Democracy And The Quest For Justice In Cote D’Ivoire.
June 17, 2014 | 0 Comments
By TANGWE Abraham*
Democracy has been defined variously as government of, for and by the people or simply, the rule of the majority over the minority. In effect, the better option is the exercise of the will of the majority and the respect and upholding of the rights of the minority. It should be borne in mind that the cornerstone of such a mode of governance remains the selection of leaders through free, fair, transparent and very credible elections. Here the people through universal suffrage exercise through secret ballot are allowed the liberty to select from the lot a trusted few to steer their destiny with and for them. This can be so if and only if the field is made level so as to accommodate differing views and opinions that do not need to tie with those of the governing class. The thing is, democracy has to tolerate individual rights and liberties with the individuals owing the state the obligation of being patriotic enough to meet the demands of the supreme laws of the land.
Indeed, the concept called democracy is divided into western and African democratic modes. The western mode is near perfect when it comes to practice with the mode in Africa completely adulterated. It is a curse to Africa than a blessing and remains the Achilles heels that this continent has had to grapple with since the advent of independence. All instability of late on the African continent is elections related or democratically linked.
Africans more than fifty years after independence are continuously eclipsed by the knowledge that they may wake up one morning to be threatened by war, starvation and poverty that continue to recur every other year with no end in sight and the ominous development into repressive dictatorship almost everywhere on the continent. Leaders more than ever before have failed to rise above petty partisan politics to occupy a revere position amongst their peers due to egoism. It’s a continent fraught with leaders who behave more like masters and not public servants thus doing all to keep their fear in abeyance by creating even more fear than learning to doing what is just and fair for the people thereby engaging the people more in democratic experimentation, dialogue, genuine reconciliation akin to “Mandemania” in South Africa and the virtues of peace and tolerance which has engendered a new phenomenon of late known as terrorism.
Cote D’Ivoire has seen its own fair share of most of the above insinuations that is slowly building into falsehood and the Houphouet years of claimed economic prosperity which ended up into the mayhem we just witnessed! You may recall that the late Robert Guei after tasting of the juicy nature of the spoils of power did all to transform his military outfit to a civilian one despite the fact that the popular will at the time was in perfect accord that Prof. Laurent Gbagbo, a history guru and opposition chieftain to take over the mantle of leadership.
This ended up in people power demonstrations on the streets that catapulted Gbagbo to power. Erstwhile leader before Guei, Henri Konan Bedie had earlier on introduced the issue of “Ivoirite” to make sure that his arch political rival, Alassane Dramane Ouattara was prevented from contesting elections despite haven served as Houpouet Boigny’s Prime Minister for a very long time. One begins to wonder how someone could be Prime Minister of a Country without being a citizen. Popular opinion however rejected such machinations which was not heeded and ended up plunging this once purported Island of peace to an area fraught with ethnic and tribal upheavals.
Following the 2010 presidential election, Gbagbo challenged the vote count, alleging fraud. He called for the annulment of results from nine of the country’s regions. Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner and was recognized as such by election observers, the international community, the African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States. However, the Constitutional Council, which according to Article 94 of the Ivorian Constitution both determines disputes in and proclaims the results of Presidential elections, declared that Gbagbo had won. After a short period of civil conflict, Gbagbo was arrested by backers of Alassane Ouattara, supported by French Forces of “Operation UNICORN”. In November 2011, he was extradited to the International Criminal Court, becoming the first head of state to be taken into the court’s custody.
The Force Nouvelles led by henchman Guillaume Soro who had led the Civil war against Gbagbo following the signing of a peace agreement on March 4, 2007, he became Prime Minister. According to Soro, the group has transformed itself from an armed movement into a force that is “responsible, credible and capable of managing the affairs of state. Today, he is President of the Ivorian national Assembly and a purported “Pan Africanist”.
The principles of democracy were thwarted here whether wrongly or rightly by an international community with vested interests. This problem originated from democratic elections and common sense would have warranted the Ivorian political class to use dialogue and Ivorian institutions to cool down the tempers. The biggest error of the present leadership of Alassane Ouattara was to arraign Gbagbo, wife and followers and sending Gbagbo to the International criminal Court (ICJ) to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
Come to think of it; what criteria was used to determine his guilt? Who started the war? Can we sincerely say that the destruction of lives and properties was the sole preserve of the Gbagbo Camp? In modern warfare, we do not look at victors or vanquished but of the number of casualties with the parties involved in the war made to answer for whatever problems emanating from their actions in equal measure. Should Gbagbo therefore be standing trial alone while the rebel leader and warlord, Guillaume Soro is allowed to parade himself as a responsible politician?
Where is the justice in all these? The architect of notion of “Ivoirite” Henri Konan Bedie should also be made to stand trial for inciting ethnic cleansing while Guillaume Soro is also arrested and arraign before the international criminal court for crimes against humanity. If not, no matter how hard the Ivorians try, peace would always elude them. At best, they should withdraw the charges against Gbagbo and bring him home for genuine reconciliation akin to what the icon, Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.
Perhaps, it would be of interest to note that far from being a saint, Laurent Gbagbo’s only crime is his nationalist stance against French neo-colonialist interest in Africa. Of course, he started by boycotting Francophonie summites and demanding a repelling of the French colonial pact and a return of all monies already deposited in the French treasury by dint of that accord. Worst of all, he awarded a multi-billion bridge contract to the Chinese instead of the French. Are you now surprise why the French “UNICORN” aided and abated the Force Nouvelle of Soro to Oust Gbagbo? Are you again surprise that Soro is not on trial like Gbagbo?
Let justice and democracy be allow to prevail in equal measure in Cote D’Ivoire, else the flabby and frantic efforts made at achieving peace there would have a boomerang effect like in the days of Felix Houpouet Boigny.
IS CAMEROON BILINGUAL OR UNILINGUAL?
May 20, 2014 | 1 Comments
By TANGWE Abraham*
In most areas of the world, Cameroon is known as a former French colony and hence French speaking. This completely negates the historical background of this country otherwise known as “Africa –in-miniature”. Cameroon (Kamerun) has been a German colony from 1884 until 1916 when they were ousted by a combined forces of the British and the French during the First World War. This ouster led to an attempted joint administration or condominium between the British and the French which failed due to fundamental differences but prominent amongst which were the authority and territorial issues.
The condominium that had started in 1914 woefully went comatose in February, 1916 occasioning the partition of Cameroon between the British and the French. This partition gave 4/5 of the territory to the French and 1/5 to the British. This partition was later confirmed in 1919 following the Versailles settlement and the League of Nations followed suit and declared Cameroon a mandate after seizure of former German colonies all over the world and this mandate was placed under the tutelage of the British and the French effective from 1922. When the League of Nations became defunct at the end of World War Two, all former mandates were simply transferred to the trusteeship council of the United Nations as trust territories after 1945 still under the British and the French with a key objective being their preparation towards independence.
The era of independence struggle occasioned the holding of a United Nations conducted plebiscite in February 1961 in which the former Southern Cameroon or those under the British voted to join the French Cameroonians. It should be noted that this took place after close to forty years of living as separate linguistic, cultural and historical entities. During this period, the English speaking or Anglophones as they came to be called lived and were mentored under the British parliamentary political setup, economic, educational, judicial and linguistic culture. They only accepted to reunite with their French brothers as a distinct and separate political entity which gave rise to the federal constitution that was crafted at foumban in July 1961 making Cameroon an independent bilingual, bicultural and bijural state of the English and French entities from thence till date.
This brief political history of Cameroon is an attempt to debunk the fact that Cameroon is French speaking even if the Francophone leadership has done all over the years to paint this picture to the world through a well-orchestrated plan that has reduced Anglophones in Cameroon to second class citizens through outright marginalization and debasing the English language to a level where the President has never address the nation in English. Worst of all, despite the fact that English is one of the two official languages in Cameroon as stipulated in the constitution, all official documents are in French to a level where the language is near extinct in all official circles.
The above stance of Cameroonian leaders is fanned by statements such as the one made by Syd Madicot, former British high commissioner to Cameroon in an interview he granted a local tabloid, THE POST no.01077 of August Monday 17, 2009 in which he claimed that the Anglophone problem is visible and felt when viewed along the different European languages used by Cameroon. According to him therefore, residents of the North West region (English speaking) and the West region (French speaking) share a lot in a common culture also known as the “grassfield culture” and it doesn’t make much if one group speaks French and the other one English.
The very fact that such a high British official could make such inflammatory and unguarded statements pointed to the fact that the English component in the Cameroon equation was inconsequential though born out of their heritage and legacy. In fact equating the Anglophones in Cameroon as a mere ethnic group is very provocative, vexing and a diplomatic blunder. It denies Cameroon her international personality of a bilingual state made up of English and French.
Britain had always developed cold feet towards the former British or Southern Cameroon always wanting to submerge it to Nigeria or French Cameroon for one flimsy reason or the other. Britain exhibited such bad fate during the UN plebiscite talks and the fact that Britain refused the English speaking Cameroonians that opportunity to attain its independence before embarking on what form of union it wanted with the then Cameroon or gaining that independence as a separate state with the right to self-governance. There is overwhelming evidence to show that Britain rigged the votes during the plebiscite for northern British Cameroon to join Nigeria and succeeded! Her game plan was visible through Anglophone Cameroon struggle to negotiate her way with her French brothers and sisters. She stood idly by and watched the Anglophones undergoing humiliation and near annihilation.
It’s a very pathetic and irksome history each time it is revisited and those concern are always dejected and hurt by it whenever it is mentioned. This explains why the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) was created in the 90 s to seek redress and it is advocating for outright secession. In effect, what do you expect them to do in such circumstances when the doors of negotiation are closed to them?
The statement by Syd Madicot is an indirect confirmation of the fact that Anglophones in Cameroon are a storm in a tea cup. It is thumbs up to the powers that be to know that their discriminatory policies against these people are perfectly in order and should continue. It is a tacit approval of witch-hunting and despise that these people have been subjected to for all these years.
Unfortunately for them, the UN may have realized itself and its errors if recent press statements are anything to go by. According to the Nigerian daily Globaltimes, “..the UNO has given an official authorization, signed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, for Prof. Martin Chia Ateh to issue identification cards to citizens of the Southern Cameroons…” In the article that carries the pictures of Presidents Paul Biya and Goodluck Jonathan, Globaltimes, quoting Section 76b of the UN Charter as well as Act 102(1) and (2) noted that the terms of any union between a member state of the United Nations and another country have got to be evidenced in writing and a copy filed at the United Nations secretariat which will publish it. It adds that failure to do so as was the case with the Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun “renders the whole arrangement invalid under international law as it cannot be cited before any organ of the United Nations…
This indicates that something may be happening and may end up restoring the independence of Anglophones in Cameroon and not just that they are an entity almost submerged in French Cameroon. The leaders of Cameroon should borrow a leaf from this and engage in meaning dialogue with the Anglophones on the eve of the 42nd celebrations of the Cameroon national day.
*Tangwe shares his opinions on critical issues in the Blog African View Points
BOKO HARAM: BEYOND NIGERIA’S INTEREST!
May 16, 2014 | 1 Comments
By TANGWE Abraham
For a while now, the Boko Haram sect has given the Nigerian and world leader’s sleepless nights over the kidnapping of 234 girls in a boarding school in Chibok in Northern Nigeria on the 14 of April, 2014. This kidnap exposed the government of President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan as a limping duck so near the doldrums of abyss. His non-action or statement over the kidnap for three weeks was the apogee of irresponsibility and a very clear demonstration of incompetence and in the west, he would have simply resigned. As if that gaff was not enough, Dame Patience Goodluck ordered the arrest of protesting helpless mothers; a first lady who herself is a woman haven gone through the pains of labour. What effrontery!
Boko Haram by that kidnap inadvertently shot itself in the leg. It should be noted that this group started in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a cleric whose aim is an Islamic state in Nigeria. He was killed in 2009. The group’s current leader, Abubakar Shekau, surfaces sporadically in videotaped messages. Boko Haram opposes the education of girls and has kidnapped girls to use as cooks and sex slaves.To it, western education is evil to be discarded at all cost. This explains why after the girls were kidnapped, their leader argued that they were supposed to be married instead of wasting time schooling. They believe in violence and have a great dislike for Christians. It has killed hundreds of children. The group seeks to replace Nigeria’s government with a strict Islamic state. Its home base is the Sambisa Forest, a game reserve in Nigeria’s northeast region, and it has a few thousand fighters.
The most intriguing of the actions of Boko Haram is that the sect has extended its activities in the North of Cameroon with an incessant kidnapping of Catholic priests and French nationals and also attacking and killing hundreds of nationals. In fact, a few days back, a small bridge linking a border village between Cameroon and Nigeria in the far Northern region of Cameroon was blown off when the sect got wind or suspected that it could be used as a rescue route of the girls.
Such actions by the sect has made reprisal antics far from being Nigeria’s action alone. The notion of “sovereignty-at-bay” in international law counts for nothing in this case as the susceptibility of Nigeria’s immediate neighbours viz: Cameroon, Chad, Niger et al to the effects of the actions of this sect are telling on the denizens of these countries. The case of Cameroon is glaring as Akwaya in the South Western region of Cameroon like the Northern regions is inundated with people fleeing the barbaric acts of Boko Haram besides intermittent attacks from the sect itself on the afore mentioned areas.
It is inconceivable that President Goodluck has not taken very bold steps to get its neighbours involve in the struggle to hem in, annihilate and completely wipe out Boko Haram through diplomatic offensive. That he sluggishly turned to the USA, Britain, China and other world powers for succor without first attempting to get assistance from its neighbours is complete betrayal and spite to the whole idea of seeking African solutions to African problems. In all fairness to President Goodluck, even with the help of these powers, if the neighbours are ignored, whatever is done would just be as the saying goes “throwing water on a duck’s back.
Worst of all, it is a known fact that terrorism anywhere must be fought with vim and alacrity. How then do we explain the belated statement of our darling African Union that has ended at issuing just that statement? Is the issue, a Nigerian issue? One would have expected the A.U. to take the lead in efforts against the actions of Boko Haram because children everywhere are precious but most importantly because the actions of the sect are having an adverse effects not only in Nigeria but her neighbours as well. How then can the AU claim that it has the capacity to secure the continent when the actions of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Shaabab in Somalia and Kenya are simply condemned with no action taken by her?
Be that as it may, the activities of Boko Haram have gone far above the confines of the nation of Nigeria and the Nigerian government should not make the error of trying to go it alone without its neighbours for this would have a boomerang effect. The fight should be led by Nigeria and its neighbours with tactical support from the AU. All western support should have been channeled through the AU to all affected countries. Care must be taken to ensure a safe rescue of the girls as the sect might trap the rescuers by using the girls as human shield. Our hearts go out to the Nigerian nation especially the affected mothers in such difficult moments like this. Indeed, bring home our girls!
CAMEROON, WASTING SO MUCH YET VERY MUCH IN NEED!
April 21, 2014 | 0 Comments
For a while now in Cameroon, the people and particularly the fourth estate has been awash with the allocations made by parliamentarians to themselves as car allowances for the current mandate. The Speaker of the house was given 80 million FRS CFA ($160.000), the first Vice speaker had 65 million FRS CFA ($130.000) with the other five vice speaker taking home 60 million FRS CFA each ($120.000). All the questors had 50 million FRS each ($100.000) and the rest of the bureau members each bagged 45 million FRS CFA ($90.000). These allocations do not include free housing for all bureau members, two servants, a lump sum as sitting allowances and one third of the said allowances as car maintenance allowance besides other undeclared allowances. In all, about 2 billion FRS CFA ($4million) was allocated by these bureau members to themselves (21 in all). Wao!
Indeed, this scandal came to the limelight because the other members of parliament felt cheated since the rest of them were each given ‘just’ a paltry 10 million FRS CFA ($20.000) out of this looting or should I say booty? Is this not rather interesting in a Country that is talking of emergence only in 2035? How can the peoples representatives go this far to pilfer from the public purse in the name of comfort at work?
A vast majority of Cameroonians live beyond the poverty line with big cities like Yaounde and Douala in dire need of portable water and affordable habitable standards and the law makers can afford to divert such huge financial resources that could have been used for development as per diems? How do you explain the fact that Bamenda, Cameroons third major city has no roads and our leaders selfishly see only under their nostrils? The South West region produces more than 60% of Cameroons resources but lack roads and yet we tolerate such waste? Cameroon is one of the only Countries steeped in a vast array of sub soil resources ranging from petroleum, all varieties of agricultural products, timber, diamonds, iron ore amongst others and yet fifty three years after independence cannot boast of a double carriage way in any of its major cities.
It is still amongst the limping few who use more than 65% of the annual budget for the running of the administrative machinery largely made up of octogenarians who are recycled always to keep syphoning public funds. Cameroon has been described as “Africa in miniature” because we are endowed with human and natural resources compared to no other Country on the African continent but due to an entrenched culture of waste and misuse of public resources, we have been reduced to beggars and amongst the wretched of the earth and this due to the lack of political will to turn things around by our leaders.
Due to such mismanagement, unemployment has attained monumental proportion as the churning out of graduates by the higher institutions of learning is far greater than the available opportunities. Reasons why the youths have devised all the dubious means to survive in a cruel society that has refuse to hearken to their yearnings. They are therefore involved in feymania, falsification of documents in a bid to get through to opportunities denied them by no fault of theirs and are blacklisted in most countries of the world. It also explains why the best Cameroonian brains and technicians are in diaspora. Indeed, one of the best high profile surgeons in the US now is a Cameroonian when we need them badly at home
Cameroonians live far below the poverty line with a vast majority struggling to ebb out what is left of life from less than a dollar a day. Such corrupt practices are rife and such brazen thievery and embezzlement of public funds in the name of allowances can go unchecked because the president leadership appears incapable of calling the shots as it should be. Public funds seemingly remains a free for all affair in so far as you can boast of a godfather or just finding yourself makes it a condition sine-qua-non to be able to benefit of such unprotected peoples patrimony. The war against graft is cosmetic because the real perpetrators are left off the hook to keep parading themselves with such reckless abandon while those of them who dare to raise their eyes towards the royal throne are blacklisted, arrested and remanded to custody without much ado..
The Cameroon parliament has proven to be a toothless bulldog only when it comes to acting as a check to the executive. They complain of party discipline and their hands being tied but such party discipline is thrown to the dogs when it comes to rewarding themselves for no work done. This time around, all acted in complicity as even the opposition parliamentarians in the bureau maintained seal lips over the issue simply because a mouth dripping with palm oil does not talk for fear of tainting the outfit. What a shame. In fact, it is quite strange that the western world listens to this and goes ahead to give aid to such regimes!
It is very clear that Cameroons parliamentary leadership is involved in theft and embezzlement and should be probed else, it would suffice for any budget manager to sit and decide what gets into his or her pocket at any time they deem so. As law makers, they should produce a document spelling out salaries beginning from the Head of state, senators, parliamentarians and judges including allowances and not just doing them at the spur of the moment.
Cameroon has the necessary resources to emerge even tomorrow if our so-called leaders can decide to work for the interest of their people more. The culture of waste is so entrenched in the fabric of leadership life in Cameroon and that explains why the President of the defunct economic and social council also allotted to himself a whopping 100 million FRS CFA ($200.000) as car allowances. It is even worse with the Senators just newly elected. It is a real pity that this is happening in Cameroon with its people drowning in an ocean of poverty lacking basic amenities like portable water, electricity, schools, and hospitals and affording three decent square meals a day.
Alan Paton, the South African novelist puts it very aptly “Cry the beloved Country” for we are crying for our beloved Cameroon going down the drain every other second.
On the Concept of Afrabia
March 23, 2014 | 0 Comments
By Ali A. Mazrui and James N. Kariuki *
There are different levels of Pan-Africanism, varying in degrees of sustainability. Sub-Saharan Pan-Africanism is a quest for the unification of black people in Africa below the Sahara. Then there are two possible versions of continental Pan-Africanism.
Sub-continental Pan-Africanism seeks union of black states while excluding Arab Africa. This idea has been floated from time to time, but it does not seem to gather much political support. More triumphant has been trans-Saharan Pan-Africanism which formed the basis for Afro-Arab Organization of African Unity (OAU) and its successor, the African Union (AU).
Another version of sub-Saharan Pan-Africanism is sub-regional rather than sub-continental. The sub-regional variety has produced organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which in recent years has been more of an activist as a peacekeeping force than as a vanguard for economic change.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) also received a new lease on life when South Africa became a fully fledged member in the post-apartheid era. In December 1999 Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania finally succeeded in reviving the East African Community since its collapse 22 years earlier.
By far the most ambitious idea floating around in the new era of intellectual speculation is whether the whole of Africa and the whole of the Arab world are two regions in the process of merging into one. Out of this speculative discourse has emerged the concept of Afrabia. Is the Afrabia a mere intellectual fascination or can it be realized in practical terms?
Two tendencies have stimulated the new thinking about African-Arab relations. One tendency is basically negative but potentially unifying: the war on terrorism. The new international terrorism may have its roots in injustices perpetrated against such Arab people as Palestinians and Iraqis, but the primary theatre of contestation is blurring the distinction between the Middle East and the African continent.
To kill twelve Americans in Nairobi in August 1998, over 200 Kenyans died in a terrorist act at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Four years later, a suicide bomber in Mombasa, attacked the Israeli-owned and patronized Paradise Hotel. There too, three times as many Kenyans as Israelis perished. These incidents of unmitigated violence were mere rehearsals in microcosm of the spectacular September 2013 week-long terrorist attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi where over 60 innocent people were killed.
Apart from the war on terror, Islam as a cultural and political force has also been deepening relations between Africa and the Middle East. Intellectual revival is not only a Western idiom. It is also the idiom of African cultures and African Islam. Hot political debates about the Shariah (Islamic Law) in Nigeria and the political objectives of the contemporary violent Boko Haram constitute part of the trend of cultural integration between Africa and the Middle East.
Recent legitimization of Muammar Gaddafi as a viable African leader contributed to the birth of no less a new institution than the AU. It is sometimes startling how much more Pan-Africanist than Pan-Arabist Gaddafi had become in the years preceding his death. At least before he died, Gaddafi was steadily out-Africanizing the legacy of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The fourth force that may be merging Africa with the Middle East is political economy. Africa’s oil producers need to form a joint partnership with the bigger oil producers of the Middle East.
In the area of aid and trade between Africa and the Middle East, the volume may have gone down since the 1980s. But most indications seem to promise a future expansion of economic relations between Africa and the Middle East. In the Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman, the concept of Afrabia has begun to be examined on higher and higher echelons.
It was initially trans-Saharan Pan-Africanism that gave birth to the idea of Afrabia. The first post-colonial waves of Pan-Africanists like Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Sekou Toure believed that the Sahara was a bridge rather than a divide.
The concept of Afrabia now connotes more than interaction between Africanity and Arab identity; it is seen as a process of fusion between the two. While the principle of Afrabia recognizes that Africa and the Arab world are overlapping categories, it goes on to prophesy that these two are in the historic process of becoming one.
But who are the Afrabians? There are in reality at least four categories. Cultural Afrabians are those whose culture and way of life have been deeply Arabized but have fallen short of their being linguistically Arabs. Most Somali, Hausa, and some Waswahili are cultural Afrabians in that sense. Their mother-tongue is not Arabic, but much of the rest of their culture bears the stamp of Arab and Islamic impact.
Ideological Afrabians are those who intellectually believe in solidarity between Arabs and Africans, or at least between Arab Africa and black Africa. Historically, such ideological Afrabian leaders have included Kwame Nkrumah, the founder president of Ghana; Gamal Abdel Nasser, arguably the greatest Egyptian of the 20th Century; Sekou Toure, the founding father of post-colonial Guinea (Conakry), and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Such leaders refused to acknowledge the Sahara Desert as a divide; they insisted on visualizing it as a historic bridge.
Geographical Afrabians are those Arabs and Berbers whose countries are concurrently members of both the African Union and the Arab League. Some of these countries are overwhelmingly Arab, such as Egypt and Tunisia, while others are only marginally Arab, such as Mauritania, Somalia and the Comoro Islands.
Finally, there are the genealogical Afrabians. These are those who are biologically descended from both Arabs and Black Africans. In North Africa they have included Anwar Sadat, the former President of Egypt who concluded a peace treaty with Israel and was assassinated for it in 1982. Anwar Sadat’s mother was Black and his father was Arabic. He was politically criticized for many things, but almost never for being racially mixed.
Genealogical Afrabians in sub-Saharan Africa include Tanzanian Salim Ahmed Salim, the longest serving Secretary-General of the OAU, and the Mazrui clan scattered across Coastal Kenya and Tanzania. It should be noted that Northern Sudanese qualify as Afrabians by both geographical and genealogical criteria.
These four sub-categories of Afrabians provide some of the evidence that Africa and the Arab world are two geographical regions that are in the slow historic process of merging.
*Ali A. Mazrui is the globally distinguished Professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton. James N. Kariuki is Professor (emeritus) of International Relations. He is a Kenyan resident in South Africa.
THE WEST AND THE CULTURE OF DOUBLE STANDARDS:WHAT HAS AID GOT TO DO WITH GAY RIGHTS?
March 23, 2014 | 0 Comments
By Tangwe Abraham*
Same sex or gay relations has for a while now animated debate on the African continent and has refuse to leave the stage as the debate has been reignited with an interview granted the AFP news agency by 69 year old Cameroon gay rights activist, Alice NKOM. Hear her “When a country uses weapons, the police and all available legal and prison means against a section of its population, while it has a commitment to protect, it is apartheid.”
This comment rekindled in me the rough waters Uganda of late has been treading for daring to pass a bill outlawing same sex relationship. For doing that, the World Bank suspended aid to Uganda and Sweden follow suit and blocked all bilateral aid. It is not too long that President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan of Nigeria despite the internal security threats from Boko Haram signed into law a bill declaring same sex relationship a no go area for all Nigerians. This of course attracted angry reactions from Nigeria’s so-called partners.
The case of Cameroon is peculiar as the authorities despite the gaffs in governance issues have stood their grounds against pressure from the West to legalize same sex relationship. The ranting of the learned Barrister Alice NKOM is in place as it is her right to say what she thinks but that right does not negate the fact that she should not step on others toes. Homosexuality is total anathema in Cameroon and the Penal code forbids it upon pain of imprisonment. Culturally, it is a very strange phenomenon and a vast majority of the Cameroonian people detests it including all legal and constituted institutions in Cameroon.
Perhaps, she is leading a noble course for those who feel that way and have decided to put her in the spotlight with awards (She recently received an award from the German Branch of Amnesty International in Berlin) but she should be reminded that Cameroon is a State of law and no amount of underground networking can change that.
Cameroon is Africa in miniature and the last time I checked as someone with a deep knowledge in history, I did not anywhere see homosexuality as one of the key elements of the richness of Cameroon. We cherish our values and nowhere is it written that homosexuality is part of such values. We refuse as a people to be led to the slaughter because of selfish interests.
The Divine dictates on which we base all moral arguments and reflections be it in the West or Africa forbid same sex marriage and see it as very disgusting. Why should we at any time question that? Why do you think that God in his Divine wisdom created man and woman and commanded them by telling them “And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. Gen. 9:7) and a mere mortal would stand up and declare that for the sake of human rights, we should spite such a norm?
Is there anyone of them shouting at the top of their voices for the legalization of same sex relationship who is in that kind of relationship? What is the essence of such hypocrisy? Africans are predominantly polygamous and it is part of them. How many Western societies recognized polygamy? For how long shall we allow ourselves to be place under such double standards? Is it only right when it comes from the West and wrong when it is African? Must the world survive when others dominate?
Besides, why should AID be pegged to the legalization of same sex marriage? Embezzling money and robbing people of resources that could be used for national development is a human rights issue and should be treated as such. Besides, Western companies exploiting Africa or fueling conflicts in Congo are human rights issues as the destiny of millions of people and their livelihood are put into complete jeopardy. Again, the very fact that the West has elected to remaining silent while African leaders embezzle and lodge money in western bank accounts without the west blinking is an issue that needs very serious reexamination. Such money that could have been used to transform the lives of the people and the economy is lying fallow and useful to western capitalist while the people go hungry, lacking basic amenities like portable water, health facilities and electricity. And you tell me the West is helping Africa by trampling on her cultural values and rights? It is double standards and hypocrisy at its best to hinge aid on same sex relationship when there are more serious things that tie down Africa.
When Barrister Alice NKOM argues that homosexuality is compared to slavery in America, where does she leave Africa in all these? Is she aware that the non-compensation of Africans and Africa for the millions that she lost in human resources during the era of slave trade constitutes a human rights abuse? Are we sure that she is just an activist fighting for people or she has vested interest related to homosexuality somewhere? Africa has come of age and the people are ready to stand by their leaders on such burning issues of morality. If we should be given aid base on our recognition of gay rights as a people, then such aid can be kept and used to prod homosexuals in the West.
In all these, African leaders should pull their resources on it and issue a common statement. They should stop playing to the gallery and pretending by betraying their peers in the name of maintaining ties with the West. The activists have a right to their opinion but they should desist from abusing the rights of others by trying to force their views on them. Yielding to such western antics would be like dying before your real death!
*Tangwe will be sharing his opinions on critical issues in the Blog African View Points
South Africa in Context of African Tradition of Forgiveness
February 11, 2014 | 0 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
South Africa is a rich country by African standards. Yet, since 2009 the same SA has earned the dubious distinction of being the world’s most socio-economically skewed society. This lopsidedness became the talk of global critics as far back as May 1998 when the then-SA Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, stated before Parliament that his country was not a nation; it was merely two nations of rich whites and desperately poor blacks rolled into one.
In analyzing the racially defined socio-economic fault line in SA, commentators are unanimous that colonialism and apartheid were the initial offenders. But in the post-apartheid era a small undercurrent of thought emerged suggesting that the economic divide was elongated and widened by ‘compromised negotiations’ that were largely steered in the early 1990s by the late liberation icon, Nelson Mandela.
Though an intriguing possibility on first encounter, the ‘flawed negotiations’ proposition remained relatively muted during Mandela’s lifetime presumably because few dared to stand up and be counted as Madiba’s detractors while he lasted. After all, he was the acknowledged, ultimate victim of apartheid who had evolved into mankind’s darling in old age. Indeed, to many in South Africa and beyond, Mandela had become an icon, the country’s only convincing psychological cement.
In post-Mandela era, however, the argument of ‘faulty negotiations’ has re-surfaced with gusto, a fact vividly reflected by the formation of a new political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, headed by the former ANC maverick, Julius Malema. EFF is resolved to win the 2014 elections and officially embark on correcting the alleged errors in the negotiations of the early 1990s.
In those negotiations, the logic goes, Mandela was admirably tough on the political front, but was excessively soft on the economic side. In the end, Madiba settled for a lopsided economic deal that disinherited black folk. As a globally acclaimed analyst has put it, “a great Faustian bargain was struck between the two races. The Whites said to the Blacks, ‘You take the crown and we will keep the jewels.’”
Meanwhile, the wealthy whites are said to have murmured among themselves, “We will give them the vote but keep the banks.” Seemingly, they knew and understood that political power without economic power was as dry as dust.
The economic ‘soft-to-apartheid’ logic has been echoed by prominent personalities deeply loyal to Mandela. Among others, the list includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Ali Mazrui and, especially, Mandela’s former wife, Winnie.
Believers in this thinking do not necessarily accuse Mandela of sinister scheming to bring more harm to the much tormented Blacks; but they do insist that more economic concessions should have been demanded for the historically brutalized fellow Africans. In short, what Mandela is blamed for is embarking upon misguided priorities: peace at the price of poverty for Blacks.
Some are convinced that the ANC pushed Mandela to accept the strategy of going easy on the economic front during the negotiations. Reportedly, the party was tired of an ungovernable country: constant fighting, never-ending-labor strikes, the general strife and struggle. ANC longed for peace. But then, tactically, it was Mandela who chose to jump, and he went too far in the wrong direction.
For the radicals, Winnie among them, Mandela had been mellowed by the lengthy apartheid imprisonment. For that reason, he unwittingly went overboard to accommodate the apartheid machine in a manner that verged on appeasement. As a result, he got and accepted a ‘sucker’s economic deal’ for his people. Was there an element of forgiveness in Mandela’s behavior?
Perhaps Mandela’s overall softness to apartheid’s economic destiny was partly derived from an older Pan-African thought. Indeed, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah had addressed the same question of what domain African anti-colonialism should target first: political or economic power? Nkrumah responded in his capacity as the elder statesman in African nationalism by asserting, ‘Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you.’
During the SA negotiations in the 1990s, was Mandela inspired by Nkrumah’s ‘political-kingdom-first’ doctrine? It should not be held against Madiba in the least if he was not aware of that dictum. After all, he was already in political prison when African nationalism took off in earnest and debates of that nature became commonplace.
Yet, evidence suggests otherwise. In addition to his famous photographic memory, Mandela was well read. Ali Mazrui tells how he was once in a conference and, accidentally, bumped into Mandela in the hallway. Startled, Mazrui greeted the global icon and introduced himself. Mandela responded, ‘Oh, Professor Ali Mazrui, nice to meet you! I used to read your publications when I was in prison!”
If Mandela remembered Ali Mazrui’s name and that he had followed his works while in prison, he certainly knew of the Pan-African economic-political kingdoms debate pertaining to African decolonization. Indeed Nkrumah’s statement on this issue remains one of his most cited decrees ever, and Mazrui has published extensively on Nkrumah. In de-emphasizing the economic aspect of the negotiations to abolish apartheid, was Mandela acting under the spell of Kwame Nkrumah?
To Mandela, the driving imperative was SA as a whole. For the survival of his country, he chose the political-kingdom-first-proposition by embracing reconciliation and nation-building. This, an attempt to build a Rainbow Nation, was indeed the only viable alternative that made sense to Madiba of that time. This was not necessarily the easy route in an angry and volatile country and the call was public: one Boer one bullet.
Mandela was convinced that, to avoid a catastrophic and unwinnable civil war and for the country to survive and move forward, it needed both its Black and white citizenry working together. After all, the White man had the skills and capital; the black man had the labor.
The idea in Mandela’s negotiation camp was that, once political power was in the grasp of Blacks, the economy could slowly be transformed to respond more to their needs. After all, was Affirmative Action not the approach that the USA had adopted since the 1960s to uplift African-Americans? Indeed this became the rationale behind South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) of the coming years. Unfortunately, BEE has so far fallen short of uplifting the poor Blacks and bringing about economic equality in SA
Was Mandela a lone voice in the wilderness of African history in seeking reconciliation with his former tormentors? This question invites another: what do SA, Zimbabwe and Kenya have in common? It is common knowledge that all are in black Africa and were all once European colonies. Each was home to a sizeable presence of white settlers and independence struggle in each involved bloodshed.
What is less publicized is that they all sought to consummate their independence in the spirit of reconciliation, a reflection of what has been called African capacity to forgive. In his bid to extend a hand of friendship to his former tormenters, Mandela was not alone.
Thirty years earlier, Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta also emerged from colonialists’ lengthy political imprisonment urging his countrymen to pull together to build the nation. Meanwhile, he appealed to the former colonial detractors to stay in newly independent Kenya. To assure them of their sense of belonging in black-ruled Kenya, he went the extra mile of writing a book clearly aimed at calming their nerves. Hence the surprising title of his popular 1968 book, Suffering without Bitterness.
A dozen years before Mandela took over in SA, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe also expressed remarkably similar sentiments. History seems to have forgotten that in 1981 Mugabe was shortlisted as a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for his initial enthusiasm for reconciliation following the transition from white-ruled Rhodesia to majority-ruled Zimbabwe. As the country’s first president Mugabe stated, “Our people, young and old, men and women, black and white, living and dead, are, on this occasion, being brought together in a new form of national unity that makes them all Zimbabweans.”
Ian Smith, the ultimate anti-thesis of African nationalism and all that it stood for, the white man behind a brutal seven year war in Rhodesia and loss of 30, 000 lives, remained free and untormented in majority-ruled Zimbabwe. In fact Smith became a Member of Parliament in Mugabe’s black government and its harshest critic.
It was only after these gestures that Nelson Mandela raised eyebrows by extending a hand of friendship to the Afrikaner community.
Jomo Kenyatta, Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela shared victimization and their response of seeking reconciliation once victors. This is a far cry from the behavior of, say, Israel. Some analysts have attributed this trait to black African cultures and their remarkable capacity to forgive.
Remarkably, Algeria had an identical experience as Kenya, Zimbabwe and SA It was colonized, had a sizeable white settler community and it fought a war of independence noteworthy for its appalling savagery. But to this day, Algerians and their colonizing French have never been able to forgive each other for the scale of inhumanity perpetrated during the war for independence. Does Arabic Algeria need a touch of African negritude?
*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
Nelson Mandela and the Rainbow Nation That He Never Saw
January 9, 2014 | 0 Comments
The South African economy is the largest in Africa. Yet, since 2009 SA has had the distinction of being the most economically skewed society worldwide. Consciousness of this lopsidedness is not new. It grasped the attention of international social critics as far back as May 1998 when Thabo Mbeki, then the Vice President of the Republic, stated before Parliament that SA was not a nation; it was two nations rolled into one. To Mbeki, SA was a superficial blend of a small affluent white society whose lifestyles rivaled the superrich anywhere in the world. The other SA was comprised of Black fellow citizens who ware locked in abject poverty without a way out. Mbeki’s statement came to be known as the ‘Two Nations Speech’, a candid display of a racial-economic divide seen around the world. In trying to understand the South African socio-economic inequality, critics agreed that colonialism and apartheid played a major part. But regarding post-apartheid era, a small undercurrent of thought emerged suggesting that the country’s socio-economic divide was aggravated and enhanced by ‘compromised negotiations’ that were carried out by the late liberation icon, Nelson Mandela. This proposition remained relatively muted during Mandela’s lifetime presumably because few dared to stand up and be counted as Madiba’s detractors during his lifetime. After all, he was the beloved, ultimate victim of apartheid. Now in post-Mandela era, that same line of reasoning is audible. In the negotiations to dismantle apartheid in the early 1990s, the claim goes, Mandela was admirably tough on the political front, but he equally too soft on the economic side. In the end, Madiba settled for a lopsided economic deal that disinherited his people. As one globally acclaimed analyst summed up the deal, “a great Faustian bargain was struck between the two races. The Whites said to the Blacks, ‘You take the crown and we will keep the jewels.’” The economic ‘soft-to-apartheid’ logic has been echoed by prominent personalities deeply loyal to Mandela, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mandela’s former wife, Winnie. Its proponents do not necessarily accuse Mandela of deliberate wrongdoing but they do assert that more could have been extracted in form of economic concessions for the dispossessed Blacks. Some have been known to whisper that Mandela went too far to accommodate the apartheid establishment in a manner that verged on appeasement. In return he got a ‘Sucker’s Deal’ economically. However, neither deliberate law breaking nor corruption was suggested. In fact, ethically and legally, Mandela’s post-apartheid leadership is generally accepted as having been virtually impeccable. A case could be made that Mandela’s overall soft-economic-approach to the demise of apartheid was not an ad hoc matter, that it derived impetus from older Pan-African thought. Indeed, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah did address the same issue of what domain should African anti-colonialism target first: political or economic power? Nkrumah responded in his capacity as the elder statesman of African nationalism by asserting, ‘Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you.’ During the negotiations to abolish apartheid, was Mandela aware of Nkrumah’s ‘political kingdom first’ dictum? He would be forgiven if he was not. After all, he was already the ‘world’s most famous political prisoner’ when African nationalism took off in earnest and such debates became commonplace. Yet, evidence suggests otherwise. In addition to his well-known photographic memory, Mandela was well read. Professor Ali Mazrui tells of how he was once in a conference and, accidentally, bumped into Mandela in the hallway. Startled, Mazrui greeted the global icon and introduced himself as Ali Mazrui. “Oh, Professor Ali Mazrui,” Mandela responded, “nice to meet you! I used to read your publications when I was in prison!” If Mandela remembered Mazrui’s name and that he had read his publications while in prison, he certainly knew of the economic-political kingdoms debate relative to African decolonization. Indeed Nkrumah’s dictum on this issue is one of his three most cited decrees ever and Mazrui has published extensively on Nkrumah. In de-emphasizing the economic front in the negotiations to abolish apartheid, was Mandela of the early 1990s acting under the spell of Nkrumah, the leading continental Pan-Africanist? In all likelihood, Mandela of the early 1990s was less preoccupied with ideologies than the practical circumstances that surrounded him, realities that were uniquely South African. For the survival of his country, he chose to reach out for political kingdom first by following the path of reconciliation and nation-building. An attempt to build a Rainbow Nation peacefully was indeed the only viable alternative. In this sense, Mandela was not establishing a new tradition. He was following in the footsteps Kenya’s Founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, who also left a colonial jail intent on writing a book clearly aimed at calming down his former British colonial tormentors. He entitled the book, Suffering without Bitterness. In early the 1990s, most of the world was still too caught up in the euphoria of Mandela’s release from prison to notice that the economy of the country that he was soon to soon start governing was in shambles. For decades, SA had been the world’s number one pariah state and had been victimized for being ‘God’s forsaken country.’ Its economy was virtually wrecked by strikes and rampant violence, an atmosphere of catastrophe, instability and uncertainty prevailed. The mood of doom that hung over SA deteriorated immensely from the 1980s and was profoundly unattractive to foreign investors. International economic sanctions had become universal and were now biting deeply. And then in 1986 the sanctions were boosted by the passage of the US Congressional Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. American divestment movement was also gaining momentum and contributed further to apartheid’s economic isolation. Finally, there were anti-apartheid protests in almost every Western city. It was not in exaggeration that white South Africans lamented of total onslaught against them. Those economic hardships left little room for Mandela to demand remedial socio-economic programs such as nationalizations of mines and land reforms. Realistically then, Mandela did not deliberately abandon his people economically in the bid to dismantle apartheid; the state of the economy did the compromising. It is often not realized that in the early 1990s, Mandela walked a tight rope; SA could have easily slipped into an ugly race war. On one side of the pole were millions of Blacks who had endured decades of staggering deprivation and humiliation for no fault of their own. By the 1990s, they were surely angry and in a hurry. They wanted drastic change; they were ready to chant: give me liberty or give me death. At the other end of the spectrum were the whites who had always known privileged existence. In case violence erupted, to them it was a matter of do or die. Taking their property would have been the ultimate crossing of the red line. Mandela was singularly called upon to use the force of his personality to assure both sides that SA was big enough for both sides and by insisting that it belonged to all those who lived in it, a Rainbow Nation. His primary mission became to persuade both sides that violence was not an option. To fellow Blacks he repeatedly said, “Some of us talk of revolutionary change like we are dealing with a defeated enemy, far from it.” In other words, violence at that juncture was tantamount to racial suicide. Simultaneously, Mandela was telling the white right-wing, “If you want to go to war, I must be honest and admit that we cannot stand up to you in the battlefield. It will be a long and bitter struggle. Many people will die and the country may be reduced to ashes. But you cannot win because of our numbers. You cannot kill all of us. And you cannot win because of the international community; they will rally to our side and they will stand with us.” Mandela did play his historical role in terminating political apartheid and bringing democracy to SA peacefully. For that he won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. But the task of fusing socio-economic equality into the political kingdom turned out to be an infinitely more difficult undertaking. The year 2014 marks two decades after demolition of political apartheid. Yet, de facto economic apartheid remains intact. South African Blacks remain horrifically poor in absolute and relative terms. Indeed in 2009, SA sidelined Brazil as the most skewed society in the world. How to narrow the gap between the White South African haves and Black have-nots, how to construct bona fide fundamentals of a Rainbow Nation, eluded Mandela. Indeed it remains the most pressing challenge of post-apartheid SA in the years and decades to come. Unlike Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela’s was an incomplete revolution, a work in progress. **James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his. ]]>
Intellectuals & South Africa’s Quest for Economic Transformation
January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
South African politicians are always challenging their ‘thinkers’ to start discussing issues of national interest while they are still hot on the table. It is said that intellectuals wait until wrong decisions are made and then bounce on them to criticize and condemn. Who has been in default: intellectuals for speaking out after the fact or political leaders for not hearing objections?
Regarding economic aspirations for post-apartheid SA, the discussion is not new. Indeed it was triggered in May 1998 by the then country’s Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, when he stated before Parliament that SA was not a nation; it was two nations rolled into one.
A small portion of SA was composed of a handful segment of affluent society that happened to be white. At the other extreme of the spectrum millions of the country’s citizens were locked in abject poverty with no way out. They happened to be black. The statement came to be known as Mbeki’s famous ‘Two Nations Speech,’ a concise indictment of racial-economic inequality that was heard around the world.
According to Mbeki, It would take a long time for this divide, a 350 years’ legacy of ‘inequality,’ to be obliterated and allow SA to evolve the requisite psychological cement to form a bona fide nation. Until then, talk of a rainbow nation was a dream deferred. And a dream deferred simmers into explosive rage which, ultimately, explodes. Had Mbeki foreseen the 2012 Marikana Massacre where 34 miners were gunned down by police in broad daylight?
Mbeki’s Two-Nations Speech did not delve into systematic details on how SA should proceed to change the status quo other than appeal to the privileged but unresponsive whites to accept the burden of uplifting the disinherited fellow citizens. However, it inspired younger generation of thinkers to start articulating their views on how to move the country forward economically toward a more just and equitable SA. Thus far, the youth are speaking out without fear or favor. After all, they have had minimal stake in the economic status quo.
One perspective was articulated in South Africa’s black national newspaper, the Sunday Independent, of September 16, 2012. A young man noted that the country’s economy is a product of two nationalisms: British and Afrikaner. But contemporary SA is composed of three nationalisms. Economically, African nationalism is not reflected among the economic forces that have shaped the country. As a group, Black South Africans, the majority, are still sidelined as economic actors. They are an economically marginalized underclass in their own country.
According to the author of that article, South Africa’s socio-economic lopsidedness has resulted from the country’s history. In a nutshell, the British molded the SA economy through their colonialism. Next, the Afrikaners used apartheid in conjunction with their “aggressive affirmative action program for Afrikaners” to entrench their presence in the country’s economy. Yet, after two decades of political independence, Black Africans are still waiting in the wings for their turn to have an economic impact.
In SA, British imperial appetite was whetted by the discovery of minerals with which the country is generously endowed. Britain had much to gain from precious metals; they were highly lucrative in the global economy of that era. Accordingly, the British constructed a sophisticated infrastructure to ensure a smooth flow of those exports to the motherland. Indeed since the days of Cecil Rhodes, South Africa has had a comparatively more solid economic infrastructure than the rest of the continent.
But SA also inherited another damning legacy from the British imperial order. Proclamation 14 of August 1875 reduced indigenous Africans to a source of cheap labor supply while excluding them from ownership in the mining industry. For the first time, the Proclamation introduced institutional racism into the SA political-economy. Was Marikana Massacre of August 2012 an ugly reflection of the British legacy in the country’s economy?
On the other hand, the 1835 Great Trek and eventual establishment of the Transvaal consolidated the formation of the Afrikaner nationalism. The Afrikaners quickly realized that there was no ‘External Angel’ to bail them out; ‘they were in it alone’ and embraced a laager mentality of self-reliance. To this end, they built an industrial complex to address the issue of unemployment among their poor whites. Here too, blacks fitted neatly into a scheme of cheap labor source in Afrikaner-led industry and agriculture.
The logic continues that implementation of apartheid in 1948 and after was merely an intensification and general implementation of what the Afrikaner had learned, perhaps too well, from Cecil Rhodes and his associates in the British mining industry. In addition to intensification, apartheid extended the scope of the racial policies, policies that virtually marginalized black folk from the mainstream of the money economy altogether. And, with all its appalling dimensions, apartheid was not oppression by a foreign intruder in the colonial sense. It was a home-grown Afrikaner scheme, and the Afrikaner considered himself an African beyond the indigenous African. To African nationalism of the ANC orientation, the Afrikaner was a permanent challenge because he was born in SA; he was there to stay.
In sum, British nationalism historically ‘hogged’ mining in SA as their turf; Afrikaner nationalism arrogated itself other industries and agriculture. The commanding heights of the SA economy were thus partitioned among the whites in such a manner that they thrived on unconscionable exploitation of black folk.
In 1994, Black Nationalism finally forced democracy into the SA body politic, affirming the claim that “all men are created equal.” But abolition of political apartheid was not accompanied by demolition of economic apartheid. Yet, alas, does political power alone bestow equality among ‘men’? By all indications, Black Nationalism required penetration into the economic domain to realize full equality. And it should not be an insurmountable undertaking to fulfill Nkrumah’s dictum of ‘Seek ye the political kingdom first and the rest shall be added unto it.’ After all, in the post-1994 era, blacks have had the strength to make decisions favorable to themselves derived from a combination of numbers and associated political muscle.
The question is then raised: what decisions have been made to transform the SA economy by successive black ANC governments to consolidate the 1994 political achievement of Black Nationalism? To the current black intellectuals who have spoken out, no new industrial enterprises have emerged under black stewardship since attainment of black political supremacy. In this sense, the post-1994 black governments have failed by neglecting to position their black constituency as a major economic force that it should be.
Instead of pursuing the line of greater economic production, it is said, SA has engaged in a superficial scheme of capitalistic massage. White-owned businesses have co-opted a handful of politically well-connected Blacks to become integral part of their business establishments. These ‘inductees’ have become loyal political fronts, protectors of the old businesses from contemporary threats. That is Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) personified. On the other hand, the Government utilizes social grants to placate the huge marginalized underclass of blacks in an environment where unemployment is estimated to be between 25 and 45 percent. Social grants do not generate jobs and they do not make social services.
Political economist, Moeletsi Mbeki views BEE as nothing less than legalized bribery. He is also convinced that SA is de-industrializing and increasingly sliding towards becoming a welfare state. In his view, the country needs to diversify its economy (from mining), encourage growth of black productive class of entrepreneurs, and advance knowledge in “sciences, math, engineering and management education.” “Without that…, we are going nowhere.”
What do these and other contemporary thinkers have in common? Overall, they accept that Blacks are responsible for the country’s sluggish economic growth. In terms of action, they are driven by an ambition to face squarely SA overriding problems of poverty, crime, inequality and unemployment. Overall, they agree that SA must embark on an economic transformation in which a black industrial class figures prominently. In sum their views are that the SA economy, and corresponding political stability, must be anchored on blacks engaging in creation of wealth.
**James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
Intellectuals & South Africa’s Quest for Economic Transformation
January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments
South African politicians are always challenging their ‘thinkers’ to start discussing issues of national interest while they are still hot on the table. It is said that intellectuals wait until wrong decisions are made and then bounce on them to criticize and condemn. Who has been in default: intellectuals for speaking out after the fact or political leaders for not hearing objections? Regarding economic aspirations for post-apartheid SA, the discussion is not new. Indeed it was triggered in May 1998 by the then country’s Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, when he stated before Parliament that SA was not a nation; it was two nations rolled into one. A small portion of SA was composed of a handful segment of affluent society that happened to be white. At the other extreme of the spectrum millions of the country’s citizens were locked in abject poverty with no way out. They happened to be black. The statement came to be known as Mbeki’s famous ‘Two Nations Speech,’ a concise indictment of racial-economic inequality that was heard around the world. According to Mbeki, It would take a long time for this divide, a 350 years’ legacy of ‘inequality,’ to be obliterated and allow SA to evolve the requisite psychological cement to form a bona fide nation. Until then, talk of a rainbow nation was a dream deferred. And a dream deferred simmers into explosive rage which, ultimately, explodes. Had Mbeki foreseen the 2012 Marikana Massacre where 34 miners were gunned down by police in broad daylight? Mbeki’s Two-Nations Speech did not delve into systematic details on how SA should proceed to change the status quo other than appeal to the privileged but unresponsive whites to accept the burden of uplifting the disinherited fellow citizens. However, it inspired younger generation of thinkers to start articulating their views on how to move the country forward economically toward a more just and equitable SA. Thus far, the youth are speaking out without fear or favor. After all, they have had minimal stake in the economic status quo. One perspective was articulated in South Africa’s black national newspaper, the Sunday Independent, of September 16, 2012. A young man noted that the country’s economy is a product of two nationalisms: British and Afrikaner. But contemporary SA is composed of three nationalisms. Economically, African nationalism is not reflected among the economic forces that have shaped the country. As a group, Black South Africans, the majority, are still sidelined as economic actors. They are an economically marginalized underclass in their own country. According to the author of that article, South Africa’s socio-economic lopsidedness has resulted from the country’s history. In a nutshell, the British molded the SA economy through their colonialism. Next, the Afrikaners used apartheid in conjunction with their “aggressive affirmative action program for Afrikaners” to entrench their presence in the country’s economy. Yet, after two decades of political independence, Black Africans are still waiting in the wings for their turn to have an economic impact. In SA, British imperial appetite was whetted by the discovery of minerals with which the country is generously endowed. Britain had much to gain from precious metals; they were highly lucrative in the global economy of that era. Accordingly, the British constructed a sophisticated infrastructure to ensure a smooth flow of those exports to the motherland. Indeed since the days of Cecil Rhodes, South Africa has had a comparatively more solid economic infrastructure than the rest of the continent. But SA also inherited another damning legacy from the British imperial order. Proclamation 14 of August 1875 reduced indigenous Africans to a source of cheap labor supply while excluding them from ownership in the mining industry. For the first time, the Proclamation introduced institutional racism into the SA political-economy. Was Marikana Massacre of August 2012 an ugly reflection of the British legacy in the country’s economy? On the other hand, the 1835 Great Trek and eventual establishment of the Transvaal consolidated the formation of the Afrikaner nationalism. The Afrikaners quickly realized that there was no ‘External Angel’ to bail them out; ‘they were in it alone’ and embraced a laager mentality of self-reliance. To this end, they built an industrial complex to address the issue of unemployment among their poor whites. Here too, blacks fitted neatly into a scheme of cheap labor source in Afrikaner-led industry and agriculture. [caption id="attachment_7892" align="alignright" width="240"] Prof-James-Kariuki[/caption] The logic continues that implementation of apartheid in 1948 and after was merely an intensification and general implementation of what the Afrikaner had learned, perhaps too well, from Cecil Rhodes and his associates in the British mining industry. In addition to intensification, apartheid extended the scope of the racial policies, policies that virtually marginalized black folk from the mainstream of the money economy altogether. And, with all its appalling dimensions, apartheid was not oppression by a foreign intruder in the colonial sense. It was a home-grown Afrikaner scheme, and the Afrikaner considered himself an African beyond the indigenous African. To African nationalism of the ANC orientation, the Afrikaner was a permanent challenge because he was born in SA; he was there to stay. In sum, British nationalism historically ‘hogged’ mining in SA as their turf; Afrikaner nationalism arrogated itself other industries and agriculture. The commanding heights of the SA economy were thus partitioned among the whites in such a manner that they thrived on unconscionable exploitation of black folk. In 1994, Black Nationalism finally forced democracy into the SA body politic, affirming the claim that “all men are created equal.” But abolition of political apartheid was not accompanied by demolition of economic apartheid. Yet, alas, does political power alone bestow equality among ‘men’? By all indications, Black Nationalism required penetration into the economic domain to realize full equality. And it should not be an insurmountable undertaking to fulfill Nkrumah’s dictum of ‘Seek ye the political kingdom first and the rest shall be added unto it.’ After all, in the post-1994 era, blacks have had the strength to make decisions favorable to themselves derived from a combination of numbers and associated political muscle. The question is then raised: what decisions have been made to transform the SA economy by successive black ANC governments to consolidate the 1994 political achievement of Black Nationalism? To the current black intellectuals who have spoken out, no new industrial enterprises have emerged under black stewardship since attainment of black political supremacy. In this sense, the post-1994 black governments have failed by neglecting to position their black constituency as a major economic force that it should be. Instead of pursuing the line of greater economic production, it is said, SA has engaged in a superficial scheme of capitalistic massage. White-owned businesses have co-opted a handful of politically well-connected Blacks to become integral part of their business establishments. These ‘inductees’ have become loyal political fronts, protectors of the old businesses from contemporary threats. That is Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) personified. On the other hand, the Government utilizes social grants to placate the huge marginalized underclass of blacks in an environment where unemployment is estimated to be between 25 and 45 percent. Social grants do not generate jobs and they do not make social services. Political economist, Moeletsi Mbeki views BEE as nothing less than legalized bribery. He is also convinced that SA is de-industrializing and increasingly sliding towards becoming a welfare state. In his view, the country needs to diversify its economy (from mining), encourage growth of black productive class of entrepreneurs, and advance knowledge in “sciences, math, engineering and management education.” “Without that…, we are going nowhere.” What do these and other contemporary thinkers have in common? Overall, they accept that Blacks are responsible for the country’s sluggish economic growth. In terms of action, they are driven by an ambition to face squarely SA overriding problems of poverty, crime, inequality and unemployment. Overall, they agree that SA must embark on an economic transformation in which a black industrial class figures prominently. In sum their views are that the SA economy, and corresponding political stability, must be anchored on blacks engaging in creation of wealth. **James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his. ]]>
Nelson Mandela and the Elusive Rainbow Nation
December 10, 2013 | 0 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
In addition to being the largest economy in Africa, post-apartheid South Africa beats the entire world as the most skewed society worldwide. Discussion of this lopsidedness is not new. It gathered momentum from May 1998 when the country’s Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, stated before the National Assembly that SA was still not a nation, it was merely two nations rolled into one.
To Mbeki, SA was a synthesis of a small and affluent white society whose lifestyles rivaled the superrich of the world. In the other SA, the majority of fellow citizens languished in abject poverty and happened to be black. Mbeki’s statement came to be known as the ‘Two Nations Speech,’ a concise indictment that was heard around the world.
In Mbeki’s vision, it would take a long time for this South African divide, a 350 years’ legacy of ‘inequality,’ to be obliterated and allow the country to evolve the necessary psychological cement to form a bona fide nation. Until then, talk of a rainbow nation was merely a dream deferred. And a dream deferred swells into explosive rage which, ultimately, explodes. Was Mbeki warning about the possibility of racial confrontation?
In trying to grasp the phenomenon, a small school of thought has since emerged that suggests that South Africa’s post-apartheid economic gap originated partly from history and partly from compromised negotiations on the part of the liberation icon, Nelson Mandela. While Madiba was admirably tough on the political front, he was too soft on the economic issues in dealing with the apartheid machine. In the end, Mandela settled for a deficient economic deal for his people. In the view of one prominent analyst, “a great Faustian bargain was struck between the two races. The Whites said to the Blacks: ‘You take the Crown and we will keep the Jewels.’”
This view of economic-soft-to-apartheid approach has been articulated by prominent personalities deeply loyal to Mandela. The list includes his former wife, Winnie Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the iconic Pan-African analyst, Professor Ali Mazrui. They do not accuse Mandela of deliberate sell-out but they do suggest that he could have done better for fellow Africans. Neither wrong-doing nor corruption is suggested anywhere. Other than this aspect of Mandela’s leadership, his political legacy is unblemished.
It is arguable that Mandela’s approach to dislodge apartheid was not an accident; it was inspired by older African thought. Indeed, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah once addressed the same question of, given the choice, what should come first target: political or economic power? Nkrumah spoke as an elder statesman of African nationalism in his dictum, ‘Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all things shall be added unto you.’ This is one of Nkrumah’s three most cited dogmas—ever. Was Nelson Mandela of 1994 acting under the ideological spell of former Pan-African icon?
In all likelihood, Mandela responded to the circumstances that surrounded him, realities that were uniquely South African. He decided to seek a political kingdom first by pursuing reconciliation and nation-building instead of confrontational economic kingdom. He realized that pushing for blacks’ economic sovereignty at that time (for example nationalization of mines and forceful takeover of white-owned land) would have triggered racial violence. Mandela was mindful that SA could not survive the loss of life, white skills and capital that would follow. He, therefore, opted to go softly-softly on the economic domain to save the nation.
Clearly, Mandela was a profoundly practical man. By sparing apartheid economic structures, he responded pragmatically to the realities that surrounded him. Against this background, his critics, the so-called ‘romantic revolutionaries,’ have tended to be dismissed for their indictment of Madiba for “being too conciliatory, too soft on the whites in negotiating our transition.” What tangible realities did Mandela face?
In the run up to the 1994 negotiations, South Africa was a deeply polarized society; violence and strife were everywhere. Indeed, it is an everlasting tribute to Mandela’s vision that he accepted and engaged the white military leadership, who stood prepared to welcome a racial conflict. After all, military lopsidedness was immense in favor of the apartheid machine.
I once heard Mandela blast his black fellows via the public media to the effect that ‘Some of us talk of revolutionary change as if we are dealing with a defeated enemy; far from it.’ These were code words for: ‘entertaining violence at this juncture is tantamount to mass suicide.’
At just about the same time that Mandela was publicly warning his people of the inadequacies of violence, he was secretly reasoning just as firmly against violence with the superbly trained and armed white right-wing military. As he once told a group of professional Afrikaner solders, “If you want to go to war, I must be honest and admit that we cannot stand up to you in the battlefield…. It will be a long and bitter struggle. Many people will die and the country may be reduced to ashes… but you cannot win because of our numbers. You cannot kill all of us. And you cannot win because of the international community; they will rally to our support and they will stand with us.”
Words of this nature turned the tide from looming deadly racial conflict to reconciliation and nation-building. However imperfect reconciliation might have been, it was infinitely preferable to racial war.
Mandela had considered the option of a civil war in SA and had dismissed it. He understood that demanding further economic concessions from the apartheid monster was crossing the red line. Blaming Mandela for what he did in 1994 is naive. He did what he could with what he had at this disposal. The challenge is what the current leadership should do given that the circumstances are different from those that Mandela faced.
Mandela has finally died but he left this world a man in peace. He did not see the rainbow nation that he so craved for his country. He left a country more prepared to become a rainbow nation if nurtured carefully. He left the world a frail man but spiritually he was a giant that the world adored in every way possible. Most importantly he left South Africans of all colors shedding tears that their icon was no more. In unison, they said to him: we will miss you Madiba. That was enough Rainbow Nation in Nelson Mandela’s spirit.
*James Kariuki is Professor of international Relations and an independent writer. He is a Kenyan based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
Barack Obama, Tanzania and Illusion of Africa’s Food Security
September 3, 2013 | 1 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
In June-July 2013, US President Barack Obama embarked upon his first state visit to Africa. He made three regional stops: Senegal (West Africa), South Africa (Southern Africa) and Tanzania (straddled between East and Southern Africa.) But even before he departed, Obama’s itinerary had become contentious in that it excluded Kenya.
Kenya is by far East Africa’s power house, economically and otherwise. The US president claimed to be visiting Africa to enhance US-Africa interactions and to build business partnerships. By all accounts, a Kenya presidential stop made more sense than Tanzania. After all, Kenyans were losing lives in neighboring Somalia in a war against Islamic terrorism, a deeply significant issue in US foreign policy. Why was Tanzania prioritized? There was an inside GMO story that we were not told.
In May 2012, the US President ceremoniously launched the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security (NAFNS), ostensibly to eradicate hunger and poverty in sub-Sahara Africa within the next decade. The speedy African panacea would be realized by embracing ‘modern agricultural methods and technology’ undertaken in partnerships between African and Western governments and private interests.
Since his election, Obama had inexplicably become a close associated with biotechnology multinational corporations (MNCs.) Predictably, during the NAFNS launch, Obama did not mention what in the US had already become public buzz words: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods, genetically-engineered (GE) foods or bio-technology. He preferred innocuous words like ‘modern agricultural methods and technology,’ words that concealed his intent of transplanting to Africa what was already highly contentious public issue in USA.
Naturally, fulfillment of the African food security miracle was to be spearheaded by the grand daddy of American GMOs companies, the world’s biggest agricultural and seed MNC, Monsanto. Here too Obama was cautious not to mention the notorious MNC by name. However, Monsanto’s CEO was present, to sing praises for the president’s ‘wise’ initiative and the lucky blessings for Africa at long last.
Critics were not so sure. They immediately questioned the NAFNS proposal primarily on the grounds that MNCs are historically known as blood suckers not inclined or equipped to be in the business of philanthropy. This has always been the case since the advent of the Dutch East India Company, the mother of all MNCs.
African activists also objected to NAFNS’ nascent dishonesty and exploitative intent. “We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us…. we think that it will undermine our capacity to feed ourselves.” In short, African critics saw NAFNS for what it really was, a Trojan horse to ferry American agricultural bio-technology Africa with or without Africans’ knowledge and consent. To the extent that Obama did not reveal the dangers of GMOs that were already public knowledge in the US, this was a case of a grand modern-era scheme of deception?
Now NAFNS was in place. With ten offices securely established in South Africa alone, Monsanto was poised to move north to implement its ‘GMO dispersal’ for Africa, now doubly emboldened by the partnership offer of the most powerful government in history. Barely a year after the NAFNS launch, and while most of the world was still urging caution regarding bio-technology, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete started speaking openly in the home front endorsing GMOs as the life-savior foods for Africa and condemning GMO critics as under-informed lot that needed to be educated. Were the two phenomena accidental?
During his June-July 2013 state visit to Africa, Obama surprised many by skipping Kenya as one of his US presidential stops. In East Africa, he chose Tanzania and then South Africa for Southern Africa. Most analysts were convinced that Obama was out to counter China’s presence in the two countries. But an equally compelling reasoning is that Obama went to this part of the continent primarily to clear the way for GMOs to spread northwards unhindered.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that it was Obama who initially reached out for Tanzania’s President. In 2009, Jakaya Kikwete was the first African leader to be invited by newly-elected Obama to the White House. Three years later, the same Kikwete was back in Washington for the NAFNS launch. Obama returned the favor in 2013 by visiting Tanzania. How did Kikwete earn such closeness to the US president? One could be forgiven for suspecting that Kikwete has long been in the GMO plans?
Tanzania’s friendship was critical to the American GMO plan in Africa. South Africa is Monsanto’s center of operations in Africa; it has been so since the apartheid era. In the Monsanto scheme of things Tanzania is now the northernmost soft spot, strategically vital as GMO’s stepping stone for further continental penetration.
In this context, Tanzania stands head and shoulder above neighboring Kenya. Kenya has become more than an irritant to the biotech industry; in November 2012 it officially banned importation of GMOs into the country. In the GMO’s northern drift, Kenya is the first really GMOs unfriendly frontier. On the other hand, Tanzania is a member of the Southern African Development Community, more reachable via the dominant South Africa.
Finally, southern Tanzania is a vast arable farmland ideal for MNC mono-crop agriculture. Quest to develop the region’s agriculturally goes back to the Julius Nyerere. It was then an adjunct economic justification behind the push to build the Tanzam Railway. Now southern Tanzania is a god-send opportunity for both Monsanto and Tanzania.
By his own admission, Obama came to Africa in mid-2013 in the interest of greater US-African engagements and to promote business partnerships with Africans. Agriculture is certainly a defendable centerpiece of his vision for Africa; the continent possesses the requisite ingredients for enormous agricultural growth. It is not far-fetched to suggest that a significant part of Obama’s special assignment in Africa in 2013 was to clear the way for American bio-tech companies to move north along the path of least resistance. Tanzania under Kikwete is an important foot soldier in that American broad strategic plan. Perhaps Africa’s iconoclasts can be forgiven for conjuring up images of modern day scramble for Africa.
*James N. Kariuki is a Professor of International Relations (emeritus) and an independent writer. He is a Kenyan based in South Africa.More of his views can be read on the blog Global Africa
Kenya: Outpost of Conflicting Global Interests
August 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
An increasing number of analysts are now convinced that the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya was not derived from simple ethnic mistrust and hatred; it was largely due to politicized ethnicity. Politicians had conveniently contaminated ethnicity to fulfill personal ambitions. And the contesting local political forces ultimately found themselves hand-in-hand with like-minded foreign allies. Was this a form of internationalized ethnicity?
It is still astonishing to recall how quickly and vehemently the European Union jumped to declare Kenya’s December 2007 vote tally to be fundamentally flawed. Since rigging is usually associated with the incumbent government, there was a strong ‘suggestion’ in the EU announcement that the regime of President Mwai Kibaki had been guilty of wrongdoing relative to those elections.
That allegation no doubt fed into the opposition’s claim of wrongful usurpation of a hard-won victory and its righteousness in demanding it by whatever means necessary. Hence, the amorphous intensity and fury of the violence that followed.
Shortly after the EU made its opinion public, the Americans joined the array of Kenya’s election evaluators. To illustrate how seriously Washington viewed the Kenyan crisis, a senior government official was dispatched to the scene. After consultations and preliminary investigation in Kenya, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Fraser, unveiled her findings. Yes, there were irregularities in the election procedures, but both sides had been guilty of misconduct Consequently, it was impossible to tell who had actually won. This was a striking contradiction to the EU position by the leader of the Western world.
Fraser’s statement was more than a denunciation of the vote count. It was an indictment of the entire voting process. In effect, she nullified the opposition party’s claim that Kibaki had ‘stolen’ the election. On the other hand, Fraser’s statement also made a mockery of Kibaki’s counter-claim that he had won the election fair and square. From Fraser’s perspective, the electoral voting process made the elections null and void.
In all likelihood the US and the EU, respectively, had the same Kenyan election data in front of them. If so, why did they come to such divergent conclusions? Surely in the 21st century, we do not need a rocket scientist to sort out who got more votes between candidate A and B. What appears like a mere disagreement over interpretation of election results may indeed manifest a profound conflict of interests within post-Cold War West.
In October 2007, the EU donated a $2 billion to South Africa as development aid in context of their newly-established strategic partnership. Yet, SA is classified as one of upper middle-income countries that normally do not receive foreign aid. Indeed foreign aid constitutes such a small portion of South African budget that it can easily do without it. What then prompted the EU to part with such a hefty donation for a country that does not need it?
According to the EU Commissioner for Development at that time, Louis Michel, the aid was needed to consolidate EU’s relations with South Africa as a ‘strategic partner.’ South Africa’s Minister of Finance concurred that the donation indeed reflected a deepening partnership between the EU and SA.
But what made it so compelling that the EU-South African partnership had to be ‘deepened’? Michel explained that Europe was glued to a backward mentality that Africa was a burden and a pawn. Meanwhile, the rest of the world had awakened to the reality that the continent was an opportunity. And the emergent global economic giant, China, had become particularly threatening because of its easy investments, loans and general economic aggressiveness. In short, the EU needed to rush and organize partnerships with Africans.
To the EU, Kenya of that time (2007) was already a disappointing illustration of an opportunity lost. As a result of negative experience with Western donors, Kenya under Mwai Kibaki had quietly set out to make itself less international aid-dependent. Indeed, Kenya had already reached a stage where it prepared its budgets without factoring in foreign donations.
More ominously, Kibaki had turned East in search for economic development and business fellowship. The Chinese presence in Kenya (and Tanzania) was clearly a fait accompli replacement of Western influence, especially British. This reality cut across the board from consumer goods to building the historic Uhuru Railway, supplying police vehicles to constructing highways.
Was the Chinese presence in Kenya sufficiently threatening to the EU to trigger longings for change in African leadership. Was EU’s assessment of Kenya’s 2007 election prompted by a desire for regime change? After all, the EU Development Commissioner is on record that he was out to convince Africans that the EU was a more dependable partner than China in every respect. Doubtless Kibaki, and in all likelihood Tanzania’s Mwalimu Julius Nyerere before him, would have chuckled at the arrogance of such claims.
In analyzing 2007-8 Kenya’s post-elections violence, the EU and the US had divergent views because they were inspired by their own priorities and national interests. While the EU looked forward to establishing an economic foothold in post-election Kenya, the US had ‘war on terror’ as its preoccupation. From the American perspective, Kibaki probably had done himself a ‘favor’ by deporting some Islamic suspects to Ethiopia to be interrogated by the CIA. This was enough to dampen the impulse for regime change in Kenya. That is why Uncle Sam was not so certain who won Kenya’s 2007 elections.
The moral of this story is that what nations say cannot always be taken at face value. National leaders at times sugarcoat issues, outright lie or their perceptions, deliberately or unwittingly, contain unstated agenda items. Given that we are not always told the truth, is it an exercise in academic futility to simulate what our friends and foes may be up to?
*James Kariuki is Professor of international Relations and an independent writer. He is a Kenyan based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
China and Barack Obama’s Defective Offer of Equal Partnership
July 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
The most vivid testament of China’s sense of fellowship with Africa so far is the railway that the Chinese built in the 1970s connecting Tanzania and Zambia. Inspiration to construct the Tanzam Railway, otherwise known as TAZARA or Uhuru Railway, was drawn from several inputs but it was largely driven by political considerations.
In the early 1960’s white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) longed for unbridled self-rule from colonial Britain in order to determine its own future. Clearly, Rhodesia’s ruling white-supremacists intended to be included in consolidating a white-ruled Southern African region composed of itself, South Africa and Portuguese Angola and Mozambique. Such an alliance would make it more manageable to resist assaults of ‘winds of change’ blowing across black Africa. To affirm their seriousness, Rhodesian white minority ultimately proclaimed Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 11 November 1965.
One harmful consequence of a fully independent Rhodesia was that it would threaten Zambia’s external trade routes; Zambia would be landlocked in a hostile neighborhood of unwelcoming white oligarchies. To survive as a copper-exporting state, and to continue supporting the liberation struggle against white domination in Southern Africa, Zambia needed an independent access to the sea. That choice finally focused on a railway link to Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salaam.
Presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda made heroic attempts to secure funding for the proposed railway from Western sources but they were unsuccessful. They failed even after approaching Britain, World Bank, US, Russia and Japan. Invariably, the West rejected a largely political railroad on economic grounds; insisting that the undertaking was not economically viable.
In early 1965, however, Tanzania and Zambia got a pleasant surprise. The Chinese said to a visiting Nyerere, “If a railway is important to you and Zambia, we will build it for you.” On the basis of racial fellowship and shared historical experience the Chinese appreciated that the railroad was largely political and accepted that as a sufficient reason to assist. They realized that the project would be challenging and expensive, but it needed to be done in the interest of serving African nationalism and liberation of Southern Africa from white minority domination. China was indeed a ‘soul mate.’
After five years of negotiations, construction of the Tanzam Railway began in 1970 and was completed in 1975, two years ahead of schedule. The project cost about US $500 million (and 64 Chinese lives), making it the largest single foreign-aid project undertaken by the People’s Republic of China anywhere at that time.
Obama’s current ‘Partnership of Equals’ presumes that Africa will freely welcome Western companies to invest in the continent in open competition with the others, including the Chinese. According to the American President, US companies will ultimately prevail because they invest in local economies. That is vastly different from the Chinese who are only interested in exploiting African natural resources.
Obama’s comparisons are best tested against the South Africa’s experience which has been dominated by Western companies. In this regard, it is interesting to note in passing that Obama was originally driven into a political career precisely by a bid to defy wrongdoing by US companies in SA. His first political speech as a 19 year old college student sought to convince fellow Americans to push US companies to divest from SA because their investments and technology were used to support brutal apartheid system.
Yet, US business maintained the attitude of business as usual and actually neutralized 3rd world’s bid to isolate apartheid SA economically. It was only when the US imposed economic sanctions by the passage of the 1986 Comprehensive Congressional Anti-Apartheid Act that the apartheid regime started to take steps towards majority rule.
Obama has come a long way since the 1980s. As an innocent young student at Occidental College he was against the presence of American companies in SA. As the American President he was their spokesman during his 2013 African tour. What had changed?
What about long term legacy of Western businesses in SA? It is almost a contradiction in terms that SA is the biggest economy in Africa and yet the country remains horrifically poor in absolute and relative terms. Indeed, SA overtook Brazil in 2009 as the most skewed society in the world. How to manage the poverty and narrow the offensive wealth gap has created internal political tensions and ideological divisiveness.
The current wisdom is that the SA government must sustain national economic growth to avoid threats of unemployment and political instability. To do this effectively, the country must create suitable climate for foreign infusion of capital. The presumption here is that, foreign investments are needed for national economic growth. National growth and foreign investments are either the same man or two men in alliance.
Conversely, the leftist thinkers see the stay-the-course approach is defective. It encourages economic management of the economy by outsiders, and the profits are taken out of the country. This fact deepens and perpetuates local poverty. Additionally, the stay-the-course attitude encourages arrogance of foreign managers and facilitates traditional economic marginalization of black citizens. It is even suggested that the August 2012 Marikana Massacre where scores of miners were gunned down by the police in broad daylight was a manifestation of these built-in contradictions.
It is the view of the thinkers of left orientation that the SA government needs to take control of the commanding heights of the economy, namely, nationalizing the mines and white-owned land. By so-doing, the government will capture the necessary financial resources and redistribute the national wealth more equitably. This is said to be the most effective way to blunt the offensive inequality of wealth between white haves and black have-nots.
The concept of nationalization in SA appeals more widely than it is ordinarily acknowledged. It attracts in part because it is seen as an intrinsically valid approach to remedy problems associated with poverty. Further, it feeds into the persuasive thinking that, given what South Africans went through to dismantle apartheid, everyone should be able to come to the party. Significantly also, the notion of nationalization is appealing because it contains a dose of anti-white sentiments. Racial undercurrent remains a powerful force in SA body politic.
Surprisingly, aversion to excessive white wealth in an endless sea of black poverty has spread to the moderate sections of the society. Two years ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu raised many eyebrows by proposing imposition of a white wealth tax to speed up South Africa’s economic transformation. Tutu is hardly a firebrand radical.
The world-renowned Professor Ali Mazrui had lamented earlier that in 1994 Blacks of SA got a bad deal to the extent that abolishment of apartheid excluded economic concessions for them. In his logic, the white man said to the Black man, ‘You take the crown, we will keep the jewels.’ In this manner, economic inequality was entrenched by consent.
Four years later, Thabo Mbeki was the country’s Deputy President. He noted that, regrettably, SA had continued to evolve into two nations in one: one white and rich and the other black and poor. Mbeki knew full well that black rule had inherited a deeply fragment society as a legacy derived from historical Western economic penetration of his country. Other SA thinkers share this view.
On balance, China’s character reference projects an entirely different image. In Sino-African relations, there has been space for the heart; the Chinese have reached out for the soul of Africa and Africans have responded positively. Tanzam Railroad attests to this claim. It is an 1860 kilometers long remarkable piece of engineering with 10 kilometers of tunnels and 300 bridges. Africans worked shoulder to shoulder with 50, 000 Chinese engineers and technicians to build it. It was a spectacular show of friendly cooperation between China and Africa. The US cannot come anywhere close to topping those sentiments. Indeed, Sino-African friendship is currently a major worry of the West.
It is extravagantly bold to think, as Barack Obama seems to, that SA would accept US companies to re-enter its political economy without relevant screening of character references. Obama’s ‘partnership of equals’ needs to revisit the drawing board. After all, American multinationals continue to resist paying reparations for apartheid victims who were wrongly injured.
**James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
Goree Island, Barack Obama and Apology for Slavery
July 11, 2013 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
In his initial run for US presidency, Barack Obama had difficulties connecting with the African-American constituency. Firstly, Hillary Clinton was a formidable political rival who had a reasonable claim on the black vote. After all, it was not so long ago that Black Americans glorified her white husband, Bill Clinton, as their first black President.
Additionally, to the African-Americans, Obama was not black enough sentimentally and in experience to be US president. Granted, his father was Kenyan but his mother was white and he was raised by the mother’s white family. He grew up in Hawaii which is hardly known for its black attributes. Finally, there was not a single person in the Obama’s family tree who had experienced slavery. How could Obama understand the needs and aspirations of African-Americans?
Educationally Obama, shot like a rocket from Hawaii to Occidental College, a small private college in Los Angles. He then proceeded to the prestigious Ivy League orbit of Columbia and Harvard Universities. It is while he was at Occidental College that he gave his first political speech at 19 on the ugliness of apartheid in South Africa.
Obama’s educational trajectory was far removed from, if not alien to, that of a typical black child in America; it was privileged. Despite all that, the African-American community voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, perhaps blinded by sentiments of ‘ebony kinship.’ But it was not long before blacks, including Africans, were musing, ‘would we have been better off if Hillary Clinton had become President?’
That question implied that Obama was seen as failing the black world; he was not delivering. Black people had boosted him into the Promised Land, but he was not distributing the manna. For the African-Americans, the ultimate failing grade was obtained in Africa in 2013, at the recent Goree Island during Obama’s first official visit to the continent.
For Black Americans, Goree Island remains an important symbol of slavery and slave trade. It was here that African captives were loaded into slave-ships for the fateful and inhumane trip across the Atlantic bound for the New World. Upon arrival, they entered a life of permanent bondage and servitude. It was here that the slaves were forced through the door-of-no-return and had one final glimpse of the continent of their birth.
It is here too that few contemporary African-Americans are often unable to hold back tears as they relive moments of deep sorrow, over man’s inhumanity to fellow man.
It was during his March-April 1998 visit to Goree Island that former President Bill Clinton wept in grief and nearly apologized for America’s role in slave trade. But he did not apologize. It was here in 2003 that another former President, George W. Bush, gave a moving speech on the evils of slavery, one of his most sensitive public statements, ever. On this occasion Bush classified slavery and slave trade as “one of the biggest crimes in history.” He outdid former President John Adams who once dubbed slavery as “an evil of colossal magnitude.”
From Obama’s visit to Goree Island in 2013, nothing has been forthcoming other than a presidential statement than it was a “powerful moment.” In more ways than one, in visiting Africa, Obama walked in the shadows of his presidential predecessors who in any case have done much more for Africa. Was the black world justified in expecting more from one of their own?
During his first US presidential campaign, Barack Obama was asked for his thoughts on the issue of Black reparations. To him, the best that America could do to compensate its African-American citizens was to provide better inner city schools. This answer was a coded response that black Americans’ socio-economic ‘advancement’ had to be individually earned. Presumably, African-Americans should not rock the boat delving into slavery; they should let bygones be bygones.
That was a rehearsed political response for a racially-mixed American audience. It was also an early warning that Obama considered himself a typical American without attachments and special obligations to any segments of the society. Neither Global Africans nor Africans-Americans had a claim on him as US president. He steadfastly adhered to that doctrine for his entire first term.
Now Obama is half a year into his second term. Yet, we still do not know for sure, his stand on the question of reparations for Black Americans, a claim made against staggering historical abuse especially relative to slavery. Yet, in this broad sense, reparations are indeed relevant in the American experience.
Obama is known to cite Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement that “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” Presumably, in situations where a definable group has absorbed ‘collective injury’ from another, historical wisdom has been to amend the wrongs by paying restitution. The first step in this ‘arc of history’ is to acknowledge wrongdoing; to issue an apology.
The most famous case is, of course, that of the Jews in the holocaust. Post-World War II Germany has paid dearly to the Jewish people and the state of Israel.
Another case was that of Japanese wrongful relocation and internment by the Roosevelt administration during World War II. In December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. US citizens feared another attack and pressured President Franklin Roosevelt to take pre-emptive action against Japanese descendants on the US West Coast.
In February 1942, Roosevelt signed an Executive Order under which 120, 000 people of Japanese descent living along the US Pacific coast were removed from their homes and placed in War Relocation Camps. Presumably, people of Japanese extraction were prone to act as spies for Japan. Yet, during the entire war only ten people were ever convicted of spying for Japan, and these were all Caucasians.
Forty three years after World War II, the US Government succumbed to domestic pressure and agreed to pay restitutions in the amount of $1.2 billion to the affected Japanese families. That 1988 American decision was accompanied by a moving pledge: “The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.”
Ten years after the American commendable decision, in February 2008, the Government of Australia extended full and unreserved apology to its Aborigine citizens for inflicting “profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.” That government did not mention reparations by name, but amends for that purpose have been forthcoming albeit slowly.
It is common knowledge that Blacks in Global Africa, particularly USA, have endured greater ‘collective injury’ than all the other groups combined. Yet, no reparations have ever been paid to them. Legal experts say that the default is due to the enormity of the issue; it is too overwhelming.
Even if he could, President Barack Obama is not obliged to rescue Africa; Americans voted him to power and he is answerable to them. However, slavery ultimately became mostly an American sin. More than other American presidents, Obama has an obligation as an African-American government official to apologize to fellow African-Americans for that wrongdoing. As a venue, Goree Island was a golden opportunity missed.
**James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenya’s Ideological Twists
July 2, 2013 | 0 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
During the Cold War, Third World states aspired for ‘neutralism’ in their international relations. The world was then bipolar, divided ideologically between the West and the East. Neutralism was a Third World assertion that it wanted no part in the quarrel between the two global blocs. That thinking crystallized into the Non-Aligned Movement.
Post-colonial Kenya was reluctant to observe non-alignment provisions precisely because its first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was an Anglophile. There is a puzzling contradiction in that assertion. For decades, the same Kenyatta had spearheaded anti-British activities in colonial Kenya. Branding him a leader “unto darkness and death,” the British imprisoned Kenyatta allegedly for master-minding the Mau Mau rebellion.
Kenya became independent in 1963 and contradictions continued to emerge. Firstly, power was handed over to the same Kenyatta whom the British had dismissed as a devilish pervert. Secondly, Kenyatta surprisingly tilted the country to the West.
Outraged, Oginga Odinga objected bitterly to the pro-Western stance and proceeded to write a book, Not Yet Uhuru (1968.)Odinga was no ordinary citizen; he was a major anti-colonial nationalist and Kenya’s first Vice-President. While he was pro-socialism, Kenyatta coddled British capitalism. Conflicting ideologies were asserting themselves in new Kenya.
In the same year that Odinga’s book was published, Kenyatta released his own, Suffering without Bitterness. The book confirmed that Kenyatta was not anti-British; he was merely opposed to their racial discrimination. Indeed, he was even prepared to work with them. Accordingly, he turned Kenya into a towering ‘darling of the West’ in Eastern Africa and, for good measure, built himself into a capitalist tycoon of staggering proportions.
Kenyatta’s book reeked of forgive-and-forget sentiments towards former colonial detractors. The baton has now been passed to his son, Uhuru. That fact may push Kenya through yet another ideological twist.
Unlike his father, Uhuru’s worldview seems to be: we-may-suffer-but-we-will-not-necessarily-forget. In particular, he appears to have ‘reservations’ about the British for treating his father abusively. Additionally, Uhuru himself has already had an unhappy personal encounter with the West.
Uhuru is an ICC-inductee allegedly for orchestrating Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence. Coincidentally, the charges erupted simultaneously as the credibility of the ICC itself was declining. Critics lamented that engaged in ‘selective justice’ by targeting African leaders unduly. Yet, the greatest human rights violators are Western leaders and they, invariably, walk free.
In the agitated anti-ICC atmosphere, it appeared disingenuous that the West continued posturing as the guardians of human rights in Kenya. In the 2012-13 campaign it smacked of deviousness that Westerners masqueraded as the moral force to constantly remind Kenyans that the Uhuru ticket was comprised of ICC-inductees, unworthy of the presidency.
Clearly, the West believed that their Kenyan interest were safer if left under the care of Raila Odinga, Uhuru’s principal opponent. Once again ideological anomalies were rearing their heads in Kenya’s brief history. At independence Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, was pro-capitalist West. Raila’s father, Oginga Odinga, was distinctly socialism-inclined and pro-East. Half a century later, the sons’ ideological persuasions were reversed.
Discrediting Uhuru’s candidacy by the West has revived a public sentiment that, for Kenyans to align themselves too closely to external powers, is ill-advised. In this instance, the West misread Kenya, persisting to view it as a prime candidate for foreign aid. Accordingly, Kenyans should behave as ‘deserving poor.’ Voting for ICC-inductees into power is alien to the notion of deserving poor.
Yet, Kenyans have abandoned the ‘deserving poor’ status. To them, Kenya is not a ‘failing state’ with a begging bowl looking for aid. Theirs is a country pregnant with economic potential and they are resolved to disembark from aid and engage in trade. After all, Kenya possesses bargaining power; it is East Africa’s business hub, one of Africa’s most connected nations. That self-confidence has been buttressed by discovery of oil and gas reserves.
Thus Kenya finds itself in a world where it is as equally sought after as it is a suitor. Calling shots is no longer an exclusive prerogative of the West. This realization has prompted a Western journalist to warn that the West “might find it is not missed as it once might have been.”
Indeed, Kenyan strategic thinkers have noted with interest that a mutually beneficial Sino-Kenya interaction has quietly evolved in the past decade with positive impact on the Kenyan economy. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta is probably turning over in his grave that the Uhuru’s administration is urged to double its efforts in building on that relationship. China is eagerly poised to undertake the challenge.
It would be the ultimate ideological anomaly if Uhuru consolidates the current surge of nationalism and tilts the country East. That would mean going a whole cycle to negate daddy Kenyatta’s legacy of turning Kenya West half a century ago. Do Kenyans trust the Chinese more or do they now trust the West less?
*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
Nelson Mandela: the Man and His Legacy
July 2, 2013 | 0 Comments
*James N. Kariuki
“If a man doesn’t have a job or income, he has neither life nor liberty… He merely exists.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
The image of Nelson Mandela was largely shaped by his three decades of imprisonment for daring to challenge apartheid. While he sat in an apartheid cell, his struggle was continued by his foot soldiers in South Africa and beyond.
Many continental Africans learned about the agonies of SA and Mandela, not from South Africans, but from Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere who also detested apartheid-SA for condemning its black citizens into refugees in their own country. Conceivably, Nyerere did more to publicize the inhumanity of apartheid around the world than any of his contemporaries. This was until black South Africans could dispatch their own emissaries abroad.
Julius Nyerere survived long enough to relish first-hand a democratic SA and shake hands with Nelson Mandela as a free man. Meanwhile, in his lifetime, the anti-apartheid mission to which Nyerere had also dedicated himself and his country was embraced by continental Africa. Ghana had come to know and care deeply about the inhumanity of apartheid; so did Nigeria and others. They all swore to its demolition sooner than later.
In Africa, Europe, US and even the United Nations apartheid came to be known as a monster of un-freedom, an evil and racially oppressive system. The outside world did not know many details about the horrors of racist SA; apartheid shielded its ugly face from public view the best it could. Unwittingly, continental Africa also came to feed into that enigma by endorsing a policy of isolation of pariah SA from the outside world as a form of punishment.
Inevitably, Mandela became the most eloquent face of diabolical SA under apartheid, the ultimate symbol of victimhood for black people. His image gave life to the agonies of black folk in SA, Africa, and everywhere. Almost every black child in London, Harlem-New York, Southside-Chicago, Watts in Los Angeles, Havana etc knew the name of Mandela. There were calls everywhere to free Mandela, code words for ‘dismantle apartheid.’
When Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, the entire world held its breath. Most of it expected a feisty, angry, and vengeful man. But the newest prison graduate stunned mankind by declaring publicly that his intention was to build a new SA for all those who lived in it. In quest for a ‘rainbow nation,’ Mandela went to great lengths to comfort his former tormentors. He was serious; he was not playing politics about racial forgiveness and reconciliation.
To substantiate the spirit of suffering without bitterness, Mandela resorted to potent symbolic gestures. Among others, he donned a green jersey of the SA national rugby team and attended the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. That simple act charmed and thrilled millions of Afrikaner rugby enthusiasts. Until then, South African rugby was by tradition a preserve of the whites while soccer was a blacks’ domain.
A year earlier, in May 1994, Mandela had startled friend and foe alike by inviting his prison warden to his presidential inauguration. But it was in August 1995 that many black South Africans felt that Mandela went too far by having tea with Betsie Verwoerd, the unrepentant wife of the main architect of apartheid.
Detractors objected to what to them appeared like appeasement on Mandela’s part to the former perpetrators of apartheid. But admirers saw that generosity of spirit as what made Mandela unique, a global icon. Some even stood prepared to confer sainthood upon him. Inside SA, Mandela’s majestic presence and the force of his personality were seen as the ‘Madiba magic.’ He was truly the ultimate humble giant.
It is commonly accepted that Nelson Mandela delivered convincingly to all South Africans a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy. On the other hand, an undercurrent of thought exists that Madiba accepted a bad deal for black South Africans; economically they were left on the outside. Democratic freedom was fine but, it was not enough without removing the shackles of economic deprivation for the majority blacks. As distinguished Professor Ali Mazrui once noted, a Faustian deal was struck in 1994: “the Whites said to the Blacks, ‘take the Crown and we will keep the Jewels.’” As racial apartheid was outlawed, economic apartheid was entrenched.
Mandela was mindful that economic apartheid remained intact, that post-apartheid SA was a society of excessive white wealth in an endless sea of black poverty. As he explained later, this was not an accident, a case of oversight or a quest for personal glory. Rather, the surrounding circumstances compelled him to concede to the dictum of his Ghanaian predecessor, Kwame Nkrumah, who once said, “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be added unto it.”
Mandela followed a well-considered strategy. He was aware that, in a racially and economically divided SA, a sudden nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy (i.e. land and mining) was likely to explode into bloodshed and flight of white skills and capital. Post-apartheid SA could barely endure either, let alone both. Mandela thinking was driven, not by ‘sentimental fancies’, but by practical imperatives of a nation’s survival.
Mandela did bring political kingdom to SA, but fusing economic equality into it has turned out to be difficult. Two decades after demolition of political apartheid, Black SA remains horrifically poor in absolute and relative terms. Indeed in 2009, the country sidelined Brazil as the most skewed society in the world. How to close this gap between the white haves and black have-nots, how to rectify this politically explosive lopsidedness, has been the most pressing challenge in post-apartheid politics.
Post-Mandela SA remains a nation divided; a viable and united SA is still a dream deferred, a work in progress. Phase one of political freedom is indeed in place, thanks to Nelson Mandela. Step two requires injecting economic freedom for all into it; fusing what former President Thabo Mbeki once called South Africa’s two-nations into one. This is a more difficult challenge than defying apartheid, one that requires inviting to the table more than just a single Mandela. The starting point must be that each of the existing two SA nation-states accepts that it is to its interest that a merger occurs.
*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
Microsoft’s Offer and Risk Factor for Kenya
June 25, 2013 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
Seven months ago, Kenya banned importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) foods because of their potential risks to public health. That move sparked a fierce war of words between local anti-GMO activists and their pro-GMO rivals. The Government stood firm and has so far prevailed over the influential and well-resourced pro-GMO faction. Has Kenya unwittingly walked into the volatile, global GMO controversy?
On June 4, 2013, Microsoft International pledged to support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s spirited project of free laptops for primary school pupils. At that stage of the game the GMO issue probably did not arise; Kenyans had moved on to new frontiers. But, had we really managed to sneak past the GMO issue?
Last year Kenya’s anti-GMO crusade was spearheaded by Beth Mugo as the Minister of Public Health and Sanitation. This year, Uhuru Kenyatta is the torchbearer for the computer-skills quest. Uhuru is now Kenya’s Head of State and he conceived and articulated the free computer skills idea as his 2013 campaign pledge.
Coincidentally, Uhuru and Beth are first cousins. Their point of convergence is Jomo Kenyatta, father of the nation! Could computer skills and GMO issue drive a wedge between two of Mzee Kenyatta’s public offspring? It gets more involved: computers and GMOs are also akin.
The Microsoft International’s gift to Kenya was in form of training the trainers to implement the computer-to-schools programme by January 2014. That attractive offer was conveyed to Uhuru by Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International. Courtois’ official assignment is to guide global sales, marketing and services everywhere outside the US and Canada.
The GMO issue was probably never mentioned when computer skills offer was discussed. In any case, what Kenyan would resist the appetite to acquire computer skills for Kenyan youth from Microsoft, the mother of computer know-how? After all, what matters in contemporary world is not what you own; it is what you know. What do GMOs have to do with computers anyway?
On reflection, enough connectedness crops up to trigger alarm. Microsoft International is a subsidiary of US-based giant computer multinational (MNC), Microsoft Corporation. Ultimately, Courtois reports to the Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates. To service his $1.5 million annual income, Courtois must peddle Gate’s will.
The world knows Bill Gates as a computer wizard and the richest man in the world, but he more than that. He is deeply involved in GMOs; indeed he is now a major shareholder in the world’s biggest biotech MNC, Monsanto Company. Additionally, Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation underwrites numerous GMO projects in Africa, including Nairobi-based Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA.) For all practical purposes, he is the face of the GMO universe. GMOs and computers converge on Bill Gates.
GMO enthusiasts are said to envision a GMO world-without-borders. Hence, the obsession to control food production everywhere in quest for the world dominance which that would imply. For the same reason, Monsanto seeks to own seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and food markets worldwide. Meanwhile, the company is hell-bent on destroying food competition around the world, including its American home base.
Most unsettling of the GMO drive is that Barack Obama is now squarely part of it and he has sucked Africa into it. In May 2012, the American President launched the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security (NAFNS), ostensibly to save sub-Sahara Africa from hunger in a decade.
Dissenters objected loudly and clearly. They accused Obama of opening up Africa for domination by ruthless American multinationals and pushing controversial GMOs down their throats, literally. Suggestions of “saving” the continent were a smoke-screen; MNCs are profit seekers not NGOs. They are neither equipped nor inclined to engage in humanitarianism, least of all in Africa.
Imagine a ‘misunderstanding’ arising over Kenya’s current GMO policy. Suppose, for example, that it is Bill Gate’s will is to have Kenya’s 2012 anti-GMO importation decision revoked. The opponents would be the Government of Kenya plus a few local anti-GMO voices. The supporters would be Monsanto, Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft International, AGRA, NAFNS and local GMO-enthusiasts. In addition to their deep pockets, the GMO-believers would also have the White House on their side. This would be a genuine David versus Goliath confrontation.
For several years, the pro-GMO forces have had their heydays. But anti-GMO voices, principally the US Organic Consumers Association, have recently also gathered steam. They are angry and have vowed to squash Monsanto to oblivion.
The above is the complex-mix in the sealed package that Courtois presented to Uhuru on June 4, 2013. It would be reckless to underestimate the might of the heartless global corporate capitalist system behind it, its power to seduce and to corrupt. Meanwhile, it is well to remember the American unveiled threat to Kenyans in the last election: choices have consequences.
*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa. The views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.
AU’s 50 years; a bitter sweet
May 25, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Alex Taremwa, Uganda*
In 1963 when Pan-African-ists hatched a dream that saw the establishment of the Organization of African Unity, they had same aspirations that among others included promoting unity and solidarity of African states, coordination and intensification of their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa.
50 years later as we look back and reflect on how far we have come as Africans, we take pride in what Dr. Nkrumah, Col. Muammar Ghadaffi, Gamel Abdul Nasser among other pan African leaders of the time put in place. With the OAU as a bureaucracy, the idea of social consciousness has penetrated the African continent; Civility has been extended to countries that still suffered from the subversive forces of colonialism, imperialism and apartheid not forgetting to mention the continued fight against dictatorial regimes the fight the interests of their citizens by putting the interests of self beyond the country’s.
Ever since the Organization of African Unity rebranded to become African Union during the Lome Summit of July 11th 2000, the ideals of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance have since 2003 been for some reason side stepped by massive vote rigging, political instability all over the continent and governments that have a high cultivated interested of staying in power until their dying days. Therefore the idea of “realizing the dream of the founding fathers for a peaceful, prosperous and united Africa” is being undermined by the very leaders that claim to have been part of those who masterminded the formation of this very entity.
With Africa becoming the fastest developing continent with the exception of China, producing food that feeds other peoples worldwide, Africa still remains with the poorest populations who increase by year, the worst ever recorded income disparities, poorest infrastructures and yet we possess a fortune worth of resources. How therefore do we hope to achieve the targets set by our founding fathers when those who hold the keys to run the infrastructures of our respective states continue to undermine the only strategies that have the capability transform this continent into something much more rewarding eventually.
My appeal to the African Union as we celebrate both a successful and tear breaking 50 years of the existence of this entity is that within the Strategic plans 2014 to 2017 adopted by the 14th extraordinary session of the Executive Council held on April 8th be reformative aspects on value addition, term limits and a continued relationship between citizens and the idea to transform their livelihoods. After the core values are set, then the off shoots of free-press, trade and economic prosperity will automatically prevail after a foundation has been laid for blood free political transitions and financial stability which in the long will reduce the dependency of most African states on donor money that brings along attachments that undermine our independence as Africans.
*The Writer is Journalism finalist at Uganda Christian University, Mukono (Uganda).
The Need For Resourceful Leadership
May 25, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Andrew Nganga*
The Africa Union and her predecessor the Organization of African Union (OAU) have in the eyes of many Africans had a checkered and controversial rein and the putsch by ‘modern day’ African Leaders led by Thabo Mbeki for drastic reforms and including actual name change signifying definite break with the past is the most resounding evidence.
But it is unfair to expect the juggernaut that is the former OAU now AU and which is our organization that we staff and manage and hence is a reflection of ourselves to perform any differently than we that birthed it. While the AU has failed in many pursuits, so have we the people of Africa individually, socially and even as nations. The AU has never been blessed with a creative and resourceful leadership capable of comprehending and conceptualizing solutions for Africa’s milliard problems. But even had it had good leaders, it still lacked a subject base, a followers’ base on whose behalf to intervene. I do not imagine it is easy being the umbrella organization advocating for the welfare of Africa’s people to a Heads of State panel comprising tin pot dictators like Idi Amin, Bokasa, the Nigerian clique, and all those crazy war mongers that were essentially the leaders of Africa who funded and sustained and were pretty much in control of the OAU.
Even outstanding and celebrated diplomats like Tanzania’s Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim could not manage much in that situation. The triumph of multi-party democracy which heralded relatively open governance in many of the African countries as well as the emergence of ‘new’ nation states like South Sudan, Rwanda, etc.is obviously a God send for the fortunes of the AU but we are not yet out of the woods. Africa needs better by and of themselves before we can rightly demand better from the institutions we man. Thank you.
* Andrew is Kenyan, aged 43 , currently resident in Rwanda for the last 3 yrs working as General Manager of a Tour Operating company with offices in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.He also lived and worked in Tanzania before and Uganda. He says he is am extremely enthusiastic about Africa, want to see solutions and sitting in Rwanda, in the heart of Africa gives us a very unique perspective across the entire continent – sub-Saharan.
The African Union is a great start to a Pan-African dream that Kwame Nkrumah was envisioning in the 1960’s.
May 25, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Goz Anyadiegwu*
The African Union is a great start to a Pan-African dream that Kwame Nkrumah was envisioning in the 1960’s. He wanted Africans to wake up and unite politically and economically. Africa is easier to manipulate when it is divided. When there are over 50 states then it is easier to do divide and conquer. Africa is a lot stronger when united. This is why the African Union is around, they want to unite Africa and the Diaspora. This is why they allowed Haiti to join the African Union.
It succeeded by trying to promote African unity. It is providing jobs for people as well. But it does have some failures as well. It fails to handle situations by itself. It has to go to America for supplies and support when they went to Somalia. It also took them too long to go into Mali. This is why the French had to come. It fails to be independent and still relies on foreigners for help. It also did a bad job in the Ivory Coast when the French took away Laurent Gbagbo who was fighting for African liberation. There are conflicts in DRC where the African Union troops should have been there to help save people. The African Union needs to build a more military power so Africans don’t have to go to the west for help.
It needs to be more self dependent because right now the African Union relies on foreign donors to fund their engagements. As Thomas Sankara said “He who funds you controls you.” Even the building was built by Chinese engineers. This is bad because we are too dependant on other people. We need to be self reliant in order to fix our problems by ourselves. We have many engineers, why couldn’t they get the contract? The AU needs to help Africa industrialize and become self-reliant. The African Union must revive the Pan-African dream with the African Monetary Fund, African Central Bank, and African currency. Leaders in the past have tried this but ended up dying trying. The African Union also needs to do an economic trading block and including the CaribbeanIslands and people of African descent in the west. This will make it easier to move goods and services from place to place. The Pan-African passport will help the movement of people as well. It needs to finance projects that are working for the benefit of Africa instead of going to the International Monetary Fund which gives African bad loans which keeps us enslaved by debt. The African Monetary Fund would do this. This will be a true Pan-African economic dream that Marcus Garvey would be proud of.
So the African union has to build military, economic and political power of Africans and the Diaspora. This will bring Africa back to its past great power.
*Information about the writer:
Hello this is Goz Anyadiegwu the Founder of African Economic Development Plan. Goz is a student at DePaul University in Chicago studying Global Economics with a minor in management at the College of Commerce. He will be studying Global Economics at Howard University in the fall of 2013. He is the founder of the African Economic Development Plan It was an idea started in 2012 with the Nigerian Economic Development Plan (www.nigerianedp.com). But the site wasn’t the best looking and I wanted to give it a more Pan-African approach so I created the African Economic Development Plan (www.africanedp.com). I started it because I realized that Africa doesn’t create finished goods, we export raw materials and import finished goods which are just like colonialism. SO I decided to start to promote African finished goods, fashion, art, tourism an investing. All of these things will stimulate economic development. The long term goal is to add African American, Caribbean Islands, Afro-Brazilians, and other people of African descent around the world. If millions of people of African descent around the world buy these goods then jobs and wealth will be generated. This will make us more independent of other people’s businesses.
Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenya’s New Posture in Global Politics
April 22, 2013 | 0 Comments
ByJames N. Kariuki*
Not so long ago Third World countries subscribed to the notion of non-alignment in their international relations. The world was then bipolar, divided ideologically between the West and the East. Non-alignment was an assertion that the Third World was not party to the quarrel between the two global blocs. That thinking was enshrined in what came to be known as the Non-Aligned Movement.
Post-colonial Kenya observed the provisions of non-alignment mostly in breach. That was so because the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was at heart an Anglophile. This was ironic given that the same Kenyatta was the vanguard of anti-British colonial activities. Finally, Kenyatta was imprisoned allegedly because he master-minded the Mau Mau rebellion. The British dismissed him as a leader “unto darkness and death.”
Kenya became independent in 1963 and the country’s ironies continued. First, power was handed over to the same Kenyatta whom the British had branded a devilish pervert. Secondly, Kenyatta quickly tilted independent Kenya towards the West.
Outraged, Oginga Odinga objected bitterly and proceeded to write a book, Not Yet Uhuru (1968). Odinga was no ordinary citizen; he was a major anti-colonial nationalist and Kenyatta’s Vice-President. While he agitated for socialism, Kenyatta welcomed British capitalism. Odinga did not realize then that Kenyatta had fought against colonialism, not because he objected to the British socio-economic order, but because of racial discrimination that accompanied British presence.
In the same year that Odinga published his book, Kenyatta released his own, Suffering without Bitterness. That title emphasized that Kenyatta had nothing against the British; he was prepared to work with them. To affirm the point, he proceeded to turn Kenya into a major pro-British fort in Eastern Africa. For good measure, he also built himself into a capitalist tycoon of major proportions.
Kenyatta’s book reeked of forgive-and-forget sentiments towards his former detractors, the British. His son, Uhuru, has now become Kenya’s president which may push the country into the next major irony. Unlike his father, Uhuru seems inclined to the notion: we-may-forgive-but-we-will-not-necessarily-forget. And he does have a grudge against the West.
Uhuru Kenyatta has been inducted by the ICC as a contributor to Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence. Coincidentally, the charges erupted when the credibility of the ICC itself was declining in Africa on the grounds that it targeted African leaders. Yet, critics said, the greatest human rights offenders are Western leaders and, invariably, they walk free. Is the court a tool of the West? Unfortunately for the international court, this view was championed by none other than the African Union. Suddenly, the ICC itself was on trial in global public opinion.
In this anti-ICC atmosphere, it was suspiciously provocative that the West continued posturing as the guardians of human rights in Kenya. In the 2013 campaign, at least, it seemed reprehensible that Westerners became constant reminders that Uhuru and his running-mate were ICC inductees, unworthy of the presidency. Indeed, Uhuru’s Jubilee Alliance was compelled to object bitterly and publicly to “the shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya’s election.”
On their part, the Americans went past hints and issued a poorly-veiled threat to the Kenyan voters: ‘choices have consequences.’ Implicit in the statement was a resolve that Western powers would withhold friendship and goodwill to an Uhuru-led government. Similarly, Britain stated that, in the event that Uhuru won the elections, it would maintain only essential contacts with his government. For all practical purposes, the West denied Uhuru the assumption of innocence before proven guilty.
In effect, the Western powers were now campaigning for Uhuru’s major rival, Raila Odinga. For his part, Raila stated that he would win the election; it would not even be close. Kenyans took exception to the Westerners meddling in their domestic affairs. Condemnation of Uhuru’s candidacy backfired, prompting Kenyans’ impulse to give more votes to him. Sympathy votes flowed in abundance.
Regarding the ICC case, many Kenyans believe that Uhuru’s was not a matter of premeditated murder; it was an issue of self-defense. If he got involved in the post-elections’ violence at all he did so, not to harm innocent people, but in defense of reckless human rights violations by others against the Kikuyu. He bravely countered ethnic cleansing where the state had repeatedly failed to do so. Self-defense is an acceptable principle of the law, is it not?
Indeed to many Kenyans Uhuru is a hero, a leader who put himself in harm’s way in a bid to save his people from five-year cycles of senseless savagery. To millions of Kenyans, Uhuru Kenyatta is not a criminal; he is their favorite son. Neither the West nor the ICC can convince them otherwise.
Uhuru’s victory reflects a bewildering self-assertion in Africa, one reminiscent of the non-alignment movement. The popular mood during Kenya’s 2013 election was anti-Western; westerners felt mistrusted and unwanted. Most importantly, Uhuru’s Jubilee Alliance was triggered to protest publicly against Western political intrusion.
Western exploitation of the ICC indictments to discredit Uhuru’s candidacy has left bitter taste in Kenya. This reality has occasioned a public consciousness among Kenyans that to align too closely to the West is ill-advised. It would be the ultimate irony if Uhuru eventually tilts Kenya to the East. He would negate his father’s legacy of turning Kenya West. That is the stuff of history.
*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.
Political Succession in Africa: Opponents versus Enemies
March 29, 2013 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
Barack Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009 was by far more glorious than the one four years later. It captured the initial dramatic affirmation that America was sincerely loosening its grip on politics of racial hatred. To Africa, the same inauguration should have had an equally poignant message that political differences should not invariably degenerate into personal or ethnic hatred.
At the Obama’s first inauguration, bitter political rivals sat side by side united in their American-ness. The contest between Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination was bitter. Yet, despite her stunning defeat, Clinton sat immediately behind the new president at the inauguration. And yet this honorable act paled in comparison to Republican John McCain’s graciousness in his short concession-of-defeat speech two months earlier. Is such remarkable political sophistication worthy of Africa’s notice or emulation?
Philosophically, the US Republican Party does not have much to offer to the international community but, in context of American national the politics, it does play a significant role. For example, in the 1996 presidential campaign the Republican contender, Robert Dole, was urged by his campaign subordinates to make some unflattering remarks against his Democratic rival, Bill Clinton. To his eternal credit Dole declined, stating that Clinton was his opponent, not his enemy.
Those simple words were loaded with political wisdom and maturity. Bob Dole disagreed with Bill Clinton on almost every political issue. Yet, more fundamentally, he knew and understood that both were comrades-in-arms in a shared interest in America’s welfare. The same sentiments were clearly there when McCain conceded to Obama.
That was patriotism; it was what bound them together as Americans. In other words, Dole implied, it was important to be a Republican but it was more so that he, like Clinton, was American first and foremost.
In Africa, there is a prevailing tendency for presidential incumbents and contenders to view political differences as personal affronts. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has repeatedly shown personal loathing for the country’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. Could it be the case that Kenya’s J.M. Kariuki lost his life in 1975 for questioning the moral authority of the country’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta? What about Tom Mboya and Robert Ouko?
When public issues are personalized, visions of ‘national interests’ become blurred. Put another way, since African leaders have habitually fallen short of putting national visions above personal interests, they have betrayed the continent and their respective countries. This legacy is uncommon in the US experience.
In the American political history, Richard Nixon is remembered as the most ambitious politician at the presidential level. But this ambition was mitigated by national loyalty. In 1960, Nixon lost in the bid for US presidency against John Kennedy. Yet, the margin was so small that Republican advisors urged Nixon to demand a recount. Nixon dismissed the suggestion outright on the grounds that such a recount would have plunged the nation into a constitutional crisis.
While the so-called ‘ambitious’ Nixon could smell the pinnacle of power, he loathed the prospect of ripping his country apart constitutionally in the interest of his quest for personal power. His sense of being American left no room for distortion of national interests in pursuit of his ambitions. He thus made the honorable choice: my-country-before-my-ambitions.
It is true that in the years to come, Nixon ambitiousness brought his presidency to grief when he resigned the presidency in disgrace because of the Watergate Scandal of the 1970s. However, this does not minimize that his decision not to contest the 1960 election results was a measure of remarkable leadership and patriotism.
In Africa today, it is almost a fashionable trend to challenge election results. The ‘political disease’ first erupted in Angola’s 1992 national elections in form of what came to be known as the ‘Savimbi Syndrome,’ the claim that “either I win or the elections were not free and fair.” In his ambitions Jonas Savimbi had popularized the notion that, if he did not win the 1992 elections, the voting process was faulty. Question: if the election results were so clear even before the voting, why bother to vote at all?
Critics of the Savimbi Syndrome reject it because, inherently, elections presume that there will be losers and winners. Those who suggest otherwise merely are bent on destroying. Savimbi himself did lose the 1992 national elections and, sure enough, he plunged Angola into the next phase of its protracted civil war. Yet, the Savimbi Syndrome virus had slowly drifted North-East to Kenya.
Just before the 2007-08 elections, Raila Odinga visited South Africa and was asked about his prospects in the impeding elections. He stated on national television, “In the absence of rigging, I will win.” Odinga did not win. All he did was repeat his self-proclaimed prophesy that if he did not win, the elections were rigged. That is all it took to plunge Kenya into senseless violence that verged on a civil war.
Five years later, in 2013, Raila Odinga repeated his political forecasting, that he would win the presidency against Uhuru Kenyatta, that the election “wouldn’t even be close.” He was wrong on both counts: the elections were close and, again, he was the loser.
Once more, Raila Odinga has failed to accept principle that elections presume that there will be winners and losers and has challenged the announced election results in court. Meanwhile, he holds the nation at ransom: fulfill my ambitions or I will unleash disaster upon you.Raila Odinga has been a great political tactician but he has fallen short of becoming a genuinely patriotic Kenyan.
*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer. He is based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.
Bureaucracy covers Slavery – Cameroonians in Sweden were Tricked into Slavery
March 27, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Charlene Rosander*
Most presumably, everyone would agree that the transatlantic slave trade going on up to the 19th century was not only morally and ethically wrong but also repulsive, disgusting, horrifying and devastating. We hope to imagine that if we were alive at the time we would be part of the abolitionist movement risking our own lives for contributing for the future we were hoping for but not guaranteed. However, what we often miss to consider, me included, is that we live in a time where slavery does exist, transformed and hidden in the world of bureaucracy.
In the north of Sweden a man called Niklas Gotthardsson who works for Skogsnicke AB has hired Cameroonian guest workers. The Cameroonians were to come to Sweden to work for six months planting trees. Before they came to Sweden they got a contract were they were promised an amount of money for the work they were about to do during their stay. They signed the contract without knowing that this contract is not valid as it is only guidelines the employer is not obliged to follow. However, the trade union as well as Skognicke AB signed the papers so they seemed legit.
After six months of hard work the Cameroonians got less than one fifth of the expected pay. Hence, the Cameroonians took loans from back home to be able to pay for the ticket and simultaneously pay for themselves and their families whilst away. Working in Sweden has meant that they have gotten less money than they have spend to come to Sweden meaning that they are ashamed of returning due to not accomplishing economically whilst abroad. Some have had to take their children out of school because they cannot pay the school fee any longer. Most of them cannot afford a ticket back home and thereby have to stay in Sweden forced to live day by day completely dependent on friends, as they have no income nor home. Nonetheless, they feel a need to stay in Sweden so that they can try to demand the pay they have been promised.
To understand the seriousness of the situation the Cameroonian guest workers were not treated with dignity. They lived in a worn down cabin and when it was time for dinner they got a chicken, which was alive, for them to skin themselves. They were also told to do other chores, which had nothing to do with their job, such as painting their boss’s house. The Cameroonians were used to do slave work, as there was no intention of giving them a salary equivalent to the amount of work they did.
The Swedish Television made a documentary about the Cameroonians situation and they thereby put pressure on the trade union to do something. The story of the Cameroonian workers was now spread on the news nation-wide but still it did not become a topic of discussion at work. In fact, the only people who I met who initiated a discussion revolving this issue were members of Pan-African Movement for Justice. I was worried about the lack of sympathy for the Cameroonians in the overall society. I hoped that the trade unions were to sort this out but just a couple of days ago they announced that Niklas Gotthardsson had done nothing wrong if you follow the Swedish law even though they agreed to this being a practise of slavery. In other words, one can get away with slavery in Sweden as long as they have done the “right” paper work.
I felt nauseous when I realised that formalities are more important than common sense and human rights in Sweden. The trade union admitted that there is a flaw in the legal system and this needs to be reviewed for this scenario not being repeated but this does not help the Cameroonians stuck in Sweden today without their families, any ability to provide for themselves and any hope for the future. Niklas Gotthardsson is not obliged to pay them their salary and he is even allowed to take on more Cameroonian workers next season. This is devastating as I thought I lived in a time where slavery is illegal and its pursuer would face consequences or at least reckless shame.
I ask myself what I’ve done to help the Cameroonian workers in Sweden and I get filled with a feeling of powerless emptiness. All I really can do is spread the word to make people aware of the situation and put pressure on the government to change the legislation. I hope that I might be able to make someone who is now planning a trip to Sweden to be a guest worker to rethink before taking a loan and leaving. If you have or are planning to come to Sweden to be a guest worker please contact Pan-African Movement for Justice first on firstname.lastname@example.org. We will help you look up which company you have planned to work for and let you know if the company and contract is to be trusted.
I sincerely hope and believe that we will one day live in a world where we are all truly considered equal.
* Views expressed in the blog Swedish Perspectives are those of Charlene Rosander. The author welcomes comments and feedback.
The Regency of Ajongako II A Historical Play by Nkong Kima
February 7, 2013 | 3 Comments
The Historical Background
The incursion of European exploiters on the Dark Continent witnessed a historical turning point which left Africa almost at the verge of total chaos. Although pro-colonial advocates hold strongly that this European conquest brought Africa out of an endless state of slumber and decadence, the Pan-African unionists and other pro-African elite think otherwise. Various pictures of the European incursion into the “peacefulness” of Africa have been presented by different researchers, historians and men of letters. Nkong Kima herewith uses this dramatic medium to present one of the faces of the post native resistant era against the European rule.
The event which prompts the playwright to produce The Regency of Ajongako II is the Bangwa Resistance of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century in Cameroon (Kamerun) against the German colonial rule (1884-1916). The Bangwa people constituted one of those tribes in Cameroon which put up a strong resistance against the then foreign rule. Although the resistance did not involve the entire Bangwa tribe, the greatest portion of it was involved being the one governed by the then most renowned Bangwa king Asonganyi Fontem – the portion which is today known as Lebang and ruled by the Fon of Fontem (Asonganyi’s grandson). Not only Lebang was solely involved however because other neighbouring settlements through their chiefs came in during the resistance either to support Asonganyi or to betray him; the latter group doing so just to win the consent and protection of the German colonial master and as a result of their envious feelings toward the most renowned king.
Asonganyi was initially not an enemy to the German colonial administration in Kamerun. In fact, he was a friend and a trusted one too. He welcomed the German trading agents sent to his territory and even went into a permanent friendship deal with them through a blood pact. His long term friendship deal with the German firm agent Gustav Canrau – whom the Bangwa people called Manji-Kwala in imitation of Conrau’s carriers who accompanied him during his trade tours – witnessed a trustworthy intimacy pact between the Bangwa king and the German colonial authority. The betrayal of confidence however originated from Conrau. When the time of his departure came Asonganyi had instructed his vassals to present energetic young men who could work on the German coastal plantations at the request of the white man. There was a need for a strong native labour force to maintain the German coastal plantations at the coast of Kamerun. Asonganyi, in order to express the depth of his intimacy with Conrau, provided close to a hundred young people with the hope that they would return to the land after one year of service at the coast with gifts in return.
While the one year period was yet to elapse, Conrau reappeared with request for more men although he had not brought back the previous retinue. This time he was not given the celebrative reception he had during his first visit to the territory. The king was rather cold toward him and decided to hold Conrau in close custody. Many families protested at voice top without even dreading Asonganyi who was by then the most feared personality in the Nweh territory asking for the return of their kinsmen who went with Conrau. Many had lost hopes and rented their clothes to mourn for their lost relations. The truth was that most of those men were probably dead with the unfavourable conditions of work at the plantations and for the fact that most were exhausted through long journeys on foot. Asonganyi suspected this and this suggests why he became cold toward Conrau and decided to hold him captive.
While in detention Conrau sought for every means to escape to no avail. It became obvious to him that the Bangwa king was not ready to release him. Besides, he had no information from the German colonial headquarters in Buea and began to lose hopes. He knew Asonganyi was only waiting for time to execute him after failing to entice the king with promises of ensuring that he would become the only monarch recognised by the German authority throughout the Western Grassfields. His last attempt to escape met with little or no success as he was pursued and beheaded just few kilometres from the Azi royal palace. Some sources say no Bangwa soldier actually beheaded Conrau but that he took away his own life after discovering that his attempt to escape was a futile one. It was said that Nkwetta Bezankeng who actually brought his head to the palace cut it off when Conrau had committed suicide.
When the news of the assassination of Conrau got to the German colonial authority, they immediately dispatched an ultimatum requesting for the arrest of the Bangwa king and the perpetrators of Conrau’s assassination. This led to a strong confrontation between the Bangwa natives and the German colonial soldiers. The Bangwa people fought bravely with the use of a traditional fortification or defensive medicine known as “aziah” which had been used in the recent past to fight against neighbouring enemy tribes (Atem George 2000:8).
Asonganyi went into hiding and refused to show up for a long period. Many Bangwa natives of neighbouring clans came to Asonganyi’s rescue but many yet cooperated with the Germans to lead them through the hilly Bangwa terrain in the pursuit of the most wanted man – their intention being to capture Asonganyi and defeat his forces on behalf of the colonial master. When “aziah” began to lose its potency and the Bangwa people could no more resist the strong military skills of the Germans, Asonganyi decided to surrender in order to avoid the great loss of lives among his people orchestrated by the Germans. He came out of his hiding in 1911 and handed himself to the German authority. He was immediately taken prisoner, tried and exiled to the north of Kamerun to serve a life imprisonment sentence. His throne was handed over to his eldest son Prince Ajongako by the Germans. In order to weaken the Bangwa people and arrest an imminent assault from the natives due to the sentence given to their king, the German colonial administration set up a resident office in Azi known as Fontemdorf. It also disintegrated the Bangwa territory appointing different warrant chiefs to govern it and compensating those who cooperated with them with portions of the kingdom governed by Asonganyi [ibid]. The Germans had to oversee into the activities of these warrant chiefs among whom Asonganyi’s eldest son was one.
The Germans dictated the traditional policies to govern the natives to the warrant chiefs, the more reason why these chiefs were hated and dreaded by the natives. Most of them eventually became power mongers; abusing the traditions and the pride of the native peoples. Ajongako for instance became a tyrant through German influence, betraying his natives and patronising raids to send labourers to work on German plantations, the same reason his father fought against at the expense of his freedom. With the coming of the First World War which witnessed the expulsion of Germany from its overseas territories and the arrival of mandatory powers to take over Germany’s possessions, Asonganyi the Bangwa king was to recover his lost throne. This however brought another controversial situation in the territory as Ajongako the prince regent was not ready to surrender the throne to his father. He was however forced to do so through intrigue solely planned by Asonganyi’s loyalists. The consequence was that Ajongako had to be exiled from the Bangwa land after Asonganyi had regained the throne. It is this regency period of Asonganyi’s son (Ajongako) that Nkong Kima presents to us through a live dramatic medium.
The Executive Superintendent
Cumaland Publishing Factor
In collaboration with Ndi Mbecha A. F.
1 Ajongako II – the Bangwa Prince (German warrant chief sitting as regent to Asonganyi)
2 Asonganyi (the exiled Bangwa King and father of Ajongako)
3 Fuatabong I (German ally governing part of Nweh tribe)
4 Fualeke Chacha (Asonganyi’s ally also governing part of Nweh tribe)
5 Mafuantem and Mafuameika (aunt and sister of the former Bangwa king Asonganyi)
6 Nkwetta Bezankeng (Asonganyi’s half brother, co-regent to Ajongako)
7 Hauptman Langhell (the chief German Officer in the Dschang area)
8 Lt Rausch (German officer overseeing Fontemdorf)
9 The Dschang area kings (Fotoh, Foleke, Fondong, Fongondeng, Fongotongo etc)
10 The nobility corps comprising loyalists to both Ajongako and Asonganyi
11 German and native choruses, officers, soldiers, kinsmen, court elders and retainers, messengers and the masses
stall the king to his throne. Speeches of goodwill are made most of which reveal the ordeal orchestrated in the king’s absence. The occasion ends with a ceremony of promotion in which loyal tribesmen are accorded titles of nobility.
A2 – Scene 14
A1 – Scene 1:
At the newly open Fontemdorf resident office, Hauptmann the resident superior of Dschang and Lt Rausch who will eventually oversee Fontemdorf come to pressurise the Bangwa elders to handover the Bangwa resistant king Asonganyi to them. The elders reveal that Asonganyi died in the course of fighting the Germans, but which the latter do not believe whole heartedly. However, they accept Asonganyi’s proposed Prince Regent Ajongako to co-reign with Asonganyi’s deputy, Nkwetta Bezankeng. They go further to share the Bangwa territory into two giving the northern part to Fuatabong I for assisting the Germans during the Bangwa resistance. They also punish and dethrone those like Fualeke Chacha and Foto of Ndungatet for supporting Asonganyi during the resistance war.
A1 – Scene 2
Ajongako and Fuatabong I discuss on how to haunt and capture the natives for plantation labour in order to appease the colonial administration and fulfil the instruction given them as German colonial warrant chiefs. As Fuatabong I leaves, Ajongako prepares with his closest advisers to stage night raids in order to capture labourers.
A1 – Scene 3
Lt Rausch is disappointed that unlike Fuatabong I Ajongako has made no attempt to bring labourers for the German coastal plantations. As they are talking, Ajongako marches some captives up and hands them to Rausch. He pleads that his men should return to the territory after service at the coast of Kamerun. This gesture establishes a temporal cordial affiliation between the Prince Regent and the German firms.
A1 – Scene 4
The public, through the eyes of two villagers is scared with the manner in which night raids are carried out to supply labourers to the white man’s plantations. As they make allusion to the harsh treatment of labourers in those plantations, a retrospection of live plantation activity is displayed with plantation supervisor wantonly shooting down labourers and using tricks to make them work without resting.
A1 – Scene 5
Ajongako is seen with some of his close palace relations. A half brother is so bitter with the regent for sleeping with his mother and putting her in a family way. The regent states that it is his right to own his father’s wives now that the king is away. Another accusation the young prince and princess make is the regent’s wayward habit of seizing the wives of his relations. The regent is hurt with this accusation and orders that the young prince should be sent to Fontemdorf. He pays no dime to the pleas given on the young man’s behalf.
A1 – Scene 6
The court elders are worried about the king’s present desire as he wants to come out of his hiding and present himself to the white man in order to avoid the killing of his people. They convince the elders in the king’s attendance to hold the king’s peace and let him not surrender lest he is beheaded or hanged by the white. The end by hoping that Germany’s stay in their land should be short-lived.
A1 – Scene 7
Abachi from Fualeke Chacha creates a spectacular show by vowing to make the Germans in Mamfe (Ossindingue) know that Asonganyi is in hiding and not death as his people claim. This is because he is infuriated by the Prince Regent’s conduct for recently seizing his wife. He demonstrates his anger in the market place amid a curious crowd and leaves for Mamfe. He doesn’t want to take the advice of not betraying the Bangwa king.
A1 – Scene 8
In Fualeke Chacha’s council, he regrets that one of his subjects is going to betray the king in hiding as he is duly informed. He sends messengers to Azi to alert the Prince Regent.
A1 – Scene 9
The royal council of Azi palace meets to discuss the impending betrayal of the king with all blaming the Prince Regent for going his own way and hurting many people. They however agree to unite their thoughts in order to rescue Asonganyi from the impending execution.
A2 – Scene 1
Report reaching the Dschang resident office says Abachi has revealed that Asonganyi is only in hiding and not dead as the Bangwa people claimed. Officers express views of undying suspicion against the Bangwa people but pledge their services to the crown of Germany if it comes to war. We hear that Lt Rausch has been dispatched to Fontemdorf for this purpose.
A2 – Scene 2
Lt Rausch reaches the Azi palace led by Abachi. He insists on having the king handed over although the royal council still wants to claim Asonganyi is actually dead. He leaves with an ultimatum to have the king presented in less than a day. The councillors disagree on whether to hand Asonganyi over or not.
A2 – Scene 3
As Lt Rausch sits at Fontemdorf heavily guarded, Asonganyi comes in with a cross section of his territory who are curious to watch the king’s fate. Asonganyi presents a white cock and a white sheep as symbols of peace thereby handing himself to the white man. Rausch announces that the king shall be taken to Dschang to be tried. Natives are shocked to hear this and declare that they are ready for another war with Germany. Asonganyi threatens them with a curse if they dare fight on account of him again, citing enormous bloodshed which has been recorded. As he is bound away, the officers fire guns into the air to disperse the curious crowd.
A2 – Scene 4
The Bamileke kings in the Dschang area meet in the palace of Fotoh-à-Dschang to discuss the impending fate of Asonganyi and how to appease the white man to free their kinsman. They agree to beguile him with a gift of seventy elephant tusks hoping that this would make the white man free Asonganyi.
A2 – Scene 5
This court scene opens in the Dschang resident office where Asonganyi is to be tried. He is levied so many charges among which is the initial one of causing Conrau to die. Asonganyi knows that guilty or not he must be persecuted and declares his stance strongly without dreading the outcome. He is therefore given a sentence which among all is being permanently dethroned and not allowed to return to the Bangwa territory. He is exiled to the town of Garoua in northern Kamerun where he will serve a life sentence. In the midst of this confusion Fotoh-à-Dschang speaking on behalf of the Dschang area kings pleads pardon for Asonganyi but this is denied. The victim is marched out to the land of his asylum.
A2 – Scene 6
Two commoners meet at a market place in Azi to discuss the ongoing executions, betrayals, exodus and many faults all orchestrated by the prince and the German administration. They reveal there is a lot of torture of innocent people.
A2 – Scene 7
At Fontemdorf, Lt Rausch receives news that the ongoing 1st World War is extending to the colonies in Africa and is highly agitated. He dispatches messengers to the respective quarters in support of Germany to make preparations toward the war. His main preoccupation is to reinforce the Nsanakang unit where the most deadly war is to be fought.
A2 – Scene 8
This is the actual war scene in which we are exposed to the last fight at the battlefield of Nsanakang. The allied forces give orders for their forces to strike and bring the Kaiser to his knees. A German commander comes in to surrender as they prepare to quit Kamerun.
A2 – Scene 9
Mafuameika summons the commoners and is addressing them about the release of the king who has chosen to stay away from the crown. She is also excited that German period of tyranny is over. As the natives react joyously, Ajongako is infuriated as he comes in and meets them. He insults the queen mother and sends them away. He is very anxious about the impending state of the crown as it seems obvious that he may lose it.
A2 – Scene 10
Ajongako is filled with thoughts about a possible return of the Bangwa king to seek his throne. He swears not to give up power if it comes to that. While he is deep in this reflection a messenger from Asonganyi comes in to alert him of the ongoing execution of native rulers. Asonganyi wants him to come with him and seek a hiding but Ajongako suspects that his father may be using a trick to oust him from power. But he decides to go anyway.
A2 – Scene 11
Gossipers come in to inform Ajongako of Asonganyi’s projected return to the territory. We learn the king escaped to Dschang, but no one knows why, only to prepare and come back for the crown of the land. The prince summons his forces asking them to march up toward Legwe to stop the king. He leaves with his train toward Legwe with pretext he is going to welcome the king.
A2 – Scene 12
Mafuameika summons the nobility corps to plan strategies and sabotage Ajongako’s intention of killing his father the king. They agree to convince the king to return through the Ngundeng road and not through Atungong as earlier planned. They intend to reinstall the king on his throne before his son discovers.
A2 – Scene 13
This scene witnesses the actual return of Asonganyi to recover his lost throne. The ceremony is presided over by the younger queen mother Mafuameika with the support of her aunt Mafuantem. The king is brought back with a hilarious manifestation of traditional rituals. The kingmaker Mbi Nditu and his train rein scene reveals the fate of Ajongako paid off his wrongdoings. While at the target point waiting to lynch his father, a noise of jubilation seems to be heard from the royal palace. Messengers come in to inform the regent that Asonganyi has regained his lost throne and declared Ajongako exiled. The prince regent is shocked with this news. To worsen matters, his retinue begins to desert him in order to seek Asonganyi’s pardon. Only one loyalist to him wants to remain and die with the prince regent. They decide to wander until death takes away their lives.
A2 – Scene 14
This retribution scene reveals the fate of Ajongako paid off his wrongdoings. While at the target point waiting to lynch his father, a noise of jubilation seems to be heard from the royal palace. Messengers come in to inform the regent that Asonganyi has regained his lost throne and declared Ajongako exiled. The prince regent is shocked with this news. To worsen matters, his retinue begins to desert him in order to seek Asonganyi’s pardon. Only one loyalist to him wants to remain and die with the prince regent. They decide to wander until death takes away their lives.
* Nkong Kima is a Teacher ,Writer and Critic. Cumaland Diary is a blog for the expression of his literary ideas and works.
Monsanto: A Repeat Offender
February 6, 2013 | 1 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
On November 6, 2012, Californians voted on Proposition 37, a statewide initiative. Had it succeeded, it would have required labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The initiative was narrowly defeated at the polls, but it cost the big anti-labeling agribusinesses a whopping $47 million to campaign against it.
The California vote was a big issue but it was overshadowed by the bigger presidential election that took place concurrently. However two days later on November 8, 2012, the Kenya Government banned importation of genetically-engineered foods effective immediately, until their safety to humans was scientifically confirmed. Well-funded pro-GMO forces in Kenya were up in arms against the importation ban; but it is still in force.
In mid-January 2013, another food outcry erupted, this time in Europe. Irish food inspectors had uncovered in their supermarkets almost 30 percent horsemeat in beef burgers intended for human consumption. Further tests revealed that burger products elsewhere in the country had traces of horse and pig DNA.
The horsemeat issue in Britain triggered considerable public unease in South Africa which imports some foods from the United Kingdom. The issue slowly died down when SA’s food companies issued assurances that they were not involved in the British food scandal as they did not import any of the implicated foods.
Thousands of kilometers away from Kenya, Britain, SA, and the USA, the Catholic Medical Association of Nigeria (CMAN) was constantly busy nagging Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, not to sign into law a proposed bill that would allow GMOs to be imported into the country.
According to the Association, such a move would have the potential of destroying the lives of Nigerians. The Association thus advised the Nigeria’s Federal Government not to allow introduction of GMO products into the country because, overall, uncertainties about their benefits have led to their rejection in Europe.
What is the link between these stories? Put simply, it is that people worldwide have become increasingly conscious and protective of what they ingest. Hence, the uproar in Ireland about horsemeat in their foods, public outcry in SA to the British meat contamination, Kenya’s ban on GMO importation, and Nigeria’s reluctance to allow importation of genetically-engineered foods. And, lest we forget, there was Prop 37 in California, USA, on food labeling.
When I first approached the Pan-African Vision to write for them, there was one clear proviso: to promote positive aspects of Africa. In my view, it is the best news of the 21st century that Africans have joined the rest of the world in opposition to food contamination, no matter how well concealed.
Today, public-interest news media is engaged in the never-ending debate over gun control. Those against uncontrolled private possession of firearms insist that, background checks must be conducted on applicants for gun ownership. Presumably, if an applicant has a criminal record, he is of suspicious character and, therefore, disqualifies from owning a firearm. In short, what you do today will haunt you later.
Why isn’t the same logic applied to businesses, especially the multinational corporations that touch upon human lives around the world? Should the global community not ensure that previous business offenders are restrained from roaming the world ravaging mankind? Some anti-GMO groups are now thinking in those terms regarding the US-based Monsanto Company.
Monsanto is the world’s biggest food-engineering and genetically modified seed company. In addition to being the leader of the contemporary agribusinesses, it also has the dubious distinction of owning the most repulsive history.
Monsanto’s history is one steeped with controversial products, deadly consequences; massive cover-ups political sleight of hand, and culminates as a modern day plague on humanity, a plague that is about to peak to biblical proportions.
The America author of this statement goes on to outline Monsanto’s anti-social activities which include contribution to building the atomic bomb. But that is another story.
More recently, Monsanto has been involved in manufacturing other hazardous chemicals including DDT, an artificial pesticide, which was banned in the US in 1972. Subsequently, the same Monsanto got into the act of manufacturing Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant herbicide used in the Vietnam War to kill jungle growth and destroy growing crops (food.) Contact with the defoliant substance contaminated Vietnamese people and US troops indiscriminately, earning itself the nickname, the Merchant of Death.
In the early 1980s, US victims of Agent Orange and their families brought a class-action suit against the producers of the lethal herbicides, companies that supplied the lethal substance for the Vietnam War. The applicants sought compensation for injuries suffered from exposure to toxic Agent Orange. An out of court settlement of $180 million was reached in May 1984. Monsanto was a defendant in the case but continued to refuse to accept culpability even after the settlement.
Remarkably, Monsanto’s reputation as a danger to life and environment is not a new phenomenon; it goes back to its early beginnings. From the late 1920s to the early 1970s, the company manufactured PCBs in Anniston, Alabama and left a gory story.
PCBs are man-made organic chemicals once used to prevent fire explosions in electrical equipments and other industrial applications. Originally, PCBs were considered a life-saver, but ultimately, they turned out to be more than that: a highly toxic product, causing birth defects and potentially carcinogenic.
In the four decades (1929-1971) that Monsanto manufactured PCBs, it had a monopoly in the US and made hefty profits. Yet, it routinely dumped dangerous toxic wastes into a creek and oozing open-pit landfills around Anniston. The dangers of those chemicals were withheld from the town’s residents.
The consequences of PCBs to the Anniston community were devastating. Over time, thousands of children developed cancer, cerebral palsy and other health complications directly linked to exposure to PCBs. When these health damages initially surfaced, there was a specter of an explosive political reaction when innuendos of racism were floated. Rumors had it that Monsanto’s intentions were genocidal because west Anniston was primarily a black community.
Genocidal claims cannot be substantiated. However, it is true that the health dangers associated with Monsanto’s toxic activities in Anniston were visible. More specifically, those dangers were known to Monsanto’s officialdom.
Back in 1966, Monsanto’s officials knew that “fish turned belly-up in ten seconds’ when submerged in Anniston’s creek water, spurting blood and shedding skin as if they were dunked in boiling water.” Subsequently, Monsanto’s files were uncovered clearly marked, “CONFIDENTIAL: Read, Learn and Destroy.”
Against this background a rhetorical question is posed:
If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is the company hiding from the public now? This question seems particularly important to us as this powerful company asks the world to trust it with a worldwide, high-stakes gamble with environmental and human health consequences of its genetically modified foods.
Today, Monsanto has tentacles spread around the world, preaching the gospel of saving mankind from starvation. Yet, a quick background check reveals that the same company is a repeat offender against humanity everywhere. Critics are indeed justified in categorizing Monsanto as evil, unethical, poisonous and a killer. No wonder it has been dubbed a Modern Day Plague.
*James Kariuki is Professor of International Relations and a private consultant based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are his.
Julius Malema’s Legacy in Post-Apartheid South Africa
January 28, 2013 | 1 Comments
By James N.Kariuki*
A strange sense of loss lingers in reading South African newspapers and not spotting the name of Julius Malema mentioned at least once. It confirms the nagging suspicion that I once had, that the South African public would miss good ol’ Juju (Malema’s nickname) if he ever disappeared from the country’s public scene. Malema is no longer in South Africa’s public view; he vanished from the political screen a year ago.
The outside world may not know much of who Julius Malema is. He is not an old official or a sporting national hero.. Yet at one stage, Malema’s name was better known than that of South Africa’s president. So, who is this Malema?
Julius Malema is a political creation of the 2007 fall of South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki from power. As the newly-elect leader of the ANC Youth League, Malema became instrumental in Mbeki’s political ouster as the mouthpiece of the rising political star, Jacob Zuma. Malema was fully convinced of the correctness of Zuma’s takeover. Indeed he publicly declared that the youth of South Africa was prepared to die and kill for Zuma. That statement was heard around the world.
For nearly six years, Malema entertained, confounded, offended, puzzled and intrigued his national audience. Some found him offensive and threatening. To them, he was a reckless populist, an undisciplined and opportunistic demagogue.
To others, the same Malema was as a charming and inspirational leader, a clever and perceptive politician with a penetrating mind. He grasped what ordinary South Africans did not and told it ‘like it was’ with a cocky attitude of ‘I say what I like.’ Supporters would have walked to the end of the world with Julius, their charismatic hero.
Still others were gripped by Malema’s capability to jolt. He did not have the fire and inspiring ability of a Malcolm X or the humility and disarming intellect of Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere. But with Malema around, there never was a dull moment. He was indeed controversial and always told the truth as he saw it. For that, he was a newsmaker. For his frankness, he often got into trouble and ultimately came to grief.
In February 2012, Julius Malema was finally expelled from the ANC on the grounds of sawing division in the party. By that act alone, he was deprived of a national platform and international visibility. All that is heard of him now is his legal woes with the law.
A critical question arises. Malema is gone, thrown into political wilderness. In banishing him, was there a case of throwing out the baby with the dirty water? When all is said and done, did Malema have a valid message for SA? What is his lasting legacy to SA, a legacy that that transcend his rhetoric and shifting images?
There is little doubt that Malema did fuel an ideological split in the ANC. But he did not cause that divide; he merely unveiled and magnified it for all to see. The fissure between ANC conservatives and the radicals was there long before Malema, and it may remain there long after him. The ANC will ultimately have to come to grips with the fact of this divide.
Post-apartheid black SA remains horrifically poor in absolute and relative terms. Since 2009, the country has indeed overtaken Brazil as the most skewed society in the world. How to close the income inequality gap, rectify this politically explosive lop-sidedness, is where irreconcilable differences between Malema and his party bosses originated.
The left, championed by Malema for half a decade, is committed to the notion that an ANC government is duty-bound to nationalize the means of production such as mines and white-owned lands. By doing so, that government will capture the commanding heights of the economy and position itself where it can redistribute the national wealth more equitably. In that manner, it will be in a position to blunt the offensive and politically dangerous economic inequality of wealth between the white haves and the black have-nots.
The left thus rejects the conventional official wisdom that the first order of the day is for the government to sustain national economic growth to address such threats as unemployment and political instability. To the left, such superficial stay-the-course approach provides space for foreign investments which, ultimately, perpetuate poverty and encourage offensive arrogance of foreigners. Some critics have suggested that the August 16, 2012 Marikana Massacre is testimony to this perception.
In contemporary SA, the idea of land confiscation and nationalization of mines is popular and explosive. It appeals because it is widely believed to be an intrinsically valid method to address the issue of general and relative poverty. There exists a widespread view that, after what South Africans went through to dismantle apartheid, everybody should be able to come to the party. Secondly, it contains a dose of anti-white sentiments. Negative racial undercurrent remains a potent component of the country’s politics.
Thirdly COSATU, SA’s largest federation of unions, laments that the apartheid economy of exploitation remains intact. COSATU is the powerful partner in the ANC’s government of tripartite alliance. Will a time come when this vocal mega-labor federation starts to agitate for dismantling of the country’s economy?
Finally, aversion to excessive white wealth in an endless sea of poverty has slowly but surely seeped into the moderate circles. For one, Professor Ali Mazrui regrets that abolishment of apartheid excluded economic concessions to Blacks. In his own words, in 1994 the white man said to the Blacks, “You take the crown; we will keep the jewels.’ In that manner economic inequality was officially entrenched.
To mitigate the agony of economic ‘dream-deferred’, Malema’s political dream was to snatch back some of the ‘gold’ for himself and his black fellows. In this context, he can be forgiven for harboring drastic views; he is an angry young man in a hurry. But the complaint of economic ‘justice-delayed’ is slowly being echoed by less radical anti-apartheid champions.
In August 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Emeritus, by no means a man of Malema’s ideological persuasion, raised eyebrows by calling for imposition of a tax on white wealth to speed up South Africa’s economic transformation.At the grassroots level, Malema’s so-called revolutionary agenda resonates as ‘conventional.’ Indeed, it has widespread appeal, perhaps strong enough to destabilize the country. Hence, the concern that SA’s political order is increasingly becoming susceptible to an Obama-type politician. Could a Malema reappear in a different guise?
**James N. Kariuki is a Professor of International Relations and an independent Consultant based in South Africa. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.
US Owes Apology to Global Africa
January 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki *
During the 2008 US presidential campaign, Barack Obama was asked for his thoughts on the issue of reparations. To him, the best that America could do to compensate its African-American citizens was to provide better inner city schools. This answer was a coded response that black Americans’ socio-economic ‘advancement’ had to be individually earned.
It was a soothing political response for an American audience. It was also an early warning that, Obama -considered himself an American first and foremost. Africa and Africans had no claim on him. When he was elected, Obama steadfastly adhered to that doctrine for his entire first term.
Now Obama is almost a week old into his second term. Yet, we still do not know for sure, his stand on the question of reparations for Global Africa, a claim made against historical abuse especially relative to slavery. Yet, in this broad sense, reparations are indeed both an American and a global issue.
In 1804 Haiti, the small island country, made history by undertaking a full-fledged slave revolt against the colonizing French. That revolution became the first successful strike against subjugation of Black people in the so-called the New World.
Haiti hit the world headlines again in 2003 by demanding that France paid $22 billion in restitutions for cash paid to French landowners in Haiti as a pre-condition for the island’s independence in 1825. This demand constituted the basis of major differences between the implicated slave-owning Western countries (especially the USA and France) and the incumbent President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide was accused of orchestrating the huge reparations demand and was ultimately banished out of his own country in 1994 by the same Western powers.
In 2004, South Africa celebrated its 10th anniversary of Black rule; in 1994 anti-apartheid forces had succeeded in dismantling ‘political’ racism in Africa. That revolution became the last successful strike against Blacks people’s overt subjugation worldwide. In racial terms, South Africa had finally concluded the racial liberation process launched by Haiti two hundred years earlier.
Affinity quickly solidified between the two ‘liberating’ nations. In January 2004, South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, attended Haiti’s celebrations of its revolution, the only African Head of State to do so. Shortly thereafter, in March 2004, the Mbeki’s government granted political asylum to Aristide, the same President under whom Haiti had demanded a $20 billion payment of reparations from France in 2003. France was one of the world’s powers that had determined that Aristide had to leave his homeland in 2004 allegedly in the interest of Haiti’s political stability.
Critics have insisted that Aristide’s forced exile to South Africa was ultimately triggered by his stand on the issue of reparations. The US, and France in particular, were alarmed about the general political fall-out of such a public call. But the demand for French reparations had a ring of hollowness as we are tuned into thinking of Third World indebtedness. Was Aristide’s Haiti agitating for a re-visit to the fundamental question of who owes whom in the world?
South Africa was already caught in a storm of animated debate on this issue of debts owed. The persistent question was: should Black South Africans seek legal restitution from Western multinational companies that had benefited enormously from their exploitation during apartheid?
Opinions in South Africa on the issue varied vastly. One proposition, championed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, insisted that harmed Black South Africans were indeed entitled to seek legal restitution and, if found liable, the Western multinationals were duty-bound to make amends. Tutu was personally on record as a key witness in a case lodged in the USA in support of the injured black applicants.
However, Mbeki’s government differed urging that South Africans should let bygones be bygones. In particular, the Mbeki administration was averse to the notion of South African citizens seeking restitution by litigation in foreign countries. Indeed, that regime went as far as contacting the US Court that was preparing to hear the South Africans’ case, urging a dismissal. Jacob Zuma’s administration would reverse that position in the years to come.
For resisting the quest for restitution for apartheid’s victims during Mbeki’s era, the ANC government found itself in a collision course with Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Chairman of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Further, the government’s attitude was antithetical to the cause of its national guest from Global Africa, Haiti’s President Aristide. As noted, astute observers are convinced that Aristide had been reduced to an ‘asylum seeker’ precisely because of his stand on the issue of reparations.
In the issue of reparations, history was on the side of Bishop Desmond Tutu. In situations where a definable group has absorbed ‘collective injury’ from another tradition has been to amend the wrongs by paying restitution. The most famous case is, of course, that of the Jews in the holocaust. Post-World War II Germany has faithfully and openly made enormous amends to the Jewish people and the state of Israel.
There have been other notable instances such as the Japanese wrongful relocation and internment by the Roosevelt administration during World War II. In December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. US citizens feared another attack and war hysteria gripped the country. Pressure mounted on President Franklin Roosevelt to take pre-emptive action against Japanese descendants living in the US.
In February 1942, Roosevelt signed an Executive Order under which120, 000 people of Japanese descent living along the US Pacific coast were removed from their homes and placed in internment camps known as War Relocation Camps. The order was justified against the claim that people of Japanese extraction were likely to act as spies for Japan. Yet, during the entire war only ten people were ever convicted of spying for Japan, and these were all Caucasians.
Other considerations made the apartheid-like internments painfully unreasonable. More than two thirds of those interned were American citizens and half of them were children. None had been accused of disloyalty to USA. Finally, within the internment program, there were instances where family members were separated and put in different camps. For all practical purposes, these internment camps were tantamount to incarceration in ‘concentration camps.’
Forty three years after World War II, the US Government succumbed to domestic political pressure and concurred to pay restitutions in the amount of $1.2 billion to the affected Japanese families The 1988 American decision on restitution was accompanied by a moving statement and a pledge:
“In remembering, it is important to come to grips with the past. No nation can fully understand itself or find its place in the world if it does not look with clear eyes at all the glories and disgraces of its past. We in the United States acknowledge such an injustice in our history. The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.”
Ten years after the American commendable decision, in February 2008, the Government of Australia officially and publicly extended full and unreserved apology to its Aborigine citizens for historical wrongful treatment, for “the “laws and policies that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.” The Australian Government did not mentioned reparations for the Aborigines by name, but amends for the purpose have been coming, albeit grudgingly.
Fair-minded people would agree that Blacks in Global Africa have endured greater ‘collective injury’ than all the other groups combined. Yet, no reparations have ever been paid to them. Legal experts insist that this failure is due to the enormity of the Blacks’ issue; it is too overwhelming. The case of apartheid victims is manageable and that makes it a bigger issue than just South Africa. As a legal and moral precedent, it embraces the entire Global Africa.
Even if he could, President Barack Obama is not obliged to rescue Africa; Americans voted him into power and he is answerable to them. However, slavery was an American sin and I remain convinced that Obama has a presidential and personal responsibility to apologize to global Africa for that wrongdoing. That issue alone is an opportunity to place the first Black American president in his rightful place in history. Hopefully, Obama will not let the moment slide by.
*James N. Kariuki is a Professor of International Relations and an independent Consultant based in South Africa. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.
The Finger Portrait:Little Things Matter
January 20, 2013 | 0 Comments
Novel by Nkong Kima*
The twilight ember began to wane gradually into the bosom of the grey clouds suspending above the semi- circular highlands as heaps of cotton wool soaked in potash. The smoky substance ceiled the yellowish ember hanging beneath the blue sky; a remnant of the majestic sun that had risen with blooming and colourful rays in the early part of the morning. This was the atmospheric view of the farming season as hectares of farmland stretched out across the hills and valleys in sun-burnt texture. Heaps of dried grass, twigs and shrubs were alighted across the sloppy landscape and stretched out from portion to portion producing the greyish smoke that polluted the whole atmosphere. Twilight began to give way to complete darkness and it seemed every sound went mute as nothing could cross over into the exhaustive ears of returning cultivators who only bothered to think of reaching home. The melodious chirp of eventide birds was nothing more to attract their attention. One would not expect that the heart of a dry season would portray such dark features when the multicoloured evening sunrays should have been blooming as a prelude to summon unwedded maids to dating ventures. Many of these maids would see such gloom as a premonition to a future of barrenness or singlehood. Oral tradition held that a dating session should be void of atmospheric bleakness in order to guarantee a potentially productive generation. But if gloom persists, tribal oracles would come out in their seasonal rituals to evade the impending calamity and appease Mother Earth with blood sacrifices.
The greyness of one of those dry season evenings added to the woes which to say the least were utterly unprecedented. The importunate scapegoat caught in delusion with his self-desired circumstances stood with a gaped mouth like an ancient Egyptian mummy worn by dotage. It appeared he lost all sense of direction like one whose brain underwent a severe current shock. It was difficult to determine whether he stood anticipating a move to regain consciousness or to seek for compromise in a fateful escape. It looked obvious that he had a challenge before him which required a well disposed strategy to prove his manhood or be a woman and resign to fate. The latter option had grounds of consideration, for how could he regain his gracious esteem from a people whose preoccupation was always torch-searching opportunities to ridicule self-acclaimed cynosures? Rapt in this state of confusion, he could only preoccupy his mind with illusions or fantasies. In that state of absurdity, he began to attribute his mishaps to his childhood and upbringing; a situation he accused his parents for not being competent role models in child breeding. His accusation did not spare the state though for breeding anarchical principles to destabilize the aspirations of an enthusiastic youth.
All this took place during and after the funeral rite that enthroned this victim of circumstances as next of kin to the clan he was secretly accused of being responsible for the fate of its previous custodian, his own biological father. Now in this state of disarray, especially as he couldn’t completely disclaim the accusation for his father’s sudden death, he developed complicated neurosis that needed a long mental restoration process to enable him regain sanity. With the consent of the psychiatric department of Queen of the Rosary Hospital (QRH) Mealenga, he was to be confined in this department for an effective restoration target. Dr Mbubia, the departmental assistant had been known for his expertise in arresting mental disorders. He was personally assigned by Mother Hopegiver, the matron of this hospital, to use “all available craft” to restore the patient’s wits. It was the expressed wish of the members of the Eshuofua clan to have a custodian to look up to; someone anointed by the gods to lead the great clan. That was why in spite of the next of kin’s scandalous crime, the will of Mbe Eshuofua Tanyiatem to have him as a lawful successor to the great clan could never be tampered upon. It was a priority for the elders of this clan to safeguard against any unprecedented calamity which could come as a penitential ransom for reversing the words of their household gods.
The elders were aware of the changes in their new custodian and would not dare to act against the latter’s wish to be healed by medical means. His ardent hatred for traditional healing methods brought him into open confrontation with the elders who wanted to send him to Ngangafu, the tribe’s diviner. He denounced Ngangafu and his practitioners as cultic gamblers and swore to stand up for a fight with any who would venture into Alenga with what he described as a hypnotic brainwashing ordeal. Dr Mbubia was his choice to whom he personally saw an ideal redeemer. The pleasure of talking to such a great medical wizard was sufficient to calm the victim’s anxiety. Dr Mbubia was a short and stout white man full of admirable features. He hailed from Naples in Italy as Agusto Napolo, but known as Mbubia in Bioleh by dint of his profession. When he smiled, something he did quite often, it was enough opium to invite solace to a dejected soul. With the patient now in his QRH department, Dr Mbubia set out for a pragmatic measure to redeem the latter. He soon discovered the patient’s major hobby in writing, especially social events and anecdotes, and did not hesitate to supply the latter with sufficient paper and ink to write whatever he pleased. Dr Mbubia’s craft was to dig into the victim’s unconscious mind to decipher the malady with the conscious. He further showed concern by reading whatever his patient wrote with interest and curiosity, thereby motivating the latter to set down uninterruptedly. With this motivation, the patient set out to write an account of his own lifetime experiences as a special dedication to his ideal friend – whatever that meant. To him, Dr Mbubia was an incomparable missionary and he chose to address him using the French version, Missionnaire, since he considered it more romantic and intimate. For thirty uninterrupted days, nothing preoccupied this victim than that epistolary account to his ideal man.
With now a full grasps of Kerdy’s state of mind, Dr Mbubia swore to the matron Mother Hopegiver that he had had sufficient basis to set out for a pragmatic restoration target on the poor victim. How he was to accomplish it depended solely on a professional know how that only he alone could determine. The Eshuofua elders had persistently knocked at Mother Hopegiver’s door expressing disgust and disappointment on the healing process.
‘We don’t understand what exactly is going on Mother Hopegiver,’ they would jointly complain. ‘We had expected to see Dr Mbubia demonstrate his veteran expertise. But all he does is supply the patient with “book” and “pencil” with which he wastes days out writing madness and getting all the more worse. Yet Dr Mbubia takes and reads and gives him more “book”. Has it become a child’s play? We are eager to see the acclaimed magic power of Dr Mbubia. We are not here to waste time. Let him declare if he can handle the patient’s situation or not. If the white man’s magic fails, at least the black man’s can prove its worth.’
‘Let’s not be so anxious, most respectable and conscientious elders,’ the senior lady cautioned. ‘Dr Napolo knows every bit of what he is doing with the patient. You and I may never understand. Aren’t we all witnesses to his pragmatic restoration of similar neurotic cases, even those with real madness? I plead with you elders, let’s just be maturely patient.’
‘We were beginning to wonder if this is the great Dr Mbubia we have known and acknowledged,’ another elder gave in. ‘We expected to see him mixing the white man’s concoctions and giving our custodian to drink. Or perhaps diluting the white man’s injections and applying.’
‘That is perfectly right,’ Mother Hopegiver acknowledged, ‘but it is not in all cases that oral treatment is applied to all patients. Just only be hopeful as usual, dear elders, and do not fail to pray to the Great God Almighty through Jesus Christ our Lord and Mary Queen of the Rosary and the Universe.’
‘I am sure, Mother Hopegiver, that you understand our worry so well. The Eshuofua clan is a great one in the entire Bioleh territory. This is the clan that even the great Fuamaleh looks up to. It has been known for its great deeds in our society. Fuamaleh has expressed, in a number of occasions, the clan’s indispensability to the Bioleh Cultural and Development Initiative (BICUDI). It is a great clan that has enlisted great custodians right from the time of Eshuofua Mbendee. I’m certain you must have heard of Mbe Eshuofua Atabong 1, the man who died few years ago. He was misguided by some fateful gods to ditch out the throne to some dooms end but our forefathers spared the great clan from an unrelenting curse and shame. Then came Mbe Eshuofua Tanyiatem, the immediate father of your patient, whom you know died of a broken heart. This is why all of us here are putting on these sack clothes. As his own will unveiled, his lone legitimate son – your patient here – was to become the next of kin. The king makers of Fuamaleh had no option but to enthrone him amid this befuddled state of mind. So you must see why we are doing every possible thing to bring him back to his rational state. We are obliged to do this lest the gods of our forefathers place an indelible curse on us.’
‘I have heard your cry elders and I can only advise you to hope in the one and only Lord who will inspire Dr Napolo to come up with a solution to this unprecedented problem. No other god can do this. You may go now and only hope in the Blessed Trinity. Goodbye.’
The elders left Mother Hopegiver’s office without much enthusiasm. They could not anticipate any sensible reason why a mental patient would simply be supplied paper and ink to be writing what appeared to them as nonsense, and his pretentious rescuer would only take and read with utmost satisfaction. He would even shun food and drink whenever he held up a pen and paper to write to his ideal missionary. But as Dr Mbubia persisted in this strange form of healing, with the full support of his boss Mother Hopegiver, the Eshuofua elders soon gave up their doubt and resolved to keep their fingers crossed and watch the white man’s magic.
* Nkong Kima is a Teacher ,Writer and Critic. The views expressed in the blog Cumaland Diary are his.
November 6, 2012 | 0 Comments
Racism is basically a power struggle. Those in society who are privileged want to keep their power by keeping the minorities oppressed. This is done in the most subtle way possible, preferably invisible for the majority and difficult for the oppressed to realise. This can be done in different ways, for example by using racist expressions, reproducing stereotypes through media, having different laws for different groups in society, discrimination, harassments and hate crimes.
There are Swedes argue that the word “negerboll” is a Swedish word and should therefore be used and not replaced by “chokladboll”. In short the discussion is based on the name of a round cookie made out of chocolate sprinkled with coconut flares. It has been called “negerboll” which means “nigger ball” and is now called due to obvious reasons “chokladboll” which means “chocolate ball”. This vocabulary modification in the Swedish language to show respect to black people has, as mentioned, been met with resistance. There are even a t-shirts for sale which say “Varför får man inte säga negerboll när man får saga vitlök?” (Why can’t you say nigger ball when you can say white onions?), as well as a facebook page called “Svenska Negerbollar” (Swedish Nigger balls) which currently has 26 005 likes.
This word, I argue, is important to some of the people in the majority group in Sweden because they are scared that they will lose some power if they do not continue oppressing. If the oppressed gain a voice they will eventually be equals. The majority group is in this case so paranoid that even if they are standing on to the heavy brick of power they are insisting on placing their brick on top of the oppressed. This is what determines white rage. It is overall the perceived diminishment of power. In other words, white rage can occur even though minorities are not gaining power but the white person has a paranoia that it is occurring and are outraged because of that.
The oppressed is however not passive in the power struggle. There are some efforts pertained by few of the oppressed to gain some power. One is to subdue to the majority, to integrate, change and become someone who is quiet when encountering racism. But this way will only make the oppressed seem to have power but really s/he is not free nor considered equal with the majority, only slightly better than his/her own minority group.
Another way of gaining power is to try to oppress the majority group. In Sweden immigrants use the word “svenne” when insulting Swedish people. Basically “svenne” means a Swedish person. It has no history of being degrading, such as the n-word has, and has therefore not got the same impact, but still many Swedes consider this an offensive word and even occasionally equalize it with the n-word as if this linkage should approve for the n-word to be used.
Finally, the most effective way to gain power is to not accept being oppressed. For every degrading action towards the oppressed minority group there is a counter-attack in form of for example a good argument, a demonstration or pressing charges.
I am tired of listening to the endless discussion circulating the word “negerboll” because one argument for keeping the word is dumber than the other. Instead of just admitting that it is pretty nice sitting on the top of the brick dangling ones legs arguments such as; we have always used that word and it’s nothing wrong with it and why can’t we say “negerboll” but we can say white onions are being spit out. I sound pretty negative but I do have a theory that we are heading towards the right direction even though we are taking mini steps to get there.
There are white people who believe in human equality and are anti-racists. I don’t mean people who say they believe all people are worth the same and simultaneously are quiet when someone says something racist. I mean that there are people who are truly anti-racist and thereby fight for human equality. These people are willing to give up some of their power to give someone who belongs to a minority group power. These people are exceptionally rare but very important because the only way to combat racism is to even out the distribution of power amongst different groups in society which is something worth aiming at despite how much white rage we encounter.