F.W. de Klerk Walking in the Shadows of Apartheid
February 20, 2020 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
South Africa’s latest spectacle was last week’s ninety-minute delay of the presidential state of the nation address (SONA.) The contentious issue was that F. W. de Klerk, the country’s last apartheid state president, was seated in the public gallery of Parliament. His presence deeply bothered members of the red uniformed Economic Freedom Fighters, the EFF.
Before President Cyril Ramaphosa started his address EFF leader, Julius Malema objected to de Klerk’s presence arguing that it imposed a contradiction to the extent that parliament is the ultimate embodiment of democracy. Yet, he continued, de Klerk was a criminal, a murderer and a racist to the core. The EFF would not share the same space with him in that forum; he needed to be evicted.
The underlying issue here is that South Africans do not agree on the simple question: who/what brought about the demise of South Africa’s draconian system of apartheid thirty years ago?
Obviously, Malema and his followers are reluctant to confer credit to de Klerk for the feat that required great skill, courage and strength. Having grown up in South Africa as a white person, he automatically benefitted immensely from apartheid as he climbed all the way to its top. In 1989 he assumed the presidency of that system of racial discrimination, white privilege and supremacy. It is hardly absurd that some still wonder: How could a man who benefitted so much from apartheid turn around and spearhead its demise?
Given the choice, Julius Malema and his followers would rather attribute credit for the change to the African friends who extended a helping hand to the South African liberation forces that fought apartheid from inside and outside the country. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and others, though generally portrayed as controversial, were friends-in-need to the extent that they were openly part of the global anti-apartheid forces.
For a while apartheid was distinctly under siege. Countless critics abhorred it on the grounds of racial solidarity. Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere spoke for many in stating that it was morally unacceptable to condemn a people “for being born who they were.” Against this attitude, anti-apartheid sentiments gathered momentum worldwide.
By the late 1980s, apartheid was clearly on the back foot. International sanctions were in place, domestic violence engineered by ‘clandestine’ liberation movements was rampant; the republic was in disarray. Why then didn’t the forces of liberation come to the rescue? Apartheid was armed to the teeth. Experts estimate that apartheid South Africa could have survived military intrusion for 5 to 10 years. Would there be a South Africa left after ten years of constant warfare? In the days to come, Nelson Mandela himself reminded his people that they were not dealing with a defeated enemy.
There was only one person in South Africa (and the world) positioned to formulate and implement a non- violent route to fundamental change in apartheid South Africa. That person was none other than F.W. de Klerk. He opted for dialogue and negotiations rather than violence. As President he had an advantage over and above everybody else: he was positioned to communicate with the opposing forces from the ANC to the far-right Afrikaners who were most threatened by his project.
Three months into his presidency, de Klerk launched his project. Nelson Mandela was released from prison, all banned political parties were legalized and secret delegations were dispatched out of the country to undertake secret talks with the exiled leaders of ANC leaders.
To the EFF, conferring credit to de Klerk for the peaceful transfer of power was hardly a significant achievement. In a vindictive mindset, what matters is that de Klerk is alleged to have been a murderer and a subsequent apologist for apartheid. It was deceptive that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Nelson Mandela (1993) for embarking on the democratic route. Indeed, the logic continues, de Klerk should return the award to the Nobel Prize Committee and should be stripped of presidential benefits at home.
But to the neutral observer, de Klerk’s greatness did not come from his assessment of apartheid’s qualification as a social-economic order. That greatness came from accepting that, no matter how enticing it seemed to the Afrikaner community, apartheid’s time had come to an end; it must be dismantled. Regardless of what drove de Klerk to action, he was successful. And ending apartheid peacefully was no easy matter. Those who remember those days insist that the alternative to talking and negotiations “was too ghastly to contemplate.” For this, South Africans owe de Klerk a debt of gratitude equivalent to what African-Americans owe Abraham Lincoln for abolishing slavery .
* James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus). He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa
Africa and South Africa’s Xenophobia: a Prognosis
December 11, 2019 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
Roots of South Africa’s Inequality
Last year the World Bank proclaimed South Africa to be the most unequal country in the world. A decade earlier in 2008, the world’s attention had been drawn to South Africa’s xenophobic behavior. Is there a kinship between inequality and xenophobia?
South Africa’s bewildering inequality originated from apartheid. The system dedicated the second half of the 20thcentury to grabbing the state’s resources for the benefit of its comparatively small white community. By design, it reduced the country’s non-white majority to ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water,’ distinctly removed from the formal economy.
In early 1990s, Blacks’ economic irrelevance was consolidated by a weakness in the strategy to dismantle apartheid. Clearly not by design Blacks’ head negotiator, Nelson Mandela, erred by accepting political power for the black majority without corresponding economic power, especially in land ownership. In Professor Ali Mazrui’s view the consequences were dire, “…the white man said to the Blacks ‘You can take the crown and we’ll keep the jewels.” Of what value was a crown without jewels? Was Mandela duped into cursing post-apartheid South Africa to eternal inequality?
Finally, freedom in post-apartheid South Africa placed public coffers within the reach of hitherto non-existent black bureaucratic elite. Especially during Jacob Zuma’s presidency (2009 – 2019) the ‘rainbow nation’ was subjected to staggering economically-draining monster, the ‘state capture.’ On the whole, black communities were further sidelined from the nearly-crippled national economy.
Missing Basic Services
Given the ‘disabled’ state of the economy, lack of service delivery became central to the xenophobic eruptions that have bedeviled democratic South Africa since 2008. Unfortunately, various governments have been short of funds to adequately address basic social needs; public coffers have been illegitimately depleted. How were the governments of the day to explain to its citizens freedom without jobs and life’s necessities? This was a classic case of a crown-without-jewels in action.
To its credit South Africa’s ruling party has never overtly endorsed xenophobic or Afro-phobic behavior. Indeed the ANC has consistently emphasized indebtedness to post-colonial Africa for unwavering support during the anti-apartheid campaign. In this context, it would be dishonest for the party to engage in discriminatory behavior toward fellow African immigrants after 1994. Where others see xenophobia or Afro-phobia, ANC continues to detect criminality.
South Africa’s officialdom istoo astute not to be aware that lack of service delivery is the central driver of xenophobic discontent. Leaders of the violent outbreaks are mostly the ‘born-frees,’ the youthful post-apartheid generation. Their facts of life bind them to the black communities. They are hungry and agitated. Joblessness reigns supreme where the national unemployment is at 29 percent.
The township dwellers are angry with everybody, including the government and ‘foreigners.’ They cannot vent their anger on the government in fear of overwhelming reprisals; memories of the Marikana tragedy linger. Immigrants become the available and sitting ducks: distinct, defenseless and reachable. Political agitators easily convert them into xenophobic scapegoats.
Self-Inflicted Wounds of Xenophobia
Ironically, attacking ‘immigrants’ in South Africa is becoming increasingly unfashionable; it is hurting South Africans and their interests more than the original targets. Of the 12 deaths in the 2019 mayhems, 10 were South African. Additionally, while immigrants lost their property, locally-owned properties were similarly looted and damaged.
The violence has also tarnished South Africa’s image, prompting reprisals against its interests. In 2019 thriving South African businesses in Nigeria were damaged by enraged mobs, emphasizing the old diplomatic maxim: protect what is ours in your country and we will spare yours in ours. To South Africa’s recurring incidents of xenophobia, Africa responded in unison: enough is enough.
The New Dawn and the Way Forward
More than his predecessors, President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to realize that xenophobic sentiments are charged by the domestic unholy alliance of poverty and inequality. Domestically, his political slogan of the New Dawn, aspires to halt and reverse internal abuse of public funds and jumpstart the economy. Hence, the current corruption probes and unrelenting bid to cleanse state-owned enterprises.
Regarding xenophobia, the New Dawn stipulates that South Africa will work in context of Africa, particularly Nigeria, to extract the ‘cancer’ from Africa once and for all. In mid-September 2019, therefore, Ramaphosa dispatched ‘special envoys’ to seven African countries to apologize for the violence.
Globally, Africa tops Ramaphosa’s agenda. Mindful that South Africa is geographically in Africa, the President insists that it must work closely with the fellow giant-of-Africa, Nigeria. Accordingly in 2019 he welcomed Nigeria overture of a give-and-take-dialogue rather than engage in counter-productive exchange of accusations. Victimized Nigerians in South Africa expected more, including compensation for their lost property.
Nigeria was diplomatic but not necessarily defensive in the bilateral talks. Subtly but firmly, it insisted on one non-negotiable condition. Henceforth, South Africa will treat xenophobia as a crime; perpetrators must be prosecuted. Otherwise, the scourge will be transformed into an African continental problem. And collective Africa is capable of punishing its offenders. Just ask the now extinct apartheid regimes.
African Xenophobia: A Diagnosis
November 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
South Africa did not invent xenophobia in Africa. On large scale, that dubious tradition was initiated by Nigeria in 1983 when the Giant of Africa expelled two million ‘undocumented immigrants’ mostly from Ghana.
That Afro-phobic expulsion was extra-poignant to the extent that it was official, undertaken in the name of the state. On January 17th1983 President Shehu Shagari’s made a public announcement that all ‘foreigners without proper papers’ had to depart from Nigeria forthwith or face arrests. A quarter of a Century later, Nigerian nationals in faraway South Africa would complain bitterly of being ‘targeted’ in brutal xenophobic attacks. Had the Nigerian chickens come home to roost?
Nigeria’s Economic Cycles
Nigeria’s xenophobia was prompted by swings between economic success and economic stress. In 1956, the country struck oil. By the 1970s it blossomed to its golden decade, skyrocketed by high worldwide oil prices. Almost suddenly, Nigeria became destination of choice for citizens of its poor neighbors.
Unfortunately for Nigeria its economy faltered in the early 1980s. A combination of declining demand for oil due to a recession in the West, and increased oil production elsewhere, undercut oil prices substantially. Due to the collapsing oil market, the source of Nigeria’s economic bonanza, its rise to economic prosperity halted.
A faltering economy, a sizeable non-Nigerian presence in the country and the approaching 1983 general elections, which were laced with anti-immigrant undertones, converged upon Shagari, pushing him to the infamous executive order of 1983. In contrast, South Africa’s xenophobia invariably arises ex-officially and from the indigenous masses.
Remarkably, harsh as it was, the Nigeria’s exodus was largely free of hateful and incriminating xenophobic criminality. Yet, the event caused horrendous suffering. To this day, the bag that the ‘illegal immigrants’ used to haul away their belongings, the ‘Ghana Must Go’, is permanently etched in the mind as an indelible reminder of human tragedies in Africa.
South African Xenophobia
The demise of apartheid was largely derived from the black armed struggle in the quest to make the country ungovernable. But the 1976 Soweto Uprising also inserted its unique input. The unarmed children of Soweto stared at the apartheid monster in the eye with an unequivocal old American-inspired challenge: ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ After that, obliterating the demonic apartheid became an all black people’s obsession.
Even in prison, Nelson Mandela was the anti-apartheid’s uncontested torch-bearer; its ultimate anti-thesis. Yet there were reticent critics who were convinced that, in negotiating apartheid away, Mandela underestimated the primacy of ‘economic kingdom’, especially regarding land. The diehard among these was his wife, Winnie Mandela, whose views were willingly bequeathed to the political firebrand, Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Party. In name and inference, Malema’s party was remarkably reminiscent of Oginga Odinga’s famous book, Not Yet Uhuru.
Mandela is said to have been a widely-read prisoner and was probably captured by Kwame Nkrumah’s famous dictum, “Seek ye the political kingdom first and the rest shall be added unto you.” In negotiating apartheid’s demise he overestimated the primacy of political kingdom at the expense of economic kingdom, allowing the latter to remain safely in white man’s domain. Was Mandela mindset compromised by his inner-most commitment to racial reconciliation and peace for the motherland and honoring Nkrumah’s popular anti-colonial slogan of political primacy?
Whatever the case, Mandela did not foresee that by 2019, the World Bank would rank South Africa as the most unequal society in the world. Yet, other than shallow trappings of power, political kingdom had delivered little for his fellow blacks. Professor Ali Mazrui would later lament that in the 1994 settlement, “…the white man said to the Blacks ‘You can take the crown and we’ll keep the jewels.’” Did Mandela’s economic concession become democratic South Africa’s original sin?
Meeting Basic Needs
Lack of jobs and services for the poor has consistently bedeviled post-apartheid South Africa since xenophobic violence started to erupt in 2008. And, to emphasize the point, these Afro-phobic attacks have invariably erupted in the poor neighborhoods.
The perpetrators of the attacks are mostly the so-called ‘born frees’, the post-apartheid generation. They are young and willing to earn honest living, but there are no jobs to be had; South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is at 31 percent. Yet, the impoverished ‘born frees’ see foreign intruders owning running corner stores in their own neighborhoods.
The tormented ‘locals’ resent the non-South Africans owning retail stores in their neighborhoods. They are seen as neither neighbors nor comrades; they are intruders. They are reachable and vulnerable targets in the path of least resistance. Venomous political inciters take advantage of the situation; the non-South Africans are subjected to indiscriminate attacks and looting. What starts off as domestic protests for jobs and service delivery transform into xenophobic attacks. The ensuing mayhems are officially categorized as criminality; but nobody is prosecuted.
Conclusion Against this background, what binds the Nigerian and South African versions of xenophobia?We need not be flag-waving Marxist ideologues to realize that economic determinism plays a critical role in fuelling xenophobia in Africa. After all, if you toss a few bones to a bunch of hungry dogs, fights are inevitable.
* *James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus). He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa
Withdrawal of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame from the World Economic Forum in South Africa Last Week was an Honorable Act for Africa
September 13, 2019 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki
On Friday last week in one of South Africa’s national newspapers, The Citizen, Ralph Mathekga, usually insightful political analyst, was reported to have rebuked Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame for declining an invitation to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town.
The issue at hand related to African reaction to the on-going xenophobic attacks on non-South African nationals in SA. In Mathekga’s view, Kagame’s response to the attacks reflected ‘weak leadership’ and lack of ‘political maturity’ in Africa. In assessing the facts realistically, such a conclusion was not only unduly harsh; it was misleading, unjustified and disingenuous.
To begin with, besides Rwanda other African states had voiced grave reservations about attending the WEF under the prevailing circumstances in SA. These included Nigeria, Malawi, the DRC, Zambia and Tanzania. Kagame was hardly alone. More to the point, he had nothing to do with the causes, spread and execution of the xenophobic carnage and had virtually no influence over its perpetrators. After all, South Africa is a sovereign nation. The only avenue available to Kagame was indirect influence via the local South African authorities.
Yet, no utterances were forthcoming from the SA Government officialdom or the organizers of WEF that a plan was underway to stem or alleviate the impact of the savage and senseless attacks on innocent and defenseless fellow Africans. Obviously Kagame felt helpless and frustrated that the WEF seemed to be bent on proceeding as if nothing alarmingly critical was happening in its host country.
Mathekga’s reasoning would have been sound had it proposed that an urgent consultative meeting of African leaders be called by the SA government just before, or along the WEF, to discuss on emergency basis the crisis of the on-going Afrophobia-driven brutality. In the absence of the African Union in the WEF, the obligation to solicit such give-and-take views from other African leaders rested squarely on the shoulders of the host, President Cyril Ramaphosa. President Kagame was certainly not in a position to summon such a sub-meeting; he was a guest, not the man-in-charge. To repeat ourselves, South Africa is a young sovereign nation and is understandably ultra-sensitive to matters touching its jurisdiction.
By all indications, a give-and-take meeting of African leaders at, or parallel to the WEF, was not forthcoming. Conceivably, President Kagame felt that it would be a betrayal to his personal conscience and the people of Rwanda for him to sit among global leaders to discuss economic issues while innocent fellow Africans around them were being decimated with impunity. Meanwhile, the global leaders would be sitting at the majestic International Convention Center in Cape Town, securely protected by state security forces, possibly oblivious to the woes of the violence outside.
Viewed from this angle, President Kagame’s conscious and deliberate choice to formally exclude himself from Cape Town’s WEF was a carefully considered act of ultimate decency, political maturity, and diplomatic savvy. It was his way of protesting how victimized ‘foreigners’ in SA were being handled virtually indifferently by the country’s officialdom and to inform the victims of Afro-phobia that, “yes, we hear you and we do care. Indeed, you matter to us.”
Such a reaction is truly understandable coming from a leader who, in all likelihood, still encounters occasional sleepless nights, haunted by memories of man’s savagery to fellow man from the ghastly Rwanda Genocide which took place twenty five years ago and senselessly wiped out ten percent of his nation’s population.
It was indeed a misplaced judgment for Mathekga, otherwise a seasoned and compelling political analyst, to condemn President Kagame for finding it unacceptable to visualize himself sitting in an economic meeting while innocent people outside faced war conditions of life and death.
Seen in this context, President Kagame’s self-imposed ‘exclusion’ from WEF was indeed a dignified and decent diplomatic act to show that he, as a mature and committed African leader, drew the line in the sand to assert that what was happening in SA at that juncture was far from acceptable. To see this gesture any other way than honorable, verges on blaming the victim.
*James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus). He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa
Helen Zille and the Race Factor in Mandela’s ‘Rainbow Nation’
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
In March 2012 South Africa’s Helen Zille triggered an animated public feud by referring to black students as refugees for flocking from black-ruled Eastern Cape Province to the Western Cape Province in search for better educational facilities. She spoke in her capacity as the Premier of the only white-ruled Western Cape Province and the former head of predominantly white Democratic Alliance (DA) political party.
Black South Africans were outraged that, consciously or not, Zille had attached a ‘foreign’ stigma to her fellow citizens in their own country. In response, Zille dismissed that innuendo of ‘foreign’ stigmatization and tried to debate substantively a largely knee-jerk public reaction. She failed drastically in the endeavor to direct the mind to an emotional issue.
Exactly five years latter in March this year, Zille again got caught in another political storm for suggesting publicly in a tweet that not all aspects of colonialism are negative; some of its legacies can still be adapted today to positive ends. Again, public response to this seemingly innocuous proposition has been brutally scathing. Against it, Zille has been charged by her own party for bringing it into disrepute and damaging it. Until further notice, she has been stripped of the rights to participate in her party’s activities except as the premier of the Western Cape.
In 2017, Zille has been specifically accused of racism for glorifying colonialism, the mother of slavery and African peoples’ ultimate anathema. In response, she has apologized profusely for sounding like an apologist for colonialism but, for a while she adamantly refused to retract her initial proposition that we can learn a thing or two from our bumpy encounter with colonialism. Was this also a case of Zille addressing an issue of the heart intellectually? For several weeks, Zille and her critics, within and outside her party, were locked in a dialog of the deaf.
In subsequent statements, Zille emphasized that her public colonialism remarks were largely distorted by the South African specter of racial ‘bogeyman.’ Presumably, the colonial inference had touched a raw public nerve because it was she, a white public South African, who had uttered it, casting it into the public domain. The suggestion here was that the logic in Zille’s colonial statement was inherently sound; it had been disfigured by viewing it through the prism of ‘political correctness.’
To affirm the point, Zille reasoned publicly that others of different hues had made similar remarks regarding colonialism without triggering public outcry, arguably because the ‘others’ were non-whites. In her list, she included Kenya-born Professor Ali Mazrui by name as a case in point. He was one of those who had ventured into similar wilderness of wrongdoing as herself, with impunity. Was Zille trying to make the issue one of reverse racial discrimination? Whatever the case, in pointing to Professor Mazrui as having been spared of criticism on the grounds of his race, Zille was factually wrong.
Undoubtedly, late Professor Ali Mazrui possessed one of the finest scholarly minds in post-colonial Africa. But on his way to global intellectual stardom as an academic (not active a politician), he occasionally slipped and bruised African sensibilities in a manner akin to Zille’s. Yet, contrary to Zille’s beliefs, he was hardly spared of harsh treatment. And his harshest critics were indeed fellow Africans, not white Africans.
Mazrui once ‘complimented’ Malawi’s Hastings Banda for being ‘open-minded’ about South Africa’s apartheid. Banda had welcomed the notion of doing ‘business as usual’ with the much detested apartheid regimes in southern Africa. He indeed went further to entertain the ‘outlandish’ notion of engaging a running ‘dialogue’ with the same white supremacist oligarchies of the region.
Banda’s views were considered inimical to the newly emergent post-colonial Africa’s thinking of ‘freedom indivisible,’ and corresponding continental policy of isolating what Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere once dubbed the ‘monster of un-freedom.’ The stipulation was that, as long as southern Africa denied freedom to any African on the grounds of his race, all Africans were not free.
Congo’s Moishe Tshombe was another homegrown iconoclast who scornfully challenged post-colonial Africa’s collective will. His most provocative offense against that African collective ‘will’ was to hire white mercenaries from southern Africa to fight in his country, first for the secession of mineral-rich Katanga Province and, subsequently, for a united Congo.
Although stated with misgivings, Mazrui saw a silver lining to the dark clouds of Banda’s and Tshombe’s self-serving practices and policies. In his logic, Banda’s political bent of thought reflected admirable pragmatism and courageous independent thinking.
Regarding Tshombe, Mazrui asserted the view that using white soldiers-of-fortune to commit some of the atrocities in the Congo was not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if foreign mercenaries perpetrated lasting damage on the country, Congolese had less to forgive each other for, and that could be a good thing for the realization of the country’s future peace.
Like Zille’s remarks on colonialism, Mazrui’s statements on Banda’s and Tshombe’s transgressions against continental African thought contained a grain of truth; they were beyond reproach if aimed exclusively at the mind. The assertions were indeed entirely consistent with the notion of ivory tower intellectualism and academic freedom, encouraged and welcomed in university settings.
Publicly, however, such proclamations were taboo precisely because human beings respond to more than the mind. We are also subject to emotional reactions that often transcend intellectual inquiry. In this context, Banda’s pragmatism and Tshombe’s contribution to future peace in the Congo were of little consolation to the deeply bruised African psyche, beleaguered as it was by the existence of repulsive apartheid and colonialism. Mazrui’s semi-positive projection of the two African political iconoclasts’ was ‘politically incorrect’ and unwelcome.
That African reaction to Mazrui’s remarks was hardly unique. Jewish people at home and their Diaspora in all likelihood would have been just as ‘tuned off’ as black South Africans have been by Zille’s twitters on colonialism were they approached to learn a thing or two from the holocaust. What about African-Americans if challenged to inherit something from their horrific past of slavery days or the 19th century Jim Crow laws?
Ali Mazrui was my fine friend and superb intellectual hero. Yet, in 1974 I became one of his early critics by objecting in print to his occasional trampling on African sensibilities as in the cases of Banda and Tshombe. Personalities bigger than me followed suit as critics in the years to come, including Nigerian Wole Soyinka and South Africa’s Archie Mafeje. The point here is that, even Professor Ali Mazrui, Africa’s beloved intellectual icon, at times yielded to the temptation to emphasize scholarship at the expense of observing African feelings in treating ultra-sensitive African issues. He was duly challenged.
To many informed Africans, it was ‘unthinkable’ to find anything positive in retired white South African soldiers perpetrating injury, destruction and death upon Congolese in their own country, for any reason. For this reason alone, even an iconic intellectual of Ali Mazrui’s proportions did not walk unscathed when he occasionally made stoic remarks on our tormented continent. Yet, Mazrui and his critics were neither white nor South African. Among them, the issue of ‘racial bogeyman’ did not arise.
Admittedly, Zille has a clear and penetrating mind. Perhaps that fact is what drives her to insist on deploying cold factual analyses which in turn push her into political controversies. Yet, unlike Mazrui whose central domain was in academia, Zille is a politician, a practitioner elected to serve a constituency of assorted expectations. Her legacy will ultimately be judged by the votes that she delivers to her party. That is why in a mixed society, the illustrious political leader is he who considers carefully both issues of the head and those of the heart.
*James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus). He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa
Troubling Vestiges of Apartheid
March 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
On February 3, 2016, a relatively new organization called Anti-Racism Action Forum (ARAF) lodged 22 criminal charges against South Africa’s former president, FW de Klerk (FW), for crimes committed against Blacks between 1990 and 1994. What is the story behind the dramatic news?
When apartheid finally collapsed in the mid-1990s, the SA Parliament established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a mechanism to cleanse the country of its past political sins. For the preceding four decades, the body politic had endured ravaging, racially-driven abuses.
Hopefully, the TRC would drain infections of human rights violations of 1960 – 1994 and help the country out of its globally-acknowledged outcast status. The TRC was empowered to pardon political crimes, including killings, to boost the spirit of forgive-and-forget. The only requirements for amnesty seekers were full disclosures and affirmation that their crimes were politically-motivated.
The incumbent president of the early 1990s, FW, did not approach the TRC for a pardon. To him, forgiveness was unnecessary because, he had done no wrong. As he put it, his conscience was clear.
Yet, FW’s nemesis Eugene de Kock, disagreed. He was adamant that FW’s hands were ‘soaked in blood’ of political killings. In his capacity as the leading assassin for apartheid‘s officialdom, de Kock was in a position to know some secrets. Who of the two was telling the truth?
History spared FW of immediate, in-depth legal probing in the 1990s for understandable political considerations. To begin with, once the future of apartheid became doubtful, FW quickly established himself as a vital link between the contesting forces in the bid to transform SA’s political landscape. And his credentials for the task were indeed compelling.
FW was astute enough to detect and acknowledge that apartheid was doomed. Further, he was sufficiently bold to insist on personal involvement in the process of shaping the next political order for the benefit of all. After all, he was the sitting state president. Who else could be entrusted with such a monumental assignment?
Secondly, thanks to FW, the iconic Nelson Mandela had freshly emerged from three decades of apartheid imprisonment professing a disarming attitude of forgiveness and reconciliation. He, his followers and a sympathetic world, expected SA to shed permanently traces of crippling apartheid to a nation of equals. In this euphoric atmosphere, Mandela and FW became two towering leaders-in-alliance which was captured in the joint 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
Under these encouraging circumstances, FW became bigger-than-life in the quest to dismantle apartheid. He was leading from the front. He had established access to the tenacious black liberation movements and had overwhelming backing of the privileged but tentative Afrikaner community.
Those forces converged, if uncomfortably, to cushion FW from serious probing about his possible involvement in past political atrocities despite de Kock pointing a finger at him. At that stage of SA history, FW’s unassailable attributes were crucial to the survival of the body politic; his freedom and safety were non-negotiable.
The question still remained: did FW walk away with unpardoned murders which could come back to haunt him? Could the issue re-emerge as a ‘storm deferred’ for SA in the years to come?
Critics have traditionally doubted FW’s commitment against apartheid on the grounds that it lacked compelling moral conviction. Specifically, he has never convincingly condemned the system on ethical basis, even though it reduced its non-white citizens to refugees in their own country.
For falling short to condemn apartheid without reservations, the name of FW has continued to be intertwined with memories of apartheid and racism. To make matters worse, since he left office, he has increasingly embraced white causes making himself a ‘political issue’ more than is desirable.
The first two months of 2016 have already witnessed excessive instances of volatile racism prompted by Penny Sparrow, a white woman whose Facebook post of January 2, 2016 referred to Durban beachgoers as monkeys. Racially-charged Tsunami of anger erupted in the social media raging from simple dismissals of Sparrow to stinging suggestions that white South Africans should be exterminated.
Through his foundation, FW joined the toxic exchange. He admitted that Penny Sparrow was wrong for insulting black people but, in comparison, black people were more vibrant racists in their social media reactions. For that reason, the FW’s foundation had submitted 45 complaints about social media postings by Blacks to the South African Human Rights Commission for investigation, claiming that such racially-charged postings could incite violence against white South Africans.
Psychologists advise against burying the past; we should deal with it. Yet, there is such a thing as unhealthy wallowing in the past. The Israelis, for instance, have been hunting down Nazi Germany’s victimizers of Jews worldwide since the very establishment of the state of Israel to bring them to justice. Is ARAF’s 2016 case against FW approaching a similar scale of preoccupation?
Nelson Mandela used to tell us to always remember that, in the Afrikaner, we are not dealing with a defeated enemy. His grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela, is now urging us to desist from action that may re-waken the ghosts of apartheid.
*James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and now resident in South Africa. He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa
February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments
By James N. Kariuki*
A year ago, South Africans welcomed 2015 but were quickly repelled by its agonizing reminders of apartheid. On January 30, 2015 Eugene de Kock was granted parole after serving over twenty years in prison. His freedom sparked an agitated national debate on the apartheid regime’s crimes generally and those of de Kock particularly. It was an alarming déjà-vous experience.
De Kock was a self-confessed killing-machine that assassinated hundreds of anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s and early 1990s. Nicknamed ‘Prime Evil’ for his excesses, he was sentenced to two life terms plus 212 years in prison for six apolitical murders and other brutal acts as the head of the infamous official hit-squad near Pretoria. Yet, upon conviction de Kock launched a spirited campaign for his freedom. After two decades as a model prisoner, he was indeed set free, destiny unrevealed.
‘Prime Evil’ objected to his incarceration because he allegedly was singled out as a scapegoat; he did not act alone in the political carnage of apartheid’s sunset years. Indeed, he further alleged, the highest political office in the land was involved in what was mislabeled as black-on-black violence of the era. Yet, de Kock lamented, apartheid’s top brass walked unscathed. To him, that was ‘selective justice’; universality of justice was compromised.
De Kock’s release occasioned a public outcry that, for the life of each of his victims, he spent barely minutes in prison. Did that punishment match the crimes? Did de Kock’s freedom depreciate the lives of his black victims who paid the ultimate price?
Concurrently, in January 2015 South Africa was locked in another racially-tinged debate: should Cape Town re-name one of its major streets after F.W. de Klerk? Two days before de Kock’s parole was announced, Mother City actually renamed its Table Mountain Boulevard after de Klerk despite audible public objections. Cape Town’s obliviousness to loud objections was spiteful and reminiscent of the objectors’ painful apartheid days. Why so?
F.W. de Klerk was the last of apartheid’s seven presidents. He was a product of that political order and prominent enough to have served in several of its cabinet positions. When de Kock claimed that the top brass of the apartheid’s regime was guilty of political killings of the early 1990s, de Klerk topped his list.
By the end of January 2015, South Africa was thus bedeviled by two contrasting apartheid legacies. To Kock, a confessed mass murderer, was ultimately set free which prompted a public outcry. But in his case there was a mitigating factor: he regretted his crimes. Still, the price he paid was minuscule compared to the plight of his fallen struggle victims and their bereaved families.
Meanwhile, de Klerk was spared of criminal scrutiny for his ‘alleged’ sins. In fact January 2015 saw him elevated to a towering historical figure by re-naming a major Cape Town street after him.
Did the virtually uncontested freedom for a confessed and an alleged apartheid ‘murderer’ denigrate the sacrifices of the Black anti-apartheid martyrs?
De Klerk’s culpability slipped legal scrutiny partly because he had entrenched himself as a convincing link between the principal contestants in the bid to dismantle apartheid. After all, he was astute enough to accept apartheid’s inevitable doom and bold enough to attempt to shape the incoming order. Conversely, Nelson Mandela’s leadership craved to see apartheid’s quick demolition and the birth of a rainbow nation of equals. Hence, its devotion to racial reconciliation.
Under these inspirational circumstances, De Klerk became an indispensable asset in the quest for a better South Africa. He had the ear of both the tenacious liberation movements and the skeptical Afrikaner community. His freedom and safety were non-negotiable; they were in the national interest. But still, did de Klerk walk away with murder?
SA did negotiate a peaceful transition to constitutional democracy. Well-wishers and genuinely interested parties, Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee included, were convinced that the feat was worthy of awarding the 1993 Peace Prize jointly to de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.
But skeptics doubted that the SA president was worthy of the honor. After all, de Klerk never condemned apartheid morally, or expressed regrets that the evil system ever existed. His sadness was merely that, when it faced considerable stress, apartheid wilted became dysfunctional.
To his detractors, de Klerk’s stance was flawed for lacking moral conviction. To this day, he continues to defend aspects of apartheid despite its universal condemnation as a crime against humanity.
Stubborn questions still endure: to cross the line from apartheid to the negotiations table, did de Klerk jump or was he pushed over the cliff? Was the thrust to dismantle apartheid derived from a moral impulse or from seeing a window of opportunity to obliterate an already dying order? Was the collapse of apartheid fuelled by a ‘discovery’ of its injustice or from de Klerk’s acute instinct for survival?
By failing to discredit apartheid morally, de Klerk fell short of Abraham Lincoln’s stature of a compelling historical crusader who led a bitter civil war against American slavery because it was intrinsically wrong. De Klerk remained a crafty tactician and a bona fide believer in apartheid to the bitter end. He only abandoned apartheid to the old slogan, “If you cannot beat them, join them.”
As a political schemer, de Klerk was not deserving of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. To countless Black South Africans he was their oppressor not their liberator. He did not merit having a Cape Town street named after him either.
In January 2015, the city of Cape Town was mindful of the Black community’s skepticism about de Klerk’s role in their history. Yet it proceeded, with an air of bravado, to exalt him to higher prominence by renaming its street in his honor, not because it was politically fitting, but just because it could.
Was this apartheid under another guise? If not, it certainly smacked of what has been dubbed “transmission of trauma and humiliation from one generation to the next” for a large segment of the society.
*James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus), now an independent writer based in South Africa. He runs the blog Global Africa
Lazarus Angbazo Unveils GE’s Manufacturing Capabilities in Nigeria
June 19, 2015 | 0 Comments
GE Oil & Gas is continuously seeking to increase the competitiveness of the solutions for the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry
LAGOS, Nigeria, June 18, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — General Electric (NYSE: GE) has commenced fabrication of subsea wellheads at its Onne facility in River State. This achievement comes at the culmination of 4 years of planning, capital investment and training of Nigerian personnel to establish the first of its kind capability in Nigeria. The new investment has resulted in a 40% increase of covered work shop area at Onne facility and additional permanent staff.
This was disclosed in Lagos by the President and CEO of General Electric Nigeria Dr Lazarus Angbazo. With this development, surface well head systems used in drilling for Oil and gas on land and offshore will now be done in GE’s Oil and gas facility in Onne, Rivers state. Nigerian engineers have also been trained within and outside the country to operate these facilities.
This development aligns with the Federal Government’s local content law and the clamour for capacity building, skill acquisition and technology transfer. However, Uzo Nwagwu says for GE, this milestone represents a lot more than complying with the laws on local content. “This is not about ticking the box on local content compliance. “It’s about localizing our people, localizing our capabilities; localizing our suppliers and localizing the training and the human capital. This is the only thing that makes sustainable business sense to support our huge investments in the country,” said Nwagwu.
GE Oil & Gas is continuously seeking to increase the competitiveness of the solutions for the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry, the domiciling of subsea wellhead fabrication will give Nigeria based operators the opportunity to buy locally and avoid delivery related delays/save on cost while supporting the growth of the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry. Dr. Angbazo referred to the establishment of the Subsea wellhead fabrication capabilities in Onne as a ‘true win-win proposition for the indigenous industry and the Nigerian Content agenda.’
Nearly all the engineers and technicians that will be involved in the fabrication are indigenous Nigerians who have been trained within and outside the country. Only recently GE announced that it had sent the first batch out of the 15 newly recruited technicians and engineers to Brazil for training in the assembly and test of subsea equipment.
Actual manufacturing operations will begin in GE’s oil and gas facility in a couple of months in Onne, Rivers state. Operating since 2002, this purpose-built facility is the first and only quayside facility of its calibre in Nigeria. It has an exceptional safety record, and is a cornerstone in GE’s commitment to the country’s Oil & Gas industry. With continually expanding capabilities, the site provides complete assembly, testing and life cycle service for subsea tree systems, subsea control modules, specialty connectors and pipe. It also includes a dedicated on-site training center and offers broad business development opportunities for local suppliers.
Nigeria: Jonathan Receives Long-Awaited Audit Report On Missing U.S.$20 Billion Oil Money, but Details Remain Secret
February 4, 2015 | 0 Comments
By Talatu Usman*
President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday publicly received the report of the forensic audit carried out on the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC] from the accounting firm that conducted the investigation.
The report submission ceremony, held a day after a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN], Chukwuma Soludo, wrote a long, acerbic article accusing the managers of the Nigerian economy of misappropriating over N30trillion of public funds, including several billions in oil money.
“Now add the ‘missing’ $20 billion from the NNPC,” Mr. Soludo said. “You promised a forensic audit report ‘soon’, and more than a year later the Report itself is still ‘missing’. This is over N4 trillion, and we don’t know how much more has ‘missed’ since Sanusi cried out. How many trillions of naira were paid for oil subsidy (unappropriated?).”
Insiders in the administration had long told PREMIUM TIMES that the report was submitted months ago by auditors but that it was gathering dust in the cupboards of the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Auditor General of the Federation.
In what appeared a hurried response to Mr. Soludo’s allegations, President Jonathan suspended campaign activities Monday to receive the report from the auditors in the presence of journalists, in a move aides say was aimed at correcting the impression created by the former CBN governor that the administration was sitting on the document.
At the ceremony held at the Presidential Villa, Mr. Jonathan received the report from Uyi Akpata, the country senior partner for PriceWaterHouseCoopers, and then promised a comprehensive reform of the oil sector.
The President did not give any insight into the details of the report. He only said the document would be sent to the Auditor General of the Federation in the next one week.
He said it is at the Auditor-General’s end that details of the report would be made public saying “media will want to know the key findings vis-a-vis the senate findings and figures being bandied around in the newspaper, but Nigerians are interested”.
The President noted that as part of the recommendation made, the petroleum industry bill would correct the lapses in the oil and gas sector.
“Indeed you mentioned the issue of reform in the sector, everybody knows that the sector needs to be reformed,” he said. “By the time we go through the petroleum industry bill and pass it into law, most of this lapses will be corrected and the misconception will be properly addressed.”
Suppressing the Report
PREMIUM TIMES had on December 27 reported how the government plotted to suppress the report. The forensic audit was commissioned following allegation by the immediate past Governor of the CBN, Lamido Sanusi, that about $20 billion oil money was missing from the NNPC.
The Presidency had on March 12, 2014 announced, through a statement by the president’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, that it had authorised the engagement of reputable international firms to carry out the forensic audit of the accounts of the NNPC.
The audit firm had earlier submitted an interim report which the President said he rejected as the subject matter of the probe needed to be completely dealt with.
The allegation that the huge amount had been stolen was raised in 2013 by a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano.
Mr. Sanusi said as much as $49 billion was diverted by state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
He later reviewed the amount to $20 billion, and called for investigations after writing to President Goodluck Jonathan.
A Senate probe into the allegation yielded no result. Mr. Sanusi was later fired by President Jonathan after he was accused of “financial recklessness”.
The government said no money was missing, but promised a forensic investigation of NNPC.
In April, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announced the appointment of the accounting firm, PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC), to conduct a detailed investigation into the accounts and activities of NNPC.
The minister said the investigation, under the supervision of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, would take about 16 weeks.
That schedule meant at most by September 2014 ending, the report should have been ready. A two-month delay meant the report should have been ready by November.
But more than two months later, the government failed to release the report.
PREMIUM TIMES independently investigated the whereabouts of the report and its contents.
At each turn, relevant government offices denied having the report despite confirmation by senior officials of the finance ministry to this newspaper that the report had since been submitted by PriceWaterHouseCoopers.
The sources said the document was submitted to the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation. Our reporters contacted the offices of the Auditor-General and the Accountant- General repeatedly, pressing for the report, without success.
A spokesperson for the Auditor-General of the Federation, Florence Dibiase, said she was not aware of the report.
Also, Abba Dabo, the Director, Extra Ministerial Department, in the Office of the Auditor general of the Federation, denied knowledge of the report. Mr. Dabo said he should be in charge of such documents if they were available.
He said the role of the auditor-general’s office was in selecting PriceWaterHouseCoopers as the auditing firm, after which the matter reverted to the finance ministry.
Mr. Dabo said only the Auditor General, Samuel Ukura, could speak authoritatively on whether any such report was ready. Mr. Ukura could not be reached for comments at the time.
PREMIUM TIMES also contacted PriceWaterHouseCoopers, where an official said the firm would only be able to comment on a later date.
Checkered Legacy of Africa’s Last White Ruler: Case of South Africa’s F.W. de Klerk
January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments
Nelson Mandela at his presidential inauguration with his deputies, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki[/caption] Since the beginning of this year, South Africa has been gripped by the issue of whether or not to name one of Cape Town’s major streets after Frederick de Klerk. To ordinary South Africans, street name changes are no big issue; many do not even notice them until they come to a newly changed street name and have to figure out their own whereabouts. In short, street name changes are usually a mere inconvenience and a nuisance. Why is it then that, suddenly, plans to change the name of the Table Mountain Boulevard to F.W. de Klerk Boulevard in Cape Town (Mother City) have become such a major and controversial issue of national proportions? Indeed, the matter is now so huge that is has captured and divided the nation racially and politically. F.W. de Klerk was the last of seven presidents of apartheid South Africa. He was an integral part of that socio-political order, prominent enough to have held several of its cabinet positions. When apartheid finally started to show signs of cracking, however, de Klerk was astute enough to entertain the possibility that change was inevitable and he entertained the idea of harnessing that change, while there still was time. His method of choice was peaceful negotiations rather than wait until violence engulfed the country. South Africa did achieve that negotiated transition to democracy peacefully. Many observers around the world, including the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee, were convinced that that was an achievement enough to earn de Klerk the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the struggle icon, Nelson Mandela. In a recent interview de Klerk himself reiterated that he would like to be remembered as “… a politician who helped to lead South Africa from the dead end apartheid to a non-racial, constitutional democracy.” If the story had ended there, there would not be much dispute today over re-naming a Cape Town street after de Klerk. But, as fate would have it, that is where the theme really thickens, triggering the question: to cross the line from the status quo to negotiating away apartheid, did de Klerk jump or was he pushed? In other words, was this a case of recognizing the impracticality of apartheid or was it a matter of moral bankruptcy of apartheid by a truly reformed de Klerk? This is the essence of today’s public debate. Antagonists insist that the former president was a bona fide offspring of apartheid, one of its prominent and loyal foot soldiers, to the very end. He resorted to negotiations only when he saw the writing on the wall, that the end of apartheid was inevitable, with or without him. So, de Klerk embraced the old jungle logic of ‘if you cannot beat them, join them?’ Was he an opportunist or a reformer? Some would say a reformed realist. The narrative continues that in the late 1980s when de Klerk came to power, he realized that his old order of apartheid was doomed. After all, it was condemned worldwide. International sanctions were largely in place and were biting so deeply that South Africa’s economy was already sluggish. A cordon of an arms embargo was tight and squeezing tighter. And in 1987-88 the apartheid war machine had suffered humiliating military defeats at the hands of Cuban-Angolan military forces in Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola. Those unwelcome defeats made the military option questionable at best for the South African white regime. Finally, social unrest and violence had intensified inside the country, giving substance to the much dreaded rhetoric of ‘making South Africa ungovernable.’ The Republic was indeed on the verge of imploding. From the above logic, opponents of the bid to re-name Table Mountain Boulevard after de Klerk insist that, on balance, he was ultimately their oppressor. Why should they honor him by endorsing plans to change the name of a major street in Cape Town after him? He was not their liberator! This is the same position articulated publicly by the ANC, the ruling political party in South Africa, and COSATU, the huge black trade union. Conversely, de Klerk’s supporters dismiss the above logic on the grounds that, when he succeeded P.W. Botha in 1989, he became a legitimate President of the Republic of South Africa. He could have chosen to remain defiant, like his predecessor, in defense of apartheid, despite evidence against its life expectancy. That attitude on de Klerk’s part would have plunged South Africa into the abyss of a civil war that nobody wanted. To the extent that he embraced the view that there was no alternative to a negotiated settlement, de Klerk did play a major role in peaceful dismantling of apartheid. We are reminded that the negotiated settlement approach was not necessarily the easy route for De Klerk to take. Some members of his white constituency, specifically the ultra-conservative right-wing, were dead set against negotiated democracy with Nelson Mandela, the ANC, PAC or any other black organizations. To that end, they were prepared to go to war. Viewed from this angle, de Klerk did take ominous political risks by resorting to negotiations. He even did what was then ‘unthinkable’ by releasing Nelson Mandela from prison. To be redundant, that is precisely the background against which de Klerk was awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. Is that contribution worth naming a Cape Town street after him? Why are the victims of apartheid being so unforgiving? What is in a Cape Town street name any way? The tragedy of de Klerk’s attachment to this scenario is that it embraces deeply-felt sentiments, much larger than itself and it is a smelly package. De Klerk’s contribution to the liberation of South Africa is and will always remain contentious. Indeed there are allegations that his regime connived at human right abuses against Blacks to the very end of apartheid. Additionally the city of Cape Town itself has had an uncomfortable relationship with the rest of country during the post-apartheid era, especially with the ruling ANC. This is so mainly because Cape Town is mainly white with the customary class/race delineations of wealth. And last, but not least, it is governed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the home base of former apartheid diehards. Indeed, Cape Town is the capital of Western Cape, the only DA-run province. In terms of race relations, the province and the Mother City have had an appalling record in attending to the needs of its black citizens. The prevailing perception is that when it comes to Blacks, the views of the powers-that-be are simply ‘we do not care if we offend.’ Renaming Table Mountain Boulevard after F.W. de Klerk, in spite of the opposition of the voiceless, is likely to dovetail neatly into that image. Yet, in terms of political sloganeering, the DA claims that Western Cape is the best governed province in the country. The ANC responds that Western Cape and the Cape Town are still victims of apartheid and require to be liberated from that bondage. The name of de Klerk, for no fault of his own, seems to conjure up all those less than pleasant images. As the biggest opposition party in the country, the DA has had an adversarial relationship with the ruling ANC. The two at times behave like enemies rather than opposition political parties. Yet, despite today’s political posturing, long-term mistakes may be made. Currently, the DA focuses on its constitutional rights to change its street names as it sees fit. But this should hardly be done at the expense of sensitivity to the deeply-felt passions of the marginalized segments of the society. Such would enhance a sense of alienation and anger already there. And that is exactly what changing the name of Table Mountain Boulevard to F.W. de Klerk would do. More immediately, the DA faces the problem of being a minority party. For this reason, it longs for opportunities to penetrate the poor non-white society that the ANC claims to be its domain. It is one of its ideals to do this prior the forthcoming 2016 local government election. Being insensitive to the deep passions of the marginalized constituency misses the point regarding the renaming of Table Mountain Boulevard. It is politically naïve for the DA to engage in an issue that dividesSouth Africa racially and politically. It puts itself in a race it cannot win. Finally, ignoring the voices of the voiceless now is not the way forward because it threatens South Africa’s democracy. Democracy requires good governance which in turn means more than just numbers. It implies listening extra hard and respecting the minority’s views; what the voiceless and marginalized, have to say. This minority may represent the silent majority of tomorrow. **James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus), now an independent writer based in South Africa. He runs the blog Global Africa]]>
Cuba, Fidel Castro and Liberation of Africa
January 19, 2015 | 1 Comments
Late South African President Nelson Mandela with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro[/caption] My hope for the legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency was dashed in 2012 when Obama launched what he called New Alliance for Food and Nutrition (NAFSN), a new program designed to feed Africa in a decade. NAFSN has been criticized for many reasons but its core crime was to open the door for American agribusiness corporations to enter Africa and to sanction the entry of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the continent. Obama was dishonest to the extent that he did this without mentioning the dangers inherent in GMOs and the controversy surrounding them in the US and around the world. Thawing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US as announced on December 17, 2014 was a redeeming move because it is a wise gesture for all concerned. It was an act of good leadership that gives the Obama’s presidency a human face. Cuba and Fidel Castrol entered the world stage with a bang in October 1962. It was at that time that the US and the Soviet Union, then the uncontested global superpowers, stared at each other eyeball-to-eyeball with fingers on the buttons of their nuclear weapons. This is what came to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The showdown started when American spy planes discovered that the Russians were installing in Cuba nuclear missiles capable of striking mainland USA. To stop the venture, Americans resolved to stop and inspect Soviet vessels on the high seas if they were destined for Cuba. Before the dust finally settled, it was mankind who came to the brink of a nuclear holocaust. Was Cuba’s overzealous in inviting installation of nuclear weapons a mere ninety miles from Florida? To fair-minded critics it did not seem so. After all, Americans had nuclear bases in Turkey, within a striking distance of the USSR. Additionally, the weapons in Cuba were never intended to be used; they were meant to be mere deterrents to the mightier and provocative USA. The logic of ‘nuclear deterrents’ was commonplace among the nuclear nations of that time. Did Cuba need deterrence? It was US President Dwight Eisenhower who initially severed US-Cuba diplomatic relations in January 1961, two years after Fidel Castro took power. When John Kennedy became president shortly thereafter, he tightened tighter the screws on little Cuba. After all, the Cuban government had moved closer to a one-party communist state and had nationalized US assets on the island. It is no surprise that months after coming to power, JFK approved a CIA paramilitary initiative intended to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. The JFK-approved venture, known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, went terribly wrong and was indeed classified as one of the greatest military disasters of modern history. Many of the invaders were killed at sea and more than 1,300 CIA mercenaries were captured and imprisoned. From that point Cuba became a flash point, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. In that context, Cuba and Fidel Castro earned the dubious distinction of being the main actors on the stage that brought the world closest to an all-out nuclear holocaust. By introducing nuclear weapons in the Western Hemisphere was Cuba being provocative to the US? To objective sympathizers, the answer to this question was negative. In Castro’s view, the attempt to bring nuclear weapons to Cuba was a matter of survival for him and his regime. After all, American sustained provocative intrusions into his country’s affairs were unrelenting and had made deterrence essential. Indeed, a case can be made that since the 1959 Cuban Revolution until about a month ago, American foreign policy to Cuba has been unduly hostile. The US can brag of having imposed ruthless and longest ever economic sanctions on a small island of less than 12 million people. In addition, there have been hundreds of confirmed assassination attempts on the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, by the USA. What prompts such irrational and extreme behavior? Is the US alarmed by positive ‘demonstration effects’ of the Cuban socialist ideology? What accounts for this inhumane instance of the Cuban tail wagging the American dog? [caption id="attachment_15187" align="alignright" width="194"] Prof James N. Kariuki[/caption] During the 1979 Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Havana, I personally witnessed the practical impact of the Cuban socialist ideology that so concerned the USA. On the streets of Havana there were makeshift healthcare shacks, including dental clinics, offering free medical services to the public for those who needed it. The US is still struggling to devise a universally acceptable health care coverage for its citizens. I do not speak Spanish, Cuba’s national language, but the sense of dignified affirmation was unmistakable among the ordinary Cubans. I remember clearly one black policewoman directing heavy rush-hour traffic of Havana. Unwittingly, her body language told it all. She knew that she was somebody, a Cuban by right and Cuba was her country. Subtly but unequivocally, she was affirmed; she knew that the color of her skin was not held against her. The sense of insecurity, alienation and corresponding defiance, commonplace among the Blacks of North America was conspicuously non-existent here. Absence of crime in Havana was startling. Obviously the security of foreign delegates to the Havana Summit was critically important to the Cuban authorities. Yet, we were not assigned protection, armed or unarmed, on the streets of Havana or elsewhere. And no place was no-go zone for us at any time, day or night. Amid all this, I kept remembering that Cuba was the only country in the world that exported medical doctors as an official state policy. By all external indications, the Cuban socialist system was not so bad after all; it seemed to work for the Cubans. Should they have dropped it just to suit the whims of the USA? The impact of the Cuban Revolution on the entire society is obvious. During the regime of Fulgencio Batista who was overthrown by Fidel Castro, Cubans suffered from abject poverty, had scant access to education, healthcare and dignified jobs. In addition the Batista regime ruled with an iron fist. It was known for brutal and arbitrary arrests, torture and rampant executions. Corruption was commonplace and Batista was well connected to the US mafia. He was a major beneficiary of American-ran rich hotels and casinos in Havana. Contemporary Cuba enjoys identical life expectancy as the US and has lower infant mortality. Cuba’s literacy rates are some of the highest in the world; the US is 21st. Cuba has one of the best disaster response medical systems anywhere. It has recently sent 250 doctors to West Africa to combat Ebola. All this has occurred despite the American-imposed economic embargo. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Cubans indeed offered to send 1, 500 Cuban doctors to assist. The George W. Bush administration was too embarrassed to respond. Relative to Global Africa, Cuba’s foreign policy has been guided by two convictions. First, that Cuba’s liberation from Spain in the 19th century needed and got active cooperation of Afro-Cubans. Second, the Cuban society is what it is today because of inputs of Afro-Cubans. They injected vital elements into the Cuban way of life. For these reasons, the Castro leadership felt a profound sense of indebtedness to contemporary Africa. On Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inauguration day as the first democratically elected President of South Africa, Fidel Castro was the guest of honor at the ceremony and one of only four heads of state who spoke. On that occasion, Mandela gave Castro a big bear hug and whispered to his ear, “We owe this day to you.” These were words of profound gratitude and deep affection. Was Mandela overstating his case? In 1987-1988 Cuban, along with Angolan MPLA forces, engaged apartheid South African troops for 137 days in southern Angola, ultimately driving them back to Namibia. Though not entirely crushed, the apartheid war machine was profoundly humiliated by the defeats in Cuito Cuanavale. The myth of invisibility of the white military might in Southern Africa was forever shattered. The Cuban triumphs so embarrassed and shocked the apartheid regime that its eventual liquidation was a matter of time. Various sources have indicated that the Cuito Cuanavale military confrontation was important enough to the apartheid regime that use of nuclear weapons was considered. In a 2007 autobiography, Fidel Castro: My Life, the Cuban icon revealed that he was aware of the nuclear factor in the Angolan confrontation. As he stated, “for Angola’s freedom, Cuban and Angolan troops fought against an apartheid army and government that had eight Hiroshima/Nagasaki-size atomic bombs secretly provided by the US through … Israel.” The political fallout of the Cuito Cuanavale military encounters was indeed far-reaching. With South Africa’s intrusions out of the way, Angola was able to focus on consolidating its independence. The way for Namibia’s independence was also paved. Equally critical, military action inside South Africa itself was intensified. These and other pressures hurried the post-apartheid days for South Africa and its white supremacists allies in Southern Africa. It is against this background also that Nelson Mandela was released. Meanwhile the West continued to see the world through the lenses of the Cold War. The ANC was classified as a terrorist organization and, accordingly, Western support went unhindered to the apartheid regime. On the other hand, Cuban support to the African cause proceeded without reservation. As Fidel Castro has noted, Cuba had staked everything, including the existence of its own Revolution in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale. Meanwhile, both US President Ronald Reagan and British Margaret Thatcher made no bones about branding Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. This dubious distinction was sustained until 2008. All that time Mandela’s visa to enter the US, even as president of South Africa, had to be approved by the US Secretary of State, personally. Yes, Mandela meant every word that he whispered to Castro’s ear in 1994, that he had played a pivotal role in his nation’s liberation. And all that Cuba expected in return was for its soldiers to be allowed to “bring home the remains of their dead.” *James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus), now an independent writer based in South Africa. He was a professional and personal friend of Professor Ali Mazrui. He runs the blog Global Africa]]>
Botched Western Diplomacy Sabotaged ICC’s Case against President Uhuru Kenyatta
January 6, 2015 | 0 Comments
James N. Kariuki*
Until December 5, 2014, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was under indictment by the International Criminal Court for orchestrating Kenya’s post-elections violence of 2007-08. Curiously, The charges emerged almost simultaneously as the international stature of the Court itself was waning against allegations that it targeted African leaders unduly.
According to this logic, Western leaders are the worst abusers of human rights and they are never indicted. Why were US George W. Bush and Britain’s Tony Blair not accused of human rights violations in the Iraq War? How is it that American President Barack Obama walks free of ICC indictments for the drones that the US continues to drop on the Islamic world? Had the ICC become a neo-colonial tool of the West?
By a strange twist of fate, the hunter had suddenly become the hunted; the ICC itself was on trial in the world opinion. Unfortunately for an international court, the campaign against it was driven mostly by none other than the continental African Union.
After his indictment in 2012, Uhuru ran for Kenya’s presidency. In the contaminated atmosphere where ICC’s legitimacy was being questioned, it seemed somewhat over-zealous that in Kenya’s election campaign, the same Western powers posed as crusaders for human rights by taking it upon themselves to remind the Kenyan electorate that the Uhuru ticket was composed of ICC inductees, unworthy of their presidency. Put another way the Uhuru ticket, also known as the Jubilee Alliance, was portrayed as a burdensome liability to the Kenyan voters.
For its part, Britain announced unequivocally that, in the unlikely event that Uhuru won Kenya’s presidency, it would distance itself and maintain only ‘essential contacts’ with that government. At that time the Jubilee Alliance objected angrily to a “shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya’s election.”
The Americans also issued a thinly-veiled threat that “choices have consequences.” These were code words of an American diplomatic envoy, Johnnie Carson. They were widely taken to mean that, if Kenyans voted the Uhuru ticket into power, there would be a price to be paid for it.
The Anglo-American West thus showed a clear pre-election resolve to deprive fellowship and goodwill to a possible democratically-elected Uhuru-led government. From a legal standpoint, this was a crude betrayal of a Western principle of innocent until proven guilty.
Meanwhile, in the same Kenya’s campaign the West was actively supporting Uhuru’s major political rival, Raila Odinga. With this conspicuous support behind him, Odinga was so assured of victory that he even ‘eased up’ on campaigning in the run-up to the 2013 voting. To him, winning was a foregone conclusion, “it wouldn’t even be close.” Odinga was wrong on both counts. The elections were close and he happened to be on the losing end. Could it be that the meddling of the West on
Raila Odinga’s behalf in Kenya’s 1913 elections cost him the presidential bid?
What is certain is that Kenyans were irritated by the Western excessive meddling in their domestic political affairs. In the end, Western condemnation of Uhuru backfired, boosted his popularity by triggering support in form of sympathy and protest votes against the ‘unwelcome’ push for Raila.
Until the 2013 elections, the Anglo-American West seemed to share a monolithic view regarding Uhuru’s ICC indictment. That ‘understanding’ was largely a legal perspective, driven by political ends of course. It held that, since Uhuru was charged, he must defend himself in person before the ICC. He had to be tried like any other suspected criminal.
There have been whispers this ‘attitude’ was part of an elaborate politico-legal scheme. If Kenyatta was personally at The Hague to defend himself in a protracted and expensive trial, there was no way that he could possibly discharge his responsibility as the President of Kenya. At the very least, he could not be at two places at the same time.
Presumably, Raila Odinga would then step in and take over power. Hence the Western initial insistence that Uhuru had to be tried at The Hague. But before the alleged Anglo-American strategy materialized, politics of national interests subtly but profoundly entered the picture and drove a wedge between Britain and the USA.
In May 2013, Kenya’s newly-elected President, Uhuru Kenyatta, travelled to London at the invitation of the British Government of David Cameron. Officially, the purpose of the trip was to participate at a Somalia Summit, a subject that had become a critical security issue in the Eastern Africa region.
At first Uhuru was probably skeptical about making the trip, mindful that when his father visited the UK in 1962, he was pelted with rotten eggs by the British public, a show of utter contempt. After all, in the 1950s it was the colonial authorities of the same British who branded daddy Kenyatta a satanic pervert for allegedly masterminding the Mau Mau rebellion. Jomo Kenyatta was stigmatized as “a leader unto darkness and death.”
In the end Uhuru went to London. The Somalia ‘issue’ was important enough to Kenya’s security to demand a presidential presence. During this visit, no eggs were thrown but the British news media dubbed Uhuru with a hostile label of ‘Criminal President.’
The epithet of May 2013 referred to the fact that the ICC had recently indicted Uhuru for crimes against humanity. All the same the millions of Kenyans who had just voted him into office were insulted by the verbal slap. Indeed Kenya’s social media was abuzz with objections to the ‘crude diplomacy’ of the British public. After all, Uhuru was indicted; not yet found guilty.
The British Prime Minister was understandably cautious to avoid displaying exuberance at being in the company of the ‘discredited’ Kenyan leader. He delicately avoided photo sessions with Uhuru; there could be domestic political fallout if Cameron seemed to coddle an ICC inductee. But there comes a time when a leader must lead.
Cameron understood fully that British interests in Kenya and Eastern Africa were too important for him to dismiss Uhuru. After all, accused or not, he was the elected president of Kenya. This reality posed a serious problem for the policy of maintaining only ‘essential contact’ with the Uhuru government as pronounced by the British-American axis a few months earlier.
In the US, Uhuru’s official visit to Britain in all likelihood raised eye brows. Question must have been asked: Is Uhuru’s visit to the UK consistent with our mutual pledge to maintain only ‘essential contacts’ with his government? Was the British going it alone in conferring political legitimacy to Uhuru, an ICC inductee? Whatever the case, Britain had displayed a higher form of diplomatic realism than the US.
When Barack Obama made his first official visit to East Africa the following month, he bypassed Kenya altogether. Indeed at the University of Cape Town, he did state that he did so because he did not want to be associated with an ICC inductee in Kenya. Critical observers viewed this as pouting because Kenyans had rejected Obama’s candidate of choice for their president, Raila Odinga. Remember the code words, choices have consequences! Yet, in terms of US national interests, Kenya was by far amore critical force in Eastern Africa than Tanzania that Obama chose to visit.
The effect of internal Western soul searching and contradictions was that, by the time that Obama’s US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington came around in August 2014, few noticed that Uhuru was there as a vibrant and active participant. In the US too, Uhuru ICC stigma of ‘criminal president’ had apparently receded into distant past. Self-interests of the Anglo-American worlds had prevailed and superseded the quest to ‘un-do’ Uhuru Kenyatta.
Once they became preoccupied with their conflicting national interests, the US and Britain ceased to be a potent ‘invisible force’ pushing for Uhuru Kenyatta to be tried at The Hague. And yet the ICC had compromised itself by indicting the same Uhuru before it had developed a watertight case against him, enough not only to indict but to convict him. The Anglo-American breakdown of a united front for Uhuru’s trial sapped the ICC the single-mindedness and enthusiasm to continue the pursuit of the Kenyan President.
Ultimately, it is the Kenyan victims of 2007-08 violence who have been betrayed by the ICC_Uhuru fiasco. If anybody has to bear that responsibility, it is the West and the ICC. But it would be fitting if Uhuru could find a way to assist the innocent victims of the 2008 violence. After all, they have stood by him to the bitter end. Additionally, he has the means, personally and officially, and the heart to extend a hand of kindness. This would be a political act, not legal. He would be doing it because he chooses to, not because he is instructed to do so