Join Friends of Pambazuka

Subscribe for Free!

Fahamu Bulletin Archive

News about our programmes 30, Sept. 2014

Donate to Pambazuka News!

Follow Us

delicious bookmarks facebook twitter

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

Latest titles from Pambazuka Press

African Sexualities

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

Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya

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

Queer African Reader

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

China and Angola

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

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

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

Pambazuka News Broadcasts

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


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

Perspectives on Emerging Powers in Africa: December 2011 newsletter

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

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

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

Current Issue

Pambazuka News 698: Haiti and Cuba: Separating heroes from villains

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

Pambazuka News is delivered free to you with the support of donations from Friends of Pambazuka.


Follow Pambazuka #PambazukaNews

Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Books & arts


The United Nations fails Haiti once again

Kevin Edmonds & Ajamu Nangwaya


cc BT
This week the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH. This deployment is not based on any principles of humanitarianism, but rather is an imperialist occupation which seeks to make sure that the island’s government can implement and maintain repressive policies favourable to international investors. The occupation force must be withdrawn.


This article was written just days before the U.N. Security Council announced a renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for another year.


On 15 October, the United Nations Security Council will meet to “debate” the extension of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) which has acted as an occupying force in the country since the summer of 2004. MINUSTAH was created to put an end to the Multinational Interim Force (primarily made up of U.S., French, Canadian and Chilean troops) which occupied Haiti after an internationally backed coup d’état ousted the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party from power on 29 February 2004.

During these ten years, MINUSTAH has compiled a horrific record of human rights abuses, including but not limited to extrajudicial murder, an epidemic of sexual assault against Haitian men, women and children, the repression of peaceful political protests, in addition to unleashing cholera through criminal negligence which has caused the death of over 9,000 people and infecting nearly a million more. Despite these well-documented abuses, the historical record has shown that the Security Council will mostly likely renew MINUSTAH for another year without any thought to damage being done to Haiti. As evidence of how little resistance there is to the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate in the United Nations, on August 21, MINUSTAH’s budget was extended to June 2015 – clearly signalling that the occupation is certain to continue.

When one examines the level of instability in Haiti, which is used as the justification for MINUSTAH’s continued presence in the country, the United Nations’ argument of protecting the Haitian people from themselves falls flat. Despite the mainstream media portrayal of Haiti as a lawless and dangerous country, in 2012, it had a homicide rate of 10.2 per 100,000 people, ranking it as one of the least violent countries in Latin America and the Caribbean – in contrast to Washington DC which sat at 13.71 per 100,000. Furthermore, to argue that it is the presence of MINUSTAH which has acted as a stabilizing force which has kept violence down, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that between 2007 and 2012, Haiti’s homicide rate doubled from 5.1 to 10.2 per 100,000.

For the fiscal year running from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, $609.18 million was allocated to MINUSTAH. In the ten years in which MINUSTAH has been operational, their total budget is over $5.5 billion. If this same amount had been applied towards human development in the form of investments in clean water, sanitation, healthcare and education – Haiti would have the potential to reclaim its sovereignty and self-determination.

We must be clear: the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti is not based on any principles of humanitarianism, but rather those of an imperialist occupation which seeks to make sure that the island’s government can implement and maintain repressive policies favourable to international investors. Thus the reasons for MINUSTAH’s continued presence in Haiti were confirmed thanks to revelations by WikiLeaks. In one of the most up-front classified cables, from US Ambassador Janet Sanderson on October 1, 2008, stated that, “A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to…resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years.”

The corrupt and repressive regime of President Michel Martelly has proudly boasted that “Haiti is open for business”. Indeed, this is true – however it is the people and the land that are being sold. Canadian mining companies like St. Genevive and Eurasian Minerals have taken advantage of weak laws to prospect new sites covering enormous swaths of territory (an estimated 1/3 of Northern Haiti has been granted to companies via permit), setting up the potential for substantial displacement through forced evictions and environmental destruction. Montreal based Gildan Activewear (the world’s largest manufacturer of blank T-shirts) has routinely pressured the Haitian government to block an increase in Haiti’s abysmally low daily minimum wage and have undermined unionization efforts in their plants.

MINUSTAH has carried out a series of human rights violations resulting in a loss of Haitian sovereignty, stability, dignity and life. Its record of engaging in acts of extrajudicial murder, sexual assault, suppressing peaceful political protests, undermining democracy and introducing cholera into Haiti are more than enough grounds to revoke its mandate. Yet for geopolitical and economic reasons, this does not happen.

As people of good conscience and principled internationalists, we collectively have the capacity and the resources to force an end to the military occupation of Haiti. However, we will not be able to fulfill this potential and stand in solidarity with the laboring classes in Haiti, if we don’t organize campaigns in Canada and across the world that pressure contributing states to end their provision of military and police personnel to MINUSTAH’s occupation force.

Our opposition to the military occupation of Haiti ought to take the form of grassroots-oriented campaigns that educate, mobilize, and organize membership-based organizations to add the end to the occupation to their organizational programme. It is critically necessary to reach out to the people in the spaces in which they are present, and offer specific actions that they may carry out to force the withdrawal of the occupation troops.

We have a moral and political obligation to support the struggle for self-determination by the popular classes in Haiti. The successful Haitian Revolution eliminated the enslavement of Afrikans in Haiti, and lit the fire of freedom in slaveholding states in the Americas.

The people of Haiti demonstrated their solidarity with the colonized peoples in South America by providing a place of refuge, guns, ammunition, personnel, and a printing press to Simon Bolivar’s campaign to liberate the region from Spanish colonialism. The French Revolution and the American Revolution cannot lay claim to being beacons and agents of emancipation in the Americas.

As we work to rid Haiti of MINUSTAH’s occupation forces, we ought to be motivated by the fact that we are continuing a long and proud tradition of people-to-people solidarity in support of emancipation in the Americas. Haiti is the architect and pioneer of this principled political tradition. We should remember this legacy as we call for the Security Council to pull out the occupation troops from Haiti.

* Kevin Edmonds is a PhD student and member of the Toronto Haiti Action Committee and the Campaign to End the Occupation of Haiti. Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is an educator. He is an organizer with the Campaign to End the Occupation of Haiti, and the Organization of Afrikan Struggles and International Solidarity.



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

MINUSTAH’s occupation of Haiti: A structure of global complicity

Lorenzo Fiorito


cc BCU
People from countries around the world whose troops are stationed in Haiti under a UN mandate ought to wake up to the reality that this is an occupation force, serving imperialist interests and deeply hated by the Haitian people on account of serious, well-known human rights abuses over the past decade


The UN Security Council extended the MINUSTAH mandate for a year on Tuesday.


The United Nations Security Council is preparing to renew its military occupation of Haiti by October 15, 2014. Most people across the Americas are probably unaware of the fact that the people of Haiti live today under an occupation. They are more likely to be aware of the recent passing of the infamous dictator and president-for-life than to know about the military force imposed on Haitian soil.

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, erstwhile dictator of Haiti, died of a heart attack on 4 October 2014. He had been ousted by a popular movement in 1986, but retained wealth and cronies until his death. News emerged from the capital Port-au-Prince on 10 October that the Duvalierist regime in Haiti would not provide a state funeral to its favoured son – in deference to popular sentiment that still runs deep.

One week after Baby Doc’s last breath, the Campaign to End the Occupation of Haiti (based in Toronto) held an informational picket to highlight the abusive role MINUSTAH – the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, charged with ensuring a compliant and neoliberal Haiti ¬– plays on the island.

MINUSTAH was charged with keeping order in Haiti, following the coup that removed democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. The coup had its origin in a meeting just outside of Ottawa with officials from the United States, Canada and France plotting a post-Aristide Haiti.

The abuses this international force has directed against Haitians are legion: sexual assault of minors (which resulted in, among others, 111 Sri Lankan soldiers and three officers being returned to their country of origin), political repression directed against entire neighbourhoods, and extrajudicial murders. Children were shot at and others killed during violent MINUSTAH suppression of protests in 2005, where 41 armored carriers transported personnel into a pro-Aristide neighbourhood. During this operation, these UN troops used over 22,000 rounds of ammunition.

To add base insult to the injuries, a cholera outbreak – originating in October 2010 at a MINUSTAH base – has thus far killed 9,200 people and infected over 750,000. In other words, MINUSTAH personnel evidently saw fit to dump untreated, contaminated sewage into the Artibonite River, an important source of water for domestic and agricultural purposes for Haitians.

These infuriating truths are symptoms of an underlying power imbalance between Haiti and the rest of the world. MINUSTAH personnel are governed by extraterritoriality agreements, which make it difficult to prosecute foreign troops on Haitian soil. The sense of impunity these troops must feel – carrying a gun, absent any fear of legal consequence, psychologically moulded in the global crucible of anti-Black racism – creates a culture of unrestrained disrespect among UN personnel.

Yet even this haphazard structure of terror serves a political and economic purpose. Wikileaks reports that a classified cable from US ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson, stated on 1 October 2008 that “a premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to…resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces – reversing gains of the last two years.” In spite of a part of MINUSTAH’s mandate being “to support the constitutional and political processes; to assist in organizing, monitoring, and carrying out free and fair municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections,” Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular political and electoral organization in Haiti, has been barred from all elections since the 2004 coup. Aristide once led the party.

Haiti under Aristide was no longer content to be the world’s sweatshop, providing cheap labour to whomever would bring it capital. Haitians wanted to chart a course away from the neoliberal capitalist economic and social policy framework that would have generated mass suffering. Aristide was responsive to the needs of Fanmi Lavalas and the people because they put him in power, and he was acquainted with their condition from his pastoral work as a priest.

One aim of the Aristide government, which Sanderson’s cable refers to by innuendo, was to seek repayment of the 90 million gold francs (now worth over $22 billion) paid out to France between 1825 and 1947, as compensation for the slaveholders’ loss of property in enslaved Afrikans and land resulting from the Haitian Revolution. Aristide’s claim for compensation infuriated France. His demand that France repay the extracted independence ransom is widely seen as a factor that country’s role in engineering the 2004 coup.

And so Aristide was removed, and MINUSTAH moved in. The UN’s façade of political neutrality here is unmasked. Duvalier is dead, but his role has been recast in the current regime of President Martelly, with his Duvalierist ministers and administrative approach. The era of the personalist dictator, in the mould of Duvalier, has morphed into an “elected” Martelly regime and the era of international “stabilization forces.”

These may be deployed, withdrawn, and replaced: foreigners and local elite far removed from Haiti’s social realities, without internal dissension about the role they are playing on the island. Cholera, sexual abuse, and gunfire from the occupation forces and its surrogate Haitian National Police – each plays its role as a weapon against Haiti’s economic resurgence and its population’s political self-assertion.

The heirs of those whom CLR James called the “Black Jacobins” have another battle to fight. The responsibility for ending the occupation of Haiti is not only theirs, but that of politically engaged people from each country of the world – Canada among them – represented in MINUSTAH.

* Lorenzo Fiorito is a student and Haiti solidarity activist, writing from Toronto.



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

No to sham elections and US occupation

Open letter from Haiti human rights activists to US Congress


cc HT
The situation in Haiti is very bleak, and extremely serious, Haitian activists say. The current regime is very repressive and has refused to hold elections. But it continues to enjoy the support of the US and UN despite the cries of suffering Haitian people

10 October 2014

To: Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY)

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balartz (R-FL)

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs

Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL)

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Ranking Member, House Committee on the Judiciary

Dear Honorable Senators and Representatives,

We would like to thank you for your work on behalf of the American people to promote justice and democracy. However, we are writing you to express our outrage over your letter dated September 15, 2014 to Senator Simon Dieuseul Desras, President of the Haitian Senate. We, Haitians and Haitian-Americans living in the Diaspora, appreciate your concerns. Yet after reading your letter, we are more concerned because it is clear that you have not been properly informed on the real situation in Haiti. In that regard, we would like to share with you some of the obstacles Haiti faces.

The situation in Haiti is very bleak, and extremely serious. Haitians living in Haiti are faced with an uncertain future. The current regime that was imposed on the people of Haiti by the US and allies through a fraudulent election in 2010, has moved the clock backwards in all areas. This selection had the seal of approval of former US President William Jefferson Clinton with the support of his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton, then US Secretary of State.

If, we were to give a facade of legitimacy to the Martelly selection by the US and its allies, one would suppose a legitimate government is constitutionally obligated to organize local, municipal and parliamentary elections. But it has been three (3) years since President Martelly took office. Where are we and what has happened? Essentially the powerful hand of international lawmakers and global stakeholders, backed by UN privatized guns for the benefit of US and trans-national corporate interests, prevent the Haitian populace from handling issues that need to be handled by Haitians.

By chance, have you inquired why elections were not organized in 2011, 2012, and 2013? Currently, all local government officers have been replaced with non-elected presidential henchmen called Interim Executive Agents who are friends and supporters of the Martelly-Lamothe regime. All the institutions necessary to conduct free, fair, and democratic elections are under the control of the executive branch of government.

The justice system has been heavily politicized and is in a state of paralysis. The Martelly-Lamothe regime has been using the justice system to repress political opponents.

In one instance, a Deputy in function was arrested and jailed in clear violation of the Haitian constitution.

In another instance, a judge investigating corruption charges brought against president Martelly and his family died, allegedly from the great pressure illegally exerted by the Martelly-Lamothe regime for the judge to throw out the case.

In yet another situation, Martelly’s Minister of Justice personally went to a police station and ordered the release of the wife of an individual who is a good friend of the president and was put in jail under a judge’s order while conducting an investigation into an alleged kidnapping.

Where are the voices of concern from “the friends of Haiti” and/or “the international human rights industry” against this Martelly-Lamothe reign of terror?

The police force is in a very precarious situation that is no different than that of the justice system.

The selected president feels so comfortable with US-Euro support of his new Duvalierist regime that he publicly stated that “the police is the armed wing of the government”.

In the manner of Ferguson USA, this US and foreign-trained, militarized police has been used to break-up peaceful protests through the use of tear gas, beatings, chemical showers, rubber bullets and other militarized police tools.

Peaceful demonstrators are routinely arrested and thrown in jail. These individuals are indefinitely kept imprisoned without a hearing, trial or conviction. The near complete impunity of the Haiti State, supported by the international “friends” of Haiti, reign as if Haiti and the world were back in the Cold War days.

This Haiti mass disenfranchisement and repression is a clear violation of local, regional and international human rights.

A growing number of political prisoners like the Florestal Brothers whose only crime was to file a lawsuit against the president’s family for corruption are abandoned and warehoused in US occupied Haiti behind UN privatized colonial guns.

The persecution of attorneys Andre Michel and Newton Saint-Juste for denouncing corruption and for filing lawsuits against many members of the government and the presidential family, evidences the authoritarian nature of the new Duvalierist regime supported by US lawmakers without dissent.

Opposition members are constantly harassed and persecuted; even former President Jean Bertrand Aristide has been targeted with an illegal house arrest.

Effectively, Haiti is functioning under the regime of “Legal Bandits”, a moniker given to the current regime by the Haitian public that US Lawmakers won’t hear.

Those close to the Martelly regime routinely commit crimes and walk free with impunity. One Senator close to the government beat up an individual and broke his tooth. The Senator in question, during a radio interview, said “I broke his tooth.” Yet, he was found not guilty of any charges in the town of Jacmel where the incident took place.

Another close ally of President Martelly in Jacmel, spit on a judge’s face. The judge was subsequently fired for no apparent reason.

A close friend and member of the President’s security team beat up, punch, slaps anyone who get in his way. A group of innocent students passed his car on their way to school; he pulled the students car over, beat them up, and humiliated them in broad day light. Afterwards, he drove the students to the next police precinct and walked off. These are verified and documented incidents of state terror.

Most illegally, President Michel Martelly summarily issued a presidential decree that charges $1.50 on every transfer that is being sent to Haiti and also a .5-cent tax on all international outgoing and incoming phone calls. The money collected from the fees is supposed to cover expenses associated with the President free school program. The law that would make this program legal never made it to the Haitian parliament. From 2013 to present, an alarming number of teachers have been on strike for not getting paid. There is no accountability on how those monies are collected and or spent. The Diaspora is not spared.

Many Haitians are living in terror of losing their homes and their family lands. Over 400 houses have been demolished in Port-au-Prince by Martelly’s regime and only 17 homeowners received compensation. At the same time, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is taking over the Island of Ile a-Vache and evicting residents from their lands. This situation is forcing a number of Haitians to become homeless. It is understood that many of Haiti’s land is being liquidated to foreigners. A May 10, 2013 presidential decree takes Haiti offshore islands for “tourism and public utility” and will subject hundreds of thousands of Haitians and impoverished peasants to possible eviction off their communal properties or family-owned lands.

The Prime Minister refused to show up in parliament to defend the nation’s budget and explain the nation’s expenditures. All of those things are happening under the eyes and noses of the international community.

Pamela White, the US Ambassador in Haiti, has not said a single word to condemn these acts. It is likewise for Ms. Sandra Honore , the UN Representative in Haiti. The majority of the US newspapers are completely silent, especially the Miami Herald.

Former UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros Ghali said, in 2003, that “the United Nations is just an instrument at the service of American policy”. And so are its peacekeeping missions.

Since 2004, Haiti has been under military occupation by the United Nations, which is, as Boutros Ghali and Haiti freedom fighters have pointed out, nothing but a proxy for the United States to impose its will and agenda on the majority of the Haitian people.

One of the stated purposes of the United Nations in Haiti was to promote democracy and build institutions in the society through democratic elections. That mission has been a catastrophic failure. Both elections held under their leadership in 2006 and in 2010 were deeply flawed and contested. It seems that the goal of the international community and mostly the United States is to have a “selection” where the majority of Haitians are excluded. Unfortunately, the organization of American States (OAS) is used to validate the election results. The international human rights industry also remains mute on the US occupation in Haiti behind privatized UN guns, Private Military and Security companies (PMSCs) and the NGO charitable industrial complex.

The Unites States Mission to Stabilize Haiti known as MINUSTAH has destabilized Haiti since its arrival.

MINUSTAH’s soldiers have killed, raped, infected Haitians with cholera, and generally prevent Haitians from expressing their democratic rights. This force replaces the old Haitian army and paramilitary forces. More than 10,000 Haitians have lost their lives in the cholera epidemic and over 850,000 have been infected, taking Haiti from zero cholera cases in October 2010 to having the world’s worst cholera epidemic. It is far from being over as more Haitians continue to die with the disease. The cholera victims have yet to be compensated. The United Nations refuses to take responsibility for its soldiers committing genocide in Haiti. The Obama administration, the respondeat superior here, sides with the UN – its employee in Haiti- to continue the tradition of impunity for the wealthy and powerful. It recently intervened in a Federal class action lawsuit against the UN to recommend that the federal judge find the UN immune from legal liability for importing cholera to Haiti.

Wouldn’t committed friends of Haiti demand justice for Haitians? Write to UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon to urge for the United Nations to pay damages to the cholera victims?

Haitians have been calling for the UN troops to leave the country for ten years now and they have to go. Why won’t US Lawmakers join hands with the Haitians in supporting their call to end the occupation?

With regard to the electoral council, there is overwhelming information circulating throughout the Haitian press daily stating that the majority of Haitians have no confidence in the current body. There was meager participation in the dialogue, and the discussion to create this electoral body was not inclusive. The process that created it has been contested since its inception. The electoral body consists of nine (9) members, six (6) of whom have been handpicked by President Martelly. There is no trust in the government and the electoral body lacks credibility. Under those conditions, can honest, fair and free elections be held in the country? No.

Haitians want free, fair, honest and democratic elections. Haitians do not want pre-programed election results, prepared by the international community and justified by the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC. This was the case in 2006 and in 2010. Enough is enough. The neo-Duvalier reign of terror in Haiti is unacceptable. Silence is complicity.

The dissenting Haitian Senators respectfully demanded the implementation of the Haitian constitution in the formation of the Provisional Electoral Council. They have also requested that the necessary conditions be put in place for honest and fair elections be held. When one considers the current atmosphere in Haiti, the blatant violation of human rights, fear and intimidation perpetrated toward the opposition; the Senators’ positions are justified. As legislators, you stand guard against any violations of the US constitution. How come you are writing legislators in another country asking them to violate their own laws?

The United States of America has promoted dictatorship in Haiti, overthrown democratically elected president Aristide and now, again, is getting ready to organize another sham election while they are calling themselves “friends of Haitians.”

Which Haitians are they friends with? Conditions must be established to have free, fair, credible and democratic elections for all to participate. That means no occupation. That means that Haitians must have control of their own resources to develop and improve Haiti’s infrastructures, food security and self-reliance. Right now, we are far from being there.

We are sick and tired of the so-called “friends of Haiti” who time after time have shown that they are the enemies of freedom and democracy for the majority of Haitians. We hope that you will invest the time to become fully knowledgeable about the imperialist war against the Haiti masses and their natural resources. Perhaps then, you will realize that your are on the wrong path. The letter sent the wrong signal and we forcefully condemned it.

We, Haitians and Haitian-Americans in the diaspora, stand firm in supporting democratic elections and the institutionalization of the rule of law in Haiti. There can be no democracy, legitimate elections or due application of local, regional or international human rights laws while Haiti is under foreign occupation. We are committed to defending the rights of the citizens of Haiti to elect their government representatives freely and fairly. We are ready to mobilize the Diaspora with our ballots as well as through other peaceful means to put an end to this situation in order to have real democracy in Haiti. This will enable the country to prosper and become the paradise that we all know Haiti can be without all this meddling and US hero/villain pathology and thereby accomplishing the dreams of our forefathers of establishing a truly independent nation.


1. Jean Yves Point-du-Jour, Transportation Engineer Manager
Maryland USA

2. Eugenia Charles, Democracy for Haiti

3. Ezili Dantò, Human Rights Attorney, Haitian lawyers Leadership Network, Free Haiti Movement (Author of “The Quiet Genocide in Haiti/How is it wielded from FDR to Obama-The United Nations, a criminal organization from Lumumba to Aristide)

4. Thony Jean Tenor, Veye Yo-Miami, FL


* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Reflections on the death of an unpunished dictator

Patrick Sylvain


cc LS
Jean-Claude Duvalier, or ‘Baby Doc’, died on 4 October without facing justice for his wanton crimes against the Haitian people. Uneducated in the affairs of governance, he ran the country with an iron fist until the people deposed him.

I was barely five years old when François Duvalier died and his nineteen year-old-son was sworn in as President in April 1971. This was done after the Haitian constitution was amended with neither national referendum nor proper parliamentary procedures to account for the dramatic change in the age requirement, from forty years of age to nineteen.

I remember my mom dressing me up for school: I had on a new pair of ankle-high black boots, khaki shorts and a white shirt. We had barely reached the first bend in the road when my grandfather quickly ran after us, ordering us to come back. I knew something was wrong, as other families scurried back into their homes. It was the first time that I recollect seeing my family gathered around a large radio in the living room; it was then that I had learned of the passing of a President.

I vividly recall being told that our President was for life, which obviously he was not. Life went on as I went back to school with a new picture plastered on the outer school walls. I remember laughing with some of our schoolmates at how chubby our new young President was. One of the peanut vendors told us that we would be arrested if we didn’t stop our silliness. We stopped.

Time went on. I became a teenage boy wearing long pants and riding motorcycles with children from Haiti’s most influential families; I also had very poor friends with whom I played football or marbles. Sometimes through jokes and other times through serious talks I learned from them about disappearances, about wives who were sleeping with military officers or public officials for political favors, and about who owned guns among the students and how to become a card carrying member of the Duvalier militia, the Macoute (Volunteer for the Security of the Nation/VSN).

Additionally, in 1971, in order to assure his power and his legacy as a strongman, Duvalier formed his private counterinsurgency military group, the Leopards, which was headed by the Commander Acédius Saint-Louis, and they carried repressive military operations around the capital that included the dumping of thousands of bodies in Ti-Tanyen, and also behind the notorious Lamanten garrison.

The Leopards were equipped and trained by the American Miami-based company, Aerotrade, whose CEO was James Byers. Let’s not forget Fort-Dimanche where thousands of Haitians were summarily tortured and starved to death. Duvalier was proud to let the nation know that “the son of a tiger was also a tiger.” Namely, that he also possessed the ferocious characteristics of his father. Indeed, the ferocity of the regime seduced a lot of young men and women who wanted to have carte blanche to carry out so-called “counterinsurgency.”

As one of my oldest brothers joined the Duvalier militia corps as a Security Intelligent Officer (VSND), a detective, I witnessed how allegiance to the Macoute machinery of power was far greater than family ties. My brother became a brute, a man intoxicated with power and devilishly defending the crimes of the Duvaliers. As other young men joined the machinery of repression, childhood friends were torn apart and even betrayals occurred.

I hated the régime. In May of 1980, there was the $5 million dollar national wedding that was lavishly displayed on public television while Haiti was going through its first major food shortage and episodes of famine in the Northwestern region of the country. The famine had commenced after the regime allowed “creole pigs” to be slaughtered due to pressure that the USAID placed on the government in a campaign to eradicate swine fever.

There were no cases of swine fever in Haiti. Since the government, as well as the Haitian bourgeoisie, never had a progressive vision for the country, they happily participated in the eradication campaign by killing the very livelihood of the peasants.

From 1979 until today, the floodgate of Haitian boats became a new marker in the economic as well as political repression of the Haitian people. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of Haitians were legally sold to the Dominican Republic as sugarcane harvesters, the payment per worker added to the coffers of the National Palace. All the while, Jean-Claude Duvalier – then known as the Playboy President – was collecting an array of fancy foreign cars (from Mercedes Benz, BMW, to Audi), and likewise gifting them to opulent parties – the political gagòt – in order to satisfy his manhood. Perhaps most insulting of all were the trails of crisp gourdes he left flying to the ground for the dirt poor to fight over like dogs after his motorcade passed through disenfranchised neighborhoods.

By the time I left for the United States in December of 1981, Haiti was constantly in the news and nothing positive was projected. Haiti was portrayed as a nuisance. At the same time, the United States government continued to pour millions of dollars into the repressive state due to its anti-communist policies and extra-liberal international business plans, including Ronald Reagan’s devastating Caribbean Basin Initiative, which provided zero taxation to businesses, no rights to unionize, and allowed corporations to change names within ten years in order to enjoy renewed rounds of free tariffs.

Haiti was a heaven for sweatshops. More Haitians left the country as life became more difficult and basic hope was handcuffed by corruption, repression and incompetence. Under the Jimmy Carter administration, things improved in terms of human rights, but the structural damages suffered by the country were already too profound. When Duvalier and his cronies finally fell from power in 1986, the United States provided a rescue plan that saw the safe passage of a notorious dictator to safety in France, and in doing so prevented justice.

And so it was proven to be true: no justice, no peace. The millions of repressed people spoke the language they had been taught; Haitians were mad with joy, and that euphoric madness gave way to violence. Thus, the anger of a repressed people that fueled a bonfire of political uprooting likewise veered the country toward a continual reenactment of its traumas. Meanwhile, Duvalier was spending stolen money in a former colonial country that had inhibited Haiti’s development.

Jean-Claude Duvalier, uneducated in the affairs of governance, just as our current President and many others that preceded him, ran the country with an iron fist in order to cover up for the institutional lacunae that crippled its functioning. Due to our history of slavery, dictatorship, foreign occupation and more dictatorship, we Haitians have grown accustomed to and accepting of “the strongman” as a model; thus dictatorship as a mode of operation.

One could argue that the failures of Aristide, Préval and now Martelly rest squarely in the fact that they have had no model of democratic governance or economic inclusion in Haiti, and certainly no historical precedent of government that truly loves its nation in a non-folkloric way. What the Duvaliers gave us was a folkloric nationalism and “order” based on fear, which in turn generated a pathological populous that is cliquish, self-centered, narrow-minded and economically non-productive, constantly looking for a way out to a foreign country. Because they have never experienced stable and secure institution, it is no surprise that members of the elite are involved in kidnapping, drug trafficking and the systematic destruction of the rule of law. We have never had checks and balances. Haitians know first-hand the Duvalier rule of iron-fisted-laws and kleptocracy.

The governmental machinery propped by the Duvaliers concerned itself with the structural control of all aspects of Haiti’s socio-political life, which included the deputizing of 562 section chiefs who could then hire their own adjutants and lackeys. Such control was draconian and it created a level of paranoia as well as various forms pathologies among Haitians, including the egocentric military patriarch and clientellism (foli chèf and moun-pa).

So should Jean-Claude Duvalier receive a national funeral? No. He was never voted in by the people, and therefore was never a constitutionally legitimate president of the country.

Furthermore, with all of the crimes, bribery, and corruptions that occurred during his reign, by providing him with an “honorable” national funeral, it would be allowing green light to impunity to all dictators and demagogues who have soiled the Haitian nation in the name of nationalism. If Martelly and his pseudo-Duvalierist acolytes would like to pay homage to their “hero” as private citizens, it would be their rights to do so. But not one dime of the impoverished nation should be spent on a kleptomaniac while thousands of people are still homeless from the devastating earthquake.

Despite Jean-Claude Duvalier’s death, the search for justice must continue, and Haiti must finally be ruled democratically, responsibly, and with human interests as its core value.

* Patrick Sylvain is Contributing Editor at the
Boston Haitian, where this article was first published.



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Heroes dressed in white

Leticia Martínez Hernández


cc MA
Cuba recently sent a medical team of 165, consisting of 63 doctors and 102 nurses, to Sierra Leone to support efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak. It is a mission they were happy to undertake and it goes right into the heart of Cuba’s people-to-people solidarity.

That evening, two people were celebrating their birthdays. I don’t know how old they were, and right then it didn’t seem to matter, given that in a few moments they would be setting off to perhaps the last place anyone would want to go. On the tarmac of José Martí International Airport they boarded the IL-96 plane which would take them directly to Sierra Leone.

Those two people were Dr. Eldys Rodríguez and Dr. Roberto Ponce, who just before making their way to the plane received “happy birthday” greetings from hundreds of Cuban healthcare professionals. These same professionals had immediately said yes when they were asked if they would travel to Africa. How could they have refused, given that since the first time they had sat down for a class at the faculty of medicine, they were taught to cherish the gift of saving lives?

Dr. Rodríguez had just hugged his family. He had reassured them. “They know I have to go. This is a historic moment which I have to live. Right now, with the plane ready to leave, I am full of happiness, nostalgia, sentiment for my Revolution, determination to push forwards, to prevent this illness from spreading, to prevent it from reaching my country. This is another of life’s tests, on the day of my birthday; it must be a good sign.”

“I hope you don’t mind me asking but, are you scared?”

“No, only cautious”, he responded, smiling.

Standing next to him is Dr. Roberto Ponce, a tall and confident man, who has also dedicated his life to medicine. He specializes in comprehensive family medicine, and is an intensive care nurse, with a diploma in intensive care, and a masters in medical sciences. Sierra Leone will certainly boast the best specialists to help fight Ebola.

I suspected that Ponce had been part of more than one heroic endeavor. And I was right. “I was in Sri Lanka, when the tsunami hit in 2004; and from 2005 to 2007 I worked in Lesotho in southern Africa. So this is my third mission.” Now about to return to the continent of Africa, he acknowledges that “this mission will be difficult.” But he looks calm. The preparation he has received in the previous weeks has equipped him with all the necessary precautionary tools. Surprisingly he has another confession:

“Illnesses don’t scare me. I am more afraid of that plane over there.” I try to weigh up these men, heroes in the flesh, with glorious accomplishments, and others still to be realized, with memories, joys and fears; men who have decided, despite the risks, to dedicate their lives to others.

Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz shook hands with each of them before they boarded the plane; wishing them a safe journey and swift return; telling them to take care of themselves and offering words of encouragement. In response they asked him to trust in the Brigade; and give the Comandante en Jefe an embrace on their part; some stood firm before the Army General; others with their hands on their hearts…

That was how Cuba bid farewell to the team of 165 internationalist collaborators, consisting of 63 doctors and 102 nurses from across the country, with more than 15 years practical experience and of which 81 % had served on previous international missions.

They said goodbye to the homeland for a while, reaffirming the unquestionable fact that Cuba doesn’t give what it has left over, but the best of what it has, its most precious commodity: its sons, its heroes in white coats.


* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Heroes of our time

Fidel Castro Cruz


cc JPU
The departure of the first batch of Cuban medical personnel to fight the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone rekindles in the mind of Fidel Castro memories of Cuba’s military support for the liberation struggle in Angola. It is continuation of the Black revolutionary tradition

There is much to say about the difficult times humanity is experiencing. Today, however, is a day of special interest for us and perhaps for many other people. Throughout our short revolutionary history, since the insidious coup, carried out by the empire on March 10, 1952 against our small country, we have often been faced with the need to take important decisions.

When there was no other alternative, other young people, from any other nation faced with our complicated situation, did, or intended to do the same as us, although, in the particular case of Cuba, fate, as on so many other occasions throughout history, played a decisive role.

Due to the scenes created in our country by the United States at that time, with no other objective than to curtail the risk of limited social advances which could inspire future radical changes in the Yankee property that Cuba had become, our Socialist Revolution was conceived.

The Second World War, which ended in 1945, consolidated the dominance of the United States as the principal economic and military power, and turned the country – which itself lay far from the battle fields – into the most powerful on the planet.

The crushing victory of 1959 - this we can assert without a shadow of chauvinism - became an example of what a small nation, fighting for itself, can also do for others. Latin American countries, with a minority of honorable exceptions, leaped upon the crumbs offered up by the United States; for example, Cuba’s sugar quota which, for almost a century and half, had supplied this country during its most critical years, was divided up among producers eager to enter world markets.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the illustrious U.S. General who governed the country at the time, had led allied troops in the war in which they liberated, despite their own powerful means, just a small part of Europe occupied by the Nazis. The substitute for President Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, turned out to be the traditional conservative who usually assumes such political responsibilities in the United States during difficult times.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – which, until the end of the 20th century was the greatest nation in the history of the struggle against the ruthless exploitation of human beings – was dissolved and replaced with a Federation which reduced the area of that great multinational State by no less than 5.5 million square kilometers.

There was something, however, that could not be dissolved: the heroic spirit of the Russian people who, together with their brothers from the rest of the USSR, have managed to preserve a force powerful enough that, in addition to the People’s Republic of China and countries such as Brazil, India and South Africa, they constitute a group with the necessary power to curb the attempts to recolonize the planet.

We experienced two illustrative examples of these realities in the People’s Republic of Angola. Cuba, like many other socialist countries and liberation movements, collaborated with Angola and others who were fighting against Portuguese control in Africa. This control was exercised through direct rule with the support of its allies.

Solidarity with Angola was one of the key issues for the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the Socialist Camp. The country’s independence was inevitable and was accepted by the international community.

The racist State of South Africa and the corrupt government of the former Belgium Congo, with the support of European allies, carefully prepared to conquer and divide up Angola. Cuba, who had been supporting the nation’s struggle for many years, received a request from Agostinho Neto to train the Angolan armed forces which, stationed in Luanda, the country’s capital, should be ready by November 11, 1975, when Neto would officially take office. The soviets, faithful to their commitments, had supplied military equipment and were only awaiting the day of independence to send instructors. Cuba, for its part, agreed to send the instructors requested by Neto.

The racist regime of South Africa, globally condemned and despised, decided to advance its plans and send forces in armored vehicles, equipped with powerful weaponry which, having advanced 100 kilometers from its border, attacked the first training camp, where various Cuban instructors died following heroic resistance. After several days of fighting by those valiant instructors and Angolans, they managed to halt the South African advance towards Luanda, the capital of Angola, to where a battalion of Special Troops from the Ministry of the Interior had been transported from Havana, in the Cuban airline’s old Britannia fleet.

That was how the epic struggle in that sub-Saharan African country began, terrorized by the racists whites, in which motorized infantry battalions and tank brigades, armored artillery and other fighting means, repelled the racist South African forces, forcing them to retreat back to the same border from which they had come.

It was not in 1975 that the most dangerous period of struggle occurred. That would come approximately 12 years later, in southern Angola.

Thus what seemed like the end of the racist escapade in southern Angola was only the beginning, but at least they had learnt that the revolutionary forces of white, mulato and black Cubans, together with the Angolan soldiers, were able to make the supposedly invincible racists swallow the dust of defeat. Perhaps they relied too heavily on their technology, wealth and the support of the dominant empire.

Although it was never our intention, the sovereign attitude of our country was not without conflict with the USSR, which itself did so much for us in truly difficult times, when cutting the fuel supplies to Cuba from the United States could have led to a prolonged and costly conflict with the dominant Northern power. Whether this danger existed or not, the dilemma we faced was deciding whether to be free or to resign ourselves to being slaves to the powerful neighboring empire.

In a situation as complicated as that of Angolan independence, in the direct fight against neocolonialism, it was impossible for differences regarding some aspects not to arise, which could have had serious consequences on the planned objectives, which in Cuba’s case, as part of this struggle, had the right and duty to lead it to success. Whenever we believed that any aspect of our foreign policy could be at odds with the strategic policy of the USSR, we did everything possible to avoid it. The common objectives required that each respect the merits and experience of the other. Modesty is not incompatible with the serious analysis of the complexity and importance of each situation, although in our policy we were always very strict with everything relating to solidarity with the Soviet Union.

At decisive moments of the struggle in Angola against imperialism and racism, such a situation occurred, which stemmed from our direct participation in the fight and the fact that our forces not only fought, but also trained thousands of Angolan combatants, who we supported in their struggle against the pro-Yankee and pro-racist forces of South Africa. A soviet soldier was the government advisor and directed the Angolan forces. We disagreed, however, on an important point: the reiterated frequency with which he defended the erroneous measure of stationing the best trained Angolan troops more than 5,500 kilometers from the capital of Luanda, an idea relating to a different kind of warfare, nothing like the subversive and guerilla character of the Angolan counterrevolutionaries.

In reality the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola didn’t have a base, nor did Savimbi have a point from which to resist, it was a trap by the South African racists which served only to lure the best and most well equipped Angolan troops there, to strike them at will. We therefore opposed the strategy - which was applied more than once – until the end when it was demanded that we hit the enemy with our own forces which led to the battle of Cuito Cuanavale. I would say that the prolonged military confrontation against the South African army was the result of the last offensive against Savimbi´s supposed "capital" – in a distant corner of the border between Angola, South Africa and occupied Namibia -, toward which the valiant Angolan forces, departing from Cuito Cuanavale, a former NATO military base, well equipped with the newest armored cars, tanks and other combat means, began their 100 kilometer march to the supposed counterrevolutionary capital. Our bold fighter pilots supported them with Mig-23s whilst they remained still within their combat radius.

Once they passed those limits, the enemy launched a heavy attack against the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola soldiers with their combat planes, heavy artillery and well equipped ground forces, resulting in heavy casualties of dead and injured. But this time, in their pursuit of the battered Angolan brigades, they headed towards the former NATO military base.

The Angolan units retreated in a front several miles wide separated by gaps of a few kilometers. Given the severity of the losses and the dangers which could result from them, employing the usual means, a request was sent to the President of Angola to appeal to Cuba for support, and that’s what he did. The firm response this time was that the request would only be accepted if all Angolan forces and means of combat on the Southern Front were subordinated to Cuban military command. This condition was immediately accepted.

Forces were quickly mobilized for the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, where the South African invaders and their sophisticated arms clashed with armored units, conventional artillery and the Mig-23s flown by our brave pilots. The Angolan artillery, tanks, and other means in the area which lacked personnel were made ready for combat by Cubans. The Angolan tanks which during their retreat could not overcome the obstacle of the mighty Queve River, to the east of the former NATO base – the bridge over which had been destroyed weeks before by an unmanned South African plane laden with explosives – were buried and surrounded by anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. The advancing South African troops came up against an insurmountable barrier against which they crashed. In this way, with a minimal number of casualties and advantageous conditions, the South African forces were decisively defeated on Angolan soil.

But the fight was not over; the complicity of Israeli imperialism had turned South Africa into a nuclear country. Once again our army was faced with the risk of becoming the target of such weapons. But this point, with all the relevant facts, requires further elaboration, which can perhaps be written in the coming months.

What happened last night which led to this lengthy analysis? Two things, I consider to be of singular significance: The departure of the first Cuban Medical Brigade to Africa to fight against Ebola. The brutal murder in Caracas, Venezuela, of the young revolutionary Member of Parliament, Robert Serra.

Both events reflect the heroic spirit and potential of the revolutionary processes taking place in the homeland of José Martí and the birthplace of the liberation of Latin America, the heroic Venezuela of Simón Bolívar and Hugo Chávez.

How many shocking lessons can be learnt from these actions! Words can hardly express the moral value of such events, which occurred almost simultaneously. I will never be able to believe that the murder of the young parliamentarian was the work of chance. It would be really inconceivable if the repugnant act, comparable to those orchestrated by the worst Yankee intelligence organizations, had not been committed intentionally, even when it absolutely fits the plans and actions of the enemies of the Venezuelan Revolution.

Anyway, the position of the Venezuelan authorities to emphasize the need to thoroughly investigate the nature of the crime seems absolutely correct to me. The people, however, have expressed their deep conviction regarding the nature of the brutal and bloody act.

The departure of the first Medical Brigade to Sierra Leone, noted as one of the areas most seriously affected by the cruel Ebola epidemic, is an example which the country can be proud of; as in this instance it is not possible to reach a higher place of honor and glory. Just as nobody had the slightest doubt that the hundreds of thousands of combatants who went to Angola and other African countries, had provided humanity with an example which will never be able to be erased from human history; nor can it be denied that the heroic action of the army of white coats will occupy one of the highest places of honor in this history.

It won’t be the producers of lethal weapons who receive this deserved honor. May the example of the Cubans heading to Africa also capture the hearts and minds of other doctors around the world, especially those who posses resources, practice a religion or have the deepest conviction to fulfill the duty of human solidarity.

Those heading to fight against Ebola and for the survival of other human beings have a difficult task ahead of them, even risking their own lives. We must not cease in our efforts to ensure that those who fulfill such duties count on the maximum safety in the tasks they undertake and the measures they must take to protect themselves and our own country from this and another illnesses and epidemics.

The personnel heading to Africa are also protecting those who remain here, because the worst that can happen is that this epidemic or other more serious illnesses reach our continent, or the heart of any community in any county in the world, where a child, mother or human being could die. There are enough doctors on the planet to ensure that no one has to die due to lack of medical attention. This is what I wish to express.

Honor and glory to our valiant fighters for health and life!

Honor and glory to the young revolutionary Robert Serra and his partner María Herrera!

I wrote these ideas on October 2 when I learnt of both pieces of news, but I preferred to wait another day in order for public opinion to form and ask Granma to publish it on Saturday.

Fidel Castro Ruz

* This article was published by Granma



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Homage to Havana

Mandisi Majavu


cc Flags
Cuba’s contribution to the development of post-independent Africa has always been based on solidarity, liberty and anti-white supremacy. By this principled stand, Cuba builds on and sustains the spirit of the Haitian revolution.

Cuba is reportedly sending the largest foreign medical team from a single country to West Africa to help fight the Ebola virus. Cuba's contribution to the development and progress of African countries is often unacknowledged in the mainstream public discourse. One is more likely to read about the United Nation’s condemnation of Cuba’s human rights record than about the vital role Cuba has played assisting African countries establish public health systems. Cuba has helped establish medical schools in several African countries such as Ethiopia, Gambia and Uganda.

Cuban professionals have worked in several African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania and Congo Brazzaville. It was the Cuban doctors who organised the first vaccination campaign against polio in the Republic of Congo and not the French who had colonized the country. Historians estimate that more than 40,000 Africans have studied in Cuba on full scholarships funded by the Cuban government since the 1960s.

In Guinea-Bissau, Cuba didn’t only assist in the founding of a medical school; Cuba militarily supported Amilcar Cabral and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) in their struggle for independence against the Portuguese. According to US foreign policy expert and academic, Prof. Piero Gleijeses, all but one of the foreign doctors in the liberated zones of Guinea-Bissau was Cuban from 1963 to 1974. Unlike Western countries that developed their economies through the colonisation of Africa, Cuba’s contribution to the development of post-independent Africa has always been based on principles of solidarity, liberty and anti-white supremacy.

It was the Cubans that forced the white supremacist regime, apartheid South Africa, out of Angola in 1976. That military victory against apartheid South Africa changed the course of Southern African history. For example, because of that military victory, the African National Congress (ANC), the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) were able to set up military camps in Angola. While in Angola, the Cubans and the Soviet Union provided military training to these freedom fighters.

To retaliate, the white supremacist South African regime sent its planes to drop bombs over a Namibian refugee camp located in Cassinga, Angola. In response to this shameless atrocity the Cuban government opened its doors to about 600 Namibian children who had survived the massacre to study and grow up far from the South African bombs, Gleijeses reports. Meanwhile, the United States went out of its ways to ensure that it didn’t offend the white supremacist regime. According to declassified US documents, the US government made sure that “negro personnel have not been assigned to the U.S. mission and consulates in South Africa.” Additionally, the US government avoided any actions that would have created “the impression of a concerted attack on the racial system as such, for that could stimulate strong South African reaction and damage U.S. business interests.”

While Havana sent troops to Angola to oppose white supremacy, President Nixon found “poor, child-like Africans” exasperating. Havana assisted liberation movements in Southern Africa to fight for democracy and liberty; the US, on the other hand, was preoccupied with Robert Mugabe whom the US saw as “emerging as the apparent spokesman of the terrorists based in Mozambique.” The US was concerned that Mugabe wanted to “establish a Marxist-type military dictatorship in Rhodesia on the model of that in Mozambique.”

Instead of assisting freedom fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the US launched a covert operation in 1960, which facilitated Joseph Mobutu’s brutal rule. Havana sent Che Guevara to fight alongside the Simbas in the DRC. Havana’s efforts in Africa helped bring about democracy, while European colonialism in Africa led to the genocide of the Herero people by Germany.

Havana’s involvement in Africa has always been based on solidarity, while European colonisers like the Belgians plundered Congo and murdered millions of Congolese in order to gain access to its natural resources.

Adam Hochschild writes that the West feels closer to the white victims of Stalin, Franco and Hitler than the victims of European colonialism. That partly explains why there is widespread consensus among Western societal institutions that fascism and Nazism were inhuman systems, whereas the jury is still out when it comes to the question of colonialism in Africa.

As far as I am concerned, Charles Mills’ thesis better explains the political attitudes of Western institutions towards colonialism in Africa. Mills argues that white supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today. Further, this thesis partly explains why enlightenment thinkers who wrote during the Atlantic slave trade didn’t concern themselves with the ethical and political questions around the slave trade.

American feminist, Zillah Eisenstein, writes that the Haitian revolution exposed the hypocrisy of the enlightenment language of democracy while simultaneously challenging the accepted exclusive European authorship of human rights. I argue that Cuba’s contribution to the liberations of African countries sustains the spirit of the Haitian revolution. Furthermore, as scholars of the Cuban revolution often point out, through its moral defiance and its defence of its right to survive in the middle of the Western Hemisphere, Cuba has transcended history.

One of the reasons that Western societal institutions do not sufficiently celebrate Cuba’s contribution to the development of the Third World is that Cuba’s role in Africa effectively challenges the self-image of Western countries that is predicated on the belief that the West has inherently better values and political institutions than communist countries. Moreover, for Western institutions to celebrate Cuba’s role in Africa would require a degree of acknowledgement on their part that black Africans have been historically excluded from equal status in Western liberal thought, to use Charles Mills’ insight. And that goes against the Eurocentric self-image that the West is inherently open-minded, fair and tolerant. At this point in our history, this is an image that the West is happy to defend.

* Mandisi Majavu is the Book Reviews Editor of Interface: A Journal For and About Social Movements. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. This article was previously published by SACSIS.



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

38 years of injustice


cc TV
6 October is the anniversary of the first act of terrorism against civilian aviation in the Western hemisphere – the unparalleled Cubana air disaster on the coastline of Barbados on October 6, 1976. Cubana flight 455 was hit by two bombs just after take off from the then Seawell Airport (now the Grantley Adams International Airport) in Barbados

Thirty eight years have passed and the Cuban people continue to demand justice. On October 6, 1976, 73 people, amongst them 11 Guyanese, 5 citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and 57 Cubans were killed on a Cubana Airlines flight.

The authors of the brutal crime walked free in the streets of Miami and the U.S.; they made no secret of the fact that the CIA and the U.S. government protected them. The very same country that has launched wars across the world, supposedly against terrorism, never brought the terrorists who killed those returning home, after a stopover in Barbados, to trial.

That October 6 the nation, which since 1959 to date has been the victim of acts of terrorism orchestrated by figures such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosh, simply for having reclaimed its sovereignty less than 90 miles from the most powerful nation on Earth, was in mourning. Four years ago, Army General Raúl Castro stated: "Today we are here to pay tribute to the 3,478 Cubans who have died and 2,099 who have been permanently disabled by acts of terrorism perpetrated for half a century against our homeland, a toal of 5,577 victims. The Martyrs of Barbados join the long list of those fallen, whom we will never forget."

Before Raul’s speech, it was announced that October 6, would be officially commemorated every year in Cuba as "Victims of State Terrorism Day".

Having personally suffered the cruelty of this criminal policy, four years ago today, the Cuban government and people reaffirmed their decision to condemn and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism, wherever it occurs and whatever the reasons given by the authors.

On October 6, 2010, Raul announced, "Our country has signed the 13 existing international agreements on such matters and strictly fulfills the commitments and obligations set out under the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. Cuba does not possess or have the intention of acquiring weapons of mass destruction of any kind and has fulfilled her obligations in accordance with the existing international regulations on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The territory of Cuba has never been used, nor will it ever be, to organize, fund, or carry out terrorist acts against any country, including the United States. "

Indignation and courage have been Cuba’s response to every single act of terrorism and death it has been subjected to. These acts, aimed at sowing panic, have instead found a people committed to further radicalizing their Revolution. That is why the words of the Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro Ruz, as he bid farewell to the victims of the attack on the Cuban airplane on October 15, 1976, continue to reverberate across the world; "When an energetic and virile people cry out, injustice trembles."

* This article was previously published by Granma International



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Stop the U.S. blockade of Cuba now!

U.S. imperialism remains unflinching in its campaign to crush the Cuban Revolution

Chris Fry


cc GP
The Cuban government estimates that this economic war against their country has cost their nation one trillion, 112 billion, 534 million dollars [$1,112,534,000,000].

In 2004, then Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama said that he supported an end to the economic blockade in Cuba. Yet on Sept. 5, 2014, President Obama signed the annual memorandum that continues the U.S. blockade against Cuba under the infamous “Trading With the Enemy Act.” Cuba is the only country in the world targeted by this act.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy bought himself 1,200 Cuban cigars. He then declared an economic blockade against Cuba. Not only did this mean an embargo of all goods to the socialist country, but also a permanent campaign to discourage and punish other countries from doing business with Cuba.

And for the last 52 years, U.S. imperialism has maintained this blockade, this economic war against the government and the people of Cuba.

Why? Because since the 1959 Revolution, the people of Cuba have shown the world, particularly the people of Latin America and Africa, that despite being a small country; despite a legacy of cruel, colonial rule; despite one dictator after another ruling with an iron grip to serve U.S. corporations; despite racism so powerful that the last of those dictators, who was Black, could not even go onto the U.S. hotel’s beaches — despite all of that, an organized people led by determined revolutionaries could break U.S. imperialism’s grip.

Further, the people of Cuba have shown that poor and working people can themselves run a government, an economy, a whole society themselves, without wealthy landowners and corrupt dictators who answer only to Wall Street banks and corporations.

Before the revolution, five out of six Cubans were in abject poverty, living in shacks or homeless. Two out of three ­Cuban children did not go to school. Hunger, disease, unemployment: that was the lot for most Cubans.

The U.S. economic war against Cuba has created more suffering for the Cuban people, with food and medicines cut off; with spare parts for cars and other machinery denied; with CIA-directed sabotage and even with a U.S.-sponsored invasion; and with the collapse of the Soviet Union removing economic support.

The Cuban government estimates that this economic war against their country has cost their nation one trillion, 112 billion, 534 million dollars [$1,112,534,000,000]. (, Sept. 25).

Yet, despite of all of that, the Cuban poor and working people and their government have created in their country a society designed to fill the needs of the people, not to fill the coffers of banks and corporations. The results are more than dramatic:

• There is almost no homelessness in Cuba. Eighty-five percent of Cubans own their own homes and pay no property taxes or interest on their mortgages. By law, mortgage payments can be no more than 10 percent of combined household income.
• Cuba’s unemployment rate is only 1.8 percent. A recently developed urban agriculture program has created 350,000 jobs.
• The adult literacy rate in Cuba is 99.8 percent, almost a full percent higher than the U.S. rate. (CIA World Factbook)
• The infant mortality rate in Cuba is 4.7 per 1,000 live births. The U.S. rate is 6.0 per 1,000. (, March/April 2009)

For more than 20 years, United Nations resolutions demanding an end to the U.S. blockade of Cuba have passed with overwhelming majorities. The 2013 resolution in the U.N. General Assembly passed 188 to 2, with only Israel joining the U.S. in voting no. The same resolution is scheduled for October of this year, and the vote’s outcome will undoubtedly be the same.

Workers in the U.S have in increasing numbers said that they too oppose the Cuban blockade. A February 2014 poll showed that 56 percent of the people here support normalized relations with Cuba, with an even higher 63 percent of the people polled in Florida — formerly a hotbed of anti-Cuba reaction — saying so. (, Feb. 11)

A June poll of people in the U.S. originally from Cuba shows that 52 percent of them want an end to the embargo as well.

Even many U.S. corporations have called for an end to the blockade, since it costs them billions in lost sales to foreign competitors from Europe, Asia and Latin America.

However, mired in its own economic crises with no solution in sight, the U.S. simply cannot tolerate a successful workers’ state on its own doorstep.

Only a determined struggle by workers here will end this cruel economic war against the people of Cuba.

* This article was first published by Workers World.



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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


Special Issue: Transition Justice in Africa - Challenging contemporary knowledge, narratives and praxis


Pambazuka News invites articles on the question of Transitional Justice in Africa to help readers make sense of the debate in order to effectively play their roles as citizens of Africa.

Much debate in the recent past among scholarly spaces has revealed that Transitional Justice as an emerging field of study and practice is still finding its conceptual and political feet. It is worth noting that there has been increased traction in certain regions of the world, Africa included, to address legacies of past abuses by the international community.

Whereas the tendency towards finding solutions to mass atrocities that occurred during civil wars and other political violence in African countries such as Burundi, Kenya, DRC, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Uganda - just to name a few - has been to call upon the international community to intervene, such a model has proved to be not the most effective one. Much talk and interventions in responding to mass atrocities have claimed and hoped to deter future violations of human dignity and rights.

In responding to collective violence in Africa various mechanisms have been suggested, and indeed tried, such as truth-seeking about human violations or violence, prosecution of individuals bearing the greatest responsibility for a conflict, reparations for victims of violence and institutional reform.

Critics have indeed questioned these Transitional Justice mechanisms in their ability to resolve the underlying root causes of violence and conflicts in Africa or to bring about justice for the victims, reconciling communities and securing stable democratic societies.

Debates in Africa have moved further to raise critical questions on the assumptions that have shaped Transitional Justice based on the realities and context of the continent. The definitions of Transitional Justice and its operative concepts have been highly disputed. Commentators on Africa have observed the increasing growth of Transitional Justice as an industry attracting a lot of funding and a proliferation of many local and international NGOs championing implementation of various sets of mechanisms to resolve past abuses.

This trend shows that many hard questions need to be asked by the citizens of Africa to analyse the various complexities and realities of the current Transitional Justice processes and practices in addressing concerns of post-conflict societies. There is a need for a new thinking towards producing self-sustaining and future-looking approaches in addressing legacies of past abuses and reconstructing affected societies.


• When talking about Transitional Justice, Transition from what? Whose Justice are we focusing on?
• How can Transitional Justice processes happen in the absence of a regime or democratic change?
• Why has there been a lot of focus on purely juridical mechanisms and processes without factoring in the significant relevance and role of socio-economic and political contexts that might better explain the origins and other factors in the conflict continuum?
• Why has there been a lot of power imbalance globally in the discussions on Transitional Justice?
• The world is witnessing a decline in political and economic power by the West especially USA, could this be an opportunity for the global south to model new visions on Transition Justice for the future?
• To what extent have Transitional Justice processes been able to transform the role of women beyond victims of violations?
• How can Transitional Justice mechanisms be cautions not to entrench already existing gender hierarchies and discrimination?
• Have Transitional Justice mechanisms been fully conscious of the emerging issues in Africa with a link to violence such as natural resource exploitation?
• Why have Africans not fully supported and funded the economy of Transitional Justice?
• What is the role of the international community and donors in influencing transitional justice discourse and processes in Africa?
• Can there be self-sustaining Afro-centric transi¬tional justice processes?

Pambazuka News Editorial Team invites articles on these and related questions for a special issue on Transitional Justice in Africa planned for November 2014.


LENGTH OF ARTICLES: Articles should be written in Microsoft Word, Font: Times, size 12 and be between 1000-3000 words

Please submit a biography of two lines at the end of your article and send it

Comment & analysis

Cosmic State Theory: An inquiry into the rationale and possibility of cosmopolitics

Odomaro Mubangizi


Evidently, the existing nation-state model does not successfully handle the global challenges facing humanity. Cosmic state theory proposes a different human organization: a supra-state transcending family, state, market, school, gender, race, party, religious and tribal affiliation. The cosmic state is founded upon the values of peace, justice and sustainable human progress.


Humanity has been experimenting with various models of governing human affairs: theocracy, monarchy, feudalism, fascism, communism, capitalism, militarism, one-party system and multiparty democracy. All these attempts have been focusing on the assumption of limited space, resources and time – hence the establishment of geographical boundaries as legal demarcations for nation states. This approach has unfortunately brought about violent conflicts as different actors compete for limited resources.

There is another view of reality that transcends geographical and temporal limitations and considers reality from a cosmic point of view. Few individuals have managed to have this metaphysical perspective of reality: they include great mystics, saints, founders of various world religions, theologians, and philosophers, who have been trying to envision a new universe or an alternative world. While living in the physical world, these visionaries have their interior eyes focused on something beyond the confines of sense perception.

The cosmic state is one and it is what was there right from the beginning of creation. It is where humanity belongs, together with all other creatures, visible and invisible. The cosmic state is kept together by cosmic forces beyond the full comprehension of human intellect. Humanity will ultimately end up in this cosmic state after all the attempts to create a harmonious state have been exhausted, and after humanity has attained cosmic wisdom. This view of reality was suggested by the famous philosopher, paleontologist and evolutionist French Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin. Before the word globalisation was coined, Teilhard de Chardin used the term planetisation to describe the process of humanity and all reality coming together but also heading to omega point, as the ultimate goal of human and cosmic evolution.

All knowledge, resources, power and human efforts are geared towards creating cosmic harmony, even though not all human beings are aware of this ultimate goal and destiny. Insightful human beings who have labored to contemplate this cosmic state know that it is real and it will be actualised. Those who enter deep and genuine contemplation are capable of living as though this cosmic state was already a reality. The majority of people are trapped in the physical nation-states marked by competition, violence, greed, fear, deprivation, disease, anxiety, and the unending quest for the elusive ‘progress’. Even the small minority that enjoys relative peace and material prosperity, is in constant fear of losing these privileges both as countries and as individuals. This is the state of nature that Thomas Hobbes described as a situation where ‘life is nasty, brutish and short.’ The rise of militant violent groups such as Al Shabab, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Islamic State leads to suspect that Thomas Hobbes was probably right in his characterisation of the state of nature.

This essay makes a proposal for a cosmic state theory in the tradition of the previous optimistic attempts of Emmanuel Kant’s theory of perpetual peace, David Held’s global governance, global civil society, normative international relations theory and Daniele Archibugi’s cosmopolitics. The main line of argument is that the previous international relations arrangements in the form of the League of Nations, United Nations (UN), World Trade Organisations, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Union (EU), African Union (AU), etc, are all premised on the human quest for a cosmic state, even when the main architects of these organisations are not overtly clamoring for a global government architecture. All keen observers of the existing world system are aware that the current global arrangements cannot solve the challenges humanity is facing if we remain in the nation-state paradigm, but then are shy to call for a supra-state framework that can tackle global terrorism, poverty, pandemics and state-failure. The peace-meal reforms of the UN and its agencies will not bring about the desired change in the world system—a new global system is needed, hence the cosmic state theory. Time is ripe for a bold theoretical proposal to take humanity to the next level of political evolution that transcends the artificially constructed borders. The duties beyond borders cannot be fulfilled if humanity remains operating and theorising within nation-sate boundaries. The issue clearly is not whether we need a cosmic state, but when and how.


Liberal democrats think that ultimate harmony and human progress will come about when the free market and liberal democracy have taken firm hold among nation-states. The leading champion of this trend of thought is Francis Fukuyama who even had the audacity to declare the ‘end of history’. His main thesis simply put was that since liberal democracy and the free market have prevailed over the Marxist state-controlled economy, history had come to its climax. The socialists on the other hand think that ultimate harmony and human progress will come about under a classless society, with all the means of production in the hands of the proletariats.

Unfortunately, both the socialist and capitalist ideologies have not succeed in solving the pressing global challenges of abject poverty, armed violence, income inequality, global pandemics and currently, religious extremism. Interestingly, both ideologies have a global agenda.

Those religiously inclined think that ultimate harmony and happiness will come about when the earthly order comes to an end and human beings have gone to heaven, with Jesus Christ as the ultimate victor and eternal king, just to use the example of one religious tradition. Important to note is that due to various conflicting interpretations of the cosmos and ultimate meaning from different religions, societies and countries are often caught in violent conflicts. This just indicates that issues of belief and metaphysics are real and are matters of life and death for a good section of the human race.

It is interesting to realise how each of the great systems, be they political or religious, have some utopian view of how things will ultimately be.

In terms of international relations theory, the post-cold war era has been marked by what Samuel Huntington called ‘the clash of civilizations’. The East-West divide quickly gave way to a clash of cultures with Islam taking the lead in challenging the dominant Western cultural paradigm of modernity. Another major development in the world system after the bi-polar world of the Cold War was the emergency of the uni-polar world where USA hegemony took center stage. But recently, a multi-polar world has emerged with China, India, and EU challenging the US’s dominance of world politics and economy. We can add global terrorism as another world force to reckon with. This has brought into the world system a new force of non-state actors—religion—and to be specific, Islam.

Uncomfortable with the thesis of the clash of civilizations, Joseph Nye came up with the concept of ‘soft power’, with the claim that states can live amicably and more peacefully if they adopt an approach of attraction and seduction instead of brute force in their interaction with other states. The argument of soft power being that countries are endowed with positive values and cultures that other countries can be attracted to, hence no need to resort to hard power comprised of militarism an economic warfare.

The much-celebrated interdependence among states as a result of globalisation now includes the globalisation of terrorist groups that have cells across boundaries. Not surprisingly, these terrorist groups take advantage of global goods such as internet, mobile phones and air travel to coordinate their terrorist activities. Terrorists have been quick to embrace the concept of supra-state citizenship, and so are able to escape the ever-vigilant state apparatus.

In all these trends, the main operating framework is the state system even though other non-state actors are acknowledged. But evidence on the ground suggests that the Westphalian state model is under severe strain. This is why there is urgent need to stretch the imagination and explore the possibility beyond the state. This is a shift from the civil society discourse that tried to situate political discourse in the infra-political space. Why not cast the gaze to the supra-political space and take the political discourse to the cosmic level? After all, human beings are just a step below the Angels in the cosmic hierarchy—thus they deserve more, not less.


The cosmic state is governed by cosmic laws and cosmic morality. Attempts to create laws and morality by some sections of society are bound to fail since human beings are so diverse and cultures vary from place to place and from time to time. Any attempt to impose laws and morality on people is in fact dictatorship. Morality and ways of ordering life are imbedded in the cosmic consciousness of every individual, otherwise where did the first human beings get their laws and morality from? Fortunately, certain norms and laws by various religions and states have certain elements in common, especially the golden rule: ‘Treat others as you would like them to treat you.’ This could clearly be the foundation of all legislation.

Economics or the mode of production and exchange of goods is also rooted in the cosmos. Those who attempt to create grand theories of economics are just imposing their world view on others. Every human being is endowed with the knowledge of survival amidst the challenges of nature, with varying degrees of success.

Beliefs and spiritual values are also grounded in the cosmos. All human beings who genuinely reflect and think about the fundamental questions of life will ultimately come to the conclusion that there is an ultimate reality that keeps the cosmos in harmony. People will arrive at different opinions as to what this ultimate being is and what people should do in relation to this unfathomable reality. Some might refer to this ultimate reality as God, and others might just refer to is as vital or comics force. Hence the need to be tolerant of what opinions and beliefs other people have about this ultimate reality. The reasonableness of such belief and opinions is judged by specialists on the issues of ultimate reality and meaning. If there is an intellectual dispute about ultimate reality, experts from the various religious and philosophical traditions should convene and engage in open and frank dialogue instead of resorting to violence to resolve an intellectual dispute.

According to John Rawls, it is possible for people holding different and irreconcilable doctrines to live together in peace, as long as no one imposes his or her doctrine on others. Religious fundamentalism has failed to grasp this basic tenet of tolerance.


Citizens of the cosmic state are those individuals who have arrived at cosmic consciousness and uphold the principles of the cosmic state. For practical reasons they will have to remain in the existing nation-state models, but they know that they belong to the cosmic state where true harmony is found. They abide by the laws and norms of the nation-states in which they live but they transcend such laws and norms, since they are guided by a higher cosmic moral and legal system. In case one is tempted to think this citizenship model is too idealistic, try and analyse the millions of people who work under international organizations such as the UN, World Bank, IMF, Vatican, and regional integration groups such as EU, AU, Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). These people can be described as supra-state citizens. Remember also that two of the world’s major religions , Catholicism and Islam have a massive membership of 1.2 billion and 1.8 billion followers respectively. Imagine the immense power such numbers can wield.

The cosmic citizens are not bothered by the inconveniences of the nation states, as their minds and hearts are engrossed in the bliss and harmony of the cosmic or supra-state system. No one imparts cosmic citizenship on another—it is the individual who transcends the confines of the nation-state, who enjoys the bliss of the cosmic state. Each citizen of the cosmic state discovers the cosmic state by themselves, through disciplined meditation, learning and contemplation. For one who pays great and genuine attention to the nation-state and its leaders, will gradually realise that this system cannot be the ultimate good or reality that human beings aspire to.

One has to go through a lot of trials and tribulations to arrive at the rare stage of human evolution to discover the cosmic state. Once discovered, the worries and anxieties that mark the nation-state fade away, even though once in a while one is tempted to slide back into the nation-state sphere. But one who has become a cosmic citizen is able to recollect oneself and avoid the attractions and illusive seductions of the nation-state system.

Dissatisfaction with the nation-state model leads citizens of the cosmic state to create alternative institutions in an attempt to create harmony in the chaos of the nation-state. That is why many religions have come up. That is why many non-state organisations have come up also. They demonstrate a certain profound existential uneasiness with the workings of the nation-state, which unfortunately they cannot get rid of easily, since it is so-far the only viable framework for organising human affairs, despite its numerous limitations.

One who has fully embraced the cosmic state is able to enjoy the delights of nature and cosmic love through contemplation and psychic connection—the deep and profound feeling that one belongs to wider human race instead of a tribe, or nation-state. Such a one has a deep insight into the earthly realities as well, while focusing their attention on the ultimate reality.

A citizen of the cosmic state is able to transcend family, state, market, school, gender, race, party, religious and tribal affiliation, even if one still belongs to and operates in those frameworks. A citizen of the cosmic state is marked by great existential freedom and profound insight into the ultimate cosmic reality, and lives life abundantly. He or she might be compared to what Nietzsche termed ‘superman’. In terms of life projects, the citizen of the cosmic state has great passion for learning world politics and is committed to issues of peace, leadership, good governance, education, justice and ecology.

Human institutions come and go, but the cosmic state will never end as long as the cosmos still exists. The cosmic state cannot be destroyed by human means since it is not a human creation—it is only discovered or found through contemplation and long study.

The institutions charged with keeping the vision of the cosmic state shall be the various global organisations committed to promoting peace, justice and sustainable human progress. Members of such organizations will be versed with knowledge in any of the following fields closely related to cosmopolitics: globalisation; global governance architecture; mass communication; ICT; global civil society; international relations and politics; international political economy; political and legal theory; soft power; peace; international development; cosmopolitics and strategy.


Political discourse right from Emmanuel Kant’s quest for perpetual peace up to David Held and Daniele Archibugi’s cosmopolitics seems to be a quest for a cosmic state theory that invites humanity to transcend the nation-state paradigm. Some institutions such as the League of Nations, the UN, AU, EU, World Bank, IMF, international organisations, world religions, also point to the human quest for a cosmic perspective even at an organisational level. There is some hesitant move towards a cosmic state. Grand theorists of human nature such as Teilhard de Chardin have also pointed out the evolutionary path and trajectory that human beings have been taking from the earliest hominids. It seems that the stage humanity is at now is that of a cosmic state.

The details of the cosmic state can be worked out once the basic theory is accepted. It has also become evident that the existing nation-state model cannot successfully handle the global challenges facing humanity such as global terrorism, poverty, state failure and global pandemics. One can also add global ecological disasters. Cosmic state theory, it seems to me, is a concept whose time has come. The existing global governance system and regional integration models seem to be peace-meal attempts to construct a cosmic state, albeit begrudgingly.

* Dr Odomaro Mubangizi teaches philosophy and theology and is Dean of the Philosophy Department at the Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Addis Ababa. He is also Editor of the Justice, Peace and Environment Bulletin. His doctoral thesis was on ‘Linking Development and Peace: Towards a Normative Theory of International Relations for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.’



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Scotland: Britain has never protected non-British interests

Motsoko Pheko


Britain has a long history of protecting its own interests over the interests of the nations it has occupied, most notably in Africa. This legacy has become relevant recently during Scotland’s referendum for independence. Did Britain adhere to history and intimidate Scotland into voting ‘No’?

History reveals that Britain (the United Kingdom) has never protected indigenous or non-British interests – whether in Africa, Australia, India, New Zealand and so on. The British have always opposed and suppressed the interests of other nations, if their interests were in conflict with those of the ‘British Empire’.

The 18 September 2014 Scotland Referendum was no exception. When the ‘Yes’ campaign vote in Scotland for national independence gathered momentum, all the three main political parties in Britain began their own massive campaign of intimidation against the people of Scotland, especially in the few days just before the referendum.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband told the BBC that ‘the pro-independence campaign had an ugly side’. Prime Minister David Cameron painted a bleak picture such as the use of the British pound by Scottish people if they voted ‘Yes’. Queen Elizabeth II, though, claimed to be ‘neutral’ and said she hoped that ‘the Scottish voters would think carefully’.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) poked its nose into the affairs of the Scottish people. Its Deputy Spokesman William Murray said, ‘a yes vote would raise a number of important and complicated issues that would have to be negotiated’.

But what is clear is that the ‘Yes’ vote by the Scottish people would have been a double-edged sword if the United Kingdom would have tried to punish Scotland for its independence after their ‘Yes’ vote. The reasons for my view are:

• The United Kingdom’s nuclear missiles are based in Scotland
• The UK would lose its royal regiment of Scotland
• The UK would be a new country with less power and prestige internationally if Scotland voted ‘Yes’ in the referendum
• Wales and Northern Ireland might rethink their statuses within the powerless, territorially-reduced United Kingdom
• The pro-republic sentiment in Australia and Canada to break ties with the English monarch would have fermented
• The British Commonwealth would sooner rather than later collapse
• The United Kingdom, a member of the UN Security Council, would be insecure
• The Irish people did not suffer any currency problems when they dropped the British pound.

The United Kingdom encouraged the ‘No’ vote in the Scotland Referendum to protect its own interests, not those of the people of Scotland.


The September 2014 Scotland Referendum brings to mind how the United Kingdom then called Great Britain protected its national interests in Africa at the expense of the African people, especially in South Africa.

The United Kingdom protected its colonial interests by military power in Africa, using the most barbaric methods and intrigues. For instance, in Kenya the agents of the British government castrated the anti-colonial Kenyan fighters opposing colonialism. They called them ‘Mau Mau’, murdered hundreds of them and seized large parts of their fertile land.

They practised colonial brutality in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), sentencing to death the spiritual female leader of the Zimbabweans, Ambuye Nehanda, and the Reverend John Chilebwe in Nyasaland (Malawi) for leading the anti-colonial struggles in their own countries. They exterminated the indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand and Canada to protect British colonial interests.


After many wars of national resistance against British colonialism led by African kings such as Hintsa, Cetshwayo, Moshoeshoe, Sekukuni and Makado, Britain, through its guns over the spears of the African people, seized the African country and handed it over to its colonial settlers.

Through the Union of South Africa Act 1909, a British Statute of the United Kingdom, on 20 September of that year, Britain gave legislative powers to its colonial settlers. Section 44 of that imperial law, among other things, reads ‘that the qualifications of a Member of the House of Assembly shall … be a British subject of European descent’.

Within three years of this racist draconian law the colonial parliament, with the connivance of the British government, passed the colonial law allocating five million indigenous African people seven per cent of their own land, called ‘Native Reserves’.

This seven per cent of African concentration camps became a reservoir of ‘cheap native labour’ for the farms and mineral mines that were now owned by the colonial settlers and their ‘mother country’ – the United Kingdom. The 93 per cent of the African country and land and its riches was handed to the 349,837 settlers. This is the peculiar concept of ‘British justice’ that is still boasted of with much British national pride today.


Sooner rather than later, South Africa became a British colony going by the title of ‘Dominion’, because it was not the custom of the English to rule white people as colonists. This was argued in imperial circles. It was advocated by people who are today self-appointed teachers of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’ in Africa.

In 1931 British colonial lawyers Gilbert Dold and C.P. Joubert argued that the Westminster Statute 1931 had conferred ‘independence’ and ‘sovereignty’ on South Africa. These lawyers wrote, ‘The Statute of Westminster 1931 under the skilled statesmanship of General Hertzog, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa … made rapid progress from its subordinate position to that of a free, independent and sovereign state within the British Commonwealth’. (Lukashuk 1972, p. 237)

Sections 2 and 3 of The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 passed by the British Parliament contained a ‘repugnance clause’. Is it not puzzling that despite this clause, both the Union of South Africa Act 1909 and the Native Land Act 1913 and the whole concept of ‘Dominion’ were racist? This was long before Daniel F. Malan coined the word apartheid in South Africa in 1948.

In October 1930, Piet Grobler, a settler colonial Minister of Lands, had already stated, ‘The supremacy of the white man’s rule in South Africa was essential if he was to retain his birthright or his civilisation’. How could a colonial settler utter such words without being rebuked by the United Kingdom government?

Things were getting worse for Africans under the United Kingdom colonial government in South Africa. A.S. Harris in his article ‘A Plea For Even-Handed Justice’ had to write:

‘In none of the [British] colonies are there laws punishing white men for sexual intercourse with coloured women while the Statute Book is full of enactments punishing black men for intercourse with white women even with their consent.’

Harris continued, ‘A case recorded recently of a Boer farmer being acquitted in the face of the strongest evidence of guilt of outraging a native girl, while a native boy … for mere solicitation of a white girl is shot dead and the act is applauded by the white community.’ (Plaatje 1982, p. 6)


The British Government spoke with two tongues when it came to protecting African human rights in its South African colony. Were its representatives displaying mere duplicity and hypocrisy stemming from racism?

On 29 February 1906, Winston Churchill speaking in the British Parliament said, ‘We are provided with a most sure foothold for intervention on behalf of natives. A self-governing colony is not entitled to say one day “Hands Off”, no dictation in our internal affairs’.

Colonel Seely, Under-Secretary of State for Colonies declared:

‘No scheme of unity in South Africa to be satisfactory which does not provide some safeguard for the great native population. It would be immoral and wrong for this country to wash her hands of the whole native problem.

‘She has a responsibility to the natives; they are under our direct control: they are under that shadowy vision of the ultimate imperial authority, the kingship, and more real vision of his Majesty the King to protect them in their ancient rights and privileges, and we must not fail them. I am happy to say that those who are meeting together in South Africa realise our obligation….

‘The number of South Africans taking a reactionary view in the native question is rapidly diminishing, and they realise that we cannot stand by with our folded arms while a scheme is devised which may militate against the rights of and privileges and safety of the native races that dwell under the king’s sway.’ (Anti-Slavery Reporter February 1906)

Yet after the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) had led the Sharpeville Uprisings which resulted in the massacre of 84 Africans and 365 wounded throughout South Africa, the British government resisted the United Nations’ comprehensive economic sanctions on the South African apartheid colonial regime.

In the 1976 Soweto Uprising of 16 June 176 people were killed and an estimated 700 wounded. They were mainly young people. The United Kingdom stood by its protection of its economic interests with its colonial settlers and opposed economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Yet as we speak, the United Kingdom has been crushing a developing country like Zimbabwe with economic sanctions and not long ago invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq on the false pretence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The United Kingdom has never protected non-British interests unless British interests were threatened. It has been worse in Africa.


In what is today’s Lesotho, in Southern Africa, Britain had signed a treaty to protect the Basotho people against rampaging Boer colonial settlers called Afrikaners. They came largely from Holland and France. This British treaty is known as the Sir George Napier Treaty of 1843. It was meant to protect the Basotho from rapacious colonial land grabbers.

When, however, the economic interests of the British coincided with those of the Boers, the British colonial government supplied guns to the Boers while making sure the Basotho got no arms or very little. Consequently, over 50 per cent of the Basotho land is today part of economically white-controlled South Africa.


‘The outstanding theme of Lesotho’s economic history in the last hundred years is the transition from granary to labour reserve,’ wrote Dr Colin Murray. ‘In the middle period of the 19th century the Basotho vigorously exported grain to other Africans and to white settlers on the highveld, and from 1870, to the burgeoning diamond camps.’

Dr Murray concluded, ‘In the 1970s Lesotho is a net importer of grain and most rural households are primarily dependent for their livelihood on the earnings of migrant labourers employed in the mining and manufacturing industries of South Africa.’ (Roux 1967, p.16)

Writing about Lesotho in 1939, Edwin W. Smith observed, ‘A very large part of fertile area of Basutoland (Lesotho) as recognised by Sir George Napier in the [British] treaty of 1843 was now in the hands of white settlers [in the Orange Free State, parts of Eastern Cape and Gauteng]’. (Smith 1939, p. 96-7)

In broad daylight and under the flag of the British Empire, colonial settlers grabbed ‘the whole of the agricultural part of Lesotho proper, leaving the mountains to the Basotho’. This is how I. Schapera puts it in The Bantu-Speaking Tribes of South Africa (1966, p. 346).

Of course, King Moshoeshoe of the Basotho Nation was not amused by this kind of ‘British protection’.

Writing to Sir George Grey, a British colonial governor in the Cape Colony in South Africa, King Moshoeshoe declared, ‘I gave whites permission of living in my country … but they have never obtained any right to property to the soil from me, had I granted that, such a right should have been contrary to the law of the Basotho nation which allows no such alienation’.

Deeply disappointed with the way the United Kingdom administered its ‘British justice’ especially towards Black people, King Moshoeshoe proclaimed:

‘The white men seem to be bent on proving that in politics Christianity has no part … It may be you, Europeans do not steal cattle, but you still whole countries; and if you had your wish, you would send us to pasture our cattle in the clouds … Europeans are larger thieves … they are stealing black man’s land in the Cape [colony] to here [Orange Free state, land of the Basotho] and call it theirs.’ (Mokhehle 1976, p. 26)


As a consequence of British colonialism in Azania (South Africa), even in so-called ‘New South Africa’ or the ‘rainbow nation’, the 2012 population census has revealed that an average African-headed household earns R60,313 per year or R5,051 a month. A white-headed household earns R365,340 a year or R30,427 per month. Educationally only two per cent of the 41 million-large African population has university degrees.

Africans were colonised by Britain centuries ago. They are still allocated 13 per cent of their own country while making up 79.2 per cent of the population. Their land dispossession is entrenched in Section 25 (7) of the ‘new rainbow nation’ constitution. This law is the new name for the Native Land Act 1913.

Britain has never protected non-British interests. It is no wonder that after 307 years, a sizeable number of the people of Scotland demanded their national independence.

It is not surprising that the United Kingdom’s politicians intimidated the Scottish voters for a ‘No’ vote. The ‘Yes’ vote would have hurt the United Kingdom more than Scotland if Britain decided to punish the Scots for winning the referendum for their national Independence.


Anti-Slavery Reporter, February 1906
Lukashuk, I.I. (1972) ‘Parties to Treaties: the right to participation’, HRC, vol.135
Mokhehle, N. (1976) Moshoeshoe I: Profile, Maseru, Khatiso ea Lesotho
Plaatje, S. T. (1982) Mhudi, London, Heinemann Educational Books
Roux, E. (1967) Time Is Longer Than the Rope
Schapera, I. (1966) The Bantu-Speaking Tribes Of South Africa, Cape Town, Maskew Miller Ltd
Smith, E.W. (1939) The Mabilles of Basutoland, London, Hodder and Stoughton

*Dr. Motsoko Pheko is author of several books including: APARTHEID: THE STORY OF A DISPOSSESSED PEOPLE and SOUTH AFRICA: BETRAYAL OF A COLONISED PEOPLE – Issues Of International Human Rights. During the liberation struggle in South Africa he represented the victims of apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations in New York and at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He is a former member of the South African Parliament.


* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

The reality of injustice

Vanessa Burger


The most horrific police brutality targeting ordinary citizens is a deeply distressing reality in ‘liberated’ South Africa. There is no justice for those who fall victim to these agents of state terror –reminiscent of the dark days of apartheid. How long will this go on?

This is the story of Sbu.

The purpose in telling Sbu's story is not to present a statistical account of dates, times, places and events that could be used in court. That will never happen because Sbu cannot take his case to court. For Sbu and millions like him in South Africa, justice and reality have never met.

Sbu shares a cramped room in a strife-torn, low cost housing complex with two women. One is HIV+.

‘The police came around midnight and said they were looking for a man sleeping with two women. They told me to come outside to answer some questions. They shouted at me and asked me why I was sleeping with an HIV+ woman. They said terrible things. I ask myself, even now, how did these police know she was HIV+?’

Sbu's wrists were then secured with cable ties and he was taken to an open area where he was bent backwards over the bonnet of a police car. Two officers restrained his legs and a plastic bag was forced over his head. He was asked repeatedly who owned firearms in his area.

In between bouts of suffocation, Sbu told the police he did not know anyone with guns and did not own one himself. The beating continued.

‘They punched me in my chest and kicked me, especially in my private parts. They kept putting the bag over my head - I collapsed - I think three times.’

Sbu also lost control of his bowels and bladder.

The psychological effects of this method of torture - 'tubing', favoured by the apartheid regime and similar to the 'waterboarding' technique made infamous by CIA agents at Guatanamo Bay - can last a lifetime.

According to Cristian Correa (an attorney and former secretary of the National Commission of Political Imprisonment and Torture in Chile) in his paper, ‘Waterboarding Prisoners and Justifying Torture: Lessons for the US from the Chilean Experience,’ victims of ‘the devastating psychological effects of this method of torture report all, or some, of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: insecurity, fear, humiliation, worthlessness, shame, guilt, depression, anxiety and hopelessness. They can become irritable and introverted, develop substance dependency and are unable to establish interpersonal relationships.’

Correa also states the technique was ‘used to destroy prisoners’ will, dignity and moral, psychological and physical resolve.’ He goes on to suggest that the real purpose of ‘the indiscriminate use of torture is to destroy people's will to oppose the regime and give up hope of a more egalitarian society.’

In Chile, where the practice was widely used under Pinochet's dictatorship on political prisoners, Correa documented that it ‘destroyed social networks and seriously affected people's ability to trust each other, making the victims feel isolated, betrayed and capable of betrayal.’

Or as George Orwell put it in his prophetic work: 1984’, ‘It imposed fear on society as a whole.’

So what place does the imposition of fear have in South Africa's current democracy? Is it an indication of an increasingly paranoid state's attempt to subjugate the people - particularly the restless poor?

It worked on Sbu's community…for now.

After an hour and a half, the police took a break. But one officer, a woman, returned to Sbu, who was still bent backwards over the vehicle's bonnet.

‘Why are you so stubborn and do not tell us about the guns,’ she demanded and kicked him repeatedly in his private parts and knees.

Sbu was not arrested and eventually released. He could have reported his torture to the police - although now seen as his tormentors - or the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

He did neither. The police had told him, ‘We know where you live, we'll be back. Anytime’

Sbu also didn't report it to the police because he had been previously arrested a few months earlier. The evidence to support these original, minor charges has yet to materialise although Sbu was refused bail three times and his case since remanded several times more.

It seems Sbu had been arrested because of his association with someone who was witness to an earlier alleged case of police torture. He believes that this relationship and certain powerful political enemies amongst his community were behind his arrest.

Sbu's bail conditions determined he was to vacate the area. But Sbu could not leave. He had nowhere else to go. Low cost housing is in very short supply.

And if he left, the two women with whom he shared a room would have remained unprotected in a dangerous area. So Sbu had stayed in violation of his bail conditions. If he reported his torture, he would be sent directly to jail.

Sbu also didn't report the incident because he did not have time. Four hours after his assault, he had to be at work.

Because of his previous arrest, refusal of bail, frequent court appearances and continued unrest in the area, Sbu's employer had lost patience with his frequent absences and told Sbu he must choose between his home and his job.

Sbu could not afford the transport costs to get to his current place of employment if he moved far enough away from the area in which he felt threatened. So Sbu stayed and went to work. Employment is very hard to come by.

Sbu could also not see a doctor because that would have meant more time off work. And to provide evidence of police brutality a doctor's report is essential.

Sbu could not urinate for two days. He says it is still ‘not easy.’

Because of his subsequent court appearance, Sbu has since been suspended from work. His disciplinary hearing is next week. A day later he must return again to court. He is terrified the police will revisit him, so has vacated his home. He will most likely lose his job.

The scale of such systemic injustice and its broader social impact far outweighs any individual, and as yet, unproven criminal act, and remains entirely invisible to the public and those not directly involved.

Today Sbu's bruises are gone. He smiles sheepishly and jokes with his friends about his ordeal. He seems quite normal. Just like the veneer of normality our country wears so proudly.

That is the great thing about tubing - it leaves no visible scars.

[*Sbu is not his real name. Although certain aspects of his story have been altered to protect his identity and due to court proceedings in progress, events outlined present what is understood by the author to be a factual account of the incident as described by Sbu and community members. All details regarding his case have been recorded.]

* Vanessa Burger has a background in advertising, marketing and communications and has worked part time as a freelance travel writer and photographer. She is currently a Dennis Brutus Community Scholar at the Centre for Civil Society based at the UKZN, a provincial member of the Democratic Left Front and Right2Know Campaign and works closely with organisations such as the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, uBunye Bamahostel, the Poor Flat Dwellers Movement and the KZN Violence Monitor.

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News

Much ado about nothing: Kenya’s historic and costly non-event

Njonjo Mue


President Kenyatta had invested over a year of his presidency badmouthing the ICC to only recently sit subdued in The Hague for his case proceedings. But this was only after much national ‘fanfare’ and grandiose but empty symbolisms and rhetoric that pretended to pursue and protect the sovereignty of the state and people of Kenya

Kenyans learned a very expensive lesson the other week: that the President is like the Titanic, very difficult to turn around. Or, to put it more accurately, that eating presidential humble pie can be a costly national exercise.

For whatever spin politicians try to put on that week’s bizarre events, they amount to little more than so much pomp and circumstance to justify Uhuru Kenyatta’s having to eat humble pie and appear before a court he dismissed barely a year ago as “a pantomime, a toy of declining imperial powers”.

Kenyatta had invested over a year of his presidency badmouthing the ICC and sending his ministers crisscrossing the globe in search of allies to back his impunity bandwagon. He had staked his diplomatic reputation to mobilize fellow African leaders to answer his call to arms against the ICC and they had dutifully played along, going so far as to swear that no African head of state would ever appear before the ICC and to amend their own laws to provide that they could never be prosecuted before a regional court yet to be created. And yet on the date that he should have been toasting to Uganda’s independence anniversary with his comrade-in-arms, Yoweri Museveni, Mr. Kenyatta sat subdued in court, expressionless and mute, as if dutifully playing the lead role in a pantomime.

But to justify why he was now going to travel to The Hague and appear before the “toy of declining imperial powers,” President Kenyatta had to first make a big show of temporarily handing over power to his Deputy, “so that Kenya’s sovereignty is not subjected to a foreign jurisdiction.” And so various organs of state had to be convened in emergency sessions including the Cabinet, the National Security Council and Parliament to be informed that the President of the Republic was donating his ‘P’ to William Ruto and becoming a mere Resident of the Republic, or an unPresident if you like, so that he could travel to the ICC in his individual capacity.

And we all played along. We pretended not to remember that Mr. Kenyatta was charged before the ICC as an individual because the ICC only prosecutes individuals, not presidents or prime ministers. We pretended that had he travelled to The Hague without all the fanfare of signing legal instruments handing over power to his deputy, power would still have been automatically transferred to Ruto as it always is every time the President travels abroad. We pretended that our sovereignty was now safe and secure at home in the hands of Ruto and forgot that our sovereignty was never vested in Uhuru Kenyatta in the first place; it always vests in the people of Kenya.

In other words, just as Uhuru Kenyatta was signing an instrument to temporarily hand over power, we collectively also seemed to temporarily take leave of our senses. At least the MPs did, and the Cabinet, and the National Security Council, and the media who faithfully reported this farce, this melodrama from the theatre of the absurd, as if it was really news and analysis.

But as Uhuru Kenyatta took back his ‘P’ from Ruto, it is my hope that we too resumed our senses. For only then would we realize just what an expensive melodrama this was when we calculate just how much this latest chapter of the ‘personal challenge’ actually cost the taxpayer. From the recalling of parliamentarians from recess to witness a constitutional non-event, to flying the whole House to make a spectacle of themselves in The Hague, to flying unPresident Uhuru and unFirst Lady Margaret out and flying back President Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret, to blocking Nairobi traffic for seven hours, to paying off hysterical praise singers.

More importantly, it is my hope that as we resume our senses, we will also remember to whisper a prayer for the souls of the 1,133 Kenyans who could not be present to witness this costly non-event because the events of 2008 permanently removed them from our midst without giving them the option of coming back from the grave and resuming their personhood at a time of their choosing.

* Njonjo Mue is a Program Adviser with Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ), a civil society coalition, and blogs [url=]]here[/url].



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Can Kenya see its transformative constitution as a law of “maybe”?

Humphrey Sipalla


Kenyans have vested much hope in their new constitution to bring about social justice and manifest the rule of law. Four years after its promulgation, questions arise as to how much that hope is justified

Can a new constitution transform a society from its history of oppression, injustice, corruption and the marginalisation of the politically weak into one where the rule of law and social justice reign supreme? Can the law alone, even if the very grundnorm that is the constitution, transform a nation from its deep seated culture of intolerance, apathy to corruption and disregard for the vulnerable? This is the question Kenya battles with since the promulgation of the new Constitution on 27 August 2010.

At a June 2014 conference on Shaping and Implementing Transformative Constitutions in Nairobi, Prof. Yash Pal Ghai observed that constitutions today are not simply special statutes ordering the state. Rather, they capture the values and principles that a nation aspires to, seeking to transform itself from its own dark past.

In shaping a country’s “radical rupture from the past”, Justice Albie Sachs at that conference urged that proportionality be the guiding interpretative principle. With proportionality, “there is no right or wrong, no black or white, just a maybe.” But, how can we arrive at legal certainty through “maybe”?

Sachs insisted that “maybe certainty” is purposive, not of the narrow statutory or claimant ends, but the constitutional aspiration for transformation in the historical context of the particular society. “Maybe certainty” is not a negation of but the logical end of fully embracing the “rigour and scientific method of the discipline of law.”

At the Conference, Prof. MP Singh spoke of the tension between the colonially trained Indian judiciary and the socialist-oriented Congress Party executive in the early independence years. Politicians sought to redistribute land and nationalise major industries but judges asserted the right to property. When Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency, suspended the right to property and cracked down on the courts, the people applauded! Thankfully, the Indian courts accepted the error of their aloofness and adopted probably the most fascinating approach to standing and the capacity of the courts to act by their own initiative (suo motu competence) to redress constitutional violations in any common law country. Apparently, a judge can read something in the paper and satisfied of a prima facie violation, initiate proceedings.

“Maybe certainty” recognises the duty to transform in the context of a society’s particular history. In Kenya’s history, several intertwined factors stand out as central to the political economy of injustice and disregard for the rule of law: electoral violence, collective punishments, intolerance of minorities by the majority, disregard for the absolute human rights and the pervading sense of helplessness in the face of these injustices.

In its 5 decades, nothing has ever truly threatened the existence of the republic and the entirety of the peoples of Kenya - except electoral violence. If Kenya is to see its 100th birthday, more than anything else, prohibiting electoral violence must attain a certain peremptory status in Kenyan electoral law, invalidating any other procedural or even substantive norm. Combating it is the reason we changed so much of our Constitution. Maybe this is the reason the Constitution explicitly states “justice shall be administered without undue regard to procedural technicalities” (Art.159.2.d). In Lisamula v IEBC and others (Petition 9 of 2014), the Supreme Court of Kenya reversed the Court of Appeal’s nullification of a constituency election. The appellate judges had among others, found that incidents of violence attract the high penalty of automatic nullification of an election under Article 81(e) of the Constitution of Kenya that lays down conditions of a free and fair election. But the Supreme Court found that the original petition was filed out of time and therefore the lower courts lacked jurisdiction, an error that affected the Supreme Court’s own appellate jurisdiction. “Jurisdiction is everything” said the Supreme Court citing a 1989 case. Timing is a critical element in the constitutional order on electoral justice. This is true for before 2010, electoral disputes took so long to be concluded that the beneficiaries of disputed elections served out their full 5 year terms before judicial determination. So Kenya’s new electoral laws prescribe strict timelines for both petitioners and courts. Thus, two vexing issues in Kenya’s history clash: violence and expeditious resolution of disputes.

As final authority, the Supreme Court has thus settled the matter. Since Kenya has to go for more elections before the next set of electoral issues are refined, was the choice before Kenyan courts one between violent elections resolved expeditiously or peaceful ones resolved out of time? Could “maybe certainty” have offered a third way? One can only hope that, after the 2017 elections, the Kenyan courts, having impressed the immutability of timing requirements will now turn to electoral violence with the steadfast determination shown for timing and restore the tradition of the 1975 case, Raphael Kithika Mbondo v Luka Galgalo and Paul Ngei (14 of 1975) where then powerful politician Paul Ngei’s election was nullified for using threats of violence against the underdog Mbondo.

Following the Westgate terror attacks in Nairobi in September 2013, Kenyans watched in disbelief as in March and April 2014, large contingents of security personnel zeroed in on the Somali community, especially in the Eastleigh area of Nairobi, conducting mass arrests, separating families, detaining what was alleged to be in the thousands at the largest Kenyan stadium. The Federal Republic of Somalia recalled its ambassador to Kenya after the arrest of a diplomat at his home in Nairobi. Although there were strong protests from rights groups, the government did not back down. Several NGOs sent urgent appeals to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, alleging a whole catalogue of human rights abuses including discrimination, sexual abuse and the peremptory ill treatment. The constitutional Kenya National Commission on Human Rights protested being barred from visiting the stadium size police station. By July, the Independent Police Oversight Authority formally found “The operation was not conducted in compliance with the law, respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms,” and urged criminal and disciplinary action against officers involved.

The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya reports similar suffering of the Kenyan Somali community especially during the Shifta War and the Wagalla massacre. Given such distinct historical context, would the Indian practice of judicial activism have been appropriate to stop such manifest collective punishment. Is the loss of public trust in the capacity of the new constitutional dispensation to prevent or stop flagrant abuses even calculable? Is the “maybe certainty” of an inquisitorial common law court necessary to ensure at the very least, some guarantees of non-repetition? The answer to these question remains as, as it were, the jury is still out.

In the face of expanded judicial review and almost universal standing, since 2010, there has been a veritable avalanche of long suffering petitioners rushing to the courts seeking redress. Many have been misplaced about the true power of courts to challenge power structures. Some may even be frivolous and vexatious. But the nature of the societal transformation Kenya’s new Constitution demands is best highlighted when qualified rights clash. Which should prevail? How?

Religious liberty and the right to education present such a conundrum. In South Africa as in Kenya, uniformity is a mainstay of school discipline but, the history of Apartheid urged the Constitutional Court of South Africa to consider that constitutional transformation gave room for each culture to be expressed in the collective. And so, in MEC for Education: Kwazulu-Natal and Others v Pillay, the majority was compelled to accept Ms Pillay’s “unusual” nose ring for it was central to her cultural and religious expression. In India, private schools lost their bid to be exempted from affirmative action that seeks to reverse deep seated prejudice against the “lower castes”. In Europe, however, the European Court on Human Rights has preferred the margin of appreciation in favour of the French state’s assertions of the nature of separation of church and state applicable to France under the European Convention.

In Kenya, Ms SMY’s right to wear a hijab at Kenya High School was rejected by the High Court (Republic v Head Teacher, BOG Kenya High School, ex-parte SMY, eKLR) which preferred that uniformity be preserved at the expense of cultural and religious expression. The court also noted failure to adhere to timing requirements. Also in Kenya, the Adventists, whose peculiar and inconvenient day of worship and adherence to norms of Sabbath day of rest put them at odds with school timetables sought the protection of the courts. In Seventh Day Adventist Church (East Africa) Limited v Minister for Education & 3 others (Petition No. 431 of 2012) the state argued that as religious liberty is a qualified right, not exempting SDA students from Saturday classes, examinations and cleaning is reasonable and justifiable. The right to hold religious beliefs is absolute but its manifestation can be limited by the necessities of an open and democratic society. In this excellent decision, Lenaola, J, set the test for this manifestly delicate question as assessing the harm of limiting the right to individual and community as opposed to the harm caused to [the other] individual or community were the right to be affirmed as petitioned, and considered every aspect of the balance required. While finding no violation of the Adventist students’ right to religious liberty in the instant case, the judge reiterated that it was unclear whether similar circumstances are afforded all Adventist students in all public schools and therefore ordered that the Minister for Education promulgate regulations and directions for public schools concerning respect for religious liberty, including enforcement and complaints mechanisms. Of significance, too, is that the Adventist faith’s own theological understanding of Sabbath adherence was taken into account. In this, bar and bench must give way to the theologians, just as they would in other matters demanding the technical expertise of other disciplines (ICJ, Corfu Channel case, and the practise of ITLOS in the complex technical determinations that are part of the almost every aspect of the law of the sea).

In SMY’s case, no test is set by the court to weigh the appropriate balance. Neither was the petitioner’s faith itself consulted to weigh the value it places on Muslim girls wearing hijabs. Seemingly, no account of the practice across the country was attended to. This author attended a co-ed primary school where Muslim girls wore hijabs and loose fitting trousers as part of their school uniform. Most importantly, no direction was given to the state to enforce the court’s determination across public schools. Could Ms SMY, like Ms Pillay and Adventist students have been better heard on account that maybe legal certainty can be found in diversity? Is the harm caused by religious manifestation test now the standard of determining conflicts between religious liberty and school policy? What harm do school uniforms suffer from the wearing of hijabs?

The law comes into disrepute, it is my humble opinion, when the competent authorities apply what the Chief Justice of Kenya, Dr Willy Mutunga at the above conference called mechanistic jurisprudence. Proportionality, dialogue, permitting diversity whenever possible, and negotiation ought now to be our guiding principles (Satrose Ayuma & 11 others v Kenya Railways Staff Retirement Benefits Scheme Trustees & 3 others, eKLR).

A former ITLOS judge once told me over coffee, “hard cases make bad law”. The choice between being conservative and liberal, between bad judge-made law and non liquet is a false one for any court interpreting a transformative constitution. Human rights law urges us to breach the horizon and reject the false choices our oppressive history presents us with. In the words of Justice Sachs, “we need both continuity and discontinuity”. Discerning what to continue and discontinue and how to do so, is the task that is laid before Kenyan courts. Finding this balance will not be easy, but, we already have a great constitution. We might as well try, lest the law once again falls into disrepute in the eyes of the Kenyan public.

* Humphrey Sipalla is a freelance editor, researching on pop culture and international law and currently enjoying the exercise of his ICCPR Art.23.2 rights in Nairobi.

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

Where can Kenyan women be at home?

Wambui Mwangi


To be a woman in Kenya is to be repeatedly un-homed. This society refuses the right of women to be at home, as the increasingly frightening statistics on domestic violence indicate

Breathe me clear
Breathe me safe
Breathe me home

–Shailja Patel, Screaming

I am a political scientist. I have been studying the forms of power in the world for many years. Many very brilliant professors have taught me, but most of what I consider important was taught to me by my mother. She was a gentle and generous human being, a healer, but she also did not mince her words. She told me frankly and firmly that this world would often be hostile to me because:

The world did not like Africans.
The world did not like Black people.
The world did not like women.

I was all three.

I studied political science because I wanted to find out how the world had so arranged itself that it was hostile to human beings like me. I read many of the important books on how human society should organize itself. As students, we referred to this long tradition of Western political philosophy written mostly by white men as ‘Reading Plato to NATO.’ With very few exceptions, these iconic thinkers demonstrated contempt towards Africans, black people, and women of every skin tone. I read, for example, that Africans have no history (Hegel), that Black people are obviously a lesser kind of human being (Voltaire), and that women’s ‘nature’ impedes their ability to think (Aristotle).

I have read all the reasons that have been used to establish societies and systems in which an African woman would be at or near the bottom of almost any social and political calculus. This thinking un-homes me and people like me from the world. It refuses to acknowledge that human beings like me have contributed to the history of the world, and it negates and invalidates my humanity, my genealogy and that of all women, especially those who are African or part of the African Diaspora.

Although I strongly disagree with this way of thinking, I do not regret the years I spent listening carefully and seriously to the arguments of the Western male canon of social and political theory. It is necessary to know one’s adversary, and thisthinking is clearly my adversary. You only have to look at my physical being to see why. I weigh about 43kgs with all my clothes on, and I am 1.5 meters tall when I am wearing shoes. I am a middle-aged woman, but most fourteen-year olds are bigger and stronger than me. I navigate this world in my body, that of a small black African woman born and raised in Nairobi.

This African woman’s body of mine is the one I was in while reading political theory for all those years. These African woman’s eyes of mine, are the ones I used to read the intricately worded insults to all my ways of being. These African woman’s hands, are the ones I used to turn the pages of works by iconic thinkers who invalidated my being. This African woman’s brain was the one I used to confront, challenge, dis-believe and try to un-build the thinking that has created a world hostile to human beings like me.

When I was away from Kenya pitting my mind against those of mostly dead white men, I wanted to come home. I wanted to be at home, and I wanted to be again in a place where I did not need to spell my name on the phone. I wanted to be with those who remembered me from when I was a little girl.

However, after I returned home, I began to see that as Keguro Macharia has said, ‘to be a woman in Kenya is to be repeatedly un-homed.’

This society refuses the right of women to be at home, as the increasingly frightening statistics on domestic violence indicate. All systems of oppression require daily iterations of an aggression that normalizes contempt towards the victims, and creates a context in which more spectacular violence against the oppressed can occur. These repetitions of violence and violations against women occur across households in Kenya every day, and every hour.

Women are not allowed to be at home in our Kenyan home. Women are not allowed to be at home in our houses. Women are not even allowed to be at home in our bodies, although Article 28 of the Constitution of Kenya guarantees that ‘every person has the right to freedom and security of the person.’ Women are persons, but women in Kenya do not have freedom and security of their persons. Here again is the consistent denial of my humanity and the humanity of all African women, here at home in Kenya.

Shailja Patel has said that ‘our bodies are our first homes.’ Perhaps it is because I live in such a small body/home that I understand so clearly the connection between individual embodiment and political events. Political events find reality in and on the bodies of human beings. We cannot escape our bodies. They are not only our first but also our inescapable homes. ‘The personal is political’ not only because one’s own actions are a part of the larger political landscape, but also because the larger political context is realized in and lived by specific and embodied human beings.

The negation of the humanity of another or group of others is oppression. All systems of oppression are similar in their frameworks of systemic and systematic injustice and in that the forms of violence they perpetrate on the oppressed take place in a cultural context that simultaneously encourages and dismisses the harm to its victims.

Kenyan women are constitutionally protected persons, yet many men use our bodies to teach us that we are inferior to them, or to express rage at the suffering the world inflicts on them, or to gain back their own distorted sense of a masculinity that insists that manhood is to be found in harming women. Kenya has produced a masculinity that encourages and covers up the transgressions against the human rights of women to be safe and to consent to what happens to our bodies. Kenyan men are allowed by other Kenyan men to grope us, to grab us, to rape us, to harass us, to harm us, to humiliate us, to dehumanise us, and to deny our own access to the sanctuary of ourselves.

Should a woman dare complain of this un-homing and inhumane, vicious social punishments ranging from multiple forms of shaming and silencing by family and friends to intimidation and threats from strangers follow almost instantly. As Marziya Mohammedali notes, ‘his stance of victim blaming is something that is deeply ingrained in society, in many different cultures.’

, Generally speaking, the women of Kenya are not included in the national desire for more freedom, less abjection, more dignity, less marginalization, more peace, and less violence. Many men want these things for themselves. These same men do not seem to realise that women are human beings and might want these same things for women as well as for men. I agree with Kennedy Kanyali that ‘if shrieking feminists have ever existed, it is on account of screaming the truth that refuses to be acknowledged so many times.’

Anti-woman violence happens in real lives, to real human beings,it devastates us, and as Wairimu Muriithi,expresses ‘We all know women who did not survive.’ Even when such women centered violence and violations does not kill us or physically damage us, it buries us alive in the silence of pain and shame. This physical and psychic violence leaves lasting scars.

The women of Kenya want to be safe in our own body/homes.
The women of Kenya want to be safe in our own houses, our homes.
The women of Kenya want to be safe in our own home of Kenya.
The women of Kenya want to have a home in a political community that provides freedom, justice, safety, dignity, and respect for women.

If such a home is not to be found here, where should we go?

October 8 2014

* Wambui Mwangi is a post-colonial scholar, writer and photographer who lives in Nairobi. She has worked at the Goree Institute in Senegal and at Aga Khan University, Nairobi. She has taught in the political science departments at Vassar and the University of Toronto. Her written and photography work have appeared in various publications worldwide. Follow her on twitter @Wambui_Mwangi



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Clan Federalism: The worst option for state building in Somalia

Mohamud M Uluso


The much-canvassed clan-federalism as a strategy for state building in Somalia will yield disastrous results for the country. Clan federalism is not supported by the Constitution, which prescribes that Somali territory and sovereignty are inviolable and indivisible

October 6, 2014
Clan Federalism: The worst option for state building in Somalia

The debate among Somalis over clan federalism (clan segregation) hasn’t produced common understanding and consensus for final bargain because it takes place in vacuum, outside formal democratic process. The federal government has shirked its leadership responsibility to organize and lead national debate on federalism for legislation as set forth in the provisional constitution.

For the iniquitous role of clan state units in the Somali politics and development, tensions are growing everywhere. Somaliland is in military offensive against Khatumo and Puntland States; forces of Puntland and Galmudug states are in high alert for confrontation over Galkaio airports; sub-clan Wa-esle (Wacaysle) of Abgal came out strongly against Mudug and Galgudud State; Kismaio and Baidoa reconciliation conferences collapsed on the eve of Marehan clan conference in Garbaharey (Gedo).

State building process is meant to restore Somali sovereignty by fusing the political, military, and economic powers dispersed in different clans. The Somali Constitution prescribes that Somali territory and sovereignty are inviolable and indivisible. It prohibits the claim of sovereignty by a person or group of public for self-interests. National power should be exercised in accordance with rule of law and through institutions, the foundation for human progress. Many renowned former Somali political leaders, religious leaders, traditional leaders, and intellectuals have explained the inherent danger of clan federalism in Somalia because it institutionalizes the dispersion and violation of territorial and sovereignty division and violation.

Clan federalism is far worse than the current 4.5 clans’ power-sharing, former military dictatorship, former clan-based rebel movements and the rule of Islamic Courts. It devalues patriotism and citizenship, venerates clan identity, and multiplies the number of minorities and human rights violations in every district. It emboldens neighboring countries with territorial ambitions. Cartoonist Amin Amir highlights this point in his [url=]cartoon[/url. This threat could inspire popular support for nationalistic movements including Islamic rule in Somalia.

Somalia is blessed with all qualities - common language, religion, culture, geography - for a democratic decentralized unitary system of governance to deepen political socialization. The challenge is to demonstrate that common goods from Somali identity outweigh clan identity’s benefits and how to deal with the misuse of clan identity for violence, punishment, discrimination, injustices, division, and abuse of political power. Like any crime, these offenses and sins could be confronted with legitimate means.

In contrast, many scholars have identified and documented complex problems and conflicts associated with clan-based federalism. These problems include (a) the impossibility of making clan and administrative boundaries congruent, (b) tension between majority and minority clans in districts, (c) exacerbation of the plight of minorities, (d) solidification of clan cleavages on political, institutional and territorial basis, and reproducible permanent clan identity for continuing the differentiation of society (e) revenge for the abuse of a kin by others, (f) impossibility to develop countrywide civic citizenship, (g) clan mobilization for secession after each clan forms group identity and cohesion, leadership, government, parliament, and armed forces, and external support, (h) difficulty of countrywide mobility of citizens, (i) turning constitutional conflicts into clan conflicts. These problems and others, like contests between big and small states, handling of foreign affairs, regulation of domestic and foreign trade, are good indicators for the failure of clan federalism.

Ethiopia, the United Nations, and European Union have shaped a number of federal member states in South Central Somalia, while the Federal Parliamentary Committee and the Independent five members Commission on Constitutional Review are yet to start their tasks. In [url=]an interview with VOA[/url], Chairman of the Parliamentary committee Hon. Mariam Arif Qassim has appealed to the Somali people to effectively take ownership of the constitutional review process. But, the Federal Parliament and the Attorney General have yet to publish for public engagement the official final version of the Provisional Constitution after the postponement or amendment of certain articles.

The Chairman suggested that at least six issues not covered in the Provisional Constitution need public debate and decision: 1. Definition of federalism; 2. The roles of the president and prime minister; 3. Taxation power and national resource sharing; 4. Right to citizenship; 5. Power allocation between federal government and federal member states; 6. The status of Mogadishu, the capital under federal system based on clan hegemony. The above undefined issues challenge the legitimacy of existing federal government and shaped regional states.

The absence of genuine inter-Somali negotiation on state building has prevented the opportunity to show how clan federalism cannot guarantee the realization of the Bill of Rights and the five constitutional principles for federalism under Article 50. Among the five principles include verification of public confidence and support to various levels of government, delivery of similar levels of services and support from the federal government to every part of the country, fair distribution of resources, allocation of powers and responsibilities to the most effective level of government.

Sometimes the Somali discourse over clan federalism veers to the assertion that clan X (region X) supports federalism while clan Y (region Y) opposes it. For example, one supporter argues that Hawiye clan opposes federalism while Darod clan supports it. Rationally, this perception must have triggered the imperative to halt the implementation of federation process until common consensus is forged. It didn’t happen. Without attempting to disprove the supporter’s argument, a general observation of the current social manifestations on the issue indicate the following tendencies:

1. The positions of majority of Ogaden clan (Darod), Gadabuursi (Gudabiirsi) and Isse (Dir) clans, unclear;
2. Majority of Isaq clan (Dir) want secession from South Somalia (Ex Italian Somalia);
3. Majority of Digil and Mirifle clan (DM) want confederation between DM and the rest of Somalis but oppose clan federalism and secession of Isaq;
4. Majority of Minority clan groups (0.5) oppose clan federalism, confederation, and secession;
5. Majority of Hawiye clan oppose clan federalism, secession of Isaq clan (Dir), and DM clan confederation but support constitutionally decentralized unitary system;
6. Majority of Majerteen clan (Darod) support clan federalism but oppose secession of Isaq clan (Dir) and DM clan confederation;
7. Majority of Marehan clan (Darod) oppose clan federalism, confederation, and secession but support decentralized unitary system;
8. Majority of Dhulbahante and Warsangeli clans (Darod) oppose clan federalism, DM confederation, and secession of Isaq (Dir) and support 4.5 power sharing;

I hope others will investigate further this general observation. However, the truth is that Somalia deserves neither federal nor decentralized unitary system of government if the majority of citizens are not striving to make sure the quick rebuilding of Somalia in which patriotism, rule of law, social justice, fairness, and equality prevail.

The glaring contradictions in the provisional constitution have sullied Statebuilding based on federalism in Somalia. For example, article 142 legitimizes the existence and privileges of anonymous federal member states which are parallel to and independent from the federal government established on the basis of 4.5 clan formula. Then, articles 48 and 49 entrust the federal government to create Federal member states, and finally article 54 denies the existence of federal member states and establishes the exclusive powers of federal government. More unusual, the federal government has been constrained from raising necessary financial resources within its declared components (stakeholders) - Puntland and South Central Somalia- to fulfill its functions. The inclusion of these contradictions in the constitution was a deliberate plan to subvert Statebuilding in Somalia.

Clan federalism sows conflicts and disintegration. Somalia cannot stomach Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism implemented and maintained through security committees and technical controllers from the authoritarian central government. The Somali people yearn for individual liberty, responsibility, and solidarity. Somalia’s future lies in hierarchically decentralized unitary system of governance that upholds Somali identity and unity, and ensures rule of law, democratic political process, and respect of human rights, justice, fairness, and shared prosperity.



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Caribana festival neatly packaged to misrepresent social inequality

Lisa Tomlinson


The annual festival has been exploited and co-opted to promote Canada’s multicultural agenda that pushes an illusion of social cohesion and equal opportunity despite widespread discrimination against racialised communities

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences." - Audre Lorde

Reflecting on the past Caribana parades (renamed Scotia Caribbean Carnival in 2011, but still affectionately called “Caribana” by the people) has led me to view the festival as just another way for Canada to “masquerade” our cultural differences.

Educator and social activist Ajamu Nangwaya’s 2010 article “Caribana, exploitation and disrespect of a cultural resource” thoroughly explains the huge amount of profit that the annual Caribana parade generates for the City of Toronto compared to other Canadian festivals held annually. Nangwaya’s commentary also points out the inadequate level of funding that has been distributed to this yearly festival by the three levels of government, and more significantly the non-beneficiaries of this festival, the Black community who have been instrumental in the festival’s creation and development. The parade was a gift given to the country by the Caribbean community in 1967 to celebrate a century of Canada’s independence as a settler-colonial state.

It is not surprising that Caribana has been treated as the “Cinderella of Canadian festival”, as Nangwaya calls it. The Black Caribbean community has always been socially/economically excluded from mainstream Canadian society and subjected to all forms of institutionalized racism (underemployment, racial profiling, etc.). Despite the community’s continued struggle for equality, the festival has been exploited and co-opted to promote Canada’s multicultural agenda that pushes an illusion of social cohesion and equal opportunity.

Over the summer, a reporter on the popular television station CP24 dubbed the festival as one of the most culturally diverse festival in North America. Similarly, the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival official webpage boasts that the festival is “an expression of Toronto's multicultural and multiracial society”. The Toronto Star’s article, “Toronto Brings out…the Best”, speaks volumes to the ways in which the Caribana festival has been neatly packaged to misrepresent the social inequality racialized communities face daily.

Here are a few of the comments:

“I love Toronto because of its diversity and because of our ability to be tolerant and inclusive at the same time. We respect each other and allow each other to thrive. We allow each other to just be whoever they are, and you can’t beat Toronto.”

“I love the multiculturalism. There’s every race and we mesh well together here. Plus, Caribana is my favourite time of year.”

“If you’re up, 24 hours in a day there is always something to do, something is always going on. You can never be bored in Toronto. It’s multicultural and everyone is so accepting of different cultures.”

My intention is not to rain on anyone’s parade. In the past, I have enjoyed and appreciated the diverse Caribbean cultural festivities Caribana offers to the Black community and the wider Canadian society. However, the selective comments found throughout the various media houses paint a romanticised, if not a disturbing, narrative about the City of Toronto and Canada.

Indeed, Toronto is a diverse city that is not substantively different from other major metropolis that host immigrant populations searching for a better life. Let us not ignore the fact that this diversity is ghettoised in small pockets of the city. Therefore, how realistically do people of different races and ethnic groups co-exist harmoniously and get together to revel?

Besides, many of these racialized communities are socially deprived of adequate housing, adequate transportation services, anti-racist and biased policing, job opportunities, education, and culturally appropriate health care. Their representation as elected officials at all levels of government also remains very low, and we very rarely hear politicians addressing the real concerns of disenfranchised communities.

It is also questionable to what extent “we allow each other to just be whoever they are”. We could survey racialized youth who wear saggy pants and cornrows on how they are treated on a daily basis within the educational and judicial system, the labour market, and on the street by the police. A recent statistic indicates that African Canadians represents 2.5 percent of Canada’s population, yet they are overrepresented in federal prisons at 9%.

Most Canadians tend to be oblivious of these figures or often associate them with the United States. The U.S., being a major site of the slave trade, civil rights struggle, and more high profile racially motivated cases of racial oppression, has come to represent the epitome of race relations gone wrong.

Statistics on the education system and the African Canadian children are of equal concern, leading to what has been coined the “school-to-prison pipeline”. The Toronto Star 2009 article, “Suspended Sentence ....”, traced a prison to school cycle in Ontario where racialized youths particularly Blacks, were most affected from the TDSB “Safe School Act”. Other articles have also underscored the disproportionate number of suspension rates among the said groups.

When confronted with such alarming figures, it is very difficult to sit and listen to overzealous reporters using Caribana to mask Toronto’s social inequalities, and to overlook how very little of the monies generated from the festival are even channelled back into the community to create better social and economic opportunities. As expected, some of the 2014 mayoral candidates for the upcoming election wasted no time in capitalizing on the Caribana festival and its flagship parade to promote Toronto’s diversity and their respective political campaigns.

We should not become trapped in the euphoria of colourful costumes, vibrant dance and music to the point of developing an inability to see the persistent systemic racism and class inequalities in Canada. Perhaps we were too critical of Whoopi Goldberg for assuming that the word “nigger” means nothing in Canada.

Goldberg’s perception of Black Canadians not sharing the same historical racial reality as their African American counterparts is an honest response. Canada has successfully concealed its racial challenges to the extent that many Canadians also hold Whoopi Goldberg’s ideas of race relations in Canadian cities like Toronto.

It is this misconstrued perception of diversity, and the once a year opportunity to jump up in Toronto’s streets that have caused many of us to be unaware of the level of race, gender, and class inequality. This ignorance makes it easier for us to be misled by politicians, and mass media…the wickedly wise!



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Race and militarism from Ferguson to Syria: A letter to African Americans

Ajamu Baraka


The white supremacist, colonial/capitalist, patriarchal ruling classes of the U.S. and Europe are clear, even if we are not, that war and repression will be used with brutal efficiency to maintain their hegemony.

“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life.” – Ida B. Wells

The Black radical tradition has always understood the inextricable link between racism and militarism: racism as a manifestation of white supremacist ideology, and militarism as the mechanism to enforce that ideology.

That fundamental link grounds our analysis of the Obama administration’s policies in Iraq and Syria. But the link between race (white supremacy) and the deployment of violence to enforce the interests of white supremacy also explains the repressive mission and role of the police in the colonized barrios and segregated African American communities within the U.S.

Achelle Mbembe explains in “Necropolitics” that “…in modern philosophical thought and European political practice …, the colony represents the site where sovereignty consists fundamentally in the exercise of a power outside the law … where ‘peace’ is more likely to take on the face of a ‘war without end.’” In the non-white world of the internal and global colonies, the rules are different. In those zones where the consent of the oppressed is not expected, colonial/capitalist domination is reinforced with force and violence.

In those colonized spaces it is clear that the people are not the ones to be “protected and served,” and even gestures such as throwing one’s hands up to surrender only means that the police have a better shot. Even the time-honored idea of national sovereignty is different in the non-European world than what is taught in political science and international relations classes, according to Mbembe. As we have witnessed in Iraq, Libya and Syria, sovereignty “relies, to a large degree, in the power and capacity to dictate who may live and who must die.”

That is why the Obama administration has not bothered to give its actions in Syria any legal justification. As Samantha Powers, Obama’s lunatic representative to the United Nations claimed, the U.S. has all of the authority it needs to bomb in Syria.

The African Americans who are supporting the latest war plans in Iraq and Syria while simultaneously calling for something called justice in Ferguson have forgotten, or never completely understood, that the war being waged by the U.S. to maintain global Western hegemony also includes them as a target. If Congress can give unanimous consent to the murder of more than 2,000 people in Gaza, the majority of them women and children, why would anyone think that those same people would really care about a few hundred African Americans who are being murdered annually by police forces charged with containing a population that has been rendered economically superfluous?

The value put on black life by the occupation force in Ferguson and in our communities across the country is no different than the value put on the lives of the “natives” in Afghanistan and Iraq by the U.S. occupation forces. The cavalier way in which white policymakers decide issues of war in the non-white nations of the global South and place tens of thousands of innocents at risk mirrors the value they put on non-white life in the U.S., especially when those non-white bodies are involved in activities that they define as threatening – like resisting, or at this point simply existing.

We must always remind ourselves that in the colonies of the world as well as the racialized, segregated communities in the capitalist metropolis, the non-white is seen as the living negation of everything deemed important to the European mind – the underclass, the violent, the welfare queens, gangbangers, the terrorists – the quintessence of evil. And in reminding ourselves of this reality we can remain clear about what forces and interests we should oppose and with whom to be in solidarity.

What this means is that we cannot afford the comforting myths of U.S. benevolence that attempt to conceal the naked deployment of U.S. state power in the service of Western capitalist/colonialist interests. And we must view with suspicion, if not treat with disdain, our comrades, white and black, who support U.S. interventions, even if they frame that support in leftist justifications. For oppressed nations and peoples’ of the world, the U.S. white supremacist colonial/capitalist patriarchy is and remains the principle contradiction. There must not be any nationalist sentimentality or equivocation on that position.

The current phase of naked aggression in Syria is not a reflection of U.S. strength but rather its weakness. Nonetheless, we cannot underestimate the threat that the continued reliance on militarism and repression poses for African Americans and the peoples of the world. In the U.S., the national security apparatus has been moving systematically to strengthen its ability to target, contain, disrupt and repress when necessary all domestic oppositional movements. The threat of domestic terrorism provided the convenient cover for intensifying those efforts in the post-9/11 period, the result being graphically demonstrated by the militarized police in Boston and their police-state tactics in the aftermath of the Boston bombing, and in Ferguson, Missouri in response to a few hundred demonstrators protesting another killing of an unarmed black person.

The white supremacist, colonial/capitalist, patriarchal ruling classes of the U.S. and Europe are clear, even if we are not, that war and repression will be used with brutal efficiency to maintain their hegemony. Their brief turn toward utilizing “soft power” to shore up “legitimacy” in response to popular opposition to the Bush administration with the “selection” of Barack Obama (the smiling brown face of imperialist domination), was only a short-term tactical innovation of that strategy.

Scholars, pundits and commentators from across the political spectrum in the U.S. have already started to speculate on the legacy of Obama’s presidency. And even though his record of “accomplishments” is thin, very few will identify the most significant but insidious legacy of his presidency – concealing the reality of racialized violence in the service of Western global white supremacy.

* Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report.



* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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

Advocacy & campaigns

Civil society calls for an end to discrimination against women in traditional leadership: A joint statement


On this International Day of Rural Women we, the undersigned organisations, call on African governments to end discrimination against rural women in Africa, especially in their access to traditional leadership roles and inheritance rights.

15 October 2014

Currently, a number of countries in Africa deny daughters the ability to become chiefs solely on the basis of their gender, whether in terms of law or practice. For example, under the Chieftainship Act in Lesotho, daughters are prohibited from succeeding to chieftainship solely because of their gender. This blatantly discriminatory law was upheld by the Lesotho Court of Appeal despite the Constitution and applicable international and regional law prohibiting discrimination and guaranteeing the right to equality.

Similarly, a number of countries deny women equal access to inheritance, again, solely due to their gender. For example, countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, amongst others, contrary to constitutional and statutory protections, continue to deny women equal inheritance to men of family property.

These discriminatory laws and practices tend to have a greater impact on rural women leaving them vulnerable to poverty. They further reinforce women’s secondary status to men within the community. Given the recent celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, this negative impact on girls must be addressed.

Furthermore, laws and practices discriminating against women violate key rights guaranteed under international and regional treaties. Women have the right to equality with men in terms of Article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Article 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), and Article 8(f) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). In addition, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Article 26 of the ICCPR, Article 2(2) of the ICESCR, Articles 2 and 18(3) of the African Charter, and Article 3 of the Maputo Protocol all require countries to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

A handful of countries in Africa have acknowledged the importance of ending discrimination against women in inheritance. For example, in Botswana, the Court of Appeal made it clear that any law that denied women equal access to inheritance solely on the basis of their gender violates the Constitution and laws of Botswana. This decision and its implementation by the government was a significant step forward in ensuring an end to women’s secondary status. Similar positive strides have been made by the courts in Kenya and South Africa.

However, despite a few positive steps towards ending discrimination, much more needs to be done. We call on African governments, including parliaments to ensure that women have equal access to inheritance and to traditional leadership roles to men. In addition, where courts have failed to uphold basic principles of the Constitution, as is the case in Lesotho, parliament must act to ensure that laws permit women the equal ability to inherit and rise to traditional leadership positions as men.


Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA)

Associação, Mulher, Lei e Desenvolvimento (MULEIDE)

Centre for Economic Social Cultural Rights in Africa (CESCRA)

Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya (FIDA-Kenya)

Federation of Women Lawyers, Lesotho (FIDA-Lesotho)

Healing Hearts Widows Support Foundation, Nigeria (HHWSF)

Institute for Gender Equality and Development in Africa (IGED-Africa)

Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)

Liga Moçambicana dos Direitos Humanos (Mozambique Human Rights League)

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)

Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)

Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) Mozambique

Women and Law in Southern Africa (Regional Office)

Darfuri female students in Khartoum detained


Sudanese security forces are holding the students following a crackdown that raises many questions. Some of the students are reported to have been tortured.

Since last year, the management of the National Student's Support Fund " a government body for housing and accommodation of higher education students in Sudan" has pursued a policy of isolating Darfuri female students and housed them in the western part of ALZAHRA boarding complex which is in very poor living conditions. It is almost ramshackle and isolated from the rest of the boarding by a fence, enhanced with barbed wire, and has a separate entrance.

Just a week before the last Eid holiday (end of September 2014) the boarding management put an evacuation order for all students on the notice board - that ALZAHRA boarding house must be evacuated immediately and the President of the Fund would relocate all students to other boarding houses. Fourteen (14) students were hosted in AlBORHANIYA boarding in ALDAIM neighborhood and nine (9) in ALI ABDULFATAH boarding house. The rest of the students refused to leave as they had nowhere to go and could not afford to travel to their towns or villages in Darfur. They demanded that the student's fund find them a solution. Later on 6 October water and electricity were shut off from AlZAHRA boarding house.

On the same day, just near ALZAHRA boarding entrance the national security services arrested (4) students:

1- Hawa Suleiman Al Dooma known by Hawa KEYKO-ALazharee University
2- Arafa Mohamed Ibrahim-Omdurman Alahleyia University
3- Suzzan Omar Abakar-Khartoum University
4- Somyia Khamis –Khartoum University

These four students were accused of being active in opposing the evacuation order and they were working to organize the students to have one voice against the evacuation. They were also accused of being active on the attempts of commemorating the martyrs of the September 2013 uprising, in addition to having conducted several meetings with the martyr's families in Khartoum.

On 7 October ALZAHRA boarding house management ordered the female students (around 70) to evacuate the building, claiming that the building was being abused by the use of drugs and prostitution. Some of the students obeyed the order and vacated, while others refused; as a result 12 students were arrested by the security:

1- Rogaya Musa Algezoole-Khartoum University
2- Manal Mohamed Abdalla Abakar-Alnilein university
3- Salma Degais –Bahre University
4- Fadwa Ahmed –Khartoum University
5- Sadeya bakheet-Alazharee University
6- Alya hassoon-Omdurman Alahleyia University
7- Etezaz Mohamed Abdulkareem-Khartoum University
8- Rehab Mohamed Adam
9- Nahla Abdulrahman-Khartoum University
10- Mowahib Abakar-Alrebat University
11- Ranyia Hassan-Alnilein University
12- Hanan-Khartoum University

On 8 October, 2 students who came back to collect their luggage from the boarding house were also arrested:

1- Ekhlas bushara - Alnilein University
2- Neemat Ahmed Haroon-Omdurman Islamic University

They were all taken to the national security offices in Khartoum Bahre and three days later were transferred to Omdurman Women Prison.

On 11 of October, three girls from Khartoum University were released because they had exams on the next day:

1- Suzzan Omar
2- Fadwa Ahmed
3- Hanan

And these students reported that they had been beaten and insulted, and that there are two students in bad health condition:
1- Arafa Mohamed Ibrahim
2- Salma Degais

They also reported that Hawa Suleiman Aldoma was subjected to severe torture, and she is kept in solitary since her arrest, and her screams are heard inside the prison.

On Saturday, 11 October, the 23 students who obeyed the evacuation order and had been hosted at ALBORHANIYA and ALI ABDULFATAH boarding houses were expelled from these houses and told that the hosting duration was only for three days. They were to find an accommodation for themselves. And those who were hosted by their colleagues in other boarding houses were also expelled.

SUDO UK condemns in the strongest words the arbitrary arrests and the use of force against the students and calls upon the Sudanese authorities to
• Immediately and unconditionally release all students as they have been detained solely as a result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights demands
• Investigate the incidents of the tortured students and bring the individuals or groups responsible for these acts to justice.
• Stop the policy of racial discrimination within the students and the community at large.
 Grant poor students and those coming from conflict areas preference in accommodation.

Grace Mugabe should name white farmers who offered $10 million bribe


President Mugabe’s wife has been concealing a crime, which itself is illegal in line with Zimbabwean laws. If the allegations are true, she should divulge the names of the culprits to facilitate investigations.


10 October 2014

The Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-Southern Africa) learnt with shock and utter dismay that some white farmers offered US$10 million bribe money to President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe (nee Marufu). Grace Mugabe is commended for refusing to accept the bribe and it is hoped that the rest of the Zimbabwean leadership emulates her for detesting corruption. However, Grace Mugabe should have reported the matter to the police for investigations.

The ACT-Southern Africa is challenging her to name and shame the white farmers if at all, she was telling the truth or that it was simply a political gimmick.

Mr. Munyaradzi Chaumba, the Regional Director of ACT-Southern Africa challenged the first family to expose the names of the white farmers to facilitate investigations.

“It is sad that President Mugabe’s wife has been concealing a crime, which itself is illegal in line with Zimbabwean laws. If the allegations are true, she should divulge the names of the culprits to facilitate investigations. Our leaders should be exemplary and Grace Mugabe is commended for refusing to accept the bribe but should have been more exemplary in abiding by Zimbabwean laws.


On or about the 8th of October 2014, President Robert Mugabe’s wife confessed publicly that some white farmers tried to bribe her. She was offered US$10 million, which she refused to accept. However, the matter was not reported to the police for investigations.[1]

For more information call:

Mr. Munyaradzi Chaumba (+263773302830)

Support Kibagare Wetland Legal Fund


Civil society groups aim to raise $3000 for lawyer's fees to pursue a case against the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, which claims to have been allocated a wetland in Nairobi to build luxury apartments.

Dear all,

A few of us, including CCI and the Centre for Environmental Action, have spent the last few months following the Kibagare wetland issue and writing letters to NEMA and others, to find out why PCEA was given a license to build apartments on Kibagare wetland [in Nairobi’s Westlands area].

It's now at the point where we believe the only option remaining is to file a case in court. We tried reaching out to various individuals and organizations, but have not yet been successful in moving forward to stop the project completely.

So we have just launched an online fundraiser for any individual or organization that wants to contribute to the legal fund.

We are aiming to raise $3000 in the next 38 days. All the lawyer's fees will be carefully documented, with receipts, so that it will be a transparent process.

Please share with your networks if you can. We are also looking for ideas on which organizations to approach for contributions.

Thank you.

Best wishes,

Zahra Moloo, Cidi Otieno, Tetu Maingi, and CEA (Centre for Environmental Action)

Books & arts

Does ‘Arrow of God’ anticipate the Igbo genocide?

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe


‘Arrow of God’ presents a highly imaginative and anticipatory power of Achebe’s insight to the turbulent trajectory of post-(European)conquest African history and politics. This insight anticipates the catastrophe of the Igbo genocide.

Quite early this year, I began to prepare for a paper on the role or involvement of Africa and Africans in the war of 1914-1918 or, alternatively, the Great War or the First World War. 2014 is the 100th anniversary of this war. The paper has since been published by Pambazuka News under the title, ‘The concatenation of the African role in the 1914-1918 war or World War I’.

Instructively, my research for the paper had led me to Chinua Achebe’s ‘A Man of the People’, by way of that memorable conversation on African history and future between Cheikh Anta Diop and Carlos Moore, published 20 years ago in the journal ‘Présence Africaine’. I will return to the Diop-Moore conversation shortly.

2014 is also the year of ‘Arrow of God’. This is why we are gathered here today at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s tome. I had to reread it for the jubilee commemoration. And as I had earlier on reread ‘A Man of the People’, Achebe’s fourth novel, for the purposes of my 1914-1918 war paper, I suddenly found my follow-up Achebe reread of the season was ‘Arrow of God’, novel no. 3 – in other words, perhaps not aware of the trend and its consequence or consequences, I had been involved in alternating the sequencing of the epochs of the groundings of the two texts by appearing to reread ‘Arrow of God’ backwards! The result is fascinating, as I will show. The discovery has been quite profound.


To recall, Chinua Achebe publishes ‘A Man of the People’ in early January 1966. This is a few days before the military coup d’état that overthrows the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa civilian government which the supposedly outgoing British occupation-governor James Robertson had imposed on the country in 1959, following a fractious election that the British rigged in favour of its north regional sociopolitical clients (Harold Smith, ‘Harold Smith’s Tribute Page’). The latter would, in turn, safeguard those vast expropriatory interests of Britain’s in the country subsequently (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, ‘Elections in Africa – the voter, the court, the outcome’). A striking feature in the resolution of the grave crisis of this state that Achebe wrestles with in ‘A Man of the People’ is its degeneration into a military coup and rampaging violence (‘But the Army obliged us by staging a coup at that point and locking up every member of the Government’ – Achebe, ‘A Man of the People’, 1966: 165), an extraordinary predictive insight, if ever there was one, that confronts the reader, considering the gruesome trajectory of politics in Nigeria, in 1966, the year this same state launches the Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide of post(European)conquest Africa, in which 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population, are murdered during the course of 44 subsequent devastating months. Indeed on the receipt of an advance copy of ‘A Man of the People’, poet and playwright John Pepper Clarke-Bekederemo observes, ‘Chinua, I know you are a prophet. Everything in this book has happened except a military coup’. Ken Post, a British academic working in west Africa at the time, recalls: ‘Chinua Achebe proved to be a better prophet than any of the political scientists’. Once again, ‘Prophet’! Is Chinua Achebe, the Father of African Literature, also a prophet?

‘Arrow of God’, Achebe’s most complex novel, his ‘richest, most mysterious … one of the finest works of fiction in English written in this century’, according to Robert Wren (Robert Wren, Achebe’s World, 1990: 75), remains an inexhaustible farmland for bounty harvests. Fresh readings and re-readings of the novel bring forth ever more yields. This also applies to the examination/re-examination of the literature across the spectrum of distinguished critics of the novel. It is striking, right from the outset, that the certainties of Igbo national independence witnessed in the age of ‘Things Fall Apart’ have now clearly dissipated as Ezeulu charts the paths and terms of the consequential relationship between him and Ulu, the god that he serves, and the key centres of bourgeoning European-conquest power in Umuaro and neighbouring Igbo states. Pointedly, Ezeulu instructs son Oduche to attend the mission school as his ‘eyes and ears’ (Chinua Achebe, ‘The African Trilogy’, 1988: 365) in this power dispensation. But Oduche is much more important here than just a tactical tool in Ezeulu’s defence arsenal as this paper demonstrates.

As in the other texts of the Achebean oeuvre, including ‘A Man of the People’, which has been aptly illustrative, ‘Arrow of God’ presents a highly imaginative and anticipatory power of Achebe’s insight to the turbulent trajectory of post-(European)conquest African history and politics. The paper will explore how this insight anticipates the catastrophe of the Igbo genocide. Thus, the Igbo double jeopardy of foreign conquest and occupation and genocide appears to sum up Achebe’s mission.

I have chosen Emmanuel Ngara’s study of ‘Arrow of God’ in his ‘Stylistic Criticism and the African Novel’ (1982) as an important text to employ to discuss Achebe’s crucial mission. Ironically, Ngara’s clearly stated conclusions in his work couldn’t be more appropriate in mapping out the parameters of Achebe’s project. Ngara is very unhappy with ‘Arrow of God’. He writes:“… Arrow of God is not a book that fascinates and engages the reader as soon as he picks it up to read’ (Ngara, 1982: 79). He elaborates in four paragraphs and it is important to quote him at some length:

“The narrator is the author himself who tells the story in the third person, giving himself the privilege of entering the characters’ minds and recording their innermost thoughts. The narrator is addressing both an African and a western English-speaking audience. He is very successful in his use of African idioms in an English novel – non-Igbo speakers are able to follow the story and to understand the Igbo proverbs and expressions used in the novel. There are, however, some minor shortcomings in the language. Achebe uses many Igbo terms such as chi, obi, ogene. These are not translated and the reader is expected to understand them in the context in which they are used. In some instances, however, these untranslated terms are somewhat obscure, the reader can only have a vague idea of what they stand for, and this tends to slow down his reading speed as he attempts to puzzle out what they mean … Arrow of God is too culture-bound and sociologically oriented. The emphasis on the multifarious aspects of Igbo society tends to distract the reader and to hamper the smooth flow of events … Yet another source of difficulty is the novel’s complexity of theme and plot and the large number of characters involved. Achebe tries to contain the whole cultural fabric of Igbo society and the various forces threatening it in one volume. This necessitates bringing in too many characters to whom the reader must be introduced before he can clearly see who is playing what role in the conflict. Also, many contradictions are involved…” (79)

Spectacularly, Ngara lays out the constituent features of the history and geography that have given rise to the conjunctural crisis, even existential (on this possibility, Ezeulu couldn’t be clearer when he refers to the symbolism of the sound of the tolling of the church bell, that overarching ideological signifier of the occupation regime, as the “song of extermination” [Achebe, 1988: 362]) that the Igbo are going through that gives rise to the artist’s, the novelist’s, Achebe’s stated mission – in the first place. One then wonders what problem the critic/scholar has in their own response to this pressing endeavour. Isn’t the scholar’s trade to labour, labour and labour and, at times without much success, try to understand life, and its complexities, society and the universe? When has this task ever been easy or easier? The scholar can’t afford to despair over the complexity of the challenge at stake; definitely he or she mustn’t give up; they must continue to labour; they must persist. Even Ezeulu, the half-person, half-spirit, the ‘Known and at the same time … Unknowable’ (455), attests to the complexities of understanding and responding to the challenges of the times when he beckons his people: ‘But you cannot know the Thing which beats the drum to which Ezeulu dances … [W]e have reached the very end of things … This is what our sages meant when they said that a man who has nowhere else to put his hand for support puts it on his knee’ (455-457).

In the conversation between Cheikh Anta Diop and Carlos Moore that I referred to earlier, Diop asks the pertinent question of the age: ‘Who can deny that of all peoples, Africans have been the greatest victims of aggression, racism and oppression? The consequences can be seen today in the state of underdevelopment and technical backwardness of African societies’ (Carlos Moore, “Conversations with Cheikh Anta Diop”, 1993: 418). The apogee of this devastation of a heritage for each and every African nation or people, without exception, is what Diop describes, to use his very words, ‘loss of national sovereignty’ (Moore: 381). In ‘Arrow of God’, Chinua Achebe is examining not only the invasion of Igboland by a European state (this deleterious ‘loss of national sovereignty’) but the multitudinous layers and range of Igbo response to this unprecedented catastrophe which is ongoing, not over by any means. Thus, Ezeulu, the chief priest of Ulu, uses stark epidemiological referencing to describe this grave emergency facing his people: ‘A disease that has never been seen before cannot be cured with everyday herbs … [O]ur fathers have told us that it may even happen to an unfortunate generation that they are pushed beyond the end of things, and their back is broken and hung over a fire’ (Achebe, 1988: 456-457). Yet in another breadth, the priest’s characterisation is bluntly existential as we have just indicated: ‘extermination’ (362).


Kole Omotoso has argued that, unlike the Yoruba who view the British invasion of their country as a ‘mere episode, a catalytic episode only’ (Kole Omotoso, Achebe or Soyinka?, 1996: 17), the Igbo see the British invasion of Igboland as a confrontation with a ‘strange Difference, an Other, a Contradiction, an encounter that can only be negative in terms of the effects on Igbo culture and its ways’ (Omotoso: 11). Umuofia, as we observe in Things Fall Apart, surely appreciates the startling implications of this archetypal ‘clash of civilisations’ that Omotoso depicts. The Okonkwo-Obierika studied deliberations on the horrific massacre of the people of Abame by an ever-expanding British invading military force and the impact of the event on Umuofia’s national sovereignty is pointedly evident. Indeed, the continuing independence of Umuofia is threatened by this invasion. This gives rise to calls by Okonkwo for a steadfast defence of their homeland by its people, despite the military superiority and the ruthlessness of the enemy it faces as historian Obierika is keen to stress: ‘Have you not heard how the white man wiped out Abame?’ (Achebe: 144). He adds, ominously, ‘They would go to Umuru and bring the soldiers, and we [Umuofia] would be like Abame’ (Achebe: 144). Obierika and apparently the majority of the leadership of Umuofia want to avoid the Abameisation of their own country by the British. Even though he does not state it clearly in his studied philosophical ruminations in Arrow of God, it is implicit that one of the reasons, a very important consideration definitely, for Ezeulu’s decision to send son Oduche to the conquest mission school is to preempt the Abame débâcle in Umuaro. For Okonkwo, though, the obvious overwhelming military odds against Umuofia notwithstanding, the country must defend its sovereignty resolutely: ‘We must fight these men and drive them from our land’ (Achebe: 144). Okonkwo’s forthright response to Obierika’s reticence about how to respond to the impending British invasion of Umuofia shows clearly that years of enforced exile in the Mbanta country have not in any way diminished the hero’s patriotic instincts and distinctions. Even though Okonkwo subsequently commits suicide after killing the envoy sent by the British to disrupt the crucial Umuofia leadership assembly on the unfolding emergency in addition to his conviction that Umuofia is unwilling to deploy its forces to resist the impending attack on the country, I have argued, elsewhere (see Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, ‘The Achebean Restoration’, 2013: 698), that Okonkwo’s suicide and its aftermath symbolise the sowing of the regenerative seeds of freedom for the restoration of Igbo national sovereignty.

As a result, this trope of freedom/national sovereignty transmutes to the post-Umuofia-Arrow of God epoch, evident, most assuredly if not defiantly, when Ezeulu turns down the occupation’s plans to induct him in the operationalising structure of the conquest regime. Again implicitly, perhaps, Ezeulu does not feel that the conquest’s mission is complete or definitive. He still hopes that his people’s independence would survive. This is why the priest informs occupation administrator Clarke, via the latter’s interpreter: ‘Tell the white man that Ezeulu will not be anybody’s chief, except Ulu’ (Achebe: 498). Equally, the trope of Abame-murdering/wipe out transmutes to this new epoch. In the Anglo-Igbo confrontation in Umuaro and the contiguous states, the Abame massacre features, most hauntingly, in the narrative. In the wake of the Umuaro-Okperi war which Ezeulu opposes, describing it as an ‘unjust war’ (Achebe: 334), Umuaro reluctantly accepts the terms of the British military intervention because, to quote the narrative voice in Arrow of God, ‘[t]he story of what these [British] soldiers did in Abame was still told with fear, and so Umuaro made no effort to resist but laid down their arms’ (Achebe: 347). In fact, Ezeulu himself focuses on Abame broadly in a key address to his people in which he reflects on growing African involvement in the murderous forces the conqueror regime is mobilising in these massacres, a principal sphere of this tragedy. He poses three questions which clearly have ‘pan-Africanist’ implications: ‘Have you not heard that when two brothers fight a stranger reaps the harvest? How many white men went in the party that destroyed Abame? Do you know? Five’ (Achebe: 455), clearly an Achebean acknowledgement of that key component of the trajectory of the conquest of Africa and continuing post-conquest violence and murders so dramatically captured by historian Chancellor Williams in his The Destruction of Black Civilization (1987: 218):

“Now the shadows lengthened. The Europeans had also been busily building up and training strong African armies. Africans trained to hate, kill and conquer Africans. Blood of Africans was to sprinkle and further darken the pages of their history … Indeed, Africa was conquered for the Europeans by the Africans [themselves], and thereafter kept under [conquest] control by African police and African soldiers. Very little European blood was ever spilled.”

So, ages before the Blydens and the Equinaos and the Garveys, and the Du Boises and the Azikiwes and the Nkrumahs and the Makonnens would begin to theorise and offer progressive, liberatory perspectives on ‘pan-Africanism’, the enemies of Africa had already unleashed ‘pan-African-“Goodcountry”-assemblages’ of terror on Africa and Africans to despoil and conquer Africa. In effect, contrary to the usual, quite often understandably romantic presumptions, ‘pan-Africanism’, as a construct, does not appear or occur discernibly or intelligibly ‘ready-made’. On the contrary, every feature of this construct for progressive projects or outcomes in the African World has to be worked for actively, painstakingly and continuously sustained.


To conclude, the Abame massacre and those Umuofia and Umuaro debates and deliberations on its aftermath crucially map the spectrum of milestones that would define the trajectory of the British 100 years of war against the Igbo and the variegated frames of Igbo resistance to it that parallel the very stretch of British occupation of Nigeria: the 1880s-1914 Ekumeku wars and resistance in Anioma, west of the Oshimiri River; the 1901-1902 war against the Aru in northeastcentral Igboland; the 1929 Ogu umu nwanyi Igbo/Women’s War in Aba/Igbo eastcentral region; the 1945 pogrom of Igbo immigrant population in Jos, central Nigeria, organised by Hausa-Fulani/north region clients/allies of the occupation; the 1949 shootings of coal miners in the Enuugwu colliery in northcentral Igboland; the 1953 pogrom of Igbo immigrant population in Kano, north Nigeria, organised by Hausa-Fulani/north region clients/allies of the occupation. The 1945 and 1953 pogroms are indeed the “dress rehearsals” of the genocide that is launched on Sunday 29 May 1966. Abame, eventually, culminates, catastrophically, in the 1966-1970 Igbo genocide when 3.1 million Igbo, a quarter of the nation’s population are murdered. This is the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, effectively inaugurating the age of pestilence which, by and large, characterises contemporary Africa. Soon after, the killing fields from Igboland expands almost inexorably across Africa as the following haunting reminders of slaughter, during the age, illustrate: further genocides in Rwanda, the Sudan, and Zaïre/Democratic Republic of Congo, and wars in Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, southern Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Libya. Twelve million were killed in these 13 countries. Added to the 3.1 million Igbo dead, Africa has had a gruesome tally of 15.1 million people murdered by its genocide states and in other conflicts in the past 44 years.
Instead of Ezeulu’s often complex philosophical ruminations which also focus, specifically, on the possibilities of the tragic Igbo Abame-upheavals during his own times in this prevailing age of Arrow of God, let us end by elaborating more empirically on the lived Igbo Abame-upheavals of 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 because this is precisely the outcome the philosopher-priest has sought to prevent in Umuaro and what Obierika, hitherto, had saved Umuofia from. If we recall those poignant words from Ezeulu to Umuaro, cited earlier, ‘[O]ur fathers have told us that it may even happen to an unfortunate generation that they are pushed beyond the end of things, and their back is broken and hung over a fire’ (Achebe: 457), it suddenly dawns on us that these appear to constitute a pre-dated epitaph for the 3.1 million murdered Igbo in a generation just once or twice removed. As we can see, Chinua Achebe’s predictive insights, here in Arrow of God, are shatteringly breathtaking…

Undoubtedly, the Nigeria genocide state, beginning on 29 May 1966, becomes some haematophagous monster let loose on the Igbo and Igboland, slaughtering away to the hilt … And just in case anyone doubts the endgame of this mission, three shrilling, chilling proclamations, scripted with unmistakeable Stheno-precepts of obliterating intent from one of the Gorgons stalking the land, punctuate the scene as the following shows:

1. The ghoulish anthem of the genocide, broadcast uninterruptedly on state-owned Kaduna radio (shortwave transmission) and television and with editorial comments on the theme, regularly published in both state-owned New Nigerian (daily) newspaper and (Hausa) weekly Gaskiya Ta fi Kwabo during the period, has these lyrics in Hausa:

Mu je mu kashe nyamiri
Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su
Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su
(English translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property)

2. Benjamin Adekunle, one of the most notorious of the genocidist commanders in southern Igboland, makes the following statement to the media, including foreign representatives, in an August 1968 press conference: ‘I want to prevent even one I[g]bo having even one piece to eat before their capitulation. We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that don’t move’ (The Economist [London], 24 August 1968).

3. Harold Wilson, prime minister of Britain, the key ‘centre’-world power that crucially supports the Igbo genocide militarily, diplomatically and politically, right from conceptualisation to actualisation is totally unfazed when he informs Clyde Ferguson (United States State Department special coordinator for relief to Biafra) that he, Harold Wilson, ‘would accept half a million dead Biafrans if that was what it took’ the Nigeria genocidists to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger Morris, Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy, 1977: 122). For the records, Wilson’s ‘a half a million dead Biafrans’ represented 4.2 per cent of the Igbo population then; by the time that that phase of the genocide came to an end, 6-9 months after Wilson’s wish-declaration, 25 per cent of this nation’s population or 3.1 million Igbo people had been murdered by the genocidists. Harold Wilson’s ‘[W]ould accept a half a million dead Biafrans’-wish is not a declaration made by some dictator, some leader of a loony party, a fascist party or anything of that ilk; on the contrary, this is a declaration made by an elected politician, a politician in an advanced western democracy – the leader of the British Labour party, a party that prides itself for having attracted leading thinkers to its ranks in the post-World War II era. ‘[W]ould accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took’-declaration is made by the prime minister of Britain; not the prime minister of some’ ‘peripheral’, inconsequential country but the prime minister of a ‘centre’ state and power that was part of the victorious alliance that defeated a fascist global amalgam in a global war that ended barely 23 years earlier. This is a prime minister of a ‘centre’ state and power, the sixth to occupy this exalted position since the end of the war, that was one of the key countries that worked on the panel that drafted the historic 1948 United Nations ‘Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide’, in the wake of the 1930s/1940s deplorable perpetration of the Jewish genocide in Europe. 6 million Jews were murdered then by Nazi Germany. It is to ensure that no human beings are ever subjected to what the Jews went through in central Europe and elsewhere that this genocide convention is rated as one of the key international documents of the new age. Britain is a signatory to the convention. A senior British Foreign Office official, who echoes Harold Wilson’s disposition to the Igbo slaughter, is no less chilling in their own characterisation of Britain’s strategic goal. Describing the British response to the concerted international humanitarian effort to dispatch urgently needed relief material to the blockaded Igbo, this official notes that the British government position is designed to ‘show conspicuous zeal in relief while in fact letting the little buggers starve out’ (Morris: 122). In a courageous and admirable public admission made in 1970, Colonel Robert Scott broke ranks with his employer, the British diplomatic mission in Lagos where he worked as military advisor, to acknowledge, gravely, that as the Nigerian genocidists unleashed their Adekunleist campaigns across Igbo towns and villages, they were the ‘best defoliant agent known’ (Sunday Telegraph, London, 11 January 1970).

4. In May 1969, Olusegun Obasanjo, who had recently taken over the command of the Benjamin Adekunle-death squad, orders his air force to shoot down any Red Cross planes flying in urgently-needed relief supplies to the millions of surviving but encircled, blockaded and bombarded Igbo. Within a week of his infamous order, 5 June 1969, Obasanjo recalls, nostalgically, in his memoirs, unambiguously titled My Command (1981), genocidist air force pilot Gbadomosi King ‘redeem[s] his promise’, as Obasanjo puts it (Obasanjo, 1981: 79). Gbadomosi King shoots down a clearly marked, incoming relief-bearing International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) DC-7 aircraft near Eket, south Biafra, with the loss of its 3-person crew. Obasanjo’s perverse satisfaction over the aftermath of this crime is fiendish, grotesquely revolting. He writes: ‘The effect of [this] singular achievement of the Air Force especially on 3 Marine Commando Division [name of the death squad Obasanjo, who subsequently becomes head of Nigeria regime for 11 years, commands] was profound. It raised morale of all service personnel, especially of the Air Force detachment concerned and the troops they supported in [my] 3 Marine Commando Division’ (79). The consequence of this act of terror across the world is, of course, the expression of revulsion. What does Obasanjo do in response? This is hugely revelatory. Olusegun Obasanjo appeals to Harold Wilson, the British prime minister, as Obasanjo, himself, scripts in his My Command (165), to “sort out’ the raging international outcry generated by the destruction of the ICRC aircraft. For the Nigerian génocidaires, the fact that, at the end, they have Britain’s back is critical in their pursuit of this gruesome campaign.

Just in case it isn’t quite obvious, Chinua Achebe publishes a sequel to Arrow of God 48 years later. Here in London. It celebrated its second publication anniversary last week. The sequel is appropriately called, There was a Country.

*Paper presented at the Arrow of God at 50 symposium, Centre for African Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London/Igbo Conference (symposium conveners: Dr Kwadwo Osei-Nyame Jnr and Dr Louisa Uchum Egbunike), Saturday 4 October 2014.

** Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is visiting professor in the graduate programme of constitutional law at Universidade de Fortaleza and author of Longest genocide – Since 29 May 1966 (forthcoming, 2015)


Achebe, Chinua. A Man of the People. London: Heinemann, 1966.

Achebe, Chinua. Morning Yet on Creation Day. London, Heinemann Education Books, 1975.

Achebe, Chinua. The Trouble with Nigeria. Enugu: Fourth Dimensions, 1983.

Achebe, Chinua. Hopes and Impediments. Oxford: Heinemann, 1988.

Achebe, Chinua. The African Trilogy. London: Pan Books, 1988.

Achebe, Chinua. Home and Exile. Oxford: Oxford University, 2000.

Achebe, Chinua. There was a Country. London: Penguin, 2012.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. ‘Elections in Africa – the voter, the court, the outcome’. PENSAR-Revisita de Ciêcias Jurídicas, Vol. 18, Número 3, 2013, pp. 804-836,, accessed 16 September 2014.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. ‘The concatenation of African role in the war of 1914-1918 or World War I’,, 23 September 2014.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. ‘The Achebean Restoration’. Journal of Asian and African Studies, Vol. 48, No. 6, 2013, pp. 698-709.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. African Literature in Defence of History: An essay on Chinua Achebe. Reading and Dakar: African Renaissance, 2001.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature. Reading and Dakar: African Renaissance, 2011.

Emenyonu, Ernest. The Rise of the Igbo Novel, Ibadan: Oxford University, 1978.

Gikandi, Simon. Reading Chinua Achebe. London: James Currey, 1991.

Innes, CL. Chinua Achebe. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1990.

Ihekweazu, Edith, ed. Eagle on Iroko. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books, 1991.

JanMohamed, Abdul. Manichean Aesthetics. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1983.

Larson, Charles. The Emergence of African Literature, London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1978.

Moore, Carlos. ‘Conversation with Cheikh Anta Diop’. Présence Africaine. Nos 3/4, 1993.

Mudimbe, Valentine. ‘Reading There was a Country’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Vol. 48, No. 6, 2013, pp. 671-682.

Ngara, Emmanuel. Stylistic Criticism and the African Novel. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1982.

Ngara, Emmanuel. Art and Ideology in the African Novel. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1985.

Nwoga, Donatus. The Supreme God as Stranger in Igbo Religious Thought. Ekwereazu: Hawk, 1984.

Obiechina, Emmanuel. Culture, Tradition and Soceity in the West African Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1975.

Omotoso, Kole. Achebe or Soyinka?, London: Hans Zell, 1996

Palmer, Eustace. The Growth of the African Novel. London: Heinemann, 1979.

Priebe, Richard. Myth, Realism and the West African Writer. Trenton: African World, 1988.

Ravenscroft, Arthur. Chinua Achebe. Harlow: Longmans, Green, 1969.

Shatto, Gakwandi. The Novel and the Contemporary Experience in Africa, London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977.

Smith, Harold. ‘Harold Smith’s Tribute Page’,, accessed 27 September 2014

Sunday Telegraph. London, 11 January 1970.

Williams, Chancellor. The Destruction of Black Civilization. Chicago: Third World, 1987.

Wren, Robert. Achebe’s World. Harlow: Longman, 1990.

Engaging with 'Something Quite Unlike Myself'

Chambi Chachage


The poetry is a journey into the quest for self-determination. Resonating with Ngugi's ‘Re-membering Africa’, Onsando's text focuses on selves that constitute Africa's dismembered self.

I have never reviewed a poetry book before. But after reading a couple of poems in Michael Onsando's (2014) [url= Something]]Something Quite Unlike Myself[/url], I felt a strong urge to do so. So, here we go.

As its first poem intimates, the book is like an open bag, full of poems that got spilled and could not be gathered (p. 7). Collecting them into one coherent theme had thus been a challenge. No wonder, earlier on, Onsando notes, "with a massive sense of transgression – of breaking multiple taboos" (p. iv), that it "is a restless poetry..." written "at a time of fracture...." (p. v)

One may hence conclude that its main theme is the "self." Could it be that its author, by employing the negation "unlike myself", is trying to tell the reader about a 'restless' and 'fractured' self? A self that is striving to "inhabit what might be possible"? (Ibid.)

But is it simply poetizing about Michael's self? I doubt it. The poetry is a journey into the quest for self-determination. Resonating with my reading of Ngugi's Re-membering Africa, Onsando's text focuses on selves that constitute Africa's dismembered self. It is thus a poetic conversation of African selves among others.

My favorite, of course, is the one that sets the stage to what intrigued me as a very creative style of organizing and concluding a book: "She asked me about my blistered feet. I asked her about her manicured hands" (p.11). After sharing a number of poems, the poet returns to this central question at the very end: ""you still haven't answered my question about your blistered feet' she says."(p. 38). Then the answer comes - a line that would leave you, the reader, with an urgent sense of why we need to re-member the self.

If we do so, "another throat" won't be "slit" while the "white dove sits on a branch high above...and watches..." (p. 27). Yes, if we re-member Africa(ns), "a black crow" won't be a "sign of wisdom trapped inside an unspeaking body..." (p. 37). We will indeed be something quite unlike our gendered, racialized and 'classed' selves.

Tribute to you

Juliet Kushaba


Ugandan women rights activist Hope Turyasingura is dead. Turyasingura is former chairperson of Center for Domestic Violence Prevention. This poem celebrates her.

(For Hope Turyasingura)

My survival depends
on the honesty with which I tell of you,
on the honesty with which I dare to share
about your strength, your passion and love.

You were never one to mince words.
‘Every woman must learn to make choices’
You taught the girls and women you encountered
Along life’s path in this wide wild world;

You were a strong voice,
a loud voice that spoke;
Women are not donkeys,
not those bags in the gym,
not beggars.

They are equal BRAINS.

You gave of your selfless you
You flowered,
dropped a lot of seed.
Thank you.

There is a huge gap now
But your seeds shall take your path
they shall flower
and they shall cover it.
so you can rest in PEACE.

(1 Oct 2014)

Juliet Kushaba
Programmes Officer
Femrite - Uganda Women Writers Association

Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

Pambazuka News is published by Fahamu Ltd.

© Unless otherwise indicated, all materials published are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. For further details see:

Pambazuka news can be viewed online: English language edition
Edição em língua Portuguesa
Edition française
RSS Feeds available at

Pambazuka News is published with the support of a number of funders, details of which can be obtained here.

or send a message to with the word SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line as appropriate.

The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Pambazuka News or Fahamu.

With around 2,600 contributors and an estimated 600,000 readers, Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan-African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.

Order cutting-edge climate titles from Pambazuka Press:

'Earth Grab: Geopiracy, the New Biomassters and Capturing Climate Genes' – OUT NOW

To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa – OUT NOW

* Pambazuka News is on Twitter. By following '@pambazuka' on
Twitter you can receive headlines from our 'Features' and 'Comment & Analysis' sections as they are published, and can even receive our headlines via SMS. Visit our Twitter page for more information:

* Pambazuka News has a page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit

ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português

© 2009 Fahamu -