10 reasons why June is such a special month

Africa, Democracy, Governance, Women

June is here. For some, it is the beginning of a new season, a chance to reshape their vision and see where they are with their new year’s resolutions-for what better time is there than the middle of the year  to take stock. June is the month of changeovers in real physical climatic terms. In the Northern hemisphere, their summer has begun while for us in the Southern hemisphere, our winter has begun. This month in history has recorded the number of things- some amazing, others tragic – that have happened/taken place shaping the history of my country, my continent and the world.

  1. I was born in this month on the 28th- the same day as Pope Paul IV (1476) Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712)  one of the greatest philosophers in the world, Lamina Sankoh (1884)  one of the most famous Sierra Leonean politicians who advocated economic development of the black person and religious emancipation free from Western ideology , Chris Hani (1942) one of the most amazing brains behind South Africa’s anti apartheid struggle and leader of the South African Communist Party and Chief of staff of the Umkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress.

    Image Source: http://urbantimes.co/2011/09/wake-of-liberty-4-bon-appetit-bon-voyage/rousseau/

    Image Source: www. urbantimes.co

  2. For women it is significant because in this month, on the 6th in 1872, that one woman charted the way for the development of one of the most fundamental rights that any citizen is able to exercise. Most of us take it as a given. Some of us do not even exercise it yet some people fought hard for it-the right to vote. Susan Anthony mobilised a group of women to test their status as citizens by voting in the same manner as men even though they were not legally permitted to. Although they got arrested and fined for it, that initial step paved the way for the recognition, FOR THE FIRST TIME, 34 years later of women’s right to vote.

    Susan Anthony-Picture Credit https://www.google.co.zw/search?safe=off&sa=X&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpetridigs10-racism.pbworks.com%2Fw%2Fpage%2F16200046%2FSusan%2520B%2520Anthony&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpetridigs10-racism.pbworks.com%2Ff%2F1173771502%2Fsusan-b-anthony-320x240.jpg&w=320&h=240&ndsp=22&tbm=isch&tbs=simg%3ACAQSHwkikYciWqMckxoLCxCo1NgEGgIIFwwh_1lRLmBU2NPk&ei=SKCoUZmrCejUiwLwrIDwDA&ved=0CAkQhxwwAA&biw=1517&bih=693#facrc=_&imgrc=nf53slOwf-fHGM%3A%3BANG0Z6pvcPlvIM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fs3.timetoast.com%252Fpublic%252Fuploads%252Fphotos%252F3912502%252FUnknown.jpeg%253F1366896518%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.timetoast.com%252Ftimelines%252Fwomens-rights-movement--25%3B640%3B480

    Susan Anthony-Picture Credit http://www.timetoast.com

  3. We commemorate so many important days, which are dear to my heart touching on many important issues affecting the lives of many African citizens such as protection of children, protection of  the  environment, ending child labour, addressing the plight of refugees, ending all forms of drug abuse and illicit trafficking as well as supporting victims of torture; with commemorations taking place on 1, 5, 12, 20 and 26  June respectively
  4. It is the month in which a number of countries celebrate national days of great significance. On the African continent a number of countries declared their independence from colonial powers in the month of June. These are the Democratic Republic of Congo on 30 June 1960 declaring independence from the Belgians, Madagascar on 26 June in 1960 from the French, Djibouti on 27 June 1977 from the French, Mozambique on 25 June 1975 from the Portuguese, and Seychelles on June 29 1976 from the British. Globally other countries also celebrate significant national days. For instance Sweden celebrates its national day on the 6th, the Philippines its Independence Day on the 12th, while the US and Finland celebrate their flag days on the 14th and 24th of June respectively.
  5. It is the month in which Robert F Kennedy was shot, on the 5th in 1968 and his death, combined with that of Martin Luther King earlier began a period in which the hope for reforms and lesser racial segregation of African- Americans that had been sparked seemed to take a backslide.

    Martin Luther King: Picture Credit newindependentwhig.blogspot.com

    Martin Luther King: Picture Credit newindependentwhig.blogspot.com

  6. June is the month that brought an end to attempts by megalomaniacs to control and rule the world. Napoleon’s tyranny ended with the battle of Waterloo in central Belgium, on 18 June 1815, ending 23 years of warfare between France and the allied powers of Europe. On June 28 1919-my birthday too, oh well minus the year-the Treaty of Versailles was signed signifying the end of World War I.  The end of World War II was earmarked by, among other things, the Battle of Okinawa, Japan in which he allied forces on June 21, 1945 defeated the Japanese who were keys allies of the German Reich under Hitler.
  7. To bring it closer to home June for me represents the sets of contradictions that make up the whole of my society. It was in June that land invasions, leading to the fast track land reform programme began. These invasions then led to the displacement of thousands of farm workers and predominantly white farmers. It built up into a food crisis with underproduction and underutilisation of the land leaving most farms derelict. It contributed to the economic meltdown that saw many Zimbabweans thrown into poverty. Yet for some-albeit few- that very same month represents the beginnings of black empowerment for they got the land that they had clamoured for since independence.
  8. It was on 27 June 2007, that central bank governor Gideon Gono announced his decision to print an additional 1 trillion Zimbabwean dollars to pay civil servants’ and soldiers’ salaries that had been by 600% and 900% respectively one of the most ridiculous decisions that began a pattern of inflation in which increases in civil servants’ salaries automatically meant increases in the cost of all goods and services. For some that decision was premised on quick gains as a means to an end-pay civil servants-get votes from civil servants yet for others (the majority) it had lasting effects- a destabilised economy and a fragile currency that we cannot use even up till today.
  9. June is the time I take to reflect on what being a hero means because it is the month when many Zimbabweans in 2008 sacrificed their lives for an ideal; an ideal that they had never experienced but hoped for and were willing to die for: Democracy. The death and devastation of the run up to the 27 June election “The Ides of June” as some call it remains fresh in the memories of many people. I remember those who lost limb and life, home and haven, peace of mind and sanctity of the body just so we could all live in peace with freedom and dignity.
  10. But among the doom and gloom, we celebrate Black Music Month, a tradition born in the US to celebrate African American music and culture-embracing the beat of the drum, the shakers, the marimbas, kalimbas and udus.

    Mbira instrument. Picture Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

    Mbira instrument. Picture Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Indeed, June is special.

Of coups, rebellions & revolutions: CAR

Africa, Democracy, Governance, Human Rights, Peace, Politics

They say history has a way of repeating itself. Ten years ago, the very same headlines we are reading today were topping most papers in the press. “Central African Republic: Rebel leader seizes power, suspends constitution” Irin News. Then;  the reaction of the African Union was the same; they ‘strongly condemned’ Bozize’s actions. The then Chairperson of the AU, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, said the coup undermined the continent’s efforts to achieve sustainable development.  After inordinate delays, in 2005, an election was finally held, legitimising the coup government. The formation of that government was immediately followed by the continuation of arbitrary arrests, denial of fair trials, use of excessive force by security agents, abductions, torture and physical abuse, the use of child soldiers, suppression of freedoms of the press, expression, assembly, and association-which had been the order of the day from the date the coup took place.

I look at the political history of the Central African Republic and wonder, “Have they now developed an unwritten rule of a maximum term of ten years of autocratic rule given that the currently deposed leader, Francoise Bozize, also ousted his predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse in the same manner in 2003 after 10 years of repressive rule.

A myriad of rhetorical questions keep floating in my head. What drives the poorest of the poorest, countries into so much conflict? Why can’t they ever achieve peace? Don’t they realise they need peace if they are ever going to have a stable economy? Why are they always fighting? Do the people of the Central African Republic deserve the leadership they keep getting? Does any of us on the African continent? Where are we going wrong as African citizens to keep getting leaders who do not hold our interests at heart? What are we doing wrong to keep getting these narcissist egomaniacs as the leaders of our countries?

The Central African Republic has been plunged into yet another unpredictable era of instability by the coup leaders. Will they be any better than the people they have ousted-only time will tell. The African Union has given this type of change of government a name, this change that usually doesn’t really change anything besides increasing the misery of the citizens. They call them unconstitutional changes of government. The AU condemns these types of changes, they impose sanctions on the leaders of these changes, they engage the leaders  in dialogue to try and facilitate transitions to democratic rule- but is this enough? Will it ever be enough?

The Central African Republic is not really a poor country. They have large deposits of uranium, gold, oil and diamonds. They have wide spans of arable land, stretches of lumber and abundant hydro-power.

Why, have they remained in the top ten of Africa’s poorest countries?

Could it be the good governance deficit; because if a leader who came to power through a coup in 2003 is also leaving through a military coup in 2013, then this must be a clear sign that even after 10 years there haven’t been significant institutional reforms to allow for legal and smooth transition of power?

Could it be the remnants of the war; given that the CAR has not had significant stability since its independence from the French in 1960?

But what fuels the conflict?

Is it greed, with different sides thinking that the only way to gain access to the wealth that this country has is through acquisition of power and political influence?

Could it be external influence? It appears the Central African Republic had its independence declared in 1960 yet the struggle for independence continues. Bozize began a reign of terror 10 years ago, a period that he began ushered by a strong backing from the French. Repression, authoritarianism, nepotism, corruption and underdevelopment were the order of the day, so one would stop and ask, why the French would commit their funds, their  troops and efforts to protect Bozize’s government, if democracy, good governance, development and prosperity is what they [as members of the European Union] want for the people of the Republic.

Franceafrique a friend calls it; the continued interference of the French government in the politics of its former colonies- a handpicking of leadership, a sponsorship of rebel groups to unseat “unwanted leaders”, a total disregard to the idea of democracy and good governance.

All I can say is “Cry my beloved continent,” as the peoples of Africa continue the struggle for true independence, for peace and for development.

Meanwhile the media is in a frenzy:

  • “Bozize ouster is latest power grab in Africa’s “phantom state” Reuters
  • “President Francois Bozize missing as Central African Republic capital seized by rebels” The Australian
  • “Francois Bozize flees CAR capital as rebels move in” Scotsman.com
  • “Francois Bozize, Central African Republic President, Overthrown By Rebels” The Huffington Post
  • “Looting and Gunfire in Captured Central African Republic Capital” Al Jazeera
  • “Central African Republic’s Francois Bozize flees as rebels invade capital” South China Morning Post
  • “Central African Republic: President Bozize flees Bangui” BBC News Africa
  • “Central African Republic rebels seize capital and force president to flee” The Guardian UK
  • “Britons told to leave Central African Republic after coup” The Telegraph

I wish they had had the same enthusiasm when Ghana had it’s smooth transition. As I said before, When it happens in Africa….

The tragedy of indifference

Africa, Emancipation, Women

“A man should conceive a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the centralizing point of his thoughts.” – James Allen.

So what is the purpose of music?Is it just to entertain? Is it to bring society together? Is it to educate societies? Is it to paint narratives and stories of how societies evolve? To mourn, to celebrate, to express love, gratitude or anger? Is it all these things? Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure- the nature of a society is shaped by the things it consumes and values-music included.

This picture illustrates something very important; the marked difference in a society’s appreciation of an artist whose music addressed societal woes and tragedies and one, in my view, whose lyrics consist of nothing more than a cacophony of repeated phrases. Surely, a message calling for the respect of women ought to be a billion hits attraction, or does our society just not care for such ‘incidentals?

When it happens in Africa

Africa, Democracy, Governance, History in the making, Politics

When it happens in Africa, tyranny and poverty is newsworthy; democracy and development isn’t. Is that the Western media’s interpretation of Africa and African-ness?

On 24 July 2012, the President of the Republic of Ghana, John Atta Mills passed away. He was 68. It is suspected that he died of cardiac arrest. He came into power through a democratic election which, albeit marred by some challenges, left the majority of Ghanaian citizens relatively satisfied with the meaning and significance of elections as a means of putting in place their leadership. Indeed Ghana’s political stability made it the country of choice for Barack Obama’s first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2008. President Atta Mills will be remembered for his role in consolidating democracy in Ghana, strengthening institutional integrity and entrenching constitutional rule of law. That success could not have been more aptly expressed than in the success and swiftness of the transition that followed his death, reflective of the resilience of Ghana’s democracy.

A few hours after President Atta Mills was officially announced dead, Mr John Dramani Mahama, who was the vice president, took the oath of office as the new President of Ghana- in line with the principles of Article 60 (6) of the Ghanaian Constitution. A new President is set to be elected in December in line with the terms of the current Ghanaian Constitution.

The transition was one of the most significant achievements in the historic development of African democracies. Indeed many African states should draw the following lessons from the Ghanaian example:

  • Constitutional guarantees of transfer of power in the event of the death of the President are an effective way of preventing power vacuums which could lead to political instability;
  • The ability of a country to live by its constitution is one of the best guarantees for peaceful transitions; and
  • The respect of constitutional sanctity and rule of law is one of the best ways of ensuring peace and development in any country

Given the significance of this transition, I would have thought the international media would grow hoarse shouting about this very positive and amazing development on the African continent. One Gillian Parker of Time Magazine went to great lengths to relay this message, celebrating the fact that “although Mills’ passing was sudden, the encouraging sign was the smoothness with which Ghana’s democratic processes kicked into gear.” But for the rest of the BIG news agencies; news that a dead rat had been discovered on the doorstep of President Obama’s bedchamber would have made headlines above this amazing piece of news. For a whole day the news was mentioned as an aside with Atta Mills’ achievements for Ghana mentioned in passing and the swift transition, hardly celebrated for the achievement that it was.  In some reportage the smooth transition was even forgotten.

Those who remembered it chose to refer to it as an ‘unusual experiment,’ in my view a very cynical analysis of the uniqueness of Ghana’s stability despite the fact that it is located in a very tumultuous region. That clearly, at least to me, also reflected a selective memorialisation of the development of the world’s democracies. Here is why I say so, centuries of bloody civil wars, despotism and tyranny characterised Europe’s history before it became the so called ‘ideal democracy’ that it is today-varying of course from country to country. Indeed Africa can not emerge as a strong democracy overnight when it took Europe and America centuries to do the same. Hence as Africa goes through the transition of democratising its institutions, such efforts must be criticised constructively but not denigrated and belittled to the levels of ‘experiments.’

I am still asking myself why the international media was not as excited about this development as they are when there is a coup, an uprising, a rigging of an election or such other negativity on the African continent. Is it the role of the international media to relay only the negative developments on the African continent as the hallmark of African-ness and hence anything positive is not theirs to make noise about?  If that is the case then the Western Media should stop preaching the gospel of ‘independent’ and ‘objective’ media when they themselves are neither independent nor objective. Yes I may sound like a brainwashed Zimbabwean feeding into the Mugabe propaganda right now, but anyone who religiously followed the reportage on the crisis in Mali, the crisis in Madagascar and then the scenario in Ghana, with the same intensity as I did would agree with me that it seems the approach of the international media in reporting situations in Africa is to sing like a chorus from a song book every negative thing but mumble under their breath positive developments such as the  Ghana transition. What a farce!

I can agree with the solution proposed by a colleague of mine that African media (including us as bloggers) have the responsibility to champion positive African developments in the news and depicting to the world Africa as we know it and not as others tell us it is. And hence I am making my pronunciation with this blog that the Ghanaian transition was a groundbreaking event and deserved proper coverage from any self respecting, media house interested in fair reporting and an accurate portrayal of Africa.

African women on fire!!!

Africa, Emancipation, Gender, Politics, Sexual Violence, Women

2012 has been a progressive year for African women in global politics.

In April Joyce Banda of Malawi became the first ever female president of Malawi and the Second Female president in Africa. In June, Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia became the first female and African Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after having served as a Deputy Prosecutor in charge of the Prosecutions Division of the ICC since 2004. In June again, Zainab Hawa Bangura of Sierra Leone was appointed as Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict at the level of Under-Secretary-General.  She replaced Margot Wallström.  Just yesterday, Dr Nkosana Dhlamini-Zuma became the first female Chairperson for the African Union Commission.

Whilst others do not celebrate her appointment given the political debates, politicking and struggles that characterised her election, it still remains fact that her election preludes a significant shift in African politics and in the history of the African Union (AU).

In my view Dr Dlamini-Zuma was a strong candidate not only because she had the requisite experience and skill having served as Foreign Affairs Minister for South Africa for 10 years between 1999 and 2009 and led a number of peace and security initiatives with the AU in Lesotho, the DRC, the Comoros and others but also because she represents a new paradigm shift as the first female Chair and bringing a new face to AU politics where Southern Africa is given its rightful place as an integral member of the AU. Previously it seemed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region was repeatedly sidelined, in what appeared to be legitimacy battles given that there was not a single representation of SADC at the inception of the AU then known as the Organisation of the African Unity as all the Southern African countries were still under colonialism and doubts about SADC sharing a common Pan-African vision given its population demographics.

While some people may choose to look at Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s main challenges as the new AU chairperson in country specific terms, for instance, resolving the conflict in Mali, in Somalia and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as a woman I perceive her biggest challenge to be that of forging ahead a dispensation that addresses African women’s plight.

I am hopeful that should Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s vision for the AU be fulfilled, seeing as how it resonates largely with women’s agenda, then African women are going to be in a better position than they have been so far.  She articulates her vision with the following strategic aims (adapted from the Press statement by Mac Maharaj, spokesperson for President Jacob Zuma):

(i) To implement programmes supporting the AU Decade for Women (2010-2020);

(ii) To prioritise integration, peace and security and conflict resolution as key pillars of Africa’s developmental agenda

(iii) To consolidate the institution of the AU as a formidable, premier, Pan-African institution;

(iv) To reinforce the importance of NEPAD infrastructural development projects as an important programme of the AU;

(v) To focus on the youth of Africa in development programs;

(vi) To spearhead Africa’s continued advocacy for reform of the global governance architecture.

The AU has largely been about rhetoric, focusing on sugar coating a semblance of unity and Pan-Africanism at the expense of the most vulnerable members of its society, especially women. Hence despite the rape and mutilation of women in Zimbabwe, in the DRC, in Sierra Leone, Kenya and Liberia the focus of the AU’s efforts have not been on giving these women an effective remedy but about reaching compromised solutions. Of course, the peace vs. justice debate had raged on and partially consumed the African continent. So never mind the scars that Omar Al-Bashir inflicted and continues to inflict on the bodies, spirits and minds of Sudanese women and children, and men for that matter, but the AU was prepared to protect him and rescue him from the clawing paws of the huge, ferocious and African-hating mammal called the ICC than afford justice to the individual women on the ground.

“Every man [and woman] must decide whether he [or she] will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” (Martin Luther King) I hope that the former- creative altruism – is what Dr Dlamini-Zuma represents. The AU Chairpersonship requires a seasoned diplomat not a politician and certainly not a proponent of certain African leaders’ political ideological standpoints! Her statement to the press ignites hope in my mind;

“South Africa is not going to come to Addis Ababa to run the AU. It is, [ I] Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who is going to come to make a contribution.”

I miss my sunshine: Lessons from Rwanda

Activism, Africa, Development, Transitional Justice, Zimbabwe

I had an exhausting trip from Harare (Zimbabwe) via Lusaka (Zambia) via Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) via Entebbe (Uganda) to Kigali (Rwanda). It took me 13 hours to fly from Zimbabwe to Rwanda when it takes just 6 hours to fly from Harare to Geneva? I therefore questioned how we as Africans could effectively foster the economic integration we talk of when the lines of communication and transport are so inefficient?  A certain individual, who happens to be Zimbabwean, then declared that there was no need for a direct flight from Zimbabwe to Rwanda because “What’s there to gain from Rwanda (economically) that will render a need for a direct link? And how many people will be on that flight?”

 I then made it my business to show how many things Zimbabwe stands to benefit from Rwanda, short and long term. Well here is the thing; our African leaders are closed-minded about what Africa can benefit them and I think that has been one of the major reasons for the failure of economic integration processes. With a myopic view of the world and clear lack of insight into the trajectory of intra-Africa trade patterns, they would rather seek immediate gratification, trading with parasites such as China and Europe in winners take all arrangements characterised by exploitation of Africans as the market determines the commodity prices, than trade within Africa in what would most likely be win-win situations of tradeoffs.

  But to get back to my story, I picked up a few areas in which Rwanda has done pretty well and from which Zimbabwe can draw lessons that could transform our society significantly.

 First; the transitional mechanisms

 Memorialisation

The Open Grave- One of the many mass graves at the Kigali Genocide Memorial where more than 250 000 victims of the 1994 Genocide are buried.

Yes Rwanda was the site of one of the worst genocides in the world and in Spring 1994 over just 100 days, more than 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives in ethnic cleansing by the extremist Hutus. However, post genocide, Rwanda has done a wonderful job of keeping that memory alive as a constant reminder that it should never happen again. They have created genocide memorials in almost every city – where the history of the country pre-colonial and post colonial, leading to the genocide is recorded for all Rwandans to see. All the victims of the genocide who have been discovered are buried in mass graves at these memorials.  A children’s room showing how even the most innocent of human beings; children were not spared records the stories of how these children were killed. All the pictures of the victims whose surviving families identified are displayed at the museum.The stories are horrific but they make the point that Rwanda must never go that route again.

The human face  to the genocide:The presence of the thousands of photographs of victims of the genocide at the memorial ensures that the victims will not remain anonymous or unnamed. It is a huge step by the state acknowledging the wrong done and giving a human face to the tragedy.

 In Zimbabwe we have done a good job of recording one period of our history-the pre-colonial period and ignoring all the others. Our Heroes Acre is a wonderful symbol of the struggle for independence and a reminder of how we never want to go back that route. Fair enough! But, should we put the victims of the various post colonial landmarks in our history, namely Gukurahundi (the scourge against the Ndebeles (1980-18988), the victims of the land reform programme (Zimbabwean white farmers and Zimbabwean black farm-workers), the victims of Operation Murambatsvina (a clean up campaign that displaced thousands and resulted in the deaths of many from communicable disease because of terrible living conditions), the victims of the Diamond Rush (those who lost their lives in power struggles for the control of the recently discovered diamond mines in Marange) and the victims of electoral violence (2000, 2002, 2005 and especially 2008 elections); then we may just have had a genocide in Zimbabwe, albeit not in 100 days but which still needs proper memorialisation, as Rwanda has done.

 Justice and Reconciliation

In Rwanda, after the genocide, the people with the highest responsibility for the commission of the crimes were prosecuted. A special Tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was created specifically for that purpose.  A number of them have been convicted and the Court is finalising its work. Locally traditional forms of courts, the Gacaca Courts were used to establish the truth, find perpetrators responsible and mete out a punishment to the satisfaction of the victim in their communities. Yes the system was not perfect but effectively Rwanda did not allow impunity to reign supreme in its communities in the face of such horrific crimes.

 In Zimbabwe we have set up an Organ on National Healing whose self-created agenda is to force victims to accept forgiveness and reconciliation. Victims have not been properly consulted as to what they want or prefer to give them peace and to allow them to set the parameters under which they could possibly reconcile with perpetrators. In fact anyone who dares talk about the injustices and how they should be addressed becomes a victim of state intimidation and violence. Perpetrators walk free and they have become professionals, repeating their acts of plunder, rape, mutilation, torture, grave assault and arson among others because they benefit from the impunity they are granted by the state. Meanwhile victims have not received any remedy and they bear the physical, emotional and psychological wounds alone and in silence.

 Second; developing the economy

Rwanda’s economy is developing rapidly. Even the World Bank has acknowledged that Rwanda is among the fastest growing economies that have recorded sustained and widespread economic growth on the African Continent. Despite the impact of the global financial crisis, Rwanda maintained a positive economic growth at 5.5 percent. Lesson Number 1 they do not depend on the West. The West failed them and failed to stop the genocide and they learnt their lesson, you depend upon yourself as a country and find means to manage your circumstances in a way that benefits your own population. They have reduced their dependence on foreign aid from 100% in 1995 to 40% in 2011 moving towards 0% dependency. Through tourism, ICT’s and policies that allow investment, Rwanda’s economy is growing and pulling many of its people out of poverty.

 Rwanda produces more electrical power than Zimbabwe does (in our Hwange and Kariba stations combined) and there is room for Zimbabwe to invest in that energy sector to boost the scarce energy resources that we currently have. In Zimbabwe we have successfully created a volatile and investor unfriendly environment. We do not take heed of the advice we receive from others and we seem to think we can do it all by ourselves. Well wake up and smell the coffee, we are living in a global world where things happening elsewhere will definitely affect us so it is not only foolish but also suicidal to swim upstream when everyone else is flowing with the tide.

 Rwanda and Zimbabwe are both members of  the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the only reason I was allowed to get a visa upon arrival at Kigali international airport (against the regulations because I was supposed to obtain a visa before travelling) was because Zimbabwe is a member of COMESA.  Surely we should capitalise on these relationships to our mutual advantage.

 Third; keeping Rwanda clean

Rwanda is the cleanest country I have ever visited on the African continent and mind you I have been to quite a few. Yes, even cleaner than South Africa for those of you who may be wondering. The country of a thousand hills, as Rwanda is known has adopted a citizen policing system to ensure cleanliness of the city. So every Rwandese ensures that the next person does not litter, does not burn things that pollute the environment and maintains clean surroundings. There is no litter on Kigali’s streets and in its residential areas. I even went to their poorest areas and the grass was immaculately cut and neat and roofs were clean. Rwanda adopted a no-plastics campaign which has significantly reduced litter on the streets. They have replaced plastics with bio-degradable khaki carriers, which if for some reason find their way onto the street, decompose by themselves but also which the city authorities can dispose of cheaper and more efficiently. Every last Saturday of the month, Rwanda comes to a standstill as they clean their surroundings as a nation. Now that is what I call responsible citizenship!!!

 Harare, once the Sunshine city has become a mass of dumping. Plastic bags, plastic containers litter our streets. And on this one do not rush to just blame the government. Yes city authorities have the responsibility to collect rubbish in residential areas which they have not done, but it is us the citizens who have been responsible for littering our cities. I commend the citizens of Bulawayo, because they have taken up a clean-city campaign and by far Bulawayo is cleaner than Harare. Harare residents need to drop their dirty habits. Stop littering! Throw your rubbish in bins or keep it until you can dispose it responsibly! Separate your paper and food from plastics and glass when disposing. Create composts with degradable products. Burn the stuff that can not decompose.

 On the other hand let us hold our authorities responsible for what they ought to do but are not doing. What are councillors and mayors for if not to ensure that residents live healthy, fulfilled lives? They must collect rubbish, dispose of it responsibly and if we do not force them to take up these responsibilities then they will continue to sit in their offices, selling off land to corrupt business people and politicians and enlarging their already fat behinds!

 Fourth, development of infrastructure

As much as Rwanda is developing its cities and building new infrastructure, they are doing a pretty good job of preserving the natural look of their environment. They are developing yet ensuring minimal degradation to the environment, cutting off trees only where the buildings themselves stand and retaining all the surrounding trees and vegetation intact. As a result, the place is streaming with modern life in a very green space that looks welcoming and warm. Yes I love modernity but I hope most African cities, in particular my Sunshine city do not further develop- the Swiss way- and become neat, modern but barren and cold hubs of activity.

 You may be wondering where I got all this information. Well I was given access into the Parliament of Rwanda. I met some Parliamentarians as well as the vice President of the Senate (a She-very progressive!!!) who gave my friends and I a guided tour with explanations of how a country that was grounded in poverty and conflict 18 years ago has risen to what it is. Trust me, I have never been allowed access into my own parliament despite my efforts to do so and if I were to ask for information from my government, no one would give it to me and if they did most of it would be inaccurate.

 I drew many lessons from Rwanda and I am sure if I had stayed longer, I would have learnt even more. Harare used to be called the Sunshine city. Zimbabwe was the jewel of Africa. I really miss my sunshine-and I want her back!

The cost of International Criminal Justice

Africa, Human Rights

50 years he got. Taylor, at 64, is unlikely going to be a free man ever again in his life. 4 years, and approximately US $250 million later, the world can scream VICTORY for yet another ‘successful’ prosecution of a sitting head of state for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. As the Head of State, he bore command responsibility for the actions of the state and a duty of care for its citizens. He thus was responsible for the murder and mutilation of civilians. He was thus responsible when his forces cut off people’s limbs.  He was thus responsible when his forces used women and girls as sex slaves. He was thus responsible when his forces abducted children and forced them to fight as soldiers.

Charles Taylor during his trial-dressed in an expensive suit, looking well fed and well taken care of…

 So the Special Court for Sierra Leone said his crimes include acts of terrorism, murder, violence to life, health and physical or mental well being of people, cruel treatment, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, outrages upon personal dignity, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, enslavement and pillage.

 Now he is going to spend 50 years in a British prison.

 Given all that he has done, one would expect that he shall be languishing and rotting in prison, and maybe then the victims could derive some satisfaction from knowing that he is paying for all the wrong he did. But is that the case for Charles Taylor?

 Here is why I ask this question…

 On average a British prison looks like this.

 -Prisoners in the UK have access to television with satellite.  They have access to video game consoles. They receive wages and cash bonuses for good behaviour, while drugs are cheaper in jails than they are on the streets. They have access to free gyms where they can stay fit. They can even get subscriptions to newspapers with a specific newsagent local to each prison.

-All prisoners have the right to food and water. There is a system to protect them from bullying and racial harassment. They have access to a healthcare system which includes access to nurses and doctors, opticians, dentists, pharmacists and mental health practitioners. Prisoners in need of special treatment as a result of drug or alcohol abuse, HIV or AIDS or disability have access to these special needs.

-All prisoners have access to basic education that enables them to read and write, do maths, manage money, use computers and technology. They also take courses in practical skills such as painting and decorating, bricklaying, hairdressing and gardening. They can even study IT.

-They have a right to see lawyers, to call the lawyer when they need him/her, to write him/her letters and their correspondence is very private. Prisoners have access to religious leaders and their freedom to religion is respected to the extent of respecting dates and times for prayer, religious services and festivals and providing vegetarian, Halaal and Kosher food for those with religions requiring special dietary needs.

And in the UK the fact that these rights are guaranteed by law means that they are granted to prisoners. And so shall they be guaranteed to Charles Taylor. As a ‘special prisoner’, his standards are likely going to be even higher than those for ordinary inmates.

 Oh yes, of course I do not dispute that Charles Taylor has human rights despite being a prisoner, and so the British prison will have to take really good care of him in order to respect his human rights. And of course that detention shall result in his isolation from family and lack of personal freedom, but is it punishment enough?

A mother making palm oil to keep hunger at bay for herself and her children in Sierra Leone- Picture Credit powerfulinformation.org

 Has it really served justice for the suffering citizens of Sierra Leone? Youth unemployment and poverty is widespread, particularly in urban centres in Sierra Leone. The unrest caused by Charles Taylor left behind a nation with a poorly performing economy, infrastructure was destroyed, and the nation languishes in poverty. In 2008, Sierra Leone ranked 84 out of 88 countries in the Global Hunger Index and last out of 179 countries in the Human Development Index. Many people do not have decent housing. They do not have easy and free access to reliable sources of information let alone televisions with satellite.

 The trial alone cost 250 million and keeping Charles Taylor in prison shall cost even more guaranteeing him the same rights that his actions are denying thousands of Sierra Leoneans. I wonder- is there real justice in the international criminal justice system? But also, can we guarantee human rights if we don’t grant them to some of the very worst villains in the world?

ETHSA2012: Climate change-Africa’s nightmare

Activism, Africa, Development, Politics, Shared Resources

Let me not dwell on the obvious fact that the development of the Western powers through industrialisation and the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies has largely been enabled by gross disregard to the environmental consequences of large scale pollution.

Let me also not dwell on the fact that China, the USA, Russia, India, Japan, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Italy, are currently the top ten polluters in the world in descending order. That is fact. Should any of these countries dispute this assertion then it would be a simple switching of positions in determining which one of them is the worst polluter but not the fact that they are responsible for more than half the pollution that the world is facing.

Let me also not pay a lot of attention to the fact that the pollution that these countries currently are and in the past have been responsible for is one of the main factors that has contributed to the depletion of the Ozone layer, global warming and climate change.

Global warming

They introduced the system we rely on today where we use fossil fuels to drive our cars, heat our homes, and produce all sorts of goods for our sustenance.  Consequently, carbon dioxide concentrations have increased dramatically leading to increases in atmospheric temperatures what is known as global warming. Large scale farming, use of chemical fertilisers that release nitrous oxides in agriculture, aeroplanes that release harazadous fuels straight into the skies-all these have contributed to pollution. Undeniably we have all benefited from this technology but the price that Africa will bear by far outweighs the benefit.

It therefore doesn’t need me to be an African to be outraged when these same countries refuse to take responsibility for their past actions and start exercising higher levels of responsibility in preventing further harm to our world.

I am not perpetuating the rhetoric of blaming the West for everything that goes wrong with the African continent but the reality and undeniable truth is that the West, America, China and India have cumulatively been the biggest culprits in destroying our world. Yes, they are the main causers of climate change.

Melting Antarctic because of climate change

However what I would rather dwell on is the reality of climate change, particularly on the African continent. Africa is underdeveloped; fact. Africa needs to develop to enable its citizens to live decent lives; also fact. That development is enabled by the use of energy sources of which fossil fuels are the cheapest and easiest and also the easily available ones to the African continent.

Yes, alternative methods of development which are safer for the environment, a process popularly known as developing green economies, are there but they are slow to use and more expensive. Given that African economies are strained and already the effects of slow development are evidenced in populations’ disgruntlement as expressed in social justice movements, small to large scale protests and revolutions; Africa can not afford to wait. But Europe, America, China and Russia could try and use these methods.

This then takes me to the point of my blog-my anger and disgust at these countries that have already made it and still want to keep Africa down. Of course China, India and the Western powers will never agree to use the slower and more expensive but environmentally friendlier methods of development and allow Africa to catch up. Of course they will never agree to reduce their green house emissions and will even go as far as saying all this talk on climate change is a conspiracy against their development plans. And, of course they are happy with the status quo where Africa is incapable of taking care of its own, where they can come in from time to time with outstretched hands of almost insignificant aid which they would need not bring if Africa were given a fair chance to develop its own economies.

But that is also fact. My point is that climate change is real. We have seen it on our continent. Seasons are changing. Famines, droughts, floods, storms, extreme weather elements are ravaging our continent.  Christian Aid estimates that 1 billion people will be displaced because of climate change by 2050.

Climate change in Africa looks like this-drought, famine, food insecurity, starvation, drying rivers, conflict over water, food, death, disease, despair, destruction

As Africans, should we ignore the selfish countries and go ahead with development plans using fossil fuels despite the grave effect on the environment? Should we take the more expensive and time consuming but environmentally friendly methods? But even if we do and the other polluters keep polluting-which they undoubtedly will- meaning that climate change will not be averted and also meaning that we will be the most affected, what then will be the way out for Africa?

ETHSA2012: What is human security without women?

Activism, Africa, Democracy, Development, Governance, Human Rights, Migration, Peace, Politics, Security, Terrorism, Violence Against Women

What is human security but the totality of all conditions that make a human being feel secure. Philosophers have debated this concept yet the sensible conclusion to be reached is that human security should be about empowering people to realise their full potential.

The concept of human security was first developed by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in its 1994 Human Development Report (HDR) encompassing all the elements that constitute freedom from want and freedom from fear.

What a wonderful world it would be, yes that world that we all aspire to have but which actively remains a figment of our own imaginations. A world in which each individual experiences a totality in security.

A world in which every individual would be free from fear; fear of death, of terror, of hate and hate speech, of violence and all other threats to the physical and mental well being of the individual.

A world where the individual is free of want. Want of employment, of food, shelter, clean water, jobs and all other factors that make human lives more comfortable and enjoyable.

A world where the individual is free from poverty, disasters, injury and disease, pollution, climate change, environmental degradation, natural and man made hazards, famine, food shortages, terrorism, political repression, torture, conflict and warfare and such other vulnerabilities.

Is human security attainable?

Human security is a wonderful aspiration whose main objective is to protect people. It can not be understated however that it is certainly difficult to achieve in its entirety. But the truth is that world does not exist where there is no will for it to exist. It probably never will exist without real commitment for it to exist. We will continue to live in a world of deep insecurity. Hence the subject of human security finds its relevance as we seek to understand the challenges and conceive solutions to these challenges.

One striking note on the concept of human security came with the address by one speaker who, speaking to the concept of human security from a gendered perspective, said that women’s involvement in all discussions on human security is imperative.

As she aptly stated, how more so important could it be in discussions on human security than to involve the very individuals who worry about what their families shall eat, where they shall sleep, where they shall get water to drink, and the same people who care for the sick and the elderly.

Here is what happens when the world ignores women’s voices…

“She saw it when her husband started keeping a machete under the bed. She knew it when he started attending late night meetings on whose agenda, not a word was uttered in their home. She also knew when the machete under the bed became 20, then 30 and then heaps and heaps of them occupied their home. She later understood it all when hundreds of thousands of Tutsis had died in barely a 100 days.”

Above is an account of a Hutu woman who knew in advance the preparations that were being made by her husband and his colleagues to launch the genocide in Rwanda. However, her knowledge failed to save lives because her voice was never given a space in the whole discourse on peace and security in Rwanda. Had she spoken out, maybe some deaths could have been averted. Hence no talk of human security should ignore women, especially women at household level whose everyday experiences are the best informants of sustainable and desirable security strategies.

Maybe we need an ECOWAS in Southern Africa

Africa, Democracy, Governance, Politics

Military governments found their most marked expression on the African continent recording an unprecedented eighty-five violent coups and rebellions from the time of the Egyptian revolution in 1952 until 1998.Seventy-eight of these took place between 1961 and 1997. Undoubtedly, West Africa was the worst affected region and it continues to experience more coups, rebellions and civil wars. Given this history, it is no wonder then that this region formed a regional bloc, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to foster regional economic integration but also prioritising the maintenance of peace and security in the mandate of its bloc cognisant of the intimate link between peace, security and stability and economic growth.

 Over the years, ECOWAS has proved itself determined to see an end to unconstitutional changes of government including coups, rebellions and incumbents who refuse to vacate office after losing elections.

 In 2009, ECOWAS suspended Niger from ECOWAS after Mamadou Tandja successfully changed the constitution to permit him to run for office for a third term, and went ahead with elections which were boycotted by the opposition. When the army staged a coup against Tandja claiming to protect the constitution, ECOWAS swiftly negotiated a return to civilian rule and the holding of democratic elections. After 14 months of transition, the military junta in Niger formally handed over power to newly elected President Mamadou Issoufou as promised.

 In 2010, when Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire lost a presidential election to Alassana Quattara but refused to vacate office, ECOWAS threatened to remove him by force and faced opposition from many sections of Africa including SADC heads of state. In the civil war that ensued, they maintained their position insisting on recognising Quattara as the legitimately elected leader. As the then Ghanaian President John Kufour stated “if Gbagbo [had been] allowed to prevail, elections as instruments of peaceful change in Africa [would have] suffer[ed] a serious setback.”

 Earlier this year, when former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade decided to stand for an election against the spirit of the new Constitution limiting presidential terms arguing that the constitutional provisions did not apply retrospectively, Senegalese citizens protested this decision. The violence that erupted could have gone out of hand and led to a civil war but the maturity of the Senegalese people themselves as well as the heavy involvement of ECOWAS through political talks allowed for a relatively peaceful transition of power through an election in Senegal. Today Macky Sall stands the democratically elected leaders of the Senegalese Republic.

 ECOWAS condemned the recent coup of 21 March 2012 in Mali led by Amadou Haya Sanogo and swiftly took action. They suspended Mali from ECOWAS, applied an embargo on Mali, froze access to finance from the regional bank in Dakar and began discussions for a negotiated plan to return to civilian rule. Their intervention resulted in an agreement by the military junta to restore constitutional order by handing over the reigns to the Speaker of the National Assembly today as a first step towards returning to democratic rule. They also considered the possible deployment of the regional Standby Force, should the rebels refuse to observe a ceasefire and engage in dialogue.

 Surely this record speaks volumes to the regional bloc’s seriousness and commitment to see democratic rule where the people’s choices and voices are respected and to restore peace and security. ECOWAS continues to reiterate the regional bloc’s commitment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law, and their opposition to unconstitutional transitions of power.

 The Southern African Development Committee (SADC) on the other hand has increasingly displayed its inadequacy to address similar issues. In 2008 when Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe lost an election to Morgan Tsvangirai and the subsequent runoff was marred by horrendous violence, SADC did not make a firm decision to respect the people’s choice. Instead they negotiated a power-sharing deal which was not only unconstitutional but in violation of the demands of a minimum democracy where the ruler must be instated at the choice of the people, chosen by the people and his term of rule exhibit governance patterns that respect the will of the people. Despite many violations of the negotiated deal that SADC negotiated, the regional body has largely failed to ensure that these terms are respected and that democracy is served.

 In 2009, when Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar was ousted out of power by Andry Rajoelina in a coup staged by the army which then ceded power to Rajoelina as its leader, SADC failed to take decisive measures to ensure a swift return to civilian rule. Since then, the High Transitional Authority, a negotiated deal by the African Union in collaboration with SADC setting up a leadership authority comprising the members of the Ravalomanana and Rajoelina camps has been in power and the people of Madagascar’s right to choose their own leadership continues to be undermined.

 Yes, SADC believes it is being strategic diplomatically when it pursues the non-interventionist policy towards resolving regional governance issues. In the end it is us the citizens who are being done a disservice. Such precedents where the bloc is placating undemocratically elected individuals to enjoy power and continually denying SADC citizens the right to choose who they want to lead them are unsustainable. Maybe we ought to learn a thing or two from ECOWAS or better still, borrow them the next time we have similar crises. Bottom line, SADC needs to act decisively, with consistency and with one voice in the face of such blatant disregard to the will of the people.