Call Us Now: (240) 429 2177

Politics

Watching the debate with continental Africans For Obama
October 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Despite Debate hype, support for Obama in immigrant Community unfazed.

By Ajong Mbapndah L

At the Come to Africa Restaurant on New Hampshire Ave, Takoma Park, MD, it is unusually crowded. It is Oct 3, and the much anticipated first debate of the 2012 Presidential elections is about to start.

Watching the debate together is the initiative of Joseph Eyong of the Continental Africans for Obama. Eyong who serves as Legislative Aide for Council Member Valerie Ervin of Dist.  5 in Montgomery County, has been actively involved in the re-election bid for President Obama.

Buoyed by recent polls which show candidate Barack Obama ahead, Joseph Eyong believes that the President is steadily cruising to a second term. As President Obama and Governor Romney are introduced by moderator Jim Lehrer, folks emulate the cheering that came from the live audience on TV. As the debate goes on, every now and then you hear cheers from answers provided by Obama.

Throughout the debate, Romney provides the more forceful of answers; he tries to dominate the trend of the debate. This does nothing to diminish the enthusiasm that the continental African folks have for candidate Obama. Romney is not “providing specifics,” one quips, he is “changing positions,” another observes. Under assault from Romney with statistics that paint a grim picture of the economy under President Obama, someone repeated the “thirty straight months of job growth” refrain that is often used by democrats in defense of the President.

Known for his gifted oratory, candidate Obama puts up a performance which fell below expectations. The verdict from Eyong and co is however different. Chants of “four more

Eyong with Syvester Okere MD Director for Continental Africans For Obama-Operation Vote

Eyong with Syvester Okere MD Director for Continental Africans For Obama-Operation Vote

years” erupted after the debate. “Who do we want?” Eyong asks the crowd.  “Obama,” his audience answers. “Obama was more Presidential than Romney and was willing to offer more specifics,” Eyong said. He has shown a willingness to stand up for the middle class, passed a health care law which is going to help many and his immigration reforms will be of help to the continental African community as well, Eyong said.

Although MD is a not a battle ground state, Eyong said he and others working in the campaign from the Continental African Community will continue to canvass for resources which can be redeployed to other states. Congressional races are important and Eyong believes it is imperative to elect democrats who will support the President’s agenda. “Our support for Obama is based purely on the policies and direction he wants to take the country to,” said Eyong who got to meet Obama a few months back at a campaign event in VA. “He has shown a willingness to fight for the middle class, and has accomplished much in a hostile political and economic climate,” Eyong said.

Elated at the turnout, Eyong said similar gatherings will be organized for the rest of the debates in the DC metro area. Watching the debates

Eyong at a previous campaign event

Eyong at a previous campaign event

together is a way of creating bonds and introducing Africans to the kind of businesses which will thrive under policies of the Obama administration Eyong said. The African Community must organize itself into a respectable force that can get actively engaged in political events and voting in leaders who will best articulate their concerns, he went on.

Eyong, who has participated actively in several campaigns before, used the opportunity to encourage Africans to vote. Using his experience as a former Team Leader for Organizing for America, Eyong called for more volunteers to sign up and help the campaign in battle ground states like VA. Watching the debate together was wonderful he said, promising to continue with the same initiative in subsequent debates.

Pundits may have declared victory for Romney in the first debate, but for Eyong and Continental Africans, Obama did well. Eyong and his group left with enthusiasm to recruit more volunteers, raise more funds, and work harder towards the election of President Obama for a second term.

 

 

Read More
Senegal: President Describes ‘Significant’ Reform Agenda, Says Mali Must Be Reunited
October 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

When Macky Sall took office as president of Senegal in April, he promised a ‘rupture’ with many of the policies of his predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, under whom he served as prime minister from April 2004 to June 2007. This week, while in New York to take part in the United Nations General Assembly, he talked with AllAfrica about his ambitious domestic agenda and reflected on the worsening crisis in Mali, Senegal’s large neighbor to the east. Excerpts from his responses which were delivered in French and translated by AllAfrica:

What have been your top priorities since becoming president

One of my priorities was to improve democratic governance. For that, it was necessary first to settle the crisis between us and the previous president. He wanted to run for a third term but – in a modern democracy, access to power as well as the exit from it should be regulated. It should be compatible to standard democratic rules.

To eliminate any future possibility that a president might stay in power an extended period, I decided to submit a constitutional bill, whether through parliament or a referendum, that reduces the term from seven to five years that would apply to myself as well. I was elected for seven years, but decided I would only stay for five before submitting myself to the voting public once again. That was one major decision. Moreover, the president can only serve two terms. Therefore, no one can serve more than two five year terms.

The second measure relates to the budget. In (many ) African states, the bulk of resources are used to maintain the super structure of the State, that is to say, to propagate the government’s lifestyle. To counter that, I put in place a limited government – a Cabinet with only twenty-five members, compared to thirty-eight (rumored to be as many as forty-five) in the previous administration. At my instruction, we also reduced the number of agencies and embassies around the world so our resources could go directly to the citizens.

To respond to the population’s social needs would mean, in the health sector for example, offering universal health coverage. Because we have very few paid workers, the vast majority of the population doesn’t have health coverage, and there is no medical insurance system.   So one of my priorities was to make universal health care a reality by the end of 2013.

It’s a major reform that I’m in the process of implementing, along with the education sector which needs to be modernized. It’s not only a question of expanding breadth but ensuring the quality of teaching as well.

Agriculture, Infrastructure and Youth Employment

Equally important is the agricultural domain, because for Senegal to develop, agriculture must remain the most important sector. But we have to reform our agricultural practices, to make them more modern and more productive so that farmers and rural areas in general, earn more revenue.

One of the other main points I’m focusing on is youth employment through vocational training. It’s true that higher education is important, but professional training should be available to everyone; professional training that provides young people with a vocation, but also which can be helpful to businesses. I believe that it won’t take long for each region to have its own professional training center that can educate 2000, even 2500 apprentices .

Relating to agriculture, another priority is the country’s infrastructure, the highways and roads. Good roads will help modernize the agricultural sector. It’s necessary for us also to think about energy, one of the main factors preventing development in Senegal.

None of this would be possible if we didn’t have foreign investment. But to facilitate foreign investment, we must uphold the rule of law in which justice functions normally. We have to combat corruption and, to this end, we have instituted serious reforms. We must promote good governance.

Indeed, for all these goals, we have introduced significant reforms. Strong reforms to combat impunity. Today, people realize that legal cases are a judicial matter, to be decided without coercion or interference.

There you have a number of the projects we’re working on. As you can see, there are many.

After visiting Senegal, Melinda Gates said Senegal needs to take serious action to reduce the number of women and babies who die during pregnancy. Do you plan to take measures to prevent early marriages, provide contraceptive methods to families, and help ensure babies receive proper nutrition?

Absolutely. I believe that Melinda Gates saw the efforts Senegal is taking in the field of maternal and infant health. Mother and infant form an inseparable pair. We must take care of the baby even before it’s born. In other words, pregnant women must have medical attention, prenatal care, have regular check-ups to create pre-conditions for a healthy delivery. To do so, we have decided to eliminate the expenses related to the child’s delivery, for both normal and caesarian births. Because in both rural and urban areas, it’s still a problem and the national community has to help women in this area.

In July, we started a campaign to combat certain illnesses that affect women, including chronic illnesses like renal failure. There is dialysis, but unfortunately we don’t have enough dialysis machines in our hospitals, and private sector treatments are prohibitively expensive. Since July we have made an effort to provide free treatment for those with renal failure in public hospitals. Thanks to NGOs and certain partners, we have received several dialysis machines to expand the program.

For women as well as children, we have implemented a policy to improve health by fighting malnutrition, increasing the living conditions to prevent infant mortality rates, and also vaccination programs. I set up what I called the Family Security Fund that will give poor women the opportunity to have their children vaccinated and enroll them in school. We will improve the living standards of the most impoverished populations.

Concerning teenage pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, we must establish education programs, something we’re in the process of doing now. It’s not easy, but there are always ways to empower women living in rural areas.

We need to launch awareness programs on family planning. This will help improve the health of both mother and child. But it is a long term process in which both Government and Civil Society must play a role.

Some people have criticized your move to eliminate the Senate, while you have said this would free resources to combat the floods that are causing suffering in many areas in your country. Why do you think it’s a good idea to eliminate the Senate and what are you doing about the floods?

First of all, we must make it clear that only 35% of the members of the Senate were elected. The other ones were chosen by the President, so this Senate was not really legitimate. It wasn’t representative of the Senegalese people. In a democratic country there are institutions which have each a particular mission or power attributed by the Constitution. Legislative power in a bicameral system like the U.S. or French one is made of two branches, with members elected directly by universal suffrage. They make laws and control the Government actions. Our Senate was based on a model which is not universal. Many questions were raised about the Senate, about its legitimacy.

I thought that one chamber, the National Assembly, was enough in Senegal. It could create laws, decide whether or not they should be passed and have a veto on government actions as well. Moreover, the 7 billion CFA annual budget allocated to the Senate is a large sum. You could raise 70 billion CFA – which equals 140 million US dollars – if you add up that amount for ten years.

And my plan to fight against floods is supposed to last ten years. We have to build new houses, help people move out of flooded areas and create drainage systems. My vision is to re-allocate all the Senate tasks to the National Assembly so that the money which was supposed to buy cars for the Senators could be used for people living in dire straits in flooded areas and reach my goals with the help of our partners.

I’m open to a national dialog too, for that purpose a national think tank has been created to help run the institutions.

The State must set the example. Show people that they are trying to save money by reducing the government size, the Senegalese diplomatic map, which implies reducing the number of ambassadors and by eliminating the Senate whether it is useful or not.

In the future, if our economical conditions get better, we may consider bringing the Senate back – but this time, its members would be elected. It would be a real legislative chamber. For now, we have other priorities like giving houses to the homeless, creating a welfare system for it  and providing jobs to young people. For all these reasons, it was necessary to get rid of the Senate. I really appreciate that both the Senate and the National Assembly supported my bill and passed it.

What should be done about Mali. What regional response do you favor by Ecowas (by the Economic Community of West African States) and what kind of international action are you hoping to see?

The situation in Mali is worrisome not just to other countries in west Africa in the Ecowas zone but to the whole world, because – for the first time – an international jihadist movement has made a country bend to its will and can shore significant support.

It’s a lawless region where drugs, arms trafficking, and other illegal activities thrive. Therefore if the world does nothing to reclaim Mali as a single united territory, the international terrorist movement could develop there, and that’s something we cannot accept, something we cannot let happen.

Since this conflict began, Ecowas had made enormous efforts to provide solutions. But now, it’s clear that the problem is too complex for Ecowas to manage alone, in part because of the regional implications for non-Ecowas members, like Mauritania, Algeria, and Chad.

A larger forum was needed to discuss these issues, and we have always considered including the African Union. The African Union aids Ecowas and oversees the creation of African Forces as authorized by the UN Security Council. I believe that during this session we will receive a clear and precise resolution from the Security Council permitting the use of armed forces, under chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, to combat terrorism and work toward a resolution in the region.

*Source Allafrica.com

 

Read More
“Africans have always had enormous potential for freedom, justice and self-determination.”
September 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Closure of Pambazuka regrettable

-AU, ICC, Media in Africa et al, FAHAMU Founder and former Editor of Pambazuka Firoze Manji bares his mind

By Ajong Mbapndah L

With over thirty years in international development and human rights, Dr Firoze Manji remains a leading voice for the voiceless in the continent. The Founder of Fahamu and former editor of Pambazuka exhibits unparallel knowledge and brilliance in his analysis of challenges confronting Africa and the way forward. From his departure from Fahamu and the closure of Pambazuka Press, to the scramble for Africa, the African Union, the ICC, and more, Firoze of Kenyan nationality bares it all in an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L for PAV.

PAV: Dr. Firoze, thanks very much Sir for accepting to talk to PAV, we start with the question that intrigues many Africans, why did you decide to part ways with Pambazuka after toiling hard to make it a leading voice for the voiceless in the continent?

Firoze Manji: It is with much regret that I had to part ways with Pambazuka because of irreconcilable differences with the Fahamu board of trustees. Pambazuka News has become one of the principle sites for analysis, discussion, organizing and communication on the struggles for freedom and justice in Africa. It is my sincere hope that it will continue the tradition it has established over the last decade. I have long been committed to the principles of ensuring that Pambazuka News was always freely accessible and considered as part of the Commons. It is important that we always ensure that the Commons are not commodified.  The closure of Pambazuka Press is also regrettable – there remains a vacuum in book-publishing that gives voice to those engaged in emancipatory struggles in Africa and the global South.  Printed books are currently priced outside the reach of the majority of activists in Africa. We have to find a way in which books can be placed in the hands of those who are engaged in transformative struggles across the continent.

PAV: With over thirty years in international development and human rights you certainly have seen it all, in broad terms where you situate Africa today, everyone is talking about potential, but in what areas do you see tangible progress and what areas is more work needed?

Firoze Manji:The people of Africa have always had enormous potential for freedom, justice and self-determination. Our history is littered with crimes that have undermined and prevented us from being able to determine our own future. The Atlantic slave trade decimated the continent of some 20 million of its youngest and finest. Europe’s industrial revolution, the wealth it accumulated over that period was a direct result of the pernicious trade in human beings. The colonization of the continent by European powers destroyed our cultures, our creativity, and resulted in the integration of the entire continent to the needs for European capital. But at the same time there has always been a spirit of resistance that has constantly reasserted our humanity and claims for freedom. In the post Second World War period, that resistance swept the continent, affecting every country from Cape to Cairo, from Djibouti to Dakar. It was that uprising – in the cities, on the farms, in the urban ghettos, in plantations and factories – that swept the nationalist movement into power that led eventually to some degree of political independence. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in that struggle – recall the wars of liberation in Algeria, Congo, Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, to name but a few. Empire did not take these defeats lying down. They used assassinations, coups d’état, misinformation, invasion, and all manner of tricks to undermine the move to independence. The roll call of the finest leaders whose lives were cut off is too long to recall, but included people such as Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Augustino Neto, Kwame Nkrumah, Steve Biko, Samora Machel, and so on. And that is to say nothing of the many outstanding women and men who gave up their lives in the struggle to assert their humanity and cry for freedom.  But it is important to note that the betrayals and conspiracies came not just from empire, but included those who from within the movements.

Nevertheless, in the short period after independence, there were some extraordinary achievements. Whatever one might say about the shortcomings of post independence governments, one has to acknowledge that in a very short period of time they transformed their countries: where once there was no health care or education, there was universal access provided; where there were no roads, an extensive communications network was set up. Within a short period of time, parameters such as life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, child mortality and so on showed dramatic improvements.

Sadly that was not to last long. From the beginnings of the 1980s, we saw the reversal of all the gains of independence across the continent as a result of the willingness of our leaders to collude with the West in implementing the structural adjustment programmes (later called the ‘PRSPs’) by the international finance institutions including the World Bank and IMF. We saw wholesale privatization of what was then part of the commons – land, water, electricity, healthcare, education and so on. And what was not privatized was sold off to the Northern ‘development’ NGOs. Support for farmers, agricultural subsidies, inputs, cooperatives, marketing boards, all these were cut. Instead public funds were used to subsidise the private sector. And the economies were transformed from being net food producers to being net importers of food. The countries were opened to the voracious appetite of the multinational corporations and banks. Currencies were devalued, and debts had to be repaid in dollars. To get dollars meant producing not for the need of the people but for the needs paying the banks and finance houses of the US, Europe and Japan. And in the process, the local elites got rich, while the majority got poorer. Enrichment of the few at the expense of impoverishment of the many.  The last 30 years have been marked by a mass scale dispossession, dispossession of land, dispossession of the commons, of mineral resources, oil, agricultural products and so on. But the worst dispossession of all has been the political dispossession: today our governments are more accountable to the banks, international financial institutions, the multinational corporations than they are to their citizens. That is the tragedy of the last three decades.

We are constantly reminded that many African countries are demonstrating significant growths. But the reality is that only a few have benefited from that growth. Today the majority are poorer today than they were even under colonial rule. This is what Walter Rodney characterized as growth without development. Can we call that progress? And meanwhile, the continent has faced military interventions on a wide scale – Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Somalia, are just the beginning. The US AFRICOM is now spreading its wings across the continent. Everything is being militarized, with the encouragement and collusion of our ruling elite.

But at the same time, we have witnessed important developments in the last few years. There have been significant popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, what the West has come to refer to as the ‘Arab Spring’, that led to the downfall of those close allies of imperialism, Ben Ali and Mubarak. What has inspired these uprisings has not been merely the existence of repressive regimes, but more importantly the growing discontent and anger at the loss of all the gains of independence, the widescale impoverishment that the last 30 years have brought. But these uprisings have not been confined only to North Africa. Today, the gathering momentum of movements for change defines the social and political scene on the continent. We are witnessing not so much an Arab Spring as an African Awakening. There have also been protests, strikes and other actions in Western Sahara, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Gabon, Sudan, Mauritania, Morocco, Madagascar, Mozambique, Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Djibouti, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Swaziland, South Africa, Malawi, Uganda and more recently in Nigeria and Togo. Indeed, they have much in common with events we have witnessed last year in Wisconsin (USA), Spain, Greece and indeed in the Occupy movement.  The mass uprisings and protests that erupted across the continent and in the Middle East share a similar etiology. Over the last 30 years, countries in the global South, and in particular in Africa, have seen the systematic reversal of the gains of independence.  The net effect was to reduce the state to having a narrowly prescribed role in economic affairs, and precious little authority or resources to devote to the development of social infrastructure, resulting in the erosion of the ability of citizens to control their own destinies. These events have been the topic of a recent book edited by Sokari Ekine and myself: African Awakenings: the emerging revolutions (Pambazuka Press, 2012).

PAV: As mentioned earlier, there is unanimity on the incredible potentials of Africa, and there is these great scramble from foreign powers, the Chinese, Americans, Brazilians, etc, is the continent as it stands today better equipped to face the challenges of a second scramble? Based on your knowledge and rich wealth of experiences can you walk us through a few pros and cons of partnership with some of the leading actors seeking inroads in the continent, the Chinese, Americans, Europeans, Brazilians and Indians

Firoze Manji: I think not. With the growing economic crisis of capitalism, we see the race for accumulation by dispossession taking place at an unprecedented scale. The resources of Africa, its cheap labour, is being eyed by many. The unfortunate fact is that few of our governing elites are willing to challenge this growing urge to exploit the continent – far from it, they know that they have much to gain from filling their pockets and their off-shore bank accounts by colluding with those who what to rob the continent.

While the entry of China, Brazil and other ‘emerging powers’ has provided some level of breathing space in the sense that our governments have alternatives to the hegemony of the US, in practice the policies of these countries in relation to Africa do not necessarily constitute an intervention that favours emancipation. But we cannot leave the task of self-determination and emancipation to either our governments or to external powers. That task is one that we need to build the confidence of African people to achieve.

But it would be a serious mistake to view the entry of the ‘emerging powers’ with those of the US, Europe and Japan. The latter are the dominant exploiters of African labour, extractors of natural resources, and decimation of the environment. China, for example, is certainly becoming as big as the US in terms of trade. But in terms of natural resource extraction and in terms of extraction of wealth through debt financing, they remain a very small player in comparison to the US, Europe and Japan. Remember, the domination of the multinational corporations, banks and international finance institutions is guaranteed not by the ‘emerging powers’ but principally by the US. There is a growing US military presence in Africa in the form of US AFRICOM. We have seen military intervention in Africa from the US and its NATO allies in Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya. There has been no equivalent military intervention and occupation by the emerging powers.

PAV: The African Union recently elected its first female Chairperson; do you expect the new leadership to finally shake the continental body of its lethargy?

Firoze Manji: I don’t believe so. Having a woman head what is essentially a patriarchal institution does not constitute a transformation of the goals and aims of an institution. The election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK, Indira Ghandi in India, Sirleaf Johnson in Liberia, has not resulted in progressive transformation of those countries. The election of Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma represents a victory not so much for women, but especially for the growing power and influence of South Africa on the continent. Bear in mind that South African capital’s penetration into Africa has grown significantly since 1994.

PAV: Leadership to many remains an issue of concern, not only within individual countries but at the continental level, is it Nigeria with endless tales of corruption and security challenges posed by Boko Haram or is it South Africa which according to many has failed to rise up to the occasion in providing decisive leadership for the continent, how does Africa address the leadership problem? There has been an increasing clamour for democracy across the continent, but sometimes the democracy has not necessary come with development and Mali can be used as an example, in contrast, a country like Ethiopia under the leadership of late President Meles Zenawi made so much progress yet Ethiopia was not viewed as a democracy, what is your take on this?

Firoze Manji: The question I think we need to ask is: to whom are these so-called leaders accountable? As I have commented earlier, our governments have become more accountable to the international corporations, banks, international finance institutions and speculators than they have to the citizens who elected them. There is a democratic deficit. And that is not just a comment about elections, but rather a more profound question about who makes decisions that affect our lives. Who decides what is produced, for whom it is produced, how it is produced, who benefits from the production, who has a say in the distribution of wealth? Why are our farmers condemned to producing crops that feed the North, but leaves them destitute? I think we need to start asking such questions, because it is by doing so that we can begin to think about deciding what kind of ‘leadership’ we want. I think we are living in a period where new forms of collective leadership are emerging: look at how decision making began to develop in Tahrir Square in the rise of the Egyptian revolution and in the Occupy Wall Street movements. These were forms of democratic decision making. The revolution in Tunisia and Egypt were not led by individual leaders, but by collective action. That, I believe, is the future.

The increasing cries for ‘democracy’ cannot be reduced to the holding of elections and the ballot box. The popular cry is for democratization rather than merely voting every few

Dr Firozi remains one of the most articulate voices for the voiceless in Africa

years. Remember, while citizens are allowed to cast their vote once every four or five years, Wall Street and the 1% cast their votes every second of every day, making decisions that have devastating effects on the 99%. Take, for example, the frightening escalating price of food that has lead to more than a billion people starving. This is not because of shortages of food, but rather because the 1% are speculating on food and food production as commodities. The rich get fat on gambling on the price of food, while the rest are forced into hunger.

As for the situation in Ethiopia: we need to ask the activists, political opponents, journalists and many others who are languishing in Ethiopian jails whether they think there has been ‘democracy’ under Meles. As far as I can tell, the situation is not likely to change with the departure of Meles.

PAV: Looking at the continent today, which are some of the leaders who inspire you and which are some of the countries you will consider as models for the rest of the continent to follow?

Firoze Manji:The leaders who inspire me are those whose hard work led eventually to the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions; the young people in the ghettos of our cities who have taken to the streets with great courage to demand a better future; the women who have organized and fought against oppression and violence against women; the women farmers who are ensuring the survival of sustainable and environmentally positive African family farming systems and who are opposing the attempts of Bill Gates and Kofi Annan  to chain them to the agro-industrial corporations through AGRA (Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa); the communities that have fought to prevent the decimating environmental impact of natural resource exploitation such as in the Niger Delta; the workers who organize to defend their interests against the exploitation of international corporations – such as we have seen recently in the mining industry in South Africa; those brave activists from LBGTI and queer movement in Africa who show immense courage in asserting their humanity against the most terrible threats; those who organize to ensure that the struggle for self-determination is not lost, such as those in Western Sahara, Diego Garcia, etc. These are some of the leaders that inspire me and whom I believe we should consider as models for the rest of the continent to follow.

PAV: In France, the assets of Theodorine Obiang , the son of Equatorial Guinea’s President were recently confiscated, and the French civil society has cases against a number of African leaders for siphoning state funds, considering the pervasive nature of embezzlement and mismanagement of state resources, do you consider this the way forward to punish and dissuade those who loot with impunity?

Firoze Manji: The problem here is who benefits from confiscating the riches stolen by our presidents and dictators? Will the Egyptian people benefit from the return of the millions that Mubarak stole and banked in England? How will citizens of Libya benefit from the appropriation of Gaddafi’s millions? Of course thieves need to be punished: but if justice is to be done, then the loot has to be returned to those who created it.

PAV: On the International Criminal Court, Charles Taylor jailed, Laurent Gbagbo on trial, a warrant on Sudanese President El Bashir, what is your response to critics especially within government circles who think the court is unduly targeting African leaders?

Firoze Manji: The problem we face is three-fold: first, who has the greatest influence on how the ICC decides who is to be prosecuted? The irony is that the primary influence on the ICC comes from the Security Council. And the Security Council is dominated by the US – the state that refuses to sign up to the ICC. So we see that decisions about who to go after by the ICC is politically determined. Which is why – in keeping with the US’s history – it is Africans who are primarily targeted.

And that brings me to the second issue: if the decision to prosecute or arrest is politically determined, then that is an admission that these actions by the ICC are not about justice but rather to serve the political ends of particular powerful states. It makes a mockery of the whole purpose of having an international court. I would be more convinced about the ICC’s role if we were to see people such as Bush and Blair arrested and tried. They are not arrested for political reasons: it has nothing to do with the evidence that is there for all to see that there is just cause to arrest them for crimes against humanity.

Thirdly, by trying people outside the national terrain, you decontextualize the crimes. The whole procedure becomes more about revenge than about justice. By removing the criminals from the national terrain, you deprive citizens of the possibilities of seeing justice done, and to experience the catharsis that is necessary to be able to move on. It is frequently argued that the ICC is necessary because of the weakness and lack of independence of the judiciary in our countries. Sure, that is a short term solution. But it begs the question about what do we do to develop a judiciary that is both competent and independent.

PAV: How do you size up the African media today and its role and contribution in helping the continent meet up its challenges?

Firoze Manji: Over the last 30 years there has been an unprecedented level of centralization and concentration of capital, as well as an unprecedented level of financialisation of capital. This has resulted in almost every aspect of production and almost every aspect of our lives being controlled by some 500-700 international corporations – what Samir Amin calls ‘oligopolies’. That phenomenon has also happened in the media sector. So despite the growth in the number of media institutions in Africa, if you look carefully you will find that the main ones are owned by a handful of corporations. So these institutions are not independent – they represent the interests of the 1%. To attract advertisements and to be profitable, they need to serve those interests faithfully. It puts truly independent media in great difficulty to be able to survive. The pressure on increasing profits means that nowadays newspapers and other media houses employ fewer and fewer journalists. This means that journalists aren’t able often to do the kind of investigative work that is core to their profession. To be able to generate enough stories, they therefore rely on the news services – basically European and US sources of news – that they just recycle. This means that what is generated by corporate media in the North is recycled as ‘news’ in Africa. It also leads to a certain level of laziness, relying on news and information circulating on social media such as Twitter and Face book. Journalists don’t have time to check stories, so this results in stories circulating that have not been checked. I think there is a great deal of demoralization amongst media workers who are capable and smart, but are not able to find an environment that enables them to work as they should. The development and nurturing of an independent media is something that remains a priority on the continent.

Pambazuka News sought to fill the gap only insofar as it provided a platform for analysis from intellectuals, activists, bloggers, social movements etc. It never aspired to be a conventional news service.

PAV: Last question Sir, prior to this interview, we discovered you were a dentist, how did you transition from that to the indefatigable social critic and activist you are and now that you left Pambazuka, what next will you be working on?

Firoze Manji: Well, the transition from dentistry is a long story, but suffice to say that I have long been an activist, even before I qualified, but to support that I needed to earn an income somehow.  I drifted from dentistry to public health research, into international development, human rights, and eventually established Fahamu in 1997, and launched Pambazuka News in December 2000. What one does to earn a living should not prevent you from being politically active in the cause of emancipation. But I also think that while each of us have our own histories and pathways, the past is something we need to learn from but not become imprisoned by. So while I was once a dentist, I don’t need to continue in that pathway unless I have no choice.

I remain committed to the cause of emancipation and justice. There are many ways in which I may be able to contribute to that. For the present, I need to reflect on the possibilities for the future and so I am taking time off to regroup.

 

Read More
Southern Sudan on the wrong course says Mabior Garang
September 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Son of emblematic leader lashes out at elite for turning country to worse form of dependent state

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Mabior Garang is not happy with the way things have unfolded since Southern Sudan achieved independence a year ago. The son of the country’s emblematic revolutionary leader Dr John Garang says the new elite have turned the country into the worst version of a dependent state.

Southern Sudan does not reflect the vision of the Sudan Peoples ‘Liberation Movement-SPLM which was led by the late Dr Garang and current President Salva Kiir. The status quo is like a “posthumous coup on the people of Sudan” says Mabior who heads a small youth organization call “The New Society.” Mabior joins the growing chorus of people disappointed at the way thing have evolved so far in Africa’s youngest country. “Nowhere in Africa has a liberation movement, so quickly and so determinedly abandoned its program and its platform,” Mabior says. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, Mabior who heads the DR. John Garang International School, offers very lucid insight   into the realities of Southern Sudan today.

Mr. Mabior thanks very much for accepting to grant us this interview. What is your assessment of Southern Sudan a year after it attained independence?

Mabior Garang: The new Republic has missed a unique opportunity to birth a qualitatively different type of nation state in Africa, one that is built on different parameters, as articulated severally by our late hero and founder, Dr. John Garang de Mabior. At the heart of the SPLM’s vision of statehood was a qualitative leap from the state building models followed by other post colonial states in Africa. Instead the new Republic, on account of the new elite, has become the worst version of a dependent state – incapable of independence in decision making and beholden to outside powers for everything including basic economic and social policy. It is the very thing the SPLM sought to avoid.

The notion of all power belonging to the people has been completely usurped! Instead of using the goodwill expressed by the people when they affirmed their sovereignty by voting in overwhelming numbers for independence, the new elite has instead focused their efforts on the most crude and grotesque accumulation of wealth. The popular goodwill could have been mobilised again in a popular constitutional referendum, as many people of goodwill had urged the SPLM to do. A great opportunity squandered.

For many of the new elite, the “independence” of South Sudan is the program and an end in and of itself. Indeed, some have even called for the SPLM to change its name since it had “achieved its objective”! They might as well have changed it! The fact is that the struggle for a New Sudan, a country that is fundamentally transformed both in form and content, rages on in other marginalized parts of the country, and those waging that struggle are the ones advancing the SPLM program and vision of change. It is tragic that we have failed to recognize this in South Sudan

In a recent interview you said the leadership of the country had deviated from the vision your late Dad Dr John Garang had, can you shed more light on his vision and how the present leadership is acting contrary to that vision?

Mabior Garang:The objective of the movement (the Vision of the New Sudan) was to end the exploitation of man by man by modernizing our societies.  To sum it up, the leaders of the new Republic have abandoned that vision and program of the peoples movement. Nowhere in Africa has a liberation movement, so quickly and so determinedly abandoned its program and its platform. It has to be a first! And what a tragedy given the promise of change; the expectations of our people and the reverence that the SPLM had among Africans all over the world. Here was a movement that took as its starting point, the enslavement of Africans from the time of the first Persian A rare picture of a younger Mabior and his Dad, late Dr John Garangincursions, to the time Alexander penetrated the Nile Valley, to the present day! Its loss of direction is not only a Sudanese tragedy but an African one as well. The original program was completely abandoned; I describe it as a posthumous coup on the people of Sudan.

President Salva was a long time Aide of Dr Garang, what do you think is making him deviate from the principles of your Dad who remains the most emblematic figure in Southern Sudan

Mabior Garang: I don’t want to speculate too much as that might lead to conspiracy theories; there are probably many factors both internal and external. I shall only shed light on what I do know (which is that) the SPLA was founded as a politico-military organization. This means that the movement’s combatant was primarily a political activist. This form of organizational structure was necessary due to the objective historical realities of the time, there was the field Commander at the front and the Political Commissar in the liberated areas. The SPLA was the primary tool through which the efforts of the Sudanese people were organized and directed to achieve the democratic transformation of the country. The late DR. John taught that the SPLM would be evolved during the course of the struggle, as the SPLA created the necessary conditions. He argued that the people’s movement had to be evolved democratically and not based on a first come first serve basis. The SPLA would fight the war, and with the passage of time as more Sudanese  became convinced about the objectives of the movement, they would join the struggle and form a truly representative movement. This logic was fought by a few sectarian minded elite, who used their local influence to promote tribal divisions to de-campaign less educated members of their communities. The movement in order to survive had a premature birth, and it has suffered from this ever since.

The true cadres of the people’s movement are the armed political activists who fought the war, and they have been excluded from continuing to lead the people’s movement based on a technicality. The transition from a rural based movement, to one exercising power in the urban center has been mismanaged. At the moment of victory rebels that previously were not bound by law suddenly had to contend with international law. The cadres of the movement who where all armed activists becomes part of the national armed forces, while the “political wing” entered the realm of party politics. The SPLM national secretariat (apart from a few at the top) is made up of individuals that have spent over ten years outside of Africa. They are mutated from their villages many having American, Australian and Canadian citizenship. The political commissars who are the true ideologues of the people’s movement and who know the struggle and sacrifice that the people have made, are no longer the ones making the decisions. The decisions are being made by people that don’t have to live far with the consequences of their decisions. I believe this is what has made us deviate as a movement, it is easy to blame one man especially the leader (it comes with the territory). It is; however, our collective failure.

The criticisms against the government of President Salva aside, what are some of the positive things you think he has done and what advice do you have for him?

Mabior Garang: I don’t see many things, but to be fair we have not yet descended into the abyss despite all the forces working against us, internal and external. I suppose he must be doing something right. I think he has done his best to balance the situation, I imagine it must not be easy to please everyone.

There are pictures of sky scrapers and flourishing construction sites in Juba, is this development a reflection of what is going on in other parts of the country?

Mabior Garang: The development that you have mentioned is cosmetic. It is similar to starting a building project from the roof. There is no proper waste management, no power, no water, healthcare is in shambles, the justice system is nonexistent, poor education. I guess it would depend on ones definition of development. The population of South Sudan is predominantly rural based, so any credible development program must also be rural based. The late DR. John taught us that the level of development at which our people shall start is shocking, and only through agriculture can they be committed to development.

How has the government treated your family in general and have you ever been approached to play a leadership role in the country?

Mabior Garang: I am thankful that we have not been specifically targeted; we have been safe for the most part. I don’t believe Comrade Salva would knowingly allow for anything to happen to us. However, there is a group around him that is of the view that: “…it is not your time anymore…” (Whatever that means).

This group has tried their best to drive a wedge between Comrade Salva and our family, and also the peace loving people of South Sudan; but we have tried not to let it affect our relationship. In spite of these people we have been behind Comrade Salva from when he succeeded DR. John to the independence, we have been hoping for a change of heart ( we have gone as far as raising over 2.5 M USD for his campaign). And as long as he stands for the ultimate permanent interests of our people, we shall continue to be behind him.

I have never been officially approached by the government or the SPLM; however, some individuals out of their own initiative have offered to lobby on my behalf, to which I have always declined. I think we have a systemic problem and not one of personalities, I have been able to contribute more to nation building in a private capacity than I ever could being in government.

If we may ask another about Dr Garang, what kind of family man was he, what are some of the fond memories you have about him?

Mabior Garang: I hardly knew my father as a father; I have no memories of that. I knew my father as a revolutionary, and this is how we related to each other. It was a Comradeship that we shared, I feel honored to have been part of that history, I imagine it would be equivalent to living with Amilcar Cabal, Edwardo Mondelane or Samora Machel.

I know he was a great family man because I have pre-revolution photos and we look like a happy family, I also witnessed how much he loved my sisters, and the whole extended family. It was his love for his family that ultimately made him sacrifice everything, so that his children live in a new society where they are not second class citizens.

We also learned that you were a victim of attacks from thugs after making critical posts on face book; can you tell us what happened?

Mabior Garang: I was attacked by unknown assailants two weeks after giving a speech at the 3rd memorial for my father, I think that somebody did not like what I said. I was struck with a blow to the jaw that left it fractured in three places, I currently wear titanium micro plates (there was no investigation by the security).

I was also attacked a year earlier by security forces at my father’s grave, I had gone to mediate as I used to regularly after his tragic demise. I was surrounded, beaten with the butt of an AK 47, and told it was not the right time for me to be there (again no investigation). I have been harassed many more times for different reasons as many of my compatriots do daily.

The international Community has been most supportive of Southern Sudan; in what way do you think it can be of additional help in improving the situation in your country?

Mabior Garang: I think the international community should continue to be with the marginalized people of Sudan (South and North) and work with the people at the grassroots level to strengthen civil society. However, the ultimate reality is that we the people of South Sudan are the primary force that can stop the current failure of state, and bring us back to the promise of a new society, a promise we gave everything for. I don’t think it is too late to set things right.

On a personal note, what are your ambitions? Do you see yourself getting more actively engaged in politics?

Mabior Garang: I don’t wish personally to be in politics (in the traditional sense). I am part of a historical struggle, a people’s movement, and the objectives of this movement have been articulated clearly (in the case of Africa) since the mid 1950’s. The movement’s objective has been to create a new society, to have an African renaissance. The Mabior is not s sure about joining politics yet but it will not be a surprise if he eventual doespre-colonial African society is no longer relevant to our current realities, while the one imposed during colonialism is foreign and also not relevant to our realities. I am committed to this historical struggle of our people (to form a new society) and will, as Comrade Madiba put it: “…do anything that history may call upon me to do…” if that means politics then I guess I will have to roll up my sleeves and get to it.

A last question, based on the volatility of relations with Sudan, and the challenges facing your country now, any prediction for the future?

Mabior Garang :The people of South Sudan and the People of North Sudan share a long history of unity and secession going back to ancient times when Kemet (aka Egypt) Seceded from Nubia in ancient times. The history of the people has been characterized by movements of unity and secession and today the objective realities have led to secession. I don’t know what tomorrow may bring; however, the future of both populations is inextricably linked.

The marginalized people of Sudan (North and South) have been betrayed by the Elites, who are the real enemies of the Sudanese people (north and south). The people of South Sudan and the people of North Sudan are not enemies; it is the Southern Elite and the Northern Elite that have traditionally been enemies. The northern and southern elite have conspired to stop the revolution from reaching its logical conclusion, (which was) the democratic transformation of the country (a Sudanese Renaissance). They are now promoting sectarian politics to ensure their survival. I know that one day the revolution shall achieve its objectives. Whether that will be in my lifetime? I don’t know!

Thanks very much again for granting this interview to Pan African Visions

Mabior Garang: The pleasure is mine

Read More
Building Rwanda
September 15, 2012 | 1 Comments

By Paul Kagame*

Today, 56 percent of the Parliament of Rwanda is made up of women. Some believe this is a consequence of the women left in the population after many men were killed in the genocide. Others attribute it to a cultural view unique to Rwanda. Still others believe it is due to a conscious leadership commitment you have made. What is responsible for this progressive state of gender equality?

Things begin in one’s consciousness and then progress over time to policies. I grew up in the refugee camps of Uganda in the late fifties and early sixties when families survived with nothing but our wits. My mother, and all of the women of the camps, learned to do things they did not know how to do. They guarded our traditions and values. They told us the stories of our country when we were too young to remember it. They never complained.

During the struggle to return to our country and to stop the genocide, women took very responsible positions in collecting information, fundraising, and even fighting. By then, it was not a policy of gender equality; it was born of commitment and pragmatism. The women wanted to contribute, and it was their right. They were good at it; sometimes they were better than men. One of the songs we used to sing, which we sing even to this day in our national celebrations, says, “Thank you to all the women who (as mothers) carried warriors on their backs.” Sometimes the warriors were women.

Today Rwanda is known for what others call our progressive gender policies. And we do consciously reflect on the right thing to do. Our ministers of foreign affairs, health, and agriculture, the speaker of parliament, our former chief of justice, our first post-genocide mayor of Kigali, the founder of our airline—they are all women. But we don’t do these things because the world appreciates our gender equality policies. We do them because we could hardly fight for our freedom, and have women fight just as hard, and then deny them the rights to govern. We do it because we are working for development and prosperity, and leaving half our population out of this task just doesn’t make sense.

You have been called “the entrepreneur president” because of your business-oriented solutions to poverty. Rising within the military, from serving in the National Resistance Army and Ugandan military to receiving training at Fort Leavenworth, how did you find this entrepreneurial direction?

The essence of both military and business culture is strategy—understanding advantage and taking action. So, we are not that far apart sometimes. We saw early on that competition in the private sector fosters innovation. We seek to build an environment where every child wants to go out into the world and compete, learn, and represent Rwanda. As a consequence, we have grown at an 8 percent average during the last ten years. I am told that puts us in the top ten in the world, with the likes of China and Singapore. Of course we are not them. They have different challenges and opportunities. Our challenges are to invest in our children, to build great products, to find new distribution systems, and to build our national brands. Africa is quickly becoming a place where young people see their future in the private sector, not in government jobs. And that is right.

Increasingly, more of the world’s economic growth and trade is happening between poorer nations, such as Brazil, Russia, China, and countries in Africa. Because of their heightened statuses as places of growth, should African nations be given more representation in intergovernmental organizations like the World Trade Organization and the United Nations?

Yes, of course. We are going to see it. The G8 is giving way to the G20. More trade, foreign investment, and exports are coming from the BRICS and the so-called “pivot” nations like Turkey and Ukraine than the West. And the traditional powers should not mistake the impact of China and Brazil on this dynamic. They have changed the global commodities dynamic. They will also change the global governance systems. I am not one of those who say, “The West had their chance,” but I think that we have more choices in Africa with whom to trade, with whom to partner. This is a good thing for everyone.

In the years following the genocide, Rwandan troops have been held responsible for massacres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwandan government has repeatedly resisted these accusations, dismissing them as offensive. Who do you believe is responsible for the violence in the Congo?

You know, the violent history of Congo began long before I was born. It is a matter of public record that the royalty of Europe and the colonial powers decimated the people and stole their vast underground wealth for a century.

For our part, we chased those who caused the genocide into the Congo. We did this to ensure the security of our country and to bring back the millions of ordinary Rwandan men, women, and children whom the génocidaires had coerced into running across the border, where they were held hostage in disease-ridden refugee camps. Few of the Harvard International Review’s well-informed readers will know this, but we succeeded in bringing back over three million of our people. These are the same Rwandans who are now working hard to rebuild their communities and forge a new Rwanda. Since 2003, we have invited those who want to come home, even perpetrators of the genocide, to return and be a part of rebuilding our nation.

A few thousand armed ex-génocidaires remain in the DRC, causing suffering to the local population. However, we are working closely with the government of DRC to ensure that this threat is removed completely. We have also noticed a fresh spirit of cooperation from the international community to focus on the root cause of conflict in the DRC, and I am confident that soon we will have long-lasting stability in our region. This will allow us to focus on economic development, which is what our people want.

You have distinguished between different types of foreign aid. In particular, you have championed Chinese investments that you say have harbored sustainable independence in Africa instead of Western distributions that led to dependency. From what you have seen, how does a country’s own interest play a role in the effectiveness and type of foreign aid it provides?

No nation, even the ones who supported the genocide, owes us a favor. I have said many times to our people, “Why should the taxpayers of another nation put food in our mouths and for how long?” Look, we appreciate the help we receive, but our goal is less aid over time. Permanent aid can make a person become useless. We have cut in half the portion of aid in our national budget over the last ten years. We have developed more productive partnerships with donors, particularly by encouraging them to channel support through our national systems, to allow for better coordination, effectiveness, and accountability. This way of working has produced tangible results: one million Rwandans have lifted themselves out of poverty in the last five years.

This experience has taught us that when foreign aid comes in to support clearly articulated national priorities, as opposed to externally imposed plans, both the recipients and the donors benefit. This goes for all aid, no matter where it comes from.

The Chinese certainly have a different view than the West. They are what they are. They have clear objectives; they do not export their values together with assistance. They make decisions faster. They offer a new choice for African nations. But we are under no illusions. Some in the West think we are being fooled and they claim they are there to look after us, to warn us about the Chinese. I think they are more concerned with themselves.

Ultimately, it is up to African countries to decide what we want from our development partners and to work to get the most out of this collaboration for the benefit of our citizens who need and deserve better than what they have had in the past.

Today, 56 percent of the Parliament of Rwanda is made up of women. Some believe this is a consequence of the women left in the population after many men were killed in the genocide. Others attribute it to a cultural view unique to Rwanda. Still others believe it is due to a conscious leadership commitment you have made. What is responsible for this progressive state of gender equality?

Things begin in one’s consciousness and then progress over time to policies. I grew up in the refugee camps of Uganda in the late fifties and early sixties when families survived with nothing but our wits. My mother, and all of the women of the camps, learned to do things they did not know how to do. They guarded our traditions and values. They told us the stories of our country when we were too young to remember it. They never complained.

During the struggle to return to our country and to stop the genocide, women took very responsible positions in collecting information, fundraising, and even fighting. By then, it was not a policy of gender equality; it was born of commitment and pragmatism. The women wanted to contribute, and it was their right. They were good at it; sometimes they were better than men. One of the songs we used to sing, which we sing even to this day in our national celebrations, says, “Thank you to all the women who (as mothers) carried warriors on their backs.” Sometimes the warriors were women.

Today Rwanda is known for what others call our progressive gender policies. And we do consciously reflect on the right thing to do. Our ministers of foreign affairs, health, and agriculture, the speaker of parliament, our former chief of justice, our first post-genocide mayor of Kigali, the founder of our airline—they are all women. But we don’t do these things because the world appreciates our gender equality policies. We do them because we could hardly fight for our freedom, and have women fight just as hard, and then deny them the rights to govern. We do it because we are working for development and prosperity, and leaving half our population out of this task just doesn’t make sense.

You have been called “the entrepreneur president” because of your business-oriented solutions to poverty. Rising within the military, from serving in the National Resistance Army and Ugandan military to receiving training at Fort Leavenworth, how did you find this entrepreneurial direction?

The essence of both military and business culture is strategy—understanding advantage and taking action. So, we are not that far apart sometimes. We saw early on that competition in the private sector fosters innovation. We seek to build an environment where every child wants to go out into the world and compete, learn, and represent Rwanda. As a consequence, we have grown at an 8 percent average during the last ten years. I am told that puts us in the top ten in the world, with the likes of China and Singapore. Of course we are not them. They have different challenges and opportunities. Our challenges are to invest in our children, to build great products, to find new distribution systems, and to build our national brands. Africa is quickly becoming a place where young people see their future in the private sector, not in government jobs. And that is right.

Increasingly, more of the world’s economic growth and trade is happening between poorer nations, such as Brazil, Russia, China, and countries in Africa. Because of their heightened statuses as places of growth, should African nations be given more representation in intergovernmental organizations like the World Trade Organization and the United Nations?

Yes, of course. We are going to see it. The G8 is giving way to the G20. More trade, foreign investment, and exports are coming from the BRICS and the so-called “pivot” nations like Turkey and Ukraine than the West. And the traditional powers should not mistake the impact of China and Brazil on this dynamic. They have changed the global commodities dynamic. They will also change the global governance systems. I am not one of those who say, “The West had their chance,” but I think that we have more choices in Africa with whom to trade, with whom to partner. This is a good thing for everyone.

In the years following the genocide, Rwandan troops have been held responsible for massacres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwandan government has repeatedly resisted these accusations, dismissing them as offensive. Who do you believe is responsible for the violence in the Congo?

You know, the violent history of Congo began long before I was born. It is a matter of public record that the royalty of Europe and the colonial powers decimated the people and stole their vast underground wealth for a century.

For our part, we chased those who caused the genocide into the Congo. We did this to ensure the security of our country and to bring back the millions of ordinary Rwandan men, women, and children whom the génocidaires had coerced into running across the border, where they were held hostage in disease-ridden refugee camps. Few of the Harvard International Review’s well-informed readers will know this, but we succeeded in bringing back over three million of our people. These are the same Rwandans who are now working hard to rebuild their communities and forge a new Rwanda. Since 2003, we have invited those who want to come home, even perpetrators of the genocide, to return and be a part of rebuilding our nation.

A few thousand armed ex-génocidaires remain in the DRC, causing suffering to the local population. However, we are working closely with the government of DRC to ensure that this threat is removed completely. We have also noticed a fresh spirit of cooperation from the international community to focus on the root cause of conflict in the DRC, and I am confident that soon we will have long-lasting stability in our region. This will allow us to focus on economic development, which is what our people want.

*Source http://hir.harvard.edu .Paul Kagame is the president of the Republic of Rwanda. President Kagame is a recipient of the Most Innovative People Award for Economic Innovation by the Global Leadership Team (2009), and has received recognition for his leadership in a number of regional and global issues including peace building, human rights, and development.

 

Read More
Mabior Garang, son of South Sudan’s founder, blasts country’s leadership
September 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Alan Boswell *

Mabior-Garang-the-oldest-son-of-John-Garang-the-late-South-Sudanese-rebel-leader-has-broken-his-familys-political-silence-and-declared-his-opposition-to-the-countrys-leadership.-Courtesy-of-Mabior-GaNAIROBI, Kenya — In a move that’s likely to shake the foundations of the world’s youngest nation, the eldest son of South Sudan’s founding hero has broken his family’s political silence and declared his opposition to the country’s leadership.

It’s another indication of the depth of concern over the direction of a country whose existence in one of the world’s most volatile regions depends on U.S. backing.

Mabior Garang has accused those who took power after the death of his father, guerrilla leader John Garang, in a 2005 helicopter crash of pulling a “posthumous coup,” and he urged others to speak out in opposition.

“My father is a fuel by which these people have been running, but they have actually gone against (him). They’ve done the opposite of what he was saying and what he was trying to do,” said the younger Garang, whose face is a tauter, youthful version of his late father’s. “I’m opposed to what’s happening. I don’t want to be guilty by association.”

In a lengthy interview with McClatchy in the Kenyan capital, Garang said the government had been trying to intimidate him into silence after he posted critical remarks on his Facebook page. He wore a sling on his right arm, the result of a recent assault in Juba, South Sudan, for which he blamed the president’s security service.

“I’m not worried, but I am in danger,” said Garang, who claims that he survived an attempt on his life in 2008. “I’ve already been attacked. My jaw is broken in three different places.”

The younger Garang’s decision to take his views public rolls back the curtain on one of the long-standing rifts within South Sudan’s ruling party. After independence, many of those close to John Garang were sidelined as President Salva Kiir shored up his own political base. That fault line remains, especially in the military.

Diplomats knew that South Sudan’s emotional march to independence superficially chalked over the young nation’s deep internal divisions. After independence, that solidarity was expected to splinter: in the best case into a multiparty democracy; in the worst case, civil war.

Nevertheless, the government has promoted the late rebel founder as a near-mythological, heroic figure. Garang founded the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in 1983 and led it until his death.

South Sudanese officials declared the anniversary of his death a national holiday – Martyr’s Day – and held their independence celebrations last year at the John Garang memorial, where they unveiled a new statue of the U.S.-educated political activist.

The young Garang was openly disdainful of the public displays honoring his father, gestures he views as disingenuous and hypocritical.

“They are fake statues,” he said. “The ones they made at independence were made out of cement, but (made) to look like copper. It was not even cast.”

In the interview, Garang offered a long list of grievances against the nation’s leaders, labeling them an authoritarian elite and part of a political culture that’s too comfortable with soliciting violence for power.

His family is especially upset by the public murder of a Kenyan teacher who was employed at the school his family runs. The teacher was killed in May by a member of the president’s personal militia because she didn’t stop driving as the South Sudanese flag was being raised. His family has hired lawyers to prosecute the case.

The two issues Mabior Garang kept returning to were corruption – “South Sudan is hemorrhaging money,” he said – and his belief that the country is being led by a weak ruler who fears the consequences of sidelining a brutal inner elite bent on power and wealth at all costs.

At one point in the interview, Garang said he thought that Kiir, whom he’s known since he was a child, when he called him “Uncle Salva,” was struggling between the angel and the demon on his shoulders.

“Like they show in the cartoons,” he said. Then Garang paused, and his voice dropped: “I think he fears for his life. I think he has lost the way.”

U.S. officials have seen Kiir as a unifying if flawed figure who lacks the natural leadership of John Garang. But Kiir appeared able to navigate South Sudan through its final path to independence, keeping internal divisions at bay.

Although the relationship between Kiir and President Barack Obama has faltered over South Sudan’s military activity along the border, Kiir is still seen as responsive to Western concerns. His order to the military in April to stop its offensive north into Sudan is one such example.

But the South Sudanese leader’s power has been increasingly questioned lately, with reports of discontent within the powerful army.

Garang said he opposed a military coup, and that he hoped instead for the government to reform until the next elections, expected in 2015. But he left open the possibility of a civil uprising against the leadership.

“I think change can come through pressure on the government,” he said. “If the army takes power, it should be a people’s coup, more so than a coup d’etat coming from the general headquarters.”

During the interview, Garang displayed a keen awareness of history and his role within it. He was careful to explain that his opinions about the country’s leadership weren’t new, but that speaking out earlier would have put him on the “wrong side of history” and opened up his family to charges of jealousy.

But since his father’s death seven years ago, “You start to get a crisis of conscience.”

The young Garang also expressed hope that his decision to break the political norms of South Sudan – which, as within many liberation movements, strongly discourages public dissension – will encourage his fellow countrymen to begin demanding a more accountable government.

As for himself, Garang said he was open to seeking political office someday. For now, he sees himself as just an activist.

He seemed unsure of the path ahead. During the interview, he made it clear that he saw the problems in South Sudan’s leadership as endemic, and at times he sounded despondent about the fate of the nation that was his father’s biggest legacy.

“Salva Kiir as a person is not the problem,” he said. “So changing Salva Kiir the person will not do anything. You might even bring a guy who is worse.”

*Source :McClatchy.Boswell is a McClatchy special correspondent. His reporting is underwritten in part by a grant from Humanity United, a California-based foundation that focuses on human rights. Email: aboswell@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @alanboswell

 

Read More
Burkina Faso: How Much Longer Can Compaoré Rule Last?
September 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

After 25 years of President Compaoré, it is unclear if 2015 elections will see change or the extension of Compaoré family rule.

By Peter Dörrie*

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso:

President-Compaoré-addresses-the-Security-Council-Summit-in-2009.-Photo-by-UN-Photo-Erin-SiegalOn October 15, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso will celebrate his 25th year in power. To spend that much time in office, he had to run coups against two governments. In the first in 1983, he helped his friend and fellow revolutionary Thomas Sankara become president. In the second, four years later, Compaoré took power. Sankara was killed and Compaoré lost all appetite for socialism. He put in place a system of power so exploitative that 25 years later Burkina Faso remains one of the least developed countries in the world.

During this time, Compaoré has expertly managed to keep local elites and international donors happy, and marginalise all political opposition in Burkina Faso. It attests to his political prowess that he has had a hand in virtually all civil wars in the region, from Sierra Leone to Ivory Coast and Mali, but has been able to keep an exceptionally low profile internationally, avoiding criticism from western donors and NGOs.

Keep on running?

But Compaoré’s time as his country’s “strong man” could be coming to an end. Like many of his colleagues on the continent, Compaoré was forced by the end of the Cold War to include the word “democracy” in his vocabulary. This did not change any of the structures of power in Burkina Faso, but it did change the lines of the constitution in 2000 to limit the number of presidential terms to two. Compaoré, however, navigated his way around this rule by arguing the amendment could not be applied retroactively and won elections in 2005 and then again in 2010, although the fairness of the votes has been disputed.

The next elections will be in 2015 after Compaoré completes his second term since the two-term limit was approved. What he plans to do remains to be seen.

At 61 years of age, the president may feel that he still has some terms left in him. There is little doubt that he would win the 2015 election were he to run. Compaoré and his supporters would have to change the constitution, but thanks to his total control over parliament, doing so would not be much more than a formality in legislative terms. His two main Western backers, France and the United States, are unlikely to do more than feel ‘deeply concerned’, as their main interest in Burkina Faso is its use as a base for reconnaissance and military operations in the region.

But the true risks of running are not in the formalities of government or donor relations. Instead, Compaoré would almost certainly lose something that he has fought hard to maintain over the last decades: the illusion of social peace.

Unrest in Ouagadougou

Through skilful use of co-option and coercion, Compaoré has prevented any form of serious political opposition from emerging. For the first twenty years of his rule, this was relatively straightforward. Burkina Faso has a conservative, obedient society and Compaoré could rely on his allies (especially traditional rulers) to keep a lid on discontent.

But economic difficulties, combined with rising urbanisation have changed the picture somewhat. Today there is a large measure of frustration among many parts of the population. Without a way to channel these frustrations, they periodically explode into civil unrest.

This happened last year when parts of the military protested over late pay in the capital. They turned violent and the government was forced to temporarily flee to the countryside. Demonstrations against police violence have become common in Ouagadougou. While spontaneous events are unlikely to challenge the system of power, many Burkinabé predict that the renewed candidacy of Compaoré would push the country over the edge.

Compaoré has fought hard to portray himself as a respected statesman externally, mediating conflicts all over the region. He clearly aims to integrate himself into the international system and to avoid the status of pariah. Large scale protests in his own country – however unorganised – could taint this image beyond repair, especially if he were to resort to force to quell the resistance.

The other Compaoré

There are some indications that Compaoré might have accepted that his time as the official head of state is coming to an end. Firstly, parliament recently granted a general amnesty for former and current heads of state. This effectively protects Compaoré from any form of prosecution should he give up office.

There are also strong signs that Compaoré is organising his succession with his brother François is taking an increasingly public role in politics. Born three years after Blaise, François has stayed out of the limelight for much of his brother’s career despite being heavily involved in running the country and a key counsellor to the president. He has now taken an office in the executive bureau of the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) for the first time. Many people see this as the first step in building up a minimum base of popular support before announcing his candidacy.

This projection would make sense. Blaise Compaoré has been careful to keep the power in the family. His close relatives can be found at many levels in the government, administration and the military, and François is a perfect fit for the job. He is liked by the international partners of the regime, well-connected in the region and loyal to Blaise.

There is only one problem: François is connected to an enormous political scandal: the murder of journalist Norbert Zongo in 1998. Zongo investigated the murder of a former driver of François Compaoré who died after being tortured in the custody of the Presidential Guard. Several soldiers were convicted of Zongo’s murder, but all charges against François were dropped by a military tribunal. Nevertheless, many Burkinabé are convinced of François’ involvement in the crime and his candidacy would likely lead to protests.

Despite this, it is still probable Blaise Compaoré will name his brother as his heir apparent for the benefits it would offer him and his inner circle. But any ensuing instability could allow an ambitious member of the elite to attempt a palace coup. Burkina Faso’s neighbour Mali has shown how quickly a mutiny can topple a government and as in Mali, there is an undercurrent of frustration in Burkina Faso and few would be prepared to go to the streets for the current regime. A spontaneous mutiny or public protest could isolate the Compaoré clan and open the opportunity for another member of the elite to step into the ensuing power vacuum.

Democracy? Unlikely but possible

All options discussed above have one thing in common: they predict that any form of succession to the current regime will come from inside the ruling elite, essentially leaving the structures of power and exploitation intact, even if some of the names may change.

The reason for this pessimistic view is simple. There is no opposition movement in Burkina Faso capable of harnessing the disillusionment and frustration of the general population. Most opposition leaders have either been co-opted by Compaoré at some point in their career or have proven themselves unable to rally significant support. Moreover, large parts of Burkinabé society still follow the judgements of their ‘traditional’ rulers who have essentially been bought by Compaoré with political and economic incentives.

What remains of the political opposition is fractured and unwilling to cooperate. 2015 may be the best opportunity in decades to break the hold of the exploitative elite over the scant resources of Burkina Faso. But to have even a slim chance of success, any movement interested in real change would have to be untainted from cooperating with the elite, be able to formulate a clear alternative and do away with internal differences to allow for an effective coordination of public protest and election campaigning. There is a chance for change, but an unlikely one.

*Source: http://thinkafricapress.com . Peter Dörrie is a freelance journalist based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He has studied “African Development Studies in Geography” and “International Politics and Security Studies” in Germany and England. Follow him on twitter @peterdoerrie.

Read More
Why do so many African leaders die in office?
August 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Ruth Alexander*

The-funeral-of-Ghanas-John-Atta-Mills-drew-thousands

It’s rare for the leader of a country to die in office. Since 2008, it’s happened 13 times worldwide – but 10 of those leaders have been African. Why is it so much more common in this one continent?

Large crowds carrying candles ran alongside the hearse carrying the body of Meles Zenawi, as it made its way through Addis Ababa, on Tuesday. He had died, aged 57, after a long illness.

Earlier in the month, tens of thousands of Ghanaians attended the funeral of their late President, John Atta Mills, who had died suddenly at the age of 68.

Four months earlier, a national holiday was declared in Malawi to allow as many people as possible to attend the funeral of the late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, who had died of a cardiac arrest, aged 78.

And in January, the president of Guinea Bissau, Malam Bacai Sanha, died in a military hospital in Paris after a long illness. He was 64.

So, four African leaders have died in office this year alone. Disruptive for the countries concerned, tragic for the leaders’ families. But spare a thought also for the reporters.

“I seem to be getting an awful lot of calls in the night telling me an African president has died,” says Simon Allison, a correspondent for South Africa’s Daily Maverick website. “Why do African presidents keep dying?”

The question led him to take a close look at their survival rate.

“Go back just a little bit further and the list of dead sitting African presidents gets alarmingly longer,” he says. Indeed, since 2008, 10 African leaders have died in office.

 

Leader   

Age   

Cause   

Leader   

Age   

Cause   

Ethiopia PM, Meles Zenawi 57 “Sudden infection”,   August 2012 Ghana president, John Atta Mills 68 Throat cancer, July 2012
Malawi president, Bingu wa   Mutharika 78 Cardiac arrest, April 2012 Guinea Bissau president, M B Sanha 64 Long illness, January 2012
Libya leader, Muammar Gaddafi 69 Killed, October 2011 Nigeria president, Umaru Yar’Adua 58 Kidney, heart problems, May 2010
Gabon president, Omar Bongo 73 Heart attack, June 2009 Guinea Bissau president, J B   Vieira 69 Killed, March 2009
Guinea president, Lansana Conte 74 Unspecified cause, December, 2008 Zambia president, Levy Mwanawasa 59 Stroke, August 2008

 

It’s certainly true that leaders are dying in office in higher numbers in Africa than on any other continent. In the same period, only three other national leaders have died in office – Kim Jong Il of North Korea, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash, and David Thomson of Barbados, who had cancer.

The obvious answer is that African leaders are just older than those of other continents, an explanation Simon Allison favours. He believes Africans like their leaders to be older – respect for elders is embedded in the culture of many of the continent’s countries.

But are they?

Actually, the average age of African leaders is 61 years – the same as in Asia. European leaders are, on average, 55 years old, while in South America, it’s 59.

But another thing to consider is life expectancy which, among the general population, is lower in Africa than in Europe, Latin America and Asia. This is partly because of problems like the prevalence of HIV/Aids and also poor medical care, which leads to high rates of death in childbirth.

But poverty in childhood and early life can also have a lasting impact, as Dr George Leeson, a gerontologist from the University of Oxford, explains.

“African presidents, before they have been elected, will have led a relatively disadvantaged life, and disadvantageous lifestyle, and that will impact on their life expectancies at subsequent ages,” he says.

“So once they get into the presidential office, even though they will be living a lifestyle far far far removed from their fellow citizens, which would increase their life expectancy in relation to those fellow citizens, they do have an accumulated disadvantageous lifestyle which they have to pay back on at some time.”

Although of course, not all African leaders will have had poor childhoods.

But is there another factor to take into account – politics? The stereotypical African leader clings on to power until he drops. But the facts don’t seem to fit that explanation.

“This is true of some of the leaders who died in office, particularly Omar Bongo, Conte and Gaddafi,” says Simon Allison. “All of them were old-school dictators who were never going to leave voluntarily, but the others are different – Meles Zenawi had clung on to power for a long time, but he was only 57. And all the others were in their constitutional time limits and hadn’t even fiddled with them yet.”

It’s important to note that, our calculations only take into account the deaths in office of world leaders since 2008. It could be that the number of African deaths in this timeframe is just a statistical blip.

But whatever’s going on, such a death toll creates uncertainty. Deaths in office create power vacuums, which can be dangerous and destabilising.

“Look at what happened in Guinea-Bissau,” says Simon Allison. “When Sanha died, a coup followed very shortly afterwards. This is a difficult situation for Africa to find itself in because it, historically, has not done very well with power vacuums.”

However, he believes there is some cause for optimism.

“In Zambia, in Malawi and Ghana and in Nigeria, the death of the president was followed by a constitutional succession with a minimum of violence and dispute, and I think this is a very encouraging sign for Africa’s development.”

*Source BBC News

 

Read More
Museveni’s speedy promotion of son and a new African trend
August 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Godfrey Madanga and Prince Ofori-Atta*

Ugandas-President-Yoweri-Museveni-has-been-accused-of-grooming-his-son-to-take-over-as-president

Ugandas-President-Yoweri-Museveni-has-been-accused-of-grooming-his-son-to-take-over-as-president

Ugandan President Yoweri Musevei’s son has suddenly been promoted in the army raising speculation that he is being groomed to take over from his father, as the question of succession continues to haunt a number of African states.

Museveni promoted his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba from the rank of Colonel to Brigadier, triggering speculation that this was in response to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The Ethiopian leader will be succeeded by his deputy, but Ugandan political analysts think Museveni would prefer a situation where his son will take over.

It still remains a mystery who President Yoweri Museveni wants to succeed him, as the succession issue is considered a taboo topic.

Analysts have expressed fears that Kainerugaba’s promotion was the beginning of a chain of events that could lead to an undemocratic succession. They argue that the speed at which Museveni is promoting his son in the army is tantamount to grooming him to take over the helm of affairs in the country.

“There is speculation in the country that he (Museveni) is grooming Muhoozi to take over the leadership of the country after his retirement. But we are going to resist such a move,” roared Michael Ochan, an opposition politician.

The opposition’s shadow minister for information, Ssemujju Nganda questioned why the president, after saying that his son was only a “village guard” in 1997 when Kainerugaba first entered the military, had promoted him to “the rank of brigadier in only 10 years.”

Medard Ssegona, the opposition’s shadow minister for justice, questioned how a person who had never involved in any war could be promoted so rapidly.

As the subject of Kainerugaba’s unlikely promotion rocks the East African country, questions over efforts made by some African leaders to impose their sons as heir apparent have also been raised.

Before the Egyptian Spring that saw another long time African leader, Hosni Mubarak’s ouster speculation that his son, Gamal Mubarak was being groomed as a successor, was a cause of political agitation in the North African country.

Former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade’s regime crashed heavily to defeat at the polls when dissatisfied Senegalese protested against his decision to run for another term, with speculation that he intended to hand over to his son once elected, especially after he instrumented the creation of a vice-presidential office. The fast rise of his son in the Senegalese political sphere culminated when Karim Wade became a “super minister”, holding a number of strategic offices.

In recent months, another issue that has hit the media spotlight is the promotion of Equatorial-Guinea’s president’s son, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mangue as vice president of the oil-rich central African nation. French authorities recently issued an arrest warrant for the 43 year old son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, over accusations made by Transparency International about the misappropriation of funds to acquire assets in the European country.

With the exception of royal monarchies, serving African presidents who succeeded their fathers include, Joseph Kabila of The Democratic Republic of Congo, Faure Gnassinbé of Togo and Ali Bongo of Gabon.

Libya’s Gaddafi’s unsuccessful attempt to groom his sons to take over ended in shambles, with him being killed and his sons running for dear life.

But as parallels continue to be drawn by many, Uganda’s acting army spokesperson, Colonel Chris Magezi has defended the army’s decision to promote Muhoozi, arguing that he was rightfully promoted by his father, Uganda’s president and commander in chief of the country’s armed forces.

“The young man has been undergoing several military training programmes. His promotion has been based on the numerous trainings he has undertaken.”

Muhoozi, who is in his early 30’s trained in some of the big names in army colleges in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. He is currently in charge of the special force that guards his father, the president.

*Source www.theafricareport.com

Read More
An analysis of the security situation in Cote d’Ivoire and proposals for the peaceful resolution of the crisis
August 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

Deadly Violence in Cote d’Ivoire

By Pr. Mamadou Koulibaly*,

And yet the culprits are known, the reasons too. An analysis of the security situation in Cote d’Ivoire and proposals for the peaceful resolution of the crisis. “In so doing, people work thus to their own confusion.” (Franz Kafka’s in The Castle,1926)

THE WEEK OF THE CELEBRATION of the 52nd Independence of Cote d’Ivoire was marred by deadly violent attacks this time not targeting civilian population or the UN forces based in Cote d’Ivoire but the armed forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FRCI). Military barracks, police stations and checkpoints were attacked by armed gangs who were able to kill and immediately vanish after their heinous crimes. Both the ruling and opposition parties mutually accused each other of being the instigators behind these deadly attacks. As usual, the partisans of President Ouattara firmly believe these criminal attacks are being perpetrated by partisans of the former president Laurent Gbagbo. On the other hand, the partisans of the latter are in return accusing the pro-Ouattara of being notorious killers. However, the underlying fact is that whenever such attacks take place, precious human lives are lost. Investigations are underway and while awaiting the findings, if only there will be findings one day, the fact remains that both sides are involved in atrocities with the civilian population seeing their rights to live in freedom and safety in the pursuit of their individual and collective livelihood violated. In any case, civilians are the victims of the two opposing sides that continue to hate each other and obstinately cling to the tactics of mutual intimidation, blackmailing, belligerence, repression, retaliation and revenge.

A commission of inquiry to establish responsibility for the crimes of the period after the 2010 presidential elections was set up a few months ago by the government. Its findings show that both the pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara committed atrocities. They were guilty of killing men, women and children based on political and religious affiliations, and ethnic and regional backgrounds. Of the 3,248 cases that were subject to investigations, it was established that the pro- Gbagbo, identified under the name “former Defense & Security Forces” (FDS), were accused of killing 1,452 people whereas the pro-Ouattara, identified under the names “Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire” (FRCI) and “Dozo”, arrive in second place with 927 crimes committed (727 for FRCI and 200 for the traditional hunters called Dozo). Let’s assume these crimes were committed in a time of war. Who committed the most crimes? Those who killed the most or those who simply killed? In sum, whoever committed the most crimes, in view of the inquiry, 3,248 lives were cut short due to mutual hatred.

Apart from this figure, a question remains unanswered: why were there so many crimes committed with known victims but unknown culprits? Simply saying the crimes were committed by the pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara does not provide any answer to the question but hints as to what happened. Who actually did the killings? It is evident that not all pro-Gbagbo or pro-Ouattara are criminals. We must be more objective getting to the truth, truth that will liberate and console grief-stricken hearts. Assessment of the armed and security forces First, it should be stated from the onset that the people, despite the huge number of uniformed armed men you see in the street, are not secured. From the traditional meaning of the word, no force is guaranteeing the security of civilians. Today, the Ivorian infantry, marine and air forces account, inter alia, for about 14,000 unreformed and unequipped men. They constitute the remnants of the former FANCI (National Armed Forces of Cote d’Ivoire). These men are demoralized, disarmed, paid to do nothing, frustrated by a programmed and unexpected defeat, and despised by the country’s current political authorities simply because they belonged to the army under the old regime. They were called loyalist forces of Laurent Gbagbo’s regime, situation which is prejudicial to them today.

The current regime does not trust them. In addition to that group, we have about 17,000 gendarmes. This elite force which has built a reputation in Cote d’Ivoire for being republican is not being used in anyway for the maintenance of public order in the new gendarmerie. Many of its members are not included in the traditional role of the gendarmerie. They are paid to do nothing, live in fear and suspicion lest they can destabilize the regime at any time. They are bored, frustrated and demoralized. They were also part of the loyalist forces of the former regime and so it is prejudicial to them today for the regime does not trust them. We must also take into account the 18,000 unreformed police, meaning they are not reorganized and reused in the habitual and normal functions of the new police. They are always suspected of being close to the old regime and it is prejudicial to them today for the regime does not trust them. They work under the watchful eyes, control and suspicion of the forces set up by the current regime. They are bored, frustrated and demoralized.

These three groups of men and women of about 49,000, trained to protect lives and properties and maintain public peace, are living a situation of non-employed or disguised unemployed. They are always seen with suspicion and somehow frustrated for not being able to practice their profession under the normal rule of law. These men and women, harassed from time to time, constitute a dangerous cocktail for the stability of the regime. The regime is aware of it and so it tries to contain them by deploying enormous efforts to monitor, control, arrest and harass them. All these things are not reassuring but instead stressing and creating intense psychological tensions.

Evidently, keeping a watchful eye on the military, police and gendarmes of the former FDS does not leave room to ensure the safety of the people and guarantee public order in both the cities and rural areas. Insecurity usually starts when a regime develops the idea that someone has evil intention towards it. And in wanting to be too watchful on that person, it may not see where the other dangers will come from. What can be done in such a case? Reintegrate these servicemen in the regular forces that provide security, civil protection and public order in Cote d’Ivoire. This would mean providing the means again to the police and gendarmes to carry out their mission.

Only the police and gendarmes can ensure public order and reassure the population. If things are to become normal, it should be the regular forces and not the exceptional forces that must deal with public service mission to provide security and protection of rights and freedom. The normal functioning condition of a state requires normal institutions. The army, gendarmerie and the police are institutions that must resume their normal course of service if we seek normalcy imposed by the rule of law, and of course if we want to end this state of emergency. But today, what can we do with an army of 11,000 loyalists FRCI in addition to the 14,000 loyalists of the former regime? It means there 25,000 servicemen being paid. With the present budget of the Ministry of Defense estimated at CFAF 188 billion, if it properly dispensed, CFAF 131 billion should be spent on salaries alone. It means this army will have nothing left to purchase hardware and ensure training. And if it should possess the financial means to procure hardware, it means salaries would not be paid.

If the Government gets military hardware and at the same time ensures the payment of these men, military spending alone would be explosive whereas it is presently struggling to cope, among others, with obligations of debts owed to pension funds (CGRAE, CNPS) and government functionaries. It could also entail the closure of hospitals or schools due to lack of funds. Thus, we are living in constant and total insecurity with an oversized army which is poorly equipped, poorly contained, poorly paid, and highly frustrated. These are good reasons to make it default on its mission of securing the civilian population throughout the country and in the barracks, gendarmeries and police stations.

Meanwhile, the security of government officials, institutions and the defense of Abidjan in case of any eventuality are assumed by 3,000 men carefully selected from among the FRCI. These men, who have the full confidence of the government, were selected from among former rebel factions namely MPCI, MPIGO, MJP and FN. Commanded by former warlords, these trusted strongmen of the regime also ensure the President’s security. Note that while some of the leaders of this privileged group were being promoted to higher ranks, some soldiers were being killed by unknown gunmen from nowhere at the beginning of August 2012. But should we believe the idea of men coming from nowhere to perpetrate these attacks? Not really because if you take a closer look at the situation, there are very risky people in our country who may have good reasons to foment this type of guerrilla warfare. Who could be these guerrillas?

Instead of blaming each other, the political class could do some introspection and analyze the situation coldly. The very risky people capable of fomenting guerrilla activities can be distinctly categorized. The first group consists of frustrated and disappointed FRCI who were promised secure military careers. Within the framework of the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement (APO), the military aspect negotiated at that time covered 32,000 FN who ever since have been dreaming to obtaining official status. But upon the completion of the recruitment of FRCI, only 9,000 of these fighters were retained. It means there are still 23,000 men in possession of their arms and ammunition that were turned away, striped off their ranks or thrown out of the FRCI. These abandoned former FN combatants expelled from the FRCI live in resentment and frustration and are waiting for any good opportunities that could allow them to express their anger to those who have lied, used and rejected them at the time of dividing the spoils.

These 23,000 people are potential dangers to consider in case of any attacks like those perpetrated against the FRCI in early August 2012. The second group could comprise the auxiliary 36,000 young combatants recruited when the FN was preparing the battle of Abidjan during the post-election crisis. Many combatants were encouraged to enroll for the “cause.” Of the 38,000 enrolled, only 2,000 were selected for possible inclusion in the regular FRCI. What about the remaining 36,000? They were simply forgotten. They too are fulminating anger and desire for revenge against those who manipulated them. For obvious reasons, they are major risk and capable of attacking their former comrades who betrayed and abandoned in case fighting breaks out in Abidjan. Do not forget them whenever the question of who is attacking the FRCI and why is raised? The third group could comprise the 38,000 men from other vigilante groups and militias of the former regime.

In the framework of the civic service proposed by the APO, it was agreed that these auxiliaries to the FDS at the time be absorbed by structures of reintegration and employment in the public service. But nothing has been done and many of them believed to still be in arms are frustrated that their prime age is over and if things return to normal, they too will end up with nothing, empty-handed. They find it difficult to accept this perspective. This group is just as dangerous as the first two and do not forget them when the question of who is attacking the FRCI is raised. For this group for which the advent of the FRCI has terminated the privileges they enjoyed, it is unfeasible to let go of things so easily and give their enemies of yesterday easy triumph. In total, there are at least 97,000 potential guerrillas, not forgetting the usual opportunists and bandits, the frustrated people living with hatred for minor reasons who may want to settle scores with old friends who are now members of the new nomenklatura, the new combattants, and those of the 25th hour who only got out when the battlefields were empty. If we take into account all this beautiful world of “super villains” or “superhero”, it can be estimated that we have about 100,000 potentially risky people, disappointed by broken promises, tossed between conflicting decisions, indoctrinated by two political wings with mutual hatred for each other, confined to the barracks for some with their arms in unacceptable conditions, such as the 1,500 detained in the infamous camp Gesco in Yopougon.

All these people are real dangers for the safety of civilians, for the FRCI themselves and equally for the impartial forces, and we can not say they are wrong to be angry. Suppose their case was dealt with more seriously? These 100,000 young men who see the future with uncertainty will surely end up taking it out on the Authorities who gave them the weapons. Many of them are unemployed; many are not even educated or know any trade. They dread unemployment and see their lives in total disillusionment characterized by betrayals and manipulations. Hatred towards their former and current mentors haunts them daily. They believe that they have lost everything except their weapons with which they can be heard, be respected and even make money or just get something to eat. Do not forget them when the question of who hold is organizing the guerrilla activities is raised.

Solutions to get out of the quagmire of insecurity

First, the government must cease practicing the policy of the ostrich and finally look the problem in the face. The communication of Mr. Bruno Koné, Minister and government spokesman, after the cabinet meeting on February 15, 2012 following the post-election violent atrocities and since the inception of the FRCI, demonstrates, if possible, the misdirection and analytical unraveling of the situation: “The FRCI is the regular army of Cote d’Ivoire. It is important that our army be respected. The army represents the sovereignty of the Ivorian people. There should be no reason for people deciding whether or not the army should be on a territory. We are all of age to have seen the FANCI and FDS. I think we need to return to the basic principle of civism, that is to say the respect for our institutions. In the respect of our institutions, the army has to be respected. The Ivorian army had to embark on public safety operations simply because the police and the gendarmerie were no longer operational. It took several months before the police stations were refurbished and it also took several months before the police was given arms and ammunition. During the lapse of this time, the military had to replace them. From the time things started to get normal gradually, they were asked to back out from these missions for the police and gendarmerie to take over.

But this is not done everywhere, on the one hand. On the other hand, even if the police and the gendarmerie are back, nothing prohibits the military to come and reinforce in this place or that place. It is a decision of the military command.

(…) When we talk about billeting, I have the impression that for the Ivorians, it means that the military should disappear from the landscape. (…)

The FRCI comprises several thousands of people. So it may happen that a serviceman of the FRCI get into conflict with a civilian, it can happen anywhere, there may be cases of indiscipline, there may be attacks of FRCI against civilians, a civilian against another civilian or FRCI. But please, do not transform this into an inter-ethnic or inter-community conflict. If there were errors committed by servicemen within the FRCI, let him or her be punished by their superiors.” Also, the political class, spearheaded by the government, must stop diverting attention from the main problem through nonsensical mutual accusations. It must accept its failure in the way of doing politics and recognize that it is through it declarations, ambitions, and inconsistency that have led many young people to a deadlock, thus the entire country.

Finally, it must immediately engage in discussions on political reconciliation and consider a program to end the crisis in accordance with Resolution 2062 of the United Nations Security Council and make it operational. It means it should: – Prioritize the issue of disarmament and the reform of the security sector on the agenda of the President – Defense Minister and supreme commander of the armed forces; – Get the FRCI off the streets and reinstate the gendarmerie and the national police in their official roles; – Organize a retirement plan of combatants and other militia not included in the standing Armed Forces;

– Find and set aside a budget to fund this additional pension by reducing government spending;
– Redeploy local governments and State authority across the country;
– Resume and strengthen dialogue between the opposition and the government within the framework defined by the conclave of Bassam; and
– Not precipitate to organize local elections in the given context of insecurity.

We have a population of about 20 million inhabitants living without protection whatsoever, with 100,000 ex-combatants armed and frustrated feeling betrayed by those who, on both sides, made them heroes through false promises of integration in the public service, an army rabble of 25,000 men with neither training nor hardware incapable of performing its duties due to lack of cohesion; 35,000 gendarmes and police that should be maintaining public order and protecting civilians but who are neither being organized nor used for this purpose due to distrust which pushed the government to disarm them, and 3,000 FRCI commanded by former Commanders of warlords chosen to ensure the safety of the President of the Republic and state institutions in Abidjan. The civilian population, left entirely to itself, has become the target of each of these dangerous opposing groups. Whenever acts of cruelties are carried out on either group, the civilian population becomes the scapegoat.

To date, Cote d’Ivoire does not have an army – neither former nor new. The country is being controlled by several armed gangs that target each other and take civilians captives. The illegal ordinance signed by the President of the Republic on March 17, 2011 bearing the creation of the Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FRCI) provides for the fusion of the National Armed Forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FANCI) and the Armed Forces of the New Forces (FAFN). According to Mr. Ouattara, the objective of “protecting civilians, pacifying the country and restoring law and order”, is far from being efficient. Rather, this ordinance is the basis for the disorganization of security and republican order. This issue should have been dealt with in accordance to law, which means a public debate should have been initiated to that effect. The signing of a mere ordinance is not sufficient to provide for the creation of an army (Article 71 of the Constitution of August 2000).

We are now living the consequences of his decision: upsurge in armed robberies in all districts of Abidjan, highway bandits across the country. These are direct manifestations of the mismanagement of military and security issues by the government, which has too often used illegal ordinances and unnecessary decrees to resolve a sensitive issue that requires common sense, wisdom and courage. Today we are paying the price. And yet, the culprits are known, the reasons too.

*Prof Koulibaly is a former Speaker of the Ivory Coast Parliament and was an influential member of Former President Laurent Gbagbo’s FPI.He now heads the opposition party LIDER

Read More
Ethiopians Grieve PM Meles Zenawi’s Death
August 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

Marthe Van Der Wolf*

ADDIS ABABA –  Ethiopia is grieving the loss of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.  The passing of Ethiopia’s leader saddens the country’s citizens.Everybody in Ethiopia was talking about Tuesday.

Many people in the capital, Addis Ababa, had kind words to say about Meles, who led the country for more than two decades.

A woman in her 20s, who declined to give her name, said his death is a sad event for Ethiopia.

“We are in a time of great grief and the loss of Meles Zenawi is very sad for our country because he was a great leader and my thought and prayers are with his family,” she said. “And may God give them relief in this sad time.“

A middle-aged man, who also declined to give his name, said he hoped Ethiopia’s new leaders will continue with Meles’ policies.

“In the future, I have faith and hope that we will continue on the path that he has set out for us,” he said. “Meles passed away too soon, without finishing all the work he was working on.  And I really believe that the future leaders of this country will continue on this path towards development for Ethiopia.”

A woman named Biseat said Meles did much to improve the country’s economy, while giving an Ethiopia a prominent role in East African affairs.

“I think that the passing of our prime minister, his Excellency Meles Zenawi is going to have long lasting implications for peace and security in the region,” said Biseat. “He also was a torchbearer for publicizing Ethiopian development and economic stability.  Under his rule we have had enormous amounts of progress and also enormous amounts of foreign direct investments.“

But there are also some Ethiopians that believe that the death of Prime Minister Meles may be an opportunity for more democracy in the country.

By the time of his death, Meles’s party and its allies controlled all but one seat in the Ethiopian parliament.

A man identified himself as Endalk, a university teacher said, “We expect people to be well aware of this situation and take the opportunity to liberate themselves from worshipping dictators and other.  So I honestly this is a truly good opportunity for Ethiopians to start true democratic transition.”

The body of Meles is expected to arrive in Ethiopia on Tuesday night.  No details have been announced on the funeral.

*Source VOA

Meles Zenawi

Born May 8, 1955 in Adwa, northern Ethiopia

Suspended studies in 1974 to join Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front, TPLF

Chairman of TPLF and Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front since 1989

Led EPRDF rebels to seize power in 1991 and became president

Prime minister since being elected in 1995

Serves as African Union spokesperson on climate change

Praised for helping lift Ethiopia out of poverty after civil war

Criticized for silencing all forms of dissent

Known as ally with U.S. against terrorism

 

Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Takes Over After Meles’ Death

Posted Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegne, has become the country’s acting leader after the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

He is the first Protestant Christian head of government in the history of Ethiopia, and one of few southern region politicians in the Cabinet.

The 47-year-old politician was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs in September 2010, after the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front won a fourth consecutive election.

The party’s congress promoted Mr. Hailemariam to deputy chair of the party a few weeks later.

Mr. Hailemariam became seriously involved in politics in the late 1990s as a member of Ethiopia’s ruling party. He also became the deputy president of Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region , replacing Abate Kisho who was removed on corruption charges.

The acting prime minister’s education is in civil engineering.

He is expected to take the oath as prime minister in the coming days. It is not clear if he will remain in power until the next elections in 2015.

 

Read More
Egypt’s Christians Form Their Own Brotherhood
August 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Merrit Kennedy*

Then-President-elect Mohammed Morsi greets Coptic Bishop Bishoy (left) as Bishop Bakhomious looks on, at the presidential palace in Cairo in June, in this photo released by Egypt's official news agency. The election of Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, has unnerved many Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population

Then-President-elect Mohammed Morsi greets Coptic Bishop Bishoy (left) as Bishop Bakhomious looks on, at the presidential palace in Cairo in June, in this photo released by Egypt's official news agency. The election of Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, has unnerved many Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population

A former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood occupies Egypt’s presidential palace, leaving many of the country’s Coptic Christians deeply anxious about their future.

Now, a new group calling itself the Christian Brotherhood has emerged, vowing to stand up for the rights of Copts.

On a Cairo rooftop recently, members of the new Christian Brotherhood are debating how to respond to the first major outbreak of Muslim-Christian violence since President Mohammed Morsi came into office in June.

The incident in the village of Dahshour, south of Cairo, began as a personal spat between a Christian and a Muslim in a local laundry. It quickly escalated into communal violence, and eventually the entire Christian community — about 100 families — fled the village.

Hossam Bahgat, the head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, closely follows Christian-Muslim tensions.

“This is the first time that we see this incident where the entire community fled for their life for fear of serious retribution,” he says.

A few families have since returned to the village, only to find their homes in ruins.

The 73-year-old spiritual father of the Christian Brotherhood, Michel Fahmy, occasionally dabs his eyes with a handkerchief as he speaks about the Dahshour events.

“To leave your houses, your properties, and forcing you to vacate your city, your village — it’s a drama,” he says.

Worries Over Heightened Tensions

Bahgat says that the number of interreligious incidents has decreased this year compared with last year, when several churches were destroyed and 27 Copts were killed by the military at a protest in Cairo. And yet, with the rise of Islamist political power, Bahgat says, there is a noticeable rise in fears and tensions.

“And there’s a general sense of anxiety among the Christian community, and that is something that the government needs to address,” he says.

But the Christian Brotherhood isn’t counting on the government, or their own church, to address discrimination and violence.

The Christian Brotherhood’s Fahmy says the Copts don’t need anyone to stand by their side. They will stand with each other first, he says, and then find others standing with them.

The Christian Brotherhood says that it has some Muslim members, including a retired major general, who support its efforts — including its intention to become a full-fledged political party.

The group has already stirred controversy. Naguib Gobrail is the lawyer for the Coptic Church.

“In general, I don’t approve this, because it divides society [into] two sections — a Muslim section and a Christian section,” he says.

Gobrail worries that a group like the Christian Brotherhood could heighten existing tensions between Muslims and Christians.

Who Will Speak For Egypt’s Christians?

The group is also challenging the political authority of the Coptic Church, an institution at a crossroads since the death last March of Pope Shenouda III, who led the church for 40 years. Beloved by much of the Coptic community, the pope was also controversial.

Amir Ayyad, a member of the Christian Brotherhood, says Shenouda was making political decisions for the entire community.

“He prevented the Copts from being involved in politics, and because of this, after his death, he left behind an army of Copts with no background in politics, or very little background,” Ayyad says.

But this may be changing. The Christian Brotherhood is one of several new, independent Coptic movements that hope to weigh in on politics. Bahgat, the human rights activist, says these groups emerged as a reaction among younger Copts to what they saw as the failure of their own church leadership to take a firm position against discrimination and violence.

“Ultimately, this is going to come with a lot of tension, because the church is going to want to maintain control, but also because ultimately it’s much easier for the state to deal with the church than an unorganized, huge Coptic population of 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people,” Bahgat says.

As the Coptic community prepares for the selection of a new pope later this year, the debate about who speaks for them will continue.

* www.npr.org

 

Read More
1 141 142 143 144 145 146