Nigeria: National Conference and “the fierce urgency of now!”
November 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Chido Onumah*
Like many Nigerians I am suspicious of the national conference or dialogue proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan. But unlike some of those who have expressed their apprehension about the conference, I believe in the imperative of the “fierce urgency of now!”
“The fierce urgency of now” was a phrase popularised by Martin Luther King, Jr. clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered fifty years ago on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., Rev. King “compelled a (troubled) nation to examine its conscience and, at long last, take action.”
“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy,” he said in reference to the racial injustice that defined the American society then (and still does today). The thrust of his argument was that unless America confronted its national “demon” by addressing the fundamental question of race there would be “neither rest nor tranquility in America.”
More than anything else in Nigeria today, we need to confront our “fierce urgency of now.” The question that we must answer today, not tomorrow, is: How do we secure the promises of nationhood? This nation was founded on injustice and has been sustained through injustice in more than five decades of independence. This is why I think we should pay more than a cursory attention to the work of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue and by extension the planned national conference.
I understand the apprehension of those who argue that we travelled this road before with General Sani Abacha and President Olusegun Obasanjo. But we are in a dire situation today simply because we allowed these rulers to take us for a ride.
I am, therefore, comforted by the robust and well-thought-out memorandum submitted by the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), the Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO), the Coalition of O’odua Self Determination Group (COSEG) and other groups even though I fundamentally disagree with their main argument that the conference should be centred on our ethnic nationalities.
Now is the time for anybody or group that means well for Nigeria to speak out and make their grievances known. This administration has no choice but to listen to the voice of the people. Nigerians can determine the shape and outcome of the national conference if they are ready to do so.
It is for this reason that I am perturbed by the nature of the debate and the national outrage bordering on hysteria that gripped civil society in the wake of allegations that the country’s minister of aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, had coaxed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, an agency under her ministry, to buy her two bulletproof BMW cars at the cost of $1.6m. My position is that we cannot tackle corruption, abuse of office and impunity in Nigeria – vices that have made us a laughing stock in the comity of nations – without dismantling the very structure that makes these vices thrive.
Let me buttress my point. I agree with those who have identified corruption as our national “demon”; one that needs to be confronted frontally. But there is also the reality that the endemic corruption in Nigeria is not because Nigerians are patently corrupt or fraudulent. That, as a people, we can’t agree on what constitutes corruption or abuse of office, à la Stella Oduah, is emblematic of the unresolved crisis of nationhood that confronts us. That such national tragedy could not get nation-wide traction either because of ignorance, ethnic solidarity or elite manipulation is a reflection of the fact that corruption itself may not be our national bête noire.
Of course, Stella Oduah is not alone. If we look at some of the more recent national heists that have taken place in the name of governance in the country, it is evident that the Nigerian state is a full-fledged criminal enterprise: The $180m Halliburton bribery scandal involving former heads of state; the N155bn ($1bn) Malabu Oil grand larceny allegedly masterminded by former oil minister, Dan Etete; Diezani Allison-Madueke’s Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) non-remittance of N450bn ($3bn) to the federation account because “the NNPC is not subjected to the consolidated fund of the federal government since it runs very capital intensive operations beyond what government can finance”; the Farouk Lawan/Femi Otedola $600,000 oil subsidy bribe-for-vote scandal; the planned arraignment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of the sons of the Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, for allegedly laundering over N10bn ($67m); Sule Lamido’s own admission that he informed the president (the presidency has since denied the allegation) of a serving minister that collected $250m bribe; and the latest bombshell by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State that the presidency secretly withdrew $5bn from the excess crude account.
Two years ago, Saharareporters, just as it did with the bulletproof BMW cars scandal, also broke the story about how N20bn ($133m) was siphoned from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The story (details of which are documented in my book, Time to Reclaim Nigeria) involved a land buy-back scam in which the name of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, featured prominently.
The CBN, through its head of corporate communications, did acknowledge that it paid about N20bn ($133m) for a piece of land, originally owned by a government agency, NITEL, to build “a world- class conference centre.” Ms. Oduah, yes the same Stella Oduah was alleged to have collected N7bn ($47m) from the booty on behalf of Neighbour to Neighbour, President Jonathan’s “grassroots” campaign organisation for the 2011 presidential election. Of course just as there are no bulletproof BMW cars, two years later there is no “world class conference centre.” Talk about the “six degrees of separation” of corruption!
What the foregoing illustrates is that governance in Nigeria is a big scam because the nation Nigeria itself is a great fraud. Anyone who is concerned about corruption, about the fact that we haven’t had a credible census since independence, about the wanton destruction of lives by those who claim they want to propitiate Heaven, about impunity – whether presidential, gubernatorial, ministerial or by law enforcement agencies – or about the fact that we can’t conduct “free and fair” election in a single state out of 36, must invest some time to make the quest for a genuine national conference a reality. There can’t be any excuse. We must insist on this by any means necessary.
Talking about election, we can’t allow the 2015 election distract us from this urgent national assignment. For those who say the national conference will “disrupt” the 2015 election, I say good riddance because the election will be rigged anyway (elections in Nigeria have been rigged since independence and things are not about to change) and if necessary declared inconclusive.
If we can call on President Jonathan to sack erring ministers and expect him to do something about corruption, then we might as well go “the whole nine yards” and “force” him to do the right thing concerning the national conference. Let me say, at the risk of sounding repetitious that a genuine national conference is not a silver bullet. But it provides us a template for moving forward as a nation. And nothing can be more important than this. The sooner we hold this conference the better! Some of us are tired of waiting for Nigeria (or the president) to fix itself. It won’t happen.
I end this piece by paraphrasing Rev. King: It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. The whirlwinds of revolt (read corruption, violence, ethnic cleansing, impunity, etc) will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
*Onumah is a Nigerian journalist. He is the coordinator of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (www.africmil.org) and author of Time to Reclaim Nigeria, Essays 2001-2011 (2011) and Nigeria is Negotiable: Essays on Nigeria’s Tortuous Road to Democracy & Nationhood (2013).email@example.com; Twitter: @conumah
Extraordinary Ethiopia – ancient, booming but undemocratic
November 20, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Richard Dowden*
That is the trouble with the modern media. Faraway places of which we know little are only shown to us when something bad happens. In the case of Ethiopia, the 1984 famine and subsequent hungers have fixed its image in the global mind. It is as if the image of the collapsing Twin Towers in 2001 typified America. But of course we have other, more positive, images of America but none of Ethiopia. So I tell them: “Ethiopia? It’s great. It’s Booming!”
Addis Ababa is being transformed as if by monstrous engines boring through the heart of the city. A new motorway flows into town sweeping aside all before it and an urban rail system is smashing through buildings, roads, gardens – everything accompanied by cranes and trucks, noise and dust. All along its path the traditional one-storey homes of mud, wooden planks and rusted corrugated iron roofs are bulldozed into heaps and replaced by six or more stories of concrete and brick. Hammering, grinding and showers of glittering acetylene sparks proclaim the arrival of armies of Chinese workers and the rise of mighty steel and glass constructions.
The lesser building sites are full of Ethiopian workers; some newly arrived from the rural areas. Addis used to feel like a timeless city. People hung around talking or walked slowly as if on a long stroll. Now they march the streets with speed and urgency. All seem to have watches and mobile phones. Even the poor seem to have purpose. I watched one man sitting by the roadside carefully stitching the seams of his disintegrating trousers with string. For the better off the vast market quarter,Mercato, is seething with bustle and business.
Ethiopia has one rich asset that much of sub Saharan Africa has lost or never developed. It has been a state for a very long time, longer than Britain and most of Europe. Its people, language, culture are all rooted more than two thousand years ago and further back the first humans and their hominid ancestors walked here. Ethiopians’ connections to the Semitic world go back thousands or years through migration and trade. Its Coptic Christian rituals and ceremonies came from Egypt in the 3rd century A.D.
When Europe took over much of Africa at the end of the 19th century Ethiopia was already a state, capable of raising an army that defeated the invading Italians in 1896. It then made an alliance with the invading Europeans which gave it new territories. The Emperor Haile Selassie cooperated with the European powers, but in 1936 Italy seized the country. Only seven years later it was free again and, unlike its northern part, now Eritrea, never colonised. All this gives Ethiopians a special self-confidence in who they are, where they come from and where they are going.
Its recent history is also extraordinary. In 1974 Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown by the army. But a group of Marxist students from the Tigray region at Addis Ababa University who had fought to overthrow the Emperor, saw the revolution hijacked by an army coup led by Major Mengistu Haile Mariam. Led by Meles Zenawi, these intellectuals formed the Marxist Leninist League of Tigray, left Addis and took the long march to the mountains in the far north. Linking up with their Eritrean neighbours and cousins who had already been fighting for years for their independence from Ethiopia, the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front started a new war against the military regime.
12 years later Mengistu fled as the TPLF and the Eritreans arrived at the gates of Addis Ababa. It was an astounding achievement, especially since they had no regional supporter. But the truth was that, for all their bravado, the TPLF leaders had not expected the Soviet Union to collapse so suddenly and with it the Mengistu regime. They may have hoped that a long struggle might nibble away and gain greater independence for Tigray. Suddenly they found they could eat the whole cake.
How could they claim legitimacy? As their army approached Addis Ababa Meles came up with a brilliant solution. The TPLF would find allies among Ethiopia’s other ethnicities and create a national umbrella body, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front. They also created parties for Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups; the Amhara, Oromo, Somalis and ethnically mixed southerners (who were traditionally regarded as slaves). Like the Eritreans, all these ‘nationalities’ were given the constitutional right to secede from Ethiopia by referenda. In theory.
In this way Ethiopia took the opposite direction to other African countries. The rest all tried to create nationalism by suppressing ethnicity and even banning ethnic-based political parties. Ethiopia based its political system on its constituent parts. It was an extraordinary gamble. It works at the moment but of course no referenda have ever been organised or even discussed.
At the time Meles said his movement’s model was Albania. The Americans and Europeans who felt they had just engineered the total defeat of global communism, gulped. After all, Mengistu may have been a Communist but he wasn’t a looney. Then it became clear that this model simply meant that, like Albania, the TPLF was independent socialist, not aligned to Moscow or Beijing. It was not at all committed to the economic policies of Enver Hoxa.
Like any good socialist who wins the jackpot, Meles Zenawi was not going to squander his winnings. While the state retained close control over land, the economy and key state-owned companies, Ethiopia was to allow capitalism to flourish and have the best of both worlds. Key sectors are state-controlled but the buccaneer capitalists are given free rein.
With the Soviet Union gone, Meles engineered good relations with the United States and Europe. When he and Isias Afwerke, his former ally in the revolution who became President of independent Eritrea, went to war – twice, the West backed Ethiopia. It won both rounds of the war but did not press home its victory, another counter intuitive but brilliant decision by Meles although it nearly cost him his job. The Ethiopian army wanted to carry on to Asmara and change the government there. Now the two armies face each other along the border; landlocked Ethiopia open to the world, coastal Eritrea – like its president – a reclusive, closed and difficult state.
When Meles appointed Hailemariam Desalagne, a southerner and a Protestant to boot as Deputy Prime Minister, many saw this as a token gesture to the southerners and a manoeuvre to prevent a rival emerging from one of the powerful highland ethnic groups. But when Meles died in July last year, the succession fell to Hailemariam. Although he sounds more like a technocratic civil servant than a national leader, he is beginning to consolidate his power and appoint his own people in top jobs. Ethiopians are beginning to realise the deeper meaning of his appointment.
Meles’ successor could not be another Tigrayan. Nor could it be an Amhara because Ethiopia has almost always been ruled by Amharas and the Oromo, a larger group, would be up in arms. The choice of an Oromo would upset the Amhara. A Somali? Since Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 and again in 2010 and is still interfering there, that is unthinkable. In the past a southerner could no more have ruled Ethiopia than an Arab could rule in Israel. But Hailemariam, hardworking, technocratic, continuing to deliver the economic boom and not part of the traditional Ethiopian power struggle, was the perfect choice. It will work as long as the economy keeps growing at a good clip.
But make no mistake, parliamentary democracy as we in the West understand it, has no role in today’s Ethiopia. Out of the 547 elected members of the country’s lower chamber only one is from an opposition party. I met him. Girma Seifu Maru is a nice man but a lonely one. As Meles Zenawi said: “There is no connection between democracy and development”.
And whose picture hangs in every government office in Ethiopia? Not President Muluta Teshome, whose name and face few Ethiopians would recognise. Nor Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalagne. It is Meles Zenawi.
*Source African Arguments.Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society and author of Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles published by Portobello Books
UN Security Council Rejects Delay of Kenyatta, Ruto Trials
November 16, 2013 | 0 Comments
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council on Friday rejected a resolution that would have delayed the International Criminal Court trials of Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto.
Only seven of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution – two votes short of the required nine. The remaining eight members of the Council abstained.
Kenyatta and Ruto are both accused of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the violence after Kenya’s 2007 election that left more than 1,100 people dead. Both men have denied the charges.
The trial of Kenyatta before the International Criminal Court in The Hague was originally set to begin earlier this week but was postponed until February 5.
The resolution to delay the trial for a year had been pressed by the African Union and was brought to a vote despite the wide expectation that it would fall short of the required nine “yes” votes. African diplomats said they had been hoping against hope that they would find the additional two votes to gain approval.
Kenya’s representative at the United Nations, Macharia Kamau, was blunt in expressing his disappointment. “The deferral has not been granted. Africa’s request through abstaining votes cast by certain members in this council has been turned down. Reason and the law have been thrown out the window, fear and distrust have been allowed to prevail. Africa is disappointed and we regret this very much.”
Rwanda was one of three African members of the Security Council voting for the deferral resolution – the other two were Togo and Morocco.
Supporters of the resolution argued that Kenya’s leaders are needed at home to fight the threat of terrorism, especially after the al-Shabab attack on a Nairobi mall that killed more than 60 civilians.
Rwanda’s ambassador, Eugene Gasana, said, “His excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and the deputy president, William Ruto, should be respected, supported, empowered, not distrusted and undermined in this time. That is why, after this morning’s vote, Rwanda expresses its deep disappointment.”
Representatives of the eight nations abstaining in the Security Council vote argued that the rule permitting a trial delay relates to matters of international peace and security. They said that does not apply in this case. They also held out the hope for continued discussion of the trial during a meeting next week of countries that are parties to the International Criminal Court.
Among the abstainers in Friday’s vote was the United States, represented by Ambassador Samantha Power. “The families of the victims of the 2008 post-election violence in Kenya have already waited more than five years for a judicial weighing of the evidence to commence. We believe that justice for the victims of that violence is critical to the country’s long-term peace and security. It is incumbent on us all to support accountability for those responsible for crimes against humanity,” she said.
Guatemala’s representative, Gert Rosenthal – who also abstained – told the Security Council that the progress in building a partnership between the Council and the African Union was compromised by the vote.
Perhaps the damage is not irreversible, he added, but clearly there was a misunderstanding and both sides were unable to reverse what he called “the regrettable outcome.”
South Africa’s untold tragedy of neoliberal apartheid
November 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Jerome Roos*
Twenty years after apartheid, the old freedom fighters of the ANC have come to reproduce the same structures of oppression against which they once arose.
We were driving down the N3 highway on our way back home from the Eastern port city of Durban, passing by the endless lines of improvised shacks that constitute the Katlehong township just outside Johannesburg, when we saw the flashing blue lights of a police car in the distance. As we approached, a horrific scene revealed itself. A local slumdweller, probably somewhere in his thirties, lay dead on the side of the road, his body awkwardly twisted into an impossible position, his eyes still wide open. Some two hundred meters ahead, a car had pulled over on the curb, its driver casually leaning on the vehicle while talking to a policeman. No one had even bothered to cover up the body. This man just lay there like a dead animal — another road kill in endless wave of needlessly extinguished lives.
Every year, more than 14.000 people are killed on the road in South Africa, an average of 38 per day — nearly half of whom are pedestrians. Of the other half, many die as overloaded buses, micro-vans or so-called bakkies crash during the daily commute from the townships to the city to work as waiters, clerks or house maids. Just today, a bus full of commuters slammed into a truck on a narrow and potholed road to Pretoria, killing 29. But in the aggregate, tragedies like these are only numbers in a cold statistical series.
The front pages of the country’s newspapers remain splattered with horror stories and graphic photos of brutal killings, as fifty people are murdered daily. Another 770 people die from AIDS every day. A total of 5.7 million, or 18% of South Africans, is HIV/AID infected, the highest infection rate in the world. Needless to say, one of the bloody red lines that runs through the broken social fabric of this heartbreakingly beautiful country is that human life is accorded shockingly little value.
All of this became painfully obvious in August last year when militarized police forces violently cracked down on a wildcat miners’ strike in the platinum town of Marikana. In the ensuing bloodbath, the most serious bout of state violence since the Sharpville massacre of 1960 and the end of apartheid in 1994, 34 workers were killed after being peppered with machine gun fire at close range. Needless to say, the Marikana massacre brought back painful memories of police brutality under white minoritarian rule. This time, however, the policemen and politicians responsible for the massacre were mostly black and represented the same party that had once led the struggle against racial oppression: the ruling ANC of President Jacob Zuma and the iconic freedom fighter Nelson Mandela. The Marikana massacre was the most powerful expression yet that little had changed below the surface. The violence of the state simply reasserted itself anew under the ANC.
Today, the ANC faces a growing crisis of legitimacy. While it is still on course to win next year’s elections, disillusionment with the party and its leaders has become widespread even among its traditional support base: poor people living in the shantytowns. “The ANC today is all about power, not the people,” union organizer Teboho Masiza said during the one-year commemoration of the massacre in August this year. “They are supposed to be here to listen to the problems of the people of South Africa. But they are nowhere to be seen. They only look after themselves.” Andile Nkoci, a young miner from the East Cape, said he felt betrayed: “They have abandoned us. They are only looking to make money for themselves.” Another miner, Alton Dalasile, more recently echoed the exact same frustration: “They have abandoned and betrayed us. The ANC is no longer the party of the poor man, the working man. They care only about enriching themselves.”
The Authentic Tragedy of the World’s Liberal Conscience
The story of South Africa over the last 20 years must qualify as one of the most authentic political tragedies of our era. Once upon a time, not very long ago, the country was held up as an example to the world. In 1994, when the apartheid regime finally came to an end and South Africans overwhelmingly elected Mandela as their first democratic President, the world looked to South Africa with a mix of hope and expectation. In this new era of globalization, the Rainbow Nation seemed destined to break down the lines between social and racial divisions. Legal scholars hailed the country’s new constitution as the most progressive in the world. Truth and reconciliation committees were to set up to transcend old grudges and to come to terms with the country’s racist past. The new South African flag, combining elements of the ANC’s party flag and the national flags of Britain and the Netherlands, was meant to symbolize a new harmony converging from racial segregation into “unity-in-diversity”. The new anthem combined elements from the Xhosa and pan-African liberation hymn Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) with the old Afrikaner anthem, Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The Voice of South Africa).
But don’t forget: these were the halcyon days of a triumphant neoliberalism. The Cold War was over, communism had been defeated, the Gulf War had reasserted American hegemony in the world, and Francis Fukuyama had just thrown the doors of the radical imagination shut by publicly declaring the End of History. From now on, global capitalism and liberal democracy were to reign supreme. South Africa, as it emerged from the depths of institutionalized racism, became a progressive beacon of this new world order — and Mandela its very conscience. In this brave new world, Mandela was a former revolutionary turned philosopher-king; an elder of the global village who came to represent not only the suffering and aspirations of black Africans, but also the hopes and desires of Western progressives. Mandela mingled with world leaders, the European royalty and multi-billionaires; he hung out with popstars and sports legends, but he also maintained a close friendship with Fidel Castro and Muammar Khaddafi. Father Madiba, in a way, was above politics. Or was he?
The Post-Racial Apartheid of Neoliberal Globalization
Today, both the revolutionary narrative of the ANC militants and the liberal narrative of the world’s progressives ring increasingly hollow. Racial segregation may have been institutionally lifted, but the socio-economic segregation that undergirded it continues unabated. South Africa is still one of the most shockingly unequal places in the world, ranking second (after Lesotho) on family-level inequality. In this middle-income country, forty-seven percent of the population still lives in poverty, which is actually two percent more than back in 1994. Unemployment formally stands at 25 percent, but the rate goes up to 50 percent for young black men. Twenty years later, blacks on average still earn six times less than whites. While a couple of pejoratively called “black diamonds” have made it to the top, crafting a small indigenous elite that slowly takes up residence in the old vestiges of white privilege, for the vast majority of South Africans nothing has really changed.
Of course, there are good reasons for this. Apartheid fell as neoliberalism rose, knocking down old walls on its quest for globalized market access but forever erecting new ones in its concomittant quest for cheap labor and natural resources. Samir Amin once wrote that “the logic of this globalization trend consists in nothing other than that of organizing apartheid on a global scale.” Apartheid here is not meant as a metaphor; it is what a philosopher might call an ontological category of the neoliberal world order. As Slavoj Žižek has argued, “the explosive growth of slums in the last decades … is perhaps the crucial geopolitical event of our times.” Shantytowns continue to arise around South Africa’s cities and mines as workers migrate in the hope of securing a humble living, even as new gated communities and shopping malls protected by private security guards bearing assault rifles spring up to cater to the consumerist desires of an emerging interracial elite. The Rainbow Nation may be blind to race at the top; but it still reproduces apartheid-era segregation at the bottom.
The Oppressive State and the Political Philosophy of Rights
None of this is a coincidence. In a way, the tragic outcome of the ANC’s liberation struggle was encoded into the very DNA of the party’s vanguardist strategy. First of all, the ANC decided to take over existing institutions — political and economic institutions that were based on systematic exclusion and massive inequality — and thereby ended up unwittingly reproducing these same oppressive structures with a new elite formation. Secondly, as Lawrence Hamilton explains in his book The Political Philosophy of Needs, the ANC leadership deliberately embraced a particular ideological vision of how to “transform” the country: a vision he refers to as the “political philosophy of rights”, in other words: liberalism. South Africa’s new constitution was the clearest manifestation of this: everything was put to work to secure the rights of individuals to vote and be represented, to own property, and to not be discriminated against in any way. Little attention, however, was given to questions of political participation, genuine popular sovereignty, and the satisfaction of basic human needs.
This state-centered and rights-based approach never truly broke with the legacy of apartheid; it merely extended the franchise while keeping the structural logic of separation between people and power, between property-owners and wage-earners, intact. Partly because of the reigning neoliberal ideology of the time, and partly out of fear of reproducing the Zimbabwean experience where Mugabe’s violent land expropriations had led to a white exodus and economic collapse, Mandela and the ANC opted for a gradualist approach that actually ended up turning the ANC into an agent of apartheid itself. Legally, the property rights of white landowners took priority over the human needs of local shackdwellers. Workers’ rights were increasingly hollowed out as the right to unionize gave way to the “right” to be “represented” by a corrupt and ANC co-opted union leadership. The state-oriented approach and the political philosophy of rights thus locked poor South Africans into a logic of representation and top-down decision-making whereby human needs, social autonomy and political participation came to be subordinated to the formation of a new political and corporate elite of former ANC revolutionaries.
Towards Autonomy and a Political Philosophy of Needs
But there are signs that things may be changing. In 2005, a completely different type of movement burst onto the scene when a large group of poor shackdwellers set up a roadblock in Durban to protest against the eviction of an informal settlement. The so-called Abahlali baseMjondolo, or shackdwellers’ movement, has since spread to Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg. With tens of thousands of members, Abahlali now constitutes the single largest grassroots organization of poor South Africans. Unlike the reactionary maverick, corrupt multi-millionaire and former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, who is now contesting the ANC on a Chávez-inspired populist platform, Abahlali stresses its autonomy from state institutions, political parties, businesses and NGOs, and rejects both the ANC and its principal rivals in the opposition, drawing instead on self-organization and direct action to secure improvements in living conditions, to defend communities under threat of eviction, to reclaim urban land for social redistribution, and to democratize society from below.
The ANC and all other so-called revolutionaries betrayed the poor the moment they made it their aim to take over the institutions of apartheid and reproduce them in a different form. But with the ANC’s crisis of legitimacy deepening following the Marikana massacre, more and more people who do not feel represented are being driven towards the only sensible conclusion. Earlier this year, in March, one thousand shackdwellers stormed a piece of land in Cato Crest in Durban, occupied it, and called it Marikana in honor of the slain miners. The action was just one more expression of the dawning realization around the world that, in these times of universal deceit, only an insistence on radical autonomy can take the revolution forward. In South Africa, the only way to overcome the social segregation that continues to needlessly kill hundreds every day, is to embrace a political philosophy of needs that focuses on the empowerment of communities; that operates through democratic participation and militant direct action; and that — instead of trying to ‘emancipate’ South Africans by becoming more like their former oppressors — actively breaks out of the cycle of exploitation by building interracial autonomy from below.
After win in DRC, a confident new Tanzania emerges on the East African stage
November 11, 2013 | 0 Comments
Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete is basking in the glow of one of his country’s best diplomatic weeks in recent times.
When Tanzania offered to send its military as the lead contingent of the new, aggressive UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there were fears it would join the long list of external forces and adventurers who have ended up in eastern DRC’s bottomless political graveyard.
However, just over a week ago, the UN forces and the Congolese army (FARDC) seemed to have handed the M23 rebels a comprehensive defeat.
That not only bolstered Tanzania internationally, but could only have improved its standing in the South African Development Community (SADC). The two other key troop contributing countries to FIB are both SADC members — South Africa and Malawi.
It is no coincidence that after the M23 scattered, South African President Jacob Zuma held a summit to discuss, among other things, DRC peace.
A controversial UN Panel of Experts and groups like Human Rights Watch have accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing M23 rebels, a charge both countries have denied.
By last week, however, analysts were acknowledging that M23 would not have been so quickly beaten if indeed Rwanda were still supporting it.
Some feared that events in DRC would increase tensions between the East African Community countries.
In the past four months, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda have had a hectic schedule of meetings at which they announced ambitious regional projects, and even moved quickly on establishing a common tourist visa, and a Single Customs Territory among other initiatives.
Tanzania and Burundi have not been invited, and there were fears the divide between the Coalition of the Willing (as the Kenyatta, Museveni, and Kagame trio has now become known) and Tanzania and Burundi threatened the Community.
At best, that the EAC would become a dysfunctional two-track affair, and at worst that it would collapse as the first one did in 1977. It was also expected that when President Kikwete addressed parliament last Thursday, he would lash out at the Coalition of the Willing, or announce that the loose rival alliance with Burundi and DRC that he has been trying to forge would set out on a separation path.
In the end, none of the above happened. President Kikwete, as a leading East African economist put it on social media, “not only took the high ground but took the posture of the adult in the room.”
He declared that Tanzania was in the EAC to stay, wondered why the Coalition of the Willing was trying to sideline it, and called for the bloc’s business to be concluded by the letter and spirit of its treaties and protocols. It was a new tone of self-confidence from a Tanzania that feels it now holds some key political aces in the region.
“What is costing us in the EAC is Tanzania’s stand on political federation, issues of land, issues of thee labour market and immigration. We have no problem with fast tracking the political federation but only if all steps are followed in accordance to the EAC Protocol. Customs Union, Common Market, subsequently the monetary union and ultimately the political federation. Our stand comes from principle. That is, we must establish first the economic and financial mechanisms and let them take root,” he said.
He added: “When EAC is fully integrated economically and the benefits start to trickle in, then we can start talking about the EAC political federation. It is only when countries start benefiting economically that starting a political federation will make sense. Without a sound economic footing a political federation is a waste of time.”
According to President Kikwete, this stance has cost Tanzania everything else, including the country’s interest in participating in infrastructure projects such as the standard gauge railway line and the oil pipeline and refinery.
“(President) Museveni invited us to participate in its construction, now I don’t know whether he has changed his mind and considers Tanzania not important to the project anymore,” he said.
Tanzania’s place in the regional economic bloc has been in the news in the past few months, following the emergence of the Coalition of the Willing. The coalition members were said to have decided to forge ahead with key infrastructure projects because Tanzania was reportedly dragging its feet on key issues.
“The EAC integration is not just about the political aspect but trade and, therefore, the presidents have to be mindful about business in the region, which is a core thing to the integration,” said Andrew Lumathe, chief executive of the East African Business Council.
“Tanzania has always been cautious on the issue of land, owing to its socialist past. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere advocated the communal ownership of this critical means of production. But in Kenya, for example, land has always been seen under a capitalist model of ‘willing buyer, willing seller.’ As such, Tanzania has steadfastly opposed to the issue of land harmonisation as pursued under the EAC Treaty, saying that land laws differ in all the partner states,” he added.
The EAC wants to harmonise laws on ownership land and all the properties on it like houses, rivers etc, which Tanzania is against.
Unlike in the other partner states, where an individual can own land permanently, in Tanzania the president is the sole custodian of land in the country.
Analysts say it is understandable why Tanzania is jittery about land: The country holds the greatest fraction of arable but unused land in the EAC — an estimated 380,000 square kilometres.
By comparison, Kenya accounts for 32 per cent of the total land area in the EAC but 45 per cent of its land is under agriculture. The UN Population Division projects that as the EAC’s population burgeons from 150 million today to 270 million by 2030, the region is likely turn to Tanzania as it looks to feed its growing numbers.
With Tanzania’s apparent isolation by the Coalition of the Willing, the $4.7 billion railway line project linking Dar, Kigali and Burundi, whose construction is scheduled for 2014, hangs in the balance, should relations worsen.
Rwanda and Uganda seem to be ready to embrace Kenya’s railway corridor linking both countries, including South Sudan to the Kenyan Coast. Diplomatic relations between Dar and Kigali have been frosty following the recent expulsion of Rwandan immigrants from western Tanzania, and President Kikwete’s remarks that Rwanda should negotiate with the Hutu rebel group FDLR it is fighting in eastern DRC.
“The DRC politics is the crust of the matter for now. Tanzania contributed troops to DRC creating varying interests and those issues should be resolved. The five countries have different approaches to the DRC issue,” said Mukasa Mbidde, chairperson of the Legal, Rule and Privileges Committee of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
In September, Tanzania expelled thousands of foreigners working in the country because they did not have work permits, a move that was seen as being against the EAC integration agenda. President Kikwete cited the issue of employment and immigration as one of the reasons why Tanzania was being isolated by its neighbours.
Tanzania said the September exercise was intended to ensure that all foreigners working in the country do so following the right channels. But again, getting the official papers is often a nightmare. It costs a handsome $2,000 to get a work permit in Tanzania, and applicants must wait up to five months to obtain the documents.
Uganda charges $1,500 for work permits, and Kenya, which initially waived fees for East Africans, has since reintroduced a $1,976 charge on job seekers aged under 35. Rwanda continues to keep its borders open to East Africans by waiving work permit fees for EAC citizens.
Burundi charges 3 per cent of the annual gross salary of its foreign workers (including EAC partner states) for a work permit.
On the use of national IDs as travel documents in the region, President Kikwete said Tanzania was not ready to adopt the IDs because it did not yet have national IDs, and has maintained that it cannot take a decision until they are ready to issue to its citizens. Uganda, on the other hand, which did not have national IDs, adopted the decision and is in the process of issuing IDs as a requirement of the EAC.
Tanzanian government officials have long insisted that issues of immigration, land, labour should remain domestic issues and decisions should be made by each partner state and not by the community.
EALA had in April this year passed a motion for a resolution advocating the elimination of work permit fees for citizens of the region in the spirit of enhancing free movement of workers. The move was opposed by Tanzania, which said it would not waive work permit fees for EAC citizens seeking to enter the country.
Last week, Tanzania’s EAC Deputy Minister Abdullah Saadalla said: “Tanzania has its own regulations and procedures and the issue of waiving the fees calls for internal agreements.”
In addition to the accusations of dragging its feet on the integration process, Tanzania’s role in DRC is also said to have contributed to the current isolation by its neighbours.
“The DRC politics is the crux of the matter for now. Tanzania contributed troops to the UN force in DRC creating differing interests. The five countries have different approaches to the DRC issue,” said Mukasa Mbidde, chairperson of the Legal, Rules and Privileges Committee at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
Diplomatic relations between Dar and Kigali have also been frosty following the recent expulsion of Rwandan immigrants from western Tanzania, and President Kikwete’s remarks that Rwanda should negotiate with the Hutu rebel group FDLR in eastern DRC.
Responding to President Kikwete’s speech, the head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Co-operation and Security Zeno Mutimura said he does not think there is a plot to isolate Tanzania but instead Dar has only itself to blame.
Mr Mutimura, who served as Rwanda’s ambassador to Tanzania until 2009, said that a 2009 East African Court of Justice ruling allows partner states to carry on with programmes if one or two members are not ready.
During the infrastructure summit in Kigali, President Museveni, who has been singled out by Tanzanian officials for being behind the plan to isolate Dar es Salaam, said that what is happening should be seen as Northern Corridor countries stepping up the implementation of projects along the corridor. On the issue of the single tourist visa which Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are fast tracking, Tanzania has indicated that it is not for the idea of having the visa until the relevant fee collection infrastructure that links member states is in place.
“In order to have a single tourist visa, there must be a legal framework and infrastructure workable for all the partner states first,” said Dr Abdulla.
Mark Priestly, the country director at TradeMark East Africa in Rwanda, said President Kikwete’s speech was “double-edged.”
“On the one hand, Kikwete is saying Tanzania is committed to the EAC and regional integration and on the other hand there is obvious tension with the trilateral initiative. On the whole, I think that this is a healthy tension and so the EAC is unlikely to split up,” he said.
Uganda government spokesman Ofwono Opondo termed the complaints by Tanzania “a failure to appreciate the progress of international issues and geopolitical interests.”
He added: “There is no integration in the world that happened at once.
In the current EU, Turkey has been on the sidelines for very many years.”
According to Mr Opondo, Uganda had the strongest bilateral relations with Tanzania politically and there should be no reason for leaders in Tanzania to think Uganda would connive behind its back to undermine it.
Kenyan EALA MP Peter Mathuki said that the fact that the Tanzanian president himself confirmed that the country is not moving out of the EAC means that he needs to be embraced and taken seriously as a member of the Community.
“Tanzania cannot be left out of EAC because it’s one of the original EAC countries and therefore cannot be taken for granted,” said Mr Mathuki.
However on the concern that the country is slowing down the integration process, he said that it is a wakeup call to it that the other partners are not happy with the way it is implementing the EAC protocols.
“There is a need to fast track the EAC integration and thus Tanzania should also move with speed just like the other partner states,” he said, adding that Tanzania’s leadership need to consider where their strategic interests are and take Community issues seriously.
Two weeks ago, Tanzania’s East African Co-operation Minister Samuel Sitta told parliament that Tanzania was looking for closer economic ties with Burundi and DR Congo to counter grand infrastructure plans by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, causing anxiety over the future of the East African Community.
However, President Kikwete seems to have thrown the ball in the court of the Coalition of the Willing.
*Source The East African.Reported by Ray Naluyaga, Christabel Ligami, Christine Mungai, Berna Namata, Halimma Abdalla and Edmund Kagire
Is Africa About To Get It Right on Infrastructure?
November 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
ADB targets USD 500 million for Project Development vehicle of Africa50
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Africa5o the continents newest and most innovative infrastructure delivery vehicle is off to a promising start following the recent launch of its fundraising drive at NASDAQ. USD 5oo million is the amount on target by the African Development Bank, ADB, for the project development of Africa50 which will focus on regional and national projects of strategic importance to Africa. Sponsored by the Made in Africa Foundation (MIAF) of Ozwald Boateng, the choice of NASDAQ was to attract interest from investors says Neside Tas Anvaripour, Director of Business Development at the ADB and Team Leader for Africa50. “Africa50 embodies Africa’s promise for sustained growth and prosperity,” said Tas of the project which will be Africa’s largest infrastructure delivery vehicle created so far. The alliance between MIAF and AfDB aims to raise up to USD 500 million for Africa50’s project development arm by the first half of 2014.In an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L, Tas Anvaripour sheds more light on Africa50, the attractive returns it will provide to investors .
The African Development Bank and Made in Africa Foundation officially launched the fundraising for Africa50’s Project Development Vehicle at the Nasdaq headquarters, how did this go and why the choice of Nasdaq and New York?
The event was a positive development in our establishment efforts, as it promoted Africa50’s Project Development Vehicle. The Bank is targeting to raise up to USD 500 million for the Project Development vehicle of Africa50, Africa’s newest and most innovative infrastructure delivery vehicle, to develop regional and national projects of strategic importance for Africa. For us, it was important to launch these efforts in a location that could attract significant interest from investors. As for NASDAQ, we opted for this choice because Africa50 is a commercial vehicle offering attractive returns to investors. NASDAQ conveys this message like few other places.
Who were those who took part at the Fundraiser and what did it come up with, any positive signs?
The event was sponsored by Made in Africa Foundation. We welcome the increasing interest to fuel Africa’s growth. In addition, the event received interest and support from globally recognized names such as: Capri Capital, Huffington Post, Double Click, Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu Foundation, and Gilt Group, through a working luncheon hosted immediately after our appearance at NASDAQ by Arthur Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Personally, I think that attracting mainstream interest into Africa50 is the real sign of success for the events in New York
It certainly should not come to you as a surprise that many people may have heard about the Africa 50 project for the first time because of that launching and many others may not never have heard about it at all, what is the Africa 50 Project?
Africa50 embodies Africa’s promise for sustained growth and prosperity. Through Africa50, we will be developing and financing the infrastructure backbone that is needed in the continent. Through better infrastructure, African countries will increase their global competitiveness, reducing the costs of doing business and accelerating the speed of delivery for goods and services. But, perhaps most notable is the fact that through better infrastructure, which includes power, transport, ICT, as well as water and sanitation projects, Africa can achieve regional integration, thereby growing the size of its internal market at the same time as the current historical expansion of the continent’s middle class. Africa50 is an independent structured credit vehicle able to deliver innovative financing to support transformational infrastructure.
If we understand well, it is a partnership between some private sector groups and the AFDB, who does what, who is responsible for what and what criteria, is going to be used in identifying priority projects?
African Development Bank is the sponsor and seed investor of Africa50. We are currently discussing the participation of several different governments, institutional investors, private companies, and impact investors into Africa50’s founder’s equity base. However, we cannot yet announce specifically who else is part of this initiative. What we can say is that African Development Bank is receiving overwhelming support from Africa, as well as from the rest of the world to set-up Africa50.
The goal is to raise $ 500 million for Africa50’s project development arm by the first half of 2014, how is this amount going to be raised?
Africa50’s $500 million for Project Development is being raised through a combination of commercial investors, impact investors, and bilateral donors. African Development Bank will provide seed capital. At the moment, we are finalizing the specific structure that would maximize the investment level.
At what point should people expect to see the first project accruing from this initiative?
Although we are being described as overly ambitious, my experience in the market reveals that we will have a minimum of two critical investments – be that through Africa50’s Project Development or Project Finance Vehicles – in the first half of 2014. In essence, the market should expect a fast turnaround between establishment and project delivery because speed and efficiency are paramount to Africa50.
To skeptics who will complain that there have heard about lofty promises from the trans-continental road projects, to the huge expectations from NEPAD etc, how do you reassure them that the Africa 50 Project is different?
We have done this before. Between 2009 and 2011, African Development Bank delivered four large infrastructure projects in Senegal that were unthinkable until we came into reality. By investing EUR 185 million, African Development Bank catalyzed over EUR 1.3 billion in total investment in the country, in two years, thereby giving rise to an integrated approach that solidified one of Africa’s most important infrastructure backbones. Through Dakar Airport, Senegal is opening new doors for global investment into the country. The Sendou Power Plant is providing the electricity needed for the airport, as well as for about additional 40% of the country’s population. By investing in the Dakar Toll Road, the airport and the power plant are efficiently connected to the City of Dakar. But, of course, all this wouldn’t be possible without the raw materials –including the coal supplies for the power plant—arriving into Senegal through the expansion of the Dakar Port. Simply put, we have the experience, track-record, and stakeholder’s trust and confidence to enable the successful roll-out of Africa50 into Africa’s infrastructure market.
Everyone will agree infrastructure is an issue, what are some of the other areas that the African Development is putting its focus on?
Agriculture, health and education are also critically important for Africa’s development. By investing in infrastructure, we seek to support other institutional efforts in these key areas. By leveling the playing field by which farmers can bring their products to markets, by shortening distances between health centers and health consumers, and by developing the jobs and industry demanded by graduates, infrastructure holds the promise to continued growth and stability in Africa.
From a personal perspective, there seems to be growing attention from the rest of the world on Africa and its opportunities, what does Africa need to do to reap premium dividends from the attention ?
To translate this interest into higher levels of investment, Africa ought to design and establish the missing investment products and services (i.e. tenor extension, first loss guarantees, credit enhancement, exit options, etc.) while, at the same time, ring-fencing the prospects for healthy returns. This is achieved through an improved enabling environment, a sustained reform effort, and innovative vehicles such as Africa50.
EXPLOSIVE: What Obasanjo Told Me About Third Term — Atiku
November 3, 2013 | 0 Comments
Atiku Abubakar can conveniently be regarded as the proverbial cat with nine lives because the story of his life offers a lot of lessons; starting from a humble background to becoming the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Atiku was the only child of his parents; he neither had a brother nor sister. His father died when he was still in primary school, after he was imprisoned for not allowing his son to go back to school after he visited them. Atiku began feeding his mother since he was a primary school pupil out of his proceeds from cattle rearing. That was how he started his life. He joined the Customs service, was made the Turaki of Adamawa, and was also elected the Governor of Adamawa state.
He could not however assume the mantle of leadership as governor because he was eventually chosen to be the running mate to Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1999 election. He later had a serious political fight with Obasanjo, ran for the office of the president twice and is also a prolific businessman.
In this interview held in his Abuja home with a team of journalists from RARIYA, a Hausa newspaper based in Abuja, Turaki, as he is fondly called, revealed a lot about himself, including his widely publicised ‘feud’ with Obasanjo and the situation of things in the ‘new PDP’.
Excerpts of the interview was translated by PREMIUM TIMES‘ Sani Tukur, with permission from RARIYA.
Q. Can you give us a brief history of your life?
A. Let me first begin by welcoming you all. And secondly, since this is the first time we are sitting together, let me use this opportunity to commend you for setting upRARIYA Hausa newspaper which will enable a lot of our people especially in the north to know what is going on in the land and our relationships with the outside world. We commend you very well, and pray that God grant you success. I know about media business very well, it is not a business in which you even make even, not to talk of making profits. So, only God can reward those of you that have decided to put in your time and resources in this venture. May God reward you abundantly.
My history is well known by most people, but briefly speaking; I am from Adamawa state. I was born in Jada about sixty-six years ago. I started my primary education in Jada before I proceeded to Yola Province College. From there, I went to the School for Hygiene Kano and then finally to the Ahmadu Bello university Zaria, where I studied law. I then joined the Customs in 1969.
I held several positions in the Customs. In fact, at a point I was the youngest Customs Comptroller for the Southwest including Ibadan and Kwara. I gained lot of promotions within a short space of time until I attained the highest rank. I left the customs service on 20th April, 1989. From there I ventured into business where I later on met with General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, and we went into politics and set up a political organisation known as the PFM with a view to getting registration as a political party.
But as you all know, no political party or organisation was registered at the time. Instead, two parties; namely; SDP and NRC were registered. Those of us with General Yar’Adua joined the SDP. We struggled very well in the party where I had wanted to become the governor of Gongola state then. I won the election, but the government of Babangida cancelled the elections. Nine of us were eventually banned from participating in the subsequent election.
We did not stop politicking up till the time Babangida left power. Our first major political battle with the late Gen. Yar’adua was fighting the military to leave power and restore democracy to Nigeria. That was the reason we were in politics. We did not get into politics to get into positions of power.
Honestly, we really suffered in the course of the struggles. Late Yar’Adua once called us together and informed us that ‘what you people are doing is not a minor thing; it may take us up to ten, thirty or forty years without success. So any of us that was in hurry was advised to stay aside. Incidentally, we succeeded in sending the military away, but God did not allow him to see democracy take root in the land.
After that came the government of General Abacha. He invited our organisation to join his government, I remember we met with them at Ikoyi in Lagos at the time; we told them we would only join the government if they showed us the plans put in place to return the country to democratic rule. They did not like it.
Q. Was General Shehu Yar’Adua alive then?
A. Yes, he was alive. That was why no one from our organisation joined the government. He subsequently said there would be a constitutional conference for Nigeria. We also met over that and debated whether to join or stay away. We eventually resolved to participate, because we can use that to force him out of power. About 70% of members of the conference which held here in Abuja, were our people.
The conference thereafter gave Abacha up to January 1st 1996, to leave office. He was so angry with that decision and that was the reason why Yar’adua was arrested and jailed. As for me, they followed me to my house in Kaduna and tried to kill me, but they were unsuccessful. They however killed eight people, six of them policemen, while the other two were security guards. I eventually escaped to the USA.
I don’t know what happened afterwards, and Abacha suddenly asked me to come back to Nigeria. He was planning to run for election at the time. But I asked him to give me the guarantee that I would not be killed or arrested. When I returned, I went to see him and he asked me to work for him because he said he understood I had acceptance in both the North and Southern part of the country. He therefore wanted me to help him campaign to win election.
I told him that I needed to go back to my state and consult with my people. He then asked me what I wanted; minister or governor; but I insisted that I needed to go and consult with my supporters. He told me that he had already discussed with my father-in-law, the Lamido Adamawa, and the Lamido really wanted me to go back and be the governor. But, I told him that there was no way for me to go and become the governor because primaries had already been held and they have even started campaigning.
They told me not to worry about that; all they needed was for me to go back to my state. Upon my return, I saw that all the party’s executive were sacked, that’s for UNCP, the governorship candidate was also sacked, and an interim chairman of the party was already appointed. I met him at the airport waiting for me, and I told him ‘Yes I am the candidate’. I then immediately went into consultations; my supporters said ‘this government attempted to kill you in the past, and it is the same government that is now inviting you to run for office, we your supporters have agreed’. As God would have it, Abacha died the very day we started our campaigns. Abdulsalami became the head of state and when he announced the time table for return to democratic rule; we set up the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. I was one of the few people from my state who set up the party.
I again ran for governor and won the primaries, and then the general election followed. Later on, General Obasanjo asked me to come and run with his as his running mate. That was how I became the Vice president and worked with Obasanjo up to the time God said we should go our separate ways.
After that, sometime in the past, I was forcefully kicked out of the PDP, and we went to set up the AC. After that, I went back to the PDP, before we are now engaged in fresh controversy of the new and old PDP
Q. What is going on now?
A. You know the PDP is not being run on its initial philosophy. There is no internal democracy in the party at the moment. Secondly, since the time of Obasanjo, the party has been used dictatorially; no rules, no truth, no righteousness. What we have now is just selfishness. That is the situation we are in now.
Q. Many people view you as someone born with a silver spoon, or did you also face challenges growing up in the village?
A. The truth is, I was an only child. I had no sibling. My father died even before I completed primary school, and I was raised by my mother; and you know women were not engaged in any serious commercial venture at the time. I was therefore responsible for fending for her, at a very young age..
Q. How old were you?
A. I was around 9 or 10 years then. We had a very wealthy neighbour. At times, I take his cattle for grazing when I return from school. He then used to pay me with either wheat or something and that was what I would take to my mother and grand mother for them to cook for us. We sometimes eat twice or once a day. This started even before I enrolled into school. At the time, they used to go round and pick children and enroll them by force. When they came for me, my father took me and ran away with me up to Cameroun republic. They hid me in a particular village, but we also met the same situation there; children were being forced to school by the government.
So he took me back to my grandmother. I was concealed behind a door the day the people came back for me, but my mother’s younger brother brought me out, and took me to the residence of the village head where I was registered. That was how I got enrolled into formal education. After I started schooling and I was even in class three, I decided to visit my father and see how he was doing. However, immediately I arrived, he told me that I was not going back because he never wanted me to enroll. He said he preferred that I commence Quoranic school and there was cattle rearing and farming to do.
Our headmaster in Jada then reported my father to the Judge. A police guard was then given a summons for my father. They used to come along with a particular stick, which was serving as the writ of summons at the time. He took it to the ward head that also promptly summoned my father. My father was informed that we were being arrested. The guard took us to Jada; we were taken to the court, and the judge told my father you have broken the law by refusing to allow your son go back to school. He therefore sentenced him to either go to prison or pay a fine of ten shillings. My father said he had no ten shillings, and he was taken to prison. My grandmother eventually hustled and got the ten shillings and paid the fine. My father was eventually released and he went back to the village. Unfortunately, I did not get to see him again until I received the sad news of his death.
That was how I continued with my studies and completed primary school. At the time, there was only one examination, that’s common entrance exams that was written; those who came first, second or third are taken to either Zaria or Keffi colleges. The rest up to 10th position went to Provincial College. The others are then taken to various vocational schools. After graduating, they were then given a start up capital. Honestly, I prefer this method of education, not what we have now.
Q. You have set up a form of reunion with your children, why did you adopt this measure?
A. Honestly, there were many reasons why I started the reunion. It is not popular in this part of the world. God has blessed me with wealth and many children; more than twenty, including those I adopted. And as you know, as Islam permits, I have more than one wife, so my children have different mothers. So the essence of the reunion is to entrench unity in the family. Secondly, it affords them to know and understand each other, and thirdly to pity each other. Fourthly not to tarnish the image of the descendants of the family, and fifthly, I am engaged in a lot of commercial activities. So I take the time to explain the details of my business engagements to them.
And I always advised them not to look at what I have, but each of them should go and fend for himself. I also advise them to pay attention to their studies.
I have companies in countries such as Turkey and many others, so I don’t want these companies to fold up after I am dead. I wanted these companies to continue to exist, until their children also take over from them. I also tell them to know that most global companies were started by one person, but those who came after them such as their wives and children did not allow them to die. That is why things are still developing.
In fact, I even brought in a professor from Europe who specialised in family matters to come in and deliver lecture for us.
I also let them know that I am a Muslim, so after my death, they will have to share inheritance based on Islamic injunction. However, I advised them that everyone must allow whatever they are given in a company to continue to exist. They should just get whatever is due to them at the end of each year. I don’t want what I build to be destroyed. That is the reason for our meeting, and it is very important. Now we have a family assembly and rules and regulations for my whole family. We set up the Assembly by picking one male and one female from each ‘room’.
Q. In spite of the fact that the Lamido Adamawa was just your father-in-law; you appeared to be much closer. Since when did he start treating you like his own son?
A. Our relationship started a long time ago, I think around 1980. But you know I was made Turaki of Adamawa in 1982, and my marriage to his daughter also took place on the same day.
Q. Adamawa state has a lot of educated people; but God has elevated you from that state, how did you survive the struggles in the state?
A. Honestly, these struggles are not good; because many felt why should it be me, who is far younger than them that will overtake them and be elevated. You know relationships among the Fulani is difficult. Honestly, they struggle against almost every prominent person in the state. As for me I never harbour any ill feeling towards anyone; I believe that is why God protected me and gave me victory; that is why up to now, no one has succeeded against me.
Q. You are indeed successful in politics and commerce; how did you venture into business?
A. When I joined the Customs Service, I spent most of my time in the South, and if you look critically, you will realise that Customs work is just like business. The European that thought us the job did not teach us how to arrest people; they told us that the duty of the Customs is promote economic development of the country. So if one is found to illegally import materials into the country; you are to be fined either once or twice or even three times, but not to confiscate the goods.
That was why I was getting a lot of revenue for the government wherever I worked. I never regard Customs work as that of confiscating people’s goods or mistreating them. You know whoever pays a heavy fine would not want to import goods illegally again. That was actually how I cut my teeth in business.
Q. you have set up many companies. Which of them do you like the most and is also benefitting you most?
A There is a company called Intels; which we set up with a European partner of mine when we realised that oil and gas business is the main economic activity in Nigeria for a long time. We actually started the company from a container, but it is over 25 years old now. We just celebrated our Silver jubilee anniversary. It has expanded very well. We now have branches in Angola and Mozambique, and we will soon get into South Africa. We are also going to build the biggest port in Nigeria, Badagry, Lagos state, very soon.
Q. You are the first northerner to set up a university, can you briefly tell us some of the challenges you are facing?
A. Well as you know, education is the most important thing in the life of any individual. I attended the meeting of former students of Unity Colleges two days ago, and I told them education is the most important sector in our life today. Whoever thinks that he has arrived simply because he has oil or gold and other mineral resources, should realize those resources will finish one day. In fact, even farming, if we are not careful, in twenty or thirty years, one can look for a land to farm and would not get. Nothing will get us out of poverty and the rest other than education.
I even gave example of many countries that have no farmlands, no oil, and no any form of natural resources, yet they are ahead in terms of development. Look at Japan, look at Singapore; they just concentrated on education. Imagine if my father had succeeded in stopping me from going to school, I would still have been engaged in cattle rearing or still at the village; but look at what education has done for me.
Q. Like how many people are working in your companies?
A. Actually they are many, because even between Port Harcourt, Warri and Lagos, we have over fifty thousand employees. Not to talk of those in Faro, University and Gotel Communications. In fact we are the only producers of recharge cards in the north. Very soon, we are going to commission a company that will produce animal feeds, the first in the north. We will build three in different parts of the north.
Q. Considering the number of companies you own, how comes your name was never mention in the list of richest Africans?
A. It is because I am not among the richest people in Africa and my companies are not quoted on the stock exchange, like the way Aliko did. That is why not many people know what I have.
Q. Can you tell us the estimate of how much you spend to run the University each month?
A. I have already mentioned it; I said around four hundred million each month
Q. Is it profitable?
A. It is not, may be after until after ten or fifteen years, then one can sit down and cross check. Yet, people are still criticizing us saying the tuition fee is high. But if you look at the students there and the vehicles their parents bought for them; you realise that it is ten times higher than the tuition fee.
Q. Why do you allow them to buy the cars for them?
A. What can we do to them? It’s a university, most of them are grown ups; between 18 to 20 years. His father bought a car for him and we say he cannot drive? You know it is an American School, and they have their own ways of doing things.
Q. You have earlier explained that you got into politics not necessarily to get into positions of authority, and you said late Shehu Yar’adua drafted you into politics, or did you already have plans to be a politician?
A. I think both because, when I was at ABU, I was into student politics. I stood for election and even won. I started work and he saw how I was relating with the people and the rest; that was why he called me one day and said ‘I see that you relate well with people, can we do politics together’?
Q. What did you run for at ABU?
A. Deputy Secretary General. Late Dahiru Mohammed Deba, the former governor of Bauchi state was the secretary general, and I was his vice.
Q. We would like to know how former President Obasanjo asked you to be his running mate, seeing that there were many prominent persons angling for the slot.
A. After the primary in Jos, and I was preparing to go back to Adamawa and run for governor, I was told that he wanted to see me in Abuja. So instead of going back to Yola, I went back to Abuja, and on reaching Abuja, he told me he wanted me to be his running mate, and asked if I was willing to? I thought over it and said ‘I am willing’. He then said we should go back to Jos, and inform Solomon Lar. But I said we should go with some other persons, otherwise Solomon Lar would think that I asked to be nominated. At the time, he wanted late Abubakar Rimi to be the running mate. At the same time, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Ango Abdullahi and Bamanga Tukur and Professor Jibril Aminu, all wanted to be the running mate. Obasanjo then asked some people to follow me to Jos to inform Solomon Lar, and that was what we did.
Q. You said, you thought a little over it, why did you chose to be VP instead of governor?
A. I was convinced because he showed me that he was not a politician and I was a politician and he needed my help. That was what convinced me. Even now people keep telling me you have done this and that, what did you regret being unable to do, and my response is always that I regret not being the governor of Adamawa state.
Q. Have you ever regretted being Vice President?
A. No. I never regretted being vice president
Q. In other climes, one can become a Vice president and still go back and be a governor. What were those things you had wanted to achieve in Adamawa that has not been achieved up to now?
A. Honestly, if I had served as a governor in Adamawa, I would have used it as a model for development. Many states would have come to us and learn how to achieve what we have done. Even as a private citizen my investments in the state is drawing people from South Africa, Cameroun and Rwanda, their students are in Adamawa.
Q. But it can be argued that you were like a governor since Boni was the governor?
A. You know the Fulani tradition when it comes to governance is such that when you get your son into position of authority, you are not expected to interfere in his affairs. If he looked for you, you can come, but if he doesn’t; you just have to keep your distance. Boni has never aksed me to nominate even a Commissioner; He is alive; and I have never opened my mouth to ask him to give me a commissioner slot. In fact there was a time my party wrote a letter to him and copied me, in which they were requesting for a slot for a sole administrator for my local government. I called him and told him that my party had written to him and copied me requesting for a nomination for my local government; and he reacted angrily asking what my business was with local government that I would even talk to him. I begged for his forgiveness. So in terms of governance, one cannot be confident of getting his way simply because he had helped a person to office.
Q. And your younger brother became the President, that’s Umaru Yar’adua, was it also like that with him?
A. It was like that. After he was confirmed as the presidential candidate, he came to my house and saw me. I was the vice president, and he told me that now that I have been nominated, I need your help sir. I told him that we came from the same house, but in terms of running for office of the president, we can all run, whoever is successful among us, glory be to Allah. But I told him to know that if not because I fought Obasanjo’s third term ambition, he (Umaru) would not have been a presidential candidate. He acknowledged that, and I said best of luck to us all.
Q. But did he seek for your advice when he became the president?
A. God bless his soul, but when he became the president, I even tried to rejoin the PDP, but I was denied on the assumption that I would clash with him. He was advised to only allow me return if he wins reelection.
Q. You spoke about your disagreement with former President Obasanjo, but at the end of the day, you agreed to support his second term bid, and there were reports he knelt down and begged you. Did he really bend down to beg you or just spoke the words?
A, Honestly, he did not kneel down for me. But he did come to my house and I refused to see him. And he knocked my door continuously and asked me in the name of God to come out, so I came out, and we went downstairs, and he asked me to join him in his car and I said, no, because of security reasons, but he insisted. So when we entered his car, I never knew that he had gone round states pavilions and asking for the support of governors and delegates and they refused to listen to him because they have not seen us together. So that was why he came and picked me up so that we would go round together. There is something that many people did not know before, which I will tell you now.
We sat with party elders and discussed the issue of Presidency and there was debate as to whether the South will have 8 or 4 years? If the South had 8 years, so the north too should have 8 years subsequently. After lots of debates, it was finally agreed that the South should have 8 years. And when power returns to the north, they should also have it for 8 years. However, governors objected to this arrangement. I was then in a dilemma; is the governors’ objection genuine or just a political gimmick. What if I followed them to run against the president and they later on turn their back on me and align with the president? At the end of the day, one would neither be a vice president or a president because politics is a slippery game.
Q. During your second term in office, a top government official at the presidency reportedly ‘lock you and president Obasanjo’ in a room and asked you to settle your differences before you come out? Is it true? What did you discuss in the room?
A. At first we started arguing, and then he opened his drawer and brought out a copy of the Quran and asked me to swear that I will not be disloyal to him. There was nothing I did not tell him in that room. The first thing I told him was that I swore with the Quran to defend the Constitution of Nigeria. Why are you now giving me the Quran to swear for you again? What if I swear for you and you went against the constitution?
Secondly, I looked at him and told him that if I don’t like you or don’t support you, would I have called 19 northern governors to meet for three days in my House in Kaduna only for us to turn our back on you?
Thirdly, I asked him, what are you even doing with the Quran? Are you a Muslim that you would even administer an oath on me with the Quran? I was angry, and I really blasted him. He asked me to forgive him and he returned the Quran back to the drawer, and we came out. In fact we had the same kind of altercation when he was gunning for third term, he informed me that “ I left power twenty years ago, I left Mubarak in office, I left Mugabe in office, I left Eyadema in office, I left Umar Bongo, and even Paul Biya and I came back and they are still in power; and I just did 8 years and you are asking me to go; why?” And I responded to him by telling him that Nigeria is not Libya, not Egypt, not Cameroun, and not Togo; I said you must leave; even if it means both of us lose out, but you cannot stay.
Q. You were the most powerful Vice president compared to others who held the office in the past, what was responsible for that?
A. He allowed me, and he understood some things because he was not a politician, and he needed the support of politicians.
Q. Are you relating seriously with General Buhari, do you call him on phone?
A. We speak a lot, and whenever the need arises for me to go and see him, I do go and see him. I do go to pay condolences and the like.
Q. And politically?
A. If you have not forgotten, during the 2011 election, after they said me and General Babangida have lost out, myself, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and General Aliyu Gusau, under the leadership of General Babangida, held a special meeting in which we invited General Buhari, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and Nuhu Ribadu and advised them to form an alliance so that we would help them win election, but they failed to form the alliance, and after they failed, I sent my contribution to General Buhari. So I don’t have any problem with General Buhari at all.
Q. Something happened recently, which confused a lot of people, in which you led a withdrawal of a number of governors from the venue of the PDP convention, which was live on TV. Was it pre planned? Or it was just arranged at the convention venue?
A. We have been planning for some time because we have spent almost four months planning how to split the PDP.
Q. Who is the arrowhead?
A. At first I don’t know the arrowhead, but they eventually came and met me and I joined them because their reasons are the same with the ones I have been fighting against within the party; lack of fairness, honesty and tyranny. If I can fight the military to restore democracy, why can’t I fight fellow politicians?
Q. But the president did not come out to say he will run.
A. He did since he said he has the right to run. What else is remaining?
Q. On the other hand, Buhari also has supporters just like you do; and he has not come out to say whether he is running or not. Are you planning to run in 2015?
A. Why are you in hurry, don’t worry, now is not yet the time for you to know.
Q. What measures are you planning next, since the courts have declared your faction illegal?
A. We have appealed; and we are planning seriously, you will see what will happen
Q. Is the PDM part of your plans or not
A. I don’t know what the plans of the PDM are because I am not a member.
*Source Premium Times
Is South Africa Losing the Battle?
November 1, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Jayaseelan Naidoo*
We are the biggest economy in Africa and a third of sub-Saharan GDP. Africa’s average global governance index improved almost 8 times more than the country we freed under the leadership of Mandela, according to the Mo Ibrahim index. And that, even though our national budget has quadrupled to R1.1 trillion over the last 12 years. We have squandered our political and social capital. We are the not the case of exceptionalism we once were. Nor are we the model of good governance.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation defines governance as the “basket” of the political, social and economic public goods and services that any citizen living in this century has the right to expect from his or her state, and that any state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens. The Index scores African countries on their progress in four categories: Human development, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable economic opportunity, and Safety and the Rule of Law.
94 percent of Africans living on the continent are living in a country where global governance has improved. But at the same time of better human development and improved economic opportunities, security and rule of law have deteriorated at the continental level in 32 out of 52 countries. “If this deterioration is not turned around, it could signal an era where, despite fewer regional conflicts, we will see an increase in domestic social unrest across Africa,” warns Mo Ibrahim.
For South Africa it is an acid test of our governance. We should rank number 1 on this Index, not number 5. But growing youth unemployment, the crises in health and education and the rising tide of corruption especially at local level impacts on delivery of the public goods. Add to this the rampant inequality and poverty and shocking events like the Marikana massacre, the violent service delivery protests every day and you have a toxic Molotov.
Mo Ibrahim specified that, the Index presents a mixture of overall progress but also of increased complexity,” as it showed vast differences between countries and highlighted the challenges faced by governments in sustaining that progress.”
At a more granular level, the 2013 Index shows many social indicators, related to Workers’ rights, Freedom of expression and Human rights are declining.
We see a breakdown of legitimacy of leaders at a local level. Communities believe that violence is the only language that will get leaders to listen and solve legitimate grievances. And we should not be surprised that social cohesion, participation and the rule of law is now under threat as demonstrated in the Index.
Another continental trend shows that half our population in Africa is under 19. By 2035 our potential workforce will be bigger than China’s or India’. By 2050 we will represent a quarter of the world`s population. That is a demographic dividend if we use this data to plan and allocate resources to creating viable pathways for our youth out of the poverty and joblessness they face today.
As Hadeel Ibrahim says, “These young people of Africa are our developmental army, the people who are going to transform the futures of our countries. We need improve their rights to skills, technology and build the 21st narrative on job creation, livelihoods and entrepreneurship or social instability and conflict will increase.”
Former Irish President Mary Robinson, a Board member added, “The focus of the MDGs [millennium development goals] is perhaps showing through. The weakness of those goals is they didn’t address rule of law and human rights. As we focus now on sustainable development goals, we need to bring in factors that address these issues. Health and education are important, but it’s worrying that the very issues not improving are the ones that bring social cohesion and peace. There are real challenges there.”
The Index also shows that the gap between the best and worst performing countries is increasing. The Foundation hopes that countries and regions can learn from each other. The good news is that post conflict countries like Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Angola, Burundi and Liberia show the biggest improvements in governance since 2000, while Madagascar, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia and Libya have deteriorated the most over that period.
Lastly the Mo Ibrahim Prize has not been awarded this year. In seven years the prize has been given three times to African Heads of State who have left office. Former South African president Nelson Mandela is an honorary laureate even though he had left office before the prize was inaugurated. The prize, the richest in the world, is $5 million once of and then a yearly award of $200 000 for the remainder of the person’s life. “We hope that those who aspire to the prize will live up to the standards of our 3 Laureates: former President Chissano of Mozambique, President Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Pires of the Cape Verde” said the Prize Committee Chair Salim Ahmed Salim.
Does this mean that Africa has failed the leadership test?
The answer is simply no. But relinquishing office after electoral defeat is surely the bare minimum we should expect from our leaders; it’s hardly a mark of excellence. The Prize is awarded to exceptional leadership while in office, not just to the mere act of stepping down voluntarily. I seriously doubt that if this prize existed in Europe or North America it would have been given to any head of state in the last seven years.
But there is a way forward for our leaders. “The Index is the most accurate picture of what is going on in Africa, based on data, not personal views or political bias,” said Ibrahim. “This is reality, a mirror put in front of Africa. This is not a time for African pessimism or optimism. These things are fashionable. This is the time to be realistic and stick to facts. We’re calling for Afro-realism.”
Former President of Botswana Ketumile Masire said, “The public should use this as a tool to check the performance of their governments. We need governments to use these data as something to help them to assess themselves and how the situation can be improved.”
The Index provides a clear roadmap to the success and competitiveness of African countries in improving governance and with it the desired reward of the Mo Ibrahim Prize. But we aim to raise the bar even higher next year as we focus on future trends relating to inequality, social and economic inclusion, poverty and quality of public services at a more granular level.
The people of Africa deserve the restoration of human dignity. The index is our measurement of that commitment to justice.
Disclaimer: Jay Naidoo sits on the Board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Follow Jayaseelan Naidoo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/https://twitter
Ghana:The Four Johns of The Fourth Republic
October 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
Ghana was the first black African nation to win independence on 6th March 1957. On July 1, 1960, Ghana became a republic after Dr. Kwame Nkrumah won the 1960 Presidential Elections. This was followed by military and civilian governments until the current Fourth Republic came into being.
Ghana’s Fourth Republic came into effect on January 7th 1993, after presidential and parliamentary elections in December 1992. The 1992 Constitution provides the basic charter for the country’s fourth Republican democratic government since independence in 1957. It declares Ghana to be a unitary republic with sovereignty residing in the Ghanaian people.
The 1992 Constitution reflects the lessons drawn from the abrogated constitutions of 1957, 1960, 1969, and 1979, and it incorporates provisions and institutions drawn from British and United States constitutional models.
The 1992 constitution, as the supreme law of the land, provides for the sharing of powers among a president, a parliament, a cabinet, a Council of State, and an independent judiciary.
The president is head of state, head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces of Ghana. He also appoints the vice president.
Ghana has had four presidents since the coming into being of the fourth Republic..
1992 -2000 John Jerry Rawlings was the first president of the fourth Republic of Ghana after the PNDC government which lasted for eleven years. In January 1993, Rawlings effected a peaceful transition from being a military ruler to an elected president of the Fourth Republic.
Jerry John Rawlings was born on 22 June 1947. Jerry John Rawlings ruled Ghana as a military Leader in 1979 and from 1981 to 1992 when he was elected as the
First President of the Fourth Republic from 1993 to 2000. Jerry John Rawlings retired from the Armed Forces and set up the National Democratic Congress. The party, with Rawlings as its candidate won the 1992 elections with 58.3 percent. In 1996, Rawlings won the general elections again by 57 percent.. After two terms in office, barred by the constitution from standing in any election, Rawlings endorsed his vice-president then, John Evans Atta Mills as presidential candidate in 2000. The NDC with Professor John Evans Atta Mills as candidate, however, lost the elections to the NPP candidate John Agyekum Kufuor in the December 2000 elections.
John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor was born on 8th December 1938. John Kufuor’s won the December 2000 elections to become the 2nd President of the Fourth Republic of Ghana. His victory in the December 2000 elections after the end of Jerry Rawlings’ second term marked the first peaceful democratic transition of power in Ghana since the country’s independence in 1957. John Kufuor came to the political scene as a minister in Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia’s Progress Party government during Ghana’s Second Republic, and a Popular Front Party opposition frontbencher during the Third Republic.
John Kufuor won the presidential election of December 2000 in the first round, held on 7 December. John Kufuor came first with 48.4%, while John Atta-Mills came in second with 44.8%, forcing the two into a run-off vote. In the second round, held on 28 December, John Kufour was victorious, taking 56.9% of the vote. John Kufuor was re-elected in presidential and parliamentary elections held on 7 December 2004, earning 52.45% of the popular vote in the first round and thus avoiding a run-off.
John Evans Atta Mills was the 3rd President of the 4th Republic of Ghana. He came into office on January 7th 2009 after the presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2008 .
John Evans Fifii Atta Mills was born on 21 July 1944. He was President of Ghana from 2009 until his death in July 2012. He assumed office on 7th January 2009, after he won the December 2008 elections after the third round of voting.
John Evans Fifii Atta Mills was the vice-president of Ghana from 1997 to 2001 under President Jerry Rawlings, He stood as President in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) but was unsuccessful. The results of the first round of elections in December 2008 had Nana Akufo-Addo in front with 49.13% of the vote whiles John Atta Mills had 47.92%.
The second round of voting took place on 28 December 2008 and the result was a slim lead held by John Atta Mills, but, the Tain constituency, located in the Brong-Ahafo Region, was forced to vote again on 2 January 2009. The final result was a victory for John Evans Mills with 50.23% of the vote whiles Nana Akufo-Addo had 49.77%. John Atta Mills thus became the third president of the 4th Republic Of Ghana. He is the first Ghanaian head of state to die in office.
2012- John Dramani Mahama assumed office as President of the Republic of Ghana on July 24th 2012 after the death of late Professor John Evans Atta Mills.
John Dramani Mahama was born on 29th November 1958. He has been President of Ghana since July 2012. He was the Vice President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012, and he took office as President on 24 July 2012 following the death of Professor John Atta Mills.
A Communications expert, historian, and writer, President John Mahama was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2009 and Minister of Communications from 1998 to 2001. On August 30th 2012, President John Mahama was overwhelmingly endorsed as Flagbearer for the NDC Party for the December 2012 elections by NDC Delegates at a Special Extraordinary Congress held in Kumasi, the capital city of the Ashanti Region. He polled 2,767 votes, representing 99.5% out of 2,792 total votes cast. 11 votes were rejected while 14 voted no.
In line with Ghana’s constitution, President John Mahama became President of Ghana on 24 July 2012 on the death of Late President John Atta Mills. He said in
Parliament upon being sworn in: This is the saddest day in our nation’s history. Tears have engulfed our nation and we are deeply saddened and distraught. I’m personally devastated, I’ve lost a father, I’ve lost a friend, I’ve lost a mentor and a senior comrade. Ghana is united in grief at this time for our departed president.
John Dramani Mahama won the 2012 presidential elections in the first round, held on 7 December 2012. John John Dramani Mahama came first with 50.70%, while Nana Akuffo-Addo, flagbearer of the main opposition party, New Patriotic Party, came in second with 47.74%.
On 7th January 2013, John Dramani Mahama was sworn-in as the fourth President of the Fourth republic to begin his first term in office.
Kenyan president Kenyatta’s war crimes trial to be suspended
October 13, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Damien McElroy, Mike Pflanz in Nairobi*
The war crimes trial of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta could be suspended for at least a year under a diplomatic deal to be put to the United Nations.
Western diplomats are preparing a UN Security Council resolution that would put the International Criminal Court (ICC) case on hold after the African Union lodged objections to the trial.
Sources said the resolution was to avoid a damaging stand-off between the court and African states over charges faced by Mr Kenyatta of orchestrating post-election violence that killed more than 1,000 people in 2007-08.
Mr Kenyatta has said he is reluctant to attend the opening of his trial in The Hague on Nov 12 after judges agreed to alternate his appearances with the hearing for William Rutto, the vice-president, who is also charged.
However, an extraordinary summit of the African Union on Saturday issued an ultimatum to the court to stop the case, warning judges that Mr Kenyatta must not be compelled to face trial.
Mr Kenyatta, who was elected last year, welcomed the decision and criticised the court. “It stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers,” he said. “Africa is not a third-rate territory of second-class peoples. We are not a project, or experiment of outsiders.”
Diplomats fear the trial could create a impasse in which the Kenyan leader either pulls out of the process at the last minute or African states start withdrawing from its jurisdiction.
“Uhuru is not an indicted figure who is defying the court like Sudan’s president (Omar) Bashir. He is someone who is working closely with the West in a region in chaos that needs to tackle a very worrying terrorist situation,” a senior European diplomat said. “A solution must be found that avoids a breakdown in relations with Kenyatta or the court’s authority.”
Mr Kenyatta’s trial comes just weeks after Kenya faced its biggest security crisis in recent memory as al-Shabaab terrorists took over Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall. Sixty-seven people were killed in a bloody seige as Mr Kenyatta personally oversaw the security operation against the hostage-takers.
The Telegraph understands that European officials have sought to adopt measures to ensure Mr Kenyatta is not forced to leave the country in the wake of the Westgate incident.
All of the active cases before the ICC are against Africans, prompting claims by polticians that the tribunal is unfairly targeting the continent.
An official close to Mr Kenyatta confirmed the shift in his approach to the charges and suggested it was possible he would stop cooperating. “We have been talking about the double standards of the court for some time,” the official said. “What the president told the AU was simply an extension of that.”
Unless the ICC prosecutor or the court asks its member countries to endorse a postponement, the only authority that can intervene is the UN Security Council. As the US is not a member of the court, it has fallen to British and French officials to push forward a resolution, which could be adopted by the end of the month.
A spokesman for the ICC said it had no scope to object if the Security Council invoked international security issues to suspend the case. “The Security Council can adopt a resolution to impose a suspension based on the protection of peace and security in world,” said Fadi al-Abullah, the ICC spokesman. “In that case it would be out of the hands of the prosecutor as the ICC has no role to advise the security council in these matters.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said Britain had not changed its position that Mr Kenyatta and the other defendents should cooperate with the ICC.
Bill Cash, the Conservative MP and chairman of the All-Party Kenya Group, called on the Government to support a suspension of the trial in a House of Commons debate last week.
“The events in Kenya were horrific but the president was democratically elected by a significant majority in full knowledge of the case. That must give rise to questions over the continuation of the original application to the ICC,” he said.
*Source The Telegraph
AU, Kenya and the International Criminal Court: Beyond Impunity
October 12, 2013 | 1 Comments
Horace G. Campbell*
The African Union should be working hard to ensure that there is no impunity in Africa. If Kenyatta and Ruto are innocent they should not be afraid to get their day in court. Any discussion at the AU about mass withdrawal from the ICC could be tantamount to self-delegitimization
This week many of the current political leaders of Africa will meet in Addis Ababa to discuss whether African states should withdraw en masse from the International Criminal Court because of the indictment of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. This meeting will be an extra-ordinary session of the African Union (AU) organized to deliberate on International Jurisdiction, Justice and the International Criminal Court (ICC). At issue is whether the ICC has discriminated against Africans and whether the case of the killings of over 1,100 persons in 2008 and the displacement of over half a million should be a matter of international criminal law.
To ensure that the original reasons for the case before the ICC are not forgotten, it is urgent that the Assembly of the African Union remembers its mandate and foundational doctrine of non-indifference embedded in Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the AU, mandating the continental body to ‘intervene … in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.’ As such, I am arguing that the special session of the AU has far more serious priorities. If Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are innocent, then they can have their day in court and their exoneration before an international criminal court can only convey greater political legitimacy to them.
As already stated, one aim of the African Union when it was formed was to ensure that there was no impunity for those who committed crimes against humanity in Africa. If indeed, it is the position of the African peoples that the ICC has discriminated against Africans, then the most urgent matter before this upcoming Assembly is for Africans to build regional and national mechanisms to bring those who commit crimes against humanity to justice. Unless the Assembly can demonstrably guarantee the African peoples that the AU has genuine political will and capacity to thoroughly enforce article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act, to stem the criminal activities of desperate and selfish political leaders in Africa, any discussion about mass withdrawal from the ICC could be tantamount to self-delegitimization.
In the past month there has been considerable sympathy for the peoples of Kenya in the aftermath of the bombings at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. While decent human beings everywhere continue to mourn with Kenyans, it should be remembered that leaders such as Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea (the three pressing the case for this special session) do not have the political legitimacy to demand that the African Union withdraw en masse from the ICC.
THE ROAD TO ICC AND THE CASE BEFORE THE COURT
The referral of the 2007-2008 Kenyan post-election violence case to the ICC came, not from imperialists, but from the Panel of Eminent African Personalities established by the African Union — with Kofi Annan as chair and Benjamin Mkapa, former president of Tanzania and Graca Machel, former South African first lady as members.
The ICC charges alleged that Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto helped to fuel the violence that followed the 2007 elections. Both men have declared that they are innocent.
In the heat of this post-election struggle, imperial states such as the United States and Britain wanted the matter to be put aside so that international business could continue to thrive in Kenya. Condoleezza Rice, then the Secretary of State for the United States flew to Kenya to ensure that western interests were given priority. The US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Dr. Jendayi Frazer, represented Kenya as a base for the global war against terror and did not countenance any discussion about whether the election results represented the will of the people.
It was the Panel of Eminent African Personalities that was formally mandated by the AU on 29 January, 2008 to mediate between President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Mr. Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM); the panel was charged with finding a peaceful solution to the crisis. One important outcome of the Panel’s work was the referral of the cases of those behind the violence to the ICC. There had been a demand for the local courts in Kenya to investigate the authors of the crimes but six years after this violence only the homicide of 19 persons has been brought before the Kenyan judiciary.
SELF-TRIANGULATION AND SELF-DELEGITIMIZATION?
In May 2013, Africa celebrated fifty years of unity. While the plan of the Assembly of the AU was to prioritize the next fifty years (Africa 2063) during the deliberations, the agenda of the meeting was hijacked by the energetic efforts of the political leadership of Kenya and their allies to discuss the matter of the cases of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto before the ICC. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda had been as aggressive as the Kenyan leadership in placing the matter of the ICC before the Assembly of the African Union. At the end of the 25 May summit, AU chairman, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn charged that 99 per cent of those indicted by the ICC are from Africa, which left the body in no doubt that the international court’s prosecutors were intentionally targeting Africans. Hailemariam Desalegn stated that: ‘The African leaders have to come to a consensus that the process the ICC is conducting in Africa has a flaw. The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity, but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race hunting. We object to that.’
The debate on the ICC intensified within the corridors of power in Africa with those opposed to the ICC trials couching their opposition in anti-imperial discourse. The AU’s Final Decision and the Summit proceedings reflected the line of the conservative media in Kenya. As noted by one analyst, the Kenyan conservative media view adopted in AU’s Final Decision and Summit proceedings holds that: ‘The ICC is a tool of Western powers that targets and discriminates against the continent; undermines African efforts to solve its problems, especially finding peace and reconciliation in post-conflict situations; and is shot through with double-standards, focusing its firepower only on African countries such as Sudan, Kenya and Libya but not on Iraq or the Gaza.’
Both Yoweri Museveni and Hailemariam Desalegn carried the same arguments to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September when they lobbied for the UN Security Council to call on the ICC to drop the case.
It is clear that in the present diplomatic overtures to drop the case before the ICC – against Kenyatta and Ruto – there are many who have forgotten the origins and enormity of the case and seemingly ignored the fact that its referral to the ICC was made by a panel of Africans mandated by the AU and acting in tandem with the non-indifference doctrine of AU’s founding document. Against this backdrop, the AU could be projecting a posture of confusion, self-triangulation and self-delegitimization if it allows its platform to be used for mass withdrawal from the Court by some African leaders, without first investing in workable structures that can impartially and decisively bring to justice powerful perpetrators of crimes against humanity on the continent.
WHAT ABOUT WESTGATE?
It was in the middle of the intense diplomatic activities by Yoweri Museveni who was campaigning for Kenya to boycott the ICC when the Westgate bombings took place on 21 September, 2013. International sympathy for the Kenyan people and leaders heightened until it was revealed by the country’s media that the Kenyan intelligence and military had forewarnings of the bombing. This information created even more disquiet as there were now questions from far and wide about the nature of the bombings.
While mourning, concerned Kenyan citizens are now posing important questions: why did it take so long for the Kenyan military and security forces to respond to the attack? Why was it that select persons were warned to stay away from the mall on that particular day?
Koigi Wamwere a long time activist from the peace and justice wing of the Kenyan society stated in an op ed that ‘Someone Should Take Political Responsibility For Westgate.’ Wamwere wrote: ‘Amazingly, instead of accepting blame and responsibility for this tragedy, President Uhuru, Deputy President Ruto and their government are positioning themselves to reap political capital and professional gain from their own failure.’
REAPING POLITICAL CAPITAL FROM THE WESTGATE BOMBING
If the current leaders of Kenya are not seeking to reap political capital from this tragedy, then they should join with the rest of Africa in calling for the cancellation of the AU Special Session to discuss the case before the ICC. Presently, the situation in Kenya is too delicate for the matters of killings, bombings and extra judicial violence to be brushed aside. Last week, a Muslim cleric Ibrahim ‘Rogo’ Omar and three other people were shot dead in Mombasa as they drove home on the night of 3 October 2013 after preaching. The next day, after prayers there were eruptions in Mombasa as the passions over the killings spilled out into the streets. Four people were killed in Mombasa during clashes between police and those angered at the killing of a Muslim cleric. Seven people have also been wounded during the disturbances, while a church was set alight.
One other Muslim cleric rightly called for an end to the extrajudicial killings on the streets of Kenya. Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, known as Makaburi, said the police were behind the killings of Mr. Omar and the others. ‘They should tell us the truth about Westgate, not kill innocent Muslims in Mombasa,’ he told reporters at the scene of the wrecked car.
It was in the midst of this instability in Kenya where both Richard Dowden of the Royal Africa Society of the United Kingdom and Jendayi Frazer (former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa) waded into the debate about Kenya and the ICC.
Dowden in his article, ‘Kenya after Westgate: more trouble ahead,’ pointed out that there was more trouble ahead for Kenya and that the west should rally behind the political leaders of Kenya. Without a whisper of the machinations of the British government in Somalia and the efforts to corner the contracts for the exploration of oil, Dowden warned that, there would be ‘more attacks like Westgate in Africa, spreading to countries on the southern border of the Sahara.’ He concluded by saying that the attack on the Westgate Mall was the beginning of the end of the International Criminal Court and the case against Uhuru Kenyatta. ‘Western governments will need a stable strong government in Kenya. There is no way the West is going to allow President Kenyatta, who has shown good leadership qualities during the crisis (and his vice-president William Ruto), to spend months at a trial in The Hague and then go to jail,’ says Dowden.
Jendayi Frazer who had worked closely with Condoleezza Rice to ensure that Mwai Kibaki remained President in 2008 has also written that the west now needs Kenya as a partner in the fight against terror. Writing in the pro-government newspaper in Kenya, the ‘Daily Nation’, Jendayi Frazer argued that ‘Attack will draw West, Kenya closer.’ The key points of her argument were that:
‘It is now time for the West to fully embrace Kenya’s new democratically elected government and respect its institutions. …’
‘Put more plainly, the ICC cases against President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto have become a distraction reflected clearly by the need to suspend Mr Ruto’s trial for a week to allow his return home to attend to the Westgate crisis.’
THE TURN OF THE AFRICAN UNION
Jendayi Frazer represented the Conservative Republican Administration as a diplomat. It is here questionable that the very conservative wing of the US political establishment is now coming to the defense of Kenyatta and Ruto. The United States is not a signatory to the Rome statutes yet, the conservatives are calling for Africans to forget the crimes committed in January 2008 in order for Kenyatta and Ruto to focus on the Global War against Terror.
The defense of Kenyatta and Ruto by Frazer and Dowden has complicated the two Kenyan leaders’ strategy of presenting themselves as anti-imperialists. When the African Union meets this week to discuss the case for mass withdrawal, African leaders should bear in mind that it was the activism of the Caribbean and African states that brought the ICC into fruition. It will be important for the AU to join with the Kenyans to support the Commission of Inquiry into the Westgate bombings.
I share the opinion of Pan Africanists who believe that if Kenyatta and Ruto are innocent they should not be afraid to get their day in court.
The African Union should be working hard to ensure that there is no impunity in Africa. Other organs such as the African Parliament and the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC) need to engage this discussion about impunity in Africa.
* Source Pambazuka Horace G .Campbell, a veteran Pan Africanist is a Visiting Professor in the School of International Relations, Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of ‘Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya: Lessons for Africa in the Forging of African Unity,’ Monthly Review Press, New York 2013
Thabo Mbeki:The West’s contempt for Africa must end!
October 4, 2013 | 2 Comments
The former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, says the time has come for Africans, and especially African intellectuals, to demand with one voice that the West’s contempt for the African people and African thought must end! In a landmark lecture at the University of South Africa (UNISA) on 23 August 2013, which he based on Zimbabwe’s recent elections and the country’s indigenisation programme, Mbeki said the West’s offensive against Zimbabwe was an offensive against the rest of Africa. “We have a common responsibility as Africans to determine our destiny … we are concerned about our own renaissance, our own development, and we must as indigenous people make sure that we have control of our development, our future, and that includes our resources. And therefore indigenisation is correct.” Below is much of the text of his lecture.
We had agreed that I would speak at the opening of your symposium, because I had to go to Zimbabwe yesterday to participate at the ceremony of the inauguration of President [Robert] Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe, and I am told this was [his] seventh as president and more if you include his prime ministership.
The Zimbabweans insisted that I should come, and I agreed with them because they were saying that the inauguration marked the end of the Global Political Agreement which they signed in 2008, in whose evolution we had played a part. So, I am saying all of this to apologise for speaking to you in the evening rather than in the morning. But I [would] really like to say thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this symposium to look at this very important issue, the issue about solutions to Africa’s development. It is indeed very important that as Africans we must focus on all of this and mobilise the intellectual capital that exists among ourselves to answer this question.
What the principal [who introduced him] was saying about the Nelson Mandela Lecture here by Mo Ibrahim, raising questions of leadership on the continent, those remarks were correct. I think this is an important part of our challenge as Africans ourselves to find the solutions to Africa’s development.
So we meet at this symposium to look at what we do, [and what] we say as African thought leaders asking about where should we be tomorrow. It is important. There is nobody else to do this for us. The people who have done it for us in the past, and they are many, have said, who are these Africans? What are they? What is their past? Where should they be tomorrow? Other people have said that about us. And what has it produced? Disaster! A disaster from which we should rescue ourselves. I was saying that yesterday I was in Zimbabwe for the inauguration of President Mugabe. I don’t know who among us here, what opinions we have about Zimbabwe, but there are certain things which worry.
With regard to the [31 July 2013] Zimbabwe elections, one of the things that worried me was a very intense and sustained campaign to discredit the elections before they took place. So I was saying to myself, “why?” And I could see clearly that the intention was in the event that the elections resulted in a victory for President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, they would obviously be unfair. In the event that they resulted in the election of Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC, then they would be free and fair. That was the intention.
Although it didn’t surprise me, what disturbed me was that many among us Africans seemed to buy into the story that was being told. And so I was saying to myself that this is very worrying because what it means is that we, as Africans, don’t know enough about ourselves and continue to be enslaved by a narrative about ourselves told by other people.
Any African, anybody following events in Zimbabwe for some time, would not have been surprised at the election results, not in the least. And indeed some of the people who were communicating these negative messages about the elections before they took place, actually predicted what would happen: That a particular politics of Zimbabwe meant we would have a particular outcome.
There is an old friend of mine in Zimbabwe, another intellectual like yourselves, I won’t mention his name. Shortly before the elections, he said, publicly, that the MDC was going to sweep in its major victory in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. So I read this thing and I said: “But what’s wrong with him?” I haven’t spoken to him for some time, but I [was] going to ask him that question. I said: “What’s wrong with him?” You could never make a prediction like that if you knew what had been happening in the Zimbabwean rural areas in the last 10 years.
Many years ago, and as part of the leadership in this region [the Southern African region], we engaged the Zimbabwean leadership – President Mugabe and [the] others – in a very sustained process to discourage them from the manner in which they were handling the issue of land reform.
We were saying to them: “Yes, indeed we agree [that] land reform is necessary, but the way in which you are handling it is wrong.” We tried very hard. “No, no, you see all of these things about the occupation of the farms by the war veterans, this and that and the other, all of this is wrong.” That’s what we were saying.
But fortunately the Zimbabweans didn’t listen to us, they went ahead. The consequence of it is that, I have looked at at least four books that have been written about the land reform in Zimbabwe, all of which say in fact the process of land reform has given land to at least 300,000 [to] 400,000 new land owners; the peasants of Zimbabwe at last own the land! The programme succeeded and has this direct benefit on these huge numbers of Zimbabweans. And so I found it very strange that this intellectual friend of mine could say the MDC would win the elections in the rural areas. They couldn’t, essentially because they were identified by the rural population to have opposed land reform, rightly or wrongly, we can discuss that.
The African reality
The point I am making is that we still have a challenge to understand our own reality, and I am using the example of Zimbabwe to say that I have a sense that even with regards to this issue, which for some reason for years has been a major issue in the international media and politics and so on, that even we as Africans still have not quite understood Zimbabwe. I think it is your task to change that, so that we understand ourselves better.
I think we should also ask ourselves the question: Why is Zimbabwe such a major issue for some people? Zimbabwe is a small country by any standard; there is no particular reason why Zimbabwe should be a matter to which The New York Times, the London Guardian and whoever else … why are they paying so much attention to Zimbabwe? Why?
I know why they pay particular attention to us [here in South Africa], because they explained it. They said: “You have too many white people in South Africa. We are concerned about their future. They are our kith and kin. We are worried about what you would do to them, so we keep a very close eye on what happens [in South Africa].” So we understand [their attitude about South Africa], we may not agree with the thinking, but we understand. But I am saying, why this focus on Zimbabwe?
Towards the end of last year, they asked me to speak at a conference on Zimbabwe diamonds. So I went, and what surprised me about the conference held at Victoria Falls was that everybody and anybody who has anything to do with diamonds in the world was there. From America, from Israel, from India, from Brussels, everybody! It was not about diamonds in the world, it was about Zimbabwe diamonds! So I was puzzled, saying, but why have they all come?
Maybe two hours before we left the conference to come back, we sat in a session which was addressed by one of the Indian diamond people. In the course of his presentation, he explained why [they had all come to the conference]. He gave an answer to this query in my head. He said in a few years’ time, Zimbabwe would account for 25 per cent of world production of diamonds. So I said, “I now understand. I understand why everybody is here.”
But I think the reason there has been this kind of focus on Zimbabwe is that for many years now the political leadership in Zimbabwe have been communicating a message which many among the powerful players in the world find unacceptable. I was saying earlier we opposed, [that] we tried to discourage the Zimbabweans from taking the particular steps they took with regard to land reform, acknowledging that it was indeed necessary to have land reform, and I was saying they ignored us. It is, I think, exactly the manner in which they came at that question of land reform that offended other forces in the world who said: “This is wrong, we don’t like it.”
And unlike us who said: “Well, they are not listening. They have done what they want to do about their country, we have to accept that”, these others [the powerful players in the world] said: “They have set a bad example which we don’t want anybody else in Africa and the rest of the world to follow. So they must pay a price for setting a bad example.” Bad example. Bad in the instance of the interests of these other people; not bad in terms of the interests of the people of
So I think this is part of the reason that there is so much attention, globally, on a country in a continent which actually in itself – never mind the diamonds – is not particularly important, but is important because [Zimbabwe] is setting in the minds of some a bad example which must be defeated. But principally, are we as intellectuals telling that story? Are we explaining that in the first instance to ourselves so that we know what is the correct position to take in our own interests, in our own defence?
My sense is that we are not doing it, we are not explaining why. What is this enormous interest in a small African country here in Southern Africa which really … basically I can’t think of any particular reason why [Zimbabwe] would have such enormous, global, [and] geo-strategic importance, but it has. Why?
The 31 July elections
You know, all of us know, that the African Union and SADC, among others, deployed large numbers of observers for these recent elections. The African Union had even placed its observers there at least a month ahead of the elections. This was to ensure … I don’t think, at least I know of no deployment of African observers of this size; because between the AU and SADC, just those two, I think they had at least 1,000 observers. I know of no [other] instance when the continent has deployed that kind of number. Both observer teams have essentially said the elections were peaceful and everybody agrees with that. And they have said the elections were free, representing the opinion of the people of Zimbabwe.
SADC have said they need a bit of time to look at the matter of the fairness of the elections [following their initial appraisal when they said:] “Yes indeed the elections are credible, they represent the views of the people of Zimbabwe.” The reason the SADC observers said they want to look at this is because they want to look at it in detail and say, for instance, was the media coverage of the contending parties fair and balanced? Was the location of voting stations done in such a way that it would ensure equal access, [and] relatively [was] the access between rural and urban areas [equal]?
They are not questioning the credibility of the elections, but want to look at this matter about what is meant by “fair” in order to ensure that as a continent when we do indeed conduct elections in the future, we have some standards to follow in terms of what will constitute this element of “fair”. So they decided to leave a residual group in Zimbabwe to look at that question, and the AU agreed to join them [and also] left another group there to do that, which is fine.
I was talking three-four days ago to a member of the executive of the SADC Lawyers Association which includes all the lawyers in this region and their lawyer societies and this and that and the other. They decided to send an observer team to Zimbabwe, which they did. They have done their report and I have asked for a copy, but they said they would send it.
But what they are telling me is that one of the things that surprised them was that as soon as they made the announcement that they would be deploying an observer team in Zimbabwe, out of the blue, completely unsolicited, they got huge offers of money from the United States to say: “Look, we want to pay for your observer mission.”
And they said that we never asked for this money. We had never ever been in contact with these people. We don’t know how they got to know that we were going to do this, but they were very, very happy to support us with huge sums of money. But we said no. We refused. We said no, “we will finance ourselves”. The reason we did it was because we knew that if we accepted that money, then we would have to produce a report consistent with the views of the paymaster. So we said no.
Now, the very strange thing at the end of this story which I am telling you … well, let me say what the Zimbabwe government did was of course to refuse the organisations like the EU which have imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe, countries like the US which have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, [to] have election observers [in Zimbabwe] for the natural, and I think logical, reason that: “You declared yourselves as an enemy, in what way would you then send observers who are going to be objective in terms of observing these elections; please don’t come.”
I think they were right. Nevertheless, they said all the countries that had embassies in Zimbabwe, the embassies [were] free to observe the elections, which they did. African, European, Asian – all of them.
But I am saying one of the strange things is that you have the entire continent [of Africa] in terms of its credible and legitimate institutions say, “Yes indeed there were problems, and we are going to detail those problems, but these elections represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe”.
Then you have an alternative voice in Washington, London and Brussels which says, “No, you Africans are wrong”. How does that happen? Why this absolute contempt for the view of the Africans themselves? I was saying just these two organisations – the AU and SADC – had at least 1,000 observers in Zimbabwe. Even the ACP community had an observer team there.
When the chair of the AU Commission was in Harare and talked to all the political leaders, she said none of them raised any issues about serious problems with the elections. They hadn’t. And yet when all of these Africans say: “Yes problems, we will tell you what these problems were, but the [election] result presents a credible view of the Zimbabweans”, you have people in America and Europe who say the Africans are wrong. Why? Maybe because the Africans are stupid. The Africans can’t count or something.
The latest SADC summit has just taken place in Malawi, in Lilongwe. In the days before the summit [and] during the summit, the British government was putting pressure on the government of Malawi to persuade the summit that there should be an audit done of the Zimbabwean elections.
The MDC decided to go to court in Zimbabwe to contest, as you know, the elections, and then suddenly withdrew the petition. Personally I was very pleased that they submitted the petition, because it would give a possibility actually to look in detail at all the allegations that had been made about what went wrong with the elections. So, I was quite upset when they said they were withdrawing the petition, because it denied us the possibility to do this thing.
But later I understood why they withdrew, because even in the petition they made various allegations and did not submit to the court any document to substantiate any of the allegations. At some point during this electoral process, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe spoke to one of the British television channels, and said in one constituency 17,000 people voted of whom 10,000 were assisted to vote. Now, this is allowed in terms of Zimbabwean processes: If you are illiterate, you might be old, you might be blind – whatever – that the people at the voting station can assist you [to vote].
You come and say: “Look, I can’t read but I like Morgan Tsvangirai, please tick for me where it says Morgan Tsvangirai.” That is assisted voting which is allowed. So the British ambassador says there was this one constituency, 17,000 voters, 10,000 of whom were assisted, so many, but she doesn’t identify the constituency, up to today.
Morgan Tsvangirai, in his affidavit to the Constitutional Court, includes this. “There was a constituency where 17,000 people voted, 10,000 of whom were assisted voters.” He doesn’t identify the constituency like the British ambassador.
In the end, I can say [Mr So and So] is a very ugly fellow, but if I accuse him of that in court I should prove it. And that became a problem. So, we still don’t know what was the substance, what is the substance of all the allegations made, which Washington and London and Brussels have used to say the elections were not credible. We don’t know. In reality, the only reason they were not credible is because Robert Mugabe got elected. That’s all.
The African question
I am using this talk about Zimbabwe, as an example about our continent because all of these things I am saying relating to Zimbabwe you can find the same [or] similar examples [of] on the continent, but we are not challenging it as intellectuals. We are not challenging a narrative, a perspective about our continent which is wrong and self-serving in terms of our people’s interests.
The Zimbabweans are now talking about indigenisation and I can see that there is a big storm brewing about indigenisation. But what is wrong about indigenisation?
What is wrong with saying: “Here we are, as Africans, with all our resources, sure we are ready and very willing to interact with the rest of the world about the exploitation of all these resources, but what is the indigenous benefit from the exploitation of this, and even the control?”
You have seen examples of this, all of us have, when Chinese companies in terms of all this theory about free markets, have sought to acquire US firms [and] they got prohibited. “No, [it is] indigenisation of US intellectual property. We can’t allow it to be owned by the Chinese, so no!”
So when the Africans say “indigenisation”, why is this a strange notion? And yet when we talk about solutions to Africa’s development, one of the issues that we have to address is exactly this indigenisation. How are we utilising our resources to impact positively on African development?
I am saying that because I can see that there is a cloud that is building up somewhere on the horizon when Zimbabweans say “indigenisation”. But we have to, as intellectuals and thought leaders, address that and say: “Yes, indeed as Africans we are concerned about our own renaissance, our own development, and we must as indigenous people make sure that we have control of our development, our future, and that includes our resources. And therefore indigenisation is correct.” We must demonstrate it even intellectually, which I am quite sure we can. I wasn’t intending to speak for so long, but as you can see I get very, very agitated about Zimbabwe, because it’s very, very clear that the offensive against Zimbabwe is an offensive against the rest of the continent, and what has facilitated that offensive is indeed [the] wrong things that the Zimbabweans have done.
They have done wrong things. They have acted in ways that have been incorrect. So it has been possible for some people to stand up and say: “Look, look, look, there is a violation of democracy and human rights”, and all of us say: “Yes, yes, yes, what they did there was not quite right.”
But all of us make mistakes. We have made mistakes here [in South Africa], but they have used those mistakes to mount a particular offensive against Zimbabwe. [Of course] that offensive is not in the first instance about Zimbabwe, it’s about the future of our continent.
So the Zimbabweans have been in the frontline in terms of defending our right as Africans to determine our future, and they are paying a price for that. I think it is our responsibility as African intellectuals to join them, the Zimbabweans, to say No!
We have a common responsibility as Africans to determine our destiny and are quite ready to stand up against anybody else who thinks that, “never mind what the thousand African observers say about the elections in Zimbabwe, we sitting in Washington and London are wiser than they are. They say the elections are credible, we say that they are very foolish, those elections were not.
We stand up as Africans to say [there must be] an end, and really an end, to that contempt for African thought! We have to. If we don’t, this development we are talking about will not happen.
*Culled from New African Magazine