Bringing African Perspectives into US Activism (#USSFafrica)

Thursday and Friday I attended many of the Africa focused workshops – most were very exciting and engaging. They really brought the African perspective into the ideas of the US Social Forum and made delegates think about the US role in issues affecting communities on the African continent.

24 Thursday 10am-12pm

African Unity Towards What? (Pan-Africanism & Nationalism is not enough!) by: University of Kmt

I still haven’t exactly figured out this group and what they do. They run the Kmt Press which publishes books and journals, but all of their sessions that I attended were focused on teaching with an African historical perspective. Their missions states that they are dedicated to educating the new generation of African leaders. Interesting that they are in Detroit and I wonder if they know of the Detroit Public School (DPS) Initiative starting in 1992 where Africa was integrated into school curriculums from math to literature. 

24 Thursday 1-3pm

Prioritizing Africa & the African Diaspora Agenda from Detroit to Dakar (D2D) by: Priority Africa Network (PAN)

This People’s Movement Assembly was geared towards bringing African perspectives into the US Social Forum and continue the discussion as preparations are made for the 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. The room was full of delegates from many African countries, Detroit, and US Africa Advocacy groups. 

Briggs Bomba, Director of Campaigns at Africa Action, spoke strongly about building solidarity with those most affected in Africa. He said, “corporate led globalization has harshest effects on those in the perifery, the underdeveloped.” He reminded us that all of us the privilege to attend conferences like these and make the policies need to prioritize the communities most affected.

A delegate from South Africa spoke eloquently about the social apartheid of displacement – ideologically, locations, in decision-making and governments; in voting process lack of people power and transformational action, and in the social mainstream. “We cover many issues, but it is the same struggle. We come from different areas, but share common experiences.” (i.e. colonialism)

Some top issues that came out of the PMA:

  • Militarization in the Congo (DRC)
  • HIV & STDs from Detroit to Africa
  • political economy – effects seen in everyday Africa
  • African defense (defend communities), liberation (not yet liberated), and autonomy

An exciting and dynamic session that really makes me excited for the World Social Forum in Dakar!

24 Thursday 3:30-5:30pm

The New Africa Command & U.S. Military Involvement in Africa by: African Security Research Project (aka: Daniel Volman)

This session was an interesting overview of AFRICOM by some leading scholars on the topic of US national security interests in Africa. The attendees were less diverse than the Detroit to Dakar session and most people came to learn more because it looked interesting and had studied Africa to some small degree in the past. 

Most interesting was when the discussion turned to private military contractors (PMCs) in Africa responsible for fighting wars in Libera, Southern Sudan, and Somalia. A Ugandan delegate actually talked about being trained by PMCs in Iraq to then return and fight the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda. Great to hear the perspective of the Ugandan delegate and Dan Volman as well as to see so many people interested in learning more about African issues!

25 Friday 1-3pm

Power-sharing Deals in Africa: Implications for Democracy – The Case of Zimbabwe & Kenya by: Africa Action

This was by far the most organized session that I attended at the US Social Forum. The Africa Action team did an amazing job of gathering great speakers, formatting the session, and bringing people into the room for the discussion. Many African voices were heard from delegates representing Zimbabwe and Kenya. 

In both cases of power-sharing, the speakers agreed that the power-sharing deal was a sigh of relief that stopped the fighting and opened their doors to the international community and economy again. However, they also all recognized that power-sharing was a positive in the short-term, but can be positive as in the case of South Africa when Mandela and de Klerk signed a power sharing deal until the national democratic elections.

Here are some take-aways:

  • A weak state can and will be manipulated (i.e. Museveni in Uganda – waiting for a similar situation as Kenya and Zimbabwe soon, elections next year)
  • “The people” are separated from the power – people-centered in needed
  • Power-sharing allows for lessened tensions and time to create national unity towards something better
  • Coalition governments show defeat of “people power”

Crossposted from SCOUT BANANA

The Africa Track at the US Social Forum (#USSFafrica)

There are a number Africa-related organizations represented at the US Social Forum focused on bringing Africa into the larger US social justice context and ensuring that there are African voices represented.

During the June 22-25 conference there will be 14 workshops presented by: Africa Action, TransAfrica, HealthGAP, Support Darfur Project, All African Peoples Revolutionary Party, University of Kmt, Priority Africa Network, Community Alliance for Global Justice, African Security Research Project, Athletes United for Peace, Detroit to Dakar, and International Development Exchange (IDEX). See list below:

24 Thursday (10am-12pm)

  • Africa & Pan- Africanism in this hemisphere: fighting neo-colonialism, racism, class, and gender oppression
    • All African Peoples Revolutionary Party @ Cobo Hall – Rm. W2-61
  • Building a Pan-African Solidarity Movement in North America
    • Support Darfur Project @ WC3 – Rm. 317
  • AIDS isn’t over: Solidarity in the fight for justice for people with AIDS worldwide
    • HealthGAP @ WA – Rm. 1472
  • Gender Militarism and US Corporate Violence in Oil Producing States
    • Priority Africa Network (PAN) @ Cobo Hall – Rm. O2-40

24 Thursday (1-3pm)

  • Africa Unity Toward What? (Pan-Africanism & Nationalism are not enough!)
    • University of Kmt @ Cobo Hall – Rm. O2-38
  • The Politics of Exploiting Need: AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), the Gates Foundation, & the Food Crisis
    • Community Alliance for Global Justice @ UAW – Rm. Taurus
  • Migration & Militarization of U.S. and European Borders: A Comparison & Contrast
    • Priority Africa Network @ Cobo Hall- Rm. O2-40
  • Youth-led Activism in NYC’s Public High Schools
    • Support Darfur Project @ WBC – Rm. WB2
  • The World Cup, Sports & Social Justice: The Beautiful Game & Beautiful Struggle, Together
    • Athletes for Peace @ WSU S – Rm. 29

24 Thursday (3:30-5:30pm)

  • International Financial Institutions & Climate Change: Community Impacts in the Congo
    • Africa Action @ WC3 – Rm. 337
  • The New Africa Command & U.S. Military Involvement in Africa
    • African Security Research Project @ UAW – Rm. Pres

25 Friday (1-5pm)

  • Prioritizing Africa & the African Diaspora Agenda from Detroit to Dakar (D2D)
    • Priority Africa Network @ Cobo Hall – Rm. W2-69
  • Educating African People: K12 through Ph.D. levels
    • University of Kmt @ Cobo Hall – Rm. O2-38
  • GM Crops – the poisoned chalice: perspectives & victories from South Africa
    • International Development Exchange (IDEX) @ Cobo Hall – Rm. D3-23
  • Power Sharing Deals in Africa: Implications for Democracy – The Case of Zimbabwe & Kenya
    • Africa Action @ WSU S – Rm. 261

Crossposted from SCOUT BANANA.

the week in african health

Nyala, Kalma camp, South Darfur - March 2007 (MSF Photo Blog)

The impact of conflict on the environment and then the subsequent, direct effect on human health cannot be overlooked. This internally displaced peoples (IDP) camp in Sudan shows the seriousness of that impact.

Your Old Cell Phone Can Make a Difference in Global Health

Everyone in the global health sector is writing about the incredible reach of SMS technologies working for health in developing countries, and rightly so. Hope Phones has partnered with FrontlineSMS to provide old cell phones to communities in need through SMSmedic partner organizations.
More:
Your Old Phone Can Change the World

TeleMed
A service that I just recently came across is one that is not being as widely talked about. TeleMed is different from FrontlineSMS: Medic because it connects local health care workers directly to patients in need via SMS technology. SMS: Medic is focused on health infrastructure. TeleMed does not have a website up yet, but is definitely one to watch:

Paul Farmer and the US Government?

The other big talk within global health is whether Paul Farmer will take a job within the US government. Some have expressed great hope for potential reform others voice their plea with him to continue his incredible community based work outside the bureaucracies. My opinion is that Partners in Health has developed into a strong organization and does not depend on Paul Farmer to further their work. If he wants to take on the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the US government and global health, then all the more power to him.

Southern Africa: Global Financial Crisis Leads to HIV Budget Cuts

Broken promises abound as the economic crisis deepens and the right to health falters, but activists are coming together to ensure that funding for health and HIV are not cut. International donors are expected to slash budgets for health due to the economic crisis and health experts fear that this will lead to, “less food security and quality of nutrition, which will in turn put more stress on already weak health systems.” Paula Akugizibwe, regional treatment literacy and advocacy coordinator of Windhoek-based AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) in Namibia demanded, “We need to ensure that African lives do not become a silent casualty of the global financial downturn. Our lives are not cheap or expendable. We expect health to be prioritised over weapons, sports and lavish politics.” Tanzania was the first sub-Saharan country to announce a 25 percent cut of its annual HIV/AIDS budget.
Other budget cut impacts:
Guinea: Medicines Running Out

Zambian High Court to Hear Groundbreaking HIV Case

On Wednesday, the Livingstone High Court was supposed to hear a ground breaking case about whether mandatory testing for HIV and discrimination solely on the basis of HIV status is constitutional in Zambia. Unfortunately two days later news came that the trial was postponed until mid-July. Be sure to keep watching this story.
More:
Trial postponed until 15 July

HIV Prevention and Behavior Change

Mara Gordon writes on Change.org’s Global Health Blog about a direct campaign in Tanzania discussing behavior change. “This campaign is partially paid for by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, U.S. government money to fight HIV that’s notoriously had lots of conservative strings attached. Had I seen this ad a year ago, I probably would have dismissed it as unrealistic abstinence-only propaganda. But behavior change works. Behavior change – in combination with access to condoms, comprehensive sexual education, open discussion about HIV and sexually transmitted infections in general, all that good liberal stuff.”
More:
Changing Human Behaviors: Sexual and Social
During a course on Africa’s environmental history I wrote about the need for changing human behavior in both the sexual and social arena to make a real impact in HIV prevalence. The major social change is the response from Western institutions and organizations in how they talk about HIV/AIDS and Africa while seeking to change sexual behavior.
Lesotho: Cultural Beliefs Threaten Prevention of Mother-Child HIV Transmission
Health workers note an encouraging response to the PMTCT program. The number of facilities providing PMTCT has risen from nine in 2004 to 166 by the end of 2008. The number of women who received PMTCT and subsequent antiretroviral (ARV) treatment increased from 421 in 2004 to about 5,000 by end of last year, according to 2009 National AIDS Council statistics. “The primary health care coordinator at St. James Mantsonyane Mission Hospital, Khanyane Mabitso, says stigma and cultural beliefs make it difficult for medical personnel to follow up on HIV-positive mothers and their babies.”

Progress on health-related MDGs mixed

Many advances have been made in health. Some argue that these advances have been dwarfed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the economic crisis, or the failures of African governments. The WHO report shows that the only statistic with concrete results was the number of children dying before the age of five. Is this a solid example of the failure of big plans and blanket goals for development?

Sierra Leone: ACC Recommends Reform At Health Ministry

The Anti-Corruption Committee report provides a number of recommendations for reform all focused on improving the health care delivery services in Sierra Leone and eliminating the risk of corrupt practices in the health services across the country.
More on health service scale-up:
Chad: Paving the Way for Better Obstetric Care
Government meetings with UNICEF to help scale-up of health services for better obstetric care across the country.

Ten Things You Can Do to Fight World Hunger

The Nation provides an interesting set of things you can do in your everyday life to fight world hunger. They properly focus on how food, a basic human need, has been commodified in our global capitalist structure. “Our planet produces enough food to feed its more than 960 million undernourished people. The basic cause of global hunger is not underproduction; it is a production and distribution system that treats food as a commodity rather than a human right.” When in February I wrote that agricultural experts had said the food crisis of the last year was over evidence from this past week point to the contrary.
More:
Tanzania: Food Shortage Unnecessary
“Tanzania has since independence sang the song of ‘Agriculture is the backbone of the economy’, but little has gone into strategizing and implementing viable actions towards surplus food production.”
Kenya: UN Agency Makes First Local Food Purchase from Small Scale Farmers
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has for the first time bought food from small-scale farmers in Kenya under a new initiative aimed at boosting agriculture by connecting farmers to markets.
Zimbabwe: Another Year Without Much Food
Rwanda: Nearly Half the Country’s Children Are Malnourished
Kenya: Over Three Million Face Food Shortages

Africa: High Level Engagement with Continent Has Started

Speaking at a gala reception in Washington marking the beginning of “Africa Week,” Carson said: “Most of the Obama administration’s Africa team is in place, and we are gearing up. We will continue to build on and strengthen the strong bipartisan consensus in Congress and among the people of America that has motivated U.S. policy towards Africa. Over the next four years, we will be focusing our efforts on strengthening democracy, promoting sustainable development, resolving or mitigating conflict, and dealing with transnational issues such as climate change and agriculture,” he pledged. While Obama has built a great team, the White House has yet to announce any Africa Policy, greater control and influence for the Bureau of African Affairs, or take any serious (or effective) action for the continent.
More:
Tanzania: Obama, Kikwete Meet in Oval Office on Africa’s Conflicts

World Bank Resumes Zimbabwe Aid

Zimbabwe owes the World Bank and the African Development Bank more than $1bn, how much potential does renewed aid really hold for the country. If the debt is not forgiven there will be no way the country will be able to rebuild necessary infrastructures for health, water, etc. There are countless case studies to show this historical fact. It must also be noted that Western sanctions were a huge detriment to a country in need, maybe this marks a turnaround?

Originally posted on the SCOUT BANANA blog.

the week in african health

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“No weapons” MSF in Nasir, Upper Nile State, South Sudan

More:
A Tale of Two Refrigerators
Fighting has renewed in southern Sudan, but its not just between militant groups – aid groups fall victim to needless fighting as well. Diane Bennet writes on William Easterly’s Aid Watch blog about the 2001 peace in Sudan and how it was a ripe time to treat disease and build health infrastructure. Unfortunately internal bureaucracy and politics became the largest hurdle.

Sudan: Darfur – Thousands Flee to African Union Safety
More recently, South Darfur has become the seen of violent clashes between government forces and militants. It is important to never forget the impacts that conflict has on health services.

Africa: Public Health Care Must Lead

Oxfam International has released a report [access here] “challenging the myths about private health care in developing countries.” The report emphasizes the role that private health care can play in developing countries, but reminds us that there is no way a scale-up of private health services will reach poor people in need. Key recommendations are to increase funding for free universal health care infrastructure, rejecting ineffective practices of the past, and combining efforts to fuel effective initiatives – sounds a lot like SCOUT BANANA

Global Health: Mobile Phones to Boost Healthcare

Revolutionizing access to health knowledge, the efforts of the Mobile Health Alliance (mHealth), supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the UN Foundation, and Vodafone Foundation are making a mark across the African continent boasting 51 existing or to-be-implemented programs in 26 countries around the world. Harnessing the potential of growing technology in ‘developing’ countries for the purpose of health can only signal a major shift in access to health care across Africa.

Getting the Continent on Obama’s Agenda

It appears that Obama’s administration is stacked in the favor of Africa and in favor of better international development practices all around. With Susan Rice serving as Ambassador to the UN action against genocide may be bolstered, Gayle Smith more likely than not will be tapped as USAID Director, she was a major proponent of the HELP Commission creating a cabinet level position for foreign aid, and a well known name among insiders and outsiders in African affairs, Johnnie Carson, is expected to be named head of the Bureau of African Affairs of the State Department. The future of US relations in Africa has incredible potential and hope to change.

Zimbabwe: Staff Return to Hospitals, But Not to Work

As a massive cholera outbreak tears across the country, medical staff have returned to their posts, but the nature of their strike, that began in 2008 over poor working conditions and wages, is now “more like a sit-in.” In a country so crippled by Western exploitation and resulting politics, a strike of the health workers in the face of a rampant disease outbreak does not bode well for a vulnerable population.
More:
Too Much Cholera, Too Little Food
Over 80,000 Zimbabweans Infected with Cholera

Africa: U.S. Naval Engagement Offers Health Dividends

Imagine the potential of the US’ military might if it was dedicated to coordinating naval and health care workers from 13 countries to bring aid and health services to communities in need. This becomes a reality with the African Partnership Station Initiative and Project Handclasp. I can only dream of a day where initiatives like this are more a norm than a surprising gesture of good will.

Mali: Raising Money and Hygiene Standards

One of the most innovative programs that I have read most recently is the work the Dutch based Gender and Water Alliance which is employing women to make soap as well educate and use it to increase hygiene and combat preventable diseases. Health benefits, a source of income and empowering women!

Food Crisis Over, Say Experts

Supposedly the global food crisis of last year is over! Agricultural experts from Africa and Asia are saying that we are no longer in a food crisis and that there needs to be an increased production of rice in Africa in order to keep the food crisis at bay. In my opinion, as long as we continue our unsustainable and capitalist practices that commodify a basic human need, we will remain in a global food crisis affecting both the US and Africa.
More:
Rwanda: Food Production Up, Thanks to Green Revolution
Thankfully the increase is not due to the ‘Green Revolution,’ but instead to increase in practices that are focused on protecting the environment.

South Africa: Treasury Blamed for Shortage in Aids Drugs

Years of controversy seem to have brought the blame down on the South African Treasury. With an extensive bureaucracy, it is no wonder that the ARV roll-out program has taken much longer than it should – as many die without the proper medications. While the numbers of people enrolled in the ARV program has increased significantly there still exists a problematic policy of access. Access hinges on wealth, CD4 count, and location. To access the government’s ARV program your CD4 count has to be less than 300, which is at a point where you are already very vulnerable. This creates an issue of sustained treatment because it forces an irregular regimen. If your CD4 count is above 300, you will have to pay. Many cannot pay and if you live far from a government hospital access is just that much more difficult because of taxi fare and time sacrificed for travel. It seems the health and wellbeing of its citizens is not a high budget priority of the South African government.
More:
Rapid HIV evolution avoids attacks
Much like the flu virus, HIV mutates and evolves in response to treatments. This really exposes the South African ARV program as highly ineffective.
Duncan discusses HIV/AIDS in Morocco
Little known to the world, the HIV/AIDS crisis grows in Morocco.

Originally posted on the SCOUT BANANA blog. 

hope and change in 2008 politics

peace without sickness, failure without denial, and democracy without restriction

Hope and change have gained a great footing in not only the 2008 Presidential elections in the US, but also in the communities of Northern Uganda. Peace talk negotiations and a cease-fire in fighting have allowed children to return home, families to rebuild, and communities to begin creating lives without fear from conflict. The conflict in Northern Uganda is often tagged as a “civil war,” but largely centers on a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). (Read more here) Thousands displaced, abducted, lost – hundreds killed. The peace talks have been going well and two weeks ago (April 10th) Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, was supposed to come out of hiding to sign the peace agreement. He did not show up and his spokesperson claimed he had been sick. Sick or afraid? Kony and his top officials are now on the top of the International Criminal Court’s arrest list. It seems he may have been sick with fear of being held accountable for his long-running violent resistance.

The election count in Zimbabwe has been delayed. After many have called for the results to be released from the election, electoral officials have decided to recount 23 out of the 210 seats. This will take 3 more days. There is fear that the recount will include vote-rigging, something that would not be new in Zimbabwean elections under Mugabe. It is well known that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has gained the majority over Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. There are fears that the recount could reverse that majority. Hope for change in Zimbabwe is stalled yet again and there is no guess as to when election results will actually be released. Now hundreds of opposition supporters, fleeing “state-sponsored” violence, have been detained. Most will be charged with inciting election violence as the scapegoats for Mugabe’s government response to political opposition.

Opposition candidates have been arrested, people stayed away from the polls, rising cost of food and decline in wages have lead to a popular discontent with the Egyptian government. People are more concerned with getting bread on the table than on turning out in the polls. The main opposition party in Egypt has been officially banned and their candidates have been arrested and detained so that they cannot campaign. The hope for change has been squashed by the current government, but not without at least some opposition. The Muslim Brotherhood, with its candidates banned, boycotted the elections and clashed with police. There is fear in the government that they will lose more support to the “pro-Islamist independents” who seem to have the backing of the people. The US is not the only country where the rise in power of Islamic groups has produced an unfounded fear and caused actions that are far from democratic.

Kenyan politicians have reached a deal to allow a coalition government. Mwai Kibaki will remain President and his opponent, Raila Odinga, will serve as Prime Minister. It is not clear how the people will react to this evolution. The next major task of the coalition government is to work on relocating the hundreds of thousands of displaced peoples as a result of their “election” or move to power. Nearly 140,000 people are living in tents and depend on food handouts to live. Adding difficulty, there is disagreement in the parliament as to what actions should be taken first: returning the displaced or preaching co-existence and reconciliation. The historical rifts in Kenyan politics will need to be handled as soon as possible if Kenya is to move forward with the stability of the past.

In all four cases there is an extensive past to learn in order to fully understand the current situations. Each case represents a direct outcome of former colonial systems perpetuated (especially their failures), oppressed populations, and a push for democracy that seems to be historically flawed in its practice and exportation. Hope and change may just become buzz words for the 2008 election year, but they also have the great potential to live up to the aspirations of many looking for a new way of handling governments and societies.

democractic movements as terrorism

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is the Zimbabwean political party focused on promoting democracy in a country where it has become very dangerous to associate with politics. Formed as an opposition party to the Zimbabwean African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), which is led by current President Robert Mugabe, the MDC brings together a number of civil society groups. The MDC is now labeled as a terrorist organization by Mugabe’s government, political activists are regularly beaten and arrested, and known members of the MDC disappear. The MDC front webpage tells of three recent deaths of people closely affiliated with the MDC. The site notes that this is becoming an all too common.

In a 2000 parlimentary election MDC candidates won overwhelming majorities, but there were calls of unfair elections and the issue remains caught up in Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court. The South African Development Community (SADC) and the South African Ministerial Observer team both maintain their positions that the election was free and fair. MDC members say there was harassment and force used by the ZANU-PF government at the polls. In 2004 the MDC split over the decision to take part in the 2005 parlimentary elections because of the “illegitimate outcome” of the last election. The MDC voted to take part in the elections (33-31), but Morgan Tsvangirai voted the decision down saying it was a waste of time. The MDC then split into Tsvangirai’s decision supporters and pro-senate members, led by the former MDC deputy. Some say that the split was ethnic based.

There are two main ethnic groups in Zimbabwe, the Shona (75%) and Ndebele (19%). Ndebele was an ethnic category that grew out of the military state created by the British in 1830. The ethnic term of Ndebele encompassed people of many different origins and in fact Shona people lived in this conquered area, but were placed under the Ndebele label. However, the ethnic identifications of and between these two groups were very low and there was no historical enmity between them. In 1896-7 these ethnic groups actually joined in the Ndebele-Shona Chimurenga resistance to the British. Guerilla forces grew and became political parties, but neither was purely ethnic based and recruited across the board. Needless to say the ‘ethnic conflict’ in Zimbabwe was the least serious of all African ethnic conflicts. The greatest conflict was between Black and White in Zimbabwe. There have been recent talks to reunite the split political parties.

This is the real historical problem that has led to Zimbabwe’s current problems. The problem in Zimbabwe can be summed up to a battle between Pan-Africanism and Neo-colonialism. Mugabe has called for White people to leave and so it makes the situation difficult when British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has said that he is working closely with the MDC to create a regime change. Well there may be a high degree of internal pressure, the external powers cannot be dismissed. In order for the Western powers to achieve the goal of regime change they will use their secret services, CIA, network os military bases, and economic tactics. There is this other side of the argument that says maybe the MDC is not promoting democracy at all and is really a facade for Westerners to experiment in African politics yet again (Zaire’s Lumumba?).

Back to democracy, regardless of conspiracies the basics for democarcy do not exist in Zimbabwe. Recently six MDC members were arrested under the “Law and Order Act” for holding illegal political meetings. The 2008 Presidential election is close and the MDC and ZANU-PF are in negotiations. Tsvangirai has said that the MDC wants to participate, but they want to ensure that it is a free and fair election. The MDC wants to participate to create democratic change and not to give legitimacy to a system favoring one side. The MDC is demanding that there be international control of the elections and that millions of Zimbabweans abroad be allowed to vote, a new voters’ roll and the appointment of an independent Zimbabwe Election Commission to supervise the polls. South African president, Thabo Mbeki has been chosen by the SADC to mediate the negotiations between the two political parties. There is worry that Mugabe will not comply with demands.

Zimbabwe Timeline from: 1200-2007

our leaders skipped history class: revealing the u.s. foreign policy on africa

Learning from the past and taking lessons from history are what we often pride ourselves in doing. Our elementary and high school teachers would often use this phrase when referring to wars and conflicts, strategies and crises, mistakes and wrong-doings. We work so often in history courses to note that great leaders learned or did not learn from past actions. What can be said now for the our current leaders?

We are now the recipients of a bad history grade in policy on Africa. The US has a unprecendented push to re-militarize Africa. Before I continue on this point we need to look back in time. The colonial legacy began with the arrival of Portuguese soldiers on African soil. The first encounter that any Africans had with Europe was with the military. Likewise, the colonial masters first established the institutions of the military and police to be able to ‘control’ their territories. Eventually the occupied Africans were incorporated into those systems and made to conform to the militarized method of ruling a colony. Much of the conflict, war, and strife in Africa can be linked back to this colonial legacy of militarization. The colonial era of militarization moved on into World War II, further on then to the Cold War – each time Africa became more militarized with the most advanced killing equipment.

Now in the age of a supposed ‘war on terror’ the US is propogating the re-militarization on Africa. Back in January I wrote about the birth of the African Command and past US/ CIA ventures in Africa. This was a timely development as conflict grew on the African continent, the colonial military legacy expanded also in a time of great strife and forced division of Africa. Recently one of my professors gave a lecture on the current US involvement in Africa. Much of what he had to say I already knew, but an equally large amount was new information to me. He told the class that he had been invited to the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mihigan to talk to a unit about Africa. However, he soon learned that this was no introductory talk about Africa as everyone in the unit had traveled to the African countries where US interest is strongest. This month I wrote about the presidential candidates and their stances on African issues as well as the growing amount of military training and weapons supplied to Africa. Is all this really in the name of terrorism? Or is there a greater underlying issue? Oil? The US triangle of influence in Africa includes all of the African countries that have discovered and exported oil. Coincedence?

The new African Command is seen by some as a milestone in US foreign policy showing that the US actually does care about Africa. I would say this is a great representation of how we have seen Africa throughout our policy writing – only important when the US has a self-interest or gain to achieve. I have to agree with the growing number of people who are not pleased with AFRICOM. So far there is only a handful of African countries that agree to hosting the AFRICOM base. It seems that the only future for US foreign policy in Africa will be military based. Our ‘development’ and aid work will be conducted by the military and people will begin looking to the military for aid and assisatance. In a BBC article a Kenyan columnist sums up the fears of many, “The military now is going to be working with civil society, to promote health and education. Africa is going to look at all its development efforts through the lens of the Pentagon. That’s a truly dangerous dimension. We don’t need militarisation of Africa, we don’t need securitisation of aid and development in Africa.” For a comprehensive archive of US military involvement in Africa check out the Association for Concerned African Scholars (ACAS).

I cannot remember where I read, but in an article about the history of the US’s foreign policy an expert had said that it was, “one bad decision after another”(hopefully I can track down the quotee). From my study and knowledge of US foreign policy I can see the obvious truth of such a statement. The truth of this statement is relevant especially in regards to Africa. “One bad decision after another.” Zimbabwe is all over the news after Mugabe kicked out the white farmers and now the country’s economy is plummeting. What many people do not know is that as the Rhodesian conflicts waned and constitutions to grant freedom were written the US played a crucial role. When the new constitution was revealed with no mention of land for Northern Rhodesia’s majority population, Mugabe and Nkomo were ready to leave the talks. The British government reached out to the US President Carter to back a deal to pay white farmers for their land, which would then be redistributed.

african economic growth and oil

The UN has reported that Africa’s economic growth is increasing, slow and steady, but frail. They are predicting that the continent’s economies will grow almost 6% in 2007. However the report states that if African countries are to continue to grow they will need to diversify their economic output and invest more in infrastructure. The top growing econmies include: Mauritania (19.8%), Angola (17.6%), and Mozambique (7.6%). The report points out that the economic growth rests on a very fragile base and there are still conflicts to face. The HIV/AIDS crisis has killed much of Africa’s workforce. Countries need to open their borders to trade, invest in their infrastructure, and insulate themselves against external shocks. If these predicted growth percentage’s come true in 2007 this will be the continent’s fourth year of growth. Zimbabwe was the only economy to contract in the last year by 4.4%.

The Foreign Policy blog notes that the landlocked Rwanda will be the prime spot for multinational corporations to invest. The article states: ‘Kagame, who has been president since 2000, is viewed as an honest, business-savvy man opposed to corruption, unlike many other African leaders. Consequently, American businessman Dan Cooper, who has been pitching Rwanda to U.S. corporations, describes the Maryland-sized country as “the most undervalued ‘stock’ on the continent and maybe in the world’.” However Freedom House listed as not free, the hope is that this economic upswing will benefit the citizens.

Africa is gaining economically even as Zimbabwe’s inflation reaches 1,600% and Angola calls off talks with the IMF. China continues to invest in countries regardless of political or human rights standings. Africa’s countries have a lot to deal with if they are to continue their strong economic upswing. The recent signing of many bilateral trade agreements will hurt these economically developing countries. Many countries still have conflicts to clean up before more growth can happen. Rwanda is recovering from genocide, but seems to be gaining a foorhold in the economic system. Oil, don’t forget about oil. It is my belief that oil will be the greatest hope for African countries to become economically stable and advanced, as long as the resource is used wisely. Africa’s hope is growing, but so is the resource lust of emerging economic giants.

she’s taking on more water; the zimbabwean titanic

As a ship with a hole takes on water, so too does a state or government sink with a corrupt and ineffective government. Zimbabwe is sinking, many have noted this before, but presently its plunge to the depths seems to be even more imminent. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is losing control of his country and is losing support from his allies. Zambian President Mwanawasa has called the Zimbabwean state to be like a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6475851.stm
“>titanic and the BBC notes that, “he said the country’s economic difficulties were forcing its citizens to leave like passengers jumping from the sinking ship to save their lives.” Zambia had previously been a proponent of quiet diplomacy. However, now even South Africa’s criticism is increasing, but has not voiced outright criticism of the Zimbabwean government. The United Kingdom has stated that the solution to the issue of Zimbabwe will be found within Africa. This statment may be gaining strength as the economic crises continue and the devaluation of the Zimbabwean currency continues and fuel costs soar. The final paragraph of this BBC article states, “More than 80% of Zimbabweans are living in poverty, with chronic unemployment and inflation running at more than 1,700% – the highest in the world.”

Yesterday President Mugabe attended <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6499059.stm
“>’crunch talks’ in Tanzania as the southern African leaders seek to find a solution to Zimbabwe. Many African leaders see Mugabe as a hero for standing against colonial rule, however I am not so sure that a defiance of colonial rule includes not serving your people and allowing them to suffer. As these talks occurred, the headquarters of the leading opposition to Zimbabwe’s government was raided by police. This has become a common theme. The Zimbabwean government has continually attacked any opposition, demonstration, or dissent. Mugabe arrived at the Tanzanian summit and as he did it appeared as though the police had begun a new crackdown on the opposition. The Movement for Democratic Change’s leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was among 20 people detained in a police raid yesterday. Some of those arrested were accused of fire-bombing, but Tsvangirai was not among them. The opposition is seen by the Zimbabwean administration as a Western puppet to overthrow Mugabe. The Information Minister told the BBC, “You [the West] are too much concerned with your Tsvangirai because he is your puppet and you make him an international hero.”

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, now says that he favors elections next year. Mugabe had previously said that he would like to postpone elections until 2010 to extend his term, yet his own party, the Zanu-PF party, has stated that they were, “”anxious to get another candidate”. Gone in a year? Possibly, losing support of his own party, his people, and now his own resolve seems to be failing. When dissent is not allowed, opposition is forceable put down, and people are not permitted to voice concern with their government then how can you expect your boat to float?

However I am just a Westerner writing about what I have seen and what I have read. Don’t take it from me. Check out this blog entry from the This is Zimbabwe blog. The entry linked to is a clip from the South African news about the issue of Zimbabwe.