Has Marafa Jump-started The National Conference in Cameroon

Is the system of corruption and dictatorship that has held Cameroon to ransom for about three decades about to self-destruct? Could it be that the time has come when history in its ever-sure nature has run its course and what was denied Cameroonians since the 1990s is being given on a platter of Gold? Or on a more sombre note, could it be that Cameroon is becoming a stage where global powers will play-out some of their dirty politics as has been the case with several African countries?

Biya – 30 years and counting…

I recently uploaded a cover picture on my Facebook which reads: ‘AFRICA IS THE FUTURE’ but each time I look at it, I find myself assailed by conflicting emotions. I have not stopped wondering how it can happen. A casual glance  at the continent reveals a rich continent beset by widespread corruption and poverty; the thriving of dictatorship and the crowning of sit-tight attitude of leaders. It could be a given that the inability of the continent to get out from the pit of underdevelopment and the prevalence of armed conflicts can only be addressed effectively if the horrors of corruption, lack of solid institutions, genocides, wars and other forms of violence are effectively dealt with within the systems in which the evils were perpetrated. When the International Criminal Court for example fails to try Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Taylor in Ivory Coast and Liberia respectively, but allows Saddam to be tried and executed in war-torn Iraq and is currently showing laxity in taking Saif Gaddafi away from war-torn Libya, the indication of double standards, which many are bound to decry becomes obvious. Looking at South Africa and Sierra Leone however, one sees situations in which Truth and Reconciliation Commissions – systems of public truth-telling – were effective in healing the nations of the scourges of apartheid and civil war respectively. Sober reflection then on whether the Sovereign National Conference that has been the wish of many Cameroonians could be the panacea to the nation’s scourge.

Marafa – Rocking the Boat…

This article thinks that could be the case – given the recent revelations by the erstwhile Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation,  Marafa Hamidou Yaya, who was hauled to prison without trial. By the end of it, your conclusions will be as good as mine but no matter what they are – it will not be long before we are proven right or wrong.

At the dawn of the 90s, when the bloody launching of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) set off the democratization process in Cameroon, a National Conference was viewed as the panacea for a new direction for the country. The clamour for the National Conference was backed by the all powerful National Coordination of opposition parties, it was backed by the civil society, and the private media buoyed by exciting political developments amply articulated the case made by proponents of this forum. The response from President was “sans objet”, a National Conference will serve no purpose is a loose translation of his laconic response.

His response could be understood because in the Republic of Benin, where the first National Conference took place in the continent, President Kerekou sat helpless and watched as he was stripped of all the dictatorial powers he had. The experience in Zaire now the DR.Congo had not gone well at all for President Mobutu. In lieu of the National Conference, President Biya organized the Tripartite Talks which did little to address the concerns of change thirsty Cameroonians. Over two decades later, there is every indication that Cameroon needs that National Conference more than ever before. Infact the urgency becomes fiercer considering the subtle viciousness of the raging succession battle within the ruling establishment which is overheating the polity. A lot of ink has flowed since the arrest of former Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni and former Territorial Administration Minister and Politburo member of the CPDM Marafa Hamidou Yaya. In a couple of letters Marafa by fate or by design may have finally jump started the National Conference.

Whereas the other high profile detainees have largely remained silent, Marafa has put the regime in panic mood  with embarrassing revelations contained in letters that have left the country only yearning for more .As the country watches in awe, as the CPDM is pinned to the wall unable to defend their Party Chairman cum Head of State, as the SDF joins the fray providing a high profile team of legal advisers to defend Marafa, and with the CPDM dominated parliament reportedly backing a demand for a commission of enquiry into kickbacks paid to former Minister of Transport and now Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma as revealed in one of Marafa’s letters, the former Secretary General at the Presidency and Minister of Territorial Administration may have launched that National Conference.

There may be no reason  to believe everything Marafa says , but if the Government and the ruling party are running helter skelter, then there should be elements of truth. That the ruling establishment is unable to articulate a coherent response can only add up to guilt. Rather than answer the charges , the regime thinks casting doubts on Marafa’s character and vaulting ambition will sweep the issues under the rug. But what about the facts he has used in making his arguments? Why  has the regime not provided facts to the contrary? Issues raised by Marafa have bordered on his doubts on the ability of ELECAM to organize free elections, advise to Biya to step down, instances of corruption brought to the attention of the head of state, his opposition to violent crackdowns in Douala et al. Most of these issues would probably never have occured had the National Conference taken place to lay a strong foundation for a country serious on meeting 21st century challenges.

A National Conference will possibly have vouch for separation of powers with checks and balances. It may have made it possible to have strong institutions instead of a strong man in power. It would likely have come up with the kind of electoral reforms that will make Cameroon the envy of other countries. The CPDM backed Biya in rejecting in. It possibly would have come up with reforms that would have quelled the institutionalization of corruption. Today there is a whole government in jail for crimes not clearly spelt out, with facts that are hazy though no one doubts the magnitude of corruption within the regime. It never took place and the result is a faulty constitution whose provisions have never been fully implemented since 1996. It never took place and since 1990, Cameroon has not known a single election that is free and fair election.

The National conference may have addressed concerns of Southern Cameroonians who have since continued to be humiliated and stretched and now want nothing but a restoration of their statehood.

Hard to make an exhaustive list of what a National Conference will have addressed but it is right to say the issues have been multiplied many fold. Even President Biya and his CPDM who “saw no merit” may rethink their stance if the clock could be turned backwards. While his collaborators in jail must have tasted the poison they helped serve Cameroonians, the President cuts a pathetic figure. In power for circa thirty years is Mr Biya proud of his legacy as it stands today?

For the National Conference, dialogue or whatever it is called to be successful, people must speak their minds, people must unburden secrets, people must be ready to listen and as hard as it might be forgive. Marafa has fingered Issa Tchiroma, Fame Ndongo and even the President himself. In the absence of a formal gathering, his letters serve a purpose. Cameroonians may love to know about election rigging and its techniques, there will love to know how proceeds from oil were managed when he was Chair of the National Hydrocarbons Company. How about shedding light on the operational command in Douala? What if someone tells us what really happened to money contributed by Cameroonians during the Coup de Coeur for the upkeep of the embattled lions ate the 1992?   How about Minister Fame Ndongo answer the charge from Marafa on his role in siphoning funds for some bogus satellite program at CRTV? Already former CPDM Central Committee Member Chief Milla Assoute is adding flesh to the corruption charge levied against Issa Tchiroma for on a contract for the maintenance of Cameroon Airline planes in the mid nineties.

While it is laudable that the SDF is pushing for a Commission of Enquiry on the compensation of victims of the 1995 plane crash, one must ask why the MPs of the leading opposition party did not ask for one on the Albatross, or for one to review the modus operandi of Sparrow Hawk. Hopefully Marafa’s barbs can fire up others within the ruling party, the opposition, civil society, the progressive forces in the Diaspora et  al to step up the fight for change. The country needs that National Conference or some genuine form of National dialogue. On it may depend whether the country makes or mars. On it depends genuine reconciliation because beyond the façade of peace lies a badly fragmented polity. Genuine reconciliation starts with dialogue, shedding light on issues not to reopen old wounds but to better understand each other and chart a better way forward. From the 1984 coup, the repatriation of the remains of former President Ahidjo, national recognition of heroes of the independence struggle like Roland Moumie, Ernest Ouandie, etc. South Africa had its truth and reconciliation with sordid tales that hurt but helped to heal the wounds of apartheid. Nigeria after Abacha tried the something similar. Cameroon needs its own and Marafa’s missives though inadvertently may be leading the country towards this ultimate eventuality.

Source: Pan African Visions

Africa And the Plight of a Wasted Generation

From St. Ives to Inverness; from the Isle of Man and stretching across the City of London; and even in places like Tristan da Cunha, a UK Overseas Territory and the most remote inhabited island chain on the planet, this has been a long weekend of celebrations. It started officially on Saturday (and even with the characteristically gloomy British weather) the streets of all cities have been aglow with images of the Union Jack. It has been a long weekend awash with celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond jubilee.

As I sat watching the incessant dripping of the rain through my window, I could not help but wonder if an average African born 60 years ago will have any cause for celebration – that is if they were fortunate to see their 60th anniversary. As if to lend credence to my thoughts, the double tragedy in Africa’s most populated country on a day so aptly tagged ‘Black Sunday’ seemed to have been the one thing I needed to realise the futility of any struggle to make meaning of life – especially as an African.

I was forced to take a look at what Africa was in 1952 and what did I see? I saw US-educated Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who had been elected prime minister of the Gold Coast (the British Colony that later becomes Ghana). That seemed to be the beginning of a new era for a continent that had not known any form of freedom for centuries since it was enslaved and colonised. There was hope for the continent as continental Africans who were at that time studying in America and Europe such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Leopold S. Senghor of Senegal Julius K. Nyerere of Tanzania, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafami Awolowo of Nigeria were all returning to mother Africa, preaching and applying their political ideology for African nationalism and Pan-Africanism. Their political philosophy which assumed the new role of pedagogy for promoting internal liberation.

There were beacons of hope across the continent 10 years later,  by 1962, when a majority of the continent gained independence. But unlike the  about 4200 beacons of the Diamond Jubilee which as they  were  lit, had three generations of Royalty watching, with smiles on their faces, I wonder if anyone can look back and smile at any of the beacons of hope that were lit in Africa in the early 1960s.

Let me look at a few:

The first is Leopold Sedar Senghor. According to Senghor the value of African socialism was founded on the African understanding of family based on philosophical intuition through the concept of Negritude: “The family in Africa is the clan and not as in Europe ‘mum, dad and the baby’ it is not the household but ‘the sum total of all persons, living and dead, who acknowledge a common ancestor.’ As we know, the ancestral lineage dates back to God”.[1]

Leopold S. Senghor – Negritude

Senghor saw a common factor of Africanity as consisting in the state of being ‘black’, ‘negritude’, ‘negroness’. Hence the Afro-Negro worldview could be sustained by an intuitive consciousness that opens itself up in communal embrace to the rest of the world culture. African culture was therefore, a symbiosis of different elements, in a symbiotic encounter, in which association was free and beneficial to all. Senghor felt that Negritude could open up a harmonious basis for integration of black and white values with a view of bringing into being a new African personality which necessarily contributes to the civilization of values. In this light negritude was seen as a cultural heritage of the Negros and an embodiment of cultural, economic, political and social values of the Black people.

It is against this backdrop that negritude was seen as being not just a mere theoretical speculation or simply a philosophy of being but also a philosophy of praxis aimed at liberation. Its aims and objectives were considered the same as those pursued by all African nationalists following independence, namely, the truth of their “being” and “culture” as well as the full mastery of their environment. Negritude was nothing more than the Black man’s attempt to regain what Jean-Paul Sartre calls an ‘existential integrity” on the original purity of one’s existence.

60 years on: the African still lives on an existential mirage. The lines between life and death are blurred. People go to church and do not return. Others board flights or cars but never reach their destination. Children are born only for them to witness the agony of starvation, deprivation and die of curable diseases before their first birthday. Maybe the problem was Negritude – either hoping too much or too little!

Julius Kambarage Nyerere, like Senghor saw in African socialism, the only

Nyerere – Ujaama Socialism

veritable tool that could affect the political and economic liberation of Africa. Like Senghor, Nyerere felt that “the foundation and objective of African socialism is the extended family.”[2]  The familyhood depicted by Ujamaa, therefore, went beyond the basic family nucleus; beyond the tribe, the community, the nation. It must include the entire human race. It x-rayed the traditional life of the African people where the sense of brotherhood was strong: where “society is so organized that it cares about the individual”.[3] In short Ujamaa socialism was said to be an attitude of mind needed to ensure that people care for each other’s welfare. In Nyerere’s conceptual schemes, therefore, the solution to the African predicament and the sure road to freedom, laid simply in the adoption of African socialism which was antithetical to capitalism. Nyerere’s Ujamaa was clearly a theory that was aimed at transforming independent Africa.

60 years on: capitalism reigns supreme in Africa. Individualism is manifested in the grabbing attitude of politicians who think only of making quick gains at the expense of the masses. Even China which is communist at home is capitalist in Africa. May be there should have been a middle way!

Zik – Neo-Welfarism

This was sought by Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik) whose major political thought centre around the idea of the regeneration of Africa in socio-political life and what he termed “neo-welfarism”. The idea of the regeneration of Africa represents a call to a New Africa. Beyond the general tendencies prevalent in his time, to favour and refine socialist teachings and to reject capitalist principles, Zik was among the few thinkers who made frantic efforts in the search of a middle way between socialism and capitalism in his later years. Finding the major political systems – capitalism, socialism, welfarism – wanting, Zik, feeling that since none of them is totally bad, there was the need for the harmonization of these systems by combining what he believes to be the good elements in each of them. These results in what he called “neo-welfarism” which is “an economic system which blends the essential elements of Capitalism, Socialism and Welfarism  in a socio-economic matrix, influenced by indigenous African mores, to enable the state and the private sector to own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange, whilst simultaneously enabling the state to assume responsibility for the social services, in order to benefit the citizens according to their needs and officially specified minimum standard, without prejudice to participation in any aspect of the social services by voluntary agencies.”[4] The philosophical basis for neo-welfarism is eclecticism and pragmatism.

Unfortunately, pragmatism and eclecticism have been painstakingly removed from Nigerian political dictionaries and hence the via media has no place anymore. The fuel subsidy crisis was just one of many examples of where socialism and welfarism have been binned in favour of resolute capitalism. This should not have been surprising because Nkrumah had prophesied about them.

One of the most systematic and speculative of the freedom movement of post-

Nkrumah – Consciencism

colonial Africa was the theory of liberation of Kwame Nkrumah, which he expounded in his book Towards Colonial Freedom, written in 1947 and published in 1962. Nkrumah spoke of liberation as being mainly from colonialism, which to him was “…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.”[5] .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. “ the attitude of Britain, France, Spain, Italy and other colonial powers towards what they call “participation” by colonial people in colonial government and public affairs are half-way measures to keep them complacent and to throttle their aspiration  for complete independence”.[6]

In the light of this, Nkrumah saw the need to present a model theory for the liberation of Africa. He was partly motivated by the hope that the Socialist movement in the world at the time would overtake the capitalist – imperialism that exploited Africa.

Nkrumah, and other Africans having deciphered the distortions and platitude of European colonialism saw 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 was necessary for power and for action. Nkrumah further 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.[7]

There was 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”.[8]. 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.[9]

60 years on: Outside interference has never been far from Africa. Its legacies are clear for all to see. Africa produces no guns but records the highest number of deaths by guns. The DRC, Somalia and Libya are living examples of foreign imperialist domination. The IMF and the World Bank have only succeeded in impeding and stifling economic progress with proposals that never seem to work but are always imposed on African governments.

60 years on after Nkrumah won  the first election in Africa as the PM of the Gold Coast, we are apt to wonder if it will be better if Africa could simple forget all the years of civil wars, genocides, apartheid, famine and diseases. Maybe we can start anew! But should this option be considered, Africa will have WASTED A GENERATION!

NOTES:


[1] Senghor; Poetry and Prose (Selected and trans by Reed and C. Wake) (London: Oxford University Press, !965), p. 43

[2] Nyerere: Ujamaa: Essays On Socialism (Dar-es Salaam :Oxford University Press 1968) p. 2

[3] Ibid p. 3

[4] Nnamdi Azikiwe; Ideology for Nigeria: Capitalism, Socialism or Welfarism. (Lagos: Macmillan Nigeria Publishers Ltd, 1981), p. x

[5] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” (London: Panaf Book Ltd., 1962), p. 29

[6] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” p. 27

[7] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” p. 4

[8] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” p. 41

[9] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” p. 42

Attack on Syria likely before March?

After the Arab Leagues discontinuation of it´s mission in Syria, the closure of European and Arab Embassies in Damascus, and the non binding resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, all signals are set “Go” for the War on Syria and Iran. The remaining questions are, what will be the pretext to trigger the transition from the months long covert to an overt war, when will it be initiated, how is it likely to develop, and what will the outcome be.

Diplomacy: The discontinuation of the Arab leagues mission in Syria and the closure of European and Arab Embassies prompted the Russian UN Envoy Vitaly Churkin to interpret them as possible precursors of war. (1) The adoption of a non binding resolution by the United Nations General Assembly on Syria on Thursday came after intense US-American and Western European diplomatic pressure on politically and economically dependent nations, and following the Russian and Chinese rejection of a draft resolution at the UN Security Council on 4 February.

On Sunday Syria rejected the Arab League´s resolution that was calling for a UN-Arab Peacekeeping force in Syria, combined with the tightening of economic sanctions on Syria. The resolution was perceived as blatant interference into Syrian internal affairs. More over, the fact that several of the nations that sponsored the Arab Leagues resolution, and who would be the most likely candidates to volunteer “UN Peace Keepers”, are the very nations that are waging an illegal covert war against Syria; namely, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, with the aid of Turkey, USA, UK, and other NATO Member States. Both Syria, Russia, and China opposed the Arab League Resolution to prevent what they called a new Libya like scenario.

Vitaly Churkin stated, that the draft resolution was unbalanced and that it reflected the tendencies that cause Russia concerns. Namely, the attempt to isolate the Syrian political leadership, the rejection of any contacts with it, and the attempt to impose a political settlement formula from the outside. According to Churkin, Russia also rejected the draft resolution because non of the Russian amendments had been adopted. Churkin elicited, that Russia was especially critical of the failure to include a call on all armed groups to cease attacking residential neighborhoods and government institutions, as well as a call on government troops to leave cities and towns. Churkin also concluded that failure to adopt these points did not leave Russia with any other choice than to vote against the draft.(2)

On Thursday, the European Union adopted a resolution, urging the Russian Government to immediately halt the sales of arms to Syria. The E.U. resolution was widely perceived by analysts as meant for domestic consumption in the attempt to cognitively and emotionally prepare populations of E.U. Member States for a significant “freeze” in E.U.-Russian relations and a possible indirect or direct military conflict with Russia. Syria is the largest Arab importer of Russian arms. (3) However, seen from an objective perspective, the relatively modest Russian arms sales to Syria dwarf the heavy US and E.U. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Israel and other regional countries.

On 2 January, nsnbc reported that the US will deliver 84 new F-15 Boeing Fighter Jets to Saudi Arabia and significantly upgrade it´s existing fleet. (4) It is an arms deal, supporting a regional US ally, that is waging a covert war on Syria and is arming what is euphemistically called the “Syrian Opposition” (5), a country that is cracking down on protesters in Bahrain, and a country that only recently has beheaded a woman for “sorcery” (6). The traditional European or Prussian warfare doctrine of Carl von Clausewitz (7), that warfare should be the continuation of diplomacy by other means seems to have developed into diplomacy being warfare by other means. The fact that Clausewitz was inspired by Hegel seemingly makes this permutation easy. Create a problem, foster a popular demand for a solution which suits your strategic interests, and deliver the solution. The fostering and abuse of what is euphemistically sold as “The Arab Spring” with capital letters, like “The Holocaust” and the offering of military intervention as solution is a perfect example of Hegelian Dialectics; An Arab Spring, that is cynically, manufactured along the guidelines of the US Special Forces Training Circular for Unconventional Warfare, TC 18-01, which has bee published on nsnbc this week. (8)

War. After failed initiatives to lend apparent legitimacy to the war on Syria and Iran, the questions that call for being answered are; what will be the “event” that is used as pretext for entering an overt military stage of the war, when is it most likely to occur, how will it most likely develop and what is a plausible outcome. All signals are on “go”, the fuse is lit.

The Russian Military is bracing itself for the outbreak of a regional, and potentially wider Middle Eastern or Global War and is on a high state of alert. According to “The Hindu” the Head of the Russian General Staff, General Mikael Markov, informed at a Moscow Press Conference, that Iran is a sore spot for Russia, and that it is likely that a decision to attack Iran will be made within months, a little closer to the summer. Markov added, that Iran was capable of giving a sharp repulse to the attack. Also Russian Admiral Vladimir Komovedov reportedly said, that given the current military build-up in the Persian Gulf, any spark could set off the fire of a regional conflict. Komovedov, who is heading the Russian State Duma´s Defense Committee told foreign military attaches in Moscow that the US could attack Iran any time now with a simultaneous launch of 450 Tomahawk cruise missiles from warships deployed in the region. The Russian general Staff has established a “situation center” and is monitoring the situation around the clock in real time. (9)

Over the recent months Russia has significantly reinforced it´s Southern regions and borders with air, ground and maritime forces. An attack on Iran would most likely incite Iran to attack US Oil Installations in the Caspian Sea, and a developing conflict would involve Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ossetia, Chechnya and destabilize the entire Caspian Region. With an attack on Syria being the most likely “initiator”, and Iran bound to respond, it is most likely only a question of time before the powder keg ignites.

It is unlikely that the USA and NATO will be able to take on Iran directly and with massive ground forces, before it has either significantly reduced the Syrian governments military capabilities, or succeeded in ousting the Syrian Government. It is also most likely, that the US, NATO, Qatar and Saudi Arabia will be counting on “plausible deniability” as long as possible while waging war on Syria, in an attempt to position Iran and Russia as villains who intervene militarily. The ongoing development on the ground is strongly indicating that this is the most probable strategy.

Jordan. According to a report from 13 December 2011, an unspecified number of US troops that were withdrawn from Iraq had been re-deployed to Jordanian Air Force Bases as well as in Jordanian villages near Al-Mafraq, along the Jordanian-Syrian border.(10)

Since then, the NATO Alliance has established a buffer zone along the Jordanian-Syrian border, which according to sources around former Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit is currently housing 43.000 “rebels” from Libya who are waiting for a signal to attack Syria. The so called buffer zone is established around the cities of Mafraq and Ramtha, and is approximately 30 km long and 10 km deep. The zone has reportedly been closed for civilian and non authorized persons. Three large camps, housing about 20.000 mercenaries of the “Tripoli Brigades” led by Abdelhakim Belhadj have reportedly been established. The sources around former Jordanian P.M. Marouf Bakhit, which have good ties to Jordanian Intelligence Services, state, that the total number of foreign fighters in Jordan, poised for an attack on Syria is 43.000. The transport of the NATO mercenaries has largely been conducted under the cover of medical evacuations from Libya, and that some of Jordan´s Royal Medical Services Hospitals as well as Hotels are filled beyond capacity with foreign fighters poised for war on Syria.

According to the same sources, a contingent of dozens of Turkish Intelligence Officers have been the Rabia district and established an operations room in Mecca Street. The Turkish operation also functions as recruitment office for Jihadi´s and mercenaries who wish to enlist in the planned attack on Syria.

Lebanon and Turkey. According to sources with ties to Jordanian Intelligence a shipment of over 50 T of Israeli Military Equipment, worth over USD 650 million has arrived at Erbil Airport in Kurdistan. The weapons have reportedly been paid by “Rafael Industries”.Lebanese M.P. and Chairman of the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt´s recent shuttling to Qatar, Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey have specifically been tied to the arms delivery.  The weapons are planned to go on route to Homs. Jumblatt is well known for his anti Syrian meddling. During the protracted Lebanese civil war Jumblatt was a significant agent for division within the progressive alliance and known to have repeatedly sabotaged Syrian attempts to unite progressive forces around a pan-arabic solution that also embraced the Palestinian problem.

Syria First. But When.

Libya was not the easy push-over as many may have expected. The profound and still ongoing resistance of the legitimate Libyan governments forces and the Libyan people has most likely contributed to a delay of the war plans against Syria and Iran. Syria will be even harder to destabilize. The Syrian people are standing in a surprisingly strong solidarity behind their government and against the foreign led insurgency. NATO´s lack of ability to push for another Libya Style UN Resolution has significantly delayed the window for overt military intervention by NATO and allied countries.NATO´s problem with respect to Iran is, that it can not afford to attack Iran directly as long as Syria is not significantly destabilized, and the window of opportunity for a war on Iran in 2012 is already closing and is to be expected by middle of April if it is to be realized this year.

The rapidly closing window for an attack on Iran is adding to NATO´s urgency to initiate a Syrian campaign. Other contributing factors to the urgency are the problems that are arising with maintaining a force of largely uncontrolled and undisciplined foreign fighters in Turkey and Jordan. Another factor which is adding urgency to initiating an assault on Syria is the political nightmare that would arise for NATO if millions of Syrians turned out voting for the new Syrian Constitution, and protesting for President Bashar Al-Assad and against foreign intervention and aggression. What is needed is a plausible excuse for an intervention, and before the results of the referendum for the new Syrian Constitution can be proclaimed.

On 26 February the people of Syria will hold a referendum about the new Syrian Constitution. A referendum that will most likely be the point where the masses of NATO mercenaries in Jordan and Turkey will be given the “go” for an assault on Syria. Massive unrests and violence on the 26th may be the excuse NATO is creating.

Neither Iran nor Russia are particularly interested in becoming engaged in a direct confrontation with the NATO led aggression. The responses to an assault on Syria via Jordan, Turkey and eventually Lebanon will largely depend on the Syrian military´s capability to cope with the situation, and if NATO dares to raise the stakes, risking a confrontation with Russia. Would Iran stay passive when NATO mercenaries launch an attack via Jordan? If so, a Russian response would be strongly depending on the Syrian military capability to handle an assault by 40.000 fighters from Jordan, and if the West insists on intervening with regular forces. If Iran is getting involved the situation may be better for Syria. Can Iran muster a limited response that could not serve as pretext for a war against it ? Will Russia assert it´s influence over Iran and keep it from attacking US Oil refineries in the Caspian ? I don´t know, and most probably nobody really does. What is certain however, is that the Russian, Iranian and Syrian military forces are on alert and in anticipation of developments that can turn the region a thunder within the hour. What ever the outcome, the victim is humanity.

Dr. Christof Lehmann on nsnbc

17.02.2012

1) Russian envoy: Embassies closure in Syria could mean preparations for military intervention; TREND.  http://en.trend.az/regions/met/arabicr/1992801.html

2) Russian Envoy Slams UN General Assembly’s Syria Resolution http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120217/171356084.html

3) EU Urges Russia To Halt Syria Arms Sales.  http://en.rian.ru/world/20120216/171347105.html

4) US Delivers New F-15´s to Saudi Arabia.  http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/us-delivers-new-f-15%C2%B4s-to-saudi-arabia/

5) The Manufacturing of the War on Syria. Christof Lehmann (2011), nsnbc. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/the-manufacturing-of-the-war-on-syria/

6) Saudi woman beheaded for “sorcery”. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/saudi-woman-beheaded-for-sorcery/

7) Carl von Clausewitz. Wiki. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_von_Clausewitz

8) US-Military Logic behind Syrian Insurgency. The “Special Forces Unconventional Warfare” manual” TC 18-01. Christof Lehmann (2012) nsnbc.  http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/us-military-logic-behind-syrian-insurgency-the-special-forces-unconventional-warfare-manual-tc-18-01/

9)Attack on Iran not far off says Russian general. The Hindu.  http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article2899679.ece

10) Foreign Troops Begin to Spread near Al-Mafraq. Boilingforgspost/nsnbc. http://nsnbc.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/foreign-troops-begin-to-spread-in-syria/

HAPPY NEW YEAR BOYCOTT WAR (nsnbc.wordpress.com)

2011 has been a year with so far unprecedented aggression against sovereign nations, in which the United Nations Security Counsel has been utilized to instigate aggressions that are the antithesis of the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

The ousting of President Laurent Gbagbo with the aid of French sponsored “rebels” , trrops from the French Foreign Legion and UN-Peacekeepers is one example.

The appalling abuse of UNSC-Resolution 1973-2011 to conquer the sovereign nation of Libya is another.

If you ask me for advise pertaining 2012, that is, if you wish to make a new years “resolution” my advise is this:

” It´s time to move from resolutions and intentions to action”

” It´s time to not only to criminalize war by “resolutions” but to establish a permanent office where war crimes can be reported, and that assists independent and sovereign nations world wide to prosecute war crimes”.

“It´s time to make war unprofitable by consequently boycotting any corporation that is delivering arms to a waring party that is the aggressor in a given conflict, any corporation who has stocks in such companies, and any corporation whose major share holders have invested in such companies. Let´s establish a Blacklist of Companies, their merchandise, their services, and let´s begin to make war the least profitable business possible. As long as our corporate leaders are educated according to the principles of the Chicago School and similar, this is the one and only language that is understood by them ”

“It´s time to act upon the “resolution” that such boycott is a good idea. I suggest editors of independent media contact one another and discuss how we best could facilitate such a Blacklist and the Boycott by means of our media. . This is a standing invitation to get in touch. ”

I wish you a hopefully more peaceful 2012, so let´s DO IT!

Christof Lehmann on nsnbc

nsnbc editor

“My Football Field/Tram Experience” – Racism, Ignorance, Stupidity or Nationalism?

ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD…

It has been with some degree of amusement or should I add fascination, that I have read stories today about Suarez’s 8 match ban and possible fine for being found guilty by the FA for racist remarks! This comes on the same day the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service announced its decision to bring charges against John Terry for allegedly racially abusing another player. My amusement and fascination was not really provoked by these two incidents but rather one that took place a few weeks ago.

ON A TRAM…

What I find a bit difficult to get over is the renewed ‘concern’ being shown towards victims of racial abuse.  The woman on the video titled ‘My Tram Experience‘ that went viral within a few days simply said what so many people in the world want to say but lack the courage. Watching her, I felt nothing for her but pity – not only for her but also for the innocent child she was carrying on her laps. While views differ so much on the woman’s attitude, I have not ceased to ask this question as I watched the video several times over – Is she really RACIST; IGNORANT, SIMPLY STUPID or A NATIONALIST?

BY INTELLECTUALS…

I want to dispel the thinking that this woman is as  bad as she has been made to look especially after she got arrested. Do not get me wrong… I am no supporter of discrimination of any form but we need to get the facts straight.

From the 18th and 19th Centuries, most European views of Africans for example had been one of a distinct category of humanity, a view based on the supposedly irreconcilable foreignness of African mental processes. For example one of the most celebrated scholars in Western thought argued that that Africa falls outside the boundaries of world history. He boldly argued that  “We [Europeans] cannot feel ourselves into [the African’s] nature .…Only by means of thought can we achieve this understanding of his nature; for we can only feel that which is akin to our own feelings.” (1) Hegel‘s argument was based on the original distinction between normative  existence and the African being.  He did not mix words then when he came to the conclusion that “Africans have not  achieve full self-awareness, as “their consciousness has not yet reached an awareness of any substantial objectivity.”  According to this view, Europeans, with their exclusive access to objective rationality, were the only ones capable of interpreting and understanding the African’s essential character. Was Hegel RACIST? MAYBE! IGNORANT? PERHAPS! STUPID? MAYBE NOT!

BY A PSYCHOPATH…

When Hitler, decided to incarcerate millions of Jews because of their race, the world did not react – about 6 million died in concentration camps. It was only when he started his re-militarisation  and re-occupation campaigns, that war was declared on him – in fact the world went to war against Hitler because he invaded Poland (the same Poland whose people are insulted by the woman in the video). Was Hitler RACIST, IGNORANT, STUPID or A NATIONALIST? All will say he was none of the above as all of them fall short of describing him – HE WAS SIMPLY A MONSTER OR A PSYCHOPATH! I concur.

BY COUNTRIES….

At the end of the war the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came up as part of peace processes in the world just three years after the United Nations was formed to curb any such Hitler-type aggression. It begins with the WONDERFUL WORDS “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”,

Wonderful! Is the simple word for such giant strides taken to stop a repeat of what Hitler had done. But under the watchful eyes of the UN with the declaration of human rights very much intact, it was a fierce battle before African States could gain political independence from their erstwhile colonial masters. It was with the existence of the UN and  paradoxically in the same 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights that  South Africa’s governance was built on a system of racial segregation called ‘apartheid’. Was apartheid Racism! YES!  Were its perpetrators Ignorant? MAYBE! Were they stupid? I doubt it!

That same fateful year, a new State called Israel was born and they have denied Palestinians all that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, effectively doing to them the same things that Hitler had done. Strangely enough, all those who demonize Hitler welcomed Apartheid and will die to support what is happening in the Gaza. Are Israelis and their supporters RACIST, IGNORANT, STUPID OR NATIONALISTS?

It would seem that the problem is not really who is abused or whose rights are denied in the world today but rather who does it. Or perhaps I just happen to have a nuanced view of what these terms mean.

RACISM, IGNORANCE, STUPIDITY OR NATIONALISM…

Racism is usually considered to be a belief that there exist  inherent differences among the various human races that can be said to account for cultural or individual achievements.This believe in a way usually involves the notion that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others. The first aspect could have been fueled by views such as that of Hegel, Levy Bruhl and others who used it to justify the slave trade. The myopia in such a doctrine does not lie only the fact that it is something that has no empirical basis but also because in reality there is no homogeneous race – one in which all are either achievers or all are failures. Some societies have made more technological or industrial or infrastructural advancements than others, but given the cyclic nature of history, this is not a given that the presently more advance society translates into a superiority of race. It is only a matter of priority in time. Also within each of the societies is a mix of greater and lesser persons. My point here is that going by the first view of racism, it amounts to nothing more than myopic egocentricism which is tantamount to STUPIDITY.

Closely linked to the second aspect about having the right to rule others, racism is seen as a case where a policy or  system of government is based upon fostering such a doctrine. I can recall vividly a great speech on immigration made by the British PM David Cameron in April, 2011, in which he argued that “When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods, perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods… This has been the experience for many people in our country and I believe it is untruthful and unfair not to speak about it and address it.”  Cameron was simply observing an issue of national policy that is aimed at protecting the UK.

The question then is: HOW DIFFERENT IS CAMERON’S VIEW OF IMMIGRANTS AND THE WOMAN’S ON THE TRAM? While the woman has been branded racist for saying that immigrants had destroyed ‘her’ country, Cameron is right when he says the same thing. I am not insinuating here that Cameron is or was racist. What I am highlighting is that National policies will always ‘discriminate’ against foreigners but it is not simply in a bid to protect the country. IT IS CALLED NATIONALISM – the general attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity.

A third aspect of racism is that which is expressed in form of hatred or intolerance of another race. This is the one that calls for serious concern as it usually amounts to actual physical violence against the discriminated race. What I do not seem to understand is that footballers are banned or fined and a woman is arrested for making comments that are similar to those made every day in policies about immigration in a country that is supporting the ethnic cleansing and extermination of a town because of their race… AND NO ONE SEEMS TO SEE ANYTHING WRONG with it.

 I personally do not think calling me any name makes me that – because in most cases those calling the names are usually suffering from an inferiority complex. If people like Nelson Mandela were called Kaffir and they rose up to get over a hundred awards within a decade, then I daresay that he has ‘glorified’ the name, and only an idiot should think using it makes someone inferior.

If the President of the United States of America is called ‘Boy’ and ‘Tar Baby’ within a week, then I daresay that it is an honourable thing to be a White House ‘Boy’. The names did not qualify Obama, rather I think Obama has qualified those names. The people who called those names far from dishonoring their revered Presidency made me understand that another name for the US President could be ‘Boy’ or ‘Tar Baby’. If it is honourable to be the US President then it follows that it is an honourable thing to be a ‘Boy’ or ‘Tar Baby’.

In conclusion then, one can rightly argue that most of what is happening today in the international scene is a re-enactment of the acts committed by Hitler – when governments trade in arms, support rebels to topple governments, deny people the right to self-determination – all in the name of foreign policies, they sponsor genocides, support racism and perpetrate the highest levels of Human rights violations which they so much claim to want to protect.

NO PLAYER DIES FROM BEING CALLED NAMES BY ANOTHER IN A FOOTBALL FIELD; NO ONE DIES WHEN A WOMAN EXPRESSES HER FRUSTRATION ON A TRAM BY CALLING HER FELLOW CITIZENS NAMES… BUT MILLIONS DIE WHEN GOVERNMENTS ARM DICTATORS IN THE NAME OF FOREIGN AID; MAKE THEIR FOREIGN POLICY THE DEGRADATION OF OTHERS IN A BID TO PROTECT THEIR COUNTRIES; DENY OTHERS THE RIGHT OF SELF-DETERMINATION FOR SELFISH REASONS AND SUPPORT ILLEGAL TAKE-OVER OF GOVERNMENTS WHILE EMPOWERING OTHERS TO KILL. 

1. G.W.F. Hegel.  “Africa” in “The Natural Context or the Geographical Basis of World History” in Lectures on the Philosophy of World History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975. (177)

DEMOCRATISATION AND THE STATE IN LATIN AMERICA.

If I had some serious difficulties before beginning this week’s session, the first part of the session did little to help my situation. If anything, it actually made it worse.  This is because I had expected the lecture… I really don’t know what I expected… but I know it was something really big. Afterall it was a huge topic DEMOCRATISATION AND THE STATE IN LATIN AMERICA. But here was Tom‘s brief outline:

  • Geography & history matter
  • The development of democracy
  • Does democracy matter?

It got me really thinking because the concept of “democracy” that is so popular today, with the general public, the elite and especially the international community, is political. But given that we had established the primacy of politics and the difficulty seperating politics from economics I naturally expected the talk on democratisation to have a lot of politics and economics running through it. This is because “…democracy assumes a high minimum level of affluence and well-being, successful democratisation must be predicated on continuing economic performance… continuing economic performance is the foundation for sustainable democracy and national stability.”

But then… Why history? Why Geography? I finally got the point half way through the lectures: THEY REALLY DID MATTER!!! The spatiotemporal aspects of any form of governance could be said to be the most important determinant of its success. This took my mind back to the fundamental questions of knowledge raised by Socrates.

According to this Great Grand Father of mine, definition of a moral quality is not a matter of what people think. His argument is that we cannot determine what goodness, or justice, or piety, is by conducting a poll. As a result, whether something or someone has a given moral quality is also not a matter of mere opinion. Whether an act or a person is good, or just, or pious,  is not something that can simply be settled through the ballot. In the dialogue Euthyphro we see a good example of Socrates’ belief that moral qualities are real, not conventional. According to Euthyphro piety can be defined as what the gods all love but Socrates contends that even if all the gods agree about which things are pious, that doesn’t tell us what piety is. If the gods love something because it is pious, then its being pious must be something independent of their loving it – something independent of opinion – something objective.

The etymology of the  word “democracy” is  from the words demos “people” and kratos “rule” conjoined together to mean, literally, “rule by the people”. This can be said to be the only objective truth about democracy. When we begin to spread it to different places and give it different interpretations, it takes the form of the social milieu in which it is interpreted. Rule by the people will therefore be a very age and location-specific thing. The concept of ‘democracy’ should not therefore be considered ‘good’ without contention simply because it has been tested and it did work in one part of the globe at a particular point in time.

The one major challenge that Plato’s critique of democracy still poses is the question of  whether the citizens of today’s democracies are interested and informed enough to take part meaningfully in the democratic process. Can today’s self-proclaimed democracies boast of being societies where people are “their own governors”– where they are well enough informed to be effectively in control of their commonwealth and their lives? Do the citizens of these societies really understand why wars are declared, resources committed, debts incurred, relations denied, and so forth? Could it be that a majority of citizens live in a cognitive haze that reduces them to voting on the basis of uninformed convictions, catchy slogans, and altogether vague hunches and feelings? These questions all raced through my mind as I listened to Tom deliver the “tale of woes” that was the political history of Latin America spanning about 200 years. What was churning was not just the

  • 450 political assassinations  •20 coups •140 guerrilla wars or revolutions •113 crises
  • Argentina in four years (’73-6):–45 assassinations–3 revolutions–15 riots…

I could not say what was authentically Latin American and what was American or US. When statements came up like…

  1. Munroe Doctrine, the US began a  long history of intervention and influence in its backyard establishing its own sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere. More than 30 interventions in Central America and Caribeans in early 1900s to 1934.
  2. Central America: long US backed personal dictatorships: Samoza, Trujillo, Duvalier

… I could not help but arrive at a conclusion… To effectively understand the concept of democratisation in the world today, one must go beyond trite observations and homogenous definition like “a form of political regime in which citizens choose, in competitive elections, the occupants of the top political offices of the state” (Bratton and Van de Walle 1997) This definition did not mention the role of external actors… hence it is not a complete definition of democratisation.

Carothers, T. (2010) Takes a step in the right direction by saying that “… it is a mistake to assume that democratization—especially open national elections—is always a good idea. When tried in countries poorly prepared for it, democratization can and often does result in bad outcomes—illiberal leaders or extremists in power, virulent nationalism, ethnic and other types of civil conflict, and interstate wars.” The question is: if ‘they’ are poorly prepared for it, who then advocates for it in the first place? Carothers however plays an interesting tune and increases the rhythm when he goes on to add

“To prevent such results, certain preconditions, above all, the rule of law and a well-functioning state should be in place before a society democratises. United States, and the West generally, should rethink their approach and commitment to democracy promotion. In some countries, staying with an existing autocratic regime is a better alternative.”

May be… just may be, if many nations could be allowed a free hand at self-determination, we would have different stories to tell. Yes we may have had stories of another form of ‘democracy’ that has been forged out of the unique experience and geographical peculiarities of the Latin American region – but can this ever be possible when there is this “invisible hand” always coming from outside to determine when there should be peace and when there should be chaos? The preconditions of democratisation proposed by Carothers are themselves only possible within a democratic state. This is therefore an ideal too simple to conceive but unfortunately too difficult to achieve.

Sensing this of course, it would seem, Carothers proposes further that “…taking into account the many complications and risks of democratization and democracy promotion is gradualism, which aims at building democracy slowly in certain contexts, but not avoiding it or putting it off indefinitely.” This is the argument that makes me agree more with a Chinese who insisted the China was a democracy… yes! Who says it is not? Unless we want to openly acknowledge that their having elections every five years is not enough self-determination or that we have a problem with the fact that the government has recognised that it is in hostile international territory and does not give the “invisible hand” an opportunity to create disorder; or do we want to acknowledge that it is not only about the rule of law and a strong state (for China has these) which are prerequisites to democratisation; may be we should bring it down to the fact that there is no freedom of expression.

I hope the conclusion is not being drawn that I will prefer to be in an undemocratic state where there is no freedom of expression. That is far from being the case. What I am driving at is that no matter what the names we call them –  oligarchy to bureaucracy; Populism and corporatism; Bureaucratic-authoritarian state to democracy… anyone who knows the difference between theory and reality will prefer to be in a “communist China” than in “democratic Latin America.” It is better to know that you are not free and be alive than to live under the illusion that you are free and end up with a bullet. Many of those assassinated in Latin America where in the second category.

I find it difficult to stop but stop I must. Not however, without indicating that there is need to revisit the whole notion of democracy in this era of “globalisation” . This is because  we have two levels – the Macro and the Micro. By Macrodemocracy I mean when governments create international rules and institutions to deal with issues such as governance, trade, human rights, and the environment. Thus far, the international political arena has been governed by undemocratic rules – countries have little or no freedom of self-determination. This brings in the problem of Microdemocracy which we have been discussing. Its failure could be attributed to the failure of the macro to create the necessary conditions for it to thrive. Could this be the reason why states have been failing? Could it be because there is no macrodemocracy while there is a huge demand for microdemocracy? I am sure to find out next week

World’s Largest ‘Democracy’ In Search of Gandhi

I had always thought that there was no such thing as ‘conjunction’. I had this tendency of writing it off as a mere association of ideas by people, as a result of the mind’s ability to move beyond space and time and bring things together. I have had too much within the last few weeks to simply wave them away. How can I ignore the fact that just last week Jude Thaddeus Langeh sent me a link to a book he had just published The Relevance of Gandhi’s Doctrine of NonViolence: Africa Needs Gandhi, and this week we had to watch a movie/documentary In Search Of Gandhi”. Going through the movie, two things struck me – first the fact that I began to question the notion of India being a “democracy” as I realised that the concept was itself suspect.  Secondly I realised there was a vast contrast between what Gandhi believed and professed and what the average Indian politician today believes. Not that I expected them to be similar, but there was this yawning gap between the ideology that created the nation and the ideologies that are aiming at sustaining and developing the Nation – a gap that cannot be ignored.

It is common knowledge that since independence, India has faced and still faces several challenges ranging from religious violence, casteism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies. Since the 1990s terrorist attacks have affected many Indian cities. India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People’s Republic of China, which, in 1962, escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. There are still high levels of poverty in a land of affluence and present trends suggest that the gap between the rich and the poor may be taking an upward trend. These are just a few of the visible problems which can be associated with India but as I went through the that movie, I could not help but notice that all of India’s visible problems are simply effects of an invisible problem, the problem of the ideologies that drive India’s day to day activities. What are these ideologies? What are their roots? Who benefits more from them – India or another Country or organisation? Have these ideologies been thoroughly examined to ascertain their suitability to the Indian experience, with some focus on her unique history and culture? These and many other questions kept running through my mind as the movie and discussions progressed. I could not stop myself from concluding that these questions and more where actually what needed addressing if one is to begin thinking about resolving issues not only in India but in most of the developing world today.

I immediately saw in India’s case a reflection of most of the Third World’s problems today. They had been caught in the whirlpool of globalisation illusions. And what this amounted to for any developing nation was the erosion of their ideological authenticity. While this may sound like painting a bleak picture, the reality is that even in the field of economics where globalisation can be said to be most successful, there is still a huge question mark. While it is a fact that globalisation can make the conditions for investment in poor countries more feasible and enhance the movement of capital into these regions, available evidence makes me feel that the poor countries got integrated into the global economy through the wrong end. To see Indian politicians involved in the reproduction of poverty and destitution in the name of creating Specialised Economic Zones made me feel like weeping. How could one in his right senses dig up a hole to fill another. Gandhi made what could have been considered to be a hard statement that “Western Democracy is a diluted form of Fascism.” At first I could not fully grasp what he meant especially with the oft-made statement that “India is the world’s largest democracy.”  After watching reading Langeh’s work and watching that movie, many pieces fell in to place – what people actually meant was that India was on the verge of becoming the world’s largest Fascism.

Pope Paul VI (1967 35, p. 22) held the view that “…economic growth depends in the very first place upon social progress: thus basic education is the primary object of any plan of development. Indeed hunger for education is no less debasing than hunger for food: an illiterate is a person with an undernourished mind.” I  think that the first step for India should have been serious education of its people. An education which will lead to the total liberation of the Indian people, and not simply enslave them to some defunct economic and political ideologies as happens to be the case with many educated person in most third world countries. It can only be through mental liberation, that every Indian will regain the sense of personhood and the boldness of asserting it before the international community. What I instead saw was a case where poor people who could not afford basic education and shelter where being driven out of their homes in the name of attracting FDI. With an under-nourished population who will be able to regulate or even benefit from these investments?

The argument that day in class was that every country does some lobbying to attract FDI. This is where my problem lies. Every country is not the same and nations cannot simply do things because others are doing it. Can the Indian government regulate the activities of a Multinational Corporation in the same way the UK or the USA will do? I don’t think so.  Miller pointed out that  “Shell Oil’s 1990 gross national income was more than the combined GNPs of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zaire, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan—countries that represent almost one-tenth of the World’s Population.” (Miller 1995, p. 35) With such figures, can there be any doubt as to why and how Shell was able to buy-off their involvement in perpetrating the loss of human life and destruction of livelihoods in the Ogoni – shell saga that led to the killing of Ken Sero-Wiwa and eight others in 1996?

I hope I don’t get misunderstood here. It is not as if I have a problem with FDI or multinationals. Like  McCormick argues , “multinationals are a powerful force for good in the world. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business. That’s why so many developing countries are competing fiercely to attract their investment.”

 I totally agree with him but what he fails to do is say in what direction the wealth is spread and whose standards of living is raised and who gains from the better ways of doing business. What he gets right though is that developing nations are competing fiercely for their investments. And this is where  I have another problem. This competition has made many so blind that they see only an end and neglect the means that will lead to that end.

According to Langeh’s analysis, Gandhi, was preoccupied with the problem of means and ends. In his Satyagraha, he propounds the non-duality of means and ends. The means precede the ends in time but there can be no question of moral priority. Truth is inseparable from non-violence and the method of achieving and clinging to the truth is non-violence. Gandhi therefore, referred to non-violence as being both the end and the means. He goes on to state that shortly before his death, Gandhi commented in a prayer speech in New Delhi that “means and ends are convertible terms.” The dialectics therefore that can lead to sustainable growth in Indian life and for most Third World Nations has to take this ideal as a thesis to begin with. Social progress and the good of all should be a prelude to economic development else all talk about economic development in the face of so much social injustice will amount to nothing but sophistry and illusions.

This however, will require a philosophical re-articulation of the Indian reality; a re-articulation because of the history of bastardisation of the intrinsic realities of Indians. It should be a philosophy of “existential hermeneutics” of self-rediscovery of the past, for an adequate re-integration and possible synthesis for a new way of being, doing and saying. In this sense, it should not be a mere mental or metaphysical outlook on life: not a mere ideological, and not even only an existential construct; but something that involves all of the above – a holistic vision and attitude to life. When this is done, there will be little reason to go out in ‘search’ of Gandhi because the ideals he fought and died for will be there for all to see.

May be I am getting it all wrong. May be India is actually a democracy and the dividends are there for all to benefit but unfortunately some people happen to be looking at the wrong places or… may be they keep coming a bit late. May be the politically motivated religious violence that are threatening the very fabric of Indian society are all the benefits of this democracy. May be…  I do not know the meaning of ‘democracy’ in the first place and that is why I am getting it all wrong. Good enough a thing, next week’s lecture will be on ‘Democratisation and the State’ – though it will be looking at the case of Latin America, I will surely use the opportunity to lay to rest my confusion about the concept of democracy.

Pope Paul VI; (1967) On The Development Of Peoples of Boston: St Paul Books & Media

Pro-Poor Politics

Unfortunately, my confusion grows… so there is actually such a thing as pro-poor politics! The fact that I am confused should not in the least be surprising when one considers that I derive my foundation from the Athenian intellectual tradition where the primary focus of thought was the State, rather than the individual, and the all thinking on politics or economics stressed the political solidar­ity of society.  In the Republic for example Plato writes that  “A State, . . . arises… out of the needs of mankind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants. . . . Then, as we have many wants, and many persons are needed to supply them, one takes a helper for one purpose and another for another; and when these partners and helpers are gathered together in one habita­tion the body of inhabitants is termed a State. . . . And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another receives, under the idea that the exchange will be for their good.” The origin of the state therefore, is as a result of the absence of individual self-sufficiency in the satisfaction of wants.

Coming after Plato, Aristotle took another perspective to make the same point, indicating the importance of interdependence of everyone in the city state. Aristotle in Politics Book 1 pt. 2 points out that “… the state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part; for example, if the whole body be destroyed, there will be no foot or hand, except in an equivocal sense, as we might speak of a stone hand. . . . The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole.”
If one were to go by these arguments, it becomes difficult not to conclude that society should be structured in such a way that every action benefits everyone. This could be done by applying laws that are progressive and that once implemented at the State level inevitably trickles down to every person. Unfortunately, the reality is not the case today in most developing countries where the elites consider themselves to be ‘above’ the State and actions that should have been carried out for the benefit of the state as a whole and where not carried out ( or carried out in such a way that leads to the fulfillment of the selfish interests of the Elites, at the detriment of the poor) are today being carried out with the tag  – Pro-Poor. Is it actually for the poor or is it done to prevent the poor being a problem to the welfare of the elites?

Before the lectures and discussions this week, I had this question going through my mind. Is pro-poor politics an end itself – the welfare of the poor – or is it a means to an end – getting the poor in a better situation that will reduce the possibility of them being a problem to the rich? I was more convinced there was need to look beyond the idea to the reality because Locke’s words kept re-echoing in my mind

The gap between our ideas and words about the world, and the world itself, is large and difficult, but still, if one man calls something good, while another man calls it evil, the deed or man referred to still has real qualities of good or evil, the categories exist in the world regardless of our names for them, and if one man’s word does not correspond to another mans word, this a problem of communication, not fundamental arbitrariness in reality.

Hence the bottom-line should be “good politics” – to call it ‘pro-poor’ or any other name does not change the effects of the action carried out. There is no gainsaying the fact that a hospital or good sanitation facilities provided in a poor neighbourhood benefits the poor but what is not noticed or spoken is that it also frees the rich from drudgery of having to think of a cholera outbreak that will not discriminate between poor and rich.

When I was reading through Moore and Putzel’s (2001) paper, I was fascinated by the ease with which they presented the arguments relating to pro-poor policy making. I could not help questioning some of their conclusions/assumptions:

First they feel that democracy has differential outcomes for the poor. The first problem I found with this assumption was the lack of delineation of what they meant by ‘poverty’. Are they discussing absolute poverty or relative poverty? These distinctions will go a long way to change some of the broad conclusions they arrived at. Secondly, the term democracy is used there loosely to simply mean ‘providing people with a framework to vote for their leaders’ – but is that really what democracy is all about? While I will like to agree with them (especially going by the illustration given of Kamataka and Andhra Pradesh) that the nature of politics has different effects on the poor, I however could not fail to notice that they only succeeded in pointing to what was obvious and illustrating these with examples. The question should  not be what name a particular system of politics or governance is called but how much it impacts on the life of the people as a whole. Hence I totally agree with them that making accomplishments in poverty reduction a criterion for legitimacy of governments will be a wonderful idea. Unfortunately the problem arises about how to measure these accomplishments. Who will be the arbiter and who are those involved in the presentation of evidence? Will it be the poor themselves?

According to Chipi (2010)

“…the adoption of democratic institutions does not alone suggest a change in elite behaviour or in the actions they take. The persistence of poverty reflects its institutionalization within social and political norms as well as institutions and its acceptance within political discourse. Hence, noble agendas – such as empowerment of the poor, or increased political space for the poor to participate in – offer very little promise if the elites who are required to adopt and implement these institutions are anyhow ignored.”

While I agree entirely with the first part of her argument, I question very much the logic of the concluding part because experience has shown that there may well be some situations where the elites are not required to ‘adopt’ and ‘implement’ institutions. In most cases, they tend to be inimical to the whole process of empowerment of the poor. The reason I think is that, having being established as a ruling class, most of the elites in poor countries generally enrich themselves at the public’s expense through public graft and corruption as well as deals with foreign capitalists. For example Fanon presents this situation prosaically that;

By dint of yearly loans, concessions are snatched up by foreigners: scandals are numerous, ministers grow rich, their wives doll themselves up, the members of parliament feather their nest and there is not a soul down to the simple policeman or the custom officer who does not join in the great procession of corruption.”(1963:165-66)

In Nigeria, for example, Njoko points out that “The present political economy has largely succeeded in erecting greedy an affluent politicians and a listless, scarred public. In fact, the myth that is a way of African life has to be abandoned. Our experience so far is that the government, the politician, is the greatest armed robber, victimiser or oppressor in Nigeria.”  (2004:91) The issue  remains unclear whether there is such a thing as pro-poor or whether policies aimed at the poor are simply part of a political agenda.

Later following Chipi’s presentation, the picture became a bit clear. When she narrated the story of a ‘poor’ woman who called a parliamentarian and asked her to pay her child’s school fees, I said to myself that this should be a really good situation where the poor can talk directly to the Elites and ask them for favours. One thing however that I am yet to clearly understand is if whether everyone has access to the private numbers of parliamentarians in Malawi. Since this will obviously not be the case, I will certainly not be wrong to conclude that one has to belong to a certain class to have access to such privy information. Another thing that I succeeded in getting both from her (2010) paper and her presentation is that the general consensus seems that pro-poor policies are for the poor a privilege, rather a right to  mutually beneficial governance.

I don’t know if you notice what I have just noticed myself… my confusion seems to be waning a bit! What I cannot fail to realise also however, is the fact that I keep having this agitation in my heart as I discuss this issue of poverty. The reason is simple… it’s a road I have walked and I am not discussing it as a merely academic exercise but it is almost like an evaluation of the paths I have trod. No wonder I look forward so much to the discussion next week of Elites, Politics and Development…

Chipiliro K.N  2010. Mutual Interdependence between Elites and the Poor Working Paper No. 2010/117 World Institute for Development Economic Research

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

Njoku, O.C 2004. Development and African Philosophy: A Theoretical Reconstruction of African Socio-Political Economy, New York: iUniverse, Inc.