Pambazuka News 542: Libya: The true costs of war
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Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: MPs and journalists assaulted
WOMEN AND GENDER: Governments need to reach out to rural women
HUMAN RIGHTS: Gambia coup anniversary celebrated in ‘climate of fear’
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: 40,000 famine-hit Somalis flee to Mogadishu, says UNHCR
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Citizenship, violence and the struggle for a place in South Africa
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Latest edition of the Emerging Powers newsletter
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia
DEVELOPMENT: Scrap East Africa tax incentives, says civil society
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Protests over drug shortages in Swaziland
ENVIRONMENT: Cloud hangs over climate change talks
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Can Africa develop a regional response to ‘resource grabbing’
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Bloody crackdown on Malawian media
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from Benin, Burundi, DRC, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda
PLUS: eNewsletters & mailing lists; Fundraising & useful resources; Jobs
Libya: The true costs of war
The invasion was planned and the opportunity to execute it was highly propitious.
They say ‘time heals’ emotional wounds. If that is so why don’t I feel less enraged as the days go by since the outrageous invasion of Libya on ludicrous false pretences four months ago? Yes, Libya is under invasion from air and sea bombardments directed by foreign special forces on Libyan soil. The purpose of the invasion is regime change. The aim of the bombs that are killing people and laying Tripoli to waste is for one purpose only, to help a rebel group they formed and armed to overthrow the Colonel Gaddafi regime. The air bombardments were initiated in the false expectation that once bombs started falling in Tripoli, Libyans in Tripoli would rise up against Gaddafi and in this murky situation the armed group would march in from Benghazi and take power. As time goes by, the strategy gets desperate. It has now become ‘anything to kill or oust Gaddafi and his sons will do’. This is reminiscent of the 1960s when the same actors used not so dissimilar tactics to overthrow governments they didn’t like. The plan failed, which is why four months into the carnage, Gaddafi still pops out of the hole he is hiding in to scream insults at his invaders.
The invasion was planned. In the case of the US involvement, as far back as George Bush Junior’s ‘war on the axis of evil’. In the case of the French, active planning may have been since October 2010. The planning most likely included ensuring that weapons and forces were ready in Benghazi when the moment came. This is why the civil protest in Benghazi, which started in a similar manner as the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings of unarmed civilians, turned into an armed rebellion in two days, and in less than a month, the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)/French invasion had began. This incredible speed of events is far from spontaneous.
That there are British, Dutch, French and Italian special forces, among others, on the ground not just in Benghazi but all over the country is neither debatable nor denied. We know that much, from the reports of the British media and from the clumsy ways in which the Netherlands and Britain sought to introduce their special forces days into the insurgency. Recall the helicopter full of British special forces that landed in the middle of the rebel troops who promptly captured and displayed them before realising that they were ‘friendly forces’. Days later, the Dutch were even clumsier. They ended up being captured by the Gaddafi forces, who displayed them before the world’s media and then released them. You should have the seen the glee in the face of Gaddafi’s son.
But the penetration of special forces into Libya, if we are to believe Franco Bechis, the Italian journalist writing in the 24 March edition of Libero (re-told in www.economicsnewspaper.com), may have been as far back as 16 November 2010 when a train-load of French people landed in Benghazi carrying what were alleged to be businessmen seeking to invest in Libya’s agriculture. A large number of these ‘businessmen’ were in fact soldiers. According to Franco Bechis, quoting the Maghreb Confidential, active planning for regime change by the French began on 21 October 2010 when Nuri Mesmar, Gaddafi’s chief of protocol and his closest chum, arrived in Paris for surgery. However, Mesmar was not met by doctors but by the French secret service and Sarkozy’s closest aides. Mesmar was also responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture. On 16 November, Mesmar agreed to a strategy to drop troops in Libya under the guise of a business delegation. Two days later, a plane-load of people, including soldiers, landed in Benghazi where they met, among others, Libyan military commanders to encourage them to desert. One of them who agreed to desert was Colonel Gehan Abdallah, whose militia subsequently led the rebellion. Where did this information come from? The Italian intelligence service.
The role of Nuri Mesmar – using a close friend to stick the knife in the back of his friend in power – is as old as the story of Brutus and Caesar in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and reminds one of how Captain Blaise Campaoré of Burkina Faso was used by the French to overthrow and execute his closest friend Thomas Sankara.
But it was not only from France that the armed rebellion was planned. The head of the Libyan National Council, Colonel Khalifa, arrived from the USA on 14 March to lead the armed rebellion a month after it began. Colonel Khalifa has been living in the United States since the 1980s, apparently working as an agent for the CIA. This fact was contained in a book published in 2001, titled the ‘African Handling’ by Pierre Pean according to www.economicsnewspaper.com. The 31 March edition of the Wall Street Journal carries a story which says that ‘The CIA officials acknowledge that they have been active in Libya for several weeks, like other Western Intelligence Service’. Khalifa, Mesmar and others will be joined in the leadership of the Provisional Government by some of the most murderous individuals in the Gaddafi regime, including Jalil Mustafa Abud, who until the uprising was the minister for justice and on the list of Amnesty International’s most egregious human rights violators.
LUDICROUS FALSE PRETENCES
I used the phrase ‘ludicrous false pretences’ to describe the excuses publicly sold to a gullible press, decidedly. Why? The core of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 claims to have the aim of ‘protecting civilians’. There are two sets of principles which the need to protect civilians could have been drawn from. One is the principle of holding all combatants responsible in respect of the Geneva Convention. This principle is covered by UN Security Council Resolutions 1265, 1296 and 1820, among others. Armed combatants from both sides who violate the Geneva Convention will be held liable, under these resolutions, and could suffer sanctions and by extension be liable to face the International Criminal Court (ICC) owing to the extent of the violations qualified as crimes against humanity or as genocidal. These resolutions however do not legalise external military intervention.
The second is the principle of the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). This is based on the concept of ‘borderless’ security, which was the title of the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) released in December 2001 and subsequently adopted as an operative principle by the UN. This commission, chaired by Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun, undertook to study the relationship between (a) the rights of sovereign states, upon which the greater part of international relations has been built, and (b) the so-called ‘right of humanitarian intervention’ which has been exercised sporadically – in Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo but not Rwanda – and with varying degrees of success and international controversy. The report addressed ‘the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive – and in particular military – action, against another state for the purpose of protecting people at risk in that other state’.
The conclusion was that the priority should be the protection of human beings, not state sovereignty. Therefore, if human security – physical safety and dignity – was threatened by the state or its severe inability to address, the international community had the responsibility to act, including by armed intervention. R2P places humanitarian law above that of sovereignty. The R2P was heavily lobbied, for especially Western humanitarian organisations, and its adoption by the UN celebrated. However, others have warned against the danger of this principle for a number of reasons. First, supplanting humanitarian law over sovereignty means supplanting humanitarianism over rights for the latter and is based on citizenship, which in turn rests on sovereignty. Secondly, the R2P principle opens the door for selective interventions and selective justice by those who control the Security Council. It also creates legal and political dependence on the UN Security Council and militarily powerful countries, thereby undermining the very foundations for long-term justice and peace which rests on domestic political processes. Resolution 1973 was crafted on the basis of R2P, ‘legalising’ the invasion. Invasion is what the NATO countries wanted, not simply in order to minimise harm to civilians by Gaddafi’s forces but for regime change.
Was an invasion necessary on humanitarian grounds? This is debatable because the answer lies in the counter-factual, namely, the issue of whether or not Gaddafi’s forces would have bombed Benghazi to bits as claimed. What we now know is that the Gaddafi air force did not target civilian settlements in Benghazi when they flew and according to Amnesty International, the claim of mass rape by Gaddafi’s forces could not be verified on the ground. We also know that the suppression of the 15 February civilian uprising by Gaddafi was not the first. The last major suppression of this sort was in 2006. Like with other North African and Middle Eastern dictators, Gaddafi put down the 2006 uprising violently, shooting a few and arresting others. There were no mass murders and at the time his actions received the tacit support of the USA in particular as a legitimate response to an Al-Qaida influence. But the plain truth is that the situation was no longer a civilian uprising after two days. It was an armed insurgency and every state has the right to confront armed insurgency with arms. We have seen this time and again in the Unites States, whether they are responding to religious fanatics or drug gangs in black neighbourhoods.
Was there a better way to save lives? Yes, if given the chance. We know that President Lula da Silva (former president of Brazil) offered to lead a mediation mission to mediate a ceasefire. This was supported by Latin American countries, the African Union and even the weak-kneed Arab League. Gaddafi had agreed to the idea of a ceasefire, including international forces, to observe it. This was turned down by NATO and their vassals in Benghazi. The African Union mission was humiliated in Benghazi and the Western media hosted discussions that ridiculed the AU initiatives. Peace was given no chance. Why? Because the agenda is regime change and not the protection of civilians.
If military intervention was the better route to protecting civilians, why hasn’t NATO invaded Yemen where a wholly non-violent uprising is being brutally suppressed with live bullets? Robert Gates, who was until recently the US defense secretary is reported to have said, ‘I do not think it’s my role to intervene in the internal affairs of Yemen.’ Could it be because he is ‘our bloody dictator’? After all, he is fighting a war against left-wing separatists ‘we’ don’t like, and Yemen plays host to America’s fifth fleet? How about Bahrain, the tiny kingdom where the royal family owns most of the islands that make up the kingdom, and where with the support of Saudi troops large numbers of unarmed demonstrators have been gunned down? Is there even a talk of hauling the sultan to the ICC? This is the selective use of the R2P that many have feared.
Is the military intervention saving lives? Clearly not! How do aerial bombardments of civilian settlements and atrocities by rebels armed by NATO constitute saving civilians lives? Are the people of Benghazi more civilian than the people in Tripoli and other places? The history of Western military invasions ostensibly meant to save lives has often tended to claim lives. Take Iraq, where a million or so died directly from bombs and indirectly from sectarian violence and a million more have been displaced. Not even Saddam’s several years of murderous rule managed to achieve that feat. Or take Afghanistan or Somalia or even the Balkan interventions?
Are these invaders capable of false pretences to justify armed interventions? Yes. The evidence abounds. The story of lies and deceitfulness that was sold to the same gullible media to justify the invasion of Iraq is well known. George Bush and Tony Blair were in no doubt that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Once the decision was made to invade Iraq everything was done to provoke a justification for invasion. Before the invasion of Afghanistan on the pretext of going after Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaida, the ruling Taliban had offered to hand Bin Laden over to an international tribunal if the Americans provided evidence of his involvement in the 9/11 bombing of the Twin Towers in New York. There are similar stories relating to the bombardment of Yugoslavia.
WHY REGIME CHANGE?
So, if the North African uprisings that spilled over into Libya provided the enabling conditions for regime change planned long before, and if ‘saving lives’ was not the real purpose of the military intervention, why are they so desperate to remove Colonel (Brother) Muammar Gaddafi and his family from power?
There are many theories.
Different governments harbour different grievances against ‘the Brother’. Some say Sarkozy is seeking to cover up an embarrassment, one that could cause him a legal headache if the lethargic French legal system were to ever to come to life. This is the allegation that his election campaign for president of the French republic was substantially funded by the Gaddafi family. ‘Papi Silvio’ (Berlusconi) was embarrassed by ‘the Brother’ when he pitched his tent in Milan at a time that Berlusconi was facing a public outcry over his womanising behaviour. ‘The Brother’ is said to have addressed a room full of angry Italian women, and surrounded by his ‘liberated’ women guards, announced himself a protector of Italian women. The British and the Americans may have more serious grievances in the form of the downing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. It is probably the same sense of grievance that led many African governments to acquiesce to UN resolution 1973. Many would love to see the back of this weird man who prowled their territories in a manner that made them small in the eyes of their people. But it is simply not wise to embarrass, let alone anger those with bigger military might.
IN SUPPORT OF A LEGITIMATE INDEPENDENCE STRUGGLE
In the New Eastern Outlook journal (www.journal-neo.com), Dmitry Isayev quotes Papi Silvio as saying that the war in Libya is a war of independence of Cyrenaica (eastern Libya), presumably from the colonisation of Western Libya, perhaps in much the same way as the separation of South Sudan from the rest of Sudan. Silvio’s Italy is therefore clear in what it is doing – it is supporting a separatist movement. While it is unlikely that his NATO counterparts will welcome this perspective of the war, Silvio’s view does have resonance. The armed insurrection is launched from Benghazi (the capital of the east), which for several centuries was the seat of the monarchy. While the monarchy lasted Cyrenaica controlled the oil resources, a thriving port and fishing grounds, and therefore the wealth. This monarchy was overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969 with the support of clans from the west. Since then the east has been marginalised politically and economically. But if the purpose of the war is to separate the two Libyas, how does this gel with UN Security Council resolution 1973, which is meant merely to protect civilians?
In the 23 June issue of Issue (536) of the leading online publication on African issues, Pambazuka News (www.pambazuka.org), Ismael Hossein-Zadeh suggested that NATO are going after Gaddafi because of his insubordination that threatens strategic interests and the very sense of power itself. One area of unforgiveable insubordination is Gaddafi’s (and his Syrian counterpart’s) refusal – the only two ‘Arab nations’ to do so – to be absorbed into NATO/US/French strategic security arrangements for the control of the Mediterranean Sea Basin and the Middle East. ‘Libya and Syria have not also participated in NATO's almost ten-year-old Operation Active Endeavor naval patrols and exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and neither is Libya a member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue military partnership which includes most regional countries: Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania’. Libya's Gaddafi also opposed the US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
These are serious infractions because of the strategic importance of the Mediterranean region. Staying out means Gaddafi cannot be trusted when it comes to the security of Israel – a country you do not mess around with. Staying out means an important source of oil, gas and minerals deposit cannot be relied upon in strategic planning. Staying out also means leaving a crack for other non-NATO countries, especially China, Brazil, India and Russia, to find serious footing in the region. Staying out constitutes a serious geopolitical risk.
The concern to contain India and China is not a throw-away point. Questioned on his view about what really motivates the invasion of Afghanistan, Henry Kissinger, the famed foreign secretary of the Cold War era, says that ‘trends supported by Japan and China, to create a free trade area in Asia – an opposing block of the most populous nations in the world with great resources and some of the most industrial nations will be inconsistent with American national interests. For this reason, America must maintain a presence in Asia…’ (Simon and Schuster, ‘Does America need a foreign policy?’, quoted in www.economicsnews.com). This is consistent with the views of Zbigniew Brzzinsky, Jimmy Carter’s foreign secretary, the man understood to have discovered and mentored Barack Obama into the presidency. He considers Euro-Asia to be the ‘chessboard on which the battle takes place for global primacy’. The Mediterranean is a core part of Euro-Asia. Speaking on 28 March, Barack Obama says of the Libyan invasion: ‘when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act … America has an important strategic interest in preventing Gaddafi from defeating those who oppose him’.
STRATEGIC ECONOMIC INTERESTS
In my view there are three areas in which strategic economic interests express themselves: economic policies that influence the accumulation, ownership and movement of capital, goods and services; the control over natural resources indirectly or directly; and the power of long-term debt. In the Pambazuka article, Ismael makes the point that the control of oil matters but that NATO/French countries already exercise control through the presence of their companies. The problem is that Gaddafi has refused to privatise the oil wells and so exercises effective control. That is dangerous, in the same way that Hugo Chavez is. Gaddafi keeps an open-door policy with regards to foreign companies. Such a policy risks letting China into Libya in a big way, thereby complicating the strategic security question. As George Bush once said, ‘if you are not with us then are against us.’ Obama has merely retained this view.
Besides, control over natural resources is control over policies. Neoliberalism may be dead in academic circles, but not in real politik. If it were, Goldman Sachs wouldn’t be literally running the US economic policy. Gaddafi has been extremely naughty in this area as well. If you look at the World Bank’s world development indices, you find that Libya has not borrowed from the World Bank and the IMF in years, even after the sanctions were lifted. Libya’s economy is heavily state-owned. It has a life expectancy and quality of life comparable to the richest countries. This is against the grain. Worst still, by actively supporting and putting aside resources to realise the dreams of the three major pan-African institutions – the African Monetary Fund, the African Investment Bank and the African Central Bank – Libya could be said to be undermining the Bretton Woods institutions controlled by the NATO countries and France. Breaking the stranglehold that these institutions have over Africa could also mean weakening the geopolitical influence of NATO countries/France over the continent. Moreover, Libya has become and investment competitor in Africa. The Libya African portfolio has a rolling kitty of US$8 billion dollars channelled into investments ranging from telecommunications, the hospitality industry, some manufacturing and retail of oil and gas. Libya is effectively redeploying some of their sovereign wealth funds (SWF) away from purchasing US government bonds into investments in Africa. That cannot be totally encouraged given the US government dependence on petro-dollars for selling their bonds.
WAR AS A MEANS OF TRANSFERRING BADLY NEEDED CAPITAL OUT OF LIBYA
The military bombardments of Libya have already resulted in the shifting of capital from Libya to the invaders. Directly, they have seized the assets of the Libyan people owned by Libyan public institutions and re-channelled them into expenditures. These expenditures will most likely be military hardware and other logistics support for the war. The US impounded US$30 billion or so, which Ismael suggests is earmarked as a contribution to the building of the pan-African institutions mentioned earlier. Britain impounded undisclosed bank accounts and assets, including UK£700 million worth of Libyan dinars printed by a British currency printing firm, De la Rue, which they are likely to give to the rebels. The procurements in support of the war effort will most likely be from these countries and will therefore serve as a fiscal stimulus in these economies. In advance of the war, the Libyan ‘opposition’ figures would have quietly shifted their ill-gotten wealth abroad, some into the tax havens controlled by the invading countries. We will never know how much.
But perhaps the most significant and long-term means of inducing capital from Libya will be as reparation payments for the war. The cost of every munitions that was fired wildly or on target by the Libyan rebels and by NATO/France; the cost of every missile fired from the air or seas; the cost every spy plane that flew over Libyan airspace; the cost of every soldier mobilised for the war effort; the cost of intelligence, special analysts and contractors will be paid for by the Libyan people, with their oil and gas, decades into the future. And this will not be cheap. Newspapers in Britain speculate that if the war continues to the autumn, Britain may spend upwards of a UK£1 billion. At the end of May, the British armed forces estimated that they had flown 1,500 sorties, attacked 300 targets and fired at least 20 tomahawk missiles, one costing US$1 million. A tornado bomber flying a 3,000-mile round trip from its base to Tripoli and back costs US$300,000 per flight. A C17 transport plane costs over US$60,000 per hour to fly. The British say they have over 1,000 personnel involved in the operation. The cost to the US taxpayer is estimated to top a US$1 billion by autumn. In March, the US had 75 aircrafts involved in the operation and FT reports that on the first day of the operation, the US had spent US$110 million. If the Kosovo war is a guide, by the end of the third month the US had spent US$2.4 billion in the operation. Add the cost of the other NATO and Arab partners and it is conceivable that by end of July the cost of the Libyan invasion will approach if not exceed US$10 billion and counting. David Cameron, the British prime minister, said plainly on TV that whatever the outcome of the war, Libya will pay the cost of its participation. Add the cost of reparations and compensation for mercenaries and plain theft by many of the crooks constituting the provisional government and the Libyan people will find themselves tens of billions of dollars out of pocket.
THE LONG-TERM BENEFICIAL EFFECTS OF WAR TO THE VICTORS
Note that the power of debt is not simply the volume of money one owes and transfers but the effect on power relations. Libya will forever be subordinated to its creditors even if the debt is odious. It will have to open up its policy making to the creditors, open up its banks, import more and privatise assets, including natural resources. As the vanquished, it will be forced to join those organisations it previously stayed away from and conform. The destruction is equally beneficial. The more the better – after the war of destruction is the reconstruction. This is great for the construction firms of the victors, suppliers of building material, architects and engineers. The suffering banks of Europe and America will be energised by massive lending for the reconstruction effort, exacerbating the debt burden of the Libyan people but widening the profit margins of investment banks and the army of rent-seekers that follow them – accountants, lawyers and gamblers. War, especially in an oil-rich country, cannot be bad for economies in the doldrums.
IMPACT ON THE REST OF AFRICA
I characterised the invasion as wicked and heartless, quite deliberately. It is wicked because of the selfishness of the agenda underpinning the invasion, its lack of concern for the impact on the Libyan people. The invasion will undoubtedly turn Libyans from a proud people who know little abject poverty (in spite of Gaddafi’s dictatorship and several years of economic sanctions) into a typical sub-Saharan African type – a few wealthy people swimming in increasing pools of desperately poor people with severely wounded pride. It is not inconceivable that various armed factions will emerge however this madness ends. Centuries old tribal and clan divisions would have been widened not narrowed. Racial bigotry will spread having been unleashed by the media propaganda about black African support to Gaddafi. Libya will never be the same again and seeing what is happening in Iraq, Libya’s change will not be for the good for a long time to come.
But the wicked effects are not limited within the boundaries of Libya. Anything between 500,000 to 1 million workers from across Africa south of the Sahara have been displaced, and adding to the already over-flowing pool of the unemployed. The president of Niger estimated the displaced Nigerien workforce to be in the region of 200,000. Is anybody intending to compensate for these losses? The effect of this displacement is not simply that it aggravates the already scary poverty situation but also that it has the potential to exacerbate the insecurity in these fragile zones, especially the area stretching from Mauritania, across Niger, Mali, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti. These areas are fragile and volatile in several respects – ecologically, economically, socially and in terms of potential for armed conflicts. The potential for violent conflict will be made worse by increased availability of arms of all sorts – the type that are now being dropped all over the place by NATO/France.
The invasion is heartless also because it has deprived Africa of investment resources and undermined the creation of institutions that are critical for the poorest continent to transform its countries’ economies and overcome suffering and the indignity of poverty. It has transformed the African Union from one representing all of Africa to one effectively representing Africa south of the Sahara in the manner that Libya has been characterised by the invaders (as an Arab country), a characterisation that the rebel group seems to carry proudly on its chest.
Too much water has passed under the bridge. The Gaddafi family must leave power. Indeed no one, wherever they may be, should have the legitimacy to rule and have active power over resources of the land without being democratically elected. This applies to Gaddafi and his family just as much as it applies to the rag-tag bunch that calls itself the interim government, especially as we know that they are made of some of the most unsavoury elements in the Gaddafi government.
This means that there is no alternative to negotiation as the way forward. Even the NATO/French invaders have been forced acknowledge this, especially since their hope of speedily toppling Gaddafi has not materialised. The African Union plan for a negotiated settlement remains the most credible – an immediate ceasefire; humanitarian intervention and protection in all parts of Libya; an external observer force; an interim government made up of both sides; a timetable for political parties to form, electioneering to happen and elections to take place; and a legal process to investigate, try and punish the guilty. And if I may add, a no-reparations and no-debt-claims commitment by the invading forces. This should have been the way forward from day one, were the Lula mission and the AU strategy allowed.
The bottom line is war was solely unwarranted. But my greatest sadness and shame was to see the United Nations secretariat beating the war drums and cheering on the battle rather than singing the songs of peace. This is a sad time indeed. How else can one describe what is going on in Libya but a wicked, heartless folly?
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Charles Abugre is the regional director for Africa, United Nations Millennium Campaign.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Malawi's uprising: Democracy, debate and leadership
Wednesday 20 July found me at Katoto Teacher Development Centre (TDC), less than a kilometer away from Katoto Freedom Park, ground zero for Mzuzu demonstrations. We had a teacher professional development workshop with 20 educators from Mzuzu City and Mzimba North. Hardly had we started the day when we heard the chants and songs. It was tantalising.
An hour into our session, one participant apologised for interrupting, saying they had received a phone call. Riots were breaking out in town, vehicles were being overturned and burned, and shops were being looted. I stole a glance at my phone, and people were posting updates on Facebook and on Nyasanet directly from the centre of Mzuzu. Soon we started hearing the sounds of teargas canisters.
Two participants who had gone out to the bathroom came back dabbing wet handkerchiefs to their eyes. The teargas had wafted in our direction. We closed the windows. Dozens of youngsters ran past our training venue. We kept on with our training, constantly peeping through the windows to monitor what was going on outside. The trickle of people running past our venue started growing in volume. People were now passing by carrying merchandise. A crowd gathered outside nearby, and the teargas shots grew louder. There was no doubt things had turned ugly. Our driver, who had left with the car on some errands, came back on foot. Cars were being targeted, and he nearly got caught up in the mess. He quickly drove into a nearby neighbourhood, asked if he could keep the car inside somebody’s fence, and walked back to the training venue.
THE WORK OF BINGU’S HANDS
We broke off for lunch at 12pm, and three of us walked toward Katoto Filling Station, which faces Katoto Freedom Park. The filling station, popularly known as Pa Harry (owned by popular local politician Harry Mkandawire), is located on the corner of Mzuzu City’s largest intersection. The three-way traffic lights open the gateway to the lakeshore districts of Rumphi and Karonga, and Chitipa further up in the north. To the east lies Nkhata Bay and the beaches of Lake Malawi, and southward the M1 takes you to the capital city Lilongwe. There were rocks strewn all over the T-junction. A billboard boasting the height of Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika’s achievements only two years ago had been torched, but you could still read the words: ‘Let the work of my hands speak for me’, an English translation of a Chichewa saying about how deeds offer better evidence than words. The stark irony was lost on no one. There was a fire, still smouldering in the middle of the intersection.
Now and again crowds surged, running away or towards the northern end of the bus depot. A police land cruiser seemed to be coming from that direction. A vehicle belonging to the National Aids Commission arrived at the filling station where we had stopped. Somebody behind me started shouting in a menacing way. He was trying to galvanise others to attack the vehicle. The driver quickly made a u-turn and drove away. Suddenly an army truck appeared from the direction of Moyale Barracks, east of the city. It was full of soldiers, carrying guns. Another one quickly followed, and a third. You could feel the tension go up a notch amongst the crowd. A few people waved at the soldiers.
I was itching to go nearer and take pictures, but I was strongly advised not to. We walked back to our training venue, passing residents of Katoto who had come out of their houses and were thronging the neighbourhood streets. Back at the training venue, we continued with our programme. It was a surreal experience. Here were 20 Malawian educators discussing professional development plans for Malawian schools, with gun shots sounding very close by, and people streaming past the building. Police teargas and live gunshots were still droning when we left Mzuzu and headed for Mzimba Boma as the sun set.
That evening Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) rebroadcast President Bingu wa Mutharika’s televised public lecture from earlier that day, so I had a chance to watch it. He spoke for about two hours and 15 minutes. On Twitter and Facebook, the reactions to the lecture were furious. The choice of Wednesday 20 July was clearly meant to not only sabotage the planned demonstrations, but to also cause mayhem and confusion. In that, they succeeded. The government machinery had done everything possible to discredit the planned demonstrations. Tactics used by the MBC bordered on comic relief. On several consecutive days the prime time evening news bulletins carried opinionated claims masquerading as news to the effect that the real aim of the demonstrations was support for homosexuality.
That the government has been scared of a Tunisia-Egypt type revolt has been evident in the way it has reacted to the slightest mention of demonstrations. The academic freedom struggle has its roots in that fear, as does the edict Mutharika issued on 6 March 2011 that anybody wanting to stage a demonstration must first pay two million kwacha (approx. US$13,000) to the police as surety against property damage. Such has been the government’s fear of demonstrations that it has gone out of its way to placate a few civil society activists, who have since turned around and now praise government, while ridiculing former civil society colleagues. If events of 20 and 21 July look as if they vindicate government’s fears, it is not for its foresight; rather it is for having worked hard toward that fulfillment. The president’s decision to blame the organisers of the demonstrations for property damage and loss of life leave that in no doubt.
UNDERMINING AFRICAN RENEWAL
There are two tragedies. First are the deaths that have resulted from the demonstrations. Second is the precipice we have gone over, beyond which debate does not seem salvageable. The second tragedy has important implications for the African renewal that Mutharika, and many of his then admirers in Malawi and outside, had hoped his presidency, and his one-year rotating chairpersonship of the African Union, would accomplish. I’ll get to this point in due course. On Thursday 21 July the organisers of the demonstrations took out a public service announcement urging a stop to further protests. They said only Wednesday 20 July was the legitimate date for demonstrations, and a petition had been delivered to the president to that effect. Any further protests after that date were illegal. The president’s lunch hour address to the nation on Thursday 21 July ended with an invitation to dialogue, having spent much of the address blaming the organisers for having paid demonstrators to loot and damage property. On Friday 22 July the president spoke to graduating police cadets at Zomba Police College, and all the pretense for dialogue was gone. He accused the protest organisers of treason, and threatened to ‘smoke them out’. Offering condolences to the families of those killed in the protests, he read from his prepared remarks: ‘They have died in vain.’
Mutharika and leaders like him have always presented a particularly difficult dilemma for me. I have suggested previously that all political leaders are the same, a manifestation of what they perceive to be the imperatives of wielding political power. It is the levels and degrees of civil society activism that explain the differences in the extent of what each particular leader is capable or incapable of doing. 20 July itself offers a telling Malawian example. The entire idea behind the lecture was ill-thought. As George Kasakula noted in one of his columns in The Weekend Nation recently, Malawians did not need lectures; they needed solutions to chronic social, economic and political problems. The choice of the date itself was a ‘bizarre juxtaposition’ with the demonstrations, to quote Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza in his 21 July article, ‘Malawi on the Brink: The July 20 Movement.’ That was reason enough for many not to even listen to or watch the lecture. Even after listening to it in its entirety, many people’s reaction was utter dismissal and ridicule. That was exactly my attitude as well.
BRITAIN IS NOT OUR MOTHER
Early in the lecture, the president referred to an opposition critic of his government, who said the president had been wrong to antagonise Britain, because Britain was ‘our mother’. The president said the last line in the country’s national anthem goes ‘…and mother Malawi’, not ‘…and mother Britain’. A lot of the reaction to the president’s decision to expel the British High Commissioner, Mr. Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, was understandably in fear of the potentially disastrous effects of any British retaliation in the area of development aid to Malawi, which is widely believed by many Malawians to support poor people. As a matter of fact a lot of foreign aid benefits the donating country as well as the wealthy elites of the recipient country. But another corner of the reaction bordered on hysteria, fed by the existential belief that foreign aid is an act of Western altruism and not strategic political interest; that it is the natural order of things for Western countries to give aid, out of altruism, to Third World countries for whom it is the natural order of things to forever remain beggars.
The strategic purposes of foreign aid extend beyond bilateral support to national budgets. Most non-governmental organisations receive aid for reasons that have little to do with altruism. An article forwarded recently to the Fahamu Debate List, written by Tafataona Mahoso, has a most telling title: ‘How the US controls “civil society” throughout Africa’. In the article, Mahoso argues that all of civil society in Africa is sponsored by US and European interests, with the aim of making Africans ‘feel and believe that they are only thankful receivers of freedom and human rights conceived, taught and funded by the West’. He goes on: ‘The Anglo-Saxon powers, led by the US, already control a continental network and superstructure of “civil society” throughout Africa.’ A syndrome that has been cultivated over several centuries, Mahoso argues that it ‘is not natural’. It has created, Mahoso argues, a ‘willingness to apologise against our own dignity and interests while upholding the arrogance of the enemy’. Mahoso is quick to point out that ‘the problem is not with the North Americans and Nato as such’. Africans themselves are to blame: ‘…we have allowed ourselves to be tutored in governance matters by people who are our declared enemies or by organisations and individuals funded and managed by our declared enemies.’
Whether or not one agrees with Mahoso’s language of ‘declared enemies’, and the depiction of African civil society as pliant and supine, the point about self-sabotage should not be a substitute for apportioning blame where it belongs. As I have already pointed out, the benefits from this system go to both the Western donors and to wealthy African elites. It is the poor, and marginalised Africans that get sacrificed in the process. For all the comical relief and laughable madness about MBC’s claims of the 20 July demonstrations being aimed at showing support for homosexuality, gay rights have become a tug of war between competing interests in the West. Africa has become the battleground for Evangelicals wanting to use Christians in Africa to stop the spread of Western forms of homosexual lifestyles, and a battleground for gay rights activists to contain Western forms of Christian homophobia. In the process, the human stories of Africans born gay, and their genuine struggle for their humanity, their rights and equality, get lost in the pandemonium. Because matters of sexuality are considered private in most societies, the surface outlook suggests that there are no born homosexuals and other types outside heterosexuality in Africa.
Mutharika has spoken of gay people in the worst terms possible, repeating language used by President Robert Mugabe. He has claimed that homosexuality is unMalawian and unAfrican, reflecting an insensitivity to the diversity of human sexuality that is as part of human nature as is heterosexuality. The entire discourse about gay rights is fraught with extreme views on either side, making debate, and opportunities for educating ourselves about the gifts of God’s diverse creation, impossible. The irony of the denial of one’s humanity for how nature created them, a phenomenon black people around the world are only too familiar with, has not even registered.
Mutharika spoke to Malawians a month earlier on Friday, 24 June about the causes of the fuel and forex shortages in Malawi and the reaction from most Malawians was predictably the same. Front pages the next morning said his speech was empty and devoid of any solutions; full of blame for the IMF, donors and everyone but himself. In his 20 July lecture, he went on to talk about how Malawi’s forex ends up in Mumbai, London and other global financial centres. He repeated what he had said on 24 June that it was the IMF that had ordered the government to liberalise oil importation and forex, and leave them in the hands of the private sector. The acute shortages the country was experiencing were a direct result of those policies. There has been very little discussion on email forums, newspapers and electronic media as to why exactly the country has no forex, or responses to the president’s accusation that foreign banks, which have proliferated as part of Malawi’s economic growth since he was elected, have been siphoning it out of the country. Nor has there been much discussion as to whether poor countries have the power to reject the IMF’s neoliberal policies, with the prevailing opinion being that countries choose whether to follow IMF advice, or to leave it, with no consequences.
Is democratic debate still possible?
Not everyone has received Mutharika’s lecture with indifference and ambivalence, however. In The Nation of Friday 22 July, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) responded to some of the issues the president raised. Speaking for the organisation, the executive director, Chancellor Kaferapanjira, doubted that the government had the resolve to institute measures of self-sacrifice that would be required for the president’s suggestions to be implemented. ‘The vehicle fleet of the Malawi government is one of the largest in Africa,’ said Mr Kaferapanjira. ‘If they can get rid of the appetite for new vehicles and maintain the current ones, it can help in reducing recurrent expenditure.’ An interesting observation this one, but one wonders why the Malawi police and the ministries of health and education, big ministries with big numbers of employees and big operations, have never had adequate numbers of vehicles. But Kaferapanjira’s observations are also echoed by the petition civil society has presented to the president. They are also echoed by several columnists and commentators, including The Weekend Nation’s Ephraim Munthali and The Sunday Times’ Deborah Nyangulu-Chipofya and Raphael Tenthani, who have pointed out how government could rein in excesses and abuses if they could embrace self-sacrifice and austerity measures themselves.
That there has been little debate stems, partly, from the manner in which the president speaks. It has become an expectation that every time the president veers off his prepared remarks, he will make the next day’s front-page headlines. He has called his critics ‘drunks’ and ‘tiankhwezule’, (in reference to a small bird that, by implication, should not be taken seriously), and donors ‘stupid’. The latter term has so scandalised Malawians, to the extent of the opposition critic who is reported to have said Britain was Malawi’s mother and should not be antagonised. It is common amongst Malawian pundits and columnists to declare that imperialism ended with colonialism, and Malawi has all but herself to blame.
This is an observation made mostly in reaction to what Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza has called ‘the president’s nationalist anxieties and preoccupations with colonialism and admonition of Britain’, which to the majority of Malawi’s population, born after independence, ‘are outdated and irrelevant’. Obviously, the tendency by African leaders to use colonialism as an excuse has backfired on them. However, imperialism is still very much at work, as a growing body of development studies scholarship shows. This is a body of scholarship intellectuals from Africa and from other parts of the world that demonstrates how African wealth and resources migrate out of the continent every year. The blame game insists on one culprit, when it is both Western interests and wealthy African elites behind the looting and plundering.
Mutharika’s second term of office has given cause to two questions about many African leaders: are they their own worst enemy? Are they really different from other leaders elsewhere? They set the tone for how Africans are going to discourse. It will be them setting the terms, as they know best; they cannot take Africa over a cliff, they reassure. Because there will be no real dialogue and serious debate about genuine issues raised in the pronouncements by both the presidents and their critics, the only choices left on both sides will be extreme positions that portray the other party as out of touch and ignorant, intolerant and stubborn. In their extreme moods, African leaders want the organisers of protests and demonstrations prosecuted for treason, or ‘smoked out’. In the extreme fringes of the protestors, they want these leaders out of power, and worse. The presidents bring the full force of the state to bear on their detractors, who find ready support from Western interests. The middle ground which was supposed to foster debate about Africa’s desires for true democracy and independence, ‘Africa of the new beginning’, to use Mutharika’s own words, is further adrift.
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* Steve Sharra, Ph.D. blogs for Global Voices Online and at Afrika Aphukira.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
‘Blood diamond’ regulation system broken
The recent approval of Zimbabwean diamonds mined from the US$800 billion Marange fields, by the Kimberley Process (KP) chair, the DRC's Mathieu Yamba Lapfa Lambang, has prompted a global 'human rights' outcry with KP members such as Canada, the EU, and US claiming there was 'no consensus'.
Meanwhile, others like China (the world's fastest growing diamond consumer market), and India (cutting and polishing 11 of 12 stones) have all given the green light to Zimbabwe, removing any potential problems of surplus minerals from Marange – described by Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti, as 'the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind.'
With potential revenues pegged at US$1 - $1.7 billion annually, the support of neighbouring governments like South Africa, another major diamond producer, and 'host' country to 3 million Zimbabwean political and economic 'refugees', is not surprising. Nor is the potential KP rupture being shaped as a battle between politically 'interfering' Western nations and cash-starved developing nations.
That Zimbabwe's diamonds are mined under the direct surveillance of the country's vicious military, controlled by brutal lifetime dictator Robert Mugabe, is not in question. Since the discovery of Marange's diamonds in 2006, the military has largely supervised mining; mass looting by political, corporate and military elites has occurred accompanied by violent displacement and human rights violations; companies based in secrecy jurisdictions such as Mauritius and Hong Kong have been granted 'due diligence' approval; and there exists complete opacity over volumes extracted, exported and sold.
But to what extent does the vehement opposition stem from political objections to a nation controlled by the blatantly anti-Western Mugabe? More broadly, was the KP system – propagating that less than 1 per cent of global diamonds constitute 'blood' minerals – built for the purposes of eliminating corporate and state-sanctioned exploitation – or normalising and sanitising it?
GOVERNMENTS GIVEN A FREE PASS
Arguably the best thing about the much-lauded and oft-applauded Kimberley Process (KP) system, an international initiative – created and backed by governments, multinationals, and civil society organisations to diminish the trade in conflict or 'blood' diamonds – is that the KP's very definition of blood diamonds, by default, excludes the world's primary agents of 'conflict': Governments. It also excludes the private mining corporations that partner up with the governments in developing countries to extract the diamonds.
By default, the KP's definition excludes Zimbabwe as a 'conflict' agent.
According to the KP, ‘Conflict diamonds means rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.'
This definition, spurred by the investigative research of two NGOs – Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, was largely structured around two primary cases: Angola's brutal opposition movement UNITA under Jonas Savimbi, using resources as a 'portable wealth' fuelling the 27 year conflict with the MPLA government; and Sierra Leone's civil war-for-resources, facilitated and backed by neighbouring Liberian warlord Charles Taylor. Both cases, evidencing violent exploitation of alluvial diamond fields, were identified as rebel movements striving to undermine the governments of Angola and Sierra Leone through the control of key mines.
Marginalised were the key roles that 'governments played in initiating and sustaining both conflicts: as much as 70 per cent of Taylor's official war-chest – financing the rebel movement in Sierra Leone, for instance, was supplied by major Western multinationals, with the assistance and blessing of the US government, via Liberia's maritime 'tax haven' registry, operating from the US state of Virginia, just outside Washington. The registry, known as the LISCR, peddles Liberia's flag (ie: corporate registration) for a small fee (US$713), in exchange for zero tax and a host of other secrecy services. Liberia' – through their US base - hosts over 11 per cent of global maritime trade, and represents one of the world's top two 'flags of convenience' (FOC).
During a lawsuit at the US Supreme Court, it was stated, ‘Taylor’s oversight of LISCR is so tight he acts in effect as one of LISCR’s senior partners, and is intimately involved in all aspects of management, personal assignments [and] distribution of funds, salaries and foreign offices... Taylor received a substantial piece of LISCR's revenue—up to one-third.’
No matter. ‘LISCR has always cooperated with, and received support from, the US State Department,’ stated key LISCR figure Yoram Cohen.
Meanwhile, the US's political, financial and military support for Angola's Savimbi – described by US President Ronald Reagan as a 'freedom fighter' (though a US diplomat countered that he was 'pure evil') was not only in partnership with South Africa's apartheid regime, which also financed Savimbi in addition to military strikes on the MPLA government, but continued long after the MPLA was recognised globally as Angola's legitimate ruling party. The three decade long conflict – wiping out 330,000 children from 1980-1988 alone , costing US $30 billion during the same period, was directly fueled by Angola's vast diamonds. The landmark Fowler Report (2000) claimed UNITA could easily wash diamonds through official channels.
DE BEERS FUNDS AFRICAN CONFLICTS
While the KP definition of 'conflict' diamonds makes no mention of state-sanctioned human rights violations and conflict waged by 'legitimate' governments – in both cases, the US government played a key role undermining legiitmate governments, so too does it elide the role of corporations, chiefly De Beers – controlling 70 per cent of the rough diamond market, in facilitating and sustaining conflict as buyers.
Between 1992-1993 alone, De Beers was known to have purchased between US$300 - $500 million in diamonds from UNITA. The Fowler Report claimed that in 1999 – around the time Global Witness began drawing attention to the subject, De Beers ceased purchasing diamonds directly from Savimbi (labeled by the AU as an 'agent of apartheid South Africa) or via potential third parties. The combination of a democratic South Africa and the loss of De Beers direct support destroyed UNITA's political and financial foundation.
Savimbi himself would be killed soon after – the same year, the Kimberley Process certification system was formally adopted.
For their part, African governments – including many tinpot regimes, are all too happy with the KP system primarily requiring self-regulation on the part of governments. The deliberate simplification of 'conflict' resources as non-state, apolitical, and marginal to the global architecture, intentionally locates it against a specific backdrop delinked from the forces of supply and demand-side corruption.
Life in Angola under the helm of lifetime dictator Dos Santos, for instance, is militaristic, brutal and grossly corrupt. As quickly as the billions from diamonds and oil – constituting 99 per cent of exports, are generated, a significant portion is looted.
Yet the KP's narrow definition of conflict diamonds, and the system of compliance, enables the regime to 'self-regulate' what constitutes the taking and spilling of 'blood'– be it an economic, political, or physical conflict. It also enables corporate buyers, such as De Beers, and the company's main Africa rival, the Lev Leviev Group, also connected to the CIF, to purchase diamonds produced under Angola's dictatorship, with a clean and clear KPCS certificate.
Resource-rich Namibia, overflowing with diamonds and ruled by a one-party state – SWAPO, since liberation, is corrupt, maldeveloped, and anti-democratic. Botswana too, packaged as a shining democracy, is controlled by one political party for more than four decades, and shares the same characteristics with Namibia.
For the KPCS system, coming into effect in 2003, a forced peace is no different from a democracy.
But while the KP system compliments the undermining of democracy and widespread looting in African nations by allocating the right of identification to regimes, the marginalisation of Zimbabwe is perceived as motivated by decisions unrelated to human rights violations. Moreover, the KP system does not even explicitly articulate a human rights provision, preferring to focus on, and protect, the rights of governments.
But not all governments are equal.
Though the US, for instance, would switch sides from Savimbi to Dos Santos with apparent ease, the MPLA government – one of China's largest oil suppliers, also partnered with a private Chinese entity – the China International Fund (CIF), mining diamonds in Zimbabwe, does not seem to have forgotten the 'Western' tendency to undermine 'legitimate' governments for 'political' reasons. Nor, perhaps, has the ANC ruling party in South Africa, described by the US – the apartheid government's primary backer, as 'terrorists'.
Both remember all too well that human rights have nothing to do with foreign policy, especially when it comes to resources.
Proponents vigorously state that, since the 1990, 'blood diamonds' have decreased from 15 per cent to just 1 per cent, informed by the KP's claim that 99.8 per cent  of production is mined in member countries, establishing - in theory at least - compliance on the part of diamond producing and trading nations. This includes countries like Angola, Namibia, Botswana, the DRC and South Africa, contributing the bulk of Africa's global exports, estimated at 65 per cent of global rough.
The diamond industry, via the World Diamond Council – of which diamond giant De Beers was a founding member, collaborated with the NGOs driving the issue (as well as the UN and governments globally) to develop and introduce the certification procedure, of rough diamonds, governing the trade, known as the Kimberley Process Certification System (KPCS). In 2002, 52 governments adopted and ratified the KPCS which quickly entered into force.
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
So long as a regime - whether producing diamonds, or trading in it - holds 'sovereign' state power (and is not classified as a pariah by systemically important governments such as the US – think, Iran), that regime qualifies as a participating member.
Participating governments agree to oversight of the diamond trade within their borders through ' internal controls' such as tamper resistant containers, collecting and maintaining official production, import and export data, as well as importing and exporting authorities.
Participants must ensure that diamond containers, are accompanied by KP certificates stating, ‘The rough diamonds in this shipment have been handled in accordance with the provisions of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for rough diamonds.’
Certificates must meet the minimum requirements standard detailing date of issuance, expiry, identification of exporter and importer, number of parcel/s, carat weight/mass, value in US dollars, the container's unique code with the Alpha 2 country code, validation of certificate by exporting authorities and the country of origin for shipment of unmixed parcels.
In addition to the narrow definition, the KP has no independent mandatory scrutiny and is therefore governed by the very corporate and political that stand to benefit from looted resources.
De Beers, the company that opaquely controls about 70 per cent of the world's rough diamond supply , largely based in Africa and partnered with many African governments (such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola etc), seized the initiative as a means of distancing the company's diamonds - adorning engagement rings – from association with the images of drugged-up child-soldiers trained to use pangas or bush knives to hack off the arms and legs of terrorised people.
The company stated, ‘Every diamond in De Beers Diamond Jewellery is conflict-free and child labor free. De Beers ...has taken measures to guarantee that no conflict diamonds enter its supply chain or its jewellery.’
Of course, De Beers is lying, no doubt fearful that movies like the Hollywood blockbuster 'Blood Diamond' will undercut sales in the world's largest market: the US. But to understand the nature of the lie, we have to unravel the opacity of the secretive diamond industry.
For starters, while people may want diamonds; nobody actually needs diamonds. This much was admitted by the advertising firm NW Ayers, retained by De Beers, who created perhaps the world's most potent luxury goods slogan 'Diamonds Are Forever'. According to Ayers, We are dealing with a problem in mass psychology. We seek to … strengthen the tradition of the diamond engagement ring -- to make it a psychological necessity.’
But the biggest secret of all is that diamonds are quite plentiful and to manufacture value, ‘price stability’ is crucial for maintaining market value through artificial scarcity.
Russia's 90 per cent state-owned entity, Alrosa, supplies 25 per cent of the world's rough diamond market. Said Andrei Polyakov of Alrosa, ‘If you don't support the price a diamond becomes a mere piece of carbon.’ To this end, Russia's state-owned stockpiling agency, Gokhran, is allocated an annual budget to vault millions of gem quality carats each month. In 2009, over three millions carats were stockpiled monthly. In 2010, the agency was allocated a budget of US$1 billion.
But you'd be mistaken in thinking that the diamond industry giants are rivals to one another. Rather, they are collaborators coordinating on crucial issues. Alrosa, created in 1992, is the collective product of the Soviet Union state-owned diamond industy, and has a long history with De Beers. Though the company – owned by mining giant Anglo American, was perceived as a capitalist entity, especially for its role in propping up apartheid South Africa (controlling 100 per cent of the diamond industry, 50 per cent of the gold and platinum industry, and a quarter of coal, with critical stakes in banking, automobile, electronics, agriculture etc), Harry Oppenheimer negotiated a secret 'single channel' agreement to control supply.
‘A “single channel”, is in the interest of all diamond producers whatever the political difference between them may be,’ he stated. Even when the Soviet Union began to crumble, in 1991, De Beers negotiated a five-year agreement, providing the Russian government with US$1 billion annually as collateral for the gems in Gokhran, with Russia agreeing to sell 95 per cent of output via De Beers's Central Selling Organization. Fast forward to 2002, and new contracts have been negotiated, providing De Beers with US$3.8 billion in diamonds over a period of five years. But EU anti-trust laws  – fearing the cumulative global power – 95 per cent, struck the companies citing monopolistic behaviour. Similarly, the US has cracked down on De Beers for monopolistic behaviour.
Zimbabwe's $800 billion Marange diamond fields may collapse the market if not soon brought within official channels. Supa Mandiwanzira, a representative of Zimbabwe's Diamond Consortium stated, 'we have the potential to destroy the whole industry' by flooding the markets. This was echoed by Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu who catalysed a 'walkout'  by NGOs like PAC from the KP in June when he stated who stated that diamonds would be sold with or without KP certification.
So, while for Western governments, Zimbabwe presents a political problem, for the diamond industry (and diamond producing nations) Zimbabwe presents a dangerous economic crisis in the making.
This may have been why the KP did not immediately kick out the KP's 'Zimbabwe Monitor', South African mining businessman Abbey Chikane, who unilaterally - without a KP mandate or authorisation - travelled to Zimbabwe last year to approve two 'conditional' sales. Three days before his KPCS 'Fact Finding Report' was dated, he met with one of Zimbabwe's leading human rights activists Farai Maguwu, head of the Marange-based Center for Research and Development (CRD).
But Maguwu was thereafter arrested and imprisoned for 'endangering national security' and his family, tortured. Maguwu believes, and has publicly stated, he was 'set up'. For what purpose? ‘I was arrested on the 3rd of June,' he stated, 'and the conditional sale was agreed in St Petersburg, on the 14th of July, exactly 2 days after my release from custody.' Some believe that Maguwu was meant to be 'out of action' while the conditional sale was being negotiated, inspected by Chikane, and auctioned.
Ian Smillie, a key architect of the KP, stated that not only should Chikane have been disqualified from the outset 'for his extensive personal business interests in the Southern African diamond industry', but that instead of looking for human rights abuses, Chikane simply checked to ascertain whether the diamonds were in fact mined by the companies in question. According to Smillie, Chikane should have resigned, and it was disgraceful that the KP allowed him to continue 'muddling on'.
If any action, in recent times, clearly delegitimised the toothless KP – once a brave initiative, deliberately undermined by the actors enjoying the benefits of 'clean certification' - it was this.
For his part, Smillie has since left the KP. In his farewell letter, he stated, ‘There is a basic truth: when regulators fail to regulate, the systems they were designed to protect collapse.’
Zimbabwe may yet receive KP approval. Or it may not, ultimately. But whatever the case, Zimbabwe is not the crisis facing the KP, but the product of its own innate fault-lines.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* A shorter version of this article first appeared in Al Jazeera.
* Khadija Sharife is a journalist and visiting scholar at the Center for Civil Society (CCS) based in South Africa, and a contributor to the Tax Justice Network. She is the Southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report magazine, assistant editor of the Harvard "World Poverty and Human Rights" journal and author of "Tax Us If You Can Africa".
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Sudan in the post-CPA era: Prospects and challenges
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed on 9 January 2005, brought an end to the brutal civil war (1955–1972; 1983–2005) that had engulfed Sudan well before its independence in 1956. The CPA was the immediate culmination of the negotiations that ended the hostility between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). It ultimately created a new political dispensation and landscape in South Sudan. An estimated two and a half million people have died and more than five million have been uprooted due to the civil war (UNMIS 2009; IDMC 2011). In fulfilling the mandate of the CPA, a referendum on self-determination was conducted in January 2011, and 98.83 per cent of South Sudanese effectively voted to secede from north Sudan. The General Assembly of the United Nations admitted the Republic of South Sudan into the community of nations as the 193rd member of the United Nations on 14 July 2011 (UN News Centre 2011).
With the celebration of independence slowly coming to an end, the South Sudanese citizens will start to demand the fulfilment of a long-awaited dream: freedom from oppression and domination, justice and equality, democracy and economic prosperity, peace and tranquillity. The South Sudanese will soon start to demand that the fruits of liberation be shared among the people. The expectation on South Sudan to deliver basic necessities such as security, water, food, healthcare and education will only grow with time. South Sudan has seen a proliferation of consultants and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) over the past several years. Professor Mahmood Mamdani, director of Makerere Institute of Social Research, observed that the tendency today in Africa is to place the emphasis on the search for solutions while neglecting the crucial role of problem formulation (Mamdani 2011). Without devoting time to understand the issues that fuel violence, it is not possible to find sustainable solutions.
In the Sudanese context, nobody understood the challenge of Sudan better than the late chair and commander-in-chief of the SPLM/A, Dr John Garang. With the inception of the SPLM/A, Garang’s first task was to define the problem. The immediate task for Garang and challenge back then – as it was for Mandela in South Africa – was to reform the colonial state and fuse the various nationalities or tribes into a nation. The solution to the crisis of citizenship was summarised in the concept of the New Sudan. The New Sudan vision presented at the Koka dam conference was a conceptual framework for a country which was inclusive of all its multiple ethnic groups, pluralistic and embracing all nationalities, races, creeds, religions and genders – a country in which all Sudanese would be equal stakeholders. Ironically, the challenge for the Republic of South Sudan today is the same as that outlined by Garang in 1986 (Garang 1992). How is the new republic going to build a democratic, all-inclusive nation out of so many ethnic groups in the nascent state? How is the country going to answer the question of citizenship?
The crisis of citizenship is rooted in the policy laid by the British in the early 20th century and inherited in the post-colonial period in Sudan. It also explains the cycle of violence in Darfur, in the west of what is now considered north Sudan, and the deadlock over the disputed regions, with Abyei being the most contested area. The problem in Abyei between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya, the conflict between the camel nomads of the north in Darfur against the agriculturalists in southern Darfur and the demand for a tribal homeland in southern Sudan all revolve around the same issues: political representation, access to pasture for cattle and claims to a tribal homeland. Without resolving those fundamental issues, the violence will not subside. Rather, new waves of violence – with higher frequency and intensity – will arise, with far more deadly consequences.
What is required in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile is not a military solution to the problem. The problem being political, the solution must be political in nature. The question of citizenship and the colonial state, which reproduces and enforces political identities, needs a political reform that will join the two demands for citizenship, one ethnic in character and the second based on residence. The challenges in both Sudans are reflective of a larger challenge facing most post-colonial African countries (Mamdani 1996). Every post-colonial African state deals with the question of building an effective plural society and managing diversity within an inclusive framework. This is because Africa is the most diverse continent in the world, populated by diverse nationalities, with a rich cultural heritage pre-dating recorded history and vibrant plural societies. Given that Sudan is the microcosm of Africa‘s promises and problems – contained within its boundaries are all major African language groups and nationalities – the problems of Sudan are reflective of the larger continental political crisis facing all African countries (Garang 1992; Beshir 1968; Deng 1990).
FACING THE REACTIONARY RESUMPTION OF COLONIAL GOVERNMENTALITY
One of the most enduring legacies of colonialism in countries ruled by Great Britain is how power was organised. The colonial state functioned on a dual system of governance. This form of governance led to group discrimination based on ethnicity and privilege of one group at the expense of all others. Any policy designed to bring lasting peace in South Sudan must begin with the question of citizenship. At the heart of the colonial system of governance was a duality in how the colonised were ruled and how those deemed civilised were governed (Mamdani 1996). It was a project enforced by law. Whereas the urban civilised was governed under common law, the natives were governed under customary law. Customary law, in turn, discriminated against individuals based on membership in a tribal homeland. Customary law was a system that privileged those considered natives and discriminated against those considered aliens, foreigners and non-natives (Mamdani 2009).
In a recent report published by the London School of Economics it was shown that in matters of institutional reform, the new South Sudan has rather taken a contradictory path (LSE 2010). According to the CPA, too much centralisation of power in Khartoum was part of the problem of Sudan before the independence of South Sudan. Until then, decentralisation had become a de facto solution. In Southern Sudan the government experimented with decentralisation only to return to a highly centralised system. At the local level, the government policy was to enact a legislation called the Local Government Act in 2009, which was seen as a way to delegate power to local institutions. However, this policy was also tainted by something familiar in Sudanese history. It was the mode of rule adopted by British strategists to govern Sudan in the first place. This was an administrative mechanism characterised by a duality in law which translated into parallel structures, one governing semi-proletarianised in urban areas and another governing peasants in rural areas. It was a policy which enabled British colonial administrators to divide up the majority of peasants into hundreds of smaller minorities and effectively deny them the political rights to mobilise or act as a majority. Today, it pre-empts the creation of a true inclusive state and focuses on a mode of governance, which produces many smaller nation-states within the larger state.
THE LAND QUESTION
The land question is one of the most tested in Sudan. The citizenship question and the land question are related. The definition of citizenship is either based on ethnicity or it is based on residence. These two claims converge in the area of representation in the state as well as claims made to access land and resources. Those who claim citizenship also claim that access to land be based on ethnicity, which is defined as those who are indigenous to the country. Here, Sudan is like its neighbours. When one asks the question, ‘Who are these indigenes?’, the immediate answer is ‘those of us who have always been here’ – in other words, the natives. The second claim comes from migrant workers, immigrants, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). These groups claim that citizenship based on ethnicity is unacceptable. They claim that every citizen should have similar rights. Anyone with the remotest background on African history will notice something which is consistent throughout the continent. Migration has always taken place across Africa – both voluntary and forced. Africa is the original continent of migration. The colonial state was particularly harsh and discriminatory towards those who move out of the demarcated tribal homeland in search of better living conditions, e.g., migrant workers or those forcefully displaced or internally displaced persons. The cases of the Banyarwanda in Uganda and in eastern Congo, the Ghanaians in Nigeria and the Burkinabe in Côte d’Ivoire are illustrative of these tendencies in the post-colonial period. In each of the mentioned situations, violence has been the outcome of a conflict that pitted those defined as natives – or indigenes – to those branded as non-native or non-indigene. Both claims should not be dismissed uncritically but understood to be based on the history of state formation in Africa. The first demand is rooted in the colonial period, reproduced by the post-colonial state, and the other rooted in the concept of nation-state which provides for equal rights to all citizens, with its genesis in the French Revolution.
Today, Sudan has the largest number of internally displaced persons in the world. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre puts the estimates around 5 million (IDMC 2011). Khartoum continues its policy of ethnic cleansing in the disputed regions with its systematic policy of driving out the Dinkas and replacing them with Misseriya in Abyei. In Southern Kordofan, a report quotes key members of the National Congress Party (NCP) explicitly demanding the ethnic cleansing of the Nubian people from their homeland (Africa Confidential 2011). Land allocation for returning IDPs is crucial for survival. This has been a particularly difficult process in relation to access to land, a vital source of livelihood for most Southern Sudanese, pastoralists, agriculturalists and nomads. One report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council puts the challenge as follows:
‘Returnees are only allocated residential plots, but for their livelihoods they would also need agricultural land; however this is not being demarcated. The returnees have generally been told that they can cultivate any available land that they find. However, some returnees told IDMC that they would need permission from the local chiefs to acquire agricultural land; this would not be easy for those who were not returning to their original village (2011).’
Without resolving the crisis of citizenship, reforming land tenure laws and resolving the conflict in the border regions, South Sudan will remain in a perpetual state of war. Success hinges upon those unresolved, yet related, issues: citizenship and access to land, Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. These issues also hold the key to a successful nation-building project in the new republic.
ADDRESSING THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION
In his recent keynote address to the East African Legislative Assembly Symposium, Mamdani stated that citizenship in Africa has been based on two post-colonial traditions: territorial and ethnic. Mamdani pointed out Tanzania’s exception among the East African countries, a group which South Sudan might soon become a member of unless it decides to opt out. He said that ‘Tanzania is the only part of the region where a group has not been persecuted collectively – as a racial or an ethnic group. Tanzania is the East African antidote to Nigeria’ (Mamdani 2011). It can even be argued that Tanzania is not only the antidote to Nigeria but the antidote to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), where conflicts rage over the citizenship question.
South Sudan and North Sudan will need to develop a legal framework to address the question of citizenship, particularly the problem of nomads and pastoralists in Sudan and elsewhere to avoid stateless people throughout the region. It demands the political imagination of deemphasising descent and emphasising residence as the basis of a common citizenship. In the first instance, this is a shift from exclusion to inclusion, which broadens the definition of the political community. The need to reform citizenship laws in the post-CPA era was pointed out in a report by a scholar based at the Open Society Foundation who wrote that ‘Non-discrimination on ethnic, racial and religious grounds is the foundation for a stable state while exclusion and discrimination sow seeds of political unrest, economic collapse and war’ (Manby 2011).
One way out of the citizenship crisis is to change the criteria for how citizenship is defined, lest the political right of citizenship be turned into an ethnically defined membership to a native authority (Mamdani 2010). This challenge requires that a person‘s primary residence be used rather than the origin of the person, while incorporating other methods for assigning citizenship. By allowing consent and voluntary selection of where people want to live, violence can be preempted and the nation-building project given a chance to succeed.
The governments in Sudan and South Sudan do not necessarily have a monopoly over the instruments of war. In the south the government does not have the luxury to unilaterally impose. The alternative strategy is to compromise and build consensus around key fundamental issues and bring all key players into the fold. This strategy will be reflected in the new government that will be formed in the upcoming weeks. This creates the necessary environment for political imagination based on the condition that is imposed upon the Sudanese by history and politics. Looking ahead, there is a need to reform the colonial state in both its public and customary spheres, thereby changing how the mass of the peasantry is organised, institute land reform laws that reconcile the question of rights with that of justice and find a political solution to conflict in the disputed regions. The task ahead is not impossible. It simply demands that South Sudanese mobilise to build their country. It demands political imagination to go beyond the colonial state and build unity in diversity among the many nationalities in the South. The Russian-born economist Alexander Gerschenkron used to say that there are increasing disadvantages in developing late, but the exception was the advent of technology which could enable countries to catch up from way behind (Gerschenkron 1962). The strength of the South Sudanese society is capable of propelling the country forward if leadership is capable of creating an environment conducive to the task.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Christopher Zambakari is a candidate for a Law and Policy Doctorate (LPD) at the College of Professional Studies, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts.
* Zambakari expresses his gratitude for the support and constructive feedback received on this article from Tammy Michele Washington, Anschaire Aveved, Noah Japhet and Tijana Gligorevic.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
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The American debt ceiling debate
A symptom of class warfare
WHAT IS THE DEBT CEILING?
The United States public debt limit stands at US$14.3 trillion dollars. This was an increase from US$12.394 trillion by the Democratically-controlled Congress on 12 February 2010. This US$14.3 trillion represents the most amount of money that the Unites States government can borrow without receiving additional authorisation from the Congress. Under US law, when the national debt reaches a certain limit or ceiling, the Congress must authorise the raising of the debt to a higher limit in order for the government to continue to borrow more money. The United States’ actual accrued debt exceeded the US$14.3 trillion mark in May 2011. The current debt as of 27 July 2011 is US14,349,973,387.96.
The United States Department of the Treasury (equivalent to a Ministry of Finance) is authorised by Congress to issue such debt as is needed to fund government operations (per each federal budget) as long as the total debt does not exceed the statutory ceiling. Since 1979, the House of Representatives without debate has automatically raised the debt ceiling when passing a budget, except when the House votes to waive or repeal this rule. During the profligate military spending of the Reagan administration 1981-1988, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times. George W. Bush raised the debt ceiling seven times in order to fight against peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq. Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives the Congress the sole power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. More importantly, the 14th amendment of the US Constitution states simply that, ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States…..shall not be questioned.’
The Obama administration wants to raise the debt ceiling to US$16 trillion. When the US economy went into a recession in 2008, as a result of the financial crisis on Wall Street and the subsequent bailout it received, President Obama attempted to assist the real economy by increasing fiscal spending to help maintain levels of domestic demand. These acts coupled with formal inclusion (in the budget) of the US$10 billion per month that the US government is spending on two wars have increased the debt. These expenditures along with the maintenance of the tax cuts enacted by President Bush are the primary reasons why President Obama’s administration has sought an increase in the debt ceiling. However, for the first time in decades the conservative forces of the US are using this debt ceiling debate to create a false sense of fiscal crisis and thus, use the false fiscal crisis to pursue their desire to force greater cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These are entitlement programmes for the majority of the population, particular for the poor and elderly.
Working with Tim Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury, the government gave 2 August 2011 as the deadline to raise the ceiling, or otherwise the government, would not be able to pay its bills. While other options do exist (such as the president invoking the 14th Amendment to the Constitution), this doomsday scenario reflects how elements in the Democratic Party are also fuelling a false sense of crisis. Meanwhile all around the world this debate is awakening billions of people to the reality of the present state of the US economy. Thanks to this debate, the world is now discovering what the US economy is really about; not what they imagined it.
This false crisis serves to conceal the real issue: That the debt ceiling debate is really another gambit to step up class warfare against the majority of American citizens and the planet by the growing political power of the top one per cent of US society. Raising the debt ceiling has never been contingent on the cutting of social safety nets for the poor and elderly while the rich enjoy tax breaks, corporate welfare and subsidies. Neither has it been on the condition of ending funding for the kind of public investments needed to transform the outdated economic arrangements. The debt ceiling is about paying for spending already approved by previous congresses and presidents.
Wall Street and the bond rating agencies are threatening to downgrade the US triple AAA rating – should the US default on its debt – in order to pressure a deal between the Republicans and the Obama Whitehouse. Republicans want deep cuts in entitlement programmes for the poor, elderly and infirm, and everyone is talking about depressions and recessions, while the masters of the universe (the Wall Street barons) are doing just fine.
The debt ceiling debate is manufacturing a phony crisis because the question of the trillion dollar military budget is not being vigorously discussed. More importantly, the deficits increased because of the collapse of the housing bubble and the massive sums expended to rescue the financial institutions. The population needed to be educated on the scams of the banks and their responsibility for this economic crisis. Additionally, there is no serious discussion of having the incomes of billionaires taxed at the same rates as the wages of workers, just as are no talks about breaking up the banking and derivatives cartels. In order to suggest that the Democratic Party is considering an imposition of taxes on those who earn more than US$250,000, President Obama has been mentioning this figure in press conferences and in the media but there has been no serious effort to generate a comprehensive analysis and programmes to educate the working people on the need to tax the rich. A three per cent financial transaction tax (FTT) on America’s wealthy derivatives dealers in the US$600 trillion industry will go a long way to making a dent in the budget deficit. By focusing on re-election, the Obama administration seems to have no leverage or control, and is moving so far to the right that the poor are suffering even more. The progressive left must organise to set the agenda by educating the people on the dangers of wars and more militarism to save the rich.
CLASS WARFARE AND CONSERVATISM
In a normal economy, a country that is as indebted as the United States must find ways to balance its books and pay its debts. The rules that were established by the IMF that countries should live within their means do not apply to the United States because as the super power, its debt is denominated in dollars and the US can print its currency at will. This was not the original policy. Under Article 9 of the Agreement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the US is supposed to back up its currency with gold.
However, since 1971, the US dollar is supported by their military. Most countries keep their reserves in dollars so that the US can run up a huge debt, with the consequence of devaluing the hard-earned reserves of those countries with US dollar reserves. The Europeans attempted to get out of this domination of the dollar by establishing the euro. Presently, the US holds about 64 per cent of the international reserves and the Europeans hold about 20 per cent. In the past three years as the capitalist crisis deepened all over the world, European workers have been struggling against so-called austerity measures taken by their governments. These measures are imposed on working peoples so that banks and other speculators do not have to take the financial losses they have incurred. The public discussion of the Greek crisis and the attempts to salvage the situation has placed great strains on the euro. There are some in the US who would like the Euro to collapse, because its very existence threatens the status of the dollar as the international reserve currency.
However, just when the class struggle was getting hotter in Europe with workers marching onto the streets of Athens, Dublin and Madrid, the Chinese President Hu Jintao announced at the end of June that China would increase its support of the euro. The Chinese President pledged to spend billions of whatever it took to prop up the single currency: the euro, just as it is simultaneously propping up the dollar. With this assurance, on Thursday 21 July 2011, the leaders of the European Union announced a rescue plan to save the Greek economy. The real rescue here was that global capital (especially the French and German bankers), backed up by Chinese capitalists, who stepped in to ensure that capitalism would remain powerful as a force against the working class. The Chinese government holds US$1.8 trillion of the US debt and is a major creditor for the US capitalist classes.
THE BANKERS AND THEIR POLITICIANS
Because capital is global, the capitalists do not have loyalty to any one society. Through offshore banks and computer-generated movement of funds, these capitalists operate beyond the laws of governments. Prior to the present era of neoliberal globalisation, one could speak of national capitalists, but today, capital has only one loyalty: To save the system, regardless of the costs to humanity in famine, hunger, wars or destruction of the environment.
The outrage caused by the bank and mortgage fraud in 2008 had temporarily placed the bankers and hedge fund managers on the defensive. This was the period when the government had to bail them out and transferred over US$14 trillion to them. In this political climate, the Senate passed the Dodd-Frank amendment aimed at regulating the financial services industry.
The financial crisis of 2007–2010 that destroyed major securities firms, froze credit markets and eliminated US$26.4 trillion in stock market value around the globe led to widespread calls for changes to the financial regulatory system. In June 2009, President Obama introduced a proposal for a ‘sweeping overhaul of the United States financial regulatory system in 75 years.’ The subsequent law, The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on 21 July 2010.
Under this law, there was to be government oversight through:
1. The consolidation of regulatory agencies, elimination of the national thrift charter, and new oversight council to evaluate systemic risk
2. Comprehensive regulation of financial markets, including increased transparency of derivatives (bringing them onto exchanges)
3. Consumer protection reforms including a new consumer protection agency and uniform standards for ‘plain vanilla’ products as well as strengthened investor protection;
4. Tools for financial crises, including a ‘resolution regime’ complementing the existing Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) authority to allow for orderly winding down of bankrupt firms, and including a proposal that the Federal Reserve (the ‘Fed’) receive authorisation from the Treasury for extensions of credit in ‘unusual or exigent circumstances’
5. Various measures aimed at increasing international standards and cooperation, including in this section were proposals related to improved accounting and tightened regulation of credit rating agencies.
These stipulations were not yet signed when the bankers went into overdrive and spent millions on lobbyists to undermine and whittle away the legislation. The bankers regrouped and supported the most conservative sections of the US society, and ensured the victory of nearly 100 new conservative members of Congress in November 2010, with the majority propped up by the Tea Party. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell stated that the number one task of the new Congress was to ensure that Barack Obama was not re-elected.
The much publicised crisis about the debt ceiling championed by the Republican law makers is not just a tool to deepen the economic crisis with the aim of dashing Obama’s re-election bid. By using as bargaining chips in the debt ceiling debate corporate welfare, tax protection for Wall Street and the wealthy, many of the Republican law makers have given the American people no reason to doubt that they are errand men and women for bankers and corporations. It was these same Republican law-makers who frustrated Obama’s appointment of Elizabeth Warren as head of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The fact that Warren’s credentials presented her as someone who would be tough on the criminal activities of banks that prey on American consumers made the Republican lawmakers block her confirmation for the job.
THE TIMIDITY OF OBAMA
Obama has refused to lead and expose the criminal activities of the banks. During the Savings and Loans Crisis of the 1990s, hundreds of bankers were arrested, but in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse, only Bernard Madoff and a few underlings were sent to jail. The banks had been involved in massive fraud but they operate as a law unto themselves. The Justice Department under Obama continued the traditions of the Clinton administration – being deferential to the banks and agreeing that the banks could police themselves for fraud. With the intense campaigning by the banks against the Dodd-Frank legislation, the Obama administration has now retreated on most of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank legislation. Obama sent a signal of his surrender to Wall Street when he nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as the head of CFPB instead of Elizabeth Warren, who served as Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The central mission of the CFPB, which resulted from the Dodd-Frank act and began operation on 21 July 2011, is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans – whether they were applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products. Warren had worked hard for the establishment of this agency to oversee the banks.
Earlier, after Obama gave in to the opposition from the conservative lawmakers opposed to true financial reform in Congress, in order to make sure that Wall Street received the message that he is not their enemy, Obama appointed William Daley as his chief of staff. Daley came directly from J. P. Morgan Chase & Co, where he worked closely with JPM Chase’s chief executive officer, Jamie Dimon, who is competing to be known as the number one banker internationally.
Obama then appointed the CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, to lead a new White House panel, The President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, to advise the government on how to help American companies create more jobs. The New York Times, on January 21, 2011 had the headline ‘Obama Sends Pro-Business Signal With Adviser Choice.’ This appointment by Obama was a direct slap in the face of the working class because GE had become central to the financial services industry and received a bailout. GE also admitted that it did not pay any federal corporate taxes in recent years, outsourced jobs overseas and become a leading supporter of policies enabling the growth of speculative markets internationally. The appointment of Immelt was the clearest sign of Obama’s capitulation to the masters of the universe. A clear position on new jobs for a post-industrial society must come from the progressive sections of society because Obama and his advisers have shown that the conditions of the majority is not their primary focus.
THE BANKERS AND WALL STREET – ARE THEY UNTOUCHABLE?
As the economic crisis deepened for the majority of the citizens of the world, the American citizens began to feel the pain as state and city governments laid off workers, closed schools, hospitals and slashed budgets in order to stay afloat. Balanced budget provisions requiring states not spend more than they earn has been added to all of the states in the US (except Vermont). However, the state governments around the country were beholden to capital and preferred to attack the living standards of workers rather than imposing taxes on the very wealthy. The belief in trickledown economics meant that the society believed that the richer the rich became the better for society. So, for example, the State of New York presently collects a very small tax on each stock transfer, but then rebates the tax (which now in excess of US$16 billion annually) back to Wall Street speculators. The Stock Transfer Tax is hardly noticeable to anyone who invests in Wall Street, primarily hitting those who treat the stock markets as casinos, making hundreds of trades daily. This same New York state government that remits US$16 billion annually to the speculators is now involved in massive cuts in the state budget.
Like the federal government, New York and many other states work on behalf of major corporations by providing subsidies to them. The biggest subsidy is through the spending of billions to defend the interests of capital. This is on top of the billions of dollars in subsidies to the fossil fuel companies that are engaged in destroying the environment. The Obama administration has failed to listen to sections of the peace and justice movement that are calling for a financial transaction tax and for a major cut in the military budget. In the negotiations between the Republicans and the Democrats over the debt ceiling, the Obama administration suggested that it would save US$1 trillion over the next ten years by ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Republicans rightly called this a gimmick because the ruling class in the United States knows that the real power of the US rests on the assumed power of the military. Hence, the military budget of over a trillion dollars is sacrosanct. There are numerous projects that can be slashed right away in the military/financial sector, but the Obama administration sent out word to its supporters that raising issues such as slashing the trillion dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jet project would harm the Obama administration with independents. This military toy being produced by Lockheed Martin is projected to cost nearly a trillion dollars including development, production and support costs.
Instead of heeding the warnings of the workers of the country who were protesting against the capitalists, Obama sought to appease the capitalists. While workers in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio were fighting to save their livelihoods, Obama established what he termed ‘bipartisan negotiations’ to reach an agreement with the Republican leadership in an effort to stitch together a band aid solution to the major deficit question. Instead of taking a vigorous lead to fully clarify to the people the real consequences of the wars and the subsidies to the financial masters of the universe, Obama sought an agreement with the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The debate about the ceiling was unnecessarily linked to the larger issue about slashing the federal budget. Once the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in November 2010, there has been a concerted effort to impose the ideas of Ayn Rand. These ideas hold that the rich must not be taxed because they create wealth and that there should be a reduction in the role of government.
The Republicans believed in a cuts-only approach, i.e. cut Social Security, cut Medicaid and cut Medicare. Before the implosion of Wall Street in 2008, there had been a big push by former President George W. Bush to privatise Social Security and to take this entitlement away from the people. This position of attacking the living standards of the working people became clear when the Republicans refused to discuss the question of taxation on the rich or closing loopholes where they evade paying taxes.
There is no need to link the budget debates to the debt ceiling legislation, but President Obama entered into negotiations with the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, so that he could look good to Wall Street. After months of secret negotiations, Obama agreed on making spending cuts to entitlements. But this was not enough. A charade of negotiations ensued for a month whereby the Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, set the date of 2 August 2011 as the date where the debt ceiling had to be raised or the US would default on its debt.
As the 2 August 2011 deadline neared, Tim Geithner gave another date saying that by July 22, Congress had to have passed debt ceiling legislation so that the legislation could go through the Senate and be on the desk of the President by August 2. That July 22 date passed and as the reality of this game became clearer, the US bond rating agencies entered the discussion indicating that the credit rating of the United States would be downgraded if there was no agreement. This is the same bond rating agency that had given excellent ratings to Lehman Brothers and AIG in 2008. It is the same group that props up the activities of the banks and financiers.
BRINKMANSHIP AND CLASS WARFARE
Before the July 22 deadline, the various Democratic Party plans could be summed up as follows:
Cut US$2.7 trillion in federal spending and raise the debt limit by US$2.4 trillion in one step – enough borrowing authority to meet Obama's bottom-line demand. The cuts include US$1.2 trillion from across a range of hundreds of government programs and US$1 trillion in savings assumed to derive from the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There was very little difference between the Democratic plan and that of the Republicans. The major difference was that instead of raising the debt limit by US$2.4 trillion in one go, the Republicans wanted the limit for US$1.2 trillion for six months, and requiring that in another six months (in the middle of the Presidential campaign) Obama and the Democrats would to go back to the Congress for another long drawn out debate on the debt limit.
On Monday night, 25 July 2011 three days after Geithner sent the warning of the need for a Congressional vote, President Barack Obama addressed the US public to alert them to the state of the negotiations.
In his 15 minute speech outlining the dividing lines between the Republicans and the Democrats, he said, ‘The first approach says, let's live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending. Let's cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Let's cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars. Let's cut out waste and fraud in health care programs like Medicare. And at the same time, let's make modest adjustments so that Medicare is still there for future generations. Finally, let's ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their breaks in the tax code and special deductions.’
All the scare talk about the government not being able to send out social security cheques if there was no deal was being promoted in the media despite the reality that social security is in the black and not in the red. The question of the social security cheques going out was not the real issue. The real issue was the fact that Obama and the leaders of the Senate had conceded on all of the points of the Republicans (cutting entitlement programmes), if they agreed to the debt ceiling extension and postpone the debate until after 2012.
In short, there has been a postponement of the real discussions on alternatives: Cutting the military budget, arresting the fraudsters of Wall Street and taxing the rich.
Obama again failed to lead and was instead begging.
But by this time, the begging was too late. The charade and theatre of the US debt ceiling debate had reached every nook and cranny of the globe. Citizens all over the world were now paying attention and were not waiting for the bond rating agencies to make decisions about their future relationship to the US dollar.
The Republican Speaker, John Boehner, emboldened by the timidity of Obama rejected compromise and requested prime time billing, the same as that received by the President of the United States. The corporate media obliged and the Speaker reiterated the Ayn Rand platform of the Tea Party forces with the same old budget proposals. The Republicans called their plan,’cut, cap and balance.’
Robert Greenstein, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said that the proposal of Boehner was an extension of class warfare because House Speaker Boehner’s New Budget Proposal ‘would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.’
Greenstein added that:
‘To secure US$1.5 trillion in entitlement savings over the next ten years would require draconian policy changes. Policymakers would essentially have three choices: 1) cut Social Security and Medicare benefits heavily for current retirees, something that all budget plans from both parties (including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan) have ruled out; 2) repeal the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansions while retaining its measures that cut Medicare payments and raise tax revenues, even though Republicans seek to repeal many of those measures as well; or 3) eviscerate the safety net for low-income children, parents, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. There is no other plausible way to get US$1.5 trillion in entitlement cuts in the next ten years.’
The Boehner plan contains no tax increases. The entire US$1.8 trillion would come from budget cuts.
Meanwhile the dithering and brinksmanship continued without a real discussion of alternatives. Serious economists such as Michael Hudson and Paul Krugman dismissed the games that were being played and said that there would be a deal. The debt ceiling would be raised one way or another.
For the working people, the question was how much the deal would intensify their pain. Instead of openly saying that the role of government is to defend the rich, there is the language of austerity. This calls for the rolling back of the social democratic gains of the working peoples since 1935 FDR legislative era, with the cutting back of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Internationally and locally, capital is forcing down wages. Today in the United States there is an attack on collective bargaining and an outright effort to destroy trade unions. The capitalists are outsourcing jobs (which results in a labour surplus and lower wages), and driving up the prices of food and energy by depreciating the dollar.
GLOBAL CAPITALISM AND THE CHOICES FOR HUMANS
When it is said that capitalism is in crisis, it needs to be underlined that this crisis is multifaceted. It is not only a crisis of accumulation. This crisis manifests itself in the food crisis, the financial crisis, the environmental crisis and an intellectual crisis. This last point means that in debates about austerity and the environment some sections of the left want the discussion to remain within the confines of the capitalist system. It is only from some sections of the environmental justice movement where there is awareness that there must be system change if the planet is to be saved.
Capitalism is now global and the capitalists are not worried by the debates in the US. They are global until there is a need for the socialisation of losses as when they called on the government to bail them out in 2008. The capitalists no longer rely on national armies because they have a vast army of private contractors. Recently, the head of Blackwater (now called Xe) announced from the United Arab Emirates the global capabilities of their military forces for hire. When the children of the workers in the regular army refuse to come out to put down protest of workers, the bankers will deploy their private armies. The capitalists do not want regulation of any kind, only regulations against workers.
In fact, Moody’s, one of the bond rating agencies, called for an unlimited debt ceiling for the United States. The capitalists will move their resources around the world and will ensure that governments do their bidding. Working people all over the world are resisting, from Cairo in Egypt to Athens in Greece to Wisconsin in the US. The capitalists will pressure the US government the same way that they have pressured the governments in all other parts of the world to do their bidding.
In this present tussle between global capital and the international working classes, the Chinese capitalists are becoming the arbiters in throwing their weight behind capitalism internationally. In the global class divide, sections of the Chinese leaders are working for a three-tiered international currency system. Hence, until that moment when the Renminbi will be on par with the dollar and the Euro, the Chinese capitalists will prop up the European and US bankers and at the same time prop up the dollar and the euro. Yet, all of these calculations on the future of capital will be affected by the laws of unforeseen circumstances. Capitalism is now global but reaction and counter-revolution takes place in national boundaries. Just as how one gun man can be inspired by conservative ideas to kill dozens in Norway, so the conservatives in the US want war. These yearnings for war will have serious consequences for humanity. It was not insignificant that this Norwegian neo-conservative was calling for global war to save white supremacy.
The peace movement internationally must intensify their efforts to dismantle capitalism. President Obama is playing games in order to be re-elected. But the capitalist crisis is not waiting for a US election. Moreover, what will be the use of being re-elected in order to do the bidding of capital? The Wall Street magnates will want Obama re-elected only because his face will give capital the legitimacy to enact ‘austerity measures’. The peace and justice forces must intensify their campaigns against capitalism and war internationally. Peace and justice forces must remember that wars are always the last resort to ensure that the working classes kill each other.
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* Horace Campbell is professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Free trade is not what Africa needs, Mr Cameron
On his trip to South Africa in July, David Cameron talked of the need to go beyond debt cancellation and aid ‘to make African free trade the common purpose of the continent’. He lamented there has never once been ‘a march or a concert to call for…an African free trade area’. He pointed to the need for more inter-African trade to facilitate the growth that would mean ‘businesses growing, new jobs on offer, families on the up, living standards transformed’.
Cameron's vision is far from ‘fresh’, and is certainly not a radical extension of the anti-poverty agenda that led to a movement of millions of people calling for debt justice and the meeting of long overdue aid commitments. He repeats an orthodoxy that says the interests of the corporate delegates accompanying Cameron are the same as the interests of ordinary people across the African continent.
Nearly three years into a global crisis caused by unbridled financial freedom, this orthodoxy should be consigned to the dustbin of history. In 2003, Cameron would have been one of the MPs lobbied by 10,000 trade justice campaigners, while in 2005 he can hardly fail to remember the 250,000 people gathered in Edinburgh making the same demand. The debt and trade justice movements have never been simply arguments for more aid, but for a radical restructuring of the global economy and financial sector. They are all about enabling Africa to use its own resources for its own benefit - to genuinely enable countries to outgrow aid dependence.
The problem is that this agenda doesn't fit with Cameron's ‘free trade’ ideology, or the interests of his delegation, which includes companies such as Barclays, G4S, Vodafone, Diageo and PricewaterhouseCoopers. So the premise of Cameron's article is to make it appear that there is only one possible way forward - free trade - and all right-thinking people who care about poverty and inequality must support this agenda.
But trade on the wrong terms has been of no benefit to Africa - rather it has ripped open markets, destroyed infant industries, undermined control of food production, and exploited resources. It is the opposite of what Africa needs.
Multinational companies operating in Africa are nothing new. According to Global Financial Integrity, between 1970 and 2008, Africa lost $850bn to $1.8tn in ‘illicit financial outflows’, most importantly forgone tax paid by corporations. Such a loss of capital led to the need for countries to borrow, in turn leading to a debt crisis during which capital poured out of the continent and into the coffers of rich countries.
Today, the debt of sub-Saharan Africa still stands at nearly $200-billion. Aid now accounts for $47-billion, though debt repayments still cost $18-billion every year, while much of the aid itself comes in the form of new loans or is simply handed to western corporations working in the country concerned.
Cameron says economic growth ‘will lift tens of millions out of poverty in the long run’ but, again, it depends what sort of growth. Growth in recent years, in an environment where corporations are increasingly free to go where they like when they like, has become ever less effective at fighting poverty, and has made the world much less equal. The New Economics Foundation has shown that in the 1990s, for every $100 worth of growth in the world's income per person, just $0.60 contributed to reducing poverty for those living on less than a dollar a day.
Cameron is right that the idea of more inter-African trade is vitally important. But for years, inter-African trade has been discouraged by rich countries and a global trading system that uses Africa as a source of primary commodities for growth elsewhere. For example, European Union attempts to foist Economic Partnership Agreements on African countries give preferential access to European companies, thereby thwarting African attempts at integration.
There are clear reasons why ‘for much of the continent it is easier to trade with Europe or America than it is to trade with a neighbour’, and it has little to do with ‘red tape’.
Africa has much to learn from South Korea, the model Cameron rather surprisingly raises. South Korea used a range of government interventions that are heretical in the free trade religion.
African prosperity relies on a wholesale rejection of the western ‘free trade’ model. It means protecting industries, developing alternative and complementary means of trading, control of food production and banking, progressive tax structures, controlled use of savings, and strong regulation to ensure trade and investment really benefits people. This is unlikely to be the view of most of Cameron's corporate partners - if it was we would never have needed to march for justice in the first place.
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* Nick Dearden is director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign.
* This article first appeared in The Guardian
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Is this Britain’s Watergate moment?
Many Western governments have special programmes through which they invite African journalists to go to Western countries to observe how ‘a free press works’, so that they can return home and run a ‘free press’ there. But Western governments are not particularly enamoured of the ‘free press’ themselves. I have no doubt that if President Richard Nixon had had the power to close the Washington Post down in 1972–74, he would have done so. But the US constitution prevented him from touching the paper.
And currently in Britain, we are witnessing the unravelling of a story that reveals the ends to which Prime Minister David Cameron – and other Prime Ministers before him – went to court the biggest press mogul in Britain, Rupert Murdoch, so that he would use his media organs to support them. Cameron employed as his communications director a journalist, Andy Coulson, who had resigned from Murdoch's biggest-selling newspaper in the UK, the News of the World. Murdoch's former employees were also littered in the press section of the Metropolitan Police. The murky evidence uncovered so far shows that British politicians have very little right to hold up the British press as a paragon of virtue whose methods should be copied by African journalists.
But let's begin in the United States. In 1972, a group of criminals, some of whom had, in the past, worked for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) on assignments involving ‘dirty tricks’, were caught carrying out a burglary in the offices of the Democratic Party’s National Convention, located at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC. They were attempting to plant listening devices – or bug – the offices of the (then) US opposition party.
When the ‘plumbers’ (as they became known) were taken to court, the contents of their pockets were examined. A Washington Post reporter in the court recorded in his notebook the contact phone numbers found on the leader of the group. Back in his office, he called the numbers. One was a White House number. The other led to the CIA.
From that moment on, two star reporters of the Washington Post, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, relentlessly pursued the story of how it was that common burglars had been found to be in possession of the telephone numbers of such key institutions. The reporters were right to be suspicious. It turned out that the ‘plumbers’ were working for President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, chair of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). Mitchell’s committee wanted to know the Democratic Party’s strategy for the coming election so as to evolve counter-strategies to defeat the Democrats. Planting listening devices in the offices of the opposition was illegal, but that did not deter CREEP.
Now, when the plumbers were caught, Nixon and Mitchell used every means available to them to try to cover up the crime. Mitchell even threatened to put the ‘tits’ of the publisher of the Washington Post, Katherine Graham, in a vice and press it hard if one story was published! However, the Washington Post was not intimidated and assisted by a whistleblower called ‘Deep Throat’, its two reporters were able, doggedly, to uncover and report on the cover-up. On 8 August 1974, Nixon resigned, caught in the web of lies and illegalities that entangled him as he and his team tried to cover-up the burglary.
In recent days, some Britons, living through events that bring Watergate to mind, have been wondering whether this is Britain’s ‘Watergate moment’. As a result of a scandal resulting from the hacking of mobile phones by the News of the World newspaper, the communications director of the prime minister, Andy Coulson, resigned in January 2011. He resigned because he was editor of the News of the World when the scandal first broke, and had to leave the paper. But despite being warned against doing so, Cameron brought Coulson into his office to work for him, as leader of the Conservative opposition. Then when Cameron won the election, he took Coulson along to No. 10 Downing Street as the government’s information supremo. However, the phone-hacking allegations didn’t die but rather gathered momentum, and Coulson resigned. (The equivalent resignation in the Watergate scandal would be that of either John Erlichman or H.R. Haldeman.)
And then, in the wake of the same scandal, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) Sir Paul Stephenson also resigned (an act equivalent in Watergate terms to the resignation of John Mitchell?). Sir Paul Stephenson’s head rolled because it had become clear that Scotland Yard had cultivated a rather ‘cosy’ relationship with the News of the World, which led to a situation that enabled the News of the World to escape lightly when some of its personnel were caught carrying out illegal phone-hacking. Only one reporter and the private investigator he used were jailed, while the police ignored evidence – amounting to 11,000 pages – that was collected from the private investigator. Nearly 4,000 people were on the private investigator’s list, but the police only informed a handful of them that their phones might have been hacked. So, more heads rolled: Assistant Commissioner of Police John Yates, who, in his own words, conducted a ‘crap review’ of the mountain of evidence gathered on phone-hacking, followed his boss and resigned.
Another big police resignation is expected soon. He is the Metropolitan Police’s communications director, Dick Ferdocio, who admitted to a Parliamentary Select Committee that 10 out of the 45 press office staff working under him used to work at the News of the World. He also admitted that he never asked a former deputy editor of the paper, Neil Wallis, about phone hacking before employing Wallis as a part-time consultant. Ferdocio is currently under official investigation and only a miracle can save his job.
Meanwhile, the toll of job losses rose: as the scandal got nearer the top of his organisation, the owner of the News of the World, Rupert Murdoch, closed down the paper, throwing 200 people out of their jobs. His hope must have been that its closure would distance him from the paper’s unsavoury methods. But Murdoch’s gesture became meaningless when he stuck loyally by Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International (the parent company of the News of the World). Brooks had been editor of Murdoch’s News of the World at the time of the phone-hacking, before moving to its tabloid sister, the Sun.
Murdoch refused to accept Rebekah Brooks’s resignation. But he finally had to let her go, as the police arrested her and formally quizzed about the phone-hacking. Meanwhile, Murdoch and his son, James, chair of News International, were summoned to appear before one of the two select committees of the House of Commons dealing with the phone-hacking. At first, Murdoch appeared to be trying to hide behind his American citizenship to avoid appearing before the parliamentary committee. But he was served with a summons by the office of the Parliament’s ‘serjeant-at-arms’ which, if ignored, could have led to his arrest and imprisonment (if Parliament so decided) in an ancient dungeon beneath the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.
So Murdoch and his son finally appeared before Parliament. Murdoch confessed to the parliamentary committee that it was ‘the most humble day’ of his life. In answer to questions, he told the committee that he deeply regretted the methods of the News of the World. He didn’t know it was doing such things, for he employed 53,000 people around the world and did not know about everything they did. The News of the World operation amounted to only 1 per cent of his business, he said.
Murdoch was being clinically grilled when, ironically, he was given a respite by a man filled with hostility, who attacked him physically. Before anyone could intervene, this man had smeared Murdoch’s face with a pie made of shaving foam. What the man did not anticipate were the lightning reflexes of Murdoch’s Chinese wife, Wendi Deng. She had been sitting quietly behind her husband, and when she saw him being attacked, she leapt from her seat and hit out at the man with her open hand – quite hard!
The man was taken away by the police. Deng calmly wiped the foam from her husband’s face. Having regained his composure, Murdoch continued his evidence, albeit with his smeared jacket off. He didn’t comment on the incident, but if his appearance was ‘the humblest day of his life’, then the attack must have counted as one of ‘the most frightening’ days of his life. The attack, however, swung public sympathy to his side. The British media loved his wife’s rush to his defence. They heaped praises on her, calling her a ‘Crouching Tiger’ (after the thrilling Chinese kung-fu film, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’.) The heat of publicity moved from Murdoch to his wife, and it was all positive.
No such luck for Murdoch’s son, James. He is likely to be recalled before the parliamentary committee because two of his ex-employees, a former News of the World editor and the paper’s former legal director, have fingered him as having been ‘mistaken’ when he told the parliamentary committee that he had not been told of a particularly damaging email, which showed that he was aware of what was going on. If the committee concludes that he misled it, he could be penalised with a fine or imprisonment.
Prime Minister Cameron is also facing tremendous pressure from the Labour opposition as a result of his employment of Andy Coulson, a man who had resigned as editor of the News of the World because the paper had hacked phones under his watch. Cameron has set up two committees to investigate the scandal and its implications for relations between the media and politicians generally. But Labour politicians are not allowing any opportunity to pass without pointing to his ‘lack of judgment’ in appointing Andy Coulson. They keep reminding the prime minister that he should have known that Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World at the time the scandal broke – only to become, a short time later, Cameron’s director of communications.
Labour MPs keep asking Cameron the deadly ‘Watergate question’: ‘What did you know about the hacking of telephones under Mt Coulson, and when did you know it?’
Another deadly question is: ‘You saw News International personnel many times whilst your government was considering whether to allow News International to acquire the majority shareholding in BSkyB, a company in which it currently holds only a minority of the shares. Did you discuss the takeover bid with them?’
Cameron’s answer to the second question is that he did not discuss any ‘inappropriate’ issue with the News International personnel he met. But Labour is not impressed – what is ‘appropriate’ and what is ‘inappropriate’? Isn’t Cameron acting like a judge and jury in his own case?
Each passing day brings new revelations which indicate that the furore over phone-hacking is far from over and may in fact extend to other forms of information purloining, such as ‘blagging’ (pretending to be someone else, so as to get banks or other organisations to divulge a person’s confidential personal information) and ‘pinging’ (paying bent police officers to trace the whereabouts of an individual from the person’s mobile phone).
One unmistakable effect the scandal has had upon the British body politic is that in future politicians will think twice before employing ‘smart Alec’ publicists to deliver their message to the electorate. For the methods that give such ‘smart Alec’ publicists their prowess may not necessarily work to the good of clean, open government.
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* Cameron Duodu is a writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The case for opening SADC borders
At the end of July 2011, the South African government plans to lift the moratorium on deportations to Zimbabwe and will probably start the deportation of all undocumented Zimbabweans living in South Africa.
Given the Minister of Home Affair's stated intent to begin ridding the country of undocumented people from other African countries after she is finished with Zimbabweans, it is more than likely that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is going to intensify its crackdown on all undocumented people after July 2011.
The irony is that in certain cases, the DHA is to blame for undocumented people in the country. A recent research study undertaken by the People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (Passop) shows that scores of people are turned away on a daily basis from the Refugee Reception Office (RRO) in Cape Town, “rendering them undocumented through no fault of their own.”
Passop monitored the RRO for two weeks between March 28, and April 8, 2011. During this period, 1,659 people were tuned away for various reasons. About 365 people were turned away because there were no forms for them and 363 people were turned away due to border pass issues. Some people were turned away because 1) there were too many people to serve that day, 2) they had no money to bribe officials, 3) they were at the wrong office, or 4) for visiting the RRO on a wrong ‘nationality day’.
It is partly due to the factors highlighted above that the Passop report argues that the RRO in Cape Town is operating “under capacity” in comparison to the numbers of people applying for papers. Instead of penalizing immigrants for something that is beyond their control, the South African government ought to consider extending the concept of the Zimbabwe Dispensation Project (ZDP) to other foreign nationals from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The SADC region is moving towards a free trade area. Research shows that the opening up of national economies has largely been accompanied by the increased mobility of labour across borders.
Interestingly, the proposed Protocol on the Free Movement of People in the SADC of 1995 had initially also put forward an “open borders” concept, i.e. SADC citizens having free movement within SADC.
Apart from the fact that the SADC region is moving towards a free trade area, it is worth keeping in mind that immigrants from the SADC countries helped build the South African economy. Research also shows that South African mines (and the South African agricultural industry) depended on cheap foreign labour in order to make profits. In fact, “mining has consistently been one of South Africa's most important industries, one of its biggest employers and the driving force of its industrial economy,” contends Jonathan Crush, the director of the Southern African Migration Programme (SAMP).
SAMP research further shows that throughout the 20th century, at least 40 percent of the mine workforce was non-South African. A research paper published by the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) in 2005 points out that by 1970, there were over 260,000 male labour migrants on South African mines. Put differently, this means that hundreds of thousands of male migrants from the SADC countries have spent the greater parts of their working lives in South Africa, argues Crush. These workers came from Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Tanzania.
It was in recognition of this fact in 1995 that the post-apartheid South African government offered permanent residence to mineworkers from outside of the country who had been working on the mines since 1986.
Crush reports that 26,440 miners applied for permanent residence, but points out that the reason a small number of miners applied was twofold.
Firstly, miners were poorly informed about the first amnesty and had insufficient time to make their applications.
Secondly, the fact that the miners had to have served 10 years to apply is unjust given the 5-year limitation on SADC country citizens applying for permanent residence. If all miners were to apply for a reopened amnesty, the results would be startling. Some 150,000 non-South African miners would be eligible.
Additionally, the GCIM’s research paper reveals that many adults in SADC countries have either parents or grandparents who have worked in South Africa in the past. “In every case, nearly a quarter or more people have grandparents who had worked in South Africa…About a quarter of the people in Namibia and Zimbabwe have parents who had worked in South Africa. So did 41% of Batswana, 54% of Mozambicans and 83% of Basotho.”
It is this history that compels me to argue that the South African government ought to consider extending the concept of the ZDP to other foreign nationals from the SADC region.
Based on the foregoing, people from the SADC countries have political grounds to apply for South African papers that allow them to work and live in this country. Their fathers and grandfathers, after all, were exploited, like all blacks in this country, by a white supremacist regime in order to build the South African economy. In some cases, their fathers and grandfathers paid the ultimate price, dying from pneumonia and other lung diseases on the South African mines.
Perhaps it is worth noting that many people in the SADC region live in poverty and view South Africa as a place with many economic opportunities. Although South Africa has its own problems and challenges, the truth of the matter is that South Africa is the economic powerhouse in the region (some might argue on the whole continent). In a policy brief [PDF] written for the Economic Justice Network, Dale McKinley argues that SADC member states have a population of about 250 million people and a combined GDP of some US$432bn - 65 percent of which comes from South Africa alone.
Needless to point out, South Africa became the regional economic powerhouse that it is today partly on the backs of immigrant labourers from the SADC who helped build the country’s economy. Is it unreasonable for people to want to share in the fruits of what they helped create?
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* This article first appeared on the South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS).
* Mandisi Majavu is an independent researcher and a volunteer at People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (Passop).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
An African response to ‘There is no alternative’
Revolutions from Tunis to Ouagadougou
Guy Marius Sagna
One of the themes discussed at a meeting of young Pan-African revolutionaries in Dakar on May 28 was ‘towards a new wave of struggles for a democratic people’s liberation’. Since then, the people of Tunisia and Egypt have taken their struggle to greater heights by chasing away the powers that had sold out to imperialism, whose despotism the Western imperialist media were pretending to discover.
The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions are simultaneously an incomplete achievement and another step in a long process still underway in other African and Arab countries. A process that is taking root against the backdrop of the re-colonisation of the continent and that nourishes itself on the various struggles taking place across the continent.
THE DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES OF SUBMITTING TO ‘TINA’
Since the defeat of the Soviet Union three decades ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the negative impact on anti-imperialist organisations, the dominant ideology has insisted that there was no alternative to semi-colonialism, no alternative to the diktats of the IMF and the World Bank. There is no alternative to TINA.
TINA was the nickname of the ‘end of history’ theory so dear to Francis Fukuyama. But the problem lies not just in the excessive power of think tanks, which routinely mistake their desires for reality. It is compounded by the fact that semi-colonised people tend to interiorise these ideas adopted by the different African factions that are part of the Bretton Woods consensus, causing untold damage for the people of their countries. Suddenly, the anti-imperialist discourse became old fashioned. Anti-imperialist organisations began to splinter between those who decided to adapt and those who held out and marginalised themselves in electoral terms. And the people were left to choose between the two: Either dismiss the arguments of the anti-imperialists as absurd or realise that it is the actions of the IMF, the World Bank and our semi-colonial rulers that are absurd.
Should one stay the course or change it? Our peoples have enough common sense to understand that things have to change. Except that CHANGE for them primarily means CHANGING the regime. And so we have seen governments change in Cape Verde, Benin, Mali and Senegal. The principle of the handover of power was won at a high cost and it took concerted struggle to put an end to military and civilian one party rule. But the imperialists had no problem in adapting to this development.
The alternation of Democrats and Republicans in the United States, the Right and Social Democracy in France has allowed the capitalist nature of all these regimes to remain intact, despite minor reforms. So too, alternation was used to co-opt revolutions and maintain their imperialist exploitation of our countries. Regimes change but the reality becomes harder and harder – 0.5 per cent of humanity own 36 per cent of global wealth, 55 per cent survive on just 2 per cent. Thus, ‘a capitalist humanity means massive misery and homeopathic wealth!’ This results in emigration by boats, a food crisis, unemployment, crisis in all sectors, education, sanitation, agriculture…
THE SOUTH AMERICAN WIND BLOWING OVER AFRICA
The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions are in fact anti-systemic movements along the lines of the Bolivarian, South American leftwing movements, which took their inspiration from Cuba to consolidate democratic and anti-liberal advances. Movements against a system that oppresses peoples and the working class in the Global South. They demand an alternative to the ongoing looting of their countries. Looting means misery for the people of the South but allows the North, severely affected by the economic crisis to maintain an acceptable lifestyle for its bourgeoisie. It allows the siphoning of 36 per cent of global wealth into the hands of 0.5 per cent of humanity.
These same neoliberal policies have fuelled the anger of the people of Iceland, Greece and Spain who chant: ‘We are not goods to be manipulated by politicians and “banksters”.’ Now it’s the Portuguese who are worried that it’s their turn to feel the IMF heat. So much misery for so many people cannot be sustained for 908 years. A situation that inevitably leads to Robespierre’s famous conclusion: ‘When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people the most sacred and most indispensable of duties.’
The developments in Tunisia and Egypt, once touted by think tanks as model nations and success stories, are a searing refutation of neo-liberal dogma and a premonition for other countries in the South where calls for Blaise Compaore to leave are reminiscent of the slogans demanding the ouster of Ben Ali and Mubarak.
‘WADE OUT!’ OR HOW TO AVOID A REMAKE OF SENEGAL 2000
Senegalese internet users were vocal in their denunciation of Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of ‘Francafrique’, who seemed to paving the way for a dynastic succession at the G8 summit in Deauville: ‘The Senegalese speak with one voice: We don’t want the return of Faidherbe. Our country will never again be a colony or province of France. Papa President and Uncle Sarkozy are powerless. You had better abandon your despicable project and leave Senegal in peace.’
Never again?! Then why do we have ‘Orange’ instead of ‘SN Alize’ on our mobiles? Why is the national water company called Sde instead of Sonees? Why is the national railway company SNCF being called ‘Transrail’? Why has Sonacos been replaced by Suneor? And why is our currency CFA – which means ‘French colony in Africa’? Who guarantees the CFA? Senegal doesn’t need to relapse into the status of a French colony or province – it has never stopped being one! Nonetheless, the anger on Senegalese websites is a legitimate response to Wade’s misguided and monarchist ambitions.
Things are reaching boiling point in Senegal. Given the multidimensional crisis we face today, where the country is headed has become a crucial question. Every sector is in crisis – education, health, agriculture, land, food, energy, governance and financial scandals, the auctioning of our resources – we have a political and a moral crisis… And the Senegalese, like other peoples, simply refuse to accept the unacceptable.
This refusal – even if unconscious – to submit to TINA has taken several forms and leading the struggle are CPC, the main opposition party which has now become CPA, the Front Siggil Senegal and Benno which regroups the unions of teachers and health workers. The writing is on the wall – mass emigration on rickety boats, food riots, flooding in the suburbs, the postponement of elections, the scandals around the Thies project and Anoci (National Agency of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference headed by the president’s son Karim Wade), the attack against Talla Sylla (a young opposition leader) and journalists, the destruction of press offices, the revolt of the street vendors and the political impasse which ended in an opposition boycott of the 2007 legislative elections – and the National Conference of Senegal (ANS) was born.
This political impasse is not just due to an absence of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition. It is also a result of the impotence of Social Democracy as a vehicle of Senegalese political opposition to the extent that sometimes the only opposition to the PDS (the ruling party) was the PDS (Idrissa Seck and Macky Sall – both former party members who defected)! Movements such as ‘Dafa doy!’, ‘Y’en a marre’ and ‘Yamale’ are symptoms of the sterile and pointless social democracy espoused by Benno.
The number of declarations of candidacy also highlight the weakness of what political alternatives are on offer, especially because some of them are manipulated by the presidency itself. The endless debates about ‘transition’ and ‘completion’ candidates and Benno’s inability to explain what candidacy means is another sign of the manoeuvring going on and if one is not careful, the interests of the Senegalese people will be sold out.
Our political credo, to liberate our people from semi-colonialism and collaborationism, will be compromised if we fall prey to these schemes. Many of our compatriots sympathetic to Wade’s departure wonder who will replace him as our leader. The only options on the table seem to be the ruling neoliberals and neoliberals from the opposition on the one hand, and on the other, a united or fragmented social democratic movement whose candidates present themselves as a messiah come to deliver their people. There is a serious risk that the Democratic Left will find itself isolated and pulled between different Social Democrat candidates. Why should we choose Moustapha Niasse instead of Ousmane Tanor Dieng? What left strategy is served by backing Tanor? What is the strategy in the first place?
Today more than ever, the Left must chart a new course by pushing for the unity of the Left and building on the momentum of the ‘Wade out’ campaign by working with ‘Y’en a marre!’, ‘Dafa doy seuk’!’ and ‘Yamale’. This could trigger Benno to join the struggle... Our nation has reached a critical point – there is mobilisation everywhere, sporadic clashes that presage a final battle, a big number of Senegalese have realised that mere alternation is not enough and that no single organisation or political party can win – it is time for a united left movement to set the departure of Wade into motion.
Getting rid of Wade is a necessity. The gerrymandering during local council elections is a case in point. The recent ruling in favour of the workers of JLS and Bara Tall (a national company looted by the regime) shows that everything has to be wrested from the neo-liberals. Concerted struggle is the only way to obtain anything from Wade. And it is now that we have to prepare the ground to force the regime that has resulted from the second political alternation in Senegal to accept the decisions taken by the National Conference. This is the lesson learnt from past mistakes – allowing Wade to have a free run after 2000 and the ineffectiveness of the opposition to counter him and his neoliberal cohorts.
To conclude, it is too early to say whether the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions engender states like the anti-imperialist nations in South America or whether they will model themselves on the BRIC group which are mounting a serious challenge to capitalist ‘uni-polarity’ and unbridled imperialism at the expense of poor and working peoples across the world or indeed, whether the imperialists and their local collaborators will succeed in restraining the nascent anti-imperialist, nationalist, patriotic and democratic movements taking root everywhere. We hope the Tunisians and Egyptians will succeed in their revolutions and chart an alternative course to emancipation. And that this revolutionary wave sweeps across Africa from North to South. In Senegal, the alternative has to be built by social movements and leftist, democratic and anti-imperialist political forces and trade-unions.
We need to clarify our strategy and tactics in the months ahead.
Our strategy is to unify our political family and make it a force independent from the neoliberals and social democrats. A movement that places the interests of our people and workers in the battle for power. To that end, we need a unified list for the next legislative elections, which could be done within the CNP/CNG framework, but without the social democrats and against the neoliberals.
We need to strengthen the ‘Wade degage’ and ‘Ablaye abal nu’ movements and field a single candidate emanating from the National Conference to form a transition government which will put in place a parliamentary system, order a complete audit of the budget before and during the alternation and organise new elections based on proportional representation.
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* Guy Marius Sagna is a member of Ferñent/Movement of Panafrican Workers– Sénégal.
* This article first appeared in the French edition of Pambazuka News.
* Translated from the French by Sputnik Kilambi.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Chief justice’s mandate and managing public expectations
Katto K. Wambua
The nomination and subsequent appointment of Dr Willy Mutunga as the first chief justice under the new constitution has been welcomed with euphoric optimism and great expectations, reminiscent of how Kenyans welcomed the National Rainbow Coalition government (NARC). This is understandable considering the stature of Dr Mutunga, who has been a leading human rights and democracy activist since the late 1970s and is celebrated as one of the fathers of the constitutional reforms movement in Kenya.
As a recent opinion poll indicated, Kenyans overwhelmingly support him towards ensuring transformative change in the judiciary, one that has for years been dogged by corruption, incompetence, a backlog of cases and political interference. This is despite his now famous ear stud and opposition by conservative Christian fundamentalists, who accuse him of being lacking in family values.
CHIEF JUSTICE’S MANDATE
The breakdown of the rule of law in Kenya over the years can only be remedied, in part, through far-reaching reforms, and most Kenyans believe Dr Mutunga is capable of spearheading the anticipated radical reforms or ‘surgery’ of the judiciary. A look at his Facebook wall and Twitter account evidences not only the great public confidence he enjoys, but worryingly also some unrealistic expectations placed on him. Indeed, one would be forgiven if they thought that there is a national belief that he wields a potent magic wand that will quickly transform the judiciary. Kenyans generally expect the chief justice to address the myriad problems that face the judiciary, re-establish the rule of law and deal a deathblow to corruption and impunity in the country.
The expectations of Kenyans on the chief justice should be within the bounds of the justice’s legal mandate, powers and reasonableness. It’s time for the management of public expectations. Runaway unrealistic expectations on him today may soon grow into frustration and a loss of public confidence tomorrow.
The legal mandate and extent of powers of the chief justice are circumscribed by the constitution, the Judicial Service Act and the Supreme Court Act. The constitution in chapter ten makes him the head of the judiciary, which should be independent, ensuring justice is done to all irrespective of status, is not delayed, is administered without undue regard to procedural technicalities and promotes and protects the purposes and principles of the constitution. The constitution gives him a period of 10 years to do this as head of judiciary and the judicial service commission (JSC).
The JSC under article 172 is expected to: ‘(1) … promote and facilitate the independence and accountability of the judiciary and the efficient, effective and transparent administration of justice and shall—(a) recommend to the President persons for appointment as judges; (b) review and make recommendations on the conditions of service of— (i) judges and judicial officers, other than their remuneration; and (ii) the staff of the Judiciary; (c) appoint, receive complaints against, investigate and remove from office or otherwise discipline registrars, magistrates, other judicial officers and other staff of the Judiciary, in the manner prescribed by an Act of Parliament; (d) prepare and implement programmes for the continuing education and training of judges and judicial officers; and…(e) advise the national government on improving the efficiency of the administration of justice....’
The Judicial Service Act should help the chief justice to fulfil his constitutional mandate. It gives him power to chair the National Council on the Administration of Justice, tasked with ensuring a co-ordinated, efficient, effective and consultative approach in the administration of justice and reform of the justice system. The council is tasked with matters such as ‘formulating policies relating to the administration of justice, implement, monitor, evaluate and review strategies for the administration of justice, facilitate the establishment of court user committees at the county level, and mobilize resources for purposes of the efficient administration of justice’. The act also gives the chief justice administrative powers to suspend, reprimand and give various forms of punishment, as well as removal from office on public interest, of any rogue, incompetent or undisciplined judicial officers.
The Supreme Court Act statutorily anchors the Supreme Court. The chief justice is the court’s president. The court has the jurisdiction to hear matters pertaining to presidential election petitions, and to give advisory opinions to the national government, any state organ or any county government on any matter concerning county government. It also has a special jurisdiction pursuant to the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act to within 12 months of the commencement of the Supreme Court Act, either on its own motion or on the application of any person, and review the judgements and decisions of any judge who has been removed or resigns during or prior to the judicial officers’ vetting process, upon meeting the criteria in section 14 thereof. It also has constitutional interpretation and can appellate jurisdictions that should be exercised to offer high quality jurisprudential base for the judiciary. The judiciary is not manned only by the chief justice but also by the chief registrar and presidents of the various levels of the courts.
MANAGING PUBLIC EXPECTATIONS
The import of the above provisions is that Dr Mutunga’s powers and influence only relate to the above functions he has to play. By no means are these powers suggested to be inconsequential. Indeed, if exercised fully and creatively, he should be able to leave a more functionally robust and credible judiciary. But it is also important for Kenyans to be aware of the limits of his office’s power and influence.
For instance, Kenyans should be reminded that constitutionally, Dr Mutunga can only serve for half the term provided for a chief justice. He was appointed at the age of 65 and the constitution requires in article 167 (1), that he retires when he turns 70 years old. Thus, he only has five years to fulfil the expectations that Kenyans have of him. Consequently Dr Mutunga, while being expected to do his very best during that period, can only realistically use that time to set up the foundation for a reforming judiciary and justice system. We should not expect him to produce a reformed judiciary and justice system in five years, as the ills and problems that ail the justice sector are deeply entrenched, systemic and will take longer than that to solve. Indeed, he has said as much himself.
Also, he cannot do all this alone. Much of his powers at the judicial service commission, the Supreme Court and the yet to be formed National Council on the Administration of Justice are of chairing those bodies whose membership is broad-based. Some of them may not be as enthusiastic about reforms as he is. The law expects his leadership of these bodies and the judiciary as a whole to be done in a collegial manner. Thus, the successes or failures of these institutions do not wholly depend on Dr Mutunga. It will depend on the collective resolve of all the bodies’ membership to fully discharge their mandate in reforming the justice sector. Kenyans should pressure all members of these entities if they want to have reforms and not to expect one man to do it all. For instance, if the director of public prosecutions fails to prosecute powerful corrupt personalities, there is little that Dr Mutunga can do about such fellows. Matters have to be brought to court, sometimes all the way up to the Supreme Court, for Dr Mutunga to have a legitimate chance to act on the framed issue(s). Kenya’s judicial process is of an adversarial nature and thus Kenyans should not expect Dr Mutunga to act as would a prosecutorial magistrate in a civil law jurisdiction like France.
REFORMING THE JUDICIARY TOGETHER
While Kenyans have legitimate expectations on Dr Mutunga, it is important for them to also recognise their role in reforming the justice sector. Kenyans as litigants, advocates and others operating outside the judiciary should proactively ensure: the timely redressing of human rights violations and legal wrongs; respect and upholding of the rule of law; solve disputes amicably; and avoid corruption or supporting political interference of the judiciary.
The much talked about corruption in the judiciary is often discussed from the demand-side perspective of corruption, where judicial officers and support staff – e.g., in the registries – demand bribes, rent seek and offer judgements for cash. Yet there is also a supply side to the equation, where litigants and advocates offer/approach and or accept the corrupt demands of judicial officers and supporting staff. They too must say no to corruption if they want a corruption-free judiciary. They must uphold the rule of law. They should not expect to be bailed out by Dr Mutunga when caught on the wrong side of the law. They should not expect Dr Mutunga to be in every court room ‘prefecting’ activities therein. They should act as his ‘ears and eyes’ and raise complaints when warranted.
They should also demand from MPs to do their work of legislating solutions to people’s problems and offer stringent oversight on the executive. The courts will not legislate for the country, as that is outside their mandate. If we have bad laws, do not expect Dr Mutunga to ignore them without a constitutional or lawful basis for doing so. Kenyans must also resolve their disputes more amicably, instead of burdening the courts with trivial, vexatious and frivolous applications, often to buy time or frustrate the wheels of justice.
Kenya’s impunity culture cannot be fully resolved by the courts. Kenyans bear the responsibility of electing a political leadership that has a track record against impunity and they must consistently hold that leadership to account. They must be eternally vigilant and proactively protect and promote their rights collectively and as individuals. Moreover, we must collectively begin to interrogate our role in bringing about the kind of change we often demand. It’s time for Kenyans to stop asking what Dr Mutunga can or will do for them, but what they can do to help him in his role for Kenya’s collective good.
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* Katto K. Wambua is an advocate, High Court of Kenya.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Mutunga, W. (2011). Personal reflections on movement building. In Abbas, H., & Tingoi, P. (Eds.), The Power Is Ours: Social Movements in Kenya (pp.24-34). Nairobi: Fahamu.
 Mathenge, O. (2011, June 4). Poll - 78pc of Kenyans Back CJ, Deputy Nominees. allAfrica news, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/201106040027.html [Accessed on 19/7/2011].
 Ngirachu, J. (2011, June 7). Private lives of CJ, deputy nominees queried. Daily Nation, available at http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/-/1064/1176526/-/7spse7/-/index.html [Accessed on 19/7/2011].
 http://www.facebook.com/pages/Official-Dr-Willy-M-Mutunga/139280492815675 [Accessed on 19/7/2011].
 http://twitter.com/#!/WMutunga [Accessed on 19/7/2011].
 Available at http://www.kenyalaw.org/klr/index.php?id=741 [Accessed on 19/7/2011].
 Act no. 1 of 2011, available at http://www.kenyalaw.org/klr/index.php?id=641 [Accessed on 19/7/2011].
 Act no. 7 of 2011, available at http://www.kenyalaw.org/klr/index.php?id=641 [Accessed on 19/7/2011].
 See; section 35 (1) and (2).
 See; the whole of the third schedule of the Act, entitled: “provisions relating to the appointment, discipline and removal of judicial officers and staff.”
 Article 163(3) (a) of the Constitution.
 Article 163(6) of the Constitution.
 Act No. 2 of 2011.
 Mayabi, L. (2011, June 24). CJ Willy Mutunga joins Twitter. Available at http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/Kenyanews/CJ-Willy-Mutunga-joins-Twitter-13346.html [Accessed on 13/7/2011].
The Kenyan people have spoken
Beth Maina Ahlberg
The nomination of Willy Mutunga and Nancy Baraza as chief justice and deputy chief justice respectively by the Judicial Service Commission has been a watershed for a pro-people leadership in Kenya. By endorsing their nomination the president and prime minister seem to have recognised the aspirations of the Kenyan people. The confirmation by the vetting committee and parliament was indeed a moment that gave the world a chance to experience another Kenya.
The Kenyan people have for a long time struggled for judicial and security institutions that protect their rights and interests. Instead, greed and impunity in the leadership bred a system serving only the wealthy and the politically connected. Fortunately, the Kenyan people have known this only too well and have openly shown their indignation at the injustices and impunity in the system. In 2010, for example, they expressed their distrust of the judiciary when a whole 97 per cent of visitors to a judiciary open day said they did not trust the institution to execute justice. Moreover, of those asked in many opinion polls whether they think Mutunga and Baraza are suitable choices for the posts of chief justice and deputy chief justice, nearly 80 per cent have always said yes. In other words, the people believed that Mutunga and Baraza would improve the image of the office.
So, who opposed Mutunga and Baraza and for what reasons? Who among those opposing them on moral grounds can cast the first stone? Should the men of faith continue dragging the country backwards using what they regard as the only family or moral values, even when it has become clear they too break their own values?
Moreover, why has there not been the same depth of public action and condemnation among the men of faith of those who obtain wealth through corrupt means and fraud? Or is it that the men of faith receive huge contributions for God’s work from that ill-gotten money. Remember the public show of wealth by some filthy rich Kenyan politicians out-doing each other during fund raising functions, hoping to garner votes from the religious constituency?
Here, very critical self-reflection is needed. Is it right to be filthy rich when, as Reverend Timothy Njoya would argue, one has not made any invention of the Bill Gates type? When one knows one’s wealth is actually taken from the Kenyan people through corruption or fraud? That one has harvested where one did not plant? That one did not plant back where one reaped? What is moral with this type of behavior? Some politicians then cry foul after global justice institutions catch up with them demanding that they answer for their ill-gotten wealth.
The Kenyan people have recently been treated to another drama where millions of tax payer’s money has paradoxically been wasted in attempts to protect leaders suspected of instigating the post-election violence in 2007-2008, which left over 1,500 people dead and 300,000 internally displaced. High-powered delegations led by none other than vice president Kalonzo Musyoka and agriculture minister Sally Koskey hopped around the world from capital to capital seeking support to defer the International Criminal Court (ICC) case for the six suspects from The Hague back to Kenya. Meanwhile, thousands of IDPs were still rotting in camps, three years after they exercised the right to vote. During the same period, some of the suspected leaders have been allowed to traverse the country exonerating themselves as men who will emerge from The Hague as heroes. They campaign in a manner likely to ignite violence come the 2012 general elections. What has emerged, however, is that even as the effort to defer the case to Kenyan courts was championed, there was little evidence of investigations being done by Kenyan security and prosecuting institutions. Indeed, it appears like they expected to be given the same ICC investigative reports to be used as a basis for the prosecution in Kenyan courts.
Back to the nomination of Mutunga and Baraza. Some judges and magistrates had, according to Star News on 14 May 2011, vowed to ‘make it hell’ should the two be confirmed, saying: ‘We cannot be led by a man who is wearing a stud and another who is doing her PhD on “gayism?”. We are regrouping so we can agree on the best way to protest this decision and if the two principals and parliament endorse the names, then it will be hell for the two.’
The Judicial Service Commission, which nominated them, was accused by other High Court judges of using public interviews to demean the judges who appeared before them and to depict them as incompetent. They said: ‘Those interviews were a mere charade. They had predetermined names and all they did was scandalise judges and make them look very incompetent. It is unacceptable and we will protest.’ Another judge said Mutunga and Baraza should brace themselves for obstruction from judicial officers. ‘If the government accepts that decision of JSC, the judges will know that the government does not support them. The two should be prepared for total non-cooperation from the judges. They will not be hearing cases most of the time. We will hear cases and they will have no control over what we do,’ said another judge.
Now that Mutunga and Baraza have been confirmed and are in office, will the judges and magistrates walk their talk or are they going to understand that a new dawn has arrived in Kenya?
Was it a moral issue with Mutunga’s ear studs or Baraza’s PhD topic, or are the judges and magistrates who promised ‘hell’ afraid the ‘politics of the pocket’ they have so well crafted has come to an end? Did they seriously believe Mutunga and Baraza are not qualified to take the position? Or do the learned judges think wearing an ear stud is an issue? Have they forgotten that ear decoration, as many Kenyans have reminded them, is an old tradition for most African people, both men and women? This fall back on cautioning others not to break African values only when it suits the one cautioning - in this case the judges - is similar to what came to be known as the ‘Kenyan theory of love’. The theory evolved when in 1978, the Kenyan parliament introduced the marriage bill, which among other things had a clause against wife-beating. The bill would have gone a long way to promote gender equality and improve the welfare of women and children in the case of death of a spouse or after divorce. Nevertheless, the bill was shelved largely because of the wife-beating clause. The men in the male dominated parliament argued they would have no means of demonstrating their love to their wives. According to one MP, the bill would make it impossible for men to teach their wives ‘manners’, while another added that African women loved their men when they were slapped, but also argued that the proposed legislation was ‘very un-African’.
Thus, for the majority of Kenyan people, wearing a stud is a non-issue. It is justice they want. And if the opposition by the judges is an act of protecting African values, what about the wig the judges wear under the tropical sun? Do the judges actually need this colonial relic to institute justice?
Shortly after taking office, the chief justice has promised to start a clean-up of the judiciary by the end of August, when the vetting of the 26 judges of the High Court is expected to be completed. He has also indicated that he expects their first duty to be to clear the files of pending cases on their shelves, including the high profile corruption cases which continue to consume huge sums of tax payer’s money. The chief justice has moreover promised to never compromise in ridding the judiciary of corrupt magistrates. The era of the ‘untouchables’ and the common saying of ‘why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge?’ has, according to Mutunga, come to an end because it is such practices which have damaged public faith in the judiciary. Rebuilding the public faith in the judiciary is the critical priority for Mutunga and will therefore require vigilance from the Kenyan people, because ending graft and corruption is a huge ‘political project’.
Is this cleaning up of the judiciary what the judges and magistrates are opposed to? Will they really oppose a clean up to ensure the end of impunity and the cultivation of the rule of law and justice for the Kenya people? If indeed their aim is to continue with business as usual then their fear of public interviewing and a clean up of the judiciary is understandable. The Kenyan people therefore have a daunting job ahead in getting rid of the corrupt judges.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Petition to Algerian government: stop renewed attacks on women
On 11 June and 2-3 July 2011 ‘punitive’ night raids were carried out against women in the southern city of M’sila, Algeria. Considered to be ‘potential prostitutes’ by their neighbours because they live alone, and under the pretext of the defense of morality, hundreds of youth have burnt down the houses of women who barely escaped being lynched. The police did not intervene.
Recently a press conference was held in Algeria where the Observatory on Violence Against Women condemned the lax manner with which the public authorities react to these punitive raids: ‘What we are denouncing is the absence of the state to the point where every individual can take the law into their own hands and find a pretext in the defense of morality to make an attempt on the lives of women.’
Please follow this link to read more and to sign a petition addressed to the Algerian authorities.
A French statement about these raids is available here.
MOSOP Statement On Another Land Seizure In Ogoniland
Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People
July 21, 2011
RE: REVOCATION OF RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY NOTICE IN RESPECT OF LAND REQUIRED FOR THE SERVICES OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA FOR PROPOSED NEW TOWN DEVELOPMENT PROJECT PARCELS A AND B AT NYOKURU AND BEERI COMMUNITIES
Members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has become aware of an advertorial by the Rivers State Government (RSG) published in The Nation Newspaper of Friday, July 15, 2011. The RSG in the advert says it intends to expropriate over 258,954 hectares of land from the Ogoni nation purportedly for overriding public purpose – to wit the development of a new town by the Federal Government.
The advert called on anyone who has right or interest in the expropriated lands to put in their claim within two weeks from the date of the advert. May we remind the state government that many of the affected landowners and farmers, do not have access to national dailies and so would not be aware that the state government is about to take their lands. It is also pertinent to once again call the attention of the government to the fact that there is an intrinsic link between the survival of the Ogoni nation and their lands. It is therefore imperative that in this democratic dispensation, the state government should imbibe and espouse the benefits of wide and adequate consultations in situations where they would deprive communities and individuals of their livelihoods and their ability to survive.
We find it difficult to rationalize government’s insistence on seizing another 258,954 hectares of land in Nyokuru and Beeri communities in Khana local government area of Ogoni immediately after an earlier controversial land grab of over 100,000 hectares spanning Tai and Khana LGAs and which has claimed three innocent lives. We are concerned that government has deliberately ignored the fact that its spate of land seizure in Ogoni would have dire implications on local communities.
MOSOP is aware that the discredited Land Use Act, the abrogation of which the governor himself has championed; vests authority over land in the State Governor. We are however concerned at the tone of the advert and the willingness of the state governor to take advantage of this obnoxious law to deprive communities and individuals of their right to livelihood and survival without transparent and adequate consultation.
This coercive tendency no doubt betrays sinister intent as this appears not to fit into the development agenda of the present national government. It is suspicious that while the story circulated earlier related to an industrial estate, we are now reading about development of a new town. It is on record that past regimes have seized colossal amount of lands from Ogoni communities for new town development only to abandon the project. Besides, huge amount of our lands have been captured for oil and gas production, many others grabbed by past administrations for some other development initiatives but abandoned and are wasting. We condemn this colonizing scramble for Ogoni through land grabbing, which will no doubt generate unmanageable land shortage for local subsistence food production and other uses especially housing development.
Internationally recognized best practice in land resettlement schemes require that when government expropriates lands from communities for overriding public purpose, it must first offer those who have lost lands, an alternative and suitably situated land, acceptable to them and on which they can continue their farming. It also requires that adequate compensation be paid to affected landowners and farmers for crops and other improvements on the land, taking care to compute the life span of perennial crops and the aggregate income landowners and farmers would have earned during the lifespan of such crop. The two weeks time frame set out in the advertorial is certainly grossly insufficient to resolve these issues.
We deplore the unwarranted resort to intimidation, threats and ultimatum aimed at frustrating our weak and disempowered rural folks. Where things are done properly, the time frame would have been flexible enough to accommodate the disadvantaged circumstances of the landowners and farmers. The landowners and farmers are rural dwellers without access to newspapers and thus a two week ultimatum is unrealistic.
Meanwhile, MOSOP has uncovered a plot by some local politicians, chiefs and their friends to destroy the Ogoni apex organization, MOSOP, using state machinery. At a meeting hosted by a high chief in Korokoro village in Tai local government area on Saturday, July 16, 2011, the group reportedly expressed worry at the undying influence of MOSOP in Ogoni and beyond and their inability control the Movement and resolved to destabilize it. It was further reported that they were angered that the body’s strength was not deplored to advance their political agenda and vowed to form an alternative platform that would be more powerful than MOSOP and agreed to consult other like minds, which has already begun.
While MOSOP recognizes the right to freedom of association and thus unopposed to people genuinely coming together, we are concerned about the destructive intent of the group. It is our view that Ogoni development would be better enhanced if we jettison devious sentiments and close ranks. We therefore call on the group to reform its relational attitude and approach as such machinations are no longer fashionable.
However, we are strengthened by the fact that our cause is justifiable and legitimate. And since murderous regimes could not decimate the organization, the current challenge, which is not happening for the first time, is doomed to fail.
On the other hand, MOSOP has reiterated its call for the withdrawal of soldiers from Ogoni farms as since their occupation of the controversial areas, food production has been hampered due to molestation and other abuses including rape and arbitrary detention. Similarly, we urge government to prosecute the police killers of Messrs. Goteh Keenom and Dambani, the Ogoni youths murdered in cold blood at Zor-Sogho on June 12, 2011. Currently, police officers suspected to have killed the leader of the dreaded Boko Hara sect are standing trial for the crime. It will amount to double-standard if ours become different.
Lastly, MOSOP investigations have revealed as false Rivers State Government’s claims to proper consultation in Sogho and Ueken communities with respect to its proposed “banana plantation” and land grabbing interest. In both communities, those that signed the circulated documents were hand-picked loyalists of politicians and some local chiefs with deep relationship with the state administration but have no connection to the controversial farmlands. To strengthen this fact, all the documents alleged to have emerged from Sogho were littered with names of the children of HRM King W.Z.P. Nziidee yet the family the investigation revealed holds no right to the land in issue. In fact all the signees have fled Sogho as the dubious deal became exposed.
Landowners and farmers in Sogho and Ueken indicated that no one whatsoever has ever consulted them. In Ueken last week, a Tai LGA team led by the council chairman, Mr. Gbenekanu Kuanpie was disgraced out of the community. The team had visited to persuade the people to accept and support the state government’s land grabs interest for its banana farm project. The people reportedly roundly condemned their mission and drove them out of Ueken. The question is if proper consultation has been conducted, why did the council team visit Ueken last week and why were they disgraced?
Since the incident above, landowners and farmers identified to have championed the protests are being threatened. Mr. Godfrey Kpoobe’s life has been threatened several times and he is now living fear for his life.
MOSOP would like to reiterate the position of an overwhelming majority in Ogoni including Ueken, Sogho and Okwale that the proposed banana farm project is not in our interest. We therefore suggest that other suitable projects be considered for Ogoni in consultation with the people.
Mandela Park Backyarders Press Statement on housing allocations
Mandela Park Backyarders Press Statement
23 July 2011
Backyarders present clear evidence of corruption in Mandela Park in letter to Ward 94 Councillor
(A version of this statement was originally sent to Ward 94 Cllr Patrick Mngxunyeni and REC Sectretary Vuyiso Tyhalisisu)
Housing Allocation Concern
As Mandela Park Backyarders we have observed the ongoing housing development taking place in our own community since it was unblocked in 2009. Since the development started it has been characterised by lack of accountability and transparency. Moreover we had the imposition of a steering committee mandated to this task without the consultation of our community. This led to the allocation of houses to some individuals because they were related or sharing the same surname as the genuine beneficiary. Many of the houses have also been allocated in an irregular and/or corrupt manner.
Urgent Interference to Disband ward 97 steering committee
As mentioned, the above steering committee is not known in Mandela Park and branded with individuals who have lost credibility in our community due to lack of accountability.
As we are committed to work together to build a good working community, we also request your urgent intervention to recall the unknown/ghost steering committee of ward 97.
Some of these challenges were cooked by MEC (Bonginkosi Madikizela) with the assistance of ward 97 councillor Mthwalo Mkhutshwana. These are just some of the pressing issues that resulted in us building our own houses or taking the empty land in Mandela Park.
We have informed our local councillors and executives within the regional branch of the ANC that we have conducted our own verification of Mandela Park houses which has found 12 RDP houses to be irregularly or corruptly allocated. This is an incomplete list but relevant as a way of showing that those in government are not able to manage these housing projects fairly:
21-052: The owner was never seen. The house is empty.
21-072: The owner stays in 19 section where he is renting. House is empty.
21-063: Police officer resides in the house even though police officer's salaries make them ineligible to receive RDP houses.
21-173: The owner was never seen. The house is empty.
21-166: The owner was never seen. The house is empty.
21-168: The owners were never seen. The house is empty.
21-176: A foreigner stays in the house even though that person is ineligible for an RDP house.
21-710: A Ward Development Forum member residing in the house. We think he got it through political connections.
20-781: Someone named Nomamfengu who worked for managing agent Thubelisha Homes claims to own the house. We think that she got this house through her work at Thubelisha.
20-795: The owner, Nomahlubi, has never stayed in the house. Instead, a 15-year-old boy stays there.
20-477: An RDP house is built on a bond house plot, meaning there was a bond house there before. This house is now owned by the foreigner who is ineligible for an RDP house.
20-810: The true owner of the house was never found in the beneficiary hunt.
For further enquiries regarding the said matter please do contact us:
Chairperson - Silulami @ 0714331101/0736200781
Spokesperson – Luzuko @ 0739662188
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The value of storytelling
H. Nanjala Nyabola
Historians often tell us that the main way through which African history was transmitted across generations was through storytelling, and that one of the ways in which African cultures were constituted and bound was through the myths of common ancestry that these stories contained. In this way, storytelling in many African communities was about more than just passing time or entertaining after a long day of work. It was a way of drawing and keeping people together, a way of situating oneself in the community and at large as well as a record of key events in that community’s history. Orality simply meant that histories in African contexts were more malleable to interpretation by the storyteller, but because in most cases there was no single custodian of an entire community’s history, storytellers could fact-check against each other and come up with a somewhat comprehensive narrative of that community’s past and account for its present.
Storytelling is not just a vital part of African communities. I would argue that storytelling continues to be a vital part of any modern society and the stories that we tell about who we are in relation to other people draw certain groups together and attempt to keep them so. In modern societies, the storytellers are the journalists and politicians that dominate the airwaves and therefore tell us what our priorities as communities are. Events happen, and the media picks on those facets of that event that they think are most important and put those together in short, punchy pieces. When we look back on these articles or journals, or refer to them in order to explain our present, it follows that we remain ignorant about what has been left out of those stories and focus on what is emphasised.
This isn’t a revolutionary observation but it struck me as I read accounts of the violence in Norway that today’s storytellers are slowly losing sight of the vital role they play. Almost as soon as the news of the attack emerged, accusations of Islamic terrorism flew fast and frenzied on some of the most relied upon news outlets in the world. A BBC story was claiming that it was a jihadist attacks while over at the Washington Post, an article was written asserting that the attack was definitely the work of jihadists and that Western governments had an obligation to avoid ‘cuts in defence ... or withdrawing from Afghanistan’. The storyline caught hold and spread like a wildfire – as stories are wont to do in the age of Twitter and the Huffington Post. This was the height of irresponsibility; not only running off with an unverified storyline but failing to take into account the impact that it would have on the key characters in the plot.
A key mistake of the storytellers was first in forgetting the power that their definitions and observations have in constituting communities. The community in this story was defined in a negative sense – the ‘us’ in the narrative is everyone who is not a jihadist and is therefore a target for Islamist attacks. Predictably, the story’s audience proceeded to define this negative characterisation in its most restrictive sense, and on the blogosphere and the comment boards the ‘why do they hate us’ trope reared its ugly head. ‘Us versus them’, a handy if analytically deficient dialectic provided a ready-made frame within which to understand the genesis and methodology of the attack in Norway. For the less erudite commentators, it was inevitable that ‘them’ would degenerate from ‘jihadists’ to ‘Muslims’, perpetuating the exact kind of hatred that Breivik – neither jihadist nor Muslim – had in mind.
A second mistake that the storytellers made is that they failed to consider a subplot that has been playing out while our attention was primarily focused on the Al Qaeda plot. Although jihadist groups like Al Qaeda do in fact pose a threat to many European nations, the cancer within – increasingly heated rightwing rhetoric, the rise of anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, xenophobia and neo-Nazism in the West has never really been adequately addressed. Here in the UK, rather than expressing concern that immigration policy and the rhetoric around it has grown excessively poisonous, politicians have harnessed it into political clout, capitalising on the economic disenfranchisement to argue that reducing immigration would somehow save the UK from it’s economic demise, as if it was migrants and refugees who caused the global financial crisis. By failing to consider the entirety of the story, the storytellers have obscured some key elements of history – that hatred knows no race and religion.
Storytellers accounting for the role of terrorism in defining modern societies have chosen to tell a story in which communities are constituted and bound by an irrational fear of difference. Especially in Europe, storytellers have over the last few decades poisoned Europeans’ understanding of who they are in relation to the world – defining them in a negative sense (we are not Muslim, black nor poor) and thereby focusing on excluding rather than including, meaning that European communities cannot define themselves beyond identifying that which they are not. Coupled with the impatience to understand or explain it was perhaps only a matter of time before the storytellers were caught perpetuating a myth of common ancestry that has no resonance with reality, or telling a story of a people fighting an enemy of their own imagination.
"African societies recognised the value of the storyteller – many of them were acclaimed within their societies and awarded special status, but they were also expected to conduct their work with integrity and good faith. It may serve the storytellers of modern societies to consider living up to the high expectation that their role in society entails and attempt the same."
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
China: ‘All-weather friend’ or ‘new colonialist’?
Review of ‘The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)’
‘All-weather friend’ or ‘new colonialist’? The ongoing narrative wars over China’s African involvement between (mostly) Western Sinophobes and those they deride as ‘panda-huggers’ have become as predictable as the opening moves in a game of chess.
No Chinese account is complete without an initial reference to the pioneering voyages of Admiral Cheng Ho in the 15th Century, progressing through Chinese support for African liberation movements to today’s ‘win-win’ partnerships, contrasted with the colonial past and neo-colonial present of the West.
No Western response is complete without the contrast between China’s ideological Maoist past and its pragmatic present. This is seen as characterised by naked economic self-interest driven by a lust for Africa’s raw materials, comparable to the 19th Century ‘scramble for Africa’. The comparison of course invites the flattering conclusion that these are ‘bad old days’ which unlike China, the enlightened and philanthropic West has now left behind it.
Ian Taylor, Professor in the School of International Relations at St Andrews University in Scotland, is also an honorary Professor at Stellenbosch and at China’s Renmin University, as well as at the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University. With a foot in three continents he is well placed to challenge both predictable orthodoxies. In this brief and thorough account of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and its four conferences to date he does just that, as well as bringing out and questioning the assumptions they share.
China’s early African involvement centred on Egypt which, as Taylor points out, was the only ‘non-western’ African participant at the 1955 Bandung conference. Ethiopia, Liberia and Libya were all at the time pro-Western, and Sudan and Ghana, (then ‘Gold Coast’) though both present, were not yet independent.
China’s early period is rightly associated with support for liberation movements. In the early 1960s China established diplomatic relations with 14 newly-independent African countries, and China was actually a member – and even vice-chair – of the OAU’s liberation committee. This led to close personal links with a number of key nationalist leaders.
As well as the famous ‘friendship railway’ China replaced Britain as Tanzania’s source of credits and military assistance, especially after Nyerere broke diplomatic relations with Britain over its failure to deal with Rhodesia’s UDI. Tanzania was also one of the rare instances where Chinese aid exceeded that of the Soviet Union. And as Tanzania was a base for many of the liberation movements in southern Africa, this put China in a favourable position for the future.
But all was not plain sailing. Zhou Enlai’s 1963 tour of Africa ruffled some feathers among the elites of newly-independent states when he declared that revolutionary prospects throughout Africa were ‘excellent’. And for many China’s image took a knock as a result of Beijing’s reaction to the Sino-Soviet split. As Taylor points out, ‘If a movement indicated a strong attachment to Moscow China generally switched its aid to a rival organisation and this took on features of a competition for influence’.
This attitude proved unpopular with many as the OAU’s Liberation Committee generally sided with Moscow-backed organisations such as the ANC (African National Congress), FRELIMO (Liberation Front of Mozambique), MPLA (People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola), SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization) and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People's Union). This isolation was accentuated by the Cultural Revolution, when Chinese ambassadors were recalled from all African countries except Egypt, and Tunisia, Egypt and post-Nkrumah Ghana severed diplomatic relations with China. These strains and stresses are of course glossed over in today’s official Beijing accounts, though they have not necessarily been forgotten by those involved.
China’s current claim to be an ‘all-weather friend’ to Africa owes more to the immediate post-Cultural Revolution period when China was seeking political support from African states for its bid to take the Chinese seat at the UN. Between 1970 and 1976 China’s aid to Africa exceeded that of the Soviets for the first time.
But as Taylor points out, there was no direct line between then and now. In the 1980s the immediate result of China’s economic reforms was not the present, allegedly resource-driven orientation to Africa but an emphasis on ‘stability’ and order’. Despite the continuing rhetoric of championing the global ‘south’ against the global ‘north’, in practice, Taylor argues, relations with the superpowers were given priority and the policies of African governments were criticised from a ‘neoliberal’ position.
A May 1985 editorial in Peoples Daily went so far as to blame ‘errors in policymaking’ by African governments for poor economic performance. In 1986 African students in China demonstrated against Beijing’s policy with banners saying ‘remember the UN 1n 1971’.
What changed, Taylor argues, was not the chase for raw materials as Western observers usually assume, but rather China’s diplomatic isolation after Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the need for greater diplomatic support wherever it could be found. This lead to a revival of a rhetoric of opposition to ‘neocolonialism’ and the existing global economic order, even as China’s export-led growth was made possible by the global liberalisation of the 1990s, which also saw the ‘opening up’ of Africa which made its resources accessible to China.
In Taylor’s words; ‘Ironically, as China’s leadership more and more assimilates itself into the extant global economy and plays by fundamentally Western capitalist conventions, it has sought after consolidated political links with diverse African countries as a useful defensive instrument to be set out against those very same pressures if and when they threaten key domestic interests and agendas. This irony reflects the wider strain in China’s foreign policy, of both engagement in and suspicion of the ongoing global order’.
But there is little joy here for China-bashers either. Western criticisms of China’s African role are seen in the same sceptical light. China is used by the West as a scapegoat for relations with authoritarian governments of resource-rich nations which Taylor argues, have more to do with ‘the nature of the state in much of Africa’ than with China or the West, whose dealings with such states are in reality little different. He might have added that these states themselves are largely the creation of the Western colonial period.
Western concepts of ‘human rights’ are indeed a way of universalising specifically Western capitalist values, with ‘individual freedom’ seen as indissolubly linked with ‘economic freedom’. But while China has a point in stressing that human rights are economic and material as well as political, Taylor also points out that some sorts of human rights violations are anti-developmental in ways that threaten economic and material development.
As Taylor concludes: ‘Sino-African relations are processes not of colonization but of globalization and the reintegration of China into the global economy - a project that has enjoyed the hitherto enthusiastic support of Western capitalism’.
The same calm disregard for the widely-accepted stereotypes is carried through into the author’s detailed account of the proceedings of each of the four FOCACs to date. In contrast to the attitudes of the early 1980s, FOCAC I places the blame for Africa’s problems on broad economic and social factors, thus exonerating the ruling elites. The ‘five points’ establish a framework for future relations with the crucial inclusion of a follow-up mechanism, and opening the way for the key involvement of the provinces as well as Beijing.
FOCAC II, preceded by a first-ever China-Africa business conference, strengthens the business emphasis as well. With the Addis Ababa Action Plan, it marks a commitment to pan-African initiatives such as NEPAD where these have been taken by the African states themselves.
FOCAC III as the first summit-level meeting marks a new stage with the issue of the White Paper and the initiation of regular meetings of Foreign Ministers. Inevitably FOCAC IV marked something of a shift to a lower key, but also a shift of focus with a greater emphasis on civil society, culture and the environment – reflecting perhaps the concerns and criticisms of African civil society.
Like many before him Taylor concludes that ‘China has an African policy; Africa does not have a China policy’. Despite Chinese support for AU initiatives Africa continues to negotiate with China on a country-by-country basis, which has ‘inevitably resulted in inexpert African responses to China, be they at the regional or continental level’ especially given the wide variations in competence between African states.
The Chinese ‘no questions asked’ approach and support for free trade combined with a strong state is acceptable not only to many African regimes but also to Western businessmen – whatever the public protestations of their governments. But how far is there an exportable ‘Chinese model’?
China’s own economic achievements depended on a ‘capable state’ – itself the product of a revolution. But as Taylor points out ‘granted even the relative declining reach of the Chinese state as liberalization progresses, the type of comparative internal strength and concomitant stability that Beijing is able to enact is beyond the ambition of most - if not all - African leaders’.
Do these factors and the inevitable asymmetry of power that they produce, not create the danger that FOCAC will simply reproduce the inherited dependency? As the author rightly concludes ‘It is the host that establishes the rules on foreign investment and it is the host country’s responsibility to take advantage of China’s increased interest in Africa. Only Africans can develop their continent and its natural resources, not China or any other state’.
There are real deliverables of the FOCAC process which Taylor himself has documented. And given the follow-up mechanism most of them have actually been delivered, unlike so many promises from elsewhere. So Taylor is perhaps unnecessarily provocative in asking how far China-Africa relations would suffer if FOCAC simply disappeared, and in his conclusion that ‘Symbolism and spin then is at the root of the whole FOCAC enterprise’.
But he is surely right to point out that if FOCAC reinforces the unreal picture of China as monolithic it could work to China’s disadvantage if the Chinese government is blamed for every misdeed by a Chinese company’. We can be sure that this point is already being made by China’s Africa experts and policy advisers. And given Taylor’s interesting combination of posts and contacts, the same is doubtless true of the many other perceptive points in this well-informed and independent-minded account.
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* Stephen Marks is a freelance writer and researcher, specialising in issues on emerging powers, development and human rights.
* Ian Taylor’s ‘The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)’ is published by Routledge (ISBN 978-0-415-54860-1).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Telling it as it is
Review of Rasna Warah's 'Red Soil and Roasted Maize: Selected Essays and Articles on Contemporary Kenya'
Regular readers and addicts of Rasna Warah’s columns in the Daily Nation know the daredevil ‘telling it as it is’ approach to her writing style, sparing neither topic nor issue. If any of these Rasna-philes pick up ‘Red Soil and Roasted Maize’, they will be doing so because a collection of her articles spanning more than a decade will be an experience similar to letting an alcoholic roam freely in a ‘drink as much as you can’ liquor store.
If you are a faint-hearted African apologist dare not try to read this book. If you are a fundamentalist homophobic Christian do not risk reading this book. If you are a UN starry-eyed staffer full of self-righteousness, or one aspiring to be one, give this book a wide berth. If you are a child of the Kenyan post-independence political shenanigans, pray that the book gets banned.
Yes, because in these pages you will see your dilemma articulated in a brutally honest and annoyingly refreshing way. The collection is cathartic; as a reader you will identify with the Kenya that Rasna describes here. You will see your colleagues and friends, your leaders and the so-called movers and shakers in industry and global politics undressed as Rasna describes the hubris – that fatal flaw in our failed systems – and eventually brings them and us all down to the level where we feel that there must be change.
Though Rasna is a bitter critic of the current and past political establishment in Kenya, her book is – in an ironic twist – a toast to the current Kenyan political leadership she pillories so much in that it ‘allows’ her to attack it and describe it in such unsavoury terms. If there is a need for evidence that there is intellectual tolerance today that was not there in the past, it is this book. The fact that such harsh criticism is actually tolerated is evidence that the political space has opened up tremendously. To a reader not familiar with the openness today one would think that such a work would not see the light of day in Kenya, until one notices that the articles have actually been published in magazines and dailies sold locally. This shows that Kenya has indeed come a long way.
Red soil, and more so roasted maize, are iconic of the Kenyan landscape – that rich deep soil that characterises many parts to the country and the road-side snack you find in every Kenyan town and which you will see people munching along streets – but the collection of essays, though they are described as being ‘on contemporary Kenya’, have a broader outlook. As you read through the collection, you hear echoes of Walter Rodney’s ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ in her analysis of the sick relationship between the North and South, while criticism of the donor mentality resonates with the more recent ‘Dead Aid’ by Dambisa Moyo. However, as a former UN insider herself, her critique of global government reminds us of one time Kofi Annan’s special envoy for AIDS Stephen Lewis’ scathing attacks of UNAIDS.
The essays are organised into three parts that allow the reader a rare glimpse into the writers’ personal identity and dilemma, her national identity as a Kenyan of Asian origin and an ethnic minority, and in the third part we see her professional identity as a UN staffer who graduates to being a disillusioned cynical aid worker forced to resign in order to regain her soul. In all these parts, Rasna perfectly plays the role of the writer, and her writing as a mirror of society presents slices of life’s experiences so bitingly close it causes one to cringe.
Similarly, the essays on contemporary Kenya are a brutal indictment of the Kenyan national psyche; the Eurocentricism, hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of its leadership that has allowed nepotism and ethnocentrism to kill the dream of uhuru; the ambivalence of garrulous Kenyans in the diaspora with their self-styled importance and cosmopolitan worldview, but who are as rabidly ethnocentric as their compatriots at home; the insular south Asian who allow the repugnant caste system to continue framing how they interrelate thousands of miles away from Asia and also impedes their full integration into their adopted home; the judgmental, homophobic liberal politician and the men and women of the cloth who are as hypocritical as they are self-righteous.
She returns to the issue of the glorification of poverty and failed policies in the attack on the way that the state has been complicit in turning Kibera into a tourist attraction, and though the attacks are relentless one cannot help feeling that she has her finger on the pulse. The most discomfiture with Rasna’s book will be felt in the UN Gigiri environs of Nairobi because of the manner that her articles expose the grand graft that goes on in the UN system in the name of humanitarian assistance. She speaks to the inability of that system to rid itself of corruption and scandals. The sheen on all the red number-plated four-wheel drives crisscrossing the Kenyan landscape – especially now with the humanitarian crisis wrought by the drought in the Horn of Africa region – fades fast under her scrutiny. However, in an act of mitigation she does describe how a UN initiative in Afghanistan fostered the growth of a movement that provided education for the girl-child and transformed the culture of that nation. So all is not lost, but the wake-up call needs to be heeded.
Rasna’s essays are refreshing to read, witty – even humorous – and very pointed.
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* Rasna Warah’s 'Red Soil and Roasted Maize: Selected Essays and Articles on Contemporary Kenya' is published by Author House, Bloomington IN, 2011.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Malawi's undelivered promise
In April of this year, Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika delivered his state of the nation address, entitled ‘A Promise Delivered’. Well, from what is currently happening in the country (which some observers liken to the ongoing uprising in the Arab world), nothing there remotely resembles a promise delivered. As far as I can make out, things in Malawi look more like a promise undelivered to me. Now 19 people have reportedly been killed by the police in an attempt to squash the anti-government protests.
Here is the deal: unleashing soldiers and police on a peaceful citizens’ demonstration protesting against economic mismanagement is not delivering a promise. Signing a bill into law that bans any publication deemed not to be in the public interest (including a law that makes it impossible for individuals to obtain a court injunction and seek judicial redress against the government) cannot be termed as a promise delivered. Nor can postponing the local government elections mean a promise delivered.
Stifling academic freedom as with the detention of Dr. Blessings Chinsinga because he discussed the Arab uprising during a political science lecture is not a promise delivered. Currently four Chancellor College lecturers, including Dr Chinsinga and Dr Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, have been fired under mysterious circumstances. And neither is lavish spending to promote your own book (as the president did in January) a promise delivered.
Expelling the British High Commissioner from Malawi for a leaked embassy cable that referred to you as ‘autocratic and intolerant of criticism’ is not delivering a promise. In response, the UK (the largest aid donor to Malawi) decided to go on the offensive by expelling the Malawian representative, and froze all new aid, the country’s main life support as 40 per cent of Malawi’s budget comes from international aid. The outcomes: fuel and energy shortages, severe foreign exchange (forex) shortages, and depreciation of Malawi’s local currency, the kwacha.
But the big picture is that wa Mutharika’s behaviour and his response to citizens’ demands for more democracy are similar to how dictators behave when their reign is threatened. They try by any means to stifle criticism through state violence, using the soldiers and police at their disposal.
But also the behavior also tells the true but sad story of this relatively peaceful southern African country. For decades Malawi has seen leaders/rulers who treated the country as a private company for personal gains. The first postcolonial president, Dr Kamuzu Banda (Ngwazi, the great lion, or Mkango wapfuko laMalaw, the lion of Malawi, as he preferred to be called) turned Malawian citizens into subjects, and the country into Kamuzu Banda’s Malawi, Inc. Kamuzu’s successor, Professor Bakili Muluzi was accused of dictatorial tendencies, including imposing Mutharika on the people. There is no love left between Bakili and Mutharika now, but if there is anything Mutharika learned from his predecessor it is how to impose his will on the Malawian people. Apparently, he is also now plotting to pave a political path for his own brother, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika (yes another professor!) to be Malawi’s next president.
The bottom line: despite the presidential rhetoric, promises of economic and social development, reduction of poverty, and promotion of peace have not been delivered to the citizens of Malawi.
Diaspora lost 'in pursuit of material things'
It’s Cairo, Casablanca & Cape Town
Addis, Abuja & Accra
Ouagadougou, Timbuktu & Antananarivo
Lagos, Lomé, Lusaka & Lalibela
Its peace and turmoil
Order and chaos
Evolution and revolution
Anarchy and regulation
Innovation and duplication
Progress and retreat
Static and constant change
It’s Nouakchott, Niamey, N’Djamena & Nairobi
Monrovia, Mbabane & Maseru
Tripoli, Tunis & Tangiers
Harare & Gaborone
It’s democracy and dictatorship
Youth and elderly
Traditional and modern
Indigenous and imported
Local and foreign
Metropolitan and cosmopolitan
Rural and urban
It’s Bujumbura, Bangui, & Brazzaville
Dakar, Dar & Djibouti
Freetown & Libreville
Mogadishu, Monrovia & Moroni
It’s you and it’s me
It’s him and it’s her
It’s us and it’s them
It’s East and it’s West
It’s North and it’s South
It’s core and periphery
It’s Bamako, Banjul & Bissau
Kinshasa, Kampala, Kigali & Khartoum
Malabo, Maputo & Mombasa
Algiers, Alexandria & Abidjan
It’s scholarly and illiterate
Ambitious and unmotivated
Political and apathetic
Construction and destruction
Truth and propaganda
Scribes and scholars
It’s Juba & Goma
Yaoundé & Yamoussoukro
Victoria & Windhoek
Porto Novo, Port Louis & Port Elizabeth
Sao Tomé, Praia & Cotonou
It’s unpredictable and expected
Unconvential and conformist
Extraordinary and banal
Hope and despair
Riches and rags
Scarcity and extravagance
It’s both ends of the spectrum
And everything in between
TIA-This is AFRICA
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 199: World faced with emergence of transnational capitalism
Free press and corruption: Cameron lectures Africa
GMOs and goats
Zimbabwe: Cases of persons accused of insulting Mugabe skyrocket
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has said it is worried by the rate at which state security agencies are arresting citizens on charges of insulting President Robert Mugabe, whose cases the organisation is receiving every day. 'One of the most fascinating things at ZLHR is that everyday we are getting a case of a person being charged with the law of insulting President. If you say anything critical especially mentioning governance and in particular current President you are likely to spend a night in jail, and that to me is a symptomatic of a country which is not ready to accept democracy. Democracy in its own allows citizens to freely express themselves without fearing for what will happen after.'
Zimbabwe: Mugabe’s supporters assault MPs and journalists
Supporters of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party on Sunday 24 July assaulted an MP and four journalists as they disrupted a parliamentary committee receiving submissions on a proposed human rights law. Journalists who were caught in the mayhem said a crowd of more than 200 Zanu PF supporters stormed the parliament building singing revolutionary songs. A legislator was dragged out of the building and was repeatedly assaulted. Journalists from privately owned newspapers were also locked inside the building and heavily assaulted.
Zimbabwe: Thirteen activists arrested
Thirteen activists from Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe (ROHR) were arrested by the police outside the High Court on Wednesday (27 July), for protesting against ongoing human rights abuses in the country. ROHR said their activists were protesting against the continued incarceration of eight MDC-T activists who have remained behind bars since they were arrested on 29 May.
Africa: Governments need to reach out to rural women
Governments, especially in Africa, need to have strong accountability measures in place in order to effectively reach women in rural areas through gender responsive budgeting. This was one of the recommendations in the Global Call for Action plan drawn up at the end of an international high-level meeting on gender responsive budgeting held in Kigali from 26 to 28 July. The meeting was held in conjunction with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the European Union. Delegates also agreed that there was a need to strengthen the skills, competencies and abilities of local government leaders.
Cameroon: Meeting declares women's interests in land
African women want their governments to undertake reforms that will enable them to get easier access to land. Making the appeal, the over 40 women drawn from across the continent also clarified: 'We are talking about natural succession to land.' This was at the end of a two-day workshop in Cameroon's Edea town on 28 July.
Kenya: Gender responsive budgeting kicks in
For the first time ever, the Kenyan finance minister has allocated almost four million dollars, about 3.6 per cent of the primary education budget, to provide free sanitary pads to schoolgirls. This comes after persistent pressure from women parliamentarians who took the issue of girls’ absenteeism from school, due to lack of sanitary pads, to parliament. It was a campaign that left their male counterparts speechless, for such matters are rarely spoken about in public, let alone in parliament, in Kenya’s conservative society.
Kenya: Limited success for campaigns targeting FGM/C practitioners
August is when Nchoo Ngochila would normally be gearing up for the traditional female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) season in her Ilchamus community in Kenya's Rift Valley Province. This year, however, Ngochila will spend her time trying to convince her community the practice should be abandoned. About a year ago, a campaign by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) urged FGM/C practitioners in the area to put down their razors and campaign for women's rights in their communities.
Rwanda: Calls for gender budgeting
Rwanda is the first country in the world where women outnumber men in parliament, with women occupying 45 out of 80 seats. However, despite this, experts say that the country still needs a gender equality perspective on how national resources and programmes are implemented. 'The move will help ensure government spending addresses the needs of women and men equitably,' said Susan Mutoni, referring to the situation in Rwanda. Mutoni is the project coordinator of gender responsive budgeting in Rwanda’s ministry of finance and economic planning. Since 2009, the country has been part of a three-year pilot programme, the Gender Equitable Local Development (GELD), which is organised by UN Women and the United Nations Capital Development Fund.
Zambia: Curbing gender-based violence
Women in Law in Southern Africa (WILSA) working in Zambia, believes prevention is important in reducing the number of women who become victims of gender-based violence. Rudo Chingobe Mooba says the media can play an important role in raising awareness of risks and dangers as well as in influencing public opinion and policies that protect the rights of women. Rudo is worried that a number of gender-based violence cases occur in marriages. A situation she says 'poses a threat to stopping gender-based violence, notwithstanding the issues of HIV/AIDS which stand at 16% in Zambia.'
Zimbabwe: New screening initiative for gender rights
'Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo', 'I Want A Wedding Dress' and 'Ungochani' were three of the films recently screened at the Women’s Law Centre in Harare as part of a new film based gender rights series initiative between Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (WFOZ) and The Women’s Law Centre. The collaboration started in February this year and will continue in the next semester.
Gambia: Coup anniversary celebrated in 'climate of fear'
Gambia feted the 17th anniversary of a coup by President Yayha Jammeh on 22 July as his regime faced allegations from rights bodies of muzzling journalists, killings and torture. Jammeh seized power in Gambia on 22 July 1994 in a bloodless coup from predecessor Dawda Jawara, and the anniversary is typically feted with more pomp than independence day celebrations. Rights bodies have accused the 46-year-old leader of creating a climate of fear which has terrified journalists and rights defenders into toeing the line and quashes any dissent against his regime.
Nigeria: Police 'killed 23 after bomb attack'
Nigerian security forces killed at least 23 people in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri in retaliation for a bomb attack blamed on a radical Islamist sect, Amnesty International said on Monday (25 July). Boko Haram, a radical group which wants sharia law more widely applied across Africa's most populous nation, has been behind almost daily shootings and attacks with homemade bombs in and around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
Uganda: Forced labour, disease imperil prisoners
Inmates in Ugandan prisons are subject to brutal compulsory labour, frequent violence, miserable overcrowding, and disease, Human Rights Watch said in a report examining conditions in 16 prisons throughout the country. Over half of those in Ugandan prisons are in pretrial detention and may be held for years without having been convicted of any crime, Human Rights Watch said. Profits from prisoner labour often benefit individual prison officers, while prisoners suffer illness from inadequate food, water, and basic hygiene.
Zimbabwe: 'No vacancy' for hangman job
Zimbabwe’s Justice and Legal Affairs ministry has dismissed reports that the country has failed to recruit a hangman since 2005, after several people rushed to hand in their applications for the supposedly vacant post. The ministry has said there is no opening for the job and instead blamed the cabinet for 'sitting' on requests to carry out executions since last year. There are 55 convicts on death row, some who have been there for up to 13 years.
Kenya: Red tape adds to refugee woes in Dadaab
After walking for days to escape drought and insecurity, often barefoot and with almost no food or water, Somali refugees who arrive at Dadaab camps in northern Kenya are met with delays and red tape. Some wait up to two weeks to be registered as refugees, and longer to get food and shelter. The sluggish pace of the registration process is partly because refugees may only register and receive ration cards at Ifo camp, at the centre of the three Dadaab camps set up to 10km apart.
Somalia: 40,000 famine-hit Somalis flee to Mogadishu, says UNHCR
Some 40,000 famine-hit people have fled to the Somali capital Mogadishu over the past month in search of food and water, the UN refugees agency said. 'Over the past month, UNHCR figures show that nearly 40,000 Somalis displaced by drought and famine have converged on Mogadishu in search of food, water, shelter and other assistance,' said Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 'A further 30,000 have arrived at settlements around Mogadishu.'
Somalia: Addressing mental illness stigma in Somali diaspora
Post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems experienced by Somalis who fled their country to settle in the UK, according to Abdi Gure, a community development worker for Mind, a mental health organization based in Harrow, north London. Uncertainty over immigration status, housing and language barriers can compound mental illness but fear of being stigmatized may prevent sufferers from seeking support from their community as well as from the mental health services.
South Africa: Life for Moz-SA trafficker
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Pretoria has welcomed the sentencing of human trafficker Adina dos Santos (28) to life imprisonment. Dos Santos was also given a one-year sentence in the Pretoria Regional Court for living off the money the young women had made. She was found guilty in May of trafficking three girls from Mozambique to Pretoria in February 2008.
South Sudan: Row looms as Juba locks out Somalis
South Sudan has barred people of Somali origin from entering its territory by road, creating a potential diplomatic and trade crisis with its neighbours. A senior Kenya Revenue Authority official, who sought anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the press, said that the rules were introduced two weeks ago due to what is believed to be security reasons. Kenyan traders, including those of Somali origin, have flocked to South Sudan in search of new business opportunities.
Tunisia: Migrants flee to new traps
As African Union and NATO leaders push for a political solution to the Libyan crisis, many of the thousands of refugees and migrants stranded on the Libyan- Tunisian border say their plight continues to fall on deaf ears. Sitting outside her makeshift tent with her daughter and grandson, 63-year-old Somali refugee Hawiyeh Awal tries to find a bit of shelter from the scorching sun on the Tunisian desert. 'I’m so scared that I’m going to die in this hot desert,' she says. 'I have diabetes and I’ve lost more than eight kilos since coming here because of the hot weather.'
Zimbabwe: Immigrants in the dark
Thousands of Zimbabweans in South Africa are in the dark about their residency status as the moratorium on the deportation of illegal immigrants expired. Though NGOs claimed that the Department of Home Affairs had indicated that the moratorium might be extended until the end of this month, no announcement has been made. Though the department has registered 275762 applications, NGOs estimate that there are as many as a million undocumented Zimbabweans in this country. This means thousands could be deported back to Zimbabwe.
South Africa: Cape Town backyarders call for Housing MEC’s resignation
Mandela Park Backyarders say they have 'proof of corruption' in a Khayelitsha housing project and have called for the 'immediate' resignation of Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela. The call follows the organisation’s online publication of results of their investigation into the occupation of houses in the Mandela Park Housing Project, of which 150 houses out of a planned 950 have been completed.
South Africa: The smoke that calls: Insurgent citizenship, collective violence and the struggle for a place in the new South Africa
There are several innovations to the research projects captured in this report. Firstly, it consists of studies of both xenophobic violence and community protests, drawing the links both empirically as one of collective action spawns or mutates into another, and theoretically through the concept of insurgent citizenship. Secondly, the research was conceived of, and conducted, through a collaboration between an NGO, The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and an academic research institute, the Society Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at University of the Witwatersrand. This brought together scholars and practitioners, psychologists and sociologists, in a challenging and productive partnership to try to understand collective violence and its underlying social dynamics.
Latest edition: emerging powers news roundup
In this week's edition of the Emerging Powers News Round-Up, read a comprehensive list of news stories and opinion pieces related to China, India and other emerging powers...
African manufactured exports double in 10yrs
The African manufactured exports have doubled over the last ten years with the rise in demand of goods by emerging partners, says a new report. According to the African Economic report released on Monday, it shows that the share conducted by the continent with emerging partners has grown from approximately 23 per cent to 39 per cent in the last decade. The report shows that China replaced the US in 2009 as the main Africa’s trading partner. Africa’s top five emerging trade partners include China (38 per cent), India (14 per cent), Korea (7.2 per cent), Brazil (7.1 per cent) and Turkey (6.5 per cent).
2. China in Africa
China's Hanlong eyes W.Africa iron ore in Sundance bid
China's Sichuan Hanlong bid to buy out Australia's Sundance Resources , valuing the company at $1.5 billion in a deal that would give it control of a major iron ore mining project in West Africa and help feed China's demand for metals. Sundance's board urged shareholders not to take any action on Hanlong's A$0.50 a share offer, a 25 percent premium to Friday's closing price, which it said was inadequate. Hanlong already owns 18.6 percent of the company.
Abide by the law, envoy asks Chinese companies
CHINESE companies have been asked to improve their relationship with the Zambian government and local people to boost their grip on huge infrastructural projects currently being enjoyed. And China’s Sinohydro has started building the Us $2 billion 750 megawatts Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower station which is expected to boost power security in Zambia and the region once completed in 2017. Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for Kafue Gorge Lower on Wednesday, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Zhou Yu Xiao said there was need for Chinese companies to fully exploit opportunities in Zambia that arise from the enactment of the Public Private Partnership Act.
China's Wing Hing to buy SA gold assets in $580m deal
China’s Wing Hing said on Thursday that it planned to buy up to 87% of South African gold company Taung Gold for $580-million to take advantage of the surging gold price.
China, Nigeria Spend $629 Million on Construction of Abuja to Kaduna Rail
China and Nigeria have spent $629 million on the construction of a rail line linking the capital, Abuja, to the northern city of Kaduna, Nigeria’s Transport Ministry said today in an e-mailed statement. The Export-Import Bank of China provided $500 million in concessionary loans for the $850 million project being built by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Co., according to the statement.
Botswana: Diamond revenue to rise as China's mineral hunt grows
China’s growing investment interest in Africa has seen firms from the Asian country acquiring prospecting mining licenses in a territory close to 37 300 square kilometers in Botswana. Three Chinese companies have reportedly secured 143 prospecting licenses since 2009 in the diamond-rich Southern African country. The southern African country’s Department of Geological Survey principal geologist, Tebogo Segwabe was quoted saying: "a number of companies are coming through from China and showing interest. “Three of them in particular hold a number of licenses in Botswana."
Ghana in talks with Chinese companies on eastern corridor road network construction
A delegation from Ghana led by the country’s Minister of Roads and Highways, Mr. Joseph Gidisu, has held talks with two Chinese construction firms about developing road networks in the country. The delegation which joined the ECOWAS team led by its President His Excellency, James Victor Gbeho held discussions with officials of the China CAMC Engineering Limited (CAMCE) and the China Gezhouba Company Limited (CGGC) in Beijing, China.
China to increase role in Africa's building sector
One of the most important areas where China is set to play a bigger role is in the construction and infrastructure sectors in Africa, according to Jeremy Stevens, Standard Bank Group's Beijing-based economist. The nature and driver of construction will change as highly-skilled Chinese companies will increasingly capitalise on their ability to provide cost-effective infrastructure solutions, he says.
3. India in Africa
India to create central foreign aid agency
India is to set up a central foreign aid agency to prevent funds from being misused and delays in aid delivery. India's aid commitments have soared in recent years as the country seeks to improve its strategic, political and economic clout on the world stage, especially as China extends its hand. The agency will reportedly be called the Indian Agency for Partnership in Development, overseeing $11.3bn (Rs 50,000 crore) over the next five to seven years.
India to fulfil PM's Africa promise, train their engineers
In line with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's promise to African nations, India will begin enhancing its engagement this November with a project on road engineering. These engagement are part of $5 billion (Rs22,175 crore) aid for the mineral and oil-rich continent where China has deepened its stake considerably. India's strategy will focus on enhancing expertise and manpower, especially in infrastructure sector. The road transport ministry has firmed up two proposals to equip African engineers to build roads and highways in their countries.
Indian enterprise to set up $30 mn cancer centre in Ethiopia
An Indian healthcare enterprise plans to construct a cancer care centre in Ethiopia at a cost of over $30 million. Dinesh Madhavan, marketing director of HealthCare Global Enterprises (HCG), an Asian cancer care network which is headquartered in India's Bangalore city, said the construction of the centre will help cancer patients in Ethiopia to get better treatment. Madhavan said the enterprise will train and educate doctors, nurses and paramedical staff in the latest advances in treatment and management of cancer. HCG focuses exclusively on cancer in India.
23 Workers Returned to Orissa From South Africa
The returnees who spent over Rs50000 each to get an overseas job allege India High Commission in South Africa did not address their issue. “I went to South Africa two months back in a group of 24 through V. D. Prasad a Hyderabad based recruiting agent and was employed in the construction work of a cement company in the dense forest near Bimbo town in Central Africa at monthly Rs 40000”, said Chitaranjan Ghadei (34) of Padmapala village under Dharmasala block in Jajpur district.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
BHEL seeks to join hands with Chinese firm in development of 120MW Zambian project
India-based Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) is seeking to join hands with China's Sinohydro Corp. by supplying electromechanical equipment for the development of 120 megawatts hydropower project in Zambia, the Mint reported. For the hydropower project in Zambia, India has offered a $50 million line of credit. In January 2010, the Export-Import Bank of India signed an agreement with the Zambian government to extend a $50 million line of credit for the Itezhi Tezhi project worth $200 million.
Brazil's Embraer eyes Africa growth opportunities
Brazil's Embraer sees Africa as a major growth market and targets doubling the number of its jets operating on the continent, a top executive at the aircraft manufacturer said. The plane maker is hosting a two-day aviation seminar in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, its first in Africa, as it looks to tap the region's fast-growing aviation industry. "If you look at passenger demand, we see an average growth of 5.4 percent (in Africa) one of the highest we predict around the world," said Mathieu Duquesnoy, Embraer's vice president.
Angola becomes Brazil’s third-largest trading partner in Africa in 2010
In 2010 Angola became Brazil’s third-biggest destination for Brazilian exports to Africa and in the same year imported goods from Angola worth US$947.1 million the business director of Brazilian export promotion agency Apex Brasil said Wednesday in Luanda.
Zuma promises more trade envoys in Africa
HISTORICAL reasons were to blame for SA’s failure, 17 years after the advent of democracy, to increase the number of its economic representatives on the continent, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday. SA has a total of 10 foreign-based economic representatives serving Africa’s 54 states. In contrast, there were 14 in Europe and 11 in Asia . In the US, SA has four representatives, with one in Brazil and one in Argentina, according to the Department of Trade and Industry.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
African leaders do not take us for granted, insists Japanese aid chief
Any suggestion that African leaders take Japanese bilateral aid for granted is swatted away by Sadako Ogata, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). The former UN high commissioner for refugees bristled when it was brought to her attention that Japanese officials - unlike their Chinese counterparts - found it hard to meet African policymakers at the recent African Development Bank annual meeting in Lisbon. The formidable head of Jica was in London this week en route to a conference at Wilton Park in Sussex, where policymakers gather to discuss weighty issues. She proceeded to rattle off Japanese projects and programmes in Africa: a joint programme with Brazil to transform the savannah into arable farmland and help Mozambique attain food security, one-stop border posts to speed up regional integration, and a project that began in 2008 with other donors to double rice production within 10 years.
China expected to step up pace of investment in Africa
Asian giant China is expected to increase its focus on resource investments in Africa over the next 18 to 24 months, as the country moves to plug a mineral supply gap, China-focused advisory firm Beijing Axis founder and MD Kobus van der Wath said on Wednesday. Speaking at the Terrapin Africa Mining 2011 conference in Johannesburg, Van der Wath said that he expected China, which is currently the third biggest investor in Africa, to boost its merger and acquisition (M&A) activity on the continent in coming years.
Hanlong Group's bid for Sundance Resources comes as no surprise
Sundance said earlier this year that it had held numerous discussions with a wide range of international steel mills, including Korea's Posco, about Mbalam, but its has also talked about strong interest from Chinese investment groups and Chinese bankers. Late last year, Sundance appointed China's largest investment bank Citic as its financial adviser in China, to assist in securing debt and equity funding for the iron ore project and associated infrastructure. Late last month, Sundance advised that potential partners and a number of Chinese banks had visited the operations in Central Africa to finalise due diligence and follow up discussions that had been held in China and Africa.
Botswana: Motion of no confidence in Khama in the offing
After being filed two weeks ago, it is now only a matter of time before the MP for Gaborone Central, Dumelang Saleshando, presents a motion of no confidence in President Ian Khama and his government. Because the motion is not likely to pass, Saleshando intends to use it to highlight the shortcomings of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government under Khama, whom he considers unfit for office. Speaking in an interview, Saleshando blamed the recent public service strike on Khama, saying as unions bargained with the employer, the president had seen fit to tour the country vowing that there would be no salary increase.
Burkina Faso: In dogged pursuit of L'Affaire Sankara
Opposition members of parliament in Burkina Faso have called on France to open its archives to look for evidence of involvement of the French secret services in the 1987 death of Thomas Sankara. The call is the latest effort in a long-running struggle to force a full and open inquiry into the assassination which brought Burkina Faso's current president, Blaise Compaoré, to power. 'Evidence presented in other countries indicates that France was involved in the death of Thomas Sankara,' said MP and lawyer Stanislas Benewindé Sankara - no relation to the former president - at a 16 July press conference in Ouagadougou, the Burkinabè capital.
Egypt: 26 political powers suspend Tahrir sit-in
The April 6 Youth Movement said that the movement, alongside 25 political powers, decided to suspend its sit-in in Tahrir Square until the end of Ramadan. 'We want to facilitate the traffic flow during Ramadan and put into consideration the special circumstances related to this holy month,' Amr Aly, member of the group's political bureau said.The movement said that it would continue exerting pressure on the government to execute the rest of their demands including ending the military prosecution of civilians, sacking the Prosecutor General, cleansing the interior ministry and setting a reasonable minimum and maximum wage.
Egypt: Civil society calls for open democratic space
A group of civil society organisations have issued a statement that requests that the government removes the restrictions imposed on civil society organisations and human rights activists in order to enable these actors to contribute to the change called for by the revolution and in implementing a peaceful transition of power towards a civil government freely elected by the people.
Egypt: Protesters under fire
A gallery of images from Hossam el-Hamalawy and published on the London Guardian website illustrates how a protest march towards army headquarters in Cairo ended in violence.
Malawi: Concerns of protesters need to be taken seriously
Unless Malawi’s government does something to find solutions to its economic and governance problems, the country will see more nationwide protests like the ones last week where 18 people were killed and 275 arrested, analysts say. Mustapha Hussein, a political analyst at the University of Malawi, told IPS that Mutharika should start taking the concerns of Malawians seriously before things get out of hand. 'The president seems to not be ready to accept blame for the economic and governance problems facing the country. There will be bigger protests in the country than what we just saw should the government not move fast in addressing the issues that are being raised,' said Hussein.
Malawi: Key activists in hiding
Several key Malawi leaders of last week's anti-government protests are in hiding after President Bingu wa Mutharika threatened to arrest them following the deadly riots, a leading rights activist said. 'The leaders have received death threats from unknown people. They are in hiding for their personal safety and that of their families after the President said he would arrest them,' Moses Mkandawire, one of the main organisers of the protests in the northern city of Mzuzu, said.
Nigeria: Jonathan’s political reform plan faces strong opposition
President Goodluck Jonathan walked into the National Executive Committee (NEC) hall at the Peoples Democratic Party national secretariat in Abuja (PDP) recently to meet a tribe of anxious party faithfuls. They had gathered in the hall for the 56th meeting of the NEC, the first since the end of April general elections, to discuss the various issues confronting the ruling party. But prior to Mr Jonathan’s arrival, party members were overheard discussing the proposed amendment to the constitution to bring about a single term for the country’s president and state governors, which the incumbent, through his media aide, Reuben Abati, had offered explanations on, but which has raised the country’s political temperature.
Tanzania: Government urged to release new Bill on constitution
The Tanzanian Government has come under pressure to make public the revised version of the Constitutional Review Act 2011. Participants at a weekend meeting accused the government of being reluctant to issue the document and vowed that they would not relent in their quest to have it released. The chairman of the Constitutional Debate Forum, Mr Deus Kibamba, said the government appeared not to be ready for change, and was trying to delay the process. The country might experience chaos should the process of writing the new constitution not be transparent, he said.
Tunisia: Voter registration drive launched
Concerned with a low rate of voter registration, Tunisia's Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) is in the midst of a major push to encourage citizens to register for the country's historic 23 October elections. Tunisians have until Tuesday (2 August) to register to vote for the Constituent Assembly elections.
Zambia: elections set for 20 September
Zambia's President Rupiah Banda has put this year's general vote on Tuesday, 20 September. Incumbent Zambian President and top contender under the governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) stable, Rupiah Banda announced the election day during a live broadcast to the nation.
South Africa: Arms deal bombshell
The Hawks have taken the first step towards re-opening the multibillion-rand arms deal probe - which could expose those who took bribes to prosecution. The head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, Anwar Dramat, wrote to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) informing it of the Hawks' intention to speak to European investigators to establish whether or not criminal charges should be brought against any South Africans. The Hawks controversially dropped the probe into the arms deal in September last year, arguing that prospects of successful prosecutions were slim.
Africa: Lack of infrastructure impedes development
A massive shortfall in funding for African infrastructure projects is costing the continent up to three per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) a year, a senior African Development Bank official said. 'The gap right now is something like $45 billion a year and that gap is dragging down economic growth in Africa by as much as 3 percent of GDP,' Mthuli Ncube, chief economist for the lender, said at a launch event for its annual economic outlook. 'The most critical area is energy - power. Any power outages are bound to cause massive problems for growth.'
Africa: Power production way below potential
In 2005, countries in the wider East African region launched a master plan that would finally sort out the region’s perennial power woes. The East African Power Pool (EAPP) was to exploit the enormous hydropower potential in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Uganda, the geothermal potential in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, natural gas in Tanzania and Rwanda and coal in Tanzania and the DR Congo. Six years later, the region’s power troubles seem to be going from bad to worse - Kenya this week joined Tanzania and Uganda in the growing list of East African Community countries rationing power to domestic and industrial consumers.
East Africa: Scrap tax incentives, civil society says
Civil society organisations want East African governments to scrap tax incentives as a stimulus for investment inflows and development accelerator. Speaking during a roundtable discussion in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday, activists said incentives hinder the entry of revenue and have no empirical results to prove their efficacy and impact to investment. The meeting - organised by the Tax Justice Network-Africa and ActionAid International Kenya - attracted policy makers, academics, tax administrators and business leaders in the EAC.
Global: UN aiding corporate takeover of water
Early last month, pharmaceutical titan Merck became the latest multinational to pledge allegiance to the CEO Water Mandate, the United Nations' public-private initiative 'designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices'. But there's darker data beneath that sunny marketing: The CEO Water Mandate has been heavily hammered by the Sierra Club, the Polaris Institute and more for exerting undemocratic corporate control over water resources (PDF) under the banner of the United Nations.
Malawi: US suspends aid after killings
The US has suspended a $350m (£213m) aid package to Malawi after the security forces were accused of killing anti-government protesters last week. A US government agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), said the money was to have been spent on developing Malawi's power sector. But it had suspended the aid because it was 'deeply upset' by the deaths of 19 people during the demonstrations.
South Sudan: Public sector job registry launched
The Republic of South Sudan (RSS) government has, in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB), officially launched a Curriculum Vitae (CV) registry that seeks to assist its citizens in their quest for employment opportunities in Africa’s newest nation. Under the new arrangement, the Ministry of Human Resource Development and other government ministries will review CVs received through the registry, thus matching them with appropriate openings within the public sector, if available. 'South Sudan requires a skilled and dedicated workforce in order to implement its national development plan and other goals effectively. The country needs qualified professionals to help it address challenges and who can share in the nation building process,' said AfDB in a statement.
Swaziland: Ministries told to cut budgets by 25 per cent
Government departments have been called upon to cut their 2011/2012 budgets by 25 per cent. According to Bheki Bhembe who is Director of Budget and Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance, meetings with the ministries on the issue are underway. 'We have issued Circular No.3 of 2011 to cut ministries’ budgets by 25 per cent. We are meeting them to look at reducing their budgets hoping to reduce level of commitment going forward,' he said. He noted that the reality of the government financial crisis has hit home with the ministries and they are cooperating.
Nigeria: Changing attitudes to contraception
Health workers say an apparent rise in contraceptive use in Nigeria stems largely from a willingness by traditional and religious leaders in some regions to use their influence in promoting reproductive health. In the predominantly Muslim north, where contraceptive use has historically been far lower than the national average, the support of traditional leaders has helped change attitudes in communities where contraception was long regarded as taboo.
South Africa: A condom in every jail cell
The government of South Africa should provide access to protective measures such as condoms and water-based lubricants in prisons and other places where forced and consensual anal sex is prevalent, say some advocates for improved health services for men who have sex with men. Sensitivity training for health care workers, improved counselling for HIV-infected men and the provision of condoms and lubricants in prisons and other places where men have sex with men are among solutions being advanced to combat rising HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in major cities of South Africa. The solutions are among measures urged by participants to the first South African conference, the 'Top2Btm MSM [men who have sex with men] Symposium,' held to 'brainstorm about prevention, care and treatment for MSMs'.
South Africa: Taking health to the people
South Africa's health system is on the brink of a dramatic change, with the National Health Insurance White Paper expected to be considered by Cabinet this week. The main priority will be to provide free health care to all South African’s regardless of what they earn or where they live. On this page, listen to - or read - a Health-e report on a visit to South Africa's west coast where an innovative programme is leading the way.
Swaziland: Protests over shortage of drugs
Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in Swaziland protesting against poor governance which has led to a shortage of essential medical supplies in sub-Saharan Africa's sole absolute monarchy. More than 500 people demonstrated in Mbabane, the capital, on Wednesday (27 July) while nearly 1,000 protested in the western town of Siteki. AIDS groups have warned of an imminent shortage of anti-retroviral drugs in a country where a quarter of the people between the ages of 15 and 49 are believed to carry HIV.
Morocco: Students seek training, not teaching
Despite 12 years of reform, Morocco’s universities continue to fall short of expectations, with students complaining that the training they get does not meet the demands of the job market. Professors in this North African country of 32 million people echoed their students’ grievances, adding that Moroccan universities are poorly managed and riddled with corruption. 'The kind of training provided by universities remains poor and does not meet any of the educational, pedagogic, academic and intellectual conventional standards,' Zakaria Rmidi, a student preparing for his master's degree in English studies, told IPS.
Uganda: City schools divided over strike
The government failed to stop a teachers’ strike last week after the ministers responsible insisted there was no money to meet their demands. Education Minister Jessica Alupo and other line ministers told MPs on the Parliamentary Social Services Committee that their hands were tied and that the matter had been forwarded to Minister of Public Service Henry Kajura, who asked teachers to be patient as there was no money.
South Africa: Oslo killer copied from SA blog
Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik is reported to have copied several ideas from a right-wing South African website when he compiled his 1,518-page 'manifesto'. Breivik borrowed liberally from several sources in writing his rambling ideas to defend Western civilisation. One of his themes is the struggle against multi-culturalism, and he used several articles on the topic from the blog iluvsa.blogspot.org, which has a banner proclaiming: 'I luv South Africa...but I hate my government'.
Africa: Women excluded from climate change projects in Africa
Of the millions of dollars spent on climate change projects in developing countries, little has been allocated in a way that will benefit women. Yet, in Africa, it is women who will be most affected by climate change. According to United Nations data, about 80 per cent of the continent's smallholder farmers are women. While they are responsible for the food security of millions of people, agriculture is one of the sectors hardest hit by climate change.
Mozambique: First exports of bio-fuels to European markets
Sun Biofuels Mozambique, a subsidiary of United Kingdom-based Sun Biofuels, has exported the first batch of 30 tonnes of Jatropha oil, from its fields in the central Mozambican province of Manica, to the German airliner 'Lufthansa'. Cited in the daily paper 'Noticias', Sun Biofuels Mozambique manager for corporate affairs, Sergio Gouveia said that the exports of Jatropha oil follows an order placed by Lufthansa for testing on its planes, Mozambique's news agency, AIM, reported. 'Civil aviation is an interesting market, that's why we are looking forward for Lufthansa test results, which has shown a keen interest in our production,' stressed Gouveia.
Nigeria: Nigeria’s waning status in climate negotiation
Barely four months to the 17th round of the United Nations-backed climate change conference scheduled for Durban in South Africa, Nigeria’s place as a leading voice seeking justice for the African continent appears to have taken a free-fall. Proceedings from the recently-held climate talks in Bonn, Germany indicated that, out of the over 200 negotiators appointed as Africa’s representatives under the platform of the African Group, only one Nigerian was acknowledged. The list showed that South Africa had 29 negotiators, including the national focal person; Ghana had six; Sudan, five; Gambia, three; Senegal, eight; Mali, four; Kenya, five; Malawi, four; Egypt, six; and Ethiopia, two.
South Africa: Cloud over preparations for COP17
Four months before South Africa hosts the United Nation's big climate-change conference in Durban, concerns are mounting that the country is lagging behind in its preparations. This comes amid accusations that tensions are running high between the department of environmental affairs (DEA) and the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) over responsibilities. Because of international protocol, the environment department handles the content of the climate change conference and Dirco the logistics. Greenpeace's Melita Steele, who is also part of the civil society steering committee for COP17, said it was only now, in July, that Dirco was ready and the confusion over which department was responsible for what seemed to have been sorted out.
Africa: Can Africa develop a regional response to ‘resource grabbing’?
The Pan African Parliament (PAP) recently held a meeting of parliamentarians from across the continent to discuss an appropriate African response to resource grabs, reports the blog anothercountryside.wordpress.com. 'The meeting noted the strategic potential of countries with natural resource wealth, but also the inequitable deals that have been approved by many governments, providing long-term leases of 50 to 99 years to companies at minimal or even no cost, and with few guarantees about development. Of priority concern was evidence that local communities are often displaced, undermining local food production and aggravating vulnerability to hunger and chronic poverty.'
Africa: Fairer land deals needed to ensure opportunity for locals
The trend of international land grabbing - when governments and private firms invest in or purchase large tracts of land in other countries for the purpose of agricultural production and export - can have serious environmental and social consequences, according to researchers at the Worldwatch Institute. Deals that focus solely on financial profit can leave rural populations more vulnerable and without land, employment opportunities, or food security.
Sudan: UAE investors urged to start developing farmland
Sudan is urging the UAE to begin developing the vast expanses of farmland it has acquired in the country, as the north loses the majority of its oil revenues following the independence of South Sudan. The country, ravaged by years of conflict, is now turning its focus to its agricultural sector, as it desperately tries to generate cash. Investors from the UAE, including the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, have been given a total of 600,000 feddans of farmland in Sudan, either for free or at nominal rent costs, on condition they will invest in the land, said Salih Ibrahim Salih Mohammed, a senior researcher at the Sudan Economic Advisor's Office, a division of the country's embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Gambia: Free expression advocates campaign against impunity
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) on 22 July 2011 joined Amnesty International-Ghana, Human Rights Advocacy Centre, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiatives (CHRI) and Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) to mark Gambia’s descent into tyranny. Over the years Amnesty International and its global partners including MFWA have been marking this so-called 'Freedom Day' annually with various campaign events to continue highlighting the grave human rights violations to the world for action.
Malawi: Bloody crackdown on media
Malawi journalists were beaten by police in churches and hospitals in Lilongwe, and were blamed for the demonstrations that swept the country last week. The country's radio stations were also shut down in the 'national interest'. Meanwhile, private media houses shut down last week after they heard that their buildings were about to be torched, said Kondwani Munthali, a journalist from Nation Publications.
South Africa: Review panel for Info bill
The Protection of Information Bill is back in the spotlight in parliament, with the focus on a new panel that will have the power to decide if information has been wrongly classified. The proposed law - dubbed 'the secrecy bill' - has been widely criticised for giving the state wide powers to classify information, and for punishing people who publish that classified information, even if it is in the public interest. Opposition parties and civil society groups say a key problem in the bill remains: it provides for information to be classified in the interests of 'national security' but it is not clear what exactly national security is.
Zambia: Editor tells court Banda is corrupt and a liar
A Zambian newspaper editor has appeared in a Lusaka High Court to commence his defence in a defamation suit brought against him by President Rupiah Banda. President Banda, in power for almost three years now, sued The Post editor Fred M’membe and his publication for defamation ahead of the 2008 polls after the paper allegedly said he was 'corrupt and a liar'.
Zimbabwe: Fresh jail threats to journalists reporting on cabinet
Journalists in Zimbabwe are concerned over a fresh warning that they face being jailed, if they report on issues discussed in cabinet. It is understood that the government plans to use the Official Secrets Act to silence the media, as it forges ahead with its culture of keeping ordinary Zimbabweans in the dark.
Government ministers are said to be getting increasingly uncomfortable with media reports of their deliberations in parliament, especially over issues they disagree on.
Zimbabwe: Journalists assaulted at parliament
Journalists Aaron Ufumeli and Lev Mukarati were on 23 July 2011 reportedly assaulted and harassed by suspected Zanu PF supporters who were part of a public hearing on the Human Rights Bill that was being conducted at the Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare. Ufumeli, chief photographer with Alpha Media Holdings publishers of The Standard, Zimbabwe Independent and Newsday, was manhandled by the mob that tried to grab his camera while the others demanded that he delete the pictures he had taken.
Africa: How best to remove guns from post-conflict zones?
Cash for guns or buy-back programmes in post-conflict states have fallen out of favour as a method of ridding a society of weapons, and have been replaced by often elaborate schemes designed to remove money from the equation, but the debate continues as to the best way forward. The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) community has grappled for years with buy-back practices and acknowledges they can have a profound effect on the nature of peace and even encourage a return to conflict. However, sometimes they can be termed 'good practice'.
Benin: Tanker seized
Pirates have hijacked an Italian diesel tanker off Benin in western Africa in an attack of the kind more usually associated with Somalia. Assailants boarded the RBD Anema e Core in the Gulf of Guinea, officials in Benin and Italy confirmed. The Gulf of Guinea has become increasingly important for its potential energy reserves which have attracted international interests, BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy reports from Dakar.
Burundi: Nine dead in Burundi clashes
At least nine people have died in clashes between unidentified 'armed gangsters' and security forces in northwest Burundi, sources said. The incident, the most deadly since the end of the 1993-2006 civil war, came amid increasing reports in recent weeks of attacks by 'armed gangs'.
DRC: US asked to use OECD guidance for conflict-mineral rules
The Democratic Republic of Congo has appealed to the US Securities and Exchange Commission to prevent forthcoming conflict-mineral rules from causing a 'de- facto embargo' on trade from the Central African nation. The commission was asked to develop the guidelines last July under the Dodd-Frank Act to help cut the link between Congo’s mineral trade and armed groups. The SEC rules, which are expected as early as next month, will apply to US companies involved in the trade in tin ore, tantalum, tungsten and gold shipped from Congo and nine neighboring countries.
East Africa: Ethiopia and Uganda sign regional security deal
Ethiopia and Uganda have signed bilateral agreements to cooperate in regional security operations. The deal also seeks to strengthen economic ties while allowing for the free movement of people between the two countries. Ethiopia's Foreign Affairs ministry said the agreement would enable the two countries to take a common position on regional security affairs. Among the issues to be prioritised are Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea.
Eritrea: Eritrea behind AU summit attack plot, says UN report
Eritrea was behind a plot to attack an African Union summit in Ethiopia in January and is bankrolling al Qaeda-linked Somali rebels through its embassy in Kenya, according to a UN report. A UN Monitoring Group report on Somalia and Eritrea said the Red Sea state's intelligence personnel were active in Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia, and that the country's actions posed a threat to security and peace in the region.
Libya: Benghazi clash exposes cracks in rebel ranks
Rebel fighters challenging the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi waged an eight-hour gunfight here in their de facto capital on Sunday, against what their leaders called a 'fifth column' of Qaddafi loyalists who had posed as a rebel brigade. It was the latest sign of discord and trickery in the rebel ranks to emerge in the four days since the killing of the rebels’ top military leader, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, a former Qaddafi confidant who had defected to their side. The mysterious circumstances of his death have raised new questions about his own loyalties, and about the unity and discipline of the rebel troops.
Nigeria: Panel seeks talks with Boko Haram
Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, has set up a committee to negotiate with a radical Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for a string of almost daily shootings and bomb attacks in northeastern Nigeria, the government has announced. The committee was set up on Saturday after a meeting between Jonathan and local leaders in Borno state, which concluded that the military's strategy against Boko Haram, the group in question, has done more harm than good.
Sudan: UN troops move into disputed Abyei area
The top United Nations peacekeeping official has reported that more than 500 troops with the new UN mission in the disputed Abyei area of Sudan have been deployed and both of the contesting sides appear committed to avoiding combat and willing to withdraw in favour of the blue helmets. But Alain Le Roy, the under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, told a meeting of the Security Council that 'deployment difficulties' in working with the Sudanese government have left some of the troops facing a 'critical food shortage'.
Uganda: Risk of starvation in Karamoja region
Several districts in Uganda will need urgent relief aid to mitigate the risk of starvation following poor rains that have affected this year's harvest, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness warned. Most of the affected districts are in Karamoja where the situation was particularly unique because crop failure and a prolonged drought had aggravated the region's food crisis, Musa Ecweru said.
Angola Monitor newsletter
The Angola Monitor follows the progress of peace, stability, development and human rights in the country as it struggles to overcome the legacy of nearly three decades of war. Since the first multi-party elections in 1992, we have been monitoring the progress of democracy and peace in the region. The Monitor is produced in English and Portuguese. You can subscribe to the Angola Monitor and get it sent direct to your inbox four times a year.
Art for Humanity: June/July 2011 Newsletter
In this month’s issue:
Dialogue among Civilizations News
- Dialogue Among Civilizations Book Launch
- Dialogue Among Civilizations Exhibition KZNSA Gallery 2011
- Dialogue Among Civilizations Exhibition Leeds 2011
- Profile: Berry Bickle
Women for Children News
- Gabisile Nkosi Remembered (4 February 1974 - 27 May 2008)
- Youth Day 16 June 2011
- “Precious Cargo” by Ernestine White
- DUT Students view on Youth Day 2011
Break the Silence News
- 5th SA AIDS Conference - June 2011
- Art work: Yehoshua Comforting an Aids Victim by Mduduzi Xakaza
- ASJ Conference
- Nelson Mandela Day – 18 July 2011
South Centre, Issue 55, 11 July 2011
Capital flow booms and busts damaging to south
This issue of South Bulletin focuses on the adverse effects of the boom and bust cycle in capital flows into and out of developing countries, which has caused adverse effects in many economies. After the financial crisis, capital flows resumed their large surge into some developing countries. This has caused them many problems, such as currency appreciation affecting their trade, excess money, asset price boom and inflation.
Call for proposals: 16 Days of Activism against Gender based Violence
A call for applications to grantees seeking to organise activities to mark 16 Days of Activism against Gender based Violence has been issued by African Women’s Development Fund. The maximum amount of grant disbursed per organisation will be US$1,000.
A practical tool in budgeting for gender equality and women’s empowerment
Just Budgets aims to support civil society organisations, Southern governments and donors to track
donor and government commitment to gender equality thus promoting accountability to the poorest citizens.
North Africa: Interactive timeline on protests
Ever since a man in Tunisia burned himself to death in December 2010 in protest at his treatment by police, pro-democracy rebellions have erupted across the Middle East. This interactive timeline produced by The Guardian UK traces key events.
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