All Ambazonia Consultative Conference (AACC): How Far – So Far?

It has been just over three weeks since the All Ambazonia Consultative Conference (AACC) took place in Washington DC. Many hailed the conference and the match in front of the White House as being the watershed moment for the Anglophone revolution. They were right, but not for the reasons they had in mind at the time.

As the dust settled on the conference and many were trying to analyse all that was said and done during that weekend, one thing that many hailed as progress, was that for the first time in a long time, the Anglophone leaders were united and focused on the one issue that made them leaders – the liberation of their people from the barbarism of Biya and France.

A few days after the conference, things began to unravel, beginning with the resolutions that were taken. Some people, like me, had hoped that this conference will be a time of deep reflection on the pain and suffering of the people within the English-Speaking Regions of Cameroon. It was hoped that resolutions that will be taken will be geared towards, not only alleviating the pain of the suffering masses, but also making sure that focus is taken away from the people and placed where it should rightly be – on the Biya Regime and France.

The first contentious issue was that of school boycott. The Washington DC conference resolved that schools should not resume in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, despite mounting evidence that this was counter-productive. Prominent persons such as Ayah Paul added their voice in calling on the leaders to consider the issue of school resumption seriously. The debate went on to social media and raged on for a few days, while the fate of children hung in a balance.

The Ambazonia Interim Government (IG), through its Communication Secretary, made a surprising turn-around, and in a live broadcast, announced that they were not against school resumption. They, however, said they could not guarantee the security of children going to school. This statement was interpreted differently, depending on what side of the divide a person was. For those in favour of school boycott, the fact that the IG could not guarantee security was a clear indication it was not in favour of school resumption. To those in favour of school resumption, it was interpreted that the IG was happy for parents and guardians to make the judgment and decide for themselves if it was safe for their kids to go to school. Many parents and children, tired of staying at home for over two years, decided to take to the second interpretation. Many children went to school and many schools opened on the resumption date.

The anti-school campaigners decided to step up their campaign to prove a point. Within a few days of school resumption, students and their principals were kidnapped from a number of schools. Some were tortured, some died. The point was made, there was insecurity in the country and so anyone going to school did so at their own risk.

More crucially, however, Ayaba Cho Lucas, the leader of the Ambazonia Governing Ayaba Cho Lucas' View on School ResumptionCouncil (AGC) and Commander-in-Chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF) announced on his Facebook page that schools will not resume until 2019. His reason was simple. Many of his fighters were students. The question of whether these students are of the right age to be involved in a military campaign, is that of another discussion. What however was clear from Ayaba’s message was that there was no agreement among the big stakeholders of the Washington Conference on the issue of school resumption. While the IG favoured the parents making the decision, Ayaba had made his decision and communicated it to everyone.

While this was clearly an area of disagreement between the major leaders of the Ambazonia revolution, it did not appear to be significant enough to be a call for concern. Everyone was still mildly optimistic that the other issues on which they agreed will carry the revolution forward and that within a short period of time, one will begin to see some signs of this unity, manifesting in the betterment of the situation on the ground for the suffering masses.

Over the weekend of 7 September 2018, rumours began circulating that there were disagreements on what to do with some money that had been raised in Washington DC. One Facebook account operating under the name of ‘Kemita Ashu’ posted a poll asking friends and followers to vote on what they wanted to be done with the money – share among groups or operate as a common fund.

By Monday 10 September, Chris Anu released an audio, in which he attacked some of the other leaders and challenged their views on the issue of the $50.000 raised in Washington DC. The following day, there was a rebuttal from Boh Herbert in which he also cast serious aspersions on the personality of Mr. Anu and others such as Sako Samuel, the Acting Interim President of the IG. To make matters worse, this was picked up by the local newspapers in Cameroon, with one publishing the damagine frontpage headline “Fight Over Money tearing Diaspora Ambazonia Leaders Apart – Suspected embezzlers to face Court Action.

While the veracity in the headline, especially the aspect of court action could be a matter of conjecture, it, however, highlights the plight of the Anglophone people. It clearly paints a picture of leaders who are out of sync with the realities and sufferings of their people.

It would have been thought that with the growing number of deaths inflicted by the Biya regime, with the astronomical rise in the number of internally displaced persons and with uncertainty looming over the very existence of English-Speaking Cameroon, a unity of purpose among the leaders will be of utmost priority.

As supporters and worried citizens were trying to come to terms with all these developments, and as some activists have gone on the defensive to mitigate the damage A Concerned Ambazonian highlights the current divide among the groupsthrough a reinterpretation of the issues, a new contentious issue has emerged. There is now the growing argument over dates on which some actions are being imposed on the people on the ground. The actual implication of the action, which seems to call for a month of inactivity, is unclear. However, what seems clear is that the leaders are again at loggerheads as to what date it should start. While some are of the view that it should start on the 16th of September, some are of the opinion that it should be 25th of September. This in itself has left the people who are facing the brunt of such discord, in a more dire situation. Some have concluded that this is a fight for dominance between the AGC and the IG. Whatever the case, this raises serious concerns about the future of the anglophone quest for freedom and further casts a gloomy spell on the future wellbeing of the whole of Cameroon, especially in the light of upcoming presidential elections.

 

 

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.

THE SUPERIORITY OF AFRICAN KNOWLEDGE:

When Socrates made the statement that ‘it is better to be unborn than to be untaught for ignorance is the root of all misfortune’, little did he realise how true this will apply in the 21st century. By many shades it has applied to the African and most third world countries where it is arguably a fact that the high levels of illiteracy could account for the backwardness and lack of development of the regions – resulting in the misfortunes of high infant mortalities, prevalence of diseases and famine etc. But is there is direct relationship between education and development? Are the most educated people the most developed?

Most people will consider this a naive question – and indeed I deed think so myself. For example, Pope Paul VI in On The Development Of Peoples of 1967 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.” This view may seem a truism until one decides to question what we mean by education.

If I had been asked this question a few years before I started studying western philosophy, I would have thought the most educated persons were those who had reached the apogee of formal education – that is those with Doctors of Philosophy (PhD). However, after four years of rigorous studies, I came to the realisation that most of the theorists of antiquity were mere monuments of intellection – monuments because they were relevant to their particular periods but offered nothing of practical importance to our generation. Some like the most celebrated Hegel to me may not even pass as a monument given that his greatest writings had the assumption that the African had not reached the level of self-consciousness. As theories used to justify slavery, these views were classics at the time but when subjected to critical inquiry in this age, it becomes apparent how, for a great part, Hegel and many western thinkers were simply rhetoricians who triumphed in arm-chair philosophising.

Their ignorance did not constitute a problem as it did not affect them directly and in fact served a purpose at the time (justified slavery and the colonisation of Africa). The ignorance that calls for serious concern is that which exists in this century where there is so much talk about globalisation and technological evolutions. I know it is stale news that a great part of the world still thinks Africa is a single country. I was shocked to discover, I was not surprised, when, many times in India, intellectuals alluded to Africa as a single country and some asked me if Cameroon is in the West Indies. It is therefore not just a Sarah-Palin-problem. But is this really an issue? I guess not.

The real issue is the ignorance that I have observed being manifested during the last few months. I did not realise how severe it is till I got to Cameroon and was confronted with the fact that people were more informed, objective and critical about issues than I was. I thought I was more educated but to my chagrin I realised I was not as informed as my African counterparts who had lesser formal education.

Thomas Jefferson had made the point that “ the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers”, which I have extrapolated to include Robert Brault’s statement that “You don’t realize how little accuracy there is in network TV reporting until they cover a story in your hometown.” Hence while we were being deceived by the mainstream media and kept away from the truth about Libya for example, African media houses were feeding the people with the truth. Little wonder the African Union for the first time unanimously challenged a decision by western powers – they knew the truth which we in the west did not know. I have had time to reflect a little on the whole notion of what I know and what I do not know and hence I now can boast of the superiority of the African education.

In High School, I studied American History, British History, European History etc. alongside African and Cameroon History; I studied Agriculture in France, Fishing in Norway and Agriculture in Nigeria among others; I studied British economics; I studied western philosophy and an apologia of African philosophy though I have been having encounters with the rich flavour of African philosophy in folklores and rich African proverbs all through my life. I studied in Cameroon, (Africa in Miniature) and Nigeria (the giant of Africa) and then studied in a renowned western university. The point here is that I, like all African students studied all what western Education offers but western students do not study anything that African education offers. An African who has not travelled out of Africa therefore, ends up knowing more about the world after high school, than a PhD holder who studied all through, in western institutions.

Do you have any doubts, then tell me – who can better understand the problem of hunger – the African who has experience of it or the foreigner who read about it? I recall with a fit of mild irritation how a mate from South Africa got a fail in an exam that he wrote about the apartheid only got an ‘A’ after he openly challenged the lecturer with facts. He lived the experience and the lecturer had only read about apartheid from books. He had firsthand knowledge and what the lecturer knew was at least three times removed from reality. He had knowledge of apartheid but the lecturer had an opinion about apartheid.

It is in the light of this that I cannot understand how it is that many institutions in the West have departments dealing with African studies where Africans go to learn about Africa. What illogicality! The truth is that Africans go for the certificates and not the knowledge. Hence, all what these renowned centres of African studies do is merely celebrate retardation in intellectualism. It is high time we stop deceiving ourselves. No one can teach Africans about Africa.

Isn’t it all so glaring with the stories emanating from the recent invasion of Libya? Of course it is logical that a good reason has to be given to taxpayers for every invasion. Unfortunately these reasons blur the truth and hence knowledge. Ask many in the West today what Libya was in 2010 and all they know is that Gaddafi had stayed in power for 42 years and that Libyans wanted democracy. Ask an African and he will tell you that Libya was a poor Kingdom under King Idris when Gaddafi seized power in 1969, expelled the British and US military bases that ensured Idris’ stay in power, and that Libya according to the UNDP Human Development Index of 2010 had a life expectancy of 74 and that it had free education, and enviable healthcare system and that it was a welfare system with unemployment benefits. How many people in the West today know the real reasons why there have been tensions between Gaddafi and the West?

  • That Gaddafi resisted joining a US/NATO-sponsored military alliance in the region.
  • That Gaddafi also refused to join the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)
  • That Gaddafi put $300 million of the $400 million to fund Africa’s first communications satellite in 2007. (A project that made western countries to loose a net income from Africa of over $500 million a year)
  • That Gaddafi maintained public ownership of Libya’s own central bank, and the authority to create its own national money
  • That Gaddafi worked assiduously to establish an African Monetary Fund, an African Central Bank, and an African Investment Bank, which will curb the high levels of capital flight from Africa, make African governments more responsible and unfortunately render the IMF and the World Bank visibly useless.
  • That Gaddafi refused the request of Western powers to be part of these projects, especially France and the UK.

Of course many will not know all these. I have read many articles discussion the Post-Gaddafi era. Unfortunately, they are so filled with misinformation that I pity the western generation that will know nothing but what these tell them.  I am in no way down-playing the high standards of western education in western institutions. When it comes to the empirical sciences and technological sciences, there is no doubt that these institutions are of the most premium quality. But talk about the social sciences, the bottom line then is that if anyone wants to be educated in the world today, let them do their primary to high school education in Africa and then go to the Western institutions for University education. That way they will be able to discern fact from fiction and will not end up living a life of deceit.

In the final analysis, it is clear that the era is long gone when a few individuals or countries will continue to present their ideologies and selfish interests as international creed, thereby eroding the powers of the African people. This is clearly a period for a philosophical re-articulation of the African reality; a re-articulation because of the history of bastardisation of the intrinsic realities of African continent. 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. But most important one that can only be done by those most informed to do it – AFRICANS.

Great Speech By Michelle Obama in Soweto: Video and Words

The speech Michelle Obama delivered this morning at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, South Africa:

Thank you. Thank you so much. It is such a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you today.

I want to start by thanking Graca Machel for that just gracious, kind introduction. It is overwhelming. And I want to thank her for her lifetime of service as a champion for women and children. And from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for all of the kindness and generosity that you have shown my family for our visit here. Thank you so much.

I am also honored to share the stage with another remarkable leader, Baleka Mbete. She has played a vital role in advancing equality and promoting development here in South Africa. Thank you to the both of you for joining us here for sharing this moment with all of us.

I also want to thank the Archbishop of Johannesburg for honoring us today with his presence.

And of course, I want to recognize our guests of honor –- these 76 extraordinary young women leaders from here in South Africa and across the continent. (Applause.)

These are young women transforming their communities and their countries, and let me tell you I am so impressed by all of them. I am so proud of everything they have achieved.

And finally, I want to thank the leaders and the congregation of Regina Mundi for hosting us in this sacred space today. It has been more than three decades, but those bullet holes in the ceiling, this broken altar still stand as vivid reminders of the history that unfolded here.

And you all know the story –- how 35 years ago this month, a group of students planned a peaceful protest to express their outrage over a new law requiring them to take courses in Afrikaans. Thousands of them took to the streets, intending to march to Orlando Stadium.

But when security forces opened fire, some fled here to this church. The police followed, first with tear gas, and then with bullets.

And while no one was killed within this sanctuary, hundreds lost their lives that day, including a boy named Hector Pieterson, who was just 12 years old, and Hastings Ndlovu, who was just 15.

Many of the students hadn’t even known about the protest when they arrived at school that morning. But they agreed to take part, knowing full well the dangers involved, because they were determined to get an education worthy of their potential.

And as the Archbishop noted, that June day wasn’t the first, or the last, time that this church stood in the crosscurrents of history. It was referred to as “the parliament of Soweto.” When the congregation sang their hymns, activists would make plans, singing the locations and times of secret meetings. Church services, and even funerals, often became anti-Apartheid rallies. And as President Mandela once put it, “Regina Mundi became a world-wide symbol of the determination of our people to free themselves.”

It is a story that has unfolded across this country and across this continent, and also in my country — the story of young people 20 years ago, 50 years ago, who marched until their feet were raw, who endured beatings and bullets and decades behind bars, who risked, and sacrificed, everything they had for the freedom they deserved.

And it is because of them that we are able to gather here today. It is because of them that so many of these young women leaders can now pursue their dreams. It is because of them that I stand before you as First Lady of the United States of America. That is the legacy of the independence generation, the freedom generation. And all of you -– the young people of this continent -– you are the heirs of that blood, sweat, sacrifice, and love.

So the question today is, what will you make of that inheritance? What legacy will you leave for your children and your grandchildren? What generation will you be?

Now, I could ask these questions of young people in any country, on any continent. But there is a reason why I wanted to come here to South Africa to speak with all of you.

As my husband has said, Africa is a fundamental part of our interconnected world. And when it comes to the defining challenges of our times –- creating jobs in our global economy, promoting democracy and development, confronting climate change, extremism, poverty and disease — for all this, the world is looking to Africa as a vital partner.

That is why my husband’s administration is not simply focused on extending a helping hand to Africa, but focusing on partnering with Africans who will shape their future by combating corruption, and building strong democratic institutions, by growing new crops, caring for the sick. And more than ever before, we will be looking to all of you, our young people, to lead the way.

And I’m not just saying that to make you all feel good. The fact is that in Africa, people under 25 make up 60 percent of the population. And here in South Africa, nearly two-thirds of citizens are under the age of 30. So over the next 20 years, the next 50 years, our future will be shaped by your leadership.

And I want to pause for a moment on that word -– leadership — because I know that so often, when we think about what that word means, what it means to be a leader, we think of presidents and prime ministers. We think of people who pass laws or command armies, run big businesses, people with fancy titles, big salaries.

And most young people don’t fit that image. And I know that often when you try to make your voices heard, sometimes people don’t always listen. I know there are those who discount your opinions, who tell you you’re not ready, who say that you should sit back and wait your turn.

But I am here today because when it comes to the challenges we face, we simply don’t have time to sit back and wait.

I’m here because I believe that each of you is ready, right here and right now, to start meeting these challenges.

And I am here because I know that true leadership -– leadership that lifts families, leadership that sustains communities and transforms nations –- that kind of leadership rarely starts in palaces or parliaments.

That kind of leadership is not limited only to those of a certain age or status. And that kind of leadership is not just about dramatic events that change the course of history in an instant.

Instead, true leadership often happens with the smallest acts, in the most unexpected places, by the most unlikely individuals.

I mean, think about what happened here in Soweto 35 years ago. Many of the students who led the uprising were younger than all of you. They carried signs made of cardboard boxes and canvass sacks. Yet together, they propelled this cause into the consciousness of the world. And we now celebrate National Youth Day and National Youth Month every year in their honor.

I mean, think about the giants of the struggle –- people like Albertina Sisulu, whose recent passing we all mourn. Orphaned as a teenager, she worked as a nurse to support her siblings. And when her husband, Walter Sisulu, became Secretary-General of the ANC, it was up to her to provide for their family. When he was imprisoned for 26 years, it was up to her to continue his work. And that she did. With a mother’s fierce love for this country, she threw herself into the struggle.

She led boycotts and sit-ins and marches, including the 1956 Women’s March, when thousands of women from across this country, converged on Pretoria to protest the pass laws. They were women of every color, many of them not much older than all of you. Some of them carried their babies on their backs. And for 30 minutes, they stood in complete silence, raising their voices only to sing freedom songs like Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica. Their motto was simple, but clear: “If you strike a woman, you strike a rock.” (Applause.)

Ma Sisulu, the students of Soweto, those women in Pretoria, they had little money, even less status, no fancy titles to speak of. But what they had was their vision for a free South Africa. What they had was an unshakeable belief that they were worthy of that freedom –- and they had the courage to act on that belief. Each of them chose to be a rock for justice. And with countless acts of daring and defiance, together, they transformed this nation.

Together they paved the way for free and fair elections, for a process of healing and reconciliation, and for the rise of South Africa as a political and economic leader on the world stage.

Now, I know that as your generation looks back on that struggle, and on the many liberation movements of the past century, you may think that all of the great moral struggles have already been won.

As you hear the stories of lions like Madiba and Sisulu and Luthuli, you may think that you can never measure up to such greatness.

But while today’s challenges might not always inspire the lofty rhetoric or the high drama of struggles past, the injustices at hand are no less glaring, the human suffering no less acute.

So make no mistake about it: There are still so many causes worth sacrificing for. There is still so much history yet to be made. You can be the generation that makes the discoveries and builds the industries that will transform our economies. You can be the generation that brings opportunity and prosperity to forgotten corners of the world and banishes hunger from this continent forever. You can be the generation that ends HIV/AIDS in our time — (applause) — the generation that fights not just the disease, but the stigma of the disease, the generation that teaches the world that HIV is fully preventable, and treatable, and should never be a source of shame. (Applause.)

You can be the generation that holds your leaders accountable for open, honest government at every level, government that stamps out corruption and protects the rights of every citizen to speak freely, to worship openly, to love whomever they choose.

You can be the generation to ensure that women are no longer second-class citizens, that girls take their rightful places in our schools. (Applause.)

You can be the generation that stands up and says that violence against women in any form, in any place — including the home –- especially the home –- that isn’t just a women’s rights violation. It’s a human rights violation. And it has no place in any society.

You see, that is the history that your generation can make.

Now, I have to be honest. Your efforts might not always draw the world’s attention, except for today. (Laughter.) You may not find yourself leading passionate protests that fill stadiums and shut down city streets. And the change you seek may come slowly, little by little, measured not by sweeping changes in the law, but by daily improvements in people’s lives.

But I can tell you from my own experience –- and from my husband’s experience -– that this work is no less meaningful, no less inspiring, and no less urgent than what you read about in the history books.

You see, it wasn’t that long ago that my husband and I were young, believe it or not just starting out our careers. After he graduated from university, Barack got a job as a community organizer in the struggling neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago. A lot of people there were out of work and barely getting by. Children had few opportunities and little hope for their future. And trust me, no one thought that this skinny kid with the funny name could make much of a difference.

But Barack started talking to people. He urged them to start working on the change they wanted to see. Soon, slowly, folks started coming together to fight for job training programs and better schools and safer housing for their families.

Slowly, the neighborhoods started to turn around. Little by little, people started feeling hopeful again. And that made Barack feel hopeful.

And I had a similar experience in my own career. Like my husband, I came from a modest background. My parents saved and sacrificed everything they had so that I could get an education. And when I graduated, got a job at a big, fancy law firm — nice salary, big office. My friends were impressed. My family was proud. By all accounts, I was living the dream.

But I knew something was missing. I knew I didn’t want to be way up in some tall building all alone in an office writing memos. I wanted to be down on the ground working with kids, helping families put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

So I left that job for a new job training young people like yourselves for careers in public service. I was making a lot less money. My office wasn’t so nice. But every day, I got to watch those young people gain skills and build confidence. And then I saw them go on to mentor and inspire other young people. And that made me feel inspired. It still does.

See, my husband and I, we didn’t change any laws, we didn’t win any awards, get our pictures in the paper. But we were making a difference in people’s lives. We were part of something greater than ourselves. And we knew that in our own small way, we were helping to build a better world. And that is precisely what so many young people are doing every day across this continent.

These 76 young women are outstanding examples. Take Gqibelo Dandala from here in South Africa. She left a lucrative career in investment banking to found the Future of the African Daughter Project, an organization that lifts up young women in rural and township areas. Of her work, she says: “…we are building a legacy which will outlive and outgrow us…”

And then there’s Robyn Kriel. She’s a young reporter from Zimbabwe who has written about corruption and human rights abuses in her country. She was beaten by police; her home raided, her mother imprisoned. But she still hasn’t lost her passion for reporting, because, as she put it, the people of Zimbabwe “want their stories to be told.”

And then there’s Grace Nanyonga, who joins us today from Uganda. Hey, Grace! You go, girl. Orphaned at the age of 13, she started cooking and selling fish during her school vacations to support her six siblings. Determined to get an education, she founded her own company, and she made enough money to put herself through university. And she’s now started an organization that trains local women to work at her company so that they can support their own families. Of her achievements, she says, simply — these are her words — “I made it against all odds” and “I want to be an example for girls in my country and beyond.”

Now, Grace could have been content to make lots of money, and just provide for her own family. Gqibelo could have climbed the corporate ladder, and never looked back. Where is she? Please stand. Grace got to stand. (Laughter.) Come on, where is she? Is she out there? And no one would’ve blamed Robyn — where’s Robyn? No one would have blamed Robyn if after all she’d been through she decided to quit reporting and pursue an easier career. But these young women — and these are just examples of stories that go on and on — these young women could not be content with their own comfort and success when they knew that other people were struggling.

You see, that’s how people of conscience view the world. It’s the belief, as my husband often says, that if any child goes hungry, that matters to me, even if she’s not my child. If any family is devastated by disease, then I cannot be content with my own good health. If anyone is persecuted because of how they look, or what they believe, then that diminishes my freedom and threatens my rights as well.

And in the end, that sense of interconnectedness, that depth of compassion, that determination to act in the face of impossible odds, those are the qualities of mind and heart that I hope will define your generation.

I hope that all of you will reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not your concern, or if you can’t solve all the world’s problems, then you shouldn’t even try.

Instead, as one of our great American presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, liked to say, I hope that you will commit yourselves to doing “what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are,” because in the end, that is what makes you a lion. Not fortune, not fame, not your pictures in history books, but the refusal to remain a bystander when others are suffering, and that commitment to serve however you can, where you are.

Now it will not be easy. You women know that already. You will have failures and setbacks and critics and plenty of moments of frustration and doubt. But if you ever start to lose heart, I brought you all here today because I want you to think of each other.

Think about Grace, supporting her family all by herself. And think about Robyn, who endured that beating so she could tell other people’s stories. Think about Ma Sisulu, raising her kids alone, surviving banishment, exile, and prison. When reflecting on her journey, Ma Sisulu once said, with her signature humility, she said, “All these years, I never had a comfortable life.”

So you may not always have a comfortable life. And you will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems all at once. But don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.

It’s what happens when folks start asking questions — a father asks, “Why should my son go to school, but not my daughter?” Or a mother asks, “Why should I pay a bribe to start a business to support my family?” Or a student stands up and declares, “Yes, I have HIV, and here’s how I’m treating it, and here’s how we can stop it from spreading.”

See, and then soon, they inspire others to start asking questions. They inspire others to start stepping forward.

And those are the “ripples of hope” that a young U.S. senator named Robert Kennedy spoke of when he came here to South Africa 45 years ago this month. In his words, he said, the “numberless diverse acts of courage and belief which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

And that is how a church can become a parliament. That is how a hymn can be a call to action.

That is how a group of young people with nothing more than some handmade signs and a belief in their own God-given potential can galvanize a nation.

And that’s how young people around the world can inspire each other, and draw strength from each other.

I’m thinking today of the young activists who gathered at the American Library here in Soweto to read the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King for their inspiration.

And I’m thinking of how Dr. King drew inspiration from Chief Luthuli and the young people here in South Africa.

And I’m thinking about how young South Africans singing the American civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” in the streets of Cape Town and Durban.

And I’m thinking of how Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica echoed through university campuses in the U.S., as students -– including my husband –- planned boycotts to support students here in South Africa.

And I’m thinking of this church and how those stained windows depicting the struggle were donated by the people of Poland, and how the peace pole in the park outside was donated by people from Japan, and how every week, visitors from every corner of the globe come here to bear witness and draw inspiration from your history.

And finally, I’m thinking of the history of my own country. I mean, America won its independence more than two centuries ago. It has been nearly 50 years since the victories of our own civil rights movement. Yet we still struggle every day to perfect our union and live up to our ideals. And every day, it is our young people who are leading the way. They are the ones enlisting in our military. They’re the ones teaching in struggling schools, volunteering countless hours in countless ways in communities.

And in this past presidential election, they were engaged in our democracy like never before. They studied the issues, followed the campaign, knocked on doors in the freezing snow and the blazing sun, urging people to vote. They waited in line for hours to cast their ballots.

And I have seen that same passion, that same determination to serve in young people I have met all across the world, from India to El Salvador, from Mexico to the United Kingdom to here in South Africa.

So today, I want you to know that as you work to lift up your families, your communities, your countries and your world, know that you are never alone. You are never alone.

As Bobby Kennedy said here in South Africa all those years ago: “…you are joined with fellow young people in every land, they struggling with their problems and you with yours, but all joined in a common purpose…determined to build a better future.”

And if anyone of you ever doubts that you can build that future, if anyone ever tells you that you shouldn’t or you can’t, then I want you to say with one voice –- the voice of a generation –- you tell them, “Yes, we can.” What do you say? Yes, we can. What do you say? Yes, we can!

Audience: Yes, we can!

Michelle Obama: What do you say?

Audience: Yes, we can!

Michelle Obama: Thank you all so much. God bless you.

RISING POWERS AND DEVELOPMENT POLITICS!

To say I expected this session to be emotional will be an understatement. For ten weeks we have had this stormy journey. Raising questions and attempting to answer them – only to realise the answers are questions in themselves. Many people had thrown in the towel and considered the question of ‘development’ one with a forgone conclusion – failure. Nothing seems to have changed since the so much talk about development. Was it worth all the trouble? This is surely what happens when a discipline spends so much time reflecting on itself rather than on the world. It happened with philosophy as it got caught in the ‘fly bottle of linguistic analysis’ so it is not surprising that it is happening to Development studies. Fortunately, IDD seems to have sensed this and places emphasis on linking theory and practice; the raison d’être for some of us who thought there was still something worth investigating. I can boldly affirm that these ten weeks have made me realise how lucky I am to have engaged in the quest.

I happened to have been at the Foreign and Common Wealth Office today for a POLSIS Study visit and in the few hours that we spent discussing with Alison Kemp (Joint Head, Policy Unit): FCO foreign policy priorities; Sara Everett (Deputy Head, Afghanistan Group): Afghanistan and  Greg Quinn (Head, UN Political Team, International Organisations Department): UN issues, several things we have discussed in the past few weeks took shape. I was able to put my questions to decision makers and hear their views about some of these issues. and was able to arrive at some conclusions…

First of all, the I came to the conclusion that the importance of understanding theory as a prelude to understanding the whole concept of development cannot be overemphasised. This understanding will leave little doubt that developments and politics are intricately interwoven.

Secondly, I was able to conclude that politics was indeed the most dominant variable in any discussion in development and that a talk on international politics could not go unsustained for long if it is not talking about issues of development. International Politics is inverted international development – was my ultimate conclusion. In the talk about foreign policy priorities – a talk which lasted about 20 minutes – Alison Kemp mentioned the term development (or sustainable development) about 8 times (once every 2.5 mins) a clear indication that issues of development were top on the priorities of the FCO.

Third any talk about ‘pro-poor’ politics is simply a charade. Any politics claiming to be aimed at the poor is simply a part of a bigger complex scheme. The endgame never benefit the poor – rather they suffer more when it goes wrong. The question I asked the Head of the UN political team was a simple one: why does the UN use economic sanctions on people like Mugabe and Abacha when they know very well that these people will not care a hoot if the country suffers, given that they will never go a day without their sumptuous meals no matter how harsh the sanction? Who suffers more from an economic sanction? If we can all answer that it is  THE POOR… then the soul-searching question will be if the UN in its politics is not pro-poor, where do we begin a discussion on pro-poor politics in an international forum?

Fourthly, the issue of ‘failed states’ is one that cannot be wished away easily. The fact that the concept is riddled with controversies, notwithstanding, the deputy head of the Afghan group used it several times in his description of Afghanistan. When he acknowledged the fact that 1979 arming of the Taliban was a great mistake, I could not help pointing to the fact that its result (Taliban support of Al Qaeda and the failure of the Afghan state) was being replicated in Libya.

Finally, the last conclusion I arrived at is that the nature of international politics was changing and it was going to take many by surprise.  The unprecedented rise of the Asian Tigers which challenged most of the conventional theories of development was simply the antiphon to a new era. Of course we should not have expected anything different if we recalled Marx stating in 1959 that “all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”

We have had the surprising rise of the BRICs but what should not surprise us is how China and India replay history in a refined manner. It was fascinating to see how Tom captured the concept of China’s trade relations to Africa… The many layered question is… Is it a dependency relationship or is it the flip side to modernisation? Difficult questions to answer but certainly thought-provoking.

One thing that stands out though is that China rose to power on the wings of communism and a ‘closed’ state and is now seeking to expand that power through Capitalist means. Maintaining communism at the home front and capitalism at the international level is a strategy that only time can tell its outcome. It however points to something… China is being flexible and to me that is ‘politics’ or better still ‘development politics’. Their recent neutrality in the resolution over Libya is yet another pointer of her cautious nature. China is avoiding any form of conflict while at the same time building an empire outside China.

In the final analysis, we can all begin anew by asking ourselves what actually is new in development. Is there something intrinsically new? Or are we simply filling new wine into old wineskins? Can they hold the new wine? Whatever the case it will do some good to remember Duncan’s words

… a focus on ‘what’s new’ runs the risk of ignoring ‘what isn’t new’, such as the bread and butter issues of development: reducing poverty; supporting active citizens and their efforts to build effective, accountable states; fighting for universal health care, education, access to water and food; and equal rights for all women and men.

The onus however lies in knowing the difference… and this I guess is what I have been able to learn from this module.

STATE FAILURE… QUID SIT?

I trailed off last week on a bad mood. There were many things I could not understand. First I could not understand why there was so much talk about unity and peace in the  world but what we experience everyday is war and strife. Yes! I could not come to terms with the so many assassinations that took place within the last few years in Latin America. Secondly I could not understand why the US always seemed to come up where ever a carcass had been found. Is it simply because the US is the ‘policeman’ of the world or simply that it has become a vulture that feeds on carcasses? I especially could not understand why it is that the Post World War II era has seen so much being put in place to make the world better but today rather than count our successes, we have a whole session aimed at discussing our failures.

Could Heraclitus have been right to say that strife was justice? Could Machiavelli have been right to  argue that the only purpose for a ruler was to make war, and protect its citizens from attacks by other states and that the ruler is justified in doing whatever is necessary to maintain the country, even if it is unjust? Could Marx have been right to say that history has simply being the arena for struggles? Could it be that the world today has an affinity with the 19th century Social Darwinism with its believe in Natural Selection stating that the competitive struggle amongst species secures the survival of the fittest?

Do all these have anything to do with Clapham’s (2003) opinion that “States are organizations capable of maintaining a monopoly of violence over a defined territory, and of controlling, to a significant extent, the interactions between that territory and the world beyond it“  The operating word here seems to be ‘monopoly’ because states are often considered to be sovereign. But can we talk about monopoly when talking of Africa or Latin American states? If this definition is anything to go by, then it becomes easy to understand why it is still a Herculean task for any country that has had any form of alien occupation or direct intervention in their affairs to have a strong state. The two case studies of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti  that were discussed have one thing in common and it is the fact that their travails began or accelerated not from within but from outside intervention in their internal affairs. If a foreign power is not supporting a dictator stay in power, then it is participating in killing the person who stands for the well-being of the nation.  

As Danielle went through the lecture, I was assuaged by the clarity with which the source of the problems of failed states was communicated. “State failure” I was able to conclude, was certainly not the ‘seminal seeds’ of any country, but rather it would seem that states fail because other states deny them that which makes them states – MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE.

While I was beginning to accept the whole idea that states fail because of something beyond their making, Danielle threw another bombshell with Rotberg’s (2002) view that  ‘Nation-states fail because they can no longer deliver positive political goods to their people. Their governments lose legitimacy and, in the eyes and hearts of a growing plurality of its citizens, the nation-state itself becomes illegitimate.’  ILLEGITIMATE? Who defines what is legitimate and what is illegitimate in the world today. Should it be Europe or the USA or the United Nations or … may be the World Bank or IMF or the WTO? We all sat and watched when the US supported the Taliban government in 1979 to fight the Soviet Union in a senseless Cold War and is still struggling to destroy it to fight Al Qaeda in a meaningful war against terrorism; We all are witnesses of George Bush and Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq even when the UN had ascertained there were no weapons of Mass destruction in the country. We all listened when Gaddafi made his +90 minute speech  (which has been edited in most versions available online) at the UN in which a Dictator was bold enough to point out the salient truths about the failures of the international community. We are all watching how that same international community is claiming legitimacy in invading Libya and even considering arming rebels in the name of freeing the Libyan people. Not forgetting how these same countries especially the UK have enriched themselves from selling arms to Gaddafi. WE WILL ALL BE WATCHING WHEN ANOTHER FAILED STATE IS CREATED IN NORTH AFRICA. And WE talk of illegitimacy and Legitimacy!!! In what language can any sane person justify the fact that deliberate creation of the conditions necessary for a civil war has ever been the best means of freeing a people from tyranny.

Unfortunately the whole issue itself is a dilemma, first the principles of the U.N. Charter, such as the right of nations to self-determination and the fact that the UN resolution required that the intervention in to Libya ‘use all necessary means’ to protect the people. If it were an international war, where the aggressor is trying to kill large numbers of civilians and destroy the enemy’s right to national self-determination, it is easy for the mind to grapple with. In internal unrest and civil war, however, the challenge of the intervention is to protect human rights without undermining national sovereignty or the right of national self-determination and this is a pill too complex to swallow. In Kosovo and now in Libya, they are said to be aimed at stopping a government from committing mass murder. In the 1990s, the U.S. intervention in Somalia was intended to alleviate a famine while the invasion of Haiti was designed to remove a corrupt and oppressive regime – one thing however stands clear in all this…

Those intervening can claim to be carrying out a neutral humanitarian action, but in reality, they are intervening on one side’s behalf. If the intervention is successful — as it likely will be given that interventions are invariably by powerful countries against weaker ones — the practical result is to turn the victims into victors. By doing that, the humanitarian warriors are doing more than simply protecting the weak. They are also defining a nation’s history.

Strangely enough, I could not fail to also realise the many ambiguities with which the term ‘failed states’ was riddled. Looking at the failed states’ index during the seminar discussions, we could not help but wonder if it could be a veritable tool for any serious policy formulations. While the position of Somalia was not surprising, the position of many nations such as China, Afghanistan and even Belgium (which has no central government,) put the integrity of the index to question. This not withstanding, the reality is that some states have disintegrated and some more are on the way. Shocking that it is happening at a time when there is so much talk about a globalised world there is need for all a sundry to reevaluate our actions and positions on several issues. The effects of failed states will surely not remain with them… they will increasingly become everyone’s problems.

In a nutshell we can all hearken to Bryan Froehle’s point that “The greatest danger is when structure is placed above culture, rules above relationships. Rules are important; structures are vital. Yet . . . they are at the service of humanity and not the other way around.” If the international community were to examine their motives in every action very well and realise how futile its politics has been in the past half a century. 

I am happy some nations are aware of this and this is the reason we can still talk of rising powers. The fact that some states are rising despite all odds means we are not yet about to witness the end of our world. But can we dare to be optimistic? Can these ‘so called’ rising powers make a difference? Next week will say as we consider rising powers and Development politics.

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