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Pambazuka News 550: Wangari Maathai: The tree that became a forest

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Features

Wangari Maathai: Reclaiming the Earth

Horace Campbell

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76724


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‘The best tribute we can pay to this great woman of Africa is to continue to organise so that we can gain higher levels of spiritual awareness and build the shared values for peace and social justice across the planet,' writes Horace Campbell.

‘In the process of helping the earth to heal, we help ourselves’ – Wangari Maathai

The implantation of British rule was brutal across the continent, particularly in Kenya. Out of this brutality has emerged a society that is continuously seeking to repair itself and repair Africa. This is the promise and numerous Africans have stepped forward to keep this promise. Kenyans have used many forms of struggle to organise for a new society: Legal, political, intellectual, moral, environmental, economic and spiritual. It is in this process of repair that Kenya has continued to be one of the firm bases for Pan-Africanism and African renewal and for new healthy humans.

This week, the material world lost one such Kenyan who has made her mark on the world, Wangari Maathai. She joined the ancestors but left her imprint along with those Kenyans who made the promise that Africa will be free and the environment will be reconstructed by thinking human beings. Wangari Maathai built a movement to reclaim the earth. She wrote, she campaigned and she toiled within the ranks of those who wanted a united and democratic Africa (in the ranks of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC). She struggled for over 40 years, developing new strategies of mobilisation to reclaim nature from the current destructive forms of production and consumption. Although her contribution to numerous movements in Africa will be celebrated, she is now known as one of the foremost internationalist and environmentalist of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya. As an African feminist who broke through the barriers imposed by the hierarchies in neocolonial Kenya, she had to be principled to survive the storms of chauvinism, regionalism, masculinity and repression. Yet, in the society where she made such a sterling contribution, her transition has refocused attention on the central link between health and gender. It is a reinforcement of the reality that a society cannot be free at the social and political level without the facilities for health care for all.

NYERI DISTRICT AND THE PROMISE

Wangari Maathai was born on 1 April 1940 in Nyeri district of Kenya. This is a District in the Central Province of that East African society that saw its share of cruelty, repression and barbarism of British colonialism. It was from this district where many of the top leaders of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army emerged. Dedan Kimathi, who is now a national hero, was born in this district and is the most well-known of those sons and daughters of Central Province of Kenya. Kimathi fought against the British and his courage and bravery informed the stories of African independence beyond the borders of Kenya. It was a district that saw its share of freedom fighters and Home Guards. (The Home Guards were those Kenyans who collaborated with the colonial overlords). Wangari Maathai grew up as a teenager in the midst of this ferment and was herself chosen to serve the interests of those who wanted to forever dominate Africa. She refused. While accessing western education she never turned her back on the intellectual and spiritual resources of the village community. In fact, when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, in her acceptance speech, she acknowledged the fact that a lot of what she had learnt about environmental protection came from her childhood experiences in the village community of Nyeri in rural Kenya

In this tussle between Home Guards and those with their eyes on freedom, Britain deployed numerous tools to maintain the exploitation of the peoples. The establishment of the British Gulag was accompanied by an intensified effort to train a cadre of Kenyans who were supposed to be ‘modern’ and opposed to the ‘atavistic and barbaric’ forces who were called Mau Mau. Frank Kitson, the British military expert who refined the weaponising of anthropology developed tools of counter-insurgency in Kenya that have been refined and used in other parts of the imperial military world. A component of this low intensity campaign was the educational system that was to teach the superiority of western civilisation and groom new allies who were ‘responsible Africans.’ These were the Africans taken to boarding schools so that the stories of the freedom fighters would not pollute their minds and inspire their hopes. Wangari Maathai, like so many promising Kenyans of that era was trained to turn her back on the people of Nyeri district and the struggle for freedom in Africa.

British propaganda had mobilised the resources of the Anglo-American media to promote the ‘modernised’ types. Through the colonial institutions of socialisation and political mobilisation –churches, mosques, schools, social clubs, etc – the British imperialists worked hard to suppress the national liberation movement while putting in place an intricate hierarchy based on race, gender, ethnicity and regionalism. By the time of the explosion of the war for independence in Kenya, the United States security planners had moved in to support the British project of maintaining external control over Africa with Kenya as its beachhead. The US government organised an airlift of students from Kenya to the United States and Wangari Maathai was a beneficiary of this airlift. But she did not internalise the ideas of western consumerism and worship of the god of capital. She used the opportunity to educate herself and became the first woman PhD in Veterinary medicine in East Africa and the first professor in that field of study in Kenya.

LABELLED A ‘CRAZY WOMAN’

Yet Wangari Maathai was not carried away by her professorship. Her training and education was used to strengthen the organisational capabilities of women in Kenya and she became the national chairperson of the National Council of Women of Kenya. During the period of the dictatorship in Kenya she had to develop the political skills to work with women in a way where the autonomy of the organisation could be maintained. For her work among women and because she refused to be cowed by men and by the state, she was labelled a ‘crazy’ woman. She became well known because of her work among grassroots women in Kenya in building the Green Belt Movement. The idea of a grassroots environmental movement in Kenya gave birth to one component of a larger global project that is now called the environmental justice movement.

THE GREENBELT MOVEMENT AND RECLAIMING THE EARTH

Working tirelessly, nationally, across Africa and internationally, Wangari Maathai pierced through the manipulation of self-help schemes that were actually being used by politicians to enrich themselves and to oppress the people. The idea of Harambee (African self-reliance) had been co-opted by the ruling elite in Kenya to disorganise and divide the poor, especially the Kikuyu peasantry who had fought in the independence struggle but who were being manipulated by the capitalists among the Kikuyu. These capitalists mobilised ethnic chauvinism to divide Kenyans. Because of the work of women such as Wangari Maathai, the ethnic chauvinists mobilised young and unemployed males in order to act as a force to demobilise the working class in Nairobi and the Kenyan heartland. This force of manipulated young Kikuyus is sometimes called Mungiki. In 2008 we saw the fruits of this demobilisation when organised violence reinforced the theft of democracy. The ethnic chauvinists (called tribalists) who controlled the levers of banks and new speculative capital in Eastern Africa were called hyenas; these hyenas wanted to deny Kenyans the promise that this space should be a beacon for decency and justice.

Wangari Maathai and decent women in Kenya worked hard to rise above this manipulation in order to keep the promise of dignity and freedom. The Green Belt Movement was a broad based movement, which had as its core mission a project to reclaim the earth. More than 40 years ago, it was clear that the forms of economic engagement in Africa was destroying the earth and speeding desertification across the continent. Today we can see the evidence of this environmental degradation with the reality that the impact of global warming will decimate millions across Africa. We know that Africa leads the world in forest fires and that forests, which cover 20 per cent of Africa, are disappearing faster in Africa than on any other continent. Wangari Maathai grasped these realities decades ago and in 1977 in an effort to save the forests and the planet earth worked with other grassroots women to plant millions of trees to save the earth and to reclaim spaces of hope. The Green Belt Movement has planted close to 50 million trees and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) now recognise this tree planting effort as a central aspect of the struggle to repair the earth.

CONTINUOUSLY REFINING ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS

Wangari Maathai organised a self-help project to empower women, establish self-confidence among them and to stand up to oppressors. Because of the intensity of the oppression in Kenya, she had to devise novel forms of organising for social justice. But social justice could not follow a straight path based on good leaders such as Maathai. She was tested over many years by incarceration, banishment, grounding and other forms of intimidation. She did not bow. She has also recorded that tenacity in her own words in the book, ‘Unbowed’. Many of us heard about the heroic struggles to keep spaces of community solidarity open in Kenya. Uhuru Park in Nairobi and Jevanjeee Gardens are two such public spaces where she made her contribution, by ensuring that people had access to these spaces. Other grassroots movements in Kenya now benefit from these green spaces and one such Kenyan movement, Bunge la Mwananchi, is challenged to keep the promise of Kenya and to learn from Wangari Maathai that the leadership role of women cannot be based on tokenism. Kenya is the capital of the NGOisation of social movements in Africa and progressive forces have to devise new ways every day to navigate through the traps of cooptation and corruption of the ideas of social power of the poor.

LESSONS

Wangari Maathai has left many lessons for grassroots organisation on how to navigate the snakepit of NGO politics. When imperial power recognised the work of Wangari Maathai, the United Nations Environment Program, (UNEP) sought to tap into her experiences as an organiser. Yet, the United Nations operatives in Kenya could not see that environmental justice could not come from simply working with donor agencies. Environmental justice will only come from a change in the system. We saw this clearly at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009. Wangari Maathai was very present at this meeting where the environmental justice forces from the South came to the understanding that the question of climate change was not one of finances, but one that involved system change.

From all corners of the world this call for system change is inspiring initiatives to educate and mobilise the grassroots. Whether it is in the Niger Delta of West Africa, in rural China, in Europe or Latin America there is a worldwide movement to reclaim the earth. In Latin America, the indigenous movement has recognised this need for system change and it is from Bolivia where we have been signalled that there will be new first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. From Bolivia we have heard of The Law of Mother Earth, which was agreed on at an international meeting of April 2010. This Law of Mother Earth redefines Bolivia’s rich mineral deposits as ‘blessings’ and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry. In the African philosophy of Ubuntu, humans and nature share the biosphere and our ancestors taught us to respect nature and eschew the idea of domination over nature.

SYSTEM CHANGE AND SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

Slowly, the promise of those who are fighting for a new earth is gaining ground, and in her passing, Wangari Maathai has again shone the light on the need to save Africa and to save the forests. Those who believe that this is an overnight project falter quickly. This was the experience of the Pan African Green belt movement. Working from the inspiration of Wangari Maathai and other Kenyan women, there had been an attempt to develop the Pan African Greenbelt movement in 1986. Those who placed themselves at the leadership of this exercise did not realise that planting trees and watching them grow require a new kind of political engagement. The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance is a new kind of Pan Africanism and the aspiring forces from this formation will do well to read very carefully the words of Wangari Maathai. She has left her writings for us to consider. From Bolivia, those who are struggling for the rights of Mother Earth have outlined the same rights that Wangari Maathai articulated in the African context. The declaration of the Bolivians on the rights of Mother Earth outlined the following rights: The right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. This declaration was reminder that the struggles that Wangari Maathai engaged in Kenya was part of a worldwide struggle.

Imperial planners, ever adept at cooptation, are now planning to co-opt the ideas of this movement that is growing in all corners of the world. After nearly a decade of promoting ‘sustainable development’ the World Bank has suddenly become an environmental movement with its new mantra being ‘Green growth.’ The thinkers within the bank cannot see the contradiction between the terms 'green' and 'growth'.

CANCEROUS ENVIRONMENT

Wangari Maathai had pierced through these contradictions and came to the understanding that spiritual renewal is central to environmental justice. In her book, ‘Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World’, she wrote:

‘Through my experiences and observations, I have come to believe that the physical destruction of the earth extends to us, too. If we live in an environment that's wounded—where the water is polluted, the air is filled with soot and fumes, the food is contaminated with heavy metals and plastic residues, or the soil is practically dust—it hurts us, chipping away at our health and creating injuries at a physical, psychological, and spiritual level. In degrading the environment, therefore, we degrade ourselves.’

Many of us did not know how wounded Wangari had been by the cancerous conditions that degrade all of us. Her struggles with ovarian cancer should be another prod for those who connect all forms of struggle to understand that health, life, environment and peace are all interconnected. She was a living example of this interconnection. When Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, there were those who did not understand the interconnections between, peace, the environment and health but now Wangari Maathai has reminded us of that link. She wrote simply that, ‘In the process of helping the earth to heal, we help ourselves.’

Wangari Maathai kept her promise to the people of Kenya and of Africa. Those who are still in the material world have a beacon to follow in keeping the promise of Nyeri district, Dedan Kimathi and Wangari Maathai. Kenya remains in the news because of the intensity of the freedom struggle that continues in that corner of Africa. Whether it is the ongoing case of reparative justice relating to the British Gulag that is winding through the British courts and intellectual system, the legal questions of criminal violence that is before the International Criminal Court, the day to day democratic struggles or the massive drought and famine in East Africa, we understand that Kenya is at the centre of the struggle for a new world. As one young Kenyan student said to me, Wangari Maathai showed young women in Kenya that they can achieve leadership roles by dedicating themselves to struggle. This student stated clearly that Wangari Maathai showed that in the struggle, women did not have to take a back seat to men.

The best tribute we can pay to this great woman of Africa is to continue to organise so that we can gain higher levels of spiritual awareness and build the shared values for peace and social justice across the planet.

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.


The trees will clap for her

Wangari Muta Maathai, 1940-2011

Nnimmo Bassey

2011-09-28

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76698


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Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey remembers the life of Wangari Maathai, the internationally recognised founder of the Green Belt Movement, who died on 25 September.

Wangari Muta Maathai, surrounded by her family, suddenly departed these mortal shores on 25 September 2011 in a Nairobi hospital. She will be missed for many reasons because she led an active life that stood up to power, supported the oppressed and fought for the respect of nature.

Wangari Maathai was born on 1 April 1940 in the village of Ihithe, near Nyeri, in Kenya. She completed her secondary education at Loreto Girls’ High School in 1959 and went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at Mount St. Scholastica (now Benedictine College) in Atchison, Kansas, USA. In 1966 she earned a master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Still in pursuit of higher education, she received a Ph.D in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Nairobi in 1971. She was the first woman in east and central Africa to attain this feat. She was also the first to be appointed a professor in her field of study.

While being involved with some environmental and humanitarian organisations in Nairobi in the 1970s, Maathai became concerned about the deteriorating socio-environmental conditions in which poor, rural Kenyans lived. She learned how the women lacked firewood for cooking and heating, how they struggled to obtain clean water and how nutritious food was hard to get. This is when she lit onto the idea of tree planting as a solution to the web of problems confronting the women and the rural poor.

This was when the seeds were sown that later on germinated into the Green Belt Movement by 1977. The women learned that trees provided wood for cooking, fodder for livestock, material for fencing and stabilised soils and protected watersheds.

To her credit, Maathai mobilised men and women to plant over 47 million trees in her lifetime. These have helped to restore degraded environments and uplift the quality of life of many.

The struggle for a better environment drew Maathai into the political arena where she confronted the dictatorial regime of President Arap Moi in the 1980s and 1990s. These manifested in her campaign against the erection of a skyscraper in Uhuru Park in Nairobi and the grabbing of public land in Karura Forest close to Nairobi city centre. She stood with the mothers of political prisoners in a yearlong series of vigils that saw the release of 51 men by the government.

She suffered personal attacks, arrests, incarceration and insults in the course of her campaigns for democracy in Kenya. In December 2002 elections, she was elected Member of Parliament for Tetu. That election was hailed by some as the first free-and-fair election in Kenya for a generation. Her political career continued with her being appointed deputy environmental minister in 2003 by President Mwai Kibaki. She raised her voice for peace, accountability and justice in the violence that followed the contested 2007 Kenyan elections.

Her achievements include the work she did with the Green Belt Movement and other allies to ensure that the new Kenyan constitution, ratified by a public vote in 2010, was prepared on a consultative basis and that it included the right of all citizens to a clean and healthy environment.

In 2006, Maathai joined with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to launch a campaign to plant a billion trees around the world. After meeting that goal in less than a year a new target of 14 billion trees was set.

Maathai was a women who stood out and drew positive attention to Africa while fighting to better the lot of her people and the environment. She was the first African Nobel Peace Laureate (2004); an environmentalist of note; a scientist; parliamentarian; founder of the Green Belt Movement; advocate for social justice, human rights, and democracy; elder; and peacemaker. She won several other awards, including some bestowed on her by governments. These include: the Order of the Rising Sun (Japan, 2009), the Legion D’Honneur (France, 2006), and Elder of the Golden Heart and Elder of the Burning Spear (Kenya, 2004, 2003). Maathai also received awards from many organisations and institutions throughout the world, including: the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights (2007), the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Lifetime Achievement Award (2006), the Sophie Prize (2004), the Goldman Prize (1991), the Right Livelihood Award (1984); and honorary doctorates from Yale University and Morehouse College in the US, Ochanomizu University in Japan, and the University of Norway, among others.

Her books reveal key milestones in her life and struggles: ‘The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience’ (2003); ‘Unbowed’ (2006), her autobiography; ‘The Challenge for Africa’ (2008), and ‘Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World’ (2010).

Maathai is survived by her three children -Waweru, Wanjira, and Muta, and her granddaughter, Ruth Wangari.

‘Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.

‘You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.’

If no one applauds this great woman of Africa, the trees surely will.

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


Committed to justice for people and planet

Wangari Muta Maathai, 1940-2011

Margaretta wa Gacheru

2011-09-28

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76700


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Wangari Maathai ‘achieved more in one short lifetime than most people can even contemplate,’ writes Margaretta wa Gacheru, founding ‘one of the most important environmental movements in the world’ and highlighting ‘the capacity of African rural women to problem-solve for the planet’.

News of Wangari Maathai’s demise on Sunday 25 September spread around the world like wildfire. I read about the Nobel Prize winner’s death online at CNN.com early Monday morning, but it was on all the leading global news sites from Moscow to Muscat to Madrid.

What’s striking is that Dr Maathai is one person who (for better or worse) got heaps of global media coverage in her lifetime, not only at her demise, which is rare. Usually, one has to wait for someone’s obituary to find out all the incredible tidbits about their life. But not Wangari: She was a news maker whose charismatic leadership and controversial stands for noble causes, however popular or unpopular, made her front page news since the 1970s in Kenya and a headliner in international news most often in this new millennium.

This is not to say that Wangari sought the limelight. No! The woman simply sought justice and equity and the ‘best practices’ in all arenas, particularly in government – where she knew, for instance, that women deserved equal treatment to men, and jobless people were just as entitled to jobs as any other human being. Even the Greenbelt Movement grew out of Wangari’s sense of justice and the need to take care of the planet as well as the people who were suffering as a consequence of deforestation, poverty, and poor social policies that neglected the plight of the vast majority of the people.

Wangari’s first commitment was to the Kenyan people, particularly to Kenyan rural women. This I discovered way back in the late 1970s when she was Chairperson of the National Council of Women of Kenya and head of the Environment Committee which would eventually become the Greenbelt Movement.

At the time of our meeting, Wangari’s commitment to social justice for both the people and the planet was palpable; which is why I came away from that first interview (I was working for Hilary Ng’weno’s Nairobi Times at the time) feeling this was a woman who could not only become the president of Kenya one day.

I felt as if she could become President of Africa; if such a position ever came into being she’d fill the bill perfectly. She had the vision, the conviction, the brilliant ideas and the burning passion to serve as an instrument for the good of her people.

Back then, Wangari made it clear to me that leadership was not a task she took lightly. On the contrary, she had been taught by the nuns early on in her life that the blessings bestowed on her in the form of a good education and opportunities to excel were gifts she had to apply and use to advance the lives of others less fortunate than herself.

Her combination of sincerity, conviction and humility was awesome because at the time, she was already holding positions of authority and power – as head of the Veterinary Anatomy Department at University of Nairobi and as Chair of NCWK (a job that was generating jealousy and envy against Wangari who had already begun moving mountains and making waves).

And yet, what was clear even then was that she had just begun to fulfill her immense leadership capacity. And even now, I content that in spite of her becoming a world-acclaimed environmentalist as well as a grounded social activist and former Kenyan MP, Wangari had barely scratched the surface of all she could have achieved if she hadn’t been blocked so often by lesser beings who were either jealous, envious, intimidated or threatened by her honesty, intelligence and charismatic leadership and authority.

As it was Wangari achieved more in one short lifetime than most people can even contemplate: She founded one of the most important environmental movements in the world, and one that spotlighted the capacity of African rural women to problem-solve for the planet; she ran for Parliament and won (although she was sorely under-utilized by the Kibaki government); and she succeeded in battle against one civilian dictator who attempted to grab public land in the heart of Nairobi for his personal self-aggrandisement.

Her Nobel Prize in 2004 was for her successfully showing the world the clear-cut connection between resource depletion (and extraction), poverty and war. She was honored for identifying how protecting the earth’s natural resources is an important peace-making strategy

My one disappointment with Wangari is that in 1992 when the National Commission on the Status of Women called on her to run for the presidency, she declined. She noted that since she was from the same constituency as Mwai Kibaki, she didn’t want to split the vote.

But what if she had run? What if she had won? I’m convinced she could have, and then where would we be today?

We can say there is no point speculating on ‘what could have been’, but we can know and trust that Wangari’s spirit still reigns in our hearts and that her spirit is still with us.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

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


Deterred by nothing, discouraged by nothing

Wangari Muta Maathai, 1940-2011

Cyril Ritchie

2011-09-28

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76701


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Cyril Ritchie pays tribute to Wangari Maathai, her ‘contagious enthusiasm’ and ‘calming stoicism’, after 36 years of friendship with ‘an outstanding woman’.

September 26, 2011

The world is today a poorer place, following the immensely regretted death of Wangari Maathai, an outstanding woman, an outstanding humanist, an outstanding innovator, an outstanding civil society activist, an outstanding leader. And an outstanding mother to outstanding children, to whom I convey my emotional solidarity and support.

I met Wangari in Nairobi in 1975 when I was the first Chair of the Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI), a post in which Wangari later succeeded me. She took me to her very first tree nursery, carved out of the land on which a police station stood, already illustrating her immense powers of persuasion. Later I went out with her more than once, with a dozen or more women in a rickety minivan, to support her and to learn from her, as she spread the tree-planting revolution that became the GreenBelt Movement. I have never forgotten her contagious enthusiasm, nor her calming stoicism as the minivan negotiated Kenya’s rural roads that in that period occasionally resembled a river bed!

Wangari became big news in Kenya and East Africa, then Big News in the world, as she indefatigably championed the causes of Africa, of women, of the poor, of rural development, of sustainability, of peace, of democracy, of social justice, of human rights. She was Civil Society personified, even when she had a brief spell as Kenyan Assistant Minister for the Environment and Natural resources. Wangari was increasingly invited to UN, academic and parliamentarian platforms to convey her messages of good sense, of hope, of determination, of human values and of change. Of course for her irrepressible activism she was vilified in some patriarchal government circles. While protecting land, forests and people she suffered beatings at the hands of police or hired assailants. When the World Civil Society Conference (WOCSOC) met under my chairmanship in Montreal in 1999, Wangari, as one keynote speaker, publicly thanked the other keynote speaker, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, for his interventions on her behalf when she had been so attacked in Nairobi.

Nothing deterred Wangari, nothing discouraged her, except perhaps the slow pace of governmental awakening to, and response to, the environmental and sustainability crises confronting the planet . For Wangari such incomprehension and inaction was only a reason to redouble her efforts and her mobilisation of civil society and academia worldwide. What more natural, therefore, that in 2004 she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Prize, having already a decade earlier been the recipient of the ‘people’s Nobel’, the Right Livelihood Award. Her Nobel prize speech conveys her pride in African women’s resilience; her emphasis on justice, integrity and trust; the contribution of tree-planting to promoting a culture of peace; the need to preserve both local biodiversity and cultural diversity. She issued in that speech a clarion call on leaders ‘to expand democratic space and build fair and just societies that allow the creativity and energies of their citizens to flourish’.

I personally had multiple further opportunities to cooperate with Wangari and to bask in her sun: UN Conferences and Commissions; the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) of which she was the first president; the Union of International Associations; the World Future Council and more. She was truly a universal beacon of light. Now that that light is extinguished, what better legacy could Wangari have than the universal redoubling of the commitment of all of us to the values that she so outstandingly incarnated.

THANK YOU, WANGARI.

Your sorrowing friend, Cyril Ritchie

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


A ‘great tree in her lifetime’

Wangari Muta Maathai, 1940-2011

Shailja Patel

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76737


cc Agencia Brasil
Wangari Maathai’s legacies ‘are not just for future generations of Kenyans – her influence was global. We have lost her far too early,’ writes Shailja Patel.

It's terrifying to think that if Wangari Maathai had not taken on Moi and his cronies, we would have no Uhuru Park today. As Keguro Macharia writes, in his Gukira blog: ‘Indeed, the history of public space in Kenya is inextricably linked to Wangari’s name.’

Wangari Maathai was a great tree in her lifetime. Now, she is a forest. Her legacies are not just for future generations of Kenyans – her influence was global. We have lost her far too early.

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* Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, playwright and activist.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


‘Africa has lost a Great Daughter’

Wangari Muta Maathai, 1940-2011

Thandika Mkandawire

2011-09-28

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76696


cc Internews
Wangari Maathai was ‘an amazing person’, writes Thandika Mkandawire, relating a story about how Maathai defied the Kenyan government’s attempt to prevent her from attending a ‘subversive conference’ in Uganda.

Wangari Maathai was an amazing person. I first met her in Kampala during the CODESRIA Symposium on Academic Freedom. She arrived a day after the symposium. I was informed of her presence and her need for accommodation. I went looking for her and found her in the lobby of the hotel with a small sack of her belongings she had taken with her. When I made the obvious point that [she was] too late for the symposium, she replied, with that great smile that was her trade mark: ‘I know, but I made it’.

In Kenya of the time anyone employed in state institutions (including universities) had to seek state permission to travel out of the country to attend a conference. On this occasion the Government simply denied Kenyan academics the permission to travel to attend what must have been perceived as a subversive conference. And so Wangari travelled on land. Obviously there was no way they could stop Wangari.

Africa has lost a Great Daughter and an Inspiring Voice.

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* Thandika Mkandawire, former director of CODESRIA, is professor of African Development in the Department of International Development (ID) at the London School of Economics (LSE).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


'Women for whom nations will be named and re-named'

Sokari Ekine

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76726


cc Americagov
Over the past month, Kenya lost ‘two of its most formidable freedom fighters and justice seekers’ – feminist and political activist Wambui Otieno and environmental activist Wangari Maathai. Sokari Ekine looks at reactions to the passing away of these women across the continent, and to the execution of Troy Davis by the US State of Georgia a week ago.

In ‘Welcome Mourning’, Keguro Macharia (Gukira) writes on the collectivising power of mourning in bringing together a nation and a sense of belonging. Collective or national mourning can also exaggerate the sense of unbelonging, especially where the mourning centres around a person who is claimed by the nation as theirs. Or is claimed in death (for many, it is only in death that they become national icons to be memorialised in symbols of oneness).The question then arises as to how those of us, not part of ‘the nation in mourning’, are able or allowed to also mourn. For this we would have to go beyond the person as ‘nation’ to the person as an embodiment of those things we too struggle for, whose life we seek to emulate or has inspired us to take on our own personal and collective struggles Someone with whom we are able to empathise and stand in solidarity.

In the past month, nations and parts of nations, movements for economic, political social and environmental justice have come together in collective mourning, but in very different ways and different circumstances. Kenya lost two of its most formidable freedom fighters and justice seekers: On 30 August, Kenyan freedom fighter, feminist and political activist, Virginia Wambui Otieno passed away, and on 25 September, environmental activist and Nobel laureate, Wangari Maathai also passed away. Meanwhile, in the US, despite substantial doubts as to his guilt and his insistence on his innocence, Troy Davis was executed by the State of Georgia on 21 September.

Though we may mourn collectively, for each of us, death as it arrives has its own personal meaning. It is this understanding that helps us remember the one we mourn – but also they help us know or begin to know ourselves. At once we honour the loss as well as ourselves!

Kenyan performance poet, activist and writer of beautiful words, Shailja Patel wrote:

‘When I reflect on the meanings of Wambui Otieno’s life, I think about space. The taking up of. The speaking in. The taboo breaking. The contestation of. She showed generations of Kenyan women that we could redefine spaces - legal, political, communal - with our bodies, our voices.’

Shailja’s words help me to know better Wambui Otieno’s gift to Kenya and to women worldwide. They also help me know Shailja and that we both share a similar sense of what is possible. Keguro struggles to express his sense of loss on the death of Wambui Otieno but what he gives us, is a trajectory of his own formation as a critical thinker – we now have a more informed understanding of both him and Wambui Otieno:

‘In many ways, and I recognize this only now, Wambui’s life offered me (and others) one of the first opportunities to think about marriage and intimacy, about the claims of the couple as they intersect with the claims of the clan, about the importance of space, about rituals and performances of mourning.
‘Without Wambui, I would not have been able to come to feminism as I did. I would not have been able to understand the gendering of testimony, the acoustics of gender, the importance of bodies as they matter and mutter. Without Wambui, I would not have been able to appreciate how nations feel and act on their feelings.

‘There are the things I can enumerate in her name—and many others that I cannot, because I cannot know them.

‘Kenya mourns for Wambui Otieno Mbugua. I mourn for Wambui Otieno Mbugua.’

South African writer and academic, Pumla Gqola (Loudrastrass) takes us beyond ‘nationhood’ and universalises our mourning but still it is the personal that is most poignant. And it is the personal as political with which Pumla frames her own knowing of Wambui Otieno:

‘I have loved Wambui Otieno, feminist, unbowed woman ever since I have known about her.

‘[So] I think of her more like a galaxy of possibilities. As she lived her life through increasingly unpredictable, but powerful choices, Wambui changed not just the world, but who we are in it too. When she joined Mau Mau as a teenager, and in later writing about this in ways that challenge expectations, she drove home the importance of living our convictions. Although she could have settled into a life cushioned by class in colonial Kenya, she chose radical politics rather than complicity or “safer” forms of resistance.

‘After independence, her principles often brought her into a collision path with her former comrades. Wambui spoke her truth regardless of the consequences. She stared danger in the face and not only spoke truth to power, but retained her revolutionary subjectivity in action. Consistently.

‘She epitomised the personal is political and loved who she wanted to, shamelessly and irregardless. Bless her. Ethnicity, class, age are all boundaries used to police who we may love on this continent, repeatedly. They are often ways of reminding women what our place is. These tools are sjamboks (whips) used to remind our spirits when we dare transgress the narrow limits of who society says we are.’

Pumla tries to make sense of her feelings of loss having witnessed those collective mourning rituals around Princess Diana and Michael Jackson with some scepticism:

‘As I battled to make sense of it all, I realised I was looking at the “wrong” places for explanation. Perhaps, looking at the meanings and experiences of loss closer to Wambui’s politics would help me out. I had remarked that the death of Albertina Sisulu marked the end of an era, so too Fatima Meer, Albertina Sisulu’s comrade and life partner, Walter Sisulu before that. The death of beloved revolutionaries is a bizarre experience. Watching them remembered afterwards, in ways that do not quite seem enough, just reinforces this feeling.

‘Then it hit me in the pit of my stomach. News of Wambui Otieno’s death felt like hearing news of Chris Hani’s death. While I had someone to direct my anger at – a system, and a series of faces – when Hani was brutally murdered, a similar rage was unleashed at the universe when Wambui died. But, without a clear target, for she died in hospital.’

In ‘Wambui Otieno - Circling and Scrutinising’ Kenne Mwikya (Kenne’s Blog) also sees the process of mourning as one where we ‘search for the imprint of their lives’ on ourselves or on nations. In examining the ‘increased surveillance’ on the lives of others by neighbours to governments, and how, in the case of gays and lesbians, this constant watching is tantamount to an act of violence and of repeatedly stripping one naked.

‘How do nations mourn a singular person? How do we come to this much contoured sensation? What does this say about national melancholia?

‘What is the meaning of the deep scrutiny of Wambui, pre and post-humus? What does it bring the whole nation to in knowing and searching within itself for the imprint of Wambui Otieno? This is a question that should be taken seriously in that it reveals a lot about the ways in which national mourning and watching singular figures operates. I don’t think there is ever anything conclusive or even productive that comes of out of surveillance. It is an authoritarian approach for a community or group of people to give a set of rules and then watch itself go around these rules. It is dangerously narcissistic. When Wambui stepped out of this sense of communal navel-gazing, she was given into more scrutiny, more personal details about her life.

‘I am wary of the actions that want to deem mourning as anything less than trying to place her in Kenya’s history and I am also wary of the evading of crucial topics such as feminism and Mau Mau and the blanket of patriarchy that is always circling above, the scrutiny that always looks deep within but has nothing to add to our sense of mourning or thinking on vulnerability.’

Keguro (Gukira) remembers and celebrates Wangari Maathai in a beautifully written piece honouring those women he calls ‘Wangari’s Daughters’:

‘Over the past few years, it has been my immense privilege to meet and come to know women I now think of as Wangari Maathai’s daughters: Sitawa Namwalie, Wambui Mwangi, Shailja Patel, Njeri Wangari, Muthoni Garland, Mshai Mwangola—there are many others. I mean daughters in a sense perhaps best expressed in the founding Gikuyu myth: women of consequence who have the power to move and shape nations. Women for whom nations will be named and re-named.
‘I think of these women today on learning that Wangari Maathai has died. I think of them not only because of the sense of loss they must be experiencing, but because they are, to my mind, one of Wangari’s most precious legacies to Kenya and to the world. These are, I confess, overly bold claims to make for my friends. But they are claims that need to be made.’

He continues by letting us know who Wangari Maathai was and her impact on Kenya and beyond:

‘Wangari Maathai was the crazy tree-planting woman. She was a tree-hugger extraordinaire. While we were learning that Kenya was an “agricultural country” and greedy developers were trying to “industrialize” Kenya, Wangari was a beacon, teaching us that our earth mattered. She captured our imaginations by directing us toward other possible eco-futures’.

In Two Hours Before, Mwangi S Muthiora provides an obituary which traces the life of Wangari Maathai as a feminist and environmental activist:

‘In 1989 Maathai's protests forced then President Daniel arap Moi to abandon a personal plan to erect a 62-storey office tower in a Nairobi park. In 1999 she was beaten and whipped by private security guards during a demonstration against the sale of forest land near the capital Nairobi. The famed Freedom Corner, now remains a sacred reference place where most protests are started or ended in Nairobi.

‘In 2004 while accepting and receiving her gold Nobel Peace Medallion, Prof Maathai moved the star studded audience with her near poetic speech that was aired live across the world and watched by billions on TV. "In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now. I'm humbled by the recognition and uplifted by the honour," she said.”

‘Death is a unique experience in our progression through life - it happens to all of us at some point and it’s only supposed to happen once. There is no hierarchy of death. but knowing it is certain, there are ways we would hope to die and ways we would not. Death by the hands of another is one we would not wish on anyone. Troy had been brought to the brink of death by murder three times and each time he was given a stay during the last few hours. Each death process was torture and inhumane. This was as brutal and ugly a death as any murder can be.

It is exactly one week since the premeditated state murder of Troy Davis, one of 3,200 prisoners on death row in the US. For the last five hours of Troy Davis’s life, millions of people around the world experienced death as we waited hoping for a last minute stay of execution. Despite a petition with over a million signatures, ex Presidents, the Pope, Bishops and even death penalty supporters condemning the execution, to everyone’s shock, at around 10.30pm we received the news that the US Supreme Court refused to stop the execution. Troy Davis was poisoned to death by a lethal injection by the State of Georgia and pronounced dead at 11.08pm on Wednesday 21 September 2011. For many in the US generally and particularly in the Black community, Troy Davis’s execution was a legalised lynching. For millions across the world, the US’s hypocrisy and shame were held up for all to see.

Those of us who watched and listened to Amy Goodman’s live coverage of Troy Davis’s last five hours experienced a deep, deep sadness – both on a personal level and at the injustice of killing someone, especially where there was substantial doubt as to his guilt. For his family, close friends, his lawyers and activists who had worked tirelessly to obtain justice, the Supreme Court decision was devastating and unbearable. One of my many Tweets during the day was that the execution was now bigger than Troy Davis in the sense we all stood in solidarity with him and his family against an unjust racially biased judicial system and the wrongs of the death penalty. Troy Davis will live on as his death has become a catalyst for action to end the death penalty in the US and every other country where it is still in place. Troy Davis’s funeral will be held on Saturday 1 October at the Jonesville Baptist Church, Savannah, Georgia.

10 days ago social media in Nigeria became embroiled in the gang rape of a young woman at Abia State University. Black Looks examines the responses to sexual violence by what she describes as ‘Tabloid Bloggers and Online Vigilantes’:

‘In a recent blog post critiquing the 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria, I made the point that what is often most important in revealing who we are as a nation and people, is how we respond to our realities. How do we respond to the gang rape of a young woman and one which is subsequently broadcast on various online sites? Linda Ikeji gave enough graphic detail for all of us to know how the rape scene played out. Yet some people continue watching and or listening to the video and reporting details of what was said and done? To do this they would need to search online or ask someone privately for a copy to be sent by email or through their phone or for a link online. These are not small acts – they are calculated decisions to seek out a video of a gang rape. Unless you are in a position to possibly identify the rapists and take that information to someone who can act on it then what is your purpose in watching the video other than for self-gratification? Each time the video is watched or listened to or the text read it is a repeat of the rape, which is exactly the purpose of the video – to continue the humiliation, the subjugation and to relive the rape over and over.

It is not normal for women to be treated in this way. The way the video is being circulated is a way of normalising watching violence and playing it out as if it’s some kind of reality show whereby everyone can participate by absorbing and gorging on detail without any sense of social or ethical responsibility. I am not saying people are not genuinely outraged by the gang rape, they most certainly are but its a pretense to equate outrage with a justification for watching the video. This pornographic video has been downloaded 7000+ times from a Nigerian online site and was available until this morning. How about some outrage against this and the money that is being made from it? The site has be taken down but those downloads remain.’

Finally congratulations to Fungai Machirori who was recently honoured by the World Summit Youth Awards for her blog ‘Fungai Neni

‘Since Fungai Neni means “Think with me”, my blog discusses issues that make society think; issues that we may not want to talk about but that need to be addressed all the same. From love to life to death, Fungai Neni serves as an open diary for my mind; a space to say the unspeakable and a platform to challenge ‘conventional wisdom’ and the norms that society and culture dictate to us.

‘I am particularly vociferous in my views about women’s issues because I am a woman and I know about the double standards and challenges that come with being a person of my sex, particularly within a African cultural context where opposing the status quo is often seen as disrespect. Because of that, Fungai Neni has a distinct gendered voice to it. I talk about sex, sexuality, HIV, AIDS, relationships and the various plights of women because these are real things that we need to start discussing more and finding progressive solutions for.’

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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Celebrating Professor Wangari Muta Maathai

1940-2011

Odhiambo Orlale

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76735


cc F Onyango
‘As we battle climate change, let us remember this remarkable woman who saw in the environmental disasters that engulf us an opportunity for the empowerment of women and the chance to promote peace in the world. We celebrate Maathai for advocating a better Africa and a better world,’ writes Odhiambo Orlale.

On Monday 26 September, the world woke up to the news of the death of Nobel laureate Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, a Kenyan environment, gender and political activist. At age 71, Maathai succumbed to ovarian cancer, the sixth most common cancer for women.

As I searched for quotes by Maathai on the Internet, I came across one that says “African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.” For me, this is the quote that resonates most with Maathai’s life that defied the patriarchal values of our global village.

In 2004, Maathai became the first African woman to receive the coveted Nobel Peace Prize “for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” In her acceptance speech of the prize, in Oslo, Norway she said: “As the first African woman to receive this prize, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa, and indeed the world. I am especially mindful of women and the girl child. I hope it will encourage them to raise their voices and take more space for leadership. I know the honour also gives a deep sense of pride to our men, both old and young. As a mother, I appreciate the inspiration this brings to the youth and urge them to use it to pursue their dreams.” She indeed became a role model and inspiration to many women and men on the African continent and beyond.

Maathai received several other international awards. In April 2009, she received Japan's highest honour, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. Maathai's campaign, which stresses the concept of reduce, re-use, recycle and repair for environmental protection made her popular in Japan. In 2010, she received the International Freedom Award from National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennesse with two other women, actress Eva Longoria and civil rights pioneer Dorothy Cotton.

Despite her international fame and influence, she continued to be humble, accessible and a staunch defender of the down trodden and the environment.

Kenyans will always remember Maathai for storming Karura Forest in 1999 on the outskirts of Nairobi, to lead environmentalists and human rights activists to stop the grabbing and destruction of the forest. The former University of Nairobi professor had to face off with riot policemen who lobbed tear gas at her and physically plucked off her dreadlocks in the full glare of the media.

In another incident, she filed a case against the then president of Kenya, Daniel arap Moi for his plans to hive off a chunk of Nairobi’s Uhuru Park to build a 30-storey building to house the headquarters of his party.

One big footprint she leaves behind is the Green Belt Movement - a women’s civil society organisation established in 1971 that among others advocates for human rights, supports good governance and peaceful democratic change through the protection of the environment. The project has planted more than 40 million trees in Africa and is now a vehicle for empowering women. Faced with the challenges of global climate change, the project acknowledges the role that women can play in averting the effects of global warming. It thus encourages women to partake in decisions about the environment and to play a part in conservation efforts. The goal of the project in the next decade is to plant one billion trees worldwide.

As a result of her firm belief that environmental issues are intrinsic to good governance, Maathai also became actively involved in democracy and political processes. In 1997 she ran for parliament and the presidency under the Liberal Party ticket but she lost the election. In 2002, she contested the elections under the National Rainbow Coalition. This time she won and President Mwai Kibaki appointed her Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources.

As a gender activist,Maathai chaired the National Council of Women from 1981 to 1987. She addressed the UN on several occasions and spoke on behalf of women at special sessions of the General Assembly. Maathai served on the boards of several organisations including the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament.

Maathai obtained a degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas. She subsequently earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh (1966), making her the first Kenyan woman to graduate with a Masters degree in biological sciences. In 1971, she obtained a PhD from the University of Nairobi also making her the first woman in Africa to get a doctorate on the subject. She taught veterinary anatomy at the university.

Even in her grave, Maathai carried the green flag as she had asked not to be buried in a wooden coffin.

Maathai’s legacy lives on in the Green Belt Movement whose mandate is to respond to needs identified by rural women, such as lack of firewood, clean water, balanced diet, shelter and income.

As we battle climate change, let us remember this remarkable woman who saw in the environmental disasters that engulf us an opportunity for the empowerment of women and the chance to promote peace in the world. We celebrate Maathai for advocating a better Africa and a better world.

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* Odhiambo Orlale is a media consultant in Kenya. This obituary is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Mother Nature mourns your loss

Tribute to Prof. Wangari Maathai

David Njihia Mwakodi

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76728


cc Agencia Brasil
In the night of death
Our nightingale took her last breath
Hope saw a star shinning
Listening love heard the rustle of a wing
A golden heart stopped beating
And hardworking hands went to rest...

In the night of death
Our nightingale took her last breath
Hope saw a star shinning
Listening love heard the rustle of a wing
A golden heart stopped beating
And hardworking hands went to rest

In the dark morning
Birds went silent
Rivers welled with tears
The swing of our trees turned to a dirge dance
As the wind whispered our loss
Mother nature mourned the loss too

What moved through us is a silence
A quite sadness in this silence
A longing for one more day
One more word
One more deed
One more touch

We did not understand
Why you left this world so soon
Why you left
Left before we were ready to say goodbye

Little by little we begun to remember
Not just that you died
But that you lived
And your life gave us memories
Memories too beautiful to forget

Our heroine Prof. Wangari Maathai
The flower has withered
But the seed remains
Like a bird singing in the rain
Your memories will survive

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* © David Njihia Mwakodi. I dedicate this poem to all who share in the vision of our heroine Prof Wangari Maathai – a template of selfless dedication to Mother Nature and human rights.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Remembering Wangari

Bayo Akomolafe

2011-09-27

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76675


cc M R
‘Just before the stars sing, just before the childish wave wanes/You will plant another seed in the distance, another tree, another universe gained.’ Bayo Akomolafe remembers Wangari Maathai.

Just a sigh of sacred silence, a poem, to share with you as a soul not deserved finds new terrain and walks on into a new forest - one undisturbed by the sick profiteering and plundering of our land, our agency, our identity, our sacred worlds and our futures:

Just as the earth readies to shake off her pestilent fleas
Gaia besieged by restless profiting, this capitalist disease
Your trembling hands gathered to yourself a single seed
A tear shed, a prayer said, a reversal of greed
May Her dusty wounds you healed find you a home, another tree
Take root, walk on with feet unshod, dear Maathai Wangari
Do not 'rest in peace' as do the obedient ones before you
May your irreverence continue beyond divine shores, across a sky blue
And these subversive drumbeats will echo across mortal plains
Transgressing our pity and disturbing our complacent pains
Teach us to tell our stories even when they put our fires out
Teach us to dance on in madness when melodies no longer sprout

One day, we all will dance on green-cloaked mountains
Embraced by our mother we so long have disdained
Just before the stars sing, just before the childish wave wanes
You will plant another seed in the distance, another tree, another universe gained.

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


The best doctor for the environment

Wangari Muta Maathai, 1940-2011

Philo Ikonya

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76738


cc Meaduva
Kenya human rights activist and author Philo Ikonya shares an interview she gave to TV2Africa following the death of Wangari Muta Maathai in Nairobi after a long struggle with cancer.

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


Wangari Maathai: Unbowed and unbeaten till the end

My tribute to a feisty and courageous woman

Rasna Warah

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76729


cc F F
Professor Maathai was a celebrated environmentalist, but what was equally remarkable about her was ‘her open defiance of outdated, male chauvinistic, neo-colonial and repressive attitudes and traditions’ that hindered not just women, but Kenya as a whole, writes Rasna Warah.

‘Too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn and too hard to control.’ This is how Mwangi Mathai described his headstrong wife Wangari when he sought to divorce her in 1979. Thankfully, these were just the qualities that led this feisty and courageous woman to make a name for herself in the global environmental movement.

In subsequent years, and particularly during former President Daniel arap Moi’s authoritarian rule, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, activist and environmentalist would be called many other things. In the early 1990s, when she led a protest against the construction of a 60-storey building in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park (that was intended as the headquarters of the Kenya African National Union party), Moi’s cronies dismissed her as a ‘crazy woman’. In reference to Maathai, Moi even publicly stated that those opposed to the construction of the building – that threatened to take up a large chunk of Nairobi’s largest public park – had ‘insects in their heads‘. The misogynistic and myopic parliament of the time described members of Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement, which sought to secure the park as a green area, as ‘a bunch of divorcees’.

But Maathai was unmoved and unbowed. On 28 February 1992, Maathai and others took part in a hunger strike at the very location set aside for the building, which she baptised as Freedom Corner. Four days later, police descended on her and other protesters, knocking her unconscious. Public outcry and international criticism finally forced Moi and the KANU government to accept her demand.

The battle for Uhuru Park was not a small or insignificant feat. In the global and national consciousness, environmental issues finally became recognised as political issues that demanded a political response. Maathai managed to convince the world that bad politics has severe consequences for the environment and for the prospect of peace and security.

Maathai’s tenacious environmental preservation efforts in Uhuru Park and other green spaces in the city, including Karura Forest, earned her accolades abroad, which culminated in a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Maathai became the first African woman to win the Prize. But it was hardly the first time that this Kenyan woman had broken a ceiling. In 1971, she became the first East African woman to earn a doctorate. She was also among the first batch of Kenyan students chosen to study in the United States as part of the famous ‘Kennedy airlift’ in the 1960s.

But what made her stand out from the rest was her open defiance of outdated, male chauvinistic, neo-colonial and repressive attitudes and traditions that hindered not just the progress of women, but of Kenyan society as a whole. As a young woman, she dropped her Christian name Mary Josephine, preferring to be known by her birth name Wangari Muta. Later, in defiance of her ex-husband’s insistence that that she drop his surname, she added an extra ’a’ to it.

Unfortunately, for all her efforts, Wangari Maathai remained a prophetess and heroine who was better recognised abroad than at home. Derided and scorned by the Moi government and grudgingly tolerated by Mwai Kibaki’s administration, Maathai was a general in an army that was unconscious of its own might. When she won the Tetu parliamentary seat in 2002, she was appointed Assistant Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, a post that did not have sufficient clout to be effective. Even when she won the Nobel Prize, the government failed to honour her in any way.

But for ordinary Kenyans – particularly those families, lovers, weary factory workers, hawkers and lonely souls who escape to the beauty and tranquillity of Uhuru Park on weekends – she will always remain an icon who cannot easily be replaced.

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


Gay Kenya pays tribute to Prof. Wangari Maathai

Gay Kenya

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76750


cc R C
Wangari Maathai was ‘very passionate about Human Rights’ as well as the environment, and was extremely supportive of Gay Kenya in its early days, the organisation recalls.

She had a very positive and supportive exchange with Gay Kenya.

Kenya woke up to the news that Prof. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Prize winner, and a great Human Rights advocate and consistently ferocious environmentalist had passed on, at the Nairobi Hospital after a long battle with cancer.

Kenya has truly lost one of its foremost determined environmentalists, who also very much against the grain of Kenyan practice started an organization - The Greenbelt Movement that will outlive her. While her stint at politics was characterised by disappointments - she, a world renowned environmentalist was appointed to the position of an assistant minister with no executive authority - but deputised a minster who did not give a hoot at the effects of the “shamba system” on the sustainability and diversity of the eco-system.

She then found herself in the unenviable position of having to fight the same government that she was a part of. Many in Kenya felt her honesty and genuine concern for the people put her at odds with Kenyan politicians known for self-interest and short-changing their own people. Many felt she ill fitted the political landscape that is never known for altruistic interest in the welfare of the Kenyan people - an indictment both to the Kenyan politicians but also to the Kenyan voters.

She was also very passionate about Human Rights, and earlier on at Gay Kenya, when we were looking for supportive voices we had reached out to her for support. She was extremely supportive and advised us not to expect it to be easy. In fact our battle for equality and non-discrimination would be just as hard if not even harder than that for the environment. When we pointed out that the Church would be our most unsympathetic source for homophobia, she pointed out that Kenyans are deeply religious, but that did not stop her from reclaiming forest land grabbed by the politically-connected religious elite. As if repeating the words of Martin Luther King Jr. Who said, “The arc of history is long but it bends towards justice...”

We know her work of environmental protection will continue, now perhaps more than ever before. At Gay Kenya, we shall continue our commitment to Social responsibility with important days marked by tree planting and protection.

Wangari Maathai’s Legacy lives on - it must live on!

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This statement first appeared on Gay Kenya..
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Wangari Muta Mathaai: Share your condolences

2011-09-28

http://wangari.greenbeltmovement.org/


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If you would like to write a tribute or read and share tributes to Wangari Maathai, this site was setup by the Greenbelt Movement in her honour.


Cartels chaining the global food agenda

‘BOP’ping the hungry

Carol Thompson

2011-09-28

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76694


cc CIAT
With their eyes firmly on the money making potential of the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) global food market, profit-seeking corporates punt food security through the enhancement of the global food value chain. But, writes Carol Thompson, this avoids distinguishing who is ‘valued’ and who is ‘chained’.

It is not conspiracy theory, nor exchange within free markets, nor how they frame the debates. It is how they organise and plan, over years, for global dominance. The goals of the Global Agenda Council (GAC) for Food Security, an initiative of the Global Economic Forum (Davos), are available for all to see how food, chemical, and beverage cartels are planning ‘the transformation of agriculture’ among smallholder food producers across the continents, as a response to climate change.

WHAT IS ‘BOP’?

To understand their preparations, the first acronym we must learn is BOP - their reference to the ‘bottom of the pyramid’, or what the rest of us would rather call the ‘global majority’ (54 per cent of the world’s population). The GAC for Food Security cites ‘BOP’ as the 3.7 billion persons earning US$8 per day or less, largely excluded from formal markets. What the BOP represents to the cartels is an ‘untapped market’ of persons who spend 50 per cent of their income on food, or about US$1.3 trillion a year, for that expenditure occurs mainly in local markets, not linked to the global food chain. Those planning to tap this BOP market include sponsors such as Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge Limited, Cargill, The Coca-Cola Company, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Monsanto Company, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, and Nestlé, encouraged by the Gates Foundation and its Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA).

Other statistics, however, belie their image of ‘marketing’ the poor out of hunger, for the 2011 UNICEF Report on the State of the World’s Children estimates that about 1.7 billion (26 per cent of the world’s population) still exist on US$1.25 per day or less, persons who obviously have little or no discretionary money.

Therefore, the portion of the BOP that can even be targeted through market mechanisms is about two billion, those whose daily struggles keep them precariously above the absolute poverty line. Aggregating these two groups reveals that the GAC for Food Security agenda concerns not the reduction of hunger, but rather, how to have those with a bit of discretionary cash purchase food in the global cartel market and not from their neighbours.

GLOBAL FOOD VALUE CHAINS

The two billion persons at what one could call, the top of the BOP, will benefit from ‘enhancing the global value chain’, according to the GAC for Food Security. The global value chain refers to value-added accounting, where a raw commodity like maize has relatively low value while still on the stalks in the field, becomes higher valued and priced when picked and transported; gains further in value when de-cobbed and packaged with other ingredients to make a fast-food dinner; and reaches the highest price (and lowest value?) of all when distilled into liquor for our palates or ethanol for our cars. It is the cartels who control this ‘global value chain’ from the fields to our stomachs or petrol tanks. In the US, the farmer earns only 8-15¢ of every food dollar (depending on the product), partly due to the high costs of inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, paid to those who also control the global food chain after the maize leaves the farm.

It is accurate that the global value chain of processing raw food into exotic frozen food dinners or greasy fast ‘food’ creates jobs and stimulates the multiplier effect in income generation. However, as with the farmer whose harvest is the material out of which the value chain is made, the workers earn a fraction of the incomes of the CEOs and managers of the cartels. Referring to the enhancement of the global food value chain as a way to provide food security avoids distinguishing who is ‘valued’ and who is ‘chained’.

STAKEHOLDERS

The Global Agenda Council for Food Security prides itself in mobilising a diversity of stakeholders to address the problems of climate change and the rising demand for food. Yet their understanding of diversity is as myopic as their concepts of markets and value. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the wealthiest in the world ($36.7 billion, 2010), is listed as ‘civil society.’ The other stakeholders don’t extend any further into the masses of civil society: Harvard University, UC Berkeley, Schwab Foundation, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), World Resources Institute (WRI), and more. They promote relations with Kenya and other South countries, but those extend only to the high levels of government and business. The whole initiative is totally top-down from the high mountains of Davos, Switzerland and only descends to the upper classes and CEOs of emerging economies.

The organised smallholder farmers around the globe are nowhere to be found among the ‘stakeholders’, although they feed 85 per cent of the world’s population. Who is the ‘stake’ - the very essence of food production - and who is the ‘holder’?

ROLE OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR

We do welcome that this initiative fully recognises that governments are needed to guarantee basic sustenance for all humans. Weather and market vagaries do increase hunger and elected leaders, given the public trust, need to guarantee food as a human right (UN Declaration of Human Rights, 1948), not a privilege of those who can enter the marketplace. The hungry cannot walk into the market, let alone bargain prices with the powerful.

Since 1980, the powerful represented by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and then the WTO (1995), have systematically removed governments from financing agriculture, taking credit schemes, research and extension away from the public domain. This neoliberal project extended throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia, although the perpetrators in the USA and the EU continued to increase their governments’ roles in agricultural research and finance. The first seeds branded by Pioneer Seeds in the 1930s (Pioneer Hi-Bred, now a division of DuPont) were fully developed by breeders working for the US government; Pioneer simply privatised a public good.

The US seed and chemical industries have never looked back, relying on public subsidies (corporate welfare) for research, extension services, and more recently, development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Since NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the US government has assisted the ‘marketing’ of GMOs by requiring the World Food Programme (WFP) to accept its GM seed as food aid (in Mexico, 1994, and during other food crises, such as from the 2001 Southern African drought to today in north east Africa); this US-directed WFP aid enhances a pattern of sourcing patented GM grains from the US, for otherwise, the African continent has successfully resisted purchasing them (except South Africa) in the commercial market.

Yet this history of government financing agriculture was not extended to South countries as their government funds were removed from agriculture as a conditionality for debt financing.

The logic behind the de-financing of national food production is the same logic found in the current ‘food security’ initiative. Just before the formation of the WTO, then US Agriculture Secretary, John Block, expressed it well: ‘The idea that developing countries should feed themselves is an anachronism from a bygone era. They could better ensure their food security by relying on US agricultural products, which are available in most cases at lower cost.’ (McMichael 2005, 278).

Now as the North once again begins to recognise that all governments need to spend public funds for food (the internationally accepted goal for Africa is 10 per cent of government budget expenditure for agriculture, but the reality remains about two per cent across the continent), the corporations are defining what government participation means. The GAC for Food Security is quite specific. First and foremost, government must provide the infrastructure (roads, rails) to link local markets to the global. The ‘global value chain’ will feed us all, not our community markets, de-linked from the cartels. Then there are many efforts to make seed laws uniform, in terms of their certification and facility in passing through customs across borders. This goal would seem to assist everyone in sharing seeds, the basis of food biodiversity. In Africa, however, it becomes a means for forcing governments to accept genetically modified seeds, entering the continent via South Africa. Uniform seed laws compromise the precautionary principle of the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety, which allows governments to prohibit the entry of GMOs, in order to guard against genetic pollution of traditional varieties.

The nature of the proposed public/private partnership is clarified in the Davos 2011 meeting report about their roles:

‘The unique approach of this “blueprint model” is the strong and committed leadership of both the government, which acts as “orchestrator” in providing a framework for investment based on the public interest, and that of the private sector, which acts as “executor” and technical advisor in many cases. Donors play a key enabling role, and bring both technical expertise and the ability to scale the model across countries and regions.’ (World Economic Forum 2011, n.p.)

The governments are to offer incentives to agricultural investment, while the private sector executes the programs. The technical expertise comes totally from the outside, denying any traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) among the farmers who bred and developed the seeds over centuries. The farmers, whose expertise have provided the world with our biodiverse food, are treated as recipients, not innovators, and certainly, will not be in charge of the farming and marketing systems linking them to the global food value chain.

FOOD SOVEREIGNTY AND FARMERS’ RIGHTS

Certainly, smallholder farmers do need support from their governments to improve research, production and marketing, but their choice, as expressed in international forums for decades now, is to improve their food production in the context of food sovereignty and farmers’ rights. One source of power is knowledge and farmers possess the knowledge to increase food production in sustainable ways, for they are the very source of innovation - from ideas about zero tillage to water harvesting to improved seeds - that corporate cartels are trying to co-opt. The farmers across the globe are demonstrating, every day, how to share knowledge, without privatising it, without enclosure, and still make a profit.

Linking local food production to the ‘global value chain’ means chaining vital production to the commands of corporate board rooms, who view food commodities as no different from mother-boards or ethanol. As Bill Gates (founder of the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa) recently admitted, ‘I’ve never been a farmer. Until recently, I rarely set foot on a farm.’ (Thurow 2011, 1) The corporate goal is to capture the innovations and production of farmers in order to link them to the global market, for only then can such wealth be registered in the corporate board rooms. Instead, farmers are demanding food sovereignty, commanding their own choices of what is ‘food’ (not sugar, coffee nor jatrohpa), how it is produced, and what will first be sold locally.

Farmers’ rights, protected by the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IT-2004), refers to the collective rights of farmers to save, exchange, breed and plant any seeds. It refutes what the WTO and WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) are trying to enforce, namely that farmers will only be granted the ‘privilege’ of experimenting with patented seeds in their fields. Instead, the IT honours farmers for their contributions across millennia to our current food biodiversity.

By sharing and innovating, the farmers have given us all the means by which to overcome the worst calamities of climate change: they have bred, conserved and freely offered a cornucopia of biodiverse foods; constantly the innovators in their fields, they work to find ways to overcome problems from weather variability. It is this genetic wealth and constant innovation which will provide food security, not the money-changers in their mountain-top councils: ‘bopping’ and ‘chaining’ would better describe their plans.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Carol Thompson is with AGRA-Watch, Seattle, USA
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

SOURCES:

Global Agenda Council on Food Security, World Economic Forum. 2010. Report.
http://www.weforum.org/pdf/globalagenda2010.pdf (accessed 8 September 2011)

McMichael, Philip. 2005. ‘Global Development and the Corporate Food Regime,’ in Frederick Buttel and Philip McMichael, eds. New Directions in the Sociology of Global Development London: Elsevier, pp. 265-300.

Thurow, Roger. 2011. ‘Expert Commentary – The Importance of Innovation,’ Global Agricultural Development Initiative, 24 May.
http://bit.ly/p8zUfp (accessed 20 September 2011)

UNICEF, 2011. State of the World’s Children 2011. http://www.unicef.org/sowc2011/index.php (accessed 15 September 2011)

World Economic Forum. 2008. Business Solutions for Sustainable Food Production - The World Economic Forum’s Work to Address Hunger and Global Food Security.
http://bit.ly/ql3RfZ
http://bit.ly/nSGk2b (accessed 18 August 2011)

World Economic Forum. 2009. The Next Billions: Business Strategies to Enhance Food Values Chains and Empower the Poor.
http://bit.ly/qsiH5l
http://bit.ly/nEPt0U
(accessed 18 August 2011)

World Economic Forum. 2010. Realizing a New Vision for Agriculture - A Roadmap for Stakeholders.
http://bit.ly/qxIddB
(accessed 12 September 2011)

World Economic Forum. 2011. Agriculture and Food Security. Report from Davos.
http://bit.ly/pWfojp
(accessed 8 September 2011)


Hurry up before the sun sets…

Imrann Moosa

2011-09-28

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76695


cc B S
Monday, 12 September marked 34 years since the assassination of South African black consciousness leader Steve Biko. Imrann Moosa remembers his legacy.

‘Afrika, we will only move forward if we are united.
Afrika, do not stop caring ‘cause that would be the end.
Afrika, you were there when they took everything from us.
Me and you cried together.
Me and you have been to hell and back in our dreams and in the struggle.
May we always look for The Way.
In our thoughts and in our religious spaces it would do us good to look for The Way.
So go on.
Do not be afraid.
‘Cause it must be done.
Hurry up before the sun sets.’

Simphiwe Dana penned these words as the chorus to her song ‘Bantu Biko Street’ in her album bearing the title ‘The One Love Movement on Bantu Biko Street[1]’.

We are gathered here today to commemorate and celebrate the life and works of Bantu Stephen Biko. Steve was born on 18 December 1946, and assassinated by the Pretoria regime on the 12 September 1977. On Monday, 12 September 2011, we will observe the 34th anniversary of Steve’s assassination.

We are not here merely to honour Steve as a martyr, and to remind ourselves of how his blood has nourished the tree of freedom. We are here to re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of creating Azania and liberating the world.

The philosophy of Black Consciousness (BC) mapped out by Steve encompasses the emancipation of the wretched of the earth. It is neither time bound, nor is it geographically bound.

Mao Tse Tung incisively remarked:

‘We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.’

Steve had the uncanny ability of stepping right outside the unthought thought patterns of lifetimes, of aeons[2]. He did not fear surfacing, and surface he did. He liberated his mind from the habits of thought, and he relentlessly interrogated the presumptions, assumptions, predilections and biases that keep us in bondage. Steve’s brilliant mind was able to penetrate to the core of, and annihilate, the densest of deceptions and misconceptions. He understood perfectly Paulo Freire’s equation of ‘right’ and ‘left’ sectarianism in his preface to ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’[3]:

‘...[C]losing themselves into “circles of certainty” from which they cannot escape, these individuals “make” their own truth. It is not the truth of men and women who struggle to build the future, running the risks involved in this very construction. Nor is it the truth of men and women who fight side by side and learn together how to build the future - which is not something given to be received by people, but is rather something to be created by them. Both types of sectarian, treating history in an equally proprietary fashion, end up without the people - which is another way of being against them.’

BC enables us to see the world in an entirely new light, and liberates us from dogma. BC exposes that herstory and history, philosophy and rhetoric have all been stunted in their very genesis, and have been forced into cramped and confined spaces. This has impoverished their potential and stultified their role.

Steve thus exposed in thought and action the tendency to impose doxography - this is the way it was, this is the way it is and so forever shall it be, amen! - onto reality, to impose a rigid framework and order which seeks to avoid and obscure what is uncomfortable. Steve unhesitatingly wrangled in the realm of ideas, thus contributing to an intellectual and ideological ferment which resulted in an epistemological rupture with the negative aspects of the herstory and history of the liberation movement in occupied Azania.

Steve taught us that there is no reason to expect the struggle for liberation to proceed in a one-to-one, immediate and linear trajectory.

To be sure, the analysis (or is it erronasis?) of many of even the mainstream proponents of BC today finds itself mired within the current state hegemonic discourse, and offers nought by way of critical analysis and a radically different and substantive view of freedom. Mao Tse Tung would use the word ‘lazybones’ to describe the dogmatists and reformists who, in the main, profess to be South Africa’s ‘public intellectuals’.

It is a matter of utter fascination, and profound regret, that BC - which has been at the cutting edge of the struggle for a liberated Azania, and which has offered us exhilarating and inspiring insights and a galaxy of creative thinkers – has been allowed to degenerate in the manner that it has in recent years. Renegades and impostors pretend to uphold Steve and even to lionize him, while overtly and covertly trampling on that which he stood and fought for.

Issa G Shivji is entirely apposite when he writes in his ‘From Neo-liberalism to Pan-Africanism: Reconstructing an East African Discourse’ (2005) that:

‘[t]he public intellectual, whose vocation is to comment, protest, caricaturize, satirize, analyse, and publicize the life around him or her is rapidly becoming history, which history, by the way, has no historian to record…’

In South Africa today, we see the perfect combination of ignorance and arrogance, to borrow the words of American author and humorist Mark Twain. Note that I do not harbour or entertain the belief that neither wood grew nor water ran prior to that glorious day, the 27 April 1994. What that day marked was a mere change of the guard, and the guard finds itself powerless in power. In our planet today, we are witnessing the perfect combination of rapaciousness and self-righteousness.

I suspect that on 27 April 1994 a virus was unleashed amongst Black people causing us to abandon our capacity for critical thinking, causing us to suffer political amnesia, causing us to allow reactionaries and the politically retarded to become the ladies and lords in our land. Those of us who struggled with might and main in the struggle to create Azania must answer as to why we have abrogated our historical responsibilities and are not proceeding with work in progress. We must account as to how it is that we have allowed settler colonialism including white liberalism to re-assert ideological hegemony when Steve and BC consigned it to well-deserved ignominy. We must account for allowing a ‘negotiated settlement’ which criminalises, amongst others, the liberation struggle, BC and Steve’s life and work. We must account for allowing the oppressor and those who collaborated with settler colonialism to presume to reverse correct historical verdicts, and to invert and pervert the Azanian reality. And we must answer to Mangaliso, to Biko, to Shezi, to Tiro and the host of martyrs in the struggle to create Azania on how we intend to restore the gains made by us and achieve the tasks we dedicated ourselves to achieve.

Let a million Bikos and Mao Tse Tungs emerge to take up the cudgels. These revolutionaries will have to ponder not only what is to be done, but also what has been done hitherto. Reality constantly undergoes change, and this requires and demands the continuous deepening of knowledge.
The magnitude of Steve’s immortal contributions to, inter alia, philosophy, to herstory and history, to culture in its multifarious forms and to community development has barely been appreciated and acknowledged. There is an urgent need to redress this, and to arrest the bastardisation and perversion of Steve’s message. Listen well to Steve[4]:

‘Blacks are out to completely transform the system and to make of it what they wish. Such a major undertaking can only be realized in an atmosphere where people are convinced of the truth inherent in their stand. Liberation therefore, is of paramount importance in the concept of Black Consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain in bondage. We want to attain the envisioned self which is a free self.’

The spirit of Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, Malcom X (a.k.a. Malik al Shabazz), Bantu Stephen Biko, Abram Onkgopotse Ramothibi Tiro, Mthuli ka Shezi and the host of revolutionaries illuminating our firmament will stride into the future and emancipate humanity, the Azanian people and their allies on this planet will see to that. Let us heed Simphiwe’s call to ‘hurry up before the sun sets’ as we ‘take nothing from the dead and choose wisely from among the dying[5]’.

Biko Lives!
Azania Ke Ya Rona!

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This was an address by Imrann Moosa on the occasion of ‘Verses for Biko and Tosh’, organised by the Slam Poetry Operation Team in conjunction with the September National Imbizo at the Uprising Restaurant, Bat Centre, Durban on Saturday, 10 September 2011. This piece is a re-worked version of the address, concentrating only on Bantu Stephen Biko.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

NOTES:

[1] Black Carrot Publishing, Gallo Music Publ SA.
[2] I have borrowed freely from A Sivanandan and Hazel Waters, ‘Cedric J. Robinson,’ ‘Race & Class’, (2006) Volume 47(2).
[3] Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos, Penguin Books: London: 1996.
[4] ‘The Definition of Black Consciousness’ [December 1971]. See ‘Frank Talk’ Volume 1 Number 1 at 3 – 4.
[5] Cedric J. Robinson, ‘Black Marxism’, Zed Press: London: 1983 at 450.


The AU, the OAU and the UNESCO-Obiang Prize

Tutu Alicante

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76727


cc Agencia Brasil
Under pressure from campaigners, UNESCO last year rightly shelved a prize for research in the life sciences funded by Equatorial Guinea’s president of 32 years, the despotic Teodoro Obiang. Given Obiang's poor human rights record, why are African governments suddenly so eager to resuscitate the award, asks Tutu Alicante.

This month, in the Parisian offices of UNESCO, a small group of African diplomats – following orders from their governments – are gambling that Africans have short memories. They gamble that we can be easily duped. They gamble that we will look away as they disregard principles, like those claimed by the African Union, that bind our people together. They’ve manoeuvred behind closed doors to dust off an idea for a prize that was rightly shelved by UNESCO last year. We must look beyond the benevolent veneer the prize’s name bearer and supporters proclaim. What the prize stands for is something we Africans must firmly reject.

The ‘Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences’ is named for and funded by the man who holds the title of Africa’s longest ruling leader. President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea has enjoyed a 32-year reign and was surpassed in length only by Muammar Gaddafi on the African continent. The prize would dispense US$300,000 from Obiang’s opaque coffers to five scientists each. It is not difficult to imagine that less than a year ago a potential Gaddafi or Mubarak prize might also have looked enticing to these same African diplomats.

For ten years Obiang has desperately lobbied UNESCO to host his award. During this same time, however, he and his regime have neglected to adequately fund education or healthcare in the country, while committing many other egregious violations of citizens’ civil liberties. We should reject our governments’ support of anything in the name of this ‘leader’, posing on a global stage as a representative of Africa.

African governments tacitly backed by the Arab bloc are attempting to resuscitate this prize left for dead. Why now? What has occurred in the time since the idea for the Obiang prize was abandoned? For one, only a few months after its abandonment President Obiang secured the chairmanship of the African Union and rolled out the red carpet for African governments at the AU’s June 2011 Summit in Equatorial Guinea. There, it seems, he leveraged this leadership position and ensured that before the heads of states packed up and left the hastily erected resort city of Sipopo, they adopted a curt resolution of support for the prize.

Now, African governments point to this AU document to justify resurrection of the prize. They misrepresent the prize as an ‘African programme.’ But let us be clear: According to the prize’s own rules, its awardees would not have to be Africans. They would not even have to work in Africa. Nor would they have to work on an issue acutely affecting the citizens of our continent. Africans and members of the global community have been lulled by the prizes’ vague language, erroneously believing it to be a prize for and by Africans. It is most certainly not. It is an image-laundering project, masquerading as an incentive for scientists to focus on projects that would benefit Africa.

Not only does the prize not benefit Africans directly, the source of its funding is very dubious. Other global leaders turned-philanthropists release the funding sources and the tax statements of their foundations. President Obiang, however, has not opened the books to disclose information about the source of the funds committed to this prize. Nor has he been transparent about funds held in foreign bank accounts in his name; or about funds generated by construction companies for which he is the primary stakeholder. Without such standard assurances, African governments, UNESCO, and potential beneficiaries should be on notice that the prize risks serving as a pathway to launder money through scientific laboratories.

African governments, in their appeal to UNESCO to resurrect the prize, have raised concerns about member states’ ‘ethics and shared responsibility.’ They proclaim a need to follow through on the prize they allege is consistent with our nations’ shared goals. Perhaps they should reflect more deeply on the goals to which they refer. Or, perhaps it is time they make a clean break from the OAU legacy, as a dictators club, and ensure that AU members abide by the principles of this supposedly new entity. For one, there are five key African Union principles that remain unmet in the country that the prize’s name bearer has ruled since 1979. In Equatorial Guinea there is little political will to uphold the AU principles of fostering democracy, rule of law and basic freedoms, promoting human rights, protecting women’s rights, combating corruption and increasing investment in health and education.

With respect to the Obiang prize in the ‘Life Sciences’, however, let us focus our attention on his regime’s investment in health and education. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights requires states to ’take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people.’ While the Equatoguinean government has pledged to increase investment in these two areas, the reality in the country appears quite different.

One only need look from the eyes of a child. A typical child born in Equatorial Guinea this past year theoretically earns US$30,000 from the national oil revenues. But in reality she’ll have a one in ten chance of dying before she celebrates her fifth birthday. If she does survive, then she has a three in four chance of living her life in poverty. She will probably not have access to clean water for bathing, drinking and eating. Her parents will be lucky to live past the age 50. Compared to their generation, their little girl’s chances of being enrolled in primary school have dropped 30 per cent. Their vote was probably assigned to the president in 2009 when, with 95 per cent of the electorate, his four decade-long grip of power tightened.

Equatorial Guinea is oil-rich and has a population of less than 700,000 people. Yet it spends less than most other African countries on its own people. At home, President Obiang has not shown the leadership to invest the government’s vast resources into an educational system that could ever produce its own scientists who might one day access any potential Obiang-UNESCO prize.

Instead, this little girl and her family will live in abject poverty. This, despite the fact that her country is the world’s third highest per capita producer of oil (double that of Saudi Arabia). Equatorial Guinea has one of the planet’s fastest economic growth rates. And while national wealth has yet to benefit the average people of the country, its leader and his circle have done extremely well for themselves. Perhaps too well, since most recently French authorities moved last year to probe the tens of millions of euros President Obiang holds in French bank accounts. This same African leader now seeks to channel more of the money in his possession through the AU and UNESCO.

Like our young sister above, we Africans desperately need our governments to demonstrate their budding support for science and for solving major challenges by investing directly in basic education for our children first.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Tutu Alicante is executive director of EG Justice.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


Zimbabwe: A tale of two Chinas

Khadija Sharife

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76739


cc N D G
Khadija Sharife takes a closer look at the involvement of key players in Zanu PF’s Mugabe faction in a diamond-mining venture between the Zimbabwean government and Chinese company, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Co. Ltd.

‘The last time I spoke to my mum, she said “mwanangu tichiri musango” – meaning my son, we are still in the bush,’ said 'China', a Zimbabwean civil society activist based in South Africa.

In late March this year, China's mother was forced to flee death in Mbare, on the outskirts of Harare, after yet another Zanu PF pogrom. Born in the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, literally on the doorstep of Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields – valued at US$800 billion, ‘China’ – now a colleague at the Center for Civil Society (CCS) in South Africa, remarked that he had 'never seen the fields'.

But Zimbabwe is home to another China, too.

This article can reveal, for the first time, that key members of Mugabe's faction, including Emmerson Mnangagwa, General Constantine Chiwenga of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and key architect of the opaque Joint Operations Command (JOC), and Colonel Sedze – a senior member of the ZNA, allegedly represent the top military personnel involved in the daily management and operations of another Chinese company mining for diamonds, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Co. Ltd, via a joint venture with the Zimbabwean government, known as Anjin.

In April, the same month that Anjin – the second company to begin diamond mining – declared record outputs of one million carats, Chiwenga was flown to China for emergency medical treatment. Our sources claimed that Chiwenga's many trips to China, of late, were in fact designed to acquire other types of specialist help, including, to sign military deals which among other things include the purchase of arms for the ZNA.

High-level sources in Zimbabwe revealed that Anjin – a joint venture, began operations in 2009 with a 10,000 hectare claim at Chirasika in Marange. The company subsequently discovered new diamond deposits in Chiadzwa at a location known by panners as 'Jesi'.

A wide gravel road, connecting Jesi to the main plant Chirasika, has been constructed. The excavated gravel is ferried in dumpers to the main plant at Chirasika, where the processing and separation of diamonds is simultaneously carried out. The company, stated our high-level sources, currently boasts more than 30,000 hectares of prospected diamond fields with 25 years of projected diamond mining. The company has a staff of 188 Chinese nationals and 285 Zimbabweans.

Our sources alleged that shareholding at Anjin 'was largely a private affair between China and Zimbabwe' but that the strong presence of the military ‘was blatantly evident.' Sedze, for instance, was not only the head of security operations at the company, but also the head of the government's food relief programme for the province, Operation Mugata.

'Both the head of the human resource department, his deputy and other senior managers at Anjin are active senior members of the Zimbabwe National Army. The command structure in the administration of Anjin diamonds on the part of Zimbabwe is military in nature,' alleged one high-level contact who preferred to remain anonymous, citing threats to his life.

The company, we learned, is said to operate using a dual form of administration: The Chinese run their own affairs in terms of staff management, while the Zimbabwean military manages security-related issues. Labour relations between Chinese staff and local Zimbabweans were reported to be very tense due to China's alleged 'importing' of professionals with 'suspect' qualifications, appointed to technical positions such as mine engineers, geologists etc. The low salaries paid to these staff artificially deflated the salaries due to Zimbabwean professionals working in the same sector at the company.

The situation allegedly, claimed our sources, led to Mugabe's demanding a list of Chinese staff members working at the mine, for verification and quality assessment purposes. According to our sources, 'the Chinese embarrassingly failed to produce this when Mugabe visited the mine in February.'

Wages remitted to unskilled workers were estimated at US$88 per fortnight. Semi-skilled workers and others reportedly received as much as US$280 per fortnight, with skilled workers receiving close to US$1,000 per month. The local geologist recently resigned allegedly due to poor remuneration.

One of our sources claimed that, ‘In January 2011 the president addressed the chiefs’ conference in Kariba and briefed them on the situation in Marange highlighting that the company had not started mining diamonds at Chiadzwa but was busy building houses for resettling people at Arda Transau in Odzi.' One month later in February, the government announced that the company had a stockpile of one million carats and was awaiting Kimberley Process certification.

One source, imprisoned by the Zimbabwean government, stated of Anjin, ‘It is widely speculated that the employees work for the Chinese army. There is no clue as to the volume of diamonds that have been mined by Anjin to date, no public knowledge on where the gems are being stored and no information of whether these diamonds have been sold as yet.’

Another imprisoned diamond researcher, and human rights activist, described by The Economist magazine as a “first class” source, is Zimbabwe's Farai Maguwu, director of the Marange-based Center for Research and Development (CRD). ‘Whilst I can't commit myself to mentioning names, our observations indicate that some very senior military personnel and well placed politicians are directly involved in the mining operations of Anjin. The involvement of the army in diamond mining in Marange is the saddest thing that has happened to the find of the century,’ he said.

Maguwu's story is revealing about the forces at play: He was arrested as an enemy of the state in 2010, allegedly for 'endangering national security' by holding information pertaining to the Zimbabwean military's gross human rights violation at Marange's diamond mines. Maguwu's arrest came about when the Kimberley Process's appointed monitor, Abbey Chikane, arranged for Maguwu to meet him at a place and time coordinated by Chikane, a former South African diamond business magnate.

When Maguwu arrived, he found that Zimbabwean state intelligence officials would also be present.

Maguwu believed – and publicly stated – that he had been 'set up' by Chikane. Chikane, brother of Frank Chikane, former director-general in the Office of the President, informed Maguwu that the meeting was confidential. In fact, it was precisely the kind of meeting Zimbabwe's KP monitor should have been conducting – and in complete secrecy, to properly assess the situation. Maguwu did not hand over the document Chikane allegedly claimed to have received from him – a 'state security document' drafted by the army. Yet as Maguwu would reveal, Chikane fished after the said document at the meeting.

‘I immediately felt insecure and the following morning a truckload full of men in suits pitched up at my home and they were armed to the teeth’he said to the media at the time. ‘They went on to beat my relatives at home and they took one of them into custody and they kept him in the police cells, beating him for about four days.’ Maguwu claimed that Chikane was part of the 'gravy train...there must be something that is going on behind the scenes between Abbey Chikane and the ZANU PF officials who are plundering Marange diamonds.'

Ironically, Chikane was not given a mandate by the KP to assess Zimbabwe's diamond mining activities for the intention of conditional sales – granted twice in 2010.

While charges against Maguwu would be dropped, eventually, after considerable international lobbying by major local and international NGOs and civil society movements, it begs several questions: Why did Chikane unilaterally seek to approve KP diamonds, going so far as to jeopardise the legitimacy of the KP system? And why was he not removed from his position for doing so? Similarly, why did the KP monitor endanger Zimbabwe's primary whistle-blower, and do so with basically no repercussions from within the KP?

The KP secretariat did not respond at the time of publication. One source close to the KP – and active within the system in previous years, stated – when asked whether Chikane may in fact have been part of the 'gravy train' – ‘It was not clear to me whether Chikane turned Farai in because he was scared by what Farai told him (i.e. for his own safety), or whether it was because he had the kind of connections suggested. Chikane is certainly well connected, very wealthy. He should never have been made KP monitor.’

Ian Smillie, known as one of the world's leading conflict diamond experts and a key architect of the Kimberley Process (KP) said, ‘We don't know where all the diamonds went that were “approved” by Abbey Chikane. Chikane was a mistake on several levels. He was closely allied with the Government of South Africa, which had demonstrated a pathological inability to be critical of Zimbabwe's horrendous human rights abuse in Marange.

‘And he has extensive personal business interests in the Southern African diamond industry that should have disqualified him from the outset,’ he said.

Smillie stated that while some in the KP perceived Chikane – a past chair of the KP – as an inspired choice as 'special monitor', he was selected only after the KP allowed Zimbabwe to reject one well-qualified candidate (on the basis of his British nationality), and after several other potential candidates claimed, 'they would not touch the job with a barge pole.'

Smillie said that had Chikane been afraid, he could have left the country, and used the information while protecting his source. Alternately, 'having turned him in, he should have resigned' after witnessing the response of the Zimbabwean government. 'Disgracefully, he did neither. And equally disgracefully, the Kimberley Process allowed him to muddle on, “approving” diamond exports without authority and acting as though what he had done to a human rights activist was acceptable.'

Chikane, he said, examined only diamonds offered for export by Marange companies, specifically whether they were 'mined, as stated, in Marange', citing his terms of reference as a failure of what the KP was meant to stand for and protect against: ‘It was like checking to see if Tony Soprano was using a crosswalk.’

In mid-September, the KP sent a high profile team to assess Zimbabwe’s diamond industry. Anjin was allegedly one of the main mines scheduled for inspection, part of the agreement negotiated in the DRC, by the KP chairperson, DRC chair, Mathieu Yamba.[1]

As of mid-September, Anjin did not have a license to export diamonds. But the company, which claims to have relocated families to a new settlement, complete with tapped water and paved roads, is confident that it complies with the KP minimum requirements. Anjin, investing some US$310 million in Zimbabwe’s diamond industry, was confident that Chikane would provide KP approval. http://www.diamondintelligence.com/magazine/magazine.aspx?id=9835

In Zimbabwe, for one China, it is certain, the future glitters brightly – for the other ‘China’, however, not so much.

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* Khadija Sharife is southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report, a contributing researcher for the Tax Justice Network and
visiting scholar at the UKZN Center for Civil Society.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

NOTES

[1] Zimbabwe has a long history with the DRC: Windhoek, Namibia was the location, in late 1999, for Mugabe and Zanu PF's demands for compensation from the DRC's then-head Kabila, financially backed by Mugabe (in a deal pegged at $53 million dollar negotiated by the highly secretive entity, the Zimbabwean Defense Industries) in a war against Mobutu. In exchange for arms, food and transport, Mugabe would receive resources concessions for minerals including diamonds.

In 1999, Operation Sovereign Legitimacy (OSLEG) was created in Windhoek, as a vehicle to generate and recoup revenue. The main architect for Zanu PF’s commercial activities, including OSLEG, was Emmerson Mnangagwa – Mugabe's right hand man, whose biography lists him as former head of the CIO, the only man 'more feared than Mugabe', and perceived by most as Mugabe's successor.


The ties that bind: China, Angola and Zimbabwe

Khadija Sharife

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76740


cc Wikimedia
Khadija Sharife takes a look at the links between Hong-Kong-based private entity China International Fund, Angola’s state oil company Sonangol and Zimbabwe’s diamond fields.

What does Manuel Vicente’s rise to top office in Angola mean for Zimbabwe, and what role does China play in all of this? Vicente is believed to be pegged at vice president by José Eduardo dos Santos – one of Africa’s longest running dictators, bound to win the next Angolan elections in 2012. Once in office dos Santos may well take a holiday, giving the job of five years uninterrupted rule to Vicente.

Presently, Vicente heads Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol, interlocked, through no less than nine different subsidiaries with private Hong Kong-based entity China International Fund (CIF). The CIF is Zimbabwe’s largest foreign investor (US$8 billion), active in various sectors, including infrastructure but also diamonds, via the entity Sino-Zim.

The use of Hong Kong as a jurisdiction becomes a little more obvious when exploring the legal and financial opacity services that generate a not insignificant percentage of their GDP. As the Financial Secrecy Index revealed, companies are not required to put details of trusts, company ownership, or beneficial ownership on public or official records. This is precisely the secrecy that remains so invaluable to political and corporate looters, including the use of nominees to cloak the real identities of the people involved.

Company documents, provided by sources, confirmed the information painstakingly collected by the US-China Economic & Security Review Commission (2009), which alleged a connection between the Chinese government and CIF. The company, for instance, is located at Suites 1011-1012, 10/F, Two Pacific Place. Incorporated on 3 December 2003, the main shareholders include Dayuan International Development Limited (99 per cent), based at the same address, and a business woman by the name of Lo Fung Hung (1 per cent).

Dayuan, created in 2003, was previously known as Beiya International Development Limited (Beiya) until 2006. The company is chiefly owned by New Bright International Development Limited, who directors include Hung and Veronica Fung.

Running the names and Hong Kong identity numbers of directors Hung – P178129(8) and Fung – D553467(5), identified both as the two primary directors spanning the Queensway corporate pyramid. (The Golden China Consultants company, nominee secretarial entity, was also listed.)

Publicly, and even privately (if low and medium-level Chinese officials are to be believed), there are no ties that bind China’s government to the CIF in an official partnership capacity. But CIF is rumoured to be interlocked with the Chinese state through revolving door officials, backdoor financing, resource trading and hidden beneficiaries.

Another of the five-fingered Queensway director web, Wu Yang, listed his registered address at 28/F 14 Dong Chang'an Street, Beijing, China, an office for the Ministry of State Security, though this connection is deemed expired.

But others claim any CIF-PRC connection is simply commercial. Angolan activist and journalist Rafael de Morais quotes a Chinese official who said, cynically, of the company, ‘CIF has no construction record or credentials…Largely they are brokers who get contracts from the Angolan government and sell them to other Chinese companies for huge profits.’

However opaque CIF may be to the Chinese state, as regards Angola’s, there can be no denying the cosiness, via the joint subsidiaries as well as the US$2.9 billion in funding for Angolan construction projects, administered by Angola’s Gabinete de Reonstrução Nacional and financed by China International Fund Limited (CIFL).

The man pegged as Fung's husband, Xu Jinghua, is the chair – and perceived silent director, of many of the Queensway Group's entities, including CIF. Xu, considered to be at the helm of oil trading and construction in Angola, and more broadly, Africa, was quoted in the Asia Times (2007) as 'boasting' that his Angolan construction pie was worth an estimated US$30 billion.

The intimacy between CIF and the Angolan regime was glimpsed at via Wikileaks where China's ambassador to Angola, Bholum Zhang, states that CIF enjoys a 'close relationship' with President Dos Santos. Here, Xu plays a key role, maintaining close connections with his Russian military academy comrade and classmate, Angolan President – and lifetime dictator, Dos Santos.

The US report, in an attempt to broaden his profile, included claims by the Argentinean media, of Xu's potential Cambodian origins. Sources, however, revealed that Xu is indeed a PRC citizen (identity number: 330203550608095 Chinese name: 徐京華)with one dissolved company under his belt (China Kilter Trading), and almost anonymous business dealings thereafter, through the use of nominee directors such as Wang Xiangfei (director of 16 Queensway entities, and husband of Lo Fung Hung).

China Sonangol and CIF are documented as having invested US$15 billion in Guinea and Zimbabwe in 2009 – US$7 billion for the former, announced in October 2009, and US$8 billion for the latter, announced in November, 2009. In Zimbabwe, the company, Sino-Zimbabwe, incorporated as Sino-Zim Diamond Limited – a Hong Kong entity, evidences the close ties between international diamond magnate Lev Leviev, the Angolan government and the CIF.

Leviev first came into contact with the CIF in Angola. Through companies like Leviev's Africa-Israel Investment, he managed to acquire 10 per cent of one Queensway entity, Artfield, which would later change its name to China Sonangol Resources Limited (2009).

But Angola is not only Africa's largest – and the world's second largest, supplier of oil, to China. It also a major supplier of KP-certified diamonds through entities such as the Israeli Leviev group.

Sino-Zim, previously known as Rich Loyal Corporation Limited, which has since claimed to cease diamond mining in the company's allocated concession (but has requested and received another concession), is managed by the Leviev group's Namibian arm, Samicor. Sino-Zim director include Singapore-based lawyer Jeremy Zerenie, and longtime Leviev hand, Eliezer Nefussy. Holding an Israeli passport (12874136), and based in Pionerspark, Windhoek, Namibia, Nefussy – head of the Leviev Group in Namibia – was appointed one month after Sino-Zim was incorporated.

According to one source, a key architect in the KP, and preferred to remain anonymous, Leviev had been sniffing around Zimbabwean diamonds for quite some time. But with his bases across Africa, ranging from extraction to cutting and polishing, Leviev – active in many conflict regions, is often labeled as the man who broke the De Beers diamond cartel, first in Russia and then, chiefly, Angola, by going after the source, much like Marc Rich did with oil. During his reign at SAMICOR (equipped with state-of-the-art technology) Nefussy has been quoted as saying Leviev's Namibian plants needed more, bigger and better diamonds.

Though Zimbabwe's US$800 billion diamond fields - now ranking as the world's seventh largest producer, ahead of Angola, have an airstrip, with a light cargo plane making daily trips, it is not known whether, or indeed, the volume of Zimbabwean diamonds, KP-washed through the Leviev group, with billions in diamond sales.

Nefussy appears to have become an old diamond under Leviev, holding positions in Namibia's diamond industry through myriad key entities owned by the Leviev Group, such as LL Mining, parent company of Namibia Minerals Corporation (NAMCO).

The company was located in Robert Mugabe Avenue, Windhoek.[1]

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Khadija Sharife is southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report, a contributing researcher for the Tax Justice Network and
visiting scholar at the UKZN Center for Civil Society.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

NOTES

[1] Nambia's official diamond valuator, Global Diamond Valuators (GDV), known for large financial donations to the SWAPO regime, is advising diamond mining companies in Zimbabwe, including Anjin and Mbada, on KPCS compliance.


Can Ghana afford to pay the same price as Pakistan?

Cameron Duodu

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76748


cc US Army
‘Mention South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and those with good memories can attest to the lesson of history, which is that if you want to remain friendly with the USA, keep its military at arm’s length.’ So why would Ghana risk souring its relationship with the US, as Pakistan has already done, by allowing it to use Ghanaian territory for military purposes, asks Cameron Duodu.

I would never have believed it, but after 54 years of independence – and despite the noise we have made about our national sovereignty and how we adopted the policy of non-alignment in the Cold War in order to safeguard our sovereignty – there are still people in Ghana who believe that it would be in Ghana’s interest to allow the United States to operate a military base on Ghanaian soil. And that includes a base from which drones can be flown to kill the enemies of the US who operate in neighbouring countries.

The issue is far from being theoretical because Ghana is surrounded by countries in which there are large Muslim communities – the Ivory Coast, Togo and Burkina Faso. Ghana’s own Northern, Upper and Upper West regions also contain significant numbers of Muslims. And we all know that someone’s fervent adherent of Islam, is another person’s fanatic, waiting to be recruited into Al Qaeda or some other sinister Islamic sect.

Yet despite Ghana’s possession of all the ingredients for a potentially lethal demographic cocktail, there are individuals in the country who would tolerate the use of Ghanaian territory by the US for military purposes.

Their view can be represented by this posting to a Ghanaian Internet forum: President John Atta Mills could get Ghana a US base, 50 miles from Tamale, in Northern Ghana, which would build ‘a state of the art military hospital that the residents could use as well.’ Ghana could also get an airport that had ‘a civilian wing the country can use.’ And an infrastructure plan to be put in place to support an army of Ghanaian businesses, ranging from hotels to food production outfits, to support the complex. ‘The security agreements to be negotiated would permit us to secure our interests, wherever they maybe, as we help the America effort.’

The posting betrays ignorance about the troubled relations that exist between local populations and the personnel of American bases – such as are often reported even from such American close allies as Japan (Okinawa). And to imagine that an American hospital meant for the personnel of a military base would necessarily be available to locals, borders on naivety.

In any case, Africans will probably be called upon to make judgements on such issues sooner than they think. For a report in the Washington Post tells us that that the US has stationed drones (pilotless military aircraft) in the Seychelles Islands that have a range of about 800 miles. It also has some drones in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.

The purpose of the drones, it is assumed, is to protect the seaways in the area from pirate activity, usually carried out from Somalia. But since the Somali pirates are generally suspected to be affiliated with Al Qaeda or other militant groups that hostile to the US, the use of the drones in Africa will open a new front in the worldwide ‘war on terror’ the US and its allies are waging. Even in the West, some people have doubts about the waging of a ‘war on terror’ that encompasses the entire globe. Can Africa afford to ‘sleep-walk’ into the centre of such a conflict?

For I haven’t heard, for instance, of a parliamentary debate in the Seychelles about the stationing there of US drones. Even in Ghana, the exact nature of cooperation with the US AFRICOM objectives have not been adequately thrashed out publicly. Before we know it, we could be experiencing something of a ‘mission creep’: We conduct joint training sessions with US troops; some troops stay to train our soldiers; then equipment arrives; and finally we find that some of the equipment can be assembled in to drones!

It is easy to see why Ghana would be a welcome addition to the American bases from which drones can fly to combat Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (North Africa) is known to operate in Mauritania and Niger, and probably Chad as well. The Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso cannot be dismissed out of hand, either. No one will know for sure, until they strike – if they ever do.

That is what is baffling the Nigerians at the moment. It appears as if there is now a link between the deadly Boko Haram Islamic sect, which has been killing scores of Nigerians, and Al Qaeda in Somalia. (Shortly before it carried out a dastardly attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja in August 2011, Boko Haram boasted, through an operative, that the organisation had sent people for training in Somalia, and that they had just returned to Nigeria).

The question is this: If Al Qaeda were to suspect that that it was being targeted by drones flown from Ghana, would Ghana be safe from its retaliation? Quite frankly, I shudder to think of the situation that would confront us. For Nigeria, whose security budget is probably bigger than our entire gross domestic product (GDP) is currently floundering in its attempt to combat Boko Haram. A government report has recommended that arrested Boko Haram suspects should be granted an ‘amnesty’.

But a newspaper war has broken out, in the meantime, between the Nigerian police and the country’s Defence Intelligence Agency, over how a suspected Boko Haram operative was handled by both organisations, with each is accusing the other of not treating the alleged operative seriously enough.

This is a sign that the intelligence organisations in Nigeria are under enormous pressure over their inability, so far, to check the activities of Boko Haram. In one instance, Boko Haram sent a suicide bomber to blow up the police headquarters in Abuja. The Inspector-General of the Nigerian Police was saved from death by the skin of his teeth.

So, if it is doing nothing at all, Boko Haram is destabilising Nigeria. And if seeing what is going on in Nigeria, our government creates a situation that can be seized upon to see Ghana with hostile eyes, our government would have broken the oath it has sworn to protect and defend Ghana.

One thing that cannot be ignored is the possibility that the disarray in the Nigerian security services is caused by officials within the organisations who are sympathetic to the ideals preached by Boko Haram. That situation could be duplicated in Ghana, with unimaginable consequences. So far, Ghana has been fortunate in not having encountered religious intolerance. Religion does not interfere much in our social interactions. But we should not tempt our luck.

No one can convince an American to allow him to station his country’s troops or weapons on American soil – for any reason. Why can’t we learn from the Americans and tell them plainly that we cannot consider them as our friends, if they ask us to expose ourselves to attack, in order to assist in America’s ‘war on terror’?

The same disease that is plaguing Nigeria – a divided national security system – is also affecting Pakistan, a country which the US has been considering as an ally in its war on Al Qaeda. Pakistan dies indeed receive US$3.16 billion a year from the US as aid. Yet a few days ago, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan of supporting a militant group called the Haqqani. This was the group that carried out a deadly attack on the US embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, recently, in which 25 people died. What could be a worse indictment of a supposed ally?

Admiral Mullen told the US Senate at a public hearing: ‘The Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.’

He added: ‘With ISI [Pakistani intelligence] support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted a truck bomb attack [on 11 September], as well as the assault on our embassy. We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the 28 June [2011] attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.’

This type of situation – a ‘love affair between two countries that has turned sour’ – is not new. Mention South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and those with good memories can attest to the lesson of history, which is that if you want to remain friendly with the USA, keep its military at arm’s length. Pakistan must now be badly regretting that it didn’t learn from what happened between the US and other countries in southeast Asia. But it is too late for Pakistan to regret its past mistakes. It will continue to pay for those mistakes in blood. Any African country that takes the risk of becoming another Pakistan, needs to have its head examined.

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


The new scramble for Africa

Conn Hallinan

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76730


cc C G
Hallinan traces current US foreign policy in Africa, including military intervention, to a proposal made eight years ago by a conservative think tank. Africa’s vast natural and mineral resources make the continent strategically important to the West.

Is current US foreign policy in Africa following a blueprint drawn up almost eight years ago by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, one of the most conservative think tanks in the world? Although it seems odd that a Democratic administration would have anything in common with the extremists at Heritage, the convergence in policy and practice between the two is disturbing.

Heritage, with help from Joseph Coors and the Scaife Foundations, was founded in 1973 by the late Paul Weyrich, one of the most conservative thinkers in the United States and a co-founder of the Moral Majority.

In October 2003, James Carafano and Nile Gardiner, two Heritage Foundation heavyweights, proposed a major shift in US military policy vis-à-vis the African continent.

In a backgrounder article entitled ‘US military assistance for Africa: A better solution’, the two called for the creation of a military command for the continent, a focus on fighting ‘terrorism’, and direct military intervention using air power and naval forces if ‘vital US interests are at stake’. Such interventions, they wrote, should include allies and avoid using ground troops.

Almost every element of that proposal has come together over the past year, though some pieces, like the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative, were in place before the Obama administration took office.

LIBYA AND OIL
The Libyan war seems almost straight off Heritage's drawing board. Although the United States appeared to take a back seat to its allies, NATO would not have been able to carry out the war without massive amounts of US military help. US Special Forces and CIA teams, along with special units from Britain, France, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates organized the rebels, coordinated air strikes and eventually pulled off an amphibious operation that sealed Tripoli's fate.

The Heritage scholars were also clear what they meant by vital US interests:
‘With its vast natural and mineral resources, Africa remains strategically important to the West, as it has been for hundreds of years, and its geostrategic significance is likely to rise in the 21st century. According to the National Intelligence Council, the United States is likely to draw 25 percent of its oil from West Africa by 2015, surpassing the volume imported from the Persian Gulf’.

It was a sentiment shared by the Bush administration. ’West Africa's oil has become a national strategic interest’, said US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Walter Kansteiner in 2002.

The UN tasked NATO with protecting civilians in Libya, but France, Britain, the United States and their Gulf allies focused on regime change. Indeed, when leaders of the African Union (AU) pushed for negotiations aimed at a political settlement, NATO and the rebels brusquely dismissed them.

The NATO bombing ‘really undermined the AU's initiatives and effort to deal with the matter in Libya’, complained South African President Jacob Zuma. More than 200 prominent Africans released a letter on 24 August condemning the ‘misuse of the United Nations Security Council to engage in militarized diplomacy to effect regime change in Libya’, as well as the ‘marginalization of the African Union’.

The suspicion that the Libya war had more to do with oil and gas than protecting civilians is why the AU initially balked at recognizing the rebel Transitional National Council, and there is a growing unease at the West's ‘militarized diplomacy’.

PROTECTING ENERGY SUPPLIES

Through the Defense Department's African Contingency Operation Training and Assistance Program, the United States is actively engaged in training the militaries of Mali, Chad, Niger, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Gabon, Zambia, Uganda, Senegal, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi and Mauritania.

In June 2006, NATO troops stormed ashore on Sao Vicente island in the Cape Verde archipelago, an exercise aimed at ‘protecting energy supplies’ in the Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea.

Major oil producers in the region include Angola, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Mauritania.

PROTECTING ENERGY SUPPLIES FROM WHOM?

In the case of the Niger Delta, it means protecting oil companies and the Nigerian government from local people fed up with the pollution that is killing them and the corruption that denies them any benefits from their resources. Under the umbrella of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), locals are waging a low-key guerilla war that at one point reduced oil supplies by 20 percent.

MEND is certainly suspicious of American motives in the region. ‘Of course, it is evident that oil is the key concern of the United States in establishing its Africa Command’, says the organization's spokesman, Jomo Gbomo.

The Nigerian government labels a number of restive groups in Nigeria as ‘terrorist’ and links them to al-Qaeda, including Boko Haram in the country's north. But labeling opponents ‘terrorists’ or raising the al-Qaeda specter is an easy way to dismiss what may be real local grievances. For instance, Boko Haram's growing penchant for violence is more likely a response to the heavy handedness of the Nigerian army than an al-Qaeda-inspired campaign.

CORPORATE INTERESTS

The protection of civilians may be the public rationale for intervention, but the bottom line looks suspiciously like business. Before the guns have even gone silent in Libya, one British business leader has complained to The Independent that Britain is behind the curve on securing opportunities. ‘It's all politics, no commercial stuff. I think that is a mistake. We need to be getting down there as soon as possible’.

The Spanish oil company Repsol and the Italian company Eni are already gearing up for production. ‘Eni will play a No.1 role in the future’, says Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. Almost 70 percent of Libya's oil goes to four countries: Spain, Germany, France and Italy. Qatar, which is already handling oil sales in Eastern Libya, will also be on the ground floor as production ramps up.

A major loser in the war - and some would argue, not by accident - is China. Beijing, which accounted for about 11 percent of Libya's pre-war exports, had some 75 companies working in Libya and 36,000 personnel. But because China complained that NATO had unilaterally changed the UN resolution from protecting civilians to regime change, Beijing is likely to suffer. Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager of the rebel oil firm AGOCO, told Reuters that China, Brazil and Russia would be frozen out of contracts. Brazil and Russia also supported negotiations and complained about NATO's interpretation of the UN resolution on Libya.

For Heritage, keeping China out of Africa is what it is all about. Peter Brookes, the former principal Republican advisor for East Asia on the House Committee on International Relations, warned that China was hell-bent on challenging the United States and becoming a global power, and key to that is expanding its interests in Africa. ‘In a throwback to the Maoist revolutionary days of the 1960s and 1970s and the Cold War, Beijing has once again identified the African continent as an area of strategic interest’, he told a Heritage Foundation audience in a talk entitled, ‘Into Africa: China's grab for influence and oil’. Beijing gets about one third of its oil from Africa - Angola and Sudan are its major suppliers - plus important materials like platinum, copper, timber and iron ore.

Africa is rife with problems, but terrorism is not high on that list. A severe drought has blistered much of East Africa, and with food prices rising, malnutrition is spreading continent-wide. The ‘war on terrorism’ has generated 800,000 refugees from Somalia. African civilians do indeed need help, but not the kind you get from fighter-bombers, drone strikes or Tomahawk cruise missiles dispatched at the urging of right-wing think tanks or international energy companies.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This article first appeared in Foreign Policy In Focus.
* Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist. His writings can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


The secretary-general who stood up for the UN

John Y. Jones

2011-09-28

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/features/76704


cc Wikimedia
The fears that former UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld expressed 50 years ago about the negative impact that the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee would have on the UN and the African continent have turned out to be prescient, writes John Y. Jones.

During his last years Africa increasingly dominated UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld’s life and agenda. He challenged colonial powers’ attempts to quench the quest for freedom that swept the continent, and he openly criticised those who tried to make ‘the Congo a happy hunting ground for [their own] national interests.’[1] He summed up his frustration over ‘many member Nations [who] have not yet accepted the very limits put on their national ambitions by the very existence of the United Nations and by the membership of that Organisation’.

So Hammarskjöld got enemies. Chrustchev’s demanding his resignation is well known. The Americans wanted a more cooperative man at the helm of the UN. Less known is de Gaulle’s humiliating turning down an invitation when the French president came to New York. On 15 February 1961, there were riots in the UN building that physically threatened him. Even small nations like Ghana after Congo’s first Prime Minister Lumumba’s death, turned against him. None of this would, however, stop him from going to Congo that fatal September in 1961.

That Africa should become Hammarskjöld’s final destination became symbolic of his days in the UN. The dirt that eventually soiled his face as his plane crashed, was that where Patrice Lumumba was humiliated and executed only months before, where Western multinationals for years had spread their mercenaries in search of minerals and geopolitical control, and where King Leopold’s ‘humanitarian’ endeavour had viciously taken more than 10 million lives. But it also was the soil that for another 50 years would continue to see unimaginable bloodshed and suffering, from Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, to West Sahara, Congo and South Africa.

Hammarskjöld knew who and what was waiting for him that day in September 1961. At the age of only 20, he had formed the sentence that he later chose as intro to his diary texts: ‘Death shall thrust its sword into an alert man!’

40 years after Hammarskjöld’s death[2] congresswoman Cynthia McKinney summed up ‘the misconduct of Western nations in Africa’. She claimed that this was ‘not due to momentary lapses, individual defects, or errors of common human frailty …[but was]… part of long-term policy design to access and plunder Africa’s wealth at the expense of its people.’ Hammarskjöld’s warning about Africa being turned into a ‘happy hunting ground’ has been proven right. But where McKinney only saw US fingerprints, others have been pointing at the World Bank or IMF as efficient tools for ‘Western plunder’. Hammarskjöld, however, saw already in the mid 1950s the formation of a larger and more dangerous ‘policy design’, to use McKinney’s expression, a design that has been receiving far from the attention it deserves: The creation of DAC.

After 1945 Hammarskjöld served at the Organisation for European Economic Development and witnessed its transformation into the OECD. As head of the UN he soon became the small countries’ spokesperson, and protested when OECD took upon itself to address the former colonies through the Development Assistance Committee, DAC. That recent oppressive colonial powers – that only reluctantly were about to give in to liberation’s ‘wind of change’[3], and which only 75 years earlier had cut up the African continent as spoils at the Berlin Conference – now should be the saviours’ of the Third World, was bad news to Hammarskjöld. The responsibility for the developing world belonged, as he saw it, with the UN itself. Only the UN had the credibility to assist the emerging new countries in their formation and nation building. To Hammarskjöld, the OECD’s DAC was a threat to UN itself.

50 years with DAC/OECD[4] have shown that Hammarskjöld was right. While the rest of the world has seen leaps in material accumulation, as well as in level of life expectancy and welfare, Africa – subject to DAC’s leadership and through its close proximity to the IMF and the World Bank – has seen coordinated structural adjustment policies and aid-programmes that have done everything but address the root causes of poverty and underdevelopment. Rather, OECD and DAC have orchestrated a development agenda that has resulting in the largest gap between rich and poor countries that history has ever witnessed. Hammarskjöld feared what Bruce de Mesquita[5] documents 50 years later: Western democracies would not come to promote democracies in the South, but rather establish stable partners that fit their own needs. And dictators were often more stable and manageable than vulnerable democracies. Says Mesquita[6]: The rich democracies’ support to these dictatorships is called ‘development aid’.

On the surface everyone shared the view that exploitation of colonies had to come to an end. But Hammarskjöld also strongly demanded substantive support to developing nations to build sound communities that had been vandalised from years of abuse and exploitation. And he demanded their proper integration into the world economy at large. The UN, as a fellowship of all nations, was to hold the reigns in all this. And he feared that splitting the UN into many specialised agencies would weaken the General Assembly and the EcoSoc. It should come as no surprise that the Millennium Development Goals were not concocted at the UN but in the halls of OECD/DAC.

Hammarskjöld would have loved to witness the large funds annually transferred to the developing world. But given the fact that DAC and rich nations refused to transfer power to the UN in any significant way, Hammarskjöld would not be surprised to hear that wealth today is in the hands of the rich world to a degree unimaginable in 1961.

50 years after Dag Hammarskjöld, the West has failed to let UN become the tool he dreamed of. We ignored his warnings. We weakened the UN, not only by splitting it up and under financing it, but also by channelling attention and authority away from the World Organisation over to the ‘effective’ Bretton Woods institutions, ‘successful’ private operators and initiatives like Ted Turner and Bill Gates, the G-8/10/20 that are better at serving the West’s interests. World leaders fill the hotels in Davos rather than the UN halls. We have systematically hindered poor nations in taking control of their own development. Did someone mention ‘local ownership’, ‘development from within’ or ‘Southern responsibility’?

Even more grave is it that we have kept Africa from turning resources in to wealth, from industrialising, from developing advanced research-centres and high-tech skills. We have kept our expensive medicines to ourselves through high prices and patents. We have short changed Africa by dispatching mosquito bed-nets and micro finance from our 5-star hotels in Switzerland. In short: We have made Africa an expert in remaining poor, and effectively blocked their roads out of poverty. Not only the 25 rich countries constituting the DAC committee, but also NGOs and private businesses will have to take responsibility for this.

Dag Hammarskjöld was ‘greatly impressed by the new generation of African leaders’[7] of his day, and had high hopes for ‘the economic potentialities of Africa’ 50 years later there is no sign of new opportunities that will be handed to Africa for free. This time hope lies in another ‘new’ generation that will cut the continent loose. This time liberty and prosperity will come to Africa from within. Let us pray that it will not resort to quick fixes, revenge, violence and war that for so many years kept it down. And that a reformed UN will organise and start speaking for the small countries and keep the powerful ones accountable to their signing of the Charter, like Hammarskjöld dreamed of – too many years ago.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* John Y. Jones is with Networkers SouthNorth.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

NOTES
[1] Urquhart, Brian, Norton, 1974, p507.
[2] 16 April 2001.
[3] After Hammarskjöld had visited 24 African countries, Britain’s Macmillan toured the continent in 1960 preparing his allies for liberation of the colonies, and coined the expression ‘a wind of change’.
[4] All the 25 countries of DAC are industrial countries.
[5] in the latter’s upcoming book ‘The Dictator’s Handbook’
[6] in a BBC-interview 30 July 2011
[7] Urquhart, Norton 1994, p 381.
[8] SG papers volume 5.




Announcements

Dear Mandela – the struggle for dignity and human rights for South Africa’s shack dwellers

2011-09-27

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/announce/76673

Please join Amnesty International and War on Want to hear about the remarkable work of Abahlali baseMjondolo (‘people of the shacks’), a movement campaigning for the rights of many thousands of South Africans living without access to adequate housing and at risk of forced evictions.

The evening includes a a screening of the 20 minute short version of the film, Dear Mandela, the story of the emergence of Abahlali, its courageous response to the numerous challenges it has faced and its campaign against forced evictions, which led to the constitutional court victory in 2009.

VENUE: Human Rights Action Centre, 17 - 25 New Inn Yard, EC2A 3EA
DATE AND TIME: Friday 7 October 2011 at 6:30 p.m.
CONTACT: Caroline Elliot, War on Want CElliot[at]waronwant.org
Attn Africa Programme, Amnesty International, amnestyis[at]amnesty.org
PRICE: FREE
BOOKING: book your space here.

Caroline Elliot, from War on Want, will introduce the evening’s programme, which includes a screening of the 20 minute short version of the film, Dear Mandela, the story of the emergence of Abahlali, its courageous response to the numerous challenges it has faced and its campaign against forced evictions, which led to the constitutional court victory in 2009.

Bandile Mdlalose, the Secretary General of Abahlali, will provide a first-hand account of the realities experienced by shack-dwellers and of incidents of harassment and threats against Abahlali’s members and supporters because of their activism.

Mary Rayner, AI’s researcher onSouth Africa, will speak about AI’s monitoring and support work for Abahlali members violently displaced in late 2009 from their homes atKennedy Roadinformal settlement and for others who were at risk of an unfair trial in the aftermath of the attacks.


Global: 2011 Right Livelihood Awards announced

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/pnsQuP

The 2011 Right Livelihood jury has awarded Jacqueline Moudeina from Chad 'for her tireless efforts at great personal risk to win justice for the victims of the former dictatorship in Chad and to increase awareness and observance of human rights in Africa'. Moudeina is a lawyer who works fearlessly to bring the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré to justice making sure that those who committed crimes do not go unpunished. At the same time, she works on a wide range of human rights issues concerning Chad today. With her commitment to justice as prerequisite for reconciliation and her dedication to intervene from the grassroots level up to international jurisdiction, she has made a prominent and crucial contribution to winning respect for human rights in Africa.


Fahamu call for research proposals

Comparative African perspectives on China and other emerging powers in Africa

2011-09-13

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/announce/76218

China’s deepening engagement with Africa is receiving increased attention from the global media, the public and private sectors and academic research. This should not however overshadow the activities of other emerging powers in Africa, including India, Brazil and the Gulf states. This call therefore seeks to develop African perspectives in the discourse surrounding the engagement between Africa and these emerging powers. Deadline for receiving applications: 12 October 2011.

For further details please download information here.




Comment & analysis

Making the case for digital activism

Jessica Ann Mitchell

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/comment/76731


cc S C
Although Troy Davis was killed despite massive protests online, digital activism raised public awareness of racism and oppression in the US state of Georgia, writes Jessica Ann Mitchell. This case and others show that indeed digital activism works.

The recent Troy Davis case sparked a firestorm of digital outcries. Online protests were launched along with petitions. Amnesty International collected over 630,000 signatures in support of Davis. Twitter and Facebook were both taken over by hash tags and updates. Millions of people were discussing the case and educating others about it. The Davis case truly became an online phenomenon. Over 40,000 people tuned into Democracy Now’s live stream of the vigil held outside the Georgia prison that was holding Davis. For many, this was the first time they had even heard of Democracy Now, a progressive independent source of news. The live stream went viral on Twitter and Amy Goodman was trending worldwide.

During this time period, Davis’ supporters became a complete digital community in their own right. Many were desperately hoping for Davis to live. Unfortunately, our requests and pleas were denied. This was truly a heartbreaking moment for us all. However, not more than 24 hours after the death of Troy Davis, digital activism naysayers were on the prowl with a clear message: ‘digital activism doesn’t work’. The main reason they believe it does not work is because with all our prayers and protesting, Troy Davis was still killed by the state of Georgia.

Though Davis’ death is a heartbreaking fact, we cannot allow ourselves to sulk in the negativity of, ‘I told you so’, and ‘I knew it would not work’. Truth be told, the reason that Troy Davis died is because Georgia is still a predominantly racist and oppressive state. As a Georgia girl, I know what it is like to live in the backwoods of the KKK’s resting den.

However, saying that digital activism does not work is an outright lie founded in lethargic negativity and ignorance of the power of ordinary people. Public support through online petitions and social media outreach played a vital role in making members of the public aware of the injustices occurring. Even though Davis was executed, that doesn’t mean that all of our efforts have gone to waste.

Now the racial discrepancies surrounding the death penalty in the US are becoming more widely addressed. It could even lead to a movement to abolish the death penalty. This case will forever shed light on the prison industrial complex and the death of black men within it. The death penalty debate is now facing a rebirth, especially after the world witnessed what was essentially a lynching.

In these cases, yes, our voting rights play a vital role in making societal changes. However, before we can vote to make these changes, we must find a means to inform and reach members of the public. The digital era has afforded us the opportunity to distribute this information rapidly.

Digital outcries, protests and petitions are a highly effective means for change. Organizations like ColorOfChange.org have already proved that with their ability to garner public support (much of it digital) in support of the Jena 6, ending Glenn Beck’s televised hate mongering and pressuring the state of Georgia to free Genarlow Wilson. Another organization, Change.org was vital in sustaining a digital campaign that resulted in clemency for a young African American mother convicted of a felony for sending her children to a school outside of their district.

Countless blogs, news articles, Tweets, and Facebook updates by millions of ordinary people around the world also supported these digital campaigns for justice. So, you see, digital activism does work. Sometimes when things don’t go the way we want them to go, it’s easy to allow negativity to take control. However, it takes true power and strength to continue pushing on for justice. We have to push for our humanity, ‘by any means necessary’, as Malcolm X once stated. Right now the digital era provides a means that presents us with a plethora of opportunities.

In the 1960s, when a small group of students in North Carolina began sit-ins in all-white restaurants and a young Baptist preacher was gathering people for marches, it was understood that civil rights would not magically appear the next day. What they were doing was a start. When things did not change immediately there were naysayers saying, ‘It will never work’, and ‘It is a waste of time’. I am glad they kept marching instead of succumbing to unproductive negativity.

In 2011, it is time for us to uphold this legacy. With the help of countless organizations and ordinary people the struggle for human rights and freedom continues… And it is going digital.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of Black Bloggers Connect, an entity of Lamzu Media. You can visit her personal blog at OurLegaci.com.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.




Advocacy & campaigns

Special Declaration of the ALBA-TCP Foreign Ministers on the Situation of Libya and Syria

Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/advocacy/76749

The Foreign Ministers of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America has issued a statement condemning ‘the NATO intervention in Libya and its illegal military aggression, carried out under the cover of a UN Security Council resolution, opportunistically exploiting the situation of the internal political conflict in that country.’

The Foreign Ministers of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, meeting in Caracas, Venezuela on 9 September 2011, recalling the Special Communiqué of the Political Council on 4 March 2011 and the Special Communiqué of the Ministerial Social Council on 19 March 2011, condemns the NATO intervention in Libya and its illegal military aggression, carried out under the cover of a UN Security Council resolution, opportunistically exploiting the situation of the internal political conflict in that country.

The ALBA foreign ministers denounce the NATO for carrying out a military operation for regime change in Libya under the doctrine of preventive war, manipulating the UN to suit its geopolitical and economic interests in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

The ALBA foreign ministers demand the immediate and unconditional cessation of the NATO bombings and military intervention in the Libyan territory.

The ALBA foreign ministers deplore the fact that the NATO has disregarded the persistent efforts of the African Union in search of a solution to the internal conflict in Libya based on dialogue to achieve peace.

The ALBA foreign ministers also deplore the complicity of various major international media, which have colluded with those interested in aggression and lent themselves to the purpose of distorting information about the state of affairs in Libya.

The ALBA foreign ministers issue their most urgent warning on the danger that the Libyan precedent may be repeated against Syria, by means of exploiting the ongoing political troubles in that Arab nation.

The ALBA foreign ministers reiterate their firmest commitment to the right to self-determination of the peoples of Libya and Syria.

The ALBA foreign ministers most energetically reject any attempt to turn Libya into a protectorate of the NATO or the UN Security Council.

In order to contribute to and support the efforts for peace demanded by the majority of the peoples of the world, the ministers agree to take the following actions:
* Promote discussion in the UN General Assembly on the dangerous precedents set by what has been done to Libya and on the protection of the sovereign rights of that Arab nation of Africa, so as to ensure that Libya shall not be turned into a protectorate of the NATO or the UN Security Council.

* Promote the establishment of a Working Group at the General Assembly to investigate and monitor the use of the frozen funds of Libya's financial reserves, which will report back to the General Assembly on its results and conclusions.

* Call upon the international community to promote an initiative to investigate crimes committed in Libya by the NATO to the detriment of the Libyan people, the destruction of Libya's infrastructure and the deaths caused by the NATO.

* Compile a list of media's lies and manipulations promoted by the empire to justify the aggression against the Libyan people.

* Request the Secretary General of the United Nations for complete transparency, rendering a strict accounting of facts to the member states regarding his conduct on the subject of Libya and vis-à-vis Syria; and emphasize that his conduct must correspond to the mandates given by the General Assembly, before taking new actions to intervene in Libya. Equally, request the Secretary General to meet with the ALBA-TCP (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples' Trade Treaty) countries to discuss the situation in Libya.

* Support a central role of the African Union in efforts to promote peace in Libya.

* Firmly reject giving Libya's seat at the United Nations to an illegitimate transitional faction or authority imposed by foreign intervention; and thus promote fundamental debate at the Credentials Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations in order to prevent Libya's seat from becoming occupied until such time as a government that is the free and sovereign expression of the will of the Libyan people becomes established in a legitimate manner, without foreign intervention.

* Propose to the Syrian government a mission of high representatives or foreign ministers of the ALBA-TCP; and, if accepted, report on it to the Latin American and Caribbean countries through UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), CARICOM (Caribbean Community), SICA (Central American Integration System), and the joint CALC (Latin American and Caribbean Summit)-Rio Group forum, and invite those who wish to join this initiative to participate.

* Promote debate at the Coordination Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement on the threats looming over Syria.

* Support, together with the Non-Aligned countries that are members of the Security Council, the resolution promoted by Russia and China with respect to Syria.

* Send the UN Secretary General this Declaration and request that it be circulated among the member states of the United Nations as an official document of the General Assembly.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Translated by Yoshie Furuhashi at MRZine.
* The original text of the declaration "Declaración Especial de los
Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores del ALBA-TCP sobre la situación de
Libia y Siria" may be read at the website of the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information among other sites.


Oxfam warns of land grab dangers

Celsias

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/advocacy/76733

Oxfam today launched a major new report, Land and Power, to highlight the growing pace of large-scale land deals abroad, often brokered at the expense of poor communities that lose homes and livelihoods - sometimes violently - with no prior consultation, compensation or means of appeal.

Preliminary research indicates as much as 227 million hectares - about the size of Western Europe -may have been sold, leased or licensed in such deals since 2001. (1)

This new wave of land deals is not the new investment in agriculture that millions had been waiting for. Many of the deals in developing countries are in fact "land grabs" where the rights and needs of the people living on the land are ignored, leaving them homeless and unable to grow enough food or make a living.

Oxfam's research outlines a Ugandan case study where at least 22,500 people lost their homes and land to make way for a British timber company, the New Forests Company (NFC). Evictees told Oxfam they were forcibly removed and have been left without enough food or money.

Despite court orders restraining evictions by the company, eye-witnesses say company workers took part in some evictions anyway. NFC denies itsinvolvement in any evictions. (2)

"All our plantations were cut down - we lost the banana and cassava. We lost everything we had," said one of the Ugandan evictees, Christine*, a farmer in her mid 40s. "The company's casual labourers would attack us -they beat and threatened people. Even now they won't let us back in to look for the things we left behind. I was threatened - they told me they were going to beat me if we didn't leave."

The Uganda case clearly shows how land grabs are slipping through the net of existing safeguards. Investors, governments and international organisations must prioritise an end to land grabs by fixing current policies and regulations, which all too often fail to ensure local people are consulted or treated fairly, and by ensuring all relevant international standards are respected.

"Investment in agriculture should be good news but this land rush isreversing decades of hard-earned improvements to people's lives," said Stansfield. "We need urgent global action so that local communities with relatively little do not lose everything for the benefit of a few. It's time to secure a future where everyone has enough to eat."

* Names changed

Download the report

1. This data is compiled by the Land Matrix Partnership, a coalition of academic, research and non-governmental organisations. The 227 million hectares figure is based on information on land deals over 200 hectares from a range of sources including government reports,academic research, company websites, media reports and the few contracts that are available. Lack of transparency makes it difficult to get exact figures, but to-date up to 1,100 of these deals - amounting to 67 million hectares - have been cross-checked and the coalition is continuing the cross-checking process. It is calling for increased transparency among companies and governments so that the true scale of the problem can be accurately understood.

The Land Matrix Partnership includes the International Land Coalition,the universities of Bern and Hamburg, the French research institute CIRAD, the German agency for technical cooperation, GIZ and Oxfam.

2. The evictions took place between 2006 and 2010. One High Court order was granted on August 24, 2009 and remained valid until March 18, 2010. The other was granted on June 19, 2009 and remained in force until October 2, 2009. Both orders were to restrain evictions by the company.

The New Forests Company stated the majority of local residents had no legal right to the land, they had left peacefully and that the process was the sole responsibility of the Ugandan National Forestry Authority.It told Oxfam it had brought jobs and amenities to local communities and its activities had been approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council and International Finance Corporation.

* This briefing first appeared on Celsias.


By condemning people who occupy land, City of Cape Town condemns the poor

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign

2011-09-27

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/advocacy/76674

Following the City of Cape Town’s demolition of over 100 structures at Kraalfontein that had been erected by backyarders on an unused piece of land, the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign has issued a statement calling on the City to support rather than condemn the poor.

We note that yesterday, the 25th September 2011, the City of Cape Town's reactionary and often violent Anti-Land Invasion Unit, with a help of Law Enforcement, Metro Police and South African Police Service demolished more than 100 structures at Kraaifontein. These structures had been erected by backyarders on an open field that had remained an unused piece of land for more than 17 years. In some countries unused land is considered to be public land. Here in South Africa the state will always attack any attempt by the poor to make good use of unused land.

It is essential that everyone is clear that although the poor are constantly presented as violence, especially the organised poor, it is in fact that state that is violent. It is the state that invades and destroys people's homes and attacks anyone that resists.

Late today the City of Cape Town issued a statement condemning people who are occupying land (they call it 'invading land). They claim that 'land invasions impact on the City’s ability to address the housing backlog and serve the people of Cape Town'. Once again the positive actions of poor people to improve their lives and do something about their situation are presented as anti-social and criminal. We all know that the housing backlog would remain unaddressed if all land occupations stopped tomorrow.

Last week the city of Cape Town launched its IDP. At the media briefing it acknowledge that it will take the City many, many years to address shortage of housing within Cape Town. A politics of patience will cause us to die in the shacks and backyards. We know it and the City know it. And yet they are willing to send our armed men to intimidate us and beat us into accepting a system that oppresses us and which offers us no hope of decent housing in our lifetimes.
Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape condemns the City of Cape Town's actions against land occupiers in the strongest possible terms. You cannot wage war on the poor and then say that you want to negotiate with us. If you are serious about negotiations then you must renounce violence and issue a moratorium on all evictions.

For the City of Cape Town to condemn people who occupy land is for the City of Cape Town to condemning the poor. They are criminalising poverty. It is domination and exclusion that should be called into question. The commodification of land and excessive wealth should be called into question. The struggles and survival strategies of the poor should be actively supported.
It is the responsibility of the City of Cape Town, like any other city, to provide houses to the poor. All progressive cities recognise that land occupations have an important social function. For as long as people do not have houses it is essential that the occupation of unused land must be supported by the City.
We would like to dismiss the claims by the City of Cape Town that people who occupy land they want to jump the housing waiting list. The same thing is said all over South Africa. In most places the housing list is a fiction. It does not exist and is just a lie that is told to keep the poor in order. In Cape Town the housing waiting list that they talk about is totally disfunctional. It has been used a political tool by the City of Cape Town to incite division between poor people, and amongst Africans and coloureds.

We call on the City of Cape Town to support all efforts by poor people to move this city forward by respecting and supporting people centered processes such creating communities from below. We insist that the City of Cape Town stop initiating war against the poor. There must be no more Hangbergs, no more Taflesigs and no more Symphony Ways.

We call on the City of Cape Town to provide all relevant basic services to those who build their own structures on unused land. Furthermore the city must also provide technical support to people who occupy the land by working with the communities to ensure that people do not build close too each other and that enough space is left for emergency vehicles such as fire fighters and ambulances. This will also ensures that it becomes much easier for the city to upgrade the area at a later stage.

Land occupations are not the crisis in Cape Town. The crisis is poverty, homelessness, exclusion, state violence and TRAs. Land occupations can be a small part of the solution to this crisis.

Now that the City of Cape Town has admitted that they cannot house the people of Cape Town they have no right to stop us from occupying land housing ourselves.

Our invitation to the Mayor to work with us in establishing democratic people's forums at the community level remains open. These forums need to be neutral in terms of party politics and not dominated by any political parties as remains the case with all relevant structures set by City of Cape Town such as ward development forums. They need to be bottom up and not top down spaces.

--
For more, please visit the website of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign at: www.antieviction.org.za and follow us on www.twitter.com/antieviction

Visit Abahlali baseMjondolo at www.abahlali.org and www.khayelitshastruggles.com.

The Poor People's Alliance: Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with with Landless People's Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People's Alliance - a unfunded national network of democratic membership based poor people's movements.




Books & arts

Brazil’s Cotton Project: Alternatives do succeed

Review of ‘Cotton, Computers and Citizenship’

David Sogge

2011-09-28

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/books/76703

‘For students and practitioners of hands-on development efforts, this handsomely designed and clearly written book merits attention as an illustration of what is possible, indeed what may be better done, outside the foreign aid system and its exhausted orthodoxies,’ writes David Sogge.

Framed against Brazil’s developmentalist ambitions – the motto ‘order and progress’ has emblazoned the nation’s flag since 1889 – the impoverished people of its semi-arid Nordeste have often been portrayed as troublemakers and outlaws incapable and unworthy of development. In the 1890s, former slaves and poor farmers inspired by a messianic preacher resisted local authorities, bringing about a bloody conflict, immortalised in Mario Vargas Llosa’s ‘War at the End of the World’. In the 1950s, a peasant rebellion with leftist and radical Catholic inspiration brought on coercive counter-measures. Alarmed Brazilian elites called in massive support from Washington DC, which furnished ‘aid bombs’ to help buy off and eventually kill the political insurgency. That early version of today’s ‘securitized aid’ was later chronicled in a book, ‘The Revolution that Never Was’.

Collective action by Nordestinos is the topic of the book under review here, but the outcomes offer far more positive lessons than those of Brazil’s and Washington’s repressive pasts. It focuses on the Semi-Arid Communities Programme, locally termed The Cotton Project, initiated in the late 1990s by Brazilian public agencies for agrarian research and for rural infrastructure. At first glance a conventional scheme to recruit poor farmers into distant global supply chains, the programme is on closer inspection something rather different: A systematic yet open-ended, interactive experiment to revive and reinforce rural livelihoods, widen access to know-how and to galvanise collective action in ways respectful of local conditions and preferences.

The book covers the programme’s first eight years, and further offers thoughtful pointers about the future. Its first and longest section surveys the hardscrabble environment and the precarity of lives there, where average daily cash incomes in 2002 hovered around €2 per household (= 43 euro cents per capita). It recounts local residents’ initial scepticism, as they ‘had seen all too many development prophets, missionaries and hucksters come and go over the years’. The second and third sections chronicle the programme’s origins and evolution. Triggered by a food crisis following severe water stress in the late 1990s, it managed to escape the conventional traps of humanitarian and technical ‘fixes’ and their mono-cropping, de-skilling models of development. Officials came to respect the actual problems as residents saw and faced them, and therefore to take on as the key problematic not drought, but poverty.

The period 2002-2008 saw the programme spread beyond its original six communities to 46. It branched out beyond cotton growing into cotton processing, food self-reliance and provision of drinking water, bio-energy and telecommunications pivoting on broadband internet. Such diversification developed not by wheeling out old, discredited models such as Integrated Rural Development; rather it arose in response to new social constituencies beyond male farmers. As the programme’s appeal spread and participation grew among non-farmers, women and young people, a wider system of objectives evolved accordingly. Basic pocketbook issues remained central, but the programme approached them from various angles, such as in lowering household costs through joint purchasing and marketing and through collective work.

From the outset, crucial orchestration and leadership was the work of COEP, a ‘National Social Mobilization Network’. This is a vibrant exemplar of a kind of Brazilian civil organisation, led by intellectual and professionals with connections to the progressive camp in the political class and with skills in animating social change from the grassroots up. Founded in 1993 at a time of intense socio-political ferment (PT, the Workers Party, was then gaining momentum) COEP began as a network of 30 activist groups, mainly in southern Brazil; today it comprises over a 1100 non-governmental and governmental organisations across the country.

For the programme analysed in this book, COEP’s chief roles have been those of a go-between and animator. It brokered resources on offer from the national agrarian research body and many other technical agencies often lacking staff and traditions enabling them to operate successfully at community levels. The book successfully argues that despite COEP’s initial lack of experience in rural development, it made a crucial difference, time after time. Its success was thanks to its sophistication in community animation methods, to its savvy and patience in making vertical and horizontal institutional connections (often of dizzying complexity) and thanks to its inspired leadership. Without COEP, the programme might well have coasted by as little more than a technicist, market-focused approach, that would have done little more than subordinate some farmers to the unpredictable mercies of global markets, making a few of them winners and the rest mere losers.

Drawing on records of consultative processes, the book’s fourth and final section offers thoughtful pointers on what citizens and leaders must anticipate. For the programme’s future holds problems, including those generated by its very success. For it has today become a ‘sprawling and diverse undertaking’ comprising a much wider zone, multiple political jurisdictions, and a more diverse and much younger set of social constituencies. How are these to be managed? In addition, there are problems of looming climatic risks and the inevitable financial-technical issues of renewing equipment and infrastructure. The issue of COEP’s exit strategy presents itself, both for local communities (whose reliance on COEP is significant, though not to the point of outright dependence) and for the many technical agencies and public management bodies, whose forward motion in these communities has depended on COEP’s intermediation.

This programme represents a counter-current. Today’s development aid is still captive to dead precepts of market fundamentalism and related mantras like Results Based Management. In terms set by these orthodoxies, ‘development’ is often defined and designed from above, log-framed and scheduled within three-year funding cycles and dependent on public-private partnerships. By contrast, this book demonstrates that alternatives in all these respects are viable and can be made to succeed. It tells the story of how processes work thanks to longer-term commitments and of how solid results depend on avoiding blueprints and mechanical models. It demonstrates the efficacy of public-public partnerships.

For students and practitioners of hands-on development efforts, this handsomely designed and clearly written book merits attention as an illustration of what is possible, indeed what may be better done, outside the foreign aid system and its exhausted orthodoxies. Those pesky, rebellious people of Brazil’s impoverished Northeast in the past may have lost many battles, but today some of them are winning the war.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* ‘Cotton, Computers and Citizenship: a story of economic and social change among rural communities in Northeastern Brazil’, by John Saxby is published by Rio de Janeiro: COEP, 2011. 252 pp ISSN 1983-9421 (English and Portuguese versions available at: http://www.coepbrasil.org.br)
* David Sogge is an independent researcher based in Amsterdam.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


We got rid of the dictator, not dictatorship

Review of ‘Defeating dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World’

Peter Wuteh Vakunta

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/books/76732

Peter Wuteh Vakunta seems convinced that George B. N. Ayittey has written ‘a blueprint for oppositional militancy, a veritable modus operandi for undoing dictators in the contemporary world’. He thinks it is a must read for every student of African politics.

After publishing Africa Betrayed (1992) and Africa Unchained (2005), intellectual gadfly Professor George B. N. Ayittey has crafted yet another masterpiece, ‘Defeating dictators: fighting tyranny in Africa and around the world’ (2011) in which he adumbrates the deceptive habits of highly defective despotic regimes in Africa and beyond. Ayittey contends that a dictator is a dictator. He further points out that, ‘The only good dictator is a dead one’. The crux of the argument in his book is that Africans and other people chaffing under the yoke of despotism should steer clear of confusing ideological with systemic dictatorship - dictatorship that emerges from faulty institutions and systems. Any political system that concentrates power in the hands of one person, he argues, will inevitably degenerate into a dictatorship. The culprit is the system - not ideology or culture.

‘Defeating dictators’ is a vitriolic lampoon of abuse of power, electoral gerrymandering and rape of democracy in the developing world. Ayittey observes that ‘modern dictators come in different shades, races, skin colors and religions, and they profess various ideologies’ . This notwithstanding, despots have a lot in common: they are leaders who are not chosen by their people and therefore do not represent the people’s aspirations. As opposition mounts against them, they refine their tactics and learn new tricks in an attempt to stem the tide of pro-democracy forces. Despotic governments are highly deceptive regimes that are recognizable from distinctive traits.

Unyielding grip on power is the hallmark of every dictator in Africa. Elections are farcical and always won by the despot. As Ayittey would have it, dictators ‘fix the rules of the game and secure 90 percent of the vote all the time’. Dictators grow senile and then they start to groom their sons, wives and half-brothers to succeed them. African despots are notorious for these treasonous acts of insanity: Paul Biya of Cameroon, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Colonel Gaddafi of Libya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Idris Deby of Chad and more.

Dictators have the knack for looting the nation’s coffers. More often than not, the country is broke because the dictator and his henchmen have looted the treasury unashamedly and stashed their loot in foreign bank accounts – the safe haven is Switzerland. The dire consequence is that the country is saddled with a mountain of foreign debt. Ayittey laments the fact that ‘Paul Biya, the dictator of Cameroon, who has been in power for 29 years, has received a long series of loans – known as ‘Poverty Reduction Growth Facilities’ – from the IMF’. When the same poor Cameroonians in whose name he had received the loans protested in 2008 against skyrocketing food prices and a constitutional amendment that was intended to extend his rule to 2018, Mr Biya ordered his brutal security forces to fire live bullets at protesters. One hundred people died instantly. Ayittey notes that ‘many of the victims were apparently shot in the head at point-blank range…’

Dictators are impervious to reason. The only voice a dictator listens to is his own. Political repression is an effective weapon in his hands. Opposition parties are either outlawed or accorded very little political leeway. Key opposition leaders are arrested, intimidated, hounded and even killed. Cowed into submission, some intellectuals in the opposition tend to switch camps. In other words, they become political prostitutes. Though highly educated, with PhDs, a multitude of them have sold off their consciences, integrity and principles as they kowtow to the diktats of barbarous dictators. Ayittey says that ‘as prostitutes, they have partaken of the plunder, misrule and repression of their people’.

The pet aversion of all dictators is press freedom. Censorship is imposed; journalists, newspaper editors and columnists are harassed and arrested for telling the truth. Newspapers, radio and television stations that are critical of the despot are shut down. Ayittey points out that ‘it is important to keep in mind that a despotic regime can always block or shut down a critical media outlet and that the remaining ones are often state controlled’. Although freedom of expression is guaranteed by Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Article 9 of the Banjul Charter of Human and People’s rights, and the constitutions of many countries in Africa, this has not deterred Africa’s dictators from violating this fundamental human right of citizens.

The reason for this state of affairs is simple: dictators love to hide their failures; they want to keep citizens and the international community in the dark about the heinous crimes they have committed and continue to commit. Free media exposes their lies, bloopers and gross incompetence. That explains why President Biya of Cameroon took it upon himself to imprison Mr Pius Njawe, owner of the ‘Le Messager’ group of newspapers more than 100 times for reporting on corruption and other sensitive topics before his premature death at the age of 53 in a car accident near Norfolk in the United States not long ago.

The grim reality about all this is that despotism and tyranny have socio-economic ramifications. Autocracy depletes the human conscience and dignity. It exacts a heavy toll on human and economic capital. Infrastructure such as telecommunications, roads, airports, bridges, schools, hospitals and seaports begin to crumble because contracts are awarded by the despot to his cronies, close friends and family members. Ayittey notes that ‘commercial properties of businessmen alleged to be ‘anti-government’ may be confiscated or seized for distribution to the poor masses in the name of social justice’ . He further points out that such was the case in Zimbabwe, where the despotic regime of Robert Mugabe (in power for 29 years) organized ruthless thugs to grab white commercial farmlands.

In a similar vein, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (in power for 10 years) seized rural estates and factories, including some assets of Lorenzo Mendoza, Venezuela’s second wealthiest man, and of HJ Heinz Co., the world’s largest ketchup maker. Such contempt of property rights undoubtedly scares off potential investors who nurse the fear that they may be the next victims in the hands of a predatory regime. Foreign investors have fled Venezuela on account of Chavez’s dictatorial policies. Inane diktats and reckless mismanagement of state funds inevitably engender economic doldrums.

Africa is replete with tin god dictators whose deleterious governmental modus operandi has brought untold hardship upon their people. A handful of despots on the continent have inflicted misery, despair, hopelessness and death on millions of citizens who have protested against tyrannical rule. Hundreds of thousands have been jailed. Women have been gang raped by security forces in open daylight on account of their affiliation to opposition political parties (Guinea and DRC). Some more have fled their homelands to become refugees in foreign lands.

Dictatorial leaders are self-seeking and insensitive to the plight of the governed. They take over and subvert key institutions (civil service, judiciary, media, etc) to serve their interests. They are poor at governance given that good governance entails not only cognitive wherewithal but also the ability to compromise and bargain successfully with a plethora of competing groups. They are terrible at economic management, hence the demise of domestic industries.

Interestingly, Ayittey does not handle Africa’s political opposition parties with kid’s gloves. Although he does not paint the continent’s tyrants and the opposition with the same brush, he finds fault with the modus operandi of most opposition parties struggling to unseat dictators in Africa. ‘It takes an intelligent or smart opposition to make a democracy work’ , not the rah-rah noisy type that simply chants ‘Biya must go!’ He maintains that dictators have triumphed mainly because the opposition is fragmented, lacks focus and is prone to squabbling.

All too often, opposition parties that set out to liberate their countries from tyranny wind up selling out, fighting among themselves and sowing seeds of discord. Some opposition leaders are themselves closet dictators, exhibiting the same dictatorial tendencies they so loudly denounce in the dictators they are eager to replace. Ayittey sounds a note of admonition to Africa’s opposition political parties: ‘No single individual or group by itself can effect political change. It takes a united opposition or alliance of democratic forces’.

The prime objective of any bona fide opposition group or groups should be to get rid of the dictatorial regime. Once this task has been accomplished, the opposition can then establish a level political playing field. All other issues such as who the new president should be, what the new flag or national currency should look like are distractions; they are irrelevant and secondary. These issues are divisive and nothing delights a despotic leader more than a divided opposition. The opposition has to be conscious of the fact that the dictator may infiltrate their ranks by planting moles among them with the intention of destroying the opposition. Such moles, Ayittey suggests, ‘need to be tracked down and squashed’. A smart strategy would be to identify the props of the despotic regime and sever them methodically, one at a time.

Last but not least, to defeat a tyrant in an election, a coalition of opposition parties must field only one presidential candidate. Once a coalition of opposition forces has been cobbled together, the second imperative should be to lay down the rules of combat. The first rule is to know the enemy - the type of dictator (civilian or military), how he operates, his strengths and weaknesses. Then, it is incumbent on the oppositional coalition to devise effective counter-strategies and modalities for defeating the despotic leader. Most importantly, the language of the opposition must be devoid of zealotry, incensed ideology, ethnocentrism and elitism.

In a nutshell, at time when the entire world is agog with expectations about what the ‘Arab spring’ portends for countless people gripped by stifling fear and apprehension under dictatorial regimes in Africa and around the world, Ayittey has produced a work that may fulfill the crucial function of a blueprint for oppositional militancy, a veritable modus operandi for undoing dictators in the contemporary world. ‘Defeating dictators’ is the handiwork of an academic virtuoso. The language is lucid and free of sophistry. This book is a treasure trove of information that deserves to be read meticulously by every student of Africa’s political economy. Students, researchers and casual readers would find Ayittey’s new brainwave a fascinating book to read.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* George B. N. Ayittey’s ‘Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World ’ is published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2011 (ISBN-13: 978-0230108592).
* Peter Wuteh Vakunta is professor of Modern Languages at the Department of Defense Language Institute, Monterey-California, USA.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.




Letters & Opinions

Thank you for your tributes to Mama

Elizabeth SW Otieno

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/letters/76736

Warm greetings to you and all at Pambazuka. Thank you for your tributes to Mama [Wambui Otieno]. Her life and times is in our memories as a true daughter of Kenya. She lived life large, resourcefully and courageously.




African Writers’ Corner

Dekha, Wambui, Wangari

(inspired by Wambui Mwangi)

Shailja Patel

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/African_Writers/76751

the greedy old men
vampires
live forever

the women who restore
rebuild replant
remake
die in their fullness...

In the past three months, Africa, and the world, have lost three great activists - Dekha Ibrahim, Wambui Otieno, Wangari Maathai

‘There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors. I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we are not to give ourselves away.’ – Adrienne Rich

the greedy old men
vampires
live forever

the women who restore
rebuild replant
remake
die in their fullness

reeling
in this wild
and senseless
culling, we

grieve with our labor
dream open-eyed
think back
into history think forward
into spaces
we will not un-see

nothing as easy
as comfort nothing
as false as certainty
only our voices
fragments in gale

cross, re-cross
continent to continent
lay down the only
true immortality

songlines
heartlines
power lines that run
on the voltage
of our courage

SHAILJA PATEL, 2011. All Rights Reserved

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, playwright and activist.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.




Highlights French edition

Pambazuka News 206: Africa in the face of Western domination

2011-09-29

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/summaryfr/76725

An appeal to the European and North American intelligentsia against the attack on the African peoples
Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III

Since the invasion of Iraq, the West has given us daily proof that it is neither interested in the common destiny of humanity nor in dialogue between peoples. Its only concern is absolute global dominance – military, financial, cultural and intellectual. Prince Kum’a Ndumbe 111 thinks, the NATO imposed war against Libya is just one more episode in the scramble for Africa.
http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/76630

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The funding of research and alleged scientific dialogue
Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III

It is time for Africa to rearm itself in the face of the various attacks being unleashed against it by Western military powers. A key area is sovereignty over the use of its natural resources and wealth. The struggle, argues Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III, begins with the restoration and reaffirmation of our collective memories.
http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/76629

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For the creation of a Palestinian state
Hugo Chavez

Though he was absent at the UN General Assembly during which Mahmood Abbas made his historic call for the recognition of the Palestinian state, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez extended strong support for the initiative. In a letter to the UN Secretary General, he described it as “an act of historic justice towards a people who carry with them, from time immemorial, all the pain and suffering in the world.
http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/76628

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Egypt – Time for the peoples revolution to open the Rafah Crossing!
Haidar Eid

Israel has not only colonised the territories, writes Haidar Eid, but it has also taken control of the “Palestinian narrative and history” and confiscated international law. The Rafah crossing, like the birth of the Palestinian state, is testimony to the injustices that continue to be inflicted on the people.
http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/76632

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A salutary democratic revolution in the Arab world or the first major social crisis of globalisation?
Patrice Allard

Whether they are called the Arab Spring or ‘salutary revolutions’, the uprisings that have shaken the Arab world and ousted some dictatorial regimes appear to herald the dawn of a new day. But fundamental questions remain behind what the West describes as the opening of a new chapter.
http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/category/features/76635

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Cartoons

Mama Wangari Maathai

1940-2011

Gado

2011-09-27

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/cartoons/76672

Wangari Maathai remembered.


Giving African strong men a bad name!

Gado

2011-09-27

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/cartoons/76670

Zambia's Banda lets the side down...


Clinging on to power, African style

Gado

2011-09-27

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/cartoons/76671

Looking for a role model? Take your pick.




Zimbabwe update

Zimbabwe: Army ready to crush any revolt, says defence boss

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/ot2mbb

Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to crush any possible revolt against President Robert Mugabe’s continued rule. He dismissed as wishful thinking suggestions that Zimbabweans could stage an uprising similar to those that rocked North Africa recently. He said Zimbabwe’s all-weather friends, China and Russia, stood ready to aid the ZDF to crush its enemies.


Zimbabwe: Woza seeks closure of police station

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/nghskB

Leading local women activists have filed an urgent application with the High Court seeking the closure of police holdings cells at the Harare Central Police Station they deem inhuman and inhabitable. The Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), which has won several international human rights awards, want the court to order responsible authorities to ensure that the police holding cells at Harare Central Police Station have clean and salubrious flushing toilets with toilet paper and a washing bowl. The application was filed by WOZA leaders Jenny Williams, her deputy Magondonga Mahlangu, Clara Majengwa and Celina Madukani.


Zimbabwe: ZANU PF youths convicted over murder of MDC-T activist

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/r0a9lb

Four ZANU PF youths were convicted and sentenced to 18 years in jail over the 2009 murder of MDC-T activist Moses Chokuda. Farai Machaya, the son of Midlands Provincial Governor Jason Machaya, together with his co-accused Abel Maphosa and brothers Edmore and Bothwell Gana, were all found guilty during a week-long trial at the High Court. Tawengwa Chokuda, the victims father said: 'The way he (Moses) was killed was ruthless. He was beaten to death, tied with ropes and dragged like an animal.'




Women & gender

Africa: Enhancing women's dignity video

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/qHIWTh

TrustAfrica has produced a video on their Enhancing Women's Dignity project, which seeks to stop gender violence and increase women’s political participation in seven French-speaking countries in Central and West Africa. The film was shot on-location in several of the project countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Mali, where it documents the activities of women who are leading the way to improve their socio-economic conditions and increase their political representation.


Cameroon: Multiple health problems caused by breast ironing

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/oJPgqH

Breast ironing is a traditional ritual in which, by using heated and flat objects, a girl's growing breasts are pressed in order to suppress and reverse their development. 'Breast ironing has existed as long as Cameroon has existed,' says Sinou Tchana, Cameroonian gynaecologist and vice-president of the Cameroonian Association of Female Doctors. In the early nineties, when her association started touring the ten regions of Cameroon to find out what practices could have been affecting female sexuality, they were shocked by the prevalence of breast ironing in most parts of the country.


Egypt: Women ignored in post-revolution politics

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/o7peQk

Thousands of Egyptian women fought in the 18-day uprising that unseated longtime President Hosni Mubarak. At least 15 women died in the uprising, according to official figures. Hundreds were wounded. And still, complain prominent Egyptian feminists, women are being sidelined from post-Mubarak politics: their names ignored for government posts, and their divorce and custody rights threatened by a powerful new Islamist lobby.


Global: Narrowing gender gaps enhances productivity

2011-10-03

http://thedailynewsegypt.com/economy/narrowing-gender-gaps-enhances-productivity-report.html

Countries that provide better opportunities for women can raise overall productivity, make institutions more representative and advance development prospects, according to a World Bank report. Focusing on gender equality and development, the 'World Bank Development Report 2012' found that countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have made rapid progress in enhancing women’s education, longevity and lowering fertility levels. Still, there are several fundamental problems that must be addressed.


South Africa: Feminist tech exchange builds partnerships

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/pahQlQ

From the 18 - 20 July 2011, the first Southern African Regional Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) was hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa, by JASS (Just Associates) Southern Africa and Women’s Net. The Feminist Tech Exchange, organised under the Building Women’s Collective Power partnership, brought nine women’s rights activists from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe together to share and build knowledge and skills on communication and ICTs from a feminist perspective. The exchange was convened as a way to strengthen women’s collective organising power through the use of ICTs.


Tanzania: Why land grabbing Is detrimental to women

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/pFxm2Q

During the Gender Festival Week in Dar es Salaam recently, activists expressed their concern about the impact of selling or leasing large arable land to foreign multinational companies and governments will derail efforts to empower women and promote gender equality, reports Tanzania Daily News. 'As the country strives to empower women, it's obvious that the issue of land grabbing will impact heavily on women's well-being particularly girl child as usually at the end there will be winners and losers. In this case, women and their girl children are likely to lose.'




Human rights

Côte d'Ivoire: Reconciliation commission gets going

2011-09-28

http://bbc.in/nv2bjm

Côte d'Ivoire is due to swear in its Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission, aimed at forging unity after deadly violence that followed last year's disputed elections. About 3,000 people were killed and 500,000 displaced in the unrest. The commission is headed by former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny.


DRC: Maintaining victims' faith in justice

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/pF4jwY

Sometime in the next two months, activists and survivors of horrific violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo will find out if Callixte Mbarushimana will stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mbarushimana is the executive secretary of the FDLR - the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda – a rebel movement which has operated in the eastern part of the DRC since 2005. The prosecution alleges that he directed FDLR fighters to murder, torture and rape civilians in the provinces of North and South Kivu in 2009, as a strategy to strengthen the rebel movement's hand in negotiations with the Rwandan government. Judges will confirm or reject each of eleven charges before the end of November.


Equatorial Guinea: Ten reasons why UNESCO should cancel the Obiang prize

Angela Stuesse

2011-10-03

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/rights/76753

UNESCO is considering the implementation of a highly controversial international prize that would lend credibility to one of the world’s most ruthless leaders. Angela Stuesse explains what the issues are and how you can take action to stop the prize.

This week the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is meeting in Paris and is again considering the implementation of a highly controversial international prize that would lend credibility to one of the world’s most ruthless leaders. The controversy began in 2008, when UNESCO quietly accepted $3 million from Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, to be used for an endowed award in his name. The proposed UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences would reward scientific research activities “leading to improving the quality of human life.”

The painful irony—and the impetus for what became a vigorous and high-profile global campaign to cancel the prize—is that, in his tenure as Africa’s longest ruling president (32 years), Obiang has demonstrated a systematic disregard for the quality of life of his country’s nearly 700,000 inhabitants. Equatorial Guinea has the highest per-capita income in Africa, on par with the United Kingdom and Germany thanks to its oil reserves, yet it spends less on improving the lives of its people than many other African countries, even those that possess fewer natural resources. Meanwhile, Obiang and his family abscond with the country’s wealth.

I traveled to Equatorial Guinea in 2004, where I witnessed the effects of this corruption:an aching inequality that etches the contours of a person’s life from before s/he is even born until the moment s/he leaves it. In subsequent years I have spoken with dozens of Equatoguineans about their struggles to meet their families’ most basic needs, beginning with clean water, shelter, health care, and education for their children.

At the heart of UNESCO’s mission stands the eradication of poverty, and Africa and education are two of the organization’s central priorities. Any decision other than the all-out extinction of the UNESCO-Obiang prize would be a blow to UNESCO’s credibility and an injustice to all who seek a better, more equitable quality of life for humankind.

Taken during my time in Equatorial Guinea, the photos below offer ten vivid reasons why members of UNESCO’s Executive Board must find the courage and resolve necessary to definitively cancel the UNESCO-Obiang prize.

1. I visited a hospital in Basakato, just 26 kilometers (16 miles) from the capital city of Malabo, where babies take their first breaths of life on an unsanitary bed frame with no mattress. I was told new beds and bassinets had been donated by an international relief agency, but the mattresses were soon confiscated by soldiers for use at a nearby military base.

2. Some of the lowest health and education levels in the world are found in Equatorial Guinea. The Open Society Justice Initiative reports that, according to the UNDP’s 2009 Human Development Report, “Equatorial Guinea was the worst governed country of all surveyed, as measured by the disconnect between available wealth and development.” Above, children walk home from school through the slums of the country’s capital, Malabo.

3. Despite its oil wealth, Equatorial Guinea spends less on education as a percentage of GDP than its neighbors. In 2008, the government spent roughly $200 million on education, while spending more than $800 million on a luxury complex to host the one-week African Union Summit in June 2011. Most rural children attend primary school in a one-room school house such as this one in Basuala Mision, 25 km (15 miles) from the capital.

4. This photo shows the interior of the Basuala Mision schoolhouse. Each row of desks represents a different grade in school, and one teacher is responsible for teaching all children in the room. In this schoolhouse, two blackboards are the only teaching materials on hand.

5. Public school teachers in Equatorial Guinea are employees of the federal government and earn approximately CFA90,000 (US$150) per month. This is far from a livable wage in a country where the cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years. As a result, some rural schools sit empty or operate without trained instructors because teachers from the capital are reluctant to leave their families or move them to a rural area given the meager compensation they receive.

6. None of the schools I visited in Equatorial Guinea had electricity, running water, or working toilets. This one, in Cupapa, is well lit by sunlight, but others that maintain their wooden shutters closed to keep out heat, rain, and disease-carrying mosquitoes are too dimly lit to safely read. In one school in the capital that had a bathroom, it was so poorly maintained that it was unusable. Equatoguineans report this as a key reason children stop attending school. It is a particularly acute problem for girls as they reach menstruation.

7. In Cupapa, 23 km (14 miles) from the capital, children receiving early primary education crowded around a desk to share materials. Outside, a handful of classmates played soccer by kicking around an empty can. Some were barefoot; others wore just one rubber sandal, which I learned the boys strategically placed on their kicking foot.

8. As noted above, the country’s oil revenues give it a per-capita income on par with many modern, industrialized nations. For most citizens, however, living standards remain low, with many still living in trash-filled slums without reliable electricity or drinking water. The children in this picture are lined up at a well in the capital city of Malabo to fetch water to take home to their families. In Equatorial Guinea the struggle to meet basic needs often gets in the way of a child’s education, and, indeed, of childhood itself.

9. If rural families want their children to be educated beyond primary school, they typically have to send them to Malabo. In the city, adolescents live with extended family or even strangers and often work odd jobs, like these boys outside the central market, to fund their education. Public education in Equatorial Guinea includes many hidden costs, as students are required to pay for their annual registration fees, uniforms, report cards, and school identification cards. Oddly, books and materials are not always required, and when they are, they are often not readily available or affordable.

10. When I visited the primary school in Bariobe, approximately 35 km (22 miles) from Malabo, the children gave a stirring performance, which included singing and clapping for their guests. I noticed that each had a hot pink notebook on his or her desk. Emblazoned on the front of each notebook was the emblem of President Obiang’s political party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (P.D.G.E.). Accompanying the insignia read the words, “For a quality education: Vote for the P.D.G.E.”

As an educator and social scientist myself, I dream of making an impact large enough to merit an award from an organization such as UNESCO, not for the sake of glory, but because I am driven by a global vision of social justice. It is clear, however, that the UNESCO-Obiang prize is a hollow attempt by a self-aggrandizing leader to improve his international reputation while his people continue to suffer. UNESCO’s Executive Board should honor its mission and preserve it integrity by rejecting the UNESCO-Obiang prize. It should urge President Obiang to instead invest that money in his own people, empowering them to build a future that shines brightly for all.

YOU CAN HELP! ACT NOW by contacting Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO, at +33 (0) 1 45 68 10 00, imploring UNESCO to cancel the Obiang Nguema International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.

* Angela Stuesse is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida. She visited Equatorial Guinea in 2004 and conducts politically engaged research on issues of neoliberal globalization, race, migration, organizing and social justice.


Eritrea: New briefing on missing political prisoners

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/n44Pob

In September 2001, President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea ordered the detention of 21 senior government members and journalists who criticised him and his government. Since then, he has closed all independent media outlets and turned Eritrea into a country where arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance, and death are rife and where it is almost impossible to leave. This Human Rights Watch paper, 'Eritrea: 10 Long Years, A Briefing on Eritrea’s Missing Political Prisoners', outlines what is known about the political prisoners, none of whom has been seen by outsiders since being detained.


Global: Concern over ICC Funding

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/n12CsE

International justice advocates are worried that donors will deprive the International Criminal Court (ICC) of sufficient funding next year, hindering the court’s ability to fulfil an expanding mandate that will stretch from Kenya to Libya and potentially Ivory Coast. In late July, the court proposed a 2012 budget of 159.45 million dollars, an increase of 13.6 percent over 2011. Even before the proposal was submitted, however, key donors were issuing calls for zero growth in the court’s budget.


Global: Japan to offer products from disaster areas

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/p6EnNp

Japan's Foreign Ministry hopes to use products from the country's northeast that was hit by the March 11th quake and tsunami to aid developing countries. The Foreign Ministry filed a budget request worth more than 220 million dollars with the government, which is working on a third supplementary budget bill for fiscal 2011. The Ministry says it wants to use part of the requested budget, worth about 65-million dollars, to buy industrial products, including wheelchairs, and marine food products made in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, to provide them free of charge to developing countries.


Global: Manufacturing the homegrown threat in the US

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/qPam8K

Since 11 September 2001, the US government has targeted Muslims in the United States by sending paid, untrained informants into mosques and Muslim communities. This practice has led to the prosecution of more than 200 individuals in terrorism-related cases. The government has touted these cases as successes in the so-called war against terrorism. This report from the NYU School of Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice examines three high-profile terrorism prosecutions in which government informants played a critical role in instigating and constructing the plots that were then prosecuted. In all three cases, the FBI or New York City Police Department (NYPD) sent paid informants into Muslim communities or families without any particularised suspicion of criminal activity.


Kenya: Civil society attacks spy bill

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/nc0cBV

Civil society has criticised the proposed National Intelligence Service Bill which allow security agents to tap telephone conversations. Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR) commissioner Omar Hassan and human rights activist Al Amin Kimathi vowed to lobby different organisations and the government to amend the Act before it is tabled in Parliament. The activists said the Bill will infringe on people’s privacy as it not only allows government agencies to record one’s conversation, but it also empowers police to invade a private house in search of information.


Kenya: Hague trials signal for Kenya to end impunity

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/qIbwUY

After losing its application challenging the admissibility of the post election violence cases at the International Criminal Court, Kenya must now submit itself fully to the jurisdiction of the court at The Hague, says this East African article. 'However, questions are arising on whether the ongoing confirmation hearings at The Hague are enough to stop election-related chaos that have been experienced intermittently since 1992.'


Libya: Concerns over ethnic cleansing

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/qMdTan

Human Rights Investigations says it has grave concerns, not only for dark-skinned people in Libya generally, but also for pro-Gaddafi tribes including the Gaddafa and al-Meshashyas. 'We also have particular concern for the Tuareg of southern Libya who are being accused of being "mercenaries" and under attack from NATO and rebel forces. But the greatest concern is perhaps for the Tawergha.'


Nigeria: Corporations and human rights abuses in the Niger Delta

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/oumKEY

Shell fuelled human rights abuses in Nigeria by paying huge contracts to armed militants, according to a new report published by Platform and a coalition of NGOs. 'Counting the Cost' implicates Shell in cases of serious violence in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region from 2000 to 2010. The report uncovers how Shell’s routine payments to armed militants exacerbated conflicts, in one case leading to the destruction of Rumuekpe town where it is estimated that at least 60 people were killed. According to Platform’s report, Shell continues to rely on Nigerian government forces who have perpetrated systematic human rights abuses against local residents, including unlawful killings, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.


Northern Uganda: Justice and reconciliation policy briefs available

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/pAQb12

The Justice and Reconciliation in Africa programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation has recently released four new policy briefs, together with the Justice and Reconciliation Project. The briefs focus on Northern Uganda, as the region tries to recover after more than two decades of war.


Rwanda: France rejects Rwandan extradition request

2011-09-29

http://aje.me/pJ1yyV

A French appeals court has ruled against extraditing the wife of Juvenal Habyarimana, Rwanda's former president, home to stand trial in connection with the African nation's 1994 genocide. Agathe Habyarimana has been wanted in Kigali by the Rwandan state prosecutor since 2009 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for her alleged role in the Rwandan genocide. The massacre was sparked by the death of her husband, whose plane was shot down in the same year.


South Africa: Tutu slams government over Dalai Lama visa

2011-09-27

http://n24.cm/oReulf

Desmond Tutu has accused the government of dragging its feet over the visa application of the Dalai Lama, who has been invited to attend the former archbishop's 80th birthday party. Tutu invited the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate to give a lecture as part of his 80th birthday celebrations next month but officials have so far failed to react to the visa application. In 2009, Tutu criticised a decision to bar the Dalai Lama from attending a peace conference in Johannesburg, with the government saying that it did not want to jeopardise relations with key trade partner China.




Refugees & forced migration

Africa: Statelessness in the Horn of Africa

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/pr1zZh

Across Africa, citizenship is being manipulated and restricted to deny rights to those whom a state wishes to marginalise or exclude, begins the abstract to this article, in reference to Ethiopia and Eritrea. 'While much was made of the expulsions at the time, the wider issues raised by these actions – in particular the continued vulnerability of the deportees to further abuses and the failure of the courts to address their situation – has not been examined. This article begins by looking at events in the Horn before examining evidence regarding the inability of those who were expelled to obtain asylum.'


Ghana: Mystery camp deaths leave Ivorian refugees in fear

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/nK3yb2

Already struggling with the realities of being displaced, Ivorian refugees in Ghana are now faced with another problem: That of ex-combatants living amongst them and said to be fomenting discontent, including through holding secret meetings. Two mysterious deaths have already been linked to the former fighters, although Ghanaian police say they are investigating the circumstances under which they died.


Global: UNHCR extends cessation clause implementation

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/nSdVAZ

The United Nations Agency for Refugees has extended the implementation of the cessation clause to 30 June next year. The clause was supposed to be implemented on 31 December this year. The UNHCR cessation clause stipulates that a person recognised as a refugee, will either voluntarily return to the country of origin or apply for residence in the host country. The clause, does not allow claims for refugee status after verification by the agency that there are no conditions in the country of origin that qualify for UN protection.


Libya: EU 'shamefully' fails to aid stranded refugees

2011-10-03

http://f24.my/oULjeh

A new report by the London-based Amnesty International has slammed the European Union for 'shamefully' failing to help thousands of refugees stranded near Libya’s borders. In a report titled, 'Europe, Now It Is Your Turn to Act', Amnesty International has strongly criticised EU governments for failing to offer resettlement to an estimated 5,000 refugees – who would face persecution or conflict if returned to their own countries.


Sudan: Southern Kordofan refugees still vulnerable

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/na8FoE

Thousands of people who fled insecurity in Sudan's Southern Kordofan State to neighbouring South Sudan's Unity State remain vulnerable, amid humanitarian access and security concerns, says the UN. 'People entering the area are reported to be highly vulnerable, some having walked with children for two weeks,' said Siddartha Shrestha, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) South Sudan chief of communication. At present, about 9,200 people have been registered, states a recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).


Sudan: Thousands of Darfur IDPs, refugees return home

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/pHYVVN

The relative calm recently witnessed in the region of Darfur has encouraged thousands of internally-displaced persons and refugees to embark on the journey back home, according to a PANA report here. Since the beginning of the year, over 10,000 refugees and internally-displaced persons have returned to West Darfur state, some 40 km west of the regional capital of Genaina, near the borderline with Chad, the Sudanese Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. Mohamed Ahamed Al Aghbash, told the official Sudan news agency (SUNA).


Tanzania: Mixed responses to mixed migration in Africa

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/oJzrWF

Abdul worked as a journalist in Somalia before death threats from Al-Shabab militia drove him to leave his native country and head for Mozambique where friends told him he would receive help at Maratane refugee camp in Nampula Province. The boat he boarded in Mombasa had 110 other passengers. Now Abdul and his fellow passengers are all being detained in the same prison in southern Tanzania. Neither the Mozambican police who arrested them in the northern town of Palma and then violently deported them to the Tanzanian border, nor the immigration officials who found them there attempted to determine which of the migrants were asylum-seekers entitled to receive protection and assistance, and which were economic migrants subject to immigration laws.




Africa labour news

Botswana: Unions fight government in court

2011-09-27

http://n24.cm/nRxVbZ

Botswana labour unions have asked a court to force the government to reinstate about 2 600 public service workers fired during the country's first national strike in April. 'Our comrades were participating in a legal strike and the government has no right to dismiss them, hence the decision to seek court's intervention,' said Andrew Motsamai, president of Botswana Public Employees Union. The workers, including doctors and nurses, were fired after the state won a court order forcing them to return to work, after they embarked on the nationwide mass action over wages.


Global: Trade unions and the global crisis

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/qJFMDc

Four years after the Great Recession, a catastrophe has been avoided, but few real lessons have been drawn and nothing has been fixed, says this report from the International Labour Organisation. 'Indeed, in many cases the crisis is being used as another opportunity to subordinate individual workers, governments and entire societies to the sway of unaccountable global capital markets. After a short revival of corporatist social dialogue in some countries, more workers are being pushed into precarious employment, and austerity packages are making working people, their families and pensioners pay for the crisis.'




Emerging powers news

Latest edition: emerging powers news roundup

2011-10-03

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/emplayersnews/76752

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, S. Africa ink $2.5 billion in deals in Dalai Lama's shadow
China has agreed to $2.5 billion in investment projects with South Africa, the African nation's deputy president said on Thursday, on a three-day trip to China during which he brushed off controversy over a potential visit by the Dalai Lama.
Read More

PetroSA signs pact with Chinese
PetroSA signed a memorandum of understanding with the China International United Petroleum and Chemicals Company (Unipec), the South African oil giant said in a statement. This would enable them to discuss a suitable business arrangement in the purchase and sale of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
Read More

China pledges further aid for drought-hit Horn of Africa
China will offer further aid to drought-hit countries in the Horn of Africa, including medicine and medical equipment, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday. "China has kept a close eye on the latest developments in the disaster and will offer more aid within its capacity to do so," spokesman Hong Lei said during a regular news briefing. According to Hong, China is "actively considering" providing medical equipment and medicine to the region.
Read More

China: Africa: Zambia, the new president calls for respect, acknowledgement of locals' rights, from Chinese firms
President Michael Sata invites Chinese investors to respect workers, to benefit both sides. Yesterday, speaking at a conference, the newly elected head of state stressed that "once Zambia and China were close allies, but over the years there have been worrisome incidents requiring a correction of relations." According to Sata, investment from Beijing must bring wealth also to the citizens of Zambia, and not only to China.
Read More

Zambia's new President Sata sets new mining rules for China
Days after Michael Sata, the populist opposition leader with the anti-Chinese rhetoric, won election as new president of Zambia, Chinese mine investors gave their Zambian employees a raise. At the Chinese-owned Chambishi Copper Mine in this Copperbelt town, mine operator Hedges Mwaba, received two different paychecks: one for his usual salary of 2.9 million kwacha ($600 US) and another 4.8 million (about $1000). Mr. Mwaba assumes this was a mistake, of course. But he also says it indicates that the mine owners were worried enough about a possible victory by Mr. Sata’s Patriotic Front party that they prepared two separate runs of paychecks: a standard run in case Sata lost, and an 85 percent raise in case Sata won.
Read More

China's ZTE wins two contracts despite corruption allegation
Despite mounting allegations of corruption and criticism of illegally bringing Chinese foreign nationals to work on its telecom projects in Africa, China's ZTE has been awarded contracts to build nationwide fiber networks in South Africa and Burundi.
Read More

China Injects U.S.$40 Million in Tazara Railway
China has granted a soft loan of US$39.9 m for strengthening the Tanzania and Zambia Railways Authority (TAZARA) whose performance has drastically gone down. The loan would be spent on 11 areas including purchase of six new locomotive engines, rehabilitation of nine more and purchase of 90 new cargo carriages and rehabilitation of four cranes and two rescue cranes.
Read More

China-Arab/Africa Co-op Forum opens
The second China-Arab/Africa Medium and Small Businesses Cooperation Forum was unveiled in Weifang, east China's Shandong province Tuesday. Sun Jiazheng, vice-chairman of the 11th National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body, said the cooperation between China and countries of West Asia and Africa has become closer in recent years, especially in the field of economics and trade. The bilateral trade volume has been steadily increasing for consecutive years.
Read More

2. In Other Emerging Powers News

Trade between South Africa and Russia is beginning to take off
South Africa and Russia could double their trade this year in comparison to last year, indicated Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Yuri Trutnev. He was speaking in Pretoria on Thursday during the second and last day of the tenth meeting of the bilateral Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (Itec).
Read More

3. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications

For Some Brazilian Farmers Africa Is the New Frontier
Frademir Saccol is Brazilian and, until late 2008, lived a peaceful life in the city of Guaíba, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, working on agricultural financing projects in the region. Saccol is still working in agriculture, but now, instead of Rio Grande do Sul, he lives in Accra, the capital of Ghana, in Africa.
Read More

Chinese built agricultural demonstration center in Zimbabwe almost complete
The training center in Zimbabwe was begun in October 2009 and is now almost complete. It is on a leading pre-existing agricultural college, Gwebi, located 27 km out of capital city Harare. The new center covers an area of approximately 109 hectares, and includes a demonstration field of 80 ha. The first crops are expected to be planted in October, just before the onset of Zimbabwe's rain season. The crops to be planted include the maize, wheat, soya beans and potatoes.
Read More

What does China want in international economic reforms?
China is likely to play an important part in the transformation of the international economic system. It is already the second-largest economy in the world according to market-based GDP measures and may overtake the US as early as 2013 according to the purchasing power parity-based GDP measures. China’s international economic influences have grown exponentially, especially in international markets for labour-intensive manufactured goods, raw materials and commodities and foreign exchange. Given the significant role it is likely to play in the process, a key question for reforming the international economic system is: what does China want?
Read More


Zambia: Chinese mine gives workers 85% raise

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/qjH7hr

Following the election victory last week of Michael Sata, an outspoken critic of Chinese labour abuses in Zambia’s mining industry, Christian Science Monitor reports that one Chinese mine has given employees a sudden 85 per cent pay raise. It appears that the company prepared two different sets of paychecks, to be issued according to the election results.




Elections & governance

Angola: Growing protests alarm leader

2011-09-27

http://bbc.in/phwxfM

Political tensions are rising in Angola, where a small but increasingly vocal group of protesters are rattling the cage of the ruling party ahead of elections planned for next year. The main driver behind the protests is unhappiness that, despite Angola's enormous oil wealth and post-war economic boom, two thirds of people still struggle in grinding poverty, many without running water and electricity, reports the BBC.


Cameroon: Opposition leader put under house arrest

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/qcWDtR

Police are preventing the man chosen by a group of Southern Cameroon separatists living abroad to lead the 'Home Front' in their struggle for a separate state for English-speaking Cameroonians, from leaving his home. Mola Njoh Litumbe issued a statement in which he declared: 'Comrades, having failed to locate my driver to take me to the Police Station where some of our compatriots are detained, or to the Nigerian Consulate where others are camped, I attempted to drive the car out myself and was met by a strong police contingent outside my gate who stopped me from leaving my premises, alleging that they were on orders to keep me under house arrest, on orders from the Governor of the South-West Region.'


DRC: No united opposition

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/qpmT7C

'For the past several months, Congolese newspapers, chat rooms and listservs have resonated with discussions about the divided opposition,' writes Mvemba Dizolele on www.dizolele.com 'Starting in February, when only Etienne Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe had declared their intents to run, Congolese have expected the opposition to come together and fight incumbent Joseph Kabila as a united front. Now that more contenders have joined the fray, the need for a united opposition is more pressing, as no party can win alone.'


Egypt: Parliamentary vote starts 28 November

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/r9HuGv

Egypt's parliamentary election will start on 28 November, a military source said, launching the process of handing back power to civilian rule nine months after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising. The source, who declined to be identified, said the military council has issued a decree inviting candidates to start registration for the elections for the upper and lower houses of parliament starting on 12 October.


Guinea: Three die as police break up protest

2011-09-28

http://bbc.in/pT4Znd

In the run-up to parliamentary elections, due to be held in December, at least three protesters were killed in the Guinean capital, Conakry, when security forces broke up an opposition demonstration. Police used tear gas and batons against the stone-throwing protesters. Dozens of police vehicles and paramilitary forces prevented opposition activists from reaching a stadium.


Sierra Leone: Opposition condemns ban on political activities

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/pF3z5U

The Opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has condemned a police ban on political activities in the country, threatening to paralyse operations of the parliament if the police fail to withdraw it. The opposition argues that the police have no legal authority to take such decisions.


South Africa: Denial over police chief suspension

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/qDyRQh

The presidency has dismissed reports of the imminent suspension of police commissioner Bheki Cele. The Sunday Times reported that the president was about to send a final letter of suspension to Cele, seen as a once trusted political ally now fighting for his job, despite success in reducing crime rates. According to the newspaper he would be barred from office while a board of inquiry investigated his role in the police's R1.7 billion lease deals for new headquarters, which the public protector had deemed unlawful.


Zambia: Starting life under a new leader

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/pkXN3B

Zambians have started life under newly elected President Michael Sata who was inaugurated on 23 September 23, three days after the elections which ended 20 years of rule by the MMD government. Netizens on various social network platforms have expressed different views on the inauguration and the new presidency, reports Global Voices. Commenting on Rupiah Banda’s concession speech in which he said past presidents should be treated with respect and humility, Kasololo Chisenga, posted on Zambian Peoples Pact Facebook group: 'Do you agree that if wrong things happened in RB government we should just forget about them or should we make sure wrong things are exposed and corrected?'




Corruption

Egypt: Ex-minister gets seven years for corruption

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/oNlmX8

A Cairo court has sentenced the former information minister to seven years behind bars and the former head of state TV to five years on corruption charges. Judge Abdallah Abul Hashem ordered ex-information minister Anas al-Fikki jailed for seven years 'for squandering public money'. Osama el-Sheikh, head of the Egyptian Television and Radio Union, was sentenced to five years on similar charges in a case involving the purchase of soap operas at inflated prices.




Development

Africa: Africa challenged to come up with indigenous philosophy of development

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/n1rcNT

Africa needs to come up with an indigenous philosophy of development determined and influenced by the mores of traditional values derived from its own linguistic and cultural repertoire, a university lecturer from the department of African Languages and Literature, University of Zimbabwe, has said. Angeline Masowa, who spoke on Friday at a Conference on African Renaissance, Integration, Unity and Development in Pretoria, South Africa noted that the western model of development posed as the benchmark, which every nation wishing to be regarded as developed, had to follow, with the requirements of development dictated by the west.


Africa: Africa faces 'considerable risks' from global downturn

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/oPYUrs

African economies face considerable risks from a renewed global economic downturn, African finance ministers told a Washington news briefing. They added that the continent’s economies are still on the recovery path from the previous global crisis and are in the process of restoring critical economic buffers. The ministers also stressed that Africa was bracing for adverse effects from the economic problems in the euro zone, with export receipts and remittances particularly vulnerable. They noted that, as a new global downturn threatened, African countries were more interconnected than ever before with their neighbors and with their principal markets.


Africa: Energy future heading down a dark tunnel

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/om9UYJ

The Conference of Energy Ministers in Africa – a two-year old institution recognised by the African Union and donors as the official voice of Africa's energy future – recently met for the second time and released a new declaration that can fairly be called double-speak, according to International Rivers.'The first half of the declaration is so great, it could have been written by a Nelson Mandela of energy. It outlines the brutal reality of Africa's energy poverty and the goals for universal access to sustainable energy across Africa by 2030. So why are the energy ministers calling for projects set to benefit one of the world's wealthiest corporations rather than the continent's own citizens? At the top of the plan's $19 billion list of 14 “Priority Projects” is Inga 3, a hydropower mega-project that would power a massive aluminum smelter to be built by BHP Billiton.'


Africa: World Bank policies 'enabling' African land grab

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/pOJJmq

New research accuses the World Bank Group's policies of facilitating land grabs in Africa and favouring the interests of financial markets over food security and environmental protection. Agriculture and the food crisis were a high-profile agenda topic at the recent World Bank annual meetings, and critical voices are growing on the Bank's approach to food price volatility. Recent in-depth research by the US-based Oakland Institute raises further difficult questions on agriculture policy for Bank officials.


Global: Emerging economies to bail out EU

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/rr5b3W

South Africa could be paying 'a couple of hundred million US dollars' towards a rescue package for troubled euro zone countries, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said. Gordhan told journalists at a press conference in Pretoria, on his return from the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, that there had been a general recognition that 'we’re all in it together and everyone has to make a contribution to the solution'.


Global: Karl Marx and the global economic meltdown

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/oS5yV2

Blog Africa is a Country explores how the debate about Karl Marx's economic theories is entering the mainstream. 'The mainstream (media, experts, free market boosters, etcetera) and rightwingers who usually operate in delusional essentialisms (capitalism eventually works for all of us; if you’re poor, or fail, it’s your own fault; the world’s resources will never run out; trade unions hold people back, etcetera), are second-guessing themselves. In a strange twist, they've taken to reading Karl Marx’s critiques of capitalism to make sense of the global economic meltdown.'


Global: Move beyond coal, now!

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/nBilL2

The Sierra Club and Bank Information Center are releasing a new report describing the daily realities of coal impacted communities from Cirebon, Indonesia, the Konkan coast and Kutch India, Inner Mongolia China, Appalachia USA, New South Wales Australia, and Limpopo South Africa. These stories paint an illuminating picture of an industry that brings toxic pollution, corruption, intimidation, poverty, and destruction to local societies.


Global: New global economic crisis worries East African Community

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/rmQ7rr

Tanzania has said should the world experience a second economic downturn, the impact on East African Community (EAC) countries would be more telling as the economies of the five partner states were more interconnected than never before. The Minister for Finance, Mr Mustafa Mkulo told a sideline session of the 2011 IMF-World Bank annual meeting in Washington DC that shocks for Africa, especially the EAC members from a new economic downturn would be worse than in last crisis. He recalled that three years ago Africa was hit hard by the global economic crisis as exports dropped and financial flows declined.




Health & HIV/AIDS

DRC: Hard to save all women suffering from fistula

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/q8KihG

'Every quarter, more than a hundred women with fistulas - including many younger than 20 years old - are admitted for surgery in Maniema province,' says nurse Julie Mawazo. 'The number of affected women who don't have the means or awareness to come in must be far greater.' Each year, sexual violence, early marriage and complications in childbirth lead to some 12,000 recorded cases of vaginal fistulas - in which a hole develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina - according to the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ministry of Public Health.


Ghana: Hospital turns back patients amid doctor shortage

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/nEUcaA

A general hospital in a port city in Ghana has driven away patients, including pregnant women, due to a shortage of doctors since last Sunday. A notice posted on the walls of the general hospital in Tema asked clients seeking medical attention to visit other hospitals for their own safety as a result of the shortage of doctors in the hospital, especially at the maternity ward.


Global: The most polluted cities in the world

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/pvCxkq

In many cities air pollution is reaching levels that threaten people's health, according to an unprecedented compilation of air quality data released by the World Health Organisation. The information includes data from nearly 1,100 cities across 91 countries, including capital cities and cities with more than 100,000 residents. WHO estimates more than two million people die every year from breathing in tiny particles present in indoor and outdoor air pollution. In both developed and developing countries, the largest contributors to urban outdoor air pollution include motor transport, small-scale manufacturers and other industries, burning of biomass and coal for cooking and heating, as well as coal-fired power plants.


Kenya: Medics overwhelmed as dengue fever spreads

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/olwe4c

An outbreak of dengue fever in Mandera, northeastern Kenya, is spreading fast, with at least 5,000 people infected within weeks, due to limited health facilities, a shortage of medical personnel and poor sanitation, officials told IRIN. With only one public hospital and a few private clinics, medical officials in the town - which borders Ethiopia and Somalia - said the facilities were congested with dengue fever patients and they were unable to cope.


Madagascar: Leprosy making a comeback

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/reSbao

A surge in new leprosy cases in a remote region of Madagascar could not have come at a worse time. Once a prosperous vanilla-exporting town, Antalaha has suffered the economic consequences of two years of political instability that began with the March 2009 coup in which Andry Rajoelina, with the support of the military, deposed President Marc Ravalomanana. Numerous foreign aid and trade benefits on which the country was heavily reliant, particularly for the funding of social sectors, have since been suspended.


Senegal: 'Small revolution' in family planning

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/o5pOXJ

Senegalese families are spacing their children, having fewer, and as a result are increasingly searching for long-term family planning solutions, said Fatou Seck, a midwife at the hospital. While in 1990 the average woman in Senegal had 6.7 children in her reproductive cycle; in 2009 when the latest statistics were made available, they had 4.8, according to the Health Ministry.


Sierra Leone: At a crossroads

Sierra Leone's free health care policy

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/plRAJk

Pregnant women and girls in Sierra Leone continue to face serious challenges in accessing drugs and medical care that are crucial to ensure safe pregnancy and childbirth, says this Amnesty International report. 'Over the last two years the Government of Sierra Leone has introduced various initiatives to address these challenges, including some welcome steps to increase women's access to health services and reform of the health workforce. In April 2010 the government launched a major initiative to provide free care to pregnant women and girls. However, much remains to be done.'


Sierra Leone: Cuban medics to help health sector

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/q5QgAx

Sierra Leone will benefit from medical expertise from Cuba in an agreement negotiated with South Africa's help. According to the agreement, a total of 32 Cuban medical specialists in various categories will be sent to Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone Government approached South Africa a few years ago, through the Foreign ministry, then headed by current minister of Health and Sanitation Aja Zainab Hawa Bangura, to help solve health problems caused by the 'acute shortage' of staff.


South Africa: Criminalising sex is not the answer

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/pcGQyd

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi is set to meet justice ministry officials to rectify what his office terms 'contradictions' in the Sexual Offences Act of 2007 and the Children's Act of 2005. One law makes it legal for children of 12 and older to access contraceptives, and the other criminalises sex for youngsters of that age. Recently, children's rights activists were outraged when it emerged that National Prosecution Authority head Menzi Simelane had used the Act to authorise the prosecution of at least two groups of children between the ages of 12 and 16 for having consensual sex.




Education

Benin: Campaign unveiled to keep children in school

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/rdzIP2

Benin has launched a major campaign to arrest growing drop-out rates as schools begin a new term. The one-year campaign is expected to encourage parents to allow their children to stay enrolled in school. With a national enrolment rate of 87.3 per cent, Benin has an impressive record. But it has been difficult to keep the children in school, watering down the gains.


Morocco: School year begins with controversy

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/oC7Vtr

Over six million Moroccan children set off to schools a few days ago. This year, the beginning of the school term was accompanied with lively debates over the future of the kingdom's state education system. Moroccans have voiced little confidence in state education and are critical of both teachers and the government's strategy in this sector.


Nigeria: Strike cripples varsities

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/p5zL9U

There was total compliance 26 September to the one-week nationwide warning strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, disrupting examinations in the nation's premier university, University of Ibadan, University of Jos and paralysing academic activities in others. The warning strike is in protest against Federal Government's alleged refusal to implement the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement which will be due for re-negotiation in six months. The agreement, among others include 26 per cent funding of education, wage improvement and upward review of retirement age of professors from 65 to 70 years.




LGBTI

Kenya: LBTI women’s rights exhibition in Nairobi

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/rrozJn

The Girl Art Project is a one of a kind exhibition in Nairobi running from 18 October to 8 November, 2011 at the Godown Arts Centre. It is a joint project between two groups MWA, Minority Women in Action which advocates for LBTI women’s rights and AFRA-Kenya (Artists for Recognition and Acceptance – an organization of Lesbian Bisexual and Trans Women) through the support of UHAI-EASHRI, the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative. The theme of the exhibition is inspired by the female form, presence and experience.


Nigeria: New bill prohibiting same sex marriage before parliament

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/qlu3ZJ

For the third time in five years the Nigerian parliament is considering a law seeking to prohibit same sex marriage after a new bill was presented to the House. The Nigeria government has been seeking to further criminalise same-sex relations in Nigeria through the prohibition of same-sex marriage since 2006.




Environment

Africa: 'We Expect the Polluters to Pay'

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/oVj6Tf

'Africa wants an outcome based on science that is fair and honours the promises all countries have made in the UN Climate Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. We need to agree to global reductions for 2050 that limit warming to well below the predicted 1.5 degrees Celsius in Africa.' This is according to Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, who will lead the negotiations on behalf of the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN) at the United Nations climate change conference later this year. He was interviewed by IPS.


Burkina Faso: Bonuses help reforestation take root

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/pi08ZM

This year Fatimata Koama and her associates received more than half a million CFA francs as a reward for planting - and looking after - 1,200 trees in their small corner of Burkina Faso. Magoulé's payout – equivalent to about 1,200 dollars – is just part of more than 100,000 dollars disbursed over the past two years as a strategy to strengthen reforestation efforts, according to environmental group SOS Sahel and the Burkina Ministry of the Environment.


Global: Biofuels production surges

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/oz8ZCc

Global production of biofuels increased 17 per cent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters, up from 90 billion litres in 2009. High oil prices, a global economic rebound, and new laws and mandates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, and the United States, among other countries, are contributing to the surge in production, according to research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy Program for the website Vital Signs Online.


Global: Global CO2 emissions reach all-time high

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/oqIx2u

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reached an all-time high in 2010, rising 45 per cent in the past 20 years. Rising rapidly between 1990 and 2010, global atmospheric CO2 levels totaled 33 billion metric tons last year, according to a report published by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Global CO2 emissions fell one per cent in 2009, during the Great Recession, but rose at an unprecedented five per cent rate in 2010.


South Africa: Big polluters should 'stay home' from climate conference

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/nzLdSy

In order for global climate change policies and efforts to progress, intense local activism and countries most adversely affected by climate change must play a leading role. If they don't, an upcoming meeting of state parties to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) in South Africa will be a conference of 'paralysis' and 'profiteers', says Patrick Bond, climate justice expert and author of the book 'Politics of Climate Justice' coming out in November.




Land & land rights

Guinea: Rights groups denounce attack on Saoro farmers

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/pg9HyT

Rights groups in Guinea have denounced the action of security forces against the inhabitants of a village more than one hundred kilometers south of the capital, Conakry. Lawyers Without Borders and the Equal Rights for All say they are disappointed with the government over the alleged attacks by gendarmes and army troops against inhabitants of the Saoro village over a land dispute with the Soguipah Company. The land conflict started in 2003 following a presidential decree allocating 2,000 hectares of land in Saoro village to the Company.


South Africa: Land reform green paper gets the thumbs down

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/qyCqEu

South Africa's Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has released a green paper on land reform, but the paper has been described as a 'great disappointment' by Andries Du Toit from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies. 'After more than two years of vacillation and evasion since President Zuma’s announcement of the need for a new policy framework, the Ministry has produced a document that provides almost no guidance on any of the crucial questions facing land and agrarian reform in South Africa. It fails to offer any serious proposals for public debate on what the alternatives are to scale up land reform. It is bafflingly slight, weighing in at no more than eleven pages. It is in fact surprising that the Ministry is willing to release such an insubstantial and vague document at all.'


Zimbabwe: Land reform blog

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/ncvcEy

This website presents material linked to an on-going research project in Masvingo province in the south-east of the country. This has involved a detailed study of what happened to people’s livelihoods after land reform, across 16 land reform sites and 400 households.


Zimbabwe: Voices from the field

New series of short films

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/oZy3Bx

Zimbabwe's political crisis continues. Yet with the stabilisation of the currency and the overhaul of some key economic policies, the agricultural economy in particular has begun to recover. IDS research has been tracking what has been happening in one province since 2000, looking at the changing livelihood prospects of those who gained land in Zimbabwe’s controversial 'fast track' land reform programme. A series of short films have been released which provide insights into what is happening on the ground, by offering some voices from the field. Following an overview film, each of the films in the series provides a profile of a particular farm family, exploring how they have invested in the land and their visions for the future.




Media & freedom of expression

Egypt: Flutter over Egypt twitter case

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/nXDhZD

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has strongly condemned the ongoing deterioration of freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt. This follows news that Dr.Tarek Zidan, head of the 'Egypt Revolution Party' has proceeded with a criminal lawsuit no. 13846 for the year 2011 against Asmaa Mahfouz, accusing her of insulting and defaming him via her twitter account by posting false news about him.


Eritrea: Journalists face threats in covering Isaac imprisonment

2011-09-27

http://bit.ly/niQ9vF

A Sweden-based journalist was publicly threatened in connection with her reporting on the case of Dawit Isaac, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist who has been imprisoned in Eritrea for a decade without charge, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. A day earlier in New York, bodyguards for the Eritrean leader Isaias Afewerki pushed and threatened two Swedish journalists seeking to speak to the president about the Isaac case, the journalists said.


Global: Arab spring reporters honoured

2011-10-03

http://pambazuka.net/en/category/media/76757

'Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) proudly recognizes Khaled al-Hammadi (Yemen) and Mohamed Abdelfattah (Egypt) as this year’s recipients of the 2011 International Press Freedom Awards. The awards will be presented at the 14th annual CJFE Gala: A Night to Honour Courageous Reporting, to be held at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto on Thursday, November 24, 2011. These two journalists were chosen for their passion for free expression and their extraordinary courage. They did not let the many dangers they faced prevent them from working to expose the real story of what was taking place during the events we now call the Arab Spring.'
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Press Release

CJFE honours the work of two Arab Spring reporters with 2011 International Press Freedom Awards
Both showed passion for free expression and extraordinary courage

TORONTO, (September 29, 2011) - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) proudly recognizes Khaled al-Hammadi (Yemen) and Mohamed Abdelfattah (Egypt) as this year’s recipients of the 2011 International Press Freedom Awards. The awards will be presented at the 14th annual CJFE Gala: A Night to Honour Courageous Reporting, to be held at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto on Thursday, November 24, 2011.

These two journalists were chosen for their passion for free expression and their extraordinary courage. They did not let the many dangers they faced prevent them from working to expose the real story of what was taking place during the events we now call the Arab Spring.

“This year we recognize two journalists who have risked their safety to provide a true narrative of the events in the Arab Spring in their countries,” said Carol Off, Chair of the CJFE Gala committee. “We are honoured to have these men join us at the CJFE Gala, and recognize their strength and courage in devoting themselves to freedom of expression; speaking out when ordered to remain silent.”

In many countries around the world, journalists face threats—whether judicial, physical or otherwise—but continue to work tirelessly so that the news media remains free. CJFE honours their determination with two International Press Freedom Awards every year.

Both award winners will attend the gala on November 24, 2011, to accept their 2011 International Press Freedom Awards.

Khaled al-Hammadi (Yemen) has worked as a photojournalist, correspondent and fixer for foreign media. He has spent 16 years trying to explain his country to the outside world, and because he has been so public and outspoken he has faced ongoing threats, attacks and harassment by the government administration and its security and army agencies. He has been arrested, kidnapped and had his equipment destroyed.

Mohamed Abdelfattah (Egypt) helped expose the story of Khaled Said, the young man who was beaten to death by Egyptian police in June 2010. Said’s death is widely believed to have been the spark that ignited the revolution in Egypt, and Abdelfattah was among the first to report on the ensuing protests and discredit the government version that Said was a drug dealer. Abdelfattah was the first to speak to CBC News Network about what happened the day popular uprisings broke out on January 25 and how he was beaten and detained by Egyptian security forces.

The CJFE Gala is made possible by the support of returning Evening Sponsor Scotiabank, Reception Sponsor CBC News, Platinum Sponsor CTV News, Exhibition Sponsors Henry’s and the Toronto Star, along with the valued support of other organizations and individuals across the media, legal, academic and business communities.

About CJFE:

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) boldly champions the free expression rights of journalists and media workers around the world. In Canada, we monitor, defend and promote free expression and access to information. We encourage and support individuals and groups to be vigilant in the protection of their own and others' free expression rights. We are active participants and builders of the global free expression community.

Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #cjfegala.

For more information or to speak with either CJFE or the award winners, please contact:

Susanne Gossage/Karolina Olechnowicz
Media Profile
416-504-8464
Susanne.gossage@mediaprofile.com or Karolina.olechnowicz@mediaprofile.com


Global: Freedom House releases report on growing challenges to internet freedom

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/qBxvFy

Even before the Arab Spring had shown the power of the internet to accelerate the free flow of news and views and to bring like-minded citizens together to mobilize for change, authoritarian regimes had introduced extensive controls over digital media. Authoritarian regimes had built pervasive, multilayered systems for online censorship and surveillance. These systems have grown more diverse and sophisticated in the past two years, as documented in Freedom House's 2011 'Freedom on the Net' report and elsewhere.


Somaliland: Concern over harassment of journalists

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/oYM1NZ

Reporters Without Borders has registered at least eight serious press freedom violations ranging from arbitrary arrest to shooting attacks on journalists in the past two months in the semi-autonomous northeastern region of Puntland and the breakaway northwestern territory of Somaliland. In most of these cases, there has been no investigation and no one has been punished.




Social welfare

South Africa: Shots fired over Cape housing development

2011-09-28

http://bit.ly/p6jcd2

Battles between backyarders and informal settlement residents over the allocation of houses at Makhaza’s Ithemba Labantu housing project in Cape Town flared up again last week, resulting in shots fired by a backyarder believed to be defending himself against attackers. According to residents of Khayelitsha K-Section informal settlement, which is in Makhaza and where the 163-unit project is being built, backyarder Thembalani Mpambaniso was attacked by residents of the informal settlement while he was visiting his girlfriend, who lives in the settlement.




Conflict & emergencies

DRC: 'At least 300,000 civilians have weapons in eastern DRC'

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/nEGYiu

At least 300,000 Congolese civilians have weapons in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a report released by a research group in Brussels said on Monday. According to the report by the Group of Information and Research on Peace (GRIP), at least 80 per cent of men have weapons in the province of Kivu and Katanga. The investigators of GRIP questioned some 10,000 heads of families in these regions that are, or have been, the theatre of clashes between armed groups and the Congolese government forces.


Libya: Residents flee Sirte during lull in fighting

2011-10-03

http://aje.me/piv4e1

Hundreds of residents of Sirte are fleeing the coastal town after the National Transitional Council (NTC) announced a 48-hour suspension in fighting to capture toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi's hometown. A long queue of cars jammed the roads leading out of Sirte on Sunday as civilians sought to escape a worsening humanitarian situation in the town. Residents fleeing the town of around 100,000 say that those still trapped inside are running low on food and supplies.


Nigeria: Attack group rejects talks with government

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/oGNyxz

A purported spokesman for a Nigerian Islamist sect blamed for scores of attacks, including last month's bombing of UN headquarters, has rejected a proposal to negotiate with the government. A spokesman for Boko Haram told journalists in a conference call in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, where the sect has carried out most of its attacks, that the group would push ahead with its violent campaign.


Nigeria: Many killed in raid on Nigerian village

2011-10-03

http://aje.me/p4Jptd

A group of around 150 assailants have shot and hacked to death at least 19 people and seriously injured six people in a village in northwest Nigeria, police said. The attack took place on Saturday in Lingyado, in the state of Zamfara, which sits at the base of the Sahel where Africa's most populous nation borders Niger. Islamist sect Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of attacks in Nigeria's north, but there was so far no indication of the group's involvement in Saturday's raid.


South Sudan: Oil conflict threatens to break out

2011-10-03

http://bit.ly/niCPDH

There have been recent clashes between the Sudanese army, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, as well as fighting between communities along the border. 'One day the communities on the border may end up either facing genocide or there may be a very heavy war as the governments in both countries do not value the lives of the people but the resources they are sitting on. These resources will undermine the value of the lives of human beings,' Edmund Yakani, the coordinator for the local NGO Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO), told IPS.


Uganda: Tracking the LRA

2011-10-03

http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93852

Detailed updates about the activity of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) are now available in near real-time, thanks to a partnership between two US-based NGOs. The LRA Crisis Tracker, a joint venture between Invisible Children and Resolve provides data on attacks, killings, abductions, injuries and looting by the LRA, an insurgency that began in northern Uganda in the 1980s, whose fighters are now scattered across remote areas of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. Data is published on the tracker's website as well as on social media such as Twitter and Facebook and via apps for iPad and iPhone.




Internet & technology

Global: Human rights online: New issues and threats

2011-09-29

http://bit.ly/oscHtB

This Connect your Rights! policy issue paper from the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) outlines the state of human rights online and the major challenges facing activists and human rights defenders. As levels of censorship and surveillance are increasing worldwide, even in democratic countries, which threatens the work — and the lives — of human rights defenders, APC calls for a focus on human rights.


South Sudan: Google puts South Sudan on maps

2011-09-28

http://bbc.in/pnkNPf

Google has updated its maps to include the newly independent nation of South Sudan. The move follows a campaign by a South Sudanese journalist, who posted an online petition calling for the new nation to be marked on web maps. He said his country was still missing from websites including Microsoft, Yahoo! and National Geographic.




eNewsletters & mailing lists

INTERIGHTS Quarterly Update: Autumn 2011

2011-10-03

http://www.interights.org/join-our-mailing-list/index.html

The INTERIGHTS Quarterly Update is a regular email containing summaries of recent news, including updates on litigation, events and publications.




Fundraising & useful resources

Global: Filmmaking guide to success

2011-10-03

http://www.blackfilmmakersguide.com

First time author Nadia Denton presents in 'The Black British Filmmaker’s Guide to Success' a valuable resource that will enable film practitioners to achieve greater success with their endeavours. The Black British Filmmaker’s Guide to Success addresses the need for an up-to-date, practical resource that caters specifically for black content work.




Publications

Journal of Peasant Studies, Volume 38, Issue 4, 2011

Special Issue on New Frontiers of land control

2011-09-29

http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/fjps20/current

This issue includes the following articles:

- Introductory essay, by Nancy Peluso and Christian Lund.
- Alice Kelley, UC Berkeley, Conservation Practice as Primitive Accumulation.
- Catherine Corson, Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, USA, Territorialization, Enclosure and Neoliberalism: Non-State Influence
in Struggles over Madagascar’s Forests.
- Nancy Peluso, UC Berkeley, Emergent Forest and Private Land Regimes in Java.





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