Archive | May 13th, 2016

Glebelands betrayed by Gupta TV


The Glebelands community’s constitutional rights to privacy, in their desperation to reveal the truth behind their persecution and suffering, have been severely contravened – this time by a broadcaster whose controversial owners are closely linked to President Jacob Zuma.

“The protection of [media] sources is a basic principle in a democratic and free society” – Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media (effective from January 1, 2016)

Prior to the Glebelands press conference on Sunday 17 April, during which violence victims announced their recent appeal to United Nations Human Rights Council, major safety concerns were raised by the community – particularly regarding those who would address the media – if their identities were revealed, especially in the wake of the murder of ANC PR Councillor, Zodwa Sibiya only the night before. As 62 people have now been murdered at Glebelands, 12 tortured by police – mostly of the same group that has been targeted by politically-connected hit-men, whose names were also believed to have appeared on hit-lists and who have also been subjected to malicious arrests; and around 1 000 residents violently evicted from their rooms – these fears are well-founded.

The Glebelands invitation had clearly stipulated that: “Due to serious security concerns we ask all attendees to refrain from identifying individual members of the community unless specific permission is obtained from the person concerned.”

Film crews and reporters present were briefed extensively regarding threats to residents and the need for voice and visual distortion. The press from various publications and channels were extremely understanding, many of whom have followed the Glebelands story since the outset, including the assassination of Sipho Ndovela at the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court last year, and were therefore well aware of the risks that identification presented to all concerned. Previously members of the media have mostly dealt with the violence victims in a sensitive and ethical manner. That is, until Gupta-TV arrived.

The team from ANN7 came late but the cameraman and presenter were comprehensively instructed before they joined the press conference regarding the sensitivity of the situation and the need to protect visual and verbal identities. Before they departed, the ANN7 team was again reminded of their responsibility to residents’ security. The presenter and cameraman both provided heartfelt assurances that they would ensure no one’s identity was revealed.

On Tuesday 21 April I received a panic stricken call from one of the press conference participants who advised that: “ANN7 has betrayed us.”

I discovered ANN7 had hilighted the Glebelands footage at regular intervals throughout the previous day –WITHOUT having taken any of the measures requested to conceal the identity or voices of those present, to which they had committed, and to which they were bound by the Press Code of Ethics and Conduct and the South African Constitution.

I immediately sent the presenter, Zinhle, the following text message: “I have just been informed ANN7 has exposed the identities of residents interviewed at Glebelands on Sunday in your coverage. Kindly forward me ANN7 CEO & Broadcasting Head contact details and ensure all footage is removed IMMEDIATELY from your website and any other related media or ANN7 WILL face legal action. You have contravened the press code of conduct and willfully endangered people’s lives.”

Half an hour later I received the following WhatsApp message from ANN7 Assignment Editor, Cecilia Russell: “I tried to call you but you did not answer your phone. [I was being interviewed by SAFM] Zinhle sent your message regarding the identities of the people at Gleblands (sic). We sent her to cover the press conference and the fact that you had requested that identities should be masked was not communicated to us by our reporter or camera person. I have asked that the material is removed from online. Our coverage was based on this press conference and further interviews done by our Durban office. Kind regards, Cecilia Russell, Assignment editor ANN7.”

I replied that this was very serious and I would revert soonest.

According to the Preamble of the Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media (effective from January 1, 2016): “The media exist to serve society….The media’s work is guided at all times by the public interest… As journalists we commit ourselves to the highest standards, to maintain credibility and keep the trust of the public. This means always striving for truth, avoiding unnecessary harm…and.. showing a special concern for … vulnerable groups…”

Furthermore, in Chapter 1: Media-generated content and activities: clause 3.1. states: “The media shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and concerns of individuals.” Clause 11 states: “Confidential and Anonymous Sources: The media shall: (11.1.) protect confidential sources of information – the protection of sources is a basic principle in a democratic and free society; (11.3.) not publish information that constitutes a breach of confidence, unless the public interest dictates otherwise.”  Section 14 (d) PRIVACY of the South African Constitution, also states: “Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have the privacy of their communications infringed.”

The Glebelands community’s constitutional rights to privacy, in their desperation to reveal the truth behind their persecution and suffering, have been severely contravened – this time by a broadcaster whose controversial owners are closely linked to the president – and their lives – already at great risk, put in even further danger. Our country’s constitutional democracy is truly dead for the Glebelands violence victims.

In addition, ANN7’s irresponsibility could have destroyed vital trust – my relationship with the Glebelands violence victims having been built over two years of hard work under very dangerous conditions. Without trust, a human rights defender is powerless and lacks the credibility needed to undertake advocacy work needed.

The most shocking aspect of ANN7’s latest monumental and very dangerous blunder is the lack of professionalism and utter lack of remorse with which the transgression had been met by channel management. No regret, no apology, no undertaking to take steps that this will never happen again; no acknowledgement of the level of danger which their ineptitude has exposed around 40 people whose lives were already at high risk. Ms Russell seemed to think that removal of the footage was sufficient – hostel dwellers’ lives clearly mean nothing to ANN7 – much less do they warrant a public apology. Nothing further has been heard from ANN7 management.

Unlike her employers, the presenter did at least send a personal apology via sms: “I’m dearly sorry about this. I have contacted my line manager and she says all footage is removed right now. I am dearly sorry for this.”

However, although the presenter and cameraman failed utterly to adhere to the most basic reporting ethics and requirements, responsibility ultimately rests, as always, with management. ANN7’s utter incompetence is revealed yet again: firstly for assigning a team of young, clearly inexperienced and irresponsible reporters to cover a hard news story such as Glebelands; secondly, for treating such a serious breach of trust with utter disregard for the consequences; and thirdly, for failing to provide a public apology to the community concerned.

ANN7, without rectifying your life-threatening blunder, you are no longer welcome at Glebelands.

Perhaps a public interest attorney may like to take up this matter on behalf of the Glebelands violence victims who, now that their faces have been seen and their voices heard, fear imminent reprisals from politically connected hit-men and / or brutality or false arrest by the police members with whom they are believed to collude. They have suffered enough and are now forced to suffer further stress and possible repercussions from their attempts to exercise their right to freedom of speech.

The fact that a press conference – usually a very public affair – had employ such exceptional security precautions, says a lot about the denial of constitutional freedoms, democratic rights and levels of fear to which this community is daily subjected. ANN7 has just made matters a whole lot worse.

If anyone is assassinated, falsely arrested, tortured by police, evicted, attacked or persecuted in any way as a result of this disgraceful negligence, ANN7 must take full responsibility. A complaint will be lodged with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA.


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Remembering Clarence Mlamli Makwetu

Former President of the fiercely anti-imperialist Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) dies aged 88

He was a vigilant leader. He never sacrificed the fundamental objectives of the liberation struggle of his people on the polluted altar of appeasement and pseudo-diplomacy. At the heart of Makwetu’s commitment to the struggle for freedom in South Africa was the land question, which remains unresolved to date.

We shall miss his charming smile. We shall miss his towering height – “uFafa” (the tall one), “uZikhali” (his clan name). We shall miss his frankness and bravery in matters of national importance affecting the land dispossessed people of Azania (South Africa). President Clarence Mlamli Makwetu served his people fearlessly even when it cost him imprisonment in various South African jails including Robben Island Prison , of course, banishment to areas where he had no means of livelihood, a job or self-employment.

But even in those circumstances Makwetu was a leader who never called a donkey a horse. He never referred to a spade as a big teaspoon. He never believed that jackals could look after the welfare and safety of sheep. He was a vigilant leader. He never sacrificed the fundamental objectives of the liberation struggle of his people on the polluted altar of appeasement and pseudo-diplomacy.

He knew the colonial history of South Africa very well. He digested what the royal architects of Amalinde, Keiskamahoek, Sandile’s Kop, Thababosiu and  Isandlwana battles were defending. He embraced their cause with tenacity. He did not forget “the numerous wars and other battlefields where our forefathers fell before the bullets of the foreign invader,” as that revolutionary giant Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe put it.

When it came to the issue of land, Makwetu stood firmly on the side of African kings who were the first freedom fighters against colonialism in this country. He supported leaders such as Dr. John Dube, Sol Plaatje and Dr. Walter B. Rubusana who in their petition to King George V of England on 20 July 1914 demanded that the African people of this country “be put in possession of land in proportion to their numbers and on the same conditions as the white race.”

Liberation of a land dispossessed people without land and its riches is a gigantic colonial fraud. President Makwetu put his neck on the bloc when it came to fighting for land repossession. Land is the primary source of life. Land is life. Without land there is no life. Land is the primary means of production. Land is the basic asset of a nation.

Food does not grow in the sky. Houses are not built in the air. Gold, diamonds, platinum and other minerals are dug from the land. They are not situated in the air. Cattle, sheep, goats, etc, do not graze in the sky. Pastures are on the land as well as water. Even our graves are not in the clouds. Here in Africa they are in the land.

Without land there is only poverty and lack of resources to educate our children. We become a nation with no skills and professions to conduct our affairs competently, especially economically and technologically. Education liberates a nation. If we do not acquire knowledge we shall be an ignorant people who are victims of foreign vultures that see poor and ignorant nations as their carcass.

President Makwetu was soaked in this reality and fact. He himself survived on a piece of land of his own when he found all doors for jobs shut against him. He and his wife Mama Mandisa and their two sons survived on producing their necessities of life from the land. They educated their two sons Chitintsaba and Chuma Qiqa out of what they produced from the land.

A nation without land is a dying nation that suffers perpetual humiliation of poverty, diseases and short life expectancy. African heroes like Makana, Langalibalele, Mpafana, Maqoma and Mahala a son of King Ndlambe and POQO forces were imprisoned on Robben Island for demanding the land of their forefathers.

I will shortly let President Makwetu speak for himself. This is part of his very important legacy to this country. But first let me remind what Prince Maqoma said in 1859 shortly before he was imprisoned on Robben Island until he died in 1873 aged 75 years. Maqoma told a British colonial soldier Colonel Wade:

“We are to have land again. It was bequeathed to our ancestors; to hold, nurture and make it productive for their progeny….You, [colonialists from Europe] came out of the sea to our land. Like a serpent you emerged from the water….Besides you had no tongue to speak to us. We waited to know why you had come. Instead we heard you are settling and taking possession of our land.

“But this is our land. You made us vanish, not exist. Our land is us. We are our land….From the sea you had no cattle. Now you have many cows and sheep….War you made to dispossess us….Blood you spilled, to take even more land. We cannot give up. We cannot rest. Without land we cannot be.”

President Clarence Mlamli Makwetu on land repossession

I think it is now time to hear this hero that has gone through the storms and fires of Sharpeville, Langa, Robben Island, POQO/APLA Azanian Peoples’ Liberation Army as commander-in-chief of the latter right up to the United Nations General Assembly where I hosted him to address this international body on numerous occasions.

This included his address to the Security Council during what was in this country called “black on black violence.” The apartheid colonialist regime had unleashed its reactionary violence on the African people on an unprecedented scale. This was in places such Sebokeng, Boipatong, Katlehong, Kwa-Zulu-Natal and Mthatha where family twin brothers were shot and killed in their sleep by the regime’s soldiers.

Anyway, on 28 May 1996 as Member of Parliament and President of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) Makwetu addressed the South African Parliament as follows:

“Madam Speaker,

The whole world says we have performed a miracle, but I say we need to perform even a bigger miracle….I am sure we support the President of this country when he goes around preaching peace. However, I am afraid that peace will be lost if we lie to one another…the reason I say this is because the wealth of this country is still in the hands of a few.”

On the 13 of June 1996 Mawetu told Parliament, “Eveybody needs a piece of land: Honourable Members, it cannot be assumed that everybody wants to be a commercial farmer, a small holder or even a rural dweller. All that can be assumed is that everybody needs a piece of land on which to live as a base for economic activity, whether agricultural or otherwise. Some may prefer to work on a farm, but with proper living wages and proper living conditions….Yet others, possibly the majority, may need a decent living space in an urban area. Our first task therefore is to ascertain the wishes of our people.

“It is these categories of our people that we have to talk to when we talk about the distribution of land. Yet, at present, the problem is whether we are in a position to distribute land. Added to our problems is the fact that close to one third of Azania is savnna.”

At this juncture an ANC Member of Parliament G.Q. Doidge interrupted Mr. Makwetu with a question: “Where is Azania?”

“It is the country bordering Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.”

He continued, “As I was saying, one third of this country is dry, arid and semi-desert…with limited agricultural capacity. This means that only a few of us should dream of becoming farmers one day. Worst still is the fact that the land we are talking about is at present monopolised by a section of the white population while the majority of the indigenous Africans are landless. It is this policy which the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania wants to change.”

Another member of parliament interrupted: “I thought we were all Africans.”

Mr. C.M. Makwetu:  “We would not be talking about a rainbow nation if we were all Africans.”  He continued, “In short PAC’s position on land matters is simply that land must be taken from whites, not because they are whites, but because they have an unfair share of the land. If we go back to the original position of the ANC Youth League as enunciated by A.P. Mda, we find this is what he said:

‘Africans were historically entitled to the ownership of Africa, and European invasion of the Continent does not remove this inalienable right….’

“We are raising these matters because the land question is fundamental to South Africa’s past, present and future. An entire history of colonial invasion and dispossession; of cheap labour and systematic economic exploitation…and apartheid has created a society in which fifty eight thousand white farmers own 12 times as much as more than 14 million rural poor people….”

On 8 July 1993 Makwetu told the South African Chamber of Commerce: “The PAC will not commit itself to a policy of buying back land that was illegally confiscated from the African people.” In April 2016, it is known that the ANC policy of “willing seller and willing buyer” is an unmitigated national disaster for Africans.

Even on the 86th anniversary of his birthday, two years ago, from his sickbed at his farm at Cofimvaba, President Makwetu told the Mail & Guardian newspaper, “We fought for freedom, but what did we Africans gain? We did not get the freedom we fought for. The country is at a standstill.”

Makwetu is the author of a recently published book, Azania Cheated. It has much to say about his life in the liberation struggle of this country from 1954. He was then 26 years old.

Makwetu could have been President of South Africa in 1994

History shows that Makwetu could have been the President of South Africa in 1994. All pre-election opinion polls of that period showed that Makwetu’s Pan Africanist Congress would win those elections.

(See The Star 29 April 1990, Sowetan 14 and 22 February 1990, Daily Magazine Zimbabwe 15 April 1993, Cape Argus 17 June 1993, Work and Progress Magazine 17 June 1993, Novositi 9th August 1990 in Moscow, Report by Dr Valdimer Tikhomirov Secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences Africa Institute, South African Financial Times 11 April 1993, US Newsweek (USA) 23 April 1993, New Yorker 11 April 1993, Letter from South Africa: The SECRET REVOLUTION , New Yorker 11 and 14 New Yorker articles by  Allister Sparks and Letter From South Africa: SCRET REVOLUTION also by Allister Sparks 14 April 1994. See also The Hidden Side Of South African Politics Tokoloho Development Association ISBN 978-0620-44075-2Published in 1909)

Imperialist economic stakes are highest in South Africa. So the American government under Bill Clinton and Western European governments made sure that Makwetu would not emerge as the country’s President.

Clinton’s expert pollster Frank Geer and his image maker Stanley B. Greenberg were sent to apartheid South Africa to help the ANC in the 1994 elections. Greenburg has written, “The PAC was the only other Party with standing in the apartheid struggle and thus a majority of Africans viewed it favourably….The PAC advocated expropriation of white land without compensation.” (Dispatch From The War Room, Stanley B. Greenberg, pages 126-127).

Greenberger has put it also in writing that he and his colleague Geer changed the ANC slogan from “Now Is The Time” to “Better Life For All.” (Ibid page 128 )

In the event that the scheme to rig the 1994 elections failed as had been the case in Zimbabwe, there was Plan B in place: “United States troops in low-key manoeuvres in Botswana.”

This was a headline in The Herald newspaper of 20 May 1992 in Harare. It reported that diplomats were puzzled by the arrival of several American soldiers in Botswana. The American government was moving them “near the boiling pot that is South Africa.” This was to make sure no radical party took power there in April 1994.

President Makwetu later complained that the Western countries did not seem to want fairly contested elections, “preferring instead the ANC walkover. He listed the amount of dollars that the ANC had amassed from America and various other sums from industrialised countries into millions.”(Dan Mokonyana in his book, Big Sell Out, page 55, Nako Yarena, London 1994

After election on 1 May 1994, a senior official of the South African apartheid colonialist regime admitted that the April 1994 elections had been “embarrassing and flawed.” He indicated that de Klerk and Mandela agreed that the elections had to be declared “free and fair” because an alternative would have been a political disaster. “We simply could not afford this thing to go down the tube. It would serve no purpose to cry foul.” (The Times London, 1 May 1994)

The truth of rigged 1994 elections in South Africa was finally told by Richard Dawson, diplomatic editor of The Independent newspaper in London, published in an article, A report on South Africa’s fixing suppressed. He wrote:

“The report of the European monitors on South African elections eleven months ago was never published because it was highly critical of many aspects of the election. Publication was presented after it was decided not to rake over flawed elections.”(The Independent, 10 March 1995)

President Clarence Mlamli Makwetu was right when he told the South African Chamber of Commerce, “The PAC will not commit itself to a policy of buying back land that was illegally confiscated from the African people.” He was correct again when he declared, “We fought for freedom….But we did not get the freedom we fought for.”

“Fafa,” “Zikhali,” Farewell Son of the Soil. Go well, gallant Son of Africa. Rise in glory. You have spoken. Those who have ears have heard. You have walked the talk. You have met the challenge of your Brother in the Diaspora, Frantz Fanon, when said, “Each generation in its relative nebulosity must discover its mission and then fulfill it, or betray it.”

You discovered your mission and you have fulfilled it with distinction.

Izwe Lethu!  iAfrika! Afrika is Ours!

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The Destabilizing Consequences Of Globalization


Image result for Destabilizing Consequences Of Globalization PHOTO

It is not possible to coherently discuss the “New Normal” economy without discussing financialization–the substitution of credit expansion and speculation for productive investments in the real economy–and its sibling: globalization.

Globalization is the result of the neoliberal push to lower regulatory barriers to trade and credit in overseas markets. The basic idea is that global trade lowers costs and offers more opportunities for capital to earn profits. This expansion of credit in developing markets creates more employment opportunities for people previously bypassed by the global economy.

Though free trade is often touted as intrinsically positive for both buyers and sellers, in reality trade is rarely free, in the sense of equally powerful participants choosing to trade for mutual benefit. Rather, “free trade” is the public relations banner for the globalization of credit and markets that benefit the powerful and wealthy, not the impoverished.

Financialization and mobile capital exacerbate global imbalances of power and wealth.

Trade is generally thought of as goods being shipped from one nation to another to take advantage of what 18th century economist David Ricardo termed comparative advantage: nations would benefit by exporting whatever they produced efficiently and importing what they did not produce efficiently.

While Ricardo’s concept of free trade is intuitively appealing because it is win-win for importer and exporter, it doesn’t describe the consequences of financialization and the mobility of capital. In a world dominated by mobile capital, mobile capital is the comparative advantage.

The mobility of capital radically alters the simplistic 18th century view of free trade.

What do we mean by mobile capital? Capital–cash, credit and the intangible capital of expertise–moves freely around the globe seeking the highest possible return. Globalization is the ultimate expression of capital’s prime directive: expand profits by seeking the highest available return on capital invested anywhere on the planet.

In today’s world, trade cannot be coherently measured as goods moving between nations, as capital from the importing nation often owns the productive assets in the exporting nation. If Apple owns a factory (or joint venture) in China and collects virtually all the profits from the iGadgets produced there, this reality cannot be captured by the simple trade model described by Ricardo.

Trying to account for trade in the 18th century manner of goods shipped between nations is nonsensical when components come from a number of nations and profits flow not to the nation of origin but to the owners of capital.

Based on the antiquated model of trade between nations, the Apple iGadget creates a $200 trade deficit between the U.S. and China when it lands on an American dock. But this doesn’t account for the fact that components for the device were manufactured in five different nations, or that the majority of the value of the device is in the intellectual capital: the software, the interface and the design.

Once these factors are considered, it’s been calculated that as little as $10 of the value of every Apple product actually ends up in the Chinese economy. Virtually all the profit flows to Apple in Cupertino, California, not to joint venture partners in China or the workers who assembled the components in China.

Expanding profits by moving production to locales with lower labor costs is known as labor arbitrage. Arbitrage is the process of exploiting the difference in prices of labor, currencies, goods, services, assets, interest rates or credit.

In today’s globalized version of “free trade,” mobile capital can arbitrage the varying costs of labor, currencies, interest rates, taxes, environmental regulations and political favors by shifting capital between nations.

In the global economy, trade is not conducted between equals; those with access to the unlimited credit of financialization can outbid domestic capital for assets, labor and political favors.

The mobility and scale of capital give it outsized influence in small, credit-starved local markets.

Mobile capital, with its essentially unlimited line of credit, can overwhelm the local political system, buying favors and cutting deals to limit costs and competition. Local elites are soon co-opted, and people starved for cash income are easily recruited as labor.

Local assets–priced for the local economy where credit and cash are both limited–are snapped up on the cheap by global capital, and sold for immense profits.

Credit–scarce in traditional self-sufficient economies–offers maximum leverage to global capital, which can borrow money in distant markets at low costs and use the cash to outbid local buyers to snap up local resources that are still cheap compared to the resources in other globalized markets.

The influx of credit also fuels a destabilizing explosion of credit-based consumption in the local economy, causing people with little experience with credit to become over-indebted.

As the over-indebted default, their land and other possessions are confiscated by offshore lenders, further impoverishing the local populace and enriching global capital.

Where is the “free trade” in a world in which the comparative advantage is held by mobile capital? And what gives mobile capital its essentially unlimited leverage?

Central banks, which issue nearly-free money to banks which funnel the cash to corporations and financiers, who can then roam the world snapping up assets and arbitraging global imbalances with low-interest money.

There’s nothing remotely “free” about trade based on capital flows generated by central bank liquidity.

This mobility of capital is an enormous benefit to the owners of the capital, but it creates extraordinary instability for those who are not mobile. When mobile capital encounters anything that reduces profits–higher taxes and rising labor costs, competition or restrictive regulations–it closes factories and fires workers in that locale and shifts to another locale with greater opportunities for high returns.

The workers left behind have limited means to replace the lost wages, and the local state often has few resources to repair any damage left by the exploitation of resources. The advantage of mobility is reserved for capital, and to the relatively limited cohort of workers who can immigrate to other nations to find work.

This illustrates two key characteristics of financialized globalization: perpetual instability and a never-ending cycle of boom and bust as capital sparks rapid development in one locale and then moves elsewhere once profits decline.

The scale of global capital is difficult to grasp; trillions of central bank-issued dollars, euros, yen and renminbi are sloshing around the global economy, seeking low-risk profits.

Capital has no loyalty to anything but its own expansion, and the damage it leaves in its wake is of no concern to the owners of capital.

There are even less visible consequences to the globalization of markets, capital and labor. Once goods and services are priced globally, local supply and demand no longer set the local price. As a result, measuring inflation and deflation locally is meaningless in a globalized economy.

This globalization of price–for goods, services, credit and currencies–continually creates imbalances that fuel a perpetual instability that gradually impoverishes every sector other than global capital, which being mobile, can exploit the imbalances for its own profit.

Who benefits over the longer term from the permanent instability and boom-and-bust cycles of this arrangement? Only those close to the credit spigots of central banks.

This essay was drawn from my new book, Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform, which Gordon T. Long and I discuss in a new 34-minute YouTube program.

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Unveiling white supremacy in the academy

The project of genuinely decolonizing the university must be part of an inclusive task to transform the wider society of which the academy is an integral part. It is a long term undertaking which surely starts with the audacity to name the elephant in the room: white supremacy.

In Britain there has yet to emerge a movement to decolonize British universities, particularly in the fields of African Studies, the Humanities and Social Sciences along with an increased appointment of African scholars in these specific fields. Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that there has not been a civil rights movement in Britain comparable to the struggles in America which demanded black studies and African history be taught in American universities in the 1960s and 1970s.  People of African-Caribbean and African descent are only 2.8 per cent of the total British population, compared to African Americans, who were approximately 10 per cent of the American population during the 1960s and therefore the demographic weight of African Americans contributed significantly to achievement of their demands for changes in the curriculum.

Yet, there is something profoundly disconcerting when one looks online at the faculty of African Studies at the University College London (UCL) and at Oxford and hardly sees an African face within the faculty. I ask you the reader to take 30 seconds and scroll through these links and see for yourself the invisibility of African faces at UCL and at Oxford. The visibility of African staff may perhaps be found in their cleaning staff, canteens and as security guards.

In 2001, the then director-general of the BBC, Greg Dyke, described that institution as “hideously white” and that its management structure was more than 98% white. During 2015 the Black British actor, Sir Lenny Henry, called for increasing diversity of ethnic minorities in British television, which raises questions as to how much progress has been made since Dyke made his comment 15 years ago.

The same “hideously white” characterisation can be made of the current state of British universities. In a discussion with a male colleague who is also a Nigerian social science professor based in Canada, he gave an incisive response after looking at the links to the African Studies faculties at both UCL and Oxford. He replied: “There’s something fairly pernicious and contemptuously arrogant in that sneering ex cathedra way, that only the English can affect.”

In a 2011 Guardian article, it was revealed, “The Higher Education Statistics Agency figures show black British professors make up just 0.4% of all British professors – 50 out of 14,385. This is despite the fact that 2.8% of the population of England and Wales is Black African or Black Caribbean, according to the Office for National Statistics. Only 10 of the 50 black British professors are women.” This is still 0.4% of all 17,375 professors at UK universities. In regards to black vice-chancellors, there are none. It was only in 2015 that Lady Valerie Amos of Guyanese ancestry was appointed the ninth director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London. Recent research in the USA has also unearthed low numbers of minority professors across 1500 US colleges.

“The imperial/racial factor” is linked to the patriarchal factor

Yash Tandon’s critique of Oxford in his recent article entitled, The Rhodes Controversy: Storm in Tea Cup?, “that the educational system at Oxford University is fundamentally conservative – almost reactionary,” was almost spot on. However, in his analysis of the “imperial/racial factor” at Oxford (and many other UK universities), he fails to see that the “imperial/racial factor” is inextricably linked to the patriarchal factor. Neither does he address the lack of Africans in the above mentioned African Studies Centre at Oxford.

It is time to make privilege visible and dismantle its invisibility. As the white male writer, Michael Kimmel, writes: “To be white, or straight, or male, or middle class is to be simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. You are like water, like air.”[1] Furthermore, he argues:

“There are consequences to this invisibility: Privilege, as well as gender, remains invisible. And it is hard to generate a politics of inclusion from invisibility. The invisibility of privilege means that many men, like many white people, become defensive and angry when confronted with the statistical realities or the human consequences of racism or sexism. Since our privilege is invisible, we may become defensive. Hey, we may even feel like victims ourselves.”[2]

This invisibility in the academy is both political and patriarchal. White privilege is structural and manifests itself in everyday life and what is taken for granted. The reality for many black academics ( both female and male in UK universities) is that many are part-time lecturers or on fixed-term contracts, (which means job insecurity), as well as on low salaries in far greater proportion to their white counterparts. Many black academics remain outside the doors of British academia due to institutional racism and sexism.

Reproducing paradigms of epistemic asymmetry

The issue of unveiling white supremacy in the academy remains a valid problem in Britain and currently in South Africa with the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall student-led movements. Underlying these struggles is a demand and desire by sections of these movements to decolonise the university structure, not only in terms of staffing but also in terms of the entire curriculum that continues to produce “black skins in white masks” in the twenty first century and leaves intact colonial patterns of control, domination and exploitation. For some elements in and outside the academy, the nakedness of white supremacy that pervades the university as a physical institution and as an intellectual domain one has to conform to in order to “succeed,” is evident and requires radical systemic change.

What is also scandalous is the arrogance, complacency and acceptance of many European academics who do not question this supremacy, for their right to dominate such institutions, and particularly African Studies departments, emanates from the imperial-racial-patriarchal mind-set that only Europeans “know” African realities on account of Euro-American adherence to “objectivity”, “neutrality” and “methodology.” It is only Europeans who can theorise and therefore produce epistemology or knowledge on or about Africans. This imperial-racial-patriarchal mind-set is also reflected, as Tandon correctly identified, in Ivy league institutions such as Oxford, where many European scholars rarely cite African scholars in their works but other Europeans (often their friends and colleagues in academic networks. In business parlance, these are called “old boys networks”.

Some years ago, I gave tutorials to second and third year students doing a module on African development and politics at Oxford. I was disturbed to see that in the three consecutive years I taught three different sets of all white female students who wrote essays on the topic of gender in Africa, these students could write about African women and feminism but fail to directly consult the works of African feminists on the designated reading list in their essays.

They would invariably consult and cite secondary sources by European writers and feminists who comment on these African female scholars, but rarely would the students directly read the primary work of African women scholars and directly cite them in their essays.

Bell Hooks in her book Teaching to Transgress writes that: “white women have assumed positions of power that enable them to reproduce the servant-served paradigm in a radically different context” (p. 104). Patricia Hill Collins also points out that “one pattern of suppression is that of omission” of the works and contribution of women of colour that is perpetrated by Western feminists but also European women unconscious of their racism. In short, I contend that these white female students were unconsciously or unwittingly reproducing a relation of domination by choosing to cite white authors on the reading list whilst the African authors who were also on the reading list were not cited. Therefore, it is necessary to ask: is it the case that only European/American women and men are custodians of ALL knowledge and truth?

“Coloniality survives colonialism”

The pernicious whiteness of UK academia parallels a recent British YouGov Poll in January 2016 that found 44 per cent of British people were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism while only 21 per cent regretted that it happened. 23 per cent held neither view. “The same poll also asked about whether the British Empire was a good thing or a bad thing: 43 per cent said it was good, while only 19 per cent said it was bad. 25 per cent responded that it was “neither”.” The atrocities of empire are usually downplayed and glossed over, giving British people an inflated and wholly distorted sense of themselves whilst belittling the impact empire had on the losers. Rarely is the experience of empire told through the eyes of the colonized. The notion of the benign empire in the minds of the British people conceals its darker character of plunder, rape and pillage, because there was nothing benevolent about empire whatsoever.

The binary classification of the British Empire as either “good” or “bad” is symptomatic of Western interpretation and classification of not only colonial history but a simplification of experiences, processes and the past. More importantly, this appears to be the manner in which empire is viewed in Britain, rather than as a project of imperialist global design that produced conquerors and victims; exploiters and the exploited; and how the legacies of this imperialist and racialist project unleashed on non-European peoples in the world continues in what “decolonial” scholars argue is an ongoing and lived “global coloniality.” The world remains patterned and shaped by people who live in what such scholars define as the “Zone of Non Being” which is inhabited by people of colour who largely constitute the South and the “Zone of Being” which is inhabited by Europe and North America. To put it differently, despite the formal end of colonial rule, “coloniality” remains in reconfigured forms of domination, control and exploitation of the rest of the world in authority, economics, knowledge, subjectivity, gender, sexuality and nature by the countries of the North over countries of the South.

Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Walter D. Mignolo and Anibal Quijano, decolonial scholars from Latin America, refer to this as “the colonial matrix of power”[3] in which beneath the benign face of “western modernity” is the concealed logic of “coloniality.” Underpinning this entangled web of asymmetrical power relations is a hetero-normative, racialized, patriarchal, and hierarchical world order which needs to be unveiled. This unveiling is necessary for its perniciousness lies not only in its predominance of Euro-American scholars in positions of power of “knowing” but also manifests itself in how “truth” is universalised.  Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, another decolonial scholar from South Africa, states:

“Since the time of the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, Westerners worked tirelessly to make their knowledge the only truthful and universal knowledge and ceaselessly spread it through Christianity and other means across the world, in the process appropriating and displacing existing African knowledges. Western knowledge and imperial power worked together to inscribe coloniality across the African continent and other parts of the non-Western world. That way, Western domination and Eurocentrism assumed universality.”[4]

Whereas colonialism came to a formal end with the withdrawal of colonial administrators from colonised territories at different points in time in colonially held territories, as Maldonado-Torres points out, “coloniality survives colonialism. It is maintained alive in books, in the criteria for academic performance, in cultural patterns, in common sense, in the self-image of peoples, in aspirations of self, and so many other aspects of our modern experience. In a way, as modern subjects we breathe coloniality all the time and everyday.”[5] Coloniality mediates all relations into inferior and superior; it inserts hierarchy into the world, between human beings, the planet and nature. Decolonial thinking opposes this singular vision of structuring the world and human thinking.

Walter Mignolo advocates “pluriversality,” the persistent effort of unlearning universality, that is, there is only one world and recognising that there are many. He contends it also involves “learning to live with people one does not agree with, or may not even like.”[6] This vision is reflected in the perspective of Subcommandante Marcos of the Zapatista Army of Liberation (EZLN) when the Zapatista uprising in early 1994 in Mexico attacked the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA : “We seek a world in which there is room for many worlds.”[7]

How do we decolonise universities both in the West and in Africa?

In March 2014 there was a livestreamed event at the University College London with the provocative and appropriate title Why isn’t my professor black?” It was packed with students and academics of colour. The panel was chaired by the white provost of UCL and six guest speakers; three black female academics and three male academics who addressed the question and realities for black academics and students in UK universities. Whilst British institutional racism was identified as the elephant in the room in answering the question “Why isn’t my professor black?,” little focus was given to the issue of how to change this deplorable state of affairs in Britain.

The question of how we decolonise the academy both in the West and in Africa is important to confront – for South Africa is not the only country in Africa that has Eurocentric oriented universities; the majority of African countries also remain epistemologically, ideologically and financially tied to Euro-American funding streams and paradigms. Such a project requires radical initiatives and political will on the part of the university management to not only listen to student voices as well as African scholars but genuinely implement change that is responsive to the demands of specific localities. In Britain, the alternative has been and continues to be for African and African-Caribbean scholars to relocate elsewhere around the globe, particularly to North America for what appears to be greener academic pastures.

In an interview with Rama Salla Dieng, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni pointed out that integral to the project of transforming African universities is the need to “de-racialise, democratise, detribalise, decolonise, and depatriarchize.” The five “ds” are essential to such a project and present challenges and openings for critically rupturing the status quo. For example, patriarchal attitudes are practised by women just as they are endorsed and carried out by men. In January 2016 in Uthukela, near Durban in South Africa, a scheme that offered student grants to girls who remain virgins was initiated by the municipality’s female mayor, Dudu Mazibujo. It was made clear that beneficiaries of the grant would be subjected to regular virginity tests. The rationale for the scheme as the mayor said is ostensibly to “reduce HIV, Aids and unwanted pregnancy” in Uthukela. The People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) and other human rights groups in South Africa criticised the scheme as a violation of the rights of young girls. That young boys are not subjected to such tests nor other ways to address the problem of HIV, Aids and unwanted pregnancy explored, testifies to the lack of imagination of a patriarchal society that appears to blame women and girls for such problems.

Crucially, using government grants for education as a means to extort compliance from girls fails to address the fact that boys and men evade responsibility for HIV, Aids and unwanted pregnancies. In addition, is it ethical that education for girls should be dependent on their remaining virgins? How can African universities genuinely decolonise when such patriarchal views of African girls and women prevail? And if we were to engage in conjecture: what would happen to the education of a girl receiving such a grant who became pregnant through no fault of her own i.e. via rape by an older man or  was pressured to have sex with a young boy her own age? What punishment – if any – would be meted out to the older man or boy who impregnated her?

In the context of decolonising universities, as Ndlovu-Gatsheni points out in his interview, it is not simply about increasing the number of black female and male scholars in universities when the structures, thinking, reins of power, epistemic body of knowledge remains thoroughly European/Eurocentric in orientation, despite a diversity box or equal opportunities box being ticked for doing so. Neither does it mean in relation to curriculum change that “we add black thinking to a white pot.” He contends that decolonizing requires “learning to unlearn in order to relearn” and accepting and acting on the principle that “knowledge is plural and equal;” Euro-American knowledge is by no means the only form of knowledge and is by no means superior. In order to acknowledge that “knowledge is plural and equal” requires intellectual humility or what he refers to as “modesty.”

There are a few progressive/radical European scholars both male and female who are critical of white supremacy in the academy. Their challenge lies in not paying lip-service to the need for diversity and decolonizing the curriculum, yet changing little in their own privileged lives and day to day anti-racist practice.

Ultimately, the project to genuinely decolonize the university must be part of an inclusive task to systematically transform the wider society of which the academy is an integral part. Fundamentally, it is a long term undertaking which surely starts with the audacity to name the elephant in the room? Solutions to societal and institutional problems must initially start with recognising they exist.



[1] See “Towards a Pedagogy of the Oppressor” by M. Kimmel, in “Progressive Black Masculinities” edited by A. D. Mutua, (Routledge, 2006), p.64.

[2] Ibid, p. 66.

[3] See “The Darker Side of Western Modernity Global Futures, Decolonial Option” by W. D. Mignolo, (Duke University Press, 2011), pp.8-9.

[4] See “Coloniality of Power in Postcolonial Africa Myths of Decolonization” by S. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, (CODESRIA, 2013), p.8.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See “The Darker Side of Western Modernity Global Futures, Decolonial Options” by W. D. Mignolo, (Duke University Press, 2011), p. 176.

[7] Cited in “Methodology of the Oppressed” by C. Sandoval, Minnesota University Press, 2000, on preceding page to contents page.

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The world is a country: The New York democratic primary


In the US election – as in African ones – there are large numbers of voters totally devoted to the establishment candidates. It is as though the downtrodden, unwilling to take responsibility for their own futures, settle for the hope that a greater amount of crumbs will trickle down to them from the master’s table.

The Italian saying, Tutto il mondo è paese, (meaning people are the same the world over), came to mind recently, as I struggled to follow the analyses of the New York Democratic primary election of 2016.

From the beginning of the cycle, Bernie Sanders has argued that the system whereby candidates depend on billionaire financiers to back their campaigns makes them beholden to special interests. He has been relentless in stating that existing global financial systems benefit only the top 1% of the population. Few knew before Sanders publicized Oxfam’s findings in 2014 that the richest 1% of the world own 48% of global wealth.

As with post-election revelations on the African continent, in New York there were allegations of ballot box fraud which included disenfranchisement of voters through late delivery of election materials, non-functional equipment, registered voters unable to find their names on the electoral register, voters’ registration details altered from one party to another and clear forgery of a voter’s signature in the register. At a guess, investigations would show the anomalies to be systemic rather than an aberration.

The result itself is in line with the polls; the front-runner, Hillary Clinton, prevailed over her challenger Bernie Sanders by 15 percentage points. Regardless of the predictions, Sanders’ supporters had hoped for a win. Polls have been wrong in the past, notably in the Michigan primary in which Sanders was expected to lose by nearly 20 percentage points but beat Clinton by 2%.

Sanders’ loss confounded massive turn-outs at his final three rallies in New York: crowds of between twenty and thirty thousand compared to Clinton’s few thousand. Regardless of the polls, which remained static, Sanders looked like a winner when he was propelled to the status of international statesman by an invitation to attend and speak at a Vatican conference on the possibility of creating a moral economy.

Sanders’ opposition in Congress to the invasion of Iraq in which he asserted Iraq posed no imminent danger to the USA and that apart from the loss of American and Iraqi lives the war would destabilize the region shows extraordinary prescience.  His consistency is evident in; his opposition to banking practices that he correctly predicted would undermine the global economy and his championing a minimum wage of $15 per hour. During the campaign, surveys have shown him to have the highest favourability rating of all the presidential candidates. Bernie began to look invincible.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton voted in favour of the invasion of Iraq and has since admitted it was an error of judgment. As First Lady she opposed a bankruptcy bill that would limit access to bankruptcy protection for families that had fallen into debt. This was to the advantage of consumer credit companies which happen to be the Democratic Party’s main financier. The bill was subsequently vetoed by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton takes credit for that in her autobiography. The bankruptcy bill was presented again after Bill Clinton left office and then Senator Hillary Clinton voted for it. Hillary Clinton was against a minimum wage of $15 but included it in her election manifesto after Sanders included it in his.

Between 2002 and 2010 Clinton is on the record as opposing same sex marriage but being in favour of same sex civil unions. In 2013 she does an about-face claiming to support same sex marriage. These maneouvres  together with the outright lie she told about having to dodge sniper fire in Bosnia are all documented on the social media (the anecdote was meant to enhance her image as an international player).

It is no wonder then that at the time of the New York primary she struggled against a perception amongst voters of lacking integrity. As at 20th March 2016 her favourability rating is in fact 38.7% (i.e. 55.6% of Americans view her unfavourably) to Sanders’ 48.% favourable and 39.9 unfavourable.

State election violence in Africa notwithstanding, corrupt uncaring leaders do enjoy support. In this African voters share a perversity with New York’s voters. Time and again the electorates of the African countries that occupy the bottom of the Human Development Index; countries which rank high on corruption indices and fail adequately to provide basic services such primary health and primary education, even as they are burdened by stunting, high infant mortality and truncated life-expectancies, return the incumbents to the office of the President. Time and again the post-election period is characterized by allegations of electoral fraud, talk of judicial review of the results, investigation of the electoral process and general dissatisfaction.

That fraud is a factor is in no doubt; however, there are large numbers of voters totally devoted to the establishment candidates. It is as though the downtrodden, unwilling to take responsibility for their own futures, settle for the hope that a greater amount of crumbs will trickle down to them from the master’s table.

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Barack, Hillary and the Libya crime


The US, NATO and Gulf monarchy attacks against Libya in 2011 were a war crime by any definition of the term. If there were any justice in the world Obama and Clinton would fear being on trial. Instead he leaves office looking like a model on magazine covers and they work together to make sure that she sits in the Oval Office after him.

Barack Obama’s last nine months in office will provide plenty of opportunity for him to spoon-feed his scribes in the corporate media. Under the pretense of writing history they will serve as one collective pro-Obama mouthpiece between now and January 20, 2017. The process is a delicate one, however. The president will also have to explain those policies that did not produce the outcomes he wanted. Such is the case with any discussion of his role in destroying Libya.

It seems strange that he would want to remind people of the disaster of his own making but there is a twisted logic. He is not only defending himself but also trying to give Hillary Clinton cover in her presidential campaign. Hillary haters ought to be Obama haters too but most Democrats won’t tear themselves away from their idol. The openly and gracelessly evil Hillary takes the fall for a plot hatched by both of them. It is just one of the reasons she is damaged goods to millions of Democrats who have chosen to support Bernie Sanders instead.

The United States, NATO and Gulf monarchy actions against Libya in 2011 were a war crime by any definition of the term. An unknown number of people died, the aggression instigated a massacre against dark skinned Libyans and immigrants from African countries. Entire cities like Tawergha were turned to rubble by America’s jihadist allies who are otherwise known as terrorists. President Muammar Gaddafi was murdered by a mob who were only able to carry out the deed with western financial and military support.

The attack by the United States and its allies resulted in a devastated nation that to this day is racked by political and sectarian violence. Libya has no functioning government and became a haven for ISIS. ISIS is strongest in Iraq, Libya and Syria, all of which were targets of regime change.

Thanks to Barack and Hillary, Libya is also a route for desperate people whose plight was created by U.S. interventions. Refugees from Syria, another country devastated by America, take circuitous paths to Libya in hopes of getting to Europe. It is also a point of embarkation for Africans. Some of those falsely claim to be from Eritrea, a country under American attack by sanctions and other non-military means. America makes Eritrea unlivable and forces its citizens to immigrate. They and others then get a place at the head of the refugee line that wouldn’t exist if the United States would stop waging wars.

American and European terror was a gift that kept on giving. The weapons seized from the Libyan army were used by al Qaeda affiliates in Mali and in Nigeria. Boko Haram’s strength and ability to terrorize Nigerians is the direct result of the Libyan crime.

Hillary Clinton is quite rightly taking heat for being the U.S. mastermind of this atrocity. As secretary of state she made the case for the American nightmare. She was quite proud of this evil achievement and infamously said, “We came, we saw, he died.” Of course these machinations were the cause of blowback in 2012 when jihadists killed the American ambassador at Benghazi.

All of this criminality is sent straight down the memory hole with the help of the corporate media. As part of his never ending marketing and propaganda drive Obama graces the cover of the April 2016 issue of The Atlanticmagazine with an article entitled, The Obama Doctrine.” Presidents don’t give access without an expectation of looking good. The interviews with the president and current and past administration officials don’t deviate from this rule.

The article reveals that the president refers to Libya as “the shitstorm,” as if the devastation happened by some strange osmosis unconnected with his administration. He even throws allies like the UK and France under the bus saying, “When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong, there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up.” In a Fox news interview he was asked about his worst mistake and repeated his mea culpa. “Probably failing to plan for the day after, what I think was the right thing to do, in intervening in Libya.”

Most Americans still believe in Manifest Destiny, the belief that their country has a right to do what it wants in the world. They don’t really care about invasions and interventions as long as they can be considered successful. That means no dead Americans and countries that are controlled by chosen puppets who seem to keep their nations under control and out of the news.

Hillary Clinton is the villain in the story because of her cackling celebration of Gaddafi’s murder and because Libya continues in a state of crisis. There has been very little questioning of the idea that the United States has a right to decide who runs that country or any other. Imperialism is still acceptable if it is carried out seamlessly. It is only the mess that makes Americans uncomfortable, and Democrats are no different from Republicans in this regard.

If there were any justice in the world Barack and Hillary would fear being on trial. Instead he leaves office looking like a model on magazine covers and they work together to make sure that she sits in the oval office after him. But there isn’t enough justice in the world and they will work hand in hand like the political twins they have always been.

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New push for military intervention in Libya

Who will control the Libyan Central Bank?
Diaspora News

The West is gearing up for another military intervention in Libya after destroying the country in 2011. What is the African Union – and all Africans – doing about this? What is the role of the AU Special Envoy to Libya, former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete? At the minimum, the UN should be told that there should be no Western intervention until there is a full-scale inquiry into the first intervention.

There is intense push for the NATO countries to make an overt intervention in Libya. In this moment, the justification is to fight the Islamic State and to prevent terror from spreading across the Mediterranean to Europe. As is the case in matters of the destruction of African societies, the governments of Britain and France are in the forefront of the push for the latest intervention. Germany does not want to be left out so the German state is now actively working for the UN intervention. Prior to this Spring, it had been difficult to get the legal cover for a bigger military intervention by the West, but now there is supposed to be a new ‘unity’ government with the mandate to call for the United Nations to militarily intervene.

Every week there is a new meeting in Europe to push for intervention with no consultation with the African Union. In January, the African Union appointed former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete its new special envoy to Libya. Thus far, all of the reports and discussions about a new UN sanctioned intervention have excluded the interests of the peoples of Libya and Africa. Progressive forces in the world need to stay alert on this new effort to intensify the militarization of North Africa and oppose the governments who are using the question of ISIS to make another push to control the resources of Libya and Africa.

The real reasons for intervention in Libya

The emails of the former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton exposed to the world the principal reasons for the NATO intervention and destruction of Libya in 2011. We are informed by one writer who had examined these emails on the traffic between the USA and France over the imperatives for intervening in Libya. In one email dated April 2, 2011 Sidney Blumenthal, then an aide to Clinton, informed her ‘that sources close to one of Gaddafi’s sons were reporting that “Qaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver” and the hoard had been moved from the Libyan Central Bank in Tripoli closer to the border with Niger and Chad. “This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African countries with an alternative to the French franc (CFA).”

Blumenthal then added that, “According to knowledgeable individuals, this quantity of gold and silver is valued at more than $7 billion. French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began, and this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya.” The email added: “According to these individuals, Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues:

a. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production,

b. Increase French influence in North Africa,

c. Improve his internal political situation in France,

d. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world,

e. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa.” [1]

France and Germany are not only interested in the oil and gas resources under Libya but also the vast ocean of water under the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS). With the advances in solar technology the European states want to have control over the Sahara for the future transformation of solar power for European consumers. Every year that solar technology improves the future of Africa and the bio-economy becomes more attractive. The recent development of perovskite-silicon tandem solar cells with the world’s highest power conversion efficiency of 25.5% accelerates the possibilities for revolutionary transformation of energy production in Africa. [2]

It is the vast resources of Libya which are still on the line as there is this new push for the United Nations to provide a fig leaf for the intensified intervention in Libya.  As the senior imperialist state in Europe prior to 1945, Britain had extensive interests in Libya. The Western states waxed hot and cold with Gaddafi, always having their plans for the control of the resources of North Africa. The impetus for the creation of the African Union, which was taken after Nelson Mandela worked to lift western sanctions against Libya, changed the dynamic in African politics for a short while 1998-2011.  The planning and discussions of the African Union to develop an African Monetary Fund and a common currency presented a direct threat to the future of French economic interests in Africa.

In the past forty years the Germans had relegated the job of the Gendarme of Europe to France, but with the delicacy of the bank and financial crisis in Europe, the German capitalists do not want to be left behind. Hence in the new pressures to intervene the Germans are toe to toe with France and last week when the French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, visited Tripoli, he was accompanied by the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.  This was a desperate effort to convey legitimacy on Fayyez Sarraj, newly installed Prime Minister of Libya, and members of the Presidency Council.

At the time of the NATO intervention in 2011 Germany had stood aloof of the destruction, but in the aftermath of the banking and financial crisis in the Eurozone, the Germans cannot afford to be left out of any possible future pillaging of African resources. To secure the German front row seat in the plans for new European intervention in Libya, the  Security Council of the United Nations appointed Martin Kobler, a German diplomat, as the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Kobler had earlier served on the scene of the greatest plunder of Europe in Africa in the Congo.  Under the pressures from the Europeans some Libyans had stitched together a Government of National Accord (GNA) which could be designated as the legal authority to invite western forces to fight ISIS in Libya. However this new government of Fayyez Sarraj does not control military forces enough to warrant the claim to control the Libyan government.

The planned deployment of western forces is supposed to protect this new Prime Minister and members of his faction that is called the Presidency Council.  In the meantime the US Treasury is planning to use sanctions against those military entrepreneurs who are not lining up behind the new Presidency Council. On April 19 the US Treasury slapped sanctions against Khalifa al-Ghweil who had been presenting himself as the Prime Minister of the National Salvation Government that in the past controlled Tripoli (and hence control over the Central Bank). [3] Up to $67 billion of Libyan funds remain frozen in the US and Western Europe. The two governments of Tripoli and the government in the East have been appointing officials for the banks and for the oil companies but the Europeans who had frozen the funds have made strenuous efforts to keep the funds in Europe. The Italians have seen court cases over the frozen assets but with the financial crisis in Europe the billions of Libya are a cozy safety net for the European bankers.

Since the intervention of NATO in 2011, the European leaders have been seeking a new mandate for intervention and have used the issues of migrants flowing to Europe as well as the growth of ISIS in Libya to justify their intervention. Last week the news of 500 migrants drowning in their attempt to reach Europe from Libya was used as another reason for the European militarists to take decisive action in Libya.  Since 2014 when ISIS suddenly ‘appeared’ in Libya, there have been Special Operations forces from France, Britain and Italy  operating in Libya, but in order to order a full blown intervention there had to be a  ‘credible’ government in Tripoli.

Three governments in Libya

Since the NATO assassination of Gaddafi in October 2011, there have been numerous efforts to stitch together a credible government in Libya. The first experiment under the National Transitional Council fell apart as the pressures of 1700 militia organizations bickering over oil and slaughter shattered the façade of the ‘transition’ process that had been put in place by the State Department. [4] J. Christopher Stevens, the diplomat who had been at the center of working with the other imperialists to recruit the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), had worked hard to give legitimate cover for these Jihadists as the CIA and Stevens mobilized the eastern region of Dernia as the filter for sending Jihadists from Libya to fight in Syria. The so-called ISIS in Libya are working within the same infrastructure organized by the United States to destabilize North Africa and West Asia. Behind the 1700 militias groups in Libya after 2012 were differing foreign powers such as Britain, France, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Sudan, Turkey and Egypt. From these varying militias had emerged many leaders but there were two rival groups claiming to be governments. One of these groups operated out of the eastern part of Libya under the nominal leadership of General Khalifa Hifter. This is the group that is usually referred to as the “Operation Dignity”/Libyan National Army (LNA) forces.

General Hifter had returned from Virginia in the US to claim leadership over the rebellion against Gaddafi and had established the Dignity brigade in the east. The other claimant over force in Libya were those who were in control of Tripoli and the Central Bank with the gold and dollar reserves. This group was dominated by the Misrata brigadistas and supported by the Qataris. In 2014 before the noise about IS, General Hifter had made strong representations to the US to give him all the support but the Tripoli based government with control over the money made an alternative claim to Jack Lew, the Treasury Secretary.

Two years after the CIA and the US legation were exposed in the supply of Jihadists from Libya to Syria, the world was told of a new ‘threat’ to Libya in the form of IS. Characteristically, this new ‘terrorist threat’ emerged in Sirte, which had been the place that spawned the discussions on the birth of the African Union in 1999. To reinforce the idea that IS in Libya was a major threat, in February and April of 2015 there were spectacular images of the beheadings of Christian Coptics by ISIS in Sirte, Libya. It was after these spectacular images that the militarists intensified efforts to get the UN to support another intervention in Libya.

Getting the US officially on board

Britain the US and France had deployed Special Operations forces in Libya, but in order to get real international and propaganda value, the interventionist forces had to gain the official support of the US military and intelligence establishment. Since the UN facilitated Libyan political agreement signed in Skhirat, Morocco, in December 2015 there have been intensified pressures within the intelligence and security apparatus of the United States for the president to greenlight new deployment of Special Forces for Libya. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lobbied aggressively for the president of the US to give overt support for the deployment of more US resources to Libya. [5] Dunford had made his representations for increased involvement of the US Africa Command in Libya after meeting with Gen. Pierre de Villiers, chief of France’s defense staff in Paris.

Initially, the president delayed by arguing that the US could not deploy troops and more Special Forces in a situation where there was no government. It was this delay that prompted the French to work hard to organize the elements who are now called the Government of National Accord. With the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pressuring for increased commitment, President Barack Obama first gave an interview to the Atlantic outlining the reasons why he felt that the Europeans were unreliable military partners. [6] Faced with further pressures by sections of the National Security establishment, Obama repeated to Fox News that the decision to join in the UN/NATO destruction of Libya was his biggest foreign policy mistake. Obama had been aware that there is now no quick way to persuade the Qatari-backed factions in the West to unite with the CIA, Egyptian- and UAE-backed factions in the East behind the newly created Government of National Accord. Barack Obama was making clear his disagreement with members of the military as well as the Hillary Clinton, Jack Keane and David Petraeus factions who want to intensify US interventions in Africa and the Levant.

In reality, however, the intervention in Libya cannot be called a mistake but followed logically from the military management of the international system to prop up the financial sector of the USA. It is this same imperative that ensures that while there is massive propaganda on the ISIS threat there is less attention to the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council who finance and facilitate the deployment and circulation of ISIS elements. It is now time for the progressive forces to also indict Hillary Clinton in the court of public opinion to expose her active cooperation with Sarkozy to facilitate the destruction of Libya. The ongoing Trey Gowdy Congressional Inquiry into the killings in Benghazi cannot expose the role of Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus in Benghazi and it devolves on the progressive forces to make this information widely known.

Ignoring and disregarding the African Union

While the western media has made much about the role of Martin Kobler, there has been silence from within Africa about the real role of Jakaya Kikwette who has been appointed as the African Union special envoy to Libya. At the time of the NATO full-blown intervention in 2011, the African Union had laid out a roadmap to bring peace to Libya. This roadmap is still relevant. The African scholarly community and the rank and file from all over Africa have made clear their opposition to the destruction in Libya. Jakaya Kikwette and the AU must decide whether Africans are mere bystanders in the drama of the destruction of Libya. Thirty years ago when the military machine of the apartheid army was laying waste the peoples of Southern Africa, the Tanzanian leadership, then, under Julius Nyerere had not shirked its responsibility in bringing together political, diplomatic and whatever resources were available to halt the devastation of the apartheid army. Similarly, when the western forces had wanted to prolong the destruction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the South African, Tanzanian and Malawian forces that formed the core of the AU intervention forces had intervened in the DRC to bring some level of restraint to the marauding military elements who were looting the Congo.

Despite the limitations of financial and military resources, Tanzania  and Kikwete as the AU envoy cannot relinquish its role as an international player on the question of the deployment of European forces into Libya. The UN Security Council remains divided over the future of western European military intervention in Libya. The Security Council of the UN has already been discredited in Libya by the exposure of the former UN Special Envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, who took a high paying job in the United Arab Emirates and left his post in the middle of the negotiations over a national government. Leon who had spent a year arranging dialogue between the two rival Libya governments suddenly quit his position last November to take a job with the UAE which was to pay over US $1000 per day. Such are the motives of those seeking peace in Libya.

At the minimum, the UN Security Council should be put on notice that there should be no more European intervention until there is a full-scale inquiry into the lessons of the UN resolution of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ that had given the NATO mandate to intervene. Now that the reasons for Sarkozy’s energetic efforts to intervene are clear, it devolves on members of the Group of 77 to take the lead to oppose the intervention of forces from countries who were implicated in the destruction since 2011. Secondly, the diplomatic efforts of the African Union should be geared at removing the foreign military elements from Qatar and the Emirates who are carrying out a proxy war in Libya. Disarming the varying militias will not be possible until foreign elements such as Turkey, the Sudan, and Qatar are forcibly removed from Libya.

The Germans, French, Italians and the British are making another push to influence the Obama administration over the full support for overt deployment of forces. According to the Guardian newspaper from Britain,

“The Obama summit with European leaders has a wide agenda, but the presence of the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Renzi, suggests a chief focus will be on Libya, including the need to defeat Isis and stem the migration crisis. The west is pressing the new Libyan government to seek permission for the EU’s Operation Sophia to operate inside Libyan waters, increasing the effectiveness of the EU’s efforts to defeat people traffickers.”

From within the US National Security establishment there are still some elements who understand the stakes and the limitations of another European intervention. Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, testified before Congress last month and stated that,

“ Alarmist assessments of the Islamic State in Libya should not lead to a hasty and heavy-handed intervention. The Islamic State may be expanding its presence in Libya, but it has not been able to tap into the popular discontent of broad segments of the population—yet.”

Is it possible that the French military authorities are just as aware of this reality but need another military intervention to draw attention away from the impending crisis in the French banking system? The African Union should not be bystanders in this drama. If Julius Nyerere had been a bystander in the apartheid destruction, Africa would not be in a place where it could be discussing a monetary union and a common currency. The progressive forces in North America and Europe ought to be more alert to the machinations of the forces who authored the destruction of Libya.


[1] Robert Parry, “What Hillary knew about Libya,”…

[2] Michael Orcutt, “Promising New Solar Material Boosts Performance of Silicon,” MIT Technology Review, January 2016,

[3] “Treasury Designates Libyan for Political Obstruction and Undermining Peace, Security, or Stability of Libya,

[4] Christopher Blanchard, “Libya: Transition and US Policy, “ Congressional Research Service,  April 20, 2016,

[5] Eric Schmitt and Helen Cooper, “U.S. and Allies Weigh Military Action Against ISIS in Libya,” New York Times, January 22, 2016


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A short history of the passport

Thoughts on global mobility from a critical European perspective
dpa / picture alliance

A passport seems like something natural and like an obvious necessity in the 21st century. A brief review of history, however, shows that this powerful piece of paper is a result of a rather recent development, that is closely related to colonialism and the emergence of nation states.

In spring 2015, Senegalese author Fatou Diome, whose works include The Belly of the Atlantic, caused a stir during the French talk show Ce soir ou jamais!. Only a month earlier, over 1,000 had drowned in one week in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat had capsized en route from the Tunisian coast to Italy. Diome vented her anger about the current European perspective and discourse on migration. And she expressed her belief that there is an underlying global problem that is rooted in the privileged treatment of a small percentage of the world’s population that depends on a document:

‘Europeans see Africans arriving, ok. This migratory movement of populations is tracked and visible. But you don’t see the migratory movement of Europeans going to other countries. This is the migratory movement of those with power, with money. Those who have the right kind of passport. You go to Senegal, you go to Mali, you go to any country in the world, to Canada, to the U.S. Everywhere I go […], I meet French people, German people and Dutch people. I run into them everywhere on this planet because they have the right kind of passport.’ (translated from French) (Diome 2015)

Apart from unmasking a very selective European perception and use of the word ‘migration’, Diome addressed an apparent inequality. There is a structural force which privileged nationals can ignore while the unprivileged are confronted with it every day, namely the power of a passport. Clearly, this inequality is not a natural development, but has evolved over time, as a look at the history of this small document shows.

A review of the past

The history of the passport is one of control and distrust and is closely linked to the founding process of nation states in Europe. It is worth noting that the purpose of developing a document that controls movement has not been identical during the last two centuries.

The bible mentions documents signed by a king giving a delegate the right to move safely and unhindered within a kingdom. These so-called safe conducts were also used throughout the Middle Ages until about the 19th century which saw the emergence of nation states[1] . During their often painful founding processes, states and capital monopolized and expropriated the means of production, the use of violence and the means of legitimate movement. Yet, a monopoly only functions when enforced and controlled. This unleashed a process of implementing a control mechanism. The parallel introduction of citizenship meant nativism became natural. At this point in history, citizenship became a matter of descent and no longer one of residency. More emphasis was placed on a person’s country of origin e.g. German or French and this proved crucial to status and when claiming rights. It would be wrong to claim that the introduction of citizenship and control of movement was developed merely to secure the territory from foreigners. Another main catalyst was controlling one’s own citizens and distinguishing between travellers, expatriates and army deserters.

Despite the swift progress in developing identification documents, the end of the 19th century was marked by limited control of movement across Eurasia. Passport and visa requirements were abolished completely in Saxony and Switzerland while England, France, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries relaxed their visa requirements.

Liberals and socialists in Europe celebrated the free flow of capital, goods and work as well as the fact that a person was able to travel from France to Russia without a visa, as Ulrike Guérot and Robert Menasse write in Le Monde Diplomatique:

‘To perceive today’s border-free Schengen zone as a historical uniqueness, as an almost revolutionary achievement of Europe’s recent history of integration is misleading. On the contrary: The remembrance of the fact that European freedom of borders was an obvious normality for centuries is important to be able to discuss what this European space should be today – namely what it has always been: A palimpsest[1] of borders which don’t exist, but only define cultural regions that have always made a European space out of the cultural variety in Europe.’ (Translated from German) (Guérot and Menasse 2016)

The ‘liberal’ moment in the brief history of nation states was soon interrupted by two World Wars. The fear of external permeation and a massive influx of people fleeing violent conflicts lead to even tighter border controls. Violent conflicts also became a recurring event in the post-war period as people fled war and destruction. The limits of the nation state system became obvious considering the number of non-citizens without claim to any state. Moreover, the invalidation of passports for those leaving a country was practised and eventually led to the introduction of the Nansen passport[2] in Europe. The idea was that governments could issue an identification document without granting citizenship to ‘immigrants’ – an attempt to seal a leak in the system that was only meant to last temporarily.

Colonial heritage

European states also functioned as colonial powers and ruled over territories and people around the globe. These territories were exposed to decades of violent exploitation and the imposition of political and economic systems to replace or co-opt the existing systems some of which had been in place for centuries. These pre-colonial political systems were as diverse and dynamic as the world itself and accounting for all of them would fill libraries. Nonetheless, examples from pre-colonial West Africa illustrate how states and kingdoms followed a very different logic and this in turn impacted people’s movements. The Ashanti Empire was able to control a vast territory because of its infrastructure in the 18th and 19th centuries, for instance, by turning roads, not borders, into a central pillar of state control. Other kingdoms such as 14th century Mali relied more on a ‘centralized’ state structure. It evolved around a capital with a rather diffusely defined periphery and state power ‘conceived as a series of concentric circles radiating out from the core’ (Herbst 2000). European colonialism rigidly introduced the logic of a nation state with clear, territorial borders and a certain ‘global status’ that inseparably comes with nationality. Apart from all the political, social and humanitarian problems that colonialism brought along, it also led to vastly limited mobility, not only globally but in the continent as well, as it separated previously cohesive political and cultural spaces. Nationalism and the post-colonial economic order even intensified this process and made it increasingly difficult for African citizens to travel, especially to the countries that had invaded and restructured their homelands.

Situation in the 21st century

From a European point of view, two main types of documents control and legitimize movement: The international passport and the identification card (ID). Both of them construct and sustain the system of nation states and citizenship by managing nationals in a state. The focus here will be on the international passport. This document is used to control the departure from the home country, entering a foreign country and returning to the home country. All those who have crossed a national border know the process of handing his or her passport to a border official behind a glass panel. This guard checks you and your passport very thoroughly and sometimes asks questions about your purpose of travelling.

Nonetheless, a German passport allows the holder to enter 172 of the Earth’s 192 countries without a visa. Reversely, people from only 81 countries can enter Germany without a visa – an imbalance that quantifies a passport’s power. The development of a passport hierarchy is an advanced process, which has only been taking place for some decades. It leaves citizens from countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, South-Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo or Liberia at the bottom of this hierarchy and enforces a restrictive and often arbitrary system of visa issuance on them. This system allows economically and politically powerful nations to use people’s mobility as a bargaining resource and reinforces their dominance. An example of this mechanism is the 2014 FIFA world cup in Brazil: European countries had a keen interest in granting their football-mad citizens free access to the host country. Brazil managed to secure liberalized visa regulations for its own citizens travelling to Europe in return. In this instance, the cultural event gave Brazil negotiating power and that in turn increased its economic and political power. When states lack these material and symbolic resources, they are less able to give their populations access to international networks, exchanges, education and jobs.


Alternatives become possible when we start deconstructing the perceived ‘naturalness’ of the status quo. A growing number of intellectuals, scholars, artists and political activists are pointing to the historical development of borders and making us aware of their violence and their arbitrariness. They argue in favour of social and economic advantages that non-existent borders might yield…a world in which we can claim that the passport was just an episode that lasted for little more than a century. It would be a world in which Diome’s statement would ring true for everyone:

‘We live in a globalised world in which an Indian might live and make a living in Dakar, someone from Dakar in New York, someone from Gabon might live and make a living in Paris. Whether you like it or not, this is an irreversible fact. So let’s find a collective solution, or move away from Europe, because I intend to stay.” (translated from French) (Diome 2015)

End notes

1. A Palimpsest is a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.

2. An identification and travel document for Russian refugees (1922). Governments could issue the document without granting citizenship to the ‘immigrants’. More than 50 governments agreed to its terms. Later the Nansen Passport was expanded to Assyrian and other Christian minorities.


Diome, F. (2015)Fatou Diomé about the “migrant crisis” in Europe 24.04.2015 English subtitles‘, 24 March,, accessed 3 March 2016

Guérot, U. and Menasse, R. (2016) ‘Lust auf eine gemeinsame Welt. Ein futuristischer Entwurf für europäische Grenzenlosigkeit’, 11 February, Le Monde diplomatique,!5274030, accessed 3 March 2016

Herbst, J. (2000) States and Power in Africa. Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press

Torpey, J. (2000) The invention of the passport. Surveillance, Citizenship and the State, Cambridge, New York 2000,Cambridge University Press

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Africa and the drama of immigration

This flood to Europe that will never dry up
Dalton Bennett/AP

Migration is as old as Africa itself. People have always moved in search of a better life. The economic crisis in Africa fueled by development policies imposed on the continent by the World Bank, IMF and other donors is one of the factors forcing some Africans to undertake dangerous journeys to Europe in an attempt to improve their lot.

In some African cultures, travel is an initiatory act. One becomes a man when he leaves his family to go far to discover other people and other cultures, to confront the real world realities. This means going away from the comfort and care of a mother, far from the protection of a father. Going away is getting more experiences; coming back is enriching one’s group with what was learned in the other world. This culture brands the Soninkés – a crossborder community living between Senegal, Mali and Mauritania. In this area, the villages are empty. The houses resonate essentially with the laughter of women and children screaming. The men left. They migrated elsewhere. Soninkés are one of the most mobile people in Africa. Their mobility has lasted since the empire of Ghana (8th – 11th century).

In Diawara, a Soninké village located 800 kilometers from Dakar, more than 50 per cent of the population are French nationals. Almost all of them are returning migrants, who came back to resettle in their land of origin once their European or African courses ended. Those who have not returned yet left their wives and their offspring in luxurious residences. The houses that grow in Diawara breathe an unsuspected comfort. TV, refrigerator, air conditioner, etc., are behind the walls. So far from Dakar, in a rural area where poverty affects 70 per cent of the population [1], one cannot imagine this state of affairs.

Each month, from France, Germany, Italy or elsewhere, migrants send money for the monthly expense. Medical expenses, tuition, everything goes to ensure the family is taken care of. In Soninkés community, success in emigration is measured by the ease in which the family is left in the village. Remittances are considerable. In 2015, the World Bank estimated money transfers from emigration to $601 billion, including $441 billion to developing countries. In Senegal, around $2 billion has fueled this circuit. This represents more than the Official Development Assistance (ODA).

The money sent is not just for families. It also contributes to community development. Since the implementation of financial recovery plans imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in the 1980s African states have turned their back on social development investments, building neither hospitals nor health centers, schools, etc., but privatizing and firing hundreds and hundreds workers instead. These policies have began to change today. Africa is a continent where, for ten years, the growth rate turned at around 5 per cent, but the damage of the past is immeasurable. Reconstruction is difficult.

Getting my mother out of poverty

For decades, African people have taken their destiny in hand. During this period where states have deserted their social responsibilities, under pressure from Western countries and international financial institutions, community development had become a matter for emigrants. It is them who built schools, health centers and wells or funded drilled water towers. Those who take the path of exile today have the same hopes. They saw a neighbor or a cousin get ‘her mother out of poverty’ with the money earned in the emigration and they only have this leitmotiv in the mind when they embark on the road of the desert, through Libya or Morocco, that ends up in Europe.

Most of them have a starting point. They do not know their destination. They will settle where solidarity will offer them asylum. A lot of them will be lost on the way, dead of thirst in the desert or drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean. But none of them thinks about leaving and returning with empty hands. Rather die than have to face the eyes of those left behind.

These migration movements are not new. Migrations have shaped African countries and are part of their history. The first movements from state to state started since independence. Departures were not aimed at Europe. They were mostly internal to Africa. From West African countries, the main destinations were Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in Central Africa. Today, two-thirds of African migrations are still within Africa and are directed to the oil producing countries such as Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, where the ‘black gold’ still deludes despite raids and deportations.

Migration to the North accounts for less than a third of migration from Africa, although thousands of Africans are among the 700,000 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean to land in Europe in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration.

No job prospects

It was from 1970 that population flows to Europe started to intensify. Booming their economy, European countries needed labor to fill unskilled jobs. The image of the immigrant workers in automotive assembly lines or black garbage man in the streets of Paris started to make its way. Until the mid-1980s, there was no need for a national of the former French colonies to have a visa to enter France. In this freedom of movement, the flow of people was constant. With the possibility to go back home if needed, immigrants remained in Europe just for the time of labor, going back to their families for holidays. Family reunification was an unnecessary luxury.

The closure of European borders occurred at a time when African economies were entering a period of crisis. Economic and financial recovery policies implemented on the injunction of World Bank and IMF began to make effects. Unstructured, the states began to collapse. Unemployed graduates joined fired workers. For the thousands and thousands of young people who found themselves without perspective, emigration became the only solution. And the stream began to develop in the 1990s.

Europe, entrenched behind its borders, lives in an illusion of security. Borders cannot be sealed. Blocked by restrictions in the allocation of visas, African migrants found alternative paths. Via Morocco they made Ceuta and Melilla doors to new hope.[1]

In Senegal, the history of these trips by canoe to Spain began anecdotally. In seeking the fish that was scarce on their coasts and in Mauritanian waters, the fishermen from Saint Louis found themselves off the coast of Spain, thousand of kilometers from their starting point. Their story then began to spread and other fishermen started turning into smugglers rather than searching fish in empty seas. They expanded their canoes, boarded hundreds of adventurers and launched illegal emigration. It reached its peak between 2007 and 2009.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants died, lost in the sea. The scandal would spread out before the world in 2006, when canoes cargo ended up in the sea, drowned or disappeared. Macabre stories accompanied their odysseys. Delirium and madness during the days at sea, detention camps for those who were able to disembark and forced return to the country after a failed adventure, without access to the most basic rights.

Those traveling through the desert do not know a better fate. Crossing the Sahara through Mali and Niger in the hands of adventurers, they end up in Libya or Tunisia, waiting for the boat that will take them to the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. Th odyssey sometimes costs €1,000 to €2,000, often funded through the tontine won by the mother, land titles sold by the father or jeweleries traded in the market.

At the time of the news, when the death toll of the tragedy spreads, a certain lassitude prevails in public opinion. By dint of hearing, death tolls no longer bring sorrow. Thousand deaths sound like one death. The body of a child who fails on a beach or the body of a pregnant woman rejected by the waves are hardly shocking. The dead are ‘faceless’ and their numbers remain abstract. It is when the drama enters a family or a village, that emotion exceeds the nod. The event is rare. Migration stories are sometimes too global and not linked to personal dramas. An Eritrean, a Syrian, or an Iraqi who disappears in the Mediterranean does not mean much to this side of the world. That’s why solidarity is so difficult to build in the South, to deal with this scandal.

African states’ silence

Emigration is often a hidden drama. The story of the son that has gone remains secret until news of success can be told. And some families expect to hear from their son who has been missing for more than a decade, clinging to the hope that one day the news will break, saying he is alive.

At a global level, African states prefer to remove a question that is the sign of their own failure. Young people who leave, with the certainty of playing their lives at Russian roulette, materialize the bankruptcy of employment policies and the despair attached to lives with hopeless future.

Ten years ago, when countries like Senegal allied with European governments to get involved in the Frontex (European external borders) Programme, the candidates to migration said it was treason. The police patrolled along the beaches to abort attempts to leave by canoe. But the flow has not dried up. It diverted to feed the desert roads. Young people continue to leave. If Libya is the country of chaos, they think it is in this mess they most likely have chance to depart for a new life.

In April 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced the countdown to 1700 dead migrants just for this month. The silence of the African Union on this drama was indignant. The rare statements made in African capitals were limited to postures of regret and condemnation. Nobody offered ways for solutions. All awaited the European Union-Africa Union summit that took place in Malta in November 2015, to address the illegal immigration problem. Once again, the fate of the continent was under the good graces of others. The European Union promised 1.8 billion euros, pending African State contributions. But those billions are not the solution. They will run out, leaving the system that creates exclusion and misery.

The young Soninké will always think about leaving. Whether to Europe or to other African countries, they will fulfill their initiation.

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Isolated from society

Refugee struggles in Germany from a woman`s perspective

After having overcome various obstacles on their dangerous routes, migrants and refugees are confronted with bad living conditions in isolated housing facilities in Europe. Refugee women are especially affected by this, as they are double victims to both systematic racism and sexism.

During the long journey to Europe we go through numerous risks. Fear accompanies every single border crossing we are trying to achieve and gets even stronger when we manage to do so. We live in constant anxiety for deportation to our countries of origin because we are officially discriminated and termed as an economical refugee, and in fear of being deported within the EU from one ‘safe’ country to another for the umpteenth time and in anxiety of even worse living conditions in these countries. We struggle every day with the fear of physical assaults and any other racist attacks in the streets of Europe. Every day, all of us have to struggle with all these kinds of fear and anxiety.

Coming from an African country it is not a secret how difficult it is to overcome these obstacles and as a result many young people are dying on their way to Europe. This migration is a result of how the European governments, multinational companies and the so called developed countries are affecting, directly or indirectly, the economies and governance of these countries. Of course to the common European, it is easier to reason that their governments are giving financial aid to the poor African countries, their multinational firms are providing employment to people in those countries. They try to ignore history and of course the price African countries are paying for these grants and the way their governments are exploiting Africans and their countries.

Bad living conditions for those who seek asylum

After experiencing routes full of dangers, pushed around throughout Europe, housed from one collective centre to the next, often far away from residential areas, schools, shopping centres and train stations, these are just some of the first experiences the asylum seekers face. The housing facilities differ from tents to containers, former military barracks to blocks of flat where one room is occupied by 2-4 asylum seekers depending on the size. The system isolates you with no perspectives of learning the language, working or further education. We don´t have contact with the German society in this separated world. Especially us women feel and are in danger in these conditions because of racist aggressions.

Living in these isolated collective homes means sharing of rooms (one is entitled only to 6qm², depending on the German Federal State you are living in, it could be less), kitchens, bathrooms, toilets, long corridors etc., and most of all lack of privacy. Workers in the collective homes can enter your room anytime without knocking, not caring of whether you are dressed or naked and you are not supposed to have visitors. When allowed then they should leave before 10pm, and if they stay overnight then they have to pay a fee. At night one hardly sleeps because of the noise going on in the long corridors. Children of school going age cannot concentrate on school work. These shared facilities usually are a source of quarrels between the residents which results in fights, women being sexually harassed and physically abused.

Racism is a daily occurrence on the streets as well as in the structural system. In the collective homes, workers, officials and other refugees discriminate asylum seekers by i.e. classifying them as those who are criminals and coming to Germany because of the social welfare and have nothing to look for here. The officials decide on who gets what from being housed to specialised medical care such as psychological attention. As a result of these living conditions of hopelessness, many asylum seekers end up suffering from stress and added depression from what they are already going through.

Useful” and “not useful” refugees

Asylum seekers are sorted by the criteria of usefulness: doors wide open for young and highly qualified, closed borders for all others.

Even the asylum applications are influenced by the economic interests of Germany: For Syrian refugees there is now a fast track procedure as their asylum applications are assumed to be ‘obviously founded”. This is a good regulation, but why is this not applying to war refugees from Chad, Sudan or the Congo? It’s simple: A high proportion of Syrian refugees have an academic education. In contrast, Asylum applications of Roma refugees from the Balkans are now rejected collectively as ‘obviously unfounded’. They are marginalized in their countries of origin from the education system, and therefore do not bring attractive qualifications to the German economy. For those who don’t belong to the “useful” refugees, the disadvantage is worsened by the daily experience of racist discrimination, police profiling and attacks and racial abuses by members of the German society.

Asylum seeking women have very little chances in this unfair selection system: for they have in many countries around the world little access to education. Whether it’s work bans or integration, refugee protection or deportation, detention or the right to stay. The whole German asylum system splits refugees and migrants;
Where once all refugees and migrants were deprived of their rights, we see now a residence and asylum law by hierarchical categories: ‘Useful’ migrants, who can be integrated, ‘real refugees’ who need at least temporarily protection and supposed cheaters, all are sorted into different drawers. At the same time many regulations and special laws are aimed to isolate asylum seekers from other parts of the civil society.

Discrimination against women

Refugee women are double victims to these circumstances and living conditions. They suffer the most, because they are the ones who take up the responsibility to ensure that their families function in these circumstances. In addition they struggle not only as refugees or illegalised persons, but also as women. Many women do not know their rights and are afraid that by being politically active, they are spoiling their chances of getting recognized as refugees. In other cases they just want to live in peace after going through so much before and after they arrive. The political movements and fights are dominated by men and they do not consider women issues important. Women are not only faced by the racist’s laws governing refugees but also face sexual violence and harassment and physical violence inside and outside the camps. These are issues which are not discussed in the mainstream refugee groups. Because of these experiences we decided to organise ourselves to fight for our rights from a woman`s perspective. We decided to inform ourselves about the laws governing refugees so that we could inform other refugee women and give them tips on how to go about official and social problems. We decided to give seminars and workshops to educate the women on their rights and to nurture empowerment. Our fundamental political goal is a just society without exclusion, discrimination and the abolition of all laws discriminating asylum seekers and migrants.

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