Pambazuka News 543: Resisting imperialism: Sites of struggle
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 6. Books & arts, 7. Letters & Opinions, 8. Highlights French edition, 9. Cartoons, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Emerging powers news, 15. Elections & governance, 16. Development, 17. Health & HIV/AIDS, 18. Education, 19. LGBTI, 20. Environment, 21. Land & land rights, 22. Media & freedom of expression, 23. News from the diaspora, 24. Conflict & emergencies, 25. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 26. Fundraising & useful resources, 27. Courses, seminars, & workshops
Highlights from this issue
ANNOUNCEMENTS: July issue of ‘Perspectives on emerging powers in Africa’ now available
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Political violence up and women being kept out of politics, say two new reports
WOMEN AND GENDER: How international financial institutions address (or don’t) gender based violence
HUMAN RIGHTS: Coming soon to a theatre near you: ‘The Mubarak Show’
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Find out about the refugee camp in the sky
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Latest edition of the Emerging Powers newsletter
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Zambia
DEVELOPMENT: The effects of the US debt crisis on the rest of the world + The real cost of oil
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Lancet reports on concerns over ART resistance
EDUCATION: How governments’ needs to please World Bank are bad for education
LGBTI: News on Uganda’s Freedom and Roam campaign
ENVIRONMENT: UN set to release Nigeria oil spill report
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: The second Great Trek: the role of South African farmers in Africa
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: South Africa blamed for sliding freedom of expression ratings
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda
PLUS: eNewsletters & mailing lists; Fundraising & useful resources; Jobs
No easy path through the embers
In Texaco, his novel about the history of a shack settlement in Martinique, Patrick Chamoiseau writes of a ‘proletariat without factories, workshops, and work, and without bosses, in the muddle of odd jobs, drowning in survival and leading an existence like a path through embers.’ But Texaco is also a novel of struggle, of struggle with the ‘persistence of Sisyphus’ - struggle to hold a soul together in the face of relentless destruction amidst a ‘disaster of asbestos, tin sheets crates, mud tears, blood, police’. Texaco is a novel of barricades, police and fire, a struggle to ‘call forth the poet in the urban planner’, a struggle to ‘enter City’. It’s about the need to ‘hold on, hold on, and moor the bottom of your heart in the sand of deep freedom.’
The shacks that ring the towns and cities of the global South are a concrete instance of both the long catastrophe of colonialism and neocolonial ‘development’ and the human will to survive and to hope to overcome. To step into the shack settlement is often to step into the void. This is not, as is so often assumed, because a different type of person finds that the tides of history have washed her into a shack settlement. It is because the shack settlement does not fully belong to society as it is authorised by the law, the media and civil society. It is therefore an unstable element of the situation. Its meaning is not entirely fixed.
The crack in the settled order of things and the official allocation of people to space created by the shack settlement has often enabled the politics of clientalism, violent state repression and criminal organisation that make any emancipatory politics impossible. It has also enabled the outright fascism of the Shiv Sena party in India. But that is not the whole story. The shack settlement has also enabled what has been called the quiet encroachment of the poor in Iran and a set of insurgent political experiments in places like Haiti, Venezuela and Boliva.
In South Africa the shack settlement has emerged as the central site in the wave of popular protest that began at the turn of the century and has gathered real momentum since 2004. A number of the poor people’s movements that have emerged from this popular political ferment have had a considerable part of their base in shack settlements. The largest of these movements is Abahlali baseMjondolo (People who live in the shacks), which was formed in 2005 and has opposed evictions, organised around issues like school fees and shack fires, challenged the state’s attempt to roll back legal gains for the urban poor and become a compelling presence in the national debate.
The intensity of the shack settlement as a political site - be it of an assertion of equal humanity, a demand for the right to the city or xenophobic or homophobic violence - has made it a highly contested space. This is not a new phenomenon. On the contrary it was also the case in the 1980s, the 1950s and the 1930s. The difference is that in the past when a certain political intensity cohered around the shack settlement it could always be read, even if a little gingerly, as the bubbling base of a national struggle, as its urban spearhead. That’s no longer the case. These days the struggle for the cities, the struggle for inclusion, is, plainly, ranged against national elites and their version of nationalism as much as the older enemies of urban planning as a poetry for all.
The illegality with which the state has routinely acted against the shack settlement in post-apartheid South Africa is well documented. The violence, the brute physical violence, mobilised against the shack settlement by the formal armed forces available to the state - the police, land invasion units and municipal and private security guards - is equally well documented. What has been a lot less well documented is the turn by the ANC toward the mobilisation of state sanctioned horizontal violence against independent popular organisation. It has happened to the Landless People’s Movement on the Eastern fringes of Johannesburg and it has happened in Durban, a port city on the country’s East coast.
At around 10:30 on the evening of the 26 September 2009 a group of armed men, around 100, many of them clearly drunk, began moving through the thousands of shacks in the Kennedy Road shack settlement in Durban. They knocked on some doors and kicked others in. They identified themselves as ANC supporters and as Zulus and made it plain that their enemies were leading members of Abahlali baseMjondolo who they described as Pondos, a Xhosa speaking ethnic minority in the city. They demanded that some men join them and assaulted others. Those who refused to join them were also assaulted. The entirely false conflation of Abahlali baseMjondolo, an organisation that is admirably diverse at all levels, with an ethnic minority emerged out of an attempt to cast the organisation as a front for COPE, the political party formed by a walk out from the ANC when Jacob Zuma replaced Thabo Mbeki as the organisation’s president. In Durban this split was often read in ethnic terms. Zuma has to take some responsibility for this himself. His campaign for the presidency of the ANC and then the country was often presented in crudely ethnic terms.
As the attackers continued their rampage through the settlement the conflation of Abahlali baseMjondolo with an ethnic minority resulted in violence that was both politically and ethnically organised. The police, usually ready to swoop on shack dwellers in spectacular fashion at a moment’s notice, failed to respond to numerous, constant and desperate calls for help. Most of the people under immediate threat hid or fled but as the night wore on some people tried to defend themselves. At times this was organised in terms of a defensive ethnic solidarity.
By the next morning two people were dead and others were seriously injured. One, who died with his gun in his hands, had been one of the leaders of the attack. The homes of the elected local committee, affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo, and a number of other prominent people had been destroyed and looted.
The ANC, which usually responds to the crisis of urban poverty with an unconscionable lethargy, moved into action with remarkable swiftness. The local ANC seized control of the settlement from the elected structures that had governed it. The provincial ANC organised an Orwellian media circus in the settlement where ANC members from elsewhere pretended to be ‘the community’. Wild and patently untrue allegations were made about Abahlali baseMjondolo. The provincial minister for safety and security, Willies Mchunu, and the provincial police commissioner, Hamilton Ngidi, issued a statement declaring that the settlement had been ‘liberated’. People without ANC cards were excluded from public life in the settlement and death threats were openly made against a number of activists, with the result that Abahlali baseMjondolo was effectively banned in the settlement.
Thirteen people, all Xhosa speaking and all linked, in various ways, to Abahlali baseMjondolo were pointed out by the local ANC as being responsible for the violence and were arrested and charged with an astonishing array of crimes, including murder.
At least a 1,000 people had to flee the settlement. More than 50 people and the previously public activities of a whole movement with more than 10,000 paid up members had to go underground. Abahlali baseMjondolo issued a widely supported call for a judicial commission of inquiry that would carefully examine all aspects of the violence in the settlement, but this was ignored. Instead the provincial government set up a high-level task team to investigate what it called ‘criminality’. In a series of thundering press statements, Mchunu sought to present Abahlali baseMjondolo as a criminal organisation. ‘Let us not,’ he insisted, ‘give crime fancy names, criminals are exactly that criminals - and they must be treated as such.’ He declared that, ‘I hate criminals’, and called for communities to compile lists of ‘criminals’.
Mchunu’s task team began its work by summarily announcing that, ‘the structure that is called Abahlali Base Mjondolo be dissolved’, and then proceeded to invest its energies in trying to frame the men that had been arrested after the attack while allowing the open demolition and looting of the homes of Abahlali baseMjondolo activists to continue for months without consequence.
At the bail hearings of the men arrested after the attack ANC supporters, some armed, came to court hearings where public death threats were openly issued. The bail hearings were carried out in a way that was patently politicised and patently illegal. The accused, who became known as the ‘Kennedy 12’ after charges were withdrawn against one of them, were severely assaulted in prison.
The attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo didn’t come out of nowhere. There had been an ANC meeting at the settlement at which it was said that S’bu Zikode, the national president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, had to be ‘chased from the area’ because ‘the ANC couldn’t perform as it wanted’. At the ANC Regional General Conference, a week before the attack, the chairperson of the ANC in Durban, the late and deservedly notorious John Mchunu, warned against ‘counter revolutionaries…colluding with one mission to weaken the ANC and its Alliance’. Under the heading of ‘criminal’, his speech referred to Abahlali baseMjondolo as: ‘The element of these NGO who are funded by the West to destabilise us, these elements use all forms of media and poor people [sic].’ Before that there had been extremely violent assaults on S’bu Zikode and Lindela Figlan, the chairperson of the Kennedy Road Development Committee. Mzonke Poni, the chairperson of the movement in Cape Town, had also been attacked.
State hostility to the movement had ebbed and flowed over the years but had always been present and had always taken the form of paranoid delusions about conspiracy and external manipulation.
The entirely prejudicial assumption that poor people could not possibly organise themselves or think and speak for themselves was endemic. Activists were regularly arrested on plainly spurious grounds, marches were unlawfully banned and savagely attacked by the police. There was systemic misuse of the criminal justice system to harass activists and divert the movement’s attention to endless court cases. More than 100 people were arrested over the years on plainly trumped up charges, which were then dropped just before the cases were scheduled to go to trial. The sole conviction achieved by the state after all these arrests was when Philani Zungu admitted to having illegally connected shacks to the electricity grid.
There is currently an Amnesty International supported civil case pending against the police after Zikode and Zungu, the then deputy president of the movement, were arrested while on their way to a radio interview in 2006 and severely beaten in police custody. In some settlements local ANC leaders deployed armed force to prevent Abahlali baseMjondolo from organising and it was not uncommon for people to have to show ANC party cards, and to publicly affirm their loyalty to the party, to access what development was available in the shacks.
A degree of popular hostility to the movement first emerged in Durban during Jacob Zuma’s election campaign for the presidency of the ANC, during which the movement was criticised for its cosmopolitan nature and, in particular, for having Indian and Xhosa speaking members in prominent positions. The movement, which had long been attacked as an ANC front in areas controlled by the Zulu nationalist party, the IFP, and which has always refused party politics and boycotted elections, was declared to be a front for COPE. In the lead up to the attacks, ethnic sentiment was tied to the interests of the business class in the settlement and both were channelled through the local ANC. The ANC habitually channels development through the networks of patronage organised through local party structures and some of the local business people had an eye on the coming upgrade of the settlement negotiated by Abahlali baseMjondolo after years of struggle. Others were angered by the decision, reached democratically, to regulate the opening hours of the bars in the settlement.
The attack on Kennedy Road was not the end of the repression confronted by the movement. On 14 November that year the police attacked the nearby Pemary Ridge settlement, also affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo, kicking in doors, beating people and firing live rounds into the home of Zungu. Thirteen people were arrested and 15 were left injured. All charges were eventually dropped against the 13. The police have never had to account for the injuries to the 15.
On 18 July, which is Nelson Mandela’s birthday, an event in which the state and corporate power invest with equal enthusiasm, the case against the Kennedy 12 was thrown out of court. No credible evidence had been brought against any of the accused on any charge and crystal clear evidence had emerged of the state’s attempt to frame the men. Witnesses contradicted their original statements and each other and some freely admitted that the police had told them who to point out in the line-up. Credible testimony was given that statements to the police had been concocted by the police. One witness admitted that she was lying and others were obviously lying. One witness said that she had been told to give false evidence but that she would not do so. She was subject to death threats and was attacked in her home and only saved by the quick reaction of her neighbours. Another witness, a police officer, gave credible testimony that confirmed, in important respects, the Abahlali baseMjondolo account of events, including the fact that the violence in the settlement was an attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo by the ANC and not, as the state had claimed, that other way around. The state could not find, with both bribery and intimidation in its arsenal, a single witnesses to credibly attest to the veracity of the avalanche of propaganda issued by the ANC in the wake of the attacks. The judge made some very strong comments from the bench about the extremely dubious manner in which the case had been investigated and the obvious dishonesty on the part of the witnesses that stuck to the ANC line.
The ANC continues to deny, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that its members organised the attack. Hopefully the civil case that Abahlali baseMjondolo is bringing against the police will allow some of that evidence to be tested in court. But the ANC cannot deny that violence was used to drive key activists from their homes, that their homes were openly destroyed and looted, and that death threats were openly issued against activists without any sanction from the police. There is now a court record that shows clearly that the police investigation into the attack was a failed attempt to frame people linked to a social movement rather than an attempt to mount a fair investigation into the violence that began to occur in the Kennedy Road shack settlement in September 2009. The ANC is also in no position to deny that its leading officials presented the largest social movement in the country as a criminal organisation without a shred of evidence to this effect, issued no statement of opposition to the violence and extreme intimidation directed against the leading activists in the movement and sought to summarily disband it by decree. The time when it made sense to consider the ANC as a democratic organisation has, clearly, passed. The path through the embers will not be an easy one in South Africa. It is time for all of us committed to the idea that democracy must be for all of us to moor ourselves, firmly, in the sands of freedom.
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* Richard Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Leaving oil in the soil
There's no way around it: to solve the worsening climate crisis requires we must accept both that the vast majority of fossil fuels must now be left underground, and that through democratic planning, we must collectively reboot our energy, transport, agricultural, production, consumption and disposal systems so that by 2050 we experience good living with less than a quarter of our current levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
That's what science tells our species, and here in South Africa a punctuation mark was just provided by a near-disaster in Durban - host of the world climate summit, four months from now - during intense storms with six-metre waves last week. A decrepit 40-year old oil tanker, MT Phoenix, lost its anchor mooring on 26 July and was pushed to the rocky shoreline in Christmas Bay, 25km north of the city.
The shipwreck is in the heart of a beautiful albeit class-segregated tourist and retirement site, Durban's North Coast, that just two weeks earlier held an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) world competition, the Mr Price Pro. That event boasted some of the best waves ever seen in ASP history, said contestants.
But cold winter swells from marine hell reemerged just when MT Phoenix was being towed into Durban harbour for confiscation, having lost its engines a few hundred miles down the coast. According to Cathleen Jacka of the maritimematters.net website, the incident confounded the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), what ‘with hints at a deliberate beaching; the possibility of a mystery stowaway still hiding onboard; uncertainty as to the true identity of the owners and even that the vessel was scrapped in India last year’. A SAMSA official observed that the 15-member crew ‘seemed inexperienced in the basic actions required to stabilise the vessel's position’ and remarked: ‘It would not be the first time that an unscrupulous ship owner was prepared to sacrifice a vessel in attempt to realise the insured value.’
Except that there was apparently no insurance for the MT Phoenix, since Lloyds took it off the books late last year, and allegedly it was on its final trip, from West Africa to India's ghastly ship breaking graveyard. The owner, Suhair Khan of Dubai, stopped taking calls, leaving South Africans to bear the risk of 400 tons of oil spilling if the ship broke on the rocks. Estimates of the heroic rescue operation's cost to the taxpayer easily run into the millions of dollars, but thankfully the crew was saved and oil was laboriously pumped ashore.
OFFSHORE DRILLING IN THE ‘REMARKABLY STABLE’ AGULHAS CURRENT
However another potential oil disaster looms in this very location, thanks to South African government energy bureaucrats. On 5 May, the Petroleum Agency of SA began authorising seismic oil surveying by a dubious Singapore-registered company, Silver Wave Energy, in water depths ranging from 30 metres to two kilometers. By comparison, BP's Deepwater Horizon platform in the much calmer Gulf of Mexico drilled 1.5km down to the seafloor surface.
Silver Wave Energy's primary owner is Burmese businessman Min Min Aung, who is tight with the junta that still rules there, according to reliable reports. Exploitation of oil and gas in Burma's Andaman Sea has long been controversial (my grandfather was deputy warden there during brutal colonial times), and when Unocal - now Chevron - built a pipeline to Thailand, it did such enormous damage to people and the environment that local villagers, supported by Earthrights International, successfully sued the firm for $30 million.
Since 2007 the Arakan islands on Burma's Bay of Bengal coast have been the main site of intense conflict, as Jockai Khaing from Arakan Oil Watch told me last week, and again Aung is a key player. Silver Wave has also been exploring dubious extraction projects in Russia, Sudan, Guinea-Conakry, Indonesia and Iraq, but in spite of sanctions against Burma (supposedly supported by South Africa), Aung received PetroSA's endorsement to explore 8,000 square kilometres stretching from Durban to SA's main aluminum-smelting city, Richards Bay.
Silver Wave simultaneously announced a $100 million oil search in the fragile Hukaung Valley in northeastern Burma, and if the company carries out its initial plans, this will threaten local villagers as well as endangered tigers, Himalayan bears, elephants and leopards. Although the area contains the world's largest tiger reserve, according to reporter Thomas Maung Shwe of Mizzima news service, ‘the Burmese regime has encouraged logging, gold mining, large scale farms and the building of factories inside’. As the scandal grew, Silver Wave denied what its own press release had announced, but conceded it would drill near the reserve.
A company this dastardly is a high risk, and to prove the point, Silver Wave's environmental impact document includes a description of the notorious Agulhas Current, which begins at the Mozambique border: ‘Compared to other western boundary currents the Agulhas Current adjacent to southern Africa's East Coast exhibits a remarkable stability.’ Huh? In reality, the Natal Pulse races down the Agulhas a half-dozen times each year, pushing 20km per day. It is one reason Durban's coastline hosts more than 50 major ship carcasses. Creating havoc further south on the Wild Coast, the Pulse contributes to the rouge waves that have sunk 1,000 more vessels in what is considered one of the world's most dangerous shipping corridors.
Susan Casey's book ‘The Wave’ pays Agulhas this respect: ‘Crude, diesel, jet fuel, liquefied natural gas: oil in all its forms was heartbreaking, infuriating and all-too-common sight in the ocean. Supertankers, behemoths that couldn't make it through the Suez Canal, swung down from the Middle East, took their chances hopping a ride in the Agulhas, and met their share of disasters. Salvagers used every tool at their disposal to prevent the damaged tankers from gushing out their contents, especially in fragile near-shore environments, but sometimes the battle was lost.’
SOUTH AFRICA’S PETROCHEM ARMPIT
If, thankfully, the beaches at Christmas Bay were saved from a spill this week, others have not been so fortunate. Just offshore South Durban's Cuttings Beach, a few kilometers from where I'm writing, we witnessed a significant 2004 oil spill of five tons at the Single Buoy Mooring, the 50-meter deep intake pump that feeds the refineries with 80 per cent of SA's crude oil imports. Onshore, corporate pollution standards are so lax that the rust-bucket structures regularly spring disastrous leaks and explode.
Daily, poisons are flared onto thousands of neighbouring residents. The Indian, coloured and African communities suffer the world's highest-ever recorded asthma rate in a school (52 per cent of kids), as Settlers Primary sits next to the country's largest paper mill (Mondi) and between two refineries: one run by Engen, Chevron and Total; and the other, called Sapref, by BP, Shell and Thebe Investments. Sapref's worst leak so far was 1.5 million litres into the Bluff Nature Reserve and adjoining residences in 2001.
Together these refineries can process 300,000 barrels of oil a day, more than any other single site in Africa aside from an Algerian mega-refinery. A new 705km pipeline from the Durban refineries to Johannesburg will double the existing pumping capacity, an invitation for much more damage here. Delayed two years, the government pipeline project's cost overrun went from $1.4 billion announced in 2005 to $3.4 billion today. Our petrochemical armpit gets smellier, as soaring financial costs add to the social and environmental calamities.
AMAZONIAN OIL SOILS OUR FOREST LUNGS
Because of flying so much, I am feeling an acute need to identify and contest the full petroleum commodity chain up to the point it not only poisons my South Durban neighbours but generates catastrophic climate change. And regrettably, this search must include Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador (and from last week Peru as well), for even South America's most progressive governments are currently extracting and exporting as much oil and gas as they possibly can. We may even be recipients in South Africa, if government's plans to build a massive $15 billion heavy oil refinery near Port Elizabeth come to fruition. A $300 million downpayment was announced in the last budget, and full capacity will be 400,000 barrels per day.
From where would this dirty crude come? Two weeks before he was booted from office in September 2008, disgraced SA president Thabo Mbeki signed a heavy oil deal with Hugo Chavez. It appeared a last-gasp effort by Mbeki to restore a shred of credibility with the core group to his left - the Congress of SA Trade Unions and SA Communist Party - who successfully conspired to replace him with their own candidate, Jacob Zuma, as ruling party leader nine months earlier. In those last moments of power, Mbeki fancifully claimed he wanted to pursue Bolivarian-type trade deals, and Chavez told Mbeki: ‘It is justice…it will be a wonderful day when the first Venezuelan tanker stops by to leave oil for South Africa.’ The harsh reality is that the preferred refinery site, Port Elizabeth's Coega, will probably retain its nickname, the ‘Ghost on the Coast’, and Durban will continue to suffer the bulk of oil imports, as BP now actively campaigns against a new state refinery.
Venezuelan dirty crude is akin to Canadian tar sands, and hopefully sense will prevail in Caracas. There is a fierce battle, however, for hearts and minds in both Bolivia - where movements fighting 'extractivism' have held demonstrations against the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, even at the same time his former UN ambassador Pablo Solon bravely led the world climate justice fight within the hopeless arena of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations - and Ecuador where Rafael Correa regularly speaks of replacing capitalism with socialism. Both have rising 'buen vivir' (good living) decolonial movements and even 'rights of Mother Earth' in their constitutions which are so far untested.
In Quito and Neuva Rocafuerte deep in the Amazon last week, I witnessed the most advanced eco-social battle for a nation's hearts-and-minds underway anywhere, with the extraordinary NGO Accion Ecologica insisting that Correa's grudging government leaves the oil in Yasuni National Park's soil. Because he was trained in neoclassical economics and hasn't quite recovered, Correa favours selling Yasuni forests on the carbon markets, which progressive ecologists reject in principle.
Accion Ecologica assembled 40 members of the civil society network Oilwatch - including four others from Africa led by Friends of the Earth International chairperson Nnimmo Bassey from the Niger Delta - first to witness the mess left by Chevron after a quarter century's operations. Six months ago, local courts found the firm responsible for $8.6 billion in damages: cultural destruction including extinction of two indigenous nations, and water and soil pollution and deforestation in the earth's greatest lung - but Chevron's California headquarters refuses to cough up.
The really hopeful part of the visit, however, was Accion Ecologica's proposal at Yasuni, on the Peruvian border, that $7-10 billion worth of oil in the block known as ITT not be drilled. Part of the North's debt for overuse of the planet's CO2 carrying capacity must be to compensate Ecuador's people the $3.5 billion that they would otherwise earn from extracting the oil. Leaving it unexploited in the Amazon is the most reasonable way that industrial and post-industrial countries can make a downpayment on their climate debt.
If the UN's Green Climate Fund design team, co-chaired by South African planning minister Trevor Manuel, were serious about spending its promised $100 billion a year by 2020, this project is where they would start, with an announcement on 28 November to put the Durban COP17 climate summit on the right footing.
Don't count on it. Instead, as usual, civil society must push this argument, in the process insisting on leaving oil in the soil everywhere so that other tankers share what we pray will be the final fate of the wretched ship MT Phoenix: a graceful not rocky retirement.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Patrick Bond is with the UKZN Centre for Civil Society in Durban.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Egypt: Pharaoh in a cage
The surreal images of ex-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on a hospital bed inside an iron cage in a Cairo courtroom have been the leading topic in the African blogosphere this week.
An Arab Citizen believes that the trial of Mubarak is a watershed moment for the Arab world, and an end to the era of impunity for the region’s leaders:
‘The moment Mubarak received his legal summons yesterday, officially accusing him of said crimes, the most important nail in the coffin of Middle-Eastern cult-of-personality and leader-worship was finally hammered, and would only be hammered further by the live telecast of the trial. Leaders are human beings, just like the rest of us, and the same laws that apply to us apply to them as well. If they do break them, they will suffer like any of us would. And just because of that, almost regardless of how the trials proceed, many of us here feel more even empowered and more dignified as citizens than as we did even on February 11th as well. And it's a watershed moment for an entire region struggling with corrupt, bloodthirsty and oppressive regimes, many of which are starting to believe they managed their way out of the Arab Spring. As the leading figures of those regimes received the news that Mubarak, one of the most powerful, oldest reigning, and once untouchable among them, was officially served his legal summons, all those men knew that the end of life as they were used to it has finally come, forever. Governments are for the people, not the other way around; and the people own their countries, not the regimes.
‘Yes, many still sympathise with Mubarak, the revolution is not as widely popular as it once was (for many reasons), and we do have immense problems on all imaginable levels. Yet while we continue our excruciating struggle for liberty, existence and prosperity, and as we go through our immense daily share of victories and defeats, this is one more unimaginable victory, much like February 11th, that no one can ever take away from us. Any man or woman who shall seek to lead our countries from this day forth shall know that we are to be no longer ruled by those who see themselves as above the law, and above the people.’
Arabawy captures the feelings of the majority of Egyptians when he insists that Mubarak is getting exactly what he deserves:
‘No words can describe my feelings honestly as I watched, together with millions of Egyptians, our former dictator, with his two corrupt sons including the man he was grooming for succession, his torturer-in-chief Adly and co, in a court cage today, as accused criminals in a live aired trial...
‘For people like me who saw the 1990s, what happened today made us speechless, even when we have been involved for years in trying to make this day happen, with many of us losing hope at some point or another that they would live to see it. As for me, with all honesty, I never doubted I would see it. I’ve always felt somehow I will see the revolution in my lifetime, and desperately wanted Mubarak to live and see it too. I wanted to see the man who have ruled us with torture chambers for three decades humiliated, exposed (and executed)...
‘I don’t care for a second about Mubarak’s health. He might be in bed, but at least he seems well enough to continue dying his hair black. “Fair trials” for the regime officials? The real trials have already taken place in Tahrir Square and other public squares in Egypt. The evidence for Mubarak and co’s crimes are everywhere, from the scars we hold on our backs, to those we buried in the cemeteries, to those who burned to death in trains, to those drowned in ferries.
‘Mubarak, you are guilty. And you deserve no less than a public execution in Tahrir Square. And to the Arab corrupt monarchs who tried to prevent this trial from happening, rest assured you are next.’
In a short comment on the Mubarak trial, the MEI Blog warns against the unintended consequences of putting the former president on the dock:
‘However justified the desire of many Egyptians for vengeance, the sight of a sick old man in a hospital bed being hauled into a courtroom does not accord with most people's idea of justice. The proceedings have been delayed, but the opening scenes will, I suspect, merely convince the Qadhafis and Assads of the world that they must cling to power to the bitter end.’
Africa is a Country does not believe in the viability of new Facebook page established to initiate an Egyptian-style uprising in Zambia:
‘There’s word that a Twitter and Facebook-led movement is underfoot: the Facebook group, “Zambian People’s Pact” may have a hand in the direction in which the Zambian elections may go. The members range from Lieutenant-Colonel Panji Kaunda (son of KK, and a fan of golf, basketball, and Manchester United), and several thousand others, many of whom probably never even experienced life as adults under KK’s leadership. The group openly states that their major goal is to unite followers of all parties in order to oust the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD). Whilst the debate on the page is passionate, with up to 800 and 1,000 posts per day documenting comments, reactions, and vitriol (mostly against each other), the membership is low: 5639 at last count. That’s hardly enough for a revolution; rather, it may simply consist of a small, elite group of navel-gazers who’ll generate more infighting and sycophantism than a genuine political upheaval. Hardly anyone can afford to have internet connections in Zambia, even via their mobile phones. Facebook is largely populated by aid workers and Zim expats, writing home and cruising for hookups. It is not a realm inhabited by “the people”.’
Akin Blog is outraged by Nigerian President Jonathan proposal for extending the length of the presidential term of office while limiting it to one term:
‘In the last 12 years, presidents and governors have had single or double terms of government without necessarily changing their domains noticeably for the better; there has been much politicking, wrangling, discord and unrest with incessant threats of carpet-crossing and apart from the case of two or three states, gubernatorial tenures have been abject failures.
‘The Presidency has fared no better, for almost a year in the last term, the country was held to ransom because of the failing health of the president and the cabal that constituted his so-called kitchen cabinet were a faceless set of unaccountable puppet-masters until the situation became untenable.
‘On that note, there can be no confidence in the idea that a tenure extension will suddenly be the catalyst for good government - as one writer on this matter has suggested, bad government will be bad government no matter the years spent in power with people losing the opportunity to be rid such rotten government earlier…
‘In the Nigeria we have today, I would rather we had presidents and governors for a single term of a maximum of 4 years and if such leaders are able, competent and visionary enough, they will have in place projects that are completed or near completion, ideas others can follow through to completion and succession plans that would ensure their legacies.’
On Suleiman’s Blog, Salisu Suleiman casts himself as an unborn child to present a snapshot of the ills that bedevil Nigeria:
‘I am not yet in this world, but smell the putrefaction that pervades public life and the perfidy that prevails on private conduct. I see a leader completely disconnected from the pervasive reality of poverty: unable to grasp the enormity of his responsibility; unwilling to grapple with the inevitability of tough prudence and incapable of nurturing hope in the millions of hearts whose burden I will soon share. And so while others come into beauty and bounty, I know, before I am born that my yoke will be one of colossal debts, bone-crushing poverty and heart-wrenching hopelessness…
‘I am not yet born, but know that I cannot change the scam; I cannot exercise the liberty of choice because my democracy is a sham; I cannot evoke change by force because the armed forces will come in to kill and maim; I cannot flee to other lands because my passport is my shame; I cannot confide in my imams nor confess to my priests for they take part of the blame. And I cannot share these fears with my friends because we are not from the same zone, nor voice the truth because I speak a different tone. I cannot be myself because I have no right to be.
‘Dear God, I am not yet born, but pray thee: when I take my first breath and see my first sights, birth me not in the Nigeria of today; berth me not in a land sheared by lies, tears and fears, nor give me countrymen corralled by complacency and ignorance, unhearing, unseeing, unthinking.’
Owen Abroad explains why Ethiopia, unlike Somalia, has been able to stave off the fallout from the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa:
‘It is at times like this that we get a lot of half-baked commentary about famine. We are told that the problem is drought, or over-population, or global warming. Special interest groups call for more money to be spent on agriculture. Commentators complain that we’ve given aid for decades and nothing gets any better. So here are two things to keep in mind.
‘First, famine is not caused by drought or overpopulation or insufficient food production. As Amartya Sen explained in Poverty and Famines, people go hungry when they cannot access food, because they are too poor or because markets and governments fail. Drought is neither necessary nor sufficient for famine…
‘Second, development aid works. Though there is considerable suffering, famine has been avoided in Ethiopia this time so far, and that is because of the safety net programme and disaster management system which has been set up by the Ethiopian government, with help from foreign aid. Remember 1984, and people leaving their land to make their way to feeding centres in Ethiopia? Not happening this time…
‘The investments that have been made over the past two decades have transformed Ethiopia’s ability to deal with bad rains. Ethiopia has suffered drought and famine about every ten years. But now a determined government, backed by foreign aid, has put in place systems which have made Ethiopia more resilient and prevented a repetition this time of past tragedies.’
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* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Libya and the Right to Protect
Few would deny that Libya's lifetime president, Muammar Gaddafi, is the perfect caricature of a 'third world' dictator. In usual form, Gaddafi's regime was politically and economically sustained by the obvious global actors: Corporations and 'first world' regimes, keen to access geostrategically convenient gas supplies.
This includes nations such as Italy, largely dependent on imported gas, sourcing a minimum of 10 per cent of its requirements from Libya, via the state's main energy supplier ENI, which has operated in Libya since 1959. Undoubtedly, said actors perceived Gaddafi's dictatorship – structured as the face of the country's elite interests (the army and a small group of businessmen) – as a stable 'investment' environment.
In fact, Libya's inequitable political economy is fundamentally dependent on their former colonial landlord, Italy, via ENI's Greenstream pipeline. Transforming the system, without engaging in civil war, may have been as simple as imposing mandatory banking and resource sanctions. After all, Libyan citizens do not really benefit from siphoned unearned resource revenues.
But while the brutality of Libya's regime under Gaddafi is not in question – and many may even sympathise with the foreign intervention, justified as a humanitarian mission – the US regime (both Democrat and Republican) often betrays its own peaceable language, casting US foreign policy as distinctly opposed to human rights.
This was blatantly obvious, for instance, when Obama offered his condolences to the people of oil-rich Gabon following the death of one of Africa's longest standing dictators, Omar Bongo. Obama stated, ‘President Bongo played a key role in developing and shaping the strong bilateral relationship that exists between Gabon and the United States today.’
So, for others like the US, the motive of 'just war' – packaged as a moral decision – is less clear than it appears at first.
Though it does not excuse Gaddafi – and indeed, the dismantling of his regime in an accountable and just manner would certainly be a right course of action – it does inform the ideological perspective structurally facilitating justification for 'humanitarian' interventions, and how it is framed.
Last year, I explored the concept of 'just wars' in Africa in an article, briefly unpacking the history and process leading to what is currently described as the 'responsibility to protect' (R2P), invoked by the Obama administration.
In it, I discussed how three months after 11 September 2001, the 'right to intervention' was re-characterised as the 'right to protection' via the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) under the expanded umbrella of ‘jus ad bellum’ – the justice of resorting to war.
Classical 'just war' theory requires in addition to 'just cause' the fulfilment of several criteria based on moral conditions such as right intention, war as a reasonable last resort in the context of plausible alternative legitimate authority, proportionality, and probability of success through military means.
The importance of 'just war', implemented through the perceived democratic global body of the UN must not be underestimated or marginalised as a crucial tool when addressing those tyrannical regimes.
The landmark moment came in 1999 when the US and NATO bypassed the UN by launching a series of strikes against Yugoslavia to prevent further slaughter of Kosovars – targeted by extremists pushing a dangerous nationalist ideology. The move was described, at NATO's headquarters, by former President Clinton's secretary of state, at NATO's headquarters, as a ‘fight for justice over genocide.’
Yet although bypassed, the UN – the world's central collective-security organisation, tacitly acknowledged the need for such. Kofi Annan's landmark 1999 speech articulated that, ‘the traditional pursuit of national interest…a permanent feature of international relations,’ required ‘new, more broadly defined, more widely conceived definition of national interest.’
That is, amongst other points, governments did not and should not solely represent the nation in the context of the international arena, as broader interests and realities were at stake.
This speech constituted – in an official capacity, the turning point away from the 350-year old Treaty of Westphalia, granting unchecked rights to regimes holding 'sovereign' political power, whether illegitimate or not, toward the full reality of globalisation. This ranges from military interventions to seemingly benign treaties imposed by so-called globally representative bodies such as the World Trade Organization, evidencing legally binding ceding of power from governments to external forces.
Africa itself is part of the process as it is party to the ICISS through the 'Ezulwini Consensus' which was adopted and ratified by the African Union’s Executive Council in 2005. The consensus acknowledged and mandated the ‘authority of the Security Council to decide on the use of force in situations of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.’
But as the article pointed out, the selective strategies determining the nature of 'just war' was embedded in the absolute power of the UN Security Council, comprised of the victors of the Second World War.
The unchecked domination of the Security Council – the world's largest arms dealers, resource-mongers and war-makers, capable of overriding the UN and the illegitimate or legitimate sovereignty of nation-states, is in itself ironic and in gross violation of the UN's stated principles and purpose.
But it remains a crucial source of power, and via the 'right and responsbility to protect', is able to smuggle in wars of vested interests – as was the case of Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama even invoked the concept of 'Just War' when accepting his Nobel prize.
In the context of Libya, an African country, the international and continent-wide issue is not so much whether Gaddafi's regime should be removed – that it must is obvious, but rather, how this should be approached, and why it is being approached at all – when considering other nations similarly in peril, such as Burma, Israel, perhaps all the GCC governments and myriad African rent-seeking regimes to boot.
In early March 2011, the AU High Level Ad-hoc Committee, founded and represented by governments like South Africa and Uganda, called for a 'peaceful resolution' on the issue of Libya. About a week later, UN Resolution 1973 was ratified by the UN Security Council, endorsing the use of military force, ‘acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory...’
The US's Susan Rice claimed that the US responded to the Libyan peoples' 'cries for help'. Five governments, including China and India – anxious to avoid the 'protection' of any external party concerning their own citizens, abstained.
Interestingly, during the past few years, Rice – the US representative to the UN, has voted alongside Israel on 30 of the 34 proposed resolutions on the issue of Palestine, concerning everything from self-determination, to the right to water and land, to the development of settlements, that may hinder Israel's expansion and occupation. The only country more supportive than the US on the subject of Israel was Israel, vetoing all 34.
What this reveals, of course, is that while intervention may be justified at certain times – following the doctrine of jus ad bellum (which was not adhered too, in this case, as many prior criteria were intentionally elided), the Security Council requires drastic democratisation – along the lines of a democracy: One country, one vote.
Approached in this way, how many countries would vote for bloody self-interested military strikes, and against banking and resource sanctions? Paradoxically, Rice herself lobbied for divestment for South Africa under the apartheid regime.
The selective framing of justice erodes any legitimacy on the part of the Security Council. They are as big and vicious a tyrant to the global democracy as Gaddafi is to Libya.
The privilege of power, however, is still true to the nature of the founding of modern civilisation, embodied by the declaration of Athens to the peaceful Melians, when they stated, ‘You know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, the strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must.’
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* 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.
US debt ceiling debate and the alternatives
On 2 August, a few hours before the deadline for the US government to raise its debt ceiling or face default, President Barack Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act, after Congress passed it by wide margins. This debt ceiling agreement calls for over $2 trillion ($900 billion now and $1.2 trillion by the end of the year) in fiscal spending cuts spread over 10 years. These cuts are expected to only reduce GDP (gross domestic product) growth in 2012 by 0.1 per cent. However, if an agreement is not reached on the $1.2 trillion spending cuts, the debt deal contains automatic spending cuts which some estimates suggest could reduce GDP growth by 0.8 per cent in 2013. Note that current 2013 GDP growth forecast is 3 per cent. The combined impact of reduced government procurement spending, reduced government support for personal incomes and continued high levels of unemployment seems to indicate a two-year period of lower levels of GDP growth, consumption as a percentage of GDP and subsequently total non-oil imports relative to their respective levels prior to America’s financial crisis.
This kind of deficit reduction that spares the wealthy from higher taxes and protects the bloated military budget from cuts is an assault on the ordinary citizen who depends on government programmes as social safety nets.
This week, I heard extended discussions on the mainstream media about the positive aspects of socialism. One popular progressive TV anchor, Keith Olbermann, charged ordinary folks to rise up against the assault on social safety nets. Usually, such discussions on socialism are carried out by small groups of the left, away from the mainstream media. Now however it is clear from the depth of the multiple crises that people are now thinking out clearly about alternatives. Keith Olbermann called on the people to rise up. In a passionate commentary, Olbermann called for a new movement to rise up and build a protest movement against the Budget Control Act. Olbermann stated on his show:
‘Where is the outrage to come from?’
‘From you! It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins … it will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the “free press” … it will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue.’
Without a protest movement, the ‘tide’ that had brought the debt deal ‘will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent. And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return.’
Olbermann was calling for self-organisation and self-mobilisation to meet the challenges of the financial–military complex.
Drawing inspiration from the anti-war and anti-racist struggles of the past generation, Olbermann called on the US population to ‘find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960s and early 1970s and we must protest this deal and all the goddamn deals to come, in the streets.’
This is a call to non-violent arms. It was the most explicit call from the progressive side. Olbermann’s call for organisation was a far cry from those who were looking to Obama for answers or those who called the deal a defeat for progressives. The reality is that progressives have not yet begun to fully organise. They have allowed the conservative forces to dominate the debate about the debt, the dollar and the budget for war and oppression.
POPULIST CONSERVATISM, CLASS POWER AND THE BUDGET CONTROL ACT
On 3 August 2011, the editorial of the New York Times commented that this Budget Control Act:
‘is as contrived as the artificial crisis that spawned it. The bill, like a tired opera production, is full of clumsy staging and failed gimmicks left over from previous decades. It is not only bad policy in its goals of cutting spending too much, but it is bad procedure. It allows members of Congress to avoid responsibility for their actions through a cutout committee, a spending limit and the pretense that this Congress can tell the next one what to do.’
This paper did not however explain to the readers the fact that this bad procedure was serving a clear purpose, that of ensuring the dominance of a small 2 per cent of the population. The outrage in the society from all sides had been too great, so this platform for the liberal wing of the ruling class came out with these words. While it is true that the mainstream media has been carrying the talking points and spin of the two dominant parties, there can be no hiding from the fact that millions are now paying attention to the realities of the economic crisis in the United States.
For two and a half years the Tea Party forces had seized the public political space. Loud and aggressive, these Tea Party forces of populist conservatism reproduce the values of white supremacy and militarism. It is now well documented that the financial supporters of the Tea Party are some of the crudest billionaires from the financial services sector.
These politicians thrive on progressive people’s political apathy, but the drama had been running for too long so people want the details. They want to know what it means that the Budget Control Act grants a $400 billion increase in the government's debt ceiling to stave off the threat of default, with an additional $500 billion increase available from February to be effective on the president's authority. There will be a further increase of $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion that will become available only if a balanced budget amendment is considered by Congress by the end of the year.
After the cuts of $900 billion, from November a special joint committee of 12 people from the House of Representatives and the Senate will come back with recommendations for up to $1.5 trillion in deficit-reduction actions. These cuts are to be identified by a bipartisan super committee. Under the law this super committee can consider tax or revenue increases. If it fails to produce a plan acceptable to Congress, the deal triggers steep, automatic cuts in spending of a similar size. The trigger is designed to encourage the committee to produce meaningful ways to cut the deficit. The strong possibility that the automatic cuts in spending will be mainly on social safety nets such as Medicare, Medicaid and other programmes worries the ordinary citizens who are already disproportionately bearing the brunt of the economic woes caused by the financial oligarchs.
The fiddling and back and forth that is going on cannot bring about the recovery of US capitalism. From 1945, the US consumers were primed to spend beyond their means while the fossil fuel economy was subsidised with the projection of military power. The budget ceiling debates were a dramatic wake-up call to the rest of the world as to the realities of the political and economic health of the United States.
In a society where the working peoples are more organised to defend their rights as citizens instead of planned deficits, there should have been a plan to put millions of people to work so that the sufferings of the people are alleviated.
All of the details of the budget control law are predicated on the idea that the top 2 per cent of America’s wealthiest folks make no sacrifice while the poor of the US and other societies subsidise this small ruling class in the USA. The question is whether it is just and sustainable for the US elites and the US military to go about business-as-usual while the US government drastically reduces its budget spending on the back of ordinary folks. This protracted capitalist crisis in the US and elsewhere calls for clarity on the question of whether the problem is merely one of taxation of the rich rather than a structural alternative to the entire capitalist system.
FIGHTING TO SAVE THE DOLLAR
Among progressives there has been clarity that the military–industrial complex serves the interests of big capital even while wrapping itself up in patriotic language. This week there was another report on the extent of the US global military deployment when Nick Turse wrote that the special forces of the military were deployed in more than 120 countries. These special forces represent a section of the military within the military. Turse wrote:
‘Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of traveling -- a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence -- in about 60% of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged -- provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.’
What Nick Turse did not do was to connect this global presence of the US military to the crisis of capitalism. How can a country in such deep economic crisis project such military power? In the past, the ruling class used war and military aggression to divert the attention of the rank and file from such a stagnant economy. Truth be told, the debt itself increased considerably from the unfunded wars of the Bush administration. It was significant that for the congressional representatives who voted for this bill, two questions were off the table, that of taxing the rich and cutting the military budget. William Pfaff in his 2010 Foreign Affairs article entitled ‘Manufacturing insecurity’ reinforced the huge burden that US militarism puts on its citizens. According to Pfaff,
‘[Alfred] Vagts wrote that militarism has meant “the imposition of heavy burdens on a people for military purposes, to the neglect of welfare and culture.…” It exists, he notes, as “a civilian as well as a military phenomenon….”
‘The defence and securities industries are today the most important components of the U.S. manufacturing economy, and their corporate interests now are in a position to dominate Congress, as well as an inexperienced administration. Without excessive exaggeration, one might say of the United States today what once was said of Prussia -- that it is a state owned by its army.’
What Pfaff did not ask is who owns the military? Whose interest does the military serve? Who is the military protecting in the 120 countries that it is deployed? It is now clearer to sections of the US working class that this military is not there to serve them.
Our reference to socialism in the beginning of this intervention refers not only to the discussion of a socialist alternative but the reality that US society is now a brand of socialism for the top 1 per cent of the population. And the inequality associated with this elite socialism has had devastating effects on not just the working class but the entire society.
Sacredness of the military budget stands out in budget control law, just as it did in the debt ceiling debate. Because the political legitimacy of the system rests on the military, serious cuts in the military budget are off the table. The New Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta reassured the top brass of the military that there would be no cuts in defence spending: ‘I will do everything I can to ensure that further reductions in defense spending are not pursued in a hasty, ill-conceived way that would undermine the military's ability to protect America and its vital interests around the globe.’
Winslow Wheeler pointed to the fact that discussions on serious cuts in defence are postponed. ‘The debt deal kicks the defense budget can down the road for this and future Congresses. People should not read precision and certainty into a political deal specifically designed to be uncertain and indistinct.’
I would agree with the terms uncertain and indistinct if this was a ruling class that did not stir up fear, anxiety and military passions among the people. The stirring up of fear and military passion among the people by the merchants of war and their political and oil and finance allies in the US is usually directed towards economic ends of the military–industrial complex. These merchants also employ their militaristic scheming for a drastic change of tide in election seasons. Hence with the US presidential elections coming in 2012, and with the current state of the US economy, the people must now be very vigilant against the possibility for war. This vigilance is necessary in the context of the recent warning by Robert Baer, a 21-year CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) veteran, who is predicting ‘that Israel will bomb Iran in the fall, dragging the United States into another major war.’
What history will teach us in the future will be whether the ‘tired opera production’ was one other facet of the armaments culture. This is the system of beliefs, values, understandings, cultural practices and institutions which legitimizes the accumulation of weapons and preparation for war. The function of this armaments culture is to spread fear so that citizens are demobilised and disoriented. This is because the absence of revenues from taxing the wealthy and the plan to maintain the trillion-dollar ‘security’ budget presents a fundamental contradiction for US society. This contradiction can only be resolved by intensifying the exploitation of the most oppressed in the USA and shifting the costs of the capitalist crisis onto the shoulders of others by force.
Domestically, there will be large-scale cuts in the entitlement programmes of social security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Internationally, there will be the effort to maintain the dollar as a reserve currency while the US Federal Reserve print more money and invent some other formulation or bubble of the type that was called ‘quantitative easing’. This plan to export the crisis outside US borders will face difficulty because the intensity of the crisis means that the contagion from the capitalist depression is not simply a US question. Efforts to exert US financial and military hegemony now face the reality that other societies are paying attention. The press reports from the rest of the world indicated that the rest of the world was not going to sit idly by. From China, the Beijing Global Times warned the US:
‘It is too early to cheer for this deal, since raising the debt ceiling simply means the US can now borrow itself into further debt … This does not seem a smart move. By using new debt to pay back the old, the US is sinking further into quicksand.’
From Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had harsh words for the US, calling it a parasite that is ‘leeching on the world economy’.
Consider the position of the head of the Central Bank of China. China will continue to ‘seek diversification in the management of reserve assets, strengthen risk management, and minimize the negative impacts of the fluctuations in the international financial market on the Chinese economy.’ China will also take ‘effective measures to maintain relatively rapid growth to safeguard economic and financial stability.’
China has the largest sum held in US Treasury bills but this rising power will be diversifying the management of its reserve assets. The Japanese central bank has intervened to save the yen, and like Switzerland, is dropping all pretences of leaving the fate of their economies to the vagaries of the market. Latin American states are looking for ways to protect themselves from the US dollar. As of 2010 the Latin Americans have created a virtual currency – the sucre – to trade among themselves in order to protect the region from the crisis of the dollar. In the Middle East the countries with huge dollar reserves are turning to hoarding gold. The price of gold has skyrocketed. What is Africa doing? Will this unfolding crisis stimulate a faster rate of conclusion for the African single currency? Business as usual where African central banks send their money to be devalued in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York cannot continue.
THE NEED FOR ALTERNATIVES TO CAPITALISM
From the discussions now raging in the USA there are radical alternatives being proposed to the rank and file as manifest in the call for self-organisation and self-mobilisation. There is no absence of clarity on the reality that the charade of the debate on the debt was one more dance to conceal the real powers of the masters of the universe on Wall Street. The dominant political parties are controlled by the same forces of finance capital that own and control the regular military and the private military contractors.
It is now up to progressives to join with the popular call for mobilisation by using whatever skills and talent at their disposal to point to the reality that the assumptions of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are unsustainable.
In our discussion last week, we drew attention to the fact that the debt ceiling debate was an indication of the intensified class warfare at the national and international levels. The US rulers were sending a message that the US military and the masters of the universe will remain at the top of the international economy by force.
Historically, racism and militarism have been the tools of the US rulers. While the debate was going on about the debt ceiling, a new study of US census data revealed that wealth gaps between whites and minorities in the United States grew to their widest levels since the US government began tracking them a quarter of a century ago. White Americans now have on average 20 times the net worth of African-Americans and 18 times that of Latinos. According to the Pew Research Center, the gaps were compounded during the housing bust and the subsequent recession, and essentially wiped out much of the economic progress made by people of colour over the past 20 years. ‘This report is pointing to just how much the socioeconomic inequalities have been exacerbated by the recession and poor economy.’
The call by Olbermann is for the mass of poor black, Latino and white to combine. Unlike other progressives who call on the people to seek solutions from Obama, Olbermann called on the people to be their own leaders. The challenge is to stimulate this striving for self-organisation and self-mobilisation to cripple the armaments culture in order to start on the road to build the structural alternative to capitalism.
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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.
Struggling for an alternative media
200th edition of Pambazuka News in French
When in the 1980s UNESCO was calling for a new world communications order in the name of allowing Southern voices to be heard within a fairer global system, the concern was to exist. The media landscape was at a mere embryonic stage in Africa, with poor content. The exchange had never been equal, and the terms of exchange were not even laid down in full, because beyond a new information order there was also the question of calling for a new world order of thought. What was a right also had to be linked to a cause.
Not only did Africa suffer from being almost silent within the global communications space, it was also subject to particular ideas and judgements, clichés and false perceptions. Behind a Western prism of ‘facts’ oozed grotesque interpretations of a caricatured reality – whether conscious or not – within devious conceptualisations serving to perpetuate mental subservience. Everything functioned to ensure African consciousness would be unable to ‘make history’ and remain mere tragic puppets on a global stage. Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa and Mobutu Sese Seku spring to mind.
But four years of running the French-language edition of Pambazuka News has led us to dive deep into the immense ocean of African thought, around the continent and within the diaspora alike. This is a contemporary thought, one reactive to a world made and unmade day by day and which both seizes the challenges of the moment and looks to the future. Putting Africa as the centre of reflection backed by an established history of pan-African thought, this is a tradition of initiatives and solutions rooted in a struggle to see African alternatives triumph and a new day dawn.
Each week Pambazuka acts as a kind of open book on Africa. Its readers are able to engage with the financial and food crises, the inequality that underpins social injustice, the destructive conflicts – as much serious as they are superficial – that tear people apart, chaotic governance, the remnants of Françafrique and the problems of a false democracy – themes which are far from historical accidents. Having broken the chains of subservient thought, Samir Amin, Demba Moussa Dembélé, Aziz Salmone Fall and so many other contributors continue to reveal the effects of the West’s efforts to dominate the South and the consequences for the global South of a system in crisis.
Yash Tandon has written, pertinently, that ‘all history is one of “the included” and “the excluded”, those within the kingdom and those outside of it’. In other words, exploiters and ‘the wretched of the earth’. Tandon is among those who through Pambazuka aim to deconstruct and rebuild thinking left over from the colonial era. He is one of the regular contributors to Pambazuka who show that Africa must not live trapped by notions of inevitability and immobilisation. The continent’s potential and energy, though betrayed at the dawn of independence and at the altar of compromise, treason and assassinations (Lumumba, Sankara, Um Nyobe, Moumié, Biko), are alive and well. It is simply a matter of awakening what is dormant. Pambazuka now finds itself in a year of reflection, while the popular uprisings that have run through the Arab countries of the continent and swarmed those south of the Sahara – from Dakar to Lilongwe, passing by Lomé and Ouagadougou – represent a year of action.
Pambazuka reflects the expression of active and conscious citizens. It puts the emphasis on citizen journalism through an open space of expression where renowned intellectuals, engaged grassroots activists and knowledgeable researchers share their reflections and challenge the misplaced media representations which define Africa as a land of chaos. It is not for ‘development’ that Pambazuka aims to nourish Africa’s cause, but for questions of sovereignty, social justice and human dignity.
Africa needs a more assertive collective consciousness, especially at a time when the West’s dominance is based to a great degree on control of the means of communication and information, as well as the flow of that information.
At 200 issues, the French edition of Pambazuka News has marked out space for reflection, but immense challenges remain along a difficult road – greater challenges still for those who believe in and are working for a new destiny for Africa.
Naturally, much work remains. The 2,500 contributors – who for the last 10 years (beginning with the English-language edition) have selflessly developed this newsletter while seeking nothing in return but to contribute to the emergence of a resurgent Africa – are more determined than ever. Equally, meeting each Tuesday over the internet from Dakar, Cape Town, Oxford, Nairobi and Salvador de Bahia to discuss the pulse of the world and exchange views of the contents of the three issues in English, French and Portuguese, the passion of the editorial team remains very much intact.
This passion is driven by new ambitions. The Pambazuka website will develop a new interface in which its contributors will have greater scope to exchange and where its readers will have access to greater resources. Put simply, our 500,000 readers from around the world – in one way or another – will be able to get more involved and take greater advantage of this more dynamic space.
Firoze Manji, editor-in-chief of Pambazuka, spells out the near future: ‘In the coming months, we’re going to be launching a more interactive website, with space for members themselves to post their own information, download articles, hold debates, organise campaigns and participate in forums with well-known intellectuals and activists invited to facilitate online talks.’
Our road is a difficult one. Pambazuka’s resources are not sufficient to guarantee its financial viability, in complete independence, and to sustain this reflective space where resistance is nourished and where challenges are spelled out with a view to redressing the injustices present in our world. We’re pursuing a variety of means to ensure that Pambazuka goes on, but the most vital contribution will be donations from each reader to ensure our work together can continue. Let’s continue to share this space, because the more that our community of readers enlarges, the greater the potential for support.
The publication of this 200th edition brings these challenges into even sharper focus. Seemingly harking back to old footage of Biafra in the 1960s, Ethiopia in the 1970s, the Sahel in the 1980s, currently we have images of malnourished children in Somalia inundating our television screens from the cameras of international media, of aeroplanes delivering food parcels and the theatricality of reporters deployed to report on and witness crises that they understand nothing about and whose analysis relies on easy shortcuts.
In these images we find ourselves back in an Africa seemingly incapable of escaping the inevitability of conflict and war, epidemics, genocides and massacres … with stories half-told or merely presented in their last scenes. The children from the Horn of Africa we see suffering and crying on the evening television are the victims of a globalised logic of exploitation and of pillage (with the complicity of local auxiliaries and support), and of a system of resource-grabbing of all kinds which sees more graves grow than granaries and grain – despite Africa’s rich land. For the past 10 years Pambazuka has sought to explain how and why resistance develops against such conditions and to propose alternatives.
For 10 years Pambazuka has sought to sound the alarm through nurturing this consciousness as a means of saying ‘rise up’! With the 500th issue of the English-language edition celebrated in October 2010, the 200th French edition is a further milestone in the struggle to fan the flames of freedom and sovereignty and to overcome social injustice.
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* Tidiane Kassé is editor of Pambazuka News's French-language edition.
* This article was published in Panbazuka's French-language edition as 'Le combat pour un nouvel ordre mondial de la pensée'.
* Translated from French by Alex Free.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 See 'L’empire décadent et les barbares africains'.
Famine by man not drought
Famine is spreading across the Horn of Africa and threatens a world crisis. It’s not principally the result of drought. It’s due to political and social circumstances that if left unaddressed will begin one terrible unending famine capable of wiping out entire populations and massively stressing global resources.
News junkies crave disasters and power the news everywhere. The famine reporting I’m reading now is so driven by this that even impeccable organizations like one of my daily necessities, Reuters Africa, are failing to report correctly.
Reuters’ report, today, essentially attributes the main cause for the famine to “successive seasons of failed rains.”
Not true. There has been only one failed rainy season in The Horn so far.
The famine is centered in Somalia, and because of the fighting there, good weather data doesn’t exist. But we do have good weather data very nearby, where nearly 400,000 refugees have fled just over the border into Kenya, at Mandera.
This is in Kenya’s far north in a climate zone nearly identical to most of Somalia. See the “Precipitation MANDERA, KENYA” chart prepared by NOA.
The chart shows that the normal Nov-Dec rainy season received just about 2″ of rain, which is about three-quarters of normal. The usually heavier Mar-May season failed completely. That one rainy season failure would not have caused famine in the past.
Then why is there now a looming crisis?
Because there’s a war. The people in Somalia have been disrupted from their normal routines. Before war ravaged The Horn a single rainy season failure was easily augmented by relying on stored food from surplus harvests, or from importing food from further south.
But now even when the rains are good, such as a year ago, the Somali’s didn’t grow much food. They weren’t planting; they were shooting.
And while there is surplus food in the world, even in the immediate area, it isn’t getting to the famine area. AID agencies can’t give away free food.
And Tanzania, which has a bumper harvest so far this year, has banned free market agricultural sales to the north, for fear it will deplete its own surpluses. This has severely effected the relief effort in Somalia, not to mention angered northern Tanzanian farmers.
So the imminent world crisis in The Horn is most certainly famine. But its principal cause is not the failure of rains, but the failure of humankind.
Moving south into Kenya and Tanzania, we have a slightly different story.
Look at NOA’s charts for NAIROBI and MWANZA.
An imaginary line from Nairobi, Kenya, to Mwanza, Tanzania, more or less transects the most densely populated areas of that region as well as the principal game viewing areas enjoyed by foreign tourists.
Over the course of the last year, Nairobi is running a 47% deficit in normal precipitation, and Mwanza is running a 26% deficit. “Running” is the key word. A careful reading of the graph shows that the problem occurred in the Feb-Jun period. That’s when the top (normal) and bottom (actual) lines diverge. That season failed completely in Nairobi and was weak in Mwanza.
But note that the track from May onwards in Mwanza is normal, and in fact shows more rain than normal in Nairobi.
We know, too, from photos coming from northern Tanzania that there have been recent rains there. It was thunderstorming in some Nairobi areas last night. This is totally abnormal. The end of July is normally a completely dry time.
Normal isn’t normal, anymore. The seasons for rains are changing or growing erratic due to climate change.
Go into a national park, and things look pretty normal. The giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo and zebra look fine. But just outside the park, Maasai cattle are dying.
More and more, the growing numbers of Maasai cattle depend upon hay-like supplements. Farmers who still plant in traditional ways, presuming the rains will come in March (when in fact, this year it appears they are coming, now), lose their crops. There is no hay. Even if there were hay, there are probably too many cattle.
The situation applies to people, too. Food prices increase because less was produced, and those rich enough have no problem, as is the case in most urban areas like Nairobi. But outside urban areas, crises occur almost overnight.
Food prices increase. Poor people have less money. Truck farmers take their food to areas where it can be bought and stop deliveries to remote areas where the poor can’t pay.
Nairobi announced this week that a series of power outages were now planned, because of the “poor rains” last season. The reservoirs are too low to produce enough power. “Enough” is a more important word in that last sentence than “low.”
In years past, enough power was cranked out even after two or three failed rainy seasons. Not now. One failed season and the power goes out.
There is no question that we have an imminent catastrophe in Somalia, a famine that has already begun. There is no question that we have a growing social crisis in much of Kenya.
But neither is due to drought, at least drought as has been historically defined. It’s due to war and the failure to deal with climate change.
It’s a failure of humankind. And any remedy for that may be as unattainable as controlling the weather.
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* This article first appeared on Africa Answerman.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Famine in Somalia
The story you're unlikely to hear any time soon
I knew the real story about the famine in northern Kenya and Somalia would probably never be told when I watched a young foreign aid worker “reporting” the famine for CNN in Dadaab camp.
The young white woman, clearly coached to use the opportunity of her CNN appearance to publicise her organisation, wore a T-shirt that had the word OXFAM emblazoned on it.
The look of self-righteous, politically-correct compassion was evident on her face as she talked of starving children and emaciated mothers walking for miles in search of food.
Predictably, CNN viewers saw images of skeletal children and exhausted women with shrivelled breasts, images that have launched a multi-million dollar fund-raising campaign by the UN and donor agencies.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has asked donors to raise $1.6 billion to assist Somalia alone.
Meanwhile, dozens of humanitarian agencies are clamouring to make an appearance in Dadaab in order to raise funds for their own organisations. Dutch journalist Linda Polman calls it “The Crisis Caravan”.
In her book by the same name, Polman says that an entire industry has grown around humanitarian aid, “with cavalcades of organisations following the flow of money and competing with each other in one humanitarian territory after another for the biggest achievable share of billions.”
According to Polman, disasters like the one in Somalia attract an average 1,000 national and international aid organisations. This doesn’t include “briefcase” charities that collect funds through churches, clubs and bake-sales.
Much of the money raised goes to administrative and logistical costs of aid agencies, including the salaries of bright-eyed aid workers, such as the one described above, who drive big cars and live in nice houses, but tell people back home they live in hardship areas where they help starving Africans.
Are people starving? Yes. Should they be helped? Of course. But how much of the food that is supposed to be distributed will most likely be stolen by militia or find its way to shops where it will be sold?
Also obscured in the media hype is the real cause of famine in places such as Somalia. In a recent article, Michel Chossudovsky, professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and founder of the Centre for Research on Globalisation, argues that in the 1980s, agriculture in Somalia was severely affected by economic reforms imposed by the IMF and the World Bank. Somalia remained self-sufficient in food until the late 1970s despite recurrent droughts, he writes.
The economic reforms, which included austerity measures and privatisation of essential services, destabilised the economy and destroyed agriculture.
Wages in the public sector were drastically reduced, urban purchasing power declined dramatically and the cost of fuel, fertiliser and farm inputs shot up. This set the stage for the civil war in 1991, from which Somalia has yet to recover.
Famine and food aid became the norm, as hundreds of aid agencies set up shop to handle a crisis that was of their own making.
In short, Somalia became a “business opportunity” that provided jobs to hundreds, if not thousands of (mostly Western) aid agency employees.
Nicholas Stockton, a former Oxfam executive director, once called this phenomenon “the moral economy”.
Michael Maren, whose book, The Road to Hell, should be required reading for those who want to understand the politics and economy of food aid, shows how this aid suppressed local food production in Somalia, fuelled civil war and created a permanent food crisis.
This crisis and the lack of a strong, well-functioning central government have also resulted in a situation where aid agencies are zipping in and out of Somalia without any vetting by the government.
In effect, Somalia is being managed and controlled by aid agencies — the government is there in name only.
Unfortunately, this story is unlikely to be told on CNN, BBC, Sky TV or other global news networks that dominate the international news agenda.
And it will certainly not be told by the aid workers whose livelihoods depend on donor money that will soon flow into Somalia via Kenya.
Nor will the Somali people be given an opportunity to explain to viewers what impact food aid and foreign intervention have had on their lives.
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* This article first appeared in the Daily Nation.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
* Rasna Warah is writer and journalist based in Nairobi.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Mauritania: Slavery and state racism
The conference held on Saturday 25 June 2011 and organised by Biram Dah Abeid gave rise to a particular interest and enthusiasm on the part of some of the main political actors and their associates within the Mauritanian diaspora in France. In discussing slavery and state racism, our host Biram, president of the IRA (Initiative de Résurgence du mouvement Abolitionniste de France-Mauritanie), emphasised the ‘the ideological and religious foundations of slavery and racism with the state in Mauritania’.
The power of conviction, the depth of engagement and the demands of conscience, of discipline and of organisation swept over the conference room.
It must be said that while Biram’s is not a new development within the organised struggle against slavery in Mauritania, his approach is undeniably revolutionary. His words are significant: ‘resistance’, ‘shining a light’ and ‘thinking for action’. Through the resonance and weight of his voice, in the symbolism of these words Biram expresses a clear tone of deep resolve.
He noted the totalitarian nature of the system and its expressions of racism and slavery. There was no stonewalling.
Biram defined his action as necessary for the deconstruction of the system and the urgency of resistance. He made clear the contemporary existence of slavery and state racism through the governance of Ould Abdoul Aziz. His words were rich in colour and his arguments powerful in their symbolism, while his consistent calls on the room and the government of Aziz – drawing upon examples of slavery today – formed the basis of a frank and candid speech. Our host underlined that in the Mauritanian system in place, there is a logic of the denial of humanity, one supported by many kinds of conservative and totalitarian force hostile to human dignity.
Biram returned to the central facts around slavery in Mauritania, notably the practice of guardianship – women and children are left to the cruelty of men and women, heartless masters with neither faith or reason. Slavery in Mauritania reveals a heartless humanity, indescribable and unqualifiable. Where is the compassion of this community calling itself Muslim? What human values form their identity? What goes on in the heads of those men and women who exercise such cruelty, barbarism and cynicism? The inhumanity of these practices challenges our very confidence in what’s human when humanity is capable of undertaking such acts. An ideological, military and police machinery is consistently mobilised to this effect. There has never been any form of respite for the men, women and children assigned to the deadly status of slaves.
Mauritanian society is deeply slavery-oriented and as such has produced deeply unjust inequalities. Certain techniques involving humiliation, torture and even being put to death are employed in the aim of keeping slaves dependent on their masters through fear, shame and submission. Biram explained this in strong terms; the master recognises no right to a dignified life or free black existence as human beings.
As a result, children and women remain without protection or security, being at the mercy of arbitrary, cruel and unbearable Moorish masters who defy contemporary humanity through the use of barbarous and wicked treatment and the denial of the most basic of rights.
From this perspective, Biram enumerated particular facts around slavery, facts which are beyond comprehension. This being said, it should be pointed out that the system in its very foundations is rattled by the significant advances achieved in the battle against slavery, with the current phase marked by an awareness of the need to confront the very pillars of its edifice. Thus what is at stake is the complete undermining of the entire workings of a tribal and feudal order that sustains slavery and a racist state.
It is clear that the Mauritanian ‘state’ would have trouble being defined as such by any scientific or socio-political measure, owing to its roots in an irrational system organised and facilitated for thousands of years as a means of crushing and destroying any semblance of humanity.
In effect, Biram’s idea is to bring to light the roots of an odious, criminal and inhumane system defined by its lies, manipulation and permanent concealing of the truth. The call for resistance translates into rallying around each and every force harnessed to bring together the energy behind supporting the struggle of ‘moral, intellectual, political and material efforts’.
Substantively, the struggle that Biram defines is a call for the re-conquest of a lost dignity and a core humanity and liberty. Biram calls for the dignity of all, that of the victims and their oppressors alike. This racist slave system has reduced the sense of dignity of the Moor community, which practises slavery systematically and proclaims it as natural. This system is rooted in an enduring ideological base, one which constitutes an untouchable and immutable dogma and which gives rise to a logic of extermination and annihilation of the moral and ethical character of black people. The concrete and powerful logic of this system has made it clear that we have to react through appealing to people’s consciences and through strong values in order to reverse the situation through radical, rational, fair and democratic means. It’s through the conscience of determined and just men and women that the racist slave system will prove unable to resist the power of right over might, of freedom over subjugation.
In making this struggle a question of humanity and ethics, Biram puts forward a strategy that calls for genuine action rather than mere political statements. In the face of the arrogance of the racist slave-masters, nothing but resistance can lead the re-conquest of liberty and dignity. The true size of the challenge must be weighed up and not distracted by the mere window-dressing that Ould Abdoul Aziz continues to offer.
Continuing with mere ruse and manipulation, the Mauritanian president throws about sensationalist declarations, which are never backed up with concrete initiatives. It is time to put an end to the naivety that has informed the actions of the majority of the political figures in our country, whose engagement is based on simple compromise and subordination. An ethics of resistance and a conscience of responsibility could define the radical humanism articulated by Biram and form the basis of the strong message of his passionate and impassioned call. The task is clear, bringing together enthusiasm, conscience and an attentive audience.
Biram’s work is characterised by a force of conviction, devotion to a great cause, an uncompromising approach rooted in human dignity and a generosity of spirit, and his campaign demands justice and the moral obligation of working towards the complete eradication of one of the most odious systems in the history of humanity.
Mauritania as a racist and slave state must be overcome for the purpose of building a fair, free and egalitarian Mauritanian society. This Mauritania will be one in which citizens have the rights of citizenship, rather than one in which black people are reduced to indignity under Moorish oppression. The oppressors must also free themselves from the system of domination in order to be prepared to listen to those dominated and who have suffered. This is the price at which Ould Abdoul Aziz could usher the post-Taya period that has been so late to arrive.
Such is the challenge laid down for the Mauritanian authorities by our host in delivering a message marked by its clarity, strong conviction and awareness of the need to liberate oppressed black people in Mauritania, lest they remain enslaved and outside of the system.
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* Sy Hamdou is a Mauritanian philosopher.
* This article was published by Pambazuka in French as 'Mauritanie : Esclavage et racisme d'Etat'. It was originally published by Cridem under the title ‘Ce que m’a inspiré l’intervention de Biram Ould Dah’.
* Translated from French by Alex Free.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
A war criminal in Spain: Tshombe and the Official Secrets Act
In May 2011 I went to the General Archive of the Administration (AGA), located in Alcalá de Henares (Madrid), to try to get official documentation on the stays of Moise Tshombe in Spain. My goal was to verify and complete the information on the role of Spain in the Congo that I had previously collected from various sources. At the AGA I was given access to five cases on Tshombe which the archive managers informed me were deposited there.
One of them, which was sealed, had the following handwritten on the cover:
‘Not accessible according to law 9 / 1968 Official Secrets
AGA, 42, 08834.08 - (2018/19)
Information Pack on Moise Tshombe .- Years 1966–1969’
It is not easy to find information on the role of Spain in the first years of independence of the Congo. Official information which is freely available doesn't mention some of the most important facts about others and hides the essence of them.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEC), through its General Directorate for External Cooperation, publishes reports on countries with which Spain maintains various kinds of relations. In these they present data on the countries under study, and others relating to the history of their relations with Spain.
The report, which was published in April 2008, is dedicated to the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). It reflects ‘Visits by Spanish personalities to the DRC and vice versa’. The first of them, in 1965, is presented briefly with a date and four words on page 27:
‘04/06/65 Moise Tshombe, Prime Minister.’
This naturally doesn't say much to an unaware reader. You would have to know that between the Congolese elections of 1960 and that trip as prime minister five years later his main activity was political and military subversion against Patrice Lumumba, Congolese legitimacy and the UN, which took place partly in Spanish territory in collaboration with Spain.
The MAEC says nothing about the official hearing granted at the El Pardo palace by the head of state, Francisco Franco (1892–1975), four days later on 8 June, about which graphic evidence is preserved in the AGA, photographs of both of them, which until 2011 have remained inaccessible to researchers (23).
The MAEC doesn't give notice of other trips made by people from both countries until eight years later, on 20 March 1973, when the minister of communications and transport travelled to Spain. Not until 8 May 1974 was there a Spanish trade mission trip and on 2 December of that year, a visit by the minister of trade. The kings made their first trip 19 November 1983. There was no agreement based on cooperation until 28 January 2008.
Therefore, the picture of relations between Spain and the DRC shows a faded trace just skipped over here and there with official travel, almost unnoticed. However, what is most interesting is precisely that what is made public by the MAEC was not the first trip Tshombe made to Spain. Ironically, two other trips made with the approval of Franco, which were public knowledge but still remain hidden, despite being the most important trips in the 50 years of relations between the two countries, and were critical to the development of the tragedy that still continues in the DRC.
The MAEC says nothing of the time Tshombe spent in Spain in 1963 and a later stay in 1966. Both had their origins in events in the DRC in 1960 and later, which have been reviewed in previous pages.
There is no doubt that the MAEC knows about these trips, the facts that motivated them and what Tshombe did in Spain. Nor are there reasons for keeping Tshombe's activities in Spain hidden.
The file mentioned above, currently available since May 2011, and others which were there before, while acknowledging that there may be other information not yet available in the AGA and other archives, shows that Tshombe did not come to Spain for private or health reasons, as stated in the press.
He did it to carry out subversive activities against the legality of the DRC, with the protection and support of the Spanish head of state himself and some of his close aides, with the use of Spanish state resources and institutions, as well as with the support of the press and other fascist entities of the time.
Tshombe enjoyed a bodyguard provided by several Spanish police agents, enjoyed the support provided by private citizens, some with high social and political positions and had the backing of the press (along with the ABC daily and Arriba, connected to these citizens). At the same time however he was spied on by Spanish agents of both the Civil Guard and others belonging to the secret service.
It is reasonable to think that Tshome's connections, both those aimed at helping him and those designed to control him, were not only Spanish but from other countries which had closer relations with the DRC, in particular with its wealth, having their own ways of acting on Spanish soil.
It must be remembered that during the time Tshombe was in Spain there were several serious political incidents, including assassination. This is mentioned in a document that belongs (like all those listed below unless otherwise noted) to the same report:
‘In Spain something smells bad. First was the Delgado case. (24) Then the Djida case. (25) Now the Tshombe case.
‘There are many gunmen in Spain, many murderers in the shadow of the gunmen and Franco murderers. It is logical that gangs sometimes try to exterminate each other … The murderers living in Spain are many. So many that perhaps it is they themselves who are undermining the foundations of the Franco regime, to facilitate the work of the Spanish people who want a Spain free of murderers and robbers, from whatever nationality.’
This refers to a document of three pages with no stamp or author, with these details:
Header: 20.07.67 21 h. REI .- 2
The Tshombe case
Footer: PSP / cmv
The author's tone is not unusual, decidedly anti-Franco, in what looks like a foreign press release. Note that the files contain all types of documents, official reports, some with seals and others without, some signed and some unsigned, national and foreign press clippings, single handwritten notes of government agents and private individuals, letters and personal writings, photographs…
Some of these documents simply contain descriptions of events, but others also add comments to these. Some even collect rumours and it seems even invent or at least draw conclusions based on prejudices and assumptions, which of course do not provide valuable information but rather the opposite.
The author entertains himself in the goings-on of Tshombe:
‘Tshombe, after his long periods of assassinations, fled to Franco's Spain, where he was welcomed by the dictator with no trace of reserve, certainly without regard to these, after having received so many of Hitler's murderers.
‘Tshombe led the life of a king in Spain, an absolute king, surrounded by all sorts of luxuries and concubines in the centre of fascist immorality that was Franco's Spain.
‘While in Spain, the Mobutu government sentenced him to death. But from Spain, Tshombe, in the moments of leisure that the pleasures which came furiously allowed, while throwing away a fortune belonging to his people, from whom it was stolen, continued to organise conspiracies against the Congolese people with the acquiescence of Franco, who made his first arms betraying his people.’
Obviously it isn't necessary to be anti-Franco to note that the description is essentially true – simply leave aside the combative style.
So it was that a year before, 1966, and in early 1967, that other documents which also seem to be drawn from press summaries show that Franco and his government were fully aware of the political situation of Tshombe. Referring to the following documents:
A loose folio with the reference: 26.9.66 - 17 h. - TASS .- 23
Title: ‘Request from the government of the Congo’
Text: ‘The government of Congo today requested the Spanish government to end the 'subversive actions against the Congo by Moise Tshombe from Spanish territory … In the event that Spain – highlights the note – continues to favour the activity of Tshombe, the Congolese government will be forced to take the initiative of breaking off diplomatic relations between Kinshasa and Madrid.’
A loose folio with the reference: 10.10.66 - 16 h. - TASS .- 29
Title: ‘Request from Congolese parliamentarians’
Text: ‘18 Congolese MPs have demanded the severance of diplomatic relations with Spain, since the latter continues to grant political asylum to Moise Tshombe (also Portugal) and the Foreign Minister Justin Bomboko delivered a note to the Spanish chargé d'affaires lamenting Spain's tolerance of the presence in its territory of Tshombe, a “traitor who will be tried by a military court”.’
A loose folio with the reference: 21.10.66 - 21 h.30 - REI .- 4
Title: ‘Spanish news’
Text: ‘The Congolese government has called its ambassador to Madrid home for consultations … based on the worsening of Spanish–Congolese relations in the last months, in view of the activities carried out by Tshombe currently in Madrid.’
A loose folio with the reference: 24.10.66 - 18 h.15 - TASS .- 32
Title: ‘Tshombe's subversive activities’
Text: ‘With the approval of Ian Smith, Moise Tshombe uses the territory of Southern Rhodesia as a base for subversive activities against the government of the DRC … Through his agents, he sent instructions from Madrid to participants in the mutiny of former Katanga gendarmes in Kisangani. As a liaison, Tshombe used his brother Thomas in this case, provincial councillor in Southern Katanga.’
A loose sheet with the reference: 7.3.67 - 22 h.15 - BBC .- 16
Title: ‘Request for extradition’
Text: ‘The Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs has asked the Spanish government to try to persuade Mr Tshombe, who faces a possible death penalty, to accept the offer of the Congolese government … of a plane ticket to return to Kinshasa from Madrid, where he lives in exile.’
It should be borne in mind that what Franco and his government knew was also well known in Europe and indeed in Africa, as journalistic sources point to the Soviet news agency TASS and the BBC, which using different terms were full of the same information.
So too did the Americans, which immediately suggests that the administration of US President Lyndon B. Johnson was able to invite Franco to provide one more service to the US empire by welcoming Tshombe in Spain, helping them achieve their goals, which of course benefited the United States more than Spain and of course than the DRC.
For this reason the news media could not come as any surprise to Franco and his collaborators. In the file ‘Tshombe in exile - Ext 650,’ publicly accessible, you can see Franco's game. He welcomes and supports Tshombe because of his dependence on the US, but not – as stated by the author of the anti-Franco text reproduced in the previous lines – ‘without regard to this fact’, but rather for the opposite:
On 21 May 1964, Karl Tichmann – correspondent of the German company Bayerischer Rundfunk, TV section – wrote to the director general of film and theatre (Madrid) to say that the company ‘intends to film in Spain for the German movie entitled ‘Tshombe in exile’ and asks to be ‘granted the required permission to film.’
In handwriting one reads as follows: ‘dismissed, 5/23/64.’
To this paper comes the exp. 650–64 (also accessible) received 22 May 1964 at the Department of Cinematography (with a three pesetas stamp), signed by Karl Tishcmann. The letter is presented as a documentary for German television:
‘Duration: one quarter of an hour (16mm)
Date of commencement of filming in Spain: 25 May 1964
Expected duration: one day
Total budget: 5,000 pts.
Plot summary: ‘non-political interview with former president of Katanga, Mr Tshombe, about his private life in exile’
Author of the script: Wolfgang Kahle (editor)
Author of literary screenplay: Marianne Khal, assist. editorial
Director: Siegfried Müllhofer, tec. sound’
On a separate sheet (handwritten) undated and unsigned:
‘Consulted by phone with D. (Director?) Revenga, foreign affairs, reports that his director is not in favour of authorising the filming out of fear that the subject on other occasions has caused troubles and problems of a political nature.’
Apparently it did not help that the Spanish delegate for the export union of the German film industry ‘certifies that the German TV company Bayerischer Rundfunk requests authorisation to film a report on the subject Tshombe in exile in Spain. As we know that that report will contain nothing adverse to the good name of Spain, we would greatly appreciate permission for the shooting in question.’
The signature of William Petersen and the seal of the export union on 22 May 1964 follow.
Since then, in 1967, things went from bad to worse for Tshombe, as we have seen, causing both increased control over him, his activities and his surroundings, while a sector of the extreme right strengthened the support it provided him. The following documents show both the status of Tshombe and the movements of his contacts in this regard:
On a sheet with the letterhead ‘Spanish Pro-liberation of Tshombe Board, P.O. box 14042, Madrid, October 1967’ is a statement about this, at the foot of which one can read a list of members (some highlighted with a pen):
Pablo Arredondo - Enrique del Campo - Italy Carcavilla - Miguel Fagoaga - José Luis Gómez Tello - Patricio González de Canales - P. Marcos Venancio - Luis Nieto Antúnez - P. Miguel Oltra - Fray Justo Perez de Urbiel - Carlos Pinilla - Blas Piñar
The document consists of three paragraphs. With no introduction to the subject it begins by lamenting the ‘international silence on the Tshombe case’ and then noting that it is in ‘contrast with the great propaganda machine and coercion orchestrated by international human rights leagues and other organisations, always the same, (as) if it were an ordinary prisoner of political crime, (the) worst enemy of traditional values.’
It ends: ‘The undersigned invite different organisations and people of goodwill worldwide to coordinate their efforts through the Spanish Pro-liberation of Tshombe Board to try to remedy as soon as possible this attack on international rights and human dignity, which also harms Spanish national sovereignty.’
Another document, one page, headed ‘Zaragoza. Spanish Pro-liberation of Tshombe Board’ and dated ‘Madrid, 26 October 1967’, reports:
‘Many letters to the Spanish Pro-liberation of Tshombe Board, based in Madrid and made up of leaders and veterans of the Banderas Falange and Requetes Division, who together with three priests have called on all Spaniards to coordinate their efforts to liberate the Congolese politician Moise Tshombe arrested by Algerian authorities.
Most of the signers of the manifesto are part of the editorial board of the weekly “Fuerza Nueva”, chaired by D. Blas Pinar.’ (26)
These people, including those that are Catholic priests, are far from being anti-Franco. Franco, however, closely controlled them, as shown by the two following documents.
The first, an unsigned paper dated Madrid 14 October 1967, carried this heading:
‘Subject: Campaign pro-Tshombe
Reference: SIP Exp 121
Secret (in red ink)
Recipient: Hon. minister of information and tourism. Madrid.
Text: ‘Your Excellency: I enclose with this letter a proposed ”Spanish Pro-liberation of Tshombe Board”. God preserve your Excellency many years, the director general.’
At the foot: a stamp printed in blue ink from the prime minister's office, director general of plazas and African provinces.
Another document – an ‘information note’ – reports on a meeting of the Spanish Pro-liberation of Tshombe Board.
This is an official paper with this letterhead:
‘General Directorate of the Guardia Civil. Chief of Staff, Second Section
Briefing note. No. 1521
Confidential (with a red seal)
From: Second Section of EM (SIGC) Madrid
To: Hon. Minister of Information and Tourism. Plaza
Date: 9 September 1967
Subject: Meeting in Andorra with the so-called pro-Tshombe committee’
The text of the note:
‘It was attended by: Ricardo Marques Ribes, Ignacio Rubio, Juan Diaz Miño, Jacques Leonard, a French citizen who is said to have been a prisoner in the Belgian Congo, a Spanish priest, dressed as a clergyman, about 30 years old, of approximately 1.850 metres height, brown hair combed back…
‘Mr Ribes told a newspaper correspondent that the pro-Tshombe efforts being made in Andorra were known to their Excellencies, the minister for information and tourism and the director general of security, adding that the committee had about a quarter of a million pesetas to cover the costs incurred in the carrying out these activities.
‘The economic situation of the above described doesn't seem very shining, judging by the expenditures, as at lunchtime they only took a small inexpensive snack at the bar.’
An interview of Tshombe by the correspondent of the Journal de Genève in Spain months before this solidarity movement points to a paper of two pages:
Header: Information Services of the Directorate General of Press
Bolprex (03/28/67). Press Switzerland.
Journal de Genève. Independent, article by Richard Mowrer. 16 March 1967
Title: Tshombe living a slightly golden exile in Madrid
Text: ‘The correspondent visited his flat in Madrid, now a former prime minister and sentenced to death by a Kinshasa court for treason. This is the second time that Tshombe is in exile. During the first of his exiles, he also remained in Madrid until mid-1964. This period of his life was almost one year and was much more comfortable for him. Then he had a house in Moraleja, a car and, in the city, a richly furnished apartment which served as his office … This time he has a much reduced budget. General Mobutu seized everything Tshombe had in the Congo, including my 17 cars, he tells me.
‘He says at this time he'd rather not talk about politics nor the Congolese high treason trial because it could hamper relations between the Spanish government and the Congo. “It is ironic in that was I who inaugurated the Congolese embassy in Madrid, after my first period of exile in this country, which is now obviously the Embassy of Mobutu”.
‘Are you afraid of being killed, have you been threatened? Tshombe says he can answer both questions negatively, but he adds: ”I am protected by the Spanish police, four men in total, one of whom lives permanently in my house”.’
Ironically, neither the efforts of private Catholic fascism and nor the security of official Catholic fascism could prevent the small plane flying from Ibiza to Palma de Mallorca, where Tshombe was travelling escorted by two Spanish policemen, from being abducted, apparently the first aerial kidnapping occurring in Spain – by J. Francis Boden – apparently his friend, and then flown to Algeria where he was imprisoned and died in mysterious circumstances.
This document describes and comments on the event:
Header: Briefing Note Exp. SIP 121
Secret (stamp in red ink)
Prime Minister's Office - General Directorate of Plazas and Provinces (Seal in blue ink)
Title: Prisoner Tshombe
Text: ‘For nearly four months, in circumstances that have not yet been fully clarified, a plane that transported the former Congolese Prime Minister Moise Tshombe was dramatically diverted in flight and forced to land in Algeria. Tshombe was jailed despite a Supreme Court order authorising his extradition to the Congo, where Mobutu's regime has sentenced him to death – he continues a prisoner in this country.
‘What happened to the once proud African leader, who before being kidnapped, said he was preparing a plot to regain power?
‘He says he is depressed. His fellow prisoners say he is moody and looks sad. What he seems most concerned with is the uncertainty of his future.’
It should be remembered that the director general of plazas and provinces at that time was José Diaz de Villegas, probably the most senior official to help Tshombe carry out his political plans, clearly characterised by the previous secret briefing note, written in the department under his command, as ‘a plot to regain power’.
The next documents available to the public leave open the suspicion that the Spanish army general alternated his support – with the use of state resources – to Tshombe the coup leader, with cultural and charitable activities, or were they just a better cover for this support?
The documents are:
- A letter to Tshombe from Diaz de Villegas on the letterhead of the director general of plazas and African provinces and of the Institute of African Studies – National Research Council – Prime Minister's Office
- Another letter from Diaz de Villegas (a copy without signature or seal or letterhead).
‘General Directorate of Promotion of the Sahara - Section 1966: RC
Subject: Tshombe, - Moisés
Dr Fleming n º 48. - Madrid ‘
The first letter of Diaz de Villegas, 10 March 1964, addressed to Hon. Dr Moise Tshombe, P º Pintor Rosales, 20, Madrid, inviting him to the ‘XIV exhibition of painters of Africa’ at the Círculo de Bellas Artes on the 14th.
In a letter to Diaz de Villegas, Tshombe gratefully answers he is busy and unable to attend the official opening, but that he will come at another time, for which he hopes to count on the general.
Another letter from Diaz de Villegas to Tshombe on 15 September 1966 (Dr Fleming 48, Madrid) says:
‘My distinguished friend: I would greatly appreciate that you propose to me two or three African students, well prepared for higher education and of sound moral formation, for whom I could get scholarships and even travel grants to pursue their studies at the University of Navarra (Pamplona).
Hoping this offer is interesting, your good friend sends his sincere regards,
José Diaz de Villegas.’
Tshombe responds in French gratefully to say that he will get to it on 19 September 1966. He writes to him at St. Juan Vigon 5, Madrid 3 (signature of Tshombe, original in blue ink).
The portrait of Tshombe's stay in Spain is completed with a few strokes of his private life, which would be of no interest as such were it not to show the weak moral and professional base of those who painted them.
These are a few surveillance reports written by timid agents with sexual prejudices, typical of a Catholic and macho society, and based on the assumptions of supposedly professional ‘spies’, rather than on security and national interests.
There is a document that shows this kind of work, one page without headings or signature and dated Madrid 12 June 1967:
‘Let it be known that on the 3rd of this month, a young Belgian underling stayed at the Hotel de Mar, who is said to be just one of many “women” at the disposal of the former Congolese leader Moise Tshombe for his comfort. According to comments gathered, it seems that every time he planned a trip to Palma de Mallorca, he is preceded by two or three days before his arrival, by two or three people occupying the room that the gentleman of colour expressly books in said hotel. They also say he spends a lot of money with his extraordinary large party, who shows an inordinate fondness, as party animals, as evidenced by the election of his concubines, all very young, flamboyant and with extravagant lines.’
Even without the references to 'individuals' this espionage work is just as sloppy. There is one document on an official letterhead saying:
‘General Directorate of the Guardia Civil. Chief of Staff, Second Section
From: Second Section of EM (IACS) Madrid
To: Hon. Minister of Information and Tourism. Plaza
Date: 23 May 1967
Subject: Arrival of a Russian transatlantic vessel at the Port of Palma de Mallorca’
This sheet describes the arrival at the port of Palma de Mallorca of the Soviet Mediterranean tourist ship 'Ivan Franko' (27), Italian and French tourists and the reception its captain offers, and which local authorities attend:
‘Numerous members of the public went to the port to watch the ocean liner that was awaited with certain expectation, with no nasty comments made nor incidents. At 19.30 hours the former president of the Congo Moise Tshombe boarded, having arrived on the island on the same date, where he stayed for an hour. The purpose of the visit is not known. Passed on for your knowledge.’
The year before his death, the Civil Guard was still working on the ‘Tshombe case', without being able to even remotely suspect his death despite their years of monitoring:
There is an official document in a folio headed by:
General Directorate of the Guardia Civil, Chief of Staff, Second Section
Briefing Note No. 1521
From: Second Section of EM (IACS) Madrid
To: Hon. minister of information and tourism. square
Date: 28 February 1968
Subject: Probable visit of former President Moise Tshombe of Katanga to Almeria
In the paper there is reference to a business visit Tshombe made four years earlier to Almeria and the author concludes that he could return to this city even though it adds that he is in prison (in Algeria, pending extradition to the DRC, where he awaits trial for high treason):
‘In May 1964 Mr Tshombe visited the town of Almeria, and Adra in the same province, enquiring about the price of some land, so it would not be surprising if he went outside the capital if he were released. Passed on for your knowledge.’
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* Translated from Spanish by Bob Thomson.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Endemic violence in postcolonial Namibia
Shaun R. Whittaker
Frantz Fanon participated actively in the anti-colonial struggles in northern Africa, which is currently undergoing an astonishing phase of social change. It was probably inevitable that Fanon’s magnum opus about colonialism, 'The Wretched of the Earth', would start off with a discourse about violence. With a sense of urgency, Fanon (1963) asserted:
‘National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people, commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used or the new formulas introduced, decolonization is always a violent phenomenon… The naked truth of decolonization evokes for us the searing bullets and bloodstained knives which emanate from it… you will see the native reaching for his knife at the slightest hostile or aggressive glance cast on him by another native; for the last resort of the native is to defend his personality vis-à-vis his brother’ (pp. 35-37).
Fanon’s pivotal thesis was that the political violence of the colonised was revolutionary in nature and an unavoidable aspect of the anti-colonial struggle. Colonialism was sustained through repressive violence and could only be overthrown through liberating violence. Furthermore, it amplified different types of violence. Although criminal violence, for instance, represents the opposite of political violence, these kinds of violence are interlinked. The quick reaching for a knife or, even worse, in this day and age, a machete, that symbol of genocidal violence, to defend a social identity, is usually done by young males with a humiliated status, and the defending or attacking is usually done vis-à-vis other youthful men, but, also of course women and children. In post-colonial society, this displaced aggression continues to be connected to the shame of a low social-status or a subordinate identity. The continuation, or even intensification, of violence is consequently to be expected.
Using a powerful, yet apt image, Fanon referred to colonialism as ‘an avalanche of murders.’ The overwhelming violence implied in this phrase captures the essence of what colonialism and apartheid were about. Oppressing others leaves behind a culture of endemic violence. Namibians should admit that colonialism was much more than what is implicit in Fanon’s phrase, namely, that it was an avalanche of murders, assaults, robberies, rapes, suicides, tortures, imprisonments, abuses, etc. Colonialism signified nothing less than the collective traumatising of the Namibian people who must carry the heavy burden of the consequences for generations. In this regard, the alarming legacy of bloodshed is everywhere in southern Africa: The anti-colonial fighters who were imprisoned and beaten, the detainees who were tortured, the women who were raped and molested, the children who were abused and collectively punished, the unemployed and the ex-colonial soldiers who commit suicide, the families who mourn for loved ones, the general trauma and self-destruction of the people.
Due to this appalling inheritance from colonialism, Fanon was of the view that a negotiated political settlement, like in Namibia, would not lead to fundamental social change. The complicated process of decolonisation would be unsuccessful and the politically independent nation would be, in Fanon’s words, ‘an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been’ (p.148). In such a neocolonial or neo-apartheid society, violence would become internalised and the people would be torn apart by differences of social class, tribe, gender, religion, etc. The ex-colonised would become demoralised and disheartened by the lack of grassroots change.
Indeed, it is against this background that the northern African revolts should be comprehended. The mass uprisings against neoliberalism in those post-colonial societies signify the historical appearance of a world-wide interregnum right in front of our eyes. Social change there has happened, not due to revolutionary violence, as postulated by Fanon, but due to mass action or street power, which have had more empowering consequences. Nevertheless, at least since the Great Recession, the post-colonial societies, in particular, have irrevocably moved beyond the honeymoon phase of political independence.
Postcolonial Namibia was born in the aftermath of the historical disintegration of the Soviet Union and the consequent hegemony of what French philosopher, Daniel Bensaid, termed ‘neo-liberal authoritarianism.’ This economic authoritarianism, derived from the political power of the right-wing, is manifested in increasing social inequality and pauperisation, which tragically had become the defining feature of postcolonial and post-apartheid southern Africa. In Namibia, specifically, the shift from pre-independence Keynesianism to postcolonial neoliberalism laid the foundation of increasing social fragmentation. Neoliberal authoritarianism led to the constant downward spiral in the living conditions of the people and ensures exorbitant food prices, rampant unemployment and endemic violence.
Expressions of social inequality have reached catastrophic levels. The rising food prices, in particular, had the greatest immediate impact on the lives of the people and have resulted in widespread anger and frustration. The speculation with food on the global stock markets and the development of so-called biofuels mean that humanity everywhere entered an era in which the specter of mass hunger has become all too common. The question of large-scale hunger is not going to be easily resolved and, needless to say, this holds grave implications with regards to violence.
Militarism is about power and control over others. In Namibia, this organised violence was an outflow of a century of colonialism which not only aimed at entrenching social inequality, but also establishing patterns of gratuitous violence. Just a few decades ago, the northern part of the country was the most militarised zone in the world and had to endure a 20-year state of emergency. Since colonialism was upheld through militarism, the armed struggle became the principle form of resistance and, consequently, the militarist culture lives on in the country. Namibian monuments like Heroes Acre are very real examples of the continuing presence of militarism. This militarisation is not only confined to the ever-expanding Namibian military, but is also evident in the police force and prison service. In addition, the paramilitary Special Field Force absorbed former combatants, while the National Youth Service targets the youth with a program of militarism. The military mindset is ingrained in the postcolonial psyche.
Militarism remains an indispensable part of neoliberal authoritarianism. The progressive Namibian intellectual, Alex Kaure (2011), has consistently drawn attention to the increasing militarisation in the country. The military budget continued to escalate over the past few years and the Namibian army recruits large numbers of young people every year. The country is firmly on the road to rising militarisation.
Militarism distorts the male identity into a hyper-masculine identity and reinforces male authoritarianism. In the main, young males are the perpetrators, as well as the victims, of the different kinds of violence, whether or not this happens as soldiers, tsotsis or protestors. In turn, the militarised male identity is central to the violence against women and children.
It is indeed in this context that sexual violence – as an instrument of power – and rape, in particular – as a political weapon of intimidation and punishment – are often manifested. The aim is to terrorise and humiliate the political opposition as seen in Zimbabwe; this kind of violence is clearly motivated by a political agenda. This sexual violence represents an intersection of militarism and the oppression of women. The paramilitary male youth groups usually target young women, which leave them with the scars of trauma, HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. This political violence is also deliberately perpetrated in front of family or community members in order to spread mass trauma. With regards to Namibia, it should also be admitted that there is tremendous silence about the political rape of women during the national liberation struggle.
The reality is that militarism impacts on all levels of Namibian society. Ultimately, it militates against nation-building and creates a vertical structure. Militarism also compliments other vertical structures such as tribal authorities and churches. There exists a strong need to demilitarise minds in postcolonial society.
A disturbing feature of postcolonial society is the horrific homicides in everyday life. Human life is cheap. Hardly a day goes by without some serious knifing or fighting or altercation taking place. Unwarranted violence is everywhere.
Homicides are linked to social class status and occur more frequently in working class communities. A crucial contributing factor to homicides are the alarming unemployment figures in the country. The violent person is usually unemployed or in a low-level job with not much hope of a better future. Unemployed people simply have limited resources.
Of course, the tragedy of a highly unequal society such as Namibia is that the social comparison effect is greater in that people experience their desperation more intensely. Young people compare their miserable lives in the townships with the opulent lifestyles of the elite and aspire to live like that. So, the relativity of deprivation enhances people’s frustrations. This awareness, combined with the reality of the violence-prone person being semi-literate, illiterate or a school dropout, makes for an explosive recipe.
Perpetrators of everyday violence often live in an informal settlement or a township which is characterised by dehumanising conditions. A heavily confined living space or the fact of overcrowding leads to very little respect for personal boundaries.
The disintegration of the extended family in Namibia has also certainly contributed significantly to the endemic violence. The break-up of even this kind of family has given rise to female-headed households becoming the social norm, with the phenomenon of absent fathers on the increase. Women have to settle for low-income jobs to sustain the single-parent household. The single mother is under tremendous pressure to do the impossible, that is, to financially support the whole family.
Unsurprisingly, the chronic abuse of alcohol and drugs is typical with those who are so violent; it is almost as if people have to numb themselves from the harsh conditions of everyday life. With the substance abuse situation in Namibia being so totally out of control, this contributes immensely to the gratuitous violence.
In her response to the brilliant lecture called ‘Freud and the Non-European’, by the Palestinian intellectual, Edward Said (2003), the psychoanalyst Jacqueline Rose argued that trauma survivors tend to repeat the patterns of violence and persecution visited upon them. This is easily observed in Namibia. By far the more interesting issue raised by the psychoanalyst is that trauma can lead to dogmatic and irrational thinking. If this kind of cognitive structures are pervasive in an entire society, then shifting it is a challenge of huge proportions. It could be assumed, for instance, that such a society is highly vulnerable, relatively disintegrated and without much solidarity. Symbolic violence is thus rampant.
In the context of neoliberal authoritarianism, the ever-worsening economic situation and the struggle over basic resources, the people all-too-easily single out scapegoats. When times are hard, the humiliating status of people is expressed as displaced aggression towards those perceived to be weak or of a low social status. This process often targets groups of people that have been subjugated before, but ultimately any social marker could be utilised for this nefarious purpose.
Since social categories are linked to political power and ultimately access to wealth, this process has significant consequences. The symbolic violence of labeling or categorizing others is in the final analysis a smokescreen for access to material benefits or for justifying the deprivation of others.
In the Namibian situation, the resurgence in tribalism, in particular, has been alarming. It would seem that Namibians have learned very little from the genocide of central Africa. Many years ago already, the Namibian political scientist, Alfredo Hengari (2007), bemoaned the ‘authoritarian tribal sensibilities’ which have become commonplace in the country and the ‘dangerous tribal consensus’ in the way politics is conducted. This phenomenon has been most noticeable in the competition for jobs in both government and the so-called private sector. The greatest danger in the reluctance to counter tribalism in this country is that it places the entire deracialisation project and national unity in general in jeopardy.
It is relevant to point out that tribalism usually pretends to derive legitimacy from a romanticised understanding of culture and tradition; it idealises a homogeneity and timelessness that simply did not exist in pre-colonial times. Identities are not frozen in time and shift in meaning with different socio-economic circumstances. On the question of identity, the South African activist, Neville Alexander (2002), maintained that the rejection of an ascribed identity ‘is part of the larger social struggle for equality, freedom, dignity and fair access to the resources of the country.’
Of course, gender identities are also contested. Assumptions about the ‘authoritarian male’ and the ‘submissive female’ should equally be rejected as constructions of dominant groups. Female devaluation results in widespread violence against women, in households, in bushes, in urban areas, in rural areas, just about everywhere. Can any Namibian ever forget the heart-wrenching case of the young Magdalena Stoffels?
The disconcerting state of gender equality in Namibia is also reflected in the deafening silence in the public domain about the reproductive rights of women. It is simply astounding that, after so many years of political independence, Namibian women have not yet won this imperative democratic right.
A strong link exists amongst the increasing gender oppression, the rising religious extremism and the spread of neo-liberal authoritarianism. In this part of the world, the notion of religious conservatism is automatically associated with Islamic extremism. Other forms of dangerous religious intolerance as manifested in Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism are seldom acknowledged. During colonial times, Christian extremism was promoted as a way to entrench conflict and as an effective buffer against enlightened values. So, postcolonial Namibia remains deeply fractured by the very many Christian sects. The artificial barriers of religious sectarianism should be countered as obstacles to tolerance and solidarity.
Secularism is about valuing all human beings, not only those from a certain religion; it argues that human beings construct their own history and are their own agents of change. Furthermore, secularism empowers people with notions of a critical mind and reasoning ability, and puts forth a progressive view about freedom of conscience.
Finally, an analysis of violence as a social phenomenon should be driven by the desire to reassert humanistic values. In this historical phase of neoliberal authoritarianism, the tremendous import of a radical humanism cannot be overstated. With regards to political rape, in particular, a campaign throughout southern Africa against the rising militarisation should be seriously considered. We should prevail upon governments in this region to terminate the paramilitary programmes as well.
In referring to the denigration of the Palestinian identity by Zionist ideology, Edward Said (2001), in an agonising tone, confided that such an identity represents the ‘punishing destiny of being held hostage by a dehumanizing ideology.’ The people of southern Africa should take on the daunting task of moving beyond the labels that attempt to restrict their humanity. After all, the greatest relationship of all is that which embraces the whole of humankind.
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* This is an edited version of a paper presented at a conference on ‘Development of a strategy towards sexual violence and political rape in southern Africa,’ Windhoek, 16 May 2011.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Perspectives on Emerging Powers in Africa: July newsletter available
In this months newsletter Daniel Large provides commentary on relations between China and South Sudan, as well as the potential role for China to play in the newly independent state. In our second commentary piece, Peter Bosshard provides insight into the long-term impact of China's Three Gorges Dam and the lessons they offer Africa as the number of large-scale hydro-power projects on the continent continues to increase. Translations of the two commentaries are also provided in our continuing Chinese series. The July edition is available here.
Pavement dwellers in Johannesburg to promote new book
Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers
'A beauty, extraordinary in every way.'
Naomi Klein, author of 'The Shock Doctrine' and 'No Logo'
The Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers who now stay in Blikkiesdorp have just arrived in Johannesburg to promote our new unique anthology, No Land! No House! No Vote! Voices from Symphony Way.
We invite all our supporters, detractors and anyone interested in learning more about our struggle to hear Sarita, Lilly, Jane, Tilla and Mina speak about their daily struggles dignity in the new South Africa.
They will be featured in a panel discussion today at the NGO/Social Movement Fair and will be hosting a book launch tonight at Love and Revolution in Mellville. On Thursday evening, five of the authors will be speaking about their critique of urban planning at Wits university. On Saturday, Finally, the authors will be hosting a stall at the Jozi Book Fair for the entire event, from the 6th until the 8th of August. On the 6th of August, they will be hosting another panel discussion at the Fair.
These events will be an important opportunity for our communities to speak about their struggles for land, housing and dignity.
If you are not able to attend, please consider buying our book available at most South African bookstores or online at Kalahari.
Here are the details of the events in the next few days:
Event: Panel Discussion on their new book at the NGO Fair
Host: Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers
Date: Wed, 3th August
Time: 12h00 - 13h00
Venue: Arena (at Museum Africa in Newtown)
Event: The Joburg launch of No Land! No House! No Vote!
Host: Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers
Date: Wed, 3th August
Time: 18h30 - till guests drift
Venue: Love and Revolution, Shop 4B, 7th Street, Melville
Event: Special Cities Seminar on evictions and urban planning
Host: Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers
Date: Thurs, 4 August
Time: 17h30 – 19h00
Venue: First floor seminar room, John Moffat Building, Wits East Campus
Event: Panel Discussion on their new book at the Jozi Book Fair
Host: Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers
Date: Saturday, 6th August
Time: 12h00 - 13h00
Venue: Arena (at Museum Africa in Newtown)
The authors will also be promoting their book the entire weekend at the Jozi Book Fair
Date: 6th - 8th of August
Time: 09h00 - 17h00
Venue: Museum Africa, Newtown
Contact: 011-336-9190 and jozibookfair [at] khanyacollege.org.za
For more information about the book and the tour, please contact:
Sarita Jacobs @ 0764699843
Auntie Tilla @ 0764772508
Mina Mahema @ 0782142373
PS – The authors will be continuing their tour in Grahamstown from the 10th of August until the 14th of August. Details to come soon. For more information contact the Rhodes University Students for Social Justice at benfogel [at] hotmail.com
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* The Poor People's Alliance: Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with Landless People's Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People's Alliance - a unfunded national network of democratic membership-based poor people's movements.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Return of ‘Wanjiku’ to Kenya’s constitution implementation process
Katto K. Wambua
Kenya’s new constitution sets out new dynamics of power relations in the country’s governance landscape. Public participation is at the heart of this reconfiguration, which is meant to foster a participatory citizenry and the democratisation of all aspects of public life.
In the past, governance was the preserve of a few persons determining all governmental policies and legislative measures. These few individuals were elected as people’s representatives or were serving at the pleasure of those elected. Worse still, the people’s representatives did as they pleased once elected, hence the country’s high turnover of MPs in each electoral cycle.
The masses were hardly consulted on policies, programmes and legislative measures initiated in their name by those in the executive or parliament. Even when the government did ‘consult’ it was mere tokenism, a sham involvement of the people in invited spaces that were merely opened up by the state sector to non-state actors for cosmetic endorsement of predetermined government policies. Experience with the CDF (Constituency Development Fund) and the LATF (Local Authorities Trust Fund) has taught Kenyans that fiscal decentralisation is also meaningless if the rules of engagement are unilaterally made away from popular participation and accountability.
It is under such a backdrop that the new constitution provides not only for the recall of MPs but also public participation in public processes to ensure accountability.
The new constitution mandates not only representative democracy but also direct citizen participation as enshrined in (Article 1. (1) (2) (4)). Public participation is now anchored as a constitutional value and a principle of governance (Article 10. (2) (a), (b)). Full operation of these provisions will make a significant difference in the democratic development of Kenyan society.
Public authorities’ policy/rule-making power is now subject to inputs from citizens for the purposes of popular ownership and to ensure the outcomes thereof reflect the will of the people. The constitution provides for this through indirect and direct involvement of the people in policy-making (Article 232. (d)) and participation in the legislative business of the National Assembly, Senate and county assemblies (Articles 118 (1) (a) (b), 124. (1) (b), 124. (4) (c), 196. (1) (a) (b)).
Considering the foregoing, it is disturbing that we are implementing the new constitution under the old mould of doing things, by failing to engage the public in shaping the contents of constitution implementation bills. Parliament and other constitution implementation organs like the CIC (Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution) and the Kenya Law Reform Commission have failed to prioritise the enactment of a law to ensure public participation in all legislative and policy processes, as envisaged in the above constitutional provisions. This ought to have been a prerequisite to implementation of all other constitutional provisions.
Sure, they will say that such a law is not among laws listed by the fifth schedule of the constitution and that have to be passed within a year from the enactment of the constitution. They will also argue that Kenyans are free to send/give them their views and, moreover, that they have engaged ‘stakeholders’ in coming up with the bills they are now rushing to enact (after wasting much of the year).
But such contentions are hollow and misplaced at best. The fifith schedule is a priorities guide that only stipulates deadlines and does not preclude legislations from being passed prior to stated deadlines. Some laws by their sheer nature should be passed urgently, prior to their stipulated deadlines. For instance, the quick passage of new land laws would greatly contribute to the country’s stability as land is a key cause of violence in Kenya. Likewise, a law on public participation is rationally a necessary overarching prerequisite for Kenyans to enjoy a direct and structured way to inform the content of the laws being made.
With no such law, the implementation process has been left to the mercies and vagaries of the vested interests of line ministries’ bureaucrats and a few powerful and elite-interest groups that are the so-called ‘stakeholders’, whom the above constitutional implementation organs currently engage with in tokenistic ‘consultations’. The ‘Wanjiku’ at the grassroots, who was consulted and passed the new constitution, is sadly no longer in the picture.
Five legislations have already been enacted and more bills are pending enactment without adequate public participation contrary to the constitution. The result is that some of the generated bills and legislations are on close scrutiny and of suspect constitutional quality as they have provisions that subvert constitutional provisions. The bills on finances of county governments, elections and the return to the National Assembly of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission bill by the president are cases in point. This is an unjustifiable false start in constitution implementation.
The new constitution expects Kenyans to begin seeing themselves not only as sovereign citizens enjoying a broadened bill of rights but also – and more importantly – as free people shaping their destinies. Thus ‘Wanjiku’ should return and demand for the urgent enactment of a law that gives effect to public participation as constitutionally provided for and be the rightful driver of the constitution implementation process.
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* Katto K. Wambua is an advocate at the High Court of Kenya.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
East Africa’s drought response: Union members must arise
What would you say are the colours of ideology that African leaders use to paint the backdrop for their performance and engagement on a continental stage?
This is a question many others and I grapple with as we seek to understand the how, how not, why and why not of the collective leadership that is entrusted with the responsibility of governing and protecting the African continent and its 1 billion citizens. Simply asked, what would you say is your national leader’s contribution to collective continental leadership on Africa?
When in July 2000 African leaders adopted the Constitutive Act of the African Union, creating the African Union (AU), they expressed a determination to take up the multifaceted challenges that confront the continent and its peoples in the light of changes taking place in the world. This determination was founded on the ‘vision for a strong and united Africa, capable of meeting global challenges and shouldering its responsibility to harness the human and natural resources of the continent in order to improve the living conditions of its peoples.’
Over the years the union has sought and made efforts towards realising this vision of a strong and united Africa – with Africans providing solutions for continental needs – and right now, this vision needs to be reaffirmed. Today in the Horn of Africa region women, men and children are in dire need of food assistance in a drought that has resulted from the lowest rainfall levels in 60 years. The drought has seen the death of thousands of people, with tens of thousands of others facing death, especially in Somalia, according to United Nations reports. Women and men in the parts of the region are being forced to make unneeded decisions, such as which child to save, as they begin their long trek in search of food, unable to take along all their children, and only opting to travel with the stronger ones.
Right now, the continent needs definitive leadership. By definitive leadership I mean leadership that is very deliberate in providing clear direction towards the realisation of a tangible solution, a solution that is consistent with African leaders’ universal commitment to the protection and promotion of the rights of Africans, in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. The yearning by African citizens to see the face and hear the voice of bold, African, home-grown continental leadership runs deep, and the disappointment over the consequent lack of presence of this bold, home-grown continental face and voice of leadership over the last few months is evident. Definitive leadership was needed in the continued months of election and succession stalemate in Côte d’Ivoire; definitive leadership was needed during the ‘Arab spring’ in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and today definitive leadership is needed in the face of what has recently been declared a famine in parts of Somalia and severe drought in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.
The call for assistance to the international community to raise the over US$1 billion needed to save more than 11 million Somalis, Kenyans and Ethiopians from starvation has gone out and responses have began coming in. Joining Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia who have made donations, on 14 July 2011 the AU through the Permanent Representatives Committee Sub-Committee on the Special Emergency Assistance Fund for Drought and Famine in Africa (SEAF) approved a grant in the sum of US$300,000 to the people of Somalia affected by the worst drought in the Horn of Africa. This is laudable, and to be emulated. The sub-committee also called upon all member states of the African Union to provide the required financial and material support to Somalia and to make voluntary contributions to sustain the operation of funds. While African states do not constitute the wealthiest of nations, their involvement on an international platform in responding to the need for emergency aid is not without precedent. Following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 many African nations joined the international community in donating money and support during the crisis that saw the death of several hundred thousand Haitians. South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Senegal, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Namibia, Mauritius, Botswana, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya and Benin among others all made funding pledges amounting to several million dollars. They also offered medical and other assistance. More recently, alongside others, they gave money to aid the people of Japan following the earthquake and tsunami disasters that saw several hundreds of thousands killed.
The importance of African states being visibly at the fore of the ongoing fundraising and relief efforts cannot be overstated. As regional blocs, and as a continent, it is important that we continuously remind ourselves that we can and need to be players on the team and not linesmen on the sidelines watching the players whizz past. This requires that our heads of state and our governments are thinking not only about their country and national agendas – important as these agendas may be – but also their regional and continental responses and responsibilities. It requires that they be unified in mind and commitment and the knowledge that the most important thing is a win for men, women, youth and children of the continent. It demands that they are seen and heard. Responding to this drought is no exception. African states need to lend their support in cash and/or in kind, for in so doing they become part of a solution.
In the next few weeks, whether or not the world turns its face to the Horn of Africa, African leaders need to take to heart the words of the late Pan-Africanist Tajudeen Abdul Raheem, who rightly stated that ‘We cannot be spectators in our own affairs.’ Today nobody should die from hunger.
We call on the members of the union to arise.
* Anne Mitaru is a human rights lawyer and has worked extensively in governance and women’s spaces in greater East Africa.
* Thanks to Mary Wandia for her comments and contributions.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Preamble of the Constitutive Act of the African Union
 Sirte Declaration Fourth Extraordinary Session Of The Assembly Of Heads Of State And Government, 8-9 September 1999, Sirte, Libya EAHG/Draft/Decl. (IV) Rev.1 EAHG/Draft/Decl. (IV) Rev.1, Article 7. This vision is also founded on ‘The imperative need and a high sense of urgency to rekindle the aspirations of [African] peoples for stronger unity, solidarity and cohesion in a larger community of' peoples transcending cultural, ideological, ethnic and national differences as stipulated under article 5.
 Africa wide radio talk shows and regional newspaper commentaries continue to highlight this.
 Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, ’Speaking Truth to Power: Selected Pan-African Postcards’, Pambazuka Press, 2010
Kenyan lives are cheap, Somali lives even cheaper
KCB, the Media Owners Association and the Safaricom Foundation this past week launched “Kenyans for Kenya” – an appeal to ordinary Kenyans to raise half a billion shillings to help mitigate the effects of the drought in northern Kenya.
It’s not clear whether they were aware that “Kenyans for Kenya” was originally a campaign launched by Kikuyus for Change to create a sense of national purpose and solidarity in the polarised aftermath of the 2007 general election and the violence that followed. But it is clear their motivation comes from the same place – a sense of outrage that Kenyans are dying (this time from starvation) and a sense of moral duty to help stop those deaths.
But beyond acknowledging the effort we should also ask ourselves some harder questions: What does it take to move us? And why does it take so long to be moved? It is not like the urgency of the situation was unclear. Our meteorological department had told us that this was the worst drought in 60 years. The humanitarian and relief organisations – international and national – had been ringing the bells for at least a couple of months. The media – again, both international and national – had been sharing those so familiar and yet so terrible images of people reduced to skin and bone.
Maybe that was the problem – the familiarity of those terrible images. They are not new to us. They are like an almost ever-present backdrop to our lives to which we have become so accustomed that we ignore it. That is why our own government’s response seems so ploddingly, routinely unbothered. There is drought. People are dying of hunger up north. Send them some maize. Discuss where to get the maize. Make the deals (and the inevitable profits from the deals for big brokers and middlemen). Expect that some of it will end up off the supply route, being sold instead of distributed. Profess shock. Produce the figures to show that, regardless, the government has done what it can.
Life is cheap. And so we are lethargic – until the numbers become too large to ignore.
This too explains the otherwise incomprehensible situation at our border with Somalia. Kenyans are dying of hunger – that fact is unremarkable. So why would the fact that Somalis are also dying of hunger be remarkable to us? And why would that allow Somalis special dispensation to cross over into our territory? They can do what we are doing here on their side of the border. Anyone who does find their deaths remarkable can do what they want to do about it on the other side of the border. Why here?
It seems callous – but that is the basic and underlying perception of the problem. We are unmoved – why would we be otherwise? Compound that perception with other facts. Refugees, particularly those of Somali extraction, are a security problem, all carrying with them the noxious whiff of Al Shaabab. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the majority of Somali refugees are seeking refuge because of Al Shaabab and the huge mess that is the so-called Somali state. And that we are obligated to receive asylum-seekers.
“Kenyans for Kenya” has forced us to do so with respect to our own deaths by starvation. What will do so with respect to our neighbours’ deaths by starvation? “Kenyans for Somalia?” “Kenyans for Africa?” What?
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* Muthoni Wanyeki is the outgoing executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Sexual violence in Uganda
Within Uganda, it is common to hear arguments that men rape women because women wear indecent clothing or invite men into their homes or drink late into the night with men or accept a ride home.
Much less discussion focuses on the male’s responsibility. Why should we blame women for giving men the benefit of the doubt as fellow human beings, and whose company, support and helping hand we can supposedly count on when in need?
To put this conversation in context is the 26 July story in Uganda’s The Daily Monitor newspaper, which stated that the vice chancellor of Makerere University was being accused of rape. According to the story, Professor Venansius Baryamureeba is alleged to have forcibly had sex with a 26-year-old female in her home in March this year. This was allegedly after he refused to leave her apartment after dropping her off from a drink out with two other male friends.
According to the story, Baryamureeba claimed he was too drunk to drive home, so the woman offered him a sofa to sleep on. However, he allegedly moved into her bedroom in the middle of the night and allegedly had forced sex with her. He allegedly pleaded with her not to report the incident to the police to protect his university leadership and future political ambitions, reported the Daily Monitor. However, the victim later sought the intervention of the Uganda Human Rights Commission when Baryamureeba allegedly refused to provide support to her when she discovered she was pregnant.
Instead of compassion for the woman, the public has swiftly condemned the complainant as a reckless and oversexed con-woman. Ensuing debates and responses in the media since the story broke have left me disturbed.
During a discussion of this case with three male colleagues, it became clear to me that even as rape victims, women bear the brunt and responsibility of protecting themselves. My male colleagues seemed to suggest that men in general are evil, and women and ‘guardians of the female’ should stay far away from them. Arguably, women should know better than to have late-night drinks with male colleagues, or accept a ride home. But to me, such reasoning leaves no room for holding men accountable for disrespecting women and themselves. One of my male colleagues argued that if a male housekeeper abuses the female child under his care, then the mother is responsible for leaving her baby girl in his care. Judging from their assertions, men as neighbours, brothers, and fathers are ‘natural’ sexual predators, whom we should keep far away from the girl-child and women.
Further comments on the case in the Ugandan dailies have accused the complainant of seeking to benefit financially. Others have called her a reckless woman, who went out drinking late into the night with three men, and thereafter allowed a man to drive her home and enter her home. The Red Pepper, an explosive Ugandan daily, has described the complainant as an oversexed woman belonging to a clique of con-girls that target Uganda’s rich and powerful men like the ‘good university don’. (see Red Pepper, 28 July)
Never mind that none of the media houses has since endeavored to publicise Baryamureeba’s sexual past. There are also suggestions of political blackmail by the ruling NRM government, which is supposedly scared of Baryamureeba’s political ambitions for the presidency.
Already, Makerere seems to be absolving Baryamureeba of any wrongdoing before the truth around the allegations are uncovered. This, together with comments from the chair of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Med Kaggwa - who was quoted in The New Vision of 27 July saying that investigations were about paternity not rape - seems to be exonerating Baryamureeba.
Kaggwa’s comments seem to suggest that we should concern ourselves only with the paternity issue and leave out the larger case of sexual violence. Just because a young woman goes out for drinks with a male is not necessarily an invitation for sex with her. Several women relate to males without expecting that they will pounce on them. Whereas some male colleagues have proven their female colleagues wrong, it is not true that all men are evil and that any female interaction with men should be dreaded and avoided. Often, we assume that we are relating with colleagues, who are out to have as much fun as we are without seeking to harm us. Even if there are any feelings, we do not necessarily have to act on them out of respect and love for the relationship. As humans, we own our emotions and have the capacity to govern and control ourselves and not to degenerate into loose cannons. Thus, men who violate women should not feel entitled to an unlimited right to express their sentiments toward women. Similarly, no one should defend a man who forcefully engages a woman in an unwanted sexual act, while shifting the responsibility to protect on to the female victim.
As I have said elsewhere, there is a common public perception that those who commit awful acts are not ‘like us or among us’ but wrong, deranged people with a problem. Yet male sexual predators have no face or status and include high-profile men.
Makerere University should remember that the institution does not belong to only those who run it, but to all of us who went through it, identify with it, have funded it and cherish to rebuild its international image as a centre of academic excellence. For Uganda as a whole, we need to revisit the idea of a ‘Men’s Club’ and how men can uphold their respectful place as members of a society shared with women as human beings and not sexualised objects. Men are not inertly evil, as some seem to suggest, but those who commit evil acts are abusing their power and privilege to violate women.
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* Doreen Lwanga is a socio-political critic and human rights activist.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
All charges dropped against the Grahamstown Four
Unemployed People's Movement
3 August 2011
Unemployed People's Movement Press Statement
All charges dropped against the Grahamstown Four
Yesterday (02 August) all charges were dropped against the Grahamstown Four - Ayanda Kota, Xola Mali and Nombulelo Yami of the Unemployed People's Movement and Ntombentsha Budaza of the Women's Social Forum - in the Grahamstown Magistrate's court. This was the fourth time that the four had had to appear in court since they were arrested on the 10th of February 2011.
On the 9 February there was a protest against rape and the lack of water in parts of Grahamstown. The municipality illegally and unconstitutionally banned the protest and people responded by occupying the municipal offices. A meeting was promised but after it failed to materialise a road blockade was organised in the Phaphamani squatter camp. Some civil society organisations are uncomfortable with the road blockade as a tactic but around South Africa and around the world the road blockade has emerged as a key weapon of the unemployed who cannot strike.
As comrade Pedro Tabensky wrote at the time:
‘The flames of Phaphamani went on all night. Next morning Mr Ayanda Kota (UPM president), Mr Xola Mali (UPM spokesperson) rushed to the settlement upon receiving a call from Ms Nombulelo Yami (of the WSF) informing them of police violence against the protesters. On arrival they found that police were firing rubber bullets and rocksalt at the protestors. They immediately went to speak to the police to stop the unnecessary violence, and were arrested with Ms Yami on the spot, handcuffed and placed in a police van. While in the van they overheard a policeman ask the driver to give him more “sweets to enjoy himself”. He wanted more rubber bullets, and got them. Shortly after these arrests one of the protesters - Ms Ntombentsha Budaza - was beaten and arrested.’
The prisoners were taken to the police station and the following day they were released on bail. The conditions of bail, disturbingly, are unconstitutional, according to Professor Jane Duncan from Rhodes University. In summary, they are forbidden from organising and participating in further public expressions of the right to freedom of speech.
Six months later all charges have been dropped against all four comrades. But for six months the four comrades were unlawfully denied basic democratic rights and their organisations had to find money for four court appearances. This was a clear abuse of the criminal justice system to harass and repress activists and independent organisations.
This has been happening across the country for many years. It is very rare to meet an activist who has not been arrested on the charge of 'public violence' at some point only to have the charges dropped after four, five, six or seven court appearances. The movements of the people, like Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, the Landless People's Movement, the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign and the many smaller organisations around the country all know this story very well. And across the country municipalities unilaterally ban protests, peaceful protests are routinely attacked with police violence (and already this year there have been more than ten murders of protesters at the hands of the police with the Andries Tatane case being the best known).
And as with the recent case of the Kennedy 12 the ANC and the police also, from time to time, try to frame activists on much more serious charges.
We are not living in a democracy.
As Maas van Wyk from the Landless People's Movement says the movements of the poor are trying by all means to politicise poverty and the state is responding by trying by all means to criminalise our movements. Ultimately this means that in South Africa it is becoming criminal to refuse to accept poverty as the natural order of things. Activism, even when it is peaceful and within the law, is being treated as if it is criminal.
We have reached the point where, as Frantz Fanon put it, ‘the party is holding the people down’. As Rosa Luxemburg said:
‘Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. Freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party - though they are quite numerous - is no freedom at all. Only through the conscious action of the working masses in city and country can it be brought to life, only through the people’s highest intellectual maturity and inexhaustible idealism can it be brought safely through all storms and find its way to port. Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.’
We will raise the issue of the abuse of the criminal justice system with other movements and with the Democratic Left Front. A co-ordinated response to the ongoing attack on our right to organise is necessary. We will also explore the possibility of suing the police for wrongful arrest.
Xola Mali – 072 299 5253 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Ayanda Kota – 078 625 6462 – email@example.com
Nombulelo Yame – 078 328 9740
War in Blikkiesdorp
Symphony Way Anti-Eviction Campaign
31 July 2011
We warned the City.
We warned the courts.
We warned the public.
Fearing for our lives and with a heavy heart, we write this to tell Zille, Plato and de Lille and say: We told you so!
Yesterday, the morning of 28 July, Blikkiesdorp exploded into a full-scale drug war. This is what we warned the government against when we resisted our eviction to Blikkiesdorp from the pavement of Symphony Way. The shacks we built ourselves were better than the shacks that our City has built and dumped us in. We, as residents of this camp, have no control here because the City has disempowered us and stood by while drug-dealers have invaded the 'temporary' relocation area.
Yesterday morning, two adults were shot in broad daylight by three gunmen. Yesterday evening, a revenge shooting took place and three more people were shot and are now in hospital. One of those shot was a teenage boy, a member of the Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers. Some people have been arrested but all the residents of Blikkiesdorp know that this is only the beginning as revenge killings are likely to continue in the weeks to come.
We as the Symphony Way and wider Blikkiesdorp community have complained to the City of Cape Town and the police about the invasion of our community by drug dealers but it seems that they do not care. They always present us with plans about what they will do - yet they end up doing nothing! Two years ago, when we came to Blikkiesdorp, the High Court ordered the government to build a satellite police station in Phase 2 of Blikkiesdorp - yet that building today remains a white elephant. Blikkiesdorp is now in it’s fourth year of tension, crime and poverty. Our complaints are falling on deaf ears. We need to know what the City of Cape Town and the police are going to do about the crime and poverty here - or must we all die before they actually do something?
We were safe on Symphony Way and various other places because we, the people, controlled our own communities. The City of Cape Town created this monster by putting us in government shacks that they control from their offices in town. You can't bureaucratically manage a community of 15,000 from fancy offices 40 kilometres away. They must now all come to Blikkiesdorp. We challenge them to live here until they solve this problem. Perhaps then, they might understand how their inaction kills us.
Sunday morning at 03h30 in the morning, gunshots break out in Phase 1 while the community wait for militant force protection. But the worst nightmare of it all is when there is an eviction you notice more law enforcement members/police in the concentration camp. On the 21 July 2011 in a meeting with the City, they announced a roll-out plan for the community of Blikkiesdorp, but it is secret information. How can information be secret when the community just want to know when will the City of Cape Town build them the houses, but instead throw them into a war zone with drug dealers? Since the 28 July 2011 twelve structures were left with bullet holes + forty residents were in the meanwhile traumatised and six hospitilised. When will the government act on these unlawful cowboys and crooks?
For more information, contact:
Chairperson (SWAEC): Jerome 073 143 8886
Secretary (SWAEC): Sarita 076 469 9843
Spokesperson (BLIKKIESDORP): Willy 073 144 3619
(Chairperson P-Block): Marietta 078 834 5339
Petition: For a real gas revolution, stop gas flaring
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria
This petition was drawn up at the first-ever general meeting of Host Communities Network (HoCoN Nigeria). The network brings together communities with polluting industrial installations as well as those suffering impacts of such activities. At the meeting held yesterday at Ibada Elume, Delta State, there were delegates from Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, FCT (Abuja), Ondo, Plateau, Rivers and Zamfara States of Nigeria. If you would like to endorse this petition kindly send your name, and/or organisation's name and address or country to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. President,
PETITION: FOR A REAL GAS REVOLUTION, STOP GAS FLARING
We are concerned groups comprised of individuals, community people, students, civil society organizations, environmentalists and the media within and outside Nigeria who have interest in the protection of the environment and rights of communities. We write to register our concern over the proposed Gas Revolution launched by Your Excellency sometime in March, 2011.
The Gas Revolution is indeed laudable going by the array of expected benefits. During the launch you said the implementation of the entire gas master-plan would result in about $25 billion worth of investments over the next three years, with activities in fertilizer production, petrochemicals and methanol manufacturing.
Going by the health hazards associated with gas flaring and the attendant chequered history of the Nigerian government pronouncements to halt gas flaring over the past decades, we wish to state that though the project may sound promising, yet many Nigerians are utterly disappointed by government’s nonchalance on past promises and its obvious lack of will to clampdown on the multinational oil companies that are responsible for gas flaring.
The Associated Gas Re-Injection Act of 1979 set 1984 as the date that oil corporations operating in Nigeria should ensure zero flares. Again the federal government pledged to halt gas flares in Nigeria and set January 1, 2008 as the zero flare date. Yet these deadlines have been characterized by shifts that have never been adhered to.
Rather than enforce those laws and a subsisting court judgment against the practice, the government in countless instances succumbed to excuses from oil companies for shifts in flare-out deadlines.
Reports show that over 75 per cent of Nigeria’s associated gas is flared thereby making the country the second highest gas flaring nation in the world. Gas flaring contributes significantly to climate change and increases the vulnerability of poor communities.
As you know already, Mr. President, gas flaring causes acid rain which acidifies the lakes and streams and damages crops and vegetation. It leads to low farm yields and affects the health and livelihoods of the local people. Gas flaring increases the risk of respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer, amongst other ailments. The flare stack is often located in the heart of the community a few meters away from homes.
According to a conservative World Bank report in 2005, Nigeria loses US $ 2.5 billion annually through gas flaring.
Government’s inability to completely halt gas flaring in the country prompted the Iwerekhan community in Delta State to sue SHELL for its continued flaring of gas in the community. The Federal High Court sitting in Benin City on the 14th November, 2005 ordered the stoppage of gas flaring declaring it as a “gross violation of the fundamental human rights to life and dignity.”
We are worried that despite the court order, gas flaring has continued unabated in the Niger Delta thereby continuing to put the local communities and the entire world at risk.
We are eager to applaud a real gas revolution in Nigeria as it will bring much needed respite to our polluted environment and damaged health. But for this revolution to be meaningful it must start with the total stoppage of routine gas flaring.
This is our petition and we urge you to halt gas flaring and thereby instigate a real gas revolution. The offending oil companies can afford to delay action in this regard but we have run out of time. The onus to make this happen rests with you, our president.
View the petition here.
Desecration of the late President Sankara’s tomb
It is with great emotion and profound dismay that we, members of the family of the late President Thomas Sankara, have learnt of the horrible news regarding the desecration of the tomb of Thomas Sankara in the cemetery of Danoen in Ougadougou. In the face of such an unspeakable horror, we can only express our rage and indignation, but also our firm condemnation of this act. Attacking the burial place of Thomas Sankara is, without a doubt, an insult to his memory and to those who are buried close by. It leaves one to speculate that the authors of this barbaric act wanted to tarnish this great man, who even in death, continues to humiliate the authors and financiers of his assassination. Beyond the disgrace of this act, which is contrary to the secular values of Burkinabé society, it is symptomatic of the denial of justice that continues to mark his assassination. More generally, it demonstrates the impunity which characterizes the regime of Blais Compaore.
It is also evident to us that this desecration, including the strange liquid poured onto Thomas Sankara's tombstone, serves to challenge the legal actions that we have taken in Burkina Faso in order to establish and certify that the body of President Sankara actually lies with those of the thirteen others who were shot down the night of October 15, 1987. This action, which has been ongoing for many years, is an attempt to try to ensure Thomas Sankara’s effective and inalienable right to an honourable burial place. It will allow my family, my children and me to finally begin the difficult task of mourning – something that those who cowardly assassinated Thomas Sankara have prevented us from doing up until today.
This vile and unacceptable desecration confirms that the Machiavellian mausoleum project and rehabilitation started by Blaise Compaore is but smoke and mirrors. It is there to blind us and end the vigilance that many of us throughout the world have fought to maintain in order that the truth behind his assassination can finally come to light.
Therefore, we ask that all means are used by the Burkinabé state to apprehend and sanction the authors of this barbaric act and to ensure that this type of behaviour does not go unpunished. We are not under any illusion regarding the potential outcome of our motions as a result of the impunity that reigns in Burkina Faso. The assassination of Thomas Sankara, that of journalist, Norbert Zongo, and most recently the death of the young, Justin Zongo, and many other sad stories demonstrate the impunity that persists.
We call on the people of Burkinabé to mobilise against this impunity from which no one is safe.
Montpellier, July 29, 2011
For the family
President Obama should not host Côte d’Ivoire’s Alassane Ouattara
On Friday, July 29, 2011 President Barack Obama will meet Mr. Allassane Ouattara at the White House.
Although the meeting may fall into the normal US-Cote d’Ivoire bilateral relations, it is nonetheless questionable that it is to take place at a moment when Cote d’Ivoire is still suffering from the consequences of the tragic events, which followed the presidential election of November 2010 and to which the Obama administration contributed.
Despite the pompous speeches and the calls to calm and national reconciliation of Mr. Ouattara and his coup d'état-born regime that numerous Ivoirians do not recognize as legitimate, the world sees that the use of military action to solve the electoral dispute has annihilated any chance of reunification, reconciliation, and reconstruction in Cote d’Ivoire.
Three months after he was unconstitutionally sworn in Mr. Ouattara has led Cote d’Ivoire in a situation that is worse than the pre-October 2010 situation:
- police and gendarmerie forces are disarmed and not operational,
- the army is disorganized while numerous officers have fled into exile, - pro-Ouattara warlords of the “Forces Nouvelles” continue to administer the areas which were under their control before April 11, 2011,
- exactions and indictments against the partisans of Mr. Gbagbo continue according to Human Right Watch,
- Human Right Watch also acknowledge that Pro-Gbagbo political prisoners are tortured and humiliated,
- the number of refugees, about 2 million people, continues to rise and there is no sign of their imminent return,
- the freedom of the press is inexistent, the headquarters of newspapers opposed to Ouattara’s regime are besieged, journalists are in jail,
- pro-Ouattara armed men illegally occupy and exploit cocoa and coffee plantations after killing or chasing their rightful owners away,
- in Duekoue and neighboring towns pro-Ouattara forces continue ethnic and political cleansing,
- pro-Ouattara forces still terrorize civilians with their indiscipline and frequent in-fighting,
- the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission is not credible as Yale Professor Mc Govern testified to the US Senate ,
- political parties are opposed to Ouattara’ regime are not allowed to assemble in a politically healthy environment,
- parliamentary elections are discussed while conditions are far worse than the conditions in which the presidential election of 2010 took place.
The US administration is fully aware of the above observation. Therefore, the African Diaspora for Democracy and Development declares that by hosting Mr. Ouattara Allassane, President Obama:
- infringes on the January 26, 2011 decree through which he extends for one year to February 2012, Executive order No 13396 applying US international Emergency Act to Cote d’Ivoire in accordance to UN 2002 Resolution 1572,
- encourages Mr. Ouattara for seizing fraudulently and allowing the insecurity that exists in Cote d’Ivoire since April 11, 2011,
- accomplishes a diplomatic gesture whose sole aim is to grant rebellion-born regime of Mr. Ouattara the status of the democratic regime,
- gives Ivoirians many more reasons to believe that his involvement in the Ivorian crisis was only meant to accomplish an unconstitutional regime change,
President Obama should be reminded that he and his administration, especially Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Suzanne Rice, and Ambassador Philip Carter III, will not escape the tribunal of history for their blind and unconditional support to Mr. Ouattara, whose brutal and un-democratic entry in Cote d’Ivoire’s politics, has bred more violence than any of the four previous regimes before him.
It is certain that the silent majority of Ivoirians will never tolerate the reign of terror that Mr. Ouattara, his rebels, and Soro Guillaume have established in Cote d’Ivoire. They will continue to demand the restoration of constitutional order and the dignity of the united people of Cote d’Ivoire.
The African Diaspora for Democracy and Development calls on US elected officials, Congressmen, Senators, civilians, members of the clergy, and humanitarian organizations to ask President Obama:
- to refrain from hosting leaders who come to power through coups d’état or truncated elections,
- to acknowledge Mr. Ouattara’s failures three months after his illegal accession to power,
- to request the end of the two customs and fiscal administration system, the pillages and exactions of the pro-Ouattara’s forces, and the repression against the press,
- to request the release of Laurent Gbagbo, his spouse Simone Gbagbo and all political prisoners to facilitate reconciliation and reconstruction in Cote d’Ivoire.
Eric Edi, PhD., President – Pennsylvannia, email@example.com
Kenya: Dealing with drought
H. Nanjala Nyabola
In an impressive show of solidarity, Kenyans have harnessed the media and various communication platforms and managed to raise a staggering 105 million Kenya shillings towards the alleviation of drought in the North Eastern region of the country, less than a week after the appeal was officially launched across these platforms. Defying the image of Kenyans as a parasitic nation that would gladly stand by and watch fellow citizens die – an image so grotesquely constructed around the post-election violence – Kenyans of various backgrounds have rallied and pulled off an extremely impressive feat, raising in eight days ten times what the Kenyan government had pledged to put towards food distribution to the drought stricken areas. As perhaps a more stern critic of my country than most, it was encouraging to see that even in the leanest of times, the ordinary mwananchi (citizen) was never too hard pressed to forget their compatriots.
There are two stories worth telling here. One, is that it is further confirmation of the complete lack of faith that Kenyans have in their government, that they would rally around a fundraising drive overseen by private cooperation while writing the most scathing critiques of the government in the press and on the blogosphere. Two, there is the untold story of the generosity with which ordinary Kenyans have responded to the crisis, a generosity that remains relatively uncovered in the UK and US press who instead focus on raising the profile of UK-led appeals. The first story is the heart of this analysis.
In his work on ‘Development as Freedom’, Amartya Sen raised the issue of droughts and famines as products of institutional incapacity or lack of will rather than simply a lack of food. Sen raised important questions about the way in which food distribution structures are shaped not only by structural constraints like the state of the infrastructure or the agricultural sector in the country, but also the agency of individuals that run these structures, thus the will or intent of government agencies and representatives to actually make these structures work for the people of that particular country.
The work of Sen has been hinted at if not explicitly discussed in various assessments of the current drought in Kenya, and the callousness of the Kenyan government in dealing with this issue seems to confirm this assessment. In a statement to the press last week, government spokesperson Dr Alfred Mutua gave a semantic and rather flippant assessment of the situation in Kenya, going to great pains to point out that ‘no one in Kenya had died of hunger’ (the Kenyan media would to differ on that point) and that most of those who died ‘were Somali refugees’. Mutua goes to great pains to emphasise that the famine situation in Kenya is an invention of the ‘Western media’ that is completely disengaged from the actual situation in Kenya and using this as a platform to perpetuate a negative image of the country.
While I myself am not a big fan of the Western media’s coverage of this issue, it is wrong for Dr Mutua to completely mischaracterise a grave situation in order to further some shadowy agenda. The government that cannot distinguish between Kenyan Somalis and Somali Somalis when undertaking security operations in the North East and then turn around and make such distinctions when deciding who is genuinely dying and therefore worthy of assistance over the other.
Dr Mutua is quite right to point out that several journalists covering the situation in Kenya fly in and out as some kind of emergency-tourism but Mutua himself is preaching his message from the very comfortable pulpit of being one of the highest paid government officials in the country, in the comfort of his plush office and not from the heart of the North East. When it comes to being ‘on the ground’ with regards to the situation, Kenyans have no reason to believe that the man who would stare a camera in the face and boldly declare that there Kofi Annan flew into Kenya for a cup of coffee during the heart of the post-election violence is any more appraised of the situation in the North East than those Western journalist ‘drinking tea in Yaya’.
Dr Mutua invites Kenyans contributing towards the successful food drive to give towards the construction of infrastructure and logistical support to the drought stricken areas, leading anyone with any kind of sense to wonder why Kenya needs a government at all if such tasks are to be performed by the public. Something tells me, Dr Mutua, that this isn’t what economists had in mind when they were discussing public funding, and a man of good conscience would or should be ashamed of even suggesting such a thing.
It is beyond the scope of this piece to unpack the complex issues surrounding the food crisis in North Eastern Kenya and Somalia, ranging from the Al Shabab’s war on common sense and human decency to the chronic neglect of the region by successive Kenyan governments, not to mention global warming and the increasing pressure on an already foreboding environment. Yet, considering the inadequacy of the Kenyan government’s official response, it’s hard to argue with Sen, and we are left wondering how a nation that has time and time again proven itself so incredibly generous could be stuck with such an avaricious and callous government.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
A library in Asaba
One definition of ‘hometown’ should be a place where you can walk a street and be related by blood to everyone in sight. Asaba used to be that kind of place. In the seventies, walking down Ezenei Street from the house in front of the old magistrate court to the library beside Nigeria’s first high court gave me that - sometimes claustrophobic - sense of relationship.
It was no different inside the library. I went there most days to browse and borrow books - westerns, thrillers, adventures - the sort of titles that would interest any other 10-year-old. I remember the librarian as kindly and anonymous…until my father’s brother’s wife told me that her sister’s cousin who worked at the library was complaining that her young nephew really should make up his mind before checking out books, and not cart them home only to return them the following day.
I returned to that library of pleasant memories a few yesterdays ago for some heartache. Surely a developing country is one that is developing - that is, moving generally from slightly -good to rather-better. The library of the 1970s was a pleasant, clean, space. I did not have to wash my hands after touching the books. The child in me was drawn to books with colourful covers. On the evidence of Asaba’s library in 2011, we are an undeveloping nation. The library’s floor is now as pitted as Lagos/Benin highway at Ore. Several bookshelves are emptied of books. Those books that are left are dusty and ancient, clearly leftovers from the stock I read back then.
There is one positive thing though: the library was full of children. At the time of my visit, most of the seats were taken: but the kids have not come to borrow or browse. They have come to read their own notes, to study for their exams. The exciting, panoramic vision that the library presented in the 1970s has become a tunnel vision pointing back to our sad myopia. Asaba’s library is now a reading room for desperate children who have no study space at home. We should be doing better.
I made some enquiries at the state library board and am pleased to report that there are in fact plans to build a rather larger library for Asaba’s children. (This is not to say that adults do not require libraries, but I am sticking to an image of a 10-year-old reader discovering a world of books.) Sadly, this project appears to have been abandoned. The completed building to the right of the picture is the Central Bank, Asaba, the mouldy ruins of the abandoned library project sulks on the left. The photograph at the bottom shows what the library should be today. It is still an artist’s impression. (This image used to stand proudly on a billboard at the construction site until it clearly became an embarrassment.)
The two projects were started at the same time and their current status provides an involuntary metaphor of our anti-intellectual mercantilist ideology. It is great to have a completed Central Bank project and a new airport, but how about a time frame for a public library?
If I were 10-years-old today, the present reading room could not hope to compete with any of 100 mindless video and phone games. If I were 19-years-old today, perhaps a new library might tempt me from the drugs scene, but the present reading room would have no prospect of keeping me from the fortunes to be made selling and reselling other people’s land.
If it makes anyone feel better, the Yaba libraries in Lagos fare only slightly better. Indeed, across the country there are probably millions of children who have never been inside their non-existent public libraries, yet, we are all getting richer. Our cars and SUVs are getting longer. The policy makers who can put libraries on our streets and books on the shelves of the libraries within weeks may well have excellent private libraries for their children at home. But failing to provide public educational facilities that cost so little is short-sighted. It is not rocket science, this idea that the patriarch who invests in his empire rather than his children will eventually have his unmentored children destroy his empire.
I am no prophet, but will make this one prediction. There is someone arriving at his (or her) desk about now, who has the power, opportunity and duty to succour our children, who might instead be tempted to add to his fleet of SUVs and walled estates.
Here is the prediction: every good book you place in the excited hands of a 10-year old today is a gun you take from the hands of a 30-year old career armed robber of the future. We cannot all live in walled estates forever. One day, our SUVs will go out to play. On that day when we come face-to-face with the childhoods that we have made, or marred, the lives we save will be our own.
Let us with sombre tongues count our teeth in silence. Let us reach the right sums, and do the right thing.
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* Chuma Nwokolo is an author and advocate. He was born 1963, in Jos, Nigeria. This article first appeared on AW Blogs.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Sudan: The urgency in state formation
Response to South Sudan in the post-CPA era: Prospects and challenges
The euphoria is over, and South Sudan is facing an urgency in problematizing the state, and hopefully mapping out a plan that would sustain the state for the next couple of years- Atl east that is the gist of the article written by Christopher Zambakari, an African scholar from South Sudan. In his article for Pambazuka, he states that the citizens are waiting for a dream where ‘freedom from oppression and domination, justice and equality, democracy and economic prosperity, peace and tranquillity’ would be the norm. He further articulates the urgency for the state apparatus to find a way to reconcile the past, by finding the reasons behind the violence. To the author, expressing the opinions of scholars before him, there is no moving forward without find the reasons behinds the actions. Hence, being that the state is young, keeping an eye on the process would be a crucial element in critiquing the development of the young state.
The article off course, like his suggestions, offers a few of the problems. The lack of unity, thus divided in citizenship, the land disputes- and the list could go on. Perfectly so, South Sudan comes into statehood with many challenges ahead. Leadership might be one that is sidelined by the need to focus the dividing lines between those who ‘belong’ and those who ‘don’t belong’- One can imagine that lines between the two have blurred over the ears.
While this article brings about many good points, and possible solutions to the problems indicated, the author devotion on problems seem to take away from a real problem that needs to be addressed: Leadership. Zambakari touches on Garang and the work of this leader. Respectfully so, the man was a great leader in his own sense- although his relationship with Museveni might be considered an error in his judgment. However, South Sudan needs to realize that Garang is dead. It seems that most scholars, and idealists would focus on a leader much like Garang, and leave no room for new blood in leadership. Otherwise, the South Sudanese will find themselves facing the stagnation of the past- much like the Lumumba situation in Congo, the Che Guavaras- and the Nkrumah issue in Ghana (if not the rest of West Africa). Bottom line, South Sudan needs to get over its romance with Garang, move on and upwards(hopefully)
The politics of leadership in this new state have to be so that they is careful intergration of all aspects of society. This means that in the elevation of spirits in finding freedom, South Sudan needs to set an example to the rest of Africa, by the inclusion of both gender, race and age in the new leadership bloc.
Much to the sentiments of the author, there is an urgency for South Sudan to form a strong state. There problems are many, and they come into statehood in very confusing times as far as world politics go. The good news is that there is really no way to go but up- for they have at a point, hit rock bottom. But let the scholars, politicians and activists be advised: South Sudan is not an exception to Africa’s problems. For as they fight for recognition, they have neighbouring countries that are fighting the same problems, with the same unrealized dreams. Let them be advised that the rest of Africa is still fighting for the dreams of ‘freedom from oppression and domination, justice and equality, democracy and economic prosperity, peace and tranquillity.’ Their expectations should be that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but before that, there are dark days ahead.
* This response first appeared on Africaforafrica’s Blog.
Pambazuka News 200: Celebrating 200 issues in the service of resistance, alternatives and social justice
Advice for Greece
GMOs or organic?
Zimbabwe: Political violence on rise, says peace project
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has expressed concern over the volatile political atmosphere in the country as incidents of politically motivated human rights violations shot up to 1,014 in June from 994 recorded in May. In its summary on political and food-related violations, ZPP said Midlands province recorded the highest number of incidents, pegged at 214, up from 201 in May. The province witnessed an increase in assault, harassment and intimidation cases while Mashonaland East recorded a drop from 188 to 172 reported cases.
Zimbabwe: ZANU PF accused of using police to banish women from politics
The state security sector is still actively being used by Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF to torture and oppress women in order to keep them out of the political process, a new report has revealed. The report also brings out the direct role of the ZANU PF militia in the violence. The ‘Women and Political Violence: An Update’ report was compiled by the Women’s Programme of the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU). It is a study on the degree of violence against women and its impact, after Robert Mugabe last year began demanding an election in 2011.
Botswana: Fighting for equality for Botswana’s women
In many countries women’s rights have been abused for so long that many women long ago stopped fighting for them. Not so Unity Dow, a lawyer who challenged the unequal citizenship rights in her native Botswana and won. Her 1992 lawsuit was recognised last month as a landmark case in the fight for women’s rights when UN Women published its flagship report: 'Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012: In Pursuit of Justice'. Dow succeeded in overturning the section of Botswana’s Citizenship Act that prohibited Botswanan women who married foreigners from passing on their Botswanan nationality to their children.
Cameroon: Woman candidate eyes presidency
At every stop along the campaign trail, Edith Kabbang Walla, 45, popularly known here as Kah Walla, is generating excitement among women nationwide. Walla is the only female candidate running for president in Cameroon’s October elections. 'The interest of women in politics has been aroused, but now we want their active participation,' Walla says during a recent visit to Bamenda, a city in northwestern Cameroon. Tracing women’s political participation in Cameroon, Walla says that women were the first group to hold a public demonstration against colonizers in the fight for Cameroon’s independence.
Egypt: Coptic Christian divorce law challenged
Despite the stigma attached to divorce, ending a marriage is still relatively easy for Muslim women in Egypt. All they have to do is file paperwork with a family court and the deed is done, as long as they're not seeking alimony or damages from their husbands. For the country's millions of Orthodox Christians, or Copts, it's been nearly impossible since Pope Shenouda III, the head of one of the most conservative churches in Christianity, forbade divorce except in the case of conversion or adultery three years ago. That overturned a 1930s law that allowed Copts to obtain a divorce or an annulment for several reasons, such as impotence, mental disabilities and cruelty.
Global: The IFIs and gender based violence
This document from Gender Action assesses the extent to which IFIs address gender based violence (GBV) in their policies and investments. The institutions dealt with include the World Bank (WB), African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.
Tunisia: Women fear the Algerian way
A women’s group begins campaigning near La Marsa beach in Tunis to convince more women to come up and register in the electoral lists, in time for the deadline now pushed back to 14 August. Most of the women watching the proceedings are veiled. The veils present more of a question than a suggestion at present. One survey among veiled women conducted by journalists here claims that four in five of these women will not vote for Ennahda, the Islamist party surging ahead in popularity ahead of elections for a constituent assembly due in October.
Zimbabwe: Women seeking justice face archaic laws
The four armed robbers who gang raped her may be serving time for their crimes, but six years later justice has turned out to be a myth for Mildred Mapingure. 'I was silently praying I was not pregnant,' Mapingure told IPS from her rural home in Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe. It is illegal to terminate a pregnancy in Zimbabwe unless the ‘pregnancy endangers the life of the mother and/or is a result of unlawful penetration (rape)’, according to the Termination of Pregnancy Act. And abortion is only allowed in the first trimester. When Mapingure realised the inevitable had happened two months after being raped, prosecutors rushed the application for a termination of pregnancy order through the Chinhoyi regional magistrate’s court in Mashonaland West. But long court delays resulted in the order being granted when she was eight months pregnant. Mapingure had no option but to give birth.
Côte d’Ivoire: Military promotions mock abuse victims
The promotion of two Côte d’Ivoire military commanders against whom there are serious allegations of involvement in grave crimes raises concerns about President Alassane Ouattara’s commitment to end impunity and ensure justice for victims, Human Rights Watch has said. On 3 August 2011, President Ouattara signed a promotion making Chérif Ousmane the second-in-command for presidential security (Groupe de sécurité de la présidence de la République). During the final battle for Abidjan, Ousmane was the head of the Republican Forces operations in Yopougon neighborhood, where scores of perceived supporters of Laurent Gbagbo were executed extrajudicially.
Egypt: Tahrir square raid condemned
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has condemned the raid on a Tahrir Square sit-in on 1 August. 'The return of violence and repression after a revolution against a dictatorial regime is extremely disappointing, and the statements of some members of the Military Council betraying the revolutionaries and describing them as "thugs, vandals and agitators aiming to drive a wedge between the people and the army" are unacceptable.' ANHRI's press release contains a list of the detained, the injured and the disappeared.
Egypt: The Mubarak Show
'In many ways,' writes Sophia Azeb on the blog Africa is a Country about the trial of former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, 'this trial is a showpiece.' Azeb writes that it is another attempt by the military to distract Egyptians from their own despotism. 'While many are well aware of this, Mubarak facing trial and conviction for his crimes against the people is still very important. I doubt this trial will keep the military safe from further demonstrations and actions just as I doubt this trial will end well – whether Mubarak is convicted or not. This spectacle is disturbing to me, and I don’t think imprisoning or executing the Mubarak family will mean justice is served.'
Malawi: Civil society leaders want ICC to prosecute Bingu wa Mutharika
Civil society organisations in Malawi have appealed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika for crimes against humanity following the violent deaths at the hands of police of at least 19 people during the 20 July anti-government demonstrations. In a statement issued in the capital, Lilongwe, Monday, the eight organisations that organised the demonstration also asked the Hague-based court to prosecute Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Aaron Sangala, and the Inspector General Of Police, Peter Mukhitho, alongside the president.
South Africa: Student campaign on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel
An Israeli mission is being sent to five countries to do pro-Israeli propaganda work at campuses, says this statement on the blog http://www.bdssouthafrica.com 'The mission has been briefed and trained by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. Furthermore, they have received funding from the Ben-Gurion University and Weizmann Institute of Science student unions. The mission’s main focus is South Africa in general and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) specifically - this is because of South Africa’s critical position on Israel and the growing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel that it is coming from South Africa.'
Africa: Horn migrants heading south 'pushed backwards'
Increasing numbers of Ethiopians and Somalis fleeing war, drought and poverty in their home countries face arrest, deportation and detention as they try to make their way to the south of the continent. For most the goal is South Africa - the only country in the region where refugees and asylum seekers have freedom of movement and the right to work rather than being confined to camps. But as the number of migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking asylum in South Africa has reached unprecedented levels, border authorities have started refusing them entry.
Africa: The refugee camp in the sky
Blogger Natasha Elkington writes about a controversial online game involving refugees that was taken offline a few months ago, but has recently been relaunched. The game, which was taken offline after its launch amid claims it objectified refugees and lacked sensitivity, was developed by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) with funding from ECHO, the European Commission’s humanitarian agency, and designed to raise awareness of Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenyan-Somali border. It is now back online but with some noticeable changes.
Egypt: Cairo's black community dares to keep going
In recent years, Egypt has become home-away-from-home for a big number of Africans migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Though the majority of these are Sudanese from both sides, Ethiopians, Eritreans and Somalis also make up the numbers, with a mixture of other African nationalities. Despite their numbers here, there are no reliable statistics of African migrants in the country, but most organisations quote a figure between 250,000 to a few million.
Eritrea: More Eritreans flee
More and more Eritrean refugees, mostly educated young men, continue to arrive in Ethiopia, with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, expressing concern over the rising numbers. 'Most say they left their country [to avoid] a prolonged military conscription, but they also say they want to join their families on the road,' Moses Okello, UNHCR’s representative in Ethiopia, told IRIN. Ethiopia hosts at least 61,000 Eritrean refugees.
Global: Access denied, a conversation on unauthorised im/migration and health
The aim of this blog is to challenge readers and contributors to re-think the political common sense that denies migrants and immigrants access to health care and impedes their capacity to enjoy the social determinants of good health.
Libya: A flotilla to stop migrant deaths in the Mediterranean
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Libya since the crisis began in February 2011, but European policy has shown a lack of hospitality. Following a meeting in Cecina (Italy), a coalition of Euro-Mediterranean migrants’ rights organisations, decided to charter a flotilla which will undertake maritime surveillance so that assistance is finally provided to people in danger. The participatory organisations call on European bodies and governments on both sides of the Mediterranean to establish relations within this common area on the basis of exchange and reciprocity.
South Africa: Lawyers express concern over Zim deportations
Lawyers for Human Rights says it is concerned about the large numbers of Zimbabweans who will become vulnerable to arrest and deportation at the start of August when the moratorium on deportations is lifted. This moratorium has been in place since April 2009 when Home Affairs took the decision not to carry out any further deportations to Zimbabwe for a defined period. The moratorium was supposed to be implemented together with a special dispensation for Zimbabweans to be able to regularise their immigration status. However, this special dispensation was only implemented from September to 31 December 2010. Any Zimbabwean who failed to successfully apply for one of the available permits during this time and will find themselves undocumented on 1 August may be legitimately deported for not having any authorisation to remain in the country. This deportation process will exclude any Zimbabwean who is in the asylum system and has a valid asylum seeker or refugee permit.
South Africa: Zim deportations will not resume, yet
South Africa’s department of Home Affairs has indicated that the current moratorium on Zimbabwean deportations has not yet been lifted, insisting that the condemned practice of mass deportations will not happen. The forced removals were set to begin when the Zimbabwe Documentation Project (ZDP) ended, and that deadline was meant to be 31 July. Over the weekend, Zimbabwean nationals were reportedly on the verge of panic amid concerns that deportations would resume first thing on Monday.
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...
Ethiopia land lease risks displacement: report
Ethiopia's leasing of vast swathes of arable land to foreign and state-owned firms risks adding to the millions of people already requiring food aid in the drought-struck region, a US based think-tank warned on Friday. Some 200,000 people are at risk of being displaced from land-grabbing, with at least 350,000 hectares of land leased since 2008 in south-west Ethiopia alone, according to the Oakland Institute. "The impact is going to be terrible, because we can't expect this kind of development to benefit the local population," said Oakland's policy director Frederic Mousseau.
2. China in Africa
Uganda blocks Chinese loan over procurement concerns
As wariness about China's investments in Africa grows, allegations of procurement flaws and overpricing has moved the Ugandan government to block a US$74 million loan from the Import and Export Bank of China (EXIM) meant for a digital migration project. The loan process has been halted even though the Ugandan and Chinese governments had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Keith Muhakanizi, the deputy secretary to the Ugandan treasury, made the announcement last week and has thus far given no indication that the loan process would be restarted.
African Minerals Inks US$1.5 Bln Deal with China’s Shandong Steel
A US$1.5 billion agreement was signed between African Minerals and China’s Shandong Steel and Iron Group (SSIG), the world’s ninth largest steel producer, bringing the a long-awaited deal to a close. According to the agreement, SSIG will fund US$1.5 billion in three phases to acquire a 25 percent stake in African Minerals’ Tonkolili iron ore project in Sierra Leone. The investment will grant SSIG the right to purchase 25 percent of Tonkolili’s future production at market value. In addition, SSIG will buy up to 10 million tons of iron ore in three phases, with discounts in each phase ranging from zero to 15 percent.
China to give $14 million in aid to Africa
China will provide about $14 million in humanitarian assistance to drought affected areas in the Horn of Africa, including more than $7 million to Ethiopia, the Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia said earlier this week. The Chinese government is also holding consultations with concerned parties of the United Nations to provide humanitarian assistance to Somalia, Ambassador Gu Xiaojie said during a news conference on Tuesday at the Chinese Embassy in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Bank of China launches Yuan cash business in Zambia
Bank of China Ltd. the country’s fourth-largest lender by assets, said Tuesday it launched yuan cash business services in Zambia with the aim of boosting economic ties between China and Africa. The bank’s branch in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, provides yuan services such as deposit-taking, lending and remittances as part of measures to provide financial services catering to Chinese companies that are trying to move into African markets.
China proposes $5b equity investments in Africa
The Chinese Government has unveiled plans to invest about $5 billion dollars in private equity fund in Africa, substantial part of which may be targeted at shares of some Nigerian enterprises. The Vice President of the China-Africa Development Fund, Hu Zhirong, said when he led a six-man delegation on a courtesy visit to the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa in Abuja, that the private equity fund would be administered by the China-Africa Development Fund.
SA, China strengthen cultural ties
China plans to set up a cultural centre in South Africa to promote artistic and cultural exchanges between the two countries, visiting Chinese Vice Minister of Culture Zhao Shaohua said this week. Shaohua made the announcement shortly before signing a programme of cooperation with acting Arts and Culture Minister Tokyo Sexwale in Pretoria on Tuesday.
3. India in Africa
India to send food aid to famine-hit Somalia
Taking advantage of the bulging food stocks in its godowns, India is getting ready to send emergency food aid to famine-hit Somalia. An announcement is expected to be made over the next few days. The government is working on a plan to give grain to the World Food Programme (( WFP)) for distribution in Somalia, where three new regions have just been declared famine-hit by the UN. Out of a population of roughly 7.5 million, the UN says 3.2 million Somalis are in need of immediate lifesaving assistance. An estimate said about 29,000 children under the age of 5 had died in Somalia.
Essar to invest up to $4bn in Zimbabwe steel plant
Indian conglomerate Essar plans to spend up to $4-billion constructing a plant to process iron ore from Zimbabwe's Mwanesi resource within the next five years, Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube said on Wednesday. This would be the largest single foreign investment into Zimbabwe's troubled economy and would equal about two-thirds of the country's estimated GDP. Ncube said the plant would process 25-million tons of low grade ore annually and create 500 jobs in a country with an unemployment rate of more than 85%. It is the latest drive by investors from emerging market giant India into Africa.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
R2.4bn Swaziland loan conditional on reforms – Gordhan
South Africa approved a R2.4-billion loan to neighbouring Swaziland, but Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Wednesday that the loan was conditional on certain reforms. The Swazi government would have to comply with a number of financial, governance and political reforms to receive the loan, he told journalists in Pretoria. In line with the agreement, the loan would be paid in three tranches, with the first payment set for this month, a second in October and the last for February next year.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Brazil, India and South Africa Must Do More to Be Powers: View
Much attention has justifiably focused on Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- the so-called BRICS -- as a group of economically rising countries that could play a growing role in stabilizing their regions and helping the West promote a rules-based international system. Unfortunately, these nations don’t share the same interests and values, and are unlikely to act collectively. Three of the five -- India, Brazil and South Africa -- often don’t seem to demonstrate the awareness that international leadership comes with responsibilities as well as privileges.
Swazi Kings and Greek Titans: Implications for Regionalism
The Swazi situation is linked to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) cuts, fiscal mismanagement and the King’s personal spending habits. As far back as 2008 difficulties were anticipated for several members of SACU, including Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. This should have signalled worries for countries such as Swaziland, since the SACU revenue pool had already shown an estimated 9 billion Emalangeni shortfall for the year-end to March 2009. SACU receipts comprise up to 60% of Swaziland’s annual revenue. According to recent reports, South Africa might also have to finance other SACU member states, including Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana, since our state would have to assume responsibility for the deficit in the SACU revenue pool.
"Germany blames Chinese land buys for Africa drought": Really?
Today here at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC, I spoke by phone with a German reporter who wanted to interview someone about the statement this morning by the German government's Africa adviser Guenter Nooke who allegedly blamed Chinese land buys for the drought in the Horn of Africa.
DRC Debates: Is China's Sicomines Project Good or Bad for the Congo?
On May 27, 2011 I attended a very interesting day-long "debate" in Brussels focused solely on the famous China-Congo "deal of the century". This package deal was originally a $9 billion package combining a copper mining investment ($3+ billion) and two $3 billion commodity-backed infrastructure credits. (The second credit was deleted under pressure from the IMF). The Brussels conference was organized as a "day of study" by an impressive group of young men affiliated with the two biggest Belgian trade unions, 11.11.11 (the consortium of Flemish NGOs), the movement intal (International Action for Liberation), and two Belgian think tanks.
Botswana: Youth league's Malema blasted over 'regime change' comments
The ANC Youth league and its leader, Julius Malema, have been publicly rebuked by the ANC for calling for 'regime change' in Botswana and describing its president as 'a puppet'. In a harsh statement issued by ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu, the ANC said: 'This insult and disrespect to the President [Ian Khama], the government and the people of Botswana, and a threat to destabilise and effect regime change in Botswana, is a clear demonstration that the ANCYL's ill-discipline has clearly crossed the political line.'
Burkina Faso: New vote body amid tensions
Burkina Faso installed Monday 1 August a new election commission after the previous one was dismissed amid criticism over November elections that handed President Blaise Compaore a large victory. The newly composed Independent National Electoral Commission will have to organise next year's municipal and legislative elections amid unprecedented tensions which have seen military mutinies and other unrest this year.
Egypt: Tahrir, an exercise in nation building
The blog Rantings of a Sand Monkey reflects on what it means to be an activist in Tahrir Square. '...what intrigued me and got me moving around, doing things and staying there,' he writes, 'was the fascinating social experiment that the sit-in was creating. In essence, Tahrir was very quickly becoming a miniature-size Egypt, with all of its problems, but without a centralized government. And the parallels are uncanny.'
Egypt: The revolution in graffiti
Graffiti is suddenly all over Cairo - on schools, on telephone exchange boxes, on empty walls and corrugated fencing around building sites, reports the New Yorker magazine. 'Daubs of slogans, finely rendered panoramas of Tahrir Square, and, increasingly, the kind of biting satire and subversion...' There's a great gallery of the graffiti at the top of this article, with 25 scrollable images.
Guinea Bissau: Thousands call for premier to quit
Thousands took to the streets of Bissau Friday 5 August for the third rally in three weeks to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who is accused of hindering an assassination probe. 'Carlos, get out', 'Carlos to court', chanted protesters, according to an AFP journalist, during a march to the presidency. The rally was called by a coalition of 17 opposition parties accusing Gomes Junior of failing to shed light on a spate of high profile political assassinations in 2009. Two earlier protests were held on 14 and 19 July.
Liberia: Opposition parties call for referendum boycott
Liberia’s leading opposition party has called for a comprehensive boycott of the national constitution referendum set for 23 August 2011. The Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) made the declaration after the official announcement of the date of the referendum, which falls just ahead of the presidential polls in October this year. Among the things the referendum seeks to ratify is an amendment to Liberia’s constitution to the effect that changing an aspect of the constitution relating to elections would no longer require a two-thirds majority of the bicameral legislature.
Mali: Parliament supports proposed law reform
Mali will soon hold a referendum to vote on political reforms after the country's parliament adopted proposed changes to its supreme law. The National Assembly's vote was overwhelming in favour of the constitutional changes, with 141 deputies supporting them. Only three deputies rejected the draft while one member abstained. Some 105 out of 122 articles are targeted in the reforms but the presidential term limit remains pegged at two and the governing system semi-presidential, although the president's duties will be reinforced.
Morocco: Are early polls a bid to stave off protests?
Morocco's King Mohammed is pushing for early polls to hasten reforms he has initiated but this alone is unlikely to satisfy critics without serious steps to curb corruption and to give the next assembly teeth. The monarch acted promptly in March to contain any spillover from the Arab Spring after protests spread to Morocco, promising constitutional changes to reduce the king's powers. The new palace-made charter won near-unanimous support in a July referendum that critics said was itself far too hasty to allow proper debate.
Niger: Chaos as police break up power cut demos
Security forces broke up demonstrations by hundreds of people after weeks of electricity cuts in Niger, with several protesters wounded and arrested Monday 1 August, radio reports and police said. Police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who took to the streets of the central town of Tanout after a first day of protests on Sunday, private Anfani radio said.
Zambia: Banda launches re-election bid, dismisses main opponent
Zambia's President Rupiah Banda launched his re-election campaign on 1 August with scathing attacks on his main challenger Michael Sata, describing him as a 'crook' that 'behaves like a punch-drunk boxer'. The president also pledged to sustain the country's economic growth if given another chance to lead the southern Africa country.
Botswana: Prosperity and tranquillity are fragile, says US report
A report by US-Africa Command (AFRICOM) says despite the Botswana government's significant achievements since 1966, Botswana's prosperity and political stability are more fragile than is frequently recognised. Dated June 2011, the report says three current realities form the core of this fragility: a population that is highly-dependent on social welfare programmes provided by the state; a state that is heavily reliant on a single commodity (diamonds) that is highly sensitive to fluctuations in the global economy; and a narrow economic base that leaves the country deeply tied to that of neighbouring South Africa.
Côte d’Ivoire: 'Parallel' taxation yet to be eliminated
Côte d’Ivoire has one president but two 'treasuries' - one official, the other funded from the continued collection of road tolls and other taxes by former rebels. During the nearly nine years rebels controlled northern Côte d’Ivoire, the civil administration, comprising such things as mayors’ offices and the treasury, did not function and the rebels collected 'taxes'. Months after Alassane Ouattara was finally able to take charge of the country, 'parallel' taxation has yet to be eliminated: The disorder and unpredictable extra costs are affecting people’s livelihoods, just as they are looking to bounce back from months of chaos and economic stagnation.
Global: Economic development leaves millions behind
The Society for International Development (SID)'s triennial World Congress, which concluded Sunday in Washington, drew over 1,000 attendees this year, 40 per cent hailing from the global south, making it arguably one of the most influential and far-reaching forums for development experts and organisations in the world today. 'The emergence of new paths to development has [grown] along with the rise of middle-and low-income countries,' Rebeca Grynspan, associate administrator of the UN Development Programme, said at the opening plenary. 'But we have seen that we can also have growth without inclusion. In Latin America, for example, one in every four young people is not studying or working - 25 per cent out of the education system and out of the labour market. If that's not exclusion, then I don't know what is,' she said.
Global: The effects of the US debt crisis on the developing world
An eleventh hour compromise saw the US move back from the brink of defaulting on its debt burden. One of the results of this for emerging market economies - Brazil, other strong performers in Latin America, much of Southeast Asia, and even the better performers in sub-Saharan Africa - might be that they will continue to experience a flood of capital seeking higher returns, hot money with all the attendant risks of a bubble.
Global: The price of oil
The opportunities for international oil companies (IOCs) to acquire new reserves are narrowing considerably, states this report from Oil Change International and Greenpeace. The companies have met this challenge with the development of technology and engineering that has enabled oil production in technically difficult locations and conditions. But the development of these resources, especially the offshore Arctic, Canadian tar sands and other unconventional oil such as oil shale, is significantly dependent on failure to adopt and implement effective policy to prevent climate change rising above the critical 2ºC mark, a stated aim of most of the world’s governments, says the report.
Nigeria: Bank to go cashless
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, plans to implement a cashless banking policy in June 2012. Bank representatives say the policy will enhance convenience and savings for Nigerians and the government, as well as elevate the economy to be more competitive internationally. But many Nigerians who have had negative experiences with ATMs say the country isn’t ready to go cashless, especially as the majority of the population doesn’t yet use banks.
South Africa: Whites still rule top management
Whites still occupy 73.1 per cent of top management positions in the country, the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) says. Black people made up 12.7 per cent of top management, Indians 6.8 per cent and coloureds 4.6 per cent, the CEE said in its 11th annual report released in Pretoria. Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said she was disappointed at the slow pace of reform at top management.
Swaziland: Fury over SA’s R2,4bn ‘rescue’ for Swaziland
Swaziland's pro-democracy activists have threatened to march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against SA’s R2,4bn conditional rescue package for the kingdom. Swaziland has been hit with protests this year after its government froze public sector salaries and cut social services. Protesters have accused King Mswati of looting state coffers to finance his extravagant lifestyle. The Swaziland Solidarity Network, which represents a consortium of pro-democracy movements in the kingdom, said it would organise protests at the Union Buildings and around SA to voice displeasure at the loan and in support of their demand that King Mswati lift the ban on political parties, in place since 1973.
Uganda: Cabinet must make tough choices to fix economy - experts
With the health of the country’s economy hanging in the balance and financial markets watching closely, President Museveni convened a crisis Cabinet meeting to try to come up with austerity measures that would deliver a blueprint for economic recovery. Across the nation, the rising public concern caused by double-digit inflation - currently standing at 18.7 per cent, is palpable. Of late, public employees, particularly teachers, medical workers and the business, are increasingly growing impatient as a result of the depreciation of the Shilling and the rising cost of living.
Africa: Study reveals concerns over ART resistance
The British medical journal, The Lancet, has published a study that shows the Aids virus has mutated into strains resistant to ARTs used around Africa. The study published on 28 July, was funded by the Dutch Foreign Ministry, and aimed to assess the prevalence of primary resistance in six African countries after anti-retroviral treatments (ARTs) were introduced and whether wider use of ARTs in the region is associated with rising prevalence of drug resistance in areas south of the Sahara, as has been widely suspected in some circles.
Ghana: Health services battle meningitis outbreak, says report
Health authorities in southern Ghana are battling an outbreak of meningitis which has killed four people in the municipality of Obuasi, the Daily Graphic newspaper reported. Seven other people suffering from the disease are receiving medical attention at the Obuasi Government Hospital although health authorities are not clear about how the disease broke out in the region, the paper said.
Ghana: Homophobic statements stymy HIV fight
Recent condemnation of homosexuality by religious and political leaders in Ghana has led to a climate of fear preventing men who have sex with men (MSM) from accessing vital health services, say local NGOs. The minister of Ghana’s Western Region, Paul Evans Aidoo, publicly described homosexuality as 'detestable and abominable'. As a result, far fewer MSM are accessing safe sex education and support programmes run by the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights (CEPEHRG) to prevent the spread of HIV, said MacDarling Cobbinah from the Coalition against Homophobia in Ghana and a member of CEPEHRG.
Mali: Community needed in fight against TB
Tuberculosis remains a leading cause of death in Mali despite the availability of free treatment. The resurgence of the illness, linked to poverty and HIV infection, could be reduced by changing behaviour, doctors say. Some 6,840 cases of tuberculosis, counting all forms of the disease, were recorded in 2009 in Mali, including 5,163 cases of highly contagious pulmonary tuberculosis, according to the medical authorities.
North Africa: HIV ‘epidemics’ emerging in gay men
New research suggests that HIV epidemics are emerging in North Africa and the Middle East among men who have sex with men (MSM). According to researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan and Tunisia are seeing high rates of infection in gay and bisexual men. Across the region, homosexuality is illegal or frowned upon in most countries. The researchers said it was a common belief that little or no data is held on MSM HIV transmissions in North Africa and the Middle East. However, they discovered some reliable and previously unpublished sources.
West Africa: Call for greater attention on hepatitis
West African health experts are calling for governments to take the prevalence of hepatitis B and C more seriously, and to act to reduce the cost of treatment as part of more effective control of the disease. The hepatitis B virus is responsible for more than 80 percent of liver cancers in Africa, said the coordinator of Senegal's National Programme Against Hepatitis, Aminata Sall Diallo, during an international meeting held in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, from 27-29 July.
Angola: Mystery toxin in Angola schools
A wave of mysterious poisonings has hit hundreds over the last two days in Angolan schools, but police have yet to identify the toxin that has sown panic in the country, officials said on Friday. About 300 students from both public and private schools have been hit by symptoms that include vomiting, headaches, sore throats and sometimes suffocation, said Renato Paulata, director of a public hospital in Luanda.
DRC: Armed conflicts keep children out of school
Lingering armed conflicts have kept 40 per cent of African children out of school, according to a global report released recently in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 2011 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, which focuses on crisis and their underlying causes, said the impact of armed conflicts on education had been widely neglected, becoming a 'hidden crisis' which is 'reinforcing poverty, undermining economic growth and holding back the progress of nations'. The report was presented at the 26-28 July Kinshasa Round Table on 'Education, Peace and Development', organised by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa.
Global: Ending the crisis in girls’ education
Education values and needs are often superseded by governments’ need to adhere to policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, states this report from the Global Campaign for Education. 'Despite strong gender research, multiple gender strategies and operational policies, and much rhetoric about gender equality, the World Bank is often failing to translate their statements, strategies and policies into tangible reform in their investments. Education operations must be made
gender-sensitive and especially seek to promote fee abolition, gender-responsive budgeting and demand-side incentives to target marginalized groups.'
Uganda: Amid uncertainty Freedom and Roam Uganda launches campaign
While members of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) are shaken by a break in and robbery at their offices, FARUG director Kasha Jacqueline says a 'Hate No More Campaign' will go forward as planned. The campaign launches on 10 August before the possible reintroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda’s Parliament by far-right extremists.
Zimbabwe: Gay activists angry over rape reports
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) says that it is outraged by the way that the country's media has targeted homosexuality in its reporting on the case of a police officer accused of sodomising his brother’s ten-year-old son. 'There has been a trend in the media to equate sodomy with rape,' said the organisation. 'This is alarming because it promotes the dangerous myth that homosexual men are automatically rapists and abusers of children.'
DRC: REDD+ forestry management goes to Canadian company
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has entrusted a Canadian company with managing a vast section of its forest, including containing deforestation, the environment ministry has announced. Ecosystem Restoration Associates (ERA) will handle a project covering nearly 300,000 hectares (740,000 acres) of woodlands in the Mai-Ndombe forest, in western Bandundu province, the statement said. The project is part of the country's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD+) programme.
Global: A compilation of material on climate justice
The goal of this material is to connect some of the ideas and energy from the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Bolivia in 2010 with the issues on the table at UN climate talks. It contains briefs on 13 issues, including climate debt, mitigation, adaption, the dangers of climate markets and gender and climate justice.
Global: System change, not climate change
Systemchange.ca is a free, public, interactive website – a multi-media tool for climate justice. With the full launch of the project in September 2011, you will find featured videos here including speakers such as Maude Barlow on the Rights of Nature, Peter Victor on no growth economics, former UN Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solón on climate debt, John Cartwright on good green jobs, Naomi Klein on climate justice organising, Bill McKibben on climate science, Nnimmo Bassey on climate debt repayment and more.
Nigeria: UN set to release oil spill report
The UN is to publish a long-awaited report on the impact of the oil spills in Nigeria's Ogoniland region. The report took two years to produce and is controversial in part because it was funded by oil giant Shell. On Wednesday (03 August) Shell accepted liability for two spills that devastated communities in 2008 and 2009. One community said it would seek hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. Shell said it would settle the case under Nigerian law. After two years of research, and consultations with all the concerned parties, the UN Environment Programme must now present its findings to Nigeria's president and the wider public.
South Africa: Concerns ahead of SA climate talks
South Africa's preparations to host the next major round of climate talks have met with scepticism from activists critical of what they say is the country's lack of leadership on environmental issues. The high-level meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, scheduled for 28 November to 9 December in the eastern port city of Durban, is seen as the last chance to renew the Kyoto Protocol, the only international agreement with binding targets for cutting greenhouse gases. But environmentalists have voiced concern that South African organisers are not doing enough to lay the groundwork for an ambitious conference that will make hard commitments on climate change and raise the cash to achieve them.
South Africa: Greening energy supplies
The South African government has been called upon to display moral and political leadership as the country prepares to host the 17th round of United Nations-led climate change negotiations in Durban in December. But while the continent’s strongest economy gears itself up to represent Africa’s needs in the talks, it may also face scrutiny because of its coal-intensive economy which produces nearly half of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Africa: The role of South African farmers on the continent
In this working paper, Ruth Hall from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies analyses the shifting role of South African farmers, agribusiness and capital elsewhere in southern Africa and the rest of the continent. The research considers the changing character, scale and location of South African investments elsewhere in the region and the continent, focussing specifically on the AgriSA-Congo deal (the largest deal concluded thus far), and acquisitions by the two South African sugar giants, Illovo and Tongaat-Hulett, for outgrower and estate expansion elsewhere in the region. The study addresses the degree to which South Africa is no longer merely exporting its farmers, but also its value chains, to the rest of the continent — and what this means for trajectories of agrarian change.
Ethiopia: World heritage tribe sites threatened
While millions in East Africa are caught in the cobweb of a devastating drought that has spread its tentacles across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, the government in Addis Ababa is snatching some of Ethiopia's most productive farmland from local tribes and leasing it to foreign companies to grow and export food. A Survival International investigation has uncovered shocking evidence that vast blocks of fertile land in the Omo River area in south west Ethiopia are being leased out to Malaysian, Italian and Korean companies. Vast stretches of land are also being cleared for huge state-run plantations producing export crops, even though 90,000 tribal people in the area depend on the land to survive.
Global: The problem with fair trade coffee
Although Fair Trade coffee still accounts for only a small fraction of overall coffee sales, the market for Fair Trade coffee has grown markedly over the last decade. But among the concerns, says this article, are that the premiums paid by consumers are not going directly to farmers, the quality of Fair Trade coffee is uneven, and the model is technologically outdated.
Zimbabwe: Small-scale farmers still waiting to benefit from land resettlement
Many people believed that land reform would address the problem of land shortages, reports Farm Radio Weekly. Gifford Moyo is a social commentator and member of an advocacy group in Bulawayo which fights for the rights of the Ndebele people. He warned that if the land issue was not handled properly, it might erupt into a serious conflict. He says, 'The primary objective of going to war was to get back our land which was taken by the colonial regime. Now, if this government is failing to properly address the issue of land, the question is "Why did we go to war?"'
Africa: SA casts a shadow over freedom of expression in Africa
The South African government’s assault on media freedom over the last 18 months has emboldened other African states to further clampdown on free speech said South African National Editors’ Forum chair Mondli Makhanya. Speaking in Cape Town to the Southern African Freelancers Association, Makhanya, who is also editor-in-chief of Sunday Times publisher Avusa, said South Africa’s introduction of the Protection of Information Bill (POIB) and the mooting of a Media Tribunal had an negative effect on freedom of expression in other states on the continent.
Angola: Journalist arrested for reports on mass fainting
Angolan authorities should explain the arrest and incommunicado detention of a radio journalist for reporting on a nationwide wave of mass fainting of people, the Committee to Protect Journalists has said. Since April, more than 800 people, mostly teenage schoolchildren, have fainted after complaining of sore throats and eyes, shortness of breath, and coughs, the Catholic Church-run station Radio Ecclesia reported.
Côte d'Ivoire: Paper suspended over Obama meeting
The government of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, who pledged to uphold democracy in a Friday (05 August) meeting with US President Barack Obama, has suspended a newspaper over a reprinted opinion column criticising the White House meeting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
Rwanda: Rwandan paper calls president a 'sociopath', apologises
Sometimes when a paper produces a defamatory piece, an apology will be published on page two in the next edition along with the day's news. In Rwanda, it would appear, a paper will use an entire edition to apologise - if the insults were directed at the president. The latest issue of Ishema, at left, is perhaps a sign of the times for Rwanda's press. The vernacular bimonthly had recently published an opinion piece that claimed President Kagame was a sociopath. The paper fell over backward in its attempts to apologise.
South Africa: ANC ratchets up its anti-media campaign in provinces
South Africa’s young democracy may have been a shining example to the rest of the world for a while, but dreams of real freedom of expression and of the media seem to be nearing the end of their usefulness to SA's ruling party says this article, which focuses on the province of Mpumalanga. 'There’s a shadowy force that threatens, arrests, assaults and otherwise intimidates reporters who ask inconvenient questions and publish uncomfortable truths. As Jacob Zuma’s fight to retain another term in office intensifies, the malevolence is spreading.'
South Africa: Sowetan apologises to City Press editor
The Sowetan newspaper apologised to City Press editor Ferial Haffajee on Thursday (04 August) for publishing an insulting column. 'In his latest column, [Eric] Miyeni crossed the line between robust debate and the condonation of violence,' said Sowetan and Sunday World general manager Justice Malala and Avusa editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya in a statement on page 15. Miyeni's column, "Haffajee does it for white masters", appeared in the daily on Monday. He wrote that 'in the 80s she'd [Haffajee] probably have had a burning tyre around her neck'. City Press last week reported about African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema's trust, which he allegedly uses to bankroll his lavish lifestyle.
Tunisia: Targeting of journalists and demonstrators alarming
The International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), a coalition of 21 IFEX members, is urging action to prevent any repeat of recent violent crackdowns on demonstrators and journalists in the run up to scheduled constitutional elections in October. The IFEX-TMG's concerns deepened after a statement by Interim Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi in which he accused journalists of stirring up trouble.
Africa: The Revival of Panafricanism Forum
The 7th conference of 'The Revival of Panafricanism Forum' was held on Saturday, 16 July 2011. The topic of the conference was 'Panafricanism: A Viable Ideology to Address Africa’s Rape Redux/Euro-American 21st Century Neo-Colonial Re-Conquest and Scramble for Africa.' The speakers were Dr. Molefi Kete Asante (keynote), Peter Bailey, Maurice Carney, and Chioma Oruh. Videos of the conference are posted on Youtube:
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojuo6EjSfik&feature=relmfu (Part 1)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1J_BD8z14g (Part 2)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF5oSfLfjOA (Dr. Molefi Asante, keynote speaker)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC5zQVhLE6I (Q&A Session)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0ClOTCcUzo (Closing remarks and comments).
Haiti: The Aristide Files
US officials led a far-reaching international campaign aimed at keeping former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide exiled in South Africa, rendering him a virtual prisoner there for the last seven years, according to secret US State Department cables. The cables show that high-level US and UN officials even discussed a politically motivated prosecution of Aristide to prevent him from 'gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti'.
Côte d’Ivoire: Critical period for ensuring stability
Côte d’Ivoire remains fragile and unstable, says this report from the International Crisis Group. 'The atrocities after the second round of the presidential elections on 28 November 2010 and Laurent Gbagbo’s attempt to retain power by all means despite losing exacerbated already acute tensions. The next months are crucial. The new government must not underestimate the threats that will long jeopardise peace and must avoid the narcotic of power that has caused so many disastrous decisions over recent decades.'
East Africa: We’re equal, but some are more equal than others
The British producer’s voice was clearly audible in the background: 'Lift up his arm so we can see how thin it is.' The starving Somali baby’s arm was duly lifted for the camera. Media interest in the East Africa famine started to gain momentum a couple of weeks ago, when the United Nations declared it the worst drought in 60 years and half a dozen aid agencies appealed for funds in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, reports Alertnet in this article on the media coverage of the situation. But journalists in Kenya complain of the international media’s ‘Animal Farm’ news values. We’re equal, but some are more equal than others.
Kenya: Security risk overshadows border town
Mandera town, on the border between Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, is the hub for aid operations in the drought-affected Mandera district in Kenya. It could have been a possible logistics base for sending help by road to the famine-affected areas in south-central Somalia, but the security risk is high. About four months ago, Al-Shabab militia took over Bulo Hawo on the Somali side, and continue to mount sporadic attacks in the area even though it has been retaken by the authorities.
Libya: Fighting rages on several Libyan fronts
At least three Libyan opposition fighters have been killed in clashes near the northern town of Zlitan, just 160km from Tripoli, the capital, as government troops fought rebel forces for control of the town. Several other opposition forces were injured in the fighting on Sunday, Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reported, as troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi continued an assault against anti-government fighters. Opposition forces were also under attack in the newly captured town of Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic location in western Libya 85km from Tripoli, where Gaddafi forces launched an offensive to regain control of the town.
Somalia: Army declares Mogadishu 'free' after al-Shabaab flight
The Somali army has declared Mogadishu a 'free territory' after fighters from the radical al-Shabaab Islamist group fled the capital.Deputy army commander Gen Abdikarim Yusuf Aden confirmed the fundamentalist group's dramatic pull-out Sunday morning, adding that it had been as a result of military pressure from government forces and its allies, including AU peacekeepers. Most of the retreating al-Shabaab combatants headed towards Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions, respectively south and north of Mogadishu, in what they claimed was a 'change in tactic'.
Somalia: AU delays Somalia famine fundraiser
The African Union has delayed a fundraiser for millions of starving Somalis due to what is said were scheduling challenges. The event, initially set for 9 August, would now be held on 25 August at the bloc's Addis Ababa headquarters, although this new date remains tentative. 'The AU has serious financial challenges and member countries are also reluctant to pay their dues. It makes the upcoming fund raising [event] challenging,' the commissioner said.
Somalia: Children under attack
This report from Amnesty International draws on more than 200 testimonies from Somali children, young people and adults collected by Amnesty International in March 2009 in Kenya and Djibouti, in Djibouti city and the Ali Adde refugee camp and in March and June 2010 in Kenya, in the Dadaab refugee camps in the north-east and in the capital Nairobi. Amnesty International delegates interviewed refugees who had recently fled Somalia, to get as much as possible, an up-todate description of the situation in their country.
Sudan: Congressional hearings paint picture of crisis and atrocities
Witnesses' chilling depictions of a new Sudanese genocide at an emergency US congressional hearing quelled any remnants of doubt that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the Nuba mountain region of South Kordofan, reports IPS Africa. 'It is a war of horror,' Sudanese bishop Andudu Adam Elnail told a House committee here. Elnail's closest colleagues had told him they witnessed two pits being dug at a school one night, where bodies were later transported to the site, put in 'wide body bags' and thrown in the pits – something to add to the heap of evidence piling up in Washington that a decades-old campaign to exterminate the ethnic Nuba has resumed in the wake of the south's independence.
Tanzania: Tanzania no longer on conflict minerals list
Tanzania will no longer become a victim of the new legislation that classifies it as a source of conflict mining in Africa, following the US government' pledge to ease the restrictions. The law known as 'Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act' is aimed at improving transparency and accountability in the supply of minerals coming from the conflict zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Commissioner of Minerals in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Dr Peter Kafumu, told the 'Daily News' in an exclusive interview in Dar es Salaam on Thursday that the decision was reached recently following a special request by the government.
Uganda: Uganda could be next hit by malnutrition, UN warns
Uganda could be the next country hit by alarming malnutrition rates due to drought which has already sparked famine in southern Somalia and hunger in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, the United Nations warned. Pockets of food insecurity have already been detected in drought-hit northern areas of Uganda, east Africa's third largest economy, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.
Nigeria: Stakeholder Democracy Network newsletter
Stakeholder Democracy Network produces a monthly news and analysis bulletin that is sent out via email. The August 2011 newsletter includes the following:
- Niger Delta Development Commission to be probed
- New Electoral Commission State RECs nominated
- Petroleum Industry Bill Re-emerges
- USIP Report on the Niger Delta.
Africa: Indigenous women's rights and the African human rights system
A toolkit on mechanisms
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has been working on the question of indigenous peoples since 1999. The Commission recognises the specific obstacles which indigenous peoples face in gaining recognition, exercising and enjoying their rights. The toolkit available through the link provided has been created in order to introduce indigenous women, and the organisations which represent them, to the African system of human and peoples’ rights. It highlights the different routes available to ensuring that the rights of indigenous women are valued and taken into account by
the African Commission.
Global: The New Significance
The New Significance is a web magazine exploring revolutionary forces for change and autonomy in the 21st Century.
South Africa: Russell Tribunal on Palestine
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine will convene in District Six, Cape Town, site of a brutal apartheid-era forced removal. The land has remained undeveloped on the edge of the city since it was declared 'a white group area' and the homes of black residents were demolished in the 1970s. The Cape Town session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine – to be held on 5-6 November – will consider whether Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people fits the international legal definitions of the crime of apartheid.
9 July 2011
RUSSELL TRIBUNAL ON PALESTINE TO CONVENE IN CAPE TOWN’S ICONIC DISTRICT SIX
Stephane Hessel and Alice Walker confirmed as members of the jury
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine will convene in District Six, Cape Town, site of a brutal apartheid-era forced removal. The land has remained undeveloped on the edge of the city since it was declared “a white group area” and the homes of black residents were demolished in the 1970s.
The Cape Town session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine – to be held on 5-6 November – will consider whether Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people fits the international legal definitions of the crime of apartheid.
In the jury, confirmed by international co-ordinator of the Tribunal, Mr Pierre Galand, at a press conference in Cape Town today, are:
· Mr Stephane Hessel, 93, the Nazi concentration camp survivor who helped draft the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. He is an Ambassador of the French Republic, and honorary president of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine; and
· Ms Alice Walker, the African American author, poet and human rights activist best known for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Colour Purple.
The Cape Town session, in November 2011, follows sessions in Barcelona and London last year. The final session will take place in New York in 2012.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine is an international people’s tribunal created in response to the international community’s inaction with respect to Israel’s recognised violations of international law.
Ms Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, activist, former South African cabinet minister and member of the South African Support Committee organising the Cape Town session, told today’s press conference that the United Nations and International Criminal Court findings that apartheid was unlawful and criminal did not only apply to apartheid South Africa.
Although there were clear differences between the State of Israel today and South Africa under apartheid, the question to be answered was whether the policies and practises of the State of Israel fit the international legal descriptions of the crime of apartheid.
“May this tribunal that is being held in our country later this year end the crime of silence,” Ms Madlala-Routledge said.
Mr Galand, a retired Senator from Belgium and lifelong human rights campaigner, said the fact that the Tribunal sought to engender human rights for Palestinians did not mean it had an anti-Semitic agenda. Many friends of the Tribunal were Jewish, he said, and many members of the Jewish faith were fierce proponents of human rights for all.
“I believe strongly the Russell Tribunal is an important contribution to the international civil society movement to rehabilitate international law, rehabilitate humanitarian law, and rehabilitate human rights,” Mr Galand said.
The Israel-Palestine conflict was central to global divisions between Europe/America and the Arab world, and between members of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.
Because of the calibre of its patrons, members of the international support committee, jurors and witnesses, the findings of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine were used as important tools to lobby governments and international organisations, such as the European Union and United Nations.
Mr Ronnie Kasrils, former South African cabinet minister and juror of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, said that although South Africa had since 1994 taken a strong stance against human rights abuses in Israel, including withdrawing its ambassador for a period, many South Africans felt that the government could do even more.
“The world expects South Africa to champion the rights of other people. That is the yardstick for South Africans to live up to,” Mr Kasrils said.
Among South Africans who will participate in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine are Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Professor John Dugard.
This statement was issued for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. For more information, please call Roger Friedman 027 (0) 83 272 5036 or email firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
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