Call for Articles Join Friends of Pambazuka

Subscribe for Free!



Donate to Pambazuka News!

Follow Us

delicious bookmarks facebook twitter

Pambazuka News Pambazuka News is produced by a pan-African community of some 2,600 citizens and organisations - academics, policy makers, social activists, women's organisations, civil society organisations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators who together produce insightful, sharp and thoughtful analyses and make it one of the largest and most innovative and influential web forums for social justice in Africa.

Latest titles from Pambazuka Press

African Sexualities

Earth Grab A Reader
Sylvia Tamale
A groundbreaking book, accessible but scholarly, by African activists. It uses research, life stories and artistic expression to examine dominant and deviant sexualities, and investigate the intersections between sex, power, masculinities and femininities
Buy now

Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya

From Citizen to Refugee Horace Campbell
In this elegantly written and incisive account, scholar Horace Campbell investigates the political and economic crises of the early twenty-first century through the prism of NATO's intervention in Libya.
Buy now

Queer African Reader

Demystifying Aid Edited by Sokari Ekine, Hakima Abbas
A diverse collection of writing from across the continent exploring African LGBTI liberation: identity, tactics for activism, international solidarity, homophobia and global politics, religion and culture, and intersections with social justice movements. A richness of voices, a multiplicity of discourses, a quiverful of arguments. African queers writing for each other, theorising ourselves, making our ...more
Buy now

China and Angola

African Awakening A Marriage of Convenience?
Edited by Marcus Power, Ana Alves
This book focuses on the increased co-operation between Angola and China and shows that although relations with China might have bolstered regime stability and boosted the international standing of the Angolan government, China is not regarded as a long term strategic partner.
Buy now

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

To Cook a ContinentWalter Rodney
Rodney shows how the imperial countries of Europe, and subsequently the US, bear major responsibility for impoverishing Africa. They have been joined in this exploitation by agents or unwitting accomplices both in the North and in Africa.
Buy now

Pambazuka News Broadcasts

Pambazuka broadcasts feature audio and video content with cutting edge commentary and debate from social justice movements across the continent.

See the list of episodes.

AU MONITOR

This site has been established by Fahamu to provide regular feedback to African civil society organisations on what is happening with the African Union.

Perspectives on Emerging Powers in Africa: December 2011 newsletter

Deborah Brautigam provides an overview and description of China's development finance to Africa. "Looking at the nature of Chinese development aid - and non-aid - to Africa provides insights into China's strategic approach to outward investment and economic diplomacy, even if exact figures and strategies are not easily ascertained", she states as she describes China's provision of grants, zero-interest loans and concessional loans. Pambazuka Press recently released a publication titled India in Africa: Changing Geographies of Power, and Oliver Stuenkel provides his review of the book.
The December edition available here.

The 2010 issues: September, October, November, December, and the 2011 issues: January, February, March , April, May , June , July , August , September, October and November issues are all available for download.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Back Issues

Pambazuka News 545: Corporations, crime, revolts and protests

The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Books & arts, 6. Highlights French edition, 7. Cartoons, 8. Zimbabwe update, 9. Women & gender, 10. Human rights, 11. Refugees & forced migration, 12. Emerging powers news, 13. Elections & governance, 14. Corruption, 15. Development, 16. Health & HIV/AIDS, 17. Education, 18. LGBTI, 19. Environment, 20. Land & land rights, 21. Food Justice, 22. Media & freedom of expression, 23. Social welfare, 24. Conflict & emergencies, 25. Internet & technology, 26. Fundraising & useful resources, 27. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 28. Publications



Highlights from this issue

Dear Readers

Pambazuka News is taking a break after this issue (#545) to recuperate and gather strength for the next period. We return the week beginning 5 September. IIssue 546 will be published on 8 September 2011. To help you survive our absence, we've put together a bumper issue of Pambazuka News.

You can continue sending articles to editor@pambazuka.org

Thanks to you all for your continued support.

EditorsANNOUNCEMENTS: Bargain book price sale now on at Pambazuka Press
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Ex military chief Mujuru dies in fire
WOMEN AND GENDER: Gender-based corruption in Rwanda’s workplace
HUMAN RIGHTS: Pambazuka News Q&A on historic South Africa to Gaza relief convoy
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Refugees fight for better conditions in South Africa
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Latest edition of the Emerging Powers newsletter
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Liberia, Uganda, Cape Verde, South Africa
DEVELOPMENT: Western racism in the IMF and World Bank
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Aids breakthrough threatened by budget woes
EDUCATION: Libyan students call for help
LGBTI: UK denies visa to leading Ugandan activist
ENVIRONMENT: How Europe should plug oil spills in Africa
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Farmer leader talks about resistance to land grabs
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: SADC told to tackle press freedom crisis
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Promoting access to information online in repressive environments
PLUS: Fundraising & useful resources; Jobs

NOTE TO READERS: Pambazuka News is taking a break after this issue (#545). The next edition of Links and Resources will be on 12 September.



Features

George Jackson - 40 year commemoration

Freedom Archives

2011-08-22

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75924

August 21st marks the 40th anniversary of the execution of George Lester Jackson. The Chicago- born Jackson would have celebrated his 70th birthday on September 23rd. Jackson was a prisoner who became an author, a member of the Black Panther Party, and co-founder of the Black Guerrilla Family prison organization. He achieved global fame as one of the Soledad Brothers before being executed by prison guards in San Quentin Prison.

Based on an edited portion of Prisons on Fire by the Freedom Archives (2001) with video editing by Oriana Bolden.
George Jackson - 40 year commemoration from Freedom Archives on Vimeo. George Jackson - 40 year commemoration from Freedom Archives on Vimeo.


The future of Arab revolts

Interview with Samir Amin

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75771


cc Wikimedia
In this article from MRZine Hassane Zerrouky interviews Egyptian scholar and researcher Samir Amin. The way Amin sees it, nothing will be the same as before in the Arab world: protest movements will challenge both the internal social order of Arab countries and their places in the regional and global political chessboard.

HASSANE ZERROUKY: How do you see what's happening in the Arab world six months after the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and that of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt?

SAMIR AMIN: Nothing will be the same as before - that is certain. That is because the uprising isn't only about toppling the reigning dictators, but it is an enduring protest movement challenging, at the same time, both various dimensions of the internal social order, especially glaring inequalities in income distribution, and the international order, the place of Arab countries in the global economic order - in other words seeking an end to their submission to neoliberalism and the US and NATO diktats in the global political order. This movement, whose ambition is also to democratise society, demanding social justice and a new national and (I'd say) anti-imperialist social and economic policy, will therefore last for years - though to be sure it will have its ups and downs, advances and retreats - for it won't be able to find its own solution in a matter of weeks or even months.

HASSANE ZERROUKY: Are you surprised that the uprisings have been carried out, nay driven, by new players, particularly young people?

SAMIR AMIN: No. It's very positive. New generations have been really politicized again. In Egypt, for example, the youth are very politicized. The youth have their own way, outside the traditional opposition parties which, in Egypt, are the parties belonging to the Marxist tradition. But their political awakening is not against those parties. I can tell you that, right now, there is deep, spontaneous sympathy between young people and the parties of the radical Marxist Left, that is to say the parties that come from the socialist and communist tradition.

HASSANE ZERROUKY: You say that this is an enduring movement, but, if we take Egypt for example, isn't there a risk that the revolution will be hijacked by conservative forces?

SAMIR AMIN: There are certainly many risks, including, in the short to medium term, the risk that a reactionary, Islamist alternative may prevail. That, by the way, is the US plan, unfortunately backed by Europe as well, at least as far as Egypt is concerned. The plan is to establish an alliance between the reactionary Egyptian forces and the Muslim Brotherhood; that is moreover an alliance supported by Washington's allies in the region, led by Saudi Arabia - supported by even Israel. So, will it succeed? It is possible that it will work in the medium term, but it won't provide any solution to the Egyptian people’s problems. So, the protest movement, the struggle, will continue and magnify. In addition, it should be noted that the Muslim Brothers themselves are in crisis.

HASSANE ZERROUKY: This question is related to what you just said: what do you think of what's happening in Syria, first of all, where the regime of Bashar al-Assad has just authorized a multi-party system, hoping to restore calm?

SAMIR AMIN: The Syrian situation is extremely complex. The Ba'ath regime, which enjoyed legitimacy for a long time, is no longer what it was at all: it has become more and more autocratic, increasingly a police state, and, at the same time, in substance, it has made a gigantic concession to economic liberalism. I don't believe that this regime can transform itself into a democratic regime. Today, it is being forced to make concessions, which is a good thing, since a foreign intervention like what is done in Libya - fortunately that is not possible in the case of Syria - would be yet another catastrophe. Moreover, compared with Egypt and Tunisia, the weakness in Syria is that protest movements are very much a mixed bag. Many - though I don't want to generalize - don't even have any political program other than protest, making no link between the regime's political dictatorship and its liberal economic policy choices.

HASSANE ZERROUKY: Do you not fear an implosion in Syria given the risk of sectarian conflict between Sunnis on one hand and Alawis, Druzes, and Christians on the other hand?

SAMIR AMIN: There is that risk. Causing the states in the Middle East to implode is a US and Israeli plan. But that won't be easy because the national sentiment is a powerful factor in Syria, which exists in all the movements challenging the regime today, despite ongoing disagreements among them.

HASSANE ZERROUKY: What about Yemen, a US ally?

SAMIR AMIN: The United States supports the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The reason is its fear of the Yemini people, especially people in southern Yemen. Southern Yemen once had a progressive Marxist regime, enjoying legitimacy and powerful popular support, forces which are now actively involved in the social protest movement. Washington and its allies therefore fear a breakup of the country leading to the reestablishment of a progressive regime in South Yemen. That is why the Yemeni regime, with the American approval, is letting Al Qaeda -which is a tool extensively manipulated by the United States - occupy cities in the south, wishing to strike fear in the hearts of the progressive social strata, in order to make them accept Saleh's hold on power.

HASSANE ZERROUKY: Regarding the situation in Libya, where lies the risk of implosion?

SAMIR AMIN: The situation is tragic, very different from those of Egypt and Tunisia. Neither side in Libya is better than the other. The president of the Transitional National Council (TNC) - Mustafa Abdel-Jalil - is a very curious democrat: he was the judge who sentenced Bulgarian nurses to death before being promoted to the Minister of Justice by Gaddafi. The TNC is a bloc of ultra-reactionary forces. As for the United States, it's not oil that they are after - they already have that. Their goal is to put Libya under their tutelage in order to establish Africom (US military command for Africa) - which is now based in Stuttgart in Germany, since the African countries, no matter what you think about them, have rejected their establishment in Africa - in the country. Concerning the risk of partition of Libya into two or three states, Washington may very well opt for the Iraqi formula, that is to say, the maintenance of formal unity under the Western military protection.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* The original interview “Samir Amin «C’est un mouvement qui va durer des mois et des années»" was published in L'Humanité on 1 August 2011. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


The agony of Ogoni

Nnimmo Bassey

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75777


cc Snapparachi
A recent report on the pollution of Ogoniland prepared by United Nations Environment Programme marks ‘the first official confirmation’ that there is ‘a major tragedy on our hands’, writes Nnimmo Bassey.

When the Ogoni people demanded a halt to the unwholesome acts of the Shell Production and Development Company (SPDC or Shell) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the government called them names and unleashed security agents to maim, rape and murder and hound many into exile.

The report on the pollution of Ogoniland prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and released on August 4, 2011, marks the first official confirmation that there is a major tragedy on our hands. UNEP's report unequivocally shows that the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) under the prescient leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa was not crying wolf when it maintained that grave injustice was being inflicted on Ogoniland.

UNEP officials say the report was issued to respond to innuendos. At over $9 million, this must be the most expensive innuendo-dousing report on record. Whether the "innuendo" provoked the study or the release of the study is not known. But if it was that the report was a prelude to resumption of oil exploitation in Ogoniland, it is certainly not doused.

It is shocking that in the face of the Ogoni tragic environment the UNEP report suggests a possible restarting of oil exploitation in Ogoniland. That may be likened to obtaining blood from a dying man.

The report largely says what has been known and said before. But this is official and very valuable. When Shell doled out the funds for the study, they claimed they did so on the basis of the polluter-pays principle. True. Shell polluted Ogoniland, just as they and other companies have done and continue to do all over the Niger Delta.

Claims by Shell that a majority of the oil spills in Ogoni are caused by interference by local people flies in the face of the observations in the UNEP report. The report says the bush refineries, for example, became prominent from 2007. Obviously, one of the conclusions should have been that with livelihoods utterly destroyed, some of the people had to find a means of survival and chose this unfortunate and illegal trade. With UNEP's obvious care not to antagonise Shell in the report, this path was not pursued.

In a critique of the UNEP report, Richard Steiner of Oasis Earth organisation, Alaska, writes: "The UNEP report devotes several pages (161-166) specifically to artisanal refining at the Bodo West oilfield, and correctly reports an unfortunate increase in such between 2007 and 2011. However, in this analysis of oil pollution in this region, UNEP entirely ignores the other much larger source of oil spilled into this same region in that same time period - the twin ruptures of the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) caused by SPDC negligence in 2008 and 2009. Together these spills contributed between 250,000 - 350,000 barrels of oil into this system, orders of magnitude more than illegal refining. Much of the oil at Bodo West area likely derived from the TNP Bodo spills." How do these compare to the volume of spills from artisanal refineries?

Professor Steiner also wonders why the UNEP study report says that "no single clear and continuous source of spilled oil was observed or reported during UNEP's site visits," whereas the massive spills at Bodo occurred at the time of the study and the combined spill volume may well exceed that of the Exxon Valdez that occurred in Alaska in 1989.

Much has already been said about the contents of the report and the dire state of the Ogoni environment. A significant problem that may scuttle efforts at acceptable cleanup of Ogoniland is the lack of capacity or unwillingness of Nigerian regulatory agencies to enforce laws and to act independently. Their independence is of course affected by the fact that Shell has infiltrated the petroleum ministry in a deep and total way (remember WikiLeaks cables). If government is serious about regulating the sector it will need to ensure that those called to make this happen are not connected to Shell's umbilical cord.

How, for instance, could government officials certify that oil spills have been cleared up and impacted areas remediated whereas the contrary is the case? According to UNEP there are 10 "remediation completed" sites showing ongoing pollution in Ogoni. Shell's spill management was also called to question as they use incompetent contractors for jobs that require knowledge, skills and equipment.

The confirmation that Shell has poor diligence in its oil spill responses and that our regulatory agencies endorse the pattern raises serious issues about the situation in other parts of the Niger Delta where this impunity continues unabated.

Other matters arising from the UNEP report that call for immediate follow-up include the inconclusive study on public health issues even though a gamut of medical records were surveyed. Same about vegetation and also rainwater that the people turn to in the face of living beside polluted rivers, creeks and waterways.

We now have official confirmation that the Ogoni people are drinking water polluted 900 times above World Health Organisation's standards. We also now know that the ground is polluted up to a depth of 5 metres at some places. We know that there are cancer causing elements in the water and in the air. We also know that there are toxic wastes dumped in unlined pits in Ogoniland. These issues are replicated all over the Niger Delta. But they are heightened in those areas because you must factor in the highly toxic gas flares.

Ogoniland (read Niger Delta) ranks as one of the most polluted places on earth. What is urgently needed is for the federal government to declare an environmental state of emergency here. Ecological problems do not observe community or political boundaries. How the government handles this case will tell a lot about who we are as a people.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Nnimmo Bassey is a Nigerian environmentalist activist and poet, elected chair of Friends of the Earth International and executive director of Environmental Rights Action.
* This article first appeared on 234next.com.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Somalia: Global war on terror and the humanitarian crisis

Horace Campbell

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75805


cc F W
The US government’s counterterrorism activities and ‘humanitarian’ assistance in Somalia and the Horn of Africa go a long way towards explaining the region’s entrenched problems, writes Horace Campbell.

In Somalia, half of the population is at risk of famine. This famine endangers the lives of over 11 million people in the Horn of Africa. The scale of this crisis makes one raise questions. What is famine today? How is it possible to have famine today in the midst of plenty? How is it possible that nearly 20 years since Operation Restore Hope, the ‘development secretary’ of the United Kingdom Andrew Mitchell is warning that ‘humanity is in a race against time’ in Somalia? The famine is one wake-up call for us to realise that some of our priorities are wrong.

Andrew Adasi, an eleven-year-old boy in Ghana, showed the passion and care of real people when he went and mobilised money from among the people of Ghana for the children in Somalia. This mobilisation by this young man should inspire all of us to be concerned about the children who are now threatened all over the Horn of Africa. The African Union has appointed another Ghanaian, former president Jerry Rawlings, as its representative for Somalia. Only four countries in Africa have made donations, and up to this point, the response inside of Africa has not matched the scale of this human tragedy. Two days ago the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) pledged US$350m to help famine victims in Somalia.

Yet in the midst of this crisis we must look beyond the hype of fundraising and go deeper. Famine and drought makes good business for NGOs and international organisations that have ulterior motives for their ‘humanitarianism’. I must reassert the view that only a confederation of democratic societies in the Horn can protect the people from the devastation of further disasters such as this famine. It is also in the context of African unity with democratic leadership where it will be possible to lay the foundations for the conditions to prevent future famines and the militarism that has spread behind droughts and dislocation of citizens. Some entrepreneurs have travelled to the region to sell to the people the technology to make rain. This is a travesty. International cooperation to end famine and starvation should not be an exercise for people to make money. I want to use my personal journey with the struggles for peace in Somalia to raise my voice to support the Somali and East African people in this hour of need.

MILITARISM AND OPPORTUNISM IN SOMALIA

Somalia is the most homogenous country in Africa. But this homogeneity has been shattered by the imperialist partition of Africa that divided the Somali people in five different places – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the different parts of Somalia (one dominated by British colonialism and the other by Italian colonialism). These forms of colonial divisions and partitioning were compounded by the internal colonialism of the Somali Bantu by other Somalis. Somali independence became compromised during the Cold War. After independence in 1960, the military coup of Siad Barre in 1969 brought a populist regime that proclaimed itself socialist and aligned with the Soviet Union. This same leader became an avowed supporter of the West after the Ethiopian revolution in 1974. Siad Barre invaded the Ogaden region of Ethiopia in 1977 and the US and the Soviet Union immediately switched sides. The US, which had been the main supporter of Ethiopia, supported Siad Barre. Before the Ethiopian revolution, the Soviet Union had supported Siad Barre. The only principled leader and society that did not join this opportunism was Fidel Castro of Cuba. This was the time when the decomposition of the politics of Somalia set in as the link to Saudi Arabia brought in resources for political leaders who were supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Islamic influence increased through Saudi financial and ideological support for the political leadership in Mogadishu.

The decomposition of the political class in Somalia accelerated after it was affected by the intrigues of US militarism of the Horn and the Indian Ocean. From that period to today, the influence of the USA and Saudi Arabia in this region has been to support anti-democratic forces – whether in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya or Yemen. Siad Barre, the last dictator, bequeathed a legacy of regional and ethnic manipulation. This manipulation of clan loyalties was also compounded by intellectual opportunism by sections of the Somali intelligentsia and this opportunism continued even after his overthrow in 1991. From that time, the militarisation of the society ensured that the country’s resources were directed to factional leaders who were campaigning to oust him. When he was ousted, none of these leaders could consolidate their leadership over the entire society. Militarism and drought then led to a massive famine in 1991–92. This factionalism persists up to the present and is most manifest in the composition of US-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

OPERATION RESTORE HOPE

I remember vividly in 1992 in December when President George Herbert Bush decided to launch Operation Restore Hope to aid the famine ‘victims’ in Somalia. The Pan-African movement at that moment opposed Operation Restore Hope because it was our view that humanitarian intervention should not be militarised. In December 1992 at Syracuse University, we called a meeting to discuss and clarify the meaning of this Operation Restore Hope. At that meeting I communicated to the students the idea that a humanitarian intervention in Somalia would necessitate mobilising doctors, teachers, farmers, engineers and nurses – and not soldiers. Ali Khalif Galaydh was at that time an assistant professor in public administration at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He praised the efforts of the US government and suggested strongly that Operation Restore Hope would bring peace and an end to famine in Somalia. It was clear that Ali Galaydh was seeking to curry favor with US policymakers for he later went on to become the prime minister of Somalia for a short time. But even with US sponsorship he could not survive the intensity of Somali politics.

Prior to the launch of Operation Restore Hope, the US government, through its Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen, had been proclaiming the importance of human rights and democracy. Smith Hempstone, the US ambassador to Kenya, took this posturing of the State Department seriously and worked closely with one section of the pro-democracy forces in Kenya who were against Daniel arap Moi. Moi had used dictatorial tactics to remain in power and up to 1990, varying liberation forces in Kenya waged prolonged battles to remove him. The United States had been concerned about the political and moral appeal of Mwakenya and the support of the legal activists was part of a plan to isolate the left in the Kenyan opposition. When Smith Hempstone intensified his activism, Kenyan human rights activists were so taken in that they began to plan for a post-Moi government. However, once Operation Restore Hope was launched, the US government changed its position on Kenya and backed Moi in the 1992 election. This sudden change in position was based on the calculation that having a known dictator such as Daniel arap Moi in power in Kenya would be preferable to the untested forces who were fighting for democracy. Under Moi, the US security planners were sure that Kenya would provide a secure rear base for US military activities in Somalia. From that time up to today, Kenya has been integrated in the US military operations in eastern and central Africa. Moi was able to steal the elections and Kenya remained a beach head for US military operations in Somalia. When the US government made this political summersault in Kenya, it became clearer that Operation Restore Hope in Somalia was not about humanitarianism but another part of the forward planning of the United States to maintain a military foothold in the Indian Ocean.

SOMALIA AS A FAILED STATE

Once the US troops of Operation Restore Hope were in Somalia, this operation provided further fodder for the journalists and writers who wrote volumes on ‘failed states’ in Africa. From West Africa another militarist was wrecking havoc after escaping from jail in Massachusetts. This was the saga of Charles Taylor and the destabilisation of West Africa. Robert Kaplan wrote his famous article, ‘The Coming Anarchy in Africa’, using the experiences of Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a template. I must state here that it was the patient and protracted diplomatic and peacekeeping work of ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States) and the Nigerians that brought the situation of instability in Liberia to an end. One can compare the experience of Nigeria and ECOWAS in peacekeeping in Liberia and Sierra Leone and that of the US and Kenya in Somalia.

Many of the competing political factions in Somalia tried to curry favor with the US, while the US used the United Nations cover to dominate the political space. The resulting chaos of clan leaders with guns led to the creation of armed political factions who were called ‘warlords.’ The political activities of these forces led to the association of Somalia with the word ‘chaos’. Some of the same agencies that had aligned with the armed political factions started the long claim that Somalia is a ‘failed state’. I have not found the formulation useful as a tool of analysis. Although the term is used by journalists and scholars, it is used in a way so that it is devoid of meaning. Noam Chomsky has written a book on the US as a failed state. The title of the book is ‘Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy’. Chomsky called the US the foremost failed state in the world. I could not agree with Chomsky because although he argued that the US government wallows in lawless military aggression, the concept of failure is demobilising and detracts from the struggles to stop this lawlessness.

One cannot call Somalia a failed state because a state cannot fail. Somalia’s condition reflected a failure of government, and a failure of the political class. The people of Somalia have sought to rise above internal and external manipulation. In the Somali society, people were still able to buy food, go to school, import and export goods and operate a semblance of a postal service. In my school of thought the formulation of ‘failed state’ is another a tool of psychological warfare designed to create the impression that the people are crippled and are a failure, thus needing some sort of military or militarised humanitarian intervention.

Despite the stamp of failure, the Somali people resisted US military occupation, and this resistance was clear after the US placed the stamp of warlordism on the political leader Mohamed Farah Aidid. This new information barrage on ‘warlords’ was supposed to send sympathy and acceptance for US troops. In less than six months, Operation Restore Hope had morphed from a humanitarian exercise to feed people in famine to a war against those the US deemed to be ‘warlords’. The US military could never win the support of the people as its crude behavior inspired anti-imperialist sentiments among ordinary Somalis. The young men on the back of pick-up trucks tied down the mighty US Army in Mogadishu. One of the most stirring defeats of the US military in Africa was when they shot down a Black Hawk helicopter in October 1993. This experience shocked US citizens and within days President Clinton ordered the withdrawal of US military personnel. This clearly demonstrated the fact that the military intervention had nothing to do with humanitarianism. Chester Crocker, the dean of US policies of destabilisation in Africa, quickly chimed in with a long article in Foreign Affairs, ‘The lessons of Somalia: Not everything went wrong’.

Because the present actors and actresses in the present famine and drought are some of the same that militarised the disaster of 1991–92, it is important that we go beyond soundbites to grasp the continuities in the US military strategies in Somalia. There is a wonderful book by Michael Maren called ‘The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity’. In this book, Maren narrated his personal experience of how the bulk of the so-called humanitarian organisations working in Somalia have compounded the situation there by perpetuating a war economy that only serves the interests of foreign aid agencies and the militarists. Maren revealed to us how many of these NGOs are contractors for USAID and how the USAID was subordinated to the interests of the Pentagon. The NGOs were the ones calling in the US military and private military contractors for protection. Today, we now know, from the recent testimony of Don Yamamoto (of the State Department) on Capitol Hill, that USAID is integrated into US AFRICOM. AFRICOM presents itself as an agent for development, diplomacy and security. This is a new twist in the wake of the failure of the US ‘war on terror’ and the threat inflation that has ensured that Somalia remains an unstable space in Africa. Samir Amin correctly summed up the role of the USA in Somalia 19 years after Operation Restore Hope when he wrote in Pambazuka that:

‘The results of all these attempts to “stabilise” Somalia thus came to nothing. But the persistence of chaos scarcely bothers the United States. Perhaps to the contrary, it is very useful, because it allows Washington to justify its pursuit of its “war against terrorism” elsewhere, and for other purposes! Somali chaos does not bother other countries of the region. Perhaps instead it helps create acceptance of the authority of Addis Ababa and Nairobi in the Somali Ogaden and on the Kenyan border. They may prefer this power to the chaos that accompanies warlords, clans and Islamic movements.’

Those who want to support the people in Somalia need to distinguish themselves from those NGOs that are integrated into the Pentagon planning, AFRICOM and USAID. It is important to retrace the role of humanitarian agencies in Somalia since that period so that new international efforts to support those suffering from famine will not be compromised.

THREAT INFLATION AND JUSTIFICATION FOR US GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR

The experience of Black Hawk Down frightened the US to the extent that when the genocide erupted in Rwanda in 1994, the US government actively intervened to prevent humanitarian support for those who were being slaughtered. Here was a moment when true humanitarian assistance was needed, but the Pentagon was so scared that they prevented the UN from acting. It was after the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salam in 1998 that the US started to raise new alarm about what was called ‘terrorism’ in East Africa. For three years the people of Kenya attempted to gain support for those who were injured or lost their lives in the 1998 bombing, but the US did not treat the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania as serious threats until after the massive attacks on the World Trade Center, September 2001. At that time, the problem for the US was that for many people in Kenya, they could not distinguish between the bombings of the embassies and the lived reality of the terror of the US-supported Moi dictatorship in Kenya. In the same year as the embassy bombings, hundreds were killed in the Rift Valley in state-instigated violence unleashed to destabilise the Kenyan people.

The environment and template for terrorism was intensified by the US re-engagement with Somalia under the administration of George W. Bush after 11 September 2001. Somalia’s situation became more complicated when Bush integrated this divided society into his administration’s framework on global war on terror, turning the country into one dot in the arc of the global war on terror. This was a strategy to extend the global reach for the so-called global war on terror into Africa through what was called the ‘banana theory of terrorism’. Both Kenya and Somalia were caught in this slippery geography of terror spreading from Afghanistan through Iraq and East Africa to the Maghreb. Kenya became a space for rendition and other forms of illegal practices that were being carried out by the Bush administration in Africa.

Attempts at a political settlement inside of Somalia became confused by this regional and international destabilisation. Local political factions sought arms so that political competition in Mogadishu became completely militarised. The US considered the Somali situation a breeding ground for the organisation that was called al Qaeda. The threat of al Qaeda was overblown to ensure that the US maintained a military foothold in East Africa. It was true that some of the political leaders who were armed posed a threat, but this was a threat to the local Somali people. The internal threat was inflated by the Bush administration. Contrary to the claims of many American security analysts, who tied local Somali fighters to al Qaeda and asserted that the conflict in Somalia was a threat to American national security, the contradiction embedded in the internal conflicts was in reality a dynamic that was meant to be resolved by the people themselves along with the people of East Africa. This regional dynamic was caught in a larger international power struggle when the US claimed that al Qaeda terrorists were migrating from Pakistan and Iraq to seek safe havens in Yemen and Somalia.

In 2006 war broke out in Somalia, following a US-orchestrated plan to create and arm a coalition of militia leaders, Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), to help hunt down suspected al Qaeda operatives. The defeat of the ARPCT by local fighters gave rise to the emergence of Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which was a coalition of political groups that gave themselves the political cover of calling themselves Islamists. The ICU government established security, law and order in most parts of Somalia for the first time in 16 years. The ICU was widely embraced by many Somalis, even those who were opposed to Islamic rule. The contradictions embedded in the provision of some acceptable level of governance by the ICU and the opposition of sections of the population to Islamic rule (especially as driven by Islamic hardliners within the ICU) were local and regional dynamics meant to be resolved by the Somali people and their neighbors. However, in order to fight the political forces that called themselves the Islamic Courts Union, the US backed some of the most despicable militarists in Mogadishu. Abdi Samatar wrote extensively on the dangerous outcome of this opportunism of the US military and called for engagement with the ICU so that the lull in violence could be extended in Somalia. But the Islamophobic neo-conservative elements and warriors within the Bush administration who were bent on threat inflation and the fabrication of terrorism to fit into the template of global war on terror and counterterrorism remained gung ho about fighting a long war in Somalia.

After a brief meddling in the power-sharing negotiations among the Somali leaders, the US backed the Ethiopian military for an invasion of Somalia in December 2006. Here was a discredited Ethiopian regime that had used threats, intimidation and killings to stay in power spearheading a US-inspired military operation in Somalia. This invasion of Somalia destabilised the harmony that had been restored by the ICU and hardened the stance of militia groups, strengthening those factions that were to be later called Al-Shabaab. This group (Al-Shabaab) had been given prominence because they proclaimed themselves to be defending Somalia against the invasion by Ethiopia. Al-Shabaab used anti-imperialist rhetoric to dominate and intimidate the people and gained international notoriety after 2006. For maximum publicity, the Western elements employed a public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, to heighten the hype about terrorism in Somalia. Interested readers can now follow the relationship between Bell Pottinger, News Corp., the hacking scandal and the corrupt media.

With the propaganda of Bell Pottinger, for many ordinary citizens there was difficulty distinguishing between the militarism of the Al-Shabaab, the US-backed elements and the Ugandan troops which were deployed to defend the Transitional Federal Government (TFG ) of Somalia. The TFG had relocated to Mogadishu after years of corrupt intrigue in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. After the use of ‘warlordism’ by the US for the destruction of the most successful attempt in 16 years to restore sanity to Somalia in 2006, Somalia continued to fall into an abyss of humanitarian crises, warlordism, and terrorism against ordinary citizens. Both US backed warlords and Islamist groups such as Al-Shabaab have carried out terror against the Somali people.

The US militarist’s preoccupation with the counterterrorism cover for the destabilisation of Somalia is now well known. One American think tank wrote in 2008 that:

‘US counterterrorism support is not, therefore, supporting a state-building agenda: It is actually undermining it by providing what some observers claim is robust financial and logistic support to armed paramilitaries resisting the command and control of the TFG, even though they technically wear a TFG hat… US counterterrorism partnerships have also undermined peace-building efforts by emboldening spoilers in the government camp.

‘US counterterrorism policies have not only compromised other international agendas in Somalia; they have generated a high level of anti-Americanism and are contributing to radicalization of population.’

The kind of anti-imperialist resistance and what American analysts refer to as anti-Americanism and radicalisation that arise from US destabilisation efforts is no doubt intended to be used as justifications for the continued prosecution of the war on terror in Africa and for the establishment of such initiatives as the US Africa Command. Kenya was caught in this complex of militaristic intrigue and the democratic process in Kenya was compromised by the US war in Somalia. This became evident in the 2007 election campaign. I ventured into the constituency of Kamkunji and witnessed the enthusiasm of the constituents for democratic change. This is the constituency in Nairobi with a large number of ethnic Somalis. When the people participated in that election to register the need for change, this election was rendered null and void and up to this day three years after that election, Kamkunji is without a representative. I sat in the Kenyatta Conference Center during the election count and was amazed at the blatant theft of the elections when the results were being announced that did not correspond to the votes from the constituencies. When the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, was announced as the winner, there were spontaneous acts of opposition to the government in all parts of the country.

Sections of the Kenyan political leadership mobilised ethnic teams to spread terror as the then US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazier flew in to support a power-sharing deal between the winners and the losers. Condi Rice, the secretary of state, followed soon after to ensure that the counterterrorism infrastructure of the US remained in place in Kenya.

Today, the US Africa Command in its research contest is inquiring about the root causes of the 2007–08 violence in Kenya without an examination of the fear of real democracy and democratisation in Kenya. The question of peace and democracy in Kenya and Somalia were inextricably linked.

Indeed, it is the Somali people that have borne the brunt of US and local armed politicians who have terrorised the people in Somalia. It is this terror that has complicated the humanitarian situation and handicapped the people’s ability to deal with ongoing drought that have now caused severe food crisis in the region. But the corrupt leaders in Kenya have always profited from drought and famine and this is another golden opportunity for business interests in Nairobi and Mogadishu.

At this point, it has become clearer that drought is only the immediate cause of the present famine in Somalia. The remote and primary cause is the destabilisation of the country by a US policy that has used the pretext of humanitarian aid to further its own militaristic interests in the name of war on terror in the region. And this same war on terror has negatively affected the people of the region so that there is drought in Djibouti where the US has a military base. In Djibouti a compromised and spaced-out government is more intent on serving the US than serving the interests of the people. There is drought and famine conditions in Ethiopia where millions are at risk, but the Ethiopian military has been a proxy for the US military in Somalia. As we wrote about earlier, this Ethiopian military invaded Somalia to fight the IUC. This US military policy also negatively affected the people of Kenya where the government fears genuine democratic participation because the Kenyan people will oppose the use of Kenya as a base for extraordinary rendition and the support for the US operations in Somalia. This US military in East Africa has also negatively affected Uganda where Ugandans have sent troops into Mogadishu as part of the African Union peacekeeping force. The African Union certainly needs peacekeepers in Somalia but Yoweri Museveni in Uganda has kept himself in power by adopting the same policies of the US, that is, to maintain militarism in northern Uganda instead of seeking political solutions that would isolate the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Ultimately, the famine points a finger at the priorities of the US in the Horn of Africa. After 19 years of engagement with East Africa through Operation Restore Hope, the famine is a grim reminder that militarisation moves people who cannot farm and feed their families. It reduces the capacity for regional mobilisation among neighbours to deal with such crisis as the ongoing famine.

The impact of militarisation has been so severe that even pro-imperialist organisations such as Human Rights Watch have now joined in condemning the tactics of the USA in Somalia. Human Rights Watch could not but bring out the reality that the US military activities had exacerbated the situation and in seeking to be even-handed sought to blame everyone for the famine. In a 58-page report, ‘'You Don't Know Who to Blame': War Crimes in Somalia,’ Human Rights Watch documented numerous abuses during renewed fighting in the past year by the different parties. The Islamist group Al-Shabaab, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the African Union peacekeeping forces (Amisom), and Kenya- and Ethiopia-backed Somali militias are all cited in the report. This report also cited abuses by the Kenyan police and crimes committed against Somali refugees by anti-social elements in Kenya. Even the vaunted British Broadcasting Corporation has now weighed in with a condemnation of the US in Somalia, with its correspondent Andrew Harding stating that the US policy on piracy, oil and fighting terrorism has been the number one root cause of the failure to deal with the drought that led to famine (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14291581).

Human Rights Watch could not do otherwise because less than a month previously Jeremy Scahill had exposed that the CIA has participated in the running of secret detention and interrogation centers in Somalia. He also implicated the Kenyan authorities in sending Kenyans to the secret prison in Mogadishu (http://www.thenation.com/article/161936/cias-secret-sites-somalia). Famine and dictatorship are two of the outcomes of the US counterterrorism strategies in Africa.

Recently, the US Africa Command carried out stress test on a number of African countries to test for simmering conditions that could lead to the kind of revolutionary uprisings that took place in Egypt and Tunisia. The intellectual basis of the stress test was as sound as the stress test that the US did on some of its major banks that are now still insolvent. The drought, famine and humanitarian crises are a reason to call for the dismantling of the US African Command. This is because many humanitarian organisations will not cooperate with US agencies because of the affiliation of the USAID with AFRICOM. The United Nations and African Union Mission to Somalia’s (AMISOM) must cancel the contract of Bell Pottinger if decent humans are to seriously consider making positive contributions to resolving the real tragedy in East Africa.

In recent Congressional testimony, the US Department of Defense, the US Department of State and USAID represented AFRICOM as a development agency and said that AFRICOM has the resources to carry out humanitarian assistance in Africa. It is this very claim that AFRICOM is a development agency that gives further propaganda advantage to the Al-Shabaab forces who are refusing humanitarian assistance for those displaced by the drought and famine. From press reports Al-Shabaab has removed from Mogadishu. But we agree with the view of Abdi Samatar that Al-Shabaab, the TFG, the AU forces and the US militarists have compounded the conditions for the majority of the people of Somalia.

The AU and democratic, progressive forces in Africa must be more engaged with the struggles for democracy in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia. Dictatorial and corrupt governments have more interest in remaining in power than in solving famine crisis or providing other needs of the people. The progressive forces were able to oppose the war on terror so that the US government now uses the term overseas contingency operations instead of the war on terror. In the same vein, progressive forces must work with those who want to give genuine humanitarian support to the peoples of East Africa. The progressive forces must ensure that in this crisis we are not carried on another road to hell.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* 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.


Is the IMF obstructing Kenya’s devolution process?

Charles Abugre

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75803


cc IMF
'If a government based on devolution and the dispersal of power is to be given a chance, the IMF’s role in political horse-trading in Kenya should be curtailed,' argues Charles Abugre.

There is a tense stand-off in Kenya between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Local Government, which is holding hostage critical laws that need to be passed to implement the generally acclaimed 2010 Constitution. These ministries differ sharply on how to regulate the management of public resources. They have submitted separate draft bills to the Constitutional Implementation Commission (CIC) to be forwarded to parliament. The one from the Ministry of Finance (The Treasury) is an Integrated Bill covering the two levels of government – the national and the county. The Ministry of Local Government has put forward two related Bills, one specific to the financial management of the county government and the other – an Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations Bill – which aims to create mechanisms for ensuring coherence between the two levels of government in relation to the management of public finance. This ministry opposes the single Integrated PFM Bill approach and argues strongly for a separate Bill to strengthen the devolution process and fears that the Integrated PFM approach is a stealthy way of re-centralising power. The Constitution of Kenya creates two levels of government which are independent of each other but who should ‘collaborate and cooperate’ for the public good – very much like the American political system.

The disagreements between these two ministries, both represented by Deputy Prime Ministers, is so sharp that the CIC felt compelled to refer the matter to the two principals of the coalition government, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Word has it that although the principals were unable to reach an agreement they were perhaps leaning towards the Integrated Bill approach and therefore have ordered the two ministers to consolidate their drafts into a single Bill. This apparent decision has severely irked Kenyan civil society and the taskforce put together to detail out the devolution process and whose advice informed the Bills submitted by the Ministry of Local Government. Their anger is based on the justifiable fear that the Treasury is actively seeking to roll back powers taken from them by the constitution’s strong focus on devolution, participation and service orientation.

If it is true that the two principals are converging around a single Integrated PFM Bill, this position invariably endorses the position that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has invested heavily in promoting, ever since the referendum which endorsed the constitution. Since at least September 2010, the IMF has pushed two issues related to Public Finance Management – the creation of Integrated Public Finance Management Bill and the creation of a Single Treasury Account. Both of these positions eventually found their way into the IMF Loan Agreement with the Government of Kenya as conditionalities (Structural Benchmarks) that attract penalties if violated without a formal waiver from the IMF Board. Treasury upheld these issues because they favour Treasury. Together with other recommendations, the IMF has intervened in a manner that could be severely detrimental to the devolution process. The IMF’s wading into the constitution implementation process in the way in which they did is highly dangerous as it borders on crude political interference and is a grey area in the IMF’s mandate. I would argue that the IMF needs not be so blatantly anti-devolution in order to ensure that devolution does not create run-away expenditure and indebtedness that could derail macroeconomic stability. Kenyans need to know that behind the Treasury position is the heavy arm of the IMF. The IMF’s position on this should be out in the open and Kenyan citizens deserve to debate its merits.

HOW THE IMF INTERVENED

In early September 2010, barely a month after Kenyans brought their new Constitution into law following a successful referendum, an IMF mission came to town to begin preliminary discussions towards extending a credit facility to Kenya. Among others, the mission broached the idea of a single PFM Act. A follow-up mission took place in November to prepare the Government of Kenya (GoK) to present a loan request to the IMF Board. The Letter of Intent drafted by this mission, signed by the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank to the IMF executive director committed the GoK to present a single PFM Bill to parliament. This mission also proposed technical assistance to the Ministry of Finance to enable them prepare this bill. In January 2011, two parallel missions were in town, one to finalise the loan deal and the other a technical team to appraise and recommend a framework for Public Finance Management. The final letter of intent signed by the Minister for Finance and the Central Bank Governor and addressed to Dominique Strauss Kahn, the then Managing Director of the IMF undertook, as part of their core conditions to deliver an Integrated PFM to parliament by end August and to adopt a single Treasury account. These conditions will be reviewed in September as part of other conditionalities that the Government of Kenya committed itself to. You can find these in the Kenya section of the IMF website.

The mission that provided technical assistance for the development of the Integrated PFM Bill submitted its report in March entitled ‘Kenya: Developing an Integrated Legal Framework for Public Financial Management’. The mission met a range of actors except the Devolution Taskforce. Subsequently the IMF provided technical assistance for a drafting group to transform the mission report into a Bill. The draft Bill that Treasury presented to the CIC is the product of these processes.

WHAT THE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE MISSION RECOMMENDED

The report of the mission was extensive and detailed. It outlined the key sections of an integrated PFM bill, what an integrated budget calendar should be; suggested what the legal framework of the County Government (what they called a sub-national government) should be; and made extensive and detailed recommendations that range from their interpretations of the powers given to the Treasury by the Constitution and many more.

This report leaves no one in doubt that the intention of the mission, and of the IMF, was (and is) to ensure that the powers of the Treasury are as enhanced as possible; that the flexibilities of the county government are as constrained as possible when it comes to the management of public finance and that the management of public finance is as centralised as is possible. The mission made very selective choice of principles of public finance outlined in the constitution, emphasising and amplifying those that are in consonance with the IMF’s beliefs and the mission’s biases and keeping mute or only mentioning in passing those principles they don’t quite like. A few of the mission’s biases and errors are worth mentioning.

THE ROLE OF THE MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN DEVOLUTION: In the mission’s view local government ministry’s role is political and administrative aspects of devolution. With this characterisation, Devolution Taskforce was effectively boxed – it had no role in financial devolution.

ROLLING – BACK AND AMPLIFYING PERCEIVED POWER LOST BY THE TREASURY: In virtually every aspect of public finance management the mission report seeks to curtail powers given by the constitution to other parts of government. In relation to Parliament’s role in budget making, it recommends ‘regulating changes that parliament can make to national budget’. For the counties it recommends ‘defining budget documents to be presented to the County assemblies, who should present , and changes that county assemblies can make’. It also recommends that a county single account should be ‘prescribed by Treasury’ (national government). On borrowing it recommends that Treasury should ‘impose a golden rule on borrowing on the County’ and that authority to ‘grant guarantees on County borrowing should vested in the Treasury’. It proposes that Treasury should have oversight power over all accounting, auditing and procurement functions ‘within every county treasury’. They prefer that all accounting and auditing staff be employed by the Treasury. They recommend that Treasury (national government) be vested with the power to ‘collect, consolidate, disperse and publish county level financial and non-financial performance information’… It recommends that the PFM Act ‘elaborate on the significant powers given to the Treasury to oversee the PFM system.’ There are loads and loads of these types of recommendations.

The mindset behind these types of recommendations is one of centralisation and central CONTROL. This in my view fundamentally undermines the spirit and letter of the constitution, the expectation by the millions of Kenyans who have suffered the consequences of centralised power that at long last power will be decentralised.

Selective amplification of financial management principles. The principles that the IMF report and which are reflected strongly in the draft Integrated Finance Management Bill choose to project are transparency, stability, fiscal responsibility and accountability. Missing across the document are those principles that make the Kenyan constitution stand out as unique, including the principle that PFM should be judged by its impact on wellbeing and equitable; the principle that the public have the right to know and to participate at all levels of public finance management; the principle that the management of public finance should be devolved and participatory. Wherever ever one of these is mentioned it is claimed that they are general rather than specific principles. This is nonsense of course as any principle can be quantified only to some extent and the level of that extent depends on the effort one puts into quantifying it. The purpose is clear, to project those principles which sit well with the IMF and jettison those that do not conform with centralised management ethos and cohere with narrow purpose for public finance management

A fundamental misreading or deliberate undermining of the Constitution? In my view, the IMF has fundamentally misread the 2010 Constitution of Kenya in several respects. First, the term ‘sub-national government’ tends to refer a level of government that in terms of hierarchy is subservient to a higher hierarchy. The Kenyan constitution in my view is clear that there the sovereign power of the people is exercised at 2 levels of government – national and county (Article 1 (4) and that the government at these 2 levels are “distinct and inter-dependent and shall conduct their mutual relations on the basis of consultation and cooperation”(Article 6(2)). The mindset behind the draft Integrated PFM Bill is one that subjugates the County to the National. This is plainly unacceptable.

The principals may well want to avoid violating an IMF conditionality by suggesting an Integrated Bill. If so, this Bill will be a considerably voluminous one indeed and will take very tricky drafting in order to preserve the distinct powers of the County, spell out how the 2 levels will cooperate an collaborate without one subsuming the other and how the desire of the people for participatory, devolve, transparent and accountable government working solely to improve services and the quality of lives of the people, a Constitution they fought so hard to bring about, will be preserved.

But of course I recognise the IMFR’s need to ensure prudent management of public finance in order to preserve the monetary system, stable prices and exchange rates. Could this could be achieved without undermining the most ground-breaking constitution on the African continent? It will be a tragedy if the principals were to reach a consensus which unknowingly rolls back what the people fought for – devolved and accountable power.

KENYA’S OBLIGATIONS TO THE IMF

Kenya is a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It joined in February 1964. The IMF is a voluntary association, a bit like a credit union where members pool resources to bail each other out in times of trouble and for the greater good of all. The specific purpose of the IMF is to promote international cooperation on monetary affairs by enabling members to consult and collaborate on international monetary problems with the aim of bringing about ‘balanced growth of international trade, orderly economic growth and employment, with reasonable price stability’, including exchange rate stability. Cooperation also seeks to avoid a repetition of the competitive devaluation that contributed to the great depression in the 1930s. As a member of this credit union, Kenya knowingly submitted itself to play by its rules.

To ensure that its members comply with their obligations, the IMF is mandated by Article 4 of its Constitution to conduct periodic surveillance on their economic and financial policies and to provide advice on corrective measures. This is the so-called Article 4 Review. Countries may take or leave the advice, unless you are borrowing from it. Rich countries often politely acknowledge the advice and politely ignore them or if they feel annoyed enough, may even tell the IMF off as the George Bush era politicians in the US tended to do regularly. However if a country is borrowing from the Fund, their flexibility to ignore advice is constrained by conditionalities that the governments undertake to fulfill. The undertaking, called a Letter of Intent, is often drafted by IMF staff and signed on behalf of the country by the Minister of Finance and the Central Bank Governor. Violating these conditions can be costly, including paying a fine. It can also be costly in terms of the country’s credit rating as the IMF plays the role of a credit rating agency for the poorest countries for whom the big private credit rating agencies find too unattractive to border with. Kenya is one year into a three-year loan from the IMF and is therefore bound by conditionalities they committed to.


THE IMF’S MANDATE

Once a country signs up to be an IMF member it has to recognise the IMF’s legitimate area of interest, i.e. to ensure that countries do not build up unsustainable imbalances in their fiscal (expenditure-revenue), monetary (money demand-money supply) and foreign (imports-exports) accounts. These three accounts feed into each other. Deficits in the fiscal account will have to be financed often from borrowing. Government borrowing from domestic sources can lead to unsustainable domestic debts, or contribute to inflation or may even undermine private investment and ultimately orderly economic growth. Inflation does not only lead to hardships it also drives up the cost of loans and the cost of paying back loans through the effect on interest rates or the exchange rate, although mild inflation can also be good for domestic producers. Massive government deficits, according to IMF analysis, can also spill over into imports and if imports grow faster than exports (which is often the case in the short run), the Balance of Payments (BOP) deteriorates.

The deficit in the BOP will need to be plugged, usually through external borrowing, which if not kept within reasonable limits can risk a sovereign debt crisis of the type we are witnessing today in the United States and the European Union or of the type Africa witnessed in the heady days of structural adjustment programmes. When governments can’t pay their debts and do not wish to anger their creditors or risk not having access to further loans in the short run, they ultimately call in the IMF to help bail them out. Governments may also borrow from the IMF to boost their foreign reserves so as to protect the value of their currencies, sustain imports in times of unexpected dip in export earnings and assure creditors that they can pay their debt.

The IMF’s ultimate concerns are that: A country is able to pay its debts to its foreign creditors; that its domestic prices are stable in order to protect the value of capital – foreign and domestic – and that foreign capital has the freedom to move in and out. It is in relation to the first concern (ability to pay debts) that governments are made to prioritise external debt servicing in their budgets. This is why the IMF is sometimes referred to as debt collectors for foreign banks and governments. It is in relation to the second objective (low inflation) that the IMF and others have pushed for Central Bank Independence and Central Banks have been encouraged to narrow down their policy objectives mainly towards managing inflation, often the expense of the ‘orderly growth and employment’ they are supposed to be looking after. It is in relation to the third objective (free capital movements) that the IMF has encouraged the liberalisation of the capital account and privatisation of state enterprises in many countries.

CONTESTED POLICY BIASES

It must be added that although there is some agreement among economist broadly about what is not good – unsustainable debts, very high inflation and sustained inflationary expectations, large fiscal deficits etc. Disagreements abound when it comes to the details of how much of what is bad or even how best to get to what may be good. The IMF has too often got it wrong promoting austerity in economic downturns. The IMF has also changed its tune on policy matters too many times. For example, pushing austerity and liberalisation of capital controls on poor countries, recommending the exact opposite to rich countries went they went into crisis, and reverting to original form when marginal European countries like Greece, Iceland and Ireland went into crisis. But the greatest criticism of the IMF is the fact their policies fail far too often to bring about the expected ‘orderly growth and employment’. Instead they make the poor pay to rescue, or sustain the profits of, bankers and other creditors. Preserving the monetary system often tends to be at the cost of livelihoods of the poor and social harmony in general.

CROSSING BOUNDARIES AND BEING DISPROPORTIONATE

There are two key points here. First, the IMF has a legitimate right to take measures to ensure that governments manage their public finance in a manner that is consistent with their obligations as members of the IMF. The second is that, be that as it may the steps it takes must satisfy two conditions. The first condition is that those steps are squarely within its mandate. The second condition is that the steps taken or proposed must be proportional to the Fund’s purpose. Under Kenya’s 2010 Constitution, there is a third precondition which is that the decision making process must be transparent and participatory.

I will argue that in relation to the manner in which it intervened on the power relations issues in the management of Kenya’s public finance under the 2010 Constitution, the IMF may have stepped into or even beyond the grey area of its mandate and that many of the recommendations of its technical mission which have guided Treasury’s position on the PFM bill, may also have over-stepped the boundaries of proportionality.

MEDDLING IN POLITICS?

The IMF’s role in ‘governance’ matters is contentious, so much so that an Executive Board Guidance had to be established in 1997 to guide the Fund in its dealings with member governments. In this Guidance Note, the Board upheld the view that the primary concern of the Fund is with macroeconomic stability, external viability, and orderly economic growth in member countries. Therefore, the Fund’s involvement in governance should be limited to economic aspects of governance. The contribution that the Fund can make to good governance should be in relation to two areas: (1) improving the management of public resources through reforms covering public sector institutions (e.g., the treasury, central bank, public enterprises, civil service, and the official statistics function), including administrative procedures (e.g., expenditure control, budget management, and revenue collection); (2) supporting the development and maintenance of a transparent and stable economic and regulatory environment conducive to efficient private sector activities (e.g., price systems, exchange and trade regimes, banking systems and their related regulations).

‘Within these areas of concentration, the Fund should focus its policy advice and technical assistance on areas of the Fund’s traditional purview and expertise i.e. issues such as institutional reforms of the treasury, budget preparation and approval procedures, tax administration, accounting, and audit mechanisms, central bank operations, and the official statistics function. Similarly, reforms of market mechanisms would focus primarily on the exchange, trade, and price systems, and aspects of the financial system. In the regulatory and legal areas, Fund advice would focus on taxation, banking sector laws and regulations, and the establishment of free and fair market entry (e.g., tax codes and commercial and central bank laws).

The Guidance Note was categorical that ‘the Fund’s judgments should not be influenced by the nature of a political regime of a country, nor should it interfere in domestic or foreign politics of any member’.

Applied to the Kenyan case, the Fund clearly had the mandate to give advice on all the aspects of public finance management above. It should give that advice in the political context in which it operates. That political context, as defined by the constitution, includes a unique situation of 2 levels of government each independent of the other, and none subjugated to the other but who must collaborate and cooperate t bring about responsible management of public finance based on the principles outlined in Chapter 12 of the constitution. The IMF team failed to appreciate this uniqueness and therefore sought actively to create a political regime different from that outlined in the constitution. The IMF team may have over-stepped their boundaries but actively seeking to re-write power relations among different parts of government as well as entities created by the constitution. Their advice tantamount to promoting centralisation of decision making and central control over public resource against the Constitutional ethos of devolution and participation.

Could the IMF’s desire for fiscal prudence and stability be achieved without undermining devolution? There is no reason why not. The devolution taskforce provided one mechanism to achieve that which is the Inter-governmental fiscal relations Act – the body that brings together the key actors in the management of public finance to agree parameters, define reporting and coordinating and collaborating mechanisms for the larger good. There is no particular reason to assume that consensus could not be reached through this structure favouring prudent management, including the management of debt whilst being consistent with the letter and spirit of the constitution. The IMF Mission that advised Treasury chose the lazy route of not engaging with the political structure as it is but rather seeking to create a political structure which the people rejected but which seems consistent with their values of financial management.

Is there the need for more than one Act to regulate public finance management? In my humble opinion, the answer is YES, for the simple reason that the County Government Structure is new. It requires new structures, new ways of doing things, new planning and budget processes that are consistent with the expectations of participatory and accountable governance.

The management of money is what will make or break the devolution process and the expectations of Kenyan citizens for transparent, participatory and service oriented government. It will take detailed crafting to deliver these expectations whilst ensuring prudent resource management. This is what the Devolved Government PFM Bill delivers rather impressively. The difficulty of simply trying to pull the two Bills together is the fact that they are derived from different mind-sets about governance – one is centralising power, the other is dispersing power. Something has to give and as is clear in the draft Integrated Bill, centralisation trumps.

If a government based on devolution and the dispersal of power is to be given a chance, the IMF’s role in political horse-trading in Kenya should be curtailed.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Charles Abugre is the Africa Regional Director of the UN Millennium Campaign. The opinions expressed in this article are entirely personal and should not be attributed to the United Nations.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Breaking news: LGBT has hit Sudan

Part one of a two-part series

Ghareeb

2011-08-17

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75747


cc C N
Concerned by the entrenched homophobia (along with severe prejudice towards LGBT people in general) within Sudanese society, Ghareeb considers what explains the persistence of extreme intolerance.

There is a Sudanese website called Rumat Alhadag which posted in 2009 an article about the establishment of the Sudanese LGBT Association Freedom Sudan and its goal to improve the rights of LGBT individuals in Sudan. A quick analysis of the replies to this article reveals the following:

- There were 39 replies (repetitions were not counted)
- While only four replies reflected positive attitudes toward homosexuality and homosexuals, 33 replies displayed a negative (many times very aggressive) attitude toward the issue. However, one reply acknowledged its existence without showing a clear attitude and another one only displayed a surprise feeling
- Words used to describe homosexuals included ‘dregs’, ‘decadents’, ‘immoral’, ‘animals alike’ and ‘salacious’, with calls to ‘be expelled to an empty jungle’, ‘buried alive’ and ‘pursuit by authorities’.

Before the establishment of the LGBT association in Sudan (Freedom Sudan) in 2006, homosexuality was a taboo subject and not many people dared to talk about it publicly and if they did so they would then have to face fierce and sometimes personal attacks from the society members. Even if they displayed a judgmental negative attitude toward the issue they would probably be labelled with descriptions like ‘profligate’ and ‘excitement seekers’ and accused with ‘attempting to distort the image of Sudan’.

Sexual behaviour in Sudanese culture is strongly linked to honour (the honour of the individual and the honour of the group are inseparable) and the concept of ‘honour’ is a great and dangerous deal here in Sudan; it pushes many people to lie even to themselves if it was necessary in order to protect it. That is why these attempts to talk freely about homosexuality were met by such enormous denial and aggressive attack. Even until now after it has started to become less and less a forbidden subject, many people still think that this issue shouldn’t be discussed openly and should be dealt with secretly by security measures only. After all (according to these voices) these ‘deviants’ represent only a very small and closed group in Sudan and no one supports them.

HOMOPHOBIA IN SUDAN: A ‘PING PONG’ GAME

In the highly charged political climate of Sudan, many political and religious movements seized the opportunity of the already existent negative public attitude toward LGBT people and the shock caused by the formation of an association for LGBT individuals and also the appearance of LGBT groups on Facebook (i.e. ‘gay story in sudan’, ‘SUDAN NEXT TOP GAY’, ‘Sudanese Gays’, and others). They seized all this and used it as an argument against other opponent groups.

Those who consider themselves to be moderate or even liberals or progressive thinkers blame the hypocrisy of the NCP* government and its supporters which, as they like to prescribe, while raising the logo of the ‘civilised Islamic project’, have created a proper atmosphere for ‘extraneous and deviant phenomena’ like the ‘spreading’ of homosexuality by forcing in a puritanical form of Shari’a** (which was prominent during the 1990s and then started to weaken afterwards) that inhibit the mixing of males and females in public and academic life, causing the elevation of sexual oppression among both sexes and pushing them to search for the ‘alternative’ (by which they mean homosexuality)!

Many of them like to adopt the opinions of some journalists and social thinkers like Mariam Othman and Hanan Aljak, who have prescribed homosexuality and bisexuality as psychological ailments and attributed them to many factors like:

- sexual assaults during childhood
- physical or emotional absence of the parent from the same gender
- other socio-economic factors like poverty, ignorance and the rising costs of traditional heterosexual marriage.

Ironically, extremists and fundamentalist Islamist groups like Ansar Alsunna (which has close ties with Saudi Arabia and the thinkers of the strict Hanbali School of Islam which prevails there) also blame the NCP government for its failure to implement the Shari’a sufficiently strongly enough. They also don’t forget to aim their arrows at their natural enemies (the liberals) for calling for more freedom in the society and separation of religion from politics.

Meanwhile, the NCP seems to be using the issue tactically against its opponents, like in the famous case of the journalist Lubna Hussein who was arrested in August 2009 among other women from a restaurant in Khartoum for wearing ‘indecent dress’ in a public place – and thus breaking the notorious article 152 in the Sudanese low ‘indecent acts’ (she was wearing trousers in that incident).

The other women were flogged by law with 40 lashes each, but Lubna was excluded from the sentence. Her immunity was due to her working for the United Nations Mission in Sudan. However, she challenged the authorities by refusing to pay a fine and called for the abolition of article 152. Her case caused great embarrassment to the NCP government, which was faced with not only international calls from human rights organisations to release Lubna and remove the above-mentioned article but also with demonstrations inside Sudan which supported Lubna and her cause.

When the preparations of these demonstrations were taking place, an article was published in Alwifaq newspaper (known to be a pro-government newspaper) under the title ‘And with the aid of Western embassies, demonstration by prostitutes and homosexuals for the abolishing of the public order law’ in which the writer mentioned that a demonstration was going to be organised by prostitutes and homosexuals benefiting from the case of the journalist Lubna, with the aim to reach the headquarter of UN in Khartoum and to hand in a petition requesting pressure on the government to remove the public order law.

The article was largely condemned and the government was accused with attempting to abort the demonstrations that supported Lubna and prevent supporters from gathering by sending a message via this article that whoever goes out in this demonstration is either homosexual or a prostitute. In other words, using public homophobia as a weapon against opponents’ demonstrations.

In the middle of all this political exchange, public opinion becomes more congested and homophobia exacerbated. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to find a group on Facebook named (as it is translated to English) ‘Fighting homosexuals and those who call for sex in Sudan on Facebook’, which incites the visitors to help in closing Sudanese homosexual groups by clicking 'report/block this person' on their page.

Even many individuals who are supposed to be objective considering their position display obvious prejudiced non-professional opinions, which could be sometimes completely wrong. For example, in the forum of the Sudanese universities of public health graduates and public health officers (suphof) some members put homosexuality side-by-side with increasing cases of AIDS in Sudan. Additional homophobic statements were made by some members of the National Programme for the Prevention of AIDS, of whom some prescribed homosexuality as a ‘negative mutation’ in sexual practices in Sudan and that it also contributed to the high increase in AIDS in Khartoum state.

Although they mentioned concurrently that whereas the known HIV to them reached around 10,000 cases (the estimate is 88,000 cases), the number of homosexuals known to them was only 715 and the estimate prevalence of HIV virus among them was 7.8% per cent – which means, according to their figures, that there are only around 56 homosexuals infected with HIV. This contradicts their argument about homosexuality and AIDS spreading. The danger with these statements is that it came from a health programme that is supposed to be objective and shouldn’t discriminate against any group in order to promote early voluntary examination among the community.

SHADOWS FROM THE PAST

For me, fundamental Islamic teachings weren’t enough to explain all that hatred and the discrimination practiced at both official and popular levels against homosexuals, so I have searched for the missing part in the past and only then has the picture started to became clearer to me.

SHAWGHI BADRI

Shawgi Badri is a popular Sudanese writer and historian well known for his bold style in writing. Although he displays a frankly negative attitude toward homosexuality and considers it as a problem, he acknowledges both its presence and its historic existence in the Sudanese community (the opposite to the public mainstream). This attitude has brought him many accusations of being ‘non-loyal to the country’ and ‘a non-modest man who passed the seventh decade’. The reader can only imagine if this is what a man who himself disapproves of homosexuality had to face, because he spoke freely about it, what homosexuals have to face on a daily basis!

In a post on the sudaneseonline.com website, Badri wrote a brief glance at the history of homosexuality since the Fonj Sultanate in Sinnar until the 1980s, passing through the era of ‘Almahadia’ in the late 18th century and the years of British colonisation and the period after independence. He referred to global historical figures who many people tend to believe were gay like Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart, the first Earl Kitchener and Leonardo da Vinci. He compared them to homosexuals in Sudan using the following statement, which I think is the key statement in his article:

‘For those people there were choices. However, what is practiced in Sudan is a process of enforcement and humiliation.’

He gave the following examples:

- His schoolmaster used to force some of his classmates to have sex with him before he was caught
- In many areas in the capital Khartoum were not safe for boys and young men to walk in after dark fell, and even in the daytime some kids were harassed or even raped
- Badri wrote that he himself was subjected to harassment and many attempts but his strong physical structure and his aggressive behaviour during adolescence protected him from these attempts
- Some of this harassment took a ‘class hatred’ nature, being carried out by some men of low socio-economic status against kids from families of high socio-economic status just to break their spirits and be ‘well remembered by them when they grow up’.

Another very alarming statement made by him which is relevant to the status quo was:

‘Sudanese youth in high schools and universities who were harassed or forced under fear, stimulation or threatening to have sex found a shelter in the Islamic Brotherhood Organisation, which embraced them and offered them protection. Some of those were filled with hatred against the society and the others because they did not perform these acts by their own will, and that might explain their dark behaviours when they reach power’.

Badri once heard the mother of one of his classmates complaining to their neighbourhood grocery man:

‘What shall we do if the minister of the interior parks his car beside our house, climbs it and cries out for our kid from behind the wall?’

It is obvious from what is mentioned above that homosexual acts in the minds of many Sudanese are linked to sexual harassment, child abuse, class hatred and marital infidelity, as Badri summarised at the beginning as a ‘process of enforcement and humiliation’.

I failed to find one known example of a man to man or a woman to woman relationship described as being based on mutual love and respect between the two partners. If this is the case, it’s no wonder where all this anger came from.

Who knows, perhaps the men who are today eagerly chasing LGBT individuals are the children of yesterday whose innocence was brutally taken from them by past monsters. It made me ask myself the following question: To what extent is the reality today different from the past? Well, I am still in the process of finding out the answer.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Ghareeb is a member of Freedom Sudan.
* This article was originally published at LGBT Asylum News
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

DEFINITIONS (TAKEN FROM WIKIPEDIA.ORG)

* National Conference Party: The ruling party in Sudan since 1989. Previously called the National Popular Party before the split of the Dr Hasan Alturabi (the mastermind behind the 1989 coup d’état) and his supporters in 2000.
** Shari’a or Sharia: The code of conduct or religious law of Islam. Most Muslims believe Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Qur'an, and the example set by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of Sharia to questions not directly addressed in the primary sources by including secondary sources. These secondary sources usually include the consensus of the religious scholars embodied in ijma, and analogy from the Qur'an and Sunnah through qiyas. Shia jurists prefer to apply reasoning ('aql) rather than analogy in order to address difficult questions.


Corporations, crime, corruption and capital flight

Part 2

Charles Abugre

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75800


cc P H
Tax avoidance, not developing country corruption, is the biggest source of illicit capital flight, writes Charles Abugre in Part 2 of a four-part series of articles on the flow of ‘dirty money’.

In the first part of this series, I tried to explain the web of players that are involved in facilitating bribery, concealing the identities of the beneficiaries of bribery and corruption and the shifting of their ill-gotten wealth into havens of secrecy abroad, protected from the public view and from tax authorities.

I suggested that ultimately the buck stops with the politicians and public servants who use their delegated power, not to provide services to their people but to enrich themselves. Leadership without integrity opens the door for the use of power to manipulate the law for personal gain and for self-protection.

My good old friend, Italian Prime Minister Papi Silvio, once told the legendary Italian journalists Indro Motanelli and Enzo Biagi that ‘I am forced to enter politics, otherwise they will put me in prison’. If that’s what motivates people to seek political representation, what can stop them from abusing all rules of decency for their own interest and protection?

But politicians hardly act on their own when it comes to diverting public resources to themselves. It takes crooked, rent-seeking business people, banks and companies – local and foreign – supported by equally unethical accountants and lawyers to arrange the bribes, to front shady companies and to channel the loot. In Kenya’s Okemo and Gichuru case, we recounted the alleged roles of well-known business entities like the Sameer Group of Companies, Alcatel and Vivendi to negotiate, pay and conceal the alleged briberies.

It took accountancy firms and lawyers to draw up the papers to conceal the wealth, to create ‘empty’ companies, disguised corporations, fake foundations etc, register them in secrecy jurisdictions with ‘flee clauses’ permitting them to exit easily, in order to conceal the beneficiaries of the loot and to dodge taxes.

It took banks, including well known ones like Deutsche Bank and HSBC, as well as less known banks to channel the proceeds of bribery abroad, by, for example, permitting the opening of anonymous trust accounts and such vehicles. Above all, it takes the existence of secrecy jurisdictions and a secrecy industry permitted by some of the most powerful countries for concealment to be possible. Finally it takes the collective complacency or complicity of the media and civil society to create a veil over the network of illegality surrounding dirty money flows by often concentrating narrowly, if at all, on a selective list of local politicians and public servants to the exclusion of more powerful players who move and shake the world of dirty money.

In these narratives, our focus was on bribery and corruption and the complex web of players involved in hiding and moving this type of dirty money. But there is more to dirty money flows than cross-border bribery and corruption. You might be surprised to know that cross-border bribery of public officials (including politicians) and outright theft of public resources by politicians moved abroad is the smallest of the three mechanisms by which dirty money flows around the world.

NATURE AND SCALE OF DIRTY MONEY FLOWS

Dirty (or illicit) money takes three main forms: Bribery and corruption of public officials; criminal (drugs, counterfeit, theft of minerals, terrorism financing, other forms of organized criminal activities etc); and commercial.

Raymond Baker of the Global Financial Integrity Project (GFIP) estimated, in his seminal book, ‘Capitalism’s Achilles Hill’, that the proportion of global dirty money flows that can be attributed to bribery and corruption is a mere 3 per cent. The second largest component, criminal activities, constitutes between 30-35 per cent. The rest (over 60 per cent) are the result of commercial activities – largely international/multinational companies using different means to evade and avoid tax by concealing and moving profits abroad, mainly into tax haven, low tax countries and financial secrecy jurisdictions.

We have dealt with the 3 per cent, which the likes of Okemo, Gichuru and Papi Silvio are accused of involvement in. The criminal component is being actively addressed by the various anti-money laundering laws pushed heavily on all governments by the United States following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States and others, including Kenya and Tanzania. This leaves the largest component, which also tends to hurt Africa the most, as the subject of this article.

SCALE

Before we explain how illicit capital moves through seemingly benign commercial activities, let us first take a peek at how big the problem is. Estimates of the scale of illicit capital flows vary depending on methodology. The latest and perhaps most comprehensive estimates of the scale of capital that has illegally left Africa is Global Financial Integrity’s 2010 publication, ‘Illicit Financial Flows from Africa: A Hidden Resource for Development’. In this report, GFI estimates that between 1970-2008, as much as US$1.8 trillion may have left Africa illegally, largely by commercial means – trade mis-invoicing. The period of the greatest illegal capital flight is the period 2000-2008. North Africa constitutes the source of the largest exit of capital and the Great Lakes region the smallest. Nigeria tops the list of countries of illicit capital outflows, having lost over US$100bn. Kenya lost over US$6bn in capital flight. The scary bit is that the rate of capital exit has accelerated since 2004 especially in Kenya. These estimates do not include criminal activities such as smuggling, narcotics trade, sex trade, mineral thefts and other criminal activities. (In the third part of this series, I explain briefly how these figures were arrived at).

HOW DOES CAPITAL LEAK ILLEGALLY THROUGH COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES?

Dirty money is generated through commercial activities in several ways.

COMMERCIAL FRAUD USING SECRECY JURISDICTIONS TO CONCEAL BENEFICIARY OWNERSHIP

Take a live case currently battled in Ghana between government bank, the Ghana Investment Bank (GIB), and Dominion Corporate Trustees (DCT), a Jersey company. DCT brought a case to the Ghanaian courts against NIB for a claim of $US60 million based on promissory notes that were issued by a client of the bank. The issuing company is called Eland International (Ghana) Ltd and is affiliated to Eland International (a shady company with Indian, Singaporean and Malaysian connections). There is also another company involved called International Caps Trading, which actually took delivery of the promissory notes and discounted them on the money markets for US$45 million. The notes were guaranteed by NIB but Eland defaulted when a call was made to pay the face value of the notes upon maturity, and so the current holders of the notes are demanding that NIB pays the US$60 million with interest.

The transaction was put together by a company called Iroko Securities, which is allegedly associated with a Francois Ekam-Dick who was allegedly involved in the Meridian BIAO bank collapse scandal in England in the 1990s. The GIB legal team have argued that the transaction was illegal in the first place because the guarantee was given by the managing director of the bank without board approval. The sum of the promissory note (US$60 million) exceeded the bank’s subscribed capital. The case is riddled with secrecy and bolstered by secrecy as the entities involved are registered in secrecy jurisdictions and involve ‘shell’ companies which are in turn owned by ‘shell companies’ much similar to the Okemo case. The Ghanaian legal team are struggling to get decent information about the backgrounds of the entities they are dealing with.

INFLATED MANAGEMENT SERVICE FEES AND ROYALTIES FOR BRAND NAMES REGISTERED ABROAD

In a study entitled ‘Calling time: why SabMiller should stop dodging taxes in Africa’, Action Aid, a British NGO describes how the SabMiller Group, one of the largest brewers in the world, manages to avoid paying taxes in Africa and the developing world in particular. SABMiller owns the South African flagship beer brand Castle, and many others across the African continent. It is by far the largest brewer on the continent. The study describes the company’s four main tax avoidance strategies. The first involves registering most of its brands in The Netherlands where the company has negotiated a very plum tax deal. Its subsidiaries file their accounts to the Netherlands thereby avoiding paying tax in the places where the beer is brewed and drunk. In addition, each subsidiary plays inflated prices for management service fees and as royalties for the use of the brands. This way, profits are concealed and moved to the Netherlands or other tax havens such as Switzerland and Mauritius.

THINNING ON THE TOP OR ASSET STRIPPING

This describes ways by which the capital of a subsidiary in a high tax-paying jurisdiction is ‘thinned down’ by indebtedness to another subsidiary in a low tax jurisdiction. For example, Accra Breweries, which is required to pay corporate tax of 25 per cent, is made to borrow up to seven times its capital from the Mauritian subsidiary Mubex where corporate tax is 3 per cent. This way Accra Breweries continually transfer capital into Mauritius through inflated interest rates thereby reducing profitability and pay little or no tax in Ghana.

MIS-PRICING

This is by far the most widespread means by which companies transfer capital abroad illegally. This is the basis by which the estimates of illicit capital mentioned above is based. It involves the illegal use of transfer pricing, mis-invoicing of imports and exports and the deliberate mis-recording of trade pricing. Learn how these mechanisms work and the role of tax havens, banks and accountants in the next part

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Read Part 1
* Read Part 3
* Read Part 4
* Charles Abugre is the regional director for Africa, United Nations Millennium Campaign.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


TNCs, transfer pricing and tax avoidance

Part 3

Charles Abugre

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75801


cc TaxBrackets.org
How do multinationals and unethical companies conceal and move capital abroad? Mostly through manipulating import and export prices, writes Charles Abugre in Part 3 of a four-part series on the flow of ‘dirty money’.

I concluded the second part of this story with the claim that the dominant way in which multinationals move capital abroad is to conceal it through the seemingly benign process of international trade, with the help of secrecy jurisdictions and accountants and lawyers. I also mentioned the inflation of financial obligations between subsidiaries of companies as a means of stripping off the capital of a subsidiary located in a high tax jurisdiction and transferring the capital through inflated interest payment to a low tax jurisdiction. In this instalment I shall try to explain how this works. I will also explain how it was calculated that US$1.8 trillion dollars illicitly left Africa between 2000-2008.

So what role does international trade play in moving dirty money around? What is well known is the way in which trading entities such as supermarkets and small banks are used to clean up criminal money such as monies earned from narcotics trade. Monies earned from criminal activities such as the sale of narcotics and illegal weapons or pimping in the sex trade, for example, are typically paid in cash.

That is why homes of criminal kingpins tend to be awash with cash. To deposit such large sums of cash in a bank can raise eyebrows unless you own the bank and can compromise the Central Bank’s banking supervision department. If you co-own a supermarket and are a narcotics dealer, how much easier to clean your dirty money than to hide it in the buying and selling of goods and in this process slowly release the dirty money to mix up with the clean bit? This practice is well known and although widespread contributes only to the 30-35 per cent share of dirty money as alluded to in Part 2.

The predominant way in which capital is hidden in trade and moved abroad is through the pricing of imports and exports. This strategy is employed not only by multinational companies but also by unethical local/national companies, traders and wealthy individuals seeking ways to minimise their tax obligations or find ways to stash their wealth abroad.

But the practice is most effectively exploited by multinational companies – here’s why: Firstly, multinational companies by the nature operate through subsidiaries scattered across the globe. This enables them to exploit transfer pricing.

Secondly, having multiple subsidiaries that can front shell companies provides opportunity for the registration of unlimited number of shell companies in multiple tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions in order to conceal their operations. This may explain why as much as 50 per cent of international trade takes place through tax havens.

Thirdly, trading between and among subsidiaries of multinational companies comprises as much as 60 per cent of global trade. This gives significant scope for the abuse of transfer pricing, unparalleled among any other players. The impact of such abuse is fundamental to the global economy.

So how does the manipulation of imports and exports lead to the transfer of resources abroad illegally? The essence is to make the transactions disappear from the books and thus the official statistics. One mechanism is through what is known as ‘falsified invoicing’.

This is when buyers and sellers collude and agree verbally to falsify their invoices, either by under or overstating import and export values; this helps minimise their obligations to the state and in moving capital abroad.

This practice is widespread; although difficult to verify accurately it is estimated that 45 to 50 per cent of trade transactions in Latin America are falsely priced by an average of more than 10 per cent. Meanwhile 60 per cent of trade transactions in Africa are mispriced by an average of more than 11 per cent (see Christian Aid’s ‘Death and Taxes’. This practice is used not only by multinational companies but also by individual traders.

The second mechanism is transfer mispricing. A transfer price is the price paid for an exchange of goods and services between related affiliates of the same transnational company (TNC). In most instances this involves either the parent firm trading with a subsidiary, or two subsidiaries of the same TNC trading with each other.

As deals between related TNC affiliates account for 60 per cent of global trade, there is ample scope for mispricing. This involves inflating or deflating imports and export prices between subsidiaries. Tax authorities say for a transaction to be legitimate, an ‘arm’s length principle’ should be followed by paying the open-market price. This requirement is often flouted, however, with transactions mispriced to enable the parent company to move money around to minimise tax.

Poor countries are particularly vulnerable to transfer mispricing since they typically will have little access to the necessary financial information from both the local and the parent company to be able to detect it. Most transnational companies typically aggregate their accounts across countries rather than publish them on a country-by-country basis. Moreover as most of the trading transactions would have taken place through the secrecy jurisdiction and via multiple other subsidiaries, verifying import-export price manipulation becomes even more difficult.

Mispricing of imports and exports of goods and services can also take place outside subsidiaries of TNCs by importers and exporters deliberately mis-invoicing on customs documents. This phenomenon has been analysed in detail in relation to Africa’s trade in commodities especially by Simon Pak, associate professor of Finance at Penn State University on his own and in collaboration with Maria de Boyrie and James Nelson at New Mexico State University. (See 'Capital movement through trade misinvoicing: the case of Africa’ and Christian Aid’s 'False Profits: robbing the poor to keep the rich tax-free' .

In one of the studies. Pak, de Boyrie and Nelson looked at trade in commodities between 30 African countries and the United States over the period 2000-2005, using a price filter approach. This filter picks up sharp price differences quoted in the customs data compared to US/world median prices for the category of goods in question. The difference between the import export prices quoted in the customs invoices and the median prices are then aggregated to show losses due to misinvoicing. Africa lost over US$13 billion to the US alone through these practices between 2000-2005. Extend this to trade with the EU, Japan, India and China and the loss of capital through trade misinvoicing is astronomical.

Their studies demonstrate just how extreme the mispricing can be. For example, in November 2005, a set of golf clubs were imported into Nigeria for US$4,976, while the US/World median price for the same set of clubs was only US$82. During the same month, a gasoline generator was imported into Ghana from the US at a price of US$60,000 that could be purchased at the U.S./World median price of US$63.03. During June of 2005, an electric hair dryer was imported into Nigeria at a price of US$3,800 when the US/World median price of the item was estimated to be US$25. In February 2002, US customs data showed that Ghana exported diamonds to the US through New York via air cargo a total of 37 times, undervalued by US$311 million. In 2000, Ghana lost up to US$328 million of capital outflow through low priced exports. The amount of capital outflows from Ghana to the US through trade misinvoicing increased dramatically between 2003 and 2005. This type of invoicing is prevalent across the African continent.

Trade misinvoicing may be done to evade custom duties and restrictions, avoid paying taxes and fees, or to avoid quotas. It can also be used for smuggling, to launder illegally obtained money, or for other unknown reasons. Misinvoicing of imports by overpricing can be used to conceal illegal commissions and to transfer monies that are hidden in the inflated prices. Under-invoiced imports use misinvoicing to avoid or reduce import duties and restrictions; dump foreign produced goods at below market prices in order to drive out domestic competition; and to smuggle goods into a country to avoid paying taxes and fees.

Companies may over-invoice their exports as a response to their governments’ attempts to reward those companies or industries that increase their export revenues, or simply to hide illegal commissions that can be concealed within the inflated prices. In either case, over-invoicing of exports causes the amount of export subsidies offered by some developing countries to increase. On the other hand, under-invoiced export transactions may be used to avoid or reduce export surcharges in countries where these exist, or as a way to evade income taxes, launder money and/or facilitate capital flight.

Pak et al’s work is no doubt revealing but it severely understates the scale of capital losses through the manipulation of import/export prices. Their model captures mainly trade in goods/commodities. Trade in services and technology are increasing in importance. In addition, the model requires the use of customs data, which tends to be unreliable in many developing countries.

More comprehensive estimates come from the work of Global Financial Integrity, utilising published and verified data from the World Bank, the IMF and others. Their model builds on the World Bank’s Residual model, which compares a country’s source of funds with its recorded use of funds. According to the model, whenever a country’s source of funds exceeds its recorded use of funds, the residual amount comprises unaccounted for, and hence illicit, capital outflows. The World Bank model, however, also fails to capture trade in services or re-invoicing between subsidiaries.

A second approach compares a developing country’s exports to the world with what the world reports as having imported from that country, after adjusting for insurance and freight. Additionally, a country’s imports from the world are compared to what the world reports as having exported to that country. Discrepancies in partner-country trade data, after adjusting for insurance and freight, indicate misinvoicing. However, note that this method only captures illicit transfer of fund abroad through customs re-invoicing; IMF Direction of Trade Statistics cannot capture mispricing that is conducted on the same customs invoice.

The GFI model utilises these two but adjusts them for services and misinvoicing that is conducted in same customs invoices. It is this model that generated the figure of US$1.8 trillion lost to Africa between 1970-2008. See the GFI website for more details.

In the fourth and final part of this series,I shall examine the cost of these practices to Africa/Kenya’s development and suggest ways to minimise these leakages.

* Read Part 1
* Read Part 2
* Read Part 4
* Charles Abugre is the regional director for Africa, United Nations Millennium Campaign.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Fighting illicit capital flight

Part 4

Charles Abugre

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75802


cc Genvessel
The illicit extraction, concealment and channelling of capital from poor countries abroad destroys societies and must be curtailed. So how do we do this, asks Charles Abugre in the final article in a four-part series on the flow of ‘dirty money’.

This the fourth and final part in this series, not because I have exhausted the issues but because I must stop somewhere! I hope that your interest on the subject of dirty money flows is kindled sufficiently for you to do further reading and ask questions yourself. You’ll find sources for further reading at the end of this piece.

This article addresses the cost that illicit capital outflows impose on Africa’s – and more specifically Kenya’s – efforts to reduce poverty and build accountable democracies. It also looks at ways to curtail the phenomenon. First though, let’s recount the drivers and mechanisms of dirty money flows to set the context for how to address the problem.

CORRUPTION, UNETHICAL AND UNPRODUCTIVE RENT-SEEKING BUSINESS PRACTICES

The series was inspired by the on-going case in which Samuel Gichuru, the former managing director of Kenya Power and Chris Okemo a sitting MP and former minister of finance and minister of energy are faced with extradition to Jersey, a British Crown Dependency Territory, to stand trial for allegedly receiving bribes, among others, from a French Company Alcatel, arranged by a joint venture of another French Company, Vivende and a Kenyan company, the Sameer Group of companies, the proceeds of which were allegedly deposited in several places, including Jersey.

The extradition request is the result of pressure exerted by the United States following a plea-bargain in which a subsidiary of Alcatel registered in the US admitted to bribing government officials in several developing countries including Kenya. In exploring this case we pointed out that a key driver of dirty money flows is clearly bribery, kickbacks and corrupt procurement systems. However we also noted that politicians hardly act on their own for after all it takes two to tango – corrupt businesses and public officials. Okemo and Gichuru may have received kickback and bribes (if they are found guilty) but they could not have taken the monies out but for the complicity, collusion or assistance of banks, lawyers, accountants and secrecy services provided by the Island of Jersey and many others. Corruption hurts the most when the money is taken out of the country.

REGULATORY FAILURE AND LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

Gicheru and Okemo’s story as told by the Nairobi Law Magazine, included active efforts by politicians, allegedly including Mr Okemo as finance minister, to weaken the regulatory framework on banking supervision, banking secrecy and identification of beneficiary ownership of bank accounts and of companies. This regulatory failure and the lack of transparency helped to facilitate the receipt and movement of the alleged kickbacks through the banking system and outside the country.

THE BANKING SECTOR

Banks big and small facilitate the concealment and transfer of dirty money abroad through several means:

MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS: A banker opens multiple accounts in multiple names in multiple jurisdictions for clients. This impedes monitoring and tracing of client activity and assets and allows quick, confidential movement of funds.

SPECIAL NAME OR NUMBERED ACCOUNTS: A banker opens accounts in code names, thereby impeding the monitoring and tracing of client activity and assets creating conditions for illicit activities.

CONCENTRATION ACCOUNTS: A banker conducts client business through one single account that facilitates the processing and settlement of multiple individual customer transactions. The account that commingles the funds is used for internal purposes of the bank, but it can also be a method of hiding the origin of funds thereby impeding the monitoring and tracing of client activity and assets.

OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS: ‘Shell’ corporations or trusts are formed to hold client assets offshore. A banker then opens accounts in the name of the offshore entities.

OFFSHORE RECORDKEEPING: A bank maintains client records offshore and minimises or eliminates information in the country of residence.

OFFSHORE JURISDICTIONS: A bank conducts business in a jurisdiction which criminalises the disclosure of bank information and bars bank regulators from some other countries.

For the details of the role of banks in aiding illicit capital flows, see ‘How Banks Assist Capital Flight from Africa. A Literature Review’ by Kari Heggstad Odd‐Helge Fjeldstad of the Michelsen Institute (Commissioned by Norad, March 2010).

All these impede the monitoring and tracing of client activities and assets, impede bank, regulatory and law enforcement oversight and open the doors for hiding or facilitating illicit activities. These services are services are used by legitimate companies as well criminal kingpins such as drug barons, sex trade pimps, smugglers and illegal arms dealers alike.

OFFSHORE SECRECY JURISDICTIONS, TAX HAVENS AND THE SECRECY SERVICES INDUSTRY

We explained how the 60+ most egregious offshore financial centres (secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens) deliberately facilitate a secrecy industry and low-tax havens meant largely to encourage capital to flee from high tax paying jurisdictions. Thirty of these financial centres are in British territories (including the City of London); other locations include Switzerland, Luxemburg and Mauritius.

The secrecy laws are exploited by rich individuals and companies, including banks, to conceal and channel profits and wealth out of poor and rich countries alike into these havens. This secrecy industry is the product of the tax planning ‘innovations’ of accounting firms, especially the ‘Big Four’ designed to help their clients aggressively avoid taxes. Along with their clients, they organise networks of offshore subsidiaries to shift profits into.

The collapse of Enron provided a rare insight into precisely how this works. The US senate report into the Enron case shows how accountants Anderson facilitated Enron’s massive tax avoidance. The company paid no tax at all between 1996 and 1999. Tax planning by the accountants made this possible and involved setting up a global network of 3,500 companies, more than 440 of which were registered in the Cayman Islands. The law firms kick in by specialising in the creation of empty companies which are in turn owned by empty companies scattered across several secrecy jurisdictions, all designed to conceal the real beneficiaries of wealth.

MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES

Corporate vehicles and secrecy services are used by wealthy individuals and companies big and small, as well as by legitimate businesses and criminals alike. But their biggest users by far are banks and companies. Banks use them to register and conceal the assets and activities of their clients, and to conceal their own assets and liabilities including sub-prime loan assets, a phenomenon which contributed to the global financial crisis in 2008. The greatest users of secrecy services and complex corporate vehicles, however, are transnational companies. We explained how TNCs register multiple subsidiaries in several offshore financial centres (secrecy service providers and low tax centres) to conduct transfer mis-pricing and thereby conceal and shift profits into tax havens and reduce their tax liabilities.

TRADE MISINVOICING/MISPRICING

The previous article in this series concentrated in explaining this phenomenon and noted that most of the US$1.8 trillion or so shifted out of Africa illicitly between 1970-2008 utilised the mechanisms of trade misinvoicing – the inflating or deflating of imports and exports in customs invoices in order to shift profits into zero or low tax jurisdictions. We noted that of the three ways by which dirty money moves around the world – bribery and corruption, criminal activities, commercial activities – the latter, in particular trade misinvoicing, constitutes over 60 per cent of the flows.

UNDERLYING CONDITIONS

A recent UNDP report on illicit capital flows from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) outlines three main drivers of illicit capital flight: Corruption and bad governance including regulating weaknesses; structural factors; and macroeconomic factors. On structural factors the report notes that high income inequality can facilitate illicit capital flight when wealthy people feel the need to conceal their wealth including moving it abroad to avoid taxes. Another structural factor is the extent of trade and capital account openness, the view being that the more open trade regime and the rules government of capital the easier it is move capital out illicitly. On macroeconomic factors, the UNDP report suggests that large external debts, large and growing fiscal deficits and over-valued exchange rates create conducive conditions for illicit capital flight.

IMPACTS ON SOCIETY

LOSS OF BADLY NEEDED INVESTIBLE CAPITAL

The UNDP report referred to above quoted Professor Njuguna Ndung’u, governor of the Central Bank of Kenya as saying during a keynote lecture at the South African Reserve Bank in 2007 that:

‘Paradoxically, the accumulation of external liabilities in the region is mirrored by massive outflows of resources in the form of capital flight—the voluntary exit of private residents’ own capital for safe haven away from the continent. The latest estimates published by UNCTAD suggest that capital flight from Sub-Saharan Africa is fast approaching half a trillion dollars, more than twice the size of its aggregate external liabilities’.

Indeed as noted earlier, Global Financial Integrity’s conservative estimate of the scale of capital loss from Africa through illicit means alone to be in the region of US$1.8 trillion over 39 years. This works out to an average of $11bn over the 39 years. The average over the last decade is in the hundreds of billions. A similar study conducted by Professor Simon Pak estimated the cumulative capital flight from Africa to the EU, the US and the UK and Ireland due only to commodity trade between the period 2005-2007 to be US$620bn, or an average of over US$200bn a year, which is more than 10 times the aid received by Africa over the same period. This study estimated the capital loss to Kenya over the 3-year period (2005-2007) cumulatively at around US$200million. The scale of this loss is several times average foreign direct investment. In a strange twist, whilst African countries are bending over backwards to attract aid and foreign investment, the continent is sleep-walking into a major haemorrhage.

LOSS OF TAX REVENUES

We have all woken up lately to the realisation that the most reliable and dependable source of resources to invest in schools, roads, hospitals, energy sources and keep our democratic institutions running and maintain the peace is in fact taxation. When public officials steal or divert tax revenues to enrich themselves our society suffers, the poor cannot get social protection and the market cannot be regulated adequately to create the enabling environment for innovation and competition. In addition, when we lose faith in the tax system, it is hard to see how else public services and public infrastructure can be built. The market may provide some of that but the market is typically suited to supplying to those who can afford things; otherwise it can only provide tiered services thereby making inequality worse over generations. When the rich and companies do not pay their fair share of taxes the burden either falls disproportionately on low-income people and workers or alternatively, the state’s ability to provide public services and adequate regulation shrinks.

The loss of tax revenues due to illegal concealment and transfer of capital abroad is enormous. A study commissioned by Christian Aid in 2009 entitled ‘False Profits’ estimated the loss of tax revenues to developing countries due to trade misinvoicing alone in the area of commodities to be over US$160bn between 2005-2007. If this amount had been channelled into development, Christian Aid estimated that the lives of at least 350,000 children below the age of five lost to poverty and preventable diseases could have been saved.

Kenya is among the top ten developing countries in terms of size of revenue lost to the EU, the US and the UK and Ireland. It is estimated to have lost revenue of $54 million. The size of the loss would be even bigger if the study covered Kenya’s trade relations with India, China, Pakistan and the Middle East.

DAMAGES DEMOCRACY, ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNANCE AND THE INTEGRITY OF INSTITUTIONS

The tax system plays a critical role in bridging the relationship between citizens and state. Besides the constitution, it is one of the most empowering tools for citizens to demand accountability from the state. To undermine it is to break this critical relationship which is at the heart of democratic governance. Wealthy individuals and companies that actively undermine the tax system through aggressive tax planning, tax avoidance and tax evasion indirectly undermine the system of democracy. Similarly, when wealthy individuals, public servants, banks and companies manipulate secrecy and bribe public servants in order to maximise, conceal and move personal wealth and profits abroad, they undermine the very integrity code which underpins any form of public association. This is costly to genuine business people as well as to the public sector. Loss of faith in public institutions can endanger peace in the long run. For a good read of how tax affects governance, see Mick Moore’s ‘How Does Taxation Affect the Quality of Governance’ in Tax Notes International (Volume 47, No. 1, July 2, 2007).

EXACERBATES INEQUALITIES

Taxation is a potent instrument for reducing inequalities in a society in two ways. Firstly progressive taxation requires taxing the rich more as a proportion of their wealth compared to the poor. Secondly, increased revenue derived from the greater contribution of the rich when spent on the poor helps to enable the poor take advantage of opportunities in the future. The generation and concealment of dirty money to avoid taxes undermines the ability of governments to address inequalities. Inequalities matter to the rich and the poor alike because growing inequalities of certain types can be a source of future conflict. Some people say that one of the underlying drivers of the violence in 2008 in Kenya is the high level of income inequality measured both vertically and horizontally (i.e. in relation to social groupings defined by ethnicity religion and geographic space). Also we know that it is harder to reduce poverty in highly unequal societies compared to more egalitarian ones.

UNDERMINES TRANSPARENCY, THE REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT AND FINANCIAL STABILITY

The lack of transparency in banking operations and lax regulations were at the heart of global financial crisis when banks succeeded in concealing their sub-prime assets through what the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements (the ‘bank for central banks’) has referred to as the ‘shadow banking system’. This is the setting-up of banks, bank-like institutions and funds, including hedge funds, private equity operations and structured investment vehicles – conduits used by mainstream investment banks and others – in jurisdictions (tax havens) outside the main financial centres and outside their regulatory reach.

The aims are to escape the type of regulation that banking activities usually face and to reduce the tax bill – even if most actual activity remains in the financial centres and not in the havens. One result is greater opacity, keeping the detail of arrangements largely out of sight (and out of mind) of more stringent regulators. This enabled banks and insurance companies to continue to market, and therefore make profit from, worthless derivatives, a practice which finally imploded into the banking crisis.

Banking secrecy compounds the transparency problem. Previous large-scale corporate bankruptcies – such as those of Enron and WorldCom – exposed nests of hidden transactions and liabilities, primarily located in tax havens. These structures misled investors about the true value of the companies’ assets and liabilities. The current wave of bankruptcies is no different. A Christian Aid report, ‘The morning after the night before’, published to explain the financial crisis, noted a situation where during a discussion in parliament in relation to the nationalisation of Northern Rock bank it became clear that the British government – the new owner – did not know either who owned the Rock’s Jersey-based offshore vehicle, Granite, or what, if anything, it was worth.

If this level of secrecy pertains to our banking sector, it does not merit pointing out the potential danger in terms of banking stability and contingent liabilities that the people of Kenya carry.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Addressing these complex problems entails acting at both national and international levels.

NATIONAL REFORMS

The UNDP LDCs report mentioned contains a list of reform measures that governments can take ranging from tax policy reforms, trade policy reforms, customs reforms, inclusive growth, legal reforms etc. as a caveat the report emphasizes, and I concur that ultimately it is about the integrity of politics and politicians – what is sometimes called political will. But as political will doesn’t always come voluntarily, active citizenship exercising pressure, surveillance, watch dog rolls and whistle blowing, providing evidence through research and dialogue etc. is often necessary to raise the opportunity cost of the absence of political will. But it is also true that even the best intended public will fail when the institutions they work for o not have the best skilled personnel and the tools including legal backing to detect and punish money laundering practices. In terms of domestic reforms I will hazard the following suggestions, taking Kenya as reference

REFORMING THE COMPANIES AND BANKING CODES/LAWS

The Kenyan constitution helpfully outlaws public servants from holding bank accounts abroad. However public servants can front special purpose vehicles and shell companies owned by shell companies all registered in secrecy jurisdictions to conceal their identities and circumvent the constitution. To minimise this, the law must insist on the following: The revelation of beneficiary ownership by natural persons behind companies and every corporate account. They should reveal the natural persons behind offshore entities that may be partners to the venture or the account and list all subsidiaries associated with the company wherever they may be registered. Banks should be discouraged from opening anonymous accounts, multiple accounts, special name or numbered accounts, concentration accounts and similar accounts that make it difficult to trace activities and the assets of their holders. Banking secrecy must be streamlined to address third party confidentiality issues but with full disclosure to tax and relevant national authorities.

CUSTOMS

The price filter model of Professor Simon Pak which I understand is used by the United States Customs to monitor trade misinvoicing or its adapted versions can be useful to minimise misinvoicing in imports and exports and may even be adopted to track domestic procurements of the public sector to minimise leakage through inflated pricing.

STUDY OF THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF TRANSFER PRICING

Kenya is a centre for many multinational companies. It will help immensely to have a better understanding of the nature and scope of transfer pricing involving companies operating in Kenya.

MULTIPLE BILATERAL INFORMATION EXCHANGE

This is a second best solution. A preferred solution will be an international agreement for automatic exchange of tax information globally. In the meantime, Kenya should sign bilateral information exchange agreements with the major tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions including Jersey, Guernsey, the United Kingdom, Cayman Island, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Mauritius, Luxemburg etc. They should be aggressive in demanding total transparency especially in terms of beneficiary ownership of accounts and companies registered in these jurisdictions that trade and do business with Kenya. The Germans have after all filed claims against Switzerland claiming US$10bn from tax losses as a result of their nationals shielding their loot utilising the Secrecy service of Swiss Banks. The British and the Americans have done the same.

PUBLISH THE PROFITS YOU MAKE CAMPAIGN/RULE

The Kenyan government should require all transnational companies to publish every year Kenya specific accounts showing the profits or losses they make. These profits and loss accounts should be verifiable, including procurements that taken place via tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions.

PROSECUTE THE ISLAND STATE OF JERSEY

Kenya should counter-sue Jersey in the international court and the banks holding the alleged corrupt money from Okemo and Gichuru for complicity in corruption and for compensation for hoarding Kenyan tax-payer’s money adjusted for inflation. Kenya can take a leaf out of Nigeria’s book – it has sued major companies like the German giant Siemens for corruption and has been compensated through an out of court settlement.

INTERNATIONAL REFORMS

I am fully aware that some of the suggestions I have above can be difficult to implement by small poor countries on their own. Indeed, stemming the flow of dirty money can only be successfully addressed through global agreements and global collaborative actions. These actions are particularly urgent in the following areas.

ACCOUNTING REPORTING STANDARDS

At the moment, the global standards for financial reporting set by the biggest accounting firms do not require transnational companies to disaggregate their accounts and report their profits on a country by country basis. Developing countries, and those in Africa in particular, need to pull together and push the international community to require the International accountancy Standards Board to include country-by-country reporting. Without this, it is impossible for individual countries to verify whether companies have paid them their right taxes. Such country-by-country reporting would show if a company was declaring unexpectedly high or low profits in different jurisdictions, including recognised tax havens. This would enable developing country tax authorities to prioritise which financial flows need further investigation.

AUTOMATIC EXCHANGE OF TAX INFORMATION

There should be strong global rules to enable developing countries to determine whether they have been paid the right amount of tax, in the right place, at the right time. The rules would require all states to exchange automatically the information they hold from companies and individuals. Compliance would be evaluated objectively, with sanctions against states that refuse to part with the information. The current OECD arrangements encouraging countries to enter into bilateral tax information exchange agreements (TIEA) does not suit all countries equally. Big countries like the United States can seek to haul Okemo and Gichuru to Jersey for trial because they have successfully prevailed upon Jersey to supply the relevant information. Kenya is unlikely, on its own with the weight of others, to receive the same treatment from Jersey.

Such an agreement should include a requirement that all banks and other financial institutions collect information, which should be available to the appropriate supervisors or regulators (including tax authorities), on the beneficial owners of all payments made, whether to residents or non-residents, individual and companies.

GOING FORWARD

A momentum is growing in this area. The African Union has, in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa, taken up this issue high up the political ladder. A high level commission on illicit capital flight will be announced shortly, I understand. The UNDP is also slowly building interest and capacity in this area; it aims to support governments in addressing this problem. There is a growing civil society movement for tax justice and to fight illicit capital flight. Kenya is the seat of the African arm of the Tax Justice Network, one the leading global coalitions against illicit capital flight. An East African coalition on taxation is also on the way and the National Tax Payers Association of Kenya is an active member. There is enough basis of a collation of government, civil society and ethical businesses to pull together to address this dangerous cancer.

BROUGH TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Read Part 1.
* Read Part 2.
* Read Part 3
* Charles Abugre is the regional director for Africa, United Nations Millennium Campaign.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Somalia's unholy alliance: Media, donors and aid agencies

Rasna Warah

2011-08-17

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75768


cc Guled
Behind slick aid agency publicity campaigns designed to raise funds for famine in East Africa lies an aid industry that is complicit in corruption and the promotion of unaccountable government.

The season of giving has started - and it is not even Christmas yet. Leading international aid agencies, including the United Nations, Oxfam, Save the Children and Islamic Relief UK, have launched massive campaigns to save the thousands of Somalis who are facing hunger in their own country and in refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked donors for $1.6 billion in aid for Somalia and the World Bank has already pledged more than $500 million towards the relief efforts.

The appeals for food aid have been accompanied by heart-wrenching images: children with swollen, malnourished bellies, emaciated mothers with shrivelled breasts that no longer lactate, campsites bursting at the seams with hordes of skeletal refugees.

Almost all the large humanitarian aid agencies are rushing to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya to witness, photograph and film the crisis. We have seen these images before - in the mid-1980s when Mohamed Amin filmed the famine in Ethiopia that triggered the trend of rock stars becoming do-gooders. Since then, famine has become the biggest story coming out of Africa - and one of the biggest industries.

MEDIA-SAVVY AID AGENCIES

Images of starving Africans are part and parcel of fund-raising campaigns, as are journalists. As one leading humanitarian official told the BBC’s Andrew Harding, the UN can produce endless reports, but it is only when the images of starving people are televised or placed on the front page of newspapers that politicians take action.

The problem is that the story that they see or read is not as impartial as they would like to believe. More often than not, it is told by aid agency staff on the ground or independent filmmakers. News organisations that do not have the resources to send reporters to far-flung disaster zones such as the camp in Dadaab, have entered into an unholy alliance with aid agencies, whereby the aid agencies’ spokespeople - wearing T-shirts and caps bearing the logos of their respective organisations – ‘report’ the disaster via satellite to international audiences. Even when journalists are present on the ground, they rely almost exclusively on aid agencies’ version of the disaster. The narrative about the famine in Somalia has, therefore, become both predictable and one-sided.

Dutch journalist Linda Polman believes that the ‘unhealthy’ relationship between journalists and aid agencies does not allow for independent, objective reporting, and is often slanted in favour of the agency doing the ‘reporting’.

Media-savvy aid workers fully exploit the eagerness with which journalists accept their version of a disaster or crisis. On their part, says Ms Polman, journalists ‘accept uncritically the humanitarian agencies’ claims to neutrality, elevating the trustworthiness and expertise of aid workers above journalistic scepticism.’ This non-nuanced, simplistic story about African disasters has foreign policy implications, says Karen Rothmyer in a discussion paper published by Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Centre early this year.

‘Top US officials responsible for Africa policy who begin their days with media summaries focusing disproportionately on Africa’s problems are unlikely to see the continent’s potential.’

The cosy relationship between aid workers and journalists has thus distorted the way Africa is reported. Journalists often do not get to the heart of the story or take the time to do the research into the causes of a particular crisis. Africans do not feature much in their stories, except as victims.
‘In public affairs discussions the term “starving Africans” (or “starving Ethiopians” or “starving Somalis”) rolls from the tongue as easily as “blue sky”,’ wrote former aid worker Michael Maren in his 1997 book ‘The Road to Hell’.

‘Charities raise money for starving Africans. What do Africans do? They starve. But mostly they starve in our imaginations. The starving African is a Western cultural archetype like the greedy Jew or the unctuous Arab.’

In a recent phone conversation, Ms Polman told me that the ‘starving African’ story is not just the easiest to tell, especially in a continent that does not generate much international media coverage, but is also the most ‘politically correct’. After all, who in their right mind would want to be accused of doing nothing for dying people?

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

Even more alarmingly, there is almost no attempt on the part of news organisations to independently verify the facts and figures disseminated by aid agencies, which, as I discovered when I worked with a UN agency, are quite often inflated or based on erroneous data.

The temptation to exaggerate the extent of a crisis in order to raise more funding is always present, says Ahmed Jama, a Somali agricultural economist based in Nairobi. Jama believes that it is very likely that many parts of Somalia that have been declared as suffering from drought, such as the fertile lower Shabelle region - which experienced a bumper harvest last year - may actually be food secure, and that it is possible that the people suffering there are not locals but those who migrated to the region from drought-prone parts of the country.

He adds that it is in the interest of UN and other aid agencies to show a worst-case scenario because this keeps the donor funds flowing. Jama says that while parts of Somalia have always suffered from cyclical droughts, the lack of sound agricultural and livestock policies have ensured that droughts rapidly turn into famine, which was not always the case. In the 1980s, for instance, he says, Somalia met 85 per cent of its cereal needs, thanks to government and international community investments in agriculture.

Disasters such as the famine in Somalia fuel the aid business, with each aid agency eager to ‘brand’ itself as the most competent in handling the disaster. In her recently published book ‘The Crisis Caravan’, Polman describes how crises become ‘business opportunities’ for aid agencies.

Aid organisations that want to remain on top of the game, she adds, need to be fluent in the language of product positioning, proposal development and client relations. Physical presence in the disaster area is critical because ‘aid organisations that fail to put in an appearance at each new humanitarian disaster miss out on contracts for the implementation of aid projects financed by donor governments and institutions, and are bypassed left, right and centre by the competing organisations that do show up.’

THE REAL STORY

Aid agencies rarely report the root causes of a famine, though in the case of Somalia, there is a tendency to blame the civil war and militia such as Al Shabaab, which until recently had banned aid agencies from entering areas under its control.

For more than two decades, civil war and famine have dominated the narrative about Somalia. But the Cape Town-based Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah believes that much of the commentary on the Somali civil war is based on ‘a false premise’ - that the Somali civil war is the consequence of an age-old clan conflict. This view, he says, is unfortunately also held by a number of Somalis, who have no memory of the Somalia of his childhood, where the cosmopolitan capital Mogadishu ‘was not only one of the prettiest and most colourful cities in the world, but also decidedly the oldest in sub-Saharan Africa and older than many of Europe’s most treasured medieval cities.’

The real conflict in Somalia, he says, is not so much between clans but between urban and pastoralist communities, especially those which migrated to Mogadishu, and who visited havoc on the capital city in 1991 by forming contingents led by city-based men and ‘armed with ancient injustices newly recast as valid grievances’.

‘The pastoralist Somalis, who are by nature urbanphobics,’ he writes, ‘saw the city as alien and parasitic, and because it occupied an ambiguous space in their hearts and minds, they gradually accumulated hostility towards the city until they became intent on destroying it.’

However, some economists believe that the international community is largely to blame for the crisis in Somalia. Michel Chossudovsky, professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa, claimed in his 1993 book ‘The Globalisation of Poverty’ and the ‘New World Order’, that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had a negative impact on Somalia’s stability after they imposed structural adjustment programmes in the 1980s that forced Somalia to adopt austerity measures that destabilised the national economy and destroyed agriculture.

He blames the Bretton Woods institutions for, among other things, reinforcing Somalia’s dependency on imported grain, periodic devaluations of the currency that led to a hike in prices of fuel, fertiliser and farm inputs, and the privatisation of veterinary services. US grain supplies that entered the country in the form of food aid also destroyed local agriculture, he says. Food aid, in turn, was often sold by the government on the local market to cover domestic costs.

The diversion of food aid is nothing new. Ms Polman’s research shows that in almost every crisis area around the world, warlords, militia, and soldiers have benefited by imposing ‘taxes’ on humanitarian agencies or stealing and selling food aid to buy arms. Quite often, refugee camps become safe havens for militia, who use the safety of the camps to regroup and recuperate. Refugee camps thus indirectly prolong civil wars.

AVENUES FOR BRIBERY

What is also not mentioned in the appeals for funding is the fact that a lot of the funds are used to pay off or bribe officials and militia to allow aid convoys to pass. (In Somalia, Ms Polman claims, the ‘entry fee’ charged by warlords has in the past run to as much as 80 per cent of the value of the aid.) In many countries, it is not militia, but government officials, who steal aid money.

The other fact that is conveniently overlooked is that a large proportion of the funds raised is used to cover aid agencies’ administrative and logistical costs. Staff has to be hired, four-wheel-drive cars have to be bought, offices have to be set up, highly paid international experts earning hefty per diems have to be flown in or consulted. All this costs money, lots and lots of money. D.T. Krueger, a former employee of the Food and Agricultural Organisation, estimates that as much as three-quarters of funding received by a UN agency is used purely on itself. Much of the aid also ends up back in the donor country in the form of salaries for experts who are nationals of the donor country, and in the form of inputs for development projects that are purchased in the same donor country.

Despite all these glaring inefficiencies and failures, the aid industry continues unabated; in fact, it is going from strength to strength. Statistics indicate that the number of aid agencies and NGOs have mushroomed since the end of the Cold War - in Kenya alone, for instance, there are more than 6,000 registered international and local NGOs that contribute more than $1 billion to the Kenyan economy.

In my assessment, there is a strong relationship between the number of donors and aid agencies in a country and its level of poverty - the more donors and aid agencies there are, the less likely that country is to significantly reduce poverty levels.

And here is why. Aid to governments often has the net effect of suppressing local economies and initiatives. In Somalia, for instance, Maren noted that food production was suppressed by food aid, as farmers had no incentive to grow their own food. Aid also makes governments less accountable to their own people. When the work of government is taken over by aid agencies and NGOs, and when government budgets are heavily subsidized - or entirely funded -by foreign donors, governments become less accountable to their own citizens, and more accountable to the donors. It also makes it easy for governments to blame lack of donor funding for their failures to carry out development programmes. This leads to a vicious blame game, where the victim is always the ordinary citizen.

Donor aid also reduces countries’ sovereignty. Aid is the most effective (and cost-effective) way in which foreign donor countries control other countries without being labelled as colonialists. It leads to bizarre situations where a donor country -and even more alarmingly, an international aid agency - sets government policy for a poor country, while presidents, ministers and permanent secretaries look on helplessly. Donors have a keen vested interest, therefore, in keeping the aid industry well-oiled. They cannot do this without the help of their foot soldiers, the aid agencies - who also rely on donor funding - and journalists who surrender all claims to neutrality and objectivity by becoming mouthpieces of these same aid agencies.

However, neither the donors nor the aid agencies could play their part without the complicity of African governments, which have unquestioningly taken on the roles of victim and beggar.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This article was first published in the The East African
* Rasna Warah is a columnist with the Daily Nation.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


The problem of me: who am I?

Yash Tandon

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75773


cc S S
Yash Tandon draws on the recent massacres in Norway to examine the polarising of identities, which he describes as 'the most dangerous cancer of our times'. 'Why and how do all these multiple identities get reduced to two nominal but highly dangerous polarised identities - "them" and "us"; the "insiders" and the "outsiders"; the "included and the excluded"? In whose interest are these binary identities created, and by who?'

This is not an ego issue as the title might suggest. This is partly a philosophical question - an epistemic question. The subjective ‘I’ is both an affirmation and a denial of the ‘I’. To this we shall come later.

Why should this question be relevant to the readers of Pambazuka News is a more interesting question. Pambazuka News divides broadly into two kinds of information analysis - one is conjunctural and the other conjectural. The conjunctural essays focus on the here and now (the war in Libya, the drought in Somalia, the struggles of women in South Africa), whilst the conjectural essays focus on the larger political-economic and philosophic issues. So to the question: why is what looks like a deeply philosophical question of ‘Who am I?’ interesting for the readers of Pambazuka, and possibly beyond? Because, among other things, it is also an important political issue that has serious (often disastrous) practical consequences.

My thoughts on these matters were triggered by the tragic events in Norway on 22 July. This essay is an attempt to look at those events from a different angle, that of identity.

THE HUMANIST ‘SOUTH’ AND AFRICAN IDENTITIES

In my last column in Pambazuka News, I wrote on ‘Reflections on the Norwegian Tragedy’. I wrote as a person from ‘Africa’ or more broadly from ‘the South’, an identity I carry in my mind every time I write for Pambazuka News, as indeed I did for the four years I was the executive director of the South Centre. It is an identity I share with many other writers for Pambazuka News. It is a collective self-conscious identity. However, in that article I expressed emotions common to all humanity in the way we (or most of us) intuitively react to the kind of tragedy that took place in Norway, where an obvious psychopath terrorist took the lives of 76 innocent people. I was reacting as a ‘human being’.

‘This is also a moment for deeper reflection,’ I wrote, ‘a moment not just for the Norwegians and the Europeans but for all those who cherish human life, who value peace, who look for ideals and principles that unite us as humans rather than divide us.’

Later in the piece, however, when I appealed to the readers from the North (and there are many from the North who regularly read Pambazuka News), that they, too, might empathise with the situation in the South where the vast majority of criminal killings of innocent people take place, I was writing as a person ‘from Africa’ or from ‘the South’. I suggested to our readers from the North that: ‘Whilst we share our emotion with friends in Norway, we ask them to share our sentiments on the violence perpetrated by the forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) - which include those from Norway - in many theatres of violence, especially in the southern hemisphere of our shared common earth.’

THE COMPLEX IDENTITIES OF THE ISLAMIC WORLD

Here at a personal level was my own rather simple blend of regional and global identities. But identities can be very complex even within a region and within one country. Take the Middle East, for instance. I recently finished reading a book by Omar Nasiri (a pseudonym), ‘Inside the Global Jihad’ - an autobiographical account of a self-confessed Islamic ‘jihadist’ who acted as a double agent for Al Qaida as well as for the Belgian intelligence. He writes about different kinds of jihad: inner jihad; jihad of knowledge and scholarship; jihad of tongue; jihad waged through action; jihad through Hajji Pilgrimage to Mecca; and then the ultimate jihad, the kutila fi sabilillah, or the holy war. But what struck me most was his account of how the various Islamic sects (an approximate term for something far more complex) perceive one another and how they define ‘the enemy’.

He said that for the fundamental Sunnis, the Shiites were the ‘primordial enemy’. Shiite Iran was a greater enemy than even Israel or the US, who are just ‘infidels’, whereas Iran is destroying Islam ‘from within’ through ‘innovation’. There is no innovation in Islam, he said; there is only the Qur`an, the sunna. The Talibans are not ‘true Muslims’. But non-Pashtoon tribes of Northern Alliance (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazars) are not part of the Talibans. And, furthermore, the Talibans hate the Mujahidin and the Al Qaida and vice versa. Al Qaida is a global movement, working for Global Jihad against the infidels and to establish the caliphate, whereas the Talibans were fighting for an independent Afghanistan - one not occupied by foreign forces. Al Qaida was born out of Maktab al-Khidmat, founded by Abdullah Azzam (born in West Jordan in 1941), called ‘the Godfather of Jihad’ and ‘radical Islam’. He was assassinated in Peshawar in 1989 by a car bomb, after which Osama bin Laden (his student) took over the group that eventually became known as Al Qaeda.

I was quite overwhelmed by this account, of which I knew very little. I have no real understanding, no comprehension, of that part of the world. Also, I have neither the philosophic knowledge nor the intellectual capacity to check the veracity of Omar Nasiri’s claims. Intuitively, I felt that he was giving the readers a more or less correct account of the complex web of identities in that part of the ravaged world. Nasiri’s account helped me to understand a ‘bit better’ what is happening also in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, etc. At least that very complex situation is beginning to make sense - or rather, paradoxically, ‘no sense’. I mean, the various conflicts and contradictions do not make sense from a ‘rational’ or ‘humanist’ perspective - like the events in Norway did not make humanist or rational sense. I understand from other writings that while for the fundamentalist Sunni Moslem, a Shiite Iran is a bigger enemy than even Israel or the US, the opposite is not true; for a Shiite Moslem, a Sunni is not an infidel - he is a Moslem ‘of another tradition’. As for the Jews and the Christians, they are ‘people of the book’, but non-Moslem.

WHO AM I? AN ONTOLOGICAL QUESTION OR ONE OF EPISTEMIC SELF?

So the question ‘who am I?’ is a very complex political as well as epistemic question - a question of ‘self-knowledge’ as well as one of political identity. The title of this paper is worded as ‘The epistemic problem of the self: who am I?’ It might have been worded as: ‘The problem of the epistemic self: who am I?’ The former defines the issue as a philosophical issue, a matter for philosophers to think about - a general problem ‘out there’, an ontological problem. The latter emphasises the ‘epistemic self’ - simply put, the knowledge of the self - the problem of ones own inner self, which is a much more interesting cultural-psychological-political problem.

Both dimensions of the problem - the ontological and the self-knowledge - are significant. Let me explain.

REDUCTIONIST LOGIC OF IDENTITIES BASED ON ECONOMISTIC EXPLANATIONS

In the 1980s and 1990s, for some 20 years, I worked in the rural areas of Zimbabwe and southern Africa (including Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa) as a ‘rural development consultant’ (a meaningless and nebulous consciously self-promoting identity aimed simply at earning a livelihood). I learnt a lot working with the rural poor, but one important thing I learnt was that one does not have to be a Marxist to acknowledge that societies are indeed divided into ‘classes’; that there are exploiting and exploited classes; that there are ‘rich peasants’ and ‘poor peasants’. I could identify these ‘classes’ in the way decisions were taken in the local council of Guruve in Zimbabwe, which was dominated by the rich peasants and the state bureaucracy. The odd thing, however, was that the peasants themselves did not have that kind of ‘class consciousness’. ‘Class’ was not a part of their self-identity. And this means that you can have an ‘identity’ of which you are not self-consciously conscious - it is an ontological reality but not self-epistemic. The one identity that the people were very conscious of - indeed quite strongly - was their gender identity. The women - whether belonging to the rich or the poor peasantry - were oppressed (even exploited) by their men. In the Zambezi Valley - the valley below the Guruve escarpment - I was a constant ally of the women in their battles against the council bureaucrats, the chief (a respected elder with ‘traditional values’), and their husbands to try and secure water boreholes, grinding mills, and collection depots for cotton within walking distance from their homes. One strong ally who helped us - indirectly - was the spirit medium in the Zambezi Valley - a venerable old man with dreadlocks and beads - who was in contact with ‘the ancestral spirits’ and was opposed to everything ‘foreign’, especially the agro-chemical fertilisers which, he argued, correctly, would ‘bleach our soil dry’ until (he said prophetically) foreign companies would come and, once again, ‘take over our lands’.

Why is it important to make these observations about the Middle East and the Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe? For several reasons, but I will mention only that which is of more immediate relevance to our earlier discussion, and to the broader concerns of the general readership of Pambazuka News.

There is a preponderance of economistic analysis in much of our discourse on globalisation. One manifestation of this is the oft-repeated argument (not excluding some of my own writings) that the roots (or potential roots) of conflicts between people are over the struggle for resources - in the case of the Zambezi Valley, for example, for land, cattle, water and grazing areas. There are those who argue (to give another example) that the principal reason for Western intervention in, for instance, Libya is to protect their access to its oil.

But how valid is this thesis? There is much truth in it, but it is still too simple. In the case of the Zambezi Valley, overlying these resource battles are, among others, the condition of oppression and exploitation that women are subjected to as women. The injustice manifested in their lack (or relative lack) of access to resources was underpinned by their gender identity. Economistic explanations of conflict, whilst there is much truth in them, are nonetheless still reductionist in that they seek to isolate the economic causes of conflict from all its other more complex aspects.

The roots of conflict in much of the other parts of the world - not excluding the North for that matter - may be related to this struggle for scarce resources needed for survival (for the poor) or wealth accumulation (for the rich). But this is still reductionist logic; it does not explain all.

For instance, there may be economic aspects of the conflict between the Flemish and the Walloon Communities in Belgium, but at least from what evidence we have it is primarily a problem of identity traced back to the 4th century, when Franks invaded Belgica (Belgian Gaule) and founded what today is called Flanders. The killings in Norway by an obnoxious lunatic cannot be explained from some simple economistic theory. Palpably these murders were committed in the name of protecting a certain racial or cultural identity which the killer explained was under threat from foreign immigrants.

How different are the extremist expressions of the lunatic fringe from culturalist expressions of their leaders?

In my earlier piece in Pambazuka News on the subject I suggested that: ‘Extremist expressions by those who take lives of innocent people, like the killings by Anders Breivik, do not spring from nowhere; they too are part of our societies. They are our own creations. They live in the shadowy fringes of our societies until they come out in the open and detonate life and home.’

This is not a statement without a certain amount of empirical evidence. At various times, for example, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, and the British Prime Minister David Cameron, have made public statements saying that the experiment of ‘multiculturalism’ in their countries has failed. These are politically loaded and potentially dangerous statements (probably carelessly made without much thought). But very few people, among them many of those who were horrified at the killings in Norway, have come out in the open to challenge Merkel and her esteemed colleagues. Why not? Are the expressions of the fringe elements so much more lunatic than those of their political leadership? What is the real difference between the two - those who throw bombs, and those who vilify ‘multiculturalism’ from the seat of state power? These are not necessarily rhetorical questions; they are open-ended questions. But they call for deeper reflection by those who ‘in the name of humanity’ expressed their shock at the Norwegian massacre, but keep quiet when their elected politicians put an ideological content to what is precisely the same phenomenon.

THE POLITICS OF REDUCING MULTIPLE IDENTITIES INTO DUAL OPPOSITES

I have drawn examples from the Middle East, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Norway - drawing on my own and others’ experiential knowledge - to argue that the question ‘Who am I?’ is a troubling question no matter where one comes from. The ‘North’ has no moral rectitude on its side, as people in the North often claim. The question ‘Who am I?’ is not a simple question. It is a philosophical question, yes, but above all it is a serious political question of our times. We all have multiple identities - class ‘identity’, whether conscious or not, is only one among them. There is virtually no exception to this rule - we all have multiple identities. This is as close to ‘pure law’ in the field of the social sciences as one can get. To give my own example, I am an ‘Aryan’ (a questionable concept); an ‘Indian’ (an identity most outside observers give me when they look at my skin and hair, though I have this as part of my self-identity consciously only from a cultural rather than political perspective); Ugandan; African; male; Gandhian; Marxist; ‘bourgeois’; intellectual - and this is to list only the main ones. All these identities, singly, describe me only partially. Listing them individually is both to affirm them and to deny them at the same time. I am all these, and none of these. I cannot say in all honesty who I am at what point in time and why. My example is purely illustrative. What is its political significance?

The political question arising from it is the following: Why and how do all these multiple identities get reduced to two nominal but highly dangerous polarised identities - ‘them’ and ‘us’; the ‘insiders’ and the ‘outsiders’; the ‘included and the excluded’? In whose interest are these binary identities created, and by who?

I will suggest one area for a possible line of inquiry into this question. Going back to Nasiri’s book on ‘Inside the Global Jihad’, it defies credence that the US-European collective Empire (in military terms, the NATO alliance) is unaware of the kinds of insights presented by Nasiri and a vast amount of similar literature - the differences, for example, between the Sunni and the Shi’a; those between the Taliban and the Al Qaida; between Iran and Saudi Arabia; between different Islamic sects in Yemen and Bahrain. The Empire’s intelligence services and their ‘expert’ academics based in universities and research institutions know about the multiple identities of all the major - and minor - actors. And yet, those in state power in the various centres of the Empire (and their journalist and academic savants and ideologists) deliberately simplify these complex identities into ‘them’ and ‘us’ polar opposite identities. Why? What imperial geo-economic-political- racial-culturalist interests does this artificially created dualism serve?

This - the polarising of identities - is, I suggest, the most dangerous cancer of our times. It raises a host of broader political and philosophical issues. But one of these that we need to address urgently is the question of ‘the Empire’. What is the character of this Empire? Who are its main players? What games are they playing? What are their strategic targets and their political, economic, and military tactics? In one of my earlier pieces for Pambazuka News, I wrote about ‘kleptocratic capitalism’. What (to add another dimension) is the link between the Empire and kleptocratic capitalism?

It is to try and answer some of these questions to which my future columns in Pambazuka News will be committed.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


The problem with affirmative action

Lewis Gordon

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75787


cc Tedeytan
Despite accompanying debates about supposed non-white mediocrity, resistance to affirmative action is not about maintaining standards but rather about maintaining ‘white mediocrity’, argues Lewis R. Gordon.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the famed African-American literary scholar and director of the Du Bois Institute at Harvard University, recently reflected the following in an interview on National Public Radio: If it weren't for affirmative action, he would not have been admitted to Yale University, regardless of how high his credentials were and he would not have had the opportunities to demonstrate his talent over the past four decades.[1]

Gates' admission reflects a fundamental problem with affirmative action. It works.

I had the opportunity to reflect on that out loud in a discussion at the Race and Higher Education conference in Grahamstown last month when I asked: ‘Are there no mediocre white people in South Africa? Is every white person hired, every white person offered admission to institutions of learning, an excellent candidate?’

My rhetorical question was premised upon what Gates and many other highly achieved blacks know and that is the myth of white supremacy is the subtext of the ‘qualifications’ narrative that accompanies debates on affirmative action.

When I was tenured at Brown University, the process required evaluations of my work from five referees. Expected performance was a published monograph, several articles, satisfactory teaching, service and signs of international recognition. My dossier had the following: three monographs (one of which won a book award for outstanding work on human rights in North America), an edited book, a co-edited book, 40 articles (several of which had gone in reprint in international volumes), two teaching awards and service that included heading a committee that recruited 23 scholars of colour to the university. The process for my promotion and tenure was dragged out because of continued requests for more referees. The number grew to 17.

There was a comparable white candidate in the philosophy department. He also supposedly worked in existentialism, one of my areas of expertise. His dossier? A contract for his dissertation and a few articles. His case was successful. His contracted dissertation was published several years later. He has since then not published a second book. He is now a full professor at that institution. Over the years, I have only met one person in his field who knew of and spoke well of his work. That person was a classmate of his in graduate school.

Was affirmative action necessary for my promotion and tenure? Yes. But as should be evident in this example and no doubt Gates' and many others, there is another truth. Was investment in white supremacy necessary for less than stellar whites to be promoted? Yes.

Affirmative action, which brought people of colour to the table to learn first-hand about the level of performance of their white predecessors and contemporaries, stimulated a reflection on standards in many institutions. As more people of colour began to meet inflated standards, what were being concealed were the low standards available to the whites who preceded them (and no doubt many who continue to join them as presumed agents of excellence).

So, what is the truth about the qualifications narrative, the claim about having to lower standards for the admission of people of colour? It masks racial hegemonic mediocrity.

There is another truth. There are few systems that depend on excellence to function. Most of the services we rely on to get through our lives depend on average levels of performance. And that's pretty much it. The rewards lavished on many whites in the modern world have not been based on merit. What many people of colour discovered upon entering those previously closed corridors was not white superiority but, for the most part, white mediocrity.

Now, to preserve such a system, what is often brought up is the mediocrity of blacks and other groups of colour who enter. What is not brought up, however, is the group of blacks and brown people who were excluded on the basis of their excellence. The prevailing view in predominantly white institutions about such candidates is fear of whether such candidates are ‘controllable’. Yes, that is the word that is often used behind closed doors.

Although I mentioned blacks and other people of colour, this concern of controllability is almost exclusively used for blacks and it is especially so for black males. Women fall under the rubric of affirmative action as well. The success of affirmative action is evident with gender, but, as is also clear, that is the case primarily with white women. Black and brown women are harder cases, but in recent times, the logic of controllability, with all its sexist connotations, has found a home with gender, where it remains until women seek leadership roles. There are exceptions, but in truth, real power, which means not what is seen in public, but what is behind closed doors, the power behind power, remains categorically male and white.

Keeping institutions white and predominantly male is not only about tests and evaluating dossiers. It's also about creating obstacles rationalised as important criteria. Consider the story of James Weldon Johnson, the famed novelist and song writer of, among other great works, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ known as the black national anthem. Johnson was also a lawyer. How he became one changed the criteria for the American bar admissions. He became one the way Abraham Lincoln became a lawyer. He took the bar examination. At that time, it did not require a law degree. It did not even require a bachelor's degree. The sole requirement was passing the examination. Doing so meant that one mastered the required understanding of the law to practice it.

Johnson, a secondary school principal, showed up to take the Florida bar exam in 1897. Seeing he was black and realising there was no rule stating that blacks couldn't take the exam (since they had presumed no black either would dare show up to take it or could take and pass it), he was permitted to take the exam. As it became clear he knew the law, his examiners inflated the standards and tested him at several times the expectation of the white candidates. One of the examiners left the room out of protest to the possibility of a black man passing the exam. Reluctantly, the others capitulated and he was sworn in as a member of the Florida bar.[2] Other blacks followed in droves.

We know what happened next. First, there was the bachelor's of law. Since many blacks couldn't afford to go to college, that reduced the pool by a significant number. But since there was a growing black middle class, even with American apartheid, more began to meet that criterion. So, the American Bar Association then required post-graduate study. To sit for the exam, a candidate must now have completed law school, which is, for the most part, three years of study after completing an undergraduate degree. In effect, seven or more years of investment in higher education became the criterion to sit before the bar. The stratagem was effective: the number of blacks qualified to take the bar examination plummeted.

This story of increased obstacles is also one of great social costs. If one considers the damage to institutions of legalised white supremacy done by the small cadre of blacks who met the additional criteria, imagine what would have happened if their ranks were larger? Nelson Mandela studied law, but what might have been the case if he were joined by a large number of comrades who were not only armed with the knowledge of law, but also with the credentials to act on it?

Law is but one example: there are many cases across a variety of professions, disciplines and activities ranging from political participation to sports.

What a genuine commitment to affirmative action would demand under circumstances such as the ones outlined here, then, is not only the insistence of inclusion, but also a critical reflection on the purposes of articulated criteria. Criteria should be created for the healthy function of an institution, which will entail just practices of exclusion. But, as we know, in a society committed to injustice, it is very easy to create unjust practices of exclusion.

So, we come to another problem with affirmative action. Its existence is the admission of continued racism and sexism.

In the United States, the bad faith language of denial has hijacked the language of affirmative action. The expression ‘past discrimination’ dominates debates. Past discrimination? If racial and gender discrimination were aberrations of the past, that would mean that no overseer of criteria is any longer motivated by racist and sexist goals. It would mean there is no racial or gender discrimination, which would make the use of race or gender as criteria unjust. It would be prejudice. Yet, as we know, the language of ‘reverse discrimination’ emerged in the US. Such language turned the tables on the situation. In effect, it made discrimination a reality faced only by white males precisely through denying the continued existence of racism and sexism.

We come, then, to an observation made by Frantz Fanon. Although he detested violence, as his former student and friend Alice Cherki reminds us in her poignant portrait of his life and thought, he did not shy away from speaking the truth about tolerated violence under colonial regimes and the strange logic of what he called the ‘Greco-Latin’ pedestal of supposed moral objections against decolonial movements.[3] Since colonialists regarded colonialism as just, how, then, could they be expected to see decolonisation as anything but unjust? If the ongoing efforts needed to maintain colonialism were considered just, how, then, could they be considered violent? That became a charge made against efforts to dismantle colonialism. And relatedly, if the exclusion of colonised people were considered just, then, would not their inclusion be considered unjust? Even worse, the appearance of such people was considered more than unjust. It was considered violent.

Fanon argued that the effort to demonstrate non-violent change was futile. By this, he did not mean that one should aim to be as violent as possible. His point was a negative one: the only way to satisfy the expectations of non-violence was to be ineffective at practices of social change. We forget that Martin Luther King Jr., one of the apostles of non-violence, was considered violent in his day. When fellow protesters and he marched against American apartheid, it was not the police officers who set German shepherds on them, not the hoards of whites who stoned them, not the fire fighters who sprayed them with water at a force capable of stripping skin, not the gangs who lynched many of them; it was not those people and agents of state power who were considered violent. What supporters of the status quo ‘saw’ was violent black people against whom the society was being protected.

The situation is familiar to many in South Africa. There are those who praise South Africa for making the transformation to a supposedly post-apartheid society non-violently. Without violence? The many blacks (in the Black Consciousness conception) and their supporters who were killed, tortured and imprisoned; the many protesters harmed; the tanks; the guns; the dogs; the 3 AM knock on the door; the many instances of trauma, none of them count? What is hidden in this misguided notion, as with what is suppressed about racism and sexism in the anti-affirmative action rhetoric of reverse discrimination and qualifications, is this: in a white supremacist state, violence is only recognised if it is waged against whites.[4]

So, the hysteria about crime, about insecurity in South Africa is, as no doubt everyone knows, similar to the same in the United States. Even when the actual figures of violent crime declined, incarceration of blacks was high, because there was, in effect, the criminalisation of a people. As violent appearance, black visibility was criminalised.

An odd feature of post-colonial states is that criminalisation of black populations doesn't require white institutional leadership. In so-called black countries, the phenomenon is there and it is colour-dependent, where darker-skin blacks are the most criminalised. The reasons for this are manifold, but most amount to the near isomorphic relationship between closed social options and skin colour as a legacy of racialised slavery and colonialism in the midst of post-colonial environments heavily invested in keeping capital in the hands of the former governing population.

The correlation between anti-affirmative action and the preservation of colonial institutions of exclusion and violence emerges because both rely on the same things – namely, racist states and civil societies. In fact, ‘uncivil society’ becomes the inclusion of the black masses.

There isn't enough space to discuss why the existence of black leadership in South Africa and in the United States does not harm a white supremacist state. I will leave that for another time. For now, I will just say this: Loving Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama is not requiring the same for black people. One need simply make them ‘exceptions’ to the rule in a world where black failure is the norm. Their existence can, thus, be subverted, ironically, for the preservation of a racist system, however noble their individual intentions are. This has been a difficult problem of black achievement from the moment anti-black racism emerged. Such blacks face having to succeed, even where their success is undermined as exceptions to a rule. Mandela and Obama did not get rid of white supremacy, but we have a sense that the world would be much worse off without them.

And there is the irony of the situation of each black person who manages to scrape through and rise in a system premised upon black suppression. There will always be objection to the presence of such people, as the uproar to the emergence of a paltry black middle class across the globe attests. Where millions of affluent whites don't occasion a raised eyebrow, the existence of thousands – but not even a million – rich blacks in countries with populations exceeding 40 million people leads to outcries with often hypocritical concerns about class. There are even objections about where such affluent blacks live. A recent study at Brown University provided an answer: For the most part, affluent blacks live in predominantly black and brown neighbourhoods with lower overall opportunities.[5] And why is this so? In the end, affluent whites, although welcoming the idea of integrated neighbourhoods, prefer to live in segregated places in practice. Even white lower middle-class and working-class people have access to neighbourhoods with more resources and possibilities of accrued wealth than many blacks with higher incomes. None of this is news to black middle-class people. As with the affirmative action debate, the truth here could be denied only through closing one's eyes to the continued practice of racism at institutional levels.

This is not to say that there is no excellence among rewarded whites. It is to say that, as with every group, high performance is by definition a virtue of those who are devoted and talented. But as Anna Julia Cooper had shown, far too much is invested in those who fail to meet such traits in white supremacist society.[6] Very little is put toward those who, with few incentives, produce more. Could one imagine what proper social investments in the people who are resourceful enough to survive in the shacks of South Africa, the favelas of Brazil, the slums of India and the ghettoes of the United States could mean for the future of humankind?

To make some headway on these matters demands, then, bringing to the fore the truth about affirmative action and the so-called post-apartheid world in which we now live. It requires admitting the onus of past victories is the next stage of struggle, a reality that, unfortunately, never fails to come, but whose battle must be waged, however weary our souls may be, because, as many of us in higher education know and those who sacrificed their lives to make access to it possible knew, what is at stake is no less than humanity's most precious resource, which speaks, in the end, to the future of all.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Lewis R. Gordon is the Laura H. Carnell professor of philosophy and Jewish studies and director of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies at Temple University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
* This article was first published by Truthout.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

NOTES

[1] See the interview, ‘What It Means To Be “Black in America”,’ in the program Fresh Air (27 July 2011).
[2] See James Weldon Johnson, ‘Along This Way: The Autobiography of James Weldon Johnson’ (New York: Penguin Classics, 2008), p. 143.
[3] Alice Cherki, Fanon: ‘A Portrait,’ trans. Nadia Benabid (Ithaca, NY: CornellUniversity Press, 2006).
[4] For elaboration, see my colleagues' and my chapters in ‘Biko Lives!: Contestations and Conversations,’ edited by Amanda Alexander, Nigel Gibson and Andile Mngxitama (New York: Palgrave, 2008); and ‘Living Fanon: Global Perspectives,’ edited by Nigel Gibson (New York: Palgrave, 2011).
[5] See John Logan, ‘Separate and Unequal: The Neighborhood Gap for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians in Metropolitan America,’ US 2010 Project Report (08/02/2011).
[6] See her essay, ‘What Are We Worth?' in The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper: Including A Voice From the South and Other Important Essays, Papers and Letters,’ edited by Charles Lemert (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998).


My time in Hackney: Implications for youth

Patricia Daley

2011-08-16

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75743


cc F W
In the wake of London’s riots, Patricia Daley reflects on her teenage years growing up in Hackney, the long-term challenges presented by the riots and the hypocrisy behind elite pontificating in response: ‘How can we teach our children to respect human lives, property and their communities, if those with power do not set an example?’

I spent my teenage years on the Pembury Estate in Hackney – one of the locations of last week’s riots in London. For the last 20 years, I have been an Oxford University don. I left home and Hackney in 1976. I have continued to visit friends and family in the borough. More recently, my visits have increased as I assist in the care of my elderly mother who still lives in the area.

I have listened and read members of the elite pontificating about the causes of the riots in London; most of which I find quite disturbing. The prime minister’s use of the term ‘fight back’ gives recognition to the divide in the society between Them and Us. He seems to be advocating civil war, between the morally good and the ‘bad’ – ‘the scum’ – while failing to recognise the deep schism in the society. The litany of contributory factors – whether they be unemployment, poor schooling, public spending cuts, racial profiling in stop and search, institutional racism, single mothers and poor parenting (I will say more about this later) – require radical thinking about the nature of our society and current economic policy, which our politicians do not appear equipped to handle.

I came to England just before my 12th birthday to join my divorced mother who wanted to reunite with the two children whom she had left in Jamaica. To say she and I did not get on is an understatement. This is partly because, at 12, I was already a fully formed, independent-thinking person whom she could not bend to her will. She wielded the rod uncompromisingly. Those who talk of the return of corporal punishment have no idea how brutalising it can be. My brothers and I did not report her to the authorities, even though we knew we could, because we were aware of the terrible situation of children in care. My aim was to get out as soon as I could and stay out. I am telling you this because the narrative of my rise to donship can be partly explained by my relenting desire to escape from the belt, broom – whatever came to hand – and from the poverty that I believe underpinned my mother’s abuse. However, it would not have occurred without the support of school teachers, the existence of a public library, friends and their family, and the state in the form of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) (disbanded in the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher).

Having done most of my primary schooling in Jamaica, I was already aware of the value of education. My fervently religious mother thought that education stops people from being god-fearing, and though she would not have had us misbehave in school, she did not encourage us to aspire. We moved onto the Pembury Estate just before my 13th birthday; prior to that we lived in one room in a shared house in Dalston. We spent a year in a two-bedroom, third-floor flat in one of the 1930s blocks. The estate’s residents were primarily white working class. Often someone would daub ‘nigger’ or ‘NF’ on the stairwell and we would have to sidestep dog shit to get to our front door. I was thrilled when we moved into a newly built three-bedroom house on the edge of the estate. Finally, I had a room of my own, though there was only space for a bed and a dressing table. I often wondered about the architects who designed such spaces and their views on the humanity of the people who would live in them. Homework was done on my bed or in the public library. Hackney library on Mare Street was a sanctuary and haven for me. I read voraciously. In my early teens, I was a fan of Russia’s literary giants.

My school was the local girls’ secondary modern. I knew it was second rate because the grammar school up the road had better facilities and the majority of teachers expected us to become secretaries (I hated typing) or, at most, bank clerks. Those were the days when headteachers were so remote that I can’t remember ever saying a word to mine, except for ‘thank you’ at prize-giving. Staff turnover was high and there was bad behaviour in the school but, because my year group was streamed, I managed to avoid most of that except in the playground. What kept my aspirations going was the support from three teachers; all stayed at the school for a short time. My French teacher, who was fresh out of teachers’ college, recognised my flair for languages, while my geography supply teacher noticed my interest in the wider world. My Australian music teacher loved opera and kept me in the choir out of charity – my voice was not great. However, I got the opportunity to go the opera, ballet and musicals in central London. My trips out of Hackney were dependent on these organised activities. For a year or two, we travelled on the 22 bus every Sunday to our black church at World’s End in Chelsea, but we could not afford to break the journey. I would spend the time familiarising myself with London landmarks from the top deck of a double-decker bus.

Virtually all my extra-curricular activities were funded by the ILEA, because my mother, despite working full-time, had no money for treats. We were on free school meals and school uniforms had to be worn until you grew out of them, even if the polyester fabric was shiny from ironing. Among my friends, I was the last one in a mini skirt and the last one out of one. Thanks to the support of the education authority and to some teachers, who dipped into their pockets to pay the parental contribution, I was able to visit France twice. The local youth club also provided trips outside of the area – a memorable one was to watch the Drifters perform on Top of the Pops. Having come from Jamaica, I already knew that there was a world out there – one in which black people are successful. Immigrant children tend to be enterprising and their self-esteem does not buckle under the psychological pressure that comes with racism.

I left my secondary modern after O levels because I knew it did not have the capacity to enable me to pass my A levels, and enrolled at a local technical college. My mother’s hostility to me studying was even greater then. I survived because of the small grant (I suppose the equivalent of today’s Educational Maintenance Allowance) I got from ILEA to pay my bus fare and a Saturday job. My friends and their families were immensely supportive of me, especially after I enrolled on a degree course at Middlesex polytechnic, and left home for good. The polytechnic’s welfare officer petitioned the ILEA to allow me to be assessed for a grant, independent of my mother’s contribution. My mother had refused to support me with evidence of parental income. Luckily, there were jobs. I worked weekends and evenings in department stores in Brent Cross, during the summer holidays as a play scheme assistant for council-run play schemes in Southall, Ealing, Islington and Northolt and, at Christmas, delivering the mail in Hampstead and Plumstead. I got to know London really well!

It was at university that I first encountered people from wealthy backgrounds. I made friends with some of them – lasting friendships in one or two cases. I did not feel second rate, because I was confident of my academic abilities. After that I took advantage of every opportunity that existed to gain qualifications, aiming always for financial independence. Looking back at my experience, without the assistance of the welfare state, without the confidence in my ability which I had gained in Jamaica, I would not be here. I am not rich, and I am not immune from racism in my job or in my suburban street, but I have the resources to escape on a regular basis to a sanctuary – a place where, if people are sneering at me, I am 100 per cent sure that it is not because of my skin colour, where, as Martin Luther King states, ‘I am judged on the basis of my character rather than the colour of my skin’. The young black people in Hackney often have no escape routes and, more importantly, are more British than me – they have no memory of other places and ways of being.

So, it pains me when members of the privileged elite dismiss these young people’s claim that the lack of employment and youth club facilities are contributing to disaffection among them. I know I would have been at the edge of despair if I was trapped in Hackney at that time. The last time my brother and I were there to see my mother he looked at the youth hanging out on Clarence Road and said ‘I am glad I am not growing up around here now’.

Certainly, at one level there appears to be more money in Hackney. The borough is undergoing gentrification. Mare Street looks better than I have ever seen it. London’s intelligentsia visit the Hackney Empire frequently for West End-quality shows. There are farmers markets, loft-style apartments in converted factories and churches, and streets of Victorian terraces gated against traffic and ‘others’. My younger brother, who lives locally, told me a year ago that Hackney is even more socially divided now, with rich whites – ‘the wine bar crowd’, he calls them – and poor, predominantly black, on the estates. When I was growing up the social divide was less stark. The first person who defended me against racism was the father of one of my white friends on the estate, who had an altercation with a local shoe store manager, whom he believed had discriminated against me when his daughter and I responded to an advert for Saturday girls. The black population itself is now quite diverse – with Somalis, Nigerians, Congolese and so on – different cultures and tensions. I can attest that the living conditions of those in private rented housing are often much worse than what my mother experienced in the 1960s.

I do my research on Africa and, there, the proliferation of charismatic Pentecostal churches seems to follow the decline of the economy and the implementation of austerity measures in the form of structural adjustment. In Hackney, and in Tottenham, the proliferation of these churches promoting prosperity Christianity is also evident. Ministers are taking the wages of poor people and telling them that they should aspire to own Mercedes-Benzes. Materialism has become a religious ethic. Scholars, especially on the left, claim that this can only be expected in a hyper consumer and individualistic society, where your self-esteem depends on what you wear. I agree, but I would argue that physical appearance has deep social and historical roots in a black community that had been subjected to the racism of slavery and colonialism – whose bodies were commoditised and belonged to another. Poor African-Caribbean communities have always defined their self-worth in terms of appearance, cleanliness and material possessions. We are famed for our fastidiousness – a trait immigrants of the 1950s thought was missing in their working-class neighbours – and our respect for adornment, what the youth term ‘bling’. Members of my extended family are always exhorting me to ‘dress good’, because my English academic style does not generate admiration. There are deep sociological reasons for this phenomenon. My take is that dispossession, alienation and marginalisation play a role in this, but my wealthy Oxford neighbours in their luxury cars and designer clothes do not suffer from any of this, so we have to give consideration to the culture of profligate consumption that is promoted in the media by corporations and on which the basis of our 21st century economy rests.

Along with consumerism, looting is the norm in our societies, whether it is presented as legal, in the form of tax avoidance by the wealthy, speculation by bankers, bailouts of banks using public money, privatisation of public-owned services at bargain prices, fiddling of expenses by our democratic representatives or hacking into victims’ phones to make a profit. We welcome Russian oligarchs to make clean their money on our shores. There are numerous reasons for the people looting in London last week. While I condemn the loss of life and livelihoods, for some perpetrators the heavy handedness of the state’s retribution will be disproportionate to the severity of the crime. How can we teach our children to respect human lives, property and their communities, if those with power do not set an example? The disparities in the application of the law will only reinforce the alienation and disaffection that affect large swathes of our society. The hollowness in the mantra ‘we are all in it together’ is exposed for all to see.

In a television debate, the historian, David Starkey, blames the riots on whites becoming black by adopting black culture, thus implying that black culture is dysfunctional. Many commentators have attacked the racism of much of his retort. But look at it another way, in the 19th and 20th century, white working-class people and criminals were exported to the colonies, and in that way were able to retain their ‘whiteness’. There is a whole body of academic research on the social construction of ‘whiteness’ and its links with empire and the de-humanisation of non-Western people. Today, working-class white people have nowhere to go, so their poverty and alienation have become even more pronounced. They are dismissed from mainstream society as ‘scum’ and ‘chavs’, in effect, to the white elite, they have become as de-humanised as black people.

Let me now turn to parenting. Many commentators on the riots, including black people, have pointed to lack of discipline in the home and schools. There have always been problem kids in the East End; one cinematic depiction was in the ‘To Sir with Love’ movie with Sidney Pottier as the leading actor. Black parents, especially the older generation, are some of the strictest I know. Unfortunately, harsh discipline often leads to rebellion. I was lucky the support existed then to channel my rebellion productively. I cannot comment on the parenting skills of teenage mothers. But I know, as an ‘older mother’ trying to bring up a child on my own, at the same time as working full-time and even with the financial support of his father, it was immensely difficult. What I knew was that I did not want to be like my mother and I had to consciously hold back whenever I felt myself about to repeat aspects of the behaviour in which I was socialised. I am educated sufficiently to know that the abused often end up as abusers.

All parents are beginners, and the guidebooks are not that helpful either. The rich contract out parenting to nannies and boarding schools. The poor single parent has become even more atomised. Sales of council houses, amid high property prices, have meant that grandparents no longer live in the vicinity and young mums have no guidance, apart from social workers, who may appear to be judging them negatively. At least I had just about enough resources to pay for childcare: nursery, after school club, holiday play schemes and clothing (not designer), and to buy enough food when my child reached his teens and would eat a week’s shopping in three days. I wonder how many of the teen looters had a gnawing hunger due to insufficient food. Recently, on a trip to Hackney, one of my mother’s neighbours, who works in the care industry, asked me how much was a 2lb bag of flour in Aldi in Oxford. I could not say, even though I had switched my basic shopping to Aldi. She proceeded to compare the price in Netto and in the Co-op around the corner. Incidents like these remind me how far removed I am from the social reality of poverty in contemporary Britain. Can we therefore be surprised when we hear about looters raiding Lidl?

The issue of the absence of community keeps coming up in the media reports. I can only agree. Among the black community in London, there is no political community as such, no alternative to the church, which, despite the materialist bent of some of them, have managed to provide a sanctuary and a space for youth to express themselves. However, not all people are inclined to turn to religion. For me, I found camaraderie in the black political movements of the 1970s that provided a space in which I could find explanations about my condition and those of other black people within the society and elsewhere. My family were not immune from police racial profiling under ‘sus’ laws. We remain grateful to my mother for challenging the attempt to criminalise my younger brother. It is appalling that, some 30 plus years later, young black men are still subjected to similar levels of racial profiling.

The lack of community is presented by some commentators as one explanation for the rise of gang culture. Gangs are not a new social phenomenon in the East End. However, the prevalence of black youth in gangs and their confinement to limited geographical spaces, postcodes or ‘endz’ is worrying, but not unusual if you look across the globe, in El Salvador, Brazil, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, for example. The tragedy of the economic crises of the last 30 years has been manifested by the descending of alienated youth into gangs. At a conference in Oxford last year, Professor Colin Clarke, Dr Rivke Jaffe and Yonique Campbell presented a terrifying picture of the future of societies where the state had abandoned the people to the hands of the gang ‘dons’. Gang violence is probably the main cause of the death of young black men in London. Too many parents have lost their sons and daughters. It is a phenomenon that black people should be organising to halt. To do so we cannot just rely on the law; we have to examine why the youth see gang lifestyle as the only choice and seek solutions that involve wider sections of the community.

And so to role models – the lack of a father figure keeps cropping up. It is shocking that such a high percentage of black children are growing up in households with no fathers – because the women must be struggling to cope on their own, especially due to the atomisation of household units. Despite being a fairly independently minded person, I do think it is important that boys have men in their lives. However, it depends on the man and the nature of the masculinity he portrays. Many women leave men because of violence, whether it be physical, psychological or material (failure to contribute financially to household well-being). The role models that black men have are predominantly of an aggressive masculinity – but I would hazard a guess that the proportion that subscribes to this conceptualisation of manhood is relatively small – yet influential, because it is this cohort that gets media space and is presented as hegemonic. Children need their fathers and the women need their men.

In the book ‘African Sexualities’, the editor Sylvia Tamale challenges the ways in which sexuality and loving relationships among Africans have been studied historically, represented as dysfunctional and perverse, and have become medicalised through attempts to control African reproduction and HIV/AIDs interventions. The exoticisation of African sexualities left little room for the complex and diverse ways in which they are expressed in reality – something which black people will have to address. There are numerous issues concerning the relationship between black men and women in Britain that beg further thought. Black women are faced, on a daily basis, with idealised and racialised visions of beauty to which they can never aspire. Even an LSE academic has used pseudo-research to try to depict black women as unattractive. Unfortunately, today, we do not have the 1970s black power movement to remind the men how beautiful the women are.

And professional role models – I find this a strange phenomenon. I knew from my experience in Jamaica that, despite what some teachers and the media in the UK said, I was capable of going into any profession with the right schooling. However, it was my confidence in my abilities and encouragement from those three teachers that helped me to achieve academic success. On my last visit to an East End school I saw similar aspirations in the young people, but the school playground looked like a prison.

Young black people’s career choices are often constrained by the visibility of other black people achieving in particular profession. We want to be hip hop stars, lawyers and doctors because in this society, those are the professions where we see successful black people. I became an academic geographer out of expediency in my teens, but I value the insight the subject has given me into the wider world. Yet I am always disturbed by the paucity of black geographers at professional conferences, especially in the UK. Bonnie Greer is reported in The Voice newspaper as saying that opportunities have so declined for black people in this country that they may have to play the ‘race card’ to progress. This is a sad indictment of the state of affairs, and suggests that we have entered a period of regression. Some of my white friends say they can see Britain regressing to the social conditions of the 19th century and that would not be good for black people – even if one has a fondness for costume drama.

Looking back at my time in Hackney, I don’t think I would have succeeded if I did not have the solid grounding in Jamaica, the few school teachers who encouraged me by helping to broaden my horizons and, most of all, the availability of free public goods: state housing, library resources, youth clubs and education. For today’s youth, virtually all of these resources have declined or disappeared.

Neoliberal economists often talk about the need of governments to create an enabling environment for capital to grow at the same time as advocating cuts in social welfare, but what about governments creating an enabling environment for people, whilst curbing the worst excesses of capitalists. Getting the home, work, social and physical (environment) space right so that people can flourish – that is the challenge of the 21st century. If we don’t heed the message of the August riots, we are in for a bleak future.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Dr Patricia Daley is a university lecturer in human geography and fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. She is also chair of Fahamu Trust – the publisher of the online social justice newsletter, Pambazuka News.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Riots, royal weddings and recession

Lara Pawson

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75798


cc F W
In their highly misguided and at times absurd responses to the UK’s recent rioting, we may well ask if Britain’s elites ‘are living in a time warp’, writes Lara Pawson.

Riots, royal weddings and recession. We have been here before. In 1981, when unemployment was at its highest level in nearly half a century and state racism was rife, a riot erupted in Brixton, south London, sparked by the death of a black teenager in police custody. The disturbances spread across the country, mostly in areas of economic deprivation and high racial tension. In the midst of all this, Lady Diana Spencer married Charles, Prince of Wales; 30 years later, undeterred by his parents' messy divorce, their son, William, has married Kate Middleton. Did the Royals hope to distract us from the spectre of job losses and increasingly privatised lives lived in debt? We shall never know.

On Thursday 4 August, I was delivering a gift to a friend in Tottenham, north London. The area has one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the country and, at 8.4 per cent, the highest unemployment in the capital. It was dusk by the time I boarded the bus home to nearby Walthamstow. Barely had the journey begun when the driver announced an emergency diversion. As we swung off the usual route, we saw stacks of police cars, flashing blue lights and police tape demarcating a no-go area. Unbeknown to us, beyond the tape lay the body of 29-year-old Mark Duggan. The father of four, a black man, had been shot dead by police.

Forty-eight hours later, relatives and friends of the dead man marched to Tottenham police station, demanding to know why he had been killed. After several hours, they were none the wiser. Frustration at this display of contempt for Duggan's life tipped some of the protesters into rage. Before long, sections of Tottenham High Road were in flames. The following night, I lay in bed listening to sirens and helicopters as police attempted to quash a smaller riot and looting spree on Walthamstow High Street. Other neighbourhoods followed suit, not only in London, but across the country. In total, five people have died and 2,511 have been arrested during 160 incidents of rioting and looting.

Unlike in 1981, today's rioters responded to police brutality by looting shops for sportswear, perfume, flat screen televisions, laptops and even rubbish bins. Theresa May, the home secretary, describes it as 'sheer criminality'. David Cameron, the prime minister, says rioters have 'a twisted moral code … a complete absence of self-restraint’. Streams of commentators have talked about 'mindless violence' and 'mindless youth', repeating each other's mindless clichés. Meanwhile, the tabloid press has declared the rioters 'feral'.

Few would deny that looting and rioting constitute criminal behaviour. What is less clear is whether the looters are any more 'twisted' or immoral than the rest of us, especially the politicians, the police and the economists in power. To borrow from the literary theorist Edward Said, should we not be asking our leaders to consider their own past – as well as that of our country – not so much out of guilt as self-awareness?

Let's start with the prime minister. In 1987, while studying at Oxford University, he was one of a group of students who smashed the window of a restaurant during a drunken night out. Wanton destruction seems to have been required behaviour for the all-male Bullingdon Club, the upper-class answer to an inner-city gang. Like some of the more athletic looters seen on our screens this month, Cameron ran away when the police turned up. But his friend Boris Johnson, who, like Cameron attended one of the world's most expensive schools, Eton College, spent the night in a police cell. Today, Johnson is mayor of London.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, has also shown a 'complete absence of self-restraint' in his youth. On a teenage trip to Germany, he and a friend got drunk and set fire to two greenhouses full of prized cacti collected from across the world over decades. Like Cameron, Clegg legged it. He only admitted to arson when confronted with the truth the following day. The distraught professor of botany, whose collection Clegg had destroyed, was persuaded not to press charges.

This story has remarkable parallels with the recent riots. Carla Rees, a 34-year-old internationally acclaimed flautist, lost her prized collection of flutes when rioters burned down her flat in Croydon, south London. It is unthinkable that if found, the culprits who committed this appalling act will not be charged and sentenced. The possibility they might be offered clemency and then rise to almost the highest office in the country is laughable.

Further evidence of the 'sheer criminality' of British politicians is easy to find. In 2009, details of expenses claims made by members of parliament were leaked to the press. Many politicians were found to have fiddled the system to the tune of thousands of pounds, some up to tens of thousands of pounds. Several are members of the current cabinet. Others, like Gerald Kaufman, held ministerial posts under Labour. Like our hooded looters, suited Kaufman had a penchant for televisions. He claimed £9,000 for one with a 40-inch screen, even though the official allowance was only £750. The former environment minister described his shopping spree as 'a bit daft' and was let off for looting the public purse. A few MPs have been sent to jail, but the vast majority, like Kaufman, remain free.

David Beswick has been less fortunate. During the recent riots, the 31-year-old put a 37-inch television in his car. He has been jailed for 18 months for handling stolen goods.

A few miles south of the spot where Mark Duggan was killed lies the City of London, Britain's beloved tax haven. The Square Mile, as it is known, is home to bankers, accountants and other feral financial and legal masterminds. Their addiction to casino capitalism has produced such catastrophic cock-ups that the global financial system has been brought to its knees. Propelled by the financial deregulation that was unleashed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, their multi-million-pound salary schemes have exponentially increased the price of property in London, making life much harder for the many who are being pushed ever further to the periphery. To steal another of Cameron's descriptions of the riots, surely it is this that is 'frankly, sick'.

Not so, say our politicians.

In its attempt to get us out of the economic mess we are in, the current government – a coalition of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties – has embarked on rampant cuts. In Tottenham, the £3 million budget for youth services has already been cut in half. Next year it will fall again to £1 million. Meanwhile, the education maintenance allowance, which provided £30 a week to students from low-income families, has also been cut, hampering the ambitions of teenagers trying to climb out of poverty through study.

Cuts are one way the government is hoping to reduce our debt. Another is what business secretary Vince Cable politely calls ‘quantitative easing'. Printing cash, in other words. This strategy has been used by other countries, like Zimbabwe, much to the ridicule of the British mainstream media and political elite.

The thud of hypocrisy does not end here. Seven months after Cameron criticised Egypt's efforts to block access to the internet, he is now considering increasing British police powers over social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger. Echoing the views of more authoritarian regimes, the prime minister says, 'Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.'

The irony has not been lost on foreign nations, so often the object of British scorn. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, comments: 'We may wonder why western leaders … tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but … take for granted their own steps to monitor and control the Internet.'

The ritual condemnation with which our politicians discuss foreign nations is similar to the way they speak about their own people, particularly the poor and those from ethnic minorities. A prominent academic, speaking about the riots on the BBC, said the reason Britain has a problem is because of Jamaican 'intruders' and 'whites behaving like blacks'. In fact, David Starkey is a historian of 16th-century Britain. You would think he would have at least some understanding of his country's history of intrusion – colonialism, slavery and empire – during the intervening 500 years. But all we got was a bleating racist.

In Britain today, it often feels as though our leaders are living in a time warp. At every turn, the imperious finger is pointed and the racist rhetoric reeled out. They seem incapable of showing humility, or understanding that it is the system we have created that is mindless, twisted and feral.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* A Portuguese version of this article will be published in the September edition of África 21 www.africa21digital.com

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Letter to Cameron: Lead, don't demonise

Gus John

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75804


cc M o S
Gus John urges UK Prime Minister David Cameron to ‘lead’ one nation and not demonise and expose the African heritage community to racists and fascists in the wake of the recent violent civil unrest.

In an ‘open letter’, Professor Gus John challenges David Cameron over his response to the recent civil unrest and calls upon him to stop scape-goating ‘the black community’ and giving ammunition to racists and fascists.

He tells the prime minister:

'The task of the "leader" is not to invite and lead a national lynch mob, a lynch mob to which racists, fascists, separatists, assorted bigots and whosoever seeks revenge on behalf of victims or of a hurting nation could feel they could justifiably rally.

'Much of what I have been hearing from the police, from crown prosecutors, from national and local politicians, from certain academics, from sections of the media and from various commentators is undoubtedly a recipe for strife, divisiveness and further social unrest. It encourages a ‘Big Society’ of bullies, self righteous and otherwise, and a spurious moral crusade that can only breed cynicism and discontent and fuel social exclusion.'

The prime minister and his coalition government have been making policy on the hoof and whipping up hysteria in the nation in the wake of the massive civil unrest the country witnessed recently. They have placed ‘gangs’ at the centre of the unrest and are scape-goating ‘the black community’ for what David Cameron calls the ‘slow moving moral collapse’ in society.

Despite the fact that people of different ethnic groups took to the streets and were involved in criminal acts, the prime minister is focusing almost exclusively upon ‘the black community’. His initial focus was entirely on ‘criminals’ and what they did to ‘our’ nation. Gus John argues that by focusing on ‘gangs’ David Cameron is signalling to the nation that those ‘criminals’ are black and that their criminality has to do with nothing else save for their desire to go out and destroy property, endanger people’s lives, loot and kill.

Even when Cameron began to acknowledge that there were underlying factors apart from a propensity to crime, he compounded the racial stereotyping by laying emphasis on ‘absent fathers’, parents who fail to control their children and ‘gang culture’, all part of the ‘moral collapse’ in sections of our society.

Gus John accuses Cameron of indulging in moral relativism and ignoring the fact that ‘the whole nation is steeped in moral turpitude’, from members of parliament to financiers, to journalists, to the police, reality TV, computer games and all the rest of it. And that is even before one examines the systemic processes over the last half a century that have led to the betrayal of one generation of black people after another.

Gus John reminds the prime minister that although, regrettably, five people were killed during the violent civil unrest, scores of people have been killed year on year since the late 1980s in crimes in which both perpetrators and victims were of African heritage. Gus John asks:

- why this sudden eagerness to tackle the problem of ‘gangs’?
- when our children were being murdered week in and week out in London and elsewhere year after year, why did government not look at the causes of the implosion that was so fatally evident in parts of our society?
- why did government, media and the nation generally regard it predominantly as ‘black on black’ crime and by implication nothing to do with the rest of us, thus allowing us to get on with business as usual?
- why is it only after the nation saw how destructive of property and disregarding of people’s lives that section of the population could be that there is this determination to deal mercilessly with ‘gangs’?

He calls upon Cameron, irrespective of whatever else he does in response to the civil unrest, to establish a ‘people’s inquiry’ into gun- and knife-enabled killings in the African community, a proposal he had sent to Theresa May, the home secretary, on 4 July 2011 and to which he had no response. The ‘people’s inquiry’ would facilitate fact-finding and focused conversations among young people, including those involved in ‘gangs’ or who were former ‘gang members’, those who live in fear of gangs, those doing preventative or rehabilitative work with ‘gangs’, parents and families, schools, neighbourhood workers, police, community safety officers and other key individuals and groups.

Gus John suggests that rather than going down the road of naming and shaming juveniles and creating extra places for them in young offender institutions or in pupil referral units, the crown prosecution service be asked to amend its sentencing guidelines such that restorative justice approaches could be applied in the case of juveniles and of adults charged with less serious offences.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Professor Gus John is interim chair of Parents and Students Empowerment, an arm of the Communities Empowerment Network which deals with some 1,000 school exclusion cases per year. He is an honorary fellow and associate professor at the Institute of Education, University of London, and an independent consultant. He was a member of the Street Weapons Commission and an adviser to Boris Johnson on serious youth violence. Gus John was the chair of the Moss Side Defence Committee following the civil disorder there in 1981 and has just published Moss Side 1981 – more than just a ‘riot’, with essays by Michael Ignatieff and Paul Rock.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Continuing to struggle rather than celebrating freedom

Reverend Mavuso Mbhekeseni

2011-08-17

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75745


© abahlali.org
South Africa’s revolutionary radicals recalcitrant in their reflective refusal to revere ‘freedom days’ are dubbed as reactionaries by the ‘democratic state’, writes Reverend Mavuso Mbhekeseni.

The South African calendar is full of days on which we are asked to celebrate our freedom. There is Human Rights Day, Freedom Day, Worker's Day, Youth Day, Mandela Day, Women's Day and Heritage Day. These days are turned to months. Those of us who refuse to celebrate these days and months as if the struggle is over and who insist that the struggle goes on are called reactionaries.

Fifty years ago the revolutionary philosopher Frantz Fanon wrote that:

‘The leader pacifies the people. For years on end after independence has been won, we see him, incapable of urging on the people to a concrete task, unable really to open the future to them or of flinging them into the path of national reconstruction, that is to say, of their own reconstruction; we see him reassessing the history of independence and recalling the sacred unity of the struggle for liberation. The leader, because he refuses to break up the national bourgeoisie, asks the people to fall back into the past and to become drunk on the remembrance of the epoch which led up to independence. The leader, seen objectively, brings the people to a halt and persists in either expelling them from history or preventing them from taking root in it. During the struggle for liberation the leader awakened the people and promised them a forward march, heroic and unmitigated. Today, he uses every means to put them to sleep, and three or four times a year asks them to remember the colonial period and to look back on the long way they have come since then.’

We have had more than one leader since 1994. But the party has played this role of the leader. Fanon goes on to say that:

‘Now it must be said that the masses show themselves totally incapable of appreciating the long way they have come. The peasant who goes on scratching out a living from the soil, and the unemployed man who never finds employment do not manage, in spite of public holidays and flags, new and brightly-coloured though they may be, to convince themselves that anything has really changed in their lives. The bourgeoisie who are in power vainly increase the number of processions; the masses have no illusions. They are hungry; and the police officers, though now they are Africans, do not serve to reassure them particularly. The masses begin to sulk; they turn away from this nation in which they have been given no place and begin to lose interest in it.’

For us Fanon is a prophet. Our lives confirm his vision of the future and the need for struggle to continue after independence.

Human Rights Day is on the 21st of March and March is Human Rights Month. We all know that you can't eat human rights or live in human rights. But human rights should protect you as you struggle for land and housing, for education and for all that you need. Yet we have been repressed in Human Rights Month.

In March 2005 residents of the Kennedy Road settlement blockaded the road because they wanted to fight for their right to land in Kennedy Road. They knew that shelter, electricity, water and sanitation are their human rights. But they were beaten and 14 people, the Kennedy Fourteen, were arrested. Even school children were taken to Westville prison. That is illegal, but it was the protesters that were called criminals. The road blockade was how they mobilised, organised and emerged as a poor people's movement. The movement grew out the fact that the response to the road blockade was police brutality instead of negotiation. Should the Kennedy People really have been celebrating Human Rights Day while they were being beaten and jailed? Should they have been celebrating while the police occupied their settlement?

We have not only been beaten and jailed in Human Rights Month. We have also been evicted. On 6 March 2009, the Durban high court ordered Shepisi Dlamini and 49 others who were residing at the Siyanda settlement in Newlands East to relocate to the transit camp situated in Richmond Farm to allow the MR 577 main road to be constructed. That application to evict Abahlali baseMjondolo was brought to court by the then MEC for transport in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Bheki Cele and the eThekwini municipality. We went to court and the court promised that no one would stay in the transit camp for more than one year and that everyone would get water and electricity in the transit camp. The victims were promised houses within one year. But there was no water or electricity in the transit camp and more than two years later the victims are still sitting in the transit camp. The municipality has just ignored the court order. It was on 17 March when the victims left their shacks, which were then destroyed by the eThekwini municipality agents, and were then relocated to the very inhumane tins where they are still languishing. There is not enough space for families, no clean water, electricity and sanitation. The place is not safe to live in. It was Human Rights Month but they were not celebrating! Do you think they were being reactionary?

On 21 March 2009 Rural Network members had a protest march in Reitvlei near Greytown because the so-called farmer Collen de Gasparyz of Bright Water farm had brutally assaulted and was also evicting the Masikane family. The Rural Network, Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Landless People's Movement were all in that march to support the struggle of the Masikanes, who were victimised by Collen. The memorandum of grievances was received by the official, Zondi, on behalf of the then MEC Bheki Cele of Safety and Security. In that memorandum they were also complaining about the Rietvlei station commissioner Captain Jonck, whom they accused of being biased because she was not arresting Collen de Gasparyz. Because of the strong evidence against Captain Jonck given by Rural Network she resigned in May 2009. This protest was organised by Rural Network on Human Rights Day. We were fighting for human rights that were violated by the private sector and government departments. What were we supposed to do? To celebrate Human Rights Day while we were being victimised?

On 21 March 2010 the Rural Network organised an event at Nkwalini between Melmoth and eShowe. Abahlali baseMjondolo also took part in that event. We were all reiterating that our human rights are being trampled over by farmers like Mark Channels of New Venture farm and the municipalities who were trying to evict Nkwalini people, farm dwellers and shack dwellers. Channels destroyed about 30 homes because he wanted to build a game reserve. That farmer had applied for a court interdict to forbid the Inkosi, traditional leaders and the members of our organisations, to move and have meetings on their own land, which is under the Ingonyama Trust. This farmer Channels also hijacked and confiscated the public school Khethimfundo Primary School and incorporated it to his farm as if it were a private school. He fired and hired teachers as if it was his school, so we were talking about these sufferings and social ills in our event. Does it make sense to celebrate Human Rights Day when a white man can use a game reserve to become a dictator? Don't human rights mean that human beings come first – before animals and before private profit?

On 22 March 2010 Abahlali baseMjondolo invited Rural Network to their protest to demand their human rights and services from the government and the municipality. The march started from Botha Park and was supposed to proceed to King Dinizulu city hall, but we were barred by police personnel to reach the city hall. We were nearly shot by the police force and we had to change our route, so we went to Albert Park we were handed over the memorandum to Cyril Xaba who is an MPP and also an advisor to KZN premier Dr Zweli Mkhize. He received the memorandum on behalf of President Jacob Zuma. It was a big march. We were thousands. Do we all deserve to be called reactionaries? It was towards the 2010 soccer World Cup tournament and evictions were rife! Should we be celebrating human rights when we are being evicted and denied the right to march through our own city?

This year on 5 March 2011, Nayetsheni Lymon Ndlozi, 62 years, residing in Uitkom farm in Utrecht, was physically assaulted by the notorious farmer Johan Landman and his son of Vaalbarn farm after the farmer had impounded Ndlozi’s cattle. Ndlozi is a labour tenant who claimed Uitkom farm from Landman’s father.

This year on 28 March 2011, Abahlali baseMjondolo in the Dududu settlement on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal had a protest march to demand services from their district and the local municipality. They demanded houses that were promised and water, electricity, sanitation, health facilities and agricultural projects. All these projects are in their IDP and they had all been approved four years ago but had not yet been implemented. So Abahlali and Dududu community members marched to Vulamehlo local municipality and submitted the memorandum to the now ex-mayor Bongiwe Duma.

This march followed that of Abahlali baseMjondolo and other progressive organisations like the Rural Network, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), the Fisher Folk and others from Durban Social Forum (DSF), which was on 21 March 2011. They were all demanding social services that they are entitled to and which are their constitutional rights. They were demanding transparency, for corruption to be investigated, a simplified and open tendering system that could make corruption more difficult, a fair billing system and clear employment procedures from eThekwini municipality. These were protests about human rights that are violated. These were not celebration events. Are we all crazy or unpatriotic?

In April those who are free celebrate Freedom Day. But in 2006 Abahlali initiated unFreedom Day where we dream and plan in reflection as to how we can realise our own freedom, freedom for always and not freedom by event, freedom everywhere and not only in the stadiums, freedom for everyone and not freedom only for the elite, politicians, officials and government representatives. When we talk about freedom we mean freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of movement. Therefore, when we reflect on freedom we are lamenting and not celebrating because we do not enjoy these freedoms. Is it reactionary to refuse to celebrate freedoms that you do not have?

In May our country celebrates what is called May Day, which is Worker's Day. COSATU and its alliance partners used to have workers' events for the whole month. But as social movements we do not relax when workers’ rights are celebrated. Many of our members have no jobs and when they do have jobs they are working casual, temporary, for labour brokers, as domestic workers and security guards and without rights. And even those few of us that do work with worker's rights are not free from evictions and other plagues perpetrated by the state machinery.

On 14 May 2009 Abahlali baseMjondolo took the notorious Slums Act to the Constitutional Court to challenge this attack on the poor.

In May 2010 Rural Network was preoccupied by the Masangweni trial at the eShowe regional court (case number 279/06/06), which is about two school boys who were killed by farm guards for eating sugarcane.

In May 2011 Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Rural Network were at the Durban court to support the Kennedy 12, who were charged with public violence and murder. They were accused after being attacked and having their houses destroyed by the ANC (African National Congress). Some of the accused were not even in Kennedy during the attack but they were being prosecuted. So in May we were defending ourselves from state repression and not celebrating the rights of workers. We were in court for three consecutive days. During that month of May politicians were busy electioneering for local government elections, which were on 16–18 May 2011. We did not vote. At this time the trial had some transpirations that were reaching a climax in terms of evidence.

We were privileged to conclude the May mouth by participating in the discussion that was organised by the Church Land Program (CLP) and the Paulo Freire project at UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal) to deliberate and reflect about our struggle while marking 50 years after the death of Frantz Fanon. We deliberated whether what Frantz Fanon struggled for, and his beliefs and convictions, are still relevant in our struggle under the new dispensation. We were motivated and given courage by fascinating warnings that when colonialism sees that it will lose it tries to make a deal with leaders of the anti-colonial movement. That deal is for the system of oppression to remain in place but for new people, people who are leaders of the anti-colonial struggle, to take over its management. We ended that May month on a high note and in a high spirit with the words of Fanon when he says that after independence is achieved the party becomes a means to control the people, it always reminds people of the struggle days to try to keep their loyalty but in fact it is a new oppressor, reminding them of freedom days like 2 February 1990 and others while repressing their new struggles to complete liberation.

June is Youth Month in honour of the courage of the youth killed on 16 June 1976. But our children are still killed today. On 17 June 2006, the day after a 16 June event, two boys were shot for eating sugarcane. Thembinkosi Mpanza was 17 and Vukani Shange was 16 years old. This thing of sugarcane has a long history. Frantz Fanon's ancestors were taken from Africa and India to grow sugarcane in the Caribbean. Millions of people have suffered and died for sugarcane. The sugarcane that was bought here by colonialism is worked by our brothers and sisters, by our mothers. They still don't get a living wage. Many people have got rich from sugarcane. Many more people have been made poor by sugarcane. Millions of people were even made into slaves by sugarcane. When these poor boys wanted to take a teaspoon of sugar, they were killed. Is it reactionary to refuse to celebrate Youth Day in a way that says that the struggle of the youth is over now when our children are still being killed?

On 16 June 2009 the Rural Network, together with Abahlali baseMjondolo, attended an event hosted by the Gauteng Landless People's Movement.

On 24 June 2009 the Rural Network, together with Abahlali baseMjondolo, held a commemoration for Mpanza and Shange.

On 16 June 2010 we held an event at Masangweni to mobilise the community for the case on the scene where the two boys were shot. A young boy called Oupa Xulu offered up a very moving prayer. He said ‘Oh God, make that sugarcane to taste bitter. Make the oranges to taste bitter. Make it bitter so that we don't want to take it because we are being killed for a tiny bit of sweetness.’

On 16 June this year we joined the AbM Youth Day event at Motala Heights where the community has been fighting a battle against the notorious landlord Ricky Govender for many years.

On 18 June this year the Rural Network held an event to celebrate that we won the case of the two boys murdered for a mouthful of sweetness. Their killers were sentenced to 20 years. We remembered the youth of 1976 on that day. We remembered how Phila Mdletshe has to run with the body of his dead comrade, just like Mbuyisa Makhubo had to run with the body of Hector Peterson.

On 22 June the notorious farmer, Louis John Nel, began evicting families in eNkwalini. Did the youth of 1976 ever imagine that the white farmers would still be evicting people in a democratic South Africa? Are we reactionaries for finding this unacceptable?

Mandela Day is celebrated on 18 July and July is Mandela Month. We have not been safe in July either.

On 24 July last year Patrick Mpanza was shot dead by the Farm Watch on Channels's farm near eMpangeni. The case was thrown out of court due to 'insufficient evidence'.

In July this year the eThekwini municipality declared war on the people of Kennedy Road for the crime of connecting themselves to electricity. It is very sad to see that the Sunday Times is in full support of this war.

There have also been evictions at Richmond Farm and a notice of motion has been served for evictions in eMmaus.

What was very good in July this year is that S'bu Zikode, David Ntseng and Richard Pithouse met with Ayanda Kota, Nigel Gibson and other comrades from around South Africa as well as the Congo, Jamaica and Ghana in iRhini to discuss the living legacy of Frantz Fanon. This was very powerful.

Tomorrow, on 18 July, on Mandela Day, Abahlali baseMjondolo will be in court for the Kennedy 12 case. We as the Rural Network will be in court in Utrecht for the case of Mdlalose who was assaulted by a farmer. In Motala Heights Shamita Naidoo is organising an event for all the children.

On Mandela Day we will still be struggling. We are saying to people that, yes, it is good to give 67 minutes on Mandela Day. But we should give that 67 minutes in struggle. This South Africa is not the country that Tata Mandela and his comrades fought for. The only real way to honour Tata Mandela is to work to complete the struggle of Mandela. This means that the struggle continues. It also means that those who tell us that the struggle is over dishonour the spirit of Mandela.

We are looking forward to 26 to 29 July when ‘Dear Mandela’, a powerful film about the struggle of Abahlali baseMjondolo, will be released in Durban. This film is clearly saying that Mandela's struggle is not completed.

Heritage Day is on 24 September. We have twice been attacked in Heritage Month. On 28 September 2007 we were attacked by the police in Sydenham during a peaceful march. The Abahlali Fourteen were arrested. On 26 September 2009 we were playing soccer and dancing iMfene and then we were attacked by the ANC in Kennedy Road. The Kennedy Thirteen were arrested. Two days before, on Heritage Day itself, we had launched the Living Learning book in eMmaus and planted trees there too.

In September 2010 Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Rural Network had a long mediation, refection and recuperation about the attack and the way forward. The attack damaged our movement but it did not defeat it.

The struggle continues for the Rural Network and Abahlali baseMjondolo during the so-called revered days. The boys who died for a mouthful of sweetness are our Jesus. Isicathimiya and iMfene are our heritage. Living Learning is our philosophy. Struggle will open the road to our future.

The real reactionaries are those who insist that we are free while we remain oppressed.

A luta continua.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Reverend Mavuso Mbhekeseni is a member of Rural Network.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Norway's terror, the world's problem

Gerald Caplan

2011-08-17

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75746


cc S R
Following Norway’s terrorist atrocity, Gerald Caplan underlines the egregious double standards around discussing terrorism.

A clear double standard exists when discussing terrorism committed by Muslims and terrorism committed by white, European, American, Christian terrorists.

There are several things we must grasp if we're ever going to understand what motivated Anders Breivik's murderous rampage in Norway. As is well known now, Breivik was a devotee of those many strident voices on the web who accuse the Norwegian Labour Party and its ilk of treason for being too soft on Muslims. For him, the logical response was to slaughter the children of the ‘traitors’ in huge numbers.

The first thing we need to understand is the all-important difference between Muslim terrorists and European terrorists like Breivik and American terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber and Jared Loughner (killer of six in Tucson, Arizona, and attempted killer of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords). Here's the difference: Apparently Muslim terrorists terrorise because they are Muslims and that's what Muslims do. White, European, American and Christian terrorists terrorise because they are psychotic loners who represent nothing besides themselves.

Besides McVeigh, Loughner and the Unabomber, there are many other American terrorists in the same category of psychos who represent no one but themselves. Nor do they only want to terrorise Muslims; some, with broader aspirations, are also dedicated to terrorising African-Americans, Jews, feminists, liberals and people with freckles. There are in fact far too many of these deranged loners to record here. But they include, for example, white supremacists, whom the Department of Homeland Security warned about in a 2009 report called ‘Rightwing extremism,’ which was naturally withdrawn by the Obama administration because it offended conservatives.

Then there's the Hutaree, a Christian militia in Michigan accused last year of plotting, in the name of Jesus, to kill police officers and plant bombs at their funerals. They had accumulated an arsenal of weapons larger than that of all the Muslim plotters charged in the United States since the 9/11 attacks combined. Hutaree is said to mean ‘Christian warrior’, comparable to being a Muslim jihadist. But while jihadists are Muslims, Hutaree devotees are apparently not real Christians.

Add to the list of non-Muslim terrorists in America the other 126 armed extreme right-wing racist militias identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organisation that tracks hate groups nationwide. And let's not ignore those all-Americans who have committed direct and deliberate crimes against American Muslims for being Muslims.

These cases exemplify a widely held claim for Muslim-haters: that while all Muslims may not be terrorists (we can't be sure), all terrorists are Muslims (except the ones named above). This would also include the three young Muslim men who were killed in Birmingham, England, this week trying to protect a gas station from vandals.

According to former Fox News megastar Glenn Beck, 10 per cent of all Muslims in the world are terrorists. That's more than 150 million Muslim terrorists around the world, as counted personally by Beck. Clearly the rest of us infidels are doomed.

Americans obviously face a special challenge, since American Muslims now constitute 0.8 per cent of the US population (yes, less than 1 per cent) – very possibly a tipping point. Fortunately, America's major political leaders grasp the Muslim threat. Sarah Palin warns that Sharia law, now rapidly spreading nowhere in the US, could be ‘the downfall of America’ while president-to-be Michele Bachman believes that ‘totalitarian control’ by American Muslims is alive and well and living in the White House – just remind yourself about his middle name, and you'll know.

Canadian Muslims, meanwhile, comprise 2.8 per cent of the Canadian population, which is why certain extremist Christian groups and certain conservative media outlets have taken to warning us about the looming Muslim threat to the Canadian way of life.

Which brings us back to truth number 1. In all the cases where terrorists plot in the name of Christ, they are simply nut-bars and not real Christians. When Muslim terrorists claim to be acting in the name of Islam, they are in fact acting in the name of Islam. It seems we can trust Muslims to speak the truth, but not European or American Christians.

Truth number 2 follows logically. None of the long list of Muslim-haters in Europe and North America who Breivik specifically says influenced him actually influenced him. He's whacko and has no idea what he's talking about. In fact no one influenced him and no one is responsible for the poison in his soul. That includes the extreme right-wing Muslim-hating political parties thriving across Europe who are not to blame for creating an atmosphere that might have influenced Breivik and others like him. Nor are those mainstream centrist-conservative European political leaders – Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy – who actively appease Muslim-haters for shabby reasons of political expediency.

Also not responsible for anything bad are those gutless European leftist parties that have failed to condemn the scape-goating of minorities or to stand up for the rights of all people against the common enemy – market fundamentalism, inequality, poverty, joblessness, fear of the new and unfamiliar, a bleak, precarious future. Nor are those many European bigots who have somewhat belatedly discovered that the Jews are no longer ‘the enemy of civilisation’. Now it's Muslims, with 3.2 per cent of the population of Europe – surely an imminent tipping point, no? – who are conspiring to Islamise Europe, turning it into ‘Eurabia’.

Among those Breivik frequently cited as his influence in his manifesto – a carefully assembled 1,518-page document that must be scrupulously ignored, having been prepared by a crackpot – are sources familiar to Canadians. These include Mark Steyn, formerly a star columnist for Maclean's magazine, and Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician who has been given great prominence in Canada by Ezra Levant, a conservative associated with the Sun media chain.

Levant's dozens of fans know him as a courageous fighter for the rights of free speech for anyone whose speech he approves of, like Wilders and Steyn, not to mention Ann Coulter, who has called Muslims ragheads and ‘absolutely insane savages’. For some reason best known to himself, Levant also insists on his own right to assert that President Obama was born a Muslim, even though a moment's research shows that it's not true.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This article was first published by the Globe and Mail.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


South African food sovereignty campaigners move to occupy land

Ronald Wesso

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75772


cc JP-F
Ronald Wesso reports on the Food Sovereignty Campaign in South Africa, which is taking steps towards agrarian reform and food sovereignty through land occupations.

Furious emerging farmers in the Kareeberg municipality in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province have decided to stop paying rent for the municipal owned land they are farming on. These farmers have been robbed and excluded from land ownership and access by colonial conquest, segregation and apartheid. Now South Africa’s protection of capitalist property and its neo-liberal state policies are keeping them landless still.

‘Our members cannot be held back anymore,’ says Basil ‘Die Hond’ Eksteen of the Kareeberg Emerging Farmers Association. ‘They are just too angry. We talked, we wrote letters, we marched - now we are ready to take the land. The municipality gives us no support and now they want to charge us these impossible rents. They know we can’t pay. They just want to get rid of us and put white, commercial farmers on the land. We are in contact with a group in the Kimberley district that has occupied a farm of one of the richest land owners there. A man that owns 15 farms while people sit with nothing. Neither the police nor the army has been able to remove these members from the land. If they can do it, so can we!’

Since 1996 the South African government has followed a strict neo-liberal policy path that includes cutting state expenditure on ‘unprofitable’ social services. A key strategy has been to cut transfers of funds from the national treasury to local governments by more than 90 per cent over a ten year period, while at the same time transferring responsibility for delivering social services such as housing, water, electricity, health and policing from the national to local governments. The national treasury could thus balance its books and even generate a surplus, but municipalities had to deliver far more services to many more people with less resources. They therefore became trapped in a well-known cycle of poor service delivery, desperate cost recovery and community protests. As far as municipal land is concerned the pressure became overwhelming on municipal executives to charge the highest possible rents. Emerging farmers find it unaffordable, which leaves them effectively landless, as the national land reform process is a complete failure that managed to transfer less than five per cent of agricultural land from white to black ownership.

Patrick Steenkamp of the Loeriesfontein Emerging Farmers Association explains that they have been doing the same thing that their Kareeberg comrades are planning. ‘We became fed up with the municipality. They collected rent but they did nothing for us. There were no services. So we decided to develop the land ourselves. We put up our own fencing and our own windmills. We refused to pay rent. This has been going on for two years now. The land reform has failed us. The municipality has failed us. We will not fail ourselves. We are occupying this land. We will not be removed. Ever!’

Both the Kareeberg and the Loeriesfontein emerging farmers are part of the Food Sovereignty Campaign, a network of emerging farmers and farm workers active in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces. Rosina Secondt, the campaign’s convener, is an emerging farmer in Pella on the banks of the Orange River. She draws attention to the case of the Ithemba Farmers in Eerste River in the Western Cape. ‘In our meeting the delegate of the Ithemba Farmers Association reported that nothing much happened there in the last two months, they are still farming on the land. I am claiming that as a victory for the Food Sovereignty Campaign. The people did not have jobs or income. They occupied the land. The municipality, three government departments, lots of lawyers, the police and a mining company all worked together to throw the Ithemba Farmers off the land. They all failed and they are still failing. Why? Because the Ithemba Farmers mobilised themselves and the Food Sovereignty Campaign mobilised supporters from as far as Pella, 700km away in the Northern Cape. We physically stopped those who tried to evict the farmers. Today the Ithemba farmers are making a living on the land that they otherwise would not have had. That is a victory!’

South Africa’s political system and governing elite are of course quite hostile to these kinds of land occupations. Property rights are enshrined in the constitution of the country. The land reform programme is based on a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ model, where private land owners have absolute discretion over whether to sell and at what price. They have priced the land not only out of reach of land hungry blacks, but often even out of reach of the state. There is no provision in law, like that of Brazil, which allow hungry people to grow food on unused land of absent owners. Some municipalities have gone so far as to create special ‘anti-land invasion’ police units that quickly developed a reputation for ruthless brutality. Despite this the Food Sovereignty Campaign insists that the land starved poor have no choice but to keep land occupations in their strategic arsenal.

‘We see land occupations as legitimate,’ explains Ricado Jacobs on behalf of the campaign. ‘Our actions do not conform to the constitution, we understand that. But for us that is fine as we see the constitution as seriously flawed. This neo-liberal, capitalist constitution claims to give equal protection to the rich and the poor, but all it does is to consolidate wealth for the few and poverty for the many. Through land occupations the poor can take steps to agrarian reform and food sovereignty without waiting on the capitalist state.’

In May this year Julius Malema, the president of the ANC Youth League, called for the expropriation of white owned farm land without compensation. This must be considered an election ploy to gain votes for the ANC by tapping into black frustration with persisting apartheid land ownership patterns. The ANC Youth League claims a membership of hundreds of thousands and a support base of millions. They have millions of rands and a huge apparatus for organising and propaganda. If they were serious about expropriating land from rich, white farmers they could organise land occupations that would eclipse even that of the MST in Brazil. That they have not organised a single one should not surprise us. Land occupations attack both the authority of the state and the rights of the capitalist owners of production resources and therefore threaten the foundations of the capitalist system. The ANC Youth League and its leadership are part and parcel of this system. Recently the newspaper City Press ran an exposé of the personal finances of Julius Malema that showed how the Youth League leader benefits to the tune of hundreds of millions of rands (some even say billions) from the state capitalist system. No wonder he and his colleagues say so much but won’t do anything about this system.

The Food Sovereignty Campaign has only a few hundred members and practically no money, but with these land occupations it is taking actions with revolutionary implications. It has demonstrated that all you need to do this is a politics that values the people above the state and the capitalist class. This should be seen as only a beginning, and a small one - but it is the beginning of a movement with huge potential.

For more information or comment contact:
- Basil Eksteen, 0846664653
- Rosina Secondt, 0732822465

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


The Africa state, genocide and the exigency of AFRICOM

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75770


cc W M
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe outlines the origins of what he terms the genocide-state in Africa, going back to the Igbo genocide of 1966 to describe the character of modern-day states. There should be a total arms ban on these states to advance the quest of people across Africa to construct democratic states.

The state in Africa demonstrates a glaring inability to fulfil its basic role to provide security, welfare and transformative capacities for society’s developmental needs and aspirations. The state is virtually at war with its peoples, having murdered 15 million in Biafra, Rwanda, Darfur, southern Sudan, Guinea-Bissau, the Congo, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire and elsewhere on the continent between 1966 and 2011. Since January 1956, 55 years after the beginning of the so-called restoration of African independence process in the Sudan, it is the case that the state in Africa is essentially a genocide-state, the bane of African social existence. It is what constitutes the firestorm of the emergency that threatens the very survival of the African. It is not the ‘debt’, ‘poverty’, HIV/Aids/other diseases and the myriad of socioeconomics indices often reeled off in many a commentary.

This state, which the European conqueror-regime (Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Spain) created originally in Berlin in the 1880s, cannot lead Africans to the reconstructive change they deeply yearn for after the tragic history of centuries of foreign occupation. Such a change was and never is the mission of this state, but an instrument to murder, expropriate and despoil Africa by the conquest and its aftermath. As this paper demonstrates, the very presumptions, predilections and exigencies that encapsulate the thinking and strategic goals of the planners of the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM, the subject of this panel at the August 2011 conference of the Brazilian Association of Defence Studies, here in Fortaleza, are based precisely on this evaluation of the utterly unviable ethos of the contemporary Africa state and the palpable, widespread feeling of alienation towards it expressed by most constituent African peoples or nations. In other words, AFRICOM wishes to exploit the critically unresolved seismic crisis within the African political landscape created by the history and devastating consequences of conquest.

Tragically, this is equally the background against which an array of foreign powers and international/transnational institutions or organisations have often acted, with impunity, in African socioeconomic and political affairs and developments in the past 55 years, despite this epoch of presumed restoration of African independence and sovereignty. The ongoing flagrant Anglo-Franco-US-led NATO aerial and naval bombardment of Libya, which has gone on for four months, and the French-led military overthrow of the government of Cote d’Ivoire earlier on in the year, during which an estimated number of 2,300 Africans were so ruthlessly murdered, underscore this staggering impunity. Africans, themselves, must therefore resolve the contentious issues generated by the extant genocide-state that fuels the conflictual existence of its peoples before achieving urgently needed socioeconomic transformation. This is an imperative, internal political question, whose answer or solution is also imperatively internal - definitely not external, howsoever the ‘rationalisation’ is construed. Thus, Africans’ own strategic goal for change remains the dismantling of the architecture of alienation and subjugation posed to African existence and progress by the ‘Berlin state’ emplaced. There is no more profoundly urgent case to illustrate this grave emergency in Africa than to focus on the very country from where it first originated. This country goes by the name Nigeria and it is to it that we should now turn.

IGBO GENOCIDE AND ITS AFTERMATH - THE TRAGEDY OF AFRICA’S UNLEARNED LESSONS

In 1966, soon after the world commemorated the 21st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and made the customary, solemn declaration of ‘Never, Never Again’, Nigeria defiled that season of reflection, commiseration and hope. Its military officers, the police, Hausa-Fulani emirs, muslim clerics and intellectuals, civil servants, journalists, politicians and other public figures planned and executed the Igbo genocide - the foundational genocide of post-(European) conquest Africa. This is also Africa’s most devastating genocide of the 20th century. A total of 3.1 million Igbo people, a quarter of the nation’s population at the time, were murdered between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970.

Most of Africa and the world stood by and watched, hardly critical or condemnatory of this wanton destruction of human lives, raping, sacking and plundering of towns, villages, community after community in Biafra and elsewhere. Most Igbo were slaughtered in their homes, offices, businesses, schools, colleges, hospitals, markets, churches, shrines, farmlands, factories/industrial enterprises, children’s playground, town halls, refugee centres, cars, lorries, and at bus stations, railway stations, airports and on buses, trains and planes and on foot, or starved to death - the openly propagated regime-‘weapon’ to achieve its heinous goal more speedily. In the end, the Igbo genocide was enforced, devastatingly, by Nigeria’s simultaneously pursued land, aerial and naval blockade and bombardment of Igboland, Africa’s highest population density region outside the Nile Delta. Earlier on in 1945 and 1953, under the very watch of the British occupation, the Hausa-Fulani political leadership had carried out two premeditated pogroms on Igbo immigrant populations in Jos and Kano, cities in north Nigeria, in opposition to the Igbo vanguard role in the struggle for the restoration of the independence of peoples in Nigeria from the British conquest. Hundreds of Igbo were murdered in each occasion and tens of thousands of pounds sterling worth of their property looted or destroyed. Neither in Kano nor Jos did the occupation regime apprehend or prosecute anyone for these massacres and destruction. Tragically, these pogroms turned out as ‘dress rehearsals’ for the 1966-1970 genocide.

The perpetrators, who subsequently seized and pillaged the rich Nigeria economy appear to have got off free from any forms of sanctions from Africa (and the world) for what are, unquestionably, crimes against humanity. The consequences for Africa have been catastrophic. Several regimes elsewhere in Africa are ‘convinced’ of the conclusions that they have drawn from this crime by their Nigerian counterpart: ‘We can murder our peoples at will. There will be no sanctions from Africa - and the world.’ As a result, the Igbo genocide becomes the clearing site for the haunting killing fields that would snake across the African geographical landscape in the subsequent 40 years with the murders of an additional 12 million Africans, since January 1970, by regimes in further genocides in Rwanda, Darfur and Zaïre/Democratic Republic of Congo and other killings in Liberia, Ethiopia, Congo Republic, Somalia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, south Sudan and Burundi.

YAKI, IT ISN’T

The records of those who carried out the Igbo genocide make no pretences, offer no excuses, whatsoever, about the goal of their dreadful mission - such was the maniacal insouciance and rabid Igbophobia that propelled the project. The principal language used in the prosecution of the genocide was Hausa. The words of the ghoulish anthem of the genocide, published and broadcast on Kaduna radio and television throughout the duration of the crime, are in Hausa:

Mu je mu kashe nyamiri
Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su
Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su

(English translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and
boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property)

The Hausa word for war is yaki. Whilst Hausa speakers would employ this word to refer to the involvement/combat services of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles, sons, brothers, other relatives/friends in ‘Boma’ (reference to World War II Burma [contemporary Myanmar] military campaigns/others in southeast Asia, fighting for the British against the Japanese) or even in the post-1960s Africa-based ‘peace-keeping’ military engagements in west, east and central Africa, they rarely use yaki to describe the May 1966 to January 1970 mass murders of Igbo people. In Hausa speak, the latter is either referred to as ‘lokochi mu kashe nyamiri’ (English: ‘when we murdered the damned Igbo’) or ‘lokochi muna kashe nyamiri’ (English: ‘when we were murdering the damned Igbo’). Pointedly, this ‘lokochi’ (when, time) conflates the timeframes that encapsulate the two phases of the genocide (May 1966 to October 1966 and July 1967 to January 1970), a reminder, if one is required, for those who bizarrely, if not mischievously, wish to break this organic link.

Elsewhere, genocidist documentation on this crime is equally malevolent and brazenly vulgar. A study of the genocide-time/‘post’-genocide era interviews, comments, broadcasts and writings on the campaign by key genocidist commanders, commandants and ‘theorists’ is at once revealing and profoundly troubling. Benjamin Adekunle, a notoriously gruesome commander, had no qualms, indeed, in boasting about the goal of this horrendous mission when he told an August 1968 press conference, attended by journalists including those from the international media: ‘We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that do not move.’ True to type, Adekunle duly carried through his threat with clinical precision both on his ‘everything that moves’ - targeting particularly in south Igboland where his forces slaughtered hundreds of thousands - and on the ‘things that do not move’ assault category. Adekunle’s gratuitous destruction of the famed Igbo economic infrastructure, one of the most advanced in Africa of the era, was indescribably barbaric. A brief review of Olusegun Obasanjo’s own contribution (published in his memoirs, My Command) that focuses on his May 1969 direct orders to his air force to destroy an international Red Cross aircraft carrying relief supplies to the encircled and blockaded Igbo is crucially appropriate. Obasanjo had ‘challenged’, to quote his words, Captain Gbadomosi King (genocidist air force pilot), who he had known since 1966, to ‘produce results’ in stopping further international relief flight deliveries to the Igbo. Within a week of his infamous challenge, 5 June 1969, Obasanjo recalls nostalgically, Gbadomosi King ‘redeemed his promise’. Gbadomosi King had shot down a clearly marked, incoming relief-bearing International Committee of the Red Cross DC-7 plane near Eket, south Biafra, with the loss of its three-person crew.

Obasanjo’s perverse satisfaction over the aftermath of this horrendous crime is fiendish, chillingly revolting. He writes: ‘The effect of [this] singular achievement of the Air Force especially on 3 Marine Commando Division [the notorious unit Obasanjo, who later becomes Nigeria’s head of regime for 11 years, commanded] was profound. It raised morale of all service personnel, especially of the Air Force detachment concerned and the troops they supported in [my] 3 Marine Commando Division’. Yet despite the huffing and puffing, the raving commanding brute is essentially a coward who lacks the courage to face up to a world totally outraged by his gruesome crime. Instead, Obasanjo, the quintessential Caliban, cringes into a stupor and beacons to his Prospero, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson (as he, Obansanjo, indeed unashamedly acknowledges in his My Command), to ‘sort out’ the raging international outcry generated by the destruction of the ICRC plane.

WHAT ‘INTERNAL AFFAIR’? WHOSE ‘INTERNAL AFFAIR’?

There was an extensive coverage of the Igbo genocide in the international media throughout its duration. The United Nations never condemned this atrocity unequivocally. U Thant, its secretary-general, consistently maintained that it was a ‘Nigerian internal affair’. The United Nations could have stopped the genocide; the United Nations should have stopped the genocide instead of protecting the interests of the Nigeria state, the very perpetrator of the crime. In the wake of the Jewish genocide of the 1930s-1940s during which six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany, Africa was, with hindsight, most cruelly unlucky to have been the testing ground for the presumed global community’s resolve to fight genocide subsequently, particularly after the 1948 historic United Nations declaration on this crime against humanity. Only a few would have failed to note that U Thant’s reference to ‘internal’ was staggeringly disingenuous as genocide, as was demonstrated devastatingly 20-30 years earlier on in Europe, would of course occur within some territoriality (‘internal’) where the perpetrator exercises a permanent or limited or partial or temporary sociopolitical control (cf. Nazi Germany and its programme to destroy its Jewish population within Germany itself; Nazi Germany and its programme to destroy Jewish populations within those countries in Europe under its occupation from 1939 and 1945). Between 1966 and 2006, the world would witness genocide carried out against the Igbo, the Tutsi/some Hutu, and Darfuri in ‘internal’ spaces that go by the names Nigeria, Rwanda, and the Sudan respectively. The contours of the territory where genocide is executed do not therefore make the perpetrators less culpable nor the crime permissible as the United Nations’s crucial 1948 genocide declaration states unambiguously.

The very central role played by Britain in support of the Igbo genocide no doubt reinforced the scandalous failure of the United Nations to protect Igbo people during this catastrophe. Britain, a fully-fledged member of the United Nations - indeed a founding member of the organisation who enjoys a permanent seat on its security council and participated in drafting the anti-genocide declaration - supported the Igbo genocide militarily, politically and diplomatically. It is extraordinary that in his otherwise informative study, ‘Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice’ (London: Penguin Books, 2006), Geoffrey Robertson, a British human rights lawyer, a queen’s counsel, does not discuss the Igbo genocide anywhere in his 759-page text nor Britain’s instrumental role in perpetrating this foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa.

Britain was deeply riled by the Igbo lead-role in terminating its occupation of Nigeria and had since sought to ‘punish’ them for this. A senior British foreign office official was adamant that his government’s position on the international relief supply effort to the encircled and bombarded Igbo was to ‘show conspicuous zeal in relief while in fact letting the little buggers starve out’. Indeed as the slaughtering of the Igbo progressively worsened, Prime Minister Wilson was unashamedly unfazed when he informed Clyde Ferguson (United States State Department special coordinator for relief to Biafra) that he, Harold Wilson, ‘would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took’ Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide. Such was the grotesquely expressed diminution of African life made by a supposedly leading politician of the world of the 1960s - barely 20 years after the deplorable perpetration of the Jewish genocide. As the final tally of its murder of the Igbo demonstrates, Nigeria probably had the perverted satisfaction of having performed far in excess of Harold Wilson’s grim target. Predictably, it was to Wilson that the Nigerians turned to, in 1969, to ‘sort out’ the international revulsion generated by the latter’s destruction of the ICRC aircraft, as we have already stated.

ARMS BAN

Without British active involvement in the perpetration of the Igbo genocide, it was highly unlikely that this crime would have been committed. Nigeria did not have an arms-manufacturing capacity then to embark on this terror without external support. Forty-five years on, Nigeria still does not have such an internal military capability. It still relies heavily on Britain, currently the world’s leading arms exporter to Africa, for its supplies.

One immediate move that Britain, the West, and the rest of the world, including Brazil, particularly, can make to support the ongoing efforts by peoples in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa to rid themselves of the genocide-state is to ban all arms sales to Nigeria and the rest of Africa. This ban must be total and comprehensive. Nigeria and other Africa genocide-states require the political and diplomatic support from abroad and the deadly array of arms ever streaming into their arsenal from Britain and elsewhere to exist and terrorise the people(s) in their territories. This is part of the cardinal and enduring lessons of the Igbo genocide. The legacy has, in fact, been catastrophic and feeds into the overarching strategic permutations of AFRICOM which the latter, in turn, exploits.

A total and comprehensive arms ban on Africa will radically advance the current hectic quest on the ground by peoples across the continent to construct democratic and extensively decentralised new state forms that guarantee and safeguard human rights, equality and freedom for individuals and peoples alternatives to the extant genocide-state. Africans know very well that there are alternatives to the genocide-state. They have both the vision and the capacity to create these alternatives. For Africans, indeed, the creation of these alternatives is imperative in this age of pestilence. Nothing else.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* I wish to thank Professors Mônica Dias Martins (Universidade Estadual do Ceará, Fortaleza), Sued de Castro Lima (Observatório das Nacionalidades), Manuel Domingos Neto (Univeridade Federal Fluminense) and Gustavo Raposo Pereira Feitosa (Universidade de Fortazeza) for an excellently organised and successful conference and for their immense hospitality during my visit to Fortaleza. Obrigado. Tchau!
* This paper was presented on the panel ‘US Africa Command and South Atlantic Security’, V ENABED, Fifth national conference of Brazilian Association of Defence Studies, Seara Praia Hotel, Fortaleza, Brazil, 8 August 2011.
* Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of ‘Readings from Reading: Politics, History, Literature’ (Dakar and Reading: African Renaissance, 2011)
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Risky betting on a big gambler in Algeria

Lakhdar Ghettas

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75776


cc Foreign Office
Is the UK making ‘the same blunder’ in Algeria that France did in Tunisia, asks Lakhdar Ghettas. The British government should strengthen its relationship with the Algerian people, rather than doing business with a regime engaged in ‘fake reform measures’, Ghettas argues.

Is the UK making in Algeria the same blunder that France did in Tunisia? In the midst of the general unrest in Algeria, at a time of regional upheavals, and before the so called National Commission for Consultations on Political Reforms (headed by Mr. Abdelkader Bensalah, president of the Senate and General Mohamed Touati) could really kick off the consultation sessions. Mr. Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), with responsibility for the Middle East and North Africa declared, on 23 April, ‘I welcome the start of these discussions which will cover important areas including the Constitution and electoral laws, the information law and role of the press, the decentralisation of power and the participation of women in public life’.http://ukinalgeria.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=599714582.This hasty FCO announcement came as a surprise to most close followers of Algerian affairs and even the regime itself, as the well-informed Algerian daily El Watan noted on June 1st http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/bouteflika-est-il-sorti-de-la-zone-de-turbulences-01-06-2011-126859_109.php , at a time when the key political figures, genuine opposition parties and civil society groups declined the Bensalah Commission’s invitations.

Indeed, well respected personalities such as the former prime ministers Dr. Ahmed Benbitour, Mokdad Sifi, and Mouloud Hamrouche, as well as the leader of the FFS party Hocine Ait Ahmed, the former foreign minister Dr. Taleb Ibrahimi, and Dr. Mustapha Bouchachi, the president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights have all boycotted the consultations, which they considered lacked the sincere willingness on the part of the current regime to introduce the genuine deep political reforms necessary to avert what most close observers of Algerian affairs consider an inevitable popular explosion; given the severity of the ongoing social unrest across the country, overshadowed only by the international media’s focus on Libya, Yemen and Syria. The commission’s setback was even damaging for the regime when the consultations were considered as buying-time tactics devoid of willingness for serious change by Hocine Ait Hamed and former president Ali Kafi http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/ali-kafi-refuse-de-cautionner-la-demarche-du-pouvoir-14-06-2011-128617_109.php and Lamine Zeroual. Faced with such an embarrassing situation the regime went ahead with its plans of pseudo-consultation sessions with leaders of the facade opposition entities and co-opted civil society parasite groups, such as the Mouvement de l’Entente Nationale

The consultations circus is still ongoing but with the completion, a week ago, of the session dedicated to hearing the proposals of PM Ahmed Ouyahia, as leader of the Democratic and National Rally, this phase in the regime’s roadmap for reforms, as declared by Mr. Bouteflika on 15 April, can be ticked as done now. Mr. Burt should have waited at least until last weekend to make an assessment of the so-called consultations which would have enabled a more nuanced reading of the credibility of those discussions. Instead of meeting the aspirations of Algerians for effecting a real transitional period during which an open and inclusive dialogue is established with all the respected personalities and authentic opposition parties, the regime offered Algerians a pre-prepared roadmap consisting of amending the electoral, parties and media laws following consultations with its facade corrupt and co-opted clients. Once approved next Autumn by the rubber-stamp parliament (‘elected’ in massively rigged ‘elections’, which were largely boycotted by Algerians) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6664165.stm , the amended laws would allow for a more “democratic” life in Algeria; whereby new parties (blocked since 1999 when Bouteflika came to power), new publications, and tolerated access for the opposition to the state-controlled media (private and semi-private TV and radio stations are not allowed in Algeria) would be granted in preparation of yet another amendment of the Constitution (the last one took place in November 2008, when Article 76 which limited presidential mandates to two consecutive terms was amended to pave the way for a third term and theoretically presidency for life for Bouteflika). The regime’s reform roadmap envisages putting the amended constitution to a vote by the new parliament mid next year and should the reforms turn out to be deep, a general referendum will be held thereafter. The irony is that the roadmap justifies this calendar by the fact that the current parliament is ‘not representative’ and hence should not pronounce on matters pertaining to crucial matters of the nation. The double irony is that it was this same parliament that voted the last constitutional amendment in November 2008!

The extension of invitations to some respected figures and former presidents was merely meant to legitimise the regime’s demarche internationally. The big surprise was when some of, what is referred to in the Algerian political parlance as ‘sons of the regime’ not only declined their invitations but also released open letters and declarations explaining their positions and in which they denounced the regime’s gamble with the stability and future of the nation at a crucial time in the country’s history. Former prime ministers Benbitour (who resigned after only 8 months in Bouteflika’s first government) and Sifi, who assumed the premiership at the peak of Algeria’s political violence in the 1990s, denounced the regime’s survival tactics the ruling establishment is preoccupied with its survival rather than seizing a closing window of opportunity for peaceful transition and change. In an unprecedented frank and open letter, Mokdad Sifi asks: ‘Should we change the electoral law and maintain fraud? Or instead replace those responsible for fraud? The political parties’ law allows the creation of parties which the regime blocks illegitimately for more than 12 years now. Should we change the Law or the regime?’

But unfortunately, at the end of Mr. Bensalah’s discussions with PM Ouyahia the very well-informed daily Le Soir d’Algerie informed its readers that consultations are de facto over and that the promised profound reforms were already decided during the Council of the State’s emergency meetings held last March at a time of very high panic following the geopolitical earthquakes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Basically, the reforms to come are those that were agreed last March and put forward by Ouyahia as leader of his RND party, detailed in a press conference at the end of his consultations with the Bensalah Commission. The rest was an exercise in cheap PR aimed mainly for the West.

In my opinion the logic prevailing among the ruling establishment is as follows: There is most probably a conviction that yes these are times of severe social and political turbulence, but, that as they have always done in the past they can survive. Their analysis must be that they have made it through the turmoil of the political conflict of the 1990s at a time of de facto international embargo, isolation, payment defaults, very low oil revenues at $9 per barrel, strong opposition parties and powerful personalities both from inside and outside the regime. Despite all the odds, the ruling establishment thinks it survived what no other comparable regime could. The regime seems to have reached the conclusion that they could not possibly lose now, when the country has around $160 billion in reserves, a barrel of oil trading at a decade-long average of $75, a decimated opposition, a laminated youth movement, and most importantly for them the strong international backing from the West offered in the form of declarations such the one made by Mr. Burt, and Washington’s blessing as reiterated by AFRICOM’s Commander General Carter F. Ham, last Tuesday in Algiers. General Ham said, ‘the level of cooperation and the ways in which we cooperate with Algeria are extensive and broad ranging. But it has long been our national policy to not discuss matters of intelligence sharing or matters of operational security, but I would underline the level of cooperation is quite strong’. Yes there is a nation-wide social unrest of daily strikes, riots, and protests in almost every sector, but, the security forces can deal with the situation, is the logic in Algiers.

In all this the regime is gambling Algeria’s stability and future by engaging in fake reform measures aimed at ensuring the regeneration of the regime under more acceptable banners to be in tune with the changing regional reality. After a period of panic last February and March the ruling establishment is now assured that the tragic curve the Libyan uprising took would deter Algerians from following suit, given the recent tragic memory of the 1990s. Internationally, they think that Algeria, despite all its appalling human rights record has become an island of stability in a turbulent ocean, with lucrative investment opportunities for the EU and the U.S which are struggling to recover from recession. Therefore, they can continue to repress the youth’s and Algerians aspirations for genuine reform in the most brutal way while the West looks the other way or hails their so-called reform initiatives. As for the ongoing strikes there is a lot of money to buy social peace. Dr. Said Saadi, leader of the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy said at a press conference, a week ago, that the Algerian government has spent $30 billion on peace buying measures, since January! I have argued elsewhere that in its desperate effort to buy social peace and deny the opposition the possibility of harnessing the popular unrest the regime ended up opening the floodgates on itself with every sector and corner of the country on strike or rioting in the streets. As we approach into summer things are getting complicated with universities on strike for over two months now, resident doctors escalating their protests and pretty much every other sector on strike. Algeria has been basically in a state of paralysis since the Arab Spring started. It’s a big gamble on the part of the regime while the window is closing very fast. Algerians are known for being no stranger to uprising. But, would you bet on a gambler? The UK and the U.S seem to be doing exactly that.

Whenever UK-Algerian relations are evoked at Westminster or Whitehall two themes dominate the discussions: counter-terrorism and business opportunities in Algeria. In early April Mr. Burt arrived in Algiers on the occasion of the fifth session of the joint UK-Algerian Committee on Counter-terrorism. A week later the UK-Algerian Business Council led a trade mission of 33 British businessmen to Algiers. Three weeks ago UKABC organised a conference on doing business in Algeria, at the London Chamber of Commerce. The Algerian government has dedicated $386 billion for its 2010-2014 development programme, so no wonder it got several western governments rushing to Algiers, and the UK is no exception. The British government should rather strengthen its relationship with the Algerian people. Regimes change, history remembers and nations last.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This article was first published by the LSE IDEAS Centre for Diplomacy and Strategy
* Lakhdar Ghettas is Stonex PhD Coordinator of the Maghreb Studies at the LSE IDEAS Centre for Diplomacy and Strategy.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Another vicious attack on CSOs in Africa

Who is next?

Africa CSO Platform for Principled Partnership

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75791


cc TNI
The attack on civil society across Africa ‘is now increasingly becoming bolder, broader and more dangerous. And it is going beyond governments to include regional bodies such as SADC,’ warns Paul Okumu, in a call for all CSOs both in the North and South to ‘strengthen and support the solidarity effort as a matter of urgency’.

On Saturday 11 August 2011, The Angola Government manhandled, detained and later deported the only Civil Society Apex Body mandated to work and advise the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) process.

In a joint statement by the SADC Civil Society Apex Body (made up of Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, SADC council of NGOs (SADC-CNGO) and Southern African Trade Union Coordination Countries) and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Those detained and subsequently deported include the Executive Director of SADC-CNGO Abie Ditlhake, Executive Secretary of SATUCC Austin Muneku and Executive Director of FOCCISA Malcolm Damon among others.

The CSO leaders were in Angola to participate in the 7th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum, which is an event held by civil society organisations annually in the SADC country that will be hosting the SADC Heads of State Summit, and for which permission had been granted by the Angolan government.

The SADC Heads of States Summit opened in Angola on Aug 11 and ends on Aug 18. This detention and deportation comes only days after the Apex body was forced to move its Conference to Johannesburg following the decision by the Angola Government to deny visas to several CSOs who were to attend the Conference.

And that is not all.

Even after the killing of 19 CSO leaders and citizens in Malawi on 20-21 July, the Malawi Government is not yet done with CSOs.

In an interview broadcast on the BBC last week, the President of Malawi sent out a chilling warning to a second planned rally by CSOs on 19th August.

"Let them come. I will meet them there..these NGOs... I am the elected President of Malawi. 2.9 million people voted for me; I alone have the right to lead these people, not these NGOs... who elected them?...Let them come on the 19th. They will find me there!"

Subsequently, a great number of local civil society leaders and labour leaders have gone into hiding, as they fear for their lives after having received threats.

And if you thought that is all, here is what happened on August 1 at a Civil Society meeting on Governance and Democracy in Cameroon:

"...besides rejecting a few suspicious uninvited members, we intercepted three individuals that gave false names and fake associations and recovered one hidden camera.The hidden Camera was put between the stacks of paper on the registration desk....some (government)agents had come in to influence and frustrated a free debate..."

And only a day later, on August 2, the colleague who sent us this distress call from Cameroon was desperately trying to save another CSO colleague whose life was hanging on the balance in Gabon following a government crack down on CSOs in that country.

The attack on Civil Society is now increasingly becoming bolder, broader and more dangerous. And it is going beyond governments to include regional bodies such as SADC.

The Civil Society-both in the North and the South-must decide what it really wants to to about this trend.

While Africa CSO Platform welcomes the ongoing debate and discussions about CSO space and Enabling Environment, we call upon our colleagues to remember that for the CSO leaders above and many more suffering RIGHT NOW, every new day is a life lost, a child orphaned, a lady/man widowed, a CSO individuals shattered either by detention, destruction of their travel records, or as is being seen in many countries, a career lost through multiple blacklisting in several countries.

All because they have decided to stand up raise a voice for good governance and leadership.

We welcome the concern.

We welcome all the ongoing analysis, and studies and documentation on CSO Space.

They are good in that they provide us with a frame of mind and clarity of the extent of battle ahead of us.

But we plead that we move beyond these.

There is concern and a growing frustration, that apart from "statements of concern", African CSOs seem abandoned by their colleagues with head quarters in the North, who consider the space for CSOs as "outside the thematic focus" of their work, and prefer to continue working with their traditional partners in ongoing programs, even as they see the door increasingly closing in on their colleagues.

We have received these concerns from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Sudan, Burundi, Liberia, DRC, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Somalia Puntland, Ghana, Malawi and most recently Swaziland.

We have also received information on very good friends, but they are few, and far outnumbered by the loud silence of many of their colleagues.

We must strengthen and support the solidarity effort as a matter or urgency. We must move beyond our Thematic lenses, Geographical eyes and "Partners" approach to realize that every day the space is not only getting smaller and more dangerous, but we are increasingly leaving CSO leaders to the mercy of governments while the situation gets worse by the day.

Before long there will be no space for advocacy work for any NGOs in Africa. Before long there will be no credible "Partners" to work with. Before long all the intelligent and critical minds within the CSO sector will either be dead, languishing in jail, or holding worthless passports for which they cannot use for any meaningful work.

We urge ALL of us to stop this unfolding scenario.

Only we can.

Only we have the power to do it.

--
* Paul Okumu is head of secretariat at the Africa CSO Platform for Principled Partnership.

NOTES

The Africa CSO Platform for Principled Partnership is a Platform for African CSOs to rally behind one another in response to the narrowing development space of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). ACPPP is primarily aimed at addressing the enabling environment of CSOs, with a specific focus on Laws, policies and other legislation that threaten the space for development. Our priorities are centred on reversing negative CSO legislation and all other policies and legal barriers to CSO work across Africa; Strengthening the concept of Principled Partnership (Respect, Protect, Empower) as a means of improving CSOs situation; and holding governments and other partners to account on new and existing partnerships principles and framework they sign on. We work in four areas:

Initiating and supporting Advocacy to reverse existing legislation and stop the development of other unfriendly policies and legislation at national, sub-regional and continental levels; strengthening CSOs Capacity for Principled Engagement with governments and other partners on development; Monitoring Compliance with existing and new principles for CSO-Government collaboration; and Strengthening Legitimacy and Visibility of CSOs to counter government regulation and control.

ACPPP was formed following a resolution by Africa and Africa focused Civil Society Organizations (who now constitute the ACPPP Board) from fourteen countries during a strategy forum on the 19-21 July 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya. These are: Action Aid International, Africa Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, Africa Democratic Studies, East Africa Association of Grantmakers, CIVICUS, COSOME-Burundi,Deuterombiro- Rwanda, Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE), FAHAMU, International Centre for Not-For-Profit Law-ICNL, North West Association of Development Organizations-NWANDO, Dynamique Citoyenne, Open Forum on CSO Development Effectiveness, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa( OSISA),Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA),PACTKCSSPP-Kenya,Pan African Lawyers Union, Plan International, Rwanda CSOs Platform, Save the Children Sweden, SISA Centre for Corporate Partnership, TrustAfrica, Southern Africa Trust, Uganda National NGO Forum, Women for Change in Zambia, Women in Law and Development in Africa, Zambia Council for Social Development.




Announcements

Pambazuka Press books at bargain prices

2011-08-16

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/announce/75740

Pambazuka Press titles are now available at bargain prices – get your copies from our website.

Food Rebellions! $8 (RRP $27.95) / £5 (RRP £16.95)

Ending Aid Dependence $8 (RRP $16.95) / £5 (RRP £9.95)

Speaking Truth to Power $8 (RRP $24.95) / £5 (RRP £14.95)

Reclaiming African History $15 (RRP $20.95) / £9 (RRP £12.95)

My Dream is to be Bold $19 (RRP $27.95) / £12 (RRP £16.95)

Where is Uhuru? $19 (RRP $27.95) / £12 (RRP £16.95)

SMS Uprising $13 (RRP $20.95) / £8 (RRP £12.95)

African Voices $6 (RRP $28.95) / £4 (RRP £17.95)

Experiments with Peace $19 (RRP $32.95) / £12 (RRP £19.95)




Comment & analysis

Cry! The beloved Norway

Norah Owaraga

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/75780


cc NRKBETA
The media’s response to Norway’s recent terrorist atrocity have revealed anti-immigrant, racist and xenophobic attitudes among ‘conservative sections the world over’, writes Norah Owaraga.

For many black Africans, Norway used to stimulate images of peaceful existence, humane care of citizens and generosity. Indeed, many an African will have often heard of Norway in association with the Nobel Peace Prize. These images are no more as Al Shabab style terrorism was visited upon Norwegians by their own, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old ethnic Norwegian – a white, racist, xenophobic, Christian fundamentalist.

In keeping with the beliefs of extremist nationalists, Breivik is reportedly opposed to multiculturalism and believes that immigration has been eroding Norwegian cultural values and identity. It is also reported that Breivik had his own racist interpretation of Huntington's theory of the clash of civilisations, and found ‘wisdom’ in the words of John Stuart Mill: ‘One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.’ I join those who find it ironic and scandalous that an ultra-right racist found ‘wisdom’ in the words of a liberal! What a tragedy that Breivik found it fit to utilise his ‘force of 100,000’ to murder on a massive scale, expressing his low regard of the importance of humankind.

In response to my condolence and solidarity message to my Norwegian friends and family living in Scandinavia, a posting on my Facebook wall by one of my childhood friends, a Muslim of Asian descent, now living in the United States of America, reads: ‘Glad he was not a Muslim nut case.’ Apparently, my friend is not alone in holding this view. It is reported that immigrants and Norwegians as well have expressed relief that the attacker was not an immigrant or a foreigner. Expressions such as these are symptoms of what we imagine would have been the scenario if it had been an immigrant, foreigner or ‘worse still’ a Muslim who would have carried out a terrorist act on Norway or elsewhere in the global West. Certainly, the way in which the dominant discourse of the global Western media is reporting on the riots in England lends credit to our fears and suspicions of deep-rooted animosity that exists between different groups of peoples based on race and religion, among others.

Our world is so polarised that I must admit that these days I am drawn even more to the writings of Steve Biko, particularly his definition and articulation of the concept of ‘black consciousness’. Unfortunately, perceptions of subjugation that are in some cases unwittingly perpetuated by the actions of peoples and nations in the global West – within and without their national boundaries – contribute to the creation of toxic superiority complexes of the nature that Breivik certainly holds, while also contributing to the creation of inferiority complexes, on the basis of which the ‘subjugated’ justify their need to terrorise.

Take for instance the way in which the global West is handling the situation in Libya, with utter disregard of the views of the African Union – the calls for peace talks by African leaders were just dismissed. It is no wonder that a significant section of peoples from the rest of the world feel the global West is so prejudiced that they do not believe that others are capable of free thinking without the ‘guidance’ of the global West. This status quo breeds mutual mistrust and ill-feelings, to the extent that some in Africa now refer to NATO as the ‘North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation’. To those thus persuaded, they perceive NATO as the brutal enforcer of neocolonialism worldwide under the guise of ‘spreading democracy’ and ‘humanitarian intervention’ – therefore, to them NATO is the epitome of the global West’s intolerance of multiculturalism.

The rhetoric with which the invasion of sovereign states and the push for regime change is justified by the ‘super powers’ of the global West, such as the case of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Cote d’Ivoire, is fertile ground for breeding and nourishing extremists of all kinds – those with superiority complexes and those with inferiority complexes. Worse still, allegedly, Google is reinforcing this negative trend, as is argued by Eli Praiser in his article published in the Guardian Weekly (24/06/11) entitled: ‘In our own little internet bubbles: The personalisation of search engines traps us in a self-reinforcing world-view’.

Apparently, these days when one conducts a search using Google, the results that one shall be fed are what Google has determined that one wants to read. So, according to Praiser’s analysis, if you are a white supremacist, such as Breivik, Google will nourish your extreme views by showing you search results of sites and information that would be appreciated by white supremacists – thus reducing the opportunities that a white supremacist will encounter an alternative view, and so in the bliss of ignorance it is no wonder Breivik believes his actions were ‘necessary’!

Indeed, unfortunately, anti-immigrant, racist and xenophobic tendencies are gaining support among conservative sections the world over. How sad that our current world order and socialisation processes are nurturing and producing this kind of evil. Whether it is a white supremacist, a fundamentalist nationalist, a fundamentalist Christian, a fundamentalist Jew, a fundamentalist Muslim, racists and xenophobia of all kinds, we have absolutely nothing to be glad about.

I pray for healing at all levels – individual, family, community, regions and the world – may we find humanity, may we find true wisdom. Mercifully, there is hope. In its characteristic humanitarianism, Norway, once more is leading by example in showing us how we can productively and progressively triumph over evil. To further explain, I quote the words of my Norwegian friend who emailed me as follows:

‘Norway is still in deep mourning, people are putting down flowers, writing poems, children make drawings, artists paint to illustrate their pain. Others sing and compose. Among the first victims to be buried were two beautiful young talented Norwegian Muslims (who were active in the labour party youth), one of them was Bano Rashid. She was a strong advocate for democracy and human rights. She cared about the most vulnerable in our society. In her funeral an Imam and a Priest walked together along the casket – a powerful symbol of how this cruel terrorist act is UNITING Norwegians – irrespective of faith, culture or ethnic background. The murderer – when he gets access to the news – will discover that his cowardly acts have led to the opposite of what he intended to achieve! Our response to intolerance and racism is standing together united – with God’s help we will not let hatred dominate but be compassionate to each other and care for those who have lost their loved ones – and the youth who survived. They will need our support for many years to come…’

No doubt, England needs to find its way back to the Norwegian way. Otherwise, name-calling insults, will only add fuel to the proverbial fire.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Norah Owaraga is a sociologist and researcher – www.owaraganorah.net.
* This article was first published by the African Executive. Copyright © 2011 The African Executive
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Thinking and living Fanon

Chantelle Malan and Danielle Bowler

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/75775


© abahlali.org
One of ‘the most important aspects of Frantz Fanon’s legacy for the youth of South Africa is to take seriously his call for real engagement, at the point where thought meets action’, observe Chantelle Malan and Danielle Bowler, following a Rhodes University colloquium to mark the 50th anniversary of Fanon’s death.

People are still laying bottles of alcohol outside her house and she’s been a trending topic on twitter and Facebook. Additionally, she has been ushered in as a new member of the ‘27 club’ of artists who have died at the tragically young age of 27 and across the world, her music is being bought and downloaded in remembrance. Few would dispute the importance of Amy Winehouse a week after her death, but what will her legacy be in 50 years time? Meanwhile, in a small part of South Africa, young people have been contemplating the legacy of Frantz Fanon and the fiftieth anniversary of his death by choosing this week instead, to buy his books. While most people are largely unaware of the significance of the man from Martinique, as opposed to a singer from North London in the UK, the question is perhaps who is more relevant for contemporary South Africa?

Frantz Fanon is the relatively unconsidered psychiatrist, philosopher and revolutionary who dedicated his life to the liberation of the African continent and theorising the racialised black experience. As a philosopher on the experience of being black, he is an extremely relevant and useful entry point into the conversation of race in South Africa today. Given that black people were entirely oppressed during Apartheid and the continuation of this oppression in the post-Apartheid moment, Fanon’s insight is to bring light to this experience and how it must be transcended. To celebrate the anniversary of his death, Rhodes University held a colloquium to bring together a unique set of scholars and students to rethink Fanon and his importance for South Africa today.

In a time of shrinking press freedom, trust funds for elites in power and ‘shoot to kill’, the country’s past consistently rears its head. As such, the rainbow masquerading as a symbol of our democracy reveals itself as a facade in the excesses of injustice and oppression both Apartheid and post-Apartheid have left. Erasing the past, and/or pretending it didn’t happen in attempts at national amnesia have been convenient for some and useful for others, particularly when enjoyed with wasabi and soy sauce.

Consequently, we seem prone to ‘chicken little syndrome’, convinced that at any moment of criticism the sky will be falling – bringing the rainbow, however faint it might be, down with it. In those events where the failure of adequately dealing with the post-Apartheid state and its transitional delusions, our memory is selective and we do not consider the past in its entirety – history, for some began in 1948, others 1994. The ANC’s memory for example is trotted out consistently when it comes to recalling during and after apartheid. We have seen it deploy these memories like artillery, particularly through the strategic use of their tale of the liberation struggle. Its memory however, is remarkably short-term and fails to capture the last 17 years of democracy which has not improved the lives of the poor and the oppressed since its rule. ‘The Damned of the Earth’, to use Fanon’s phrase, remain so.

Fanon, despite his death, is still very much alive in some spaces in South Africa and it’s only through constantly coming back to his work that he will stay this way. It’s hard to imagine that a snappy dresser who changed several times a day while working in a mental hospital in Algeria has much to say about contemporary South Africa. It’s hard to imagine that he ‘thought’ South Africa at all, and indeed some have wrongly argued that he didn’t. Yet, Fanon spoke of South Africa most prominently in his seminal work ‘Les Damnes de la Terre’ translated as ‘The Wretched of the Earth’. In his writings, Fanon thought Africa, and this year at the colloquium in Grahamstown, we thought Fanon, his work, South Africa and Africa.

Outside this space though, are we as the youth thinking South Africa at all? Thinking emerged as one of the most important themes of the colloquium, both what it means to think, who thinks and the role of thinkers in society. We know it to be a problem in South Africa and elsewhere that not everyone has the privilege to be thought of as being capable of thinking, particularly the poor and black. That we think is not a surprise, but that we all think, that we all have the ability to think and that we all have the ability to think beyond our most basic human needs is another struggle we need to wage. As S’bu Zikode, president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdweller’s movement rightly asserts ‘people must know that we think’.

The notion of thinking remained with us all the way through the conference, into the Winter School and into the Round table. A cross section of South Africa was present at the events, young people from universities, townships, schools, engaging and thinking in fidelity to Fanon – a man whose thought matched his action, a man who was so much more than his revolutionary thoughts. His dedication to the struggle for liberation in Algeria, and towards the end of his life, for the larger struggle of a united, liberated Africa demonstrate how he positioned himself in such a way that he was able to live his thought. To practice it. His ideas may have been captured in books, but they were also undoubtedly expressed in his action, his harried insistence in getting the work of thinking done at all costs. For Fanon, there was little time for sleeping or resting, in fact, doing nothing often agitated him and caused him to agitate those around him.

This is what we take from the events we were privileged to be a part of in July this year. Regardless of the particular topic of conversation, be it, Fanonian thought, or how to restructure Universities to better accommodate the lingering pitfalls of race post-Apartheid, or how class fits into the picture, we were all ‘thinking South Africa’. And thinking about how re-thinking South Africa from the beginning of its history could be used practically for change. The thinking was merely a precursor to the hope of a dedication to action – a project and challenge for the masses of South Africa, across racial lines and class divides, and not just elites. The task perhaps is to think our past as it pertains to our future, and how to transcend our strategic amnesia.

We, who are now continually thinking both Fanon and South Africa, keep him alive in thinking and re-thinking his work in relation to our mission as young South Africans, a mission that must be centred around the fulfilment of a truly emancipatory politics in this country. Whilst it remains difficult to assume what legacy Amy Winehouse will leave, perhaps one of the most important aspects of Frantz Fanon’s legacy for the youth of South Africa is to take seriously his call for real engagement, at the point where thought meets action. Because, as Fanon warns, this generation has a mission, and we must either fulfil or betray it.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Chantelle Malan and Danielle Bowler are students at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Working youth of Britain: Look south and learn

Nimi Hoffmann

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/75781


cc F W
Young working class Britons' failure to act collectively will inadvertently punish them, since this renders them unable to articulate their concerns publicly and fight against the root causes of their dispossession, argues Nimi Hoffmann. They should look to the global South, which offers lessons in how to build sustained, focused collective action.

Call me crass, but protests in the global South just ain't protests without some identifying moniker. In South Africa, my homeland, you'd be hard-pressed to find a demonstration without appropriate protest gear. It's gotten so, I'm convinced you're not a real dyed-in-the-wool trade unionist, HIV-activist or gay rights activist if you don't have a t-shirt proudly declaring your membership, along with shouts of ‘amandla, awethu!’ – 'power to the people!'

In India, anti-corruption activists like Rajgopal and Hazare are clearly identified by the slender frames that accompany prolonged hunger strikes, while the fearless women of Manipur, in the north-east of India, have torched government buildings and marched naked to protest the rape and murder of their people by the state army. Trivial as it sounds, identifying monikers are important, since they allow comrades to recognise each other, communicate, rally, plan and organise.

The mass political protests that have swept the African continent over the last year would not have been possible without visible faces and clear signage. Despite often brutal police retaliation, protestors planned and gathered openly from Senegal to Malawi, from Egypt to Swaziland. They found the courage to do so, I believe, because their aims can only be met through mass collective action. Similarly, the 1.5 million people who make up MST, the Landless People's Movement in Brazil, use transparent, public means to fight for land and the construction of a social contract that allows the rural poor to lead lives of dignity and meaning. It has been a long and bitter struggle, but it is finally paying off. For the first time in recent history, inequality in Brazil is decreasing.

So I have been thoroughly bemused by young, working-class Britons and their expressions of social discontent. If you hide your identity, then you cannot communicate with each other. If you cannot communicate, then you cannot act collectively. This means you cannot articulate your demands clearly, nor can you direct your energy effectively against the root causes of your dispossession. It is a fundamental error to pillage working-class shops along with the local Tesco or Sony warehouse. It is an even graver error to murder fellow working-class men who try to stop the destruction of their very tenuous livelihoods. They could have been your comrades. Instead, you treated them as the enemy. Whatever the causes behind this profound lack of disciplined collective action, it has surely been exacerbated by secrecy and concealment.

I arrived in London during the riots. I stayed in Kilburn, which experienced significant social unrest. Yet not one person I spoke to was willing to acknowledge that they knew anyone involved in the riots. Not a single person I met was willing to express solidarity with the rioters. To me, an ignorant outsider, it seems that the fallout from these riots will make life much harder for young working-class Britons, particularly black Britons. It will create tensions between different shades of brown people, and it will alienate the increasingly marginal trade unions and pro-working class organisations from those who are most deeply dispossessed. They will be unable, or unwilling, to help you fight against state-sanctioned police brutality or against greater cuts to social safety nets and public goods. You will struggle to find a voice in the media to protest the casualisation of labour by global corporates, or the pervasive class and race prejudices of many fellow Britons.

Since the media has successfully directed public sentiment against you, your only strategy is to mobilise publicly. Like your sisters and brothers in the South, come out openly and articulate your fears and anger collectively. Learn from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People in Nigeria and build, slowly, patiently and carefully, organisational capability and political consciousness in each neighbourhood, in each borough, in each city. Like Abahlali baseMjondolo, the shackdwellers movement in South Africa, establish ties of solidarity with like-minded academics, organisations and media houses. Like MST in Brazil, fight for a space to talk to each other, in your own language, about your own concerns. Look South and learn – you cannot act alone, fragmented, alienated. It will take courage and sacrifice, but you must act together, proudly, democratically and for a clear purpose. Your future depends on it.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Nimi Hoffmann is a young South African and pan-Africanist. She is a member of the Eastern Cape Water Caucus, an organisation of rural activists and small-scale farmers who fight for environmental justice in South Africa.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.




Advocacy & campaigns

When the news and the truth are not the same thing

Q&A on South Africa to Gaza relief convoy

2011-08-22

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/75918

An aid convoy which departed South Africa in July is soon to arrive in Gaza after traveling the length of Africa. South African Relief Agency Chief Coordinator Aneesa Brits answers questions from Pambazuka News about the reasons for the epic journey.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: How would you describe the aims and the motivations of the South African Relief Agency in undertaking the Africa to Gaza initiative?

ANEESA BRITS: SARA's humanitarian aid mission to Gaza was undertaken with the following aims and objectives:
a. Break the illegal and immoral siege on Gaza
b. Travel overland from South Africa to Gaza to concientize the people of Africa on the plight of the Palestinians and their struggle for freedom
c. Embody the support and solidarity of the African people with the people of Palestine
d. Enter Gaza with relief aid from Africa and help the Gazans rebuild their shattered lives

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What route has the convoy followed as it travels across Africa? How has the trip gone so far?

ANEESA BRITS: From Durban, South Africa the convoy drove through Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia & Sudan. This is the first ever overland convoy through Africa and whilst it was a daunting task, the trip went very well and proved to be an overwhelming success.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What is the current state of Israel’s blockade of Gaza? Have restrictions been eased at all?

ANEESA BRITS: Almost absolute. Not in the least.

The siege of Gaza is crime against humanity; one of monumental proportions, unashamedly aided and abetted by the so called 'civilized' western governments and their puppet regimes who turn essentially a blind eye to the everyday suffering, death and destruction wrought by Israel on the people of Gaza. Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza gives it almost absolute control over everything entering or leaving this besieged enclave. This has led to Israel severely restricting and prohibiting multiple basic resources, such as food, water, electricity, fuel, import/export goods and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. On 27 December 2008 Israel again invaded Gaza. In a brutal orgy of death and destruction that lasted 22 days, they killed 1,500 and injured some 5,500 innocent civilians and further devastated the Gazan people and their collapsed economy. Just last week the Israelis again cut all power and communication links to the besieged enclave leading the Gazans to fear yet another murderous incursion as was the case in the run up to Operation Cast Lead.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Several convoys have left Europe for Gaza: what significance does a convoy from the south hold for the Palestinian people?

ANEESA BRITS: This first ever road convoy from Africa that departed from Durban in South Africa is of huge significance and importance to the Palestinian people. At the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban in September 2001, the majority decision that equated Zionism with Racism led to the walkout of both the Israeli and American delegations who could not defend Israel's despicable and racist policies towards the Palestinian people.

Having themselves suffered under the yoke of apartheid, South Africans can readily identify with and hence stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people as they struggle for self determination and freedom from the apartheid regime in Israel. And, just as South Africans united to win their independence, so too will they support the freedom struggle of the Palestinian people. Moreover; the passage of our convoy through no fewer than eight countries in Africa has galvanised the support for the Palestinian people who see the hope of freedom in South Africans who successfully broke the shackles of apartheid.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: With one of the aims being to create awareness amongst the people of Africa about the situation in Gaza, how has the convoy been received by people in African countries that you have passed through?

ANEESA BRITS: Very, very enthusiastically! The warm reception, concern and caring on display throughout Africa far exceeded all our expectations. With regard to concientising the people of Africa on the Palestinian issue, our convoy has succeeded in uniting the people of Africa who were collectively appalled at the barbaric treatment that the people of Palestine have had to and still endure at the hands of the Israelis for the past 63 years. We believe that in time, the flame that we have kindled in the hearts and minds of the people will turn into an inferno that will manifest itself in acts that fully support the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Wherever we went we were received like heroes with everyone demanding that we lead another convoy after this one with each country that we traversed pledging support with an equal number of vehicles and participants.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Archbishop Desmond Tutu has famously referred to Israel's policies towards the Palestinian people as 'apartheid'. Is this view shared across South Africa – and the African continent - do you think?

ANEESA BRITS: Yes indeed - in fact, many South Africans believe that the Israeli version of apartheid is much worse.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: As part of a reconciliation deal with Hamas and Fatah, Egypt recently opened its border crossing to enable Palestinians free passage out of the blockaded territory for the first time in some four years. Conversely, in a recent news item, Press TV mentioned that the Egyptian authorities were opposed to the Africa to Gaza convoy passing through their country (http://bit.ly/qLJ6up). How has this situation developed?

ANEESA BRITS: That announcement may have eased the movement of Palestinian women, children and aged males but did not in any way ease the passage of vital goods, food, medical supplies etc. to Gaza.

Our's is a Humanitarian Aid Convoy - as such, the Egyptian Authorities granted our convoy entry into Egypt only via the Port of El Arish on the Mediterranean Sea. From here they have allowed us to drive the eighty odd kilometres to the Rafah Border Crossing. Given the tense political situation in Egypt at the time of our application for permission, they declined the convoy entry at any other point and turned down our request to drive through the Sinai Peninsula as they could not guarantee our security. They are fully aware of our impending arrival in El Arish as they requested an inventory of the aid we are carrying and the names and details of all convoy members in advance of our arrival.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: 31 May 2010 saw the Gaza Freedom Flotilla endeavour to break the Israeli-Egyptian naval blockade of Gaza, only for the activists involved to be treated very heavy-handedly. Are you concerned about the security of those participating in the convoy?

ANEESA BRITS: Whilst the security of convoy team members is always a concern, the Rafah Border Crossing is controlled by the Egyptians who have full knowledge of our mission and have granted us the permission to enter their country. Whilst we have experienced delays and red tape at most border crossings as we travelled through Africa, we do not anticipate any untoward behaviour from the Egyptians that may compromise the safety and security of our team members.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What kinds of things is the convoy carrying that will help to meet the immediate needs of the people of Gaza?

ANEESA BRITS: Infant milk powder, medicines, medical supplies and equipment, wheel chairs, crutches, school stationery, disposable diapers and portable electricity generators.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: How can Pambazuka News readers support the convoy?

ANEESA BRITS: It is said that 'the news and the truth are not the same thing'. Firstly, urge your readers to spread the truth on the desperate situation in Palestine. Secondly, let them act by joining similar aid iniatives or contributing in cash or kind to such causes. Thirdly, let them speak out and stand in solidarity against racism and oppression wherever it rears its ugly head and fourthly, let them pray for the success of those undertaking such missions and for the enlightenment of the oppressors to see the folly of their evil ways.


Africa must act for Africans in the Horn of Africa

FEMNET

2011-08-16

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/75741

Once again, millions of African citizens face famine and the destruction of their livelihoods. At this moment, 12 million men, women and children are in dire need of food, clean water and basic sanitation. The crisis is set to worsen and expand over the coming months. This suffering flies in the face of commitments made in continental, regional and national policy frameworks and human rights conventions.

Once again, millions of African citizens face famine and the destruction of their livelihoods. At this moment, 12 million men, women and children are in dire need of food, clean water and basic sanitation. The crisis is set to worsen and expand over the coming months. This suffering flies in the face of commitments made in continental, regional and national policy frameworks and human rights conventions.

The crisis is symptomatic of a failure to address the root causes of food insecurity in the region, which mean that in a world with enough food for everyone 12 million people are suffering the worst food crisis in Africa for many years. It is incomprehensible that in 2011 anyone should die of starvation. This was a preventable catastrophe. It is an extreme example of our broken food system. Droughts may be inevitable in this region, but disasters are not.

Despite this, the overall international donor response to this humanitarian crisis has been slow and inadequate. A handful of African Governments and the African Union have contributed both finance and food to the UN humanitarian effort to date. Citizens in South Africa and Kenya have rallied to make contributions. However collectively, these contributions are too modest to decisively change the conditions for the millions who need this support. The rest of Africa has yet to make a meaningful contribution. According to UN figures released on 29th July, $2.5bn is required to meet immediate needs and $1.3 billion is still required.

Based on an already agreed formula for contributions to the African Union, Governments in Africa must contribute at least US$50 million towards the AU Humanitarian Disaster Fund to provide global leadership. West African states and Southern African states meeting separately this month under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should realise US$ 11.5 million and US$ 11 million respectively towards the humanitarian appeal.

Today marks the African Union declared August 15th a Pan African day of solidarity with the people of the Horn of Africa. Ten days later on August 25th, the African Union is convening an emergency International Pledging Conference to mobilise the resources required. A series of national and regional actions is required to ensure that this conference is successful in making a contribution to the funding shortfall and identifies the medium to long-term policy actions required.

The scale of the challenge before Africa today elevates the August 25th Conference to the significance of the All African Peoples conference of December 1958 where African states and nationalist movements rallied together to confront colonialism and imperialism. African Governments, Multi-Lateral Institutions and citizens must similarly rally together today to confront the suffering being experienced. Africa is not safe if the people of the Horn of Africa are not safe.

The humanitarian response is essential so that lives are saved now. However, African Governments and the international community urgently need to break the chronic cycle of food insecurity, which leaves affected communities limping from one crisis to the next, by addressing the long-term problems that make people vulnerable in the first place. This policy brief and call to action is endorsed by twelve Pan African networks and coalitions, Regional NGO Councils from West, Southern and East Africa and non-governmental organisations. It outlines opportunities and actions needed before the International Pledging Conference takes place on August 25th 2011.

The month of August will be decisive for millions of lives and livelihoods in the Horn. Delayed action will cost lives and betray the vision, spirit and agreement reached under the auspices of the African Union. Every time an African citizen dies in the Horn of Africa, the African Union and the international community dies a little. Every life that is saved extends the value of pan African solidarity and the principle of “non-indifference”. The difference between these two situations` lies in the actions that the African Union, Regional Economic Communities, African governments and citizens must now take.

ACTIONS REQUIRED BY THE AFRICAN UNION

· The African Union Commission should encourage all African Governments to publicly announce their financial contributions and moral support for the people of the Horn of Africa and efforts being taken to save lives, livelihoods and ensure that never again African men, women and children die from famine.
· The African Union Commission should reach out to all international partners, including Organisational of Islamic Conference, the Arab League and Intergovernmental Authority on Drought, to support the August 25th International Pledging Conference that is able to generate the collective will to respond to this humanitarian disaster of political proportions.
· The AU Commission should place an item on the 2012 January Summit to review progress of fundraising, success of the humanitarian effort and a proposal to ensure that this is the last avoidable disaster of this kind.
· The AU Commission and African Governments should consider the creation of a standing fund for humanitarian response, with predictable and adequate sources of financing in the upcoming Conference on Alternative Financing for the African Union convened under the auspices of H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo on August 15th
· The African Union should reach out to African civil society for their support in raising public awareness of the conditions in the Horn of Africa across Africa and call on all AU Member States to provide generous contributions – financial or other – to uphold the African solidarity.
· The Peace and Security Council must maintain strong oversight over AMISOM response in Somalia to ensure that military actors are indeed the last resort and that their involvement does not jeopardise the humanitarian effort and access to people in need.

ACTIONS REQUIRED BY THE REGIONAL ECONOMIC COMMUNITIES

· SADC, ECOWAS, CENSAD, EAC and other Regional Economic Communities must make financial contributions at their upcoming meetings and encourage national Governments to significantly contribute.
· In these upcoming Summits, RECs must agree to prioritise the acceleration of disaster risk reduction and disaster response mechanisms, contingency plans and country agricultural investment plans, with the financial and technical backing of the international community.

Actions Required by the African National Governments

· All African Governments must commit funding and appeal to their citizens and the private sector to contribute generously to the AU Humanitarian Fund on August 25th
· All Governments must make long-term investment in agriculture and natural resource management to support small scale food producers (farmers and pastoralists) to boost food production, rebuild depleted resource bases and ensure food availability to those who need it. An accelerated plan for food security is critical.

Actions Required by African citizens and Civil Society Organisations

· African citizens and Civil Society organisations must challenge their Governments and the Private Sector to give generously and use the AU Fund or the UN Consolidated Appeal Process framework to avoid parallel funding streams
· African citizens and all CSOs across Africa must use the AU August 15th Day of Pan African solidarity with the people of the Horn to raise public awareness, mobilise funding for the relief efforts and engage their Governments on their responsibility to act

Actions you can take between August 15 and August 25

1. Record and upload on utube a short video 12 seconds for 12 million Africans (not more than 12 seconds). Send the link to africansact4africa@gmail.com We will edit it and upload it on our AfricansAct4Africa YouTube page. Suggested short video messaging:

a. Nobody should die from hunger - not now, not in the 21st century. Stand up. Act for Africa.
b. I am … (your name)...and I call on Africans to Act for Africa.
c. Our leaders need to come on board and offer African solutions to African problems. I am an African Acting for Africa.
d. I call on my government to reach out and take care of my brothers and sisters. I call on my government to Act for Africa.
e. Join the campaign. Sign onto the Africans Act 4 Africa facebook page and follow us on twitter at @africansact.
f. Launch a Twitter campaign addressed to prominent political and business leaders linking Africans Act 4 Africa facebook page. The twitter campaign can be aimed at urging your Government to make significant contributions to the relief effort.

2. Call on African leaders and governments to make sure this never happens again by ensuring the right environment for Africans is provided to increase their food production, storage and transport – so we all have the food we all need not.

3. Challenge the private sector in your country to donate particularly multinationals with Pan African operations e.g.: tele-communication companies, petroleum companies, media, retail outlets etc.

4. Visit the African Union page and learn more about the conference that will be held on 25 August http://au.int/pages/savinglives Activities from August 15 onwards – The Day of Pan African Solidarity with the People of the Horn

5. Africa Stops in Solidarity! Ask everyone to in your office, place of learning, worship and community to stop what they are doing and observe a moment of silence for 1 minute 2 sec at 12noon.

6. 12 hours of giving for 12 million people – push for action to have people send money to existing funding channels, from 7am – 7pm.

7. Tell all your colleagues and friends about the Pan African Day in Solidarity with the People of the Horn of Africa, and tell them to Act for Africa.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Contact Africans act for Africa at africansact4africa[at]gmail.com[/email].
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Global day of action to free Maxwell Dlamini in Swaziland

Freeing all political prisoners in Swaziland

2011-08-16

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/75742

We call upon all students, student bodies, human rights groups and all concerned organisations and individuals to lobby for the urgent and unconditional release of Maxwell Dlamini (President of the Swaziland National Union of Students) and all political prisoners.

This call was initiated by activists on the International Student Movement - Africa (ISM-Africa) platform.

We call upon all students, student bodies, human rights groups and all concerned organisations and individuals to lobby for the urgent and unconditional release of Maxwell Dlamini (President of the Swaziland National Union of Students) and all political prisoners.

This Global Day of Action calls for the unconditional release of all political prisoners in Swaziland and around the world, as well as for concerted action to prevent more activists being detained as the struggle for democracy and freedom continues.

The government denies that it has political prisoners. It also denies that there are political exiles living abroad. It lies continuously and blatantly in an effort to appear reasonable and fair. At the same time the government presides while constantly oppressing the Swazi people through enforced poverty and degradation as well as the denial of democratic, social and economic rights. Those who campaign against this vile injustice are persecuted by the state.

We call on all progressive organisations, youths and concerned people around the world to march to Swaziland embassies/consulates on September 5th 2011 in their region to add their voices to demand the immediate release of Maxwell Dlamini and all political prisoners. Of course alternative forms of action are also welcome, if you have no embassy/consulate of Swaziland near you.

This must be a first step towards unbanning progressive political movements in Swaziland and around the world. This Global Day of Action also pushes for the protected right of the people to free assembly and guarantee a safe return for exiles.

TURNING GLOBAL SOLIDARITY INTO REALITY!

Please use ism.africa[at]gmail.com to announce your actions in advance and send in your reports with pictures/videos afterwards. This is important, so that your activities can also be included in press releases and people worldwide will get to hear about them.

For more details on the case of Maxwell go here: http://www.ism-global.net/free_maxwell
or follow the hashtag on twitter: #freeMaxwell

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Uganda: Hate No More Campaign 2011

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/75778

Over the years, we have been harassed, cajoled, insulted, discriminated against and referred to as beasts called inhuman, insane, sick, immoral and not upright thinking members of society.

Over the years, we have been harassed, cajoled, insulted, discriminated against and referred to as beasts called inhuman, insane, sick, immoral and not upright thinking members of society.

We have been dismissed from schools, homes, jobs, churches, and other places. We are taunted on streets, at home, in churches and all social places because of our sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In recent years there have been arrests of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBT) people. We live in constant fear and have to hide behind masks to protect our identities. Those that are outside the masks have to face injustices that society points at them.

The Penal Code is interpreted as criminalizing homosexuality and homosexual individuals. Although it does not mention sex between women, lesbians face it as rough as gay men trying to exist freely along side heterosexuals. The Anti Homosexuality Bill in 2009 has made it hard for LGBT people to live happily in Uganda. Reported cases of deaths and rape due to media witch hunt, wide spread homophobia through religious leaders and abuse of those in power to marginalize sexual minorities.

Homosexuals have for long been suppressed. We are economically and socially underpowered. There are increased deaths among the LGBTI people from suicide, resulting from stigmatization and from HIV/AIDS and the like, It would lead you further into trouble if for instance you suffered from an STD and presented your partner as someone of your sex.

All around us are homophobic comments, actions and reports. This homophobia is given voice by the press, institutionalized by the Penal Code and given strength by politicians and religious leaders.

Early this year we lost a comrade, murdered in cold blood. David Kato stood out of the darkness to demand fair treatment and equality for fellow Homosexuals and Transgenders, the price he paid to fight for a safe place in Uganda was losing his life.

Months after suffering the loss of David, the LGBT community suffered the loss of Samuel Odhiambo who committed suicide because he couldn’t take the misery any more. These are just a few of the cases of injustices that the LGBT community has got to deal with.

- We are not asking for extra rights, we are not asking for any kind of special treatment, but we are demanding for the rights enjoyed by the rest of the citizens of Uganda.
- We are demanding that our existence is respected, and not subject us to degrading inhuman treatment.  We are demanding that unfair laws be repealed
- We are demanding that those that spread homophobia be held accountable
- We are demanding that you stop expelling us from schools, disowning us from our families
- We are demanding that you include us in the National HIV/AIDS programs and other empowering programs.
- We demand because our rights are inherent and are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

We are part of this society we are your children, doctors, employees, parents to mention a few this is our country, we are Ugandans and Uganda belongs to all of us.

Join us in this fight to end Hatred towards Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and transgender people in Uganda. We are part of the development of this country. Discriminating us will not yield positive developments. This Campaign is to influence positive legislation through dialogue with policy makers, diplomatic missions, health service providers and the general community through the media. We are counting on an educated and enlightened media, working to inform the public not with myths and false stories, but with truths, to take this message of NO MORE HATE to the people of this country.

Today as Freedom and Roam Uganda, the entire Human Rights and LGBT community launch the HATE NO MORE Campaign, we want to also remind you that we are not here to recruit anyone into becoming a homosexual, we DONT RECRUIT, we have NEVER RECRUITED and we SHALL never RECRUIT. We only want to remind you that DISCRIMINATION RETARDS DEVELOPMENT.

We would also like to thank the Global Fund for Women, The Thiel Foundation and the Human Rights Foundation for supporting us in this campaign to end Hatred against LGBT people in Uganda.

We are therefore calling on all Ugandans to join us in this campaign to create a safe space for fellow brothers and sisters of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender community.


Show us the audit on our houses, Minister Sexwale!

R2K and AEC Western Cape Statement

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/75774

South Africa's Right to Know Campaign and Anti Eviction Campaign are demanding access to a government audit of a controversial Cape Town housing company.

The residents of Newfields Village are still waiting for Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale to respond to their demand for access to an audit of the low-cost housing provided by the controversial Cape Town Community Housing Company (CTCHC).

The auditor-general conducted a preliminary investigation of houses provided by the CTCHC in November 2010, following years of residents’ complaints of the shoddy quality of houses and mismanagement of funds.

On 24 May 2011, residents of Newfields Village approached the National Department of Human Settlements to make a formal demand for access to the audit in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). When the minister failed to respond within the 30-day period stipulated in the Act, our attorney submitted a notice of internal to Minister Sexwale for a response within an additional 30 days.

The legal deadline for Minister Sexwale is Monday 15 August 2011.

(Read the background to R2K's demand for information from the Department of Human Settlements here and here. This report in the Sowetan details the auditor-general's inspection of CTCHC houses.)

The residents of Newfields Village have struggled for over ten years to fulfill their right to adequate housing - a struggle that has been hampered at every corner by lack of transparency and lack of access to information from officials at every level of government.

At the same time that the community of Newfields Village is mobilising against the Protection of Information Bill in Parliament, the community’s struggle for adequate housing is equally mired by the existing climate of secrecy in South Africa.

As communities of the Right2Know campaign, we call on Minister Sexwale to release this report now!

For comment please contact: 
Gary Hartzenberg (Newfields Village CRC Chairperson): 072 392 5859

Nkwame Cedile (R2K Western Cape coordinator): 078 227 6008


How London's Africa Centre can be saved, revealed

Save The Africa Centre Campaign

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/75782

Six week’s ago the trustees of the Africa Centre gave Hadeel Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and world renowned architect, David Adjaye, six weeks to raise funds, provide a redevelopment scheme, a sustainable business plan and funding. Today the business plan and £3.6 million of funding has been delivered, writes Dele Fatunla.

Thank you for your continued support and coverage of the Save The Africa Centre Campaign. As you may know, the campaign has had a number of successes including securing a stay of execution the proposed sale of the Africa Centre's historic home at 38 King Street to property developer, Capital and Counties. And secondly, provided the space for alternative investors who believe in the potential and heritage of the building at 38 King Street to emerge. An independent proposal by Hadeel Ibrahim and David Adjaye to raise funds to secure the future of the charity and refurbish the Africa Centre's building at 38 King Street was endorsed by the Save The Africa Centre Campaign.

Following this community pressure, six weeks ago or so, the trustees of the Africa Centre gave Hadeel Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and world renowned architect, David Adjaye, six weeks to raise funds, provide a redevelopment scheme, a sustainable business plan and funding. Today the business plan and £3.6 million of funding was delivered. David Adjaye's vision for the building has been revealed in The Guardian Newspaper today. Please click on the link below to see the plans and read an article on the proposal.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/aug/12/africa-centre-london-restoration-plan

Dele Fatunla
Save The Africa Centre Campaign
www.savetheafricacentre.wordpress.com
Petition: http://www.gopetition.co.uk/bannerspage.php?petid=44717




Books & arts

Local Governance and ICTs in Africa

Mammo Muchie

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/75779

Information and communication technology has ‘opened a new e-governance space’ that ‘has huge potential for improving opportunities for the participation of citizens in local and central government structures,’ writes Mammo Muchie. ‘Local Governance and ICTs in Africa’, launched by Pambazuka Press this month, offers a useful starting point for those interested in how these technologies ‘can be used to change the governance architecture in Africa’.

There is perhaps no continent that requires the application of new technologies, inventions and innovations to help solve its numerous and varied social and economic problems more than Africa. The ICT revolution has opened up vast opportunities to meet the intractable challenges and difficulties that have confronted Africa since the 1960s. One of the thorniest problems in Africa has been a persistent crisis of governance. This has created a context for human rights violations. Sadly, those with the responsibility for protecting people ended up exacerbating the economic and governance difficulties instead of promoting human development and the comprehensive well-being of citizens.

Finding ways to deal with this intractable dilemma has become the priority concern of several internal and external stakeholders. The ICT revolution has been seized upon to help improve the overall governance landscape on the African continent. The usefulness of ICT lies in its complementary relationship with other options that are available for improving human governance (h-governance). This suggests that a stand-alone role for the ICT revolution in fixing intractable problems cannot work.

In Africa, the twin problems of despotism and corruption have not been eradicated. Therefore all necessary means, including the ICT revolution, must be deployed to deal with these forces that have undermined Africa’s vast potential and prevented the continent from emerging as a powerful, prosperous, healthy and strong region. It is an embarrassment that after more half a century of political independence, no African state has become a fully developed economy. Most of the reasons for this lack of success can be attributed to the lack of a predictable system of governance able to mobilise citizens’ energies, and to the absence of innovations to steer society and the economic foundations of the continent to full prosperity.



Governance in Africa operates from the local community to the continental level. Unfortunately, the crisis of governance persists at all levels, partly because the conscious and deliberate work of overhauling the system has not been done. There is a need, therefore, to deploy all means available to tackle the crisis as the starting point for creating a sustainable system. The main objective is to develop an irreversible system that works to stimulate sustainable human and economic development by eradicating poverty and promoting comprehensive well-being as a key priority.

There are three broad strategies for getting to grips with the issue of governance. One is to continue with what can be described as business as usual, paddling along the ‘h-governance route’ that has been in place since the wave of African political independence in the early 1960s, which on balance has ended up producing more corruption and despotism than good government and democratic fair dealing.

The second strategy is represented by the important innovation introduced by the onset of the ICT revolution. This has brought considerable potential to initiatives aimed at fighting dictatorship and increasing the participation of citizens in the institutions of governance. To be more specific, ICTs have opened a new e- governance space or route that has huge potential for improving opportunities for the participation of citizens in local and central government structures. This is exemplified in settings that enhance equity, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, responsibility, effectiveness and efficiency in the manifold transactions that link service suppliers and service recipients. In Africa, the full potential of ICTs is yet to be fully realised.

The third strategy is a judicious combination of h-governance and e-governance. ICTs cannot replace h-governance; their job is to improve it. H-governance cannot replace ICTs. The strengths and weaknesses of each must be assessed in order that their virtues can be combined. Such a creative combination is most likely to maximise staff effectiveness and accountability, as well as promote institutional transparency and citizen participation. It is here to stay. Close scrutiny of the weaknesses and strengths of each component of the dual governance structure is needed. The overall objective should be to speed up the process of improving governance across the continent at every level by utilising this socio-technical combination to best effect.

The LOG-IN Africa research programme takes the local and the municipal core of the African experience as pivotal to the improvement of services and as the levels through which decision-making, performance, effectiveness, efficiency, transparency, accountability and the participation of citizens in governance can be enhanced. This choice of the local and the municipality as the settings for the studies in this volume is appropriate for several reasons. First, it provides an opportunity to examine and appreciate the tangible impacts of ICTs on service delivery. This objective was achieved by analysing primary data to determine what changes had actually occurred in the operations of municipal administrative systems as a result of the introduction of new technology. The pan-African thrust of the research also yields fruitful insights on how ICT readiness and uptake are evolving in different local municipalities. The very local as research setting, coupled with a pan-African orientation, gives the studies a pioneering dimension. Had the research setting concentrated on the continental level, the micro-details provided by the local municipal sites would easily have been overlooked. Consequently, the decision to use quality governance indicators at the local level was very appropriate as a tool for collecting information on the best practices that apply to Africa’s varied governance landscape.

The LOG-IN Africa programme thus deserves support. In this volume the network used the research expertise of those with technical knowledge in ICTs and those with knowledge in local governance through the support of the African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development (CAFRAD), a pan-African organisation committed to improving public administration. IDRC was also very supportive; over the years, it has been at the forefront in supporting research initiatives on the continent. These stakeholders spent three years working with ten countries, designing studies and research around an active municipal-level issue, in order to learn how the introduction and use of ICTs changed the way both staff and citizens operate in transactions generally carried out at the municipality level. The investigations covered areas such as business process modelling methodology and financial management systems.

In those three years, a number of regional workshops and one stakeholder major conference were convened, and primary data collection was carried out, mostly using UNDP good-governance criteria. This original research produced findings and knowledge that policymakers could not ignore. In at least three cases, the output involved designing prototypes to improve services that had been identified during the course of the research experience and assessed through a peer-reviewed conference. These efforts have finally resulted in this edited collection.

There is an argument that pan-African unity can be better facilitated if there is local self-recognition and active service provision. In fact, the way to overcome the tragedy of failed states in Africa is to promote local-level governance, while simultaneously promoting the ‘Africanness’ of all the existing states. This is one way that has been suggested to help reconstruct Africa’s governance architecture by clearing up post-colonial myopia. The relics of the arbitrary maps of post-colonialism have been a source of governance crisis in Africa. A way out of this crisis is to create cross-border municipal self-governance that permits ease of mobility and effective public service delivery. More widely, a number of analysts have suggested that the best way to get around this dilemma is to improve participation and provide effective services at the local level. The idea is to make municipal governance the core engine for service delivery. Analysts suggest that the more effective municipal governance becomes, the easier it will be to forge stronger pan-African unity. In support of this position is the argument that a municipal government is easier to define and has fewer opportunities for expanding the corruption networks that have been a key feature in many states that emerged after decolonisation, where the elite competed to capture the booty.

Given this background, ICTs and e-governance at the local level, promoted by research initiatives like those of LOG-IN Africa, become a critical means for spreading pan-African unity by promoting functioning decentralisation at the municipal government level.

The LOG-IN Africa research output on e-local governance is a timely and important contribution to pan-African research as it creates space for the interaction of the dual world of ICTs and governance to address the problems that persist in Africa. What the researchers addressed together is the application of ICTs, not only to improve governance by addressing the good governance criteria outlined by the UNDP (i.e. participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity, effectiveness and efficiency), but also to arrive at a novel conception of what it means to govern, and to be governed and managed. The objective is to make those who manage accountable to the managed, and those who are managed to participate in decision-making in contexts where responsiveness, responsibility, efficiency and effectiveness determine work ethic.

This objective implies that those who govern must view the governed as consensual partners in a network where hierarchical relationships are there to facilitate rather than to hinder the best form of governing. The E-governance Assessment Framework developed by Professor Timothy Mwololo Waema brings to the fore the distinctive contribution of the LOG-IN Africa research programme in providing concrete empirical evidence of the effects of ICT on governance, whilst clarifying and reviewing the relevant conceptual linkages between ICTs and governance. An important conceptual innovation is the distinction between government and governance, on the one hand, and good governance, on the other. Waema redefines good governance in terms of its ‘quality’. Quality of governance is in turn shown to refer to the achievement of tangible improvements in the lives of citizens through the introduction and utilisation of ICT applications in society, in business and infrastructure initiatives. The main requirement is the need to improve the quality of service transactions between those who supply and those who receive services.

The specific country cases deal with a range of different issues, but they represent a common research effort to highlight improvements in governance following the application of ICTs. Significantly the volume has a roadmap for future research.

The Egyptian case study on business process mapping for e-local governance looks at the local municipal government’s service provision to citizens. Specifically, it examines how local government staff and citizens interact by using ICT to request and receive information in an atmosphere that generates satisfaction by eliminating administrative hurdles. In the process of studying the local government development project, the researchers recognised the significance of using common business process modelling (BPM) for those receiving and providing information, knowledge, services and communication.

In comparison, the Ethiopian case study carries out an assessment of local kebeles, the lowest level in the country’s administrative system. The research explores life-event service provision at the kebele level by targeting the following: the level of ICT usage; the status of e-readiness; the availability of an ICT policy and strategy; the nature of citizen participation; the quality of service provision to citizens.

In Kenya, attention shifts to a study of the application of ICTs in financial management in the two municipal councils of Mavoko and Nyeri by examining how the qualities of participation, effec- tiveness, efficiency, responsiveness, transparency and accountability play out in the municipalities’ Integrated Financial Management Information System. The findings are striking in that the staff and the councils were responsive to billing errors that had been captured by using ICTs. Citizens also thought that on the whole the councils had become more accountable due to the ICTs. The study reveals nevertheless that certain weaknesses persist in the two councils, despite the introduction of ICTs.

The Mauritius case study relates to the Kenyan one in that it also focuses on revenue management in municipal and district councils. The study concludes that the revenue management system of three municipal councils, whilst currently working well, needs additional improvements, which could be achieved by using a more user-friendly approach to promote the roll-out of services.

The Mozambique case study directs attention to the Land Management Information System. This was potentially a critical study, involving as it did the introduction of ICTs in rural municipalities, establishing a setting for the possible co-evolution of rural and urban communities within a community for which what matters is the quality of service transaction, and not the dynamics of transforming a rural community into an urban one.

The other studies from Uganda, South Africa and Ghana deal more or less with the value and importance of ICTs for local governance. The Ugandan case targets communication; in the South Africa study the area of interest is local economic and social development; the Ghana study broadly addresses the issue of political inclusion. Taken together, they indicate the range of application of ICTs.

A number of benefits can be derived from the LOG-IN Africa research programme. First, it can contribute to the use of quality as a measure for generating a toolkit for pan-African governance indicators. Second, it has the potential to apply lessons from the country-specific case studies in order to establish nation- ally a system for indicating local e-governance quality. It is also possible to expand further the programme’s empirical research foundation, by including monitoring and evaluation as significant components of the research process. Through this orientation, it would be possible to use the empirical case studies to assess the costs and benefits of e-governance from both short- and long-term perspectives.

In conclusion, in addition to developing the stock of knowledge on the African e-governance experience, this volume provides information on and analyses of e-governance at the municipal and the local level in Africa, thereby opening up the possibility of further research on how new technologies can be used to change the governance architecture in Africa.

This volume presents important original research that must not be ignored by public policymakers – at municipal, regional, national and continental levels – in the respective countries in Africa. It is strongly recommended that this work be used and debated.

Congratulations are due to the research teams in the participating nations and to the team leader for the arduous task of coordinating the complex research process that resulted in the publication of this volume. It will undoubtedly influence the governance landscape of the continent.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* ‘Local Governance and ICTs in Africa’, edited by Edith Ofwona Adera and Timothy Mwololo Waema is published by Pambazuka Press (ISBN 0-85749-032-X).
* This essay is the foreword to ‘Local Governance and ICTs in Africa
* Mammo Muchie is professor and director of the Research Centre on Development Studies and International Relations, Aalborg University in Denmark.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Tula will decolonise Curaçao's cinematography

Jermain Ostiana

2011-08-16

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/75739

Jermain Ostiana argues that bringing Curaçaoan abolitionist leader Tula to the silver screen should be done by local producers, not the world’s mainstream film industry.

The freedom fighting-fetish genes I have got me respecting our liberation warrior Tula who strove for the abolition of slavery in Curaçao. When in 2010 the news got to me that attempts were made to catapult the 1791 rebellion with Tula as protagonist onto the silver screen by Dutch filmmakers, I foresaw a controversy. I was wrong; one year flew by and the slave-narrative theft remained below the cultural conscious radar.

What happened to all my elders and their mental decolonisation principles? When you reach around or pass 60, does it water down? I need my elders who still have decision-making powers to be strong. Don't you dare continue selling out on us. We need people to drink ‘Awa di Huramentu’ out of an ‘ashe’-filled calabash. As the United Nations declared 2011 the year of Afro-descendants, how in nomber di Dios (‘for heaven’s sake’) can you green light a project of two Dutch European filmmakers who came upon this insensitive idea to do a movie about our recently declared freedom-fighting national hero Tula? This with the help of two Afro-Americans, a screenplay writer Curtis Hawkins and Warrington Hudlin, a pioneering black film-maker, activist and advocate for independent black film movement who should've know better than to participate in the exploitation of Tula.

On the website www.tulathemovie.nl they are talking about ‘a story representing centuries of conflicted relations between black and white, the effects of which still haunt us today’. And it does as the two Dutch white privileged filmmakers cold heartedly or extreme naively kidnap the opportunity of Afro-Curaçaoan – or at least Curaçaoan – to tell the tales of the freedom-fighting Tula. The website of the commission to rehabilitate Tula responsible for their active role to declare him a national hero – www.tulalives.org – states this: ‘After the revolt of May 1969, many political leaders, intellectuals and artists from Curaçao were inspired by Tula in their search for our national identity. In 1971, a play was presented in the national theatre named “Tula”.’ I can envision the outrage if this play 41 years ago would’ve been made by solely Dutch Europeans and written by an Afro-American. Fortunately it was written by culturista, historian Pacheco Domacasse and co-directed by Tone Brulin, a Flemish socio-politically progressive Belgian. But that was two years after 30 May during a period where the Afro-Curaçaoan was starting to revalorise his African heritage. A young nation where carnival is becoming the most elevated form of cultural celebration really doesn't worry that much about struggles of the past.

Was the announcement of this project lucid? No, there has been no transparency whatsoever of the commission in approving the making of 'Tula the Revolt'. No one knows the criteria, no national hero law has been made public and if there is such a law, we the people sure didn't have democratic participation in it and therefore no one can scrutinise to see if the right procedures are just and were used which resulted in an approval.

A few lines from their summary: ‘As many slaves were transported and traded through Caribbean transit harbours like the one in Curaçao, this story belongs to them and their descendants. It deserves to be told, for it’s an important part of history, identity and in the end of our society today.’ So they understand the story of Tula is ours but morals and respect for our own emancipatory path that we as descendants have fade away for a US$25 million Hollywood adventure?

You have to wait your turn until the descendants themselves have created a solid infrastructure where they can empower their communities, develop their talents via art, sport, music, theatre and film. You can't commercialise our ancestor's history, bypassing the descendants’ rights and think you are doing us a favour.

In 2011 there is no film school here – if you want to learn cinematography you will have to go study abroad. Only the middle and upper-class or connection to them without any regular working-class pressure has the privilege to choose and see the importance of film study. Most underprivileged or working-class folks will not end up in a cinematography class.

Tell me how many Afro-Curaçaoan role models who went to film school a barrio like Kenepa has (the area where the uprising started)? Lagun, Santa Cruz, Soto, Barber, Sabaneta – any filmmakers or role models to inspire people to grow an interest for filmmaking?

Let's be honest – there is a great scarcity of visual griots who can light the fire inside our hearts to depict the past, present and future of Korsou.

Visionary leaders create a breeding ground for democratisation of film and media in general. Troubled by a social-corporate-political cataract epidemic within the Dutch kingdom, where its citizens are treated as third class, Curaçao hasn't seen these leaders rise up yet.

A year before the physical disappearance of the fierce independentista Papiamentista Joceline Clemencia during a lecture in Holland of the annual Tula commemoration of 17 August 1795, she emphasised that in 2013 it will be 150 years since the abolition of slavery and that we should tell our own stories, document and re-interpret our own history. We have a long way to go, as many Curaçaoans really don't 'revere' Tula as some think we do. The thesis of Natasha Maritza van der Dijs – ‘The nature of ethnic identity among the people of Curaçao’ (2011) – illustrates this very clearly during her investigation: ‘an African descent, a subject in the age range academic degree in business 19–35, recalls lucidly how a black child called her “Tula” when she was in primary school; she even remembered that she felt ugly.’

Amidst the constitutional changes, referendum and elections, how many times our ears and hearts were bleeding as the group who supported the political process to become an autonomous neocolonial country within the Dutch kingdom shouted that ‘Tula hasn't done nothing for us, you shouldn't look back to your past, stop reminding folks of that slave history’. Ironically the same persons who contributed to buffoonise Tula are getting paid from Tula for being the master of ceremony and offer their restaurant to hold the pre-production Tula fundraising event within an elite circle far away from those that truly respect him. A top law office like Van Eps Kunneman Van Doorne, who never showed any interest in uplifting the Afro-Curaçaoan heritage suddenly sponsors these filmmakers hoping on a return on investment.

Nobody has ever seen the corporate sector showing love or any support financially to document the history of slavery or any sort of history period. We all vividly remember the fiery discussions on the removal of the Peter Stuyvesant statue at a public school in 2010. The rumour that the school would be renamed Tula unleashed an agitated youth protest weighing him off as a nonsensical historical figure. That was a classic despicable representation of how middle and upper class youth have been ignorantly conditioned to dehumanise Tula. On the other hand, the political parties who are seated now in the new so-called 'socialised' government have used the slavery past and Tula for electoral benefits, whipping up an anti-Dutch atmosphere and scaring the folks that the Dutch would take over this island once again if they didn't vote for them during elections and referendum.

We sure didn't forget the political propaganda on TV, radio and print media and how many times they referred to slavery, Tula and his comrades’ bloodshed for their liberty struggle, which we all benefitted from. Ten months later all this pro-Afro-Curaçaoan bravado all the emancipation rhetoric vanished completely from the public horizon. A cultural betrayal like this of course will have its repercussions, so to claim everybody loves Tula is hypocritical to say the least. In 2005 I wrote a poem called: 'F..k Tula' because obviously, just like now, only a small group is genuinely interested in uplifting this heroic character. Every year on 17 August no media will even live transmit or dedicate afterwards a full spread to the commemoration in Holland or in Curaçao; it has no cultural priority at all. The first monument made was in 1963. The second one in 1998 at Rif far away from the public eye unlike Louis Brion, a Venezuelan national hero who occupies our biggest square in the heart of Otrobanda. Sad but true – it took us 48 years to overcome an identity crisis to proclaim him as a national hero.

A wise thing to do for Dutch filmmakers Jeroen Leinders and Dolph van Stapele is to re-programme their ambition, put this project on hold and respectfully await the flourishing of Curaçao cinematography and a true ownership over the slave heritage and ultimately the story.

The re-enslavement of Tula – the greatest fighting spirit of our times – for commercial glory and international fame is an act of neocolonial villainy. A regime of critical thinkers and activists who sleep on this will have to deal with this when their ancestors lace them with the consequences. Everyone involved can still correct this injustice.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This article was first published www.triunfodisablika.wordpress.com.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.




Highlights French edition

Pambazuka News 202: Senegal’s political crisis and threats to democracy

2011-08-16

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/summaryfr/75744

Senegal: The Balkanisation of the rule of law, justice under threat and the republic in danger
Aboubacry Mbodji

Senegal’s political crisis is the result of several factors linked to the derailment of the principles of the rule of law that require the separation and independence of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state, the equality of all citizens before law and the respect of the sovereignty of the people. Ten years of political alternation have led to a ‘patrimonialisation’ of power and the concentration of power in a single family, which according to Aboubacry Mbodji ‘is a serious danger to the republic’. This is the real meaning of the revolts taking place in the country.

http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/75678

******

Can the independence of South Sudan inspire anglophone Cameroon?
Patrice Nganang

The independence of South Sudan on 9 July this year marked the birth of the 54th African nation. This also marks the second time, after Eritrea, that the principle of the inviolability of colonial borders has been flouted, a precedent that according to Patrice Nganang could be applied to anglophone Cameroon.

http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/75680

******

Aid for Somalia: The Africa we dream of
Jean-Baptiste Placca

At their summit in Addis Ababa in July 2011, African Union heads of state called for a general mobilisation to help the estimated 12 million people threatened by famine in the Horn of Africa. This African mobilisation, says Jean Baptiste Placca, is a sign of hope.

http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/75679

******

Why is emergency aid insufficient?
Renaud Duterme

If charity were enough to abolish misery and exploitation, says Renaud Duterme, we would be living in an idyllic world. The crisis in Somalia, he argues, shows yet again that the concepts of solidarity practised by development organisations are the wrong solutions.

http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/75684

******

Morocco: The mood of the people living in rural and mountainous areas
Omar Aziki

Well before the protest movements that have swept Morocco since February, there were protests in several rural regions of the country throughout the years of 2008, 2009 and 2010. The latest developments show that lessons have been learned from the struggles of marginalised rural people. Omar Aziki underlines the great capacity of resistance, shown especially by the women, and this despite the simplicity of their demands.

http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/75683

******

Normalisation and its effects on producers in the global South

Normalisation is increasingly visible in international commercial transactions whose complexity constitutes an obstacle in the access to European markets by countries in the global South. The solution proposed by the organisation ‘Engineers without frontiers’ is to rethink the way these norms are conceived with the active involvement of southern countries.

http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/75681

******

South Africa: Nuclear energy will be our ruin
Glenn Ashton

The technocrats are calling the shots and nuclear energy is once again on the table in South Africa. How was the 2008 moratorium put into question? How has nuclear energy, hitherto considered too expensive, suddenly become affordable? A story with many twists.

http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/75685

******




Cartoons

London's burning...

Gado

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/cartoons/75784

Kenya to the rescue?


Obama in 2008, Obama today

Gado

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/cartoons/75785

From the man who walked on water...


The US, poor countries and the financial crisis

Gado

2011-08-18

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/cartoons/75786

The end of the world is nigh!




Zimbabwe update

Zimbabwe: Ex-military chief Mujuru dies

2011-08-17

http://aje.me/nntfSb

General Solomon Mujuru, a former Zimbabwean military chief and guerrilla leader in the country's independence war, has died in a fire at one of his homes, Zimbabwe's army commander said. The cause of the fire was unclear, but police said Mujuru's body was 'burned beyond recognition'. His widow, Joice Mujuru, is the country's vice president. Her supporters are vying for supremacy within their party should Mugabe die or retire.




Women & gender

Rwanda: Gender-based corruption in the workplace

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/ovg9wC

Gender-based corruption in workplaces exists in Rwanda, reveals a new report published by Transparency Rwanda (TR), the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption. The report is the first of its kind in Rwanda and reveals a number of challenges for the country. The study acknowledges that Rwanda has made impressive progress both in the fight against corruption and in the promotion of gender equality. However, 5 per cent of respondents personally experienced gender-based corruption in workplaces, 10 per cent perceive that the problem exists and nearly 20 per cent know someone who has been a victim.


Tunisia: Election law gives women equal chance

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/n5yxxv

In the next few months, Tunisian women may have a real opportunity as candidates and voters to participate in the country's new, post-revolution, electoral system. With hope, this will lead to more women in decision-making roles in government and a chance to demonstrate that democracies flourish when women, and the special experience and viewpoints they bring to the process, are included.


South Africa: Sex, drugs and women’s rights

Tafadzwa Sekeso

2011-08-22

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/wgender/75875

As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month, it is important to look at one of the most dangerous – and seldom discussed – issues affecting women in the country today, says this article from Gender Links. 'In South Africa, drug and alcohol abuse should be an issue of national concern. Yet, while production, sale and use of a number of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and crystal meth is illegal in South Africa, it has done little to curb the use of drugs, which remains very high.'
Drug and alcohol abuse is escalating internationally with recent evidence showing that substance abuse is on the rise outside of the western industrialised world, and not only among marginalised groups.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2011 World Drug Report noted that South Africa is a major African hub for certain drugs such as heroin and cannabis (marijuana), as well as a major producer of others, including methamphetamines. Large number of South African citizens also abuse drugs and alcohol, and the country has one of the world’s highest alcohol consumption levels per drinker.

As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month, it is important to look at one of the most dangerous – and seldom discussed – issues affecting women in the country today.

In South Africa, drug and alcohol abuse should be an issue of national concern. Yet, while production, sale and use of a number of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and crystal meth is illegal in South Africa, it has done little to curb the use of drugs, which remains very high.

‘Government is working tirelessly to address substance abuse as it contributes to incidences of violence against women, child abuse and HIV and AIDS,’ said Pitso Montwedi, Chairperson of the Central Drug Authority (CDA) of South Africa at the launch of the UNODC 2011 report in Pretoria.

A new Gender Links study on gender-based violence in Gauteng province has found that men’s alcohol consumption was closely associated with perpetration of all forms of violence, including rape. It also found that 4.2 per cent of women had been raped while drunk or drugged and that 14.2 per cent of men surveyed had forced a woman to have sex when she was too drunk or drugged to refuse.

Alcohol is legal, widely available and relatively inexpensive, leading to high consumption among citizens. This also means alcohol is one of the main burdens of disease in the country. This measurement of mortality, morbidity, injuries and other risk factors is specific to a country: in South Africa, alcohol abuse comes in third behind unsafe sex and interpersonal violence.

All three have contributed to the country’s high HIV prevalence rate, which currently stands at 18% according to the Southern African Development Community 2011 Gender Protocol Barometer. The report found that due to a number of socio-cultural, economic and biological factors, the HIV prevalence rate among women is higher than among men.

Research has shown that there is a strong link between drug and alcohol use and HIV transmission. Risky sexual behaviour, such as engaging in multiple concurrent sexual partnerships (MCPs), unprotected sex or incorrect use of condoms while intoxicated are often exacerbated by substance abuse as alcohol reduces inhibitions and lowers HIV risk perception, especially among young people.

Alcohol abuse is increasingly becoming recognised as a key determinant of sexual risk taking and sexual violence, and as a consequence, a direct contributor to HIV transmission rates, and to challenges in HIV treatment and mitigation interventions in sub-Saharan countries.

A Centre for AIDS Development Research and Evaluation (CADRE) study found that heavy consumption of alcohol and regular binge drinking by people on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) was also linked to lower levels of treatment adherence and treatment efficacy. This means efforts to reduce viral load, lower chances of transmission and improve health are compromised.

Possibly the greatest negative effect of drug and alcohol abuse is that it slows down or stops emotional and psychological development, preventing people from reaching their full potential. Added to this is the burden placed on society by health care and criminal justice costs related to substance abuse, as well as the costs associated with decreased productivity in the workplace, increased HIV transmission, domestic violence, injury and death.

Recognising these myriad issues, South Africa has been taking steps to address substance abuse, including hosting an Anti-Substance Abuse Summit in Durban in March. The country agreed to several interim resolutions to curb alcohol abuse and better regulate the industry.

These include possibly raising the legal age for purchasing and consuming alcohol from 18 to 21 years; limiting alcohol advertising; reviewing alcohol license fees; harmonising existing liquor legislation; imposing restrictions on the times and days of the week that alcohol can be legally sold and decreasing the number of taverns and shebeens.

Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon has stated that while governments have a responsibility to counteract substance abuse, communities should also make a larger contribution, especially families, schools, civil society and religious organisations. Businesses can help by providing legitimate livelihoods while the media can play a role in creating awareness of the dangers of abuse.

‘We can succeed if we reinforce our commitment to the basic principles of health and human rights, shared responsibility, a balanced approach to reducing supply and demand, and universal access to prevention, treatment and support,’ he said. ‘This will foster communities free of drug-related crime and violence, individuals free of drug dependence who can contribute to our common future and a safer world for all.’

While the government is finally attempting to end the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse, the struggle to change public attitudes and behaviours is only beginning.

* Tafadzwa Sekeso is a Zimbabwean journalist. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service special series for Women’s Month.


Zimbabwe: For Zimbabwe's women, a bicycle can be a tool of liberation

Cycling can free women from the daily ordeal of Harare's public transport, and avoid predatory men

2011-08-18

http://bit.ly/qMK7NV

In an article for the Guardian’s Bike Blog, Jane Madembo relived her experience as a public transit and bicycle commuter in Zimbabwe. Madembo explains that public transport was scarce in the low-density, suburban areas where she had to travel for work, leaving her and other commuters to rely on inadequate and overcapacity transport methods.


Global: The first Men Care campaign

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/mVO7Le

More than four out of five men worldwide will be fathers at some point in their lives. Sonke Gender Justice, Instituto Promundo and MenEngage, joined by the Department of Social Development - South Africa, are excited to announce the launch of the MenCare campaign, a global fatherhood campaign to promote active and equal parenting. See http://www.men-care.org/node/18 for more information.


Africa: Cultivating knowledge and crops

Women are key to sustainable agricultural development

2011-08-18

http://huff.to/oT5VIe

An article in the Huffington Post, which references findings documented in the Worldwatch Institute report 'State of the World 2011', finds that despite the challenging circumstances that women in developing countries face, important innovations in communications and organising are helping them play a key role in the fight against hunger and poverty. 'Access to credit, which provides women farmers with productive inputs and improved technologies, can be an effective tool in improving livelihoods in Africa and beyond,' said Worldwatch Institute's executive director Robert Engelman.




Human rights

When the news and the truth are not the same thing

Q&A on South Africa to Gaza relief convoy

2011-08-22

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/rights/75919

An aid convoy which departed South Africa in July is soon to arrive in Gaza after traveling the length of Africa. South African Relief Agency Chief Coordinator Aneesa Brits answers questions from Pambazuka News about the reasons for the epic journey.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: How would you describe the aims and the motivations of the South African Relief Agency in undertaking the Africa to Gaza initiative?

ANEESA BRITS: SARA's humanitarian aid mission to Gaza was undertaken with the following aims and objectives:
a. Break the illegal and immoral siege on Gaza
b. Travel overland from South Africa to Gaza to concientize the people of Africa on the plight of the Palestinians and their struggle for freedom
c. Embody the support and solidarity of the African people with the people of Palestine
d. Enter Gaza with relief aid from Africa and help the Gazans rebuild their shattered lives

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What route has the convoy followed as it travels across Africa? How has the trip gone so far?

ANEESA BRITS: From Durban, South Africa the convoy drove through Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia & Sudan. This is the first ever overland convoy through Africa and whilst it was a daunting task, the trip went very well and proved to be an overwhelming success.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What is the current state of Israel’s blockade of Gaza? Have restrictions been eased at all?

ANEESA BRITS: Almost absolute. Not in the least.

The siege of Gaza is crime against humanity; one of monumental proportions, unashamedly aided and abetted by the so called 'civilized' western governments and their puppet regimes who turn essentially a blind eye to the everyday suffering, death and destruction wrought by Israel on the people of Gaza. Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza gives it almost absolute control over everything entering or leaving this besieged enclave. This has led to Israel severely restricting and prohibiting multiple basic resources, such as food, water, electricity, fuel, import/export goods and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. On 27 December 2008 Israel again invaded Gaza. In a brutal orgy of death and destruction that lasted 22 days, they killed 1,500 and injured some 5,500 innocent civilians and further devastated the Gazan people and their collapsed economy. Just last week the Israelis again cut all power and communication links to the besieged enclave leading the Gazans to fear yet another murderous incursion as was the case in the run up to Operation Cast Lead.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Several convoys have left Europe for Gaza: what significance does a convoy from the south hold for the Palestinian people?

ANEESA BRITS: This first ever road convoy from Africa that departed from Durban in South Africa is of huge significance and importance to the Palestinian people. At the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban in September 2001, the majority decision that equated Zionism with Racism led to the walkout of both the Israeli and American delegations who could not defend Israel's despicable and racist policies towards the Palestinian people.

Having themselves suffered under the yoke of apartheid, South Africans can readily identify with and hence stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people as they struggle for self determination and freedom from the apartheid regime in Israel. And, just as South Africans united to win their independence, so too will they support the freedom struggle of the Palestinian people. Moreover; the passage of our convoy through no fewer than eight countries in Africa has galvanised the support for the Palestinian people who see the hope of freedom in South Africans who successfully broke the shackles of apartheid.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: With one of the aims being to create awareness amongst the people of Africa about the situation in Gaza, how has the convoy been received by people in African countries that you have passed through?

ANEESA BRITS: Very, very enthusiastically! The warm reception, concern and caring on display throughout Africa far exceeded all our expectations. With regard to concientising the people of Africa on the Palestinian issue, our convoy has succeeded in uniting the people of Africa who were collectively appalled at the barbaric treatment that the people of Palestine have had to and still endure at the hands of the Israelis for the past 63 years. We believe that in time, the flame that we have kindled in the hearts and minds of the people will turn into an inferno that will manifest itself in acts that fully support the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Wherever we went we were received like heroes with everyone demanding that we lead another convoy after this one with each country that we traversed pledging support with an equal number of vehicles and participants.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Archbishop Desmond Tutu has famously referred to Israel's policies towards the Palestinian people as 'apartheid'. Is this view shared across South Africa – and the African continent - do you think?

ANEESA BRITS: Yes indeed - in fact, many South Africans believe that the Israeli version of apartheid is much worse.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: As part of a reconciliation deal with Hamas and Fatah, Egypt recently opened its border crossing to enable Palestinians free passage out of the blockaded territory for the first time in some four years. Conversely, in a recent news item, Press TV mentioned that the Egyptian authorities were opposed to the Africa to Gaza convoy passing through their country (http://bit.ly/qLJ6up). How has this situation developed?

ANEESA BRITS: That announcement may have eased the movement of Palestinian women, children and aged males but did not in any way ease the passage of vital goods, food, medical supplies etc. to Gaza.

Our's is a Humanitarian Aid Convoy - as such, the Egyptian Authorities granted our convoy entry into Egypt only via the Port of El Arish on the Mediterranean Sea. From here they have allowed us to drive the eighty odd kilometres to the Rafah Border Crossing. Given the tense political situation in Egypt at the time of our application for permission, they declined the convoy entry at any other point and turned down our request to drive through the Sinai Peninsula as they could not guarantee our security. They are fully aware of our impending arrival in El Arish as they requested an inventory of the aid we are carrying and the names and details of all convoy members in advance of our arrival.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: 31 May 2010 saw the Gaza Freedom Flotilla endeavour to break the Israeli-Egyptian naval blockade of Gaza, only for the activists involved to be treated very heavy-handedly. Are you concerned about the security of those participating in the convoy?

ANEESA BRITS: Whilst the security of convoy team members is always a concern, the Rafah Border Crossing is controlled by the Egyptians who have full knowledge of our mission and have granted us the permission to enter their country. Whilst we have experienced delays and red tape at most border crossings as we travelled through Africa, we do not anticipate any untoward behaviour from the Egyptians that may compromise the safety and security of our team members.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What kinds of things is the convoy carrying that will help to meet the immediate needs of the people of Gaza?

ANEESA BRITS: Infant milk powder, medicines, medical supplies and equipment, wheel chairs, crutches, school stationery, disposable diapers and portable electricity generators.

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: How can Pambazuka News readers support the convoy?

ANEESA BRITS: It is said that 'the news and the truth are not the same thing'. Firstly, urge your readers to spread the truth on the desperate situation in Palestine. Secondly, let them act by joining similar aid iniatives or contributing in cash or kind to such causes. Thirdly, let them speak out and stand in solidarity against racism and oppression wherever it rears its ugly head and fourthly, let them pray for the success of those undertaking such missions and for the enlightenment of the oppressors to see the folly of their evil ways.


Malawi: Civil society coalition demands justice

2011-08-18

http://bit.ly/pZOEGQ

A coalition of 18 trade Unions, 11 national Christian councils, 15 umbrella NGO Bodies as well as civil society groups, think tanks and human rights organisations from Malawi and across southern Africa have called on the Malawian President, Bingu wa Mutharika, to put an immediate stop to the ongoing harassment and intimidation being meted out to Malawian citizens - and take action to ensure that those responsible for the deaths of 19 people during anti-government protests are held to account.


Uganda: Bunyoro kingdom to take the Queen of England to court

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/qpmLlQ

The British government is facing unprecedented court claims from its former African colonies for various atrocities committed by its officers. The once mighty Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom in western Uganda now joins the Mau Mau of Kenya in lodging court proceedings in which they are demanding £1.5 billion ($2.4 billion) as general damages and reparations. In a case that also raises questions about what should constitute the scope of a colonial power, lawyers representing Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom have served the British government with a statutory notice of intention to sue for invasion, atrocious human-rights abuses and grabbing of their land in the colonial era.


Somalia: 'All sides guilty' in Somalia, says rights group

2011-08-16

http://aje.me/mZKHP2

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said all the parties in Somalia's conflict have violated the rules of war and are guilty of causing civilian casualties in the fight for territorial control that is contributing to the humanitarian catastrophe there. The New York-based group said al-Shabab, the rebel Isamist group that controls large parts of the country, was guilty of unrelenting brutality, while government troops carry out arbitrary arrests and detentions.


Sudan: Sudan atrocities amount to 'war crimes', says UN

2011-08-16

http://aje.me/okO4nq

Atrocities committed in June in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state by armies of the north and south 'could amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes', according to a report by the UN human rights agency. The 12-page report covers the period from 5-30 June and describes a wide range of alleged violations of international law in the town of Kadugli. The violations are also said to have occurred in the surrounding Nuba mountains, after fighting broke out in Kadugli on 5 June between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army North (SPLA-N).


South Africa: Tutu calls for wealth tax for whites

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/qb8NzV

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called for a 'wealth tax' to be imposed on all white South Africans. The former archbishop of Cape Town and former head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) also called on members of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet to sell their 'expensive cars', 'to show you care' about the poor in South Africa. Tutu said apartheid had left South Africans riddled with 'self-hate', and it was directly to blame for the country’s vicious crime rate and road carnage.


Côte d'Ivoire: Ivory Coast charges former president

2011-08-22

http://aje.me/o72aPi

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone, detained since he was ousted
from power in April, have been charged with 'economic crimes, armed robbery, looting and embezzlement', the public prosecutor has said. Simplice Kouadio Koffi said Gbagbo was charged on Thursday and his wife on Tuesday. Both have been moved from house arrest in the north of the country to jail.


Guinea: President pardons jailed activists

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/q8AddS

Guinea's President Alpha Conde has pardoned 17 opposition activists jailed for taking part in an illegal rally in April. The amnesty was aimed at promoting reconciliation after divisive elections last year, the BBC's Alhassan Sillah in the capital, Conakry, says. Mr Conde had also appointed Guinea's top Muslim and Christian clerics to head a reconciliation commission.




Refugees & forced migration

Tunisia: Italy says Lampedusa migrant numbers rising

2011-08-17

http://bbc.in/qWoagb

There has been a sharp increase in the number of African migrants arriving in Italy in overcrowded boats, officials say. More than 3,000 people have reached the small island of Lampedusa - 200km (124 miles) off the Tunisian coast - in the past few days, they report. Arrivals are said to include Somalis and Nigerians as well as North Africans fleeing the violence in Libya.


South Africa: Catch-22 for unaccompanied child refugees

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/pfioJ4

South Africa’s progressive constitution and laws extend the same protections to unaccompanied minors (the term given to children who cross border without parents or adult care-givers) as to local children, but in practice they face immense bureaucratic hurdles and are often left to fend for themselves. Although no figures are available, Mmone Moletsale of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that based on reports from their partners, South Africa was receiving an increasing number of such children, but still lacked an efficient system for dealing with them.


South Africa: Refugees fight for better conditions

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/nZMrED

A group of asylum- seekers has applied to the High Court in Pretoria for an order directing the Home Affairs ministry to provide adequate refugee reception offices in South Africa, including in Johannesburg. The order - which, if granted, could force an overhaul of a refugee management system that at times borders on dysfunctional - seeks to compel the ministry to address a host of problems, including rampant corruption and overcrowding at reception offices that have made applying for asylum a nightmare in South Africa.


South Sudan: Reintegrating returnees in Upper Nile

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/p66Am9

John Wiyual returned from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, to South Sudan in December 2010, hoping the move would not disrupt his five children's education too much. Wiyual's family was among the first groups of Southern Sudanese to go home, pending the South's secession, which became reality on 9 July. For Wiyual and thousands of other returnees in the Greater Upper Nile region - comprising the states of Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei - basic services, land and employment opportunities are the key considerations influencing the pace of their reintegration.




Emerging powers news

Latest edition: emerging powers news roundup

2011-08-22

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/emplayersnews/75874

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...
1. China in Africa

China Offers Mediation Between North And South
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made the offer at the conclusion of his two-day visit which took him to Khartoum and Juba. Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti speaking to reporters along with Jiechi at Khartoum airport welcomed China's initiative saying that Beijing is qualified to play this role given the acceptance and appreciation it enjoys from both sides.
Read More

China Gives $15.7 Million to Rwanda to Boost Economic Development, Trade
China’s government will give Rwanda 100 million yuan ($15.7 million) in grants and loans to encourage economic development and trade with China, Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said.
Read More

Somaliland in port deal with China businessmen
Somaliland has struck a deal with Chinese businessmen to extend its Berbera port as well as TO build a refinery and new roads in the breakaway northern enclave, its president said. Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo said Somaliland, which declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 but has not been formally recognised internationally, said the new deal would boost its economy and strengthen ties with Horn of Africa neighbours.
Read More

Ghana, China reach $800 mn gas development deal
Ghana will borrow $800 million from China to build natural gas infrastructure, the head of the national gas company said Friday, months after the country became Africa's newest major oil producer.
Read More

Tanzania to spend $742 mln for emergency power, seeks loan from China
Tanzania plans to spend 1.2 trillion Tanzanian shillings ($741.89 million) by the end of next year for emergency power projects aimed at ending chronic energy shortages in east Africa's second-largest economy. Energy and Minerals Minister William Ngeleja said in a presentation to parliament seen by Reuters on Monday that the government was seeking loans from China to finance construction of a natural gas pipeline from Mtwara in southern Tanzania to Dar es Salaam, the country's commercial capital.
Read More

China Africa Cotton Moçambique to invest in cotton sector
China Africa Cotton Moçambique plans, over the next three years to invest US$22 million on its programme to boost production and process cotton in the central Mozambican province of Sofala, Rádio Moçambique reported. Of that amount, over US$6 million were invested in construction work for a cotton processing factory, in the Cerâmica neighbourhood on the outskirts of the port city of Beira.
Read More

Ethiopia, Somaliland and China to Sign Trilateral Agreement
Somaliland, Ethiopia, and China are likely to sign trilateral agreements in the coming days. The deals are likely to be on oil, gas, and logistics. To take matters further, Somaliland President Ahmed M. Silanyo arrived in China for bilateral talks.
Read More

China gives Ethiopia $55 m in aid
China on Monday announced food aid worth 353.2 million yuan ($55.28 million), one of its largest single gifts to a foreign country, to help Ethiopia and other African drought-stricken regions solve the current famine crisis. Premier Wen Jiabao made the promise while meeting visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Read More

China's Red Cross to donate $1.3m to Horn of Africa
China's Red Cross Society on Wednesday announced that it will donate 8 million yuan ($1.25 million) to famine-plagued countries in the Horn of Africa for emergency humanitarian aid. Two million yuan will go to Kenya through the country's Red Cross organization and another 2 million for Ethiopia, while the other 4 million yuan will help other countries in the region.
Read More

2. India in Africa

India's Essar Steel gains access to African iron ore reserves
India's Essar Steel has its foot on as much as 45 billion tonnes of iron ore in Africa after agreeing to pay $US750 million for a majority stake in state-owned Zimbabwe Iron & Steel Co, which has been renamed NewZim Steel (NZS). Under a deal signed in Zimbabwe earlier this month, Mumbai-based Essar Steel, part of the diversified Essar Group run by the billionaire brothers Shashi and Ravi Ruia, will spend up to $4 billion over the next few years on the steel plant, iron ore mines, a possible ore beneficiation plant, and associated power plants and other infrastructure.
Read More

India’s CIL starts coal mine development in Mozambique
Making its first international foray, Coal India Africana Limitada (CIAL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Coal India Limited (CIL), would shortly start exploratory and development work at two coal blocks in Mozambique’s north-western Tete province, estimated to have a reserve of one-billion tons.
Read More

3. In Other Emerging Powers News

OIC pledges $350 million to Somalia at Turkey summit
Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries have pledged $350 million in aid to fight famine in Somalia at an emergency summit in Istanbul, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said Wednesday. With some 3.7 million Somalis at risk of starvation in the Horn of Africa country, Ihsanoglu said he hoped the aid would soon reach $500 million and urged donors to improve drought-stricken Somalia’s long-term food security by helping it rebuild infrastructure and agriculture.
Read More

Turkish PM to set up Somali embassy
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, keen to strengthen Ankara's ties with the African continent, said Friday he would set up an embassy in Somalia and promised major infrastructure projects in Mogadishu. The visit by Erdogan, the first leader from outside Africa to visit for nearly two decades, was aimed at drawing attention to the famine sweeping across the Horn of Africa nation, which is leaving at least 3.7 million Somalis at risk of starvation.
Read More

Brazil ramps up naphtha purchases in North Africa
Brazil's Petrobras is ramping up its purchases of North African naphtha, adding to pressure in the Mediterranean, traders said on Wednesday. Supply is tight in the Mediterranean because of lost Libyan output and the export of nearly 100,000 tonnes from Russia to Asia this month. Traders reported the Brazilian oil company had won a tender to purchase a 40,000 tonne cargo from Morocco's port of Mohammedia in September. It will follow the export of a cargo from Algeria's Skikda refinery, due to load later this week.
Read More

Iran's Salehi to visit Somalia in coming days
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi would visit Somalia soon in a bid to step up transfer of aid to the drought-hit people in the African country. His trip whose exact time has still remained unclear is scheduled for coming days. Salehi is now on an official visit to Russia. Salehi's visit to Somalia mainly aims to examine needed goods of Somali people and ways to send aid for them as soon as possible.
Read More

Mozambique offers Brazilian farmers land to plant
Mozambique invites Brazilian soy, corn and cotton growers to plant on its savanna and introduce their farming know-how to sub-Saharan Africa, the head of Mato Grosso state's cotton producers association Ampa said on Monday. Brazil has been successfully growing crops on its center-west plains since a breakthrough in tropical soybeans in the 1980s unlocked the productive potential of the expansive region by breeding soy to grow closer to equatorial regions.
Read More

Food security: Can Africa learn from Brazil?
Famine in the Horn of Africa has brought food security back to the limelight, with analysts pointing out that the continent should learn from South America, particularly Brazil. Brazil has over the decades emerged as a good example of 'how to do it' when it comes to just about all sectors of agriculture, getting the best out of a few plantations and numerous small-scale producers to make the sector stable and guarantee food security.
Read More

White paper on SA foreign policy
Former finance minister Derek Keys once remarked that we – by that he meant the average, well-meaning person – would like others to do well – but not quite as well as us. Reading the final draft of South Africa’s new white paper on foreign policy recalled his wise observation. The white paper – drafted after wide consultations with foreign policy analysts, business and union leaders and civil society – was approved by the cabinet last week and will soon be considered by Parliament.
Read More

4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications

INTERVIEW-Mozambique offers Brazilian farmers land to plant
Brazil has been successfully growing crops on its center-west plains since a breakthrough in tropical soybeans in the 1980s unlocked the productive potential of the expansive region by breeding soy to grow closer to equatorial regions. While Mozambique possesses similar climatic and soil characteristics, Amapa President Carlos Ernesto Augustin told Reuters that some areas in the country on the southeast coast of Africa even had more fertile soils than Brazil.
Read More

More Mistakes by The Economist: "Charity Begins Abroad"
The Economist has a new feature on aid from developing countries (August 13th, 2011): "Charity Begins Abroad: Big Developing Countries are Shaking Up the World of Aid." A lot of the article appears to be accurate. But with regard to China's aid, not surprisingly, it gets a few big things wrong or partly wrong.
Read More




Elections & governance

Liberia: Strong political will required for solutions

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/paR11z

A World Council of Churches (WCC) and All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) report details historical conditions that have led to the upcoming elections in Liberia and describes the findings of the Ecumenical Solidarity Mission following their travels through Liberia from 7 through 12 August. The report concludes that resolution of Liberia’s 'difficulties and anxieties associated with the electoral process' will require 'strong political will from major stakeholders to reach a political compromise'.


Liberia: How sustainable is the recovery?

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/o3yJ7O

Liberia’s October 2011 general and presidential elections, the second since civil war ended in 2003, are an opportunity to consolidate its fragile peace and nascent democracy, says this report from the International Crisis Group. 'Peaceful, free and fair elections depend on how well the National Elections Commission (NEC) handles the challenges of the 23 August referendum on constitutional amendments and opposition perceptions of bias toward the president’s Unity Party (UP)... The most serious threats to security, however, are the persistence of mercenary activities and arms proliferation.'


Uganda: Police break up opposition vigil

2011-08-17

http://bbc.in/r0BRhM

Ugandan police have fired tear gas and water cannon filled with a pink dye to break up an opposition vigil near the capital, Kampala. Several hundred opposition supporters gathered for a 'light a candle' ceremony to mourn at least nine people killed during protests in April. Police said the meeting was illegal and could cause violence. The opposition has vowed to step up protests against President Yoweri Museveni's government.


Cape Verde: Opposition candidate wins presidential election

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/pP9zDC

Cape Verde’s opposition candidate, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, 61, has won Sunday’s presidential run-off elections with 54 per cent of the votes cast. His rival, Manuel Inocencio Sousa, 60, has conceded defeat after 92 per cent of the overall ballots were counted by Monday morning.


South Africa: ANC top 6 to decide Malema’s fate

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/mRvP9b

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s fate, and that of his executive, rests with the ANC’s top six officials, who will decide whether to accept the league’s apology and retraction of what the mother body regards as a politically embarrassing call for regime change in Botswana. ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said officials would continue discussing the matter and there was no deadline to finalise these talks. He had earlier said the ANC would first have to weigh up whether the apology undid the damage to the ANC and the country. The youth league’s apology on Saturday came nearly two weeks after it vowed to stand by its intention to mobilise opposition to Sir Ian Khama’s government, which it described as a 'puppet regime'.




Corruption

South Africa: Youth league president under investigation

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/oZxCfO

The Hawks confirmed that they were investigating African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema for fraud and corruption, eNews reported on Saturday. 'From the information that we have, we have enough to tell us that we need to do a full investigation...there's a lot that tells us that we have reason to worry,' Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela said. ENews also reported that the South African Revenue Service (Sars) initiated its own investigation into Malema's financial affairs and alleged failure to pay tax.




Development

Global: Western racism in the IMF and the World Bank

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/oG63W3

One of the more serious problems facing the World Bank and International Monetary Fund is a long history of Western racism, the author of this article argues. 'Unless the IMF and the World Bank are willing to undergo a radical reform, not a superficial one (to prolong its power structure for Western domination), their historical relevance will come to an end soon, to be replaced by alternative global institutions when the new powers in the Asian century (and others) take their turn to reshape the world order.'


Eritrea: Reconstruction and authority in Eritrea and Rwanda

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/pYpp2u

Eritrea and Rwanda are among Africa’s smallest and poorest states, states this Africa Research Institute briefing. 'Substantial military resources, and expertise, have enabled both countries to exert disproportionate influence over regional security. Aggression and authoritarianism have not prompted matching responses from donor nations. While President Paul Kagame’s leadership of Rwanda has been championed as “visionary”, President Isaias Afwerki is accused of transforming Eritrea into a rogue, pariah state.' The document argues that popular perceptions of these comparable, though seldom compared, countries have been simplistic – and polarised.


Africa: Emerging trend towards establishing offshore tax havens

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/pK8Ekd

As several African governments examine the possibility of setting up their own 'offshore' financial centres, the trade name for tax havens, campaigners are calling for transparency and fair tax regimes. 'We need pan-African action,' says Alvin Mosioma, coordinator of the Tax Justice Network Africa, an organisation that advocates fair tax regimes to promote economic and social development. 'The African Union has established a special panel on illicit financial flows, in which Thabo Mbeki participates, and the African Tax Administrators Forum meeting held in 2008 was also a promising start, but Africans have been too silent too long on the issue of financial transparency.'


Rwanda: Report on impact of tax incentives in Rwanda

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/qTvFvY

Tax Justice Network - Africa and Action Aid International Kenya have conducted country studies on tax incentives for all East African Community (EAC) member states except Burundi. The Rwanda country study is complete. The report titled 'Policy Brief on Impact of Tax Incentives in Rwanda' is available and the 'East African Taxation Project: Rwanda Country Case Study' is also available. The amount lost in tax incentives is staggering, and rising: 'In 2006, according to the International Monetary Fund, the amount of revenue foregone in Rwanda to tax incentives was three per cent of GDP. Calculations from our research suggest that by 2008, this had risen to 3.6 per cent and 4.7 per cent by 2009. This compares with 2.8 per cent of GDP in Tanzania in 2008/9; one per cent of GDP in Kenya and 0.4 percent in Uganda.'


South Africa: ‘Economic diplomacy’ kicks in as FDI tumbles

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/p8wObd

Stiff competition in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) to Africa has compelled SA to prioritise 'economic diplomacy' among a range of foreign policy measures designed to drive economic growth. This comes as SA is losing its prime position as the preferred gateway from which to do business on the continent. A draft foreign policy white paper released last week also proposes the setting up of a development agency targeting other African countries, saying the 'success of economic diplomacy will determine the extent to which SA can achieve its domestic priorities'. Regional integration, reform of the international trading system, and negotiating preferential access for African goods on international markets form the core of SA’s economic diplomacy.


Madagascar: Sanctions result in economic decline and food insecurity

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/nYWBv6

In recent years Madagascar has experienced a slow, seemingly unstoppable decline of its fragile economy, that has put a strain on the lives of millions of Malagasy citizens. After two and a half years under the administration of the transitional government of Andry Rajoelina (half a presidential mandate), the economy has been ranked worst in the world by Forbes magazine; thousands have lost their jobs and a food crisis is looming in the southern region of the country. Food crises in the region have been recurrent over the past decade, but an independent United Nations expert has warned that the sanctions imposed on Madagascar have made the situation untenable from a food security standpoint.


DRC: Let's live within our means, Kabila tells government departments

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/r0sZUz

DRC President Joseph Kabila has warned national institutions not to shoot their expenditures out of control. The president has had a big issue with his prime minister, Adolphe Muzito, on this matter. In the past two years, President Kabila has prevented the premier from signing documents related to big expenditures. He has accused the Prime Minister of excessive spending in disregard of the allocated budget.




Health & HIV/AIDS

Global: AIDS breakthrough threatened by budget woes

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/ph7Krn

After 30 years and over 20 million deaths in Africa alone, US researchers now report that early treatment of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to AIDS cuts transmission of the disease by over 96 per cent. Unexpectedly announced by the US National Institutes of Health on 12 May after a six-year clinical trial, the discovery that anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) can make people living with HIV far less infectious means that humanity finally has the tools to reverse the global epidemic. But, says this article from African Renewal, having the technology to curb AIDS, however, is not the same as having the political will to do so.


Kenya: Kenyans address medical problems in public hospitals

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/qePh0T

Kenyans outraged over lost loved ones accuse public hospitals here of frequent medical negligence. Aware of a shortage of space and personnel, the government has been working to build and upgrade hospitals and train more doctors, thanks to funding from the Chinese government. Meanwhile, a group of citizens has formed a foundation to speak out against medical negligence, reports Global Press Institute.


Global: Study asks whether pediatric HIV is a neglected disease

2011-08-18

http://bit.ly/qw6GQe

The failure to implement prevention programmes for mother-to-child transmission on an appropriate scale has resulted in hundreds of thousands of preventable HIV infections among newborns, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says. The results of this study, it is hoped, will influence guidelines in the direction of even earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy.


Somalia: Cholera hits crowded Mogadishu camps

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/nj91xm

Fears are mounting that a cholera epidemic could spread rapidly among the hundreds of thousands of people living in often unsanitary conditions in Mogadishu after fleeing drought, famine and insecurity. In Mogadishu's largest health facility, Banadir Hospital, 4,272 cases of acute watery diarrhoea, a symptom of cholera, have been recorded so far this year, causing 181 deaths. (Random laboratory tests showed that 60 per cent of the cases also tested positive for malaria, according to WHO.)


Malawi: Hospitals struggle with lack of water

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/paoz70

Two battered plastic chairs bar entry to the toilets at the Bangwe Township Clinic in Blantyre. The toilets are not working because there is no running water - yet again. And if patients want to use the facilities they will have to run to the next- door primary school, which has pit latrines. 'It’s not a new thing here,' says a nurse, speaking on the condition of anonymity. 'It’s been like this for two weeks now. We often don’t have running water, especially during the dry season. We have two toilets, so at times (like this) we close them.'


South Africa: Shortage of drug-resistant TB treatment looms

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/rfn612

While countries are rolling out new tests that will enable them to diagnose more patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), a worldwide shortage of the drugs to treat these patients is likely, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns. DR-TB can occur when TB patients do not complete their initial course of TB treatment. The only way to test for DR-TB is through cultures or via molecular testing – neither of which has been widely available in many high incident countries - until the advent of the GeneXpert, a two-hour molecular TB test released in 2010.




Education

Libya: Students call for help

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/qzrH0X

Thousands of Libyan students enrolled in universities and colleges in Australia, Britain, Egypt, South Africa and the US face suspension of their monthly stipend from the government in Tripoli, possibly by the end of August. Many students fear reprisals for holding protests against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi should they return home, but the British and US governments have promised to do what they can to ensure the students will be able to complete their courses.


Somalia: Famine causes school dropouts to rise

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/nwOr8n

Jamaal Abdi, an eight-year-old boy at the Badbaado camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, would like to have an education. He has his own dreams for the future. But since Abdi and his family arrived at Badbaado camp – the biggest camp for people displaced by the drought and famine in southern Somalia and home to nearly 30,000 people, mostly women and children – he has done nothing but sit around all day. But for Abdi, it’s nothing new. He’s never been to school.




LGBTI

Uganda: UK denies leading Ugandan LGBT activist a visa

2011-08-18

http://bit.ly/puUrtj

The British government has denied a visa to Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesra, a leading LGBT activist in Uganda and the 2011 winner of the prestigious Martin Ennals award for Human Rights. She had been invited to open Foyle Pride in Derry, Northern Ireland, 24 August.


Africa: American anti-gay campaign in Africa opposes sexual rights

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/pLmyhD

Sharon Slater, American anti-gay activist and president of Family Watch International, recently encouraged delegates attending a law conference in Lagos, Nigeria to resist the United Nations’ calls to decriminalise homosexuality. Keynoting the Nigerian Bar Association Conference, Slater told delegates that they would lose their religious and parental rights if they supported 'fictitious sexual rights'. One such 'fictitious right' is the right to engage in same-sex sexual relationships without going to jail.


Ghana: Rights chief says she won't fight for gay rights

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/n6vot1

The newly appointed boss of Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Lauretta Lamptey has said she will not fight for the rights of homosexuals as the law deems their activities to be criminal. Lamptey also said that the argument on gay rights should be a legal discourse, rather than about human rights.




Environment

Global: Our right to water

A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/pjsK56

'This paper is meant to serve as a background document to help civil society groups fighting for water justice and their governments take these two historic [UN] resolutions and make them work. It traces the history of the struggle for the right to water and lays out the case for why the recognition of the human right to water is needed.'


Africa: How Europe could help plug oil spills in Africa

2011-08-18

http://bit.ly/p0WspG

A new study is asking the European Parliament, European Union member states and European civil society organizations to push for regulatory measures targeted at Europe-based companies engaged in oil exploration in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The study follows on the heels of landmark UN findings reported on August 4, highlighting the devastating impact of oil spills in the Niger delta over the past five decades, which will take up to 30 years to clean up.


Global: The green economy, poverty and equity

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/plsv92

There are many challenges and obstacles facing developing countries in moving their economies to more environmentally friendly paths, says this paper from the South Centre. 'On one hand this should not prevent the attempt to urgently incorporate environmental elements into economic development. On the other hand, the various obstacles should be identified and recognised and international cooperation measures should be taken to enable and support the sustainable development efforts.'


Global: Developing world leading new investments in green energy

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/ruaL16

The developing world has, for the first time, outstripped richer economies in providing new investment in the renewable energy sector, according to a report. And research and development (R&D) funding from government sources, at US$5 billion in 2010, for the first time overtook corporate R&D investment, according to 'Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011', published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in July, reports www.scidev.net


Ethiopia: Ethiopia stands firm on the Gibe 3 hydro dam project

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/rtyCeb

Ethiopian authorities have turned down a strong demand by Kenyan lawmakers to stop the construction of the controversial Gibe III hydro-electric power dam, terming it 'unthinkable'. The massive dam, that is expected to cost $1.7 billion, has come under sustained criticism from mainly western rights groups over what they say are the negative environmental and social impacts and the threat it is said to pose to the livelihoods of an estimated 500,000 people living in Kenya. Kenyan Members of Parliament last week demanded the Ethiopian government stop all construction until an independent environmental impact assessment was done, saying that communities living around Lake Turkana would be affected.


South Africa: Activists win right to intervene in seed merger

African Centre for Biosafety statement

2011-08-21

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/environment/75816

'The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) welcomes the decision made by the Competition Tribunal on 19 August 2011, to allow the ACB to intervene in the merger proceedings involving multinational seed giant, Pioneer Hi Bred’s bid to take over South Africa’s largest seed company, Panaar. The ACB, represented by Legal Aid South Africa, and advocates Stephen Budlender and Isabel Goodman, has consistently sought to lead evidence and present argument on public interest grounds that militate against authorisation of the merger.'
ACTIVISTS WIN RIGHT TO INTERVENE IN PIONEER/PANAAR SEED MERGER:

FIRST STEPS TOWARDS ADDRESSING IMBALANCES IN FOOD SYSTEM IN SOUTH AFRICA

Johannesburg, Sunday 21st August 2011

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) welcomes the decision made by the Competition Tribunal on 19 August 2011, to allow the ACB to intervene in the merger proceedings involving multinational seed giant, Pioneer Hi Bred’s bid to take over South Africa’s largest seed company, Panaar. The ACB, represented by Legal Aid South Africa, and advocates Stephen Budlender and Isabel Goodman, has consistently sought to lead evidence and present argument on public interest grounds that militate against authorisation of the merger.

The ACB argued in its intervention application heard before the Tribunal on the 12th August 2011, that the proposed merger would result in the concentration of market share in the maize seed industry in only two large commercial entities, namely Pioneer and Monsanto with concomitant negative consequences for small holder farmers and consumers. Such concentration, the ACB argued, would lead effectively to the creation of a duopoly with dire consequences for food security of the country in particular and the region as a whole as well as on the viability of small scale farmers. The ACB is extremely grateful for the legal and scientific assistance provided to it.

ACB Director, Mariam Mayet, said “We are delighted that the Tribunal was persuaded to allow us to intervene in the proceedings, signalling an openness to hearing argument concerning the imbalances in the food chain and the need for protecting small scale food producers and consumers from the abuse of corporate power.”

The merger proceedings are set down for hearing before the Tribunal, 12-30 September 2011. The proceedings are centred upon the requests by Pioneer and Panaar that the Tribunal set aside an earlier ruling made by the Competitions Commission on 8th December 2010, prohibiting the merger.

The Tribunal directed that the ACB present expert evidence with regard to the following 4 issues:

1. “The effect of the proposed merger on pricing and the availability of alternative products if the merger is approved-particularly in the light of smallholder and rural markets need for open pollinated varieties of maize deed (and not just high-yielding or genetically modified varieties;

2. The effect of the merger on smallholder farmers, small-scale commercial back-farmers and consumer choice (and in turn, the effect on food production and food security;

3. The barriers to entry that will result in the proposed merger and, in particular, the adverse effect on smallholder farmers and small-scale commercial black farmers; and

4. The public interest effect of the proposed merger, particularly in the light of Panaar’s extensive maize germplasm inventory and the opportunities that it presents for development”.


The Tribunal also defined the scope of the ACB’s participation broadly to include the right to cross- examine and access to information. The Tribunal’s order can be downloaded from our website at www.biosafetyafrica.org.za <http://www.biosafetyafrica.org.za>


Biowatch South Africa, the second applicant in the proceedings, was also granted similar leave to intervene.

The ACB has also, separately, submitted a complaint to the Competition Commission to investigate the excessive market power Monsanto wields in South Africa in the maize seed and glyphosate markets.

For more information, please contact:

Mariam Mayet, Director, African Centre for Biosafety
083 269 4309
mariammayet@mweb.co.za <mailto:mariammayet@mweb.co.za>

Ends.


Namibia: Namibians mull life after climate change

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/o3AZWi

Extreme weather conditions predicted because of climate change in Namibia are likely to have a tremendous effect on the 70 per cent of the country's people who live in rural areas and depend heavily on agriculture. According to experts in climate change, Namibia has no option but to adapt to the changing climate as radical changes in weather, such as extreme dry spells and exceptionally heavy rainfall, are forecast for the Southern African country.


South Africa: Red lights flash on SA rivers

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/nRAORR

Water affairs officials are unable to tell MPs whether the health of South Africa's rivers is improving or worsening, but a rash of red spots across maps they presented suggested the latter. Briefing members of Parliament's water and environmental affairs portfolio committee, the department's acting chief director for water resources information management, Moloko Matlala, listed the main problems affecting the quality of the country's river water. These included fecal pollution, eutrophication (the inflow of nitrates and phosphates), high salinity, high toxicity (from, among other sources, agricultural pesticides) and acid mine drainage.


Africa: One voice from Africa at COP17

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/qs0RmY

Africa will speak with one strong voice at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change to kick-start in Durban, South Africa in November this year, the SADC Senior Programme Officer for Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr Alex Banda said. Mr Banda was speaking on the sidelines during the 5th SADC Multi Stakeholder Water Dialogue in Manzini on 28 June. 'SADC in April this year developed a common position during a meeting in South Africa on key issues we are going to be pushing for but within Africa as a continent,' Banda said.


Africa: World’s largest conservation area launched

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/nMP1Mi

Southern Africa has just acquired the world’s largest conservation area - a 444000km² peace park joining Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Peace Parks Foundation said. The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area was legally established on the last day of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) conference in Luanda, Angola.




Land & land rights

Nigeria: Farmer leader talks about resistance to land grabs

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/ovA2eT

The United Small and Medium scale Farmers' Associations of Nigeria (USMEFAN) is a national coalition of smallholder farmers and their organisations. It envisions a food self-sufficient Nigeria where ecologically sound and sustainable agriculture forms the foundation of an ever buoyant economy in which the small and medium scale family farmers who produce most of the food, in harmony and cooperation with nature, also enjoy enhanced livelihoods, live and work in dignity and self confidence, making the rural environment attractive for and truly supportive of human habitation. In this interview, GRAIN talks to Olaseinde Makanjuola Arigbede of the United Small and Medium scale Farmers' Associations of Nigeria (USMEFAN).


Africa: Land grabs and the threat to water resources

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/mUGRDk

This article from www.mybigearth.com focuses on the relationship between land grabs and water demand in the countries that rely on the Nile River. 'Growing water demand, driven by population growth and foreign land (and water) acquisitions, are straining the Nile’s natural limits. Avoiding dangerous conflicts over water will require three Basin-wide initiatives. The first is for governments to address the population threat head-on by ensuring that all women have access to family planning services and by providing education for girls throughout the region. The second is to adopt more water-efficient irrigation technologies and shift to less water-intensive crops.'


Africa: Land investment deals as a cause of Africa’s food supply problems

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/n0bxIY

Some researchers are pointing to land investment deals in Africa, also called land grabs. According to a recent study by the Oakland Institute these deals increase price volatility and supply insecurity in the global food system. The organisation says massive amounts of land are sold or leased to foreign companies. In 2009, this amounted to an area the size of France. For more, listen to this interview posted online by Free Speech Radio News with Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute.


Tanzania: Website for land information launched

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/oixkti

ActionAid Tanzania in collaboration with the Tanzania Land Alliance (TALA) under the land Accountability Project (LAP) launched on Friday, a web-based land portal to aid in accessing information and discussion of land related issues in Tanzania. The project will also establish a system for women and the poor to access support and expose land grabbing on the internet, said a statement issued by the ActionAid.




Food Justice

Africa: Food security in East Africa gets research boost

2011-08-18

http://bit.ly/ogdzUw

A consortium of East African institutes is researching new seed varieties better suited to dry areas to combat the effects of climate change in the region. The partnership, comprising seven universities and institutes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, will also disseminate technical knowledge to agricultural extension services and farmers, and promote new insurance and financing schemes for building resilience to climate change.


Global: World Bank sounds alert on food prices

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/rqFe1a

The price of maize in the Horn of Africa has doubled over the last year, the World Bank has said. In Kenya, it has increased by 89 per cent, according to the bank’s Food Price Watch report. This is the fourth highest increase in the price of maize in the world behind Uganda (122 per cent), Somalia (107 per cent) and Rwanda (104 per cent). Overall, the Food Price Watch says global food prices in July 2011 remain 33 per cent higher than a year ago.




Media & freedom of expression

Global: Voices of Our Future citizen journalists

World Pulse Live 2011

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/pl2Tpx

'This October, three amazing women representing the energy and optimism of the World Pulse community will come to the US for the first time to lift their voices. These grassroots leaders will reveal how they are using the power of new media and technology to change lives and create solutions on the frontlines of today’s most pressing issues.'


Guinea: Freelance journalist held incommunicado in a military camp

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/mXeoSQ

El Bechir Diallo, a freelance journalist, is currently being held at PM3, a military camp in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. The Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) correspondent reported that El Bechir was abducted in the morning of 11 August 2011 by officials of the Criminal Investigations Department (DPJ) of the Guinean police for no apparent reason. MFWA is sad that despite progress made by Guinea in democratic governance, journalists and citizens are still held without recourse to the laws of Guinea.


Libya: NATO launches airstrikes at media outlet

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/qaUEGZ

Three journalists were killed and 21 others injured in Tripoli after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) warplanes bombed three transmission towers on 30 July in an effort to take Libyan state television off the air. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have condemned the attack.


Sierra Leone: Media accused of fanning violence

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/om1frd

Sierra Leone’s Independent Media Commission (IMC) has raised alarm over threats posed by journalists to the peace building in the country. The IMC, which is responsible for regulating the country’s media Thursday, blamed journalists for breaching code of ethics with articles or programmes carrying 'elements of indecency and incitement'. This statement comes in the wake of concerns raised by lobbyists and members of the public over the possibility of widespread violence around elections scheduled for next year.


Zimbabwe: Police search for Zimbabwe Independent journalists

2011-08-16

http://www.misa.org/cgi-bin/viewnews.cgi?category=2&id=1313163681

Police from the Law and Order section on 11 August 2011 visited Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) offices in search of Zimbabwe Independent editor Constantine Chimakure and senior political reporter Wongai Zhangazha over a story the paper published in its edition of 8 July 2011. Detectives said that they wanted the two to assist in investigations of who ‘leaked’ the details of the story as it was based on cabinet deliberations, which is an offence under the Official Secrets Act.


Zimbabwe: Tackle press freedom crisis, SADC told

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/oHGGOH

Reporters Without Borders has called on the heads of state and government attending the Southern African Development Community summit being held in the Angolan capital of Luanda from 14 to 19 August to examine the situation of the media in Zimbabwe, where press freedom violations are increasing at an alarming rate. In the past month alone, Reporters Without Borders has tallied more than 11 violations of the freedom or safety of journalists, all of which have remained unpunished.




Social welfare

South Africa: The impact of the financial crisis on child poverty

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/nRV7Jd

This Unicef paper reports on a study to provide insights into the magnitude of the shocks associated with the crisis in macroeconomic terms in South Africa, the country’s capacity to withstand or cushion these shocks, and the extent of fragility in terms of poverty levels and child well-being.




Conflict & emergencies

Côte d’Ivoire: Finding peace after power shift

2011-08-22

http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93536

With power in Côte d’Ivoire having changed hands from Laurent Gbagbo to Alassane Ouattara, the social dynamic has shifted in Moyen-Cavally, creating new challenges for stability in the cocoa- and coffee-rich region where political partisanship runs largely along ethnic lines. But observers say community structures and local will to overcome divisions remain and can be built upon to move past unprecedented turmoil. 'People here have no choice but to coexist,' said Benjamin Effoli, prefect in the western town of Duékoué in Moyen-Cavally. 'Social cohesion is a non-stop job and every single person has his or her role.' He said in the wake of the latest crisis, long-standing community groups are monitoring the situation and discussing how to rein in strife.


DRC: Being frank about Dodd-Frank

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/pzrf50

The idea that the Dodd-Frank Act in the US will stop mineral exploitation by armed groups is flawed, argues this article. 'Mineral exploitation, the object of activism and legislation, is but one source of revenue for these armed groups. They literally rule over the territories they control, taxing every economic activity and terrorizing the civilians into submission. Losing access to the mines will marginally affect their capacity to generate funds, considering that weapons and ammunitions are relatively inexpensive. In other words, if there were no minerals, the conflict would still rage on as armed groups would find other sources of revenue.'


Libya: Fighting rages over Gaddafi's compound

2011-08-22

http://aje.me/oTNW7v

Heavy fighting and gun battles have broken out in areas of Tripoli after opposition fighters gained control overnight of much of the Libyan capital in their battle to end Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule. Clashes erupted on Monday after tanks left Bab Aziziya, Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli, to confront the rebel assault. Many of the streets in the centre of the city, where anti-government supporters had celebrated hours earlier, were abandoned as pockets of pro-Gaddafi resistance and the presence of snipers and artillery fire made the area dangerous.


Libya: Rebels claim to hand over power to elected assembly in eight months

2011-08-18

http://tgr.ph/nVEViq

The Telegraphs reports that Libya's rebel leader has promised to hand over power to an elected assembly within eight months of the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi's regime. sketching out the country's path to democracy, after the end of Gaddafi's 42-year reign, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chair of the National Transitional Council, sought to draw a line under questions about the intent and the legitimacy of his un-elected council, which has become the de-facto government in the rebel-held east of Libya.


Libya: Rebels in Tripoli's central square

2011-08-22

http://aje.me/n1gRto

Euphoric Libyan rebels have moved into the centre of the capital, Tripoli, as Muammar Gaddafi's defenders melted away and thousands of jubilant civilians rushed out of their homes to cheer the long convoys of pickup trucks packed with fighters shooting in the air. The rebels' surprising and speedy leap forward, after six months of largely deadlocked civil war, was packed into just a few dramatic hours. By nightfall on Sunday, they had advanced more than 32km to Tripoli. Pockets of fighters who are still loyal to Gaddafi still control parts of the city - including the areas around Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound in the south of the city.


Somalia: UN makes plea over disaster fatigue

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/oQZTJu

The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has made an impassioned appeal to the world to save an estimated 390,000 starving children in famine-ravaged regions of Somalia, saying the international community must not let the so-called 'disaster fatigue' numb compassion and generosity. Anthony Lake, the UNICEF Executive Director, said at a news conference at UN Headquarters to mark World Humanitarian Day: 'The statistics can be mind-numbing, but remember that the data is sons and daughters. The statistics are little boys and little girls, every one of them.' In addition to the tens of thousands of Somalis who have already died as a result of the drought-induced famine, which has been exacerbated by conflict and poverty, an estimated 390,000 children are suffering from malnutrition. Four fifths of them are in the worst affected areas of the country’s south-central zone.


South Sudan: 185 killed in tribal and militia fighting

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/q2uTcn

At least 125 people were confirmed dead on Sunday as sectional fighting continued between two feuding tribes in Jonglei state in South Sudan, officials said. Sixty others perished in fighting between the army and a militia group in Upper Nile state on Saturday, according to the army spokesman. The caretaker Justice Minister, John Luk Jok, said 125 bodies were found dead on the ground in Uror County in Jonglei state since the fighting broke out on Thursday.




Internet & technology

Africa: Are social media providing new platforms for democratic debate?

2011-08-16

http://www.kubatana.net/html/archive/media/110727fmedia.asp?sector=MEDIA

This article form Fesmedia Africa assesses the role of new media in social change in Africa. 'New media platforms are changing how people communicate with each other around the world. However, there is great variation in both the kind of communication platforms people make use of as well as in how they access these platforms. Computer ownership and internet access are still the prerogative of the wealthy few in wide swathes of the African continent. All the same, mobile internet access is on the rise and if current growth rates continue, African mobile phone penetration will reach 100 per cent by 2014.'


Africa: Banking in Sub-Saharan Africa to 2020: Promising frontiers

2011-08-18

http://bit.ly/o2MPWC

This report from the Economist Intelligence Unit claims that African countries south of the Sahara are poised to enjoy a surge in growth in their banking systems during this decade. The three main drivers in this development will be generally very high rates of economic growth, financial deepening to fulfil huge unmet needs for basic financial services and new technologies to provide them – particularly over mobile phones.


Africa: Did you know - mobile stats for Africa 2011

2011-08-18

http://bit.ly/qaBX7k

This animated YouTube video compiled by the Praekelt Foundation presents an overview of the mobile technology landscape in Africa, with statistics and facts about mobile phones and their use on the continent.


Global: ICTs, informal online activists and civil society organisations

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/o9a6u7

When talking about ICTs and the relationship between informal online activists and civil society organisations, the key question, says this article, is: how can traditional civil society organisations capitalise from and build on an almost organic process, happening quite independently from them, without attempting to capture or institutionalise such processes, which would endanger their creativity and flexibility? Or put inversely: how can an undefined, motivated but oftentimes transient group of individuals best use the technical know-how of CSOs?


Global: Research study on sex, rights and the internet published

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/opnCSp

Over the past three years, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) carried out exploratory research in five countries from different continents on the internet’s role in accessing information about sex education, health, fighting sex discrimination and defining one’s own sexuality.Carried out in Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa & USA the research looks at how the internet plays host to critical information about sex education, health, fighting sex discrimination and defining one’s own sexuality. It debunks the commonly-held view that sexuality online is just about pornography.


Global: Three reports on circumvention tool usage, international bloggers, and internet control

2011-08-21

http://bit.ly/nnBj7x

The Berkman Center has released three new publications as part of their circumvention project. Over the past two years, the Center has carried out a number of research activities designed to improve our understanding of the knowledge, usage, and effectiveness of circumvention tools as a means to promote access to information online in repressive online environments.




Fundraising & useful resources

Africa: Radio show on Horn of Africa crisis

2011-08-22

http://bit.ly/n9wUMO

Africa Today host Walter Turner discusses the crisis in the Horn of Africa with a guest from a pastoral community and an environmental activist. Analysts have noted climate change and militarisation as some of the root causes of the crisis, notes Turner in his introduction.


Africa: The importance of funding our own movements

African Women and Philanthropy

Sarah Mukasa

2011-08-21

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/fundraising/75823

Sarah Mukasa writes that women are 'challenging the dominant development narrative that depicts us as passive recipients of external aid to one in which we are the active agents of the change we envision'.

Philanthropy in Africa has become an area of increasing interest in the past 10 or more years. A key focus for interrogation is the manifestation of philanthropy in the African context - its areas of strength and weakness. Another is how to build on the traditions of philanthropy in Africa to attain stronger institutional processes that scale up localized forms of giving and ground these in principles of social justice, equality, peace and sustainable development. Africans are challenging the notion that Africa is purely a ‘donor recipient’ continent and instead are pointing to the rich traditions of giving and philanthropic practice in Africa – which in many instances have been the mainstay of entire communities.

Whilst it is known that philanthropy is an age-old practice in Africa, there is little recognition of the contributions it has made in developing and sustaining communities. In Africa today, much of the giving takes place in familial and informal community networks responding often to immediate/ welfare concerns. Burial societies, individual support to the payment of school fees and, building of community facilities are examples of philanthropy that can be found in many variations on the continent. Religious organizing has also formed a critical avenue for much of the more formal and institutionalised mechanisms for philanthropy, with programmes driven by local actors providing a range of services including education, health services and feeding programmes.

More recently, a number of African philanthropic actors and organisations seeking to address social, economic and political inequalities and disparities have emerged[1]. In addition there has been an increase in the number of high net worth individuals in Africa establishing their own, more formalised philanthropic initiatives and organizations. At the same time, the private and corporate sectors in Africa are increasingly developing corporate responsibility programmes. These developments have raised the visibility of philanthropy in Africa, highlighting its critical role in our societies and communities. Initiatives such as the African Grantmakers Network- a network developed by African grant makers to promote and strengthen philanthropy in Africa- are testament to the shifts in thinking and organisation on the continent. Increasingly Africans on the continent and elsewhere are seeking to make a difference as collaborative and organised donors to the kinds of change they wish to see.

This is both evident and urgent within the feminist movement. The role of women within the growing field of philanthropy in Africa- their contributions, successes and challenges - remain largely undocumented and unrecognised. Yet the establishment of organizations such as the African Women’s Development Fund and Urgent Action Fund –Africa amongst others, has concretised the central nature of African women’s participation and influence in philanthropy, especially social justice philanthropy.

Within the feminist movement, there is a growing body of thought on the need for us as women to fund our own movements. This partly reflects an increasing unease with external donor practice in support of short term, project based approaches- which do initiate some change, but which are in the long term difficult to sustain, since often they can only address symptoms, and not root causes. Mounting pressure to demonstrate immediate results or face the risk of losing funding has driven many to develop projects that are all SMART but have little in the way of substance and relevance. Many in the feminist movement point to the need for a different type of organizing. Organising that builds strong social movements of women and institutions who are able to define their own agenda and develop appropriate responses that encompass the breadth and depth of women’s realities on the continent, and that holds the state and other duty bearers accountable for their commitments to women’s rights. This approach suggests a shift from regarding our constituencies as beneficiaries to working with them as active and autonomous citizens. This requires also long term investments, risk taking, being bold and having an understanding that occasionally being unclear is as good as it gets!

In as much as there is a hunger for a different approach to funding, there is also recognition within the feminist movement that it is women in Africa and elsewhere who will have to pioneer it. Globally, women’s funds have emerged as critical players and investors in feminist movements worldwide. Increasingly feminist organising is interrogating the disjuncture between their movements and their sources of funding and are responding with internally driven processes for generating income. Many organisations are evolving wide ranging strategies including schemes such as workplace giving, development of social enterprises, endowment building, and individual or collective regular donations to feminist organisations, campaigns or initiatives. In Africa women have begun to recognize themselves and one another as an untapped resource base to support the movement on the continent. They are seeking ways in which to engage the high net worth and middle class African women who have thus far been rendered largely invisible in the global discourse on finance and resourcing for gender equality.

This is not to let traditional donors off the hook. As 50% of the global population and as contributors to the wealth created on a global scale, women have a right to an equitable share of development resources. This needs to be acknowledged and promoted as a priority on women’s rights, development and philanthropic agendas. However, there should also be recognition that women are exercising a new kind of agency - one that gives rise to a new source of power within, to truly own their movements, agendas and issues. This is an exciting time for the feminist movement in Africa. Our wealth has been and continues to be our passion, commitment, solidarity, and contestation. This provides new opportunities for learning and growth, creativity, knowledge and increasingly, our money and economic security. We are challenging the dominant development narrative that depicts us as passive recipients of external aid to one in which we are the active agents of the change we envision. We are putting our money where our hearts are...

* Sarah Mukasa is Director of Programmes at the African Women's Development Fund (AWDF). Her interest in philanthropy has been informed by over two decades of work with African women’s rights organizations in Africa and the Diaspora.

NOTES:

[1] See Bhekinkosi Moyo (2009), Establishing an African Grantmakers Network (AGN): A Discussion Document for the Inaugural Meeting; July 9th and 10th, 2009, Accra. Ghana. Available via http://www.awdf.org/downloads


Making Local Government Work: An Activist's Guide

2011-08-17

http://bit.ly/efFKhe

This helpful guide for activists - developed by SECTION27, TAC, SERI and Read Hope Philips Attorneys - sets out the legal responsibilities of local government in South Africa and rights under the Constitution and in law. It shows how to engage government from inside, by participating in formal processes, and from outside by going public through complaints, petitions, protest action, the media and the courts.


North Africa: Explore the media habits of consumers in the Middle East and North Africa

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/nxiPDe

Insights MENA is an interactive tool providing critical data about the online behavior of urban consumers in five key MENA markets: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. Visit the website to find out more.




Courses, seminars, & workshops

Global: Faith-based peacebuilding: applying a gender perspective

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/oYQNL3

Join New Tactics and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation's Women Peacemakers Program (IFOR/WPP) for an online dialogue on the topic of 'Faith-based peacebuilding: The need for a gender perspective', from 19-25 October 2011. The role of religion in conflict and peacebuilding, the rise of religious fundamentalism, and the threat this poses for women's human rights are issues receiving increasing attention.




Publications

Politics, Religion and Power in the Great Lakes Region

CODESRIA/Fountain Publishers, 2011

2011-08-16

http://bit.ly/poIltq

'Politics, Religion and Power in the Great Lakes Region' covers the political, religious and power relations in the contemporary Great Lakes states: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Kenya and the Sudan. The work is important because of the nexus between these countries’ shared present and past - their political, socio-economic, cultural and historical aspirations.





Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
www.fahamu.org

Pambazuka News is published by Fahamu Ltd.

© Unless otherwise indicated, all materials published are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. For further details see: www.pambazuka.org/en/about.php

Pambazuka news can be viewed online: English language edition
Edição em língua Portuguesa
Edition française
RSS Feeds available at www.pambazuka.org/en/newsfeed.php

Pambazuka News is published with the support of a number of funders, details of which can be obtained here.

To SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE go to:
http://pambazuka.gn.apc.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/pambazuka-news
or send a message to editor@pambazuka.org with the word SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line as appropriate.

The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Pambazuka News or Fahamu.

With around 2,600 contributors and an estimated 600,000 readers, Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan-African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.

Order Samir Amin's 'Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?' from Pambazuka Press.

* Pambazuka News is on Twitter. By following 'pambazukanews' on
Twitter you can receive headlines from our 'Features' and 'Comment & Analysis' sections as they are published, and can even receive our headlines via SMS. Visit our Twitter page for more information: //twitter.com/pambazukanews.

* Pambazuka News has a Del.icio.us page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit http://delicious.com/pambazuka_news.

ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition http://www.pambazuka.org/en/

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português http://www.pambazuka.org/pt/

© 2009 Fahamu - http://www.fahamu.org/