the status of women as compared to men's in the social, economic, and political spheres.
South Africa: Media shows signs of gender fatigue
Although media coverage of South Africa's 9 August women's day touched on some important topics relevant to gender empowerment, the coverage overall lacked a sense of commitment, regularity, urgency and persistence in demanding answers, and would have benefitted and had greater impact from a more in-depth, urgent, analytical and demanding approach. This is according to an analyses of media output of the event by the Media Monitoring Africa.
Sudan: Women’s votes important for the referendum
The votes of southern Sudanese women in January's self-determination referendum will be a determining factor in the outcome, says the vice president of the regional government, Riek Machar. Women in Southern Sudan constitute more than 60 per cent of the adult population in the semi-autonomous region. Hundreds of women leaders across the region launched a two-day conference on Tuesday in the parliament organised by the office of the president under the theme: 'Enhancing Women's Participation in the Referendum.'
Tunisia: Marriage, divorce and women's rights
Despite the indisputable progress on gender equality, some current Tunisian laws still contain discriminatory language. Legal reforms need to address the reality of women’s situations: It is only in a minority of families that there is joint decision-making and household tasks remain a female responsibility.
Africa: The rationality of revolt
Professional civil society has won some important victories in post-apartheid South Africa, but has not stopped material inequality from worsening, writes Richard Pithouse. 'When a social system is not working, people have the right to challenge it directly and outside of the rules that it sets for engagement. Until and unless we reach a point where the actions of the state are beginning to turn the tide against economic and political exclusion, the state’s legal right to declare popular forms of revolt illegitimate has no moral standing.'
DRC: Human Rights Watch hails arrest of Rwandan rebel for Congo crimes
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said the arrest on Monday of Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana in France for serious crimes in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009 sends a strong signal to other abusive commanders that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be persistent in its apprehensi on of suspects. French police arrested Mbarushimana Monday morning in Paris, where he has resided since 2003.
Egypt: New advocacy campaign to reject sectarianism
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) has launched a new advocacy campaign to combat sectarianism in Egypt under the slogan, 'Reject Sectarianism'. The organisation said that the campaign is a joint movement and an appeal for collective action to eliminate sectarianism and strengthen the values of equal citizenship and shared existence.
Global: Flower workers face slave wages and pesticide poisoning, says campaign
The international campaign 'fair flowers - for human rights' has demanded living wages and sufficient protection against highly toxic pesticides for flower workers. Salaries which do not reach a living wage and lack of protection against highly toxic pesticides are still a daily reality for many flower workers in the global flower business, says the campaign. 'While consumers in Europe enjoy flowers as a symbol of love and friendship, the flower workers' human rights to adequate food and health are constantly being violated.'
Morocco: Against torture somewhere; Against torture anywhere
The story of a 37-year-old man who died after being detained by police has grabbed the attention of bloggers and online activists, says this post on Global Voices. It comes amidst a climate of decline in freedom of the press in the country and is not at isolated incident, says the post.
Nigeria: Single cell for Okah
Nigerian former militant leader Henry Okah will be kept apart from other prisoners at a Johannesburg prison until his bail application is heard next week, his attorney said on Tuesday. 'By agreement between us and the state Mr Okah will be held in a single cell at the Johannesburg Correctional Centre,' his attorney Rudi Krause told Sapa.
South Africa: The courts, accountability and participatory democracy
'Quite obviously, the first job of the courts is to enforce the Constitution and the rights which it contains. A person whose home has been destroyed and who has nowhere she can legally live, has no access to housing and is denied one of the most fundamental necessities of life. A court cannot fold its arms and say that this is bad luck, it is the consequence of apartheid, and one day things may change. The question is not whether the court should do something. Rather, it is what the court should do.' - Advocate Geoff Budlender, the Second Irene Grootboom Memorial Lecture (2010) in Salt River, 11 October 2010.
Uganda: Treason trial squashed
Dr Kizza Besigye has called for the resignation of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General after the Constitutional Court ordered that he and 10 others be discharged from any further prosecution arising from the treason charges they have been facing since 2005. All the five judges said they could not allow continued trial of the suspects when their fundamental human rights were being grossly violated by state agents.
Western Sahara: Coalition demands release of human rights activists
As part of a broad coalition, War on Want has submitted a letter to the UK government demanding the immediate release of three detained Saharawi human rights activists. One year ago, a group of prominent Saharawi human rights defenders were arrested upon their return from a humanitarian visit to Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria. Despite not having committed any crime, the activists were charged with threatening Moroccan national security.
Africa: Standing up for HIV-positive immigrants
A new campaign aims to beat stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive Africans in New York by urging the wider population to show solidarity with them. 'For those living outside their home turf, the vulnerability that comes with being HIV-positive really exacerbates HIV stigma,' explained Kim Nichols, co-executive director of the African Service Committee (ASC), an NGO that provides HIV and other health services to African immigrants in New York.
Ethiopia: Saudi authorities deport 725
An Ethiopian diplomatic source in Jeddah has told Gulf News that Saudi authorities had deported 725 Ethiopians who had been detained at a deportation centre of the Saudi Passport department following a riot that erupted at the facility that led to the escape of many prisoners last Wednesday. Security forces are still continuing a search for several detainees who fled the detention centre.
Global: The refugee challenge in the Middle East
The refugee and displacement problem is one of the most complex humanitarian issues facing the Middle East, aid workers say. Elizabeth Campbell, senior advocate at US NGO Refugees International, believes it is likely the Middle East hosts the highest number of refugees and asylum-seekers in the world. She underlined the need to find lasting solutions: 'Any time that people remain uprooted and have not been afforded basic rights or pathways to durable solutions, it is a humanitarian crisis. In this article from IRIN, the refugee challenges of the countries in the region are profiled.
Kenya: Socio-economic impacts of Dadaab refugee camps on host communities
Social interaction between host community members and refugees are taking place within the camps at a significant scale, according to a September 2010 study entitled 'Socio-economic and Environmental Impacts of Dadaab Refugee Camps on Host Communities'. One of the findings of the study is that refugees are seen as getting the better deal as international humanitarian standards are applied to refugees but not to host communities.
Somalia: Stop sending Somalis back to Mogadishu, says UN refugee chief
The UN refugee chief has called on countries to stop sending refugees back to the war-torn Somali capital Mogadishu and the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Antonio Guterres also said it was time rich countries shared the global refugee burden more fairly with developing countries and revealed tentative plans to set up an enlarged EU-wide resettlement programme. Some Somalis have even been deported to Mogadishu - a city under nearly continual shelling, from which more than 200,000 people have fled this year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.
Sudan: After Sudan floods, sleeping by the roadside
It is the rainy season in Southern Sudan. The annual floods don’t make life any easier in an area already struggling to recover from decades of civil war. But this year, the flooding was unusually severe. In mid-September, heavy rains caused rivers to break their banks and flood the lowlands of Aweil South, in Northern Bahr El Ghazal state — submerging villages, crops and grazing land for cattle. Hundreds of people who would have been taking in a harvest of sorghum and groundnuts — now ruined, along with their homes — are instead camping by the roadside.
Zimbabwe: Migrants struggle to legalise status in South Africa
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans are attempting to legalise their status in South Africa. They have been given a deadline by South Africa of December 31 to submit documentation seeking permission to work and live in South Africa. Most illegal Zimbabweans in South Africa say they fled to survive and earn money for their families and some fled fearing political persecution from President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF Party officials.
South Africa: Cape Town protest tactics sparks debate between social movements
Four NGOs have criticised a social movement for disrupting ordinary life in Cape Town with a protest campaign aimed at highlighting a lack of service delivery in informal settlements. But Abahlali baseMjondolo, which has launched the strike in informal settlements, have responded, saying they have never called for violence and accusing one of the NGOs, the Treatment Action Campaign, of double standards. This post contains the original statement issued by COSATU Khayelitsha, the Treatment Action Campaign the Social Justice Coalition and Equal Education, calling for a rejection of Abahlali baseMjondolo's tactics and a responding statement from Abahlali baseMjondolo.
1. NGOs slam organisation for disrupting ordinary life in Khayelitsha, Cape Town
12 October 2010
Joint statement from COSATU Khayelitsha, Treatment Action Campaign, Social Justice Coalition and Equal Education:
Unite Poor and Working Class People in Khayelitsha through Disciplined and Sustained Organising!
Reject Abahlali baseMjondolo's call for violence and chaos!
1. The need for mass organisation to overcome social inequality has never been greater.
2. In 1994 African and Coloured poor and working-class townships and rural areas celebrated freedom from White rule. The hope that hunger, unemployment, the bucket toilet system, apartheid education and homelessness would be addressed as a permanent priority of government lived in people's hearts. It was hoped that health services would be improved and income inequality reduced.
3. We know that freedom has brought many improvements. Millions of people gained access to welfare grants, water, homes and clinics. We can march peacefully to our elected Parliament without being shot. We can join unions and organisations. We can go to the courts against evictions and for HIV treatment. These are some of the great gains that we must defend and advance. But the government has not made the needs of urban and rural working-class and poor people its priority.
4. Twenty years after the release of President Mandela and his comrades, and the unbanning of the ANC, and sixteen years after political freedom, income inequality is worse than ever before. More people than ever have no jobs, the indignity of the bucket system and toilets in the bushes continues, and education inequality and ill-health remain a part of the system of government and South African capitalism. As a result our sons and daughters turn to alcoholism, drugs and crime. They terrorise their families, neighbours and communities.
5. Meanwhile black and white capitalists, ex-homeland bureaucrats and other elements of a predatory elite are using the ANC to take the wealth of the country for themselves and keep it from poor and working-class communities. At local, provincial and national level, government protects and promotes corrupt, lazy and incompetent 'managers'. The bosses have the greatest freedom capitalists have ever had in South Africa and pay the lowest taxes.
6. People are angry across our country and in every community. Anger is justified because government is abusing our trust and vote. Many people say: 'Life cannot continue in this way.' Others take to the streets in protest that sometimes turns violent. We know that mindless violence and chaos have never brought freedom, decent jobs and a better life. Freedom and social equality comes through patient organisation, education and sustained struggle. It comes through building the collective power of communities.
7. The struggle for social equality and justice requires serious organisation and a clear programme for change. It requires collective leadership with the understanding required to lead millions of people over years, not a few hundred who throw stones for a few days and become cannon-fodder for self-appointed leaders.
8. Most people in Khayelitsha do not have decent jobs. Almost half are unemployed or are in casualised and badly paid domestic, shop and service work. In Khayelitsha there is a small middle-class comprising teachers, book-keepers and nurses most of whom support large unemployed families. The majority of people in Khayelitsha are supported by these remittances, welfare grants and informal sector work such as taverns, fruit stalls and spazas. Almost everyone in Khayelitsha relies on taxis, buses and trains.
9. A few weeks ago Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape, supported by some elements of the ANC Youth League and other community organisations, called for a 'general-strike of informal settlements' to bring production in factories and shops to a standstill. They proposed to make the City 'ungovernable' and cause 'chaos throughout the City'.
They openly encouraged residents to burn tyres, block roads and throw stones and rubbish. This call is immature, ignorant and shows contempt for our communities. The poor and working-class people of Khayelitsha cannot advance their struggle in this way. To build their own power they need patient organisation and unity with people from Cape Town to Mitchell's Plein, Gugulethu to Manenberg.
10. For more than two weeks now, the actions of Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape have punished poor and working-class people in Khayelitsha. They have encouraged the police to become a law unto themselves and have prevented services such as refuse collection and water maintenance. Ambulance and fire services - already over-stretched - could not reach affected areas, or had to deal with 'barricades' and attacks from protestors hurling stones.
11. In the name of Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape, young unemployed people are being used to intimidate their communities but this has failed to bring anything to a 'standstill'. At most it has inconvenienced and endangered workers and the unemployed who use public transport including many elderly people and motorists.
12. The irresponsible actions of Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape are helping the state to criminalise struggle and dissent. They are strengthening the attacks on working class organisations by Helen Zille, Dan Plato and the national government's police, army and intelligence agencies; allowing them to use the argument of 'maintaining law and order' while inequality remains unchanged.
Working class people, informal traders and Khayelitsha residents need to be able to get to work and access services and hence many will sympathise with this call for 'law and order'. In this way Abahlali's false militancy divides the poor and working class and weakens organisation and real struggle.
13. COSATU Khayelitsha, The Treatment Action Campaign, the Social Justice Coalition and Equal Education have for years worked seriously in Khayelitsha and elsewhere. We have never advocated stone-throwing or promoted violence. Our members work patiently, educate themselves and build local leadership to change the system of inequality.
We ask all progressive people in churches, clinics, schools, universities, homes, and local organisations (in Khayelitsha and elsewhere) to distance themselves from mindless violence and calls for chaos that harm the poor and working class and their organisations.
Issued by Treatment Action Campaign, October 12 2010
2. Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape responds
As Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape we have noted the statement by the Treatment Action Campaign and its subsidiary organisations condemning our call for a week of informal settlement’s strike.
We respect the important victories that TAC has won for health care over the years and we respect the work that they have done in solidarity with migrants and GLBT people. We are clear that our enemies are those who put the interest of the elites, be they in business or politics, before the interests of the poor and we are clear that we wish to build as much unity as possible between organisations of the working class. We have always organised on the basis that respects the autonomy of different formations.
However we are very disappointed that TAC chooses to attack our campaign in public without first meeting with us as a fraternal organisation to discuss any concerns that they may have had. We are always willing to meet with any fraternal organisations to discuss agreements, differences and ways forward.
We have our own critique of TAC, of its relationship to the ANC and thereby to a repressive, violent and often criminal government, of its political liberalism, of its internal organisation and hierarchies, of the way that it dealt with the internal revolt in the organisation in 2007 and so on but we do not use these critiques to attack the organisation in public. We will never support the state against TAC but they are supporting the state against us and setting the stage for repression against us to be justified. This is disgraceful.
There are some things that we agree with in the TAC statement.
- We agree with TAC that the government has failed the people and that the predatory elite have more freedom than ever.
- We agree with TAC that mass organisation is necessary and that people need to organise across the city to build their own power against the elites. We agree also that this is a long and difficult process.
We have called for an informal settlement’s strike in Cape Town and we have welcomed the blockading of roads. It has been said that around the world the road blockade is the strike of the unemployed. We have explored all means of engaging the government over many years and have been continually ignored. We did not come quickly or lightly to the decision that it was necessary to cause disorder in order to force the government to take us seriously. We came to this decision after years of being ignored and repressed. We are not alone in coming to this decision. Communities and organisations across the country are blocking roads. This has been going on for many years now. Most of the protests in Cape Town are not by us.
TAC puts in its headline that we are calling for violence. We have never called for violence. Violence is harm to human beings. Blockading a road is not violence. We have long experience of the state calling protests in which no person is harmed violent. We did not expect a social movement to make the same mistake. TAC is being hysterical and dishonest when they say that we are calling for violence. We note that TAC has never issued any statement when we have been evicted from our homes by the Land Invasions Unit or when we have been assaulted by the police. This double standard on the part of TAC is very disappointing. They say that they are concerned about damage to property but they have never issued any statement when our property, our homes, are illegally demolished by the state.
It is an insult to say, as TAC does, that our struggle is not thought through and is not disciplined. Yes we have chosen a different form of struggle to TAC in this campaign. But that does mean that we did not come to this campaign after careful thinking.
We disagree very strongly with TAC when they caricature the wave of protest that is sweeping Cape Town and for years before that the whole country as mindless violence. This is an insult to struggling communities everywhere. We know very well that the state only takes us seriously when we force them to take us seriously and this is what people are doing – forcing the state to take us seriously. We have learnt through years of struggle that this is what works.
It is dishonest and insulting for TAC to say that the leaders of these protests are self-appointed. This is the language of the state. Our leaders are all democratically elected.
It is dishonest to say that we are using young people to activate our campaign. This is also the language of the state. People chose to support our campaign because they think it is the right thing to do.
It is also just wrong for TAC to say that our campaign is being supported by elements in the ANC Youth League. We are very well aware that the ANC Youth League tries to support every protest in Cape Town because they want to undermine the DA. But we know very well that the ANC has the same policies as the DA elsewhere and we do not allow them to exploit our own struggles for their own gain.
There are three main differences between us and TAC.
1. We as Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape feel that it is legitimate to create a short period of disorder, just like a strike at a work place does, as a tactic of struggle. If TAC disagree with us on this they should engage us in a discussion of tactics rather than condemn our campaign in a way that can justify state repression.
2. We do not feel that it is essential that we are organised autonomously from the ANC. This is our democratic right and we will not be intimidated into accepting the leadership of ANC aligned organisations.
3. We are not a professional organisation with millions of rands of donor funding that can operate in the middle class world. We are a movement of, for and by the poor. We therefore have to struggle where we are and with what we have. If that means burning tyres on Landsdown Road then that is how we will struggle. We will not be intimidating into accepting that only the donor funded organisation know how to struggle properly.
We invite TAC to meet us anytime. In the meantime our campaign continues until 28 October when we march on parliament.
For more, please visit the website of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign at:
www.antieviction.org.za and follow us on www.twitter.com/antieviction
Visit Abahlali baseMjondolo at www.abahlali.org and www.khayelitshastruggles.com
Africa: India moves to entice EAC countries against China, Europe
A delegation of Indian political and business leaders was due in the East African Community (EAC) region this week with new incentives to increase Delhi’s presence in the region as the Asian giant moves to eat into the presence of China and Europe, the Indian government announced. Senior officials from 187 Indian companies will be participating in the ‘Namaskar Africa’ and ‘India-East Africa Business Forum’ events in Nairobi, opening on October 14. Representatives from the EAC countries will also be there for a preview of what India has to offer.
Emerging powers news roundup
Emerging Powers in Africa News Roundup: 15 October 2010
Compiled by Sanusha Naidu, Research Director, of the Emerging Powers in Africa Programme based with Fahamu, in South Africa
1. More bang for your buck if you invest in Africa
You are more likely to return a substantial investment if you invest in Africa. It’s a low risk, high reward place to return a good profit, especially since there isn’t a lot of competition. Africa is the place to go for the “frontier market investor” who is seeking a new investment venue with a high rate of return
2. Africa To Review Economic Partnership With Emerging Powers
The African Union (AU) Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Mrs. Elisabeth Tankeu, on Tuesday, in Addis Ababa, said Africa was set to review its partnership with traditional partners. Tankeu, who made the assertion at the opening of the China-Africa Economic Relations (CAER) conference, said this had become imperative to enable the continent play its rightful role in the global economy.
3. President Mills' Asian tour gives Better Ghana Agenda big boost
President John Evans Atta Mills' Better Ghana agenda received a major boost in the past few weeks when two Asian economic giants - China and Japan extended very generous assistance to Ghana. For close to two weeks, President Mills was in Asia for state visits to the two countries to conduct real business. The success of the trips would be the fruits that would inure to the benefit of Ghanaians, especially the ordinary people, for decades to come.
4. Out of Africa, 'the land of golden opportunity'
Kelly Lai cannot help raise a wry grin when he looks at the latest gold prices, now well in excess of $1,200 an ounce compared with a little over $444 at one point in 2006. The biggest bet currently on the cards is a call option for $2,000 expiring in 2011. He also looks set to benefit from China's decision to open up its gold trade.
5. Africa silent on Liu Xiaobo
No prominent African politician has made statements of support or congratulation to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who yesterday was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Press reports are sober.
6. Will the ANC congratulate the latest Nobel winner?
Once upon a time South Africa was the kind of country whose leaders were awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. Now we side with governments who crack down on those who get them.
7. Consumers face tough times in the dollar¹s fall
The weakening of the US dollar against major world currencies is pointing to a looming shake-up of the pricing of imported goods and services for Kenyan consumers in the coming months, even as some market players welcome it as a positive development in the war against counterfeits. Besides, the appreciation of the Yuan is also seen to bear the risk of altering the value of trade and investment between Kenya and China. A significant rise in the cost of these products means consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to purchase the same amount of goods.
CHINA IN AFRICA
1. China Keen On Investing in Southern Sudan
The Eastern Equatoria State Governor Brigadier General Louis Lobong Lojore returned home yesterday from a tour of China.Governor Lojore was part of a GoSS delegation that visited China for what was termed as ‘post-referendum development preparation’ visit. Also on the trip that was led by the GoSS Minister of Labour and Public Service Awut Deng were the State Governors of Warrap, Unity and Jonglei. The Governor told Gurtong that the visit was a study tour especially in the field of agriculture where Chinese authorities and investors shared with the team and expressed readiness to support South Sudan.
2. FG shuts firm over poor workers’ welfare
ABUJA—The Federal Government has ordered the closure of sections of the Chinese construction giant, Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) in Abuja over poor health safety regulations.
3. China to encourage private investment in Africa
Zhong Manying, director of west Asian and Africa division under the Ministry of Commerce, said on Friday that China will continue to expand and deepen economic and trade cooperation with African countries based mutual respect, mutual benefit and win-win principles. Zhong said this during a special conference on the 10th anniversary of China-Africa Cooperation Forum held on Oct. 9. Oct. 10 marks the 10th anniversary of the forum.
4. US$5m China loan to overhaul Tazara operations
The Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority has signed a contract with a Chinese company to manufacture and supply 90 container wagons worth 36 million Chinese Yuan (approximately US$5 million) to accelerate transportation of cargo including copper and other minerals. With the signing of the contract, the manufacturing of the wagons by CSR Meishan Company Limited of China for China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) will commence immediately.
5. Group says power project will increase poverty
China has been urged to withdraw the funding of the now controversial construction of Gibe III hydropower dam in Ethiopia. Through a petition by a group calling itself the Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) to the Chinese ambassador to Kenya, it is argued that once the project is implemented, the 240-metre high dam will compromise "a very fragile and unique ecosystem" which is identified as a protected area.
6. UK seeks China aid partnership in Africa
BRITAIN is seeking a new partnership with China as a key to speeding up development and ending poverty in Africa. In recent years, China has become a formidable force in Africa, investing billions of dollars in exchange for trade and raw materials that China needs to fuel its own booming economy.
7. China donates sh1b malaria drugs to Uganda
The Chinese government has donated anti-malaria drugs worth sh1.25b to Uganda. The drugs were officially handed over to health state minister Dr. Richard Nduhura. This is the fourth donation of anti-malarial drugs from the Chinese government at the request of Uganda in an attempt to cut down on the estimated 320 daily deaths caused by malaria.
8. China pours more cash into Africa
China would encourage commercial banks to lend more to Africa, a trade official said on Saturday. Beijing pledged $10 billion (R69bn) in "preferential" loans to Africa last year, but Ministry of Commerce official Zhong Manying said that was not enough. "In view of Africa's demand for funds, the $10bn is too limited," Zhong told a news briefing.
9. China Keen On Investing in Southern Sudan
The Eastern Equatoria State Governor Brigadier General Louis Lobong Lojore returned home from a tour of China. Governor Lojore was part of a GoSS delegation that visited China for what was termed as ‘post-referendum development preparation’ visit. Also on the trip that was led by the GoSS Minister of Labour and Public Service Awut Deng were the State Governors of Warrap, Unity and Jonglei. The Governor told Gurtong that the visit was a study tour especially in the field of agriculture where Chinese authorities and investors shared with the team and expressed readiness to support South Sudan.
10. FG shuts firm over poor workers’ welfare
The Federal Government has ordered the closure of sections of the Chinese construction giant, Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) in Abuja over poor health safety regulations. A statement by the Assistant Director of Press, Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Mr. Samuel Olowookere, said the closure was as a result of the Federal Government’s effort to ensure the safety and health protection of workers in the country.
INDIA IN AFRICA
1. For-Profit Microfinance Matures, India and Africa Lead the Way
Microfinance is growing rapidly. We've recently reported on Habitat for Humanity's MicroBuild and Kiva's higher education loans. But the biggest growth is occurring in India and Africa among microfinance institutions (MFIs) that you've probably never heard of before. And a new report indicates that for-profit MFIs in India are performing exceptionally well.
2. Exim Bank gets $150 mn to push India-Africa trade
India's Export-Import Bank has secured a $150 million international loan to help expand Indian exporters' access to finance, including for small and medium enterprises, and support their exports to Africa. IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd have each provided a medium-term trade-finance loan of up to $75 million to Exim bank. The IFC announced the transaction as part of its strategy of promoting trade and investment among countries in emerging markets.
3. Uganda seeks easier study visas, job permits in India
With over 800 Ugandan students in India, which has emerged as a preferred destination for higher studies among African nations, Kampala is keen to sign a pact with New Delhi to make it easier for study visas and short-term job permits.
4. Apollo's Reddy bets big on Africa, health tourism
Asia's largest healthcare chain, is betting big on Africa, not just to expand operations there but to also attract what is called health tourism from the vast continent. Apollo Group chairman Prathap C. Reddy, who pioneered corporate healthcare in India, is particularly upbeat on Mauritius, where the hospital chain already has a presence for the past four years, as well as Nigeria and Uganda.
5. India-EU dispute on drug seizure resolved
India on Thursday said it has resolved a dispute with the European Union over seizure of Indian generic drugs by some European countries. It will soon withdraw a complaint filed before the WTO on the matter. India insisted that the drugs, which were being shipped to Latin American and African countries, were off- patent and there was no violation of any international law.
6. India’s total trade with COMESA rises more than three-fold
India’s total trade with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region rose more than three fold and presents opportunities to enhance the bilateral commercial relations, a study conducted by Export and Import Bank of India (EXIM) has said. During 2009-10, the COMESA which comprises 19 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, accounted for 38.2 per cent of India’s total exports to Africa, while the region’s share in the country’s total imports from Africa stood at 13.1 per cent.
7. India competes with China, Europe for growing African market
With the help of the government, Indian industry is implementing a strategy to compete with China and European countries for capturing markets in growing African economies, particularly in East Africa. As part of the game plan, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma will be leaving for Nairobi tonight, leading a business delegation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Senior officials from 187 Indian companies would be participating in the 'Namaskar Africa' and 'India-East Africa Business Forum' events at Nairobi, opening on October 14.
8. India to share poverty reduction strategies with Africa
Setting the tone for the second summit with African countries next year, India on Tuesday offered to share developmental experiences and poverty reduction strategies with the African continent. "Our relationship has transformed in recent decades and years. We have now become developmental partners, looking out for each other's interests and well being," External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said in an interaction with visiting African journalists.
9. India, Kenya to discuss bilateral trade and investment
India and Kenya would evolve new ways and means of strengthening bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation this week. The sixth India-Kenya Joint Trade Committee (JTC) will meet in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma would address the meeting. The two countries are expected to sign the Agreed Minutes after the deliberations. The JTC was set up at ministerial level in 1983 as a follow-up to the India-Kenya Trade Agreement signed in 1981, under which both countries accorded the most favoured nation (MFN) status to each other.
10. India reach out to Africa, says it is ready to share developmental experiences
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has expressed India's readiness to share expertise and resources with Africa. During his interaction with a group of eminent African Journalists here today, Krishna said: "We have accumulated a host of developmental experiences, which are perhaps more relevant to fellow developing countries. We are privileged not only to share them, but also to share our limited resources with friends in Africa." A group of over 19 African Journalists from resource rich South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Mozambique, Sudan, Botswana, Namibia, Ethiopia Tanzania, and Ghana are presently touring India and being hosted by Ministry of External Affairs.
IN OTHER EMERGING NEWS
1. Nigeria Approves $2.5 Billion Sale of Nitel to Dubai's Minerva After Delay
Nigeria’s government approved the sale of the state telecommunications company to Dubai’s Minerva Group and its partners, eight months after they bid $2.5 billion for the company at an auction.The group will pay an initial $750 million, followed by the remaining $1.75 billion within 60 days, the Abuja-based Bureau of Public Enterprises said in an e-mailed statement today. The government will sell a bond to pay outstanding wages owed to Nitel’s workers, the bureau said.
2. Russia's LUKOIL wants more oil from Ghana
Russia's No. 2 oil producer, LUKOIL said its offshore oil exploration project in Ghana will almost certainly lead to commercial exploitation, the vice president of LUKOIL Overseas. LUKOIL leads an oil joint-venture with Vanco and Ghana's National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) for exploration and production at the West African country's offshore Cape Three Points Deep Water.
3. Russia, Egypt In $6.6 Billion Telecom Deal
In what could become the world’s fifth-largest telecommunications carrier, Russian and Egyptian telecom giants have agreed to a $6.6 billion deal to merge their assets. The agreement, which will see 174 million customers worldwide, has been signed between Russian telecom giant Vimpelcom and Weather Investments, and Egyptian telecom tycoon Naguib Sawiris’ Orascom Telecom.
4. Wal-Mart bid brings African allure
US retail giant Wal-Mart's R32 billion bid for Massmart could make South Africa the gateway to Africa for foreign investors seeking growth opportunity outside of developed countries. The tide has gradually turned for Africa a continent long shrouded in scepticism and tension by international bidders.
5. SA banks capture African market
Africa’s reputation as a viable and profitable investment destination has grown in leaps and bounds and, importantly, its population presents a new market for many products and services. Although it is sometimes narrow minded and naïve to consider the African economy as one entity or one whole, it can also be useful to consider the continent as an evolving organism, with many lessons learnt in one country, providing useful information for evaluating and doing business in another country. The ability to learn these lessons and adapt new strategies to new markets has been one of the greatest strengths of the major South African banks in expanding their operations into other African countries.
6. India is tipped to emerge from China's shadow
If there were a popularity contest for emerging markets, India would struggle to win a medal. As the Commonwealth Games host has had difficulty enticing crowds to the sporting event, so too have investors shunned its economy in favour of India's bigger neighbour, China. British fund investors have put £4bn more into China than into India, according to Morningstar, the analyst – China has attracted £15bn from UK-registered unit trusts, compared with £11bn for India.
7. Much of Asia Silent on Nobel Peace Prize Winner
In the wake of Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize win, congratulations -- and some criticisms -- have poured in from governments the world over. But in Asia, the silence has been deafening. The muted response reflects China's growing regional influence, Asia's authoritarian tendencies and a lack of regional leadership on human rights, says one activist.
8. Nigeria Approves $2.5 Billion Sale of Nitel to Dubai's Minerva After Delay
Nigeria’s government approved the sale of the state telecommunications company to Dubai’s Minerva Group and its partners, eight months after they bid $2.5 billion for the company at an auction.The group will pay an initial $750 million, followed by the remaining $1.75 billion within 60 days, the Abuja-based Bureau of Public Enterprises said in an e-mailed statement today. The government will sell a bond to pay outstanding wages owed to Nitel’s workers, the bureau said.
9. BASIC members urge developed countries to meet obligations
The BASIC countries - China, India, Brazil and South Africa - a block of four large developing countries, urged developed nations Monday to fulfill their obligations to help developing countries combat global warming. In a joint statement, the four countries called on developed nations to commit to more ambitious emission reduction targets for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, after the 5th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change ended here Monday.
OPINIONS AND VIEWPOINTS
1. Brazil’s radical policy shift embraces Africa
Brazil, a Latin American country, is vigorously establishing trading partners, viable sources of investment and a route to strengthen its policy options in Africa. It has so far engaged 25 African countries and is geared towards strengthening diplomatic relations in those countries. Brazil in the last ten years has made diplomatic inroads in the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), laying emphasis on South-South relations.
2. Mutual benefits advance China-Africa bond
Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-African Cooperation, the regular political dialogue mechanism between China and Africa. According to the statistics revealed by the Ministry of Commerce, China, with $ 91 billion in trade, surpassed the US in 2009 to become Africa's biggest trade partner in terms of volume. The intensified trade relations allow both sides to better understand each other and share their achievements in economic development.
3. ANC's 'Made in China' future, coming soon to your neighbourhood
It’s now pretty obvious China is on its way to global supremacy in the not so distant future. So as the news of tighter, deeper collaboration between Chinese communists and SA’s rulers seeps into the open, it is easy to be worried, but difficult to be surprised. China is also playing a crucial role in the political formation of ANC members. The ANC’s secretary general told the party’s national general council in August they planned to send the entire ANC national executive committee to China for political schooling.
Global: Emerging powers to challenge elite security council
When the 15-member Security Council meets next January, the United Nations will celebrate a rare political landmark: the 10 rotating non-permanent members will include some of the world's rising new players on the global stage, including India, South Africa, Germany, Brazil and Nigeria - all sitting under one roof and negotiating around the legendary horseshoe table.
Liberia: Spotlight turns on second post-war elections
Liberia holds its second post-war presidential and legislative elections in October 2011. The first, held in 2005, was a landmark: it was the first free and fair elections in the country’s long history. Since then Liberia, previously wracked by bloody petty wars, has been largely stable, though very fragile. The 2011 elections will probably be just as important as the one in 2005 as their successful conduct will determine when the UN, which still maintains about 8 000 troops in the country, will finally withdraw, says this situation report from the Institute for Security Studies.
South Africa: Monitoring how political parties work
"The way political parties conduct their affairs will determine the quality and strength of South Africa’s democracy," begins this research into the internal functioning of South African political parties by Idasa’s Political Information & Monitoring Service (PIMS). "Among the aims of this PIMS research project is to provide a comprehensive assessment of existing internal interest disclosure models and practices by South African political parties and to provide a best-practice guide for use in South Africa and possibly elsewhere on the African continent."
Sudan: Talks on Abyei break down
The latest round of talks between north and south Sudan over the future of the oil-producing Abyei region has failed to reach an agreement. The issue stands as a key hurdle ahead of referendums in the country, and according to the north's National Congress party (NCP) and the south's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), 'serious efforts and many productive discussions, [the delegations] did not succeed in reaching agreement on the eligibility criteria for voters in the Abyei Area referendum'.
Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai asks EU, UN to reject Mugabe ambassadors
Zimbawe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has asked the United Nations and European Union not to recognise new ambassadors unilaterally appointed by President Robert Mugabe, his spokesman said Tuesday. 'Those appointments are supposed to be by consultation,' Tsvangirai's spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka told AFP. Under the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that created the unity government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the prime minister should be consulted on all appointments, Tamborinyoka said.
Malawi: While the president flies, the people queue for fuel
Fuel has become so precious in Malawi that it is now being rationed. People park their vehicles at service stations overnight, forming long queues as they wait for petrol tankers to arrive. The Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma), an umbrella body representing non-governmental organisations, has blamed the shortage of foreign exchange on President Bingu wa Mutharika who they accuse of undertaking too many international trips that waste foreign exchange.
Nigeria: British banks complicit in Nigerian corruption, court documents reveal
British high street banks have accepted millions of pounds in deposits from corrupt Nigerian politicians, raising serious questions about their commitment to tackling financial crime, warned Global Witness in a report published today. By taking money from corrupt Nigerian governors between 1999 and 2005, Barclays, NatWest, RBS, HSBC and UBS helped to fuel corruption and entrench poverty in Nigeria, says the organisation.
Zambia: CSOs back extractive industries initiative
Civil society organisations in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have resolved to support the implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Zambia. Countries implementing EITI committed themselves to publish all payments made by oil, gas and mining companies to the government.
Africa: A review of economic diversification in five countries
The global financial and economic crises exposed one of the major weaknesses of a number of African economies: their dependence on too few export commodities and one or two sectors. Such dependence makes many countries vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices, demand and extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. This joint study between the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the NEPAD-OECD Africa Investment Initiative looks at how African governments can diversify their economies and analyses five countries' economic diversification profiles in particular.
Global: Homeless world cup builds lives
In Rio de Janeiro, soccer players concluded the Homeless World Cup in late September. Hundreds of homeless men and women from dozens countries participated in this year’s tournament, drawing crowds of thousands. But the event wasn’t just about soccer, it was about changing lives. Vusumzi Shushu is quick and agile on the soccer field. He has to be. That’s what a life on the streets will teach you. 'I spent eight years on the streets, also done some drugs and I’ve been in prison,' he says. 'And I’ve realized in three years that god gave me a gift so why don’t I use that to make a living instead of doing all the crazy things that I do.'
Global: World Bank pressured on coal loans
With new figures showing a record amount of World Bank funding for projects relying on coal power and other fossil fuels, the issue of reforming the institution's energy lending was once again a hot topic at the World Bank and IMF annual meetings, which concluded over the weekend. The figures, released by the Bank in mid-September, show it lent 3.4 billion dollars to coal projects.
Kenya: The opportunities and challenges of East African integration
The actualisation of the East African Community Common Market is arguably the most critical step in our regional integration efforts in East Africa, writes Oduor Ong’wen, the SEATINI Kenya country director. 'The steady, albeit grudging recourse towards regionalist thinking among the ruling elite in the Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda is without doubt a welcome strut in the wake of contemporary international relations.'
South Africa: On fast trains and things we don't need
Two more passenger 'fast-train' routes are being mooted, one between Johannesburg and Durban and the other from Johannesburg to the north of the country. Ordinary citizens, states Saliem Fakir, may wonder if we need to spend scarce money on new rail infrastructure. 'Is South Africa’s money not better spent on improving freight rail that could take lots of trucks off our roads by transporting goods safely and easily to and from our harbours? And what about public transport for the poor?'
Southern Africa: The impact of the global financial crisis on mining
It is projected that if the economy does not improve within the next two years, more than half a million mineworkers in the region will lose their jobs. It is estimated that more than 25 per cent of mineworkers are HIV positive. Only two countries reviewed in the study by the Southern Africa Resource Watch have sufficient reserves to deal with a long-term recession.
Africa: Money for African health R&D fund slow to arrive
Only a handful of African governments have so far pledged financial commitment to a planned US$600 million endowment fund to support the activities of the fledgling African Network for Drugs and Diagnostic Innovations (ANDI) initiative - and none have yet paid up. ANDI aims to be the first pan-African health research and development (R&D) network, tackling Africa's diseases with home-grown drugs and diagnostics.
Global: New global plan aims to wipe out TB
A new roadmap for curbing the global epidemic of tuberculosis aims to save five million lives between 2011 and 2015 and eliminate TB as a public health problem by 2050 but comes with a price tag of US$47 billion, nearly half of which must still be found.
Kenya: Elephantiasis thrives amid funding gap
Stigma has allowed a disfiguring microscopic worm to thrive in Kenya's coastal region, but with adequate funding, the spread of lymphatic filariasis (LF), also known as elephantiasis, could easily be stopped in the east African country with the help of just a couple of pills a year. Spread by mosquitoes, elephantiasis can cause severe swelling of the limbs, breasts, and scrotum as well as thickening and hardening of the skin.
Mozambique: HIV patients team up to make treatment cheaper
For HIV patients in Africa, monthly trips to refill antiretroviral (ARV) prescriptions cost time and money that may be in short supply. But a new strategy being pioneered in Mozambique is easing the burden of monthly refills for patients and the health system. Developed by health workers with the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the strategy centres on self-formed, community-based groups of ARV patients who work as a team to collect their drugs and monitor each other for treatment adherence and general health.
South Africa: Challenges emerge as Aids orphans reach adulthood
While improved access to anti-retroviral therapy in South Africa has enabled infected AIDS orphans to live well into adulthood, it has created new challenges as the generation emerges to take their place in the workforce.And a lack of forethought has resulted in certain challenges not being addressed, says a new study by Idasa’s Governance and AIDS Programme (GAP) on children living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
South Africa: No place for psychiatric adolescents
A lack of space has forced psychiatrists at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to accommodate adolescents as young as 13 in the same wards as adult psychiatric patients, often risking their safety. 'This has tremendous implications for the teenagers’ safety,' said child psychologist Wendy Duncan. 'But if the young person needs secure care, in other words, they need to be in a facility that’s closed, the door is locked, then we have no choice but to accommodate them here at Bara,' said Duncan.
Uganda: HIV-positive teens choose religion over ARVs
Ugandan health workers are concerned by the growing number of HIV-positive teens who are abandoning their HIV treatment after turning to bogus religious leaders. 'Over the years we have noticed a growing trend of adolescents and caregivers who have withdrawn from treatment with a belief of having been cured of HIV/AIDS in church,' said Cissy Ssuna, the counsellor coordinator at Baylor College of Medicine Children's Foundation Uganda, which treats more than 4,000 HIV-infected children, 750 of whom are adolescents.
Uganda: Lives at risk as Aids clinic shuts
At least 4,447 children living with HIV face intensified agony after an institution caring for them announced likely closure of its support programme due to a funding shortfall. Dr Emmanuel Luyirika, the country director for Mildmay Uganda, said they are broke and could freeze paediatric services within six months, he told a press conference.
Zambia: Doctors end strike
State doctors in Zambia have returned to work a week after going on strike, but say the government has yet to resolve the problems facing the health sector, their union announced on Monday. 'We would like to inform the general public that the work stoppage by Resident Doctors Association of Zambia (RDAZ) has been suspended in the interest of our patients,' the union's acting president, Amon Ngongola, said at a news conference in the capital, Lusaka. The doctors went on strike last Monday after talks with the government broke down.
Zimbabwe: Health services need $700m
Zimbabwe's health minister says the southern African country needs $700 million to restore health services shattered by a decade of political and economic turmoil. At the launch of the nation's biggest health investment and funding appeal, Dr Henry Madzorera said the 'systematic decrease' in basic health care destroyed services once seen as among the best in the region.
Uganda: Most pupils can’t read, says new report
A majority of pupils are unable to read let alone deal with figures while those in private institutions are performing better than their colleagues in government-aided schools, a new report says. The document, dubbed 'Uwezo 2010 Assessment Learning Report', says despite government input in the education sector, children are still struggling to acquire basic literacy and numeracy competencies.
Kenya: I owe no apology, says Murugi
Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi, who has come under sharp criticism over comments she made on homosexuality, maintains that gays and lesbians in Kenya must be involved in HIV/AIDS programmes. Murugi said on Tuesday that the gay community, which is classified under high risk HIV/AIDS populations, also had a right to healthcare like all other Kenyans and should not be stigmatised.
Malawi: Vice president calls for tolerance
Malawian vice president Joyce Banda has called for tolerance towards homosexuality, at a meeting hosted by the Inter-Faith AIDS Association (MIAA) held in Blantyre, Malawi, on 29 September this year. Banda made the call when she officially opened a Religious Leader’s Policy Advocacy Conference in Blantyre, stating that same sex practices are reality in Malawi and that religious leaders need be tolerant on such issues in order to fight HIV and AIDS.
Benin: Russia elects first African
Jean Gregoire Sagbo is Russia's newly elected councilman of Novozavidovo, a rural community about 65 miles north of Moscow. Russia is still entrenched in the enigma of racism and plagued with systemic violence. But among the 10,000 residents here, 48-year-old Sagbo, though an immigrant from Benin, is perceived as a Russian who cares about his adopted hometown, reports www.worldpress.org/
Africa: Call for scientists to give practical advice on climate change
Scientists are failing Africa in its attempts to adapt to climate change, a conference was told this week. They spend too much time collecting data and attending conferences, and not enough time providing practical solutions that local people can implement, according to Anthony Nyong, manager of the Compliance and Safeguard Division at the African Development Bank.
Africa: Pan-African Parliament debates climate change
Africa's involvement in climate change negotiations needed to focus on giving Africa an opportunity to demand and get compensation for the damage to its economy caused by global warming while there was a need for Africa to be represented by one delegation empowered to negotiate on behalf of all member states. This is according to Abebe Haile Gabriel, acting director of the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission. He was addressing the the Third Ordinary Session of the second Pan-African Parliament.
Africa: Renewables way to go, says Greenpeace
Greenpeace urges the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Energy (IMC) to consider an energy mix which among others calls for a nuclear free energy future. This follows the approval of the release of the Executive Summary, and the Medium Term Risk Mitigation Plan (MTRM) for Electricity in South Africa - 2010 to 2016 of the draft IRP 2010 for public comment. As Greenpeace’s Nkopane Maphiri states, 'The proposed balanced scenario will do very little to foster robust investments in the renewable technologies.'
For Immediate Release
Renewables way to go, says Greenpeace
Johannesburg, October 8 2010- - Greenpeace urges the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Energy (IMC) to consider an energy mix which among others calls for a nuclear free energy future. This follows the approval of the release of the Executive Summary, and the Medium Term Risk Mitigation Plan (MTRM) for Electricity in South Africa - 2010 to 2016 of the draft IRP 2010 for public comment.
As Greenpeace’s Nkopane Maphiri states, “the proposed balanced scenario will do very little to foster robust investments in the renewable technologies. Research has shown that renewables will deliver a comprehensive win for energy security, for our economy and for our climate. The choices we make in the development of the energy sector affect our standard of living, our environment, and our economy, today and in the future.”
The Greenpeace Energy [R]evolution makes a credible case for renewable energy supplies of 75% by 2050, and the current scenarios fall far too short of this possible target. (1)
The potential green jobs that could be created in the Energy [R]evolution scenario- 78,000 new jobs in less than 20 years- will be compromised if the proposed balanced scenario carries.
Greenpeace therefore calls on the committee to consider the comprehensive submission from Greenpeace and other Civil Society groups on the possible solutions for the energy mix. Nuclear power cannot be a paet of that as it is an expensive and dangerous energy source that blocks climate solutions.
The Integrated Resource Plan 2 (IRP2) is a significant determinant of the structure of our electricity sector for the next 25 years, and will outline the effort South Africa puts into energy efficiency. The choices South Africa’s government make now will affect the future of every single citizen for a long time.
For more information contact:
Fiona Musana, Communications Director Greenpeace Africa: +27 (0) 795129381
Nkopane Maphiri, Climate and Energy Campaigner: +27 (0) 725608666
Notes to Editors:
1. For a full copy of the report please go to http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/sagreenjobs
Africa: The costs of climate-resilient development
How much would it cost to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals are achieved in Africa despite climate change? This paper estimates that climate-resilient development in Africa could require international financial assistance of $100 billion a year over the period 2010-2020. This total is about 40 per cent higher than the original MDG estimate of $72 billion.
Global: Living planet report shows decline in biodiversity
New analysis shows populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity's demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50 per cent more than the earth can sustain, reveals the 2010 edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report - the leading survey of the planet’s health. The Ecological Footprint, one of the indicators used in the report, shows that our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and we’re using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities. If we continue living beyond the Earth’s limits, by 2030 we'll need the equivalent of two planets' productive capacity to meet our annual demands.
Global: Making climate funding work for developing world
Climate change is already negatively affecting the lives and livelihoods of poor men and women. Yet it is estimated that less than a tenth of climate funds to date have been spent on helping people in vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, says this Oxfam policy brief. The poor are losing out twice: they are hardest hit by climate change they didn’t cause, and they are being neglected by funds that should be helping them, says the brief.
Africa: Farmers urge action against global ‘land grab’
Farmers from the developing world called on governments this week to curb a global land rush in which millions of hectares of their terrain are being taken over by foreign private investors. 'Generations in Africa have lived off family farming,' Hortense Kinkodila, a farmers’ representative from Congo Brazzaville, said on the sidelines of talks on the issue at the UN food agency FAO in Rome this week. 'We’re really angry that people come and grab our land and take away traditions that have sustained us for years,' she said.
Egypt: Seeking to grow cereals on African farmland
The Egyptian government is hoping to cultivate wheat and other cereals on fertile land in African countries to feed its growing population of over 80 million. In early September it signed a deal with the Sudanese government to give Egyptian companies access to Sudanese farmland. 'Growing essential crops like wheat in other water-rich African countries where fertile land is in abundance is an important solution,' said Ayman Farid Abu Hadid, chairman of the state-run Agricultural Research Centre, which signed the deal on behalf of the Egyptian government.
Sudan: UAE has over 2,800 sq km in Sudan farms
The UAE controls more than 2,800 square kilometers in farms in Sudan as a result of its decision to invest in agricultural projects in fertile Arab nations to slash its soaring food import bill, according to a Sudanese official. The farms, scattered over Khartoum, Jazeera, Nile and other arable provinces in the East African Arab country, are more than triple the area of Bahrain and account for nearly 3.5 per cent of the UAE’s total area.
Global: Feeding the world through family farm agriculture
With a plenary session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) of the United Nations starting in Rome, La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement, has reiterated that sustainable peasant and family farm agriculture can feed the world. 'With the number of hungry people in the world at almost one billion, it is clear that the current food system blatantly fails in providing healthy and adequate food for all. The recent increase in land grabbing is an integral part of the dominant corporate agribusiness model with large-scale industrial monocultures. This system has caused climate change and allows speculation on food for the benefit of a small minority.'
Global: The right to food and nutrition publication
The second issue of the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch is a powerful tool to put pressure on policymakers at the national and international level to take the human right to food and nutrition into account. The Right to Food and Nutrition Watch provides a platform for human rights experts, civil society activists, social movements, the media, and scholars to exchange experiences on how best to carry out right to food and nutrition work, including lobbying and advocacy. The 2010 version notes the unacceptable number of 925 million people suffering chronic hunger in a world that has enough food for all and the dramatic increase of land grabbing.
Africa: Time for journalists to join the party
The launch of the Decade of the African Woman from 2010-2020 happens this week in Nairobi as delegates at another women's event in Johannesburg have noted that African women continue to be left out of the media. At the first day of the Fourth Annual Gender Links Gender and Media Summit in Johannesburg, the results of the Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) were highlighted and the lack of progress since the 2003 Baseline Study was widely discussed.
South Africa: Reporting on HIV/AIDS in South Africa
The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) is offering 10 fellowships to enhance news media coverage of complex issues surrounding HIV and AIDS in South Africa. The IWMF will partner with media organisations in South Africa to identify eligible senior reporters working on HIV/AIDS.
South Africa: Request for ‘public’ spy report blocked
State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele has refused to supply a report on 'information peddling' - despite the information being revealed in an open parliamentary committee meeting with media present. His refusal is seen as a foretaste of a new era of state secrecy, following Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s refusal to release President Jacob Zuma’s flight details.
Tunisia: Call for release of Tunisian journalist
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its grave concern over the well-being of Tunisian journalist Fahem Boukaddous and urged his immediate release. Boukaddous, whose health has sharply deteriorated in prison, is serving a four year jail term following his conviction in March for 'forming a criminal association liable to attack persons'. 'We are very concerned about Boukaddous who needs urgent medical treatment unavailable to him in prison,' said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. 'Boukaddous has already been denied his freedom as punishment for his independent journalism. Without immediate action his long term health is under threat.'
March on Washington scheduled for November
The Black is Back Coalition has announced a march and rally on the White House to take place November 13, 2010 beginning in Washington, DC’s historic Malcolm X Park. This will mark the second year in a row that this black coalition will be protesting at the White House while Barack Obama, the first black US President, occupies it.
Black Is Back Coalition For Social
Justice Peace and Reparations
PO Box 55601
Washington, DC 20040
Phone: (202) 726‐1509
20 September 2010
Press Release – Black is Back, November 13 march and rally in Washington, DC
WASHINGTON, DC—The Black is Back Coalition has announced a march and rally on the White House to take place November 13, 2010 beginning in Washington, DC’s historic Malcolm X Park.
This will mark the second year in a row that this black Coalition will be protesting at the White House while Barack Obama, the first black US President, occupies it.
The rally and march are to protest Obama’s continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the administration's funding and support through AFRICOM of the different proxy wars on the African Continent, especially Congo, Rwanda and Somalia.
This imperialist aggression goes hand in hand with the ever increasing war-like posture and police violence actions against African and other oppressed people here in the US, in Occupied Palestine and throughout the world.
The coalition's official name, The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations first came together on September 12 2009.
Following its formation, on November 7 of last year the entire spectrum of black political activists – nationalists, communists, Muslims, Christians, socialists, etc. – came together in Washington, D.C., holding the first national anti-war protest against Obama’s continuation of unjust US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since that time, the Black is Back Coalition held its National Consolidation Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida on January 2010; and a national march and rally in Miami, Florida on February of this year to oppose US troop occupation of Haiti immediately following the devastating January earthquake.
Also, the coalition participated in numerous anti-war protests, including the ANSWER-sponsored April mobilizations in Washington, DC and on the West Coast in San Francisco, California.
Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford, a member of Black is Back National Steering Committee also represented the Coalition at the national conference United National Peace Conference held in Albany, New York in August this year.
In addition, Black is Back Steering Committee member Alex Morley of Black Food.org in The Bahamas also represented the Coalition at the 5th Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party-USA in Washington, D.C. in mid-July.
The Black is Back Coalition maintains that even since last year's anti-war demonstration, the Obama regime has deepened the US strategy of maintaining a permanent war footing against the struggling peoples of the world who are attempting to regain their stolen resources and restore their human dignity, both of which have been stolen through means of diabolical warfare by Western European and Obama led US warmongers.
For further information email Omowale Kefing at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 281-974-2012. You can email Charo R. Walker at email@example.com as well.
Also, check out the Black is Back website at http://blackisbackcoalition.org/
Morocco: Expats returning home in greater numbers
Faced with the woes of the global economic crisis, an increasing number of Moroccan expatriates are coming back home. Meanwhile, the government is intensifying effort to aid the community abroad as well as help them maintain ties with their home country. The number of Moroccans living abroad (MRE) that have decided to return home is up 8 per cent year over year.
USA: Black community activist faces possible 10 years in prison
Diop Olugbala (aka Wali Rahman) will be sentenced on Wednesday, 13 October to a possible 10 years in prison for speaking out on behalf of the rights of the black community. A press conference and demonstration will be held prior to Olugbala’s sentencing hearing. Endorsing and participating in Wednesday’s press conference and demonstration will be the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, African Socialist International, Pan Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal, Black and Nobel Bookstore, Pastor Donna Jones of Cookman Methodist Church, Top Dollar CEO of the Dollar Boys and Alison Hoehne of the African People’s Solidarity Committee.
Free Diop Committee
Black Community Activist Faces Possible 10 Years in Prison in Free Speech Case.
Sentencing Scheduled for Wednesday, October 13.
What: Pre-sentencing Press Conference and Demonstration
When: Wednesday, October, 13 8:45 AM
Where: East side of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center (13th and Filbert)
Contact: Free Diop Committee, John Perez @ 215-200-8737, or Alison Hoehne @ 215-313-9506
Diop Olugbala (aka Wali Rahman) will be sentenced on Wednesday, October 13 to a possible 10 years in prison for speaking out on behalf of the rights of the black community. He was convicted on August 24, 2010 of aggravated assault on a police officer despite videotape evidence that Diop was the victim of a police assault while he was engaged in a peaceful, legal protest of Philadelphia Mayor Nutter budget presentation. Olugbala is the President of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, an organization that advocates for democratic rights and social justice for the black community.
Olugbala’s supporters believe that the decision to prosecute and convict Diop on such serious charges for a civil protest is part of a repressive trend guided by the Obama administration to stifle dissent and silence citizen opposition to government policies on the local and federal levels. As recent examples, they cite:
July 2010 re-sentencing of Lynne Stewart to 10 years following her conviction on “providing material support to terrorists” charges stemming from her legal representation of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman.
September 2010 FBI raids of 8 homes and offices of anti-war activists in Chicago and Minnapolis allegedly seeking connections with Colombian and Palestinian liberation organizations.
Attendees to Olugbala’s trial in August 2010 were required by Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes to submit identification – a departure from normal court procedure.
Olugbala was arrested in March 2009 at a Philadelphia City Council meeting while holding a sign protesting what he calls Mayor Nutter’s “billion-dollar war budget” because of its generous funding of the police department and drastic budget cuts to social services – cutbacks felt most severely in the black community, where 40% of families live below the poverty level.
Previously Olugbala received worldwide media coverage when he publicly challenged then-candidate Barack Obama during a 2008 campaign stop in St. Petersburg, Florida. Olugbala demanded to know why Obama would not denounce police violence and economic exploitation in African communities in the U.S. He raised a banner and led a chant, “What about the black community, Obama?” He has organized in cities around the U.S. demanding economic development resources for black communities and denouncing the common policy of aggressive policing and discriminatory incarceration.
Olugbala’s sentencing takes place during a time of growing civil unrest in Philadelphia’s black community in the aftermath of the highly publicized police beating of Askia Sabur. Free speech and black rights advocates say that Olugbala is being targeted to silence legitimate protest against government policy, especially as it relates to police conduct. The District Attorney in Olugbala’s case is Seth Williams, who is also leading the drive to execute journalist and former Black Panther Party member Mumia Abu Jamal.
According to Olugbala, “The Rizzo years are back in the form of the right wing reactionary Democratic Party finance capital-affiliated uncle tom trinity in the form of Michael Nutter, Charles Ramsey and Seth Williams. But they’re too late. Nothing can stop the reemergence of the righteous struggle for self-determination and freedom for African people. Black is back!”
A press conference and demonstration will be held prior to Olugbala’s sentencing hearing, at 8:45 a.m. on the east side of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center (13th and Filbert). Endorsing and participating in Wednesday’s press conference and demonstration will be the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, African Socialist International, Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal, Black and Nobel Bookstore, Pastor Donna Jones of Cookman Methodist Church, Top Dollar CEO of the Dollar Boys and Alison Hoehne of the African People’s Solidarity Committee.
For video background info, visit:
Algeria: Bomb explosion kills five
Five people were killed on Tuesday in Algeria when a remote control bomb exploded on a construction site in the town of Tlidjen near the Algeria-Tunisia border. Security officials said the bomb had targeted public works officials who were inspecting the construction site of new homes. Those killed were three local public works officials and two entrepreneurs, AFP said.
Somalia: Pirates free Puntland minister
A minister kidnapped by pirates in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland has been freed. Ports Minister Said Mohamed Rageh was ambushed last Friday and held in the remote pirate stronghold of Jariban. His release came after negotiations between the pirates and Somali elders.
Sudan: Abyei shooting a 'pretext for war'
Shooting on Monday night by northern Sudan soldiers was an attempt to start clashes in the oil-rich region of Abyei, southern former rebels say. SPLM spokesman Kuol Deim Kuol said four soldiers went into Abyei town's market and fired at random, wounding a trader. He told the BBC it was a pretext to start trouble, as UN-mediated talks on Abyei's referendum ended in failure.
Sudan: Oil, war and the role of big companies
A recent report confirmed that the Lundin Oil Consortium led by the Swedish Oil Company Lundin Oil AB had caused enormous loss of human lives and destruction of property in Sudan, says this article on The Current Analyst. 'The start of oil exploration by Lundin in 1997 set of a vicious war in the area. The case of Lundin in Sudan could be taken as the most telling and convincing testimony of the link between oil and destructive civil wars in Africa.'
Uganda: Still no resolution to Nile controversy
Contrary to the controversy it has engendered, the Nile river agreement should allow for more equitable water use and minimize potential conflicts between the riparian states, says an analyst. 'The problem with the River Nile is lack of cooperation in water management,' Debay Tadesse, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Addis Ababa, said. 'There is enough [water] for all the riparian states and this agreement opens the way for more equitable management.' The 14 May Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework was signed by Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, but was left open for a year. It followed a meeting of water ministers in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda agreed to it.
Rwanda: Training and mobile health technology in Rwanda
In August 2009, Rwanda's health ministry launched an mHealth (M-Ubuzima) initiative to support community health workers in maternal and child health interventions by utilizing mobile technology. Community health workers, who are responsible for maternal health in the Musanze district, were given mobile phones equipped with Rapid SMS tools. These mobiles allow health workers to report difficult cases, complications or emergencies to the nearest clinic or hospital, and improve maternal health information tracking by capturing data about pre-natal health, delivery, and birth outcomes.
Zambia: Internet threat dropped
Zambia's communications authority on Wednesday reversed its decision to shut down five main Internet service providers, saying they would be allowed another chance to renew their licences. The firms were ordered on Tuesday to shut down by the end of the week, after regulators said they had not renewed their operating licences. But the order raised fears that Zambia could be cut off from the Internet.
Latest edition of Africa Update available
Coalition for the International Criminal Court
The latest edition of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court is available. It contains the latest relevant news, interviews and schedule of events.
Acumen Fund fellows program
The Acumen Fund Fellows Program is a one year program that gives an opportunity for Fellows to undertake world-class leadership training, field work with social enterprises on the front lines and a community of changemakers and thoughtleaders.
Applications are now open for the 2011 STARS Impact Awards
The 2011 STARS Impact awards recognise outstanding organisations working in children's health, education and protection. Organisations working with children in Africa, the Middle East, Asia or Pacific are invited to apply. Each Award carries US$100,000 of unrestricted funding.
Applications are now open for the 2011 STARS Impact Awards.
We are pleased to announce the launch of the 2011 STARS Impact recognising outstanding organisations working in children's health, education and protection.
Organisations working with children in Africa, the Middle East, Asia or Pacific are invited to apply.
Each Award carries US$100,000 of unrestricted funding as well as consultancy support. For information on previous Award recipients, please visit our website.
All information regarding the application process and the eligibility criteria is available at www.starsfoundation.org.uk
The closing date for applications is 1pm GMT Tuesday 7 December 2010.
Please spread the word to eligible organisations by forwarding this email.
Les candidatures pour les Prix Impact 2011 sont maintenant ouvertes.
Nous sommes heureux d'annoncer le lancement des Prix Impact 2011, qui récompensent des organisations exceptionnelles travaillant dans les domaines de la santé, de l'éducation et de la protection des enfants.
Les organisations éligibles travaillant avec des enfants en Afrique, au Moyen-Orient, en Asie et dans le Pacifique sont invitées à postuler.
Chaque Prix représente US$100 000 de financement non affecté, ainsi qu'une assistance conseil complémentaire.
Toutes les informations relatives à notre processus de candidature et à nos critères d'éligibilité sont disponibles sur notre site internet www.starsfoundation.org.uk/french/
La date de clôture des candidatures est le mardi 7 Décembre 2010, à 13h GMT
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Casual workers of the world unite
An Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) film screening
Ever wanted to know and share ideas on how we as contract or casual workers can organise and bash the boss? Then come and see this movie.
Venue: Cape Town Democracy Centre, 6 Spin Street, Cape Town
Date: Saturday 16 October, Time: 2pm
For more information, Contact Sheina at firstname.lastname@example.org
International entries sought for the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy
The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy are seeking entries from inspirational and innovative local sustainable energy programmes from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Entry is free, and up to six winners will receive £20,000 each in prize money for programme development, with one overall Energy Champion awarded £40,000.
Fourth European conference on African studies
The fourth European conference on African Studies (ECAS) will be convened in Uppsala on 15-18 June 2011. Professor Issa Shivji (Dept. of Law, University of Dar es Salaam) and Professor Oyeronke Oyewumi (Dept. of Sociology, Stony Brook University, USA) have been announced as the keynote speakers for the conference.
Telling simple stories about complex water issues in the SADC region
Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa will be hosting a media workshop to improve the knowledge of reporters and provide additional skills on covering water issues in southern Africa. The training will be conducted alongside the SADC Multi-stakeholder Water Dialogue, scheduled from 12-13 October in Maun, Botswana. Participants include print and radio journalists from SADC countries.
Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa
Press Release: 08/10/2010
Telling Simple Stories about Complex Water Issues in the SADC Region
Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa will be hosting a media workshop to
improve the knowledge of reporters and provide additional skills on
covering water issues in southern Africa. The training will be
conducted alongside the SADC Multi-stakeholder Water Dialogue,
scheduled from October 12-13 in Maun, Botswana. Participants include
print and radio journalists from SADC countries.
The SADC Water Dialogue mobilises different stakeholders to share
experiences in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). The
Dialogue highlights how IWRM approaches can address key aspects of
socio-economic development and poverty eradication in Southern Africa.
Under the theme “Watering development in SADC: Towards Climate
Resilience through Benefit Sharing”, the Dialogue will focus on
exploring how the water sector, working with other key water-using and
influencing sectors, can contribute to climate resilient development
or by ensuring regional integration, poverty alleviation and economic
"Water is the most shared natural resource in SADC, and one on which a
large part of our population particularly those in the rural areas
depend on for their daily livelihoods. However very little is known
about its management imperatives, availability and access, that is why
it is important that all efforts are made to report through all
mediums of media on water and issues surrounding it," says Phera
Ramoeli, Senior Programme Officer at SADC Water.
This capacity development initiative is supported by the German
Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in
delegated cooperation with the UK Department for International
Development (DFID) on behalf of the SADC Secretariat. The Deutsche
Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) is implementing the
partnership programme. IPS will also produce a special print edition
of the TerraViva newsletter for delegates at the SADC Dialogue.
Additional support will come from OneWorld and DANIDA.
The workshop is part of the IPS ‘Southern Africa Water Wire’ project,
which provides in-depth coverage of water-related issues in Southern
Africa, linking water to economic development, social well-being and
environmental protection. Visit www.africawaterwire.org for updates
from the region where journalists explore the challenges, difficulties
and success stories of managing this strategic natural resource.
* For more information or interviews please contact Terna Gyuse, IPS
Regional Editor, email@example.com, or Werani Zabula, SADC Water,
Awaaz Magazine: Pan-Africanism and the East African community
COVER STORY: PANAFRICANISM AND THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY
- Panafricanism and the Challenge of East African Community Integration by Issa Shivji
- Building a struggle based, people centred Pan African Movement by Firoze Manji
- The dangers and difficulties of the EAC- EU Economic Partnership agreement with Europe by Yash Tandon
- East African Common Market: Promise and Pitfalls Ahead by Oduor Ong’wen
Regular Column: Alternative Angle: Living in Constitutional Times by John Sibi-Okumu
JUSTICE SAEED RAHMAN COCKAR - 1926-2008: Written by Shafique Cockar
From Super Sportsman to Super Judge - All Rounder Extraordinaire
Regular Column: London Calling: MY LAST MURDER CASE, REVISITED By Ramnik Shah
Launch of the THE KENYAN ASIAN FORUM (KAF)
BOOK LAUNCH: MANILAL AMBALAL DESAI - THE STORMY PETREL by Zarina Patel
- BIRTH OF A NATION by Gerard Loughran. Reviewed by Warris Vianni
- MY JOURNEY WITH JARAMOGI ...memoirs of a close confidant by Odinge Odera. Reviewed by John Sibi-Okumu
- SONATA for FOUR HANDS by Amarjit Chandan
- HOW TO EUTHANISE A CACTUS by Stephen Derwent Partington
- SOUTH ASIAN PARTITION FICTION IN ENGLISH: From Khushwant Singh to Amitav Ghosh by Rituparna Roy
- THE OBSURE LOGIC of the HEART by Priya Basil
- WHO ARE WE and Should it Matter in the 21st Century Century? by Gary Younge
- OSHWALS IN KENYA 1899-1998 by Arun Amritlal
- RAAVAN Review by Amil Shivji
PROF HARI SHARMA 1934-2010
BATS & BALLS – Mama Kibiriti: MARIA JOANA PINTO
P O Box 32843 - 00600
Tel: Orange Wireless:020 2063405, 020 2431554,
Mobiles:0722 344900, 0733 741085
Popular Politics and Resistance Movements in South Africa
Wits University Press
This volume explores some of the key features of popular politics and resistance before and after 1994. It looks at continuities and changes in the forms of struggle and ideologies involved, as well as the significance of post-apartheid grassroots politics. Is this a new form of politics or does it stand as a direct descendent of the insurrectionary impulses of the late apartheid era?
South Africa: 'Surprising' cost of running Cape Town stadium
Ratepayers could end up paying for Cape Town stadium's operating costs after Sail Stadefrance walked out on a 30-year lease to manage the property. The city will take over management of the R4,4-billion stadium. Sail Stadefrance said it had projected 'substantial losses' if it took up the project.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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