Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo)
13-19 September 2001 [Issue No. 551]
Western behaviour in Durban made it all so horribly clear.
All the rich world cares for is wealth and power, writes
By Gamal Nkrumah <email@example.com>
These are bleak times for Africans. Pockets of peace and
prosperity perch tenuously like houses on stilts above a
turbulent ocean of bloody conflict, economic and social
malaise, financial ruin, education and health-care collapse,
and apocalyptic epidemics such as HIV/AIDS. Almost
everywhere, governments (whether unelected authoritarian
regimes, military juntas or democratic administrations) are
The gulf between the final official resolutions and the
resolutions of the parallel non-governmental organisations
and civil society meetings at the World Conference Against
Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances (WCAR), exposed
the African governments' confounding dilemmas. With little
to lose, most African governments have openly embraced
economic deregulation, unbridled privatisation, and fiscal
discipline. Greedy for more, the West has urged African
governments to accelerate towards radical fiscal and
monetary reforms. New concepts, so ill-defined as to allow
their authors to adapt them to whatever purposes suit (think
"good governance"), are introduced and demanded by the West.
Many African governments have succumbed. Economic
partnership, so much more cost-effective for Western
taxpayers, is now the only carrot the West cares to hold out
to poor nations. Development aid (especially American) is
down to a trickle; "economic partnership" is the new buzz
phrase. But the benefits to Africa are highly doubtful.
The pressure put on African governments to accept Western
hegemony is vast. Western-funded think-tanks and research
institutes across Africa have jumped on the bandwagon,
stoutly advocating the worst excesses of neo-liberalism.
Even as the Lome Treaty creating the African Union formally
came into force at the last Organisation of African Union
(OAU) summit in Lusaka in May, 2001, most African
governments were making it clear that continental union is
meaningless without some form of partnership with the West.
The continent's chief recovery programme, the New African
Initiative (NAI) for African continental development, is
based on this very concept of economic partnership with the
EU and the US.
But the other option, hope of a fair amount of
redistribution of rich countries' wealth, has little mileage
either. The now-defunct OAU was beset by a bedraggled
procession of miscalculations that hastened its demise.
Chief among these errors was the inability of Africa's
post-independence neo-colonial leaders to understand that
the hardest gesture for rich countries to make was to put
cash on the table. They wrongly assumed that their peoples'
manifold socio-economic afflictions would somehow help win
over the wealthy Western powers. Let's face it, neither
WCAR, nor the fight against poverty, nor even HIV/AIDS, have
managed to tilt the scales towards compassion.
Africans have to weight those scales themselves. It was
refreshing to note that when the host government is on the
side of justice at an international conference, there is no
need to batter those protesting against global inequality,
as occurred at previous international conferences convened
in Seattle, Prague, Davos or Genoa. At WCAR, South Africa
acted as a gentle mediator in order to ensure a meaningful
outcome to the conference. It played a pivotal role in
reaching a compromise between the West and the rest of the
world at WCAR over the wording of the final communique.
Indeed, WCAR had partially proven that Africans, that
African- Americans, that the world's poor, economically
marginalised and politically disfranchised can be historical
Sadly, race issues and the legacy of apartheid still
beleaguer us. Zimbabwe, South Africa's neighbour, is found
just across the Limpopo river. In Zimbabwe, the land-grab by
indigenous African peasants of white-owned farms is ripping
apart the socio-economic fabric of the country and that once
prosperous country is languishing in political chaos.
Zimbabwe's turmoil threatens to spill into neighbouring
countries like Namibia and South Africa, which share a
similar history of European settler colonialism. Trouble may
Zimbabwe's peasants increasingly blame Western economic
self-interest for their plight. That self-interest is
disgracefully flaunted all across the continent. The
stipulations, rules and regulations of the Africa Growth and
Opportunity Act (AGOA), signed between the US and 35 African
countries, and the similarly-structured EU's Cotonou
Agreement with almost 80 African, Caribbean and Pacific
(ACP) states with a total population of some 650 million,
merely lock Africa into economic subservience to Western
consumers. The essence of these agreements is unrestricted
access to and control over the continent's farming and
mineral resources. Such unequal relationships between the
former colonies and their one-time masters hauntingly echo
painful memories of past repression. They might as well
start calling us wogs again.
Far from being a marriage of convenience, such partnerships
between rich and poor inevitably drive the relationship in
contradictory directions. We are not so much creating a new,
more equitable world as returning to something familiar to
Africans from the age of slavery, mercantile capitalism and
colonialism. Yet the West still clings precariously to its
image as benefactor to the world's poor. But the strain on
its fingernails is showing. So much development assistance
and humanitarian relief money has been washing through the
corridors of power that accusations of the corrupting nature
of Western aid can no longer be suppressed.
The latest in the shabby carousel of meeting held between
African leaders and America exemplifies great power
chicanery. Next week, hundreds of American and African
business and political leaders will converge on Philadelphia
for the US-Africa Business Summit. With over 30 African
leaders in attendance, the summit is expected to be the
largest gathering of African heads of state in the history
of US-Africa summits. The unprecedented gathering is
scheduled to include Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, South
Africa's Thabo Mbeki and the Democratic Republic of Congo's
Joseph Kabila -- that's assuming they would brave the trip
to the US following Tuesday's bombing disasters, or that US
officials will have time for the visiting African
The Washington-based Corporate Council for Africa is
sponsoring the summit. "The primary goal is to build
business and economic relationships between small and large
businesses in the US and Africa," explained Stephen Hayes,
president of the CCA. "The second goal is to make more
public opportunities in Africa for US businesses," he added.
The Bush Administration is publicly as committed to the
successful implementation of AGOA as the Clinton
Administration. US Secretary of State Colin Powell,
Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner,
Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, US Trade Representative
Robert Zoellick are expected to participate.
The Bush Administration has signaled that it will sponsor a
US-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Co-Operation Forum.
All very well.
Yet a spat over bananas has revealed the worth of such
agreements when they conflict with US priorities. Certain
Caribbean nations had a special arrangement with Britain to
supply bananas to the British market. The US has pressured
Britain to switch to bananas imported from plantations owned
by US-based multi-national corporations in Central America.
The independent farmers of the Caribbean were made the
sacrificial lambs and their interests ditched in favour of
reaching a compromise with Washington and complying to new
World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations, even though the
Caribbean banana growers were signed up to the ACP. Libyan
leader Muammar Gaddafi was the unusual saviour, offering a
21 million dollar package of grants and loans, to free the
banana growers from WTO and EU control. The islanders are
the descendants of African slaves; they have only their
roots to turn to for succour in their hour of need.
With WCAR it became painfully clear that the West, led by
America, was a dead weight holding back the progress of
peoples of colour world-wide. The lineaments of Western
intent became plain. Power is about making money; not about
giving money away. And power is what interests the West. The
correlation between white supremacy and making big money on
a global scale was superficially touched upon at WCAR.
There, it became clear that power is what interests the US
above all: power untrammelled -- above compassion, above
ethics, above a fairer world.
And we all know what absolute power does.
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National Anti-Capitalist Anti-War Protest Sept 29
For immediate release
September 20, 2001
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anti-Capitalist Convergence Issues New Call to Action
The Anti-Capitalist Convergence is continuing our mobilization in
Washington DC September 24 through October 1. We are calling for a
march against the growing capitalist war on Saturday morning September
29th and invite all those interested in creating a world free from
terror, hate, racism, poverty and war to demonstrate our unity and
vision for a better world.
For the past 5 months we have been organizing a mass mobilization
against the fall meetings of the IMF and World Bank because of their
role in enforcing global capitalism. In the process of this organizing
we have been working to strengthen our community by making the
connections between capitalism and issues local to dc. We had been
planning a large, diverse and beautiful protest and were optimistic that
these demonstrations would be a groundbreaking step for the
Like most people we were shocked by the events of September 11th and
stopped mid-action, mid-thought, our lives interrupted and forever
changed. The enormity of this crisis has affected us all. The IMF and
World Bank have cancelled their meetings and many groups have called off
their events. The political climate in the United States has severely
changed, emotions are running high and the country is extremely tense.
In recent days we have seen the militarization of our city, increasingly
blatant racist attacks and blind patriotism. Media hysteria and
government rhetoric are pushing people to unite through religious
bigotry and nationalism. Security, particularly here in Washington, DC,
has been heightened as the country prepares to go to war.
The US government has failed to recognize the nterconnectedness of all
the forms of violence. Bombing, encouragement of dictatorships,
sweatshops for benefit of US corporations, third world debt, world
hunger or lack of shelter and healthcare are all forms of violence. The
fear and desperation that grows from poverty and oppression is crucial
to any understanding of violence throughout the world. 35,000 people
die from starvation each day even though there is enough food to feed
all. Terror is still terror whether it is from death from starvation,
fear of enslavement by corporations or fear of bombs or airplanes
falling. Until we understand the violence of our economic, military and
foreign policies, we will continue to foster the conditions that make
this kind of terrorism possible.
We demand that no more terror or violence be perpetrated in our name. We
are a movement devoted to social justice. There is no justice to be
found in retribution, war, racism, corporate globalization or capitalism
itself. We condemn any and all retaliation and religious persecution of
Arab, Arab American and Muslim peoples and we oppose any attack on our
constitutional rights. We will not hand over our civil liberties to the
greater good of
We strongly see the need to come together and act on our visions of the
world we want to create and not on our fears. Though we came together
against the Bank and Fund what we came together for is even more
important now. We want to continue to mobilize, though we are all
uncomfortable carrying forth in the way we planned. The tactics that
were ideal to the original situation will not have the same effects at
this time. We are no longer calling militant blocs or actions. We will
take action to inspire, motivate and demonstrate that a world based on
needs not profit; a world of mutual support; a world free from
oppression is possible. This is a time to come together in true
solidarity, in a way that supports all those working for a better world.
Our plans include a convergence week starting with the opening of the
Anti-Capitalist Convergence Welcome Center on Monday, September 24. All
week long we will engage in skill shares, art, organizing meetings and
outreach. At a time when many people think that war is the answer to
violence talking to our neighbors will be a revolutionary act. We plan a
Community Dialogue with people about what is happening in the world by
asking them Why? We will continue to make connection between critical
local issues like the lack of housing and healthcare and global
On Saturday morning we will hold Anti-Capitalist March Against Hate.
That afternoon we will establish our Temporary Autonomous Zone to
support and provide for ourselves in a caring and inclusive way. It
will be a hate free zone, a war free zone, and a capitalist free zone.
We encourage everyone to make a contribution whether it be a class for
the free school, offering basic medical support, drumming, clothing
swap, skill shares, performance, strategic discussions, food and more!
Saturday evening we are extending an invitation to friends and neighbors
to join together in a "Food Not Bombs" Community Dinner. When the
state's pro-war rhetoric claims that "America takes care of it's own"
yet spends billions on a war when many of its people go to sleep hungry
and homeless it's time for a change. We want to model that change.
We urge people to take action together in Washington DC. Taking action
at home is equally important, however. If you cannot come to
Washington, organize an action, talk to people in your neighborhood or
set up your own autonomous zone. People are rising up everywhere saying
no to hate and no to war. Join with anti-capitalists and other around
the world as we take action for justice!
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The Black World Today
September 11, 2001
Reparations to be a Key Focus of Atlanta Conference
By Ron Daniels <email@example.com>
As the count down to the historical State of the Black World
Conference (SOBWC) in Atlanta November 28 to December 2
begins, one thing is certain, the burning issue of
reparations for Africans in America, the continent of Africa
and the Caribbean will be one of the main focal points of
the deliberations. As the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson remarked
during the World Conference on Racism (WCAR), which recently
concluded in Durban, South Africa, "reparations is an idea
whose time has come."
Who could have predicted just a few short years ago that the
United States government would be so terrified of facing up
to its own history of sanction and complicity with slavery
that Secretary of State Colin Powell would refuse to go to
the conference, sending instead a low level delegation. And,
who could have predicted that U.S. representatives would
stage a walkout in the midst of the withering condemnation
of Israel for its discriminatory policies against the
Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel and a major push by
Africans in America, African nations and Non-Governmental
Organizations to formally declare the trans-Atlantic slave
trade a crime against humanity.
But that is exactly what happened -- the big bad, U.S.
government, the world's one remaining super power, beat a
hasty retreat and withdrew from the WCAR rather than face
the aggrieved parties and dialogue on their petition for
redress. The irony is not lost that for years at the height
of apartheid in South Africa it was the United States that
steadfastly advocated "constructive engagement" with the
brutal White minority regime in that nation. At WCAR the
U.S. government was exposed as a hypocrite and a coward. Far
from being discouraged by the cowardly actions of the U.S.,
however, the broad global coalition of forces pushing for a
discussion of reparations seized the moral and political
high ground, generating tremendous momentum as the delegates
return to their respective nations.
As the powerful delegation of Africans from America return
to the U.S., the moral and political energy generated at
WCAR will be channeled in many directions including the
SOBWC which now must become a critical convergence point and
catalyst for intensifying the struggle for reparations in
this country. With this in mind, the conference planners
have adjusted the schedule to build a direct link between
WCAR and SOBWC. Dr. Raymond Winbush, Director of the
influential Race Relations Institute at Fisk University in
Nashville and Beni Ivey, Executive Director of the Center
for Democratic Renewal in Atlanta have been asked to
organize a briefing on WCAR. The panel of presenters will
include Viola Plummer of the December 12th Movement and Dr.
Conrad Worrill, National Chairman of the Black United Front
among other organizational representatives who went to
In addition to the briefing, the Conference will include a
major plenary session on reparations with a panel of
presenters being organized by Dr. Jemadari Kamara, Director
of the Black Studies and Haitian Studies Programs at
Umass/Boston and the Chairman of the African American
Institute for Research and Empowerment. The goal is to have
representatives of the National Coalition of Blacks for
Reparations in America (N'COBRA) and other key organizations
and agencies advocating for reparations in the U.S., Africa
and the Caribbean serve as panelists and resource persons
for this crucial plenary session. And, of course, we expect
Congressman John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House
Judiciary Committee and Dean of the Congressional Black
Caucus to be a part of this panel. As Convener of SOBWC, I
am hopeful that a reparations working group can be convened
during the conference to discuss ways and means of forging
greater operational unity and a united front at this
critical juncture in the reparations movement.
As a longstanding proponent of reparations, I believe that
the time is ripe for a massive coordinated campaign
incorporating widespread popular education, litigation,
legislation and direct action. In the last couple of years,
the N'COBRA Legal Task Force has been painstakingly crafting
a major legal case. In addition, Harvard Law Professor
Charles Ogeltree has also assembled a legal team, which
includes Johnny Cochran and Willie Gary to explore legal
strategies to win reparations. Congressman Conyers continues
to introduce HR-40, the Reparations Study Bill in the House
of Representatives, and the time may be at hand to mount a
major push to press for its enactment.
In terms of direct action, the concept of a Million People's
March, which is being discussed, is an idea that I fully
support. It is time for a "Million March" with a specific
goal and outcome. Last but not least, I would hope that the
Million March idea would be coupled with a call for economic
sanctions targeted against one of the growing list of
corporations that has been identified as participants and/or
prime beneficiaries of slavery in the U.S. Break the back of
a major corporation and the task of winning reparations will
The pace of the struggle to win reparations has picked up
dramatically. Accordingly, the State of the Black World
Conference must be utilized as an important forum to advance
the cause of vindicating the trials, tribulations and
triumphs of our ancestors. There can be no reconciliation
without repairing the damages of enslavement. "Reparations
is an idea whose time has come."
Copyright (c) 2001 The Black World Today. All Rights Reserved.
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