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Pambazuka News 621: Issues in Kenyan election, Benin's looted bronzes and Western Sahara

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Dear Reader

In this issue we have three articles on Western Sahara. One, 'Securitization or Terrorization?' by Jacob Mundy, should have appeared in the Special Issue 618. The other two, 'A violence that goes unnamed' by Vivian Solana and 'Democratic experiments in exile' by Alice Wilson, are corrected versions of articles we already carried in that issue.

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Features

Electoral fraud and democratic struggles in Kenya

Lessons from 2013 electoral process

Horace Campbell

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86578


cc V T
Unlike the elections of 2007, the recent elections in Kenya avoided massive bloodshed and gave victory to the Jubilee Coalition. An analysis of the significance of the elections is given and it is argued that political power cannot be monopolized by one section of the capitalist class

The peoples of Kenya voted in an electoral process on 4 March 2013. There were six differing elections held on that day with the contests for president, 47 governors, 47 senators, 47 county women’s representatives, 290 members of the National Assembly and 1,450 members of the county assembly. When the election results were officially announced by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on 9 March, Uhuru Kenyatta, leader of The National Alliance (TNA), which together with three other parties formed the Jubilee Coalition, was declared winner of the presidential vote with 6,173,433 votes out of 12, 330, 028 votes cast – translating into 50.07 per cent of the vote. Mr. Raila Odinga leader of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) was supposed to have polled 5,340, 546 or 43.31 per cent of the votes. Under the Constitution of Kenya, the winner had to receive 50 percent plus one to avoid a runoff election. In this announcement Kenyatta, son of former President Jomo Kenyatta, was declared president – elect.

Within one hour of the declaration of the official results by the IEBC, Raila Odinga disputed the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as president citing ‘massive irregularities’ and evidence of ‘poll anomalies.’ Even before this press conference, the entire process of the 2013 elections had been called into question in the face of ‘technical' difficulties, where the system that had been established for the conduct of the elections failed. Were these ‘technical’ failures in the birthplace of M-pesa, the famous electronic money transfer service, orchestrated to manipulate the system? This was the claim by the CORD alliance as they promised to file an election petition to challenge the election results of the presidential vote. Other sources claimed that there had been a cyber attack on the IEBC to discredit this independent body.
The CORD challenge to what was called election rigging was to be presented to the Supreme Court of Kenya by a team of lawyers. The election petition that was being assembled was arguing that the equipment deployed by the IEBC for the election - ranging from the poll books, computer servers, electronic transmission of results and electronic voter identification - had failed and that the tallying of votes had been compromised.

FRONTS IN THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION

This legal challenge to the 2013 elections brought to the fore one of five major fronts in the struggles for democratic participation in Kenya. The five fronts had been (1) the protracted political struggles – manifest in the election campaigns of Kenya (especially between 1992 and 2013, (2) the information warfare and attempts to control the flow of information about the political process, 3) the cyber warfare which involved the compromising of the computer systems of the IEBC) (4) the legal struggles to be fought before the Supreme Court and (5) the struggles over the devolution of political power weakening the centralization and concentration of wealth and power in Kenya since 1963.

Both Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta represent wings of the nationalist thrust of the decolonization process. The father of Raila Odinga, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, had been a stalwart of the independence struggles and had written the book about the derailment of independence, Not yet Uhuru (Not yet Independence). Western media placed the stamp of ethnic enclaves and simplified the principled opposition of Oginga Odinga to the derailment of the political process as‘tribal’ differences between the Luo and Kikuyu peoples. During the first forty years of decolonization, Kenya was the principal base for western military, economic and political mischief in Africa.

Uhuru Kenyatta is heir to one of the largest fortunes in Eastern Africa and his family is associated with the forces that dominate the Nairobi Securities Exchange. The faction of the political divide represented by Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto was that section of the Kenyan society that had monopolized political and economic power since 1963. In 2007, national elections were held and the outcome of that process contested. Headlines in newspapers far and wide had screamed ‘Kibaki ‘stole’ Kenyan elections through vote rigging and fraud.’ Mwai Kibaki had been sworn in quickly at dusk in order to prevent a challenge in court and immediately violence had erupted as spontaneous outbursts of anger spread throughout Kenya. Sections of the political leaders entered the violent confrontation with allegations that these leaders fomented ethnic hatred and violence. The violent confrontations on the streets and villages of Kenya had left over a thousand dead . Two years after these clashes both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were indicted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity.

Within the ranks of the Kenyan society there had been a massive mobilization to reform the political system to break the monopoly of power by the Kenyan oligarchy. One component of the reform sentiment was that there should be an end to the politics of impunity. In the planning for the 2013 electoral contest, those opposed to the maturation of a dynastic tradition in Kenya mobilized to prevent a repeat of the vote rigging and fraud of 2007-2008. This reform process resulted in the new 2010 constitution where a referendum was overwhelmingly supported by 67 per cent of the voters. This referendum had expanded the democratic rights of the Kenyan people and the 2013 process was supposed to be one more episode in the extension of democratic participation.
The very fact that the planned election petition opposing 'irregularities' is to be heard before the Supreme Court of Kenya is one of the small victories of the 2010 constitutional process. What was before the people in the election was whether the dominant tycoons could win in the elections what they had lost in the referendum in 2010. This was also a test of the contending forces, because elections as one element of political struggle depended on the organizational capabilities of the competing factions. To be able to rig elections successfully requires a level of financial, military and political capability that challenged Kenyans whether they were able to develop new strategies to extend democratic participation. The majority of Kenyans are opposed to the creation of a dynasty in the society and the protracted battles with the entrenched oligarchs will have consequences far beyond the created borders of present day Kenya.

ELECTORAL FRAUD IN KENYA

Throughout Africa numerous leaders have mastered the art of manipulating elections and the electoral game. After the African Union outlawed coups in 2002 many of the former generals found ways to perpetuate themselves in power through election rigging, unconstitutional manipulations of political process and subversion of their country’s constitutions. Elsewhere, the idea of democratic elections had been turned into contests between ethnic blocs. Kenya had not suffered from a successful coup’d etat by the military but since the 1969 split among the nationalist leaders, the electoral system has been bedeviled by fraud and the disenfranchisement of the electorate. Daniel Arap Moi , the second President of Kenya between 1978-2002, had gained international notoriety to the point where the struggles to extend democratic participation extended to every social group in Kenya. When it became clear to the external supporters of the Moi dictatorship that the mass mobilization against arbitrary rule held the seeds of massive revolt, international forces from the western world financed a massive human rights campaign to depoliticize the struggles for basic freedoms in Kenya.

Under Arap Moi, the concentration and centralization of wealth had rocketed Kenya to the top tier of the African economies. The banking sector of Kenya became the hub for regional accumulation and leaders from as far afield as West Africa found the Kenyan financial services industry a friendly offshore center to store illicit holdings. The real estate sector in Nairobi grew by leaps and bounds and regional accumulators from Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and parts of Ethiopia found an alliance with the Kenyan magnates. The growth of the banking sector (boosted by funds from far and wide), the telecommunications sector, and insurance industry outpaced the traditional areas of manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and transportation sectors. Money laundering from the international trade in illegal substances could easily be disguised in this booming economy as the economic barons hid behind ethnic masks to demobilize the population. The politicization of ethnicity had been orchestrated very effectively by the British colonial overlords in the last years of colonial exploitation in order to divide the forces of national independence and reconstruction.

Frank Kitson, the theoretician and practitioner of British counterinsurgency warfare had mobilized the British intellectual institutions and had stimulated a growth industry in British anthropological circles to reinforce the stamp of ethnic allegiances on the people of Kenya. Kenyan freedom fighters from the Land and Freedom Army (called Mau Mau) had exposed the crimes against humanity by the British and 50 years after independence, some of the survivors of ‘Britain's Gulag’ have been waging a protracted campaign to claim reparations from Britain. Last October the British courts ruled in favor of some of the veterans of the war who had been brutally tortured during the period of savage beatings and killings that had characterized the effort of Britain to defeat the independence struggle. What Britain had lost during the anti-colonial struggles it made up for with the massive cultural war to impose western values and cultures on a small educated elite. Although Britain had ceded power to a small group, the dominance of the English language and culture among the rulers had created Nairobi as a hub for international financiers. Kenyan schools and cultural institutions boasted of their links to Britain while towards the end of the Cold War the US military cooperated with the British to maintain Kenya as one of the cockpits of western imperial interests in Africa.

Exploitation and domination in Kenya took many forms and the more intense the exploitation, the greater was the western presence in the form of differing business enterprises, media outlets, private military contractors, conservative evangelists and international non-governmental organizations. The latter claimed a space within the ‘human rights‘ networks across Eastern Africa and sought to monopolize the intellectual currents. In so far as extreme inequalities arose from the consequences of liberalization and privatization, there was a clear relationship between gross inequalities and regional alliances. These alliances were founded on the political barons whose experiences at primitive accumulation were refined with the years of holding on to political power. Scandals such as Anglo leasing, Goldenberg, Maize procurement followed each other with such regularity that the poor of Kenya were becoming immune to stories of theft of state property and misappropriation of funds. In the period between the referendum of 2010 and the elections of 2013 one former ally of Raila Odinga, Miguna Miguna issued a book, ‘Peeling Back The Mask’, about the economic activities of Raila Odinga as Prime Minister. A second book launched before the 2013 elections , ‘Kidneys for the King’ castigated Kenyan politicians in general but was supportive of Uhuru Kenyatta. What the books really exposed was the extent to which Raila Odinga was a novice in this hothouse of primitive accumulation that was called the business community of Kenya.

This aspect of Kenyan society is of central importance to the history of electoral fraud and the changing political alliances. Fraud reinforced the conditions of mass poverty and regional divisions. Regional differentiation and ethnic mobilization were meant to conceal the massive wealth in the hands of a few. This high concentration of wealth dictated that the creativity of the mass of the population was compromised and the necessary conditions for genuine wealth creation remain stymied. Electoral fraud strengthened the power of those with the inside levers of the networks of capital.

Numerous commentators have pointed to the undemocratic governance and manipulation of elections in countries such as Cameroons, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Swaziland and Zimbabwe to point to the reality that most African states are undemocratic. After the end of the Cold War western agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy in the Unites States traversed the length and breadth of Africa promoting a brand of democratic politics that divorced policies from the economic realities of exploitation. In the teaching of political science, democracy has been associated with competition in elections just as economics is associated with competition in the market place. This representation of democracy has come from the conditionalities that have been associated with ‘development organizations’ in the past twenty years. The World Bank and the varying international organs promoted democratic governance that was in essence one where, democracy is a competitive political system in which competing leaders and organizations define the alternatives of public policy in such a way that the public can participate in the decision making process.

Kenya was one of the bases for European and North American democratic initiatives .Robert Dahl has been one of the most prolific writers on the conception of democracy which excluded issues of economic management, access to economic resources and life itself. Engaged groups within Africa and outside critiqued this simplistic view of democracy to note that issues of health, education, shelter, food, environmental repair and basic requirements of life were very important components of democracy. In particular, African feminists drew attention to the issues of citizenship, bodily integrity, sexual and reproductive rights as central aspects of democracy that had been erased in the liberal conception of democracy. [1] Feminists broadened democracy even further than the horizons of the social democrats who had struggled to defend the rights of workers in Western Europe after the capitalist depression of the 1930s.

It is precisely because of this tradition of undemocratic leaders covering up brutalities in the name of democracy why the mainstream focus on elections and voting has been manipulated and subverted. Leaders in most African countries understand the ideological biases of the mainstream scholarship on democracy and are aware that democracy can be undermined as long as the basic forms of capital accumulation are not seriously affected. It is for this reason that the writers on low intensity democracy argue for the link between political change and social reform. In Kenya a vibrant grassroots tradition maintained the pressures for social reforms and these pressures brought about shifting alliances. It was within this tradition of social reforms and the elaboration of democratic participation where the elections of 2013 needs to be located.

ELECTORAL STRUGGLES IN KENYA

After the struggles for independence in Kenya, the society produced thinkers and activists who stood at the front of the African struggles for democratic participation. Writers such as Ngugi Wa Thiongo achieved international notoriety in his campaign for justice in Kenya. Other leaders such as Wangari Mathaai had taken the ideas about democracy and basic rights to link to environmental sustenance. As one generation of Kenyans was exiled, imprisoned, broken or passed on, another came up and these battles for change emerged in the electoral contests. The twenty first century had started with intensified struggles to end the Moi dictatorship and this took the form of a coalition that brought Mwai Kibaki to the Presidency in 2002. No sooner had Kibaki occupied the seat of power when it became clear that the economic oligarchs would dominate the political spaces in Kenya. Five years after Kibaki took over from Moi to become the third President of Kenya, elections were held in December 2007. It was this election where the people came out and voted massively to end the dominance of the one per cent that dominated the Kenyan Stock Market.

When the election results were announced, awarding victory to Kibaki for a second term in the first days of January 2008, there was a spontaneous eruption of outrage. Elements from the ruling factions entered into the fray to direct the spontaneous rebellions of the peoples into ethnic rivalries in order to stem the possibility of a wider rebellion. It was in the midst of this violent confrontation when the international forces converged on Kenya to work out a compromise where Mwai Kibaki would remain as President and Raila Odinga would enter a coalition government as the Prime Minister. For one large section of the population, this compromise was a bitter pill but was accepted in order to avert a complete breakdown of social peace. While the mainstream political forces jockeyed for positions, the grass roots democratic forces worked hard to bring to the table the reform of the political system through a constitutional process. This process culminated in a referendum of 2010 where the new constitution of Kenya was ratified.

PRESENTATION OF THE CANDIDATES

The forces of democratic change in Kenya had been campaigning against impunity and international human rights forces joined in this call for impunity in order to be at the center of the political debate. This intervention took the form of the indictment of six leaders in Kenya who were indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. After this indictment of the six, the charges were dropped against two and of the four that faced indictment; two were from the most prominent leaders in Kenya. These were the Deputy Prime Minister of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.
Both Kenyatta and Ruto presented themselves as ethnic leaders preserving the interests of the ‘Kikuyu’ and ‘Kalenjin.’ Uhuru Kenyatta represented a section of the Kenyan oligarchy that felt that it was their right to hold on to power. William Ruto had emerged in the last years of the Moi dictatorship and at the time of the 2007 elections had been an ally of Raila Odinga in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Both Kenyatta and Ruto represented entrenched interests of capital. Ruto had received even greater national prominence during the struggles over the new constitution in 2010 when he emerged as the leading spokesperson for that faction of the Kenyan political leadership that was aligned to the most conservative section of religious fundamentalism in the United States. As a conservative populist leader, Ruto did not disguise his deep misogynistic and homophobic politics while presenting himself as the leader of the disenfranchised from the Rift Valley, in short, a leader of the Kalenjins.

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto created an alliance called The National Alliance (TNA) with the nomenclature of the Jubilee which was a play on both biblical code s as well as the fact that 2013 was the fiftieth anniversary of Kenyan independence. After some twists and turns during the period after the referendum when it was unclear where the balance of political forces stood, Uhuru Kenyatta took the nomination forms to be the presidential candidate for the TNA while William Ruto was his running mate.

Both Kenyatta and Ruto hid behind regional allegiances and petty ethnic claims to mount their campaign. As the campaign matured and the lines of the electoral battles became sharper, Kenyatta and Ruto developed a sharp anti-imperialist posture with claims that their campaign was to protect the sovereignty of Kenya. Both leaders had presented themselves to the ICC in The Hague to proclaim their innocence. Here was a case of one of the most blatant manipulation of the anti-imperialist claims of the progressive forces in Africa.

Progressive African intellectuals had critiqued the ICC in so far as up to the present all of those indicted under the statutes of the Rome Convention were from Africa. These African nationalists had queried whether it was only in Africa where crimes against humanity were being carried out. When the ICC indicted the leader of Libya as part of the NATO war against Libya in June 2011, the clear manipulation of the ICC by the West was opposed in Africa. More significant was the fact that the very same Western Europeans who had indicted President Bashir of Sudan aligned with Bashir to execute the war against the peoples of Libya. The United States was not a signatory to the Rome Statutes but the media in the United States were willing and able to hide behind the Rome Statutes to push the foreign policy agenda of the United States.
William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta used the discourse of African radicals about defending the sovereignty of Africa, especially after some western European diplomats issued statements to the effect there would be sanctions on Kenya if Uhuru Kenyatta were to be elected President. The assistant Secretary of State for Africa in the State Department , Johnny Carson, inflamed the ‘anti-imperialist’ posture of the TNA leaders when he issued a statement to the effect that there would be ‘consequences’ if the leaders of the Jubilee alliance were elected in the elections. The planning for the elections of 2013 had attracted international attention because of the confluence of national, regional and international issues that hinged on the outcome of the elections.

4 MARCH 2013: FRAUD OR TECHNICAL FAILURES?

For the peoples of Kenya the 2013 electoral contests were the first to be held under the new Constitution. The Constitution had provided for a devolved system of government which replaced the 8 provinces of Kenya with 47 counties. On March 4 there were six elections held on one day. An elaborate system of the sharing of National revenues had been worked out in order to break the concentration and centralization of wealth and power in Nairobi.

The election campaign had been unrelenting from the end of the period of the Referendum in 2010 and picked up momentum in the last months of 2012. As the campaign intensified, there were signs that the technical capabilities of the IEBC were flawed. In February, the chairperson of the telecommunications company Safari com, Mr. Collymore had warned the public over possible electoral hitches. In a letter dated 21 February 2013, Mr Collymore pointed out the shortcomings of the technical capabilities that could ‘seriously compromise the IEBC’s ability to execute a credible election.’ This warning from the top service provider of cell phone service in Kenya brought this company into the center of the fray after the court challenge subsequent to the announcement of the election results on Saturday March 9. The CEO of Safaricom Had urged Hassan to pursue technical testing of stress loads, mobile handsets and website security. One other prelude to the election was the announcement by the Chief Justice, Dr. Willy Mutunga, that he had been threatened and intimidated by sections of the intelligence services when he was about to leave the country. Mutunga issued a statement reaffirming the independence of the Judiciary under the new Constitution.

THE PEOPLE VOTED

On the morning of 4 March, people woke early to go to the polls and found that by 5 am there were long lines of anxious citizens who wanted to exercise the franchise. People waiting for eight to ten hours and as the international media queried why there had been so much patience to vote, those who responded overwhelmingly declared that they had waited five years for this new chance to vote. Numerous stories were carried in the press of the sacrifices of the people as they waited to vote. Billions of Kenya shillings (over one hundred million dollars) had been invested in new technologies to ensure a smooth flow of the election but as soon as the polling started there were reports of the breakdown of the voter identification system. Electronic voter identification kits failed forcing the IEBC to manually register and identify voters. Prior to the elections, Kenyans had been feted in the international media as a new base to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa where young Kenyans were at the forefront of innovative rollouts to increase cell phone and computer usage in Kenya. Yet, on the very day that this expertise was needed, the entire system broke down. As reported in the newspapers, ‘Kenyans witnessed the failure of virtually every instrument the IEBC had deployed for the elections: the poll books, the servers, the telephone transmission, the BVR – biometric voter registration- - they all failed despite the billions spent on acquiring them.’

The people of Kenya were shaken as the systems broke and differing reports were trickling in as to the cause of the breakdown of the system. Here was a replay of 2007 elections when it was not possible to believe the figures that were being reported.

According to the East African newspaper, the credibility of the process was undermined.

‘During voting on Monday the electronic voter identification kip procured late last year to identify voters failed, forcing the IEBC to switch to manual identification- a system that was castigated in 2007 election which was marred by rigging claims. The challenges did not end there. The electoral body was supposed to transmit election results from the polling centers electronically to the tallying center in Nairobi, from where they would be broadcast throughout the country. Afterwards, polling heads from the country’s 290 constituencies would physically take the hard copies of the results to the national tallying centre. The IEBC had to verify the results sent electronically before announcing the final results to the public. All of this was expected to be done in 48 hours after the polls closed, even though the law grants the poll body seven days after the voting to announce the results. But the electronic system failed, forcing the electoral body to adopt the manual tallying system.

According to the IEBC chairman, the fault was due to a programing error which he said resulted from a conflict between the IEBC server and the database resulting in the system multiplying the number of rejected votes by eight. At some point the total votes counted at 5.6 m, the number of rejected votes were at 338, 592.’

As reported in the East African, ‘Polling clerks, frustrated by passwords that did not work and batteries that had not been charged, among other glaring mistakes, were forced to resort to manual identification of voters. The use of kits was meant to stop multiple voting an end such practices as people voted using the names of long dead voters.’

ELECTORAL FRAUD AGAIN?

Instead of the results being announced after 48 hours, Kenyans were gripped by the conflicting reports coming out of the HQ of the IEBC about the causes of the technical problems. From the reporting, despite minor problems with the other five electoral contests, the major problem was with the tallying of the results of the Presidential election. It soon became obvious from the press reports that there had been massive interference with the system at numerous levels, at the polling station, with the tampering with the registration kits, with the breakdown of the computing system and with the inconsistent reportage of the election results. The IEBC was embarrassed when it was coming out that in some centers the number of votes counted exceeded the number of registered voters.

Two days after the elections electronic tallying was discarded and counting began afresh manually. Under these conditions, the IEBC withdrew the verification of the results with the polling agents from the 8 Presidential candidates. After the removal of the polling agents , the vote counting process was not transparent. By 7 March, one nongovernmental organization went to Court to try to stop the counting. The African centre for open Governance (Africog) presented a case to the High Court saying that they had uncontroverted evidence’ of inconsistencies and votes that were more than the registered voters. Africog questioned why the IEBC had resorted to manual tallying of the votes and the fact that the technical failures were not explained to the electorate.

This complaint had been followed but by another from the Vice presidential candidate of CORD, Mr Musyoka. The press conference of the VP of CORD was hardly covered by the local media and gave an indication of the layered organizational capabilities of the TNA. Not only did the campaign and publicity of the TNA exude the amount of financial resources available to the Uhuru Kenyatta camp, but the information operations of the TNA were superior to all the other parties combined. By Friday evening, the ways in which the reportage of the results were being managed by the print and TV forces demonstrated the fact that the population was being prepared for a victory by Uhuru Kenyatta. After midnight on 8 March, the citizens were told that election results would be announced at 11am on 9 March. By 2 am the IBEC released more results and by morning the dominant news outlets were carrying stories of the massive victory of Uhuru Kenyatta.

When citizens went to sleep, it was not clear that Uhuru Kenyatta had reached the threshold of avoiding a runoff election. By mid-afternoon the IEBC announced the results with Uhuru Kenyatta designated as president elect. Apart from the declaration of the Presidential results, it was announced that CORD won 23 of the 47 senate seats, with 19 for Jubilee, the Amani Coalition of Musalia Mudavadi won – 4 Senate seats, while the Alliance Party won two senate seats. In the Parliament – of 291 MP’s Jubilee won 159, to CORD 139. Jubilee controlled most of the counties – won 21 governor seats, CORD 20 governor seats and seven shared among other independent parties

International election observers stated that the polls were credible but immediately Raila Odinga on behalf of the CORD coalition called a press conference stating that the results were flawed and did not reflect the will of the voters.

THE COURT CHALLENGE

Within minutes after the IEBC delivered their results, Raila Odinga called a press conference and stated that the IEBC had delivered another ‘tainted elections.’ Odinga stated that,” we thought that this would never happen again. It most regrettably did. But this time we have a new independent judiciary in which we in CORD and most Kenyans have faith. It will uphold the rule of law and we will abide by its decision.” Even while international praise was being showered on the victor, the CORD alliance was assembling a team of lawyers to present a petition to the Supreme Court that the results were not credible. Under the law, the IEBC was supposed to turn over the information of the voting tallies to any Court challenge, but had been refusing to cooperate with the Court challenge.

Kenyan citizens had voted and waited patiently to hear from the Chief Justice. Willy Mutunga had emerged from over thirty years of the anti-dictatorial struggles in Kenya to become the Chief Justice. On Monday March 11, he made a clear press statement that the Supreme Court would hear the petition without fear or favor. The fourth leg of the 2013 democratic struggles had been joined as Kenyans braced to the full information of the case to be presented to the High Court by CORD.

CONCLUSION

In 2007, Mwai Kibaki had been hurriedly sworn in even before the people had digested the results. Under the new reform constitution of Kenya there had to be 14 days between the election and the swearing in of the new President. In this 14 day period, any citizen had the right to present an election petition within seven days. This article of the constitution had been one small reform that guaranteed that Uhuru Kenyatta would not be sworn in while there were court challenges. Even in the face of the challenge, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto began to play out the part as new leaders while for proper theater, they both went to church services with the press publishing pictures of Ruto shedding tears of joy.

The local and international media were replete with stories that Kenyans had voted on the basis of ‘tribal’ affiliations’ ignoring the real information about the Kenyatta’s commercial interests – banking, insurance , agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and many other enterprises tied to western interest. The issues of the possibility of a Kenyan dynasty began to emerge as Kenyatta traveled to Gatundu, the seat of power under Jomo Kenyatta 1963-1978. It was the visual images of this new Kenyatta at Gatundu that brought out clearly the issues of theft and primitive accumulation over the past fifty years.

During the presidential debates, Uhuru Kenyatta had admitted that in one part of Kenya he only had 30,000 hectares. In a society with mass poverty and landlessness this casual remark reminded the people that the millions of Kikuyus were not landlords like Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta declared that the 2013 elections were the fairest and freest in Kenya’s history while numerous heads of states showered accolades on the peaceful electoral process. As the new battles of the democratic struggles went to the courts, Kenyans were being patient in so far as they understood that the entire process of reform that brought about this stage of democratic contest had emerged from fifty years of anti-dictatorial struggles. The devolved constitution had provided a template that could be a model for local self-determination as the pressures of African unification pushed the process of the full unity of the peoples of Africa.

Kenyans had turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise because they had placed their faith in the new devolved Constitution that they had struggled to bring into force.

The Jubilee coalition has argued through their spokespersons that the elections represented the will of the Kenyan people. CORD argues that the tally was manipulated to avoid a runoff and second round of elections. If Jubilee was so confident then they ought to cooperate with the legal process and fight the fight if and when a ruling is made by the Supreme Court.

In November 2010, Hosni Mubarak and his party announced that they had won 80 per cent of the votes in the elections. Four months later, the people organized themselves in a massive rebellion that drove Mubarak from power. The emergence of new social forces such as Asma Mafhouz was one indication that a new wind was blowing over Africa as the poverty and exploitation intensified in this period of crisis. Kenya is now awaiting its own Asma Mafhouz moment as the more far sighted members of the oligarchy understand that political power cannot be monopolized by one section of the capitalist class. This is the new stage of the struggle for democracy as the people.

* Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He is also a Special invited Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘Global NATO and the catastrophic failure in Libya’.
________________________________________

ENDNOTES:

1. Democracy Shireen,’ From Presence to Power: Women's Citizenship in a New Democracy’, Agenda, No. 40, Citizenship (1999)

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UN Resolution 2093 endorses state building mission for Somalia

Mohamud Uluso

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86577


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The UN Security Council Resolution 2093 adopted in Somalia on 6 March 2013 is critically examined for its achievements, opportunities and the challenges that remain for nation building to gain permanence in the country

The Resolution 2093 adopted by the UN Security Council on 6 March 2013 endorses the long overdue partnership mission between the Federal Government of Somalia and the International Community for the peace building and state building of Somalia. The mission is ambitious, complex and treacherous but the right one.
The significance of the Resolution is historic for several reasons. First, it ends the more than two decades the international community has been avoiding the responsibility of addressing the statelessness of Somalia in difference to other failed African states. Second, it reaffirms the commitment of the US government towards the peace building and state building for Somalia. Third, it merges the conflicting strategies pursued by the individual or group members of the international community for their self interests. Fourth, it moves Somalia from the regional level management and supervision to UN level partnership.

FURTHER FOCI OF THE RESOLUTION

The Resolution addresses five issues, namely the African Union forces in Somalia (AMISOM), the human rights and protection of civilians, the lifting of the arms embargo imposed on Somalia from 1992, the role of the United Nations in Somalia, and the violations of the ban on the charcoal export.
The Resolution renews the deployment of the AMISOM forces until 6 March 2014 with the full support of the international community. AMISOM forces are ordered to carry out their tasks in full support of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia. They are also subject to accountability, transparency and criminal prosecution for any human rights violations.

The Resolution dissolves the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and establishes a United Nations Mission headquartered in Mogadishu with the responsibilities of supporting among others the Somali ownership of the peace building and state building agenda and the efforts of the Federal Government to manage and coordinate the international assistance, particularly on security sector reform. The US Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Susan E. Rice stated that the Resolution answers President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed’s call for ‘one door to knock on.’

The Resolution demands the protection of civilians, with particular emphasis on women, children and journalists. It also requires the Federal Government to implement all signed action plans to end the use of child soldiers, increase women’s participation in decision making bodies, enforce the prohibition of forced displacement of civilians in any part of the country, and to afford justice to all victims.

The Resolution makes clear that the lifting of the arms embargo on the Federal Government of Somalia is in recognition of its responsibility to protect its citizens. In support, the international community is urged to provide increased and coordinated timely support to the Federal Government so that it can implement the internationally approved Somali National Security Sector Reform Plan (SNSSRP). According to some reports, six Somali military brigades of roughly 11,000 forces have been trained under the European training program conducted in Uganda or under programs offered by Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Sudan, Italy and other countries. These forces need command and control centers, buildings, training, uniforms, modern arms, regular salaries and other compensations like the members of the Federal Parliament for carrying out their national duties and facilitating the departure of foreign forces from Somalia before 6 March 2014.

The arms embargo remains on all non-state actors and forces not under the Federal Government’s jurisdiction and control. The UN Security Council is satisfied with the Federal Government’s commitment to peace, stability and reconciliation across Somalia including at the regional level.
The Resolution expresses the UN Security Council’s concern about the continuous violations of the Somali and United Nations ban on charcoal exports. Thus, the Resolution orders the full cooperation with the Task Force appointed by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed. The Council awaits the recommendations of the Federal Government of Somalia based on the findings of the Task Force for resolving the charcoal issue.

There are many serious challenges and obstacles which could interfere with the realization of the peace building and state building mission endorsed by the international community. Some of the principal challenges are coming from the international community itself.

The commentary of Cedric de Coning titled, ‘Understanding Peace building as Essentially Local,’ documents the dilemma facing the Federal Government in dealing with the powerful international partners and explains how ‘each international partner acting independently and rationally according to its own self-interest contributes to undermining the resilience of the local government the partner want to support.’ It has been reported that most of the energy and time of the Federal Government is spent to service the needs of the international community rather than the needs of the Somali people.

Another obstacle is the lack of significant international financial support tailored to the urgent priorities assigned to the Federal Government daily, monthly and yearly. The unprecedented support of the international community has yet to transform into financial contributions for implementing the interdependent components of the state building mission.

The political and military involvement of Kenya and Ethiopia in Somalia under IGAD panel has so far created complications and discord. A relation of cooperation conducted and maintained at national levels is critical for Somalia’s long term stability.

OBSTACLES TO THE STATE BUILDING MISSION

The limited financial and human resources capacity of the Federal Government to produce a quick and comprehensive strategic political, economic, institutional and security plans that responds to the dynamics, templates and preferences of each member of the international community constitutes a great obstacle. This limitation has been exacerbated by the small number of Cabinet Ministers with huge responsibilities but with quasi no qualified staff and job descriptions. There is also a persistent rumor that the Federal Government is under the tight control of few individuals of religious affinity with an obscure agenda. Not dispelling this kind of rumor, it could compound with other recycled accusations peddled by the elements who chose the President and the Prime Minister as target of their political attack.

Another challenge is the tension between the tribalist/satellite enclave federalists and nationalist federalists. While there is No Federal Member State as of today in accordance with the Provisional Constitution, there are continuous accusations for constitutional violations labeled against the Federal Government in not consulting with a Federal Member State. The fact remains that the source of legitimacy of the Federal Government belongs to the legalized common consensus 4.5 clan formula of political power sharing until such a time the alternative one man one vote electoral system envisaged in the provisional constitution is implemented.

The disagreement between Puntland and the Federal Government has nothing to do with decentralized or centralized federalism or with Puntland being member or part of the Federal Government. It is just a political brinkmanship. The communities in Puntland as other communities are associated with the Federal Government through their members of the Federal Parliament but the Puntland State Entity as Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama and GalMudug State Entities is not part or member of the Federal Government.

The secession claim of the Northern Regions of Somalia (Somaliland) is another source of challenge that needs to be addressed. State building of Somalia should not be held hostage to the disastrous past political power abuses which deserve investigation and determination of culpability, punishment and compensation.

The UN Resolution 2093 offers great opportunity to the people of Somalia. The Federal Government must tackle the reconciliation among Somalis with an honest, serious and substantive political dialogue , policies and actions with the aim of achieving the shared goal of one nation one people.

In his unique constitutional responsibility, the President of the Federal Government in collaboration with other leaders must strive to secure the unity, social harmony, political integration, national defense and respect of the rule of law throughout the country. The value of citizenship, which grows with patriotism, freedom, equality, justice, sense of altruism and respect of the Islamic values, must be instilled in the conscience of all Somalis for better future.

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Benin plan of action

Will this miserable project be the last word on the looted Benin artefacts?

Kwame Opoku

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86572


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The Benin Plan of Action is no plan of action and does not deal with restitution of the looted Benin bronzes. After 50 years Africans must demand a concrete time frame within which the artefacts are to be returned as a condition for participating in future meetings

‘There was a dim grandeur about it all, and also these seemed to a fate. Here was this head center of iniqiuty, spared by us from its suitable end of burning for the sake of holding the new seat of justice where barbarism had held away, given into our hands with the brand of Blood soaked into every corner and ........ fire only could purge it, and here on our last day we were to see its legitimate fate overtake it’(1)

R. H. Bacon, the Punitive Expedition's Intelligence Officer wrote on the burning of the Benin Royal Palace.

We have just read a detailed report from Tajudeen Sowole on the so called Benin Plan of Action for Restitution (2) and would like to make a few comments on some of the issues arising that we did not deal with in our previous article on this subject. (3) The meeting at which this miserable document was prepared on 19 February, 2013, happened to be the same date on which the British carried on their nefarious attack on Benin in 1897. Was this a mere coincidence? We can only hope that at least a minute’s silence was observed in the honour of all those who lost their lives in one of the most egregious acts of British imperialist aggressions in Africa. (4)


Members of the British Punitive Expedition which invaded Benin in 1897 posing proudly with the Benin artefacts they looted.


We learn from the report that the British Museum was invited but could not attend because of unresolved travel difficulties. Can anyone believe this? Or were the officials of the venerable museum playing again a game similar to the one they played with the notorious Declaration on the Importance and Value of the Universal Museums which they inspired and engineered for support against Greece but did not eventually sign?(5)

IMPLICATIONS OF THE 1970 CONVENTION

Regarding the1970 UNESCO CONVENTION (Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970) which the meeting hoped to discuss and review next time, Prof. Folarin Shyllon, an expert on the Convention, pointed out that the Convention has no retroactive effect and that no state would enter into a treaty with retroactive effect. It is not clear to me which side raised the issue of the Convention but the Minister of Tourism, Culture and National is reported to have pleaded with the visitors and noted ‘the hurdles placed on our way by the various Conventions and applicable international laws that govern repatriation of heritage objects.’ This suggests to me that some participant must have created the misleading impression that the UNESCO Convention and other rules of International Law place obstacles on the way to restitution. Nothing could be further from the truth than this myth deliberately and knowingly entertained and spread by some Westerners.

Plaque of Oba Ozolua with warrior attendants, Benin, Nigeria,
Ethnology Museum, Vienna.



That the UNESCO Convention has no retroactive effect is accepted by all and is indeed common knowledge. This means that the Convention does not affect acts done before its entry into force. It neither approves nor disapproves of past events. That is all. From this, some Westerners have developed the notion that the looting and other wrongful acts done before the entry into force of the Convention are saved by the Convention and one is prohibited by the Convention from reclaiming artefacts looted or stolen before 1970. They thus give the Convention a retroactive effect in their favour. But this is surely wrong.
That the Convention does not provide a basis for reclaiming acts done before its entry into force clearly does not mean it prevents or prohibits reclaiming artefacts looted before 1970. The various restitution to Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Peru show that no international law prevents restitution if States are willing to do so. (6)

The Convention itself provides in its article 15 that:
‘Nothing in this Convention shall prevent States Parties thereto from concluding special agreements among themselves or from continuing to implement agreements already concluded regarding the restitution of cultural property removed, whatever the reason, from its territory of origin, before the entry into force of this Convention for the States concerned.’

States are thus free to enter into bilateral agreements to effect restitution. They may also bring legal action on the basis of International Law or Municipal Law, independent of the Convention.

We hope that the legal experts at the meeting pointed out some of the difficulties involved in trying to revise a convention and the time it would take to reach an agreement concerning the text of a convention on a subject where there are great divergences of views. The 1970 UNESCO was ratified by many major European states only 30 years after its entry into force and many African states have not yet ratified it.


Ivory hip mask. Benin, Nigeria, now in Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Germany.



WESTERN OMISSION IN THE FACE OF RESTITUTION

What the representatives of Western museums tend to omit in their statements on restitution is the fact that the United Nations and UNESCO as well as several international conferences have urged the return of cultural artefacts to their countries of origin. (7) These museums are also required by the Code of Conduct of ICOM (International Council on Museums) to take the initiative in starting discussions with the owners of the looted artefacts.

Some of the statements attributed to Dr. Peter Junge, Director of the Etnologisches Museum, Berlin, are remarkable. ‘Between 160 years ago and now, nothing has been done, but the dialogue has started now.’

It should be recalled that after the defeat of Benin in 1897, following the notorious British invasion, the Kingdom of Benin became part of the British colony of Nigeria which gained its independence in 1960. Thus for most of the period Dr. Junge is talking about, only the British could have done anything about the looted Benin artefacts. They should indeed have returned the objects at the independence of Nigeria. Nothing of the sort happened. According to the great Ekpo Eyo, after independence, when a museum was to be opened in Benin city, a request was sent to all the holders of Benin bronzes, including Dr, Junge’s own country, Germany, asking for the return of some of the Benin bronzes. Not a single item was returned.


Commemorative head, Benin, Nigeria, now in Ethnology Museum, Leipzig, Germany.



IGNORED DEMANDS FOR RETURN OF ARTEFACTS

In the last decades several demands have been made to the holders for the return of the artefacts. The late Bernie Grant, a Member of the British parliament, requested several times the return of the Benin bronzes but his appeal fell on deaf ears; the Nigerian government, parliament and other constituted bodies have also called for the return of artefacts but to no avail.

We recall the request made for FESTAC 77 by the Nigerian government for the loan/return of the hip-mask of Queen-Mother Idia which was last worn by Oba Owonramwen. Nothing came out of this. It was said by the British that the mask could not travel and were also asking for a horrendous amount of money for insurance. Prof. Tunde Balewale renewed this request and got an answer from Neil MacGregor who did not even mention the hip mask. (8) We recall also that the Oba of Benin presented a petition to the British Parliament, known as Appendix 21...That also received a negative answer. Above all, in the last decades, the holders of the Benin bronzes developed all kinds of arguments to resist claims for the artefacts. They developed a strategy of denying that there has been any demand for the artefacts at the very moment the demands were being made.

There have also been several Benin exhibitions, for example, ‘Benin: Kings and Rituals - Court Arts from Nigeria,’ 2006 in Vienna, which went to Paris, Berlin and Chicago as well as an exhibition in Stockholm. The Oba of Benin, as owner of the looted artefacts, has on these occasions requested the return of the artefacts. These facts must be borne in mind when one looks back at the last 100 or more years. The unwillingness of those holding the looted artefacts even to discuss the issue was much evident in the last decades. Much time was also spent in insulting the original owners of the artefacts by arguing that they are or were unable to protect the artefacts. This is difficult to counter-attack, coming from the states that stole or connived at the stealing of the objects. The very acts of invasion and looting appear to be irrefutable evidence of our inability to protect our artefacts. This argument would also apply to Ethiopia (Maqdala) and Ghana (Asante) where similar acts of invasion and plunder were committed by the British army.

It is therefore not entirely correct to say nothing was done in all those years since the notorious invasion. Benin tried to regain its stolen property but to no avail because of the resistance of the holders of the illegal property.

Further statements are attributed to Dr. Junge: ‘The idea of Benin objects will change in our minds,’ he assured. ‘I am sure, you will see the objects in Nigeria.’ He however cautioned that ‘I am not saying in three days, next month or next year, but it will happen.’

According to a report, Junge’s idea of bringing the works to Nigeria was on the understanding that they would be returned to the current holding museums.
What Junge means by ‘the idea of Benin objects will change in our minds’ is not clear to me but I wonder what that has to do with restitution. Was he trying to heighten the interest of Nigerians in their own artefacts? Or was he reminding them that they had not seen the excellent 580 artefacts that his museum has been keeping for more than 100 years since the Germans acquired them in the same year of the notorious invasion in 1897?

But what is clear is the statement, regarding when the objects will be seen in Nigeria: ‘I am not saying in three days, next month or next year, but it will happen.’ This can be interpreted as “never” or that this could happen in some years or decades. Thus you have a plan of action with no time framework. In other words one makes promises or raises hope which need not be realized within a specific time limitation hence it may never be fulfilled. Worse, if the objects ever come to Nigeria, they will be returned to the illegal possessors. What then do the peoples of Benin and Nigeria gain from this plan which merely hopes to show them their looted cultural objects at a distant future and then return them to the Western museums? The whole performance here could be part of an absurd theatre piece or from children’s book.

Oba Esigie on horseback with retainers. Benin, Nigeria, now in
Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin, Germany.


Prince Edun Egharese Akenzua, Enogie of Obazuwa, representative of the Oba at the meeting which discussed the so-called Benin Plan of Action, is reported to have declared that: ‘there is nothing in the Plan of Action that really addresses restitution.’ It is difficult not to agree with the opinion of the prince who is well versed in the issue of restitution of the Benin artefacts, having represented the Oba at various places where the matter was discussed.

It is remarkable that the demand for the return of the Benin bronzes is met with such resistance whereas Egypt, Italy, Greece and Turkey have received a considerable number of artefacts without much difficulty. Why is Nigeria having so much trouble in getting anything back? What is the difference between Nigeria and the other states? Could racism and colour be an important factor here?

A meeting that was awaited with some hope that it would contribute to bringing back the Benin bronzes looted by the British in 1897, has by all accounts, sought to confirm the loot by the British: the meeting proposed keeping the artefacts in Western museums where they are now.

TIME FOR NEW CONDITIONS FOR ENGAGEMENT

After very careful consideration of the so-called Benin Plan of Action for Restitution, I have come to the conclusion that the plan, which has no time frame-work or concrete restitution proposals, is not in the interest of Benin, nor of Nigeria nor of Africa.

It would be advisable for the Oba of Benin and his people to avoid participation in such meetings unless they have the following:

a) Firm commitments that the objective of the meeting is to secure the return of a considerable number of the more than 3000 objects that the British looted in 1897. The British kept part for themselves and sold the rest to Germans, Austrians, Americans and others.

b) Concrete time frame-work within which the artefacts are to be returned.

The Ethnology Museum, Berlin, which has some 580 Benin artefacts and the Ethnology Museum, Vienna, which has some 167 Benin objects could have made a start and set a good example by bringing or promising to return some of the objects. Or do they believe they need these objects more than the people of Benin? Western museums do not show much sensitivity towards Africans who have been deprived of their artefacts. They could have taken advantage of the occasion of the meeting in Benin City, from where the objects were taken and meeting on the same date as the invasion in 1897, they could have returned some of the artefacts, in a symbolic gesture that could have earned them great sympathy. But concrete symbolism is not part of the strategies of Western museums that have unlimited and uncontrolled appetite for the cultural artefacts of other peoples, especially Africans and Asians.

EUROPEAN RACIST ARROGANCE

We often have the impression that it is in discussions on such issues as restitution of cultural artefacts that Westerners show their deep contempt for Africans. Much of what is heard here would not be heard in discussions with other peoples. We would not hear any of this in discussions between Western museums and Italians or Turks. Much of what is said would not be said in discussions with successors to victims of Nazi plunders. Care would have been exercised to avoid any remarks or words that could be perceived as insulting. But with Africans, such museum officials are less inhibited or worried. But are the Westerners alone to be blamed? When have we heard African officials react strongly to remarks by Westerners?

On hearing the statements attributed to Dr. Junge, an innocent bystander might well believe that the Nigerians were asking for a loan of some of the icons of German culture and that Queen-Mother Idia and the others were ancient Germans whose memory is of more importance to German history than to Nigerian history. The hesitation to bring those artefacts soon and at definite dates then become understandable. Alas, we are here dealing with evidence and records of Benin culture and history which the Europeans have stolen and are reluctant to return.


Female figure, Benin, now in Ethnology Museum, Berlin, Germany.


What is equally remarkable is that Westerners appear not to have any feelings of regret or remorse for what their predecessors did in violently dispossessing Africans of their cultural artefacts. On the contrary, many appear to be specialized in defending the past imperialist and colonial atrocities. Expressions such as ‘regret’ or ‘sorry’ are hardly heard.

There must be limits to the extent that a people can suffer indignity and humiliation, even for African peoples who have suffered colonial aggression, defeat, humiliation, slavery and colonial domination. That we could not resist imperialist aggression and slavery is painful enough but must we accept that successors to those who have looted/stolen our artefacts come to our cities to inform us that they will show us what was stolen but would not return them? Where then is our dignity? Would they dare to tell a meeting on restitution of Nazi looted artefacts such stories, advancing irrelevant arguments?

Those representing Nigeria in such meetings must bear in mind that they are also representing the rest of the African peoples who have claims to looted/stolen artefacts still in Western museums. A bad precedent set with the help of some Nigerians would be a disservice to our continent that has suffered enough and has been robbed of its rich cultural heritage by the very colonialists who said we were primitive and had no culture.


One of a pair of leopard figures, now in the Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, London, UK. The commanders of the British Punitive Expedition force sent a pair of leopards to the British Monarch, Queen Victoria soon after the looting and burning of Benin City


After revealing the miserable project titled ‘Benin Plan of Action for Restitution,’ which is no plan of action and does not deal with restitution, can anyone continue to affirm that Nigeria’s approach to restitution is working?
We have defined restitution to mean the return for good, not for display, of a contested artefact such as the hip-mask of Queen-Mother Idia. Has Nigeria received in the last 50 years or so any such artefact from the illegal holders?
Or is the mere fact of meeting face to face with representatives of the illegal holders in itself a success?

If an approach has not been successful for 50 years, surely we must change it? We must look at those who have been successful and learn from them. Egypt, Greece, Italy and Turkey have achieved considerable success and should serve as examples. Nigeria cannot continue to persist in an unsuccessful approach for another 50 years. We owe it to future generations, Nigeria, Africa and ourselves to look at reality in face and take the necessary consequential decisions and steps.

‘As for the ownership status of the works, who does not know that Benin is the true owner despite the semantics and legalese by the international community?
We have had enough of these meetings which only end as academic exercise.’ Prince Edun Egharese, Enogie of Obazuwa. (9)



ENDNOTES:

1. R. H. Bacon, Benin: City of Blood (pp. 107-108) cited by the great Ekpo Eyo, “Benin; The Sack that was”, http://www.edo-nation.net/eyo.htm

2. http://africanartswithtaj

3. www.museum-security.org

4. The story of Benin has been told several times but I found the short account by Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie very useful: “In February 1897, an elite British force of about 1200 men (supported by several hundred African auxiliary troops and thousands of African porters) besieged Benin City, capital of the Edo Kingdom of Benin, whose ruler, the Oba Ovonramwen sat on a throne that was a thousand years old. The British Punitive Expedition used Maxim machine guns to mow down most of the Oba's 130,000 soldiers and secure control of the capital city. They set fire to the city and looted the palace of 500 years worth of bronze objects that constituted the royal archive of Benin's history, an irreplaceable national treasure. The king and his principal chiefs fled into the countryside, pursued by British forces that lay waste to the countryside as a strategy to force the people of Benin to give up their fugitive king. According to Richard Gott, for a further six months, a small British force harried the countryside in search of the Oba and his chiefs who had fled. Cattle were seized and villages destroyed. Not until August was the Oba cornered and brought back to his ruined city. An immense throng was assembled to witness the ritual humiliation that the British imposed on their subject peoples. The Oba was required to kneel down in front of the British military "resident" the town and to literally bite the dust. Supported by two chiefs, the king made obeisance three times, rubbing his forehead on the ground three times. He was told that he had been deposed. Oba Ovonramwen finally surrendered to stem the slaughter of his people. Many of his soldiers considered his surrender an unbearable catastrophe and committed suicide rather than see the king humiliated. A significant number, led by some chiefs, maintained guerrilla warfare against the British for almost two years until their leaders were captured and executed. The remaining arms of the resistance thereafter gave up their arms and merged back into the general population.”http://aachronym.blogspot.com

5. K. Opoku, “Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums: Singular failure of an Arrogant Imperialist Project”
http://www.modernghana.com/news/441891/1/declaration-on-the-importance-and-value-of-univers.html
6. I reproduce here an opinion I gave with regard to China’s claim for artefacts looted in the Franco-Britannic invasion of the Summer Palace, Beijing, in 1860.
Link That there are difficulties on the way to recovery of the stolen/looted artefacts cannot be denied but the non-retroactivity of the 1970 UNESCO Convention or the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention is no argument against pursuing the case for restitution. Non-retroactivity does not mean or imply approval. The real question here is whether this atrocious act of aggression and looting was ever approved by International Law and not by a few powerful States, notorious for acts of aggression and spoliation. I would encourage the Chinese to pursue vigorously their claim which would give us also a recent judicial view of a shameful, aggressive practice of a few States. The judges must eventually decide whether there were no rules of law, in Chinese, English and French Laws, as well as in International Law which prohibited the unlawful destruction and taking away of the property of others. Whether the laws of any particular country do or do not prohibit such wrongful dealings with property is not a matter to be settled with reference to the 1970 Convention.
There may be eventual questions of statute of limitation but that is an issue which must be determined by the judges as a preliminary issue. Above all, they must determine whether the ordinary rules of limitation, enacted for the usual domestic situations apply at all in such cases.

The judges would have to consider very carefully the meaning and extent of the provision of Article 10(3) of the UNIDROIT Convention which reads as follows: “This Convention does not in any way legitimise any illegal transaction of whatever which has taken place before the entry into force of this Convention or which is excluded under paragraphs (1) or (2) of this article, nor limit any right of a State or other person to make a claim under remedies available outside the framework of this Convention for the restitution or return of a cultural object stolen or illegally exported before the entry into force of this Convention.”

Lyndel Prott comments on this provision as follows: “This paragraph was the result, again, of the working group’s compromise and provides that the UNIDROIT Convention does not legitimise any prior illegal transaction, nor restrict a State from claiming back such items, in private law, by bilateral negotiation, inter-institutional arrangements or through the UNESCO Committee mentioned above”. Lyndel V. Prott, Commentary on the UNIDROIT Convention, Institute of Art and Law, 1997, p.82.

Most Westerners, including lawyers are allergic to any claims for restitution from the colonial past. They must ask themselves about their instinctive negative reactions to such claims without subjecting the claim to rigorous examination of the law and all the background to such claims. Laws must be interpreted in accordance with the objectives of the law and not necessarily in the interest of the powerful. Would we accept a conclusion that the laws of France, Britain and United States permitted the wrongful treatment of the property of others before the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention?

7. General Assembly resolution, A/RES/67/80, titled “Return or restitution of cultural property to the country of origin.” https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/67/PV.53

8. K.Opoku, Reflections on the Abortive Queen-Mother Idia Mask Auction: Tactical Withdrawal or Decision of Principle? http://www.modernghana.com

9. Prince Edun Egharese, Enogie of Obazuwa, on the so-called Benin Plan of Action, http://africanartswithtaj

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Securitization or Terrorization?

US counterterrorism policy and the crisis in the Sahara-Sahel

Jacob Mundy

2013-03-12

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86564


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In a number of ways, the American counterterrorism doctrine, which is a part of a long-time transnational destabilization of the Sahara-Sahel, has helped create the current conflict in the region

‘All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.’
Osama Bin Laden, October 2004

Scenes of a hostage crisis at a natural gas installation in eastern Algeria likely came as a shock to many longtime observers of the region. During the last two decades of armed violence in Algeria, very rarely did Islamists groups attack energy infrastructure, and almost never in the Sahara. Yet the ease with which it seems that a small group of Algerian and internationalist fighters were able to seize the energy facilities in In Amenas raises several difficult questions. Why has the Achilles heel of the Algerian state never been targeted by groups allegedly bent on its overthrow? Groups, that is, who seem to have absolute freedom of movement across vast stretches of the Sahara, picking and choosing targets at will?

Embarrassment, however, is not Algiers’ alone. The prolonged crisis in Mali, which has finally been subjected to a long intimated French intervention, points towards a more disturbing complex of factors driving the transnational destabilization of the Sahara-Sahel. Attempts to historicize current events in the region have often pointed to the coup in Mali, the flood of arms unleashed during the 2011 Libyan civil war, the presence of an Al-Qaida franchise (AQIM, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghrib), and the cycles of Tuareg rebellion since the end of French colonialism.

What has often been missing from these conversations is an appreciation of the US role in the destabilization of the region. Mali, after all, was the centerpiece of US counterterrorism doctrine in the Sahara-Sahel under the Obama administration and his predecessor. As has been noted by many commentators, the coup leaders had been the recipients of US military training and Azawad separatists easily confiscated military equipment supplied to Mali in the name of countering terrorism. But the processes by which US efforts to stabilize the Sahara-Sahel region have actually resulted in its profound destabilization are much longer in the making. These processes are simple to understand and not uncommon in the world of counterterrorism. That is to say, counterterrorism doctrines seem to have an amazing ability to produce, and then reproduce, the conditions of its own necessity.

It is one thing to say that the current crisis in the Sahara has been deliberately engineered, as that begs the questions ‘By whom?’ and ‘For what purpose?’ That is not what is being suggested here. The processes by which we have arrived at France’s intervention in Mali and the attack in In Amenas, I believe, lack coherence or a unitary logic. These processes can nonetheless be accounted for within a framework that seeks to appreciate the hegemony of US power in global affairs, a hegemony that is inefficient and obtuse but is nonetheless built upon a structure of historically and globally unrivaled capacities to appropriate and mobilize political, financial and military power.

Here are some analogies. Scholars working on the problem of persistent and protracted famines, notably in Africa’s Sahel (though more historical cases bear mention), have long recognized that mass starvation is not always intended but there are nonetheless benefits to be reaped. The process here is not unlike the one identified in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. In its more abstract form, the basic proposition is quite simple: those who are best able to manage — and thus benefit from — the chaos of catastrophic situations are often those who made the catastrophe possible in the first place, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes serendipitously, and sometimes deliberately. Yes, it is a conspiracy theory. But it is a conspiracy in which the world’s most pervasive and powerful ideology is in the driver’s seat (for Klein, Neoclassical Economics and Neoliberal governance). We do not need a bunch of smoking men in a dimly lit room in the Pentagon to make sense of the world.

Like capitalism, terrorism — that is, late counterterrorism doctrine — has had a similar propensity to manufacture the conditions of its own necessity. In the world of (counter)terrorism studies, Joseba Zulaika has stood out as one of the few scholars to recognize and warn against the dangers of this pathology. Adam Curtis’ documentary, , vividly narrates the ways in which Al-Qaida and the US Neoconservative movement had, for decades, been mutually constituting each other through their blind dedication to ideology and a politics of fear. Lisa Stampnitzky’s forthcoming [url= [url=http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item7118829/?site_locale=en_GB]Disciplining]http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item7118829/?site_locale=en_GB]Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented “Terrorism”[/url] promises to be the definitive account of how terrorism has been more made than found.

In the Sahara-Sahel, a similar pattern has emerged, albeit constrained by local specificities. In other words, US counterterrorism doctrine has helped make the conflict we see today possible. Invention is the mother of necessity.

To better understand what is going on in the central Sahara and the western Sahel today, one has to first look at the ways in which US counterterrorism doctrine in the region has understood itself. At the ideational level, US securitization — or rather terrorization — of the Sahara-Sahel is rooted in the problematization of 9/11 style terrorism as a confluence of vast spaces allotted to weak governments where radical ideologies can stage global war. That is, the safe haven myth. Early US initiatives were not premised on the existence of terrorism in the Sahara, but rather on an imaginative cartography of anticipation.

Roughly three months before the GSPC shocked the world by abducting several dozen European tourists in Algeria in early 2003, the US government was already implementing the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI). The language of this counterterrorism program is drenched in the rhetoric of empty spaces, porous borders, and suspect mobilities. Nearly three years into these initiatives, the International Crisis Group, well known for its on the ground research, was still asking the basic question Is there even a threat here? Contrary to this critique, journalists like Robert Kaplan and Joshua Hammer, who were allowed to report on US Special Forces training programs in the Niger and Mali, respectively, were quick to note the uncharacteristically preventative nature of these programs.

The symmetry between the anticipatory cartography driving these preventative programs in the early 2000s and the now extant conflicts that materially populate Africa’s ‘arc of instability’ is startling. The Pentagon has postulated many arcs of instability across the globe, but across the Sahara an arc of instability has been said to run 4,000 miles from Somalia through the Sahel to the central Sahara. This arc was imagined early in the war on terror, when there were only vague indications that the GSPC was operating in the Algerian desert. Now experts debate whether or not there are ‘operational’ linkages between several groups that did not even exist before military planners in Washington constellated this arc — that is, between Al-Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, and AQIM in the central Sahara. Either the Pentagon was extremely prescient or something else is going on here.

For its part, the Obama administration has done little to change his predecessor’s Saharan initiatives. Late in the George W. Bush administration, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the Trans-Saharan Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP), citing key deficiencies in its implementation. Yet if one scrolls through the GAO’s list of recommendations to the State Department (which leads the “partnership”) and the Department of Defense (which gets most of the money), all say “Closed – Not implemented.” According to the GAO, the TSCTP — five months into the 2012 Mali crisis — was still largely running on documents created in 2005. Yet the beauty of US counterterrorism doctrine’s self-understanding is the extent to which abject failure (e.g., Mali today) is also a key rationale for more of the same (e.g., [url=http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/29/us-mali-rebels-niger-idUSBRE90S0DX20130129]a new drone base in Niger[/url). The now demonstrated power of armed Jihadi groups in the Sahara-Sahel will not force a rethink of US counterterrorism in the region; it will likely constitute a key argument to justify the amplification of Africom’s budget.

What US counterterrorism doctrine in the Sahara-Sahel is unable to account for is its participation in the imaginative and material elaboration of the very conditions that have led to the crisis we see today. Did the TSCTP find terrorism in the Sahara or did it help make it? A good place to start looking for an answer is to trace the effects these initiatives have had on the region’s political economy. A number of competing and evolving factors likely affect the forces that are now driving armed conflict in the region, but central to the recent ‘radicalization’ of Tuareg and Arab communities in the western and central Sahara is the loss of tourism revenue. The loss of wholesale tourism witnessed in the movement of the Paris-Dakar Rally to South America is but an indicator of the loss of smaller scale tourism across the region, a loss that has hit Tuareg and Arab communities especially hard. The counterterrorism policies of the United States did nothing to address this flight of tourism and, in many ways, they exacerbated it by insinuating a threat that had yet to take significant material form.

Furthermore, in working closely with the governments in Bamako and Niamey (capitals gerrymandered by French colonialism to rule over far off Saharan populations), the US government was arming and training militaries that the Tuaregs have been fighting since the 1960s. Morocco, another key US partner in the region, has been at war with Arab Sahrawi nationalists since 1975. Thus it should come as little surprise that Rabat has been very keen to promote the arc of instability idea too, such that the western tip of the arc conveniently lands at the headquarters of the Frente POLISARIO, the Western Sahara independence movement based near Tindouf, Algeria. Washington’s support for the new revolutionary regime in Tripoli is also likely to exacerbate a disturbing native/settler discourse in contemporary Libya. Northern Arab and Berber revolutionaries are portraying supposedly darker skinned populations (Tawergha, Tebu, and Tuareg) not only as Gaddafi loyalists to be mistrusted and imprisoned, but also as non-indigenous populations to be denied citizenship and expelled, by force if needed.

A more thoughtful approach to Saharan-Sahelian security might begin with the simple acknowledgement that the core stakeholders should be, first and foremost, the people who live there, not the corrupt politicians who claim to rule there. Yet US counterterrorism policy has allied itself and worked through regimes that have historically seen indigenous Saharan populations as threats to their access to the wealth of the Sahara. These are conflicts that predate 9/11 by decades.

There is also an important knock-on effect of US securitization/terrorization of Saharan life and mobility. This is the loss of any incentive for the Sahelian and Saharan governments or local communities to combat smuggling, or at least keep the routes far away from tourism sites. Shifts in global narcotics flows also help to account for the recent transformations in the Saharan livelihoods, from one dependent on foreign travelers to one increasingly dependent on trafficking human and goods. Compounding the issues at the micro level, the region as a whole is being acutely affected by global warming, which has likely contributed to increased frequency of crop failures and famines along the Sahel. Moreover, the global food price index has not significantly abated since peaking with the outbreak the Arab Spring in early 2011. And so what little food is available remains dangerously expensive.

Life in the Sahara and Sahel is not essentially precarious. As we know from Judith Butler, the life is made precariousness by our politics. Life in the Sahara-Sahel has been recently produced as extremely precarious by forces largely beyond the control of the people who live there. One of the most potent forces is US counterterrorism doctrine. After a decade of US counterterrorism initiatives in the Sahara-Sahel, the greatest achievement of these programs (to which we can now add the US Africa Command) is in having made their warrant real and durable.

* Jacob Mundy is an Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University, where he also teaches African and Middle East studies. He is the coauthor (with Stephen Zunes) of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution and coeditor (with Daniel Monk) of the forthcoming The Post-conflict Environment. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Kent State conference ‘Humanitarian Dilemmas: Debating Interventions in Africa and the Middle East’ in April 2012.

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A violence that goes unnamed

Vivian Solana

2013-03-14

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86581


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The conflict in the Western Sahara is inadequately represented by terms such as ‘stagnated’, ‘frozen’ and ‘locked’, which contribute to obscure the reality that this conflict represents the continuation of French, US and Spanish colonial practices in Africa.

On the 27 and 28 September 2011 more than 700 delegates from 42 different countries congregated in Abuja, Nigeria to celebrate a conference titled ‘The Struggle of Saharawi women for Freedom’ [1]. The event was organised by WAELE/ARCELFA [2] a pan-African women’s civil network which the Saharawi National Women’s Union is part of. The initiative came out of the visit of a group of women from different countries in Africa to the Saharawi camps of Tindouf in Algeria a year before; it was an example, not just of the long tradition of Saharawi women’s dexterous international diplomatic activity (Rossetti, 2012), but of the healthy and strong solidarity across the nations of Africa. Under the motto ‘Africa will not be fully independent until the Western Sahara is free’ the event was an exciting reminder of the threads that connect the struggles of different people’s across the world.


Designed by young activist and distributed through social media reproduced with the consent of the author who prefers to remain anonymous (2010)


Frank Ruddy, former Deputy Chairman of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), participated in the conference as key note speaker. Well-known amongst the supporters of the Saharawi cause as the man who has spoken openly in support for the political demands of the Saharawi people, it was encouraging, at times, emotional, to hear his articulate and transparent words. He confessed how, upon first accepting his position at MINURSO he had an initial bias in favour of Morocco, for all those ‘cold-war’ films, he said humorously, for the sake of the Moroccan government’s old alliance with his country, the USA, and he described how he became gradually shocked by the Moroccan government’s unwillingness to negotiate and play fair, openly describing the various bribes he had received from them. Ruddy shared stories of his first visit to the camps: he told us about the day he met Minister of Education Mariam Salek and commended her for her bluntness; he praised her for asking him hard questions, for making him feel uncomfortable and he extended his praise for the hard work and resilience he witnessed on the part of Saharawi women. These words were touching and yet the sense of excitement and hope that came from listening to his unusual frankness was pierced by his comment on Peter Van Walsum, personal envoy of the UN secretary-general for Western Sahara, who in 2008 concluded his post by saying that Saharawi independence was an unrealistic and unattainable goal [3]. In relation to Walsum, Frank Ruddy said: ‘His words were harsh, but he was being honest, he spoke the truth’ [4]; and Ruddy’s words fell like a mug of cold water over the excited listeners at the conference.


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Indeed, the truth is that this era is like no other. We live in times saturated by noble international laws and agreements, but which are hardly ever procured. The question is not whether the 40 years of the Saharawi people’s waiting for independence are legitimate, whether they are fair, whether they are feasible. The only question worth exploring at this point is how is it that after 40 years of being on the right side international law, the high-level representatives of the international community continue to tell us that not much can be done to respond to the Saharawi’s legal claims?

As has been argued by Mundy and Zunes (2010: xxix), the spirit of the 1991 ceasefire agreements between The POLISARIO and Morocco was not one of peace, but of war by other means. Indeed, the 22 years of a diplomatic war of attrition between the two parties seem to provide ample evidence for this point (see Jensen 2005; Thenopolis 2006, 2007; Zunes and Mundy 2010: 169 – 253 for more details), but how exact is it to reduce the ´warring’ parties to two? There is something misleading in the prevalent idea that this conflict has reached a stalemate, stuck in time by the stubborn zero-sum game between Morocco and POLISARIO (Jensen 2005). Of course the fact that the conflict on the Western Sahara implicates all sorts of actors across North Africa as well as the major Western powers is a reality that escapes no one, but it is equally important to scrutinise the actions of ‘neutral’ international agencies and actors, most importantly of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to help explain the contradiction that these international legal institutions cannot implement their own laws.


WHAT TYPE OF PEACE IS BEING KEPT IN THE WESTERN SAHARA?

Professor of international politics Andrea Solá-Martín (2005, 2006) has written a sophisticated evaluation of the role played by MINURSO in the conflict. He explains that international peacekeeping is premised on the distinction made by Jonathan Galtung (1976) between ‘negative peace’ and ‘positive peace’. Negative peace is the ability of peacekeeping operations to put an end to armed conflict. Positive peace is the ability to put an end to all violent interactions between the conflicted parties. In the case of the Western Sahara these should include reducing and lodging of troops, exchanging of prisoners of war, returning refugees to their homes, de-mining activities, human rights protection, confidence building measures, a UN transitional administration, the organisation of both the campaign for the referendum, and the referendum itself. None of this second batch of measures characteristic of Galtung’s ‘positive peace’ have been achieved by MINURSO in the Western Sahara, leaving Solá-Martín to conclude that only a limited type of peace, a ‘negative’ peace is currently being prolonged by MINURSO in the region.

To explain this situation, Solá-Martín reminds us that the UN is in no way above or immune to global politics. The post-cold war shift in US and Western European foreign policy, from one of communist containment to one of containing Islamic fundamentalism, has made North African political stability a priority for Western powers over procuring human rights and respect of international law amongst its peoples (also see Zunes and Mundy 2010: 59; Ruff 1987). Traditional allies in the region such as the Alawite monarchy ruling Morocco continue to be supported by the same Western regimes which vastly influence the decisions of international bodies such as MINURSO. Given this geopolitical context, exacerbated by France’s recent attack on Mali, it is no surprise that the UN Secretariat’s policymaking has often been accused of being biased in favour of Morocco (Ruddy 1995, in Solá-Martín 2005: 5).

Thus, Solá-Martín concludes ‘MINURSO’s peacekeeping can be seen as a way of promoting the status quo and legitimising the same order of power relations which was actually the root of the conflict’ (2005: 10). The peace being kept by MINURSO in the Western Sahara is a mediocre version of peace, it is one that is best understood as part of a ‘Pax America’, a stabilising force, which is nothing but the continuation of the colonial interests that Basiri Lebsir, the disappeared leader of the first Saharawi nationalist movement, ‘Movimiento de Vanguardia para la Liberación del Sahara’ first started fighting against in the 60s; the same structured violence that Saharawis resist to this day in the occupied Western Sahara, in the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and in diaspora.

Indeed, the fact that the experience of violence co-exists with international peacekeeping in the Western Sahara certainly does not escape Saharawis whose lives are marked by this experience on an everyday basis. In fact, as evoked by imagery circulating in the social media such as the photograph below, more and more, the UN is becoming the explicit target of political activists world wide.

Foto1: Designed by young activist and distributed through social media reproduced with the consent of the author who prefers to remain anonymous (2010)

On 14 April , the occasion of the UN Security Council annual meeting to vote for the renewal of the MINURSO mandate, the Union of Saharawi Students (UESARIO), with its headquarters in the Saharawi Republic in the Tindouf refugee camps? (but which also operates through its student networks in their diaspora), organised an international campaign urging the Security Council to finally include the monitoring of human rights abuses in its mandate. Demonstrations were organised in front of French embassies in Madrid, Rome, Paris, London, The Hague, Berlin, Vienna, Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki and Melbourne. A demonstration was also organised in the Saharawi refugee camps of Tindouf. France, the country that persistently vetoes the UN resolution to enhance MINURSO’s capacity to promote ‘positive peace’ in the region was targeted, but the mockery made of MINURSO by the campaign through the image of three monkeys: one playing deaf, one playing blind and one playing mute is indicative of a growing consciousness and denunciation of the UN’s incapacity to intervene neutrally and effectively in resolving this conflict [5]

TIME AS A WEAPON

The persistence of violence towards Saharawis is most notable and well-known through the persecution and torture experienced by Saharawi political activists living in the Moroccan occupied territory where Moroccan forces continue to systematically violate several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the UN General Assembly December 9, 1998. Such violence is as well documented by civilians and well-reputed international NGOs [6] as it is simultaneously witnessed and ignored by MINURSO, inside the Moroccan Occupied Territory.

Less visible is the violence that MINURSO’s function as conflict stabiliser in the region (Solá-Martín, 2005: 3) is exerting over the lives of Saharawi refugees for whom the passing of time affects their capacity to hope, dream and imagine a different future. The following extract of an interview with Fatma Mehdi, Secretary General of the Saharawi Union of Saharawi Women speaks for itself in this regard:

‘When we heard the news of the ceasefire on the 6th of September of 1991, we all left our houses to cheer and celebrate the occasion, everyone, women, men, children… We felt as if we had gained already our independence. On that moment our thoughts were projected towards our occupied land. We started to organise our trip back home. I remember how women began to take the tin off their temporary shelters in the camps, in order to back chests which they could use to store their belongings on their trip back to Western Sahara [7]. Those who had goats sold their goats. Those of us who had children abroad began organising to bring them back.

MINURSO began to elaborate lists about us, the POLISARIO front started to ask us where we wanted to live upon our return… I told my parents, I want to go live near the sea others wanted to live in a calm life in the desert… it was a time during which our collective hope became alive, our dreams, the many different dreams people had for their lives came to life, but they were dreams that didn´t last… I remember it as a kind of storm, which started very strong and then slowly faded away… it was very hard to adapt to a situation which seemed to have no end… Then there were all those talks… of “the peace- process” a process that, for us, has been a “retro-process”… from self-determination, to Baker II to… this suggestion of autonomy on the table now…

For me the peace-plan was… well, at least during the times of war, when we felt the international community didn’t support us, at least we could find consolation in the successes of our soldiers in the battlefield… but this “waiting” is very difficult. I always say: there are many types of violence, of human rights violations, which are invisible.’
(Fatma Mehdi, in conversation with the author, March, 2012)

Indeed, the passing of time is not neutral, it is causing a suffering which goes mostly unnamed, and it is politically charged. The passing of time is allowing Morocco to further expand its settlements in the Western Sahara (Solá-Martín, 2005, 2006) while it is provoking exhaustion amongst Saharawis refugees whose future has been put on hold (Caratini, 2006). This passing of time is time being invested in strengthening a pax Americana in the region, and in the African continent.

The conflict in the Western Sahara is inadequately represented by terms such as ‘stagnated’, ‘frozen’ and ‘locked’. Not because they are inaccurate but because they contribute to obscure the reality that this conflict represents the continuation of French, US and Spanish colonial practices in Africa, a reality in which international actors such as MINURSO are not just passive mediators. Moreover, these terms reproduce the false imaginary that the conflict has reached a sort of temporal impasse, that it is stuck in time. Time is passing and it is being used as a weapon, hindering not just the Saharawi people, but the independence of the entire African continent.

* Vivian Solana is PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto.

END NOTES

[1] To see the final declaration of the conference: http://www.waelearcelfa.org/downloads/english/saharawicommunique.pdf

[2] Women Advancement for Economic and Leadership Empowerment in Africa

[3]See his declarations at: http://elpais.com/diario/2008/08/28/opinion/1219874410_850215.html

[4] 'Disclaimer: in conversation with the author, Frank Ruddy has noted he does not identify the wording of this quote. The exact wording of his 27th of September, 2011 speech in Abuja on this matter was shared by him with the author and reads as follows: 'Interestingly enough, when Peter Van Walsum, the Secretary General's man in Western Sahara, put this policy in words several years ago, everyone, like Captain Renault in CASABLANCA, was shocked, shocked, to hear that someone had suggested politics as a basis for U.N. action. Van Walsum was wrong, of course, but his gaffe (defined in Washington as what happens when a politician tells the truth) was that he had suggested publicly that the U.N. downplay the law governing Western Sahara for a political solution. The emperor may be starkers, but you are not allowed to notice'.

[5] For further information on this campaign which will be organised again in 2013 see http://minurso.tumblr.com/

[6] Amnesty International (AI): 'Disappearances' of People of Western Saharan Origin AI Index MDE 29/17/90 New York: AI, Nov 1990

2 Human Rights Watch 'HumanRightsinWesternSaharaandintheTindoufRefugeeCamps' 2008http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/12/19/human-rights-western-sahara-and-tindouf-refugee-camps-0

3 Report ASVDH about Gdeim Izik y los acontecimientos que siguieron a su desmantelamiento http://asvdh.net/5528Report CODAPSO sobre el campamento de Gdeim Izik:http://www.scribd.com/doc/49325805/Informe-Sobre-el-desmantelamiento-del-Campamento-de-Gdeim-Izik-Codapso-2011

[7] A fiction film called 'Los Baúles del Retorno', directed by María Miró, and produced by Fígaro Films also tells this story.


REFERENCES

1. Caratini, S (2006) ‘La prisión del tiempo: los cambios sociales en los campamentos de refugiados saharauis’ Cuadernos Bakeaz, nª77

2. Jensen, E (2005) Western Sáhara: Anatomy of a Stalemate. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner

3. Zunes, S. and Mundy, J.(2010) Western Sáhara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution, Syracuse University Press, New York

4. Rossetti, S (2012) ‘Saharawi women and their voices as political representatives abroad’ The Journal of North African Studies, vol. 17, nº2

5. Ruf, W (1987) ‘The Role of World Powers: Colonialist Transformations and King Hassan’s Rule’ pp 65-97 in War and Refugees: The Western Sáhara Conflict, eds. Richard Lawless and Laila Monahan, Pinter: New York.

6. Sola-Marti, A (2005) ‘The Contribution of Critical Theory to New Thinking on Peacekeeping. Some Lessons from MINURSO Centre for Conflict Resolution’ Working Paper 15 Department of Peace Studies, Bradford.

7. Sola-Martin, A (2006) ‘Lessons from MINURSO: A Contribution to New Thinking on Peacekeeping’, International Peacekeeping Journal, Vol. 13, No 3, Routledge

8. Theofilopoulou, A (2006) ‘The United Nations and Western Sáhara: A Never-ending affair’ Special Report no. 166. Washington, DC: Unites States Institute for Peace

9. 2007 ‘Western Sáhara – How not to Try to Resolve a Conflict’ Center for Strategic and International Studies, Aug 3.

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Democratic experiments in exile

Alice Wilson

2013-03-14

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86580


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When refugees turn out to vote and when they raise their voices in participatory meetings or in their homes to criticise their government, they show how much they value the possibility for democratic participation.

Silence descended on the room. Minutes before, some 50 people had been calling out and exchanging views in the final session of three days of participatory democratic meetings. These meetings had been held in conjunction with the parliamentary elections. The head of the polling station prepared to announce the winners, and losers, of the previous day’s elections. In this constituency, only six of the 21 candidates would become MPs. Which six?

The feelings of those listening may be familiar to those who have voted or contested in elections across the world. Yet many other aspects of these elections are unusual. These elections took place in a polity unmarked on most maps, enjoying only partial international recognition as a state. For these were the elections for the parliament in exile of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). SADR is a would-be state authority organised through Polisario Front, the liberation movement of the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The elections, held in February 2012, were taking place in refugee camps in south-west Algeria, where SADR operates in exile.

Through its own laws and constitution, a fusion of SADR and Polisario governs a civilian refugee population in the camps. The exiled population is estimated by some to number 160,000. Despite the competition in 2012 of some 153 candidates standing for 52 directly elected parliamentary seats, there are no political parties in the refugee camps. In such circumstances, what are elections about? Indeed, are they democratic? Addressing these questions sheds light on the workings of the Sahrawi refugee camps. But it also illuminates the forms that democratic engagements can take, beyond a narrow formula of secret ballot multi-party elections.

AN UNUSUAL DEMOCRACY

Western Sahara is a disputed territory situated between Morocco and Mauritania. Both Morocco and Polisario claim sovereignty over the territory, which was partially annexed by Morocco in 1975 when Spain withdrew from its former colony. Polisario demands a referendum to fulfil the internationally recognised right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination. Thousands of Sahrawis fled Morocco’s annexation to form the exiled population in the Algerian desert near Tindouf. Other Sahrawis remain living under Moroccan control in the annexed areas. A Moroccan-built military wall divides Moroccan-controlled from Polisario-controlled Western Sahara, and annexed population from exiled. Unlike other cases of annexation and exile, such as Tibet, Western Sahara is not famous. But it is the unfortunate holder of unenviable records, such as Africa’s last non self-governing territory (colony), and its longest-running refugee dossier.

Western Sahara is therefore unusual in itself. Its experiments in democracy are also unusual. Might they nevertheless work towards achieving goals that are widely recognised as democratic? Might the camps’ political system aspire to foster peaceful and popularly sanctioned changes in governing authorities, the representation of diverse political views in the public sphere, and the holding of governing authorities to account? Over time, the refugee camps have seen several waves of reforms introduced to further these goals.

It seems that the Saharawi refugees, whilst conceding to Polisario not to fragment into different political parties until a referendum on self-determination is achieved, are not prepared to wait until then to achieve other democratic objectives. Thus we find that in 2012, 69 percent parliamentary seats changed hands. MPs explain that within broad support for self-determination, different political currents for how to achieve that goal are represented amongst their number. The parliament has the power to pass votes of no confidence in ministers or a whole government, leading to ministerial change. It successfully exercised this right on the whole government in 1999.

The Saharawi refugee democratic experiments are also noteworthy with regard to the dynamics of gender and sectarianism in participation and representation. If these questions are controversial in any polity, many observers of the Arab world consider them to be particularly fraught there. The refugees have been successful in electing female MPs in higher proportions than many of their African and Arab neighbours – 33 percent in 2008 and 25 percent in 2012. Elected officers, in the parliament and beyond, also come from a range of tribal backgrounds, including small and historically marginalised groups. There is a preference in electoral design for voters to choose more than one candidate from a long list. This helps mitigate the potential impact of ‘voting by tribe’, as voters must support a range of candidates to complete their ballot paper.

The democratic experiments in the Sahrawi refugee camps are an invitation for us to enrich our definitions of elections. A harsh home to these refugees, this desert may nevertheless be fertile ground for a budding democracy. When refugees turn out to vote, and when they raise their voices, in participatory meetings or in their homes, to criticise their government, they show how much they value the possibility for democratic participation. Along with Sahrawis elsewhere, they hope that, in the form of a future referendum, democratic participation will contribute to a peaceful end to the Western Sahara conflict.

* Dr Alice Wilson is a social anthropologist and Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. Through her research, she has lived with Saharawi refugee families and observed numerous elections in the Sahrawi refugee camps. An earlier version of this article was previously published in The Homertonian, 16, June 2012, pp. 10-11. Many thanks to Alison Holroyd and Ian Morrison for permission to re-print.

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Announcements

March 2013 Issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter

2013-03-14

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/announce/86579

The March 2013 issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter is now available: http://frlan.tumblr.com Please help us distribute it, and consider contributing in the future. You can also like our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter!

In this issue:

STOP PRESS: Israel ‘secretly’ deports 1,000 Sudanese to Sudan, UNHCR rejects claim removal was ‘voluntary’

News on Countries of Origin and Asylum
Deportation News
Announcements
Conferences & workshops
Vacancies

SHORT PIECES & CASE NOTES

Governments of Denmark and Norway push to return asylum-seekers to Somalia

Palestinians and Article 1D: automatic refugee status for Palestinian refugees

Eritrean refugees face removal from Israel

Rwandan refugees in South Africa advise their host government ahead of UNHCR’s recommended invocation of the Cessation Clause

UNHCR’s Bangkok office defies the right to counsel

The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and International Detention Coalition statement on New Zealand’s announcement that it will take 150 refugees from Australia

Between a rock and a hard place: Conflict in Kachin state

Refugees in Kenya: A briefing on recent developments and implications for urban refugee policy

End FGM Campaign: Asylum directives will provide better protection for victims of Female Genital Mutilation

Little to celebrate on Dublin’s 10th anniversary: New research shows that the system continues to violate the rights of refugees

UK asylum caselaw developments

The residence rights of former durable partners of EEA nationals in domestic violence cases: Guidance on the applicable EU law

Case note on Article 5 § 1 ‘right to liberty and security,’ Article 5 § 4 ‘right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court,’ and Article 8 ‘right to respect for private and family life’: Amie and Others v. Bulgaria

Slovak Human Rights League declares that obstacles to legal assistance for foreigners imply breach of international obligations

Understanding the new refugee determination system in Canada

Canada declares Mexico and Israel ‘Designated Countries of Origin’

G4S takeover has been a ‘disaster for asylum seekers’

UK ministerial authorisation under Equality Act 2010 for Palestinian, Syrian and Kuwaiti language analysis

ARTICLES

International intervention in Mali and its impact on refugees

Protection in practice: The situation of refugees in East Asia

Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): A tool for protecting migrant children?

Protected or excluded? A case study of the interpretation and implementation of Article 1D with regard to Palestinian asylum seeker


Oxford scholarships for African human rights advocates

2013-03-14

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/announce/86582

The University of Oxford is pleased to announce five scholarships for candidates from developing African Commonwealth countries to study for the part-time Masters in International Human Rights Law, starting September 2013.

The scholarships are jointly funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford and provide course and college fees over two years, return air travel from the scholar’s home country and a stipend to cover living costs.

For further information, please visit our website and choose Fees and Funding for details of the scholarships.mm
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The University of Oxford is pleased to announce five scholarships for candidates from developing African Commonwealth countries to study for the part-time Masters in International Human Rights Law, starting September 2013.

The scholarships are jointly funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford and provide course and college fees over two years, return air travel from the scholar’s home country and a stipend to cover living costs.

For further information, please visit our website and choose Fees and Funding for details of the scholarships.




Comment & analysis

The monsters under the house

Patrick Gathara

2013-03-12

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86566

Kenyans turned out in historic numbers to vote in the recent election. Although there was no violence as had been feared, the exercise was no evidence of a self-confident and mature society. It was dominated by deep fear and mistrust.

At the end of my first term in high school, I watched a screening of Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist, the tale of an ordinary family unknowingly living in a house built over a graveyard without the bother of moving the bodies. Of course, this doesn’t go down well with the spirits who make their displeasure known by slowly torturing the family into madness. In one of the scenes, a man stares in horror at the mirror as fingers tear away at his reflection’s decomposing face till it falls into the bathroom sink. Needless to say, I have never looked at bathroom mirrors in quite the same way since.

Last week, it was Kenya’s turn to look into the mirror. Elections provide opportunities for national self-examination and renewal for the country to take a long, hard look at itself, assess it achievements, reorient its priorities. However, like I have done too many times since I watched that movie, we chose to turn away, afraid of what we might see.

Fear can make people do strange things.

We had already normalized the abnormal, making it seem perfectly acceptable to have two International Criminal Court-indicted politicians on the ballot. At the first presidential debate, moderator Linus Kaikai had been more concerned with how Uhuru Kenyatta would ‘govern if elected president and at the same time attend trial as a crimes against humanity subject’ and not whether he should be running at all. Any suggestion of consequences for Uhuru’s and William Ruto’s candidature had been rebuffed with allegations of neo-colonialism, interference and an implied racism. People who had spent their adult lives fighting for Kenyans’ justice and human rights were vilified as stooges of the imperialistic West for suggesting that the duo should first clear their names before running for the highest office in the land.

As the elections approached we were assailed with unceasing calls for peace and appeals to a nationalism we knew to be all too elusive. We voted and celebrated our patience and patriotism, brandishing purple fingers as medals for enduring the long queues. And we heaved a collective sigh of relief when it was all over. We afterwards wore our devotion to Kenya on our sleeves and on our Facebook pages and Twitter icons even as we were presented with the evidence of our parochial and tribal voting patterns which fulfilled Mutahi Ngunyi’s now prophetic Tyranny of Numbers.

By now, a compact had developed between the media and the public. Kenya would have a peaceful and credible poll no matter what. The narrative would be propagated by a few privileged voices and it would countenance no challenge. The media would sooth our dangerous passions with 24-hour entertainment shows masquerading as election coverage. We would laugh the uncomfortable laughs, and plead and pray that politicians would not awaken the monster we recognised in each other. Let sleeping ogres lie, seemed to be the national motto.
Meanwhile, those who could stocked up on canned food filled up the fridges and stayed away from work. As food prices quadrupled we desperately clung to the belief that all would be well if we kept our end of the bargain and didn’t ask uncomfortable questions.

When nearly all the measures the IEBC deployed to ensure transparency during the election failed, this was not allowed to intrude into the reverie. Instead the media continued to put on a show and we applauded them for it. Uncomfortable moments were photoshopped out of the familiar picture. Foreign correspondents who dared to question our commitment to peace were publicly humiliated and had their integrity impugned. I played my part in this. When the New York Times dared to suggest that if Raila Odinga contested the outcome ‘many fear [it] could lead to the...violence that erupted in 2007,’ it didn’t take long for the reactions to come. ‘Foreign press haven’t given up [on the possibility of violence],’ I tweeted. Others quickly joined in, some suggesting that the writer was stuck in 2007.

However, if we are honest, it is us who were stuck in the narratives born of the last five years. It was not, as suggested by the NYT in a later piece, a renewed self confidence that drove us. Quite the opposite. It was a fear, a terror, a recognition that we were not as mature as we were claiming to be; that underneath our veneer of civility lay an unspeakable horror just waiting to break out and devour our children. We were afraid to look into the mirror lest our face fall in the sink.

It is said that truth is the first casualty of war. In this case the war was internal, hidden from all prying eyes. Who cares about the veracity of the poll result? So what if not all votes were counted? We had peace. ‘The peace lobotomy,’ one tweet called it. ‘Disconnect brain, don't ask questions, don't criticize. Just nod quietly.’

Yet we should care. Our terror and the frantic attempts to mask it were a terrible indictment. As another tweet put it, it ‘reveals how hollow the transformation wrought by the new constitution is.’ Instead of being a moment for national introspection, the election had become something to be endured. The IEBC was expected to provide a quick fix to help us through it but was never meant to expose the deeper malady of fear, violence and mistrust which we have spent five years trying to paper over with our constitutions and coalitions and MoUs and codes of conduct. The fact is we do not believe the words in those documents, the narratives inscribed on paper but not in our hearts. And this is why we do not care whether an election springing from them documents is itself a credible exercise.

What maturity is this that trembles at the first sign of disagreement or challenge? What peace lives in the perpetual shadow of a self-annihilating violence?

Cowards die many times before their deaths and we have been granted a new lease of life. However, if we carry on as we have done over the last five years, if we continue to lack the courage to exhume the bodies and clean out the foundations of our nationhood, we shouldn’t be surprised if in 2017 we are still terrified by the monsters under the house.

* Patrick Gathara blogs at http://gathara.blogspot.com/

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Hugo Chávez: New world rising

Glen Ford

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86576

The great Bolivarian is gone – which means the U.S. will soon escalate its destabilization campaign against his country. ‘Washington hopes that Venezuelan socialism cannot survive without Chávez.’ But the U.S. cannot roll back the movement that Chávez did so much to ignite, ‘the dark awakening in the barrios, favelas, rural villages and native highlands of the continent.’


Taking forward the revolutionary life and symbolism of Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías

Democratic Left Front

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86573

‘Chávez holds a useful mirror against which to assess the extent to which the ANC, the South African Communist Party and other African national liberation movements have long abandoned any hope, belief in, and commitment to socialism given their active political agency to maintain and reproduce capitalism’

The Democratic Left Front (DLF) joins the millions of poor and working people and their mass movements in Venezuela, the Caribbean, Latin America and across the world who celebrate the revolutionary and emancipatory life and symbolism of Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías. Since his tragic passing away on 5th March, our hearts drawn inspiration and courage from his example and symbolism. As the 9 million people who attended his funeral on Friday showed, Chávez represented and personified immense hope and possibility: hope for the wretched of the earth, hope and faith in the ability of the mass of exploited and oppressed people to self-organise and challenge inordinate power relations in society, and thereby be their own liberators, and realistic hope in the possibility of constructing a socialist alternative to the barbarism of capitalism.

His unique role in history was to defiantly and positively affirm the absolute necessity of a democratic, feminist and ecological socialism relevant for the 21st century as a response to capitalism, neo-liberal globalisation and imperialism. Chávez’s public pride in his provenance from African slaves was another powerful personal statement against white supremacy and racism that remains responsible for genocide, humiliation, subjugation and oppression of indigenous peoples and descendants of black African slaves in Latin America.

During the 14 years of his democratically elected and widely popular government, Venezuela witnessed immense socio-economic progress based on wealth redistribution. As reported in www.venezuelaanalysis.com, the facts speak for themselves: ‘the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4 percent in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15 percent, in June 2009 it was 7.8 percent. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe.’ This was reaffirmed by a 6th March article published in the capitalist, London-based Independent newspaper (www.independent.co.uk): after 14 years of Chávez’s rule in Venezuela there are six million children who receive free meals a day; near-universal free health care has been established; education spending has doubled as a proportion of GDP; and education is free from daycare to university. Since, 2011 over 350,000 homes have been built, taking hundreds of thousands of families out of sub-standard housing in the barrios. Whilst the country remains dependent on oil, his government had begun to envisage a transition plan to structurally diversify the Venezuelan economy beyond oil. This remains a major structural challenge and vulnerability.

Thanks to its embrace of neo-liberalism, Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa cannot even dream of similar transformative socio-economic indicators, not for the last 18 years of its rule, not for any time in the foreseeable future. Venezuela’s transformative socio-economic achievements were not made possible by the ANC kind of neo-liberalism but by a redistribute economic policy which included the nationalisation of oil, telecommunications and other key strategic sectors of the Venezuelan economy with the proceeds from these nationalised enterprises redistributed to transformative socio-economic programmes in education, health and housing. In contrast to the Bolivarian process in Venezuela, the ANC in South Africa has shaken and conceded to capitalism at every conceivable moment. Every progressive programme, strategy and intention is either abandoned or rejected by the government in the face of the brutal logic of managing a capitalist state. The ANC has shied away from confronting capital and white privilege that was left largely intact when the end of apartheid was negotiated. This has resulted in a situation where the ANC leadership has adapted itself to the power of capital. No wonder then that post-apartheid capitalism is leaving a trail of hunger, poverty, anger and misery. The wealthy elite, the bosses and their hangers-on refuse to concede a single inch to the urgent needs of the majority. This is the example that Chávez stood against and actively built an alternative to.

After addressing an October 2008 international solidarity conference held in Caracas, the African socialists present there appealed to him to work with popular and socialist forces here given that “Africa was now in a sorry state of its former revolutionary self”. His response was to challenge African socialists and popular movements to reclaim the essence of human liberation from below. As this African appeal and his response to it show, Chávez holds a useful mirror against which to assess the extent to which the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other African national liberation movements have long abandoned any hope, belief in, and commitment to socialism given their active political agency to maintain and reproduce capitalism in South Africa and other African countries that they govern. As a response to the failure and limits of national liberation politics in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa, the DLF is a modest initiative in South Africa that seeks to support the growth and solidarity of anti-capitalist mass movements and construct an alternative eco-socialist political pole. As part of its growth, the DLF is critically studying and debating lessons, impacts, outcomes, contradictions and possible future trajectories of the Bolivarian revolutionary process that Chávez initiated and led.

Given the potent anti-capitalist symbolism that Chávez represented, it is not a surprise that capitalists, the imperialist United States of America (USA) and Europe, neo-liberals, post-liberation political elites and mainstream media including the ANC-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) produced false propaganda that Chávez was a dictator, a populist and so on. Strange dictator he was: since he was first democratically elected in 1998, there have been 17 elections and referenda, all of whom were declared free and fair by international bodies, and most of which he won. He was elected with 56% of the vote in 1998, 60% in 2000, defeated a coup in April 2002 on the back of mass power, received over 7 million votes in 2006 and secured 54.4% of the vote in October 2012. Even the former US President Jimmy Carter conceded that “of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” Beyond the state and formal democratic institutions, Chávez also opened the path to the emergence of nascent participatory democracy institutions such as communal councils with competencies to plan and allocate resources, solidarity and communal enterprises, cooperatives and financing institutions like the Women’s Development Bank.

Chávez's problem and shortcomings laid elsewhere. No social transformation or a transition to socialism can ever depend on one person or through a compromised political infrastructure in a self-declared socialist state or even in a self-proclaimed socialist party. Any such change crucially depends on the self-organised and critically conscious class power of the vast majority of poor and working people. The still-to-be achieved socialist alternative that Chávez envisioned was clearly different from Stalinism, as he grappled with how it must be based on democracy and popular participation, and how this socialist alternative must learn from the self-proclaimed ‘socialist’ but ultimately disastrous and failed statist experiments of the 20th century.

The Chávez-led revolutionary process has not yet transformed and placed all power firmly in the hands of the working class. Insufficient independence and autonomy of popular movements, the significant power held by the Chavista bureaucratic and political elite, and problems in the functioning of the state are ever-present subjective dangers. If the mass movement does not swiftly claim the example and symbolism of Chávez and deepen the revolutionary process, there is a real possibility that the Chavista bureaucratic and political elite may entrench itself and constrain the promise of liberation, solidarity, people’s power and socialism that Chávez had opened. The struggle to build a new and different kind of society continues.

Beyond these internal challenges, the Bolivarian revolutionary process faces guaranteed counter-revolution from the oligarchs in Venezuela and Barack Obama’s imperialist government in the US. The same mass forces facing the challenge to deepen the Bolivarian process internally must now also continue to organise and defend the autonomy and sovereignty of Venezuela. The struggle continues on all fronts!


FOR COMMENTS, CONTACT

Mazibuko K. Jara: cell - 083 651 0271 & email: mazibuko@amandla.org.za
Vishwas Satgar: cell - 082 775 3420 & email: copac@icon.co.za
Brian Ashley: cell - 082 085 0788 & email: brian@amandla.org.za


Chávez and nonviolence

Onwubiko Agozino

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86575

Hugo Chavez may have helped to inspire social democratic revolutions across South America in preference to the fruitless decades of violent armed struggles

As the whole world mourns the passing of a person of African descent, brother Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, it must not be forgotten that although a peace lover, he initially tried to seize power by force through an abortive military coup. When he was pardoned and released from prison for that felony by the brutal dictatorship that he tried to overthrow, he adopted the African philosophy of non-violence which the great Gandhi claimed that he learned from the war-like Zulu in South Africa.

The result was that Chávez won state power through the ballot and not through the bullet (even Malcolm X appears to favour the ballot over the bullet in that eponymous speech of his). Chávez went on to successfully defend the peaceful revolution against a military coup that removed him from power for four days with the explicit approval of the US under George W. Bush.

Chávez subsequently used state power to begin the radical transformation of Venezuela from high levels of illiteracy towards the elimination of the illiteracy with full publicly funded education from the barrios up to university level, from mass landlessness to land re-distribution, and from exclusion to increased political participation by the masses, leading to the appointment of a bus driver as the Foreign Minister. The chief error of Chávez is not that he failed to build the world’s tallest building as the AP reporter sniggered recently, but that he repressed oppositional journalists when he could have battled them with his effective weekly television broadcasts.

Internationally, Chávez did not invade any country or drop bombs on perceived enemies, he did not try to overthrow any country but spoke up for less powerful countries being bullied by the international community and gave subsidized oil to poor neighbours and even to poor citizens of rich countries. He may have helped to inspire similar social democratic revolutions across South America in preference to the fruitless decades of violent armed struggles. The revolutionary theorists from the North are slow to learn from this legacy of the African philosophy of non-violence that could be scoffed at but never completely debunked as a viable alternative to the ‘infantile disorder of left-wing communism’.

On Friday, February 22, Professor Jody Dean visited Virginia Tech from her New York state college to present an Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) – sponsored lecture about her 2012 book, The Communist Horizon, published by Verso. The publishers stated on their blog that the book is a new Communist Manifesto for our time and indicated that the book seeks to unshackle the left from its accommodation with capitalism by challenging the Occupy Movement to transform itself into a political party.

Dean’s lecture started with reference to Garcia Linera, the Vice President of Bolivia who served time in prison for participating in the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army before running for office. The recent turn towards left-wing victories in elections in South America, according to Dean, are without significant impacts on the living conditions of the poor probably due to the accommodation with capitalism by those leftist regimes.

With colourful slides ranging from Barack Obama (portrayed as a communist leader) to Black Panther Party members marching, with pictures of mass protests in Bangladesh and shots of the Occupy Movement in between, Professor Dean argued that neither Obama nor the Occupy Movement, nor the Third World movements could be said to be communist in any sense. She concluded that what needs to be done is for the left to organize a party to seize power by force, reject the illusion of democracy and institute a dictatorship of the proletariat.

‘And how do you plan to do that without an army, navy or air force?’ one student interjected. It was good to hear the doubts that the students expressed regarding the rejection of democracy under any ideology. As Churchill would put it, democracy is the worst system of government except for all those other alternatives. I agree with the students that we must strive to recover the concept and practice of democracy from their distortions as Chomsky advocates: The anti-globalization movement is more accurately, the global democratization movement whereas a crisis of democracy is exactly right-wing Political Correctness for when the people get involved en-mass as they are supposed to do in a true democracy.

Dean did not deviate from a Eurocentric conception of Marxism that exclusively privileged Western theorists while almost completely ignoring theorists from the global South who made original contributions to that perspective and by ignoring the extent to which Marx himself was influenced by struggles for freedom outside Europe. Her introduction of her lecture with the case of Bolivia should have encouraged her to go beyond the icons of the Black radical tradition to take seriously the theoretical contributions from that tradition especially because she lectured during Black History Month. But she said, in answer to a question, that her book could not cover every detail and that she deliberately left details of the example of the Black Panther Party for future projects and for other researchers. Hmmm.

Dean's error is not just with the neglect of theorists and unique contributions from the global South but more with her avoidance of what some colleagues at her lecture characterized as the racism of the left in the global North. In her feisty self-defence, she complicated the charge by saying that she felt safe in her city in the state of New York but that poor blacks in the same city did not feel as safe. It is not just poor blacks; poor whites too, in fact all the poor, feel relatively unsafe in what Stuart Hall theorized as ‘societies structured in dominance’.

Dean’s mantra that she (and her non-existent party alone) must seize power by violent means is ridiculous because all she is doing is write tens of books non-violently, and I am happy that the students challenged her on what appeared to be her agent-provocation. As some colleagues insisted, the African philosophy of non-violence has proven more reliable as a revolutionary political strategy, given the decades of guerilla warfare in South America with nothing but genocidal body-bags to show for it until they turned to electoral social democratic strategies that Marx and Engels called for in the Manifesto of the Communist Party (build a party they said, not an army). Dean answered that the reason why Marx and Engels called for social democracy was because democracy was non-existent in their day.

However, Lenin can be said to have practised the exact strategy of Marx and Engels by naming his party the Social Democratic Party. While Lenin acknowledged that his movement had a military wing, he resolutely defended the correct strategies of social democracy against the “infantile disorder of left-wing communism” which opposed participation in bourgeois electoral politics. Lenin also answered his own question that ‘What is to be done’ is to set up a newspaper to organize and educate the people, not a suicide squad, for instance. Dean countered that Lenin was for the dictatorship of the proletariat and could not be called a democrat.

Yet what Lenin called the dictatorship of the proletariat, following Marx, was more like the democratic mobilization of the people through the exercise of what he called hegemony or intellectual and moral leadership but not by force. Gramsci recommend similar strategies with emphasis on intellectual and moral leadership or hegemony but with the originality that he attributed the same strategy to the ruling class which has too few members to rule by force alone. Joe Slovo also defended a similar strategy of national democratic revolution under the leadership of the ANC/CP coalition in South Africa.

Although her book never mentioned South Africa, Dean may counter that the South African revolution leaves a lot more to be desired by retaining capitalism with the consequence that the people continue to suffer but there is no doubt that South Africa achieved a lot politically through non-violent dialogue under Nelson Mandela who was serving a life-sentence for leading the military wing of the African National Congress (the dialogue was opposed by ANC militants who insisted on the defeat of apartheid militarily; “one settler one bullet”, they chanted). However, the dialogue succeeded remarkably compared to the situation in 1980 at the height of the armed struggle but the armed struggle could be said to have contributed indirectly to the success of the dialogue. Surely, no one would like to take South Africa back to the white minority reign of Botha in the 1980s, no matter how imperfect the country remains today.

Similarly, African Americans have been in the vanguard of the moral and intellectual movements to deepen democracy world-wide through non-violent means. Despite a million mutinies and maroon uprisings culminating in the glorious Haitian revolution that CLR James documented, the struggle against slavery was mainly non-violent until the enslavers declared a pro-slavery civil war in an attempt to extend enslavement nationally in the US.

During the Civil Rights revolution, W.E.B. Du Bois was nearly jailed for advocating global peace and he stated in his autobiography that although he was able to defend himself in court against the trumped up charge, the railroading of thousands of innocent African Americans into jail is to blame for the fact that they tend to return to the community with resentment and anger, resulting in more violence in the community. Mohamed Ali was nearly jailed for refusing to fight Vietnamese who had never abused him racially and Martin Luther King Jr. was repeatedly jailed for advocating non-violent resistance to injustice. It is interesting that Dean did not mention the prison-industrial complex during her lecture nor in her book where she only referred to prison camps in the Soviet Union on page 29 and to the prison experience of the Vice President of Bolivia on page 2.

Whereas Malcolm X advocated the principle of ‘By Any Means Necessary’ in the struggle for freedom, he himself adopted non-violent intellectual and moral strategies, just like Martin Luther King Jr. As Dean conceded, the Eastern European revolutions were remarkably non-violent and it could be added that the hijacking of the Arab spring by armed groups has produced worse results compared to what was possible through non-violent resistance. An American trade unionist, who died in 1993, César Chávez, was also a strong advocate of non-violence and was quoted as saying that non-violent struggles can never be defeated because they are patient. Did he influence his name-sake, Hugo Chávez?


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After 2015, then what?

Africa’s development agenda in post-MDGs

Chika Ezeanya

2013-03-14

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86585

In view of the under-achievement record of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), global policy makers have set out on a search for a more veritable replacement ahead of its 2015 expiration date

Designed in 2000 by developed countries on behalf of developing countries, the MDGs were collectively promoted as a near-final solution to the development quagmire that drowns a section of the globe. With most African countries at the bottom of the development ranking, the region’s leaders were all too eager to sign on to the MDGs. Across Africa, government representatives were quick to utter the initially unfamiliar acronym, especially in the hearing of donors. After all, the donors were the ones who set the MDGs, the ones who wanted to spend their money on accomplishing these goals, and the ones who sent their monitoring and implementation team to Africa for follow-up. And in that mindset lay perhaps the greatest criticisms of the MDGs; that although the MDGs are what every human being should aspire towards, the manner of achievement of these goals invariably dehumanizes its recipients.

Vaguely defined in terms of operational strategy, the MDGs did not set out to empower citizens in the targeted areas to strengthen their communities. The burden of the achievement of the MDGs lay on wealthy nations; it was a plan drafted upon the benevolence of the rich towards the poor. The MDGs are not human development goals, they are philanthropic goals. So far as poor countries depended on rich countries for sustenance, they stood a chance of reaching the goals. Should the developing countries of the world decide to become entirely independent in thinking, idea generation and implementation, then the need would definitely arise for the crafting of fresh goals.

Essentially, the MDGs were established on presumptions of expertise of the intimate developmental complexities of developing countries on the part of developed countries,; a we-know-what-you-need-and-how-you-need-it-fixed paradigm. The MDGs were founded on a disguised superiority complex that held citizens of developing countries as people unable to understand the intricacies of their own existence, and therefore incapable of formulating workable, homegrown solutions.

THE MISSING KEY

Not surprisingly and despite its stellar intentions, the MDGs are today associated with gross underperformance. The reality is that no matter how well intentioned or how infused with 'expert' knowledge, development conversations, which do not focus on empowering citizens to discover and utilize creative, innovative, indigenous and homegrown approaches to solving their own peculiar problems, are at best peripheral. Regrettably, this has been the paradigm that has defined many of the development pathways charted for Africa by the West. The Lagos Plan of Action remains the last well-known development plan authentically prepared by Africans for Africa. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a plan copied from the West but touted as authentically African, has since inception struggled to find its place outside of the development dictionary. Rootless, lacking in widespread support from the masses for whom it was conceived, and heavy in jargons, semantics and technical terms alien to most of its African executioners, NEPAD hangs like a paralyzed limb, and remains mentally detached for the most part from the realities of the average African’s dilemma.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH FOR AFRICA

For Africa, there is the urgent and desperate need for a radically different approach to understanding and tackling regional challenges post-2015. At a meeting organized by the UNDP to discuss the post-2015 development agenda for Africa, Professor Aliounne Sall of the African Future Institute rightly said that there is need for a paradigm shift in discussing a post MDGs agenda for Africa. He called for Africans to 'think differently, to talk differently and to act differently'. How apt.

Africa’s greatest challenge is creativity, and innovation founded on indigenous knowledge and indigenous resources. The urgent need in Africa is for homegrown, creative solutions and breakthroughs in governance, science and technology, economic policies, curriculum, health and wellness, and just about any area of human existence covered and not covered by the MDGs.

For the past fifty years since most African countries became independent, the majority of the individuals who people the continent have held on to the notion that they are fundamentally lacking in the innate ability to generate ideas, mold them into reality and implement same for the development of the continent. Hugely absent in Africa are ideas rooted in Africa’s indigenous material and non-material resources, ranging from mineral, environmental, herbal and ecological resources to agricultural practices, social organization, political processes, medical knowledge, and numerous others. Africa’s own knowledge systems and ideas are the most valid, inexpensive and easily accessible resources that will bring about advancement for the continent. The formulators of the numerous development plans superimposed on Africa have had little or no regard for the continent’s indigenous knowledge, and because of that Africans themselves hold their knowledge and abilities in contempt.

Unlocking the latent creative and innovate potentials of Africans is heavily dependent on the formal, non-formal and informal education obtainable across the continent. The foundations of Africa’s education was built on the search by missionaries and colonial masters for interpreters, translators, clerks, messengers, typists, secretaries and other auxiliary staff; it was and— unbelievably, 50 years later—remains the sort of education that falls just a little bit short of outright discouragement of creativity and innovation.

Many years after Independence, not much has changed for the continent of Africa in terms of ensuring critical consciousness in all areas of human existence. The consistent 'cut and paste' approach towards other continents' models of governance, economic strategies, science, technology and other spheres has failed to set Africa on the path to advancement; the prognosis remains grim.

Africa’s future lies in the hands of authentic African thoughts, processes, and actions. The question of a 2015 agenda for Africa should be that of how and not what. The MDGs tried to address the question of what, that is, 'hunger, poor health, poverty, environmental degradation, etc'. A post-MDGs agenda should focus on how to build Africans up in order for them to understand their unique challenges and address the same with indigenous resources and easily accessible homegrown tools. A post-2015 agenda ought not to warrant the flying– business-class of thousands of consultants from the Western world for stays in expensive hotels in order to write reports that often recommend for further studies to be conducted by their counterparts from the west. And the cycle continues.

The current effort by the UN to generate grassroots ideas for the post-2015 agenda is highly commendable if only the suggestions made by Africans are adhered to. In this instance, the stand of Africans is that any form of support for the continent must be centered around encouraging Africans themselves to explore indigenous and homegrown strategies for advancement in all sectors of human development.

* Dr. Chika A. Ezeanya was an invited participant to the post-2015 Development Agenda for Africa meeting organized by the UNDP in Johannesburg, South Africa in February, 2013. More of Chika’s article can be found on her blog www.chikaforafrica.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/chikaforafrica Twitter www.twitter.com/chikaforafrica


Has the LGBT movement failed in Uganda?

Doreen Lwanga

2013-03-14

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86584

Rather than continuing to operate on an exclusive basis, the LGBT movement in Uganda should strive to nurture a multivariate movement for social justice, creating a multi-normative society for their safety and the peaceful coexistence of future generations

As a prodigal child, you are always haunted by your unceremonious departure from home. You never stop thinking about making your return trip, and wonder how to return strategically without getting jettisoned. Finally, you gain the courage to actually return—because home is home.

That is the story of my life! Haunted by my surreptitious disappearance from my home here at Pambazuka News, I have always wanted to return, but did not know how. This was not because I had nothing to write about. Living in Uganda, every head turn is a writing subject – Uganda @50, corruption, entertainment, ‘the good life’ of America’s birth control flooding Uganda, and imps, that is, our MPs using tax shillings to buy iPads reportedly to make them more productive. Recall that our MPs received UG100 million to buy themselves cars with our tax shillings on top of their fat monthly paycheck for sitting (or not) in parliamentary sessions. On the other side, our public health centers are perpetually out of drugs, health workers, ambulances and running water or gloves to deliver babies. Our public schools cannot afford boxes of chalks, desks, or teachers’ housing because ‘the government does not have enough money’.

But that is not what I am back for. I want to tell you about a topic that stirs up Ugandan society whenever it rears its head — sexuality and gay rights. At a recent seminar at Makerere University on sexualities, specifically LGBTs, the presenter informed us that the two sides speaking for/on homosexuality in Uganda are American. One side is promoting gay rights in Uganda; the other is against the existence and acceptance of homosexuals in Uganda. Already, this perpetuates the pervasive notion within Uganda that homosexuality is a foreign agenda, alien to African society. It also begs the question: do Ugandans have a mind of their own and the ability to decide what they want for their own society?

Interesting question, considering the fact that Uganda tends to accept all things disposable from anywhere! We are the headquarters of the worst quality of used merchandise, factory rejects and experimental goods from abroad. Bales of rotten shoes, clothes and household goods from Europe, used cars not recorded on Japanese export profiles, and factory merchandise that does not meet the required quality of its consigner flood our markets, streets and shops.

So, what prompted me to talk about all this and meander off sexualities? Well, the debate on sexual orientations and gay rights, which has preoccupied Uganda for a while, has become intertwined with other societal absurdities present within our country. Stories on homosexuality often become a means of distracting the public from ongoing national scandals. They also become a rallying front for those who bestow upon themselves the responsibility of ‘protecting Ugandan/African culture'. According to the Red Pepper of December 27, 2012, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, promised to expedite the passing of the anti-homosexuality bill as a 'Christmas gift' to Ugandans. [1]

In international circles, Uganda’s human rights record is very much associated with the abuse of homosexuals. European and North American governments, organizations and the media have thrown their weight through vocal and financial resources to condemn the government of Uganda of discrimination against homosexuality. No matching vigor is dedicated to denouncing our government’s harassment of peaceful demonstrators against crimes of corruption and the government's wrongful detention of political opponents. So, what makes homosexuality in Uganda so 'sexy' to international audiences? And, on a related note: how does the work of international agencies influence reactions among Ugandans to LGBTs?

Those who know me have heard time and again that, if my 4-year-old son introduced to me his boyfriend later in life, I would not collapse or go into a fit. I would heartily accept his love interests, like I have done with my many openly LGBT friends. Contrary to popular belief in Uganda, my friends do not go around recruiting children, making sexual advancements at every same sex person they encounter or exhibiting their sexual identities. My friends live lives like those of all who claim to be heterosexual — going to school, earning an income, paying taxes, looking after their family and searching and finding love.

Yet sexual rights campaigns in Uganda somehow manage to question my commitment to the cause of LGBTs. They erroneously label anyone who does not support gay rights as homophobic. They ignore that persons tolerant of sexual minorities like me are uncomfortable with the sexual minorities’ movement as it manifest itself in Uganda. My discomfort with the LGBT movement in Uganda is ironically similar to what plenty of anti-LGBT Ugandans disavow — exhibitionism or what I call 'inventing and performing human wrongs' among LGBTs.

Campaigns for LGBT human rights resemble those for women’s rights and the right to ARVs in Uganda; they are pigeonholed from other social struggles in the country. They portray themselves as an exclusive case when in fact any other social group may experience the human wrongs inflicted upon them. Admittedly, LGBTs face discrimination based on their sexual preferences. They complain about violation of rights to privacy and the right to peaceful assembly or demonstration. But such rights are denied to other social categories in Uganda regardless of their sexual orientation.

Uganda’s LGBT movement, when internationalized, is distorted, escalating the perception among anti-gay rights groups that it is an internationally driven agenda to spread Western sexual percersion into Uganda, and dictate what is morally right for the country. Some LGBT groups have also accused international agencies, such as the US pro- and anti-gay lobby groups, of distorting their agenda by failing to focus attention on the real issues at the heart of this problem. International pro-gay rights groups also tend to focus almost exclusively on the anti-homosexuality bill and one or two cases of assault of homosexuals featured in Uganda’s local media.

What these international campaigns do not tell is that plenty of Uganda LGBTs live their everyday lives calm and unperturbed, according to a colleague who studies sexualities in Uganda. They host group parties, fashion shows and gay pride parades. They perform burials and have dance nights in public discotheques, sometimes allotted 'gay exclusive nights', in non-gay exclusive clubs. And they dress up in clothes that defy the public's imagination, without fear of police intervention or harassment.

Perhaps opposition to gay rights in Uganda is not intended to alienate certain citizens based on their sexual identity or orientation but rather to alienate certain sexual acts. After all, Ugandan LGBTs are predominantly associated with the act of anal sex, which may be perceived as ‘immoral' and ‘abnormal’. This excludes lesbians and transgenders who might not necessarily engage in anal sex. However, by fighting for entitlements in this exclusive way, LGBTs alienate themselves from other social groups — women, minorities and indigenous peoples — with similar struggles of discrimination.

Thus, the LGBT movement could benefit from leveraging its resources to identify with other social groups that suffer similar fates. While doing so, it should address concerns about perverted acts associated with LGBTs, such as recruitment of minors and unsuspecting adults into homosexuality. The scandal of Chris Mubiru, the Chief Executive of the Uganda National Soccer Team, comes to mind. According to the Red Pepper, a local tabloid of December 7, 2012, Chris Mubiru ‘sodomized’ male soccer players, including minors, and paid them for their silence. Instead of cowing into silence when such incidents come into the public focus, the LGBT community should publicly denounce such acts. Another example is the allegations that priests in single-sex boys' schools recruit young male indigent students into homosexuality by offering thee students education scholarships and upkeep allowances. Separating these bad apples from the good ones would clarify for Ugandans that homosexuality is not a choice for perverts but an identity from birth.

Otherwise, perpetually promoting the LGBT movement so that it becomes a special case, hijacked by an internationally (especially US) driven agenda, risks losing the little support there is for the LGBT movement within Uganda. It does not help that the US privileges the rights of LGBTs over other human rights violations in its international condemnation of Uganda’s human rights record. In doing so, the US is seen as absolving Uganda government of any other human rights wrongs, thus undermining other human rights struggles in the country. These include campaigns against corruption, for the right to health, and for the right to education.

During the sexualities seminar I mentioned above, a gay participant expressed discomfort with the level of uncontrolled and unaccountable international funding for LGBT groups in Uganda. While most donors in Uganda set stringent accountability requirements for all their grantees, LGBT groups are allocated funding without a need for accountability. Facilitators of gay workshops are also paid exorbitant compensation fees in comparison to those provided to other human rights campaigns. Creating a special class for LGBTs does not promote understanding and tolerance of LGBTs within Uganda; it stirs up fury and public appeals for criminalization of homosexuality. Rather than continuing to operate on an exclusive basis, the LGBT movement in Uganda should strive to nurture a multivariate movement for social justice, creating a multi-normative society for their safety and the peaceful coexistence of future generations in Uganda.

*Doreen Lwanga is a socio-political critic, and writes on sexuality, minority rights and self-determination.

ENDNOTES

1. Alex Masereka (2012) Germany Suspends Aid To Uganda Over OPM Scandal," 27 December, http://www.redpepper.co.ug/germany-suspends-aid-to-uganda-over-opm-scandal/, accessed 10 March 2013


Food and politics in Africa

Ng'ang'a wa Muchiri

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86567

There are many interesting metaphors of food in the African political discourse to express the changing dynamics of power

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is famous for its economy of words. True to his contract with the reader, Achebe displays a mastery of language that beautifully blends the old and the new. It is especially his use of Igbo traditional lore that has earned Achebe a spot on the continent’s list of greatest writers. Like the culture he writes of, Achebe manipulates proverbs and local sayings; indeed, ‘proverbs become the palm oil with which words are eaten.’

METAPHORS OF FOOD AND POWER

Achebe’s main character, Okonkwo, is a man running away from a ghost. He seeks to outrun the infamous laziness of his father. To distance himself from a parent he is not only ashamed of, but also holds in utter disrespect, Okonkwo doggedly gathers wealth; in time, his large harvests, growing family, and numerous titles earn him a seat in local politics. He has, seemingly, overcome the history of his father. As the allegorical young child, Okonkwo can now ‘wash his hands and eat with his elders.’

Achebe’s description of village politics is embodied in the metaphor of sharing a meal. Okonkwo the pauper has to first observe proper hygiene by garnering wealth. It is only then that he is considered ‘clean enough’ to partake in the dish that is Igbo political power. As it turns out, metaphors of food and politics abound and repeatedly come up as ways for African masses to understand their relationship to the state.

WHO EATS WHAT?

Achebe’s allusion of the connection between food and politics is subtle; most others are not. If feasts and communal meals are key indigenous institutions for maintaining harmony and wealth inequality, who gets to partake in which meals is indicative of the relative power differentials. Due to the ecological expense involved in rearing animals, meat is a delicacy that truly marks an important function, be it a funeral, wedding or harvest festival. But if all meat provides protein, not all meat dishes are created equal. Who gets to eat which part of the animal is a key indicator of power and relative esteem.

In Suns of Independence, Ahmadou Korouma discusses a village feast and the ensuing arithmetic involved in distributing portions of the slaughtered cow to different members of the community. ‘When it came to divide up the red meat, the sharing was done with care, equity and refinement,’ says Korouma. This practice was done ‘in accordance with the customs that allotted such-and-such a portion or cut to such-and-such a village or family.’ [1] B. M. Sahle-Sellassie, the Ethiopian novelist who wrote The Afersata, offers us another example. In Sahle-Sellassie’s text, well-to-do families mark Maskal, an indigenous festival, by slaughtering a bull. Each family then offers a portion of the loin to the village blacksmith, while the woodcutter is offered part of the neck. [2]

‘Serikali ya nusu mkate’: The half-loaf government

Outside the literary sphere, figurative language about food also finds relevance as means of political commentary. In present day Kinshasa, residents contest Joseph Kabila’s government in proclamations of starvation. ‘We are hungry,’ they say, exposing the state’s inability to improve its citizens’ standards of living. Katharine Pype’s work on Kinshasa’s popular political debates reiterates that ‘metaphors of food distribution, circulation and consumption structure discourses about allocation and justification of power.’ [3] The public indicts Kabila for not ensuring proper circulation of resources, hence resulting in the deprivation of some sections of his electorate.

Further east, Kenya’s post-2007 coalition government, shared between two groups which both claimed electoral victory, has been dubbed serikali ya nusu mkate – the half-loaf government. Politicians discussing their participation in the Mwai Kibaki-Raila Odinga political alliance position themselves as initial aspirants to a full loaf — complete takeover of the legislative and executive arms of government. However, due to the trickery and political maneuvers of the other team, they had to compromise and settle for less—the half loaf.

MAN-EAT-MAN

President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s famous indictment of Kenyan society as a cannibalistic man-eat-man society still rings true. The increased wealth inequality and the unshakeable hegemony of political dynasties are two clues that Nyerere’s comment may yet find relevance. Politically, metaphorical ‘cannibalism’ has a long established tradition in post-independence Africa. How else can one explain the backstabbing sibling-eat-sibling treachery that recurs in Africa’s political history? Patrice Lumumba’s fall at the hands of Joseph Kasavubu and Mobutu Sese Seko, two individuals whom Lumumba considered brothers-at-arms in the struggle for Congolese self-rule is a case in point? So too is Jomo Kenyatta’s abandonment of his comrades with whom he suffered long years of internal exile in some of the harshest conditions in Kenya. Achieng Oneko, arrested, tried, and detained alongside Kenyatta, decried this very betrayal when he resigned from government in 1966 due to ideological differences. Submitting his resignation, ‘Achieng Oneko recalled the years he and Kenyatta had spent in detention together under the colonial regime. He said it would have seemed unbelievable at that time that he and Jomo Kenyatta would ever part company.’ [5]

Without transferring the ‘sins of the father onto the son,’ I am eager to see how long the Jubilee alliance will last after winning the recent general elections. Who will feast upon the other’s political future rendering them a mere footnote in Africa’s political history written thus: ‘Here lies X. He was cannibalized by his so-called comrade’?

REFERENCES

[1] Korouma, Ahmadou. Suns of Independence. Pg. 99

[2] Sahle-Sellassie, B. M. The Afersata. Pg. 76

[3] Pyper, Katrien. “Visual Media & Political Communication: Reporting about Suffering in Kinshasa.” Institute of Anthropological Research in Africa. Pg. 638

[4] Odinga, Oginga. Not Yet Uhuru. Pg. 300

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Advocacy & campaigns

An open letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

Action speaks louder than words!

Ajamu Nangwaya

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/86571

Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity puts forward five propositions that would give concrete form to the Premier’s claim that ‘government exists to make people’s lives better’

Dear Premier Wynne:

The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (NPAS) agrees with your assertion quoted in Share newspaper from your speech at the Liberal Caucus’ Afrikan Liberation Month (aka Black History Month) annual event: ‘I want Ontario to be a place where everyone has the same opportunities and I want people to have the support they need. That’s what equity means. It means we have to create the conditions that will allow everybody to have that level playing field. Where it’s not level, we need to raise the floor up a bit.’

Premier Wynne, it is our position that action speaks louder than words when it comes to addressing issues of social oppression. If it is your intention to tackle systemic forms of oppression such as White supremacy (racism), patriarchy and/or class exploitation, it will have to be by way of relevant legislation and the accompanying transformative policies and programs.

NPAS is putting forward five propositions that would give concrete form to your claim that ‘government exists to make people’s lives better, to support people in realizing their dreams and to create the conditions for people to be great and to be able to achieve.’

First, your government needs to draft and present an employment equity bill before the legislature to undermine the systemic racist, sexist and ableist employment barriers that oppress Afrikans, other racialized peoples, and indigenous peoples in the workplaces of this province.

We need a provincial employment equity law that supersedes that passed by the Ontario New Democrats in 1994 as well as the current Employment Equity Act of the federal government on the establishment of strong accountability measures, strict timelines, and measurable targets. In spite of an employment equity law governing the federal public sector, racialized workers are the only protected group that is under-represented in the core civil service.

Second, if the Ontario Liberals would like to ‘raise the floor up a bit’ for Afrikans and other racialized peoples, we are demanding an increase in the minimum wage from $10.25 per hour to $15.00 per hour. Many racialized people are forced to seek employment in the secondary labour market with its low wage rates, minimal or no benefits, and limited or non-existent promotional prospects that feed into the soul-crushing racialization and feminization of poverty with which many of us must contend.

Third, you should work to change the provincial labour law to make it easier for racialized workers and other members of the working class to form or join a union. By instituting automatic certification of a union where a majority of the relevant workers in a workplace have signed a union card would be a clear indication that your government cares about Ontario’s working class majority.

Tied to this, the Ontario Liberals need to significantly increase the fines imposed on employers for breaking the law that protects the workers’ right to freely join or form a union. The current low fines provide an incentive for employers to contravene and view that illegal action as the cost of doing business.

How is unionization linked to the fight against White supremacy (and sexism) in the labour market? According to Canadian Labour Congress’s economist Andrew Jackson in the research paper Work Working for Workers of Colour?, ‘workers of colour who were unionized earned an average of $33,525 in 1999. This was 29.9 percent or $7,724 more in 1999 than workers of colour who were not unionized.’ Racialized workers are under-represented in workplaces covered by collective agreements.

Fourth, the rates of incarceration of Afrikan and Indigenous people in this province are astronomically and oppressively high. In a March 2, 2013 expose on the subject of mass incarceration of Afrikan men, the Toronto Star states: ‘Young black men face racism, poverty, lack of opportunity, social isolation, violence in their neighbourhoods, family challenges and unemployment.’

Your government needs to address the race, gender and class oppression that fuels the disproportionate jailing of Afrikan men and women. Tackling the systemic problem of over-policing of Afrikan peoples is absolutely necessary. Your governments should also increase educational opportunities by providing affordable, accessible and quality education for all. Free post-secondary education would be a significant anti-racist contribution that you could make to the cause of social justice in Ontario.

Lastly, the Toronto police’s racial profiling and containment of the Afrikan community through the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) and the use of the ‘208 card’ demand your intervention as an equity advocate. Afrikan people are stopped, questioned and carded at excessively higher rates in all of the 72 policing districts in Toronto than their White counterparts.

However, in the predominantly White areas of Toronto, Afrikans are racially profiled and carded at levels way above those obtained in highly racialized areas of the city. Our people should not be subjected to over-policing, apartheid policing and the trampling of our rights.

We look forward to concrete steps from you and the Ontario Liberals in advancing an actively anti-racist agenda.

Sincerely,

* Dr. Ajamu Nangwaya is Membership Development Coordinator, Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity. This letter first appeared in the Afrikan Canadian community-based newspaper Share, which is based in Toronto.


Kenya: An open letter to IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan

Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/86568

Various technological measures required by law to protect the integrity of Kenya’s elections failed massively in the recent polls. But the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission proceeded with tallying the result. IEBC must explain to Kenyans what happened

Mr. Isaack Hassan
Chairman
Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission
University Way, Anniversary Towers, 6th Floor,
P.O. Box 45371-00100
Nairobi.

Date: 7th March 2012

Dear Sir,

MEMORANDUM: ACCOUNTABILITY FOR AND TRANSPARENCY OF RESULTS VERIFICATION AND PREMATURE CERTIFICATION AND ANNOUNCEMENT OF ALLEGED OFFICIAL RESULTS WITHOUT PRIMARY DOCUMENTATION (FORM 34)


Under the law, when polling stations close, ballots are counted, verified by presiding officers and political party agents and the results then posted publicly on the door of the polling stream, thereafter transmitted electronically for the announcement of provisional results by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) at the national elections tallying centre in Nairobi. Subsequently, these results are verified and made official based on the receipt of hard documentation from the constituency returning officers and its verification by the IEBC and political party agents.

Results were counted at the polling stations. The presidential results were counted first. At each polling station five original copies of Form 34 were to be signed by presiding officers and political party agents. One original was to be posted on the door to the polling station counting area and thus made public for all Kenyans. This should have been done as soon as counting ended on the evening of 4 March 2013 and 5 March 2013.

The presidential results should have been counted and posted publicly at each polling stream on Form 34 before the counting of the votes for National Assembly, Governor, Senator, County Representative and Women’s Representative — thus there should have been no controversy about the Form 34 being openly available to the public before results were announced.

The results were then meant to be transmitted electronically to Nairobi for the announcement and posting of provisional results but the IEBC electronic transmission system failed. The causes and nature of this failure have not been disclosed to the public — despite this transmission being required by law and being the first measure to guarantee securing of the integrity of the vote.

With the failure of the legally mandated system for the electronic transmission of preliminary results, the vote count from each of the polling stations must be made publicly available immediately.

Similarly, the derivative Form 36 from each constituency tallying centre must be publicly available. However, because it is a derivative document totaling the numbers from the constituency polling stations, it cannot be considered a substitute for these original forms.

Further, given systemic anomalies in Form 36 across the country noted by political party agents and observers it is imperative that these anomalies be addressed by reference to the original forms.

Because of this failure, the IEBC should follow all other required procedures for verification of the hard documentation—including allowing full and transparent access to the verification process by political party agents. This is the import and value of public participation which is a cardinal principle in the Constitution.

Yet, political party agents were expelled from the IEBC audit and verification centre, creating an unlawful climate of non-participation and lack of transparency as per the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.The IEBC has continued to then unlawfully announce final results based on Form 36 signed by agents of only one political party.

Based on this, the IEBC has failed, under Article 81(e) to administer the elections in an accurate, accountable and impartial manner—in line with its guiding constitutional principles.

We therefore demand:


• That the IEBC stop announcing results until the concerns raised above can be addressed and a credible, transparent and fair process be instituted;

• That the IEBC publicly explain the causes and nature of the failure of the electronic transmission system. Related to this, the IEBC should secure from the service providers the preservation of all transmissions and the servers as they were at the time of the failure;

• That Form 34 containing the vote count from each polling station be made publicly available;

• That the Form 36 from each constituency tallying centre be made publicly available;

• Given anomalies in Form 36, that these discrepancies be addressed by reference to the original forms, which are Form 34.

Signed
Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ)
c/o Africa Centre for Open Governance
P.O. Box 18157 – 00100
Nairobi
Kenya


Legal help by and for sex workers

Jonathan Birchall

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/86569

Sex work is criminalized in South Africa, and sex workers face routine harassment, intimidation, and even abuse from police.

One organization is helping them gain the legal skills they need to fight back.

Please take a moment to view a photo essay about the Women’s Legal Centre, a grantee of the Open Society Foundations based in South Africa that provides legal services by and for sex workers.


Statement on Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s comments

GALZ

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/86570

The statements fuel public prejudice against LGBTI individuals and contradict the very preamble of a draft constitution that the PM is seemingly promoting

Statements attributed to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the Herald edition of Thursday 7 March 2013, as well as the online version of the Herald, where he is quoted as having said that those who want to marry another from the same sex have a problem while addressing MDC-T supporters in Glenview are reckless and unfortunate coming from the Prime Minister.

GALZ is of the view that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s statements fuel public prejudice against LGBTI individuals and contradict the very preamble of a draft constitution that he is seemingly promoting. The Preamble of the draft Constitution states that:

‘United in our diversity by our common desire for freedom, justice and equality, and our heroic resistance to colonialism, racism and all forms of domination,

‘Reaffirming our commitment to upholding and defending fundamental human rights and freedoms,

‘Cherishing freedom, peace, justice, tolerance, prosperity and patriotism in search of new frontiers under a common destiny’

His utterances show that he has failed to practice and support a very important affirmation of the draft constitution. He also fails to uphold his commitment to human rights and the acceptance of diversity. The Prime Minister has been jolted into castigating violence in Headlands recently; however, we find him equally guilty of inciting violence and advocating hatred and hate speech against the LGBTI community in Zimbabwe.

We deplore the Prime Minister’s statements, coming sadly on the eve of International Women’s Day celebrations and just days before Zimbabweans vote in a referendum.

It is our view that political leaders in Zimbabwe continue to pander to public prejudices against LGBTI individuals through public statements that justify the
exclusion and abuse of anyone suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.

GALZ shares the common desire of Zimbabweans for freedom, justice and equality, as promoted in the Preamble of the first draft of the Constitution. GALZ believes that, in recognising the diversity and rights of all people in Zimbabwe, we should also recognise that some Zimbabweans are attracted to people of the same sex. We believe that the Constitution is not the appropriate forum to give effect to the private beliefs held by some that same-sex couples should not be married.

Zimbabwe has come too far in its constitutional reform process to debase this process by showing an outright desire to harm a politically unpopular group without any legitimate government interest.




Books & arts

Fictionalizing Camfranglais

A Review of Moi Taximan by Gabriel Kuitche Fonkou

Peter Wuteh Vakunta

2013-03-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/86574

This book is highly recommended to people who know nothing about Camfranglais and who wish to one day visit Cameroon. It really is a must read.

Fonkou’s Moi Taximan is a fascinating novel to read. This work of fiction is interesting in several aspects but the quality that captures the attention of the reader is the writer’s attempt to Cameroonize the French language as the following sentence shows: ‘Dans l’après midi, je devais rembourser de l’argent dans une tontine des ressortissants de mon village natal.’(7) [1] The word ‘tontine’ is a neologism that describes a ‘thrift society’ where members contribute and borrow money regularly when the need arises. Lexical truncation is a word formative process used adeptly by Fonkou not simply for the purpose of adding local colour and flavour to his narrative but also to translate Cameroonian socio-cultural realities into a European language as seen in the following excerpt: ‘J’avais remarqué dès les premiers jours que certains collègues clandos ne s’arrêtaient pas aux barrières de contrôle, ou que quand ils s’y arrêtaient, c’était pour échanger avec les contrôleurs des plaisanteries puis repartir sans avoir servi ni le café ni la bière.’ (12) [2]

The word ‘clando’ refers to a taxi driven by a driver who does not possess the legal documentation that gives them the right to drive a taxi. It is a truncation of the word ‘clandestine.’ Sometimes, Camanglophones [3] use the word ‘clando’ to describe a private car used to transport passengers illegally. It could also be used to designate a person who does illegal business.

Fonkou resorts to the technique of compounding in an attempt to acquaint his readers with the thought patterns of Cameroonians and the strange ways in which Cameroonians manipulate language in a bid to talk about these things: ‘Les premiers contacts avec les mange-mille et les gendarmes coûtent cher, mais par la suite, tout le monde se connaît et il s’établit comme un contrat tacite.’(12) [4] The compound word ‘mange-mille’ is derived from two words, ‘manger’ (to eat) and ‘mille’ (thousand). It is a derogatory term used by speakers of Camfranglais to describe corrupt police officers in Cameroon(and God knows they are plenty) notorious for taking bribes from taxi drivers, generally in the neighborhood of 1000 CFA francs, though they would take less when drivers are hard. Certain Camfranglais expressions are hard to decipher unless the reader is familiar with the context of usage. As Nstobe et al caution: ‘Il faut absolument connaître la signification de ces mots dans leurs contextes spécifiques.’ (90) [5]

This difficulty stems from the fact that Camfranglophones frequently borrow words from indigenous languages as this proverbial expression shows: ‘L’enfant qui vit près de la chefferie ne craint pas le ‘mekwum.’ (14) [6] The word ‘mekwum’ is an indigenous language word that refers to a masked dancer belonging in a village secret society. The following excerpt is rich in borrowings from vernacular languages spoken in Cameroon: ‘Dès que je me trouvais au milieu de cette foule ce furent d’interminables poignées de mains d’une vigueur à vous déséquilibrer, d’interminable ‘nge pin’, ‘a pon’, ‘a bha’a, toutes les expressions de l’approbation et de la satisfaction.’(93) [7] Oftentimes, Camfranglophones embellish their discourses with ideophones [8] in an attempt to translate the spoken word into writing: ‘C’est pratiquement toutes les personnes présentes qui s’écriaient ‘Oueuh! Oueuh! Oueuh!’ (98) [9] Other than ideophones, Fonkou utilizes the technique of semantic shift in the writing process.

SEMANTIC SHIFT AS A LITERARY DEVICE IN MOI TAXIMAN

Moi Taximan is replete with French words that have undergone semantic transformation: ‘Je ne mangeais chez moi que le soir, sauf les jours où je me faisais aider par un ‘attaquant’…afin de me reposer un peu.’(18) [10] The narrator employs the word ‘attaquant’ to describe a taxi driver who not only works overtime but is often aggressive and prone to road rage. Another example that illustrates Fonkou’s dexterity at word-smithing is the following: ‘On sortait de l’opération avec un plus grand sourire si, en plus, les passagers longue distance avaient ‘proposé’…’ (8) [11] A little further, Fonkou sheds ample light on the meaning of the word ‘proposé’: ‘payer plus cher que le tarif normal’ (8) [12] Some Camfranglais words used in Moi taximan are English words that have undergone transformation to create new words. Such is the case with ‘Massa’: ‘Je tombai sur Massa Yo alors que je venais d’essuyer deux semaines de chômage.’(28) [13] ‘Massa’ is a deformation of the English word ’master’. In this excerpt, the speaker is referring to his boss.

The irreverent attitude of Camfranglais speakers toward grammatical norms has caused some linguistic theorists to describe the advent of this new Cameroonian slang as a transgression of the grammatical canons of the French language. Ntsobe et al, for instance, perceive Camfranglais as linguistic invasion. As they put it: ‘Il faut admettre, il s’agit bien d’une invasion, d’une dictature de mots et de termes venus d’ailleurs et qui diminuent quotidiennement l‘occurrence d’utilisation d’un vocabulaire proprement français’ (Ntsobe et al., 9) [14] To put this differently, Camfranglais speakers attempt to dismantle the grammatical conventions of the French language. Like Kourouma, Fonkou takes the liberty of toying with ‘une langue classique trop rigide pour que ma pensée s’y meuve’ (38) [15]A sizeable number of Camfranglais words are created through affixation as seen in the excerpt below: ‘Vous n’aviez qu’à ‘tchouquer…’ (29) [You only had to fire]. The word ‘tchouquer’ derives from the noun ‘tchoucage,’ and translates the act of starting a car by having people push it. It also has sexual innuendoes. Young Cameroonians tend to use ‘tchouquer’ to describe sexual intercourse. Some Camfranglais speakers use the word ‘appuyer’ in making allusion to sexual intercourse.

The technique of indigenization of the French language enables Camfranglais speakers to create words suitable for discussions relating to love affairs. The rationale is to conceal the meaning of certain taboo words from adults and kids for the sake of propriety as this example shows: ‘Tout venant d’elle constituait un irrésistible ‘tobo a ssi’ dont j’étais une victime joyeuse.’(105) [16] ‘Tobo a ssi’ is a vernacular-language term that describes a love potion used by Cameroonian women to charm men with whom they want to fall in love or who are in love with men they fear may be lured away by other women. Indigenization of the French language in the following sentence is evident: ‘Justine était généralement vêtue d’un ‘kabba’ par-dessus duquel elle avait noué un pagne.’(130) [17] ‘Kabba’ is a loanword from Duala, one of the vernacular languages spoken in Cameroon.

These examples bear testimony to the fact that Moi Taximan is a novel in which native tongue words and expressions jostle for space with standard French lexes. Neology enables Fonkou to find words that convey the mindset and worldview of his characters as the example shows: ‘Entre deux clients, Justine et sa mère participaient activement à l’entretien de la chaude ambiance du secteur des ‘bayam sellam’: potins, querelles simulées, plaisanteries et fausses confidences bruyantes y provoquaient de gros éclats de rire.’ (131) [18] ‘Bayam sellam’, is a compound noun derived from Cameroonian Pidgin English. Literally, it means “buy” and “sell.” It is used in this novel to describe market women whom the protagonist describes as ‘des revendeuses, cette catégorie de commerçantes aggressives sans les lesquelles nos marchés perdraient leur âme.’(130) [19] ‘Bayam sellam’ trade consists precisely of buying and selling foodstuff bought wholesale at the lowest possible prices in the rural areas (farms and plantations in the villages) to resell by retail in the urban areas (Bafoussam, Douala, Nkongsamba, Yaoundé, etc.) ‘Bayam sellam’ trade is a growing informal economic sector born out of dire need (the struggle to improve the livelihood of individuals and families.)

The title of Fonkou’s novel—Moi Taximan—calls for a comment. The first half of the title ‘Moi’ is a tonic pronoun. Tonic pronouns are used for the purpose of emphasis. Thus, when Fonkou says ‘Moi’, he draws attention to himself, an invitation extended to the reader to listen to his story. The second part of the title is a compound noun derived from two words—‘taxi’ and ‘man.’ ‘Taximan’ is a compound word used by Camanglophones in reference to a cab driver. The slang spoken by Fonkou’s characters is a third code fabricated by youths ‘désireux de s’exprimer entre eux de telle sorte qu’ils ne soient compréhensibles que par les locuteurs…capables de décoder les termes empruntés à l’anglais, au pidgin English ou aux langues camerounaises’ (Ntsobe et al, 2008, p. 9) [20] Put differently, some lexical items employed by Fonkou are loans from Cameroonian Creole (pidgin English) as this example shows: ‘Au bout de la journée le plus souvent chacun de nous affichait un sourire de contentement et nous nous quittions à la nuit tombante sur de vigoureuses poignées de mains prolongées par un ‘toss’…’(13). [21] Fonkou’s protagonist describes the word ‘toss’ as ‘salut du bout des pouces et des majeurs entrecroisés puis séparés dans un vif frottement sonore.’(13) [22] Pidgin has enriched the Camfranglais that Fonkou uses in Moi taximan.

RECOURSE TO PIDGIN ENGLISH AS A MODE OF EXPRESSION

Pidgin is used for good purpose in the novel as seen in the following statement: ‘La journée d’hier a été djidja.’(19) [23] ‘Djidja’, a loanword from Pidgin English, derives from the English word ‘ginger.’ Camanglais speakers use this culinary term to describe an untoward situation, comparable to the standard French expression ‘une à boire’ (uphill task).Oftentimes, Fonkou makes the reader aware of the technique of elision as a word formative paradigm as seen in this example: ‘En même temps, ses bras se livraient à des gestes qu’il voulait impérieux, pour m’intimer de m’arrêter illico.’(21) [24] The word ‘illico’ is an abbreviation of ‘illegal’, used in this context to translate the notion of imprudent attitude. Fonkou seems to have a predilection for the elision of terminal syllables: ‘Je ne sais rien, espèce de Bami.’(24) [25] The word ‘Bami’ is an abbreviation of ‘Bamileke’, one of the ethnic groups in Cameroon loathed by other Cameroonians for their ruthless money-mongering and unbridled resourcefulness. Used the way Fonkou does here, the word conveys derogatory undertones. As these examples illustrate, neology is a technique constantly exploited by Fonkou to create new words that portray the prism through which his characters perceive social reality. This is a book I highly recommend to people who know nothing about Camfranglais and who are desirous of one day visiting the Republic of Cameroon. It really is a must read.

CONCLUSION

It is tempting to conclude that Fonkou’s novel is an excellent example of fiction in which the ex-colonized underscores the fallacy of the unassailable position of European languages in indigenous literatures. Moi taximan does more than just capture in print the oral discourses of Cameroonians; it is a reflection of the discomfort felt by African writers in their attempt to discuss African realities using languages that were not meant to convey these realities in the first place. Fonkou makes abundant use of the technique of linguistic innovation to portray both the socio-cultural realities of Cameroon and the significant influence of literary indigenization on postcolonial fictional writing.

Moi Taximan by Gabriel Kuitche Fonkou, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001, 192 pp. Paperback, $43.23. ISBN 97827475526678

* Dr. Peter Wuteh Vakunta teaches at the United States Defense Language Institute in California. He is an Africanologist and specialist in Postcolonial Francophone Literatures. He blogs at http://vakunta.blogspot.com

END NOTES

1. In the afternoon, I had to pay back money I had borrowed from members of a thrift society of people from my village.

2. I had noticed from the onset that some clando colleagues never stopped at the police checkpoint, or only stopped to crack jokes with the controllers and leave without serving coffee or beer.

3. Speakers of Camfranglais

4. The first encounters with the mange-mille and gendarmes often cost much, but with time, people get to know one another and a sort of tacit contract is established.

5. You absolutely have to know the meanings and contextual usage of these words.

6. The child who lives near the palace does not fear the ‘mekwum.’

7. As soon as I found myself in this crowd, we shook hands incessantly and so vigorously that one could lose one’s equilibrium, endless ‘nge pin’, ‘a pon’, ‘a bha’a, expressions of approbation and satisfaction.

8. Ideophones are words that evoke a vivid impression of certain sensations or sensory perceptions, e.g. sound, movement, color, shape, or action. They are found in many of the world's languages, though they are relatively uncommon in Western languages (Nuckolls 2004).

9. Literally, everyone present shouted ‘Oueuh! Oueuh! Oueuh!’

10. I only ate at home in the evenings, except on days when I had asked an ‘attacker’ to replace me so that I could have some rest.

11. At the end of the day, we returned home with a big smile if, in addition to the normal fare, long-distance commuters had proposed.

12. Pay more than the required fare.

13. I ran into Massa Yo after having spent two weeks without a job.

14. We must admit that this is a case of linguistic invasion, a sort of dictatorship of words and expressions originating from elsewhere that impact negatively on the use of standard French vocabulary.

15. [xv] A language too rigid to enable my thought to flow freely

16. Everything coming from her was like some irresistible ‘tobo a ssi’ whose happy victim I was.

17. Justine was always dressed in a ‘kabba’ over which she tied a loincloth.

18. Between two customers, Justine and her mother participated in the hot discussions that animated the ‘bayam sellam’ section of the martket: gossip, fake quarrels, jokes and noisy false pretenses that caused outbursts of laughter.

19. would lose their luster.

20. Interested in conversing with one another in such a manner that what they say is only intelligible to initiates…capable of decoding the meanings of terms culled from English, Pidgin and indigenous Cameroonian languages.

21. More often than not, at the end of the day, each one of us wore a smile of satisfaction; we parted at nightfall after vigorously shaking hands and saying ‘toss.’

22. Form of handshake with the tips of the thumb and middle-fingers intertwined, followed by a quick separation and loud sound.

23. Yesterday was djidja.

24. At the same time, he made majestic arm gestures as if to stop me right away.

25. I have no idea, you Bami.





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