Archive for category Politics

The Haitian Revolution

L'Ouverture

 

It was in the Americas, however, that the freedom struggle first reached dramatic international proportions. Throughout the Americas small groups of blacks had gained their freedom, a few had never been slaves, but they all developed their own way of life and although powerless to influence general public policy, followed with interest world developments affecting black people. As a group, both they and the black slaves were profoundly influenced by the events on the island of San Domingo (Haiti).

Just two years after the United States of America had adopted the constitution that gave moral and legal sanction to slavery, a revolution erupted in France with the slogan: Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! It shook the structure of the French settlement on San Domingo, a prosperous sugar colony where 500 000 slaves and 24 000 free persons of colour lived under the domination of some 32 000 French settlers known for their opulence and cruel treatment of their slaves. The free African population, which included several slave-owners, took the revolutionary French slogan seriously and demanded full equality with the whites. Then, in 1791, the great black masses moved under the leadership of an illiterate fieldhand, Boukman, who bound his followers with voodoo ritual and African-style secret oaths to rise against their masters. The revolutionary government in Paris dispatched an army to restore order. It was at this stage, that one of the most remarkable figures in history appeared on the scene – a literate, Christian, slave-coachman, diaspora-born with an African father – Toussaint who took the name L’Ouverture (The Opener).

Toussaint called for guerrilla action to support his small army and, within five years, had defeated Napoleon’s invading army – with assistance from yellow fever. He restored order and prosperity to Haiti and was proclaimed throughout the world for his military ability, administrative skills, humanity and statesmanship. His reputation spread rapidly, reaching blacks in the United States through black sailors who played an important role in disseminating information throughout the black world.

The success of the African liberation movement in Haiti created terror among whites in the United States who feared that American Africans might also seek their freedom through violence. More stringent legislation was passed, police security was tightened and steps were taken to restrict the movement of blacks in the country and prevent black immigration, especially from Haiti. On the other hand, Africans in the United States were inspired by the achievement of their brothers in Haiti. Haiti and Toussaint L’Ouverture thus became symbols inspiring blacks in other parts of the Americas and the Carribean to seek their freedom with the possibility that independence could be theirs.

J. E . Harris (USA): specialist in African diaspora; author of various publications and articles on the subject; currently Professor at Howard University, Washington D C .

Source: General History of Africa Vol.V. [Editor: B.A.Ogot] Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Chapter 5. The African diaspora in the Old and the New Worlds.

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The miasma of domination

Have you ever wondered… what it’s all for? Why bother waking up everyday just to repeat the same old grind, the same old depressing life, day in, day out? You are not alone….

The World Health Organisation estimates 350 million people of all ages, globally, suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause – the leading cause – of ill health worldwide. More women are affected by depression than men and at its worst depression can lead to suicide.

There are glaring social inequalities explaining why so many people are so unhappy with their lives here on the planet. It is not just by coincidence or chance. We know from our day to day living that when we are unhappy, it is not by chance or accident. There are always reasons, whether these are recent, or have existed for a long time, as far as can we remember. It is just that the reason or reasons for our unhappiness may be circumstances or social situations that are beyond our control. Unless, we are responsible for our own depression by something we said, or did, or even thought! Yes, depression can be temporary, or can last over long periods of time – even years.

But let’s first take a look at our social condition as the human race, and what would contribute to so much misery! I posted an earlier article about the structure of domination in human society. This follow up post looks at how systems of domination create social dysfunction through exclusion of marginalised groups. Social exclusion is the process by which certain groups are systematically disadvantaged because they are discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, caste, descent, gender, age, disability, HIV status, migrant status and along the lines of any other demographic out there. Discrimination occurring in the wider society and its’ institutions both stems from and occurs among families at the level of the household.

Unequal power relations in social interactions between individuals and groups all lead to deficiencies in social participation, social protection, social integration and power for those at the lower end of the power spectrum. These exclusionary processes are seen across the four dimensions:

  • Political exclusion, which includes the denial of citizenship rights such as political participation and the right to organise, and also of personal security, the rule of law, freedom of expression and equality of opportunity.
  • Economic exclusion, which includes lack of access to labour markets, credit and other forms of capital assets.
  • Social exclusion, which takes the form of discrimination along the lines of; gender, ethnicity, age, etcetera, which reduces the opportunity for such groups to gain access to social services and limits their participation in the labour market.
  • Cultural exclusion, which refers to the extent to which diverse values, norms and ways of living are accepted and respected.

The Impact:

Globally, 836 million people still live in extreme poverty (measured as living on less than $1.25 a day). There are about one in five persons who are affected in developing regions, the overwhelming majority of whom are found in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This then translates into poorer levels of health and education, particularly when poverty is combined with remoteness and lack of infrastructure and social services.

The psychological aspects of marginalisation described by Eyben and colleagues (2008):

‘The injury done to people who experience discrimination on the basis of labels they are given by society and entrenched ideas about their inferiority or societal taboos around sex, death and dirt goes well beyond that of economic deprivation and lack of political voice. When people are treated as lesser because of the colour of their skin, their sex, what they do for a living, and where they live, they can come to internalise a sense of lack of worth that profoundly affects their sense of what they can do and what they are due by society’ 

What Next?

Advocating or agitating for social change can be undertaken by excluded groups forming and/or participating in organisations that represent their group interests. And where possible, potential partnerships should be built between the state and civil society to drive transformative agendas.

At individual level, we need to be constantly reminded of and affirm our worth as human beings; who are just as deserving. When our minds, bodies and spirits are constantly beset by adversity; we must seek deep within our spiritual core for groundedness. And by spiritual; I don’t mean religious, as institutional religions are as much to blame as regressive cultures and educational systems in perpetuating systems of domination. It is to remember that there is so much more to us as individuals than just marginalised bodies living in human society. We are essentially spiritual beings having a human experience. And it is in this spiritual centeredness that we must seek refuge.

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Breaking free from mammon

We have been socialised to centre money or mammon, which is wealth and riches posing as a false deity in our lives. We are constantly reminded of its prime importance and central location in our existences and it is difficult if not impossible to escape the constant propaganda grind. What with the relentless advertising industry, material culture pouring endlessly through the many media streams from television, radio, internet and print literature.

Material culture reminds constantly that you are incomplete without more, more and more. Money, cell phones and other ever changing computer gadgetry, apparel, automobiles, property, you name it… And that having these things is wont to make us more popular, desirable, beautiful and yes, successful. Success is emphasised as having things and not so much developing or nurturing oneself and others – physically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and socially. In fact, nurturing, caring and performing service are seen as the lot of those with lower social status; markedly females, peoples of African descent, and other persons from developing contexts, etcetera.

It is easier to control insecure and uninformed or misinformed persons. The plutocracy would have it no other way. For reasons. Plutocrats, or the wealthy, privileged, classed individuals; seen globally as cisgender white males are just as sucked into the skewed logic of mammon worship; even if they benefit the most because of their placements higher up the social pyramid.

To break away from this; one must start with the entry point for this misguided propaganda. Our minds. As prominent South African anti-apartheid activist, Steve Biko, once remarked, ‘the most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.’ We start with re-educating our minds to challenge misinformation and systems intended to control, confuse, and misdirect. Start with the questions most pertinent to you right now and move on from there in searching for authors, speakers and groups most aligned with those areas where you seek knowledge.

Of course we have to use money in the current financial economic context. Nonetheless, one must not buy into centering this instrument as the definition of all value in our lives and society. A number of thinkers have suggested ways of eliminating the social inequalities associated with the current financial system by converting to a resource-based, currency-free system.

That said; even the world’s wealthiest are not immune to the perennial financial insecurity and anxiety assailing the struggling classes.

”…judging from a survey of people with an average net worth of $78m found that they too were assailed by anxiety, dissatisfaction and loneliness. Many of them reported feeling financially insecure: to reach safe ground, they believed, they would need, on average, about 25% more money. (And if they got it? They’d doubtless need another 25%). One respondent said he wouldn’t get there until he had $1bn in the bank.” George Monbiot

Doubtless still, even on reaching ‘there’; having accumulated wealth that one may judge to be ‘enough’; the sleepless anxiety about the danger of losing it all… And so on and so forth. It is an endless cycle, that one can’t win. No wonder the world’s oligarchs are possessed by excessive greed for excessive wealth. The fear that another may surpass them, that they may be left ‘behind’ or worse, lose it all and join the struggling classes.

Do not start a journey with no end in sight. We have all been en-cultured onto this path. Educate yourself to get off the grind now.

 

 

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Is Africa really overpopulated?

Do we have an overpopulation problem in Africa? There is a long-standing and persistent perception that Africa is overpopulated. And that we breed too much. We have high fertility rates compared to other regions around the globe [for Sub-Saharan Africa upto 5.04 babies per woman] but we are not densely populated for the most part.

The terminology: Population density is mid-year population divided by land area in square kilometers. A high population density, is relative, to other nations, or geographical regions.

Table 1: The Data on global Population Density:

  Country/Territory Population Density

(people per land area)

1 Macao SAR, China 19073
2 Monaco 18811
3 Singapore 7736
4 Hong Kong SAR, China 6896
5 Bahrain 1768
6 Maldives 1336
7 Malta 1335
8 Bermuda 1303
9 Bangladesh 1222
10 Sint Maarten (Dutch part) 1107
11 Channel Islands 857
12 West Bank and Gaza 713
13 Barbados 659
14 Mauritius 621
15 St. Martin (French part) 579
16 Aruba 574
17 San Marino 526
18 Korea, Rep. 517
19 Netherlands 500
20 Rwanda 459
Source: World Bank Data (2014)

As you can see in table 1 above; of the 20 most densely populated countries and territories in the world, Rwanda is the only African country that features and even then at number 20! Our high fertility rates are not necessarily associated with population density. The main reasons being high mortality and morbidity in the African region. The burden of ill health in Africa is at least two times higher than that of any other region in the world. As a result, the high fertility aims to compensate or balance out the high mortality rates.

By comparison, the birth rates of Europeans dropped dramatically (with differences influenced by region and class) between the 1780s and 1950s. Early and classical population theory at these times depicted Europeans as ‘rational’ in disciplining their bodies through strict control of fertility. Those European regions who had relatively larger families such as in Sicily, Southern Italy were depicted as animalistic, backward, poor and unable to control their sexual impulses. This is not much different from how black Africans are regarded today by Westerners with reference to our fecundity.

Fast forward to today: all over Europe, declining demographic trends attract negative media attention. The total fertility rate for the European Union is 1.58 children per woman. (World Bank, 2013). The ‘replacement rate’ required to keep population numbers from declining is at least 2.1 children per woman. More than this and the population should grow. Even in racially diverse North America; the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest projection shows that by 2042, so-called racial minority groups will make up the majority of the U.S. population. The Pew Research Center projects from 1960 to 2060, white Americans will have gone from making up 85 percent of the population to comprising just 43 percent.

Some European members states have instituted family-oriented policies to try and stem the trend. In countries like Italy, Poland, France and Sweden policies practiced feature financial transfers and tax breaks for parents with children, extended child-related leave and provision of child care. These also include a variety of measures that support gender equality, reconciliation of work and family life or finding affordable housing. Some politicians such as President Putin of Russia in 2006 offered 10,000$ for mothers who would have a second child. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (2003) offered women a baby bonus of 1,000 euros ($1,250) to European or Italian citizens who gave birth to or adopted a second child.

Patrick Buchanan, in his book, ‘Death of the West’ (2002) incites caution: ‘The death of the West is not a prediction of what is going to happen, it is a depiction of what is happening now . . . . Outside of Muslim Albania, no European nation is producing enough babies to replace its population.’… ‘The First World has to turn this around, and soon, or it will be overwhelmed by a Third World that is five times as populous and will be ten times as populous in 2050.’ 

Therefore, population theory is far more than a theory or a principle. It is a deliberate political strategy that masks structural power differences and justifies domination between different groups in societies;.  The ‘too many’ are hardly ever the speakers, they are always ‘the Other’.

As long as access to and control of resources (land, food, water, shelter, etcetera) is determined by unequal power relationships, either local, national or global; the earth will always appear ‘over-populated’. Because no matter how much food is produced, how few babies are born or how dramatically human numbers fall, it is the nature of the modern market economy to remorselessly generate ‘scarcity’. So as to sell commodities and products at ever increasing prices in a bid to generate ever-increasing profits indefinitely.

Mis-directing explanations for socially-generated scarcity and ecological degradation onto political theories of ‘overpopulation’ or ‘underproduction’ has long provided cover for the socially privileged and powerful in a way that does not indict them and further legitimizes their various ideologies of social exclusion.

 

 

 

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African Women Warriors

We have numerous accounts of home-grown Pan Africanist icons; mostly around agitation for national independence and resistance against colonialist powers. However, attention is mostly paid to male protagonists, and less to traditional African female leaders of resistance movements.

This blog series features ancient African women warriors and champions against Western imperialism.

We honor: Obaa Yaa Asantewaa – the Queen mother of Ejisu in Asanteman who led her people into battle against the British colonialists who had stolen the symbol of royal power, the Asantehene (the Golden Stool). In her famous words, ”If you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon you my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight until the last of us falls on the battlefield.”

Queen Nzinga a Mbande of the Ndongo and the Matamba waged a thirty year war against marauding Portuguese slavers invading her people. At the time of Nzinga’s death in 1661 at the age of 81, Matamba had become a powerful kingdom that managed to resist Portuguese colonization attempts for an extended period of time. Her kingdom was only integrated into Angola in the late 19th century.

Muhumusa and Kaigirwa were revered Nyabingi priestesses with both spiritual and political influence in the region that is present day Rwanda and Uganda border (1850 to 1950). Nyabingi Muhumusa proclaimed “she would drive out the Europeans” and “that the bullets of the Wazungu would turn to water against her.” The British passed the 1912 Witchcraft Act in direct response to the political effectiveness of this spiritually-based resistance movement.

Amanirenas ruled over the Meroitic Kingdom of Kush in northeast Africa between c. 40 B.C.-10 B.C.  She is one of the most famous kandakes (queen mothers) because of her role in leading Kushite armies against the Romans in a war that lasted five years, from 27 BCE to 22 BCE. When Roman emperor Augustus levied a tax on the Kushites in 24 B.C., Amanirenas and her son, Akinidad,  led an army of 30,000 men to sack the Roman fort in the Egyptian city of Aswan. They also destroyed the statues of Caesar in Elephantine.

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Museveni wins. Again.

This should come as no surprise. Yes, I am aware Yoweri Museveni has been in power in Uganda for 30 years. Now set to make 35 years at the completion of this term. This however does not pre-empt any discussion on the issue.

But Uganda’s opposition is still surprised. The leading pro-opposition media, The Daily Monitor, diligently conducts pre-election surveys for the past national elections including the current one, to find how opposition presidential candidates, chiefly, Besigye, would fare against the incumbent, Museveni. In the beginning, the media house would not publish undesirable findings that it had commissioned. But some internal critics insisted that conducting research and getting results you do not like should not prohibit you from disseminating them. It’s difficult, I suppose. With every new impending election, they have published poll predictions, none of which, have ever shown Besigye, the leading opposition candidate to be in the lead.

For this current election period, at least 3 pre-election surveys were conducted. A Daily Monitor commissioned poll gave 59.9 per cent of the vote to President Museveni if elections had been held between December 5 and December 8, 2015. The same poll gave Dr Besigye 21 per cent. Another survey, also funded by this newspaper, researched by internationally recognised pollsters Ipsos figured Museveni at 57% in the lead. Succeeding surveys closer to the election showed Museveni at 53% lead, and another at 51%. They were not way off the mark, he won at 60.75%.

However, following every election conclusion, the opposition passionately argues that Besigye ‘actually won’ because he is so popular. There is no hard evidence for this. Neither pre-poll scientific research (even that commissioned by opposition media) nor actual election results. They simply believe it to be so.  It is highly suggestive that Kiiza Besigye who received 28% votes in 2001, 37% in 2006, 26% in 2011, and 35.37% this 2016, really could not be any more popular than what the results suggest. [Again, from both objective predictions and actual results].

Also, interestingly, the opposition rejects those results where they do not win, but accept those results, for Parliamentary seats/polling stations/regions, etc, where they maintain support and win. It’s hypocritical. Either you reject all the results, including your wins resulting from a supposedly flawed process conducted by the Electoral Commission, accused of being fraudulent by the chief opposition party, or you accept all, wins and losses together.

This is not to say that the electoral process is not beset by irregularities. It is. But the overwhelming evidence regarding popular support for presidential candidates is consistent and objective.

Then again, there should be reasons for Museveni’s popularity judging by hard evidence and not pure belief. Over the past 25 years, Uganda has had the 11th fastest growing economy in the world, the fourth in Africa. Our country’s export earnings have increased 27 times with diversification of the economy. Coffee, one of our leading exports, initially accounted for 94% of our export earnings but has now gone down to 7.4%. Thus Uganda under Museveni has successfully diversified its exports and cushioned herself against risks of single commodity price volatility. The Uganda Demographic and Household Survey for 2012 shows that the number of people living in poverty has fallen from 56% in 1992 to 19% in 2010. And a lot more insightful assessments comparing Uganda’s excellent growth performance with similar African countries described in Andrew Mwenda’s article here.

 

 

 

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Money, Currency and Life

Yes, they’re different

Currency refers to a medium of exchange meant to ‘store value’ usually in the form of paper or coins. This legal tender represents or is backed by actual goods and services. Credit, on the other hand, refers to ‘virtual’ currency or ‘debt’ created by banking institutions, which is responsible for inflation and therefore unsustainable.

Money [as both currency and credit] has come to be valued as life itself and not just a means to [physically] sustain life. A quote by Mama from Lorraine Hansberry’s play, ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ further illustrates this;

”Oh—So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change . . .”

A brief chronology of money:

The monetary system was developed as way of placing a value on sought-after goods and services (human labour). Initially, a barter system existed between societies by trading or exchanging goods and services directly. However, some limitations were encountered with the direct exchange system such as; difficulty in storing wealth, no common measure of value, indivisibility of certain goods, etcetera, which led to the emergence of the current money economy.

While this financial system has been useful, it has become increasingly clear that there are several downsides to it. The system has enormously contributed to crime, corruption and poverty with a social stratification marked by economic disparity between individuals, various social groups and communities. This has resulted in individuals, corporations or countries who have higher purchasing power unduly influencing public policy and global governance to the detriment of more economically and socially marginalized people and communities.

Money is neutral and is not necessarily the evil here. The great evil being structures of social domination along various demographic lines such as race, gender, class, geographical location and so on. The inevitable interaction between the financial economic system and underlying structures of domination has led to the dysfunction and inequity being experienced under the socio-economic environment.

On the whole, money simply stands between what one needs and what one is able to get. Essentially, it is not so much money we need, as the access to resources that we require to live healthy, holistic and fulfilled lives as whole human beings.

What is a healthy and holistic life?

The World Health Organisation defines health as; a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’  And I would like to add spiritual well-being, for those human communities who believe we are also souls and not just physical bodies.

For everyone to experience an equitable state of well-being, be it physical, mental or social, an equal playing field needs to be set right from the start of one’s life. We need to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. This should result in equitable rights, representation and resource sharing that is fair for everyone. It is imperative that the representation and voice of developing nations in international decision-making is enhanced regarding economic and financial institutions for global equity across countries and regions.

What alternatives for an equitable society?

”We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
~ Albert Einstein

A number of researchers have outlined alternative interventions towards a more peaceful and sustainable global civilization. Jacque Fresco, the visionary for the Venus Project which advocates for a currency free, cooperative, socio-economic model states,

”…All nations and people, regardless of political philosophy, religious beliefs, or social customs, depend upon natural resources; we all need clean air and water, arable land for food, and the necessary technology and personnel to maintain a high standard of living.

….the Earth has abundant resources and our practice of rationing these resources through the use of money is an outdated method which causes much suffering. It is not money that we need but the intelligent management of the earth’s resources for the benefit of everyone. We could best work towards achieving this by using a resource based economy.”

The Transition

A good question that comes up is, ‘…but how are we going to get there?’. It is a great idea – the resource-based economy, but how to do it? In fact, as far back as 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes had envisaged an increase in productivity (by 2030) with the advancement of machines and technology freeing up human labour and correspondingly allowing for a shorter working day, as low as 3 hours a day. His views have been backed by a number of modern day thinkers who posit that a gradual reduction of the working day will help [a steady state or no growth] economy, protect the environment, and improve the well-being of the population, all with one single measure.

 

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