Tag Archives: featured

From a Refugee Camp to Bradford University

[Eritrea's diaspora is one of the largest refugee communities in the world; in Israel (above protest) they are among many immigrants subject to draconian policy and detention]

Tesfalem H. Yemane is a current Peace Sutdies MA at the University of Bradford. Originally from Eritrea, he is a scholar at risk and refugee.

Tafaslem (1)Fear and uncertainty have been the biggest enemies of mine since I left my country in 2010. But now, I find myself sitting in the office of

Professor David J Francis, a man of overflowing and reassuring academic aura. After months of nail-biting wait, I am offered a place at the Division of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. Going through the memories of the past five years of my life, I whispered, “I should be wary of resting on my laurels now.” For a person of my background, education and hard-work are the only gateways for countless opportunities. I should be grounded!

My life journey is that of many Eritrean youths’. At independence, the country was dubbed by many as the beacon of hope and renaissance in Africa. Its leadership, along with those of Uganda’s Museveni, Ethiopia’s Zenawi and Rwanda’s Kagame, was touted as the new breed in African leadership. In the heat of such euphoria and jubilations, we ostensibly boasted on turning the new nation into ‘the Singapore of Africa’. Those dreams have been shattered and we tuck Professor Gaim Kibreab’s book, ‘Eritrea: A Dream Deferred‘ under our pillows. The book explores the national euphoria at independence and the disappointing disjuncture that has resulted in a dystopian society thanks to the regime’s siege mentality.

In the aftermath of the devastating 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea war, the country has turned into a giant prison wherein forced disappearance, extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrest and severe curtailment of freedom of expression and movement are the norm. There is zero tolerance to dissidence and any legal procedures have been a hard sell to the ‘democratic novices’, to borrow Professor Chandra L. Sriram’s phrase. Under the pretext of existential threat, from its favourite bogey, Ethiopia, the regime has employed a pervasive security apparatus that has virtually controlled every aspect of the citizens’ lives. Eritrea is a society under siege and the dream of making the country a major trading terminus in the strategic part of the Red Sea has been sorely deferred.

The leadership’s anti-intellectual culture has forced many bright minds into exile. The only university that operated with an internationally accredited academic standard was deliberately dismantled in 2006, and with it, the hope of nurturing a mass of critical thinkers in the Eritrean body politic poignantly gone. Accompanied by media concoctions, six sub-standard and militarized colleges were hastily grafted in different parts of the country. And in an invasive manner, parallel party and paramilitary structures were put in place to create a numbing duplication of tasks and tight control of the Eritrean youth.  

A state of a crumbling economy, indefinite military service and the lethargy of oppressive hopelessness have forced the youth to ‘vote with their feet’ and embark on the perilous journeys. It was in this context that I decided to vote with my feet in April 2010, never to set foot again. Because of the regime’s imprudent macroeconomic and impulsive diplomatic decisions, the state of the economy was very precarious in the 2000s. In fact, the brunt and wrinkles of the notorious coupon economy were so humiliating that I was excited to find out basic food commodities were in good supply when I first arrived in Sudan. I spent more than two months in the Hobbesian-like and desolate refugee camp in the periphery of eastern Sudan before I was smuggled to the capital.  

Khartoum, Sudan in 2011.
Khartoum, Sudan in 2011.

While in Sudan, I envied the relative freedom of expression presentin the East African country. I bore witness when many Sudanese took to the streets of Khartoum, rattling, “The people of Sudan are hungry!” in April 2012. Having said this, however, I should be cautious of vindicating the authoritarian government in Khartoum. As oppressive as it is, Khartoum’s strong handedness pales in comparison with Asmara’s.

In Uganda, a country infamously known for its rampant corruption, I bore witness to people taking to the streets to demand their President heed to public concerns and corrupt officials be held accountable. I also noted many newspapers publicising information about corrupt officials, police officers and the government.

My time in China was an eye opening cultural and intellectual ride. Those late night discussions, debates and questions about the merits and demerits of a developmental state and state capitalism shaped my worldview. Those many discussions about the dialectics of Washington Consensus and Beijing Consensus were reconciled by the synthesis of Geneva Consensus during my memorable years in China.

The Bird’s Nest Stadium, Beijing, 2014.
The Bird’s Nest Stadium, Beijing, 2014.

However, there was a downside to such a pleasant experience in China-that I was a refugee in a student’s body. I had to struggle to conceal my story from many of my wonderful classmates; because I did not want to have a different identity. I lacked the emotional and intellectual maturity to come out and share my story and the story of my compatriots. And that was the most painful episode of my amazing time in China.

I also realized the mismatch between the China of Mao as emulated in Eritrea and the current China and its politico-economic policies. The Eritrean regime serenades in the past achievements of the armed struggle while China has moved away from Mao’s disastrous policies. And thanks to the Isaias Afewerki’s short politico-military training in China in the late 1960s, we sing the ‘Red’ song louder than the Chinese do. The Eritrean leadership still dances to Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ and ‘Cultural Revolution’ rhetoric while the Chinese themselves have moved on and started reaping the rewards of Deng Xiaoping’s economic vision.

On Eritrea, I still remain positive that my country will have its Godsend Lee Kuan Yew sooner than later-a leader who rectifies the malaise the nation finds itself in and Professor Alex de Waal is convinced to backtrack his Museum of Modernism tag on the current state of affairs in the country.

 

Advertisements

The Politics of Diversification and Brand China: Alex Vines on the Challenges of African Econimcs

Since graduating from Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in 1995, George has  worked with with Oxfam, The Prince’s Trust and chaired Berneslai Homes, Barnsley’s Social Housing Group. His NGO and UK based charity experience have been used to teach/lecture in FE and HE programmes in London and  in Wakefield and Leeds Met University, in areas such as – Politics, International issues, war and conflict, Public Services, Business behaviour, Sport and global politics, and UK social issues. He  also works  with community groups in Barnsley as part of Barnsley Voluntary Acton supporting the growth of community charities, and social enterprises in South Yorkshire.

Alex_Vines_and_HE_Ellen_Johnson_Sirleaf_(6010787265)
Dr Alex Vines, at Chatham House

Understanding the Politics of Diversification was the central theme of Dr. Alex Vine’s seminar. It includes a shift from centralised state power as displayed by China (but not exclusive to China) in its relationship with Africa over the last two decades to a recognition that any of the emerging powers would benefit from accepting a new relationship model. This “detént” considers that African nations are more sovereign, African economic blocs are welcome, the role of Multinational Corporations (MNC’s) is  to be more equal as they front the extraction of resources in African states, (New African MNC’s emerging?  – Outside of South Africa!). Many of these have only single commodity revenue steam resources including,  Angolan Oil, Zimbabwean Diamonds, Zambian Copper and Mozambique’s ports.

Additionally “diversification” reflects the need for a level of state pluralism. The development of real and influential civil society groups, trade unions, women’s groups and students as well as the encouragement of genuine political liberalisation, a sort of “African Spring” if you may (without  the chaos- but never guaranteed),  reducing the power of African elites doing business with a self-serving state. Underpinning this new paradigm, also includes  the sustained role of the UN, BRICS, the AU and EU as power centres that seek influence, again reducing previously unequal and security threatening single state power relationships, as they advocate an “Africa First” approach to development. New sources of influence create genuine opportunities for debate and transparency in the development dilemma facing Africa today.

These efforts at “equalising” the future unilateral and multilateral relationships with African nations will be key to supporting future wealth distribution, creating a genuine middle class and ensuring taxation, value added economic growth, with new sources of taxation being raised and directed at development internally within African nations.

“The Politics of Diversification”, as Vines suggests is the new “real politic” in Global Politics, played out increasingly by an assertive and powerful China, as the lead “emerging nation” seeking to influence African development. China with its size and leverage leads the pack of emerging nations but as Vines cautions even it is now seeking to modify its position in the world. Downplaying its past as a nasty exploitative neo-colonial player on the African continent, extracting resources at any price to feed an insatiable Chinese economy.

But, as a now, “equal” partner aligning both unilaterally and multilaterally with African nations and global partners offering “real” development partnerships. Therefore improving and supporting the UN’s MDG’s and new Sustainable Development Goals for example, and offering a new focus on pluralism and diversification which actively seeks new partnerships in future African development. Precedents for these collaborations are now being set: Ebola brought many nations together to fight this disease and eradicate its threat to the East Africa region.

These other “partnerships” will seek to include a State that offers more than the same old, same old, of perpetuating elite power. In effect seeking out some level of political liberalisation or semi-democratic characteristics (but without descending into anarchy as we have seen in South Sudan and CAR lately). Including the managing of future MNC’s influence with a focus on taxation and development by these powerful actors.  Civil society influence, including trade unions and women’s groups all seeking to improve development and by proxy security with African states and in key regions also.

This diversification of “input” into future development then allows a more transparent and open process of engagement, with a less unequal focus and opportunities for wealth redistribution. Many African states possess huge amounts of raw material resources but lack the value added strategies on their own to improve wealth redistribution supporting an emerging middle class and in turn managing security within state’s and in regions. Stable countries attract investment, not unstable nations.

Dr. Vines considers that improved governance and transparency within China, or at least a well-publicised crackdown on corruption, and the re-embedding of values advocated by President Xi’s own vision as a “man of the people” has brought him absolute state and party power; this model may benefit African nations.

As China seeks better global relationships (downplaying its human rights record and considering that economic growth seems to be the only real game in town!) and also a recognition that global interdependency  is unavoidable. The latter is therefore much more beneficial than previous exploitative “African” relationships that will only encourage poor media coverage.  Even China cannot prohibit the influence of a social media revolution, where eventual lack of  cooperation with individual states who seek a more equal development  relationship is demanded

This position offers the concept of “brand China” and a new  “Panda” diplomacy in future summits within Africa. China has clearly recognised the West still wants a level playing field in Africa and China’s acquiescence to global standards is “expected” if it wants to play a real “tangible and responsible” part in future development.  This also could reduce the global security issues raised by mass migration, as fairer development  may reduce conflict and in turn help manage migration to Europe and even the emerging nations that have real and growing wealth may now become attractive destinations as the ending of migration is not a real possibility but a redistribution of numbers sought is.

The Politics of Diversification offer a new model where the traditional dominant central power relationship is now diffused and reflects the pluralism of a newly emerging civil society, private sector influence,  an entrepreneur class,  public sector infrastructure, and a confident civil society that offers a balance of power and a new appreciation of the weakness of concentrated power.

Africa’s new  security and development deal can only happen if  cooperation is genuine between actors and a manageable level of political liberalization supports this paradigm shift. Africa can be at the top table but needs to ensure its own house can manage security weaknesses and react quicker to such challenges, including peace building and enforcement, challenging those long term dictators and seek the rule of law as a mechanism and instrument of state building. Transparency and governance will take time, but emerging nations can support this positive narrative and fully benefit from relationships that previously have little colonial baggage and suspicion attached.

Further Reading:

Dr Alex Vines OBE biography, Chatham House

Vines, Africa Looks West Once Again, The World Today

Conference Registration Now Open- “Rethinking Peace, Security and Development in Contemporary Africa

Registration is now open for the upcoming JEFCAS sponsored Postgraduate Research Conference. Please register at our Eventbrite page.

To read more about the conference please see here.

Please contact Ignatius, Jeneba or Chris with any questions via this email address- pgrconference2015@uni.bradford.ac.uk

Una Hakika: The Phone Line of Prevention in Kenya

Christine Mutisya is a project coordinator for the Una Hakika project. She has an MSc in development and project planning from Bradford University. She is engaged in managing misinformation for the Sentinel Project, involving herself in peacebuilding activities and project management.

Adrian Gregorich is the community manager at the Sentinel Project. His academic background is in human rights, holding an MSc in human rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and an honours BA in political science and human rights from Carleton University in Ottawa. Adrian has worked with a number of NGOs around Africa as well as in Canada. His research and campaigning interests lie in mine action, violence prevention, poverty reduction, and global primary health care. He works as a freelance writer and resides in Ottawa, Canada. He can be reached via Twitter: @AdGregorich

Misinformation is a major problem in societies around the world, especially now that the rise of social media enables the spreading of rumours to happen much faster than was possible in the pre-digital era. Kenya’s Tana Delta region provides a good example not only of how misinformation can spread, but also how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be used to monitor and contain its harmful effects.

Misinformation was one of the factors that led to violence in the Tana Delta during 2012 and 2013, a time when Kenya was warming up to the general election scheduled for March 2013. At such times, politics and land injustices become especially salient and these also factored into the clashes which killed nearly 170 people while displacing tens of thousands. The aftermath included increased hatred and mistrust between the two most affected ethnic communities, the Orma and the Pokomo. Even after the election period ended, misinformation still spread throughout the Tana Delta, thus continuing tensions in the region.

A Sentinel Project team visited the Tana Delta in early 2013 and recognized this problem of rumours, which led to the creation of Una Hakika (Swahili for “Are you sure?”), a mobile phone-based information system used to map and counter misinformation in the Tana Delta. One of Una Hakika’s long-term goals is to enable people to ask themselves are you sure before taking action on any information. Rapid action on false rumours before verification led to some of the violence in 2012-2013.

The focus of the training was accurate reporting of information through the Una Hakika text messaging service.
The focus of the training was accurate reporting of information through the Una Hakika text messaging service.

Before setting up the system, the Una Hakika team conducted a baseline survey throughout the Tana Delta during January-February 2014 in order to understand the spread of information in the region, what technologies people use to share that information, and to generally understand the potential users of Una Hakika in order to better design the system. One key finding from the survey was that 87.3% of the 249 respondents believed rumours contributed to violence in the region, while 61.1% of respondents had heard information they believed to be untrue within the previous 12 months. Out of those 61.1% only 50.6% took further action to verify if the information was true.

IMG_7791
Newly trained ambassadors are using the technology available to them to report potentially dangerous rumours, and help build peace in their communities.

Una Hakika works as a free mobile phone-based reporting system with a short code through which individual citizens report incidents or potential misinformation, after which they receive verification of its accuracy. This works via a three-stage process. In the first stage, users send information to the system, through SMS, phone calls, the Una Hakika website, or by speaking to a trained community ambassador. who serve as a bridge between people and technology.

The second stage of the process prioritizes and verifies received messages by drawing upon a variety of information sources which may be able to provide the facts of the situation relating to a given rumour. These sources include the community ambassadors, local authorities (police and administration), other NGOs operating in the area, and the media (social media and mainstream media).

Third, once the Una Hakika team has verified reports of a rumour they are then able to provide feedback to the community about the authenticity of the information. This response is targeted to ensure that the rumour management process does not inadvertently spread rumours. Rumour verifications are still only sent to subscribers in the villages from which those rumours were reported, since there is a risk of people who have not heard a given rumour focusing on the wrong parts of a counter message and disregarding the statement that the rumour is false.

Two years down the line, Una Hakika has seen tremendous results. People’s mindsets have changed in the sense that now when a resident in the Tana Delta hears a rumour their first reactions is increasingly likely to verify its validity before passing it on or taking any action. The number of survey respondents who would look into the accuracy of information the were not convinced was true has risen from from 50.6% to 57.4%. Previously, information tended to be taken at face value, and some people would take drastic action upon hearing threatening rumours.

Summary of the Sentinel Project's work shared with residents of the Kipao village.
Summary of the Sentinel Project’s work shared with residents of the Kipao village.

Government officials also see the importance of Una Hakika as they are now able to synchronize efforts with the system, thus ensuring that they do not waste time or resources reacting to false information. Another advantage of the Una Hakika model is that residents who fear being interrogated by police can report to the Una Hakika team, which will then turn it over to the authorities. This increased level of trust has resulted in some instances when the Una Hakika team received information about serious incidents (including massacres) even before the police did.

Trust is difficult to build, but this process has been a major factor in the success of Una Hakika’s community engagement. At the beginning of the project the community was wary of their aim, which is understandable due to the violence they had experienced. In order to gain trust the Una Hakika staff had to rely on existing trusted networks such as the local administration, religious leaders, and community elders.

Community engagement goes hand-in-hand with trust. While Una Hakika uses technology to fight misinformation, the human element cannot be ignored. The cultures of the Tana Delta value face-to-face meetings, and the priority given to conduct such meetings has played an integral role in Una Hakika’s success. However, this is not easy since one must ensure impartiality and inclusivity when dealing with an ethnically diverse community such as those in the Tana Delta.

Despite many challenges, the Una Hakika project has made a substantial contribution to the peacebuilding process in the Tana Delta through the development, testing, and refinement of tools and techniques for countering misinformation that has the potential to lead to violence. The Una Hakika model also demonstrates great potential for being applied in other regions of Kenya, as well as other violence-prone areas around the world.

Further Reading:

The Sentinel Project: Kenya Project 

Una Haikia Rumor reporting site

Tanzania Multi-party Politics and Poverty

[Image: CHADEMA-UKAWA rally in Dodoma]

Ananilea Nkya is a PhD researcher on media engagement with development, University of Bradford, UK. Before joining the university, she was Executive Director of Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) for 11 years. The organization advocates and promotes women’s human rights through the media.

Tanzania’s general elections will take place on October 25th. 

After 25 years of single party rule, Tanzania saw the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1992. General elections were conducted in five year intervals with the aim of putting into power political leadership that could end poverty among the majority of people. Poverty, along with ignorance and disease have been identified as key enemies of Tanzania since independence (Nyerere, 1979).

In 1995, Tanzania was among 117 countries that attended the World Summit on Social Development and adopted a global plan of action for eradicating poverty by 2015. The UN then defined absolute poverty as a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services (Gordon, 2005).

Unfortunately, after two decades of multi-party democracy and implementation of the global action plan poverty is still a prominent problem for the country’s growing population. The population has grown from 12.3 million people in 1967 to 44.9 million in 2012 (Statistics and Office of Chief Government Statistian 2013).

Evidence of poverty in Tanzania includes poor child health due to lack of food. UN Tanzania 2014 Human Development Report, estimates that 35 per cent of children below the age five in the country were facing chronic malnutrition making the country one of the 28 poorest countries in the world (Guardian, 2015). A nutritionist from Tanzania central region of Dodoma region, Stella Kimambo observes that malnutrition is a disease because if child miss proper food nutrients during 270 days in the womb and 730 days after delivery it cuts intelligence quotient to between 10 to 15 and that the sickness could never be cured (Magubira, 2015).

Afrobarometer data on lived poverty rates in Tanzania
Afrobarometer data on lived poverty rates in Tanzania

Millions poor in midst of richness

Although millions of Tanzanians are currently languishing in poverty, it is one of Africa’s natural resource rich countries. In 2009 alone gold earned Tanzania four billion dollars compared to negligible foreign currency earned from the mining in 2000 (Mjimba, 2011). By 2010, Tanzania had joined South Africa and Ghana in becoming the three leading African countries exporters of gold (Coulson, 2013).

Tanzania also attracts foreign financial assistance for its annual budgets mainly from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the African Development Bank, the European Commission and the World Bank. Thus, the question is: If in Tanzania huge sums of foreign monies arrive annually and multi-party politics supports governance checks and balances, why are the majority of citizens still poor?

Operating multi-party politics in single party framework

Tanzania adopted multi-party democracy, not by choice, but as an IMF loan condition. A situation shared by many states exposed to hegemonic Bretton Woods’ financial institutions following the developing countries debt crisis in the 1980s (Moyo, 2009). Samuel Makinda observed that multi-party democracy was expected to end authoritarian rule in Africa associated with ‘weaknesses in the structures and performance of public institutions’ (Makinda, 1996:555).

But has multi-party politics strengthened public institutions in Tanzania?

Realities on the ground suggest that a lot needs to be done. Jacques Morisset, a World Bank lead economist for Tanzania in July this year, observed that though some people in the country working in the informal sector earned huge amounts of money, the current level of tax revenues in the country was one of lowest in the world, Therefore ‘‘the problem reflected systemic issues in policy and administration’’ (Aman, 2015).

Not only does the government not collect taxes effectively but its agents also engage in thievery of public funds to accomplish party strategic goals in order to cling onto state power. In 2014, 306 billion shillings (about $204 million US dollars) were dubiously withdrawn from Tegeta escrow account in the Central Bank and no legal measures were taken against the high level public figures involved (Citizen, 2015). Indeed, grand corruption and thievery of public funds occurring in the last ten years saw Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and its government losing public credibility by being branded grand thief (fisadi) (Mtulya, 2015).

Arguably, thievery of public resources is taking a toll because the government re-introduced multi-party democracy before implementing recommendations by commission chaired by Judge Francis Nyalali mandating the establishment of an Independent Electoral Commission and repealing of 40 laws undermining news media and political freedoms (Nyirabu, 2002).

As a result, four general elections were conducted, in 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. CCM won with landslide victories in both presidential and parliamentary seats. For example, the 2010 elections saw the CCM winning the majority of seats in the parliament as the opposition won only 22 percent or 80 seats out of 357 seats (Coulson, 2013).

The main opposition party CHADEMA accused CCM of manipulating presidential votes (uchakachuaji), and demanded writing of a new constitution which among others, would establish an independent electoral commission before the 2015 elections. Unsurprisingly, it did not happen because although in 2011 President Jakaya Kikwete formed a Constitution Commission chaired by Judge Joseph Warioba which collected views from the citizens countrywide and prepared the Draft Constitution. However, CCM members who constituted more than 80 percent of Constitutional Assembly, refused to endorse the citizens Draft Constitution (Nkya, 2014),

CHADEMA-UKAWA presidential candidate, Edward Lowassa rallies voters
CHADEMA-UKAWA presidential candidate, Edward Lowassa rallies voters

Interestingly, CCM’s refusal to adopt the citizens’ Proposed New Constitution saw four opposition parties- CHADEMA, CUF, NCCR-Mageuzi forming a Union of Citizens Constitution- Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (UKAWA) as a strategy to disrupt the power base of the CCM in elections.

Future possibility of ending poverty

This year’s elections have attracted national and international attention for a number of reasons. Firstly, UKAWA have filled single candidates for Presidential, Parliamentary and Councillorship posts. Secondly, two former Prime Ministers, Fredrick Sumaye and Edward Lowassa, a key CCM founder Kingunge Ngombale Mwiru, former Home Affairs minister Laurence Macha and ambassador Juma Mwapachu are among CCM members who so far have abandoned CCM and are for UKAWA campaign theme change (mabadiliko). Thirdly, arguably, citizens are tired of CCM empty promises.

Therefore, there is cut throat competition between CCM and CHADEMA-UKAWA presidential candidates as well as candidates in junior posts.

CCM presidential candidate, John Magufuli demonstrates fitness for office at recent rally
CCM presidential candidate, John Magufuli demonstrates fitness for office at recent rally
 However, the possibility of eradicating of poverty in Tanzania in the near future depends on the winner of 25 October elections. This is because while CHADEMA under UKAWA manifesto indicates that the coalition will write a new constitution based on the citizens’ proposed constitution, the CCM manifesto contains nothing on the matter.

A new constitution among other developments, will establish an independent electoral commission for conducting free and fair elections. In this way any political party elected in future will work harder to accomplish its promises as well as avoiding corruption and thievery of public funds and resources (ufisadi); practices which undermine efforts to end poverty in Tanzania.

References:

Aman, F. (2015) WB hits govt for poor revenue collection [Medium].Place Published: The Guardian, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from: http://www.ippmedia.com/?l=81941.

Citizen, T. (2015) Escrow saga still matters in donor help, says IMF [Medium].Place Published: The Citizen, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from: http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/Escrow-saga-still-matters-in-donor-help–says-IMF/-/1840392/2585310/-/eli8jb/-/index.html.

Coulson, A. (2013) Tanzania: a political economy. Oxford University Press.

Gordon, D. (2005) Indicators of Poverty & Hunger. In: Expert Group meeting on youth development indicators. pp. 12-14.

Guardian, T. (2015) Human Development Report has invaluable lessons for us [Medium].Place Published: The Guardian, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from: http://www.ippmedia.com/?l=83738.

Magubira, P. (2015) Malnutrition takes toll on TZ: expert [Medium].Place Published: The Citizen newspaper, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from: http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/Malnutrition-takes-toll-on-TZ–expert/-/1840340/2908366/-/xrvxr3/-/index.html.

Makinda, S. M. (1996) Democracy and multi-party politics in Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 34 (04), 555-573.

Mjimba, V. (2011) The nature and determinants of linkages in emerging minerals commodity sectors: a case study of gold mining in Tanzania. In: Unpublished working paper prepared for Making the Most of Commodities workshop.

Moyo, D. (2009) Dead aid: why aid makes things worse and how there is another way for Africa. London: Allen Lane.

Mtulya, A. (2015) How corruption rocked Kikwete’s govt in the past decade [Medium].Place Published: The Citizen, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from: http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/How-corruption-rocked-Kikwete-s-govt-in-the-past-decade/-/1840340/2763268/-/dhlxm9/-/index.html.

Nkya, A. (2014) ‘Proposed Constitution not people-centred, bears no 50-50 representation’ [Medium].Place Published: The Guardian, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from: http://www.ippmedia.com/frontend/?l=73804.

Nyerere, J. (1979) Freedom and development:The Tanzanian experience. In: Coulson, A. (Ed.) African socialism in practice. Spokesman, pp. 27-35.

Nyirabu, M. (2002) The multiparty reform process in Tanzania: The dominance of the ruling party. African Journal of Political Science, 7 (2), 99-112.

Statistics, N. B. o. and Office of Chief Government Statistian , Z. (2013) The 2012 Population and Housing Census:Population distribution by administrative units key findings. Dar es Salaam:

Peace and Conflict Research at Bradford – Annual Report 2014-15

The 2014-2015 edition of the Peace Studies at Bradford annual report is now available. The report features the Africa Regional Conference celebrating 40 years of Peace Studies at the University, which was held in Kampala, Uganda, 2014, and discusses recent activities of JEFCAS among the other prestigious accomplishments of Peace Studies at Bradford.

The full report can found here, hard copies are also available from JEFCAS at the University- for more information please contact: C.davey1@bradford.ac.uk.

A ‘MOZAMBICAN ECONOMIC PARADIGM’? A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE ‘7 MILLION’ INITIATIVE

[Image credit: author's photo; beneficiaries of the fund that were victims of irregularities. The mill was broken at the time and they could not afford repairs.]

Roberta Holanda Maschietto has a PhD in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra. Her research interests include the concept of empowerment and its operationalisation, in particular in peacebuilding contexts, as well as local subjectivities of peace and power.

In 2006 the government of Mozambique introduced for the first time a budget to be allocated to each one of the 128 districts in the country. At the time, the budget had a fixed value of seven million meticais (circa USD300,000), and was called the Local Initiative Investment Budget (Orçamento de Investimento de Iniciativa Local, OIIL), being popularised as the ‘7 Million’. In 2009, the budget was transformed into a fund, the District Development Fund, retaining nevertheless its popular name and core functions.

In a nutshell, the ‘7 Million’ resembles a micro-credit scheme. The fund that enters the district is supposed to be used in the form of credit concession to the poor strata of those economically. Its central objectives are job creation and food production in the districts. The ‘7 Million’ has furthermore a strong empowering appeal: not only does it aim to promote empowerment by investing in local producers who would otherwise not have access to credit, but it also works in connection with the local councils, who have an active role in deciding who will obtain the funding taking into consideration the local needs.

Beneficiaries of the fund: originally, they wanted to invest in wholesale but they changed to redirect the money to the shop they already had.
Beneficiaries of the fund: originally, they wanted to invest in wholesale but they changed to redirect the money to the shop they already had.

The local councils were formalised in 2005 and defined as ‘an organ of consultancy of the local administration authorities’. They should be constituted by prominent people in the communities, such as ‘community authorities, representatives of interests groups of economic, social and cultural nature’ in each territorial rank of the district (1). Whilst having a consultative status, when it comes to the ‘7 Million’ they are the ones entitled to select the projects that will obtain the credit, as they are deemed to know better the needs of the community. Therefore, their inclusion in the process is what guarantees that the process is ‘bottom-up’ and representative of local interests.

In practice, the ‘7 million’ became one of the main political banners of President Guebuza, who referred to it as the ‘Mozambican economic paradigm’ (2). In his speeches, he portrayed the ‘7 million’ as nearly a panacea thanks to which local development has taken place, food production has increased, local communities have been integrated with the national market, jobs have been created, and poverty has been reduced (3). The initiative has even been praised by the African Peer Review Mechanism and portrayed as an example to be followed by other African countries (4). An in depth analysis of the district of Angoche, located in the northern province of Nampula, however, casts doubts about such a successful propaganda.

Focus group with some in the community
Focus group with women in the community

First, the understanding that the local councils are ‘representative of the local communities’ is very problematic. In 2011 there was a big process of reconstitution of the local councils. In Angoche, the process was followed by the district’s technical commission, who was in charge of guaranteeing its transparency and inclusiveness. In practice, many people in the communities admitted not taking part of the selection process — some did not even know about it. Many who did take part, including chosen members of the councils further referred to a ‘pre-selection’ phase where the ‘eligible people’ to the councils — to be voted by the people — were previously selected by a local traditional authority (usually the régulo), contrary to what should have taken place. Furthermore, in some cases, there were reports that members of the opposition ‘refused to take part’ of the selection process. In one case, a member of the technical team admitted they had to re-schedule a new selection process in one of the localities precisely because of the issue of inclusiveness. However, in other cases where reports of bias were reported, nothing was done to correct the process or verify it further.

Besides the problems related to the selection process, many participants in the communities observed that their interaction with the members of the local councils was very weak, or simply did not take place. This was particularly so in the case of women. Some individuals also manifested a feeling of ‘separateness’, as the local councils were portrayed as linked ‘with the structure’, instead of a body that represents the community.

When the ‘7 Million’ was considered, these critical perceptions were often magnified, as many beneficiaries — and people who had attempted unsuccessfully to obtain the fund — reported acts of bribery involving members of the local councils, as well as local authorities. There were also reports of political discrimination, exchange of values and projects inside the council, and, before 2009 — when the fund was disbursed in goods — overpriced products.

Focus group with some in the community
Mixed focus group with the community

Contrary to the positive numbers available in the administration, many of the projects funded by the ‘7 Million’ were found to be ineffective, incomplete, sometimes completely different from the original, and at times also failed. One of the reasons for this was the fact that more often than not beneficiaries obtained a much smaller loan than the one requested. According to members of the local councils, this happened because the fund available is not that big once it is split across the district’s sub-units, and they feel that it is preferable to chose more projects with a small amount (be inclusive) than select few projects with a big amount — even though the latter would be the only way for a project to generate jobs.

Ultimately, the limited success of the ‘7 Million’ is reflected in the very low return rate, which in Angoche, between 2007-2013, stayed at only 4.5%. Yet, the official discourse tends to minimise this issue, noticing that many projects take time (2-3 years) to generate profit. At the same time, the problematic estimates of jobs created are widely publicised, even when there is not long-term and continuous checking if those jobs planned in the project still exist.

It could be argued that Angoche is a very specific case where things did not go so well. Yet, data obtained from the districts of Mogovolas and Moma showed similar problems. Monitoring reports from Center of Democracy and Development Studies (CEDE) regarding other districts also noted the problem of the projects’ sustainability. Finally, one of the rare in depth studies on the matter in the districts of Gorongosa, Monapo and Zavala also cast away any reason for optimism regarding the results of the ‘7 Million’ (5).

The fact that these problems are minimised in the discourse is nothing out of ordinary, as much as politics is concerned. What is worrying is the fact that very little has been done to address these problems. One of the major constraints, in this regard, is the lack of resources to invest in regular monitoring visits and capacity building of all actors engaged in the implementation of the ‘7 Million’. Also, so far there is no proper mechanism for complaint, redress and accountability, which indirectly stimulates the situation to continue as it is. Ultimately, part of the propaganda of the ‘7 Million’ is related to the agenda of decentralisation in Mozambique — giving power to the districts and empowering the local councils. Yet, if these problems are not addressed, they may simply contribute to enhance and further legitimate centralising tendencies at the local level, while disguising them as part of the decentralisation process.

References:

1. Republic of Mozambique. Council of Ministers (2005) Decree No. 11/2005, Regulação da Lei dos Órgãos Locais de Estado (RELOLE). Boletim da República, I Série, No. 23, 2nd Supplemento. Maputo, 10 June.

2. AIM (26 Sep. 2013) Universidade de Columbia: PR Guebuza profere palestra sobre o desenvolvimento rural de Moçambique. [Online] Available at: http://www.minec.gov.mz/index.php?option=com_contentandtask=viewandid=700andItemid=140 (Accessed: 2 June 2014).

3. Guebuza, A. E. (2009) O Combate contra a Pobreza: Concentrando nossas Ações no Distrito. State of the Nation. Maputo, 22 June; Guebuza, A. E. (2009) Os Sete Milhões – Seu Papel na Promoção da Boa Governação e do Desenvolvimento Endógeno. Guebuza’s blog. Available at: http://armandoguebuza.blogspot.pt/2009/10/os-sete-milhoes-seu-papel-na-promoc.html (Accessed: 15 May 2014).

4. AIM (30 Jan. 2014) MARP considera fundo dos “sete milhões” um exemplo para África. [Online] Available at: http://www.portaldogoverno.gov.mz/noticias/news_folder_politica/janeiro-de-2014/marp-considera-fundo-dos-201csete-milhoes201d-um-exemplo-para-africa (Accessed: 23 June 2014).

5. Orre, A. & Forquilha, S.C. 2012. ‘Uma iniciativa condenada ao fracasso. o fundo distrital dos 7 milhões e suas consequências para a governação em Moçambique’, in B. Weimer, org. Moçambique: descentralizar o centralismo. economia política, recursos e resultados. Maputo: IESE, 168-196.

Reflections on Peace Education – Conceptual and Operational Dilemmas

[Image: Professor David Francis delivering a keynote address, Zimbabwe]

On 2-3 July 2015 representatives from JEFCAS participated at a University of Bradford facilitated Curriculum Development and Staff Training on Peace & Security Education in Zimbabwe.

photo 2Since its inception in 2004, peace education in Zimbabwe still has its fair share of multidimensional and multi-layered challenges to address in the conflict-prone context. The myriad challenges range from: strange bedfellows of politicians and peace academics – though they are expected to be mutually reinforcing and interlacing; the backwater communal narrative of marginalization and attendant challenges of rising poverty, hunger, dysfunctional hospitals and schools, increasingly polarized ethnic groups; a monumental economic comatose characterized by heightened company closures and job loses; both investor and capital flight further compounded by lack of balance of payment support from bilateral and multilateral financial institutions and a frosty relationship with a Commonwealth family to bloodletting factional politics – characterized by purging and decapitation of dissenting  voices.

Munyaradzi Nyakudya, Prof. Pamela machakanja, Prof. David Francis, Prof. Jeffrey Kurebwa, Dr Arthur Bainomugisha. Prof. Kurehwa, Mr John katsinde
Munyaradzi Nyakudya, Prof. Pamela machakanja, Prof. David Francis, Prof. Jeffrey Kurebwa, Dr Arthur Bainomugisha. Prof. Kurehwa, Mr John katsinde

It is in light of these challenges that peace education was introduced as antidote, premised on two assumptions. First, that peace is the purveyor of security and development in a conflict-prone, stressed, fragile, failed state, and second, that a robust peace education curriculum can be instrumental in stopping hostilities that normally undermine the productive use of resources in Zimbabwe. Despite such projections, peace education has suffered conceptual and operations deficiencies. Operational deficits include institutional, structural and ideological. Institutionally, there is dearth of qualified lecturers, possibly the reason why peace education is undervalued in Zimbabwe. Relatedly, because of lack of proper qualifications, peace academics don’t have a voice. As such, offering a robust curriculum in a conflict-prone environment is viable if the peace educators have a significant voice. The 2-3 July 2015 Curriculum Development and Staff Training on Peace & Security Education in Zimbabwe was mooted, among other objectives, to design a tapestry of curricula that address the complex conflicts and build pedagogic capacities of peace educators from fourteen universities. The workshop ran under the theme “Mapping an Agenda for Peace and Security Education for Sustainable Development”. Lead facilitators included: Professor David. J. Francis (Head of Peace Studies, JEFCAS Director, Commonwealth Scholarship Commissioner at the University of Bradford), Professor Pamela Machakanja (Director of the Institute for  Peace, Leadership and Governance, Africa University) and Dr. Author Bainomugisha (Executive Director of ACODE and Lecturer of Peace and Conflict Studies, Makerere University).

The training was part of the second phase of a collaborative project on curriculum development between peace academics in Zimbabwe and University of Bradford. While the first phase primarily focused on producing peace education guide, ways of mainstreaming peace in the existing curriculum and teaching and learning strategies, the sequential second workshop (carried after 10 years) focused on explicit processes of designing curriculum. Most significantly, the workshop sought to re-conceptualize the peace curriculum by involving wider community members, inclusive of the security sector actors (army and police), line ministry (Ministry of Education Sport and Culture), NGOs and students. Each university represented was given an opportunity to share curriculum experiences, milestones and militating factors. What emerged was a crying chorus demanding a totally new peace approach commensurate with increasingly dynamic internal conflicts. In his key note address, running under the title: Education for Peace Education in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities, and as a lead facilitator, David Francis identified militating factors confronting the viability of education for peace in the 21st century Africa. Among others, the most prominent being:

  • Imposition of a liberal peacebuilding agenda in Africa
  • Failure to indigenize peacebuilding in Africa
  • Disjoint between education for peace interventions and the ‘Peace Writ Large’ framework in transition societies
  • Failure of discipline of peace education / peace and conflict research to re-invent itself
  • ‘Militarization’ of peace education curriculum and opposition from higher education because of entrenched interests
20150702_095139
Professor David Francis

Despite this ugly picture, Francis also opined that there are some notable prospects that may increase the visibility of peace education in Africa, among being:

  • The revival of international interest in African universities after decades of neglect
  • Positive trend and context of reform at Africa universities which is now characterized by: ‘privatization’ of public universities, proliferation of private universities, decrease in wars and armed conflicts, increase in political governance, prospects for economic growth and development and demands for new course provisions
  • Demand for peace in transition societies in Africa which has culminated in opportunity to mainstream and institutionalize education for peace, peace and conflict research curriculum to service the peace industry

He also emphasized that education is a catalytic force to a create culture of peace. As such he recommended that the transformative role of education requires different forms of education provision which include formal, informal, non-formal, multiple levels of education, universities/tertiary sector, school systems: primary and secondary, civil society, local community, household, and grassroots levels. He also called on all present to speak the language of peace in their own vernacular language not the colonial language. Francis ended on a high note when he called on the academics present to abort the colonial education curriculum that is often taken up in most African countries and look at new narratives to understand peace in the local context.

The second facilitator, Prof. Pamela Machakanja (Africa University), in her key note address running under the theme: Education for Peace Education in Zimbabwe: Challenges and Prospects, and weighed in on Francis’ thoughts reinforcing that:

  • There is need to move out of the minimalist approach to peace education by incorporating many actors – embracing government, the NGOs, local private sector as well as international actors. Inclusive approach would ensure a cross cutting peace education curriculum.
  • Peace education curriculum should address a myriad insecurities, inclusive of food, unemployment, vendor economy, climate change, diseases, natural resources, water, political, knowledge and technological insecurities.

She recommended the need to generate our own African knowledge system to peace education. The presenter further challenged the academics to desist from being just consumers of western oriented ideologies but rather they should also generate knowledge. She said there is great need to publish a lot and invent indigenous knowledge systems. She also recommended that there is need to develop our own publication citation which is African centered. The presenter also emphasized that the need to strengthen public policy agenda and develop policies that incorporate different policy communities such as the business, the private and the public sector.  This collective interaction, she said, can sustain and promote peace education in Zimbabwe.

Dr Arthur Bainomugisha (ACODE and Makerere University- Uganda) in his key note speech: Introducing Peace and Conflict Studies in Higher Institutions of Learning: Uganda’s Experience, could not fall short of emphasizing on emerging issues raised by the first two key note speakers. He highlighted that the concept of conflict- is the intrinsic and inevitable aspect of social change. It is an expression of the heterogeneity of interests, values and beliefs that arise as new formations generated by social change come up against inherited constraints. The presenter also gave an overview of Uganda’s political history and conflicts. Arthur outlined typologies of major armed conflicts in Uganda which include Teso Rebellion (1986-91), LRA Rebellion 1986 to date, Cattle rustling in Karamoja sub-region, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebellion, West Nile Bank Front, National Rescue Front, Peoples Redemption Army (PRA) and new armed groups recently formed. He further mentioned how devastating these conflicts have been to the economic and social capital of Ugandans. Arthur highlighted that the introduction of Peace studies at Makerere University and indeed to some of the universities in Uganda in 2003 was a response to conflict prevention and peacebuilding demands. He pointed out that the idea of peace education was born in the Department of Religious Studies, Makerere University yet lacked pedagogic capacity to pursue this path.

In order to respond to the dearth of expertise, a collaborative partnership was entered into between University of Bradford, ACODE, Mbarara University of Science and Technology. This became to be known as MACOMBA Link Partnership. The peace education activities were being supported by DFID through British Council. MACOMBA Link was subsequently expanded to bring more universities on board which wanted to teach peace studies. These include: Gulu University; Nkozi Catholic University; Mbale Islamic University and Kampala University.

David Makwere
David Makwere

The presenter further outlined the challenges for teaching peace and conflicts in Institutions of Higher Learning in Uganda. As in the case of Zimbabwe, they include lack of subject experts to deliver quality education, lack of text books and other teaching materials, poor financing of institutions of higher learning by government, negative attitude towards peace studies by government, changing interests of donors, and peace project as a threat to the war economy agenda and competition among various faculties. The presentation also identified opportunities for teaching peace and conflicts in institutions of higher learning in Uganda. These include (among others) the:

  • International support for the infrastructure for peace in Africa – support from Bradford as a prime example.
  • Growing demand for peace education beyond university walls, to include private and security sector actors

The presenter concluded by saying peace education is the most important infrastructure for peace in Africa and time has come for the sons and daughters of Africa to stand up and change the ‘negative image of hopeless Africa to Africa is rising’ through peace education at all levels.

As a reflection on what has been shared by leading academics in peace education and the existential realities as they are obtaining in Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, one cannot avoid to ask: How can peace education and those who champion it allay the conceptual and operational challenges and the negative perceptions simmering from authoritarian regimes? There are divergent views about peace education and its efficacious role in addressing threats that undermine security and development in conflict-prone countries from global South. Peace is utopian, some say. What and whose peace, others question! The Patriot Newspaper writes of peace education in universities: ‘we observed that our universities have been infiltrated by Western ‘soft power’ peddlers with neocolonial agenda to re-establish control over Africa’ rich natural resources through a new ad more sophisticated form of colonialism that seeks to promote white interests by controlling the mind-set of the African elite’ (Godobori 2015: 1) and the role of University of Bradford as ‘appears to be the premier British academic institution charged with the responsibility to transform African students into champions of self-hate and Afrophobia for the benefit of the whiteman’ (Godobori 2015).20150702_103946

Two conclusions can be drawn from the criticism above: one being that the philosophical underpinnings of peace is not clear to the generality of the population – therefore runs the risk of being misconstrued as a regime change agenda, and the other- though related to the first point, being of unclear ideological relationship between politicians, academia and economists, as peace education effervescently cuts across such everyday life domains in conflict settings. The intellectual nuances of peace education have not been made clear by pioneers of peace education. For instance, the early peace educator Betty Reardon (2000), defined peace education  as ‘the transmission of knowledge about the requirements of, the obstacles to and possibilities for achieving and maintaining peace, training in skills for interpreting the knowledge, and the development of reflective and participatory capacities for applying the knowledge to overcoming problems and achieving possibilities’. Where is the confusion then? This author, and many that share her thinking, seem to downplay the tension that exist between peace education – which is content related, and education for peace – which is holistic in transforming individuals and societies as it focuses on processes and practices. This tension manifests in many of the peace education curricula in Zimbabwe that seem to lack coherence as evidenced by numerous courses with conflicting titles – conflict management, conflict resolution, conflict transformation, peace leadership and governance, non-violence and human rights education.

20150702_095615

Possibly more conversations are needed on what peace entails, before it loses relevance in a changing context. Despite introducing universities wide peace education in Zimbabwe, and often supported by community outreach programmes, Zimbabwe is becoming less peaceful. However, a critical lesson learnt from the workshop was that threats, conceptual and operational challenges the local academics are still motivated to significantly contribute to the development of peace education in Zimbabwe.

References:

Betty A. Reardon (2004) Peace Education: A Review and Projection, New York. Routledge

Godobori Godobori (2015) Africa University’s Peace and Governance Programme — is it innocent as it looks? The Patriot Newspaper, published July 9, 2015. Accessed 9 July 2015

The Rise of African Islamists

[Image credit: European Commission_Boko Haram Displaced in Yola_June 2015]

Zaf Shah is currently in his final year of International Relations and Security Studies at the University of Bradford. He has previously advised local government on the PVE (preventing violent extremism) agenda, and has also provided training to the West Yorkshire Police on community Cohesion and Racial Awareness. His appointment as a Muslim affairs specialist allowed development and better understanding of Muslim affairs from a local community perspective. Zaf has also worked in Pakistan at a local Madrassah which gave him a valuable insight into the world of violent extremism

Over the last fifty years or so Africa’s wars have been well documented, but ironically these weren’t always wars where violent religious groups were vying for control of the region or its resources. Throughout the last fifteen years, conflict theorists and academics alike have focussed their efforts on the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.  Indeed, the tide has turned and there is now a different kind of threat.

Whilst the United States and its allies had concentrated its military might in the Middle East fighting a supposed ‘war on terror’, Islamist groups such as Al Shabbab, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb regrouped and took advantage of the chaotic conflict patterns in Africa. Warfare is returning to Africa through intra state religious conflicts, pitting the aforementioned violent Islamists against state powers in geographical regions of West and Central Africa in particular, along with of course the Horn and Somalia. It serves to briefly mention the difference between Islam and religionised politics of Islamism, which strives to employ religious symbols for political aims. Islamism originates from by and large a political interpretation of Islam. Therefore it is fair to say that Islamism is about political order and not faith.

Indeed, Western Analysts are now beginning to view this as a new frontier on the so-called ‘war on terror’. What couldn’t be ignored was the appearance of several African fighters in the ranks of combatants in Iraq and the success of Islamist forces firstly, gaining overall control of Somalia and secondly, engaging in a proxy war against the US and her allies. Affected African states no longer have a monopoly on power, and arguably are struggling to control the threat of terror groups from operating with relative impunity, with very few prosecutions or at least the legal framework to do the same. This of course means that state structures are weak and lack meaningful leadership to challenge this new threat.

A case in point being Nigeria, who has yet to dismantle North

Illegal migrants caught at the coast of Souq al Jum'aa region in Tripoli, Libya, March 2015. Total of 97 migrants from Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and Liberia [Image credit: Mail & Guaridan, from Mustafa Bag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
“Illegal” migrants caught at the coast of Souq al Jum’aa region in Tripoli, Libya, March 2015. Total of 97 migrants from Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and Liberia [Image credit: Mail & Guaridan, from Mustafa Bag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
Eastern Nigeria, based Boko Haram, who have been responsible for the killing of thousands of civilians and kidnappings since its inception fourteen years ago. Boko Haram and a dozen or so other terrorist groups have pledged their allegiance to Isil (Daesh) who have taken over swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. With little or no control of terrorist groups and their ability to coordinate and attack civilians, means like the  2013 shopping mall attack in Kenya that African based Islamist terror can strike in any part of Africa at any given moment.  Bangui, the Central African Republic city has probably seen the most brutal effect of sectarian conflict playing out on the streets of this once harmonious region, where Muslims and Christians lived side by side. A report released by the International Rescue Committee said that more than 6,000 people have been killed since the conflict began and more than 2.7 million people are in need of emergency assistance (WNG2015). The locals blame the hatred for one another on Islamist terror groups operating in the region.

With conflicts between Muslims and Christians playing out in a number of African countries, it is no wonder that much of Europe is now faced with a migrant crisis on its borders.

References:

World News Group (2015) Daily Dispatches. Central African Republic still rife with conflict a year after ceasefire [Online] Asheville. Available from: http://www.worldmag.com/2015/08/ [Accessed August 10 2015]

Essay Series on the Congo: AMANI ITAKUYA II

[Image credit: Richard Mosse/Institute, Congo in Infrared]

Even outside of the West, discourses on “the Congo” are pervasive and chronologically reaching. From colonial to post-colonial independence and contemporary Congo, trouble has seemed to be constant. Or in the words of the historian Gerard Prunier ‘conflicts (…) roll down into the Congo basin like so many overripe toxic fruits.’ Such discourses , helpful or not, often entreat us to accept the dyads of hope/despair, violence/peace (think the Enough Project).  In Franz fanon’s Wretched of the Earth we are again confronted with this centrality of crisis, ‘If Africa is shaped like a gun, and Congo is the trigger. If that explosive trigger bursts, its the whole Africa that will explode.’ Congo has both exploded and slowly withered, yet it remains. Its people persevere perhaps out of a finely tuned survival instinct, or maybe even purposefully to offer something new to another generation.

Amani Itakuya is an essay series that attempts to capture these problems and critically  express these discourses. Authors are drawn from a variety of local/international and vocational backgrounds. The Swahili title, meaning “peace will come”, does betray an earnest hope for the future, but this collection promotes engagement over pure advocacy.

The current (second) series is being posted daily, and is, as of this writing, half way through the 25 essays. Read, consider and reflect!

READ Amani Itakuya II HERE!

This series is brought to you by the authors, but also through the dedicated hard work of the editors Christoph Vogel and Sekombi Katondolo.

 

Further Reading:

Amani Itakuya I

Richard Mosse- Infrared photos of Congo