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Arabica Robusta

Zapatistas: 20 years of reinventing revolution | ROAR Magazine - 0 views

  • The Zapatistas were expecting their armed struggle to activate other guerrilla “sleeper cells” throughout in Mexico. They thought that peasant organizations and unions would follow and rise up in arms, starting a revolutionary war against the government. Indeed, the call resonated in many places of Mexico’s geography and other belligerent groups, unions and peasant and social organizations declared their solidarity with the EZLN. But it quickly became clear it was not enough to overthrow the authoritarian PRI regime; that victory through military means would not be achieved. The revolution they expected didn’t occur and many diagnosed the total failure of the Zapatistas.
  • many mobilizations (some of them nationwide) followed by long periods of silence when the EZLN returned to the hills (silence became an event as well and served to intrigue the Mexican government about the next actions of the Zapatistas).
  • Complicated geography, organizational networks established by churches and a strong grievance are all elements that help one understand why Chiapas was the perfect place to start a rebellion and nurture a guerrilla organization. The Zapatistas took advantage of the hills and networks, and effectively channeled the local grievances.
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  • Finally, the fog and the rain reveal a wall painting of Emiliano Zapata and a sign: “Está usted en territorio Zapatista en rebeldía. Aquí manda el pueblo y el gobierno obedece.” You are in Zapatista rebel territory. Here the people govern and the government obeys.
  • But restraining from alcohol also seems to be a measure to become productive, a “must” if Zapatistas are in the quest for autonomy. All the great ethnographies of Mexican peasants (Erich Fromm, Oscar Lewis) treat alcoholism as an essential problem for the campesinos’ well-being.
  • This leads me directly to one possible answer for the question why Zapatismo seems so up-to-date today. Critics of the EZLN argue that the Zapatistas have lost a justification for their very existence because the government found effective means to deal with one of their main claims: to reduce poverty. But these critics forget that, although poverty reduction programs have become an essential component of the income of many disadvantaged Mexican families, they have also been used as a counter-insurgency tactic to dismantle collective identities and to strengthen the clientelistic power of the government over the communities.
  • I had heard the Zapatistas were tireless dancers and now I know is true. There are two Tzeltal girls dancing between themselves. They are soaking as if they just came out of a waterfall and couldn’t care less. I follow their example. Except for the basketball court, there is mud everywhere in the caracol. I was so happy I didn’t fall when I slipped on my way to the latrine, where I found evidence it had been used by city people. I remembered George Orwel’s words in Homage to Catalonia: “Dirt is something people make too much fuzz about,” and I agreed. I’m tired, so I went to sleep minutes after the midnight fireworks.
  • I remembered Orwell’s account on the Catalonia trenches again: “We were not fighting the fascists, we were fighting pneumonia.” On my left side there is a Tzeltal woman sleeping peacefully, covered only with her rebozo. I feel ridiculous shivering next to my inured neighbor.
  • They present everyone of the outgoing junta, who are giving back their command baton to the elder, who in turn will give it to the recently elected members of the junta, composed of men and women, more or less in equal numbers. Everyone is moved when a woman, wearing a pasamontaña and paliacate, receives the baton from the elder, and at the same time breastfeeds her newborn.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Fear and freedom in Africa - 0 views

  • I believe that at this stage in our collective development, youth in many African countries are still seized by flawed ideas of what progress looks like. We hold ourselves to impossibly high standards of “development” that have only been truly achieved in a handful of countries, none of which are particularly vocal about the need to achieve these goals.
  • I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that my trip to Burkina Faso was one of the most memorable experiences that I’ve ever had. Aside from the beauty of the country in all its complexities, the incredible warmth of the welcome I received took me by surprise. Strangers opened up their homes to me. I never paid for transport. I rarely paid for food.
  • Borrowing from X, I would ask African youth: who taught us to fear each other?

    I’m inclined to believe that we are in fear of an Africa that does not exist save in the mind of an overzealous elitist journalist in search of a sexy by-line or adventure. I challenge you: gather all of your friends who have a passport and have ever used it and ask them where they’ve used it.
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  • After 29 African countries of travel, I’ve heard it all. Tribes are useless. Kenyans are violent. Tanzanians are lazy. Nigerians are criminals. South Africans are racist. The DRC is too dangerous. Where is Namibia? All from the mouth of other Africans who have never been or even dreamed of going to the countries in question. We make all these definitive statements based on information filtered through an elitist and biased lens, that is comparing the worst of Africa with the best of the US or the UK. Africans are otherised, and we play along, forgetting that we are Africans too. Then we learn to hate ourselves and fear each other simply because the narrative tells us to.
  • “The most potent tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” The potency of this tool comes from its ability to skew our thinking and shape our actions. Like a child who, seeing shadows at night and believing that they are ghosts, cannot leave his bed to relieve himself, our irrational fear of each other is forcing us to sleep in the urine of lowered expectations and mutual suspicion.
  • So as I reflect on the state of African youth, it occurs to me that the biggest problem facing African youth today is not a lack of opportunity, or poverty, or whatever. Our biggest problem from where I stand is our inability to see ourselves with unfiltered honesty and a raw love.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Dialogue, not a monologue - 0 views

  • Obasanjo looked nonplussed. He finished his statement, opened the slip of paper, and said to the audience gruffly, “He has written me a note saying this is a dialogue, not a monologue. I know that.” The audience laughed nervously. The former general defiantly continued his musings for another five minutes. I shifted in my seat uncomfortably, expecting a head-on collision between young and old.
  • Power concedes nothing without a struggle, so it’s better to command respect than to demand it. Get an education, however challenging this might be. Acquire some skills, or a trade that is needed in Liberia. Learn to speak and write a foreign language well. Productive young people are much more powerful when they have something relevant to contribute.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Bilderbergers beware - 0 views

  • Protesters hurled creative abuse at the black limousines rolling past towards the Chantilly Marriott Hotel entrance, and to protect them, police arrested a few activists who dared step onto the road. These particular masters of the universe first met at a hotel (The Bilderberg) in Holland in 1954, co-hosted by Dutch royalty, Uniliver and the US Central Intelligence Agency. The obscure brainstorming session would become an annual intellectual and ideological “testing grounds for new initiatives for Atlantic unity,” according to Sussex University scholar Kees van der Pijl, perhaps the world’s most rigorous scholar of transnational ruling classes.
  • On this year’s agenda were “Transatlantic Relations, Evolution of the Political Landscape in Europe and the US, Austerity and Growth in Developed Economies, Cyber Security, Energy Challenges, the Future of Democracy, Russia, China and the Middle East.”
  • This crew is bound to draw the ire of many victims, yet instead of the kind of Occupy protests I witnessed in London last month – a march through The City with socialists and anarchists furious about parasitical banking practices – or at Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park last year and in various subsequent anti-bank protests by US leftists, the weekend’s Bilderberg protest displayed paranoia about the conspiracies being hatched in the Virginia hotel.
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  • This is where I found myself differing most with Jones’ supporters: never before in history have world elites been so tempted to address global-scale crises, but – thanks to the adverse power balance represented by neoliberal ideology in the 1990s, neoconservatism in the early 2000s and some fusion of the two since Obama came to power – never before have they acted so incoherently.
  • Van der Pijl’s exceptionally rich study of Bilderberg and subsequent US-European geopolitical maneuvres, The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class (which thankfully Verso Press is about to reissue), provides the theoretical underpinning that I feel Jones’ passionately conspiratorialist followers desperately need, if they ever aim to properly judge the world’s complex combinations of structure and agency.
  • ut religion, Freemasonry, Rotary, Jews, etc., can be subsumed into the social category of ‘intellectuals’, whose function, on an international scale, is that of mediating the extremes, of ‘socializing’ the technical discoveries which provide the impetus for all activities of leadership, of devising compromises between, and ways out of, extreme solutions.”
  • But they were nervous, too, of a coming political storm, remarked van der Pijl. Representing both BP and Goldman Sachs in 2007, Peter Sutherland (former WTO director) “was quoted as saying that it had been a mistake to have referenda on the EU constitution. ‘You knew there was a rise in nationalism; you should have let your parliaments ratify the treaty, and it should be done with.’ Kissinger said words to the same effect concerning unification of the Americas, stressing the need to mobilise the enlightened media behind its propagation.”
  • So there is no doubt that world banker domination – which should have been reduced by the 2008-09 financial melt – will continue. Only the occasional sovereign default – Argentina (2002), Ecuador (2008), Iceland (2008) and maybe Southern Europe this year – or imposition of exchange controls (as rediscovered by Malaysia in 1998 or Venezuela in 2003) reduces the banksters’ grip.
  • The strongest political effort by these libertarian anti-Bilderberg protesters is to attempt the election of Texan member of Congress, Ron Paul, as president, and with 20 percent popularity, he remains Mitt Romney’s only irritant within the Republican Party as the November showdown with Obama now looms.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Violence: The way of politics in Angola - 0 views

  • “Mr. Raúl promised us money to stop organizing protests against President José Eduardo dos Santos,” explained Mário Domingos. Kabuscorp, in which former Brazilian world champion Rivaldo plays, is owned by General Bento Kangamba, who is also the president of the club. The general, a member of MPLA Central Committee, is also part of the presidential family, by marriage to Dos Santos’ niece.
  • According to Domingos, the deal was part of a strategy, “to transform our movement into a satellite organization of MPLA, for us to do solidarity work on their behalf, and hold counter-demonstrations to support president Dos Santos.” By the time of the meeting with the president, the movement had already received US $4 million in an escrow account, six pickup trucks Mitshubishi L200, and six apartments in the Chinese-built town of Kilamba. “The governor of Luanda at the time, José Maria, sent his driver to the bank with us, where we cashed in the equivalent of US $700 thousand in cash. Then the governor’s driver took us home,” Mário Domingos.
  • Ironically, the scattering of these emerging youth groups and their leaders, as well as their lack of structural organization, has rendered the regime’s strategies of violence and corruption ineffective. Such strategies only give cannon fodder for Angolans to come to terms with the intractable wickedness of President Dos Santos and his regime.
    • Arabica Robusta
       
      The [context-dependent] value of de-centered resistance.
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    The captors interrogated 'Pandita Nehru' on who was behind the protests, beat him up and taunted him with an argument, among themselves, on the wisdom to execute him right there. Ever since, he has been mostly off the radar.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Nigeria: Was it a 14-day dream? - 0 views

  • Then Nigeria’s thoroughly compromised labour movement hijacked the revolt, lulled the people into a false sense of solidarity and finally extinguished the revolutionary fire that was burning down the foundations of Nigeria’s ruling elite....The Nigerian Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress didn’t join the mass protests until at least three days after the fact. They were obviously drafted by President Jonathan
Arabica Robusta

Emir Sader, "Ravens and Vultures" - 0 views

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    Did you notice that there are people who say they are of the Left but who seem to only criticize people of the Left? Never against the Right, whatever it does. They specialize in pouring gasoline on any little fire within the Left.
Arabica Robusta

The Year in Revolts: A South American Perspective of the Arab Spring - 0 views

  • Beyond their diverse circumstances, the Tahrir Square and Puerta del Sol movements in Cairo and in Madrid, form part of the genealogy of “All of them must go!” declared in the 2001 Argentinian revolt, the 2000 Cochabamba Water War, the 2003 and 2005 Bolivian Gas Wars and the 2006 Oaxaca commune, to mention only the urban cases. These movements all share two characteristics: the curbing of those in power and the opening of spaces for direct democracy and collective participation without representatives.
  • Beyond their diverse circumstances, the Tahrir Square and Puerta del Sol movements in Cairo and in Madrid, form part of the genealogy of “All of them must go!” declared in the 2001 Argentinian revolt, the 2000 Cochabamba Water War, the 2003 and 2005 Bolivian Gas Wars and the 2006 Oaxaca commune, to mention only the urban cases. These movements all share two characteristics: the curbing of those in power and the opening of spaces for direct democracy and collective participation without representatives.
  • We live in societies that are “variegated”, an interesting concept developed by the Bolivian René Zavaleta Mercado to describe social relations in his country. These are societies in which many different types of traditional and modern social relations co-exist.

    The best example of this is the Andean market, or the urban market in the peripheries of cities like Buenos Aires. These are spaces in which many families live together in a small area, with various businesses that combine production and sales in different fields, with diverse modes of employment – familial, salaried, in kind, commissioned – that is, a “variegated” mode that implies diverse and complex social relations that are interwoven and combined. In this way, if one of these relationships is modified, the rest are as well...

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  • I don't believe in virtual spaces, spaces are always material as well as symbolic. It's another matter to speak of virtual media of communication among people in movement.... For me, territories are those places in which life is lived in an integral sense, they are settlements, as we say in Latin America. These have existed for a long time in rural areas: indigenous communities or settlements of Brazil's Landless Movement, ancestral lands or lands recuperated in the struggle.
  • I don't believe in virtual spaces, spaces are always material as well as symbolic. It's another matter to speak of virtual media of communication among people in movement.... For me, territories are those places in which life is lived in an integral sense, they are settlements, as we say in Latin America. These have existed for a long time in rural areas: indigenous communities or settlements of Brazil's Landless Movement, ancestral lands or lands recuperated in the struggle.
  • more that 70% of urban land, and therefore of households, are illegal yet legitimate occupations. In some cases, this marks the beginning of another type of social organization, in which semi-craftwork production – including urban gardens – is combined with popular markets and informal modes of distribution. In the decisive moments of struggles against the State or at times of profound crisis, these territories become “resistor territories,”
  • In some cities, more that 70% of urban land, and therefore of households, are illegal yet legitimate occupations. In some cases, this marks the beginning of another type of social organization, in which semi-craftwork production – including urban gardens – is combined with popular markets and informal modes of distribution. In the decisive moments of struggles against the State or at times of profound crisis, these territories become “resistor territories,”
  • In some cities, more that 70% of urban land, and therefore of households, are illegal yet legitimate occupations. In some cases, this marks the beginning of another type of social organization, in which semi-craftwork production – including urban gardens – is combined with popular markets and informal modes of distribution. In the decisive moments of struggles against the State or at times of profound crisis, these territories become “resistor territories,”
  • Social movement is a Eurocentric concept that has been useful in describing what happens in homogeneous societies that revolve around the capitalist market, in which there is one basic form of social relations. In Latin America, the concept has and is used by academic intellectuals whose perspective is external to popular sector organization.
  • The people in the street are a spanner in the works in the accumulation of capital, which is why one of the first “measures” taken by the military after Mubarak left was to demand that citizens abandon the street and return to work. But if those in power cannot co-exist with the streets and occupied squares, those below – who have learned to topple Pharaohs – have not yet learned how to jam the flows and movements of capital.
  • The Middle East brings together some of the most brutal contradictions of the contemporary world. Firstly, there are determined efforts to sustain an outdated unilateralism. Secondly, it is the region where the principal tendency of the contemporary world is most visible: the brutal concentration of power and wealth....
Arabica Robusta

Spain's Icelandic revolt | Presseurop (English) - 0 views

  • The demonstrations have broadened spontaneously, as was the case for those who rallied under the umbrellas of the "alternative globalisation" movements, and have evolved, one decade after the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on a more modest stage than the one demonstrators faced in the past at the World Economic Forum of the global elite in Davos, Switzerland.
Arabica Robusta

Uprising in Burkina Faso: Why no cameras? - 0 views

  • Some would be inclined to argue that Burkina Faso has been forgotten because the international media is biased towards representation of Africa south of the Sahara, and the ignoring or misrepresentation of the Rwanda genocide is the most cited example. But perhaps it is more complex than a simple Africa south of the Sahara bias; it's a bias against or in favour of certain African countries that has been constructed through namely, a country's geo-political and economic importance to the West and also through a history of colonial relations in which reader and viewer familiarity and association with former colonies is generated.
  • Even Côte d'Ivoire was at one point was rightly dubbed 'the forgotten war'. It did not fit the media template of a sexy, tech-savvy, populist revolution, as that which had been constructed of Egypt. Instead Côte d'Ivoire had the uncomfortable but familiar look and feel of a Rwanda genocide-lite. It was a messy, bloody struggle for power between rebel and patriot factions in a country most educated people outside of Africa would struggle to find on a map.
  • On 20 February, in an industrial town called Koudougo, bigger than Sidi Bouzid, a student named Justin Zongo was taken into police custody after an alleged dispute with a female classmate. A few days later, Zongo was pronounced dead and according to official police reports, the cause of death was meningitis. His family and friends rejected this and claimed Zongo's death was due to police brutality.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka News : Issue 527: Popular organising: The victory of dignity over fear - 0 views

  • This new mode of struggle substituted the notion of armed struggle with that of popular struggle. It stopped thinking of struggle as something waged by professional fighters, guerrillas, with the people cheering from the stands, but as a movement with ordinary people as its key participants. The potential of popular struggle lay in sheer numbers, guided by a new imagination and new methods of struggle.
  • Around that same time, another event occurred. It too signaled a fresh opening. This was the Palestinian Intifada. What is known as the First Intifada had a Soweto-like potential. Like the children of Soweto, Palestinian children too dared to face bullets with no more than stones. Faced with feuding liberation movements, each claiming to be a sole representative of the oppressed, the youth of the Intifada called for a wider unity.

    Even though the Egyptian Revolution has come more than three decades after Soweto, it evokes the memory of Soweto in a powerful way. This is for at least two reasons.
  • First, like Soweto in 1976, Tahrir Square in 2011 too shed a generation’s romance with violence.
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  • The second resemblance between Soweto and Tahrir Square was on the question of unity.
  • Tahrir Square innovated a new politics. It shed the language of religion in politics, but it did so without embracing a militant secularism that would totally outlaw religion in the public sphere. It thus called for a broader tolerance of cultural identities in the public sphere, one that would include both secular and religious tendencies.
  • Dubbed by mainstream media the Arab Spring (though it started in December), the wave of protests started in Tunisia spread like wildfire through Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and on to Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia (briefly, or so it seems) Syria and Libya. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings and the ousting of their dictators have given a distinctive flavour of exhilaration and hope to the latest World Social Forum held in Dakar from 6 to 11 February.
  • Thirty-four civil society and movements activists from 13 countries and three continents joined the conveners of the African Social Forum. We were hosted by the Union Générale de Travailleurs de Tunisie (UGTT), the largest Tunisian trade union, whose role was instrumental in the success of the Tunisian intifada. What follows are some reflections inspired by my participation in the solidarity caravan.
  • The demonstration that passed in front of the National Theatre paraded in front of us and continued towards the Kasbah where it settled into what became the Kasbah 3 sit-in. It followed the successful Kasbah 1 and 2 that called for the change of the interim governments that followed president Ben Ali’s departure still tainted by members of the previous regime. As I write critical reflections are being developed of the disappointing outcome of Kasbah 3 which demanded the exclusion of the current Interior Minister from the provisional government.
  • Those receding images of the demonstration, commented by the Tunisian friend with us on the bus, told an important story, despite differences, challenges and the titanic tasks demanding fulfilment, the utmost joy felt by all in Tunisia is that talking politics is indeed fine, that expressing one’s ideas, negotiating them, discussing them, and demonstrating for them is not repressed any more.
  • The humiliated dignity of a vegetable seller whose livelihood was destroyed by abusive public officials, was every youth’s and then every Tunisian’s humiliated dignity. His pain was everyone’s pain and the irresistible empathy that his tragic protest generated produced the final outburst which escalated and could not be stopped. The repeated violation of the youth’s sense of autonomy, self-respect and integrity sparked the revolution. When such horizons of personal representations are denied and when lying to oneself about the real conditions of one’s existence becomes impossible the trauma is such that even dying is acceptable and burning oneself up a viable protest.
  • We also discussed the role of media and technology in supporting activists. Facebook was in everyone’s mouth, Al Jazeera’s journalists were praised for their courage and dedication (though, some told us, ‘in the long run we can’t forget they are islamists’). But while nobody denied the supportive role of new social media, the general understanding was that though they helped they were certainly not the determining factors pace the international media (perhaps too eager to stress how western technology democratizes the world). Activists in Sidi Bouzid told us something else. They explained to us their sophisticated street strategy. They used cellphones to create zones of pressure and release in lightening-fast succession to disorient the police who ended up running around the town like headless chicken. It was the knowledge of the town down to its tiniest alleyways that won the control of the city, no Facebook or other social media could have been fast enough, they stress, or provided the strength and the courage necessary.
  • A key challenge encountered by many in representing the Tunisian revolution (and more broadly the unrest sweeping through the whole region) has been constituted by banal stereotyping and versions of negative and positive Orientalism. The awed surprise that welcomed the events of Tunisia, and soon after Egypt and the others, was constructed on the widespread misconception about the inability of the people of the MENA region to affect real change and be agent of their own emancipation from oppressive rule. Such misrepresentation is based on limited knowledge and preconceptions, political propaganda, Orientalism and outright racism.
  • Freedom from the dictator, from oppressive and exploitative political and economic systems, from ideological hegemonies, from shrewd political manipulations, from the embodiment of class, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality. There are other ways in which their demands are framed, other discourses, other semantic horizons in which their aspirations are articulated. There is one for each interlocutor and context (as it is the case in complex revolutionary networks of ideas, actors and values).
  • Some suggested that the youth in Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid are less politically wise than the youth in Tunis. Some suggested that decades of marginalisation from the rest of the country and economic and political privileges in the capital have generated profound social and human imbalances. One consequence of these imbalances, it is alleged by some of our Tunisian interlocutors, is that the youth in the most deprived areas are easier to manipulate and subject to launch themselves in unrealistic and unsophisticated political actions, like the hunger strike demanding immediate jobs to all unemployed the chances of success of which are nil beyond the actual will of local and national authorities. Others observed that the revolution has to avoid reproducing among allies the marginalisation and the elitism of wider society in order to avoid creating an unbridgeable gap between activists on the basis of alleged political and cultural sophistication defined in exclusive terms.
  • While the youth in Kasserine stressed repeatedly they did not want to be implicated in political battles played on their behalf by people who they did not trust, in Tunis a member of the student union said instead that they were struggling to ignite a ‘deep social transition’ aimed at ushering ‘a world devoid of capitalism and classism’. He added ‘we revolted against an economic pattern because we want Tunisia for all Tunisians’.
  • A member of the student union in Tunis regarding practices of change commented that as union ‘we distinguish political work from union work.’ Further, he said ‘We want to have a political party for the working class’, it would be one of the 51 registered political parties in Tunisia.
  • The role of women in developing, articulating and practising methodologies of change has been greatly influential in the revolution. An activist in Tunis expressed in the following way her take on change and practices of transformation ‘we are for the internationalisation of the revolutions to fight against savage capitalism’.
  • According to some activists, the international agents and institutions of capitalism and imperialism are trying to destroy the Tunisian revolution and set back the advances it has inspired in Tunisia and in the whole MENA region.
  • There are also internal challenges to the revolutionary movement. There exist tensions between those who want to go back to normality and those who want to fight for a full victory of the revolution and the achievement of a larger set of victories. Their opponents suggest instead that the time has come to revert to representative politics through free and fair elections and the work of the constituent assembly.
  • This question raises issues of global solidarity, development and political models and sets the ground for the cooperation between activists from the four corners of the planet. The joint Secretary General of the UGTT, told us in Tunis about the vision and values of the UGTT: ‘UGTT’s cultural tradition is European and socialist which we influence with new blood.’ He further said that to achieve the international goals of Tunisian workers it is important to establish stronger ties with the international union movement and with unions in South America, South Africa and elsewhere in the global South.
  • Messy as such trial and error is, complex as the shifting allegiances and alliances, chaotic as the multiplication of strategies, ideologies, ideas, visions, desires, aspirations, this is what democracy looks like and this process promises the most inspiring outcomes.
  • At the same time younger activists than the seasoned unionists and human rights activists are developing visions of better futures and are learning politics the hard way after decades of silencing, terror, repression, fear and hopelessness. They submit their demands to mistrusted government institutions, they understand their failure in generating economic development and political accountability, they scale up, down, sideways their demands and their strategies, they win and lose and they go back to the drawing board.
  • While listening to the praises many articulate of Bourguiba’s policies on education, one had the impression that Tunisian learning achievements are now entering a new phase outside of the classrooms of indoctrination and pedantic learning of useless ‘knowledge’, as doubtlessly illustrated by the high unemployment rate of graduates, and into the streets of relations and struggles, negotiations, differences, mediations. Knowledge, politics, culture, religion, dignity and aspirations, eventually met in the streets, emancipated by schools like jail, freed of the hopelessness of trust in something that is handed by a gracious government and empowered by success and failure, by action and thought, by deliberation and struggle, by trial and error by knowledge as it is, messy, dirty and bloody at times, rather than the sanitized and delusional knowledge imparted by any (more or less) tyrannical regime.
  • While heartfelt feelings about the issues addressed are here out of the question, the knowledge of the conflicts at stake might be both limited and oversimplified in symbolic codes that are not more than projections of the foreign observer which are then reproduced in a solipsistic space that while pretending dialogue, indeed reproduces a monologue of images that are selected on the basis of specific interests and emotional sensibilities fully rooted in the eyes of the beholder.
  • Of course, this might well be one further projection in which the assumption is the imbalance of power between ‘us’ and ‘them’ which I think, though, is illustrated if by nothing else by the fact that after the encounters ‘they’ went back to their lives of unemployed or bereaved family members and friends and ‘we’ moved on to our plush hotel and to our drinks by the poolside.
  • Participating in a solidarity tour to Tunisia, Amanda Sebestyen finds a country of dedicated organisers, heights of suffering and generosity, and a dangerous neglect of the deprived heartlands where the uprising was born.
  • Our solidarity tour – organised for the World Social Forum and hosted by the Tunisian League of Human Rights and the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) – arrived in Tunisia midway between Stephen Twigg and Angelina Jolie. The MP was travelling (tourist class, I was pleased to note) with a delegation from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy; the actor, with her entourage, went to the refugee camps on the Libyan border, of which the Tunisian people are immensely – and so justly – proud.
  • When refugees from Libya arrived in the south of Tunisia there was such an immense burst of solidarity that there are still shortages of medicines and staple foods because people bought them to send south when they heard the refugees needed them. Each refugee that arrived – and there were 140,000 in the first week – was greeted by local people with a bottle of water, some bread and some coffee , giving them dignity. The International Red Cross said they had never seen anything like it.'
  • In return, when Tunisians travel to Europe (not fleeing their revolution but taking up one of its new freedoms, escaping the draconian restrictions imposed by Ben Ali and Ghaddafi in return for bribes from Fortress Europe), the response of the EU is to threaten repatriation.
  • A new Tunisian Party of Labour aims to build democracy without falling into neoliberalism or religious bigotry.
  • On the second night, young people initiated rolling protests though the different parts of town. A new tactic was to use mobile phones to call on their friends to make a distraction, and draw police away when they got too heavy in any one place. On the third day the governor fled. For 13 days the uprising was in Sidi Bou Zid alone, then it spread through the region via our union branches: Bouzeyen, Regueb, Jilma; and then over to the town of Kasserine.'
  • 'I don't actually agree that the Internet was the heart of the revolution. The heart of the revolution was the willpower of all the Tunisian people, not just the young.'
  • Someone looking like an El Greco painting, tall and thin with huge eyes, makes his way with grace on crutches to the stage. His leg has been lost... Why are British soldiers being given the best prosthetics and medical help, when these nonviolent heroes – of a democracy we all claim to support – are being left to cope on their own?
  • Importantly, 80 per cent of development funds for this year are now to be allocated to the long-forgotten interior regions. Unfortunately at Kasserine the ministers stayed for only three hours, spending part of their time with officials from the former regime.
  • policemen have virtually disappeared since local people stopped paying bribes. Yet I walked around many times at night and the town was utterly safe; a taxi driver explained how everyone looks out for everyone else. People are more philosophical here. 'The new policemen we can trust are still in the barracks being trained, and it takes time to track down the bad old ones and put them in prison.'
  • 'In the course of this revolution I've discovered my country. I've travelled from the mountains to the desert, I've seen parts of my own home town Tunis which I never knew existed... We're discovering our culture; we're discovering the picturesque beaches and extraordinary landscapes which were reserved either for tourists or for "a certain person"....'
  • Sovereignty is the relation of the state to other states, to external powers, whereas self‐determination is an internal relation of the state to the people. In a democratic context, self‐determination should be seen as the prerequisite to sovereignty.
  • The result of the referendum could not have been in doubt. It would have been clear to anyone with a historical understanding of the issues involved, and of the experience of the process leading to Eritrean independence, that the referendum would lead to an overwhelming popular vote for an independent state in the South. Why then did the power in the North agree to a referendum? My answer is: the agreement to hold a referendum deferred a head-on confrontation with US power.
  • It brought to an end a thousand-year history of Christian states in the North. Sinnar demolished Christian states in the North and inaugurated the political history of Islam in Sudan. Given the conventional understanding that equates Islam with the North and Christianity with the South, I would like us to remember that political power in the North, in Nubia and Beja, was Christian – and that the royal family of the first Muslim state in Sudan came from the South, not the North.

    In contrast, Islam came to the North in the form of refugees and merchants, not royals or soldiers.
  • The migrations that we know of better were forced migrations, slavery. The South plundered for slaves from the 17th century onwards with the formation of the Sultanate of the Funj along the Nile and the Sultanate of Darfur in the west. But the slave trade became intense only in the late 18th century when the Caribbean plantation economy was transplanted to Indian Ocean islands.
  • Nonetheless, most of those enslaved in the South stayed in Darfur and Sinnar as slave‐soldiers. Most of those in Darfur became Fur. Most of those in Sinnar became Arab. They were culturally assimilated – mostly by consent, but the kind of consent that is manufactured through relations of force. For a parallel, think of how African slaves in North America became English‐speaking Westerners – thereby taking on the cultural identity of their masters.
  • The point of this historical survey of relations between North and South is to underline one single fact: this is not a one‐dimensional history of Northern oppression of the South. True, Northern domination is the main story, especially after independence. But there was a subsidiary story: the story of joint North–South struggle against that domination.
  • The SPLA was a movement with a strong leader – the weaker the organisation, the more difference does the death of one individual make.

    The history of liberation movements in this region testifies to this fact. It should also remind us that it has not been unusual for strong leaders to be eliminated towards the close of an armed struggle. Remember ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) and the killing of Tongogara on the eve of victory; the ANC (African National Congress) and the assassination of Chris Hani also on the eve of victory; and the SPLA and the death of Garang soon after return to Khartoum.
  • The CPA was built on the lessons of 1972. The key lesson was that power‐sharing had been too narrow. As a result, the CPA called for a broader sharing, ranging from political power to wealth to arms. Still, it remained sharing of power, power‐sharing, between elites, between two ruling groups, the NCP (National Congress Party) and the SPLA. It left out the opposition in both the North and the South. It was power‐sharing without democratisation!
  • All these cases have one thing in common. All have reformed the central state by introducing elections and a multi‐party system. But elections seem to lead to violence rather than stability. Why? For a clue, I suggest we look at another similarity between these cases of internal violence. None have managed to reform the local state – the local authority – the district authority that the British used to call the native authority.
  • Colonialism transformed tribe from a cultural identity to an administrative identity that claimed to be based on descent, not just culture. It became a blood identity. Tribe became a sub‐set of race
  • In sum then, there are two major sources of political violence after independence. Possible violence between North and South has three likely sources: border populations, IDPs and peasants and pastoralists with shared livelihoods.
  • While many have criticized this earlier discourse as Orientalist and lacking in analytical rigour, its seamless replacement dubbed as the ‘Arab Awakening’, is being constructed on the very same bases of representation.
  • In the case of Egypt, the recent uprising is constructed as a youth-led, non-violent revolution in which social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) are champions. The underlying message here is that these ‘middle-class’ and educated youth (read: modern) are not ‘terrorists’ - they hold the same values as ‘us’ (the democratic West) and, finally, use the same tools (Facebook and Twitter) that ‘we’ invented and use in our daily-lives. They are just like ‘us’ and hence they deserve celebration. These constructions are clear from a quick look at CNN, Time, Vanity Fair and others and their representations of the so-called leaders or icons of this revolution.
  • According to the BBC, Dr Gene Sharp - the author of the ‘Non-Violent Revolution Rulebook’ is ‘the man now credited with the strategy behind the toppling of the Egyptian government’ through activists ‘trained in Sharp’s work’. This same profile of young people similarly monopolised television talk shows in Egypt.

    And while many of these individuals did take part in the uprising - in different capacities - their status as icons of the ‘revolution’ in which the majority of those who participated were of the subaltern classes is both disturbing and telling. This majority have never heard of Sharp or Freedom House, never studied at the American University in Cairo and never worked for Google. More profoundly, they are antagonistic about ‘Western’ influence and presence in Egypt. Thus the class composition of dissent has been cloaked by a new imaginary homogenous construct called ‘youth’.
  • There is no doubt that the anti-regime demonstrations were non-violent, compared to the state-security use of ammunition. However, by 28 January all National Democratic Party headquarters and most police stations were set on fire.

    This was a clear reaction to the state’s systematic violence against subaltern classes, those who bore the brunt of the regime’s daily torture and humiliation precisely because of their position within the neo-liberal class matrix in Egypt.
  • Even Côte d'Ivoire was at one point was rightly dubbed 'the forgotten war'. It did not fit the media template of a sexy, tech-savvy, populist revolution, as that which had been constructed of Egypt. Instead Côte d'Ivoire had the uncomfortable but familiar look and feel of a Rwanda genocide-lite. It was a messy, bloody struggle for power between rebel and patriot factions in a country most educated people outside of Africa would struggle to find on a map.
  • On 20 February, in an industrial town called Koudougo, bigger than Sidi Bouzid, a student named Justin Zongo was taken into police custody after an alleged dispute with a female classmate. A few days later, Zongo was pronounced dead and according to official police reports, the cause of death was meningitis. His family and friends rejected this and claimed Zongo's death was due to police brutality.
  • So far none of Compaoré's pleas to restore order have worked and the mutiny's snowball effect continues to grow. There are reports that, despite the soldiers' lawlessness in some cities, the youths and some traders have united with revolting army officers.
  • True to dictator form, Compaoré, like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, has blamed foreign conspiratorial forces for the unrest and he has gotten rid of everyone else, except the problem, himself and his corrupt system.
  • All of the protests, from Cape to Cairo, with their own distinct set of local conditions, are linked to food security, economic instability and political dispossession – be it by ballot or dictatorship. There is a widespread feeling of continental discontent, but international and national pundits are so busy putting out possible fires of revolt in 'sub-Saharan Africa' with their analyses that the Burkina uprising has gone by largely unnoticed, and yet in two months mutineering soldiers and youth have stirred up serious trouble for the Compaoré regime – and possibly regionally too.
  • In different ways, masses of people are mounting serious challenges to totalitarian hegemonies and the iniquity of global capital that may lead to a new political dispensation, in successful revolutions, and at the very least for all countries, uprisings, including unsuccessful ones, reshape the role of the citizen in a political landscape as an empowered figure.
  • Some would be inclined to argue that Burkina Faso has been forgotten because the international media is biased towards representation of Africa south of the Sahara, and the ignoring or misrepresentation of the Rwanda genocide is the most cited example. But perhaps it is more complex than a simple Africa south of the Sahara bias; it's a bias against or in favour of certain African countries that has been constructed through namely, a country's geo-political and economic importance to the West and also through a history of colonial relations in which reader and viewer familiarity and association with former colonies is generated.
  • For example, because of its relation to America and France, the attempted return of a former leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, exiled in South Africa, to return to the Caribbean island of Haiti was more widely covered than the same attempt, a month before by another former leader, Marc Ravalomanana, exiled in South Africa to return to the tropical island of Madagascar, off the south-eastern coast of Africa.
  • Similar to Swaziland, the slightest hint of a fallout between the opposition and Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe is guaranteed widespread coverage and analysis, whereas the political musical chairs currently being played in Burkina by Compaoré in order to quell mutiny is of little interest to many major international media organisations, including South Africa.
  • In the face of such fierce competition, taking a few moments in between protest broadcasts to ask the world to remember the 5.4 million (and rising) Congolese dead since 1998 or to take a serious look at Compaoré's megalomanic scheming in Burkina Faso wouldn't be a suicidal gamble with the ratings. Events in Africa and the Middle East shouldn't be placed in competition with each other; what's happening in Nigeria, Syria or Libya can share the spotlight with many other untold or under-reported stories. It’s a question of willingness to pluralise news stories and cover unfamiliar terrain.
  • perhaps there is also a competition for dominance in coverage of the big revolution stories to present a more racy, more in-depth and more radical story than other media competitors.
  • But in addition to that dream is a more crucial demand that can be sooner met, namely that existing international media genuinely commit itself to new ways of telling everyone's stories, all the time, rather than competing to duplicate or better the popular stories.
  • President Isayas Afwerki remains firmly entrenched in the seat of power, claiming with alacrity to have foretold the groundswell overtaking his Arab neighbors while banning television coverage of the demonstrations and reorganising the military to pre-empt a possible coup.
  • Eritrea spends a whopping 20 per cent of its national budget maintaining a military comprised of forced conscripts whose virtually unpaid labour is reinvested in further militarisation of the society and economy. The Constitution has been on ice since 1997, the promise of multi-party elections remains unfulfilled and even North Korea boasts greater freedom of the press. Civil society institutions and competing political parties exist only in exile.
  • But human experience is what anthropologists are always after - how to put life and breath and flesh onto the cold bones of statistics; how to illustrate the concrete meanings of political violence and migration policies and practices as people live them. Among such human experiences are those of nineteen members of the elite Air Force of Eritrea who fled to Sudan a couple of years ago, risking the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy of the Eritrean government - as hundreds of others do every month - seeking to cross the nearest international border.
  • Should the UNHCR take the situation seriously and realise these men need protection - an unlikely showing of concern for individuals by a bureaucracy whose esteemed reputation is outshined only by its impersonality, impenetrability, and unaccountability - they may be taken to a refugee camp, where they will still be subject to many of the same pressures, only in more concentrated form. This is glossed as ‘protection’, even a ‘solution’, though it is hardly that.
  • In detention, they discover legal-dilemma redux: many of the same problems that stalled the refugee process in Sudan follow them to the United States. They are possibly terrorists, or implicated in persecution and human rights abuses; they are cowardly deserters of a sovereign state's military; and of course, they are always criminals for having the audacity to migrate illegally.
  • It is not enough to simply address the human rights violations that lead people to become refugees at the source, crucial as that may be. All along the way, refugees face multiple and nested issues that are sometimes endemic and even actively produced or aggravated by the very systems designed to protect them.
  • Although Carrilles was an anti-communist zealot, it was his training by the CIA and CIA finances that made him a lethal force.
  • The strength of the recruitment of Osama bin Laden was that, unlike Posada, Osama provided some of his own money and helped raise millions from other wealthy anti-communist Arabs. Osama bin Laden then recruited hundreds of thousands for his jihad. Today, many countries in Africa are suffering the repercussions of this alliance between the CIA and Osama bin Laden
  • Students in Africa who do not know the history of United States terrorism will need to study the country’s intricate plot to assassinate presidents and freedom fighters at home and abroad, in addition to understanding the relationship of some US law enforcement agencies to international terrorism.
  • People that really care about Africa must question the credibility of AFRICOM against the background of the US tradition of training terrorists to fight for American interests while labelling freedom fighters as terrorists.
  • Scholars and activists who write on low intensity wars have been highlighting the ways in which the government of the United States was the principal supporter of terrorism.
  • The US Africa Command created a disinformation platform, Operation Objective Voice, to confuse Africans. One of the requirements of psychological warfare and information warfare is for some truth to serve as the basis of the information that is being peddled.
  • the criminal actions associated with killing 73 Caribbean youths are compounded by the economic terrorism unleashed by the US banking system and the forces that spread the doctrine of neo-liberal capitalism. Billions of dollars are scooped up from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America by the US financial oligarchy and these are the forces that benefit from all forms of terror.
  • With Manuel as trade minister from 1994-96, liberalisation demolished the clothing, textile, footwear, appliance, electronics and other vulnerable manufacturing sectors, as he drove tariffs below what even the World Trade Organisation demanded.
  • At that stage, with the world economy teetering, The Economist magazine named South Africa the most risky of the 17 main emerging markets, and the SA government released data conceding that the country was much more economically divided than in 1994, overtaking Brazil as the world’s most unequal major country.
  • Ironically, said Manuel in his miserly 2004 budget speech, ‘The privilege we have in a democratic South Africa is that the poor are unbelievably tolerant.’ In 2008, when an opposition politician begged that food vouchers be made available, Manuel replied that there was no way to ensure ‘vouchers will be distributed and used for food only, and not to buy alcohol or other things.’
  • Manuel’s leadership of the Green Climate Fund adds a new quantum of global-scale risk. His long history of collaboration with Washington-London raises prospects for ‘default’ by the industrialised North on payment of climate debt to the impoverished South.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - 'Walk to work' and lessons of Soweto and Tahrir Square - 0 views

  • The memory of Tahrir Square feeds opposition hopes and fuels government fears. For many in the opposition, Egypt has come to signify the promised land around the proverbial corner. For many in government, Egypt spells a fundamental challenge to power, one that must be resisted, whatever the cost.
  • Many asked whether the Egyptian revolution will spread South of the Sahara. And they responded, without a second thought: No! Why not? Because, media pundits said, sub-Saharan societies are so divided by ethnicity, so torn apart by tribalism, that none can achieve the degree of unity necessary to confront political power successfully.

    This response makes little sense to me. For this answer resembles a caricature. Nowhere in the history of successful struggles will you find a people united in advance of the movement. For the simple reason that one of the achievements of a successful movement is unity. Unity is forged through struggle.
  • Soweto was a youthful uprising. In an era when adults had come to believe that meaningful change could only come through armed struggle, Soweto pioneered an alternative mode of struggle.
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  • The potential of popular struggle lay in sheer numbers, guided by a new imagination and new methods of struggle.
    • Arabica Robusta
       
      a mode of non-violent social movement: numbers, imagination and methods.
  • Biko forged a vision with the potential to cut through these boundaries.

    Around that same time, another event occurred. It too signaled a fresh opening. This was the Palestinian Intifada. What is known as the First Intifada had a Soweto-like potential. Like the children of Soweto, Palestinian children too dared to face bullets with no more than stones.
  • Even though the Egyptian Revolution has come more than three decades after Soweto, it evokes the memory of Soweto in a powerful way. This is for at least two reasons.
  • First, like Soweto in 1976, Tahrir Square in 2011 too shed a generation’s romance with violence.
  • The second resemblance between Soweto and Tahrir Square was on the question of unity. Just as the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa had uncritically reproduced the division between races and tribes institutionalised in state practices, so too had the division between religions become a part of the convention of mainstream politics in Egypt.

    Tahrir Square innovated a new politics. It shed the language of religion in politics, but it did so without embracing a militant secularism that would totally outlaw religion in the public sphere. It thus called for a broader tolerance of cultural identities
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Ethiopia: Any lesson from Tahrir Square? - 0 views

  • how prepared are the people of Ethiopia to stage a peaceful revolution? Will we succeed or could the country be thrown into chaos?
  • One would hope we would have learned a thing or two from our Egyptian counterparts and choose the peaceful route. One would also hope the Ethiopian armed forces would be magnanimous enough not to use lethal force on their compatriots.
  • Like Egypt, Ethiopia has a track record of using plainclothes security personnel, who will stop at nothing to crush dissent. This regime is even willing to foment ethnic and religious strife in order to preempt possible opposition. Given these circumstances, it is absolutely pertinent for activists to take notice of recent events in Egypt, as there is a lot to be learned there.
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  • One of the promising signs of the demonstrations in Egypt has been the people’s ability to remain peaceful while disobedient. For decades, peaceful disobedience has been a proven tactic in bringing some semblance of decency to societies. Interestingly, authoritarian regimes prefer violent dissent, which they are confident of disrupting, as they hold the monopoly in violence.

    Imagine the impression it leaves on the Arab world when Muslim and Christian Egyptians march shoulder to shoulder to demand their rights. It is a remarkable achievement when you consider, just a few months ago, these two communities were openly feuding.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Capitalism in crisis: An obsolete system - 0 views

  • Until now, the plunder of natural resources of Africa continues. But I think there will be growing resistance, not only of the people, but also of the ruling classes and therefore the state-power systems. Because there is possibly an alternative to that plunder, which is the rapprochement – let's call it a Bandung 2 – that is, the rebuilding of a solidarity of African and Asian nations and peoples against the plunder of imperialism. And now the possibility of the African nations getting back the control of those resources and supported by emerging countries like China, like India, like Brazil, who do need some of those resources for their own development, but who are in a position to negotiate with and give opportunity to African states to negotiate the conditions of access which are not negotiated usually with imperialists who ask for a complete capitulation.
  • It is the responsibility first of activists in the grassroots movements to see that however legitimate their action, it's efficiency is limited by the fact that it doesn't move beyond a fragmented struggle here or there. But it is also the responsibility of the intellectuals. I don't mean by that the academics, but those thinkers and the political people operating in politics to consider that they will have no possibility of changing the balance of powers without integrating in their movement, but not absorbing them to dominate them, but integrating the social movements on the grassroots into their political strategy of change.
  •  
    Until now, the plunder of natural resources of Africa continues. But I think there will be growing resistance, not only of the people, but also of the ruling classes and therefore the state-power systems. Because there is possibly an alternative to that plunder, which is the rapprochement - let's call it a Bandung 2 - that is, the rebuilding of a solidarity of African and Asian nations and peoples against the plunder of imperialism. And now the possibility of the African nations getting back the control of those resources and supported by emerging countries like China, like India, like Brazil, who do need some of those resources for their own development, but who are in a position to negotiate with and give opportunity to African states to negotiate the conditions of access which are not negotiated usually with imperialists who ask for a complete capitulation.
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - Championing the transformation of African society - 0 views

  • The majority of the educated Africans who called themselves ‘evolved’, ‘civilised’, or ‘assimilated’ are the vectors of alienation and intellectual subservience to imperial forces.
  • It is not by accident that xenophobia and negative ideas about ethnicity, religion, and regionalism have been the tools to entrap the people in supporting their own oppression. The supreme example of this has been in the struggle for liberation in South Africa, where the workers are instigated to turn against their brothers and sisters from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Somalia, Nigeria, Mozambique and other parts of Africa.
  • When in 1999 African women issued the Zanzibar Declaration for a Culture of Peace, it was a signal that the grassroots Pan-African women were taking the lead in the struggle for the peaceful transformation of Africa. It is not by accident that Pambazuka came out of the same intellectual and ideological infrastructure that produced the Zanzibar declaration
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  • The elementary requirement for the strengthening of these social movements are already on the ground, whether in the Bunge la Wananchi in Kenya, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa, Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace (SWVP), or Enough is Enough in Nigeria, and the anti-colonial forces in the Western Sahara.
  • The same colonial and slave masters who dehumanised African peoples understood that dehumanisation require an ideological component to supplement naked force.
  • Martin Luther King Jr reminded us that the worst thing to do is to sleep through a revolution.
  • We are reminded in the Pan-African struggles of numerous examples of those who espoused Pan-African ideas and yet exploited their brothers and sisters, whether in the USA, the Caribbean, South America, or Africa.
  • We see these class hierarchies today when (mis)leaders like Robert Mugabe and Yoweri Museveni say that African unity requires a strong middle class. This class has simply been the instrument for plunder of Africa. In Liberia, former slaves went back and considered themselves better than other Africans while speaking of African independence and unity. Today in the Sudan and many parts of Africa, the hierarchy is expressed in class, religion and gender terms. Pambazuka will have to refine its tools to deal with the coming onslaught of those who want wars between ‘Arabs’ and Africans in Africa.
  • Pambazuka must continue to break from the NGO orbit and continue to champion transformation of African societies.
  • If Pambazuka has been a catalyst in a community of activists, it is also true that the full potential is yet to be realised.
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    The majority of the educated Africans who called themselves 'evolved', 'civilised', or 'assimilated' are the vectors of alienation and intellectual subservience to imperial forces. This alienation robs them of their ability to grasp the full impact of their complicity in the dehumanisation of Africans.
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