Tag Archives: Militarism

2013, The Year of the Child

I have been thinking a great deal about children lately [I use the term broadly, as a mother and aunt rather than in strictly terms of age] especially about them being killed, raped and harmed in so many ways. We know its true, that public, collective tears are not for everyone. I read recently that here in the US, in Chicago, 260 school children have been murdered in the past three years.

In 2010, nearly 700 Chicago school children were shot and 66 of them died. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended a memorial for 260 school children who had been killed in just the previous three years. On several occasions in the past year, tens of people have been shot in a single weekend on the streets of the city. The worst three-day stretch saw 10 killed and 37 wounded in gun fire. But Google the term “Chicago weekend shootings” and the results are far too many deadly weekends to count.

But historically black death, people of colour death, Native American death has never been cause for mourning. On the contrary as Jessie Jackson pointed out after Katrina.. [the US]

..an amazing tolerance for black pain… a great tolerance for black suffering and black marginalization” [Monstrous Intimacies, Christina Sharp]

We witness this not only across cities in the US but well beyond. Technically Chicago is not a war zone – people who live there may feel otherwise, I dont know. But its not the DRC, Palestine or Yemen but still the children of Chicago are being killed and they are not white kids. The children in the DRC along with their mothers are murdered and raped and there are the thousands who are trafficked and forced into armies of war, or labour or sex slaves or all of these. Presidents sit by and deal in arms, African resources and money whilst shedding tears at home. The children in Yemen and Palestine are murdered by drones and missiles on the orders of Presidents, some of who shed tears for some children whilst killing others – it could even be in the same moment.

In an interview with Channel 4, Arundhati Roy is questioned about the gang rape on a bus which led to the death of a young Indian woman on Sunday.   We are told that in India a women  is raped every 20 minutes and that the chance of catching the rapists let alone bringing him to trial is near zero.   Many of those raped are young girls and small children.  But as Roy points out, the army and police routinely use rape as a weapon in places like Manipur and Kashmir and they do this under the protection of the law.  Some say its too much to think of all these children being killed and raped let alone shed tears. And what good are tears anyway? Well its a recognition of their humanity, that they are loved and their death is a suffering. Tears make the connection between your children and other peoples children and that all these children and women are being murdered and raped by guns and other war machines. The international arms trade is very closely connected to the domestic arms trade if not why are the NRA lobbying against the global arms trade treaty?

As Amy Goodman writes in the Guardian

The global treaty shouldn’t be controversial. By signing on, governments agree not to export weapons to countries that are under an arms embargo, or to export weapons that would facilitate “the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes” or other violations of international humanitarian law. Exports of arms are banned if they will facilitate “gender-based violence or violence against children” or be used for “transnational organized crime”.

The treaty deals with international exports of weapons and ammunition, not any nation’s internal, domestic laws that govern the sale or use of guns

Clearly small arms are being traded from the US, most probably from gun fairs where guns are bought and sold freely. Recently Keguro wrote an excellent blog post on Banal Misogyny in which he rightly states

Indeed, the misogyny we inhabit is so pervasive and so unrelenting, that, as I remarked to a friend, Audre Lorde’s essays from the 70s and 80s feel much too present, much too relevant. It is not simply that we are dealing with an ugly remnant that every so often reminds us of an even uglier time. Rather, it is that the ugliness of then, cloaked in masculine benevolence, is too much with us. And we seem to have lost the ability to recognize it, to name it, to respond to it.

I would add that there is a banality about racism and violence so much so that like misogyny, we no longer recognise it and even if we do, every effort is made to belittle the naming and silence our voices. From where I stand misogyny racism and violence are all twisted together by patriarchy .   Jake Appelbaum – founder of TOR and associate of Wikileaks delves further into the bowels of the US patriarchal militarist state as he helps us understand where  they are heading as the age of data retention marks the end of illusionary freedoms. So here’s one example of how it plays out.

The targeting information for the thousands of DRONE killings is fed to the CIA [NSA and all the other members of patriarchal military surveillance state] from surveillance listening points [One is being built in Utah at this moment with relay stations around the US and very possibly overseas in Uganda, Kenya and other AFRICOM friendly states.] and from intelligence factories. In short there is a direct relationship between survelliance and support of straight up murder…..The way the Drone killings are carried out is that the central committee that is those who gets to decide who lives or dies or Obama’s  assassination star chamber – this is just  hop or two away from surveillance. So when you support the surveillance state this is just a stop away from killing children.   [paraphrased]

Just in case readers are unsure that this impacts on their daily lives, Jake reminds us of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill and I will add the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage  Prohibition Bill – both are wholly reliant on surveillance. Yes they may start with neighbours but sooner or later surveillance technologies will replace people and the reporting neighbour will themselves be under surveillance.  Just imagine London’s millions of CCTV are made available to monitor interactions and behaviour of people  living under the Ugandan or Nigerian AHBs?  Its also important to state that the oppressions Jake is speaking about may be new to white privilege but for Black folks well we have always been under the intimate gaze of the monster!  This is not a dismissal or excuse to do nothing – it is simply a statement of fact.

Because this is New Years Day in the calendar I live my life, I write this in memory of Darren Deslandes, 11th July 1975 — 1st January 2010 – Darren was murdered in the early hours of January 1st in his family pub in South London.  R.I.P. Darren, never forgotten!

#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. 

 

 

#16Days: – Nigeria’s Memory Hole*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a pretty picture: A short documentary on Nigeria

Via Sahara Reporters TV

Of course; they have a lot to hide!

When I first heard this piece of news I was shocked, then I became angry and then I turned defiant and decided that I would chart my own destiny. The piece of news is that out of the 192 member states of the United Nations, Zimbabwe has decided to declare itself so special, setting itself apart by changing the theme on the Commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence to suit its own ‘context.’

The official United Nations and global theme for this year’s commemorations is supposed to be:

“From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”

The new (Indigenous) Zimbabwean theme now reads:

“From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge All Forms of Gender-based Violence.”

To back-step a little bit let me start from the beginning…
Continue reading

Normalisation of violence against women

From Witness – how militarism, masculinity and the media contribute and facilitate the normalization of violence against women..

Images of masculinity and militarism pervade mass media across the world, with aggressive male behavior, sexually exploited feminine bodies, and pictures of conflict saturating visual culture. These images contribute to the normalization of violence in our everyday lives. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign seeks to highlight the links between the culture of militarism and gender-based violence through our 2011 Campaign theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”
Continue reading

Bleeding in progress – making public the violence of rape

Visual activist, Zanele Muholi discusses her most recent photographic installation “Isilumo Siyaluma

Evelyn Apoko, LRA survivor bears witness

Evelyn Apoko survived the Lords Resistance Army [LRA]. Here she responds to those who are stupidly misinformed and who have criticised President Obama’s decision to deploy 100 US troops to try to end the LRA’s war and capture Joseph Kony.    Whatever we may think about foreign military interventions and in this case what could turn out to be yet  another US execution on foreign soil, Evelyn’s testimony and  pleas for help in ending the 23 year old war in which thousands upon thousands of children have been abducted and tortured, villages ransacked and women raped and people killed, cannot and should not be ignored. The LRA’s war takes place in Uganda and crosses borders into Southern Sudan, the Central African Republic [where Kony is suspected as hiding] and the DRC. The most recent deployment of troops by Obama is not the first US involvement in the war. In 2008 the US have provided intelligence and logistical support in the DRC and though this officially ended in 2009 it is believed the support continued unofficially. Though from time to time there are short reports on the LRA the war takes place outside of the media limelight and it is hard to believe that any serious effort has ever been made on the part of Uganda, the DRC, the AU or the UN to protect civilians and put an end to the war. Increased militarisation may have some short term impact however as this statement by “Defence Professionals” shows it is doubtful that this latest US intervention will be any more successful than the last.

The task will not be easy. One of the consequences of Operation Lightning Thunder was that the LRA scattered into smaller groups, making them much more difficult to track down. Kony himself is believed to be operating in the Central African Republic. The groups have discarded any communication equipment that would allow them to be traced and instead rely on runners to relay messages. In addition, the LRA is a hardened guerilla force used to operating in difficult terrain. It has survived against the odds for a quarter of a century. U.S. policymakers and military planners emphasize that there is no quick fix to ending the scourge of the LRA and that even the death or capture of Kony and his senior commanders may not be sufficient to finish off the group unless broader efforts are made to address the grievances that caused it to form in the first place.

New strategies have to be found starting above all else with increased efforts to protect civilians and to engage more forcefully with local religious leaders, civil society organisations and traditional leaders including the voices of survivors like Evelyn Apoko.

Evelyn Apoko is 22 years old, but she was only a child when the Lord’s Resistance Army came into her home late one night and dragged her out into the jungle. The LRA, a bizarre and violent cult that emerged out of Uganda’s 1986 civil war, enslaved Evelyn as they had the 66,000 children that came before and after her.

Most children who are abducted by the LRA are forced to either fight, aid in fighting, or serve as concubines. Evelyn does not say what happened during her years of enslavement with the LRA, but, one day, a bomb went off near her during one of the battles that are a regular part of the group’s life. She attempted to protect an infant that was with the group, in the process exposing her face to the blast, which disfigured her. Denied medical care and fearing that she would be killed for her unattractive appearance, Evelyn escaped, miraculously making it through the jungle on foot and alone.

Today she is a fellow with a Liberia-based non-profit called the Strongheart Fellowship Program, which rehabilitates young people from what it calls “extremely challenging circumstances.” Last year, she was honored on the floor of the Canadian parliament for her work.

Dear Mr. Limbaugh: Evelyn’s Appeal from Strongheart on Vimeo.

Johnson Sirleaf and Gbowee represent the resilience of Liberian women, of African women, of women the world

I doubt many are surprised that Leymah Gbowee has won the Nobel Peace Prize. The same cannot be said of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Accusations range from corruption to mismanagement – nothing new for political leaders. What stands out for me is Johnson Sirleaf remains the only African leader to agree to hosting the US High Command in Africa – AFRICOM. This is not really surprising given Liberia’s historic connection with the US [Leymah speaks of this unpleasant relationship in her Google interview] Nonetheless the two women are connected – Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia were influential in Johnson Sirleaf becoming the first woman president in Africa.

Johnson Sirleaf and Gbowee represent the resilience of Liberian women, of African women, of women the world over who thirst for an end to militarism, gender-based violence, death, destruction, war, and missile strikes in the name of “liberation”.

How can this be when Johnson Sirleaf offers to host AFRICOM and the support the militarisation of the continent?

Liberian Robtel Pailey, who up until recently worked at the ” Executive Mansion” under President Johnson Sirleaf, examines their similarities.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also from Liberia, became the second and third African women to be awarded the Nobel peace prize on 7 October.

Gbowee and Johnson Sirleaf have forever transformed the image of Liberia, from a pariah nation of warlords and gun-slinging, drug-induced prepubescent boys, to a country clawing its way back to civility and normality.

Their journeys to this prestigious award, announced just four days ahead of Liberia’s high-stakes presidential and legislative elections — elections that will determine the country’s development trajectory and democratic consolidation — signify Liberia’s journey to consciousness.

As someone who most recently worked in the Liberian Executive Mansion under Johnson Sirleaf’s tutelage for four years, I know that she and Gbowee, whom I interviewed earlier in the year, represent the ethos of our nation.

Leymah Gbowee – militant pacifist!

One of three 2011 Noble Peace Prize winners, Leymah Gbowee interviewed by Megan Smith. What makes this interview particularly interesting is through Leymah own personal history we begin to understand her journey from childhood to the strong powerful woman she is today – through domestic violence, being ostracized by her father and raising four children and the struggle for peace against the warlords of Liberia. She also puts the Liberian war into historical context, something which is often missing from news reports.

“Where do we start talking about the atrocities? We need to go back to 1822 and start that conversation because thats where everything started”

I have to say that I am proud to have met Leymah in Accra in 2010 at a workshop on militarisation in which the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell was screened. She is one hell of a special woman, none of the forked tongues of politicians and opportunitists. Leymah is real – a strong and powerful African woman. If you havent seen the film it will be showing on PBS on 18th October.

Who is Leymah Gbowee ?

Leymah Gbowee is a “militant pacifist”, a “peace activist”, and a real mover and shaker. She is a woman who recognized that women had to organize, across all barriers and across all divisions, that women had to transform themselves and one another if they wanted to change the world. They had to learn to participate in peace negotiations, for example, by refusing the symbolic chairs and other morsels offered them, by confronting the materiel of war and violence with the human force of peace, compassion, and love. When the Big Men of Liberia met in Accra to negotiate “peace”, Gbowee and her sisters in white t-shirts raised a ruckus outside, and just about held the delegates hostage.
From the outset, Leymah Gbowee identified humanity as the site of her struggles and organizing. That means organizing structures, such as the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, followed by the Women In Peacebuilding Network, or WIPNET. From there, she has gone on to organize the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, based in Ghana. Gbowee’s vision of women is African, from Cape to Cairo, and from coast to coast.
Peace and justice, child by child, person by person, space by space, and beyond. That’s what Leymah Gbowee has been organizing. That’s what is so difficult, if not impossible, to represent. That’s what The New York Times missed. But you don’t have to. On Tuesday, October 18, in the United States, PBS will broadcast the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, about the work of Leymah Gbowee. Don’t miss it. It’s inspiring, as is its subject.

The Hypocrisy of the UN and US on human rights & social justice

Ugandan LGBTI activist, Kasha Jacqueline speaks at the “UN Summit on Discrimination and Persecution”. – Through her own personal experience as an activist in Uganda, Kasha speaks about the war against the LGBTI community in her country and the hypocrisy and failure of the UN to protect anyone – at least anyone outside of the interest of oil and nuclear weapons.

Kasha is highly critical of the UN, the invasion of Libya, saying it does not care about her and other activists. Whilst at the conferences she was harassed at the UN building by members of her country. She asks, where was the UN in protecting her and others who are been victimized in the their countries? Where was the UN in the war in northern Uganda? Why does the UN continue to talk about human rights but at the same time happily sit next to world leaders and their governments who are torturing and persecuting their own people [and I would add make selective choices on where to intervene, who to topple based on nothing more than self-interest and greed]. Who holds the UN accountable? She concludes the UN does not care about human rights. She is right and neither does the US.

What is missing from the Summit are the voices of Americans and people living in the US who have suffered discrimination and persecution, torture and detention, and the many people killed by the state when there is reasonable and in the case of Troy Davis substantial doubt as to his guilt. Kasha speaks of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which may or may not be dead and buried. The Bill originally called for the death penalty for repeated homosexual offenses but was dropped following outrage from the global community. The US was highly vocal in condemning the possibility of death penalty in Uganda yet the US is one of the few countries along with Saudi Arabia [its ally] Iran[its enemy] China [its competitor in the global market] in the world that continues to issue death warrants EVEN where there is reasonable and substantial doubt. The murder of Troy Davis was the the worst human rights violation – a legalised murder committed by the United States Government – an obscene baying for blood, an act of vengeance against the innocent.

Nigerian women protest in Abuja

Nigerian women in Abuja protesting against the post election violence in the north of the country. Nigerian women have always at the forefront of anti-violence protest in the country. Last year hundreds women from the Jos region gathered in Abuja in a day of mass mourning to protest against the violence in Plateau State and criticise the governments failure to protect them.

Photos via Sahara Reporters.

Feminist Africa: How Africom contributes to militarisation in Africa

Scholar/activist Amina Mama discusses the evolution of a pan-African feminism, much of it in the African diaspora, and also how it links to feminist and anti-capitalist movements in other areas such as Haiti. How is AFRICOM, contributing to militarization on the African continent? What other trends are increasing militarism on the continent, and how are feminists responding?

Amina Mama, is chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at U.C. Davis and Global Fund for Women’s Africa programs.

In another interview Cynthia Enloe talks gives an excellent explanation of militarism and how it impacts on all our lives; She also discusses how militarism depends on women’s participatio. ; If audio doesnt work listen here

Women’s Magazine – Equality Only With Justice and Peace – August 30, 2010 at 1:00pm

Click to listen (or download)