July 27, 2001
TO: Farm Colleagues
FROM: Lorette Picciano, Executive Director
RE: A FEW BRIGHT SPOTS FOR EQUITY IN A BLEAK FARM BILL
The House Agriculture Committee today completed work on the 2001 Farm Bill. The bill, which extends farm programs through 2011, will be considered by the full House this fall.
If the Senate and Congress concur with the House package, the 1996 Freedom to Farm approach will continue with a few modifications. There is a little more emphasis on conservation. The old peanut program was placed on the same "Freedom to Fail" track as other commodity programs.
However, members of the committee committed to equity worked tirelessly to assure the needs of minority producers were not ignored. In brief:
An amendment by Alabama Representative Earl Hilliard strengthened, and increased from $10 million to$25 million the authorization for the 2501 Minority Farm Outreach and Assistance Program established in1990 at the behest of minority farmers. The program remains the only significant response to inequity in USDA programs and services authorized by Congress.
The Congressional Black Caucus members on the committee also secured gains which will benefit all small farmers. Representative Eva Clayton of North Carolina achieved such a victory when the committee adopted her amendment, which softened and removed many of the draconian restrictions on access to new loans by farmers who had ever before received debt restructuring. She also included language to
assure that farmers who receive loan restructuring as part of the resolution of discrimination complaints would not be penalized. The committee supported her efforts, and the amendment passed without objection.
Ms. Clayton also secured a commitment from the committee leadership to address in conference the issues she raised in an equity amendment. They agreed to resolve their technical questions about the legislation. The will consider in conference measures to address the issues raised in the amendment, including the establishment of a minority farm registry, election reforms and a requirement of public reporting on county committee election results, and extension of the use of target participation rates as a
guideline to measure the actual participation of minority farmers in USDA programs.
Representative Benny Thompson of Mississippi reserved the right for further consideration of measures to assist farmers in the Pigford v. Glickman case. A number of these issues, which relate to tax treatment of settlements, would also need to be considered in other committees.
Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota also spoke to the need to make the complex administration of farm programs work better for small farmers.
A measure to remove limits on spending for the Indian Extension Reservation Program was included in the committee's basic bill, now allowing the expenditure of "such sums as may be required."
While much remains to be done to make farm policy more equitable, members of the committee made clear that minority and other small farmers have ardent supporters who see these steps as small but significant.
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
1411 K Street NW Suite 901
Washington, DC 20005
direct email: Lpicciano@ ruralco.org
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July 26, 2001
The Difference a Month Can Make
By Ted Glick <email@example.com>
Think back for a moment to last December and January. There
was tremendous outrage over the 5-4 Bush victory in the
Supreme Court. Large numbers of people, the largest since
the Vietnam War, demonstrated in D.C. on January 20th,
inauguration day, against the selection of Bush as
President. Major stories were being carried in the
mainstream press about Florida and the problems of our
beloved "democracy." Due to massive grassroots pressure, 42
Democrats found the political courage to vote against
unrepentant right-winger John Ashcroft for Attorney-General.
There was a palpable feeling among many in the progressive
movement that we could make critical strides forward in the
critical task of fundamentally reforming the electoral
Fast forward to April and May. Despite the on-going work of
a number of progressive and moderate groups, the issue of
electoral reform seemed to be withering on the two-party
political vine. Although there was an unprecedented two-week
debate in the Senate on the McCain-Feingold bill, the bigger
stories were about the Bush tax cut, National Missile
Defense, energy policy, withdrawal from the Kyoto global
warming accords, and other bad news. The bi-coastal Voter
Marches in D.C. and San Francisco in mid-May drew no more
than a few thousand people and almost no media coverage. And
the media spin put on the initial reports of the press
recount of the Florida ballots made it seem as if Bush
junior would have won Florida even if there had been a
The month of June, however, was a very different story, for
three reasons: the release of the U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights report on their investigation of massive voter
disenfranchisement in Florida, the Democracy Summer
Institute at Florida A & M in Tallahassee, and the
Pro-Democracy Convention in Philadelphia. In combination
with the persistent, under-the-radar, essential grassroots
organizing on electoral justice issues taking place around
the country, these developments, particularly the success of
Democracy Summer and the Pro-Democracy Convention, make it
clear that, in this year 2001, an independent electoral
justice movement has emerged onto the political scene.
The political significance of this development cannot be
overstated, for a number of reasons:
-- It would have been demoralizing and a very bad thing if
the progressive movement had been not up to the task of
responding to the Republican theft of the Presidency and the
35-day Florida circus. The fact that scores of organizations
and many hundreds of activists representing tens of
thousands of more came together in June in Tallahassee and
Philadelphia, with a commitment to on-going work, is a
-- This pro-democracy movement has emerged *from its
beginnings* as a multi-racial movement with major leadership
from people of color. This was not an accident. It happened
because of a commitment to such a movement on the part of
the main organizers, those of color and those not, of
Democracy Summer and the Pro-Democracy Convention.
-- Those present at the June events included Nader voters,
Gore voters and others, and there were, as far as I know, NO
public attacks by one on the other. This included leading
members of the Congressional Black Caucus, representatives
of the National Action Network and Rainbow/PUSH, Green Party
leaders, some representation of labor unions, mainly Black
labor, prominent leaders of the women's movement, and a
diversity of groups on the Left, to name just a handful.
-- Over 100 young people from around the country attended
the Democracy Summer Institute, and a number of them went on
to Philadelphia to attend the Pro-Democracy Convention. The
pro-democracy movement has gotten off the ground with young
people as major players and a major force.
-- After 33 years of progressive activism, including 25 as a
third party activist, I have become convinced that there is
little hope that we can ever accomplish our overall
pro-justice, programmatic objectives unless we can make
significant inroads with the electoral reform agenda. A
two-party, money-dominated, winner-take-all political system
is an eventual graveyard for progressive movements *because
we are denied any consistent political/electoral
expression.* We are kept at the margins, unable to win
enough third party victories to be seen as credible and
"players" by most voters or, more often the reality, reduced
to begging of or demanding that the Democratic Party, by no
means a reliable ally, take up our causes. We will not get
out of this situation until we alter enough of the unjust
rules of the game that the electoral playing field is in the
process of becoming level and fair.
This is not an ordinary political time. There are openings
to advance the electoral reform agenda that we have not had
in over 50 years. We should act accordingly and seize the
State of the Movement
The pro-democracy movement is still at an early stage of
development as a political movement. Over the last six
months, particularly because of Democracy Summer and the
Pro-Democracy Convention, the primary thing which has
happened is more frequent and regularized communication
among most of the major players in this movement, at least
the progressive sector of it.
It is important to recognize that many of the ten points of
the Voters' Bill of Rights, a document endorsed by 120
organizations and which is widely accepted as the unifying
platform of the progressive pro-democracy movement, are also
supported by more moderate and good government groups. Some
of its points are supported by conservative groups,
particularly conservative alternative parties which are also
shut out by the two-party duopoly. If this movement is to
accomplish its objectives, we will need to be both
principled about our commitment to a non-racist, genuine
democracy and flexible tactically so that on specific items
in our Voters' Bill of Rights (VBR) agenda, we can ally with
those with whom we share a common, if limited, approach.
Examples of the latter would be issues like easier access to
the ballot, media and debates, instant runoff voting,
proportional representation, same-day voter registration,
and independent, professional administration of elections.
There is unevenness at present as far as which issues of the
VBR are being worked on at the grassroots level.
Public financing/getting money out of politics is
unquestionably the issue around which there has been the
most focused work over the last several years. Indeed, going
back to the Working Group on Electoral Democracy,
significant numbers of organizers have been involved with
this issue for roughly a dozen years, with victories to show
for their labor.
Because of what happened in Florida, the issues related to
voter disenfranchisement, particularly enforcement of the
Voting Rights Act and voting rights for ex-prisoners, are
much more widely in the public consciousness. Groups such as
the NAACP, the National Coalition for Black Civic
Participation and the Congressional Black Caucus are among
the major groups giving leadership in this area.
Primarily because of the work of the Center for Voting and
Democracy and the Nader campaign, the issues of instant
runoff voting (IRV) and, to a lesser extent, proportional
representation (PR), have seen a tremendous increase in both
interest and organizing over the past year. Alaska, Austin,
Tx., Minneapolis, Mn., Vermont, New Mexico, Eugene, Or. and
Berkeley and Oakland, Ca. are among the places where
concrete IRV victories are very possible soon. 12 state
legislatures have had IRV bills introduced this year. This
is definitely an area on an upswing.
Various third parties throughout the country continue to
hammer away legislatively and legally to change
discriminatory ballot access laws which make it difficult
for independent candidates or third parties to get on the
ballot. Richard Winger's Ballot Access News continues to be
the best source for what is happening in this regard.
Again because of Florida, there are possibilities for some
progress relatively soon in the area of making voting easier
and more reliable, particularly as far as improving voting
machinery and the training of election workers. However,
there is a big question as to if enough resources will be
allocated for these reforms. There is also on-going
discussion within pro-democracy circles about the relative
merits of improved electronic voting equipment versus the
old-fashioned, but less prone to vote-rigging, paper ballot.
There are a number of other areas within the Voters' Bill of
Rights that, as of the present time, do not seem to be major
focuses for organizing:
-- same-day voter registration,
-- making voting easier for students off at school and away
-- making election day a national holiday or on a weekend,
-- easier access to the media and debates for candidates
-- statehood for the District of Columbia (with the
exception of organizing taking place within the District
-- abolishing the Electoral College (or proportional
representation in the allocation of electors by states)
-- independent administration of elections
In addition to the on-going work around various aspects of
the Voters' Bill of Rights, there are several other definite
or likely projects that will be developing in the coming
A major one is a bigger and better Democracy Summer 2002.
The organizers of this year's Democracy Summer Institute
have already begun discussing this and making plans for
outreach to involve additional organizations. There was much
support for this project expressed at the Pro-Democracy
Convention. The thinking is that, with enough lead time and
resources, the summer of 2002 could be a time when
potentially thousands of young people would be involved
throughout the country in a massive voter registration,
education, get-out-the-vote and pro-electoral reform
campaign. For reasons that are obvious, such a campaign, if
done well, could have a significant, short-term political
impact, while also strengthening and advancing the
longer-term electoral justice movement.
As part of the organizing towards Democracy Summer 2002
there is growing interest in the idea of "freedom rides"
prior to Democracy Summer. These traveling road shows would
make historical connections with the freedom rides of the
1960s while outreaching to young people and students to
become active in today's freedom movement.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, the primary organizer
of the Pro-Democracy Convention, is committed to working
with co-sponsors and endorsers of the Convention to hold a
series of workshops or mini-conferences in targeted areas
around the country. Some of these could happen this fall.
There is one more possible campaign. At this point it is in
the active consideration stage by some of the groups which
organized the two June actions. The idea for this campaign
comes from a proposal put forward by Congresswoman Maxine
Waters, speaking at the kick-off session in Tallahassee June
17 of the Democracy Institute.
Ms. Waters challenged the young people to go back to their
communities and really dig into their local electoral
systems. She suggested that they arrange to go to local
election offices to find out how things work -- what happens
when someone registers to vote, where does that registration
go, how long does it take to be processed, is the person
sent a registration card, how does the office make
preparations for election day, how do they determine how to
allocate voting machines, who oversees the administration of
the office, etc.
There's a lot to recommend this idea.
Election offices are all over the country; there are
thousands of them. They are a public institution; even
though they are controlled by representatives of the two
corporate-dominated parties, they are supposed to be
exercising their functions in a relatively transparent and
Yet a good number of them are inefficient, using outmoded
technology, incompetent or downright corrupt. Again, think
back to Katherine Harris and Florida. Throughout the
country, particularly in areas where there are significant
concentrations of people of color, there are big problems
with the way they function. This is why one of the Voters'
Bill of Rights points calls for independent, non-partisan
and professional administration of elections. It's really
just common sense.
A campaign led by students to, first, discover how local
election offices are functioning and, second, make demands
for reform, can shine a needed spotlight onto these
institutions. In the short-term such a campaign should
improve efficiency and lessen the kinds of problems exposed
in the 2000 elections. Longer-term, it will build broad
support for the independent administration demand, an
essential objective. We can't trust the foxes of either
party to administer the chicken coop of a true democracy.
Us chickens have suffered long enough under fox mis-rule.
The pro-democracy movement is a movement whose time has come.
(For more information, go to <http://www.votersbillofrights.org>,
or contact IPPN, P.O. Box 1041, Bloomfield, N.J. 07003,
Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the Independent
Progressive Politics Network and author of Future Hope: A
Winning Strategy for a Just Society. He can be reached at
futurehopeTG@aol.com or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield, N.J.
Copyright (c) 2001 Ted Glick. All Rights Reserved.
Back to Main News Page
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jocco Baccus
July 24, 2001 (202) 225-1605
REPUBLICANS MUZZLE MINORITY VOICES ON WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM
McKinney: "The Bush Administration seems to be blocking our efforts to
discuss racism in America"
(WASHINGTON, DC) On Wednesday, July 25, 2001, The House International
Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights was
scheduled to hold a hearing on the World Conference against Racism, which
will begin August 31, 2001 in Durban, South Africa. On the eve of the
scheduled hearing, we learned that the Chair of this Subcommittee,
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), called for the hearing to be
postponed. "For one month we've been planning this hearing with the
Republicans. At the last minute, they pull the rug out from under it. Seems
to me that the Bush Administration wants to muzzle us before they have to
come up with their final language for the Conference," stated McKinney.
"The third and final Preparatory Committee will be held in Geneva on July 31,
2001 and therefore it is crucial that we hear critical input from witnesses
who are directly concerned with this issue," continued McKinney.
"If I were to judge Bush by his past deeds, I would have to conclude that
this effort to muzzle the voice of Americans of color on the issue of racism
comes as a direct result of the way in which he was selected for the
Presidency," concluded McKinney.
Back to Main News Page
Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo)
19-25 July 2001 [Issue No. 543]
[The consummation of the African Union (AU) threatens to
degenerate into an outlandish caricature of the vision first
charted by the founding fathers of the Organisation of
African Unity (OAU), writes Gamal Nkrumah.]
By Gamal Nkrumah <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Traditionally, there has been a pecking order at African
summits -- the solitary stars who make the headlines and the
rest who all too readily allow themselves to be upstaged.
There are always the strongmen and their henchmen, the
dissenters and their defenders. Since its inception in 1963,
the vast majority of the leaders of member states of the
Organisation of African Unity (OAU) stubbornly avoided
risking tampering with their hard-earned national
sovereignty and strongly resisted making any changes to the
post-colonial status quo.
The polarisation of alternatives resonates through almost
four decades of bitter argument over African unity. We live
in cynical times. Idealism is ridiculed, and ideology
rendered irrelevant. Money matters as never before. And
moral courage is a fruitless digression which leads away
from the straight and narrow path of money-making ventures.
In more ways than one, the current crop of African leaders
have flagrantly profaned the long upheld principles of the
OAU's founding fathers. So why pay lip service to African
With monotonous regularity, those who urged a tighter
political and economic unity were publicly applauded,
privately admonished and with ruthless behind the scenes
diplomatic manIuvering, effectively sidelined. It began with
Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah who fought for and
lost the battle to institute his United States of Africa.
His peers viewed his motives suspiciously and opted for the
gradualist approach to African unity.
The most ubiquitiously cited intellectual inspiration for
advocates of a fast-track African unity, Nkrumah offered
probably the least romance- bound, most factually grounded
view of African unity yet proposed. "Three alternatives are
open to African states," Nkrumah extrapolated. "First, to
unite and to save our continent; secondly, to continue in
disunity and to disintegrate; or thirdly, to sell out and
capitulate before the forces of imperialism and
neo-colonialism. As each year passes, our failure to unite
strengthens our enemies and delays the fulfilment of the
aspirations of our people."
Nkrumah's ideas were radically different from those
advocated, and sometimes foisted on him, by successive
generations of Pan-Africanists. Nkrumah was opposed to
sub-regional groupings that proliferate in Africa today such
as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),
the Community of Eastern and Southern African States
(COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
and the Arab Maghreb Union of North Africa. "Economic and
regional organisations which have from time to time been
formed in Africa have achieved very little in terms of
improving the standard of living of the African masses," he
stressed. In spite of "the great number of high-sounding
resolutions and declarations of intent agreed by the various
regional, economic groupings, economic and political
conditions of Africa have shown scant improvement," he said.
"Full economic and social development can only be
accomplished within the optimum zone of development, which
is the entire African continent, and under the direction of
an All-African Union Government pursuing policies of
scientific socialism," he explained. Many of his peers saw
THE CONTINENT'S COMEUPPANCE: The OAU was conceived as the
midwife that will deliver a united Africa, instead the
organisation itself turned out to be still born. Nkrumah was
sorely disappointed and was highly critical of the charter
of the continental organisation he helped found. "It was a
charter of intent, rather than a charter of positive action.
But this was inevitable in view of the widely differing
policies of those who took part in the [1963 Addis Ababa]
conference. All were agreed on the principles of African
liberation and unification, and the need for close
cooperation in economic, social and cultural spheres, but
there were crucial differences of opinion when it came to
questions of methods and procedures," Nkrumah complained.
These very same paralysing "crucial differences" persist to
this day, and the gap remains to be bridged between the
majority gradualists and the minority radicals urging
immediate continental unity.
Moreover, Nkrumah spelt out the essential shortcoming of the
OAU. "The lack of provision for an All-African High Command
to give teeth to the organisation, meant that the OAU
suffered from the start from inherent weaknesses. There was
much talk of the inviolability of [national] sovereignty,"
Nkrumah lamented. "[M]ost of our national frontiers are
relics of colonialism, and irrelevant within the context of
the African nation." Unsurprisingly, therefore, "in times of
crisis [the OAU] has failed to provide the dynamic
leadership and decisive action expected of it."
GADDAFI CENTRE-STAGE: More recently, and especially in the
past five years, the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has
personally taken up Nkrumah's mantra. On the surface, there
is today, as yesterday, an explicit and unanimous agreement
among Africa's leaders that they must embrace change, but
precious few take it upon themselves to initiate the radical
changes. Maybe this is now beyond much of Africa. If so,
history would judge Lusaka harshly, pronouncing the 37th OAU
summit, convened last week in the Zambian capital, Lusaka,
as a relatively insignificant occurrence, yet another
unavailing talking shop.
The traditional tensions between radicals and so- called
moderates resurfaced with a vengeance in Lusaka. The
contradictions were glaringly obvious at the Mulungushi
International Conference Centre in the heart of the Zambian
capital where the 37th OAU summit meeting took place. Still,
important meetings were arranged on the sidelines of the
Lusaka 2001 summit. Congolese President Joseph Kabila and
his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame clinched an agreement at
a mini summit in Lusaka at the prompting of UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan who happily presided over the
meeting between the two protagonists.
Regardless, of their differences, most African leaders of
different ideological persuasions religiously make a point
of attending the OAU summits. Some of the continent's
leaders attend with the express aim of settling old scores,
others to clinch business deals, and the silent majority
simply want to be seen and not heard. The few loud ones
capture the accolades, but are not necessarily listened to.
One such flamboyant character is the Libya's Gaddafi who
persistently steals the show. Unwaveringly, he pushes for
closer African continental economic and political
integration. He did so in the Togolese capital Lome in July
2000. In Lusaka, last week, he seized the moment to
reiterate his call for a fast-track African Union (AU).
The AU charter aims at creating a relatively more powerful
executive council for the continent than the OAU. It also
provides for a continental parliament, a central bank, court
of justice and a single currency and passport. The problem
with the AU is, that unlike the European Union (EU) after
which the AU was vaguely modelled, no standards have been
set as far as the bread and butter issues of employment and
unemployment, inflation and monetary standards are
Indeed, Gaddafi warned that the lack of popular
participation in the decision-making process of the OAU in
the past was one of the major shortcomings of the old
Pan-African body. The AU must not be a presidents' club, he
said. He also lambasted EU plans to "compromise the
territorial integrity of Africa" by driving a wedge between
Africa north and south of the Sahara, and incorporating
North Africa and the Middle East into a subservient
partnership with Europe in the so- called Barcelona, or
WHY LUSAKA?: To begin with, there was much consternation
about the choice of the Zambian capital as the venue where
the OAU metamorphoses into the AU. At first many African
heads of state, including Gaddafi, objected to the choice of
the beautiful garden city of Lusaka, perhaps not the most
imposing or bustling of African capitals, as the venue of
the 37th OAU summit. They later relented, and Lusaka, with
its leafy suburbs, brilliant sunshine and refreshingly cool
climate, Lusaka -- somewhat sleepy under normal
circumstances -- turned out to be the perfect setting for
the last OAU summit, where tempers occasionally flared.
But Lusaka is not merely a pretty backdrop. The city is
replete with Pan-African historical significance as well.
For decades, Lusaka has housed the headquarters of the main
southern African liberation movements. South Africa's
African National Congress (ANC) and Namibia's South- West
African People's Organisation (SWAPO) made their home-base
in Lusaka. The city was agog with freedom fighters from
across the southern part of the continent. An entire
generation of guerrilla fighters were raised in the Zambian
capital and the in training camps on its outskirts. National
liberation from colonialism, European settler colonialism
and apartheid was the most significant legacy of the OAU.
Today, the priorities are very different. Africa is free of
colonialism, even though the continent has yet to cut loose
from the tentacles of neo-colonialism, a phrase coined by
Nkrumah to describe the subservient relationship between
nominally independent African states and their former
European colonial masters who control their rickety
FINANCIAL HEADACHES: With no less than 15 OAU member states
unable to pay financial assessments for two consecutive
financial years, the organisation is in dire straits. Over
$46.6 million in unpaid dues is owed to the OAU by member
states. For some two dozen African countries these massive
arrear payments are crippling.
The burning question is who will fund the ambitious agenda
of the AU. The biggest contributors are inevitably the ones
who call the shots and set the agenda. Nigeria, South
Africa, Egypt and Libya are by far the OAU's largest
contributors. Algeria and Tunisia come next. Small wonder
then, that Arab-African cooperation tops the agenda these
days. The strange irony is that Arab largesse virtually
keeps the African organisation afloat.
Mercifully, there was no sign of recipients grovelling
before their benefactors. The OAU is currently soliciting
funds to facilitate the transition to the AU. The private
sector is called upon to contribute. But, the private sector
in much of Africa both north and south of the Sahara are
apathetic to the concept of AU. The OAU teeters on the verge
of financial bankruptcy. There is no sign that the AU will
fare any better.
The new Pan-African outfit will inevitably be looking for
backers with deep pockets. A severe shortage of funds has
sadly crippled the older organisation's effectiveness. The
paralysing impoverishment of a host of nations south of the
Sahara, the proliferation of wars and in several instances
the actual disintegration of states has meant that the
failure of the OAU to adopt a fast- track to political and
economic AU has been so depressingly dismal that pointing
the accusing finger at single member state or head of state
would be a futile exercise.
Sub-Saharan African countries are generally extremely
grateful in public for Libyan generosity. In private,
however, they complain bitterly about the capricious nature
of Libyan magnanimity. Gaddafi, the main instigator behind
the high-sounding resolutions of the Lome summit last year
and again in Lusaka this year, unabashedly makes no bones
about his conditional handouts. It is an open secret that he
footed the bills of several African delegations in both Lome
and Lusaka. Zambia, like Togo, would have been incapable of
organising a successful OAU summit without Libyan financial
backing. Preparations for both the Lome and Lusaka summits
proceeded smoothly simply because Libya took care of the
bills. Half a dozen small and impoverished African states
permitted themselves to be persuaded to vote in favour of
Gaddafi's fast-track agenda precisely because they were paid
by the Libyans to do so. Libyan officials were conspicuously
present at cash-desks in Lusaka's hotels and curio shops
frequented by several African delegates.
LIBYAN LARGESSE: Libyan largesse was a key factor in
speeding up the process of ratifying the AU. Only the
isolationist Indian-Ocean island of Madagascar, whose
cultural identity and racial composition is as much Asian as
African, and oil- rich Equatorial Guinea which can do
without Libyan petro-dollars have not ratified the African
Union treaty. The Libyan leader obviously has no qualms
about such arm twisting tactics.
Still, it would be incorrect to infer that Gaddafi calls all
the shots. Gaddafi wanted his friend Louis Farrakhan, the
African American leader of the Nation of Islam to take the
podium, but the Libyan leader's special request was flatly
turned down by his host the Zambian President Frederick
Chiluba, a devout Christian who officially designated Zambia
the first Christian nation in Africa.
Lusaka is a relaxed city. Too security lax for the liking
and comfort of some of the delegates. Presidents, ministers,
diplomats and other dignitaries rubbed shoulders with
businessmen and tourists at the sumptuous breakfast buffet
provided at the five star hotel and featuring the full range
of traditional English breakfast favourites, a legacy of
British colonialism in Central Africa.
ZAMBIAN CHARMS: Zambia charmed its visitors in many other
ways. Not least was the friendly and good-natured ambiance
of the Zambian people. Presidential chauffeur Lizzy Machina
made her mark at the 37th OAU summit. Machina almost stole
the limelight from Gaddafi. She was the first female
presidential driver to make the headlines in the OAU's
history. Assigned to drive Sierra Leonean President Ahmed
Tejan Kabbah around Lusaka, she was often mistaken for one
of Gaddafi's legendary 500 all female presidential guards.
Zambia's first president, today a gingerly octogenarian, won
the hearts of the visiting African delegates with his wit
and humour. Never missing a chance to badmouth Zambian
President Chiluba, he darted from one delegate to another
waving his trade-mark white handkerchief, patting the heads
of adulating youngsters as if he where the Pope. Praising
the Almighty, Kaunda never tired of describing in vivid
detail his trials and tribulations and not least the
hair-raising manner in which he escaped an assassination
attempt ostensibly orchestrated by Chiluba's henchmen a
couple of years ago.
Security in Lusaka was alarmingly lax considering the
brouhaha concerning the recent brutal murder in mysterious
circumstances of Paul Tembo, a leading Zambian opposition
figure and deputy national secretary of the former Zambian
ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
I walked right into the media centre and collected the
speeches without first obtaining my accreditation papers. No
one stopped me or even raised an eyebrow. This would have
been unthinkable in Cairo or most other cities hosting such
an important summit. The Inter- Continental, where most of
the visiting heads of state and delegates stayed was
surprisingly free of security checks. Thankfully, for the
duration of the three-day summit, there was not a single
violent incident that warranted police intervention.
The bizarre exception, which was eventually put down to a
regular power cut, involved the maverick Libyan leader. The
timing of the scare was exquisite. As Gaddafi took the
podium on the second day of the summit, the lights suddenly
went out. All hell broke loose as the trembling delegates
waited on tenterhooks. A beaming Gaddafi emerged as the
power was restored, clenching his fist in a black power
salute, and surrounded by his all female guards, to the
great relief of everyone.
For better or for worse, the AU has now replaced the OAU.
The Lome treaty setting up the AU has been in force since 26
May 2001. However, none of the institutions envisioned have
materialised. There is still a long way to go before a
credible African parliament is convened, a single African
currency circulated, an African passport issued and an
African army created. The continent is obliged to speed up
the implementation of the Abuja Treaty of 1991 that
stipulated the establishment of an African Economic
Community by 2025. At best the AU promises to pick up the
pieces from a tired OAU. But the effectiveness of the new
Pan-African organisation hinges on the political will of the
continent's leaders, African public opinion and the masses
at large. At worst, the AU is a harbinger of a feeble future
for a conflict-ridden continent.
Copyright (c) 2001 Al-Ahram Weekly. All Rights Reserved.
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