Category Archives: Governance

It is legalized homophobia, not same-sex relations, that is alien to Africa

From Al Jazeera America, Ugandan academic,  professor of law at Makerere University in Uganda, Sylvia Tamale on legalized homophobia in Africa.  Professor Tamale is the editor of African Sexualities published by Fahamu Press.

 

During a prime time interview with BBC’s “Hard Talk” show in March 2012, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni noted, “Homosexuals in small numbers have always existed in our part of black Africa …They were never prosecuted. They were never discriminated.”

Earlier this year, confronted by internal and external pressure, Museveni reversed himself and signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the full glare of the media — declaring that homosexuality was Western-imposed. Before signing the law, Museveni asked a team of top-notch Ugandan scientists to help him make an educated decision. The panel’s report did not mince words: “In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual tendencies.”

Museveni’s bizarre actions can only be interpreted as a political ploy ahead of presidential elections scheduled for early 2016. Having been at the helm since 1986, Museveni faces serious competition both within and outside his party, not to mention a restless population afflicted by a high cost of living, unemployment and a general disgust with rampant corruption. By the stroke of a pen, Museveni succumbed to populist pressures and condemned an otherwise law-abiding sexual minority to maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Uganda is not alone in its anti-gay crusade. Nigeria recently passed a law criminalizing homosexuality. Several other African countries — including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon and Sierra Leone — have all expressed the desire to emulate Uganda and Nigeria. At least 38 African countries already proscribe consensual same-sex behavior.

The sad, tired but widely accepted myth that homosexuality is un-African has been valorized and erected on the altar of falsehood time after time. It is a myth that has been played out in numerous contexts, most recently over the debate on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. However, historical facts demand that this fable be debunked once and for all.

African sexualities

The ‘homosexuality is un-African’ myth is anchored on an old practice of selectively invoking African culture by those in power. African women are familiar with the mantra. “It is un-African” whenever they assert their rights, particularly those rights that involve reproductive autonomy and sexual sovereignty.

The mistaken claim that anything is un-African is based on the essentialist assumption that Africa is a homogeneous entity. In reality, however, Africa is made up of thousands of ethnic groups with rich and diverse cultures and sexualities. As appealing as the notion of African culture may be to some people, no such thing exists. Moreover, even if we wanted to imagine an authentic African culture, like all others, it would not be static.

African history is replete with examples of both erotic and nonerotic same-sex relationships. For example, the ancient cave paintings of the San people near Guruve in Zimbabwe depict two men engaged in some form of ritual sex. During precolonial times, the “mudoko dako,” or effeminate males among the Langi of northern Uganda were treated as women and could marry men. In Buganda, one of the largest traditional kingdoms in Uganda, it was an open secret that Kabaka (king) Mwanga II, who ruled in the latter half of the 19th century, was gay.

The vocabulary used to describe same-sex relations in traditional languages, predating colonialism, is further proof of the existence of such relations in precolonial Africa. To name but a few, the Shangaan of southern Africa referred to same-sex relations as “inkotshane” (male-wife); Basotho women in present-day Lesotho engage in socially sanctioned erotic relationships called “motsoalle” (special friend) and in the Wolof language, spoken in Senegal, homosexual men are known as “gor-digen” (men-women). But to be sure, the context and experiences of such relationships did not necessarily mirror homosexual relations as understood in the West, nor were they necessarily consistent with what we now describe as a gay or queer identity.

Same-sex relationships in Africa were far more complex than what the champions of the “un-African” myth would have us believe. Apart from erotic same-sex desire, in precolonial Africa, several other activities were involved in same-sex (or what the colonialists branded “unnatural”) sexuality. For example, the Ndebele and Shona in Zimbabwe, the Azande in Sudan and Congo, the Nupe in Nigeria and the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi all engaged in same-sex acts for spiritual rearmament — i.e., as a source of fresh power for their territories. It was also used for ritual purposes. Among various communities in South Africa, sex education among adolescent peers allowed them to experiment through acts such as “thigh sex” (“hlobonga” among the Zulu, “ukumetsha” among the Xhosa and “gangisa” among the Shangaan)…. Continued on Al Jazeera America

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Nigeria: Chibok, A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters

Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source: TheGuardian.com]
Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source: TheGuardian.com]
 Women across Nigeria are protesting the abduction of 234 schoolgirls from Chibok, in north east Nigeria, which took place on Monday April
the 14th. Starting from Wednesday the 30th of April, protests and rallies are planned in Abuja, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Kano, Lagos, Kaduna,
Benin.

A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters – Statement by Women of Peace And Justice

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Since Monday 14th April 2014 when over 200 young female students from the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, Borno State were abducted by heavily armed men, millions around the world have been unable to come to terms with the loss and the implications of this loss. Today, millions of Nigerian women and men call on the Federal Government and the security agencies to find and bring back these girls currently living in captivity.

These young girls are daughters, sisters, nieces; tomorrow’s women and mothers. Those directly affected grieve, and we as Nigerians and human beings, join them in their anguish and distress. We want them back. Safe in their homes where they belong.

The trend of conflicting information about the exact number of girls who are still missing and even the operations are regrettable. The fact that as yet, no credible claim of responsibility for the abduction of these girls has been made is equally disturbing. This makes it an imperative for all Nigerians to amplify and demand of those with the responsibility for the safety of all Nigerians to ACT and CONSTRUCTIVELY engage to find and return these girls to their parents.

As citizens it is our right and responsibility to ask the following questions which have been on the lips and on the minds of millions around the world. This is even as we wait, with baited breath, to be informed about the fate of these young girls whose only crime is striving for an education:

How is it possible in the age of drones, Google Maps, and aerial surveillance that over 200 girls will vanish without a trace? Is this suggestive of the weaknesses of security operations covering soft targets such as schools even after clear indications of their vulnerability?
Why was protection for our children in schools in the N.E not intensified even after the devastation and pain of the 59 innocent children murdered in FGC Buni Yadi on February 25 2014?
How is it that security is not upgraded around institutions even when warnings of potential threat or imminent aggressions are issued? The warning after Buni Yadi that girls would be targeted or that Giwa Baracks in Madiguri are two cases in point.
What is the rational explanation that in a location (Borno State) under a state of emergency; 4 trucks and numerous motor bikes can deploy, move in convoy, unleash terror on the school at Chibok and then flee with over 200 girls to a location yet to be determined by Nigeria’s security institutions?
Where are or what has happened to the much mentioned assistance to the Federal Government or collaboration with friendly governments ?
Why, despite the massive increase in security spending, (up to N1trillion in 2013 and N845 Billion in 2014), are Nigerians not safer; while our security and military personnel are said to be under equipped and ill prepared to face the ever growing security challenges confronting Nigeria?
What support plans are being made to cater for the emotional needs and management of the trauma the parents of these girls must be going through?
The Chibok incidence is CRITICAL as well as a stark reality of the vulnerability of all Nigerians but most especially innocent children seeking to actualize their right to education towards a potential improvement of quality life. There is a need to scale up security efforts and sustain vigilance until ALL the girls are found. They cannot be abandoned and all Nigerians must share in their agony and in the anguish of their immediate families. The media must step up its act especially in reporting and constructive investigative journalism.

We recognize the complexities and dangers in security and military operations, however it is our firm belief that these institutions hold in high esteem the value of Nigerian lives as well our sovereignty being their primary mandate. The reading from Chibok is WE, ALL, including the military and security personnel are at great RISK of being consumed by the aggression of those in ambush of our peace and prosperity. Extra measures that remain within the legal limits of operations and counter insurgency/terrorism must be employed. Citizens must remain vigilant and supportive of the institutions of security at all times.

We speak out today and will do so every day until these girls are ALL accounted for. As mothers, fathers and siblings we call for the urgent and complete end to the politicization of the insecurity in Nigeria. OUR pain and solution are collective.

Updates on twitter at #BringBackOur Girls and #FreeOurGirls

Museveni and reconstruction of homophobic colonial legacy in Africa

From Pambazuka News,  “Museveni and reconstruction of homophobic colonial legacy in Africa: Which way progressives?”  Horace Campbell on the passing of ‘legizlations of hate” in Uganda and Nigeria exposes the historical roots of right wing American Christian fundamentalists which goes back to lynching of Black Americans, a Eurgenic agenda  support of Apartheid and demonisation of Haitians and the 1804 independence.

As the legalization of hate towards same-gender loving persons gains traction in parts of Africa, it is the task of Pan African progressives and decent humans everywhere to expose this orchestrated destructive cultural war. This assault, fomented by some of the most conservative and racist Christian fundamentalists in America, is an attempt to reconstruct the divisive homophobic colonial legacy in Africa. This wave of extremism is in the same category as the activities of some of the most conservative Muslim fundamentalists who attempt to sponsor the imposition of archaic religious laws on Africans. In the midst of the confusion and moral façade under which these religious fanatics operate, the progressive Pan Africanist must speak up decisively. Two weeks ago Pambazuka News carried a splendid issue opposing this wave of hate and I want to join in opposing this legislation of hatred and intolerance. More than thirteen years ago when the Black Radical Congress was still a vibrant political force in the USA it had issued the statement, ‘African Leaders Hide Political Woes Behind Homophobia.’ [1]

On February 20, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill also dubbed as ‘Jail the Gays Bill,’ criminalizing same-sex relationships with up to life imprisonment. This Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 (previously called the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ in the media due to the originally proposed death penalty clauses), was originally passed by the Parliament of Uganda on 20 December 2013. Because of the international outcry over the death penalty proposal in the bill, this death penalty clause was dropped in favour of life in prison. One day after Museveni signed this bill into law, a Ugandan newspaper published a list of what it called the country’s 200 top homosexuals, outing some people who previously had not identified themselves as gay. This came only weeks after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a similar bill that would punish same-gender loving persons with up to 14 years in prison.

After signing the bill, Museveni referred to gays as ‘disgusting’ human beings, while suggesting that his action was intended ‘to demonstrate Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation.’ Museveni echoed an irony when he categorically stated that ‘we do not want anybody to impose their views on us.’ Janet and Yoweri Museveni have been supporters of the most conservative Christian fundamentalists in the USA and they have not been shy about their loyalty to these social elements in North America. [2] That Museveni was ready and willing to sign the original version of the bill was a reflection of the politics of retrogression in Uganda. That he equivocated with a statement about seeking scientific evidence on the sources of homosexuality was a demonstration of his insecurity and opportunism. This opportunism has been the trademark of Museveni since the days in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when he posed as the most radical anti-imperialist of the elements of the Dar es Salaam School. Ultimately, Museveni calculated that his alliance and loyalty to conservative Christian fundamentalists was more important than any kind of reasoning that he may have had with former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was crafted with the help and influence of some white supremacist, right wing Christian fundamentalists from the USA. [3] Prominent among these extremists was Scott Lively. Lively has since been charged for crimes against humanity in US court for his role in engineering the Uganda Anti-Gay Bill. [4]

The activities of American fundamentalists and individuals who influenced Ugandan leaders and helped craft the country’s anti-gay bills have been chronicled by researcher Kapya John Kaoma in the publications titled, ‘Colonizing African Values’. [5] (See also, by the same author, ‘Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia’.) [6] As noted by Kaoma, pioneers of the present wave of homophobia in Africa are ‘U.S. Christian Right figures including the internationally prominent Baptist pastor and bestselling author, Rick Warren; Scott Lively, the anti-gay, Holocaust revisionist; and Lou Engle, head of the revivalist group, The Call, and a leader in the right-wing New Apostolic Reformation movement…. [T]hey are contributing to the atmosphere of intolerance that is resulting in ‘instances of harassment, discrimination, persecution, violence and murders committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.’”

This atmosphere of hate, discrimination, harassment, persecution and lynching was perfected by the white supremacist bred in a country – USA – that for nearly a century enshrined in its constitution and justified the notion that the black personhood is only 3/5th of a normal human being. It is against the backdrop of this inherent dehumanization associated with the legalization of hate that African progressives must stand up and speak out against the wave of anti-gay laws blowing across the continent from Zimbabwe to Cameroon, Uganda, Nigeria and elsewhere.

Rights of same gender loving persons are human rights that are inextricably linked with the rights of every person in society. Yoweri Museveni’s claim on the anti-imperialist mantle comes from the silence of the progressive Pan-Africanist Left in Africa. Inside Uganda, Kizza Besigye, (a leader of the opposition) attacked the new laws signed by Museveni. He disputed the claim that homosexuality was ‘foreign’ and said the issue was being used to divert attention from domestic problems. Three years ago the Ugandan scholar, Sylvia Tamala, published the book ‘African Sexualities: A Reader’. [7] This ground breaking reader is still not widely known, and it will be important for many to read such works to engage this debate. What is significant is the stunning silence of well-known radicals in Uganda and East Africa on this criminalization of Africa’s LGBT community. Where are the scholars of the Dar es Salaam school on this issue?

South Africa has a progressive constitution that guarantees all people’s rights. But anywhere leaders are insecure they turn to bigotry, hate and the politics of exclusion to gain popularity. The most outrageous was Robert Mugabe who called homosexuals ‘pigs and dogs.’ And yet, many progressives still see Mugabe as a great revolutionary. More than ten years ago when I wrote on ‘Homophobia in Zimbabwe and the Politics of Intolerance,’ [8] some sections of the global Pan African movement objected and continued to praise Mugabe as anti-imperialist. In Nairobi, at a public meeting in 2011, young radicals from Bunge la Mwananchi (people’s parliament) were vociferous in their proclamation of intolerance to same-gender loving persons even while they were loudly opposing all other forms of oppression in Kenya.

Progressives in Africa must resist the ostensible moral appeal of the religious extremists and be humble enough to admit that there are some complex phenomena about human sexuality that require the critical questioning of popularly biased sentiments. There has to be an in-depth anthropological interrogation of generalizations and assumptions in present day Africa, as well as the probing of pre-colonial African societies and practices that were overshadowed by colonial laws and ordinances. Precolonial African societies were not homogenous but rather complex, diverse, and multidimensional. In the book, ‘Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society’, [9] anthropologist Ifi Amadiume sheds light on the fluidity of sexuality in a precolonial Ibo society. This conceptualization of flexible gender relations was a real breakthrough and more work needs to be done to expose the myths that there were no same-gender relationships in Africa before colonialism. Other works of anthropology have responded to Amadiume and have investigated the reality of sexuality in some precolonial African societies (see for example, ‘Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities’). [10]

Across Africa, the Western hegemons imposed their religion, languages, cultures and laws while demonizing or outlawing pre-existing practices. Most ‘educated’ Africans eventually internalized the Western ways, including the laws and religions that were bequeathed by colonialism. Societies such as Nigeria and Uganda were not an exception, and that is why same sex relationship was already not recognized by these countries’ constitutions which themselves are a colonial legacy. Thus, the promulgation of the anti-gay laws amounts to a reconstruction or reinforcement of a Western colonial legacy.

Many of the right wing American Christian fundamentalists that are financing and lobbying for the anti-gay laws in Africa are known for their eugenic agenda and were heavily in support of apartheid and destabilization in Africa during the Cold War. Some of them, including televangelist Pat Robertson, have not only opposed civil rights for Blacks in America but are also advocates of American exceptionalism and imperialism. It was the same Pat Robertson who at the time of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 said that there was the earthquake in Haiti because the people had signed a ‘pact to the devil.’ This was his understanding of the Haitian revolution which overthrew slavery and colonialism in 1804.

These conservative forces and their corporate backers are still working hard in America to reduce voting rights for blacks and browns, assault women’s and minorities’ rights, increase military budgets at the expense of funding for healthcare and education, as well as oppose programs and policies that benefit low wage workers and the exploited in the USA. They tend to be losing the culture war against the rising multi-racial tide in America, hence their intensification of the struggle in Africa. As one analyst puts it: ‘The U.S. culture wars are still not understood in African circles.’

While some tendencies within African Christianity share charismatic beliefs with U.S. Christian Right campaigners, the African Church in general is more social-justice-oriented and concerned about the exploited and the disenfranchised. Social justice and human rights advocates must expose the U.S. Christian Right’s opposition to social justice initiatives in the United States—and their historic alignment with White supremacist and repressive regimes in Africa.

Pan-Africanists and progressives cannot sit on the fence at this decisive moment. They must choose to be either in alliance with conservative forces opposed to social justice and equality or join forces with those who want equal rights and social justice for all Wole Soyinka has spoken out against these laws – which he referred to as ‘legislative zealotry.’ [11] In continuation of the tradition of their late father, the sons of Fela Kuti the Afrobeat maestro – Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti – have both made decisive statements against the anti-gay laws. [12] Author Chimamanda Adichie has done same. [13] It’s time for many more progressive Africans to take a stand.

Also see the Pambazuka Special issue : The Struggle for Homosexual Rights in Africa

 

Homosexuals sacrificed for political ambition in Uganda: A Statement from Freedom and Roam Uganda [FARUG]

KAMPALA: Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) with dismay and regret condemns the Anti Homosexuality Act accented to by the president of Uganda on Monday 24th, February 2014. The Act contravenes the fundamental national and international human rights standards and the constitution of Uganda which calls for the protection of the right to privacy, equality and non-discrimination. The law also denies Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

While assenting the Bill, the President said that the country can’t be forced to do something “fundamentally wrong.”

The (AHB) which was infamously known as the Kill The Gays Bill was first introduced to parliament by Ndorwa west Member of Parliament; Hon. David Bahati in 2009 with the objective of establishing a comprehensive and consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting any forms of sexual relations between persons of the same sex. “The people of Uganda should know that they have been duped for political ambition. The debate surrounding the Act has been a diverse measure to divert attention from real issues of national concern. This bill will never solve Uganda’s real problems like lack of drugs in hospitals, poor education services, bad roads or corruption. The Act will not change how we feel or who we love. It will make life extremely difficult for us but will change nothing” Said Junic Wambya, the Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda.

This law deals a major blow to public health access and information for LGBTI persons in Uganda especially in regards to HIV prevention and care. Criminalizing the funding and sponsoring of health related activities and policies will not only affect homosexuals but Uganda as a whole. “It is very sickening to listen to the head of the State degrading the people he is supposed to protect. He has distorted the medical reports from around the world to justify his hold on to power in quest for votes from locals at the expense of lives of homosexuals. It’s really a pity that now more than ever we have to watch our backs; but maybe this is a blessing

in disguise. I see that it has now made us move faster to the much anticipated decriminalization since now we shall be heading to the constitutional court which will dismantle even the penal code. That’s my consolation from this madness.” Said Kasha Jacqueline; The founder of FARUG.

Legal implications of the Law

All laws should have a commencement date but the Anti Homosexuality Act doesn’t have a designated commencement date. That means it can only be operational after it has been gazetted which could be

anytime from the date of assent. Before that, no person can be charged under this Law. The Law cannot be used to penalize any person who committed the crimes therein before the Bill was

signed into Law. The Bill was amended to take out the death penalty for acts of aggravated homosexuality but life imprisonment for acts of homosexuality and aggravated homosexuality still stands. The law imposes a sentence of seven years for attempted homosexuality, aiding and abetting homosexuality and recruitment of minors into homosexuality. Any organization found promoting homosexuality stands to serve a sentence of 5 years imprisonment or pay a fine of UGX100million or both.

Call to action

In coming days many LGBTI persons will be assaulted, arrested and detained. As of yesterday, 25th February; a gay couple was attacked and one of them killed while the other is in critical condition in hospital. Many have been thrown out of their houses by landlords and yet others will continue to lose their jobs. In the midst of all this we request the general public to desist from radical and irrational acts of violence towards suspected LGBTI persons. We demand that security agencies including the police and prisons endeavor to investigate any cases of violence perpetrated against LGBT persons and refrain from making arrests based on meagre hearsay and or suspicion. Uganda during the Universal Periodic Review in 2012 in Geneva committed to:

  • ? Investigate and prosecute intimidation and attacks on LGBTI community members and activists.
  • ? Investigate thoroughly and sanction accordingly violence against LGBTI persons including gay rights activist.
  • ? Take immediate and concrete steps to stop discrimination and assault against LGBTI persons. Media organizations should also refrain from sensational reporting which is fuelling hatred and attacks on persons suspected to be homosexuals.

We demand that donors channel funds to Civil Society Organizations carrying out, Social, Economic and human rights work rather than to a corrupt institution that has no remorse in not protecting its citizens. It is very unfortunate that we have to make such a call but Uganda should be isolated to prevent this passing of laws with impunity from spreading across the continent. This is very crucial to protect other countries in Africa. Finally we urge the international community to continue supporting the LBTI community, morally, financial and technically in response to security treats and human rights violations. To contribute to FARUG security fund please donate through our PayPal on our website: http://www.faruganda.org/paypal.html .

For more information contact:

Kasha Jacqueline: 0772463161

Jay Abang: 0782628611

For more on the medical report:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/02/23/exclusive-changes-made-in-final-report-of-the-ministry-of-health-committee-on-homosexuality/

Museveni’s speech at signing of Bill

http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Museveni-s-Anti-Homosexuality-speech/-/688334/2219956/-/item/0/-/6t248n/-/index.html

https://pdfzen.com/c12275be8591a372.

FREEDOM AND ROAM UGANDA [FARUG], IS A MEMBER OF THE COALITION OF AFRICAN LESBIAN

When Militarism Wins – Uganda and Aid Farce

From Paper Bird, an  excellent report  by Scott Long on who are the winners and losers in the AID game – the dice are loaded!

Victory! .. isn’t it? On February 27, the World Bank announced it was “indefinitely” delaying a scheduled $90 million loan to Uganda to improve health care, in response to the passing of the comprehensively repressive “Anti-Homosexuality Bill.” “We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law,” a Bank spokesman said.

In the circles where I move  – international (that is, North-based) activists working on LGBT rights — rejoicing burgeoned: finally the big funders are getting serious about queer people’s oppression! Politicians joined in. Nancy Pelosi, ex-speaker of the US House, tweeted joyfully:

pelosi wb copy

Jim Yong Kim, President Obama’s appointee to the lead the World Bank (an organization Washington still disproportionately funds and dominates) brought home the message with an op-ed the next day:

Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and for societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies … Legislation restricting sexual rights, for instance, can hurt a country’s competitiveness by discouraging multinational companies from investing or locating their activities in those nations.

Let’s pause to bask in the exhilarating effect of having a powerful institution intervene for LGBT people, with a leader in global development saying the “s” word — sex, as in “sexual rights.” Yes: it feels good.

Still, this is Africa. And this is the World Bank. For international activists to laud its actions so unreservedly involves a wretched show of amnesia.

We think that debt has to be seen from the standpoint of its origins. Debt’s origins come from colonialism’s origins. Those who lend us money are those who had colonized us before … Debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa, aiming at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules. Thus, each one of us becomes the financial slave, which is to say a true slave.

Probably few of my international colleagues will recognize those words– another leftist rant, right? But many Africans know them. It’s Thomas Sankara, then president of Burkina Faso, speaking to the African Union in 1987. Sankara had rejected the mandates of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and launched on a development path that promoted economic equality, gender justice, education, and health care as basic rights. Three months after saying that, he was dead: murdered in a coup. France and other creditor nations tacitly endorsed his killing. He’s remembered and mourned across Africa today. His successor brought the country back under World Bank and IMF tutelage; as a result, as a South African analyst remarks, “Today Burkina Faso remains one of the least developed countries in the world.”

 

For twenty-five years, the World Bank has pushed essentially unvarying policies across the developing world: privatization, cutting the public sector, fostering an export-based economy (so that poor countries become suppliers of raw materials to the industrial North, and don’t grow their own industries and markets). It imposed these restrictions as conditions for loans; that debt, in addition to crippling Southern economies, then became a weapon to enforce more conditions. Poverty spread, not development. The Bank has been friendlier to civil society than its IMF sibling; but their ideologies and impacts have been the same. Praising a World Bank intervention for LGBT rights in Africa while forgetting this history is like praising Putin’s tender concern for Crimean Russians, while forgetting the Ukrainians next door.

You can use the power of international lenders for certain instrumental ends. That doesn’t mean you have to love them. We shouldn’t just hail what they do, we should scrutinize it. And please. You cannot condemn (as indeed you should) the neocolonialism of foreign evangelists exporting homophobia to Africa, and ignore the neocolonialism of foreign financial institutions that enforce neoliberal economics on an abject continent. Why is it wrong to import one devastating ideology, and OK to import another? Sorry. You need to be consistent.

So in the spirit of scrutiny, some questions arise about what the World Bank did.

First of all: why postpone this loan? Mainly, the $90 million was earmarked to combat maternal mortality: aimed at ”maternal health, newborn care and family … through improving human resources for health, physical health infrastructure, and management, leadership and accountability for health service delivery.” It entailed funding to expand and train medical staff, to “professionalize and strengthen” management, for obstetric equipment and medicines including contraceptives, and for renovating hospitals. These goals are unlikely to be “adversely affected” by the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The real reason for the selection is that this loan was up for board approval on February 28. The Bank seized on the first loan that came along to postpone. It was a matter of convenience, not strategic targeting.

Progress, but not enough: Uganda maternal mortality rate, 1990-2013

Uganda maternal mortality rate, 1990-2013 (from http://www.countdown2015mnch.org/reports-and-articles/2013-report)

Second point: Maternal mortality is serious in Uganda — and a political issue.

The country’s rate of maternal mortality is extremely high. In the Millenium Development Goals — endorsed by nations at a UN summit back in 2000 — countries committed to reduce the level of maternal mortality by 75% by 2015. For Uganda, this would mean cutting a rate that hovered appallingly around 600 per 100,000 live births in the 1990s, to 150. A 2013 report found the rate had fallen to 310 per 100,000 live births — around a 3.2% reduction every year, the UN said, but still well above the goal. Fewer than half of mothers had adequate antenatal care, and only a third had sufficient postnatal care. Less than 60% had a skilled attendant at delivery. Despite the government’s loud promise of a National Minimum Health Care Package (UNMHCP) for all Ugandans, health services still fail to reach many poor and rural women.

Statistics on maternal health care in Uganda (from http://www.countdown2015mnch.org/reports-and-articles/2013-report)

Statistics on maternal health care in Uganda (from http://www.countdown2015mnch.org/reports-and-articles/2013-report)

By some estimates, between 6,500 and 13,500 women and girls in Uganda die each year due to “pregnancy-related complications.” That means at least sixteen women die every day.

In 2011, a coalition of NGOs petitioned Uganda’s courts to intervene. They argued 

that by not providing essential health services and commodities for pregnant women and their new-borns, Government was violating fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Constitution, including the right to health, the right to life, and the rights of women.

The case has stayed stalled in the legal system. At a September 2013 hearing, the government simply failed to show up, forcing an indefinite postponement. In May 2012, an emotional procession of women and health-care providers marched through Kampala’s streets to support the lawsuit. They got an apology from the judiciary for delays — too few judges, too little time — but the delays continued. They also met with Finance Ministry officials to demand increases in the health sector budget; those didn’t happen. Leonard Okello of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance Uganda told the press, “Dying mothers are not a priority in Uganda.”

Marchers in Kampala, May 22, 2012

Marchers in Kampala, May 22, 2012

Corruption and cronyism are undoubtedly at issue (top government officials waste a small fortune traveling for health care abroad), but the basic question is budgeting. Museveni has successfully battled back the political pressure to reorder his priorities. In 2001, African Union countries signed the Abuja Declaration, committing them to raise health spending to at least 15% of budget. (The development field seems particularly prone to these lofty professions of faith, which multiply like theological credos in the early Church.) Despite all its challenges, including one of the world’s best-known AIDS crises, Uganda has rarely made it much more than halfway to this target. The figures for recent years show a large decrease in the health sector’s budget share — from just over 10% in 2010 to under 8%:

On the right: health care as a percent of overall budget (from "Citizen’s Budget: The Civl Society Alternative Budget Proposals FY 2013/14 - 2017/18), at http://www.csbag.org/docs/Citizens_Budget_FY2013_14.pdf

On the right: health care as a percent of overall budget (from “Citizen’s Budget: The Civil Society Alternative Budget Proposals FY 2013/14 – 2017/18?, at http://www.csbag.org/docs/Citizens_Budget_FY2013_14.pdf)

Who gets the money instead?

Interesting question. Here are the allocations by sector from Uganda’s budgets for the last two fiscal years.

Uganda budget by sector, FY 2013/14 (from "National Budget Framework Paper," Ministry of Finance, at http://www.psfuganda.org/new/images/downloads/Trade/budget%20%20framework%20paper%202013-14.pdf)

Uganda budget by sector (from “The Background to the Budget, Fiscal Year 2013/14,” Ministry of Finance, p. 104, at http://www.budget.go.ug/budget/content/background-budget)

(Note the percentage figures on the right, and ignore the numbers in shillings, which are made irrelevant by inflation.) Health’s share goes down again, to less than half the Abuja Declaration goal. Other losers are education, agriculture, water and the environment. Huge shares of the budget are taken up by “Energy and Mineral Development” and “Works and Transport.” These partly reflect the growing exploitation of Uganda’s oil reserves. They also reflect the priorities neoliberal lenders like the World Bank have always urged on developing countries: go produce raw materials for export to the industrialized North! and go build the infrastructure to get them there! One commentator says the country is “focusing on physical capital at the expense of human capital.” That’s an understatement.

But the other big factor is the security sector.

Security doesn’t look so massive: only 8.2% of the latest budget. That’s only the tip of the AK-47, though. Many defense expenditures remain hidden. Uganda’s Independent newspaper noted that the “the budget for Defence in the BFP [Budget Framework Paper] has always been smaller” than the reality:

[I]n real terms that figure excludes monies accrued to Defence from external sources. The figure also does not include classified expenditure that is usually Defence’s biggest component. Because of national security, the army does not reveal certain expenditures.

The 2013/14 budget featured “about ten new taxes… introduced partly to finance the Ministry of Defence.” These included a value-added tax (VAT) on water and on wheat and flour, regressive imposts designed to squeeze money from the poor. Security is Museveni’s “topmost priority,” the Independent says, and it’s the great enemy of health. In 2012, rebel parliamentarians proposed cutting the military’s largesse by 15 billion shillings (about US$6 million) and boosting health spending by 39 billion (US$15.5 million). Museveni quashed the move in fury. He snarled that he “couldn’t sacrifice the defense budget for anything.”

The President prizes his troops: “a large military war-chest increases Museveni’s regional and international leverage, and helps cow opposition to him at home.” But the US loves the Ugandan military as well. America wants to see plenty of money spent on it.

David Hogg, Commander of US Army Africa, inspects Ugandan troops in April 2011. Photo: U.S. Army. .

David Hogg, Commander of US Army Africa, inspects Ugandan troops in April 2011. Photo: U.S. Army. .

I wrote two years ago about the US’s aims for strategic hegemony in Africa, driven by the promise of buried resources and the threat of China. Uganda, as ally and partner, is key to this design. Obama actually sent US troops to Uganda in 2011, to join its army in chasing the warlord Joseph Kony, loathed by well-meaning white people everywhere. This was a small reward for Museveni’s larger services in bringing a desolate stability to Somalia. In 2012, the Pentagon “poured more than $82 million into counterterrorism assistance for six African countries, with more than half of that going to Uganda.” Money and equipment keep flowing to Museveni’s forces. Obama showers Uganda with “lethal military assistance,” writes the pundit Andrew Mwenda, because “America’s geostrategic interests in our region, and Museveni’s pivotal role in them, demand that the American president pampers his Ugandan counterpart.” 

And here is where we can start to understand some ambiguities in the World Bank’s actions.

The $90 million loan for “Uganda Health Systems Strengthening” that the Bank was on the verge of giving drew on two earlier Bank analyses of Uganda’s health crises. There’s a 2009 paper, Uganda: A Public Expenditure Review 2008, With a Focus on Affordability of Pay Reform and Health Sector. A longer 2010 working paper, Fiscal Space for Health in Uganda, elaborated on this. (Peter Okwero, task team leader for the loan, helped compose both.) They’re fascinating documents that reveal much about Uganda and much more about the Bank. It’s an honest institution in many ways, frank with figures and often good at diagnosing what’s wrong. But its prescriptions seem to come from a different place from its diagnoses — one permeated with politics and ideology. Its medicines rarely match the disease.

The findings are unsurprising. Aside from considerable waste (caused by theft of drugs but also poor procurement and storage practices) the main problems in health care stem from lack of funds. Capital spending in hospitals has shrunk; many hospitals are old and decaying. Medical costs are rising: “Growing resistance to the existing treatment for malaria (and more recently for TB), is forcing Uganda to adopt more expensive treatments.” Meanwhile, ”Uganda faces a serious shortage of health personnel in the workforce,” with only 8 doctors per 100,000 population. Staff are underpaid (even drug stealing, a major component of waste, is surely related to salaries, though the reports don’t draw the connection). And many sick people need resources just to use the system: 

65 percent of women reported lack of money to pay for treatment as a constraint to seeking treatment. Other problems included travel distance (55 percent), the necessity of taking public transportation (49 percent), concern over unavailability of medications (46 percent) …

“Preliminary health sector modeling work carried out under this study suggests that Uganda clearly needs to increase public health spending for non-salary cost at clinics and hospitals.”

Student nurses in the caesarean section ward of Rukungiri hospital, 2007: ©  Patricia Hopkins, ABC news (Australia)

Student nurses in the caesarean section ward of Rukungiri
hospital, 2007: © Patricia Hopkins, ABC news (Australia)

Except the conclusion is, weirdly, Uganda can’t. Here’s where the medicine stops fitting the diagnosis. “[Only] limited opportunities for additional public funding seem to exist,” the 2009 report says. The reports adduce this from looking at the national budget, and finding there’s just no flexibility there.

Can Uganda increase the share of its Government budget devoted to health? Reprioritizing health spending at the expense of other sectors seems unlikely. It is not clear which other sector budgets can feasibly be cut in order to increase allocations to health. Government policy has emphasized fiscal consolidation, whilst agriculture, energy, roads and USE [universal secondary education] are each identified as priorities in the coming years. … The best option for generating more health outputs in Uganda would seem to be through improved efficiency of Government spending rather than increasing Government spending. [Emphasis added]

So much for those lawsuits based on human rights! Instead … blah, blah. “Uganda’s health policymakers must identify a combination of efficiency savings and re-prioritization to sustain progress towards health targets … Efficiency gains will be needed and can be found …  The most pressing priority is to utilize the existing funding for health more efficiently.” (Italics added.) The reports show that Uganda needs increased health spending. But they end with “Recommendations to reduce the growing pressure to increase health spending.” They remind you mothers are dying, and then offer Museveni advice: how to tell those irritating women who march about dying mothers to get lost.

In Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, 2012, from http://journey-to-uganda.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-irb-approval-no-research.html

In Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, 2012, from http://journey-to-uganda.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-irb-approval-no-research.html

And it’s very interesting what budget sectors the World Bank looked at. They examine “agriculture, energy, roads” and education and find there’s nothing there to give to health care (even though Uganda’s most recent budgets managed to cut the first and last items). What the Bank doesn’t mention — not once – are defense and security, the military and police. Shifting money out of those sectors isn’t even under consideration. For the Bank, Museveni’s guns are sacrosanct. It’s the butter that needs trimming.

It’s tempting to say the Bank is showing a delicate sensitivity to Museveni’s feelings here. Why antagonize the old dictator by menacing his pet Praetorians?  But the World Bank has never hesitated to tell governments to cut their favorite projects. Instead, we need to recall the Bank’s political situation. The US is its largest shareholder; the American President appoints its head; the Yankee-led Bank put the Washington in the Washington Consensus, balancing off the European-dominated IMF. The Bank’s approach to Ugandan budgeting reflects the US’s priorities. The US gives its share of support to health care in Uganda, through PEPFAR and other programs; but its main interest is Museveni’s military, and it has no desire to see money for soldiers shifted to obstetricians. The Bank, likewise, is not going to threaten the defense sector. If that’s the choice — and they don’t even dare to suggest it — health care has to fend for itself.

The Washington Consensus: Street art from Argentina

The Washington Consensus: Street art from Argentina

The $90 million loan was meant as a way out of this dilemma, giving the Ugandan health system a bit more breathing room. It’s interesting, then, how the Bank moved so quickly to suspend it. According to BuzzFeed, the Democratic leader of the House herself called the Bank:

“Yesterday, Leader Pelosi [a curiously North Korean locution] spoke with President Kim to express the concerns of Members of Congress about the legislation enacted in Uganda,” Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, told BuzzFeed in an email. “While we appreciate the difficult decisions President Kim has to make and their impact on the lives of many in the developing world, many Members believe that such a blatant act of discrimination should not go unnoticed.”

How odd that Pelosi phoned the Bank about its aid package before dialing her own government’s agencies. Yet it makes a certain sense; for Obama was under pressure to do something about Uganda, and some were pointing to that sacred military aid as a tempting target. Just one day earlier, Stars and Stripes — the US Army’s own newspaper – suggested as much.

[D]owngrading cooperation with Uganda’s military would be a way to send a signal to the leadership in the country, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. … 

“Military assistance is the one area where the U.S. has options,” Pham said. “[T]he Ugandan People’s Defence Force remains one of the few bastions of professionalism in the country, and its leadership is about the only check on Museveni and his ambitions to impose his son as a successor; hence, a shot across the UPDF’s bow might get some attention from those best positioned to get the president’s attention.”

The paper quickly backtracked: “Some experts, however, say that military ties are unlikely to be cut. Given the role the Ugandan military plays in promoting regional stability, dramatic cuts in aid should be avoided.” Lovely stability! You can see how the World Bank’s loan postponement was a happy distraction. It ended any pressure on the US government to trim its military commitments to Kampala. Uganda was already suffering, and Obama no longer needed to pile on. Pelosi’s call served its purpose.

This is stability: Ugandan soldier in Mogadishu, 2007

This is stability: Ugandan soldier in Mogadishu, 2007

The gesture is more a symbolic than a real one. The World Bank is unlikely actually to cut the loan, with four years of planning behind it. Sheila Gashishiri, the Bank’s spokesperson in Kampala, told the AP on February 28 that “the project run by Uganda’s Health Ministry will continue despite the postponement.” That probably means the funds will come through after a suitable interval.

In fact, Museveni’s regime will benefit. The whole brouhaha gives him wonderful room for rhetorical posturing. “The West can keep their ‘aid’ to Uganda over homos,” the ruling party’s press man Ofwono Opondo said, adding both that “Africa must stand up to Western domination” and that “Western ‘aid’ to Africa is lucrative and profitable trade they cannot cut off completely.” The politicos can have their cake of indignation — and ultimately eat their cake of $90 million credits too. Their rage, their language, pits LGBT people against pregnant women — a terrible side-effect of the Bank’s action. Surely that can only help brutal violence against the former spread.

Moreover, even a brief interruption in the health care loan gives Museveni ammunition. He can stand up to NGOs, Parliament, and even the courts if they demand more funding for the health sector to fight maternal mortality. “What money? The World Bank money? Where is it? There is no cash.” Those marching women can just go away. His security budget is even safer now from niggling jealousies.

And yet all this aid-cutting and health-care gutting is, we’re told, a blow for equality, against discrimination. We talk so much about “equality,” in the Western LGBT movement! The word is our fetish; we raise up those rosy equal signs as if they were the Black Madonna of Cz?stochowa.  But maybe we need to think more deeply about equality’s meaning.

Here is the logo for the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, which supports LGBT organizing around the world.

GlobalEqualityFund_blog

You have to love that rainbow circle: it’s seductive as the One Ring. So, too, is the call for dialogue. But what if that sphere dialogued with this one – a chart of global inequality, prepared by no less impeccable a capitalist center than a famous Swiss bank:

oct18_global_wealth

It’s a bit more … detailed. As are these circles:

Top: Wealth shares by country, 2000 (from Wikipedia; data from  http://www.wider.unu.edu/research/2006-2007/2006-2007-1/wider-wdhw-launch-5-12-2006/wider-wdhw-press-release-5-12-2006.pdf; Bottom: Wealth shares by region, 2010

Top: Wealth shares by country, 2000 (from Wikipedia; data from http://www.wider.unu.edu/research/2006-2007/2006-2007-1/wider-wdhw-launch-5-12-2006/wider-wdhw-press-release-5-12-2006.pdf; Bottom: Wealth shares by region, 2010

You’ll notice that Africa, with one-sixth of the world’s population, has one percent of its wealth. Uganda is a tiny, tiny sliver within that. I want the rainbow ring, but there’s something missing. How do these visions of equality connect?

The US-based Human Rights Campaign, which gave those iconic equality symbols to the world, also weighed in on the World Bank’s statement, inveighing at recalcitrant countries that

you will pay a high price for discriminatory practices. Whether viewed through a moral or economic lense [sic], discrimination does not pay. … HRC applauds Secretary Kerry and World Bank President Kim for taking a stand on LGBT equality. But the work is far from done.

HRC’s international work, of course, is mainly supported by the profits of vulture funds, exploiters who traffic in Third World debt and immiseration. Equality can mean so many things.

VULTURE 9So who won, and who lost? The World Bank won. They’ve sent the US a message that they are pliable to its political requirements. They’ve sent Uganda a message that there will be Consequences, but the Consequences won’t affect the programs Museveni most loves — the ones with guns. Then, messages mailed, the World Bank can finally produce the loan, which will take it off the hook (except to collect the interest). Uganda’s government is also a winner. They get to stand up theatrically to the blackmail of perversion; in the end, they probably get the cash. They also get an excellent argument against shifting money from the security establishment, or ending the deaths of pregnant women.

To these you can add the US government, which can rest confident that its military aid to Museveni has again evaded question. And you can add Western gay movements — especially those in the United States, allied not-quite-knowingly but easily with the administration’s interests. They’ve flexed their macho muscles and proven that they have some power, power to make the poor pay for what other people have done. I mean, it’s true that LGBT communities in Uganda are still laboring under oppression, and we haven’t done so much about that; but at least we get to oppress someone too. Isn’t that a consolation?

The losers are all in Uganda. They’re folks whose voices, though sometimes ventriloquized, are too faint or peripheral to be heard: mothers, children, LGBT people. Here’s to the victors! Great job.

“Throughout history people everywhere have explored and experimented with their sexuality.

From the Guardian Africa Network, Nigerian / British writer, Bernadine Evaristo dismisses the mantra that homosexuality in Africa is a ‘western import’ and provides examples of  same sex relationships and multiple gender relations.  “Throughout history people everywhere have explored and experimented with their sexuality. The desire to do so has never been confined to particular geographical locations. Its reach is universal.”

 

Bernadine Evaristo
Bernadine Evaristo

Africa has 54 countries and more than a billion people. One of the most ridiculous myths about it is that homosexuality did not exist in the continent until white men imported it. Robert Mugabe is one such propagator, calling homosexuality “un-African” and a “white disease”.

Throughout history people everywhere have explored and experimented with their sexuality. The desire to do so has never been confined to particular geographical locations. Its reach is universal. Yet today the myth of a pre-colonial sexual innocence, or more fittingly, ignorance, is used to endorse anti-gay legislation and stir up homophobia and persecution in Africa. In my father’s country, Nigeria, a new law passed in January carries a 14-year prison sentence for same-sex marriage and up to 10 years for membership or promotion of gay groups. In Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Act can impose life imprisonment. Latter-day evangelicals from the US are partly to blame for this continuing persecution, but so are Africa’s political leaders such as presidents Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who use rabble-rousing anti-gay rhetoric to increase their power base and popularity.

While much has been written about this dangerous turn of events, little has been written about its origins. Two trailblazing studies in the field – Boy Wives and Female Husbands edited by Stephen O Murray and Will Roscoe, and Heterosexual Africa? by Marc Epprecht – demolish the revisionist arguments about Africa’s sexual history. From the 16th century onwards, homosexuality has been recorded in Africa by European missionaries, adventurers and officials who used it to reinforce ideas of African societies in need of Christian cleansing.

The Portuguese were among the first Europeans to explore the continent. They noted the range of gender relations in African societies and referred to the “unnatural damnation” of male-to-male sex in Congo. Andrew Battell, an English traveller in the 1590s, wrote this of the Imbangala of Angola: “They are beastly in their living, for they have men in women’s apparel, whom they keep among their wives.”

Transvestism occurred in many different places, including Madagascar and Ethiopia. Among the Pangwe people of present-day Cameroon and Gabon, homosexual intercourse was practised between males of all ages. It was believed to be a way to transmit wealth. The Nzima of Ghana had a tradition of adult men marrying each other, usually with an age difference of about 10 years. Similar to the pederasty of ancient Greece, Sudan’s Zande tribe had a tradition of warriors marrying boys and paying a bride price, as they would for girl brides, to their parents. When the boy grew up, he too became a warrior and took a boy-wife.

In this same tribe lesbianism was practised in polygamous households. In the 18th century the Khoikhoi of South Africa used the word koetsire to describe men considered sexually receptive to other men, and soregus was the word they used for a friendship which involved same-sex masturbation.

Homosexuality is also recorded among the Siwa of Egypt. It was considered a boy’s rite of passage in Benin, and woman-woman marriages involving a bride price existed in more than 30 African societies from Nigeria to Kenya to South Africa.

How far back can homosexuality be traced in Africa? You cannot argue with rock paintings. Thousands of years ago, the San people of Zimbabwe depicted anal sex between men. The truth is that, like everywhere else, African people have expressed a wide range of sexualities. Far from bringing homosexuality with them, Christian and Islamic forces fought to eradicate it. By challenging the continent’s indigenous social and religious systems, they helped demonise and persecute homosexuality in Africa, paving the way for the taboos that prevail today.

The main character in my latest novel, Mr Loverman, is a 74-year-old black gay man, Barrington Walker. Married with two daughters, he has been in the closet for 50 years. Soon after the book was published, a young gay man emailed me from Nigeria expressing his fear that his life would turn out like Barrington’s. I didn’t know what to suggest except that, if he wanted to live openly and legally as homosexual, he had to leave his homeland. What else could I say?

Millions of gay people living in Africa face a similar choice. If they stay, they can either repress their natural sexuality or risk losing their liberty and their lives. The legacy of colonialism is alive and well. As another character in Mr Loverman says: “It’s homophobia, not homosexuality, that was imported to Africa.”

 

Guardian Africa Network

African groups call for the African Union to urgently respond to gender and sexuality rights violations in Africa, and particularly to anti-gay laws recently passed in Uganda and Nigeria

African groups call for the African Union to urgently respond to gender and sexuality rights violations in Africa, and
particularly to anti-gay laws recently passed in Uganda and Nigeria

As African civil society organisations whose members live and work to improve the lives of all Africans, we condemn in the strongest terms, the disturbing increase in sexuality and gender-related rights violations and abuses, especially those aimed at women and gender non-conforming people, and people in same sex relations including lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identifying African people.

Specifically, we condemn the signing of the Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act and the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act, both of which were passed into law this year by Presidents Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, respectively. We also strongly condemn the Anti-Pornography Law, which was passed in Uganda last year.

In defence of African people whom these laws target, we seek recourse through the African Union (AU) and its organs.

We also call on the AU Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to make a public statement condemning both the Nigerian and Ugandan laws, and providing African citizens with a roadmap for how the AU Commission plans to address laws that violate gender and sexuality-related rights amongst member states.

EXTREME VIOLATIONS
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act criminalises homosexuality—defining it as “same sex or gender sexual acts”—with punishment ranging from seven years to life imprisonment. Those who are found guilty of “aiding and abetting homosexuality” also face up to seven years in prison. Uganda’s Anti-Pornography Act places limitations on ‘appropriate’ dress code for women, specifically banning miniskirts and any other clothing deemed to “cause sexual excitement”.

The Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act goes further than its stated purpose by criminalizing the registration of ‘gay clubs, societies and organisations and banning the public show of a same sex ‘amorous’ relationship either directly or indirectly, carrying a ten year prison sentence for such acts.

These laws have already forced people from their schools, work and homes out of fear and due to their safety being threatened. The levels of violence, threats, and abusive and hate speech have escalated dramatically as homophobic laws have been put in place. We note with alarm that in both Uganda and Nigeria,  the passage of these laws have been accompanied by acts of murder, rape, assault, arbitrary arrest and detention and other forms of persecution of persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation and gender identity. The climate of fear and hate was further escalated in Uganda by the publication of a list of “200 Top Homosexuals” in Red Pepper Newspaper, with the headline “Exposed”, immediately following President Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. This constitutes a gross violation of media ethics and of human rights, both of which, we argue, are punishable under Ugandan law.

States have an obligation to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of gender or sexuality. States have a responsibility to protect the rights of all who live in their borders. States should not be creating the conditions in which violence by non-state actors are justified or encouraged. Nor should the state set itself up as a threat to its own citizens and block them from living with basic levels of freedom as both Uganda and Nigeria have done.

We reject arguments made by the heads of state of both Uganda and Nigeria, that consensual same-sex relations are “unAfrican”, and we condemn in the strongest terms the comments of political, religious and cultural leaders who have used similar rhetoric to incite hatred against persons perceived to be homosexual.

We celebrate and echo the strong voices of African leaders who have rejected these claims and who continue to condemn discrimination, violence and human rights violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. We align ourselves with all Africans who have spoken out in the face of these unjust laws and who have continued to call for respect for diversity and for all Africans to embrace the African idea of Ubuntu –our shared humanity.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated in respect of the Nigerian law, “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.” Former President of Mozambique, Joaqium Chissano, in an open letter to African leaders said, “I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms…This simply means granting every one the freedom and the means to make informed decisions about very basic aspects of one’s life – one’s sexuality, health, and if, when and with whom to have relationships, marry or have children – without any form of discrimination, coercion or violence.”

Given its mandate as the human rights organ of the African Union, we call upon the African Union Commission, as well as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to condemn all homophobic and anti-gay laws that have either been passed, or are being proposed, throughout Africa, and further respond urgently to the increasingly violent acts that precede and follow these laws.
– Statement by African civil society organisations listed below.

Contact:
Lucinda van den Heever, Sonke Gender Justice : (+27) 72 994 3138
Kene Esom, African Men for Sexual Health and Rights : (+27) 11 242 6801
Sheena Magenya, Coalition of African Lesbians : (+27) 11 403 0004/7

List of signing organisations:
African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHER)
Africa Regional Civil Society Platform on Health
AIDS Accountability International
Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL)
Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA)
Gay and Lesbian Network (Pietermaritzburg)
Gender DynamiX
HOPEM (Men For Change) Mozambique
Signing organisations (continued):
International HIV/AIDS Alliance
MenEngage Namibia
MenEngage Zimbabwe
MenEngage Zambia
MenEngage Kenya
Out in Africa
SANAC Women’s Sector
Sonke Gender Justice
South African Council of Churches Youth Forum
Triangle Project
World AIDS Campaign
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights
Background for Editors
Provision of the laws
While there are close to 40 African countries that criminalise consensual sexual conducts between persons of the same sex, the new laws enacted by Nigeria and Uganda goes further by criminalising peoples’ sexual orientation and identities regardless of sexual conduct. They also include such egregious provisions.

The Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act [A1] includes:
•             a provision for a 14-year prison term for anyone who enters into a same sex union,
•             a ten-year prison term for anyone who ‘administers, witnesses, abets or aids’ a same sex marriage or civil union ceremony.
•             The law states that ‘a person or group of persons who … supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years imprisonment.’

The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act: [A2]
•             introduces a series of crimes listed as “aggravated homosexuality” – including sex with a minor or while HIV positive;
•             criminalises lesbianism for the first time;
•             makes it a crime to help individuals engage in homosexual acts;
•             makes homosexual acts punishable with life in prison.

A Word to 9Jas {Poems of Resistance}

screenshot300

African LGBTIQ do not need a ‘get out of Africa’ escape route!

Gays in Africa Need Our Support” by Melanie Judge, calls on the South African government to produce a counter narrative to the “homosexuality is unAfrican” being peddled by religious and cultural fundamentalists across the continent.

Certain groups are creating opportunities for LGBTI people to escape Africa, but if the causes of the hate are not addressed, nothing will change, writes Melanie Judge.

The recent passing of the Anti Homosexuality Act (AHA) in Uganda and the South African government’s mealy-mouthed reaction to it demand attention.

South Africa sponsored and is leading the first ever UN resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity. South Africa also boasts a constitution that explicitly affirms equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender. Yet our government cannot muster the political stealth to speak against (rather than just about) homophobia when it really counts – as is the case now.

Shortly after the act’s passing, the government stated that “South Africa takes note of the recent developments regarding the situation of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transsexual and intersex persons (LGBTI) worldwide… (and) will, through existing diplomatic channels, be seeking clarification on these developments from many capitals around the world”.

What’s to clarify? This indicates a deep reluctance to name recent events in Uganda and to take a position on them.

It also implies, through the seeking of clarification, that there is some legitimate rationale for criminalisation of members of that country’s population because of their sexual or gender identity.

The SA Human Rights Commission took a bolder position and “strongly rejects the notion that the freedom to live and love without fear of violence and regardless of one’s sexual orientation is part of a rights framework from Western countries. The struggle for these and other freedoms has been at the heart of liberation struggles throughout (Africa)”.

The ANC blocked a motion in Parliament against the AHA, reflecting its ambivalence to speak out. On the contrary, the former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano’s open letter to African leaders is an example of the kind of leadership present persecutions demand.

The AHA and other legislation of its kind give state legitimacy to violence against people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The AHA will prompt the forced migration of some LGBTI people.

The AHA feeds a narrative that positions citizens with non-conforming sexualities and genders as outsiders to the dominant culture of the nation. This is linked to the false notion that homosexuality is unAfrican and homophobia isn’t.

In its self-appointed leadership role on LGBTI equality internationally, the government should readily offer a counter-narrative to those who peddle prejudice in the name of “Africanness”.

Homophobia in Africa represents a set of complex and intersecting issues – deeply routed in the continent’s colonial past. Violent inscriptions of race, sexuality, ethnicity and gender took place under colonialism and are linked to present-day norms around sexuality. These historical continuities, and how sexuality is racialised, are mostly entirely absent in discussions on homophobia.

Drawing on the “savages-victims-saviours” construct of law professor Makau Mutua, the West has a keen interest in homophobia that is often framed within these sets of relations. Lurking within much of the public discourse on homophobia in Africa is the notion of the civilising mission of Eurocentric culture (and its human rights frameworks) that will save African culture, and its victims, from its barbarism and its savagery.

One example of this is a recently launched online fundraising effort initiated in the US. It is a “Rescue Fund to Help LGBT People Escape Africa” and is aimed at “Gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people persecuted and trapped in African countries that criminalise their sexuality”. The campaign states that “by contributing to this rescue fund you will help me (the initiator of the fund) to save more gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people from Africa (sic) escape terrifying persecution”.

An online counter shows the money is flowing in. If one donates to “save” an LGBTI person in Africa, one is granted a status recognition originally titled as “ultimate saviour”. There are also “prizes” for donors such as “Nelson Mandela coins” for “passport providers”.

Promoting an “escape” from Africa to “greener” US pastures, without simultaneously addressing the underlying conditions that force this migration, is dangerous and opportunistic. Dislocated from Africa-based struggles for social justice, these feel-good interventions offer no long-term solution to the systemic issues that drive homophobia. At best they are palliative and patronising, at worst they reinforce the victimhood of Africans and the saviour status of Westerners. This is part of the logic that keeps the “homosexuality is unAfrican” discourse in play.

Other more pernicious saviours are those US religious conservatives who have actively promoted homophobic ideologies across the world and are now pushing such legislation in the US. There is much to be done to challenge these religious groupings and leaders on their home soils, to expose their active undermining of sexual and gender rights.

State-sponsored homophobia serves to keep certain power relations intact. Battles over power and identity are increasingly being played out on the bodies of LGBTI people.

These battles relate to, among others: contestations around what it means to be “authentically” African; citizens’ pressuring for democracy, inclusion and leadership accountability; basic needs being met in a context of global inequality wherein rich elites govern over the poor; and women increasingly asserting their sexual rights.

In this context, South Africa’s tiptoe diplomacy on homophobia in Africa exposes the troubling underbelly of current leadership on democracy and human rights. Whilst Jon Qwelane remains ambassador to Uganda, in the face of his imminent high court appearance for homophobic hate speech, perhaps the government’s tread is more firm-footed than it might appear.

* Melanie Judge is an LGBTI activist.

Guidelines to Ugandan national, regional & international partners on support around the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

GUIDELINES TO NATIONAL, REGIONAL, AND INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS ON HOW TO OFFER SUPPORT NOW THAT THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LAW HAS BEEN ASSENTED TO

Web site:  Civil Society Coalition for Human Rights and Constitutional law 
March 3, 2014
Introduction
Dear Partners, Friends and Colleagues,
We thank you for all the support you have accorded the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL) in its fight against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (the Bill) over the years. We specifically thank you for the support since the Parliament of Uganda passed the Bill on 20th December 2013.
Unfortunately, despite the intensive work that has been done since 2009 to stop the passage of this draconian bill into law, President Yoweri Museveni Kaguta of the Republic of Uganda on Monday 24th February 2014 signed the Bill into Law. We now have to work with the reality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (2014).
These guidelines are intended to all our partners on how to support the CSCHRCL in this new context:
1. Speaking out: It is very critical that we continue to speak out against the law and its implications in terms of security of the LGBTI community, their allies, and the general implications of the Act on the work around public health and human rights in general.
Important to Note: In all communication about the impact of the law, please refer to the shrinking and deteriorating policy space that civil society is experiencing; not only about this human rights issue, but about “mainstream” human rights as well: Uganda’s track record is bad, and is getting worse, and these issues are related. In this regard please also be aware of the Anti-Pornography Act and the Public Order Management Act when discussing the situation of civil society activists in Uganda.
2. World Wide demonstrations. We call upon all partners, friends and allies to organize demonstrations in different cities around the world now as this Act is set to have detrimental effects for all of us. We all MUST continue to speak out. These could include demonstrations at the Ugandan embassy in our country, or asking your place of worship to
organize a vigil.
3. Call on Multinational companies that have businesses in Uganda to go public about their
concerns on the Act and their future economic engagements in Uganda. For example
Heneiken, KLM, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Barclays Bank, and other companies with
important interests in Uganda and that already respect and value LGBT rights in their own
internal policies, should note the risk that these laws pose for the safety of their own
employees, as well as the impact on their brand image of continuing to do business in
Uganda.
4. Issue statements condemning the passage of the Bill into Law. We need the Government to
know that they shall not get away with their actions. These statements should reflect the
other human rights violations in the country, not just about LGBTI rights. Please always alert
us to any such statements, whichever language they are written in, such that we may either
post them on our website (ugandans4rights.org) or a link to your website.
5. The question of cutting Donor AID has arisen. Our position on this is very clear. We do not
support General Aid Cuts to Uganda. We do not want the people of Uganda to suffer
because of the unfortunate Political choices of our government. However, we support
Strategic Aid Cuts to specific sectors, such as the Dutch Government’s decision to withdraw
funding from the Justice Sector. We encourage urgent review of Aid to organizations and
government institutions that have failed to demonstrate respect for Human Rights and those
that have been actively supporting this bill. We DO NOT support cuts in support to NGO’s
and other civil society institutions that offer life saving health services or other important
social services to the People of Uganda.
6. Partners should expand investment in funding for service delivery and advocacy in defiance
of the law, targeting LGBT populations, to attempt to mitigate the harmful impact this law
will have on access to services, and on human rights.
7. We encourage you to lobby your Government’s Immigration Services to adjust their asylum
policy with regard to LGBTI persons from Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, Cameroun and other
countries in which levels of state-sponsored homophobia are rapidly rising.
8. We further request that you send us information on which organizations can be helpful in
assisting the individuals who are at risk if the situation gets worse and they have to get out
of the country and seek asylum or relocation elsewhere.
9. We request you to prepare for Urgent Actions given that LGBTI people or people doing work
around LGBTI rights are increasingly liable to being arrested. Urgent actions could include
sending messages to the Uganda Government to protest such arrests, use of social media
such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, to raise awareness that arrests have happened,
contacting your own embassies in Uganda to voice your concerns.
10. Call for your governments to issue travel advisories on Uganda, and remind them that they have a duty to protect and therefore should take responsibility for alerting their own LGBTI citizens to the risks of traveling to Uganda.
11. Contact travel companies to urge them to also routinely issue such travel advisories to their customers (on the same principle that tobacco products must have a health warning visibly displayed, so flights and package holidays should have warnings of the risks of traveling to Uganda!)
12. Get more foreign leaders in foreign governments to say something about the Act as they have not come out strongly as it was expected.
13. Get celebrities to say something against the Act. We need more voices that Ugandans recognize and revere socially to speak out against this Law.
14. Get more international Aid groups especially those responding to HIV/AIDS work to say something for example: USAID, Pepfar, CDC, Global fund and others.
15. Use your influence and work or networks to encourage and Pressure more African leaders to speak out against the rising levels of homophobia through state sanctioned Anti Gay laws.
16. Engage with any non-LGBTI partner organizations in Uganda that you may collaborate with or whom you fund to issue statements condemning the passage of the AHB and its implications to the work of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Remind them that this Bill is going to further shrink NGO spaces and is bound to affect the work they are doing.
17. Draw international public attention to issues such as corruption, human trafficking, nodding disease in northern Uganda, land-grabbing, as well as the suppression of media freedom and civil society space, the Public Order Management Act so that attention shifts to where it properly belongs; in the best interests of the country’s population as a whole. We need to step up public criticism to other negative trends in Uganda and remind the world that this Act is being used as a tool to divert attention from other pertinent issues that Ugandans are facing.
18. Get religious leaders of all faiths (Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Protestant, Seventh Day Adventists, Quakers, etc.) to issue statements encouraging tolerance and respect for human rights for all Ugandans and Africans.
19. Call for your governments to ‘recall’ ambassadors back to their respective Capitals for at least one week for strategic consultations on how to move forward when dealing with Uganda and Nigeria in regards to the two draconian laws. This will give the Ugandan government food for thought.
20. Contribute physical, financial, or technical support to the Coalition and the LGBTI community as well as the exposed Human Rights Defenders working on LGBTI rights who are likely to begin to be arrested and charged or otherwise persecuted. Financial and technical support for challenging the Act in the Constitutional Court and the East African Court of Justice.
For More information Contact:
Jeffrey Ogwaro : jogwaro AT gmail.com /ahbcoalition.coordinator AT gmail.com
Clare Byarugaba: clarebyaru@gmail.com /ahbcoalition.coordinator AT gmail.com
Kasha Jacqueline: jnkasha AT gmail.com
Frank Mugisha : frankmugisha AT gmail.com
Pep Julian Onziema: onziema AT gmail.com

C/o Refugee Law Project
Plot 5, Perryman’s Gardens
Po Box 33903, Kampala-Uganda
Tel: +256774 068 663/+256782 176 069
Fax; +256-414-346491
Email : ahbcoalition.coordinator AT gmail.com

Statement from the Wits University on Anti-Homosexuality Legislation in Africa

MESSAGE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL

DATE: MONDAY, 3 MARCH 2014

STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND PERTAINING TO ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LEGISLATION IN AFRICA

The University of the Witwatersrand notes with dismay and concern recent legislation in Nigeria and Uganda that criminalises women and men who express themselves through relationships other than those defined as heterosexual. It also decries the targeted violence that has accompanied this legislation in these and other countries.

While academic debates may focus on the extent to which human sexuality is a result of nature or nurture, or whether it is inherent to Western or African culture, the reality is that diversity in terms of sexual orientation is part of the recorded history of virtually all societies.

Tolerance and acceptance of such diversity has not been easily secured, but those nations that have afforded equal rights to sexual minorities alongside a multitude of other diverse identities can justifiably claim the benefits of an equitable and just environment for their citizens who live in, and actively contribute to an inclusive and productive state.

The University of the Witwatersrand values diversity and believes that its student and staff body should reflect a multiplicity of race, gender, socio-economic background, urban and rural geographic origin, culture, ethnicity, disability, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. Indeed it believes that everyone has a role to play in furthering human development and that diversity can only enhance learning and the generation human knowledge. Such principles are the foundation of university policies and are underpinned by values enshrined within the constitution of South Africa.

It is the University’s view that recent legislation in Africa and elsewhere that seeks to criminalise sexual minorities, runs counter to these values and in addition contravenes key articles contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is apparent that these legislations are driven, not by a desire to address true criminality but rather are projected by an incomplete understanding of human sexuality compounded by an orchestrated campaign of hate towards vulnerable groups. South Africans understand only too well the damaging legacy that hate founded on institutionalised prejudice can deliver and that while the seeds of hate are easy to sow, they can take generations to uproot once they have spread and taken hold.

Leadership carries with it a huge responsibility, not least of which is protection of minority rights from the ebb and flow of opinion amongst the “moral majority”. The University (that counts amongst its staff and students, thinkers from across the continent of Africa), stands with other academic institutions in urging leaders to reflect carefully on what they have allowed to pass and points out that history will judge harshly those who are responsible for imprisoning others as a result of whom they love. We strongly urge that these laws be rescinded and encourage others who value the sanctity of Universal Human Rights to call for the same.

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.

 

 

My love letter to the Zimbabwean Judiciary

Dearest esteemed colleagues, honourable members of ‘THE’ noble profession, Judges of our revered Courts, I write this intimate missive to you -one lawyer to another. You have an onerous task; TO CHANGE SOCIETY FOR THE BETTER. In fulfilling that role you also face the challenge of trying to balance the interests of two of the most difficult and at times irrational groupings in our society, politicians and the citizenry.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

My lordships and ladyships; 120 years ago, on 9 February 1893, an American lawyer, politician and statesman who was also a Democrat presidential nominee 3 times-William Jennings Bryan said something profound, that I believe many of you-being widely read-have come across. He said, “Next to the Ministry [preaching the word of God], I know of no more noble profession than the law. The object aimed at is justice, equal and exact, and if it does not reach that end at once it is because the stream is diverted by selfishness or checked by ignorance. Its principles ennoble [lend greater dignity or nobility of character] and its practice elevates.”

Sirs and madames; the wisdom in this statement remains relevant today as it was then. For what are we as lawyers, if we do not seek to see justice delivered? Can we call ourselves agents of change and justice if our work is driven by self-gain and selfishness? Do we retain our dignity and the dignity of our profession when we display blatant bias, towards things that trash justice and all its principles?

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Monsieur/madame le juge, my requests are few and simple:-

Make decisions on merit not on political bias

Have a quiet dignified presence.

If the system is rotten, be the maverick within-not just any maverick but one for justice; independent, impartial, accountable. As Martin Luther King Jnr said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” You are entrusted with ensuring that the arc bends towards what is right, fair and true-please do not throw that trust to the dogs.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

My Lord and Ladies, I know you need to eat, but if you must eat won’t you have hard-earned and honestly attained worms than ill-begotten pudding? I assure you, for eating the worms-history will judge you kindly for your sacrifice. Don’t you think that your integrity and leaving behind a legacy of fairness and balance is much more honourable than serving your immediate needs?

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Lordships and Ladyships, a wise someone once said “ The judge who gives the right judgement while appearing not to do so will be thrice blessed in heaven, while on earth will not be so.” Is this something that you might want to guide you in making your decisions?

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Resepectfully, I know you are human beings before you are judges.  I know you experience fear; fear of losing your jobs, fear of reprisals, fear of the unknown.  Do not let fear expropriate your dignity. Rather as Thomas Pain so aptly put it, there is character in strength and choosing to do what is right, above what is convenient. He said, “I love the man that can smile in trouble,  that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.“

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Humbly, when I ask you for impartiality, I am NOT saying do not come to the Bench with any ideas. The truth and reality of it is that you already have them; for or against women, gays, lesbians, prisoners, rapists, murderers, politics, political parties, ideologies and struggles. So bring your ideas to the Bench, but do not let these cloud your judgement in delivering justice. If anything, acknowledge you have these ideas in your head already but challenge them or affirm them with thorough, well-reasoned, value-based, critical thinking entrenched in the two principles of fairness and justice.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Your honour, it begins with you to serve justice and yes, your contribution as an individual even if no one else will back you, does matter. Ask Justice Koome of Kenya how she did it. She had a one (wo)man show, where she observed the right and freedom of all individuals from unlawful detention. And so she cleared all cases in the courts of individuals who had been arrested for “insulting the President.” Guess what, even after making these “unwelcome” decisions, which possibly could have lost her a job and income, she remains a judge today.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Honourable judges, I believe you know the law is an unfinished publication, you continue reading as each chapter unfolds right in front of you. I have come across these words and would like you to hear them too. They were spoken by Professor John Dugard, a South African scholar of great repute in his criticism of South African judges under apartheid South Africa. He said “The judge is not a mere automaton who declares the law…he has a wide range of options open to him in fact-?nding, in the interpretation of statutes, in the review of administrative action, in the application of precedent and in the selection of Roman-Dutch authority; and. . . in choosing between con?icting and contradictory principles of statutory interpretation, precedent and Roman-Dutch authority, the judge may legitimately select those principles, precedents or authorities from our liberal Roman Dutch heritage which best advance equality and liberty.” So think, think and think again before you hand down your decision. Think in favour of equality and liberty. Think in favour of fairness and justice.

 I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

My Lords and Ladies, do not be afraid of labelling, if you are doing a good job, your record will speak for itself. As Justice Yvonne Mogkoro, former Judge of the South African Constitutional Court once said, “The role of a judge is not to be popular but to deliver justice, undiluted, unpolluted.” Your maturity comes with fearlessness and boldness. Do not cower from justice-deliver justice.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

Oh my Lordships and Ladyships, humbly I urge, be careful in your speech, your utterances, your verdicts and your reasoning. You will be charged for it-maybe not in one of your courts of law-but in our collective memory as a nation. Jackie Assimwe, a friend and human rights defender from Uganda once said, “Once a judiciary is compromised, then the justice it delivers is tainted.” Do not let us doubt the efficacy of your footprints. Rather, regenerate in our minds the integrity and wisdom of the Bench.

I ask you not to favour either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

In humility and gratitude, I salute those of you who were suspended for rightly releasing, wrongfully arrested and detained fellow lawyers and human rights defenders.

I salute those of you who defend the rights of the defenceless, in particular prisoners as you ensure their right to fair trial and dignified existence while incarcerated.

I salute those of you who uphold fundamental freedoms, of speech, expression, association, assembly and of the press.

I salute those of you who recognise that divergent views within any society are patriotic as they foster constructive discourse.

I salute those of you who refuse to be “cadrerised”-after all your greatest strength lies in independent thought and expression.

May I invite you all to make these wise words by Mahatma Ghandi your daily mantra in executing your noble duty:

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:

I shall not fear anyone on Earth.

I shall fear only God.

I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.

I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.

I shall conquer untruth by truth.

And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”

My final humble request: I ask you not to favour me or either one of them [politicians or citizenry]; but please favour justice.

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.

#16Days – African Women in the Age of War

From Open Democracy, Amina Mama on where African women should stand in the age of war.  [This article was first published in September 2011.]

 

The anniversary of 9/11 has filled the US-dominated media with action replays and detailed excavations of the events surrounding the attacks on the World Trade Centre and two other targets. More critical thinkers, such as Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, and Robert Fisk, for example, have problematized the ubiquitous Western rhetoric of ‘terror’. This rhetoric justifies and underpins the massive military spending on a potentially endless global war, executed all over the world in the name of a narrow US-centred security doctrine. US feminist philosopher Iris Young also takes issue with these alarming developments, homing in on the ‘masculine logic of protection’ that provides ideological grist to the militarist mill. How do we, as Africans, make sense of this unprecedented escalation? How is it affecting Africa and African women in particular as we work to end war, re-build societies and economies already ravaged by years of conflict and military rule, and struggle to establish open and inclusive democracies?

Anti-militarist activists around the world have traced the links between militarism and capitalism ever since the highly decorated US Military General Smedley Butler published a powerful anti-war statement ‘War is a Racket’(1935), in which he bitterly acknowledged how his outstanding military service had effectively cleansed the way for private profiteering in the colonised world — Mexico, Dominica, Cuba, Haiti, China, and “half a dozen Central American republics”. Years before Butler, feminist anti-war activists — Virginia Woolf among them — drew links between war and the male domination of political and economic arenas. Woolf may not have been fully aware of it, but she wrote The Three Guineas (1937) at a time when African women were losing sons, fathers, and husbands conscripted and recruited into colonial armies, dispatched around the world to fight for their European masters. Myron Echenberg’s Colonial Conscripts: Les Sénégalais Senegalais in French West Africa records over 175,000 French West African conscripts fought in the First World War, of whom at least 30,000 died in the trenches. In the Second World War too there where huge numbers of French West African conscripts, with as many as 20,000 participating in the allied landing of 1944 alone. The British also utilized large numbers of Africans, as the living memories in many communities confirm. Less well documented is that fact that those who returned did so as militarised men who saw Africa’s future in ways that reflected their training in all-male colonial armies. A detailed excavation leads us to see historical connections between colonial militarism and our post-independence proclivity for coups and civil wars, such that by the mid-1970’s more than half of Africa was under all-male military regimes. These rulers continued the exploitative colonial practices of serving transnational corporations instead of African people, looting national resources and stashing their profits away from public scrutiny in Western banks.

Many wars and several genocidal episodes later, the link between male domination, corporate profiteering, and militarisation holds true on both sides of the Atlantic. Women of the African diaspora in the US (its ranks regularly replenished by refugees from postcolonial conflicts) live the implications of these connections, as public services and social protections are cut, plunging more Black and ethnic minority families into deepening poverty. Their sons have limited options — large numbers facing jail terms or military service.

In early July this year, in the midst of the largest military spend in human history, the Watson Institute at Brown University released their research report on the costs of US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Catherine Lutz and her colleagues reveals the same link between corporate interests and militarism. Among the facts they present:

- US military spending has reached an all-time high, with Iraq Afghanistan and Pakistan alone costing between $2.2-2.8 trillion so far.

- Most of this money has been borrowed, contributing significantly to the US’s larger-that-ever debt burden, and the US financial crisis.

- While the recession has taken its toll, military contractors have profited from significantly more public money, amounting to over 400 billion received in contract in 2008, their highest levels since World War II…Lockheed Martin alone received $29 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2008.

Lockheed Martin’s contracts draw significantly more public funding than the Environmental Protection Agency ($7.5 billion), the Department of Labor ($11.4 billion), or the Department of Transportation ($15.5 billion). This boom in money to private military contractors should not be viewed as separate from the US economic crisis, or the raced and gendered patterns of profit for some, pauperization for others.

Africans on the other side of the Atlantic excavate a different set of memories, not featured on CNN. On the African continent, 9/11 was preceded by the direct bombing of US embassies in Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi three years earlier, on 7 August 1998, leaving 258 dead and over 5,000 injured. African memories include the US retaliation — the cruise missile attack on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan on 20 August 1998, number of casualties unknown. In other words, Africa was included in an escalating US war that respects no sovereignty but its own before 9/11.

Military power in Africa has been re-shaped since, in ways heralded by thelaunch of the US High Command for Africa, aka AFRICOM, Oct 1 2008. AFRICOM was designed to centralise US counter-terrorism operations in Africa, to ensure effective pursuit of US security interests defined to include securing access to African resources, notably oil. African governments and civil society initially responded by raising objections loud enough to keep AFRICOM head office in Stuttgart and force a change in the public relations strategy. AFRICOM has been re-packaged as a more collaborative and diffuse set of ‘joint operations’ that emphasize ‘training peacekeepers’ ‘humanitarian assistance’ and training exercises for African military forces. The dedicated website somewhat incongruously features US military personnel digging wells, offering medical assistance and reading to schoolchildren.

What must women do?

As military assistance looks set to displace old-fashioned development assistance, it behoves us to ask what this means for women. Women in Africa have endured the worst aspects of militarism in a long series of military regimes and conflicts that have wrecked lives, displaced countless families, disrupted livelihoods and left legacies of loss, abuse and violence and gender inequality that are both visible and indelible. Whether one is talking about the so-called ‘blood diamonds’ in Sierra Leone, the curse of ‘black gold’ in the Niger Delta, or the rapacious quest for coltan in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the link between conflict and minerals sought after by transnational corporations is clearer than ever, as are the greatest human costs.

The costs to women have included loss of livelihoods, disrupted by violence, dislocation and other consequences of militarism. It has also cost women many of their fundamental rights as citizens whose definitions of security extend beyond declared ‘cessation of hostilities. Peace has not yielded the much hoped-for dividends to women. If we listen to African women’sperspectives on security, forged in the cauldron of conflict and military rule, we hear that these include economic and livelihood security as much as security from violence, security in their own homes as much as security from marauding military men.

Feminist activists working against conflict and militarism in Africa bring these together to rethink the meaning of ‘peace’ and ‘conflict’, and to enhance women’s movement capacities for contributing to democratization and social justice. This is the agenda now being pursued by ABANTU for Development, the Mano River Women’s Peace Union and the Women’s Peace and Security Network, and other partners working in an activist research collaboration‘Strengthening Women’s Activism Against Conflict and Militarism’ (SWACM), launched in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria’s Oil Delta a year ago. It is an agenda that women across Africa articulate, inspired as we are by our collective survival through decades of conflict and military rule, and the accumulated experience of mobilizing for peace and equality.

If the US war on terror is the ‘father of all wars’, Africa’s conflicts are his angry and rebellious offspring, sharing the same disrespect for borders and the close connections to private profiteering. Open conflict is only the surface eruption of much deeper-seated contradictions, vivid ulcers on the skin of an unhealthy body politic governed by a militarist mindset. The roots of these eruptions include complicated webs of economic, cultural and political malaise. Militarism is not just about men with guns, or wars, or the blistering legacies of the past. It lays out a future ordained by economic decisions that neglect social development and justice, and perpetuate the stark stratifications and gendered inequalities that militarism at once relies on and perpetuates.

All this gives African women particular cause for concern. It tells us why African women must take a stand in the transnational movement to dismantle militarism. Whether one considers the direct effects of military rule and conflict on women, or the global economic implications of US war-making, militarism threatens to strip away all the 20th century gains in women’s rights, dispossessing us once more. African women have good cause to renew their struggle for peaceful, radical, creative, and ultimately solutions that will bring social justice considerations to the fore once again, and finally understand that security cannot be built without women, without economic and social justice.

More articles from 16 Days here. 

 

 

“I can hear the roar of women’s silence”

 

Thomas Sankara by Mthethwa

 

It was Thursday, 4th August 1983 in what was soon to be renamed Burkina Faso, the country of the “upright people”. On this day, a coup d’etat led by Captains Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré set in motion a Pan-Africanist, Marxist, revolution which sought to liberate Franz Fanon’s “wretched of the earth” from the clutches of imperialism and neo-colonialism. This most creative and poetic struggles for liberation lasted a mere 4 years but would live long in the memory of Africans as a constant reminder of what could be and what is desired by social movements throughout the world. Sankara emphasised the universality of the Burkinabe revolution in his address to the UN General Assembly a year after becoming President of the National Council of the Revolution..

“So yes, I wish to speak on behalf of all “those left behind”, for I am human, nothing that is human is alien to me”. Our revolution in Burkina Faso embraces the misfortunes of all peoples. It draws its inspiration from all of man’s experiences since his first breath. We wish to be heirs of all the revolutions and all the liberation struggles of the peoples of the Third World.” [1]

Sankara’s revolutionary vision was based on ‘self-reliance’ and solidarity and included an ambitious programme of development – health, education, agriculture, infrastructure and an end to the excesses so familiar in African governance today- hyper corruption and consumerism. He embarked on an agrarian revolution which including the planting of millions of trees and land reform.  He called for the full cancellation of the continent’s debt, rejected foreign aid and asserted that only a complete rejection of the “norms of global capitalism and opposition to imperialist domination would ultimately liberate Africans.

“It must be proclaimed that there can be no salvation for our peoples unless we decisively turn our backs on all the models that all the charlatans, cut from the same cloth, have tried to sell us for the past twenty years. There can be no salvation without saying no to that. No development without breaking with that” [1]

But it was in the area of women’s emancipation and its meaning for all of humanity, that distinguished Sankara’s revolutionary vision. Sankara argued that  the key to social transformation was in improving the status of women and he demanded that they be a central part of the revolutionary project.   Sankara did not just make pronouncements, he was meticulous in explaining class relations and the everyday ways in which African masculinities work in collaboration with capital in exploiting women’s labour and abuse of their dignity. His analysis of gendered and sexualised social relations would be considered progressive even today, as shown in this quote.

“It was the transformation from one form of society to another that served to institutionalize women’s inequality. This inequality was produced by our own minds and intelligence in order to develop a concrete form of domination and exploitation. The social function and roles to which women have been relegated ever since are a living reflection of this fact. Today, her childbearing functions and the social obligation to conform to models of elegance determined by men prevent any woman who might want to from developing a so-called male musculature.”…. [2].

Describing the home as the premier sight of capitalist reproductive exploitation and sexualised oppression, Sankara’s government campaigned against forced marriages, polygamy, and what he described as those  ‘norms of beauty that violate the integrity of their bodies”,  female genital mutilation and tribal markings.   Women were for the first time able to initiate divorce without the consent of their husbands.  Sankara  insisted that men take an active part in the domestic sphere by experiencing those activities traditionally left to women such as preparing meals, going to the market and caring for children.  At the same time he encouraged women to take on jobs that had previously been the domain of men including joining the military.   He also began a programme of dismantling traditional sites of patriarchy by reducing the powers of village chiefs and nationalising all land.  Other areas where his government prioritised women’s equality were in providing improved access to education and public health through a nation-wide adult literacy and grassroots health programmes. Significantly he was the first African leader to appoint a large number of women to government positions including the cabinet.

One of the primary instruments in the transition of women towards full citizenship  was the Women’s Union of Burkina Faso [UFB].  Sankara described the UFB  as “the organisation of militant and serious women”.  These were the women of the revolution drawn from the urban workers and rural ‘peasants’ classes. Sankara repeatedly urged the UFB women to break away from the “kind of practices and behaviour traditionally thought of as female”.   He was  also scornful of the petty-bourgeois class of women who he accuses of being materialistic, exhibitionist and “unremittingly empty”. But for Sankara there was always a means to redemption for example he suggests that rich and educated women could offer their knowledge and services to the Burkinabe people.

On International Women’s Day March 8th, 1987 Sankara addressed thousands of women in Ougadougou calling for the emancipation of women in Burkina Faso and throughout the continent. In the speech he explained n in great detail, the material base for women’s oppression rejecting simplistic theories such as biological differences ..“being slaves to the nature of our species”.  There can be no liberation if any group of people are subjugated, only a false consciousness detrimental to progress.   In the speech Sankara insists that ‘the present situation of women must end and there must be a change in men’s behaviour and attitude.

“At this moment, we have little choice but to recognise that masculine behaviour comprises vanity, irresponsibility, arrogance, and violence of all kinds towards women. This kind of behaviour can hardly lead to coordinated action against women’s oppression. And we must say frankly that such attitudes, which can sink to the level of of sheer stupidity, are in reality nothing but a safety valve for the oppressed male, who, through brutalising his wife, hopes to regain some of the human dignity denied him by the system of exploitation. This masculine foolishness is called sexism or machismo. It includes all kinds of moral and intellectual feebleness–even thinly veiled physical weakness–which often gives politically conscious women no choice but to consider it their duty to wage a war on two fronts. [2]

On Thursday 15th October 1987, the Burkinabe revolution ended when Sankara along with 12 comrades were assassinated in a counter-revolutionary coup led by Blaise Compaoré. In his betrayal like Mobutu’s betrayal of Patrice Lumumba, Compaoré donned the “white mask” and returned the Burkinabe people and Burkina Faso to a neo-colonialist state.   Just months before, Sankara had spoken at the 23rd session of the OAU [3] and called for an end to Africa’s debt which he described as ‘technical assassination’ and a ‘reconquest of Africa’.    In the final Summit Declaration on Africa’s debt, the members not only ignored  Sankara’s words, they turned their backs on him by reaffirming the obligations of member states to honour the debt.   It is possibly at this moment that the decision to remove him was made.  In 2009, an Italian documentary revealed the involvement of France and Blaise Compaoré in the assassination of Thomas Sankara. [4]

Sankara lived the Burkinabe revolution by example and insisted his ministers and government officials do the same.  He rejected the trappings of ministerial privilege and proceeded immediately to reducing the expenses of governance. He changed the official fleet of cars from Mercedes to the modest Renault 5 and forbade the use of drivers.  He reduced government salaries including his own and forced civil servants to donate one months salary to public projects.   Thomas Sankara’s revolution was committed to removing the injustices of imperialis. His ambitions went well beyond  changing the social relations of all Burkinabe people to the whole continent.  His legacy lies in the fact that he not only showed us a different way is possible but that it actually happened. But the reasons why the revolution was stopped after such a short period of time speaks to the enormity of the struggle we face if we are to achieve the kind of social transformation he envisaged.

 

References

[1] We Are Heir’s of the World’s Revolutions: Thomas Sankara Speeches, 1983-87’ Pathfinder Press 2007

[2] Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle, 1990, Pathfinder Press

[3] OAU Summit Declarations.

[4] Italian revelations on the assassination of Thomas Sankara, Silvestro Montanaro. 

Additional sources: 

Thomas Sankara, an Upright Man, California Newsreel

Aziz Fall, L’affaire Sankara; parachever une victoire historique contre l’impunité en Afrique.

Aziz Fall, Echoes of Revolution: Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara

Amber Murray, The revolution and the emancipation of women”

Bruno Jaffre, “Thomas Sankara, I Have A Dream

An African Election – pulling back from the brink [Video]

From Dynamic Africa

The 2008 presidential elections in Ghana, West Africa, serve as a backdrop for this feature documentary that looks behind-the-scenes at the complex, political machinery of a third world democracy struggling to legitimize itself to its first world contemporaries. At stake in this race are the fates of two political parties that will do almost anything to win.

Director Jarreth Merz follows the key players for almost three months to provide an unprecedented insider’s view of the political, economic and social forces at work in Ghana. He builds suspense by taking the viewer down the back roads of the nation to capture each unexpected twist and turn in a contest that is always exciting and never predictable. Throughout the film, Merz depicts the pride and humanity of the larger-than-life politicians, party operatives and citizens who battle for the soul of their country.

Myths of African women on the rise?

Does having a female president benefit ordinary women?  As part of the BBC’s Africa Debate programme, Malawian feminist and women’s rights campaigner, Jessie Kabwila, discusses the significance of  the “rise of African women” in leadership positions and whether this has any real impact on the lives of African women.   The debate reminded me of the one following the election of President Obama which asserted the US was now  post-racial – a dangerous assertion which attempts to erase racial realties.  The claim that African women are on the rise is also dangerous and part of a movement to gloss over African realities.  And not just because  there are only a  handful of African women in leadership positions, or even  because of the erroneous expectation that women in leadership would automatically act in the interest of women and against patriarchy but because nothing in the superstructure has changed.   This is very much not the case.  One point Jessie emphasises is the narrative which blames women for being complicit in their oppression. As Jessie points out we need to stop  this and  understand how patriarchy works in manipulating and constructing identities to its own interest…..

It is easy to believe that women are on the rise in Africa, especially when one considers that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the president of Liberia and Joyce Banda that of Malawi. From July 2012, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma took over the leadership of the African Union. Indeed, the list of women occupying spaces of power is growing.

However, a few questions need to be asked before we can say women are on the rise or not.

Firstly, what is the main source of oppression for women of Africa and can they rise from it, by becoming president of a country?

What constitutes women being on the rise in Africa? Who are the women of Africa? More specifically, are the women who are “rising” representative of women in Africa?

Research clearly illustrates that the principle of male supremacy is the engine of the oppression of many African women.

For women to be on the rise, the ideology of seeing men as people who are superior to women has to be brought to an end.

In the context of such gender relations, one wonders if one woman’s joining of the nation state – especially given its sexist character – really makes a difference?

I would argue that unless one changes the male-privileging structure that has produced that woman, both in and outside the state, the one she has have risen through and become master at, her joining of the state is often a cooptation, a process that demands her to become a “man”.

In fact, her very survival in the position depends on her ability to perform this manhood and assure the status quo that she will continue to privilege men and manhood.

‘Laughable’

Another factor that is crucial to remember is that right now, only two out of 54 African countries are being led by women.

This pathetically imbalanced proportion is being read by some as women being on the rise.

This is laughable, particularly when one remembers that women constitute over half of the population in most countries in Africa.

Imagine if after the independence struggles only two out of the 54 countries were being led by Africans – I do not think that would be read as Africans being on the rise.

For women to be on the rise, whatever the woman leader does must trickle down to the other women.

This means we have to change and transform the colonial structures imposed on the African social landscape such as the modern state, organized religion, global capitalism, reinvent male privileging institutions that oppress women at personal and communal levels such such as marriage.

When we say African women are on the rise, we need to be sure if we are talking about leadership or structure.

What needs to change is the structure to enable women to emerge from the base, instead of being appointed.

Transformation is needed but this can only occur with the transformation of the whole system.

Political power has a lot to do with the people who surround the leader, it comes from the structure. The women in power are often surrounded by men in a system that is constructed to serve men.

It is also sad that many times, women are appointed into positions stereotyped to be for women.

A good example is Joyce Banda’s choice for minister of gender.

In order to change the patriarchal gender ideologies and show that women are fit to be leaders, it would be good to appoint them into ministries such as defence.

This can help contest the political culture and tradition.

Elite women

The majority of African women are poor, living in the rural areas and illiterate.

The bulk of the women who are “rising” are not from this class.

Ms Zuma, Sirleaf and Banda are card-carrying members of the ruling elite, socially and politically.

One could ask how do we ensure women truly rise in Africa?

This is where one needs well-researched, effectively implemented and monitored affirmative action programmes.

These need to be home-grown and owned.

Botswana and Rwanda are examples of African countries that are registering significant gains in women’s participation in political power.

Affirmative action is what addresses structural imbalances, not having one woman running government.

Women need to be in leadership positions in various board rooms, political parties and spaces of knowledge production such as the university, just to mention a few.

If we can get 50% of boards and parliaments to be “womaned” by women, then you have opened space bottom up, instead of just having one woman up there, in a structure that is hostile to women.

A female-friendly state

A female president can make a huge difference in her country and this can be in increasing women’s participation in democracy, making sure that the state is accessible to women.

She will make sure that their voices, especially that of the uneducated, the rural illiterate, are taken into consideration and not belittled by being assumed or spoken for.

A woman president can champion issues concerning women.

But the woman leader has to remember that the male supremacy principle is used to control resources and power and when threatened, it mutates and reinvents itself, reminding the woman leader that she will be punished by those peddling and benefiting from this male privileging, if she does not maintain and reproduce it.

So the woman president has to be an organic leader – one who takes gender justice as a principle.

She has to be someone whose political capital resides in having integrity, truth and justice, not populist loyalty.

Because of the globality and interconnectedness of indigenous, colonial and capitalist male privileging ideologies, an African woman president must be prepared not to be voted back into office but focus on standing for what is right.

Woman mourning in DR Congo
Would a female president be less likely to engage in war?

Such a stand will most likely be costly politically and its fruits take time to be registered.

They are not short term, yet politics is built and thrives on short term results.

Such a leader knows that change is not an event, it is a process and the benefits of a woman-friendly stand will most likely be harvested in the long run and by other people.

This kind of a woman leader is committed to the greater good, the collective vision, not the next election or the ability of her post materially benefiting herself and those surrounding her.

Such a woman president would not use and depend on recycled politicians as they are clear products of a “boys club” that has survived on mastering and playing the political field, an entity that has historically been modeled on corrupt male forms of power.

The woman president would handle issues of the economy in an astute, mature, meticulously informed manner because she knows that poverty informs issues that produce and propel women’s oppression such as gender-based violence, maternal death, HIV and Aids, and the impact of adverse climate change.

This woman would demonstrate that she is aware that many African women are in the informal sector and they live in situations rife with power relations skewed against them locally and globally at race, gender and class levels.

The way she handles issues such as devaluations would illustrate that she knows that such things are lethal to the poor, uneducated and those living with HIV and Aids, the majority of whom are women.

One could ask what a non-male dominated state would look like.

Firstly, the state would prioritise female participation in various institutions, bottom up, top down and horizontally, especially in issues that concern women.

Structures that produce political power would be reconfigured to invite and accommodate women in their large numbers, starting by deconstructing ways of running the state that favour male forms of power.

Such a state would adopt a feminist approach to development and fighting poverty, maternal death, HIV/Aids and climate change.

Women are often seen campaigning but the men end up in power

In such a state, a woman would not be a second-class citizen and women’s empowerment and personhood would be an issue of priority.

Issues that oppress women would take centre stage in state-sponsored programmes.

Women’s labour would be recognised and rewarded, including what is done at home and in private and informal spaces.

It is good that the number of women in positions of authority in Africa is increasing but for this to constitute a rise in the definition and lives of women in Africa, the structure that produces what is called a person, man, woman and power has to change.

After that, you can begin to ask if the emergence of women like Joyce Banda means a rise for women of Africa.

Listen to a radio broadcast of  a panel discussion on African women on the rise.

Gay (happy) speak by Unions for workers and ministries’ move to penalise companies that don’t like to share is music my ears.

September is quite a memorable month with much great news of Unions realizing the rights of ‘gay and lesbians’ workers and Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant, pushing for realization of economic empowerment for black people. Nonetheless it is overdue news at least recognition is necessary in the current state of our nation that Minister Oliphant issued a statement on the “gross underrepresentation” of black people, women and people with disabilities in key areas of the labour market. It is about time the ministry spoke to our needs and let’s not forget LGBTI people’s plight in this statement. A proposition to penalize companies that are not playing ball is a great initiative and the again I also wonder how?!

At a tender age of teenage hood South Africa as a democratic state made promises that there would be social and economic justice for the majority of black people and women. For what it’s worth there has been achievement in a few departments of our government that have given the black women and men much access to economic gains-from social grants and employment legislation to promote non-discrimination in the labour market in South Africa. The Employment Equity Act (EEA) was deliberate for tenderly reconciling as a nation from a racist regime of white people who have continued to hold onto the wealth and the few they are getting most of the shares in capital gains in the new South Africa.

Perhaps the government was and has been too lenient in policing EEA without penalising companies who have been taking most black employees for a ride since 1996. The penalizing is welcome but there is concern as to how this would be evaluated given that the current policy has not been fully adopted. How do we measure achievement for change from employees of companies that complied with EEA? I would imagine little change for blacks who continue to suffer in poverty and this is exacerbated by lack of skills development in the companies that only met the EEA quota system to seem ‘nice’. This is because in positions of economic power and influence-mostly white men who have businesses continue to flourish under the new democracy and still reign and control the capital system.

Moreover, most blacks are discriminated in the work place for lack of skills because in the case of black lesbians they drop out of school because of social exclusion. In a recent study that I undertook in Cape Town- the Mother City of Gay tourism, I had anticipated that there were a few cases of discrimination in the work place despite EEA legislation provisions and what I found was worse than I had imagined.. I interviewed a small number [enough to make a generalized assessment] of black lesbians on attitudes for employers on discrimination tastes in Cape Town’s formal and informal work sector. From educational institutes, parastatals, agriculture, NGOs and arts and activism, I found discrimination highly prevalent. People are moved from one depart to the other to avoid homophobic senior management, threats not renew work contracts if sexual favours are not met, and being passed for promotion because the employee’s family structure does not fit into the heterosexual norms. Cases studied in the research reveal discrimination from schools-which limits skills and education capacity of young lesbians who do not finish school which impacts on their capabilities in the labour market. Is this being addressed too within the amendments to benefit future young women in making their dreams come true? An amendment is urgently needed in the education policies to inform this structure that is negating the plight of young women and boys too.

Whilst I welcome the proposed changes to the EEA, what other measures will make the process work such that these young women also find their realities on the side that is greened-better lives? Does the government also consider how LGBTI persons will explicitly be part of this change- desired impacts of social development and environments that are non-heteronormative for inclusiveness of all citizens just like people living with HIV/AIDS and people with disabilities. Whilst the Unions speak out on hate crimes and support for workers’ rights are critical. The resolution which is pending by COSATU affiliates pushing government to fight and support the rights of gays and lesbians is fundamental to making redistribution of wealth in South Africa a necessity. Samwu, Denosa and Numsa’ call is critical and this requires some serious bargaining for lesbians who related in interviews to being discriminated and the difficulty of labour regulations without being Unions.

One concern for LGBTI persons is that they fear being discriminated despite the EEA and labour Act of 1995. In being stringent with companies and making them pay hefty fines-would this change the attitude enough that lesbians can disclose their orientation in order to get spousal benefits that are garnished towards heterosexuals? How do we meet quotas as with the racial implementation of EEA to have so many people of this colour in the case of sexual orientation? Already there are challenges because LGBTI persons are still under threat of harassment and harmful attitudes. Some of my black lesbian respondents that I interviewed said they were scared to come out because they would lose their job. How will a quota system on sexual orientation be implemented with limited success to the effectiveness legislation previously and what will the amendment realize for LGBTI personnel.

With limitations for the majority black person gaining access to the tight grasp of the white men in top positions in the food chain, what will happen to the black women, a lesbian and bread winner in her family. The Commission for Employment Equity’s report is real to the lived lives of black women who are left behind at every turn, more so in the case of sexual orientation. It is time to Stand and demand the pink slip! The amendments to EEA need to be effected sooner than later and sped up for all to realize the dream of a rainbow nation-which is slowly fading away. The promises of the constitution and push by Unions, the minister Oliphant and Patel are working towards progression and hopefully the LGBTI and the rest of the citizens are critically on their minds for equity and equality in South Africa.

Glenda Muzenda

Glenda Tambudzai Muzenda is a gender justice and development researcher working on areas of socio-economic transformation in South Africa, currently studying at Institute of Social Studies (ISS). Areas of interest are gender, sexuality and social development focusing on black women, children, men and LGBTI persons. She rights widely issue of interest and is passionate about cats and people.