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In Celebration of an African Hero and Global Citizen: Professor Ali Mazrui
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Ajong Mbapndah L* at-DR-ALI-AL'AMIN-MAZRUI-DIES_hugeSandwiched between the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa and the people’s revolution that swept Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso from power, the passing of Professor Ali Mazrui was lost to many. Yet, the life of the towering intellectual that Professor Mazrui was deserved greater attention than passing headlines in the media. Professor Mazrui spent a lifetime fighting for Africa. He wrote profusely, and used a distinctive television documentary, “The Africans: A Triple Heritage” to share objective history of Africa with Africa and the world. To people like Professor Mazrui, there is reason to take pride in the rich cultural and historic contribution of Africa to modern civilization. Unfortunately, instead of promoting the African heritage that Ali Mazrui advocated, many of contemporary leaders in Africa have excelled only in pushing the continent in the wrong direction. As someone who endured a fair share of personal hardships from homegrown political detractors, Professor Mazrui no doubt would have supported the people of Burkina Faso in their heroic resistance against changing constitutional term limits by a leader that had held power for 27 years. images (1)Had Professor Mazrui been alive, he would have continued to educate the world that far from stigmatizing an entire continent of over a billion people with the Ebola, the virus is largely restricted to three countries in one region—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa. Simplifying understanding of the continent, its peoples and its history for the world was part of the mission to which Ali Mazrui devoted a lifetime When Pan-African Visions thought of a special edition to celebrate Professor Ali Mazrui’s relationship with Africa and Africans, we turned to Professor James Kariuki who runs the Global Africa Blog. We did so aware that Professors Mazrui and Kariuki were professional colleagues and close personal friends. They knew each other over the years as they taught at different US universities and worked jointly on several projects in the US and Africa. Kariuki graciously accepted the challenge of coordinating this issue. When we approached him, his response was, with tongue in cheek, who am I to say no? [caption id="attachment_14827" align="alignleft" width="300"]Ajong Mbapndah L Ajong Mbapndah L[/caption] To celebrate Ali A. Mazrui, this Special Edition of PAV has pulled together African intellectual Titans living thousands of miles apart. From Willy Mutanga, the Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, the thread stretched to link to the Distinguished Professor and world-famous novelist, Ngugi wa Thiong’o at University of California in Irvine, California, Professor Sulayman S. Nyang of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Professor Isawa Elaigwu of the University of Jos, Nigeria, and others. In so doing, these contributors have conquered time and space to join hands in fellowship with other influential academicians, legal luminaries and common people to commemorate one of their own, the late Professor Ali Mazrui. The life and works of a giant in the mold of Professor Ali Mazrui can never be amply dissected in a single publication like this but kudos to Professor Kariuki for taking the lead in this venture. Our gratitude goes out to him as well as to the contributors who responded to his call for submissions that have made this edition possible. As we, Africans, vilify tyrants and visionless leaders who hold the continent hostage, we must also celebrate our heroes and this special edition is one small step in that direction. Ali Mazrui was truly the epitome of Africa’s finest and his legacy will transcend generations to come. Happy reading!! *Managing Editor PAV]]>

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Kenyans Must Reconcile Themselves to Excellence of Thought?
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Matthew 13:57: “…only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  images (5)Those familiar with the writings of Mjomba (Uncle) Ali Mazrui know that he loved comparative approaches, drawing out contradictions and paradoxes and generating rich insights in the process. And in a way his own life is an illustration of this stylistic device that he employed so effectively.  Mjomba Ali Mazrui’s life captures the promise and tragedy of our nation—the Kenyan paradox. It is a paradox or contradiction that his death must help us resolve. On the one hand, his achievements represent the excellence of the Kenyan spirit and abilities: a people confident enough to conquer and rule the world. On the other hand, his exile from his home soil represents our discomfort with excellence at home, a penchant to reward the most undeserving and punish the most meriting. A strange habit of making competence a burden in this country! We must stop insecurities that free thinkers seem to stir in us—insecurities that made us deny Mjomba Ali an appointment for public service but after we atoned for our sins by making him Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (KUAT), we let him exit yet again without deserving honor. We have punished thought by exiling these free and great thinkers. And these free thinkers have succeeded in shaming us by their sheer excellence in the foreign lands to which we banished them. We rejected the intellectual confidence of Barack Obama Senior and now he has produced the first black American President. We exiled Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o to Mexico, now he has given us the first African Oscar. We exiled Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, now he has been in the top running for the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature.  We exiled Ali Mazrui, a man listed both by Foreign Policy and Prospectus Magazine of the United States and United Kingdom respectively as one of the world’s top 100 most influential thinkers. That is no mean feat even though exiling him was a very mean act. We exiled the eminent and distinguished Professor Yash Pal Ghai to the UK and finally to Hong Kong, recalling him home to write our Constitution only to end up frustrating him in that patriotic duty. Professor Ghai has continued writing and rewriting Constitutions for other nations, a great project that made the Queen honor him with a CBE (we honored him with an EBS but are yet, after two years, to give him the medal)! We exiled Professor Alamin Mazrui after we detained him without trial and he prospered and achieved greatness in the US. We exiled Micere Mugo, a great professor of literature to Syracuse University in New York. We exiled Wangui wa Goro to London since she was in her 20s. We exiled Kamonji Wachiira to Canada where he ended up holding diplomatic and development positions with the Canadian government and Canadian Sida, respectively. We exiled Professor Maina  Kenyatti, the first Kenyan historian to show passionate interest and conduct research on the Mau Mau War of Liberation. We exiled Professor Shadrack Gutto to Zimbabwe and South Africa where he has excelled in matters of constitutions and constitutionalism. We exiled John Samuel Mbiti, a re-known and brilliant philosopher who taught at Makerere and could not get a job at home after Idi Amin came to power in Uganda and his life working in Uganda was in danger.  He now works in Switzerland and continues to write and recently translated the Bible in Greek into the Kikamba national language. We exiled the brilliant historian ES Atieno-Adhiambo to the US where he has distinguished himself as a scholar par excellence. We exiled Professor Makau Mutua who is now a distinguished professor at Buffalo Law School, constantly glorified by the Governor of New York and the Chief Judge of New York. And there are many more great scholars we have exiled! So if there is anything to be learned, it is that our nation’s culture of constant discomfort with excellence, of exiling thought because ideas terrify us, only succeeds in shaming us abroad and costing us dearly at home. The rest of the world benefits from our rejected gems, as we continue to suffer from underdevelopment and poverty and constant attempts to sabotage a promising constitutional democracy. We are only proud of one small and useless idea: that we have perfected the art of ethnic calculus and other divisions in our politics, and elevated corruption as a high science of our nationhood. These are two traditional sins of Africa’s governance that Mjomba Ali spent his lifetime in scholarship and public service fighting. Kenyans have a big spirit; a great potential and an in-built confidence to lead and conquer the world. However, to realize this potential, we must learn to be at ease with excellence and stop punishing and exiling thought. As we wish Mjomba Mazrui to rest in peace in death, may we also learn to live and be at peace with great ideas—and with great thinkers among our women and men! Finally, we all agree that Mjomba Ali was a global African. Born in Mombasa, he was a Kenyan, a native of the continent of Africa, and a global citizen. If we are serious about implementing the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, particularly the provisions on patriotism, nationhood, and unity in diversity (be it ethnic, religious, regional, religious, gender, generation, clan, class), then Mjomba Ali gives us the ideological, political, and cultural template for necessary political leadership to succeed in that endeavor. We need not suffer from the crisis of political leadership anymore. We only need to internalize the virtues of Mjomba Ali in our transformation. I end where I started. The “hometown” and the “house” in this case must both refer to “Kenya” and “Kenyans!” May the Almighty Allah rest Mjomba Ali’s soul in Eternal Peace! Allahu Akbar. *Willy Mutunga is a Kenyan leading scholar and Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya.]]>

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Homage to Professor Ali Mazrui – a Global Citizen
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Harold Acemah* images (4)On October 13, 2014, an intellectual giant passed on at Binghamton, USA. Prof Ali A. Mazrui was one of a kind and his death at 81 marks the end of an era. He did Africa proud as a teacher, a scholar, an author and as a global citizen. I first met Prof Mazrui in 1967 when I enrolled at Makerere College of the defunct University of East Africa. He was professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. As one of a handful of African heads of department at Makerere during the 1960s, Mazrui was at 34 the youngest, but easily the most prolific and most admired professor on the hill. Students fondly called him “The University Orator” which did not go well with his detractors who were obviously jealous of him. His public lectures at Makerere’s Main Hall attracted, in droves, students, academicians and Uganda’s political elite. Prof Mazrui taught an introductory course (POL 1.2) in Political Science for First Year students. I enrolled for the course during the 1967/68 academic year. Our class of about 120 students often welcomed “visiting students” from other departments who came weekly to listen to and be mesmerised by our Mwalimu whose two-hour lectures were so absorbing and so engrossing that time always flew unnoticed. He had the unique ability to explain complex ideas and theories to the level where all students in his class would answer or nod “Yes” when he asked: “Are we together?” When I requested Prof Mazrui in 1988 to be a referee for my application to the Graduate School of the University of Toronto, he not only agreed without any hesitation, but also gave me a fantastic recommendation which enabled me secure admission to “U of T” which is Canada’s leading university. I am grateful for the guidance, encouragement and support he extended to me as a student. Prof Mazrui’s legacy A graduate of Oxford University, Dr Ali Mazrui was professor and head of the Department of Political Science at Makerere from 1966-1973; he taught at several universities thereafter, such as the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Nigeria at Jos and from 1989 until his death he was the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities and Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS) at the State University of New York (SUNY), Binghamton. Prof Mazrui has left a powerful, impressive and enduring legacy in the academic and literary world; he published more than 20 scholarly books, including Towards a Pax Africana which was a must-read for students of Political Science in the 1960s. Ali’s finest hour for me was in 1979 when he delivered BBC’s prestigious Reith Lectures under the theme “The African Condition” which brought vintage Ali Mazrui to the whole world. This was followed in1986 by the TV series “The Africans: A Triple Heritage” produced jointly by BBC and America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Prof Mazrui continued to write, teach and travel across the world to give lectures on a wide variety of subjects. I often wondered what kept him working tirelessly and unceasingly even at old age. He will be missed by the Political Science fraternity. In September 1996, I visited Prof Mazrui at Binghamton; my visit regrettably coincided with the death and funeral of Ali’s right hand man at the IGCS, Dr Omari Kokole, who was my friend. Omari was a student of Political Science at Makerere and Dalhousie University, Canada. He was like me from West Nile, but brought up in Jinja and spoke fluent Lusoga and Luganda in addition to Kakwa, his mother tongue. After the funeral, Prof Mazrui invited me and some friends of Omari for lunch at his residence and later on I had a one- to- one talk with him at his office at the IGCS. During our conversation, I came to realise how much Omari’s death at the tender age of 44 years had affected him, because he spoke with tears about his departed colleague; Ali was human and was overcome by emotion at one stage. He told me that Omari was like a son to him and that he had groomed him as his successor at IGCS. I was deeply touched and for those who knew Dr Kokole, they will recall how much he sounded like Mazrui. Omari did not resemble Mazrui at all, but when he spoke at meetings one would think it was Prof Mazrui. Dr Kokole was a renowned political scientist in his own right and a professor at SUNY. What pains and riles me about Ali Mazrui, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Okello Oculi and hundreds of Africa’s best and brightest sons and daughters, is the fact that they were forced to flee their countries of origin or Africa by a hostile political environment poisoned by callous, ignorant and worthless African dictators! Prof Mazrui was blacklisted and harassed for over two decades by the notorious Moi regime; he died in exile. The enemies of the African revolution who have caused a massive brain drain from the continent have deprived Africa’s youth of the knowledge, skills and wisdom of scores of great African intellectuals and scholars who are languishing in exile in Europe, USA, Canada and elsewhere. Instead of Ali Mazrui and Chinua Achebe, the men who deserve to languish in exile are the greedy, violent and useless African dictators, such as Yahya Jammeh, Teodoro Obiang and Isaias Afewerk who have turned Africa into a laughing stock! How long must patriotic Africans and people of goodwill put up with such outrage? One hopes not long. May Ali Mazrui’s soul rest in eternal peace! * Source Daily Monitor . Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat. hacemah@gmail.com  ]]>

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Jacob Zuma’s Presidency under Siege?
September 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

imagesAt the end of August this year, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma embarked upon what was called a ‘working visit’ to Russia. Officially, Zuma’s objectives in Moscow included discussing trade enhancement between the Russian Federation and South Africa, searching for investment opportunities and for the South African president to get some rest. But, given their propensity for curiosity, the news media immediately wondered aloud why the details of an official presidential visit seemed to be shrouded by a veil of secrecy in both South Africa and Russia.

Curiosity verged on frustration.  First, the ‘resting’ claim for the president was unconvincing. It is true that the Zuma may have needed some rest given his grueling election campaign earlier in the year, his generally questionable health condition and the turbulent events of the first three months of his second term. But, since the trip coincided with the beginning of one of Russia’s notoriously brutal winters, weather alone virtually ruled it out as a vacationing destination of choice for an aging African leader.

On the other hand, if Zuma went to Moscow to promote bilateral trade cooperation and investment opportunities, why is it that his delegation did not include personnel from the relevant Department of Trade and Industry or from the cabinet’s economic cluster? Oddly, the president’s senior official entourage was composed of only the State Security Minister and the International Relations Deputy Minister. To consummate the intrigue, Zuma was not accompanied by a single journalist.

Given the mystique, news reporters were prompted to speculation. What was the ‘real’ purpose of the trip? Why now and why Russia?’

Analysts reminisced that Zuma’s presidency has always been dogged by controversy. But it was precisely in late August 2014, just prior to the Russian trip, that the same presidency became truly embattled. It was at that time that two domestic political crises converged and seemed to escalate uncontrollably to a crescendo.

Political challenges posed by these crises were indeed daunting, sufficiently unsettling to prompt observers to liken them to the infamous US Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. That political scandal pushed President Richard M. Nixon to his historic resignation of 1974 and infected the American body politic forever. It is said that, as a result of the Watergate scandal, the American political system lost its innocence.

The two issues that may forever define the Zuma’s presidency are captured in the general category of corruption and, specifically, they include the so-called Zuma spy tapes and the Nkandla scandal. Remarkably, the otherwise streetwise President has so far fallen short of finding a way to make either of the two problems go away.

Meanwhile, the public passions that the scandals continue to trigger are inflamed by the fact that each is embraced as a crusade attitude of three influential and highly visible public figures. These include Helen Zille, the leader of Democratic Alliance (D.A.) and the largest opposition party; Julius Malema, the leader of the recently formed and recalcitrant Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Thuli Madonsela of the Office of Public Protector. Though they act as separate and distinct entities, these have become Zuma’s political nemeses and are hell-bent to the proposition that, come hell or high water, Zuma will be forced to pay for his political indiscretions.

The most enduring of Zuma’s catalogue of political ‘sins’ is what has come to be known as his spy tapes. Just before South Africa’s 2009 national elections, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) cited the tapes as the basis for withdrawing over 700 counts of fraud and corruption allegations against Zuma. But this issue has stubbornly remained unsettled for half a decade and as the core and immovable element in the President’s gathering storm.

The dismissal of the spy tape charges was indeed an indication that the NPA had concurred with Zuma’s contention that the taped conversations between the NPA and the-now-disbanded Scorpions Investigative Unit were convincing evidence that there indeed was a ‘political conspiracy’ against him. The withdrawal eliminated a major legal hurdle for Zuma, clearing the way for him to become president.

However, Helen Zille’s Democratic Alliance (DA), was not convinced.  The timing and alleged grounds for Zuma’s exoneration appeared too convenient to be true. For this reason, the largest opposition party was determined to listen to the spy tapes to determine if there indeed was a bona fide legal justification for exempting Zuma. All told, the DA has spent R10 million for this purpose in six court cases during the past five years to get its hands on the Zuma spy tapes.

Clearly, the DA’s hope in this lengthy pursuit has been to ‘uncover’ whether or not the 2009 decision to withdraw the 700 corruption charges against Zuma was politically-driven rather than legal. More than any other figure, Helen Zille has championed this cause with a devotion far greater than a mere political issue would warrant. This is so because, if the spy tapes can demonstrate that the 2009 withdrawal of charges against Zuma was politically-motivated, those charges can be reinstated in court to the detriment of Zuma and his presidency.

Precisely for this reason, it is said, Zuma has fought tooth and nail for nearly half a decade against the tapes’ lease and at a hefty legal fee borne by the tax payers.  Unfortunately, his animated objection against the release started to crumble in the same, infamous August 2014.  Specifically, on August 28, 2014, the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered that the NPA had to release the contested spy tapes to the DA in five days.  Three days later, Zuma departed for Moscow.

The other volatile issue is the Nkandla scandal, the allegation that Zuma has spent R246 million of public funds on his private residence under the guise of presidential security upgrades. In March this year Thuli Madonsela, in her capacity as the Public Protector, released a two-year investigation report that some of the Nkandla modifications were inconsistent with claims of security upgrades and that the President had to pay back for the misspent public funds.

Politically, Julius Malema and Thuli Madonsela are indeed strange bedfellows. The former is the leader of recently formed radical political party, the EFF. As indicated, the latter is the incumbent Public Protector, a government official. Ideologically, they have nothing in common. It is thus a measure of the mounting pressure on Zuma’s presidency that an alliance-of-sorts seems to have emerged between the two in opposition to the Nkandla issue, especially in Parliament. In August, both were demanding from President Zuma a transparent accounting for Nkandla, insisting on the right of the public to know when he planned to pay back for the alleged non-security expenditures.

On August 21, as the EFF aggressively grilled Zuma in Parliament regarding the Nkandla affair, a heated verbal exchange erupted between the Speaker of the House and Julius Malema. As a result of an ensuing chaos and stand-off between the two, the Speaker adjourned the National Assembly while riot police were summoned to physically remove EFF members from the building.

To the extent that the EFF MPs were unrelentingly heckling President Zuma in demanding answers to the Nkandla upgrades, was the President’s failure to provide satisfactory answers undermining proper and respectable functioning of a key branch of government? Are we witness to a specific political scandal of Nkandla escalate into a scathing constitutional crisis of national proportions?

The week before the parliamentary humiliating spectacle, Madonsela had accused Zuma in written form of “being guilty of an attack on the constitution and the rule of law by granting the Police Minister of Police the power to review her (Madonsela’s) findings” on Nkandla. Had the Nkandla infection ballooned into a constitutional crisis for the nation, a matter vastly larger than the original tag of corruption?

Prof-James-Kariuki21Besieged by such rugged news and punishing headlines, President Zuma found himself in a corner.  To think through the bombshells thrown at him, he was probably well-advised to seek a few days of solitude and privacy of far away from his troublesome home.

A week after the fiasco in the National Assembly, Zuma left for Moscow.  But why to Russia?

Reportedly Zuma and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, have evolved a bond in which the South African leader derives considerable comfort, a personal friendship that goes beyond the call of duty. It is said that the two have now become very good friends.

Especially in context of the BRICS fraternity, Zuma and Putin meet fairly often and take time to discuss ex-officially matters of mutual concerns. Those include global issues such as the on-going turmoil in Syria, the Israeli-Palestine recent military crisis and the deteriorating condition in the Ukraine.

In all likelihood, Putin feels that he has received bad publicity over Ukraine and probably needs Zuma to boost his quest for political support in Global South. He is basically fed up with the Western negative campaign against what it calls Russian aggression. He is thus may be eager to garner support from Africa and the developing world in general to counter the sustained ‘propaganda’ of the US and its traditional European allies. Presumably, Zuma can be invaluable in this regard.

Conversely Zuma, given his political woes at home, probably needed a shoulder to cry on and a word or two of encouragement from the world’s greatest political survivor of the twenty first century. In recent years, Putin has defied and successfully resisted attempts of powerful Russian forces to unseat him. Could it be the case that Zuma is seriously concerned about political survival at home and went to Russia to seek consolation and advice from the ultimate expert on ‘how to?’

Seen in the above context, Zuma’s real purposes for the visit to Russia several weeks ago was not so puzzling after all. But it could not be public information.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his

 

 

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USA-Africa Relations and the Factor of Counter-Penetration
July 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

kwame nkrumah and martin luther king

kwame nkrumah and martin luther king

April 4, 2014 marked the 46th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. One of his most publicized acts was to denounce publicly the American involvement in the unpopular Vietnam War. The fact that King was killed exactly a year to the day that he made the anti-Vietnam War announcement still raises eyebrows. Was a bigger force than a lone assassin involved in his murder?

Reverend King was many things to different people but, fundamentally, he was an African American civil rights activist. By condemning American involvement in the Vietnam War King risked alienating Lyndon B. Johnson, an immensely influential and sitting US president who was sympathetic to his civil rights agenda. When asked why he took that chance, Dr. King responded that, to him, justice was indivisible, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Viewed from another perspective, King’s declaration was broader: he could not honestly oppose racial injustice in America yet turn a blind eye to an obvious case of racial injustice in Southeast Asia. Built into this reasoning was a pointed indictment that President Lyndon B. Johnson could not forever get away with the claim of supporting civil rights for Black Americas while presiding over a costly, racially-tainted and brutal war in Vietnam.

Since King’s time, the world has become increasingly sensitive to its demarcation into distinct beneficiaries and victims. At the bottom of the pile, the ultimate casualties as in the North-South divide are Africans and Black people worldwide. But there have been progress in the quest for a solution, partly as a result of Reverend Martin Luther King’s inspiration.

Regarding the gross universal inequalities, the prolific Professor Ali Mazrui has consistently advocated that Global Africa should embrace the strategy of counter-penetration. This means that Black folk who were once openly and blatantly penetrated by Western colonialism should now turn the tables by working to occupy high positions of power within the Western world itself. From such heights, it is said, they are positioned to dispense justice for their fellow brethrens worldwide.

The Ali Mazruis, Chinua Achebes, Ngugi wa Thiong’os, Wole Soyinkas etc. and other American Africans intellectual giants are un-appointed ambassadors of this strategy in the universe of academia. As prominent educators in US educational institutions, these African Diasporans-of-the-Willing have unbridled opportunity to sensitize upcoming generations of future American decision-makers to the agonies and aspirations of continental Africans and Black folk worldwide. Post-colonial American African ‘Diasporans’ in academia are especially suited for this version of counter-penetration.

Equally critical is the role of the black Diaspora of the Unwilling, Diaspora of Enslavement, the descendants of those Africans who were transplanted to the West against their will. They are an integral part of Global Africa lodged in the West, including the most powerful nation on earth, the USA. What has their penetration of power dispensed for Africa so far?

 

James N. Kariuki

James N. Kariuki

The strategy of counter-penetration attributes substantial credit to itself for the reality that the US was less close-minded in condemnation of Kenyans than its European counterparts regarding the 2007 post-elections violence. This open-minded approach was instrumental in ultimately resolving the crisis. Remarkably, it was the African American, Jendayi Frazer, who made an on-site visitation to Kenya and reported her findings to her African America boss, Condoleezza Rice. It is noteworthy that, in addition to being African American, Frazer had studied in Kenya and her doctoral dissertation was on the same country. Presumably, her report on the post-election violence reflected that Kenyans were people with human faces.

The same counter-penetration perspective points out that African American, Colin Powell, reached the pinnacle of American military hierarchy and became the US Secretary of State. Powell had more than a passing interest in the agonies of the Sudan.

African American Condoleezza Rice followed Colin Powell to become the Secretary of State during the George W. Bush presidency. Granted, Rice was not a flag-waving black activist, but her skin is black. At some point, she was touched by one black cause or another. Was it not uniquely symbolic that she wept publicly when Barack Obama won the US presidency to take over from her own white boss, George W. Bush?  Blackness seemed to have overridden the fact that Obama was a Democrat while Rice and her boss were Republicans?  There was more.

In April 2008, Condoleezza Rice, urged the US Senate to pass a law to remove South Africa’s ANC categorization as a terrorist organization from the US database. The unflattering classification was originally attained during anti-apartheid era when the apartheid regime portrayed the party as a terrorist organization. Ten years after the demise of apartheid, ANC members still could not get visas to enter the US without personal waivers by the Secretary of State. In most cases, the mere requirement of the waiver amounted to visa denial.

In 2008 Rice told a Senate hearing that she found it discomforting to have to personally waive visa restrictions for her South African counterpart, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. More disconcerting, she had to do the same for the world-acknowledged icon of peace, Nelson Mandela.

The 2008 bid against ANC categorization was spearheaded by a Californian liberal lawmaker, Representative Howard Berman.  His language was more biting. “It is shameful that the US still treats the ANC this way, based solely on its designation as a terrorist organization by the old apartheid South African regime.” Regarding Mandela requiring a special waiver of the Secretary of State to obtain entry visa for the US, he simply stated, “What an indignity.”

This was not the first time that African American Diasporans-of-the-Unwilling fought for black-ruled South Africa within the confines of the American political system. One of the unsettling landmarks for the demise of apartheid was the passage of the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. That legislation resulted from unrelenting work of the US Congressional Black Caucus under the leadership of a black Congressman, Ronald Dellums. Most notably, its passage was an override over the veto of a popular President, Ronald Reagan.

Before Reverend King, Black Americans in South USA could not vote, much less become legislators. Today, the same black Americans have occupied virtually every political position, including the US presidency. Behind it all is King’s powerful notion that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. After all, Barack Obama’s political calling was first triggered by racial injustice in South Africa. This is a case of counter-penetration at its finest.

**James Kariuki is Professor of International Relations and a private consultant based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are his

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On the Concept of Afrabia
March 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Ali A. Mazrui and James N. Kariuki *

 There are different levels of Pan-Africanism, varying in degrees of sustainability. Sub-Saharan Pan-Africanism is a quest for the unification of black people in Africa below the Sahara. Then there are two possible versions of continental Pan-Africanism.

Sub-continental Pan-Africanism seeks union of black states while excluding Arab Africa. This idea has been floated from time to time, but it does not seem to gather much political support. More triumphant has been trans-Saharan Pan-Africanism which formed the basis for Afro-Arab Organization of African Unity (OAU) and its successor, the African Union (AU).

Another version of sub-Saharan Pan-Africanism is sub-regional rather than sub-continental. The sub-regional variety has produced organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which in recent years has been more of an activist as a peacekeeping force than as a vanguard for economic change.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) also received a new lease on life when South Africa became a fully fledged member in the post-apartheid era. In December 1999 Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania finally succeeded in reviving the East African Community since its collapse 22 years earlier.

By far the most ambitious idea floating around in the new era of intellectual speculation is whether the whole of Africa and the whole of the Arab world are two regions in the process of merging into one. Out of this speculative discourse has emerged the concept of Afrabia.  Is the Afrabia a mere intellectual fascination or can it be realized in practical terms?

Two tendencies have stimulated the new thinking about African-Arab relations. One tendency is basically negative but potentially unifying: the war on terrorism. The new international terrorism may have its roots in injustices perpetrated against such Arab people as Palestinians and Iraqis, but the primary theatre of contestation is blurring the distinction between the Middle East and the African continent.

To kill twelve Americans in Nairobi in August 1998, over 200 Kenyans died in a terrorist act at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Four years later, a suicide bomber in Mombasa, attacked the Israeli-owned and patronized Paradise Hotel. There too, three times as many Kenyans as Israelis perished. These incidents of unmitigated violence were mere rehearsals in microcosm of the spectacular September 2013 week-long terrorist attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi where over 60 innocent people were killed.
Apart from the war on terror, Islam as a cultural and political force has also been deepening relations between Africa and the Middle East. Intellectual revival is not only a Western idiom. It is also the idiom of African cultures and African Islam. Hot political debates about the Shariah (Islamic Law) in Nigeria and the political objectives of the contemporary violent Boko Haram constitute part of the trend of cultural integration between Africa and the Middle East.

Recent legitimization of Muammar Gaddafi as a viable African leader contributed to the birth of no less a new institution than the AU. It is sometimes startling how much more Pan-Africanist than Pan-Arabist Gaddafi had become in the years preceding his death. At least before he died, Gaddafi was steadily out-Africanizing the legacy of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The fourth force that may be merging Africa with the Middle East is political economy. Africa’s oil producers need to form a joint partnership with the bigger oil producers of the Middle East.

download (2)In the area of aid and trade between Africa and the Middle East, the volume may have gone down since the 1980s. But most indications seem to promise a future expansion of economic relations between Africa and the Middle East. In the Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman, the concept of Afrabia has begun to be examined on higher and higher echelons.

It was initially trans-Saharan Pan-Africanism that gave birth to the idea of Afrabia. The first post-colonial waves of Pan-Africanists like Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Sekou Toure believed that the Sahara was a bridge rather than a divide.

The concept of Afrabia now connotes more than interaction between Africanity and Arab identity; it is seen as a process of fusion between the two. While the principle of Afrabia recognizes that Africa and the Arab world are overlapping categories, it goes on to prophesy that these two are in the historic process of becoming one.

But who are the Afrabians? There are in reality at least four categories. Cultural Afrabians are those whose culture and way of life have been deeply Arabized but have fallen short of their being linguistically Arabs. Most Somali, Hausa, and some Waswahili are cultural Afrabians in that sense. Their mother-tongue is not Arabic, but much of the rest of their culture bears the stamp of Arab and Islamic impact.

Ideological Afrabians are those who intellectually believe in solidarity between Arabs and Africans, or at least between Arab Africa and black Africa. Historically, such ideological Afrabian leaders have included Kwame Nkrumah, the founder president of Ghana; Gamal Abdel Nasser, arguably the greatest Egyptian of the 20th Century; Sekou Toure, the founding father of post-colonial Guinea (Conakry), and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Such leaders refused to acknowledge the Sahara Desert as a divide; they insisted on visualizing it as a historic bridge.

Geographical Afrabians are those Arabs and Berbers whose countries are concurrently members of both the African Union and the Arab League. Some of these countries are overwhelmingly Arab, such as Egypt and Tunisia, while others are only marginally Arab, such as Mauritania, Somalia and the Comoro Islands.

Finally, there are the genealogical Afrabians. These are those who are biologically descended from both Arabs and Black Africans. In North Africa they have included Anwar Sadat, the former President of Egypt who concluded a peace treaty with Israel and was assassinated for it in 1982. Anwar Sadat’s mother was Black and his father was Arabic. He was politically criticized for many things, but almost never for being racially mixed.

download (1)Genealogical Afrabians in sub-Saharan Africa include Tanzanian Salim Ahmed Salim, the longest serving Secretary-General of the OAU, and the Mazrui clan scattered across Coastal Kenya and Tanzania. It should be noted that Northern Sudanese qualify as Afrabians by both geographical and genealogical criteria.

These four sub-categories of Afrabians provide some of the evidence that Africa and the Arab world are two geographical regions that are in the slow historic process of merging.

*Ali A. Mazrui is the globally distinguished Professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton.  James N. Kariuki is Professor (emeritus) of International Relations. He is a Kenyan resident in South Africa.

 

 

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South Africa in Context of African Tradition of Forgiveness
February 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

 South Africa is a rich country by African standards. Yet, since 2009 the same SA has earned the dubious distinction of being the world’s most socio-economically skewed society. This lopsidedness became the talk of global critics as far back as May 1998 when the then-SA Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, stated before Parliament that his country was not a nation; it was merely two nations of rich whites and desperately poor blacks rolled into one.

In analyzing the racially defined socio-economic fault line in SA, commentators are unanimous that colonialism and apartheid were the initial offenders. But in the post-apartheid era a small undercurrent of thought emerged suggesting that the economic divide was elongated and widened by ‘compromised negotiations’ that were largely steered in the early 1990s by the late liberation icon, Nelson Mandela.

Though an intriguing possibility on first encounter, the ‘flawed negotiations’ proposition remained relatively muted during Mandela’s lifetime presumably because few dared to stand up and be counted as Madiba’s detractors while he lasted.  After all, he was the acknowledged, ultimate victim of apartheid who had evolved into mankind’s darling in old age. Indeed, to many in South Africa and beyond, Mandela had become an icon, the country’s only convincing psychological cement.

In post-Mandela era, however, the argument of ‘faulty negotiations’ has re-surfaced with gusto, a fact vividly reflected by the formation of a new political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, headed by the former ANC maverick, Julius Malema. EFF is resolved to win the 2014 elections and officially embark on correcting the alleged errors in the negotiations of the early 1990s.

In those negotiations, the logic goes, Mandela was admirably tough on the political front, but was excessively soft on the economic side. In the end, Madiba settled for a lopsided economic deal that disinherited black folk. As a globally acclaimed analyst has put it, “a great Faustian bargain was struck between the two races. The Whites said to the Blacks, ‘You take the crown and we will keep the jewels.’”

Meanwhile, the wealthy whites are said to have murmured among themselves, “We will give them the vote but keep the banks.” Seemingly, they knew and understood that political power without economic power was as dry as dust.

The economic ‘soft-to-apartheid’ logic has been echoed by prominent personalities deeply loyal to Mandela. Among others, the list includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Ali Mazrui and, especially, Mandela’s former wife, Winnie.

Believers in this thinking do not necessarily accuse Mandela of sinister scheming to bring more harm to the much tormented Blacks; but they do insist that more economic concessions should have been demanded for the historically brutalized fellow Africans. In short, what Mandela is blamed for is embarking upon misguided priorities: peace at the price of poverty  for Blacks.

Some are convinced that the ANC pushed Mandela to accept the strategy of going easy on the economic front during the negotiations. Reportedly, the party was tired of an ungovernable country: constant fighting, never-ending-labor strikes, the general strife and struggle. ANC longed for peace. But then, tactically, it was Mandela who chose to jump, and he went too far in the wrong direction.

For the radicals, Winnie among them, Mandela had been mellowed by the lengthy apartheid imprisonment. For that reason, he unwittingly went overboard to accommodate the apartheid machine in a manner that verged on appeasement. As a result, he got and accepted a ‘sucker’s economic deal’ for his people. Was there an element of forgiveness in Mandela’s behavior?

Perhaps Mandela’s overall softness to apartheid’s economic destiny was partly derived from an older Pan-African thought. Indeed, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah had addressed the same question of what domain African anti-colonialism should target first: political or economic power? Nkrumah responded in his capacity as the elder statesman in African nationalism by asserting, ‘Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you.’

During the SA negotiations in the 1990s, was Mandela inspired by Nkrumah’s ‘political-kingdom-first’ doctrine?  It should not be held against Madiba in the least if he was not aware of that dictum. After all, he was already in political prison when African nationalism took off in earnest and debates of that nature became commonplace.

Yet, evidence suggests otherwise. In addition to his famous photographic memory, Mandela was well read. Ali Mazrui tells how he was once in a conference and, accidentally, bumped into Mandela in the hallway. Startled, Mazrui greeted the global icon and introduced himself. Mandela responded, ‘Oh, Professor Ali Mazrui, nice to meet you! I used to read your publications when I was in prison!”

If Mandela remembered Ali Mazrui’s name and that he had followed his works while in prison, he certainly knew of the Pan-African economic-political kingdoms debate pertaining to African decolonization. Indeed Nkrumah’s statement on this issue remains one of his most cited decrees ever, and Mazrui has published extensively on Nkrumah. In de-emphasizing the economic aspect of the negotiations to abolish apartheid, was Mandela acting under the spell of Kwame Nkrumah?

To Mandela, the driving imperative was SA as a whole.  For the survival of his country, he chose the political-kingdom-first-proposition by embracing reconciliation and nation-building. This, an attempt to build a Rainbow Nation, was indeed the only viable alternative that made sense to Madiba of that time. This was not necessarily the easy route in an angry and volatile country and the call was public: one Boer one bullet.

Mandela was convinced that, to avoid a catastrophic and unwinnable civil war and for the country to survive and move forward, it needed both its Black and white citizenry working together. After all, the White man had the skills and capital; the black man had the labor.

The idea in Mandela’s negotiation camp was that, once political power was in the grasp of Blacks, the economy could slowly be transformed to respond more to their needs. After all, was Affirmative Action not the approach that the USA had adopted since the 1960s to uplift African-Americans? Indeed this became the rationale behind South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) of the coming years. Unfortunately, BEE has so far fallen short of uplifting the poor Blacks and bringing about economic equality in SA

Was Mandela a lone voice in the wilderness of African history in seeking reconciliation with his former tormentors?  This question invites another: what do SA, Zimbabwe and Kenya have in common? It is common knowledge that all are in black Africa and were all once European colonies. Each was home to a sizeable presence of white settlers and independence struggle in each involved bloodshed.

Professor James N. Kariuki

Professor James N. Kariuki

What is less publicized is that they all sought to consummate their independence in the spirit of reconciliation, a reflection of what has been called African capacity to forgive. In his bid to extend a hand of friendship to his former tormenters, Mandela was not alone.

Thirty years earlier, Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta also emerged from colonialists’ lengthy political imprisonment urging his countrymen to pull together to build the nation. Meanwhile, he appealed to the former colonial detractors to stay in newly independent Kenya. To assure them of their sense of belonging in black-ruled Kenya, he went the extra mile of writing a book clearly aimed at calming their nerves. Hence the surprising title of his popular 1968 book, Suffering without Bitterness.

A dozen years before Mandela took over in SA, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe also expressed remarkably similar sentiments.  History seems to have forgotten that in 1981 Mugabe was shortlisted as a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for his initial enthusiasm for reconciliation following the transition from white-ruled Rhodesia to majority-ruled Zimbabwe. As the country’s first president Mugabe stated, “Our people, young and old, men and women, black and white, living and dead, are, on this occasion, being brought together in a new form of national unity that makes them all Zimbabweans.”

Ian Smith, the ultimate anti-thesis of African nationalism and all that it stood for, the white man behind a brutal seven year war in Rhodesia and loss of 30, 000 lives, remained free and untormented in majority-ruled Zimbabwe. In fact Smith became a Member of Parliament in Mugabe’s black government and its harshest critic.

It was only after these gestures that Nelson Mandela raised eyebrows by extending a hand of friendship to the Afrikaner community.

Jomo Kenyatta, Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela shared victimization and  their response of seeking reconciliation once victors. This is a far cry from the behavior of, say, Israel. Some analysts have attributed this trait to black African cultures and their remarkable capacity to forgive.

Remarkably, Algeria had an identical experience as Kenya, Zimbabwe and SA It was colonized, had a sizeable white settler community and it fought a war of independence noteworthy for its appalling savagery. But to this day, Algerians and their colonizing French have never been able to forgive each other for the scale of inhumanity perpetrated during the war for independence. Does Arabic Algeria need a touch of African negritude?

 *James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

 

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Nelson Mandela and the Rainbow Nation That He Never Saw
January 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

The South African economy is the largest in Africa. Yet, since 2009 SA has had the distinction of being the most economically skewed society worldwide.  Consciousness of this lopsidedness is not new.  It grasped the attention of international social critics as far back as May 1998 when Thabo Mbeki, then the Vice President of the Republic, stated before Parliament that SA was not a nation; it was two nations rolled into one. To Mbeki, SA was a superficial blend of a small affluent white society whose lifestyles rivaled the superrich anywhere in the world. The other SA was comprised of Black fellow citizens who ware locked in abject poverty without a way out. Mbeki’s statement came to be known as the ‘Two Nations Speech’, a candid display of a racial-economic divide seen around the world. In trying to understand the South African socio-economic inequality, critics agreed that colonialism and apartheid played a major part. But regarding post-apartheid era, a small undercurrent of thought emerged suggesting that the country’s socio-economic divide was aggravated and enhanced by ‘compromised negotiations’ that were carried out by the late liberation icon, Nelson Mandela. This proposition remained relatively muted during Mandela’s lifetime presumably because few dared to stand up and be counted as Madiba’s detractors during his lifetime. After all, he was the beloved, ultimate victim of apartheid. Now in post-Mandela era, that same line of reasoning is audible. In the negotiations to dismantle apartheid in the early 1990s, the claim goes, Mandela was admirably tough on the political front, but he equally too soft on the economic side.  In the end, Madiba settled for a lopsided economic deal that disinherited his people.  As one globally acclaimed analyst summed up the deal, “a great Faustian bargain was struck between the two races.  The Whites said to the Blacks, ‘You take the crown and we will keep the jewels.’” The economic ‘soft-to-apartheid’ logic has been echoed by prominent personalities deeply loyal to Mandela, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mandela’s former wife, Winnie. Its proponents do not necessarily accuse Mandela of deliberate wrongdoing but they do assert that more could have been extracted in form of economic concessions for the dispossessed Blacks. Some have been known to whisper that Mandela went too far to accommodate the apartheid establishment in a manner that verged on appeasement. In return he got a ‘Sucker’s Deal’ economically.  However, neither deliberate law breaking nor corruption was suggested. In fact, ethically and legally, Mandela’s post-apartheid leadership is generally accepted as having been virtually impeccable. A case could be made that Mandela’s overall soft-economic-approach to the demise of apartheid was not an ad hoc matter, that it derived impetus from older Pan-African thought. Indeed, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah did address the same issue of what domain should African anti-colonialism target first: political or economic power? Nkrumah responded in his capacity as the elder statesman of African nationalism by asserting, ‘Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you.’ During the negotiations to abolish apartheid, was Mandela aware of Nkrumah’s ‘political kingdom first’ dictum? He would be forgiven if he was not.  After all, he was already the ‘world’s most famous political prisoner’ when African nationalism took off in earnest and such debates became commonplace. Yet, evidence suggests otherwise. In addition to his well-known photographic memory, Mandela was well read.  Professor Ali Mazrui tells of how he was once in a conference and, accidentally, bumped into Mandela in the hallway. Startled, Mazrui greeted the global icon and introduced himself as Ali Mazrui.  “Oh, Professor Ali Mazrui,” Mandela responded, “nice to meet you! I used to read your publications when I was in prison!” If Mandela remembered Mazrui’s name and that he had read his publications while in prison, he certainly knew of the economic-political kingdoms debate relative to African decolonization. Indeed Nkrumah’s dictum on this issue is one of his three most cited decrees ever and Mazrui has published extensively on Nkrumah.  In de-emphasizing the economic front in the negotiations to abolish apartheid, was Mandela of the early 1990s acting under the spell of Nkrumah, the leading continental Pan-Africanist? In all likelihood, Mandela of the early 1990s was less preoccupied with ideologies than the practical circumstances that surrounded him, realities that were uniquely South African.  For the survival of his country, he chose to reach out for political kingdom first by following the path of reconciliation and nation-building. An attempt to build a Rainbow Nation peacefully was indeed the only viable alternative. In this sense, Mandela was not establishing a new tradition.  He was following in the footsteps Kenya’s Founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, who also left a colonial jail intent on writing a book clearly aimed at calming down his former British colonial tormentors. He entitled the book, Suffering without Bitterness. In early the 1990s, most of the world was still too caught up in the euphoria of Mandela’s release from prison to notice that the economy of the country that he was soon to soon start governing was in shambles. For decades, SA had been the world’s number one pariah state and had been victimized for being ‘God’s forsaken country.’ Its economy was virtually wrecked by strikes and rampant violence, an atmosphere of catastrophe, instability and uncertainty prevailed. The mood of doom that hung over SA deteriorated immensely from the 1980s and was profoundly unattractive to foreign investors. International economic sanctions had become universal and were now biting deeply.  And then in 1986 the sanctions were boosted by the passage of the US Congressional Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. American divestment movement was also gaining momentum and contributed further to apartheid’s economic isolation. Finally, there were anti-apartheid protests in almost every Western city. It was not in exaggeration that white South Africans lamented of total onslaught against them. Those economic hardships left little room for Mandela to demand remedial socio-economic programs such as nationalizations of mines and land reforms. Realistically then, Mandela did not deliberately abandon his people economically in the bid to dismantle apartheid; the state of the economy did the compromising. It is often not realized that in the early 1990s, Mandela walked a tight rope; SA could have easily slipped into an ugly race war. On one side of the pole were millions of Blacks who had endured decades of staggering deprivation and humiliation for no fault of their own. By the 1990s, they were surely angry and in a hurry.  They wanted drastic change; they were ready to chant: give me liberty or give me death. At the other end of the spectrum were the whites who had always known privileged existence.  In case violence erupted, to them it was a matter of do or die. Taking their property would have been the ultimate crossing of the red line. Mandela was singularly called upon to use the force of his personality to assure both sides that SA was big enough for both sides and by insisting that it belonged to all those who lived in it, a Rainbow Nation. His primary mission became to persuade both sides that violence was not an option. To fellow Blacks he repeatedly said, “Some of us talk of revolutionary change like we are dealing with a defeated enemy, far from it.” In other words, violence at that juncture was tantamount to racial suicide. Simultaneously, Mandela was telling the white right-wing, “If you want to go to war, I must be honest and admit that we cannot stand up to you in the battlefield. It will be a long and bitter struggle. Many people will die and the country may be reduced to ashes.  But you cannot win because of our numbers. You cannot kill all of us.  And you cannot win because of the international community; they will rally to our side and they will stand with us.” Prof-James-KariukiMandela did play his historical role in terminating political apartheid and bringing democracy to SA peacefully.  For that he won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. But the task of fusing socio-economic equality into the political kingdom turned out to be an infinitely more difficult undertaking.  The year 2014 marks two decades after demolition of political apartheid. Yet, de facto economic apartheid remains intact. South African Blacks remain horrifically poor in absolute and relative terms. Indeed in 2009, SA sidelined Brazil as the most skewed society in the world. How to narrow the gap between the White South African haves and Black have-nots, how to construct bona fide fundamentals of a Rainbow Nation, eluded Mandela.  Indeed it remains the most pressing challenge of post-apartheid SA in the years and decades to come. Unlike Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela’s was an incomplete revolution, a work in progress. **James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.      ]]>

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Intellectuals & South Africa’s Quest for Economic Transformation
January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

South African politicians are always challenging their ‘thinkers’ to start discussing issues of national interest while they are still hot on the table. It is said that intellectuals wait until wrong decisions are made and then bounce on them to criticize and condemn. Who has been in default: intellectuals for speaking out after the fact or political leaders for not hearing objections? Regarding economic aspirations for post-apartheid SA, the discussion is not new. Indeed it was triggered in May 1998 by the then country’s Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, when he stated before Parliament that SA was not a nation; it was two nations rolled into one. A small portion of SA was composed of a handful segment of affluent society that happened to be white. At the other extreme of the spectrum millions of the country’s citizens were locked in abject poverty with no way out. They happened to be black. The statement came to be known as Mbeki’s famous ‘Two Nations Speech,’ a concise indictment of racial-economic inequality that was heard around the world. According to Mbeki, It would take a long time for this divide, a 350 years’ legacy of ‘inequality,’ to be obliterated and allow SA to evolve the requisite psychological cement to form a bona fide nation. Until then, talk of a rainbow nation was a dream deferred. And a dream deferred simmers into explosive rage which, ultimately, explodes. Had Mbeki foreseen the 2012 Marikana Massacre where 34 miners were gunned down by police in broad daylight? Mbeki’s Two-Nations Speech did not delve into systematic details on how SA should proceed to change the status quo other than appeal to the privileged but unresponsive whites to accept the burden of uplifting the disinherited fellow citizens. However, it inspired younger generation of thinkers to start articulating their views on how to move the country forward economically toward a more just and equitable SA. Thus far, the youth are speaking out without fear or favor. After all, they have had minimal stake in the economic status quo. One perspective was articulated in South Africa’s black national newspaper, the Sunday Independent, of September 16, 2012. A young man noted that the country’s economy is a product of two nationalisms: British and Afrikaner. But contemporary SA is composed of three nationalisms. Economically, African nationalism is not reflected among the economic forces that have shaped the country. As a group, Black South Africans, the majority, are still sidelined as economic actors. They are an economically marginalized underclass in their own country. According to the author of that article, South Africa’s socio-economic lopsidedness has resulted from the country’s history. In a nutshell, the British molded the SA economy through their colonialism. Next, the Afrikaners used apartheid in conjunction with their “aggressive affirmative action program for Afrikaners” to entrench their presence in the country’s economy. Yet, after two decades of political independence, Black Africans are still waiting in the wings for their turn to have an economic impact. In SA, British imperial appetite was whetted by the discovery of minerals with which the country is generously endowed. Britain had much to gain from precious metals; they were highly lucrative in the global economy of that era. Accordingly, the British constructed a sophisticated infrastructure to ensure a smooth flow of those exports to the motherland. Indeed since the days of Cecil Rhodes, South Africa has had a comparatively more solid economic infrastructure than the rest of the continent. But SA also inherited another damning legacy from the British imperial order. Proclamation 14 of August 1875 reduced indigenous Africans to a source of cheap labor supply while excluding them from ownership in the mining industry. For the first time, the Proclamation introduced institutional racism into the SA political-economy. Was Marikana Massacre of August 2012 an ugly reflection of the British legacy in the country’s economy? On the other hand, the 1835 Great Trek and eventual establishment of the Transvaal consolidated the formation of the Afrikaner nationalism. The Afrikaners quickly realized that there was no ‘External Angel’ to bail them out; ‘they were in it alone’ and embraced a laager mentality of self-reliance. To this end, they built an industrial complex to address the issue of unemployment among their poor whites. Here too, blacks fitted neatly into a scheme of cheap labor source in Afrikaner-led industry and agriculture.   [caption id="attachment_7892" align="alignright" width="240"]Prof-James-Kariuki Prof-James-Kariuki[/caption] The logic continues that implementation of apartheid in 1948 and after was merely an intensification and general implementation of what the Afrikaner had learned, perhaps too well, from Cecil Rhodes and his associates in the British mining industry. In addition to intensification, apartheid extended the scope of the racial policies, policies that virtually marginalized black folk from the mainstream of the money economy altogether. And, with all its appalling dimensions, apartheid was not oppression by a foreign intruder in the colonial sense. It was a home-grown Afrikaner scheme, and the Afrikaner considered himself an African beyond the indigenous African. To African nationalism of the ANC orientation, the Afrikaner was a permanent challenge because he was born in SA; he was there to stay. In sum, British nationalism historically ‘hogged’ mining in SA as their turf; Afrikaner nationalism arrogated itself other industries and agriculture. The commanding heights of the SA economy were thus partitioned among the whites in such a manner that they thrived on unconscionable exploitation of black folk. In 1994, Black Nationalism finally forced democracy into the SA body politic, affirming the claim that “all men are created equal.” But abolition of political apartheid was not accompanied by demolition of economic apartheid. Yet, alas, does political power alone bestow equality among ‘men’? By all indications, Black Nationalism required penetration into the economic domain to realize full equality. And it should not be an insurmountable undertaking to fulfill Nkrumah’s dictum of ‘Seek ye the political kingdom first and the rest shall be added unto it.’ After all, in the post-1994 era, blacks have had the strength to make decisions favorable to themselves derived from a combination of numbers and associated political muscle. The question is then raised: what decisions have been made to transform the SA economy by successive black ANC governments to consolidate the 1994 political achievement of Black Nationalism? To the current black intellectuals who have spoken out, no new industrial enterprises have emerged under black stewardship since attainment of black political supremacy. In this sense, the post-1994 black governments have failed by neglecting to position their black constituency as a major economic force that it should be. Instead of pursuing the line of greater economic production, it is said, SA has engaged in a superficial scheme of capitalistic massage. White-owned businesses have co-opted a handful of politically well-connected Blacks to become integral part of their business establishments. These ‘inductees’ have become loyal political fronts, protectors of the old businesses from contemporary threats. That is Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) personified. On the other hand, the Government utilizes social grants to placate the huge marginalized underclass of blacks in an environment where unemployment is estimated to be between 25 and 45 percent.  Social grants do not generate jobs and they do not make social services. Political economist, Moeletsi Mbeki views BEE as nothing less than legalized bribery. He is also convinced that SA is de-industrializing and increasingly sliding towards becoming a welfare state. In his view, the country needs to diversify its economy (from mining), encourage growth of black productive class of entrepreneurs, and advance knowledge in “sciences, math, engineering and management education.” “Without that…, we are going nowhere.”  What do these and other contemporary thinkers have in common? Overall, they accept that Blacks are responsible for the country’s sluggish economic growth. In terms of action, they are driven by an ambition to face squarely SA overriding problems of poverty, crime, inequality and unemployment. Overall, they agree that SA must embark on an economic transformation in which a black industrial class figures prominently. In sum their views are that the SA economy, and corresponding political stability, must be anchored on blacks engaging in creation of wealth. **James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.    ]]>

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Intellectuals & South Africa’s Quest for Economic Transformation
January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

South African politicians are always challenging their ‘thinkers’ to start discussing issues of national interest while they are still hot on the table. It is said that intellectuals wait until wrong decisions are made and then bounce on them to criticize and condemn. Who has been in default: intellectuals for speaking out after the fact or political leaders for not hearing objections?

Regarding economic aspirations for post-apartheid SA, the discussion is not new. Indeed it was triggered in May 1998 by the then country’s Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, when he stated before Parliament that SA was not a nation; it was two nations rolled into one.

A small portion of SA was composed of a handful segment of affluent society that happened to be white. At the other extreme of the spectrum millions of the country’s citizens were locked in abject poverty with no way out. They happened to be black. The statement came to be known as Mbeki’s famous ‘Two Nations Speech,’ a concise indictment of racial-economic inequality that was heard around the world.

According to Mbeki, It would take a long time for this divide, a 350 years’ legacy of ‘inequality,’ to be obliterated and allow SA to evolve the requisite psychological cement to form a bona fide nation. Until then, talk of a rainbow nation was a dream deferred. And a dream deferred simmers into explosive rage which, ultimately, explodes. Had Mbeki foreseen the 2012 Marikana Massacre where 34 miners were gunned down by police in broad daylight?

Mbeki’s Two-Nations Speech did not delve into systematic details on how SA should proceed to change the status quo other than appeal to the privileged but unresponsive whites to accept the burden of uplifting the disinherited fellow citizens. However, it inspired younger generation of thinkers to start articulating their views on how to move the country forward economically toward a more just and equitable SA. Thus far, the youth are speaking out without fear or favor. After all, they have had minimal stake in the economic status quo.

One perspective was articulated in South Africa’s black national newspaper, the Sunday Independent, of September 16, 2012. A young man noted that the country’s economy is a product of two nationalisms: British and Afrikaner. But contemporary SA is composed of three nationalisms. Economically, African nationalism is not reflected among the economic forces that have shaped the country. As a group, Black South Africans, the majority, are still sidelined as economic actors. They are an economically marginalized underclass in their own country.

According to the author of that article, South Africa’s socio-economic lopsidedness has resulted from the country’s history. In a nutshell, the British molded the SA economy through their colonialism. Next, the Afrikaners used apartheid in conjunction with their “aggressive affirmative action program for Afrikaners” to entrench their presence in the country’s economy. Yet, after two decades of political independence, Black Africans are still waiting in the wings for their turn to have an economic impact.

In SA, British imperial appetite was whetted by the discovery of minerals with which the country is generously endowed. Britain had much to gain from precious metals; they were highly lucrative in the global economy of that era. Accordingly, the British constructed a sophisticated infrastructure to ensure a smooth flow of those exports to the motherland. Indeed since the days of Cecil Rhodes, South Africa has had a comparatively more solid economic infrastructure than the rest of the continent.

But SA also inherited another damning legacy from the British imperial order. Proclamation 14 of August 1875 reduced indigenous Africans to a source of cheap labor supply while excluding them from ownership in the mining industry. For the first time, the Proclamation introduced institutional racism into the SA political-economy. Was Marikana Massacre of August 2012 an ugly reflection of the British legacy in the country’s economy?

On the other hand, the 1835 Great Trek and eventual establishment of the Transvaal consolidated the formation of the Afrikaner nationalism. The Afrikaners quickly realized that there was no ‘External Angel’ to bail them out; ‘they were in it alone’ and embraced a laager mentality of self-reliance. To this end, they built an industrial complex to address the issue of unemployment among their poor whites. Here too, blacks fitted neatly into a scheme of cheap labor source in Afrikaner-led industry and agriculture.

 

Prof-James-Kariuki

Prof-James-Kariuki

The logic continues that implementation of apartheid in 1948 and after was merely an intensification and general implementation of what the Afrikaner had learned, perhaps too well, from Cecil Rhodes and his associates in the British mining industry. In addition to intensification, apartheid extended the scope of the racial policies, policies that virtually marginalized black folk from the mainstream of the money economy altogether. And, with all its appalling dimensions, apartheid was not oppression by a foreign intruder in the colonial sense. It was a home-grown Afrikaner scheme, and the Afrikaner considered himself an African beyond the indigenous African. To African nationalism of the ANC orientation, the Afrikaner was a permanent challenge because he was born in SA; he was there to stay.

In sum, British nationalism historically ‘hogged’ mining in SA as their turf; Afrikaner nationalism arrogated itself other industries and agriculture. The commanding heights of the SA economy were thus partitioned among the whites in such a manner that they thrived on unconscionable exploitation of black folk.

In 1994, Black Nationalism finally forced democracy into the SA body politic, affirming the claim that “all men are created equal.” But abolition of political apartheid was not accompanied by demolition of economic apartheid. Yet, alas, does political power alone bestow equality among ‘men’? By all indications, Black Nationalism required penetration into the economic domain to realize full equality. And it should not be an insurmountable undertaking to fulfill Nkrumah’s dictum of ‘Seek ye the political kingdom first and the rest shall be added unto it.’ After all, in the post-1994 era, blacks have had the strength to make decisions favorable to themselves derived from a combination of numbers and associated political muscle.

The question is then raised: what decisions have been made to transform the SA economy by successive black ANC governments to consolidate the 1994 political achievement of Black Nationalism? To the current black intellectuals who have spoken out, no new industrial enterprises have emerged under black stewardship since attainment of black political supremacy. In this sense, the post-1994 black governments have failed by neglecting to position their black constituency as a major economic force that it should be.

Instead of pursuing the line of greater economic production, it is said, SA has engaged in a superficial scheme of capitalistic massage. White-owned businesses have co-opted a handful of politically well-connected Blacks to become integral part of their business establishments. These ‘inductees’ have become loyal political fronts, protectors of the old businesses from contemporary threats. That is Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) personified. On the other hand, the Government utilizes social grants to placate the huge marginalized underclass of blacks in an environment where unemployment is estimated to be between 25 and 45 percent.  Social grants do not generate jobs and they do not make social services.

Political economist, Moeletsi Mbeki views BEE as nothing less than legalized bribery. He is also convinced that SA is de-industrializing and increasingly sliding towards becoming a welfare state. In his view, the country needs to diversify its economy (from mining), encourage growth of black productive class of entrepreneurs, and advance knowledge in “sciences, math, engineering and management education.” “Without that…, we are going nowhere.”

 What do these and other contemporary thinkers have in common? Overall, they accept that Blacks are responsible for the country’s sluggish economic growth. In terms of action, they are driven by an ambition to face squarely SA overriding problems of poverty, crime, inequality and unemployment. Overall, they agree that SA must embark on an economic transformation in which a black industrial class figures prominently. In sum their views are that the SA economy, and corresponding political stability, must be anchored on blacks engaging in creation of wealth.

**James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

 

 

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Nelson Mandela and the Elusive Rainbow Nation
December 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

download (3)In addition to being the largest economy in Africa, post-apartheid South Africa beats the entire world as the most skewed society worldwide. Discussion of this lopsidedness is not new. It gathered momentum from May 1998 when the country’s Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, stated before the National Assembly that SA was still not a nation, it was merely two nations rolled into one.

To Mbeki, SA was a synthesis of a small and affluent white society whose lifestyles rivaled the superrich of the world. In the other SA, the majority of fellow citizens languished in abject poverty and happened to be black. Mbeki’s statement came to be known as the ‘Two Nations Speech,’ a concise indictment that was heard around the world.

In Mbeki’s vision, it would take a long time for this South African divide, a 350 years’ legacy of ‘inequality,’ to be obliterated and allow the country to evolve the necessary psychological cement to form a bona fide nation. Until then, talk of a rainbow nation was merely a dream deferred. And a dream deferred swells into explosive rage which, ultimately, explodes. Was Mbeki warning about the possibility of racial confrontation?

In trying to grasp the phenomenon, a small school of thought has since emerged that suggests that South Africa’s post-apartheid economic gap originated partly from history and partly from compromised negotiations on the part of the liberation icon, Nelson Mandela. While Madiba was admirably tough on the political front, he was too soft on the economic issues in dealing with the apartheid machine. In the end, Mandela settled for a deficient economic deal for his people. In the view of one prominent analyst, “a great Faustian bargain was struck between the two races. The Whites said to the Blacks: ‘You take the Crown and we will keep the Jewels.’”

This view of economic-soft-to-apartheid approach has been articulated by prominent personalities deeply loyal to Mandela. The list includes his former wife, Winnie Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the iconic Pan-African analyst, Professor Ali Mazrui. They do not accuse Mandela of deliberate sell-out but they do suggest that he could have done better for fellow Africans. Neither wrong-doing nor corruption is suggested anywhere. Other than this aspect of Mandela’s leadership, his political legacy is unblemished.

It is arguable that Mandela’s approach to dislodge apartheid was not an accident; it was inspired by older African thought. Indeed, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah once addressed the same question of, given the choice, what should come first target: political or economic power? Nkrumah spoke as an elder statesman of African nationalism in his dictum, ‘Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all things shall be added unto you.’ This is one of Nkrumah’s three most cited dogmas—ever. Was Nelson Mandela of 1994 acting under the ideological spell of former Pan-African icon?

 

In all likelihood, Mandela responded to the circumstances that surrounded him, realities that were uniquely South African. He decided to seek a political kingdom first by pursuing reconciliation and nation-building instead of confrontational economic kingdom. He realized that pushing for blacks’ economic sovereignty at that time (for example nationalization of mines and forceful takeover of white-owned land) would have triggered racial violence. Mandela was mindful that SA could not survive the loss of life, white skills and capital that would follow.  He, therefore, opted to go softly-softly on the economic domain to save the nation.

 

Prof-James-KariukiClearly, Mandela was a profoundly practical man. By sparing apartheid economic structures, he responded pragmatically to the realities that surrounded him. Against this background, his critics, the so-called ‘romantic revolutionaries,’ have tended to be dismissed for their indictment of Madiba for “being too conciliatory, too soft on the whites in negotiating our transition.” What tangible realities did Mandela face?

In the run up to the 1994 negotiations, South Africa was a deeply polarized society; violence and strife were everywhere. Indeed, it is an everlasting tribute to Mandela’s vision that he accepted and engaged the white military leadership, who stood prepared to welcome a racial conflict. After all, military lopsidedness was immense in favor of the apartheid machine.

I once heard Mandela blast his black fellows via the public media to the effect that ‘Some of us talk of revolutionary change as if we are dealing with a defeated enemy; far from it.’ These were code words for: ‘entertaining violence at this juncture is tantamount to mass suicide.’

At just about the same time that Mandela was publicly warning his people of the inadequacies of violence, he was secretly reasoning just as firmly against violence with the superbly trained and armed white right-wing military. As he once told a group of professional Afrikaner solders, “If you want to go to war, I must be honest and admit that we cannot stand up to you in the battlefield…. It will be a long and bitter struggle. Many people will die and the country may be reduced to ashes… but you cannot win because of our numbers. You cannot kill all of us. And you cannot win because of the international community; they will rally to our support and they will stand with us.”

Words of this nature turned the tide from looming deadly racial conflict to reconciliation and nation-building. However imperfect reconciliation might have been, it was infinitely preferable to racial war.

Mandela had considered the option of a civil war in SA and had dismissed it. He understood that demanding further economic concessions from the apartheid monster was crossing the red line. Blaming Mandela for what he did in 1994 is naive. He did what he could with what he had at this disposal.  The challenge is what the current leadership should do given that the circumstances are different from those that Mandela faced.

Mandela has finally died but he left this world a man in peace. He did not see the rainbow nation that he so craved for his country. He left a country more prepared to become a rainbow nation if nurtured carefully. He left the world a frail man but spiritually he was a giant that the world adored in every way possible. Most importantly he left South Africans of all colors shedding tears that their icon was no more.  In unison, they said to him: we will miss you Madiba.  That was enough Rainbow Nation in Nelson Mandela’s spirit.

*James Kariuki is Professor of international Relations and an independent writer. He is a Kenyan based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Barack Obama, Tanzania and Illusion of Africa’s Food Security
September 3, 2013 | 1 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

President Kikwete of Tanzania and US President Barack Obama

President Kikwete of Tanzania and US President Barack Obama

In June-July 2013, US President Barack Obama embarked upon his first state visit to Africa. He made three regional stops: Senegal (West Africa), South Africa (Southern Africa) and Tanzania (straddled between East and Southern Africa.) But even before he departed, Obama’s itinerary had become contentious in that it excluded Kenya.

Kenya is by far East Africa’s power house, economically and otherwise. The US president claimed to be visiting Africa to enhance US-Africa interactions and to build business partnerships. By all accounts, a Kenya presidential stop made more sense than Tanzania. After all, Kenyans were losing lives in neighboring Somalia in a war against Islamic terrorism, a deeply significant issue in US foreign policy. Why was Tanzania prioritized?  There was an inside GMO story that we were not told.

In May 2012, the US President ceremoniously launched the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security (NAFNS), ostensibly to eradicate hunger and poverty in sub-Sahara Africa within the next decade. The speedy African panacea would be realized by embracing ‘modern agricultural methods and technology’ undertaken in partnerships between African and Western governments and private interests.

Since his election, Obama had inexplicably become a close associated with biotechnology multinational corporations (MNCs.) Predictably, during the NAFNS launch, Obama did not mention what in the US had already become public buzz words: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods, genetically-engineered (GE) foods or bio-technology. He preferred innocuous words like ‘modern agricultural methods and technology,’ words that concealed his intent of transplanting to Africa what was already highly contentious public issue in USA.

Naturally, fulfillment of the African food security miracle was to be spearheaded by the grand daddy of American GMOs companies, the world’s biggest agricultural and seed MNC, Monsanto. Here too Obama was cautious not to mention the notorious MNC by name. However, Monsanto’s CEO was present, to sing praises for the president’s ‘wise’ initiative and the lucky blessings for Africa at long last.

Critics were not so sure. They immediately questioned the NAFNS proposal primarily on the grounds that MNCs are historically known as blood suckers not inclined or equipped to be in the business of philanthropy. This has always been the case since the advent of the Dutch East India Company, the mother of all MNCs.

African activists also objected to NAFNS’ nascent dishonesty and exploitative intent. “We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us…. we think that it will undermine our capacity to feed ourselves.” In short, African critics saw NAFNS for what it really was, a Trojan horse to ferry American agricultural bio-technology Africa with or without Africans’ knowledge and consent. To the extent that Obama did not reveal the dangers of GMOs that were already public knowledge in the US, this was a case of a grand modern-era scheme of deception?

President Obama on a recent  greets Tanzanians during his recent visit

President Obama on a recent greets Tanzanians during his recent visit

Now NAFNS was in place.  With ten offices securely established in South Africa alone, Monsanto was poised to move north to implement its ‘GMO dispersal’ for Africa, now doubly emboldened by the partnership offer of the most powerful government in history. Barely a year after the NAFNS launch, and while most of the world was still urging caution regarding bio-technology, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete started speaking openly in the home front endorsing  GMOs as the life-savior foods for Africa and condemning GMO critics as under-informed lot that needed to be educated. Were the two phenomena accidental?

During his June-July 2013 state visit to Africa, Obama surprised many by skipping Kenya as one of his US presidential stops. In East Africa, he chose Tanzania and then South Africa for Southern Africa. Most analysts were convinced that Obama was out to counter China’s presence in the two countries. But an equally compelling reasoning is that Obama went to this part of the continent primarily to clear the way for GMOs to spread northwards unhindered.

In this regard, it is noteworthy that it was Obama who initially reached out for Tanzania’s President. In 2009, Jakaya Kikwete was the first African leader to be invited by newly-elected Obama to the White House. Three years later, the same Kikwete was back in Washington for the NAFNS launch. Obama returned the favor in 2013 by visiting Tanzania. How did Kikwete earn such closeness to the US president?  One could be forgiven for suspecting that Kikwete has long been in the GMO plans?

Tanzania’s friendship was critical to the American GMO plan in Africa.  South Africa is Monsanto’s center of operations in Africa; it has been so since the apartheid era. In the Monsanto scheme of things Tanzania is now the northernmost soft spot, strategically vital as GMO’s stepping stone for further continental penetration.

In this context, Tanzania stands head and shoulder above neighboring Kenya. Kenya has become more than an irritant to the biotech industry; in November 2012 it officially banned importation of GMOs into the country. In the GMO’s northern drift, Kenya is the first really GMOs unfriendly frontier. On the other hand, Tanzania is a member of the Southern African Development Community, more reachable via the dominant South Africa.

Prof James Kariuki

Prof James Kariuki

Finally, southern Tanzania is a vast arable farmland ideal for MNC mono-crop agriculture. Quest to develop the region’s agriculturally goes back to the Julius Nyerere. It was then an adjunct economic justification behind the push to build the Tanzam Railway. Now southern Tanzania is a god-send  opportunity for both Monsanto and Tanzania.

By his own admission, Obama came to Africa in mid-2013 in the interest of greater US-African engagements and to promote business partnerships with Africans. Agriculture is certainly a defendable centerpiece of his vision for Africa; the continent possesses the requisite ingredients for enormous agricultural growth. It is not far-fetched to suggest that a significant part of Obama’s special assignment in Africa in 2013 was to clear the way for American bio-tech companies to move north along the path of least resistance.  Tanzania under Kikwete is an important foot soldier in that American broad strategic plan. Perhaps Africa’s iconoclasts can be forgiven for conjuring up images of modern day scramble for Africa.

 *James N. Kariuki is a Professor of International Relations (emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is a Kenyan based in South Africa.More of his views can be read on the blog Global Africa

 

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