Archive | October 23rd, 2016

Racist of the year, Ian Khama: Not Botswana’s finest


President Khama says that Bushmen live lives “of backwardness,” “a primitive life of deprivation” and “a primeval life of a bygone era.” According to the head of state, they are innately inferior and  it was his government’s duty to “modernize” them, if necessary by force. This has meant opening up Bushmen land to diamond mines and luxury tourist lodges.

Nominating a “Racist of the Year” may seem like a strange thing to do. Nevertheless, Survival International has been doing this for several years for one key reason: To draw attention to the genocidal violence, slavery, and racism that tribal people around the world face on a more or less daily basis.

The award is not intended as a comprehensive survey of racial discrimination around the world. There are of course, appalling instances of prejudice against non-tribal peoples, and we do not seek to demean those experiences and the terrible impact they can have on individuals and communities.

We do however believe that discrimination against tribespeople is a singularly urgent and horrific crisis, because it goes beyond simply hating people for who they are. Racism in any form, whether based on pseudo-scientific theories, the desire to assert dominance, or simply knee-jerk hatred is a disgraceful thing. However, there is something particularly dangerous about a racism that says that entire peoples; their ways of life, their cultures, their traditions, and their desire to determine their own futures, are illegitimate and have to be wiped out.

General Ian Khama, the President of Botswana, and his frequent outbursts against the Kalahari Bushmen are among the most horrifying instances of racism of recent times. His sentiments were extremely troubling.

Khama said that the Bushmen live lives “of backwardness,” “a primitive life of deprivation” and “a primeval life of a bygone era.” In an interview in 2014, he further stated that the Bushmen have an “extinct form of life, a very backward form of life” suggesting that they were innately inferior and that it was his government’s duty to “modernize” them, if necessary by force. In practice, this has meant opening up their land to diamond mines and luxury tourist lodges.

Meanwhile, his government continues to ignore its own high court’s 2006 ruling that the Bushmen have the right to live and hunt on their land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. They languish in government camps where HIV/AIDS and other diseases are rife. Families are separated under a brutal permit system that has been compared to South Africa’s apartheid era pass laws by veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Michael Dingake. The Bushmen are persecuted when they hunt to feed their families, and even face shootings, arrest, beatings and torture for trying to feed themselves as they have for generations by hunting antelope with spears or bows and arrows.

This is, in effect, the destruction of an entire people. Khama and his government haven’t herded the Bushmen into extermination camps or shot them en masse, but they have made it all but impossible for them to continue to live. The discovery of massive diamond deposits in the Kalahari in the ‘80s and ‘90s made the very existence of these “backwards” and “primitive” hunter gatherers an inconvenience. They had to be shunted aside for the sake of “progress.” Now the president of their country says they must move away from their so-called “primeval life of a bygone era,” or die.

It is essential that this attitude is recognized as what it is: racism. There is a suggestion in Khama’s words that the Bushmen are innately inferior, lower down the evolutionary ladder than other people simply because their communal ways are different. At his most grandstanding, he and other Botswana politicians try and claim that they have moved the Bushmen to camps and banned them from hunting for their own good, that the loss of land and integration into industrialized society it is an inevitable process that “primitive” tribespeople must go through for their own survival.

This ignores their autonomy, it rides rough-shod over their human rights, and completely robs them of their capacity to determine their own futures. It is tragic that a government so praised for aspects of its post-colonial history can demonstrate such a colonial attitude that echoes the policies of British, Dutch and German imperialists in southern Africa.

Seretse Khama, General Khama’s father and Botswana’s first president, would be ashamed of his son’s attitude. He was praised by anti-racism campaigners for his taboo-defying marriage to a white English woman, and for his enlightened attitude towards the first people of the Kalahari.

It was his sincere belief that unlike other racist regimes in his region of Africa, notably those in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and what is now Namibia, that people of different ethnicities could co-exist peacefully. As far as he was concerned, every group, whether urban and educated or tribal hunter gatherers, should have the right to self-determination within the new republic of Botswana.

He said that: “Our guiding principle… is that every national group has a right to self-determination, that the essence of democracy is that minorities and ethnic groups should not be subjected to any form of discrimination.”

The first President Khama has just been immortalized in a biopic praising his progressive racial attitudes. His son has just received Survival’s dreaded “Racist of the Year” gong, in an effort to highlight his government’s appalling betrayal of that guiding principle. At Survival, we hope that future governments of the country will return to respecting the Bushmen’s rights, regardless of what valuable resources might happen to be under their land. Tribal peoples are contemporary societies and deserve our respect.

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Ghana Election 2016: Religiosity, austerity, zero-sum politics and democracy triumphalism (Pt.2)

Ghana Live TV

In the second and final part of this essay, the author argues that one cannot deny that democratic constitutionalism has had profound impacts in Ghana – civil society activism is flourishing and inculcation of democratic habits has become a normalcy. But the state of transacting political business among the dominant players has grave consequences for trust, solidarity and social cohesion.

Musings from Afar

Ghana has not escaped the entanglements of globalisation. It has moved from decay in the early 1980s to transition, transformation, and in the recent past back to a crisis period amidst a struggle to reposition itself in the globalisation bandwagon in production, finance, trade, investment, and diplomacy. The country has also re-entered the competitive tussle to regain its national pride as the ‘Gateway to Africa’ in a period when its ‘regional rival’ Nigeria has confidently acclaimed for itself the accolade ‘Destination of Africa’. Both countries have become vulnerable to recessionary stressors and liquidity crises due to falling oil prices and austerity management.

As many African countries (and Ghana’s) economic fortunes in the first decade of the new millennium began to wax and wane, people across age, sex, class, and political ideology began to make critical reflections. For those who have gone through the Ghanaian education system at the Ordinary and Advanced levels prior to education reforms in the mid-1980s the state of affairs of African polities, politics, policies and economy were vividly articulated in examination questions. Examination questions of the West African Examinations Council in those days actually ‘make folly’ of the current state of affairs as far as problem solving is concerned.

In the 1980s, one of the popular examination questions in economics at the Ordinary Level was, ‘name and discuss the causes of underdevelopment of African economies’. At the Advanced Level, this question was slightly altered to ‘name and discuss five main constraints of Africa’s development’ (in Economics or General Paper). The author developed affection for both questions. Among the answers given in the form of essay writing were rapidly increasing population unmatched by increasing agricultural production, dependence on a single or few export commodities, deteriorating terms of trade, rain-fed agriculture and vagaries of the weather, low industrial capacity and contracting manufacturing, unrestraint imports, ballooning public sector employment and payroll expenditure, inefficient state owned enterprises, nepotism and corruption, political instability, etc.

Today, a response to the same question may attract additional factors such as entrenched business-as-usual syndrome; conspicuous consumption of imported goods; lack of courageous and astute leadership; unbridled corruption, conscienceless environmental pollution, paternalistic relations with external powers, etc. Students who suggested solutions to these bottlenecks scored over-average marks. At that stage, students were not exposed to the full workings of the international political economy such as the dynamics of the global financial system, exchange rate, the politics of technology transfer and the international trade regime. Therefore, what has prevented us from overcoming the constraints that we had been so early exposed to in our education system?

The paradox of the 1980s for Africa in particular was that it was a period wedged in geopolitics calibrated by the scorched-earth politics of the Cold War; the neoliberal austerity capture of Africa; economic globalism and technological developments in mass communication and free movement of people. As many Asian countries steamed their efforts to reclaim the twentieth-century, African states languished and anguished in deep and steepened economic decline, rampant coup d’état, political turmoil, long periods of droughts, declining terms of trade, fiscal indiscipline, unwieldy debt burden and harsh debt servicing conditions.

This was more than three decades ago – so why in the world are many African countries such as Ghana beleaguered by these same factors today?  In the 1980s, Ghana transitioned from crisis to ‘transformation’, so why is the country now making another steep move from transformation to crisis? After decades of elaborate, stringent Structural Adjustment Programme (SAPs) why is Ghana again making recourse to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after many failed interventions in the past? Why has excessive borrowing become the norm instead of wealth creation after so many years of economic reform?  Why has almost two decades of growth failed to trickle-down to all Ghanaians? Why has corruption become so endemic; and why are people in positions more emboldened than never before to engage in corruption and financial malfeasance?

Even more probing is why has government become overseer of such acts without developing any culture of sanctions regime? In addition, and in a more sobering tone, why have previous governments stayed clear of any radical alternative path of development, fell short of any efforts to refine some of the existing dominant economic orthodoxies or failed to restructure and diversify the economy away from commodity dependence?

In this critical moment, many Ghanaian are nostalgically referring to the visionary policies of the first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. What many forget is that, as a man of vision and strategic direction, and a man who was far ahead of his peers he would definitely renew the basic tenets of his political and economic thoughts today.

If he were around today, Nkrumah would not invest millions of money in creating Import Substitution Industries (ISIs) and hand them over to Ghanaian managers educated with taxation from the toils of cocoa farmers only to mismanage them using their intellect and wit to ‘steal’. Had he had full comprehension of the Ghanaian mind-set vis à vis the indigenous conception of the state and the associated distantness/foreignness, he would have definitely steered off from dirigisme or state capitalism. Given the spirit of Ghanaian entrepreneurship, he would definitely embrace public-private-partnerships as the first step towards full private ownership of industries by Ghanaians. Mismanagement, corruption, and financial malfeasance creep in when property is owned by the government – a distant/foreign entity in the Ghanaian mind-set. In contrast, our cocoa farmers toil all year round adhere to government regulation in order to ensure that their produce gets to the international market on schedule – they know that time series is crucial for a successful business venture – while elites are draining state coffers and plundering the countryside.

Chronic austerity-pain: ‘Its the economy, stupid?’

When James Carville was appointed as an aide to the Bill Clinton campaign team during the 1992 U.S. presidential elections, little did he know that his message (It’s the economy, stupid?) regarding the neglect of the working class would become an electioneering mantra. Perhaps, African rural folks are the true pioneers of making creative expressions about their neglect, dispossession and the ongoing environmental onslaught condoned by politicians – ‘you can’t eat democracy’. Both inscriptions remind us of the dignity of life as ordinary people struggle to bring food to the table, educate their children, have reliable and affordable health care, improve infrastructure and value-for-money by government appointees. Chronic austerity interventions create uncertainty, depreciate income and wealth, and breed social antagonism – the losers are hardworking ordinary citizens.

Hence, the political character of the state and the caliber of its social intertexture have implications for its economic structure and processes of accumulation and wealth distribution.  With a long history of economic austerity and reform, successive governments have failed to restructure the national economy away from commodity dependence (Hutchful, 2002 [17]; Aryeetey and Harigan, 2000). [18] The country has remained vulnerable to commodity and financial market volatility and therefore global recessionary stressors. Government’s response in the form of externally imposed austerity management has most of the time worsened the plight of the most vulnerable in society (Addo, Korboe, Williams and Osman 2010).  [19]

In post-colonial African history, one of the prescient responses to commodity price collapse was made in 1965 during the administration of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. It was in that year that the country experienced the worst revenue shortfall from the export of cocoa beans – the mainstay of the economy. It must also be noted that in that year Ghana exported the largest amount of cocoa – 557,000 tons. Cocoa price volatility remains the key cause of ‘periodic convulsions’ and not without negative impacts on fiscal management and the broader macroeconomic environment (The Nkrumaist, 1965; Gwendolyn, 1989). [20]

The administration took homegrown initiatives by communicating directly with Ghanaians, informing them about the hardships of expenditure adjustments. Nkrumah earnestly requested patriotic Ghanaians who had financial assets abroad to purchase ‘Bearers Bonds’ issued by the Ghana Commercial Bank. Aware of International Financial Institutions (IFSs) as instruments of imperialism and neocolonialism, the government introduced a homegrown austerity regime for restructuring the national economy (The Nkrumaist, 1965). [21] In brief, it was in response to budgetary constraints caused by the interaction of shortfall in commodity earnings (cocoa – 60% of exports) and ISIs.

For the first time, the government slashed ‘wasteful expenditure of luxuries’ in order to re-channel critical resources to ‘investment expenditure’. Fresh credits were budgeted for crucial, productive investments in agriculture and industry, while the tax net was widely cast through innovative collection methods. In order to spur members of parliament to monitor and coordinate the performance of state institutions the budget introduced guidelines on transparency and accountability of all state-owned and joint enterprises, not excluding their financial projections and output targets. Like austerity response anywhere the social cost of public expenditure adjustments heightened public discontent across social classes.

The government’s intervention were a replacement of a stringent IMF prescribed austerity package, which the government had repudiated because of its contradictions in terms of the country’s ISI policy, prevailing trends in regionalism, and above all, its impact on the implementation of the Seven Year Development Plan 1963/64-1969/70 (ibid). It was ‘designed to speed up the socialist transforming of our economy through rapid industrialisation and the diversification and modernisation of our agriculture’ (ibid).

Notwithstanding, in resilience parlance, this homegrown initiative should be a repository for local ‘resilience thinking’ and austerity management in democratic governance. The fundamental objective is to create innovative and proactive pathways for efficient fiscal management frameworks and financial discipline in order to respond to adverse economic shocks so that strained economies would be able to achieve rapid turn-around from fragility to recovery, and ultimately a return to robustness, sustainability and transformability. Such resilience biographies will enhance ‘the capability to discern the complexities of disruption, change, or failure in the everyday life (actual and potential) and demonstrative ability to foreground adaptive capacity for creative (re)purposing’ (Olympio, 2016). [22]

Hence, Ghana’s economic doldrums is not different from many other countries as the problem can also be attributed to a government that began to live beyond its means. Externally imposed austerity management had been implemented in 1967, 1969-1971, 1978, 1981, and the most stringent package from 1983 to 1993. During the height of the revolution (1981-1989), austerity measures compromised industrial democracy that was then being nurtured by the regime while the job generation potential of economic reform has eluded the country since independence.  Since the ushering in of the Fourth Republic in January 1993, budget over-runs in an election year have become one of the key threats to sustainable fiscal policy. On many occasions, as in the immediate aftermath of the global financial and economic crises, this may interact with adverse commodity market shocks. It was the combined effects of excessive electioneering expenditure during the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, the 2014-16 commodity market glut, and weakened macroeconomic fundamentals that caused Ghana’s current economic downturn.

The recourse to the IMF for a three-year programme has been branded as a departure from classic, harsh interventions in the form of SAPs, as vocabulary such as ‘financial bailout’ has gained ascendancy in the Ghanaian polity. The intervention package is supposed to, among others, offer Ghana technical assistance to stabilise macroeconomic imbalances by improving fiscal expenditure and monetary policy; reduce current account deficits, enhance capacity for diversification of the economy, improve balance of payments with the overall goal of overhauling the structural challenges facing the economy (The Economist, 2014). [23]

By mid-October 2014, a former minister of finance Dr. Kwesi Botwe, finally hinted that even though the country is going for a comprehensive IMF programme, ‘we have come a long way from the old style Fund Conditionalities…,’ [24] without explaining to Ghanaians what is in stock for them this time around.  This was also a period of heightened public expectation, low trust, and shrilled voices for accountability in the face of high public perception about corruption and other acts of financial malfeasance, which many believe are the cause of dissipation and waste in the system.

Even though the government adopted a homegrown austerity response to the crisis, the Senchi Consensus (13-15 May 2014), which was reached  during a multi-stakeholder consultative forum at Senchi in the Eastern region of the country remained wedged in IMF conditionalities attached to austerity management and zero-sum local politics in the run up to elections 2016. The opposition boycotted the forum and described it as an indictment of incumbent failure. The current economic crisis is evidenced by ballooning public expenditure (60-70% of government revenue) and rising national debt (67,6% of GDP, 2014 estimate), [25] intermittent fiscal deficits, unprecedented borrowing spree, inherent budgetary constraints, a shrinking tax net, falling commodity prices, high subsidies, lack of confidence of development partners, double-digit inflation, contracting agriculture and manufacturing among others (The Economist, 2014). [26] By 2015, the IMF described Ghana’s economic predicament as: “The emergence of large fiscal and external imbalances in recent years, which led to a slowdown in growth, is putting Ghana’s medium-term prospects at risk. The Government’s efforts to achieve fiscal consolidation since mid-2013 have been undermined by policy slippages, external shocks and rising interest cost. Until mid-2014, the net international reserves position had further weakened and the exchange rate depreciated sharply, fueling inflationary pressures…while public debt continued to rise at an unsustainable pace (IMF, 2015). [27]

The government negotiated with the IMF for a bailout in the form of a three-year Extended Credit Facility (ECF, 2015-2018) (BBC, 2015) [28] to assist the country in its medium-term fiscal consolidation, debt sustainability, and economic reform framed in ‘Ghana’s Shared Growth and Development Agenda I (2010-13) and II (2014-17)’ (ibid). Ghanaians were once again called upon to make sacrifices in the face of IMF conditionalities attached to economic austerity such as public expenditure cuts, frozen employment, increased user fees on public utilities – water, electricity, and energy simultaneously increased in January 2016. Has the country now cemented its position as Africa’s premier ‘austerity state’?

The magnitude of discontent among Ghanaians from all walks-of-life has sharpened debate for rethinking economic policies of the past two and a half decades. The experiences of the past should however be seen as a resource in itself to rethink some aspects of neoliberal interventions that have penetrated national polities, politics, and policies not excluding capture of the symbolic platform – local demands, sensitivities, and meaning-portfolios. [29]

It must also be pointed out that despite the country’s severe economic stagnation, decay and decline in the past and present, Ghana has rarely slipped to the fringes of implosion. As indicated already, notwithstanding the economic odds, the country has been successfully transformed from authoritarian rule to a fledging liberal democracy. This triggers scientific examination of resilience of Ghana’s socio-cultural tapestry – in its many and varying manifestations. As noted by Killick:

“If by fragile we mean inflexible, then the economy is still fragile. Yet during the economic development which occurred in earlier times and in the way in which they coped with the adversities of the more recent past, Ghanaians have demonstrated time and again their resilience and their responsiveness to incentives, positive and negative. If the economy is nonetheless fragile, the answer must lie with the constraints which prevent this human responsiveness from being translated into a flexible economy’ (Killick, 2000). [30]

These constraints are indicative of inherently high rates of strain in multiple domains of Ghanaian polity, politics, policy – some accumulative others instantaneous. The intersection of such entangled strains in the context of globalisation have the potential for destabilising key transformational matrixes thus leading to a buildup of complex deformations, and consequently explosion or implosion if unmatched by reform of governance structures, processes, and overhaul of negative entrenched practices. Here institutions matter – and the actions of political and economic elites must be guarded by established institutional rules of the game.

The high propensity of political and economic actors in Ghana in circumventing the rule of law via unpopular informal deals (within and outside government) creates a shadow economy that privileges particular groups over others in the processes of production, wealth creation and distribution. It is worth it to formalise some of theinformalities undergirding socio-political and economic transactions in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa. The Forty-year Development Plan (2017-2057) is an innovative strategic direction for restructuring the economy and should therefore be balanced by the realities in the informal sector. Apart from recommendations to cast the tax net, the 984-paged Constitutional Review Report, and the Forty-year Development Plan have no recommendations or a concrete policy framework to transform the large informal sector, which employs about 86% of Ghanaians.

Ghana’s “Mahamometer” – The presidency and the transformational promise

The post-2007-08 global financial and economic crisis has been a painful turning point after a decade of vibrant economic boom that began to bust thus ushering in another era of crisis. During the term of office of President John Mahama, the presidency in particular has become an embodiment of ‘transformational promise’ as he has repeatedly promised Ghanaians a brighter future based on an ambitious transformational rubric – diversification, inclusive growth, jobs for the youth, macroeconomic stability, and create enabling environment for policies that supports social inclusion and equity, innovation and technological advancement.

The president has authoritatively stated that he has ‘laid the foundation for economic take-off’ evidenced by the scale of infrastructural projects launched so far and initiatives that have been put forward in  education, food security, modernisation of agriculture, water infrastructure, improve communication among others. The elaborate art of communicating this and the media attention it has received have brought the President’s vision for Ghana under scrutiny, especially his ‘accounting to the people tour’ in 2016 –  ‘changing lives and transforming Ghana’.

This novel transformational narrative is also in reflection of Ghana’s Medium-term National Development Policy Framework: Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda I (2010-2013) and  II (2014-17); the African Union’s Agenda 2063; the African Development Bank’s long-term strategy – At the Centre of Africa’s Transformation, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa 2013 Report – Making most of Africa’s commodities: Industrialising for growth, jobs, and economic transformation among others. Such public relations offensives are a departure from his predecessor’s calm, behind-the-scenes, consultative approach to matters affecting Ghanaians.

On some occasions, the presidency took further steps to inaugurate new projects, attended sword-cutting ceremonies, commissioned completed projects with pomp and pageantry, travelled outside the country to woo investors, and gave powerful speeches in international fora on the state of affairs of Ghana’s economy. The president has also taken credit for widening coverage of the National Health Insurance Scheme, launched a new era of giving policy attention to the elderly such as the provision of health and social services. During a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit 4-6 August 2014, he reiterated among others how Ghana’s democracy has brought ‘prosperity to all Ghanaians’ (Allafrica, 2014). [31]

In his State of the Nation Address in February 2015, the President promised to build a resilient economy, and make the persistent energy crisis ‘a thing of the past’ as he went further to create a Power Ministry. The long list of promises made to Ghanaians also include peace and stability in a “turbulent” region, building more schools and teacher training colleges, more access to ICT facilities, rehabilitate old infrastructure and build new ones, completion of all abandoned projects, ultra-modern markets for Kumasi and Tamale among a large set of promises. In the run-up to elections, all political parties have joined the “promises bandwagon”. A vocal policy think-thank IMANI Ghana has observed that “seventy-five per cent of the promises made by six political parties are not feasible because they cannot be quantified (IMANI, Ghana, 2016). [32]

These promises are being made amidst dim economic forecasts – 4.1% growth (2015, est.); an inflation rate of 17.7% (2015) (Ghana Economic Outlook, 2016) [33] and as indicated already, a 0.04% agricultural growth rate. By September 2015, the IMF had placed a temporary moratorium on Ghana to borrow, which slowed down the implementation of developmental projects in infrastructure such as roads and transportation, schools, and other social interventions designed to reduce poverty (Ghana Web, 2015). [34] Could this have been prevented by genuine resilience learning by harnessing Ghana’s long experiences in austerity management for creative adaptation and therefore sustainability and transformability in a crisis period?

In the context of heightened public expectations, dwindling trust and solidarity, widening inequality, and at a time when nepotism replaces meritocracy, these promises may have the potential to “charge” the socio-political dynamics of the country with detrimental consequences. The President has gone to the extent of claiming that the IMF’s intervention is unavoidable and would help catapult the country from Lower-Middle-Income-Country (LMIC, since July 2011) to Middle-Income status (World Bank, 2013). [35]

In another realm, during his term as Chair of ECOWAS, President Mahama stepped up sub-regional cooperation, and worked in close collaboration with external and regional partners in the face of the Ebola epidemic. He worked closely with members of the regional body to ensure peace and security during the period of political turmoil in Mali, and neighboring Burkina Faso as well as during the run-up to elections in Togo and Nigeria. His rapid-shuttle diplomacy in tackling regional crisis and emergencies won him praises among his peers in the sub-region.

Again, at the domestic level, the cumulative effect of his promises has unleashed a new sense of consciousness among Ghanaians, especially beyond the national capital where people make use of the local radio stations to make critical comments about the state of development projects in their constituencies. The ‘mediatisation of development’ has in turn polarized the political terrain as dominant parties of the political aisle claims to deliver on their election promises when the other fails to perform.

Some Traditional Chiefs who are currently not profiting from the system (manifested by the horrible state of their road network) threaten to boycott the impending 2016 elections. [36] Even though Traditional Chiefs are constitutionally restrained to engage in politics, the scramble for development projects has set in motion a new trend of behavior whereby chiefs openly endorse the incumbent or the opposition’s aspirant presidential candidate. Mounting public demands and promises by political parties in the midst of economic austerity have made many question their implementability.

At the same time, if the government is able to turn the declining economic fundamentals around before the 2016 elections, a new ‘Mahamometer’ would have succeeded to garner the political momentum decisive enough to measure up to the expectations of Ghanaians. That would also be crucial for the survival of the government in a period of high political tension and potential for social unrest and turmoil. Such a success story would have been achieved against the background of hard work of ‘leadership engineering’.

This will of course enhance implementation of policy in an otherwise political environment marred by distorted, exclusive politicking and lack of a culture of implementation. On the other side of the coin, this would have been achieved against the background of a political system that is persistently elitist-driven and top-down despite more than two decades of decentralisation and civil society resurgence. A turn-around of macroeconomic fundamentals in the short to medium term is however not likely because of IMF austerity (2015-2018).

Hence, in the short to medium term, whoever wins the elections would not be able to implement the promises being made because of ongoing austerity regime with the IMF, commodity and financial market volatility, and the country’s financial credibility. It would take positive macroeconomic indicators, and plausible arguments to convince and regain investor confidence. The recent botched attempt by the government to raise capital in the Eurobond market is just the tip of the iceberg of how nervous investors are about the country’s financial security portfolio.

A portent of things to come? Petrodollars, incumbent advantages and excesses

In countries where oil wealth directly fuels the governance system the electoral system has been turned into a tool for manipulation and trivialization with serious implications for the logical functioning of the political system (Ross, 2001). [37] Thus, power and money converge during election campaigns. The ‘monetization of elections’ results in stark anomalies in liberal democratic politicking (Muhumuza, 1997). [38] As Ninsin has observed, ‘elections in Africa have become arenas where the elite contest for the consent of the people to exercise state power. The people on their part perceive elections as the vehicle for securing development projects to improve their material conditions. To this end, the elite employ various mechanisms such as intimidation, election fraud, and primordial identities like tribe and religion to bend election outcomes in their favour…in reality elections produce choiceless democracies’ (Ninsin, 2006). [39]

In Ghana, the incumbent’s approach, epitomised in the accounting to the people tour 2016 is not without criticism. Some vocal civil society organisations such as the Ghana Integrity Initiative reprimanded the President for ‘abuse of incumbency’ by using state resources for advancing his electioneering campaign in the run up to the December 2016 elections. This is quite reminiscent of political campaigns in many petro-states in Africa such as Angola, Chad, Gabon, Nigeria, Sudan etc. Is this style of politicking just the beginning in Ghana?

In petro-states, party financing is the sole prerogative of the incumbent. As is the case in other African countries, governments tactically make cash available for political campaigns in the build-up to elections. Incumbents use the resources at their disposal to seek competitive advantages that opposition parties could hardly match-up to. The most powerful of these resources is of course petrodollars. Against the backdrop of the harsh socio-economic context, incumbents prey on economic insecurity among their populations through direct rewards for votes in the form of cash or other material incentives that have immediate utility for the poor. The resources also include unfettered access to the state media. In petrol-states such as Angola, Chad, Gabon etc. governments also have the legal space to manoeuvre, pass laws that limit free flow of information, ban anti-government private newspapers for alleged acts of infamy that put the reputation of politicians into question (Olympio, 2011). [40] As indicated in the introductory section, in terms of materiality and votes, some of the traits of petro-states are already apparent in Ghana.

In addition, during elections, thanks to petrodollars the government sets up pseudo political parties to create confusion among voters. These parties compete with genuine ones and share state resources with them thus putting more strain on the already meagre resources. Nevertheless, the most cunning incumbent strategy involves wooing and bribing legislators and government appointees to support government legislation on issues that are of national concern and touch on the credibility and legitimacy of the government. By so doing, legislators have become accountable to the executive, while the judiciary becomes an abode for incumbent loyalists, loses its independence and exceptional discretion for controlling and scrutinising executive excesses (ibid).

With core institutions of the state – the executive, legislature and judiciary – involved in a marriage of convenience, universal values such as justice, liberty, equality, accountability and transparency, though enshrined in the national constitution are rarely defended, and political parties that are the linchpin of democracy lose their logical-functional role in the transformation process. In the end, the civil and political rights of the citizens are severely compromised with dire consequences for democracy and good governance. Such political inertia at the political centre permeates society that is increasingly dependent on state resources, thus creating a cycle of dependency that is pawned by the incumbent as a political capital (ibid).

Backed by oil wealth, incumbents are able to steer the institutions of the state outside the traditional ‘checks and balances’, co-opt  key strategic actors such as the police force, the military, the national oil company, influential corporate actors, successful economic entrepreneurs, and civil society coalition groups that are pro-government. Last, but certainly not least, incumbents secure international backing by powerful states that have direct interests in the national economy, especially gaining direct access to energy and mineral resources. In order to safeguard their national interests these powers may chose to remain passive as regards the troubling human rights portfolio of the petrol-state (ibid).

However, conventional wisdom suggests that countries with relatively developed institutions should be able to overcome the ‘resource curse’. Despite the adoption of a Petroleum Revenue Management Act,  [41] Ghana’s infant oil industry is proving otherwise. This is taking place in a period when CSO and other watchdog groups are flourishing, including their active participation in the development of resource management regulatory framework and capacity building. However, key decisions remain under executive control. Hence, the enthusiasm and initial commitment by civil society groups in the management of the country’s nascent oil sector is slowly crumbling as the executive appropriates the ‘monitoring and oversight’ regime.

The government’s posturing includes remaining passive on issues such as open, televised competitive bidding for companies, a disaggregated revenue and expenditure roaster including open declaration of payment of royalties to government (Gyimah-Boadi and Prempeh, 2012.  [42] Thus, Ghana’s nascent oil sector may be a portent of another commodity-dependency syndrome after more than 2000 years of gold exploitation, over hundred years of a cocoa-driven economy in the midst of elite profligacy.


The excesses of the incumbent in infant democracies in Africa cannot be overcome overnight. On the one hand, even if we take the oil factor out of the equation, the lessons from Kenya’s electoral violence in 2007 is still fresh in our memories. We saw how the incumbent placed personal interests and the party’s political ambitions above thestate of the union. This has informed us that when political temperatures are high the office of the incumbent may be a peril to democratic governance. On the other hand, the opposition’s strivind for power by hook or crook, unfounded allegations of vote rigging against the incumbent as well as acts of divisiveness and vindictiveness from both sides of the political aisle may combine to increase the internal combustion with serious implications for peace and development.

One cannot deny the fact that democratic constitutionalism has had profound impacts – civil society activism is flourishing, and inculcation of democratic habits have become a normalcy at the interface of polity, politics, and policy in Ghana. However, the current state of transacting political business among Ghana’s dominant political parties has grave consequences for trust, solidarity, and social cohesion. Since the onset of the Fourth Republic in 1993, political communication between the NDC and the NPP has become extremely confrontational, unrestrained, and negativities-laden (Haynes, 1999). [43]

It is also indisputable that religion is part of Ghanaian social life, and the country has been spared religious extremism and radicalisation. However, our religious leaders must bear in mind that Ghana is not a theocracy and therefore religion is not a Gesellschaftsbild / social ideal / social panopticon! Instead of claiming to know the truthabout God, we should be humble and make the search for God our ultimate goal. This will put the country on the path of a genuine religious accommodation, peaceful coexistence, and enduring tolerance. Anytime we position ourselves in defense of the truth, religious intolerance is the distorted outcome.

Bearing in mind also that successful economic transformation must be undergirded by innovative ideas-portfolio and broad-based strategic direction; the current mode of democratic politicking is detrimental to local creativity, adaptation, and transformational development. The Senchi Consensus (May 13-15 2014) was a botched attempt at local resilience learning due to internal political bickering and IMF conditionalities attached to austerity. We would not reach anywhere near the goals of the Forty-year Development Plan (2017-2057) if we continue to make neoliberalism and economic austerity another form of socio-economic life. In the 1960s, Dr. Nkrumah was conscious of the negative impacts of liberal internationalist economic orthodoxy and imperialism on the Seven Year-Development Plan 1963/64-1969/70, regional integration, and African Unity.

When the people of Greece voted against extended retirement age, tax increases, cut in public expenditure, increase user fees, privatisation of some of the commanding heights of the national economy such as habours and railways, procurement agencies etc they were exercising their democratic rights against foreign control of the economy. If the Greek experience has taught us anything then it is the bare reenactment of the ‘no alternative’ mantra in a neoliberal era. Perhaps, it was one of the many reasons, which compelled the Finance Minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis to resign after the elections as he referred to the ‘no alternative’ as the ‘flimsy edifice’ of our time. [44]

Hence, under current dispensations, chronic austerity management, the increasing polarization of politics, the zero-sum nature of politicking, insecurity in many manifestations, and entrenched exclusions in society are contradistinctive to democracy triumphalism in Ghana. It is high time politicians heed to the voices from nkwankwaa nnua ase – popular discussions and perspectives from under the village tree.

* Francisco Kofi Nyaxo Olympio, Dr.phil., is at the Chair of Cultural Anthropology, University of Trier, Germany.

End notes

[17] Hutchful, E. (2002). Ghana’s Adjustment Experience: the paradox of reform. James Currey.

[18] Aryeetey, E & Harrigan, J. (eds.). (2000). Macroeconomics and Sectoral Development since 1970. In Economic Reforms in Ghana: the miracle and the mirage (pp: 5-31). Africa World Press.

[19] Addo, Benjamin, David Korboe, Jody Williams and Osman Mensah. (2010). Implications of IMF loans on the poor and vulnerable. Actionaid Ghana, Final Report.

[20] Nkrumah, Kwame. (Speech). Sessional Address marking the ceremonial opening of the fifth session of the Parliament of Ghana. Cited in The Nkrumaist, Vol. 2, Jan/Feb 1965. Also Gwendolyn, Mikel. (1989). Cocoa and Chaos in Development. Washington D.C: Howard University Press

[21] Nkrumah, Kwame. (Speech). Sessional Address marking the ceremonial opening of the fifth session of the Parliament of Ghana. Cited in The Nkrumaist, 2, Jan/Feb 1965.

[22] Forthcoming, Olympio, F.N.K. (in press). Contemporary Road Architectures and Roadside Institutions: Mapping Agentive Resilience in Regimented Urban Spaces in Ghana, Journal of African Studies.

[23] THE ECONOMIST: Time for thrift. A mounting deficit forces Ghana to ask for help. Aug 9th 2014, ACCRA.….

[24] Head of the National Development Planning Commission.  Ghanaweb: Dr. Botchwey admits: “Ghana is going for a full blown IMF Programme”.

[25] Trading Bank of Ghana:

[26] THE ECONOMIST: Time for thrift. A mounting deficit forces Ghana to ask for help. Aug 9th 2014, ACCRA.

[27] IMF: Ghana. Request for a three-year arrangement under the extended credit facility. March 2015. Online. 

[28] Akwasi Sarpong, BBC Africa. Ghana secures $1bn IMF loan in bid to revive the economy. 26 February 2015.  

[29] Forthcoming, Olympio, F.N.K. (in press). Contemporary Road Architectures and Roadside Institutions: Mapping Agentive Resilience in Regimented Urban Spaces in Ghana, Journal of African Studies.

[30] Killick, Tony (2000). Fragile Still? The Structure of Ghana’s Economy 1960-94. In Aryeetey, Ernest and Harrigan, Jane. (eds) Economic Reforms in Ghana: the miracle and the mirage (pp: 51-67), Africa World Press.

[31] Allafrica: Democracy Is Producing Prosperity – President Mahama:

[32] Daily Graphic Online: 6 Parties make vain promises. IMANI Ghana Research shows. By Timothy Ngnebe, 26.08.2016.….

[33] FocusEconomics, Ghana Economic Outlook (2016).

[34] Ghana Web, Ghana restricted from borrowing – Mahama. Monday 12 October 2015.…

[35] World Bank. 2013. Ghana – Country partnership strategy for the period FY2013-FY2016. Washington DC.

[36] Adom FM, Radio News, 21 October 2014 – Chief threatens to boycott elections if roads are not repaired before elections.

[37] Ross, Michael, L (2001). Does Oil Hinder Democracy? World Politics, 53 (3), 325-61.

[38] Muhumuza, William (1997). Money and Power in Uganda’s 1996 Elections. Journal of Political Science 2 (1), 168 – 179.

[39] Kwame, A. Ninsin (2006): The Contradictions and Ironies of Elections in Africa. Africa Development, XXXI (3), 2006.

[40] Olympio, F.N.K. Third Scramble for Africa: Power Petrodollars and Challenge of Good Governance, Verlag Dr. Müller, Saarbrucken, Germany.

[41] The Eighth Hundred and Fifteenth Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana. The Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011.

[42] Gyimah-Boadi, E. and Prempeh H.K. (2012). Oil, Politics, and Ghana’s Democracy. Journal of Democracy 23 (3), 94-107.

[43] Haynes, J (1999). The possibility of Democratic Consolidation in Ghana. In Burnell, P and Culvert, P (eds), The Resilience of Democracy: Persistent Practice Durable Idea. (pp. 105-122), Frank Cass, London.

[44] Video: Conference Panel Yanis Varoufakis and Joseph Stiglitz, Institute for New Economic Thinking 2015, Liberté, Egalité, Fragilité, OCDE-OECD. 8-11 April.

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Ouattara’s parody of constitutional change


Ouattara is trying to achieve in the constitution what he and his rebel allies refused when the change was proposed way back in 2004. There is no sincerity in the current push for constitutional reform. What Ouattara wants is to consolidate state power and make it difficult for anyone else wishing to be president.

President Alassane Ouattara of the Ivory Coast has proposed several important changes to the country’s constitution. They are being presented to the nation and will be put to a referendum of the registered voters on October 30, 2016.

The changes will include a change of the number of votes needed to amend the constitution to two-thirds from the current requirement of four-fifths. It will create the post of vice-president and a bi-cameral legislature by the creation of a Senate. Unlike the National Assembly which is elected by a popular vote, two-thirds of the new Senate will be indirectly elected by a process which has not been enunciated; the other third of the Senate will be appointed by the President.

Despite the strikingly undemocratic process of an appointed Senate and the lack of transparency of the election of senators, the most important focus of the constitutional change revolves around the notion of “ivoirite”; the requirement that any candidate for President must have been born of parents who were Ivory Coast nationals.

Since 1993 when Henri Konan Bédié succeeded Félix Houphouët-Boigny as President, Muslim northerners have struggled to get identity papers; officials accused them of hiding their foreign origins and abuses linked to constant identity checks have mounted. North-south tensions became personalised in the face-off between Bédié, from the south-west, and Houphouët’s former Premier, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, who is both northern and Muslim, and a former International Monetary Fund Deputy Managing Director. Konan Bédié promoted the nationalist concept ofIvoirité and changed the constitution to allow only ‘100 per cent’ Ivoirians to stand for the presidency. He claimed that Ouattara’s family came from Burkina Faso and that he had faked his identity papers to hide the fact. Security agents carried on tearing up northerners’ documents or made it impossible to renew them, effectively depriving them of their nationality. Bédié’s first act as President included expelling 12,000 Ivory Coast residents on the grounds that they were really from Burkina Faso. This was Bedie, not Gbagbo!

The impediment to Ouattara’s run for the presidency after Guei revolved around the constitutional prohibition of Alassane Ouattara to stand for the presidency because his father was from Upper Volta. Indeed, until Ouattara went through the process of naturalisation as an Ivory Coast citizen when offered a government post by Houphouet-Boigny he was considered a Burkinabe and went to the U.S. on a scholarship provided to those with Burkina Faso nationality. His inability to stand for the presidency was pursued by the former president, Henri Konan Bedie, and enshrined in the constitution of the Ivory Coast of 23 July 2000, Clause 35, which was ratified by a referendum of the Ivory Coast people. It had nothing to do with President Gbagbo or the FPI (his party). Indeed, Bedie, the architect of the constitutional bar to Ouattara is now Ouattara’s ally in the juncture of their PDCI and RDR parties.

The question of Ouattara’s candidacy was not an issue with President Gbagbo. He always said that the means for changing the constitution is contained within the constitution – a vote by the National Assembly and ratification by the people of the proposition. In mid-December 2004, the National Assembly voted on a motion to overturn Clause 35 and prepared to put this to a referendum, as the constitution required. The rebel forces, led by the godfather of their rebellion, Ouattara, refused to have a referendum and demanded that Gbagbo act by fiat to impose the constitutional change. The real reason for this refusal of a referendum was not a political principle but rather that, to have a referendum, there would need to be an electoral roll, a reunited country and, most importantly, the disarmament of the rebels as required under the terms of Linas-Marcoussis Agreement. The rebels refused to disarm and carried on with their rebellion, the division of the Ivory Coast into two sectors (North and South) and assumed the Cabinet posts that the French and the UN made Gbagbo accept as a condition for peace. Now Ouattara is trying to achieve in his new constitution what he and his rebel band refused to allow when the change in Article 35 was presented in 2004.

The Ivorian people never got the chance to vote in a referendum on the issue because Ouattara and his rebels refused to hold the referendum in the French-occupied North. The nub of the issue was that at least over half of the rebel forces grouped under the rubric “Forces Nouvelles” were not Ivoirians and never were. They were gathered as mercenaries and hired thugs by the French from Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and from the assorted other bands of riff-raff engaged in internecine warfare in West Africa. They were transported to the Ivory Coast and armed by the French, with the support and participation of Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and Toure and Tandja of Mali and Niger.

From 2002 until the French attack on President Gbagbo’s presidential palace after he won the 2010 election the Ivory Coast has been divided by a rebellion which divided the country in two. This was a scheme devised by the French at the supposed ‘peace process’ at Linas-Marcoussis and has been enforced by the French Army ever since. It was not just a political separation; it was a religious and ethnic divide as well. The French Army separated the rebel North from the South and effectively divided the country along ethnic lines. The French, and later the United Nations, moved in to maintain this division and to protect the rebels from the wrath of the legitimate elected government of Gbagbo.

There was no peace in the Ivory Coast after the brutal French and UN attack on the legitimate government of the Ivory Coast; only occupation and harassment. The problem which plagues Ouattara and his cast of rebel rogues is that they do not have any legitimacy. The contested election showed that they could not command a majority of the nation’s voters and reverted to electoral fraud and the vicious murder of thousands of Ivoirians by the French and UN helicopters which mowed down people without regard to their innocence and distance from any military activity in the name of the ‘international community’. They were aided by Dozo irregulars (tribal hunters) who were empowered, armed and protected as they killed their way across the West and centre of the Ivory Coast. The aftermath of this French-imposed rebel victory was the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of innocent Ivoirians who happened to be from non-Northern, non-Muslim ethnic groups. For almost a year and a half the residents of areas like Youpogon in Abidjan could not walk their own streets without being afraid of robbery, violence, arrest and murder by the new Ouattara forces who spoke only in Malinke or Dioula. Those who didn’t speak these languages were considered fair game and unprotectable by any forces of law and order.

The power remained in the hands of the French although the mechanics of governance were carried on by the rebels of the North and the Black Frenchmen of the Abidjan elite. Now these illegitimate occupiers of the political establishment are trying to keep themselves in power by changing the constitution to perpetuate their rule.

It is a shameless President Ouattara who can stand in front of the Ivory Coast people and refer to the need to change the constitution when he, and Bedie and the rebel commanders who were installed in Cabinet posts all took their positions by swearing an oath of allegiance to the Constitution while simultaneously working to destroy and supplant the legitimate government of the country. Ouattara, of all people, should remember that he swore allegiance to the constitution of the Ivory Coast when he became a citizen and when he took up his Cabinet post and then led a rebellion against that same constitutional government. In any other country, what Ouattara and Bedie (amongst others) did from 2000 to 2010 would be called treason and they would have been hanged from the nearest lamp-post. It ill behooves such traitors to start talking about modifying a constitution they mocked and besmirched for over a decade.

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DR Congo: On the current debate over a looming crisis of legitimacy

Red Pepper Uganda

Uncertainty hangs over the date of presidential and legislative elections, yet President Joseph Kabila’s term expires on 19 December 2016 and he is not eligible for re-election. The opposition rejects the possibility of Kabila continuing in office as elections are organized. But there is an alternative. The Congolese can forget about elections and instead imagine a different way of organizing their society away from liberal democracy.

Liberal democracy cum ‘electrocracy’

It is now argued that political governance by the exercise of a high degree of the monopoly of violence and human rights abuses, hitherto characteristic of many political regimes in Africa during the Cold War era, has come to be regarded as an exception rather than the general rule in post-Cold War dispensations across most of the continent. Arguably, the period since the late 1980s in Africa has witnessed a renewed effort at reorganising the African political space in ways that would make the exercise of power more attuned to the demands of the citizenry.

By the mid-1990s, the momentum for political reforms had effectively become an unstoppable Africa-wide movement. The continent over, the single-party and military dictatorships that had been erected in the course of the period from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s gave way—one after the other—to domestic popular pressures for not only liberalisation but even outright democratisation of the political space. This post-Cold War wave of democratisation ushered in the restoration of multi-party politics, the organisation of elections, the licensing of private electronic and print media, and the removal of the worst restrictions on the organisation of public political meetings.

There, therefore, seemed to be growing agreement as to how political power should be transferred—the holding of periodic and democratic elections (‘electocracy) being the sine qua non of political stability and of society’s peaceful development. As Lanciné Sylla once posited, if the winds of democracy are blowing over Africa today, one reason may be that democracy provides a rational solution to the  problem  of succession. Liberalization of the political regime in a sense, Sylla further maintains, forces a country to establish a rational system for transferring power.

Particularly in post-Cold War sub-Saharan Africa, there has been a rapidly growing reliance on electoral processes as the principal way to legitimise governance at national, regional, and local levels. Coming from the context of a bipolar world from where the crisis and the collapse of one side (Communism) seemed to have validated the victory and superiority of the other (Capitalism), Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba pointedly noted that the political death of bureaucratic socialism has propelled the parliamentarian mode of politics (which includes liberal democracy) to a hegemonic position. Celebrants of capitalism in the West, Wamba-dia-Wamba underscored, have seized the occasion to intensify the propaganda for a free market economy and multi-party democracy. Hence, this Western-induced parliamentarian mode of politics has been perceived as an inescapable means for stimulating the development of democratic politics; for choosing representatives; for forming governments; and for conferring legitimacy upon the new political order.

2011 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would have been the year for post-independence Congolese people to undergo a liberal democratic experiment of free and fair elections for the second time ever since the country acceded to national sovereignty in 1960. In 2006, in a bid to end a two-decade long series of armed conflict, which plagued the country in what has been termed as the ‘worst humanitarian crisis’ Africa has ever suffered since World War II, elections were held after a three-year transition from which Joseph Kabila emerged as the elected President. Compared to the previous experiment, the 2011 presidential and legislative elections were conducted in an even more charged socio-political atmosphere—a revision of the 2005 promulgated Constitution having taken place less than a year to the polls.

Marred by significant irregularities and mal-practices compromising the very stated agreeable standards of liberal democracy, these elections could not have brought any significant contributions to a radical transformation of the nation yet known for its post-independence democratic deficiencies. Already at the time of the Congo controversy during the Leopoldian rule more than a century ago, Adam Hochschild posits that the idea of full human rights, political, economic, and social for the Congolese people, was a profound threat to the establishment of most countries on earth; perhaps, it still is to date. To add insult to the injury, what seemed to have mattered most for the incumbent regime in 2011 was mere regime consolidation against all odds. Ironically, though less surprisingly, celebrants of the liberal democratic order in the West (the United States of America as its vanguard) came in handy to rubber-stamp the outcome of these 2011 general elections with little to no consideration of dissenting views from within the Congolese body politic. To levy even a weightier critique against this incumbent regime, citing Karl Marx, it came to signify the “unlimited despotism of one class over other classes.”

The otherwise little-hard-earned precedence of the 2006 elections was simply erased by the 2011 performance. With (i) a political elite (as forming a comprador bourgeoisie) in connivance with international capitalists (whether from previous metropolises or otherwise) deeply involved in cancerous deals of corruption which robs its citizenry of the basic expectations and the subsequent sheer lack of fight against it; (ii) a quasi-absence of state institutions (more so security and judicial apparatuses) to protect the inalienable freedoms of the citizenry; (iii) a continuous tendency by the so-called international community to unquestionably embark on massive support for periodical general elections in the midst of sheer primitive accumulation of capital and human insecurity devouring the citizenry at the expense of state inertia/indifference, one is left to question the yet omnipresent faith in the gospel of liberal democracy at this historically peculiar political juncture of the Congo situation.

The debate over a constitutional crisis looming large

2016, though not yet through, arguably presages a looming crisis of legitimacy of power on the political tapestry of the DRC. Joseph Kabila, at the country’s presidency since 2001, will have exhausted his constitutionally legitimate hold onto power on 19 December 2016, following his previous and constitutionally last re-election for a five-year term of office in 2011.

For the body in charge of the organisation of the elections—Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI)—as for the ruling party and its political coalition (Alliance pour la Majorité Présidentielle, AMP), the holding of this year’s presidential and legislative elections is squarely conditioned by the review and updating of the 2011 voter register—an exercise which calls for a new population census, taking minimally sixteen months (slipping into August 2017). For the political opposition as for the so-called international community (self-assessed democracies from the geopolitical West), the holding of the elections in due course—before the end to the constitutional mandate for the incumbent president and legislators—remains a condition sine qua none for restoring the DRC on the yet increasingly elusive democratic path.

Finally, the recently launched political dialogue (which has gathered together the AMP, some parties of political opposition and a few representatives of the civil society) under the auspices of former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo on behalf of the African Union, now seems to have rescheduled the holding of this year’s presidential and legislative elections sine die. In hindsight, for more than thirty years, President Joseph Mobutu had monopolised political space in Zaire/DRC such that the renewed multi-party competition in the 1990s led to what Thomas Turner termed the emergence of two vast, ill-defined political tendencies: the presidential tendency and the ‘sacred union’ of the opposition. Interestingly, the political discourse that was characteristic of the (in)famous Conference Nationale Souveraine during the democratisation phase in the Second Republic is being relayed in the present debate over the legitimacy of the soon-expiring constitutional mandate of the Kabila regime.

I am struck less by the propensity that has come to characterise the political vibe across the spectrum of the political divide than by the sheer lack of a considered historical reflection for such an unfolding situation with yet insightful precedents in the political annals of modern Congo. That a huge political-constitutional crisis looms large for the country’s foreseeable future is no first-ever occurrence in the history of modern Congo as the current political debate on the legitimacy of the Kabila regime post-19 December 2016 seems to suggest. No doubt, both the demand for and the lack of the holding of general elections (presidential and legislative) for the establishment of a new political dispensation post-19 December 2016 presages a certain degree of incertitude replete with a potential for political destabilisation in the anticipatable horizon. But to bestow upon the current looming crisis the potential of an unprecedented political instability—the kind of a ‘political tsunami’ as recurrent in various analyses (whether policy, academic or press)—is tantamount to inflating the contemporary over its historical precedents with no sound basis whatsoever.

Casting a historical light onto the contemporary

The bone of the contention in the unfolding political situation in today’s DRC can be summed up in the following question: If President Joseph Kabila wants to continue assuming the presidency post-19 December 2016 in view of no presidential elections ushering in a new officeholder, will he be entitled to the position or will he simply be an usurper? Evidently, in answering this question both those for the AMP and those against it have brought forth the point that, as incumbent, Joseph Kabila was sworn-in under a fairly clear-cut constitution that specifies who can and who cannot rule—those against the AMP producing reasons why he cannot and those for the AMP arguing that he can. By and large, the idea of a constitution, whether as a fixed document (as the Lockean American is likely to envision it), or as a set of well established and consistently followed customs and precedents (as the Hobbesian British is likely to see it) is crucial here.

Yet, any discussion of legitimacy assumes that the resort to historical precedents will produce a clear and unambiguous answer on the correct rules to follow. John Thornton, however, aptly points out that such an attitude also assumes that the constitution is essentially fixed and unchanging. Indeed, constitutions may appear unchanging at times, but typically such times are situations in which there is a stable, unchallenged political establishment, in which most political actors accept the historical or genealogical validity of the precedents and are willing to channel their personal and group ambitions along the lines provided in the constitution. But the idea of a fixed constitution, as Thornton further points out, can hold only in a situation of stability and widespread agreement on what the rules are: In situations where political conditions are changing, the fixity of constitutional law quickly breaks down.

To illustrate this, Martin Chanock’s study of customary law in colonial Zambia and Malawi argues that in the confused period of the late nineteenth century there was no consensus on what law was, if there had ever been a law. Indeed, a uniform law appeared only with the establishment of a dominant colonial state, as traditionalists, colonial lawyers and the administration gradually shaped a ‘customary’ law out of bits and pieces of received precedent to make a new legal system that served their own needs.

To cite but one historical occurrence, Thornton reveals to us that the political struggle of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in the Kingdom of Kongo engendered rivalries and power struggles which reduced consensus about the exact nature of the constitution. The effect of this political rivalry on constitutional consensus is illustrated by a succession crisis between 1615 and 1630 that had generated a substantial correspondence from rival factions of the Kongo royal family and their supporters, in which they often cited completely opposed principles extracted from the ‘most ancient customs and laws’ as found in the ‘chronicles of those kings.’ Never was the debate about whether constitutions or constitutional reasoning did or did not exist; all might agree that there was, or at least ought to be, a constitution. Rather, their conflict was over exactly what it was. Ultimately, Thornton underscores, the real resolution of the constitutional problems lay as much in who could win the struggles in the material field, through marshaling supporters or armies, as in who could convince their rivals of the truth of historical or legal precedents: The arguments of the material victors were obviously quite likely to be accepted even if they were untrue.

A series of letters (26 in total, between 1613 and 1643) from Kongo monarchs to Rome, principally addressed to the “protector” of the Kongo Kingdom in Rome, Juan Bautista Vives—put into a single codex in the Vatican Library,Vaticana Latina MS 12516—brings to the fore personal ambition and the complexities of Kongo politics in the midst of a complex ecclesiastical struggle fought by Kongolese and Iberians (as well as the Roman Curia) in Africa and in Europe. Particularly, during the struggle for the control of the Kongolese throne in the mid-1620s, internal politics of the Kongo played a major role in how events and institutions of the country were reported by all witnesses, whether they were long-term knowledgeable residents, Kongo rulers themselves or relatively short-term residents. Political crises and intrigues wracked Kongo during the period that stretched from the death of King Alvaro II (1614) until the accession of Garcia II (1641), and in reality many conflicts remained unresolved until the mid-1650s.

With regard to the issue of the rules of succession to the Kongolese throne, Thornton stresses that the evidence supplied in the series of correspondences of the Kongo rulers in that period is yet contradictory and clearly shaped by political considerations. King Alvaro III, for instance, ascended to the throne by overthrowing his uncle Dom Bernardo II in 1614, and in a letter to Pope Paul V explained his action in words revealing constitutional principles at stake. In stating a number of constitutional principles in his letter, Alvaro III implied that the kingdom belonged to him, apparently by right of descent to a close relative, perhaps even primogeniture, and dismissed the basis for Bernardo’s claims for the latter was only a bastard half-brother of the king. However, other sources interested in this outcome made an argument for different constitutional principles altogether, implying that Bernardo II was a legitimate ruler by right of being a brother of the dead Alvaro II, suggesting fairly loose rules of descent, more so for Alvaro II not having a legitimate son by the Queen, his wife. Hence, these two contradictory accounts reflect the parties interested in casting Kongo’s rules of succession in a particular light.

Interestingly, the succession of the next king, Pedro II also raised constitutional problems. Particularly noticeable in Pedro’s letter to Vives for his legitimation was his contention that the position of king was elective as per the ‘most ancient laws and customs of this kingdom’ and not hereditary, and that the country could not support a regency—key issues in Pedro’s claims against the infant son of King Alvaro III, but clearly different from Alvaro’s contentions about his own succession. In Thornton’s final analysis, therefore, whether Kongo’s system of succession was elective or hereditary, whether regents were or were not tolerated, or rules of kinship determined eligibility for succession are all open questions, which cannot be answered simply by matching internal (from Kongolese rulers themselves) sources against external (from witnesses, whether long-term or short-term residents) ones.

By way of historical extrapolation, I dare posit that the current political debate over Kabila’s hold of office post-19 December 2016—commonly referred to as glissement du regime—is reminiscent of the debate over regency in seventeenth century Kongo. Viewed against this historical backdrop, the current political debate on a looming constitutional crisis in the DRC only points to a growing feeling of déjà vu and emptiness, which sadly brings to the fore the ‘irony of liberal democracy’ as disempowerment and lassitude. Isn’t this constitutionally thorny issue ofglissement too an open question whose answer cannot be provided simply by putting forth one interpretation of Article 70, Clause 1 of the Constitution of the Third Republic (end of term of office) against the other (continuation of assuming office up until the swearing-in of a new officeholder)? Realising that each of these interpretations ultimately intends to present its own answer to fit into a political environment created both inside and outside the country is perhaps the first step in the appreciation of the limits of such dichotomous reasoning over the current looming constitutional crisis.

From liberal democracy to politeia

A close reading of the political history of most of post-independence Africa, and the DRC in particular, seems to suggest that very little has been improved upon in terms of institutional capacity to build viable governance structures for conflict management—political or otherwise. Sadly, it is as though the DRC is either bereft of any significant lessons from its own past experiences recorded in its socio-political annals (oral and written) or immune to lessons-learning (whether classical or much more contemporary) from the available literature recorded in the neighbouring contexts. It is no exaggeration to ponder that on a balance sheet of political governance, due to this lack of historical lessons-learning, the DRC (and the continent at large) still registers more liabilities than assets. And this is truly reflected in the disillusionment about the ways in which the performance of liberal democracy by way of emphasis on periodic general elections is now akin to an attempt at squaring circles.  In his reflections on the ideal type of a political community, Jean-Jacques Rousseau pondered:

“If Sparta and Rome have perished, what state can hope to last for ever? If we want the constitution that we have established to endure, let us not seek, therefore, to make it eternal… The political body, like the human, begins to die as soon as it is born, and carries within it the causes of its own destruction. But the one and the other can be more or less robustly constituted, so as to be preserved for a longer or shorter time.”

In his Politics (Book III), Aristotle described three forms of government and the three corruptions of them—‘tyranny’ as a deviation from kingship, ‘oligarchy’ from aristocracy, and ‘democracy’ from polity (politeia). Aristotle posits that tyranny is rule by one person for the benefit of the monarch while oligarchy is for the rich, and democracy is for the benefit of the poor. Hence, none of these forms of government (constitutions) according to Aristotle is for their common profit. But when the multitude governs for the common benefit, it is called by the name common to all constitutions, namely, politeia. Remarkably, as the past two experiments of elections in the DRC have shown, resorting to the ballots and not to the gun is no guarantee for restoration of firm political order—let alone a politeia.

Remarkably, the insistence on the organisation of elections for purposes of legitimisation of power may simply not be very meaningful in the first place—a hollow ritual and more so one that does provide an otherwise autocratic regime with a façade of legitimacy—or, worse still, may lead to a renewal of violence only capable of worsening an already bad situation. To be sure, the West itself, David Van Reybrouck reminds us, has been experimenting with forms of democratic dispensation for the last two and a half millennia, but it has been less than a century since it has started putting its faith in universal suffrage through free elections. If anything, therefore, Van Reybrouck maintains that the holding of general elections should not be the kickoff to a process of national democratisation, but the crowning glory to that process—or at least one of the final steps.

Yet, Samuel Huntington has told us that when an American is asked to design a government, he or she comes up with a written constitution, bill of rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, regular elections, competitive parties—all excellent devices for limiting government. The Lockean American, Huntington further points out, is so fundamentally anti-government that he or she identifies government with restrictions on government: His or her general formula is that governments should be based on free and fair elections. But, perhaps a pertinent question worth our considered reflection is whether this formula is truly relevant from the vantage point of the DRC’s historically peculiar political conjecture today? At least the previous two experiments of elections in the DRC (the latter more so than the former) lucidly demonstrate that the holding of universal suffrage for presidency and the legislature was but wrong prioritisation of items on the political to-do list of a country in a severely fragile state of affairs following devastating armed conflicts, coupled with state absenteeism in most of the dispensation of the public good.

Indeed Western political experts, as Van Reybrouck eloquently put it, often suffer from ‘electoral fundamentalism’ in the same way macroeconomists from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank not so long ago suffered collectively from market fundamentalism: They believe that meeting the formal requirements of a system is enough to let a thousand flowers bloom in even the most barren desert. For a country hitherto torn apart by insurgencies to the brink of utter collapse and limping from decades-long of fragility and pockets of political strife and civil destabilisation, the organisation of general elections per se in the quest for a democratic political order ironically suffocates all opportunities for a ‘democracy-from-below’, for an establishment of a politeia.

The characteristic winner-takes-it-all kind of elections (as has been witnessed in the previous Congolese performances) could only contribute towards worsening an already bad post-war situation; the pursuit of liberal democracy (reduced to electrocracy) becomes a matter of life and death, a zero-sum game whereby the elected government sees nothing else other than a systemic crush of the defeated elite together with their supportive (real or perceived) constituencies. In the final analysis, therefore, the script of the liberal democracy is ironically performed against the grain of a truly democratic order: the hunger for free and fair elections only ends up producing a power-hungry political elite characteristically hostile to the notion of democracy as once practiced by ancient Athenians. This, in a sense, becomes the greatest paradox of liberal democracy, carefully cajoled its Western proponents!

To conclude, there seems to be no better window of opportunity for a real pursuit of ‘democracy from below’—the establishment of a politeia—in the DRC than today as the current political debate over a constitutional crisis unfolds. A dichotomous reasoning vis-à-vis the eventual constitutional crisis that looms large only limits the true potential for this auspicious opportunity for a better governance compact. Once again, in face of this trial of a looming political-constitutional crisis post-19 December 2006, the onus squarely rests on the Congolese people who should embrace this challenge and transform it into an opportunity ‘to govern themselves.’ After all there is no better translation of a politeia than for a people to govern themselves (as opposed to be merely governed by a hijacking political elite, whether resulting from a ritualised ‘free and fair’ election or not).

The embedded opportunity in the looming constitutional-political crisis in the DRC is the chance for the Congolese people to govern themselves in ways which transcend the current rather sterile debate pitting the argument forglissement du regime against that of a new transition politique altogether. A time for Congolese historical discernment is up, if not long overdue, to recognise the handwriting of the Congolese destiny on the wall of the current generation. From this historical vantage point, neither the holding of ritualised elections à la liberal democracy nor the holding of a political dialogue as an elitist affair seems to point to a way out of the looming constitutional-political crisis of legitimacy. Perhaps, considering that this crisis of legitimacy post-19 December 2016 should be approached as a much more open-ended question rather than a closed-ended question presented in a binary fashion (fresh elections or continuation of the incumbent regime) may go a long way in deflating it.

A much less conspicuous yet more rewarding task is to transcend the two-pronged discourse (immediate elections versus a new transitional political order) which so far frames the country’s current political debate in which both the Kodjo-led political dialogue and the CENI are embroiled. What could be a third way out? Wrestling politics away from being an elitist affair and thrusting it back unto the domain of the citizenry—a tilt in the balance of forces of political power from the state to society—is what I argue for as a third way to the rather stalling debate. Pausing as the whole Congolese body politic to think through what the Congolese people do think about what their political destiny (as state and as society) should look like is in itself a worthwhile endeavour, far much more gratifying than stopping at the organisation of general elections for the legitimisation of a ‘new’ hijacking political elite to be in charge of society. Isn’t it?

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Why East Africa should reject EPA deal with Europe

The Star

Europe is in crisis, and yet countries in East Africa are ready to sign on a poorly understood trade agreement with the EU whose overall impact will be disastrous for years to come. EPA will favour trade in the direction of Europe and stunt African progress. Tanzania has hesitated and called for public debate. Tanzania should provide the bold leadership required in the region to reject the EPA.


It seems to me that the discussion on the EPA that is being pushed by Kenya, especially the flowers lobby, does not understand the changes in the international situation. In 2016, Africans are a long way away from the era when British settler bigwigs in Kenya Michael Blundell and Bruce McKenzie could make decisions about the future of Africa. Then, they built the flowers trade as part of the lift capabilities of the British and European long term plans for Africa. These plans were thwarted by Tanzania and the liberation forces.

In the period 1971-1990, there had been an attempt by the West to isolate Tanzania because Tanzania did not toe the line of the West on the future of Southern Africa. For a short while, especially the days of Nguvu Kazi, Tanzania was alone, yet Nyerere did not blink.

Need for thorough examination of the texts

The present Tanzanian society is in a much better position than it was in 1984. The private sector has come out clearly against this Economic Partnership Agreement.

The Speaker of Parliament has called for debates in Parliament. But Parliament cannot debate unless they have full public disclosure of the EPA texts.

Universities, trade unionists, teachers and students ought to be engaged in this debate in public. The EU is depending on frightening the people that ‘aid’ would be cut off. But, if the figures were examined clearly, then one can see that the goals of the EPA are detrimental to the future of regional or full continental economic cooperation.

The EPA is a legally binding international instrument. It is of indefinite duration. Once in force a party can only withdraw from its obligations and entitlements by ‘denouncing’ the Agreement in its entirety (problematic in light of the goals of 2063).

If the agreement is signed, it endows EPA implementation with a degree of supra-nationality which EAC governance itself does not possess.

Lessons from the past

Older citizens of the East Africa will remember that when the East African Community broke up in 1977, it was not only for trade reasons, but also for reasons of security. The Entebbe raid of 1976 and the use of the East African airlines by the Kenyan security was something that former President Julius Nyerere could not accept silently. Importantly, Nyerere understood that the flowers lobby – Bruce McKenzie and Michael Blundell – was doing the deals with the Europeans and Israelis behind the back of President Jomo Kenyatta.

The most recent book by Saul David, Operation Thunderbolt:Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History, should be required reading for all literate East Africans. The Kenyan journalist John Kamau has detailed the duplicity of Charles Njonjo in keeping the Head of State in the dark about such a major military operation on Kenyan soil. (See How Entebbe Raid was plotted in Njonjo’s home.)

In the present period, pan-Africanists and those who are planning for the future integration of Africa are not sure that the current Kenyan leadership fully understands the implications of signing this agreement. Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has provided the necessary figures to point out the fact that, “The EPA with Europe is bad news for the entire region, even Kenya.”

There must be a better grasp of the balance of economic forces in Kenya. The section that is pushing the deal has strategic control over the financial base, but such a base can shift within the twinkle of an eye. Kenyans should remember the role of France and the EU in Cote D’Ivoire.

Three months for debate

The good thing for Tanzania is that there are three months for debate. These will be three tumultuous months.

In the first place, the original discussion of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the collapse of the financial system (2008 crash) and the printing of money by the Europeans and the US government under the policy of quantitative easing makes it imperative that Tanzania moves to develop the infrastructure for local industry based on biomass and solar. The 2008 financial crisis is beckoning again and the head of the IMF Christine Lagarde has stated that we are moving to a 1914 situation. It is a warning that we should heed.

There is no excuse for not rallying the people to grasp the threat to the independence of Africa. There are enough financial resources in Tanzania in the financial institutions. This is real money, as compared to the fiat money that will be given as ‘aid.’ This is the money that they are printing since 2011, because of the financial crisis.

Secondly, the fragility of the economic system in Europe has created political uncertainty. Hence, the British have taken the first step to break from the EU. Why should Tanzania sign the EPA at a moment of such great uncertainty?

The combination of the financial crisis (quantitative easing), the uncertainties in Europe over BREXIT and the excess capacities from the One Belt One Road (resources for infrastructure- R4I) provide the kind of breathing room that can only be filled by boldness.

If the government of Tanzania and the Governor of the Central Bank follow closely the global economic and financial situation, they will understand that there is deflation in Europe. The situation is one where there is ‘bad money’, meaning that money sitting in financial institutions where the money is earning negative interest rate because the international financial situation is so toxic. Literate East Africans should read this article by the former Minister of Finance for Greece, Yanis Varoufakis.

Tanzanians will have to re-position their economy so that they build strong links with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the economic potential that will come, even before this phase of the crisis is over in the EU and the USA and build up the Mtwara Corridor of Southern Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

Audacity and boldness can only come from a conception of the leadership that will be provided by Tanzania. The Ugandans are so weak and opportunistic that they will break from the flowers and sugar barons once they realize that Tanzania is serious.

Such boldness will come from a proper reading of the international situation and that under no condition should any country be signing up for its future with Europe.

In the short term, the spaces on the question of the EPA should be filled with discussions. Yes, the EU wants governments to sign this agreement without real discussions.

Tanzanians should be discuss why the EU refuses to drop the subsidies that are given to their farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU.

Tanzanians have been called upon to drop subsidies and to ensure that the market decides prices. Tanzania should demand the same for Europe.

Agenda 2063

The EPA runs counter to the goals of the African Union Agenda of 2063.  Even organs representing billionaires such as Mo Ibrahim grasp the detrimental implications of signing the EPA. According to their calculation:

The EPAs include only sub-Saharan African countries, excluding North African members of AMU. It potentially creates a split between North African and sub-Saharan African countries.

The EPA cements an unequal trading relationship in which sub-Saharan Africa exports raw unprocessed goods and imports EU manufactured goods. A reduction in tariffs will reinforce low value-added activities and reduce manufacturing output.

EPAs will favour trade in the direction of Europe. EPAs have rules of origin that differ from those in the RECs, which are simpler and have lower value-added requirements.

EPAs seek to eliminate export taxes, thus depriving African governments of crucial potential revenue. If East Africans want to see the full implications of signing the Partnership agreement with the EU, then they need only to look at the impact of the West Africa EU/EPA on the future of West African integration. The regional integration process in West Africa is being held back by the active role of France in both (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). France is working overnight to ensure that there is no move towards harmonizing trade and monetary relations in West Africa.

Tanzanians will have to ask themselves how will Tanzanian and East African firms be developed to the point where they can compete on equal grounds with EU firms?  This agreement is like the Europeans telling the peasants in Sukuma-land that they have to wait for fixed landlines before they can join the information highways.

The EPA is more than just a trade agreement: it commits–or carries the potential of committing—the region to a path of economic retrogression. If this is the path the East African region wishes to follow, then it should do so with full knowledge of the consequences and prepare to deal with them. If not, then it might wish to pause and take stock. But the choice should be a conscious one, and fully informed.

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BRICS fantasies and unintended revelations


As the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa meet this weekend for a summit in India, one consistency is observable from all the BRICS elites: A stream of anti-imperialist chatter even when the intent is to assimilate into imperialism. The BRICS’ real agenda is sub-imperialism: five countries’ feet joining those of the US and EU, firmly astride the throats of the world’s poorest people.

GOA, INDIA – A Brazilian leader’s faux pas spoke volumes about the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) heads of state summit in Goa, at a well-protected beach resort this weekend. In Brasilia last month, foreign minister (and occasional presidential candidate) José Serra told an interviewer that the BRICS included Argentina. And as he stumbled while spelling out the acronym, Serra also had to be prompted to recall that South Africa is a member (because in English it is the “S” in BRICS, but in Portuguese the country is “Africa do Sul”).

Well-known journalist Luis Nassif disgustedly concluded that the politician – who has a doctorate in economics from Cornell University and was implicated in various corruption scandals, including favours western oil companies against Brazil’s own Petrobras – is “neurologically damaged.”

With men like Serra and his president Michel Temer (also corrupt and widely despised) at the helm, so too is the BRICS bloc damaged goods. Former Goldman Sachs investment strategist Jim O’Neill recently offered faint praise, that “some of the BRICS are kind of doing basically what I thought they would do” though he conceded that Brazil, Russia and South Africa suffer the “commodities curse.”

BRICS as a project is now being written off, unfairly I think (given its sub-imperial accomplishments), because of divergent economic interests and zany geopolitical circumstances.

The latter inconsistencies start with anti-Washington regimes in Beijing (with sabre rattling over a few rocks in the South China Sea) and Moscow (whose sabres are sticking out of victims in eastern Ukraine and Syria, not to mention allegations of Russian-hacked emails repeatedly wounding Hillary Clinton). These defensive gestures are justified given the prolific record of malevolent destruction meted out by Washington, especially since the Bush-Obama regime began in 2001.

Yet not only does BRICS also contain Temer’s right-wing coup ‘government’ in Brasilia with its strong pro-imperial bias, but also the far-right Hindi nationalist government in New Delhi. As Brazilian commentator Pepe Escobar recently explained to Russia Today, “The cozying up to the Pentagon happens just a few months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who had been denied a US visa for nearly a decade – addressed a joint meeting of Congress in a blaze of glory, declaring that India and the US are natural allies.”

Meanwhile in between, Pretoria politicians, as usual, are talking left while walking right. Indeed after the dust of ideological confusion settles, at least one consistency is observable from all the BRICS elites: a stream of anti-imperialist chatter even when the intent is to assimilate into imperialism.

Last week, for example, African National Congress general secretary Gwede Mantashe pronounced, “South Africa will continue to call for the transformation of the Bretton Woods Institutions and oligopolistic credit ratings industry.”

He is worried because in December, it is widely anticipated that Standard&Poors, Fitch and Moody’s will deliver Pretoria a junk-bond rating and with it a run on the currency. Indeed the run just restarted following this week’s surreal accusations by the national prosecutor that finance minister Pravin Gordhan committed fraud by helping a friend secure a $75 000 early pension – a gambit seen as a crude excuse for the crony capitalist faction of the ANC to insist Jacob Zuma fire Gordhan, who is mainly backed by neoliberals and big business but also by democrats worried about the slide into a corrupt dictatorship.

Calling for ‘transformation’ of the erratic New York rating agencies is absolutely valid, yet the real problem is what lies behind them: international financiers who now have Pretoria under the thumb of foreign debt.

That debt load recently hit a historic record of 44% of GDP, and to repay interest while permitting massive corporate profit outflows, will mean yet more borrowing from Western – or BRICS – lenders. South Africa’s energy parastatal Eskom is in the process of negotiating a $5 billion loan from China, for example, so it can argue the case for self-financing a nuclear programme, likely to be acquired from Russia or China. Will a new BRICS credit rating agency be a solution, or will it be just an excuse to put future generations of South Africans deeper into a debt that must be repaid, not with rands (which can be printed) but with hard currency ($ or yuan)?

Hatred of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) is also easy to articulate from Brazil. As BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) vice president Paulo Nogueira Batista remarked last week, “The Washington institutions fundamentally reflect the point of view, the interest, the ideology of the North Atlantic powers, the Europeans on one hand the Americans on the other.”

But here the BRICS are at their most self-delusional and self-destructive, for they have had the chance to change the Bretton Woods Institutions in two ways: contesting their leadership and changing their voting power. The past months are revealing on both counts.

First, no doubt that both World Bank President Jim Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde need to be replaced. They won’t be, though, because the BRICS failed to put up a fight. In 2011 Lagarde was contested by a Mexican and in 2012 Kim fought a Colombian and Nigerian – but with divergent BRICS’ country backing, so neither stood a chance.

In 2016, both were allowed to retain their posts, even though former French Finance Minister Lagarde is subject to an upcoming corruption trial based on her €400 million largesse to a generous party donor, Adidas founder Bernard Tapie; and even though Kim is described by University of Pennsylvania political scientist Devesh Kapur as

among the worst presidents in World Bank history. His administration has been marked by authoritarianism and capriciousness, and he has forced out senior managers at unprecedented rates, sometimes requiring the Bank to reach quiet settlements with those affected. In four years, the president’s office has had five chiefs-of-staff, and several of the Bank’s senior women have left, hinting at a capricious leadership culture.”

His critics on the left (from where Kim entered politics) are just as forthright, especially when it comes to his support for damaging mega-hydro projects and disastrous roll-back of social and environmental standards.

If ever there was a case for the BRICS making a stand against the imperialist multilateral banking tradition – that a European leads the IMF and a US citizen leads the World Bank – this was the year. But as Kapur remarked, the World Bank’s recipe for irrelevance was partly cooked up within the BRICS kitchen because “in the World Bank Group’s official leadership, the first three people listed after the president – hailing from Brazil, China, and India, respectively – are carefully distributed by nationality.”

The same kind of sub-imperialist assimilation was on display when the IMF included the Chinese yuan in its basket of currencies last November and a month later when voting power was rearranged, giving China an increase of 37%, Brazil 23%, India 11%, and Russia 8% – but at the expense of Nigeria (which lost 41%), Libya (39%), Morocco (27%), Gabon (26%), Algeria (26%), Namibia (26%) and even South Africa (21%).

On top of that, last month the World Bank and NDB officials signed a deal for

co-financing of projects; facilitation of knowledge exchange… advisory services; and facilitating secondments and staff exchanges… We greatly appreciate timely support offered by the World Bank Group throughout our establishment process, and look forward to advancing and deepening our co-operation.”

So, will the Bretton Woods Institutions save the BRICS NDB and Contingent Reserve Arrangement from irrelevance – especially since the latter BRICS agency explicitly relies upon the IMF for policing structural adjustment loans?

Tough questions about the bloc’s coherence are being asked; e.g. in South Africa, Megan van Wyngaardt of Creamer Media recently enquired, “With each BRICS country facing challenges, could it disband?” Institute for Global Dialogue researcher Francis Kornegay replied, “BRICS is increasingly taking the form of RICs” due to the Brazilian and South African crises.

In contrast, a group of several hundred activists from India have gathered for two days prior to the summit in a more optimistic mode. The ‘People’s Forum on BRICS’ aims “to connect local voices and concerns of Goa to the global scenario and critically engage with BRICS in this endeavour… to share analysis, struggle notes and build solidarity in the struggle for a more just and equitable society.”

Especially in the wake of a massive national strike day last month by more than 150 million Indian workers opposed to Modi’s neoliberalism, such a society appears nowhere on the BRICS’ leaders radar screen, aside from rhetoric.

BRICS leaders are protected from this rabble by Modi’s proto-fascistic police state. And to top off the Taj Exotica 7-star resort’s aesthetics, sand sculptures have been constructed for the leaders’ delight: the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Russia’s Saint Basil Cathedral, Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue and, representing South Africa, it is the Afrikaans Language monument near Stellenbosch.

What?! All these memorial structures have dubious origins in patriarchy and the religious oppression of the poor. But it was 40 years ago this year that the final leg of the anti-apartheid struggle kicked off in Soweto, as students poured into the street (much as they are this week against the apartheid-economics of high university tuition fees). Their immediate grievance was being forced to learn Afrikaans.

The language monument contains a telling inscription by Nicolaas Petrus van Wyk Louw – “Afrikaans stands with one leg in Africa and with the other in the west” –  that somehow also speaks to the BRICS’ real agenda, sub-imperialism: five countries’ feet joining those of the US and EU, firmly astride the throats of the world’s poorest people.

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The Butcher of Qana: Nazi Peres was no peacemaker

On the steps of the barracks, a girl sat holding a man with grey hair, her arm round his shoulder, rocking the corpse back and forth in her arms. His eyes were staring at her. She was keening and weeping and crying, over and over: “My father, my father.” If she is still alive I doubt if the word “peacemaker” will be crossing her lips.

When the world heard that Shimon Peres had died, it shouted “Peacemaker!” But when I heard that Peres was dead, I thought of blood and fire and slaughter.

I saw the results: babies torn apart, shrieking refugees, smouldering bodies. It was a place called Qana and most of the 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells in 1996. I had been on a UN aid convoy just outside the south Lebanese village. Those shells swished right over our heads and into the refugees packed below us. It lasted for 17 minutes.

Shimon Peres, standing for election as Israel’s prime minister – a post he inherited when his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated – decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not.

A few days later, Israeli troops inside Lebanon came under attack close to Qana and retaliated by opening fire into the village. Their first shells hit a cemetery used by Hezbollah; the rest flew directly into the UN Fijian army camp where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. Peres announced that “we did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise.”

It was a lie. The Israelis had occupied Qana for years after their 1982 invasion, they had video film of the camp, they were even flying a drone over the camp during the 1996 massacre – a fact they denied until a UN soldier gave me his video of the drone, frames from which we published in The Independent. The UN had repeatedly told Israel that the camp was packed with refugees.

This was Peres’s contribution to Lebanese peace. He lost the election and probably never thought much more about Qana. But I never forgot it.

When I reached the UN gates, blood was pouring through them in torrents. I could smell it. It washed over our shoes and stuck to them like glue. There were legs and arms, babies without heads, old men’s heads without bodies. A man’s body was hanging in two pieces in a burning tree. What was left of him was on fire.

On the steps of the barracks, a girl sat holding a man with grey hair, her arm round his shoulder, rocking the corpse back and forth in her arms. His eyes were staring at her. She was keening and weeping and crying, over and over: “My father, my father.” If she is still alive – and there was to be another Qana massacre in the years to come, this time from the Israeli air force – I doubt if the word “peacemaker” will be crossing her lips.

There was a UN enquiry which stated in its bland way that it did not believe the slaughter was an accident. The UN report was accused of being anti-Semitic. Much later, a brave Israeli magazine published an interview with the artillery soldiers who fired at Qana. An officer had referred to the villagers as “just a bunch of Arabs” (‘arabushim’ in Hebrew). “A few Arabushim die, there is no harm in that,” he was quoted as saying. Peres’s chief of staff was almost equally carefree: “I don’t know any other rules of the game, either for the [Israeli] army or for civilians…”

Peres called his Lebanese invasion “Operation Grapes of Wrath”, which – if it wasn’t inspired by John Steinbeck – must have come from the Book of Deuteronomy. “The sword without and terror within,” it says in Chapter 32, “shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of grey hairs.” Could there be a better description of those 17 minutes at Qana?

Yes, of course, Peres changed in later years. They claimed that Ariel Sharon – whose soldiers watched the massacre at Sabra and Chatila camps in 1982 by their Lebanese Christian allies – was also a “peacemaker” when he died. At least he didn’t receive the Nobel Prize.

Peres later became an advocate of a “two state solution”, even as the Jewish colonies on Palestinian land – which he once so fervently supported – continued to grow.

Now we must call him a “peacemaker”. And count, if you can, how often the word “peace” is used in the Peres obituaries over the next few days. Then count how many times the word Qana appears.

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Somalia: Using Khat as trade and political leverage

Citizen TV

A recent attempt by Somalia to ban Khat imports from Kenya sparked a row, which was resolved following discussions between the presidents of the two countries. The exports have resumed. But while Khat is a lucrative business for Kenya, Somalia does not need the drug. It is a well-known health and social hazard that frustrates Somalia’s recovery.

“When you chew Khat, you are on the top of the planet, but after you spit it out, the planet is on the top of you” – A Somali saying.

When Somalia recently made a surprise decision to ban the importation of Kenya originated Khat (Catha edulis), a herbal  stimulant with amphetamine-like characteristics that Somalis consume as a national passtime, it caused quite a stir both inside and outside the country.
With an estimated 20 million users in the Horn of Africa alone, and a growing and lucrative business produced by the 500,000 farmers across the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula, Khat is a multimillion business for producers from Kenya and Ethiopia and a heavy economic burden to Somalia, the biggest consumer in the region.

According to official figures, more than 15 cargo flights of Khat arrive in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, daily from Kenya, bringing in about 12,000 bags of the stimulant with a total value of $400,000.

Somaliland, the breakaway northern region which recently came to prominence by granting DP World a 30-year deal to invest and manage its Red Sea Port of Berbera, spends $524 million a year or about 30 percent of its gross domestic product on Khat from Ethiopia, while the neighboring Republic of Djibouti spends $170 million, or 30 percent of household income, on Khat from Ethiopia.

No wonder that Kenya was alarmed by the ban as expressed by Dave Muthuri, Chairman of Kenya Miraa Farmers and Traders Association, who said Khat cargo with an estimated value of 60 million Kenyan shillings ($592,000) was lost on the first day of the Mogadishu ban.

Socio-ecomomic impacts of Khat

Apart from losing millions of hard cash everyday to buy Khat, Khat has harmful health effects while the World Health Organization considers it to be a seriously addictive drug. In addition to health risks, Khat also drains household budgets as men spend a great percentage of the family income on the drug at the expense of children’s food, healthcare and schooling. It is also blamed for destroying family bonds by increasing domestic violence and divorce rates.

“The problem comes down to the man not being part of the family and the woman being left to do everything,” said Fatima Saeed, a Somaliland politician and a British citizen, talking to Al Jazeera  when UK banned Khat in 2014.

“Khat would arrive at 5pm on the plane and by 6pm men had left homes and wouldn’t return until 6am,” Saeed said. “After the ban it was like people woke up from a deep sleep. They started looking for jobs, being part of the family.”

Why the ban now?

The debate on the devastating economic, health and social impact of Khat in Somalia is as old as Khat itself, which studies say predates the use of coffee. There were attempts before to ban the Khat but they all failed. The British colonial administration restricted the importation of Khat in British Somaliland Protectorate in 1921 and in Kenya in 1940, but both times the ban only led to Khat becoming more lucrative in the black market and its use being associated with rebelling against British oppression.

The French administration in Djibouti also tried to curb Khat imports and consumption in 1952 only to find the consumption tripled in three years. In Yemen, the British administration’s ban on Khat in 1957 led to public outrage in Aden and also Ethiopia, the export country, while an attempt to ban Khat in South Yemen after independence is assumed to have led to the government’s downfall in 1972, according to the book, Khat in the Western Indian Ocean,written by Neil Carrier and Lisa Gezon.

Post-independence Somalia also banned Khat in 1983 with the government citing the damaging impact of Khat on the national economy and social fabric. The ban led to widespread resentment in northern Somalia towards Mogadishu government while government supporters were allegedly allowed to profit from smuggling the Khat.

It is against this background that President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s decision to ban the importation of Khat from Kenya was seen as a bold and surprising move. Anti-Khat activists have been urging the government to ban Khat and the government has shown its willingness to impose a ban.

“Somalia continues to lose a huge amount of hard cash to purchase Khat from Kenya, which only creates an economic source for another country,” President Mohamud told reporters in May.
“The Khat business also continues to undermine our country’s post-war economic recovery, and that’s why every economy conscious person wants to stop Kenya from making money from Somalia just because it exports those leaves with health and humanitarian side-effects to our country,” he said.

However, the sudden decision was seen as a retaliatory action by the Somali government vis-à-vis Kenya’s decision to repatriate thousands of Somali refugees living in Dadaab Refugee Camp as well as what many Somalis say was continued and arbitrary arrest, harassment, extortion, ill-treatment, forcible relocation and expulsion of Somali residents in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood.

Kenya and Somalia are also involved in a maritime border dispute over an oil and gas rich area. The dispute went to the International Court of Justice which heard the arguments of both sides on September 19-23 as Kenya failed to convince Somalia to withdraw the case for a local bilateral resolution.

Kenyan media, however, attributed the ban to a visit by a Kenyan politician to the self-declared republic of Somaliland. According to Kenya’s Daily Nation, “Somalia imposed the ban because of Peter Munya, the governor of the Kenyan county of Meru, which grows most of the Khat, had visited Somaliland in July to see if he could arrange a trade deal for Khat exporters in Kenya – in exchange for some form of recognition for the autonomous region.”

Somali Ambassador to Kenya, Gamal Hassan, also affirmed this by explaining that the Kenyan politician’s visit to Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, in July had outraged the Mogadishu government.

Lifting the ban 

Just a few days after its surprise decision, Somalia lifted the ban following a meeting between President Mahmoud and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, on the sidelines of the leaders’ Summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) held for the first time in 30 years in Mogadishu.

This came after the IGAD Communiqué “reaffirmed its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence, and unity of Somalia.” This was a major concern for Somalia over the years and gives great relief to Somali people. The communiqué also “encouraged the voluntary return of all Somali,” while also underlining their commitment to “collectively address refugee situation in the region, as well as convene a special summit on durable solutions and effective reintegration of returnees in the country.”

Kenya also agreed to review the procedure of starting direct flights from Mogadishu to Nairobi without a stopover in Wajir Airport in northeast Kenya, a measure Somalia viewed as underscoring Kenya’s attitude of considering flights from Somalia as a security risk. Another win for Somalia was Kenya’s promise to ease visa restrictions on Somali citizens and access of Somali banking, finance industry into Kenyan market and vice versa.

Although Kenya seems to have secured back its lucrative business that replaced coffee production as a major cash earner, the ban proved that Somalia can use its huge trade deficit with Kenya as a bargaining chip only as far as the Somali people remain in Mirqaan (blissed out) the leaves they call “Qoot Al Awliya” or Food for the Pious, and which they assume has the power of : “enlivening the imagination, clearing the ideas, cheering the heart, diminishing sleep, and taking the place of food,” according to Richard Burton.

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Reaction to the Briefing Document of the Global Pan-African Movement


A second phase of the 8th Pan African Congress is set for June/July 2017, following what is considered the first phase that took place in Accra, Ghana, in March 2015. In August, Ikaweba Bunting, Deputy Secretary General (Ag) of Global Pan African Movement, published a Briefing Document on these developments. But in response, Bankie Forster Bankie raises numerous questions about that document – and the unaddressed matter of the 8th PAC held in Johannesburg in 2014.

If nothing less, the Briefing Document proves the vitality of Pan-Africanism in these times as an issue, along with African nationalism,  which is the life force of the aspirations and objectives of the  African Nation. African nationalism was weakened as the negotiated decolonization was underway, so that once ‘independence’ was achieved by the neo-colonial states which emerged, they were constrained to abandon the full objectives of self-governance and became the goal keepers of the neo-colonial order, opening themselves up to be outflanked by a new generation, who inherited the responsibility of achieving full sovereignty.

This compromised situation cast a pale shadow on African nationalism at the end of the twentieth century, as the sole and authentic articulation of African aspirations into the 21st century, leaving Pan-Africanism as the vehicle for the realization of the aspirations of the youth coming forward. The emergence of the Briefing Document has to be seen in this context.

African nationalism and Pan-Africanism have been beacons for over a century. After the 1900 Pan-African meeting in London convened by Henry Sylvester   Williams the existence of the global African community  was formally constituted and thereafter  there has been a continuous struggle to unify the various strands of Africanism into a compelling force uniting a critical mass for unity. The most successful of these experiences of global outreach and mobilization was the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) of Marcus Garvey. Other initiatives have come and gone, some being milestones on our way. The Briefing Document from Kampala lays claim to such authenticity, claiming to represent the Global Pan-African Movement (PAM). Time will tell as to its relevance in the trajectory of the African Nation going forward. Along with the African Union Commission (AUC) they claim to speak for all Pan-Africans as the sole and authentic voice of those gone before, those still fighting in the Afro-Arab Borderlands and those yet to come, because this fight has been on since AD 639-640.

History teaches us that in Pan-Africanism there are many voices. Those that claim to be the sole and authentic voice are viewed and assessed later as to their contribution. Another reality is that as a Nation, most of the constituency is ignorant of the component parts of that Nation. This is a deliberate outcome of colonialism. For instance the realities of North East Africa are only now receiving a broader attention. Due to colonialism Africans on the continent were kept apart and discouraged from interesting themselves as to what was going on elsewhere. Many were marched out or shipped across, where they were deliberately separated  from kith and kin. A savage form of such philosophy was apartheid, which was supposedly dismantled some twenty five years ago – within living memory. Today the consequences of separation are deeply entrenched in the physic, all over, in the Diaspora and at home.

Is there an African Nation and if so who constitutes it? Other peoples have no difficulty constituting and defining their Nation, be they Chinese, Indian or other. The question, if it is still being asked, as to who is an African, has been addressed by many scholars in the last hundred years and politicians, but still at the level of leadership foggy ideas prevail. Further research and self-introspection is required. A self-characterization should not be difficult.

In responding to the Briefing Document one would want to know who is the Secretary General of the Global Pan-African Movement and the composition of the Governing Council and their credentials for appointment, as well as Prof Ikaweba Bunting, the Deputy Secretary General (Ag) of this Movement. One wants to assess on what basis this group of individuals lay claim to speak on behalf of Africa and its Diaspora, in the Western hemisphere and in the Eastern hemisphere ( Arabia, India, etc ).

Within the movement there was always an understanding that the leaders were within the people of African descent, the masses. The political leaders of the neo-colonial state which emerged after the first wave of self- government being won in the late 1950s and 1960s, were not those who defined the objectives of Pan-Africanism. That had been done through the struggles against slavery much earlier. We should be aware that the struggles within the Arab enslavement have not been documented sufficiently from a Pan-African perspective of reparations, to add to that pool of knowledge and information that informs Pan-Africanism today. That information is being added.

One of the particularities of our experience so far was that after slavery we had to start from a low point to build this movement by demanding from others to be treated as human beings. We did not start from an informed position of knowing about the component parts of our Nation. So new information keeps emerging which was not factored in when the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1964. This is not fatal, but it requires flexibility and an open mind, to absorb new knowledge. Dogmatism and status quo entrenchment will not help. Rigidity in the face of facts is an anathema. In saying so, what is to be done about the African Nationals seeking refuge in the West? What is to be done about the African Nationals under repression and de-nationalization in Central and South America? And why was the African Union Commission (AUC) unable/unwilling to integrate the Diaspora as it’s 6th Region? These raise questions as to the representivity of the AUC as the collective expression of our Nation. Talk of signing MOUs on behalf of the Nation raises serious questions.

To turn to the Briefing Document, I. Bunting is urgently requested to make his curriculum vitae (CV) available as a means of accessing his credentials to speak on behalf of Pan-Africanists. The writer makes no such claims, but rather seeks to respond to the Briefing Document which he received from its author. I. Bunting is requested to itemize in particular his work in Pan-Africanism.

At this moment in time and given the experience with bureaucratic Pan-Africanism, it is not clear that another bureaucracy needs to be created. Which is not to say that anarchy should be the order of the day. Rather as Mao said ‘Let a thousand blossoms bloom’. Let tolerance prevail. This would be a healthier approach. The first page of the document is dedicated to stating why the Movement has the authority to sign MOUs on behalf of others.  Pan-Africanist political culture is not explained and so far the Movement has been remarkably short on intellectual output. The Accra meeting failed to take our understandings further. Others have spoken and produced theoretical and practical documents filling what you call the ‘vacuum’. Why not consider their papers?

One of these was Walter Rodney, another Kwesi Prah, Convener of the 8th PAC in Johannesburg ( Jhb) held in January 2014 attended by this writer. I. Bunting should consider if Prah’s approach was in conformity with the way and manner Congresses had convened in the past, whether he agrees with Prah’s  ideas or not. As stated earlier, rigidity will not take us far. Often youth who are unschooled praise the European Union model as a template for African unity.  That forgets that they were the colonial master and we were the slaves. They are moving from industrialization to another dimension of development. Africa sub-Sahara and its Diaspora is in another historical and psychological context.

It is suggested that further institutional development as suggested in Bunting’s page one would not be useful. There is much information already in the community which needs to be addressed, digested and interrogated first. MOUs permitting the bureaucracy to swallow up Pan-Africanist thought, creating a Pan-African department within the bureaucracy, would quickly be rendered redundant leaving abandoned the experience of the new constituents/ Pan-Africanists who are emerging as we go along. When the leadership of the bureaucracy chops and changes, this also does not instill confidence. Are Diasporans members of the African Nation or not? Why was the 6th Region not integrated, yet the Heads of State Summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2002 ruled that it should be integrated?

Pan-African loyalty supersedes and is more cohesive than state leadership. If that is not so today, it should be tomorrow. The states are supposed to disappear and make way for integration and free movement. That explains why Pan-Africans are jealous of their role of building unity and should be wary of MOUs. Many want the states to last for ever, especially the politicians. Rodney warned from Left perspective that they would cling to the bureaucracy and we see them creating new bureaucracies, in the name of progress.

For purposes of chronology it needs to be pointed out that your writer was the only invitee to show up in Kampala for the First Preparatory Committee meeting of the 7th PAC and was met by Col Kahinde Otafiire of the Ugandan government. It was your writer who suggested to A.M. Babu that Tajudeen Abdul Rahem of Nigeria be appointed General Secretary for the 7th PAC. Babu supported the nomination and the rest is history.

From the onset of the initiative to convene the 7th PAC a permanent office inter-Congresses was a central objective. Tajudeen headed that office and persons such as Napolelon Abdullai were in the structure. Tajudeen did his best under difficult circumstances. At one point the office was peopled by Rwandans some of whom were later to return to Rwanda to take up posts under the new government. Tajudeen left the office, now called the office of the Global Pan-African Movement, dispirited to join the United Nations, passing away in a motor accident in Nairobi whilst in the service of the UN. The Kampala office became dormant and remained so for years. To pass it off as representative of the global Pan-Africanist movement is not helpful as many know otherwise.

The Pan-African community comes together at its Pan-African Congresses from time to time. This practice is over a century old. The post 7th PAC Congress office failed to advance the movement and there was an issue of accountability, to who?  Politicians are by general nature expedient. They cannot be trusted with a great ideal such as Pan-Africanism. Rather the guarantee of the sustainability of the integrity of Pan-Africanism is the will of the African people. The current modus of the Pan-Africanists, which is the periodic Congresses, has worked well to date. Such fora provide alternative space from the bureaucratic   Commission, which is intent on silencing what it regards as dissent.  Such authoritarianism will not work. Swallowing alternative voices is intolerance, it will never work. It is disappointing that those at the AUC do not understand the nature of the Pan-African movement and are clearly in essence opposed to it and what it stands for.

The operative word here is democracy. In the current climate emphasis should be put on the integration of the Diaspora, developing school and college curricula and full integration of Pan-Africanism into the patrimony of all Africans and their descendants wherever they may be. Zimbabwe is in this process now. Colonialism robbed us of our heritage. Very few since have undergone self-study to bring themselves up to the level of other nations who inhabit our world, as regards their patrimony. Too much emphasis was placed on class. Rather, as with Cabral, class and race should be treated equally.  An observation on this is that there is a lot of loose talk but little serious study, leaving the impression that there are phobias at work. With all the talk that goes on in the AUC, one would have expected that such a directive on the patrimony would have been drafted, implemented ,  and monitored in the 1950-60s, which speaks volumes as to seriousness of intent.

At the top of page two of the Briefing Document the words ‘perplexing and contradictory’ are used. Of course such a judgment is subjective at best and hostile otherwise. The First Preparatory Meeting towards the  8th PAC which convened in Johannesburg  in January 2014, took place in Johannesburg on 7 – 8 January 2010. Your writer attended this meeting chaired by Prof Prah. This was the first formal gathering of a representative sample of Africans and descendants  towards the convening of an 8th PAC, long before the OAU/C raised any such interest.

The way and manner the Second Preparatory Committee  meeting convened in Johannesburg  31 August – 2 September 2012 was in conformity with the aspirations of those that attended the meeting. The Congress and its pre-meetings were well structured and resided on the foundations of African nationalists traditions. The Congress interrogated the state of the African Nation in its composite parts, with representatives of those of African descent from Asia, North and South America, Europe, Africa in general and North East Africa, who had been largely absent from such meetings since the time of   Duse Mohamed Ali.

At page two, I. Bunting refers to ‘principles of Pan-Africanism’. What are these? Where do these come from? He also refers to ‘ideological contradictions’ and ‘breaches’ in the movement. It seems he wishes to impose his views of correctness on others. Don’t forget that millions of our people experienced death and slavery so that we have Pan-Africanism today. Is it not presumptuous for Bunting to prescribe to others his views on matters he has not lived? The absence of humility is worrying.

Paragraph 4 on page two – the adoption of the 8th PAC by the AUC was unprocedural. Yes, anybody can do anything, but one is reminded of the critique of Walter Rodney at the 6th PAC held in Dar es Salaam in June 1974, when he sounded a warning as to where Pan-Africanism was headed. Given that we are now experiencing what Rodney alerted us to, who in his/her right mind would hand what little integrity that remains to the AUC, by way of MOU, making the Global Pan-African Movement the authentic representative of Pan-Africanists? Such an act would be suicidal, reckless and irresponsible. What right has the AUC to meddle in the affairs of Pan-Africanists and to call them un-principled? It should better be busy putting its own house in order, admitting the Diaspora as an equal partner with full voting rights, on the same basis as member states. It should make itself self-financing from resources within Africa and many other things, to establish itself as a credible representative of ours in the global community of Nations, instead of being a place our youth want to flee from.

The meddling of the representatives of the Chairperson of the AUC in the convening of the Accra meeting was un-procedural and in breach of the spirit that has so far guided Pan-Africanism. It was consequently unwelcome. The integration of the 8th PAC into the celebrations of the AUC Golden Jubilee was an interference into the internal affairs of Pan-Africanism. It was this spirit that led to the attempt to co-opt Pan-Africanism into the AUC by way of MOU and ultimately eliminate Pan-Africanism as an ideal. But given the history to date, such an initiative is born of ignorance and stands atop the millions of bodies of our people fallen in struggle so that we could all be free. Such moves are only destined to failure and shame.

The custodians of Pan-Africanism remain the People of Africa, not their governments. In this regard the Trust Deed of the Pan-African Institute for the Study of African Society (PAISAS) is informative. PAISAS is constituted as a Trust, whose beneficiaries are the People of Namibia in particular and the African people as well as those of the African Diaspora, in general. It is committed to taking the dynamic of Pan-Africanism ‘out of the cage of regulation’. We thought that the People were a better guarantee than the governments, multilateral organizations or others, for if the people in general are for you, you will ultimately succeed.

Page two, at the bottom – the Accra meeting was significant in what it failed to do. For instance it did not produce one significant paper, to justify its convening. Many things have happened since the Kampala 7th PAC of 1994. Accra failed to find any development to justify its meeting. There was no intellectual gravitas.

The 8th PAC (Jhb) produced ‘Africanism or Continentalism’, being number 110 in the CASAS Book Series available from Glenda at Also obtain the PAC Status Reports Series 1 to 12 from Glenda. Recommended to you is the CASAS book ‘The African Nation – the State of the Nation’ by Kwesi Prah and by the same author, ‘Tracings’ CASAS Book Series number 107. These represent a substantial body of work and views on Pan-Africanism in these times and they are recommended reading to those interested in the development of theory, practice, policy options as well as new horizons in African nationalism/Pan-Africanism. The world has not stood still since the hoisting of the flag in Accra in 1957. Further Accra should be less abusive, derogatory and personal in the face of new thinking.

There had been talk some time back of the Movement shifting its base from Kampala to Accra, has that idea been abandoned? Your author as the person, along with Babu, who recommended Tajudeen Abdul Raheem for appointment as General Secretary to the 7th PAC, who became head of the PAM office, asks how  you emerge to speak for that Office? Tajudene abandoned the Kampala office. This is well known. It is recalled that Prof D. Nabudere complained about Tajudene absconding. Your writer never saw it that way. If after dedicated service Tajudeen wanted to move on, that was his right. His move to the UN was, unfortunately, short lived as he was knocked down by a car in Nairobi, his duty station.

Your writer and Tajudeen retained mutual respect. However our views differed. It was noted that Tajudeen developed special relations with Salim Salim, then Secretary General of the OAU and with Boutros Ghali, then heading the UN.  Babu was a friend and was a friend of Tajudeen whilst Babu was in exile in London, where he passed on. Tajudeen’s marriage partner did not escape notice. He had no commentary on the Darfur issue. Sudan was a non-issue. In the affairs of the Afro-Arab Borderlands he unfailingly took the Arab side. Such behavior some might call ‘unbalanced’. The way the Kampala office was run under Tajudene’s administration leads to its actions today and is therefore not a surprise. By the time of the 7th PAC your writer had already abandoned continentalism. Tajudene from the Sahel region of Nigeria remained a continentalist during his brief life, with a bias towards Arabia. All this is not new, but may be it is to you. Your author never discussed these issues with Tajudeen. These were observations made from afar.

When the AUC chose to include the 8th PAC in their program to celebrate the OAU/C Golden Jubilee, as the 8th PAC (Jhb) convened in Johannesburg in  January 2014, some asked why the Commission had entered a terrain to which it was a stranger. One might go as far as saying the stance of the bureaucrats in the Commission was at variance with the psychology of the Pan-Africanists who attended the Johannesburg Congress. Why did the Commission choose to convene another 8th PAC, instead of an AU policy workshop? The answer to this conundrum and the deliberate non-communication with those in Johannesburg was the wish to blot out of the picture/ expunge from the historical record that a meeting such as that which took place in Johannesburg, had ever taken place. Not only was it bad manners for a supposed Pan-African state body to ignore the Johannesburg Congress as if it was a non-event, but such action was a snub and a disregard of Pan-Africanists long engaged in struggle. It was the style of ‘orders from above’, from bureaucrats, to ‘activists’, seeking to give voice to the voiceless in places such as Darfur and Mauritania. You could have called your meeting in Accra the 9th PAC. Or even 2nd All African Peoples Conference.

Having worked with Col K. Otafiire of Uganda, indeed having previously suggested through the Ugandan High Commission in London that Uganda convene the 7th PAC, as attested in the CASAS Book Series publication number 14 entitled ‘Globalizing Africans being letters, minutes, notes and other papers’, on the way to convene the 7th PAC, one can say in any collective action there will be differences. The call for a civilizational dialogue is not new. The way and manner differences are managed determines the quality of leadership.

It takes two to tango. At this stage the need for leadership has never been greater. Hostile take over bids are doomed to be treated as just that – hostile. Dictatorship does not welcome innovation and new thinking. The adoption and implementation of the outcomes of the AU Durban Summit of 2002 on the integration of the Diaspora on equal terms is yet another example of a failure of leadership and a betrayal of a basic tenet of Pan-Africanism, being the symbiotic nature of the relationship of Diaspora and Africa South of the Sahara. An institution should not call itself Pan-African if it excludes the African Diaspora. If it does reject the Diaspora, the question then needs to be asked why? There could be centrifugal forces operating within to exclude the Diaspora, for a house divided amongst itself cannot stand. Africa without its Diaspora is a nation without a soul. And a house divided unto itself is a house in demolition.

The Pan-African office in Kampala, the ‘Office of the Global Pan-African Movement’ as you call it, was never intended to be the sole and authentic representative of Pan-Africanism in the world. It was to be an inter- Congress focal point. Neither was it conceived as an adjunct of the OAU/C within the global Pan African community. To give it such pretensions is overboard.

During the long period of gestation of the 8th PAC (Jhb), which convened its First Prep Committee meeting in Johannesburg  7-8 January 2010, those convening that 8th PAC were the originators of the idea. There had been a short lived attempt earlier by Ibbo Mandaza to convene the 8th PAC, which convened a preparatory meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, attended by Glenroy Watson, Sabelo Sibanda, Ibbo Mandaza, Joyce Kazembwe, Chen Chimutengwende  and your author. Why was Prof Kwesi Prah not approached by your office in Kampala between 2010 – 2015 to find a shared way forward? The answer is that the Kampala office was defunct by then. It was only when the outcomes of the Johannesburg meeting became known that Addis Ababa sprung into action, to head off the impact of the decisions taken in Johannesburg, as if to expunge those actions from the historical record.

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Examining international sanctions: The case of Eritrea

Under U.S. pressure, the UN refuses to lift an embargo against the tiny nation of Eritrea, while ignoring constant aggressions by its huge neighbour, Ethiopia. The pretexts for the sanctions “are nonexistent,” yet “Eritrea is doubly punished since the sanctions effectively mean it is restricted in defending itself.” The UN has abrogated its responsibility to uphold international law – and, instead, coddles Washington’s military ally.

During one of his debates with Socrates, Thrasymachus alleges that “justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” For Eritreans (as well as many other regional observers), a clear reflection of this point is the ongoing sanctions imposed against the country. Not only do the sanctions lack basis and remain counterproductive, they reveal a long-existent and glaring double standard.

On 23 December 2009, the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSC Resolution 1907 (2009) imposing a sanctions regime against Eritrea. The pretexts for the sanctions were Eritrea’s alleged support for Al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group, and its dispute with neighbouring Djibouti. Shortly thereafter, in 2011, the sanctions were expanded through UNSC Resolution 2023 (2011), adopted by the Security Council during its 6674th meeting, held on 5 December 2011.

Setting aside the considerable issue of the dubious legitimacy or basis for the original adoption of sanctions against Eritrea, it is starkly apparent that their continued imposition is essentially illegitimate. Simply, the pretexts for them are non-existent. In a statement made at the United Nations (UN) on September 27, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, Michael Keating, stated that “I have seen no evidence of Eritrea supporting Al-Shabaab.” This came only days after a public statement by Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi, explained how efforts by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani led to the “resolution of the border conflict between Djibouti and Eritrea, achieving a fair and peaceful settlement based on principles of good neighborliness and mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty within the internationally recognized borders and the release of all Djiboutian prisoners of war.”

Importantly, these are not breaking developments. Over several years, a long series of UN Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (UN SEMG) reports have consistently concluded that they have found “no evidence of Eritrea’s support for Al-Shabaab,” while in 2010 Eritrea and Djibouti signed a comprehensive agreement entrusting Qatar to play a mediating role, quickly followed by a process of implementation. According to Herman Cohen, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, the sanctions on Eritrea have “no basis in fact,” are a case of “bullying,” and while 14 Security Council members wanted to lift the sanctions in 2014, the US vetoed the move. It is quite telling that although the US recently appointed a new Charge d’Affaires in Eritrea, accompanied by a series of platitudes, on September 29th, mere days after the arrival of the new Charge d’Affaires in Asmara, the US updated unilateral sanctions against Eritrea in the US Federal Register.

The continued illegitimate sanctions against Eritrea, largely due to pressure from the US and several partners, add to the long list of general criticisms and troubling questions often raised about the use, legitimacy, poor execution, and overall effectiveness of international sanctions. In fact, many studies have found the success rate of sanctions to be poor (Allen 2005; Baldwin and Pape 1998; CFR 2006; Pape 1997; Spadoni 2010).

The checkered history of sanctions is probably best reflected in Iraq, where a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that between 1991 and 1998, during the height of the Iraqi sanctions regime, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five.  Denis Halliday, a distinguished senior UN official assigned to Iraq who ultimately resigned in protest, described his assignment as, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”

Later, the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, who additionally served as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq, stated, “[M]ake no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable,” before also resigning. A number of other problematic cases (e.g. Cuba) have meant that sanctions have an inconclusive track record and remain plagued by considerable questions about their utility.

In the case of Eritrea, sanctions, beyond being fundamentally illegitimate, are counterproductive. They have only served to promote misunderstanding and distrust, diminish possibilities for effective cooperation or partnership, stunt development, investment, and socio-economic growth, and further destabilize the Horn of Africa through contributing to unnecessary rivalry, conflict, and regional insecurity.

Additionally, the sanctions also reflect a blatant double standard. It is hard to overlook the troubling paradox that while Eritrea remains burdened by sanctions — even, as it must be underscored, in the absence of any supportive evidence for their pretext — the UN and the international community have long ignored its neighbour Ethiopia’s complete failure to abide by its international legal obligations and responsibilities for demarcating the border, and its ongoing military occupation and state of war and aggression toward Eritrea.

Moreover, in a twisted case of illogic, Eritrea is doubly punished since the sanctions (particularly the arms embargo and severe limitations on defensive materials) effectively mean it is restricted in defending itself — a fundamental international right enshrined under the UN Charter — against Ethiopia’s military occupation and unrelenting aggression or terror-related threats which abound throughout the region.

Only this past summer, on 12 June 2016, in a clear illustration of the double standard, the Ethiopian military launched a large, unprovoked attack against Eritrea on the Tsorona Central Front, leading to the death of hundreds of Ethiopians and 18 Eritreans. Aggression, it should be recalled, is a grave breach of international law and the UN Charter, and was described by the Nuremberg Tribunal as “not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime.” Although Eritrea immediately reported the incident and quickly called upon the Security Council to investigate and take appropriate action, it was only met with tepid responses by the UN Secretary General, which meekly called for “restraint” from both sides. Beyond representing a resounding failure to condemn Ethiopia’s continued belligerence and uphold international law, this unjustly assigned equal blame to both victim and aggressor.

Rather than an isolated incident, the June attack was but the latest in a long series of deadly provocations by Ethiopia. Since the end of the destructive 1998-2000 war between the two countries, the Ethiopian government has not only made regular illegal incursions into and attacks against Eritrea, it has also made persistent calls for the overthrow of the Eritrean government and, through belligerent, threatening statements via government-owned media outlets, proclaimed its intentions to carry out “military action to oust the regime in Eritrea,” — again, violating the UN Charter and international law. In 2014, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, stated that the “no war, no peace situation with Eritrea is over. Ethiopia from now on is ready to take military action against Eritrea,” while in 2015 and early 2016, he claimed Ethiopia was ready to take “proportionate military action against Eritrea.” As well, shortly after the disastrous June 2016 attack, high-level Ethiopian officials (including the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, and Minister of Government Communication) proudly boasted in parliament about Ethiopia’s aggressive actions against Eritrea (including statements made on 14 June, 28 June, and 5 July 2016).

Ultimately, not only do the UN and the international community unjustly sanction Eritrea, their oversight of Ethiopia’s occupation, repeated aggression, and continuing threats trivializes fundamental principles of international law and sovereignty and neglects the flagrant violation of the collective rights of an entire nation.

Recently, an increasing number of observers, analysts, and foreign officials have expressed the need for a “new approach” toward Eritrea and the Horn of Africa; to borrow from the inimitable Ray Hudson, “even a blind man on a galloping horse in thick fog could see that.” The ongoing crises in the region, marked by increasing instability, conflagration, and emigration, are a testament of the fundamental flaws within the international community’s approach and policies. However, despite the rhetoric, few genuine or tangible shifts have occurred.

Moving forward, in the absence of any credible evidence, the sanctions against Eritrea should be removed. As well, the international community (specifically the UN, the AU, and EU) should shoulder its legal responsibility and obligations by genuinely censuring Ethiopia’s illegal military occupation and repeated aggressive actions towards Eritrea, and calling for the immediate, unconditional implementation of the “final and binding” Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) 2002 Delimitation and 2007 Demarcation decisions. Importantly, such steps will both reflect and fulfill commitments to key principles of international law, represent positive gestures that can help encourage fruitful and effective cooperation, remove unnecessary, harmful distractions and support the addressing of internal issues, and ultimately potentially prove to be useful measures toward promoting lasting, sustainable peace, stability, socio-economic growth, and development throughout the region.

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