“My son, before BIDCO and other palm oil production investors came to acquire vast tracts of land on Bugala Island for palm oil production purposes, local communities around the shores of Lake Victoria used to live a good life. Our fish catch, especially species like, Haplochromines, Tilapia, Nile Perch, and Lung fish used to be good, enough to make us get money to pay school fees for our children and to cater for other household needs. We used to grow bananas, beans, cassava, maize and sweet potatoes, among others, which we would transport and sell in Kampala.
When BIDCO and other palm oil investors came, the government of Uganda convinced us to surrender our land to the investors on the strength that we would be adequately compensated and given land elsewhere. This did not happen. The money we were given was too little to secure an alternative parcel of land. Our fish catch has been declining at an alarming rate due to chemical effluent into the Lake. We are worse-off than we were in the beginning,” says John Baptist Kyambadde, a resident of Bugala Island, Kalangara district in Central Uganda.
The farmers who BIDCO gave agro-inputs at subsidized price to plant palm oil trees in their individual gardens later failed to pay for them. This forced many of them to sell their land cheaply in order to get food to feed their families.
Paul, one of the many affected farmers, owned about 14 acres of land on which he grew various food crops such as cassava, beans and matooke. He would sell some of his produce and get money to pay school fees for his children.
“When BIDCO came and convinced us to embrace its palm oil outgrowers programme,” he says, “I joined, thinking that I would make good money. Unfortunately, like many farmers, I later failed to pay for farm inputs, forcing me to sell my only piece of land.”
Such heartbreaking stories are all over sub-Saharan Africa. Foreign investors financially backed by their home governments, transnational companies, corrupt politicians and selfish local rich people have for decades engaged in grabbing peasants’ land to use for their large scale tree plantations, biofuels and food production, mainly for export.
Millions of peasant farmers, women and pastoralists in countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone Mali, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Mozambique have lost vast tracks ectares of land to land and water grabbers. The victims have been rendered landless in their own countries and ancestral communities.
Developed and emerging powerful economic countries like India, China, Singapore, South Korea and oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE are increasingly acquiring land for commercial and food production purposes in Sub- Saharan Africa, where there is still plenty of unexploited land at a reasonably cheaper price.
Information from Global Land project report, indicates that, by the end of 2009, an estimated 62 million hectares of land in Sub-Saharan Africa had been leased and was firmly in the hands of foreign investors for biofuel and food production.
A representative of Agro-Africa, a Norwegian company operating in Senegal, was one time quoted to have said, “We have convinced rural communities to grow Jatropha Curcas on their land measuring about 200,000 hectares.” In Tanzania, New Forest Limited, a UK based owned company is utilizing over 200,000 hectares of land for tree planting, specifically for timber and carbon credit. As land and water grabbing continues to skyrocket in Sub-Saharan Africa, hunger, famine, and malnutrition in Africa continues, yet the continent possesses 62% of the world’s remaining arable land.
While in 2003, the Heads of State and government of the African Union, adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) to spur food security in Africa, this is being negated by the fact that groups of people are being evicted from their ancestral and communal lands in a non-transparent manner, usually through, trickery, coercion, and intimidation, by land and water grabbers, supported by government functionaries. The Maputo protocol, in which Heads of State committed themselves to allocate 10 per cent of their National budgets to the agricultural is being implemented at snail-pace.
The trend where African transactional leaders, selfish tribal chiefs and corrupt politicians are conniving with foreign investors and governments to in cheaply and freely dishing out Sub- Saharan African land for large scale food and bio- fuel production, for exporting abroad, in total disregard of locals protests is unacceptable. Africa’s citizenry must on the other hand be proactive and make productive use of arable land that is lying fallow. Whining about grabbing while the land is not being made use of is a sign of clouded thinking.
The German federal government has demanded an overhaul of international privacy protection rules arguing that international law lags decades behind the digital reality of the 21st century. According to Chancellor Angela Merkel, there ought to be harmonization between individual country laws and the rest of the countries. This comes in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal that revealed unfettered snooping on high profile communications as well as the ongoing Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Meeting in Durban.
Considering the speed at which Africa is embracing digital technology, the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) hosted Academia, Think Tank Leaders, Business Leaders, Politicians and NGOs from across Sub-Sahara Africa to discuss the theme: Digital Revolution: Opportunity or Threat to Africa?Participants in this IREN 10th Africa Resource Bank meeting discussed the opportunities and threats posed by the digital revolution to Africa; the impact of digital revolution on African youth; ways in which the digital revolution can enhance people participation in governance issues in Africa and the role of digital tools in enhancing productivity (trade, economics, health, agriculture, education, environment and culture) in Africa. As a follow-up, IREN in 2012 also hosted media practitioners across Eastern Africa to discuss how the media fraternity can participate in Harnessing the Digital Revolution to Benefit Africa.
Africans are embracing digital technology in its broadest sense at a very high rate with less reflection on both its positive and negative effects. It is strategic that Africans study keenly the likely outcome of the ongoing digital revolution to the continent and formulate the requisite strategies to navigate around it.
The International Conference of Data Protection that incorporates state officials, NGOs and international organizations in its Montreux Declaration in 2005 called on the United Nations to draft “a legally binding instrument which clearly sets out in detail the rights to data protection and privacy as enforceable human rights.” Germany is pressing for the overhaul of international privacy protection rules. Africa must actively participate in this dialogue lest the outcomes impact on the continent adversely.
Here are some thoughts I wanted to share with you to help you in knowing that money and politics are intertwined when one tries to understand what is going on in the Congo.
It’s not all about these governments caring to « save » the Congolese but more so to make sure that with war or stability, Congo’s resources can be accessed.
1. France’s interest in Congo: in part, a. Congo being the 2nd largest francophone country in the world after France; b: Congo providing access to uranium via its mines in Katanga for Areva and the oil block given to French company TOTAL, contract signed in December 2011 right after the fraudulent elections.
4 months later, France got in trouble… why? They supported Kabila and now warlords wanting to destabilize the Congo had now started a full blown uprising that took control over areas where the oil block for TOTAL is located. So it was no surprise to me to see France be the country who actually wrote Resolution 2076 condemning Rwanda, which was later diluted by the US government to actually say « neighboring countries. »
2. US interests have been and continue to be access to Congo’s strategic minerals regardless of which regime is in Congo or the Great Lakes region. Congo is home to the largest copper reserve and very rich cobalt reserve as well. The copper/cobal mine Tenke Fungurume, currently controlled by American giant Freeport McMoran is one of the reasons the US government support the Congolese president Kabila. How do I know? Well, that mine is listed among the top 20 sites the US must protect against terrorist attacks. It also has private military contractors there. Congo is the number one producer of cobalt in the world.
Another US interest in Congo is military, via AFRICOM. Note that there is a US military base that has been built in Kisangani. So you know , Congo straddles the Equateur. and right in the center of the world, close to the Equateur, there is a town called Kisangani. It is the last navigable point on the Congo river which runs straight to the Atlantic ocean. Virtually a boat could come from the Atlantic, go through where the Congo river drops into the ocean and go all the way up the center of the world, Kisangani. By building a base there, the US is shifting its military axis from East Africa via Uganda and Rwanda to now the Congo. There have been talks of building a landing strip at the base with military specification for army carrier and not commercial planes. This did cause a few frictions within the Congolese government as allowing the US to have such a landing strip has regional implication not only to Congo’s 9 neighbors but the entire African continent.
3. China’s interests is purely economic. They could care less what is happening to the Congolese but lately due to the US interference in Chinese deal in Congo and Africa, I am inclined to believe that China will soon engage militarily. Note that Congo and Tanzania are two African countries where China invested $20 billion for infrastructure projects as they get mineral resources. The reason why I mention military engagement in the part of China is because: a. China did train Joseph Kabila in their military for a year or so. b. China is training a small regiment of soldiers in Katanga. I came to know about this in 2011.
4. The UK also has economic interests in Congo… mainly mining… Soco Oil is an example. I always talk about british company AFRIMEX who provided support to RCD militia gang in 1999 and this militia group caught 20 some women in Mwenga, close to Bukavu (South Kivu), beat them to death, raped them, and buried them alive. Up until today, nothing happened to AFRIMEX.
5. South Africa has serious economic interests in the Congo. You have probably noticed how SA seems to be supporting the Kabila regime more than any other African countries. SA has mining interests in northern Congo, in Ituri (gold), also lately SA President Zuma’s nephew got an oil block for a little over $6 million if my memory serves me well for a signing bonus for two oil concecssions in Lake Albert, which borders Uganda. Problem now is that both SA business folks and Frenchmen can’t go to that area because M23 and ADF-NALU are causing mayhem there.
Another economic reason is the Grand Inga Dam project. South Africa and Congo, right before the Congolese presidential elections in 2011, signed a memorandum of understanding for South Africa to develop the Inga Dam project which was shelved for a while given the project was not getting the capital needed for it. South Africa wants Congo’s electricity for its mines in South Africa. Remember that currently Congo provides South Africa with electricity… and during the 2010 World Cup, Congo increased the electricity output to help in powering some of the SA stadiums and the increased demands from the tourists.
What is the Inga Dam project: It is a plan to develop a dam on the Congo river that will provide enough electricity to power Africa, Southern Europe and the middle east. It was first initiated by the World Energy Council circa 2006 and to properly do it, one has to raise at least $80 billion… but the profit in it is ridiculous. In 2008, there was an investor meeting in London for it, and no Congolese was invited nor participated in it. Back then we blogged about it. Lately, this project has been revived whereby South Africa, World Bank, a chinese company and two other European companies have put money to start developing Phase 1 of Grand Inga. South Africa wants the electricity for its mines.
Phase 1 – Called Inga 3- will provide 4,800 MegaWatts. What does that mean? It means it can provide electricity to about 500 million household. This means that if the Inga 3 could provide electricity to the US, everyone here will have free electricity bill and that energy will be renewable-green-safe to the environment rather than using uranium. That project is only for $12 billion, which is about 1/8 the original investment for the whole Grand Inga Dam. They are trying to dam the Congo river whose current can generate 40,000 MegaWatts. You know already that a little over 10% of that power gives electricity to 500 million households.
If Congo controlled that and each African household paid $1 a day for electricity in Congo, this will generate about $15 billion a month to the Congolese people. Question now becomes how come capital is not being raised in a way where the Congolese are controlling the process?
So, when one sees South African troops coming to the rescue of the Kabila regime and having their troops stationed there, it is important to know that South Africa has also economic interests.
6. Canada: The wolf in a sheep clothing… safe haven of mining companies destroying the world. Canada appears to be a really nice and cool nation to live in… but what the companies do around the world is beyond imagination… from arming militia gangs, paying them to displace populations, stealing resources… all while the world don’t know… and Canada is still connected to the British Crown.
Patrick Mbeko provides a great analysis in his book « Le Canada dans les guerres en Afrique centrale: génocides et pillages des ressources minières du Congo par le Rwanda interposé » on the role of Canada in the Congo where he demonstrates that it is really Canada that runs the mining show in the world and played a hidden and not-so-well known role in the destabilization of Rwanda and Congo. Pick up his book at http://www.amazon.ca/books/dp/2918278084
That’s all for today as it relates to the Geopolitics of Congo’s Political Economy – Course 252, Summer school.
For several decades, the U.S. foreign policy establishment has spent billions of dollars in Egypt, all in order to keep China out, America in, Iran down, and Israel safe. In fact, since 1979, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, after Israel.
What makes Egypt so important to Washington? Any real estate agent could tell you: location. Given that Egypt sits atop the strategic intersection of the Mediterranean, African, and Arab worlds, the control of the nation has always been a remarkably effective way to project power into these three regions and beyond. Egypt is the largest Arab country in the Middle East. The nation also has the responsibility for maintaining the vital oil-shipping lane of the Suez Canal. Last, but certainly not least, Egypt is a signatory to the 1979 Camp David peace treaty with Israel.
Make no mistake about it, in Egypt, a U.S.-backed, military coup just toppled a democratically-elected government. Lest we forget, Mr. Morsi won Egypt’s election by a larger margin than David Cameron or Barack Obama. President Morsi’s overthrow has placed the army, not the masses, in power. The coup has put power in the hands of a military junta that will protect the interests of the Egyptian bourgeoisie and the geo-political aims of U.S. imperialism.
One might ask why it would serve U.S. interests to help the military topple President Morsi, since he is a close ally of the U.S. The answer is simple. Over the years, Washington has become adept at supporting a ruler whilst simultaneously supporting opposition dissent against that same ruler. It is called ‘political leveraging,’ or manufacturing dissent.
Washington openly funds Egyptian opposition NGOs and civil society through Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy. These organizations then become embedded in the protest movement, in order to divert attention from broader issues of Western interference. These opposition groups provide a breeding ground for pro-Western opposition leaders, who may become national leaders in the future. Mr. Morsi is a prime example of a President who formally was a member of an opposition organization, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, who received funding from the U.S.
The U.S. has poured more than $70 billion in military and economic aid into Egypt since 1948. Thus the U.S. government’s ability to influence outcomes there has always been significant. CNN reported that Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, and top U.S. general, Martin Dempsey, had been in contact with their counterparts in the Egyptian military over the past week. Clearly, Washington not only knew about the July 3rd coup, they authorized it.
During both of Egypt’s recent revolutions, the U.S. has acted like the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who calmly watched the cloud, knowing that he controlled its rain.
For fiscal year 2014, President Obama has requested $1.55 billion in aid to Egypt, with $1.3 billion allocated to military aid. The Egyptian military is not only a formidable political institution; it is an extremely rich institution.
The military in any given society is a direct reflection of its social class structure. The upper echelons of Egypt’s military are allied with civilian big business, who grow rich by building their business empires. The nation’s economy stands at $500 billion and the military is estimated to control one third.
Egypt’s top generals also look after the military and business interests of its imperialist masters in the U.S. There are lower ranking officers of middle-class origin, and then there is the mass of the soldiers, who have been conscripted and are composed mainly of peasants and workers. Therefore, the structure of the Egyptian military reflects a society based not only upon internal class antagonisms between the exploited and the exploiters, but also between larger imperialist entities and the oppressed masses of Egypt.
Ultimately all revolutions, led by the masses, revolve around bread. In Egypt, the largest political protests in the history of mankind were no different. Western media continues to characterize the uprising as a conflict between Islamist and secular forces. This could hardly be further from the truth. The uprising is the culmination of frustrations against Egypt’s continued subservience to policies that continue to decimate the poor and the middle class, in favor of Egypt’s bourgeoisie.
Twenty-two million Egyptians signed the petition, demanding to oust President Morsi. The petition reads: “We reject you because we are still begging loans from the outside…Because Egypt is still following the footsteps of the United States.”
In 1991, a devastating IMF program was imposed upon the people of Egypt. The program was enacted to cancel their multi-billion dollar debt to the U.S, in exchange for Egypt’s participation in the Gulf War. The IMF’s austerity measures, widespread privatization, and deregulation of food prices led to a severe drop in the standard of living for most Egyptians. Nevertheless, the Mubarak regime was hailed as a model “IMF pupil.”
During his short time in office, President Morsi continued the anti-working class policies. As a result, a combustible combination of unemployment, soaring prices, and a deteriorating economy sealed Mr. Morsi’s fate.
A true revolution is not about merely changing the actors on stage; it is about tearing up the script and radically redesigning the plot. The protestors should focus on the real dictatorship in Egypt that makes the actual decisions.
GARIKAI CHENGU The author firstname.lastname@example.org is a Fellow of Harvard University’s Du Bois Institute for African Research.
The phrase ‘Africa must industrialise’ is again in full favour. Every commentator on the continent, national, institutional or individual, is once again convinced that Africa’s path to economic salvation lies in industrialisation.
I remember the same cry being made up and down the continent when I first began writing for the pan-African press over 25 years ago and it has resurfaced at regular intervals. Yet, apart from a few isolated examples, the dream of joining the ranks of industrialised nations has remained a dream. (South Africa was already industrialised before majority rule and in North Africa, the process had begun much earlier than further south and is therefore better entrenched). One does not have to be an economics genius to work out that indeed industrialisation offers the best prospects of sustained growth, job creation and improved standards of living. The question that is much harder to answer is how to industrialise and what type of industrialisation is most suited to both Africa’s needs and its abilities.
This is the question on which many policy makers have stumbled. Do you produce for the national market, the regional market or the international market? Do you aim for import substitution or do you concentrate on exports? Do you support your own industries and raise their performance levels or do you invite foreign industrialists to set up shop in your country? Or do you aim for a combination of both?
The other question is do you have the wherewithal to industrialise on a mass scale? What are the minimum basic requirements to support industrialisation? What should be the government’s role in this effort and what part should be played by the private sector? Of course there are no easy answers nor a magic formula that can be applied across the board. Each African country has its own special circumstances, its strengths and weaknesses. Factors such as geography, the prevailing climate, the traditional modes of living, the presence or absence of natural resources, the levels of literacy, the state of the infrastructure, the access or lack of access to markets, the bureaucratic competence, the legal structure, the political and social stability or lack of and, above all, the quality of governance and leadership all play critical roles in whether a country can successfully industrialise or not. Industrialisation, by its very nature, and particularly so in Africa, involves mixing it up with the world at large and playing by the dominant prevailing rules. The alternative is to close up your economy, raise protectionist barriers and try to live in splendid isolation. This has been tried in Africa and elsewhere and, by and large, has failed. The hard fact is that if someone can make something that he can sell to you cheaper and better than you can do yourself, it does not make sense to make an inferior copy of it in your own backyard.
Squaring the circle
This was the dilemma that faced Singapore in the 1960s. I have just returned from that astonishing little country (please see the supplement accompanying this issue) and was particularly keen to find out how the Singaporeans squared that particularly circle.
They came to the conclusion that the only way out for them was to create ‘a First World oasis in the Third World region’. They would aim to be the best at everything and bend all their energies to achieving this. They would leap-frog their region and go straight to where the action really was – the developed world – and invite the large multinational corporations to set up shop on their soil. They would do everything to ensure that those corporations that accepted their invitation would find their operations more efficient and more profitable based in Singapore than anywhere else in the world, even in their own home countries. The most important component of what Singapore could offer, according to the first Prime Minister of the country, Lee Kuan Yew, was “absolute confidence” in the rule of law and sanctity of contracts. For US corporations keen to tap into the dynamic Asian market but worried about the unstable political landscape, the corruption and arbitrary interpretation of laws that then prevailed in the region, Singapore was indeed a oasis in a turbulent sea and they came in droves. The rest, as they say, is history.
Can African countries take a similar, pragmatic and nimble approach to their own quest for industrialisation?
Can Africa, with its advantages – natural resources close at hand, a young working population and a potentially dynamic hinterland – supplant China as the workshop of the world?
Five decades since the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) while the Pentagon and NATO escalates its war drive on the continent
Note: The following lecture was delivered at the Africa & U.S. Imperialism Conference held in Detroit on May 18, 2013. The event was sponsored by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) and also featured presentations by Atty. Jeff Edison of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie, Director of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Cheick Oumar andMoussa Rimau, two graduate students at MSU from Mali, Tachae J. Davis of Workers World Youth Fraction and a student at Macomb Community College. A special address was delivered by the Venezuelan Consulate in Chicago Jesus Rodriguez Espinoza. To watch the video of the address delivered by the Venezuelan diplomat just click on the website below:
May 25, 2013 represents the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner of the present African Union which formed in 2002. This conference today is taking place at a critical time within the history of Africa and the Diaspora.
Even though there has been tremendous progress in Africa and throughout the African world since 1963, the imperialists have devised mechanism to continue and expand the exploitation and consequent oppression of African people on the continent and indeed throughout Europe, North America and Latin America. This conference sends congratulatory messages to the AU in the midst of this anniversary.
We are following the situation surrounding the summit which begins on May 19 and extends through May 27. The meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is being held under the theme of “Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance,” in an attempt to return the continental organization back to its political origins born in the ferment of the African revolutionary struggle of the 1960s.
According to the description on the African Union website publicizing the 21stSummit of the AU, it says that “The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary celebration of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It will also be a little more than a decade since the formation of the AfricanUnion, which seeks to promote ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.’ Consequently, the Heads of State declared 2013 the Year of Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.”
This same synopsis goes on to say that “The anniversary is expected to facilitate and celebrate African narratives of past, present and future that will enthuse and energize the African population and use their constructive energy to accelerate a forward looking agenda of Pan-Africanism and renaissance in the 21st century. It provides a unique opportunity, and comes at a moment when Africa is on the rise, and must therefore build its confidence in its future. The 50th Anniversary commemorations will be anchored by the Theme Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance.” (AU website)
During the course of the following days through the Pan-African News Wire we will cover the deliberations and addresses extensively to provide the African world and the international community in general with the most comprehensive review of developments taking place in Addis Ababa.
The peoples of Africa scattered throughout the globe are intensely awaiting the outcome of the summit in order to gain clearer insight into the character of the thinking and actions being advanced by the heads-of-state and other leading organs of this esteemed institution.
Nonetheless, our purpose here today is to reflect on the significance of the history of Africa and the African liberation struggles that have evolved over the last five decades. Where have we been and where are we going into the successive decades of the 21st century must be the questions that are paramount in our minds.
The Post World War II Political Situation
It has been acknowledged by the leading progressive and revolutionary African historians that the advent of the Atlantic Slave Trade and colonialism shaped the character of African societies throughout the world. Beginning in the 15th century, Africa engaged Europe coming out of the so-called “Dark Ages”, a society and culture desperately seeking to advance its own internal development at the expense of other peoples around the globe.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries, millions of Africans were subjected to super-exploitation through slavery and colonialism. This period in the history of the continent spawned the conquering by Europe of the Western hemisphere and the building of an industrial empire which intensified the exploitation of both the indigenous people of the West as well as those of the African continent, Asia and the South Pacific.
Africans and other oppressed peoples of course resisted the onslaught of slavery and colonialism with vigor. History today is revealing even more detailed accounts of the heroic role that Africans played in the struggle against imperialism in its infancy and continuing into its maturity and consequent devolution under the present system of neo-colonialism.
All exploitative and oppressed systems meet resistance from within leading to the organization and mobilization of the forces which are victimized by the ruling interests within the society. These internal struggles along with challenges from the outside result in the transformation of the system into something different that could be an advance or a step backward in the development of humanity.
Although imperialism attempted to create a system of exploitation and oppression that was insulated from internal and external attacks, these efforts proved to be futile. By the conclusion of World War I, national liberation movements and communist tendencies were well in evidence in the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and colonialism.
Rebellions and revolutionary uprisings spread throughout North America, Europe, Africa and Asia beginning in 1917 with the Bolshevik Revolution, the first total overthrow of capitalism and the replacement of this exploitative system with socialism which is based upon empowering the working class and the oppressed.
The 1920s saw additional uprising and attempts to build a worldwide alliance between national liberation movements and socialist parties. By the conclusion of the 1920s, the capitalist world would fall into its worst economic crisis which lasted for over twelve years until the entry of the United States into World War II in 1941.
This collapse of the capitalist system during the 1930s would also lead to the spreading of fascism in Europe and Japan. However, the fight against fascism in the 1930s and 1940s brought to the fore the communist and national liberation organizations which served as the decisive factor in the outcome of the war in 1945.
Beginning in 1945 the communist and national liberation movements accelerated their efforts aimed at the overthrow of capitalism and colonialism leading to decisive victories in Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Europe and eventually China. By 1947, India had gained its independence from British imperialism and the African continent had begun popular uprising aimed at breaking the yolk of colonial rule.
The aftermath of World War II resulted in the dominance of the U.S. ruling class throughout the capitalist world. Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan had experienced extensive fighting within its borders during the 1930s and 1940s leaving the U.S. unscathed by the military impact of the war.
The Soviet Union which had experienced some of the most intense fighting during 1942 and 1943 at the “Battle of Stalingrad” emerged from World War II as a major power internationally only second in military might and political strength to U.S. imperialism. Socialism spread throughout Eastern Europe during this period and the people of Yugoslavia had largely liberated themselves through their resistance to fascism where they later would establish a socialist system.
Despite the devastation of World War II and the founding of the United Nations in 1945 whose objective in part was to avoid another international conflagration, war erupted on the Korean Peninsula in 1950 after the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1948. The DPRK and the people of China under Mao Tse-Tung fought to preserve their national sovereignty and socialism in Asia.
By 1954, the people of Vietnam defeated French imperialism forcing the U.S. to take total responsibility for the continued occupation of the south of that Southeast Asian nation. That same year, the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) began its armed struggle against French imperialism in North Africa, where it had occupied the country since 1830.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the Ghana independence struggle through the Convention People’s Party (CPP), founded on June 12, 1949, and the chief strategist and tactician of the African Revolution between the late 1940s and the time of his death in 1972, pointed out that the movements led by Africans against colonialism and imperialism were not isolated but very much connected with the global struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination. Nkrumah placed the rising tide of the African liberation movements and the struggle for socialism on the continent within the context of the worldwide efforts against all forms of exploitation and oppression.
Nkrumah wrote that “A number of external factors affect the African situation, and if our liberation struggle is to be placed in correct perspective and we are to KNOW THE ENEMY, the impact of these factors must be fully grasped. First among them is imperialism, for it is mainly against exploitation and poverty that our peoples revolt.” (Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, p. 1, 1968)
This Pan-Africanist revolutionary leader continues by pointing out that “It is therefore of paramount importance to set out the strategy of imperialism in clear terms: the means used by the enemy to ensure the continued economic exploitation of our territories and the nature of the attempts made to destroy the liberation movement. Once the components of the enemy’s strategy are determined, we will be in a position to outline the correct strategy for our own struggle in terms of our actual situation and in accordance with our objectives.” (Nkrumah, p. 2)
With specific reference to the period after World War II, Nkrumah observes that “after the war, serious economic, social and political tensions arose in both spheres” being the colonial territories and the industrialized capitalist states in Europe and North America. He notes that “Inside the capitalist-imperialist states, workers’ organizations had become comparatively strong and experienced, and the claims of the working class for a more substantial share of the wealth produced by the capitalist economy could no longer be ignored. The necessity to concede had become all the more imperative since the European capitalist system had been seriously shaken up by the near-holocaust which marked the experience of imperialist wars.”
During the same time period, he continues that “While the capitalist system of exploitation was coming to grips with its internal crisis, the world’s colonized areas were astir with the upsurge of strong liberation movements. Here again, demands could no longer be cast aside or ignored especially when they were channeled through irresistible mass movements, like theRassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA), the Parti Democratique deGuinee (PDG) and the Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP) in Ghana. In certain areas, for example in Vietnam, Kenya and Algeria, direct confrontation demonstrated the readiness of the oppressed peoples to implement their claims with blood and fire.”
Nkrumah stresses that “Both in the colonial territories and in the metropolitan states, the struggle was being waged against the same enemy: international finance capital under its external and internal forms of exploitation, imperialism and capitalism. Threatened with disintegration by the double-fisted attack of the working class movement and the liberation movement, capitalism had to launch a series of reforms in order to build aprotective armor around the inner workings of its system.”
Within the U.S. during the late 1940s through the 1970s, a deliberate division was institutionalized between the white working class and middle classes and the African American people, most of whom were working class with a shrinking number of farmers and agricultural proletarians in the rural areas. The advent of the mass Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1950s served to crack open the cloak of McCarthyism and bring broader sections of the oppressed into the struggle against racism and national discrimination.
By 1960, the student sector of the African American people would take the lead as the most militant force in the struggle against legalized segregation. These efforts by the youth led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and others awakened a generation of young people within the Latino, Native and Asian communities along with their counterparts inside the white community. A culture of resistance and protracted programmatic struggle was born which was able to challenge U.S. imperialist militarism in Southeast Asia and in other parts of the world.
There developed during this period a movement against the status-quo which had not been experienced since the height of the Great Depression of 1929-1941. The role of the Left in building resistance to capitalist exploitation and racism created the conditions for the general strikes of 1934 and the subsequent formation of the Committee on Industrial Organizations (CIO) and the United Autoworkers Union (UAW).
The period of struggle between the Great Depression–interrupted with the force of the state during the McCarthy era of the late 1940s and early 1950s–and the burgeoning mass movements of the late 1950s leading into the early 1970s, opened up new avenues of struggle which threatened the ruling class and its system of exploitation. In response the system embarked upon a period of major restructuring by the mid-to-late 1970s which was specifically designed to preserve and enhance the world capitalist system.
Of this period, Nkrumah wrote that “To avoid an internal breakdown of the system under the pressure of the workers’ protest movement, the governments of capitalist countries granted their workers certain concessions which did not endanger the basic nature of the capitalist system of exploitation. They gave them social security, higher wages, better working conditions, professional training facilities, and other improvements. (Nkrumah, p. 4)
Nkrumah points out that “These reforms helped to blur fundamental contradictions, and to remove some of the more glaring injustices while at the same time ensuring the continued exploitation of the workers. The myth was established of an affluent capitalist society promising abundance and a better life for all. The basic aim, however, was the establishment of a ‘welfare state’ as the only safeguard against the threat of fascism or communism.”
Nevertheless, the objective was to maintain the system of ever-increasing profits for the banks and other multi-national corporations. Even with the establishment of the so-called “Welfare State” in Western Europe and North America in the aftermath of World War II extending through the early 1970s, the system of exploitation and oppression remained intact.
The world capitalist and imperialist system extended reforms not only inside the industrialized states but also within the oppressed nations outside its borders. The system began to depend to greater degrees on the extraction of strategic resources from Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as the exploitation of labor in these geo-political regions.
In assessing this strategy by imperialism, Nkrumah said that “The urgent need for such reforms was made clear by the powerful growth and expansion of the liberation forces in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where revolutionary movements had not only seized power but were actually consolidating their gains. Developments in the USSR, China, Cuba, North Vietnam, North Korea, and in Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Algeria and other parts of Africa, showed that not only was the world balance of forces shifting, but that the capitalist-imperialist states were confronted with a real danger of encirclement.” (p. 5)
Some Concrete Examples in the National Liberation Revolution
The imperialist states utilized its extensive resources and networks of global finance and political intrigue to undermine the independent African states as well as the Civil Rights, Black Power, Anti-War, Women and Left movements inside the U.S. and Western Europe. In this section we want to briefly review some of these developments which occurred between the 1950s and the 1990s in Africa and throughout the Diaspora.
These events can in no way be separated from trends within the world capitalist system. Africa is still very much integrated into the networks of finance capital making the continent dependent upon mineral extraction and the extension of credit from Western financial institutions for survival.
Ghana: The Fountainhead of Pan-Africanism
Kwame Nkrumah studied in the U.S. during 1935-1945 when he went to Britain to work with George Padmore in the organization of the Fifth Pan-African Congress in October of 1945. The outcome of the Fifth Pan-African Congress which was chaired by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, led to the mass mobilization of the workers, farmers and youth of Africa for the national independence movement.
The Gold Coast in 1951 established a transitional government after Nkrumah was released from prison in order to move toward national independence in 1957. Nkrumah placed tremendous emphasis on state spending for education, social services, healthcare, economic plans for industrialization and unconditional support for the national liberation movements in other parts of Africa and the Diaspora along with a stated aim of building socialism in Ghana and throughout the continent.
The First Conference of Independent African States was held in Accra in April 1958 bringing together the peoples of Africa both north and south of the Sahara. In December of that same year, the First All-African People’s Conference was also held in Accra, bringing revolutionary Pan-African deliberations to the continent itself.
By 1960, when Ghana became a Republic, Nkrumah and the CPP had committed to building a socialist state where the formation of a United States of Africa was the principle foreign policy objective of the government. These actions were met with tremendous opposition by imperialism led by the U.S. in league with internal reactionaries who succeeded in overthrowing the Ghana state on February 24, 1966 through a military and police coup.
Nkrumah took refuge in Guinea where he had made an alliance with the ruling Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) in 1958 at the time of independence under President Ahmed Sekou Toure. Nkrumah was made Co-President of the country and continued to write and organize for the realization of Pan-Africanism and Scientific Socialism in Africa.
Guinea followed similar policies as Ghana through state control of the economy and an anti-imperialist foreign policy. Like Ghana under Nkrumah, Guinea under Sekou Toure gave maximum support to the national liberation movements and progressive states on the continent.
Guinea played a key role in the liberation of neighboring Guinea-Bissau which waged an armed struggle against Portuguese colonialism and NATOduring the period of 1961 to 1973. Nkrumah after the coup placed more emphasis on the class struggle taking place throughout Africa as is reflected in his writing published after 1966.
Algeria and the Armed Phase of the African Revolution
The FLN triumphed in its national campaign to win independence in 1962. What is often overlooked is the support given to Ben Bella and the Algerian revolutionaries by the All-African People’s Conference and in particular the independent government of Mali under President Modibo Keita.
The opening of a southern front in Algeria after 1960 ensured the success of the revolutionaries. Dr. Frantz Fanon, an African born in the Caribbean, Martinique, played a critical role in the foreign policy of the FLN during the late 1950s to 1961 when he died of cancer.
Algeria provided the first military training to the African National Congress military leaders known as Um Khonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) co-founded by Nelson Mandela. In fact when Mandela was arrested in 1962 he was charged with leaving the country to undergo military training in Algeria.
Algeria is rich in natural gas and oil and is strategically located in North Africa. The split within the FLN in 1965 leading to the coup against Ben Bella, although tragic, did not result in lessening the country’s commitment to the African Revolution.
Algeria played a key role in apprehending and liquidating the CIA-backed neo-colonialist agent Moise Tshombe of Congo. In 1967 Tshombe was captured and later died in an Algerian prison two years later.
In 1969, Algeria hosted the Pan-African Cultural Festival which re-ignited the international struggle of Black people in the aftermath of the coup against Nkrumah three years earlier. That same year, Algeria would grant political asylum to the Black Panther Party, then under vicious attack by the U.S. government through its counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO).
The Black Panther Party set up an international section in Algiers and remained there until 1972. Algeria continued to support the national liberation movements in the still-colonized regions of the continent.
The Congo Crisis and the Consolidation of Neo-Colonialism in Africa
Patrice Lumumba, the first elected Prime Minister of the former Belgian Congo made his international debut at the All-African People’s Conference in Accra, Ghana held during December 1958. Lumumba would win the support of the majority of people within Congo in his efforts to build revolutionary Pan-Africanism and a United States of Africa.
The imperialists saw developments in Congo in 1959-1960 as a threat to its neo-colonial designs for post-independence Africa. Lumumba was soon deposed, kidnapped, tortured and executed at the aegis of the CIA and other Western states.
For over three decades Congo remained within the orbit of imperialismserving as a vast reservoir for exploitation of its natural resources by the multi-national mining firms and international finance capital. Under Mobutu it also served as a rear base for the imperialists in their efforts to stifle and defeat the genuine liberation movements fighting for the total liberation of Southern Africa which was not realized until 1994 with the coming to power of the African National Congress in South Africa under Nelson Mandela.
Today, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a bastion of Western intrigue and exploitation. Whole sections of the large country are still not under the control of the central government in Kinshasa.
Since 1996, it has been estimated that as many as six million people have been killed in the DRC through civil wars that are largely the result of imperialist intervention. This pattern of mass killings has its origins in Belgian colonialism where under King Leopold II, anywhere between 8-10 million were slaughtered between 1876 and 1908.
The OAU Compromise of 1963
With the efforts of the imperialist states to sabotage the African Revolution there developed to major political blocs on the continent after the Congo crisis of 1960-61. The Casablanca Group was composed of the anti-imperialist states committed to Pan-Africanism and the Monrovia Group, which encompassed the moderate and conservative forces still wedded politically to the former colonial powers and the now dominate U.S. government.
Nkrumah described the new situation in Africa as “collective imperialism.” He wrote that “The modifications introduced by imperialism in its strategy were expressed through the disappearance of the numerous old-fashioned ‘colonies’ owing exclusive allegiance to a single metropolitan country through the replacement of ‘national’ imperialisms by a ‘collective’ imperialism in which the USA occupies the leading position.” (Handbook, p. 5)
He later goes on to highlight that “The militarization of the U.S. economy, based on the political pretext of the threatening rise of the USSR and later of the People’s Republic of China as socialist powers, enabled the U.S. to postpone its internal crisis, first during the ‘hot’ war (1939-1945) and then the during the ‘cold’ war (since 1945). “ (p. 6)
Nkrumah says that “Militarization served two main purposes, it absorbed, and continues to absorb, an excess of unorganized energy into the intense armaments drive which supports imperialist aggression and many blocs and alliances formed by imperialist powers over the last twenty years. It also made possible an expensive policy of paternalistic corruption of the poor and oppressed people of the world.” (p. 7)
The formation of the OAU brought together both the majority of moderate and conservative states with the smaller number of anti-imperialist governments led by Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Tanzania and Algeria. Such a compromise would limit the capacity of the continental organization to take a firm position against imperialism and neo-colonialism, the major enemy of the African Revolution.
Despite these limitations Nkrumah continued to call for the formation of a United States of Africa. In 1963 at the founding summit of the OAU, Nkrumah distributed his newly-completed book entitled “Africa Must Unite” in an effort to wage ideological struggle against imperialism and its agents operating within various states on the continent.
A chapter entitled “Towards African Unity” it states that “There are those who maintain that Africa cannot unite because we lack the three necessary ingredients for unity, a common race, culture and language. It is true that we have for centuries been divided. The territorial boundaries dividing us were fixed long ago, often quite arbitrarily, by the colonial powers.”(Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite, p. 132)
Yet Nkrumah goes on to stress that “All this is inevitable due to our historical background. Yet in spite of this I am convinced that the forces making for unity far outweigh those which divide us. In meeting fellow Africans from all parts of the continent I am constantly impressed by how much we have in common. It is not just our colonial past, or the fact that we have aims in common, it is something which goes far deeper. I can best describe it as a sense of one-ness in that we are Africans.”
In this book a strong emphasis is placed on the successes of the Soviet Union and China in regard to economic development. Nkrumah attributes these advances in the socialist states to national unity, state planning and the empowerment of the working class and the peasantry.
He rightfully observes that the development of Western Europe and the United States was based upon centuries of enslavement and colonization of Africa and other regions of the world. The fact that Africa needs to develop rapidly and on an egalitarian basis rooted in collective planning, there is a chapter dedicated to Ghana’s commitment to socialist construction.
Also in 1964 and 1965, Nkrumah called for the formation of a United States of Africa at the OAU summits in Egypt and Accra respectively. This same theme was later taken up by Libya under Muammar Gaddafi through the SirteDeclaration of 1999 and the opening summit of the African Union in 2002 in South Africa.
OAU Liberation Committee: A Success Amid Challenges
Perhaps the most successful aspect of the OAU’s history between 1963 and the early 1990s was the Liberation Committee which coordinated continental and international assistance to the national liberation movements. The decolonization process would reach a watershed in 1975-76 with the attempted sabotage of the national independence of Angola by imperialism.
The divisions between the three liberation groups provided an opening for the U.S. in alliance with the-then racist apartheid regime based in South Africa and Namibia to intervene in coordination with the CIA to impose a reactionary leadership over the state. The appeal by Dr. Agostinho Neto, leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), to the Cuban government under President Fidel Castro resulted in the deployment of 55,000 Cuban internationalist forces.
These forces in cooperation with anti-imperialist states in Africa such as Guinea-Conakry resulted in the first military defeat of the racist South African Defense Forces in early 1976. Cuban internationalists remained in Angola until 1989 when a comprehensive agreement for the withdrawal of South African Defense Forces from the country and the liberation of Namibia along with the release of political prisoners in South Africa and the beginning of negotiations to end the apartheid system was assured.
Earlier in Zimbabwe, the armed revolutionary forces of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriot Front and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union-Patriotic Front led to the national independence of the country formerly known as Rhodesia in April 1980. Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Lesotho all served as rear bases for the ANC military and political forces which fought for the liberation of South Africa.
Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) Reveal the Economic Face of Neo-Colonialism
After the overthrow of the CPP in Ghana in 1966, the country no longer took a progressive stand in regard to building socialism and Pan-Africanism on the continent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank virtually took over the management of the state leading to the abandonment of state enterprises and the emphasis on industrialization and a progressive foreign policy.
By the 1980s this method of restructuring post-independence African states began to spread throughout the continent. In Ghana, the so-called Economic Recovery Program (ERP) was instituted in 1983 under military leader Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings who had come to power for a second time in a military coup on January 31, 1981.
The ERP would later be named the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) and these methods were managed by the IMF and the World Bank in various African states. Uganda, after the coming to power of National Resistance Army leader Yoweri Museveni, the East African state moved in the same direction as Ghana.
Both Ghana and Uganda had been at the forefront of the Pan-African states attempting to advance continental unity and socialism during the 1960s. Ghana under Nkrumah was closely allied with Uganda under President MiltonObote who was overthrown by Gen. Idi Amin in a Western-backed coup in 1971.
Today there are many reports that would suggest that Africa is undergoing and economic revival. Nonetheless, there is still a heavy reliance on foreign exchange earnings from exports and unemployment and poverty remains high although there has been a reduction in poverty in several states.
During the so-called “Arab Spring” of late 2010 and early 2011, the underlying causes of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria were related to the failure of these governments to provide employment to youth and workers in general. The governments of Tunisia and Egypt were forced to resign in January and February 2011 respectively where Algeria was able to weather the demonstrations which seemed to be related to the country’s long term positions that were independent of the West.
In Libya, even though the imperialists and the corporate press attempted to link the western-backed rebellion which erupted in February of 2011 to developments in Tunisia and Egypt, the character of these demonstrations quickly proved to be of a totally different character politically. When the Libyan rebellion took up arms against the Jamahiriya, the revolt was suppressed by the Gaddafi government.
Utilizing the successful military and political defense of the Jamahiriya as apretext, the imperialist states rapidly went to the United Nations Security Council to pass two resolutions, 1970, placing an arms embargo on the Gaddafi government but not the CIA-trained rebels and defectors and 1973, which imposed a so-called “no-fly zone” over Libya which was a code name for a massive bombing operation that lasted for seven straights months and was carried out by the U.S. and NATO. In addition to an arms embargo and blanket bombing of Libya, the country foreign assets were frozen and the CIA was sent into the country to identify targets for aerial bombardment.
Several attempts were made on the lives of Gaddafi and his family during the course of the war. His family members were killed in airstrikes and eventually on October 20, 2011 Gaddafi’s convoy was struck by bombs inSirte. He was later captured, brutally beaten, tortured and shot to death by an alleged militia group that was supported by the Pentagon, the CIA and NATO.
Since the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, the oil-rich North African state has sunk into chaos. Four U.S. CIA officers were killed in Benghazi last September 11 posing as Washington diplomats. The New York Times reported that the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the otherthree Americans was the greatest blow to the CIA in three decades.
AFRICOM-NATO and the Militarization of Africa
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was formed officially in early 2008 with its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Attempts to place the AFRICOM headquarters in Africa was met with substantial resistance from individual states and the African Union. However, the U.S. does have a military base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.
In addition to this base, there are drone stations, CIA stations and other joint operations between the U.S. and various African states in Somalia, Ethiopia, Seychelles, South Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana and other states. Obama announced in December of 2012 that his administration was dispatching 3,500 Special Forces and military trainers to 35 African states in purported efforts to assist in the fight against “terrorism.”
Yet the horrendous war crimes carried out by the U.S. under Obama gets relatively no opposition within the U.S. Congress even among the Congressional Black Caucus. In Libya some two million people were displaced and anywhere between 50,000-100,000 people were killed by the U.S.-NATO war of aggression and regime-change.
Thousands of Africans remain in post-Gaddafi Libyan jails that are run by militias who are given free reign by the U.S.-NATO backed General National Congress (GNC). An International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation which visited Libya during 2012 to investigate the conditions surrounding the detention of Seif al-Islam, the oldest son of Gaddafi and his heir apparent, was detained by the Zintan militia holding this political prisoner.
The ICC, commonly referred to as the “African Criminal Court” due to its sole preoccupation with African statesmen and rebel leaders, had indicted Gaddafi and members of his government during the imperialist war against Libya in 2011. These leaders were indicted on false charges related to the efforts to defend the country against the western-led rebels who had terrorized the country for months but have escaped the scrutiny of the ICC based in The Hague.
The United Nations and other international bodies have remained largely silent on the crimes against humanity being committed in counter-revolutionary Libya. This also holds true of developments in Somalia, where the CIA and the Pentagon has carried out drone and airstrikes that have resulted in the murder of thousands of people.
Africans have continued to resist the onslaught of AFRICOM and its surrogates on the continent. It was reported in May 2013 that at least 3,000 AMISOM troops have been killed in Somalia in efforts to attempt to suppress the resistance by Al Shabaab to imperialist-backed interference in this Horn of Africa state.
The wars in Libya and Somalia have spilled over into neighboring Mali, Niger and Kenya respectively. Kenya has 2,000-3,000 troops occupying southern Somalia at the aegis of the U.S.
The military intervention by the Pentagon, the CIA and NATO countries will escalate in the short term due to the growing strategic role Africa is playingwithin the world capitalist system. Throughout East and Central Africa there have been large finding of oil, natural gas and other strategic resources. At present at least 25 percent of the oil that is imported into the United States is coming from the African continent, which now exceeds the amount of petroleum that is exported to the U.S. from the entire Arabian Peninsula.
The Way Forward For Africa and the Diaspora
In order for Africa and its people to develop there must be decisive a break with the imperialist system of finance capital. With the deepening crisis of the world capitalism, the economic system is providing no real solutions tothe problems of Africa, nor for its own peoples in Europe and North America.
Europe remains in deep recession with the countries of the South facing astronomical unemployment rates that exceed 25 percent. Even in France, Britain and Germany, the economic crisis has drained the national reserves compelling the central banks to bailout the financial institutions in order to stave off a total collapse.
In the U.S. the rates of poverty and unemployment in real terms are staggering. Nearly half of the people in the U.S. consider themselves to be living in poverty or near poverty.
This economic crisis has become a political one since the White House, Congress, Downing Street, Brussels and Paris are providing no alternative ideas on how to extricate the capitalist system from the economic malaise impacting hundreds of millions of workers, farmers and youth. The only proposals coming out of the halls of the ruling class and their surrogates in government call for greater austerity measures and mechanism to limit any semblance of democratic debate, discussion and collective action.
Our task relates to political education, mobilization and organization of the masses of people to work towards the solutions of these challenges. The crisis in Africa and the Diaspora is by no means isolated from the broader struggle of the peoples of the world.
In Africa there has been a tremendous degree of movement towards alliances with other states on the continent and throughout the so-called Global South. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has held five summits since 2000 resulting in an escalation of both economic and political cooperation between the two regions. Africa is now the largest trading partner with the People’s Republic of China.
In Zimbabwe the ZANU-PF government in 2000 took decisive action by seizing the land which the people fought long years for during the armed revolutionary struggle. The government of President Robert Mugabe was vilified by the West and its allies where today research has shown that the land seizures have improved both productivity and income for the African agricultural workers and farmers.
This experience in Zimbabwe is being looked at by other African states in the Southern Africa region and other areas. In South Africa and Namibia the masses of workers, youth and farmers long for the full realization of the objectives of the national democratic revolutions.
South Africa has the largest and most organized working class on the continent. The unrest in the mining industry and the agricultural sector is pushing the country towards looking at nationalization and seizure of the land and the means of production.
The African Union must take action to remove the U.S., France, Britain,Germany, Israel and other imperialist states and their partners from the continent. The ongoing problems of Africa can be traced back to the dominance of the imperialist system throughout the continent.
With reference to the African Diaspora in North America and Europe, the struggle against racism and national oppression takes on critical significance. The forces of the African Diaspora, motivated by Pan-African ideals has and can continue to play a decisive role in the overall consolidation of the African independence movement and the move towards Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.
Nkrumah in Africa Must Unite wrote that “The expression ‘Pan-Africanism’ did not come into use until the beginning of the twentieth century when Henry Sylvester Williams of Trinidad, and William Edward Burghhardt Du Bois of the United States of America, both of African descent, used it at several Pan-African Congresses which were mainly attended by scholars of African descent. A notable contribution to African nationalism and Pan-Africanism was the ‘Back to Africa’ movement of Marcus Garvey.” (p. 133)
Since 1963, the African American and Caribbean African people have played a pivotal role in the struggle to popularize the concept of African liberation. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Southern African solidarity struggle influenced by African Americans brought into existence the first legislative and administrative actions against the apartheid regime.
With the advent of the Obama administration the need to emphasize a class character to the Pan-African struggle is essential. Africa is not the backyard of U.S. imperialism and must be given the opportunity to exercise full and genuine independence and sovereignty.
In the U.S. the cities in which African Americans reside are facing monumental economic crisis and the evisceration of political power won through the popular struggles of the post-World War II period. Principled alliances with progressive African states and mass organizations will provide avenues for the struggle to eradicate underdevelopment and neo-colonialism from the continent and among the oppressed nations held captive by the West.
Therefore as Nkrumah stressed in the Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare “African unity implies that imperialism and foreign oppression should be eradicated in all their forms. That neo-colonialism should be recognized and eliminated and that the new African nation must develop within a continental framework.” (p. 27)
Nkrumah goes on to say that “At the core of the concept of African unity lies socialism and the socialist definition of the new African society. Socialism and African unity are organically complementary. There is only one true socialism and that is scientific socialism, the principles of which are abiding and universal. “(p. 29)
Short of revolutionary Pan-Africanism based on scientific socialism, Africans and their allies throughout the world must work toward defining and exercising the maximum degree of organization and mobilization aimed at the transformation of capitalist society and the world imperialist system.These are the lessons of the last five decades and they must be assessed in order to move forward with the total liberation of Africa and its people.
Anyone who is familiar with American politics must have come across the expression: “the American Dream.” This term essentially conveys the idea that anyone in America can succeed through hard work and has the potential to lead a happy and successful life. Indeed, the American dream was one of the stepping-stones for American revolutionaries like Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Like the American people, Africans have always had a dream. This dream however is not the so-called “democracy” which is usually proclaimed in the corporate media. It is not African leaders running to Europe every week for expensive “routine medical check-ups” while the ordinary African is left at the mercy of the collapsed health infrastructure. It is not African leaders running to China and America, begging for loans to help fight malaria and HIV/AIDS. It is not seeing young children of school-going age hawking in the streets, selling dog chains, sachet water, and doughnuts among others in search of school fees, while our leaders rob public coffers and deposit stolen wealth in offshore accounts. It is not Africans surviving on less than $2 a day while politicians and their families swim in luxury, holidaying and shopping in Dubai.
It is never an African dream to have many educated Africans stranded in Europe, sweeping the streets, cleaning and obediently washing dishes abroad despite having degrees and qualifications that can tremendously transform the African continent. Who said it was an African dream for Africa to import toothpicks, genetically modified food, chemically induced chicken, second-hand clothing (including underwear), refined crude, shoes and clothing, when Africa has what it takes to locally produce these things? Is it an African dream for the African people to continue borrowing from the World Bank and use the money to import American rice at the same time? Is it an African dream to be living in darkness when Africa has what it takes to provide electricity for herself and the rest of the world? Is it an African dream for the annual salaries of African teachers to be insufficient to purchase a simple laptop or car when their colleagues in politics have enough to buy luxurious four-wheel-drives and several mansions abroad?
After 50 years of our flag independence, almost every single project that could potentially bring relief to the African people has either been abandoned or is pending. Thanks to IMF-imposed policies, our local oil refineries have shut operations. Our raw crude is shipped to European refineries after which the refined product is imported back to Africa. Many of the factories which were built in Africa to process strategic resources like bauxite and copper have been forced by IMF-imposed policies to shut down and rot. Africa has remained the producer of raw materials and dumping ground of European, American and Chinese products. Is this the African dream?
Look at Ghana, the so-called “model of African democracy.” Ghanaians have been living in total darkness. All major power generating projects initiated by Nkrumah have been abandoned. We have many rivers and lakes, yet we cannot generate reliable electricity for the people. We have too much sunlight that shines across the country 350 days a year, yet we don’t generate solar energy to augment the power shortage which has become a major crisis for more than 25 years. Electricity in Africa, especially in Ghana, operates like disco lights. Even within the capital city, people are forced to stay in darkness for at least fifteen hours a day. Is this the African dream? I find it so hard to imagine that there are many public officials and engineers at the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) whose main duty is to ensure that several parts of the country are shut down without electricity on a daily basis for the past 15 years. They get paid for doing this job. What a country!
When are we going to have visionary leaders in Africa? We’re still struggling despite our plenteous gold, diamond, timber, bauxite, crude oil and cocoa, the resource which Nkrumah used to transform Ghana in less than 8 years.
While Asian and Latin American leaders are busy building gigantic roads and bridges, our leaders here in Africa are only interested in building gigantic statues which serve the ordinary person no useful purpose. African leaders are quick to mount statues in honour of Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara, among others, while they ignore the social intervention programmes launched by such revolutionary leaders that were to bring about relief to the African people until their assassination/overthrow. African leaders are measuring their level of success by the amount of Chinese loans or World Bank grants they are able to lobby for, although a high percentage of such money ends up in the respective leaders’ offshore bank accounts.
The African child, like his American and European counterpart, is yearning for a 3-square-meal a day without necessarily being the son of the president, politician or some wealthy African king. The African child also deserves to dwell in a clean environment and a comfortable home. The African child is yearning for equal access to quality education, quality healthcare, portable water supply, reliable electricity supply and security, among others.
The African youth need jobs and a framework within which they will harness their talents; not political speeches. The current level of youth un-employment in Africa which stands at 50% is simply unacceptable. African youth have brilliant ideas and excellent innovations, yet there are no proper systems to support such people. No wonder, armed robbery, internet fraud, prostitution and other social vices are becoming the order of the day.
In 2012, the World Bank gave $100m to Ghana “to help fight malaria and other communicable diseases.” Shockingly, the sector minister suggested that the amount was still not enough for the said purpose. Yet within the same year (2012), Ghana spent more than $600m on democracy. This does not include the amount which the various political parties wasted on political rallies, TV commercials, and gigantic billboards and so on. In the same period, it was reported that many students could not write their final exams due to lack of funds. Are we serious? Is Ghana truly the model of good governance and Africa’s democracy?
The African dream is found in our rich cultural heritage, the rich minerals of Africa and in the minds of the young talented African youth whose burning desire has been ignored by our leaders. Our old men in government have hijacked this beautiful dream and handed it to their foreign donors to whom they owe their loyalty and allegiance.
The African dream has remained a pipe dream for far too long. It is imperative that incompetent leaders quit the corridors of power to pave way for dynamic and vibrant leadership. The time to live the African dream is now. Governments must concentrate on setting up infrastructure that will lift the living standards of the citizenry instead of mounting gigantic statues. We need to reform our colonial educational system to place more emphasis on practical science and technical education. The current book-oriented educational system has failed Africa. It is time for real practical solutions that will enable Africans to confront their challenges to be taught in the classrooms. It is time the African dream was taken back from foreign capitals and donors and nurtured here in Africa. It is time African leaders invested in their countries instead of stashing money abroad. It is time it was legislated that Africa’s looted funds be repatriated to Africa, used for the benefit of the African people and the assets of individuals encouraging capital flight be frozen. Let us begin to live the African dream from today.
The writer email@example.com is a Pan-African analyst and the founder of the Project Pan-Africa (PPA), an organization that was established to unlock the minds of the African youth to take Africa’s destiny into their hands.
Segregation exists in the employment practices and positioning of Africans within the World Bank as a result of racist institutional practice. Africans are muted in the Bank’s boardrooms, where strategic policies that have significant bearings on Africa are set and this needs to radically change
In a recent article published in this forum Phyllis Muhammad wrote about “the twin evils that have bedeviled the World Bank’s relationship with Africa as a continent and Africans as human beings.” Her article opened a space for a new perspective and discourse, identifying the twin evils as structural and cultural. The structural “concerns a ‘democracy deficit’ in the Bank’s governance architecture that has denied Africa voice in the institution’s Boardroom.” The cultural “involves institutional discrimination in the day-to-day management of the Bank.” See “Unmasking Racist World Bank,” (12/18/2012).
The purpose of this article is to show that Africans are virtually absent at any level to influence global policies that affect their continent’s destiny. Since the late 1990s, Africa has taken center stage of the Bank’s business, accounting for 50 percent of the International Development Association funds. However, as Ms. Muhammad noted “Sub Saharan Africa, home for 30 percent of the world’s poor, was allotted 5.55 percent of the World Bank’s voting rights.” Africans are muted in the Bank’s Boardrooms, where strategic policies that have significant bearings on Africa are set.
A corollary question is: “who speaks for Africa at the management, and administrative level in the day-to-day decision making process of the World Bank?” According to the World Bank, its primary focus in terms of providing voice to its client countries is “its diversity in composition associated with its global nature.” This means in a very broad sense Africans would have a reasonably meaningful role in the Bank’s management in general, and in the Bank’s decision making process for Africa in particular. But alas that is not the case. Blacks in the World Bank’s professional cohort account for a mere 5.4 percent in the seven most important vice presidential units (VPUs) where strategic development policies and poverty alleviation programs are formulated (See Table 1). The data shows percentage of Black professionals.
It should be noted that the 5.4 percent figure represents mostly entry level professional grades and also includes white South Africans and Africans of Asian origin. If only blacks were to be counted the 5.4 percent will be far below 5 percent. It should also be noted that representation of Blacks at management level in the seven VPUs is closer to zero percent.
What is also notable is that the situation has gotten worse between 2009 and 2011, showing an overall 20 percent reduction in representation of Blacks in professional positions in the seven VPUs from an already low level of 6.3 percent in 2009. This is a reflection of the total disregard for racial equality during Robert Zoellick’s presidency (2007-2012). Making matters worse the HR vice president, Hasan Tuluy, showed no interest in discharging his responsibility. Representation of Blacks declined in his own vice presidency (HRSVP) from 10.1 to 9.2 percent between 2009 and 2011, dropping further to 8.7 percent in 2012 (See World Bank HR Analytics FY2012).
BLACKS ARE SEGREGATED IN THE AFRICA REGIONAL VPU
In general, Blacks are segregated in the Africa VPU. The term widely used inside the Bank is ‘ghettoization’ of Blacks because the Africa regional VPU was nicknamed ‘the ghetto of the Bank’ in a public meeting by one of the Bank’s senior officials in 1996. A 2003 World Bank Report acknowledged ‘Blacks are told they can only work in the Africa region because they can be more competitive there and some nationals do not want to work with Blacks.’ A 2004 study by the Strategic Staffing wing of the Bank’s HRSVP shows that only Africans are segregated in their regional VPU, while other races are widely represented in all Bank VPUs.
In 2005, the Staff Association appealed to the Personnel Committee of the Bank’s Board to ‘address seriously the issue of ‘ghettoization’ to ensure that diversity cuts across the institution.’ Their repeated appeals fell in deaf ears. In 2011, Blacks accounted for 2.1 percent of the professional cohort in the East Asia and Pacific regional VPU. The corresponding figure for the Africa regional VPU is 45.2 percent (see Table 2). It should be noted that the 5.4 percent figure represents mostly entry level professional grades and also includes white South Africans and Africans of Asian origin. If only blacks were to be counted the 5.4 percent will be far below 5 percent. It should also be noted that representation of Blacks at management level in the seven VPUs is closer to zero percent.
What is also notable is that the situation has gotten worse between 2009 and 2011, showing an overall 20 percent reduction in representation of Blacks in professional positions in the seven VPUs from an already low level of 6.3 percent in 2009. This is a reflection of the total disregard for racial equality during Robert Zoellick’s presidency (2007-2012). Making matters worse his HR vice president showed no interest in discharging his responsibility. Representation of Blacks declined in his own vice presidency (HRSVP) from 10.1 to 9.2 percent between 2009 and 2011, dropping further to 8.7 percent in 2012 (See World Bank HR Analytics FY2012).
BLACKS ARE SEGREGATED IN THE AFRICA REGIONAL VPU
In general, Blacks are segregated in the Africa VPU. The term widely used inside the Bank is “ghettoization” of Blacks because the Africa regional VPU was nicknamed “the ghetto of the Bank” in a public meeting by one of the Bank’s senior officials in 1996. A 2003 World Bank Report acknowledged “Blacks are told they can only work in the Africa region because they can be more competitive there and some nationals do not want to work with Blacks.” A 2004 study by the Strategic Staffing wing of the Bank’s HRSVP shows that only Africans are segregated in their regional VPU, while other races are widely represented in all Bank VPUs.
In 2005, the Staff Association appealed to the Personnel Committee of the Bank’s Board to “address seriously the issue of ‘ghettoization’ to ensure that diversity cuts across the institution.” Their repeated appeals fell in deaf ears. In 2011, Blacks accounted for 2.1 percent of the professional cohort in the East Asia and Pacific regional VPU. The corresponding figure for the Africa regional VPU is 45.2 percent (see Table 2).
The data also shows blacks are relatively more represented in the Middle East and North Africa (6.7%), Latin America and the Caribbean (6.0%), and South Asia (5.1%) compared to 2.1% in East Asia and the Pacific and 4.6% in Eastern Europe and central Asia. The 6.7%, 6.0% and 5.1% figures reflect relatively high representation of blacks in regions where the population consists of black and/or brown people. For example, the majority of Black staff in the Latin America and Caribbean regional VPU are in the Caribbean islands.
AFRICA ORPHANED AND UNDER GUARDIANSHIP
How well represented are Blacks in the management of the African regional VPU? The data is available within the Bank, but not made readily accessible. Data compiled by Justice for Blacks from the Bank’s 2008 and 2013 telephone directory is presented in Table 3 showing the average of the two years.
As noted above Black professionals are segregated in the African regional VPU representing 45.2 percent of the professional body, but account only for 21.7 percent of the management team. Asians account for 20.1 percent and Europeans, and North Americans represent 51.8 percent of the senior management cohort in the Africa VPU. Leaving Europeans and North Americans (who constitute a large majority in every region’s management team) aside, Blacks in general have less say in the management of Africa than Asians, Latin Americans and people from the Middle East. Managers from the three regions account for 26.6 percent. This is unique only for the Africa region.
In comparison, Asians account for 32 percent of East Asia’s and 36 percent of South Asia’s Management teams. Blacks, Latin Americans and Middle Eastern staff account, respectively, for 6 and 10 percent of East Asia’s and South Asia’s management. Another interesting point is that Europeans and North Americans account for 56 percent of the management cohort of the Bank, but represent 77.3 percent of the management team in Europe and Central Asia.
ARE THERE NOT QUALIFIED BLACKS TO FILL MANAGEMENT POSITIONS IN THE AFRICA VPU?
Economic development is not all about complex general equilibrium and macroeconomic models. Nor is it all about fancy econometrics. Economic actions are governed not only by quantifiable macro economic and financial variables, but also by unquantifiable social organization of networks as well as by informal norms and culture that general equilibrium models do not capture. Intimate knowledge of Africa’s norms and culture is important in shaping its development trajectory. Nonetheless, not a single black African has been appointed regional chief Economist for Africa. This, in and of itself, is conspicuous in light of the fact that in the past a number of the Chief Economists for East and South Asia have been Asians. What can explain the virtual absence of Black managers in the African regional VPU? Is there not an adequate pool of qualified Blacks to fill management positions in Africa?
Overall, Blacks account for 15 percent of the Bank’s work force, but a large majority, including those with MBA and PhD degrees, are concentrated in sub-professional levels or short term consultancy assignments. The Bank’s own 1998 report acknowledges that “black staff members are recruited disproportionately in the secretarial grades, ignoring the educational and professional success they have achieved.” The report goes on to note that “many of them are qualified for the professional ranks of the Bank.” A 2005 Staff Association report highlighted:
• It is not unusual to see many black graduates of US Ivy league schools in critical areas in demand in the Bank trapped in the short term consultant stream after many years in the Bank (15 years for some).
• It is also not unusual to see Bank staff of African descent, with more than 30 years of Bank experience, with excellent performance evaluations, graduates of US Ivy League schools, with PhDs, in the sunsets of their careers [never having broken into the management ranks.]
Let us provide three examples out of several dozens of cases.
EN v. World Bank (2000) Mr. EN holds two graduate degrees from leading universities and Grandes Ecoles in France, including an MBA and Masters in Economics and two Post Graduate degrees in Banking and Finance, and Information Systems and Business Reengineering. Grand Ecoles in the French system are equivalent to Ivy Leagues in the US. Mr. EN was one of 17 graduate students accepted into one of the Post Graduate programs out of 700 competing candidates.
Mr. EN authored two widely referenced books on African economic development. He also won two Awards of Excellence from the World Bank and IFC, the private sector wing of the Bank. These are awards given to exceptional performers. Mr. EN is a globally recognized expert who has delivered keynote speeches in a number of high level forums in Africa, Europe and the US.
Anyone with such an extraordinary achievement and international recognition should have move up the World Bank’s management ladder in a short time. Indeed, two of Mr. EN’s post graduate classmates are vice presidents in the World Bank. Others are in leadership positions at the IMF and a number of large private corporations. Unfortunately, in the eyes of some World Bank managers Mr. EN’s achievements could not overshadow two major handicaps: His color and place of origin.
During his tenure with the World Bank (1995-2000), Mr. EN was a Team Leader for Private Sector Development (PSD) for a number of African countries. In spite of being a team leader, he had the lowest salary in the team. Some of his team members were paid more than 70 percent than he was. Mr. EN complained about this unjust salary differential. The HR reviewed his salary and sent him a note acknowledging that his salary was low and advising him to talk to his manager. He did as advised and this was the beginning of the end of Mr. EN’s position in PSD. The manager claimed that he would need to first “open Mr. EN’s position for competition” before he could adjust his salary. On this basis, in 2000, Mr. EN applied for the very position he had been holding and performing with excellence since 1995. Shortly thereafter, he was informed that the position had been cancelled for “budgetary reasons” and his service was no longer needed in PSD.
Mr. EN applied for the position of manager for Strategy in the IFC. He went through a series of interviews which went very well. IFC promised to send him a letter of employment. While he was waiting for the letter, he was informed that the manager’s position had been cancelled and he would be hired as Senior Strategy Officer. Mr. EN was given a position one pay scale below what he was cleared for. His performance with IFC was excellent as documented in his annual performance evaluation and his Award for Excellence. Unfortunately, a new director came and made it clear from the day he arrived in the department that he was not interested in having Mr. EN in his department. The director claimed he needed to reorganize the department and let Mr. EN go even though he was the only member of the team with an Award for Excellence.
BK v. World Bank (2011)
Having earned a Masters Degree, graduating at the top of his class, and being an award winning Ph.D. in Economics from one of the leading universities in France, Dr. BK joined the Bank through the very selective Young Professionals (YP) program in 1986. The YP program annually selects about 30 high caliber youngsters out of a pool of 10,000 accomplished applicants from around the world. Most YPs go through the ranks fairly quickly to high-level management positions. Two of Dr. BK’s YP cohorts made it to Vice president. Many are Directors and the rest are at least Sector Managers. Dr. BK was the only one who did not break into the management grade, despite an excellent performance record and recognition at different levels including by a former President of the Bank, James Wolfensohn, for exemplary work. Every time he was up for promotion or for a higher grade assignment the Bank freely violated its rules and kept him trapped bellow the glass ceiling.
Between 2005 and 2010 Dr. BK applied for 14 positions, but without success. During all those unsuccessful attempts, he made the shortlist only a few times. This is despite the Bank’s hyped public relations campaign to assist qualified Africans to get promoted to management ranks following the Bank’s highly publicized but never enforced “zero tolerance for discrimination.”
Far from assisting Dr. BK, the Bank blocked his promotion repeatedly using discriminatory actions. For example, for one of the management positions his prospect for promotion was high as the most qualified applicant in the shortlist. However, the Bank gave the position to a non-black candidate, who was not even on the short list. It should be noted that the chosen candidate’s application was turned down by the short-listing Committee because the candidate did not meet the advertised minimum requirement for the position.
Dr. BK had seven different racial discrimination cases. In the first two cases the Bank mediated the cases and compensated him financially without admitting fault. In the next three cases the Bank’s Tribunal reviewed his charges of discrimination and summarily dismissed them, but found that the Bank violated its HR procedures in the recruitment process in which Dr. BK was denied higher level positions, and the Tribunal awarded him financial compensation instead. In the last two cases the Tribunal ruled he could not be compensated because he had been compensated in previous similar cases, even though cases six and seven involved separate causes of action that he presented on the merits without relying on any of his previous cases.
Bo v. World Bank (2011)
Dr. Bo has an exemplary professional career at the Bank. For example, he task managed the influential “Can Africa Claim the 21st Century” report (2000); and co-managed the “Evaluation of the Banks Comprehensive Development Framework: CDF” report (2001). The CDF was a major milestone in development partnership, aimed at enhancing recipient countries’ ownership of their development discourse by moving away from the dysfunctional and ill-fated ex-ante conditionality to ex-post and results-oriented aid relations. The CDF provided the conceptual framework for the Bank’s poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) aid modality. Moreover, as the Bank’s leading expert on the economics of civil wars and conflicts Dr. BO directed four major research projects on the subject during 1999-2008 that produced more than 30 research papers, three books, two special editions of journals, and several policy and operational products.
Having gone through a very extensive competitive process, Dr. Bo was short-listed, interviewed by senior managers and selected to fill the Chief Economist position for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region of the Bank. His appointment was stopped by former President Robert Zoellick, who insisted that the Bank “can do even better” and instructed his senior management team to reopen the competition process and expand the list to include women and candidates with “a better name recognition in the MENA region.” The President’s instruction “to do even better” without clearly defining what that means is a telling example.
After the Bank failed to find a woman candidate who met one of the key selection criteria for the job, “deep knowledge about the MENA region,” the Bank dropped the requirement altogether. Obviously, a candidate without knowledge of the region cannot have name recognition in the region as an expert. Therefore, it, too, was dropped from the criteria and Dr. Bo’s selection was ruled out and the position was given to another candidate. Why did the search for a candidate “with a better name recognition,” presumably better than Dr. Bo, end up selecting a candidate without name recognition? Did the Bank “do even better” by appointing a candidate who did not meet the two abovementioned selection criteria? Did the Bank “do even better” by not appointing Dr. Bo, who met all the selection criteria?
Dr. Bo’s appointment as Chief Economist would also have served an important diversity objective, of which the Bank’s record is nothing short of appalling. If appointed, Dr. Bo would have been the first Chief Economist of African descent since the inception of the World Bank over 65 years ago.
Each of the above three individuals filed discrimination complaints, but the Tribunal summarily rejected their discrimination claims with abject disregard for the merits of their cases. A further review of the Tribunal’s systemic violation of the due process rights of Blacks is presented with breathtaking evidence by Taye Abayre in an article entitled “World Bank: Anatomy of a Criminal Tribunal.” Suffice it to say that such a persistent, pernicious pattern of denying African staff due process in promotion cases, particularly those cases of African staff occupying the professional levels, whether by Bank management or its Tribunal, firmly institutionalizes the culture of obstructing Africans from influencing global policies that affect their continent’s destiny. Depriving Africa of the contributions of its own professional development experts leaves it orphaned.
Our planet is entering the new century with fully 1.3 billion people living on less than one dollar a day. Three billion people, or half the population of the world, live on less than two dollars a day. Yet this same planet is experiencing unprecedented economic growth. The statistics that describe the accumulation of wealth in the world are mind-boggling. From where we sit, the most staggering statistics of all are those that reflect the polarization of this wealth. In 1960 the richest 20% of the world’s population had 70% of the world’s wealth, today they have 86% of the wealth. In 1960 the poorest 20% of the world’s population had just 2.3% of the wealth of the world. Today this has shrunk to just barely 1%.
What happens to poor countries when they embrace free trade? In Haiti in 1986 we imported just 7000 tons of rice, the main staple food of the country. The vast majority was grown in Haiti. In the late 1980s Haiti complied with free trade policies advocated by the international lending agencies and lifted tariffs on rice imports. Cheaper rice immediately flooded in from the United States where the rice industry is subsidized. In fact the liberalization of Haiti’s market coincided with the 1985 Farm Bill in the United States which increased subsidies to the rice industry so that 40% of U.S. rice growers’ profits came from the government by 1987. Haiti’s peasant farmers could not possibly compete. By 1996 Haiti was importing 196,000 tons of foreign rice at the cost of $100 million a year. Haitian rice production became negligible. Once the dependence on foreign rice was complete, import prices began to rise, leaving Haiti’s population, particularly the urban poor, completely at the whim of rising world grain prices. And the prices continue to rise.
… in 1995, severely indebted low-income countries paid one billion dollars more in debt and interest to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) than they received from it. For the 46 countries of Subsaharan Africa, foreign debt service was four times their combined governmental health and education budgets in 1996. So, we find that aid does not aid.
In 1982 international agencies assured Haiti’s peasants their pigs were sick and had to be killed (so that the illness would not spread to countries to the North). Promises were made that better pigs would replace the sick pigs. With an efficiency not since seen among development projects, all of the Creole pigs were killed over period of a thirteen months.
Two years later the new, better pigs came from lowa. They were so much better that they required clean drinking water (unavailable to 80% of the Haitian population), imported feed (costing $90 a year when the per capita income was about $130), and special roofed pigpens. Haitian peasants quickly dubbed them “prince a quatre pieds,” (four-footed princes). Adding insult to injury, the meat did not taste as good. Needless to say, the repopulation program was a complete failure. One observer of the process estimated that in monetary terms Haitian peasants lost $600 million dollars. There was a 30% drop in enrollment in rural schools, there was a dramatic decline in the protein consumption in rural Haiti, a devastating decapitalization of the peasant economy and an incalculable negative impact on Haiti’s soil and agricultural productivity. The Haitian peasantry has not recovered to this day.
Most of rural Haiti is still isolated from global markets, so for many peasants the extermination of the Creole pigs was their first experience of globalization. The experience looms large in the collective memory. Today, when the peasants are told that “economic reform” and privatization will benefit them they are understandably wary. The state-owned enterprises are sick, we are told, and they must be privatized. The peasants shake their heads and remember the Creole pigs.
The 1997 sale of the state-owned flour mill confirmed their skepticism. The mill sold for a mere $9 million, while estimates place potential yearly profits at $20-30 million a year. The mill was bought by a group of investors linked to one of Haiti’s largest banks. One outcome seems certain; this sale will further concentrate wealth-in a country where 1% of the population already holds 45% of the wealth of the country.
If we have lingering doubts about where poor countries fall in this “new” economic order, listen to the World Bank. In September 1996, the London Guardian cited a draft World Bank strategy paper that predicted that the majority of Haitian peasants-who make up 70% of Haiti’s population-are unlikely to survive bank-advocated free market measures. The Bank concluded: “The small volume of production and the environmental resource constraints will leave the rural population with only two possibilities: to work in the industrial or service sector, or to emigrate.” At present the industrial sector employs only about 20,000 Haitians. There are already approximately 2.5 million people living in Port-au-Prince, 70% of them are officially unemployed and living in perhaps the most desperate conditions in the Western Hemisphere. Given the tragic history of Haiti’s boat people, emigration, the second possibility, can hardly be considered a real option.
The choices that globalization offers the poor remind me of a story. Anatole, one of the boys who had lived with us at Lafanmi Selavi, was working at the national port. One day a very powerful businessman offered him money to sabotage the main unloading forklift at the port. Anatole said to the man, “Well, then I am already dead.” The man, surprised by the response, asked, “Why?” Anatole answered, “because if I sneak in here at night and do what you ask they will shoot me, and if I don’t, you will kill me.” The dilemma is, I believe, the classic dilemma of the poor; a choice between death and death. Either we enter a global economic system, in which we know we cannot survive, or, we refuse, and face death by slow starvation. With choices like these the urgency of finding a third way is clear. We must find some room to maneuver, some open space simply to survive. We must lift ourselves up off the morgue table and tell the experts we are not yet dead.
The average Haitian survives on less than 250 U.S. dollars a year. This requires imagination every day. One percent of the population controls 45% of the national wealth.
In nations around the world, even those experiencing rapid economic growth, there are millions of children living on the streets, refugees of a system that puts the market before the person. If we listen closely, these children have a message for the new century. Thirteen years ago we opened a center for street children in Port-au-Prince. In 1996, we opened a radio station with our 400 kids. Radyo Timoun (Little People’s Radio) broadcasts their music, their news, and their commentaries 14 hours a day. In a world in which a child under the age of 5 dies every 3 seconds, children must speak. In a commentary on democracy prepared by three eleven-year-old girls, democracy was defined as food, school, and health care for everyone. Simplistic or visionary? For them democracy in Haiti doesn’t mean a thing unless the people can eat.
Democracy asks us to put the needs and rights of people at the center of our endeavors. This means investing in people. Investing in people means first of all food, clean water, education and healthcare. These are basic human rights. It is the challenge of (any real democracy to guarantee them.
Ironically, in many countries of the South the transition to democracy comes at a time when states are being forced to rapidly divest of resources, saddled with debt, abandoning the economic field to market forces, and playing a smaller and smaller role in the provision of basic human services. They have neither the money nor the will to invest in their people. Today democracy risks being rapidly outpaced by the galloping global economy. If democracy in rich countries and poor ones alike is to be more than a facade, nice in theory, but irrelevant in the face of global economic relationships, our concept and practice of democracy must make a giant leap forward. We must democratize democracy.
Do not confuse democracy with the holding of elections every four or five years. Elections are the exam, testing the health of our system. Voter participation is the grade. But school is in session every day. Only the day-to-day participation of the people at all levels of governance can breathe life into democracy and create the possibility for people to play a significant role in shaping the state and the society that they want.
I recently heard a beautiful story about holding representatives accountable in democracy. In Columbia a member of an indigenous community was elected to parliament to represent his people. On one particularly important vote, the community elders had decided how they wished their representative to vote. The parliamentarian, now far away from his community in the halls of power in the capital, voted differently. Again the elders met and agreed that for defying the wishes of the community he was elected to represent, the parliamentarian should walk many miles through the mountains and then bathe in the freezing water of a sacred mountain lake in order to purge himself. This he did, and balance within the community was restored. Perhaps this technique would not be appropriate elsewhere, but the point is that it is up to each country and indeed each community to search for ways to both keep the peace and protect against the potential betrayal of elected leaders.
In a country where only 20% of the population have access to clean drinking water, swimming pools are exclusively for the rich. There is not a single public swimming pool in Haiti. The pool itself is a symbol of the elite.
The neo-liberal strategy is to weaken the state in order to have the private sector replace the state.
Today we face complex networks of communications and disinformation, corporations with budgets hundreds of times the size of our national budget, and an army of international financial, trade, and development institutions. The panorama of threats is so daunting that sometimes I say perhaps our only strength is that the majority of the people did not go to school. They are not yet assimilated into this machine. Their minds remain their own and they are experts at unearthing the truth in a morass of disinformation.
It would take six billion dollars a year, for three years, in addition to what is already spent, to put every child in the world in school. Does this seem like a lot? It represents less than 1% of world military spending.
I see [for the children of Haiti a future] country with 85% literacy, rather than 85% illiteracy. Cooperatives flourish in villages and in the informal sectors of the cities. Water is flowing through the fields of the countryside-where food enough for all of Haiti’s people is growing. Creole pigs are seen more and more in the countryside, the descendants of those few that the peasants hid away and saved from extermination. Seedlings are beginning to take root on the mountainsides. The seedlings have a chance at survival because the people are no longer in misery, but are already on the road to poverty with dignity. There are primary schools and health clinics in every municipality of Haiti. The schoolbooks are not just half-price-they are free, in accordance with Article 32.1 of our constitution which promises a free education to every Haitian child.
Whilst the international community celebrates the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2012,Sankara Kamara reflects on the dehumanization and outright denial of human rights for Africans through the experiences of enslavement and colonisation
On 10 December 2012, the international community celebrated the 64th anniversary of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ On the same day in 1948, the phrase ‘International Community,’ assumed a new meaning when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ By formally making ‘human rights’ international, the world became a place where the dignity of every human being is theoretically recognized.
EDIFYING YOUNG MINDS
The purpose of this article is to edify young African minds by discussing an aspect of our history slowly forgotten by some of Africa’s educational systems. From Cape Town in South Africa to Freetown in Sierra Leone, young African minds continue to be engrossed by modernity without necessarily trying to understand what it means to be an African in a world held hostage by imperialism. In the fast-paced world in which we live, it is easy to forget that the African continent has trekked a long way, from the throes of colonial rule to the emergence of ‘independent’ states in the 1960s. Rather than use modernity’s comforts to delve into their history and keep it alive, modern-day Africans are actually losing their history to willful ignorance, one generation at a time. I cannot end this article without letting young Africans know that before the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in 1948, international law–as understood by Europeans—did NOT recognize the human rights of Africans. The European powers which colonised the African continent, abolished the human rights of Africans by robbing the continent at gunpoint.
DEHUMANIZATION VIA COLONISATION
Were it not for the Carnation Revolution of 1974, which radically changed Portugal’s foreign policy toward people of color, Lisbon would have continued to oppress its colonised Africans until the end of the twentieth century. Portugal was one of the earliest European powers to arrive in Africa as a coloniser and slave-catcher. Disquietingly enough, Portugal did not grant independence to its African colonies until fairly recently, in 1975, one year after a leftist military coup forced Lisbon to end its costly wars of oppression in Africa. How does a synopsis of colonial rule fit into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
The colonisation of Africa was based on the racist belief that Africans do not have human rights. Animated by the racist beliefs of the day, the colonisation of Africa was conducted to destroy the indigenous institutions which kept African societies on an even keel. On top of being exploitative, the colonisation of Africa came along with variants of cruelties that amounted to crimes against humanity. The first amputations of innocent Africans were committed in the Congo, where King Leopold of Belgium killed millions of Africans with genocidal intent. In the jostle to seize African territories and exploit the natural resources they contained, King Leopold of Belgium took over the Congo as virtual ruler, from 1885-1908. A European fraudster living in an era of the imperial brutality approved by the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, King Leopold fixed his gaze on the Congo, where he starved, amputated, and mass-murdered millions of Africans.
GENOCIDAL KING LEOPOLD AND THE GENOCIDAL GERMANS
Alas, King Leopold was not the only mass-murderer with African blood on his hands. While the Belgians literally gored their African subjects to death in the Congo, the Germans were similarly active in Namibia, where the German state committed its first genocide. The Nazi extermination of the Jews was not the first genocide committed by a German state. When the Herero people of Namibia rebelled against colonial rule in 1904, the German government responded with a killer Blitzkrieg, murdering tens of thousands of colonized Africans! Germany wanted the Africans in Namibia to know that resistance against white supremacy would be met with European savagery. A few decades after the German genocide against the Herero people in Namibia, the British Empire showed its fangs in colonial Kenya, where the nationalist Mau Mau movement was targeted for destruction in gulags and torture centers.
NO INTERNATIONAL LAW TO PROTECT AFRICANS
In 2004, the-then German Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation, Heidemarie W. Zeul, officially ‘apologized’ for Germany’s killing sprees in Namibia, calling them a ‘genocide.’ Although the German spokeswoman recognized her country’s ‘guilt’ and ‘moral responsibility’ for the slaughter of Namibians, she implicitly refused to respect the human rights of the Africans murdered in that country. Her argument was that today’s Germany cannot be legally responsible for the 1904 genocide in Namibia. According to her twisted logic, there was no international law at the time to protect civilians against colonial brutality. What the German politician was saying, albeit in codes, is that colonial-era Europe legally saw Africans as sub-humans marked for murder without consequences. Almost every modern European state has made this racist argument, often through invented, legal sophisms. In 1992, the late Nigerian tycoon, Chief Mushood Abiola and a group of eminent Africans coalesced around the Organization of African unity (OAU), with the specific aim of holding Europe accountable for crimes against humanity committed in Africa during slavery and colonial rule. Chief Abiola and the group of eminent Africans failed to make headway because international relations–like race-relations in a multicultural country–are dominated by oppressors versus the oppressed.
Africans will remain uncompensated because race and power determine who gets what in the pitiless world of capitalism. Cliché-driven but true, the expression ‘History Repeats Itself,’ remains valid in Africa, as the continent tries to chart a new course in the twenty-first century. Apparently forgetful of its tragic, historical encounters with Europe, Africa continues to lay itself bare to the exploitative designs of multinational corporations. All over sub-Saharan Africa, governments are entering into questionable deals with multinational corporations, selling large tracts of land to foreigners who want to re-colonize the continent, this time with official, African approval. The lopsided deals signed by African leaders, continue to give open checks to multinational corporations, who pompously put themselves above the rule of law when dealing with Africans. Lest we forget, the Europeans who enslaved, and later colonized, the African continent are the same actors behind the multinational corporations grabbing lands in Africa today. Capitalism is very powerful, but its predatory tentacles can be resisted by a measure of African unity. If we continue to ignore the historical lessons of the past, the imperialists will re-colonize Africa–economically, that is! Needless to say, the economic re-colonisation of Africa will reduce our political independence to a mere, laughingstock.
Sankara Kamara is a Sierra Leonean academic living in Atlanta. He has traveled extensively in West Africa, where he once lived and worked as a teacher and journalist.