Buhari’s Historic Victory: The Real Dawn of Nigerian Democracy?

After over three decades since seizing and losing power in military coups; after three attempts at getting in through a democratic process; after three days of a tension-filled election, Muhammadu Buhari became the first Nigerian opposition leader to oust an incumbent president through the ballot box. This puts him in charge of Africa’s biggest economy and one of Africa’s most challenging democracies.

Buhari31

Ousted President Goodluck Jonathan in an unprecedented move, called Buhari to congratulate him even before the result had been officially announced. According to Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC),”At about 5 minutes to 5, President Jonathan called General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the elections, to congratulate him,

Buhari-and-Jonathan

This smooth concession of victory by Goodluck Jonathan would surely come as a surprise to millions of his supporters especially given that former Minister of Niger Delta, Peter Godsday Orubebe had earlier in a public show of shamelessness and stupidity, attacked the Independent Electoral Commission chairman [INEC], Professor Attahiru Jega, alleging that the result of the elections have been falsified and accusing Jega of bias and partisanship.

Buhari’s victory therefore calls for cautious optimism especially if one where to take a glance at the years since the acclaimed 1999 transition to democratic rule.

With the coming to power of the Obasanjo regime in 1999 as a democratically elected government following several years of military dictatorships, it seemed a new dawn had come for Nigeria. In his opening address to Nigerians, Olusegun Obasanjo raised people’s hopes when he said:

I shall end this address by stressing again that we must change our ways of governance and of doing business on this eve of the new millennium. This we must do to ensure progress, justice, harmony and unity and above all to rekindle confidence amongst our people. Confidence that their conditions will rapidly improve and that Nigeria will be great and will become a major world power in the near future. (The NEWS, June 14, 1999)

But as events later turned out, Nigeria was in for the greatest economic, political and social nightmare. The “democracy” under Obasanjo was one in which one man who called himself the “President” ruled the nation as a personal estate, made mockery of the constitution, controlled the nation’s coffers and dished out money to other nations as if it were his personal account. After eight years in power, the social ills of the Obasanjo regime had clearly held Nigerians to ransom. Poverty was ravaging the land, many people died of curable diseases simply because they could not afford to pay hospital bills. There was even the uncomfortable admission of the fact that the lives and properties of Nigerians were more secure under General Sani Abacha than they were under the so-called democratic regime of Obasanjo. Unemployment and attendant hopelessness rose, the standards of education fell, there was a marked increase in the number of destitute and beggars on the streets. The skyrocketing of the prices of petroleum products, with an increment made on the eve of Obasanjo’s departure form office, was a clear indication of the level of decay the country had been plunged into. Worse still, it was under this regime which claimed to be able to sweep away corruption that Nigeria bagged the highest award in corruption, coming first in the world. To crown it all, the level of election malpractice was one that also deserved an award.. In the end, it was clear that military dictatorship and democratic tyranny are two sides of the same coin.

Obasanjo Yar'Adua and JonathanThe late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua and his Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, therefore, inherited an ant-infested firewood. In a few months they gave much hope to the people with the proposed 7-Point Agenda . But the questions of whether the fulfilment of those new ideas and reforms they were introducing could be considered a visionary hope, was never answered due to the untimely death of Yar’Adua.  It became obvious that the interests which those new reforms were going to thwart were much stronger and more obvious than those they were to serve when Goodluck completely ignored the 7 point Agenda both during his completion of Yar’Adua’s term and the term which he contested and won.

It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria continued to slump further into the morass of hopelessness that characterised the Obasanjo regime. To make matters worse, despite unrelenting economic forces driving Nigeria to become Africa’s biggest economy, the onslaught of the Boko Haram insurgency exposed the ill-preparedness and inability of Jonathan to lead Nigeria.

It is therefore not very surprising that a majority of Nigerians decided that it was time to give Buhari another chance to redeem himself. His perseverance has finally paid off, and with Goodluck Jonathan showing maturity in conceding defeat, Buhari has a huge challenge ahead. He has the experience, and hopefully, with the determination to set the records straight, Buhari might finally usher in the real dawn of an era where the ordinary Nigerian can begin to feel and experience the real dividends of a true democracy!

Paul Biya Dies: What Difference Would it Make?

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog as I have been trying to sort out some personal issues that did not allow me much time to write. However, since the beginning of March, I have received lots of messages with questions regarding current happenings in Cameroon. The most recent has been the hoax announcement of the passing away of Cameroon strongman and dictator Paul Biya. After some reflection, I started to ask myself the question: would it really make a difference if Paul Biya truly died?

Paul Biya

For those who care to remember, this is not the first time that there has been a fake announcement that Paul Biya was dead.

In June of 2004 it was rumoured that Paul Biya had died following an undisclosed illness at some undisclosed location. As no reporting or discussion of anything related to the president is allowed the late Journalist, Pius NJAWE incurred the full wrath of the President and his institutions for daring to ponder about the state of the President’s health. Njawe was to spend 10 months in prison.

In October of 2008, similar rumours began making the rounds and there were widespread celebrations on the streets of Cameroon. To many people’s chagrin and surprise, Paul Biya returned the country on November 01, 2008 exactly 43 days after abandoning the country, just two days short of him being constitutionally replaced. This time the rumor had it that the absentee president had died at the exclusive “Clinique Générale-Beaulieu” in East Geneva. Given that news of an ailment Biya was said to be suffering had leaked out fueling the speculation of his death, some members of his entourage were fired for violating the code of secrecy.

At the beginning of March, 2015, The Commander in Chief of the Cameroon Armed Forces, Paul Biya again left Cameroon for Switzeroland while soldiers where being killed by Boko Haram insurgents. The conclusion many arrived at was that it must have been nothing short of an emergency to make a president abandon his country and travel abroad at a time when there was a crisis involving terrorists. As the African adage says: “A man whose house is on Fire does not chase rats”. Hence, in line with another axiom which states that “a toad does not run in the daylight for nothing: either it is after something or something is after it”, it was easily surmised that nothing short of an emergency could have pushed Biya to leave the country. By a process of elimination and taking into consideration the man’s age, the most logical conclusion arrived at was another death announcement.

The rumours of  Biya’s death gained momentum on Thursday the 26th of March, 2015 on  Facebook and other social media outlets like Twitter and WhatsApp!

While no official announcement has been made to refute the rumours two days after they started, one is apt to wonder what it would mean for Cameroon if Biya truly was dead!

To the ordinary Cameroonian, it would actually mean very little because as far as they are concerned, The Man Already Died!

Since “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” (Wole Soyinka), it is safe to conclude that Biya died a long time ago. Biya has been dead for most of the 33 years that he has been Cameroon’s president. Biya died when he let the country slump into an economic crisis from 1986 and did little to salvage the situation; Biya died in 1990 when in attempting to stop the rise of Multiparty politics in the country, he ordered the killing of many innocent Cameroonians; Biya remained dead from thence as he was focused only on maintaining his hold on power while the country slumped into a morass of poverty, corruption, greed and hopelessness. So in principle, to many Cameroonians; Biya actually went stone cold when he cracked down on public protests, changed the constitution that made him stay in power; Yes for a the tyranny visited on Cameroonians PAUL BIYA IS DEAD!

However, if Biya was to leave the scene, it would be a make or break situation for Cameroon. Given that most of his cabinet members and close allies are now languishing in prison, a smooth transition after his dead remains a matter of speculation. Perhaps like some of his ‘friends’ his son Frank Biya will take over. Given that Frank is not much in the picture, one therefore wonders what type of president he would make. The most likely and constitutional choice would be the President of the National Assembly Cavayé Yéguié Djibril. But as someone who has been the ruling party – CPDM Political Bureau, one wonders if he will offer anything different from what Biya has been offering!

One thing is certain though, as Caiaphas, once said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish.’There is no situation which is more appropriate for this statement.

Biya’s dead would be a blessing to Cameroon but let me be quick to add that it would not be in the same sense as Christ’s death was to Christendom but would be exactly in the manner in which Caiaphas meant it!

CPDM Midlands: The Celebration of Failure & Mediocrity

The past week has been the most challenging week I have had in many years. I happened to be at two places that ultimately challenged my sanity. First, it was on Monday at the Cameroon High Commission in London and Second, it was at an event, which turned out to be meeting of the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM – which happens to be the ‘ruling’ political party of Cameroon) in Birmingham.

Let me begin with the High Commission.

Deplorable Home Away from Home

I was unfortunate to have lost my Passport in Birmingham a week ago and so against my best wishes, had to make a trip to the Cameoroon High Commission to apply for a replacement.

First, I went to the website to get the information I needed. As expected, it was an eyesore and seemed to carry information mostly about President Paul Biya and his speeches, and very little about the Country and its people. I grabbed a phone number from there to make a call to confirm what documents I was to carry along since there was only a poor copy of a PDF on the Website which was dated February 2, 2010. The phone rang many times over a period of a few days that I tried but either no one took it, or I was passed through an extension, to which there was no one to respond. I therefore made the trip armed only with the information gotten from the website.

High Commission Front View

Upon arrival, my worse fears were confirmed. First, I was greeted in French (absurd because Cameroon is supposed to be a Bilingual Country and given that the UK is predominantly English Speaking, I assumed naturally English should be the first language).

Secondly, I noticed the place was as run down as most places in Cameroon. There was no order, and the person in charge of processing applications could barely manage English.

Thirdly, I discovered nothing about the information provided on the website were accurate. The amount of money I had to pay was higher and they did not take any other form of payment other than cash, so an ATM I noticed on the way there became handy; there was no photocopier there so I had to go on the High Street to make copies of documents; there was no photographer as indicated, so I had to go and get photos elsewhere.

Then the worst happened, while I had been sitting there for over an hour waiting for my turn, the daughter of one of the employees came for her own application and she was ushered in and served while those of us who were there before her, waited. Nepotism or Premium Service?

Finally the forms I was supposed to fill out were barely legible. They seemed to be copies of an original document made in the ’70s with a typewriter. I found myself thrown back to Cameroon where every form of development and innovation seems to have been halted in 1982 when the current administration took power. High Commission Sign

The notion of a place being ‘home away from home’ most often carried a positive connotation for me but for the first time, I thought of it in a negative light. It was there with a sigh of relief that I walked out of that High Commission after many hours. I felt like I had just left Cameroon to London.

I thought my week will end in a good note and I will have that nightmare behind me after a friend invited me to a Cameroonian event in Birmingham. I was in for another shocker!

CPDM West Midlands: Sycophancy at Its Best!

I have lived under the mistaken assumption that no right-thinking young Cameroonian will support Biya’s government or the CPDM, especially those in the diaspora. I have always made the argument that the only people who will actively support a regime that has nothing to offer the Cameroon Youth other than fake promises. I was utterly wrong on all counts!

CPDM Event Hall

When I arrived the event venue and realised it as a CPDM affair, my first impulse was to get into my car and leave. Curiosity however got the better part of me. I went in to listen to the speeches that were being made. Two things immediately stood out!

First, the speeches were made, not for the audience seated in the hall but for another audience which a keen mind will easily decipher!

It was not surprising therefore that after salutations where made in English, the main speeches were in French and consisted in a large part of praising Biya and his ‘wonderful achievements’.

Speech

Many questions however went through my mind when a reliable source told me that the venue cost a whooping £1000 meaning it was about £100 an hour. The event started two hours later than intended yet no one was bothered about the money being wasted. So who was paying for this lavish praise-singing event? There was enough food and very expensive drinks, but I heard no one talk about contributions. Your guess is as good as mine – the Cameroon tax-payers were paying for this event as is always the case the every CPDM event!

While the night was full of many obscenities, one particularly made me sad. At a point, one of the leaders, after praising Biya for many things including making Cameroon one of the most peaceful countries in Africa (which happens to be the most naive thing to say), called on all present to stand and sing Biya a song of praise. Almost 90% of the hall stayed in their seats – when he asked everyone to stand for the anthem, he got a whole house! Question then is: if they do not believe in what they say and represent; if they do not think Biya is worthy of a standing praise; why do they still wear the CPDM uniform which carries nothing but Biya’s image? 

This question was answered by another reliable source before I left the event: IN CAMEROON, THE ONLY ACHIEVEMENT THAT WILL BE MOST RESPECTED ON A CV, IS TO WEAR THE CPDM UNIFORM AND PROFESS TO BE A MEMBER! 

I guess people like us will never get jobs in that country – unless we decide to wait for that time, very soon when all with change!

 

Lapiro De Mbanga – The Eclipse of A Hero’s Life

The Life and death of each one of us, writes a memorandum for others to follow. While some people disappear completely after death, there are some however, who are simply eclipsed because their light, though shaded, lives on in myriads of ways.

I bet many of you, if not Cameroonian, have never heard of the name Lapiro De Mbanga. I do not blame you if this is the case. Almost everything in Cameroon that remotely challenges the dangerous status-quo of Paul Biya and his cohorts is always under the radar. (For more on Lapiro De Mbanga, see FabAfriq’s story)

My single consolation is that great people like Karl Marx, died in obscurity, but their ideology outlived and outshone them. Upon Lapiro’s demise, the BBC in a very short report simple called him ‘a protest singer’. But was he just that? I think not.

Lapiro was an activist of the first order. All his music was designed to fight for Cameroonians of all works of life. From the ’80s when freedom of expression was anathema in Cameroon, Lapiro used a lingo that was understood by almost every Cameroonian.

In his music he questioned issues ranging from police corruption, Cameroon foreign debt, nepotism in the Cameroon political system, the one-man-show type of governance of Paul Biya, poor governance and lack of basic amenities, the lack of anything to show from the success of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, unemployment and the degradation of Cameroon education, and challenging the constitutional change that saw Biya become eligible for life presidency.

His imprisonment for speaking out, simply confirmed that Cameroon was one of the worse countries to be outspoken – mainly because most of the world at large do not know this is the case. Upon release from prison, Lapiro did not stop, he sang promising Biya more trouble. But like many like him who continually challenged Biya, life runs a short course.

Many journalists have suffered prison sentences and some like Germain S. Ngota Ngota even died in a Cameroon prison. The million pounds question remains: how long will Biya continue to suppress the the people of Cameroon? The protests of 2008 may have failed because of lack of international support, but I am sure this is not the end. There is a limit to how much people can endure.

With a higher GDP than Cote D’Ivoire and Senegal, Cameroon seriously lags behind the two in life expectancy. It is a worry that despite the wars and violent upheavals that the Ivory Coast has faced, people are more likely to live longer there than in Cameroon.

Lapiro may have died at the very young age of 57 but like he says in one of his songs: ALUTA CONTINUA

Africa: Quo Vadis?

I wake up every morning and look at Africa in general and my Country Cameroon in particular and the questions always come up: Africa: Where are you going? What has gone wrong with all the aspirations of Africa’s great nationalists?

Africa

Is there anything inherent in the very nature of African governance and underdevelopment that makes development an impossible task? Myriads of religious, cultural, social-political and economic prescriptions have been offered but sadly none has produced any encouraging result. As a matter of fact, most of them have had negative results and some have even made bad situations worse.

Looking at David Moyes’s performance with Manchester United has really given me a clue to the problem. A man who has not won any trophies, no matter how good he may be, will find it difficult to motivate players who are used to winning.

Today, most people who talk about hunger and famine in Africa, will not recognise hunger if it struck them in the face.

Most people who advise Africa on governance issues do not know what it is like to live their lives under a ‘democracy’ like Cameroon’s where one man rules the country as if it were a personal estate.

Most people who are really concerned about the lack of democracy in most African countries happen to be people who do not know first hand what living under a dictatorship entails.

Most people who are experts on African security do not know what it means like to live in a place where everyday living is a battleground and war for some is the only existential reality.

The best experts on African Affairs, the best academic institutions dealing with African problems, the best conferences aimed at remedying the African plight, can be found anywhere but Africa.

Sadly, the only answer that will come from Africans will be a religious one – this in itself is borrowed and does not really fit into the African experience.

The great question of the day therefore remains: Do Africans really want to do this, or are we waiting for someone who does not have first hand experience to do it for us?

If Einstein’s statement that ‘the only source of Knowledge is Experience’ is taken to mean anything in this context, we can all agree that the best solutions to Africa’s problems must come from Africa and Africans.

There are no short-cuts – it is high time Africans become the architects of their own solutions rather than remaining as mere atoms in a mass.

France in Recession Again: Mali to the Rescue?

Location of Mali
Location of Mali (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Could it be that people refuse to see the truth or I am just being paranoid to question the rationale of France holding a fundraiser to help Mali?

Wednesday saw many countries converge in Brussels to fund-raise and the sole intention is said to have been to help re-build Mali. All the Countries attending a fundraising conference for Mali on Wednesday pledged €3.25 billion ($4.22 billion) to rebuild the war-torn country.

It is acknowledged that the pledged funds exceeded expectations among conference hosts, including French President François Hollande, who had initially set the bar at €2 billion. According to Hollande, this “marks an important step forward in the social, economic and democratic renewal of Mali,”

If I recall well, this particular crisis came after the collapse of Libya, where the French aided rebels to overthrow the government of Gaddafi and arms given the rebels, spilled-over and were used to distablilse Mali. The French then deployed an initial  2,500 soldiers on Operation Serval and Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, promised that the troops will be in Mali for just ‘a short while’. After having the number of troops rise to over 4000, it has now been confirmed by Mr Le Drian that a combat force would stay to prevent any “revival of terrorism”. adding that “This is the reason why France will remain with roughly 1,000 troops on Malian territory for an undetermined period of time to carry out counter-terrorism operations if necessary.”

The question then I cannot avoid asking is: Could it be that the money that Mali is going to be needing so desperately be actually used for the salary of the French soldiers stationed there? Come to think of it, if the objective of raising the funds is to ensure that structures are put in place before elections, what better structure than security… which of course is being provided by the French.

Could this be one way the money raised will be used to help Mali?
Could this be one way the money raised will be used to help Mali?

If that is the case, could it then be that Mali is just being used as a stepping stone towards solving the recession in France after the game plan in Libya did not work out as planned?

It is really appalling to think that the French which have the worst legacy in Africa, which cannot handle its domestic affairs keep claiming to be able to solve African problems.

When I cast a casual glance at Africa, the most worse-off countries are those that were colonised by the French. The most out-of-touch dictators are in French dominated countries and the worst countries in Africa are former French colonies ((Bénin,Burkina Faso,Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo (Democratic Republic of) Congo (Republic of) Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Sénégal,Togo))

Have the French really got anything to offer Africa? One does not really need to go far to find the answer. Can a sick economy really help another? Can an economy that is threatened by imminent collapse and seriously considering unworkable austerity measures, plunging many of its citizens out of work really be concerned about another? The answer is obvious. But as usual, African leaders will sit by while the continent is being ravaged by foreign forces.

Considering that the United Kingdom was solidly behind France in this recent invasion of Mali, given that France is the second largest economy of the European Union, given even the location of the so-called fundraiser for Mali, I can now see again any angle of the recolonization of Africa for the survival of Europe.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon: Symptom of a Country in Travail

Introduction

There may be a relationship between good governance of a country and the performance of the national football team. Of course this is arguably a logic that may not hold true in most cases, but I do not want to simply sweep the possibility under the carpet. The dismal performance in the past few years, of the Cameroonian National Football team, fondly called the ‘Indomitable Lions’, may seem to the casual observer as one of the manifestations of the cyclic nature of history where institutions rise and fall. But to a person who takes a closer look at the last 3 decades, it is no isolated incident in the history of a country that seems to be marked for extinction.

The humiliating defeat on October, 14th, 2012, of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, a country of over 20 million, by the tiny Island of Cape Verde, a country of about 500,000 people, was not the first, but one of a series of manifestations of the imminent collapse of not just the national team but the country itself. The size of a country may not really matter in a game of football but the history of any institution does matter.

The Rise and Stagger of the Indomitable Lions

1990 - Oman Biyik lifts the team up
1990 – Oman Biyik lifts the team up

The entry of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon into the hall of Fame was in 1982 when they first played at the FIFA World Cup Finals. The team has made more appearances than any other African team for the FIFA World Cup, 1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010, and are credited for being the first African team to reach the quarter-final of the World Cup, in 1990, losing to England in injury time. However, it would seem the team sustained an injury during that time that has become difficult to heal. This is because the injury was not sustained in the field but off-the field as the makers of the Cameroon Polity saw it as an opportunity to get the team entangled in its politics of corruption and underdevelopment.[1]

In 1994 Cameroonians united as never before and maybe, never again on a common goal – supporting the Indomitable Lions. The Opération coup de Coeur launched by the then Prime Minister Simon Achidi Achu and the then Minister of Communication Augustin Kontchou Kouomegni, as a National Fundraiser to support the Indomitable Lions’ USA Campaign, came against the backdrop of the country’s refusal to disburse funds for the team that had made the Nation proud four years previously. [2] The operation was a resounding success as Cameroonians from all walks of life donated their widow’s mites that made up the 4 million that paradoxically, never reached the Indomitable Lions.  When asked of the whereabouts of the money, Kouomegni simply said: “l’argent s’est perdue quelque part dans le ciel entre Paris et New York[3] (Pigeaud, 2011, p 195). Kontchou’s crass remarks went unquestioned, while a journalist earned a suspension for daring to mention J. A. Bell[4]’s criticism of the infamous comments.

With such a gross act of broad daylight robbery against the Cameroonian people, little wonder the Lions had a terrible campaign in the USA suffering the worst defeat of recent memory to Russia, albeit with Roger Miller, scoring the lone goal and making history as the oldest player to have played and scored at the world cup.[5] One would have thought that this would be the end of the Indomitable Lions, but as their name signifies, they were not daunted. In 1998, they made another attempt on the World stage, which again failed to replicate the results of 1990, but two years later in the year 2000, the squad won the Nation’s first-ever gold at the Olympics in Sydney and it seemed to have signalled a new dawn for the team.

Squad of World Cup 1990
Squad of World Cup 1990

Reinvigorated, the team won the African Cup of Nations and came top of their group in the 2002 world cup qualifies but again, 1990 seemed to be a long time gone in to history as they produced yet another heartbreaking result for Cameroonian. However, the win of the African cup of Nations meant that in 2003, they were to participate in the FIFA Confederations Cup. The Lions put up their best performance in a competition outside of Africa but unfortunately, by the 72nd minute of the semi-final between Cameroon and Colombia, Marc-Vivien Foé collapsed and was pronounced dead a few hours later. Cameroon lost to France in the finals. This loss seemed to close the curtains on the Indomitable

2003 - Foe left the pitch never to return
2003 – Foe left the pitch never to return

Lions, as a team.

They failed to qualify for the 2006 world cup, (the first time since 1990 and the second since 1982), had their worst ever World Cup campaign in 2010 and have failed to qualify two consecutive times for the African Cup of Nations.[6]

The indomitable Lions and Biya’s Regime: The parallel

1982 is definitely an important year for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and Cameroon’s 2nd President, Paul Biya. While the Lions made their debut in the World Cup, Biya made his debut as president of the country. Both events however, could only have been possible through skilful planning of previous years – the former, because the Ahmadou Ahidjo regime had the largesse to host the 1972 African Nations Cup (the only tournament the country has hosted in the last 40 years), which ostensibly meant the provision of infrastructure of better training and preparation, and the latter because Ahidjo ‘loved’ Cameroon so much that he decided to resign and hand over power on grounds of ill-health. [7]

6 Terms for Biya - 6 Lions appearances at the World Cup
6 Terms for Biya – 6 Lions appearances at the World Cup

Diminishing returns seemed to have set in rather too early for both the team and the regime. One failed to qualify for the 1986 World Cup, and the other drove the economy to a crisis. The “Cameroon economic crises” resulted in rising prices in Cameroon, trade deficits, and loss of government revenue. The crisis was officially acknowledged by the Cameroon government in 1987. While external observers and critics blamed poor government stewardship of the economy, the government instead placed the blame on the fall of the prices of exports, particularly a steep drop in the price of petroleum. Cameroon balked at the condition to follow strict cost-cutting suggestions laid out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and took a seemingly wise decision to formulate her own plan, which turned out in principle, to be not much different from that proposed earlier.

As was to be expected these measures met with international approval, but violent crime rose as a result of the increase in unemployment. Cameroon’s plan failed to curb corruption. By October, 1988, the intended effect was less than had been hoped, and Cameroon was left with no other option than to agree to an IMF aid package worth $150 million and to accept a structural adjustment program (SAP) loan. The African Development Bank, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom loaned the government further funds (Delancey and Delancey, 2000). In the midst of this entire economic quagmire, the Lions bounced back and qualified for the 1990 World Cup finals.

The winds of change blowing across the world in 1990 did not leave out the Indomitable Lions and Biya’s government. On May, 26th 1990, the launching of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) meant the end of Biya’s one-party rule. The euphoria of the SDF launching was however, clouded by the success of the National team in the 1990 World Cup finals.

The 1992 presidential elections which the SDF allegedly won but was denied by the Biya government had been preceded in March of the same year with the appointment of Simon Achidi Achu[8], as the first Anglophone Prime Minister[9]. While the intention was to effectively orchestrate a dived-and-rule policy, Achu became the person to initiate and launch the 1994 Opération coup de Coeur. The outcome of the fundraiser clearly epitomises the level of Cameroonian politics and how festered it is by corruption. That both Achu and Kouomegni have never been called to answer for the disappearance of the said money, and given that upon leaving the Prime Ministry in 1996, the former has held many more positions of responsibility are only indications of how Biya’s government rewards corruption with better appointments. But corruption, like any dangerous virus, leaves a scar in its wake.

Thirty Years of ‘Undevelopment’

A trip I made across six of the ten regions of Cameroon, (Littoral, South West, Adamawa, North West, West and Centre) in September, 2011, revealed exactly what the country typifies. While it is fondly called ‘Africa in Miniature’ because of its diversity and richness, it also embodies the plight of the African continent. I was stunned to find this rich nation, an exporter of petroleum and many natural resources steeped in the morass of poverty and dilapidation. The effects of 30 years of rapacious political leadership, political patronage, large scale corruption, abject poverty, structural injustice, executive recklessness, total abuse of human rights and the widespread abuse of power were all too evident. [10]

Typical Cameroonian Road
Typical Cameroonian Road

 

The Cameroon polity and its National team both stand as the quintessence of the Marxian class society, the gargantuan disparity of privilege for a very tiny class, misery for the vast populace.[11] The sombre clouds of such a dismal reality, coupled with corruption across the government and governing body of FECAFOOT, to the failed promises made to Marc Vivien who died in the battlefield are reasons enough to destroy the fighting spirit of even the bravest lion.

When a child is born in a country, and grows up to realise that the only positive variable is their age, while everything else is held constant or diminishing; when a young person grows up to see roads and other transportation networks disappearing and becoming death-traps; when such a person, sees basic amenities like water and electricity supply drop in an age of increasing technological advancement in other parts of the world and all they hear from a stagnant political class are empty speeches about a ‘Cameroon of Great Ambitions’; when a young man grows in a country and believes that the only way to be successful is to travel to another; when the only thing that a country is known for is football and when this begins to dwindle into oblivion, then it is time to weep  for such a country.

Results of 30 Years of 'Great Ambitions'
Results of 30 Years of ‘Great Ambitions’

Conclusion

If anyone is wondering where I am going with this analysis, then, wonder no further than the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Index of African Governance which awards a $5 million Prize to a democratically elected former African head of state or government, who governed well, raised living standards, and then voluntarily left office.. This Index ranks African countries by progress across 88 indicators in four categories: safety and the rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development. While Cape Verde in 2012 came 2nd, Cameroon came 37th. [12]

Last year, in 2011, Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires won the prize while Paul Biya of Cameroon won another 7-year term in office, after 29 years. In 2012, it should not have been surprising then that Cape Verde beat the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to qualify for the African Nations Cup. Hence, if one were attempting to look at the correlation between good governance and good performance in football, look no further than the case of Cameroon and Cape Verde.

Notes

[1][1] See Fanny Pigeaud, (2011) Au Cameroun de Paul Biya Paris: Editions Karthala, http://www.amazon.fr/cameroun-Paul-Biya-Fanny-Pigeaud/dp/2811105263#reader_2811105263

[2] Pambazuka News, “What makes Biya’s despotic regime tick” http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/77469

[3] Translation: “The money got missing somewhere in the sky between Paris and New York”.

[4] One of the goalkeepers of the Indomitable Lions

[5] FIFA.COM Roger Milla, the pride of the Indomitable Lions http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/players/player=79318/index.html

[6]APA News  Cameroon knocked out of CAN qualifiers http://www.apanews.net/photo/en/photo.php?id=185889

[7] Mark W. Delancey and Mark Dike Delancey, (2000) Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon, 3rd. ed., Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press

[8] from the same Bamenda where the SDF was launched

[10] See for example Banda, C. (2012) Much Needs To Be Done About Human Rights In Cameroon http://www.cameroonpostline.com/Content.aspx?ModuleID=1&ItemID=9326

[11] See allAfrica.com Cameroon: Fecafoot to Construct Ultra-modern Office http://allafrica.com/stories/201211141181.html

[12] Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2012 Summary http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/downloads/2012-IIAG-summary-report.pdf

US Foreign Policy: Isolationism or Strategy Change?

Introduction

Anyone who followed the three US Presidential debates (Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney) and the VP Debate (Ryan Paul Vs Joe Biden) may have noticed something I noticed in the last Presidential debate. While it was meant to be a debate on Foreign Policy, both Presidential Candidates  seemed more comfortable with ‘taking’ the debate back home to domestic discussions. This may seem unusual to those who expected to hear the candidates thrill viewers and the electorate with their policies for the next four years, but the reality is that it is far from being unusual given the recent state of US foreign policy.  Two things could be deduced from the debate

  • First, some of the US electorate are not interested in what the foreign policy of their presidents are, hence to convince the undecided voters, attention had to be drawn constantly to domestic policy.
  • Secondly, the candidates really had nothing to sell in terms of foreign policy.

In fact for the most part, both Obama and Romney were in agreement on almost every aspect of US Foreign policy – from Iraq, to Libya, to Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Iran. The only notable difference was that while Obama thought he was doing enough and needed to sustain that (something which Republican Former Secretary of State Colin Powell agrees with), Romney thought there was need to go much further. They differed therefore only on the intensity of sanctions, the time frame for troop-withdrawals and the manner of interventions. However, whether Romney is a ‘whopper’ or not, is really of no consequence but I daresay that for him to have tagged Obama’s Middle East visit an ‘Apology tour’ means he may not be realising the changing tide of US Foreign Policy. This should not be surprising since the current policy is largely due to lessons learned from the mistakes created by people who thought like Romney.

The lessons from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and even Syria are enough to make any US president think twice before talking as if declaring war on the first provocation, or carrying out an outright intervention, or even challenging China is fashionable. The laid-back attitude of the USA is one that therefore makes one wonder if they will soon be reconsidering isolationism or if they are simply adopting a new strategy.

Lessons From Afghanistan…

Upon the ousting of the USSR from Afghanistan in 1979, the USA thought they had scored a major victory and surely there would have been pats on backs when the USSR finally collapsed 10 years later. But just about 11 years after the collapse of the USSR, the biggest attack on American soil in recent memory took place and is largely acclaimed to have been hatched in Afghanistan. Some may therefore wonder if it would have been better if the USSR had stayed on in Afghanistan. Without thinking, Bush went on to declare war against the Taliban – a war that has not only consumed great numbers of US and NATO troops but one that has decimated large civilian populations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and keeps terrorising people through incessant drone attacks. Most significant to this is the fact that the 2014 deadline for withdrawal does not signal victory for the USA and her allies. A lesson must surely have been learned.

Iraq: Anything to Learn?

Iran is considered today to be a serious threat to the USA and Israel especially if they succeed in getting a nuclear weapon. In the 1980’s this same Iran was caught in a long-drawn war with Iraq, a war that ended in what can be termed an ‘uneasy understanding’ between the two countries. In 1990/91, Operation Desert Storm against Iraq weakened the country considerably, and in 2003, the invasion by George W. Bush, which led to the killing of Saddam Hussein threw the country in to complete chaos and created a power vacuum, one that is quickly being filled by Iran, especially given the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The US withdrew without achieving anything positive both for them and the Iraqis by the intervention. A lesson was surely learned.

Paying a New Price in Libya – Lesson for Syria?

The above two cases may have sent a warning note to the US about interfering too much, hence, when it got to Libya, they took a passive position initially and left France and the UK to take the lead. When it became very tough for NATO and the war was dragging on more than anticipated, the US had to come in, or fallout with her European allies. They did and killed Gaddafi and a puppet regime was installed. Less than a year later, on the anniversary of 9/11, the US again paid a big price. While the UK ambassador was earlier targeted, he was luckier than his US counterpart. Unfortunately, there is no one in Libya for the USA to go after directly, so the withdrawal attitude this time was to divert the cause of the attack to religious fundamentalism.

In the light of this, it is not surprising therefore that the USA has been taking a different attitude towards Syria. Though out-rightly seeking the overthrow of Al Assad, supporting rebel factions and admitting it will be a blow if Al Assad does not fall eventually, they  have been reluctant to push enough to get full scale Libya-style ‘humanitarian’ intervention. No matter how Syria plays out in the end therefore, the US will not be able to claim any direct role in its outcome. Hence, if it turns out sour, they will not be responsible, though that will mean Iran’s influence will extend to the Mediterranean. But if it turns out the way the US wants, their objective of isolating Iran will have been realised. The long and short of all this is that the USA is gradually slowing down on its role as the self-acclaimed policeman of the world.

Isolationism – Maybe Not

From George Washington’s farewell speech, to  the First World War, the USA showed great reluctance to becoming involved in European alliances and wars. Their policy of Isolationism is based on the view that America’s perspective on the world was different from that of European societies and that America could advance the cause of freedom and democracy by means other than war. This worked well until their brief involvement in WW I against the Central Powers. Their later rejection of the Treaty of Versailles and consequently never becoming a member of the League of Nations, meant that the interwar years was a quick return to isolationism. However, it is worthy of mention that US isolationism did not mean complete disengagement from the world stage. The United States continued to be a world player and to further its territorial, ideological and economic interests, particularly in the Western Hemisphere.

Coming into WW II in 1940 against Germany and Japan in 1941, seemed to have been the final blow to Isolationism, especially with the USA actively participating in the formation of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.  The post war Marshal Plan and the onslaught of the Cold War meant the USA had reached the point of no return – at least until events of the last decade and most importantly, the last few years.

But is the USA again going to isolationism? I really think not. The reason is simple – while the US Presidential candidates discussed different aspects of Foreign Policy, there was no direct mention of their active role in Africa, (except the moments when Romney mentioned Mali and Libya as parts of happenings in the Middle East).

Africa – Integral Part of a New Strategy?

The non-mention of Africa is no ordinary omission given that just last year President Obama deployed 100 U.S. troops to Uganda to conduct a  search for Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in what I questioned whether it was a mission of Liberation or Reconolisation.  If that question seemed out of place then, it may not anymore given that the Army Times news service recently stated that the U.S. plans to deploy more than 3,000 soldiers to Africa in 2013.

It is therefore obvious that the US is not really thinking of Isolationism in the pre-1940 style, because, while they may have been taking a back seat attitude following recent losses and setbacks especially in the Middle East, their attitude in Africa has been one of active colonisation. This is especially when one thinks of operations such as “Cutlass Express”, the naval exercise that focused on fighting piracy in the Somali Basin region; “Africa Endeavor 2012” in Cameroon aimed at coordinating and training military communications and the Battalion Intervention Rapide in the same Cameroon (initially said to be aimed at fighting armed terrorism along the northern borders, but which has effectively become a force stationed in the Naval base of Limbe and was used to help Biya crackdown on protests in 2008 and change the constitution that helped him hold on to power)

Others such as the “Southern Accord 12” in Botswana aimed at establishing a military working relationship between southern African military forces and the U.S, and the “Western Accord 2012”  in Senegal that involved every type of military operation from fire exercises, intelligence gathering to combat marksmanship inter alia, really puts to rest any speculations that the USA is adopting any form of isolationism soon.

Since Africa was obviously the ‘elephant in the room’ during the debate, it therefore, makes one wonder what the new strategy is. Whatever it is, it is one that has this attitude of staying in the shadows and masquerading under the pretext of alliances. But if they are real strategic alliances that stand to benefit both the US and Africa, then would it  have been so conspicuously absent from a debate on Foreign Policy? Or was it – maybe not really, especially when one considers that statements like ‘I will go after China’ could only mean making Africa the battleground.

As the saying goes – ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’ hence AFRICOM if anything, signals danger for Africa because one cannot help but beg the question as to whose interest such a force stands to serve.

500 Years Later – Time For Africa to Forget… A Review!!!

INTRODUCTION

It is indeed a compelling Documentary and a must-watch for as I did, I came to realise that the scramble, partition, and colonization of Africa saw the continent divided among different competing powers which went to great lengths to sap the continent of its vast riches. While the British adopted the colonial policy of ‘Indirect Rule’, The Portuguese and the French adopted the policy of assimilation. This was informed by the fact that they portrayed nothing good in the African, and by their policy made Africans to despise their own cultural values and attempt to adopt western values at the expense of their rich African heritage. Hence, Africa was divided among European countries for the purpose of exploitation, suppression and domination for one obvious reason, and that was economic predisposition.

The Europeans petitioned African nations, repositioned themselves, and became ‘owners’ of everything in Africa that were of any value. African nations were subjected to foreign domination and exploitation. This situation was exacerbated when most of the academic and religious orientation of some of the first breed of Africans was aimed at continuing the legacy of slavery and colonialism in new forms – even in an era where there is so much talk about human rights, freedom and political self-determination.

<<< Crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, poor education, inferiority complex, low expectation, poverty, corruption, poor health, and underdevelopment plagues people of African descent globally – Why? 500 years later from the onset of Slavery and subsequent Colonialism, Africans are still struggling for basic freedom-Why? Filmed in five continents, and over twenty countries, 500 Years Later engages the authentic retrospective voice, told from the African vantage-point of those whom history has sought to silence by examining the collective atrocities that uprooted Africans from their culture and homeland. 500 Years Later is a timeless compelling journey, infused with the spirit and music of liberation that chronicles the struggle of a people who have fought and continue to fight for the most essential human right – freedom.>>>

The 500 Years Later (2005) movie written by M. K. Asante, Jr. and directed by Owen ‘Alik Shahadah, with five international awards to its credit, is a penetrating documentary that looks at history from an African perspective. It depicts the problems people of African descent continue to encounter today and finding their roots in history. Filmed on location all over the world, this film covers issues ranging from slavery to the civil rights movement and from colonialism to poverty. The movie further depicts those who died due to famine, diseases, and social dislocation aboard ships that took them to Europe in order to build empires. It is now half a century since Ghana got its independence as the first African State after colonisation, but Africa is still bereft of any meaningful economic and technological development. It is a cause for concern for any well meaning African. This has led A.M. Babu when writing the postscript of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, to query;

…..What, we may ask, has gone wrong? Is it inherent in the very nature of underdevelopment that makes development an impossible task? Among the many prescriptions that have been offered, e.g., cultural, social, psychological, even economic-none has produced any encouraging result, in fact, nearly all of them have had negative results, and made bad situations worse.

The questions raised by Babu receive a cogent examination in 500 Years Later. While the movie deals with issues such as crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, poor education, inferiority complex, low expectation, poverty, corruption, poor health, and underdevelopment among others, this critical review will focus on some of the broad themes that cuts across the different issues raised in the documentary to evaluate where the problems really lie. Is it justified that Africans should be perpetually held by the bondage of their past or should they forget it and move on?

IMPERIALISM/CAPITALISM

If there is one theme that runs through the movie 500 Years Later, it is the notion of a people who have been perennially exploited for the good of others. It captures on-screen what Walter Rodney captured in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. The importance of bringing such an issue to the limelight can be seen in the fact that the Occupy Protests that raged across many cities in the world  all aimed at fighting the excesses of Capitalism which is inherently exploitative.  This is what 500 Years Later captures so well. It shows clearly that the present day form of capitalism crept into Africa, in the 19th century with the arbitrary partition and colonisation of Africa. This was as a result of some weaknesses which Africa had. Rodney (2005) recognises some of them as “the concept of weakness, and inadequate economic capacity, as well as certain political weaknesses namely; the incompleteness of the establishment of nation states which left the continent divided and the low level of consciousness concerning the world at large which had already been transformed into a single system by the expansion of capitalist relations. (p. 174)

Of the two weaknesses, Africans were able the overcome the latter, as they gradually got opportunities to study and acquire more knowledge about the world at large. Most of the first breed of Africans who got fully educated strove to overcome the other weakness. These were the African Nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Julius Nyerere, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Patrice Lumumba, Samora Marcel among others. But unlike Europe and America who had to determine their future with little or no external influence, the case of Africa was different. The gullibility of most Africans led to their being pitched against each other. The result was general political instability, coups and counter coups, civil wars, etc. Within such circumstances, there was little or no room to make any meaningful economic advancement.

NEO-COLONIALISM

500 Years later clearly addresses the main issues of slavery and colonialism, it does also explicitly address another question, which is, why the many prescriptions for the African problem seem to be making no headway even after 500 years. This is the question of neo-colonialism. For example, neo-colonialism played and still plays a major role in Africa’s post-independence economic stagnation. Neo-colonial relationships can be seen to be the product of the transfer of formal political power to a class created by, and dependent upon western capitalism. This relationship receives a cogent description from Hodgkin (1969) who says ”Neo-colonialism” tends to be regarded as something of a dirty word, to be used-if at all- in inverted commas, reflecting the shocking lack of gratitude of the formal colonial peoples for the benefits which they continue to receive from the former colonial powers and from the west in general. But in fact, it is an entirely necessary way of describing the situations arising out of false-decolonization”.

Cabral (1979) also describes the real character of decolonisation and the context in which it took place as an objective of the imperialist countries to prevent the spread of socialism in Africa through the liberation of reactionary forces which had hitherto been stifled by colonialism and allowing these to ally with the international bourgeoisie. The end result of this was the creation of a bourgeoisie class where one did not exist so as to strengthen the capitalist and imperialist camp. This done, the bourgeoisie in the new countries had a role which, “…far from being anything surprising should be considered absolutely normal; it is something that has to be faced by all those struggling against imperialism” (p. 442)

Cabral’s (1979) analysis ties in with that of 500 Years Later which depicts that social differentiation was initiated in Africa during the colonial period. Although it is a fact that antagonistic social differences had already emerged in Africa long before European contact, the impact of European trade, followed by colonial rule greatly transformed the fabric of the African society and produced a new and more accentuated social cleavages. As Amin (1979) confirms “the complete colonization of West Africa had two principal social effects: the acceleration of the decadence of the primitive community and the reinforcement of traditional class difference on the one hand, the introduction and development of a new class differences linked to the capitalist exploitation of the continent on the other hand” (p. 36)

Fanon (1963) who labels this new class the ‘national middle class’ or national bourgeoisie’ of the African countries blasts them for compromising the goals of the national liberation movements and permitting a ‘false decolonization’ to take place. Fanon clearly states that the mission of these national bourgeoisie “has nothing to do with transforming the nation” as it is content with playing “the role of the western bourgeoisie’s business agent” and serving as the local instrument of neo-colonialism (152-153).

Fanon (1963) further characterises  this strata of the society as an ‘underdeveloped’ middle class’, since it has little or no independent economic power and no capability or inclination to play the historical role performed by the bourgeoisie of the western society. Thus, he states that the national bourgeoisie: “is a bourgeoisie in spirit only….consequently, it remains at the beginning and for a long time afterwards a bourgeoisie of the civil service…..it will always reveal itself incapable of giving birth to an authentic bourgeoisie society with all the economic and industrial consequences which this entails.

Caught up in this relationship and without an economic power base, of its own, the bourgeoisie has no choice than to become the willing accomplice of neo-colonialism and rely upon an authoritarian dictatorship to maintain its domination and privileges, ready to do anything to stay rooted in this position. Having being established as a ruling class, the bourgeoisies generally enriched themselves at the public’s expense through public graft and corruption as well as deals with foreign capitalists.

As a consequence, there has been increasing obligation of the bourgeoisie to foreign interests who are only too glad to offer loans, grants, and credits which will keep the bourgeoisie in debt to them. Thus in a bid to finance this conspicuous consumption and at the same time service the debts incurred, the bourgeoisie have mortgaged both the local economy and the state to foreign capital, in some cases, in the name of “privatization” Hence, the operating budget of most of the African states are totally dependent upon loans and grants from one or more of the major Western Powers, while local entrepreneurs and business men depend upon loans and credits from foreign banks and firms to finance their investments. The end result is a neo-colonial society, tied in a multiplicity of ways to foreign capital. With this state of affairs, it is clear that Africa’s quest for independence began on the wrong footing. The Bretton Woods institutions have not really helped matters. The loans given to most African states by the International Monetary Fund, accompanied by Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP), did no more than sap the African states of the little they had, leaving them with huge national debts to service

EDUCATION

Another key theme running through 500 Years Later is the need for education or re-education of Africans with relation to their history. Rodney (2005) had made the point that “the educated Africans were the most alienated Africans on the continent. At each further stage of education, they were battered and succumbed to the white capitalist system, and after being given salaries, they could then afford to sustain a style of life imported from outside… That further transformed their mentality” (p.275) 500 Years Later affirms this by stating that “the kind of education that we have is to still enslave our minds, to make us believe we are inferior…” This is an issue that had already received cogent treatment from Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah (1959) acknowledged that the writings of Karl Marx and Lenin greatly impressed him; hence he felt that their philosophy was capable of solving the problem of imperialism and colonialism. Nkrumah (1962) felt that education was the key to the liberation from colonialism, which to him is “…White man’s burden which rest heavily upon the shoulders of the so-called “backward” people who have been subjugated, humiliated, robbed and degraded to the level of cattle (p.29)” Nkrumah saw in the policies of the colonial masters a lot of hypocrisy. In their crafty nature, they masked their real inhumane nature and evil intentions so well that it was very difficult for the people to notice. He describes what will pass today as neo-liberalism as being an attitude aimed at stifling the real independence of African nations. For Nkrumah (1962), “…the attitude of Britain, France, Spain, Italy and other colonial powers towards what they call “participation” by colonial peoples in colonial government and public affairs are half-way measures to keep them complacent and to throttle their aspiration  for complete independence (p. 27). In the light of this, Nkrumah saw the need to present a model theory for the liberation of Africa, partly motivated by the hope that the Socialist movement in the world at the time would overtake the capitalist – imperialism that exploited Africa. Hence, in line with the objective of the author of 500 Years Later he wrote that “We have read articles, papers, pamphlets, and books on the subject and we are weary of the platitudes of their authors and distortion of facts. We have written as we see the facts and are indebted to no one but our conscience quickened by the rich revolutionary heritage of historical epochs”.

The point here is that many Africans having deciphered the distortions and platitude of European colonialism and now see the importance of knowledge in the African crusade of decolonization against European colonialism, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the African liberation and development. Knowledge is necessary for power and for action as Nkrumah (1962) wrote that “…there are vast numbers of ordinary Africans, who animated by a lively national consciousness, sort knowledge as an instrument of national emancipation and integrity. This is not to say that these Africans overlooked the purely cultural value of their studies. But in order that their cultural acquisition should be valuable, they needed to be capable of appreciating it as free men (p.4).

The whole idea is therefore that there is a pressing need for Africans to get engaged in the de-colonial campaign as free historical beings, since, “the main purpose of the organization is to bring about a final death of colonialism and the discountenance of foreign imperialist domination” (Nkrumah, 1962, p.41). This is because it was glaring that “outside interference does not help to develop their country, for it impedes and stifles and crushes not only economic progress, but the spirit and indigenous enterprise of the peoples themselves”(Nkrumah 1962, p.42). Hence, decolonization should have been seen as a major indigenous enterprise. Since it was an African ideological response, a philosophical responsibility of Africans to existential challenges of European colonialism Africans should be able to think along with Nkrumah, that de-colonisation is a theory of “what must be done” in responsible response to this dangerous foreign ideology against Africa and its citizens, nature and cultures. The writings of Nkrumah, Fanon, Rodney and others are just a few examples to support the message of 500 Years Later that the oppressed African spirit was only scorched by slavery but not killed, it was not discouraged in to naivety or total resignation,  it was not wearied into inactivity, nor hoodwinked into self-annihilation.

NOT COVERED….

While the movie 500 Years Later can be commended for doing a great job in touching on sensitive issues that are at the core of Africa’s woes, it is worth mentioning that it fails in a way in its treatment of the issue of conflict. Following the independence of most African states, there have been many conflicts whose causes cannot be tied down simply to ideology, slavery and colonialism. Some have attributed this to being a ‘curse’ arising from the abundance of Natural resources (Collier, 2007). This is fuelled by earlier views that an abundance of resources generates corruption of political institutions (Lane and Tornell, 1999). The argument has therefore been that corruption and the failure of governance structures in an environment of abundant resources increases the risk of civil conflict (Collier and Hoeffler, 2005). It is therefore worth insisting that a huge problem with Africa today, her unfortunate past notwithstanding, is the problem of bad governance and leadership.

CONCLUSION

500 Years Later is a great step towards getting the African story right. It depicts that the preservation of the basic relationship of western dominance and African dependence by other means after the formal transfer of power is still a key element in the continent’s underdevelopment. This is evident not only in the field of economic relations but as has been manifested in the resent bombardment of Libya by NATO forces, in the military, diplomatic, cultural, and educational terrains.

While 500 Years Later may have done a great job, this review has been aimed at showing that what M. K. Asante, Jr. and Owen ‘Alik Shahadah sought to achieve by movie had been expressed at different times by scores of scholars of African descent. What is therefore new about the movie is not really the information but the manner in which it has been communicated. The use of a movie means that people can sit down, relax and as a group go through the same story that Rodney or Nkrumah had expressed in print.

This movie and its sequel MOTHERLAND are therefore must-watches not only for African students but for students, academicians and scholars everywhere. In this era of globalisation, ignorance of Africa’s real history will no more be an advantage to any foreigner given that Africans are seeking not only to know the history of other continents but also to set theirs right. The effectiveness of all these however, will be reliant heavily on the condition that Africans first of all undergo what Ngugi Wa Thiongo calls the ‘decolonisation of the African mind’. This has to be, the complete shaking off of the psychological traumas of slavery and colonialism. Unless this stage is attained, Africans will continue to see situations where African leaders keep clamouring for foreign investors, without ever thinking of investing in their own citizens; situations where World economic conferences will be organised only for African leaders to attend and sit at the receiving end of the table; situations where African nations continue to be dumping grounds for outdated and ill fitted technology and technological know-how.

REFERENCES

Amin, S. (1979) “The Class Struggle in Africa.”  Revolution, Vol. I, no. 9 The African Research Group

Babu; A.M. Postscript to Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,

Cabral, A. (1979) The Struggle In Guinea, The African Research Group

Collier, P. (2007). The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collier, P. and A. Hoeffler. (2005). Resource Rents, Governance, and Conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(4): 625-33.

Fanon, F. (1963) The wretched of the Earth, New York: Grove Press

Hodgkin, T. (1969) Foreword to Green and Seidman’s Unity or Poverty? The Economics of Pan-Africanism Baltimore: Penguin

Lane, P.R. and Aaron Tornell. 1999. .The Voracity Effect. American Economic Review, 28, 22-46.

Nkrumah, K. (1959) The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah, London: Thomas Nelson Ltd.

Nkrumah; K. (1962) Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” London: Panaf Book Ltd.

Nkrumah; K. (1964) Consciencism, “Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation with Particular Reference to the African Revolution” London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.

Nkrumah; K. (1965) Neo-Colonialism, “The Last Stage of Imperialism” London: Panaf Books Ltd.

Rodney, W. (2005) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Abuja: Panaf Publishing Inc.

Teachable Moments Loom in Syrian Conflict

 

Christof Lehmann

After more than 18 months of belligerent action against the government de jure of the Syrian Arab Republic it is still maintaining relative stability and security. A peaceful resolution however, becomes increasingly illusive while the potentially catastrophic regional and global consequences of the failure to broker a peaceful resolution seem to be a harbinger of a return to global barbarism, anarchy and unspeakable human suffering.

NATOS´s Victory and Teachable Moments i Libya.

In an article, published in Foreign Affairs March/April 2012 edition which was published prior to NATO´s 25th Summit in Chicago, Ivo H. Daalder, the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO, and James G. Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander and Commander of the U.S. European Command, gave a a clear indication of what NATO has in mind for Syria.

Daalder and Stavridis described NATO´s Operation Unified Protector in Libya as  ” NATO´s Victory in Libya. The Right Way to Run and Intervention” and as “A Teachable Moment“. (1) What was so “teachable” about Libya, and what is “The Right Way to Run an Intervention” ? An analysis of NATO´s post 25th Summit doctrine and the consequences for security and stability in the Middle East points to a two tiered NATO strategy which combines low cost, low intensity, illegitimate warfare with an aggressive nuclear posture. (2)

There are in fact numerous teachable moments in the phenomena that is euphemized under the name “The Arab Spring”: The successful political manipulation of Turkey; The successful implementation of plans developed by the RAND Corporation which already in 1996 advised that Turkey should be governed by Gül in the office of President and R. Tayyip Erdogan in the office of Prime Minister, as a precondition for a successful implementation of a comprehensive solution for the Middle East; The successful transformation of the Turkish High Command from a bastion of secularism into a High Command that would cooperate with Muslim Brothers and Al-Qaeda mercenaries in preparation of the division of both Syria and Turkey along ethnic lines; The successful manufacturing of a crisis as precondition for the successful abuse of a UN Security Council resolution, as a precondition for the successful implementation of regime change.

A UN Security Council resolution is adopted when it has the concurrent vote of all permanent members. However, since resolution #4 (1948) on Spain it has become practice that abstentions are interpreted as a passive or quasi-concurrent vote. This practice implied that the members who propose the resolution are not overstepping the resolutions authorizations to a significant degree.

When Russia and China abstained on UNSC resolution # 1973 (2011) on Libya it was implicitly understood that Russia and China expected that NATO would adhere to the letter of the resolution and not overstep it in any significant degree. It should be added here, that the fact that the UNSC has adopted a resolution does not necessarily make it legitimate.

What Daalder and Stavridis also found “teachable” was that NATO or its allies could disregard the Convention against the Use of Mercenaries and use the Al Qaeda associated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group as infantry, while abusing resolution 1973 to wage an aerial war against the Libyan military.

Special Forces on the ground would function as liaison within a joint command while NATO could enjoy “plausible deniability”. The Libyan government de jure was ousted, the head of state murdered in cold blood, an independent investigation into his death could be prevented, a proxy government could be installed.

It is not surprising that Daalder and Stavridis proclaim a NATO Victory in Libya. From a NATO perspective it was in deed a victory and a teachable moment. It was also a moment that has taught both Russia and China that NATO will abuse an abstention at the Security Council to implement wars of aggression.

The UN Security Council has since been frozen in a deadlock between NATO members on one hand and China and Russia on the other. The deadlock has brought the necessity of structural changes within the United Nations into focus. The United Nations is rapidly loosing its residual credibility and functionality as an instrument for conflict resolution while security and stability in the Middle East are deteriorating. Negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria, for the brewing conflict between NATO, Israel, the GCC member states on one hand, and Iran, Russia, China on the other at the UN seems increasingly implausible, if not impossible.

NATO´s victory in Libya has not only brought about regime change, it has also devastated the countries infrastructure, divided the country along tribal and ethnic lines, resulted in a weak and split national government that is unable to maintain internal as well as external stability and security. What is most worrying about Daalder´s and Stavridis interpretations of Libya as victory and teachable moment is, that it implies that the achievement of the destabilization of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and subsequently Turkey are likely to be perceived as victories and teachable moments too.

The cost of further NATO victories in terms of regional and global stability and security, in terms of the economies of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and the global economy, the cost in terms of a deterioration of international law and a return to barbarism and anarchy in conflict and conflict resolution, and the cost in terms of human suffering are staggering.

Peaceful Resolution of Syria Crisis only Possible with Good Faith.

The primary precondition for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Syria is that all parties are negotiating and acting in good faith.

An immediate withdrawal of all NATO and GCC member states special forces and other military personnel from Syria is a minimum precondition for showing good faith.

An immediate adherence to the Convention against the Use of Mercenary Forces and other international bodies of law by NATO and GCC member states, Jordan, Lebanon or major political players in Lebanon such as Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, Israel, Libya and any other nation that is currently involved in financing, training, arming or other support of insurgents and the armed opposition.

An immediate establishment of strict controls of refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Particularly the refugee camps in Turkey are being systematically abused to recruit, train, arm and deploy insurgents into Syria. Strict controls would include that entrance into and exit from the camps is strictly monitored by Turkish police or military personnel, eventually with the participation of military observers from one or several non NATO or GCC member states.

The close monitoring of all Syrian borders by neighboring countries military forces to stop the illegal flow of weapons, troops and the deployment of military observers from non NATO, GCC member states.

The blatant violations of international law in particular by Turkey and Jordan, who not only offer their territory for infiltration by foreign fighters, but who actively take part in organizing the subversion, and all logistical and other support of insurgents must halt immediately.

The new joint UN – Arab League envoy Ladhkah Brahmini should be given the full support of all UN member states. His role is, however not likely to be perceived as that of a neutral or fair broker, as long as the Arab League upholds the dispensation of Syria´s membership. Ladhkah Brahmini will be facing an insurmountable challenge as long as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who together with Iran and Egypt form the Contact Group, are violating international law and sponsoring the insurgency and subversion.

Initiatives by the Arab League to politically, diplomatically, economically and otherwise isolate Syria which are inherently opposed to the Charter of the Arab League and its purported function do not create preconditions for negotiations in good faith. Illegitimate initiatives, such as the one to pressure Arabsat and Nilesat to stop broadcasting Syrian Radio and TV satellite signals in order to facilitate absolute image and media control by nations who are taking part in the attempted subversion must cease. A dialog in good faith is not facilitated by one-sided, strongly biased propaganda. The Organization of the Islamic Conference must recall the dispensation of Syria. The abuse of this organization is dangerous and risks to aggravate a religious dimension of the conflict and to further aggravate the abuse of Sunni – Shia conflicts world wide.

Organizations such as the “Friends of Syria” group, which is a de facto subversive alliance must be abandoned as instruments for finding a resolution to the conflict. The Friends of Syria group is a de-facto cartel of nations who meet to organize systematic violations of international law in an attempt to bring about regime change in Syria.

Iran is to host a conference of 120 nations to work towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis. It is a positive initiative that should be supported, but it is not likely to bring about a peaceful resolution unless Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the U.A.E. will take part in good faith.It is a positive initiative that should be supported, but it risks to further aggravate the conflict unless Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are taking part and are willing to play a constructive role, which is unlikely.

In the absence of NATO and GCC member states, Jordan´s, Israel´s, Libya´s and others good faith in negotiating a peaceful resolution, the Iranian initiative may in fact be part of the only viable alternative. If it is supported by Russia and China it may have a chance to succeed.

The second best solution to an all inclusive solution that embraces the armed political opposition and the nations who are supporting it would be the establishment of a multilateral group that protects Syria from the consequences of a continued aggression.

Such an alternative solution could include the following initiatives:

Countering the consequences of attempts to diplomatically, politically, economically and otherwise isolate the government de jure of Syria by reinforcing diplomatic and political relations, by trade agreements that help alleviate the devastating consequences of sanctions, and to diversify the one sided international discourse about Syria.

Even though political parties in Syria are legitimate, and even though one opposition party is holding a ministerial post in the unity government, there is a lack of party infrastructure that makes opposition parties equal competitors to the Arab Socialist Baath Party. Selective support of the one or the other political party at building a party infrastructure can be problematic and invites unwarranted foreign interference.

A model for developing a democratic culture and multi-party infrastructure projects could facilitate a pluralistic political process which could to remedy the consequences of decades of government under emergency laws.

When organizing those projects, it must be taken into consideration that Syria, because of its de-facto state of war with Israel has had heightened security needs which have not decreased since the onset of the attempted subversion. As a long term strategy of delegating political influence and responsibilities to multiple political parties is the best strategy to discourage from attempts to use violence and for strengthening national coherence.

In the case that the UN fails as an instrument to safeguard the national sovereignty and security of Syria while the subversive alliance continues the illegitimate support of armed insurgents, it must be considered to add a military dimension to finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The government de jure of the Syrian Arab Republic has the right to sign treaties with friendly, non hostile nations and deploy foreign military troops on Syrian territory. Failure by Turkey and Jordan to secure that insurgents are not using their territories as bases of operations for transgressions in Syria could be countered by the deployment of international troops along the borders to help repel insurgents. Further failure of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, as well as NATO member states to halt the illegitimate support could warrant diplomatic and other sanctions.

Sadly, in the light of sustained aggression, the most viable way to secure peace and stability is to aid Syria by establishing diplomatic, political, economical and military credibility against a foreign aggression.

At closing this article, I would like to reiterate that war crimes will be committed as long as they can be committed with utter impunity. The current state of affairs, where NATO and allied nations instrumentalize the ICC and special tribunals for political show trials and victors justice, with an ICC that in and on itself has no legitimacy in international law on one hand, and a Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal that has no other than moral authority, it is unlikely that the international regression into barbarism can be halted.

Those nations who wish to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Syria and who want to prevent future aggressions, would be well advised to establish international jurisdiction for the most serious crimes to limit war criminals ability to act with impunity.

Source: Christof Lehmann, Editor: NSNBC

27.08.2012

Notes:
1) Daalder Ivo H, Stavridis James G. (2012) ”NATO´s Victory in Libya. The Right Way to Run an Intervention“. Foreign Affairs March/April 2012 pp 2-7
2) Lehmann Christof (2012) “NATO`s 25th Summit in Chicago in Preparation of Global Full Spectrum Dominance, Interventionism, Possible Preparations for A Regional War Directed against Russia and China, and Developments in Global Security.” nsnbc, May 20 2012. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/natos-25th-summit-in-chicago-in-preparation-of-global-full-spectrum-dominance-interventionism-possible-preparations-for-a-regional-war-directed-against-russia-and-china-and-developments-in-global/