Archive | October 22nd, 2016

Is this the change Nigerians voted for?

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President Buhari comes across as being credible, with an admirably high level of personal integrity. But given the complex nation he heads and its challenges, his virtues and style should be enriched with a healthy dose of balancing, fairness, compassion and a common touch. Only that way will Nigerians enjoy the benefits of the much-touted change.

In the light of almost two decades of horrendous governance under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) administration, the call for change by a large section of Nigerians was expectedly overwhelmingly loud. Thus, this piece is a response to Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, who indeed holds the copyright to the first leg of the title of this piece, which I have slightly modified – as can be seen in his latest defence of President Muhammadu Buhari’s APC administration.

After 15 tortuous months in the life of the current administration, a period largely mediated by growing criticisms in the midst of persistent agony of diminished expectations, Shehu, a man you can never accuse of being inattentive, came to what was meant to be the rescue with a well-publicised apologia titled, “Is this the change we voted for? Yes, it is.” And in a spirited effort to convey his message, Shehu provided the question as well as the answer. Given his current station in the presidency, it is hard to fault his emphatic submission. But with due respect to him, however, I hold a different view: Although Nigerians believed in Buhari and indeed voted massively for change, I’m minded to point out that what has been served so far in real terms doesn’t seem like the change Nigerians voted for Buhari to deliver.

Yet, there are a couple of areas one would be inclined to agree with Shehu, especially concerning what this administration has done regarding security and corruption.

Sometime in November 2010, my friend and colleague from our Tell magazine days in the early 1990s, Segun Adeleke, and I, interviewed Buhari, then a presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in one of the suites at Transcorp Hotel, Abuja. The interview titled, “Soon There Won’t Be Enough Money to Steal”, was a cover story for GIRAFFE (Vol. 1 No. 2 November 2010), a monthly magazine which we briefly published. Then, it was clear as now, that Buhari’s priority areas would be security, corruption and indiscipline.

Hear what he said when asked which direction he would be taking Nigeria if elected as president in 2011 elections: “There are two fronts. One is security. This country is terribly insecure. No serious investor can bring his money here to build a factory, provide employment and goods and services when there is no power, when there are no roads, no water. Look at what the country has been earning for the past 10-11 years and look at the state of infrastructure in this country. Corruption is responsible for that. The whole world knows it. We have said it. We will still have zero tolerance for corruption and indiscipline.”

Although the country still faces security challenges in the widespread menace of herdsmen, kidnapping for ransom, rising ethnic agitations and renewed bombings down south, no honest assessor will deny that Buhari has diligently confronted this problem especially by limiting the threats hitherto posed by the Boko Haram insurgents operating from the north-east region. One grey area though remains the issue of the Chibok girls who have been in the custody of Boko Haram for more than two years. You would expect that by now, one way or the other, we ought to have arrived at a closure on this matter. But on the whole, this administration has done far better than its predecessors when it comes to security.

The same single-mindedness has been applied in tackling corruption, even if there are still reservations. All those who looted funds meant to buy weapons for the military are being identified and called to give account. In many cases, such funds are being returned while there are also court cases to bring culprits to justice.

However, in the life of his administration, you would expect that Buhari would make the famous byword of his inaugural broadcast (“I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody”) really stick. But there have been occasions tempting enough for one to assume that our president is exclusively for a class of people.

In a government vigorously waving the banner of change, you would expect Buhari not to close his eyes, for instance, to the fact that his ministers have yet to follow the path he and the vice-president had taken by publicly declaring their assets. After all, strictly interpreted, change means that you want to do things differently from past administrations.

You would expect him to instantly address the first major embarrassment to his government when one of his foremost cabinet members stuck out his feet at a public function for one of his aides to polish his shoes in full glare of the public. It would not happen in countries where the leadership places premium on the dignity of the human person.

You would expect him to have halted the secret, largely nepotistic employment in some government institutions like the Central Bank of Nigeria and Federal Inland Revenue Service and demand a process that gives all Nigerians access to vacant positions in such places. In fact in a government of genuine change, all those responsible for those sham employments should themselves by now be out of jobs.

Also, there are reports in the public domain that some highly-placed officials of the presidency, under our president’s very nose, are neck-deep in shady deals running into billions of naira, acting as agents of some crooked business persons. By now, you expect Buhari to have used those reports to first suspend the officers so mentioned, and then launch an independent investigation into their activities. Any vindication of the media reports would mean automatic sack and possibly prosecution. No cover-up under any guise.

There are a legion other issues that are of serious concern to a great majority of Nigerians, and that should worry this administration. The pattern of appointments Buhari has made so far is one of them. And truly, a dispassionate assessment of these appointments would justify the questions Nigerians are posing. Take one for example: Why would a man who is already chief of staff to the president also be appointed a board member of a major government organization? Has the president by this appointment not shortchanged another person in a different section of the country who ought to have been appointed to this position?

Yes, Buhari comes across as credible with an admirably high integrity quotient; the only former Head of State who as at 2011 never owned a property outside Nigeria. But this virtue, against the backdrop of our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, has not been enriched enough by a healthy dose of balancing, fairness, compassion and common touch.

This government claims to be one of change, therefore, this president should be one who occasionally pays instantaneous visits to areas of crisis and disasters of alarming proportions wherever they occur in this country. Again an example: Rather than leave it to the vice-president’s wife, nothing stops Buhari from taking a trip to Kubwa to see the family of the slain woman preacher, and once again use the opportunity to re-affirm the freedom of religious practice as enshrined in the constitution and the hunting down by all means of perpetrators of such heinous crimes. Those are the periods strong messages are necessary. It is the kind of thing a President Obama would easily do.

By the way, the country is still waiting for the president on his promise before the election to reduce drastically the number of aircraft on the presidential fleet. He had said then that some of them would be sold off to cut cost. That has yet to happen, more than one year after he assumed office.

All of this, and much more that can’t be cited here, fuel a contrary standpoint to Shehu’s in the answer he gave to his question. To him I say, with all sense of modesty: No sir, this is substantially not the change we voted for.

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Youth restiveness, militancy and the intractable problems of the Niger Delta

There is no violation of human rights worse than the violation of the right to existence. It is this abiding condition that gave rise to the Niger Delta problem. The recurring violence that holds the nation by the jugular is a manifestation of deep-rooted frustration of negligence on the part of government and multinational companies over the plight of the people in the region.

[This lecture was delivered on October 1, 2016 as part of activities by the National Association of Seadogs (NAS), Rainbow Deck, Effurun, Delta State, to mark Nigeria’s 56th independence anniversary.]


Let me begin by thanking the organizers of this lecture for finding me fit to deliver the Keynote Address at this year’s event. It is an honour well appreciated and I hope that at the end of the day I would have been able to justify the honour you have reposed in me.

The topic I was given to speak on is, “Youth restiveness and militancy in the Niger Delta: The impact on the economy”, but I have slightly altered the it to read, “Youth restiveness, militancy and the intractable problems of Niger Delta: The need for new thinking and enduring problem solving approach”. I took the liberty of slightly adjusting the topic for the following reasons:

  1. The new topic fits even more with the theme of this year’s lecture, which is, “Curtailing the culture of impunity in our national life”.
  2. The twin issues of youth restiveness and ilimtancy in the Niger Delta are not only well known to all, but are equally well documented. What is, however, required in solving this intractable problem is a new thinking and approach, both on the side of the federal and state governments of the region as well as the oil corporations.
  3. Again the effects of the Niger Delta crises on the nation’s economy are not only well documented but are better felt than explained.

So unless you are a highly gifted speaker, you will hardly find anything to say that will capture and sustain the attention of a critical audience. The effects of the crises on the economy are clear, present and vividly biting:  to the extent that they have almost crippled the government of President Muhamadu Buhari.  Understandably, too, Nigerians are beginning to blame the harsh effects of the economy on the Buhari administration.  The change mantra of the APC/Buhari Government is now associated with hardship even in our places of worship.  My eleven-year-old son came home from church the other Sunday and said the pastor prayed that “Buhari should not be our portion in Jesus’ name!” and the church chorused a thunderous “Amen!” Obviously, the effect of the crises occasioned by the disruption in oil production and the accompanying fall in the price of crude oil in the international market has also taken its toll on tithes and offerings in the church.

I do not intend in this keynote address to rely on or engage in high-flying academic language or theories. My aim is to lay out the issues and tell them as they are in plain, simple language as possible. The convoluted language of the academics has been part of the problem. Their abstract and, most times, selfish postulations have provided an avenue for unbridled corruption where billions of naira that should have gone into practical development of the region have been expended on frivolities.  Emergency millionaires have been made of all manner of consultants, emergency conflict resolution and youth development experts, etc, etc.

Definition of key terms

Permit me, therefore, to move into the subject of this Address proper by attempting a definition of the key words therein – “Youth Restiveness”, “Militancy” and the “Niger Delta Region”.

Youth restiveness: According to Peter Osalor in an article published in the December 24, 2012 edition of theVanguard Newspaper, “a sustained protestation embarked upon to enforce a desired outcome from a constituted authority fits the label of youth restiveness. It could also be a combination of any action or conduct that constitutes unwholesome, unacceptable activities engaged in by the youths in any community.”

MilitancyThe Free Dictionary (Online) defines militancy as “having a combative character, aggressive, especially in the service of a cause; a fighting, warring, or aggressive person or party.”  A ‘militant’ according to the Cambridge Dictionary is “active determined and often willing to use force.”

The Niger Delta region:    According to John Vidal, (The Observer of May 20, 2010) what comes to mind when you mention the name “Niger Delta Region” in relation to any issue today is “that Petroleum-rich region that has been at the centre of national and international controversy over issues of pollution, corruption and human rights violation.” Whereas we all know the Niger Delta to be a geographical location, the region is now more popularly defined by oil production, deprivation, violence, environmental pollution and lack of development and poverty rather than history and cartography to include the states of Akwa-Ibom, Edo, Imo, Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Anambra and Ondo. With the recent discovery of oil, Lagos State is on its way to being a Niger Delta state.

Causes of youth restiveness and militancy in the Niger Delta

The Niger Delta is Nigeria’s goose that lays the golden egg. While its egg is cherished and feasted upon, almost solely, to give and to sustain the life of the nation, the goose itself is left unfed, malnourished and abandoned.

Years of oil exploration and pollution have totally destroyed the environment and can hardly sustain the means of livelihood of the people of the area whose main sources of subsistence is farming and fishing. The Niger Delta has given its all to the nation without any corresponding recompense. There is a total death of basic infrastructure and social amenities such as, roads, schools, electricity, pipe-born water and hospitals. The people’s sources of drinking water are polluted by constant oil spillages; their farm lands have been destroyed and rendered unfit for agricultural purposes. Even the air they breathe is unsafe due to gas flaring and emission of carbon monoxide and other noxious emissions that are daily released into the air due to oil and gas exploration activities. Coupled with this is the lack of job opportunities for employable and active youths from the area. The Niger Delta region and its inhabitants are therefore bombarded from the air, land and water. The region is said to be one of the most underdeveloped and poor oil producing regions in the world.

While the Human Development Index of the Niger Delta according to a 2013 United Nations Development Programme report is put at 0.433, other oil producing communities like Gabon, Libya and Malaysia stood at 0.668, 0.791 and 0.791 respectively. Even access to youth literacy in the Niger Delta is lower than that of non-oil producing communities within the Nigerian nation. Take for example the figure of 87.9 percent for the Niger Delta and 94.7 for the South West.  The Niger Delta also has the highest rate of unemployment when compared to all the other regions in Nigeria.  While the unemployment level of the region is put at 9.5 no other region except the South–East has a figure that is as high as 6.6 percent.

While the region festers in squalor and decay, resources from its bosom have been used over the years to build and develop two world-class national capital cities. This disparity in development between non-oil producing areas and the oil producing region was one of the reasons that led to the agitation for resources control. If the Federal Government cannot develop the region, then the people should at least be given the right to harness these resources for the development of their region and at worst pay royalties to the Federal government.

Despite decades of protestation and even appeals to the federal, state governments, oil corporations and the international community, the core issues of the region remained largely unattended to. Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Niger Delta environmental rights activist, was murdered in the course of peaceful agitation for the environmental clean-up of the region by the Abacha regime in 1995. Violence they say begets violence and as the saying goes, those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.

The people were not only denied this right to development, either from the centre or through resource control, they were increasingly being denied the right to life and existence, as the environment from which they can eke out a living has been rendered unfit for any such activity and the federal government wasn’t ready to do anything serious to address the situation.

There is no violation of human rights that can be more than the violation of the right to existence.  It is this abiding condition that gave rise to what is called the Niger Delta problem.  The recurring rounds of violence that continue to hold the nation by the jugular are therefore a manifestation of the deep rooted frustration of negligence on the part of government and multi-national companies over the plight of the region.

The approach to solving the problem so far

While it can be said that government’s intention of setting up the various intervention agencies looks good on paper, the same cannot be said of its efforts to ensure that the objectives of setting up the agencies are achieved. Beginning from the time of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission to the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the Obasanjo Administration in the year 2000, and the establishment of the Niger Delta Ministry by the Yar’ Adua Administration, all the interventionist agencies have been deliberately starved of funds by successive administrations.  The NDDC’s first Quarter Report of December 18, 2015– March 18, 2016, bemoaned the poor financial situation of the Commission which it blamed on “the failure of the Federal, member States Governments, and several oil companies to fund the Commission in accordance with Section 14 of the NDDC Act of 2000.”

Corruption and mismanagement of received funds have also been a huge factor. Equally rampant and most disturbing is the halfhearted implementation and or criminal circumvention of laudable programmes for self-enrichment.

Efforts and emphasis have always been focused on nebulous human capital development programmes mostly because it is a soft area where funds can be siphoned without any noticeable and measurable impact. Human capital development is laudable and direly needed in the region, but concentrating on human capital development without first providing the basic infrastructure to facilitate and sustain economic activities is like putting the cart before the horse. “Human development is not about enhancing capabilities through education alone; rather people must adequately be integrated into society” (Otega Okunono, Dani Salleh and Badariah Hj Din).

Over the years, billions of naira have been pumped into this area of human development, through the award of scholarships and training of thousands of youths and women in various skills at various skills acquisition centres. While this is laudable, the effect has not been felt in the lives of the people and the condition of the environment. For it makes no economic or development sense to train a youth in welding, carpentry, hair dressing and give him or her starter packs or even rent a shop for him or her to ply her trade without first ensuring that the basic infrastructure needed for that business to strive, such as electricity and running water, is available. Most youths trained in this way have had to sell off their starter packs and give up their shops and return to the streets or creeks to begin their criminal activities.  The simple reason in most cases is that these businesses rely on electricity and within a year, cost of buying fuel and diesel has practically wiped out whatever earnings they made.

In an environment where even established business concerns are folding up due to lack of basic infrastructure, it is inconceivable that a youth trained and empowered in this manner would survive such a hash operating environment and go on to be an employer of labour.  But as long as the business of training consultants and contracts for supply of starter packs thrives, no one gives a single thought to the sustainability of the programmes or how the huge funds allocated this sector can be better channeled to provide more enduring projects for the communities.  Human capital development encompasses a process by which a society usurps the natural surroundings to its advantage for development (Nussbuam 2001). The environment has to be conducive for a people to usurp it for developmental purposes.

Efforts by successive administrations to solve the regional question have always been like this.  As the saying goes, you cannot apply the same method to solving a problem and expect different results.  It is time for a new thinking and a new approach.

The role of regional governments

While the federal government must, as always, retain gigantic blame for the crisis in the region, the various state governments have not also done their best to redress the issues as they affect the region either collectively or in their respective states.  They have been more concerned with receiving and appropriating the 13 percent derivation fund according to their whims and caprices without applying it judiciously towards the real physical and infrastructural needs of the oil-producing communities.

Even those who have set up special agencies for the utilization of the 13 percent fund have also slipped into the ineffective approach of the NDDC. These agencies are being used for political patronage and are hamstrung by lack of independence to truly carry out their mandates. Some of them, like one we all know very well, exist to pay salaries to staff who practically do no work throughout the year. It is time governors of the region realized that the region and the people are theirs and they owe them a primary responsibility for development. Investors require a peaceful and stable environment to operate.  No state can develop without the presence of investors.  Whether we like it or not, in the final analysis, the strife affects us all.

The role of militant groups

In discussing the Niger Delta crises we cannot fail to recognize and give kudos to the militant groups, especially the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), for rekindling and sustaining the plight of the Niger Delta in the consciousness of both the national and international community after the lull that was created by the cruel murder of late Ken Saro-Wiwa by the draconian regime of late General Abacha.  Whether they were mobilized for political reasons or not, the fact remains that the condition of the region was ripe for such uprising.  MEND maintained an effective propaganda machine that put the issue on the front burner of international consciousness through constant heart-piercing releases by a guy that goes by the unlikely name of Major Jomo Gbomo. If Gbomo has not been promoted to General by now, I recommend that he be so promoted by the High Command of MEND.

There is no doubt that a struggle of that type and scale was always going to require some form of illicit funding and some element of criminality. So the illegal sale of crude oil (bunkering), highjacking of oil vessels at high seas, kidnapping of expatriate oil workers for ransom were considered tolerable crimes in the eyes of sympathizers to the cause as long as they could lead to the redressing of the issues of the region.

Again, there was always going to be a thin line between this type of noble criminality and a descent into full-blown criminality. With the rise in violence, international oil and their servicing companies folded shop and relocated. The few multi-national expatriate oil workers that did not run away bought up our security and became “unkidnapable.” Government devised more effective ways of curbing large scale oil theft.

It wasn’t too long before the effects started showing on the region.  Unemployment spiraled upward. Poverty increased and gradually the violence turned inwards. The militants being unable to reach the oppressors turned inwards and became oppressors of their co-oppressed.  They started terrorizing their co-sufferers through acts of piracy on the water-ways.  They kidnapped and violated our mothers, sisters and daughters – a practice that has put a blight on the agitation and cast it in an unfavourable mould in the eyes of the international community and even in those of locals.

Presidential amnesty

In our attempt to proffer a new thinking and approach to solving the issue of the region, it is only proper that we examine effects of previous programmes aimed at addressing the issue, especially those that have elicited high attention and have attracted humongous amounts of funding. The Presidential Amnesty Programme remains one of the highest profile programmes in the history of the Niger Delta.  It was instituted by the Yar’Adua administration in 2007 when Niger Delta militants almost brought the nation to its knees through the disruption of the country’s major sources of income and foreign exchange, the production of crude oil. Through, kidnapping of expatiate oil workers, bombing of crude oil pipelines and gas facilities, the nation was gasping for breath.

The programme went on for five years and counting.  According to General Boroh, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on the Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Program, it has been extended for another two years till 2018. General Boron has highlighted a major constraint preventing the government from bringing the programme to a close to be the lack of exit plans for the ex-militants – admission that the hurriedly packaged programme was not well thought through from the beginning. General Boron has also decried the high cost of running the programme and asserted that there was nowhere else in the world that such a programme was being run. A total of 30,000 militants were captured in the programme, that is, those who give up their arms and embraced the programme. 17,322 of them have benefitted. However, there are complaints by others that they have not been captured and hence would want to be included in the programme.

So if you put out the figure of ex-militants yet to be captured and add it up with the 30,000 already in the programme you may come up with a figure of not less than 35,000 ex-militants. Anyone who tells me that, even at the height of the bombings, there were up to 35,000 arms bearing youths in the creeks of the Niger Delta from Cross Rivers to Ondo State tells a lie. And if over 17 thousand of these militants out of the 30,000 who embraced the programme and signed for peace have benefited, who then are the militants bombing oil facilities today and what roles are these ex-militants who must know their ex-colleagues and modus operandi playing to help the Federal Government secure the region? What impact has the programme had on the region if the issues that led to its institution are the same issues of agitation today?  Shouldn’t the huge funds that have gone the way of the programme have been better utilized if channeled into creating an environment that can generate jobs for the teeming youths?

A frank answer to the above posers will underscore the success or otherwise of the amnesty programme with regard to addressing the core issues that led to its establishment in the first place. The truth remains that the amnesty programme was designed by our oppressors to entice the Niger Delta militants to cease hostilities so that the federal government could carry on with its oil exploration activities while pollution and degradation of the environment continued. It was conceived as a bribe and operated as such. If we were wiser, we would have demanded for more enduring and sustainable solutions.  But through a combination of greed and lack of foresight we bit the bait and here we are today.

While the amnesty lasted, we became emergency contractors and consultants on all manner of trainings.  We smiled to the bank without a thought for our environment. “Ex-Generals” were awarded multi-million naira contracts to secure oil facilities and pipelines as well as huge maritime contracts and forgot all about the struggle.  Magnificent buildings of “Generals” and other ethnic leaders sprang up over-looking the slums and shanties in which the rest of the people dwell. Even the traditional rulers were not left out.

For the six years of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, the issue of the Niger Delta was kept at the back burner. Even the most important road in the region, the East-West Road, could not be completed. The Ministry of the Niger Delta headed by a Niger Deltan under the Presidency of a Niger Deltan was under-funded. Meanwhile, incidents of kidnapping for ransom, which is an offshoot of militant activities, continued.  We completely turned away from the struggle and joined with the oppressors to oppress our co-oppressed. An otherwise legitimate struggle was turned on its head, terrorizing our own co-suffers through sea piracy. We kidnapped our mothers, wives and daughters and violated them. We demanded ransom from those who could hardly feed.

This was the situation until the Niger Delta Avengers started the latest round of bombings that have brought us back to the pre-amnesty stage. People have had to ask questions about the true motive of the Niger Delta Avengers. What exactly are they avenging? Are they avenging their loss of contracts and patronage?  What has suddenly changed in the condition of the region in the Buhari administration that wasn’t there in the Jonathan administration? Going by the way the Niger Delta issue has been appropriated and personalised in recent times, it has also become necessary for the question to be asked: is the Niger Delta issue about an individual, group or an ethnic nationality? Must the peace of the region be tied to the pecuniary needs of individuals or groups?  The answers to these questions, as they say, are blowing in the wind.

The Niger Delta issue has been used before and is again being used for political leverage. This is why the federal government must be wary of all those masquerading as leaders and justling for recognition to represent the region in negotiations with it.  They do not mean well for the region. They are the same old people who have shortchanged the region. They are after their pockets. They are the emergency contractors, ethnic supremacists, conflict resolution experts and resource control intellectuals whose roles in the past have done little or nothing to address the real issues of the region. We do not need them, nor do we need another round of negotiations. It only provides avenues for corrupt leaders and criminal elements to enrich themselves. The issues are as clear now as they have always been. Nothing has changed. The region is in need of basic infrastructure. The federal government should move in with massive funds to do this. The Niger Delta Regional Master Plan is a good strategy. Government should start implementing it in the areas where tangible results and effects will be felt.

Perhaps it is also important to mention the critical negative effect that the amnesty programme had on the youths of the region that is often overlooked. It created a culture of receiving payment without doing any work.  Many youths in the name of training were lodged in five-star hotels for months, sometimes years, while undergoing training and were subsequently released into society to receive monthly stipends without doing any work. This attitude of expecting payment without work has permeated the entire region.  Only years of re-orientation and availability of jobs can reverse the trend. The amnesty also inculcated the belief in youths that the best way to easy wealth is through violence. Rather than hard work as was in the days of old, violence is now a constant part of our daily life.  The federal government must therefore show resolve to deal decisively with all forms of criminality whether under the guise of freedom fighting or not. As with Boko Haram so must it be with terrorism in the region.

The Amnesty Program was not totally a failure, though. Many youths were trained. Some even went abroad for studies. We congratulate them and wish that when they return home they will apply their newly acquired skills for the betterment of the region and meet an environment that enables them to put their skills into practice.

The way forward

There is no doubt at all that addressing the Niger Delta problem requires a new thinking and approach. First we must start by communicating the problems in a new language. A clear and transparent language that is devoid of deceit and self-interest. The most important way of ensuring sustainable growth is through infrastructure. So as a short time measure, the federal government should mobilise massive funds for immediate investment in basic infrastructure across the region. This will not only raise the standard of living but will boost economic activities and employment generation. There must be a marked departure from those amorphous programmes that do good to the pockets of individuals rather than help the region. The federal government must stop forthwith the application of halfhearted political solutions to the region’s problems. Niger Deltans must also begin now to reject such programmes that portray them as internal colonizers and co-conspirators in shortchanging the region for selfish motives.

Fundamentally, the only way to put a stop to the Niger Delta agitation and indeed all other regional agitations is to restructure the Nigerian federation. We practice a highly unitary government which we tout as a federal system. We need to encourage competition and creativity amongst the federating units. The practice of states sitting back and waiting for federal allocation or going cap in hand to Abuja to beg for handouts in the name of bailouts has encouraged laziness amongst states. Just as the Amnesty Programme created indolence and a horde of lazy youths in the Niger Delta region, so has this practice of federal allocation created lazy states and local governments.

There is too much power concentrated at the center. This has been the source of all the schisms in Nigeria. Name it: whether Boko Haram, Odua Peoples’ Congress, OPC, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, MOSSOP, MASSOB or IPOB. All these arose over feelings of marginalisation or feelings of being left out at the centre. If the people are allowed control of the resources within their states no one will hold the centre responsible for marginalisation.

If the federating states must exist as centres of development rather than wasteful bureaucracies, then they must be empowered to develop at their own pace. There are serious efforts by the Buhari Administration to diversify the Nigerian economy away from dependence on oil. This is good but can at best be only a short time measure while we commence the process of truly fashioning out a new federal constitution that is agreed upon by all constituents. Diversification without true federalism will in the long run reverse us to this same position tomorrow. You cannot build on a faulty foundation and expect the structure to stand the test of time.

The Federal Government should not be afraid of a true conference of the people to discuss the future of the federation. This is the only way forward. It is the discussion that has been denied that is being carried out with bombs and guns. Let’s put out this fire before it consumes us all.

But let me sound a note of warning to those who feel and await this as an avenue to break away from the Nigeria state. Look at your backyards very well before you attempt this. Do not forget the states of the Balkan Peninsular, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Sudan and South Sudan. There is strength in our being together on agreed terms than being fragmented in uncontrollable strife.

Our “Avengers” and other similar groups must know that their current actions can only lead   to what they are fighting to prevent. A new strategy to redress the years of degradation is urgently required and that time is now, before the Niger Delta loses its influence on the economy. It may be a long time before oil dries up but that time must surely come. Diversification from oil dependent economy may come even much earlier with the ongoing efforts.

There have been stories about majority, if not, almost all the oil blocks in the region belonging to non-Niger Deltans. This can be addressed as a short-term measure of calming tempers and assuaging the feelings of marginalisation but this really shouldn’t be the argument. The argument and the lasting solution lie in state ownership of resources. Local governments must also be empowered in a restructured federation to have more autonomy. They are the closest to the people and should be engines of development. Money coming from the center is seen as money belonging to all, and people don’t really have that sense of connection and ownership to it, hence the funds are easily mismanaged without any one raising much of a concern.

Other short-term measures pending the restructuring to full-fledged true structural and fiscal federalism should be as follows: upward tweaking of the derivation formula from 13% is required but the governments of the regions must be held accountable for how they apply the fund in the development of their areas. The federal government as regulator must enforce all regulations that require international oil companies discharge their responsibilities to their host communities. Passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill in such a manner as to enhance the greater capacity and participation of oil producing communities in oil production and exploration activities.

Finally, we must desist forthwith from acts that further destroy the environment. We cannot behave like the mad man who sets his house on fire to solve the problem of rats.

Whether other non-oil products become the mainstay of the nation’s economy now or in the future, the Nigerian nation owes the Niger Delta region the responsibility of cleaning the mess it has made of the region. And the time to start is now.

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Land law and economic liberation

Keynote addresss at the 4th Spring Law Conference, College of Law, University of South Africa, Pretoria, 27 September 2016
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Liberation of a land dispossessed people without land is a gigantic colonial fraud. Land is the primary source of life. Food does not grow in the sky. Houses are not built in the air. Gold, platinum, diamonds, oil and all other minerals are dug from the land. Cattle, sheep, goats, horses do not graze in the air. Pastures and water are found in the land. Even the departed demand their graves not in the clouds but in the land.

Programme Director, Distinguished Delegates Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank the Convenors of the 4th Annual Spring Law Conference for inviting me to speak at this gathering and on such an important subject in our country – Land law and economic liberation.

Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward. As Cicero, a Roman philosopher, put it many years ago, “To remain ignorant of things before you were born is to remain a child.”

Dr. John Hendrik Clarke, an African American professor of history, has written: “History is a clock that tells a people their historical time of the day. It is a compass that people use to locate themselves on the map of human geography. A people’s history tells them what they have been, where they are now…more importantly, where they still must go.”

Our own Dr. Muziwakhe Anthony Lembede, that philosopher and awakener of the youth in his generation advised, “One who wants to create a future must not forget the past.”

Many with regard to this country preach the gospel of “Forget the past.” But where their own issues are involved, they not only remember the past, they commemorate it. In July 2014 I watched on television rather painfully when all European leaders met to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their victory in their 1914 European First World War. There were no African leaders invited at this commemoration, yet so many Africans died in that war of their colonisers. There was not a whisper of “Thank you Africa for coming to our rescue at your expense.”

In this country alone many African soldiers died. On one occasion we lost over 600 soldiers. This was the 5thBattalion. They died when the SS Mendi Ship sank. They were called the South African Native Labour Contingent. Even in war where they were going to spill their blood for a cause that was not theirs, they were still used as mere tools.

Symptoms must not be confused with real disease  

I think the culture of dealing with political symptoms of a political disease instead of dealing with the disease itself will destroy Africans in this country. Effects of a problem must not be confused with its cause. Causes of a problem must be identified and correct thinking applied to the problem. For instance, in this country apartheid was the effect, the symptom of the problem, not the cause of the primary contradiction in the African liberation struggle.

An African proverb says, “When you fall, do not look where you fell, look where you slipped.”

This country was colonised by Britain. There were African wars of national resistance against colonial land dispossession of the African people. They were led by African kings such as Hintsa, Cetshwayo, Sikhukhune, Moshoeshoe, Makhado and many others. The cause of these wars was the invasion by people who were taking this land from these kings. Land is economy.

After the invaders crushed all African wars of national resistance against British colonialism with their guns against African spears, this is what happened. Four British colonies, the Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State were turned into what was called the Union of South Africa. This was through a law called the Union of South Africa Act 1909. It was legislated directly by the British Parliament. It came into effect on 30th May 1910.

The population of the four colonies that had now formed the Union of South Africa was as follows:

Cape Province: 167,546 Europeans

Natal: 34,784 Europeans

Transvaal: 106,493 Europeans

Orange Free State: 41,014 Europeans

This was a total population of 349,837 Europeans according to the colonial census of 1904. They were not called Whites those days. Britain gave them political power to rule the Union of South Africa and make their laws in its colonial parliament. But Section 44 of the Union of South Africa Act 1909 stated, “The qualifications of a member of the House of Assembly shall be as follows:- He must…(c) be a British subject of European descent.”

In this parliament of Europeans only, the four provinces of the colony were represented as follows: Cape Colony 51 members, Natal 17 members, Transvaal 36 members and Orange Free State 17 members.

In addition to this, European members began to openly show what their political objective was. A member whom the British government had honoured for “good” colonial service Colonel Sir A. Wool-Sampson (M.P. Braamfontein) told Parliament on 10th November 1910 that “to the best of his recollections during recent elections in the Transvaal, the majority of honourable members declared themselves in the most positive terms their determination to make this a Whiteman’s country….”

African liberation pioneers identified disease as colonialism

This scared leaders like Dr. Pixley ka Isaka Seme, an African lawyer educated in America and Britain. He came with the idea of forming the South African Native National Congress (SANNC). When he spoke on 12 January 1912, Dr. Seme said: “Kings of the royal blood and gentlemen of our race, we have gathered here to consider and discuss a scheme my colleagues have decided to place before you…in the LAND of our birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water. The Europeans have formed what is known as Union of South Africa in which we have no voice.”

Indeed, the South African Native National Congress was formed. But the political situation was getting worse. The new colonial parliament of the Union of South Africa passed the Native Land Act 1913. It allocated 93% of the African country to Europeans. The remaining 7% was allocated to the African population which was then over five million people in what was called “Native Reserves.”

After so much of African land was colonially and illegally seized from its  owners, SANNC leaders with the collaboration of the colonially weakened African kings sent a delegation to King George V in England to have the Native Land Act 1913 suspended and the principle of equitable distribution of land applied. These leaders were Dr. John Dube, Sol Plaatje, Dr. Walter Rubusana, Thomas Mapikela and Saul Msane. That was on 20th July 1914.

In that petition among other things, they said that they loved their country with a most intense love…that their land had been taken away from them, their military and other institutions brought to nought.

The main demand to King George V by these African leaders was “that the natives (indigenous Africans) should be put into possession of land in proportion to their numbers, and on the same conditions as the white race.”[1] This African petition fell on deaf ears of the King of England and his Government.

Indeed, the only sympathy for the African leaders in England came from a London daily newspaper. It reported, “In carving out estates for themselves in Africa, the white races have shown little regard for the claims of the black man. They have appropriated his land and have taken away his economic freedom and have left him in a worse case than they found him….

“That the African has been dispossessed may be illustrated by the facts with regard to the Union of South Africa. Here blacks compared with whites are in proportion of four to one, but are in legal occupation of only one  fifteenth of their land…the deputation of natives [SANNC leaders] now in England have appealed to the imperial government for protection. They asked for the suspension of the Native Land Act 1913….”

Attitude of colonialists towards Africans

Glen Grey, a British colonial official in South Africa, argued that “The Natives are generally looked upon by Whites as an inferior race, whose interests must be systematically disregarded when they come into competition with their own, and should be governed mainly with a view to the advantage of the superior race. For this reason two things must be afforded to white colonists, LAND…the Kaffir population should be made to furnish, as large and cheap a supply of labour as possible.”[2]

Of course, there are justice-loving people in England who spoke against the colonial land dispossession of the African people. Sir Thomas Farewell Buxton of the Anti-Slavery Society wrote, “My attention has been drawn to the wickedness of our proceedings as a nation, towards countries of natives we seize. We have usurped and enslaved them. Their greatest crime is the LAND of their forefathers.”[3]

His fellow countryman Williams Ellis had earlier made reference to the British practice “….especially to seizing land of people whose country we may colonise and the expulsion and annihilation of its rightful possessors. It has been our custom to go to a country, and because we were stronger [militarily] than the inhabitants, to take and retain possession of the country to which we had no claim but to which the indigenous people had the most inalienable right, upon no other principle than that we had [military] power to do so. This is a principle that can never be acted upon without insult and offence to the Almighty God, the Common Parent of the human family.”[4]

How did African Kings respond to land dispossession?

King Moshoeshoe said, “The white people seem to be bent on proving that in politics Christianity has no part….It may be you white people do not steal cattle, but you steal whole countries….Whites are stealing Blackman’s land in the Cape to here [Orange Free State]”. [5]

King Domas of the Khoi Africans did not mince his words when it came to land. He asked Jan van Riebeeck, “Who with the greatest degree of justice should give way to land, the natural owner or the foreign invader?” He continued, “If we [Africans] were to come to Europe would we be permitted to act in similar manner you act here? [6]

“It would not matter if you stayed at the ‘provision station’ [at Table Mountain on your way for trade in spices in Asia], but you come out here in the interior. You select the best land for yourselves. You never ask even once if we like it or whether it will disadvantage us.”

These Africans who had never been to school and had no university degrees identified land as the most important and basic possession and asset of a nation. Prince Maqoma of the Xhosa-speaking Africans took part in a number of wars of national resistance against colonial land dispossession of the African people. Before he was imprisoned in Robben Island in 1859, he told a British colonial soldier Colonel Wade:

“We [Africans] are to possess land again. It was bequeathed to us by our ancestors; to hold, nurture and make it productive for their progeny….You came out of the sea to our land. Like a serpent you emerged out of the sea to our land. 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. 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.” He died in Robben Island Prison in 1873.

How the “New South Africa” Constitution has entrenched Native Land Act 1913

The 1996 South African Constitution brought about what is called “New South Africa.” It entrenched land dispossession of the African people. It substituted the Native Land Act 1913 with Section 25, sub-section 7. It reads, “A person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racial laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of that property or to equitable redress.”

After June 1913, there was no land for Africans left to claim except the crumbs left for Africans after June 1913 further expropriated by the colonial regime through the Group Areas Act 1950. Africans were allocated 7% through the Native Land Act 1913 and 6% through the Native Trust Land in 1936. The latter was as a result of Tomlison Commission Report of 1916.

Section 25 of the South African Constitution is brutally insensitive to the land rights of the colonially dispossessed African people. It protects those who acquired land and its mineral resources colonially. It inhumanly ignores 80% of the African indigenous majority who were colonially robbed of their land at gun point and through colonial laws in which the Africans had no say.

This includes the Union of South Africa Act 1909, a British Parliament legislation which united the four British colonies of Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State and never decolonised them. This colonial law was precipitated by what was called “fight
against the Native danger.”[7]

This was spelled out clearly also in a colonial memorandum sent to the British Secretary of State and Colonies in London, E. Bulwer Lytton, by Cape Colony governor, Sir George Grey. It read: “The Kaffir tribes upon our borders are already becoming disturbed. If the Basutos are conquerors in the war it will greatly encourage the Coloured [Black] races against the whites, and they will be dissatisfied with our assumed neutrality, under the guise of which we have continued to supply the Orange Free State with arms and ammunition, whilst we have acted as a police to prevent the Basutos from obtaining such supplies….

“Nothing but a strong Federal Government which unites within itself all the European races in South Africa can permanently maintain peace in this country…and free Britain from constant anxiety for the peace of her possessions here.”[8]

Sub-section (1) of Section 25 states, “No one may be deprived of property in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.”  The architects of this part of the constitution ignored the fact that the Union of South Act 1909, Native Land Act 1913 and Native Trust Land 1936 had been arbitrary deprivation of the land dispossessed Africans.

How just is Section 25 subsection7 when it states, “A person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws and practice is entitled to restitution of that property”? The 19th of June 1913 is the date on which the colonial Union of South Africa parliament passed the Native Land Bill giving over five million Africans in this country 7% of their land and handing over 93% of the country to colonialists. This created massive poverty. This land dispossession and robbery of its mineral wealth is still devastating the African people to this day. Employment alone will not solve this problem. The national cake in this country is in the hands of the minority. This was pointed out to King George V of Britain 116 years ago.

 Why colonialists took land and its resources from Africans

About land, Sol Plaatje has reminded, “In the harvest of 1911 there was panic among white farmers because an African had garnered three thousand bags of wheat and another sixteen hundred…in a neighbourhood where their white neighbours reaped only 300 to 400 bags….Native produce kept mills busy in Ficksburg, Klerksdorp, Zeerust and other places and Native [African] export was looming in the not distant future….Then it was asked ‘Where shall we get servants if Kaffirs are allowed to become skilled?…’”

Sol Plaatje continues, “At the beginning of May [1913], no one knew that the year would see the last days of territorial freedom for natives [Africans] of the Union [of South Africa], but on June 19 the same year, the law had been enacted and was operating in every part of the Union.”[9]

The constitution is silent about how this situation where the minority population has more land and its resources than the majority will be reversed beyond the 13% crumbs left to Africans “after June 1913.”  There is no concern for people who live in filthy unhealthy shacks which often burn or flood, killing innocent people. When the question is asked, “When will these Mikukus/shacks be abolished?” The answer is “there is not enough land.”  Does this make sense in a country that has so many golf fields? Yet millions cannot find even a decent place to sleep?

Subsection 2 states that “property may be expropriated only in terms of general application…subject to compensation…” It ignores the fact that land in this country was unlawfully expropriated from African Kings. They were its custodians in terms of the African law that existed pre-colonially. The overthrow of these rulers was a violation of Romans, Chapter 13 verses 1-2 in the Bible. It teaches that rulers must be obeyed. The colonialists disobeyed this scripture. It was insensitive of these illegitimate colonial regimes to later demand obedience of African people to their colonial governments.

Section 25 Sub-sections 2 and 3 mention “compensation” two times. It states “The amount of the compensation and time and manner of payment must be equitable….” This is for people who have acquired land colonially. How ethical is this? How just is this? Compensation should be made on improvements they made on land. Not on the land itself.

Why has the constitution of “New South Africa” not provided compensation to Africans for land colonially seized from them before June 1913? Why does the constitution insist on compensation for those who grabbed African land colonially, but not for those who were colonially deprived of their own land?

There was never a thought on the part of colonialists to consider reparations for Africans for colonial barbarism committed against them.

In 1930 colonial Prime Minister Jan Smuts himself admitted the injustice of dispossessing Africans of their land in South Africa. He wrote, “The mistake we made in South Africa in the past was our failure in reserving sufficient land for the future of the natives and the problem we now have in our hands is one of the most difficult.”[10]

Colonial problems are solved through principles of niternational law

Section 25 (7) of the South African Constitution is a product of mutilation of history and manipulation of international law. This stems from the fact that, among other things, an anti-colonial liberation struggle was tragically turned into a mere civil rights issue. The stubborn fact, however, is that colonial issues are governed by principles of international law such as nemo dat quod non habet. No one can give a legally valid title than he possesses or for what is not his. This applies to states and territories. The decision of The Palmas Island Case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration before Judge Max Huber stated the law as follows:

“It is an established fact of international law that if a state transferred a territory, the legality of the transfer depends on the title it holds. If it is defective the title of the state to which the territory is transferred or ceded will be vitiated by the same defect.  Again the Latin maxim is nemo dat quod non habet.”[11]

Britain itself recognised that its colonial title was null and void. It had no legal validity to give Britain the right to pass the country of Africans to its European settlers. On 6th May 1919, on behalf of the British government, Sir Richard Wilfred, a cabinet minister, wrote to Sol Plaatje, Secretary of the South African Native National Congress. Wilfred said, “At the close of the war we shall do all in our power to help you regain that justice and freedom to which…your people are justly entitled.” [12]

This was a clear indication on the part of Britain that in international law colonialism is unlawful and is in fact a crime against humanity. Colonialism was European theft and stealing of African countries. Neither so-called Westminster Statute 1931 nor membership of the League of Nations or United Nations, nor calling the African country a “dominion” had conferred “sovereignty” on the British colony.

When General Hertzog, another South African colonial prime minister, hailed the Westminster Statute of 1931 as meaning that South Africa had “sovereign independence and finality with regard to the country’s freedom;” the British House of Commons described Hertzog’s statement as “more sentiment than substance.” [13]

Of course, Britain did not fulfil its promise to decolonise the African country at the end of the European First World War against Adolf Hitler.

Fifty six years later, however, one of the liberation movements in South Africa, together with the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), got South Africa expelled from the United Nations as a British colony with no sovereign status in international law.

Confirming this fact, Prof. Tom Lodge wrote, “In November 1974 Pan Africanist Congress lobbyists succeeded in obtaining the expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations and in July 1975 the OAU Kampala Meeting adopted as official policy, a long document prepared by the PAC arguing the case for the illegality of South Africa’s status” [in international law]. [14]

The African land which Britain transferred to its colonial settlers through the Union of South Africa Act 1909 and the Native Land Act 1913 had no legal validity. A colonial power has no right to transfer territory that does not belong to it. It is the principle of international law and of natural justice that “natural reason concedes ownership to the first occupier.” (quod nullius est id ratione naturali occupant conceditor).

Recognising this fact, in 1916 the President of the South African Native National Congress, the Rev. Sefako Makgatho, declared, “We ask no special favours from the colonial government. This is the land of our forefathers.”

This was correct. After all, seven Western European countries had illegally seized the whole of Africa including South Africa and partitioned it among themselves, except for Ethiopia and Liberia. This was through the Berlin General Act of 26 February 1885. It was not surprising when in 2000, a Kenyan Presidential candidate Mr. Koigi Mamwere spoke on the issue of land dispossession in the manner he did. He said:

“Today Europeans own land in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania and  all the best land in African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya. To acquire this land outside Europe, Europeans did not use law, justice and money. They took the land and its riches with the gun.”

Why is land and its resources so critical to a nation?

Liberation of a land dispossessed people without land and its riches is a gigantic colonial fraud. Land is the primary source of life. Land is life. Without land there can be no life. Land is national sovereignty. Land is the primary means of production. Land is the basic asset of a nation. Its resources must be used to eradicate poverty, ignorance and to raise the standard of living of the people.

Food does not grow in the sky. Houses are not built in the air. Gold, platinum, diamonds, oil and all other minerals are dug from the land. They are not situated in the clouds. Cattle, sheep, goats, horses do not graze in the air. Pastures and water are found in the land. Even the departed demand their graves not in the clouds but in the land.

Without land there is only be poverty and lack of resources to educate our children. We then become a nation without enough skills and professions to conduct our affairs competently, especially economically and technologically. Land and resources in it enable a nation to acquire knowledge. Education liberates a nation. If we do not acquire knowledge we shall be an ignorant people who are victims of vultures that see poor and ignorant nations as their carcass to feed on.

The construction in the constitution essentially means that Africans are excluded from access not only to land, but also to key natural resources, mineral wealth, water, forests, wildlife, biodiversity and biological resources. All these are necessary for innovation and development of the country and economic liberation of the African people. Therefore:

  1. Section 25 of the constitution must be repealed or fundamentally amended especially sub-section 7. Compensation must be paid on improvements made not on land itself. The land belongs to its indigenous people not to those who used guns and war to steal it.
  2.  The word “property” in Section 25 of the constitution must be replaced with land. Property can be moveable or immoveable. In the constitution it must be made clear that it is land that is at stake. It is presently skilfully drafted in a manner that shows that it was intended to hide the real issue of land dispossession, hence this deliberate ambiguous  and illusive wording.
  3. There must be equitable redistribution of land and its resources according to population numbers. The willing buyer willing seller is a market principle. It is a false notion that can only give deference to the dispossessor. This does not tip over the old power relation. Willing buyer willing seller principle subjects government to land claims on the basis of 13% of the land. There needs to be a shift towards a ‘supply-led’ land redistribution model away from the demand-led land claim model. This is a piece-meal process that does not transform the livelihoods of the African people nor transfer land to them as a significant asset for development.
  4. There must be a moratorium on eviction of the poor from land as well as an immediate legislation forbidding sale of land to foreigners.
  5. Foreigners who need land that is for the economic development of this country must be given a 99 years leasehold renewable on condition of their performance for the good of this country.
  6. Dual citizenship must be abolished until the land question is resolved in this country. There are many “citizens” today who have dual citizenship purely for private economic reasons. They are not 100% committed to this country.

A new breed of investors is needed

South Africa must have a constitution that liberates the African indigenous majority economically. This country must be made strong economically. It has resources. With high quality diversified education and technological advancement, it can manage its resources more efficiently and have a degree of self-reliance. This nation must have a constitution that removes the shame and danger of a “two-nation” syndrome in which the minority white one, is extremely rich and the majority black one is extremely poor.

Of course, on its path to the economic liberation of its people, South Africa like all other countries needs investors. But this 21st century, Africa as a whole needs a new breed of investors who do not think they are so indispensable that they should dictate unacceptable terms to an African nation.

I agree with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana when he said: “We welcome foreign investors in a spirit of partnership. They can earn their profits here provided they leave us with an agreed portion, promoting the welfare and happiness of our people as a whole, against the greedy ambitions of some. From what we get out of this partnership we hope to expand the health services of our people, to feed and house all, to give them more and better educational institutions and see to it that they have a rising standard of living.”

Programme Director, Ladies and Gentlemen,


* Dr. Motsoko Pheko is author of several books such as The Hidden Side Of South African Politics and How The Freedom Charter Betrayed The Dispossessed. He is a former Member of the South African Parliament as well as a former Representative of the victims of apartheid at the United Nations in New York as well as at the UN Commission On Human Rights in Geneva.

End notes

[1] Law Journal University of Lesotho Vol.3 Number One 1987 page 111

[2] Political Economy of Race and Class in South Africa page 71 Monthly Review Press London

[3] Sir Thomas Farewell Buxton, Edited Memoirs London 1926 page 106

[4] Ibid October 1930

[5] Moshoeshoe I Profile by Ntsu Mokhehle page 26 Khatiso Ea Lesotho 1976

[6] Towards Africa’s Authentic Liberation by Motsoko Pheko page 112 Tokoloho Publisher, Johannesburg 2012

[7] Gilbert Dold and C.P. Joubert, The British Commonwealth – The Development Of Laws And Constitutions (South Africa) Page 33 Stevens& Sons Ltd, London; Fowler And Smith, History For The Senior Certificate And Matriculation Page 428

[8] Sir Godfrey Lagden K.C.M.G., The Basuto Page 261 Hutchinson & Co Vol. 0ne 1909

[9] Sol Plaatje page 17 Heinemann London 1978

[10] Africa And Some World Problems page 60, 1930

[11] The Island Of Palmas Case Permanent Court of Arbitration, Sole Arbitrator, Judge Max Huber 1928

[12] Presidential Address, 8th Annual Conference of the South African Native National Congress, 6th May 1919

[13] Gilbert Dold and C.P. Joubert op.cit. page 74 and Henry. J. May The South African Constitution  page 44,  Juta & Co Cape Town

[14] Black Politics In South Africa Since 1945 Tom Lodge page 134 Raven Press, Johannesburg 1982

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Land law and economic liberation

Consequences of being Cecil John Rhodes

UCT Rhodes must Fall

In confronting the historical spectre of Rhodes the youth of South Africa have revisited in a bold and vehement manner the unfinished business of deracialisation and decolonisation.  They are holding the post-apartheid state accountable. The issue now is, how is 350 years of exclusion and dispossession decisively addressed?

Against the background of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, the University of Cape Town (UCT) must now contemplate the various meanings and shades of decolonisation which has been unfolding all over Africa for several decades. Decolonisation is a word the UCT establishment seems to fear or abhor beginning with the debates Mahmood Mamdani instigated concerning the Africanisation of the curricula in the institution during the 1990s when he was eventually compelled to leave.

Cecil Rhodes clearly does not fit above the crest of decolonisation because he was an arch-coloniser. It would appear that there are subtle manoeuvres to gently place Rhodes amid a decolonising milieu as a fairly benign historical icon, one that could be readily visited with indifference but certainly not derision or even worse, violence. He therefore cannot be allowed to loom as a colonially sanctioned symbol of indifference as powerful political undercurrents bearing despair, disenchantment and disbelief sizzle beneath him. UCT prided itself for being the foremost tertiary institution on the continent until it experienced a rude awakening amidst an unavoidable political turmoil from which it had initially distanced itself.
The universe of images (mundos imaginalis) according to even its original Hermetic understanding is directly linked to the mass production of desire. So what would be the meaning of Cecil Rhodes as an unambiguous object of desire? This is the question to which the students of UCT proffered an answer; an offensive anachronism in the insatiable quest for acceptable and easily digestible symbols of democracy and liberation.

The students agitating for a new political and intellectual order are only the grandchildren of the likes of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and other similar African intellectuals who have raised serious questions about the surviving colonial symbols of acculturation and mental subjugation. Words, images and pictures are not simply what they appear to be and are indeed very powerful in processes involving the formation and consolidation of subjectivity.

Just as language, images and symbols can be implements of unfathomable oppression and historical erasure and distortion. They linger in our ordinary lives, dreams and most especially, our nightmares. In ancient times, images, sculptures and statues were believed to give off emanations that existed beyond and independent of themselves. They weren’t just regarded as simply images, sculptures and statues. As such, they were deemed to carry implications and causal effects that did not always directly emanate from themselves. It would be a most anti-intellectual as well as insidious stance to attempt to ignore the meaning of Cecil Rhodes in the context of an unsurprisingly problematic decolonising South Africa.

Giordano Bruno’s work on image-magic is quite instructive here. Bruno had famously declared in his De Magia that it was easier to entrance a million people than it is to enrapture a single person. An image works on the subconscious in influencing the entirety of consciousness, leading to the powerful awakening of desire, not unusually, collective desire. Advertising practices work in a similar manner in informing the form and content of consciousness merely by the adept manipulation of images. The replication of such imagery of desire isn’t often meant to satiate it but to promote a seemingly ceaseless suspension of its immediate gratification. It is an anti-climactic consumerist ploy that mirrors and reinforces the capitalist ethic of the spectral production of desire together with its endless deferral.

The statue of Rhodes stands for a certain (or perhaps uncertain) number of symbolic representations. A reactionary mind would choose to cloak Rhodes with apathy in order to mitigate what he represents in history. Such a mind would want to prevent a critical interrogation of what he stood for so as to ignore or becloud the history of violence that trails him. Invariably, such a stance would entail an enforcement of a disconnect with history, an inducement of amnesia, so as to mask a fundamental truth of history together with its enduring legacy of violence.

The image of Rhodes has evidently failed to enchant millions and is the cause of hate, disaffection and violence. It clearly does not possess theurgic attributes. In contemporary South Africa, Rhodes has not been able to produce desire or its subjects and so one is forced to ask, what is his value in relation to the imperatives of capital? In both political and historical terms he has become more of an encumbrance than an asset which is why he is being banished to the lower strata of South African history.

At this juncture, Rhodes is only able to generate disaffection and intolerance and whatever value he possesses currently is ultimately tarnished by his rabid colonialist temperament and accomplishments that conflict with an age desirous of resonant heroes. To be sure, he was markedly a man of his age – and perhaps in some respects, he cannot be blamed for it – in ways that remain fundamental but he failed to transcend it in way that this epoch considers crucial. The failure to transcend his age is what he must now suffer for. To be a true hero, an individual must possess the ability to find resonance beyond his or her times.

The previous silence around Rhodes constituted a refusal of history together with its dynamics and their power to reconfigure the present. The silence around the figure of Rhodes sought to enforce a disconnect between a newly decolonised people (in formal terms) and the multiple ramifications of their history as well as the possibilities for defining their identities within the present. Clearly, the silence built around Rhodes camouflaged the putrescence of a wound that has yet to heal; and so two issues remain unsolved: an uncomfortable metaphoric and literal silence and a severe collective injury.

The cosmetic appeal of the South African Truth and Reconciliation process isn’t deep enough or appropriate for dealing with the festering and progressively worsening sores of history. A moral simplicism that avoids asking probing questions and seeking other radical methods of appeasement might be appropriate for superficial short term results but certainly isn’t appropriate for the pursuit, scrutiny and assimilation of truth which ironically contradicts the actual outcome and impact of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Such often desperate political expediency never bodes well for long term gains.

The youth of UCT and other institutions plagued by the same problems are galvanised by a quest to unravel the realities of the truths regarding their past no matter how unpalatable and Rhodes was the most obvious point at which to begin. Their relatively privileged position in South Africa’s supposedly best institution could not shield them from the discomforts of their present circumstances and the disconcerting silence they had been forced to endure. They posed the very questions that nagged adults but who lacked the gumption to interrogate and articulate them in a meaningful and radical manner.

Once again, the youth of the nation – in less tumultuous fashion than the Soweto children of 1976 – have created a revolutionary moment beginning from below and away from the established sectors of the nation and state which are invariably too lackadaisical or too conservative to confront the imperatives and challenges of radical transformation. The youth have succeeded in shaking the nation, awakening it from its contented slumber; an undoubtedly laborious task requiring considerable resources of courage and drive. Indeed the nation should be grateful to them.  It is now incumbent upon the nation to seize the momentum and re-define itself against its decaying and disagreeable parts.

Thando Mgqolozana, a young South African author, recently decried the fact that South African literary festivals are largely white dominated thereby misrepresenting or ignoring the demographics of the country. But even more significantly, it should be pointed out that the South African literary scene is a barely visible appendage of contemporary western literary culture. The scene also reflects the inheritance and retention of a lopsided apartheid-era literary preoccupation and infrastructure. As Ben Williams, the former Books Editor of the Sunday Times points out, this literary infrastructure includes what he terms “the white publishers, distributors, booksellers and editors”. It ought to be the case that a Black literary infrastructure is emerging but it is not yet established enough to accommodate the huge Black population.

The direction of Mgqolozana’s anger and frustration is also noteworthy – the white South African literary establishment. Williams agrees that a transformation of the dominant literary infrastructure is necessary to support the project of decolonisation but his position and Mgqolozana’s demonstrate what has always been obvious and historically visible: decolonisation has multiple angles and imperatives. It is possible that a

black literary infrastructure can be developed independent of the existing structures not so much as to demolish them but to act as a contrast and reflect the diversity of the literary cultures within the country. As Williams suggests, the digital age makes the outcome of such a task a little less predictable but it does indicate a broader range of alternatives available for a decolonising project. Mgqolozana’s poses the kind of questions the students of UCT posed, at certain crucial intervals, in a much more succinct and brusque manner.

In the case of UCT and other institutions in a similar position, the situation is slightly more complex as the institutions to be transformed are far more entrenched and perhaps also more intractable. It isn’t merely about the materiality of the institutions themselves but also the hegemony of the ideologies that inform as well as underpin them. An onslaught against them is likely to elicit stubborn resistance, the violence of which can lead to an unrecognisable transformation of the institutions: an act that the entrenched orders of power will most probably consider a measure of random, anti-bureaucratic violence with the resultant backlash. This is a scenario that requires the most apposite template of reconciliation to tackle it.

It also requires the transcendence of the apparent either/or dichotomy- which is sadly a defining hallmark of contemporary racial relations – in order to embrace its latent heterogeneity. Undoubtedly, it would necessitate the casting off of old skin to don a new one; a process that is akin to bricolage, metissage and the most intriguing practices of creolisation. It is difficult to think of a more elegant way to frame it. But a situation in which students of a particular institution feel racially and socially excluded not only in terms of institutional participation but also with regards to the kind of knowledge they are equipped with, is not tenable.

In addition, the disruptions at UCT have posed the stark question: what orders of knowledge are being produced at the institution and what are the supporting ideologies in which they are couched? Protestations attesting to the objectivity of science provide only cold comfort. There are always unresolved grey areas around constructs of knowledge and that is where the battles need to be waged. The relevance of the knowledge generating process would increase exponentially when the Black South African subject becomes a participant in that process rather than being merely its object.

In confronting the historical spectre of Rhodes the youth of South Africa have revisited in a bold and vehement manner the unfinished business of deracialisation and decolonisation.  They have also gone ahead to hold the post-apartheid state accountable. The issue now centres on how is 350 years of exclusion and dispossession decisively addressed? It borders on “taking back what was wrongfully taken from us”, which translates to free education at tertiary levels. Indeed there is a direct link between the #RhodesMustFall movement and the #FeesMustFall campaign which is currently raging on the campuses of South African universities and the wider society at large.

Posted in GHANAComments Off on Consequences of being Cecil John Rhodes

Gandhi’s economic and political significance in West Africa

Christian Thompson – AP

Ghanaian professors have launched a campaign for the removal of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi from their campus because they claim he was racist and considered Indians to be “infinitely superior” to Africans. The statue was unveiled at the University of Ghana in June by the Indian president, Pranab Mukherjee. But, this Indian lawyer argues, Gandhi’s thought had a huge influence in Africa during the struggle for liberation.

Mahatma Gandhi (b. 1869) was shot dead in India on 30 January 1948.  “We too mourned his death”, wrote Kwame Nkrumah, “for he had inspired us deeply with his political thought, notably with his adherence to non-violent resistance.”[1] As one writer would put it: “The message cabled by the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) on his death expressed the sentiments of all African nationalists, for whom Gandhi was the ‘bearer of the torch of liberty of oppressed peoples and whose life had been ‘an inspiration to colonials everywhere’.”[2] The Sierra Leone economist-poet David Carney who, as the West African poet Abioseh Davidson Nicol would recall, wrote “poetry of a Miltonic grandeur”,  resorted to verse: Carney’s poetic tribute “Gandhi” was “broadcast to millions” in Africa and Asia.[3] Carney, who died only recently, was  Sierra Leone-born and had spent many years in Nigeria.

What contributed to the significant impact that Gandhi’s passive resistance campaigns  in South Africa and India had on West Africa? A few facts are worth retelling.

At the end of August 1931 Gandhi had sailed from India for Europe to attend the Second Round Table Conference called in London by the British Government to discuss the future constitutional development of India. With Gandhi committed to Indian independence, and to full Egyptian independence, his commitment to all of Africa could be no less. While in London, Gandhi was asked on October 31, 1931: “For some years Britain would continue certain subject territories like Gold Coast. Would Mr. Gandhi object?”

“I would certainly object”, was Gandhi’s reply. [4] He continued: “India would certainly aspire after influencing British policy… I do not want India to be an engine of oppression”. [5] He spoke on this occasion about the exploitation of Zulus and Swazis, which he described as “radically wrong”. [6]

With Gandhi in 1931 having spoken against the colonial subjection of the Gold Coast, it was appropriate that Ghana was, after South Africa,  among the first of  the parts of Africa where Gandhian techniques were to be adopted. This was noted by a prominent Afro-Caribbean scholar statesman. [7]

Following upon the economic boycott of foreign cloth that Gandhi had encouraged and sponsored in India, he had been recommending the same course to other Asians and to Africans. He had declared in 1926: “There is however no hope of avoiding the catastrophe” (of increased racial bitterness) “unless the spirit of exploitation that at present dominates the nations of the West is transmuted into that of real helpful service, or unless the Asiatic and African races understand that they cannot be exploited without their co-operation, to a large extent voluntary, and thus understanding, withdraw such co-operation”. [8]

A most singular resort to the strategy indicated in Gandhi’s 1926 article was soon to present itself. In West Africa Gandhi’s influence had spread substantively. In 1935, four years after Gandhi had declared his support for a free Gold Coast, Gandhi’s friend and biographer C.F. Andrews had spent time in Achimota College. Andrews’ presence there had attracted significant attention. Meanwhile, a crisis was brewing in the then Gold Coast related particularly to the cultivation and marketing of cocoa, a matter which directly affected the African farmer. It presently came to a head. In 1937 the African-American press reported from London that “Gold Coast Africans by declaring a boycott of British merchandise have caused a panic among London and Liverpool export merchants”. According to the report the boycotters “had sparked the publicity by adopting the tactics of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, paralyzing trade and disrupting the lucrative cocoa industry”. [9] European monopolists controlled the cocoa export  trade with West Africa, buying cheap  and selling  at high prices abroad and were believed to have formed a combine in 1937. Reacting to this, “the chiefs and farmers unitedly took action by holding up cocoa and boycotting the retail stores of the firms connected with the pool. Not only the farmers and brokers and chiefs joined but there was unanimity of action….” [10] The cocoa strike was investigated by the Nowell Commission which found that it had been a mass movement, ‘remarkable for its spontaneity and discipline over a wide area’; it remarked on its ‘protracted duration’ and described it as the ‘first instance of unanimous popular action’. [11] As a consequence of the movement, “(t)he economic life of  the Gold Coast was paralysed from October 1937 to April 1938”. [12]

Writing in Dr W E B DuBois’ journal, George Padmore (Malcolm Nurse) related the tactics adopted in West Africa to Gandhi and his methods: “Trouble has broken out in the Gold Coast. An agrarian strike has been declared. Thousands of cocoa farmers, incensed by the attempt on the part of the British monopoly trading companies and merchants to obtain their cocoa below its real value, are holding up their crops. Motor transport workers and dockers are refusing to handle the goods of foreign firms, while a nationwide boycott of British commodities has been proclaimed. …The entire economic life of West Africa’s richest colony is at a standstill. Clashes have occurred between the people and the military…. (the) trouble began during the latter part of October, but the authorities are trying to prevent the news from getting abroad. According to authentic reports reaching London, thousands of native cocoa producers of the Gold Coast and Ashanti have been holding meetings at Suhum, Nsawan, Kibi, Dodowah and other cocoa-producing districts, for the purpose of discussing ways and means of defending themselves against imperialist oppression….The strike, coupled with the boycott, has drawn the entire country into action. The urban population, most of whom are related to the farmers, are also refusing to buy foreign goods. For the first time in the history of Africa, three million people have taken up the challenge against vested interest and have applied the economic strike weapon. This is symptomatic of the New Africa, which is gradually becoming conscious of its strength, and is learning to use Gandhi’s well-known technique, the boycott, with effect.” [13]

It was the African farmer’s response to an elaborate economic stranglehold upon him which can be compared in some respects with the British trade in cotton and textiles with India in which Gandhi had so strikingly intervened. According to a summary of Sir Ofori Atta’s testimony before the Cocoa Commission in 1938, “….European merchants dictated the price at which the African farmer must sell his product, as well as fixed the price at which the farmers had to buy their merchandise; … irrespective of the quality of the cocoa, the farmer got a fixed price, since grading was done  at a later stage; … when the world price of cocoa rose, the merchants increased the price of some staple goods most in demand, so that the farmer was deprived of the benefit of the increase in the price of cocoa; … by controlling produce prices  and the prices of trade goods, the European buyer-merchant had made the African farmer a virtual serf.” [14]

It was not merely in the economic sphere that Gandhi’s methods had influence. A few years later, in October 1945, the Fifth Pan-African Congress was held in Manchester, England between October 15-21, 1945 under inspiration from Dr W E B DuBois who was also personally present. George Padmore, the Trinidad-born activist, and Kwame Nkrumah, the future leader of Ghana, were the leading organisers. At the conference, the satyagraha methods of Mahatma Gandhi were discussed and “endorsed as the only effective means of making alien rulers respect the wishes of  an unarmed subject people”. [15]

On January 8, 1950 the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in the Gold Coast (later Ghana) “commenced Positive Action, a campaign of non-violent resistance modelled on Gandhian tactics”. [16] There was even a small sartorial symbolism that underlined a symbiotic connection: “CPP members out of prison sported P.G. (Prison Graduate) caps, which were the Gandhi caps of the Indian struggle with the letters P. G. added”. [17] Kwame Nkrumah himself took to wearing the cap. [18] The “caps of the Indian struggle” had themselves originated in the prison dress to which Gandhi and his companions had been familiarised in South Africa. Other activists of the African diaspora, also committed to non-violent struggle and influenced by Gandhi’s example, converged on Ghana in support of the movement. These included the African-Americans Bill Sutherland and Bayard Rustin.

George Padmore of the Pan-African Congress wrote on June 9, 1953 to his old Indian comrade, N G Ranga: “ Do not be discouraged. Africa is on the march. Nothing can hold the Africans back. We shall suffer many blows before achieving freedom, but now that they have learned the Gandhian technique of non-violent non-co-operation they have a mighty weapon in their hands. I have discussed its application in the Gold Coast in my book ‘The Gold Coast Revolution’, a copy of which I have sent you. I hope the book will become a sort of textbook to guide other African movements which have not yet reached the stage of the G.C. Already the British are trying to divide up Nigeria along the lines of India – on religion and communalism but we are fighting it tooth and nail. Thanks for the warning and example from India, we are prepared to meet the imperialist challenge.” [19] Ranga, along with Jomo Kenyatta and Dr Harold Moody, had founded the League of Coloured Peoples in England in the 1930s.

Another scholar assessed the significance of the events set in motion in Ghana: “Nkrumah’s declaration of Positive Action on January 8, 1950 was influenced by Mohandas Gandhi’s non-violent revolution in India. It constituted the first major political action in the history of the country. It was to bring to an end British colonial rule not only in Ghana, but also in the rest of Africa….The non-compromising non-violent Positive Action was also the second confrontation of this kind that the British government had to face after that of Gandhi in India years earlier.” [20][21]

Visiting Africa in 1952, the African-American Bayard Rustin, who had been much influenced by Gandhi’s methods, found the continent “afire”, with “every imaginable form of resistance being used to break 300 years of … European domination”. [22] In that year South Africa was boiling over with the Defiance campaign.  Rustin met Nkrumah in Accra. And in Nigeria he met Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (“Zik”) near Lagos. Rustin and Dr Azikiwe, “an eager student of Gandhi’s campaigns” discussed Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Later comparing Azikiwe and Nehru, Rustin recorded : “I have never met two men more alike than Zik and Nehru. Each is fiery and sensitive. Each has a worldview. Each has the love of his people.” [23] The African-American added that “each respects the ideals of Gandhi and each is inwardly sorry he cannot see clearly to follow him all the way”. [24]

Though diverse tactics would be available for adoption  in West Africa as in  other parts of Africa, Gandhi’s struggle in South Africa and in India continued to inspire activists and thinkers in and from the continent. There were parts of West Africa where Gandhi struck a chord. In the Ivory Coast Felix Houphouet-Boigny (1905?-1993), for example, regarded Gandhi as a source of inspiration and was himself spoken of as the “Gandhi of Africa”. [25] Houphouet-Boigny was associated with the Parti Democratique de la Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) and persuaded the French Constituent Assembly in 1946 to support legislation “to outlaw the forced labour system in all of France’s colonies”, a measure which ensured wide support for him among the people of West Africa. [26]

As colonial repression mounted in some parts of Africa, independence dawned in others. The Gold Coast having become the independent state of Ghana in 1957, the first conference of independent African states was organised in Accra in April 1958. This was followed by the All African Peoples’ Conference, also in Accra, in December 1958. A posthumously published work by Kwame Nkrumah reproduces the provisional agenda prepared for the conference: “The main purpose of the All-African Peoples’ Conference to be held in Accra, Ghana, in December 1958, will be to formulate concrete plans and work out the Gandhian tactics and strategy of the African Non-violent Revolution….” [27]

According to one contemporary observer, the final resolution was a compromise between what was described as the Algerian point of view, which considered “violence to be one of the weapons used by subject peoples to achieve independence from colonialism” and other Africans who “wanted non-violence and the policies of Ghandi (sic)”. [28]

Violence was always lurking around the corner. In a pamphlet first written and circulated in the forties, Nkrumah, mentioning the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by British-led troops in Amritsar (India) in 1919, had referred to colonial policy in Africa which “in 1929 mowed down by machine gun fire poor defenceless Nigerian women for peacefully and harmlessly protesting against excessive taxation, the counterpart of India’s Amritsar.” [29][30]

On April 7, 1960, in the shadow of the Sharpeville incident in South Africa, Nkrumah addressed the Positive Action Conference for Peace and Security in Africa. “The beginning of the year 1960”, he said, “has seen the climax of ruthless and concerted outrages on the peace-loving people of our continent. The explosion of an atomic device in the Sahara by the French Government and the wanton massacre in the Union of South Africa of our brothers and sisters who were engaged in peaceful demonstrations against humiliating and repulsive laws of the South African Government are two eloquent events in this climax, a climax which is a signpost to the beginning of the end of foreign supremacy and domination in Africa.” [31]

 “Positive action has already achieved remarkable success in the liberation struggle of our continent and I feel sure that it can further save us from the perils of this atomic arrogance. If the direct action that was carried out by the international protest team were to be repeated on a mass scale, or simultaneously from various parts of Africa, the result could be as powerful and as successful as Gandhi’s historic Salt March. We salute Mahatma Gandhi and we remember, in tribute to him, that it was in South Africa that his method of non-violence and non-cooperation was first practiced in the struggle against the vicious race discrimination that still plagues that unhappy country.

“But now positive action with non-violence, as advocated by us, has found expression in South Africa in the defiance of the oppressive pass laws. This defiance continues in spite of the murder of unarmed men, women and children by the South African Government. We are sure that the will of the majority will ultimately prevail, for no government can continue to impose its rule in face of the conscious defiance of the overwhelming masses of its people. There is no force, however impregnable, that a united and determined people cannot overcome.” [32]

As late as the end of the sixties, the West African nationalist pioneer, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, wrote in the light of his own experience: “On Gandhi’s teachings of satyagraha, history has proved Gandhi right.” [33] Dr Azikiwe understood a vital aspect of Gandhi’s method: it did not consist in mere expression of love towards the opponent, as is sometimes incorrectly assumed, but of a struggle to change the existing state of affairs. Dr Azikiwe elaborated: “Those Indians who tried to love and co-operate with the alien Sahibs who ruled over them, and continued to do their work without seeking a political means of effecting a radical change in their status, had learned from experience that they were living in the clouds. Who but a fool would co-operate with evil or with his oppressor?” [34]

As Tom Mboya has noted, Gandhi’s influence in Africa was felt across “political or racial boundaries”. [35] His impact, such as it was, appeared to cut across nations, races, linguistic areas and religions. Among his most ardent students, for example, were Nigeria’s Aminu Kano and the leading Algerian intellectual and Islamic scholar, Malek Bennabi. A devout Muslim, Aminu Kano, according to his biographer, “analysed Gandhi’s success in lifting millions of Indians to a high level of dedication and endeavoured to adapt Gandhi’s non-violent techniques to Northern Nigeria”. [36] Kano came, at least according to one source, to be referred to as the “Gandhi of Nigeria” [37] . A progressive Muslim and Secretary of the Northern Elements Progressive Union, Aminu Kano took several initiatives for land and social reform, supporting peasants’ co-operatives and advocating gender equality. [38] The name of Aminu Kano came to be associated with high ideals and moral purpose.

Underlining the “importance to society of people like Aminu Kano or Mahatma Gandhi”, the West African litterateur, Chinua Achebe would write: “Gandhi was real; Aminu Kano was real. They were not angels in heaven, they were human like the rest of us in India and Nigeria. Therefore, after their example, no one who reduces the high purpose of politics which they exemplified down to a swinish scramble can hope to do so without bringing a terrible judgement on himself.” [39]

There was another aspect of Gandhi – his strategy for national rejuvenation and reconstruction – which often interested West Africans. In Cameroon, for example, intellectuals closely studied Gandhi’s ideational resistance to colonialism. The influential journal Abbia was guided by Bernard Nsokika Fonlon who was “quite explicit” in his “resort to writings against imposed forms of education by Ireland’s Padraic Pearse and India’s Mohandas Gandhi, nationalist rebels who made those descents from elite to mass surroundings Fonlon called for and were respectively executed and jailed for their efforts”. [40] “Their resistance served Fonlon as models for Africa’s leaders”. [41]

Gandhi’s advocacy of African freedom led India in its support for freedom struggles in Africa. And with reconciliation stressed by Gandhi, most former British colonies opted to remain in the Commonwealth after independence. The extent to which Gandhian non-violent struggles came to draw upon the emphasis that Gandhi placed on a non-racialist construction of peoplehood, especially and expressly from May 1908 onwards (when he had spoken in Johannesburg looking forward to the day when “all the different races commingle and produce a civilization that perhaps the world has not yet seen” [42]), the influences which served to bring this about, and Gandhi’s repercussions in West Africa remain a promising area for further extensive study.

* Anil Nauriya is an advocate at the Supreme Court of India and a former Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.

End notes

[1] Kwame Nkrumah, I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology,  Heinemann, London, 1961, pp 2-3

[2] George H T Kimble, Tropical Africa, Volume 2: Society & Polity, Anchor Books, New York, 1962, p. 263

[3] Davidson Nicol, The Soft Pink Palms : On British West African Writers : An Essay, in Presence Africaine, Paris, June-November 1956, p.118

[4] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CW), Vol 48, p. 255

[5] Idem

[6] Idem

[7] Eric Williams, Gandhi : A Broadcast on the 90th Anniversary of the Birth of Mahatma Gandhi, P.N.M. Publishing Co., Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, n.d., p.4

[8] Young India, March 18, 1926, CW, Vol 30, pp. 135-136

[9] Penny M. Von Eschen, Race Against Empire : Black Americans and Anti-Colonialism 1937-1957, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1997, p.16 and p. 195n, citing “West Africa Uses Tactics of Gandhi : Natives Boycott British Goods to Register Dissatisfaction”, Chicago Defender, October 18,1937

[10] Amba Prasad, The Nationalist Movement in Ghana, in Bisheshwar Prasad (ed.) Contemporary Africa, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1960, p. 73

[11] Idem

[12] Idem

[13] George Padmore, Cocoa War on the Gold Coast, The Crisis, February 1938

[14] Kumar Ghoshal, People in Colonies, Sheridan House, New York, 1948, p. 137

[15] George Padmore, Pan-Africanism or Communism?, Dobson, London, 1956, p. 177; see also Colin Legum, The Roots of Pan-Africanism, in Colin Legum (ed.) Africa Handbook, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Revised Edition, 1969, p. 550 and Guy Arnold, Africa : A Modern History, Atlantic Books, London, 2005, pp.11-12

[16] I. Wallerstein, The Road to Independence: Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Mouton & Co., Paris, 1964, p. 46

[17] Ibid., p. 73

[18] Elspeth Huxley, Four Guineas : A Journey Through West Africa, Chatto and Windus, London, 1954, p. 84

[19] N G Ranga, Agony and Solace : Correspondence, Statements, Speeches etc. 1936-1974, Kisan Publications, Nidubrolu, Andhra Pradesh (India), 1974, p. 293

[20] Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, Kwame Nkrumah’s Politico-Cultural Thought and Policies : An African- Centred Paradigm for the Second Phase of the African Revolution, Routledge, New York, 2005, p. 101

[21] There is, especially in left-wing literature, a tendency towards disillusionment with Nkrumah’s historic role, especially after his coming to power in Ghana. As against this, however, the Afro-Caribbean Marxist C L R James seems to have seen no reason to change his own high assessment of Nkrumah made in an article in 1964, going on to include the article in a work published thirteen years later. James had written : “The countries known as underdeveloped have produced the greatest statesmen of the twentieth century, men who have substantially altered the shape and direction of world civilisation in the last fifty years. They are four in number : Lenin, Gandhi, Mao Tse-tung and Nkrumah.” ( C L R James, Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution, Allison & Busby, London, 1977, p. 189)

[22] John De’Emilio, Lost Prophet : The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 184-185

[23] D’Emilio, op. cit., p. 185

[24] Idem

[25] K Madhu Panikkar, Revolution in Africa, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1961, p. 10; see also Ali A Mazrui, Africa Between Gandhi and Nehru : An Afro-Asian Interaction, Africa Quarterly, Vol 39, No. 2, 1999, pp. 1-20, at p.1

[26] See Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (eds.) Africana : The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience, Basic Civitas Books, Perseus Books Group, New York, 1999, p.969

[27] Kwame Nkrumah, Revolutionary Path, International Publishers, New York, 1973, pp 132-133

[28] John Stonehouse, Prohibited Immigrant , The Bodley Head, London, 1960, p. 213

[29] Kwame Nkrumah, Towards Colonial Freedom: Africa in the Struggle against World Imperialism, Heinemann, London, 1962, p. 35

[30]  accounts of the Nigeria incident of 1929 see (i) Nina E Mba, Heroines of the Women’s War, in Bolanle Awe (ed.) Nigerian Women in Historical Perspective, Sankore Publishers (Lagos) and Bookcraft (Ibadan), 1992, pp. 73-88 and (ii) Judith Van Allen, “Sitting on a Man” : Colonialism and the Lost Political Institutions of Igbo Women in Roy Richard Grinker and Christopher B Steiner (eds.) Perspectives on Africa : A Reader in Culture, History and Representation, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 1997, pp. 536-549. Judith Van Allen writes : “On two occasions, clashes between the women and the troops left more than 50 women dead and 50 wounded from gunfire. The lives taken were those of women only – no men, Igbo or British, were even seriously injured”. (Van Allen, op. cit., p. 543)

[31] Kwame Nkrumah , Positive Action in Africa, in James Duffy and Robert A Manners (ed.), Africa Speaks, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey, 1961 p. 48

[32] Ibid. pp 50-51

[33] Nnamdi Azikiwe, My Odyssey: An Autobiography, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1970, p. 274

[34] Idem

[35] Tom Mboya in Africa Quarterly, Vol II, No 2, July-September 1962, p. 76

[36] Alan Feinstein, African Revolutionary: The Life and Times of Nigeria’s Aminu Kano, Davison Publishing House, Devizes, Wiltshire, 1973, pp. 143-144

[37] Idem

[38] Smith Hempstone, The New Africa, Faber & Faber, London, 1961, p. 605; see also Elspeth Huxley, Four Guineas: A Journey Through West Africa, Chatto & Windus, London, 1954, pp 237-238

[39] Chinua Achebe, The Trouble with Nigeria, Heinemann, London, 1984, p. 63

[40]Milton Krieger, Building the Republic Through Letters : “Abbia : Cameroon Cultural Review”, 1963-82 and its Legacy, Research in African Literatures, Vol 27, No 2, (Summer 1996), pp. 155-177, at p. 16

[41] Idem

[42] Speech at YMCA, 18 May 1908, Indian Opinion, 6  and 13 June 1908, CW, Vol 8, p. 246.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Gandhi’s economic and political significance in West Africa

The Rwanda the world doesn’t know

An interview with Anjan Sundaram, author of ‘Bad news: Last journalists in a dictatorship’

Journalist Anjan Sundaram’s book on Rwanda exposes a terrifying dictatorship at the heart of Africa that few people get to hear about. Paul Kagame has tremendously succeeded – with the eager help of his western backers – to feed the world a carefully choreographed false narrative. His chilling tyranny is so pervasive and entrenched that Rwandans police themselves unbidden.

Zahra Moloo: What took you to Rwanda and what inspired you to write this book?

Anjan Sundaram: I went to Rwanda in 2009 to write my first book about Congo and really I was looking for a quiet place. I thought the country was peaceful, even a little boring, a great place to write a book. I began to teach local journalists as a way to make some money and also engage with local society, but very quickly, I learnt that the local journalists I was working with were living and working in a climate of great repression. One of them had been beaten into a coma, after bringing up the harassment of the press in front of President Kagame of Rwanda. Another young woman had been in prison for many years and physically and psychologically abused, she was sick with HIV. These stories alerted me to the climate of repression that largely goes untold about Rwanda.

Zahra Moloo: Can you tell me more about the journalists you worked with in the program? One of your students, Gibson, started a magazine, and the stories that they were covering were very innocuous stories, about malnutrition, things that seem pretty normal on the surface. What was it, or why is it, so difficult to write about these kinds of issues?

Anjan Sundaram: The Rwandan government is extremely sensitive to any kind of criticism. It’s almost impossible to practice journalism in a normal way. I was shocked when I arrived and when I asked my students “Could you question the national budget?” and they said, “No way. Our lives and physical safety would be endangered were we to question government decisions, even basic government decisions.” Gibson was one of my most talented students, one of the students I became closest to. He was a student of philosophy, a remarkably intelligent man. What he tried to do was not to address the problem of malnutrition in Rwanda directly, because that would have been too dangerous. He began to write articles that inform mothers and parents how they might feed their children without explicitly saying that there was a problem of malnutrition.

Officially, hunger had been abolished in Rwanda. Agricultural productivity had increased several times and there was no problem of hunger. Even today, a month ago, there was a report of a hundred thousand people being affected by famine in Rwanda, and this famine is generalized in all of East Africa. There was a single report and we’ve heard nothing since. Same thing happened in 2007: there were reports of famine in South East Rwanda and North East Burundi. In North East Burundi, aid organizations came in hordes, feeding people, protecting people, saving people. In Rwanda officially there was no famine. We don’t know how many people died, whether they were saved or what was done to help them.

This is the situation in Rwanda. Any news that is seen as criticizing the government, that could be anything, the government takes very personally and sees it as criticism of its governance style.  For that reason, journalists remain silent, huge problems in society go untold and therefore unaddressed. I write in my book that a society that can’t speak is like a body that can’t feel pain.

Zahra Moloo: Going through the book, you really get into the lives of some of your students. Can you give a few examples of what happened to them over the course of your time teaching?

Anjan Sundaram: Among the twelve journalists I taught, none of them are practicing today. One of my colleagues was shot dead on the day he criticized Paul Kagame. Two others fled the country fearing for their lives. Others abandoned journalism or joined the presidential propaganda team. I’ve documented in my book over 60 journalists who over the last 20 years have fled the country, fearing for their lives, disappeared, been imprisoned, tortured, arrested or killed after criticizing the Rwandan government. That’s one journalist every four months. This intimidation and repression of the free press in Rwanda has gone largely untold in Rwanda and in the international press.

Zahra Moloo: And why do you think that is – why is it that this narrative persists, that Rwanda is a ‘successful’ country, that it’s very successful economically, that it knows how to carry out development activities? Why is there this silence?

Anjan Sundaram: The Rwandan government’s propaganda has been really powerful and it’s been amplified by the destruction of the local press. The international press relies heavily on local journalists for the news that we read. Any foreign correspondent worth his or her salt will tell you that the reporting is only as good as the local journalists they are working with. In Rwanda these local journalists are silent and this means that the foreign correspondents who come into Rwanda don’t have credible information. I remember I met a Russian UN worker in Rwanda, a few days after he arrived in the country and I asked him, ‘What do you think of Rwanda?’ and he laughed and said, ‘It’s just like the Soviet Union. I opened the newspaper this morning and there’s only good news.’

So many journalists who come into Rwanda and have not lived in a dictatorship might see these positive stories, all this good news and believe that it’s true. But people who’ve lived in a dictatorship know that one needs to listen differently to people in a dictatorship when they cannot speak freely. They see only good news; they see it as a sign that something is wrong here. So it takes a different way of listening. The Western press, I would say, is inadequately prepared to report on dictatorships in which the local press has been silenced in quite a sophisticated fashion.

Zahra Moloo: Can you talk about how you felt living there – you said when you arrived you found it was quite boring; you talk in your book about how there was an explosion and you arrived at the scene and there were authorities trying to cover up what happened and said, “Nothing is happening here.” Can you talk about how it felt to be living in a dictatorship like this?

Anjan Sundaram: The predominant sense one gets living in a dictatorship is of betrayal. Everything betrays you. Everyone you know can betray you. Friends betray you. Your very senses betray you. What you see as peace you realize is a silence that is created by fear. And so all your first impressions at some point are betrayed and it creates a feeling of terror when you can’t trust anything or anyone and that’s really the sense that I try to portray in the book. I experienced this a little bit growing up and I know other people in Rwanda who, having grown up in repressive societies, also felt the same.

But for the majority, it’s possible to live a really nice life in Kigali if you don’t want to confront the repression that is happening in society. This I think is the real achievement of the modern dictatorship where you don’t have spies following you in the street in trench coats, the phone doesn’t crackle when you’re speaking. Government officials wear Western suits and say, ‘We’re open for business.’ They’re very suave; they’ve been educated in the best western universities. They speak the language of the West.

I was exposed to the society Rwandans lived in because I was working with local journalists who were telling me, for example, when the government abused its citizens, when people disappeared, when people were found dead, when, for example, thousands of Rwandans made themselves homeless and destroyed their homes under government orders. I lived a double life in Rwanda where I was for the one part in this expat bubble and for another part seeing severe repression and fear on a daily basis.

Zahra Moloo: What’s interesting about your book and what’s terrifying is that this dictatorship functions in such a way that people self-censor and self-police. I am wondering if you can talk about the system of surveillance in place in rural Rwanda – you talk about people destroying their own houses; you mentioned in your book how people can turn against their own families. Can you tell me more about how that seemed to work from your perspective?

Anjan Sundaram: The system that was used to execute the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 is still in place today. The country is controlled and monitored at a minute level. The entire country is divided into little villages, each village is about 150 families. Each village has a chief and an informer and orders pass from the centre to and from these villages very efficiently and you see the power of this system in benign things that happen. For example when the president bans plastic bags, plastic bags disappear overnight. That’s a good thing. When the president tells people to wear rubber slippers, they wear rubber slippers overnight. When he tells them to come out and vote, you see participation rates that are unheard of in other countries, 95% participation rates. And of course the president gets nearly 100% of the vote.

What this system means is that things that we consider private in the West are public matters in Rwanda – who comes to your house, when, who is staying there, who you are meeting, what are you saying to them. All of these things are public affairs and there’s very little privacy. I met, for example, a mother who was very proud of the fact that she had betrayed her son, who was a rebel, and had turned him over to the authorities. When I asked her about this, she showed no shame, no remorse. She said she had done a very good thing by betraying her child. I’ve lived and worked in other dictatorships and repressive states, and this is an extremely insidious and pervasive form of dictatorship where people know that their loyalty to the state has to come before anything else.

I might add that I once met a genocidaire, who was performing community labour as punishment or reparation for having organized and killed in the genocide. One of the things he said to me was that in Rwanda people don’t know where the state ends and where people begin. He said to me, “If we don’t know where we begin, and what our human rights are, then how can you understand that other people have rights that one needs to respect?”

I thought it was a very profound statement of the problem in Rwanda, the situation people face. Of course it doesn’t justify what happened in the genocide, but you begin to understand the kind of society people live in and why so many people complied when the order went out in 1994 to kill in the genocide.

Zahra Moloo: I wanted to ask you about the genocide. You talk about how the government does not want anyone to criticize its official narratives. What is the official narrative on the genocide and why is it so problematic to question that?

Anjan Sundaram: The government of Paul Kagame in Rwanda, its legitimacy, and his legitimacy to rule is based almost entirely on the narrative that he ended the genocide, he saved thousands or perhaps millions of Tutsi people from being killed and that his forces were the force of good in the face of incredibly deep evil. Kagame criticizes the West for not having intervened during the genocide, some of which is legitimate; the world should have intervened regardless of local political dynamics at that time.

But there are many facts that run counter to this official narrative. For example, Kagame himself requested UN peacekeepers not to be deployed in Rwanda during the genocide, which we know would have saved thousands or perhaps tens or hundreds  of thousands of lives, of Tutsi lives, and he did this because he felt that they would interfere with his military objective which was to take over the country.

During the genocide, there are credible reports of his forces conducting ethnically motivated massacres of tens of thousands of people. And subsequent to the genocide there is very credible evidence, and I’ve seen some of the mass graves myself, of his forces having killed tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in what the UN has called “possibly genocidal killings.” Qualified as “possibly genocidal” with the caveat that a court would have to make that determination. But they have seen similar tactics that were used against the Tutsi in the genocide in Rwanda used against Hutu communities by Kagame’s forces in Congo. These facts have been suppressed for a long time with the support of the international community because they felt that it would destabilize Kagame’s government after a very tumultuous genocide that could have led to the country being completely shattered.

What Kagame has seen is that he can get away with crimes on an enormous scale without questioning, without investigations, without even the smallest allegations and that has made him incredibly arrogant. Over time, over the last 15, 20 years, we’ve seen the repression not decrease but increase. Independent institutions in Rwanda are non-existent today, power is concentrated in one person, in Paul Kagame. What he’s done is retain and reinforce the system that was used to conduct the genocide. He says he’s doing good, but that system, as we saw in 1994, is extremely dangerous and extremely powerful and was used to conduct a genocide and there is no reason why it could not be used again.

Zahra Moloo: Despite everything that you’ve described, the government continues to receive a huge amount of aid from Western donors. How is this maintained and justified?

Anjan Sundaram: I think there are a few reasons. I think the world feels a lot of guilt for not having intervened in the genocide in 1994. They feel they can redeem themselves by supporting Kagame’s government and giving him allowances. Bill Clinton himself said that, “I am willing to make allowances for a government that has made as much progress as this one,” and Clinton was speaking with regard to the destruction of Rwanda’s press. And we’ve seen this time and time again from Bill Clinton, Tony Blair.

Another reason is that the international community, the Western world, has long relied on dictatorships to advance their own interests, whether it’s Gaddafi, or Mubarak or Bashar al-Assad. All these dictators received a lot of money and it’s very convenient for Western societies, they don’t need to deal with local parliament, with civic debate; they just need to deal with one person, the person in charge, and corrupt them or make deals with them and they can advance Western interests or their countries’ interests.

I think in Rwanda it goes another step where the international aid community has found that dictatorships can be quite useful to execute and implement their aid programs. Aid agencies come in, like DfiD and USAID, they come in with their aid plans and when the government approves them you have 95% compliance rates where the same plan in India or Bangladesh might have 30% compliance rates if they are lucky. So they come in with plans for people to wash their hands, or go and visit the hospital, and the Rwandan government essentially orders people to go and follow these rules and aid agencies have developed a perverse relationship with repression. They come back and say, “listen, we got 9 million people to wash their hands, we got two million people to go and see doctors before childbirth, 2 million women”. But they are not incentivized to tell you how they achieved those results.

Zahra Moloo: I believe your training program was funded by the EU – was there any response to your book?

Anjan Sundaram: All the international aid agencies know what I am describing. They are fully aware of the repression, so my book has made it more difficult for them to claim that ‘We’re helping a million people’ and therefore this aid is justified. In an emergency situation, I think the aid would be justified to save lives in an extreme situation, but what we have in Rwanda today is a situation where aid is being used to ostensibly develop the country. Under such circumstances, the international aid community is complicit in building and strengthening a repressive Rwandan government that uses those same mechanisms to repress people. For example, the international aid community finances security forces. These same forces are then used to torture, kidnap, disappear people who have criticized the Rwandan government. All the benefits that Western aid is providing to Rwandan people are benefits that the Rwandan people would lose were they to criticize the government.

Zahra Moloo: Can you talk more about this link between Rwanda and Israel?

Anjan Sundaram: Sure. It’s a link that until recently was very shadowy and not talked about a lot. More recently we’ve seen reports of Rwandan government officials visiting Israel and Israeli military units and vice versa. There’s a very deep relationship between Israel and Rwanda because what they see is a similarity between the holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. In fact, the narrative of the Rwandan genocide has been built on the template of the holocaust and on the template of a narrative where there was one side that was good and another side that was evil. Whereas, at least in the case of Rwanda, which I know well, that narrative is far more complex. Victims and people associated with victims went on to be complicit in massacres and ethnically motivated killings as well. So the narrative has been falsely constructed, but it is a powerful narrative and there is a close relationship between Israeli and Rwandan military services, and intelligence services.

More than one Rwandan military officer told me about how they’d been trained by Israeli military and even Congolese rebels in eastern Congo who were backed by Rwanda told me about how they had received Israeli military training. They showed me Israeli rifles that they had, Israeli guns. And told me very specific details about the training they received, survival training in the desert, knowledge of what plants to eat and how to survive in harsh and hostile environments, know-how in training that would be very difficult to come by in Central Africa. Even proxy rebels in Congo benefit from such training. But it hasn’t been widely publicized, this relationship between Israel and Rwanda, and for that reason, at least to my knowledge, the details are sparse and scattered.

Zahra Moloo: Your book is fascinating, but also very bleak. What possibility is there for people to have some sense of the future?

Anjan Sundaram: I think the situation in Rwanda is very grave. There is increasing likelihood that any transition of power will be accompanied by violence.  Since the 18th century, transition of power has always been accompanied by violence. We’ve seen dictatorships around the world, when there’s concentration of power and the destruction of independent institutions, that leads to violence later on, so Rwanda is in a very fragile and dangerous place today. That said, there are a number of very good people in Rwanda and outside Rwanda, good journalists, activists, politicians, all of these people can be harnessed and can be brought to the table to help rebuild Rwanda and help take it in a direction that would create a foundation for lasting peace.

The international community is a key player in any possible dialogue because they give nearly a billion dollars in aid to Rwanda every year. Were they to bring Rwandans who want to build democratic institutions to the table, force Kagame to dialogue with them, and force Kagame to re-build some of those institutions, there would be hope for Rwanda. All is not lost.

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“Ramshackle” Battle to Retake Mosul From ISIS Led by US Despite Obama Vow Against Boots on Ground


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The fight to retake the last stronghold of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq has entered its third day with a U.S.-led coalition force of about 30,000 that includes Iraqi security personnel, Kurdish fighters, Sunni Muslim Arab tribesmen and Shia Muslim paramilitaries. The Pentagon says U.S. special forces are on the ground in Iraq and taking part in the battle, despite President Obama’s pledge against having boots on the ground. They face an estimated 5,000 Islamic State fighters in and around Mosul. Meanwhile, humanitarian workers say some 200,000 people may need shelter during the offensive. We speak with Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, where he writes that Mosul is bracing for its next bloody chapter after being ravaged by 13 years of war.


AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Iraq, where fighting to retake the last stronghold of the Islamic State in the country has entered its third day. The U.S.-led coalition force of about 30,000 includes Iraqi security personnel, Kurdish fighters, Sunni Muslim Arab tribesmen and Shia Muslim paramilitaries. The Pentagon has confirmed U.S. special forces are on the ground in Iraq and taking part in the battle, despite President Obama’s pledge against having boots on the ground. They face an estimated 5,000 ISIL fighters in and around Mosul.

Commanders say the operation is going as planned, though the ISIL fighters slowed advancing troops with suicide car bomb attacks. A Peshmerga military commander told CNN it could take two months for the troops to recapture Mosul, which ISIL has controlled for two years. President Obama says Iraq’s fight to take Mosul will be successful, but difficult.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are seeing the Iraqi forces, with the support of the coalition that includes the United States and Italy and other nations, moving forward and encircling Mosul. The intention is to drive ISIL out of what was its first major urban stronghold and what continues to be one of the key organizational and logistical and leadership hubs for ISIL. I am confident that we can succeed, although it’s going to be a tough fight and a difficult fight.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama said, quote, “plans and infrastructure” are in place for dealing with a potential humanitarian crisis in Mosul, which has a population of about 2 million people. The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq said as 200,000 people might need shelter during the offensive. Humanitarian workers say the first large group of nearly a thousand civilians has now fled the city and crossed the border into Syria. Some expressed concern ISIL fighters would use the civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces get closer to Mosul. This is Courtney Lare with the Norwegian Refugee Council in the Iraqi city of Erbil.

COURTNEY LARE: NRC is currently preparing for massive waves of displacement coming out of Mosul. We are expecting in the first several weeks up to 200,000 individuals and, total, around 700,000 people fleeing Mosul in the coming months. The humanitarian community is desperately trying to prepare, but this many people at once is extremely challenging.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to London to speak with Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent. His recent article is headlined “Mosul braces itself for next [bloody] chapter having been ravaged by 13 years of war.” His book, just published, is titled Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East.

Patrick, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about what’s happening in Mosul today.

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, this is a very decisive battle, because this was the great victory of Islamic State, when they took it by surprise in June 2014. But it’s a little different, I think, from what one’s been seeing on television. The forces attacking it are very fragmented. You mentioned the Iraqi army, the Shia paramilitaries, the Kurds. They all have different agendas. They have a extreme rivalry. And this is one of the things that’s been keeping the Islamic State in business in the past and is going to affect the course of the battle.

I think the other thing to bear in mind with this battle is that it really wouldn’t be happening without U.S. support. The key thing here is U.S.-led airstrikes by the coalition. We’ve had, you know, people describe victories by the Iraqi government forces taking Ramadi and Fallujah, Tikrit and other places. But really what happens is that the forces advance and then call in airstrikes. In Ramadi, 70, 80 percent of the city is demolished. Outside Fallujah, there’s another town that only has four buildings left. So it’s very much a U.S.-led operation.

And it hasn’t really got into the city yet. We’ll really see what’s going to happen when street fighting starts. On each side of Mosul, you have a sort of level plane to the east where the Kurds are advancing. There are villages there. They’re mostly Christian, Yazidi, Shabak, which is another minority. They’re empty. People have fled two years ago. The Kurds say they won’t actually enter the city. Then the Iraqi army is not very large. I mean, it’s much less than the 30,000 troops. When it gets engaged in street fighting, then we will see what happens. Will it call in the Shia paramilitaries? Will it escalate the bombing? Will there be mass destruction in Mosul, which is a really big city, used to have 2 million people in it, like we’ve seen in Ramadi and other places?

AMY GOODMAN: Patrick, you begin your piece by saying the Iraqi government and its allies may eventually capture Mosul from ISIS, but this could be just a new chapter in the war. Explain.

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, you know, there were actually — Mosul has been captured or recaptured five times since 2003. I was with the Kurdish forces then, who captured it, just as the Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein was defending it. And almost immediately, there was a battle with the Arab residents. I mean, Mosul is about three-quarters Sunni Arab. The Kurds moved in. There was mass looting everywhere. My car had Kurdish number plates, and a crowd came out of a mosque and identified Kurds as enemies, as looters, and were threatening to lynch my driver. Fortunately, somebody dissuaded them from doing this. I went to the local hospital, and there was shooting all around it. The local Arabs were — Sunni Arabs were being called by the mosques to defend their streets. They were putting up barricades. So, this is a sort of deeply divided place.

Then, David — the U.S. 101st Division came in under General Petraeus. And so, it kept things calm for a little bit, mainly by reversing the de-Baathification decree. But by the end of this year, you may remember, there was a great big battle for Fallujah outside Baghdad, led by the U.S. Marines. People didn’t notice, while this was happening, the Iraqi armed opposition came in and recaptured Mosul, a much bigger city. They moved out after a week. Then, of course, we had 2011. The ISIS captured it. And now it’s being fought for again.

So, you know, this is sort of illustrative of the enormous divisions there. Mosul stands rally at a sort of juncture of sectarian and ethnic differences. You know, and I’m oversimplifying, because Turkey wants to be a player there. It has 3,000 troops nearby. So, there are many ways the situation could go, but, generally, it will be going towards more war, not peace, after Mosul has fallen, if it falls.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the relationship between the Kurds and Arabs in Mosul, as well as the U.S. troops?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, the actual inhabitants, most of the Kurds have fled. There are sort of Kurdish districts there in Mosul, or there used to be, but the Kurds mostly fled or were driven out. The same is true of the Christians. Then you have the Kurds on the ground, the Peshmerga forces, advancing, but very much under U.S. air cover. In 2014, everybody kind of knows that the Iraqi army fled when it was attacked by ISIS. But actually, the Kurdish Peshmerga, although they had a better reputation, fled even faster, about a month later, when they were attacked.

So, you know, each of these sides, they have some crack troops, but, otherwise, it’s very sort of dubious. I was there earlier in the year just in this area where they’re attacking, and the initial offensive was postponed because a lot of the Kurdish troops hadn’t been paid for months. So, you know, it’s much more ramshackle than it looks. When you see it on television, you see orderly sort of ranks of troops moving forward and officers looking as though they’re very much in control.

We’ll see what really is going to happen when they get close to the city. You know, there must be some chance that ISIS will withdraw from it, but I doubt it, because this was their big victory. If they’re going to fight anywhere, they’re probably better off fighting in Mosul, because it’s less likely that the U.S.-led air coalition will destroy the city like they did Ramadi. So the likelihood is that it will be a long battle.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a series of clips. On Monday, [White House Press Secretary] Josh Earnest said it was uncertain how long the Mosul operation would last.

PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: I’m not aware that any sort of specific time frame has been laid out for when that operation would be completed. Obviously, this represents the next important step in our campaigns — or, our campaign against ISIL in Iraq. The United States has mobilized a 67-member coalition to support the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces as they seek to rid ISIL from their country.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaking Tuesday about Mosul.

SERGEY LAVROV: [translated] Of course we are following this Mosul operation, because we all are interested in defeating the so-called Islamic State. The city is not completely encircled, as far as I know. I don’t know why, but I hope it’s because they simply couldn’t do it, rather than because they didn’t want to do it. At least this corridor, which still exists, poses a risk that Islamic State members will leave Iraq, Mosul, and head to Syria.

AMY GOODMAN: Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Tuesday he is relying on support from the international community in the fight against ISIS.

IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI: [translated] Daesh will not stop at Iraq. It will extend its hands and arms into different parts of the world. So we must look at it from this perspective. Iraq is not only fighting to defend itself, but also to defend all countries of the world, especially as these foreign fighters that are fighting for Daesh, they come from more than 100 countries. So, very humbly, we say that we are defending ourselves and all countries of the civilized world, and we are defending democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Patrick Cockburn, as you hear the Iraqi foreign minister and Sergey Lavrov of Russia and the U.S., talk about the international significance of this and also what this means for Syria.

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, you know, what happens there, like everything that happens in Iraq, affects countries outside. But it’s — you know, it’s one of the tragedies of Iraq, and also Syria, that you have factions and different parties within the country, but they’re all plugged into outside allies, all of whom have their own rivalries and all of whom have their own agendas, so — and these don’t necessarily lead towards peace. I mean, Turkey is saying that it wants to preserve Sunni dominance in Mosul. Obviously, there, the Kurds, the Shia, the Iraqi government have their own agendas.

How does this impact on Syria? Well, to some extent, a defeat for ISIS in Iraq will be defeat for ISIS in Syria, because one of the reasons we have ISIS at all, why they took the city in 2014, was they were able to expand into Syria during the war there. They were able to take advantage of the Syrian civil war and their own experience and money and weapons and offices to move into the war zone and take over most of eastern Syria. So, that will be affected by what’s happening in Mosul.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the humanitarian situation, a city of 2 million, what this means?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Yeah, nobody quite knows how many are left there, you know, but it’s probably over a million. The World Food Program have been saying they were trying to preposition food for a million people. The thing is, you know, all these sieges, both in Iraq and Syria, have a certain amount in common, that you have, whether it’s in the various districts in Damascus, whether it’s East Aleppo, whether it’s Ramadi or Fallujah or Mosul, that the government forces want to separate the fighters from the civilian population. They do that by bombarding these places. Those who are defending the places — in this case, ISIS — obviously don’t want to lose the civilian population, so they prevent them leaving. Then they’re described as human shields. It kind of depends who’s doing the describing. Of course, the — in East Aleppo, they aren’t described as human shields. But basically, whoever is on the defending side has the same interest to keep the civilian population there. Now, will they be able —

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, don’t they have to be very desperate, Patrick, to fleeing into Syria?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, that has been the way out. It may seem that way. But the people I’ve spoken to who have got out, it seemed to be easier to — before this happened, to sort of bribe your way out or pay Islamic State. It used to cost about $600 per person to get out. You know, if you’re a family of five, it’s quite a lot of money for them. And then you’d cross into the Kurdish-controlled area of northeast Syria. You’re not crossing into Islamic State-controlled territory. You’d move into Kurdish-controlled territory and then move to camps there and then move — maybe move onward from there. That seemed to be the easiest route, while if the — geographically, the most direct route, straight into Iraqi Kurdistan, seemed to be more dangerous. I talked to people, you know, who had come from Mosul. They had paid money to guides and so forth, but they’re walking through fields, that they thought there were mines there. They were frightened that the Peshmerga might mistake them for suicide bombers and would shoot them. So, it seemed to be the safer route to go west rather than east, though, of course, you’re quite right, geographically, it’s much longer.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re talking to you, of course, in the midst of the U.S. election, just a few weeks away. Talk about this in terms of the positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the Middle East.

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, you know, does this have an effect on the election? You know, I wonder. There are lots of conspiracy theories in the Middle East and beyond, that it’s planned now in order to affect the election in the U.S. If Mosul were to fall, then this will be a plus for the Obama administration and, therefore, for Hillary Clinton. It seems to be a bit far-fetched because it was pretty predictable that it’s not going to fall immediately. So, you know, would it really do them much good?

Though, you know, then one has to look at the whole situation in Iraq and Syria and what will be, you know, the effect of the outcome of the presidential election on that. Hillary Clinton and a number of her sort of leading candidates for high positions have talked about no-fly zones in Syria, talked about making Assad and Islamic State equal targets and somehow raising a moderate force to fight both. I would have thought that idea should be dead on the carpet, too, because the Pentagon and others have been trying that for four or five years, and it has not only failed, you know, it’s failed — it’s almost become a joke. So I’d be a bit surprised. No-fly zone sounds sort of benign, but, you know, a no-fly zone that excludes the Russians? Are we going to shoot down Russian planes and start the third world war? You know, who is going to control things on the ground? The armed opposition is very much dominated by al-Nusra and ISIS. I don’t know how far they consider these practical policies. So, you know, it could change. It could change for the worse.

There’s a lot of expectation in the Middle East that post-Obama there will be a sort of tougher U.S. line on Assad, there will be more intervention and so forth. But I don’t know if that’s going to be fulfilled. If there is more intervention, then I think it’s going to go the same way as these other interventions that we’ve seen in Iraq, we’ve seen, to a degree, in Syria, we’ve seen in Libya, you know, that they do really badly. They make bad situations worse.

AMY GOODMAN: Patrick Cockburn, we’re going to leave it there, Middle East correspondent for The Independent. We’ll link to your article, “Mosul braces itself for next bloody chapter having been ravaged by 13 years of war.” Patrick Cockburn’s book, The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East.

This is Democracy Now! Donald Trump says the elections are rigged. We’ll speak with The Nation’s Ari Berman. He says they’re rigged, but in a very different way. Stay with us.

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Who is Behind Assault on Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner?


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By Sajjad Shaukat Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Ibrahim Ansar was assaulted by a group of persons at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Sep 4. 2016, when he was returning after dropping several Sri Lankan parliamentarians at the Airport after attending a conference in Kuala Lumpur.

In this regard, Colombo Telegraph wrote on September 5, 2016, “The Sri Lankan Government summoned the Malaysian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka to express their displeasure and deep concern over the attack on the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Malaysia, and to also inquire about the investigations into the incident which occurred at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport…Meanwhile, Malaysia’s IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said that the Malaysian police have launched an investigation on the incident, and police were currently trying to track down the culprits behind the attack.”

Colombo Telegraph also disclosed, “Ansar came under attack by a group of [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] LTTE supporters at the airport when he had arrived at the airport to send off Minister Daya Gamage, Deputy Minister Anoma Gamage and Joint Opposition Parliamentarian Dinesh Gunawardena.”

Although police of Malaysia have arrested five people in connection with the assault on the Sri Lankan envoy, yet question arises, as to who is behind attack on the Sri Lanka’s envoy.

In this context, Sri Lankan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva said that supporters of some fringe political parties in South India may be involved in the attack on the Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Ansar.

When questioned about progress of a probe into the attack, Dr. Harsha de Silva explained, “We think we have identified some fringe political parties in South India whose associates were involved in the attack on the High Commissioner to Malaysia,”

He added, “Though the government is still awaiting the results of the Malaysian police’s investigation into the assault on Ibrahim Ansar that he was confident that the situation had been handled properly.

The fact of the matter is that Indian secret agency RAW which still has connections with LTTE militants is behind assault on Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Malaysia. Online sources disclosed that Ibrahim Ansar was targeted by the LTTE gangs of Indian origin. The government of Sri Lanka should take all necessary steps to demand the Malaysian Government to track down these Indian origin LTTE terrorists and bring them before the “Rule of Law” in Malaysia at the earliest and appropriate punishment should be mooted against them. Sri Lankan government must have joint investigation with Malaysian government in this respect.

While, the the Government of Malaysia should tender a formal apology. Malaysian government must assure that such a repetition will not occur in the future.

It is notable that Ibrahim is a member of the Sri Lankan Muslim Community who is a longstanding and respected career diplomat of the Sri Lankan Foreign Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka.

It is mentionable that the Sri Lankan High Commission staff member who was accompanying the High Commissioner as the video shows “body language signs” that this official ran away leaving the High Commissioner to be beaten up and later appears casually holding his cell-phone camera and pretending to look for something on the floor. Forensic analysis of this situation will tell the real motives behind these officials’ actions which have to be probed at a high level by the Malaysian police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka.

Besides, Muslim civil society movements and groups including Muslim politicians should take up this matter with the Indian government and also bring it to parliament for discussion.

Notably, in the aftermath of the terror attack at a military base in Uri, which was a false flag terror operation conducted by RAW close to the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, India is deliberately increasing war hysteria against Pakistan.

Some small countries Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh which have accepted Indian hegemony in the region refused to attend the SAAR summit scheduled in Islamabad in November. But Colombo which has refused to Indian regional dominance did not follow Indian instructions.

It is of particular attention that Indian RAW was also behind the Lahore terror-attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team, on March 3, 2009. In this context, the bus of the Sri Lankan team was targeted, killing eight and injuring nine individuals including six visiting cricketers.

It is noteworthy that under the pretext of Mumbai carnage of November 26, 2008, India had cancelled the scheduled visit of its cricket team to Pakistan, while Sri Lanka accepted the invitation of Islamabad. Indian rulers and its media anchors had expressed their displeasure at Colombo’s decision. Hence, New Delhi clandestinely pressurized Sri Lanka’s government to withdraw the decision. It could be judged from the fact that even Sri Lankan sports minister Gamini Lokuge revealed that Pakistan “tour had become a diplomatic issue”.

Its Foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama had stated that he decided the trip, taking it as a sporting issue, as his country promoted “people-to- people visits” among South Asian member states.

In fact, despite Indian duress coupled with a sense of jealousy, Sri Lanka remained determined and sent its cricketers to Pakistan. So, New Delhi punished Colombo through pre-arranged terror-attacks, conducted by well-trained and well-equipped terrorists of RAW.

In this regard, it is worth-mentioning that in 2009, by striking a blow to the Indian backed militants of the LTTE and by capturing their strongholds; Sri Lankan security forces successfully dismantled the Tigers’ mini-state in northern Sri Lanka where the rebels lost all the territory, and were compelled to retreat.

In the 1980s, India was conducting ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka by providing armed training to Tamil insurgents. New Delhi allowed the LTTE and other terrorist outfits to set up their base in Tamil Nadu. These militant groups received funding and weapons from India. The training was being imparted by former Indian army officials—training of guerilla warfare, handling of arms, boat driving etc.

However, on March 7, 2009, Sri Lankan Foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama, while showing solidarity with Islamabad and opposing India, categorically expressed Sri Lanka’s firm opposition to isolate Pakistan in the sporting arena or in any manner internationally over the incident of March 3, 2009.

Indian awkward strategy of mixing politics and sports is totally strange. Whether Indian team plays with Pakistan or that of Sri Lanka or the latter with our team has positive impact in restoring peace in South Asia, but regrettably, it is only anti-Pakistan and anti-Sri Lanka agenda of New Delhi whom politics and sports make no difference. And India seems determined to sabotage South Asian peace by terrorizing even the cricket teams which intend to visit Pakistan.

Nonetheless, Like Pakistan, Sri Landa has refused to accept Indian hegemony in the region, as Indian intentions clearly show the way India want to control the whole region. Its hegemonic designs and suppression—ways to achieve its targets, shows its rigidness.

In these terms, through the assault on Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Ibrahim Ansar, India wants to send a strong message to all small neighbouring states that we are mighty and can do whatever we want and the one who oppose us, will have to face the wrath.


Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

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Washington and Paris reboot the propaganda machine against «the Bachar régime»


The tribunals of Nuremberg and Tokyo enabled the Allies to expose the crimes committed by the Axis during the Second World War, and also served to justify both the price of their victory and their domination over the world. Based on this model, Washington believed it could judge and condemn 120 Syrian leaders, including President Bachar el-Assad, in order to justify the war and the overthrow of the Syrian Arab Republic. All that was left to do was invent their crimes…

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In April 2012 – in other words after the French withdrawal from thewar (which it rejoined in July), and before the Russo-US sharing agreement (30 June in Geneva) – the «Friends of Syria» had decided to judge President Bachar el-Assad before an international court of law. The point of this was to stage, a posteriori, the Pax Americana, after the murder of Slobodan Milošević in his prison at La Haye, the hanging of Saddam Hussein and the lynching of Mouamar Kadhafi.

In order to do this, the United States had created an association at La Haye, the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC). For two years, lawyers and jurists gathered witness accounts of the «tortures practised by the regime».

The Office of Global Criminal Justice for the Secretary of State, at that time directed by Ambassador Stephen Rapp, had solicited Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and Turkey to finance a «UN Special Tribunal for Syria» on the model of the «UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon». Let us remember that the Lebanon Tribunal, contrary to its denomination, is not a tribunal in the real sense of the term, since it was created by only two executives, the General Secretary of the United Nations and the Prime Minister of Lebanon, without ever being endorsed either by the Security Council or the Lebanese Parliament. This pseudo-tribunal would have been able to ignore the rules of law and condemn the Syrian President without proof.

The principle of the tribunals for Lebanon and for Syria was imagined by Jeffrey Feltman, ex-US Ambassador in Beirut, then Under-Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and currently Director of Political Affairs for the UNO. Mr. Feltman created the Tribunal for Lebanon, after having personally organised the assassination of Rafic Hariri, to judge and condemn Presidents Emile Lahoud and Bachar el-Assad, whom he intended to accuse. We were able to consult an internal document from his office, and learned that after the overthrow of the Syrian Arab Republic, NATO had planned to judge and condemn 120 leaders of the country, 80 of whom were already listed as persons under sanctions established by the United States and/or the European Union.

On 20 January 2014, two days beore the opening of the Geneva 2 negotiations, the London-based law firm Carter-Ruck accused Syria of having tortured and killed more than 11,000 of its own citizens during the war. It then published a report by three international lawyers authenticating 55,000 images allegedly taken by a defected military photographer. Although two of the lawyers were seriously called into question for their partiality in previous affairs, and the third had been tasked by the CIA to create the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre(SJAC), and despite denials by Syria, John Kerry did not miss the opportunity of quoting this document at the opening of the Geneva 2 Conference.

On 31 July 2014, the Commission for Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives interviewed the Syrian photographer. He showed 10 images among the 55,000 in his collection, but only after having blurred them out, rendering them unidentifiable.

And oh my! On 22 September 2014, Russia and China opposed their veto to a French project for a Resolution which referred to the International Criminal Court concerning the crimes committed in Syria. The State Department ruled that the material gathered, although extremely voluminous, had no more value than the false witness statements from the Tribunal for Lebanon. As a result, it ceased to sponsor the preparations for the Syrian Nuremberg.

However, the Secretary of State recently sponsored theCenter for Victims of Torture in Minnesota, not only for its actions, but also in order to come to the assistance of «victims of the régime» – if they can find any – but not to help the 80,000 people kidnapped by the United States and tortured by the Navy in Guantánamo and in prison boats in international waters during the two mandates of George W. Bush.

Besides this, the State Department sponsored an exhibition by Qatar at the United Nations in New York, then at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, and finally, last week in Rome – based on the photos from the Carter-Ruck law firm. Of course, there was no question of showing all 55,000 photos, but the same 10 blurred-out photos accompanied by a few others relative to the war. At the same time, the pro-Israëli representative, Eliot Engel, (already the author of the Syrian Accountability Act) presented the proposition for law H.R.5732, which was aimed at strengthening the sanctions against Syria.

On 6 October 2016, Holland (whose military is illegally deployed in Syria) organised a meeting at their embassy in Washington in order to relaunch the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) and finance the project of a Tribunal for Syria. Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, and of course the United States, announced that they would participate with a contribution. The project should cost only a few million dollars per year.

For Washington, it is now clear that the Syrian Arab Republic will not fall, and that it will be impossible to judge and condemn President Bachar el-Assad without proof. This set-up is part of the conditioning of the Western public as the «defenders of Good against the cruel Syrians». France, which has been successively spokesperson for the interests of Turkey, then Qatar, then Saudi Arabia, and today, Israël, does not see things this way. It therefore hopes to judge the 120 Syrian leaders (who are already condemned on paper) before the International Criminal Court… in absentia.

On 10 October, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Marc Ayrault, announced that he had asked a group of lawyers to find a way of referring to the International Criminal Court, despite the predictable opposition of the Security Council.

It seems that Washington is preparing to accept the end of the unipolar world. In this case, the most ridiculous and terrifying accusations against Syria will serve to darken the image of the Russian camp.

Documents :
- A Report into the credibility of certain evidence with regard to Torture and Execution of Persons Incarcerated by the current Syrian regime, Carter-Ruck, January 20, 2014.
- «Report sulla attendibilità delle “Foto di Caesar” che si paventa saranno esposte in mostra al Senato della Repubblica italiana», Sibialiria, Marzo 2016.
- The Caesar Photo Fraud that Undermined Syrian Negotiations”, Rick Sterling, March 2016.

Thierry Meyssan
Pete Kimberley

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«Economic sanctions» or the white-collar war


The United States and the European Union have launched an undeclared war against Syria, Iran and Russia – it is known by the alias «economic sanctions». This appalling tactic killed more than a million Iraqis during the 1990’s, without arousing any suspicion in Western public opinion. It is used today, patiently, against any state which refuses to be dominated by the unipolar world order.

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In the past, conventional war strategy included the siege of a city or a state. It was used to isolate the enemy, to prevent him from using his resources, to submit him to famine, and finally to gain victory. In Europe, the Catholic church firmly condemned this tactic as criminal, in that it killed civilians first, and the military forces only afterwards.

Today, conventional wars include «economic sanctions», which are used for the same purpose. From 1990 to 2003, the sanctions levied against Iraq by the UN Security Council killed more than a million civilians. In fact, it was a war led by the bankers in the name of the institution whose purpose was supposedly to promote peace.

It is probable that several of the states which voted for these sanctions were not aware of their extent nor their consequences. What is certain is that when some members of the Security Council asked for the sanctions to be lifted, the United States and the United Kingdom opposed the motion, thereby assuming the responsibility for a million dead civlians.

After numerous international civil servants had been fired for their participation in the massacre of a million Iraqi civilians, the United Nations began to think about the manner in which they could make the sanctions more effective in terms of the objectives announced. In other words, to ensure that the sanctions would effect only the political and military sectors, and not civilians. There was talk of «targeted sanctions».However, despite much research on the subject, no-one has ever practised sanctions against a state which affected its leaders and not its population.

The effect of sanctions is linked to the interpretation that the governments make of the texts which define them. For example, most of the texts evoke sanctions on products which may be used both by civilians and the military, which leaves plenty of room for interpretation. A rifle may be forbidden for export to a certain state because it can be used for war as well as hunting. But a bottle of water can be drunk by a mother as well as a soldier. Consequently, the same texts – according to the political circumstances and the evolution of the government’s will – can lead to extremely different results.

The situation is all the more complicated in that the legal sanctions of the Security Council are augmented by the illegal sanctions of the United States and the European Union. Indeed, while some states or intergovernmental institutions can legally refuse commercial relations with other states, they can not establish unilateral sanctions without waging war.

The term «sanction» gives the impression that the state which is submitted to them has committed a crime, and that it has been tried before being found guilty. This is true for sanctions decreed by the Security Council, but not those decided unilaterally by the United States and the European Union. These are purely and simply acts of war.

After the war against the British in 1812, Washington created the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is tasked with waging this white-collar war.

Currently, the main states which are victims of sanctions are not the targets of the United Nations, but exclusively those of the United States and the European Union. They are Syria, Iran and Russia. That is to say the three states which are fighting the jihadists supported by the Western powers.

Most of the sanctions that have been decreed are without direct links to the contemporary war against Syria. The sanctions aimed at Damascus are mainly linked to its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah, and to the asylum granted to the Palestinian Hamas (which has since joined the Muslim Brotherhood, and is now fighting against Syria). The sanctions against Iran were allegedly imposed against its military nuclear programme, even though it was closed down by the Ayatollah Khomeiny thirty years ago. They continue to be levied despite the signature of the 5+1 agreement, which was supposed to resolve this problem, which does not in fact exist. Those levied against Russia sanction the incorporation of Crimea after it had refused the Nazi coup d’état in Kiev, qualified as a «democratic revolution» by NATO.

The most rigourous sanctions currently levied are those affecting Syria. A report drawn up by the UN Office for the Coordinaton of Humanitarian Affairs in Syria, financed by the Swiss Confederation, and made public four months ago, observes that the US and European interpretation of the texts leads to the deprivation, for the majority of Syrians, of many medical care products and also food resources. A great number of medical products are forbidden, since they are considered to be of double usage, and it is impossible to pay for the importation of food via the international banking system.

Although the situation of the Syrian people is not as catastrophic as that of the Iraqis in the 1990’s, it is nonetheless a war waged by the United States and the European Union, by financial and economic means, exclusively against the population living under the protection of the Syrian Arab Republic – with intent to kill.

Thierry Meyssan
Pete Kimberley
Attached documents

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