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African peasants highlight their struggles at Via Campesina global conference

Via Campesina
(Derio, Basque Country, 20 July, 2017) – “It is amazing to see how linked our struggles are”. With a countenance showing enthusiasm and eagerness, Nicolette Cupido could not conceal her emotions. There are two main reasons for her excitement. It was the first time she attended a global conference of peasants’ movements starting July 16 in Derio, in the outskirts of Bilbao, Basque Country. Her movement, the Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign (FSC), South Africa, was among the new organizations accepted into membership of Via Campesina.
A community organizer and a member of the FSC, Nicolette engages in food production at home and community gardens in Moorreesburg, a village in Western Cape, 120Km away from Cape Town.
She grows a variety of vegetables, that is the way she contributes in building food sovereignty. “I plant tomato, unions, beetroot, cabbage and carrots. The struggle for food sovereignty has to be practical, too”, she said.
Like Nicolette, about 20 other African peasants representing movements from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Ghana attended the conference.
This conference happens at a time when Africa is undergoing a harsh moment, as indicated by Ibrahima Coulibaly from the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations (CNOP) in Mali. Almost everywhere in Africa the elite and corporations are undertaking efforts to capture and control people’s basic means of production, such as land, mineral resources, seeds and water. These resources are increasingly being privatized due to the myriad of investment agreements and policies driven by new institutional approaches, imposed on the continent by western powers and Bretton Woods institutions.
“Democracy is under attack. Repression of protests and murder of political leaders is escalating, but we have to continue to build alternatives”, said Coulibaly.
Elizabeth Mpofu, from the Zimbabwe Smallholder Farmers Forum, is a small-scale farmer who had access to land after she took part in the radical land occupation that resulted in the fasttrack land reform in the early 2000s. According to her, building alternatives is to take direct action.
“I was a landless woman. Through our courage and determination we stood up and took action. Now I have land and I do agroecology farming”, she said.
Relations between the state, corporate power and the peasantry have always been exploitative. This characterizes the agrarian question in Africa. As some academics have argued, these relations have been coercive.
The perception that Africa is  a vast  “underutilized” area and, therefore, available  for large-scale agricultural investment, continues even today particularly among some western governments and foreign investors.
The African peasantry has, however, always resisted capital penetration in the countryside. “Africa has taught us many centuries of struggle and resistance”, remarked Eberto Diaz, a peasant leader from Colombia during the opening session of the 7th Conference of La Via Campesina. Elizabeth Mpofu shares the belief: “I think that our historical and present struggle experiences in Africa could inspire comrades from other countries”.
Domingos Buramo, from the Mozambique Peasants Union (UNAC), brought to the conference the experience of the Mozambican peasants and other civil society organizations against land grabbing and large-scale investment projects in Mozambique. He mentioned that the resistance to ProSavana, a large-scale agricultural project proposed for Mozambique, is an example of how transformative articulated struggles could be. “Now the government is changing its vision as a result of our work. We can change our societies”, he said.
In South Africa, landless black people are engaging in various forms of protest to access to land, water and development resources. “We do various social actions such as protest marches, pickets, sit-ins and even land occupations”, said Tieho Mofokeng, from the Landless Peoples Movement in Free State, South Africa.
Africa – including the Maghreb region – was the last continent to be part of Via Campesina. Since 2004 the number of African peasant movements joining La Via Campesina has been increasing. African movements consider their membership to the peasant movement as a strategic process of amplifying their struggles and reinforcing internationalism.

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Trump’s Africa policy should end US aid to dictators, rights abusers


It is ironic that those who are criticizing Trump on Africa today seemed to have taken a vow of silence when Barack Obama befriended and wined and dined the most ruthless African dictators. Obama overlooked their deplorable human rights and corruption records in the name of counter-terrorism cooperation.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump was criticized for letting his “unelected” daughter Ivanka sit in for him during the high-level “Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health” session at the G-20. Ms. Trump was criticizedfor not making “any major contributions” to the session “during her father’s absence.”

Trump has been accused of ignoring and neglecting Africa. He has been criticized for “having Africa last in his first budget;” and the prophets of doom and gloom predict his “slash-and-burn cuts to the State Department and USAID would deepen the worst humanitarian crises since World War II.” Some have even suggested that aid cutbacks by the Trump administration could drive Africa’s unemployed youth into the hands of terrorists.

Trump has expressed “overall skepticism about the value of foreign aid, and even about American security interests, on the world’s second-largest continent.” And there is in fact substantial evidence that aid “from the rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty.”

Additional “evidence” of Trump’s neglect and indifference towards Africa include his “ignorance” of the continent, his selective communication with only a couple of African leaders, his demands for accountability in U.S. Africa policy, the aborted appointment of  Rudolph Atallah “best known for his work on East Africa and counterterrorism issues” as National Security Council Africa director, his nonchalance in filling vacancies for assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary for African affairs at the State Department and his general failure to promote human rights in Africa and elsewhere.

The inference to be drawn from all of the criticism is that the Trump administration simply fails “to realize the importance of Africa to U.S. national security interests, and America’s indispensable role in continuing to shape the democratic evolution of the continent,” and is callously turning its back on “more than 20 million people facing  starvation and famine” in Africa. The solution, apparently, is for Trump to appoint “moderate and experienced Africa experts” and old hands who perambulate through the revolving door of government, think tanks and consultancies.

Ultimately, the criticisms of Trump on his (lack of) Africa policy are dubious, deceptive and self-serving.

It is ironic that those who are criticizing Trump on Africa today seemed to have taken a vow of silence when Barack Obama befriended and wined and dined the most ruthless African dictators and overlooked their deplorable human rights and corruption records in the name of counter-terrorism cooperation. Few Trump critics today spoke out when Obama shamelessly called the regime in Ethiopia, which claimed to have won 100 percent of the seats in parliament in 2015,  “democratically elected.” That regime today rules by a draconian state of emergency decree.

Trump has made his foreign policy position crystal clear. It is “America First.” In April he declared,  “It’s time to shake the rust off America’s foreign policy” and “invite new voices and new visions into the fold.” He said he will follow a “foreign policy (that) will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else.”

In his official “remarks” to State Department employees in May, Secretary Tillerson said, “our overarching strategic approach” will be to determine our allies and partners on a country-by-country and region-by-region basis. He also declared that U.S. foreign policy will be propelled by “our fundamental values: our values around freedom, human dignity, and the way people are treated.”

In Africa, removing the “rust” from U.S. policy means disentanglement from partnership with African dictators because continuing with business as usual with them will not enhance American security; it only creates an untenable moral hazard.

The concept of “moral hazard” signifies a situation in which a government is insulated and immunized from the consequences of its negligent, reckless and incompetent behavior. African regimes heavily dependent on the safety net of American development and humanitarian aid, sustained infusion of multilateral loans will behave differently if they were left to their own devices to deal with the consequences of their mismanagement of their economies, tolerance of crippling corruption, chronic budget and food deficits, mushrooming poverty and unemployment and bad governance and face the wrath and fury of their citizens.

The moral hazard in U.S. policy in Africa comes also from the rewards of increasing amounts of aid and loans to buffer African dictatorships from a tsunami of democratic popular uprisings.

Many African regimes today avoid the demands of good governance, ignore the rule of law and commit gross violations of human rights in the belief that American taxpayer handouts will be there to bail them out. Since the 1960s, American taxpayers have provided over one trillion dollars which have served to sustain failed or failing African regimes.

There is substantial evidence showing that most African leaders are only interested in clinging to power cushioned by the financial support of American and other Western taxpayers. They are not interested in engaging America on what matters most to Americans — democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and the like. More democracy and greater respect for human rights necessarily means less famine and starvationand accelerated  development because a government that is not able, willing and ready to feed its people or effectively address poverty will be swept out of office by a hungry and angry electorate.

Trump needs to take a fresh start by first taking out the moral hazard in U.S. policy in Africa and by “inviting new voices and visions” on how to wean Africa from aid addiction.

Trump should adopt a policy that facilitates partnership with the African people, not their dictators in the name of counter-terrorism.

Ultimately, American handouts and loans will not save Africa. Only Africans can save themselves.

The best way Trump can help Africa is by ending the insidious culture of competitive panhandling on the continent and ensuring that American national security and tax dollars are not entangled with the toils of African dictatorships.

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Trump dissing Africa


Trump’s myopic motto, ‘America First’, is complemented by an unspoken one, ‘Africa Never.’ His refusal to take notice of Africa will be deleterious to US-Africa relations. Luckily, one of the unintended benefits of Trump’s dissing of Africa is the realization of people of African origin worldwide that they need to pursue a common agenda.

As of March 2017, Africa had barely registered in President Donald Trump’s book. In January and February, he had managed to speak to a couple of African leaders, namely Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari as well as South African Jacob Zuma. Trump’s chilly mien towards them and stepchild treatment of Africa are evidenced by, inter alia, his call for the complete elimination of the African Development Foundation (ADF) which provides much needed grants in the form of seeds and technical assistance to businesses. The US government designed the program to empower women and youth. According to an article in the Daily Comment, titled, ‘Donald Trump Lost in Africa’ by Alexis Okeowo( March 29, 2017), in 2016, the US invested just over $50 million. Although modest in terms of world standards, for Africa, this was a tremendous blessing.

The current xenophobic approach to the continent is unmistakable. Among the Moslem-majority nations fingered by Trump’s callous executive order proscribing people from the US, are three from Africa: Somalia, Sudan and Libya. Efforts by academic institutions to put Africa on a sound footage have been greeted with frustration. The University of Southern California, for example, annually invites over representatives of business and government entities in Africa and the US. Sadly, this year no Africans showed up due to non-granting of visas to the 60 prospective delegates. The head of the African Union expressed the irony of it all as follows, “The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries”.

The Trump Administration’s disdain for Africa is a pernicious admixture of ignorance and exploitation. Economic progress for the continent is now on America’s back burner. It is evident that America’s chair in Africa is empty ready to be occupied by her rivals such as China. Its lingering interest is of a military nature associated with the defeat of ISIS, Al Qaeda and, tangentially, Boko Haram.

Thus, it was hardly surprising that, on Saturday, 8 July 2017, the 45th President of the United States dumped the high-level G20 pow-wow in Germany in favor of a bilateral meeting. In so doing, he passed the baton to a former businesswoman and fashion model who took his seat during a session on ‘Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health.’ All because Ivanka is his daughter. Brian Fallon of CNN, sarcastically observed in a tweet, “I am sure Republicans would have taken it in a stride if Chelsea Clinton was deputized to perform head of state duties.” Brian Klaas of the London School of Economics displayed the photo of the First Daughter and commented, “Ivanka Trump, unelected, unqualified daughter-in-chief, is representing the US at the G20 summit next to May, Xi, Merkel.”

This whole episode was a demonstration of Trump’s insensitivity to the needs of more than 1 billion people. Why was Ivanka in on this session? It is no secret that her knowledge of Africa is scanty, at best. Her interests are limited to the Safari adventures that she and her family have taken and business prospects. Her exclusive line of shoes made for working women are currently made in China (one wonders why). Due to dirt cheap labor, the factories may move to Africa (one still wonders why) in the age of Made In America.

A related question: Why did Trump excuse himself from participation in the deliberations that included the ‘Compact for Africa’ whose aim is to support a financial structure to increase investment prospects and create jobs in the continent? Incidentally, the Germans have taken partial ownership of the project now dubbed the ‘German Marshall Plan for Africa.’ Ominously, President Trump got up and walked out of the session just as World Bank President Jim Jong Kim was laying out a consensus agreement. One cannot help but draw the conclusion that No 45 has all but written the continent off the map of the world. The following observations apply:

*After his election as President, a tremendous sense of apprehension gripped Africa. In a piece titled, ‘It might not be the end of the world if Africa drops off Donald Trump’s map’, Yinka Adegoke (Quartz-Africa, November 13, 2016) wrote, “In a break from diplomatic niceties, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia, described Hillary Clinton’s loss as ‘extremely’ sad. Africa’s first Nobel Prize laureate for Literature, Wole Soyinka, said he will make good on his promise to rip up his US green card.”

*It is no accident that the heartiest congratulations for Trump’s ascendancy to power were offered by some of the leading populist dictators in Africa.

*Earlier this month, Riva Levinson, opinion contributor of The Hill, reported that, “During the May G-7 summit in Italy, when the President of Mali reached the podium to give the African perspective, President Trump removed his headphones, opting out of the French-to-English translation. Many interpreted the gesture as a disregard for the African agenda.” Indeed, it was.

*To date, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt is the only African leader who has been invited to the Trump White House. He has managed only to speak to President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

*As of April 2017, the African Affairs office is led by a career foreign service officer. There is contemplation of yet naming an acting Secretary of State for African Affairs. This, despite the fact that the post has been regarded as a substantive appointment in all US administrations. In fact, it had been reported that in March, Rudy Atallah, a highly thought of specialist on Africa had been considered for the post of National Security Council’s Senior Director for Africa. However, the job was rescinded.  This is emblematic of negative orientation towards things African by the Trump billionaire crowd.

*Based on a document authored by Trump’s transition unit in November 2016, the in-coming administration was contemplating the possibility of limiting or even eliminating US involvement in African programs that previous administrations deemed essential to American foreign policy. They include: efforts to rid the continent of militant groups such as Somalia’s Al-Shabab; the tracking down of Joseph Kony, Uganda’s utterly contemptible warlord whose Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has wreaked havoc in the area; and President George W. Bush’s initiative to reduce the scourge of HIV/AIDS that goes by the name of PEPFAR. According to a New York Times report, the more than $70 billion pledged by PEPFAR will be forfeited if current plans prevail; down-sizing the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which President Obama had re-authorized to the end of 2025. Through it, nations have access to tariff-free goods in the US.

*According to research by John J. Stemlau ( African Independence- Business, July 7, 2017), a recent Pew global survey on views about the US under Trump revealed unflattering results. It pointed out that countries that included six in Africa, namely, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ghana showed a 15 per cent drop in positivity. The drop was from 64 per cent during Obama to 49 per cent.

Trump’s myopic motto, ‘America First’, is complemented by an unspoken one, ‘Africa Never.’ His military interests are driven by the US’s ability to make money selling ammunition and the burning desire to destroy Isis and Al Qaeda in relevant areas. His refusal to take notice of Africa is bound to be deleterious to US-Africa relations. It will, for example, sink the Obama initiatives in the form of Trade Africa, Doing Business in Africa and Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). One of the nadirs of Trump Africa policy is that it is tone deaf to the advantages of promoting the virtues of democracy, human rights and good governance which are crying for attention.

Granted, Trump’s administration has cultivated a love affair with Egypt which, though an African country, it is a large part of Arab interaction. So far, there is no sign of interest in black Africa given its size, political, social, economic and cultural significance to America. After all, close to 20 per cent of US citizens are of African descent. Trump’s predecessor is of Kenyan parentage. There is a disturbing trend among the new foreign affairs operatives who casually view African issues as problems. For example, they regard disturbances in Sudan and Ethiopia as purely domestic matters. President Obama took steps to reduce the danger posed by extremists in South Sudan but Trump wont. He has chosen the vainglory of beefing up the military to fight ISIS over the humanitarian needs of the continent. The Secretary of State and the President have yet to make plans about visiting Africa.

Luckily, one of the unintended benefits of Trump’s dissing of Africa is the realization of people of African origin worldwide that they need to heed the call for an Africacentric global view towards a common agenda. Now, President Donald Trump had his ignorance and animus on full display when he said, “Africans are very lazy. The best they can do is gallivanting around the streets, lamenting how they were colonized. These are the people America doesn’t need. They are the enemies of progress. Look at African countries like Zimbabwe for instance, those people are stealing from their own government and go to invest in foreign countries.” (MzanskiLive- South African Website, December 12, 2016).

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Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe: 90 years of struggle, suffering and sacrifice

Thando Sipuye/University of Sobukwe

Mama Sobukwe epitomises the collective experiences of many Black women throughout the Afrikan continent and diaspora whose roles and contributions in the liberation struggle remain unacknowledged, written out of popular historical narratives, biographical memory and national consciousness.

Today, 27 July 2017, marks the 90th birthday of Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, the forgotten, ignored and erased ‘Mother of Azania’ who has endured unspeakable suffering, struggle and pain.

She will celebrate her 90th birthday, as usual, in private, at her humble home, with family and close friends. There will be no glamour, no journalists, and no live broadcast. And, quite frankly, the saddest part is that most people aren’t even aware that she’s still alive.

Born Zondeni Veronica Mathe on 27 July 1927 in Hlobane in Natal, she got married to Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe on the 6 June 1954 and, in line with African tradition and matrimonial rites of passage, she received the customary nuptial name of Nosango. She bore four children: Miliswa, Dinilesizwe, Dalindyebo and Dedanizizwe.

In her intriguing novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Adiche Ngozi speaks about the “danger of a single story”, questioning ideas such as the potential of a single narrative to create stereotypes and perpetuate certain erasures.

Although women are the bedrock of society, and in fact, the primary nurturers of socio-economic and political revolutions, when history is told, their stories, contributions and experiences tend to be downplayed or erased.

If, and when, the stories of women are told, only those of the popular, already well-known and overly researched women get retold slightly differently. Only those whose activism was masked by overt theatrics attract public interest and the imagination of scholars and artists.

The erasure, silencing and neglect of Mama Sobukwe must be read and understood through this lens, exposing the broader systematic project of erasing, neglecting and silencing ordinary Black women and their experiences.

Mama Sobukwe epitomises the collective experiences of many other Black women throughout the Afrikan continent and diaspora, whose roles and contributions in the liberation struggle remain unacknowledged, written out of popular historical narratives, biographical memory and national consciousness.

Forgotten by the ignoramus oligarchs, politicians and authorities of the countries for which they and their beloved sacrificed their lives during the liberation struggle, a majority of them today rely on government pensions and grants to make ends meet.

Mama Sobukwe is a glaring example of this unforgivable shame.

She embodies the rejection of both the racist white-settler regime whom she challenged through her numerous letters to racist apartheid authorities like the then Minister of Justice, Jimmy Kruger and then Prime Minister B.J. Voster, demanding the release of her husband; as well as the current ANC government that undermines the contributions of the Sobukwes in the liberation struggle.

In fact today, and perhaps out of disdain for the course of history, the ANC makes concerted efforts to completely erase the name Sobukwe from public memory. Mama Sobukwe’s isolation is, therefore, no accident.

The life story of this indomitable woman is one of constant neglect, pain and erasure. She embodies the totality of the ‘serve, suffer & sacrifice’ dictum coined by her husband, Mangaliso Sobukwe, and his colleagues in the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC).

The 90-year-old resilient and strong ‘Mother of Azania’ who, although aged and frail, still spends time daily in her garden, is cast as an insignificant shadow of a feared man whose memory remains buried in secrecy and obscurity. She is rendered completely non-existent in her own right; she seems to have no humanity of her own, forgotten, erased and muted.

A simple Google search of Mama Sobukwe’s name tells the story of her enduring invisibility and erasure. Googling ‘Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe’ you only get three significant web-links that speak about her.

The most prominent of these is her 1997 testimony at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) regarding the complicity of the racist white-settler regime in poisoning Sobukwe, feeding him food with glass while incarcerated, denying him medical help when he got sick until his untimely death.

This report is followed by a 2014 Daily Dispatch newspaper article titled “Sobukwe’s Grave Cleaned, Declared Heritage Site”, which appeared after the government renovated Sobukwe’s vandalized gravesite in Graaf-Reinet; a 2001 East Cape News article speaking about stupid vandals who hurled a raw egg stuffed into a condom at her home; and a recent Citizen newspaper article titled, “Sobukwe’s Widow Has Been Neglected”, which revealed that Mama Sobukwe relies on old-age pension grants to make ends meet.

What is common in all these web-links is that, while they mention Mama Sobukwe’s name and are related to her in some way, the actual focus of the articles is her husband, Mangaliso. She appears in all these sites merely as the ‘wife’, ‘widow’ or ‘mother’, speaking about her husband and son.

While there is nothing necessarily wrong with Mama Sobukwe speaking about her husband or son in these articles, what is more questionable, and telling at the same time, is why her own life story remains untold.

Unlike other prominent struggle stalwarts, Mama Sobukwe receives no special attention; she gets no honour, no benefits, and no assistance at all from the ANC government. Not a single official gesture of honour and recognition has ever been granted to Mama Sobukwe; no street named after her, no government orders awarded to her, no honorary university degrees conferred upon her, and no institution, except for a local old age home in Graaf-Reinet, is named in her honour.

There is not a single website entry of Mama Sobukwe’s name containing her life story, not even a Wikipedia entry with any detail of who she is. No biography of her exists in any public platform. She just does not exist. Thus, the humble and resilient ‘Mother of Azania’ is consistently rendered insignificant.

No artist has ever rendered any known piece of artwork in tribute to Mama Sobukwe; no publicly known song exists, no paintings, no graffiti, and no book. It was only the sage Eskia Mphahlele who penned a poem titled “Tribute to Zodwa Veronica, A Great Woman”. All others have seen and felt no need to honour this noble woman whose life sacrifice deserves praise.

But rest assured, when the inevitable happens and Mama Sobukwe joins her late husband and Ancestors, all the voracious hypocrites will, in the grand opportunistic posture, want to celebrate her. They will all jump, race and compete to have a say on her and praise her. Tributes will pour from all sides; but this, of course, only when she dies.

I hope the Sobukwe family rejects all of them, their shady gestures and offers, with the contempt they deserve when that time comes.

While it is understandable that the ANC government would ignore and sideline Mama Sobukwe as they do her husband, what is deeply saddening is why PAC leaders and members (without ignoring the troubles ravaging the organization), as well as Black intellectuals in general, have also taken no interest in telling and recording her life story for posterity.

Mama Sobukwe fiercely challenged the then Minister of Justice, Balthazar Johannes Voster, about the conditions surrounding the incarceration of her husband on Robben Island, requesting several meetings which were never honoured. Instead, Voster referred Mama Sobukwe to the then Minister of Justice, Petrus Cornelius Pelser, who in turn maintained the status quo, rejecting all her appeals.

As a health practitioner and an activist in her own right, she single-handedly advocated for the release of Robert Sobukwe from Robben Island, bringing his deteriorating health to the fore. She wrote several letters to the white supremacist government demanding his release. And when all her efforts failed, she appealed to Voster to allow Sobukwe to leave South Africa permanently on an exit permit together with his family. Voster refused, and Mama Sobukwe asked that she be allowed to stay on Robben Island with Sobukwe, to oversee his health herself. Of course, the racist Voster refused.

And what of Sobukwe’s children, they who’ve suffered in silence along with their now 90-year-old mother from birth till now: Miliswa (she who is rooted), Dinilesizwe (sacrifice of the nation), Dalindyebo (creator of wealth) and Dedanizizwe (move, you nations)?

Their memory too is forgotten. Their pain, their suffering and their struggles of growing up without a father are also rendered insignificant, bearing no potency, no currency and no attraction to a single historian, journalist or biographer. The death of one of Mama Sobukwe’s twin sons, Dalindyebo, is not registered on any public platform; his, too, was an insignificant death.

The dreadful pain and suffering the Sobukwe family continues to endure goes unrecorded. But more so, the suffering of Mama Sobukwe, whose once lecturer husband’s estate, properties and legacy she has benefitted little-to-nothing from.

In an effort to give voice to Mama Sobukwe, the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Trust, in partnership with the Blackhouse Kollective, will host a tribute lecture in her honour during Women’s Month at the Mofolo Arts Centre on Saturday, 12 August 2017.

We wish Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe divine blessings as she celebrates 90 years of struggle, suffering and sacrifice.

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Reclaim the humanism of Socialism

The 2017 Strini Moodley Memorial Lecture
kaga blog

The crisis facing South Africa and the world today has its roots in: (1) the barbarism and injustices of market supremacism, racial supremacism and patriarchy; (2) the inadequacy of liberal democracy; (3) the excesses of commandist communism and vanguardist Marxism and (4) the failure of the dominant discourse to locate racism and patriarchy as much central to the problems we face as capitalism. The crisis can only be appropriately dealt with by appealing to the radical humanism of Socialism.

NOTE: This Strini Moodley Memorial Lecture was delivered on 19 July 2017 at Howard College Theatre, Howard Campus, Mazisi Kunene Avenue, University Of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN).

Respected leaders and members of the UKZN community, Umtapo Centre, the Steve Biko Transformative Educational Project and broader KZN civil society, I greet you in the name of the oneness, unity and fellowship of humanity:  SanibonaniShalom, Namaste, Assalaam Alaykum, Kgotso ebe le lona.  As frightened as I am by the word ‘memorial lecture’ and equally surprised when I saw the official invite to this event falsely accusing me of being a “lecturer”, I am greatly honored to be part of the speakers at this memorial lecture of Comrade Strinivasa Raju Moodley – the man fondly known as Connection. The Connection nickname symbolized Comrade Strini’s inclination to interact with and bring people together beyond social, political, cultural and geographic borders.  A memorial is, indeed, a fitting tribute to a man whose political and cultural work was by and large against de-historicizing the many social, political and economic problems facing humanity.  The symbolic and political significance of the concept of memorial in this context is also due to the fact that Comrade Strini subscribed to the Black Consciousness philosophy, a philosophy that has articulated the relationship between memory and being very well. Indeed Black Consciousness – like other philosophical branches Africana Philosophy[1] such as Pan Africanism[2], Black Existentialism[3], Black Existential Feminism[4] and Critical Race Theory[5] – stresses  the importance of remembering , particularly critical interrogation of the past and its link to the present and the future as a political act, that has either liberating or oppressive consequences depending on the meaning that one attaches to their place in history and their role in the making of history.

Black Consciousness has properly identified the impact of the colonialist project of denigration, disfiguring and mutilation of the histories and traditions of an oppressed people; as denying people a sense of being and belonging and, therefore, denying them their humanity.  The Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) – of which Strini was a co-founder in Azania[6] – identifies the re-humanization of the oppressed people and their mental and physical liberation as the central aim of national and class struggles the world over and as the central focus of our struggle in Azania.  The BCM articulates Black Self-realization, as the key mover of the agency of Black people as the most downtrodden of the exploited under-classes of Azania.  It proposes Black Solidarity and Black Power as the most potent instruments to confront and challenge the structures of racial-capitalism that deny Black people their humanity, and advocates egalitarian Socialist values and practices as the medium through which the humanity of all people – irrespective of the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexuality etc – can be reclaimed.

This takes us to today’s theme. I must admit that the first challenge I had in deciding how to approach my talk was deciding on which of the two proposed topics to speak on:

1. How can the flames engulfing the country be extinguished?

2. Socialism and humanism: Are they two sides of the same coin?

My struggle with the topics was precisely because I found them to be so intertwined that it would be difficult to talk about one without speaking to the other.  I found the implied framing of Socialism and humanism as discrete and separate ideals and goals problematic. I also struggled with the notion of extinguishing the flames.

What flames are we referring to?  Are we referring to the flames of spontaneous, organic and organised resistance engulfing the country as exemplified by Rhodes Must Fall, Fees Must Fall, popular land repossession actions and nationwide protests against the squeeze of the continuities of apartheid-capitalism and neoliberal policies on poor and working-class people’s lives?  Or which flames are referring to? There are so many flames engulfing the country. The country is engulfed by the fires and flames of industrial pollution that endanger the lives of thousands of people particularly poor working-class communities such as the people of Durban South basin. For decades these people have endured the assault of air pollution, oil pollution, water, noise pollution and land degradation on their lives and wellbeing caused by the activities of SAPREF[7], Engen Refinery[8] and several polluting industries ranging from waste water treatment works, numerous toxic waste landfill sites, a paper manufacturing plant and a multitude of chemical process industries. The people of Zamdela in Sasolburg for 50 years have been subjected to poor air quality as a result of high concentration of sulphur dioxide emissions and fine particulate matter courtesy of the Sasol Chemical Industry.[9] And several communities in the country for more than two decades after democracy are still literally breathing raw sewerage.

Azania is engulfed by socioeconomic violence unleashed on poor communities by neoliberal capitalist policies that churn out unemployment, poverty and inequality.  It is engulfed by rampant maladministration and corruption in the private and public sectors. Azania is engulfed by the continuities of apartheid-capitalism and racial, class and gender disparities.  Azania is engulfed by what, for a lack of better words, I refer to as internecine wars  between various fractions, appendages and outlets of capital in the scramble over who must turn the state into its private property and cash-cow the most.

The various kinds of flames engulfing Azania are related to the flames engulfing other countries and other people all over the world.  What I know, however, is that the Strinivasa Moodley we know, would have been more interested in igniting and kindling to high voltage the flames of popular resistance and revolutionary war against social, political, economic, gender and environmental injustice.  And to my understanding, Strini perceived Socialism as a scientific expression of humanist ideals.

This understanding influences me to use my poetic license and abuse the position of being the speaker to reformulate the my topic today as: Reclaim the humanism of Socialism to extinguish the flames engulfing the country.

Herbert Marcus poignantly expresses the point we make that Socialism is humanism, when he states:

“In the Marxian conception, Socialism is humanism in as much as it organizes the social division of labor, the “realm of necessity”, so as to enable human beings to satisfy their social and individual needs without exploitation and with a minimum of toil and sacrifice. Social production, controlled by the “immediate producers,” would be deliberately directed toward this goal. With this rational organization of the realm of necessity, human beings would be free to develop themselves as  “all-round individuals” beyond the realm of necessity, which would remain a world of want, of labor. But the qualitatively new organization of the realm of necessity, upon which the emergence of truly human relationships depends, in turn depends on the existence of a class for which the revolution of human relationships is a vital need. Socialism is humanism in the extent to which this need and goal pre-exist, i.e., Socialism as humanism has its historical a priori within capitalist society. Those who constitute the human base of this society have no share in its exploitative interests and satisfactions; their vital needs transcend the inhuman existence of the whole toward, the universal human needs which are still to be fulfilled. Because their very existence is the denial of freedom and humanity, they are free for their own liberation and for that of humanity. In this dialectic, the humanist content of Socialism emerges, not as value but as need, not as moral goal and justification but as economic and political practice—as part of the basis itself of the material culture.”

I would like to agree with Marcus that Socialism and humanism in its radical sense are inseparable.

My view is that the political, social and economic crisis facing the world today has its roots in (1) the barbarism and injustices of market supremacism, racial supremacism and patriarchy, (2) the inadequacy of representative liberal democracy and social democracy, (3) the excesses of commandist communism and vanguardist Marxism, and (4) the failure of the dominant discourse to locate racism and patriarchy as much central to problems we face as capitalism. Therefore this crisis cannot be appropriately dealt with without appealing to the radical humanism of socialism. It equally cannot be adequately addressed without locating Socialist and radical humanist thought in the quest for forms, expressions and organs of power beyond the state, the market and formal political parties.  Most importantly,  the rediscovery and resurgence of the humanist goal of Socialism, or what Biko and the BCM refer to as the vision of an egalitarian socialist society that bestows a human face to the world, will be just a matter of chasing shadows if Socialist and leftist thought in general is not located to the specificities and peculiarities of the conditions and problems faced by Black people, women, the gay-lesbian-transgender-intersex and queer communities, refugees and immigrants, disabled people and other disempowered , powerless , silenced and marginalised people.

It is clear that to rediscover and articulate the mission of the quest for humanity, Socialism has to disabuse and redeem itself  from the myth that Socialist ideals and practices begin with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and end with Vladmir Lenin (with  Leon Trotsky[10] and Rosa Luxemburg[11] said in hushed tones,  Mao[12] somehow tolerated, Antonio  Gramsci[13] somewhere in the background – Frantz Omar Fanon[14] and CRL James[15] as the bastard kids; IB Tabata[16], Archie Mafeje[17] and Neville Alexandre[18] too Black to be in the canons and Black socialist women completely left out.)  Most importantly, Socialism has to rid itself of the twin devils of statism and economism to explore participatory democratic politics and collaborative, cooperative, communal, social and sustainable modes of production and distribution of wealth and knowledge.

This means that we have do discard and bid goodbye to a predictive and commandist kind of Socialism that not only claims to have all the answers but also claims that only a particular party and a particular inner-circle within this party possess the spiritual powers to see the future and, therefore, the rest of society must depend on the brains and eyes, guts and whims of this group of intellectual sangomas for its destiny and future. It is ludicrous to subscribe to the notion that one party can be the leader of society instead of it taking its cue from public demands, societal issues and the dynamics of time and place. It is absurd to portray one party as the vanguard of the working-class instead of the under-classes as the vanguard and a Socialist party drawing from the daily experiences and struggles of the wretched of the earth.  It is ridiculous for one political organization to impose itself as the sole authentic representative or torchbearer of a particular philosophy and to deny the plurality of voices and diversity of perspectives and slants within one philosophy, ideology or movement. As a matter of fact, the very notion of which social force is the vehicle should be interrogated in a critical manner that avoids being essentialist about the questions of class, race and gender and also avoids being  prescriptive and dogmatic on the agents and forms of struggle. As Herbert Marcus correctly asserts:

“Socialist theory, no matter how true, can neither prescribe nor predict the future agents of a historical transformation which is more than ever before the specter that haunts the established societies. But Socialist theory can show that this specter is the image of a vital need; it can develop and protect the consciousness of this need and thus lay the groundwork for the dissolution of the false unity in defense of the status quo.”

Indeed Strini perceived Socialism, Radical Humanism and Black Consciousness as the way out of the mayhem in which we find ourselves where children and women are unsafe in the streets, at home, in schools and at every space; and wherein everyday there is one or other form of protest in demand of very basic necessities that should be a given in a normal society.

Strini understood that in the context of Azania any project aimed at re-humanizing the people who are at the intersection of the ravages of racial, class and gender oppression that does not have the insight of Black Consciousness, Black Feminism and Ecological perspectives and does not take into cognizance of all forms of social exclusion, marginalization and powerlessness is bound to fail. This comes out very clear in Strini’s input on the beginning of Umtapo where he clearly articulates a Radical Humanist and Socialist perspective on the notion of peace activism in our context.  Strini mentions that Umtapo was established in response to internecine violence in the community, particularly internecine violence among political parties and that it was aimed towards intervention programs that would make people to be in solidarity with one  another, to work together to address the root of the problem instead of fighting one another. (The Beginnings of Umtapo. Explaining that in the context of all the wars and violence in Africa and the world peace has acquired a new meaning (ibid), Strini states that:

“ …the whole notion of a peace activist is not different from the old days. In the old days we were freedom fighters. I think today every freedom fighter has to be peace activists. What is a peace activist? A peace activist is not a person who is only interested in the absence of war but is more concerned about the quality of life of every human being.  A peace activist will be fighting for development of the quality of life of every human being in the world. Not just in your own community, not just in your own family, not just in your own neighborhood, but the world over. That is what Umtapo sets out to do… to multiply themselves in the community.  The way we want to go about with this is to establish a leadership institute that will train young people to be leaders who are committed, accountable, incorruptible, who are  able to have a keen awareness of their own self and their own history and are able to mould and design a new country that will have leaders who are gonna make it their role to eliminate violence, corruption and unemployment and all the things that have riddled the country, primarily the problem of poverty.” (The Beginnings of Umtapo. 

Here Strini clearly articulates the idea that genuine struggle and achievement of peace lies in the struggle for and realisation of social, political, economic, gender and environmental justice and in the creation of an egalitarian society wherein all human beings have at their disposal the human, social, political, economic, cultural and environmental conditions required for their overall wellbeing or for meaningful human existence. He stresses:

  • the importance of solidarity, self-realization and focusing on the roots rather than the symptoms;
  •  the role of activists as facilitators of individual and collective agency  to mobilize collective action for social change;
  •   the need for committed, accountable and incorruptible leadership
  •   the vision of a development agenda that radically deals with the intersection of problems that is injurious to the welfare and wellbeing of people and the environment.

Strini’s emphasis of the importance of focusing on the roots rather than the symptoms of a problem is evocative of Jose Marti’s assertion that to be radical means to go to the roots. It is no wonder that within the BCM Strini was known as the irrepressible prophet of the revolution.  At the personal level my most unforgettable memory of Strinivasa Moodley was of him workshopping us on Freirian pedagogy.  I remember specifically his statement that has lived with me for all my life and that has shaped my social, cultural and political activism: “The role of a facilitator is to kill himself\herself.”

What I understood Strini to be saying was that the role of facilitators is not that of a gate-keepers of knowledge, power and resources; nor is the task of facilitators to build an empire for themselves or to consolidate the establishment but rather to create a world in which their services is no longer required, a world in which knowledge production and education and active participation in social, economic, political and cultural life is not the preserve of the propertied and the elite.

That as activists, in any terrain – be it in academia, organised civil society, organised labor and in social and political movements, etc – we should assume the role of facilitators rather than that of lecturers, teachers and leaders who know all the problems. What Strini is telling us is that we should see ours as the struggle against establishments, hierarchies, orthodoxies, dogmas and canons and rather than the enterprise propping up the system that is based on various forms of social stratification, social disenfranchisement and social exclusion.

That our task is to smash the gated pedagogy that entrenches inequalities and commoditizes education and other social services in the name of standards and the bottom-line.  There is, therefore, no doubt that if Comrade Strini was here he would be among those calling for expropriation of the expropriators, for socialisation of land  and the major means of production, for equal redistribution of wealth, for the public control and social ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, for free and de-colonial education, for free, decent and habitable housing, free and quality public healthcare and quality and safe public transport, shouting at the top of his voice:

Rhodes Must Fall!

Fees Must Fall!

Outsourcing Must Fall!

Capital Must Fall!

Racism must Fall!

Patriarchy must fall!

South Africa must fall for Azania to rise!


The point we would like to make here is that Socialism and humanism, to be specific, radical humanism, are two cups of the same liter or rather Socialism minus humanism is Socialism minus its core.  By humanism here we are not referring to many variants of utopian and liberal humanism.  By now it should be common knowledge that Western humanism or liberal humanism has been exposed and rendered false in its promise of human freedom without altering the capitalist relations of production that foster unequal, inequitable and unjust power relations. Western liberal humanism has also been rendered a falsity by its failure to confront the structures of racism and patriarchy and has its indecisiveness in the face of the ecological disaster associated with unbridled accumulation.

The humanism of Marxism has been undermined by a rigidly statist and economistic paradigm characterised by vanguardism and bureaucratic centralism. The falseness of the democratic and humanist postures  of former Stalinist, one-party and  bureaucratic centralist communist regimes lies in the fact that they seek to become more humanistic by making arrangements with Western imperialism  or by using the Socialist lexicon  to implement the neoliberal capitalist agenda.  We can see this playing itself in Azania with the tendency by those in power to pay lip service to the concept of people’s power while propping up the power of capital and entrenching systemic, structural and institutional arrangements that create a form of democracy that is effectively an empire of the social, political and corporate elites.

But for genuine socialists and communists there is no denying of the fact that any liberatory project worth its salt has to be based on the humanist notion that enslaved human beings must accomplish their own liberation  and, therefore, of a frontal attack  on all structures that serve  as barriers  to human agency for liberation.  Such an understanding implies that the task of Socialists is to engage in a simultaneous process of cultivation of individual and collective agency and exposure and confrontation of the systemic, structural and institutional arrangements that constrict, suffocate and throttle human agency.

Herein lies the humanism of Socialism: The idea that human beings are makers of their own history and should be at the centre of all social, political, economic and cultural activities and processes that have an impact on their life and shape their destiny; and that all structures, systems and institutions that deny human beings this should be fought and smashed by any means necessary. As Herbert Marcus observes, “the human reality is an “open” system: no theory, whether Marxist or other, can impose the solution…”

I find myself in agreement with Marcus that the task of all who are activists and intellectuals, all those who are still free and able to think (and bold to act), is to develop the conscience and consciousness of enslaved human beings who must accomplish their own liberation…. to make them aware of what is going on, to prepare the precarious ground for the future alternatives.

This Socialist humanist ideal fits hand-in-glove in the Black Consciousness idea that the oppressed people should be the agents, subjects and objects of their own liberation; it resonates with the motto of the disability movement in Azania, ‘Nothing about us without us’, and with the maxim that has since been hijacked and commercialized as clothing label: for us by us.  Indeed a true liberatory project is one that is by the people for themselves and the role and work of a revolutionary activist in this regard is summed up in the advice of Lao Tzu[19]:

“Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves.”

Some of the practical things we could do to deal with the flames engulfing the country and the globe are:

  1. Revitalizing anti-sectarian radical popular-education, civic education, worker-education, worker-culture and theater for social transformation, centering these on the organic struggles and campaigns of the labor, student, youth, women and community organizations and using them to strengthen initiatives such as Fees Must Fall, Outsourcing Must Fall, Anti-eviction campaigns and popular protest for housing and land.
  2. Exploration and experimentation with or consolidation of existing grassroots-based community development programmes and solidarity economy initiatives that tap into the principles and practices of eco-socialism and sustainable living approaches.
  3.   Identifying spaces within and outside of existing formal and informal education platforms and broader labor, civic and social movement platforms  to explore and experiment with the ideals  of a  cooperative higher education[20] and the building of a broader movement for transformation of public higher education from  what Henry Giroux[21] refers to as a “bordered” or “limited” enterprise to a “borderless,” socially and politically conscious sphere directed towards the project of democratization and borderless pedagogy that moves across different sites – from schools to the alternative media – as part of a broader attempt to construct a critical formative culture that enables people to reclaim their voices, speak out, exhibit moral outrage and create the social movements, tactics and public spheres that will reverse the growing tide of authoritarianism.
  4. Explore the idea of bringing radical socialist and broader left groupings that are not beholden to the current neo-liberal state and capital around a National Socialist Forum that explores a common platform of action around issues of common agreement and common interests that could include, among others:
  1. A series of workshops, seminars and campaigns to advocate for human, political, social and economic development policies and programs   that  serve to radically democratize the society, the state  and the economy  and to move South Africa towards the  nationalisation  and socialization of the primary means of wealth, the commanding heights of the economy  and essential social services.
  2. A national summit on land redistribution, agrarian reform, sustainable industrial development and social and economic transformation aimed at consolidating and linking current struggles and campaigns on these issues and developing a cogent policy and political program on them.
  3. An ongoing campaign and advocacy against gender-based violence that will include a series of gender and sexuality workshops and seminars at schools, universities, communities and workplaces as an educational initiative aimed at tackling the attitudes, practices and systemic and structural factors that account for the explosion of various forms of violence and oppression against women and children and against the GBTQI community.
  4. Campaign for a popular constituent assembly that will do away with the sellout constitution that came out of the fraudulent Codesa process.

The radical humanist Socialist approach we propose to tackling the issues must attack and completely breakaway with the dominant narratives promoted by racism, capital and patriarchy that seek to portray Black people, workers, women, the GLBTQI community, refugees and immigrants, homeless and landless people as a problem instead of as people faced with particular economic, social and psychological challenges and problems caused by racism, capitalism and patriarchy.

As Biko correctly responded to the racist notion of the black problem, ‘there is no such thing as the ‘Black problem’ but that the problem is quite simply white anti-Black racism.’ We should offer the same answer to those who turn Black students and Black youth into a problem rather than as people faced by the problem. When Black youths in particular are assailed with social rhetoric that asks them not to make any reference to the apartheid past or its impact on their social realities and are encouraged to restrict their focus on seizing the abundant opportunities and spaces for self-development opened up by post-apartheid legal and constitutional framework.  When Black youths are told that an enabling environment has been created for them through the bold heroes and sheroes of the struggle, and theirs is the new struggle of pulling themselves up by their own bootstrings to occupy the spaces and seize the opportunities.

When Black youth are bombarded with the rhetoric that overemphasizes individual effort and individual agency above collective agency aimed at structural change and social transformation such as “phanda, pusha, play”[22](Hustle, push and play), “vukuzenzele” (wake up and do it for yourself), #uzoyitholakanjani uhlel’ekhoneni?” (How will you find it when you are sitting at the corner?” Socialist Humanism and BC will enable the poor black rural and township child bombarded with “uzoyitholakanjani uhlel’ekhoneni?”Occupy your space” to respond:

i am not at the corner

out of my own volition

it’s the only space

left for me to occupy

the hospital has no space

for a bed for my TB

my numeracy is too wanting

for me to know the safe number

for me to raise at a specific

time and place to a particular

person in the prison space

my mind is an occupied space

campus culture declared me a dropout

the arts architecture history lectures landed me in Venice

literature left me in London of bygone days

the curriculum spoke to me in a strange language

the fees kicked me out of the space

at home i wrestled with the rats in bed

fought with roaches for a place at the table

till the red ants evicted

my family from our shack-house

because we spoiled the value

of the house of mister mayor

i am not at the corner

out of my own volition

i put a table on the street corner

to sell potatoes and cigarettes

metro police came with guns and the law

to kick me out of the very corner

me and my buddies gathered

around the corner to wash

cars for some money for bread

the rich man came with fancy machines

  produced papers the local government

& took away the corner and the clients

i relocated to another corner

only for municipality to ask

me to produce business license

i am not under the bridge

out of my own choice

i identified a good space

where i can stand guard

on people’s cars  for  R30 for the shelter

big business came up with elegant uniform

donkiepiel & superficial smiles

Indeed Socialist Humanism will arm the youths and students, the poor and the unemployed with the political consciousness to boldly declare that as long as the systemic , structural and institutional arrangements  not only push them to the corner but also allow for the rich and propertied to even colonize the very corner  they are quarantined  to : sizohlala sizinyova ne government ..Until there is truly a government of the people by the people for the people!!!

Without any apology: Izwelethu I Afrika. I Afrika Izwelethu! One Azania: One People! One Nation: One Azania!

*MPHUTLANE WA BOFELO is an anti-establishment underground poet\essayist and popular-education and worker-education facilitator currently based in Durban in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa.


[1] “Africana philosophy” is the name for an emergent and still developing field of ideas and idea-spaces, intellectual endeavors, discourses, and discursive networks within and beyond academic philosophy that was recognized as such by national and international organizations of professional philosophers, including the American Philosophical Association, starting in the 1980s. Thus, the name does not refer to a particular philosophy, philosophical system, method, or tradition. Rather, Africana philosophy is a third-order, metaphilosophical, umbrella-concept used to bring organizing oversight to various efforts of philosophizing—that is, activities of reflective, critical thinking and articulation and aesthetic expression—engaged in by persons and peoples African and of African descent who were and are indigenous residents of continental Africa and residents of the many African Diasporas worldwide. In all cases the point of much of the philosophizings has been to confer meaningful orderings on individual and shared living and on natural and social worlds while resolving recurrent, emergent, and radically disruptive challenges to existence so as to survive, endure, and flourish across successive generations.

[2] Pan-Africanism is a worldwide intellectual movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all people of African descent. Based upon a common fate going back to the Atlantic slave trade, the movement extends beyond continental Africans, with a substantial support base among the African diaspora in the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States. It is based on the belief that unity is vital to economic, social, and political progress and aims to “unify and uplift” people of African descent. The ideology asserts that the fate of all African peoples and countries are intertwined. At its core Pan-Africanism is “a belief that African peoples, both on the continent and in the diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny

[3] Black existentialism or Africana critical theory is a school of thought that “critiques domination and affirms the empowerment of Black people in the world.  It is existential philosophy produced by black philosophers that addresses the intersection of problems of existence in black contexts.

[4] Black feminism is a school of thought stating that sexism, class oppression, gender identity and racism are inextricably bound together. Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. Existentialism is a philosophical and cultural movement which holds that the starting point of philosophical thinking must be the individual and the experiences of the individual, that moral thinking and scientific thinking together are not sufficient for understanding all of human existence, and, therefore, that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to understand human existence. Existentialist feminists emphasize concepts such as freedom, interpersonal relationships, and the experience of living as a human body. They value the capacity for radical change, but recognize that factors such as self-deception and the anxiety caused by the possibility of change can limit it

[5] Critical race theory (CRT)[1] is a theoretical framework in the social sciences focused upon the application of critical theory, a critical examination of society and culture, to the intersection of race, law, and power

[6] For the use of the name Azania read Azania – by George Wauchope available at Citing Runoko Rashidi and Ivan van Sertima (editors), African Presence in Early Asia, Tenth Anniversary Edition, Transaction Press: New Brunswick: 1995,  Black Consciousness stalwart and Maoist theorist,  advocate  Imrann Moosa asserts that the etymology of Azania to the Zanj Rebellion( 869 – 883 A.D.). The Zanj rebellion constituted of a series of small revolts that eventually culminated into a large rebellion that saw the 500 000 slaves sacking Basrah and setting up their own state, advancing to within seventy (70) miles of Baghdad itself. The Zanj built a city in the marshes known as al-Moktara (the Elect City) that was almost impregnable due to its watery location, and they also built a fortified town, al-Mani’a. They even minted their own currency. The Zanj thus took over the Caliphate and maintained a marooned state for some fifteen (15) years.  You can also go to for the different ways in which the name Azania has been used in history, politics, geology and literature.

[7] SAPREF is a joint venture between Shell SA Refining and BP Southern Africa

[8] Engen Refinery in South Durban is a business unit of the Engen Petroleum Limited, a wholly subsidiary of Engen Limited, South Africa. Engen Limited is a subsidiary of a Malaysian National Oil Company, Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas

[9] Sasol Limited is an integrated energy and chemical company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company was formed in 1950 in Sasolburg, South Africa, and is the world’s first oil-from-coal company.[2] It develops and commercializes technologies, including synthetic fuels technologies, and produces different liquid fuels, chemicals and electricity

[10] Leon Trotsky was a Marxist revolutionary, theorist, and Soviet politician. Initially supporting the Menshevik Internationalists faction within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, he joined the Bolsheviks (“majority”) just before the 1917 October Revolution, immediately becoming a leader within the Communist Party. He would go on to become one of the seven members of the first Politburo, founded in 1917 to manage the Bolshevik Revolution. Trotsky’s ideas formed the basis of Trotskyism, a major school of Marxist thought that opposes the theories of Stalinism. He was written out of the history books under Stalin, and was one of the few Soviet political figures who were not rehabilitated by the government under Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s. It was not until the late 1980s that his books were released for publication in the Soviet Union, which dissolved a short time later.

[11] Rosa Luxemburg (5 March 1871[1] – 15 January 1919) was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist, and revolutionary socialist of Polish-Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen. She was, successively, a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Due to her pointed criticism of both the Leninist and the more moderate social democratic schools of socialism, Luxemburg has had a somewhat ambivalent reception among scholars and theorists of the political left. Nonetheless, some have regarded Luxemburg and Liebknecht as martyrs of the socialist cause.

[12] Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary, poet, political theorist and founding father of the People’s Republic of China, which he governed as the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949, until his death in 1976. His Marxist–Leninist theories, military strategies, and political policies are collectively known as Maoism or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

[13] Antonio Francesco Gramsci (22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist theorist and politician. He wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought and so is considered a key neo-Marxist. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime. He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. His Prison Notebooks are considered a highly original contribution to 20th century political theory. Gramsci drew insights from varying sources – not only other Marxists but also thinkers such as Niccolò Machiavelli, Vilfredo Pareto, Georges Sorel and Benedetto Croce. The notebooks cover a wide range of topics, including Italian history and nationalism, the French Revolution, Fascism, Fordism, civil society, folklore, religion and high and popular culture. Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – uses cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie in Gramsci’s view develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure

[14] Frantz Omar Fanon (20 July 1925 – 6 December 1961) was a Martinique-born Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory, and Marxism. As an intellectual, Fanon was a political radical, Pan-Africanist, and Marxist humanist concerned with the psychopathology of colonization,[2] and the human, social, and cultural consequences of decolonization. In the course of his work as a physician and psychiatrist, Fanon supported the Algerian War of Independence from France, and was a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front. For more than five decades, the life and works of Frantz Fanon have inspired national liberation movements and other radical political organizations in Palestine, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and the United States. In What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction to His Life and Thought, leading Africana scholar and contemporary philosopher Lewis R. Gordon remarked that “Fanon’s contributions to the history of ideas are manifold. He is influential not only because of the originality of his thought but also because of the astuteness of his criticisms…He developed a profound social existential analysis of anti-black racism, which led him to identify conditions of skewed rationality and reason in contemporary discourses on the human being.” He wrote numerous books, including, most notably, The Wretched of the Earth. This influential title focuses on the necessary role that Fanon thinks violence must play in decolonization struggles

[15] Cyril Lionel Robert James (4 January 1901 – 31 May 1989) who sometimes wrote under the pen-name J. R. Johnson, was an Afro-Trinidadian historian, journalist and socialist. His works are influential in various theoretical, social, and historiographical contexts. His work is a staple of subaltern studies, and he figures as a pioneering and influential voice in postcolonial literature. A tireless political activist, James’s writing on the Communist International stirred debate in Trotskyist circles, and his history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins, is a seminal text in the literature of the African Diaspora. Characterised by one literary critic as an “anti-Stalinist dialectician”,[4] James was known for his autodidactic, for his occasional playwriting and fiction — his 1936 book Minty Alley was the first novel by a black West Indian to be published in Britain[5] — and as an avid sportsman. He is also famed as a writer on cricket, and his 1963 book, Beyond a Boundary, which he himself described as “neither cricket reminiscences nor autobiography”,[6] is often named as the best single book on any sport, ever written.[7]

[16] Isaac Bangani Tabata (known as I.B. Tabata) was a South African radical Marxist who was one of the founders of the Anti-Coloured Affairs Department group (Anti-C.A.D.) and was active in the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) from its inception in 1943. He later founded the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa, which was intended to be an individual-membership body affiliated to the AAC and the NEUM, and became its president. His writings include,” The Rehabilitation Scheme- A Fraud” ,”Boycott as a Weapon of Struggle”, and “Education for Barbarism”. For more on IB Tabata  go to

[17] Known as an intellectual pathfinder, Archibald ‘Archie’ Mafeje is a South African scholar, intellectual and political activist who joined politics through the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) and later belonged to the Society of Young African (SOYA) which was an organisation associated with the All African Convention (AAC).  Read

[18] Neville Edward Alexander (22 October 1936 – 27 August 2012) was a proponent of a multilingual South Africa and a revolutionary activist.  He gained political consciousness and was introduced to the readings of Marx and Lenin through the Teachers’ League of South Africa (TLSA) and the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM).  He later established the Yu Chi Chan Club (YCCC) to promote guerrilla warfare, and subsequently founded the National Liberation Front (NLF) to bring together people who were committed to the ‘overthrow of the state, irrespective of their political ideology, and was and detained with other members of the YCCC and charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit sabotage. In April 1990, Alexander headed the Workers’ Organisation for Socialist Action (Wosa) which was created to promote working-class interests. WOSA registered the Workers List Party in alliance with the International Socialist Movement to participate the first national democratic elections in 1994.  Workers List Party only garnered   4,169 votes, and was soon abandoned.

[19] Laozi (Lao Tzu- literally “Old Master”) was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.

[20] The idea of cooperative higher education is grounded in a theory of critical pedagogy (Student as Producer1), the history of radical workers’ education, functional governance and management model, a legal constitution and financial plan, as well as the framework for a transnational network of co-operative higher education.  In their briefing paper , Beyond public and private: A model for co-operative higher education, Joss Winn – Jwinn Mike Neary proposes that the organising principle for the co-operative university can reconstituted as collaboration, sharing and commoning, already core academic values, against the exploitative values which characterise the capitalist business. They argue that cooperative higher education is an imperative that a democratic alternative to the market-based model for social and political development is created for the benefit of humanity and the natural world.

[21] See

[22] Phanda , pusha, play is the motto  used in the adverts used to encourage people to bet in the  National Lottery Powerball game

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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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