Archive | April 2nd, 2017

The role of culture in Africa’s development  

Mbilia Bel

Africa is a vast continent with diversity of cultures. Rather than see this as an impediment to development, the continent should take advantage of this rich cultural diversity in its quest for economic development and should change the attitudes of its people towards work, interpersonal trust, time, youth and women.

There are probably as many different definitions of culture as there are different cultures. According to Zimmermann (2015), “culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habitats, music and arts”. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2016) has adopted a broad definition, stating that culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society.”

Some scholars maintain that culture is closely entwined with economic development, others fervently disagree, arguing that the effects of geography and climate are the most significant factors in shaping global economic development. This theory is supported by Jared Diamond (1999) in his book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, where he argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world.

This implies that the striking differences between the long-term histories of different people on different continents are due not to innate differences between the people themselves but to differences between their environments. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the exceptions to Diamond’s rule are too numerous for us to accept geography and natural resources as the only explanation for differences in history and culture. Take, for example, Russia, which occupies the same latitude as highly prosperous Northern Europe and Canada. Look at Singapore, which lies almost on the Equator and is most definitely in the tropics, along with many of the world’s poorest nations. Consider the world’s poorest country, Sierra Leone, which sits on some of the world’s largest diamond deposits.

In consequence, it is difficult to have a single, uniform definition of culture, in particular insofar as it relates to development, because the concept is so fluid and dynamic. This constraint notwithstanding, there are several examples of best cultural practices in development. An interesting case study of the role played by cultural values in development is provided by Japan and its history of economic success. In Japan, a combination of cultural values and practical business transformed a relatively backward economy into one of the most prosperous nations in the world in less than a century, with the majority of the gains being achieved in the last 50 years largely on the back of an aggressive export trade policy. In the aftermath of World War II, the emphasis on trade stemmed from Japan’s lack of the natural resources needed to support its industrial economy, notably fossil fuels and most minerals; in addition, the limited amount of arable land forced the country to import much of its food needs. The values central to Japan’s spectacular achievements and rapid elevation to the world’s third largest economic power include, but are not limited to, its strong work ethic; entrenched sense of group responsibility; company loyalty; interpersonal trust; implicit contracts that bind individual conduct; and commitment to education and investment in young people.

Can we, as development planners, take lessons from the example of Japan? One thing is clear. We cannot take a set of cultural values from one country and hope to implant them in another society. Japan was successful because it built its economy on its own home-grown values. Looking specifically at the development trajectory of Africa, we are forced to conclude that, while there are many aspects of African culture that can be used positively for the development of the continent, some aspects of African culture have delayed progress.

In view of the above, this paper briefly examines some of the cultural factors that have had a negative impact on the economic development of African countries and thereafter considers some cultural assets and their potential held by the continent namely, African music, cultural tourism and films.

Strong work ethic

Africa has many cultural values and beliefs. Successful organizations believe in competition and rely on the hard work, commitment and loyalty of their employees. Interestingly, many African employees of major multinationals have worked hard and given exemplary service which has helped to make these companies profitable. Instructive examples of this are legion, including Lonrho in East Africa and mining companies in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia.

A typical example is the case of foreign mining companies in South Africa, such as De Beers, which traditionally were very keen to recruit Basotho workers and also nationals of other neighbouring countries to work in their mines because they were so dependable and hard working. Ironically, when these Basotho miners and those of other nationalities returned home in 1994, many of them failed to find work because they had no experience in areas outside the mining industry. Many former miners were unable to adjust easily and take on other, unrelated but available, jobs without upgrading their skills.

By and large, there are marked differences between the working attitudes and values of those Africans who have worked for foreign companies and those who have always worked for themselves. Specifically, those Africans who worked for foreign employers learned discipline and commitment to the companies for which they worked, and this helped them to manage their own businesses as individuals. Apart from these cases of individuals who worked for foreign firms, there are also African communities which are reputed to have great business acumen or entrepreneurial skills and whose members are versatile in various sectors of their economies. Examples of such peoples include the Chaga in Tanzania, the Serahule in the Gambia, the Fulas in Guinea, Mali, the Niger and other nearby countries, the Ibos and Hausas in Nigeria, and the Kikuyu in Kenya.

In the rural areas of Africa, Okafor (1974) noted that, in days gone by, when a job had to be done the whole community would turn out with supplies and music and proceed to sing and dance through to the successful conclusion of each particular chore. In those days, this generous solidarity brought the community together. This sense of solidarity, however, has declined over the last few decades.


According to the Japanese, interpersonal trust is an important cultural strength, especially in large corporations, and if a person loses this trust he or she brings shame to the entire family. There have even been occasions where people have been forced to commit suicide. In Africa, as a consequence of colonization, most of the traditional cultural values have been eroded or weakened, in particular, the concept of trust. In many African countries people do not trust their governments because they feel that they are not doing much to reduce unemployment and poverty or to combat corruption. In Japan, if a senior government official is accused of corruption, the official immediately resigns to face the law. In Africa, nobody resigns; if anything, they will fight back and claim that their detractors are on a witch-hunt.

In Africa, at the business level, the concept of trust is selective. For example, in fields such as law and medicine there are some professionals who share facilities but maintain separate and distinct accounts. In family-owned small and medium-sized enterprises, it often happens that family members find it difficult to get along together once the head of the family dies. In some cases, siblings and children start fighting, resulting in protracted legal suits.

In general, there is much suspicion and mistrust in many African societies, particularly in the area of business, leading business people to keep everything within the family rather than seek productive and forward-looking partnerships, as is the successful model in developed countries.

Extended family syndrome

Developing societies cannot afford the luxury of a social welfare system. As Okafor (1974) acknowledged, in African society everyone is accommodated through the extended family system. Consequently, if a family has one relatively successful member, that fortunate person is expected to provide school fees, medical care, clothing, housing, and even pocket money for many others. While this system has merits – it encourages a charitable disposition and fosters cohesive family loyalties – in some instances it is exploited and abused by members of the family. In this way, it can even create dependency instead of encouraging siblings to try to stand on their own two feet. Moreover, these siblings are rarely appreciative and they may even gang up on their beneficiary.

This is a narrative sometime employed in Nigerian films of the “Nollywood” genre, which explores how, when the big man dies, his kinsmen try to take his assets from his wife and children. In addition, the demands of the extended family may prevent the successful family leader from investing in a way that could permanently improve the living standards of the entire family. Furthermore, when poorer relatives become envious and want a share of the successful family member’s properties and assets, the successful family member becomes isolated and is discouraged from further helping the extended family.

Concept of time

It is often remarked, anecdotally, that the concept of time in Africa is somewhat flexible by comparison with that of developed countries. There seems to be some substance to this popular cliché, however. Several African scholars argue that, despite the importance of time-keeping in some traditional customs, Africans as a rule are not good at keeping time. In their traditional milieu, however, Africans were compelled by certain routines to strictly respect time. For instance, there were particular times when certain rituals had to take place, such as a sacrifice. That said, in post-colonial Africa, many things have changed, including the attitude to time-keeping. Those working in the private sector who must reach work on time are placed under particular pressure by this post-colonial lackadaisical attitude.

Those working for the public sector do not always observe the same constraints, however. Thus, if a good turnout is needed for planned meetings, constant reminders must be sent and follow-up is essential in all areas of interaction. In some African countries, participants in workshops or seminars have to be given incentives not only to attend but also to be on time. Unfortunately, most developed countries expect that activities be completed in a timely fashion. Consequently, many African business people find it difficult to compete on the global market and a number of them have lost their contracts because they have not met their deadlines.

Job discrimination

Until recently there were some jobs that Africans would not take. For example, during the 1970s and 1980s many Africans in major towns and cities had a tendency to avoid certain jobs because of cultural or sexual stereotypes. Men were reluctant to work as cleaners, cooks, janitors or waiters in hotels and, if they did, they would say that they were still looking for a proper job or were doing a temporary job while they looked for a permanent one. They were hoping to be clerks, soldiers, policemen and drivers. Given our weak economies, featuring high unemployment and poverty, all available vacancies or jobs should be highly competitive and should be filled by willing recruits without discrimination as to gender or cultural considerations.

Next steps

On the positive side, there are some areas where the African people display their cultural talents and are making very good progress, namely in music and cinema. To do this they have had to embrace the western norms of cooperation and partnership, as well as coordination, creativity, and innovation.

Cooperation and partnership

For example, during the fight against apartheid in South Africa, freedom fighters sought unity in their songs in the battle against their oppressors. Most of the former political prisoners on Robben Island, such as former President Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu acknowledge that liberation songs were not only a morale booster but also fueled and united them to continue fighting until they were free. Southern Africa abounds with talented musicians and dancers, and this asset has been harnessed in scaling up the country’s creative economy.

Moreover, it is a cultural tradition among Africans that, whenever a community assignment needs to be performed, community members will come forward with their musical instruments, including drums, and will play and sing to their kinfolk working on the task and encourage them to get the job done.

Another example of the valuable cultural capital inherent in African societies may be seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), which continues to produce talented and gifted musicians, such as M’billia Bel, Koffi Olomide, and Papa Wemba . With the support of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, they were able to engage in cooperation and partnership amongst various Congolese music groups to spread their music all over Africa, and into Europe and North America. As part of this cultural revolution, their music became a source of pride and patriotism in their country – which had suffered brutal civil wars since independence in 1961.

According to SXSW Schedule (2012), over the last few decades the African music industry, both traditional and modern, has grown exponentially and has had a direct impact on African economies. There are now small-scale vendors who have established local laboratories to produce music for sale: despite the low market cost, music has the potential to create jobs, which in turn will reduce poverty.

In this connection, African governments should take advantage of this huge asset and support African music, both traditional and modern, as part of their cultural reforms. If Africa is to reap the considerable potential benefits of this great asset, however, it will need not only to strengthen its copyright laws in order to prevent piracy, but also to enhance its partnership and cooperation with the private sector to scale up this sector.

Creativity, innovation and teamwork

Another cultural manifestation which merits closer consideration is African cinema. According to Koichiro Matsuura, the former UNESCO Director-General, “films and video production are shining examples of how cultural industries, as vehicles of identity, values and meanings, can open the door to dialogue and understanding between peoples, but also to economic growth and development” (UNESCO, 2009). Thus, African cinema is an expression of the continent’s cultural identity, and demonstrates its endeavour to overcome foreign influences and develop its own voice. Moreover, African films have enabled many people to gain insights in Africa’s creativity, innovation and talents.

Despite a number of challenges that the film industry is facing in Africa, including financial constraints, piracy, problems in distributing films to the market, and the lack of a proper regulatory framework, Moudio (2013) confirms that African film is not only an entertainment industry, it is an important  money-maker. This is certainly the case with the Nigerian film industry, which currently employs over 1 million people, making it the country’s largest employer after agriculture (Moudio, 2013). In addition, the output of the Nigerian film industry– known as “Nollywood”– has a massive following in Africa and among the African diaspora around the world. The former Nigerian president  Goodluck Jonathan, who was a great supporter of Nollywood, proclaimed it as the country’s shining light and insisted that every effort be made to ensure that this light continued to shine.

Apart from Nigeria, the film industry has continued to grow in many African countries such as South Africa, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, and Angola. South Africa has seen a steady rise in both the quality and reputation of its films. A South African film – Tsotsi – won the 2006 Academy award for the best foreign language film. Because of its favourable weather, South Africa has provided locations for a number of major blockbusters, such as Mad Max: Fury Road, Blood Diamond (starring Leonardo Di Caprio), and Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood.

These are all positive signs that the African Industry is breaking its traditional cultural boundaries. What the industry needs now are cultural ambassadors, strong political support and will, and financial support from the continent’s private sector and its development partners. The support extended by Goodluck Jonathan to Nollywood is particularly instructive in this regard. There can be no doubt that if African leaders encourage and promote African films the benefits will be immeasurable. Across its many countries, the continent represents an enormous market of over I billion people. This offers an unprecedented opportunity for Africa, which it should not neglect. It offers prospects for reducing unemployment, in particular among young graduates, and this, in turn, will reduce poverty and raise living standards in the countries concerned. With small budgets, the African film industry has been able to embrace some of its cultural talents such as teamwork, creativity and innovation.


Culture is indeed a vital factor to be taken into consideration when discussing or contemplating action in development. Africa is a vast continent with a huge diversity of cultural norms and practices. There are great variations among its regions, countries and ethnic groups and this needs to be recognized. Rather than see this as an impediment to development, the continent should take advantage of this rich cultural diversity in its quest for economic development and should change its attitude towards work, interpersonal trust, time, youth and women. Successes in Botswana (Hanson, 2008), Mauritius (Zafar, 2011) and other countries prove that Africans can be punctual, innovative, entrepreneurial and forward-looking. In addition, much greater use should be made of the creative talents available in the continent, of its drama, films and music as effective tools for raising awareness among the African people of the need for education and for a change in their negative attitudes and values to boost their economic development.

At the same time, we must accept that the attributes which underpinned the rapid success of countries like Japan and other developed countries will take time to take root in Africa.  To improve its economies, the culture of good governance cannot be seen as a distant luxury, to be aspired to but avoided in practice: to boost economic development all important cultural values must be in place and must be governed by transparency, accountability, trustworthiness and empowerment. Like Japan, each individual African country should build its own economy based on its home-grown cultural values. The successes of African films (Nollywood) and African music are instructive.

* Ambassador Dr. John O. Kakonge is a sustainable development consultant and adviser.


Diamond, J. (1999). Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York, W. W. Norton & Company Inc.

Hanson, S (2008). “Botswana: An African success story shows strains”. Available at:….

Independent (2015). “Botswana tops Lonely Planet’s list of best place to visit in 2016”. Available at:….

Moudio, R. (2013). “Nigeria’ film industry: a potential gold mine?” Africa Renewal. Available at:

Okafor F. C (1974) Africa at Crossroads, New York, P.22

Shah, V. (2015). “The role of music in human culture”. Available at: the- role-of-music-in-human-culture

SXSW Schedule (2012). “Banking beats: Africa’s music economy”. Available at:

UNESCO (2009). “Nollywood rivals Bollywood in film/video production”. Available at….

UNESCO (2016). “Learning to Live Together”. Available at: http: // New/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international.

Zafar A. (2011): “Mauritius: an economic success story” in: Yes Africa Can. Success Stories from a Dynamic Continent. Eds. Punam Chuhan-Pole and Manka Angwafo. World Bank, Washington DC, 2011.Available at:

Zimmermann, K. A. (2015). “Definition of culture”. Available at:….

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The BRICS New Development Bank meets in Delhi: Dashing Africa’s green-developmental hopes?


Will the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc ever really challenge the world financial order? The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) leadership is meeting in New Delhi from 31 March to 2 April with a degree of fanfare unmatched by accomplishments. It is a good moment to assess progress since the BRICS Summit in 2013 when rumour had it that the then host city of Durban would also be the NDB’s home base. (It ended up in Shanghai, launched in 2015.)

BRICS leaders often state their vision of establishing alternatives to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Indeed the NDB leadership began with environmentally-oriented loans last year, and in 2017 wants to add $3 billion in new credits.

But looked at from South Africa, questions immediately arise about key personnel, as well as the willingness of the only local NDB borrower so far – the electricity parastatal Eskom – to support renewable energy, and perhaps most importantly whether the country and the continent can afford more expensive hard-currency loans.

Greenwashing finance as Africa loses IMF power

Why green loans? The original NDB designers were two former World Bank chief economists, Joe Stiglitz and Nick Stern. Although their public endorsements of the NDB stressed sustainable development and climate change, in private Stern offered a different rationale during a 2013 conference of the elite British Academy (which he chairs): “If you have a development bank that is part of a [major business] deal then it makes it more difficult for governments to be unreliable.”

Stern asked, “are there any press here, by the way? OK, so this bit’s off the record. We started to move the idea of a BRICS-led development bank for those two reasons. Coupled with the idea that the rich countries would not let the balance sheets of the World Bank and some of the regional development banks expand very much, and they would not allow their share in those banks to be diluted.”

While this is true, the BRICS gained substantial IMF voting power increases in the 2015 restructuring (e.g. China up 37%, India 23%, Brazil 11% and Russia 8%), but with negligible United States or European dilution. Instead, the rising BRICS shares were as a result of Nigeria and Venezuela losing 41% of their vote, along with Libya at -39%, Morocco -27%, Gabon -26%, Algeria -26%, Namibia -26%, Cameroon -23%, Mauritius -21% and even South Africa lost 21%.

Four BRIC countries stood on African and Latin American heads to get better executive director seats at the IMF table. When they got there, the BRICS directors approved the reappointment of Christine Lagarde in 2016 and after she was convicted on a $430 million corruption charge last December, the IMF directors unanimously endorsed her continued employment.

The NDB’s first loans did boost environmentally-oriented projects, as $300 million went to Brazil, $81 million to China, $250 million to India and $180 million to SA, the latter to connect renewable Independent Power Producer generators to the main grid. But these processes are accomplished with mostly local-currency inputs, hence the US$ loans were inappropriate. Like the other multilaterals, NDB repayments are in US dollars, which adversely affect the borrower’s balance of payments, although the NDB has started fund-raising from yuan and rupee markets so this may eventually change.

But worse, Eskom’s two most recent leaders, Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko, simultaneously announced that they wanted nothing more to do with renewable energy. A massive battle over renewables was only resolved a month ago when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget Statement recommitted to the IPP contracts. (Koko may well have to step down after last week’s conflict-of-interest revelations involving a scandalous $100 million tender suspiciously won by his stepdaughter’s company.)

In that budget, Gordhan refused Eskom further nuclear energy financing, beyond an initial $15 million: a tiny downpayment on the in-principle reactor purchase agreement that President Jacob Zuma had made to Moscow-based Rosatom, with anticipated costs of $50-100 billion. The principle supplier of raw inputs to the nukes – if they are built – will be Oakbay, a uranium (and coal) company owned by the notorious Gupta brothers.

Gupta gyrations

This week the Guptas are in court fighting Gordhan over his failure to reverse the main SA commercial banks’ boycott of Oakbay and other Gupta-owned firms. This boycott is the widely understood reason that Gordhan was recalled from a UK-US investment trip on Tuesday morning: to be fired.

For the NDB, such turmoil is extremely important because SA’s Governor to the NDB is Gordhan. And the oft-rumoured ascension to the Treasury by Molefe is vital in part because he was SA’s BRICS Business Council leader until recently – following his own humiliating resignation as Eskom chief executive last November. That was the result of the Public Protector’s “State of Capture” report revealing influence over Molefe by the Guptas.

After he (incorrectly) claimed that the Gupta’s luxurious Saxonwold neighbourhood contained a shebeen (pub) that might explain his regular presence there, Molefe’s credibility was utterly destroyed. Nevertheless, in January, Molefe was appointed to parliament amidst fresh controversies over Gupta meddling.

Just before the Eskom resignation, Molefe made an articulate appeal for a replacement of “the current ‘casino’ financial system or ‘law of the jungle’ with a project that expressly promotes the common good among nations, provides credit for high-technology development projects, on youth education and training and meets the growth challenges of the future.”

Molefe bragged that “BRICS and its allies are taking bold corrective measures by building a world system based on real value and to create a system capable of fundamentally shaping socio-economic growth and development. There have been some significant steps taken, in particular the launch of the NDB, which has already started funding key projects.”

Yet these are the very ‘key projects’ – renewable energy – that Molefe was sabotaging at that time, suggesting his NDB pronouncements simply cannot be taken seriously.

The NDB website itself observes “a need for Multilateral Development Banks to reinvent themselves” on the one hand, but on the other, its president KV Kamath last September signed a deal with the World Bank for “co-financing of projects; facilitating knowledge exchange… and facilitating secondments and staff exchanges.”

NDB personnel

In contrast to Molefe, two other executives from SA receive regular praise. Ironically, SA’s NDB Director is former Reserve Bank Governor (1999-2009) Tito Mboweni, who had slammed the NDB as “very costly” in 2013. Upon accepting the NDB directorship two years later (as the only one of the five not employed by a BRICS state), he promptly declared that nuclear energy financing “falls squarely within the mandate of the NDB.”

Mboweni is International Advisor to Goldman Sachs. That should have been an embarrassment in January 2016 when, according to financial journalists, the bank “identified shorting the rand as one of its top trades for this year due to falling commodity prices and SA’s current account deficit.” At that point the SA currency was rapidly pushed down to its historic low of R18/$. (It since recovered to R12/$ after the speculative wave ebbed, but recent Treasury turmoil just drove it below R13/$.)

SA’s NDB Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Leslie Maasdorp, also worked at Goldman Sachs (and Barclays and Bank of America), led Pretoria’s failed privatisation strategy and was an unsuccessful, short-lived chief executive of privatised education firm AdvTech.

One other NDB job remains open: the much-advertised head of the NDB Africa Regional Centre in Johannesburg. In December 2015, Zuma announced that his 2014-15 finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, would urgently take that job. It appeared to be a fig-leaf appointment, so as to replace the fiscally-conservative Nene with a man – Desmond van Rooyen – considered close to the Guptas.

This caused such an uproar that not only did three top white bankers communicate to Zuma that he must reverse course, but also a “critical intervention” (according to the country’s leading business writer, Peter Bruce) was made by Beijing’s owners of the Johannesburg-based Standard Bank, leading to van Rooyen’s firing within four days, and Gordhan’s appointment.

Zuma, acting as clumsily as usual, never had a guarantee of Nene’s job from the NDB officials, who subsequently stalled the Africa Regional Centre’s launch. It was originally scheduled for March 2016. Then last September, the BRICS Business Council website declared that the new Centre’s Johannesburg headquarters would be ready by November. (The Africa Regional Centre is still to be launched, now more than a year late.)

The location was ‘well received’ in the rest of Africa, according to the Business Council, because the NDB will lend to other countries, not just the BRICS. Leading Ugandan official Louis Kasekende argued that Africa should “have access to credit as quickly as possible at low rates,” especially to “reduce the timeframe of projects finalisation and approval process.”

Inappropriate finance for Africa

Reducing the timeframe would logically mean reducing attention to environmental and social dimensions (the critique of development banks most often made by civil society). But the larger problem is the exceptionally high debt burden African countries now shoulder, following the world crash of commodity prices from 2011-15. The NDB would offer Africa only hard-currency loans that are extremely expensive when currencies crash.

As the Financial Times recently reported, “One factor Africa’s indebted countries have in common is sharp devaluations of their currencies against the US dollar. Since mid-2014, the Mozambique metical is down 56 per cent against the dollar, the Angolan kwanza 41 per cent and the Ghanaian cedi 36 per cent, for example.” In 2011, 6.3 South African rand bought a US dollar; today it costs twice as much.

After multilateral lenders’ and G7 debt relief in 2006, the foreign debt of SubSaharan Africa was cut by $100 billion, to $200 billion. But thanks mainly to Chinese state loans (associated with the extractive industries), it is now up again above $400 billion, with countries like Angola, Chad and Ghana paying more than 30% of their governments’ revenues on debt servicing.

South Africa’s own payment obligations to the BRICS NDB will become onerous as well. To capitalise the NDB, $680 million was allocated by Nene in 2015-16, rising steadily to $3.2 billion this year and $6.2 billion by 2020. The NDB’s capital base, which is notionally $100 billion, is shared equally by all five (unlike the $100 billion Contingent Reserve Arrangement which treats South Africa the way the IMF does, with a much smaller share of the quota: $10 billion). Other multilateral financiers cost South Africa $19.2 billion in ‘provisions’ made in the current budget (i.e. to be paid when called for by the financier); indeed only the IMF capital subscription will be more costly ($6.4 billion this year, rising to $7.2 billion in 2020) than the NDB.

Paying these substantial subscriptions is onerous, given that they contribute to enforcing the neo-liberal ideology that continues oppressing the continent’s people. But moreover, South Africa also faces a terrifying rise in its own foreign debt, which according to the March 2017 SA Reserve Bank Quarterly Bulletin had risen to $143 billion in September 2016, a $10.6 billion rise over the prior three months. At 50% of GDP, this is the highest debt burden in the country’s modern history; the only prior default was in 1985 when the ratio was 40%.

The reason for soaring foreign debt is that multinational corporations are taking SA-sourced profits and dividends to London and other offshore financial headquarters. Indeed, as Chinese lenders, Indian steelmakers, other BRICS mining houses and the Gupta family externalise their own funding flows, the tragic irony of the NDB emerges.

In sum, the unnecessary NDB loans to Eskom contribute to more BRIC country power over the one African country, South Africa, that once had the potential to stand up and fight for justice. But perhaps Molefe in the Gupta’s suburb of Saxonwold, that might just have been shebeen talk.

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World Bank declares itself above the law

World Bank

The World Bank has for decades left a trail of human misery. Destruction of the environment, massive human rights abuses and mass displacement have been ignored in the name of “development” that works to intensify neo-liberal inequality. In response to legal attempts to hold it to account, the World Bank has declared itself above the law.

At least one U.S. trial court has already agreed that the bank can’t be touched, and thus the latest lawsuit filed against it, attempting to obtain some measure of justice for displaced Honduran farmers, faces a steep challenge. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of legal proceedings, however, millions of people around the world have paid horrific prices for the relentless pursuit of profit.

A trail of evictions, displacements, gross human rights violations (including rape, murder and torture), widespread destruction of forests, financing of greenhouse-gas-belching fossil-fuel projects, and destruction of water and food sources has followed the World Bank.

The latest attempt at accountability is a lawsuit filed in the U.S. federal court in Washington by EarthRights International, a human rights and environmental non-governmental organization, charging that the World Bank has turned a blind eye to systematic abuses associated with palm-oil plantations in Honduras that it has financed. The lawsuit, Juana Doe v. International Finance Corporation, alleges that,

“Since the mid-1990s, the International Finance Corporation [a division of the World Bank] has invested millions of dollars in Honduran palm-oil companies owned by the late Miguel Facussé. Those companies — which exist today as Dinant — have been at the center of a decades-long and bloody land-grabbing campaign in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras.

For nearly two decades, farmer cooperatives have challenged Dinant’s claims to sixteen palm-oil plantations … that it has held in the Bajo Aguán region. On information and belief, Dinant’s former owner, Miguel Facussé, took that land from the farmer cooperatives through fraud, coercion, and actual or threatened violence. The farmer cooperatives have engaged in lawsuits, political advocacy, and peaceful protests to challenge Dinant’s control and use of the land. And Dinant has responded to such efforts with violence and aggression.”

Bank’s own staff cites failures

EarthRights International alleges that the World Bank has “repeatedly and consistently provided critical funding to Dinant, knowing that Dinant was waging a campaign of violence, terror, and dispossession against farmers, and that their money would be used to aid the commission of gross human rights abuses.” The lawsuit filing cites “U.S. government sources” to allege that more than 100 farmers have been killed since 2009.

The suit also says that the International Finance Corporation’s own ombudsman said the World Bank division “failed to spot or deliberately ignored the serious social, political and human rights context.” These failures arose “from staff incentives ‘to overlook, fail to articulate, or even conceal potential environmental, social and conflict risk’ and ‘to get money out the door.’ ” Despite this internal report, the suit says, the World Bank continued to provide financing and that the ombudsman has “no authority to remedy abuses.”

(World Bank representatives did not respond to a request for comment. Although not directly a party to the lawsuit, Dinant describes the allegations as “absurd.” In a statement on its web site, the company said “All allegations that Dinant is — or ever has been — engaged in systematic violence against members of the community are without foundation.”)

EarthRights International’s lawsuit faces an uphill challenge due to an earlier suit filed by it on behalf of Indian farmers and fisherpeople being thrown out by the same court when it ruled that the World Bank is immune from legal challenge. The bank provided $450 million for a power plant that the plaintiffs said degraded the environment and destroyed livelihoods. The court agreed with the World Bank’s contention that it has immunity under the International Organizations Immunities Act. (The dismissal has been appealed.)

The International Organizations Immunities Act provides that “International organisations, their property and their assets, wherever located, and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy the same immunity from suit and every form of judicial process as is enjoyed by foreign governments.” The World Bank has been declared the equivalent of a sovereign state, and in this context is placed above any law as if it possesses diplomatic immunity.

This law is applied selectively; lawsuits against Cuba are not only allowed but consistently won by plaintiffs. These are not necessarily the strongest of cases, such as participants in the Bay of Pigs invasion winning judgements and a woman who was married to a Cuban who went back to Cuba winning $27 million because the court found that her marriage made her a “victim of terrorism”!

More than 3 million people displaced

Despite its immunity, a passport may not be needed to enter a World Bank office, but can it be argued that the lending organization uses its immense power wisely? That would be a very difficult case to make.

A 2015 report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that 3.4 million people were physically or economically displaced by projects funded by the World Bank. Land was taken, people were forced from their homes and their livelihoods damaged. Some of the other findings of the report, on which more than 50 journalists from 21 countries worked:

  • From 2009 to 2013, the World Bank pumped $50 billion into projects graded the highest risk for “irreversible or unprecedented” social or environmental impacts — more than twice as much as the previous five-year span.
  • The bank regularly fails to live up to its own policies that purport to protect people harmed by projects it finances.
  • The World Bank and its International Finance Corporation lending arm have financed governments and companies accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture. In some cases, they continued to bankroll these borrowers after evidence of abuses emerged.
  • Ethiopian authorities diverted millions of dollars from a World Bank-supported project to fund a violent campaign of mass evictions, according to former officials who carried out the forced resettlement program.

One of the articles that is a part of this investigative report said the bank routinely ignores its own rules that require detailed resettlement plans and that employees face strong pressure to approve big infrastructure projects. The report says:

“The World Bank often neglects to properly review projects ahead of time to make sure communities are protected, and frequently has no idea what happens to people after they are removed. In many cases, it has continued to do business with governments that have abused their citizens, sending a signal that borrowers have little to fear if they violate the bank’s rules, according to current and former bank employees.

‘There was often no intent on the part of the governments to comply — and there was often no intent on the part of the bank’s management to enforce,’ said Navin Rai, a former World Bank official who oversaw the bank’s protections for indigenous peoples from 2000 to 2012. ‘That was how the game was played.’ …

Current and former bank employees say the work of enforcing these standards has often been undercut by internal pressures to win approval for big, splashy projects. Many bank managers, insiders say, define success by the number of deals they fund. They often push back against requirements that add complications and costs.”

Funding that facilitates global warming

Incredibly, one of the outcomes of the Paris Climate Summit was for leaders of the G7 countries to issue a communiqué that they would seek to raise funds “from private investors, development finance institutions and multilateral development banks.” These leaders propose the World Bank be used to fight global warming despite it being a major contributor to projects that increase greenhouse-gas emissions, including providing billions of dollars to finance new coal plants around the world. The bank even had the monumental hypocrisy to issue a report in 2012 that called for slowing global warming while ignoring its own role.

It is hoped you, dear reader, won’t fall off your chair in shock, but the World Bank’s role in facilitating global warming has since only increased.

Financing projects that facilitate global warming had already been on the rise. A study prepared by the Institute for Policy Studies and four other organizations found that World Bank lending for coal, oil and gas reached $3 billion in 2008 — a sixfold increase from 2004. In the same year, only $476 million went toward renewable energy sources. Oil Change International (citing somewhat lower dollar figures) estimates that World Bank funding for fossil fuels doubled from 2011 to 2015.

Destructive logging projects across the Global South funded by the World Bank accelerated in the 1990s. Despite a January 2000 internal report finding that its lending practices had not curbed deforestation or reduced poverty, Southeast Asia saw a continuation of illegal logging and land concessions, and untimely deaths of local people blowing the whistle, as has Africa.

Similar to its report on curbing global warming that ignores its own role, the World Bank shamelessly issued a 2012 report calling for international law enforcement measures against illegal logging. Perhaps what is illegal are only those operations not funded by the bank?

Loans to pay debt create more debt, repeat

Ideology plays a critical role here. International lending organizations, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, consistently impose austerity. The IMF’s loans, earmarked for loans to governments to pay debts or stabilize currencies, always come with the same requirements to privatize public assets (which can be sold far below market value to multi-national corporations waiting to pounce); cut social safety nets; drastically reduce the scope of government services; eliminate regulations; and open economies wide to multi-national capital, even if that means the destruction of local industry and agriculture. This results in more debt, which then gives multi-national corporations and the IMF, which enforces those corporate interests, still more leverage to impose more control, including heightened ability to weaken environmental and labor laws.

The World Bank compliments this by funding massive infrastructure projects that tend to enormously profit deep-pocketed international investors but ignore the effects on local people and the environment.

The World Bank employs a large contingent of scientists and technicians, which give it a veneer of authority as it pursues a policy of relentless corporate plunder. Noting that the bank possesses “an enormous research and knowledge generation capacity,” The environmental and social-justice organization ASEED Europe reports:

“The World Bank is the institution with one of the largest research budgets globally and has no rival in the field of development economics. … A number of researchers and scholars have questioned the reliability of the World Bank-commissioned research. Alice Amsdem, a top scholar on East Asian economies, argues that since the World Bank continually fails to scientifically prove its conclusions, its policy justifications are ‘quintessentially political and ideological.’ Regarding the World Development Report (WDR) series, for example, Nicholas Stern, an Oxford professor in economics and former World Bank chief economist says that many of the numbers used by the Bank come from highly dubious sources, or have been constructed in ways which leaves one sceptical as to whether they can be helpfully applied.” (citations omitted)

Capitalist ideology rests on the concept of “markets” being so efficient that they should be allowed to work without human intervention. But what is a market? Under capitalism, it is nothing more than the aggregate interests of the most powerful and largest financiers and industrialists. No wonder that “markets” “decide” that neoliberal austerity must be ruthlessly imposed — it is those at the top of vast corporate institutions who benefit from the decisions that the World Bank, and similar institutions, consistently make.

Markets do not sit in the clouds, beyond human control, as some perfect mechanism. They impose the will of those with the most who can not ever have enough. Markets are not ordained by some higher power — everything of human creation can be undone by human hands. Our current world system is no exception.

Posted in Africa, PoliticsComments Off on World Bank declares itself above the law

Stop the US-led massive terrorist attacks in Iraq and Syria


People in every country must oppose the terror campaign the US is leading in Iraq and Syria. America seeks to maintain its intolerable political and economic domination of the region, which created the conditions for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the first place. The lives of the people of Iraq and Syria mean nothing.

The US and its coalition have been carrying out stepped-up terror attacks in Iraq and Syria, killing almost 1,000 civilians since the beginning of March, according to the UK-based monitoring group

Although not all of these reported deaths have been verified, in many cases the organization cross-checked eyewitness accounts and lists victims by name and age. These children and adults are real individuals whose lives were cut short by murderers acting for political purposes – just like the four people killed in the attack in London’s Westminster district that British authorities are maliciously using to justify more terrorism by the UK as part of the US-led coalition.

The American authorities justify these killings of Arab civilians on the grounds of the necessities of war. But they are the direct result of the coalition’s reactionary aims in this war, which are not to liberate the people but to thwart a reactionary threat to Western domination, including by punishing and slaughtering masses of people.

Significantly, these mass killings are also being documented by organizations like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the White Helmets rescue workers, whose previous reports on the killing of civilians by Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes were used by the US and other Western governments to accuse these rivals of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  However, until 24 March, when even the US-dependent Iraqi government called for a pause in this murderous drone and bomber assault, Washington denied that these massive civilian causalities had even occurred, and it is still refusing to change its tactics.

This most recent wave of mass murders first came to light in the Western media with a US air attack on the village of al-Jina in Syria’s western Aleppo province on 16 March. At least 46 people were killed when airstrikes hit a crowded mosque during religious classes. According to the Washington Post, two US drones fired six Hellfire missiles and then dropped a 226 kilo bomb. Photos showed the clearly identifiable fragments of the US missiles and the destroyed building. On 22 March, airstrikes hit a bakery and an adjacent market in al-Thani in Raqqa province, killing dozens of bakery workers and other civilians.

Then in what has been described as the worst airstrike on civilians since the US pounded Iraq during its 2003 invasion, US-led coalition planes hit the Mosul neighbourhood of al Jadida, where US-led forces had recently driven out the Islamic fundamentalist Daesh (ISIL). As of a week after the 17 March attack, more than 200 bodies have been pulled out from under the rubble, and the toll is expected to be much higher. Numerous bodies were found in a large basement where people were taking shelter from the fighting. Many others are thought to be buried under other buildings nearby.

The unspoken and sometimes explicit rationalization for this loss of life on such a large scale is that    Daesh cannot be defeated without it. On an immediate level, this is a sick argument whose implicit assumption is that Arab lives are worth less than those of people who look like “us” – people in the Western countries who are told that they must support their imperialist rulers who “keep them safe”.  What this argument also conceals is that wars are defined and conducted according to their political aims – and the unacceptable massive civilian deaths in this war flow from the reactionary aims on both sides.

Daesh’s project for a religious dictatorship in the service of old and new exploiters who feel thwarted by the present Western-dominated status quo requires treating not only people in the Western countries but also in the Middle Eastern countries they seek to rule as nothing more than cattle to be slaughtered. Its project runs counter to the basic interests of the masses of people, and it cannot ultimately rely on their conscious, voluntary support for their cause. Their shooting of people trying to flee areas under US-led attack, like the use of civilians as human shields and other tactics that disdain civilian lives, are dictated by their political and ideological aims.

This is no less true of the US-led coalition fighting against Daesh. The US, above all, seeks to maintain its intolerable political and economic domination of the region, which created the conditions for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the first place. The lives of the people of Iraq and Syria mean nothing to the US because the goals of the American project do not include the safety of these or any other peoples, let alone their well-being and emancipation from national humiliation and enforced backwardness.

This is true not only strategically but even in very specific, tactical ways. The US has put together an unstable coalition whose members are contending with each other and even with the US for a bigger role in running the region’s peoples, even as they often do the US’s dirty work. Despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Mosul, for example, none of this coalition envision tactics to seriously avoid civilian deaths, which is supposed to be a prerequisite of war fighting according to the international rules of war. These rules are at most occasionally paid lip service to try to distinguish the pro-Western forces from Daesh. At the same time, a major reason why the US is stepping up its air assaults in Iraq and Syria has to do with its political aims and the necessities that flow from that. The US is facing a complex political landscape where it needs support from both Turkey and Kurds targeted by the Turkish regime, for instance, not to mention forces who look to the same Iranian Islamic Republic that the US also considers an obstacle to its interests, along with uneasy and unstable alignments with Russia and Turkey. In this context, the further unleashing of air power is a means to assert US control of the battlefield without sending in hundreds of thousands of US troops again, even though its troop numbers are increasing.

Whatever the immediate military results achieved by the US and its allies in Mosul and Raqqa, it is very likely that this situation will lead to more and not less jihadi Islamism. After all, Sunni fundamentalist Daesh arose out of US aggression and other crimes in Iraq: the extreme human cost of the Iran-Iraq war fuelled by the US, the death of hundreds of thousands of children and others as a result of the sanctions meant to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, and then the US invasion itself and the ensuing occupation.

During the occupation and since, the US cynically backed and armed Shia and Sunni forces to wage cleansing wars against each other, resulting now in US-backed Shia domination of Baghdad and the Iraqi government. In addition to the political consequences of the actions of the US and its allies in Iraq and Syria, including the targeting the West’s more secular opponents, these latest atrocities have also exposed the hypocrisy and real content of the Western values in whose name they were committed. Reactionary Islamists then seize on this to falsely claim that their ideology and social goals are the only alternative.

Under the Obama regime, the US stepped up its war crimes from the air in Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. What is happening now, under Trump, is what was to be expected from a man whose campaign promises included removing any restrictions on airstrikes and “killing their [‘terrorists’] families”. Yet some among the imperialists and their advisers are aware that these attacks on civilians will strengthen the appeal of the Islamists and can produce results counter to US and Western interests, as can be seen in a recent report from the International Crisis Group. Still, they have no effective hand to play other than using their military might to inflict mass terror to demonstrate their ability to impose collective punishment on whole populations.

What’s involved here is more than a single campaign or even one war. This is the dynamic Bob Avakian has called “the two outmodeds”: on “the one hand, imperialism, and on the other hand, reactionary Islamic fundamentalist Jihadism – and the way these two forces actually do reinforce each other, even while opposing each other, with the very negative effect this exerts in the world. This is a situation where the more the imperialists do what they do, the more they create fertile

People in every country must oppose the terror campaign the US is leading in Iraq and Syria to counter and defeat its rival exploiters and oppressors, and the crimes of all sides against the people. This needs to be linked to building struggle for revolution in both the imperialist countries and the countries they oppress, which is the only way this dynamic can be broken and humanity freed from this awful situation.

Posted in USA, Iraq, SyriaComments Off on Stop the US-led massive terrorist attacks in Iraq and Syria

Anatomy of ISIL in the Middle East

Joseph Schechla

The ISIL phenomenon poses profound lessons and challenges for maintenance of international law and order. Although recent, ISIL has its roots in the deep anomalies and double standards of the global system itself. The policies of Western governments have contributed lavishly to this lawless dynamic. Without discernable effort to repair those fatal policy flaws, more ISILs may be in the offing.

Most concerned observers and analysts have deplored the phenomenon known as ISIL, a movement in the Middle East asserting a particularly abominable form of governance that deviates majestically from the norms of international law and world order, while calling itself a “state.” The prevalence of ISIL has wide-ranging consequences and implications for us all in the interstate system.

ISIL’s tactics have been condemned roundly by victims in and around the ISIL-claimed territories, as well as concerned parties abroad. At the same time, the evolution of ISIL holds a plethora of lessons about the radicalization of people in the form of a political movement asserting a common sectarian affiliation, excluding all others. ISIL’s adherents explain their movement in the vocabulary of retribution for their foregoing persecution as a religious group. But they also heap similar harm and suffering on undeserving others within the territory of their effective control. That inhumanity ultimately negates the legitimacy of both the movement and its proclaimed political entity.

Functions and fundamental questions

The now-familiar pattern of the ISIL phenomenon exhibits a repertoire of behaviors that have come to characterize the state that its supporters claim to constitute. That claim also raises fundamental questions about the criteria of a state in the international system.

The single legal instrument that specifies the requisites of statehood is found in the American states’ Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1933). It provides that a bona-fide state is an administrative entity composed of (1) a defined territory (land and territorial waters) (2) a constituent population (of a people or peoples) and (3) institutions of government capable of conducting international relations and international cooperation. That personality also bears a complement of rights (vis-à-vis other states), as well as individual, collective, domestic and extraterritorial obligations.

In the ISIL case, however, the acclaimed state is constructed not of indigenous peoples or populations but by demographic manipulation, carved out of territory belonging to other states and peoples through prohibited military and other means. That has taken place within currently ambiguous, constitutionally undefined and effectively unrecognized state borders. This contradiction prevails in breach of the sacrosanct international law principal of uti possidetis, which, since Roman times, has prohibited the partition or recolonization of territory belonging to peoples entitled to, and in the process of exercising independence (their self-determination).

Manipulating peoplehood, flouting the Law

In proclaiming its “state” ISIL also has had to construct/invent the requisite constituent people criterion of a state by globally marshaling recruits who conflate adherence to a particular faith with a unique “nationality” status and set of material privileges as a measure toward promised redemption. The rights and privileges bestowed on those belonging to ISIL’s super-nationality are not shared by persons of other faiths within the ISIL-controlled territory.

By recruiting and transferring mercenaries from the Middle East region and abroad, the ISIL phenomenon has offered effective “citizenship” automatically upon recruitment to its statist project. By recruiting the citizens of other sovereign states, regardless of the immigrants’ actual origin or pertinenza, ISIL also violates one the most-fundamental norms of the law of nations, namely, that states mutually recognize the domestic responsibilities and allegiance of their respective citizens.

ISIL recruitment may rely partially on indoctrinating disaffected and otherwise impressionable youth in distant countries. However, it also disaffects youth by having them commit to participation in an illegal situation that contravenes long-established civilizational norms.

Meanwhile, ISIL institutions incite compliance with the illegal situation as a “religious duty” to join it both ideologically and by physical immigration to the acclaimed state, as well as to serve it from abroad. Among the devices applied in the ingathering of reliable men and women to its cause, ISIL lures them to projects that promise also to restore the perceived glory of a foregone era. This primordial call to action grounds ISIL’s religio-national identity (however ahistorical or irrelevant that nostalgia may—or should—be).

By institutionalizing this faith-based interpretation of “nationality,” ISIL constitutes a theocracy that consequently divides religions locally, regionally and globally, despite the overwhelming commonalities between and among them all. At the same time, ISIL’s recruits—including some of its most-zealous constituents—do not necessarily possess deep knowledge of their own religion, but rather use scriptures selectively and opportunistically to rationalize their acquisitive program.

ISIL has become widely identified with acts of lethal violence within its territory of effective control, as well as in the jurisdictions of other states, not least through bombings and assassinations in extraterritorial cities. This pattern naturally breeds deep contempt among much of the international public toward ISIL perpetrators and collaborators. The tactical objective of such terror remains obscure, except to fulfill ISIL’s dire prophesy that “they,” in the wider world, are inherently against “us” members of the ISIL movements.

Such a predisposition begets the renowned practice of institutionalized, material discrimination against those “others” who precede ISIL in its captured territories. For example, ISIL has become the notorious author of the grave crime of population transfer.

Since its prosecution at the Nuremburg Trials, population transfer is also known by a variety of other terms, including: ethnic cleansing, forced eviction, mass exodus, forced displacement, involuntary resettlement or forced removals. As legally defined, the crime against humanity and war crime of population transfer commonly involves both push and pull factors such as dispossession and expulsion of indigenous locals, as well as the implantation of settlers, to achieve demographic manipulation and territorial conquest. Typically there is also are demolition and depopulation of entire villages and cities under ISIL’s purview.

Thus, ISIL constructs a “national” identity unencumbered by the complications of indigeneity, human diversity, human rights and serial civilizations on the ISIL-coveted/claimed lands. ISIL’s destruction of centuries-old heritage has become legend in its pursuit of a territorial monoculture. Precious historic treasures and a mosaic of cultural endowment are forever lost under ISIL, in order to give way for a homogenized alternative and authorized religio-nationalist narrative with an essentially acquisitive raison d’état.

The disposal of artifacts from this diverse heritage forms one of the lucrative means and dubious financial dealings that fund ISIL projects. Investigators have revealed how, operating extraterritorially also, ISIL affiliates even have used tax-exempt charitable institutions to transfer funding to its population-transfer and plunder program. In addition to the exploitation of seized real property and natural resources in its acquired territory, ISIL also relies on generous funding from other states in its network to finance its weapons acquisition and maintain war-time trade.

At the community level, ample reports demonstrate how ISIL typically occupies the homes and properties of those indigenous people dispossessed and displaced in its field of operation. Consequently, many housing units are given over to accommodate the incoming recruits and settlers as partial remuneration for their service to the new-state project. In this way, refugees and displaced families end up involuntarily subsidizing their own colonization.

ISIL and the interstate system

Despite its ambitious claims to statehood, the ISIL phenomenon fails at every level to comply with the established criteria of a state, in particular the obligations and purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter and related norms in our unitary system. Like the Montevideo criteria, those UN Charter-based purposes ( maintaining peace and security, forward development and human rights ) remain among the theoretical standards of statehood in the contemporary interstate order.

While many of its operations are strictly banned under peremptory international law norms and numerous treaties, ISIL has become the specific subject of international condemnation by legal and judicial bodies. This includes extraordinary UN Security Council resolutions deploring ISIL’s practices and reiterating the self-executing obligation of all states not to recognize, cooperate in, trade or transact with the resulting illegal situation.

Despite international law prohibition against its transgressions, including specific provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice, the ISIL phenomenon has witnessed the contrasting ineffectiveness of law enforcement organizations and judicial mechanisms to thwart or adjudicate its violations, crimes and grave breaches.


In the light of international norms, a felonious legacy disqualifies the ISIL phenomenon as a claimant to statehood in the interstate system. ISIL’s original sins (grave breaches) logically would disqualify it also in perpetuity.

These manifestations and dire consequences of the ISIL phenomenon pose profound lessons and challenges for the regional and international maintenance of law and world order, and for ISIL’s own future within it. The breakdown of international law and its consequent lessons are not a new feature of failed statecraft and foreign policies, particularly in and toward the Middle East region. The foreign policies of Western governments have contributed lavishly to this lawless dynamic. Without discernable effort to repair those fatal policy flaws, more ISILs may be in the offing.

However it may be perceived as recent, the ISIL phenomenon ironically has its roots in deep anomalies and double standards of the interstate system itself. This is only symbolically reflected in the contemporary acronym of ISIL, which corresponds with the abbreviation for the so-called “Islamic state” (IS) joined to the binomial code for the State of Israel (IL). This coincidence of acronyms completes the analogy of the respective Jihadist and Zionist movements and their common attributes at the expense of indigenous Middle East peoples. Just as one follows the other in time, the participants in the former-named (IS) may be counting on the same seamless impunity long enjoyed by its latter-cited predecessor (IL).

In either case, the dual ISIL phenomenon in the Middle East increasingly tests the integrity of the interstate system and the international law standards as developed. Through this comparative lens, we can begin to face the indispensable questions before us and, ultimately, address these mutually shared characteristics through current preventive and remedial norms. Those corrective measures remain obvious and available.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Anatomy of ISIL in the Middle East

Reflections on the attack on Westminster

AP Photo/ Matt Dunham

Is there really no explanation for Khalid Masood’s lone attack on Westminster Palace, as Scotland Yard sleuths say? Masood could not change his “blackness”, nor the reality of racism in England. He could not get over his schoolmates calling him “Black Ade”. He laughed about it, and even as he grew up into manhood he behaved convivially, behaving like a “good boy”, so as not to appear rude.

On 22 March 2017 Khalid Masood perpetrated on the grounds of England’s Westminster Palace what was described by the British security forces and the media as a “terrorist attack”.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) immediately took credit for the attack, claiming that Masood was “a soldier of the Islamic State”. Scotland Yard stated that they believed the attacker was inspired by “international terrorism”, but when they found that he was a “lone wolf”, they retracted, and said: “We must all accept that there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this”.

This essay seeks to go deeper and analyse what happened, and why.

Going deeper into the mind of a “misfit” turned “extremist”

In his novel, Kauther, Mike Ziervugal, narrates the story of a young woman, Lydia, who lives in London and loses her sense of meaning of life until she meets Rabia, and converts to Islam.[1] Ziervugal raises profoundly metaphysical and philosophical questions about identity.  He goes deep into what shapes contemporary society, drawing on the traditions of Islamic and Christian mysticism. It is a very important piece of work for us to understand the times we live in.

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a comedy that turns out to be a horror story about what it means to be black in America.[2] Chris is a black man working for a “progressive liberal” family – the Armitages. The family’s visitors – mostly white – make complimentary remarks about Chris’s “frame and genetic make-up” and statements like “Black is in fashion!” fetishising his black skin. The Armitages are “pathological negrophiles”; but there is a double ironic twist to this.

Their preoccupation is to abduct and brainwash black people to make them feel good about being used as pets and sex slaves. Chris is mesmerised to believe that he is trapped at the bottom of a deep pit. This is the first irony of the comedy – negrophiles using their “love of the black man” to abuse him. The second, more shocking, is that the family employs a neurosurgeon to strip off Chris’s brain in order to sell it to a blind art critic who wants to “see” the world through a black man’s eyes. When Chris realises this, he is contemplating how to get out of the “deep pit”, behaving like a “good boy”, laughing and joking so as not to appear rude.

How does a popular teenager become a killer?

Before Khalid turned to Islam, he was known to be a jovial, good-humoured man. At school he was a keen football player and popular with his white friends, who called him “Black Ade”. If they called him by this name in good humour, the irony underlying its racial undertone probably did not escape Khalid. When he left school at 16, he never contacted his school friends, and began to be drawn into a life of petty crime, becoming increasingly bitter with his life.

He went into an identity crisis.  Who was he? What was his life all about?  Clearly, he saw himself as an outsider – born black to a white teenage mother. He was angry with the world, but probably more with himself.  At the age of 40, he went to Medina in Saudi Arabia. Medina is Prophet Muhammad’s home after his Hijrah (jihad by emigration) from Mecca. Later he moved to Jeddah – the port city on the Red Sea – where he taught English to workers at the Civil Aviation. But he was careful. He did not join the ISIS or the Jihadists.  In 2009 he returned to England and settled in Luton, where he joined a language college as a senior English teacher, supervising seven other colleagues.

The person or the society?

We must get back to Ziervugal’s Kauther and the story of the London-born Christian girl, Lydia, who converts to Islam. What social and political forces shape the British society?

This is a complex issue, trivialised by the politicians, the security officers and the mainstream media. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a brutal “comedy” of how a pathological negrophile family abused their “love of the black man” to even contemplate stripping off Chris’s brain in order to sell it to a blind art critic who wants to “see” the world through a black man’s eyes.

American psychologists analysing the American society found that mixed-race individuals are always viewed as of “lower-status”.  It was (and still is) the case in South Africa. This was called “apartheid”. But the term is not confined to South Africa any more. The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) of the United Nations recently put out a report describing Israel as an “apartheid regime”. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres forced the ESCWA to withdraw the report, whereupon Rima Khalaf resigned as its executive secretary.

What would be needed for the racist section of Jews in Israel to see Israel through the “eyes” of Palestinians, short of digging out their eyes and transplanting them in the heads of racist Jews? This is not a silly question. Think about it.  Racism is not a fiction. It is real. It has serious consequences for society. It took the liberation movement in South Africa more than a century to get rid of its official manifestation, but it still lives on.

Khalid Masood could not change his race.  However, he could his religion. But changing his religion did not change his “blackness”, and the reality of racism in England. He could not get over his school-mates calling him “Black Ade”.  He laughed about it, and even as he grew up into manhood he behaved convivially, behaving like a “good boy”, like Chris in “Get Out”, so as not to appear rude.

Scotland Yard now says that Masood was a “lone wolf”, and that, “We must all accept that there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this”.

Is there really no possibility? Look into your hearts and into the society you live in.

@Yash Tandon

Oxford, 28 March, 2017




Posted in UKComments Off on Reflections on the attack on Westminster

Concentrate on the system, not Trump


Donald Trump is by far the most controversial president the US has ever offered the world. But behind the headline churning, attention grabbing façade, is there any difference between him and the 44 US presidents that have come before?

The US president’s job is to run the American system. It is variously called ‘Capitalism’, ‘Democracy’, ‘Free market enterprises’ and others (the label used dependents upon the crowd being addressed and the theme of the talk). Its sole aim is the generation of maximum monetary profits for those in the driver’s seat, no matter the cost to the environment or to humanity.

His employers are not the American people but rather a largely unknown elite under which the giant banks and corporates, the political parties, quasi-public institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce, industry, many so-called NGOs, think-tanks, bodies such as the powerful American Legislative Exchange Council [1], the rating agencies and so on, reside.

A review of the bottom line of recent history reveals there is no difference between Democrat and Republican. The same super elite and its upper tier corporacy regulate both. Trump is doing his job well, just as 44 presidents did before him.


The ‘Democrat’ drug and sex addict JFK, who nearly wiped out the world playing cowboys over Cuba,[2] allowed Patrice Lumumba to be murdered in 1961 and the Congo has been in flames since. The Congo has valuable minerals and metals the competing corporates and end user phone sellers [3] need (because the consuming public needs its phones and computers more than the Congolese need life, it seems). The same CIA that served JFK promoted Obama’s display of ethics through his assassination list.[4]

Republican Eisenhower took over from the French in Vietnam. JFK, a Democrat, faked the war’s start, more Democrats pushed it to new heights and only when business started saying ‘too much, too many Westerners are annoyed’ did a Republican surrender militarily, but win financially.

Afghanistan’s latest tale of slaughter was a similar story. Started by a Democrat senator[5] using fiddled funds the corporates (Raytheon supplied Stingers to the Taliban[6]) have made incalculable profits. Although the war was one of Obama’s pre-election promises to stop (in his first month, circa 2007), it is still going on – the money is simply too good.

The cream on the bottom line profits of thousands of US companies comes from killing. Investigative author Nick Turse takes his readers through a list that makes up most of the companies benefitting, supporting and enabling the military in his book, ‘The Complex’.

Talk is that the Iraq shakedown and Afghanistan minerals [7], opium[8] and strategic positioning control exercise cost the US taxpayer a trillion dollars. It is a sum that boggles the mind (the height of a stack of 1,000,000,000,000 one dollar bills measures 67,866 miles).[9] Because it so boggles folk tend to forget in non-war time that it is private companies, those that make everything from the infantryman’s undies to the mega bombs, that see war as profit. In this sense it is wrong to see Iraq as an oil stealing exercise. It was and is a total military-industrial-commercial project.

It is common knowledge Cheney made many-many millions, but where’d the rest of the say USD trillion at 40% profit go?

The US is committed to staying in the Middle East because China has friendly intentions to link Asia with a Middle (Near) East highway-fibre-pipeline-railway[10] through the various Stans (including the mineral and drug rich colony of Afghanistan) with Europe and Russia.[11] The trouble is: a) it will not have any high profit military component, b) Saudi Arabia and other really backward America allies will be excluded and c) and the US and its USD will not be at the money earning centre.

The current (manufactured) problems with Iran can be traced back to the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh by Eisenhower in 1953.[12] Mosaddegh wanted to use some of the oil profits to build the people. The same happened all over South America and even tiny Zimbabwe felt the whip with enforced structural adjustment programmes in the mid-1990s.[13]


While the transformation of the banks into entities that are too big to fall (and more important than the earth itself) began with the conception of the Federal Reserve under the racist Teddy Roosevelt some 100 years ago, they got their first modern big boost with Nixon. He bullied the world into accepting the dollar as the reserve currency, replacing gold. Reagan added with his partial de-regulation of business rules and Democrat Clinton, in the mid-90s, cut the last of the red tape that kept banking separate from investment/gambling, allowing the banks to do to the public whatever they wanted.

What they wanted the drunk[14] Bush agreed to with Enron. The master-minds of the massive bankruptcy (and the public guardians, the so-called rating agencies and so-called Big 5 auditors) got off near enough scot-free while thousands lost their jobs and more thousands lost their pensions. And the bail-in following the ‘housing’ debacle saw the same result. In fact, come Obama’s time those banking economic criminals paid themselves huge bonuses. One year after Goldman Sachs broke records with a $16.7bn bonus pot,[15] and a few months later JP Morgan did even better.


Ultimatley, America’s global dominance forces countries and regions to do business with it, and America doesn’t pay cash. On January 20, 2009, when Obama was sworn in, their debt was $10.626 trillion. On January 20, 2017, it was $19.947 trillion.’[16] Ignoring the additional cost of climate change to their wars, they owe foreign countries over $6 trillion (the rest of the total debt is intra-US).[17] That debt has been building up over the last 30 years or so, since Jimmy Carter. It was in September 1977 that the New York Times ran the story ‘Sounding Alarms On Foreign Debt’.

To keep the country and its elitist structures afloat amidst that debt, the US has adopted the policy of ‘quantitative easing’. It is nothing more than the ad-hoc printing of money[18] by central banks to support the liquidity crisis nearly all major banks are in.

Once again the chief Bully Boy America leads the way. The public are required to believe the money printed will get to them in the form of loans or by way of new jobs created by bigger enterprises borrowing and building factories, but reality is if it goes anywhere near the public it is into the stock markets – the ‘work’ place of the already wealthy. And more important and dangerous, into the ‘hedge funds’, ‘investment’ houses and ‘investment’ banks – i.e. gamblers, made legal and underwritten by successive presidents. All that is needed is for one unexpected event to happen and the whole nasty edifice will collapse.

To put that hotdog in perspective, as at the third  quarter of 2016 global GDP was hovering around $78 trillion. The 25 major US banks had assets of $14.5 trillion. That piddly amount they’ve used as security to ‘issue’ ‘money-chips’ to gamble on futures/options/short selling and with ‘derivatives with a paper value of $243 trillion.’[19]

Imagine every American (say 300 million) asks the roulette table manager to lend them $800,000 to bet on a turn of the wheel. If it was only America involved that’s fine, but the whole tape worm is enmeshed with banks in other countries. When it crashes, the ordinary depositors and cheque issuing public will be hung out to dry first.[20] Not only are the general public from Middle Middle Class down too small to save, they work harder when bankrupt.

Banks are not there for the good of the people, and the presidents support them. Trump declared he’d drain the swamp. Like Obama he lied and he has engaged some of Wall Street’s best men to work on behalf of his administration. Hillary Clinton has to be over the moon.

Banks are simply debt creating machines. U.S. households owe trillions[21] and most of the debt is expense relating to equipping people with education, keeping them healthy, locating themselves in a convenient position and getting  to work for the production of the mega-profits[22] that are made by the corporates and banks that choose the presidents.

The destructive IMF which has served Greed Capitalism so well by plunging so many less equipped nations into unpayable debt[23] as Corporate America and Europe stripped away finite assets[24] is a Roosevelt product. The NSA admirably advanced by Obama into the world of high-tech covert spy on all operations is the shoe salesman Truman’s gift to the world[25].


The dollar is all important. As the world’s reserve currency is priced in USD, all conversions ‘go through’ New York banks who therefore get a cut of every transaction. If the US loses its reserve currency positioning the American economy will collapse because other than having the world’s biggest and most brutal ever military machine at its side, it has no backing.

That’s why Gaddafi was taken out and Libya looted under Ms Clinton as Secretary of State – he proposed a single African currency and pipeline to re-irrigate vast dry lands (and he was running the world’s foremost social-welfare state). That is why Obama had no option but to square up to Russia and China. They were ignoring the dollar – sacrilege!  Now Trump has no option either. To let them be is to allow the System to fail.

Firing General Flynn had naught to do with being in the pocket of Russia. The nearly impeached Bill Clinton ‘received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin’[26] – 15 times more than the general got for his talk. It is about Trump’s stated goal of ‘normalising’ ties with Russia and after Obama spent many millions destabilising the Ukraine, that’s simply not good corporate-banking business.

The public hear little about the big S with the double line through it. It’s taboo to discuss the role of the dollar in keeping the US afloat – a little like how the likelihood of Jesus’ homosexuality is never discussed – it’s just too close to the bone.

Climate change

Pulling back on climate change is not good corporate business either. The profit possibilities from damage wrought and alternate opportunities created (new diseases for the Big Pharma, Lymes disease for example[27]) by manmade climate change are enormous.

The earth has had climate change before but never this quick. We’re managing to do in 100s of years what happened over millions before.

The System, basically Capitalism gone rogue, thrives on chaos. Chaos means profit is made as things are broken and profit is made when they are put together. Millions of tobacco smokers are therefore as important to the ultimate money churn as are millions of smokers seeking respiratory medication, treatment and so on. The problem is climate change, like Trump’s Christian god, is omnipresent and the System owners need to wake up, realise hiding behind bodyguards and in unassailable, well provisioned and air-conditioned tower blocks won’t save them. And nor will gated communities save the Middle Class.

Imagine standing on your toes on a brick stretching your hamstrings by forcing your ankles ever lower. As you get fitter the position of your ankle vis-à-vis the sole of your foot will get lower and lower. Flexibility improves dramatically. Then to enhance the experience, you start to lean forward, more and more. Overdo it and you will topple.

When the ‘standard of living’ in the West reached what the West takes for granted last year, the earth reached tipping point. There is no solid ground to jump forward on to. The earth is a tiny speck all on its own in a gigantic and expanding universe. Prof McPherson says humans have 10 years left before we crash,[28] and that New Zealanders will be the last humans. Rubbish we cry! But the less controversial scientists don’t give us much longer than that before life virtually ceases to exist. Stephen Hawking and microbiologist Frank Fenner[29] gave humans 100 years more. Their primary reason for our extinction? Climate change and inequality. Astrophysicist Neil Tyson is quick to console the earth will survive, it is just that we’ll be gone.[30]

The System owners will be gone too but alive and looking down. Few will be able to afford to live on giant space stations but it will happen – a sort of gated community looking down on the rest as they fight for water.[31] Some entrepreneurs are saying these holiday-homes beyond the blue will be reality within 10 years.


In the actions of all the American presidents that have been, it’s clear that no challenge to Capitalism can be allowed to bear fruit. People must work to live. Profits don’t go to people – profits like spawning salmon swim upwards to be deposited in the accounts of the already rich in secret places.

Thousands of Americans were sterilised because they were losers,[32] but hundreds of millions throughout the world have been economically sterilised by successive presidents’ adoption of Milton Friedman’s free market forces. It is a legalised and moralised way of destroying prospects for a world based on co-operation through the System’s demand for maximum profit no matter the cost.[33] It now comes under the guise of globalisation.

The hate generated against the US means Trump and those who follow him will have forever to increase the anti-terror budget even down to the tiniest of activities. But the irony is the US and its Western associates are the world’s most dangerous terrorists.[34] The nukes that were there for Truman are available to Trump – they’re just 3000 times more dangerous per war-head. The IMF and WB and majors like JP Morgan and Barclays were there for Roosevelt, but now they are collectively bigger than most countries. Climate change was a worry under Clinton, now it is catastrophe happening and Trump is promising to make it worse by more deregulation.

In his inheritance there is nothing that Trump started or created or even seeded. Not even the famous Trump Wall is his personal call. In 1954 over a million Mexicans were physically hurled home.[35]

Trump inherited a world on the brink of nuclear war with those who resist the Capitalist maximum profit argument. He has been given an already moulded, baked and sliced monetary and banking process that is about to collapse, while the combination Military-Banking-Industrial-Commercial complex has positioned the world on the very edge of an abyss that is genteelly called ‘climate change’.

Trump is only capable of copying and following on what truly horrible (for the world but nice for parties) presidents before have themselves followed and enlarged. And like them, all he seems to be determined to do is to take over the mantle of ‘the worst president ever’. Obama surpassed Baby Bush, Bush beat Clinton. Each ‘worst ever for the world’ has achieve that notoriety in their own unique way.[36]

Now Trump is going to do it his way.


End notes

[1] ‘ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through the secretive meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate lobbyists and state legislators vote as equals on ‘model bills’ to change our rights that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line at public expense. ALEC is a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and can get a tax break for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers.’ …

[2] Oliver Stone @




[6] and see…

[7] It is all about ‘the United States to control Afghanistan’s Rare Earth Elements (REEs) such as lithium, worth trillions …’ See



[10] … Jan 18, 2017

[11] China’s Great Game: Road to a new empire

[12] It is now known that France had a lot to do with the Ayatollah’s pre-coup ‘education’ and ‘Documents seen by BBC suggest Carter administration paved way for Khomeini to return to Iran by holding the army back from launching a military coup’ ……





[17] Five Charts @



[20] See Web-of-debt articles


[22] ‘35 Percent Of All Americans Have Debt That Is At Least 180 Days Past Due. 69 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in savings today …’…

[23] The Globalization of Poverty by M Chossudovsky

[24] How rich countries got rich and why poor countries stay poor by Erik Reinert


[26] The New York Times reported in 2015 says

[27]… and see ‘Lyme disease is now 4 times more common than AIDS’ @


[29] Professor Fenner (1914 -2010) once of the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies at The Australian National University. And see

[30] Methane is 20 times more powerful molecule to molecule than the CO2 constantly quoted. Perhaps the ultimate in greenhouse gas it is stored in vast quantities the sea –… and see… in which the Guardian presents the different arguments. And

[31] 250 million years ago the Siberian volcano initiated the action, methane completed it.It is fine frozen solid as methane hydrate but heated it becomes unstable, our oceans are warming and there is an estimated 30 trillion tons of this stuff. The last time it happened 95% of all life on our earth was wiped out. The difference was, the scientists postulate, it took 500 thousand years to reach the tipping point we are in a headlong race to emulate. See

[32] The irony is this methane could be very useful to humans but we’ve a process that negates that possibility almost entirely – the 4 yearly US elections, the top job going to the one who promises the most immediate and best profit return.




[36] Noam Chomsky: US is world’s biggest terrorist –


[38] Example: as a presidential candidate he said … but went immediately he received the Peace Prize he sent more troops to kill peasants in Afghanistan.

Posted in USAComments Off on Concentrate on the system, not Trump

Israel’s African darling: Paul Kagame


In May, Paul Kagame will be feted for his outstanding friendship with the Jewish people. That friendship chiefly entails cynical use of the Rwandan genocide to advance U.S. and Israeli interests in Africa and the Arab world. Kagame was the only African head of state to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He has totally thrown his lot in with U.S.-led imperialism.

On Sunday, 26 March 2017, Rwandan President Paul Kagame became the first African president to address the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which also identifies itself as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby.”  Kagame was also the only foreign head of state to address this year’s conference besides Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself.

On the same day, a full page ad for the Champions of Jewish Values Gala in NYC at the end of May appeared in the Washington Post. The event, it said, will celebrate “the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem,” meaning the Israel Defense Force’s seizure of Temple Mount – a holy site to Muslims, Christians, and Jews – during the 1967 Six Day War.  Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and Alan Dershowitz will be among the presenters, and awards will go to Martin Luther King III, David Friedman, Jose Maria Aznar and others. Paul Kagame will receive the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Prize for Outstanding Friendship with the Jewish People.

I spoke to Robin Philpot, author ofRwanda and the New Scramble for Africa, from Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction about the special relationship between Israel and Rwanda.

AG: Robin Philpot, in your book you identify two events that contributed to official sanction of the use of the word “genocide,” a crime defined by the UN Convention on Genocide after World War II and the Holocaust, to describe Rwanda’s 1994 tragedy. The first was a conference in Rwanda’s capital Kigali held in 1995. Could you explain what happened there?

RP:  Yes, this was one of the events that sealed the alliance between Israel and Rwanda. The Office of the President of Rwanda organized the conference and invited Efraim Zuro of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Michael Berenbaum of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The president’s office asked both to make proposals about how to memorialize “the” genocide in Rwanda. Efraim Zuro then became an advisor to the Rwandan government in its hunt for génocidaires, and from then on Zionists throughout the world were willing to share the use of the term “genocide” with Rwandan Tutsis. Israel has very jealously guarded the use of that term; they have, for example, never agreed to share it with Armenians, largely because of Israel’s strategic alliance with Turkey.

AG: Now could you describe the second event?
RP:  Less than a year later, in October 1996, Paul Kagame made an official visit to Israel where he received all honors from Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then Prime Minister as he is now.
AG: And what happened after Kagame’s first visit to Israel?
RP: About three weeks after that meeting, Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was then Zaire. After 1994, there were something like two million Rwandan Hutu refugees living in Congo. The Rwandan army massacred them in eastern Congo, then literally chased survivors all the way across Congo, from east to west, killing more all the way. Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo again in 1998, and that ultimately led to the death of more than 5 million Congolese, most of whom died of hardship after fleeing Rwanda and Uganda’s wars for Congolese territory and resources.

When you look at the previous relationship between Israel and Rwanda – and between Israel and Uganda – it’s obvious that the invasion of Congo was coordinated with Israel, which, like the U.S., wanted a strategic position in the heart of Black Africa.
AG: How does Rwanda benefit from its special relationship with Israel?
RP: I would say that it has this special relationship with Israel because they are both client states of the U.S. and they operate in much the same way. They are both highly militarized, and they lay down the law in their respective regions because they have such a massive military apparatus.

Rwanda also benefits greatly from this special relationship with Israel, which helps it maintain its reputation and position in the U.S. and U.K., where Kagame is still received very well. He just addressed AIPAC in Washington D.C., and he’s about to receive this award from the Adelson organization in New York City, but there are many places he doesn’t dare go anymore.  For instance, Montreal, where he can’t appear without facing large, angry demonstrations.
AG:  And how do Israel and the U.S. benefit from the special relationship?

RP: Well, there you have to go back to how this alliance was established. In the 50s and 60s, the U.S. had to weaken the Arab states to advance its own interests, and Israel was a very important element of its strategy. The Arab states were hostile to Israel, which was a highly militarized settler colonial state.
Many of the Arab states at that time – Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq – were charting an independent course, sometimes allied with the Soviet Union, and the U.S. was determined to prevent them from asserting their independence.

In the late 1980s, Sudan was becoming a very strong, independent state opposed to Israel, and there was a meeting set up by a man named Roger Winter that brought together Rwandan exile leaders who were living in Uganda and Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda then and now, since winning a civil war in 1986. The U.S. called President Museveni and these Rwandan exiles the new African leaders, and the U.S. and Israel saw that as a way of containing Sudan and these other Arab states from the back yard.

Rwanda and Uganda could be called mad dog states – they’re highly militarized, and they serve as sheriffs for the U.S. at the same time as they pursue their own interests. You may remember when there was an uproar about human rights abuse by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Darfur, and a Rwandan military officer, Karake Karenzi was sent to head the UN peacekeeping mission there, even though Karake himself had been indicted for human rights crimes.

AG: Who had indicted Karake Karenzi?
RP: That was the Spanish justice system and the French system under Judge Bruguière. The French judge has changed but the case continues. When Karake Karenzi went to head the UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur, he himself had already been indicted for massive human rights crimes in both Rwanda and Congo.
AG: And they had done that because Kagame’s army had killed French and Spanish citizens as well?
RP: Yes, exactly. The Spanish court investigated because Spanish humanitarian workers and priests were assassinated by Kagame’s forces in Rwanda. They shot dead two priests from Québec as well. And the French court investigated because the entire crew of the plane that was shot down on April 6, 1994, killing Rwanda and Burundi’s Hutu presidents, were French nationals. And Karake Karenzi was named in the French indictment.
AG: Right after the U.S. and NATO bombed Libya and successfully demanded the murder of Muammar Gaddafi, President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice flew first to Libya and then to Rwanda, where she claimed that this time they had succeeded where they’d failed in Rwanda. And Kagame and/or Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo have been invited to conferences and forums organized to advocate for all out war in Syria to “stop genocide.” Could you comment on that?
RP: Well, the subtitle of my book is “From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction.” Unfortunately, the tragedy in Rwanda has been used cynically to advance U.S. and Israeli interests and to wage war on Libya and Syria. And Kagame was the only African head of state to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He has totally thrown his lot  in with U.S. imperial adventure.

When the u.S.[U.S.] and Israel start to use this word “genocide,” you have to figure out why they’re using it and what they want to accomplish, how they hope to cynically advance their own interests. Ed Herman has written a lot about this in The Politics of Genocide
AG: Max Forte, the author of Slouching Towards Syrte, NATO’s War on Libya and Africa,has said that “‘Rwanda’ is everywhere for the humanitarian imperialist.”
RP: Yes, unfortunately. They’ll say “Rwanda” in hopes of provoking a knee jerk reaction in support of new imperial wars, but that takes advantage of total ignorance about what really happened in Rwanda in 1994. The U.S. says “we failed to act then, so we must act now” but that’s a lie. In the UN Security Council, the U.S. refused to act or allow any other nation to act because the U.S., then led by Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton, wanted their man Kagame to seize power in Rwanda, no matter the human cost. That’s why then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said and told me repeatedly, “The genocide in Rwanda was 100 percent the responsibility of the Americans!”  The strategy was to control that whole area of East Africa and Central Africa and to contain the Arab States with the help of their African neighbors.

And that explains these great love-ins between Israel and Rwanda taking place this year, at the AIPAC conference and this upcoming Adelson awards event.

AG: These love-ins take place many times every year, and every time Rwanda’s story is both mistold and used as an excuse for “interventions” that violate national sovereignty.
RP: Yes, and every time people start questioning Western military interventions, the U.S. and Israel think they can win their case by simply saying “Rwanda,” but I think it’s wearing off because people have started asking, “Well, what really did happen in Rwanda?” And anyone who takes the time to figure that out cannot but conclude, as we do, that the official story is a huge lie.


Posted in Africa, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Israel’s African darling: Paul Kagame

No honour at Tampere University for a dictator in Ethiopia

Georges Gobet/AFP

A university in Finland plans to confer an honorary doctoral degree on Ethiopian ruler Hailemariam Desalegn in May. In doing so, Tampere University of Technology will have been an unwitting partner in a sophisticated public relations campaign to legitimize, glamourize, mythologize and romanticize a ruthless and brutal dictator and his regime.

Author’s Note: In my March 19, 2017 commentary,  I indicated that I will be contacting the President and Board Chairman of the Tampere University of Technology to withdraw or rescind the offer of an honorary doctoral degree to Hailemariam Desalegn, the putative leader of the T-TPLF regime in Ethiopia. Below is a copy of the letter sent to the aforementioned individuals.

I know that members of the Ethiopian community in Finland have been actively engaged in advocacy to get Tampere University to withdraw its offer. I urge them to continue in their advocacy efforts by mobilizing a broader segment of  Finnish society and human rights organizations.  I specifically urge Ethiopians in Finland and their Finnish friends to use the print and electronic media, including radio and television and social media, to get the message out. I urge them to consider and use the evidence I have presented in this letter and raise the questions I have raised with Tampere University officials.

Section 12 of the Finnish Constitution guarantees, “Everyone has the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression entails the right to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communications without prior prevention by anyone.” I urge Ethiopians in Finland to vigorously exercise their right to freedom of expression in making their views public concerning Desalegn’s invitation to receive an honorary degree.


March 22, 2017

Mika Hanula, Ph.D.
Tampere University of Technology
Korkeakoulunkatu 10
FI-33720 Tampere, FINLAND

Dear Dr. Hanula:

I am informed and believe that you have plans to confer an honorary doctoral degree upon Hailemariam Desalegn, the leader of the ruling regime in Ethiopia, on May 20, 2017.

I am writing to lodge an academic note of protest and to strongly urge you to rescind  your offer of an honorary doctoral degree to Hailemariam Desalegn.

I have carefully reviewed[1] the list of all individuals upon whom your university has conferred an honorary degree since 1982. Some 73 distinguished individuals have been privileged to receive such a degree from your institution.[2] The vast majority of your honorary degree recipients have been university professors, researchers, scientists, academicians and business leaders.

Since 1982, you have awarded an honorary degree to only six political leaders  including two mayors of the City of Tampere, Timo P. Nieminen (2012) and Jarmo  Rantanen (1997);  two prime ministers of Finland including Paavo Lipponen (2002) and Kalevi Sorsa(1987) and Ilkka Suominen, a Speaker of the Parliament of Finland.

Your University’s policy on honorary doctorates states, “Tampere University of Technology invites persons from Finland and abroad to accept honorary doctorates in recognition of excellence in fields represented at the University and other exceptional scientific, artistic or social merits.”[3]

It is my understanding that Desalegn is the first and only foreign political leader upon whom you intend to confer an honorary doctoral degree in University’s history.

I am appalled and dismayed by your decision to award Hailemariam Desalegn  the same honorary degree you have bestowed to the various illustrious and exceptional Finnish political leaders.

Your selection is both shocking and manifestly and conspicuously inconsistent with your stated policy and the universal principles of honorary degrees (honoris causa) recognizing an individual’s contributions to a specific field of human endeavor or highly meritorious service to the national or global community.

Although my knowledge of Finnish politics and political leaders is admittedly limited, I am informed and believe that all of Finnish leaders your University has recognized in the past with an honorary degree have demonstrated exemplary and highly meritorious service to Finnish democracy and society. I am informed and believe that all of them  have a substantial and praiseworthy record of dedicated public service, high standards of personal and professional integrity, demonstrated adherence to constitutional principles and respect for the rule of law,  documented practice of good governance, and exhibited respect for constitutional and human rights and commitment to transparency and accountability in government.

Hailemariam Desalegn could not be more different from the political leaders you have honored over the last four decades.

I submit the following evidence for your review and consideration as I exhort you to rescind and withdraw your offer of an honorary degree to Desalegn:

Desalegn is the head of a regime that controls 100 percent of the legislative seats in the Ethiopian “parliament”[4]. In 2010, Desalegn’s regime won 99.6 percent of the legislative seats.[5] The late Saddam Hussein is the only leader in the world to have claimed victory by 100 percent until Desalegn repeated the claim in 2015.[6]

Since October 2016, Desalegn’s regime has ruled by martial law described as a “state of emergency” and suspended the Ethiopian “constitution”.[7] Human Rights Watch has provided a complete legal analysis of that expansively arbitrary “state of emergency” declaration.[8]

Since the declaration of the “state of emergency”, Desalegn’s regime has imprisoned, by its own admission, 11,000 persons.[9]

In December 2016, Desalegn ordered the imprisonment  of a major opposition leader, Dr. Merera Gudina, for attending a European Union-organized seminar and participating in discussions on the situation in Ethiopia.[10]

Desalegn and his regime have “criminalized” journalism in Ethiopia through his “Anti-Terrorism Proclamation” and managed to decimate all peaceful democratic opposition in Ethiopia.[11]

Desalegn’s regime has a well-documented record of committing murders and massacres. Herman Cohen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the first Bush Administration, declared: “I fail to understand why the Ethiopian regime feels it necessary to exercise such extreme control to the point of committing murder periodically against their own citizens.”[12]

Under Desalegn’s regime, Ethiopia has been named the “fourth worst offender” of press rights in the world[13], and the second worst jailer of journalists in Africa for the past several years under the leadership of Desalegn.[14]

Desalegn’s regime is currently spending nearly $2 million dollars to lobby, wine and dine American politicians while 5 million Ethiopians remain at high risk of death  from famine.[15]

Under Desalegn’s regime, Ethiopia has been rated 123 out of 125 worst fed countries in the world.[16]

Under the regime of Desalegn and his predecessor, “Ethiopia has lost $11.7 billion to illicit financial outflows between 2000 and 2009.”[17]  Global Financial Integrity concluded, “The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry.  No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.[18]

Desalegn’s regime was ordered to pay $6.5 million for illegally selling unregistered bonds in the United States.[19] Selling unregistered bonds in the U.S. is a crime under the “Securities Act of 1933”, sec. 20 (b)).

Desalegn’s regime operates a police state in Ethiopia with informants and spies infiltrating the household level as documented by Dr. Negasso Gidada, former President of Ethiopia[20] and others.[21]

Desalegn’s regime operates an ethnic apartheid system called kilils (kililistans that are similar to apartheid South Africa’s Bantustans) in Ethiopia.[22]

Desalegn and his regime have a long and infamous record of human rights violations as documented by Human Rights Watch in 2016, and in numerous other reports.[23]

Desalegn’s regime practices torture and other forms of abuse against detainees and prisoners as documented in the January 2017 Human Rights Watch report.[24]

In September 2016, security forces loyal to Desalegn’s regime gunned down prisoners as they fled a burning jail.[25]

Desalegn and his regime have refused to investigate the killings of over 500 celebrants by security forces at the Irrecha Festival in October 2016 or any other massive human rights violations committed under his rule.[26]

Desalegn’s regime “has refused entry to all UN special rapporteurs since 2007. Among the outstanding requests are from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly.”[27]

Desalegn’s regime has used the power of eminent domain to displace urban residents and force them into homelessness and makeshift accommodations.[28]

Desalegn and his regime have allowed land grabs[29]  that have resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people from Gambella, Omo and other regions in Ethiopia.[30]

Desalegn’s regime is so corrupt that the World Bank issued a 417-page report, the only one of its kind, entitled “Diagnosing Corruption in Ethiopia”.[31]

Desalegn’s regime has plunged Ethiopia into a bottomless ocean of debt. The African Development Bank in its “Country Strategy Paper for 2016-2020” reported that Ethiopia is  drowning  in debt. “Ethiopia’s external debt stock has soared fivefold, from USD 2.8 billion in 2008/09 to USD 19 billion in 2014/15, up from 12.1% of GDP in 2009/10 to 26.2% in 2014/15.[32]

In the past week, Desalegn reported to his parliament that 100 million birr allocated for development had been lost to corruption and used for private purposes by local and ethnic leaders. Desalegn refused to either name the corruption suspects to “parliament” or discuss what actions, if any, he planned to take to bring the offenders to justice.[33]

Under Desalegn’s regime, Ethiopia has become the second poorest country[34] in the world and the beggar nation of Africa panhandling for handouts year after year after year.[35]

On March 9, 2017, “a mountain of trash” in Addis Ababa collapsed on a neighborhood resulting in tens of deaths. Such a tragedy occurred under Desalegn’s nose right in the capital city. The man who earned a graduate degree from Tampere in Sanitary Engineering did nothing to prevent the collapse of “trash mountain” even though he knew about the imminent danger since he took over power in 2012.[36]

I could go on for many more pages documenting the high crimes, crimes against humanity, corruption and abuse of power of Desalegn and his regime. I should be glad to provide voluminous information and evidence if requested.

I wish to underscore my perplexity in trying to decipher the selection criteria you employed to award Desalegn  an honorary doctorate. At the risk of sounding repetitive, your policy statement declares your institution confers honorary degrees upon those who have demonstrated “excellence in fields represented at the University and other exceptional scientific, artistic or social merits.”

I am certain that you are not awarding Desalegn an honorary degree for his academic or literary scholarship or his contributions to science and technology.

I am also certain that you did not select him by the same criteria and standards you have used to select the political leaders you have honored in the past.

I cannot imagine you selected him because he was just another alumnus of your university.

Therefore, I am at a complete loss trying to figure out how you selected Desalegn.

Perhaps  you could explain the basis for your selection of Desalegn to receive an honorary degree to the millions of Ethiopians who are just as perplexed as I am.

On the other hand, if I am to understand that you are offering Desalegn, and implicitly his regime, for what he has done and not done during his term of political office, then I can only throw my hands in the air and shake my head in resignation.

I regret to say that you have made a travesty, a mockery, of the honorary degree institution of your University by offering it to Desalegn.

It is your privilege and prerogative to confer an honorary doctoral degree to an individual for exceptionally egregious conduct and actions resulting in the diminution and destruction of human rights, disregard and contempt for the rule of law and entrenchment of a police state in Ethiopia.

It is your privilege and prerogative to confer an honorary doctoral degree to a leader of a  brutal and ruthless dictatorship that has been in power in Ethiopia for over 25 years.

Your exercise of that solemn privilege and prerogative speaks more about your institution than Hailemariam and his regime. You have publicly betrayed your values of “excellence and  exceptional scientific, artistic or social merits” that you so nobly profess by awarding Desalegn an honorary degree.

Be assured that no one, but no one, has illusions about Desalegn and his regime, and his atrocious and flagrant record of human rights violations. Except perhaps, just one?

I wonder if you have thought about the implications of your decision to award an honorary degree for the people of Ethiopia.

Did you consider how Desalegn will distort, twist, slant, mold and shape his honorary degree from your institution in his state-controlled media?

Allow me to share with you some insights:

Desalegn will use your honorary degree as a political diversion and distraction.

He will use video footage of the award ceremony on state-controlled television to tell the Ethiopian public that he was honored with a doctoral degree (conveniently omitting the fact that it is honorary) for his good governance and global leadership.

All state-controlled media will be singing Desalegn’s praise for weeks to come as urgent political and social issues are ignored in the media.

Desalegn’s predecessor cleverly used such symbolic events to gain political mileage.

In 2005, the Yara Foundation Board in Norway awarded its prize “recognizing Prime Minister Meles’ [for his] decisive steps towards increasing food production and reducing poverty in one of the poorest countries of the developing world. He has brought about political change in Ethiopia, and placed the rural poor first in the country’s development strategies.” [37]

The Board’s assertions justifying the award were simply not true.

In June 2005, the Guardian reported, “21 years on, fear of famine still stalks Ethiopia.”[38] Yet Zenawi used the award to boast that “he received from the YARA Foundation for his outstanding contribution for enhancing green revolution is the outcome of the struggle of the Ethiopian farmers.”[39]

Like his predecessor, Desalegn will no doubt use this opportunity to launch a self-aggrandizing public relations extravaganza exploiting the honorary degree to legitimize his ruthless dictatorship. The media cacophony of Desalegn’s panegyrics over his honorary degree will whitewash his state of emergency declaration. He will use it to divert attention from the ongoing human rights abuses of his “state of emergency” decree, the need for immediate and full restoration of constitutional governance.

Questions about his dictatorial rule will be drowned in a congratulatory media circus.

Stated simply, Desalegn will use the honorary degree you plan to give him as a PR prop in a video production of “Desalegn, the great leader” recognized by a world-class university.

I ask you if you have considered the fact that your institution will be a “movie prop”. Does it bother you that your university will be used as a propaganda prop to justify the regime of a ruthless dictator? Do you find it embarrassing in the slightest to honor a man who presides over the most repressive African regime, a regime that rules by martial law? Do you care at all?

Tampere University of Technology will have been an unwitting partner in a sophisticated public relations campaign to legitimize, democratize, glamourize, mythologize and romanticize a ruthless and brutal dictator and his regime.

To be perfectly candid, your decision to award Desalegn an honorary degree does not make moral or rational sense to me. Is it moral to honor an individual with a certified record of human rights atrocities? Is it rational to betray one’s cherished academic values with reckless abandon on the world stage?

I regret to inform you that by conferring an honorary degree on Desalegn, you will have disgraced and dishonored your university. You will be exposed to and invite public ridicule, contempt and infamy to your institution, and bring lasting shame upon your institution, students and faculty. You will also incur the eternal enmity of the people of Ethiopia.

I am glad to inform you that there is an honorable way out for you.

In July 2014, Azusa Pacific University in Southern California withdrew an honorary degree it had offered Desalegn after that university learned of his egregious human rights record.  In explaining the withdrawal of the offer of an honorary degree, Azusa’s Director of External Relations stated, “I can confirm that the event has been canceled.[40]  The university evaluated current developments in Ethiopia including the latest U.S State Department Human Rights Report”.[41] The 2016 version of that report  released earlier this month concluded, “Security forces [in Ethiopia] used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds and injuring many more. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. At year’s end more than 10,000 persons were believed still to be detained.”[42]

I hope you too will read the 2016 U.S State Department Human Rights Report and act out, not just profess in a policy statement, the true meaning of the courage of your convictions and values and do the right thing.

A special request

In the event that you decide to confer the honorary doctoral degree on Desalegn, I respectfully request that you do it without the necessity of his travel to Finland.

I am informed and believe that Desalegn’s trip to Finland to receive the honorary degree could cost Ethiopia in excess of $1.5 million taking into account the cost of jet fuel for a 20-hour round trip flight, preparation of jetliner for a VIP trip, meals and accommodations for Desalegn’s entourage, cost of jetliner crew and ground support, cost of maintenance and removal of jetliner from commercial service for the trip, among other costs.

I do not know if Tampere University is paying for all of the costs of logistical support to transport Desalegn. Regardless, my request is a simple one: If you must, mail or otherwise arrange to have the honorary degree delivered to Desalegn in Addis Ababa and save the hundreds of thousands (possibly exceeding $1 million) to help Ethiopian famine victims. Every penny counts when it comes to saving the lives of starving Ethiopians!

I trust you will seriously consider the facts and evidence I have presented in this letter and do the right thing.

I have attached a copy of my recent commentary[43] (available at regarding the tragic deaths from the collapse of the “trash mountain” in Addis

I hope you will pay me the academic courtesy of a reply. I should be glad to receive a reasonable explanation for your decision to confer an honorary degree on Hailemariam Desalegn, but I will settle for a plausible one.

Thank you.


Alemayehu (Al) Mariam, Ph.D., J.D., Esq.
Professor & Attorney at Law

C.c. Tero Ojanperä, Ph.D., Board Chairman, Tampere University of Technology Foundation
















[14] h….
































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Ahmed Kathrada: Veteran Communist and national liberation icon in South Africa dies

Former political prisoner served time alongside Nelson Mandela and others
“Kathy”, as he was popularly known, was elected to parliament in 1994  but declined to seek re-election five years later. He wrote an open letter to President Jacob Zuma, suggesting that perhaps he should step down due to widespread corruption in government. Zuma did not attend Kathrada’s memorial, citing the wishes of the family of the veteran freedom fighter.
Funeral services were held on March 29 for Ahmed Mohamed “Kathy” Kathrada, a longtime member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa.
Kathrada died at the age of 87 after undergoing neurosurgery. His memorial was attended by hundreds of family members and friends who paid tribute to the veteran of the decades-long national liberation struggle that brought the ANC to power in 1994.
Born on August 21, 1929 to Indian immigrant parents living in the Western Transvaal (now the North West Province), Kathrada was subjected to discriminatory practices of the racist system then dominated by the British with the Boers playing a supplementary role. 
Coming from the Indian population in the settler-colonial state of the former Union of South Africa, Kathrada played an instrumental role in forming coalitions among the oppressed national groups across the country during the 1940s and 1950s.  In 1941, at the age of 12, he joined the Young Communist League, an affiliate of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA).
He was heavily influenced by Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, a leading member of the Indian Congress movement and the Communist Party. Dadoo was an important figure in the Non-European United Front (NEUF) which initially opposed African and Indian involvement in the military services during the early phase of World War II.
After Nazi Germany invaded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in June 1941, Dadoo and other Communists shifted their positions in support of the war on the basis that European fascism was a greater threat to oppressed peoples and Moscow. This position prompted opposition within the NEUF with many feeling that Africans and Indians should not fight within the ranks of the British military under any circumstances.
Nonetheless, the CPSA continued to campaign against racism inside the country during the war with the founding of the Anti-Segregation Council to oppose the Pegging Act. Later Dadoo and other leftists were able to turn the tide against more moderate forces in the Indian Congress movement.  After WWII, the cooperation between the Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses and the African National Congress intensified.
The ANC Youth League (ANCYL), which was formed in 1943, drafted its Program of Action in 1949. The post-World War II atmosphere among Africans and larger sections of the Indian population groups in South Africa became decisively militant and confrontational against the racist state.
These events within the African and Indian Congresses led to Kathrada and others coming into closer cooperation with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, J.B. Marks and other ANC leaders. 1947 saw a major advancement in the national liberation movement with the signing of the Dadoo-Naicker-Xuma Pact which solidified the Alliance between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. Kathrada worked as a coordinator of joint actions among the youth wings of the ANC and SAIC.
In 1948, the National Party won a substantial margin in the all-white elections making the Boer ruling elites the leading force within the Union of South Africa. A renewed system of colonial occupation known as “apartheid” was formerly instituted.
Mass struggle and the Congress Alliance
During the early 1950s, a series of laws including the Suppression of Communism Act, the Pass Laws, Stock Limitation Regulations, the Group Areas Act, the Separate Representation of Voters Act, and the Bantu Authorities Act were passed by the National Party regime designed to thwart the burgeoning unity in action among the Indian, African, colored and progressive whites. Soon the Defiance Against Unjust Laws Campaign was begun in 1952, bringing thousands into the mass struggle to end apartheid.
By 1954, the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) was created bringing together political forces from the African, Indian, colored and left-wing whites. This organization mounted demonstrations against the pass laws requiring Africans to carry documentation at all times. The lack of these passes could land people in detention.
A major advancement in the movement happened on October 27, 1955, after 2,000 women demonstrated at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The action was organized largely by the ANC Women’s League and the FEDSAW. They sought to deliver a statement demanding the repeal of pass laws to cabinet ministers who refused to accept the documents.
In less than a year, another larger demonstration took place which has been characterized as a turning point in the struggle. According to the South African History website, “Ida Mntwana led the march (October 27, 1955) and the marchers were mainly African women from the Johannesburg region. The Minister of Native Affairs, Dr. Verwoerd, under whose jurisdiction the pass laws fell, pointedly refused to receive a multiracial delegation. On August 9, 1956, 20,000 women from all parts of South Africa staged a second march on the Union Buildings. Prime Minister Strijdom, who had been notified of the women`s mission, was not there to receive them.” (
The armed phase of the South African revolution
Kathrada although under banning orders for political activities was heavily involved in the formation and early operations of the ANC-SACP military wing Um Khonto we Sizwe (MK). In July 1963, after going underground, Kathrada along with other MK leaders were arrested at the Lilliesleaf Farm in Rivonia during a law-enforcement raid. Mandela had already been arrested the year before with the assistance of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and charged with leaving the country illegally. Mandela had traveled in 1961-62 to Ethiopia and Morocco to receive military training. He was caught at a roadblock where he was posing as a driver for a white family.
In 1964, Kathrada along with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Dennis Goldberg, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni were tried for treason and found guilty in an apartheid court. Although the defendants felt they would be hung, the ANC-SACP leaders were given life in prison without parole under hard labor conditions. Mandela, the last of the group to be released, served twenty seven and a half years in prison at Robben Island, Pollsmoor and at a residence in the Western Cape.
By the time the leadership of the ANC and SACP were released the support and membership within the national liberation movement had grown exponentially. MK under ANC leadership issued a declaration in August 1990 suspending the armed struggle in preparation for negotiations. After many attempts to sabotage the transition process where thousands more people lost their lives in apartheid-regime backed violence and targeted assassinations, the ANC was able to win the right to hold democratic elections on April 27-28, 1994. The ANC won nearly two-thirds of the vote in order to constitute a coalition government with the National Party and other small groupings. The NP withdrew from the government in 1995. The ANC has controlled the executive and legislative branches of the South African state since that time.
Kathrada and post-apartheid South Africa
“Kathy”, as he was popularly known, was elected to parliament during the 1994 elections. Five years later he declined to seek re-election therefore ending his involvement in electoral politics. South Africa has undergone tremendous reforms since 1994. However, fundamental aspects of capitalist rule have not been altered.
Issues of land ownership, control of mining and finance are still major sources of debate and struggle. Factionalism within the ANC, which has always existed to a limited degree, has taken on wider dimensions in recent years.
It was pointed out at the memorial services for Kathrada that he had written an open letter to President Jacob Zuma, the current leader of the party, that perhaps he should step down in light of accusations of constitutional violations. Former Vice-President under Thabo Mbeki and interim President Kgalema Motlanthe spoke at the memorial largely praising the contributions Kathrada.
He said as well that: “It would be disingenuous to pay tribute to the life of comrade Ahmed Kathrada and pretend that he was not deeply disturbed by the current post-apartheid failure of politics.” Zuma was not in attendance at the memorial saying that he was absent in respect of the family’s wishes.

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