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By PATRICK BOND
A renewed wave of development babble began flowing soon after the February launch of the World Bank’s ten-year Strategy document, “Africa’s Future and the World Bank’s Support to It”. Within three months, a mini-tsunami of Afro-optimism swept in: the International Monetary Fund’s Regional Economic Outlook for SubSaharan Africa, the Economic Commission on Africa’s upbeat study, the African World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Report, and the African Development Bank’s discovery of a vast new “middle class” (creatively defined to include the 20% of Africans whose expenditures are $2-4/day).
Drunk on their own neoliberal rhetoric, the multilateral establishment swoons over the continent’s allegedly excellent growth and export prospects, in the process downplaying underlying structural oppressions in which they are complicit: corrupt power relations, economic vulnerability, worsening Resource Curses, land grabs and threats of environmental chaos and disease.
These are merely mentioned in passing in the Bank’s Africa Strategy – the most comprehensive of these neoliberal-revival tracts – but a frank, honest accounting of the author’s role is inconceivable, even after an internal Independent Evaluation Group report scathing of mistakes the last time around. That effort, the 2005 Africa Action Plan (AAP), was associated with the G-8’s big-promise little-delivery Summit in Gleneagles.
The Bank admits the AAP was a “top-down exercise, prepared in a short time with little consultations with clients and stakeholders”, and that the “performance of the Bank’s portfolio in the Region” was lacking. Tellingly, the Bank confesses, “People who had to implement the plan did not have much engagement with, and in some cases were not even aware of, the AAP.”
Tyrants and democrats
Though in 2021 the same will probably be said of this Strategy, the Bank claims its antidote is “face-to-face discussions with over 1,000 people in 36 countries.” However, as quotes from attendees prove, the Bank could regurgitate only the most banal pablum.
Nor does the Strategy propose grand new alliances (e.g. with the Gates Foundation). There is just a quick nod to two civilized-society partners, the Africa Capacity Building Foundation (Harare) and African Economic Research Consortium (Nairobi) which together have educated 3000 local neoliberals, the Bank proudly remarks.
Embarrassingly, the Bank hurriedly stoops to endorse three continental institutions: the African Union (AU), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (founded by former SA president Thabo Mbeki in 2001) and African Peer Review Mechanism (2003). The latter two are usually described as outright failures.
As for the former, there were once high hopes that the AU would respond to Africa’s socio-political and economic aspirations, but not only did Muammar Gaddafi exercise a strong grip as AU president and source of no small patronage.
Horace Campbell pointed out other leadership contradictions in Pambazuka News in March: “That the current leaders of Africa could support the elevation of Teodoro Obiang Nguema to be the chairperson of this organisation pointed to the fact that most of these leaders such as Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Republic of Congo, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan , Paul Biya of Cameroon, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Ali Bongo of Gabon, King Mswati III of Swaziland, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia are not serious about translating the letters of the Constitutive Act into reality.”
These sorts of rulers are the logical implementers of the Bank Strategy. No amount of bogus consultations with civilized society can disguise the piling up of Odious Debts on African societies courtesy of the Bank, IMF and their allied strongmen borrowers.
Yet these men are nowhere near as strong as the Bank assumes, when reproducing a consultancy’s map of countries considered to have “low” levels of “state fragility”, notably including Tunisia and Libya – just as the former tyranny fell and the latter experienced revolt.
In contrast, the Africa Strategy makes no mention whatsoever of those pesky, uncivil-society democrats who are opposed to Bank partner-dictators. Remarks Pambazuka editor Firoze Manji, “Their anger is being manifested in the new awakenings that we have witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Côte d’Ivoire, Algeria, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Djibouti, Botswana, Uganda, Swaziland, and South Africa. These awakenings are just one phase in the long struggle of the people of Africa to reassert control over our own destinies, to reassert dignity, and to struggle for self-determination and emancipation.”
Unsound African architecture
The Bank will continue standing in their way by funding oppressors, leaving the Africa Strategy with a structurally-unsound, corny architectural metaphor: “The strategy has two pillars – competitiveness and employment, and vulnerability and resilience – and a foundation – governance and public-sector capacity.”
Setting aside hypocritical governance rhetoric, the first pillar typically collapses because greater competitiveness often requires importing machines to replace workers (hence South Africa’s unemployment rate doubled through post-apartheid economic restructuring). And Bank advice to all African countries to do the same thing – export! – exacerbates mineral or cash crop gluts, such as were experienced from 1973 until the commodity boom of 2002-08.
The Bank Strategy also faces “three main risks: the possibility that the global economy will experience greater volatility; conflict and political violence; and resources available to implement the strategy may be inadequate.”
These are not just risks but certainties, given that world economic managers left unresolved all the problems causing the 2008-09 meltdown; that resource-based conflicts will increase as shortages emerge (oil especially as the Gulf of Guinea shows); and that donors will be chopping aid budgets for years to come. Still, while the Bank retains “some confidence that these risks can be mitigated”, in each case its Strategy actually amplifies them.
It is self-interested – but not strategic for Africa – for the Bank to promote further exports from African countries already suffering extreme primary commodity dependency. Economically, the Strategy is untenable, what with European countries cracking up and defaulting, Japan stagnant, the US probably entering a double-dip recession, and China and India madly competing with Western mining houses and bio-engineering firms for African resources and land grabs. Nowhere can be found any genuine intent of assisting Africa to industrialise in a balanced way.
The Bank’s bland counterclaim: “While Africa, being a relatively small part of the world economy, can do little to avoid such a contingency, the present strategy is designed to help African economies weather these circumstances better than before.” But these are not “circumstances” and “contingencies”: they are core features of North-South political economy from which Africa should be seeking protection.
Neoliberalism, poverty and ecological destruction
A poignant example is the Bank’s warm endorsement of Kenyan cut-flower trade in spite of worsening water stress, commodity price volatility and inclement carbon-tax constraints. Nevertheless, “Between 1995 and 2002, Kenya’s cut flower exports grew by 300 percent” – while nearby peasant agriculture suffered crippling water shortages, a problem not worth mentioning in Bank propaganda.
Where will water storage and power come from? Bank promotion of megadams (such as Bujagali in Uganda or Inga in the DRC) ignores the inability of poor people to pay for hydropower, not to mention worsening climate-related evaporation, siltation or tropical methane emissions.
Other silences are revealing, such as in this Bank confession of prior multilateral silo-mentality: “Focusing on health led to a neglect of other factors such as water and sanitation that determine child survival.” The reason water was underfunded following Jeffrey Sachs’ famous 2001 World Health Organisation macroeconomic report was partly that his analysts didn’t accurately assess why $130 billion in borehole and piping investments failed during the 1980s-90s: insufficient subsidies to cover operating and maintenance deficits.
Lack of subsidies for basic infrastructure is an ongoing problem, in part because “the G-8 promise of doubling aid to Africa has fallen about $20 billion short.” So as a result, “the present strategy emphasizes partnerships – with African governments, the private sector and other development partners,” even though Public-Private Partnerships rarely work. Most African privatized water systems have fallen apart.
South Africa has had many such failed experiments, in every sector. The latest Bank loan to Pretoria, for $3.75 billion (its largest-ever project loan) is itself a screaming rebuttal to the Strategy’s claim that “the Bank’s program in Africa will emphasize sustainable infrastructure. The approach goes beyond simply complying with environmental safeguards. It seeks to help countries develop clean energy strategies that choose the appropriate product mix, technologies and location to promote both infrastructure and the environment.”
That loan also caused extreme electricity pricing inequity and legitimation of corrupt African National Congress construction tenders. This generated condemnation of the government by its own investigators and of the Bank by even Johannesburg’s Business Day newspaper, normally a reliable ally.
South African workers would also take issue with a Bank assumption: “The regulation of labor (in South Africa, for instance) often constrains businesses… In some countries, such as South Africa (where the unemployment rate is 25 percent), more flexibility in the labor market will increase employment.”
This view, expressed occasionally by the Bank’s aggressively neoliberal Africa chief economist, Shanta Devarajan, is refuted not only by 1.3 million lost jobs in 2009-10 but by the September 2010 International Monetary Fund Article IV consultation analysis, which puts SA near the top of world labour flexibility rankings, trailing only the US, Britain and Canada.
There are other neoliberal dogmas, e.g., “Microfinance, while growing, has huge, untapped potential in Africa.” The Bank apparently missed the world microfinance crisis symbolized by the firing of Muhammad Yunus as Grameen executive (just as the Strategy was released), the many controversies over usurious interest rates, or the 200,000 small farmer suicides in Andra Pradesh, India in recent years due to unbearable microdebt loads.
The Bank also endorses cellphones, allegedly “becoming the most valuable asset of the poor. The widespread adoption of this technology – largely due to the sound regulatory environment and entrepreneurship – opens the possibility that it could serve as a vehicle for transforming the lives of the poor.” The Bank forgets vast problems experienced in domestic cellphone markets, including foreign corporate ownership and control.
And as for what is indeed “the biggest threat to Africa because of its potential impact, climate change could also be an opportunity. Adaptation will have to address sustainable water management, including immediate and future needs for storage, while improving irrigation practices as well as developing better seeds.” Dangers to the peasantry and to urban managers of the likely 7 degree rise and worsened flooding/droughts are underplayed, and opportunities for wider vision for a post-carbon Africa are ignored, such as the importance of the North (including the World Bank itself) paying its vast climate debt to Africa.
“An African Consensus”?
Compared to Bank funding for insane mega-projects such as the $3.75 billion lent to South Africa to build the world’s fourth largest coal-fired power plant last April, not much is at stake in the Strategy’s portfolio: $2.5 billion/year over the decade-long plan.
Nevertheless, the Africa Strategy hubris is dangerous not only for diverging from reality so obviously, but for seeking a route from Bank Strategy to “an African consensus.” The Bank commits to “work closely with the AU, G-20 and other fora to support the formulation of Africa’s policy response to global issues, such as international financial regulations and climate change, because speaking with one voice is more likely to have impact.”
Does Africa need a sole neoliberal voice claiming “consensus”, speaking from shaky pillars atop crumbling foundations based on false premises and corrupted processes, piloting untenable projects, allied with incurable tyrants, impervious to demands for democracy and social justice? If so, the Bank has a Strategy already unfolding.
And if all goes well with the status quo, the Strategy’s predictions for 2021 include a decline in the poverty rate by 12 percent and at least five countries entering the ranks of middle-income economies (candidates are Ghana, Mauritania, Comoros, Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia).
More likely, though, is worsening uneven development and growing Bank irrelevance as Africans continue courageously protesting neoliberalism and dictatorship, in search of both free politics and socio-economic liberation.
Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Civil Society in Durban: http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za
By Tim Johnson
WASHINGTON — A security company led by the former head of operations for the Israeli military made such inroads into Latin America a few years ago that U.S. diplomats saw it as a security risk and moved to thwart the company’s expansion, U.S. diplomatic cables show.
The diplomats’ efforts were made easier when an interpreter for the Israeli firm, Global CST, was caught peddling classified Colombian Defense Ministry documents to Marxist guerrillas seeking to topple the state, one cable said.
Still, the ability of the Israeli security consultancy to obtain contracts in Colombia, Peru and Panama in rapid succession speaks to the prowess of retired Israeli military officers in peddling security know-how amid perceptions that they’d bring better results than official U.S. government assistance.
At one point, Panama’s intelligence chief threatened to rely more heavily on the Israelis out of anger that U.S. officials wouldn’t tap the phones of the president’s political enemies, according to then cables. U.S. officials countered that such an arrangement would threaten all security cooperation with Panama, and the Panamanians backed down.
Colombia was the first Latin nation to sign a contract with Global CST, doing so in late 2006, according to one cable, the same year its founder, Maj. Gen. Israel Ziv, retired as head of the operations directorate of the Israel Defense Forces.
Ziv “was a personal acquaintance of then-Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos,” the cable said. Santos is now Colombia’s president.
Ziv’s consulting firm pledged “a strategic assessment” that would devise a plan to defeat “internal terrorist and criminal organizations by 2010,” the cable, sent in late 2009, said. The exercise was named “Strategic Leap.”
“Over a three-year period, Ziv worked his way into the confidence of former Defense Minister Santos by promising a cheaper version of USG (U.S. government) assistance without our strings attached,” the cable said.
Colombia began working with a variety of retired and active duty Israeli officers “with special operations and military intelligence backgrounds,” another cable said. By 2007, 38 percent of Colombia’s foreign defense purchases were going to Israel, it added.
With a foot firmly in the door in Colombia, Ziv roamed the region, going next to Peru, a coca-producing nation that also faced security challenges.
Ziv told Peruvian authorities that Global CST’s had played an advisory role in a spectacular jungle raid on a rebel camp in Colombia a year earlier that freed former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. military contractors and 11 Colombian police and soldiers. Colombia denies that Global CST played a role in the raid.
The Israeli firm signed a one-year contract worth $9 million to help Peru defeat the Maoist Sendero Luminoso insurgency “once and for all” in that nation’s remote Apurimac and Ene river valleys, according to another U.S. cable.
When Global CST approached Panama’s government about expanding on an initial contract, red flags went up at the U.S. Embassy there.
In early 2010, an Embassy cable to Washington said Panama had already paid Global CST for a small security study but the nation’s intelligence chief, Olmedo Alfaro, was threatening to rely more heavily on the Israelis out of anger that U.S. officials would not tap the phones of the president’s political enemies.
“Alfaro is increasingly open about his agenda to replace U.S. law enforcement and security support with Israelis and others,” the cable said, adding that the move “bodes ill” for quelling narcotics activity and crime in Panama.
U.S. officials told the Panamanians that they would limit security cooperation and intelligence sharing if private consultants from a third nation were involved.
“In a meeting with then-U.S. Ambassador to Panama Barbara Stephenson, Panamanian Vice President Juan Carlos Varela said that the government “would not let Israeli influence damage the U.S.-Panama relationship,” a cable said.
President Ricardo Martinelli “was similarly taken aback, and emphasized that he did not want to endanger relations with the USG, saying ‘We don’t want to change friends,'” the cable said.
Adding to the pressure on Panama was news that Colombia’s relations with Global CST had soured. In a meeting in late 2009 with the then-U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield, national police chief Oscar Naranjo complained that the company had turned out to be a “disaster,” a cable said.
The same cable reported that then-Defense Minister Gabriel Silva overruled a planned Colombian army purchase of Israeli-made Hermes-450 unmanned aerial vehicles, in part because of the nation’s “mixed” experience with Global CST.
Silva is now Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S. His office didn’t respond to several written and telephone messages for comment.
Colombia’s souring on the Israeli firm was partly because of U.S. rules that barred intelligence sharing, but also because Colombian police told them in February 2008 “that a Global CST interpreter, Argentine-born Israeli national Shai Killman, had made copies of classified Colombian Defense Ministry documents in an unsuccessful attempt to sell them to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) through contacts in Ecuador and Argentina,” the cable said.
The pilfered documents allegedly contained information about top criminals the Colombians were targeting, the cable said.
“Ziv denied this attempt and sent Killman back to Israel,” it added.
In early April, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reached Killman and reported that he said he “was being ‘slandered’ and no such incident ever took place.”
The cable went on to say that Ziv’s proposals for Colombia “seem designed more to support Israeli equipment and services sales than to meet in-country needs.” It added that Colombia realized that “their deals are not as good as advertised.”
It wasn’t just in Latin America where Ziv and his company pledged quick fix-its for acute security problems. The company, based in a city east of Tel Aviv, would also work in Togo, Guinea, Gabon and Nigeria, as well as in Eastern Europe. Last year, the Israeli government fined Global CST for negotiating to sell weapons and military training to Guinea’s military junta.
(Quelle: McClatchy Newspapers.)
by David Sogge
What’s in a name? For the ruling party of Angola, it seems, quite a lot. In December 2009, that party formally abandoned its original name from 1956, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola , the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. Henceforth it would be known merely by the old initials: MPLA. Evidently the party thought it best to bury and forget terms like “movement” and “liberation”. Besides, it had long ago dropped the word Popular from new nation’s first name, the People’s Republic of Angola.
Such fiery terms from a burnt-out era no doubt left a lot of people cold. But deleting those tokens of past ideals came at an odd time. For never in its 53-year history had the MPLA’s claims to a popular mandate looked stronger. In high-turnout parliamentary elections in September 2008, it got more than four out of every five votes. Six years earlier, its triumph over warlord-led Unita, and the non-punitive peace deal that followed, met with overwhelming popular relief, even among people on the losing side. True, Angolans express hearty contempt for their political class. Yet popular expectations are rising; most people express optimism about the future. Urbanized and Portuguese-speaking, they see themselves no longer chiefly as members of ethnic blocs, but as citizens of one Angolan nation. The MPLA, more than any other political force, contributed to those outcomes.
No such scenario seemed feasible in 1973. At that time the party was on the ropes, reeling from Portuguese counter-insurgency and from its own self-inflicted wounds. Both Washington and Moscow had written it off. Yet from that near-death experience, the MPLA made an astonishing come-back as a thrusting new African power. With military help from Cuban communists and plenty of petrodollars from Western capitalists, it gained time, space and know-how to recover and get the upper hand. After taking power in 1975 it set about building three key institutions: a disciplined army and security apparatus; a professionally-run state holding company, Sonangol; and a well-oiled system of patronage. Shrewd management of all three led to advances on the fronts of coercive power, state revenues and domestic politics. In short, the MPLA built what Cold War Washington least wanted to see: a black African state with muscle and “attitude.”
|From that near-death experience, the MPLA made an astonishing come-back as a thrusting new African power… (building) what Cold War Washington least wanted to see: a black African state with muscle and “attitude.”|
For its impudence, Angola paid in blood. Unlike Afghanistan, where American support to Islamic fundamentalists to “roll back” communism brought nasty blowback for the US itself, American support to African anti-communists brought death and wretchedness only for Angolans. From 1975 to 2002 about 1.5 million of them perished, a staggering number for a country of only six million people in 1975. Of these, about 160,000 died in combat — the heaviest battle casualties, in absolute numbers, of any African conflict in the 20th century.
War utterly transfigured Angola. As violence forced nearly half the population to flee their homes, urban shack settlements mushroomed around towns and cities. As the elaborate agro-industrial system collapsed, it took with it a sizable class of small producers and most of the proletariat, proportionately one of Africa’s largest. As the belligerents swept up tens of thousands of young people into their war machines, years of apprenticeship began in trade schools for violence. Many of these veterans are today on payrolls of the army, police and private security companies.
The rest of the war’s uprooted and dispossessed are scraping by in netherworlds of informal work and commerce, the onshore economy’s new centre of gravity. As elsewhere in global capitalism, that free market is only for losers. The economic winners, being politically well-connected, get rich pickings such as control over lucrative import monopolies. Import streams they control supply most of the markets where the povo , the common people, do the work, take the risks and pay off the Economic Police and other shakedown artists to leave them in peace. Such is life under capitalismo selvagen , jungle capitalism.
In contrast to the rest of Africa, Angola’s elites never allowed the IMF to supervise economic policy directly. Yet by 1990 they had nonetheless embraced key tenets of the Washington Consensus: liberalization of external flows, austerity for public services and privatization of public assets. In so doing, they quashed any remaining hopes of a social contract — “satisfaction of the people’s needs”, in the discourse of the MPLA anno 1975. The policies ushered in a bonanza for the political class and their corporate allies abroad.
|Angola’s elites never allowed the IMF to supervise economic policy directly. Yet by 1990 they had nonetheless embraced key tenets of the Washington Consensus… (quashing) any remaining hopes of a social contract.|
With the introduction of “market friendly” policies, capital flight took wing. A recent study indicates that in the 1990s illicit outflows averaged $542 million a year, roughly 6 percent of GDP; in the period 2000-2008 they averaged $2.7 billion a year, roughly 14 percent of GDP.1 Angola’s “peace dividend” has meant, literally, big dividends for interests abroad.
Judicial activists like the French magistrate, Eva Joly, and research activists groups like Global Witness have revealed much about these shadowy systems. But just where Angola’s siphoned-off wealth is stashed and who owns it, are largely guesswork. All outflows are murky and circuitous, coursing through multiple secrecy jurisdictions from London and Lichtenstein to Delaware to end up mainly on Wall Street. That is the most likely destination identified by a team of economists of the US Federal Reserve, after sifting a lot of data in the opaque world of petrodollars.2 “Market friendly” policies have meant exactly that: friendly to The Markets.
In addition, legally-earned monies get special handling in Angola itself. Foreign corporations face low taxes and streamlined repatriation of profits — a fact attentively noted in a US government review of Angola’s investment climate and in scorecards of “economic freedom” by influential think tanks in Washington DC.
Domestic businesses, on the other hand, face different rules. They cannot accumulate at will; indeed any Angolan seeking to make serious profits has first to cut a deal with an appropriate politician. For the MPLA, any effort to accumulate beyond its supervision is a matter of zero tolerance, for that could lead to autonomous bases of power. Hence there are no Angolans making money on a substantial scale outside the purview and participation of the political class.
MPLA statecraft includes control over media and the flow of ideas. But its main levers work through the distribution of money, status and official positions. The MPLA has used these levers, backed by brute coercion, to forge informal pacts among elites, to co-opt and neutralise adversaries and keep the wayward on board. Despite rumours of mutual distrust — stories of VIPs at dinner parties who refuse to drink from bottles not opened before their own eyes or to eat anything not tasted first by their flunkeys — the political class is holding together rather well. Pacts and patronage have been stabilising in Angola’s case.
|MPLA statecraft includes control over media and the flow of ideas. But its main levers work through the distribution of money, status and official positions.|
Indeed the party’s centrally-managed patronage system has thus far proven a reliable way to manage politics where centrifugal forces are strong and a lot of lootable wealth is at stake. That system enabled recruitment of former “outsider” ethnicities into the military’s top brass. It works through revenue sharing (as in oil-rich Zaire and Cabinda, and diamond-rich Lundas) and the allocation of official positions from which rents can be extracted. Its domesticating effects are now apparent; with the exception of a renegade militia in Cabinda, which mortified the government in January by shooting up a busload of Togolese football players, Angola is at peace. The argument that resources breed political chaos doesn’t hold for Angola; mere plunder and oppression to the neglect of statecraft has never been the MPLA approach.
The party has for example worked shrewdly to contain independent ideas and citizen activism. In the early post-independence years it tried to colonize civil spaces with Soviet-type monopoly organisations for women, workers, peasants and youth. But with the exception of the women’s organisation these never achieved any real legitimacy.
Today in civil society the MPLA employs both sticks and carrots. Repressive measures include containment (independent media confined mainly to Luanda, for example), secret police infiltration and strong-arm action such as against low-income residents of prime urban land in Luanda and Lubango. Positive incentives include the dispensing of charity by its own NGOs, notably the Eduardo dos Santos Foundation. Patronage and perks offered through the party’s Specialty Committees have kept many urban professionals away from political activism. Progressive parties and vibrant periodicals (digital and printed) are alive and kicking in Luanda, but faced with MPLA cunning they have yet to form a critical mass in political life.
Citizens might mount stronger counter-pressures if there were effective court systems and other channels for public complaint and transparent regulation. And indeed cases sometimes get hearings in real courts of law, with occasional advances in real justice. These episodes may help explain why a small majority of Angolans polled by the BBC in 2008 claimed to trust the country’s legal system. In March 2010, a provincial court convicted seven policemen of the unlawful killing of eight youth in a Luanda neighbourhood, although the court was at pains to exclude higher-ups from any culpability. Indeed it appears that most of those at upper levels enjoy effective immunity from justice. Also in March, the government promulgated a Public Probity Law that would penalise corruption and oblige top public officials to declare their personal wealth at home and abroad. It allows anyone to denounce abuses by public figures, but severely penalizes anyone making accusations deemed to be false.
Will this and other impressive laws actually promote transparency, honesty and respect for human rights? The leadership has in any case shown no haste in beefing up the Prosecutor’s Office (responsible for enforcing the new Public Probity Law) or in expanding a responsive judiciary. It prefers instead to foist law-enforcement-lite agencies onto the public. The Judicial Ombudsman’s office, provincial human rights commissions and mediation centres may provide occasions for citizens to ventilate complaints, but none has a mandate to enforce laws or impose legally binding outcomes. They help alert the authorities to problems without requiring them to find solutions. Yet because they reflect, however dimly, the principle that citizens may express grievances, those bodies can’t be dismissed out of hand. They might someday provide sites for the powerless to gain a little leverage over, or at least embarrass, the powerful.
|Privatization of public services is advancing… (they) are never portrayed as citizen entitlements, but rather as commodities you have to pay for, or beneficence you have to show gratitude for.|
But how much of the public realm will survive? Privatization of public services is advancing, and it largely precludes the making of claims. Private providers, for-profit or not-for-profit, face almost no obligations publically to account for what they do or fail to do. In any case public services are never portrayed as citizen entitlements, but rather as commodities you have to pay for, or beneficence you have to show gratitude for. Neoliberal norms blanket the land, crowding out anything smacking of an equitable social contract. Indeed, Angolans are captive to a curious fusion of neoliberal formulas and a coercive state.
Nevertheless, a few groups in the emancipatory wing of civil society keep probing for progressive openings. They have engaged with public service providers and local level governments to press for public consultation and innovation in government services, such as
schooling for children and range management for livestock. Whether such scattered efforts can hold the line against further commodification, vigorously backed by Angolan elites and most foreign donors, remains to be seen.
Angola’s elites call most of the shots domestically. They do so with increasing self-assurance — some domestic critics call
it arrogance — thanks to the state’s huge spending powers. With oil output now surpassing that of Nigeria and oil prices still buoyant, the pressures for conspicuous consumption have been intense. That has left its mark in traffic gridlock, port congestion, tiny apartments renting for 15 thousand dollars per month. Demand has provoked supply through conspicuous investment: superhighways, shopping malls and gated housing estates.
State corporations have now taken up an old Angolan practice, shopping abroad. Angola’s main state holding company Sonangol has recently become a major if not dominant shareholder of Portuguese energy, banking and media firms. Maximizing financial returns is not necessarily the point here; some observers see instead Angolan elites gaining satisfaction in lording it over the former colonizer in Lisbon. Portuguese officials in their turn never fail to express gratitude for the Angolan patronage and custom. Angola has become, after Spain, Germany and France, the fourth most important customer for Portuguese exports. Meanwhile Angolan corporate interests are also spreading their wings in the D.R. Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea.
Banks have worked overtime in Angola to sell loans and commodity credits. The Chinese have been hugely successful in this. Pressures to borrow are intense, yet don’t always get satisfied. Government hopes to raise $4 billion on the European bond market — billed as the largest ever bond issue by a sub-Saharan African state — have been shelved for want of an international credit rating. Perhaps for this reason in 2009 the IMF finally got its foot in the door with a $1.4 billion loan to shore up government reserves and cushion a fiscal shortfall.
Foreign borrowings and services are destined to keep building a classically high modernist, outwardly-oriented model of development. The government’s Anti-Poverty Strategy may be studded with terms like social equity and even redistribution; but today that earnest policy paper, stillborn in 2005, has been quietly forgotten. Recently several leading Angolan development specialists — Fernando Pacheco, Cesaltina Abreu and Carlos Figuereido — dismissed notions that Angola might achieve by 2015 even one of its eight millennium development goals — despite their all being achievable, as Figueriedo observed, given Angola’s financial capacities. The outlook is even more pessimistic, he concluded, considering the (political) weight of the forces and policies that prioritize those anti-poverty goals.3
|Today’s political economy resembles the colonial order of yesterday in a number of ways. A narrow state-based elite manages the economy … to promote a development model that redistributes wealth upward and outward.|
In sum, today’s political economy resembles the colonial order of yesterday in a number of ways. A narrow state-based elite manages the economy in collaboration with foreign corporations to promote a development model that redistributes wealth upward and outward. The elite uses foreign-equipped coercive methods and a modicum of public services and charity to keep the lid on popular discontent. At the same time, activists in the emancipatory camp of civil society, in Angola and abroad, keep probing the connections, embarrassing the rulers with their revelations and animating social and intellectual responses.
Yet today’s situation looks different in two fundamental ways: first, governing elites are African and hold territorial powers legitimized by elections; second, national economic life is now far more dependent on consumers and producers in richer countries. Hence today’s paradox: Angolans have formal standing as citizens with votes as well as informal claims on their rulers, but they don’t count for much as consumers and producers; indeed the development model has no place for mostof them. Elites’ confusion of economic growth with development is, in the words of Fernando Pacheco, “painful and extremely penalizing for Angolans.”4
But what of the future? Some foresee a developmental state comparable to the Asian tigers. For the cautious mainstream economist Paul Collier, “Angola, with its oil and its Atlantic coastline, could well prove to be another Malaysia.” Others merely continue expressing breathless enthusiasm — “leaping from strength to strength”, “on the cusp of a real economic take-off” — without conjuring up specific scenarios.
Hence a giddy optimism persists, spurred by up-ticks in oil markets. In contemporary capitalism, after all, only the short term really matters. Yet specialists focused on the long term have begun telling different story, one about falling oil revenues. “As its main oil fields reach maturity,” a London business newsletter wrote recently, “production is likely to peak sometime around 2015, at which point its current and fiscal account surpluses are all but certain to disappear.”5 In short, Angola’s glittering coach may soon to turn into a pumpkin.
When a fiscal and debt crisis hits Angola, a political crisis will not be far behind. Among the urban salaried strata, especially those on civilian and military state payrolls, lifestyle and career expectations have kept on rising. So too have expectations among more peripheral members of the political class and their hangers-on at the receiving ends of patronage flows. Cutbacks to these flows would bring on an unpleasant downshift in expectations. Some would take harder hits than others. The basis of elite pacts could then become quite fragile.
|When a fiscal and debt crisis hits Angola, a political crisis will not be far behind… some politicians might renounce their wilful amnesia and revisit the progressive political project the MPLA once talked about.|
Should those pacts come unglued and discontent gel into organised pressure, some politicians might renounce their wilful amnesia and revisit the progressive political project the MPLA once talked about. The wish of the new Angolan bourgeoisie to prettify their biographies has already been satirized in the 2004 novel The Seller of Pasts .6 Today, members of Angola’s bruised but resilient progressive camp, and its allies abroad, face the challenge of reinventing that political project.
2. M. Higgins and others, “Recycling Petrodollars,” Current Issues in Economics and Finance
(New York: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, December 2006).
3. “Angola fica a meio do caminho,” Correio do Patriota (15 October 2009), http://www.correiodopatriota.com.
4. “Ligações perigosas,” Correio do Patriota (25 January 2009).
5. “Angola’s Bond Issue: Prospects and Problems,” Newsletter (London: Business Monitor International, 14 December 2009).
6. By the Angolan novelist José Eduardo Agualusa. Original title: O Vendedor de Passados .
“L’Angola dans la paix. Autoritarisme et reconversions.” Special Issue ofPolitique Africaine 110 (2008).
BBC World Service Trust. Elections Study Angola 2008 . London: BBC World Service Trust, 2008.
Birmingham, David. Frontline Nationalism in Angola and Mozambique. London: James Currey, 1992.
Chabal, Patrick, and Nuno Vidal, eds. Angola: The Weight of History . New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI). Various papers on Angola. Bergen, Norway. http://www.cmi.no/research/country/?angola.
Oliveira, Ricardo Soares de.Oil and Politics in the Gulf of Guinea . New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
Shaxson, Nicholas. Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
Sogge, David. Angola: “Failed” yet “Successful”. Working Paper 81. Madrid: FRIDE, 2009.
Vidal, Nuno with Patrick Chabal (eds.) Southern Africa: Civil Society, Politics and Donor Strategies. Angola and its Neighbours . Luanda and Lisbon: Media XXI & Firmamento with University of Coimbra, Catholic University of Angola and Wageningen University.”
(Quelle: At Issue Ezine.)
By JANET OTIENO
The issue of homosexualitiy in Africa is once making screaming headlines.
Just days after a Malawian gay couple was sentenced to 14 years’ jail with hard labour, two employees of the gay rights group in Zimbabwe were seized in a police swoop.
The Harare duo, now cooling their heels behind bars, are employees of the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ).
The Malawian ruling, not surprisingly, has attracted a round of condemnation from the international community.
In Kenya, it is a different scenario altogether as the Gays and Lesbians Coalition – Kenya (GALCK) have come out in the open to demand the protection of their rights. A fearless breed indeed, one may argue rather convincingly!
With all these new developments, many especially parents, are seething with rage since homosexuality was initially a hidden affair.
Evil and foreign
In as much as the boldness displayed by this group has won them a good number of admirers, others have tendered to differ for various reasons, not least of which is that it will be out of character for “God-fearing” Africans to legislate in favour of homosexual rights.
Lebanese author Khalil Gibran observed some years back that: “Humanity cannot change the will of God just as an astrologer cannot change the course of the stars”.
Thus, those with opposing views say homosexuals are trying to “corrupt” the ordained order.
African culture virtually detests homosexuality as a vice and anyone trying to root for its legalisation in statutes books and acceptance in the society is likely to be resisted.
Homosexuality is illegal in African countries, save for South Africa, Chad and Gabon. This mirrors the widespread homophobia within the continent, documented so clearly by statements made by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who refers to them as ‘worse than dogs and pigs’, and Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika, who terms the practice as evil and foreign.
Uganda nearly passed a legislation mandating death sentence for sodomists. Former presidents of Namibia Sam Nujoma and Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi were well known for their hard stance on homosexuals.
Ironically, there are records indicating that homosexuality is not a Western import after all. Ancient examples of the boy marriage tradition among Azande warriors of Central Africa region and the gay sex at the court of the Kabaka (king) of the Buganda support this concept.
History has it that different wars within the continent would encourage homosexuality in the pre-colonial Africa since it brought men together.
Further evidence for the existence of homosexuality is that pre-colonial African ethnic groups ascribed tribal classifications to gay people.
Certain tribes in pre-colonial Burkina Faso and South Africa regarded lesbians as astrologers and traditional healers, while a number of tribal groups in Cameroon and Gabon believed homosexuality had a medicinal effect.
In pre-colonial Benin, homosexuality was viewed as a boyhood phase that males passed through and eventually grew out of according to Zimbabwean Standard newspaper.
The Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and his lover Smenkhkare were also documented as male couple in history. Their homosexuality does not seem to have bothered Akhenaten’s contemporaries, but his challenge to the clergy brought his downfall.
Although there is no data to substantiate a genetic or biologic basis for same-sex attraction, homosexuals prefer the biological explanations of hormonal imbalance, sexual abuse, prenatal hormone defect or lack of bonding with a same-sex parent as this helps to generate greater tolerance and building their case for minority status.
This would mean homosexuals need counselling and acceptance as opposed to the harsh penalties like imprisonment that will lead them to further isolation. Denying them the opportunity to live the way they have to, is total deprivation of their rights as human beings.
This puts the ball squarely on the parents’ court who have, for a long time, failed to instil appropriate sex education in their children at home, leaving the burden to teachers and clerics. The place for sex education is the home setting. Within their own families, young people should be aptly instructed about the dignity, duty, and expression of love.
Hateful and intolerant
There is no substitute for a personal dialogue of trust and openness between parents and their children, that is, individual formation within the family circle, which respects not only their stages of development, but also the children as individuals.
Sex education is a delicate subject and parents must find time to be with their children, making the effort to understand them and to recognise the fragment of truth that may be present in some forms of rebellion.
Such individual formation within the family means that sex education is indistinguishable from religious and moral development in other virtues such as temperance, fortitude, and prudence.
Africans should therefore not afford themselves the luxury of being hateful and intolerant to this particular group.
Whether Africa will face up the reality and accept homosexuals, or uphold its traditional values, remains to be seen as the debate rages on.”
(Quelle: Africa Review.)