Archive | December 26th, 2016

Revisionism: Canada and Africa’s liberation struggles  

Canada’s position towards the African liberation struggles of the 1970s and 1980s should influence how people view deploying troops to the continent today. This history – and the media’s distortion of it – suggests the need for healthy dose of skepticism towards Ottawa’s intentions.

Did Canada lead the international charge against apartheid and white rule in South Africa or criticize a country that, in fact, did?

Recent commentary about Canada’s policy towards southern Africa’s liberation struggles distorts history that should inform debate over Canada’s planned military deployment to the continent today.

A Globe and Mail article last month described Canada’s strong support for the anti-apartheid movement” while a Kingston Whig Standard story last week claimed a senior Canadian diplomat and his wife became engaged in providing support to a wide array of South Africans actively opposing the apartheid regime.” A Le Devoir columnist wrote that faced with apartheid South Africa, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in the 1980s, was the first in the Commonwealth to adopt a policy not of inclusion but of economic sanctions, against the government of Pieter Botha.” But, this statement is only plausible if you reduce the Commonwealth to the European settler states. Does anyone actually believe Ottawa was more opposed to the white regime than Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, India, etc.?

A Toronto Star editorial about Fidel Castro’s death hinted at a position hard to align with this self-congratulatory revisionism. (Or a Star story after Nelson Mandela’s death titled Canada helped lead international fight against apartheid”). The editorial pointed out that in the late 1970s Prime Minister Pierre “Trudeau was also voicing deep concerns to Castro… over Cuba’s military involvement in Africa, especially Angola.” The Star editorialists failed to elaborate on Trudeau’s “deep concern”.

Not long after Angola won its independence from Portugal, apartheid South Africa invaded. In an important display of international solidarity Cuba came to Angola’s defence. Thousands of Cuban troops, most of them Black, voluntarily enlisted to fight the racist South African regime. Contrary to Western claims, Cuba decided to intervene in Angola without Soviet input (Washington knew this at the time). Cuba’s intervention helped halt South Africa’s invasion.

This successful military victory by Black forces also helped bring down apartheid in South Africa. The famous township rebellion in Soweto took place three months after South Africa’s initial defeat in Angola. Nelson Mandela’s ANC noted “their [the South African army’s] racist arrogance shrank when our MPLA [Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola] comrades thrashed them in Angola.” For its part, Johannesburg’s Rand Daily Mail warned that the legacy of Angola resulted in “blows to South African pride.” The paper viewed the defeat as “the boost to African nationalism which has seen South Africa forced to retreat.” In a similar vein another South African analyst observed “whether the bulk of the offensive was by Cubans or Angolans is immaterial in the colour-conscious context of this war’s battlefield, for the reality is that they won, are winning, and are not white: and that psychological edge, that advantage the white man has enjoyed and exploited over 300 years of colonialism and empire, is slipping away. White elitism has suffered an irreversible blow in Angola and whites who have been there know it.”

Ottawa freaked out, diplomatically speaking. Trudeau stated: Canada disapproves with horror [of] participation of Cuban troops in Africa” and later terminated the Canadian International Development Agency’s small aid program in Cuba as a result.

Conversely, Ottawa funneled aid to Zambia during this period partly to support its “moderate” position in southern Africa’s racial conflict. In Canadian Development Assistance to Zambia Sinkala Sontwa explains how Ottawa “lent support to what they considered as Zambia’s moderate stand among the Front Line States on Southern African politics.”

A few years earlier Canadian officials expressed apprehension about providing indirect backing to Ghanaian and Tanzanian proponents of what Ottawa dubbed a “war of liberation” in southern Africa. At the end of the 1960s, Canada failed to renew its military training in Tanzania partly because the government provided limited support to the liberation movement on its southern border in Mozambique.

Canada’s position towards the African liberation struggles of the 1970s and 1980s should influence how we view deploying troops to the continent today. This history – and the media’s distortion of it – suggests the need for healthy dose of skepticism towards Ottawa’s intentions.

To paraphrase George Santayana, Canadians who cannot remember the past are condemned to allow the bad guys to repeat it.

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Capt. Lugard’s ghost still haunts the Mountains of the Moon


The peoples of Uganda did not agree to be a nation together. Constitutional settlements right from the colonial days have been attempts to subject others to a fait accompli imposed by dominant forces. It is a failed nation -project. Some people still feel that they are not part of an entity called Uganda.


The recent bloody conflict in and around Kasese revealed some serious cracks in the architecture of our country. Some of these cracks are visible. Some are hidden just beneath the surface.
This conflict is rooted in our history. In 1891 Captain Lugard the colonial honcho decided to forcibly put the Bakonzo under Toro dominion. Lugard with his maxim guns could not be easily defied. So the Bakonzo bore their servitude with quiet frustration.

On the eve of independence, the Bakonzo found their voice again. Even though the independence constitution of 1962 crafted under the watchful eye of the same colonial power put them under Toro Kingdom, the Bakonzo decided that they had had enough. Together with their kin the Bamba they jointly declared themselves independent of Toro. This obviously set them on a collision course with the new government of Uganda. This time they refused to submit. From 1962 till 1982 they waged a low intensity but often bloody resistance struggle.

In May 1971 President Idi Amin in an effort to find a solution set up a Commission of Inquiry of 11 ministers led by Valeriano Ovonji and Lt. Col. Musa. They investigated the fluid security situation around the Mountains of the Moon and made recommendations. The Commission agreed that the Bakonzo/Bamba should have their own local administration. Separation from Toro administration was a key demand. That is how the two districts of Rwenzori (Kasese) and Semliki (Bundibugyo) came into existence. A fragile peace then prevailed.

When the 1995 constitution was promulgated the Bakonzo/Bamba seized the opportunity to agitate for their own cultural institution. Between 1998 and 2009 there were protracted talks on the restoration of the Rwenzururu Kingdom and the legal recognition of their King. On 19 October 2009 the Obusinga (Kingdom) of Rwenzururu was recognized. King Charles Wesley Mumbere Iremangoma thus inherited the torch of the Rwenzururu struggle from his father. That’s the only context in which his efforts both peaceable and militant can be understood.

Last weekend we were all witnesses to the tragicomedy of a threadbare regime wrestling with the ghosts of a flawed state building project. While it is not fair to heap the blame entirely at the doorstep of Yoweri Museveni and his NRM, their failure to keep their promise of a fundamental change has to be pointed out. In 1986 Museveni promised a fundamental change. A re-engineering of our flawed political architecture. Instead of taking charge as an architect of national rebirth he has merely played the role of an interior decorator. One area where he has scored big is to bring Uganda’s unruly military institution under control. It remains to be seen however whether his legacy will be that for once Uganda will see peaceful change and a trans-regime army.

The Bible says “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The peoples of Uganda did not agree to be a nation together. Our constitutional settlements right from the colonial days have been attempts to subject others to a fait accompli imposed by dominant forces. The 1995 constitution was no different. The various amendments including the lifting of term limits have been further attempts by dominant forces to subject others to their will and whim.

We cannot undo the past but we have to accept that the cracks in our poorly engineered architecture are becoming more glaring and threaten to tear our country apart. After all no community filled out an application form to belong to the entity called Uganda. As identity politics engulf the world, Uganda is not immune to the ravages of separatist tendencies. We have to face the truth. Some communities no longer feel that Uganda is working for them.

In his write up after the Kasese firefight, Museveni insisted that the core interests of people are security and prosperity. With due respect, that is not true. Security and prosperity are but the fruits of a just society where all the peoples feel a sense of belonging. If anyone argues with this let them go and fling open the gates of any zoo. Despite the security and bountiful food in the confinement of a zoo, the animals will all run to freedom. They would rather fend for themselves and risk the wrath of predators than stay in the zoo. People risk life and limb for something more than just security and food on the table. That something more is what you have to offer people if you are building a nation.

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What should reparations for slavery entail?


In the light of the former British Prime Minister’s dismissal of reparations, activists must push the debate further by detailing what reparations should entail. Fundamental to a reparations programme must be the fact that we transform the system of capitalism which slavery gave birth to.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s insulting dismissal of trans-Atlantic slavery and his opinion that Africans and people of African descent should “move on from this painful legacy, and continue to build for the future,” would never be audaciously uttered to Jewish people by this arrogant warmonger who bombed Libya and sought to bomb Syria, but the British House of Commons voted against such action. As the African American actor Danny Glover said, the Jamaican government should tell Britain to “keep your prison, give us schools, give us infrastructure, not prisons.” [1] In addition, the Jamaican government should ask Cameron to return all the professional Jamaicans who are teachers, lecturers, health workers, IT consultants, etc. to Jamaica – instead of the criminals. Moreover, Cameron should then pay the salaries of these Jamaican professionals whilst they develop the economy of Jamaica for the almost 400 years that slavery lasted. In short, we must confront the reality that one of the reasons why there is a brain drain in the Caribbean and Africa is the lack of decent and attractive salaries to retain African professionals. Britain can foot the bill to address this inequality that sprung from slavery and colonialism.

It is necessary to advance the debate on whether Britain and the West in general (i.e. all those slave trading nations such as France, The Netherlands, Spain, the USA, Portugal, etc.) should pay reparations: what should reparations entail?

Acknowledging the atrocity and enormity of this experience is necessary in an official apology. Commentators have observed how the Maoris received an apology from the British Queen in 1995.[2] In 2008 the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised in parliament to all Aborigines for laws and policies that “inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss”.[3] It appears when it comes to Africans our lives, bodies and history do not matter. Racism will find various rationalisations (or excuses) to deny that enslavement of Africans merits an apology and reparations. Yet, we cannot erase the collective historical memory and experiences of enslavement that was wrought on people of African descent and continues with the covert and overt forms of racial discrimination that they still experience in the 21st century. Notions of racial supremacy and the inferiority of Black people are rooted in the brutal killings of Black males by white police officers in both the US and UK. Such notions stem from the legacy of slavery that gave rise to racist stereotypes harboured by racist societies that have institutionalised racism. Perhaps it should also be the case that in a programme of reparatory justice, there should be legal redress for the lives of the hundreds of Black men killed by racist police officers, as well as the people of African descent unjustly incarcerated in America’s prisons.

Whilst it is the case that no amount of financial compensation can address the psychological and emotional scars of enslavement of people of African descent, nor the horrors of the Middle Passage, nor those who remain buried in the Atlantic Ocean as a consequence of suicide, nor the 132 Africans deliberately thrown overboard in 1786 on the slave ship Zong – in order that the ship owners could claim the insurance  – a comprehensive economic package needs to address the fact that the current economic and technological underdevelopment of Africa and the Caribbean is symptomatic of the impact of 400 years of enslavement. This enslavement was followed by the brief but no less damaging interlude of colonialism and must be recognised as central to any form of reparations.

There are those who refuse to accept the fact that the economic wealth of Europe was built on the sweat, blood and toil of African people to the detriment of Africa. Yet, let us be clear that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was not a “trade”. The meaning of “trade” supposes equal benefit to both parties.  It was not “trade” but the looting of Africa in which Europe benefitted at the expense of Africa as Walter Rodney graphically illustrates in his acclaimed book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.”  The consequence for Africa was and remains that “the African economy taken as a whole was diverted away from its previous line of development and became distorted.”[4]

Reparations is therefore a quest to repair the economic damage of underdevelopment wrought by the process of enslavement and colonialism. This economic redress will be symbolic for it may run into trillions of dollars, for one can never place an economic value on the millions of Africans whose lives were lost in the slave raids, or as they died in the long march to the forts on the coast. How many died on such journeys? Can we account for those enslaved women who secretly aborted or killed their child to prevent them from experiencing slavery? And should we not include the medical experimentations carried out on the bodies of enslaved African women graphically documented in the books “From Midwives to Medicine” and “Medical Apartheid”? [5]

As for the psychological impact of enslavement, that too is another site of struggle that people of African descent must address through spiritual and psychological healing as well as education in which they reconnect to understanding and learning about their history prior to enslavement.  For it is essential for Africans and the world to know that Africans had a rich and complex history prior to the holocaust of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Also, it is important for us to remember that on the ending of slavery in the British colonies, the British government were able to compensate the slave owners £20 million (£20 billion in today’s money). There was no compensation for the former enslaved African men and women. In the USA there were pledges to the freed men and women of “forty acres and a mule” that never materialised across the board.[6]

Hence, we need to address the question: What should reparations for slavery entail? It should address the following:

First, an apology to all continental Africans and people of African descent for the immorality of slavery, for merely stating “regret” – as the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair did in 2007 – is mere cant.[7] The former Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson stated recently in an open letter to David Cameron: “Contrary to your view, the Caribbean people will never emerge completely from the “long, dark shadow” of slavery until there is a full confession of guilt by those who committed this evil atrocity.”[8]

Second, we must demand that all Western governments instruct Western museums and citizens to hand over to African countries illicitly acquired African artefacts languishing both publicly and privately in their hidden vaults. They must also provide the training and facilities for African countries to host, display and conserve these returned items. This includes thousands of artefacts, among them being the more famous and well known 400 Ethiopian treasures looted by British soldiers during the 1868 Magdala expedition. [9] There are also the Benin bronzes looted in the British invasion of the Nigerian kingdom of Benin in 1896.[10] Kwame Opoku has diligently written on the need for these and many other African artefacts to be returned to African nations.

Third, as mentioned above, the brain drain of African and African Caribbean professionals should be halted by offering these professionals the same salaries to voluntarily return to Africa and the Caribbean in order to assist in the building of new schools, universities, hospitals and clinics that would be set up and financed by a comprehensive reparations economic programme.

Fourth, cancellation of all debt incurred by the Caribbean and African nations on the grounds that they are odious and were not incurred by the ordinary citizens of Africa and the Caribbean but rather their ruling classes. Cancellation would free up these critical funds to address the real needs of African citizens. Moreover, it is the case that Africa loses approximately $50 billion a year through illicit financial flows out of which are draining foreign exchange reserves, reducing tax collection and deepening poverty. This colossal amount may well be short of the reality as accurate figures do not exist for all African countries. However, it is approximately double the official development assistance (ODA) that Africa receives.[11] In short, aid is simply a paltry and ineffective band aid that keeps African economies in a continued process of economic subordination to neoliberal capitalism under the illusion that there will be “trickle down growth.” Blocking the haemorrhaging of illicit financial flows and tax dodging would ensure there are funds and resources to build railways to connect African people and economies; invest in adult education that is almost non-existent in Africa compared to primary, secondary and university education; massively expand electrification, greener energy forms for ordinary citizens and provide employment for African people, particularly the youth.

Overall, a dialogue within progressive activist circles and among progressive Europeans, genuinely committed to addressing the profound inequities of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism needs to begin. Farmers, women’s groups, young people, people with disabilities, LBGTI individuals, academics, professional people in the Caribbean and Africa must be involved in this trans-Atlantic dialogue on what reparations should entail, as well as, creating progressive governments and leadership (compared to the current compliant neo-colonial incumbents), to push for a reparations programme.

Ultimately, in addressing the issue of reparations, we must also address transforming the system of capitalism which slavery gave birth to. A rupture with this unequal and exploitative system is fundamental in eliminating oppression that remains with us in the twenty first century in reconfigured forms.

* Dr. Ama Biney is a historian and political scientist living in UK.

End notes

[1] See… accessed 13 October 2015

[2] See accessed 14 October 2015.

[3] See   accessed 13 October 2015.

[4] See ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ by Walter Rodney, Howard University Press, 1982, p. 109.

[5] See “From Midwives to Medicine The Birth of American Gynecology” by Deborah Kuhn McGregor, published by Rutgers University Press, 1998; Medical Apartheid The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black American From Colonial Times to the Present? By Harriet A. Washington, Doubleday, 2006.

[6] See   accessed 15 October 2015.

[7] See   accessed 13 October 2015.

[8] See accessed 14th October 2015.

[9] See accessed 15 October 2015.

[10] See  accessed 14 October 2015.

[11] See  accessed 14 October 2015.

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Behind Morocco’s new tango with the African Union

Facebook/ King Mohammed

The next African Union summit will be on January 31, 2017 in Addis Ababa, where Morocco is hoping to achieve its sinister agenda against Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony. The honourable thing for the AU is to rebuff Morocco’s arm-twisting and vigorously support the self-determination of the Saharawi people.

Morocco is currently courting a number of African countries relentlessly, including Madagascar, Tanzania, Rwanda, and others. Morocco has signed 19 economic agreements with Rwanda and 22 with Tanzania—two countries that traditionally backed Western Sahara’s quest for decolonization. Nigeria and Morocco have signed a total of 21 bilateral agreements, a joint venture to construct a gas pipeline that will connect the two nations as well as some other African countries to Europe. It is easily clear that the economic agreements with these countries imply ulterior motives for increasing Morocco’s leverage in its campaign to return to the African Union (AU) and deal a blow to Western Sahara’s aspirations for self-determination. Morocco is waging a similar campaign internationally and in the halls of the U.S. Congress by hiring expensive lobbyists and sleazy public relations firms

In this endeavor, it appears Morocco is making significant progress in isolating Western Sahara. Kenya, which once supported Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), reversed course in 2007 and now Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed, candidate to head the African Union Commission, is calling for holding, as quickly as possible, “the referendum on Western Sahara people’s self-determination.” Zambia has similarly vacillated after early support for the cause of Western Sahara. According to WikiLeaks, at least until 2009 Ethiopia’s position was to recognize the SADR, declared by the Polisario (Western Sahara’s guerrilla army) in 1976 as its representative body. It still remains to be seen how countries will vote when it really matters.

Ironically, according to the WikiLeaks, Eritrea’s position is unknown but is not listed among the countries that recognized SADR, although the history of the territory bears striking resemblance to its own struggle for independence from Ethiopia and the independence struggles of Belize and East Timor. Both Belize and East Timor recognize SADR. Africa committed itself to maintain colonial borders, drawn arbitrarily in the 19th and 20th centuries, after the collapse of European colonialism. This commitment was not made because those borders made any sense: borders were rarely congruent with ethnic geographical homelands or previous historical delineations. One can debate the pros and cons of this but Africa made the decision in Cairo in 1964 to keep these borders in order to avoid disruptive and endless conflict of trying to rearrange colonial boundaries to fit language groups or ethnicities. For better or worse, that is what was decided with the Cairo resolution (AHG/Res. 16(I)). Nevertheless, Morocco is choosing to mess with that resolution by gobbling up Western Sahara.

But why does Morocco need the AU? And why does it need to bribe the African countries in order to return to the continental body as dysfunctional and weak as it is? The explanation for this dubious posturing lies in Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara and its need to legitimize it by enlisting as many African countries as possible to accept Western Sahara’s fate as fait accompli. Morocco has been occupying or colonizing (take your pick) the territory since 1974. Recently, U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki Moon characterized Morocco as an occupying force in Western Sahara, which obviously did not sit well with Morocco.


Western Sahara consists of the former Spanish colonies of Rio de Oro (River of Gold) and Saqiet al-Hamra (Red Creek) along the Atlantic coast, until the Spanish dictator Franco decided to leave the territories in 1974. The territory’s natural resources include phosphates, offshore fishing and potential oil. Morocco’s occupation has been aided by Spain and France (former colonizers) acting through the United Nations. Mauritania was also an early protagonist in occupying a part of Western Sahara but abandoned its claim after being soundly defeated by the Polisario, which precipitated the collapse of the Mauritanian government. Between Western Sahara and Morocco, there has been an impasse and a no-war, no-peace status quo since 1991, after a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations. Morocco has proposed “internal autonomy” for Western Sahara, but the Saharawis insist on a United Nations supervised referendum vote, with independence on the table. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) after consideration of materials and information provided by both sides concluded there is no evidence:

“…establish[ING] any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity… the Court has not found legal ties of such a nature as might affect the application of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) in the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory.”

In a rare show of some backbone, the OAU welcomed Western Sahara’s membership, which incensed Morocco and caused its withdrawal from the organization in 1984—making it the only country to do so in the history of the organization. This was a strategic mistake by Morocco, which it seems to have finally realized. It is notable that the only country vocally supporting the Moroccan position at the time was the kleptocracy of Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire. Upon his overthrow, Mobutu was granted asylum in Togo but died in Morocco in 1997, where he was receiving medical treatment.

Morocco is now undergoing a change of heart and wants to join the successor to the O.A.U., the AU. Does this mean it wants to coexist with the Western Sahara within the “AU family,” perhaps rediscovering its African identity? The short answer is no. It is more like a change in tactics by trying to use the organization for its objective of neutralizing Western Sahara from inside the AU. Already, it has the backing of 28 African countries. However, it needs two thirds (36) of the votes from the 54 member countries of the AU to get SADR expelled. To return to the organization, it only needs a simple majority while overcoming resistance from powerful countries like South Africa and Algeria along with Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea. South Africa and Algeria have been reliable allies for SADR. This move by Morocco has become a terribly divisive wedge issue within the AU.

Outside Africa, Morocco has powerful support for its position from influential Gulf States such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, which are not members of the AU, but which can still use their political influence and the power of the purse to coerce and lobby cash-strapped African countries and the United Nations. In a clear show of muscle, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and UAE walked out from a meeting of the Arab and African foreign ministers meeting, which was held in the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, in preparation for the fourth Arab-African summit, because of opposition to the presence of a delegation from SADR. Notable here are Saudi Arabian and UAE’s forceful expressions of solidarity with Morocco.

Among African countries, Senegal strongly backs Morocco’s position, undoubtedly due to great pressure from France and Moroccan economic investors in Senegal. Morocco is also the largest investor in Ivory Coast and therefore can count on strong Ivorian support. Morocco has stronger support in Francophone Africa.

Tit for tat with Egypt

In a setback for Morocco, relations with Egypt have been strained visibly since the end of October due to President Abdelfattah El Sissi permitting a delegation from the Polisario Front to enter Sharm El-Sheikh in an official capacity. The delegation reportedly met with presidents of Arab and African parliaments and with members of the Egyptian legislature during its stay. The visit by the King of Morocco to Addis Ababa is likely in retaliation by Rabat to exploit Cairo’s ongoing dispute with Addis Ababa over the sharing of Nile waters and specifically over the issues surrounding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia has been accusing Egypt of helping and stoking the ongoing ethnic rebellions in Ethiopia.

Illegal mining of Western Sahara’s potash

Morocco is exploiting and using Western Sahara’s potash resource to bribe and lobby countries like Ethiopia, casting doubt on the sincerity of its offer for “internal autonomy” to the territory.

According to the

“Two Canadian fertilizer firms have become the dominant buyers of phosphate rock from the disputed territory of Western Sahara after other companies stopped the practice… Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) found that Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. shipped a combined 916,000 tonnes of phosphate from the territory last year. That accounted for 64.5 per cent of all purchases from Western Sahara in 2015. Potash Corp. shipped 474,000 tonnes and Agrium shipped 442,000…”

Unholy overtures

At a time when the Ethiopian government is gripped by nationwide protests and foreign businesses are fleeing the country, there have been headlines that “Morocco signed an agreement…to invest over two billion dollars in Ethiopia over a five year period to build a fertilizer factory.” The Financial Times reported that the OCP (Morocco’s state-owned phosphate company) sealed a deal to build $3.7bn fertilizer plant in Ethiopia. This is hailed as the largest investment of Morocco outside the country and as an example of South-South cooperation. The dubious clue for this motive is to be found in “Ethiopia’s support for Morocco’s return to the African institutional family …articulated in a joint statement issued following King Mohammed VI’s … visit to Ethiopia, the first since his accession to the throne.”

Here, it needs to be asked: where is this resource feeding the fertilizer company coming from? And why is Ethiopia chosen for such an investment? Is this deal another case of partnership-in-crime?

Moroccan robbery of Western Sahara’s resources is widespread. Hillary Clinton was complicit with relaxing U.S. foreign aid restrictions on Morocco during her tenure as Secretary of State, allowing U.S. funds to be used in the territory of Western Sahara where OCP operates phosphate-mining operations. Collaterally, Hillary’s favor to Morocco resulted in $12 million for the Clinton Foundation, courtesy of King Mohammed VI.

Morocco’s questionable commitment to South- South cooperation

Ethiopia is seen as key for Morocco’s goals, as a founding member of the OAU hosting the headquarters of the AU’s Chinese-funded 200-million-dollar building in Addis Ababa, showcasing Chinese soft power. Morocco is framing its charm offensive in Africa in terms of South- South cooperation. But what really is Morocco’s commitment to South-South cooperation? Like Ethiopia, Morocco’s commitment, first of all, is commitment to an extreme form of neoliberalism and to an environmental narrative that blames pastoralists and their overgrazing practices as an excuse for invading and appropriating land for commercial agriculture and other land grabs. In Morocco, state services such as health care and education have faced drastic reduction. The promotion of exports and the lowering of tariffs is the reality. For the majority of their populations, rampant degradation and poverty are the reality in both countries.

A central tenet of South-South cooperation is poverty reduction, but neoliberalist market fundamentalism is incompatible with reducing inequality and protecting the environment. The beneficiaries from these policies are the elite and international capitalists and their results are a far cry from South-to-South cooperation that would alleviate poverty. Even the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was used by Morocco to insert itself in the 16 November 2016 meeting of the Africa Action Summit in Marrakesh. King Mohammed VI was the new face in the meeting, clearly pushing his campaign to get rid of SADR from the AU.

The struggle to deal seriously with climate change should not be circumvented by the unjust political agendas of opportunistic leaders. As Hamza Hamouchene of War on Want articulates: there cannot be authentic environmental justice in Morocco when its government ignores the political rights of the Saharawi people.

In 2009, in his capacity as a designated negotiator, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi betrayed the G77’s and Africa’s collective stance in Copenhagen by making a back-door deal with France retreating from the agreed upon 1.5 degrees Celsius target to 2 degrees and thereby dealing a serious blow to the bargaining capacity of the global South. As Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones magazine wrote:

“The major powers welcomed Ethiopia’s defection from the 1.5-degree target. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown…endorsed the side deal with France….Obama placed a call to Zenawi [in which he] expressed his appreciation for the leadership [of] the Prime Minister… [In negotiating] with African countries on climate change.”

The truth was that Meles used Copenhagen to further his own immediate agenda at the expense of Africa in much the same way that King Mohammed VI used COP22 to support Morocco’s agenda of denying the rights of the Saharawi people.

Moroccan and Ethiopian versions of South-to-South cooperation is simply a repackaged version of neoliberalism based on extractive activities and destroying the lives of the most vulnerable. It is not a coincidence that both Ethiopia and Morocco are facing internal resistance from their populations, which they are trying to suppress with extreme violence.

The brutal death of the fish seller Mouhcine Fikri in the northern Moroccan town of Al Hoceima while trying to rescue his swordfish is being compared with the Tunisian fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi in 2010, whose death sparked the Arab Spring uprisings. Neoliberal privatization is preventing and displacing folks who have been selling or consuming fish for as long as they have been living in the coastal towns of Morocco. In Ethiopia, it is land grab and extreme repression that is having similar effect on communities in Gambella, Benishangul, and the Amhara region, Sidama, Konso, Ogaden and Oromia.

January 31, 2017, in Addis Ababa is the next AU summit, where Morocco is hoping to achieve its sinister goal against SADR. The honorable thing for the AU to do is to rebuff Morocco’s arm-twisting and vigorously support the self-determination of the Saharawi people.

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Kids in US Immigration Detention Ask Santa for Freedom

  • A child detainee and her letter asking Santa for "freedom"
    A child detainee and her letter asking Santa for “freedom” | Photo: ACLU

“Dear Santa Claus, I want a present and that present should be my liberty,” wrote one 2-year-old facing his second Christmas behind bars.

The Obama administration refuses to release children held for a second year in the notorious Berks immigration detention center, despite a federal court ruling that they should be immediately released into the care of family members in the U.S.

RELATED: Striking Immigrant Moms Forced to Eat or See Kids Confiscated

Seventeen mothers and their 19 children, all fleeing the violence of the U.S. war on drugs in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, remain in the controversial Pennsylvania facility as they await an appeal to the Supreme Court about the legality of their detention and deportation orders.

“This is a very sad, very painful time (for) my son,” one mother told The Guardian. “I knew I couldn’t trust my own government in Honduras, that they wouldn’t protect us. But we came here to the United States of America thinking that this was the home of human rights, that we would find protection here. I never dreamed we would be treated this way.”

This single mother, whose 2-year-old son Said has now spent almost half his life behind bars, has been jailed by the Obama administration for 422 days, sharing a single room with two other mothers and their children.

Said wrote to Santa, “Dear Santa Claus, I want a present and that present should be my liberty.”

“Dear Santa Claus. I am a girl who has her whole life ahead of her and I want the same freedom as any other girl and on this day, the only thing I ask is to be with the person who is waiting for me on the outside and that person has a very tiny heart (referring to her baby sister),” wrote another child detainee.

RELATED: ‘Deporter-In-Chief’ Obama Targets Families, Not Felons

Yet another wrote, “I want to get out of here with my mommy.”

While many have expressed deep fears about President-elect Trump’s plans to deport millions, these mothers and their allies highlight the ongoing cruelty of the Obama administration’s immigration detention policy.

“We’ve been asking for two and a half years why Obama and his administration are so recalcitrant in detaining children. It is 100 percent his administration that put family detention on steroids and it is 100 percent within his power to end it,” said Carol Anne Donohoe, an immigration lawyer representing many of the Berks families. “Obama has paved the way for everything Trump is now threatening,” she added.

Numerous studies have identified the severe damage Obama’s indefinite detention policy inflicts on children, from PTSD to depression and suicidal ideation, all of which have been documented in the children held at the Berks facility. Indeed these findings led to a recent federal court ruling which ordered the immediate release the children held at Berks into the custody of U.S. relatives, an order which the Obama administration continues to violate.

“We are not criminals or delinquents to spend so much time in a prison. My son doesn’t want to be here, the only present he wants is to get out. Every day he watches the visitors arrive in their cars and he shouts at them through the window: ‘Take me away! Take me with you!’” Amaro said.

Given the intransigence of the Obama administration, advocates have recently focussed their efforts on state officials to step in. Earlier this week, they staged a demonstration outside the detention center calling on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to issue an executive order to close the facility in compliance with the federal court ruling.

In one final letter shared with the Guardian, one child wrote, “Dear Santa, I love computers, PlayStation, go to the beach, video games, but in here it’s not allowed. That’s why I want my liberty. I also love roast beef pupusas. I’m 6 years old.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Kids in US Immigration Detention Ask Santa for Freedom

Presidential Pardons and the United States’ Unpardonable Crimes

  • From L-R: Oscar López Rivera, Leonard Peltier, Chelsea Manning, and Mumia Abu-Jamal
    From L-R: Oscar López Rivera, Leonard Peltier, Chelsea Manning, and Mumia Abu-Jamal | Photo: teleSUR
The U.S. has its own fair share of prisoners of conscience, as well as crimes against humanity that it needs to answer for.

Over recent decades, the United States has strived to perfect the art of the double standard in the international arena, with impressive results. For example, it is now known that when other countries allegedly meddle in the internal affairs of sovereign nations it’s called meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, but when the U.S. does it it’s called freedom and democracy promotion.

RELATED: Nicaragua Faces Down Another Deadbeat Intervention

When other people commit terrorism it’s called terrorism; when the U.S. commits terrorism, on the other hand, it’s called collateral damage, an accident, unfortunate — or freedom and democracy promotion.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a surplus of hypocrisy is also on display in jailing patterns in the U.S., where the highest incarceration rate in the world continues to disproportionately punish Black people and where crimes resulting in life sentences have included shoplifting three belts.

Despite regularly lambasting Cuba and other locales on the issue of political prisoners, the U.S. has its own fair share of prisoners of conscience — some of whom are now occupying a bit more media space than usual on account of the denouement of Barack Obama’s term and the countdown on opportunities for presidential pardons.

Among the most visible prisoners is, of course, Chelsea Manning, sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison for transferring classified government documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

So much for freedom.

In his book “The Passion of Chelsea Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower,” U.S. civil rights attorney Chase Madar offers a description of Manning’s treatment over nine months of pre-trial solitary confinement in Virginia, where she was prohibited from exercising in her cell, required to respond every five minutes to guards, and forced to sleep naked after suggesting that underwear might be an effective suicide instrument.

Madar wonders: “Why was Manning treated like the inmate of a Soviet psychiatric prison?”

The short answer, perhaps, is “double standard.”

But let’s reflect on the nature of Manning’s alleged “crime” — by which she was deemed to be imperiling “national security” and all of that good stuff. Regarding the leaking of classified material, Madar points out that in 2010 the U.S. managed to frenetically classify no fewer than 77 million documents.

As for the contents of subsequently leaked items, he notes that these included such information as that “the Congo is rich in mineral wealth … (and) that the Strait of Gibraltar is — get the smelling salts — a vital shipping lane.” Apparently, there can never be too many state secrets.

RELATED: How Human Rights Sell War

Among the more noteworthy items leaked by Manning was the video — released by WikiLeaks with the title Collateral Murder — of a 2007 U.S. helicopter massacre of Iraqis, including a Reuters photographer. The U.S. military perpetrators of the bloodbath can be heard laughing and emitting satisfied comments like: “Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.” On the basis of this video, it would seem that Manning’s great crime was simply to facilitate confirmation of what anyone paying attention already knew: that the U.S. military engages in criminal behavior worldwide with near-total impunity.

The U.S. drew a typically backward lesson from the affair, and further solidified its commitment to violating justice by imprisoning the messenger. A recent article in Britain’s New Statesman magazine in honor of Manning’s 29th birthday on December 17 observes that “after six years of punishment in conditions that have been at times unlawful and always outrageous, she has already served longer than anyone convicted of similar offenses.”

Another political prisoner awaiting liberation from the U.S. penal system is septuagenarian Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera, in jail for three-and-a-half decades thus far — much of that time in solitary confinement. The Guardian sums up his transgression as follows: “He is convicted of killing no one, of hurting no one. His crime was ‘seditious conspiracy’ – plotting against the U.S. state in the furtherance of Puerto Rican independence.”

So much for America’s alleged realization, centuries ago, that it’s not cool to be a colony. Again, the double standard rears its ugly head: Puerto Ricans can fight America’s wars — as López Rivera did in Vietnam — but they can’t fight for their own independence, or even their right to vote in the U.S.

According to The Guardian, the “Mandela of Puerto Rico” spends his days exercising, painting, reading, teaching fellow inmates Spanish, and otherwise making the most of his eternity behind bars. There have been numerous calls worldwide for Obama to release the man, while Fox News — true to form — has produced some convincing counter-pleas warning audiences that “before ISIS, there was the FALN (López Rivera’s former organization), the most prolific terrorist group ever to attack the United States.”

It sure is difficult to be an American these days, caught between an encroaching caliphate and a tiny island.

Beyond the likes of Manning and López Rivera, there are plenty of long-term detainees who technically qualify as political prisoners — even if they aren’t officially categorized as such by self-appointed international authorities on such matters—by virtue of the fact that the U.S. finds it politically inexpedient to let them go.

Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal comes to mind, as does Native American activist Leonard Peltier, the latter currently languishing in prison for the 1975 murder of two FBI agents. The judicial process leading to said conviction was, to put it mildly, exceptionally flawed. Amnesty International notes that “the (U.S. Parole) Commission acknowledged (to Peltier) that, ‘the prosecution has conceded the lack of any direct evidence that you personally participated in the executions’” of the agents.

Ultimately, any pardon from Obama should be celebrated for obvious reasons. But no quantity of pardons can absolve him of his shameful legacy vis-à-vis humanity, much less atone for the United States’ enduring and unpardonable crimes.

Posted in USAComments Off on Presidential Pardons and the United States’ Unpardonable Crimes

Bana al-Abed of Twitter Fame Meets Turkey’s Erdogan

  • Bana al-Abed and family meeting Turkey
    Bana al-Abed and family meeting Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Dec. 22, 2016. | Photo: Reuters
The meeting, which included al-Abed’s opposition fighter father became an official photo op.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with 7-year-old Bana al-Abed and her family in a carefully staged photo opportunity at the presidential palace in Ankara Wednesday, after their evacuation from Aleppo earlier this week.

RELATED: Injured or Not, Syrian Kids Are Exploited by Anti-Assad Forces

Turkish officials reported that Erdogan had personally sent a special envoy to Syria to airlift Bana and her family to Turkey during the evacuation of anti-government forces in eastern Aleppo began earlier this week.

The meeting, which included al-Abed’s father who is reportedly a fighter with the al-Safwa Islamic Battalions, comes as the Syrian army liberated Aleppo as the country fights the military and media war against it.

Bana, who began tweeting from opposition-controlled eastern Aleppo in September, quickly amassed almost 300,000 Twitter followers — many, some say — coming from fake accounts as part of a project to promote the anti-government forces.

RELATED: Journalists Square Off over Credibility of Syrian Coverage

The Twitter account, managed by Bana’s English teacher mother Fatemah — but allegedly written by Bana herself — was often cited in mainstream new coverage of the siege of Aleppo.

Many, however, questioned the account’s authenticity, suggesting the linguistic, political, and digital sophistication of Bana’s tweets were well beyond the capacities of a 7-year-old writing in her second or third language.

Others still raised concerns about how quickly Western journalists and their readers were willing to take Bana’s tweets at face value without any authentication of the account’s location or author. Some have argued that in an era of “fake news” and in a conflict saturated with partisan propaganda on all sides, it was all too easy to suspend the normal journalistic standards of critically examining sources.

“It’s always a question of whether a 7-year-old is being used as a propaganda tool, and if so, by whom,” Jane E. Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, told the New York Times. “Sometimes we fall in love with a concept and basically ignore things that would undermine that concept, and ignore things that should be red flags.”

Posted in Syria, TurkeyComments Off on Bana al-Abed of Twitter Fame Meets Turkey’s Erdogan

Zionist Trump Wants Obama to Veto UN Vote Against Jewish Settlements

Trump Wants Obama to Veto UN Vote Against Israeli Settlements
  • U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R)
    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) | Photo: Reuters
The resolution would demand Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the Obama administration on Thursday to veto a U.N. Security Council draft resolution calling for an immediate halt to illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

RELATED: Trump’s Son-In-Law Financed Israeli Extremists and Settlements

Netanyahu took to Twitter in the dead of night in Israel to make the appeal, saying “The U.S. should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.”

Hours later, Trump echoed the Israeli leader’s statement, arguing in a post on Twitter and Facebook that: “The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed.”

Trump said that “as the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”

“This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis,” he wrote.

Egypt circulated the draft Wednesday evening and the 15-member council is due to vote at 3 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) on Thursday, diplomats said. It was unclear, they said, how the United States, which has often protected Israel from U.N. action, would vote.

RELATED: UN Tells Israel to Stop Building Settlements. Building Surges.

The resolution would demand Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” The White House declined to comment.

Much of the international community considers the settlements in occupied territory to be illegal, with numerous United Nations resolutions calling the settlements a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The settlements are also largely funded by private tax-exempt U.S. NGOs, with an estimated US$220 million for 2009-2013 alone, according to a recent investigation.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Zionist Trump Wants Obama to Veto UN Vote Against Jewish Settlements

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