Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Afrikan Slaves In The Arab World

Over 28 Million Africans have been enslaved in the Muslim world during the past 14 centuries While much has been written concerning the Transatlantic slave trade, surprisingly little attention has been given to the Islamic slave trade across the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. While the European involvement in the Transatlantic slave trade to the Americas lasted for just over three centuries, the Arab involvement in the slave trade has lasted fourteen centuries, and in some parts of the Muslim world is still continuing to this day. A comparison of the Muslim slave trade to the American slave trade reveals some interesting contrasts. While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Muslim slave trade. Two women for every man were enslaved by the Muslims. While the mortality rate for slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of slaves dying in transit in the Transsahara and East African slave trade was between 80 and 90%! While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines, in harems, and for military service. While many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East survive. While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined for the Middle East were castrated, and most of the children born to the women were killed at birth. It is estimated that possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic (95% of which went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions. Only 5% of the slaves went to the United States). A comparison of the Muslim slave trade to the American slave trade reveals some interesting contrasts. While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Muslim slave trade. Two women for every man were enslaved by the Muslims. While the mortality rate for slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of slaves dying in transit in the Transsahara and East African slave trade was between 80 and 90%! While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines, in harems, and for military service. While many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East survive. While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined for the Middle East were castrated, and most of the children born to the women were killed at birth. It is estimated that possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic (95% of which went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions. Only 5% of the slaves went to the United States). While Christian Reformers spearheaded the antislavery abolitionist movements in Europe and North America, and Great Britain mobilized her Navy, throughout most of the 19th Century, to intercept slave ships and set the captives free, there was no comparable opposition to slavery within the Muslim world. Even after Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807 and Europe abolished the slave trade in 1815, Muslim slave traders enslaved a further 2 million Africans. This despite vigorous British Naval activity and military intervention to limit the Muslim slave trade. By some calculations the number of victims of the 14 centuries of Muslim slave trade could exceed 180 million. Nearly 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in America, and 130 years after all slaves within the British Empire were set free by parliamentary decree, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, in 1962, and Mauritania in 1980, begrudgingly removed legalized slavery from their statute books. And this only after international pressure was brought to bear. Today numerous international organizations document that slavery still continues in some Muslim countries. Reports on slavery in Sudan, Mauritania for instance needs looking into. Recently, a former slave from the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, Mende Nazer, had her autobiography: “Slave: My True Story” published. Mende Nazer was an alleged slave in Sudan. She was made famous by her transfer to England to serve a diplomatic family. Mende Nazer reports that she was abducted and sold into slavery in Sudan when she was a child of twelve or thirteen (she doesn’t know when she was born). She lived in a village of the Karko Nuba in the Nuba mountains of Sudan with her family. The village was attacked one night. Mende fled with her family into the mountains. She became separated from her family, and when a man caught her and told her he would protect her, she believed him. She had already seen people killed in front of her. The man told her to stay with a group of children. Later, the raiders came and took all of the children to the town of Dilling, there the children were taken by families to serve as servants. Mende also reports that she was taken by a woman from Khartoum whom she served for six or seven years. She had to do all the hard work of the household, and sleep on the floor of the garden shed. She was never paid anything for her labor, and was frequently beaten. She wanted to leave, but had no money and nowhere to go, and was afraid to go to the police. The woman of the house said that she owned Mende, and called Mende her ‘Abda’, or slave. Eventually Mende was sent to London to work as a domestic. After several months Mende escaped and claimed asylum. At first, the Home Office rejected her claim in October 2002. In November, the Home Office overturned its decision and granted Mende asylum.

The Mali Election Scam: Legitimizing France’s “Total Re-conquest”

“The objective is the total reconquest of Mali” -French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, (20 January, 2013) Presidential elections are due to take place in Mali on Sunday, July 28th. The latest polls indicate a victory for Ibrahim Boubecar Keïta, with Soumaila Cissé coming in second place. There are 27 candidates running in the election. The holding of the election just months after the French military intervention in January 2013 has been widely criticized due to the chaotic state of the country. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon admitted that the elections would not be ‘perfect’ but indicated that they would have to be accepted by the Malian people. There have already been reports of widespread fraud and irregularities, with thousands of NINA (Numero d’identité nationale) voter cards not being delivered to voters. There have also been reports of dollars being handed out to bribe voters. There is a very low distribution of NINA cards in the refugee camps both inside and outside Mali. Only 300 voter cards have been distributed among 730,000 refugees in camps in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Algeria and Niger while Burkina Faso’s 50,000 Malian refugees have only received 30 NINA cards. The electoral lists are the same as 2009, thereby excluding 300,000 eligible voters who have come of age since then. The NINA cards were only distributed in April in spite of the fact that it would take at least 6 to 12 months for their adequate distribution in a war torn country of Mali’s size. The regions of the North of the country, formally occupied by jihadists and separatist forces will hardly vote at all. The MNLA, Azawad National Liberation Movement, who waged a war against the central government in Bamako since 2012, want to declare independence from the Malian state. The region of Kidal in the North is still occupied by the rebel forces, with French troops also stationed there. The hastily organized elections will not help the cause of national reconciliation due to the fact that so many people have been excluded from voting. The Malian war and its consequences In March 21, 2012, generals of Mali’s military (green berets) overthrew the country’s president Amadou Toumani Toure, inaugurating the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State. The coup was led by Captain Amadou Aya Sanogo and was supported the next day by a mass, popular movement called the March 22nd Movement led by left-wing deputy Dr. Oumar Mariko. The generals were unhappy with the half-hearted efforts of their government to crack down on the terrorists invading the country from the north. Soldiers had been badly equipped, with many going hungry. Amadou Toumani Toure had ruled Mali as a French puppet since 2002 and previously been accused of drug dealing with war lords. Toure had served Western corporations well, while the Malian people languished in dire poverty. Many of the supporters of the coup had demonstrated in support of Muammar Kaddafi during the Libyan war of 2011 and wanted to see a strong state defeat what they considered to be a French conspiracy to destabilize and subsequently re-colonize the mineral rich country, by using jihadist terrorism as a pretext for intervention. The reaction of the ‘international community’ to the military coup was swift. The coup was condemned and sanctions were imposed on Mali, with ECOWAS, the Community of West African States threatening to invade and occupy the country to restore ‘democracy’. These measures impeded the efforts of the Malian military to regain control of the Northern territories. The sanctions also helped precipitate a humanitarian crisis as Malian goods could not be transported from ports in the Ivory Coast and Guinea. All of this weakened the country’s defenses enabling the terrorists to capture village after village. In spite of the fact that the ‘international community’ was fully aware of the advances of the terrorists, it was more concerned with the ‘rule of law’ and ‘democracy’ than in helping the Malian military defeat the barbarians. The generals finally ceded to the international pressure and agreed to nominate Dioncounda Traore,( a NATO asset) as interim president. Meanwhile, the MNLA was joined by extremist Wahhabi terrorists groups funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, France’s allies. The terrorist groups, ACMI, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb and Mujao (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa), overran some of the country’s most important cities such as Timbuktu, where they destroyed thousands of ancient scientific manuscripts and holy shrines, as well as occupying the cities of Tessalit, Gao and Kidal. In January 11th 2013 after the occupation of the town of Konna by islamists, France launched Operation Serval, a military invasion of Mali aimed at ‘liberating’ the country from the terrorists. The pretext for the intervention was a letter sent by French puppet president Dioncounda Traore to the UN. By March most of the terrorist groups had been driven out of Northern cities, which were now under the control of French and Chadian military. Most of the fighting was done by Chadian soldiers with the French playing a supporting role. An article published by Le Nouvel Observateur in June 2013 revealed that the MNLA had been working closely with the DGSE(Direction générale de la Sécurité extérieure) the French secret service since 2003, confirming the suspicions of Malian patriots that the French had deliberately used the terrorists to destablise the country.[1] On April 18th the Oauagadougou Accords were signed in the Burkina Faso capital between the interim government and the MNLA rebels. As the MNLA rebels are puppets of France and do not have any legitimacy, while the interim government is unelected, the accords are a violation of the Mali’s 1992 constitution. The Oauagadougou Accords effectively hand over sovereignty of Kidal and the Northern regions to the MNLA rebels. Under international law, states are not required to recognize sovereignty over national territories by armed gangs. This is precisely what the Qauagdougou Accords require. Mali is going to be partitioned. This has been the French plan since the 1990s; the country will be divided and conquered, with an unstable independent republic of Azawad in the north and a truncated, impoverished Mali in the South, with French military bases ‘keeping the peace’. To compound the country’s problems, there are three potential ‘azawads’: the Moor Azawad of the North west, the Toureg Azawad of the North East and a mixture of Songhay, Peul and Toureg on the banks of the Niger river. It is therefore possible that the armed gangs will continue to fight among themselves if independence is achieved under the UN occupation. Oumar Mariko- The people’s candidate. If there is any ‘terrorist’ feared by the French occupation forces in Mali, Oumar Mariko is certainly one of them. Dr. Mariko is the secretary general of Parti Sadi, Solidarité africaine pour la démocratie et l’indépendance, African Solidarity for Democracy and Independence. Mariko comes from a generation of African intellectuals inspired by Thomas Sankara, the Marxist revolutionary of Burkina Faso, and the African socialism of Mali’s first president Modibo Keïta. Mariko was one of the organizers of the March 22 movement, a popular mass movement which initially supported the military coup, hoping to use the seizure of power to mobilize the masses in favour of genuine democracy. Mariko was prevented from travelling to France last year for a conference to discuss French imperialism in Mali. One of the reasons for the celerity with which elections have been organized in Mali is to prevent the masses from voting for Parti Sadi’s candidate. Mariko is the only presidential candidate, who has genuine mass support and has not relied on corporate funding for his election campaign. Mariko is an admirer of Hugo Chavez and wants to reestablish the role of the social state through nationalizing national resources, re-establishing national sovereignty and instituting popular democracy. Mariko is the man the French government wants out of the picture. However, given the fact that so many have been excluded from the election and there has been so little time to organize mass meetings, and the allegations of fraud, Mariko is unlikely to win. Legitimizing neo-colonialism The French ruling class wants to create an image of legitimacy for its invasion and “total re-conquest” of Mali. The Malian elections are a total sham. They have been imposed on a people traumatized by a war planned and foisted upon them by imperialism. The partition of the country corresponds to the plan elaborated by French politician Alain Peyrefitte during the De Gaulle era, which involves creating the conditions for French control over the Sahara/Sahel region. The French are attempting to resurrect the 1957 L’Organisation commune des régions sahariennes (OCRS) in co-operation with the 2004 US Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative, a plan to control the Sahara which could see the eventual destabilization of Niger, Algeria, Tchad, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal and Ghana. This is part of the US initiative Africom, which aims to militarize all of Africa in accordance with US/NATO strategic interests, thereby weakening Chinese influence in the continent and ensuring access to cheap resources for Western multi-national corporations. The purpose of the electoral charade is to legitimize the break up of the country and the occupation by French and UN forces, thus preventing the Malian people from ever having a claim over their own lands and resources. As a consequence, the country will be partitioned and Mali will become the new Somalia. [1]

Are blacks abandoning Christianity for Afrikan faiths?

The placement of fallen fragments of coconut helped William Jones decide on whether or not to go to graduate school. The Yoruba priest that Jones had invited into his Brooklyn apartment had examined the four coconut pieces he had strewn on the floor before telling Jones that it would be OK for him to further his studies. That was more than a decade ago and today, Jones, 42, is still a practitioner of the Yoruba spiritual tradition. He said that consultations with Yoruba priests leave him with a sense of inner peace. “I go to see a priest or a ‘babalawo’ when I need clarity on something,” said Jones, a well-known digital artist. It’s the customized advice from babalawos (masters and diviners in the Ifa Yoruba tradition) and Yoruba priests (practitioners of the Yoruba spiritual tradition that have undergone the rites of initiation) that attracted Jones to what is believed to be the indigenous spiritual practice of the Yoruba ethnic group after realizing his dissatisfaction with the generalized sermons offered at Christian churches. Jones had attended predominantly African-American churches throughout the earlier part of his life and had considered himself to be a spiritual person. The Christian church just did not give him the personal attention he wanted. Another African-American, Ozahu Belagun, 37, could not accept the Christian teaching of the metaphysical space for torture and condemnation, known as ‘hell.’ “How can you tell me I’m going to a place [hell] that you’ve never been?” Belagun asked. “And how do you know that you’re not going there?” orisha.jpg Belagun, known as Pompey Blocker before he acquired an indigenous African name, has explored a variety of spiritual orientations. His mother was a Jehovah’s Witness. He practiced Islam for three years and was inducted as a Freemason in 2005. Now he practices voodoo and asserts that it’s nothing like the hocus-pocus sorcery depicted in Hollywood films. “I’ve always been connected to things that other people would shun and say is evil,” Belagun said, referring to the tradition of voodoo. Voodoo is believed to have historic roots in present day Benin and thus it shares similarities with other West African-derived religions. The more popular of these are: Ifa Yoruba spiritual tradition, Palo, Candomble, Umbanda and Santeria (also known as Lukumi). These practices are also known as orisha-centered religions because all of them recognize spirit-deities, known as orishas. Orishas, also spelled orixas or orisas, are spirits that control various natural forces and principles, including: fertility, water and love. Orisha literally translates in the Yoruba languages as ‘owner of head,” because it is believed that followers eventually take on the personality of designated orishas. The Yoruba tradition has gained in popularity among blacks exploring African spirituality because of its accessibility in America. The Yoruba ethnic group is one of the largest three in Nigeria and those who have immigrated to the United States, have brought the teachings of Orisha and Ifa (the systemic basis of Yoruba spirituality) with them. The fact is while West African-derived religions have historically been looked down upon, research shows that more African-Americans are exploring and adopting them. Many of these African-Americans were Christians and have either completely abandoned the Christian doctrine, like Jones, or are still incorporating Christianity with the West African-derived religions to create a unique, sort of ‘on-demand’ syncretism. For example, Oluwole Ifakunle, or Baba Ifakunle, said he receives phone calls from Christians soliciting his babalawo services. “The first thing they ask is, ‘you know how to read?’” Ifakunle said. (Consultations during which babalawos and priests communicate with the orishas through the use of items such as coconuts or cowrie shells are known as readings.) After that initial inquiry, he said the Christians usually go on to explain that they are dealing with a problem that has not been resolved the ‘Christian way,’ which includes praying with a pastor or fasting. Ifakunle said that one Christian woman called him after suffering from a series of what she believed were demonic nightmares. But according to him, it’s not only Christian parishioners who seek his spiritual counsel. He said that a number of Christian pastors and ministers have visited his Harlem-based shrine. “They usually come to me when they want to increase their church membership,” he said. “Then I’ll do a ritual to help them.” Anthropologists say these examples of religious syncretism are nothing new. Black slaves, particularly in present-day Haiti, hid their African spiritual practices from slave owners by disguising and incorporating them into the Roman Catholic religion they were often forced to accept. In fact, voodoo orishas, called loas or lwas, were reconfigured to mirror Roman Catholic saints and vice versa. So Papa Legba (a powerful spirit intermediary) became St. Peter, St. Lazarus or St. Anthony. Ayizan (the loa of trade and marketplace) became St. Clare of Assisi. So while syncretism has occurred throughout history, what is relatively new is the heightened interest of West African-derived religions in the United States. “Since the ‘50s and ‘60s there has been an increase with more African-Americans embracing these religions,” said Sylvester Johnson, associate professor at Indiana University’s religious studies department. “Today, the practice in the U.S. is mostly in urban areas.” Johnson attributes the concentration of African-American practitioners of orisha-based religions in cities including Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Sacramento and New Orleans can be attributed to the black pride movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. In Atlanta, a city commonly referred to as the heart of the nation’s black middle class, black pride is still very evident today. “Atlanta has attracted a lot of black professionals, who have tended to lean toward a more black consciousness and afro-centric attitude,” Johnson explained. The city has a number of Santeria and Yoruba followers. Africanized churches like the Shrine of the Black Madonna the First Afrikan Church serve the needs of those desiring a more African cultural experience. The research of Harvard University African religious traditions professor Jacob Olupona reflects a greater tolerance and appreciation for not only African religions, but for other aspects of African culture. He said more African-Americans are traveling to places like Senegal, Ghana and mostly Nigeria where they gain a better understanding of indigenous spiritual practices. “Part of it is a search for one’s roots and one’s identity,” Olupona explained. While there are no concrete statistical data that quantifies the number of African-American practitioners of orisha-based religions, 70 million is the often-quoted figure for the number of “African and New World peoples who participate in, or are closely familiar with, religious systems that include Ogun,” based on research cited in the highly acclaimed book, “Africa’s Ogun: old world and new,” by anthropologist and professor Sandra Barnes. Ogun is among the pantheon orishas. In his book, “Orisa Devotion as World Religion,” Olupona explains that orisha devotion was preserved by captured Africans during the transatlantic slave trade and is manifested in various forms throughout the Americas. Olupona notes the diversity among African-American followers of orisha-centered practices. “It’s not just the lower socioeconomic class of African-Americans,” he said. “You have the middle-class and educated people and professors who are adopting African religions.” One of these more educated individuals is Dianne Diakité, an associate professor at Emory University’s religion department who freely participates in Yoruba and other African-based religions. She says that the recent spread of West African-derived religions in the Unites States arises from the impact of African and Caribbean immigrants. However, the attitude she refers to as ‘Afrophobia,’ continues to generate fear about things related to African culture. “Historical records indicate that most black churches and missionaries of the 19th century understood African religious traditions as a threat to the moral and cultural uplift of black communities and described anyone practicing those religions as barbaric, primitive and savage,” Diakité said. She explains that contemporary stereotypes and distortions have characterized African religions as superstition, witchcraft and fetishism. ‘Afrophobia,’ as Diakité describes it, is a consequence of slavery and colonialism. But perhaps that fear, or at least a hesitation, may be justified when investigating what is involved in West African-derived religions. Animal sacrifices, secret initiations, the chanting of the names of ancestors in libations, the personification of spirits in masquerades, shaving of body hairs, spirit possessions and refrain from eating tabooed foods are some of the aspects associated with the African religions that may be difficult for some people to accept. “A lot of African-Americans are not ready to make that transition yet,” said Belagun. “Christianity is basically a third generation belief system among African-Americans— they’re Baptists and their mother was a Baptists and then their grandmother was a Baptist.” When it comes to religion, African-Americans tend to take it quite seriously. The most recent U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Life reported nearly eight in ten African-Americans, 79 percent, say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56 percent among the general U.S. adult population. 16 percent of African-Americans attend evangelical Protestant churches and 59 percent attended ‘historically black Protestant churches.’ Among ‘historically black churches’ 85 percent say religion is very important. 30 percent of respondents among ‘historically black churches’ attended religious services more than once a week and 80 percent said they prayed daily. Nearly two-thirds of members of historically black Protestant churches are Baptists. Overall, not only are black Americans are most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, but they are also the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation, according to the survey. However, the study also confirms that the United States is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country. Even African-Americans are exploring non-Christian alternatives. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that those who claimed ‘no religion’ grew in every state within the last 18 years. Between 1990 and 2008, the number of nonreligious Americans nearly doubled, from 8 to 15 percent, according to the ARIS study. Among African-Americans, the increase was also nearly double, from 6 percent to 11 percent. So, while increasing numbers of African-Americans are denouncing religion for atheism, others are adopting African religions, especially those from West Africa. A growing dissatisfaction with Christianity among African-Americans seems to reflect disenchantment with the tradition of the black church. “When you got churches full of pedophiles and crooks, people want to see what else is out there for them,” said Kenny Depeyster. His reference to highly publicized scandals, including the sexual harassment accusations against Georgia mega-church pastor, Bishop Eddie Long, notes that these cases are now ‘bigger and in the public eye.’ Depeyster is a ‘palero,’ a follower of the Palo spiritual tradition that is believed to have emerged from the Congo basin region in central Africa. Palo was carried to the New World via the slave trade and was preserved by Afro-Latino communities in the United States. Today, African-Americans are also a part of the tradition. Depeyster has been a palero for about 16 years. Christianity, he said, was not emphasized in his family. But for Yoruba spiritual practitioner, William “Baba Bill” Mathews, 62, Christianity was a strong influence in his family’s life. Mathews eventually left the church because he felt it lacked spirituality. He remembers an incident as a 7-year-old boy one Sunday when he had told his grandmother that he did not want to go to church. “My grandmother smacked me on my head and she said, ‘why don’t I want to go to God’s house?’” Mathews recalls. “I told her, ‘God don’t live there; God lives in nature.’” According to Mathews, that childhood premonition was his calling into orisha. He openly practices Yoruba spirituality saying that it is no longer something to be ashamed of. “During slavery, the blacks had to hide what they were doing, but that is no more,” he said. Mathew appreciates the simplicity of West African-derived religions and its accessibility regardless of one’s educational status. He says Christianity has become highbrow and “difficult to understand.” According to him, that’s why the Yoruba tradition has grown “leaps and bounds” in the United States. Mathews and his wife recently visited the Oyotunji African Village in northern Beaufort County, S.C. Organized in the 1970s by the late Efuntola Oseijeman Adefunmi in an attempt to reclaim ancestral Yoruba customs and tradition, the Oyotunji village serves as a tourist attraction and a mecca for African-American followers of orisha-centered religions. Adefunmi, an African-American born in 1928 as Walter King, served as a spiritual father for many blacks seeking knowledge about orishas. His historical significance and cultural relevance is well cited among religious scholars. The Oyotunji community that he founded is said to be North America’s oldest, authentic African village. “The Oyotunji community is a utopia,” Olupona said. “It is a symbol of the black power movement that took place in this country in the 1970s.” Reverend Terri Adisa, an interfaith spiritualist, asserts that African-Americans can find more spirituality in Oyotunji village than in a typical black Christian church. She says the church has moved away from teaching members how to apply practical spiritual principles toward a more superficial doctrine. “Christianity today is not about God, it’s about ‘church-ianity,” Adisa said, referencing a term that is gaining popularity. “It’s about how to act and behave and dress in church,” she said, “but when you get to the parking lot you’re cussing at each other.” That disapproval of what Adisa perceives as a lack of sound spiritual commitment is not unlike the views of other African-Americans who have chosen to follow an African religion. Similarly, another Yoruba priest said that the Christian phrase of “being born again,” is really another way to say “hypocrite.” Paleros, Yoruba spiritualists, voodoo practitioners and other followers of orisha-centered religions seem to be attracted to the tradition because they say it brings results. They enjoy going to a priest (which varies in name according to the tradition) and having the priest indicate their symptoms and the solutions. “It’s like going to a doctor,” Jones said. Nonetheless, that ‘doctor-like’ treatment may not suit everyone. Christianity still dominates in black America, but the ones who have ventured beyond say they are satisfied, at least for now

Friday, 26 July 2013

All languages come from Afrika according to study

A researcher analyzing the sounds in languages spoken around the world has detected an ancient signal that points to southern Africa as the place where modern human language originated. The finding fits well with the evidence from fossil skulls and DNA that modern humans originated in Africa. It also implies, though does not prove, that modern language originated only once, an issue of considerable controversy among linguists. The detection of such an ancient signal in language is surprising. Because words change so rapidly, many linguists think that languages cannot be traced very far back in time. The oldest language tree so far reconstructed, that of the Indo-European family, which includes English, goes back 9,000 years at most. Quentin D. Atkinson, a biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, has shattered this time barrier, if his claim is correct, by looking not at words but at phonemes — the consonants, vowels and tones that are the simplest elements of language. Dr. Atkinson, an expert at applying mathematical methods to linguistics, has found a simple but striking pattern in some 500 languages spoken throughout the world: A language area uses fewer phonemes the farther that early humans had to travel from Africa to reach it. Some of the click-using languages of Africa have more than 100 phonemes, whereas Hawaiian, toward the far end of the human migration route out of Africa, has only 13. English has about 45 phonemes. This pattern of decreasing diversity with distance, similar to the well-established decrease in genetic diversity with distance from Africa, implies that the origin of modern human language is in the region of southwestern Africa, Dr. Atkinson says in an article published on Thursday in the journal Science. Language is at least 50,000 years old, the date that modern humans dispersed from Africa, and some experts say it is at least 100,000 years old. Dr. Atkinson, if his work is correct, is picking up a distant echo from this far back in time. Linguists tend to dismiss any claims to have found traces of language older than 10,000 years, “but this paper comes closest to convincing me that this type of research is possible,” said Martin Haspelmath, a linguist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Dr. Atkinson is one of several biologists who have started applying to historical linguistics the sophisticated statistical methods developed for constructing genetic trees based on DNA sequences. These efforts have been regarded with suspicion by some linguists. In 2003 Dr. Atkinson and Russell Gray, another biologist at the University of Auckland, reconstructed the tree of Indo-European languages with a DNA tree-drawing method called Bayesian phylogeny. The tree indicated that Indo-European was much older than historical linguists had estimated and hence favored the theory that the language family had diversified with the spread of agriculture some 10,000 years ago, not with a military invasion by steppe people some 6,000 years ago, the idea favored by most historical linguists. “We’re uneasy about mathematical modeling that we don’t understand juxtaposed to philological modeling that we do understand,” Brian D. Joseph, a linguist at Ohio State University, said about the Indo-European tree. But he thinks that linguists may be more willing to accept Dr. Atkinson’s new article because it does not conflict with any established area of linguistic scholarship. “I think we ought to take this seriously, although there are some who will dismiss it out of hand,” Dr. Joseph said. Another linguist, Donald A. Ringe of the University of Pennsylvania, said, “It’s too early to tell if Atkinson’s idea is correct, but if so, it’s one of the most interesting articles in historical linguistics that I’ve seen in a decade.” Dr. Atkinson’s finding fits with other evidence about the origins of language. The Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert belong to one of the earliest branches of the genetic tree based on human mitochondrial DNA. Their languages belong to a family known as Khoisan and include many click sounds, which seem to be a very ancient feature of language. And they live in southern Africa, which Dr. Atkinson’s calculations point to as the origin of language. But whether Khoisan is closest to some ancestral form of language “is not something my method can speak to,” Dr. Atkinson said. His study was prompted by a recent finding that the number of phonemes in a language increases with the number of people who speak it. This gave him the idea that phoneme diversity would increase as a population grew, but would fall again when a small group split off and migrated away from the parent group. Such a continual budding process, which is the way the first modern humans expanded around the world, is known to produce what biologists call a serial founder effect. Each time a smaller group moves away, there is a reduction in its genetic diversity. The reduction in phonemic diversity over increasing distances from Africa, as seen by Dr. Atkinson, parallels the reduction in genetic diversity already recorded by biologists. For either kind of reduction in diversity to occur, the population budding process must be rapid, or diversity will build up again. This implies that the human expansion out of Africa was very rapid at each stage. The acquisition of modern language, or the technology it made possible, may have prompted the expansion, Dr. Atkinson said. “What’s so remarkable about this work is that it shows language doesn’t change all that fast — it retains a signal of its ancestry over tens of thousands of years,” said Mark Pagel, a biologist at the University of Reading in England who advised Dr. Atkinson. Dr. Pagel sees language as central to human expansion across the globe. “Language was our secret weapon, and as soon we got language we became a really dangerous species,” he said. In the wake of modern human expansion, archaic human species like the Neanderthals were wiped out and large species of game, fossil evidence shows, fell into extinction on every continent shortly after the arrival of modern humans.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

S.Africa’s ex-ANC “bad boy” plans election bid against the odds

He wears a red beret, talks the language of Revolution and calls himself “Commander in Chief”. Any echo of Venezuela’s late firebrand socialist leader Hugo Chavez is not accidental. Julius Malema, expelled “bad boy” of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress and now facing racketeering charges he denies, this month launched the nation’s newest political movement, calling for a revolutionary jolt to Africa’s biggest economy through nationalisation of mines and expropriation of white-owned land. Citing among his heroes Chavez and retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the 32-year-old Malema says his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) movement plans to contest elections next year against President Jacob Zuma and the ANC, which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994. “We want them out of power. They have failed our people,” Malema, wearing his trademark red beret, said in an interview this week in Johannesburg’s Sandton financial district. The EFF, which has yet to register formally as a party, is the latest in a scattering of new political groupings that have emerged recently to try to challenge the ANC. The ruling party remains dominant and still likely to win next year, but internal splits and enduring inequality and poverty in post-apartheid South Africa have eroded its support, especially among restive young people born after 1994. Political analysts say that for Malema, arguably South Africa’s most high-profile and divisive politician in recent years, grabbing headlines is easy. But as a political orphan now shut out of the mighty ANC machine that nurtured his early career, he faces a tough reality check to show he has the backing, funding and organisational skills to form a viable party and run a credible campaign. “I don’t give him much chance,” said veteran South African journalist and political commentator Allister Sparks, adding that money-laundering charges brought last year against the former ANC Youth League leader could also derail any election bid. Nevertheless, surveys last month by consumer insights company Pondering Panda found more than one in four young South Africans aged between 18 and 34 said they would vote for a party led by Malema in an election. In the poll, conducted by mobile phone, respondents who supported Malema said they did so because he would do more to help poor people than other parties. “These figures show that even under ANC rule, many young people feel their lives have not improved as they expected,” Pondering Panda’s Shirley Wakefield said in a statement. Thrown out by the ANC as a troublemaker in 2012, Malema seems unfazed by the formal accusations of racketeering that could still send him to jail over murky state tender deals. He says the charges and a $1.6 million tax bill slapped on him after he left the ANC are a “nice coincidence”. “You can’t wage a war against capital and not expect a reaction,” said Malema, who at the height of his controversial Youth League leadership displayed a penchant for expensive Swiss watches and flashy cars. Since his fall from grace, he has been forced to auction off vehicles and properties. “REVOLUTION IS PAINFUL” Malema burnished his anti-capitalist credentials last year by intervening on the side of striking miners during an outbreak of violent labour unrest that killed at least 50 people, rattled investors and triggered ratings downgrades for South Africa. Wildcat mining strikes have persisted this year, and it is no surprise that state takeover of “mines, banks and other strategic sectors” and expropriation of land for “equal redistribution” – all without compensation – are at the top of “non-negotiable” policy proposals presented by Malema’s EFF. Such radical tenets, which have been rejected by the current ANC leadership, are guaranteed to make existing and future investors in South Africa see red. But Malema is unapologetic. “Revolution is painful,” he said.

Tel Aviv Hospital Bar Africans From Visiting Patients, Citing Health Concerns

The director of Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv announced Monday that entry to the hospital will be denied to African migrants, unless if they are in need of medical attention or hospitalization. Ichilov director Gabi Barbash issued the new instructions on Monday, in which migrant workers and refugees will only be granted access if they are in need of hospitalization or to be examined in the emergency room. Also, Husbands of women in labor or parents of children that are hospitalized will only be granted entry as long as they are wearing identification tags. Moreover, the hospital decided that all migrant workers and refugees entering the hospital, including those who are admitted for medical care, must get a chest X-ray in order to rule out the possibility that they are carrying tuberculosis. Ichilov’s director also instructed to isolate migrants who are patients in the maternity ward in a separate space. Children of migrants hospitalized in Dana Children’s Hospital in the Ichilov Medical Center Tel Aviv will also be separated from Israeli children in a special ward, according to the instructions. The new guidelines state that the hospital will assess the situation and “take extra steps in order to minimize the health risks to our patients and staff.” The instructions were issued a week after an African baby who was allegedly carrying tuberculosis was found in the hospital. The six-week girl is currently in isolation in the hospital’s intensive care unit. The mother of the baby, a migrant from Eritrea who has active tuberculosis, is hospitalized at the Shmuel Harofeh Hospital in Be’er Yaakov. Hundreds of children who have come in contact with the baby, whether in the neonatal intensive care unit or in the hospital’s emergency room, were summoned to the hospital in order to get tested for tuberculosis, and are receiving antibiotics as a preemptive treatment, in accordance with the results of the tests. An Ichilov official claim that the reason for the new instructions is purely medical and the guidelines are a response to growing concerns of tuberculosis infections, however their has been an ongoing media campaign in Israel aimed at portraying Africans and African migrants as disease carriers. The hospital’s management has complained for years over the vast amount of medical treatments given to the migrant and refugee population without any financial compensation. Nevertheless, the Treasury claims that the extra cost of treatment for refugees, beyond the hospital’s ongoing activity, is negligent. In a letter distributed to hospital workers, Barbash stated that “we are all aware of the new reality forced upon us, due to the massive presence of the illegal migrant worker community in south Tel Aviv. This community numbers close to 100,000 refugees from Africa and lives in poverty, which increases the difficult health problems with which they arrive from their home countries and from their journey.” Israel has refused to grant these legitimate African asylum seekers the necessary documents so that they may be able to work and take care of themselves.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

How Argentina ‘Eliminated’ Africans From Its History And Conscience

Tens of millions of black Africans were forcibly removed from their homelands from the 16th century to the 19th century to toil on the plantations and farms of the New World. This so-called “Middle Passage” accounted for one of the greatest forced migrations of people in human history, as well as one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever witnessed. Millions of these helpless Africans washed ashore in Brazil — indeed, in the present-day, roughly one-half of the Brazilian population trace their lineage directly to Africa. African culture has imbued Brazil permanently and profoundly, in terms of music, dance, food and in many other tangible ways. But what about Brazil’s neighbor, Argentina? Hundreds of thousands of Africans were brought there as well – yet, the black presence in Argentina has virtually vanished from the country’s records and consciousness. According to historical accounts, Africans first arrived in Argentina in the late 16th century in the region now called the Rio de la Plata, which includes Buenos Aires, primarily to work in agriculture and as domestic servants. By the late 18th century and early 19th century, black Africans were numerous in parts of Argentina, accounting for up to half the population in some provinces, including Santiago del Estero, Catamarca, Salta and Córdoba. In Buenos Aires, neighborhoods like Monserrat and San Telmo housed many black slaves, some of whom were engaged in craft-making for their masters. Indeed, blacks accounted for an estimated one-third of the city’s population, according to surveys taken in the early 1800s. Slavery was officially abolished in 1813, but the practice remained in place until about 1853. Ironically, at about this time, the black population of Argentina began to plunge. Historians generally attribute two major factors to this sudden “mass disappearance” of black Africans from the country – the deadly war against Paraguay from 1865-1870 (in which thousands of blacks fought on the frontlines for the Argentine military) as well as various other wars; and the onset of yellow fever in Buenos Aires in 1871. The heavy casualties suffered by black Argentines in military combat created a huge gender gap among the African population – a circumstance that appears to have led black women to mate with whites, further diluting the black population. Many other black Argentines fled to neighboring Brazil and Uruguay, which were viewed as somewhat more hospitable to them. Others claim something more nefarious at work. It has been alleged that the president of Argentina from 1868 to 1874, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, sought to wipe out blacks from the country in a policy of covert genocide through extremely repressive policies (including possibly the forced recruitment of Africans into the army and by forcing blacks to remain in neighborhoods where disease would decimate them in the absence of adequate health care). Tellingly, Sarmiento wrote in his diary in 1848: “In the United States… 4 million are black, and within 20 years will be 8 [million]…. What is [to be] done with such blacks, hated by the white race? Slavery is a parasite that the vegetation of English colonization has left attached to leafy tree of freedom.” By 1895, there were reportedly so few blacks left in Argentina that the government did not even bother registering African-descended people in the national census. The CIA World Factbook currently notes that Argentina is 97 percent white (primarily comprising people descended from Spanish and Italian immigrants), thereby making it the “whitest” nation in Latin America. But blacks did not really vanish from Argentina – despite attempts by the government to eliminate them (partially by encouraging large-scale immigration in the late 19th and 20th century from Europe and the Near East). Rather, they remain a hidden and forgotten part of Argentine society. Hisham Aidi, a lecturer at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, wrote on Planete Afrique that in the 1950s, when the black American entertainer Josephine Baker arrived in Argentina, she asked the mixed-race minister of public health, Ramon Carilio: “Where are the Negroes?” In response, Carilio joked: “There are only two — you and I.” As in virtually all Latin American societies where blacks mixed with whites and with local Indians, the question of race is extremely complex and contentious. “People of mixed ancestry are often not considered ‘black’ in Argentina, historically, because having black ancestry was not considered proper,” said Alejandro Frigerio, an anthropologist at the Universidad Catolica de Buenos Aires, according to Planete Afrique. “Today the term ‘negro’ is used loosely on anyone with slightly darker skin, but they can be descendants of indigenous Indians [or] Middle Eastern immigrants.” AfricaVive, a black empowerment group founded in Buenos Aires in the late 1990s, claimed that there are 1 million Argentines of black African descent in the country (out of a total population of about 41 million). A report in the Washington Post even suggested that 10 percent of Buenos Aires’ population may have African blood (even if they are classified as “whites” by the census). “People for years have accepted the idea that there are no black people in Argentina,” Miriam Gomes, a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires, who is part black herself, told the Post. “Even the schoolbooks here accepted this as a fact. But where did that leave me?” She also explained that almost no one in Argentina with black blood in their veins will admit to it. “Without a doubt, racial prejudice is great in this society, and people want to believe that they are white,” she said. “Here, if someone has one drop of white blood, they call themselves white.” Gomes also told the San Francisco Chronicle that after many decades of white immigration into Argentina, people with African blood have been able to blend in and conceal their origins. “Argentina’s history books have been partly responsible for misinformation regarding Africans in Argentine society,” she said. “Argentines say there are no blacks here. If you’re looking for traditional African people with very black skin, you won’t find it. African people in Argentina are of mixed heritage.” Ironically, Argentina’s most famous cultural gift to the world – the tango – came from the African influence. “The first paintings of people dancing the tango are of people of African descent,” Gomes added. On a broader scale, the “elimination” of blacks from the country’s history and consciousness reflected the long-cherished desire of successive Argentine governments to imagine the country as an “all-white” extension of Western Europe in Latin America. “There is a silence about the participation of Afro-Argentines in the history and building of Argentina, a silence about the enslavement and poverty,” said Paula Brufman, an Argentine law student and researcher, according to Planete Afrique. “The denial and disdain for the Afro community shows the racism of an elite that sees Africans as undeveloped and uncivilized.”

Saturday, 20 July 2013

US- South Africa War Games: The Pentagon’s Hidden Agenda is to Make “Africans fight Africans”

The Pentagon is involved in organizing war games in different part of the World. The stated military mandate is national security and the “Global War on Terrorism”. The South African media has reported the holding of military exercises involving the US military and the South African National Defense Force (SANDF). The South African and US armed forces are to conduct war games in the Eastern Cape over a period of almost two weeks (24 July to August 5) The joint war games are to be coordinated by USAFRICOM’s “US Army Africa Contingency Command”. “SA Navy Captain Jaco Theunissen said the militaries would share technical expertise during the exercise, which would start on 24 July and end on 5 August, and would involve 5 000 soldiers. “We are exercising to do a human support intervention in an unstable country,” said Theunissen. “What we simulate is what is currently happening in a lot of countries in the world, especially in the African continent. “You’ve got warring factions destabilising the country…. We are exercising the war fight, where you will fight against rebel groups.” Medical units would also practice giving basic medical healthcare to a local population in an unstable warring environment. All branches of the SANDF – the army, air force, navy, and health – would participate.” (Times Live South Africa, July 18, 2013, emphasis added) What these official statements imply is that The Republic of South Africa is slated to participate in US-NATO sponsored “humanitarian interventions” directed against other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which have been tagged by Washington as so-called “unstable nations”. These July-August war games were prepared in prior exchanges in February at USAFRICOM headquarters in Vicenza, Italy between the U.S. Army Africa Contingency Command and SANDF commanders: Col. Vuka Sean Mahlasela, 44th Parachute Regiment commander, South African National Defense Force, or SANDF, said the exercise helped both forces learn to cooperate with each other and improved the relationship between U.S. and South Africa. “Joint and multinational operations have become the norm of the day. The national defense forces play a very significant role to be able to operate with regional, international and multinational forces to test tactics and share skills and knowledge as well as to learn from each other as multinational forces,” Mahlasela said. Some of the training in which SANDF participated included basic command and control of a multinational exercise; intricacies of joint task force operations; requirements of different logistical infrastructures; and proposed ways on how to run meetings, which the U.S. military calls “Seven-Minute Drills.” USAFRICOM: US Army Africa command Post Soldiers Train with South African Forces March 8, 2013) Lt. Col Light Jongilanga Tsalupondo, administrative commander for the 43rd Brigade of the South African National Defense Force, discussed training events with Staff Sgt. Robert Hamrick of U.S. Army Africa Contingency Command Post during a contingency command post exercise in preparation for Shared Accord 13 {July-August 2013 War Games] These February training and briefing sessions for SANDF commanders were intended to create conditions, whereby the SANDF would directly collaborate with USAFRICOM in US led military operations on the African continent: “[SANDF] will take back to their leadership how to better synchronize and collaborate with the U.S.,” said Palacios, a Bronx, N.Y. native. “This is the success that was achieved during these last few days and will set us up for long-term success during Shared Accord in July.” While the stated purpose of the war games is to “protect Africa”, the real objective is imperial conquest. Washington’s hidden agenda is to “make Africans fight Africans”. It is worth noting that the SANDF was recently involved in fighting rebel forces in the Central African Republic, in which 15 SANDF soldiers were killed. Korea In April, the US completed a two-month-long ‘Foal Eagle’ exercise military exercise in Korea involving several thousand air, ground and naval personal. The objective was to trigger increased tensions on the Korean peninsula. Australia On July 18, the US commenced the largest joint war games in Australia’s history involving 20,000 US troops. The military exercises –which are part of the Pentagon’s “Asia Pivot”– are being staged on Australia’s eastern seaboard. The Obama administration’s so-called “pivot to Asia” involves the repositioning of American military forces throughout the Asia-Pacific region as well as strengthening US military alliances and strategic partnerships in that part of the world.In order to display its military might, the Pentagon leads multinational military exercises each year in the Asia-Pacific region, which is a “very dangerous escalation of US military presence,” Rozoff said. The exercises are “a cause of severe concern to countries like China and to Russia.” Rozoff described the US military as “out of control” that needs to be disarmed and pacified by the international community. The US and Australia have strengthened their alliance in recent years. The US military is building up its presence in Australia and plans to send 2,500 Marines there on six-month rotations each year starting in 2016. (Press TV, July 19, 2013)

Chinese Combat Troops in Africa

For the second time in a little over a year, China has infantry on the ground troops in Africa, reflecting the Chinese military’s increasingly global presence. 395 peacekeepers from the People’s Liberation Army just arrived in the Saharan nation of Mali as part of the U.N. mission to help restore order there. Specifically, Beijing has sent engineering, medical and “guard” teams to the Malian capital of Bamako, according to the Chinese defense ministry. These troops are reportedly part of the PLA’s 16th Army, a formation comprised of infantry, armor and artillery divisions. China traditionally sends thousands of engineering, medical and other support troops on U.N. missions each year. Of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China is the largest manpower contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions. However, until very recently, China did not send infantry on U.N. missions. In fact, Beijing officially insists the soldiers in Mali aren’t combat troops, perhaps in order to maintain the idea that China doesn’t send official combat troops on peacekeeping missions. “The Chinese security force is actually a guard team that will mainly be responsible for the security of the [U.N. mission] headquarters and the living areas of peacekeeping forces,” a Chinese defense ministry spokesman is quoted by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency as saying. Still, this latest deployment marks the second time in the last two years that China has sent infantry soldiers to Africa with the purpose of guarding peacekeeping missions. In 2011, Beijing sent infantrymen to guard PLA engineers participating in a U.N. mission in South Sudan. Despite Beijing’s claims that these troops were there solely for the purpose of guarding the engineers, the U.S. China Economic and Security Review pointed out that these guards were from an “elite” combat unit. The mission to protect PLA engineers and medics isn’t without merit; just last week, seven UN personnel were killed when their convoy was attacked in Sudan. And the operation reflects China’s growing interest in Africa. Chinese business leaders have been all over the continent for the last decade, spending billions of dollars on projects and prompting some to worry that Beijing was going to beat the U.S. in the African influence game (an assertion U.S. President Barack Obama dismisses). All of this has prompted Chinese military deployments aimed at protecting Chinese workers abroad. The Chinese navy has been conducting anti-piracy operations in the Arabian Sea for years. And in early 2011, China sent military transport planes and even a guided missile destroyer to Libya to help evacuate some of the tens of thousands of Chinese citizens there as the revolution against former Libyan dictator Muammar al Qaddafi heated up. These latest deployments of Chinese infantry are simply a reflection of China’s growing role in the world, motivated by the need to protect Chinese investments and to be seen as a more responsible player in global security affairs, say several experts. “This role is not limited to Africa, and thus I don’t see this current shift as an ‘Africa’ policy, but rather the evolution of their U.N. role coupled, possibly, with a long-standing special relationship with Mali,” professor Deborah Brautigam with John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. “If they want to play a leadership role in the U.N., they need to step up and expand what they contribute to its various parts.” For now, that means sending in a relative handful of troops. In the future, the numbers may not be quite so small. “China is slowly setting the scene for eventually sending a combat unit to some future UN peacekeeping operation,” said David Chinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso who now teaches at The George Washington University. “In this sense, this is a significant development and is in keeping with China’s policy of slowing expanding the size and function of its support to peacekeeping.”

Friday, 19 July 2013

Origin of Arabia

“Arabia was at first peopled by Southern (i.e. African/Cushite) peoples who were later submerged by those (whites/Jectanides) coming from the North and the East…The Jectanides ‘who were still, at the moment of their arrival in an almost barbaric state,’ only introduced (to Arabia)…the system of pastoral tribes characteristic of the Northern Cradle and the institution of military feudalism…The religion (of Arabia) was (on the other hand) of Cushite origin…it was to remain unchanged until the coming of Islam…The god Il (i.e. Ala) was the object of a national cult; he bore the following names: Lord of the Heavens, Merciful, etc…The only triad which was worshiped was that of Venus-Sun-Moon…prayers were offered to the sun at different moments in its course. There was neither idolatry nor images nor priesthood. Invocations were made directly to the seven planets. The thirty days fast (as in Islam) already existed – as in Egypt – and seven times a day prayers were offered with faces turned to the north. These prayers are allied to those of the Mohammedan religion. All the elements necessary to the birth of Islam were thus present more than a thousand years before the birth of Mohammed, and Islam appears as a ‘purging’ of (Babylonian) Sabaism by ‘God’s messenger.’ This superimposition of the two influences, Northern and Southern, on the Arabian peninsula, occurred in every sphere… “It is remarkable that many Arabic religious terms can be obtained by a simple combination of the three Egyptian ontological notions, Ba, Ra, Ka. As examples we can cite: KABAR (a) = The action of raising the arms in prayer RAKA = The action of placing the forehead on the ground KAABA = The holy place of Mecca It is sufficiently obvious from what has just been said that Arabia was first inhabited by Southern peoples, sedentary and agricultural, who prepared the way for the nomads in different fields of progress. In early society, woman (sic) enjoyed all the advantages pertaining to the matriarchal régime; this is proved by the fact a woman could be a queen…The triumph of the Northern nomadic element was accompanied by the dominance of the patriarchal system, tinged with apparent anomalies, survivals of the previous régime. Thus, the dowry was given to the woman, as in the matriarchal régime. This fact can only be explained by invoking the influence of Sabaism on Islamic society (The Cultural Unity of Black Africa [1963/1989], 84, 87-89).” -Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Afrikan Land Grab

Large-scale land deals in Africa should be cause for concern, but whether they’re good or bad is not a black-and-white issue – and much of what we think we know about them is wrong, a land expert says in a new book. Land “grabbing” in Africa has become a polarizing issue, says Lorenzo Cotula, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), in his new book, The Great African Land Grab? photo Many people are concerned about the harm to human rights, the environment and local people and economies that often accompany large-scale land acquisitions. Others argue that these deals will bring about speedy development. While strong public engagement on the issue is good, the researcher said, misconceptions exist on both sides. “We are at the stage where it’s more helpful to have a more constructive debate,” said Cotula, who spent six years researching the topic in countries such as Mozambique, Ghana and Mali. “The book attempts to look at the evidence while staying clear of the sensationalism that has been around some of these issues.” Much of The Great African Land Grab? focuses on how much is unclear about the problem in the first place, including basic issues such as how much land is being acquired, who is buying it, and for what reason. “We’re witnessing a phenomenon that requires action because it affects so profoundly the lives of many,” Cotula said. “But first we need to properly understand what that phenomenon is.” One major point of contention is the actual scale of land acquisitions. Cotula found that the overall number of land deals tends to be overstated by independent reports and the media. This is because lots of potential deals are reported but never actually go through, for example. “This shouldn’t be grounds for complacency,” the researcher said. “It’s still going on at a scale that’s concerning.” What’s particularly important, he said, is not the overall scale of acquisitions, but “how deals are increasing pressures at a local level.” Even failed deals can exacerbate existing pressures on the land, he said. A great deal of misconception also surrounds who is buying or renting the most land. Cotula said a common perception is that China and the Middle East are big players. But in fact, current evidence suggests that the total area of China’s confirmed land deals in Africa would be equal to just one by a company listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. In reality, he said, far more land deals involve European and North American companies. Powerful people in the countries themselves – large-scale farmers, civil servants, traders and politicians among them – also account for a major portion of land acquisitions. A World Bank study, spanning 2004-09, reported that nationals were often responsible for anywhere from 50 to 97 percent of land deals in their countries. Land deals affect people at a local level in different ways, Cotula said. Some may benefit while others are harmed by the changes. “A degree of complexity emerges when you talk to villagers and find that not everyone has the same views in relation to the project,” Cotula said. But the overall effect tends to be negative, he said. Examining models and case studies on different forms of investment in agriculture, and how they work in different contexts, could be useful in helping people make good decisions, Cotula said. “I don’t think there’s a solution that works everywhere, but there is a need for stronger local voices, rights and safeguards, to ensure that people can have greater control over their own future,” he said. “Let people make up their minds as to what model they want to pursue.” There has been a wave of local mobilization against unfair land deals in recent years. Where locals have taken action in a variety of ways, such as going to court, holding public protests and bringing their concerns to lenders or an industry roundtable, governments have sometimes responded by shifting their policy and becoming more cautious about land deals, Cotula said. “It’s important to think this through because the choices you make in terms of (what) investments to go for will have long term implications for your own development pathway,” Cotula warned. “What needs to happen is a change in perspective where it’s not about attracting investment, but about bettering lives.”

Somalia--Oil exploration by West

Oil exploration in disputed areas of Somalia by Western companies — including one based in Canada — combined with conflict over control of resource rights could spark further conflict in the African nation, U.N. monitors warned in a confidential report. In the U.N. Monitoring Group’s latest annual report to the Security Council’s sanctions committee on Somalia and Eritrea, the experts said the Somali constitution gives considerable autonomy to regional governments to enter commercial oil deals. But a petroleum law that has not yet been adopted by the country’s parliament but is being invoked by federal officials in the capital Mogadishu says that the central government can distribute natural resources. “These inconsistencies, unless resolved, may lead to increased political conflict between federal and regional governments that risk exacerbating clan divisions and therefore threaten peace and security,” the experts group said in an annex to its annual report, which was seen by Reuters. The overthrow of a dictator in 1991 plunged Somalia into two decades of violent turmoil, first at the hands of clan warlords and then Islamist militants, while two semi-autonomous regions – Puntland and Somaliland – have cropped up in northern Somalia. Around a dozen companies, including many multinational oil and gas majors, had licenses to explore Somalia before 1991, but since then Somaliland and Puntland and other regional authorities have granted their own licences for the same blocks. In some cases Somaliland and Puntland have awarded licenses for blocks that overlap. The experts said one such case involves Norwegian oil firm DNO and Canadian-listed Africa Oil Corp. “Potentially, it means that exploration operations in these blocks, conducted by both DNO and Africa Oil under the protection of regional security forces, its allied militia or private forces, could generate new conflict between Somaliland and Puntland,” the report said. “It is alarming that regional security forces and armed groups may clash to protect and further Western-based oil companies interests,” it said. “In this case, the involvement of a Norwegian company on one side and of a Swedish-owned/Canada-based company on the other, is even more disturbing, considering the long-standing implication of Norway and Sweden in promoting peace and dialogue in Somalia,” the experts said. Bjorn Dale, DNO’s acting president and managing director and general counsel, said he was not familiar with the U.N. experts’ recent report but said that the company would never engage in activities that threatened peace in Somaliland. Africa Oil was not immediately available for comment. Somalia is struggling to rebuild after decades of conflict and a U.N.-backed African Union peacekeeping force is trying to drive out al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebel group al Shabaab. Piracy off the Somali coast is also a problem. The U.N. experts also expressed concern about a clash between a longstanding bid by Norway to urge Somalia to implement an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off its coast with commercial interests by a Norwegian oil company. Under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, an EEZ would allow Somalia 12 nautical miles of territorial control with claim to sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve and manage natural resources that exist within 200 nautical miles. The U.N. convention then requires Somalia to negotiate a maritime boundary with Kenya, which the U.N. experts said could lead to several disputed oil exploration blocks being deemed to be in Kenyan waters. The U.N. report said late last year that Kenya had suspended Statoil’s license for block L26 because the Norwegian company did not want to spend money on exploration while there was the legal uncertainty over the maritime border with Somalia. A Kenyan government official told the U.N. experts that Statoil had expressed an interest to develop the area should a boundary be agreed with Somalia and the L26 block was deemed to be in Kenyan waters. “Efforts by Norway to lobby Somali officials to adopt the EEZ now coincide with current Norwegian interest in the fate of L26 as well as with Norwegian involvement in the application of a Special Financing Facility donor fund of $30 million which has been allocated under the management of (Somali government) officials with a track record of corruption,” the report said. The experts suggested that Norway’s development assistance to Somalia could be used “as a cover for its commercial interests there,” a claim it said Norwegian International Development Minister Heikki Eidsvoll Holmas has denied. Norway’s U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

“Slavery is alive and well in Mauritania”

“Slavery is alive and well in Mauritania” – Messaoud ould Boulkheir, President of Mauritania’s Parliament, May 2013. Google ‘Mauritania and Slavery’ and it is clear that Boulkheir's assertion above is public knowledge. References to NGOs dealing with Mauritanian slavery – such as SOS Esclaves (SOS Slaves) and Association des haratine de Mauritanie en Europe (Association of Mauritanian haratin in Europe) – are widespread. Mauritania’s Initiative de résurgence du mouvement abolitionniste (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement [IRA]) recently received international acclaim when its founder and leader, Biram ould Dah Abeid, was named UNPO’s (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) 2013 recipient of the ‘Front Line Defenders’ award for his battle against slavery. But slaves and slavery in 2013? In 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War, Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”. So, 65 years later, how do we explain the seeming anachronism that is Mauritania? Setting the scene The Islamic Republic of Mauritania straddles the ‘white-black’ West African divide between Arab/Berber desert and African sub-Sahara/Sahel. The desert bizan (‘white’) people speakthe Arabic/Berber dialect of hasaniyya; the Sahelian sudan (‘black’) Halpulaar, Soninke and Wolof people mirror the ethnic and linguistic mosaic of neighbouring Senegal. Mauritania, like its Sahelian neighbours Senegal and Mali, has a long history of slavery. During its half-century as a French colony (1903-1960), ‘trading in slaves’ was suppressed, as was the institution of slavery across the Sahel. In the Sahara, however, ‘household slavery’ was seen as an integral cultural element. The French reasoned that without trade to supply new slaves, the institution would die a natural death; in the meantime, they pragmatically decided they could afford to uphold their promise to bizan ‘masters’ to respect local custom. But in this Muslim society, slave marriage and reproduction was widely encouraged; slave children belonged to masters and ensured future generations of slaves. Additionally, there was a formally recognised category of ‘freed slaves’: haratin. In Mauritania, all former slaves and their descendants are haratin. When manumission (freeing a slave) followed Islamic law, the resulting relationship (wala) created an ongoing interdependence: former masters owed material, moral and legal assistance, while haratin shared in familial social obligations and religious payments. The French strongly defended this institution which assured workers to their colonial economy and simultaneously supplied a built-in social security system. A (not so) black and white story In 1961, when President Moktar ould Daddah signed the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the newly-created Islamic Republic of Mauritania remained rooted in traditional social hierarchy, including slavery. The black-white divide between the south – which had gravitated towards French culture, education and economy, and the north – which had resisted Christian colonial influence in favour of its Arab, nomadic character – grew wider than ever. Real change came in the wake of the Sahelian drought (1968-74) that drove thousands from the desert into urban centres like Nouadhibou, the Atlantic port, and Nouakchott, the new capital. Most were haratin or slaves whose masters could no longer support them. In the late 1970s, the political group El Hor (‘The Freeman’) argued for improved conditions for these groups. Its success in publicising their plight internationally forced the government to formally abolish slavery in 1980. Between 1981 and 1983, additional legislation followed by land reform buttressed the historic announcement. But religiously-sanctioned relationships such as slavery and wala were not jettisoned so easily, especially as few amongst slaves, haratin and masters found sufficient material compensation in the new reforms to risk leaving/rejecting the traditional security of slavery. The institution thus continued in all but the most public contexts. El Hor’s international campaign also continued. But it increasingly simplified and dramatised Mauritania’s complex racial and social mosaic, seeking support from audiences familiar with American-style slavery. The campaign thus translated the situation into black and white, and by the late 1980s, Mauritania was known to the West as an ‘Apartheid’ regime in which ‘a free-white elite’ apparently exploited ‘a black-slave underclass’. The violent 1989 border war with Senegal reinforced this image. Between 1989 and 1991, 80,000 to 90,000 ‘free black’ Mauritanians (mostly Halpulaar) were forced to flee the country. Possessions were stolen, identification papers destroyed, women raped, and men tortured. Among the perpetrators of what some termed genocide, haratin police and army personnel were conspicuous in their numbers. But internationally, a different tale was told. Media reports spoke of ‘black slaves being driven from their homes by white masters’. And so, as Mauritania became defined by its own ‘Apartheid regime’, and the violence became seen as a ‘civil war fought over slavery’, distinctions between slave, haratin, refugee and black became permanently blurred. The main difference today is that now the country is the ‘democratic’Islamic Republic of Mauritania, with colour and class alliances evolving accordingly. Democracy and slavery: the making of strange bedfellows Issues arising from the political racialisation of slavery in the mid-to-late 1980s prevented the united black opposition many outsiders expected to see emerge in the early 1990s as Mauritania crept towards democracy. Historical roots held firm through the political instability characterising the period between the Senegal War and the military overthrow of dictator Maaouya ould Sid’Ahmed Taya (who had seized power in a 1984 coup d’état) in August 2005. On the political scene, the question of the haratin – a term which gradually replaced ‘slaves’ – remained central. In March 1994, a special supplement to Nouakchott’s political publication Espaces Calame explored the issues facing this troubled class. It was a telling moment, revealing publicly El Hor’s internal debates over haratin and slavery, the ambiguities of which were captured in the lead article: “La Culture Esclave…y a-t-il conscience haratine autonome?” (“The Slave Culture: is there an autonomous haratin consciousness?”). In 1995, disillusioned El Hor members created SOS Esclaves. While attracting international audiences remained important (as the name implied), this non-governmental organisation was domestically focussed. In an attempt to unite haratin and slaves in political resistance, it argued that distinguishing between them obscured the fact that at some time, both had been slaves. This was a hard sell to haratin who had long seen themselves as semi-autonomous extensions of bizan families. Immersed in Arabic/Berber hassaniya culture and language, and accessing political and economic opportunities through their ‘family’ connections, they were reluctant to disenfranchise themselves. Why associate with slaves recently cut adrift from masters by state law (not Islamic manumission), who consequently had no ‘familial’ (wala) resources to draw upon? Furthermore, why associate with other poor blacks whose histories tied them to slave-holding Afro-Mauritanians and/or Senegal rather than to ‘their own’ ethnicity and nation? The local-level democracy that began under ould Taya became ‘national’ following his overthrow in 2005 – the military government held presidential elections within two years. But the regime headed by Sidi ould Cheikh Abdelahi, the winner of the March 2007 elections, was overthrown only a year later by General Mohamed ould Abdel Aziz. In the spring of 2009, Abdel Aziz resigned his military position and ran successfully in that summer’s election, painting himself as the ‘President for the Poor’. In this highly volatile political era, what is notable is that from the moment of the 2005 military coup by Ely ould Mohamed Vall through to Abdel Aziz’s 2009 democratic election campaign, ‘slavery’ – embracing returning refugees (from the 1989-91 expulsions), haratin and ‘vestiges of slavery’ – was central to political discourse. To legitimate his seizure of power, Mohamed Vall made the issue international, arguing that: “slavery [is] something that all the world [has] known throughout history and it [is] something that the sharia [Islamic law and basis of the Mauritanian constitution], like the [Western] law, condemn[s]…[My government will] address the vestiges of slavery, no matter what form they may take”. Successive elected regimes, even the 2008 military junta, also realised the effectiveness of ‘the slave issue’ in mobilising support. In August 2007, six-months into power, Cheikh Abdellahi – whose anti-slavery election campaign had promised ‘positive discrimination’ in favour of poor haratin and newly-returned refugees – saw legislation through parliament criminalising practices of enslavement. What that election underscored was the impact of democracy; potentially, all returning refugees (demanding compensation for the crimes of ould Taya) and haratin (including recently-freed slaves), had votes to cast, and to be won. And as haratin alone were estimated to account for over 40% the population, it became increasingly difficult for any presidential candidate to be elected without addressing ‘slavery’ in some fashion. ‘Déjà-vu all over again…’? Abolition in the 21st century Today, moderate political rhetoric rings hollow in the face of radical accusations by a group called the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) that the government in fact openly supports slavery and refuses to enforce its own 2007 law. In April 2012, abolitionist Dah Abeid performed a highly-publicised ‘book-burning’ to underscore this point. The materials were early Islamic texts on slavery that inform contemporary Mauritanian jurists. While this dramatic act alienated haratin reluctant to publically criticise Islam, Dah Abeid’s subsequent four-month imprisonment and growing international support reversed local opinion, as reflected in his 15 June 2013 ‘welcome home’. But is this support for his personal vision of the anti-slavery battle or merely people’s desire for equitable governance? The answer is both. Dah Abeid has succeeded where predecessors failed in enlarging the politics of ‘anti-slavery’ to embrace anti-black racism. Moreover, he has added anti-poor social and economic discrimination to his rhetoric. Most recently, at the start of July, he likened black Halpulaar to haratin because of their shared difficulties in acquiring papers for the recent census registration – the former a legacy of ould Ta’ay’s expulsions, he argued, the latter a legacy of slavery. Are there still slaves? Legally, no. But are there uneducated haratin herders and cultivators, hartaniyya young girls trapped into sexual relationships and/or forced marriages in isolated rural regions? Yes. And are there haratin and hartaniyya ‘domestics’ in Nouadhibou and Nouakchott whose working conditions are pure exploitation? Also, yes. But most of the latter are women and children who have few alternatives other than prostitution or begging; all domestics are not ‘forced’ into these situations by slavery – except by enslavement to poverty itself. The legal cases that have been brought forward since 2007 are few. Women have been reluctant to lay charges against masters. But accusations notwithstanding, there is no concrete evidence as to how widespread these cases are. And over the years, sensationalised accounts of allegedly rescued slaves have raised questions about abolitionists ‘playing to the media’, thereby providing fodder for governmental denial and undoubtedly casting suspicion upon genuine victims. Today, haratin are the poorest cultivators, fishermen, and herders; they are the urban street people, domestics, semi-employed manual labourers, and poorly-salaried workers (for example, the recently-striking Nouadhibou dock-workers). However, haratin also account for some prominent middle-class professionals (teachers, nurses, journalists, lawyers, architects, professors) and wealthy businessmen. Among them are elected government members: the hartaniyya wife of SOS Esclaves’ director is a Member of Parliament; the President of Parliament (quoted above) is a haratin founder of El Hor. While still a minority among haratin, these ‘successes’ are as real as poor workers – including the largely invisible ‘underclass’. What constitutes slavery and what determines who is ‘slave’ in post-abolitionist Mauritania are not straightforward. What the government says about eradicating the ‘vestiges of slavery’ and what its agents (legal, police and military) do, seldom overlap. It is local experience – rural and urban, private and (sometimes) public – not statutes and laws that defines ‘Mauritanian slavery’ today.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

DRC-Who are the Raïa Mutomboki?

After a period of relative calm, fighting has erupted once more around the town of Bunyakiri in South Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Reports from the area suggest that in early June, members of two armed groups burned down villages of their opposing constituencies following a dispute. In the subsequent days, further skirmishes evolved, ultimately including a third rebel group based in the area. The violence involved a militia called the Raïa Mutomboki clashing with Nyatura, a Hutu armed group allied to the Congolese army, and with the Mayi-Mayi Kifuafua, a former splinter group of the Raïa Mutomboki. The Raïa Mutomboki are a frequently discussed militia group in reports of conflict in the DRC. But who are they, what are their origins and what are their motivations? Who are the Raïa Mutomboki? The Raïa Mutomboki – meaning ‘citizens in anger’ in Kiswahili – are a mix of localised self-defence militia and decentralised rebel army. Made up of many loosely-affiliated units, the Raïa Mutomboki emerged in 2005 among remote rural populations in the disputed eastern DRC, a region in which the Congolese government and army have been largely absent for long periods of time. Raïa Mutomboki’s membership is fluid and is mostly made up of civilians who take up arms at specific points in time. This makes estimating the size of the militia difficult, but there may be as many as a few thousand members. The Raïa Mutomboki purportedly emerged as a means of self-defence following the massacre of 12 civilians in the village of Kyoka by the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group predominantly made up of the genocidaires who fled into eastern DRC from Rwanda following Rwanda’s 1994 civil war. The Raïa Mutomboki engaged in a relatively quick and successful campaign against the FDLR in the mid-2000s, gaining in strength as they went along. As Rémy Kasindi, founder of the Congolese think tank CRESA, points out, “successful attacks on FDLR yielded weaponry for the Raïa Mutomboki that only fought with spears and arrows in the first place”. After managing to establish their dominance over the FDLR, the Raïa Mutomboki lay largely dormant for a number of years. In 2011, the group re-emerged as a decentralised franchise once more, in response to increased insecurity. This time the regional security vacuum was partly caused by a reshuffling process within the government army (the so-called regimentation process). How is the Raïa Mutomboki organised? The movement’s founder and spiritual head is local healer Jean Musumbu. According to combatants, Musumbu’s dawa – a magic potion believed to render them invincible – is particularly strong and has helped them defeat better-equipped enemies, such as the FDLR in 2005. However, asides from this figurehead and a few other known commanders, the Raïa Mutomboki do not really have an established organisational structure. The Usalama Project’s Jason Stearns refers to the group as a series of “armed franchises” due to the vague diffusion of the Raïa Mutomboki label. Although similar to the Mayi Mayi groups that have partaken in the Congolese conflicts for decades, and even referred to as ‘Mayi Mayi Raïa Mutomboki’ by various media, the group differs from other militias in the Kivu provinces. While most armed actors have more or less centralised structures of command, Raïa Mutomboki is extremely decentralised. A Bunyakiri-based commander explained to Think Africa Press that the group is fluid and has a flat hierarchy, in part due to the way in which the Congolese government has managed to co-opt or buy off leading commanders in an attempt to decapitate different groups. Nevertheless, the Raïa Mutomboki do have a system of swelling their ranks, called arsenal. Under this strategy, once a village is defended or liberated from FDLR or other ‘Rwandophone’ militants, males from that village are initiated into the movement, creating a sort of snowball effect. If a subsequent neighbouring village is then attacked, new recruits are expected to lend a helping hand. In a sense, local social pressure plays a more important role in the spread of the movement than forceful recruitment. What role does the Congolese government play in all this? The Congolese government is intertwined in these dynamics in a number of different, complex, and sometimes contradictory ways. As mentioned above, one of the reasons for the emergence of the Raïa Mutomboki was the insecurity in South Kivu in the mid-2000s. This was again the reason for the group’s re-emergence in 2011, when the government’s attempts to undermine the influence of former CNDP rebels in the national army backfired. In the security vacuum left behind by this failed policy, the FDLR was able to regain territory that had previously been lost and re-start terrorising civilians. The Raïa Mutomboki can also be seen as one particularly stark manifestation of the government’s failed policy of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR). As part of the Sun City peace agreement of 2002, which negotiated the end of the Second Congo War, thousands of combatants were to be integrated into the national army whilst others were to be demobilised and reintegrated into civilian life. Corruption in DDR, however, was rampant, and thousands of demobilised combatants never received any assistance to return to non-military professions, especially those in the most remote areas. To an extent, the re-emergence of a militant group in the area such as Raïa Mutomboki was somewhat predictable in the face of failures to demobilise former militants. Not only have disarmament policies brought perverse incentives to create or maintain armed groups, in order to be awarded the funds to then demobilise, but their uneven implementation has also created imbalances in the fragile local contexts, sometimes pitting communities against one another. How have local dynamics played a part in the militarisation of communities in the region? The militarisation of communities in the eastern DRC can partly be seen as one of the logical consequences of long-term governance without government – whereby non-state actors take on some of the roles of the state or blend into the very same – in the region. The failures of reintegration have also contributed to the dynamics of militia formation. As Verweijen and Baaz have shown, lukewarm efforts at army integration have been marred by irregularity and caprice. Integration into the Congolese military has typically either deprived communities of their own defences or – when applied inconsistently – allowed some groups to maintain their military strength over others. For example, many former CNDP rebels were awarded key positions when integrated into the national army, an imbalance the failed regimention process was attempting to address. While by contrast, various Mayi Mayi were redeployed outside Kiv,u leaving their communities at the mercy of other potentially hostile local militia. In these local security contexts, militia such as Raïa Mutomboki have emerged again and again. They engage in warfare for the sake of deterrence and revenge whilst aiming to maintain their relative strength over other possible enemies in the region. What is the latest security situation in the eastern DRC? The last few months in the eastern DRC have been particularly volatile. In North Kivu, the stalemate between FARDC and the M23 rebels ended with fighting restarting around the provincial capital of Goma, further north, the Allied Defence Forces, an Ugandan militia operating in the DRC, have caused thousands of refugees to flee to neighbouring Uganda, while Masisi territory has been marred by fighting between APCLS and Sheka militias – two local militia groups. In South Kivu, a faction of the Raïa Mutomboki clashed with FARDC in Mwenga territory, while members of Raïa Mutomboki have fought with Nyatura and Kifuafua rebels in Kalehe. Towards mid-July 2013, the clashes moved into Southern Walikale territory of North Kivu. One of the main dangers now is that these dynamics in North Kivu somehow merge with the Masisi-related events. In the meantime, there have also been reports of smaller units of Raïa Mutomboki effectuating a merger in order to better coordinate their politico-military futures. Whether this alleged new coalition will emerge as a more uniform movement or not is as yet unclear. Coalition-building of this sort, however, has seldom proved to be a step towards peace.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Kandake Amani Tari...aka Candace

"Candice from Nubia forced the Romans to retreat. "It was during the occupation of Egypt by the Roman Empire ( Circa. 1 C.E.) that the visually impaired Nubian Kandake AMANI TARI, recorded as Candace, forced the Romans to sign a peace treaty. This pact permitted vital trade with Kush and Phut in aromatics, precious metals and other goods. Artifacts from across the world were also found in Meroitic ruins. ""The title of the queen was Kentake, commonly rendered as 'Candace' (which most likely meant 'Queen Regent’or 'Queen Mother') and there were at least seven Candaces between 284 BCE and 115 CE. The Candace Amanishakheto is depicted as extremely fat, a towering figure conquering her enemies who are all rendered as smaller and helpless in her grasp and the Candace Amanitore is shown in the same way, clearly illustrating the power and prestige women rulers had in the Meroitic culture. Easily the most famous (though fictional)event illustrating the esteem in which the Candaces were held is the legendary tale from Psuedo-Callisthenes of Alexander the Great being deftly turned aside from his attack on the kingdom by a Candace of Meroe in 332 BCE. According to this story, the Candace arrayed her army so perfectly that Alexander, surveying the field of battle, thought it more prudent to retreat than press an attack. The true account of Augustus Caesar's clash with the forces of Meroe in 22 BCE, however, is actually more compelling as the Emperor ended hostilities with the Nubian Kingdom by a peace treaty which favored Meroitic interests over those of Rome; a very rare gesture for Augustus to offer.""" " Modern historians, have always been aware that there is a lot still to be learnt about Kush and her peoples. Europe was effectively cut from Afrika during the period of Islaamic Conquest. This effectively hampered their well known culture of grave robbing. Thus rumours, superstition, romantic folk tales and speculation superceded reality. In fact, their festering greed for precious metals ensured a long standing interest in the region. Pillage was prevalent across the continent during the expansionist period known as Colonialism. This era began soon after the fall of the MAHDI and the disgusting FASHODA incident in European's scramble for Afrika. The construction of the contentious Aswan Dam also ensured that much evidence of the glory that was Kush has all but disappeared beneath hoarded Nile waters. This does not exclude all that was spirited away under the guise of the infamous 'Save The Nubia Campaign' orchestrated by U.N.E.S.C.O. in the early sixties. Attention should also be drawn to the fact that there are further plans (1998) to construct another dam which would again be disastrous to the remaining heritage." (depiction of one of the Queens of Meroe known as Kentakes (or Candaces) the Candace Amanitore (c.50 CE)

Walter Rodney The African Revolution

The African continent today has less turmoil, less violence and a slower rate of social transformation than Asia or Latin America; and these are the elements normally associated with Revolution. Yet those who speak of the "African Revolution" know that African people are more aware and more determined than ever before. It is this consciousness, added to internal contradictions and external forces, which gives the African situation its revolutionary character. For nearly forty years, C.L.R. James has been interested in the development of political consciousness among African people and in their strivings toward grasping control over their own lives. As an analyst of processes in Africa, James qualifies to be called an "academic" or "intellectual"; and as a participant in the struggle for African advance, he becomes a "revolutionary intellectual." It will be found that anyone confining himself to the supposedly pure academic understanding of Africa will in fact fall short of the objective, because of lack of commitment and failure to relate theory to practice. The value of James's contribution to the African Revolution and to an appreciation of it stems precisely from the blend of committed scholarship and activism. Quantitatively, what James has written on Africa does not amount to a great deal, and it is certainly a tiny proportion of his numerous writings on a variety of subjects. Similarly, one could say that only a small part of his time was devoted to activity directly concerning the African continent. It is the quality and significance of his writing and political action that really matters. During the 1930's, when the "Western Democracies" were conspiring to make Ethiopia into an Italian colony, James directed from England an ad hoc committee of "International Friends of Ethiopia." This later emerged as the "International African Service Bureau," having James as editor of its journal, International African Opinion.[1] The main platform of this journal was colonial liberation; and it was against this background that James wrote A History of Negro Revolt in 1938.[2] It bears the marks of those years when even Black militants inside and outside Africa accepted the language of the European oppressor - "Negro," "natives," "tribes," etc. Beyond that, however, the book is a mine of ideas advancing far ahead of its time. James began his section on "Revolts in Africa" by citing what historians have come to call (rather disparagingly) the Sierra Leone Hut Tax War of 1898. As James explained, it was a reaction by indigenous Sierra Leone peoples against the imposition of European colonial rule, symbolized by the enactment of legislation taxing dwelling places. It was a war of national resistance and liberation, involving the majority of the ethnic groups in Sierra Leone in unified struggle. Many years elapsed before any researcher seriously undertook investigation of this episode.[3] The reason for the disinterest is that African resistance to European colonization was not supposed to have existed as far as colonialist scholars were concerned. As late as 1957, Sir Alan Burns was expressing the orthodox view when he wrote that Africans welcomed the coming of the British. As he put it, "there was, for the most part, little fighting against the local people. In certain cases, slave dealers, pirates and tyrannical rulers were fought and defeated, but the inhabitants of these territories as a whole stood aside during the fighting and willingly accepted British rule." Burns was a colonial governor and wrote on behalf of the British ruling class. The mere mention of a different position in 1938 was an act of defiance and singled out C.L.R. James as a front-runner in the field of African studies devoted to African liberation. Having cited the Sierra Leone war of resistance in 1898, James proceeded to mention a series of African social movements taking place in the inter-war years, and commonly designated as the African Independent Church movement. James unerringly identified three of the most important of these - centered around John Chilembwe (Malawi), Simon Kambangu (Congo) and Harry Thuku (Kenya). Once more, it was many years before these protests were to gain the recognition they deserved. John Chilembwe is today an African hero known far beyond the boundaries of what was in his day the British colony of Nyasaland, and his service to his people evoked one of the fullest biographies written on an African leader.[4] Harry Thuku has also been in the forefront of subsequent historical writings on Kenya, and will undoubtedly continue to attract attention. And it is now accepted that forty years of the immediate pre-independence history of the Congo cannot be understood without reference to the popular forces and aspirations articulated by Simon Kambangu. Not only were African Independent Churches neglected as an area of enquiry for many years, but when they were first studied or assessed by Europeans, there was a tendency to portray them as being exclusively related to religion or superstition. By Christian missionaries, they were often presented as the work of the devil, while other social researchers came up with such mystifying terms as "millenarian," "messianic" and "atavistic." James's treatment was very brief, but he captured the essence of these anti-colonial African mass movements in a few lines. He recognized them as revolts against oppression and as part of the socio-political protest engendered by the presence of the Europeans and the system of colonialism. He distinguished between form and content, noting that the language of religion in which the protests were couched should not obscure the fact that they sprung from such things as forced labour, land alienation, and colonial taxation. It was because the leadership had formal schooling from missionaries that they expressed themselves primarily in religious terms. As James put it, "Such education as the African is given is nearly always religious, so that the leader often translated the insurrection into religious terms. ... To every African [independent church organization] is an instinctive step towards independence and away from the perpetual control of Europeans." (pages 53, 55) A third segment of James's treatment of African revolt was provided in his analysis of workers' organizations and their militancy. He cited the Sierra Leone railway strikes of 1919 and 1926, the Gambian sailors' strike of 1929, the spontaneous uprising of Nigerian women at Aba in 1929, and the powerful Black trade union activity of the A.C.U. in South Africa. In each instance, he pinpointed phenomena of the greatest relevance to the creation of Africa as it is today, and he was doing so a comfortable twenty years before writings on these subjects generally acknowledged these facts. For that matter, even today the tremendous awakening of the small urbanized African element in the 1920's is recorded only in texts which take the minority Marxist position on African history or as a backdrop to the specialist volumes on the African trade union movement.[5] In describing the fortunes of a mass organization, James is at his best - partly because of the immediacy that he brings to commentary and more so because of his grasp of the dialectics of organization. In 1938, he had obviously had enough experience of political organization at both first- and second-hand to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the I.C.U. under Clements Kadalie. James's account is a real tribute to the fighting spirit of the Africans of South Africa who today bear the burden of apartheid. In a most economical manner, he probed the quality of the leadership, examined the relationship of leadership to the mass from which it sprang, reflected on the international context of the strikes and other protests by the African workers of South Africa at that time, and quietly indicated that within a racist situation the category of "class" must be seriously re-examined. A great deal has been said on the South African labour movement, and much more remains to be written.[6] But the following lines by James constitute a judgment that will probably remain unshaken. He observed as follows: The real parallel to this movement is the mass uprising in San Domingo. There is the same instinctive capacity for organization, the same throwing up of gifted leaders from among the masses. ... After 1926 the movement began to decline. It could not maintain itself for long at that pitch without great and concrete successes. It was bound to stabilise itself at a less intense level. Kadalie lacked the education and the knowledge to organise it on a stable basis - the hardest of tasks for a man of his origin. There was misappropriation of the funds. He saw the necessity for international affiliation. But though the constitution of the organisation condemned capitalism, he could not affiliate to the Third International. The white South African workers refused his offer of unity, for these, petty bourgeois in outlook owing to their high wages and the social degradation of the Negro, are among the bitterest enemies of the native workers. (pages 70, 71) European scholarship on Africa in the 1960's was ostensibly more liberal and more concerned with the history of Africans rather than the activity of Europeans in Africa. Yet standard general works carried scarcely a hint of the tremendous armed struggle waged by Africans in the late 19th century before falling to the European enemy.[7] It is only very recently that this topic has begun to receive the attention it deserves from African and European historians dealing with the continent in that period. (It is interesting to note that individuals like James and Padmore never receive credit or acknowledgement from later writers.) The same applies to the subject of African independent churches and to the self-mobilization by the small wage earner class in colonial Africa. How come that C.L.R. James was so prescient as to perceive the significance of all these "African revolts" when writing in 1938? And what is the meaning of such manifestations as far as the contemporary African Revolution is concerned? Most schoolboys would have heard the axiom that each generation rewrites its own history. It does so not merely by giving different answers to the same questions but by posing entirely different questions based on the stage of development which the particular society has reached. Certain scholars will be among the first to raise the new and meaningful issue because of their sensitivity and connection with the most dynamic group in the society. Thus, when African peoples were mounting a struggle for political independence and as they continued that struggle through military means in Southern Africa and politico-economic means elsewhere, they automatically because interested in recalling previous resistance. Initially, only a scholar committed to or at least sympathetic to the present African emancipation drive would find it possible to seek out and unearth the evidence of earlier struggles. C.L.R. James was a participant in some of the earliest pressure groups in the metropoles urging African freedom from colonial rule in the 1930's. That is why he was capable of writing A History of Negro Revolt in 1938. A people's consciousness is heightened by knowledge of the dignity and determination of their foreparents. Indeed, the African world-view regarding ancestors as an integral part of the living community makes it so much easier to identify a given generation with the struggles of an earlier generation. The perception, therefore, is in terms of self - what struggles were we waging in 1885, in 1904, in 1921, and so on? It is also a learning experience in which African people often painfully find out the mistakes of (say) king Lobengula of South Africa or the Maji Maji warriors of Tanzania. To give historical depth to the process of resistance is itself functional within the African Revolution today. James knew this. His major effort to project a past revolt was The Black Jacobins, that remarkable study of the momentous victory of the enslaved African population of San Domingo against the Thermidorean reaction in France, and against the expansion of British capital. A History of Negro Revolt fulfilled the same purpose; and one of its most significant features was its emphasis on the continuity of resistance. Modern nationalist African historians have recently come to the realization that the "nationalism" of the 1950's and 1960's had its roots deep in the African past, and that the political parties which won independence in so many territories were only the end product of a continuous process of resistance which took diverse forms: notably, armed struggle, independent churches, welfare associations, peasant crop hold-ups and strikes by wage earners. This has been fiercely resisted by a small number of white scholars, basically because they wish to hold to the position that nationalism was a product of colonialism and virtually a gift to the African people from Europe in the period after the last war.[8] This is not the time and place to refute such a view, and perhaps there is no context in which there is much value in so doing. However, it is worth pointing out that a perception of links and continuity between popular resistance over a long period of time is not something unique to an African nationalist historian. This is the approach adopted by Vietnamese scholars, by progressive Philippine scholars, and by Cuban scholars. James's awareness of the continuity of African resistance throughout the colonial era can be illustrated by the following lines: "By the end of the nineteenth century, less than one-tenth of Africa remained in the hands of Africans themselves. This rapid change could not fail to produce a series of revolts, which have never ceased." (emphasis mine) (pages 40, 41) His awareness that this struggle evolved over time and changed form can be observed in these sentences: "in the years before the war [of 1914] the tribes simply threw themselves at the government troops and suffered the inevitable defeat. Such risings could not go on. They were too obviously suicidal. In 1915, however, we have a new type - a rising led not by a tribal chief but by a Negro who has had some education." (page 53) Then, moving to the end of the decade of the 1920's, James commented on urban workers' resistance in Congo Brazzaville: "This movement had definite Communist tendencies. What the authorities fear most is a combination of the workers in the towns and the peasants in the interior. Such a movement, however, has not yet taken place .... Yet railways are linking the various portions of the territory, and ... since the war each succeeding revolt has been more fierce, more concentrated than the last." (page 62) And, finally, the brief survey was brought up to the year 1938 with reference to the cocoa hold-up that had just taken place in the British colony of the Gold Coast. James felt that "an extraordinary determination and unity linked the population", but he had no romantic illusions that victory was at hand. His assessment at that point was that, "Militant as was this movement, yet, as in most of the older colonies, there was not that militancy which thinks in terms of throwing out the British. ... There is no national revolutionary movement." (page 84) In the years immediately after James wrote the above lines, the tempo of events in Africa quickened, and the various strands of revolt were drawn together. There developed both the combination of urban and rural elements which the colonial authorities feared and the determination to throw the colonialists out rather than merely seek concessions. In England, James remained part of the small group of Black men who constantly agitated on the African independence issue, expressing their confidence that at the end of the last world war the peoples of the continent would not brook much further delay in the quest for independence. The demand for African independence was voiced most insistently at the famous Manchester Conference in 1945, having in attendance both DuBois and Padmore as well as two future African heads of state in the persons of Kenyatta and Nkrumah. James himself reflects that at the time it was felt that their statements about African freedom could only have come from "lunatics or inebriates." It is true that the colonial powers and Britain in particular spoke vaguely of self-government for Africa, but no schedule was set up and the tenor of their pronouncements suggested a delay of some forty or fifty years at least. In 1947, on the eve of Nkrumah's return to the Gold Coast colony, British experts were saying that the 1946 Gold Coast constitution would last for several decades, and exhortations were being made to strengthen the British colonial administration to meet the growing demands that were to be made on it.[9] The difference between these two perspectives is that between a people-centred approach on the one hand and a blend of racism and paternalism on the other. The Pan-Africanists were expressing confidence in the African people and they were proved right. (Even so, James frequently admitted being surprised by the speed of change in Africa. Other African leaders have made statements to this effect, showing that when the potential of a people is realized in action it literally goes beyond all expectations.) It is difficult and perhaps unnecessary to try and single out James's role within the Pan-African movement, since it was essentially a collective venture.[10] What is well-known is that Africans in the diaspora for many years were the driving forces of Pan-Africanism, and it is important to examine the significance of this for the African Revolution. Garvey was an exception in regarding himself as "an African overseas." DuBois remained American until very late in his life, and James has always consciously identified as a West Indian. He offers the explanation that the West Indian (both French and British) has been steeped in the culture of Europe, has in many instances mastered that culture so thoroughly as to lecture the "mother countries" on it and tear it down from within. Hence Cesaire, Fanon, Padmore, etc. James certainly prided himself on mastery of everything in European culture from Greek tragedy to the Hegelian dialectic. But once in England, he moved instinctively to a Pan-African platform. This is highly intriguing. Today, it is usual for the Pan-Africanist in the New World to be into a heavy culture thing. This is condemned by certain philistines (white and black) as being romantic racism, since African culture is supposedly alien to the Americas. What the critics fail to realize is that there are fundamental political realities which draw the conscious Black man in the New World towards the African continent. These realities operate equally whether the individual has arrived at a stage of heightened consciousness via cultural nationalism or through a more conventional approach to the struggle against exploitation and oppression. Some attempts have been made to explain why articulate and politicized West Indians like James, Padmore, and Garvey found that their field of expression had to be within North America, Europe and Africa rather than in their island homes. The answer is to be found partly in their home environment and the socio-political inadequacies there.[11] However, the continuing validity of the Pan-African perspective throughout the years of James's career derives from the incontrovertibly international character of white racism, and the situation of African peoples as integral parts of the international political economy. After the end of formal enslavement in the Americas, there were a few whites who would have welcomed the massive re-transfer to Africans to their homelands. But of course our labour was still needed by the capitalist systems of West Europe and North America, so that possibility was never part of the rational calculation of white society. The alternative was to try and placate the former slaves by promises of advance within American and Caribbean society. We were told to forget slavery, forget Africa and forget that we were Africans. The stumbling block to accepting this is that the unique exploitation and oppression of the Black population could only be explained in terms of our colour and origins. As young men in Trinidad, James and Padmore read Garvey and DuBois. As young West Indians they were concerned primarily with West Indian politics, but the factor of blackness could not be escaped since it was so pervasive. Similarly, within the United States, Black people were impelled to read about Africa not because of any a priori judgments that they were "African" but because of the necessity to survive and challenge white mythology within the U.S.A. itself. James drew attention to this process, saying that "The American blacks - faced with this view of the past of Africa, a view that has been used not only to justify slavery but also to maintain segregation and oppression - found themselves driven to make the most serious studies of the past of Africa."[12] Once the African continent was brought under colonial rule by the end of the last century, the racist factor was also evident there as a justification of exploitation and oppression. Racism had become part of the superstructure of the white capitalist world. The drive towards white domination shaped policy as an end in itself - sometimes at variance even with the profit motive which is the propellant of capitalism. It became highly probable that any Black man fighting against white oppression in his particular locality would sooner or later realize that all Africans "at home and abroad" were caught up in the same predicament. Pan-Africanism is not simply a unity of colour, it is also a unity of common condition and one that retains its validity because the dominant group in the international political economy continue to define things in racist terms for their own convenience. For their own convenience, admittedly, but then they are also playing with revolution. James has more than once commented on this double-edged weapon of racism. He wrote recently that "centuries of Western domination and indoctrination ... create in the minds of the great majority of Africans and people of African descent everywhere a resentment that is never entirely absent. It may remain dormant for long periods, but it can be depended upon in a particular population at a particular time to create and cement a formidable unity and determination. Imperialism created this feeling; it has paid and will pay dearly for it."[13] Identity is both affirmation and negation. It recognizes in the same instant the insider and the outsider. Black becomes relevant to an African at that point when he came into the contradiction with white men. The continuing sharpness of that contradiction is due to white domination, and the Black or African identity has become a weapon for emancipation. At the level of organization, it is a common enough principle that unity and the enlargement of scale must be brought to bear against the enemy. It is logical enough, too, that one must maximize strong points, so the freeing of the African continent itself became the first priority of for politically active West Indians who knew the limitations of their own societies and knew that the weakness of Africa contributed to indignity and low status abroad. Europeans enslaved Africans and colonized Africa. They could never have imagined that some of the slaves would be instrumental in the freeing of the colonies, but the outcome was an unavoidable consequence of the kind of international political economy that emerged under European guidance from the 15th century onward. The African Revolution so far has already demonstrated convincingly that what has been used as a badge of servility can be turned into a bond of unity and a liberation tool. James's career is a small illustration of this. It is also an illustration that the given African identification is not sufficient as far as carrying out the African Revolution is concerned. The Revolution is by and of the mass of the workers, peasants and such leadership as emerges from the mass struggle. This perception of classes forming within African society and his attachment to the Marxist world-view placed James in a position shared by several Black intellectuals over the course of this century. It required a reconciliation between the African and the World Revolution, as it were, and a plotting of the coordinates of race and class. The manner in which these were resolved by James is instructive. Time and again, James found his white Marxist comrades reneging on their internationalism when it came to the cause of the Black man - be it Ethiopia, the West Indies or the U.S.A. The only course of action compatible with the welfare of African peoples was to break with such compromised crypto-racist whites, as Padmore did, as Sekou Toure did, as Aime Cesaire did. Africans on the continent do not find this course of action hard to follow. There is already a built-in suspicion of "foreign" ideologies which can be carried to irrational lengths but which at least serves as a barrier to accepting white ideological hegemony of any sort. The progressive African who is conscious of what the Christian missionaries did is unlikely to be taken in by Marxist missionaries. A less obvious lesson which can be drawn from James's double commitment to Marxism and the African Revolution is that certain brands of Marxism have no applicability whatever to our situation, having in fact been exposed as bankrupt in Europe itself. While Stalinism dominated the European scene during the late 1920's through to the 1940's, James was attracted to the minority Trotskyite position, which at least questioned some of the monstrosities carried out in the Soviet Union under the banner of Socialism. Later, James broke with the Trotskyite mainstream on the grounds that they too were too wedded to the Soviet State to perceive how completely the Revolution had been betrayed. Without entering into the substance of this argument, it can still be affirmed that the African Revolution cannot afford to draw on Marxist theory in its dogmatic Stalinist or even Trotskyist form. But, conversely, it should be equally clear that Africans can benefit from mankind's ideological heritage just as we can build on the universal technological heritage. James brings out the applicability of Marxist methodology in his analysis of some important features of contemporary Africa: notably in his evaluation of the Ghana experience and in his approach to the transformation taking place in Tanzania. What happened in Ghana is central to an understanding of modern African politics. Many liberals paid lip-service to Ghanaian independence while trying to suggest that it was a gift from Britain and was complete in itself. Such individuals were out of tune with Nkrumah's efforts to achieve genuine all-round liberation for the Ghanaian people; and his overthrow was a welcome opportunity for them to spout anti-African sentiments. In turn, James was prompted to reply in a number of public forums, restating positions he had arrived at sometime before the coup. His first concern was to vindicate the popular and revolutionary nature of the events that transpired in the Gold Coast colony between 1947 and 1957. During this period, the role played by Nkrumah was that of an authentic spokesman of the people, challenging the leadership of the petty-bourgeois educated elite of lawyers and doctors. However, James was equally emphatic that subsequently (i.e. after 1957) the revolution in Ghana and Africa as a whole was subverted by those forces. In my opinion, this change needs to be reaffirmed, not only vis a vis the reactionaries and liberals who always disliked Nkrumah, but also with regard to the ultra-leftists who suddenly decided after the Ghana coup that Nkrumah had never been leading a revolutionary movement at all, but rather a party of the petty bourgeoisie.[14] In the many analyses which he has made of the popular movement in the Gold Coast and Ghana, James seldom if never uses any overt Marxist categorization, or makes any citations of the spokesmen of scientific socialism. Indeed, his favourite comparison is with the French Revolution, and he is quite happy to use Michelet and Lefebvre as the sources of his quotations. But his methodology remains that of historical dialectics; and he was in effect showing the compatibility between the latter and an Africa nationalist or Pan-Africanist stance. It is relevant under the present circumstances to explore the limitations rather than the achievements of Nkrumah's regime, since it is the former which have salutary lessons to offer on the nature of Revolution and counter-revolution in Africa. James traces the deterioration of the Ghanaian revolution at some length in his study Nkrumah Then and Now, pointing to political errors and problems such as the following: Nkrumah's dismissal of the Chief Justice for a politically unpopular decision; the growth of a bureaucracy; the total alienation of the middle classes; the encouragement of a coterie of sycophants; failure to involve the masses politically; and personal degeneration of Nkrumah as he became overwhelmed by forces hostile to his original intentions. Not surprisingly, the strongest part of James's argument dealt with the question of the state and the political party. A correct appreciation of these issues remains one of the highest priorities to be met by the leadership of Africa today. Among a number of well-meaning people, neo-colonialism is considered as incorporating political freedom unmatched by economic independence. Nkrumah himself fostered this distinction. However, at a much more fundamental level, it should be noted that neo-colonialism is incompatible with political independence, and that the flag-raising ceremonies effected no change on the colonial state. James suggested that, "The first problem was a state, a government. To begin with, he had no independent African government. Like all these new African rulers, he had inherited a colonial government organised for purposes quite different from his own." The African head of state found himself "in charge of a British imperialist colonial government which was constructed for British imperial purposes and not for purposes of governing an African population." ("Reflections on Pan Africanism.") This remarkable insight (which James develops at some length in his "epilogue" to A History of Pan-African Revolt) is beginning to gain wider acceptance. In 1971, such sentiments were officially expressed by the governing party of Tanzania, in a document that declared unequivocally that the people had yet to take political power into their hands throughout the continent.[15] In 1966, while writing on Nkrumah to a West Indian public, James made the following comment: It took Nkrumah six years to win independence by 1957. He could have gone on to independence in 1951. He preferred to wait. But one day he told me he didn't know whether he was right to wait, or if he should have gone forward in 1951 as George Padmore and Dorothy Padmore were urging him to do. I did not know what to think at the time but today I am of the opinion that he should have done straight ahead. That six-year delay was one cause of the deterioration of his party and his government. A revolution cannot mark time for six years. More prominence should be given to this idea than James himself gave it. (See another mention in "Reflections on Pan-Africanism.") It was a fundamental aspect of the derailing of the people's aspiration in Ghana and elsewhere on the continent. The struggle for independence was a revolutionary one emanating from the masses of the people and embracing almost all strata of the population. Colonial governments retreated before the force of popular political organizations, but at the same time they manoeuvred and counter-attacked sometimes openly and more often insidiously. A period of "Self-Government" such as that in Ghana between 1951 and 1957 was one of co-optation and defusing. It was in that period that the colonialists ensured the perpetuation of the colonial state and of the international imperialist economy. Within a colonial or neo-colonial state structure the locus of power lies outside the national boundaries, having only a local representation in the form of an administration or through the persons of a small class created by and dependent on capitalism as a system. To break with this, the African revolution must transfer power to the people. In Ghana, this did not happen. The party decayed, the bureaucracy flourished in state and party, and the regime became more authoritarian behind its facade of one-party democracy. James's judgment of Nkrumah on this score is a judgment of the African Revolution. Nkrumah studied, thought and knew a lot. But one thing he never mastered: that democracy is not a matter of the rights of the opposition, but in some way or other must involve the population. Africa will find that road or continue to crash from precipice to precipice. After the fall of Nkrumah and the subsequent demise of Modibo Keita, one could well ask "Where is the African Revolution?" -- especially given the fact in the first place that constitutional independence brought nothing but puppet regimes in so many territories. James, as a revolutionary protagonist for nearly half a century, is not unduly perturbed by the apparent weight of the counter-revolution. Insofar as the African leadership is not responsible to the majority of the people, it only means that the African Revolution will be aimed as much against them as against the longstanding alien forces of capitalism and imperialism. James cites Fanon with full approval in this context, paraphrasing him as follows: In the nationalist revolution of the twentieth century, the people must be against not only the imperialists. Some of the people's leaders who come forward to lead the revolution have nowhere to lead the people, and revolution must be as fiercely against them as against the imperialists. Some of the writers, having learned all they could from Western civilisation, will join the revolution, but bring nothing positive and corrupt the revolutionary movement. The intellectuals must learn that they must dig deep among the mass of the population to find the elements of a truly national culture. (Emphasis mine, taken from "DuBois to Fanon.") It is the last of the above statements which holds the key to James's present fascination with the Tanzanian situation. James's praise for Tanzania is unstinted: The impact that the policies of Tanzania have made upon Africa and upon the rest of the world has already established the African state of Tanzania as one of the foremost political phenomena of the twentieth century. Tanzania is the highest peak reached so far by revolting blacks. (page 117, A History of Pan-African Revolt). What has Tanzania done to receive such unqualified praise, in James's opinion? The government nationalized foreign property, which was good. It began to restructure the educational system in an entirely new way, which was an even better idea. It was planning the future on the basis of socialist rural communities, drawing upon the heritage of the people, since Ujamaa or family living was part of that heritage. This, in James's estimation, was the most revolutionary aspect of the political thought of Tanzania. Reading between the lines, one can see that James has enriched his own long fruitful career of learning and teaching by turning to the pages of Fanon and more so Mwalimu Nyerere. Fanon exposed the limits of Western culture and its counter-productive aspects as far as a Black revolutionary leader was concerned. Nyerere and the Tanzanian developments undoubtedly rekindled James's interest in African civilization and African culture. The fact that Ujamaa seeks its roots in the African past and in African society must have reinforced James's long-held conviction that Revolution must be of the people. Tanzanian Ujamaa was of the people and about the people. Because the majority of the Tanzanian population lives in the countryside, it means that any goals for the well-being of the country must relate primarily to the rural areas. A most obvious conclusion, one might say, but it only became obvious after Nyerere had said it often enough. Nkrumah had not discerned this. Economic development under his rule was urban-directed and oriented towards industry, which was viewed as a panacea. In evaluating Nkrumah's economic policies, James did not perceive the weakness. He merely observed that Nkrumah was trying to do too much. It was more than that - it was an incorrect strategy for socio-economic development, because it ignored the majority of the population and was encouraging further ties of dependence with the outside world rather than self-reliance, as is Tanzania's goal. When looking at the appalling economic plight of Africa and the Third World, James at one point tended to place reliance on an external solution: namely in "the regenerative assistance of the accumulated wealth and technical knowledge of the advanced countries." For once James seems to be defeatist when he assesses that "the regimes in Asia and Africa, with their present resources, have no possibility whatever of overcoming constant economic crisis and political and social decay." Undoubtedly, a Revolution within the metropolitan centres would be of inordinate importance to the African Revolution, but it is no pre-condition. It may even be argued that the world revolution must continue to move from the "periphery" to the "centre" as far as the imperialist world is concerned. In any event, the trend pointed by Tanzanian Ujamaa is for self-reliance, internally integrated growth, and a self-sustaining economy which can in itself constitute exit from the economic crisis and socio-political decay attendant on neo-colonialism. There can be no guarantee of success of this particular line, but there can never be a guarantee in these matters. James himself is fond of telling political activists to do what they feel has to be done - and let the rest take care of itself. In terms of economic policy, therefore, he has taken his cue from the Tanzanian revolution. Some Marxists are sceptical of what is going on in Tanzania. They cannot separate Ujamaa from the "African Socialism" of the African petty bourgeoisie. A few of these are Africans on the continent or in the Americas - a fact worth noting in the present context. More significantly, there are numerous Africans as enthusiastic about Ujamaa as James is, but who refuse to accept that insights can be gained from Marxism which are applicable to the African situation and would strengthen our ideological position. James has always been applying Marxism to the concrete conditions of Black society, irrespective of whether or not he announces this. Occasionally, he makes it explicit. He did so with regard to the Tanzanian Revolution, and it is worth ending with the illustration to that effect. Drawing on his detailed knowledge of the Russian Revolution, James isolated the two matters on which Lenin placed absolute priority in his last years. The first was the break-up of the old state machinery and the second was educational work among the peasants. Marxism-Leninism was not Nyerere's point of reference, but he decided upon these same two priorities for Tanzania after the experience gained from several years in office as head of state. James holds up this relevant parallel between the Russian and Tanzanian situations as an example to those Africans who misguidedly and maliciously represent Marxism as "something that Marx had to say about the advanced countries." Equally of course one could conclude that Marxists formalism is not indispensable in the task of discerning the movement of society and building the new structures that express the interests of the mass of the people.[16] It is significant that a question as seemingly abstract as that of the value of Marxism to the African Revolution has recently been revived among African students on the continent and activists in the Black movement in America. It is a recognition of the fact that, as oppressed people, we cannot afford to overlook any weapon which could contribute to our liberation. One of the many facets of the career of Mzee C.L.R. James is precisely the awareness that African freedom will not be won without building on the positive elements in the history of Man. This is a propitious moment for restating that proposition, because it can be placed in the now firmly established context that the portion of that history most relevant to us is the history of Man in Africa and of Africans in world affairs.