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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.
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Pambazuka News 694: Confronting occupiers, polluters and vampires

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High time to build a movement of solidarity to end UN occupation of Haiti

Ajamu Nangwaya


cc ABC
On October 15, the UN occupation force in Haiti will be up for renewal by the Security Council. Urgent and swift efforts are now needed to demand an immediate withdrawal of the decade-old army of occupation that has turned Haiti into a UN colony

“From the beginning of our century until now, Haiti and its inhabitants under one aspect or another have, for various reasons, been very much in the thoughts of the American people. While slavery existed amongst us, her example was a sharp thorn in our side and a source of alarm and terror…. Her very name was pronounced with a shudder.” – Frederick Douglass, World's Columbian Exposition, January 2, 1893

We are no longer living in the 19th century with the spectre of Haiti’s successful struggle for its freedom haunting the consciousness of slave masters across the Americas. Yet the military occupation of this country since 2004 by way of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is sending a clear message that the Haitians’ tentative step toward exercising control over the destiny in the 1990s and the early years of the new century is still “a source of alarm and terror” to imperial overlords such a Canada, France, and the United States.

The MINUSTAH occupation army has a combined force of 7, 408 soldiers and police personnel as of July 31, 2014. This armed entity has served as the muscle behind the schemes of the local elite and foreign interests in preventing the disenfranchised urban and rural labouring classes from seeking to capture the levers of national political, economic, and social power.

A number of observers have documented the oppressive actions of MINUSTAH in its ten-year occupation of Haiti: involvement in the sexual exploitation and abuse of girls and women; of Jean-Bertrand Aristides’ supporters; the general abuses of living under occupation; introduction of cholera that has killed over 8,500 Haitians and infected more than 700,000 people; the suspicious death of a teenager; and the compelling reasons for an end to the occupation.

It is high time for progressive people and organizations in Canada, Europe and the United States to demonstrate their anti-imperialist commitment to Haiti by creating campaigns and a movement to organize and mobilize mass opinion against the military occupation. The current mandate of MINUSTAH ends on October 15, 2014, and it is up for renewal at the anti-democratic UN’s Security Council. Therefore, we need to be nimble and swift in putting together initiatives demanding an immediate withdrawal of the UN’s army of occupation.

Further, individuals and groups of good conscience need to develop people-to-people relations with Haitian grassroots organizations in their struggle to control their destiny and fight local and global forces of capitalism and imperialism. There are a number of initiatives that may be pursued in exercising solidarity with the labouring classes in Haiti.

Haiti is a symbol of the Revolutionary Afrikan Tradition that is committed to an assertive anti-imperialist politics. The present occupation of this country by MINUSTAH/United Nations is an attempt to prevent the Haitians from building on their history of militant self-determination. We are morally and politically obligated to build campaigns across the Americas and the rest of the world to demand an end to the occupation of Haiti.

The labouring classes in Haiti have furnished the world with one of the most compelling and dramatic moments in revolution-making in the annals of history. They are the first and only people to have successfully overthrown a system of enslavement through armed struggle.

They defeated the armies of France, Britain, and Spain, which were among the strongest military powers during that period. Haiti lit the fire of freedom in the hearts and minds of enslaved Afrikans and colonized peoples across the Americas. The people of Haiti weren’t comfortable in just being role models for people who sought their emancipation by all available means.

They gave guns, ammunition, ships, and personnel to Simon Bolivar and his fledgling, resource-challenged campaign to liberate Latin America from Spanish colonialism. The Haitians in their humanistic and solidaristic commitment to Afrikan liberation extracted a promise from Bolivar to end the enslavement of Afrikans in all liberated territories under his control or influence. The peoples of the Americas have a special responsibility to be there for the people of Haiti in their resistance to MINUSTAH.

Ending the military occupation of Haiti is a popular demand of the labouring classes in Haiti as evidenced through numerous demonstrations. Further, a survey of Haitians in August 2012 by students from Columbia University found that 65 per cent of respondents wanted an end to the occupation. Recent polls on Haitians’ attitude toward MINUSTAH revealed that 89 per cent of them have called for the withdrawal of the UN’s occupation force.

While the popular sectors in Haiti are calling for the immediate withdrawal of the occupation forces, a so-called Group of Friends of Haiti at the United Nations is divided over the pace of the drawdown of the occupation forces. Eleven Latin American states that contribute soldiers and/or police to the occupation, are in favour of a slower pace in the reduction of MINUSTAH’s personnel. The elite from these states are seemingly oblivious of Haiti’s contribution to their liberation from Spain’s colonization project.

However, the progressive forces among the people of Latin America have taken a transgressive stance to MINUSTAH’s military presence. The popular resistance of Haitians to the occupation has inspired a campaign by anti-imperialist forces in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean that is mobilizing for the termination of the occupation. It is also calling for the payment of reparations to Haitians for the harm and violence caused to them by MINUSTAH forces over the last ten years.

Amilcar Cabral was correct in asserting in his famous Weapon of Theory presentation at the 1966 Tricontinental Conference in Cuba that action and not mere words would stop imperialism in its tracks:

“We are not going to use this platform to rail against imperialism. An African saying very common in our country says: “When your house is burning, it’s no use beating the tom-toms.” On a Tricontinental level, this means that we are not going to eliminate imperialism by shouting insults against it. For us, the best or worst shout against imperialism, whatever its form, is to take up arms and fight. This is what we are doing, and this is what we will go on doing until all foreign domination of our African homelands has been totally eliminated.”

We are called upon by History to use the options available to us today to rid Haiti (and the rest of the world) of imperialism or what is now euphemistically called globalization. Our principled and solidaristic actions with the Haitian people will definitely speak louder than fiery rhetoric or empty platitudes to resistance or revolution from below.

* Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is an educator and a writer. He is a member of the Organization for Afrikan Struggles and International Solidarity and the Toronto Haiti Action Committee.



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The BRICS remix climate damage and corporate collusion

Patrick Bond


cc Wiki
As world leaders gather at the UN next week, the window to halt runaway climate change is closing fast this decade, with world-wide emissions cuts of 50 percent needed by 2020, and 90 percent by 2050. Not much can be expected to come out of the UN talk-shop. Emerging powers, on the other hand, are not pursuing any new strategies either

The movement from below to tackle climate change is gathering pace in South Africa, and elsewhere in the world, in advance of the September 21 mass march against the United Nations.

Environmentalists lead, but this struggle invokes the world’s greatest class-race-gender-NorthSouth conflict, too. Ban Ki-Moon’s heads-of-state summit on September 23 may generate greater publicity for the cause, but if, as anticipated, world rulers simply slap each other on the back, activists will have to even more urgently intensify the pressure.

This was the message from the Venezuelan-initiated People’s Climate Process last month in Caracas, which built upon a mass meeting four years ago in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Such demands for ‘climate justice’ remain most relevant to our times, in contrast to the watered-down slogans and vacant demands that, sadly, characterize the big march this weekend. The day before, however, the ‘Converge for Climate’ gathering will offer much more robust analysis, strategies and tactics, seeking much wider alliances than ever before.

Our window to halt runaway climate change is closing fast this decade, with world-wide emissions cuts of 50 percent needed by 2020, and 90 percent by 2050, to keep the planet at even a 2 degree rise. Extreme weather now feels commonplace. If runaway methane from thawing Siberian tundra and melting Artic ice worsens, the cuts will have to come even sooner and deeper. Can civilization face up to this, or will corporations keep us looking the other direction?


The gathering in New York next week will be followed by the formal UN Framework Convention on Climate Change summits in Lima, Peru, in November and then the literally last-gasp effort in Paris in late 2015. The other week, a militant prep-com of climate justice activists began preparations, while the Indigenous People of the Andes are expected to mobilize militantly in Lima.

Still, these ‘Conferences of the Parties’ (COPs) are so far merely fortnight-long talk-shops. The 17th was hosted here in Durban in 2011, and was a failure on all accounts, including activism. The COPs are invariably sabotaged by US State Department negotiators, joined by brethren climate-denialist regimes in Canada, Australia and Japan. Best that these events be remembered as Conferences of Polluters.

At the COP15 in 2009, four other major polluters – Brazil, China, India and South Africa – signed on to US President Barack Obama’s Copenhagen Accord. It not only “wrecked the UN,” as Bill McKibbon of put it, in terms of process. The Accord promised only inadequate and voluntary emissions cuts. Indeed at the BRICS summit in Brazil last month, the most substantial comment about climate change was not reassuring – “bearing in mind that fossil fuel remains one of the major sources of energy” – and so it appears that the BRICS will follow a COP negotiating strategy that they initiated five years ago. Added to that is the BRICS strategy of introducing carbon markets (‘privatising the air’) in spite of the massive European and US pilot project failures.

Copenhagen represented, simply, as climate justice writer-activist Naomi Klein accurately described the experience, “nothing more than a grubby pact between the world's biggest emitters: I'll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.” In her new book, This Changes Everything, Klein blames the profit-logic of mega-corporations, not just their pocket governments, and she insists on post-capitalist climate policies.

If she is correct, in this opportune context there is already some evidence that activist pressure is beginning to affect even Washington, DC, surely the most corporate-dominated political capital in world history thanks to recent campaign finance deregulation. Teased by activists for five years, Obama finally gathered enough will to regulate the powerful coal energy industry in June. He announced what is in effect a ban on constructing 150 coal-fired power plants proposed in 2001 by then Vice President Dick Cheney. Only two have been built since then, mainly thanks to vigorous community opposition but also because Sierra Club lawyers bogged down the coal industry, and so Obama has only recently codified what was already a major shift away from the dirtiest energy source, coal.

To be sure, the US climate movement’s next challenges are extreme: fracking, new oil drilling in deep-sea waters and national parks, coal exports, and the import of Canada’s tar sands shale oil, not to mention the full economic reboot Klein calls for. As for claims by Obama and Europeans that their economies’ greenhouse gases are being cut, these brags are not genuine, for the North is simply outsourcing dirty industries to East Asia, while enjoying cut-rate products sent back, paid for by degraded currencies.


If capitalism is the problem, undercutting financial flows to the status quo is a vital strategy. Divestment from fossil-funded profits parallels what worked so well thirty years ago when we were fighting South African apartheid. Financial jujitsu is one way to turn capitalism against itself, as we learned then. And today, traditional bankers are increasingly wary of socio-ecological controversy, with the London NGO Carbontracker pointing out Big Oil’s ‘unburnable carbon.’ Under growing pressure, even the fossil-saturated World Bank last year agreed not to lend more for coal-fired power plants, though Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s recent broken promises on environmental and social safeguards confirms his Obama-style unreliability.

Financial sanctions helped bring down apartheid by splitting South Africa’s banking elite away from the Afrikaner ruling racists. They are now being used by Palestine solidarity activists to great effect (causing elite panic in Tel Aviv), after leading Dutch and Norwegian pension funds and a major Danish bank disinvested from Israeli banks possessing illegal West Bank Occupation branches in January. Divestment of fossil fuel stocks from major funds – even Stanford University’s endowment a few weeks ago – was stimulated by calls from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to follow our example: hitting the oppressive system in the wallet, hard.

“People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change,” Tutu argued in a Guardian op-ed in April. “The good news is that we don't have to start from scratch. Young people across the world have already begun to do something about it. The fossil fuel divestment campaign is the fastest growing corporate campaign of its kind in history.”’s Africa-Arab Team Leader Ferrial Adam aims to start SA’s herd dash from fossil stocks, shares and securities, with a “campaign for divestment from fossil fuel infrastructure projects.”

Putting on the financing lid is difficult since so much money sloshes around the world thanks to capitalist crisis conditions that Marxists term ‘overaccumulation.’ Nevertheless, in these volatile circumstances, South Africa’s $140 billion foreign debt – a ratio similar to the mid-1980s, having risen from the $25 billion Nelson Mandela inherited in 1994 – works in the climate activists’ favour, just as it did 29 years ago during the darkest days of apartheid when PW Botha gave his infamous ‘Rubicon Speech’ here in Durban. He made no concessions and all hell broke loose; the country would never again be the same, once the financiers began their run the next day.

A similar David & Goliath match was won by South African activists from the Treatment Action Campaign ten years ago, in their fight against governments in Washington and Pretoria, Big Pharma, the World Trade Organisation and the very notion of Intellectual Property. Winning that battle raised life expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 62 today. With the threat to life posed by climate change, an even greater scale of activist intervention will be needed again, especially on the African continent which is home to most of the 400 000 people now estimated to be dying annually from climate change, already.


Changing national public policy is vital and again, South Africa is one of the world’s great battlegrounds. The mining-smelting-shipping corporates (whether local, Western or BRICS in origin) and their Pretoria servants are frightened when climate is raised. At long last, on August 29 in Durban, members of parliament will gather testimony on climate change, and government’s fronting for fossil capital will become evident.

The critical baby step towards a sane climate policy is relatively simple: measure how much SA’s major greenhouse gas polluters emit so they can be capped and cut. Most countries now have quite accurate ways to assess both atmospheric greenhouse gases and extreme point sources. For example, the privatized SA oil company Sasol – now listed on the New York Stock Exchange – has a huge facility not far from Johannesburg, Secunda, squeezing coal and gas to make liquid petroleum, in the process creating the single greatest site of CO2 emissions on earth.

In contrast, SA Environment Minister Edna Molewa’s new $500 million budget is revealing. Her recent $2 million spending cut from the SA Weather Service means, according to Parliament, “South Africa would be unable to meet its international obligations regarding the monitoring of greenhouse gases through the Global Atmospheric Watch station. As a result, there would be a limitation on monitoring the impacts of Climate Change Mitigation and Scenario Strategies for the country. The country would also be unable to formulate baselines and monitor emissions versus set targets.”

Molewa might, logically, aim to keep her subjects ignorant about the economy’s reliance upon fossil fuels, because she is bowing to the durable power of the so-called ‘Minerals Energy Complex’? That power was unveiled when her cabinet colleagues Nathi Mthethwa and Cyril Ramaphosa assisted London-based platinum firm Lonmin by deploying the police against striking workers, for the sake of maintaining corporate mining profits on August 16, 2012. Ramaphosa, later to become deputy president of South Africa, was a 9 percent owner of Lonmin, and it was his emails that brought massacre-minded troops to end the wildcat strike (he called it ‘dastardly criminal’), leaving 34 corpses of surrendering workers. Testimony he gave to the Marikana Massacre commission in mid-August confirmed his loyalties: he admitted that instead of building 5500 houses for Lonmin workers, as promised, the corporation’s Transformation Committee he oversaw built just three.

Ramaphosa’s massive coal mines and similar dirty coal corporations were long pampered by Molewa’s water ministry. At least forty major new mines are now being dug or planned to feed the state electricity company Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile power plants (the two largest under construction in the world today), not to mention massive new coal digs to export to China and India. The coal-producing province of Mpumalanga is, quite literally, wheezing, yet Eskom has applied to Molewa for ‘rolling postponements’ on pollution reductions required by law at 14 power plants there. According to the NGO groundWork, this would ‘amount to exemption.’

Eskom has the gall to try this because Molewa has turned a blind eye to many pollution violations. One poignant example is an illegal coal operation close to the border of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park – Africa’s oldest game reserve and the centre of rhino survival efforts – where local peasant livelihoods are being wrecked by the opencast Somkhele mine. Nearby, even more damage is likely, if the Ibutho Coal company opens a similar mine on the historic park’s direct border. It is a hare-brained plan but government has already approved it in principal. Ibutho is a shady operation and refuses to disclose its corporate sponsors, but of the six principals named in its application, half are tied to Glencore and BHP Billiton, which are by far the world’s largest commodity trader and mining house, respectively.

Can Molewa resist their charms? After all, BHP Billiton still enjoys an extraordinary revolving-door relationship with very powerful South African officials. The crony capitalism dates to apartheid, when it boosted the salaries of finance minister Derek Keys and Eskom treasurer Mick Davis. The door continued spinning after 1994, and through it went the first democratic energy regulator, Xolani Mkhwanazi, the first director general of trade and industry Zav Rustomjee, and current national planning commissioner Vincent Maphai.

This revolving door helps explain why the Australian/UK firm gets electricity at a fraction of the price of ordinary people, consuming between 6 and 10 percent of our national power load, and exporting the profits while employing fewer than 1500 at the main Richard Bay smelters. Molewa is implicated in the power structure, and that may help explain another absurd budgeting choice revealed last month: explicit climate change programming will be slashed 8.3 percent after adjusting for inflation, leaving just $22 million in this year’s budget to address the greatest threat to our survival. Also cut was environmental monitoring, in spite of growing attention to pollution hazards.


The SA Parliament’s Environment Committee warned on July 8, “As a country, we must be seen making our fair contribution to the global effort to mitigate climate change by ensuring that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions below the business-as-usual by 34 per cent by 2020 and 42 per cent by 2025, consistent with the pledges that President Jacob Zuma made” at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. The obvious question is how these emissions cuts can be accomplished with the country’s controversial 2012 National Development Plan (NDP), drawn up by former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel (the country’s most neoliberal politician) and now overseen by Ramaphosa:

• The NDP gives multinational and local fossil fuel corporations all the subsidized infrastructure they need to rip out South Africa’s coal, burn it in Medupi and Kusile, each capable of polluting 35 million tonnes of CO2 per year, with most benefits going to mining houses and smelters.
• The NDP helps ship massive amounts of coal from South Africa to China and India through Richards Bay – the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission’s main priority project, at “the single largest coal export terminal in the world” – at a cost of several tens of billions of dollars.
• The NDP’s second priority investment is $25 billion to expand Durban’s port from throughput of 2.5 million to 20 million containers a year from now to 2040, with huge implications for the climate.
• The NDP supports CO2-intensive fracking in the dry western Karoo and deepwater oil exploration offshore Durban in the dangerous Agulhas Current: ExxonMobil is asking for prospecting permission in depths of more than 3.5 km, in spite of sharpening community opposition, while Sasol and a Burmese company are also trying their luck nearby, with Big Oil acquiring Zuma’s endorsement in Durban last month.

The NDP is most strenuously opposed by the National Union of Metalworkers, the continent’s largest union and also the most advanced regarding the need for a Just Transition to a post-carbon, post-capitalist economy. There is also a new left party that derides the NDP in parliament: the Economic Freedom Fighters. In contrast, the ruling African National Congress doesn’t seem to have a single vocal MP who cares about climate change. Indeed any eco-socialists who might be lurking in parliament, in the Congress of SA Trade Unions and in the Communist Party, still aiming to reform the NDP from the inside, should be forewarned: on the one hand, climate change and crony capitalism provide excellent reasons to redirect the NDP’s pro-corporate $80 billion infrastructure spending away from perpetual fossil dependency, towards meeting basic infrastructure needs.

On the other hand, though, Molewa’s defunding of her climate responsibilities provides an indicator of why reform is highly unlikely, at least not without a rapid deepening of eco-social-justice activism. For as Klein insists, This Changes Everything.

* Prof Patrick Bond’s ‘Politics of Climate Justice’ was recently named amongst the Guardian’s ten leading books on the topic. This article was originally posted at Telesur



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New dawn for social activism in Ghana

Public sector workers spark national movement for economic justice

Joan Nimarkoh


cc BBC
Ghana's failed economic trajectory of market liberalisation has trapped the country in a cycle of export dependency based on primary commodities while destroying the domestic industry. A crash in living standards fuelled by high inflation has hit the poorest hardest. Now a new spirit of activism has emerged as a result of this crisis


After years of being hailed as a beacon for neo-liberal economic reform, Ghana’s Black Star appears to be on the descent following months of disappointing growth and plummeting foreign investment. The country has been hit by a spiralling economic crisis, marked by a perfect storm of high inflation, high unemployment and endemic political corruption.

Coordinated national strike action this July brought the country to a standstill as thousands of public sector workers came out on the streets in protest. Their demands for economic change resonated with a disaffected electorate struggling to deal with the rising cost of living amidst escalating fuel and food prices, exacerbated by the rapid fall of the cedi.

Ghana’s experience holds valuable lessons for other African countries following the same neo-liberal economic trajectory spearheaded by the laissez faire policies of the World Bank and the IMF. As Ghana’s labour movement challenges the validity of its government’s conservative economic framework, their capacity to build a political alliance for an economic alternative is paramount not only for the future of Africa’s left, but as a turning point in exposing the paucity of the Washington consensus as an instrument for social justice.


The national demonstrations brought together an umbrella of public sector workers under the leadership of the Trade Union Congress. Protests held across the majority of Ghana’s regions from Tamale to Accra, were reported by mainstream media as the largest anti-government rally in over a decade.[1]

Demands from the unions touched upon the urgent need to put in place measures to halt the depreciation of the cedi, substantial improvements to water and electricity service delivery, investment in long awaited infrastructure projects and above all serious action on the widespread corruption that threatens to engulf Mahama’s presidency. [2]

Angry allegations of public mismanagement of the economy were made voiced by the majority of protesters who called for the President to step down.[3] Placards that read ; “John Mahama, is this the Better Ghana You Promised?” [4] were reflective of widespread frustration over worsening economic hardship, blamed squarely on the administration’s poor handling of a crisis that has cut across class lines.

Expectations that the electorate would be led ‘from poverty to prosperity’ under an NDC government have been grossly unfounded sparking widespread indignation over a lack of political direction. Prior to the July protests, a hastily organised National Economic Forum, bringing together civil society, the government and the private sector, was intended to address the underlying causes of the economic downturn. However the government have since been roundly criticised for failing to act on a number of recommendations pushing for urgent action.

The NDC have been pushed into a political cul-de-sac over a protracted economic downturn with no easy escape route. National demonstrations have succeeded in raising the stakes and placing the spotlight on the how Ghana may or may not emerge from the slowdown. As the public sector awaits the implications of impending reform, the role of the union in shaping negotiations over the future of the Ghanaian economy is likely to become increasingly significant.


In the aftermath of national protests, the President has made extensive assurances that immediate action would be taken to bring down inflation and interest rates in addition to directing much needed investment into agriculture as a way to mitigate rising food imports. [5]

However, it may be too little too late to save the credibility of Mahama’s administration. The NDC inherited impressive growth rates and macroeconomic stability only to preside over an unprecedented economic decline. Just three years ago Ghana was praised as the world ‘s fastest growing economy, yet growth has declined dramatically from 15% In 2011 to less than 6% in 2013. The country’s budget deficit has worsened against snowballing public debt which accounts for 58% of GDP, while inflation has rocketed to 14.5% this year following food and utility price increases driven by record currency depreciation. [6]

Mismanagement of oil revenue coupled with over spending of scarce public finances have only been exacerbated by the failure to address a series of corruption scandals which have dented the legitimacy of NDC’s Better Ghana agenda. Furthermore, structural weaknesses within the economy marked by overreliance on volatile unprocessed commodity exports and a narrow production base have exposed the continuation of a neo-colonial economy unable to deliver the economic transformation that Ghanaians demand. [7]

Efforts to source additional financing for a cash strapped government have become an immediate and urgent priority as confidence on the international markets continues to fall placing further pressure on the struggling cedi. [8] The long avoided decision to enter negotiations with the IMF[9] over an emergency bailout marks a new low for the NDC who had hoped to escape the political embarrassment prior to the 2016 election.

The extent of Ghana’s economic crisis has surprised most of the development commentariat confident of the county’s rising post-oil fortunes. Crucially the crisis represents the limitations of a neo-liberal model that has failed to address the underlying weaknesses at the heart of the Ghanaian economy. Liberalisation has worked towards the interests of a corporate minority but has contradicted efforts to raise living standards for the majority of Ghana’s working poor. As Ghana moves from boom to bust, (in a recurrent cycle of market failures in its liberal democratic era), the political currency that the labour movements holds has risen markedly, highlighting a potentially seismic shift in the electoral landscape.


In the face of acute public anger, Ghana’s labour movement have vowed to keep political pressure on the government to accept its core demands. Unlike previous protests, criticised as standalone events with a lack of strategic political direction, emphasis has been placed on building an alliance of public sector workers supported from civil society in defence of decent living standards for ordinary Ghanaians.

A new spirit of political activism has emerged as a result of the current crisis, with many for the first time openly confronting government policy, while contesting a dominant conservative culture which traditionally censures public protests against the governing leadership. Vicky Wireko writes of a new awakening by the Ghanaian electorate in a time of democratic change; ‘Years gone by, it would have been sacrilege to pour out in thousands to tell it as it is to a government by way of demonstration. The law enforcers would definitely have swept over them in no time……the typical Ghanaian’s psyche has always been that demonstrations had their limits and that certain things are best left as they are. That was the non-confrontational Ghanaian of yesteryear. Those days are sweeping past. ’[10]

Unlikely support from customary institutions in opposition to the government has added political weight to the unions stands. Chieftaincy has traditionally remained neutral during public disputes due to the commitment to local rather than national based cleavages, their backing (however symbolic) represents a valuable faction to the unions broad alliance which may prove critical prior to the election. This was particularly the case in the Eastern region, where Chiefs and elders cleverly used the protest as a platform to bring attention to depleting road infrastructure. [11]

As Ghana’s youth population booms amid worsening youth unemployment, their voice in national protests has become confidently articulated with specific social and economic demands targeting the young. Essentially, the advent of youth associations able to organise around specific development concerns is a major asset for the unions who are able to tap into their rich social networks and recognized organising power. Moreover the widened inclusion of the youth in political protests have deepened channels of social media with the use of Twitter, Facebook and Wasup being used as key communication platforms at the heart of July’s national demonstrations.


More than twenty years after Ghana’s transition to parliamentary democracy, economic turmoil is fast transforming the political culture of accountability, which if successfully exploited, may lead to a new social democratic direction. Already the terms of an impending negotiated settlement with the IMF are being debated as either being aligned or in opposition the principles and demands that trade unions expressed during the national protests. The key issue will be whether the labour movement has the political capital and organisational capacity to force the government’s hand and deliver genuine and lasting economic reforms. Concerted pressure is likely to be placed on the Mahama administration by the Washington institutions to accept the bitter pill of public sector reform and further liberalisation in order to escape a massive funding deficit. Nevertheless any further public economic hardship in the short term will undermine the NDC’s election prospects with only two years to go, giving the political advantage to the unions in the coming months.

Whatever the outcome, the political alliance encompassing public sector workers, youth associations, chieftaincy and civil society have sparked a crucial debate over the long term economic direction of the country and who wins from the spoils of national development. Moreover, Ghana’s changing political climate has demonstrated the emerging possibilities that social activism can create when the electorate publicly contests rather than readily accept their challenging economic reality.


1. Organised labour to strike on Thursday

2. Genesis and solutions to Ghana’s current economic crisis

3. Nationwide Demonstration By Organised Labour

4. Economic Crisis: 2014 could become worse - Prof. Botchwey

5. Ghana Turns to IMF for Help as Currency Crisis Deepens

6. Ghana: President pledges to respect concerns of organised labour

7. If You Can’t Rule, Step Down -… Workers Tell Mahama

8. Organised labour petition: High and rising cost of living in Ghana

9. A new Ghanaian is beginning to emerge


[1] Nationwide Demonstration By Organised Labour :
[2] Organised labour petition: High and rising cost of living in Ghana:
[3] If You Can’t Rule, Step Down -… Workers Tell Mahama:
[4] Nationwide Demonstration By Organised Labour :
[5] Ghana: President pledges to respect concerns of organised labour:
[6] Genesis and solutions to Ghana’s current economic crisis :
[7] ibid
[8] Ghana Turns to IMF for Help as Currency Crisis Deepens :
[9] A new Ghanaian is beginning to emerge :
[10] ibid

* Joan Nimarkoh is Ghanaian journalist working in Accra and a policy consultant for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.



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Madagascar: The curse of economic growth

Akong Charles Ndika


cc BDL
With its wealth of natural resources, Madagascar has the potential for healthy economic growth, yet remains mostly poor. The government must stop elites from fighting over national profits in a way that keeps plunging the country into turmoil and recession

The Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million people is famous for at least two things: its unique pristine biological diversity as well as its recurrent political turmoil, the most recent turn of which ended last January with the election of a new President. But there’s another striking feature about Madagascar that barely goes noticed even by its professional watchers: the relations between its political crises and its business cycles. Economic growth and politics apparently operate at cross purposes. Growth spurts generate political crises in cyclical fashion. Economic prosperity in Madagascar displays a destructive impulse: elites fight over its spoils in a way that ends up sinking the whole country into periodic political turmoil and recessions.


As the country slowly recovers from one of its most damaging political crises, which started in 2009, the newly-elected president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina seems to want do the right things. Sustained economic growth remains a centerpiece of his agenda to reconstruct the country and build peace. But how growth interacts with the conflict systems remains a major threat. Remarkably, with the exception of the period 1978-80, the cyclical crises that have marked politics in the country (1972, 1991, 2002 and 2009) seem to immediately precede periods of relatively strong economic growth, as indicated on the graph: 1968-1970, 1988-1990, 1996-2000 and 2004-2008.

Economic growth, simply put, spurts with a curse. Periods of development boom have been short-lived. Higher levels of corruption and inequality coincide with times of prosperity, suggesting a destabilizing role of elites in a business cycle –a conflict-vicious system. In good times, some people, interests and sectors are left out of ‘the party’. Others fight back in a way that spoils the party for everyone. According to the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index, the rule of law score dropped substantially over the growth period of 2006-2008 from 58.1 to 51.4. During the same business cycle, accountability –which includes corruption – declined from 56.0 to 53.3. In fact, accountability ratings in 2000 and 2008 barely changed: 50.3 and 50.2, respectively— all periods of peak economic performance. Over its two business cycles in the past decade, the country witnessed the most remarkable drop in its relative position against other countries on the Transparency International Corruption Index.

The footprints of elites were revealed in the just-ended crisis. In contrast to previous crises, old grievances between the two major ethno-regional blocs, the Merinas and the Cotiers, did not hold water. The main protagonists, ex-President s Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, were both elites from the highland Merina region. The crisis started when a military directorate took power from the former President, Marc Ravalomanana and handed it over to the then Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina. The standoff that followed was the worst since the coming of democracy to the country, marked by a five-year-long sanctions by the international community. The previous crisis had lasted only 14 months.

While it is difficult to put an exact figure on the total cost of the recurrent crises, the World Bank estimates that the just ended crisis cost the government almost $6.3 billion over the period 2009-2012 alone. This is more than half the GDP and 15 times what the government spends on healthcare a year. The per capita income dropped significantly over the past ten years too. In 1980, more than 85 per cent of the population lived below the official $1.25 poverty line. And in 2010— the date of the most up-to-date data— it has barely changed, with 81.2 per cent poverty (World Bank 2014). With more than 92 per cent of the population living under $2 a day, Madagascar is now one of the poorest countries in the world. The cumulative impacts are dire. With only 1.9 per cent of the population classified as middle class against an African average of 33 per cent, the staying power of the recurrent conflicts is very high (Kingombe 2014).


Despite conflicts, Madagascar’s natural resource base remains rich and diverse with considerable room to bounce back and sustain long-term economic growth. The country is richly endowed with mineral deposits. Mining is becoming an important foreign exchange earner—amplified by the recent discovery of nickel deposits whose processing and expected step-up in production in 2014 will make it one of the world’s largest lateritic mines (Economist Intelligence Unit 2014). Development of the Malagasy oil industry is still in its early stages. The country has no proven offshore reserves of light crude at present. However, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), its location in the highly prospective East African region has prompted a new surge of interest, with Total and ExxonMobil among the 17 or so oil companies operating in the country. Tourism and textile manufacturing are also important growth drivers.

How to translate the country’s abundant resources into sustained generation of wealth in way that significantly reduces massive poverty and deprivation? The consistently poor economic performance is at the root of structural violence. The economy is struggling to rebound from a negative trend that marked the crisis. The share of the ‘national cake’ available to each citizen has been declining in absolute terms and, worst of all, is moving in the opposite direction of population growth (per capita GDP growth in 2013 was -0.17 per cent).

A significant percentage of elites have made it a culture to grab the country’s wealth illegally for themselves. According to the new prime minister, almost 40 per cent of the budget is lost to corruption. While the full extent of graft during the political crises remains unknown, the destabilizing effect on the country’s ecological stability and insecurity has raised alarm bells on a global scale. The trafficking of the critically-endangered rosewood has been qualified as a ‘massacre’. According to Global Witness, an international environmental NGO, the illegal trade of the country’s timber alone is worth over $460,000 a day, which averages over $167 million a year, a very significant sum that disappears into private pockets. Shockingly, this is more than the budgets of the ministries of defense, education and health together. In fact, almost 100 thousand of the 8.5 million hectares of pristine forest are lost yearly.


While the new government has adopted a liberal approach with economic partners, it remains to be seen how this is going to play out in the polarized and corrupt context of economic and business rivalries. Business relations have reopened with the French and the Americans. China’s business engagement, which stayed even during the period of sanctions, has grown significantly since 2000 when it was encouraged by Ravalomanana.

Whether the country’s substantial mineral wealth and new discoveries will be subjected to full competitive bidding processes remains unclear. Even more so, whether the new Government will renege on the opaque contracts that were signed during the crisis is uncertain, too. For example, the license for exploring the Soalala iron deposit was alleged to be underpriced to WISCO, a Chinese company, in a deal in which it paid a $100 million signing bonus (Cathan House 2013). Meanwhile, unscrupulous Chinese businessmen, together with some Madagascar elites, have been held responsible for the illegal trade of the country’s endangered wildlife, such as the tropical rosewood, which has been decried internationally as an ‘ecological massacre’ of extinction scale (Global Witness 2009).

Madagascar turns on its head the standard economic wisdom that a rising tide of economic growth would lift everyone. In fact, without clear rules or people-centered institutions to ensure that the whole boat of prosperity lifts all passengers, the haves will leverage their greed fighting over its spoils in a way that will only end up sinking the whole boat and harming everyone, in particular the have-nots. Plainly speaking, more of the same economic growth is bad for Madagascar’s long-term stability and peace.


Cathan House (2013) Madagascar: Time to Make a Fresh Start, London, Cathan House
Economist Inteligence Unit (2014) Madagascar Country Report Second Quarter, London, The Economist
Global Witness (2009) Illegal Malagasy Trade
Transparency International Initiative Madagascar (2013) RAPPORT D’ACTIVITES 2012, Antanarivo, Transparency International
World Bank (2014) Countries Economic Database

* Akong Charles Ndika is a Global Affairs Blogger at

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To hell with Economics

Leonard Gentle


cc Bio
Economics was originally called political economy, concerned with scarce resources and how to ensure general welfare for everyone given that fact. But US President Nixon and UK Prime Minister Thatcher are responsible for launching the Age of Economist as God

President Jacob Zuma recently returned from Russia, a strange place to be for many when you’re in the middle of a crisis at home, as many a commentator here in South Africa has observed. Maybe he and Putin were swapping stories of a new series of Survivor. Putin certainly would have a lot to teach Zuma on that score.

But important as those tips may be for our embattled Zuma, Putin has much bigger fish to fry and for those of us more interested in social justice than the competing ambitions of Putin, Zuma and Obama, we may miss a more significant moment.

Guardian economics editor, Larry Elliot, has just declared that Putin’s decision to trade Russia’s energy supplies to China in Yuan and Roubles rather than the currency of world trade, the US dollar, marks the death of the free market new world order.

According to Elliot, trade liberalisation, welfare cuts, cheap credit, excessive borrowing and outsourcing jobs, have all exposed the depraved face of capitalism. Noting that every prescription of the new world order and its economic consensus has been overturned after barely 20 years, Elliot declares: “RIP new world order. Born Berlin 1989. Died with Lehman Brothers September 2008. Laid to rest eastern Ukraine August 2014.”

In Britain, the heartland of privatisation, Network Rail has just been quietly re-nationalised by stealth.


Well now in 2014, we see the publication and runaway success of Thomas Piketty’s major work of economics, Capital in the 21st Century. Its concern is with pervasive, structural inequality. And not just as an aberration in capitalism, but as a long-term feature of capitalism. In this Piketty is turning his back on what economics, as a discipline, has been concerned about for more than 30 years – the behaviour of markets, mathematical modelling of investor choices, behaviour of credit, and so on.

It turns out that the 40-odd years of wealth convergence between the end of World War II and the1980s was a blip in an otherwise long trend of nearly 200 years of capitalism. Many of us are now familiar with Piketty’s assessment that the rate of growth of private wealth exceeds the rate of growth of countries and so inequality must inevitably widen if left to its own devices. This inequality is exploding since the neo-liberal era post 1972.

But Piketty is no radical. So, rather than inequality portending social revolution, there is the possibility of offsetting its effects by state interventions, such as taxation.

Ironically, and this may explain the popularity of Piketty’s work amongst the New York glitterati, he is making economics respectable again.

Here in South Africa we have just had the spectre of African Bank Investment Limited (ABIL) lending to poor people, with no security at rates of up to 60% while being funded by selling bonds where they could get rates of 12%. ABIL’s business plan was financed by a borrowing-lending differential. They combined shareholder equity with selling bonds as a form of financing and then lent money to poor people at exorbitant rates. And when they went bust, the South African Reserve Bank bailed them out.

Interestingly enough, when this was followed by ratings agency, Moody’s, downgrading of all South Africa’s banks, it was greeted by a cacophony of business voices, financial journalists and embedded economists saying, “How dare they? They got it wrong? They don’t understand economics.”

When platinum workers went on a five-month strike for a minimum wage of R12,500, they were told that this was unaffordable and that they “didn’t understand economics”. Yet they won most of their demands after five months of defiance and the sky didn’t cave in.


Argentina, has once again defaulted on its debt in 2014. It did so before in 2002. “This is heresy,” the financial journalists say, “It cannot happen without the most dire of consequences!”

The threat of ratings agency downgrading or the likelihood of a debt default has been used for years as an argument for South Africa to pursue neo-liberal belt-tightening policies. Yet in 2002, Argentina followed through on J Paul Getty’s maxim: "If you owe the bank $100 that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem."

And so the threat of default meant that bondholders of Argentina’s debt queued up to accept at least a portion of the money owed to them. It was either that or nothing. Argentina got away with it.

Roll forward to 2014 and investment vehicles called “vulture funds” bought out some of the frustrated bondholders on the gamble that they could force Argentina through US courts to pay the original face value of the 2002 debt they held. The vulture funds won their legal case. The court ruled that Argentina could not pay those bondholders prepared to take a “hair-cut” if they did not pay the vulture funds at the levels that the face value of the bonds entitles them. So Argentina defaulted again.

So what’s the result in this saga of who blinks first? Well now, other speculators are offering to buy out the vulture funds. In the meantime, life goes on in Buenos Aires. The Springboks even played there recently.

So did the Argentineans not “understand economics”?


What we call economics today was originally called “political economy” and was born in England in the aftermath of the industrial revolution, which had radically changed Britain.

At the heart of the political economy were social concerns about the problem of scarce resources and how to ensure general welfare for everyone given this constraint. Adam Smith’s famous injunction that “everyone pursuing their own selfish interests as the only guarantee for the development of all” came out of these circumstances. It is an irony of the first degree that today’s neo-liberal economists call themselves “Smithian” and widely quote Adam Smith, whereas he probably wouldn’t have recognised them.

But in its day there was no such thing as an “economic policy” let alone states concerned with broader public interests. Banks were private and hardly regulated and Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer still performed little more than its medieval role of collecting royal revenues.

The Bretton Woods agreement and the restructuring of Europe after World War II gave economists enormous clout for the first time. Economics departments in universities grew and most governments began to create ministries of economic affairs and national central banks became the norm. Of course Bretton Woods also set the US dollar as the equivalent of the old gold standard so exchange rates were largely fixed and finance markets largely national, so the need for a whole industry of “specialists” to predict market behaviour on behalf of clients was decidedly modest.

But economics was not only considered to be “the dismal science”. It was hardly considered to be a science at all. There was no Nobel Peace Prize in Economics until the late 1960s.

It was US President Nixon’s ending of the Bretton Woods Agreement by devaluing the dollar in 1972 that changed the world radically and ushered in the period of floating exchange rates. It was the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to allow debt to be traded that opened the door to the Thatcherite revolution of the 1980s and recast the world as it is today.

And launched the Age of the "Economist as God".

The Austrian economist, Friedrich Hayek, is widely credited as the intellectual architect of the neo-liberal approach: economic liberalisation, privatisation, deregulation and the dominance of markets. Yet Hayek wrote his major work in the 1920s and 1930s and was already in intellectual decline in the 1940s when he published his book, The Pure Theory of Capital, which turned out to be an abject failure. Fellow mainstream economist, Paul Samuelson, described the book as, “A pebble thrown in the pool of economic science that seemingly left nary a ripple.”

Hayek’s book, The Road to Serfdom, which appeared in 1944, was an embarrassment in academic circles. As far as his peers were concerned, Hayek didn’t understand “economics”. Even Milton Friedman objected to his work. However, Hayek’s ideas were resurrected when the Norwegian Nobel Prize committee awarded him the economics prize in 1972. He was also given political clout when Margaret Thatcher made The Road to Serfdom essential reading for her cabinet when she took power in 1979.

Since then economists have proliferated in proportion to the spread of the financialisation of economies. Growing alongside an increased domination of money capital and its mobility across borders and the proliferation of bonds, hedge funds and financial instruments, has been the need to have “financial experts” who can, ostensibly, make predictions about market behaviour.

Today with the growing interpenetration of banks and governments, we see the moving of embedded economists into the national Treasury and vice versa. With this we have seen the shift from economics as a rather limited tool of understanding social reality to economics as the final arbiter of reality. How often have we heard the smug phrase that such and such an initiative may well be good politically or socially, but does it make “economic sense”?

Now it’s all come a-cropper.

Dr Geoff Davies, a retired geophysicist at the Australian National University, has just published a book, Sack the Economists, which is making waves in that country. He echoes the widely held view that mainstream economists are getting away with murder. In a recent article summing up some of his key arguments, he writes:

“The mainstream economists, the ones who dominate our public policy and universities, claim the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 was so anomalous it could not have been foreseen. According to them, it came out of nowhere; they can’t be blamed when the world behaves in totally unexpected ways. That excuse is an admission that mainstream economists have no idea how economies work. Isn’t it their job to understand the ups and downs of economies, especially the really big booms and crashes that cause so much damage?”

Come to think of it, when last have we had commentary in any of the South African media by any academic or so-called “neutral economist”?

Interestingly enough, even on the left this veneration of economists does the cause of social justice no good. All that they have done is seek out an economist willing to be their client instead of critiquing economics itself. COSATU has, for years, wheeled out some left-wing economist to talk about “industrial strategy”, “active labour markets” or why a weaker rand would be better than a stronger rand for workers, etc. In this it has played into the hands of both the Mbeki and Zuma governments. Both have been masters of setting up economic task teams to smooth over difficult political choices and instead talk national policy and get national consensus about what they deem to be “hard economic realities”.

The latest in this conveyer belt is the National Development Plan.

So its time to recall Marx’s criticism of the method of political economy – that it creates a fetish. Focussing on a physical exchange between things (commodities, prices, wages, profits, etc.) disguises the fact that this is a social relation between people, which is determined by relations of power.

The striking platinum workers of 2014 understood that. But then they didn’t study economics.

Gentle is the director of the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG), an NGO that produces educational materials for activists in social movements and trade unions. This article was first published by the South African Civil Society Information Service.



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The US and global wars: Empire or vampire?

James Petras


cc HUE
The American claim to ‘world leadership’ is based exclusively on failed-state empire building. US intervention fragments the conquered state, decimates its professionals, thus providing an entry for the most retrograde ethno-religious, regional, tribal and clan leaders to engage in intra-ethnic, sectarian wars against each other - in other words chaos.

To the growing army of critics of US military intervention, who also reject the mendacious claims by American officials and their apologists of ‘world leadership’, Washington is engaged in ‘empire-building’.

But the notion that the US is building an empire, by engaging in wars to exploit and plunder countries’ markets, resources and labor, defies the realities of the past two decades. US wars, including invasions, bombings, occupations, sanctions, coups and clandestine operations have not resulted in the expansion of markets, greater control and exploitation of resources or the ability to exploit cheap labor. Instead US wars have destroyed enterprises, reduced access to raw materials, killed, wounded or displaced productive workers around the world, and limited access to lucrative investment sites and markets via sanctions.

In other words, US global military interventions and wars have done the exact opposite of what all previous empires have pursued: Washington has exploited (and depleted) the domestic economy to expand militarily abroad instead of enriching it.

Why and how the US global wars differ from those of previous empires requires us to examine (1) the forces driving overseas expansion; (2) the political conceptions accompanying the conquest, the displacement of incumbent rulers and the seizure of power and; (3) the reorganization of the conquered states and the accompanying economic and social structures to sustain long-term neo-colonial relations.


Europe built durable, profitable and extensive empires, which enriched the ‘mother country’, stimulated local industry, reduced unemployment and ‘trickled down’ wealth in the form of better wages to privileged sectors of the working class. Imperial military expeditions were preceded by the entry of major trade enterprises (British East India Company) and followed by large-scale manufacturing, banking and commercial firms. Military invasions and political takeovers were driven by competition with economic rivals in Europe, and later, by the US and Japan.

The goal of military interventions was to monopolize control over the most lucrative economic resources and markets in the colonized regions. Imperial repression was directed at creating a docile low wage labor force and buttressing subordinate local collaborators or client-rulers who facilitated the flow of profits, debt payments, taxes and export revenues back to the empire.

Imperial wars were the beginning, not the end, of ‘empire building’. What followed these wars of conquest was the incorporation of pre-existing elites into subordinate positions in the administration of the empire. The ‘sharing of revenues’, between the imperial economic enterprises and pre-existing elites, was a crucial part of ‘empire building’. The imperial powers sought to ‘instrumentalize’ existing religious, political, and economic elites’ and harness them to the new imperial-centered division of labor. Pre-existing economic activity, including local manufacturers and agricultural producers, which competed with imperial industrial exporters, were destroyed and replaced by malleable local traders and importers (compradors). In summary, the military dimensions of empire building were informed by economic interests in the mother country. The occupation was pre-eminently concerned with preserving local collaborative powers and, above all, restoring and expanding the intensive and extensive exploitation of local resources and labor, as well as the capture and saturation of local markets with goods from the imperial center.


The results of contemporary US military interventions and invasions stand in stark contrast with those of past imperial powers. The targets of military aggression are selected on the basis of ideological and political criteria. Military action does not follow the lead of ‘pioneer’ economic entrepreneurs – like the British East India Company. Military action is not accompanied by large-scale, long-term capitalist enterprises. Multi-national construction companies of the empire, which build great military bases are a drain on the imperial treasury.

Contemporary US intervention does not seek to secure and take over the existing military and civilian state apparatus; instead the invaders fragment the conquered state, decimate its cadres, professionals and experts at all levels, thus providing an entry for the most retrograde ethno-religious, regional, tribal and clan leaders to engage in intra-ethnic, sectarian wars against each other, in other words – chaos. Even the Nazis, in their expansion phase, chose to rule through local collaborator elites and maintained established administrative structures at all levels.

With US invasions, entire existing socio-economic structures are undermined, not ‘taken over’: all productive activity is subject to the military priorities of leaders bent on permanently crippling the conquered state and its advanced economic, administrative, educational, cultural and social sectors. While this is militarily successful in the short-run, the medium and long-term results are non-functioning states, not a sustained inflow of plunder and expanding market for an empire. Instead what we have is a chain of US military bases surrounded by a sea of hostile, largely unemployed populations and warring ethno-religious groups in decimated economies.

The US claims to ‘world leadership’ is based exclusively on failed-state empire building. Nevertheless, the dynamic for continuing to expand into new regions, to militarily and politically intervene and establish new client entities continues. And, most importantly, this expansionist dynamic further undermines domestic economic interests, which, theoretically and historically, form the basis for empire. We, therefore, have imperialism without empire, a vampire state preying on the vulnerable and devouring its own in the process.


Empires, throughout history, have violently seized political power and exploited the riches and resources (both material and human) of the targeted regions. Over time, they would consolidate a ‘working relation’, insuring the ever-increasing flow of wealth into the mother country and the expanding presence of imperial enterprises in the colony. Contemporary US military interventions have had the opposite effect after every recent major military conquest and occupation.


Under Saddam Hussein, the Republic of Iraq was a major oil producer and profitable partner for major US oil companies, as well as a lucrative market for US exports. It was a stable, unified secular state. The first Gulf War in the 1990s led to the first phase of its fragmentation with the de facto establishment of a Kurdish mini-state in the north under US protection. The US withdrew its military forces but imposed brutal economic sanctions limiting economic reconstruction from the devastation of the first Gulf War. The second US-led invasion and full-scale occupation in 2003 devastated the economy and dismantled the state dismissing tens of thousands of experienced civil servants, teachers and police. This led to utter social collapse and fomented ethno-religious warfare leading to the killing, wounding or displacement of millions of Iraqis. The result of GW Bush’s conquest of Baghdad was a ‘failed state’. US oil and energy companies lost billions of dollars in trade and investment and the US economy was pushed into recession.


The US war against Afghanistan began with the arming, financing and political support of Islamist jihadi-fundamentalists in 1979. They succeeded in destroying and dismantling a secular, national government. With the decision to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 the US became an occupier in Southwest Asia. For the next thirteen years, the US-puppet regime of Hamad Karzai and the ‘NATO coalition’ occupation forces proved incapable of defeating the Taliban guerrilla army. Billions of dollars were spent devastating the economy and impoverishing the vast majority of Afghans. Only the opium trade flourished. The effort to create an army loyal to the puppet regime failed. The forced retreat of US armed forces beginning in 2014 signals the bitter demise of US ‘empire building’ in Southwest Asia.


Libya, under President Gadhafi, was evolving into a major US and European trading partner and influential power in Africa. The regime signed large-scale, long-term contracts with major international oil companies which were backed by a stable secular government. The relationship with the US and EU was profitable. The US opted to impose a ‘regime change’ through massive US-EU missile and bombing strikes and the arming of a motley collection of Islamist terrorists, ex-pat neo-liberals and tribal militias. While these attacks succeeded in killing President Gadhafi and most of his family (including many of his grandchildren) and dismantling the secular Libyan government and administrative infrastructure, the country was ripped apart by tribal warlord conflicts, political disintegration and the utter destruction of the economy. Oil investors fled. Over one million Libyans and immigrant workers were displaced. The US and EU ‘partners-in-regime-change’ have even fled their own embassies in Tripoli – while the Libyan ‘parliament’ operates off-shore from a casino boat. None of this devastation would have been possible under President Gadhafi. The US vampire bled its new prize, Libya, but certainly could not incorporate it into a profitable ‘empire’. Not only were its oil resources denied to the empire, but even oil exports disappeared. Not even an imperial military base has been secured in North Africa!


Washington and its EU allies backed an armed uprising in Syria hoping to install a puppet regime and bring Damascus into their “empire”. The mercenary assaults have caused the deaths of nearly 200,000 Syrians, the displacement of over 30% of the population and the seizure of the Syrian oil fields by the Sunni extremist army, ISIS. ISIS has decimated the pro-US mercenary army, recruiting and arming thousands of terrorists from around the world. It invaded neighboring Iraq conquering the northern third of that country. This was the ultimate result of the deliberate US dismantling of the Iraqi state in 2003.

The US strategy, once again, is to arm Islamist extremists to overthrow the secular Bashar Assad regime in Damascus and then to discard them for a more pliable client. The strategy ‘boomeranged’ on Washington. ISIS devastated the ineffective Iraqi armed forces of the Maliki regime in Baghdad and America’s much over-rated Peshmerga proxy ‘fighters’ in Iraqi ‘Kurdistan’. Washington’s mercenary war in Syria didn’t expand the ‘empire’; indeed it undermined existing imperial outposts.


In the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, the US and EU incorporated the Baltic, Eastern European and Balkan ex-communist countries into their orbit. This clearly violated major agreements with Russia, by incorporating most of the neo-liberal regimes into NATO and bringing NATO forces to the very border of Russia. During the corrupt regime of Boris Yeltsin, the ‘West’ absolutely looted the Russian economy in co-operation with local gangster – oligarchs, who took up EU or Israeli citizenship to recycle their pillaged wealth. The demise of the vassal Yeltsin regime and the ascent and recovery of Russia under Vladimir Putin led the US and EU to formulate a strategy to deepen and extend its ‘empire’ by seizing power in the Caucuses and the Ukraine. A power and land grab by the puppet regime in Georgia attacking Russian forces in Ossetia in 2012 was decisively beaten back. This was a mere dress rehearsal for the coup in Kiev. In late 2013-early 2014, the US financed a violent rightwing putsch ousting the elected government and imposing a hand-picked pro-NATO client to assume power in Kiev.

The new pro-US regime moved quickly to purge all independent, democratic, federalist, bilingual and anti-NATO voices especially among the bi-lingual citizens concentrated in the South-Eastern Ukraine. The coup and the subsequent purge provoked a major armed uprising in the southeast, which successfully resisted the invading NATO-backed neo-fascist armed forces and private armies of the oligarchs. The failure of the Kiev regime to subdue the resistance fighters of the Donbass region resulted in a multi-pronged US-EU intervention designed to isolate, weaken and undermine the resistance. First and foremost they attempted to pressure Russia to close its borders on the eastern front where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians eventually fled the bombardment. Secondly, the US and EU applied economic sanctions on Russia to abandon its political support for the southeast region’s democratic and federalist demands. Thirdly, it sought to use the Ukraine conflict as a pretext for a major military build-up on Russia’s borders, expanding NATO missile sites and organizing an elite rapid interventionist military force capable of bolstering a faltering puppet regime or backing a future NATO sponsored putsch against any adversary.

The Kiev regime is economically bankrupt. Its war against its own civilians in the southeast has devastated Ukraine’s economy. Hundreds of thousands of skilled professionals, workers and their families have fled to Russia. Kiev’s embrace of the EU has resulted in the breakdown of vital gas and oil agreements with Russia, undermining the Ukraine’s principle source of energy and heating with winter only months away. Kiev cannot pay its debts and faces default. The rivalries between neo-fascists and neo-liberals in Kiev will further erode the regime. In sum, the US-EU power grab in the Ukraine has not led to the effective ‘expansion of empire’; rather it has ushered in the total destruction of an emerging economy and precipitated a sharp reversal of financial, trade and investment relations with Russia and Ukraine. The economic sanctions against Russia exacerbate the EU current economic crisis. The belligerent posture of military confrontation toward Russia will result in an increase in military spending among the EU states and further divert scarce economic resources form job creation and social programs. The loss by significant sectors of the EU of agricultural export markets, as well as the loss of several billion-dollar military-industrial contracts with Russia, certainly weakens, rather than expands, the ‘empire’ as an economic force


The US-EU sanctions on Iran carry a very high economic and political price tag. They do not strengthen empire, if we understand ‘empire’ to mean the expansion of multi-national corporations, and increasing access to oil and gas resources to ensure stable, cheap energy for strategic economic sectors within the imperial center.

The economic war on Iran has been at the behest of US allies, including the Gulf Monarchies and especially Israel. These are dubious ‘allies’ for US ‘empire’ . . . widely reviled potentates and a racist regime which manage to exact tribute from the imperial center!

In Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, Iran has demonstrated its willingness to co-operate in power sharing agreements with US global interest. However, Iran is a regional power, which will not submit to becoming a vassal state of the US. The sanctions policy has not provoked an uprising among the Iranian masses nor has it led to regime change. Sanctions have not weakened Iran to the extent of making it an easy military target. While sanctions have weakened Iran’s economy, they has also worked against any kind of long-range empire building strategy, because Iran has strengthened its economic and diplomatic ties with the US’ rivals, Russia and China.


As this brief survey indicates, US-EU wars have not been instruments of empire-building in the conventional or historical sense. At most they have destroyed some adversaries of empire. But these have been pyrrhic victories. Along with the overthrow of a target regime, the systematic break-up of the state has unleashed powerful chaotic forces, which have doomed any possibility of creating stable neo-colonial regimes capable of controlling their societies and securing opportunities for imperialist enrichment via economic exploitation.

At most the US overseas wars have secured military outposts, foreign islands in seas of desperate and hostile populations. Imperial wars have provoked continuous underground resistance movements, ethnic civil wars and violent terrorist organizations which threaten ‘blowback’ on the imperial center.

The US and EU’s easy annexations of the ex-communist countries, usually via the stage-managed ballot-box or ‘color revolutions’, led to the take-over of great national wealth and skilled labor. However, Euro-American empires bloody campaigns to invade and conquer the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa and the Caucuses have created nightmarish ‘failed states’ – continuously draining imperial coffers and leading to a state of permanent occupation and warfare.

The bloodless takeover of the Eastern European satellites with their accommodating, corrupt elites has ended. The 21st century reliance on militarist strategies contrasts sharply with the successful multi-pronged colonial expansions of the 19th – 20th century, where economic penetration and large scale economic development accompanied military intervention and political change. Today’s imperial wars cause economic decay and misery within the domestic economy, as well as perpetual wars abroad, an unsustainable drain.

The current US/EU military expansion into Ukraine, the encirclement of Russia, NATO missiles aimed at the very heart of a major nuclear power and the economic sanctions may lead to a global nuclear war, which may indeed put an end to militarist empire-building… and the rest of humanity.

* James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). This article was previously published by Information Clearing House.



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Critical notes on the legal system of Zambia

Submission to the legal and Justice Sector Reform Commission in Zambia

Munyonzwe Hamalengwa and Charles Mwewa


cc GVO
The whole Zambian legal system needs to be revamped. Still deeply rooted in its colonial origins, the system has stifled creativity and stunted the possible independent growth of the country’s legal institutions, law making, judicial decisions and legal scholarship.

1. Zambia was founded as a company state in 1889. It still is a company state, based on copper rents. These copper rents have historically determined the fortunes and misfortunes of the State. Zambia's externally induced incorporation into the expanding world capitalist system still largely entails the external determination of Zambia's political economy.

2. Just like in economics, Zambia's legal system is still tainted by colonial attitudes. It also still bears the birthmarks of its origins - its duality. Right at the inception of colonial company rule, duality in the legal system was introduced: "In the administration of justice to the said peoples or inhabitants, careful regard shall always be had to the customs and laws of the class or tribe or nation to which the parties respectively belong, especially with regard to the holding, possession, transfer and disposition of lands and goods, and testate or intestate succession thereto, and marriages, divorces, legitimacy and other rights of property and personal rights, but subject to any British laws which may be in force in any of the territories aforesaid and applicable to the peoples or inhabitants thereof." The legacy of this seemingly benevolent but in fact, highly disruptive, colonial legal imposition has been to prevent and disorientate the development of a unified legal system, which is so central to progressive political and economic development.

After fifty years of self-rule, Zambia has not made expected progress in terms of its economic development, mainly due to a legal system that has stifled free thinking and freedom of enterprise. To augment democratic manumission, we recommend the following:

3. The Colonial origins and still prevailing colonial attitudes have stifled creativity and have stunted the possible independent growth of the Zambian legal system which comprise of legal institutions, law making, judicial decisions, legal scholarship and so on.

4. Most crucial judicial decisions, especially those that affect political liberties, still follow the colonial precedents. This means that the political liberties of Zambian citizens are largely still determined by the judicial rulings of the colonial era when the laws were immediatedly in the service of the colonial state. We refer for example to the land mark political cases of Re Kapwepwe and Kaenga (1972); Nkumbula v. Attorney General (1972); Re Puta (1973, 1981, 1982); Shamwana v. Attorney General (1980, 1981) and others, all reproduced in M. Ndulo and K. Turner, Civil Liberties Cases in Zambia, (Oxford, 1984) where colonial precedents and colonial laws were used to determine the outcome of the cases.

5. Take also the example of emergency powers which were permanent in the Zambian legal system and which had been used to detain many individuals without trial from 1964 to 1991. They had colonial origins and were brought into existence to deal with the then nationalists, who are presently the wielders of state power in Zambia. These same leaders who were detained without trial during the colonial days and who vehemently denounced those laws were now using the same laws to deal with the perceived political opponents. Sometimes even common criminals were detained using these same laws. To some extent, these laws had become more draconian during the independence era. The example of the Public Order Act which continues to bedevil the Zambian legal and political system is a colonial creation. This Act curtails freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and thought.

6. It can be stated that the existence of colonial laws at independence induced or created an atmosphere of laziness in those who took over the reins of state power. Things were already there, why bother to innovate, why spend money which could be used on private accumulation?

7. What happened however was almost inevitable. At independence in 1964, there were only one or two Zambian trained lawyers and they were educated in England. Thus, there were absolutely no indigenous legal resources (trained legal personnel) to think of overhauling the legal institutions. What were in abundance were colonial legal personnel and colonial legal literature. There was no university in Zambia. There was no law school.

8. It is thus not surprising that for several years after independence, the judges, lawyers and law teachers were colonial judges, lawyers and teachers. This meant that colonial legal philosophies inevitably continued their sway in independent Zambia. This explains why it has been difficult to root out colonial legal attitudes. Further, indigenous lawyers continued to be trained in England, thus continuing the colonially inspired legal attitudes.

9. This largely explains why there is still a scarcity of indigenous legal literature in Zambia. There are very few books to date on the Zambian legal system or some aspect of it written by an indigenous Zambian. The few authentic books on the Zambian legal system are either collections of articles, some of which were written by foreigners or collection of judicial decisions, some of which contain heavy doses of colonial precedents and attitudes. We refer to M. Ndulo and K. Turner, Civil Liberties Cases in Zambia and M. Ndulo (ed.) Law in Zambia (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1984). This attests to the poverty of Zambian legal scholarship.

10. The Zambia Law Journal has tried to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, it has not normally appeared with as much frequency and consistency as we would have loved it to. By now there should be dozens of law journals or legal publications in Zambia. In any case, a good number of issues of the Zambia Law Journal have published articles by the same authors. This may mean in the long run the domination of Zambian legal scholarship by a few individuals. This however is preferable to the domination of the Zambian legal scholarship by colonial attitudes.

11. The Zambian constitution of 1964, a colonial creation, remained until 1972 - 8 years later. It was only changed in reaction to political threats posed against the ruling class. The change was very minimal and only to entrench more securely the power of the ruling class. This clearly shows that change comes very slowly and only when there is a threat to the prevailing status quo. And the change is not usually or necessarily for the better or to serve the interests of the majority.

12. Given the above observation, how then can the Zambian legal system be overhauled to reflect the changing political, economic and social-cultural realities in Zambia since independence? This entails first demarcating the observable changes in the political, economic and social-cultural realities. How deep rooted are these changes?

13. If the dynamics of the Zambian political economy are still externally induced, entailing the same attachments to the global capitalist world economy, hence very minimal changes from the colonial political economy, how could we expect any dramatic changes in the legal system? How much autonomy does the legal system enjoy within the political economy? Can you have dramatic changes in one without affecting the other?

14. Politically, Zambia has an authentic indigenous ruling class which took over the reins of power at the demise of colonial rule. This ruling class has increasingly been entrenching itself using state power. It exercises taxing power; formulates the budget; decides to a large extent foreign policy agenda; deploys police and military power within the country; decides investment policy; controls huge economic resources; formulates laws and so on. These changes are not inconsequential. With these powers at their disposal, it is conceivable that the ruling class can change the legal system if it so wishes. It has in fact so done from time to time. Thus, those aspects of the legal system that it has changed and those that it has not changed from the colonial days can be regarded as in its best interests. Thus the prevailing legal system in Zambia is in the best interests of the ruling class in Zambia. Such include the powers of the Nolle Prosequi and the Public Order Act for example or the powers to initiate constitutional reforms only to abandon them when they clash with vested interests.

15. Economically, despite the entrenched hold of international corporate capital on the economic levers of the political economy of Zambia, the Zambian ruling class through a series of reforms has been able to wrestle some control of the economy for itself. There is now, without doubt, an entrenched indigenous Zambian ruling class, both in the political and economic sense. This does not however mean that international capital is no longer dominant. It still is. The Zambian ruling class is still subordinated to the exigencies of international capital. But it is not totally helpless. It exercises tremendous economic and political power internally. It is much more appropriate to regard the Zambian political economy as based on the triple alliance of international capital, the state and local capital. This alliance (which gets disturbed periodically) is a factor in the cohesion of the Zambian political economy. Given the fact that during the colonial era, the economy was geared to serving the interests of the colonial state and the metropolitan bourgeoisie, the entry of the Zambian ruling class has meant some significant changes in the control and utilization of the economy. These changes also entail the capacity of the ruling class to change the laws to reflect its own interests.

16. Socio-culturally there have also been some significant changes. There is now a University of Zambia with a law faculty. There is the Open University with a Law School. There are so many universities in Zambia now. There are as well so many colleges than during the colonial era. Some of these universities and colleges are private. The University and the law schools have produced hundreds of graduates who are now working in various capacities. Other institutions of learning have also similarly produced hundreds of graduates. The Zambian judiciary is now staffed a hundred percent by indigenous Zambians. These changes must also entail changes in the legal system of Zambia. What then must be the changes?

17. The desired changes are numerous and the Zambian ruling class is aware of the necessary changes that need to be made. They are also aware of the role of the law in society. For example, President Kaunda has articulated the problem thus, "I consider law to be perhaps the most important of all instruments of social order because without it, the whole structure of society can but inevitably collapse... It is the means by which order within society is maintained and society itself preserved. The law... is not something independent of the society it regulates and purports to preserve... it would be presumptuous for anyone to criticise the concepts and rules of some other society without the deepest knowledge and understanding of the history, traditions and present day character of that society... law of any society must inevitably reflect the character and needs of that society... Neither the character nor the needs of any given society can remain static, and if the law is to fulfil its proper function, it must keep pace with the changes... if law is to be an effective instrument of social order it must be a stabilising influence, but it must be flexible and it must be progressive, else it will hinder society in its progress and development instead of advancing it..." He then referred to the role of lawyers in working "out solutions to the social and economic problems of society" and in altering the [(received or imposed colonial)] law "... to the needs of the type of society Zambia aspires to be. The Lawyer," he added, "is better fitted than anyone else to work out solutions to the social and economic problems of society... He must understand the society if he is to be able to participate in the development and advancement of the economic and social well-being of its members... The developing countries - and Zambia is no exception - have a tremendous need for increasing the number of lawyers...". However, it is axiomatic to say that law in Zambia has been largely used to maintain "social order" rather than promote progressive change or reflect the changing social needs of the majority.

18. The Law School's initial objectives have not been fulfilled. They were 1) to join in the building and development of the legal system in Zambia, and generally to make available the resources of the school, in staff and students, for the welfare of the [Zambian] community; and 2) to produce lawyers in Zambia... better fitted to meet the needs of developing countries like Zambia.

19. The Zambian legal system should be changed to address the above objectives. It should be used to address the needs of the poorest segments of the Zambian community, for example: provision of basic legal education and other services in the rural areas; provision of free legal services to the urban and rural poor; to gear the law to be used to demand the provision of basic necessities of life for the poor, e.g. housing, food and clean water.

20. The law must be overhauled from its reliance on colonial and past precedents. It must be creative to reflect the changing needs and social realities in Zambia. As one scholar has observed, "the courts should explicitly recognize that they are never irrevocably bound by any past cases, Zambian or foreign, except that lower courts must remain bound by decisions of higher ones... the courts should be more willing to deviate from precedent than they are at present. If past cases do not seem suitable today, in Zambia, the courts should not follow them... all precedent must be analyzed in terms of its usefulness to the problems at hand, whether or not that precedent is ultimately followed... recourse to precedent should however, not be axiomatic as it so often is now..." This should engender critical legal developments in Zambia.

21. Legal education in Zambia must be geared toward the production of development lawyers. These are lawyers who are critically aware of the abject poverty of the majority of the citizenry, the warped nature of the present legal system in the interest of the ruling class and the need to develop a legal system that promotes social development as well as social justice. Other professionals must also be conversant with the limitations as well as possibilities of law so that they can influence the development of a progressive legal system. This has been aptly pointed out by the International Centre for Law in Development which we here quote at length:

‘... if development is seen as a self-conscious effort to transform society, law has a multiple relationship to this process. Law may be seen as an instrument by which man in society consciously tries to change environment... some may also see law as a value, or a process so fundamental to the realization of certain values... development of effective legal institutions and processes can contribute to strengthening of (these values) ... legal studies may... be essential to any comprehensive study of state, society, and economy in developing societies... modern states employ statutory and other forms of law as part of an effort to reach the goals they define as 'a development'... law and legal processes of individual nations must frequently be changed -- often in drastic ways, if the social, economic, cultural and political goals contained within the idea of development are to be attained... Research must be sensitive to all these dimensions of or perspectives on law and development... the current body of development knowledge and doctrine is relatively insensitive to law and legal institutions... In ignoring law, developmental studies have overlooked a major dimension of the very process they are charged with examining. In failing systematically to examine the possibilities and limits of law as a tool of planned social change, developmental researchers have shown a surprising lack of interest in the nature of the tools that policy makers daily employ to reach development goals... In failing to develop any systematic knowledge about the relationship between law and contemporary process of development, scholars have lost an opportunity to develop more complete and general knowledge about law, thus denying the legal scholarship the fullest possible understanding of the legal process... the development researchers have failed to understand the potential contribution that legal studies might make to a better understanding of development, and legal scholars have been insufficiently aware of the contribution that law and development research could make to legal studies.’

22. Some of the reforms we propose have already been proposed by others but we list them here for emphasis: the wholesale use of the powers of Nolle Prosequi must be reconsidered as it has become a political tool and has been abused; the Public Order Act must be annulled as it is anti-democratic and has been used for repressive purposes; those who are appointed to hold positions in the service of justice must declare their assets before ratification in order to curtail corruption.

23. We propose the institution of a Constitutional Court where citizens can bring constitutional challenges directly to that court without passing through various judicial hierarchies. The Judges of this court must be of highest intellectual calibre or judicial experience, or academic experience or educational experience or international legal or other experience or must have extensive publications or a combination thereof.

24. We propose that Judges must be able to serve up to the age of 75 to 80 years, in keeping with the experiences of other countries like the United States, Britain and Canada.

25. Lastly but not the least, we propose the institution of the Jury System in Zambia. As this is a very fundamental and new topic that has not been raised before, we accompany this submission with a paper on the jury system that was written for another purpose, [need for judicial diversity leading to judicial transformation] as background to this proposal. The above submissions are however, self-contained and no reference need be made to the Jury paper accompanying this submission. Only if one is interested in the proposal of a Jury system in Zambia should the accompanying paper on the Jury system be read.

26. The whole Zambian legal system needs to be revamped. The introduction of a Jury System will be a magnanimous addition which will help in reshaping Zambia as a true democratic society. The Jury should be one of the central pillars of the criminal justice system. Jurors and not so much Judges would do a duty by preserving democracy in Zambia.

27. We are aware of the shortcomings of the Jury System, for example in poor countries, jurors can easily be bribed and corrupted just like some judges are. Despite this reality, a Jury System is an advance over the current system just like corruption after independence did not mean that colonialism was preferable. There was massive corruption under colonialism but whatever corruption goes on under independence, preferable significant political and economic development has taken place. Much more fundamental improvements can be made.

28. The recent revelations and acknowledgments by the Chief Justice of Zambia Madam Lombe Chibesakunda that there is some corruption in the judiciary is a good starting point to address what can be done.

29. The introduction of the Jury System would be one of the ways to curb corruption within the judiciary.

30. Any introduction of the Jury System in Zambia would be preceded by careful study and implementation of a pilot project. A Jury school could be established to study and teach the importance of this bedrock of democracy that colonial powers were so afraid in introducing in colonial countries.


* Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is a lawyer, writer, book reviewer, lecturer and author.
* Charles Mwewa is a Professor of Legal Studies at CDI College in Toronto, Canada and a prolific author.

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Save the date: Raising Her Voice Report Launch


Oxfam, Fahamu and the State of the Union Coalition (SOTU) have pleasure in inviting you to a breakfast celebrating the of the forst country report under the Raising Her Voice project analysing the implementation in Kenya of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.
Please save the date in your diary. Further information will follow shortly. Please contact Moreen Majiwa: e-mail: tel: 0700932170 with any queries in the meantime.

30 September 2014

Villa Rosa Kempinski, Chiromo Rd. Nairobi, Kenya

8.00AM -11.30AM

Comment & analysis

Taxation and organized state criminality: The case of Zambia

Munyonzwe Hamalengwa


The serious allegations of tax fraud made against the publisher of a Zambian newspaper implicate a number of top ranking government officials and institutions, starting with President Michael Sata. These too should be held to account if there is full commitment to fighting corruption in Zambia

Fred M’membe, the publisher of The Post newspaper of Zambia, is accused of having committed the crime of willfully and deliberately not meeting tax liabilities since 2011, when the Patriotic Front (PF) government came to power in Zambia. The tax liability has been reported by the newspapers as of 1 September 2014 to be K8 billion (rebased currency).

This editorial argues that if what is reported by Mr Julius Komaki, a PF official, and echoed by the Daily Nation; Zambia Reports; ZambiaWatchDog; Ms Pamela Chisanga, director of ActionAid Zambia; and former Ambassador Joe Mwale is true, then Zambia is an organized criminal state. The accusations put forth, if found to be true, would mean that the President of Zambia, His Excellency Michael Chilufya Sata; former Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba; current Justice Minister Edgar Lungu; Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda; the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mutembo Nchito; the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC); the head of the Zambia Revenue Agency (ZRA); the Inspector General of Police; and others, along with Mr M’membe, are part of an organized criminal gang. If Mr M’membe is to be charged and prosecuted, all the above personalities and entities must also be prosecuted without exception.

If brought to a court, the case would consist of the following criminal charges or elements of the crimes: conspiracy in committing and to commit the crime of deliberate and willful defrauding of the Zambian people of incurred tax revenues; aiding and abetting Mr Fred M’membe in not paying incurred income tax liabilities; accessory after the fact to the commission of the crime of deliberate and willful failure to pay incurred tax liabilities; conspiracy to engage in and engaging in organized corruption for the purpose of deliberate and willful non-compliance with incurred tax liability; negligence to enforce the law requiring criminal prosecution of law-breakers; political corruption; and other analogous crimes. A massive civil suit for civil conspiracy, economic harm to the nation, negligence, malicious intent not to pay tax liabilities and other analogous torts could also be mounted against the culprits.

The evidence in such a case includes the following, as reported by individuals and media representatives that have been vexed by the failure of Mr M’membe to pay income tax liabilities. These exhibits implicate, above all, the President of Zambia. Exhibit A is a certificate, seemingly from ZRA posted by the Daily Nation, showing The Post’s tax liabilities of billions of Kwacha from 2011, when the PF came to power, to the present. Exhibit B is a statement from Mr Julius Komaki, a PF member, quoted in the Lusaka Times on 9 September 2014: ‘We have always known that The Post newspaper have been avoiding to pay tax since we formed government. We have all the information about their deliberate failure to meet their tax obligations to a number of statutory bodies. We have information that indicate that The Post newspaper is owing ZRA more than K8 billion and that is a lot of money that can do many things to the economy of our country. We now want ZRA to vigorously pursue The Post newspaper so that they can pay so that the money can get into government coffers. They have been claiming that they have not benefitted anything from the PF government and President Sata when there have been lapses in paying tax.’

Mr Komaki would be a live witness to tell the court what and when the PF government knew about the criminality of non-compliance with tax liabilities on the part of The Post and Mr M’membe. With this knowledge, why did the PF not report this to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the ACC? Mr Komaki is quoted as stating that, ‘it is a crime for a taxpayer not to be compliant’ and that ‘The Post is holding on to government money and that is tantamount to looting…’ Since the PF government had always known, why was nothing done before? Why now?

The Lusaka Times insinuates, based on the interview with Mr Komaki, that there seems to have been a quid pro quo with the future and now President of Zambia, His Excellency Mr Sata, for The Post not to pay tax in exchange for supporting Sata, which certainly aided in his victory over His Excellency President Rupiah Bwezani Banda in 2011. The Lusaka Times states and this would be Exhibit C, and the Lusaka Times editor would take the stand to amplify this statement: ‘The newspaper apparently stopped meeting its tax obligations soon after the PF formed government in 2011 and Julius Komaki says the newspaper had been singing praises for President Michael Sata even when they did not believe in his vision because the owner of the newspaper, Fred M’membe was seeking favours from the Head of State.’ Presumably these favours included not paying taxes in exchange for the newspaper’s support. Mr Komaki and the editor of the Daily Nation would be able to clarify what they meant by and what they knew about these favours. President Michael Sata would take the stand in court and state exactly what favours, if any, were exchanged, and whether they included non-compliance with tax obligations.

President Sata would have a lot to explain to the court: Why did the government of Zambia not do anything about this alleged non-compliance from 2011 to the present? Did the ZRA, DPP, the Zambia Police (ZP) and ACC know about this? If not, why not? If they knew, why didn’t they prosecute? Why did they instead prosecute poor traders from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and other weak individuals? Who else benefits from non-compliance with tax obligations? Mr Nchito and the heads of other institutions would take the stand to explain. The prosecutor would be an independent lawyer from outside the DPP’s office or the Ministry of Justice because these two institutions would be implicated in the case and one cannot prosecute his or her own case.

Ms Chisanga of ActionAid would take the stand and show her concerns about this massive non-compliance in tax liabilities. ‘I am passionate about [tax non-compliance] because tax pays for education, health, water and all other social services,’ she told the Lusaka Times. She had other serious concerns which Mr Komaki, the Minister of Finance and ZRA would have to answer on the stand in court. ‘There are a lot of things wrong with all this [Mr. Fred M’membe and The Post not paying taxes and not being investigated and prosecuted],’ she said. ‘Firstly I wonder where Komaki, a PF cadre, got this information? Why didn’t the Ministry of Finance say anything on this? Why has ZRA been chasing traders at COMESA and leaving out others like The Post in this case.’

Might it be plausible that the President of Zambia, who is consulted and informed about everything in Zambia, did not know about the tax matters involving The Post and Mr M’membe? Was there quid pro quo? Inferentially and circumstantially so, if we go by Mr Komaki’s and the Daily Nation’s insinuations. Further, what does common sense dictate? Did the ZRA know? Did ACC know? Did the police know? Did the DPP know? Did the Minister of Finance know? Were they consulted at all along the way by anybody to not do anything?

Interestingly, M’membe just might come out unharmed if there were to be prosecutions of all the individuals and institutions mentioned above. There are two key elements in a tax criminal case, and it must be asked if this was this tax evasion or tax avoidance? The entire case, and possibly the fate of Mr M’membe, would rest on this question, as tax evasion is a criminal offence, while tax avoidance is not.

Tax evasion is when a person or business hides its revenue so that it does not pay tax and the tax authorities are in the dark about the person or business’s income. The person or business would later be discovered to have hidden their income in order not to pay income tax. They had the mens rea or intent to deliberately not pay income tax, and had committed the actus reus or act of not paying.

On the other hand, if a person or business makes arrangements with the authorities not to pay tax and the authorities know clearly that the person or business is not paying tax as a result of that arrangement, and they do nothing about it, it is not tax evasion, it is tax avoidance. Such arrangements are legal in many jurisdictions, including Zambia.

These concepts are elementary in tax law and litigation. Foreign companies, particularly in the mining sector, don’t pay tax by government arrangement. Is criminality ever applied to such arrangements? Unfortunately, tax avoidance is the norm. Heart-breaking as this concept is, it is the legal reality. Tax avoidance, while still an example of corruption without being tax evasion, is not a crime since it is engaged in with government authorities. A person or business is able to be acquitted if investigated, charged and tried, as long as the person or business introduces evidence that they approached or were approached by the President of Zambia or other authorities and entered into a quid pro quo arrangement, whereby he or the business were not to pay tax and that the arrangement was known by the ZRA, ACC, DPP, Minister of Finance, Minister of Justice or the police, and that these individuals and government departments did not investigate him or the business until they fell out of favour with the government. This is a case that exemplifies the popular saying that ‘law is an ass’. It pretends to be very sensible and reasonable, but all too often it is not. For this reason, law must be distinguished from justice; the two are not equivalent.

This case could be taken out of the criminal field and applied to the civil context. Much more important, however, is that the issue could be taken into the realm of political accountability and governance, in that that the perpetrators of organized state criminality should meet their fate at the altar of the ballot box. Or by impeachment.

Mr M’membe would take the stand and answer the questions put to him: Is it true that you owe K8 billion in unpaid taxes? How did it come to pass that you did not pay taxes since 2011? Did you enter into a quid pro quo with President Sata and other government authorities not to pay taxes? Do you have any documents to show how if any arrangements were entered into? Have you been investigated by the ZRA, ACC, DPP, the Ministry of Finance, the police or others in matters of tax non-compliance?

The tax non-compliance trial of Fred M’membe would be larger than the fate of the man. It would additionally put state organized criminality on trial. The state does not criminally charge a person or business that will turn the tables against them, potentially bringing the state into open disrepute and leading to the loss of an election. How do the president, the ZRA, ACC, DPP, the police, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance defend the charge of organized state criminality under the circumstances of this case, assuming as a fact that Fred M’membe’s Post has not paid income tax since 2011 when President Sata came to power, and given Mr Komaki’s statements that the government had always known about this fact? Fred M’membe will not be prosecuted because prosecuting him will involve the prosecution of the state of Zambia.

* Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa practices law in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His PhD Dissertation in law was on international individual and corporate criminal responsibility. He is the recent author of The Politics of Judicial Diversity and Transformation.



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The money box

James Copnall


Entitlement, fledgling institutions and a lack of accountability have yielded rampant corruption in the world’s youngest country, South Sudan

The box was half the height of the minister’s desk. At the start of the day it was full to the brim with South Sudanese banknotes.

The national-level official would see 50 people every day, or until the money ran out, according to someone who worked with him and asked to remain anonymous. “He would pick a different community or area every day, and give them money. That’s what he saw as his job,” his former colleague says.

Many other officials were not so generous: South Sudan’s money ended up in their own pockets. Fuelled by billions of petrodollars from South Sudan’s oilfields, corruption rapidly became one of the defining features of the state, which declared its independence from Sudan in July 2011. It may even have contributed to the terrifying civil war in the new country, which broke out last December.

Although the word “corruption” does not exist in some South Sudanese languages, the impact of graft has been felt for decades. The united Sudan was famously corrupt, regularly appearing near the top of corruption indexes. Southern Sudan was particularly vulnerable. It fought two long and very damaging wars with Khartoum, increasing poverty rates, halting development and weakening the few institutions in place.

Rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and its political wing, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), fought against the state from 1983-2005 and set up a rudimentary administrative system in the areas they controlled. This, too, opened many opportunities for enrichment. The SPLA’s top leaders held a fiery meeting in 2004 in Rumbek, a town in what was then central southern Sudan. Salva Kiir, then the SPLM’s deputy chairman, spoke frankly: “Corruption, as a result of the lack of structures, has created a lack of accountability which has reached a proportion that will be difficult to eradicate.”

In January 2005, the SPLM signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party. The CPA established southern Sudan as a semi-autonomous region and gave it almost half of the oil revenues it produced. The old soldiers came in from their bush headquarters and began creating the framework of a state.

For many, the opportunity presented by the oil billions was simply too great to pass up. A scheme to build emergency grain stores ended with many stores paid for but not built and grain purchased but not delivered. As much as $2 billion was unaccounted for. Government contracts were given in exchange for kickbacks. A foreign consultant witnessed a senior official at a ministry receive a brown envelope, count a wedge of cash several centimetres thick, and then tell the person who had handed him the envelope: “That’s fine, you will get the contract on Monday.”

Some money was probably siphoned off to prepare for a possible future conflict with Khartoum. Some went to communities with ties to a minister or official. The rest benefited only a few individuals. The 2007 and 2008 auditor-general’s reports revealed hundreds of millions of missing dollars. One example of where those funds disappeared is the education ministry’s “weekend allowance”, an amount that could have paid for the monthly salaries of 855 teachers.

Independence in 2011 did nothing to change the dynamic. South Sudan now had full control of the oil and there was even more money available to steal. Humvees and Land Cruisers queued up in the car parks of the new hotels and restaurants in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. The rest of the country was largely left to fend for itself.

On May 3rd 2012, less than nine months after the joyous independence celebrations, Salva Kiir, now the president, wrote a letter to 75 colleagues. “An estimated $4 billion are unaccounted for or, simply put, stolen by current and former officials, as well as corrupt individuals with close ties to government officials,” he wrote. By some calculations, this was equivalent to a third of all the oil revenue South Sudan had received from the CPA from 2005 to independence in 2011. The anguished tone of the president’s letter provided a damning indictment of the SPLM’s first few years in power: “We fought for freedom, justice and equality,” it said. “Many of our friends died to achieve these objectives. Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for, and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people.”

In part, the rampant corruption came from the sense of entitlement felt by the rebels who now ran the state. The South Sudanese writer Victor Lugala used the refrain “Where were you when we were fighting?” to sum up the disdain of the military elite in Juba. Julia Duany, who for years was a senior civil servant in the government, is equally damning: “The SPLM leaders think they have the right to public resources because they fought in the bush,” she says. In part the corruption came from the weaknesses of the new country: the fragile institutions and lack of real checks and balances.

Sarah Chayes, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington, DC-based think-tank, has studied corruption as a security threat. “Acute corruption should be understood not as a failure or distortion of government but as a functioning system in which ruling networks use selected levers of power to capture specific revenue streams,” she wrote. “This effort often overshadows activities connected with running a state.”

How much did the widespread graft contribute to the conflict that broke out in Juba in December 2013 and spread rapidly to several other parts of the country? Ms Chayes concludes in general terms: “Systematic corruption evokes indignation in populations, making it a factor in social unrest and insurgency.” The civil servant Mrs Duany believes it certainly played a role in South Sudan’s crisis: “Corruption created this conflict,” she says. “The power struggle is rooted in determining who will maintain control of the state and its resources.”

Riek Machar was South Sudan’s vice-president until he was sacked in July last year. Since December he has been leading a rebel movement. He did not take up arms because of graft; but Mr Machar says as vice-president he raised the issues of corruption and the ethnicised civil service repeatedly in meetings with the president, as part of a series of complaints about the country’s direction. In Mr Machar’s telling, Mr Kiir was unable or unwilling to clamp down on his allies who were enriching themselves illegally and handing out jobs to cronies. Yet Mr Machar, too, has been accused of corruption. Like everyone else, he denies the charge.

No individual will step forward to confess his or her criminal acts. But there is no dispute that corruption among the South Sudanese ruling elite is widespread. Theft, insecurity and the failure to deliver basic services led to the weakening of the bond between the people and the politicians.

Growing frustration meant many were prepared to fight, when the time came, against a government that had forgotten them. “Ministers bought expensive cars for their children, big houses, some even purchased expensive hotels, and all without an ounce of shame for what they were doing with public resources,” says David Deng of the South Sudan Law Society. “Now the country faces famine while the leadership on both sides live comfortably, still maintaining their families in foreign countries,” he adds. “In a place like South Sudan, awash with guns and with a population traumatised by many years of war, conflict is bound to ensue.”

* James Copnall is the author of “A Poisonous Thorn in our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce”. He has reported from over 20 African countries including Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, South Sudan and Sudan as the BBC correspondent. This article was first published by Africa in Fact.



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Time to end academia's ivory trade

Universities must shift their focus and explore better ways of fostering a more democratic society

William Gumede


Universities in South Africa and the rest of the continent have tended to either remain aloof from society or follow government prescriptions dociley. Neither of these positions allows for these institutions to contribute to the democratic formation and critical capacity of the societies in which they exist. Universities need to assume a position of ‘embedded autonomy’ while enacting, within their own structures, the democratic values and practices which they teach

South African and African higher education institutions must redefine themselves away from being ‘ivory towers’, and with greater urgency pursue a new democratisation mission of their societies, given the spectacular failure of political leadership in the region to entrench genuine democracy.

The challenge for South Africa and African countries is how to mould democratic and ethically based models of citizenships in countries and regions where the political cultures are markedly undemocratic, even if governing movements, leaders and individual citizens may often profess embracing democracy and its values.

Education is not only a vehicle for the transmission of values, but also reproduces values. At places of higher education citizens interact, socialise and learn together.

This should make South African and African universities ideal places to foster new common democratic values – and to actively defend these democratic values.

A basic requirement for higher education institutions to play their democraticisation role is for these institutions to be autonomous, while at the same time have a mutually beneficial relationship with the state, society and other stakeholders.

To use sociologist Peter Evans’s concept of ‘embedded autonomy’, universities must be autonomous and have close ties with society, the state and other stakeholders, in order to be in tune with the problems of society, and responsive enough to deal with the problems.

This approach will ensure higher education institutions become more relevant to their societies. In such ‘embedded autonomy’, universities can agree with social partners on common objectives, but can also question the purpose and actions of partners.

Higher education institutions in the region must propose that laws are introduced in all countries that entrench the institutional independence of higher education institutions.


Often universities in the region have either docilely followed what politicians said their resource output should be or, to prove their independence, have stayed aloof (often not only from governments, but also from society itself).

When universities start to question undemocratic societal routines, leadership behaviours and values, it is likely that they will come under attack from politicians and entrenched interests.

But by adopting the notion of ‘embedded autonomy’ – independent, yet deeply embedded in society – institutions will be better insulated from such attacks.

Our universities must reject what the American scholar of race, Cornel West, has termed ‘authenticity’ politics, whereby every issue is reduced to ‘racial reasoning’. In this discourse there is a demand for black or African solidarity behind leaders and causes at all costs, no matter how dubious and corrupt how much deadly harm they cause other blacks.

Undemocratic and corrupt African leaders often appeal to black ‘authenticity’, which demands a closing of ranks behind black leaders only because they are black. West argues rightly that we must ‘replace racial reasoning with moral reasoning, to understand the black-freedom struggle not as an affair of skin pigmentation and racial phenotype but rather as a matter of ethical principles and wise politics’.

Universities must proactively transmit democratic values, rather than just producing individuals with degrees of competency. Higher education will have to produce critical minds, and graduates who have the ability to self-reflect and self-criticise.


Higher education institutions play a crucial fostering role in creating an informed cadre of citizens who can play an active role in civil life.

Higher education can be ‘a catalyst of changed individual and collective self-understandings’ (as philosopher and educationist Josef Jarab has argued), and can take the lead in questioning ‘received values’ that are undemocratic, in Amartya Sen’s phrasing.

Universities will, for example, have to change the received values by which women are discriminated against, often under the aegis of ‘culture’.

Higher education institutions often train the decision-makers who determine the social behaviour of citizens.

In most of the region, leaders and elites have at times behaved appallingly, going on luxury spending sprees on supposedly scarce public money in Western capitals while ordinary citizens live in grinding poverty – and apparently feel no compunction about it.

South African and African higher education institutions will have to produce graduates who are more socially conscious, with a greater sense of public duty, empathy and solidarity with society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged.

An expanded role will mean that universities will be active in broader societal and political discourses, and be actively involved in the non-formal learning of democratic values as well as everyday life learning.

Traditionally, higher education institutions have tended not to get involved in politics, although during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, some universities actively participated in the public realm, promoting democratic values and opposing the apartheid governments.

In the post-apartheid (and postcolonial) period, higher education institutions in South Africa and Africa will have to stand clearly and publicly for the values of democracy.

This does not mean aligning themselves with political parties, but they must clearly oppose undemocratic practices by ruling parties, opposition forces and civil society. Higher education institutions will have to challenge (and provide platforms for others to challenge) outdated undemocratic practices in individual African countries.


They must offer platforms where democratic values, the inclusivity of development and diversity, and the quality of freedom, are constantly reassessed, evaluated and debated. In most African countries, democracy is viewed very narrowly (as only elections), or has been dismissed as ‘unAfrican’, or has been embraced only in public rhetoric.

It is the role of universities to shift this limited discourse on democracy towards one that interrogates how to foster quality democracies. Higher education institutions must also lead the debate on culture in the region, where elites often hide behind ‘culture’ to dehumanise citizens and oppress women.

Elites have in some cases built a discourse against outsiders criticising undemocratic behaviour, arguing that their behaviour is part of indigenous culture.

Any individual criticising such ‘culture’ is then dismissed as an agent of the former colonial powers. This abuse of culture has undermined both democracy and inclusive economic development throughout the region.

Universities have to lead the debunking of this abuse of culture for the purposes of self-enrichment. Higher education institutions will have to promote the idea of ‘interconnected differences’, based on respect for diversity and for the equality of treatment of different communities.

The democratic project within South Africa and the region will go nowhere unless a meritocratic culture, which balances redress to those historically disadvantaged, is actively promoted and lived.

Throughout Africa, women are generally worse off than men, including in terms of higher education.

Gender inequality in South Africa and Africa is high, with ‘culture’ often used to legitimise the subjugation of women. Higher education institutions will have to change the received values that perpetuate gender inequality.

On this score, higher education institutions will have to educate not only their own immediate constituency, but also broader society. More women must obviously be appointed to critical positions in higher education institutions, but (as importantly) critical subjects that are in most cases inaccessible to women must be opened up.


Universities must play the role of transmitting democratic values in their own immediate communities, in the societies of which they are a part, and across the region.

Higher education must be the place where democratic values are lived, practised and promoted – it must be a vehicle for the transmission of values. Higher education institutions play a critical role in building tolerant societies.

In order to build tolerant societies, universities must themselves be tolerant communities. But in South Africa and Africa they have unfortunately often mirrored the intolerance of their societies, rather than being exporters of tolerance to the rest of society.

To respond effectively to the challenges of democratisation, universities will need stronger internal governance systems.

They will not be able to play their full roles in democratisation in the region unless academic freedom at individual and institutional levels becomes a reality.

The internal governance systems of higher education institutions must highlight key values, including a real commitment to promoting democracy, the value systems of research and teaching (through, for example, quality assurance and control systems), and commitment to good corporate governance, accountability and efficient management.

Effective internal governance of universities is crucial to establish trust between higher education institutions and society – a prerequisite to secure and maintain societies’ buy-in to regulation and the autonomy for these institutions.

* William Gumede is associate professor at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Governance, chairperson of the Democracy Works Foundation and author of Restless Nation: Making Sense of Troubled Times (published by Tafelberg). This is an edited extract from the research report Fostering a Regional Higher Education Identity in the Southern African Development Community, which he wrote for the Southern African Regional Universities Association. This article originally appeared in the Mail&Guardian (2014-08-15), Johannesburg



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Somalia faces famine amidst US-led war on terror and oil search

Failure to reach political settlement hinders development and relief

Abayomi Azikiwe


Some 2.9 people are threatened with starvation, but this alarming situation has not received any significant attention. Global focus is on the US-led war against al Shabaab militants and the quiet oil exploration by Western firms

Early in September United States President Barack Obama announced that he had carried out a targeted assassination killing the leader of the Al-Shabaab Islamic resistance organization in Somalia which has been fighting against the Federal Government and a regional military force for over six years.

In a matter of days Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for retaliatory attacks against two convoys of African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops operating alongside high-ranking U.S. military intelligence personnel and representatives of a consultancy firm which advises the government in Mogadishu on counterinsurgency methods against Al-Shabaab. These attacks resulted in the deaths of at least twelve people including four from the U.S.

The attacks against AMISOM and the U.S. military personnel did not gain wide press coverage in the western corporate media. The Wall Street Journal carried a story indicating the strategic nature of the imperialist interventions in Somalia where oil and other interests are being exploited.

Amid the existence of the AMISOM forces numbering 22,000, which are funded, trained and coordinated by the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the European Union forces (EUFOR), another famine is looming inside this nation. Leading humanitarian agencies concerned with food security have reported over the last several months that millions of people in Somalia are threatened with starvation.

Other than providing additional weaponry, military training and diplomatic support for the fractured federal government in Mogadishu, the U.S. State Department has no plans aimed at reaching any degree of a political settlement inside the country. AMISOM troops have been operating in Somalia since 2007 and today soldiers are deployed from Uganda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and other states.

Tensions and disputes have developed surrounding the large-scale western-funded occupation of Somalia by the AMISOM forces. In the southern region of the country, forces outside of Al-Shabaab have complained about the dominance of Kenya through its Defense Forces in the internal politics in the area.

Allegations of abuse of women by AMISOM troops have been reported. Although the so-called peacekeeping operation is endorsed by the United Nations, the key players in the occupation are Washington and its NATO allies.


While providing introductory remarks for the Somalia Food Security Results survey, Phillipe Lazarrini, the United Nations humanitarian director for Somalia, stressed that “It is terrible to think that with almost 2.9 million people in need in Somalia, the aid appeal is only 30 per cent funded with $658 million still needed to end 2014.” (NTV Uganda, Sept. 11)

The Somalian country director for the World Food Program noted that food shortages in the country are expected to become more critical during the next few months principally due to insufficient rains, the burgeoning conflict between the government, AMISOM and Al-Shabaab prompting the rise in food prices. “We have scaled up to meet growing needs, but funding shortages meant the organization risked running short of vital supplies by September, leaving us with no alternative than to reduce food assistance to most vulnerable — IDPs and malnourished children,” Mr Bukera said. (NTV Uganda, Sept. 11)

In fact this problem is not confined to Somalia but is regional throughout the Horn of Africa which encompasses Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and sections of Sudan. Throughout the region of the entire East Africa, there is a strong U.S. military presence and several allied regimes which play an integral role in carrying out Washington’s foreign policy imperatives.

On Sept. 15 the regional dimensions of the crisis was highlighted during a joint press conference between representatives of the UN and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African organization. Fighting has escalated in southern Somalia, South Sudan and unrest has taken place in Kenya as well since 2013.

In the combined statement delivered in Nairobi, UN Assistant Secretary- General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-Wha Kang, and Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), stressed the need for urgent funding to assist 14 million people facing food insecurity in the region. "Displacement in Horn of Africa stands at an estimated 6.8 million people and 14 million people are food insecure, yet funding has remained at half of the appeal," Kang said. (Xinhua, Sept. 15)

Somalia Oil and Other Resources Exploited by the West

All of the affected states throughout the Horn of Africa and the entire East Africa region contain oil, natural gas and other strategic resources. Without persistent conflict largely engineered by the U.S. and other imperialist states, the people in these territories would have adequate food and other resources to raise their standard of living.

With specific reference to Somalia, the exploration and drilling of oil is well underway in the breakaway region of Puntland in the North with one of the leading firms being Africa Oil Corp. based in Canada. Prospecting for oil is also taking place in another breakaway region of Somaliland.

Despite these economic projects, the peace and security of Somalia remains elusive. In Somaliland, the government has accused a Norway petroleum firm of deliberately destabilizing the country.

The Somaliland Petroleum ministry said that oil firms are signing multiple contracts and negotiating agreements with regional governments which are only "adding fire to conflicts.
These small companies are destabilizing the country and destroying the international community's effort to build the peace and the security of the country," the ministry added.

This same ministry singled out Norway’s DNO, charging the company with "planning to introduce armed militiamen in areas already in conflict and thereby stoking old feuds which resulted in internal displacement and harming the innocent and the most vulnerable people". (Reuters, Sept. 3)

"We are warning those companies that the Somali government will lodge complaints with their respective countries and the United Nations Security Council," the ministry added. Leading petroleum firms have claimed interests in Somalia oil resources even prior to the 1991-92 initial interventions by the UN and the U.S.

Somalian governmental officials in August met with representatives of ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and BP for the first time since 1991. The federal government said it wanted these firms to propose a scheduled return to Somalia.

* Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire



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What's wrong with government's land holding policy, and what should it do instead?

Ben Cousins


South Africa urgently requires practical agrarian reform policies that transfer land to black farmers who can use it productively to sustain their livelihoods and to supply markets.


The policy draws its inspiration from the 2011 Green Paper: one of the four ‘tiers’ of land tenure in South Africa will be ‘freehold with limited extent’. It proposes that government designate maximum and minimum land holding sizes in every district, and take steps to bring all farms either up to the specified minimum size (a ‘floor level’) or below the maximum size (a ‘ceiling’). The rationale is to attain higher levels of efficiency of land use and optimize ‘total factor productivity’. Opportunities in value chains will be assessed as part of the exercise. District land reform committees will determine landholding floors and ceilings by assessing a wide range of variables (including climate, soil, water availability, water quality, current production output, commodity-specific constraints, economies of scale, capital requirements, numbers of farm workers, distance to markets, infrastructure, technology, price margins, and relationships between different on-farm resources).

Holdings in excess of the ceiling will be trimmed down through ‘necessary legislative and other measures’. What this means is unclear, but may include purchase (e.g. with the state having the right of first refusal on land offered for sale), expropriation, or equity shares. The policy document reviews international experience of setting land ceilings as a land reform measure, in the cases of India, Egypt, Mexico, the Philippines and Taiwan. In almost all cases the impact of land ceilings has ‘not lived up to expectations’, and in some cases have had almost no effect on disparities in land-holdings. The document also states that ‘optimum levels of productivity’ (i.e. both floor and ceiling) are ‘dynamic and continuously changing upwards and downwards’.


South African agriculture is highly diverse in its products, systems and scales of production, partly in response to high levels of environmental variability, both between and within large district municipalities, but also to market realities. Environmental and market conditions are dynamic and fluctuating, and as the policy document states, ‘optimum productivity’ is a constantly moving target. Successful farmers, both large and small, are those who are able to improvise flexible and effective responses to dynamic variability. To imagine that officials who have never farmed themselves could designate landholding sizes that make economic sense in South Africa today is a fantasy. The task itself is probably inherently infeasible, but it is definitely beyond the capacities of DRDLR officials at present.[1]

‘Land floors’: the notion that farms below a designated size are ‘not viable’ is highly problematic, given a history of the state using racially-biased criteria to designate target farming incomes in the past. In South Africa today, planners often use criteria drawn from large-scale commercial farming to assess smallholder farming systems that are very different in objectives, methods and outcomes. This results in inappropriate plans, funding mechanisms and support.

‘Land ceilings’: many of the problems experienced in attempts to designate farm ceilings elsewhere in the world could well be replicated in SA, e.g. fragmentation of holdings, reduced investment, evasion via family landholdings, corruption, barriers to entry by the landless, poor implementation capacity and ineffective enforcement of policy.


South Africa urgently requires practical agrarian reform policies that transfer land to black farmers who can use it productively to sustain their livelihoods and to supply markets.

(a) Land acquisition: Decentralised area-based planning and purchase of appropriately located land at or slightly below market value will be more effective than attempts to regulate farm size. The budget for land acquisition would need to dramatically increase.[2] Small and medium-scale back capitalist farmers and large numbers of market-oriented smallholders should be key beneficiaries, but additional land for supplementary food production by the poor should be provided as well. Sub-division of large farms should be allowed. Land could be acquired through expropriation in extreme cases where negotiations stall.

The many problems experienced to date with area-based planning (ABP) for land reform must be addressed. These include the lack of appropriate skills in both the department and in consultants, and in-depth training and accreditation are necessary. ABP must be integrated into the routine procedures of the department and of local government. Planning should be participatory and aim to match demand and supply of appropriate land.

Large-scale expropriation and payment of compensation at much less than market value is seen as desirable by many, but could lead to costly, drawn-out and potentially inconclusive and court processes initiated by landowners.[3]

(b) Support to land reform beneficiaries: a large-scale farmer and livelihood support programme for land reform beneficiaries is urgently needed, through provincial departments of agriculture and other relevant government bodies. Partnerships with NGOs and the private sector can assist as well.

Area-based planning could indeed identify opportunities and constraints in existing value chains, but meeting the practical needs of market-oriented smallholders should be the key focus. The comparative advantage of smallholders in specific types of agricultural production (e.g. labour-intensive fresh produce and extensive livestock) should form the basis of planning. These producers must be supported by appropriate levels of capital funding, together with extension and advisory services from trained officials who understand the differences between smallholders and large-scale commercial farming systems.

Procurement by public institutions can provide markets for smallholder fresh produce, and retailers must adopt less stringent standards and acquire from smallholders on a larger scale than at present. Informal markets could be actively supported by municipalities, e.g. by providing improved road access to farms and supporting auction sales of goats. Farmer co-operatives to purchase inputs in bulk and to market collectively should be promoted more effectively.

A key policy issue urgently in need of attention is water: is another 500,000 hectares of irrigation feasible in South Africa, as proposed by the National Development Plan, or not? Smallholder irrigation has enormous potential as a key thrust of agrarian reform.


[1] Michael Aliber, 2013, ‘Discussant notes on redistribution policy’, Land Reform Policy Workshop, organised by parliament’s Ad Hoc Committee to Exercise Coordinated Oversight on the Legacy of the Natives Land Act, 1913, Stellenbosch, 23-24 August 2013.

[2] Aliber, Michael, forthcoming, ‘Unravelling the Willing Buyer, Willing Seller Question’, in Cousins and Walker (eds) Land Divided, Land Restored. Land Reform in South Africa for the 21st Century, Jacana Books.
[3] Spoor, Richard, 2014, ‘Land reform – and the Law of Unintended Consequences’, Daily Maverick, July 7, 2014.

* Prof Ben Cousins works with the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).



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Changing civil-military relations in Kenya

James Gondi


President Uhuru Kenyatta recently caused a national stir by appearing in public donning military uniform, something not done by any of his three predecessors. This comes at a time when there is evidence of growing militarization of the state in Kenya.

Since Kenya attained independence in 1963, successive regimes have adopted a policy of separating the military from civilian institutions as a means of ensuring civilian rule and avoiding the participation of military or paramilitary units in the machinations of governance. This was designed to prevent regime change by military officials as was the case in many African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Somalia which were plagued by military coups. At that time, Kenya was an ‘island of peace is a sea of conflict’.

The 2007-08 post-election violence was a tipping point for civil-military relations in Kenya. Heavily armed paramilitary units clamped down on citizens exercising their right to peaceful protest. The Commission of Inquiry into the Post Election Violence noted that the use of force by the police and paramilitary units was disproportionate. There were several cases of citizens being shot from the back as they fled from the paramilitary GSU in Mathare and Kibera. There were also several victims of rear gunshot wounds, including children, in Kisumu and Kakamega.

With the advent of the Jubilee administration, which came to power in 2013 after a hotly disputed general election, there has been a concerted effort to gain legitimacy through professional imaging, social media and political control of key territories, particularly where there is perceived potential for oil and gas exploration. The President’s recent visit to Archers Post to unveil the East Africa Standby Brigade, fully clad in military fatigues, is symbolic of changing civil-military relations in Kenya and the region. Previous presidents shied away from donning military attire.

This comes in the wake of the revival of the provincial administration. There are paramilitary units attached to and at the service of the County Commissioners contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Other significant symbols of changing civil-military relations are the proposed Nyumba Kumi initiative and the Nairobi metropolitan brigade. These would rely heavily on the old provincial administration’s architecture and the deployment of the GSU. The Jubilee administration has attempted to justify these measures using rising insecurity citing the violence in Tana River, Lamu and the Westgate terror attack, none of which have been independently and comprehensively investigated and the findings made public.

The proposed government initiatives appear to be heading towards the militarisation of the state in many forms. The National Youth Service was recently provided with uniforms resembling military combat fatigues and has been deployed to beef up security in key conflict areas, border points and other potential terror targets. In the meantime, the police remain ill-equipped, poorly paid and living in squalid conditions. Recommendations on police reforms, including better working conditions, recommended by the Ransley Commission and other task forces have never been implemented. There is a greater emphasis on improving resources for paramilitary units to engage in civic space rather than improving policing in Kenya.

During the Kibaki administration, this was exacerbated by the Governance, Justice, Law and Order Sector programme which pumped a lot of money into security sector reform. Some of these resources were ironically deployed to purchase heavy military and anti-riot gear which was used to clamp down on citizens and to forcefully hijack the Chair of the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya to swear in the president elect without receiving adequate results in 2007. This event contributed to the outbreak of violence in areas dominated by opposition supporters. Skewed resource prioritization in the Security Sector can therefore have damaging effects on fragile states and impact on civil -military relations.

The National Intelligence Service in Kenya has also come under great scrutiny following the killings in Lamu and the Westgate Mall attack. It has been reported that key intelligence reports from the NIS were not acted upon by state security agencies including the military and police leading to the resignation of NIS chief Major General Michael Gichangi. The manner in which the Kenya Defence Forces, which is not trained for urban warfare, handled the Westgate mall attack has also come into sharp focus. The foreign trained Special Forces known as the Recce Unit appeared to be making headway only to be foiled by the Kenya Defence Forces in a calamitous battle for control leading to looting and robbery of the mall under the control of the armed forces while the suspects were never apprehended.

This power struggle between the military and police, coupled with skewed resource allocation to both military and paramilitary units points to the growing militarization of the state and changing civil-military relations in Kenya. During the last years of the Moi regime, the NIS had been professionalised despite being headed by former senior military personnel. The civilian component of the NIS had advanced significantly with professional staff from all sectors. Since Westgate, there appears to be a reversal in the gains made with more emphasis on military components and personnel. Both the military and the state have routinely ignored intelligence reports from the NIS leading to loss of lives. The current regime appears to favour the military aspects of security at the expense of civilian protection agencies. This will have an effect on civil-military relations in Kenya as the political regime evolves.

These observations cannot pass without the context of Kenya’s growing role in galvanizing the East African Community, African Union and other regional blocs against perceived foreign interference in state sovereignty through the accountability process of the International Criminal Court. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for close to 28 years with significant nostalgia for his military background, has been a close ally of Kenya’s present administration and has played a key role in several state functions such as the promulgation of the new constitution in 2010 and the swearing in of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, both indicted by the ICC, as President and Deputy President. Museveni has played a key role in castigating the West during these functions in Kenya. Uganda is a highly militarized state and Museveni is proud of his military background often donning military combat fatigues and carrying his favorite AK47 rifle publicly which represents potent symbolism around political power and territorial control.

Museveni has been a key ally to the Jubilee administration, galvanizing the African Union and other regional actors against the advances of the International Criminal Court and other international calls for accountability in Kenya. Rwanda’s Paul Kagame has played a more silent but effective role in this regard. Kagame also invokes public displays of his military affiliation sometimes donning army fatigues. Interestingly, the trio of Kagame, Museveni and Uhuru, have all been subjected to some level of scrutiny for atrocity crimes. Kagame has often been linked to proxy wars against Hutu groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The investigations into UPDF atrocities in Northern Uganda while prosecuting the LRA have unsettled Museveni while Uhuru Kenyatta was charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

The militarization of the state is often characterized by a desire by the central government to control the regions, including peripheral territories and contested borders. This was seen during Idi Amin’s reign when he made reference to territories of Western Kenya as belonging to Uganda. During the one party dictatorship of Daniel arap Moi, there was a clamp down on Northern Kenya where atrocities were committed by the military and other state security agencies during the ‘Shifta Wars’ as documented by the Truth Commission report. State militarization is also coupled with potent military symbolism by its leaders, aggressive foreign policy standpoints and strategic alliances with transactional hegemonic states like China which do not impose human rights standards as a part of the conditions attendant to foreign aid. Potent military symbolism is a critical feature of these changing civil military relations.

* James Gondi is a human rights lawyer and comments on issues of public concern. This article was previously published by The Star newspaper in Kenya.



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Boko Haram and the war against terror

Andy Wynne


Nigerian security forces have killed as many people as the militant group Boko Haram in the ongoing war against terror. What must be appreciated is that Boko Haram is a symptom of serious economic and social problems and an indication of the level of despair that many poor people feel. Military force alone will not quash the insurgency

President Goodluck Jonathan brought the ‘war on terror’ to the people of North East Nigeria last year with the declaration of a state of emergency. This war hit the world headlines in April when Boko Haram abducted some 300 young women from a secondary school in Chibok.

Some bravely managed to escape, but the majority are still being held. This is despite the intervention and support of several world powers ( United States, United Kingdom,, France, China and Israel). Only negotiation, amnesty and resettling the insurgents or armed rebels will ensure the students of Chibok come home safely.

In May last year, fighter jets, helicopters, armoured personnel carriers and thousands of soldiers were deployed to enforce the state of emergency. This situation of de facto martial law has and will continue to lead to thousands of deaths and many more people fleeing across the borders.

Amnesty International has described a cycle of attacks, reprisals and extrajudicial executions. For example, hundreds of Boko Haram militants were said to have taken part in the 14 March 2014 attack on the Giwa barracks in Maiduguri, initially freeing over a thousand inmates. Captured Boko Haram suspects were often detained in Giwa barracks and human rights groups say hundreds had died or been subjected to torture there.

One eyewitness told Amnesty that in the aftermath of this attack, they saw soldiers shooting suspected Boko Haram supporters who had been ordered to lie on the ground. “I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint" said one witness. Amnesty estimates that in total more than 600 people were killed by the security forces following this attack by Boko Haram.

At least 21 suspected Boko Haram supporters were also killed in March this year, during a so-called attempted escape from Nigeria's secret police headquarters in the capital city of Abuja. The authorities’ excuse was that early on 30 March 2014, one of the suspects attempted to disarm a guard by hitting him at the back of his head with his handcuff. They do not explain why 21 detainees died whilst only two service personnel were injured. The secret police in Nigeria are now being trained by the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

This is reminiscent, but on a larger scale, of the murder in custody of the former leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf in 2009. He had been captured by the army and was handed to the police, but his body was later shown on state television. The army also killed around 800 other Boko Haram supporters at this time during an uprising sparked by the imposition of a motorbike helmet law.


Credible international experts continue to estimate that the Nigerian armed services and Boko Haram have killed approximately the same number of people in recent years.

In late 2012, a Nigerian senator claimed that the “Security agencies are the number one killers in terms of number… If one army officer is killed in an area, they will come and cordon off the whole place and kill people they can get hold of and then burn all the property in that area.”

"The scale of atrocities carried out by Boko Haram is truly shocking, creating a climate of fear and insecurity," said Amnesty International's Netsanet Belay. "But this cannot be used to justify the brutality of the response that is clearly being meted out by the Nigerian security forces."

According to a recent Channel 4 TV program in Britain, human rights investigators say as many as 4,000 people have died in military custody since the conflict escalated two years ago. Amnesty International also recently released a video showing a group of men described by witnesses as Nigerian soldiers and militiamen cutting the throats of several young men.

Despite the continued state of emergency and the level of atrocities by the Nigerian army, Boko Haram appear to be getting stronger. Human Rights watch has estimated that they killed over 2,000 civilians in nearly 100 attacks during the first half of 2014.

"Boko Haram is better armed and better motivated than our own troops," Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, said in February 2014. "Given the present state of affairs, it is absolutely impossible for us to defeat Boko Haram."

In early August they captured Gwoza, a town of perhaps 250,000 people. They have now held the town for several weeks, and later in the month they attacked a nearby police academy for the second time. In late August Boko Haram declared an Islamic state covering Gwoza and other areas that they control. At about the same time, they chased nearly 500 soldiers across the border in to Cameroon.

The soldiers returned to Nigeria a few days later, contradicting the idea that they had deserted. However, there have been reports of several mutinies within the army ranks and recently soldiers' wives protested at the deployment of their husbands, saying they were ill-equipped to fight the insurgents.

Even the governor of one of the states where Boko Haram is most active expressed his ‘very strong exception’ to the most recent extension of the state of emergency. He also lamented that the army has not ”worked to build and sustain the confidence of the people in the affected states.”


Boko Haram is a symptom of serious economic and social problems and an indication of the level of despair that many poor people feel. People within the local communities are voting with their feet and leaving the country to get away from the army. Earlier this year the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that up to 600,000 people had fled their homes, with some seeking refuge in Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

While the few super-rich of the Nigerian elite live ostentatious lives, most people are embroiled in poverty, illiteracy and disillusionment. The real terror in the world today is not Al Qaeda or Boko Haram, but poverty resulting in the deaths of at least 3,000 people across the world every single day.

The rate of youth unemployment in Nigeria is officially between 45% and 60%. Whilst the National Bureau of Statistics notes that the unemployment situation in the north-eastern region where Boko Haram is most active is the worst. When so many secondary and university graduates are unemployed is it any wonder that Boko Haram supporters question the value of ‘western’ education?


Boko Haram has a contradictory nature. On one hand, it involves sections of the ruling elite for whom religion-as-politics is a tool for mobilisation of mass support for their aims. We saw examples with the political Shari’a wave that swept through 12 northern Nigerian states in the early 2000s. Specifically, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff courted Boko Haram in his successful bid for the governorship of Borno State in 2003.

However, elements of the anti-establishment demands of Boko Haram find resonance in the hearts of many poor and dispossessed people who are fed up with the corruption and flamboyant lifestyle of the elites, in the face of their own poverty and hopelessness. Since it was established in 2002, Boko Haram has provided Koranic education, housing, healthcare and offsetting of debts. Providing services that the state has failed to supply.


The war being waged against Boko Haram is not in the interest of the poor and working people. Similarly, militant Islamists cannot generally be described as ‘reactionary’. Its supporters are a complex collection of different groups including some of the political elite, but also many poor and impoverished driven to desperation by their situation..

In principle, working class activists are against any form of ‘state of emergency’ and the curtailment of democratic rights of the poor and working people. But we have to go beyond merely mouthing such ideas like the need for workers’ self-defence.

The January 2012 Uprising across Nigeria, against the threat to end fuel subsidies, showed us how superfluous ethno-religious conflicts become within a mass political struggle for a better society. Boko Haram had issued an order for non-northerners to leave the north, just before the working masses shock the country to its foundations with an eight-day general strike and mass protests across some 57 cities and towns.

In the heat of such a mass struggle, working people established self-defence militias in some places in the north. These guarded churches against attacks by Boko Haram, whileinn the south Christians protected Muslims at prayer.

Some members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) are paid the minimum wage. The relationship between the CJTF and state security forces have not always been cordial, with reported cases of police brutality against some youth vigilantes. In a recent protest, many angry youths took to the streets chanting anti-military slogans in Hausa, 'sojoji ne Boko Haram, Soja oga-Boko Haram' (translation: soldiers are the real Boko Haram, soldiers are masters of Boko Haram).

One of the most urgent tasks is the establishment of a united front against the state of emergency. There are several social forces that are against the state of emergency for diverse reasons. Socialists and other militants in Nigeria need to take up the argument against the state of emergency in trade union branches and other working class bodies. They need to argue that Boko Haram is basically a symptom of poverty and despair.

It is unlikely that Boko Haram will be defeated militarily. We need negotiation, amnesty and resettling to ensure the students of Chibok come home safely. The US army is retreating from Afghanistan where they failed to defeat the Taliban. Obama recently negotiated the release of five Taliban held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for one US soldier. The British government negotiated with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The Spanish government negotiated with Basque National Liberation Movement (ETA) to bring peace to the Basque region. The Nigerian government negotiated with militants of the Niger Delta: So, what is so different about negotiating with Boko Haram?

The mother of a British Boko Haram hostage, who died in 2012 after being held for 10 months, has backed a swap deal to free his killers in return for the Chibok students: So, why is the Nigerian government not negotiating such a deal?

Nigerians need a real fight against corruption and an increase in the level of taxation of the rich elite to fund decent education and health services for all. They need further training and job creation schemes to ensure all youths have the opportunity to use their talents. Furthermore, they need to turn the ‘war on terror’ into a fight against the real terror of inequality and poverty.

* Andy Wynne is a British socialist working in sub-Saharan Africa, currently based in Nigeria.



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21st century Middle East: New transnational jihad or sheer terrorism?

Abdul Ghelleh


Scramble for fighter jets, panic among law enforcement agencies and the rush to introduce new legislation have been the order of the day for Western authorities in reaction to militant Islam since September 11, 2001. But these strategies are counter-productive as they are not based on a keen understanding of the spreading radicalism in the Muslim world

In the late 1980s, the Muslim faith in Britain was seen as a beautiful and exotic religion, with mosques almost being seen as part of the attraction sites in the British capital. In those days, I saw retired American tourists angled from side to side to perfect pictures of Regent’s Park Mosque while curiously wondering what could possibly be inside that fascinating golden dome on the base of the fine minaret. A decade later, the West’s relationship with the Muslim religion has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, reaching new heights after the 9/11 attacks on America. But why did this happen in a very short period of time?

While violent acts in the West can be classified as terrorism, I am quite unsure of what to call the massive and violent social upheaval that is taking place in the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle East. In fact what we are witnessing in the Arab world right now is a radical social transformation in the form of Jihad. And without successfully finding solutions to the current mayhem, what takes place amongst the world’s 1.8 billion Muslim population is bound to have an effect on all of us. Be prepared. This particular jihad movement has other dimensions, which include acts of terrorism, small-scale genocides and other human rights abuses. Pockets of non-Arab societies - mainly in Africa – are also experiencing similar crisis.


Our response in dealing with the new phenomena has so far been disproportionate and inadequate in equal measure. Scramble for fighter jets, panic among law enforcement agencies and the rush to introduce new legislations has been the order of the day for Western authorities since September 11, 2001. As a result of the lack of well-informed knowledge to the root cause of the problem, panic can be best described in the actions taken so far by the Western governments. Recently, for example, the British government announced that jihadists would be prosecuted and passports of those travelling abroad to fight in jihad would be revoked. The Border Control Agency is on the lookout for would-be jihadists at all points of departure and surveillance is expected to increase towards Muslim communities, with schools and universities topping the list.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also announced that new legislations were to be introduced to deal with the heightened threat of home-grown extremism. What has changed? Discovering a laptop belonging to members of IS, who were reportedly planning to acquire chemical weapons, does not produce concrete evidence. We all know that the Islamic State group is contemplating some sort of attack to targets in Europe and elsewhere in the West. It is a wise thing to be on the lookout for terror related activities, but had we not been alert all along to ward off an Islamist terror attack?

I do not believe that the IS group poses immediate threat to Britain and anywhere else outside of the Middle East. Was the prime minister preparing the population for an upcoming military action in the Middle East, I wonder? In fact, what is happening in the Middle East at this stage is not about preparations for attacks on the West. This is not IS’s priority right now. Local scores need to be settled first before jihad could be taken elsewhere. In fact, the IS has plenty on its hands at the moment and is busy capturing more territory; perhaps it wants to expand into Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Lebanon. What the Islamic State group is really after is to become self reliant in terms of arms, equipment and financial resources.

One of IS’s primary goals is to control the Middle East oil installations, not only in Iraq and Syria but elsewhere in the region too. Unlike Al Qaeda, IS is highly ambitious and needs to run countries before expanding into international terror campaigns. There are signs of this already happening. Do not forget that IS is in competition for the region with the West as it believes that the Arab and Muslim resources are rightfully theirs. IS has already made in-roads as far as Northern Nigeria where Boko Haram declared similar entity last week in Nigeria’s caliphate state. A caliphate in Africa? I see an Arab signature here.

Meanwhile, the debate continues on television and in the press. Depressingly though, most of those invited to comment on issues relating to extremism seem to miss the point, derailing efforts to pinpoint a new strategy to tackle the problem. I watched a live BBC interview this week where Paul Bremer, the architect of the Iraq fiasco was the guest Remember him? On his arrival in Baghdad in early 2003, Bremer, who was then George Bush’s de facto governor in Iraq, single-handedly disbanded Saddam Hussein’s disciplined army, unleashing chaos across much of the country. Surprisingly, most commentators both in the press and on television were almost exclusively South Asian, who explained Arab jihad to the confused British populace. For your information, the Quran is not written in Urdu or Punjabi and although South Asians make up the majority of the Muslim community in Britain, Arabs are also present in large numbers. Have there been any efforts to find the whereabouts of those who could have been helpful in explaining the problem in greater detail? I doubt.

In the conflict zones, some UK MPs were visiting the Kurdistan area of Iraq last week and were running regular commentary on British television, with strong endorsement for the need to arm the Peshmergas, the Kurdish militia. Many observers believe that this is already taking place, but what do we really know about Kurdish Iraq? Chatting with my local Kurdish shopkeeper yesterday, I was shocked to learn that some groups in Kurdistan discreetly support the Islamic State group. ‘In Halabja city, they put up the black flag of IS in the night and they change to the Kurdistan flag in morning. This is true and you can find more information from people in the city; nobody like Shia people in Baghdad (sic)’, he told me.

It is obvious that the Kurds are soliciting for some sort of support from the West in their bid for independence. This, however, should not appear like we are arming one group against the other in a hotly contested conflict. Whatever their motives are in seeking support from the West, the Kurds are not from Mars; they lived side by side with the Arabs – both Shias and Sunnis - for thousands of years, sharing with them every single Abrahamic religion the world has seen. So let us watch out for the pitfalls ahead.

Western government officials, including Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, ruled out an alliance with President Bashar Al Assad of Syria. Why? I am not in favour of the Assad regime but what are the workable alternatives? Free Syrian Army? FSA are an exclusively Sunni group with many in rank and file having sympathy for IS. Just wait until they get to Damascus. At some point we will have to choose between a rock and a hard place. Speaking at a White House press conference, President Barack Obama conceded that he had no strategy on Syria, except of course that he would not collaborate with Assad to deal with the IS threat. How on earth can we have similar objectives to that of the Islamic State? The IS is fighting against Assad; actually they want to overthrow him. Do we really want to defeat the deadly threat that has helped IS to overrun huge swaths of territory in the Middle East or is our priority still to export democracy? Of course we just tried that in Libya and failed big time.

What is happening in the Middle East at this stage is not about preparation for attacks on the West. This is not IS’s priority right now. Local scores need to be settled first, before jihad could be taken elsewhere. What is playing out before our own eyes is a biblical competition between Shias and Sunnis (Kurds included). And do not forget, the Kurds are majority Sunni too. Actually, it is not far before the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs forge alliance against the Shia-led government in Baghdad. Historically, even before 2003, most observers knew that at some point in the near future, things in the Middle East were bound to fracture and whatever hand we played in all of this, that process would be here to stay, perhaps for decades to come.

As in the former USSR satellite states of Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, once you disturb an established system, you must expect the unknown. Well, the Eastern Europeans chose democracy and things moved forward for them but as Islam runs Arab lives to the bone, their journey appears to be through Jihad. Do we know which way they are heading? Look no further than Egypt, Arab world’s most sophisticated nation. In 2011, protesters overthrew Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s secular dictator. What followed was the temporary end to military rule in Egypt in June 2012 that stunned the world: Islamists immediately took over in what was a free and fair election that froze Western leaders in their seats. In fact, it was the first time since Algeria 1999 that Western leaders questioned - against their principles - the possibility of a democratic process in the Arab world. A year since Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, the Egypt’s military strongman, called for elections (and self-declared the winner), the country now stands somewhere between the military and the unknown.

Furthermore, if Western intelligence agencies were not able to predict and communicate information to governments with the emergence of the new jihad in Iraq and Syria, how could we trust them with analysis of what the solution to a future problem would be? Many of those who prepared the famous dossier about the unfounded Iraq WMD for Tony Blair in 2002 still possibly work for MI6.


Western jihadists are using the conflict largely as a platform to vent their anger on a system they perceive as having rejected them rather than sharing an ideology with the Arab Middle East populace in which they understand very little about. Most think that there would be a smooth takeover of what they believed to be an Islamic caliphate, a place that is more comfortable for them than in the English Midlands and the lands of non-believers. However, the real stories that these young Westerners are discovering on arrival at the ground and the actual events that they have witnessed during operations are very different.

Calls to prosecute anyone travelling to either Iraq or Syria are counter-productive. Social work programmes should be part of the intelligence gathering process to try to prevent extremism, without bragging about what may or may not happen to us in the tabloid papers. Responsibility and better governance must not be undermined. Referring to Jihadi John who beheaded the American journalist, James Foley, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, stated: ‘someone to come along with a bunker buster and kill the man, reported to be British, as fast as possible (sic)’. These are the words of an irresponsible individual rather than the words of a big city mayor who is personally touched by the gruesome murder of the helpless journalist. In fact such statements are adding fuel to the carnage, convincing many young people both at home and abroad that there would be no turning back and hence resolves to harden their attitudes about jihad.


When confronted for answers, Muslim leaders should abandon their defensive positions and come forward to contribute to the debate honestly and truthfully. These are very serious issues, which require scrutiny at all levels of society. And perhaps, the Muslim community leaders may get ahead of the authorities in finding solutions to the problem. Underlying issues must also be understood and addressed. I am not convinced that the bright twin Somali sisters from Manchester chose Jihad in Syria rather than the one in Somalia on their own accord or with a well thought out plan. Who were the girls running from? Were they escaping their own parents who, perhaps, coerced them to an upcoming arranged marriage? We need to closely study the individual cases; part of the solution may lie there. In my understanding, some of the reasons that young Muslims go to jihad in the Middle East and other jihad hotspots are due to feelings of dissatisfaction with both their community’s and the West’s way of life. We need to know why in order to confront it head-on.

The Muslim Council of Britain and others who claim to represent the Muslim community should say more. Repeating that the Muslim faith is a peaceful religion is not enough. We also need more Arab academics to appear on our television news bulletins to air their views. Equally, politicians should tone down the rhetoric for the need of more legislation with increased punishments designed specifically for would be jihadists. We already have enough laws to address the problem. What is lacking though are effective prevent strategies. Are we using the right expertise? What are the differences between the South Asian and Arab narratives when it comes to modern jihad? These scenarios need to be looked at and tackled.

Meanwhile, let us briefly revisit the Trojan horse saga and what happened in the city of Birmingham earlier this summer. Michael Gove, the then education secretary swiftly drafted investigators to several schools in the city, suspending the education and other activities of hundreds of impressionable Muslim boys and girls. The manner in which that action was taken by the government, moving-in early morning without warning, will have an impact on children’s psyche for many years to come. These children saw the government move as war being declared on their community. Surely there were other ways to find out wrong doings without shutting down school activities; and for that matter, without the frenzied tabloid fun fair that continues to this day. This kind of action is going to have a negative impact on young people with feelings of otherness.

And what happened to these kids and their parents after returning to resume their studies? The children and their parents in the city had to face the camera crews and reporters outside school gates, filming and interrogating them. One mother told Channel 4 News: ‘what is the point of us trying to integrate; every time we do we’re somehow told it is not good enough, or we’re not getting it right. What happens when they (the children) go for a job, or try to get work experience, and employers read that they’re from one of these so-called extremist schools?’ The frustration expressed by this mother is a part of widely held views by the Muslim community in Britain and it needs to be addressed.

By the way, who are the Western jihadis? Both sides of the argument must be very careful as we know very little about what a future Jihadi might look like. In fact he can be called Richard Reed (remember the shoe bomber) in a previous life or as in the case of Douglas McArther McCain, may have been brought up by an all American family in the town of New Hope, Minneapolis. McCain died in Syria this week while his best friend and classmate - another all American jihadist called Troy Kastigar - lost his life in Mogadishu in 2009 while fighting for Al Shabab.

Whichever angle we look at strategies to defeat the new worldwide jihad movement, one thing is for sure: we are in an uncharted territory. And what would my solution to the problem be? Look beyond spooks and self-appointed experts who are running havoc in our world.

As I pulled the door handle to exit the shop, my local Kurdish shop keeper whispered in a low voice: ‘I have heard that thousands are going to Iraq and Syria from destination across Europe; do not believe the small numbers that you hear from television news.’ I halt at the step to listen a bit more to what he had to say. And he adds: ‘do you know that ISIS has drones too?’



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Why do British socialists hope Scotland will vote for independence?

Andy Wynne


A vote for Scottish independence will be a vote against the inequality and all that the British state represents. However, independence, in reality, will bring little change for the poor and working class.

Today’s events in the UK could turn out to be a political earthquake – the break up of the imperialist war mongering British state. The people of Scotland are voting in a referendum on independence.

This is a rare chance for people to vote on whether they want to stay in ‘their’ country. Working class people have been turning out in their hundreds to mass public meetings to discuss this issue. Many will be voting against the ‘United Kingdom’ and all it represents.

A vote for independence will be a vote against the imperial past of Britain and the more recent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It will also be a vote against the poverty and inequality, which are worse in many parts of Scotland than the rest of Britain. There are more private school pupils per head of the population in Edinburgh than any other town or city in Britain. Showing that amongst the poverty there is much wealth.

A vote for independence will be a vote against the Queen and other remnants of feudalism including the huge landowning estates. In many parts of Scotland huge landed estates are used as the playgrounds for hunting and fishing for the rich or investment in huge areas of forestry.

The Thatcher and Major governments unleashed unemployment, deindustrialisation, government spending cuts, welfare restructuring and the poll tax on Scotland. Even when the Scottish people repeatedly voted against such policies, with very few Conservative Members of Parliament being elected, these neoliberal ‘reforms’ continued.

Devolution and the introduction of a Scottish parliament have already changed politics in Scotland and brought some improvements for the poor and working classes. In Scotland, unlike in the rest of Britain, there are no university student fees, no charges for medicines and the health service is under less threat from privatisation.

Independence provides the opportunity for further change. The removal of the bases for Trident nuclear weapons and US military bases, for example, have been promised.

In reality, Britain is not united, but like most countries in the world it is fragmented with many communities that would like independence – or in the case of Northern Ireland to re-join the Republic of Ireland.

As socialists, we do not support ‘our country’, the state or the government. We know that the state, the police, the army and the prisons are not there to protect us, but to be used against us to protect the rich. So we remember that it was the real threat of the armed might of the state on the streets of the major cities that led the trade union leaders to panic and call off the last general strike in January 2012.

We know that the police are used to frighten and repress the working class. It is the poor people who die in police custody and fill all the prisons. In contrast, the rich elite are regularly provided with protection and armed escorts by the police and soldiers.

A vote for Scottish independence will be a vote against the inequality of Scotland and all that the British state represents. However, independence, in reality, will bring little change for the poor and working class. They will have to continue their struggles to win the fight against neoliberalism, privatisation and to ensure that Scottish oil is used for the benefit of the mass of the people and not just the rich elite.

* Andy Wynne is a British socialist working in sub-Sharan Africa, currently in Nigeria.



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Advocacy & campaigns

Jewish Voices for a Just Peace condemns Archbishop Tutu being compared to Hitler


The group says Zionism is never equivalent to anti-Semitism. They also take issue with the distorted and dishonest representation of the Palestinian solidarity movement as a movement invested in the ‘destruction of Jews’.

17 September 2014

We, South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) refer to the op-ed article in the South African Jewish Report (SAJR) online dated 10 September 2014 in which chairperson of Likud SA, Leon Reich, compares Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, to Hitler and Stalin.

Given Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s history, international standing, Nobel peace prize and character as a struggle stalwart and one of the great and unwavering contemporary moral voices in this country and the world, as South African Jews we cannot emphasise enough how strongly we condemn the article and the position of its author.

We utterly reject the assumption that dissent from Zionism is equivalent to anti-Semitism. We also take issue with the article’s distorted and dishonest representation of the Palestinian solidarity movement as a movement invested in the ‘destruction of Jews’. This is an age-old myth that is perpetuated by the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and some Jews in order to maintain a siege mentality amongst Jews in South Africa. We are also offended by the tone of the so-called apology published by SAJR online. The apology is more concerned with the way in which the article may have offended some Jews with its reference to the Holocaust than it is with making amends to Tutu by offering a sincere and unequivocal apology, as would be fitting under the circumstances.

The reason that we speak out as Jews against this offensive article is that this attack on Tutu’s character was launched by a Jewish organisation, speaks to a Jewish audience, and frequently invokes the collective ‘we’ which assumes that the Jewish community is homogenous in its views. For this very reason, we feel that it is important to state that we will not sit in silence while hateful utterances such as these are said in the name of all South African Jews. As proud South African Jews, we reject the comparison of Archbishop Tutu to Hitler. This comparison is hate-speech, libelous and morally offensive. We also reject the petulant apology and call on the SAJR to immediately issue a sincere statement unequivocally apologizing to Tutu for the verbal and visual comparison to Hitler.

We are of the view that charges should be laid against Reich and that he should be prosecuted for libel.


Jessica Sherman – 084 485 6704
Rina King – 076 785 7944


South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) is a group of Jewish South Africans who recognise that the South African Jewish community is not homogenous in its thinking and that there are many different views on Israel. Many Jews in our country are deeply troubled by the actions of Israel and the human rights abuses which are inflicted on Palestinians. Many Jews are afraid to speak about these abuses for fear of being ostracized. As such, JVJP aims to facilitate respectful dialogue and discussion amongst South African Jews.

Mlungisi challenges anti-terror law in court

Peter Kenworthy


Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act is a “flawed” and “inherently repressive” piece of legislation, according to Amnesty International. Mlungisi Makhanya, who has been charged under the act for wearing a t-shirt, is challenging it in court.

“The Terrorism Act's definition is ridiculously overboard,” says Mlungisi Makhanya. “It does not follow international norms on the combat of terrorism”. He is the Secretary General of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in the tiny absolute monarchy of Swaziland, a political party that is seen as a terrorist organization according to the country's Suppression of Terrorism Act.

And he should know. In April, he was charged together with six other PUDEMO-members for wearing a t-shirt with a PUDEMO logo and allegedly chanting slogans that call for political reform in Swaziland, or as the charges put it, “chanting terrorist slogans”. Makhanya and his co-accused grant that they wore the t-shirts, but deny having shouted the slogans. Their next court session will be on September 15.

Many other PUDEMO members, including PUDEMO President Mario Masuku, are in prison for alleged “terrorism”. Masuku is charged with shouting “Viva PUDEMO” and criticizing the Swazi government on May Day.

Makhanya is therefore challenging the law together with the six others who were charged with him in April. “We are asking the court to force the government to rework the Act. We believe its broad and vague definition of a 'terrorist act' is incompatible with the constitution and Swaziland's human rights obligations.”

Terrorism is commonly defined as violent acts intended to create fear that deliberately targets the safety of civilians. A UN Secretary General report from 2004, for instance, described terrorism as any act “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants.”

Amnesty International has defined terrorism as the use of deadly or serious violence, to cause fear among the population, and to further an underlying political or ideological goal. Only when all these three conditions are fulfilled should an act be criminalized as terrorist, says Amnesty in a report on the Swazi Terrorism Act.

Mlungisi Makhanya insists in his affidavit to Swaziland's High Court that he was only exercising his right to freedom of speech by wearing the t-shirt and that PUDEMO has never advocated violence and never been involved in any terrorist acts. “PUDEMO's peaceful nature appears from its constitution as well as from the various political utterances that it has made from time to time,” he wrote.

Swaziland absolute monarch, King Mswati III, called Nelson Mandela “an icon” and praised his “outstanding wisdom, spirit and moral stature” when Mandela passed away last year. But under the current definitions of “terrorism” in the Suppression of Terrorism Act, Mandela would surely have been detained and charged, had his struggle for democracy been in Swaziland and not in neighbouring South Africa.

Mlungisi Makhanya's challenge will be heard in Swaziland's High Court on December 1 and if it is successful it will change the course of history in Swaziland in a big way, he says. “Wearing a PUDEMO-t-shirt or shouting Viva PUDEMO won't be a criminal offense anymore, and it will pave the way for Swazi's to meaningfully take part in the affairs of their country without fear of arrest and detention.”

Section 24 of Swaziland's Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, while section 25 guarantees the right to freedom of association. Swaziland has signed several human rights treaties, including the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, and has adopted a UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, a document that states that “measures to ensure the respect for human rights for all and the rule of law [are] the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.”

* Peter Kenworthy is a journalist with Africa Contact, Denmark



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Mobilizing for a successful 8th Pan African Congress in Accra

Isaac Dadzie


The 8th Pan African Congress will be held at the Accra International Conference Centre. Its main objective is to galvanise Pan African efforts towards Africa’s renewal including its total socio-cultural and politico-economic independence, self-reliance and liberation

If things go on well according to plan, over 300 delegates from around the world will gather at the Accra International Conference Centre on the 27th and 28th of October this year to deliberate on critical areas of interest relating to the development and liberation of the African people. The International Preparatory Committee (IPC) has made a political call, inviting individuals and organisations to participate in the 8th Pan African Congress (PAC) scheduled to be held in Accra, Ghana. In a statement signed in July 2014 by the Chairman of the Pan African Movement based in Kampala, Major-General Kahinda Otafire, this year’s Congress seeks to keep faith with the broad character of all previous congresses. He stressed that the Congress will be opened to ‘all shades of opinion, groups and individuals in the whole Pan African world.’

To this end, a Local Organizing Committee (LOC), chaired by Mr. Kwesi Pratt Jnr, has been established to ensure maximum participation of local organisations in the Congress. The Government of Ghana has pledged to support the organisation of the Congress. Flared with the passion to deliver, the LOC is made up of voluntary organisations such as the Socialist Forum of Ghana (SFG), Rastafari Council of Ghana, Musicians Union of Ghana, Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), Trades Union Congress of Ghana and some individuals who have all since its establishment undertaken some significant steps in achieving maximum participation.

In an effort to reach out to broad based organisations, the LOC on Tuesday 26th of August 2014, held meetings with various organisations including youth and students movements, the faith-based organisations, the Rastafari community and other organisations. The purpose of these meetings was to solicit for their participation, ideas and input into the planning and implementation of the Congress. The outcome of these deliberations was very fruitful, especially when many expressed enthusiasm to collaborate with the LOC to carry out some pre-congress activities. Pre-congress activities like composing a congress song, organizing seminars and fora to create awareness, involvement of selected senior high school in the opening ceremony of the congress, organizing national debate, essay and quiz competitions, and Africanizing the congress, were some of the important suggestions and decisions of the meetings. All organisations have agreed to work towards achieving a dialogue that would reflect the concrete situations and aspirations of the African people.

The 8th Pan African Congress will be held at the Accra International Conference Centre. Its main objective is to galvanise Pan African efforts towards Africa’s renewal including its total socio-cultural and politico-economic independence, self-reliance and liberation. Specifically, the Congress hopes to propel informed dialogue by trades unions, policy experts, artists, historians, youth, women, cadres of revolutionary fronts, and civil society activists to reflect and develop strategies on current threats and opportunities within the global political economy. It seeks to discuss topical areas such as the foundational roots of Pan Africanism and contemporary dynamics of Pan Africanism in the 21st Century; global African citizenship and the struggles for human and peoples’ rights, dignity, popular democracy and social justice; reparative justice for historical and on-going injustices; African arts, culture and media; Education, Science, Innovation and technology for liberation; governing migration, free movement of people and realizing full African citizenship; pan Africanism, the emancipation of women, women’s rights, humanization of men and leadership of the women’s movement: gender, masculinities & power dialogue; Pan Africanism, youth leadership, participation and empowerment: inter-generational dialogue; and many other areas.

Pan Africanism has been on the agenda of the African people since the beginning of the nineteenth century when many Africans in the diaspora began to create platforms in finding strategies for the continents liberation as well as the liberation of all Africans across the globe. The formation of the African Association in London in 1897, the first pan African conference in London in 1900 and the series of pan African congresses which began in 1919 in Paris up to the 1994 7th PAC in Kampala have been recognized to be the historical landmarks for drawing up the agenda of continental unity and emancipation. It is worth that during such occasion, heroes like W.E.B Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Amy Ashwood Garvey, Henry Sylvester Williams, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Casely Hayford, George Padmore, C.L.R James, Julius Nyerere, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Haile Selassie and many others who have immensely contributed to the foundation and development of Pan Africanism be remembered and acknowledged.

All hopes are that the Congress will achieve maximum participation, deliberate on critical unresolved questions around Pan African unity and resolve to work with a new structure potent enough to crash imperialism and neocolonialism in its all forms.

Sudan: Human rights defender Hassan Ishaq on hunger strike in detention


The journalist and human rights activist suffers from constant migraines and severe back pain as a result of a beating to his head, back and legs. Despite this, he has been denied medical access. His lawyer's letters to the prison administration to take Hassan Ishaq's medical condition seriously and grant him access to medical care have been ignored

On 15 September 2014, human rights defender Mr Hassan Ishaq declared that he has begun a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention. Hassan Ishaq has been detained since his arrest by Sudanese Security Forces on 10 June 2014 after reporting on a speech delivered by an opposition party in Al Nuhud city in West Kordofan. He is currently being held at Al-Nuhud prison.

Hassan Ishaq is a journalist and employee of Al Jareeda newspaper. He is a blogger and an activist in Grifina movement (“We are fed up”). He also reports on the impact of the policies and actions of the National Congress Party and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on human rights defenders and marginalised groups in Sudan

On 10 June 2014, Al Jareeda newspaper assigned Hassan Ishaq to cover the speech delivered by the head of the opposition party, the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP). The NISS detained Hassan Ishaq shortly after the speech was over under the 2010 National Security Act, which grants the NISS extensive powers to arrest and detain people up to four and a half months without judicial review. Under the Emergency Laws of West Kordofan, security forces are permitted to detain a person for up to six month without charges, subject to renewal.

Reportedly, Hassan Ishaq suffers from constant migraines and severe back pain as a result of a beating to his head, back and legs. Despite this, the human rights defender has been denied medical access. His lawyer wrote letters to the prison administration to take Hassan Ishaq's medical condition seriously and grant him access to medical care but he has yet to receive an answer.

Hassan Ishaq declared that he would begin a hunger strike to protest his ongoing detention and the poor medical provision in detention. He reportedly began his hunger strike on 15 September 2014.

Front Line Defenders is concerned at the ongoing detention of Hassan Ishaq and the poor medical provision in detention and believes that the Hassan Ishaq's detention is directly related to his work documenting human rights. Front Line Defenders is further concerned at the use of emergency laws to silence human rights defenders' legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Sudan to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Hassan Ishaq as it believed that he is being held solely as a result of his peaceful and legitimate work protecting and promoting human rights;
2. Ensure that the treatment of Hassan Ishaq, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the “Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment”, adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
3. Provide the necessary medical treatment for Hassan Ishaq while in detention;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Sudan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

Books & arts

Euphoria of Kenyan music fading in Europe

Mickie Ojijo


Kenya's top singers no longer attract the crowds they once did in central Europe, where in the first place, the population is scant and spread out, forcing event organisers to think twice before inviting any.

There are three main reasons for this: First, and to be specific the population of Kenyans in Europe is static after stringent Shengen Visa entry requirements of 26 EU countries, and three non- EU countries were harmonised in the mid-2000s.

During the same period the German government added a caveat to the flow of au pairs into the country, and those who came in between 1990s and 2005 are either babysitting their own kids themselves, married, engrossed in furthering their education or they have simply outlived the night binge.

Again, entertainment has become an economic issue to most Kenyans because they are spread in cities that are far flung from each other.

Second, Kenyan singers have themselves contributed to the downward spiral. A majority of them are stuck to their hits of yesteryears.

The simplistic effort with which contemporary music is produced in pre-recorded fruity-loop studios - which do not require gruesome rehearsals - is another factor and, as a result attracts also, a large number of untalented solo career singers now saturate the domestic market with music that can hardly sell beyond Kenya's borders – all to the chagrin of the few gifted musicians.

Like football or athletics, no amount of training or practice can make one a musician – it is inborn. Pasting lyrics on pre-recorded instrumentals, one cannot claim ownership and it is not the same as composing a song with an assortment of instruments played live that can take weeks or months to bring to a desired format – I call them ‘singer’ since most of them sing in one keynote voice!

Music is about creativity and spontaneity. Replicating one beat adopted in an earlier hit, belting out the same old songs ad nauseam, is a sure route to oblivion. Lawrance Madole or Marlaw might have faded from the music scene, but not his songs with melodies that are distinctly unrelated.

With his trade mark of hoarse voice Josheph Mayanja (Chameleone) of Uganda steers away from monotony and has carved for himself a niche in the entertainment circles, releasing danceable repertoires as often as he has been doing.

In this league are others like the bongo maestro Rehema Challamila (Ray C), and the late Lucky Dube; their vivacious voices will not fade soon, much like the late Luambo Makiadi, better known as Franco, the accomplished Congolese guitarist, composer and singer whose music has been transfixed in the memories of many 25 years after his demise.

Third is the lack of sensitivity to the prevailing economic situation by our singers clinging to the belief that the euphoria their hits elicited several years ago is still intact; this is misleading. They also believe disposable income is in abundance abroad no matter what one does, thereby contributing to the fatigue of fans, organisers and NGOs.

The term organiser means business risk-taking people as opposed to promoter who is paid specific amount of money to facilitate an event.

Kenyan singers attract economically untenable crowds; Jaguar 's tour in July of this year drew less than 120 people, a sad testimony compared to the 300-plus crowd that came to see Chameleone a few weeks earlier.

Another case in point is Diamond Platinumz’s tour in Stuttgart in 30 August, which was marred by chaos. Fans ravaged the hall utilities and stole or destroyed the DJs' laptops after the organisers delayed Diamond's arrival to the venue to mop up enough money to pay the singer his balance in advance, confirming the obvious that Diamond was communicating through mobile phones with his friends already in the hall and he knew his hosts were uncomfortable.

But the venue was already a war zone by the time the money issue had been cleared up; nevertheless the police was fighting a running battle with the revellers, and this made it impossible for the terrified bongo flava star to leave the car when he eventually showed up at 4 am.

To the Nigerian promoters, it was a double tragedy – they are now ruminating over the scale of the damages they had to settle. It is rumoured the singer will be returning for a free performance, which revellers suspect will cost more to put a bottle on the table.

With some organisers dropping along the way and others concentrating on disco events, Lady Jullie has in her private capacity remained resilient along side Kenya Development Associates, a non-profit making organisation credited with enabling most East African entertainers to make their débuts in Germany and other parts of Europe since 2003.

It does not make economic sense to engage a singer whose market has sunk to unprofitable level for them to make pay demands of Kshs350, 000 and above in fee alone to travel all the way to entertain 130 fans bringing in just Kshs229, 000 from gate collection at a hall costing Kshs117, 000 plus Kshs105, 000 before miscellaneous costs are added.

Resorting to the up-coming singers charging less performance fees has equally proved disastrous due to the fact that costs such as those of Air ticket, Visa, Insurance, Hall and personnel remain the same. Whether drinks are sold or not recouping the total costs is a mirage. It is even more horrendous to an organiser when a singer demands business class tickets and additional shows in other cities or the neighbouring countries.

Our music is still known simply as ‘Kenyan Hip-Hop’ or ‘Kenyan Dancehall’, save for Ohangla or Mugithi, which are rightly typical Kenyan. There is no American Jazz, Soul or R&B and without the desire, will and talent to grow, no one has missed our CDs in music stores outside Kenya.

* Mickie Ojijo is a banker in Germany, currently doing part-time consultancy work and a freelance journalist a long time contributor to the only English magazine, The African Courier, in Germany. He is a founder member of Kenya Development Associates-Germany and is its secretary.



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Letters & Opinions

Soyinka, Jonathan and Uhuru’s kidney PR

Henry Makori


It is unacceptable for national leaders to resort to populist manoeuvres, even taking advantage of the suffering of poor citizens, to gain political capital. Tokenism replaces comprehensive policy responses to critical national challenges

Last weekend, Wole Soyinka, the doyen of African literature and an indefatigable soldier for freedom, thundered against “a culture of civic callousness, a coarsening of sensibilities and a general human disregard” in his home country, Nigeria. Reason?

“A bunch of self-seeking morons and sycophants chose to plumb the abyss of self-degradation and drag the nation down to their level” by putting up banners and signs in the federal capital Abuja with the words: BRING BACK JONATHAN 2015.

To Soyinka, this “dancing obscenity” mocked the global Internet campaign #BringBackOurGirls, which was launched months ago to demand the safe return/rescue of some 300 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in northern Nigeria. The government has spectacularly failed to rescue the girls, despite loud and repeated assurances plus Western military intervention.

Untouched by the tragic plight of the girls and their families, the self-seeking morons who put up the banners and signs sought to take advantage of that slogan to campaign for the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan in next year’s elections!

President Jonathan has distanced himself from the campaign and directed that the banners and signs be removed, as they are “a highly insensitive parody of the #Bring Back Our Girls hash tag.”

Something akin to this putrid politicking happened in Kenya last week. A media report about schoolgirls in central Kenya who were raising funds for the treatment of their colleague who has a kidney disease caught the attention of State House. President Uhuru Kenyatta then announced that the nation would be footing 17-year-old Stella’s medical bill.

"I was touched by your efforts to fundraise for your colleague. I felt we must act and do so now to support you," Kenyatta said after meeting five students from Stella's school.

A culture of civic callousness, a coarsening of sensibilities and a general human disregard!

How many people in Kenya are battling debilitating illnesses and are unable to pay for treatment? Has Uhuru sought them out with government offers to pay their medical bills? Is he waiting for the media to highlight their suffering before he acts? Or is Stella's life somehow more important than those of other Kenyans?

What is Uhuru’s policy response? Instead, what we have been treated to is a despicable populist attempt by Uhuru to use the sickness of Stella to gain political capital. It was a great opportunity for Uhuru’s PR people to project him as a compassionate leader.

When did it become the business of government to engage in philanthropy – using public money? The government must offer comprehensive policy responses to national questions such as the rising burden of chronic illnesses in Kenya.

* Henry Makori is an editor with Pambazuka News.



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