Sunday, January 30, 2011

Natasha Shivji & Michael Jana on Egypt Protests

Natasha Shivji on Egypt Protests

People have been demonstrating in a wave of anger and frustration bringing thousands of protesters to the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, and Algeria demanding an end to oppressive, corrupt, and undemocratic regimes. With them supporters have risen up around the world in demonstrations, rallies, petition signings. What began in Tunisia has had a domino effect. Egypt is now witnessing the largest protests it has ever seen and the unfolding of events we have been seeing in the last few days is incredible. We have witnessed 100, 000 people on the streets, defying curfews, defying the police and moving on with their demands with no fear.

Their main demand is to end Mubarak's regime. Mubarak has responded by appointing a vice president and prime minister who are simply part of the very system he represents and the protesters reject. He himself refuses to go. The international community is responding in a passive way with fear seething beneath. Egypt represents the most important point for the US in North Africa and the Middle East. Despite the delayed and terribly inadequate responses from the Mubarak regime and the international community, the people have not given up. In fact the protests are growing bigger and supporters worldwide are out on the streets.

What is really encouraging about this protest in Egypt is that it does not represent a particular faction of society, it is a mass popular movement. For instance the Egyptian Christians said they would protect their Muslim brothers from police attacks while they were in Friday prayers. One protester asserted, "We will not be silenced, whether you're a Christian, whether you're a Muslim, whether you're an atheist, you will demand your rights, we will have our rights, one way or the other! We will never be silenced!" The images of unity have been inspiring. While the police were shooting at protesters the protesters moved on and in the event of injury the aid would come from within. In one part of Cairo the police even joined the protesters.

Currently we have seen some chaos in the protests as lootings are now taking place. This can not be used to delegitimize the movement as it is the majority of the protesters themselves who created chains around the museums, and neighborhood patrols to protect their history and their people from the looters. The very same police who were out on the streets shooting on the first day are now nowhere to be seen to protect the people and the country against the looters.

Let us be clear what we are witnessing is indeed a moment of history. This movement was spontaneous, leaderless and a mass movement that is having a domino effect through out the world. The people are tired and they are angry and harbor no fear anymore.

Michael Jana on Egypt Protests

On 28 January 2011, Jonathan Schanzer wrote an opinion article on AOL news website (an American global internet and media company) titled, “Democracy Is Calling in Egypt: Can Obama Hear It?” ( This was in reference to recent public protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and other Arab countries. Jonathan’s main point is that Barack Obama is effectively removing himself from the Arab uprising debate thereby condoning dictators in the Arab world. Without delving in Jonathan’s main point, his opinion that Arabs are demanding (liberal) democracy exemplifies the dominant discourse that has characterized the recent Arab protests. My opinion is that, this is a misrepresentation, if not a distortion, of the Arabs aspirations.

The Arab people’s grievances during the protests have been very clear and these have included lack of job opportunities, food, corruption, economic inequality and poverty in general. The Arabs are primarily demanding concrete socio-economic rights in terms of decent livelihoods. Therefore, to over-shadow these demands with neo-liberal assertions that the people want liberal democracy as primarily defined by entrenchment of such abstract political rights as freedom of expression and association, without meaningful strategies to achieve people’s concrete demands will not solve the instability. It would be a mockery of the Arabs’ protests and demands if Hosni Mubarak, Ben Ali and other Arab leaders are deposed, new elected governments are put in place, there is free media, but people still don’t have food on their tables, unemployment rates are still high and poverty is still rampant.

It is a fact that liberal democracy does not necessarily guarantee socio-economic development. Just to take a crude example, Tunisia, where people are protesting due to dissatisfaction with their socio-economic status, has effectively been under oppressive dictatorship since independence in 1956, yet it is above Malawi on many economic indicators despite the fact that Malawi has been a democratic country for close to 17 years now. Tunisia’s Human Development Index for instance stands at 0.68 while that of Malawi is 0.49.

The confusion between democracy and development has its roots in the dominant Western neo-liberal ideological discourse that has been entrenched by the academia, the media and the NGO sector. This discourse has recklessly equated democracy to development without meaningful nuanced analysis that can lead to concrete improvement in people’s lives. The neo-liberal discourse has effectively brainwashed many developing countries to the extent that many people simplistically believe that a road to democracy is a road to socio-economic development. This has led to frustration of many people in developing countries when they realize that adoption of democratic institutions has not necessarily resulted in improvement of people’s livelihoods – if anything, human living conditions have worsened in many instances. The recent riots in democratic Mozambique over increase in prices of food; and in democratic Malawi, limited access to education, lack of job opportunities, energy crisis (fuel and electricity shortage), just to mention a few ills, testify to the fact that democracy does not necessarily guarantee socio-economic development.
It is a known fact that the now developed countries such as Britain and United

States of America (the acclaimed paragons of democracy and development) embarked on a meaningful journey to socio-economic development when they had very little of what we would call today democratic governance. For instance, United Kingdom and United States of America only achieved universal suffrage in 1928 and 1965 respectively when on many development indicators they were already above many developing countries today. It can logically be claimed that Tanzania today has better democratic governance institutions than what the now developed countries had when they were at the same level of development as Tanzania. And if we throw the Chinese model in the mix, the theory that democracy is a prerequisite to development crumbles miserably. The point is that democracy does not necessarily lead to development, if anything, development is known to be a necessary prerequisite to sustainable democracy.

Socio-economic development that has a positive impact on people’s livelihoods, which the Arab people (and indeed people all over developing countries) are demanding, need well-defined deliberate development policies. These policies should aim at, among other things, creating and investing in a country’s comparative advantage in production and (international) trade, ensuring food security, investing in modern technology, and pro-poor distribution policies; and not merely building “democratic institutions” such as periodic elections. If such development policies are assumed to automatically flow from a democratic government, people’s frustration as evidenced by the Arab protests will continue whether or not they are governed by a democratic government. The point is that this developmental perspective should be included at the heart of the debate regarding solution to the public unrest as it directly relates to people’s grievances.

This is not to say that democracy is “bad”. Democracy as an ideal that promotes people’s will, rights and dignity is necessary. But democracy as practice needs to adopt a form and substance that is in tandem to a specific society’s level of development, otherwise it will be empty and unsustainable.

The above discussion is far from being exhaustive. It has however shown that it is reckless ideological rhetoric to primarily argue using political meta-concepts that the Arab protests signify people’s demand for democracy, or for that matter that the protests signify the rise of the proletariat (the poor) against the bourgeoisie (the rich) and hence the road to true communism. This extravagant political meta-analysis that ignores the relevant developmental perspective has a potential for political reforms that treat people’s concrete demands as secondary thereby failing to meaningfully address the people’s grievances.

Memorable Image: Egyptian Revolutionary Baby!

Photographer: Asmaa Waguih, Reuters

Friday, January 28, 2011

Matokeo ya Kidato cha 4:Tumeikatia Tamaa Elimu!

Salaam wadau wa elimu Tanzania -amani na iwe nanyi! Sijaona jipya kwenye Matokeo ya Mtihani wa Taifa wa Kidato cha 4 yaliyotangazwa juzi - kufeli bado kunaongezeka tu! Sioni jipya pia katika mijadala na malalamiko achilia mbali maazimio na mipango yetu ya kuinusuru sekta hii mahututi - ni yale yale tu! Sidhani kama nitakuwa mbali na ukweli nikisema kuwa tumeshaikatia tamaa elimu - tumeiacha iende zake kaburini! Sasa tumekubali yaishe na ndio hivyo tupo kwenye hitma ya kifo cha kifikra na kimaarifa cha kizazi hiki - naam kizazi cha kijinga!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Land Matters to Africans Regardless of Agriculture: The Case of South Africans and Zimbabweans among Others

Why Land Matters to Africans Regardless of Agriculture

Chambi Chachage

“Nothing will compensate an African for the loss of his land” – Sir Godfrey Lagden

Agriculture is back on the international agenda on Africa. A green-cum-agrarian revolution is thus being televised. At the heart of this quest, however, is the question of land use – and control.

It is within this context a number of diplomats, investors, researchers and scholars across the ideological divides recently convened at the Mumbai’s World Trade Centre and the University of Mumbai in India for an International Conference on ‘South- South Cooperation: India, Africa and Food Security: Between the Summits.’ Soon afterwards, some of them gathered at Rhodes University in South Africa for the third African Institute of Agrarian Studies (AIAS) Summer School on the ‘Global Crisis, Scramble and Agrarian Reform in the South.’ In both cases the agrarian question in relation to agricultural productivity and ownership of land in Africa was brought to the fore not least because of the ‘new’ wave of ‘land grabbing’ across the continent.

The case of South Africa and Zimbabwe’s ongoing land reforms highlights this contentious relationship. On the one hand they jointly affirm the centrality of land ownership in Africa irrespective of whether Africans use it for agricultural production or not. Yet, on the other hand, they dialectically confirm the viability of agricultural productivity among the African peasantry.

Land dispossession, if one has to be reminded, has never augured well with Africans since time immemorial. In fact colonizers and settlers were very much aware of this. Note, for instance, the following interview between the then Resident Commissioner in Lesotho, Sir Godfrey Lagden, and the then Chairperson of the then South African Lands Settlement Commission, one Mr. Southey, on the suitability and availability of African farmland in the then Orange River Colony:

Sir Godfrey Lagden […]: Nothing will compensate an African for the loss of his land.
Mr. Southey […]: Not if he is transferred to other land?
Sir Godfrey Lagden […]: No, except he could see the other land first.
Mr. Southey […]: And if it were better land?
Sir Godfrey Lagden […]: Yes.

But even such a presumable better land would hardly compensate. After all they had a rationale for being where they were in the first place. It is those kind of rationales that one needs to unpack, even today, before jumping into the bandwagon of claiming such and such land in Africa is idle and hence the imperial imperative of displacing Africans to pave way for investors.

In the AIAS deliberations, the National Research Foundation (NRF) Professorial Chair in Land Reform and Democracy in South Africa, Lungisile Ntsebeza, reiterated the ‘enduring’ centrality of the land question in his country. To him this question remains an important marker of inequalities in South Africa. As such it still necessitates a “radical land redistribution program” .

Elsewhere Ntsebeza thus captures the stance of AIAS’ Executive Director, Sam Moyo, on land:

Moyo takes a broader view of the land question in southern Africa. His departure point is that land remains a basic source of livelihood for the majority of southern Africans in areas such as the development of agriculture, tourism, mining, housing and industry. Thus, according to him, the land question is not only an agrarian issue, but also a critical social question.

This consistent position resonated well with at least two South African participants in the AIAS event, Nomboniso Gasa and A.M.S Majeke. To them land is intimately linked to identity. It is central to the production and reproduction of community. Land thus ensures cultural continuity.

Another participant, Elizabeth Kharono from the Centre for Land, Economy and Rights of Women (CLEAR) in Uganda, underscored this point strongly in her feminist critique of gendered land tenures. Although all forms of land tenure recognized by the Ugandan constitution are underpinned by patriarchy, she sharply noted, research from the ground indicates that the often demonized customary land tenure is relatively far beneficial to women when it comes to ensuring their access to land. At the risk of appearing a pro-patriarchy apologetic she aptly states:

Customary land tenure systems and production relations have in-built social insurance mechanisms … meant to ensure that the land needs of everybody in the community, including the needs of vulnerable members of society – aged, widowed, orphans, etc, are met. The possibility for catering for the land needs of all members of the community is important to women because it is linked to family and community ties and obligations that other land tenure systems lack. Customary tenure arrangements are also designed to support livelihood systems. This is not the case for other tenure systems which support highly individualized and commercialized lifestyles. As long as women’s membership to a production unit is intact under customary tenure systems, therefore, they can have access to land, social networks and mutual support systems as well as common property resources which supports their efforts to fulfill their obligations for household food production, whether they are married, widowed or unmarried.

Of course, as Kharono cautions, such systems should not be seen as static. They are flexible. The central point here in relation to the centrality of land irrespective of its agricultural use is that:

Because their basic motivation is to support a livelihood system, customary tenure arrangements permit access to land and other common property resources which are important for sustaining livelihoods. These include land for production, water sources, grazing land, firewood and medicinal plants. Such resources are communally owned and managed and no single individual can appropriate them.

Yet the question is posed: Why reclaim/redistribute/repossess land that would not be farmed by Africans (productively)? Or as Ntsebeza rhetorically asks in the context of South African in relation to Zimbabwean land reforms: “How do we characterise South Africans living in rural areas? Are they interested in making a livelihood out of land, or are jobs their main pre-occupation?” To complete the rhetoric behind that query one may add: Even if they are not interested in making a livelihood out of land by farming is that enough to deny them their land?

Ntsebeza’s latest intervention at AIAS’ Summer School unpacks the sinister rationale for this deniability. “Ironically”, he observes, “the conversion of the indigenous people into workers of various sorts is, most recently, being used as a case to essentially argue against land and agrarian reform in South Africa.” “The argument”, he further observes, “goes that since land dispossession, the South African economy has undergone major transformations such that land is no longer the sole measure of wealth and inequalities.” It is such a thesis that renders Africans in South Africa no longer able to farm as if aftereffects of the then Land Ordinance of 1913 and the Bantustan policies of the then Apartheid regime have made them forget how to use their land to sustain life. At the heart of this thesis, as Ntsebeza notes, South Africa is embraced as “not an agrarian society any longer” whereby the term agrarian is uncritically used to mean agriculture.

The main implication of this thesis is obvious to Ntsebeza: A potentially reactionary streams that suggest that Africans in South Africa should not reclaim their land since agriculture no longer matters to them. Such a thesis is even backed by Marxist-cum-Radical scholars who dare claim that South Africa does not have an agrarian question – only a land question. Such assertions fail to – or deliberately bypass the – link between these questions with the national question. By reducing “the land question to a question of livelihoods and agriculture only” they fail to grasp that in South Africa as in other African countries “there is more to the land question which has to do with fundamental claims of legitimacy over ownership and control of the country at large” .

This blind spot, and the persistence denial of the failure of ‘willing seller-willing buyer’ and ‘use it or lose it’ land reform models in South Africa, needs an eye salve from Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). Unfortunately the debate on the merits and demerits of FTLRP has been coloured if not tainted by the preoccupation on the despotic regime of President Robert Mugabe. Yet when one scratches the surface on the ground it is easy to see how such selective engagement had been informed by a similar myopic discourse on land use for agriculture. AIAS’ recently released FTLRP Baseline Survey thus aptly captures this discourse:

Many claim that most, if not all, of the land allocated to new beneficiaries lies unused and idle, suggesting that there is hardly any farming taking place. The new beneficiaries are accused of being unable to adopt the production system and output levels established by the former [Large Scale Commercial Farm] LSCF producers, largely because it is presumed that most of the beneficiaries are unskilled in farming and their work or life experiences are not adaptable to high value farming, particularly of export crops. Farming techniques and agronomic practices are generally considered to be poor and land productivity low, reflecting deficient farming competence. It is generally claimed that hardly any useable farm machinery and equipment, infrastructure and irrigation facilities remain on the farms, or if they do, they are hardly being used effectively, hence the poor land utilisation levels. Moreover, most of the new farmers are deemed to be 'weekend', 'cell phone' or part time farmers, who are not committed to farming and also lack qualified farm managers, hence their pathologically low levels of land utilisation. In addition, it is argued that extension services (by the state, actors and farmers' organisations) have collapsed, such that there is no promotion of productive agronomic land use and natural resource use practices.

AIAS went to the field to test these assertions empirically. However, such was the lacunae among Africanists – and some African scholars – such that even preliminary findings were bitterly dismissed when Mahmood Mamdani alluded to them in his ‘Lessons from Zimbabwe’. In their defense of his use of these provisional results, Sam Moyo & Paris Yeros thus reiterated:

The land reform has been broad-based and largely egalitarian. It has benefited directly 140,000 families, mainly among the rural poor, but also among their urban counterparts, who on average have acquired 20 hectares of land, constituting 70% of the land acquired. The remaining land has benefited 18,000 new small- to medium-scale capitalists with an average of 100 hectares. A small segment of large-scale capitalists persists, including both black and white farmers, but their land sizes have been greatly downsized to an average of 700 hectares, much lower than the average of 2,000 hectares previously held by 4,500 landowners on the whole of this land.

To them this was – and still is – nothing less than a deep structural change. As such it needs to be defended though doing so is not one and the same thing as condoning pro-regime human rights violations. “The new agrarian structure in Zimbabwe”, they then insisted, “now holds out the promise of obtaining food sovereignty (which it had never obtained before), creating new domestic inter-sectoral linkages, and formulating a new model of agro-industrial development with organized peasants in the forefront”. This promise was informed by various new dynamics that they observed as being “underway in the countryside in terms of labor mobilization, investment in infrastructure, new small industries, new commodity chains, and the formation of cooperatives” to the extent that “despite the adverse economic conditions, land utilization levels had already surpassed the 40% mark that prevailed on the so-called white farms after a whole century of state subsidies and racial privilege”. They thus chided their colleagues for missing it:

Needless to say, a number of scholars have never recognized this potential. On the contrary, they continue to speculate about “crony capitalism” (Patrick Bond) and the “destruction of the agriculture sector” (Horace Campbell), without having conducted any concrete research of their own, or properly interrogated the new research that has emerged.

Theirs is a call to go to the Zimbabwean countryside and see for ourselves. It is a clarion call to reconsider the empirical evidence on the ground rather than rely on hearsay. When one does so, he or she will be in a better position to reaffirm or refute AIAS promising findings such as these:

The FTLRP transformed the agrarian structure from a bi-modal structure in which 4,500 farmers (approximately 5,000 farm units) held over 11 million hectares mostly on the basis of export focused commercial agriculture, alongside one million communal area households on 16.4 million hectares mostly in the drier regions of the country. The FTLRP implemented by the Government of Zimbabwe redistributed about 80 percent of the former large scale commercial farms (LSCF) to a broad base of beneficiaries including, mostly peasants from across the political divide, as well as politicians, senior Government officials, private sector officials, employed and unemployed urbanites, farm workers, corporate and the former white farmers. This has altered the previous highly unequal bimodal agrarian structure and created relatively more broad based tri-modal agrarian structure comprising small, medium and large farms with an estimated 170,000 family farms created by the FTLRP… It is clear that the FTLRP has broadened access to land and related natural resources to a diverse set of beneficiaries dominated by landless and/or land short peasants from the Communal Areas. The beneficiaries of the FTLRP go beyond those formally allocated land by the state to include others who are labelled as “"squatters"” who co-exist with formal land beneficiaries under different land sharing arrangements. The position of women has vastly improved in newly redistributed areas in comparison to the communal areas as a sizeable proportion were allocated land in their own right, while some benefitted as joint owners through the marital institution.

Ian Scoones from the UK’s Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and his associates at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) in Cape Town, South Africa had been in Zimbabwe researching the matter on the ground for about a decade. Incidentally, they arrived to more or less similar conclusions as Moyo & Paris and their AIAS research colleagues. The irony is that even the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), well known for being so quick to dismiss if not demonize any positive side of Zimbabwe’s radical land reforms, had to reluctantly swallow its pride and prejudice as it extensively quoted Scoones’ admission of being “genuinely surprised” by findings of their study on ‘Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myth and Reality’ that debunks these five myths perpetuated by “political and media stereotypes of abject failure” in Zimbabwe: (1) That land reform has been a total failure; (2)That most of the land has gone to political "cronies"; (3) That there is no investment on the resettled land; (4) That agriculture is in complete ruins, creating chronic food insecurity; (5)That the rural economy has collapsed.

Rumor has it that even the World Bank and the IMF are also surprised by Zimbabwe’s recovery.

This discussion would not be complete without referring, at least in passing, to Abdul Raufu Mustapha’s exposé at the AIAS Summer School of the celebrated Zimbabwean farmers’ exploits in Nigeria. His research has revealed that it is only the case in which there is heavy financial among other supports from the Nigerian government(s) that these farmers have flourished. Of particular concern to the topic at hand is the fact that even such success have come at the expense of local farmers. Elsewhere Mustapha thus captures their land dispossession and its consequence:

There has been a torrent of journalistic accounts on the success of the Zimbabwean farmers in transplanting commercial agriculture to Nigeria. Under titles like ‘White Zimbabweans Bring Change to Nigeria’ , ‘White Zimbabwean farmers highlight Nigeria's agricultural failures’ , and ‘White farmers from Zimbabwe bring prosperity to Nigeria’. The impression is created of a massive transformation based on the ingenuity of the Zimbabwean farmers and without any support from Nigerian governments. But is this really so? The terms of the [Memorandum of Understanding] MOU which the Kwara State government signed with the Zimbabwean farmers, and developments surrounding the establishment of the farms, paint a different picture. It committed the State government to the provision of a series of services crucial for the development of the commercial farms. Crucially, it committed the government to provide land. The government undertook to clear choice land of the indigenous users’ right next to the River Niger. 1289 local farmers in 28 communities were uprooted from their farms to make way for the Zimbabwean farmers. The state set aside a total of N77m (US$513,333) as compensation for the displaced local farmers. Each of the initial 13 Zimbabwean farmers received a 25-year lease of 1000 hectares. The state's instrumentalist use of compensation and 'agricultural packages' (bicycles -720 were distributed - , fertilizers, seed etc.) and the provision of long sought after communal infrastructure like electricity and additional classrooms in local schools helped to defuse local protests.

All this echoes the epigraph above – nothing can compensate Africans for the loss of their land.

What has been happening in and to Zimbabwe is a wake-up call, not only to South Africa, but to all African countries that wish away the land question under the guise of an agrarian question. As long as the national question remains unresolved these questions need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. This is particularly so now in the neo-liberal context of ongoing land grabs in Africa.

Land mattered to Africans. It still matters somehow. Anyhow it will always continue to matter.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


PowerPoint Presentation Downloadable At:

Monday, January 24, 2011


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is the Kitchen Where we Need to Place Africa?

"Fifty years after independence, Africa is still largely a continent picking up crumbs from the master’s table. In Zeleza’s opinion, scholars and intellectuals whose Africanist praxis consists solely in fighting for a place for Africa at that metaphorical table are fighting the wrong battle. 'My brother', Mwalimu Zeleza would say to me, 'we must now insist on Africa’s place in the kitchen where the meal is being prepared. If you get a place at the table after much struggle, the master could still do a few things to Africa’s portion in the kitchen, just before the meal reaches the table in the dining room. The kitchen is where we need to place Africa'" - Pius Adesanmi on a A Day in the Kitchen

Friday, January 21, 2011


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Je, Huku Ndiko Tunakokwenda Kisiasa, Kiteknolojia na Kimaendeleo Tanzania?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Against Town versus Gown: Adesanmi on Public Intellection in and on Africa(ns)

"The condition of Nigeria and Africa today are too desperate for me to find any joy or personal satisfaction in producing exclusive literary-theoretical jargons that could only be understood by colleagues and advanced doctoral students. And, no, I do not believe in the need for discursive boundaries between town and gown. My philosophy of intellection and knowledge production has been shaped over the years by a very broad range of populist (I hope one can still use that term in a non-pejorative sense today) traditions. The writer and public intellectual that I am today were shaped by all the big isms of the political and ideological Left even with all their warts. I strive constantly to hone an intellectual praxis marked by its embeddedness in the social, an underlying immersion in volk consciousness, a rootedness in the idioms of the street, and a permanent suspicion of power that cannot in anyway be cocooned in academia. I am just too restless for the epistemic isolation that is academe. And don't forget that I am also a student of the French tradition of public intellection. If you look closely at 19th and 20th century France, especially roughly from Emile Zola's "J'accuse" down to our times, the ideas that powered and inflected society did not come as a result of the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Pierre Bourdieu, André Breton, Raymond Aron, Louis Althusser, Pierre Fougeyrollas, Michel Foucault, Alain Finkiekrault, and Bernard-Henri Lévy merely sitting down to philosophize from the hallowed halls of the Sorbonne or the Ecole Normale Supérieure. Many of these thinkers were or are also agitators, columnists, anarchists, and animators of the public sphere. Let me remind you that public intellection is also not a new thing in Africa. The only new dimension is the increasing appropriation of the internet as a space of public intellection as we see, for instance, in the very visible listserv praxis of Nigeria’s Mobolaji Aluko, a Professor of Chemical Engineering with a public intellectual vocation underwritten by social and political justice concerns. Other than this new online dimension, the field of African public intellection has been very rich since the upsurge in continental production of discourse and knowledges in European languages began in the 20th century. In no particular order, the likes of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Odia Ofeimun, Edwin Madunagu, Ayodele Awojobi, Bala Usman, Eskor Toyo, Niyi Osundare, Biodun Jeyifo and so many others have contributed enormously to blurring the boundaries between town and gown in terms of activism and essayistic interventions. South Africa, Kenya, Congo, Uganda, Malawi, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe have all given us the likes of Archie Mafeje, Bernard Magubane, Eski’a Mpahlele, Ali Mazrui, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Florence Wambugu, Mahmood Mamdani, Achille Mbembe, Lovemore Madhuku, John Makumbe, and Ernest Wamba dia Wamba just to limit myself to those. I like to flatter myself by believing that I am qualified to be called a devoted student of these illustrious practitioners of African public intellection" - Pius Adesanmi on Thinking is All I Owe Nigeria in African Writing : Saturday, 15 January 2011 14:10

Achebe on the Patience of Building a Nation

"This is not a time to bemoan all the challenges ahead. It is a time to work at developing, nurturing and sustaining democracy. But we also must realize that we need patience and cannot expect instant miracles. Building a nation is not something a people do in one regime, in a few years, even. The Chinese had their chance to emerge as the leading nation in the world in the Middle Ages, but were consumed by interethnic political posturing and wars, and had to wait another 500 years for another chance. America did not arrive at its much admired democracy overnight. When President Abraham Lincoln famously defined democracy as "the government of the people, by the people, for the people" he was drawing upon classical thought and at least 100 years of American rigorous intellectual reflection on the matter" - Chinua Achebe on Nigeria's Promise, Africa's Hope in New York Times: January 15, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Niyi: "Leave Chimamanda to, for, Literature"!

"Of course, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the indisputable phenomenon in the current literary landscape. Chimamanda surely deserves a special mention here. A writer with a remarkable maturity and insight. Humorous, engaging, self-assured. Some people see her as picking up the narrative baton where Chinua Achebe left it, but I have always counselled that we grant her the full measure of her own talent without finding her a literary father. Achebe’s prodigy is, in many respects, inimitable; Adichie’s own is inalienably hers. Those who call her rise meteoric cannot be far from the truth, but her meteor is the type that generates light without crashing from the firmament. She has a lot going for her. I think our literary scene is lucky that a figure like her has emerged. However, her kind of phenomenal rise hardly comes without its own perils. Adichie has to watch out for the dangers of over-packaging and over-exposure. With these two come the twin incubi of exploitation and commoditization. I cringe whenever I see Chimamanda on bill boards planted by disingenuous bureaucrats from the REBRAND NIGERIA section of the Ministry of Information. I sense something profoundly foul when I see vote-rigging, treasury-looting politicians whose acts have tarnished Nigeria’s image now touting a new literary messiah whose global renown will wash away the mess they have created and keep creating. I have a sense of unease when I flip over to the back page of a glossy magazine and I see the image of a literary figure being used to promote the fortunes of a commercial bank. This is Hollywoodization, the type of which we have never seen in the Nigerian literary scene. Nor is this razzmatazz restricted to the social and political scene: our literary critics and media commentators must also take care so as not to praise Adichie to death – in a manner of speaking. This is hardly the time to do full-length literary books on an author still on the rise, still in the making. Two novels and a book of short stories are not enough yet. Let Adichie write more, produce more books, contradict (yes) and complicate herself in her own oeuvre; for it’s from such contradictions and complications that images give birth to ideas, ideas to visions, visions to wisdom; wisdom to cognition. Let us discover the multitude in Adichie before we commence on a census of her fictive/imaginative world. Let us give this writer a place to stand and stare. Too much spotlight is not good for the writing eye. Let’s grant her the privacy she needs for continuous creativity. Leave Chimamanda to, for, Literature." - Niyi Osundare as Interviewed on 22 December 2010 by Ademola Adesola of The Nation


Friday, January 7, 2011

Will Football Unite the Nile Basin Countries?

Will Football Unite the Nile Basin Countries?

International Diplomacy can indeed be juicy. On Wednesday Egypt kick-started what it pragmatically calls the Nile Basin Tournament. Interestingly, this tourney will be a yearly one.

As you can bet most of the invited teams are the very ones that recently locked horns with Egypt on the use of the water of River Nile. The 12-day championship was meant to include 10 countries that, geographically speaking, constitute the countries of the Nile Basin: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. However, three teams – Eritrea, Ethiopia and Rwanda – have opted out of it this year.

Football, as we know, has been a unifier as well as a divider. The history of African nationalism is replete with stories of how football teams were vehicle of forging a united front against colonialism. In my home country Dar es Salaam Young Africans or Yanga as we call it is a case in hand. But, as we also know, Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ left a bitter taste in England’s goalmouth while sweetening Argentina in the context of their 1982 war over Falkland Islands.

Probably Egypt’s decision to splash money for a regional soccer tourney will ease the tension in its neighbourhood and foster some sort of Pan-African unity. But, ironically, the other teams have been involved in a less expensive yearly tourney – the Council for East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Senior Challenge Cup. Egypt could have simply joined them.

Expectedly, when probed about “claims that Egypt is trying to use this event to placate its neighbours over the use of the River Nile”, the Egyptian Football Association chair “was quick to clarify that for them it is about football and nothing more” (The Standard 05/01/11). But is it?

United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) recently launched Africa Water Atlas notes that Egypt accounts for only 9% of the Nile Basin’s area. However, the area holds nearly a third of its population and about 78 million people in the country depend heavily upon River Nile.

Such a context renders the tourney nothing more than football diplomacy. Even the choice of its name speaks volumes let alone statements such as these from the organizer: "We are also ready to support any country in the region that is ready to host it at any time"; “So, for us, it is about football and not politics. The Ministry of foreign affairs may look at it differently though” (Ibid).

Football is political. That is why states spend lots of money and energy to even get a chance to host the Olympics and the World Cup. Egypt’s decision to host a tourney cannot be less political.

With these points in mind one can start thinking about the role of Egypt as a unifier rather than a divider in Africa. For a long time the country has been contested as the cradle of human civilization. Africans, spearheaded by Cheikh Anta Diop, have tried to claim it as an African civilization and, as such, an inspiration for an ‘African Renaissance’ and the ‘Unity of Africa.’

Following the Historian Basil Davidson, Sally-Ann Ashton, the Egyptologist curator at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge thus captures this Afrocentric/Pan-Africanist quest and its setback: “Egypt is geographically part of the continent of Africa. It should therefore follow that Egypt is part of African history and cultural heritage; however, this is rarely the case in the literature.” Yet Egypt, so often labelled as an Arab rather than an African country, co-founded the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and supported the liberation of other African countries.

But, alas, in recent years, especially in the aftermath of the Pan-African nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt has tended to turn its back on the so-called Sub-Saharan Africa. In the case of its closest southern neighbour, Sudan, water flow has been the tie that binds. No wonder they were on the same side as boycotters during the tussle over the new 2010 Nile Basin treaty that gives all countries therein an equal stake in Nile waters thus ‘abrogating’ the ‘colonial’ treaty of 1929 between Britain and Egypt as amended by Egypt and Sudan in 1959 to give the former the right to veto upstream water projects in addition to having more access to Nile’s total water flow.

No doubt Egypt has all the rights to be close to its northern neighbours. However, the Nile Basin is a constant reminder that its lot is with its fellow African countries. With a total population of over 400 million people the countries around River Nile can forge the form of unity that made the area a hub for such great civilizations of Kush, Axum, Meroe and, of course, Ancient Egypt.

More significantly, Africa has about 1 billion people who, when unified, can be a potent force in African renewal. If indeed Egypt is to Africa what Greece is to Europe then it has a special place in such an African renaissance. After all, as far as football is concerned, Egypt has consecutively won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the last three years. Africa(ns) must indeed unite!

© Chambi Chachage

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Siku 5 Baada ya Rai ya Rais Arusha Kwachafuka!

Polisi na Raia

Najua wapo baadhi ya wanasiasa na vyama vya siasa ambavyo vimepanga mikakati ya kuendeleza malumbano ya uchaguzi na kutaka Watanzania waishi kama vile nchi ipo kwenye kampeni za uchaguzi.Wamepanga wakati wote kutafuta jambo au hata kuzua jambo ili kuwachochea wananchi waichukie Serikali. Wamepanga kuchochea migomo vyuoni na maandamano ya wananchi mara kwa mara. Kwao wao huo ndiyo mkakati wa kujijenga kisiasa ili kujiandalia ushindi kwenye uchaguzi wa mwaka 2015.

Nawatanabaisha ndugu zangu myajue hayo ili msipoteze muda wenu muhimu wa kujiendeleza na kugeuzwa kuwa mbuzi wa kafara kwa ajili ya kuendeleza maslahi ya kisiasa ya watu fulani. Kwa jinsi watu hao walivyokuwa wabinafsi na wasivyokuwa na huruma na wenzao, wako tayari kuchochea ghasia bila kujali madhara yatakayowakuta watu watakaoshiriki. Wao hasa wanachotaka ni ghasia kutokea na vyombo vya dola kuingilia ati waiambie jumuiya ya kimataifa jinsi Serikali yetu ilivyo katili. Nawasihi ndugu zangu msiwasikilize wala kuwafuata wanasiasa hawa.

Nawaomba, wakiwafuata wakumbusheni kuwa wao wanazo fursa nyingi za kusema wayatakayo Bungeni na kwingineko, waache kuwatumia kama chambo au wahanga wa maslahi yao.



Flowering Lessons from a Friend in Alinga Farms

Hibiscus Sabdariffa

Harvesting Hibiscus

Drying Petals

Final Product
These photos were sent as a New Year Message from Alinga Farms in Uganda. The friend who send them, Norah Owaraga, always talks so passionately about this 'remote place' and the need to spend our time and energy in the villages that nurtured/educated us. In her recent AfricanEssence article 'Every Little bit counts...even mushrooms!' she thus describes the farms project which started as a mere intervention to meet her immediate family needs:

Today, Alinga is in full flight as a demonstration farm whose objective is to initiate disadvantaged households in Pallisa district into farming for business. It promotes the growing of highly nutritious foods with high financial value and which do not require large chunks of land to grow, such as oyster mushrooms, Hibiscus Sabdarrifa ["from which a caffeine free herbal drink can be derived"], oranges and honey.

Tis indeed hight time we curb internal rural-urban brain drain by giving, if not going, back to our villages!











Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Interviews with Editors of 'Africa's Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere' & 'Cheche: Reminiscences of a Radical Magazine' in African Perspectives 2011


Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Book on 'Accumulation by Dispossession and Displacement' of Artisanal/Small-Scale Miners

For more information consult:


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hongera Rais Kwa Kuwa Muwazi Kuhusu Umeme!

Mwanaudadisi anapenda kutoa pongezi za dhati kwako Rais kwa haya maelezo yako hapo chini kuhusu mgawo wa umeme ambao tuliahidiwa kuwa utakuwa ni historia hasa baada ya kuibuka kwa Sakata la Richmond na Dowans; nimeguswa sana na matumizi ya miezi 12 badala ya mwaka 1 na miezi 36 badala ya miaka 3 kudhihirisha kuwa itachukua muda mrefu kupata ufumbuzi wa kudumu wa tatizo hilo ambalo limekuwa linajirudiarudia kila mwishoni mwa mwaka toka uingie madarakani mwaka 2005 :

Matatizo ya Umeme

Ndugu wananchi;
Mwaka 2010 haukuwa na utulivu wa kutosha kwa upatikanaji wa umeme. Mara kadhaa kumekuwepo na matukio ya kukatika na mgao wa umeme kutokana na uharibifu wa mitambo ya kuzalisha umeme hasa katika kituo cha Songas na vituo vya TANESCO. Pamoja na hayo tatizo la msingi ni uwezo wa uzalishaji wa umeme kuwa mdogo kuliko mahitaji. Hivyo basi, hitilafu katika mtambo mmoja au kituo kimoja cha kuzalisha umeme huzua tatizo kubwa la upatikanaji wa umeme kwa nchi nzima.

Ndugu Wananchi;
Katika kukabiliana na tatizo hilo miaka mitano iliyopita, TANESCO kwa msaada wa Serikali, imeongeza uwezo wa kuzalisha umeme kwa MW 145 (MW 100 Ubungo na MW 45 Tegeta) kwa kutumia gesi asilia. Bahati mbaya mpango wa kuzalisha MW 300 kule Mtwara kwa kushirikiana na sekta binafsi, haukufanikiwa baada ya mwekezaji kushindwa kupata fedha kwa sababu ya mgogoro wa masoko ya fedha ya kimataifa. Kama tatizo hilo lisingekuwepo umeme huo ungekuwa unakamilika au kukaribia kutumika hivi sasa.

Kwa sasa TANESCO ina mipango kadhaa inayoendelea nayo ya kuongeza uzalishaji wa umeme nchini. Kwa msaada wa Serikali ndani ya miezi 12 ijayo, TANESCO itaongeza uzalishaji wa umeme kwa MW 160, (MW 100 Ubungo kwa kutumia gesi asilia na MW 60 Mwanza kwa kutumia dizeli nzito). Kwa kushirikiana na sekta binafsi pia, ndani ya miezi 36 ijayo TANESCO wanatarajia kukamilisha ujenzi wa vituo vya umeme huko Kinyerezi (MW 240) Somanga Fungu (MW 230) na Mtwara (MW 300). Inatarajiwa pia kwamba katika kipindi hicho mradi wa kuzalisha MW 200 pale Kiwira utakamilika.

Heri ya Mwaka Mpya 2011 Rais!

Critiques on Constitution-Making in Tanzania

As we debate the process of coming up with a new constitution of Tanzania and President Jakaya Mrisho's decision to constitute a Constitutional Review Commission let us refer to these key texts from our human rights and constitutional lawyers:

Constitutional-making in Tanzania by Chris Main Peter

Problems of Constitution-Making As Consensus-Building: The Tanzanian Experience by Issa Shivji

We may also find it useful to consult these chapters in Shivji's Let the People Speak: Tanzania Down the Road to Neo-Liberalism and Where is Uhuru? Reflections on the Struggle for Democracy in Africa respectively:

We, the People

The Pitfalls of Constitution-Making

Constitution-Making by the People: The National Conference

Constitution-Making by the People: The Constituent Assembly

Constitution-Making by the People: The Referendum

Serious Gaps in Msekwa's History of Constitution-Making

Mutilating Constitutional History

The Constitutionality of our Constitutions
Three Generations of Constitutions and Constitution-Making in Africa

Towards a New Constitutional Order: The State of the Debate in Tanzania

Constitutional Limits on Parliamentary Powers

Saturday, January 1, 2011



Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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