Archive | Africa

Death in the Congo, Why Did the US Want to Kill Patrice Lumumba?

Columbia University and the Elimination of Patrice Lumumba Revisited Part I

Featured image: Former Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Patrice Lumumba (Source: Bob Feldman 68)

“…I have learned much about William A.M. Burden II from Peggy and I… I was best acquainted with his 20-year tenure… as Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA] and his contribution to the quality of the output of this “think tank’s serving the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff…His government service reached its apogee during his two years, 1959-61, as Ambassador to Belgium…He has been most responsive over these years also to the needs of Columbia University which he has served as a trustee…” – General and former IDA President Maxwell Taylor in foreword to Columbia University Life Trustee William A.M. Burden’s 1982 book, Peggy and I: A Life Too Busy For A Dull Moment

“Before I accepted my ambassadorship in Belgium I had been given in 1957…appointment as ‘a public trustee’ of the Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA]. It became one of the top priorities of my life…I…was elected chairman in May, 1959…One of the unfortunate side-effects of the student protest movement against the Vietnam War was that IDA itself became a target for anti-war protests, and its member universities were subjected to faculty and student pressure to cancel their ties…” – Columbia University Life Trustee William A.M. Burden in his 1982 book, Peggy and I

“Only prudent, therefore to plan on basis that Lumumba Government threatens our vital interests in Congo and Africa generally. A principal objective of our political and diplomatic action must therefore be to destroy Lumumba government as now constituted…” – Columbia University Life Trustee and U.S. Ambassador to Belgium William A.M. Burden in a July 19, 1960 cable to the U.S. State Department

“The Belgians were sort of toying with the idea of seeing to it that Lumumba was assassinated. I went beyond my instructions and said, well, I didn’t think it would be a bad idea either, but I naturally never reported this to Washington—but Lumumba was assassinated. I think it was all to the good…” – Columbia University Life Trustee William A. M. Burden in a 1968 Oral History Interview with Columbia University School of Journalism’s Advanced International Reporting Program Director John Luter


When Columbia and Barnard students first occupied Hamilton Hall on Columbia University’s campus on Apr. 23, 1968, one of their six demands was “that the university sever all ties with the Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA] and that [then-Columbia] President Kirk and Trustee Burden resign their positions on the Executive Committee of that institution immediately.”

Image result for Columbia Life Trustee William A.M. Burden

Columbia Life Trustee William A.M. Burden (Source: Find A Grave Memorial)

Coincidentally, besides representing Columbia University—with the (now-deceased) Grayson Kirk—on the Executive Committee of the Pentagon’s IDA weapons research think-tank in 1968, Columbia Life Trustee William A.M. Burden was also the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium who recommended fifty-seven years ago, in July 1960, that “a principal objective” of the Republican administration in Washington, D.C. of former Columbia University President Eisenhower “must therefore be to destroy” the democratically-elected “Lumumba government as now constituted” in Belgium’s former Congo [Zaire] colony. As David Talbot recalled in his 2015 book, The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government:

Dulles, Doug Dillon (then serving as a State Department undersecretary), and William Burden, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, led the charge within the Eisenhower administration to first demonize and then dispose of [Patrice] Lumumba. All three men had financial interests in the Congo. The Dillon family’s investment bank handled the Congo’s bond issues. Dulles’s old law firm represented the American Metal Climax (later AMAX), a mining giant with holdings in the Congo…Ambassador Burden was a company director…Ambassador Burden was a Vanderbilt heir…

Burden, who had acquired his ambassadorship by contributing heavily to the 1956 Eisenhower campaign, spent his days in Brussels attending diplomatic receptions…It was the ambassador who first raised alarms about the rising Patrice LumumbaBurden began sending agitated cables to Dulles in Washington well before Lumumba’s election…By the…summer [of 1960], Burden was cabling Washington ‘to destroy Lumumba government’ as a threat to ‘our vital interest in Congo.’…”

“…At an NSC [National Security Council] meeting in August 1960, Eisenhower gave [CIA Director Allen] Dulles direct approval to ‘eliminate’ Lumumba. Robert Johnson, the minutes taker at the NSC meeting…said there was nothing ambiguous about Eisenhower’s lethal order. ‘I was surprised that I would ever hear a president say anything like this in my presence or the presence of a group of people’…

“…Lumumba ‘would remain a grave danger,’ Dulles told an NSC meeting on Sept. 21, 1960, ‘as long as he was not yet disposed of.’…”

A Life Trustee of Columbia University since 1956, Burden (who died in 1984) was among the “people in the Eisenhower administration” who “hunted for ways to reduce Lumumba’s influence” and, along with CIA Director Allen Dulles “and the CIA’s man in Leopoldville [Kinshasa],” Larry Devlin, “devised actions,” according to Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Professor of History Emmanuel Gerard and University of Pennsylvania Professor of History Bruce Kuklick’s 2015 book, Death in the Congo: Murdering Patrice Lumumba.

The same book also noted that Devlin, was “a CIA agent from the late 1940s” who “began spying for the CIA in Brussels, where he had a cover position as an attaché’” in 1958 and where he “made contacts with the Congo’s politicians, who came to Belgium for various deliberations.” After his appointment as the CIA’s chief of station in the Congo in “the second part of 1959,” Devlin “went there with Burden” in March 1960, when the Columbia Life Trustee and his wife traveled through the still not-yet independent Belgian Congo. Coincidentally, besides being a Columbia trustee in 1960, Burden was also a trustee of the Farfield Foundation that was utilized by the CIA, during the Cold War Era of the 1950s and 1960s, as a conduit for covertly financing projects and journals, like the American Congress of Cultural Freedom [CCF] and Encounter magazine, which promoted U.S. power elite foreign policy objectives.

Following his March 1960 trip to the Congo with CIA Station Chief Devlin, “Burden told the Department of State that America could not permit the Congo to go left after independence,” according to Death in the Congo. And after the Congo [Zaire] was granted its formal independence on June 30, 1960, the Columbia Life Trustee–who also “maintained during his ambassadorship, a directorship in American Metal Climax, whose Rhodesian copper interests were to make it the leading corporate defender of a conservative order…in Katanga (where Belgian troops began supporting an illegally-established secessionist regime on July 11, 1960), according to Roger Housen’s 2002 paper “Why Did The US Want To Kill Prime Minister Lumumba Of The Congo?”–began pushing for the removal of the democratically-elected anti-imperialist Lumumba as Congolese Prime Minister in July 1960. As Madeline Kalb observed in her 1982 book, The Congo Cables: The Cold War in Africa:

“The U.S. Embassy in Brussels, replying to the U.S. State Department’s query on July 19…took a very strong line regarding Lumumba, recommending openly for the first time that the United States try to remove him from office. The U.S. ambassador,William Burden, said he believed the situation called for ‘urgent measures on various levels.’…Burden concluded by noting that while the U.S. Embassy in Leopoldville [Kinshasa] had the primary responsibility for dealing with the internal political situation in the Congo, the CIA in Brussels would be ‘reporting separately some specific suggestions.’”

The Death in the Congo book also noted:

“…Burden barraged Washington with memos asking greater sympathy for the [Belgian] imperialists…He understood, he told [then-U.S.] Secretary [of State Christian] Herter, why the United States would look at issues from the point of view of the Congo. Nevertheless, America should instead pressure the UN to support Belgium. At the end of July Burden briefed Dulles when returned to Washington for discussions. From Europe, Burden would continue as a mouthpiece for the more rabid anticommunism guiding Dulles’s report to the NSC [National Security Council]…”

Lawrence R. Devlin in the early 1960s when he was station chief in Congo. (Source: The New York Times)

Columbia Trustee Burden also apparently pressured Time magazine’s then-owner, Henry Luce, to not do a Lumumba cover story, with Lumumba’s picture on the front of the magazine, during July 1960 discussions in Paris about the Congolese political situation between Burden and U.S. Ambassador to France Amory Houghton, U.S. Ambassador to the Congo  Clair “Tim” Timberlake and CIA Chief of Station in the Congo Larry Devlin. As Devlin recalled in his 2007 book Chief of Station, Congo: A Memoir of 1960-67:

“We [Devlin and “Tim” Timberlake] moved to Ambassador Houghton’s office where we were joined by Ambassador Burden for more detailed talks concerning the Congo and its problems. We were provided lodging at Ambassador Houghton’s residence and dined there with the two ambassadors. During our discussions, Tim brought up a delicate matter: ‘Time magazine plans to do a cover story on Lumumba with his picture on the front of the magazine.’ He continued, ‘Celebrity coverage at home will make him even more difficult to deal with. He’s a first-class headache as it is.’

“’Then why don’t you get the story killed?’ Burden asked. ‘Or at least modified?’

“’I tried to persuade the Time man in Leopoldville [Kinshasa] until I was blue in the face,’ Tim replied. ‘But he said there was nothing he could do about it because the story had already been sent to New York.’

“’You can’t expect much from a journalist at that level,’ Burden said pulling out his address book and flipping through the pages. He picked up the phone and put a call through to the personal assistant of Henry Luce, Time’s owner.

“Luce soon returned the call. After a brief, friendly exchange that made clear his personal relationship with Luce, Burden bluntly told him that he would have to change the Lumumba cover story. Luce apparently said that the magazine was about to go to press. ‘Oh, come on, Henry,’ Burden said, ‘you must have other cover stories in the can.’ They chatted for a few more minutes before Burden hung up.

“A few days later in the United States we picked up a copy of the magazine with a new and different cover story. Lumumba had been relegated to the international section…”

The Death in the Congo book indicated one reason that Columbia Life Trustee Burden was influential enough in U.S. Establishment circles to be able to stop Time magazine from putting Patrice Lumumba’s picture on the magazine’s front cover in the summer of 1960:

Burden was born into the colossally rich Vanderbilt family. He had a background in aviation and finance…Burden used his great wealth and the contacts that came from it to secure upper-level governmental experience, socializing with moneyed internationally oriented Republicans…”

In 1973, for example, besides still being both a Columbia trustee and the honorary chairman of the board of the Pentagon’s Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA] weapons research think tank, Burden–a former Assistant for Research and Development to the Secretary of the Air Force–also sat on the board of directors of Lockheed, CBS, Manufacturers Hanover Trust and Allied Chemical and was still a director of American Metal Climax [AMAX], according to a Feb.6, 1973 Columbia Daily Spectator article. In addition, the former U.S. ambassador to Belgium also sat on the board of trustees of the Museum of Modern Art in 1973.

By August of 1960, former Columbia University President Eisenhower’s administration in Washington, D.C. “feared that Lumumba’s oratorical talent would make him a thorn in their side even if he were maneuvered out of power” and “decided it made more sense to kill him,” according to Mark Zepezauer’s 1994 book, The CIA’s Greatest Hits. After CIA Chief of Station in the Congo Devlin met with CIA Director Dulles at CIA headquarters and then returned to the Congo in August 1960, Eisenhower called for the elimination of Lumumba at an Aug. 18, 1960 meeting of the National Security Council, and the following happened, according to Death in the Congo:

“Project Wizard had come into being. It grew out of Devlin’s ideas but also out of proposals of the Brussels CIA…The next day the CIA cabled Devlin to move forward with various ramped-up dirty tricks…Ultimate formal approval of the government’s most unpleasant jobs came through a standing four-person subcommittee of the National Security Council, the ‘Special Group.’ In addition to a note-taker, it consisted of a top man of the Department of State and of Defense; Dulles; and [White House National Security Adviser] Gordon Gray, who spoke for the president. On August 25 [1960],  Dulles had his regular meeting with the Special Group. He outlined the mounting anti-Lumumba exercises of Project Wizard…After some discussion, the Special Group agreed not to ‘rule out’ consideration…of ‘any particular kind of activity which might contribute to getting rid of Lumumba.’

“The next day Dulles himself wired Devlin about the ‘removal’ of Lumumba as ‘an urgent and prime objective.’ With a State Department nod, Dulles allowed Devlin some freedom of operation and stipulated ‘more aggressive action if it can remain covert.’ The CIA also awarded …an additional $100,000 [equivalent to over $821,000 in 2017 US dollars] to accomplish these goals should a ‘target of opportunity’ present itself and should Devlin not have time to sound out either the embassy in the Congo or the CIA at home…”

As the now-deceased Devlin recalled in his 2007 book Chief of Station, Congo:

“…To the best of my knowledge, no other station chief had ever been given such latitude…If further evidence was required that Washington supported our own conclusion about replacing Lumumba, that was it…We were already monitoring parliament and encouraging and guiding the actions of various parliamentary opposition groups that we had penetrated…We were also using [a Belgian citizen and CIA agent named] Jacque to insert anti-Lumumba articles in the country’s leading newspaper…

“With the full backing of Headquarters, the station began to work on a plan to remove Lumumba from power. One of our early operations, organized by Jacque who provided…financial support, was an anti-Lumumba demonstration when the latter spoke at meeting of African foreign ministers held in Leopldville [Kinshasa] on Aug. 25 [1960]. On his arrival, hostile demonstrators shouted ‘a bas Lumumba’ (‘down with Lumumba’), and when he began to speak to the delegates, the mob drowned him out shouting anti-Lumumba slogans.”

Then, according to Death in the Congo, “on the evening of Sept. 3 [1960], Congolese President Joseph Kasa-Vubusummoned” the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Leopoldville [Kinshasha] during the first two weeks of September 1960, Andrew Cordier, for a meeting. Coincidentally, the Columbia University board of trustees (that included by-then former U.S. ambassador to the Congo Burden), would later appoint Cordier to be the Dean of its School of International Affairs [School of International and Public Affairs] between 1962 and 1968, to be the Columbia President who succeeded Grayson Kirk between August 1968 and September 1970 and to again be School of International Affairs Dean between September 1970 and 1972. The same book also observed:

“Cordier and Kasa-Vubu had more meetings over the next two days, Sept. 4 and 5 [1960]…A few minutes before 8 p.m. on Sept. 5, Kasa-Vubu sent his Belgian adviser Jef Van Bilsen to Cordier with a formal written exhortation. Cordier should close the airports and monitor the Leopoldville radio station. Then, at 8:12, Kasa-Vubu appeared at the station…He nervously asserted that he was sacking Lumumba…Cordier immediately implemented Kasa-Vubu’s written solicitations…The firing was invalid…Lumumba made the illegality of Kasavubu’s ploy clear in a letter…delivered to Cordier at 4 a.m. on Sept. 6 [1960]…On Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 7 [1960], in the Congo’s house of representatives Lumumba yet again explained the illegality of Kasa-Vubu’s acts…For 5 days Cordier took instructions from politicians who had no justifiable authority. He had closed the radio station and shut the airports because Kasa-Vubu asked him…When Kasa-Vubu pitched Lumumba out [as Congolese prime minister], the Congo’s [ceremonial] president had the help of Belgian and UN authorities…and also the goodwill of the CIA. At this time the Americans put Joseph Ileo, Kasa-Vubu’s choice for prime minister, on the payroll, although he had already been funded to secure his election as president of the Congo’s senate…”

According to Professor of Political Science George Nzongola-Ntalaja’s 2003 book, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History, however, “both houses of” the Congo’s “parliament, where Lumumba still had a working majority gave him a vote of confidence and rejected Kasa-Vubu’s decision as null and void.” But on Sept. 14, 1960, future Congolese/Zairean dictator Mobutu “pulled off his first military coup with the help of the CIA.” Prior to Mobutu’s Sept. 14, 1960 military coup, CIA Director Dulles had flown to Brussels to brief Burden “on the recent decisions of the National Security Council” and told Burden that “he believed the leader we could depend on in a showdown with Lumumba was young Colonel Joseph Mobutu, second in command of the Congolese army,” according to Burden’s Peggy and I book.

Back in the United States on Sept. 19, 1960, “Dulles and his immediate subordinates launched a top-secret communication channel to Devlin called PROP, which would only discuss assassination” of Lumumba, according to Death in the Congo;” while “in a document signed in October 1960, the then-Belgian minister for African Affairs, Count Harold d’Aspremot Lyden, stated explicitly that Belgian interests “required ‘the final elimination of Lumumba,’ according to The Congo from Leopold to Kabila. And by the end of January 1961, the democratically-elected and illegally ousted Congolese prime minister had been physically “eliminated.”

Coincidentally, in a 1968 oral history interview with former Newsweek editor and Columbia University Journalism School faculty member Joel Luter, less than 8 years later, Columbia Life Trustee and then-IDA Executive Committee member and chairman of the IDA board of trustees Burden made the following comment about the murder of Lumumba and two colleagues, Congolese Senate Vice-President Joseph Okito and Congolese Youth and Sports Minister Maurice Mpolo, on Jan. 17, 1961 in the Katanga area of the Congo[Zaire]:

“The Belgians were sort of toying with the idea of seeing to it that Lumumba was assassinated. I went beyond my instructions and said, well, I didn’t think it would be a bad idea either, but I naturally never reported this to Washington—but Lumumba was assassinated. I think it was all to the good…”

Bur in his 1967 book, Challenge of the CongoKwame Nkrumah (the democratically-elected Ghanaian head of state who was forced out of office in a 1966 CIA-orchestrated military coup) wrote the following about what happened in the Congo during Columbia Life Trustee Burden’s term as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium and during the period when former Columbia University President Cordier was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Congo:

“Somewhere in Katanga in the Congo…three of our brother freedom fighters have been done to death…They have been killed because the United Nations…denied to the lawful Government of the Congo…means of self-protection…The murder of Patrice Lumumba and of his two colleagues…is unique in that it is the first time in history that the legal ruler of a country has been done to death with the open connivance of a world organization in whom that ruler put his trust…Kasa-Vubu illegally tried to remove Patrice Lumumba from office and to substitute another Government. When Lumumba wished to broadcast to the people, explaining what had happened, the United Nations…prevented him by force from speaking…

“…The United Nations, which could exert its authority to prevent Patrice Lumumba from broadcasting, was, so it pleaded, quite unable to prevent his arrest by mutineers or his transfer, through the use of airfields under United Nations control…The United Nations would not effectively intervene to save the life of the Prime Minister or his colleagues…Our dear brothers Patrice Lumumba, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito are dead…”.

And as Ludo De Witte recalled in his 2001 preface to the English edition of his book The Assassination of Lumumba:

“…Without the steps taken by Washington and the United Nations during the preceding months, the assassination could never have been carried out. In July 1960, after Belgium intervened in the Congo and after the rich copper state of Katanga seceded, the United States went into action…U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower had instructed his aides to liquidate Lumumba and a top secret CIA unit was given the task of eliminating him…Lumumba’s transfer to Katanga, delivering him into the hands of his worst enemies, was done with the full knowledge of Lawrence Devlin, the CIA station chief…UN complicity is demonstrated by the help given to Mobutu’s soldiers in capturing Lumumba…The assassination of Lumumba and tens of thousands of other Congolese nationalists, from 1960 to 1965, was the West’s ultimate attempt to destroy the continent’s authentic independent development…”

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Charter of the North African Network for Food Sovereignty

Hamza Hamouchen

Activists from anti-capitalist militant organizations in North Africa met in Tunis on 4th and 5th July 2017 to set up the North African Network for Food Sovereignty. The network is a unifying structure for struggles in the region and will be involved in local, continental and international mobilisation.

The network has adopted the following Charter:

Food sovereignty is the human right of peoples as individuals and communities to define their own food systems. It means, working with nature and protecting resources to produce sufficient, healthy and culturally appropriate food by:

  • giving priority to local production and staple food,
  • putting in place popular agrarian reforms,
  • guaranteeing free access to seeds
  • protecting national produce
  • and by involving people in elaborating agricultural policies.

Food sovereignty is tied to the right of people to self-determination at the political, economic, social, cultural and environmental levels. It is also linked to a rupture with imperialist centres and international financial and trade institutions as well as to the struggle against regimes and governments that implement these policies to the benefit of foreign and domestic capital.

Food sovereignty is incompatible with agro-business, a system that is partly responsible for the destruction of natural resources and the climate chaos threatening the livelihoods of millions of people.

Unfortunately, food sovereignty has being undermined for decades in our region (North Africa). This process started in the colonial period and is being reinforced by neo-colonial, productivist and extractivist policies implemented in the name of development. This situation is worsened by different programmes of harsh neoliberal adjustments and by submission to conditions imposed by the World Trade Organisation as well as to terms of trade agreements with the European Union, United States and others.

Our region is subject to the hegemony of international financial capital and imperialist domination that are responsible for the ecological crisis, climate change and the pillaging of resources.

In order to address this situation and break away from this hegemony and in accordance with the above, we agree as follows:

1. The North African Food Sovereignty Network is a unifying structure that includes  all popular organizations, unions, associations and social movements fighting capitalism, extractivism,  ecocide, racism, patriarchy, hogra(contempt) and all other forms of discrimination.

2. The network is a horizontal structure that is democratically organized, open to all organizations working in the North African region in accordance with this Charter.

3. The network strives to achieve food sovereignty, climate and environmental justice. It will fight for the establishment of a new system that will end human exploitation and the destruction of life while satisfying people’s needs in a participatory and democratic framework that is in harmony with nature and inspired by buen vivirprinciples (living well).

4. In order to reach these goals, the network will put in place all possible militant actions: critical studies; campaigns, workshops, direct actions as well as networking, coordination and solidarity with ally movements that fight for the same objectives.

5. The network shall coordinate and work in synergy with all anti-capitalist struggles that fight resources dispossession, enslavement of peoples and against all kinds of segregation and racism at the national, continental and international levels.

6. The network aims to build alliances and tight relations with organizations fighting for food sovereignty in the region, the continent and worldwide.

7. To facilitate its functioning, the network shall set up a coordination that will comprise a representative from each organization present during the founding meeting.

8. The coordination ensures democratic and transparent functioning of the network for a period of one year. It is the representative and the spokesperson of the network and is responsible for its administrative and financial management as well as being in charge of maintaining the website and publishing reports and studies.

9. Prior to the expiration of the term (one year), the coordination has to draft a statute and bylaws (internal regulations) to be validated democratically.

Tunisia is temporarily the head office of the network.

10. At the end of that period (one year), the coordination will put in place structures that are in accordance with a legal statute that will be democratically validated.

Agreed in Tunis on 5th July 2017

Organisations and associations participating in the founding/constitutive meeting

Agro-ecology and Green Environment (Tunisia)

National Federation of the Agricultural Sector (Moroccan Worker’s Union)

National Initiative for the Support to Cooperatives (Egypt)


One Million Rural Women (Tunisia)

National Union of Fishers – Coastal and Offshore fishing (Morocco)

Observatory for Food and Environmental Sovereignty (Tunisia)

National Coordination for Food Sovereignty (Algeria)

Environmental Justice North Africa (Algeria)

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The 4th July parliamentary coup in Nigeria


The call on Bukola Saraki, the senate president, to assume the position of acting president because the president and acting president were allegedly out of the country, was not only contrary to the provisions of the constitution but had all the elements of a coup d’état.

In reviewing the farcical coup—orchestrated by the President of the Nigerian senate, Bukola Saraki—that took place on Tuesday, 4 July 2017, we were reminded of the French coup of 1851 by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte and the analysis by Karl Marx.

Since the French constitution prohibited an incumbent president from seeking re-election, Louis Bonaparte (Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew) who was elected president in 1848 was due to leave office in 1852. On 2 December 1851, President Louis Bonaparte staged a self-coup as his followers broke up the French Legislative Assembly and established a dictatorship. A year later, he proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III.

In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Marx, referencing the coup of 18 Brumaire, November 9, 1799, that brought General Napoleon Bonaparte, the uncle, to power, described how the class struggle (political crisis) in France “created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity (Louis-Napoleon, the nephew) to play a hero’s part.”

The political crisis in Nigeria is creating circumstances in which swindlers in the corridors of power and scoundrels posing as lawmakers are playing the part of heroes. And so, it came to pass that Nigeria’s senate president, Bukola Saraki, whose rap sheet is long enough to sew prison uniforms for every member of our notorious National Assembly, prevented himself from being sworn in as acting president of the country on July 4, 2017, and thus saving our fledgling democracy.

In the preface to the third German edition of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon in 1885, Engels concluded that “Marx came out with a concise, epigrammatic exposition that laid bare the whole course of French history…and in so doing did not even need to treat the hero of the coup d‘état otherwise than with the contempt he so well deserved.” The “hero” of the parliamentary coup of 4 July in Nigeria deserves all the contempt we can muster!

On a day that will perpetually live in infamy, Bukola Saraki, using his sidekicks, Eyinnaya Abaribe and Kabiru Marafa, and much to the approval of other senators toadying to their emperor, otherwise known as senate president, sought to undermine the constitution and illegally overthrow the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of which he is a highly placed member—the third in the hierarchy. The details of that coup, orchestrated by anti-democratic forces, would have been laughable if not that they are tragic.

After two weeks of vacation, Saraki and his colleagues resumed in their severely desecrated chamber and the main order of business, amid the political tension and excruciating economic conditions, was a scheme to overthrow the acting president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.

Saraki had hardly finished reading a letter from the acting president requesting the senate’s confirmation of the appointment of Lanre Gbajabiamila as the Director General, National Lottery Regulatory Commission, when the senate’s unrepentant paedophile, Ahmed Sani Yerima, raised a point of order to initiate discussion on the acting president’s position on the confirmation of nominees.

In a voyage of crass mischief and pathetic misunderstanding of the acting president’s stance on the power of the senate to confirm nominees from the executive branch, Yerima guided his colleagues to adopt the erroneous position that since the acting president believes the senate lacks the power of confirmation, there was no point entertaining letters from the executive branch asking for confirmation of nominees.

But Nigerians know that this mischief was aimed at undermining the acting president by twisting his position on the senate’s power to confirm executive nominees. His position was strictly in respect of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others in that category. What he said after the senate’s refusal to confirm Ibrahim Magu as Chairman of EFCC following two appearances was that the presidency ought not to have sent Magu’s name for confirmation because the nominee did not belong in the category of appointments that the constitution empowers the senate to confirm.

This position was what these malefactors pretending to be lawmakers twisted to suit the grand plot they have long nurtured to subvert democracy. With Prof Osinbajo now head of government, in acting capacity, they must have reasoned that it would be much easier to finally undo the presidency and launch a process of floating an ultra-ambitious Saraki—a man who already sees himself as the putative leader of Nigeria—as the acting president and ultimately the president. Saraki knows there is no other way to the presidency for him except through this despicable and farcical route.

In acting out the plot, our senators, whose mendacity knows no bounds, took the first step by discussing Yerima’s point of order and resolving not to take any more requests for confirmation of nominees from the presidency until Ibrahim Magu is removed from office. Enter Dino Melaye, Saraki’s lapdog, who is battling furiously to stave off an imminent recall from the senate by his constituents.

Not to be outdone on this occasion, this minion of a senator tried to impugn Magu’s qualification for the job of EFCC chair. For an unabashed liar and a man with the putrid air of certificate forgeries—including claims of degrees from Harvard University and London School of Economics that have been refuted by both institutions—still hanging thickly around him, Melaye must have balls the size of a football to question anybody about his or her qualification for public office. Saraki and his dissolute co-travellers made it clear that if Ibrahim Magu is not sacked there would be severe consequences, including impeachment, even if not expressly stated. But as far as most Nigerians can tell, impeachment is what these senators have in mind.

Bent on undermining the laws of the land, our idle senators veered from Ibrahim Magu to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Ike Ekweremadu, a lawyer, and the deputy senate president, took the floor and told the world that the issue of the recall of Dino Melaye was “dead on arrival” and that INEC had to seek the senate’s ratification before it could conclude the recall process. To impress his team of approving nitwits, the addle-headed senator emphasized with overt disdain and arrogance that the electoral body, even by doing their job as stipulated in the constitution, was “wasting their time” with respect to the matter.

When a man of the status of Ekweremadu, touted to be specialized in the workings of the constitution as a lawyer, pronounces in so scandalously expedient manner that an agency of government performing its duties as mandated by the constitution is engaging in a futile exercise, one can conveniently say there is no hope for Nigeria.

Such lawlessness and disregard for due process is the hallmark of the 8th senate, constituted by the worst group of senators since the return of democracy in 1999. When one of their own, Ali Ndume, called on Saraki and Melaye to clear themselves on the issue of non-payment of the requisite import duty for a bulletproof Range Rover SUV imported by the senate president and allegations of certificate forgery respectively, like the pack of debauched gangsters that they are, they descended on him and suspended him for six months.

So desperate has this senate become in their subversive agenda that it would make nothing of frustrating the executive—and grounding the country in the process—in virtually all matters, including the national budget which they have turned into a cash cow. They have ingloriously padded the national budget, arrogated to themselves the power to alter the budget, illegally removed planned national projects and shamelessly and criminally inserted so-called community projects, a euphemism for grand theft.

Now, to their ultimate goal. They can deny it as much as they like and their leader can feign disinterest, but the very irresponsible and disgraceful contribution of Eyinnaya Abaribe, pointing sinisterly to a non-existent vacuum in the leadership of the country and calling on Bukola Saraki, the senate president, to assume the position of acting president because in Abaribe’s warped logic, and contrary to the provisions of the constitution, the president and acting president were out of the country, has all the elements of a coup d’état.

For the record, the acting president went to Ethiopia to represent Nigeria at the 29th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union on Monday, July 3, 2017, and returned to Nigeria the same day. Not that it really mattered because, whether in or out of the country, the leader of any nation remains so, unless, in the case of Nigeria, he or she notifies the National Assembly of their inability to perform that role. The fact that our senators knew that no letter was transmitted by the acting president to the National Assembly did not stop Abaribe’s odious submission from receiving a raucous applause by our law-making cheerleaders.

It stands to reason that if the acting president was not in the country when Abaribe moved his criminally audacious and absurd motion, the Nigerian military would have been justified in taking over to “save the country”. We think Saraki and his cohorts have fired the first salvo. Despite their failed coup, they are not giving up and they will stop at nothing until they achieve their aim or drag the whole country down with them.

The masses who bear the brunt of the evil machinations of the Nigerian senate would have to find a way to get rid of these lawless lawmakers who have weighed down the country’s democratic process by their inordinate ambition, greed and corruption. Our senators have repeatedly trampled on the constitution, so looking toward the constitution for guidance is not an option. Recall is clearly not an option.

By their coup of 4 July, Saraki and his gang of pseudo-democrats are inviting a coup. Except that this time, the coup will be by the mass of our people, a popular revolutionary uprising. And the consequences are better imagined!

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How markets undermine African development


The rules, institutions and operations of global markets, unchanged since the end of formal colonialism, are among the greatest obstacles to the development of African countries.

Global market rules are either in favour of, or are frequently bent to benefit industrial countries. Or, to put it differently, more restrictive market rules are often applied to African countries while industrial countries are accorded leeway to implement these in ways that benefit their companies, labour and economies.

The first of these is that industrial countries have more power to determine the rules of the market than African and other developing countries.

Many industrial countries following the 2007/2008 global and Eurozone financial crises nationalized failing banks, but if African countries try to do so, they will face restriction and criticism from markets, global media and financial institutions.

Many industrial countries, for example, can come up with monetary policies to ostensibly improve their export competitiveness, such as artificially keeping the value of their currencies and interest rates low. The US, the EU and Japan have been doing this for years.

In the aftermath of the 2007/2008 global and Eurozone financial crises the US, because interest rates there were already close to zero, introduced quantitative easing (QE), the strategy of injecting money directly into the country’s financial system. EQ is printing new money electronically and buying government bonds, which increases the circulation of money, in order to boost consumer and business spending.

Such unilateral monetary policies have undermined the competitiveness of African countries by causing seesawing capital flows, currency volatility and destabilization of financial markets.

African countries do not have the economic power to introduce their own quantitative easing – and even if they had, there are likely to be market, investor and industrialized-country backlashes against them.

Industrialized countries argue for free trade, but most have high tariff barriers for manufactured and processed goods from Africa. However, industrial countries insist that African countries open up their markets to both agricultural and manufactured goods from industrial countries.

Industrial countries frequently have non-tariff barriers such as high quality, health and environmental standards for products coming from African countries. African countries do not have the same freedom to enact similar non-tariff barriers for products coming from industrial countries.

Furthermore, industrial countries heavily subsidize their own sensitive industries, such as agriculture. Yet, African countries are punished when they want to protect their own infant or sensitive industries. The US Africa Opportunity Act (AGOA) or the EU Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), for example, allow US and EU governments to subsidize their strategic industries; but both the US and EU forbid African countries to do the same, or they will lose out on “benefits” from AGOA and the EPAs.

Industrial countries insist that African countries allow multinational companies unfettered investment freedom in African economies, often with disregard for the local environment, labour standards or good corporate governance. Again, if African countries do not allow the free entry of industrial country goods, they are likely to face market, investors and industrialized-country political backlashes.

The international currency in which trade takes place is either the US dollar or other industrialized-country currencies, such as the Euro, British Pound or the Japanese Yen. The raw materials that most African countries export to industrial countries are usually traded in these currencies. Fluctuations in these currencies impact disproportionally on African economies, particularly because the economies are heavily dependent on the export of one commodity.

The prices, exchanges and bourses of all African commodities are set in industrial countries. This means that, astonishingly, African producers, even where they are the global dominant producers of a specific commodity, have no say in the price of that commodity.

In the global market, labour from industrial countries can move freely to African countries; yet African labour movement to industrial countries is increasingly restricted. The arguments for free markets ring hollow, without the free movement of labour.

Industrial countries also control the supporting structures of global markets: the credit rating agencies, transport and logistics, insurance agencies and the banks and the global communications systems.

Industrial countries dominate global transportation, insurance and finance markets, needed to export African products. Major global credits rating agencies are controlled by industrial countries and are often biased against, lack knowledge of, or generalize about African economies on a one-size-fits all basis.

Global markets are increasingly underpinned by communications technology, with trading, financing and business done digitally. Industrial country companies dominate communications technology.

The global public institutions that support global markets are all controlled by industrial countries, their appointees and their dominant views. Some of these include ‘public’ global institutions such as the US- and European Union-led World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and its private sector affiliate, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

African countries proportionally lose more through international tax rules that favour industrial countries and allow multinational companies great leeway to practice tax avoidance, illicit trade and profit shifting in African countries. As Rob Davies, the South African Trade and Industry Minister, said rightly “changing international tax rules and closing loopholes which facilitate and enable international tax evasion and aggressive avoidance” are only dealt with by the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), which most African and developing countries are not members of.

African countries must push for such global issues, which impact directly on them, to be handled through multilateral intergovernmental mechanisms.

African countries must push for global public institutions that support global markets such as the World Bank and IMF to give them a greater say in decision-making.

African countries must forge better coalitions to push for the improvement of the governance of global markets, allow individual African countries with the same policy space to ‘govern’ markets. African countries must as a bloc introduce appropriate industrial, development and trade policies. This will make it more difficult for industrialized countries, global public institutions and global markets to punish individual African countries for policies that industrial countries implement but are not punished for.

African countries should then introduce the very same economic policies – if appropriate – that industrial countries implement, but which are seen by industrial countries, global markets and supporting public and private institutions as anti-market.

For more than half a century since the end of colonialism, of the 54 African countries, arguably only two have ever come up with an industrial policy on the scale of South Korea, Taiwan or  Singapore. African governments, leaders and civil society groups have more often than not come up with criticisms (rightly so) of how industrialized countries and global public and private market institutions and markets undermine African development.

But African governments, leaders and civil society groups have often never come up with pragmatic, well-thought out development policies, beyond slogans, such as “return the land”, or “return the mines”, or “nationalize foreign companies”. What is needed are detailed industrial plans, using a country’s talents, empowering the largest number of people, and using the best of what industrial countries and other developing countries are doing as long as it is appropriate to the African context.

African countries must also pool their own resources to create, in partnership with other developing countries, alternative, fairer and more equitable global public institutions because current ones are dominated by industrialized countries.

African producers of commodities must attempt to set up coordinating agencies, like the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), for the commodities they produce, in order to have a bigger influence in determining the prices of those commodities.

Our countries must diversify their products, and move away from overwhelmingly depending on commodity exports. They must also add value to their commodities by producing manufactured and processed products.

African countries must pool their markets and genuinely begin to trade with each other. They must introduce industrial policies to diversify their markets away from industrial countries.

But African leaders and governments must govern their countries better – poor governance further weakens their power against global public institutions, markets and industrialized countries.

African countries that are corrupt, mismanaged and with poorly thought-out policies undermine their own independence. They are not only unable to come up with policies more appropriate for their circumstances, but are also weak in bargaining with both industrialized countries and emerging powers such as China, and to resist destructive interferences from global public institutions such as the World Bank and IMF.

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Role of the legal profession in social justice struggles in Africa


Lawyers should claim their place in society by espousing Pan-African ideals. They should stop defending and colluding with corrupt African elites. A remarkable example is Henry Sylvester Williams, the Trinidadian barrister who, together with other Pan-Africanists, organised the first Pan-African conference in London in 1900.

The Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), a continental membership forum for African lawyers and lawyers’ associations, held its eighth annual conference and fifth general assembly from 4 to 8 July 2017 in Durban, South Africa, under the theme “The Legal Profession: Re-capturing its Place in Society”.

Some readers might ask themselves if the legal profession does have a place in the society to begin with. The legal profession is perceived, not just in Africa, but also across the world, as a prestigious career that is detached from ordinary people and whose practitioners make money at the expense of their clients. Indeed, readers would recall that many parents in Africa aspire to see their children become lawyers, accountants or medical doctors when they grow up. These three professions have traditionally been associated with wealth and not caring much about broader challenges of the society, especially for those who are the most marginalised.

Fifteen years after eminent African lawyers founded it to reflect the aspirations and concerns of the African people and to promote and defend their shared interests, PALU is actively working to change that perception by encouraging its members to care and be part of social struggles. This call from PALU is being reinforced by a growing realisation that African lawyers need to have solidarity with other actors of the civil society such as the media, activists, academics, non-governmental organisations and social movements because of their common enemy: state repression.

In fact, over the last few years, a number of African lawyers and lawyers’ associations in countries such as Tanzania, Zambia and Cameroon have faced increased threats from their governments. Some of these governments have been plotting to disband lawyers’ associations while others plan to put them under their control. Many lawyers see these threats as attempts to end the freedom of the legal profession in Africa. PALU members have been working to build solidarity and networks with other players of the broader civil society to help them fight back against government repression.

A number of African lawyers have put aside their traditional practice to be part of social justice struggles, including providing legal support to refugees and asylum seekers, working on climate justice, environmental protection, women’s rights, children’s rights, fighting against corruption and combating illicit financial flows (IFFs). Indeed, the role of African lawyers in fighting against illicit financial flows from Africa was one of the main topics for discussion during this year’s annual conference of PALU, and is the one which caught my attention.

Raymond W. Baker – president of Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a not-for-profit organisation that works to curtail IFFs via groundbreaking research, promotion of pragmatic solutions and provision of advice to governments – is a prominent campaigner against IFFs from Africa. During the conference, he highlighted the role that African lawyers can play to end IFFs from Africa, and reminded the audience that Africa loses $50bn annually due to IFFs. 65% of that amount is a result of unfair commerce between Africa and the rest of the world, while 35% results from criminal activities and 5% from corruption. Obviously, one could argue that corruption is the main cause for all IFFs from Africa, as it provides a conducive environment for criminal activities to thrive and for corrupt African leaders to willingly enter into unfair trade agreements with the rest of the world, thus robbing the continent of $50bn each year.

Some African lawyers, whether in government or working in independent law firms, have a hand in providing legal advice to African governments while drafting these unfair trade agreements. If the legal profession aspires to re-capture its place in society, it could start by helping Africa to recover the $50bn lost each year and stop colluding with African governments while entering into unfair commerce agreements with the rest of the world.

The legal profession could in reality claim its place in society by espousing again Pan-African ideals. Readers would remember that Henry Sylvester Williams, a Trinidadian barrister, together with other Pan-Africanists, organised the first Pan-African conference that was held in London, England, from 23 to 25 July 1900. During this conference, they appealed to European leaders to end their racist practices including colonialism in Africa and the West Indies so that African people could govern themselves. There is a need for the African legal profession to learn and remember the Pan-African ideals that their fellow lawyer Henry Sylvester Williams represented.

As mentioned above, lawyers in collaboration with accountants across Africa heavily contribute to the massive looting of African resources by helping African leaders to prepare unfair trade agreements and financial reports that hide evil practices. PALU is a platform that can support various on-going efforts in Africa to combat IFFs. At the annual conference, the organisation launched its code of ethics and invited its members and African lawyers’ associations to sign and adhere to the code while exercising their profession, especially for young African lawyers who are joining PALU and starting their career.

With a growing number of young African lawyers finishing their studies and are unable to find employment, it is very tempting to “defend” any client as long as they are paying well. These young lawyers need some guidance and good examples from leading Pan-African lawyers such as Henry Sylvester Williams who dedicated his life to social justice.

The legal profession can reclaim its space in society if it shows solidarity, opposes injustice, defends the poor and oppressed, and helps to protect African resources. The African legal profession can re-capture its space in society by supporting legal reforms that push for the interests of the poor and the most marginalised in the society.

As for the need for African lawyers to continue building solidarities with other actors of the civil society and to care for social justice struggles, no one says it better than Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public antagonist of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps:

“…First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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”Israel” and Rwanda, partners in persecution

Ann Garrison
Despite Kagame’s totalitarian regime being infamous for horrendous human rights abuses inside the country and in DR Congo, Rwanda is now a member of the UN Human Rights Council. Rwanda has signaled that it will use its seat to defend its friend, the colonial state of Israel.
On July 9, Rwandan “President” Paul Kagame arrived in Israel for another of his many visits to reinforce the longstanding pact between his military dictatorship and Israel’s brutal settler colonial regime. This time Kagame enjoyed an unusual honour not even afforded to President Trump when he visited Israel in May. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin both showed up to greet him upon arrival. The Jerusalem Postsuggested that the special welcome had to do with Rwanda’s seat on the UN Human Rights Council—seriously. President Rivlin appeared to confirm this in his remarks:
“Rwanda is now going to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council. This is a body which is always against Israel, unfortunately. So we welcome all those, all those who are prepared to speak for us. And we appreciate your support very much.”
Kagame’s totalitarian regime is infamous for human rights abuse inside Rwanda, including the murder and imprisonment of journalists and political opponents, and the imprisonment of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who dared to challenge him for the presidency in 2010. It’s also infamous for crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as confirmed in the UN’s own UN Mapping Report on Human Rights Abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2003 to 2010. The report says that the Rwandan army’s massacre of hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees would be charged as genocide if brought to court. Kagame’s powerful friends have, of course, made sure that’s never happened; as Bill Clinton says, “It hasn’t been adjudicated.”
The UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in their 200120022003, and 2008 reports, documented Rwanda’s invasion and plunder of Congo. The 2012 UN Panel of Experts report identified Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe as the top commander of the M23 militia then ravaging the native populations of eastern Congo.
So, after all these damning UN reports, how could Rwanda have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council? How could it now be pledging to use its seat in defense of Israel?
That wasn’t difficult at all, and no more fraught with contradiction than other elections to UN officialdom. In 2014, the UN General Assembly’s Special Political and Decolonization Committee elected Israel’s representative Mordehai Amihai to serve as its vice chair. The Jerusalem Post actually managed to expand on that Orwellian illogic by calling it “an island of relative normality in the raging sea of injustice and outright absurdity that characterizes the UN’s workings.”
Also in 2014, the General Assembly elected Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa to serve as its president for the next year, even though the UN Charter criminalizes wars of aggression against sovereign member nations, and Uganda has invaded three of them—Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan—over the past 27 years, leaving millions dead. No matter how many human rights abuses, wars of aggression, and mass atrocities member nations may have to their names, they move into UN positions of moral authority when it’s deemed to be their turn.
The UN Human Rights Council, where Rwanda has pledged to defend its friend Israel, is a human rights abusers council as much as not. Its 47 members include Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and the United States of America, to name a few. The General Assembly elects its members to three-year terms through direct and secret ballot. Votes are putatively based on “the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.” They are in fact the result of politicking, vote trading, and slates in the five geographical groups represented: Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia Pacific, Western Europe and Other [Western] States, and Eastern Europe. The African nations simply rotate off and on, so that none are ever singled out as unfit to serve.
The Council has nevertheless managed to make Israel cry persecution and call on Rwanda to come to the rescue. In March this year alone, it passed five resolutions censuring Israel—with the United States and Togo joining to vote against all five. According to AIPAC, “the UN Human Rights Council has passed 67 resolutions condemning the Jewish state since its inception in 2006, more than it has levied against all other countries combined.”
Who could be better suited to the task of standing up to such injustice than Rwanda, Israel’s perpetual partner in persecution? Upon Kagame’s arrival, Netanyahu repeated the “never again” pledge at the root of the Israel/Rwanda pact and the US/NATO ideology of humanitarian military “intervention”:
“We have pledged, I think, both our peoples, one simple pledge. Never again. Never again. We who witnessed the greatest holocaust in history, you who witnessed perhaps one of the most recent ones. Never again. That’s another great bond between us.”
Kagame, in turn, welcomed Israel’s expansion on the African continent:
“Ever since the Prime Minister’s historic visit to East Africa last year, Israel has continued to follow through on its commitment and objective of scaling up engagement across Africa. This is a very positive trend, which can only be welcomed and merits our support. We are looking forward to reinforcing our collaboration with Israel on common challenges of mutual interest.”
Current collaborations include Israel’s security forces training Rwanda’s. By the second day of his visit, Kagame was claiming that he needs Israel’s help to defeat jihadists in Rwanda—a nation that is more than 95 percent Christian—because al-Shabaab might spread south from Somalia, Boko Haram east from Nigeria. “We need these capacities,” he said, “to prevent that from happening and to deal with it when it happens.”
In fact, Kagame needs a fierce, all-pervasive military police force to control his own people, the majority of whom are Hutus who have been demonized, impoverished, and/or imprisoned by his de facto Tutsi dictatorship, much like Palestinians in their own homeland.

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Uganda’s refugee hospitality is exemplary


Instead of being locked in crowded camps surrounded by barbed wire, the 1.2 million refugees in Uganda are given large plots of land in sprawling settlements to build homes or, if they like, small farms. If agrarian life isn’t for them, they can move freely around the country, traveling to towns or to the bustling capital of Kampala, which 95,000 refugees call their home.

The distinguished scholar and humanitarian activist Noam Chomsky characterizes European attitudes towards refugees “[as] among the signs of the severe moral-cultural crisis of the West that is mislabeled a ‘refugee crisis.’”

According to the latest report of Amnesty International:

“Measures implemented by EU leaders to strengthen search and rescue capacity in the central Mediterranean in April 2015 dramatically decreased deaths at sea. But this priority, which saw several countries provide more rescue boats closer to Libyan territorial waters, was short-lived. Instead, EU governments have shifted their focus to disrupting smugglers and preventing departures of boats from Libya: a failing strategy that has led to ever more dangerous crossings and a threefold increase in the death-rate from 0.89% in the second half of 2015 to 2.7% in 2017.”

This “failing strategy” confirms Chomsky’s observation that what is occurring along the central Mediterranean is actually more of a Western moral crisis than a refugee crisis and racism is the real cause, for the new normal is to let Africans drown in the Mediterranean rather than save them. Can you imagine this being the case if the ones needing to survive were White people?

Libya, Egypt and Sudan are places where refugees are subjected to degrading treatment, extortion, extreme abuse and slavery as they are tortured, raped and murdered. Bribing these countries to deter or contain refugees is the ultimate cruelty and cynicism. To depend and support the Libyan Coast Guard operating in lawless Libya is to become complicit with criminal gangs. According to a UNHCR study:

“[T]he conflict and instability in the country have contributed to create an environment where human smuggling and criminal networks flourish. At the same time, the collapse of the justice system and reigning impunity have led many armed groups, criminal gangs and individuals to participate in the exploitation and abuse of refugees and migrants.”

When a reporter asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of Western civilization, he famously replied: “I think it would be a good idea.” President Donald Trump is talking about the defense of Western civilization these days, but where is the evidence for any degree of civilized action in his policies? Precisely because they are the most vulnerable, attacking refugees and the poor has been the distinguishing hallmarks of his presidency thus far. The United States is increasingly a stingy and heartless bystander when it comes to refugees and other vulnerable populations. The United States and Britain as well are the leading merchants of weapons spearheading military interventions, yet they are hesitant to deal with the clean-up of the mess created by the current refugee exodus from war-torn countries awash in those very weapons.

The five wealthiest countries [the U.S., China, Japan, the U.K. and Germany]— which make up half the global economy — are hosting less than 5 percent of the world’s refugees, while 86 percent of refugees are in poorer developing countries that are often struggling to meet the needs of their own people.

Uganda, on the other hand, through its compassionate policy towards refugees, exemplifies the moral high ground abandoned by the United States under President Trump and, frankly, even to a lesser extent under former President Obama. There have been many remarkable testimonies on Uganda’s exceptional reception of refugees. Julian Hattem writing for the Washington Post states:

“Instead of being locked in crowded camps surrounded by barbed wire, the 1.2 million refugees in Uganda are given large plots of land in sprawling settlements to build homes or, if they like, small farms. If agrarian life isn’t for them, they can move freely around the country, traveling to towns or to the bustling capital of Kampala, which 95,000 refugees call their home.”

This generous policy comes at a huge price for Uganda as Bidi Bidi, the largest refugee camp in the world, has reached near a breaking point. Nevertheless, Uganda’s proactive refugee policy has been hailed as one of the best, if not the best, approach to host refugees. Unfortunately, as much as Uganda’s treatment of refugees has provided a model for how a civilized country deals with refugees, many countries in Africa have been a hellish nightmare for African refugees.

Sudan, Libya, Egypt and South Africa are horrific places to be a refugee. Refugees have been burned alive by South African mobs. There are few options for refugees and there are also very limited opportunities for resettlement: of the 16.1 million refugees of concern to the UNHCR around the world at the end of 2015, less than one per cent were resettled that year.

In contrast to Uganda, Europe and other wealthy countries are increasingly shunning refugees. Ignoring the plight of drowning refugees in the central Mediterranean off the coast of Libya has become the new normal. To discourage crossing the Mediterranean, European countries replaced the stronger Italian rescue operation, the Nora Nostrum, with Triton. The Triton operation was expected to complement the Nora Nostrum; instead it replaced it with no clear mission and with a stated function of “border management” within 30 nautical miles from the European border. The worry was that the Nora Nostrum was a “pull factor” for refugees from Africa.

The securitization of border control has gone a step further, with NATO launching naval patrols ostensibly to hunt for human traffickers in the eastern Mediterranean and for the first time returning refugees to Turkey. In 2017, Europeans have left it to the Libyan “Coast Guard” to apprehend refugees in boats at sea and force them to disembark back in Libya, where these same refugees become victimized again and again by gangs also purporting to belong to the Libyan Coast Guard. This situation is a logical extension of the “fortress Europe” mentality. These gangs have shot at refugees, and others have drowned during panics when approached violently by these gangs.

In contrast, European citizen humanitarianism, the ever exemplary NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Save the Children, private initiatives like individuals like the Moroccan-Sicilian Nawal Soufi, who uses her mobile phone as a lifeline for refugees in boats braving the Mediterranean, have helped save lives. The humanity of ordinary people from the island of Lampedusa is depicted in the film, Fire at Sea by Italian director Gianfranco Rosi, which won the Golden Bear prize at the Berlin film festival. It tells the story of the migrant crisis through the eyes of locals. Some ordinary fishermen and humanitarians have responded humanely during incidents where ships left refugees to die to avoid any responsibility. “According to Frontex, the EU border and coastal protection agency, around 40 percent of all rescue operations are carried out by volunteers.” Survivors of one of the worst shipwrecks in recent European history, in which 366 people died on october 3rd 2013, off the Italian island of Lampedusa, reported that boats nearby did not help. But these NGO’s are now under attack falsely accused of complicity with smugglers and encouraging refugees to make the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean.

In Europe, attitudes towards refugees are only hardening. More legal as well as physical barriers are being put in place. Razor wire fences are erected, the demonization of refugees as swarms, infiltrators, criminals, vermin, terrorists and threats to security, welfare-fleecing parasites gets heated, and their desperation only grows. The various barriers do not curb irregular migration but only serve to increase the death toll and do not stop refugees from trying to get around these obstacles. Human beings do what they need to do to try to survive.

Europe-wide agreement could easily and definitively define an asylum seeker and standardize legal rights and standards for their reception and treatment, but the future is more likely to be more fences and restrictions as governments face more and more extreme challenges from right-wing political parties. These challenges tend to be acrimonious, with blame for the refugee crisis oscillating between the front-line states (Greece, Malta, Spain and Italy) and non-front line countries (mainly Austria). The non-front-line countries blame the front-line countries for allowing more refugees to cross their borders and for not taking measures to guard their own borders, resulting in threats to exclude the front-line states from the privileges of Schengen.

In the current EU meeting in Estonia, responses to the refugee crisis centers on restricting the activities of life-saving work by NGO’s and on collaborating with African dictators and the so called Libyan Coast Guard in order to return refugees into the conditions from which they fled. “About half of the more than 90 million euros ($103 million)allotted for the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean route is to be spent on the providing the Libyan coast guard with more weapons and training.” Blaming NGO’s is in reality a diversion from the lack of inaction and impotence of the European Union. According to a study done by the Forensic Oceanography branch at the University of London:

“As long as migrants are forced to resort to smugglers for lack of legal pathways, proactive Search and Rescue at sea will be a humanitarian necessity – whether it is operated by states or NGOs. Only a fundamental re-orientation of the EU’s migration policies to grant legal and safe passage may bring the smuggling business, the daily reality of thousands of migrants’ in distress and the need to rescue them to an end.”

Uganda points the way forward. Uganda is a wonderful model for compassionate hospitality towards refugees, but the country is reaching a breaking point due to increasing demands for civilized accommodation of the large numbers of refugees. What was promised for Uganda from donors, during last year’s high level summit in New York has not been forthcoming. Supporting viable resettlement programs and working towards durable solutions is the only way to resolve the crisis. Part of what I view as a durable solution is using leverage to promote human rights and good governance in refugee producing countries. At present, increasing life-saving rescue operations in the Mediterranean is the right thing to do. Bribing the dictators who are the very reason for these flights is cruel and uncivilized.

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Kenya: Why I will not mourn Joseph Nkaissery

The Star

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Interior Maj. Gen. (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery died suddenly on Saturday, 8 July 2017. Nkaissery is certainly a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and his death brings to an end one of the saddest chapters in Kenyan history.

On 8 December 2014, the body of Isnina Musa Sheikh, a 48 year-old mother of five, was found in a shallow grave after she was brutally murdered. Hoping for investigations and justice for the mother, northern Kenya residents were perturbed when the now dead Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery called for a press conference and told Kenyans that the woman was a cook for the Somali-based terror group Al-Shabaab.

On the same day, Nkaissery accused northern Kenya leaders (specifically Billow Kerrow) of having a consistent agenda to frustrate the war on terrorism by accusing police of extra-judicial killings. He also blamed two television journalists, Mr Yassin Juma and Mr Mohammed Ali, of having made claims of mass graves through social media.

In June 2016, human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and his client, Mr Josephat Mwenda, and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, were tortured and killed by police. Lawyers led by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo blamed Nkaissery for the rot in the police force.

Mr Nkaissery, they said, has a “habit of making comments that might be construed to mean that it is okay for the police to be brutal and violent with civilians.”

Nkaissery had previously dismissed police vetting as a waste of time.

On 30 July 2016, a Friday, the locals at Sheikh Barrow village in Lafey were going about their businesses when Al-Shabab attacked and destroyed Fino telecommunication network mast belonging to mobile telephone services provider Safaricom the previous night.

On their way back, a KDF vehicle was hit by an improvised electronic device planted by the terrorists. One soldier died in the line of duty. After the attack on their vehicle, the KDF, in eight vehicles, went to Sheikh Barrow shopping center, surrounded people and beat them to pulp.

Over eight people sustained serious injuries while one boda boda rider, identified as Ahmed Roble, was beaten to death with clubs by the soldiers. The KDF took away 28 mobile phones and a number of business wares including solar panels from the locals.

Lafey OCPD Bosita Omukolongolo and Joseph Nkaissery denied the claims of harassment, brutality and the killing of the boda boda man.

On 2 November 2015, Nkaissery blamed leaders of the refugee community in Dadaab of failing to fully cooperate with the government in the war on terror.

“A lot of radicalization is going on in Dadaab, the attacks on Garissa University and Westgate were planned in this town. Why are you not working with government to end this menace?” asked Nkaissery.

On 29 June 2015, three men went to the home of 45 year-old man, Farah Ibrahim Korio, an ethnic Somali Kenyan and teacher of Islamic education in Wajir. When they did not find him, they threatened to arrest his wife and five children if they did not disclose his whereabouts.

Farah is still missing even as Nkaissery took his last breath at Karen Hospital.

Between December 2015 and January 2016, over 6,000 people from Mandera, Wajir and Garissa counties were reportedly arrested, illegally detained and mistreated by security officials, including KDF and police officers with inside knowledge of the operations by political leaders in the national and county government, human rights defenders, clerics and journalists.
Nkaissery neither acknowledged the scope and gravity of the numerous allegations nor condemned such abuses by security forces.

Hamza Mohammed Barre was taken away by police from his electronic shop in Garissa, four days after the Garissa University attack. Hamza joined the long list of Somali youth who have disappeared mysteriously after they were picked up by the police.

Joseph Nkaissery is adversely mentioned over a military operation in Pokot dubbed “Operation Nyundo” in 1984 by the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission report. According to the report, Nkaissery was in charge of the disarmament exercise that resulted in deaths of civilians, rape and murder in what has come to be known as Lotiriri Massacre.
The Lotiriri Massacre also led to starvation of over 20,000 livestock between 22 February and 22 May 1984.

Prior to the 2013 general elections, Nkaissery was accused of hate speech. He publicly told non-Masaais not to dare to seek elective posts in the Masaai counties of Kajiado, Narok and Samburu.
“We don’t want tribes other than Maasai to contest the seats of Governor, Senator or Women Representative. They can buy farms here, they can do business here, they can even marry our daughters, but we are telling them to leave these positions for the indigenous people” he said.

Nkaissery’s reign as CS for Interior is certainly a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and his death brings to an end one of the saddest chapter in the history our people: A history marked by widespread and systematic attacks directed against civilian populations including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and mysterious disappearances.

And as they say in French, rien n’échappe a la justice de Dieu. Nothing escapes the justice of God!

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Inclusive development and responsible leadership are Fidel Castro’s legacy to Africa

Betrayal of the liberation struggle by post-independent regimes and elites in many African countries is the reason I am making a clarion call to civil society, in particular my contemporaries, the youth, and the electorate to reconceptualise their thoughts about state governance and leadership. Corruption, cronyism, looting of the national purse, state capture and service delivery strikes are a stark reminder of this reality.
It was Benjamin Disraeli who said: “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example”. Fidel Castro’s legacy to the world mirrors this quotation accurately.
The death of Fidel Castro, a global iconic leader, should exhort us to think strategically about transformatory leadership for social inclusion. Given the gross inequalities and inequities that are spawned by poor governance and leadership, it is imperative that we promote social inclusion in our development narrative.
 Against all odds, it was Fidel Castro who through responsible leadership was able to oppose  the bastion of the capitalist world, the USA, and establish an inclusive development agenda for his small island state called Cuba.
It was his brand of inclusive development through a system of rewards and punishments that brought about a reversal in the rural-urban migration process. No mean feat. Rural-urban migration, currently, is the cause of major problems in emerging economies of the world, including Africa. Because of a lack of development and extreme poverty, globally thousands of families migrate from rural areas to urban areas on a daily basis in the hope of seeking out decent livelihoods. These rural migrants compound the problems and challenges of urban areas because they neither have the necessary skills nor the financial means to live in an urban economy and become a burden on the local state when they seek shelter and other necessities to sustain life.
It was Fidel Castro’s leadership which saw Cuba have one of the highest literacy rates in the world. His meme of ‘each one, teach one’ is now well known throughout the world for inclusive development. Cuba also has one of the best primary health care systems in the world.
The question that goes begging for an answer is: how did Cuba achieve such commendable milestones in its development agenda, especially given that it was a relatively poor island state? It was inclusive development through responsible leadership that assisted Cuba to reach such hights in the global drama of social ascendency.
A socially inclusive development paradigm is one that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and ensures inclusion, equality of opportunity for all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction. It is, in essence, a society for all in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play.
 Although many African countries have made great strides in terms of economic development in the past few decades, they seem to be lagging behind in terms of building inclusive societies. There is a growing chasm between haves and have-nots and poverty seems to be rising at an alarming rate. We are already beginning to see the negative fallouts of this widening gap, and the daily occurrences of political protests or service delivery strikes, are some of these exemplars.
Mo Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation –an organisation that pronounces on the issue of governance in Africa – has repeatedly been making similar requests to both the public and private sectors to go beyond the interstices of the codes and rules of good governance. He has warned that whilst we may have good governance policies in terms of rules and regulations, in practice, they could mean very little, particularly when they have an insignificant impact on the socio-economic upliftment of the majority of society. He pleads for responsible leadership for inclusive economic growth.
When one considers the current state of decay in government leadership, it would do us good if we begin to contemplate the future trajectory of Africa’s development. In this respect, it is the youth and our higher education institutions that we need to refocus our attention on. The participation of youth through critical training in responsible leadership will help our African nations transform into a truly inclusive society. As countries emerging from a serious crisis of poor governance and leadership, we need to epitomize the role of selfless leaders such as Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
We need to encourage our youth to participate in building the nation and working towards bringing about social inclusion. In this regard, our education system has to empower for an uplifting effect on the growth of our countries. These issues relating to the provisioning of quality and empowering education have to be funnelled down to understanding the role of higher education institutions in bringing about a transformation in society. Consequently, curriculum transformation has to be the basis to empower our youth to realise their role in broader society.
 A body of skilled people in leadership in any society can have a powerful positive impact on development of that society. The new responsible leadership cadre must have the responsibility to use their skills, talents and capabilities to create an impact on the socio-political issues being faced by their fellow citizens. The current socio-economic conditions require these new leadership pathfinders to create building blocks for achieving inclusiveness in society. The new development narrative cannot be as usual.
Gross inequalities, poverty and poor governance are imposing challenges in the creation of an inclusive society. It deprives people from even the basic needs of food and shelter and thereby leads them to being marginalised to the backwaters of society. Innovative and responsible leadership can assist the majority of the unemployed youth to become the masters of their own destiny by empowering them with entrepreneurial opportunities. Remember Cuba’s meme of ‘each one, teach one’.
As a nation, sincerely seeking to break out of its quagmire of negative governance and poor leadership, we need to engage in collective action to make sure that we identify and create strategies and programmes that will have an impact on the critical socio-economic and political problems and challenges and make a positive contribution towards shaping an inclusive society. We owe it to those who sacrificed for our liberty and the memories of iconic struggle heroes of the Fidel Castro kind.
Finally, let’s heed the imploratory remarks of another struggle icon, Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.

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AU summit held amid economic decline and social instability


Growing youth populations are placing social and political pressure on their governments to address the need for employment opportunities. But the dependence upon foreign markets for the export of natural resources and cash crops systematically undermines strategic planning within the present world economic order.

On July 3-4 the African Union held its 29th annual Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while the continent is faced with monumental challenges from Cairo to Cape Town.
Held under the theme of “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth”, the gathering recognized the necessity of economic and social development to ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for Africa. A recent decline in commodity prices impacting the raw materials, energy and agricultural producing states illustrates the need to plan for an independent strategy of guaranteeing the health and well being of over one billion people.

The two leading economic countries on the continent, South Africa and Nigeria, are both in recession. Unemployment is growing and the national currencies of these states have fallen into precipitous decline. Bond rating agencies based in the United States are issuing reports that question the capacity of the ruling parties of each nation to engineer remedies that will make them more creditworthy to international finance capital.

South Africa and Nigeria encompass growing youth populations placing social and political pressure on their governments to address the need for accessible employment opportunities for all. Nonetheless, the dependence upon foreign markets for the export of natural resources and cash crops systematically undermines strategic planning within the present world division of labor and economic power.

Just three years ago western financial publications were hailing what they described as phenomenal growth in many African nations. Nigeria was proclaimed to have surpassed South Africa as the leading powerhouse of the region.

Countries such as Angola, Algeria, Gabon, Nigeria and Ghana experienced an influx of foreign direct investment largely due to the rising oil and natural gas prices. However, by 2015 the prices of oil, natural gas and other resources had declined by over 60 percent.

These factors compounded the social and political instability brought about by U.S. and NATO wars against the governments in Libya and Ivory Coast, which resulted in the collapse of these societies fueling migration from Africa across the Mediterranean and into Southern, Central and Eastern Europe.

Similar western interventions in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and the unresolved question of Palestine’s independence, have worsened the crisis of displacement. United Nations agencies have reported that the situation of dislocated persons domestically, as well as refugees and migrants, with estimates numbering 65-75 million people, easily surpasses any period since the conclusion of World War II.

In his opening address, AU Chairperson President Alpha Conde of Guinea noted that: “Aware of the importance of human capital, the AU has decided to harness the African youth, to find ways and means of developing the youth which constitute 70 percent of the total population. The holistic management of the challenges faced by the youth call on us to find alternatives to build economies that are resilient and capable of ensuring the space for the youth in our continent.” (Zimbabwe Chronicle, July 4)

If these issues are not the focus of AU policy the future painted by Conde would not be a desirable one. A region so rich in minerals and land could further deteriorate, making conditions unlivable to even larger numbers of people across the continent.

Conde went on to emphasize that: “It is imperative on us African leaders that if we don’t invest in the youth, we would have failed our duty and compromised dangerously the future of our youth. We would have condemned them to unemployment and immigration to become parasites and beggars.”

These observations are poignant in light of the hostility that African migrants are met with in Europe and the U.S. The migration issue is being utilized by the ultra-right wing neo-fascist groups and political parties as a wedge to win political power and advance policies which reinforce racism and national discrimination against people from the former colonial territories of Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific.

Gender equality, youth and economic development

Although the AU mandated at its conception in 2002 the full integration of women within the governing structures of national and regional centers of power there is still considerable work to be done in this arena. In some countries women are represented in significant numbers within cabinet and parliamentary bodies, the civil service and professional fields. However, the onus of the declining economic situation, foreign intervention and internecine conflict falls upon the backs of women and youth.

The 19th Ordinary General Assembly of First Ladies of Africa (OAFLA) took place simultaneously with the overall AU Summit. Ms. Amira El Fadil Mohamed, the Commissioner for Social Affairs of the AU Commission, stressed that there is a pressing need for a systematic and integrated strategy aimed at tackling all four areas of the thematic demographic dividend pillars. These areas include health and wellbeing; employment and entrepreneurship; education and skills development and rights and good governance. Without adequate progress in all four areas there cannot be long lasting growth, social stability and genuine development.

According to a press release issued by OAFLA on July 4: “Sustainable and affordable access to maternal and child health care, HIV testing and counselling and immunization services, according to the Commissioner of Social Affairs, will ultimately result in young people meaningfully contributing to the socio-economic development of their society, thereby enabling them to make the right informed decisions about their health.”

Ms. Mohamed said of the challenge that: “The youth of our continent need to be guaranteed social and economic development if they are to contribute to their nations’ and continents’ economic development.”

Mrs. Roman Tesfaye emphasized: “It is high time that African nations put in place favorable policies and increase youth targeted investments. We need to lift and break the barriers faced by African youth in accessing and utilizing reproductive health information and services.”

Pan-Africanism, self-reliance and liberation

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe followed through on a previous commitment when he served as AU Chairperson. Mugabe presented a check for $1 million to the AU Foundation saying it was a “modest contribution” aimed at breaking the cycle of donor dependency.

Zimbabwe and other anti-imperialist states had criticized the AU’s readmission of the Kingdom of Morocco earlier this year absent of the resolution of the Western Sahara question. Now both the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and their occupiers in Rabat are members of the continental organization.

Morocco has carried out a diplomatic offensive among the AU member-states. Its offers of economic assistance have swayed numerous governments to agree on a compromised position on the inherent anti-colonial mission of the organization.

In the aftermath of the 29th Summit, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the SADR, Mohamed Salem Ould Essalek, said that the AU would deploy a taskforce to explore solutions to the Western Sahara crisis. The UN has gone on record calling for an internationallysupervised referendum on the future of the SADR.

Nevertheless, Morocco continues to object to a plebiscite claiming that the Western Sahara is an integral part of the Kingdom. During the early 1980s, the SADR was admitted as a full member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor to the AU. These decisions prompted the withdrawal of Morocco from the OAU/AU which lasted over three decades.

Essalek highlighted the decision of the AU Summit during the press conference in Algiers saying: “The AU will not accept the continuation of the conflict between the two states since Morocco has signed and adopted its constitutional charter whose articles 3 and 4 stipulate the imperative respect of the borders established at independence and peaceful dialogue between member countries.”
He went on to say the AU Summit had: “Defeated the plan of the Morocco occupier attempting to repeal AU’s traditional decisions on the Saharawi cause.”

Essalek claimed the decisions in Addis Ababa: “reiterates and reinforces the positions of the AU after the accession of Morocco, a decision that frustrates Morocco. This is the first time the AU has taken such a decision since 1991.”

It will remain to be seen how vigorous the approach of the AU will be in regard to winning national liberation for the SADR. The resolution of this conflict and other border issues is essential in building the necessary political trust that can move the continent towards full social and economic integration.

Only a collective approach to genuine independence and sovereignty will lay the foundation for the realization of a functioning Pan-Africanism. Moreover, the AU member-states must transform their governing structures into truly representative institutions with the mandate of the workers, farmers and youth that can effectively break with the world capitalist system and move toward socialist reconstruction.

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