Category Archives: Assault on Dissent

“Mama Machel, WE! are outraged”

Zethu Matebeni of UCT speaks at the 12th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture Dialogue Series – “Gender in Dialogue”. Zethu responds to Mama Graça Machel’s statement on the ‘lack of outrage in society’ over violence against women. Instead Zethu speaks to the many outrages she feels around women, around lesbians, and transgender people who are murdered and mutilated. Thank you to Zethu for speaking out and speaking out so powerfully.

A Veil of Silence [Video]

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The Veil of Silence produced by the TIER and directed by Habeeb Lawal documents the experience of sexual minorities in Nigeria and discusses issues of sexual citizenship, violence and stigma.

On the brink of an impending law that could re-write their destinies, young groups of sexual minorities in Nigeria defy all odds in the pursuit of happiness. In the midst of all, their strength, resilience, vulnerability are brought to fore in this informative and mind-blowing documentary.

A few of the many men and women who appear in the documentary as themselves, sharing their personal experiences and opinions on the subject, include Ayo Sogunro, Ifeanyi Orazuike, Dorothy Aken’ova, Abayomi Aka, and Valentine Crown Tunbi.

Tanzania joins call for Anti-Gay legislation

1. Tanzanian Officials Want a Bill to Stop Gays “Recruiting”

Tanzanian Member of Parliament Ezekiel Wenje has said that he believes that the country’s current laws do not adequately prevent gay people from “recruiting” younger citizens. Currently, Tanzania criminalizes homosexuality under Section 154 of its criminal code, which states that any person who has “carnal knowledge” of another that is “against the order of nature” can be given 20 years to life in prison.

However, Wenje has said that the law doesn’t stop gay people supposedly inducing others or promoting gay “behavior.” Wenje therefore intends to introduce legislation that would penalize said perceived offenses with 20 years to life sentences.

The legislation as described is concerning because it would appear to give the government a broad tool-set to hound and punish people for offenses that could be as small as recommending books with LGBT themes, while at the same time effectively stifling all attempts at LGBT-positive human rights work and sexual health outreach.

2. Ugandan Men Imprisoned and Subjected to Dehumanizing Medical Tests

Reports say that two Ugandan men, Maurice Okello, 22, and Anthony Oluku, 18, were recently arrested under Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law. What’s more, reports say the pair were then subjected to dehumanizing anal screenings to “prove” that they had repeatedly engaged in homosexual sex. These so-called medical tests have been heavily criticized for violating an array of international human rights standards, and carry absolutely no medical authenticity whatsoever.

3. Ghana Official Say Gays are Satanic Attack on the Country

Ghana’s Former Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mike Ocquaye, who still holds considerable influence in the country, recently said that “We consider this [homosexuality] an abomination. We don’t want a [mustached] man marrying another bearded man and it is the right of the children to call a man father and a woman mother. … Indeed the family is under satanic attack and we should take great care to protect it.”

With many nations emboldened by Uganda and Nigeria’s anti-homosexuality legislation, Ghana may feel it can also now proceed to further terrorize the LGBT community. Ghana has repeatedly flirted with enacting stronger anti-gay legislation, and this kind of rhetoric seems to validate fears that some kind of legislation might not be far away.

4. Ugandan President Leads Anti-Homosexuality Celebration

If there was ever any doubt that Museveni’s original hesitance to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was a political farce, his recent actions more than serve to dispel those feelings. On Monday, March 31, Museveni presided over what essentially was a party with 30,000 in attendance celebrating, among other things, the passing of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Said Museveni at the event, “There is a fundamental misunderstanding between us and the liberal west. They say that homosexuality is sex. But it is not sex.” This speaks to the way Museveni and his supporters have manipulated rhetoric around the bill to recast this battle as that of Africa standing up against the tyrannical West.

5. Gay Men Allegedly Tortured and Burnt to Death in South Africa

Reports say that a 21-year-old South African man named David Olyn was tied up with wire, beaten and then burned to death by a suspect who has now been arrested. Add to this the fact that several teenagers were reportedly at the scene and did nothing to stop the accused from setting Mr Oly alight, nor did they run for help. The incident, which happened on Saturday, March 29, has been called a hate crime by LGBT rights groups as Olyn was a well known gay man. The killer is also believed to have used anti-gay epithets while attacking Olyn. The police have yet to formally characterize this as a hate crime, however.

This atrocious crime has happened despite the fact that South Africa has firm constitutional protections for gay people whom it recognizes as equal to heterosexuals in almost every respect. However, there has always been a question about a lack of willingness to enforce these constitutional protections. This is incredibly concerning, and not just for South Africa. Human rights groups have previously stated the importance of South Africa and how it is probably only through South Africa’s outreach that North African countries might be challenged on their anti-gay laws and, in time, decide to change their stance.

Meanwhile international commentators, while always cautious about being alarmist, are concerned that the anti-LGBT crackdown in North Africa is snowballing, and that we haven’t seen the worst of it yet.

Uganda: Global Day of Action Against the AHB

UGANDA.
URGENT CALL TO SUPPORT AFTER THE RECENT PASSAGE OF THE ANTI HOMOSEXUALITY BILL IN UGANDAN PARLIAMENT.

31st  JANUARY 2014

Background

On 20th December 2013, Lesbian and Gay Bisexual Transgender Community in Uganda woke up to the grim news that the Anti Homosexuality bill, which had been shelved at the end of 2012 had been passed by Parliament. The bill was passed without Quorum and without Prior mandatory inclusion on the Parliament Order Paper. The bill, if passed into law will be a disaster to the Human Rights of LGBT people, a disaster to public health and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Recent reports in the Uganda and International Media have indicated that the President will not sign the bill and hence it is generally believed that the bill is no longer a threat.
We would like to reiterate that this bill is still a huge threat and a treasure to the majority of Ugandans and since our leaders are populists’ they will likely bend to the pressure of the ‘Voters’ and with the 2016 elections looming in the horizon, politicians will no doubt do anything to capitalize on opportunities that protect their political interests. The President of Uganda is no exception.
It is also worth to note that the power of ascension process of a bill that is passed by parliament doesn’t lay primarily with the President of Uganda; it is constitutionally provided that within 30days of the bill being sent to the President for ascension, the president Must either sign the bill to become law.
The president may reject to give assent,
Constitution provides that the president shall within 30 days after a bill is presented to him/her either:-

Assent to the bill
Return the bill to parliament with a request that the bill or a particular provision of it be reconsidered by parliament; or
Notify the speaker in writing about the decision
The bill may be reconsidered and then presented for the president’s approval. However it may become law without the president’s assent if he/she returns it to parliament two times. It should have the support of at least two-thirds of all MPs.

Now that you know why, Here is what you can do on the day of action to support the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender Persons as Risk:

1.       Worldwide demonstrations. We call upon all partners, friends and allies to organize a worldwide demonstration in different cities around the world on the (10th February  2014) to show solidarity with Ugandan LGBT community and to bring attention this cause to Uganda.

2.       Issue statements condemning the passage of the Bill and call on the President NOT to sign it into law, It is also important to continue to continue to remind Ugandans and our leaders to uphold Human Rights for all people

3.       Wear a t-shirt, a bracelet, Carry a poster with a message of solidarity for the LGBT community in Uganda

4.       Deliver Petitions to your embassies condemning this bill and urging the president to

5.       Hold prayer vigils to show what a ‘dark day’ it is for Human Rights and to call upon ‘Devine Intervention’

6.       Write to your political leader, your religious, your opinion leader to speak

7.       Make sure you have called that media house you work with; we need Uganda, Africa and the whole world to know that we are visible, and to know that Human Rights are Universal.

8.       Use social media

9.       5th February : Twitter blast- The idea is to send as many tweets on that day to the prime minister, the president’s office, parliament. With one simple message: ‘Don’t Kill, Protect LGBT people’: The world is watching

The Week on Sunday – The Reward for Love is Death!

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The December issue of Chimurenga, The Chronic is out and the $7 digital edition price is worth it if only to read two pieces.   First Nick Mwaluko’s  “XXYX AFRICA” a review of  “three new excellent works: Queer African Reader, African Sexualities: A Reader, and Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction.”  The best book review I have read, possibly ever!

LGBT Africa held two truths: you fuck, you die” How’s that for the spectacular!   African Queers woke up on Friday morning to learn that this statement was in fact too near the truth.   In Uganda the Anti-homosexuality Bill was finally passed and is  awaiting President Musoveni’s signature before becoming law.  This places it in the same status as the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Bill which is also waiting presidential approval.  These two Bills have played havoc with the lives of  Ugandans and Nigerian Queers for some 5 years.  Just when you think they are forgotten, their ugly heads rear up and slap you back to homophobic reality.  Ugandan queers responded by sticking to their party plans a  bit like the last supper. Celebrate, share stories, eat, drink for tomorrow they might be,  as Kasha Jacqueline wrote  on Twitter,  starring in a Ugandan version of ‘Orange is the new Black’.

The death Nick speaks of comes in many forms.  Death as criminal punishment, death from loneliness, death from invisibility, death from the pain of the closet and ‘keeping safe’, ‘being normal’! But there’s another possibility,

“Maybe just maybe, a tribe is in my future if I survive this moment.  If I claim the body that holds the story to voice my song, if I taste the death-wish during illegal fucking , if I re-imagine the world behind my eyelids, recreating reality to make it mine.  Is this why some of us refuse to hide? When I live in integrity, don’t I like myself more ? Aren’t  I more alive?

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Guy Regis Jr, is a Haitian playwright, poet, filmmaker, translator who has translated  Albert Camus, and Maurice Maeterlinck into Haitian Kreyol.   Presently he is translating Marcel Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.  Haitians speak Kreyol but even though it’s  been the official language since 1987, children are still forced to learn in French.   Regis explains the development of Kreyol from a fluid language to one ‘rendered uniform’, codified and recognised and importantly some educators are now teaching in Kreyol.     Regis makes two interesting points.  First contrary to popular opinion, Kreyol and French differ significantly. The syntax is different and Kreyol is  drawn from other languages including Taino, various African languages and Spanish.   The second point is on the art of translation.    To translate you have to ‘reach the heart’ of the text so for example  the opening sentence of Camus’, The Stranger  is ‘Today maman died’ .   The obvious Kreyol would be  “Jodi a Manman m mouri”.  However a more simple and unemotional interpretation and closer to the French original is  “Manman, m mouri Jodi a”.

Over the past 10 months I’ve been teaching  ‘African Literature’ to a small group of  students.  The biggest frustration voiced by the students is the unavailability of any African writers either in original French or translated  into French let alone into Kreyol.  It would be wonderful if Guy Regis would one  day take on the task of translating some African texts into Kreyol!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odi Massacre & Origins of Militancy in Ijawland

Kaiama – December 1998

Kaiama is a small town in Western Ijaw, about half an hour’s drive from Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State. Historically Kaiama is famous for being the birth place of Major Isaac Adaka Boro, an Ijaw nationalist who in 1966 proclaimed “the Niger Delta Peoples Republic.”  In December 1998 5,000 Ijaw men and women re presenting over 40 Ijaw clans, chose the historic town of Kaiama to articulate their aspirations for the Ijaw people, and to demand an end to 40 years of environmental damage and underdevelopment in the region.

On the 11th December, 1998, they assembly presented the Kaiama Declaration.  What followed is a series of military attacks which provide an historical context and  understanding  to the present day militancy in Ijawland which has also contributed to the violence against women.  In some instances whole villages have been abandoned by women due to fear of militants and gangs.

On the 1st of January 1999 the Nigerian Military Government declared war on the Ijaw people. Following the Yenagoa massacre, the army invaded Kaiama on the 2nd January.  On the 4th January, soldiers using Chevron helicopters and sea trucks invaded Ikiyan and Opia towns.  Other towns, Odi, Sabama, Patani, Aven, Bomadi were all occupied by military. The mayhem continued unabated throughout January and February.  These communities were ransacked and looted, men and young boys were murdered, tortured and beaten.  Women were molested, harassed, beaten and raped.  Many people are still missing almost 18 months later.  The Nigerian army and Mobile Police engaged themselves in a blood bath which left over 200 dead and thousands wounded.  Once control of the area had been established by the military they settled down to occupy Ijawland and continue up to the present time to terrorise communities of mostly women, children and the elderly and commit endless.

Invasion.of Kaiama

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In Kaiama and across the region, many women and girls were raped and forced into prostitution by the Nigerian army.  They also suffered bereavement and were further impoverished through the death or disappearance of family members.

 “I stay in my house at that time, soldiers were everywhere.  Three of them came to my house and broke the door down. They take my son and I have not seen him since that day. I have no money as my son used to look after me.  Before I used to farm but I no fit farm now, I am weak. I no feel to do anything I just wait make I die, I no fit eat, every day I worry what will happen now.”

” My husband dey [was in] Yenagoa with his wife.  When he hear what happen in Kaiama he come see for himself.  Since that day when the soldier came and take him I have not seen him.  I stay in Yenagoa but they I hear say they kill people and start to worry for my husband.  Sometime those who have wounds they bring them to Yenagoa but I check and did not see my husband.  After I come hear that they kill my husband at the Motor park. (the Chief was one of many townsmen that were taken to a nearby army camp and tortured after which he was murdered).
Helen, Widow – On the day the soldiers came I ran with my 3 children to the bush. At that time I was pregnant.  My husband lock the house then follow me run.  I think that he is at my back but I am hearing gun shot.  After I come and see my husband is shot by the soldier when he is running.  They steal all my property and break everything.  Now I have no money, I can only collect firewood to sell and some small farming.  Some time the church help me.  Now my heart is cut.”

” At  that time when the soldiers came I was at home with my husband.  The soldiers came and arrested my husband and took him to the motor park.  When there he was beaten and tortured with the others. His face was cut, nose broken, lips swollen and wounded everywhere.  He had be cut on his head with an axe.  When they took my husband I ran with my children to Opukoma (nearby village) to my father’s house until after 2 days I came back to Kaiama.  At that time there was no one in the town, no medicines. After my husband went to Yenagoa but by that time it was too late for him to recover.  My husband died three months ago from the wounds he received”

Odi Town Massacre.

In the early hours of the morning of the 20th November, 1999, 27 trucks carrying over 2000 soldiers plus 4 armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns drove into Odi Town in Bayelsa State. Between 2pm that afternoon and 6pm the following day, the town was bombarded with artillery fire. By the end of the two days, practically every building in the town was flattened, set on fire and/or looted. In all 2,483 persons – mainly women, children and the elderly were massacred in 24 hours. Thousands more fled in canoes or on foot to the forests where they hid, some up to a week with no food or shelter.

The order to invade and destroy Odi town was given by the then head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo. The reason given for the attack at the time was that two weeks before, 9 policemen had been kidnapped and killed in the town by a criminal gang.

Odi was not the only town in the Niger Delta where people were massacred and property destroyed during the Obasanjo years. Kaiama just a few miles from Odi was attacked January and later Oleh Town, in Delta State and Erema in Rivers State were also invaded to name a few. Then there was the terrible rape that took place in Choba, Rivers state where Nigerian army soldiers were photographed raping women. No one has ever been held to account for these past and present crimes against women and other civilians.

Odi Town November 1999

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“My 15 year old son is missing. I came back and couldn’t see him. I could not see my son even his corpse I cannot see him even till now – 15 yrs – we were all in this house but when we heard the gun shots everyone take on his heels. My son ran to a different direction to myself and others.  I ran to the bush, there was no food to eat there was nothing.  I stayed in the bush for 12 days as the hunger was so much we started plucking leaves to chew and water to drink – my husband ran on his own too. We were scattered. When the soldiers left I came back and  I saw my husband.  He is looking for our son but we cannot see him.”
” You know you could not stand on the ground, the ground was shaking even the houses were shaking as if they want to fall down.  So I started running down with that fear – I heard the army shooting, even the ground was shaking from the noise of the guns, the houses too.  I had no canoe.  Everything was burnt – books, my properties, my things for teacher’s college, NCE and University of Port Harcourt certificates, everything.”

“Other people ran into the bush. Those who could not get boats ran into the nearby bushes, they were all here most of them were just right inside.  You know that time was a flood period and water everywhere, the whole of the bush was covered with water and some of them were standing on top of trees, hanging like that for days.”

Displaced women from Gbaramatu – May 2009

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On May 14, 2009 at about noon, Gbaramatu Kingdom,Delta State, was in a festive mood. There had been an influx of guests into the community from far and near. They all came to witness the presentation of the Staff of Office to the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, His Royal Majesty Ogie the third. The palace located in Oporoza was filled with well- wishers as the day also marked the King’s one year anniversary. Suddenly, three low flying helicopters were seen approaching the Kindgom. The community people initially thought they were flying dignitaries to the ceremony or that they were part of the glamour for the ceremony. They were wrong. Dead wrong!

 “ Most“Most of the students like me who tried to escape during the deadly incident are dead. Some in the streets, forests …they were killed by the bombs. I lost my mother and six of my brothers in the incidence. Two of my three sisters are still trapped in the forest. The place is too dangerous for them to come out now. They can’t cross with boat and they can’t risk swimming. The JTF people have blockedhave blocked the waterways. One of my sisters has been missing.

Nobody seems to know her whereaboutwhereabouts. The military people were using their helicopter chopper to destroy everything we have ever had. I saw war with my naked eyes. I saw my mum’s dead body. I saw my brothers lying helpless on the ground (here she started sobbing). Everyone was running without direction. It is a bitter experience.

They are wicked people. They are heartless. I don’t have any family member as militants. We used to survive with fishing. It was through fishing business that my mum pays our school fees. Why will the FG send military men to kill us, to destroy our community? We don’t have anywhere else to go now. No home, no place to go. My OND certificate, my only hope for a better tomorrow has been destroyed”. Miss Peres Popo, 21, ,21 from, from Okporoza .

“I was sleeping but suddenly I woke up due to the endless sound of gunshot. It was after twelve in the afternoon. I was confused. When I peeped through my window, I saw people running and screaming. It was a hot afternoon. I slept with only my pants on. I had to run without even knowing that I was naked I was not conscious of my nakedness. It was when I managed to find my way to Warri town that I was able to clothe myself with the help of a relative. I am afraid I have still not seen my younger sister. Her name is Mary. We started running together from the house but at a point Ipoint I was ahead of her. After some time, I didn’t notice her again. I pray she is alive. She is my only sister.
- Mrs. Vero Idolo ,27, mother of two.

“They bombed everywhere and everything. They don’t have feelings at all. I was lucky to have my children and husband alive. My neighbour lost his pregnant wife in the incidence. She was my friend too.” – Evelyn Emmanuel.

“We were warming up for the king’s party. All of a sudden we started seeing helicopters roving in the air. The next thing something was dropping from it and it was landing as fire and exploding and burning and killing. I was scared stiff . I have never seen this kind of thing in my life.
-Timi Tonfawei

The attack on Gbaramatu  brought a huge humanitarian crisis to the region. Besides, an estimated 20, 000 persons believed to be trapped in the forests and swamps.   Those who managed to reach Warri were eventually given shelter in a disused clinic.  Most of the displaced have now returned to their villages.

Gas flaring has been continuous for 40 years.  Gas flaring is the process used in the Niger Delta to separate petroleum from the by product, natural gas.   The process wastes a potentially useful product as well as fills the atmosphere with carbon monoxide, smoke and soot.  The gas flares are right in the middle of farmland and villages burning 24 hours a day every day.  Some of the flares are on the ground in pits, spewing out huge flames and soot and leaving the ground unusable for farming for years to come.   People literally live in fire and oil.

Gas flares

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Who is Michel Martelly and why is the Haitian grassroots movement protesting against him?

Today [anniversary of the Battle of Vertieres , 1803 in the war for independence] marks the second of a series of  planned street protests against the government of Michel Martelly.  The protest are organized by Fòs Patriotik ou Respè Konstitsyon [FOPARK] a coalition of pro Lavalas supporters, students, lawyers and  human rights activists.

The first march was November 7th march and ended in Petion-Ville, a bourgeois enclave in the capital Port-au-Prince.  Internataional media reported the protest ‘turned violent’ but they failed to explain the violence was initiated by pro-Martelly, macoute thugs who attacked protestors with the sole purpose of causing violence. Protesters reported at least three people were shot and taken to hospital.   On Friday 15th November at around  1pm, Inorel Delbrun, the attache and cameraman to outspoken critic and president of the senate, Dieuseul Simon Desras,   was assassinated whilst getting out of his car.

Assassinations, death by poisoning, arrests and threats to  human rights lawyers, harassment of activists are common place  actions as a desperate Michel Martelly unleashes his macoute thugs on the popular masses and human rights activists.  To consolidate his brutal repression of Haitians, Martelly is attempting to bring back the army  which was dismantled by President Aristide.   The capital is awash with private security guards many run by former military men and macoutes.   Many  carry  unregistered weapons, and in an industry without any regulation.   Full combat police roam the streets in armoured trucks along with the UN occupying force.  Pro Lavalas supporters are regularly and repeatedly threatened with violence .   Only yesterday three people were murdered in Bel Air.

On Sunday the 17th November,  the government of Martelly distributed food to people in Camp Acra and in Cap Haitian, an act typical  which is reminiscent of the Duvalier regimes when people became restive, throw them some coins or food.

And yet American liberal politicians, journalists and celebrities such as  Sean Penn, continue to give vocal support to the Martelly government.   Predators under the guise of ‘humanitarians’, filmmakers, photographers, missionaries  continue to feed off the misery of the poor.

Today’s  protests are planned in cities across Haiti.

Below Charlie Hinton of the Haiti Action Committee provides a detailed background and analysis as to why people are dissatisfied with Michel Martelly’s government.  Corruption, return to Duvalierism, rewriting and undermining Haiti’s Constitution,  nepotism, corrupting the judiciary, reactionary economic policies.

Haiti Action Committee calls for solidarity with the Haitian people and to start by seeking out the truth of the Martelly government.

 

1. Who is Michel Martelly? Martelly grew up during the 27-year dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean Claude “Baby Doc.” He joined the Duvalierist death squad, the Tonton Macoutes, at the age of 15 and later attended Haiti’s military academy. Under Baby Doc, Martelly, a popular musician, ran the Garage, a nightclub patronized by army officers and members of Haiti’s tiny ruling class.

As another way to signal their opposition to Martelly, the Haitian masses march with red cards, which, when given to a player by a football (soccer) referee, mean he’s out for that match and the next. The people are telling Martelly to get out. [Haiti Action Committee]
As another way to signal their opposition to Martelly, the Haitian masses march with red cards, which, when given to a player by a football (soccer) referee, mean he’s out for that match and the next. The people are telling Martelly to get out. [Haiti Action Committee]

After Baby Doc’s fall in February 1986, a mass democratic movement, long repressed by the Duvaliers, burst forth and became known as Lavalas (“flood”), from which emerged Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a popular liberation theology Catholic priest, who was elected president in 1990 with 67 percent of the vote in the first free and fair election in Haiti’s history.

Martelly quickly became a bitter opponent of Lavalas, attacking the popular movement in his songs played widely on Haitian radio.

Martelly “was closely identified with sympathizers of the 1991 military coup that ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,” the Miami Herald observed in 1996, and ran with members of the vicious FRAPH death squad from that period, infamous for gang rapes and killing with impunity.

On the day of Aristide’s return to Haiti in 2011, after eight years of forced exile in South Africa and two days before the “run-off” election, Martelly was caught in a video on YouTube insulting Aristide and Lavalas: “The Lavalas are so ugly. They smell like s**t. F**k you, Lavalas. F**k you, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.”

Down with Martelly graffiti in Port-au-Prince [Haiti Action]
Down with Martelly graffiti in Port-au-Prince [Haiti Action]
2. The fraudulent presidential election of 2010-2011: In the presidential election cycle of 2010-2011, the Electoral Council ruled that Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party could not participate, which de-legitimized the whole corrupt process. Voter turnout was less than 25 percent in the primaries and less than 20 percent in the “run-off.”

The top two candidates announced after the primaries were the wife of a former pro-Duvalier president and the son-in-law of Rene Preval, the president at the time. Martelly was declared third, but his supporters demonstrated violently, and an OAS “investigation” of the elections ruled that, in fact, Martelly had finished second.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton flew to Port-au-Prince in January 2011, at the height of the Egyptian revolution, to reinforce this decision. Martelly received $6 million from an anonymous donor in Florida to hire a PR firm that had worked on the campaigns of Felipe Calderón in Mexico and John McCain in the U.S.

3. Corruption: Corruption scandals have followed Martelly since he refused to divulge who funded his campaign for president.

  • Bribes – Award-winning Dominican Republic journalist Nuria Piera broke the story in April 2012 (later reported in Time) that Martelly was alleged to have accepted $2.6 million in bribes during and after the 2010 election to ensure that a Dominican construction company would receive contracts under his presidency. In addition, the vote to make Laurent Lamothe the prime minister is known in Haiti as the “tout moun jwenn vote” (“everyone got their cut” vote).
  • Surcharge on international calls and money transfers for “education” – Questionable new taxes have also fed controversy. A $1.50 tax on money transfers and a 5 cent per minute tax on phone calls to Haiti are alleged by Martelly to support education, but the poor majority continue to face unaffordable school fees, and critics say no money from this tax has gone to schools. Moreover, Haitian teachers have been marching to demand back pay. Martelly’s new taxes were not ratified by or presented to Haiti’s Parliament, making them illegal.
  • Travel expenses – When traveling, which he does often, Martelly’s entourage receives an outrageous per diem from the Haitian government. According to Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, Martelly gets $20,000 a day, his wife $10,000 a day, his children $7,500, and others in his inner circle get $4,000 daily.
  • A plan to establish an illegal parallel customs system to circumvent legislative control – This allegedly involved the selling of a membership card and gun to anyone who wanted to be part of the Martelly gang. The membership privileges included tax-exempt status at customs. The program had to be scratched when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration complained about members facilitating drug transport on the strength of their membership.
Photo by Sokari Ekine
Photo by Sokari Ekine

4. Rewriting and undermining Haiti’s Constitution: The overthrow of Baby Doc in 1986 led to the creation of a new democratic Constitution in 1987, ratified in a referendum by an overwhelming majority of Haitians. It recognized Haitian Kreyol as an official language, along with French, and legalized Vodun, the spiritual practice of the majority of Haitians. It provided for grassroots participation in national decision-making, decentralized the nation’s finances and political structure, and provided for protection of human rights.

On June 12, 2012, Martelly announced new amendments, which concentrate executive power and herald the return of Duvalier-style dictatorship. The new illegally amended Constitution, written by non-legislators and never seen nor voted on by the Parliament prior to its publication, creates a top down method of choosing a Permanent Electoral Council to run elections, undermining grassroots participation and centralizing control from above.

It allows the president to appoint the prime minister after merely “consulting” the heads of the two chambers of Parliament instead of requiring Parliamentary ratification. In cases of “presidential vacancy,” the new amendments make the prime minister the provisional president, so presidents can resign, appoint the prime minister to succeed them, and thereby maintain perpetual control.

New amendments provide that a “general budget” and a “general expenditures report” can replace line item annual budgets, thus limiting parliamentary oversight of the budget.

New amendments return Duvalier era and other retrograde laws, including:

  • A 1935 law on “superstitious beliefs,” which would ban Vodun once again.
  • A 1977 law establishing the Court of State Security to increase state surveillance and repression.
  • A 1969 law that condemns all “imported doctrines,” thereby attacking freedom of thought and freedom of association. Violation of this new law can result in the DEATH PENALTY. The 1987 Haitian Constitution had eliminated the death penalty.

5. Restoring the army: In one of the most popular moves of his administration, President Aristide disbanded the hated Haitian army in 1995. Since the coup that overthrew Aristide for the second time in 2004, U.N. troops and police, currently numbering 8,754 uniformed personnel, have occupied Haiti. One of Martelly’s campaign promises was to restore the Haitian Army, and now new Haitian troops are being trained by Ecuador and Brazil. In addition, well-armed former military and paramilitary personnel have occupied militia camps since early 2012, supported by Martelly.

 

Photo by Sokari Ekine
Photo by Sokari Ekine

Sen. John Joel Joseph has identified senators that he claims are marked for assassination. He identified the people who have been paying the “hit squads” on behalf of Martelly. He denounced one of the men as an escaped criminal who had been caught red handed with a “near death” victim behind his vehicle. Said victim sent the police to a house where two more victims could be found.

Sen. Joseph identified the leader of the death squad and his vehicle, denouncing the group as the one which recently assassinated a grassroots militant. He accused the president and his wife of pressuring the chief of police to remove the senators’ security detail, in order to facilitate their assassinations. He denounced a previous instance when Martelly tried to pressure former police chief Mario Andresol to integrate a hit-man into the police to assassinate Sen. Moise Jean Charles.

7. Death of a judge: Martelly set up his wife and son as head of governmental projects, but with no parliamentary oversight. A Haitian citizen, Enold Florestal, filed suit with attorney Andre Michel before Judge Jean Serge Joseph, maintaining that the Martellys were siphoning off large amounts of state monies, which the Haitian Senate has no jurisdiction over.

Judge Joseph moved the case to the next judicial level, which required depositions from the Martellys and various governmental ministers. Enraged, Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe called two meetings with the judge – which they deny took place – to demand he kill the case, the second on July 11. The judge drank a beverage offered him at that meeting.

On July 12 Judge Joseph became violently ill and died on July 13. Haitian police arrested Florestal on Aug. 16 after viciously beating him, and Haitian authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of attorney Michel, who has gone into hiding. A commission of the Haitian Parliament is now calling for the impeachment of Martelly based on illegal meetings with the judge, interference in legal matters and threats to those involved in the case.

8. Corrupting the judiciary and Parliament: The Martelly regime is working to establish executive control over the judicial system through the use of “controlled” prosecutors and judges. In violation of the Constitution, he appointed as Supreme Court chief justice, Anel Alexis Joseph, who is 72. Haitian law says a judge must be 65 or under to be named to this position.

The chief justice also leads the commission that regulates the entire judicial system, so Judge Anel Alexis Joseph is using his power to block an investigation into the death of Judge Jean Serge Joseph and to protect Martelly and his henchmen from all legal challenges, thereby granting impunity.

Martelly has also corrupted the legislative branch that could bring charges against members of the executive. He ordered the arrest of Deputy Arnel Belizaire in spite of parliamentary immunity and his legal counsel’s advice.

He has so far failed to call elections for 10 senate seats in January and is trying to force the 10 senators whose terms he says are up – they say in 2015, not 2014 – to leave office. Since elections have still not been held for 10 additional seats, if these new 10 seats are vacated, it would leave the 30 member Senate without a quorum, allowing Martelly to dissolve the Parliament and rule by decree.

9. Reactionary economic policy: Martelly enforces the Clinton-Bush plan for economic “development” of Haiti through sweatshops, tourism, and the selling of oil and mining rights to transnational corporations. Under this plan, money donated for earthquake relief has been used to build a duty free export manufacturing zone in the north of Haiti, which was not affected by the earthquake, and several luxury hotels in Port-au-Prince. The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund made a $2 million equity investment in a hotel called the Royal Oasis to give foreign tourists and investors an “oasis” to escape the miserable conditions under which the majority of Haitians live.

At the same time, the Martelly regime viciously represses the economic activities of the poor super majority. The phone and money transfer taxes cut into their incomes. Taxes have been arbitrarily increased on imports, affecting small merchants. Thugs wearing masks have burnt markets in different cities, causing merchants to lose capital they had been accumulating for years, forcing them to raise new capital through usury loans. Street vendors are harassed and removed forcefully, then, after hours, their stands are looted.

10. Duvalierism returns to Haiti: Martelly warmly welcomed the January 2011 return to Haiti of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, one of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century, after his decades of luxurious exile in France. Duvalier still has many supporters in Haiti, some of whom are armed and have a history of killing political opponents.

Martelly’s government is filled with Duvalierists: Hardline former Haitian army officer David Bazile is now interior minister. Magalie Racine, daughter of notorious former Tonton Macoute militia chief Madame Max Adolphe, is Martelly’s youth and sports minister. Public Works Secretary of State Philippe Cinéas is the son of longtime Duvalierist figure Alix Cinéas, who was a member of the original neo-Duvalierist National Council of Government (CNG), which succeeded Duvalier after his fall in 1986. In addition, Duvalier’s son, Francois Nicolas Jean Claude Duvalier, is a close advisor to Martelly.

Conclusion: A major objective of the Duvalier dynasty was to institutionalize dictatorship through death squad brutality, supported by the United States and other powers. Martelly is an example of their policies having come to fruition. He’s restoring a government of impunity per the Duvalier era, building an administration of right wing ideologues who believe in dictatorship and who collaborate to sidestep all legislative and judicial controls.

His goal is to implement extreme neo-liberal economic policies on behalf of Haiti’s less than 1 percent with control over all natural resources. The people will be at their mercy for factory work and other “subservient” positions, under the boot of a U.N. occupation force of 8,754 army and police personnel, the beginnings of a restored army, paramilitary training camps, death squads, gangs and mafias that use the cover of the corrupted executive and judicial systems to operate.

The Haitian majority does not accept this return to the bad old days, however, and has been actively and massively protesting this repression for the past year. They deserve the support and solidarity of freedom loving people everywhere.

 

For more information on the Haitian Grassroots Movement see:  Haiti Action Committee  action.haiti AT mail.com.

Charlie Hinton may be reached at ch_lifewish  AT yahoo.com.

 

 

Queer African Reader

It started as a one year project and ended up taking us three years but finally Hakima and I are able to announce the publication of the  Queer African Reader published by Fahamu Books.

QAR1REVIEWS

A richness of voices, a multiplicity of discourses, a quiverful of arguments. African queers writing for each other, theorizing ourselves, making our movements visible. This is a book we have hungered for. – - Shailja Patel award-winning Kenyan poet and activist, author of Migritude

All too often we read about African queers as monolithically victimized or as passive recipients of modernity from the West. What a great antidote The Queer African Reader provides to that narrative, with its diversity of styles, stories, memoirs, scholarly theory, art, photography, and deliciously combative polemics and petitions as rich as the diversity of Africans themselves! Listen to the poetry, feel the passion — love, rage, sadness, pride — admire the beauty, grow from the insights of Africans speaking directly to us about their struggles to be true to themselves, to their families, their lovers, their nations. This brave volume should be essential reading for all human rights activists far and wide in Africa and the Diaspora. Professor Marc Epprecht, Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University

The Queer African Reader serves as an amazing anthology documenting the struggles faced by African LGBTI people both in Africa and in the diaspora.  From personal narratives written by individuals like the late human rights defender, David Kato, to in depth academic and feminist analysis of the discourse concerning sexual orientation and gender identity in traditional African contexts, this publication contains a wealth of knowledge that can act as a starting point for various discussions concerning queer Africans around the world.  Hopefully this book will allow others from all walks of life to share their unique African LGBTI experiences. – “Victor Mukasa, Ugandan human rights defender and long term LGBTI activist”

QAR is a revelatory, path-breaking collection of writings drawn from across the continent and its diaspora. Ekine and Abbas have achieved  a huge task in compiling and editing 38 contributors who courageously share what it means to inhabit the precarious space that opens up between the patriarchal heteronormative regimes of the past and the radical possibilities heralded by so many personal-political struggles for sexual freedom.  QAR offers timely testimonies, a bold and defiant cacophony of voices that variously subvert the sexual-political despotism that relies on normative fear and hatred to resist radical nonconforming ways of being and enjoying sexuality and desire. The first of its kind, QAR offers a rich festival of material includes analytic and expressive prose, theoretical discussions, erotic fiction, journals, documents and representations from visual and performance artists, that work to share the disquieting realities of LGBTQI experiences, contradictions and political perspectives to life. QAR is a rich resource – a milestone in the self-narration of Africa by people who will be silent no more. Essential reading for the twenty first century!  Amina Mama, Professor & Director, Women and Gender Studies, University of California, Davis

Long awaited and overdue, written amidst burnout and premature death, in the front lines of Empire and gender violence, this first collection by queer Africans is no quick or easy read. The Queer African Reader demonstrates that urgency was never an excuse to leave anyone behind: unlike the depressingly streamlined movements of the global/izing north, they have ample space for impossible subjects that complicate the single story and expand who belongs in the movement and what it demands, from transgender to disability to healing. Written by and for Africans, this assembly of leading and emerging activists, artists and academics from the continent and its diasporas takes a leadership in sustainable, accountable community building that non-Africans, too, should learn from — while hearing the signal that queer and trans African have always been able to represent themselves. Jin Haritaworn  PhD, trans/queer of colour activist, York University (Toronto), author ofThe Biopolitics of Mixing and co-editor ofQueer Necropolitics.

 

Various launches will take place in the UK, South Africa, Kenya and the US and we will announce these as they happen.

Sexuality and Social Justice in Africa: Rethinking Homophobia and Forging Resistance

image001Sexuality and Social Justice in Africa: Rethinking Homophobia and Forging Resistance by Marc Epprecht

 

The persecution of people in Africa on the basis of their assumed or perceived homosexual orientation has received considerable coverage in the popular media in recent years. Gay-bashing by political and religious figures in Zimbabwe and Gambia; draconian new laws against lesbians and gays and their supporters in Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda; and the imprisonment and extortion of gay men in Senegal and Cameroon have all rightly sparked international condemnation. However, much of the analysis has been highly critical of African leadership and culture without considering local nuances, historical factors and external influences that are contributing to the problem. Such commentary also overlooks grounds for optimism in the struggle for sexual rights and justice in Africa, not just for sexual minorities but for the majority population as well.

Based on pioneering research on the history of homosexualities and engagement with current lgbti and HIV/AIDS activism, Marc Epprecht provides a sympathetic overview of the issues at play and a hopeful outlook on the potential of sexual rights for all.

 

Reviews

‘Clearly written, well researched and deeply committed to global social justice, this book foregrounds decades of research on sexuality in Africa. It shows, despite much publicized homophobia, the existence of sexual tolerance and calls for the elaboration of erotic justice.’ – Dr Robert Morrell, Research Office, University of Cape Town, South Africa

‘Through meticulous scholarship, Marc Epprecht has become a global authority on how homosexuality is indigenous to Africa. In this book, he once more brings sanity, clarity and wisdom to a debate too often warped by ideology. His book is a vital introduction for anybody wishing to understand the complex ways that African societies are changing when it comes to issues of sexuality, and how new ideas about sexual identity – often deeply grounded in ancient traditions – are taking root on the continent. As the global culture wars play out on African soil, pitching those who advocate ‘human rights’ against those who claim to represent ‘traditional values’, Epprecht writes vividly of the people who actually live on the battlegrounds of these debates, and cautions us to eschew easy readings in favour of deeper understanding of the contexts. This very necessary book is a work of activism as well as scholarship. It provides trenchant lessons for all those interested in social justice and how to support and defend the rights of embattled sexual minorities in sub-Saharan Africa.’ – Mark Gevisser, author, journalist and Open Society Fellow

South Africa: Two years have past yet still no justice for Noxolo Nogwaza

From Inkanyiso – Two years have past yet still no justice for Noxolo Nogwaza who was raped and murdered in  KwaThema, Gauteng on the 24th April 2011..

Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee (EPOC) together with Amnesty International hosted a commemoration service on Wednesday, 24th April 2013. The day coincided with the period when she was killed in 2011.  Inkanyiso documented the whole funeral of Nogwaza in 2011 and continued to do so even at the commemoration on Wednesday.

lindiwe _ noxolo's daughter in front of canvas_0073
A little girl in front of the banner is Lindiwe, the late Noxolo Nogwaza’s daughter.
She was only 4 years old when her lesbian mother was brutally murdered in 2011.
Photo by Nqobile Zungu (24.04.2013)

The 24 year old lesbian’s body was found in a ditch in Tsakane, East of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni. Her face crushed with bricks, it was also alleged that her pants were pulled down and she was raped in what is described as a hate crime.

photos taken during Noxolo's commemoration in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni. Johannesburg. (c) Inkanyiso media

photos taken during Noxolo’s commemoration in Tsakane, Ekurhuleni. Johannesburg.
(c) Inkanyiso media

bashin looking at da crowd_9657

Wednesday’s event was a far cry from the attention and support that Noxolo’s story generated from the media and politicians.
Mayor Mondli Gungubele and Premier Nomvula Mokonyane attended separate memorial services in 2011 and made promises not yet fulfilled.
The local Ward councilor known as Ivy also couldn’t come on Wednesday and sent a representative. The Police have never bothered to attend any of the events, even when they were on the programmes as main speakers.

Speaking for EPOC, Media and communication officer Bontle Khalo says they have been to the police station on numerous times. “We have never received positive feedback from police, trying to inquire over the phone is an even bigger nightmare.
We handed over a memorandum to the safety MEC at the Kwa-Thema police station in 2011, there has been no response since” says Khalo. Her experience is no different from that of Dikeledi Sibanda, from the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) who is working on Nokuthula Radebe’s case. In March 2011, Nokuthula, a 20 year old lesbian was killed in a neighboring township (Thokoza) less than a month before Noxolo Nogwaza in 2011.
The sentiments of loss and continuous grief were shared by both families.
They tried to do follow ups hoping for some justice to be done. The memorial was hosted next to where Noxolo’s body was found.

Luyanda Mthembu who attended previous commemoration said it’s sad to see no changes had been done. “The politicians promised to clean this area, erect a tombstone but now they have all disappeared”, concludes Mthembu.
Most of the people I spoke to remember the promise of a tombstone, and nothing about working towards apprehending the culprits.

Balloons and messages of solidarity were written on Wednesday. Khalo admits that as an organization more radical action is needed from EPOC not forgetting organisations who are working on LGBT and human rights issues.

evidence of solidarity

evidence of solidarity

Messages of support written on a hard painted wood

Messages of support written on a hard painted wood

One cannot forget the incident of another lesbian former Banyana Banyana player Eudy Simelane, was killed on the same weekend as Noxolo Nogwaza on the 27th April 2008.
The two murders happened about 5km from each other, under similar circumstances. Asked about the support or assistance given to Nogwaza’s family. Bontle talks about lawyers, who have agreed to work pro bono and the lawyer’s success in preventing the case from being an informal to formal inquest.

As South Africans prepare to celebrate 19 Years of Independence since 1994Freedom Day on Saturday the 27th April 2013.
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI) community of Ekurhuleni and allies, is preparing to bury yet another lesbian.
Patricia Mashigo (28 Feb. 1977  to 21 April 2013).
She was callously body murdered in Daveyton, Johannesburg on the 21st April 2013.

This latest incident again raises the question of freedom, and when will the LGBTI community see and enjoy this freedom.

Haiti: April 26th, Memories of a Duvalier Massacre

From [The Progressive](http://www.progressive.org/). Memories of a Duvalier Massacre, 50 Years Later” by Edwidge Danticat

“Recently, Francois Duvalier’s grandson, Jean Claude’s son, François-Nicolas Duvalier, an adviser to Haiti’s current president Michel Martelly, wrote an opinion piece praising his grandfather’s “republican values” and calling him a “great nationalist.”

+ This is the legacy of Duvalier openly supported by President Martelly

Haiti, April 26, 1963: Some will commemorate this date with religious services, conferences, radio forums, film screenings, and testimonials.
Some will commemorate it on social media, on Twitter and Facebook.
Others will choose to commemorate it privately, without uttering a word.
Others will decide not to commemorate at all.

A radio spot declares:
Ann sonje viktim yo.
Ann aprann sa k te pase.
Ann kenbe rasin memwa nou.
Let us remember the victims.
Let us learn what happened.
Let us keep the roots of our memory alive.
Former journalist Michèle Montas still vividly remembers the bullet-ridden bodies lying on the sidewalk near her home on April 26, 1963. She was seventeen years old.
There had been an attempted kidnapping of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier that morning and his father, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, decided to unleash his wrath, and his henchmen, on the entire city of Port-au-Prince.
The bloodbath began at the home of Montas’s neighbor, Lieutenant François Benoit, an elite marksman who had been dismissed from the army. Benoit’s parents were killed. His house was set on fire, with a seven-month-old baby inside.
“Soldiers and Tonton Macoutes seemed infected with a blood lust and shot anyone who moved or came near the Benoit place,” retired Marine Corps officer Charles T. Williamson, in Haiti to help train Duvalier’s army, wrote in his 1999 memoir, United States Naval Mission to Haiti, 1959-1963. “Throughout the town the word was out that former army officers were to be arrested along with anyone thought to oppose the regime. . . . The hunt was on.”
The hunt was indeed on for Duvalier’s adversaries, army and civilian alike. Roadblocks were set up. Death squads though roamed freely. Grenades and bombs exploded in the daytime and gunfire crackled at night, resulting in what Bernard Diederich, co-author (with Al Burt) of Papa Doc and the Tonton Macoutes, recently called “a day of mayhem, genocide!”
Montas recalls “the smell of rotting bodies for days, but also the gripping smell of fear. It had become the norm, whole families guilty by bloodline, condemned, executed.”
Hundreds were rounded up or disappeared into the bowels of Fort Dimanche, the notorious dungeon prison where many of Papa Doc’s victims lost their lives.
It was one of the most brutal days of the twenty-nine-year rule of Papa Doc and his son, Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. During their reign, an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 men, women, and children were killed.
Recently, Francois Duvalier’s grandson, Jean Claude’s son, François-Nicolas Duvalier, an adviser to Haiti’s current president Michel Martelly, wrote an opinion piece praising his grandfather’s “republican values” and calling him a “great nationalist.”
This, coming just a few days before the fiftieth anniversary of April 26, 1963, seems to not only be an attempt at whitewashing the past, but at launching an offensive against those who, on this day, will pause to remember.
Fifty years on, the victims of Duvalier père can only evoke these atrocities ceremonially, while a few of those who suffered similarly under his son were recently able to briefly face him in court.
The few–like Montas, who was arrested on Jean Claude Duvalier’s orders, on November 28, 1980–who have been able to file complaints or testify, represent a small percentage of those who were arrested, jailed, tortured, or killed under the younger’s Duvalier regime. Montas joins an even shorter list of high profile victims, whom Baby Doc is able to identify by name.
“But we–the thirty listed in the complaint–are not the only ones,” Montas stresses. “The repression went across all classes, all over the country. Journalists were crushed. Students were crushed. Unions were crushed. Rural people were crushed.”
She recalls the particular case of one of her fellow plaintiffs who was forced to travel from northern Haiti with her husband’s severed head in a bucket during the father’s reign and was only released from Fort Dimanche during the son’s reign, as part of a prisoner exchange with the United States.
“He inherited a repressive machine from his father,” she says, “and continued to use it to stay in power. There should be no statute of limitations for judgment on that. There should be no statute of limitations on the disappeared.”

Continue on The Progressive http://progressive.org/haiti-duvalier-massacre-50-years-later

The story of Beatrice Mtetwa: A Red Herring ?

Right in the middle of a historical exercise, the holding of a Constitutional Referendum- something monumental had to happen. Merely a few hours after voting had ended, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) -in its unfathomable and incomprehensible wisdom-decided to arrest Beatrice Mtetwa. Previously I wrote about Beatrice in my Feminist Chronicles, having identified her as one of the most influential women in Zimbabwe, whose bright intellect and sharp and keen sense of reasoning was above many.

Given her history as a strong advocate for the weak, the defenseless and the vulnerable and also given her strong will to take on cases that many cowered away from, it is no wonder that she made it to the top of the regime’s WANTED list; a regime that is scared witless of its own population yet so boastful of its popularity.

The facts of the case…

Beatrice was arrested on the morning of Sunday the 17th of March 2013 in the line of duty, attending to her client Thabani Mpofu. Thabani’s home was being searched (read raided) by the police as they searched for what we have popularly come to know as “subversive material.” But who knows what that subversive material is; it could be anything from radios to smart phones to information packs, but a little bird whispered in my ear that Thabani was in the middle of putting together a dossier with evidence of corruption of some political big wigs, a job that the police believe is strictly theirs to do, hence the charges of impersonation leveled against him.

What is the law regarding search warrants

The Public Order and Security Act in Section 39 provides that the arrest or search of any person or premises shall be carried out in line with the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act in Section 49 as read with Section 50 demands that the police may only search premises and seize articles suspected to have been used or intended to be used for the commission of an offence with a valid warrant of search issued by a magistrate or judge. Section 50 (4) of the Criminal procedure and Evidence Act states that a person whose rights are affected by the search can demand to see the warrant, AFTER THE POLICE HAVE EXECUTED THE WARRANT, and the police are obligated to produce such a warrant. As the legal representative of the accused, Beatrice had every right to demand to see the search warrant, but the question is did she demand to see the warrant before or after the police were done with their job?

Presumably, the answer is no and we can assume that she demanded to see the warrant during the search before the police were through with their search which is why the police then accused her of obstructing the course of justice. But given that, half the time, the police in Zimbabwe carry out arbitrary searches and seizure and arrests, any lawyer of character would do under the given circumstances what Beatrice did.  This probably explains why Justice Hungwe, a judge in the High Court of Zimbabwe ordered her release.

However there remains no valid explanation as to why Beatrice remains in police custody despite the order for her immediate release. There is also no explanation as to why she has been moved from police station to police station since then in the typical fashion that the police have adopted to deny an individual under interrogation access to their legal counsel and/or relatives. This same tactic was employed against Jestina Mukoko and has been observed in many trends where political activists and human rights defenders have been arrested.

Is this arrest an end in itself or a means to an end?

Theory One…

A week ago IDASA launched the Democracy Index for Zimbabwe, an analysis of the state of democracy in Zimbabwe. In the Chapter on Political Freedoms and Democracy that I wrote, one of the questions informing the analysis was “How free are all people from intimidation and fear, physical violation against their person, arbitrary arrest and detention?”  In my response, I explained that despite Constitutional guarantees for such freedom, the state continues to use its security apparatus to silence dissenting voices, targeting the few vocal and visible individuals to serve as an example and unleash a silent indirect threat to the rest of the faint and weak-hearted. So I would not be surprised if Beatrice’s arrest is just but another example of that.

Theory Two…

When the process of writing a new constitution began, it ignited hope in many Zimbabweans that a new dispensation in which the rule of law would be restored was on its way.  However during the whole era of the inclusive government that particular hope has been dashed and continues to be dashed. Could it be doubted that the arrest of Beatrice is a clear message to the few hopefuls that NOTHING has changed and won’t change. This form of intimidation will continue to be the order of the day even with a new constitution with a broader Bill of Rights.

Theory Three

The arrest of Beatrice Mtetwa could be a red herring. Don’t get me wrong, that is not to trivialise the enormity of what is being done here or what it means for women human rights defenders’ safety and security. But maybe those who instigated this arrest are drawing attention away from the Referendum, with the strange and ironic  contradiction of voter apathy in city centres where people had access to the draft, to the press, to political commentary online about the contents of the constitution as compared to the high (if I may abuse the word -voluminous) turnout in the areas with citizens who had the least access to the media in the form of newspapers, radio and televisions. Were they saying, “YES we don’t know what’s in the constitution but we will vote for it anyway” or  were they forced to say “Yes” or were they genuinely saying “YES we want the draft to be the new Constitution because we agree with its contents”? There is no prize for guessing which it is likely to be! But also maybe Beatrice’s arrest is targeted at drawing the world’s attention away from how a flawed process resulted in the flawed adoption of a flawed document courtesy of political parties’ turnabout from fighting for independence, freedom and democracy to POWER.

Maybe, these are just what they are-theories -but I shall not wait for history to condemn my silence where I could have spoken-and so I have spoken, standing in solidarity with Beatrice and calling for her release- as any law abiding Zimbabwean would.

548576_476596052390057_587909116_n

Haiti: – People Cleansing, burning down the camps

Last Saturday, Haitian police burned and broke up Camp Acra 2, at Petion-Ville.  The destruction of the camp and forced removal of people is part of the people cleansing  which has included removal and destruction of the mostly women  market vendors in Frere, Petion-Ville and Delmas 33.    Camp Acra has been home to 15,000 people since the 2010 earthquake.  It seems to me that the government is purposely targeting camps and markets in those areas they have designated for ‘urban renewal’ and gentrification. The story that the numbers of people in camps has been reduced to about 250,000 is completely false as I explained in this previous post and no doubt the numbers will now be minus another 15,000 people who they will try to make invisible by driving them to unseen parts of the city or beyond the city walls.

UPDATED VIDEO

All photos by Chanjem Leson 

GIRL SOLDIER

Words by Toyin Ajao; Song/Instrumentation written and sung by Donald Molosi

Girl Soldier -
Injustice, corruption, discrimination she saw.
Deeply entrenched in her society. Ruling all and sundry.
She carried a gun to fight. Gun of truth. Gun of passion. Gun of selfless service.

Haiti: From AIDS to Aid, an [Un]Humanitarian Story

The third anniversary on January 12, 2013 of the earthquake in Haiti was marked yet again by a flood of new reports, opinions, facts and figures: a repetition of the past two years in terms of the lack of progress in reconstruction, the use and abuse of Haitian people by NGOs, failure to provide housing and other basic amenities for the hundreds of thousands who remain in the camp and the exploitation of workers in the new “open for business Haiti” proclaimed by President Martelly.  To try to understand the logic of the present Western [imperial] relationship with Haiti it is necessary to go back to 1804 and the founding of the Republic. Readers might well say that was 208 years ago and surely irrelevant now but a close examination will show a surprising consistency in the subjugation and exploitation of Haitian people underpinned by blatant and paternalistic racism and overall fear of the power of the black masses.

The story begins in 1825 with France’s demand for an indemnity payment of 150 million gold francs as recompense for the loss of  its plantation economy, including slaves, in  exchange for diplomatic recognition and thereby the ability to trade .  The debt, which was not fully repaid until 1947, cost Haiti as much as 80% of its national revenue.  Debt continued to pile up as a result of borrowing to pay back the French debt, and new debts were incurred during the US occupation from 1915 to 1934, a  period which consolidated the USA’s imperial domination of the country. A new constitution  abolished a law prohibiting foreign land ownership and thereby allowed US companies to purchase huge tracts of land, displacing an estimated 50,000 peasants. [1] In addition a  $40 million loan was provided along with the takeover of the national bank and treasury. The cycle of new debt for old has continued to the post-earthquake period. In 1934 the USA ended its occupation but not before it had created two militarized forces, the National Guard and the gendarmerie which would be used to keep the population under tight control by successive dictatorships until the brief presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [2] Further loans of $250 million were provided to the Duvalier regime, and $158 million to the US-backed government of Henry Namphy, both by the World Bank. The Inter-American Development [IDB] bank also lent $110 million to the Haitian government prior to Aristide’s presidency yet only agreed to lend his government a mere $12 million. [3] This clear distinction between democratically elected leaders and US-backed unelected leaders has persisted: in 2003 the IDB agreed a loan of $200 million, the majority of which was only disbursed after the kidnapping of President Aristide on February 29, 2004.  Aristide puts it like this: “The reason is very clear: when it’s people who are serious, who will spend money for the country, these foreign banks hold on to the money. when it’s thieves who will misuse the money, with their acolytes, no problem.” [4]

Haiti was not the only Caribbean island subjected to US intervention and imperial power. Nearby Cuba was briefly under direct US control and Cuban independence was only granted on condition that the USA retained rights to operate a military base at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, since the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898 US policies towards Cuba and Haiti have been intertwined in a mix of human subjugation, material exploitation and vagrant disregard for international law.  [5]  Much of this has been couched in the language of humanitarian intervention,  similarly to the post-earthquake period.  Who can forget the audacious US invasion of Grenada in October 1983 which was preceded by various attempts at economic strangulation? Again, the justification was a “rescue” mission as well as a pre-emptive strike lest Americans be taken hostage even though there was no evidence to suggest this might happen. [6] The three Caribbean nations which have either attempted to set up or have successfully established autonomous governments for and by the people have been victims of US terror.  A. Naomi  Paik also makes the point that the “simultaneous renewal of the Guantanamo lease and the end of the Haitian occupation [in 1934] are not isolated events.”  On the one hand the USA required a permanent naval base in the eastern Caribbean and on the other an assembly line of cheap resistance-free labor and for this a pact was made with Jean Claude Duvalier and subsequently his son “Baby Doc.”  The result of the violent regime of Duvalier was thousands of refugees fleeing to the USA.   Paik explains the logic behind the USAs hostility towards Haitian refugees which was a double-edged sword, i.e. thousands of black bodies on the shores of the USA and the fact of its own “friendly” self-interested relationship with a brutal dictatorship. The USA attempted to shy away from this fact by claiming the refugees were “economic’ rather than political – in reality a meaningless distinction.

” This distinction, no matter how specious, nevertheless legally justified US nonrecognition of Haitian refugees, a nonrecognition that essentially made the Haitian refugee into a political impossibility. The United States could not sustain its relationship with the regimes that fostered political and economic violence and simultaneously acknowledge the fact that thousands of Haitians feared for their lives in their own country. Its action in dealing with Haitians in Haiti and in its own territory, and in the waters between the two countries, were rooted in a logic of self-interested violence that disregarded Haitian lives.” [7]

1992 — Haitian refugees wait in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while being processed to return to Haiti. — Image by © Bill Gentile/CORBIS

The specific policy towards Haitian refugees was known as the Haitian Program and entailed “multiple state agencies collaborating” to deport Haitians already in Florida and discourage others from leaving Haiti. In her essay,  Paik cites a number of legal petitions by the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami which expose blatant disregard for international and humanitarian laws and the biased decisions by US courts. Haitian refugees were singularly excluded , being described as a threat to the community’s [USA] well-being. Eventually, during Reagan’s presidency, the Haiti Program was extended to include “interdiction” of refugees by the US coastal guard in international waters, which is illegal, and later detention without due process at Fort Allen in Puerto Rico. The justification for the illegal interception of Haitian boats in international waters was configured as a humanitarian intervention that would save Haitian lives.

“Interdiction exemplifies how human rights advanced US nationalist and imperialist interests. A Janus faced policy, it utterly denied Haitians the possibility of finding refugee from violence while simultaneously casting its mission as humanitarian investment in saving Haitians from the dangers of open waters.” [8]

Though the USA made it plain its 1915 invasion was to protect its financial interests, such as the Haitian American Sugar Company, HASCO, [9] subsequent interference, occupation and policies towards Haitian refugees have been presented under the guise of “humanitarian” intervention. Saving Haitians from the open seas, from disease [HIV/AIDS] and from themselves has hidden the truth behind,  on the one hand, the fear of thousands of Haitians “invading” US shores and, on the other, the opportunity for a cheap labor force just a few hundred miles away. It was only during the democratically elected presidency of Bertrand Aristide that the number of Haitian refugees significantly decreased, only to rise again after the September 1991 coup which forced him into exile in the USA. It was at this time that thousands fleeing Haiti were sent to Guantanamo Bay and again Haitian boats were intercepted in international waters and forced to return. Those who refused were hosed down and forced off the boats. [10]

Working in parallel with the Haitian Program, the USA was also busy supporting the military junta of coup-maker General Cedras and inventing and facilitating ways to suppress Lavalas, the party of Aristide, and prevent his return. The suppression was brutal from the start.

“…to steady their nerves, ordinary soldiers received up to $5000 a piece. As crowds gathered in defense of the government [Aristide] the army opened fire, and kept firing…..’the soldiers shot everything in sight . They ran out of ammunition so fast that it seems the US had to re-supply them with night-time helicopter flights from Guantanamo. At least 300 people were killed in the first night of the coup, probably many more.” [11]

The strategic importance of Guantanamo is displayed both as a detention center and as a launching pad to terrorize Haiti and no doubt any other Caribbean nation that dared to create an autonomous government. But it was with the detention of HIV+ and suspected HIV+ Haitians that the Haitian Program really came into its own. As Paik points out, the detention of HIV-positive Haitians by the USA  at Guantanamo is not just part of the historical “[neo] imperialism in Haiti” but also a continuation of a racist discourse which sees migrants and in particular migrant black bodies as “carriers of contagion.” [12] The marking of Haitians as carriers of AIDS goes back to the early 1980s when the “Center for Disease Control [CDC], identified four high-risk groups, known pejoratively as the 4-H club – “homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians” – the first time a disease was tied to a nationality but not the first time black bodies have been tied to racist notions of deviance and contagion [13] and of being a threat to whiteness.

The justification for imprisonment of HIV-positive Haitians was humanitarian – to provide them with “shelter, food and medical care.”  In reality they were being detained in dehumanizing conditions such as inadequate water,  maggot-ridden food and forced to take  blood tests.  Those diagnosed as HIV Positive were isolated and often men and women were misdiagnosed.   Women were forced to have birth control injections and in some instances their children were sent to the US whilst they remained in the camp.  Other illness reported identified were, trauma and many detainees were found to have head injuries from beatings.  One US official on hearing complaints about the appalling conditions responded that they were going to die anyway.

The immediate reaction of the USA following the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent “restoration policies” need to be seen in the above historical context of exploitation, subjugation and US domestic immigration policy. The decision to prioritize security over real humanitarian need saw the deployment of troops throughout Port-au-Prince in the immediate days after the earthquake; the consolidation of NGO rule [they provide 80% of basic public services] [14]; the consolidation of the Free Trade Zone and  the creation in January 2011 of a mega assembly line in Caracol [PIRN].   The deal was signed by the “Haitian government,” the US Secretary of State [on behalf of US taxpayers], Korean textile manufacturer, Sae-A Trading, and the IDB. With the sweep of a pen, 300 locally owned plots of land were converted into an industrial park. A report by Haiti Grassroots Watch provides some of the reasons behind PIRN which also affects US workers.

“Ultimately, in the case of the PIRN at least, US taxpayers are making it easier and cheaper for foreign and local clothing and textile companies firms to set up (sweat-)shops in Haiti, lay off better paid workers in the US and other countries, and increase their profits. If Levis and the GAP can get their clothes stitched in a place that pays US$5.00 a day rather than US$9.00 an hour (approximately the lowest wage paid in US-based clothing factories), with new infrastructure, electricity, UN peacekeepers to provide security, and tax-free revenues and other benefits, why not?”

What’s in it for the main investor , Sae-A Trading?  Massive profits from the HELP Act which allows textiles to enter the USA from Haiti, tax-free, and a USA-Korea Free Trade Agreement giving new meaning to the manufacturing methods of JIT [just in time].  The location of the industrial zone at Caracol also has serious environmental impacts, as explained in a report by Alter Presse. Apart from the loss of farming livelihood to some 1000 farmers who now constitute cheap production labor, archeological sites will be destroyed, “water appropriated polluted and made more expensive,”, and destruction of farmland means the workers will be forced to ” buy subsidized US food.
Most recently there have been a number of  mining contracts issued to multinational mining corporations [These have just been rejected by the Senate who have asked that the companies 'cease exploitation'.

"We can't sit and just say everything must stop. We must take a resolution to tell the Executive this is the position of the Senate of the Republic, the Haitian Parliament on this issue. Everything must be done within regulations. We can not resolve a wrong with a wrong but in the meantime..."

We would like to know the value of the mines in Haiti, we must get this, because we must know what we have - because it's everyday that they are telling us that this country is a poor country, their presence here is humanitarian but there is nothing being done and then, all this time, we are full of resources. And the people who are principally concerned don't have any information on this.

In “Haiti’s Gold Rush” [Guernica Magazine]Jacob Kushner writes that “mineral explorers have long suspected Haiti could be sitting on a large gold deposits.”  A number of Haitians interviewed, however, say the local people in the northern mountains and elsewhere have always known there was gold in the ground and US and Canadian mining exploration companies have been testing the region on and off since the 1970s.   Permits have been given to two Canadian companies, Majescor (to explore 450 sq kilometers), and Eurasian (1,770 sq kilometers).   Two US companies are also involved: VCS Mining have rights over 700 sq kilometers and Newmont Ventures have the largest share.  As of December last year mining permits were given to Majescor and VCS Mining.  The deal for the mining corporations is the gift from Haiti to multinational capital…

Since 2009, Haiti’s government ministers have been considering a new convention. This would allow Eurasian, Newmont’s business partner, to explore an additional 1300 square kilometers of land in Haiti’s north. But according to Dieuseul Anglade, Haiti’s mining chief of two decades, unlike previous agreements, this one doesn’t include a limit–standard among mining contracts worldwide–on how much of a mine’s revenue the company can write off as costs. Without any cap, a mining company can claim that a mine has an unusually low profit margin, allowing it to pay fewer taxes to the Haitian state; Anglade opposed these terms, and was fired in May.”

Kushner also points to the poor environmental record of Newmont. For example, in 2010 a cyanide spill in Ghana killed fish and destroyed drinking water. There are also questions around the number of possible employees and the conditions under which they would work.  Given the environmental and social devastation  of other resource-rich regions such as the Niger Delta, DRC and Ecuador,  and the weakness of the Haitian government, rule by NGOs and an overall carpetbagger mentality,  it is hard to imagine mining bodes well for local people.    An investigation by Haiti Grassroots Watch found that behind the mining contracts lay

“backroom deals, players with widely diverging objectives, legally questionable “memorandums”, and a playing field that is far from level.”

Guernica – Images from Flickr via waterdotorg

The hills in the Cap Haitian region are the hills of the revolution.  They are also the hills where the indigenous people of Haiti, the Taino,  were slaughtered by Christopher Columbus and other white settlers.  These are now the hills owned by foreign multinational mining corporations. President Martelly’s slogan “Haiti is open for business” should include the line  “going for a song.”  Humanitarian aid in Haiti has always been aid in the interest of the donor country, whether it be to keep out Haitians from US soil or to exploit their labor on Haitian soil and make even more money for companies in donor countries.  It has never been about the Haitian masses.

I have very briefly attempted to outline a few complex historical events in the hope that those interested will seek out further reading such as the following sources used in compiling this piece:

Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, The Earthquake and the UN by Justin Podur 

Haiti – Haitii? Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization by Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti by Jeb Sprague

Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward

Notes

  1. A. Naomi Paik  “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo: Legacies of US Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991-1994”  published in Radical History Review Issue 15 /Winter 2013].
  2. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation”, Pluto Press, 2012
  3. Jean-Bertrand Aristide [2011]“Haiti-Haitii! Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization”, Paradigm
  4. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti-Haitii!
  5. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  6. Terry Nardin and Kathleen D Pritchard “Ethics and Intervention: The United States in Grenada, 1983” [http://bit.ly/W7MrKo] 
  7. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  8. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  9. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship”
  10. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  11. Peter Hallward “Damming the Flood: Aristide and the Politics of Containment”
  12. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  13. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  14. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship”

This post was also published on Pambazuka News – 25/01/2013

 

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Haiti: Occasional Musings – 4

We started the English classes on Tuesday.  Altogether there are 14 in the class with varying English levels.  The first day was taken up with introductions and everyone was a little nervous but yesterday was brilliant.  Today we have a huge brown board so things should be even better. The class is relaxed with a focus on conversation so it doesn’t interfere with the school curriculum.  More on the school curriculum another day particularly when it comes to Haitian history as taught in the schools.  There’s still the whole French hegemony which prevents access to information and stigmatizes huge sections of the population who speak Kreyol.   Kreyol is a language created out of a revolution.  Sometimes we forget that the majority of slaves who fought in the Haitian revolution were born in Africa and it’s through them that Kreyol and Voudou were created from their own languages and religious traditions mixed with French and Spanish.    In the process of decolonization surely language and religion [where it is Libratory]  must revive and reasert themselves?  French stifles the majority of the population who speak Kreyol.  Children are forced to learn maths in French making the subject doubly difficult.   During the 12th January rememberance in 2012, white evangelicals attempted to break up a Voudou rememberance ceremony by drowning out the ceremony with their music.  Eventually the police had to be called to drag the evangelicals away before someone got killed – shameful!

In Haiti-Haitii? Jean-Bertrand Aristide writes of religion first in general terms but then he goes on to state “there is religion and there is religion” in which he criticizes the Catholic church – an important weapon in colonization.

In the eyes of those who do not see well, religion looks like gold. Thankfully those with sound and analytical minds know that “Not everything that sparkles is gold”

Since time immemorial, many of the powerful elites have used religion as a potent weapon: a weapon to deconstruct , destroy, dismember the ideas of others while forcing their own ideas onto those with stunted brains to subjugate and break those persons, and utilize them for their own purposes”

When this mighty power [Catholicism] roared, it was like a wild beast, devouring any and all foreign religions in its path…. The interests of the colonialists and the interests of Jesus are two mountains that will never meet.  Slavery and liberty are exactly like hell and paradise.  Because illiterate does not mean stupid, the slaves did not have to pore over the words of a Catechism tailored to serve one set of interest , in order to understand the religion of the colonialists.

The stench of rot cannot be camouflaged by incense.’

The new religious colonialists come dressed in a different set of clothing with a new language…..black people are following meanwhile the climate is changing.  The earthquake – a story for another day!

#16Days: – Nigeria’s Memory Hole*

In the early hours of the morning of the 20th November, 1999, 27 trucks carrying over 2000 soldiers plus 4 armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns drove into Odi Town in Bayelsa State. Between 2pm that afternoon and 6pm the following day, the town was bombarded with artillery fire. By the end of the two days, practically every building in the town was flattened, set on fire and/or looted. In all 2,483 persons – mainly women, children and the elderly were massacred in 24 hours. Thousands more fled in canoes or on foot to the forests where they hid, some up to a week with no food or shelter.

The order to invade and destroy Odi town was given by the then head of state, President Olusegun Obasanjo. The reason given for the attack at the time was that two weeks before, 9 policemen had been kidnapped and killed in the town by a criminal gang.

Odi was not the only town in the Niger Delta where people were massacred and property destroyed during the Obasanjo years. Kaiama just a few miles from Odi was attacked January and later Oleh Town, in Delta State and Erema in Rivers State were also invaded to name a few. Then there was the terrible rape that took place in Choba, Rivers state where Nigerian army soldiers were photographed raping women. No one has ever been held to account for these past and present crimes against women and other civilians.

In the original report on the invasion of Odi the term used for those who killed the police was “criminal gang’. This has now been revised in line with the ubiquitous use of the ‘war on terror’ narrative, to ‘militants’ and ‘terrorists’ by both President Obasanjo and Jonathan. Remember this was in 1999 and rather than put an end to militancy – there wasn’t any at this time, it is very likely the action gave birth to the militancy they now claim was the reason for the invasion. In response to Jonathan’s claim that the massacre of Odi people did not put an end to “terrorist’ acts Femi Fani-Kayode wrote

“The Governor [Alamieyeseigha, the then Bayelsa State governor] said that he was unable to do so and President Obasanjo, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, took the position that security personnel could not be killed with impunity under his watch without a strong and appropriate response from the Federal Government. Consequently he sent the military in, to uproot and kill the terrorists and to destroy their operational base which was the town of Odi. The operation was carried out with military precision and efficiency and it’s objectives were fully achieved. The terrorists were either killed and those that were not killed fled their operational base in Odi.” The people of Odi town have denied the charge that the men were militants and that Odi was ‘an operational base’.

I use the invasion of Odi as an example of the extent to which militarism pervades governance and all aspects of Nigerian society – cultural, social, economic and gender justice, in Nigeria. Successive Nigerian governments both military and civilian have always chosen violent responses, under the guise of protecting citizens, to silence political protests, punish ethnic and religious conflict, evict street vendors, destroy informal settlements and remove beggars from the streets.

The award winning environmental and human rights activist, Nnimmo Bassey describes the responses to the Odi massacre and destruction of property and livelihoods in the Niger Delta as a’Blanket of Silence”. The impunity with which the murder of civilians and the extra judicial execution of alleged  criminals is never questioned.  Such is the desensitization to violence. No where in the media reports or in any other statement on the invasion, does anyone question the use of collective punishment – the massacre of 2,483 people and the total destruction of a town which can only be described as a war crime.  What arrogance and shamefulness it is that an ex-President can attempt to justify the murder of 2,483 unarmed women, children and elderly men.

When I speak of violence, I am speaking of an inclusive violence. Women have been at the center of this violence and they continue to be so.   Women have always been at the center of these acts of violence which are psychological, sexual, physical, emotional and verbal, as well as  the fear of those acts.   The true nature of the gendered violence which comes from the relationship between the militarized ruling elite and multinational oil companies, is obscured by the focus on supposed militants and or criminal gangs. In June 2009 the government of the late President Yar’Adua bombed Oporoza town, Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Delta state supposedly to ‘root out’ militants. Yet not a single militant was killed and there is no real evidence that any were present. Once again women, children and elderly men were killed and driven out of the town to hide in the swamps. Many trekked for days before reaching the city.  Later some 2000 women and children were placed in a refugee camp outside Warri run by women’s rights activists from Rivers State.

In the post amnesty period, 2009 to the present much of the violence against women has come from cultist and criminal gangs empowered by the culture of violence around the protection of oil production and bunkering. At the same time women have become increasingly disempowered through the perpetual violence and the loss of their livelihoods as market traders, farmers and fishing. Many women have had to move to Port Harcourt and despite the hardship and poverty of living in the city, they remain fearful of returning to their villages.

It is now 2012, the militants have been given amnesty yet the region remains heavily militarised and it is impossible to move by water or land from village to village or town to town without facing a checkpoint. In a 2011 audit of security forces carried out by myself and Emem Okon of Kebetkachie Womens Resource Center, Port Harcourt,  we listed the following security in the region.

Nigerian security forces: The River’s State Internal Security Task Force – used against the Ogoni people. The Special Naval Task Force, regular forces of the Nigerian Army, Mobile Police and police units, and more recently the Joint Task Force [JTF].

On the militant’s side there were [are] two main militias: the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force led by Asari Dokobo and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta [which has a number of splinter groups]. In addition there are various other militias some being splinter groups of the main two such as the Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta (CMND), South-South Liberation Movement (SSLM), Movement for the Sovereign State of the Niger Delta (MOSSEND), DE Gbam, DE Well, Niger Delta Vigilante, and Meninbutus. There has also been at various times a Joint Revolutionary Council whose aim was to bring together leaders from all the militias.

The multinationals [Shell, Chevron, Agip, Elf, Mobil] all have their own private security personnel as well as a close political, economic and general working relationship with the various Nigerian security forces. Since the 2009 amnesty many of the ex militants have been employed by oil companies as security. In addition there are criminal / cultist gangs at work in urban centers and villages especially in those where there are oil facilities; There are also ex militants, church and other institutional security forces.

The culture of militarism is thus an all pervasive one which impacts directly on the rights of women as it extends into the domestic sphere, traditional spaces and the environment through a systemic destruction of the ecological system.

* The phrase ‘Memory Hole’ is taken from an article by William Finnegan in the New Yorker.

QAR Weekly News

  • Another South African Lesbian MurderThis morning (10/11/2012) I received a call from Ndumie Funda the founder and Director of Lulekisizwe a project that nurses, supports and feeds the lesbian bisexual and trans woman (LBT) in townships who are victims and survivors of “corrective rape”, whom I had just seen the day before and we were just talking about the current situation facing the LGBTI community in Cape Town especially in the townships. Funda sounded stressed and in shock over the phone when she asked me to get the word out about the murder of Sihle Skotshi (19) who was an active member of Lulekisizwe. Later I met up with Funda and  had an opportunity to interview the two survivors of the attack who were with Sihle when she died.tags: Queer Politics, LGBTI Africa, South Africa, Sexual Violence

 

  • Malawian Anti-Gay Laws under review, suspendedGoing against a trend in Africa, Malawi’s government is moving to suspend laws against homosexuality and has ordered police not to arrest people for same-sex acts until the anti-gay laws are reviewed by parliament.Human Rights Watch called the decision “courageous” and said it should inspire other countries that criminalize homosexuality.Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara last week told a public debate on minority rights that the police have been ordered not to arrest anyone suspected of engaging in homosexuality. Anyone convicted under Malawi’s anti-gay laws, some of the toughest in the world, can get up to 14 years in jail with hard labor. Kasambara said parliament will soon discuss the laws. 

Report on solidarity visit with Marikana Women

The day after the massacre, wives and mothers of the mine workers protest against the police. — Photo: Themba Hadebe, AP

 

 

Below are two personal reports from last weeks solidarity visit with the women of Marikana on 15th September, 2012.  Another visit is planned for  this Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd of September.  First some background to the crisis by the Solidarity organising committee:

On 16 August 2012, 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers were shot dead, 78 injured and over 250 arrested by the police in Marikana,  a platinum mining area 100 kilometres from Johannesburg. Until then Marikana was ‘off the map’, a little known ‘settler’ mining town, a place of great poverty and little hope. But the strike and the responding repression has changed this. Marikana is now on the lips of all South Africans, and has been the subject of a great deal of discussion, analysis and focus by government, academics, unionists, activists, commentators and journalists.

The Marikana strike and the subsequent massacre has put in the spotlight, eighteen years into South Africa’s democracy, the persistent and widespread exploitation of cheap black labour, much of this still underpinned by the system of migration within the country and on a regional scale. Marikana has pointed to the failures of South African labour legislation and centralised bargaining systems and has highlighted the failures of the post-apartheid union model, which in the case of Cosatu, has substantially failed workers and wedded them to the tripartite alliance and other ruling interests. Workers in Marikana and across the platinum belt in the North West province rejected NUM and planned and managed their strike action through their own organisational formations, none of them traditional union models; in the case of Marikana, workers struck their deal with Lonmin at the close of day on 18 September 2012.  More details on the background from the Daily Maverick

Report 

 I was part of a solidarity visit to women in Marikana today.  It was a very intense day. Just before we got there we heard that the police had shot women. Three that we saw were shot in the leg and body and one was injured in the stampede to get away from police. The women chose to gather for the solidarity meeting,  even though the ‘state of emergency’ declared yesterday makes gatherings of more than 10 together outside illegal.  The spirit of the women and their courage in the face of the brutality was truly inspiring.

Marikana is enormous, the workers live in tiny shacks on cracked grounds.  The roads are so bad they are almost impassable unless you have a 4 wheel drive. Most houses don’t have access to water and there are communal pit latrines outside. The women told their stories of the recent and ongoing police brutality.   There was a heavy police presence on the way in, casspirs and hippos from which they had been firing randomly in the area we gathered. While we were meeting,  a police helicopter followed by an army helicopter flew over repeatedly.   Early on the men ran away but the women decided to stand their ground and actually to sit down. The meeting lasted a few hours. It’s a  3 hours drive from Joburg.   We were back and forth to mine hospital and then municipal hospital. …. Gabrielle

Women’s March for Justice

 

So, apologies that things have moved fast with the Women’s march and there hasnt been time to co-ordinate in the best way possible. This is hopefully an opportunity. A brief history of the march is that a group of us in the women’s solidarity space went back for a follow up conversation with the women in Marikana this last Saturday. As we were nearing the area the women called us to say the Nyalas were back combing the Nkaneng community and then started shooting with rubber bullets. As you have heard, four women were injured (three shot with rubber bullets in the legs and one injured during the stampede).

Sadly, one of the women, Pauline, died today. When we left on Saturday Pauline was in a bit of pain but was in high spirits talking and eating and laughing and enraged by what the police had done and ready to be among those leading the march, even with her injured leg. We are waiting on news from women in Marikana who went to the hospital with the family to ascertain the cause of Pauline’s death.

At the 4 hour meeting we held with about 50-60 women following the shootings, women were so angry and ready to march the next monday. After discussion the women decided they wanted to march as women on Saturday 22nd. They were very specific on their need to march as women, to build their power as women, to express their rage as women, to reclaim a voice they have been denied as women, to reclaim their power as women, as members of the community of Marikana, as citizens of this country. They articulated their need to march as women not as a separatist thing but as being about taking their power while at the same time acting in solidarity with the men who had been killed, some of whom are their relatives, and making visible the stories of the women of Marikana which had been invisibilised in the reporting and engagement on the Marikana story. We spoke about the possibility of the strike being resolved. they were clear that while they fully support the workers wage and other demands, the justice question and the other issues affecting women and the community including living under conditions of state of emergency, etc remain. They have continued to organise for the march despite yesterday’s developments around the strike…… Sipho

Occupy Guyana [GT] & The People’s Parliament enters its third week


Occupy Georgetown is now entering its third week. Whilst the first week was free of police harassment this changed last week. First the police came to the camp dismantling a day tent and demanding the occupiers leave.  They brought prisoners to help them dismantle the tents but the people remained steadfast despite having to spend the night on cardboard sheets under the Guyanese stars. Then the police attempted to erect a fence around the camp presumably to prevent people from entering and or leaving. Nonetheless the occupy spirit is gaining  ground.  The People’s Parliament has been set up stating”

The People’s Parliament aims to engage Guyanese of all backgrounds in a collective public interrogation of the Guyanese condition and dialogue in order to identify real, substantive, long term solutions to the numerous problems plaguing our land. The Linden crisis highlights multiple failures in Guyanese society- from police brutality, repression of freedom of speech, poverty and unemployment, to lack of State accountability, racism, corruption, and repression of dissent- Guyanese people have no holiday from problems……………

The People’s Parliament is a 24hrs occupation of time, space, and consciousness. It is a re-imagining of what Guyanese society could be like. It is a gathering of people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, talents, and opinions. For over a week, the participants have been staking a space in public where all individuals and voices are equally welcomed- university professors, writers, lawyers, the unemployed, mothers, and youth.

We are inspired by the action of the people of Linden and committed to spreading the Linden example of transformative, collaborative social action across Guyana. We have started a public discourse and stimulated dialogue on a number of issues. We are an example of peaceful, positive action even in the face of fear and intimidation. As we move forward, we are committed to continuing to occupy a space in which we can further engage our Guyanese brothers and sisters in this envisioning and creation of our new Guyanese future. We invite you to join us- High Street, between Brickdam and Hadfield Streets.

Now there is a solid core of supporters beyond the initial few women. The camp operates through collective decision making with the main focus being

to change hearts, minds and consciousness, to empower people so that they can transform their lives, society and country.

This week the occupiers will be “exploring a variety of creative strategies- public speakers, movie night, drama, know your rights training, ‘translating’ constitution

 

A week ago I interviewed three of the women who began the OccupyGT movement [Sherlina Nageer, Charlene Wilkinson and Joyce Marcus of Red Thread] They discuss how they came together, the challenges they face as a movement and their short and long term priorities.

 

Sherlina Nageer

SE: What is the present situation with the Occupy GT and in Linden?

SN: We just celebrated one week occupation [last wed] and we have been reflecting and planning for the coming week. It is an interesting space that we are in. Last week the people of Linden signed an agreement with the government asking for land reform, a committee to control physical resources, a formal investigation into unemployment and poverty situation and an investigation into the killings. The larger issues of police brutality and poverty still remain and this will be the occupation’s focus.

Immediately the agreement was signed everything in Linden returned to ‘normal’ but the feeling is, there isn’t a consensus on the signing of the agreement. What will happen now depends on how much the government lives up to its promises and people will be watching.

SE: I understand the Occupy GT is predominately a women’s occupation?

SN: The core group who initiated the action were all women though there was input from men activists and both are participating in the occupation. The response from the public has been mixed. Those that have interacted with the group appreciative and support the Occupy objectives.

Getting folks to join us has been a little bit more of a challenge. We have to remember that nothing like this has been done before in Guyana. People are used to picketing for a couple of hours but this kind of sustained public action is very new and takes getting used too. Another challenge is that many people think the issue is strictly about Linden so they think we are from Linden and that we are the families of the men who were killed and injured. So if they are not from Linden they do not feel invested in the action.

SE: What is strategy for the coming weeks?

SN: Its been a week. We have been trying to reeducate a lot of misinformation and engage in active outreach and more active media engagement going forward. So the focus is on what we want and so we will see how that plays out.

SE: How much did the existence of a strong women’s organizational base [Red Thread] influence the decision to create the occupyGT and the Peoples Parliament?

SN: Without Red Thread’s involvement we would not have been able to do this. We are dealing with grassroots women who have to work, take care of children and family members. Life is hard as it is but they have been there. Our capacity has been stretched to the limit but they understand the issues so that is a great help. So without Red Thread there would be no Occupy movement. Red Thread has been around for years and they are known for being progressive and having a radical politics.

 

Charlene Wilkinson

SE: Can you give us some background on how the Occupy GT movement began?

CW: The idea started in my living room but I knew I could not do it alone, I did not have the courage for that. There was no other organization for Sherlina and I to approach except Red Thread. So we approached them and without hesitation they agreed. They had experience of one of their members going on hunger strike during an escalation of violence and they have a history with the Walter Rodney movement.

SE: How long did it take to get started?

CW: It took some time for us to get out there – well 4/5 weeks . It is unfortunate that we have come to this crisis but it is due to a lack of dialogue by the government . All of us have to learn but if you are in power and control all the resources and institutions in the country and you don’t have what it takes to dialogue with the people that is one of the most dangerous situations.

SE: What would you say are the key issue of concern to the Occupy movement.

CW: Building our numbers – can we build this into a mass movement given the current fear by the Guyanese people after years of state sponsored violence, after decades of state violence.

I am thinking that since the police and joint services are still occupying Linden like a police state, we will hold our occupation until that occupation ends. There are some harder issues. We have to consider seriously, the removal or dismissal of the Home Affairs minister responsible for the killings. Also charging the officers who carried out the murders. These are the issues we think are dire. The country can never become a normal state with the Home Affairs minister in place and the police who have murdered. There is a long history of state sponsored violence in Guyana but the violence which took place in Linden is on a different level. This has not happened in a way before, so blatant

SE: So the Difference with Linden is that they didn’t even bother to cover it up but just acted with open disregard for the people of the town.?

CW: Absolutely but we suspect it was planned.

SE: People are afraid but at the same time it is inspiring that there are people like yourselves who are willing to stand up and speak out despite the ramifications to you personally. Surely this will encourage more people to speak out?

CW: Yes this is so but this is part of our crisis. The people who matter in terms of having influence have not been coming out in numbers. So the few have been punished.

Joyce Marcus [Red Thread]

SE: Charlene has spoken of the importance of Red Thread’s support of the OccupyGT movement. What were the reasons behind your immediate and unequivocal support?

JM: Red Thread [RT] is a grassroots women’s organisation and we have been working with women ever since we began in 1986. Our aim is to transform the lives of poor people especially women. The issues behind the occupation are the same issues which RT have been working against for many years. We have three priorities around which we work, which are critical to the rights of poor people. One, campaign for affordable access to living and affordable access to services. Two, work against all forms of violence and three, work with grassroots people to gain a political voice.

And so the issue of what happened in Linden we could see the priorities are similar to those we at Red Thread have been working on. Besides what happened in Linden on July 18th, we know there are other problems. That is not the core problem for example leading up to the protest and killings, poor people do not have access to a living income, access to services and so when the government decided that it would increase the price of electricity and Linden responded by protesting, we understood this completely. You cannot ask a town like Linden which has a 70% unemployment to pay this sum of money. Also some of us from RD belong to Linden with family still living there. Since we have been campaigning around the poor economic situation of people in Guyana and also against all forms of violence, the Occupation fit right into that.

Right after people were shot in Linden we organised daily pickets and night vigils. The actual decision to support the Occupy movement was then easy because we had thought about organsing an occupy movement before. So when Sherlina and Charlene came to us we say yes.

SE: Can I just take you back as I want to try to understand and I think readers might wish to know, why is there such a high unemployment rate in a region as resource rich as Linden – the economic backbone of Guyana?

JM: Part of the problem is management but what the government has been doing is privatizing everything we own. When they privatize they end up getting a lesser percentage of the income. Then the private companies will always call the shots – how much the minerals are worth and they decide how many they will employ. That is they have the advantage and are always gaining more. Our government just seems to go along with it without being concerned as to how this affects the communities. They don’t stand up to the companies and say, this belongs to us and so bargain in a way that is beneficial to the country and not just a few people.

SE: So where do you go from here?

JM: The whole Linden issue is just part of a bigger problem – you know the protests and killings. Often times people feel they have no rights and don’t know the power they have, they just tend to take what comes to them and only a few stand up. We hope with this we will be able to create a people’s parliament to open the way for people to come and be able to talk about the issues affecting them. To share their ideas of what they think. If we can get more people to become aware even if its not their direct concern, but still be aware that what happens affects us all. We want to see whether we can create a situation where everyone would want to say, listen this cannot continue and we have to stop it and know that we are the ones that have the power and not the politicians. That they are there to serve us and cannot do what they feel like without first consulting us.

We dont expect to be here forever but we need to build that momentum to create that kind of situation.

SE: Then really a great deal of your work over the next few weeks will be around education and outreach?

JM: Yes.

SE: Sherlina mentioned the lack of capacity is a huge challenge, how do you think you can overcome this?

JM: I would say that we are really trying because when we started there were just four of us. What we have built in a week is that those who are committed to staying at the Occupy camp at night are not people we have met before but have understood what we are doing and have made a commitment to that. So I would say that we have grown not very large , but a step forward. We hope in two weeks we will grow some more but we need to do more work at community level.

SE: What about students from the university – have they been supportive?

JM: You see what we were hoping at the beginning was that people would see the need to come with us freely but we would approach the university and other individuals. But to be truthful we do not have enough organizations that would come out in support. We have a whole lot of NGOs but it is not their thing. But we are confident in moving forward.