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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Land: The New International Strategic Asset. How Africa is losing big time

By Lord Aikins Adusei

There are credible reports that big multinational corporations like Biofuel Africa Ltd in cahoots with corrupt politicians and traditional leaders and with the backing of global financial institutions are buying large tracts of land in parts of Africa, under bizarre circumstances, displacing rural farmers, destabilising rural communities and slowly building up chaos that is further aggravating the poverty situation in Africa.

The international craze for a reduction of carbon dioxide emission from fossil fuel guzzling cars and industries has led to an intense focus on biofuel as the solution to the pollution and associated global warming. But the production of biofuel is not taking place in the sky, it is taking place on land and is leading to a new social cancer that is slowly beginning to emerge. The focus on biofuel as alternative to oil, gas and coal has put new and unrealistic demand on land, and it is on record to make land the most strategic commodity in the 21st Century. The history of land as a strategic asset dates back to the 18th Century. During that period Physiocrats considered land the ultimate source value and all attempt was made to secure it. However, in the 19th Century labour became the most important factor of production as new factories competed aggressively for that resource. Then the importance of labour as the most important factor of production was replaced by capital in the 20th Century. Access to money was considered the ultimate source of value in production. However, in the 21st Century land is coming back as the most strategic asset.Evidence of this can be seen in the scramble for land not only in Africa but also in Latin America and Russia [1]

Driven largely by a global cartel of land speculators, many energy and agro-multinational corporations are strategically acquiring agricultural lands in poor countries of the global south particularly Africa at a rate never anticipated by land economists. The 2007 and 2008 food crisis and its associated price hikes have forced rich but food insecure countries in the Middle East and the Gulf Region to scrounge for lands in Africa further complicating matters. Jeffrey D. Sachs of the Earth Institute in a recent article entitled 'Need Versus Greed' notes that "The rise in food prices is leading to a land grab, as powerful politicians sell foreign investors massive tracts of farmland, brushing aside the traditional land rights of poor smallholders. Foreign investors hope to use large mechanised farms to produce output for export, leaving little or nothing for the local populations." [2] Meanwhile the belief in some countries in Africa like Sudan and Ethiopia that heavy injections of foreign capital will enhance agricultural technology, boost local employment, revitalize sagging agricultural sectors, and ultimately improve agricultural yields has given the corporations a field day with serious social, economic, political and environmental consequences, [3]

The land grabbing statistics worldwide and Africa in particular is not only overwhelming but is also extraordinary shocking. According to International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) a US-based policy think thank, since 2006 between 15 million and 20 million hectares of farmland around the world have been secured for biofuel and grain production, while between US$20bn and US$30bn has gone into investment [4].

In Africa the past five years has seen more rich agricultural lands being taken over by food insecure but rich countries in the Middle East and rich multinational firms in Europe, US, and Asia particularly China, Korea and India. Some of the land acquisitions have occurred under bizarre and non-transparent circumstances making experts to warn of the consequences if the practice is not stopped. In Mozambique for example China has US$800 million investment to expand 100,000 to 500,000 metric tons of rice production in the country and Skebab (Sweden) and Sun Biofuels (UK) have acquired more than 100, 000 hectares of land for biofuel production in the country. In Ethiopia, a country noted internationally for its food insecurity and its dependence on handout from the World Food Programme, the government has set aside around three million hectares of farm land to be used to produce grain and biofuel for export. Flora EcoPower (Germany) has acquired 13,000 hectares for bio-crop production while India is investing US$4 billion in agriculture, flower growing and sugar estates in that country. In Tanzania Sun Biofuels (UK) has acquired 5,500 hectares of land for sorghum (biofuel) production while the Chinese firm Chongqing See Corp has secured 300 hectares of farm lands for rice production. In the same Tanzania the Gulf State of Saudi Arabia has requested a lease of 500,000 hectares of land. In Southern Sudan Jarch Capital (USA) has signed a 400, 000 hectare deal with a local army commander while the Middle East and Gulf States of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait and Egypt together have about 1.045m hectares under their thumb in that country. In the same Sudan, South Korea is running away with 690,000 hectares of farmland secured for wheat production. In Nigeria, Trans4mation Agrictech Ltd (UK) has secured 10,000 hectares of land. In Angola, Lornho (UK) has 25,000 hectares leased to her for rice cultivation and is negotiating for a further 125,000 hectares in Malawi and Mali. China has requested 2 million hectares for jatropha production in Zambia; and in Democratic Republic of Congo the Chinese firm ZTE International has secured 2.8 million hectares for biofuel oil palm plantation [5].

These figures do not only reflect the unequal power relations between rich multinational corporations and governments of rich countries on one hand and poor African countries on the other, but it also reflects the vulnerability of African countries to the predatory activities of rich multinational corporations and governments of these rich countries. It has been argued elsewhere that the global assault on Africa has the tendency to produce the same negative effects that colonialism produced on the continent.

A major problem is that many of the corruption-ridden governments in Africa are rushing to make land deals with multinationals without proper consultation with the people and without proper studies as to the economic, social and environmental cost of such deals. Another issue is that the lands being giving to corporations by the nonchalance governments in Africa are not empty lands. They are lands that rural farmers farm on and depend on for their livelihoods. That means the farmers whose lands have been taken over by the multinationals are being denied the opportunity to make a living. They are being dispossessed of the only asset that helps put food on their tables.The lands of the poor farmers are being handed over to rich multinationals to meet the needs of populations elsewhere to the detriment of the local farmers. The local farmers are being pushed away by multinationals that are increasingly seeing land as strategic asset that must be acquired at all cost to meet their own greedy, selfish and opportunistic ambitions.

Many who support corporate land grab efforts in Africa point to Asian-style Green Revolution. Their argument is that allowing the land grabbing to go on will allow benefits such as revenue, employment, and technology transfer to be bequeathed to countries in Africa. But there are many unanswered questions regarding the so called benefits of land investments in Africa. For example what happens to displaced farmers whose lands are taken for food production to feed populations abroad? What happens to food production and food security in countries where agriculture lands are being auctioned to produce biofuel and food to feed economies elsewhere? In some of the countries where land is being taken for food and energy production people already spend between 60-75% of their income on food so what per cent of income of these poor people will be spent on food when it becomes unavailable in the local market? Most importantly what happens to communities when scarce water and other scarce resources that they depend on and which are currently being channeled into food and energy production for export abroad are depleted? What happens to farmlands that are degraded after the food is produced and exported? What happens to the polluted environment after the food and biofuels have been shipped abroad? Little is known of the environmental implications of committing hundreds of thousands of hectares of farm lands into jatropha production. New pests and diseases may emerge to confront poor farmers, who may not have benefited from the jatropha production with serious consequences. For example the use of chemicals to process the jatropha into biofuel may not only lead to contamination of soil, but also the poisoning of shallow groundwater with serious health repercussions for both humans and animals.

As Hornborg (2009:244) notes: "Generally speaking, social scientists will probably not get too involved in discussions about ethanol with all those engineers, agronomists, and economists who are committed to keeping the global technomass going by feeding it with corn or sugar cane. But we can listen attentively to the debate. We are told, for instance, that the conditions of people harvesting sugar cane for ethanol production in Brazil are appalling. We are told that ethanol production might in fact generate more greenhouse gases than the combustion of fossil fuels. We are told that it will accelerate tropical deforestation and loss of biodiversity. We are told that it will probably yield less horsepower per hectare than just simply growing fodder for horses. And what undoubtedly worries us the most, we are told that it is making food more expensive and contributing to malnutrition and starvation among the global poor" [6].

In Ghana for instance while the Ministry of Agriculture has allowed over 20 companies from around the world, including Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Norway and The Netherlands, to acquire land to produce biofuels, the ministry has not conducted any study to establish the social, economic, political and food security implications of such land deals to Ghana as a whole and the affected farmers and the communities in particular.

Current estimates by the World Food Programme (WFP) put the number of people in Ghana who are food insecure to 1.2 million; almost half the number is people living in the Northern Region of the country where the corporate land grabbing is taking place. In a paper presented during the World Bank Annual Bank conference on Land Policy and Administration in Washington, DC, April 26 and 27, 2010,Kwesi Ahoi, Ghana's Minister of Food and Agriculture admitted that on the whole Ghana remain food insecure. He stated that "Ghana is self-sufficient only in roots and tubers but deficient in cereals where it produces 51% of its needs, fish, 60% of its requirements, meat 50% of requirements and less than 30% of the raw materials needed for agro-based industries. The output of vegetables such as tomatoes and onions, the most widely used, is rather erratic and vacillates between scarcity, sufficiency and glut depending on the vagaries of the weather". [7] Yet, in spite of the food insecurity in the country, Kwesi Ahoi and his ministry are busy supervising the handing over of the same land that could make Ghana food sufficient to non-food producing multinationals.

The acquisition of 23,700 hectares of Ghanaian land by Biofuel Africa Ltd in the northern part of the country has already forced the inhabitants of seven villages that depend on the land for their livelihoods to move to Tamale, the regional capital in search of non existing jobs. These 23,700 hectares of land were taken away from the people without adequate compensation and without viable alternatives. For example Steinar Kolnes, Biofeul Africa Ltd chief executive officer (CEO) in Ghana admitted that the company did not pay compensation to farmers whose land his corporation has seized. "We don't pay compensation...We gave the farmers two options: To stay and farm their crops alongside the jetropha or leave to other more fertile lands we had provided for them" [8] The question is if there are fertile lands as the chief executive claims why doesn't he use it for his jatropha business? Why is he seizing the poor farmers' land and not use his so called rich land for his jatropha business?

The findings of an in-depth study sponsored by the World Bank on the impact of corporate land grabbing in Ghana have implicated the biofuel corporations in the country. According to the World Bank study published in 2010 [9] "The most direct and immediate impact of biofuels relates to land loss… Some 70 households from three communities were involuntarily vacated from their lands, without any form of restitution, following the harvest of yam (the primary cash crop) from the 2008 growing season. For two of the villages this equated to between 40 and 50 percent of households. Of those households that lost land, on average nearly 60 percent of their total landholdings were acquired by the company. Only 20 percent of households were able to obtain some replacement land, with most households unsuccessful in recovering both the quantity and quality of land lost to the plantation. These households cited increasing land scarcity and land quality concerns as key obstacles."

The World Bank study concludes: "In all the plantations assessed households were required to relinquish landholdings for the purpose of plantation development. At the majority of plantations, directly affected households were not consulted by the company, nor did they formally acquiesce to transferring their land. With the exception of one company that promised to pay approximately US$ 1 per acre per year to those losing land, no formal compensation measures have been proposed by other companies or by the relevant Traditional Authorities" [10]. These findings which corroborate Steinar Kolnes' statement that his company does not pay compensation show that the corporations are paying close to nothing for their robbery. The question is how many Europeans, Americans, and Koreans will accept approximately US$ 1 per acre per year as compensation for not farming on a land that acts as the source of livelihood? Instead of Africans benefiting from the new international status of land they are being handed peanuts by the corporations who have are making money the crudest way by dispossessing the farmers without compensation.

Meanwhile similar reports of people losing their livelihoods are being reported in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mali, Zambia and war ravaged Sudan. Thus the commodification of land is threatening rural farmers whose lands are being seized by these greedy multinationals acting in cahoots with local politicians and traditional leaders. The consequence of such blind land grabbing by bio-multinationals is that food security efforts of a continent frequently scarred by food shortages, hunger and starvation is being compromised. Such acts are creating unnecessary tension and chaos in many farming societies and helping to destabilise the cohesiveness of rural communities. The peace and stability that many communities have enjoyed for decades are being breached as a result of the land grabs especially in communities where farmers have been left without compensation and without alternatives. The danger is that the carving up of rich arable farmlands for production of non-food commodities such as biofuel if not checked will worsen the continent's food security efforts and force already poor people into hunger and starvation. That warning has been issued already in the GRAIN Report of 2008.

The Report by the Spain based NGO-GRAIN states that: "Food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmland as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural land is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global land grab could spell the end of small-scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world". [11]

The true value of that warning cannot be underestimated because the danger is already appearing. That is the leasing of these lands to multinationals under circumstances that leave much to be desired, as indicated by Ghana's example is forcing many rural farmers to move into the cities and towns in search of non-existing jobs. That is the commodification of land is pushing already poor farmers out of farming and into cities that have little to offer them. These cities are already overburdened with populations and face major problems as discussed by Mike Davis in his book the "Planet of Slums" [12]. In effect the seizing of the poor farmers' land is destroying their only hope of survival on earth.

Governments in Africa that think major agro-multinationals securing large tracts of land under dubious means could help initiate Asian-style Green Revolution in Africa must know and understand that in Asia the Green Revolution was largely successful because of the role played by smallholders [13]. These smallholders who played pivotal role in making Asia economies food sufficient are the very people being displaced by the multinationals and the rich countries and their hedge fund managers. Such displacements will produce nothing but a backlash with serious economic and political consequences.

Dangerous consequences are always in the pipeline when corporate interests coincide with that of corrupt and insensitive governments as we have seen between oil giant Shell and the corrupt federal government in Nigeria. Niger Delta crisis was largely created when the interest of Royal Shell Corporation coincided with that of the corrupt regimes that ruled the country since 1966. Thus the accumulation by dispossession currently underway in Africa will definitely produce its consequences not only for people being robbed of their lands but also the corporations acting in cahoots with the indifference governments in Africa. Rich governments securing lands in Africa may altogether lose their investments when landless farmers and hungry communities begin to make claims to what has been unjustly taken away from them.

The political ramifications of outsourcing lands to multinational corporation have had its first casualty in Madagascar. The toppling of the government in Madagascar after 1.3 million hectares of land was sold to the Korean firm Daewoo and another 465,000 hectares to Varun International of India demonstrates the political cost such non-transparent land arrangement poses to the security and stability of governments in Africa. Lesson should be learnt from that and it must serve as an eye opener to all those scrounging for lands in Africa and in the process helping to destabilise the people and their communities.

When foods being produced by the multinationals and rich governments are exported the shortages that will be created and the associated price hikes will produce devastating and undesirable effects. Avoiding the shortages and its undesirable effects through the implementation of policies that give first priority to smallholders and local farmers producing food for local consumption must be the objective of governments in Africa.

Reference

[1] Hornborg, A. 2009. Zero-Sum World Challenges in Conceptualizing Environmental Load Displacement and Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the World-System. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. SAGE Publications.

[2] Sachs, J. D. 2011. Need versus Greed. The global economy is growing quickly, but too much wealth is siphoned off by well connected billionaires. http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/20113313330192433.html

[3] Kugelman, M. and Levenstein, S. L (eds). 2009. LAND GRAB? The Race for the World's Farmland. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C.

[4] IFPRI 2009 cited in the Economist "Outsourcing's Third Wave," Economist, May 21, 2009, available from http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13692889.

[5] Hornborg, A. 2009. Zero-Sum World Challenges in Conceptualizing Environmental Load Displacement and Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the World-System. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. SAGE Publications.

[6] Von Braun, J. and Meinzen-Dick, R. 2009. "Land Grabbing" by Foreign Investors in Developing countries: Risks and Opportunities. IFPRI Policy Brief. April 2009.

[7]World Bank, 2010 Annual Bank conference on land policy and administration Washington, DC April 26 and 27, 2010. Government's Role in Attracting Viable Agricultural Investment: Experiences from Ghana
http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTARD/Resources/336681-1236436879081/Ahwoi.pdf

[8] IRIN, 2009. Ghana: Land grabs force hundreds off farms, growers say. http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=86044

[9] Schoneveld, G. C. et al. 2010. Towards Sustainable Biofuel Development: Assessing the Local Impacts of Large-Scale Foreign Land Acquisitions in Ghana. World Bank.

[10] Schoneveld, G. C. et al. 2010. Towards Sustainable Biofuel Development: Assessing the Local Impacts of Large-Scale Foreign Land Acquisitions in Ghana. World Bank.

[11] GRAIN, 2008 Seized: The 2008 land grab for food and financial

[12] Davis, M.2006. Planet of Slums. Published by Verso.

[13] Jirström et al. 2005. Addressing Food Crisis in Africa - What Can Sub-Saharan Africa learn from Asian experiences in Addressing Food Crisis ITS? CIDA Report

Monday, 27 December 2010

Power sharing: An ugly Paradigm shift in African Politics; Gbagbo must be removed by force


Gbagbo must be removed by force

Lord Aikins Adusei
*By Lord Aikins Adusei

Dangerous precedents
Dangerous precedents
The year was 2008. The countries: Kenya and Zimbabwe. The subject matter was presidential elections between the then incumbents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and their challengers Raila Odinga and Morgan Tsvangirai respectively. Both elections had similar things in common. The opposition candidates in the respective countries won the elections but the incumbents refused to go, called on their supporters to inflict harm on their opponents and stole the verdict under the watchful eye of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and East Africa Community, the Africa Union and the international community.

First was Mwai Kibaki who came to power after Arap Moi's two decades of corrupt dictatorship came to an end. Kibaki during the campaign promised to weed corruption and put Kenya back as East Africa's economic powerhouse. After using state machinery including the media (electronic and print) he could not win the people's heart and mind. He failed to deliver on his promises and the people punished him for failing. But he refused to go and made diabolical calculations that earned him the presidency of the country under a sham arrangement called 'power sharing'. His refusal to accept the choice of the people led to a senseless bloodbath which resulted in more than 1200 people losing their life. Raila Odinga who had won the election was given the position of Prime Minister.

Then came Zimbabwe. Mugabe too lost to Morgan Tsvangirai after the first round and went about employing all manner of tactics that finally forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from the election effectively handing over the presidency to Mugabe. Kenya's power sharing was imported and imposed on the people of Zimbabwe against their will.

Thus in both Zimbabwe and Kenya power sharing was considered the solution to the debacle in those countries. The Zimbabwe's power sharing deal sponsored by SADC, retained Mugabe as president, while Tsvangirai got the less important Prime Minister position with Arthur Mutambara as Deputy Prime Minister. To add insults to injury Mugabe and his Zanu-PF were given key portfolios, and sweeping powers that placed them in charge of the country. Meanwhile Mugabe has refused to abide by the terms of their agreement that stipulate that both the Prime Minister and the President must consult each other for major appointments. In October 2010, Tsvangirai wrote to the United Nations protesting at Mugabe's unilateral appointment of officials without consultation as stipulated by the agreement.

Thus in Zimbabwe since the government of unity was sworn in more than eighteen months ago nothing seems to have worked. Mugabe and his supporters have done everything in their power to make sure that the unity government does not work. Mr. Mugabe has totally hijacked the implementation and twisted it in his favour. He and his Zanu-PF agents continue to frustrate the unity government forcing Tsvangirai to threaten to pull out many times. As The Economist magazine put it "Mr Mugabe still treats the agreement and his prime minister with contempt. Mr Tsvangirai recently announced that journalists were now free to report on Zimbabwe without government approval, yet he was promptly contradicted by the information minister, a Zanu-PF man, who said that journalists without proper accreditation could face up to two years in jail. After months of negotiations, Mr Tsvangirai at last secured the release of human-rights activists and MDC sympathisers who had been detained, and many tortured, on treason charges. But a few weeks later they were rearrested."

Although better than Zimbabwe in terms of the implementation of the power sharing agreement, Kenya's power sharing implementation is also beset with the same problems despite the rhetoric by the politicians that they would let it work. The negative impact on the disagreements are manifold but the most serious of them all is that in Zimbabwe as it is in Kenya the people who voted for change continue to suffer under the same leaders they rejected. Their economic, social and political conditions have not improved a bit.

It is clear that the concept of power sharing as it has been practiced in both Kenya and Zimbabwe has been flawed and has been a sham that ought not to have been considered in African politics at all. But this appears to be what Laurent Gbagbo is hopping for when he refused to accept the people's verdict. His call for Mr. Ouattara to meet him to dialogue is intended to ensure that he remained president. Gbagbo appears to be towing the same line as Kibaki and Mugabe hopping that by refusing to relinquish power and using the military to terrorise the population he would be able to force Quattara into a power sharing deal. He was also hopping that the regional leaders will support his move for a possible power sharing arrangement. But it is clear from the outpouring of support for Mr. Quattara that Gbagbo hugely miscalculated and underestimated the intelligence of the West Africa and the AU leadership.

Show of Support for Ouattara
Unlike Zimbabwe and Kenya where regional leaders were divided and could not speak with one voice, thereby allowing the stolen verdicts to stand, the leadership in West Africa is speaking with one voice asking Gbagbo to step down and allow the legitimately elected leader to take the mantle of leadership. The support expressed by the leadership in West Africa has not only isolated Gbagbo regionally and continentally but has also reduced his influence in the region to only his southern controlled part of the country.

Reacting to calls by Gbagbo to accept defeat the President of ECOWAS James Victor Gbeho said ""There is nothing to negotiate as far as ECOWAS is concerned. From now on, ECOWAS will deal with Ouattara, not Gbagbo." The UN Secretary General also made it clear to Gbagbo that Mr. Ouattara's nominee for the post of UN Ambassador will be recognised. President Khama Ian Khama's government in Botswana also condemned Gbagbo's power grab efforts in Ivory Coast. "The Government of the Republic of Botswana is deeply concerned about African leaders who reject election results that are not in their favour. Such actions not only deny people the right to have leaders of their choice, but also thwart efforts to maintain peace and security on the African continent". Morgan Moseki, Botswana Congress Party's Secretary for International Affairs released statement saying "We urge the AU not to allow the Kenyan and Zimbabwean style Government of National Unity in Ivory Coast as this creates good precedence for losers who remain heads of state with full privileges despite the outcome".

The strongest show of support came from Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga who has called for Gbagbo to be removed by force. Odinga (himself a victim of electoral short-change) said in a news conference in Cancun-Mexico that "Mr Gbagbo must be forced even if it means using military means to get rid of him because he is just now relying on military power not people power to intimidate the people. He thinks that he can basically intimidate the people to submission so that he can continue to rule in undemocratic fashion. This will only spell doom and destruction for Ivory Coast." "What is building up in Ivory Coast now is a tragedy Africa cannot afford this time and one that the international community must not allow at any cost."

The message from West African leaders and the Africa Union leadership has been loud and clear: Africa will not accept such blatant abuse and entrenchment of power. They will no more tolerate or support autocratic regimes that are hell bent on controlling power at all cost.

Meanwhile the Central Bank in West Africa Chaired by Mali's President seem to have pulled the plug denying Gbagbo access to funds that could help him sustain his illegitimate regime. According to the Reuters News Agency a statement issued by the West African Central Bank stated "The council of ministers has taken note of the decisions of the U.N, the African Union, and of (West African regional body) ECOWAS, to recognize Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate elected president of Ivory Coast," and that only appointed members of the "legitimate government" would be allowed to access funds held in the central bank's accounts.

The blow to deny Gbagbo funds was made heavier after the World Bank also announced that it was cutting all financial help (loans and grant) to the country. The European Union led by France, (former colonial power) has been threatening sanctions. The United States has also proposed sanctions threatening to freeze assets of Gbagbo and his key allies held in the US.

Defiance and acts of violence
But so far Gbagbo has stood his grounds and has remained stubbornly defiant urged on by the country's military. At the same time he and his supporters appear to be adopting the crude tactics Mugabe adopted: arrest, torture and killing of those suspected to have voted for his opponent. Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, said "Between 16 and 21 December, human rights officers have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances,". "We have credible reports that almost 200 people may have already been killed, with dozens more tortured or mistreated, and others may have been snatched from their homes in the middle of the night," U.S. ambassador Betty E. King said during the Human Rights Council's meeting in Geneva.

Y. J. Choi, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Ivory Coast, said he was personally prevented from visiting a site suspected to be a mass grave. "I went there and we were about to enter into negotiations then reinforcement came with young men mounted on pick-up trucks […] with rocket launchers directly aiming at us… Finally, because of our rules of engagement we returned but we will continue to try to reach this site to verify the facts." "I met him several times to deliver two messages: that he lost and must accept it; the second message was if his action to change the results of the election results in serious violations of human rights then there would be no turning back. He will be dragging […] people into tragedy."

Gbagbo must be removed by force
The overwhelming support Mr. Ouattara has received internationally suggests that no matter how hard Gbagbo tries to remain in power he will only be doing damage to his reputation as a statesman and ruin his country's economy as Mugabe has done. This will be too obvious if the threats of sanctions against him and his government are implemented. The logic of the sanctions is that it will make it difficult for him to govern his country. The soldiers who are backing him may switch side or may turn and remove him after the sanctions begin to hit them. There is a clear similarity between Gbagbo's cling on power and what happened to Mamadou Tandja of Niger when he took a similar path.

Although the condemnation and isolation and threat of sanctions by the ECOWAS, AU, EU, US and UN is a welcoming development I believe the whole idea to use sanctions to cripple him cannot be a viable option; it cannot bring the change in leadership that Ivorians voted for. It has not worked in Zimbabwe and will not work in Ivory Coast. Gbagbo as stubborn as he is will want to cling on to power at all cost, even if it means totally collapsing the country. Let us not forget that Gbagbo became president by default and has ruled Cote D'Ivoire in the last ten years without the mandate of the people. He deliberately thwarted all effort to hold credible, transparent free and fair elections adopting tactics that enabled him to postpone the elections several times.

I must admit that I am not a big fun of military intervention and I have spoken against it in some quarters especially when Paul Collier suggested it as way of getting failed states like Somalia back on their feet. But when a leader like Laurent Gbagbo fails to do what is reasonably acceptable in human society and tries to plunge his country into a senseless blood bath and deny Ivorians the hope of a better future then the only hope to restore that hope is to use force. This is why I strongly agree with Raila Odinga that all options must remain on the table as dialogue continues. However, it must also be made loud and clear to Gbagbo that Africa and the international community will only accept Ouattara leadership as president and nothing less. The message must be made loud and clear to Gbagbo that Africa and the international community will use force to bring about the change that Ivorians hope for should the need arises. That message must also include the warning that he Gbagbo and his backers will join Charles Taylor in The Hague to answer for any crime they commit in the country. We cannot be serious about regional security, stability and development if we cannot implement military intervention to bring about that security and stability. It is the actions of persons like Gbagbo that continue to insulate Africa from the global economy and force investors to go elsewhere despite the huge resources found on the continent. Africa should not accept Kenya and Zimbabwe style power-sharing arrangement that so far has not delivered any tangible results to the ordinary people living in those countries. Gbagbo must not be allowed to ruin his country as Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe. It must be understood that Gbagbo does not command the support of the people as the election results indicate; neither does he have any valuable options. The only option available to him is to accept defeat.

If the wish of Gbagbo and the military leaders in the country is to plunge Ivory Coast into another senseless bloodbath, then that wish must be denied of them. Therefore any attempt to legitimise Gbagbo's rule through power sharing arrangement will set a dangerous precedent in West Africa, a region already noted for its instability and political upheavals. Those who want to take Africa back to the Stone Age like Gbagbo must be stopped at all cost.

Part of the Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights states that "Colonized or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognized by the international community." This article enjoins Ivorians to resist any form of domination by any entity including their own leaders who want to rule them without their mandate. In this instance it is clear that the people of Cote D'Ivoire are under Gbagbo's bonds of domination and must be helped to free themselves from his oppressive regime. We will do a great injustice to the people of Ivory Coast if Gbagbo is allowed to rule as president.

Therefore if he refuses to accept defeat and allow Ouattara to govern then he must be removed by force. The removal of Gbagbo by force will send a powerful message to current and would be tyrants that their corrupt and autocratic style of governance will no more be tolerated on the continent. Therefore, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Malawi and all countries in Africa that believe in democracy and freedom of the people to choose who should lead them should get prepared to contribute soldiers to unseat Gbagbo should the current efforts to persuade him to go peacefully fail.

West Africa and Africa military planners must begin to put a force together. The peace, stability and hope that ECOMOG brought to Liberia must also be brought to Cote D'Ivoire. The campaign must be shock and awe and decisive. Securing the airport and the harbour in Abidjan as well security and energy installations and borders must be a priority so at to cut Gbagbo's supply line and force him and his backers to capitulate. If the shock and awe strategy fails to bring him down then he must be fought to the end captured dead or alive. That means ECOMOG must be prepared to dig in for a long battle and be prepared to take casualties for it is only when they are prepared to take casualties can they also bring the illegitimate government down. The UN 10,000 strong peacekeeping force in the country must be given the mandate to fight along side ECOMOG because as the situation stands today there is no peace for them to keep in the country.

To get the support needed the campaign must be African led; and civilian casualties must be avoided as much as possible. Neighbouring countries must secure their borders and also get ready to accept people fleeing the country and provide them with food and shelter until such a time that peace returns to the troubled country.

The precedents set by Mugabe and Kibaki and encouraged by regional power brokers seem to have informed Gbagbo that he too could have his way. Perhaps if EAC and SADC regional leaders and Thabo Mbeki in particular had been more vocal and supportive of Morgan Tsvangirai and Odinga as the West Africans are doing the debacle and the dysfunctional unity governments in Zimbabwe and Kenya as we have them today would have been averted including the dangerous precedents set by Kibaki and Mugabe and being followed by Laurent Gbagbo.

The actions of West African leaders, as well as those of AU, UN, EU and the US in the coming days and perhaps weeks will be crucial to what happens to the change and hope that Ivorians voted for. For now the options for Gbagbo is to admit defeat, leave office peacefully or be prepared to be removed by force.

*The author is an anti-corruption campaigner and the author of "Switzerland: A parasite feeding on the economies of poor African and Third World Countries?"
E-mail:politicalthinker1@yahoo.com

Friday, 23 July 2010

Gambian Opposition Leader Denounces Coup Celebration as Illegal

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The leader of Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party (UPD) has described as illegal the celebration of the coup d’état that brought President Yahya Jammeh to power 16 years ago Thursday.
Ousainou Darboe, who is also a human rights attorney, condemned the planned celebration saying it sends the wrong signal to the country’s security forces that there is a virtue in taking up arms to overthrow a constitutionally-elected president.
The Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh
“Our party’s position is that, today, (Mr.) Jammeh will again be celebrating an illegality. He will be celebrating a rape on the Constitution of The Gambia. And, he will be sending a very wrong signal to other members of the security forces that there is virtue in staging coup d’états. And, I do not think that is right,” he said.
Mr. Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, but was later elected three times. He is also set to run for a fourth term in next year’s general election.
Gambia’s local media quoted President Jammeh recently as saying that “whether you like it or not, no coup will end my government, no elections can end my government. By God's grace, I will rule this country as long as I wish and choose someone to replace me.”
Supporters of the Gambian leader have reportedly arrived in the capital, Banjul, to participate in the coup d’état celebration.
But, critics say these “supporters” were either forced against their will or bribed to be part of the celebration, an accusation the government denies.
Opposition leader Darboe described the celebration as an insult to law abiding citizens and called on Gambians to boycott Mr. Jammeh’s coup d’état celebrations.
“We are in a democratic dispensation (and) we should be celebrating everything that is democratic, but we should not be celebrating undemocratic events. Our party has condemned it in the past and, today, again we condemn it and we will continue to condemn it as long as he continues to celebrate it,” Darboe said.
In a televised address last year, President Jammeh said he will supervise the killing of anyone who aims to destabilize the country. He also warned human rights groups to stop interfering in The Gambia’s internal politics, warning citizens not to cooperate with them.
Mr. Jammeh recently expelled two U.N. officials without any explanation. The opposition claims the president’s death threat is a calculated ploy to silence any dissent.
VOA

Campaigning Begins in Rwandan Election

Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses the crowd at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali during the Liberation Day ceremonies marking the 16th anniversary of the end of the Genocide, 04 Jul 2010
Photo: AP
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (file photo)

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Campaigning has begun in Rwanda for an election expected to return President Paul Kagame to power.

Political tensions are high in the country following a series of arrests and killings that targeted opposition figures and journalists.

Also, three main opposition parities say authorities did not allow them to register for the August 9 vote.

Victoire Ingabire, leader of the unregistered Unified Democratic Forces party says she is ready to organize a boycott of the elections.

Ingabire has faced legal action since April, after being accused of denying Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Earlier this month, the vice president of the Rwandan Democratic Green Party, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, was found dead, nearly decapitated. Also this month, the editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Umuvugizi, Jean Leonard Rugambage, was shot and killed.

The government denies any involvement in the killings.

Critics have accused President Kagame of stifling opposition and freedom of expression ahead of the poll.

The French news agency, AFP, reports that Mr. Kagame told reporters in Kigali Tuesday that Rwandans have the freedom to decide who will lead them. He said he is confident Rwandans will choose to work with the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front but said he cannot take anything for granted.

The presidential election will be the second since the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

President Kagame and his party won the last election in 2003.

The official Rwanda News Agency says the candidates will have 20 days to campaign.

Niger's Political Parties Form Alliance Before Presidential Election


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Seventeen political parties in Niger that opposed the country's ousted president have formed an alliance ahead of presidential elections due in January of next year. The various opposition parties say they each will present their own presidential candidates in the first round of voting. They have pledged to throw their collective support behind whichever candidate advances to the second round. The strategic accord was signed Saturday in Niger's capital, Niamey.
Opposition leader and group spokesman Mahamadou Issoufou says the parties signing the pact will work to ensure that one of their candidates is elected in the presidential poll. He says they will make no electoral agreements with political parties outside the alliance. Issoufou said the pact will apply to those legislative and regional elections as well.

The presidential election will take place 3 Jan 2011, with a run-off planned for 14 Jan, if necessary. Local and legislative elections also are planned during that time.

This is not the first time these 17 political parties have joined forces. They also were part of the Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic that had opposed former President Mamadou Tandja. Mr. Tandja had grown increasingly unpopular since expanding his power and giving himself another three years in office through a controversial referendum in August 2009.

Mr. Tandja was ousted in a military coup this February. Soldiers promised an election and a return to civilian government within the year.

Zimbabwe's Coalition Parties Meet in Rare Talks


President Robert Mugabe, centre, shares a light moment with Morgan Tsvangirai, left, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister and his Deputy, Arthur Mutambara after giving their end of year message to the nation, at
Photo: AP
President Robert Mugabe, centre, shares a light moment with Morgan Tsvangirai, left, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister and his Deputy, Arthur Mutambara after giving their end of year message to the nation, at Zimbabwe House in Harare, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

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For the first time Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party's politburo and the national executive committees of the two Movement for Democratic Change parties met on Wednesday to discuss ways to ensure that political violence ends in Zimbabwe.

The meeting in Harare was the first time the three parties' national executives have met since a unity government was formed 17 months ago.

Following the establishment of the unity government, a multi-party Committee for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration was formed to try to heal some of the scars of political violence since Zimbabwe's independence from the United Kingdom in 1980.

The healing committee has traveled to several regions of the country to persuade victims and perpetrators to face one another and tell their stories.

More than 100 delegates from the three parties agreed by consensus that there could be no national healing without justice and compensation, and that the police must arrest anyone who commits violence.

MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti described the meeting as historic and said the challenge was to ensure that no Zimbabwean ever attacks or kills another on the basis of political affiliation.

Most of the political violence of the decade followed the emergence of the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, which came close to winning elections in 2000.

Domestic and international human rights monitoring groups, such as Human Rights Watch, say that President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party has been responsible for most of the political violence since independence.

Although rights monitors say political violence has declined significantly since the unity government came to power, the MDC says some of its members, particularly in rural areas, are still being attacked.
VOA

In Nigeria, Northern Politicians Offer Conditional Support for President Jonathan



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In Nigeria, northern politicians have offered to support President Goodluck Jonathan in next year’s elections if he promises not to seek re-election. Analysts say the compromise offer is the strongest indication yet that Mr. Jonathan is the leading candidate of the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
But the compromise is not a significant political development, says Abubakar Momoh, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science Lagos State University.
“It’s just [a] political calculation and strategizing by some elite who think they just have to be politically relevant. The first question to ask is on whose behalf [is] this olive branch [being extended].”
Momoh disagrees with speculation that the compromise is a ploy by pro-Jonathan elements to weaken the position of the North.
“I don’t really believe that some of the names that are being peddled around are really the ones to determine ultimately how electorates in the north will vote. And the electorate in this area is not gullible, it is informed and it knows what is going on. It will vote on the basis of what is on ground, the issues and questions about who is credible and so on. They are going to make a rational choice on the basis of what they are offered.”
The deal offered to the Nigerian leader, says Momoh, is intended to push one part of the country against the other and will be rejected by the electorate.
VOA

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