- Order Horace Campbell's recent book, Global Nato and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya
- Welcome to horacecampbell.net. Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University, New York. His recent book is Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. He is the author of: Rasta and Resistance From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney; Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation; Pan Africanism, Pan Africanists and African Liberation in the 21st Century; and Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics. Follow on Twitter @Horace_Campbell.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
In revolutionary moments laws, ideas and politics are challenged by new circumstances. These circumstances force the convergence of revolution and counter-revolution in the same moment. New social forces emerge on the scene and there are always leaders who are thrown up by the moment. Oftentimes these leaders are not themselves revolutionaries but are caught up in the general convulsion that shakes the foundations of the old society. Toussaint L'Ouverture was one such revolutionary in Haiti who joined the revolution in 1793 and agreed that the old system of slavery must end. But Toussaint believed in the plantation model and wanted to restore the economic relations of the plantation where the former enslaved were supposed to work for a planter class.
Toussaint dithered when the people wanted a new mode of economic organisation and in the midst of these dithering internal and external forces removed Toussaint and he ended up as a tragic figure who emerged out of a revolution. While Toussaint is still celebrated as a great revolutionary, the tragedy of the bloodletting and stagnation of Haitian society cannot be separated from the fact that as a political leader he could not grasp the reality that the mass of the people wanted a new form of economic organisation.
Barack Obama as the president of the United States risks ending up being irrelevant like Toussaint as he continuously dithers and places his faith in a system that is now obsolete. Barack Obama believes in American capitalism at a moment when the environmental crisis, the economic recession, the changed international situation along with the financial meltdown demanded a new turn in social and economic relations. Read more
Friday, December 10, 2010
Following the devastating war associated with the capitalist depression of 1929-1945, an international organisation, the United Nations, was formed with a mandate to promote world peace. There were four salient objectives outlined in the UN Charter: 1) to maintain world peace and security; 2) to protect the fundamental human rights and uphold the dignity and equality of all humans; 3) to create a forum for cooperation in solving international problems and in providing respect for international law; and 4) to promote freedom, advance human progress and achieve better standards of living.
In 1948, the UN agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which codified a common universal standard for the upholding of human dignity. Today, 10 December 2010, 62 years after the declaration, it is important for all people to reflect deeply on the meaning of human dignity in the 21st century. We want to remind our readers that the challenges of the moment demand that, in tandem with the ideals of Ubuntu, we elevate the new principle of the collective rights of human beings in the 21st century. The principle of Ubuntu which is now emerging as a core organising principle links humans to each other, to nature, and to the universe. It is this concept of shared humanity that we want to reflect on today so that we can promote an inclusive concept of peace, human dignity, and human rights. More
Thursday, December 2, 2010
‘The austerity plan calls for cuts of nearly 15 percent in Ireland’s social welfare budget … .More
Thursday, November 25, 2010
WHAT IS A SOFT BORDER?
On Tuesday 23 November 2010, the 16th Extra-Ordinary Session of the Inter Government Authority on Development (IGAD) Assembly of Heads of States and Government on the Sudan was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The communiqué from this extra-ordinary session (attended by both the presidents of the Sudan and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) announced that an agreement had been reached between North and South Sudan to establish a ‘soft border’ between the two areas ahead of a referendum on southern independence due on 8 January 2011. Under this deal there would be the free movement of trade and nomads between their territories should the South vote for secession. Sudanese citizens would also be allowed to choose to live in either north or south Sudan.
In this communiqué the leaders of IGAD acknowledged the ‘smooth’ process of the referendum as a significant milestone in the implementation of the CPA between the government of the Sudan and the SPLM, negotiated and agreed under the auspices of IGAD in January 2005. The challenge for peoples all over the world, especially for Pan-Africanists will be to interrogate if this concept of a ‘soft border’ is another recipe for war in Africa?
The very process that brought about the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 had demonstrated expediency and opportunism from all sides. Very soon after the peace accord, John Garang, the one leader who had a clear vision of a new Sudan, died in a helicopter crash. This helicopter belonged to President Yoweri Museveni, who had been the chair of the IGAD process at the time of the signing of the CPA in 2005. The death of Garang robbed the Pan-African world of one of the leaders who had a clear understanding of how the Sudan was central to a secular society that could heal itself from the long history of conquest and religious militarism. More....
Friday, November 19, 2010
A rally to restore sanity was held in the Washington Mall on 30 October 2010. Called by two comedians, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the rally drew over 200,000 persons (CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20021284-503544.html). Another 4 million persons watched this rally on cable television. The escalation of intolerance and use of violent language by the conservative forces gave this rally tremendous importance in the politics of the USA.
The singers and performers who appeared in this three-hour rally were persons known to be opposed to Islamophobia and militarism. Although built in jest as a ‘Rally to restore sanity and/or fear’, we take the theme of this rally very seriously, especially for a society that is involved in wars, militarisation and the robotisation of its youths. It is important to adequately highlight the insanity inherent in the militarisation of the US society and the psychological warfare and mind control of the US citizens, oriented toward hate, killing and perpetual warfare. Unfortunately, in the ‘Rally to restore sanity’ Colbert and Stewart did not make clear and strong statements on the US wars of occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan or the trillion-dollar budget devoted to the militarisation of the planet. It is now up to the peace and justice movements to deepen the delegitimisation of US militarism and torture. The conservative forces have been so emboldened that there is a rehabilitation of George W. Bush, who can now boast on national TV that he authorised torture. Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have rightfully called for a criminal investigation into his admission of authorising torture... more
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Africa Today - November 15, 2010 at 7:00pm | KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley: Listener Sponsored Free Speech Radio
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Last year in Kenya, when my African friends were discussing the depression and financial crisis, they asked why is it that people in the West, especially the US workers, are now only grasping the dangers of the power of the banks? African working peoples have faced the onslaught of the capitalist’s financial war against ordinary people for the past 30 years. The most obvious evidence has been high rates of unemployment and underemployment, massive hollowing out of industrial capacity, destruction of social services, and millions of deaths orchestrated by the IMF (International Monetary Fund)-imposed currency devaluation and liberalisation policies. These neoliberal strictures have been most evident in the areas of health care and education. In a continent where over 7,000 persons were dying everyday from preventable diseases, the IMF was also arguing that African economic recovery could only come from the complete opening of African markets and currency devaluations.
The experiences of Africans over the past 30 years are most pertinent within the context of the Group of Twenty (G20) meeting in South Korea. This meeting has four main items on the agenda ... more
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Revolution is not an overnight event. In revolutionary moments, political institutions and the law are all caught in the tumult. This tumult comes from the fact that there are earthquakes and seismic shifts in economic relations, gender relations, military relations and class or power shifts. Institutions such as the legislature or the banking institutions may be thrown into topsy-turvy.
In my book, ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’, I drew the attention of readers to the revolutionary moment during which Barack Obama emerged as president of the USA. This revolutionary moment came to a head on 15 September 2008, when the big banks of Wall Street collapsed. It is here important to underline some of the elements of the revolutionary ... read more
Thursday, October 28, 2010
We are informed in a Vanity Fair article titled ‘Larry Fink’s $12 Trillion Shadow’ that BlackRock controls over US$12 trillion in assets, and ... read more
Friday, October 22, 2010
On Thursday 18 June 2009, the US Senate approved a resolution formally acknowledging the 'fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws' that enshrined racial segregation at the state- and local-level in the United States well into the 1960s.
Congress apologised 'to African-Americans on behalf of the ... Read more
On 1 October 2010, the peoples of Nigeria and Africa reflected on the fifty years of struggle to create a society where humans can live in dignity. After five decades of leaders such as Sani Abacha, Ibrahim Babingida, Olusegun Obasanjo and other military men at the helm of government, the experiment of Nigeria has reached a new stage. From within the bowels of the society citizens are calling for a new relationship with each other, with other Africans and with the rest of humanity. Nigerians are slowly fashioning a new Pan African consciousness and this consciousness is most manifest in the arts, film, music, poetry, literature and other areas where the creativity of the people can flourish. These citizens of Africa proclaim their pride and seek to excel in all fields, whether in the areas of soccer, music, literature, and the creative arts or in the areas of spelling out the demands for social transformation. These calls for social transformation have been smothered by militarism, foreign oil companies, political careerists and international consultants who facilitate the theft of billions. If the society of South Africa was shaped by the anti-apartheid struggles from the period of the Freedom Charter, the Nigerian experiment has been shaped by the intensity of the anti-dictatorial/anti/militarist struggles. Traders, students, workers, intellectuals, real spiritual elders and patriotic business persons joined the anti-dictatorial struggles. In these long years, the working poor of Nigeria hold a special place in the fifty years of struggle. Oil bunkering and novel forms of theft ensured a form of politics that linked oil companies to politicians and ... Read more
On May 25, 2008, peace loving peoples all over the world will celebrate African Liberation Day. This will be the fiftieth anniversary of the setting aside of a day to commemorate those who sacrificed for the liberation of the African peoples at home and abroad. In 1963, the Organization of African Unity was established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Then, the main emphasis was on the liberation of territories from colonial rule. At the end of apartheid in 1994 new ideas of liberation were placed on the agenda for Africa. Questions of health, food security, environmental justice, decent education, the rights of women, the politics of inclusion and cultural freedoms were placed as the core of the liberation of Africa. African women at the grassroots are campaigning for a new form of popular power where African peoples will have the voice to intervene in the political process where they live and where they work. These men and women at the grassroots seek to give meaning to political participation and realize the dream of C.L.R. James who envisioned that ‘every cook can govern.’ This form of politics elevates the political participation of the people beyond periodic voting. African youths at home and abroad are looking forward to new institutions and new sites where the ideas of peace, love and human ... Read more
cc. Soldiers Media Center
As Obama takes over the presidency of the United States, Horace Campbell contextualizes an Obama presidency in the realities of Africa and the ongoing global finance crisis. He argues that “capitalism should not be reconstituted and rebuilt on the backs and bodies of Africans." For Campbell, the crisis is not simply a cyclical crisis of capitalism; it is a fundamental shift in the global political and economic order. In light of this fast changing world, Campbell is also interested in the possibilities and our responsibilities in bringing about change in and for ... Read more
On 2 October 2010, around 175,000 people from over 300 different organisations gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and the Washington Mall to hear speeches by numerous leaders on the theme of ‘One nation: working together for jobs, peace, education and justice.’ Comprising traditional labour, civil rights, peace, education, environment and GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual) groups, these groups were making their statement about the need for a society that places human beings ahead of profits. Speaker after speaker decried the ‘massive tax giveaways to the rich when 50 per cent of our children are living in poverty’. There were signs all over the mall calling for the arrest and ‘locking up the Wall Street crooks’. As one of the marchers who listened to the four-and-half hours of speeches, I would like to say that the most significant aspect of this march was its positive and inclusive character. There were blacks and whites, young and old, gay and straight, workers and students, unwaged and wage earners, Latinos and Asians, and citizens from all walks of life. In fact, what was striking about this inclusiveness was that it reflected the multinational and the multiethnic character of the US. The multiethnic composition of the marchers did in fact conceptually render the theme of the march contradictory to the character of the march ... Read more
Exactly one year ago, in February 2007, President Bush of the United States of America announced that the Defense Department would create a new Africa Command to coordinate U.S. government interests on the continent. Under this plan all governmental agencies of the US would fall under the military, i.e, USAID, State Department, US Department of Energy, Treasury, and Department of Education etc. Already within the US academic community, the interests of the Pentagon has been placed before all other interests.
In pursuance of the plans for the militarization of Africa, the US Department of Defense announced the appointment of General William “Kip” Ward (an African American) as Head of this new Military command. On September 28, 2007, Ward as confirmed as the head of this new imperial military structure and on October 1 2007, the new command was launched in Stuttgart, Germany. The major question that is being posed by African peace activists and by concerned citizens is, why now? Why is a lame duck President seeking to gain more support in Africa?
One answer may lay in the diminished power of the United States in the aftermath of the Fiasco in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will maintain in this reflection that it is urgent that peace activists who want reconstruction and transformation in Africa oppose the plans for the remilitarization of Africa under the guise of fighting terrorism in Africa.
At the end of World War II the United States had emerged as a leading political, economic and military force in world politics. It was in this period when the US established unified military command structures such as the European Command, the Pacific Command, the Southern Command, the Northern Command, and Central Command. Each command covers an area of responsibility (AOR). When this command structure was being refined, Africa was an after thought in so far as the United States had relegated the exploitation of Africa to the former European colonial exploiters. Hence, Africa fell under the European Command with its headquarters in Germany. Africa had not been included in the geographic combatant commands in so far as it was expected that France, Britain, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and other colonial powers would retain military forces to guarantee western ‘interests’ in Africa. The collapse of the Portuguese colonial forces in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea and Sao Tome and the collapse of the white racist military forces in Rhodesia gradually led to a rethinking by the US military. During this period the US had labeled all African freedom fighters as terrorists. When the US was allied with Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi, Nelson Mandela had been branded a terrorist.
After the Iranian revolution in 1978-1979, the US established the Central Command. CENTCOM based in Florida, USA was responsible for the US military activities in East Africa and the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia and the Sudan). The Pacific Command based in Hawaii was responsible for the Comoros, Diego Garcia, Madagascar and Mauritius. Added to these commands in six continents are the logistical command structures such as the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Space Command (SPACECOM), the Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Transport Command (TRANSCOM).
At the end of the era of formal apartheid, the US military had established the Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) with the goal of supporting humanitarianism and ending genocide. It was this same US government that had lobbied the United Nations to withdraw troops from Rwanda in the midst of the fastest genocide in Africa. Two years later, the US supported the militarist forces in Burundi even while publicly renouncing the genocidal violence and the war in Burundi.
Throughout this period, the US military had been cautious about involvement in Africa in the aftermath of the experience in Mogadishu/Somalia in 1993. This caution changed after the events of September 2001. In the next year the USA updated its ACRI “plans” to organize the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA). Under ACOTA, African troops were supposed to be provided with offensive military weaponry, including rifles, machine guns, and mortars. The Africa Regional Peacekeeping Program (ARP) was also established in order to equip, train, and support troops from selected African countries that are involved in “peacekeeping” operations. Additionally, the US government launched a Pan Sahel anti-terrorism initiative (later called Trans Sahara Counter Terror Initiative). Behind these grand mutations lay one clear fact. The USA wanted to control the oil resources from Africa. Presently Africa supplies more petroleum to the USA than the Middle East and US corporations wanted the US military to guarantee the dominance of US oil conglomerates.
Exposing US militarism and the failures in the Middle East
After launching two major wars from the United States Central Command, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq pointed to the reality that high technology weapons cannot guarantee military superiority in battles. It was in the face of the quagmire that the US faced in Iraq when the United States government announced the formation of a new command structure called, Africom.
What did we learn from the visit of George Bush to the Middle East in January 2008? Even the friends and allies of the USA (such as the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Egypt) warned that the US could not get anywhere as long as the issue of the Israeli occupation of Palestine does not end. And, lo and behold, the people of Gaza took matters in their hands a few days after the visit of Bush to Egypt to bring home to the world the reality that there can be no peace in Palestine when there is illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands along with the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestine. By breaking out of the blockade of Israel and breaking through the walls that divided Gaza from Egypt. The citizens of Gaza were literally breaking the silence in the international community over the crimes against the peoples of Palestine. In the process these citizens placed the Egyptian leadership on the defensive and clarified the true alliance between Israel, Egypt and the United States. In the face of the protracted struggles of the Palestinian peoples, the future of US domination in the Middle East remains unclear, hence the political leadership in the USA is seeking new bases of support in Africa to base US troops and to strengthen the US oil corporations. In other parts of North Africa there are leaders who proclaim support for the rights of the self determination of the peoples of Palestine yet, covertly and overtly work with the government of the USA.
The governments of Morocco and Algeria, in particular, stand out as military allies of the USA while posturing that they oppose Israeli occupation. The government of Algeria is an accomplice in fabricating terrorism in the Sahel in order to justify its military alliance with the USA. Similarly, the government of Libya projects itself as a progressive government but is seeking to ingratiate itself with the neo-conservative forces in Washington. Both Algeria and Libya are important producers of petroleum and natural gas.
African Oil -The real objective
The invasion of Iraq, the instability on the border between Turkey and Iraq (with the threat of a Turkish invasion of Iraq), the stalemate over the future of Lebanon and the continued struggles for self determination in Palestine has sharpened the contradictions between imperialism and the peoples of the Middle East. In the face of this situation there are scholars who have argued and presented evidence that the government of the United States has been “fabricating terrorism” in Africa. This fabrication of terrorism carries with it racial stereotypes to support US military action in Africa. The hypocrisy of the US government in this region is manifest in the fact that while there is a major campaign against genocide and against genocidal violence in Darfur, the government of the USA cooperates with the government of the Sudan on the grounds of “intelligence sharing to fight terrorism.” It is in the Sudan where the neo-conservatives are stoking the fires of war in order to get access to the oil resources of the Sudan.
Under the guise of fighting terrorism the government of the US has been involved in many illegal activities such as kidnapping citizens in the so called extraordinary rendition.
Challenging the European Union and China in Africa
The changed realities in the Middle East and in Africa have been accompanied by a new activist posture of China in Africa. Outmaneuvered in Asia by China and challenged by the rising democratic forces in Latin America, the spaces for the accumulation of capital by US capitalists are dwindling.
In the past, when there was a crisis such as the period after the Vietnam War, the USA could transfer the crisis to other countries via the IMF. But the European Union has challenged this calculus and created the Euro as an alternative to the US dollar.
It will not be possible for the IMF to transfer the crisis to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East or Latin America.
This means that there is only one area of the world where the US imperialists will have free rein. This is in Africa. It is also in Africa where there is a movement against the economic terrorism of neo-liberalism and the unjust conditionalities of the IMF and World Bank.
Thus far the majority of African states have refused to host the Africa Command. Despite the aggressive military and diplomatic efforts by the US government, not even the closest “partners’ of the imperialists have supported this call for the Africa Command. There is only one state (Liberia) that has openly called for the basing of the US Africa command on African soil. Though the United States has 5,458 “distinct and discreet military installations around the world there are pressures from the military-industrial and oil complex for the USA to have more effective resources in Africa to defend US capitalism.
For the past twenty years the US government had been building political assets in Kenya to pave the way for ‘security cooperation.” Kenya would have been one of the stops on this visit but the political struggles in Kenya made it impossible for George Bush to visit Kenya. It is this country that has participated in the so called extra-ordinary rendition.
More than 90 persons were captured with apparent U.S. involvement after they fled fighting in Somalia. The prisoners were rendered on a plane chartered by the Kenyan government into secret detention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Uganda would have been another stop on the visit, but the continued war in the North and the clear dictatorial character of the Museveni government made this stop undesirable.
One other undesirable ally is Ethiopia. The government of Meles Zenawi has joined in the efforts to fabricate terrorism in Somalia and has invaded Somalia. Yet, despite this alliance, Bush and the planners in Washington did not deem it safe for Bush to visit Ethiopia.
Bush could not go to South Africa at this time because Jacob Zuma is the President of the ANC. He could not go to Nigeria because the Nigerians are opposed to the so called war on terror. So Bush had to find a country where he could go to. The US settled on Tanzania and Rwanda.
In West Africa, the US President is going to Benin, Liberia and Ghana. It will be the task of the political activists and democratic forces in these societies to demonstrate against the US and the plans for Africom in West Africa.
Peace loving citizens must oppose the militarization of Africa.
In 1980 when the US Central Command was being debated the citizens of the Middle East and North Africa did not sufficiently engage the full meaning of this new military structure. After the militarization of the Middle East, five major wars and millions dead, it is urgent that peace activists oppose the plans to bring Africa closer into this arc of warfare.
The quest for peace in Africa has been sharpened by the crude materialism of the present period and the intensified exploitation of Africans in the era of plunder and looting. Contemporary looting is hidden behind the discourses of liberalization, privatization, the freedom of markets and the Global war on terror. Racist images of war and “anarchy” and “failed states” are mobilized by the international media to justify the launch of the US military command structure for Africa. Those who support real cooperation, solidarity and anti racism must oppose the US Africa command.
We should remember the statement of the columnist of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman who had written, ‘The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist – McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.’ 
 Thomas Friedman, ‘A Manifesto for the Fast World’, New York Times Magazine, March, 1989.
This analysis argues that the calls for peace and reconciliation by the political and religious leaders will remain hollow until there are efforts to break from the recursive processes of looting, extra judicial killings, rape and violation of women, and general low respect for African lives.
This short commentary on the elections and the aftermath seeks to introduce a unified emancipatory approach: liberating humanity from the mechanical, competitive, and individualistic constraints of western philosophy, and re-unifying Kenyans with each other, the Earth, and spirituality. This analysis draws from fractal theory and seeks to place Africans as human beings at the center of the analysis. Fractal theory is founded on aspects of the African knowledge system and breaks the old tribal narratives that refer to Africans as sub humans needing Civilization, Christianity and Commerce.
Those who condemn the post-election violence in Kenya have failed to condemn the traditions of killings and economic terrorism in Kenya. It should be stated clearly that using African women as guinea pigs for western pharmaceuticals is just as outrageous as burning innocent women and children in churches. Rape and violation of women, and exploitation of the poor and of jobless youth have been overlooked by the commentators who focus on one component of the matrix of exploitation in Kenya -- ethnicity.
In tandem with much of the current discourse on fractal theory, this commentary is addressed to progressive intellectuals from Kenya and calls for a revolutionary paradigmatic transformation- one that is intrinsic to African knowledge systems and can be witnessed in practice in the everyday activities of African life. Revolutionary transformations are necessary to break from the processes that have been unleashed in Kenya and East Africa since British colonialism and the British Gulag. This break requires revolutionary ideas in Kenya, along with revolutionary leaders and new forms of political organization. Thus far, neo-liberal capitalism and neo-liberal democratic organizations, along with the focus on party organization have created leaders who organize for political power. These leaders are not even concerned about forming lasting political parties. Far more profound transformations are required in Kenya, beyond the winning of elections. However, until new ideas and new leaders emerge, the current struggles will serve to educate the poor on the limitations of the old politics and ethnic alliances that privilege sections of the Kenyan capitalist class.
The analysis is presented as a drama of three acts. The first act was played out in the form of the election campaign. The second act involved the drama after the announcement of the results and the violent reactions from all sections of the society. The third act of this drama continues to unfold with the call for a fractal analysis that will place revolutionary transformation as the central question on the political agenda in Kenya and East Africa.
Act One – The Struggles over the election and the campaign for the Presidency.
The Scene: Kenya had been the epi- center of imperial domination in East Africa from the period of British colonialism. Caroline Elkins in the book, Britain’s Gulag, has documented for posterity the extreme violence and murders bequeathed to the Kenyan political culture by the British government. At independence in December 1963, Britain handed over power to people who, in essence, agreed to act as junior partners with British capitalism in Eastern and Central Africa. This partnership included an acceptance by the ruling class in Kenya of the western European forms of land ownership that stated that Africans had to be modernized from their “tribal” and “backward” ways. For forty years, Kenya was presented as a success story where a parasitic middle class and a thriving Nairobi Stock Exchange (composed of foreign capital) sought to prove that capitalism could take root in Africa.
Act 1 Scene Two of this drama took the form of a campaign for the tenth Parliament of Kenya. The drama of the struggle for change in Kenya was played out before the world in the form of an electoral struggle that gripped the society for many months. At the end of Scene Two one of the principal props of this drama – the local media - reported that the results were like a “blood bath.” The headline screamed “ energized voters sweep out Vice President, Cabinet Ministers and seasoned politicians as wind of change blows across the country.” But the newspapers were not yet aware of the implications of using language like “blood bath” in their headlines. Every one awaited the final results of the news of who would be President. The results were being delayed while the votes were being cooked. As news of the parliamentary routing of the incumbent President and his allies in the Party of National Unity (PNU) splashed on the streets, on the screens and on text messages while the principal actors and actresses of the drama, the people of Kenya, sought spontaneous actions to ensure that they were not silenced by the power brokers who had placed themselves at the head of the movement for change. These central actors and actresses (wananchi) had enthusiastically participated in the election campaign articulating their demand for peace, reconstruction and transformation of Kenyan society.
By the time of the third scene of this drama, those from the den of thieves around the incumbent Mwai Kibaki sought to silence the media. In order for this scene to be played out without an audience, international observers and the media (both national and international) were ejected from Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) election center at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre. The Chairperson of the ECK went to a small room and announced the results of the elections naming Mwai Kibaki as the winner of the election. Three days later, the same chairperson of the ECK said in the media that he was not sure if Kibaki won the elections.
Earlier in the drama Raila Odinga’s team of regional barons and aspiring capitalists argued that the true results of the elections showed that Raila Odinga had been chosen by the majority of the main players to be the leading man on the Kenyan stage. How was it possible for his Movement to win over one hundred seats in the Parliament (when Kibaki’s den of thieves had won less than thirty parliamentary seats) and still lose the Presidency? Local and foreign observers cried foul. The elections had been rigged. Ballot boxes had been stuffed. Results were being announced that did not correspond to the votes from the constituencies. The integrity of the process was flawed. These voices were soon drowned out by the might and power of those with strategic control over the military and media sections of the performance. Neo-liberal politics include rigging, so that the international observers used ‘measured’ language of “irregularities,” “anomalies” and “weighty issues” to conceal the reality of outright theft. Raila Odinga termed the process a “civilian coup.” But international capital became confused, because, after all the precedent of election rigging in Florida,U.S.A in 2000 had given the green light to electoral fraud internationally.
The Swearing in of President Kibaki
Act One Scene Three of this drama was performed within the guarded confines of State House where parastatal executives, mostly defeated cabinet members and a small section of the media were invited. In this scene, Mwai Kibaki was sworn in as the Third President of the Republic of Kenya. The stage and setting of this scene was markedly different from the previous swearing in at the Uhuru Park (in Nairobi) where an enthusiastic audience had cheered on the President on December 30, 2002. The 2007 swearing in scene had to be played out without the audience because the principal actors and actresses did not endorse this new act. Minutes after the announcement of the victory of Kibaki, there were spontaneous demonstrations all over the country, especially the urban areas. Popular outrage at the theft of the elections brought violence and the killings of innocent civilians in Kakamega, Kisumu, Mombassa, Nairobi, Nakuru and other centers. The police killed innocent demonstrators as the foreign media portrayed the demonstrations in ethnic terms. The gendered, class and ethnic dimensions of the opposition to Kibaki began to be played out in the poor communities that were called slums, but the media focused on one dimension, the ethnic alienation of the poor and exploited.
Hundreds of dead brought home the reality that the elections and vote counting were simply one site of struggle in the quest to break the old politics of exploitation and dehumanization in Kenya. However, because so much of the old politics of exploitation had been masked by the politicization of ethnicity, poor members of the Kikuyu nationality were targeted in some communities, with the killings in Eldoret bringing home the long traditions of ethnic cleaning that had been going on in this region during the Moi regime. The same media neglected to report that poor Kalenjin also torched the home of former President Arap Moi.
Would there be a break from this recursive process of killing of the poor?
Odinga and members of the Pentagon condemned the killings of members of a particular ethnic group but the anger was too deep for the youths to listen. Unfortunately, the ODM did not have structures to properly mobilize the youths away from looting.
Raila Odinga and the Orange Democratic Movement
In order to avert the possible war that could emanate from this new act of the drama there was the need for fresh if not revolutionary ideas to harness the pent up energies of the people for change. The radicalization of Kenyan politics had merged with the anti- globalization forces internationally to the point where in 2007 Kenya hosted the World Social Forum. The radical demands of the Bamako appeal of the Africa Social Forum (for profound social, economic and gender transformations in Africa) could not be carried forward by the old Non Governmental Organization elements allied with international NGO’s from Western Europe. What the World Social Forum had demonstrated was the reality that new revolutionary ideas with new revolutionary forms of organization were needed to realize the goals and aspirations and appeal of the Africa social forum. Raila Odinga and his group of regional ethnic barons had tapped into the radical sentiments of the youth all across the ethnic divisions. Calling his team, the Pentagon, Odinga mobilized the popular discourses about youth, women and disabled to speak about ‘poverty eradication’ and “corruption.”
Absent from the platform of the Orange Democratic Movement was a clear program for reconstruction and transformation. Raila Odinga had been a major political actor on the Kenyan stage for four decades. He had participated in every major political party and formation since his father, Odinga Odinga had emerged as the opponent of the Kenyan form of neo-colonialism. The 2007 elections exposed the reality that there were no real political parties in Kenya. Leaders on all sides were not interested in building a lasting movement for change. They were interested in parties as electoral vehicles to capture state power. There were more than 300 parties registered in Kenya and over 117 participated in the elections in December 2007.
Local and international writers who earlier had been voices for the poor enthusiastically supported the enactment of the first scene of the drama (the election and voting). Some of these writers moaned and groaned that the script had been changed when those who controlled the state machinery unleashed violence against the poor. In order to unleash state violence against the poor, the Minister of Internal Affairs banned the broadcast of live images. The state also toyed with the idea of banning SMS messaging in Kenya. But
Kenyans simply tuned in to the international media to confirm what they knew, that the recursive processes of killings and revenge were spiraling out of control.
Without enacting an official state of emergency (in the fear of further hurting the tourist industry) the majority of poor Kenyans lived under curfew-like conditions as the military, the police, and General Service Units were deployed all over the country and new forms of censorship were implemented. The political leadership that stole the elections had to be careful with the use of the police, military and the intelligence services in so far as the divisions within the security forces challenged the authority of those who stole the elections. Raila Odinga sought to tap into this division of the coercive forces by calling a demonstration of a million Kenyans to oppose the stolen election results.
The International media and international capital
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other cultural voices of imperial power were from the outset one of the props of this drama. The British were particularly active because the interests of British capitalism were very much an important part of narrative of the drama. During Act 1 scenes two and three, this foreign prop had been condemning the “irregularities’” and “anomalies” of the drama and carried the press statements of the International Observers of the European Union and the Commonwealth. The head of the European Union observer mission issued a statement declaring that, “the Presidential poll lacks credibility and an independent audit should be instituted to rectify things.”
This clear statement led the US government to reverse its earlier recognition of Mwai Kibaki as the winner of the Presidential elections. There had been concern in Washington over the future of Kenya in so far as the US authorities sought to mobilize Kenyans in the war against terrorism. During the period of Kibaki, Kenyan citizens were shipped out of the country to be tried as terrorists under the US policy of kidnapping, called rendition. The ODM signed a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic community during the election campaign and members of the ODM condemned the rendering of Kenyan citizens by the government. It was argued that if these citizens acted contrary to Kenyan law, they should be tried under Kenyan law.
The propaganda war had been virulent and since Raila Odinga held the moral and political high ground, sections of the international media began to retreat from endorsement of the electoral coup. However, the occupation of the moral high ground was shaky. Would the government and opposition be more concerned with the lives of the poor than with political power?
In the face of the absence of resolute moral leadership to condemn these killings, the international media had a field day portraying the struggles for democracy in Kenya as primitive “tribal” violence.
Act Two – Stalemate and brinkmanship in politics
Raila Odinga and his team called the Pentagon had entered the drama seeking to play on the terms of those who had seized power from the time of colonialism. The very naming of his team as the ‘Pentagon’ had shown an insensitivity to the international revulsion against military symbols. The five leaders of the Pentagon were, (i) Vice Presidential running mate M Mudavadi, (ii) Charity Ngilu, (iii) William Ruto, (iv) Bilal Najib and (v) Joseph Nyagah. These regional ethnic barons had emerged from multiple political formations and many had family and business linkages with capitalists inside and outside of the government. During the campaign these regional leaders had campaigned on a pledge to devolve power from central government. The poor believed this would bring power closer to the village and communities so that health care facilities, water supply systems, road and pathways in the villages, education, sanitation and other services could be delivered so that the conditions of exploitation are ameliorated. These localized services were interpreted by various local communities as job creation avenues for the jobless youths. For the regional barons, the devolution debate was carried out to ensure easier access to the treasury. The word ‘majimbo’ re- emerged in the political vocabulary of Kenya to reignite the memory of the alliance between the ‘home guards’ and settlers at the dawn of independence.
Youths all across Kenya had transcended the ethnic identification and wanted real change in the quality of life in the society.
Entering the drama without a real party and without a real organ to bring the majority of the actors and actresses to the center of the drama, it was easy for the team around Mwai Kibaki to stall so that the spontaneous anger would peter out. Would the Orange Democratic Revolution learn the lessons of popular power in the streets of the Ukraine Orange Revolution and shake the old power with new bases of alternative power? This provided the setting for the central aspect of the drama, the stand off between the forces of orange and the forces of the defeated power. Kibaki came across as an imprisoned leader, surrounded by politicians and financiers who argued that Kibaki must enter any negotiation from a position of strength. Odinga countered that negotiations could only begin when Kibaki accepted that the elections had been stolen. The hardening of positions ratcheted up the tensions in the country as regionally countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and the Southern Sudan began to feel the effects of the shutdown of the transportation system in Kenya.
Mwai Kibaki and the neo-liberal regime in Kenya
Mwai Kibaki had been associated with the ruling class in Kenya for over fifty years. Starting his career as a representative of Shell Oil Company in Kampala, Uganda, Kibaki moved from an academic position at Makerere University to the top echelons of the independent government of Kenya after independence. In the book, The Reds and the Blacks, William Atwood, then-US ambassador, had identified Kibaki as one of the steady ‘reformers” who would guarantee the interests of foreign capital. Kibaki emerged as a stable force in the ruling circles serving both Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi as Minister of Finance. It was under the leadership of Kenyatta and Moi that the forms of theft by the ruling elements in Kenya were refined. Extra judicial killings and accidental deaths of prominent trade union leaders and politicians were papered over by the foreign press that labeled Kenya a ‘stable’ democracy.
Arap Moi and international capital.
After the death of Kenyatta in 1978, Daniel Arap Moi moved decisively to cement an alliance of foreign capitalists and local political careerists to loot the society and spread divisions and ethnic hatred among the poor and oppressed. British capitalism had been the dominant force in Kenya with British companies such as Unilever, Finlays, GSK, Vodafone, Barclays and Standard Bank becoming leading names on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. Britain had made a deal with the independence leaders and awarded a small sum to enhance this new class of African yeoman farmers to join the British settlers in the exploitation of Kenya and indeed, East Africa. Molo, in the Rift Valley (one of the constituencies at the center of the row over the rigged elections), represented one of the places where Kikuyu settlers had been relocated after independence.
Moi during his Presidency remained at the center of the alliance between British capitalists, Asian capitalists and Kikuyu entrepreneurs from Central Province. By the time of the electoral defeat of Moi in December 2002, the Moi family and cronies in the ruling party, Kenya African National Union (KANU) had become junior capitalists in the game of exploitation. It was under the leadership of Moi that imperialism used Kenya as a base to subvert African independence. A report commissioned by the Kibaki administration, (called the Kroll Report), had named Moi and his sons as billionaires with assets in banks in Britain, Switzerland, South Africa, Namibia, the Cayman Islands and Brunei. The 110-page report by the international risk consultancy Kroll alleged that relatives and associates of former President Moi siphoned off more than £1bn of government money. This documentation placed the Mois on a par with Africa's other great politicians-cum-looters such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and Nigeria's Sani Abacha. The Kroll report of the levels of theft when presented to the Kibaki government was never acted on. The alliance between Moi and Kibaki forces became clearer during the election campaign when Moi and his sons fiercely campaigned for the re –election of President Kibaki. The sons of Moi were decisively defeated in the elections.
The documentation of the level of theft by Moi was exposed before the public in what to became known as the Goldenberg scandal. This scandal brought to the fore the alliance between Moi, KANU and Asian capitalists in Kenya. These capitalists had looted the country with such impunity that Kamlesh Mdami Pattni (an Asian capitalist named in the Goldenberg scandal) took over one party Kenda to contest the 2007 elections.
Prior to the 1992 multi-party struggles, Kibaki had sought to distance himself from this group of capitalists. These were the capitalists involved in settler agriculture, manufacturing, transport, services, old forms of banking, insurance, real estate, construction and engineering and the health and education sectors. These capitalists from inside and outside the political arena provided cover for looters all across Eastern Africa. In the Kenyan economy money from oil in the Sudan (especially Southern Sudan), commercial interests in Somalia, gold and diamond dealers from Rwanda, Burundi and the Eastern Congo circulated with the resources from the exploited Kenyan working poor so that in the past ten years there has been a growth of the Kenyan economy. Felicia Kabunga, wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICRT) for crimes of genocide in Rwanda was the kind of looter and money spinner who found safe haven among the money launderers in Kenya.
Kibaki and the rise of new capitalists.
Although Mwai Kbaki had campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket in 2002, his tenure as President of Kenya was marked by an explosion of new schemes for accumulation. The rise of the telecommunications, information technology and banking sectors boomed with new enterprises such as Equity Bank and a number of communications companies (Safaricom, Flashcom, Telecom etc) rivaling the old capitalists. The floating of new shares n the form on an Initial Public Offer (IPO) for the Company, Safarcom, became a central question in the election campaign in so far as those who got access to the shares at the time of the issuing of the IPO became instant millionaires.
The Kibaki government was in the main dominated by elements who formed a company called MEGA (a regrouping of the old Gema Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association), and through Transcentury Corporation had elevated themselves to be the among the leading capitalists in Kenya. This group presented a program called Vision 2030 where Kenya would become the leading capitalist country in Africa, becoming the Singapore of Africa. Control of the governmental apparatus was crucial for Vision 2030.
Space does not allow for an elaboration of the individuals of this capitalist clique and their place in the interpenetrating directorates of the Nairobi Stock Exchange. What is significant is that the names of the capitalists and politicians of Trancentury figured in the scandal of corruption that rocked the government of Mai Kibaki. This was termed the Anglo-leasing scandal which involved awarding huge government contracts to bogus companies. One insider, John Githongo, exposed the scandal and repaired to Britain.
No money from the Anglo leasing scandal had been recovered before the elections and although European and US governments made noises about corruption there were no moves to repatriate the stolen wealth back to Kenya. These scandals were very much a part of the election campaign. Three of the four ministers who resigned after the Anglo Leasing scandal was exposed had been reinstated by Kibaki. These ministers along with twenty other ministers lost their parliamentary seats in the December 2007 elections.
The poor of Kenya had used the ballot to send a message to the capitalists in Kenya but those who stole billions of dollars from the Kenyan Treasury were not above stealing an election.
The real test in Kenyan politics was whether the team called the Pentagon was serious about changing the political culture of theft, looting and storing billions of dollars in foreign banks. The people of Kenya had voted for change. Was the Orange Democratic Movement a movement for change or a movement for political power? This was the outstanding question as the cast and the writers got ready for Act three of the drama of the struggle for democracy.
Act 3. A Revolutionary situation without revolutionary ideas and real revolutionaries.
Because the drama is being played out it is not possible to make a presentation of the last act of this drama. This is the act where the peoples of Kenya are torn between two traditions. These are the traditions of the freedom fighters for independence and the traditions of violence, looting and the low respect for African life. The youths of Kenya have been brought up in the period of the aftermath of the end of apartheid and the defeat of Mobutism. These youths have risen above the politicization of ethnicity and along with progressive women want to end the rape and violation of women. These youths have been heard to say that Kenya is in the midst of a liberation war.
While the consciousness of the youth may be high with the thought of a long term struggle, there are very few revolutionary leaders and a poverty of revolutionary ideas in Kenya. If anything, the poorer youths are being mobilized into counter-revolutionary violence where poor and oppressed people burn and kill each other. This was the lesson of the killings, burning and massacre in the Rift Valley. Counter-revolutionary violence of the Rwanda genocidal form lay just below the surface and the same politicians who gave refuge to genocidaires from Rwanda are not above fomenting genocidal violence among the poor. The media images of marauding youths with pangas provide the necessary imagery to represent to the world another version of African savagery. This same media will not prominently carry the news that poor peasants from the home area of Danieal Arap Moi burnt his house to the ground. The prospect of real class warfare in Kenya frightens both the government and the opposition so there is a delicate effort to manage the crisis so that the forms of capital accumulation can return to the business pages rather than the front pages.
Raila Odinga and the Orange Democratic movement are now caught between the aspirations of the regional capitalists of the ‘Pentagon’ and the demand for real change across Kenya. The post election mayhem is a clear demonstration that the ODM did not sufficiently engage their followers on new ideas transcending ethnicity and patriarchy. This demand for democratic change in Kenya will require new forms of organization beyond electoral politics and new ideas about the value of African lives. This requires a break with the European ideation systems that promote capitalism as democracy and genocide as progress.
At the summit of the African Union in Ghana in July 2007, Robert Mugabe was given a standing ovation. Later he went outside the conference to deliver a roaring anti–imperialist speech at a huge public rally. At the Nkrumah square Mugabe was hailed as one of the most steadfast revolutionary leaders in Africa. One year later, at the African Union Conference in Cairo, Egypt, Robert Mugabe was shunned by most leaders and condemned by those who opposed the authoritarian and dictatorial methods of rule. One day prior to the conference Mugabe had been sworn in as President after a non-election where he was the only candidate. This was a far cry from his initial inauguration in April 1980 when he was sworn in as Prime Minister before a throng of hundreds of thousands. Bob Marley had led the popular anti-racist and anti-imperialist forces to this celebration and had sung, Africans a liberate Zimbabwe. By June 2008 Robert when Mugabe was sworn in his regime had degenerated from a party associated with the legacies of Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah to an organization associated with the militarism and repression of Mobutu Sese Seko and Hastings Banda. Working peoples all across the region led and inspired by the Congress of South African Trade Unions opposed the Mugabe government and called for its isolation. Nelson Mandela was moved to declare that one was witnessing a “tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe.”
It is this failure that needs to be contextualized not simply as a Zimbabwean phenomenon, but as one of the forms and content of politics and political engagement in an era of economic depression and discredited neo-liberalism. All over the African continent the poor and oppressed have borne the brunt of the food crisis, the energy crisis, the health pandemics, and the crisis of the financial markets. This is the cataclysm that is being termed the worst capitalist crisis since the depression of the 1930’s. While spokespersons for capitalism such as Alan Greenspan have noted the depth of the contradictions between capitalist wealth and the impoverishment of the peoples of the globe, the G8 discourse on increasing aid flows block serious analysis of the impact of the capitalist depression in Africa and other parts of the downtrodden world. Food riots and other forms of spontaneous expressions of resistance have been taking place in the absence of clear organizational forms to respond to this capitalist depression. It is in South Africa where the workers are organizing against the high food prices with marches.
Inside a country such as Zimbabwe the internal political contradictions and the dire economic conditions serve to compound the oppression of the Zimbabwean peoples. It is this oppression that calls for both clear analysis and action on the part of those who want support the oppressed and are not accessories to their oppression by overt and covert support for the Mugabe regime. The Zimbabwean working peoples have been well organized and it is in part the quality of their organization that exposed the Mugabe government and the ZANU-PF party. These organized workers and human rights activists exposed a clique of political careerists and militarists that represented itself as an anti-imperialist force in Africa. From among the ranks of the working peoples emerged various political organizations. The political party that emerged out of this alliance of working peoples is the Movement for Democratic Change. (MDC).
The MDC is only one section of the opposition to the government of Robert Mugabe which has been called illegitimate after the March 29, elections. There were organizations based on the workers themselves, organizations of small farmers, organizations of poor women, of students, of health professionals and patriotic intellectuals. Additionally there were organizations of human rights and NGO reformers. Some of these elements were merged into a continent wide organization called the Africa Social Forum. The local formation was called the Zimbabwe Social Forum. However, the section of the opposition that had the most access to financial resources was those human rights and NGO activists who were linked to the social democratic foundations from Western Europe that are called the “donor community.” These foundations along with the forward planners within the USA and Britain were most concerned about the potentialities of the workers in so far as in one of the strongest working class communities the electorate voted for a declared socialist in the 2002 elections. The Movement for Democratic Change had been formed as an alternative to the ruling party and since 1989 -1990 has used the elections as the main form of political engagement.
IMPERATIVE TO STUDY THE BACKGROUND TO THE ECONOMIC MELT DOWN
The present struggles in Zimbabwe comprise a classic struggle between those steeped in the politics of thuggery and violence and those who want a new mode of politics in Zimbabwe. In our earlier study of Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation, this author spelt out the social origins of the leaders who had emerged as the leaders of the liberation movement. Our task was to reinforce the warning of Frantz Fanon that exploitation can wear a black face as well as a white one. It is now essential that progressives go back and read the historical study by Michael West, The Rise of an African Middle Class: Colonial Zimbabwe, 1898-1965. West traces the growth and tactics of an African middle class which had the unenviable task of constructing itself during the early part of the 20th century and under white minority rule. While not directly topical to the present-day, it shows how the socialization of the same class which now occupies the government there and in many other places in and out of Africa could have affected the fate of the African masses. The bottom line was that this middle class wanted to occupy the positions of the former colonial overlords without fundamentally transforming the colonial economic relation.
Though the neo-liberal discourse on Africa seeks to suffocate those seeking to understand the political quagmire the struggles of the people have generated a rich corpus of literature on the challenges of post-liberation societies in Africa. Zimbabwean scholars who are linked to the working class movement have been most prolific in their analysis of the conditions of the people. Of these scholars, Brian Raftopoulos and Lloyd Sachikonye have been unflinching in their support for the working class forces. There are two studies worth recommending, (i) Striking Back: The Labour Movement and the Post-Colonial State in Zimbabwe 1980-2000, edited by Brian Raftopoulos; Lloyd Sachikonye , Weaver Press Harare, Zimbabwe 2001 and (ii) Lloyd M. Sachikonye, The Situation of Commercial Farm Workers after Land Reform in Zimbabwe, A Report for the Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe, March 2003. These studies that start from the conditions of the working people can be distinguished from the prolific writings of writers such as Martin Meredith and other journalist who write from the point of view of the concern for the former white commercial farmers. In the book, Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe, Meredith bemoans the use of force and violence by the Mugabe regime. This book did not see the continuity between the violence of the Ian Smith regimes and the Mugabe regime.
Because of the levels of violence and oppression there are hundreds of books, articles and studies on contemporary Zimbabwe. From within the organized opposition there are different accounts but by far the most penetrating have come from the African feminists. Women activists such as Grace Kwinjeh, Mary Ndlovu and Elinor Sisulu stand out in terms of the clarity of their writings and the focus on the need for transformative politics.
Edgar Tekere, the former Secretary General of the ruling party has written his own account of the levels of violence unleashed by the party against opponents and even against members of the party itself. The book, A Lifetime of Struggle is instructive in so far as the evidence of the killings, accidents and poisoning came from an insider and not from international organs such as Human Rights Watch or the International Crisis Group.
HEIGHTENED INTEREST AFTER THE JUNE 27 ELECTIONS
The focus of the international attention on Zimbabwe after the March 29, 2008 elections brought out the depths to which the regime has sunk. Pan African platforms such as Pambazuka news sought to bring to a worldwide audience the fatal decline and the appalling rise of inhumanity in the name of anti-imperialism and revolution in Zimbabwe. Here was a government that had clearly lost the elections and spent one month before releasing the results of this election. While the ruling party was studying its options after the results showed hat it had lost the parliamentary and Presidential elections there was a reign of terror unleashed by forces within the military and security apparatus. Thabo Mbeki and the South African government were shamed into admitting that there was unprecedented violence against the people. Robert Mugabe declared war against the citizens of Zimbabwe and declared that only God could remove him from office.
This defiance from the government of Mugabe was reinforced by the organization of the run off elections on June 27. The violence, intimidation, murders and kidnapping of the opposition had reached such proportions that the leader of the opposition pulled out of the elections and sought refuge in a foreign embassy. The fact that the leader of the MDC sought refuge in the premises of the Dutch embassy and not an African legation was very problematic. However, this low point reflected in part the reality that most African governments had been willing to make excuses for the government of Zimbabwe. By the end of June the violence reached a point where the leaders of the Southern African Development Community condemned the violence and declared that there could be no free and fair elections in Zimbabwe on June 27. The fact that the Angolan government had broken with its past full support for the actions of Mugabe and the ZANU-PF was the most striking aspect of this condemnation. The Angolan/ Zimbabwean alliance had been forged in the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 1998-2002. In a debate with Gerald Horne, he reminded the audience that Swaziland was a dictatorship and was in no position to critique the conditions in Zimbabwe. This author would only add that the struggles in Zimbabwe by the working peoples was brining attention to the struggles of working peoples all across Africa in so far as the conditions of oppression was one that faced all workers across the region. The reality that Robert Mugabe had declared war against the people meant that it was now necessary to condemn the violence and murder. Yet, in the midst of all of this there were nationalist and “anti-imperialists” in the United States who were defending the Mugabe regime. In reality these forces were now accessories to the war against the people of Zimbabwe.
WHO ARE THE FORCES IN ZIMBABWE?
It is the poor in Zimbabwe who have borne the brunt of the thuggery and violence meted out by the Mugabe regime. The mass of the Zimbabwean peoples (workers, farmers, students, independent clergy, patriotic business persons, committed intelligentsia, and oppressed women) have suffered in numerous ways with the quality of the lives of the people deteriorating by geometric proportions. In 2005 when the party and government launched a military style operation against the poor in the urban areas, it called the people, filth. Thus far the electoral struggle has been one of the main forms of contestation in Zimbabwe. It must be restated that while the regime seeks to ride on its stature as the party of liberation, it will now be necessary to go back to understand the seeds of this political retrogression within the very tactics of fighting the liberation war. Not only has the regime discredited certain forms of armed actions but the violations and killings within the liberation camps and the divisions between the liberation movements will have to be re-visited. In the past, the female freedom fighters were the ones who had broken the silence on the authoritarianism and commandism within the ranks of the fighters.
In the face of the rush of Thabo Mbeki to establish a Government of National Unity, it is even more urgent to go back to this commandism and militarism to reflect on the experiences of Joshua Nkomo and ZAPU in the post independence era. After the forces of ZAPU were crushed militarily and ZAPU was humiliated, Nkomo joined a government of National Unity in 1987. Of the government of National Unity, Edgar Tekere remarked in his biography:
“As it turned out, ZAPU was indeed swallowed up by ZANU, leading to an effective one party state. Nkomo agreed to compromise to such an extent because he was afraid of another Gukurahundi which would wipe out the Ndebele people completely.” Page 153.
Nkomo was referring to the crimes against humanity that had been carried out in the immediate post independence period when it tens of thousands were killed by the regime. A full Truth and Reconciliation Commission is urgently needed in Zimbabwe to bring out the truth and to heal the society from the scars of these terror campaigns and mass murders that had been carried out in the name of African liberation.
Thabo Mbeki and the African Union are working hard on a government of National Unity but such a unity government cannot go forward without the demobilization of the military, security and intelligence forces that have unleashed terror against the people. Ibbo Mandaza, an insider within the ranks of the divided ZANU forces noted at the time of the launch of the Tekere book that militarism was endemic and central to the survival of the system. He had noted that the present political situation “reveals how that militarism of the liberation war has overflown into the current situation where we have violence of the state.”
It is this violence of the state that undermines the present actions of the Mbeki forces to establish a government of national unity without serious demilitarization of the society. There are two distinct proposals before the people after the illegitimate regime of Mugabe has been condemned by the SADC meeting of June 25. The first is the proposal being worked out by Mbeki for a government of National Unity. The second is for a the establishment of a transitional government, comprising both MDC and Zanu-PF representatives, to stabilize the country’s politics and economy and create conditions for peaceful, free and fair elections.
Brian Raftopoulos the Zimbabwean activist referred to above has stressed that this transitional government would not be the same as the government of national unity, which many Mbeki and the African Union are advocating. He noted, “The government of national unity would be a long-term entity whereas the transitional government would remain in power only long enough to stabilize the country.”
STABILIZING THE COUNTRY FOR WHOM?
The stabilization of the country so that the exploitation of the working people can continue without the full presence of the international media is urgent for both the present leaders of Zimbabwe and South Africa. For the Mbeki section of the ANC leadership the alliance between capitalists in Zimbabwe and South Africa can continue without the kind of scrutiny which should be brought to bear on the working conditions for workers on the mines and farms in South Africa and Zimbabwe. For the ZANU-PF leadership the competition for resources between the top factions of the illegitimate regime is so intense that there is need for more open relations with foreign capitalists. When the German company that printed the currency for the government signaled that it was going to stop printing the paper for the currency, this was one more blow. This is despite the fact that the currency is now so devalued that Zimbabweans need trillions of dollars to buy a loaf of bread.
The two military factions of the ZANU-PF (Munangagwa and Chiwenga on one side and Solomon Mujuru on the other) are in a death bed struggle not only to keep ZANU in power but to decide which faction should have access to the foreign exchange of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Thus far, those closest to Mugabe and the Governor of the Bank, Gideon Gono are the ones with the forces with the most to lose from a transitional government that seeks to demilitarize the society. Reports after report have outlined the ways in which the Munangagwa and Chiwenga faction have mobilized the military to enhance their personal and financial fortunes in the name of liberation.
MILITARISM AND THE DOG EAT DOG STRUGGLES
After destroying the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe in the past ten years, the top elements of ministers, civil servants, military and intelligence officials have participated in a speculative orgy and made the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange one of the most profitable for those with links to power. All of the indices of extreme economic crisis exist in Zimbabwe: more than 80 per cent unemployment, hunger, food shortages, shortages of medicinal supplies, inflation of over 100,000 per cent and critical shortages of fuel, water and electricity. It is in the midst of this misery where the generals and party leaders are making huge profits from their control over the printing of money and speculating on scarce commodities. The USA and the European Union imposed limited sanctions on the leadership but because international capitalism is no longer monolithic, the Mugabe regime has been supported by capitalists from China, Malaysia, Libya, and sections of Europe.
British capitalists never left Zimbabwe. Standard Chartered and Barclays Bank are among the biggest British-owned banks operating inside Zimbabwe. British American Tobacco (BAT) continues with it near century old infrastructure inside of Zimbabwe and dominates what remains of the tobacco crop, while British Petroleum has a large slice of the fuel retail sector and Rio Tinto and Falgold are involved in gold mining.
The corporations with the biggest stake in Zimbabwe have been the South African capitalist classes. Because of the degree of interpenetration of the two economies over the past century many corporations can do business inside of Zimbabwe while no longer reflecting the performances of their Zimbabwean operations on their books. One report in the Mail and Guardian of South Africa listed, Anglo-American Corporation, which is by far one of the most powerful transnational corporations in Southern Africa as one company planning to invest over US $400m in the platinum mining sector. This company continues to hold large tracts of land and interests in agro-industry and mining. South African Standard Bank, whose Zimbabwean subsidiary is Stanbic, is also involved in the banking sector. Old Mutual another major South African corporation is involved in real estate and insurance. PPC Cement; Murray and Roberts; Truworths; Edcon, which owns the Edgars clothes retail chain is another South African companies.
Other South African companies include Hulett-Tongaat, which has a stake in Hippo Valley Sugar Estates; grocery chain Spar; and SAB Miller, which has a stake in Zimbabwe's Delta Beverages. Zimbabwe’s thriving mining sector is dominated by foreign companies that include South Africa's Impala Platinum and Mzi Khumalo's Metallon Gold. While the Mugabe government has been seizing land from commercial farmers this government has also been removing poor peasants from the land to make space for the mining companies. Metallon Gold, which owns five gold mines in the country, produced more than 50% of the country's revenue from gold production. It is not clear how much of the returns from these operations are channeled through official channels so that there are revenues for the Central Bank.
One of the byproducts of the repression in Zimbabwe has been the reality that the above named companies have been able to operate in Zimbabwe when workers did not have the protection of trade unions. As part of the crackdown on opponents of the regime the ZANU PF government has arrested and detained scores of trade union leaders. Thus in the expansion of the mining sector in the past eight years the workers in this mining sector now have even less protection than they had during the period of the anti colonial struggles. In the rush to offer new concessions to foreign mining companies who are profiting from the commodity boom, the ZANU government has trampled on the rights that the Zimbabwean workers won as a component of the independence struggles.
This alliance between Zimbabwean capitalists and South African capitalists is manifest in the support for Mugabe by Thabo Mbeki. It is this close connection between Zimbabwean capital and South African capital that partially accounts for the "quiet diplomacy" of Thabo Mbeki. The political leadership in Zimbabwe has degraded every principle of democracy, the right to collective bargaining, the rights of workers to health and safety conditions at work, the right to organize independently of employers, the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and freedom to participate in an open democratic political process. South African workers are defending the democratic rights of the Zimbabwean workers because they understand that ultimately they are also defending their own rights.
WHO ARE THE FORCES OF THE OPPOSITION?
Imperial forces are also at work within the ranks of the opposition. Because of the degree of the maturity of the Zimbabwean working peoples, imperialism has been very active within the ranks of the opposition to ensure that the primary means of political opposition to Mugabe by the workers is channeled into the MDC organization and does not develop into a more radicalized and politicized form of engagement. In its origins the MDC owes its political support to the support of the workers in the urban areas. At the outset the militancy of the workers and members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions had defined the base of the party. From these beginnings the workers were joined by human rights groups, NGO elites and elements from the expropriated commercial farmer sector. There were therefore three identifiable factions of the MDC.
The first and most important was the workers, itinerant traders, unemployed from the townships, progressive clergy, students and progressive women. The second represented the human rights and lawyer types, middle class professionals, NGO elites and constitutional activists who had convened the National Constitutional Assembly. And The third faction represented elements from the commercial farmers and settler forces such as Eddie Cross, Ray Bennett and David Colart who joined the opposition to Mugabe. It is the presence of these elements, epitomized by the position of Eddie Cross, that hinders a clear position on the land question by the Movement for Democratic Change.
For a short period Munyaradzi Gwisai of the International Socialist Organization of Zimbabwe represented one of the voices calling for the MDC to adopt a more radical position. Gwisai had contested the seat of the Highfield Constituency as a socialist in the ranks of the MDC and won. He was expelled from the party in 2002.
Morgan Tsvangirai (the leader of the MDC) had survived the trade union movement in Zimbabwe to emerge as the head of the coalition of the different forces who were to form the MDC. Although his origins were with the workers the top echelons of the party was dominated by the NGO elites and those with close connection to German Social democrats. For a while Tsvangirai’s leadership was threatened by a break away faction. This was the faction led by Arthur Mutambara who was even more explicit about the need for ties with South African capital and western interests. Mutambara’s faction contested the 2008 elections as a separate party from the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
None of the factions of the leadership of the MDC escaped the violence and brutality. Of the three factions of the original MDC, the one that faced the least brutality were the elements from the commercial and managerial classes. These were the ones with the resources to move back and fro to South Africa when the violence escalated. The ones who have faced the brunt of the brutality have been the leaders of the workers, and students. These elements have been beaten, killed and the women violated. One group of independent women who had formed the Women of Zimbabwe Arise group (WOZA) faced constant harassment. Other independent women leaders such as Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland were beaten and forced into exile. See the analysis of Grace Kwinjeh on her blog.
The constitutionalists in the MDC were slowly eclipsed insofar as the Mugabe government made it clear after the referendum in February 2000 that the ruling party would use force and would not be open to petitions and changes in the constitution.
In the past five years it is group C those from the former commercial farmers and merchant elements that has held decisive influence over the leadership of the MDC. This group is clear that recovery in Zimbabwe is based on the massive inflow of capital from Britain and the USA. There is the mistaken belief as represented in the writings of Eddie Cross that there are resources in the West to aid Zimbabwe. This kind of thinking has not taken into account the financial crisis that has shaken western capitalism since the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the West. Economic recovery in Zimbabwe will necessitate long term investments in health education, the infrastructure and breaking down the colonial forms of accumulation in agriculture and mining. Mugabe has Africanized this structure and a government of National Unity cannot solve the economic problems.
While the MDC represents a political opposition to a Mugabe led government, it does not represent an opposition to capitalism in Zimbabwe. In many ways the MDC represents a "return" to a junior partner-master relationship between the Zimbabwe capitalist class and international capital. The MDC's economic plan to "rebuild the economy", is based on the neo-liberal thinking of the IMF and World Bank. Such thinking would perpetuate the orientation of the Zimbabwean economy towards the interests of global markets and investors, not the needs of the Zimbabwean people. Because of the imperialist penetration of the MDC, it has emphasized electoral engagement to oppose Mugabe, so as not to oppose capitalism.
Zimbabwe’s people need and deserve that the government be judged by its peers right there in the African continent and the African Union not by the world’s super powers.
Africans by and large do not regard the USA as a model human rights upholder. It’s own handling of elections and the right to vote, at another level, and its range of international violations, its present entanglements in the Middle East disqualify it as a champion of Zimbabweans, at this stage.
While the policy choices of Zanu-PF have clearly demonstrated an inability to help the Zimbabwean economy (her workers, farmers and students) to sustain them in today's global economy, the MDC does not represent a progressive alternative. The current position as articulated by the economic spokespersons of the MDC does not entail a transformation of the economy.
History has already demonstrated that the agricultural/mining model cannot support socioeconomic transformation in Zimbabwe. Progressives should note that the Zimbabwean people are between a political rock and an economic hard place between Zanu-Pf and the MDC Mass actions such as strikes, stay-aways and other forms of protests had been severely constrained by the wave of repression in Zimbabwe in the past five years. This repression intensified in 2006-2007 but did not prevent the opposition from mounting a credible electoral challenge. This yielded some benefits in the elections of March 29, 2008.
It was this election and its aftermath that exposed the reality that change in Zimbabwe will not be easy. Since the meeting of the African Union in Egypt and the G8 summit in Japan there are intensified efforts to establish a government of National Unity. It should be repeated that Mbeki has called for this government to end the possibility of a Civil War in Zimbabwe. Mbeki overlooked the fact that there is already a war against the people of Zimbabwe. Secondly, and more importantly, neither Mbeki nor the African Union has spelt out whether this government of Nation a Unity will be different from the previous government of National Unity that swallowed up the forces of Joshua Nkomo and ZAPU. Will those who carried out the murders, violations and kidnapping in Zimbabwe be allowed to participate in the GNU? Will this be another method of granting immunity to those who have been responsible for the most outrageous brutalities against the people since the end of formal apartheid?
MAKING A BREAK WITH REPRESSION AND VIOLENCE
Those elements from the opposition who are interested in political power will be entering into discussions on the government of National Unity. The forces from the ZANU leadership who want to break out of international isolation will also work for the GNU. However, neither of these forces is concerned about long term transformation of the politics and a break from the militaristic traditions that have been legitimized as liberation traditions. One service that the Mugabe regime has rendered for the history of African liberation is for the next generation to critically assess the whole experience of the liberation struggle to unearth the foundations of the present repression. In order to make a break with economic repression, militarism, patriarchy, masculinist violence, rape and homophobic oppression there needs to be a new political culture in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa.
This political culture is already emerging with the fission in the MDC between those interested in power and those interested in the conditions of the workers, poor farmers, poor women, students and hawkers. Western European social democrats who have bankrolled the NGO elites and fostered a spirit of intellectual subservience and dependence among the constitutionalists are working over time to ensure that there is a settlement that can bring together one set of capitalists within ZANU with the most pro-capitalist sections of the opposition. It is the kind of unity that will not prioritize the demilitarization of the society.
In the face of the repression within Zimbabwe it is the organized workers in South Africa that have come out as the most forthright opponent of the Zimbabwe repression. COSATU have called for the isolation of the Zimbabwe government and a blockade of the country. Earlier the workers at the ports blocked an arms shipment from China that was destined to be used to repress the workers. The opposition of the workers across Southern Africa will re ignite the cross border alliances that had been developed in the period of the anti-apartheid struggles. Inside South Africa itself, the struggles within the ANC has broken out into an open confrontation between populist forces and the neo-liberal forces around Thabo Mbeki. Jacob Zuma was able to ride on the populism to become the leader of the party. But Jacob Zuma cannot control this populism in so far as the economic conditions provide the incentive for independent organizing by the workers. The South African workers are being radicalized by the glaring disparities between the new black Bourgeoisie and the mass of the population. South African youths who support the Jacob Zuma faction should read the book of Edgar Tekere to learn how the militarism of former liberation leaders can turn into its opposite.
Governments of South Africa, of the USA and Britain as well as many of the leaders of the African Union are anxious to defuse what could develop into a revolutionary situation in Southern Africa. This is the situation where the political initiative is seized by COSATU inside South Africa in an alliance with workers in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique,, Zambia and Angola seek to develop a regional alliance to combat food prices, high energy costs and the absence of expenditures on health care.
In less than one generation the anti apartheid leaders have been discredited. Imperialism understands the force of prolonged popular struggle; hence there is urgency in reaching a deal in Zimbabwe before popular forms of protests develop across Southern Africa. More than twenty years ago peaceful protests brought down the regimes of Marcos in the Philippines and the Shah of Iran. Now, in the face of the world capitalist crisis, high energy prices, food prices and the health crisis in Africa, there is a struggle for life itself. It is this struggle that offers the potential for renewal. It is for the renewal of life, village renewal, community renewal and renewal of the confidence of the people that they can make history again.
UBUNTU AND REVOLUTIONARY POSSIBILITIES
Ubuntu and reparations anchors this renewal in so far as the poor and oppressed in the society want to be human beings. Desmond Tutu had articulated the ideas of ubuntu in the immediate period after the end of apartheid but the articulators of the African Renaissance sought to redefine Ubuntu to legitimize self enrichment. The manipulation of Ubuntu by Mbeki and the capitalists should not discredit Ubuntu. Just as how the activities of George Bush and the wars in the name of god has not discredited Christianity, so progressives must distinguish between the African renaissance of Mbeki and a genuine thrust for repair and healing. Reconciliation is one important component of healing.
Ubuntu is an understanding of the shared humanity of all who live in a society. It is clearer in Zimbabwe that the local capitalists do not care about the humanity of the mass of the sufferers. This is the same for the black and white capitalists in South Africa. Ubuntu contains the seeds of revolutionary ideas if these ideas are rooted in the capacities of the people for self activity and for creative forms of struggle to move Africa to the next stage in the recovery of independence and emancipation. Here the memories of the anti apartheid and anti colonial struggles provide an inspiration to remind the people that it is the organizational capabilities of the poor that will change society.
Change is not enough, however. There is need for renewal and this renewal must come with repair. The reparations movement has grown internationally. This movement has declared that apartheid, slavery and colonialism were crimes against humanity. African humanity cannot be renewed without repair. Imperialism understands the force of the claims for reparative justice. In the courts of the USA, progressives from South Africa are using the legal challenges to those capitalists who cooperated with the apartheid regime, to heighten the awareness of the need for reparative justice. The Mbeki government opposes these claims for reparations. The European Union and the USA do not want a generalized and educated campaign for reparative justice.
This then accounts for the intensity of the expenditures among the so-called NGO’s. European states will finance human rights NGO’s in Africa as long as they do not raise the questions of reparations. Traditional communist and socialists parties are also afraid of the reparative claims in so far as the reparations debate undermines one of the core ideas of the view that the capitalist mode of production represented a positive force in Africa. Both Mugabe and Mbeki have sought to cut off Africa from this reparations movement.
BEYOND ELECTIONS TO PROLONGED DEMOCRATIC STRUGGLES
At the age of 84, Mugabe may certainly get his wish that only God can remove him from office. Serious divisions exist within the ruling party over who will control the levers of plunder and repression. The challenge for the progressive African and for committed Zimbabwean patriots is to be able to support the short term struggles in Zimbabwe as well as the medium term struggles for profound political transformation beyond simply voting. As one Zimbabwean writer noted:
“What needs transformation are the political groupings that house our politicians and are the fertile grounds for an ideological framework that allows politics of retrogression. What also requires transformation is the economic environment that creates vast differences in resource allocation and plays into and cultivates the politics of ethnicity, gender and racial categorizations. The politics of retrogression does not define one individual; it defines the current characteristics of the post colonial African elite. That is why, in the majority of cases where there has been electoral transitioning of political power in Africa thus far, the condition of the people has not changed and the new leadership has not shown any marked changes from the actions of those they replaced.”
Recent electoral struggles in Kenya and the politics of compromise exposed the reality that while multi-partyism is essential for parliamentary democracy and for ensuring democratic representation, its establishment as a system do not in itself ensure a New Democracy. There is no evidence from the power sharing in Kenya that there is a process underway for the creation and equitable distribution of the national wealth. A society of mass poverty, on the one hand, and massive wealth in the hands of a few, on the other, cannot develop the necessary conditions for the creation of the national wealth to its fullest potentiality, nor can it be democratic.
In contemporary Africa, where the economic depression is most deeply felt, there will be a greater reflex towards political repression by the leadership. In most parts of Africa the politics of retrogression. has become the norm, and the leadership has taken - to cultural proportions - the tendency to turn their backs on the people as soon as they take office, there is a need to create new institutions to strengthen popular participation and representation. Parliamentary democracy on its own is not enough; it must be supplemented with and strengthened by other popular institutions and associations such as the local governments, cooperative movements, independent workers, women, student and youth organizations, assemblies or organizations for the environmental concerns and for minority rights, and so forth. A new leadership must ensure that this is the dominant political culture, with enough flexibility to allow for changes when changes are needed to strengthen and further consolidate that culture.
“This new political culture will eventually shift power from the current corrupt and unrepresentative political groupings, to local communities whose chosen representatives will be accountable to the interests of these local communities first not those of a small center that monopolizes power in the national political groupings.”
The interconnection between the short term struggles for democratic spaces and democratic participation will require autonomous and independent organizing among the poor. For the moment the poor have thrown their support behind the MDC. This support will be squandered if the poor are not vigilant to ensure that their struggles against Mugabe do not end with an alliance between the reform elements of ZANU and the MDC without the working class base. While these negotiations are being orchestrated Africans in the Diaspora and progressives everywhere must engage the struggles n Zimbabwe in a way that will strengthen the cause of reparations, peace and justice in all parts of the world.