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Is Africa’s digital revolution under threat?
October 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Dele Fatunla*

Back in the 1990s, before everyone had two mobile phones and Skype was still a distant dream, if you were an African living elsewhere, with a need to call home, you either made frequent visits to a local call centre or you bought an international calling card. Getting through to your loved ones or business contacts was a gamble, and every successful call was a triumph of hope over adversity.

The arrival of mobile phones and, just as significantly, cheap and easy access to the internet for many people across Africa and the African diaspora, was an understated miracle based on a relatively small shift in government policies.  Now it’s possible that another shift in government policies could kill this revolution before it has fulfilled its potential.

Over the course of the nineties and early noughties, a telecommunications revolution took hold across Sub-Saharan Africa as many governments relaxed rules governing involvement in the telecoms sector, allowing private players to enter the market – notably, Mo Ibrahim, who established Celtel (now trading as Airtel). Many global companies are now itching to get into Africa, thanks in part to the success of telecoms companies.

The African Development Bank (ADB) estimates that there are 473 mobile phones per 1, 000 people on the continent, a significantly higher level of mobile phone penetration than anywhere else in the world. It certainly beats the 15 fixed line phones per 1,000 users across Africa. The mobile phone revolution, still in its infancy, and the nascent internet revolution – which began with the laying of fibre optic sea cables, funded by a range of interested parties – has made Africa more connected to the rest of the world than it has ever been before.

A vast range of services, businesses and movements are emerging out of the connections that Africans are making globally, not least with their kith and kin in the diaspora. Take the example of Light Up Nigeria, a social movement that aimed to raise awareness of Nigeria’s power electricity access. The campaign was conceived by Nigerians in the country and in the diaspora over the BlackBerry messenger service, where much of the co-ordination of its successful protests and events also happened.

Ushahidi, a crowd-sourcing’website, which relies on text messaging to obtain information, was crucial to tracking the political violence in Kenya during the tumultuous 2007 elections. Crucially, it was the relatively inexpensive nature of text messages which made Ushahidi and developments like it viable.

Internet Revolution Under Threat

Yet, increasingly aware of what looks like a booming and profitable sector, some governments on the continent are contemplating more taxes on internet and mobile related activity. Meanwhile, industry bodies, such as ETNO [European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association] are pushing for the introduction of a mechanism called ‘sending party network pays’ which would treat content providers as “call originators” , similar to the way any consumer making a phone call bears the cost of initiating it.

ETNO, a body made up of many of the large telecoms companies in Europe, wants this policy to become international law. Currently, for most of the companies, the cost of providing data, say a video, is expensive and outstripping capacity to carry the data, requiring significantly more investment. A report, written by Rohan Samarajiva, former Director General of Telecommunications for Sri Lanka and CEO of Lirne Asia, an ICT think-tank, predicts dire consequences for the development of the internet and Africa’s prosperity if governments do shift to a “sending party network pays” model.

The report says that a global agreement to move to a “sending party network pays” policy would have a detrimental effect on regions by providing a blank cheque to providers to raise prices for consumers. This would have a deadening effect on the burgeoning digital economy in regions like Africa. It also assumes that content providers value providing access to information enough to pay for others to consume it. In essence, says Rudolf Van Der Berg, a researcher at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) ‘Effectively putting a charge on traffic assumes that the person from whom the content originates somehow values that it is read or seen by someone in Ghana or anywhere else. Quite frankly they may not care enough to pay for it. So instead of paying they may shut down access to it.’  He goes on to give a pithy explanation of how charges might affect Africans and diasporans.

“It also works the other way round. What if Ghana had content that might be relevant to non-residents and non-Ghanaians and the rest of the world puts a cost on traffic from Ghana. Would Ghana actually be capable of paying the charges? My neighbour in The Netherlands is from Ghana; however that is not visible when he is on the internet. So maybe he will not be able anymore to access content in Ghana, because his ISP doesn’t receive any money from Ghanaian telcos. Or the Ghanaian content owners block access. That might also mean that the business he and his family are running between Europe and Africa would not function as efficiently as it did before.”

The OECD’s joint study with UNESCO on the development of local content points to the dire impact increased regulation could have on access to the internet in Africa and its economic benefits. The study found that countries with lower charges all round for accessing the internet also had a higher percentage of local content – that is content relevant to audiences in a country and more often than not delivered in local languages by local providers.

Despite the overwhelming dominance of English as the language of the internet, the study holds true even for countries like Poland, that share their language with no other countries. According to the report, where countries increased charges for mobile calls and activity, calls to those countries from the United States dropped significantly, indicating that similar charges on internet content providers will have similar effects;

The Ghanaian government has put out a statement in response to Lirne Asia’s report repudiating ETNO’s proposals, but it remains to be seen whether other African governments will take as enlightened a position. Many of them will take a decision on ETNO’s “sending party network pays” model at a conference on telecommunications from the 3 -14 December – the future of the internet in Africa could very well be determined in those 11 days.

* Meiji Fatunla is RAS website editor and also of Diaspora Debate.


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Missing in Africa:How Obama Failed to Engage an Increasingly Important Continent
October 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Todd Moss*

Africa is more important than ever to the United States. The continent, home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies, is booming. And democracy has become the African norm rather than the exception. This year alone, no fewer than fifteen sub-Saharan countries will hold elections. With their combination of liberal politics and market economics, countries such as Ghana and Botswana are attracting frontier investors. Huge potential markets like Nigeria and Ethiopia are leveraging modest reforms into big economic opportunities. These trends all suggest that Africa is on a path to prosperity, and that it is ripe for U.S. investment, trade, and partnership.

At the same time, danger zones across the continent pose a growing security concern for Washington. Terrorist groups in Somalia and northern Mali are direct threats. In addition, pockets of weak governance in West Africa and in the Horn lead to cross-border problems such as narcotics trafficking and the spread of infectious diseases. In short, while Africa is making democratic and economic strides, it is also increasingly a locus of terrorism and transnational threats.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has, to her credit, visited fifteen African countries on four separate trips. But her presence has been overshadowed by President Obama’s absence. Obama has set foot on the continent just once: for a mere 20 hours in Ghana in July 2009 where he gave a speech on democracy that resulted in no substantial action. The president’s Kenyan heritage inspired unreasonably high hopes for a robust Africa policy; but his administration has failed to meet even the lowest of expectations. Even Obama’s most vocal supporters quietly admit that he has done much less with Africa than previous presidents have.

Compare Obama’s approach to Africa with that of his predecessors. President Bill Clinton exuded enthusiasm for the continent. His Africa policy was defined by the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which reduced trade barriers on more than 1,800 products exported from the continent to the United States. Partly as a result of the act, trade between the U.S. and Africa has more than tripled since 2000 to more than $90 billion. More important, Clinton approached Africa as a partner, not just as a receiver of goodwill.

President George W. Bush went further. He launched the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. These programs have had a major effect. The MCC developed compacts with 13 well-governed African countries to jointly implement business projects and boost economic growth. The malaria effort targeted 15 African countries and contributed to steep declines in child mortality. PEPFAR has been invaluable in the fight against HIV/AIDS, directly saving the lives of 2.4 million people via treatment and preventing infection for millions more. And these programs did not emerge under Bush by accident, but, rather, because of high-level engagement and the president’s personal commitment.

In contrast, most of Obama’s high-profile efforts have been washouts. Launched in 2009, the Global Health Initiative was supposed to broaden U.S. health investments beyond single diseases to cover health systems. But it has largely been abandoned because of overreach and a distinct lack of political support. The Global Climate Change Initiative, which sought to expand renewable energy in Africa, was announced in 2010 but has made little progress. Small, lesser-known U.S. agencies such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank have boosted their project portfolios in Africa, but they have been toiling largely behind the scenes and on the margins of government attention.

The Obama Administration does deserve credit for its work in Sudan, as it undertook vigorous diplomatic efforts to prevent a return to war and helped shepherd South Sudan’s independence. It also launched Feed the Future, a promising but still unproven agriculture program designed to help boost farm productivity in twelve African countries. But the president’s record on Africa largely ends there.

All this suggests that the White House has, at best, overlooked Africa’s significance or, at worst, consciously downgraded it on the list of priorities. Think about the position of USAID’s assistant administrator for Africa, the most senior post in the entire federal workforce tasked with driving economic development on the continent. On Obama’s watch, the position was left unfilled for more than three years. Similarly, the USAID administrator, a position that deals heavily with Africa policy and was elevated to the rank of deputy secretary in the Bush administration, was left vacant for nearly a year after Obama took office, and, when it was finally filled, it was demoted. This is part of a trend of sluggishness: the White House did not get around to releasing an official Africa strategy until June 2012. And African leaders know an afterthought when they see one.

Worse, the Obama administration has repeatedly highlighted marginal foreign policy issues that Africans and policy watchers can only interpret as patronizing. To mollify critics a few months ago, the White House released a list of its proudest accomplishments in Africa. The top item was “engaged young African leaders,” which cited a series of conferences for youth leaders, including a forum with President Obama and another with First Lady Michelle Obama. Boasting brief instances of public dialogue as the most prominent accomplishment toward an entire region speaks to the lack of real, substantive policy over the last four years. It is hard to imagine the administration citing a similar effort as the cornerstone of its Asia or Latin America policy.

The Obama approach has not been well received by African leaders, especially compared with the investment alternatives offered by China. Beijing has invested heavily in roads, energy, and business projects in nearly every African country. Secretary Clinton, in a veiled attack on Beijing’s activities in Africa, claimed in August that the United States brings “a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it.” But instead of lecturing African countries to beware, the administration should reflect upon why China seems to be so attractive to the region as it gains self-confidence. Today’s Africa does not want charity. It seeks more investment and a measure of respect. China-bashing might be good political theater, but it makes for ineffective policy.

Even Democrats on Capitol Hill are frustrated. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced new legislation in March 2012 that attempts to force the administration to boost and coordinate its economic policy toward Africa. Durbin stressed the importance of the bill by remarking, “Increasingly, I am hearing, ‘The U.S. has given up on Africa as a market.’ … While we’re building institutions, China and others are building markets and we’re being left behind.”

Correcting this neglect would begin with recognizing and investing in the tremendous economic opportunities in Africa. One small step in that direction would be to bolster the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) by allowing more flexibility and equity investments. The administration could also consolidate private investment activities on the continent that are currently spread across multiple agencies. For example, a White House effort on electricity and other infrastructure could bring together OPIC, Ex-Im Bank lending, technical assistance from USAID, and feasibility studies from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, along with private capital and expertise. With seven out of ten Africans living without access to electricity, this kind of partnership would be welcomed by African leadership and be beneficial to U.S. business; it would revive positive relations with the continent.

A reinvigorated Africa policy would also require high-level engagement, at times by the president himself. Partnerships must be built based on mutual and hardheaded security, economic, and political interests, not on third-tier soft issues. And a strong Africa approach demands, at a minimum, filling senior positions quickly.

Finally, whoever occupies the White House for the next four years will have to resist knee-jerk efforts to counter Chinese influence in Africa. This is not a new Cold War. U.S. and Chinese interests only rarely conflict, and both countries stand to benefit from a more prosperous and stable Africa. Where there is friction, such as over human rights in Zimbabwe or oil deals in Sudan, Washington can manage as it manages similar foreign policy dilemmas — through tradeoffs, not moralistic grandstanding.

Ultimately, the United States cannot afford to ignore Africa. And rather than viewing the continent as a problem to be solved, the next administration should do something radical: treat Africa with the attention it now deserves.

*Source MOSS is vice president and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. From 2007 to 2008, he served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

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Job and wealth creation in Africa (1)
September 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

By President Olusegun Obasanjo*

I was privileged, as the Patron of the Africa Governance, Leadership and Management Convention jointly organized by Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) and Africa Leadership Forum (ALF) and strongly supported by the UNDP, to preside and deliver an Opening Remark recently in Mombasa, Kenya. I feel constrained to share the view I expressed at that Convention and the conclusion of the Convention with the readers of this column. But first my remarks: “We have gathered this year to follow up our previous engagements in the last three years on the need to match growth with development and improved standard of living in Africa. Last year, at this same venue, myself and other leaders of the public and private sector in Africa spent an interesting and quite engaging two days on the issues of leadership development in Africa.

One of the major outcomes of that engagement was the reiteration of the fact that in spite of the good news in terms of economic growth, the challenges confronting Africa remain daunting.

This is because the acclaimed growth has been accompanied by increased poverty and more joblessness. For us to address this concern more appropriately there is a need for a resurgence of dialogue on African Renaissance in content and context, anchored on the principle of public-private partnership and driven by the spirit Q u o t e o f t h e d a y of enterprise and entrepreneurship.

“It is, therefore, in this light, that the Secretariat of this Convention has brought us together to take a more critical look at our economic growth indices and its impact on the life of African citizens.

“The need to assess the challenges and highlight the opportunities for Sustainable Wealth and Job Creation in Africa cannot be over-emphasized.

This is because it remains by far the most worrisome challenge of most African countries at the moment. Everywhere we turn to in Africa, the story is the same. Unemployed young people are in huge numbers.

The lack of opportunities for them to unleash their creative energies positively has turned them into desperate young men and women, unfortunately becoming ready-made tools for unwholesome activities.

“The memory of the ‘Arab spring’ is still fresh in our minds and it tells an apt story of what our continued foot-dragging on lifting the critical mass of people above poverty levels can unleash suddenly and destructively.

Dr. Kaberuka has told us an eye-witness story of how it all began in Tunisia. “That Africa generally is experiencing positive growth within its economic frontiers today is no more news.

That we survived the global financial crisis with very little effect is also not in doubt.

What is, however, worrisome is the fact that substantial gains achieved on the economic front and the high economic growth rates in GDP terms have not been matched by corresponding improvement in the living standards of our people. It seems that the richer our countries become in GDP terms, the more our people get enmeshed in poverty.

It is clear that in addition to GDP as a factor of measure of growth, we need another factor of measurement of the well-being and improved living standard of our people.

“This was noted in the recently launched 2012 Annual Report of the Africa Progress Panel of which I am a member.

The report stated that countries across Africa are becoming richer but whole sections of society are being left behind. After a decade of buoyant growth, almost half of Africans still live on less than $1.25 a day.

Wealth disparities are increasingly visible. The current pattern of trickle-down growth is leaving too many people in poverty, too many children hungry and too many people especially young people without jobs. Governments are failing to convert the rising tide of wealth into opportunities for their most marginalised citizens. Unequal access to health, education, adequate food and nutrition, water and sanitation is reinforcing wider inequalities.

Smallholder agriculture has not been part of the growth surge, leaving rural populations trapped in poverty and vulnerability .

*The Author is a former President of Nigeria. Contribution culled from



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Thoughts on the Structure of Nigeria’s Federation
September 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Atiku Abubakar*

Being the Opening Remarks of Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria as Chairman of the 2012 Leadership Conference and Awards Ceremony, at Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja 18 September, 2012.


 We have a keynote speaker, so I will take liberties as the Chairman only to make a few remarks on a key issue that has been on the minds of many Nigerians lately, namely the structure of our federation. I believe that it has a bearing on the theme of this important conference. Politics, including opposition politics, is played within the context of the structure of the polity.

I am a product of regional parliamentary democracy. I received free qualitative education from the primary to the secondary and university levels. I was even paid to attend school. The money which the government of the day, my local authority, used to pay for my education and those of my contemporaries was not derived from oil revenues. So I am not a product of oil boom Nigeria.

I followed a recent debate on the internet between some American professors and some intellectuals from the Niger Delta and a northerner. They were trying to answer the question of whether Nigeria or indeed the Niger Delta can be like Singapore. They all agreed that no nation in the world has developed without a combination of its natural resources and human capital. We have natural resources, but without human capital neither Nigeria nor the Niger Delta can be like Singapore, which did not have significant natural resources to start with. But a nation without natural resources can be like Singapore if it develops its human capital, as Japan did before Singapore.

This is an important lesson for all of us. We must, therefore, demand good governance at all levels of our government. The immense developmental strides achieved by our First Republic leaders were achieved without oil revenues, yet we have for over forty years now been behaving as though nothing can be achieved without oil revenues. We should all be thinking more about production rather than distribution or sharing. I do not know of any country in the world that has developed just by its leaders gathering in their capital city every month to share revenues from rent.

During the 1994-95 constitutional conference some of us argued that such organs as Federal Ministries of Education, Health, Agriculture and Sports were unnecessary. We reasoned that their responsibilities should be devolved to states and local governments. At best the federal government should establish standards and regulatory bodies and give grants to states that conform to them. This proposal was not adopted by the constitutional conference, so the current structure was retained. Why should we be talking of federal roads and federal secondary schools? Decentralization is not an invitation to the breakup of the country and national unity should not continue to be confused with unitarism and concentration of power and resources at the federal level. Of course I am aware that some of the main beneficiaries of our erstwhile regional parliamentary democracy have been hiding behind a call for restructuring to push for the breakup of the country because of their proximity to a finite natural resource and transient political power.

One of the consequences of excessive centralization and the military rule that facilitated it, is that the Nigerian President is the most powerful President in the world. This is because he could quite literally unleash all security agencies on an individual or organization, undermine the National Assembly, and turn the judiciary into an almost pro-government and conformist organ. This is not in the realm of speculation; it has been happening in this country. Indeed I drew attention to it when I was in office as Vice President and was having a political face-off with my boss. It is not healthy for democracy and must be changed.

I also want to recall that during the said 1994-95 Constitutional Conference, Dr Alex Ekwueme, GCON, the Second Republic Vice President of this federation, introduced and canvassed for the concept of geo-political zones. I was among those who opposed it because I thought that Ekwueme, coming from the defunct Republic of Biafra, wanted to break up the country again. Now I realize that I should have supported him because our current federal structure is clearly not working. Dr Ekwueme obviously saw what some of us, with our civil war mindset, could not see at the time. There is indeed too much concentration of power and resources at the centre. And it is stifling our march to true greatness as a nation and threatening our unity because of all the abuses, inefficiencies, corruption and reactive tensions that it has been generating.

There is need, therefore, to review the structure of the Nigerian federation, preferably along the basis of the current six geo-political zones as regions and the states as provinces. The existing states structure may not suffice, as the states are too weak materially and politically to provide what is needed for good governance.

In the same vein I see nothing wrong with the establishment of state police by the states that want it, as long as it can be insulated from and is independent of the state or regional government. The argument that governors will abuse state police is rather specious. Should we abolish the Nigerian Police because it is often abused by those in power at the federal level? Should we abolish the state treasuries because governors abuse them? And should we also abolish local governments for the same reason? No. We should, as a people, struggle for and put in place institutional safeguards against abuse of power by those in power at all levels. We have a chance now to put many of those safeguards in a new constitution.

And, as is typical with working federations around the world, state flag or anthem should not get us overly excited. Local identities and symbols are not antithetical to and do not preclude national identities. I, for one, am a proud son of Adamawa, a proud northerner and I am a proud citizen of Nigeria. American states all have flags and anthems; yet I do not know of many countries that are more stable and united than the United States of America.

It is also absurd to say that all parts of the country should have a uniform wage structure for workers. Our states and regions have different revenue endowments and varying costs of living. And it is misguided for labour leaders to think that a uniform wage structure across the country is in the best interest of workers. Employers, including state governments and agencies, that have the capacity to pay more should be able to do so. That can spur competition for the best talent, which may indeed raise overall wage levels (and standard of living) in the country. Minimum wage standards should, therefore, be established by state/regional governments.

Our judiciary is bloated, and increasingly conformist and pro-establishment. Yet justice is always delayed. In the US, which has a larger population and land mass, we find that the judiciary, while not bloated, delivers justice faster. I would like to see a more activist judiciary at all levels – local, regional and federal – one that actually does justice rather than hide behind technicalities to do injustice. I would like to see a judiciary that is able to live up to its billing as the last hope of the common person.

On the specific theme of this conference (and without prejudice to the keynote address), I will just remark that I have long been an advocate of a two-party system because of our class, ethnic, religious and regional faultlines. My recommendation for legislative amendment in that regard is for the National Assembly to pass a law stating that there shall be two political parties in Nigeria, full stop. It does not have to decree their ideologies or platforms. This, in my view, will produce two political parties that will cut across our various divides, and be viable alternatives capable of forming government after elections. Ruling parties all over the world never want strong opposition parties and in contexts such as ours are capable of undermining efforts by opposition parties to coalesce into a single formidable alternative party.

I thank the Leadership newspapers group for organizing this event and for honouring me with the invitation to chair it. More importantly, I thank the newspaper for its commitment to the journalistic creed of holding those in power to account and reminding them and all of us that in a democracy power flows or ought to flow from the people. I congratulate the recipients of today’s awards.

Thank you and God bless.

*Atiku is a former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Being the Opening Remarks of Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria as Chairman of the 2012 Leadership Conference and Awards Ceremony, at Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja 18 September, 2012.



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Africa, Dismantling Bad Faith: Ben Okri And Biko
September 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Claudette Carr

I am more than certain that we have witnessed one of the most transfixing speeches delivered thus far, for the 13th Steve Biko Memorial Lecture, magically crafted by Nigerian author, and public intellectual, Ben Okri, some few days ago at the University of Cape Town . It’s worth mentioning again here – that along with Emperor Haile Selassies address to the United Nations in 1963 ( which, incidentally, was later translated into the powerful anti-racist anthem, ‘War’ by Bob Marley), and Martin Luther King’s, “I Have a Dream” Speech, addressing equality and discrimination, also in the same year; we are in danger of staring a gift horse in the face. Okri’s five-part talk, entitled “Biko and the Tough Alchemy of Africa”, embraced the spirit of Pan-Africanism, providing a stirring blueprint for Africa’s much talked about renaissance. I argue further on, that this malady of “Bad Faith,” ensconced in many of the philosphical  and provoking questions raised in Okri’s speech, are indeed endemic to current modes of political thinking and discourses on development in relation to Africa. Like Dr Martin Luther King, Okri ascends the mountain top, and descends with a speech so majestic, that includes an encyclopedic knowledge – and a Solomonic wisdom second to none: so wide, you can’t get around it, so deep you can’t get under it, and so high you can’t get over it. I am somewhat surprised he is still with us, having not been translated, or transfigured somewhere in the process of this oratory masterpiece. African leaders, intellectuals, activists, and development professionals, would do well to take heed, that we are indeed standing on the shoulders of Giants. Ben Okri, is truly what the African-American intellectual Cornel West has described as a “race transcending intellectual,” but organic enough an intellectual to recognize the potential of the “balm in gilead” remedy, Biko’s Black Consciousnes movement provides for healing the wound of the daughter of his people through out the Continent of Africa. Let me start with a quote about Steve Biko from Okri:

“You have no idea what you mean in the historic consciousness of the world. Sometimes it seems that awful things in history happen to compel us to achieve the impossible, to challenge our idea of humanity. Your struggle mirrored around the world, is one of the greatest struggles of our times. It poses and continues to pose the biggest questions facing humanity; massive philosophical questions that have never really been tackled by the great thinkers of the human race. These are some of the questions which your history posed: Are human beings really equal? Is justice fundamental to humanity or is justice a matter of law? Is there evil? Can different races really live together? Is love unreal in human affairs? Why is there so much suffering? Why do some people seem to suffer more than others? Can the will of a people overcome great injustice? Can a people transform their lives and their society through the power of a new vision? Does God exist and is God unfair?

~~Ben Okri~~


The question so poignantly poses are key in grappling with this notion of “Bad Faith” in relation to the African condition. In ‘Fanon and the Crisis of European Man’, Lewis R.Gordon provides a good reference point, from which we can begin to think critically about dismantling the syndrome of “Bad Faith” that persists in development discourse concerning Africa. I use Bad faith here to describe the kinds of epistemic violence reinscribed in postcolonial discourses on Africa, which are dependent upon Western intellectuals speaking for the subaltern’s [the poor/marginalised] condition rather than allowing them to speak for themselves. I use Gayatri Spivaks formulation of epistemic violence here, where the subaltern is silenced by both the colonial and indigenous elites. Fanon, observed that one major stumbling block

pertaining to the African condition, was the national bourgeosie, who simply had as their plan – having fought for national independence struggles in Africa – to move into the masters mansion. It is not particularly surprising then, as the Ghanian economist George Ayittey has noted why we have so many corrupt “hippo” leaders turning several African countries into corrupt banana republics? I would apply this thesis to the black bourgeosie today. Africa needs more than a “Cheetah” generation who merely constitute a bunch of Professional careerists, or technical rationalists whose desire for their nation are difficult to disentangle from that of their colonial masters. Where is the platform for Africa’s new intellectual leaders? What do we really mean by “Empowering African Women? Where are the African women intellectual leaders?

“Institutional bad faith discourages human recognition. It is an effort to construct collectives and norms, “inert” practices, that militate against sociality, against human being. Although its goal is the elimination of the human in human being, its route of legitimation may be humanity-in-itself. Institutional bad faith some times takes the form, then, of an attack on humanity in the name of humanity. Segregation in the name of order, which in turn is in the name of peace, which in turn is in the name of the public good, which in turn is in the name of protecting the innocent, and so on. The appeal is familiar. there is a discouragement of choice through the presentation of ossified values.” (Gordon, 1995:22)

Some key concepts in developmentalist discourse aimed at “empowering” and “giving voice” to the poor, as if the poor had no voice in the first place to tell their own stories are tools used to perpetuate bad faith. It is only when we begin unpacking some of these concepts and the ‘spirit’ behind them, that we begin to see how they have become what I refer to as “broken cisterns that hold no water” – acts of false generosity in the face of continued suffering and poverty within the African context. What are the contours of this bad faith that keep Africa in this sate of poverty in perpetuity?

“All across the continent and everywhere where human love responds to the suffering of others, these questions were nagging kind of music. All across Africa these questions troubled us – and among the voices that articulated a profoundly bold and clear response to these big questions of fate, injustice and destiny, one big voice pierced our minds was that of Steve Biko. One of my points of affinity with Biko is with his rigour and his high-standards of expectation of the human and the African spirit. He asks fundamental questions like: Who are you? What are you? Are you what others say you are? What is your selfhood? What makes you a man or a woman? He asks questions which will be relevant in hundreds of years time, questions which are an inevitable part of a free society. We need to reincarnate Biko’s rigour, his high-standards and his forensic questioning of society and of all of his assumptions. We need to keep alive Biko’s fierce and compassionate truthfulness. In fact, we need Biko’s spirit now more than ever. If he were here today he might well ask such questions: Is the society just? Are we being truthful about one another? Has there been a real change of attitudes and assumptions on both sides of the racial divide? He might have expressed concerns about the police reaction to the striking miners of Marikana. He would have said that it does not need to be said that the murders and the use of apartheid law to try the miners are shocking to the international community and that it has disturbing resonances with his own death. He might well ask: Has there been reconciliation without proper consideration? He might ask whether the things that he fought against have merely mutated like certain cancerous cells. It is a strange kind of fate for Biko to have suffered for in being so unjustly cut down so early, he remains for us perpetually poised in the stance of his difficult questions.”


This message was written in response to a liberal white economist, who in the course of several online exchanges, had dismissed African intellectuals such as Steve Biko – and on this occasion, Chinua Axhebe as being irrelevant to Africa’s Development.

“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”- Steven Biko

“Paradoxically, a saint like [Albert] Schweitzer can give one a lot more trouble than King Leopold II, villain of unmitigated guilt, because along with doing good and saving African lives Schweitzer also managed to announce that the African was indeed his brother, but only his junior brother.”― Chinua Achebe

Dear Liberal [white Economist]The above is a quote – Chinua Achebe is making this point.I post many critical quotes about the Black African existential and human condition in relation to development – you choose to misconstrue/discredit them in the way you do, which is a testament to how effective they obviously are . I will not be silenced or derailed by your defensive comments each time I post a quote or a piece that stirs your soul.You may have gathered by now, that I am beyond obsfucatory platitudes; my modus operandi for getting beyond the good intentions that beset much of development practice, is CHANGE [NB. not the ‘Like’ button’]. You need to get beyond making personal attacks because you disagree with a comment I have posted on my wall. Let me be clear, as Machiavelli very poignantly notes, “I am not interested in preserving the status quo, I want to overthrow it.”I think that is what paradigm shift might actually mean.The art of good development practice is for development professionals – soon and very soon, to make themselves redundant.As an Economist you should empathise or know, that this, at the very least, is what will go some way towards constituting genuine human growth. We pay homage to those who have gone before us in the quest for transformative justice: Chinua Achebe, Steve, Biko, Nelson Mandela, Sojourner Truth, Frantz Fanon, Patrice Lamumba, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Harriet Tubman, Walter Sisulu, Walter Rodney, Oliver Tambo, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, May Angelou, Angela Davies….Shall I go on speaking more uncomfortable truths? We would still have Jim Crow, and women would still be chained to kitchen sinks….and blacks still infantilised, subject to the brutal and ignoble regime of Apartheid in South Africa, had Biko not courageously announced: “I Write What I like!” I make the posts, I do to ensure that Africa for this new generation of “do-gooders” as you put it, do not decontextualise, dehistoricize or dehumanize the f1act that they are standing on the shoulders of GIANTS, of which Chinua Achebe and Steve Biko are such. (Signed, FrankTalk)


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Ben Okri honours Biko
September 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

Molweni! Vice-Chancellor, Max Price, Mr Nkosinathi Biko, members of the extraordinary Biko family, members of the Board of Trustees, the Minister of National Planning, Deputy-Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, distinguished guests, comrades, ladies and gentlemen – and in South African parlance, all protocols observed. Preliminaries first: I really want to thank the Biko family for the magical honour of giving this talk today and for inviting me to South Africa for my first visit to your really beautiful country. It’s more than an honour to give the 13th Steve Biko Lecture commemorating the 35th anniversary of his brutal death and transition from activists against Apartheid to one of the guiding ancestors of justice and freedom not only in South Africa but all over the world. I want to especially thank Nkosinathi for the personal invitation as well as to congratulate him for the extraordinary work they have done in making available to the world the transfigured meaning of Steve Biko’s legacy.

Fifteen years ago Nkosinathi inaugurated the creation of a Steve Biko memorial, and these memorial lectures have acquired great significance. I am struck by the richness and variety of the people who have given the lectures, from the great Nelson Mandela himself to the delightful and dancing Desmond Tutu, giants of black and African literature like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Ndebele, who gave the inaugural lecture and Alice Walker; formidable presidents like Thabo Mbeki and that legendary Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel.

As you know, this is the 13th Memorial Lecture, and I happen to have considered the number 13 to be a very lucky number indeed, combining as it does the Hebrew letter for 1, which means love – do your research – with the Hebrew letter for 3, which means unity. Maybe the fusion of love and unity in a world fatally divided and dangerously unstable, may be one of the secret themes of my talk this evening: Biko and the Tough Alchemy of Africa. Your great struggle and your history have been the background music to our lives. We grew up with a consciousness of your struggle and your suffering, and terrorism that accompanied us through the years. In a sense your struggle highlighted to us all over the continent the meaning of justice. As a child growing up just after independence in Nigeria, one of the first moral questions about the world was posed to me by your circumstance, that there was a country, that there were countries in which it was enshrined that one race was inferior to another and that one race can dehumanise another, posed to me questions that went right to the root of existence. For many of us it even made us question the existence of God; such injustice we felt could only exist in a godless universe.

The Sharpeville massacre of 1966 with its unforgettable images that seared themselves into the consciousness of the world was one of those world events that awoke us from our moral sleep. I was roughly the same age as the children being slaughtered in that famous picture and it instantly made me aware that our fates are one. I don’t know how other people in other continents saw that picture but from that day I too became a black South African and we suffered with you in your sufferings and willed you on in your struggles.

You have no idea what you mean in the historic consciousness of the world. Sometimes it seems that awful things in history happen to compel us to achieve the impossible, to challenge our idea of humanity. Your struggle mirrored around the world, is one of the greatest struggles of our times. It poses and continues to pose the biggest questions facing humanity; massive philosophical questions that have never really been tackled by the great thinkers of the human race. These are some of the questions which your history posed: Are human beings really equal? Is justice fundamental to humanity or is justice a matter of law? Is there evil? Can different races really live together? Is love unreal in human affairs? Why is there so much suffering? Why do some people seem to suffer more than others? Can the will of a people overcome great injustice? Can a people transform their lives and their society through the power of a new vision? Does God exist and is God unfair?

All across the continent and everywhere where human love responds to the suffering of others, these questions were nagging kind of music. All across Africa these questions troubled us – and among the voices that articulated a profoundly bold and clear response to these big questions of fate, injustice and destiny, one big voice pierced our minds was that of Steve Biko. One of my points of affinity with Biko is with his rigour and his high-standards of expectation of the human and the African spirit. He asks fundamental questions like: Who are you? What are you? Are you what others say you are? What is your selfhood? What makes you a man or a woman? He asks questions which will be relevant in hundreds of years time, questions which are an inevitable part of a free society. We need to reincarnate Biko’s rigour, his high-standards and his forensic questioning of society and of all of his assumptions. We need to keep alive Biko’s fierce and compassionate truthfulness. In fact, we need Biko’s spirit now more than ever. If he were here today he might well ask such questions: Is the society just? Are we being truthful about one another? Has there been a real change of attitudes and assumptions on both sides of the racial divide? He might have expressed concerns about the police reaction to the striking miners of Marikana. He would have said that it does not need to be said that the murders and the use of apartheid law to try the miners are shocking to the international community and that it has disturbing resonances with his own death. He might well ask: Has there been reconciliation without proper consideration? He might ask whether the things that he fought against have merely mutated like certain cancerous cells. It is a strange kind of fate for Biko to have suffered for in being so unjustly cut down so early, he remains for us perpetually poised in the stance of his difficult questions.

And to think of Biko is to have these questions always come alive in our minds. He is like Kafka’s axe that can always be used against the frozen seas of lies and hidden attitudes that fog up the flow of a society’s possibilities. He is a figure of constant truth that will continue to haunt the history of this nation as it negotiates through time the continued hidden legacy of Apartheid. It is not surprising that his most famous work is called I write what I Like. In a sense Biko transcends politics and has in him something of the terrible integrity of the true artist, one who with hammer-blows will relentlessly pursue his vision of exalted truth regardless of its consequences. In that sense Biko is more than just the unfinished conscience of this land; he is also that finger pointing at the only acceptable future: a life and a society in which citizens can be proud of what they are. Biko’s spirit is permanently, fantastically set against the humiliation of man and woman. His spirit is set against the mediocrity of consciousness, the mediocrity of a consciousness that lives without a sense of what has happened to others. He is not an easy guy. He does not like laziness or lazy thinking. He has the rigour of a young man who will not accept that a decent life is impossible for his people. He will not accept that an agreement has been reached without frank and exhausted dialogue. He may well think that too much has been given away too soon. He may even think that the people who have not honestly acknowledged the death of the injustice they inflicted on others may still in fact harbour deceits of those injustices.

In many ways Biko reminds me of Nietzsche; he did not trust pity and he might have thought forgiveness not really forgiving till the fire of truth has been brought into the consciousness of the one to be forgiven. Generosity without steel can be a weak thing, just as steel without generosity can be a cruel thing. This may be one of the real tragedy of Biko’s death. The apartheid struggle needed a dual strand: its hard and is gentle; its sternness and its compassion; its fire and its water. With the murder of Biko some tougher questions which would have been insisted upon might have found a more authentic advocate. The fact is that a nation cannot escape from itself and from all of its truths and all of its lies. If its lies linger too long in the unspoken dialogue of a people, sooner or later they will lead to unpleasantness. Even though Biko be absent, the people in the shanty-towns, the poor and the hungry feel the shadow of those lies, feel the pointedness in their lives of the questions that Biko might be asking today. I think I’m going to have some water.

Great struggles tend to throw up great spirits. Great suffering tends to throw up great minds who refuse to accept the terms of that suffering. Something of the spirit of Prometheus breathed in the voice of people like Steve Biko; voices who refused to accept the definition of his people by those who define it downwards. Prometheus suffered his incarnation incarceration on the great rock of Tartarus because he stole fire from the Gods to give to humanity. One of the recipients of that fire was Steve Biko. I am aware that there are many recipients of that fire – people like the great man Nelson Mandela, father of the nation, figures like Chris Hani. But Steve Biko’s fate is one of latest in a long chain of Promethean destinies. Like the phoenix of classical mythology, his end was his beginning. The power and truth of his ideas spread with a special brilliance because of the flame of his death. It is one of the curious things about history that whenever they kill the incarnation of truth its voice is multiplied a-thousand-fold.

Your history has taught the world a thing or two about the human spirit. From you we learned that eventually the spirit is unconquerable. From you we learned that history is not inevitable but must be fought for with love, with courage and with wisdom. From you we learned that the impossible belongs to those who have not peered deep into the darkest darkness of the night and still believe in the cycle of the sun. Forgive this rhapsody, but often we take history for granted and those who live through it and come through it take it as a kind of nightmare or a dream and therefore a kind of unreality. For most of my life it seems that Apartheid could not be overcome. Our rage at its reality seemed to have collapsed against what seemed like its eternity. It seemed one of those unacceptable facts etched into the fabric of the world. In England, where I lived in the latter part my life, it was assumed by many that Apartheid would be with us for generations. It seemed like one of those unalterable facts like fate or the moon or like hunger. But a great injustice rouses something very deep in the human spirit, something deep that goes all the way back to the Gods. We can almost say that greater justice awakens in us the same forces that shape the world, a force greater than destiny itself, a force that comes from the fire of the demiurge a force that tears down mountains and throws up continents; a force like bursting volcano, a force of thunder. This is a force slow to arouse but once roused and awoken, hard to control. Such a force unleashed itself in the French Revolution and gave birth to one of the great nations of the world and some of the great philosophies of freedom. Such a forced was aroused in the American Revolution, one of the Father Revolutions of the human race. But this force does not unleash itself in revolutions only; it can burn in civil wars, it can implode in gulags and forced inhuman policies and orgiastic historic rages.

When a people overcome the impossible, they achieve eventually a kind of evolutionary shift and epistemological break. They realise, eventually, deep in their souls something powerful about their will: they are never quite the same people again. They change subtly something in their DNA. They also experience a state of unreality.

History is like a nightmare we wake up from after a struggle and blink in stupefaction at the strangeness of daylight. With awakening a great energy is freed; a new question is posed: the nightmare is over but what do we do with the day? We do not have enough psychologists of history. Everyone seems to treat history as if our reaction to it should be logical. The people have emerged from a mutual nightmare, what should they do upon awakening? What should anyone do after a long trauma? What can anyone do?

Nations too, like individuals, need to heal. And healing takes several forms. For some, healing is probing the wounds, seeking causes, pursuing redress. For others, healing is dreaming, it is an active vision during which time a future is dreamed of, shaped and put into place. For them healing is an opportunity to transform themselves out of all that suffering, all that trauma, and the heroic effort of all that overcoming. The unfortunate thing about history is that it gives us no rest, no holidays. There are no pauses; we go from struggle to struggle. The struggle to overcome and then the struggle to live, to grow, to realise the potential seeded in our bones. We go from tearing down the unacceptable to building the desirable without much of a break in the dance.

But how long does this magic period last, the period of raised consciousness when a people realise that the surging through them of all the best energies of the human spirit? When they have effected a profound change in their destiny and feel the euphoria of overcoming? How long does it last, this sense of having climbed a mountain-top against all the odds and gazing back down over the journey accomplished and feeling for a long historical moment the sense that with the will power and the vision clear, anything is possible?

Historical exaltation is too short. Life comes rushing in. No one can dwell on a mountain-top long; the air there is too pure and unreal. The value of mountain-tops is not to live on them but to see from them. To see into the magic and difficult distances, to see something of the great journey still ahead; to see, in short, the seven mountains that are hidden when we climb. It may be only once that a people have such a vision. Maybe very, very great nations have such a vision a few times, and each time they do they affect a profound renewal in their history and take a quantum leap in their development. Most nations never glimpse the mountain-top at all; never sense the vastness and the greatness of the gritty glory that lies ahead of them in the seven mountains each concealed behind the other. Maybe Ancient Greece saw such a vision a few times and dreamed up its notion of a flawed democracy and left its lasting legacy in its architecture, its literature, but above all in its political structure for unleashing its genius upon the world. Maybe Ancient Rome saw such a vision a few times too and built straight roads through history, wresting with the idea of freedom and tyranny and conquered a sizeable portion of the known world, and left for us their ambiguous legacy of empire, literature and might.

But it is not often that a people reach a mountain-top and descend with a rich vision of a transformed life for all of its people and then set about realising it. Too often the euphoria gets swept away into an ideology of state. Too often it is squandered. Too often that great moment is lost and never to be experienced again and eventually forgotten in the mountainous pilling up day after day after day after day of ordinary reality; the mire of history, till disillusion and despair and boredom set in. And a people who could have given mankind a new reality of how a society can be in a world where so many good dreams are failing, becomes a society that scrabbles in the sand, its eyes weep in poverty with division and tribal conflict at its heart and emptiness in its days, its resources and hopes eaten away by corruption – a society that faces into the darkness and the dullness with that glimpse of the mountain-top faded into ordinary sunlight.

We invest great hopes in people who manage a great overcoming. Maybe because of a certain nostalgia for our lost moment when we too could have been a light to the world, or maybe for a nostalgia for what can be the hope that we too can affect our own modest daily overcoming against destiny. We like to believe that those who suffered can show us the true meaning of that suffering, which is the point anyway for humanity to be. There is no greater value to suffering than in having the authority to create a better, fairer, truer and more beautiful life for its people. There are those who think that suffering brutalises and dehumanises and turns men and women into animals. There are those who see in Africa’s troubles, nothing but what they unintelligibly call ‘African nihilism’. There are, to be sure, many cracks and fissures in the human spirit and unimaginable horrors have been unleashed in Europe and Asia and America; history shows no one to have completely pure hands. But those who have had injustice perpetrated on them, who have suffered unbelievable variations of humiliation and brutality, ought to have a special light and vision on the nature of justice. This will be true of course but for what Hamlet calls “bad dreams”. Hence the necessity of that unique kind of feeling.

Personally I favour healing as dreaming. A society comes through fire a nightmare and it ought to heal through dreaming; not a dream of sleep but the dream of vision. In some ways unreality is easier than reality. And the reality of freedom demands more consistency, vision, courage and practical love than was suspected in the unreality of injustice. And what defines a society is not how it overcomes its night but what it does with the long ever-after days of sunlight. Some will say that re-emerged from the night with our hands tied and that the sunlight still has a lot of night in it and that the terms of our freedom and the context of our independence put led weights on our feet in a field where others have been running with free feet and machine-assisted feet for hundreds of years before we entered the strange game.

Some will even say that at every stage of our emergence into sunlight we were hassled, sabotaged, undermined and the terms of our participation fixed and limited – and that we are being judged in a game in which the terms and conditions are twisted and lopsided in ways so subtle that no one notices how they’ve done our participation before we begin. Some will say many such things – how we play not our game but the game of others, and how our leaders are confused and our participants corrupted, and the people cheated and betrayed and left behind in hunger and poverty in the long after-years of sunlight.

These things may or may not be true. What is true is that no one will hand us the destiny that we want. No one will carry us to the future that our bones and our history crave for. We must do it ourselves. It seems that the courage and the ingenuity, and the toughness required for getting us out of the night are indeed required much, much more for the ever-after day of the long after-years of sunlight. Freedom was just the overture. Indeed, freedom may just turn out to be a very small part of the true story of a people. The real story begins with what they did with that freedom.

Part 2:

This has been the real challenge of Africa. This has been the real challenge of our times. Can we make something worthwhile of our freedom? Can we be fruitful and workable nations? Can we create a good life for our people? But more crucially, can we make sustained and important contributions to the world and help in our own way to take forward human civilisation? On the whole it can be said that African nations began with hope, fell in chaos and staggered into dependency. Or to take another variation it can be said that African nations began in unity, collapsed into multiplicity and stumble in division. Or to weave one more jazz note of history; that African nations began in dreams, were overwhelmed by reality and stumble about in nightmare. Or to take a classical turn, African nations came, saw and squandered.

All across the world in the late fifties and sixties could be heard what Byron once called the First Dance of Freedom. Not long afterwards came the cry of failure as civil wars, tribalism, coups and corruption descended on the recent freedom dances. Then came the long decades of animi, that was such a feast of gloating and salivation for western observers. People emerged from the African world into a European-shaped reality in two or three generations and no one wonders that there would be some confusion. People entered an arena in which others have been shaping themselves as nation states over hundreds of year and no one wonders that they would at first seem inadequate. The fact is we might have lost control of our self-perception. We might have lost control of how we see ourselves in the modern world. We see ourselves and measure ourselves with outwardly determined standards. We don’t play our game.

We don’t choose our values; but more seriously, emerging from African reality into modern reality has had one major effect: time has gotten speeded up for us. We are having to accomplish in 10 years what it took European nations 2000 years to accomplish. Africa is having to compress in a short time her own equivalent of the Roman Conquest, the Viking marauders, the Black Death, feudalism, Civil War, the Industrial Revolution with its dark satanic mills, capitalism, the poverty act, the union of the four warring nations and the unholy spoils of colonialism – all into a few solitary decades.

There is however another way to read history. It could be said that African nations have emerged from the long reality of their selfhood into a different time and are engaged in a complex historical adjustment. We need to define history more accurately, and the history of African people, the Bantu, the Zulu, the Yarubas, to give a tiny example, is long, unique and needs to be written and studied. History is not the story of the impact of the western world on the African world; that is a small part of our history.

History is not objective. The meaning of history keeps on revealing itself through time. Like a text of infinite interpretability, history yields new meanings in relation to the eyes that behold it and the pressures of the times. History may be memory, history may be vengeance, history may be redemption – but whatever history is, it is too soon to extrapolate the meaning of our recent histories. Those who write about history in haste and fall into quick judgements, find that the long unfolding of events change the meaning of the facts upon which they base their judgements. Time is a great ironist. The historian who makes a quick judgement again the United States of America right in the middle of her apocalyptic Civil War, would be made fooling by the unfolding destiny of that nation.

History may be fact, history may be a dream, history may be revelation. It is not how things are that count, it’s what you do with them, what vision you have and with what strength you march towards that vision. We need a new consciousness. History is always responsive to a new consciousness.

Part 3:

Do you want me to keep going? I’m just trying to make sure I’m not talking to myself. They say the greater the mistakes the greater the lessons that can be learned. Africa has surely made enough mistakes for us to learn about. Among other things we are rich in mistakes. Some nations in the world make their mistakes over thousands of years, we made ours over decades. We have made enough mistakes to become nations of genius if we had that inclination. Maybe that is why there is the beginnings of a new consciousness, a new stirring of national success slowly creeping across the continent. But what are some of these mistakes: the slide towards dictatorship and tyranny, corruption becoming a ‘natural’ part of the national fabric, the depletion of national resources by ruling elite, the erosion of civil liberties, the failure to realise that nations can die just like businesses, companies or individuals. You do not need me to tell you that if Biko were alive today, his cry to Africa would be to put its house in order. He would be appalled at the civil wars, the failure to feed and educate the people, the greed of government officials, and the general failure to live up to the promise of the great struggles for liberation. He would be harder on us than our critics because he would expect from us the highest standards of national life.

I interpret Black Consciousness not only in relation to the history of oppression; I interpret it also as an injunction to the highest fulfilment of a people’s possibilities. Black Consciousness means nothing if it does not also mean the best flowering of our reality. To me Black Consciousness means equality, freedom, community, grassroot transformation, but it also means excellence, humanity, foresight, wisdom, and a transcendence of our weakness and our flaws. Stripped of its specific context of Apartheid the core of Black Consciousness does not seem to me a polarising message. Rather it is a call for the awakening of the spirit, a call such as the ancestors might have made. Wherever a people are oppressed, the first thing they must remember is who they are. But once liberation has been achieved, the first thing they must remember is who they want to be. The heart of Black Consciousness is a message of ‘becoming’; it’s goal is not limited, it hints as a continuing journey of self-discovery and self-realisation. This can be as wide and as expansive as the mind that interprets it. There can be no end to a self-realisation. Every day we discover more and more who we can be – this is what Black Consciousness says to me: become who you are, and also, become what you truly can be. It is an injunction of greatness. In fact, it is an injunction to leadership. It says in effect that black people because of their history and all that they have learned, should show the world a new way of being – to paraphrase, a better way of being human. I’m coming to the end, slowly.

Part 4:

There are three kinds of leaders. There are the ones who make, there are the ones who bring meaningful change. There are the ones who make change real. And then there are those who squander the possibilities of their times. The challenge of our times has always been the challenge of leadership. It is not the only challenge but it is the most symbolic. Black Consciousness is an injunction to leadership because the people can only be as liberated as its leaders are – in that sense Black Consciousness says that to liberate in your mind and freeing your consciousness, you should be your own leader. Everyone therefore carries the burden of leadership. To that degree, the leaders that you have says something about the kind of people that you are.

Previously leadership was considered on its own as an isolated event of responsibility. We tended to blame our leaders for our failings. The micro responsibility of Black Consciousness implies that we should blame or praise ourselves for our leaders for they are what we have enabled them to become. To me Black Consciousness suggests that the people take the responsibilities for their lives, their societies, and their destiny. This is not a textual but an intuitive reading of Black Consciousness. I am not advocating civil unrest but. I am not advocating civil unrest but that the people are complicit in how their societies are run, how their history turns out. The people cannot be passive about the single most important thing that affects them, which is the running of their lives. In that sense there is a micro and a macro dimension of Black Consciousness, but its core is that of liberating for time and in all historical circumstances the consciousness, the conscience and the spirit of a people. After all, the people cannot come away in their oppression and fall right asleep after their liberation. A continued wakefulness is the burden of Black Consciousness, a continued vigilance is its responsibility. More than that, an ever-higher refinement of the possibilities of the people, an ever-higher reach in its potential and the realisation ought to be its goal.

The renewal of a people of continent is a miraculous thing. And it happens when a great new idea takes root in a people; when they see the image of themselves not as they were but as they can be. It is a renewed self-vision. Its source is a potent and enchanted vision; it is conveyed through inspiration and sustained by example. Through the undercurrents of our minds, the idea is passed along that we can have good houses, good roads, decent education, fulfilling jobs. The idea is passed along in the undercurrent of our minds that we can stand tall and be fruitful under the sun. The idea is passed along that no one needs to starve and that everyone can have access to health services. The idea is passed along that we can question many of our beliefs, we can apply reason to our inherited notions that we can transfigure our superstitions. The idea is passed along that we can transcend our tribalism without losing our roots; that we can transcend our religion without losing our faith. The idea is passed along that we can transcend our race without losing its uniqueness; that we can transcend our past without losing our identity. It is passed along that we can only look forward and that has been done many times in history all over the world and is being done slowly today in Asia and places like Brazil – that we can remake our societies closer to our heart’s desire. The idea starts along that now is the time to show the true greatness on the part of your liberation. Now is the time to create a society commensurate to the ideals which the people fought for and for which so many died.

That the fire of your history is a refining fire, producing from the blood of martyrs the goal of a new civilization.

Part 5:

In alchemy there are two ways to accomplish what is known as a great work. They are called the dry way and the wet way. The dry way is short and dangerous. The wet way is long and safe. In political terms the short way requires a certain kind of dictatorship, thoroughly unified people and highly focussed vision – Japan, the Soviet Union and China in some ways exemplify this; they try to bring about fantastic transformation in society in a very short time. The results are often ambivalent. With Stalin and [indistinct] Mao millions died in the spectre of the gulags haunt success experiments. Only Japan uniquely showed the fruitfulness of this difficult way. But for national of diversity involved in a land of many tribes and many races, the ideal seems to be the wet way. Europe took time to arrive at its current stability. America needed 200 years and a civil war to become itself.

We must measure time differently. Our history began long before the history of others. We must measure time not in the length of oppression but by the persistence of our dreams – and our dreams go back a long way, way beyond the fall of Carthage, which Mandela says we are to rebuild, and way beyond the first imperfect Egyptian pyramids. The cycles of time, like the inundation of the Nile, have the deposited on us the immeasurable silt of human experiences. We have great wealth in all that is at the root of humanity. If there is a correlation between experience and wisdom, between suffering and understanding, Africa is the riches delta of possible transformation. The dream of our ancestors nestles in the Rift Valley, when the greatest enemy of man was not man but night itself. Our ancestors battled with all manner of monsters and evils within and without – and this long period of time and long march to civilisation must have forged in them some unconquerable sense of a human spirit. Just as rocks bear the strata of the ages they have witnessed, so deep inside us are the strata of unmeasured overcoming.

Let us be tempered. May the fire of history burn us into a new consciousness. Let the white learn from the black and the black learn from the white. I’m quoting Taoism here. Different histories come together in one great sea. Let us raise one another. You have something special to give the world, and the gift of your genius, our genius will be revealed not long after we claim the right to be ourselves. We can be no one else. We must therefore accept as history, we must therefore accept our history with all of its flaws. We should hide nothing from ourselves about who we have been. We can only transform that which we face. What we are now is only the present slice of a picture of ourselves; there can be no final definition of what we are. We grow and change in accordance with necessity and vision, and yet in some mysterious way will become more and more ourselves.

Thirty-five years ago a visionary son of the soil who was going to become a doctor, was slain. From his grave may a thousand dreams of freedom rise. May the vengeance for his torture and his slaughter be the constant coming into being, of a beautiful South Africa. A beautiful South Africa where the frisson between the races be always creative and compel them towards dynamic harmony, and where the intelligence in the rich nurturing of citizenship is nourished by the dragon’s blood of his and other martyrs’ immolation. Pass the word on. Pass the word along the five great rivers of Africa – from the Cape of Wise Hope to the sinuous mountains and the tranquil savannah. Pass on the word that there are three Africas. The one that we see every day; the one that they write about and the real magical Africa that we don’t see unfolding through all the difficulties of our time, like a quiet miracle. Effect the world with your light. Press forward the human genius. Our future is greater than our past. Bless you all.

*Culled from This is a transcribed version of the speech delivered by Professor Ben Okri at the 13th annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture held at the University of Cape Town on 12 September 2012


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Africa: Assessing U.S. Policy On Peacekeeping Operations in Africa – Carson
September 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Johnie Carson

Testimony of Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson The Bureau of African Affairs U.S. Department of State before The House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights September 13, 2012

“Peacekeeping in Africa”

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak about peacekeeping in Africa today. As members of the Committee are aware, President Obama’s recent Presidential Policy Directive identified our efforts to advance peace and security on the continent as one of the four pillars of the Administration’s Africa strategy.

This is an area where we have witnessed both significant progress and major challenges over the past decade. Angola, Mozambique, Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have progressed from periods of prolonged civil conflict to new eras of relative peace and stability. Nonetheless, this progress remains fragile in many countries, and all too many states are still mired in serious conflict, including Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan. Moreover, as illustrated by the ongoing situation in Mali, the fragile nature of democratic institutions on the continent means that even relatively stable countries can quickly unravel into conflict.

If we are to assist our African partners in achieving a more democratic, prosperous, stable, and secure Africa, we must address these conflicts. Conflict destabilizes states and borders, stifles economic growth and investment, and robs young Africans of the opportunity for an education and a better life. To address these conflicts, we need well-resourced UN, African Union (AU), and regional peacekeeping operations. That is why the topic of this hearing is so vitally important.

My colleague, Assistant Secretary Brimmer, will be focusing on the UN element of peacekeeping in Africa, and therefore I want to focus my testimony on the efforts of the African Union and sub-regional organizations to develop their own peacekeeping capacities and conduct operations in support of peace and security objectives on the continent.

I also want to discuss U.S. Government efforts to strengthen African peacekeeping capacity at the regional, sub-regional, and national levels.

The African Peace and Security Architecture The founding of the African Union or “AU” in 2002 brought with it the promise of a more robust African regional architecture that would one day be capable of addressing and coordinating responses to the myriad challenges facing the continent. This newfound promise extended to the area of peace and security, where the AU set forth a vision for an African Peace and Security Architecture. Partially modeled after the UN and other regional organizations, this architecture is designed to enable the AU to act as an active and dynamic adjunct to the work of the UN in its mission to maintain international peace and security. The centerpiece of this architecture is the AU’s African Standby Force (ASF), which is composed of five regional standby brigades ready to respond to a range of contingencies, from providing support to political missions, to robust military interventions to prevent genocide. The five brigades are the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Standby Force, the Eastern African Standby Force, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Brigade, the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC), and the North African Standby Brigade Capability (NARC).

All four sub-Saharan African brigades have taken initial steps towards becoming operational, including setting up headquarters, identifying pledged units from member states, and conducting multinational exercises. The North African Standby Brigade has made considerably less progress towards achieving full operational capability, and progress may be further delayed by the events of the Arab Spring.

The ASF remains a work in progress. The five brigades are in varying stages of readiness. None of the brigades is currently capable of conducting the range of operations contained within the ASF’s mandate without significant external support in the form of financial resources, training, logistical assistance, and equipment. While most of the brigades have identified sites for their mandated logistics depots, they either have made no progress in establishing the depots themselves, or have not fully stocked their depots to address the range of contingencies. Capacity at the level of AU headquarters, specifically the Peace Support Operations Division, to manage and direct the force remains limited due to resource and staffing constraints.

AU and Regional Operations Although the ASF remains a work in progress, the AU and sub-regional organizations like ECOWAS have not stood idly by in the face of persistent conflict. In fact, in many cases, the AU and the sub-regional organizations have proven to be more responsive than the broader international community in terms of addressing conflict quickly. The AU deployed its first peacekeeping operation to Burundi in 2003 in support of the international effort to end the long-running civil war there, and this helped set the stage for a successful follow-on UN operation in 2004. In 2004, a larger and more ambitious mission, the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), was deployed in response to the horrific conflict gripping Darfur. Despite the immense challenges and obstructions that faced the troop contributors in the mission area, AMIS helped to set the conditions and prepare the ground for the deployment of a larger and more complex UN-AU hybrid operation, UNAMID, which remains deployed in Darfur to this day. The AU-authorized, Tanzanian-led intervention in Comoros in 2008 was another example of the region stepping up quickly in response to a regional security challenge.

Somalia best demonstrates the valuable role the AU can play in terms of regional peacekeeping. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has now been operating for more than five years in the most volatile conflict environment on the continent. The AU troop contributors, including Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya, have paid a high price in terms of lives and national treasure. But the progress AMISOM has achieved since its modest beginning in 2007 is remarkable.

Over the past five years, AMISOM has gradually extended its area of operations from a small enclave near the international airport in Mogadishu to encompass all of Mogadishu and the surrounding towns. It has done so with support from the UN in the form of the logistics support package provided through the UN Support Office for AMISOM.

AMISOM is now in the process of deploying to additional regions in southwestern Somalia, and the recent incorporation of Kenyan forces into AMISOM has further extended the mission’s reach. The UN Monitoring Group reported in June 2012 that the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab “has suffered dramatic reverses over the past year, experiencing military defeats, the loss of territory and the erosion of its revenue base, setbacks that have exacerbated rifts within the group’s senior leadership.” This is directly attributable to the success of the African-led AMISOM. It is no exaggeration to say that through AMISOM, the AU has given Somalia and its long-suffering people their best chance for sustained peace and stability in over a generation.

African sub-regional organizations have also played an important role in responding to armed conflicts on the continent. In particular, ECOWAS has repeatedly shown that it can help to reestablish stability and set the stage for follow-on UN peacekeeping operations within West Africa, as it did in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Economic Community of Central African States – usually referred to by its French acronym CEEAC – has also made a small but notable contribution to regional peace and security by deploying the mission known as MICOPAX to the Central African Republic under the auspices Central African brigade of the ASF – FOMAC – since 2008. The Eastern Africa Standby Force, which is supported by 10 East African countries, is currently supporting AMISOM through the deployment of staff officers to AMISOM’s headquarters in Mogadishu.

Challenges Facing AU Peacekeeping These examples demonstrate the level of political will that underlies the commitment of the AU, the sub-regional organizations, and member states to peacekeeping on the continent. These experiences also demonstrate the immense array of challenges facing African peacekeepers. These challenges include increasingly dangerous and complex conflict environments in which African peacekeepers are serving, and systemic weaknesses within African militaries and the regional organizations themselves.

AMISOM best exemplifies the danger and complexity of mission environments. In no other mission on the continent are peacekeepers facing such a challenging operational environment. While the mission has succeeded in driving al-Shabaab further from Mogadishu and surrounding towns, al-Shabaab remains a dangerous enemy that possesses the will and the capability to wreak havoc across southern and central Somalia. In confronting AMISOM, al-Shabaab has utilized an array of tactics that mirror those facing U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, including increasingly sophisticated improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, and sniper fire.

With respect to systemic weaknesses, a lack of resources has proven to be the most significant obstacle to effective African peacekeeping missions. The AU and sub-regional organizations remain dependent on support from the donor community for a broad range of mission requirements, including training, equipment, logistics support, and salaries. Oftentimes, AU member states lack the trained personnel or equipment required to conduct specialized tasks, such as combat engineering, logistics resupply, medical support, and vehicle maintenance. The limited mission planning and management capabilities at AU headquarters can sometimes reinforce the tendency of individual country contingents to plan and execute operations with only minimal or ad-hoc coordination with the contingents from other troop contributors.

How the United States is Helping to Address these Challenges While these challenges are significant, I can assure the Committee that we are committed to helping our African partners overcome them. Our peacekeeping assistance programs, which are primarily funded through the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) and the broader Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) Account, focus on addressing the capability gaps of our African partners, as well as strengthening the ability of our African partners to plan, train for, deploy, and sustain peacekeeping operations on their own. These deployment support and capacity-building activities are executed through a close partnership between the Department of State and the Department of Defense.

This whole-of-government commitment is most evident in the case of AMISOM. Since 2007, the U.S. Government has provided more than $355 million for equipment, training, and logistical support to AMISOM troop contributors, to help AMISOM overcome the threat of al-Shabaab and safeguard the Somali political process. We have tailored this support to meet the unique challenges of the AMISOM mission. For instance, the peacekeeping training provided through the Department of State’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program has been expanded and lengthened for AMISOM troop contributors, and covers topics such as protection of civilians, human rights, countering improvised explosive devices, maritime security, and mechanized infantry operations. The Department of Defense is contributing complementary, specialized counterterrorism training and equipment under Section 1206 authority, including combat engineering training and equipment, Raven unmanned aerial vehicles, and secure communications.

Our joint support is not restricted to just AMISOM, however. We are heavily engaged in building African peacekeeping capacity at three different levels: at the level of the AU’s headquarters, at the level of sub-regional organizations, and at the level of individual member states. Through GPOI, we have provided a peace and security advisor to the AU’s Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD) since 2005 to assist the AU in its effort to develop the ASF, as well as office equipment to support daily operations at the PSOD. The Department of Defense has provided training to AU staff on managing defense resources, and is helping the AU to develop a communications network that links the headquarters to the regional brigades.

We are also providing targeted assistance at the level of sub-regional organizations and the ASF brigades designed to help bring those brigades closer to full operational capability. Through GPOI, we have provided extensive support to ECOWAS and its standby brigade, to include advisory assistance, communications equipment, logistics training, support for ECOWAS multinational exercises, and assistance to ECOWAS’ regional training centers. In East Africa, ACOTA offers staff officer training for member states that comprise the East African Standby Brigade (EASBRIG), and U.S. Africa Command provided support for the EASBRIG’s first major exercise in Djibouti. Our engagement has been more limited with the other three brigades, but we are still supporting their development through bilateral train-and-equip initiatives in their respective member states.

The military units of African member states that receive U.S. training and equipment participate in ongoing operations and can contribute to the success of the ASF. These units have the greatest positive impact on African peacekeeping. ACOTA is the centerpiece of our effort to build capacity and self-sufficiency in partner countries by training and equipping battalions and other units that are deploying to active peace support operations. ACOTA, which is funded primarily through the Global Peace Operations Initiative, succeeded the earlier Africa Crisis

Response Initiative in 2004. Sixteen member states from across the continent are active partners in the ACOTA program, and the program has directly trained over 229,000 African peacekeepers just since 2005. More importantly, ACOTA conducts a “train-the-trainer” program building a cadre of host nation trainers/instructors who are taking a leading role in conducting pre-deployment training for their own contingents. U.S.

Africa Command is also making a significant contribution at the bilateral level, not only through the course of normal military-to-military engagement, but also by participating in ACOTA events through the provision of military mentors and trainers, and conducting specialized logistics training activities through programs such as the Africa Deployment Assistance Partnership Team (ADAPT).


We will continue to work closely with our partners on the continent and in the donor community to build the capacity of the AU, sub-regional organizations, and individual member states to conduct peacekeeping operations more effectively and thereby contribute to global efforts to address fragility. Should we falter in our commitment to developing African peacekeeping capacity, the consequence will be heavier burdens on the international community as a whole, whether through the deployment of more UN “blue-helmet” operations, or even direct military intervention in cases where national security is at stake. We strongly believe that

the only way to achieve sustainable, long-term stability on the continent is to provide our African partners with the tools needed to bring about that stability themselves.

I want to thank the Committee again for the opportunity to address this important issue.


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Why Mali Matters
September 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

For many people, Timbuktu has long represented the essence of remoteness: a mythical, faraway place located on the boundaries of our collective consciousness. But like many of the myths associated with colonialism, the reality is very different.

Medieval texts show that Timbuktu has stood for centuries as a center of Islamic culture and learning, at the juncture of trade routes spanning thousands of miles across the Sahara, north to Morocco and Europe, east to Ethiopia and the Arabian peninsula. For Ali Farka Touré, the legendary musician who fused Malian traditions with the blues, Timbuktu — his birthplace — was the “heart of the world.”

The multiple crises unfolding in and around Mali today are shaped by an intersection of trends that resonate far beyond the region: food insecurity and desertification linked to climate change, incomplete democratization processes marked by social exclusion, and a growing population of young people with poor employment prospects.

With its government debilitated by a coup, the Malian political system — previously an acclaimed example of democratic progress in the region — has been unable to maintain its reach into its northern regions, now characterized by trafficking in small arms, narcotics, migrants and hostages.

The north of the country is under the control of militant, foreign-sponsored radical Islamist movements, the latest dangerous permutation in a century-long series of Tuareg rebellions. Reports of human rights abuses are mounting daily.

As if this were not enough, the region is in the grip of a major food crisis. More than 18 million people across the Sahel are already affected by or at risk of acute food shortages.

Mali now matters more than ever. And it matters for two reasons. First, the country is not the isolated place of myth that the Timbuktu legend implies. Political crisis and state fragmentation in Mali are a significant threat to political stability in the region, where bordering states such as Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire are still struggling to emerge from recent crises.

There are worrying signals that the radical militant presence in northern Mali is already drawing in disaffected youths from elsewhere in the region. And the fact that a crisis of this nature has taken root so rapidly in what appeared to be a stable democracy has significant implications extending far beyond Mali’s borders.

If unchecked, the Mali crisis threatens to create an arc of instability extending west into Mauritania and east through Niger, Chad and Sudan to the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, characterized by extended spaces where state authority is weak and pockets of territorial control are exercised by transnational criminals. The activities of Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden could soon find a parallel in the arid lands of the southern Sahara.

It is imperative that an early resolution to this crisis is reached, and that international support is provided to those national and regional actors who are working to secure a political settlement and to deal with the complex security issues that have emerged in the country.

Second, the combination of conflict and political instability in Mali and the food crisis now taking root across the Sahel have already had acute humanitarian consequences. More than 266,000 refugees have fled Mali since January, mainly to Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria. Around 174,000 people are displaced within Mali.

The abrupt displacement of so many people has had profound consequences for their welfare, and aid agencies are struggling to meet their basic needs in areas that are affected by insecurity and characterized by acute logistical challenges. Cholera outbreaks have already occurred in northern Mali, and people continue to flee, placing a huge strain on local resources.

Following earlier visits to Niger and Mauritania, I recently traveled to Burkina Faso. There, I met refugees who had just fled Mali, their very means of survival destroyed in the conflict and their faces marked with the strain and fear of the dispossessed. Their needs are acute — food, water, sanitation and basic health care.

For the women I met, their first priority was to hold on to what little capacity they had to take care of themselves and their families, and to restore a sense of normality amidst the brutal disruption of their lives. This will become even more difficult when the dry season hits and animal stocks dwindle. Their courage and their resilience were profoundly moving.

We must expand the humanitarian response to this crisis, and not allow it to slip off an international agenda that has been completely preoccupied by events in Syria.

We must ensure that refuge is provided to those people who need it, that uprooted populations do not become targets for exploitation, manipulation and recruitment by armed groups, and that their capacity to remain economically active is maintained. We cannot remain indifferent to their plight. Without an adequate humanitarian response that allows people to live safely, with dignity, and with a vision of a future, disaffection and despair can themselves become factors in the perpetuation of conflict.

Without an early political resolution of the crisis, there is a real risk that many of these people will be condemned to a future of protracted displacement and deprivation, just as has happened with millions of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. There is also a risk that the conflict will spread, becoming a threat to regional — and even global — peace and security.

We cannot allow this to happen. Mali’s crisis is already affecting many thousands of lives across a vast geographic area. To ignore such peril is foolish.

*Source : António Guterres is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and former prime minister of Portugal.


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The South African Labour Struggle At Marikana
August 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

Dr Gary K. Busch*

The shooting down of thirty-four striking platinum miners by the South African police has been a major news story for several days. The strike by these miners is now spreading to nearby mines. The televised action of the shooting by the South African police of black miners has raised the spectre of police riots in Sharpeville and Soweto under apartheid and called into question the speed and direction of the ANC-government progress of democratising post-apartheid South Africa. There are many commentators within South Africa and abroad who seem able to divine from this tragic event many theories behind this breakdown in the South African social order.

However, many of these commentators have left out of their commentary the history of the long struggle for trade union rights in South Africa which preceded this strike. They have also missed out most of the most salient political points which engendered and exacerbated this confrontation. The story is not just of a police riot, nor is it a conflict brought about by the National Union of Miners (NUM) seeking to punish the independent labour federation, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMU) for its wildcat strike. Still less is it the result of the ANC, or the Congress of South African Trades Unions (COSATU) or the South African Communist Party (SACP) which together make up the Tripartite Alliance of the greater ANC, seeking to please the Lonmin mining company. The roots of this struggle lie in the difficult path that the NUM had to tread to achieve its position of hegemony in the representation of the workers in the mining industry in the face of the Nationalist Party’s legal impositions of a strict racial job reservation in the industry and a ban on effective collective bargaining.

The most important point to be made is that South African unions have never been united into a single national federation of labour. They have been divided, at least until the Wiehahn Commission Report in 1979, into white and black union confederations. The individual unions were also divided on racial grounds; none more so than in the mining industry where black unionists were not allowed until 1981. The white Mine Workers Union, led by Arrie Paulus, was one of the most hostile to the rise of black unions and was supported by the most extreme elements of the Nationalist Party in doing so. The NUM found that they were competing for power with the white unionists of the Mine Workers (later to become Solidarity), with the white Underground Officials Association, the Mine Surface Officials Association and the Technical Officials Association (UASA) and with the independent unionists attached to rival national federations, theoretically multi-racial, which were competing with COSATU for dominance in the labour movement. The AMU was one of those.

The AMU miners are a non-European union which was formed five years ago as a protest against the 12 to 1 pay differential between white and black mineworkers and the relatively lower rates of pay by its members compared to other black mineworkers. The white Solidarity union membership still operates within the mining industry and has a good relationship to the mine owners. Through this they maintain their differentials with the black miners. The root of the problem for the NUM and COSATU is that the reason the miners in the AMU get so small a wage is because they are not directly employed by the mining company. Their jobs are subcontracted to satellite employers who operate contracts with Lonmin. Many of these AMU workers did, at one time, operate as NUM members (and received the NUM negotiated rate for the job) but the company outsourced these jobs to subcontractors who reduced their wages and removed some of their social benefits. In this the NUM was powerless to deal on their behalf as they didn’t automatically have the AMU workers as affiliates. The AMU workers (mainly rock-drillers) had formed their own union because of their frustration at the NUM’s difficulties in dealing with casual labour or subcontractees who didn’t come under their jurisdiction.

The NUM consulted with COSATU about improving the wages and working conditions of the casual labourers but Zwelinizima Vavi, the COSATU General Secretary, was unable to get the ANC apparatus to move quickly on the de-casualization of labour. In pursuit of an improved ANC relationship with the labour movement he riled several political chiefs. In May 2010 the ANC threatened to charge Vavi with “ill-discipline”. He was quoted as saying that under Jacob Zuma‘s government “We are heading rapidly in the direction of a full-blown predator state in which a powerful corrupt and demagogic elite of political hyenas increasingly controls the state as a vehicle of accumulation” (Business Day, 31 August 2010). There are others on the COSATU board who oppose Vavi on this so the path is not clear to resolve the issue.

The AMU unionists are not technically part of the bargaining unit covered by the NUM contract with Lonmin and don’t have the statutory right to call a strike. For the most part the AMU workers are not directly employed by Lonmin and do not have a bargaining relationship with the company. Their strike is a ‘wildcat’ strike as it is a strike called outside the confines of an employer-employee contract. Their grievances are real, the deprivation is considerable and the NUM is not able to do very much for them. They, and the COSATU, along with the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions in Geneva pushed the Labour Department of the South African Government to investigate.

This report (Edward Webster, HSRC 2008) was conducted by the Human Science Research Council of South Africa’s Witwatersrand University in 2008 and revealed that the country’s mining industry was becoming more and more reliant on short-term contract workers and casual labour. The survey found, for instance, that over 60% of the platinum mines in the Rustenburg area used non-regular workers in order to avoid accountability and to reduce their costs. Overall nationally in South Africa, 36% of all platinum mines use subcontract labour, with researchers finding that many of the workers came from other southern African countries. That gave employers less direct responsibility in the event of injury or economic liability. The study revealed that the trend was growing alarmingly. The research also found that most employers surveyed did not adhere to stipulated wage minimums, resulting in exploitation and disempowerment of workers, and threats of dismissals were common if casual workers attempt to align with trade unions.

The NUM and COSATU requested that the ANC make de-casualization a priority (especially in the platinum industry) but nothing happened. The inaction of the Government made it very difficult for either the NUM or COSATU to intervene. Moreover, there were escalating political problems in the relationship of the mining industry and the Zuma Government.

The Zuma Government has had serious internal difficulties over the mining industry. The government knows that the mining industry is the economic backbone of South Africa and the source of much of its revenues. However there is a growing movement within the ANC, led by the expelled head of its youth wing, Julius Malema, that the state should move beyond regulating the mining industry and nationalise all the mines This has a potent ideological appeal, especially for the ANC political cadres who were schooled in governmental management in the Soviet Union and East Germany and their junior revolutionary wannabes.

At the same time the ANC has created a fourth leg of its national alliance. In addition to the ANC, COSATU and SACP it has built a powerful and wealthy group of Black Empowerment entrepreneurs with financial stakes in the mines and other industries in the country. Men like Tokyo Sexwale, Mathews Phosa and Cyril Ramaphosa have grown wealthy and powerful on an international scale by taking up their share of Black Enterprise Empowerment allocations of South Africa’s industries. Indeed, Cyril, the former Head of the NUM, sits on the Board of Lonmin. These provide a powerful disincentive to those who wish to nationalise their holdings.

Zuma came up with a compromise, In early 2011 he launched a state-owned mining company in a move to ensure greater state involvement in this economically vital sector; the African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation (AEMFC), currently a subsidiary of the Central Energy Fund, would serve as the state-run mining firm, under which all state interests in mining would be consolidated. This is about as far as he would go in nationalising the mines. There were many who were disappointed and Zuma will certainly face opposition on this point when he presents himself for re-election soon. It was no accident that it was Julius Malema who showed up at the scene of the mineworker shooting and was welcomed by the miners as their spokesman.

The fallen mineworkers have won the sympathy of many around the world. This police brutality in shooting down miners has appalled everyone who has seen the video. However, the ability of the NUM and COSATU to deal with the problems of these casual miners is very limited. The role of the company and its subcontractors has certainly contributed to the problem. The actions of the miners, too, should not be underestimated in understanding the panic of the police. Secret rituals led striking miners to believe they were invincible. Every morning, a group of men gathered on a hill on the outskirts of Nkaneng informal settlement near the Karee mine in Wonderkop.

There they stripped naked, stood in single file and waited for their turn to be sprinkled with herbs. The medicine man used a razor blade on some of the men, making small incisions on their foreheads before smearing a black, gel-like potion on them. These procedures, it is believed, were part of a process to prepare for battle: to make the men invincible against the enemy. They downed their tools. Secret rituals may have led striking miners to believe they were invincible.

At the start of the strike two mine security  guards, two police officers and four mine workers who apparently refused to join the strike had been hacked to death with pangas, stabbed with spears, shot and – in the case of the two security guards – their bodies set alight. When the NUM asked what had happened they were told that sangomas (medicine-men) had made the men invincible and that they were using ‘muti’, traditional medicines that can be made from a range of ingredients including animal or human body parts. Confronted with drugged and ‘invincible’ warriors the police panicked.

So, while it is reasonable to deduce from this conflict that the Zuma Government had not performed well and that the police had panicked and behaved uncontrollably, it is not then correct to ascribe to the striking miners some special sense of justified entitlement as a result of their actions and sacrifice. The solution to this crisis is to eliminate the corporate practices of sub-contracting and to allow the rights and responsibilities of a collective bargaining agreement to be enforced. This will take a political commitment and will be subject to fierce debate among those whose ox is being gored. Allowing Malema and his mini-revolutionaries to hijack this process is the path to disaster and confrontation.

One mourns for the slain miners and the lack of social justice which creates situations like this. The grief, however, is not going to resolve the problem; still less is revolutionary posturing. It is a time when a sensible de-casualization of the workplace can be introduced in South African mining and a time when free collective bargaining can take place.

* He is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations and the distance-learning educational website He speaks and reads 12 languages and has written six books and published 58 specialist studies. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST (a leading Polish weekly news magazine), Pravda and several other major international news journals

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World Bank Responsible For Grand Corruption In Nigeria- Femi Falana
August 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Femi Falana (SAN)*

The World Bank has just issued a damning report which claimed that 80% of Nigerian businesses offer government officials bribe to facilitate deals. While recognising that Nigeria remains the most attractive investment destination in África the report noted the high proclivity for bribery and corruption among Nigerian businesses. Although the report may be an understatement of the rate of endemic corruption in Nigeria the World Bank has failed to trace the root cause of the menace. Hence the Bank is not prepared to suggest measures that can arrest the growing wave of corruption in the country.

No doubt, there was corruption in Nigeria up to the 1980s. But it was not so prevalent at the time because the State funded the welfare of the majority of the people, provided social services at affordable costs and created jobs for the unemployed. Education was virtually free while health services were affordable. The Naira was higher than the United states dollar in the foreign exchange market. Although it was a neo-colonial capitalist economy which enriched a few at the expense of the nation there were some safety nets for the masses. The Nigerian Government placed emphasis on the building of an egalitarian society in line with the extended family system of the African people.

However, the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme which was instigated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund ruined the Nigerian economy completely and destroyed the morality of the society. With retrenchment of workers, abolition of marketing boards, commercialisation of social services, sale of the assets of the nation, trade liberalisation, currency devaluation and other dangerous components of SAP mass poverty bacame the order of the day. The middle class was wiped out while the manufacturing sector became extinct. In the process corruption became the directive principle of state policy under the Ibrahim Babangida junta. Successive regimes have since then consolidated on official corruption.

Apart from condemning corruption the World Bank and Western Governments including the Barrack Obama Administration have continued to insult the African people on the issue of corruption. Stolen wealth from Nigeria and other third world countries to the tune of over a trillion dollars is received and kept in the vaults of western banks in violation of the provisions of the United Nations’ Convention Against Corruption. For instance, the British judge who jailed Chief James Ibori, ex-governor of Delta State made racist remarks as if Africans are congenitally corrupt. But the British banks and mortgage institutions which facilitated the pauperization of the people of Delta state through money laundering and fraud by Chief Ibori were not sanctioned. Was the governor of Illinois, Mr Rod Blagojevich not jailed for selling Barrack Obama’s senate seat in Chicago? Has the World Bank held the American Government vicariously responsible for the criminality of its officials?

With respect to corruption in Nigeria why has the World Bank not condemned foreign companies like Halliburton, Wilbros, Siemens, Julius Berger and others which have been indicted and penalised for perpetrating for large scale corruption in Nigeria? The NEITI has just disclosed that foreign oil compnies have duped Nigeria to the tune of over $2 billion. Instead of assisting Nigeria to recover such huge fund the World Bank would prefer to package jumbo loans for the Federal Government with fraudulent conditionalities. Why has the World Bank not supported the current Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina who is determined to arrest the reckless importation of food at billions of dollars per annum?

Let the World Bank stop writing hypocritical reports on corruption emanating from the neo liberal policies being sheepishly implemented by the Federal and state governments at its own behest. Let the Goodluck Jonathan Administration be told that no Government which operates an economy on the basis of market fundamentalism can curb corruption. This is the basis of the virtual collapse of the economy of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (the “PIGS”) which has defied the prescriptions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

*Source Femi Falana  is a leading human rights and democracy activist in Nigeria .He is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN.



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The ICC Ten Years On: Challenges and Opportunities for Africa
August 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

African governments, media and the AU all have a role to play in helping the ICC fulfil its mandate.

By Elise Keppler*



When the International Criminal Court (ICC) began operating a decade ago this July, controversy over its work should have been anticipated. After all, the court has an unprecedented authority to bring to trial government leaders and others allegedly responsible for the gravest crimes – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Many governments in Africa, including South Africa, were active in the establishment of the ICC and became ICC members. But nowhere has the ICC’s work been more debated and criticised than in Africa.

Claims that the court unfairly targets Africans have abounded in the wake of ICC arrest warrants for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi when he was still in power. An increasing docket of African situations under ICC investigation has given fodder to the claims.

The critics often ignore the reality that most of the investigations before the ICC came about as a result of a request from an African government or a United Nations Security Council referral, and not at the initiative of the ICC prosecutor. The criticisms also ignore the thousands of African victims served by the court’s efforts – from Democratic Republic of Congo to Darfur to Kenya.

Politics of justice

At the same time, the ICC’s operations have exposed significant challenges to seeing justice done for the worst crimes, especially in promoting accountability regardless of politics.

One major impediment is that some of the most powerful nations have not joined the court. Moreover, several of these – namely the United States, Russia, and China – have veto authority at the UN Security Council, the only body that can refer situations to the court if crimes are committed in countries that are not ICC members.

At the heart of this problem is the need for governments to promote justice consistently, not only when it is politically convenient. Crimes against humanity and war crimes being committed in Syria should be punished, for example. The Security Council would have to refer the situation to the court for investigation since Syria is not an ICC member, and has not asked the ICC to get involved. But China and Russia have thus far opposed strong Security Council action on Syria.

Governments need to press for more consistent application of the rule of law, especially by Security Council members. This is critical to ensure justice and to promote the legitimacy and credibility of all efforts for accountability.

But the ICC also needs increasing cooperation and support from countries. With all of its limitations, the ICC remains an essential alternative to impunity when domestic courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute the most serious crimes. It gives hope for justice when other avenues are closed and particularly when government leaders themselves are implicated.

Africa and the ICC

Some African officials are pressing for a regional African Court that can prosecute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As a practical matter, however, this initiative remains far off at best. There are also questions how such an effort could be adequately supported financially and insulated from the influence of government backers.

As the ICC begins its next ten years, now led by the former Gambian justice minister Fatou Bensouda, African member states of the ICC – more than half the continent – should raise their voices more consistently and strongly at African Union meetings and public debates to support the court. The new Malawian government took a very important step in June by indicating it could not host the African Union summit if it meant welcoming President al-Bashir onto its territory given that he is an ICC suspect for crimes in Darfur.

More governments should build on the Malawian precedent. They should join states such as Botswana and South Africa, which have more regularly signalled that efforts to undercut the ICC’s ability to take suspects into custody are not acceptable.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former South African Home Affairs Minister, who was elected as the new AU Commission Chair at the July African Union Summit, will be an important player. In her first public comments on the ICC, she stated the AU’s position to date vis-à-vis the court’s investigation in Darfur without expressing her views. Going forward, she will have many opportunities to positively influence the AU-ICC relationship. Enabling the ICC to open an AU liaison office, which has been supported by many African states, would be a valuable first step to enhance understanding between the two institutions. Ensuring the AU does not obstruct efforts to promote justice for the worst crimes should be a longer-term goal.

African media can also play an important role in painting a more accurate picture of the ICC. Human rights activists throughout the continent have repeatedly pounded on the doors of the African Union and national capitals on the need for stronger African backing for the court, but their efforts need more coverage and editorial support by Africa’s newspapers. The victims of grave abuses put themselves at risk by telling their stories. Describing the energy and bravery of the court’s African supporters is no less newsworthy than African leaders’ attacks on the court.

Finally, the ICC’s opponents should take a harder look at what they hope to gain by seeking to undercut the institution, as opposed to working to make it stronger and more effective. More and better justice – not access to impunity for abuse – is what is needed.

*Source Elise Keppler is a senior counsel with the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch.



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The Mali Dilemma
August 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

Hassan Mneimneh*

A statue of freedom in Bamako.

A statue of freedom in Bamako.

In March, soldiers in Mali launched a coup in the capital of Bamako. The government there needs international assistance both in restoring its authority in the northern provinces and in engaging the long-simmering grievances of its population. And restoring credible democracy in Mali is a prerequisite for stabilizing the country.

The justification of the coup that toppled the democratic order in Mali included valid complaints about an uneven war: Malian armed forces were sent to fight against a better-equipped enemy. The Tuareg rebels of northern Mali, who have been fighting the central government intermittently since 1958, saw their ranks swell and their equipment upgraded as a direct result of the 2011 Libyan uprising and ensuing NATO intervention. In 1990, Tuareg fighters joined Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi’s eclectic mercenary army in the aftermath of a truce deal he helped broker between them and the Bamako government. But upon returning to their homeland, they upset the precarious balance of power through which Bamako maintained its nominal control over the northern provinces.

A sparsely populated vast desert region, northern Mali had long fallen from Bamako’s list of priorities—and capacity. Instead, the region was subjected to three intersecting perennial problems that have resulted in the current vexing situation: indigenous ethnic separatism, international radical militancy and illicit trafficking activity.

Despite evident foreign meddling, the Tuareg rebellion constituted a bona fide national liberation movement of an ethnic minority with long-standing demands for autonomy in a nation-state that lacked equitable integration. A product of colonial history, the incorporation of the Tuareg areas into Mali had yet to translate into a shared conviction of a national commonwealth. The successive Tuareg rebellions since Mali’s independence in 1958, with the revolt of the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) as its latest manifestation, were both a symptom and a reinforcement of this fact.

In the past decade, the political and security vacuum experienced by the region made it a haven for militants of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrib group—the primarily Algerian franchise of Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, which had been successfully contained in its previous North African area of operation. As destructive as is the physical presence of these militants, it is their presentation of religious doctrine as a way out of the region’s plight that may prove to have done more lasting damage. Their reductionist ideology now has struck local roots, with competing Tuareg organizations reflecting the internal debate within radical Islamism on the primacy of establishing a religiously compliant social reality—as opposed to a religiously sanctioned political order.

Ansar Dine, founded by veteran Tuareg nationalist Iyad Ag Ghali, espouses the former view, seeking the implementation of its restrictive understanding of sharia as a fundamental goal, and it has considerable support in some Tuareg circles. The al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad group, which was brought to the fore by its recent takeover of the regional capital of Goa, adheres to the latter view, openly presenting the northern territory of Azawad as the West African counterpart to the Shabab’s Somalia and the Taliban’s Afghanistan.

Beyond solemn but otherwise unfulfillable declarations of “irrevocable” independence or the imposition of sharia, none of the forces on the ground in northern Mali is in a position to impose its will on its own. This fact may have prompted the MNLA to seek a compromise with Ansar Dine, hoping to cement the notion of an independent Azawad, even at the price of subverting its intended secular character. The contradictions between the secular and religiously framed views, as well as the differences within the latter, would insure that no compromise is viable. Despite the apparent success of Ansar Dine in integrating other activists and imposing its will on the territory, the precarious alliances that dominated the recent past of the region are likely to continue, albeit with new ingredients: between the Tuareg plurality and other ethnic groups; between traditional Muslims and ideological Islamists; and within the camp of the Islamists, between social and political activists.

However, the potency of the declared separation from Bamako cannot be ignored; even if merely symbolic, the action provides the plurality Tuareg population of the region with a new baseline and a sense of cultural, if not political, empowerment. While the new sense of regional identity may be welcome for segments of the population, the excesses of Ansar Dine, in its attempt at imposing its reductionist understanding of Islamic law—from the destruction of venerated shrines to the stoning of adulterers—is inevitably leading to the attrition of any ethnically induced support.

While the temptation to act swiftly against what is presented as a nascent Al Qaeda-linked statelet is prompting calls for an immediate military intervention, a more effective approach may be to complete the process of restoration of democracy in Bamako while Ansar Dine proves to northern Malians that the alternative it offers is even more alien than the linguistic and cultural divide between North and South, not to mention far more destructive. Northern Mali thus will be eager to rejoin the nation and engage in long-overdue local-governance talks.

Recent events notwithstanding, Mali has achieved considerable milestones in confirming the democratic commitment of its society. Helping it strengthen and expand this commitment may be the best path out of the consolidation of another radical pseudo-state.

*Source Hassan Mneimneh is the Senior Transatlantic Fellow for the Middle East, North Africa and the Islamic World at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington DC.


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