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Pambazuka News 695: Misdiagnosis: Ebola, food myths and militants

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Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Obituaries, 6. Books & arts


Demilitarizing epidemic diseases in Africa

Narcisse Jean Alcide Nana


cc RFI
President Obama has responded to the Ebola crisis in Africa by sending 3,000 military personnel to the affected region. The real beneficiary of this militarised messianism is, in fact, the military-industrial complex back in the US

The international system has long become inured to the relentless hiccup of African insecurity malaise. Major clichés and few strong allegories conjure up the spasms of this ongoing malaise to the point of oversimplifying the field of African security. A cascade of crises encapsulated by patterns of sociopolitical ‘fragility’, ‘failure’, and ‘vulnerabilities’ has been plying the continent’s security environment with regards to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Ebola outbreak in West and Central Africa, as well as the hydra of terrorism and bout of violent conflicts. To be sure, the continent as a surrogate ideological battleground between Western democracies and a soviet-centric security dilemma has been put to rest. Noticeably today, a post 9-11 terror-centric security messianism has been perking up on Washington’s foreign policy chariot wheels in Africa. This security messianism is characterized by an insulated minimalist engagement riding on a missionary rhetorical commitment to African security.

Not surprisingly, the continent is broadly painted under a missionary diplomatic utopia that promises to terminate the ills of Africa. Putting aside some headier geopolitical matters, President Bush in July 2005, with an evangelical tone, made the confession that the U.S. ‘seek[s] progress in Africa because conscience demands it.’ Binding tightly moral imperatives with security concerns, Bush exited the White House cementing his signature legacy as the AIDS president. He left behind a strong savoury trademark of his long-standing gig to defeating the tides of malaria and AIDS on the continent. By the time he left the world stage, President Bush had increased aid to the continent by more than 640 percent. In humanitarian aid, the continent was the beneficiary of more than $5 billion a year. The $46 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was instrumental for at least 2 million people who received antiretroviral drugs.

To be sure, the fine apostles of HIV/AIDS policy wonk have been battling out support for access to drugs and treatment for AIDS patients. As a result of this global battle, expensive treatment and drugs for AIDS had garnered public resources and attention as well. Ironically, expensive drugs and treatment have been raining down on environments without proper hospitals, qualified medical doctors, and poorly equipped clinics. While antiretroviral drugs are available to patients, the resources to training health workers and building schools of medicine have been drying up. Tellingly, American Ebola victims from the West and Central have to be flown home to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta for treatment. Though the much-hyped PEPFAR project christened President Bush as the healer- in- chief on African shores, the everlasting romance between militarized health foreign policy and security is hard to disconnect. As a shining jewel on President Bush’s chest, PEPFAR stands out as a corporate bonanza for US pharmaceutical corporations to harvest safe vouchers from financial manna. Oil corporations such as Mobil Oil and Chevron own a share of some HIV-medicine patents and medication. Not only had US foreign policy aid to HIV made vast profit for US firms, but it softly tied up HIV/AIDS’ industrial headquarters to oil corporations and the creation of the unified command for Africa to oversee security and conduct military operations as necessary.

Of course, the hotly touted Obama’s West African foreign policy pledged a major US military-led surge to stop the Ebola virus as a global health and national security threat. Far from throwing a monkey wrench on military expansion, such a foreign policy vision has not divorced from a militarized version of epidemic diseases. On September 16, 2014, President Obama made public his decision to establish a joint military command headquarters in Liberia by quickly dispatching 3,000 US troops to Monrovia and Senegal. The Ebola outbreak crafted its own response to the military footprint on the continent. The Obama administration pledged $ 1.26 billion to fighting against Ebola that has already claimed more than 2,800 lives in West Africa. The crisis has spurred the opportunity to hew a close look at some nichified source of security fixes in order to reinforce the post-9-11 security quandaries.

President Obama’s quick policy stand is not unprecedented. The root of the militarization of Washington foreign policy goes back to 1947 with the Cold War. The National Security Act of 1947 amends the US armed forces as intrinsically embedded with national security policy in peacetime. To be sure, demilitarizing epidemic diseases in West Africa will divert resources to building roads that lead to good hospitals and schools of medicine to train public health personnel for the continent.

* Narcisse Jean Alcide Nana holds a BA in Philosophy, MA in Political Theology from Boston College and is currently specializing in International Security at the University of Leicester, UK.



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Exposed: The ‘heroic Ebola doctor’ myth

Jon Rappoport


cc ABC
The image of the heroic doctor is actually promoted as a diversion, a cover story, a false trail, a way to conceal the true causes of illness—and a way to refrain from eradicating these true causes

Every psyop [psychological operation] needs heroes as well as villains.

So-called epidemics are managed out of a playbook.

The playbook looks very much like something the CIA would come up with.

I’m going to give you my raw notes. They tell the story.

One: Here’s how the medical matrix is built: “Heroes come to the rescue.” Doctors set up clinics in the middle of epidemics and save lives. They work miracles.

Two: These heroes expose the need for more clinics, more healthcare centers, more hospitals. “The grand solution.”

Three: Globally, there is great disparity in medical care for the rich and the poor. This disparity must be overcome. This is the great mission.

Four: These are all lies.

Five: And many doctors, medical bureaucrats, pharma executives, researchers, and NGO organizations know these are lies.

Six: No bacteria/virus-epidemic will ever be solved by medical intervention, because those epidemics aren’t caused by germs. They’re caused by weakened and destroyed immune systems, which can’t fight off the germs.

Seven: Not long after one epidemic runs its course, a new one begins in the same territory.

Eight: It’s all about the terrain, in which debilitated immune systems are a chronic condition.

Nine: Any old germ which sweeps through such an area kills large numbers of people.

Ten: Widespread immune-system failure is caused by non-medical factors, and can only be fixed by eliminating those factors.

Eleven: The true immunosuppressive factors include: severe malnutrition; starvation; war; contaminated water; basic lack of sanitation; overcrowding; fertile growing-land stolen from the people; industrial pollutants and pesticides; toxic medical drugs and vaccines which push already compromised immune systems over the edge into complete failure.

Twelve: The image of the heroic doctor is actually promoted as a diversion, a cover story, a false trail, a way to conceal the true causes of illness—and a way to refrain from eradicating these true causes.

Thirteen: A debilitated and destroyed population doesn’t have the ability to resist corporate takeover of their countries’ land and resources.

Fourteen: If the kill rate isn’t high enough to suit the depopulationists, they can introduce more toxic vaccines. They can insert more toxic elements into those vaccines. They can administer more toxic medicines and spread around more pesticides. They can start a new war.

If you want a perfect example of the cover story, read the interview-transcript of the “Democracy Now!” episode, “Dr. Paul Farmer on African Ebola Outbreak: Growing Inequality in Global Healthcare at Root of Crisis.”

Farmer is the co-founder of a Harvard-associated NGO, Partners in Health (twitter: @PIH) (see also @lastmilehealth and @WellbodySL). He’s a professor at Harvard and a special adviser to the UN. He has the reputation of a heroic doctor.

Farmer: “Well, I think the most important thing to understand is that this [Ebola outbreak] is a reflection of long-standing and growing inequalities of access to basic systems of healthcare delivery, and that includes the staff, the stuff and, again, these systems.”

Not once during the extensive Amy Goodman interview does Farmer mention the true conditions that spawn epidemics.

Instead, the theme is: inequality in healthcare.

This is the diversion.

When it comes to epidemics, this is the big lie.

Build enough medical clinics for the poor and life will change.

Sure it will. Take a person who is suffering from life-threatening gastrointestinal disease, because he is routinely drinking sewage that’s being pumped directly into the water supply, and give him antibiotics. Wonderful. Thanks, Doc.

Take a person who can barely stand, because he’s been pumped full of toxic vaccines—on top of his already-failing immune system—and give him…what? An antidepressant? AZT?

Solve millions of “starvation cases” with drugs?

The truth is starkly obvious when you look at it.

“Your house is starting to burn down. Three of the eight rooms are on fire. You know why? It needs a new coat of paint. Look at the heroic painter. He’s up on a ladder, sanding and priming the exterior walls. Let’s give him a Nobel Prize.”

Ah, but you see, there are many people out there who want to be associated with “humanitarian causes.” They want to be known for that association. They want to feel good about themselves.

So they pick a symbol—a heroic doctor, a politician, a medical organization—and they say: “That is goodness. My ‘role models’ are good. I’m good. And isn’t what’s happening so very, very tragic. We must help. We must remedy ‘the inequality in healthcare’”.

How many dupes can dance on the head of a pin? Apparently, there is no limit.

* Jon Rappoport is the author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX. He was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine and health. This article was taken from his blog.



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US militarizes response to Ebola crisis while Cuba pledges medical aid

Abayomi Azikiwe


cc VOA
Whereas America has sent soldiers to fight Ebola, Cuba has pledged medical personnel. This gesture of revolutionary foreign policy provides an example of how underdeveloped states which have a legacy of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism, can transform through a process of class struggle and self-reliance.

A team of eight experts and journalists visiting the southern region of the West African state of Guinea were found dead in the town of Nzerekore on Sept. 20. Reports indicate that they were there to educate people about the nature of the disease for the purpose of its prevention.

Reports from Guinea say that the delegation had met with elders in the community but were later attacked by youths. Investigations into the details of the killings are ongoing.

There is tremendous mistrust surrounding the spread of the Ebola disease in some West African states where the epidemic has had an impact. Doctors Without Borders reported in April that their teams were forced to withdraw from Macenta in Guinea after being stoned by youth who said they were there to spread the disease.

Newspaper articles and rumors have circulated that the outbreak is a direct result of biological warfare being waged by imperialist countries against the African continent.

Although no one knows what the motivations were of those who carried out the killings in Guinea, obviously there are many people who mistrust the motivations of foreign aid workers responding to the crisis. Guinea is the first country that was identified in the latest spread of the disease which has periodically struck in Central and West Africa over the last three decades.


The most widely discussed and controversial article related to the spread of the Ebola was published by the leading newspaper in Liberia, The Observer. Dr. Cyril Broderick, a former professor of plant pathology at the university there, asserted that the spread of the disease is a direct result of U.S. Department of Defense bio-warfare against Africa.

Broderick’s article was published on Sept. 9 and stated that “Africa must not relegate the Continent to become the locality for disposal and the deposition of hazardous chemicals, dangerous drugs, and chemical or biological agents of emerging diseases. There is urgent need for affirmative action in protecting the less affluent of poorer countries, especially African citizens, whose countries are not as scientifically and industrially endowed as the United States and most Western countries, sources of most viral or bacterial GMOs that are strategically designed as biological weapons. It is most disturbing that the U. S. Government has been operating a viral hemorrhagic fever bioterrorism research laboratory in Sierra Leone.”

This same author goes on to ask “Are there others? Wherever they exist, it is time to terminate them. If any other sites exist, it is advisable to follow the delayed but essential step: Sierra Leone closed the US bioweapons lab and stopped Tulane University for further testing.” (Sept. 9)

Broderick has been attacked for publishing the article and according to Health Impact News “The western pro-pharma media has chided Dr. Broderick, saying that such an inflammatory piece of writing is ‘irresponsible’ since so many Africans are already distrustful of western medicine. They see western medicine as the answer to Africa’s deadly diseases such as Ebola, while Dr. Broderick sees it as the cause. Dr. Broderick states ‘African people are not ignorant and gullible, as is being implicated.’” (, Sept. 21)

Following the publication of this article, President Barack Obama announced on Sept. 16 that the U.S. would deploy 3,000 troops to the affected West African states as a means to combat the disease. Obama said in a press release that “The United States will leverage the unique capabilities of the U.S. military and broader uniformed services to help bring the epidemic under control. These efforts will entail command and control, logistics expertise, training, and engineering support.” (White House press statement)

Washington is already heavily involved militarily in Africa. Several thousand Pentagon troops, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and State Department functionaries are on the continent as part of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). This intervention since 2008 has created more instability and underdevelopment in Africa as represented by the events in Egypt, Mali, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria where the ostensible partnerships aimed at curbing “terrorism” has prompted the intensification of conflict, dislocation and in the case of the Horn of Africa, famine.

Pentagon and CIA drone operations have carried out numerous targeted assassinations in Somalia. In Mali, a U.S.-trained military officer returned to this former French colony and staged a coup providing a rationale for internal destabilization as well as an ongoing occupation by Paris.


Meanwhile, the revolutionary nation of Cuba pledged to send medical personnel in the fight against the disease. Cuba has a profound history in providing unconditional solidarity with the African continent.

In an address on Sept. 18 before the United Nations Security Council emergency session on Ebola, Vice Minister of Foreign Relations Abelardo Moreno told the participants that “Cuba’s response is part of our solidarity with Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the last 55 years we have collaborated in more than 158 countries, with the participation of 325,710 health workers. 76,744 collaborators have worked in 39 African countries. Today, in this sector, 4,048 Cubans are serving in 32 African nations; 2,269 of whom are doctors.” (, Sept. 19)

Moreno went on to report that “The medical brigades which will be sent to Africa to fight against Ebola form part of the "Henry Reeve International Contingent" - created in 2005 - composed of doctors specializing in combating disasters and large-scale epidemics. Cuba’s response confirms the values of solidarity which have guided the Cuban Revolution: not to give what we can spare, but to share what we have.”

This approach contrasts sharply with that of the White House and Pentagon. Cuba has built up considerable trust in Africa due to its consistent policy of international solidarity.

At least three countries which have reported Ebola cases are reporting improvements in fighting the disease and its proliferation. In Nigeria the Federal Government announced that schools would be re-opened on Sept. 22 despite opposition from the sections of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT).

In Sierra Leone there was a state of emergency declared restricting movements for three days. The government announced on Sept. 22 that the situation was now under control. Similar announcements have been made in reference to developments in Senegal where at least one case has been reported.

Nonetheless, there have been nearly 3,000 deaths reported from the disease. In addition there are still numerous questions related to the conditions under which the disease is spread and the most effective means to treat and eradicate the epidemic. (WHO Update, Sept. 22)

This outbreak does draw attention to the need for genuine independence and development on the African continent. The training of medical personnel and scientific researchers would contribute immensely to preventing future healthcare crises.

Cuban revolutionary foreign policy provides an example of how underdeveloped states which have a legacy of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism can transform through a process of class struggle and self-reliance. With over five decades of hostility from the U.S., Cuba has been able to make significant contributions to African liberation whether in the fight against settler-colonialism in Southern Africa in years past or through the contemporary challenges related to the Ebola outbreak, the training of African medical personnel and other healthcare issues.

* Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire


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Mayan people’s movement defeats Monsanto law in Guatemala

Christin Sandberg


cc RN
The unjust neo-liberal law would have given exclusivity on patented seeds to a handful of transnational companies. But Mayans resisted it relentlessly. The success of these protests is an inspiring example of what the people can achieve for themselves when they rise up to confront power in defence of their own interests.

On September 4, after ten days of widespread street protests against the biotech giant Monsanto’s expansion into Guatemalan territory, groups of indigenous people joined by social movements, trade unions and farmer and women’s organizations won a victory when congress finally repealed the legislation that had been approved in June.

The demonstrations were concentrated outside the Congress and Constitutional Court in Guatemala City during more than a week, and coincided with several Mayan communities and organizations defending food sovereignty through court injunctions in order to stop the Congress and the President, Otto Perez Molina, from letting the new law on protection of plant varieties, known as the “Monsanto Law”, take effect.

On September 2, the Mayan communities of Sololá, a mountainous region 125 kilometers west from the capital, took to the streets and blocked several main roads. At this time a list of how individual congressmen had voted on the approval of the legislation in June was circulating.

When Congress convened on September 4, Mayan people were waiting outside for a response in favour of their movement, demanding a complete cancellation of the law –something very rarely seen in Guatemala. But this time they proved not to have marched in vain. After some battles between the presidential Patriotic Party (PP) and the Renewed Democratic Liberty Party (LIDER), the Congress finally decided not to review the legislation, but cancel it.

Lolita Chávez from the Mayan People’s Council summarized the essence of what has been at stake these last weeks of peaceful protests as follows: “Corn taught us Mayan people about community life and its diversity, because when one cultivates corn one realizes that there is a variety of crops such as herbs and medical plants depending on the corn plant as well. We see that in this coexistence the corn is not selfish, the corn shows us how to resist and how to relate with the surrounding world.”


The Monsanto Law would have given exclusivity on patented seeds to a handful of transnational companies. Mayan people and social organizations claimed that the new law violated the Constitution and the Mayan people’s right to traditional cultivation of their land in their ancestral territories.

Antonio González from the National Network in Defense of Food Sovereignty and Biodiversity commented in a press conference August 21: “This law is an attack on a traditional Mayan cultivation system which is based on the corn plant but which also includes black beans and herbs; these foods are a substantial part of the staple diet of rural people.”

The new legislation would have opened up the market for genetically modified seeds which would have threatened to displace natural seeds and end their diversity. It would have created an imbalance between transnational companies and local producers in Guatemala where about 70 per cent of the population dedicate their life to small-scale agricultural activities. That is a serious threat in a country where many people live below the poverty line and in extreme poverty and where children suffer from chronic malnutrition and often starve to death.

The law was approved in June without prior discussion, information and participation from the most affected. It was a direct consequence of the free trade agreement with the US, ratified in 2005. However, recently the protests started to grow and peaked a couple of weeks ago with a lot of discussions, statements and demonstrations.

At first the government ignored the protests and appeared to be more interested in engaging in superficial forms of charity like provision of food aid while ignoring the wider and structural factors that cause and perpetuate poverty in Guatemala such as unequal land distribution, deep rooted inequalities, racism, to name but a few.

But soon enough they decided to act. Even though politicians claimed not to act on social demands, it is without doubt a decision was taken after enormous pressure from different social groups in society.


There was a great risk that the Monsanto Law would have made criminals of already repressed small farmers who are just trying to make ends meet and doing what they have done for generations – cultivating corn and black beans for their own consumption. The Monsanto Law meant that they would not have been able to grow and harvest anything that originates from natural seeds. Farmers would be breaking the laws if these natural seeds had been mixed with patented seeds from other crops as a result of pollination or wind, unless they had had a license for the patented seed from a transnational corporation like Monsanto.

Another risk expressed by ecologists was the fear that the costs for the patented seeds would have caused an increase in prices and as consequence caused a worsened food crisis for those families who could not afford to buy a license to sow.

Academics, together with the Mayan people, also feared that the law would have intensified already existing fierce social conflicts between local Mayan communities and transnational companies in a country historically and violently torn apart.


Currently international companies are very interested in gaining control of the abundant and rich natural assets that Guatemala possesses. There is just one problem: the Mayan people – or actually most people – in Guatemala do not agree with a policy of treating nature like a commodity to be sold off piece by piece, especially when they receive nothing in return. It is very difficult to argue that it is a rentable business for Guatemalan society as a whole, and less the local communities, when it is a rather small but powerful economic elite which benefits on behalf of the environment, nature and society.

So what happens when the people organize in defense of their territory? The international companies call the government and have them use whatever means necessary to remove those standing in their way so they can construct megaprojects like mines or hydroelectric dams or extend monocultures in any region they see fit without much concern for those who might be affected.

Last month three men were killed when police used violent force to evict a community whose population had organized itself to protest against a hydroelectric megaproject in their community in Alta Verapaz. Hundreds of police officers were sent to the area on orders from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mauricio López Bonilla. It was not an exceptional case by any means.


As for the Monsanto Law, for a chilling reminder of where this was most likely headed, one need look no further than the USA: according to information from Food Democracy Now, a grassroots community for sustainable food system, Monsanto’s GMO Roundup Ready soybeans, the world’s leading chemical and biotech seed company, admits to filing 150 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. This has caused fear and resentment in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

It is impossible to predict how this controversy might unfold, but the reality in Guatemala today is one marked by an ongoing conflict between the government and the Mayan people, who constitute over half of the population.

Nim Sanik, Maya Kaqchikel from Chimaltenango comments on the victory over the Monsanto Law: “The fight to preserve collective property of Mayan communities such as vegetable seeds, which historically have served as a source of development and survival for the Mayan civilization, is a way to confront the open doors that the neoliberal governments have widely open in favor of national and transnational corporations that genetically modify and commercialize the feeding of mankind. We have just taken the first step on a long journey in our struggle to conquer the sovereignty of the people in Guatemala.”

* This article was previously published by Intercontinental Cry.



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Food and the FAO’s insecurity with the two-thirds world

Rahul Goswami


cc Wiki
The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014 report depicts a one-sided picture of a malnourished ‘developing’ world, leaving out gross nutritional problems and hunger in ‘developed’ countries. Worse, this report advocates neo-liberal solutions that serve the interests of agri-business rather than critical small-holder farmers.

In its State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014 report (SOFI 2014), which has just been released, the 'world' according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) excludes North America, Europe (not just western Europe but the entire 28-country Eurozone), and countries that are members of the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 34 countries).

So, at the outset, we learn from the FAO that when it says 'world' together with 'food insecurity', it means the world minus all these countries. We must ask the first question to the three who have together signed the foreword - José Graziano da Silva (director-general of the FAO), Kanayo F. Nwanze (President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD) and Ertharin Cousin (executive director of the World Food Programme, WFP). Why is the FAO's 'world' the so-called 'low income' and 'developing' countries of Asia, Africa and South America? Is the FAO together with IFAD and WFP claiming that food insecurity exists only here and not in the European Union, in the USA and in the richer countries of the OECD? And if so, what value at all does such a document have?

The 'State of Food Insecurity in the World' series is one of the FAO flagship publications. This year's edition is the 15th in a series which began in 1999, and which the FAO has described as raising "awareness about global hunger issues, discusses underlying causes of hunger and malnutrition and monitors progress towards hunger reduction targets established at the 1996 World Food Summit and the Millennium Summit".

Of the 805 million undernourished people in the world (the hungry), 790 million according to the calculations of the FAO, IFAD and WFP are not in the 'developed' countries. But amongst the countries home to the 790 million there is an “encouraging trend” to be found as in 1990-92 their combined number of the hungry was 995 million, and with that diminishing by 205 million of what the FAO (and associated UN agencies, and associated multilateral lending banks, and divers and sundry foundations all dedicated to the abolishing of poverty) has for years called "unacceptable" and "shameful" hunger, some kind of victory is claimed.

And thereafter follows the curious pitch of a relatively short (a mere 57 pages in total, no dense tables and no denser academic prose) document. The three food agencies have emphasised that "accelerated, substantial and sustainable hunger reduction is possible with the requisite political commitment" accompanied by "relevant policy options". The SOFI 2014 is designed to show that "access to food" (note that this is only access - not sound agro-ecological smallholder cultivation, of which there is no mention, and not organically produced and community-based cultivation) has "improved rapidly and significantly in countries that have experienced overall economic progress".

And with that one of the several dominant strains of the neo-liberal / unfettered market capitalism arguments is linked to the troubling and disturbing evidence of chronic hunger - economic growth. Every country that is mentioned in the SOFI 2014 employs, in government positions and in advisory capacities, macro-economists who have been trained in the deceptive monetary and financial arts to prove to their struggling populations that GDP growth is necessary to reduce poverty and remove hunger, and they will employ this document for precisely such purposes.

The second argument is that access to food has improved "mainly in countries with adequate safety nets and other forms of social protection including for the rural poor". This provides a second policy cudgel with which to bind communities to the privatisation of welfare (such as direct benefit transfers, mobile money and mandatory enrolment without which already flimsy entitlements will be beyond reach) and the imposition of various types of 'austerity' measures.

The Millennium Development Goals have been mentioned, and the relevant goal is the first, of halving the proportion of undernourished people by 2015 which SOFI 2014 has said is "within reach" but only "if appropriate and immediate efforts are stepped up". What are the measures considered appropriate? The three authoring agencies have dispensed with camouflage. They want to see "an enabling environment and an integrated approach" adopted in the countries of the South - the 'developing' ones which are home to 98% of those measured as being hungry. This pressure supports the FAO’s insistence that Asia and the Pacific “must increase food production to meet future demand”, which contradicts the assertion that regionally, there is enough per capita food to feed Asia’s population, but of such contradictions are industry futures built.

How, in their view, can such an environment be carved out from under the noses of the smallholders that the FAO claims to admire and protect? How, in their view, can an approach - outside the ken of small farms and their short routes to local markets - be rolled out through diverse rural land mosaics? Here is their list: public and private investments to increase agricultural productivity; access to land, services, technologies and markets; the promotion of social protection programmes; the strengthening of resilience to conflict and natural disasters; the importance of specific nutrition programmes, particularly to address micronutrient deficiencies of mothers and children under five.

This prescription unrolls the gamut of measures that are demanded every month, from every 'developing' country government [pdf of SOFI 2014 here], by the food and agri-business multinationals and their collaborators and brokers (only two weeks ago, the head of PepsiCo was in India, to brazenly claim to the minister of food processing industries that PepsiCo has the experience required to provide, pack and distribute mid-day meals to schoolchildren, this from a company skilled only in vending sugary drinks and synthetic junkfood snacks).

The 'State of Food Insecurity in the World' must be seen for what it is - a blunt weapon in the hands of the multinational food and agri-business consortia whose products are responsible for globally widespread mis-nourishment, for deforestation, for the deliberate dismantling of public sector and socially vital food procurement and distribution programmes, for the grabbing of land, for the globally widespread alteration of diets and the disastrous shrinking of grain and vegetal biodiversity in diets. And because this latest trick by an FAO – which now seems inseparably wedded to the balance-sheets of the food and agri-business multinationals - is a cudgel and not an uplifting essay (which the FAO of even the 1980s still encouraged), the 2014 edition includes seven case studies not one of which is from the European Union or North America.

They are instead from Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malawi and Yemen and chosen for they "highlight some of the ways that countries tackle hunger and how external events may influence their capacity to deliver on achieving food security and nutrition objectives". Yet we know that in the USA just over one in six persons survives under an official poverty line, one in five of American households with children is food insecure and more than one in four black American households is food insecure.

Consider: "In 2013, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (20%), especially households with children headed by single women (34%) or single men (23%), Black non-Hispanic households (26%) and Hispanic households (24%)." This is what Feeding America, a hunger relief charity has said, quite starkly. We know also that Britain, the seventh richest country in the world, is deeply unequal, with Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty reporting that "millions of families across the UK are living below the breadline", with Oxfam having estimated that the number of free meals given to people in food poverty in 2013-14 by the three main food aid providers went up by 54% compared with 2012-13.

Nor is Germany, the so-called economic motor of Europe, different. The book 'Who owns Germany? The real power holders and the fairy tale of national wealth' (by Jens Berger, a fifth edition of which has been published this year) shows that the upper tenth of 1% of German households has about as much money as the bottom 85%, that the wealth of the 80,000 richest Germans is 16 times greater than the wealth of the poorest 40 million, and that the lowest 20% of Germany's population have no assets at all.

Would the FAO, IFAD and WFP have us believe, through this pamphleteering flagship publication, that the many dimensions of food security play no part in whether a family and a household have enough to eat, safe and locally produced, free of chemicals and free of Genetic Modification, at a cost they can afford? So it appears, even while major studies on social injustice in Europe, such as the detailed study conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation, prove otherwise, "Social security systems have been badly undermined by austerity measures in many countries... Particularly in southern Europe, youth unemployment has climbed to ever-new record highs. The risk of poverty has also increased further as a result of the crisis".

The factors that singly and together contribute to deep and lasting food insecurity are clear to see in the 'developed' world, and the populations (households and families) thus affected are in numbers very much larger than the countries singled out in SOFI 2014 with case studies: Bolivia has 11.02 million in 2014, Haiti 10.60 million, Madagascar 24.23 million, Malawi 17.30 million, Yemen 25.53 million. The USA has 50 million under its official poverty line, a number greater than the populations of all these countries, but SOFI 2014 ignores their hunger and their mis-nourishment and their undernourishment.

If SOFI 2014 is a slim pamphlet (but weighty in the cunning hands of food free-marketeers) the methodologies it relies on are portrayed as being broad and deep. "All available data on each dimension of food security have been compiled and on changes in these dimensions over time analysed," the report has said. Our final question therefore is: why has the claimed reduction in the number of undernourished not been balanced by the carefully documented growth in the number of obese and overweight populations in the world?

For all the saddening reasons pertaining to the rise in the number of poor households in the 'developed' countries, the incidence of obesity in their populations is directly attributable to the inability of those households to buy healthy food and subsist on a nutritious diet that is locally produced. Instead, what passes for social security - whose provision is considered a mandatory enabling provision elsewhere by the FAO - in the USA, Britain and a number of countries in Europe will allow households to purchase only the cereal-heavy, calorie-dense and fully processed products that the chemical food industry supplies.

The impact of this food and diet transformation has been felt in every country, and particularly in those countries exhorted by the FAO to grow economically as a means to reducing poverty. Instead, one malady - that of malnutrition - has been replaced by a far greater one in the form of adults and children suffering from obesity and being overweight as the very form and substance of their food staples has changed. The comprehensive study by The Lancet and released this year examined this trend over the period 1980 to 2013. From 1992 onwards - using the trend of worldwide obesity uncovered by the study and placing it in parallel with the period of 'reducing' malnourishment claimed by SOFI 2014 - the number of overweight and obese people rose by about 792 million, which is four times the reduction in the number of malnourished worldwide that is being celebrated by the FAO, IFAD and WFP.

"In developed countries, more men than women were overweight and obese, whereas in developing countries, overweight and obesity was more prevalent in women than in men, and this association persisted over time," the Lancet study had explained. "Rates of obesity seem to be increasing in both developed and developing countries, and in 2013, the prevalence of obesity was higher in women in developed and developing countries than in men."

The FAO has evolved a definition for food security that must reasonably include every ill effect of mismanaged and misdirected nutrition, but the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014 reports one side and not the other. The mismanagement of nutrition - referenced often in FAO statements that bemoan undernourishment while enough per capita food supplies exist - is called hunger and the FAO labours to connect this with 'access'. The misdirection of nutrition - as primary crop staples are industrially re-converted into low-cost formulations such as the ready-to-eat noodles and 'enriched' biscuits that are the mania amongst the labour in Asia and Africa, for that is all they can afford - just as often is seen in overweight working age populations, fed every day on cheap cereals reconstituted with palm oil, sugars and spiced flavourings.

The health effects of both food insecurities, especially for low-income households, demand a response from country governments that goes far beyond the industry-friendly prescriptions of the FAO, IFAD and WFP, biased as they now visibly are towards the finance-and-technology suite of 'solutions' so readily provided by the welter of international foundations and their transnational food industry funders. For national and sub-national governments which take seriously their responsibilities towards cultivators and food consumers, the State of Food Insecurity reports may be treated as advertisements for food globalisation, full of false promise and dubious claims.

* Rahul Goswami is a researcher of agriculture and food systems in India for the Centre for Communication and Development Studies, and for the Economic Research Foundation, India

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Foreign policy and human rights: Is a dialogue possible?

Laura Trajber Waisbich


cc MEM
Civil society organizations ought to expand their scope of work to serve as watchdogs and partners in/for action in advocating for more pro-rights and pro-social justice foreign policies. They should monitor policies and actions, provide knowledge and technical support, and challenge policies and behaviors that are undemocratic or that violate human dignity, at home or abroad.

To believe foreign policy can only be the object of the attention and work of traditional international civil society organizations (CSOs), whose headquarters are mostly located in the Global North cities—such as New York, Washington, Geneva or Brussels—is to miss the spot.

Southern countries are increasingly playing a major role in several realms of international life, from security and peacekeeping, to development cooperation, trade and investment, environmental issues, and human rights. Nonetheless, public debate on the contours and impact of this more prominent role is still incipient. How much have African countries invested in peacekeeping in Africa? What has been the vote of the African group in the last Human Rights Council session regarding the resolution on peaceful protest? What has been the position of African countries in regards to the Syrian crisis? And what about Guantanamo Bay?

Advocating for more pro-rights and pro-social justice foreign policies in our home countries requires, above all, active civil society organizations that serve both as watchdogs and as partners in/for action. In order to fulfill this role, these groups must monitor policies and actions, provide knowledge and technical support, and challenge policies and behaviors that are undemocratic or that violates human dignity, at home or abroad.

Working with foreign policy means adding a new layer of work for many of the already deeply busy CSOs in the Global South, requiring them to develop some new skills and institutional capabilities. Some reflection work on this has already been made.

Conectas Human Rights recently launched a publication, Foreign Policy and Human Rights: Strategies for Civil Society Action, based on its work with foreign policy and human rights in Brazil, providing strategies, tips and critical analysis together with concrete examples on how CSOs can engage with foreign policy making in their home countries.

The publication explores five lines of action that currently support Conectas’ advocacy work in trying to influence the formulation of foreign policy in Brazil: researching and producing information, establishing partnerships, making use of governmental checks and balances, fostering media and public scrutiny, and monitoring multilateral fora and mechanisms. The table below summarizes those five lines of action.

cc PZ

(This table was first published in Asano, Camila L. (2013) ‘Foreign Policy and Human Rights in Emerging Countries: Insights Based on the Work of an Organization from the Global South’, SUR International Journal on Human Rights, vol. 10, no. 19, 2013, pp. 119-137)

Organizations wanting to have an impact on policy need to employ these different strategies throughout the policy cycle (which includes agenda setting, selection of options, implementation and evaluation). According to the issue and political context, the same organization can (and will) interact with different phases of this cycle.

On that note, some concrete examples are worth sharing. On information gathering—understood as “knowledge for action” without which no advocacy will be possible—gathering information about your country’s foreign policy helps understanding the dynamics of policymaking, and enables CSOs to visualize patterns and inconsistencies in their country’s international engagements. Since 2006, Conectas has published the yearbook, Human Rights: Brazil at the UN. The purpose of this publication is to systematize and compile all information available on Brazilian engagement on human rights at the UN, and disseminate it in Portuguese (Brazil’s national language and a non-UN official language) to other organizations in Brazil in order to help other CSOs interested in participating and monitoring Brazil. It also serves as a reminder for public officials that civil society keeps track of government activities and will hold public servants accountable for misdoings. In 2014, Conectas decided to expand this exercise by updating the medium through each those data is presented, creating an online tool called “Database: How Brazil, India and South Africa vote in the UN”.

Another example that speaks to building partnerships and making use of governmental checks and balances mechanisms and media is a cross-regional campaign on Zimbabwe. In 2007, Conectas facilitated a mission of two Zimbabwean human rights defenders (from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights) to Brazil to raise awareness of the political crisis happening ahead of the presidential elections. Back then, Brazil was (and still is) one of the few Latin American countries with a diplomatic mission in Harare, enjoying respect from local rulers. Good relations were built, however, on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty, which was often translated into silence when it comes to the human rights situation on the ground.

Taking this into account, in order to raise the cost of Brazilian traditional silence on the matter—which included abstentions in the former UN Commission on Human Rights on resolutions about Zimbabwe—Conectas and its partners organized a meeting with seven Latin American CSOs in Brazil. As a follow-up to the meeting, the organizations took action to influence the foreign policy of their respective governments, as well as at the regional level via Mercosur. In Brazil, the advocacy work conducted after this meeting resulted in one lawmaker heading to Harare to monitor the first round of the elections. In addition, two Brazilian journalists went to Zimbabwe to follow the polls in loco. Since then, Conectas and its partners in Zimbabwe have been working together, before Brazilian institutions and at the UN level, to promote a more vocal stance of the international community regarding fundamental liberties in Zimbabwe.

This campaign has led to useful reflection and learning opportunities. Even when external scrutiny does not prevent human rights violations or violence, it nonetheless progressively raises the costs for local rulers to proceed with them. Civil society mobilization also sends to the Brazilian government a clear message that their good relations with other countries cannot be an excuse to not take a stance when human rights are at risk. Moreover, if diplomats are not willing to take action, there are other venues to explore, such as the legislative branch of government or the media.

The aforementioned examples illustrate how Conectas engages with Brazilian decision makers in the field of foreign policy and human rights. However, African CSOs willing to work in the same field should consider going beyond their own government, and spend some time building bridges with (re)emerging powers (from Africa and other regions), whose footprints are increasingly visible in Africa. The first step could be to recognize and identify the nature of the impact of these new players in African politics and human development. The second step could be to start directly engaging with these emerging powers. This could be done with more frequency by creating channels for dialogue with the embassies of Africa’s emerging powers, but also through specific campaigns or media actions targeting foreign leaders coming for official summits and/or country visits. Creating cross-regional campaigns together with rights groups from the emerging countries themselves could also be used to create leverage.

Emerging countries can play an important role in promoting rights-based engagement toward Africa. They can go beyond aid and/or intervention, but they will not do so unless there is active scrutiny and social pressure to make those foreign engagements accountable. Civil society from emerging countries and from Africa can work together to ensure that this new wave of South-South relations is developed to benefit all citizens. Emerging countries are the champions of the debate on reforming global governance institutions and democratizing international politics. Let us not forget that in order for them to do so they need to democratize their own foreign policy, in form and content. In other words, there must be a democratization of the way in which foreign policy is made (through greater transparency, accountability and citizen participation), as well as in the nature of the decisions that are being implemented, keeping in mind our countries’ non-negotiable international and national commitments to human rights and social justice.

* Laura Trajber Waisbich is Foreign Policy Officer at Conectas Human Rights, a Brazilian rights-group whose mission is to promote the realization of human rights and consolidation of the Rule of Law in the Global South—Africa, Asia and Latin America. Conectas was accorded consultative status with the ECOSOC-UN in 2006, and observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2009.



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RENAMO: A three-sided coin?

Fredson Guilengue


cc PG
General elections will be held in Mozambique on 15 October. Incumbent president Armando Guebuza is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. RENAMO is key player in these polls and the politics of Mozambique generally, although its nfluence has waned in recent years and its real agenda remains confusing

The government of Mozambique and the former rebel organisation RENAMO finally signed a ceasefire agreement on 24 August 2014. This agreement which was subsequently ratified by the Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and RENAMO’s president Afonso Dhlakama and passed into law by the country’s national assembly on 8 September 2014 is likely to put an end to the political and military instability which started in 2012. In 2012, after 20 years of peace and stability in the country, some RENAMO operatives reverted to the armed struggle to, amongst other issues, force Mozambique’s government to change the electoral legislation and to (re-) integrate part of its troops into the national army and the police. This article sheds light into the dynamics of permanence and change within RENAMO, in order to identify common and divergent trends in RENAMO’s political evolution. It argues that since its formation in 1976 to date RENAMO has operated in three distinct forms: as a merely guerrilla movement (1976 - 1992), as a political party (1994 - 2012) and more recently as a hybrid of both political party and guerrilla force (2012 to date). The analysis provides inputs into current debates on the political future of RENAMO and the democratic settlement in Mozambique.


In June 1975, after 10 years of armed struggle against the Portuguese colonial ruling, Mozambique finally proclaimed its independence. The struggle over independence was conducted by the guerrilla movement Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO). However, in 1976 the Rhodesian Central Intelligence Office (CIO) created the Mozambican National Resistance (MNR), later called RENAMO, to fight the FRELIMO government and the Zimbabwean nationalist guerrillas operating from Mozambique in 1977. After the Zimbabwean independence in 1980 RENAMO’s basis of support had to move to the apartheid state of South Africa where it started getting military, political, financial and sociological support (Vines 2013). After the demise of the apartheid regime and the end of the cold war, in October 1992 a General Peace Agreement (GPA) was signed between the government of Mozambique and RENAMO. Amongst others, the GPA comprised the transformation of RENAMO from a guerrilla movement into a political party. From 1994 to date (2014), RENAMO has contested four general (parliamentary and presidential) and three local elections (two municipal and one provincial election). Meanwhile, since 2012 some RENAMO operatives led by its president Afonso Dhlakama have been constantly calling off the GPA and conducting guerrilla attacks against Mozambique’s army and civilians, while others continue to normally develop the party political activities countrywide including in the national parliament, where RENAMO has been represented since the first multiparty elections in 1994.

In this context, I argue here that RENAMO’s trajectory has witnessed three distinct phases in the Mozambican political landscape. From 1976 to 1992 RENAMO has operated a merely a guerrilla movement without any visible power or political ambitions. From 1994 to 2012 it was transformed into and operated as a political party with functioning political structures and power ambitions. Finally, most recently, from 2012 onwards, it has behaved as a hybrid of a guerrilla movement and political party with both functioning military and political structures.


There is abundant literature about the origin of RENAMO as a guerrilla movement created by the Rhodesian CIO in the 1970’s (Pinto 2008; Robinson 2009; Funada-Classen 2012; Vines 2013; and others). The Rhodesian CIO was deeply and actively involved in the creation of RENAMO. Because the white Rhodesians feared the impact of FRELIMO government on its own existence, they gathered anti-FRELIMO network members to overthrow the FRELIMO government. This network gathered in Rhodesia in 1976/77 to form MNR/RENAMO (Funada – Classen 2012). RENAMO also benefited from the significant disgruntlement amongst large swaths of the rural population (mainly from the northern and central) Mozambique who felt marginalised by FRELIMO’s socialist policies and by the manner in which these policies were being implemented (Pinto 2008).

At its inception, the primary objective of RENAMO creators and supporters was to overthrow FRELIMO’s government because of its open support to the Zimbabwean independence struggle through the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) which had training camps and offices in independent Mozambique. In March 1976, the Mozambican government imposed total sanctions against Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). These sanctions, based on a United Nations resolution, are estimated to have cost Mozambique $2 million per year from the loss of employment and railroad and ports usage fees (Funada – Classen 2012). RENAMO was first led by Orlando Cristina, a former Portuguese agent of the Portuguese secret police (PIDE). After Cristina, RENAMO was then led by André Matsangaissa (former FRELIMO commander) and after his death in 1979 by Afonso Dhlakama. Dhlakama remains RENAMO leader to date. After the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, RENAMO enjoyed considerable support from the South African apartheid regime and, to some extent, from the Banda regime in Malawi and others (Robinson 2006).

RENAMO’s guerrilla operations started with targeting government infrastructure (road, pipelines, bridges, etc). They progressively expanded to attacking ZANLA bases in Mozambique and their supporters. This strategy aimed at punishing and discouraging FRELIMO’s government from supporting Zimbabwean nationalists. From 1980 onwards the conflict escalated and the focus of RENAMO’s target moved from facilities and ambushes to larger villages (mainly the FRELIMO designed communal villages). This aimed at sabotaging FRELIMO’s rural development policy and to secure food and new recruits (mainly via forced recruitment). This escalation was made possible by the involvement of the apartheid regime after the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980. The South African backing came at a time in which, with the advent of a black government in Zimbabwe, FRELIMO hoped that RENAMO after having lost its external support would become an easy target to defeat. In FRELIMO’s view the conflict did not have internal roots. This argument proved to be wrong as RENAMO continued to enjoy and consolidate both its internal support and the continued support from the apartheid regime.

By the end of the civil war in 1992, the social and economic impact had assumed devastating proportions. Nearly one million direct and indirect casualties had been registered, 13 percent of the country’s total population (of 15 million in 1990) was forced to become war refugees and nearly 4.5 million were internally displaced. The economic infrastructure of the country was also ruined. Schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and communication systems were extensively damaged. Furthermore, Mozambique’s debt had grown from $2.7 billion in 1985 to $4.7 billion in 1991 - and at the same time the country had become one of the most aid dependent in the world. (Juergensen 1998)


In 1990 Mozambique adopted a new constitution, which finally included most of the issues RENAMO allegedly had been fighting for. They comprised: a multiparty democracy system, freedom of organization, free and secret elections, individual basic rights and direct vote of the president (Ostheimer & Lalá 2003). Coupled with the new international political and economic context brought by the end of the cold war and domestic factors, the new constitution paved the way for the end of the war and the signature of the GPA on October 4, 1992.

Amongst others, the GPA had specific provisions on formation of a new army, social and economic re-integration of demobilized troops, and the necessary conditions for the formation of political parties. Under Protocol IV, for instance, on military issues, it was agreed that the country should have a 30 thousand strong army and both the government and RENAMO should contribute 50 percent. The remaining troops from both sides which would not be integrated into the country’s new army would be disarmed, demobilised and socially re-integrated. However it’s said that an arrangement was made which allowed RENAMO to maintain a small military reserve to provide security to its leadership. These guards were estimated to be 150 armed troops until October 2012 and 10 of them served as Dhlakama’’s presidential guard (Vines 2013). RENAMO also maintained some of its military bases in some parts of the country in particular in the provinces of Nampula and Sofala (Guilengue 2013). There have been contradictory versions of the process of disarmament of RENAMO’s remaining troops after the GPA. While Raúl Domingos[1], Chief RENAMO negotiator during the peace talks in 1992, points that the government of Mozambique rejected RENAMO’s offers to demobilise and integrate its remaining troops with the national police force (Muduakane 2014), Vines (2013, p. 381), however, points exactly to the opposite.

Under Protocol III, which concerns itself with the criteria, modalities and recognition of political parties, the GPA introduced clear provisions for the formation and functioning of political parties under the new political dispensation. It introduced aspects such as the nature of the political parties, general principles, rights and obligations. Under line a), number six of the same protocol it reads that “(...) immediately after the signature of the General Peace Agreement, RENAMO shall start functioning as a political party under legal provisions (....)”.

Although RENAMO’s first tangible conscious attempt to develop a political programme can be backdated to 1988, when it held its first substantive congress (which may have given it a political appearance), this process only became effective in 1992 with the GPA and the legal and economic conditions it created for the effective transformation of the movement into a political party. In fact, very little attempts had been made to develop a political agenda during the war. The few political gatherings organised with the civilians (mostly in RENAMO controlled areas) were more of anti- FRELIMO propaganda sessions than discussions on political issues per se (Tavuyanago 2011).

To aid RENAMO’s transformation from a guerrilla movement into a political party financial support came from various sources. Immediately after the GPA, $16 million from a UN proxy fund were made available for RENAMO. At this time one of the challenges RENAMO was facing had to do with poor political experience and lack of ideology - in opposition to being only an opposition to FRELIMO (Carter Centre 2005). In addition, in the turn up of the 1994 general elections, another $ 17 million from a UN Trust Fund was provided to RENAMO. Since the first elections to date, $ 100 thousand has been allocated, annually, from the public budget to RENAMO and other political parties with parliamentary seats. The financial support coupled with some technical support and Dhlakama’s leadership have unable RENAMO to advance from a merely guerrilla movement into a political party to the extent that it became the largest opposition party in Africa until 2002 (Vines 2013).


In 1994, two years after the signing of the peace agreement, the first national multiparty elections were held. Despite having lost the elections to FRELIMO and its presidential candidate Joaquim Chissano, RENAMO captured the majority of votes in five important provinces of the country (Nampula, Zambézia, Tete, Manica and Sofala) and won 112 seats in the national parliament of 250 seats. In the following national elections in 1999, again won by FRELIMO and its presidential candidate Chissano, RENAMO almost retained its previous number of votes. Cahen (2013) is of the opinion that while the official results gave victory to FRELIMO and Chissano, it’s highly probable that RENAMO may have lost this election while Dhlakama himself won as RENAMO’s presidential candidate.

In the 2004 general elections Armando Guebuza replaced Joaquim Chissano as FRELIMO’s presidential candidate. In this election RENAMO obtained its most dramatic defeat since the beginning of the multiparty democratic system in Mozambique. This was followed by important changes in FRELIMO’s attitude towards RENAMO. Guebuza’s subsequent attitude was consistent with an intention of reducing the scope of political opposition to FRELIMO in Mozambique, specially of its major challenger RENAMO. Guebuza immediately revitalised FRELIMO’s apparatus and the party local structures. The traditional type of political dialogue the government of Mozambique had been conducting with RENAMO since the GPA was immediately discontinued. This reflects an apparent move to seeking for an ultra-hegemony of FRELIMO in the country’s political landscape (Chichava 2010). However, despite not producing significant outcomes for RENAMO, these dialogues used to give it a certain legitimacy and relevance within the Mozambican political landscape. As T.V. Mário puts it, “the relevance of these dialogues lies less in their content than in its function of preserving the spirit of peace of the GPA” (T. Mário, personal communication, 2012). Although its relevance as a landmark shift in the relationship between FRELIMO government and RENAMO cannot be ignored, this new context did not per se result in RENAMO‘s immediate return to the old guerrilla strategy. The actual impact combined with RENAMO internal dynamics only materialised eight years later, in 2012.

Meanwhile, any attempt to understand the reasons behind RENAMO’s return to the bush should take into consideration both internal and external dynamics. By internal dynamics I refer to issues strictly confined to RENAMO’s structure and management pre- and post- GPA. By external dynamics I refer to the country’s overall political environment imposed and managed by FRELIMO’s government which is a reflection of the party-state behaviour that dominated the period between 1975 and 1992. While the internal dynamics include the maintenance of a military reserve within RENAMO’s structures and Dhlakama’s autocratic leadership prohibiting effective transformation into a bona fide political party, the external dynamics, however, include the hostile political environment imposed by the ruling FRELIMO to opposition in Mozambique, mainly through the so-called FRELIMIZATION of the state apparatus, media and the economy.

In the most recent parliamentary and presidential elections of 2009 a new actor came to the picture – the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM). MDM started as a movement of ex-RENAMO members and supporters funded in March 2009. Its leader Daviz Simango was dismissed from RENAMO when he decided to run for the City of Beira as an independent in 2008 municipal elections, after Dhlakama dropped him in favour of Manuel Pereira[2]. It is argued that the actual reason for Simango’s dismissal was his rapidly growing popularity which threatened to reopen the latent discussion of succession which Dhlakama never wanted to hear about. Previously the same fate had befallen Raúl Domingos who then formed the Partido para Paz, Democracia e Desenvolvimento (PDD)[3]. Giovanni (2003) details the events which anticipated and followed Domingo’s dismissal from RENAMO:

‘Raul Domingos, the head of Renamo’s bancada [parliamentary group], emerged as an influential and visible figure between 1994 and 2000. The (limited) autonomy of the party’s legislative wing, however, was undermined when, on the basis of some dubious accusations about secret deals and private interests that Domingos was pursuing with the government, Dhlakama decided to expel him from the party in late 2000. It is widely believed that Domingos was perceived by Dhlakama as a threat in view of the party Congress and of an internal election for the party leadership. Less than two years on, the marginalisation of prominent figures developed into a pattern, reaching a point where total confusion seemed to dominate party affairs in mid-2002’.

Like Domingos and Simango, other skilful people who threatened Dhlakama’s autocracy were either expelled from RENAMO or marginalised. As a result of this the party democratic operations became weak (Tavuyanago 2011).

The 2009 general elections were once again won by the ruling FRELIMO. RENAMO, however, saw its parliamentary seats reduced to nearly half of those of the previous elections (49 seats). Parallel to these elections, four municipal elections have been held since 1998. RENAMOs attitude towards these elections has been characterized by boycotting (1998 and 2013) and participating (2003 and 2008).


In a move which could be interpreted as a means to pressurise the Mozambican government to return to the same type of political dialogue they had been having prior to 2004 elections, Dhlakama retreated to the northern city of Nampula in January 2010. It was in Nampula where Dhlakama and Guebuza met twice (December 2011 and in April 2012) after repeated requests from Dhlakama. In both meetings they agreed to hold regular discussions about the political and economic issues of the country. However, no further meetings were held. Not having produced the desired impact, in terms of changing FRELIMO’s attitude towards RENAMO and himself, in October 2012 Dhlakama retreated to the Sofala Province (Gorongosa) with some of his supporters, from where he since then conducted guerrilla attacks. This retreat and the subsequent calling off of the 1992 GPA marked the hybridization of RENAMO.

Accurate figures are hard to come by but the conflict has so far resulted in a significant number of casualties and in several abnormalities in road circulation between southern and northern Mozambique. Attempts by the Mozambican government to resolve the conflict military have all failed. Meanwhile, after 74 rounds of political dialogues to resolve the military instability, facilitated by national mediators, on 24 August 2014 the taskforce composed by government and RENAMO personnel finally agreed on all the issues which divided them including the ceasefire.

However, this context did not affect RENAMO’s political structures and functioning. The party maintains its political functions working very actively countrywide. The 49 members of parliament resulting from the last elections are actively and normally participating in all sessions of the national parliament. The same applies to the local and provincial members of parliament. It’s National Council (the party highest organ), for example, gathered on June 23 to appoint Dhlakama (even absent) as its presidential candidate. Most recently, the party has submitted Dhlakama and RENAMO’s application for the October 2014 general elections to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) which together with FRELIMO and MDM candidate Filipe Nyusi and Daviz Simango, respectively, has been approved. The three and their respective parties have been confirmed as presidential and legislative candidates, respectively, and are now campaigning for the 15 October general elections.


Contrary to the opinions advocating the existence of two or more distinct RENAMOs (one in the bush and the other in Maputo), the analysis above indicates that RENAMO has never split into two or disintegrated. The parties which have their origin in RENAMO have resulted from either dismissals (like the cases of Raúl Domingos from PDD and Daviz Simango from MDM) or the people who voluntarily left RENAMO (e.g. Lutero Simango from Partido de Convenção Nacional – PCN - who later joined MDM and Manuel de Araújo, MDM). Moreover, RENAMO still by far maintains its status of the largest opposition party in Mozambique. The current attitude and behaviour of both its military and political wing is part of one and the same strategy. While on one side, by military means, the guerrilla pushes for military and political issues from the bush (e.g. their re-integration into the national army and police and amendments to the electoral legislation), the political wing, on the other, by political means pushes for the very same agenda in parliamentary sessions and in the so-called political dialogue with the government, in Maputo.

However, it’s possible to identify three phases in the history of RENAMO beginning in 1976. In each of these phases RENAMO has reflected different characteristics. Although more empirical evidence might be necessary to prove this argument, these characteristics seem to be consistent with the country’s political orientation or environment. RENAMO was born in a context of the cold war and of a Marxist Leninist state ideology in which it operated as a military guerrilla movement. With the advent of a multi-party democratic system, RENAMO was then transformed into a political party and operated as political party with power ambitions. Finally, when the political environment signalled a return to a sort of authoritarian rule somehow reminding Mozambicans of the communist era, RENAMO partially reverted to its old guerrilla strategy to fight an overconfident FRELIMO-Government narrowing the democratic space.

RENAMO’s relevance as an internal “actor of change” capable of forcing FRELIMO government to rethink, redirect or change its politics and practices cannot be ignored. Since its inception, RENAMO seems to always have been regarded as a relevant actor in the context of the Mozambique politics specially for being capable of dealing with FRELIMO not willing to open spaces enough for a real multiparty democracy. If during the guerrilla phase the actual tactics of the organization were questioned because of its practice of terror, the relevance of its existence was never questioned, to the extent that RENAMO’s transition to a political party relied very much on the linkages and sympathy it gained amongst the rural population and some urban intellectuals during and after guerrilla times. For those Mozambicans inside or outside the country who contested FRELIMO’s communist approach RENAMO was an important tool to raise their voices and force changes in Mozambique.

While functioning as a political party RENAMO not only presented itself to the Mozambicans as an alternative to FRELIMO and up until 2012 forced the country’s political landscape to become bipolar, but its existence also gave legitimacy to the country’s democracy. RENAMO’s status as the largest opposition party in Mozambique only started to seriously be threatened with the advent of the MDM in 2009 further exacerbated during 2013 municipal elections which RENAMO boycotted. The presence of RENAMO in the Mozambican parliament since 1994 has produced significant results for the country’s democracy. The party is said to have pushed for the introduction of significant bills. 53% of the county’s bills (more than half) passed by the parliament, by 1990 are said to have been originated in the assembly (see Tavuyanago 2011).

More recently, while operating as a hybrid of a political party and a guerrilla movement, RENAMO has been able to force FRELIMO’s government to introduce major changes into the electoral legislation which might reduce FRELIMO’s control over the electoral process and results in Mozambique. The hybrid RENAMO has been able to force FRELIMO to amend the country’s electoral legislation concerning the composition of the CNE and Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), which for many favoured FRELIMO heavily because of its politicisation. In February 2014 the Mozambican national parliament passed the final reading of the bill on the CNE and on the electoral registration. These two bills were submitted by RENAMO in light of the agreements achieved in the dialogue on the county’s current political instability which started in 2012. The CNE increases from the previous 13 to 17 members. Seven will come from the civil society organizations, five from FRELIMO, four from RENAMO and 1 from Movimento Democrático de Moçambique (MDM). The STAE at the national level is now composed of 18 members appointed by the political parties represented in the national parliament (FRELIMO nine members, RENAMO eight and MDM one). Apart from the electoral legislation the hybrid RENAMO has recently secured amnesty for crimes against state security committed by its elements in the context of the current political and military instability. The hybrid RENAMO has also secured a commitment from the government of Mozambique to (re)integrate its remaining troops into the national army and police.


[1] RENAMO’s leader who was in charge of the guerrilla finances and worked as Chief of Defence and Security (1982-1986). Commander of the Southern 10 Zone (1986-1988); Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1989 1994). Head of RENAMO’s of Parliament for Renamo (1994-2001). Now leader of Partido para Paz, Democracia e Desenvolvimento (PDD) (Robinson 2006).
[2] RENAMO’s political delegate for the province of Sofala and Member of the national Parliament.
[3] In 2004 presidential elections PDD got 2, 7% of the total votes.


1. Cahen, M. (2013). Em moçambique só há partidos de direita: uma entrevista com michel cahen. Plural, v 20.1, pp. 155-174.
2. Chichava, S. (2010). Movimento democrático de moçambique: uma nova força política na democracia moçambicana?, Cadernos IESE, n.2, August.
3. Funada-Classen, S. (2012) The origins of war in mozambique: A history of unity and division (Masako Osada, Trans.). South Africa: African Minds.
4. Giovanni, M. (2003). Emerging Pluralistic Politics in Mozambique: The FRELIMO-RENAMO party system, Working Paper No. 23, March, pp. 1-28
5. Guilengue, F (2012). Mozambique: why has renamo gone back to the bush? Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung South Africa, international politics (2), pp. 1-23
6. Juergensen, O. (July 1998). The united nation comes to the hinterland: peace building and reconstruction in mozambique. Peace building and reconstruction programme initiative, pp. 1-39. (Working paper no. 2).
7. Muduakane, R. (2014, July 18). Negociador – chefe da RENAMO no AGP fala sobre a alegada partidarização da polícia e do SISE: “Dhlakama caiu numa cilada”. SAVANA, pp. 14-15
8. Ostheimer & Lalá (2003, December). How to remove the stains on mozambique’s democratic track record: Challenges for the democratisation process between 1990 and 2003. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, pp. v – 72
9. Pinto, J. (2008) Angola & Moçambique: Jogos africanos. Lisboa: Edição esfera dos livros
10. Robinson, D. (2006). Curse on the land: A history of the mozambican civil war (Doctoral dissertation, University of Western Australia, 2006)
11. Robinson, D. (11 November 2009). Renamo, malawi and the struggle to succeed banda: assessing theories of Malawian intervention in the Mozambican civil war. Eras edition,
11. Tavuyanago, B. (2011, December). RENAMO: from a military confrontation to a peaceful democratic engagement, 1976 – 2009. African journal of political science and international relations, pp. 42-51
12. The Carter Centre. Observação das eleições de moçambique 2004. Available at
13. Vines, A. (7 November 2013). Renamo's Rise and Decline: The politics of reintegration in mozambique. International Peacekeeping, pp. 375-393.

* Fredson Guilengue works with the Rosa Luxemberg Foundation in Southern Africa.



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Transnet: Coughing canary in the climate coal mine

Patrick Bond


cc VA
Facing the most serious civilizational threat ever, what is the South African government doing? The new Infrastructure Development Act pushed into law by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel will fast-track carbon-intensive mega-projects on behalf of mainly foreign corporate beneficiaries.

Still, each project must provide convincing EIAs to move ahead. Environment minister Edna Molewa is presently cutting her climate regulatory budget, so we can expect her to ignore regular administrative opportunities to at least query – and sometimes delay – Patel’s filthiest, climate-wrecking, community-polluting, profit-boosting projects.

For example, Transnet is driving the first two major projects promoted by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC). So Transnet CEO Brian Molefe’s response to climate change is just as important as Molewa’s. Transnet and other state agencies are apparently unwilling to factor in climate when building PICC Strategic Investment Projects (SIPs).

Fortunately, progressive environmentalists – e.g. Earthlife Africa, groundWork, Greenpeace, Treasure the Karoo Action Group and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) – are fighting SIP mega-pollution. In the most important current controversy, Transnet’s attempt to expand the main Durban berths for unloading mega-ships, activists forced Molewa’s staff to rise to the challenge, but only half way. Last October, they surprised the shipping industry by ruling that not only did Transnet fail to factor in damage to the Durban harbour’s life-giving central sandbank, but its environmental consultants hadn’t thought through whether sea level rise and severe storms would swamp and maybe destroy the R5.6 billion investment.

What happens here is vital, for this is the pilot project within the second largest SIP, promoted by former Planning Commission leader Trevor Manuel and his replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa, as well as the local Durban ruling elite. They may not win, because amongst their critics is the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for Africa, Desmond D’Sa at SDCEA. He regularly draws world attention to the toxic pollution that goes unchecked in the South Durban Basin and in late April, The Economist and The Guardian covered D’Sa’s fight against the port-petrochemical expansion.

SDCEA (of which as a Bluff resident I am a lay supporter) has repeatedly protested Africa’s largest refinery complex, where Engen, BP and Shell create airborne havoc. At last count, more than half the children at the school between South Durban’s two main refineries, Settlers Primary, have asthma, the world’s worst known case.

In July, D’Sa and SDCEA researchers Eunice Asante, Tristan Ballard and Priya Pillay used an EIA challenge to flesh out the sea level rise threat, culminating years of debating climate with Transnet and its consultants Nemai, ZAA (a Cape Town marine consultancy) and even the taxpayer-funded Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Transnet's previous filings were based on data five years old, and downplayed rising waters and extreme storm damage, even though the firm’s own Durban infrastructure was badly damaged in 2012 when big waves – caused in part by the harbour entrance’s deepening and widening – pushed a ship into cranes.

After late 2013’s humiliating slap down, Transnet filed a new EIA in June. But instead of getting new consultants, Molefe used exactly the same sloppy companies – Nemai and ZAA – and emerged with the same data. Their filing came weeks after the revelation in Nature that the West Antarctica ice sheet was now irretrievably melting, a process that will dump such a huge slab into the ocean that Nature authors estimated a four meter rise when there’s full submersion in coming centuries.

Transnet didn’t mention this, claiming that the time period of this debate is 2014-2060, and at that latter date, Transnet estimates only 0.58 meters sea level rise. But SDCEA’s researchers found a glaring flaw: Nemai and ZAA misread the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and as a result, was 20 percent off in its calculations. As SDCEA complained, Transnet “mistakes the mean sea level rise for 2081−2100 relative to 1986–2005 for the likely sea level rise by 2100.”

SDCEA first challenged Transnet on climate change in a 2008 EIA for the Durban-Johannesburg oil pipeline, but its arguments were simply ignored. Molewa’s predecessor, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, rubber-stamped Transnet’s doubling of capacity to pump the oil, hence increasing the refinery activity that D’Sa’s constituencies greatly fear. There have been dozens of horrific accidents and explosions at South Durban’s refineries and oil storage tanks since the 1990s.

Van Schalkwyk did so in spite of the implicit environmental racism of Transnet’s then CEO Mario Ramos (now ABSA bank CEO), when she detoured the new pipeline hundreds of kilometers through South Durban and Umbumbulu instead of the traditional direct route that passes through the white residential areas of Kloof and Hillcrest and white farming areas. The pipeline price, meanwhile, soared from R6 billion to R23 billion.

Speaking frankly in December 2012 when describing that project, former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba conceded “systemic failings… Transnet Capital Projects lacked sufficient capacity and depth of experience for the client overview of a megaproject of this complexity. There was an inadequate analysis of risks.” As Gigaba admitted, “Transnet’s obligations on the project such as securing authorisations – EIAs, land acquisition for right of way, water and wetland permits – were not pursued with sufficient foresight and vigour.”

Next, consider the mega-ships that Durban will attract if Transnet goes ahead. These will continue to deindustrialize our economy, leaving a smattering of jobs in shipping and only minerals exports and electricity-intensive smelting ‘beneficiation’. Worse, Walmart’s next-generation ships, now under construction in Korea, will carry 24 000 containers, reflecting the maniacal pace of consolidation and overcapacity in this industry.

When asked whether maritime commerce’s use of bunker fuels – now 4 percent of world emissions – is a concern for climate (as I did in the EIA process), Transnet’s answer is that the mega-ships have lower costs/unit and emissions/unit, which is true. But the bigger question is whether we could establish a more coherent, balanced economic strategy that will not be vulnerable to whimsical global trends, what with that projected eight-fold increase in container capacity by 2040.

Also, consider that these ships will be traveling into Durban via the most dangerous current in the world, Agulhas. Here, periodic ‘monster waves’ have in recent years sunk even a vast coal-carrying vessel in Richards Bay (September 2013) and an oil tanker just north of Durban (July 2011), along with hundreds of other ships over the centuries. No ship is safe, especially as extreme weather intensifies.

In spite of these structural woes, Transnet has hyperactive ambitions. Last month Patel announced he would raise credit for “connecting the coal-rich Waterberg to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, or to Eskom’s power stations, Medupi and Kusile. Mining companies commit themselves to Transnet to export so many thousands or hundreds of thousands of tonnes of coal on the railway lines. Transnet then takes those agreements to the banks to raise the capital to build or expand the railway capacity.”

But what if the coal price crashes, as it has the last few months – by 44 percent – and Transnet suffers declining revenues from its main minerals-transport customers? Already Transnet’s financial woes include a vast class action lawsuit by pensioners accusing it of theft, apparently for good reason, and regular ridicule for running the world’s two most expensive ports in terms of container throughput costs: Durban and Cape Town. (How can such costs decline, given the capital and interest payments – as well as operating and maintenance costs – on hundreds of billions of rands of upgrading?)

The biggest problem for Transnet’s vision is that freight rail cannot compete with the deregulated, chaotic trucking industry, with all its corner-cutting and illegality. No one in Durban will forget how a runaway container truck driven by an illegal immigrant without a driver’s license was told by his boss to avoid a R40 toll on the main Joburg-Durban highway, instead taking a back route down the very steep Field’s Hill on September 5 last year. Two dozen working-class kombi passengers died when it crashed, because the brakes were faulty. That container belonged to Taiwan-based Evergreen, the world’s fourth largest shipper – but like all, prone to hiring fly-by-night transporters.

Will a sickly Transnet and its sponsors in the national Treasury locate bankers for destructive projects like the coal-export rail investments and South Durban port-petrochemical expansion? Last November when Transnet went to the City of London to float a bond, it had to pay a whopping 9.5 percent interest rate. Details were never provided about the cost of China’s $5 billion loan in March 2013, but it was obvious that part of that payout was Transnet’s $4.8 billion in Chinese joint-venture locomotive deals signed a year later, which the metalworkers union alleges were graft-filled.

Financial sanctions is a strategy SDCEA is considering for Transnet. But whatever weapon is picked up, the society needs to rethink our overexposure to the volatility of the world economy, and localise the production chains, for our own sake not just climate’s.

* Patrick Bond’s ‘Politics of Climate Justice; was just named amongst the Guardian’s ten leading books on the topic.)



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Stop postulating the clash of civilizations

Ending the oppression of Muslims

Mahathir Mohamad


cc CN
It is not the religion of Islam that leads Muslims to commit heinous acts. It is simply the anger, hate and rage over not being able to do anything to stop Europeans or the West from oppressing people who profess the same religion.

The British are mystified by their Muslim citizens becoming “jihadists” and joining the so-called Islamic State. They are horrified by the beheading of an American journalist by “John” a British citizen and member of the IS.

I must admit that I, too, am horrified. It is not Islamic at all. Islam does not advocate violence and terror. The people who were defeated by the Prophet were not even converted to Islam, much less executed. The Quran says, “There is no compulsion in Islam.”

But we are seeing more and more violence and atrocities committed by Muslims. And now we have the Islamic State “Jihadists”, some of whom come from countries where they had migrated to because life is good there. Having enjoyed the good life, why are these people opting to join revolutionary movements and live dangerous lives, fighting against the very people who are their hosts. Could it be, as some people suggest, that they have been reading books such as “Islam for Dummies?”

Why? Recently we saw the mass killings of Muslims and destruction of their homes and towns by Israelis in Gaza. More than 2000 Muslims have been killed. They include little children and old people, non-combatants all. Thousands more have been seriously wounded, many losing arms and legs.

No concern or sympathy has been shown by the Europeans and Americans. In fact the Americans gave money and arms for Israelis to kill more Muslims and destroy their homes and towns.

If the beheading of a European Journalist is evidence of the barbarity of Muslims, cannot there be the same perception of Israeli killings of Muslims in Gaza? No. They are all terrorists, babies included, and a democratic country like Israel has every right to kill them and destroy their homes, towns and cities.

If we care to look back, we cannot but acknowledge that the so-called Middle Eastern Muslims were very hospitable to the Europeans before. But, the European nations played their great games there. They created the states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine out of one single entity called Sham by the Arabs. Muslims then had no nation-states. They only regard themselves as the Muslim community, the Ummah.

The Europeans expelled the Turks and proceeded to divide Sham between them, although they had promised the Arabs that Sham would be liberated and handed over to the Arabs.

Following the European great games Iraq went to the British while Syria and Lebanon to the French. Palestine was made a British mandated territory to be returned to the Palestinians later. Palestine for centuries had been inhabited by Muslim and Christian Arabs and a small number of Jews. Under Muslim rule they lived in peace despite their different religions.

Then the British decided to make a Jewish state out of Palestine in order to solve the Jewish problem in Europe. Balfour, in 1917, promised to give land belonging to the Palestinian to the Zionist. It was so easy. Take other people’s land to give to the Jews without any regard for the majority Arabs living there. And the Jews celebrated the creation of Israel with massacres of Arabs and expulsion from Palestine. This was apparently sanctioned by the UN in 1948 when Israel was recognised as a state. Arab resentment was ignored.

Since then the Middle East has experienced no peace. Every time the Palestine Arabs tried to regain their homeland, they were prevented by the massive help and support of Israel by the European nations, in particular by America.

With every failure the Arabs became even more angry and determined to regain their homeland. The Arab countries stopped helping the Palestinians. Undeterred, they set up Al-Fatah to throw stones at Israeli soldiers in armoured cars. The stone-throwing children were shot at by the soldiers with rubber coated and then live bullets.

Fatah acquired some ineffective weapons to fight in defence. They were shot and killed and thousands were captured and thrown into Israeli jails for indefinite periods without trial. Palestinian lands were seized and settlements for Jews built. It was against all laws and practices which the Europeans pride in saying they uphold.

And so instead of stopping Israel, the Europeans continued their support with funds and arms. The Israelis actually occupied Palestine land and set up roadblocks to control movements of the Palestinians and visitors. Roads were built through Palestinian land for the exclusive use of the Israelis. High walls were constructed in Palestine territory for Israeli security. Gaza is put under siege by Israel. Ships in international waters were seized by the Israeli navy.

Aid workers on high seas were shot and killed; their ships boarded and forced to go to Israeli ports. The aid goods were confiscated. All these are against international laws but the big powers did nothing. But these were not all. Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiments and acts were exhibited by Europeans elsewhere also. Having predicted a clash of civilisations they seem bent on making it a reality.

In Bosnia Herzegovina 12,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered with axes and bludgeons after Dutch NATO troops who were supposed to protect them simply moved away to allow Serbs to carry out their murderous work.

Then came the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after blaming the Muslims for the destruction of the twin towers of the world trade centre in New York. The Iraqis were not responsible for this. But Iraq was accused of having weapons of mass destruction capable of being launched against Britain within 45 minutes. Later it was admitted by the Brits that this was a lie. Unashamedly the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who ordered the collaboration with the United States in the invasion of Iraq, claimed that the attack, the massive destruction of Iraqi cities and towns and the killings of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis was in order to liberate them from Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was caught and hanged. But the occupation and war continued. When finally the Americans and Europeans left Iraq, this once stable and progressive Arab country descended into anarchy and civil war with Iraqis killing Iraqis.

Afghanistan was invaded to overthrow the Talibans and to kill Osama bin Ladin. Osama is dead but there is no peace in Afghanistan. The Iraqi and Afghan invasion was supposed to be over in three months. But after ten years and the almost total destruction of the two countries, meaningful democracy and peace have not come to these two unfortunate nations. They have been rendered totally unstable and fratricidal wars are tearing them apart.

The CIA has drawn up a list of Muslims to be killed. The West condemns the practices of detention without trial. Now we see in the West death sentences being passed on Muslims without trial. The intended victims are not even told about their death sentence. No attempt is made to arrest even. Drones are simply dispatched to kill these Muslims. In the case of Osama bin Ladin killer squads were dropped into Pakistan without even informing that country. And Osama’s body was thrown into the sea, a practice worthy of barbarians.

Through all these, the U.S, Britain and other European countries express no regret and certainly no sympathy for the Muslim victims of their war on terror. Thousands of them, men, women, children, babies, old and sick people have been and are being killed without evoking the slightest concern or regret among the Europeans.

I don’t for one moment regard the beheading of the American journalist as Islamic, despite the claim of ISIL. I think it is disgraceful for Muslims to do such thing. It is against the teachings of Islam. But can any young and impressionable Muslim be blamed if they are so easily mislead into committing heinous crimes to avenge the injustice and oppression of their brothers and sisters in religion?

It is not the religion of Islam that led the Muslims to committing heinous acts. It is simply anger, hate and rage over not being able to do anything to stop the Europeans or West from oppressing people who profess the same religion as themselves. And Europeans, most of whom are not practicing Christians, react in the same way when Christians are faced with any threat.

Look at the record of the Europeans, especially after they created Israel. Now, although they will not admit it, they are carrying out a crusade against Islam and the Muslims. Call it a war on terror or the clash of civilizations. But factually it is still a continuation of the crusade of the past centuries.

Against this modern crusade the Muslims have no answer. They don’t have a Saladin (Salah El Din) to lead them. And over the centuries they have allowed themselves to become weak. They have ignored the injunctions of Allah in the Quran that they must be prepared to defend the Ummah and Islam.

Their religious teachers tell them to pray to Allah for help. But they neglect to inform that in the Quran Allah enjoins upon Muslims to help themselves first if they want Allah to answer their prayers. Quite obviously the Muslims have not followed this injunction. In fact many believe that it has been preordained that they should suffer European oppression.

Today not a single government of a Muslim country has dared to challenge the Europeans. Indeed many believe that the Europeans are a superior race that they should look up to; that it is futile to defend themselves against European aggression and oppression. Not a single Muslim country dares to stand up to the Europeans.

Expecting no help from the governments of Muslim countries, many angry and frustrated Muslims took upon themselves to take revenge against the hated Europeans. For this purpose they preach their version of the teachings of Islam so as to influence young Muslim to be prepared to sacrifice their lives in a holy war.

All Muslims truly believe that to die in the defence of Islam and the Muslims results in martyrdom and heaven in the afterlife. It is not too difficult to convince young Muslims in the face of the injustice and oppression of Muslims that the war against the Europeans is a holy war.

But a war against the European promises no easy victory. Seeking revenge through acts of terror is much easier. And so the so-called jihadists are prepared to commit atrocities like beheading a European and recording it for the world to see. I would like to say it again, it is not Islamic this beheading. Certainly it is not Islamic for Sunnis to massacre captured Shiahs or Shiahs to murder Sunnis.

The two sects had always fought each other in their mutual belief that the other is not Muslim. But what is happening today is bloodlust which started with the fight against Jewish Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel. Unable to defeat the Jews and their nominally Christian Europeans backers, the Muslims have now turned against each other. And occasionally when they manage to capture a European, they vent their spite on him.

This will go on for decades and even centuries, waxing and waning, for as long as there is the state of Israel and the Palestinians are denied their right to a homeland.

It is the seizure of Palestinian land to form the state of Israel which triggered the violent reaction of the Muslims in the last 70 over years. The Jewish reaction to the violent struggle of the Palestinians is to out terrorise them. That in turn resulted in other Muslims joining the Palestinian struggle. Unable to wage war they resort to acts of terror. And Israeli state terror escalated.

Directly and indirectly the Europeans back Israeli state terrorism. And so it goes on. So what is the solution? It is certainly not more suppression and oppression of the Muslims, and in particular the Palestinian.

The solution lies in fairness and justice for the Palestinians.

I am writing this in Chechnya, a republic in the Russian Federation. The Chechens fought a war of independence against the Russians. It was a futile war. Three million ill-equipped Chechens against 200 million Russians with one of the most powerful military force in the world. Chechnya and Grozny its capital were razed to the ground before they were forced to stop fighting.

After the war the Russians allocated a trillion dollars to rebuild Chechnya and Grozny. Today, eight years after war ended, there is not a trace of the massive destruction caused by Russian missiles and bombs. Instead the whole country, and in particular Grozny has been completely rebuilt.

And today the Chechens can once again believe and practice the Muslim religion. Beautiful mosques and religious schools abound. There is no more communist sanction against Islam. Chechnya remains a republic in the Russian Federation but in religion and in many ways it is independent. The relation with Russia is friendly.

Maybe there is something to learn from the Chechen saga. Stop the oppression of Palestine. Stop the Crusade. Stop postulating the clash of civilizations. Stop regime change. Stop supplying arms for Muslims to fight Muslims. It may take time but slowly the jihadists, will have no incentive to fight.

Allah has ordained that the enemy of the Muslims are those who fight and oppress them. Muslims must not wage war against those who have not attacked them (in any way). That is the way of Islam – peace unless you declare war against Islam.

Muslims who adhere strictly to these tenets and wish to live at peace with non-Muslims can only have credibility and be listened to if the oppression of the Muslims ceases.

* Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003. This article was previously published by Counterpunch.



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Comment & analysis

SOS - Save Our Seed

The Battle for African seed independence, food security and sovereignty

Glenn Ashton


Controlling seed means controlling food production. Africans must choose how they farm. They must not become perpetually indebted to a predatory, profit-driven agricultural-industrial complex.

In order to address Africa’s poor agricultural productivity international players are intent on criminalising traditional seed saving practices. This thrust is directed by a triumvirate of corporate interests, actively assisted by first world governments and front organisations parading as non-governmental organisations.

Africa lies at the frontier of international agricultural intervention for several reasons. Firstly the continent lags badly in agricultural productivity. This is largely due to poor investment and agricultural support.

Secondly, Africa has more unexploited arable land than any other continent. Africa’s vast area, inadequate historical investment or support into agricultural development makes it an attractive investment destination for speculators and development alike.

Thirdly Africa’s population is set increase from its present 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion by 2050. Because of endemic food insecurity, agricultural development is a moral and economic obligation for both the African and the international community.

These facts have resulted in a new rush to assist Africa to help itself. However this assistance is motivated by often conflicting aims and consequences. While speculators seek to cash in on opportunities, philanthropy and development are not neutral either.

Africa has a history of exploitation. It continues to haemorrhage money, losing tens of millions of dollars daily in illicit flows. Speculation, aid and assistance are seldom unconditional.

This is borne out by the recent drive to impose an unsuitable, first-world intellectual property regime on the sale and trade of seed. This will worsen this problem by firmly placing control of the agricultural supply chain into corporate hands, further disempowering the smallholder farmer community.

Western agencies have long portrayed subsistence farming as inefficient, not just in terms of productivity but primarily because of its failure to contribute to capital flows. This sector circulates very little money through the agricultural supply chain, even when farmers are food secure. This lack of financial clout renders the sector profoundly vulnerable.

They are also at risk of crop loss through climatic events like floods, drought, or pest infestations. This has traditionally been managed by cultivating a wide variety of crops, trees and livestock, creating insurance through diversity.

Because these systems are inherently complex they are easily destabilised by ill-informed external interference. Quick fix, technological interventions are an open invitation to the law of unintended consequences.

It is also incorrect to portray smallholder farming as inefficient and unsuitable. In fact it is more conducive to community and regional food security than large-scale industrialised agricultural production methods.

This was underlined by a World Bank and UN expert report which explained how food security relies on a “multifunctionary” approach to agricultural production. Farming is about more than only producing food; it is also about culture, medicinal plants, the maintenance of ecological integrity, self-sufficiency, governance, public participation and inclusion.

Several institutions have emerged to drive the improvement of African food production. First is the African Union agricultural programme, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). Second is the externally funded African Green Revolution for Agriculture (AGRA), founded by the Gates and Rockefeller foundations, now also supported by the US and UK governments, along with powerful private and corporate interests.

While both of these are well-intended, producing some good results, their thrust to improve the seed supply chain is arguably the most risky intervention of all. While the broader drive to improve traditional seed quality is not entirely unreasonable the technocratic approach which informs the transition, linked to strict and restrictive intellectual property law, is unsuited to communal African farming methods.

The most obvious risk is the direct intervention of the world’s largest seed companies. While these powerful entities purportedly wish to assist, they have applied constant pressure to impose this restrictive intellectual property regime.

South Africa has been a springboard for this intervention into sub-Saharan Africa. Its own seed market is effectively controlled by the world’s two biggest seed companies, Monsanto and DuPont’s Pioneer. Because of their investment into seed research and genetic material – for instance Monsanto purchased Malawi’s national seed company, while Pioneer recently acquired South Africa’s last large seed company Pannar in 2011 – they maintain tight control of their investments through intellectual property regimes.

These companies also sell genetically modified (GM) seed and agricultural chemicals. While both AGRA and the Gates Foundation have supported GM technology as a real solution to food security, the IAASTD report downplayed any significant potential. Experts feel GM is a technical response to broader, more systemic problems like poor infrastructure and concentrated supply chains.

These GM and hybrid seeds are protected by strict intellectual property regimes, notably by an instrument known as UPOV 1991. The seed companies, South Africa’s seed organisation SANSOR, the US State Department and others have applied significant pressure on African governments to adopt UPOV 91.

Consequently the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) drafted a protocol to facilitate the adoption of UPOV 91 through government regulatory processes. However CAADP and AGRA have promised that new seed varieties will not be patented or have intellectual property protection. Therefore UPOV 91 is not just poorly suited to achieve the stated aims, but is entirely the wrong instrument.

Grassroots opposition has emerged as it is felt that UPOV 91 will effectively outlaw traditional seed saving and sharing. A statement drafted by more than 75 representative national and regional agricultural organisations strongly objects to the ARIPO protocol and calls for its withdrawal.

Despite this, powerful vested interests remain fixated on securing control of African agricultural production through force, artifice and stealth. This is directly counter to the principle that equality of fair opportunity be afforded to both innovators and those who develop and rely on traditional seed exchange.

While Africa needs innovation, it cannot be so that one form of innovation is permitted to outweigh or dominate another. The just and ethical development of African agriculture must be consultative, not achieved through stealth or domination. Using first world mechanisms to perpetuate the colonial model is by definition neo-colonial.

Controlling seed means controlling food production. Africans must choose how they farm. They cannot be allowed to become perpetually indebted to a predatory agricultural-industrial complex.

*Glenn Ashton is a writer and researcher working in civil society. Some of his work can be viewed at Ekogaia. This article was first published by the South African Centre for Civil Society Information Service



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The NGO-ization of resistance

Arundhati Roy


NGOs give the impression that they are filling the vacuum created by a retreating state. And they are, but their real contribution is that they defuse political anger and dole out as aid or benevolence what people ought to have by right. They alter the public psyche.

A hazard facing mass movements is the NGO-ization of resistance. It will be easy to twist what I’m about to say into an indictment of all NGOs. That would be a falsehood. In the murky waters of fake NGOs set up or to siphon off grant money or as tax dodges (in states like Bihar, they are given as dowry), of course, there are NGOs doing valuable work. But it’s important to consider the NGO phenomenon in a broader political context.

In India, for instance, the funded NGO boom began in the late 1980s and 1990s. It coincided with the opening of India’s markets to neoliberalism. At the time, the Indian state, in keeping with the requirements of structural adjustment, was withdrawing funding from rural development, agriculture, energy, transport and public health. As the state abdicated its traditional role, NGOs moved in to work in these very areas. The difference, of course, is that the funds available to them are a minuscule fraction of the actual cut in public spending.

Most large-funded NGOs are financed and patronized by aid and development agencies, which are, in turn, funded by Western governments, the World Bank, the UN and some multinational corporations. Though they may not be the very same agencies, they are certainly part of the same loose, political formation that oversees the neoliberal project and demands the slash in government spending in the first place.

Why should these agencies fund NGOs? Could it be just old-fashioned missionary zeal? Guilt? It’s a little more than that. NGOs give the impression that they are filling the vacuum created by a retreating state. And they are, but in a materially inconsequential way. Their real contribution is that they defuse political anger and dole out as aid or benevolence what people ought to have by right. They alter the public psyche. They turn people into dependent victims and blunt the edges of political resistance. NGOs form a sort of buffer between the sarkar and public. Between Empire and its subjects. They have become the arbitrators, the interpreters, the facilitators.

In the long run, NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among. They’re what botanists would call an indicator species. It’s almost as though the greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs. Nothing illustrates this more poignantly than the phenomenon of the U.S. preparing to invade a country and simultaneously readying NGOs to go in and clean up the devastation. In order make sure their funding is not jeopardized and that the governments of the countries they work in will allow them to function, NGOs have to present their work in a shallow framework, more or less shorn of a political or historical context. At any rate, an inconvenient historical or political context.

Apolitical (and therefore, actually, extremely political) distress reports from poor countries and war zones eventually make the (dark) people of those (dark) countries seem like pathological victims. Another malnourished Indian, another starving Ethiopian, another Afghan refugee camp, another maimed Sudanese…in need of the white man’s help. They unwittingly reinforce racist stereotypes and reaffirm the achievements, the comforts and the compassion (the tough love) of Western civilization. They’re the secular missionaries of the modern world.

Eventually–on a smaller scale, but more insidiously–the capital available to NGOs plays the same role in alternative politics as the speculative capital that flows in and out of the economies of poor countries. It begins to dictate the agenda. It turns confrontation into negotiation. It depoliticizes resistance. It interferes with local peoples’ movements that have traditionally been self-reliant. NGOs have funds that can employ local people who might otherwise be activists in resistance movements, but now can feel they are doing some immediate, creative good (and earning a living while they’re at it).

Real political resistance offers no such short cuts. The NGO-ization of politics threatens to turn resistance into a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job. With a few perks thrown in. Real resistance has real consequences. And no salary.

* Arundhati Roy is an Indian author and political activist championing human rights and environmental causes. This article was previous published by Massalijn.



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Mr. President, retore our dignity

Zaya Yeebo


Ghana seems to have crossed the threshold of moral decency on a dangerous slope towards self-destruction and moral turpitude. It is now a dog-eat-dog society where those in power have abandoned the citizens to the wolves of private aggrandisement. Does the president see this?

I want to believe that His Excellency President John Mahama is an honourable man. I also like to believe that, in theory, when people are appointed to public offices, they have a moral and legal duty to protect the nation’s assets for the next generation of Ghanaians. I also like to believe that institutions are guided by rules and procedures, which are so watertight, that it reduces malfeasance. Apart from the moral integrity of our current President, I am not sure about some of the others that I have enumerated. When stories of corruption and misbehaviour of unimaginable magnitude break out, Ghanaians express moral outrage, and expect some recompense. What do they get? More of the same.

Just imagine the picture of Ghanaian children sitting on blocks in the sun or rain trying to gain some education, something which is their birth right (I am one of those who still believe that Education is a right and not a privilege). Imagine the plight of the citizens of Mensah Guinea [an Accra suburb, whose illegal structures were demolished recently] and similar areas. Imagine the numerous Ghanaians dying of cholera, of the women who are likely to die this month because there are no hospitals with maternal facilities in their areas or these being too far away from their homes.

Now sit back and listen to stories being told at the Presidential Commission probing the Black Stars, of monies paid without receipts, of officials taking so much money as per diems, airlifting cooks to Brazil, paying commissions to anyone who asked for it, and so on. Stories of footballers, the nations’ pride, sitting in economy class while officials sit in first class, the story goes on.

When you think you have heard it all, come the story that the Chief Executive of Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the institution immortalised by Emile Short, living in a hotel at $450 per day at the taxpayers’ expense. This institution is supposed to help address issues of injustice. For once, we are tempted to forget about the judgement debt saga.

Another foray into the Daily Graphic brings you harrowing stories of how kayayees live and work in the city. No one complains when they pick up our bags full of goods and suffer under the weight of a sagging bag full of yams or plantain. This affirms our acceptance of the practices where children are victims of child labour, sexual enslavement and some worse abuses. We are then confronted with harrowing tales of cholera traversing the slums and towns of our country, taking along with it live of small vibrant children, and yet, the solution to cholera deaths stares us in the face. As for the EVD, I do not even know what to think of it. If we cannot stem the flow of cholera, how are we supposed to face the worst of Ebola?

It seems we have crossed the threshold of moral decency on a dangerous slope towards self-destruction and ‘moral turpitude’ (if I may borrow from the late General Kutu Acheampong). Those in whom we put our trust as citizens have abandoned us to the wolves of private aggrandisement and to abuse by both Ghanaian and foreign compradors. Listen to Ghanaian workers at Golden Tulip. As a nation, we seem to have succumbed to the basest of human behaviour in which the dog eat dogs system thrives. There seems to be no consequences for bad behaviour by public servants. By their behaviour, they have also let the President down.

The evidence for this is overwhelming: in a society where journalists are punched and beaten in broad daylight and where discussions on television and FM radio stations are conducted in violent abusive tones. In Ghana, the sight of young children selling along the road where our politicians pass daily, where children who should be in school are begging by the road side, and where street families abound at night. Do we need to look further for any evidence of the failure of the system? Of a political system that has failed to protect the weak and vulnerable? Do we need further evidence of a country on the road to disaster and ruin?

I posed this question in an earlier article – how did a nation with so much promise end up like this? Fidel Castro once described Cuba before the 1960 revolution as rich country with poor people. Sometimes, I have been accused of romanticising about the past. Now I agree with my accusers. So I will stop living in Ghana’s past glory. I despair when the solutions to our problems are seen through the advice of flight by night foreigners with IF tags. I despair when the solutions to our problems come through the same institutions and individuals who caused the problems in the first place. I do not see how the International Monetary Fund, with all its one size fits all approach to economic problems in Africa can help Ghana out of its cyclical economic problems. Dalliance with the IMF is like dancing to the rhythms of death. Ghanaian governments need to review their accommodationists policy towards the IMF and anything foreign (including coaches for our national team) and rely on this nation and its vast resources.

In spite of this, I will continue to extol the pan African commitment and achievements of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, whose 105th birthday we celebrate this month. I need to maintain some faith in the ability of Ghanaians to rise above our current problems. I want to live in a country where children are treated like human beings, where no pregnant woman dies during childbirth and when the rule of law prevails. I believe this world is possible.

Writing about the current crisis in Nigeria, Professor Wole Soyinka said: “as we twiddle our thumbs, wondering when and how this nightmare will end, and time rapidly runs out, I have only one admonition for the man to whom so much has been given … ‘Bring Back our Dignity’”.

I would say to my President: Restore our Dignity.

* Zaya Yeebo is a Ghanaian journalist and commentator on Pan African affairs.



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Practicalities of radical thought and protest in contemporary African contexts

Kwesi Dzapong Lwazi Prah


For most of us today, our lives are bound by the laws of the state, or internationally-enforced laws that define terms of trade, sovereign independence, and political involvement.


For most of us today, our lives are bound by the laws of the state, or internationally-enforced laws that define terms of trade, sovereign independence, and political involvement. Recently, the enforcement of these laws is faced with increasingly violent protest, as the continued rise in economic inequality, and the negative impacts of consumption destroy the earth’s ecology.

Through demand and supply variables that define market value, through formal and informal agreements that dictate the acquisition, allocation and reallocation of natural resources and human labour, and a complex blend of monetary theory and application, an increasingly complex system of exchanges is created (manipulated by financial institutions, and enforced by policing agencies). In recent times, this system of exchanges has been understood to rely primarily on exploitation and accumulation of perceived capital / wealth. However, contestations of access and privilege to resources (land for all people) come up against the rapidly increasing power of dominant, military-backed political groups and corporate monopolies.

Therefore, for many people around the world, most of the laws that enforce state and ‘international’ politics and trade tend to be repressive and counter-productive, in political and economic terms, and in relation to the interests of indigenous claims and rights. Yet, evidence suggests that these effects and impacts are formally denied, distorted through the media, and repackaged to mask a disturbingly rapid rise in poverty and ecological disaster.

The staggering amount of wealth that is amassed by certain economic institutions and associated corporations at the cost of war, environmental disaster, and social dysfunction has created very unsettling perspectives and realities: have and have nots, First World and Third World, developed and under-developed, etc. In both colloquial and serious study, these dichotomies have generated popular debate and protest that poses challenging questions to the state and the sustainability of a perceived economic ‘world’ system.


Perceived as a World System, Capitalism, as a paradigm defining the dominant system or mode of exchange and production today, generates critical perspectives within African contexts. As a concerned observer noted recently, ‘the superficiality of capitalist globalisation has… nowhere been more evident than in Africa whose nations had no alternative but to bow down to the economic dictates of the West.’[1] Thus, for example, after ‘seven long years of refusal to ‘sign’ with the IMF, the government of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was forced to accept the conditionalities of (Structural Adjustment Programs) SAPs in the mid 1980’s. Debt and donor dependence of the post-colonial state left little room for manoeuvres. The resulting combination of SAP and trade liberalisation and privatisation… led to a radical change in patterns of ownership and controls of basic natural resources, including land, minerals, wildlife areas and water […] transnational corporations (TNCs) gained far more control over basic resources in the 1990s and 2000s than they ever had in the colonial era which ended in 1961 (italisised input mine).’[2]

Cash crop / Petro-economies, developed over decades in Central, West, and North Africa, put the finishing touches to a picture depicting rapid ‘accumulation by dispossession’. Of course, these realities were not endemic or particular to the African political economy. Recent history revealed that this dispossession of material wealth spanned the globe, and the ensuing struggles (driven by political and economic interests) forced the migration of billions of people around the world, often due to the pressures of slavery, wage labour and limited or restricted access to knowledge and resources. Eric Williams was succinct in his conclusions about the motivations of British-led slavery and its subsequent abolition when he stated that ‘the commercial capitalism of the eighteenth century developed the wealth of Europe by means of slavery and monopoly. But in so doing it helped to create the industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century, which turned round and destroyed the power of commercial capitalism, slavery, and all its works.’[3]

This rapid accumulation of wealth by the Western world had no conscientious motive other than to establish imperial control over its conquered terrain. The impact has been devastating, as these actions continue to polarise equitable distribution of resources and political freedoms.[4] As Eric Hobsbawm argued, the danger of this polarisation now is that,

‘… as the world is integrated in one way by globalization, it is increasingly divided in another way into a permanently inferior majority of states and a privileged and self-satisfied minority of states. This minority enjoys a self-reinforcing superiority of wealth, technology, and power (including military power), and such superiority and complacency are just as likely to be resented now as they were in the old days of imperial supremacies – perhaps more likely, since today’s greater availability of information can more easily reveal the discrepancies.’[5]

These observations therefore suggest that where there are resources that can be exploited for profit, struggles between the state and the citizenry become particularly fierce. Human rights violations, territorial invasion, economic sanction, and political destabilisation are recurring experiences, which prevent constructive ideas on human development from taking root.

The bottom line is revealed in the growing concern about the sustainability of this current economic order (in its structural and functional senses), which then inevitably looks past the proposed structural and functional benefits, and focuses on the processes of value definition and an equitable re-distribution of wealth, in order to nurture the diversity of human creativity, and sustainably address negative impacts on the social and natural environment.

In a typical example of populist opinion on neo-liberal economics, N. Beams writes that ‘the IMF notes that real interest rates have been declining since the 1980s and are ‘now in slightly negative territory’. But this has failed to boost productive investment. On the contrary, what it calls ‘scars’ from the global financial crisis ‘have resulted in a sharp and persistent decline in investment in advanced economies’. Between 2008 and 2013, there was a two-and-a-half percentage point decline in the investment to GDP ratio in these countries. The report adds that ratios ‘in many advanced economies are unlikely to recover to pre-crisis levels in the next five years.’ This conclusion is of immense significance given the critical role of investment in the functioning of the capitalist economy. In what are deemed ‘normal’ conditions, investment—the expansion of productive capacity—is the key driving force of capitalist economic growth. Undertaken in anticipation of future profits, investment creates new demand in labour markets and the markets for machinery, raw materials and the means of production in general. This, in turn, creates further demand and expanded profit opportunities, stimulating additional investment, thereby setting in motion a virtuous economic circle. But if investment stagnates or declines, the circle turns vicious. This is what is now taking place.’[6]
As Africans, we are aware that this kind of analyses only finds refuge in a small group of financial elite, propped up by dummy / puppet functionaries around the colonised world, to serve the vagaries of risk investment and hedge funding. This vicious cycle then takes all aboard deeper into the pits of credit value, which is always dependent on availability of exploitable labour and natural resources. This all ends up tearing the ‘natural’ fabric of society apart, as the pressure of living wages and prices squeeze peoples’ lifestyles further.


Lasana Keita thus correctly questions the foundational aspects of this observed World System in the following manner; ‘Neoclassical economic theory is to be viewed essentially… as an ideology that presents a particular theory of human behaviour. It is this theory that serves as the foundations of modern capitalism and its practice as neoliberal economics. This is the anthropological question then: is such an ideology socially optimal for humans as social animals in terms of efficiency and equity?’[7]

Analysing the historical development of capitalist relations within African and Afro-Caribbean contexts, many distinguished Africanist scholars deconstructed the intricacies of a World Systems’ theory and its connection with Africa, and brought the rise of Capitalism, and its related crises into sharp focus.[8] Central to most of their arguments were the antagonisms related to the rise of imperialism within Africanist contexts, the problems of classical economic theory in its relation to the African political economy, as well as the necessary processes of decolonialisation facing all African development initiatives.

Added to this perspective, Toyin Falola recently argued that ‘the linkages between colonialism and culture are not always obvious, but they are not hard to delineate. If Europeans regarded the colonized Africans as the ‘Primitive Other’, the colonial experience enabled Africans to construct themselves as a terrorized race, raped and exploited by the patriarchal, powerful ‘White Other.’ The colonial encounter enabled Europe to define itself in ways different from Africa, to fall on language, food, race, and habits to construct ideas of superiority to the colonised. The so-called high culture connotes authority, refinement and civilisation, in opposition to so-called primitive cultures of Africa. Colonialism served to create and reinforce this dichotomy between high and primitive cultures, between elitist and popular cultures.’[9]

Therefore the idea of Sankofa, of a cultural revival, a ‘de-Othering’, a critical and vigilant consciousness, and a de-linking of key economic institutions from profit-based enterprise, to enterprise based on remuneration for ‘restoration’ and creative ‘capacity building’, would apply value to the social and natural environment, and inevitably become an important and necessary act of radical change. The processes of valuation, in which ‘funds’, or in this case, support services are sourced, can be easily networked in Africa.


We are in an era in which the ‘world system’ as we know it is collapsing, and therefore changing philosophies must find new avenues for human development. World systems theory has reached its logical conclusion in that imperialism must fall (not out of inefficiency, but out of the monstrosities it allows, and the rising popular awareness of human indignity and injustice). But when it does, the tragedy allows for re-birth and life.

[1] Hirji, K. F. (ed.)(2010). Cheche; Reminiscences of a Radical Magazine. Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam; P.163
[2] Evans Rubara. (6 March 2014). Uneven development: Understanding the roots of inequality. ( Recent media reports such as one titled ‘Zimbabwe: IMF Relaxes Restrictions On Zimbabwe’, in 2012, indicate that these trends have not changed. Apparently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had ‘eased technical assistance restrictions on Zimbabwe in a move seen as moving towards normalising relations with the southern African nation... In a press statement, the fund… confirmed that it decided to ‘resume IMF technical assistance in certain new areas to support Zimbabwe's formulation and implementation of a comprehensive adjustment and structural reform program that can be monitored by the staff’. The country will now continue to get assistance in areas such as financial sector reform, central bank reform, tax policy administration, public financial management, expenditure policy, monetary and exchange policies, macroeconomic statistics and anti-money laundering.’ See Victor Chipato. (31 October, 2012). Zimbabwe: IMF Relaxes Restrictions On Zimbabwe. ( Also see: Reuters (22 October 2013). IMF approves Sierra Leone for $96 million, 3-year credit facility. ( Reuters (24 January 2014). IMF plans to discuss loan with Central African Republic. (
[3] Williams, E. (2010 edition). Capitalism and Slavery. University of South Africa Press, Pretoria; P.210
[4] See Olivet, C., Eberhardt, P. (March 2014). How corporations and lawyers are scavenging profits from Europe’s crisis countries. (Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory); (
[5] Hobsbawm, E. (2000). The New Century; in conversation with Antonio Polito. Abacus, London; P.165
[6] Beam, N. (8 April 2014). IMF report: No end to economic breakdown. (
[7] Keita, L. (2012). Revealed Preference Theory, Rationality and Neoclassical Economics: Science or Ideology. (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa {CODESRIA}; Africa Development, Vol. XXXVII, No. 4, 2012, pp. 73 – 116); P.73
[8] See Eric Williams, Claude Ake, Dani W. Nabudere, Walter Rodney, Archie Mafeje, amongst many others.
[9] Falola, T. (2008). The Power of African Cultures. University Rochester Press, Rochester, NY; P.5

* Kwesi Dzapong Lwazi Prah is based at Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, University of South Africa



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Misdiagnosis: Mother tongue policy and English proficiency in Malawian schools

Steve Sharra


The new policy ignores serious systemic challenges within Malawi’s education system. It discourages the use of local languages in favour of English, a fact that has important cultural ramifications. In sum, the policy makers have misdiagnosed the problem and prescribed the wrong medicine

There are good reasons why many Malawians are happy with the new policy for English to be the language of instruction in Malawian public schools. We Malawians use proficiency in spoken and written English as a product of a good education. If somebody speaks good English, they are seen as being educated. In many cases that is quite true. The more years one spends in Malawian schools beyond primary and secondary schools, the better one's English becomes.

But there are cases when that can also be misleading. The test lies in knowing when it is accurate to equate English proficiency with good education, and when it is misleading. It is accurate to equate good spoken English with good education when the substance of what one is speaking shows reasoning and problem-solving skills. English can also be an accurate measure of one’s education when one is able to read and write proficiently, analyse information, and make informed decisions from that information.

But it should be pointed out that every language of the world has these same attributes that can be an accurate measure of a good education. That is why most successful countries continue to invest in their local languages. A good education should enable one to put one's education to meaningful use in their individual life and in contributing to society. A country can only develop when the majority of the population have access to the knowledge that matters in changing their lives and their communities. When that knowledge is tucked away in a language only a tiny elite can understand and utilise, society stagnates. There can be no meaningful, equitable development.

In the current debate on the language of instruction in Malawian schools, we are misdiagnosing the causes of what we see as low standards of education. We think education standards are low because students come out of the system not knowing how to speak English. And we think this is happening because in Standards 1-4 students are being taught in local Malawian languages, instead of English. This is a false analysis. Malawian students are unable to speak good English not because they use local languages in Standards 1-4, but rather because English, which is taught as a language right from Standard 1, is not being taught well enough.

There is one main reason why government schools are failing to teach spoken English well: schools do not have enough textbooks. And this is a problem across all the subjects. Most Malawian students in government schools go through the entire primary school cycle without adequate opportunities to interact with books. Those who spend enough time studying Malawian classrooms in the public schools know that there are very few copies of prescribed textbooks. Many students spend the entire year without touching a textbook. And this is worse in the early grade years, Standards 1-3, where class sizes average 150-300 per teacher.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that in 2013 there were 1,030,834 students in Standard 1 across the country. There were only 350,095 English textbooks. That's a rough average of three students sharing one textbook. But the reality is that many classrooms have far less textbooks due to inefficient distribution at the national level as well as at the school level. It is very common in Malawian schools to find textbooks locked up in a cupboard because the head teacher is afraid that the books will get damaged, and there will be no replacements the following year. There cannot be a worse paradox than this. It is simply not possible for a child to learn how to read and write without touching a book.

In deciding that the solution should be the use of English for all subjects from Standard 1, we have misdiagnosed the problem and we have prescribed the wrong medication. The problem of overcrowded classrooms and inadequate teaching and learning resources has been going on since 1994. That was when the government introduced universal primary education. It has become such a chronic problem that it has created a generation whose spoken English, and whose general knowledge for that matter, does not measure up to previous generations. Worse still, it has affected the English proficiency of many primary school teachers themselves.

Unfortunately the misdiagnosis has created a fertile ground for insults and innuendo. Those arguing for mother tongue instruction have been labelled hypocrites who want English for their children only. Those arguing for English instruction only have been labelled mentally colonised. When some Malawians hear "mother tongue" their minds understand that to mean "no English." It is a huge misunderstanding and Malawian language researchers have a lot of work to do to clarify the issue in a way that the public would understand and appreciate what is meant by mother tongue.

Malawian private schools use English as the only anguage of instruction for every subject. Malawian languages are effectively banned. Most children in urban private schools speak very good English, something parents are rightly proud of. Children in urban areas are exposed to English, that is why they are able to pick it up at school. They are also exposed to multilingual contexts. Parents of children in rural Malawi would no doubt want their children to also be fluent in English as a global language of power and prestige. Nobody should deny them that desire. There is need for research into whether the good spoken English of children in private schools is translating into good reading and writing, reasoning skills, and problem-solving capacity.

Last year in 2013 we learned that Chancellor College of the University of Malawi expelled nearly one third of its first year class, and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) expelled close to one fifth. Some university lecturers commented that students were coming to university with perfect spoken English, but very poor reading, writing, reasoning and problem-solving skills. Strangely, these students were able to make it past the University Entrance Exams. The government’s statistics show that 91 percent of Malawian university students come from the top twenty percent of the wealthiest families. This means most of them are coming from expensive private schools, where Malawian languages are banned and only English is allowed.

This is a fertile area for language researchers. Most Malawians speak more than one language. We are a multilingual nation. It has been proven many times over that children who are proficient in more than one language show superior intellectual performance compared to monolingual children. But there are also many monolingual people who have superior skills in their field. Their societies have invested in their languages. Most countries invest in the development of mother tongue languages because there is a direct correlation between knowledge and development. While privileging one language of prestige is important, it should not be done at the expense of local languages, spoken by millions of people. We need to develop long term thinking for the future of the country with knowledge production as a central concern.

We need to improve the way we teach English as a subject right from Standard One. But we should invest in multilingualism as well. That is the practice in most countries where education is truly contributing to development. We need to make sure there are enough textbooks for both students and teachers. We need to make sure there are enough resources for teaching not only English, but all subjects. And we need to improve the teaching of English in the teacher training colleges. We need to think more broadly about the millions of Malawians in rural areas who are craving knowledge that would transform their lives and their communities.

Steve Sharra, PhD blogs at Afrika Aphukira and Global Voices Online. He moderates Bwalo la Aphunzitsi, an online forum for Malawian educators, and Blogging Malawi, a forum for Malawian bloggers. Twitter: @stevesharra



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Visa denied

Biko Zulu


What an astonishing show of colonial arrogance! There are certainly many people around the pan-African world who have been similarly mistreated.

I have always wanted to see the River Thames. It’s the only thing I have ever really wanted to see in England. I am not interested in seeing the Old Trafford. Or Soho. Or China Town (what with the thousands of Chinese coming to build our railways, we will anyways soon be sending SMSs in Mandarin). Or the London Eye. I don’t even want to see the Tower of London, which just looks anaemic. Or Posh Spice (who also just looks anaemic, besides America took her away). I would, however, like to meet AA Gill.

All I wanted to see was the Thames.

Last week I spent four hours applying for a visa to travel to the UK. Yesterday when I picked up my passport, with it was a letter from the Home Office denying me a visa. The letter reeked of British snobbery, delivering underhanded “insults” with words like “onus”. The letter made me feel like a criminal, like I unknowingly belonged to some underground movement which despises anything British.

“You have not provided any evidence to demonstrate your financial circumstances in Kenya. I am not satisfied that your financial circumstances are as claimed,” suggesting that a.) I’m a liar and/or b.) I’m living off hand-outs. Before I could fully process this affront, the letter continued, “There is no evidence that you are supported on a daily basis/you have not provided enough evidence for your personal and economic circumstances.” Basically implying I’m one of those chaps who NGOs claim live under a dollar a day. Please. My car ignites with 56 bob.

The Home Office wasn’t done with me yet. “You have also not provided evidence of any strong family and social ties to Kenya.” It proceeded breathlessly, “I am therefore not satisfied that you are a genuine business visitor or that you intended to leave the United Kingdom at the end of your proposed visit.” I’m reading all this in my car, parked at the parking of 9-West building. And I’m trying not to get irked, because then they will have won. And they can’t win. The Mau Mau said they couldn’t win.

“In light of all of the above, I am not satisfied as to your intentions in wishing to travel to the UK now,” the missive went on, rubbing insult to my now festering wound. “I have therefore refused your application because I am not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you meet all the requ…” I had had enough. There was no signature at the end of the letter. Like those cowardly guys who use anonymous twitter handles to pick fights online.

I had submitted a letter of invitation from my host (a respected British company), confirmed flight details, hotel bookings at the Grosvenor House Park Lane (I hear it’s swanky as hell), an itinerary, and even a letter from my employer. But it seems it is easier for a camel to go through a needle, than for a young Luo man to access London.

You know, maybe the chap from the Home Office was right. That homeboy saw through me after all. He saw that all I ever wanted was to leave the comfort of Kenya, disappear in the UK, and never return to my homeland. I love the way the letter occasionally refers to it as the United Kingdom and not just the UK. So imposing. The Kingdom! It sounds biblical: Let thy Kingdom come. A place where milk flows from the taps, and people chill with deer in green meadows. A place where you are healed of all sickness. A place of white waterfalls and butterflies. A place where nobody sits in jams and the harp plays continuously in the streets. The United Kingdom!

I’m not worthy of the United Kingdom because of the risk I may refuse to come back home. Because I may cling onto the next white man’s leg, as immigration drags me away to Heathrow, to toss me back to Africa on the next flight out. The lure of the United Kingdom is so overpowering that once I step on that hallowed soil, I will instantly forget my wife and two kids and all my friends. The homeboy at the Home Office isn’t convinced that I’m content with what I have at home. He thinks I would just about give up my kidney to snare a pale, grim-faced bloated minger from Sherbourne, and sire with her a litre of Rooney-worshipping ‘pointie’ Zulus. My social ties didn’t impress the boys and girls from the Home Office. My social ties are weak. I don’t have friends back home. I sit in bars alone, staring at my empty glass of whisky (remember my financial position is dire) wondering when the United Kingdom will save me from such a desolate existence. The Kingdom in its unfailing wisdom assumes that if you are an orphan, you must be desperate to leave, because nothing could possibly keep you here. The same goes for the unmarried. Or those in-between jobs. Or if you are mad about Manchester United.

It pontificates that I’m desperately unhappy with this glorious weather of ours. That I wake up in the morning, stare at the rising sun in the east and grimace in sheer annoyance, because what I want, what I really really want is to be in the United Kingdom with its dreary, gloomy, wet weather. That I want nothing more than to be stuck in my house, unable to leave because the snow is piled up to my window. That I hate elephants and the Mara. That the Lion King is a stupid cartoon for pubescents battling acne. Mufasa my ass. That I will never start living until I set foot in the Kingdom. The United Kingdom is my saviour. It’s in the Kingdom that we shall all seek redemption. I’m ready, ye great United Kingdom, please swing open your pearly gates and honour me with an entrance so that I can thrive with your friggin’ pigeons that waddle everywhere.

I wonder what they meant about my “personal and economic circumstances” being unimpressive. I wonder how poor I must look. How desperate my financial situation must appear to them. They probably don’t need any more beggars on the streets of UK. The lads from the Home Office probably don’t know or care that I’m from Kendu Bay, and that down, although we are poor, we don’t know how to beg. We sleep hungry until one of two things happen; it rains, or the wind blows the hyacinth towards Siaya.

But those words, “balance of probabilities” stayed with me. They will haunt me for a while. The Home Office meant that the probability of me hiding in the United Kingdom was too much for their great kingdom to fathom. That I would leave my flourishing career, my family and my friends, our sandy beaches to disappear among the unappealing misty rain-soaked hills of England. That Kenya is too dangerous, too poor, too lacklustre, too stifling, too unimpressive, too uninspiring for me to possibly thrive.

I was a tad peeved to be honest. I don’t mind being denied a visa, but their reasons really got my goat. They almost made me feel desperate and poor and unworthy. They made me feel like a “chav”- to use their slang. They made me feel like I was in a sinking boat and I stuck my hand out for help, and they put a croissant in it instead. Like they think so little of my country or what I think of it, that they imagine I would walk away from everything I have worked for, everything I own, every relationship I have built, to start out at the very bottom of the barrel in the United freaking Kingdom. It’s utter poppycock.

I read that email again at night, but this time I read it aloud with a cockney accent. I stopped in the middle, made a pot of tea and then read it some more, slapping my thigh as I went along. All that was missing in the ensemble was a pipe. Then at the end, I noticed again that it wasn’t signed. That’s like knocking on your neighbour’s door to borrow their pliers and them slipping a note under the door written, “We don’t have.” So cold. So Bri’ish.

It’s at times like these, you want Dedan Kimathi to buy you a drink and tell you not to worry. I wonder what Dedan would drink anyway, apart from Murats of course. I know he would want to meet at Njuguna’s because Dedan is the kind of guy who would know which part of ‘nyake’ to cut. I need Dedan to tell me the Thames isn’t all that anyway. And to tell me that my “financial and economic circumstances” aren’t that grave and that with all the “balance of probabilities” I’m still a child of God, and I won’t need to spend four hours on some questionnaire to access a kingdom on earth because there is only one Kingdom. Can I have a hallelujah?

And to the lad from the Home Office, I want to tell you something, and be sure that unlike you I will sign it off, because where we come from, we don’t hide behind pretentious words like “onus”. We sign our shit because we stand by our words no matter how uninformed they may be.

You aren’t sure about my social ties? Here are my social ties. I come from Kendu Bay, Kanyasoro, from a long line of gentlemen who stand for something. My great grandfather fought in World War II, your war, not ours. My grandfather was a doctor. He was simply called H.J. You know a man is great when he is referred to by his initials. How about that Smith? My father, Ougo, is a scholar, a lover of history and English, your language. And I’m Bikozulu, the bearer of the long spear. My son is called Kimani; the son of a monkey is a monkey, which means he is Kanyasoro at heart. Those are my social ties, rooted firmly in Nyanza. We may not have blueblood, but we are who we are and I would never walk away from that for all the chips and gravy in London.

Now, it is your prerogative (turns out I can also write in English) to deny me entry into your Kingdom, but I’m also putting you on notice. You can go to Kisumu. You can go to Siaya. You can even go to Migori (if they don’t throw shoes at you). But as for Kendu Bay, it will be a different kettle of fish. In fact, when you get to Sondu, you will find a desk with papers, where I will require you to fill in a questionnaire longer than the Thames. You will prove that you are worthy of setting foot in my humble village. That you are worthy of touching our children. Let’s see how you like that. Smith.

Maybe I will never set foot in the Kingdom of Great Britain. Maybe it will be my eternal loss. Maybe in my final moments on earth, my failed dreams to see the Thames will wash up before my eyes, filling me with horror, as I’m sent off to my maker clutching desperate on this English mirage. Maybe the Thames would have finally healed my British itch. But all that isn’t nearly enough for you to use the word “onus” on me because it’s too close to the word “anus.”

* Biko Zulu is a Kenyan writer and blogs at Bikozulu.



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The post-2015 development agenda and migration

How will the emerging powers make their mark?

Kira-Leigh Kuhnert


Seventeen new targets have been agreed upon as the post-2015 development goals, including migraation. Engagement by the emerging powers on the issue of migration could yield positive results.

The political environment has altered since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established in 2000. The donor-driven process of the MDGs set in the context of traditional North-South relationships has been shifted by the rise of South-South cooperation. In the current discussions there is potential for emerging powers from the global South to influence the debates that take place around the post-2015 development agenda. The United Nations (UN) debate on the post-2015 development goals is an opportunity for emerging powers such as China, South Africa and India to engage in international development goal-setting, as they have become defining actors in global governance. The negotiations on reviewing and creating sustainable development goals enables the emerging powers to interact in a constructive manner and strengthen their soft power which will allow them to ‘accumulate more influence in the international community.’[1]

Through a series of engagements facilitated by the UN with international organisations, global civil society and activists, 17 targets have been agreed upon and identified for the post-2015 goals. These goals cover a range of issues from ending poverty to reducing inequality; making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; and achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.[2] The identified goals will be presented to the UN General Assembly for consideration and further discussion during its 68th session. Included in the set of 17 goals to be shared with the General Assembly, are indicators on migration, which is a first.

The inclusion of migration into the post-2015 goals is an advancement on the MDGs, and a move towards acknowledging the migration-development nexus. The addition of migration is a result of consistent advocacy by international organisations working on migration and human mobility, and due to discussions held by the United Nations High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. It was at this meeting that migration was recognised by the panel as a key factor for sustainable development. Migration features in the following proposed goals of the Sustainable Development Goals. The 8th goal states that it will ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.’ In particular it will (8.8) ‘protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments of all workers, including migrant workers, particularly women migrants, and those in precarious employment.’ The 9th goal will ‘build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation’ with a focus in (9.1) to ‘develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and trans-border infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.’ And finally the 10th goal aims to ‘reduce inequality within and among countries’; by aiming to (10.7) ‘facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.’[3]

Migration is a complex issue that is becoming an increasingly prominent policy concern for most developed countries. Migration, as understood by the International Organisation of Migration [4], encompasses the full spectrum of people who move within or across borders willingly for economic purposes, or forcibly because of conflict and persecution. The complexities of migration have deepened since the securitisation of the movement of people in the early 2000s, due to an increase in terror attacks and the rise in state security. [5] In contrast, the recent acknowledgement by the UN High Level Panel of the interdependent nature of migration and development which is welcomed, provides alternative discourse on the movement of people and the implications for receiving countries. The inclusion of migration as one of the 17 sustainable development goals is a positive move, which will hopefully influence national policies on migration.

However, one will notice that the post-2015 proposed goals have a particular slant towards regularised and economic migration. In order to address migration and development in a holistic manner the full spectrum of migration needs to be reviewed, which should include methods to deal with and manage the movement of people within a rights-based framework. The issue of forced migration (refugees and internally displaced persons) was included in a number of discussions by the working group on the goals. However, it was removed from the final draft of the post-2015 goals. This action sparked a few reactions and discussions from participants of the working group, although they were not successful in getting the issue included as a goal again. The high numbers of refugees and internally displaced people as a result of increased conflict in a number of areas across the globe, from the Central African Republic to Syria, has resulted in the highest number of refugees recorded in history. On World Refugee Day in June, the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) annual report said that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced around the world stood at 51.2 million, which is an increase of 6 million people from the previous year’s figures [6]. The global crisis requires a united and sustainable response and the exclusion of forced migration from the post-2015 development goals may have been a missed opportunity.

Engagement by the emerging powers on the issue of migration and in particular including forced migration into the goals and indicators of the post-2015 development goals could yield positive results. While the emerging powers may have some policy concerns with migration, the championing of such an issue, challenges notwithstanding, could highlight the positives in the movement of people. Most of the BRICS countries benefit from remittances through their economic migrants, which have shown results for lowering poverty in the receiving country. Russia, China, India and South Africa have also been receiving countries for forced migrants, and have provided support in one way or another to refugees. The recent BRICS summit that took place in July 2014, saw the BRICS countries renew their commitment to international peace and security and protecting, promoting and fostering human rights and sustainable development. [7] The BRICS leaders also reiterated the role that they wanted to play at the international level and in structures such as the United Nations. In the declaration signed at the end of the Summit, it was acknowledged that the timing of the Summit was taking place at a crucial time in international affairs. The emerging powers will need to act with political prowess when addressing issues such as migration at the United Nations, as it has become a highly political issue with concerns around sovereignty of nation states.

It is to be seen whether the emerging powers will utilise the opportunity during the 68th UN session to advance the agenda on certain issues of the post-2105 development goals, such as forced migration. However, it is hoped that they will put into action the declaration that came out of the BRICS summit where they stated that ‘we believe the BRICS are an important force for incremental change and reform of current institutions towards more representative and equitable governance, capable of generating more inclusive global growth and fostering a stable, peaceful and prosperous world.’[8]


[1] German Development Institute (2013) “Post 2015: How Emerging Economies Shape the Relevance of a New Agenda”, Briefing Paper 14/2013
[2] UN (2014) “Outcome Document - Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals”
[3] United Nations (2014); “Outcome document - Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals”;
[4] See the IOM website:
[5] For more on the topic of securitisation of migration look here . You can also read the seminar paper by Leonard, S (2007) “The ‘Securitization’ of Asylum and Migration in the European Union: Beyond the Copenhagen School’s Framework” here
[7] Global Research – Centre for research on globalisation
[8] Global Research – Centre for research on globalisation

* Kira-Leigh Kuhnert is a Project Assistant at the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa. She has a Masters in International Relations and a background in Gender and Women and Development Studies. The focus of her scholarly work has included the role of private international donors in determining the programmatic agenda of sexual health and rights organisations in South Africa. Kira has recently participated in Fahamu’s Emerging Powers in Africa online course.



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Zambia: Government size vs. economic growth

Henry Kyambalesa


Zambia suffers from a bloated government. A streamlined government structure will cut wastage and is likely to yield huge savings from salaries, special allowances, and utility allowances. That money is needed for development

In this article, the term ‘economic growth’ is used to refer to an increase in a country’s total output of goods and services over a given period of time. The term ‘economic development,’ on the other hand, is used to refer to improvements in the standards of living of a country’s citizens, including sustained and pronounced improvements in per capita income, life expectancy, literacy levels, human capital, healthcare services, food security, public housing, transportation infrastructure, and leisure and recreation.


By and large, the size of a country’s government can have a significant effect on the level of its economic growth and, ultimately, the country’s prospects for economic development. As Gwartney and others (1998), Barro (1997), Smith (2004), the World Bank (2000) and others have found, there is a correlation between an expansion in the size of a government (reflected by an increase in its expenditures) and a decline in private investment and economic growth.

In a study designed to examine the impact of an expansion in the size of a country’s government on economic growth, Gwartney and others (1998) have, for example, found that:

1) An excessively large national government can have a negative effect on economic growth. Grossman (1988, p.193-200), among other researchers, has found a similar correlation in his study of the U.S. government: ‘there [is] … indeed a negative relationship between growth in government and the rate of economic growth.’

2) As a government grows in size, it crowds out investment, leads to a decline in productivity growth and contributes to a slowdown in the growth rate of its real GDP. Similarly, Smith (2004) has found that ‘economies with large public sectors grow more slowly and suffer high rates of unemployment than those where this is not the case.’

3) An increase of 10 percentage points in government expenditure as a share of a country’s GDP is associated with a decline of approximately 1 percentage point in the growth rate of real GDP. Barro (1997) has also found that a 1 percentage point rise in the share of government consumption in GDP is associated with a 0.14 percentage point retardation in the rate of growth of real GDP per head of population. Folster and Henrekson (2001, p. 1501-1520) have found a similar correlation.

4) From 1980 to 1995, the world’s 5 fastest-growing economies – that is, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong – had total government expenditures averaging 20.1% of GDP, and was less than half the average of OECD countries. And in a study focused on the growth of public expenditure in industrial countries between 1870 and 1996, Tanzi & Schuknecht (2000, p.76) have found that countries with relatively small governments can perform ‘as well or even better than their counterparts with relatively big governments.’

In Middleton’s (2000) words, a ‘smaller, better focused government is better able to deliver than is big government.’

Peden and Bradley (1989, p.239), using U.S. data for the period 1949-85 to examine the effect of the size of government on economic output and productivity, have also concluded that the ‘level of government activity in the economy has a negative effect on both the economic base (GDP) and the economic growth rate (GDP) growth.


Zambia, like other developing countries worldwide, has continued to grapple with the problems of poverty, hunger, ignorance, illiteracy, disease, widespread unemployment, and dilapidated infrastructure. This is in spite of the country’s abundant natural endowments, which include fertile soil, ideal weather conditions, an ideal system of perennial rivers, a wide range of wildlife, wide stretches of natural forests and grasslands, a wide assortment of mineral resources, and a sizable population of peaceful and hard-working citizens.

Since our beloved country’s political independence in October 1964, we have miserably failed to use our national resources wisely in our quest to attain meaningful socioeconomic development and improve the livelihoods of the majority our people. Besides, we have continued to mortgage our country by borrowing heavily from both local and external sources of funds in order to sustain government operations.

Also, we have continued to rely on the support of our country’s development partners in various fields and sectors of the country, including agriculture, decentralization, education, energy, gender, governance, health, housing, HIV/AIDS, macroeconomics, private sector development, social protection, science and technology, tourism, water, transportation infrastructure, and the environment.

But what are we going to do when such support gets disrupted by changes in the priorities of our development partners, or if the development partners withdraw their support when we decide to pursue policies which are contrary to their expectations?

One of the basic reasons why Zambia has not been able to adequately address its socioeconomic problems, as well as reduce its borrowing, is related to the country’s bloated government structures.

Given the multitude of socioeconomic problems which cannot be addressed mainly due to the lack of financial and material resources, therefore, one would perhaps do well to suggest a streamlined government structure for the country, which could consist of the following government ministries and their specific functions:

1) Education, Training and Sport.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: general and tertiary education; vocational training; the training of teachers; adult literacy programs; matters concerning remuneration for teachers, lecturers, trainers, and researchers; and sporting programs in all educational and training institutions. I would also be involved in coordination of national programs and activities pertaining to education, training and sport with those of private institutions, as well as local governments nationwide.

2) Public Health and Sanitation.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: medical care, medical research, child health and development, family planning, disease control and prevention, food safety (local and imported foodstuff), drug safety (local and imported medicines), safety of herbal medicines, public health education, public health inspections, and matters concerning remuneration for public health personnel, as well as coordination of national public health programs and activities with those of private healthcare facilities and local governments.

3) Agriculture and Food Security.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: sustainable agricultural development and long-term food security. This includes the provision of agricultural incentives, support to agri­business establishments and agricultural research centres, damming rivers, and construction of irrigation canals. Coordination of national programs and activities pertaining to agriculture and food security with those of the private sector and both provincial and municipal governments should also fall in their docket

4) Finance and Revenue.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: financial matters and monetary issues, including the stock / securities market; national debt management and external debt resolution; management of all state-owned enterprises; administration, dispensation and recovery of loans granted to students and trainees admitted to institutions of higher learning, and management of a government scholarship fund through a ‘Loans and Scholarships Committee’ to be created in due course; and revenue generation through taxation, customs and excise duties, service fees / charges, superintendence over the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA), and provision of postal services through the Zambia Postal Services Corporation (ZAMPOST).

5) Commerce and Industry.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: trade and industrialization strategy, mining, business and investment promotion, regulation of imports and exports, trade relations, registration of foreign companies, research and development (R&D) support for local manufacturers, development in rural areas, and superintendence over the operations of the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA). And coordination of national commercial and industrial programs and activities with those of local governments.

6) Defence and Security.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: enhancement of national defence and security, including the issues of training, equipment, and matters concerning housing and remuneration for defence and security personnel.­

7) Home Affairs.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spearheading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: the protection of life and property; the preservation of law and order; the detection and prevention of crime; enforcement of laws and ordinances; safeguarding the rights and freedoms of members of society; developing sound police-community relations; and the operations of the Zambia National Service (ZNS). They should also be involved in the coordination of the ministry’s programs with other security organs of the national government, and those of local authorities and private security companies in dealing with public safety and security within the country.

8) Works, Supply and Transport.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: utilization and management of nationally owned pieces of land; provision and maintenance of vital infrastructure nationwide—including an efficient, intermodal and safe network of ground and air transportation; development of malleable stretches of the Zambezi, Kafue, Luangwa and other sizable perennial rivers for water transportation – including the proposed Shire-Zambezi Waterway involving Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique; and construction, renovation and maintenance of government facilities and pieces of property nationwide. They should also be concerned with coordination of the provision and maintenance of national public facilities with the efforts of local governments.

9) Lands and Public Housing.—To be directly responsible for advising the Presi­dent on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: delineation, administration and development of state and customary lands; management of the land resettlement program; issuance of title deeds; resolution of land-related disputes; provision of consent in the acquisition and transfer and leasing of lands; the implementation of home ownership schemes for all civil servants; provision of low-cost rental housing units for low-income families; management of a home-ownership scheme for low-income families to be financed through low interest mortgages; stipulation of fair eligibility requirements to be met by applicants for low-income rental public housing; generation of rules of occupancy, and determination of rental and other related charges; and derivation of a grievance procedure and guidelines for resolving any and all the issues and matters relating to non-compliance with rules of occupancy.

10) Culture and Community Services.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: preservation of the country’s national treasures, including national monuments, museums, historical sites, cherished traditional and cultural values; promotion of traditional music and culture-related crafts; national emergencies (through a ‘National Emergency Management Unit’); national unity and patriotism; religious harmony; national ceremonies and festivals; and issues relating to women, children, disabled citizens, and retirees and the aged; as well as coordination of national cultural and community programs and activities with those of local governments.

11) Justice, Prisons and Immigration.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: legal matters (including representation of the government), protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms, administration of the Zambia Prison Service, legal aid, title deeds, national registration, passports and immigration, citizenship and naturalization, work permits, treaties and agreements with other countries, intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights and trademarks), and remuneration for judicial personnel and support staff.

12) Foreign Affairs and Tourism.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear­heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: foreign political relations, including conflict resolution and peace-keeping efforts; consular affairs and services; profiles of foreign countries; services and vital information to Zambians in, or traveling to, foreign countries; publicizing Zambian society abroad; and management of a program which shall confer rare and special ‘Zambian residency’ status upon a selected number of distinguished foreigners.

A new or re-elected Republican president can implement such a streamlined government structure during or soon after his or her inauguration. I would expect Members of Parliament to eventually and unreservedly endorse such a government structure, irrespective of their political affiliations.

A streamlined government structure, such as that suggested above, is likely to yield huge savings in the form of salaries, special allowances, and utility allowances. Other savings would be in the form of the various kinds of payments currently being made by the government on behalf of government officials who would be retired, including payments for housing, phones, buildings, office supplies, automobiles, gasoline, water, and electricity.

All these savings could supplement the existing sources of government revenue, which include personal and business income taxes, value-added tax, postal revenues, national lottery, commercial undertakings, customs duties, passport fees, fire-arm registration fees, excise taxes, hunting licence fees, work permit fees, citizenship and naturalization fees, and NRC replacement fees.

The selling and/or buying of government bonds (by the Bank of Zambia) through the Lusaka Stock Exchange and regional stock markets on behalf of the government (by means of ‘open market operations’) could also provide additional revenues for the central government.

Performance of the functions of the Executive branch of the national government should be complemented by the work of several semi-autonomous government agencies, as provided for in the 1996 Republican constitution.

The complementary executive agencies which would need to be created, and those which are already provided for by the current Republican constitution, should be as follows: (1) Zambia Revenue Authority; (2) Anti-Corruption Commission; (3) Electoral Commission of Zambia; (4) Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia; (5) Human Rights Commission: (6) Labour Standards and Occupational Safety Board; (7) Environmental Council of Zambia; (8) Zambia Wildlife Authority; (9) National Water and Sanitation Council; (10) Energy Regulation Board; (11) Zambia Competition Commission; (12) Zambia Public Procurement Authority; (13) Drug Control Agency; (14) Food Reserve Agency; (15) Bureau of Statistics and Archives; (16) National Transport Safety Board; (17) Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority; and (18) the National Science and Technology Council.

For reasons of cost, each of the semi-autonomous government agencies would need to be managed by a small group of technocrats, and should be expected to enhance the national government’s ability to meet the changing needs and expectations of the people.

Civil servants who would be affected by the streamlining exercise should be encouraged to seek early retirement with full benefits. Professional and skilled civil servants should be re-deployed in the handful of new government ministries, and/or in executive agencies.

Each and every day that passes creates great opportunities for us to devise and relentlessly pursue viable strategies designed to make it possible for our beloved country to meet the basic needs, aspirations, and expectations of its people.

As the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (2001:90) has advised leaders in developing countries, we cannot wait for gradual progression of catching-up with the industrialized countries of the North; rather we must search for leap-flogging solutions to the problems facing our beloved country and its people.

In all, it is not possible for any political party or any political leader in Zambia – or in any other country as a matter of fact – to attain meaningful socioeconomic development with a bloated government that does not reserve a large portion of its resources for use in addressing the multitude of problems facing our beloved country and its people.


Barro, R J., (n.d.). Determinants of Economic Growth: A Cross Section Empirical Study, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, USA

Folster, Stefan and Henrekson, Magnus, (2001), Growth Effects of Government Expenditure and Taxation in Rich Countries,’ European Economic Review 45 pp. 1501-1520

Grossman, P, (1988) Government and Economic Growth: A Non-Linear Relationship, Public Choice 56, pp. 193-200

Gwartney, J et al, The Size and Functions of Government and Economic Growth,, April 1998

Kyambalesa, H, Government Size and Functions: The Political Economy of Small and Popular Governments in Africa, presented at the 27th Global Strategic Studies Conference held in Omaha, Nebraska, October 14-16, 2004 at the W. H. Thompson Alumni Centre at the University of Nebraska

Middleton, R, “\Book Reviews: Public Spending in the 20th Century: A Global Perspective by Tanzi, Vito and Schuknecht, Ludger:, October 2000

Peden, Edgar and Bradley, Michael, (1989), Government Size, Productivity, and Economic Growth: The Post-War Experience, Public Choice 61, pp. 229-45

Smith, David, The Effects of Public Spending and Taxes on Economic Growth,, May 19, 2004

Tanzi, Vito and Ludger Schuknecht, Can Small Governments Secure Economic and Social Well-Being? in Grubel, Herbert, editor, How to Use the Fiscal Surplus: What Is the Optimal Size of Government? (Vancouver, BC: The Frazer Institute, 1998)

______, Public Spending in the 20th Century: A Global Perspective. (2000) Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

______, ’Countries with Big Governments Run Risk of Slower Growth,’ IMF Survey, February 19, 1996.

* Henry Kyambalesa, is a Zambian academic currently residing in the City and County of Denver, Colorado, in the United States of America.



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How the US helped create Al Qaeda and ISIS

Garikai Chengu


Much like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS) is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.

The fact that the United States has a long and torrid history of backing terrorist groups will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history.

The CIA first aligned itself with extremist Islam during the Cold War era. Back then, America saw the world in rather simple terms: on one side, the Soviet Union and Third World nationalism, which America regarded as a Soviet tool; on the other side, Western nations and militant political Islam, which America considered an ally in the struggle against the Soviet Union.

The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, General William Odom recently remarked, “by any measure the U.S. has long used terrorism. In 1978-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the U.S. would be in violation.”

During the 1970′s the CIA used the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a barrier, both to thwart Soviet expansion and prevent the spread of Marxist ideology among the Arab masses. The United States also openly supported Sarekat Islam against Sukarno in Indonesia, and supported the Jamaat-e-Islami terror group against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan. Last but certainly not least, there is Al Qaeda.

Lest we forget, the CIA gave birth to Osama Bin Laden and breastfed his organization during the 1980′s. Former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably a product of Western intelligence agencies. Mr. Cook explained that Al Qaeda, which literally means an abbreviation of “the database” in Arabic, was originally the computer database of the thousands of Islamist extremists, who were trained by the CIA and funded by the Saudis, in order to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan.

America’s relationship with Al Qaeda has always been a love-hate affair. Depending on whether a particular Al Qaeda terrorist group in a given region furthers American interests or not, the U.S. State Department either funds or aggressively targets that terrorist group. Even as American foreign policy makers claim to oppose Muslim extremism, they knowingly foment it as a weapon of foreign policy.

The Islamic State is its latest weapon that, much like Al Qaeda, is certainly backfiring. ISIS recently rose to international prominence after its thugs began beheading American journalists. Now the terrorist group controls an area the size of the United Kingdom.

In order to understand why the Islamic State has grown and flourished so quickly, one has to take a look at the organization’s American-backed roots. The 2003 American invasion and occupation of Iraq created the pre-conditions for radical Sunni groups, like ISIS, to take root. America, rather unwisely, destroyed Saddam Hussein’s secular state machinery and replaced it with a predominantly Shiite administration. The U.S. occupation caused vast unemployment in Sunni areas, by rejecting socialism and closing down factories in the naive hope that the magical hand of the free market would create jobs. Under the new U.S.-backed Shiite regime, working class Sunni’s lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Unlike the white Afrikaners in South Africa, who were allowed to keep their wealth after regime change, upper class Sunni’s were systematically dispossessed of their assets and lost their political influence. Rather than promoting religious integration and unity, American policy in Iraq exacerbated sectarian divisions and created a fertile breading ground for Sunni discontent, from which Al Qaeda in Iraq took root.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) used to have a different name: Al Qaeda in Iraq. After 2010 the group rebranded and refocused its efforts on Syria.

There are essentially three wars being waged in Syria: one between the government and the rebels, another between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and yet another between America and Russia. It is this third, neo-Cold War battle that made U.S. foreign policy makers decide to take the risk of arming Islamist rebels in Syria, because Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, is a key Russian ally. Rather embarrassingly, many of these Syrian rebels have now turned out to be ISIS thugs, who are openly brandishing American-made M16 Assault rifles.

America’s Middle East policy revolves around oil and Israel. The invasion of Iraq has partially satisfied Washington’s thirst for oil, but ongoing air strikes in Syria and economic sanctions on Iran have everything to do with Israel. The goal is to deprive Israel’s neighboring enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, of crucial Syrian and Iranian support.

ISIS is not merely an instrument of terror used by America to topple the Syrian government; it is also used to put pressure on Iran.

The last time Iran invaded another nation was in 1738. Since independence in 1776, the U.S. has been engaged in over 53 military invasions and expeditions. Despite what the Western media’s war cries would have you believe, Iran is clearly not the threat to regional security, Washington is. An Intelligence Report published in 2012, endorsed by all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies, confirms that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Truth is, any Iranian nuclear ambition, real or imagined, is as a result of American hostility towards Iran, and not the other way around.donate now

America is using ISIS in three ways: to attack its enemies in the Middle East, to serve as a pretext for U.S. military intervention abroad, and at home to foment a manufactured domestic threat, used to justify the unprecedented expansion of invasive domestic surveillance.

By rapidly increasing both government secrecy and surveillance, Mr. Obama’s government is increasing its power to watch its citizens, while diminishing its citizens’ power to watch their government. Terrorism is an excuse to justify mass surveillance, in preparation for mass revolt.

The so-called “War on Terror” should be seen for what it really is: a pretext for maintaining a dangerously oversized U.S. military. The two most powerful groups in the U.S. foreign policy establishment are the Israel lobby, which directs U.S. Middle East policy, and the Military-Industrial-Complex, which profits from the former group’s actions. Since George W. Bush declared the “War on Terror” in October 2001, it has cost the American taxpayer approximately 6.6 trillion dollars and thousands of fallen sons and daughters; but, the wars have also raked in billions of dollars for Washington’s military elite.

In fact, more than seventy American companies and individuals have won up to $27 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last three years, according to a recent study by the Center for Public Integrity. According to the study, nearly 75 per cent of these private companies had employees or board members, who either served in, or had close ties to, the executive branch of the Republican and Democratic administrations, members of Congress, or the highest levels of the military.

In 1997, a U.S. Department of Defense report stated, “the data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement abroad and an increase in terrorist attacks against the U.S.” Truth is, the only way America can win the “War On Terror” is if it stops giving terrorists the motivation and the resources to attack America. Terrorism is the symptom; American imperialism in the Middle East is the cancer. Put simply, the War on Terror is terrorism; only, it is conducted on a much larger scale by people with jets and missiles.

* Garikai Chengu is a research scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on This article was previously published by Counterpunch.



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Gruesome buddies: ISIS beheadings and the American death penalty

Pierre Tristam


ISIS beheadings have provoked instinctive revulsion, justly so. Too bad the same reaction doesn’t follow America’s equally barbaric continuation of the death penalty, a habit other civilized nations have abandoned.

We are going to war again in Iraq and expanding the bombing to Syria, the seventh country in the Middle East to be graced with American bombings since 2001 (not including Gaza-Palestine, where American bombs are piloted by Israeli largesse). We’re doing this why? Because two Americans and a Brit were beheaded and American media whipped public opinion into a frenzy over it. The same media shrugged when 200,000 Syrians were butchered over the past three years, most of them by the same guy to whom the U.S. Air Force is about to give aid and comfort. The same media chest-thumped and encouraged the butchery of 2,000 Palestinians in July, about a quarter of them children, when Israel launched its latest massacre of Gaza residents. The killing was carried out mostly with weapons you and I paid for. But let the jingoes parade YouTube beheadings and Anglos, and suddenly it’s time to care.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive At least this much is clear: we either don’t know what we want in Middle East or don’t have a clue how to go about getting what we want. We are not expanding the war again for humanitarian or strategic reasons. We are doing so as an emotional response, and because the president’s spine has been replaced with Playdoh. The beheadings were gruesome. And the brutality of the Islamic State is indisputable. But neither adds up to a compelling reason to step up the killing and get back into billion-dollar waste.

More to the point: we have no moral ground to stand on when it using the Islamic State’s bloodlust for execution as a spark plug for intervention. We do it all the time, just as gruesomely. Rick Scott has signed the death warrants of 13 people in his brief tenure as governor, a faster rate of executions than any of his predecessors in a four-year term. Florida has executed 81 people since re-instituting the death penalty in 1979, and the United States has executed almost 1,400 since 1976. We don’t show it on YouTube, because we’re ashamed while pretending to be civilized. We hide it behind a grotesque dead-man-walking ritual that poses as solemnity.

But I fail to see how less gruesome it is than beheadings, particularly when we have a shameful record of [url]executions gone wrong[/url], whether it’s a head exploding in flames in our own Starke prison or injections’ lethality proving more leisurely than advertised, to the gasping inmate’s realization.

There are also some misconceptions about beheading as a method of execution. It’s not an Islamic invention. It’s a western invention. The Greeks and Romans, founders of our civilization and all things grisly, considered beheading the privileged way of dying, because it was quicker, more certain and less painful than other ways. They reserved the—what, favor, in their eyes?–for their own citizens. Non-Romans, as we well know from Jesus’s experience, got crucified. European countries subsequently reserved beheadings for their aristocrats. All European countries have since abolished the death penalty altogether, finding the act, not just the method, gruesome.

A few more backward countries are still at it of course, including Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which still has public beheadings. In that regard, those countries are no different than the Islamic State. And in that regard, we’re no different, either. We don’t behead people. At least not intentionally. That went out of style in the West with the retirement of the guillotine in Paris in 1977. But we electrocute them, lethally inject them, gas them, hang them or execute them by firing squad, as they still do in Oklahoma and Utah, though the two states, because they have such good hearts, also give prisoners the option of getting injected instead.

The conventional assumption, well-heeled by the American death penalty’s fans and PR specialists, is that capital punishment by these means is more humane, and that it’s more justified than the beheading of innocents. Murdering innocent people as the Islamic State does is barbaric. But it’s the fact that they murder them to start with that makes it barbaric, not the method. It’s not clear how less barbaric lethal injection is just because we say it is.

As for murdering the innocents: In Florida alone, 23 people have been exonerated off death row after conviction, after unexpected evidence turned up. Imagine how many people have been killed here and in other states who, on more careful review, would have been proven innocent. What is certain is that we, too, execute innocent people. We just do it after spending a lot more money to cover our asses. That’s without getting into the racism of a death penalty system that is far more likely to sentence blacks than whites for the same crime. So much for due process.

There may be a few legitimate reasons to attack the Islamic State, though I’d prefer it if Arabs were attacking them, not us. The Islamic State’s method of executions is not among those. Otherwise, we should be bombing ourselves. When it comes to capital punishment, not much separates us from the butchers of the Islamic State. That we do it in English, with more recognizable uniforms and behind closed doors doesn’t make it any less backward, any less barbaric, any less repulsive. This moral high ground can’t be claimed until the death penalty is abolished.

* Pierre Tristam is editor of FlaglerLive, where this article was first published.



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Advocacy & campaigns

Progress in the New Alliance? Not in support of small-scale food producers

Call of G7/G8 Civil Society Organizations to their Governments on the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa


The New Alliance sidelines the diverse and sustainable food systems of small-scale farmers which offer the real potential for food security and nutrition in Africa. Instead, it promotes environmentally damaging approaches to agriculture that entrench corporate power.

More than two years after the launch of the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, what we have seen of its ‘progress’ does not change our assessment that the New Alliance actually undermines food security, nutrition and the progressive realization of the right to food in Africa. First on-the-ground research suggests a dramatic gap between development rhetoric and impacts. There is no sign that the New Alliance is lifting African people out of poverty[1], but the promise to “unleash the power of the private sector”[2] is very visibly being fulfilled. Although the New Alliance rhetorically refers to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), we clearly see that the processes and components of CAADP targeted to the benefits small-scale food producers are sidelined.

When the New Alliance was inaugurated in the US in Camp David in 2012, it immediately became obvious that this initiative essentially served to enable private corporations to influence agricultural policy to advance their own interests. It is pressuring African governments to adopt domestic policy reforms that will facilitate large corporations’ investments in agriculture and discriminate against those who actually make the bulk of the investments, namely small-scale producers themselves.

Such profound legislative and policy changes threaten small-scale farmers’ control over land and seeds, marginalize local markets and cause loss of biodiversity and soil fertility, to the detriment of the livelihoods of local communities. They will exacerbate future climate and economic shocks for small-scale farmers, instead of building their resilience to cope with such shocks. They are being made without national debate, thereby undermining democratic structures.

Lack of transparency in the New Alliance – where donor and corporate commitments and implementation are, as in the Progress Report 2013-14, only reported at summary level – makes it extremely difficult for civil society to get a full picture of the New Alliance implementation.[3] However, first concrete cases indicate that the New Alliance is far from serving as an effective tool to support small-scale farmers. For instance:

In Burkina Faso the commitment to develop and rehabilitate irrigated land in the Bagré Growth Pole Project is mostly reserved for large-scale agribusiness investors, with only 22% (2790ha) of the land available for small-scale farming. Usually these farmers are only granted 1 to 4 ha of land with hardly any opportunity to scale up.[4]

In Malawi, the enlargement of tobacco investments by multinational companies is presented as a contribution to food security and the commitment to improve access to land has been implemented by making 200.000 ha of land available to agribusiness;[5] meanwhile the need to adopt the Tenancy Labour Bill as a core instrument to ensure minimum tenant’s and worker’s rights have been ignored in the cooperation framework agreement.[6]

In Tanzania and Mozambique, new seed laws are going to be introduced that will criminalize farmer-to-farmer seed exchange in the future. In other countries, such as Ghana and Malawi, similar processes are under way.[7]

This evidence supports our analysis that the New Alliance sidelines the diverse and sustainable food systems of small-scale farmers which offer the real potential for food security and nutrition in Africa. Instead, it promotes environmentally damaging approaches to agriculture that entrench corporate power.

We therefore urge you to review your engagement in the New Alliance, and take the following steps:

1. Stop any legal and policy changes that facilitate large-scale land investments and that impede small-scale farmers ability to save, exchange and sell their seeds.

2. Stop any further expansion of the New Alliance. No further cooperation framework agreements should be developed.

3. Review existing projects and policy reform indicators with the meaningful involvement of the populations most affected, and withdraw from those that fail to promote the right to food and the legitimate tenure rights of women and communities, or that prioritize business interests over vulnerable people and the environment.

4. Make the letters of intent of the companies participating in the New Alliance public immediately in order to enable a legitimate public debate about likely impacts and assessment of the New Alliance.

5. Support small-scale producers’ own investments as advised by the Committee on World Food Security, by putting women, small-scale farmers and other marginalised groups at the center of any future strategy and project for food security and nutrition in Africa; making sure that human rights and environmental impact assessments are carried out to ensure that projects only move forward if they are found not to have negative impacts on human rights and the environment.

6. Support adoption of agroecological practices by small-scale farmers to build resilience through: participatory research in agroecology; dissemination of ecological farming knowledge via farmer-to-farmer networks; and capacity-building of extension services to advise farmers on how to practice ecological farming.

September 19, 2014




Pesticide Action Network

FIAN Germany


Agrar Koordination

Global Policy Forum

Seeds Action Network


German NGO Forum Environment & Development

Brot für die Welt – Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst


UK Food Group

The permaculture association

World Development Movement

Find Your Feet

Farms Not Factories

War on Want

FIAN group UK

Concern Universal

Pesticide Action Network

Send a Cow


Terra Nuova

FIRAB (Fondazione Italiana per la RIcerca in Agricoltura Biologica e Biodinamica)




Comitato Italiano per la Sovranità Alimentare

La Gabbianella Coordinamento per il Sostegno a distanza onlus

CEFA – Il seme della solidarietà


Centro Mondialità Sviluppo Reciproco (CMSR)

Forum Permanente delle Associazioni di sostegno a distanza (ForumSad)




ACU-Associazione Consumatori Utenti


Rete Cibopertutti -Kumida

COCIS – Coordinamento delle Organizzazioni non governative per la Cooperazione Internazionale allo Sviluppo

Fondazione Slow Food per la Biodiversità Onlus



CCFD-Terre Solidaire

Action contre la faim France

Peuples Solidaires – Action Aid France

Avocats et vétérinaires sans frontières (AVSF)


Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches – TANY

Artisans du monde – France

Centre de Recherches et d’Appui pour les Alternatives de Developpement – Ocean Indien


FIAN France


Oakland Institute

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns


The Second Chance Fd

Global Policy Forum

Food First



Union Paysanne

National Farmers Union


Africa Japan Forum

No to land grab

GCAP Japan

Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC)

Mura-Machi Net”, Network between Village and Town”



Corporate Europe Observatory

Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network


Transnational Institute


FIAN Austria

Arche Noah


Entraide et Fraternité

Broederlijk Delen

Pan-Africanist International

SOS Faim

FIAN Belgium



FIAN Norway


FIAN Sweden





FEC – Fundação Fé e Cooperação

AIDGLOBAL – Action and Integration for Global Development



Manos Unidas


ActionAid International

Greenpeace international


FIAN International


ACF International


[1] Feed the Future, 2012: Five Questions about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition,
[2] Cameron, David, 2012: „A G8 Meeting that goes back to first principles,
[3] G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, Progress Report 2013-14,
[4] Oxfam 2014, For Whose Benefit? The G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Burkina Faso.

[5] Government of Malawi, G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition: Malawi: 2014 Annual Progress Report.

[6] De Schutter, Olivier, 2013: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Mission to Malawi from 12 to 22 July 2013, End of Mission Statement.
[7] See for instance: Tanzanian Civil Society Statement on Farmer’s Rights 22 March 2013,; see also: African Center for Biosafety, 2013, Slavishly following UPOV 1991. A critique of Mozambique’s Plant Variety Protection Law,

Open letter to the Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture on farmers’ rights


Civil society organisations and movements are concerned that a resolution passed year to ensure safeguarding of farmers’ rights is being subverted in favour of a discussion on innovation and plant genetic resources

18th September 2014

Dr. Shakeel Bhatti
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)

cc. Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO, Secretary-General of UPOV
cc. Member States of ITPGRFA

Dear Dr. Bhatti,

We the undersigned organizations from around the world are keen to see full implementation of Farmers Rights. The Preamble of the Treaty and Article 9 on Farmers’ Rights, recognizes the contribution that local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA). It also explicitly recognizes that Treaty Members have the responsibility of realizing farmers’ rights. This includes the right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed/propagating material; the right to participate in decision making on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA; the right to participate in the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from, the use of plant genetic resources as well as protection of traditional knowledge relevant to PGRFA. The treaty acknowledges that these elements are fundamental to the realization of Farmers’ Rights and the promotion of Farmers’ Rights at national and international levels.[1]

“Farmers’ Rights” is a core component of the Treaty, and as such its full implementation is a pre-requisite to achieving the Treaty objectives. However, there is much concern that the instruments and/or activities of UPOV and WIPO are not supportive of Farmers rights, and even undermine those Rights, thereby hindering implementation of the Treaty provisions.

In September 2013, the 5th Session of the Governing Body adopted Resolution 8/2013 on implementation of Article 9, which in Paragraph 3 requests the Secretary to “to invite UPOV and WIPO to jointly identify possible areas of interrelations among their respective international instruments”[2]

In your letter[3] addressed to Dr. Francis Gurry, the Secretary-General of UPOV to operationalize paragraph 3, you state: “Without intending to prejudge its outcome, this consultation process could for example lead to joint publication by UPOV, WIPO and the International Treaty on interrelated issues regarding innovation and plant genetic resources among our respective instruments.”

We are of the view that a publication such as that suggested in the letter is certainly not what should be expected as an outcome of Paragraph 3 of the Resolution. The Resolution concerns implementation of Article 9, thus the identification of interrelations should be with regard to Farmers’ Rights and be supportive of the implementation of Article 9 and the Treaty. Discussing innovation and plant genetic resources is inconsistent with the mandate given by the Resolution.

Further, we are of the view that the implementation of Paragraph 3 of the Resolution requires a thorough and evidence based analysis of the actual and potential effects including negative impacts of UPOV and WIPO’s instruments and activities with regard to realization of Farmers’ Rights. Some key questions to be addressed in such an analysis are:

· What is the impact of UPOV’s requirements (esp. of Art. 14 and 15 of UPOV 1991) on farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material? The analysis should differentiate between the requirements of UPOV 1978 and UPOV 1991.

· What is the scope and content of WIPO’s technical assistance with regard to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture especially when it receives technical assistance requests from its Members in connection with patents and plant variety protection?

· What is the impact of WIPO’s technical assistance on farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material?

· How do UPOV and WIPO “recognize the enormous contribution that the local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world, particularly those in the centres of origin and crop diversity, have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources which constitute the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world”[4]?

· To what extent do the instruments and activities of UPOV and WIPO support or undermine the “protection of traditional knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture”[5]?

· To what extent are the negotiations of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore taking into account the need to uphold farmers’ rights?

· In which way do UPOV and WIPO support or restrict the “right to equitably participate in sharing benefits arising from the utilization of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture”[6]? Are there any measures in place in the instruments administered by UPOV and WIPO to facilitate fair and equitable sharing of benefits and to prevent misappropriation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture?

· How are UPOV and WIPO upholding the “the right to participate in making decisions, at the national level, on matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture”[7]? Do they insist on the implementation of this right when providing technical assistance and have discussions taken place in UPOV and WIPO on supporting the implementation of this right.

We are of the strong view that the current suggestion by the Treaty Secretariat i.e. to undertake a joint publication with the described content is not in line with the Resolution 8/2013 taken by the governing body, and request that you take immediate steps to halt this flawed process.

Instead the Treaty Secretariat should take lead and invite UPOV and WIPO to agree to the setting up of an independent Commission that will investigate implementation of Article 9 by UPOV and WIPO with regard to their respective instruments and activities. Some key questions to be investigated have been highlighted above. To ensure a rigorous investigation, such a Commission should also invite written submissions and hold public hearings. This process would be in line with the mandate of the Resolution.

We look forward to hearing from you on the next steps taken in the implementation of the Resolution.

On behalf of the signatories

Sangeeta Shashikant, Third World Network

François Meienberg, Berne Declaration


[1] See the Preamble and Article 9 of the Treaty.

[2] See paragraph 3 of Resolution 8/2013.

[3] Published in the Annex of UPOV Document CC87/7 which is available on APBREBES website at

[4] See Article 9 of the Treaty

[5] See Article 9 of the Treaty

[6] See Article 9 of the Treaty

[7] See Article 9 of the Treaty


International Organisations

La Via Campesina

Oxfam International

Third World Network


The Alliance For Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)

- The Pan African platform comprising 10 networks and farmer organisations


Food sovereignty Ghana

Ethio-organic Seed Action (EOSA), Ethiopia

Commons for EcoJustice (EcoJustice), Malawi

Never Ending Food, Malawi

Fahamu Africa, Senegal

African Center for Biosafety, South Africa

SECAAR (Service Chrétien d’Appui à l’Animation Rurale), Togo

Alliance for Agro-Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation, Zambia

Caritas Zambia

Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT), Zimbabwe

Food Matters, Zimbabwe


Farmer Seed Network, China

CENESTA (Centre for Sustainable Development), Iran

Consumer Rights for Safe Food, Philippines

Negros Island sustainable agriculture and rural development foundation, Philippines

SEARICE, Philippines


La Red Por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos (Network for a GE-Free Latin America)

Centro de Agricultura Alternative do Norte de Minas, Brasil

ETC Group, Canada

USC, Canada

Asociación Red de Coordinación en Biodiversidad - Costa Rica

Asociación ANDES, Perú

PLANT (Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples, USA

La Red Por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos



APRODEV, Belgium – The Association of World Council of Churches related Development Organisations in Europe with 15 Member Organisations

Pan-Africanist International, Belgium

Réseau Semences paysannes, France

Agrar Koordination, Germany

Agrecol Association (Agrecol e.V.), Germany

Campaign for Seed-Sovereignty, Germany

Dachverband Kulturpflanzen- und Nutztiervielfalt, Germany

INFOE - Institute for Ecology and Action Anthropology, Germany

Misereor, Germany

Save Our Seeds, Germany

Slow Food Deutschland e.V., Germany

Verein zur Erhaltung der Nutzpflanzenvielfalt, Germany

The Development Fun, Norway

Resembrando e Intercambiando, Spain

alliancesud, Siwtzerland

Berne Declaration, Switzerland

Biovision Foundation, Switzerland

Brot für alle – Pain pour le prochain – Pane per tutti, Switzerland

Fastenopfer, Switzerland

HEKS - Swiss Church Aid, Switzerland
Swissaid, Switzerland

Uniterre, Switzerland

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), UK

UK Food Group, UK - The leading UK network for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on global food and agriculture issues with 49 members

Erklärung von Bern - The Berne Declaration

François Meienberg

Postfach, Dienerstr. 12, 8026 Zürich
Tel. direkt: +41 (0)44 277 70 04, Fax +41 (0)44 277 70 01


[1] See the Preamble and Article 9 of the Treaty.

[2] See paragraph 3 of Resolution 8/2013.

[3] Published in the Annex of UPOV Document CC87/7 which is available on APBREBES website at

[4] See Article 9 of the Treaty

[5] See Article 9 of the Treaty

[6] See Article 9 of the Treaty

[7] See Article 9 of the Treaty

Indecent act committed by Tony Mochama upon the person of Shailja Patel


The alleged sexual assault on the Kenyan poet has sparked a hot discussion in the country social media and literary circles. The accused, a journalist and writer, denies the claim.



Thursday September 25

On Saturday September 20th, Standard Group columnist Mr. Tony Mochama committed an indecent act upon the person of poet and activist Shailja Patel, at a gathering in the home of Professor Wambui Mwangi in Spring Valley, Nairobi.

Today at 12 noon, Ms. Patel filed a police report at Spring Valley Police Station. She was accompanied by her lawyer Ann Njogu, Chair of CREAW (Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness for Women), high Court Advocate Betty Kaari Murungi, eD of COVAW Joan Nyanyuki, representatives from FIDA, and friends and supporters.

Ms. Patel had previously stated that she would seek restorative community justice rather than engaging the judicial system. Following consultation with civil society colleagues and consideration of all parties involved, she decided to file a police report for the following reasons.

1) To facilitate the need for corroboration, substantiation, triangulation.

2) To support the decades of work of Kenya's women's movement has spent to improve reporting procedures for SGBV survivors.

3) To move forward policy and practice on on sexual violence in public life on the basis of evidence.

4) The women's movement has fought hard and long for sexual violence to be treated like the crime that it is. We must uphold that struggle by being as rigorous as possible when we make our claims and the demands thereof.

Ms. Patel said:

"Each time a man sexually harasses or assaults a woman with no consequences, he is emboldened to repeat and escalate that behaviour. It becomes a pattern. Sexual predators are not born; they are the product of patriarchies and rape cultures that teach men they are entitled to the bodies of all women.

"When a man invades a woman's body space without her invitation, touches, grabs and gropes her without her consent, he violates her sovereignty of person. He evicts her from her own body. Our bodies are our first homes. If we are not safe in our bodies, we are always homeless.

"Let us stand with all victims and survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Let us create a society where sexual violence is unknown."


Ann Njogu, Chair, CREAW, Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness for Women
Mobile: 0722 768 381

Action alert! Haiti: President Aristide's life threatened


Legislative elections due to take place in Haiti in October are triggering a new chilling wave of repression aimed at President Aristide and his supporters.

On Friday morning, September 12, at 1am, the Haitian government removed the security detail that has been guarding former President Aristide’s house since his return to Haiti in 2011. This came a day after a judge ordered President Aristide to be placed under “house arrest”, even though no such provision exists under Haitian law (more background in letter signed by public figures below). This is the fourth time since his return to Haiti in 2011 that he has been the target of a politically motivated legal case, previous charges were dropped before he could even challenge them in court. Legislative elections due to take place in Haiti in October are triggering a new chilling wave of repression aimed at President Aristide and his supporters.

We view these actions with the gravest concern and consider them a direct threat to President Aristide and his family, to other members of his Lavalas party, still the most popular in Haiti, and to the grassroots Lavalas movement. It is the latest step in a pattern of intimidation that harkens back to the days of the Duvalier dictatorship.

Please see below for what you can do, starting with contacting the U.S. State Department’s Special Coordinator for Haiti, which has been a key supporter of the corrupt Haitian government of Michel Martelly. Martelly gained power through an election with only 20% turnout, after Lavalas was banned from participating.

Let them know that we hold them accountable for the safety and welfare of President Aristide and his family, and that we demand an end to the harassment and repression against President Aristide and the Lavalas movement.

As you can see from the signatories below, many people are concerned. We must act now, in defense of President Aristide and the democratic movement in Haiti. Haiti has been under attack since the Haitian Revolution led the way for the ending of chattel slavery in the Americas. Haiti supported Bolivar the liberator of Latin America. We all owe a great debt to Haiti. Thank you so much for your continued support for democracy in Haiti.


· Urgently contact the US State Department’s Special Coordinator for Haiti, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and the Congressional Black and Progressive Caucuses. Contact details below. Send the attached letter or one of your own.
. Please help to circulate the attached letter to prominent people and public figures and ask them to sign on.
· Send this action alert to your contacts, post on your website, circulate on Twitter and Facebook. We will be sending a press release separately that you can send to your media contacts.

Thomas C. Adams, US State Department Special Coordinator for Haiti
Phone: 202-647-9510 Fax: 202-647-8900

John Kerry, US Secretary of State
Phone: 202-647-4000 (switchboard)
Fax: 202-647-8947
Twitter: @JohnKerry

Congressional Black Caucus
Phone: 202-226-9776

Congressional Progressive Caucus

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva
Phone: 202-225-2435
Fax: 202-225-1541

Rep. Keith Ellison
Phone: 202-225-4755

Issued by Haiti Action Committee and Global
Women’s Strike


Since his return to Haiti in 2011, President Aristide has led the reopening of the University of the Aristide Foundation (UNIFA), which now has over 900 students in medical, nursing and law schools.

Yet he continues to be the target of government repression. On August 21, Haitian police wearing black masks and carrying heavy arms appeared in front of his home as a Haitian judge issued calls to arrest him. Hundreds of people courageously surrounded the house to protect him.

This is the fourth time since his return that President Aristide has been the target of a politically motivated legal case. Each time the case has been dropped before he has had a chance to even defend himself. We can expect more attacks as legislative elections in Haiti draw closer.

Here is a link to a recent article from the publication “Jurist” which provides good background on the recent events in Haiti: . Please also see: The USA’s Haitian Puppet Targets Jean Bertrand Aristide yet again (Telesur).


Remembering Thomas Deve


Thomas Deve died on September 7, 2014. He was a visionary, Pan-Africanist and thinker in human rights and arts circles. Here is a short video of tributes to him at a commemoration held in Nairobi.

South Africa: Noted student social justice activist dies


BDS South Africa mourns the passing of Palestinian solidarity and student activist, Comrade Yusuf Talia. We also celebrate Cde. Talia’s inspiring life!

22 September 2014

It is with deep sadness that the staff, board and volunteers of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDS South Africa) learn of passing of our dearest comrade and student activist, comrade Yusuf Talia. Cde Talia was part of the larger Palestinian solidarity movement for several years and had led various campaigns to advance the freedom for the people of Palestine. In particular, Talia played an instrumental role in the annual Israeli Apartheid Week campaign.

Comrade Yusuf Talia lead his life in a way that inspired all of us to continue working for a better South Africa, a free Palestine and a more just world - he leaves behind a legacy of being a champion for social justice. We celebrate Comrade Yusuf’s inspirational life and we hope to live out his legacy.

Cde Yusuf Talia held a number of important leadership positions. Many of us at BDS South Africa first grew to know him during his time as a student leader at Wits University where he served as the Vice-President of the SRC in 2009/2010 and an active member of the Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee. Cde Yusuf also stood out as a leader of the movement for people with disability at Wits and was a founding member of the Disability Week on campus. He also represented student interests on the Higher Education Disability Service Association. Despite his demanding leadership positions and roles, cde Yusuf received two degrees from Wits University. A BComm and a BSc and was currently studying towards an honours degree in Science. He received these degrees with distinction and became a member of the Golden Key Honours Society

One of Cde Yusuf Talia’s last tweets was: “The job isn't done while apartheid still exists in Palestine - Let's maintain our solidarity and keep fighting for justice!”

We will forever remember comrade Yusuf Talia’s inspiration in our fight for justice in Palestine and the rest of the world.
We offer our condolences and strength to Talia family, in particular Yusuf Talia’s younger brother comrade Waseem Talia.

Hamba Kahle, lala ngoxolo, Nkokheli.


Tribute to Comrade Humphrey Kimani Ndegwa aka ‘Kim wa RPP’

Gacheke Gachihi


Comrade Kimani remained steadfast in his commitment to the liberation of Kenya ever since he joined the reform movement in the early 1990s. Though uncelebrated nationally, the social justice movement in Kenya is the poorer with his untimely death.

Last Sunday I spent great time with Comrade Kimani Ndegwa at his small house in Nairobi’s Dandora Phase 5, together with other comrades such as Munga Gathogo and Otsieno Namwaya, a reseacher with with Human Rights Watch in Kenya who had visited Kimani as well. None of us suspected that he could pass away so soon, although he was quite unwell. Kimani died of liver cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital in the early hours of Monday, 22 September. It is a deep loss for his wife and children and the rest of the family. But it is also a moment of great sadness for the human rights defenders’ movement in Kenya. I wish to express my heartfelt and comradely condolences to Kimani’s wife, the children and the larger family during this time of sorrow.

Kimani’s passing is poignant reminder to us all of the betrayal of the foot soldiers of Kenya’s “Second Liberation” movement which fought against and achieved the end of the tyrannical rule of former President Daniel arap Moi. Kimani is among the many unsung heroes of that movement. It is a great tragedy that in the last five years or so we have lost many comrades in the human rights defenders’ movement who have transitioned early in their lives largely due to the grave lack of adequate healthcare support and solidarity from the human rights movement and the Kenyan society in general whose emancipation they so completely devoted their lives to.

Humphrey Kimani Ndegwa distinguished himself as a foot soldier of the Second Liberation movement and embodied the emerging grassroots social movement in Kenya today. Comrade Kim was recruited in the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (FORD), the pro-democracy movement founded in the early 1990s, while he was working at Jadini Beach Hotel in Mombasa. He had worked at the hotel from 1989 after graduating from Utalii College in Nairobi. Jadini Beach Hotel is associated with Kenneth Matiba, one of the remarkable pro-democracy leaders in Kenya in the early 1990s. Kimani was recruited as a youth to join the reform movement under FORD. As pro-democracy activist would rub with the doyens of opposition of still outlawed opposition: Jaramogi Odinga, Charles Rubia, Paul Muite, and other supportive figures such as fomer US Ambassador Smith Hempstone. They would hold clandestine meetings at the hotel to consult and plan for rallies and other strategic actions in the struggle for re-introduction of mult-party politics in Kenya. Later, Kimani joined the vocal and tireless Release Political Prisoner pressure group, serving the organization with undivided dedication.

Today, we must accept that Kimani is no more but his spirit and passion for social justice live on with the new generation of grassroots activists that he helped to nurture in Mathare, Muranga, Kibera and many places in the country.

Kimani spent his life working for the grassroot movement not just in RPP but also in the Unga Revolution, Muugano Wa Wanavijiji and Bunge La Mwananchi. Many people who followed the activities of these groups will for a long time recall him carrying a megaphone in every social protest we organized: against extra-judicial killings and police brutality, demanding action on the high cost of living which especially hit the many urban poor, agitating for the rights of people living in slums, Occupy Parliament, and so on. He was indeed the activist for all seasons. Comrade Kim would publicize his human rights campaigns work on his Facebook page and other social media to keep the human rights movement informed of important activities.

Without a doubt Comrade Kimani’s deep commitment to the history of our struggle turned him into something of a walking library; a man with photographic memory of the pro-democracy movement going back to the 1990s. He kept great historical documentation of the movement. When the renowned environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai died in 2011, Comrade Kimani organized with other social movements a Wangari Mathaai memorial at which historical photos of the Freedom Corner struggles were showcased for three days capturing the women’s unprecedented vigil and subsequent protest at Karura Forest against destruction of the environment by the Moi regime.

More recently, we we together this May at the African Liberation Day cerebration and later attended a training organized by Global Platform Doctivist ,where Kimani Ndegwa participated in making a social justice Documentary on life and struggle of Street Children in Nairobi ( It was during this training that he started feeling unwell.

Kimani died after great pain as he struggled with liver cancer in a poor public health system. He sacrificed his youthful life for the true liberation of our Motherland, Kenya, so that our great people can access quality education, healthcare and livelihoods of dignity.

As a grassroots movement we will dearly miss his comradely solidarity and devotion to the struggle especially during this time when the future of Kenya remains uncertain for the majority poor.

It is important that, as a social justice movement, we must never forget our past collective struggles with Comrade Kim, even if material conditions separate us during this time neoliberalism - a reality that appears to have enslaved segment of the human rights movement in Kenya. The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting, wrote Milan Kundera.

As we return the remains of our Comrade to the soil of our ancestors in Muran’ga County, the land of Mau Mau revolution, let us not forget Kimani’s family. Let us think of ways in which we can give his children especially the comradely solidarity and material support. Cde Humphrey Kimani Ndegwa will be laid to rest on Wednesday 1st October 2014 at his rural home at Gikui, Kangema in Murang'a County.

Rest in Peace Comrade Kim! We will never forget your undying commitment to the struggle for our Motherland Kenya!

Aluta Contunua!

* Gacheke Gachihi is an organizer with Bunge la Mwananchi (The People's Parliament), a social justice movement in Kenya.

Books & arts

My body and skin

Valentina Acava Mmaka


What is your body? What is it to you, to others and to the whole world? Who makes decisions about your body and why? Here’s one woman’s deep thoughts on these fundamental questions

I am my body and my skin.

I’m my body.
My body is my space.
In my body
with my body
I sing
I think
I laugh
I cry
I dream
I narrate
I love
and live.

My body is
My body
is playful and cynical
ironic and dramatic
obedient and wild.
My body
is my home
is my country,
not a house
for someone’s
My body is multiple,
it doesn’t always fit
my mood
my desire
my wish.
It doesn’t always approve
my choice
my statement
my ideals.

I am my body.
When naked, my body speaks all the languages,
even the ones which human memory can’t recall
when dressed it can speak one language only
faltering on starchy letters and harsh words;
when naked, my body speaks with honesty and compassion
humble and human,
when dressed my body masters excuses to delay the conversation
making it stiff in a geometrical understanding;
naked my body feels home
dressed is always in a foreign land;
in my poetry it fits completely

In my body I find the world projected
in its most unpredictable symptoms
in my body I foster peace and revolution
I grow anger and forgiveness
like sides of the same seed,
for the better end -

In my body I fight a hundred wars:
against the fathers
who assumed I had to reduce my flesh to look appealing
carrying the custom in silence
to avoid the shame thrown on me
if tempted to oppose to the very blade of pain.
Because I fight,
now, the cut that every month bleeds between my legs
is my poem dedicated to all the girls and women
who can start considering making a choice
over being subjected to someone else’s
regardless the rejection they would face from their own people
- time is a chance that must be given to everyone.
I fight
against my husband who decided to wear the crown of gendered power
and for this, dug his armed body in my secret garden
opposite will and wish.
I fight for my son and my daughter
To oppose the standards they’re trapped into.
In my body I stand for you
as you carry heavy weights at the edge of your possibilities
trying to connect the RIGHT in your disconnected life
In my body I speak for you
since fear has made you orphan of words to express your SELF.
In my body
I name the nameless
I translate the unknown
I uncover the unseen
I clean my myth out of the dust of time
And re-write a new epic on the footsteps of my mother’s.
I do not prostitute my body
for any idea which doesn’t grow
from my mental condition
...whatever it is.

In my body
I am WHO
WHEN happens within me
all the time
a life time

I’m my body and my SKIN.
I wear my skin
to embrace the world around me
to welcome the freezing indifference
as well as the kindest attention.

I wear my skin as a shield
cutting crossing lines quivering in assumption
I dive in the womb of the city
that’s where I breath in the eyes of the unforgiving people
who never grope for an understanding
streets keep going their ways
parallels undo
snatching pics from
peeping dreamy minds
tangents cross the very limit of my thoughts
I’m not afraid of the shadows
nor of the blustering wings
of an unfed crow
waving in a blind sky
with my body I unpack all my fears
and spread them around
in my mortal and imperfect state

Undoing the fatal demand
that world endorse
I plot my body and my skin
to engage with others

I’m my body and my skin
and refuse the central
I am my body and my skin
and inhabit edges

Perspectives matter …

I wear my skin
and meet you at the corner.
Corners are set for thinkers and beggars
observers at the backstage
where threads are undone
regardless of the script.

There you‘ll find me.

* Valentina Acava Mmaka is a writer and human rights activist. See more of her work:;

Obama’s Law: When Western advocacy misses the mark

Ben Radley


Obama’s Law is a forthcoming, feature-length documentary that travels between the Congo and America to reveal the danger of the single African story – the African victim in need of a white saviour - that continues to be sold in the West. Ben Radley for Pambazuka News caught up with the film’s director, Seth Chase, to find out more.

BEN RADLEY: Specifically, then, what’s the documentary about?

SETH CHASE: Well, we look closely at the rise and impact of the conflict mineral campaign that was designed in the West, in particular in America, to help end the conflict in the Congo. This campaign promotes the idea that the conflict in the Congo is a bloody resource war, and in so doing draws on lazy African stereotypes about greedy rebels high on dope and opium, raping women to gain access to mineral wealth, while offering a false solution: that Western consumers can help end the conflict by pressuring electronic giants like Apple and Intel to ensure they’re not financing armed groups in the region. But are Western efforts to aid the Congolese and reduce conflict working? And this issue of selling simple stories based on half-truths to mobilise action in the West goes beyond the Congo. It’s universal, and affects all of Africa. So the film, through the issue of conflict minerals in the Congo, also looks at the wider questions. Who benefits from humanitarian aid and advocacy designed to help the world’s poor? And what do the people being ‘rescued’ think about it? These are the kinds of questions our film tries to answer, or at least give one perspective on, by following a particular movement in the West and its impact closely.

BEN RADLEY: Why did you want to make this film?

SETH CHASE: I was drawn to this idea of when good intentions hurt those they they’re meant to help, but that those holding the good intentions continue to keep pushing the agenda anyway. How often is this happening, why, and what are acceptable negative consequences of good intentions? It was not your typical "good guys and bad guys" story. It was something altogether more tragic. It's been a big struggle emotionally, and intellectually mainly because none of us want to tell horror stories. We want to tell dynamic stories and we want to believe that we can make the world better by fighting the good fight. Unfortunately in this case, some bad things happened, it hasn't gotten better, and no-one seems to be held accountable.

BEN RADLEY: The film revolves a lot around mining, in particular artisanal or informal mining, which is practiced widely in the Congo. What does this world look like, close up?

SETH CHASE: The mine sites I explored in Congo were really horrible in every way you could imagine. Some were just tunnels with no support at all, you could only crawl through long portions. No safety measures. Miners had no protection, often barefoot, torn clothes. There's very few mines with enough space for you to get comfortable. Low quality head lamps, or two people sharing a head lamp. I'm no stranger to the region, I've seen some difficult situations, but I would be filming in these mines, watching these guys hammering away, and I was constantly relieved by the thought that I could get out of this mine shaft in about 30 minutes and go back to the surface and get out of there. I just was so thankful that my life was much more fortunate. I didn't have to be digging in these horrible mine shafts in order to survive. Never mind that there are about 500 thousand Congolese who live this life every day, I was simply glad that I wasn't one of them. For some reason, we as human beings accept that there are just millions of people who are going to be exploited and a few people that are going to be rich and that's the way it is and most of us are okay with that. My hope is that one day, we’ll mature, and treat each other equally, but I don't see that happening with the current structures that we all live in. The mines in eastern Congo will always be the best experience I have for realizing that the world we live in is simply unjust at its core. To work in these mines is to know difficulty and exposure to constant risk. At the same time, and this is where it gets complicated, this kind of mining pays better than the limited other subsistence jobs available in the region, so it's one of the better economic options for anyone who can endure the work, which is why – despite the catastrophic working conditions – it remains so popular.

BEN RADLEY: What’s wrong with trying to regulate the region’s informal mining, if some or most of it is known to be funding armed groups?

SETH CHASE: I'm not sure that there's anything wrong in regard to regulating informal mining in the region. It's more that there isn't the infrastructure and required systems in place to be able to do it, at this point in time. There also seems to be a lack of willingness to finance it. So nobody wants to pay for the sector to be regulated, and there aren't systems and infrastructure in place to allow for regulation that conforms to the requirements of due diligence in mineral supply chains. More than that, if you think regulating the mining sector will solve the rebel group problem, it won't. Mining isn't the causal issue. I don't know anyone living or working in eastern Congo who believes for one second you can end the conflict in the DRC through regulating informal mining. That notion came from outside, and it sounds like an interesting theory if you know nothing about the DRC. But for those who know a bit about eastern Congo, that concept is a strange fiction.

BEN RADLEY: The film is critical of aid and advocacy organisations whose good intentions often lead to adverse and negative consequences. How can this be improved?

SETH CHASE: I see how our film can be seen to be critiquing NGO's or advocacy groups. But if that's the take away for the viewer, I'd say I didn't succeed in my job. I see this film as capturing a story that happened in the DRC, a story that represents Western-led aid and development in general. A story of culture clash and misinformation, and broken systems, and how it all effects people. The events that our film follows happened in the DRC. Real people suffered because of Western activism intending to help them. In America a message has to be simple to push policy, but in Congo nothing is simple. That's a problem. Advocacy groups went for a shortcut, and it failed. Humans want to do good, but results are harmful; fair enough. But the broken political and economic systems endure, we continue to try and force positive change through these broken systems across cultures. It's like trying to build a house with all the wrong tools. At best it's inefficient and non-effective and at worst it's destructive and even deadly. I’m not sure how it can be improved, within the existing structures we have available to us.

BEN RADLEY: What do you hope people will takeaway from watching your film?

Well, what I’m trying to make is a documentary about the stories sold when Western humanitarians seek to change the world, and in particular to ‘help’ Africa and Africans. What kind of stories they are, who gets to control what goes into them, and ultimately, who benefits from them. Because this storytelling needs to change. Africa and Africans are writing their own stories every single day, but, in America at least, we’re not really listening. We’re still assuming we know best. One of the Congolese women we interviewed for this film probably put it best, when she said to us that in the Congo, people are educated, and know what to do with their lives. It’s time that outsiders let the Congolese drive their own process of development, rather than persist with external interventions that will never stick, and too often provide simple, technical solutions to complex, political problems. I’d like the film to reach people in my own country with this message. If I can achieve that, no matter how modest the reach, I’ll be happy.

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ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

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