Category Archives: African Issues

What’s happening on the Mother Continent and what we can do about it.

Seeds of Suspicion: Feed the Future, Afrika and GMO Foods

 “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
— Morpheus, to Neo in The Matrix (1999)

Seeds of Suspicion 1THE RABBIT HOLE: Seeds of Suspicion

On September 26, 2014, the Africa Braintrust event was held at the John Wilson Convention Center in Washington, DC.  The annual event, organized by United States Congress member Karen Bass (D-California), brings together a variety of speakers and panels to discuss issues of interest to Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora.  This year’s event centered around the August USA-Africa Summit, in which President Barack Obama met with 50 Afrikan heads of state to discuss USA-Afrika relations.

In earlier posts, we reported on the keynote address by former US Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the first of three panels that were held at the session, and the keynote address by Dr. Rajiv “Raj” Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  Dr. Shah began his address by commenting about the continuing Ebola crisis, then discussed two signature USAID programs: Feed the Future and Power Africa.  Last year, we attended a Congressional Policy Breakfast about Power Africa and the Electrify Africa Act, and we wrote about that session for this Web Site, including many of the concerns raised by community activists and concerned Afrikans about access to power in rural areas, questions of who primarily benefited from Power Africa and the potential environmental and human rights consequences.

Here, we will spend some time on USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.  The stated aims are laudable: increasing the crop yields of rural farmers so the populace can eat instead of starving, so that children can play and go to school instead of wasting away through malnutrition, and so that countries can effectively feed their people instead of waging oppression and war over scarce resources.  But the picture is far more complicated than that.  The journey we will undertake here will delve into USAID’s checkered past in Latin America, examine the agency’s ties with major multinational biotech and agribusiness corporations, take a look at the concerns surrounding genetically modified (GM) food, scrutinize the issue of patents and food sovereignty (which is different from “food security”), and ask the question: Is this the Future we want for Afrika?

What Dr. Rajiv Shah of USAID Says About Feed the Future

First, here are the words of Dr. Rajiv Shah at the 2014 Africa Braintrust event as he touted USAID’s Feed the Future initiative:

“The first [of USAID’s current signature programs] is Feed the Future, and when Rajiv Shah USAID 1President Obama took office, he really made this the top developmental priority.  The slide you’re looking at is a picture of an Ethiopian farmer and daughter collecting the harvest.  In Ethiopia today, through Feed the Future, we’re working with DuPont and a host of local farming cooperatives to increase the farm yields for 35,000 maize farmers and their families.  Today, as a part of our Feed the Future partnership, the government has liberalized its seed sector, has refined the way it protects private capital investments, has offered licenses and engaged foreign investors, and has built upon the innovation labs that were set up across American colleges and universities.  Now, we measure the results of these efforts through legitimate and widespread household surveys, and we now know that as a result of this program in Ethiopia, public and private, Ethiopia has driven down the rate of hunger, of poverty, of stunting, which is an expression of malnutrition in children that robs them of their future, and has increased the rate of reduction of poverty and malnutrition three times in just the last two and a half years.  That’s an extraordinary achievement, and as a result 160,000 children today who would have been hungry are now laughing, learning, playing, going to school, and not because we’re handing out more American food, but because we’re helping their farmers, mostly women, improve the productivity from their own labor and their own ingenuity.  That kind of story is playing out in Ethiopia, but also in 14 other countries in Sub Saharan Africa.  It’s playing out across more than 200 companies that have committed more than $10 billion of private investments.  It’s playing out in the African Union that has reaffirmed this year is the year of agriculture for Africa, and has put into place a set of leadership commitments and policy reforms, and it plays out at a global level in last week’s announcement of global hunger levels that have come down by more than 40 million individuals, almost all of whom are in Sub Saharan Africa over the last three or four years.

“Today, as a part of our Feed the Future partnership, the government has liberalized its seed sector, has refined the way it protects private capital investments, has offered licenses and engaged foreign investors, and has built upon the innovation labs that were set up across American colleges and universities.”
— Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID

“These are extraordinary successes and gains, and I just want to note and thank the United States Congress and its leaders, including Representative [Karen] Bass, for introducing, on a bipartisan basis in both the House and the Senate, Feed the Future legislation that will authorize this program into law and ensure that we can stick with it, using this model of development to continue to drive down hunger and poverty and drive up agricultural investment and growth for decades to come.  So I would like to take this moment to ask for your support for Feed the Future, and that you support Representative Bass and that you support the bipartisan members of the House and Senate that are going to try to make this happen, we hope, in the Lame Duck Session this year, because I think it’s telling that our political leaders, at a time that, sometimes, is a little fractured and a little partisan, can come together to support this kind of an effort, executed to this level of excellence.   So thank you for your leadership, Representative Bass. …”

We thank Rep. Bass for her continued commitment to bring information to her constituents and to concerned Afrikans and Afrikan Diasporans.  Her Africa Braintrust event provides an opportunity for us to learn about the analysis and plans of a number of activists, scholars and government officials from the United States and Afrika.  That being stated, it is necessary for us to now compare the words of Dr. Shah to what others around the world have said, what the corporate partners of USAID have said and done, the warnings of food activists and farmers’ advocates, and what the implications will be for Afrika as the next frontier (target?) of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.  We will reference and quote a number of articles, statements and Web Sites during our journey, and we include the locations of these articles, analyses and statements so you can look them up for yourself, and perhaps dig even deeper down the rabbit hole.

What Latin American Activists Say: USAID’s influence in Latin America & The Caribbean

An article dated July 21, 2012, titled ALBA Expels USAID from Member Countries (http://alethonews.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/alba-expels-usaid-from-member-countries/), translated by Rachael Boothroyd for the Web Site http://venezuelaanalysis.com, reported on the Resolution from the Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) for the immediate withdrawal of USAID from member countries of the alliance.  The Resolution goes as follows:

On behalf of the Chancellors of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Federal Republic of Brazil, on June 21st 2012.

Given the open interference of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the internal politics of the ALBA countries, under the excuse of “planning and administering economic and humanitarian assistance for the whole world outside of the United States,” financing non-governmental organizations and actions and projects designed to destabilise the legitimate governments which do not share their common interests.

Knowing the evidence brought to light by the declassified documents of the North American State Department in which the financing of organisations and political parties in opposition to ALBA countries is made evident, in a clear and shameless interference in the internal political processes of each nation.

Given that this intervention of a foreign country in the internal politics of a country is contrary to the internal legislation of each nation.

On the understanding that in the majority of ALBA countries, USAID, through its different organisations and disguises, acts in an illegal manner with impunity, without possessing a legal framework to support this action, and illegally financing the media, political leaders and non-governmental organisations, amongst others.

On the understanding that through these financing programmes they are supporting NGOs which promote all kind of fundamentalism in order to conspire and limit the legal authority of our states, and in many cases, widely loot our natural resources on territory which they claim to control at their own free will.

Conscious of the fact that our countries do not need any kind of external financing for the maintenance of our democracies, which are consolidated through the will of the Latin American and Caribbean people, in the same way that we do not need organisations in the charge of foreign powers which, in practice, usurp and weaken the presence of state organisms and prevent them from developing the role that corresponds to them in the economic and social arena of our populations.

We resolve to:

Request that the heads of state and the government of the states who are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, immediately expel USAID and its delegates or representatives from their countries, due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, Federal Republic of Brazil, June 21st 2012.

Signed by: The government of the Pluri-national state of Bolivia, The government of the Republic of Cuba, The government of the Republic of Ecuador, The government of the Commonwealth of Dominica, The government of the Republic of Nicaragua, The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Why did ALBA make such a statement?  Surely, USAID doesn’t use its status as a global “humanitarian” agency (Isn’t “International Development” their last name?)USAID Logo 1 cannot be attempting to destabilize legitimate governments, can they?  Well, perhaps we need more information and testimony, such as the following article from the Web Site http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/ALBA-Strongly-Condemns-USAID-Plot-in-Cuba-20140808-0043.html, published August 8, 2014, titled The member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for Peoples of Our America (ALBA) demanded the United States cease its subversive actions against Cuba.  Here is an excerpt:

The statement released this Thursday follows revelations about the recruitment and employment of young Latin American people since 2009 in a bid to convert contemporary Cubans into “agents of change” and promote political dissent on the island.

The U.S. based agency Associated Press revealed on Sunday that the U.S. agency for International Development (USAID) sent a group of young people from Costa Rica, Venezuela and Peru to Cuba under the guise of carrying out health and social projects, when in reality their main goal was to find and encourage anti-government activists.

In the text, ALBA expressed its “indignation”, describing the project as “immoral”.

“The ALBA condemns this new plan against Cuba, and demands and end to the subversive, illegal actions partly covered by the U.S. government, that violate the sovereignty and right of the Cuban people to self-determination.” added the communiqué.

“The countries of ALBA express their deep solidarity with the Cuban Republic and demand the United States respect the Cuban people’s will in continuing to improve its economic and social model, as well as the consolidation of its democracy, without any external interferences.”

An analysis of USAID’s objectives in Latin America was presented last month in an article on the Web Site http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/USAIDin-Latin-America-More-Than-Just-Aid-20141027-0055.html, USAID in Latin America: More Than Just Aid, published 27 October 2014, which said, in part:

After being expelled from numerous Latin American countries for dubious activity, the United States organization USAID has developed a reputation of an organization that while providing aid is also developing ways to undermine governments in a number of the continent’s countries.

According to their website, USAID’s mission is “furthering America’s interests, while improving lives in the developing world.” However in practice, they may well be furthering the United States interests, but not by improving lives in the developing world but by supporting the activities of groups that are opposed to democratically elected governments.

The most recent damning revelations are that the agency not only had attempted to create a twitter style social media network in Cuba to undermine the government, but on top of this an Obama administration program secretly dispatched young Latin Americans to Cuba using the cover of health and civic programs to provoke political change in order to overthrow Castro’s government, which the United States has been trying to do for over 50 years now, with no success.

After it was revealed that USAID had been interfering in Cuba, the House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz said, “That is not what USAID should be doing … USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

The USAID operations in Latin America, which are overseen by what is known as the “Office of Transition Initiatives” (OTI), is a way for the U.S. to promote its interests through soft power. The U.S. calls these projects aiding in “transition”, whereas in reality it is nothing but meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. They work with many different NGOs and private companies, all under the guise of providing aid to developing nations.

USAID have engaged in activities to undermine democratically elected governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Haiti and interfered in Brazil, Ecuador and most likely other nations. …

But not only is USAID’s image tattered in many parts of Latin America, it is also held in suspicion among several activists in Ayiti (Haiti). A report critical of USAID, which was released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), was detailed in the April 3, 2013 article New Report on U.S. Aid to Haiti Finds “Troubling” Lack of Transparency, Effectiveness (http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/new-report-on-us-aid-to-haiti-finds-troubling-lack-of-transparency-effectiveness).  Among the article’s revelations:

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) identifies significant problems with the delivery of U.S. aid in Haiti and finds an overall lack of transparency on how the billions of dollars obligated for U.S. assistance to Haiti are being used. The report, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti,” by CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston and Senior Associate for International Policy Alexander Main, examines the effectiveness of U.S. assistance to Haiti, how it is being administered, to what extent it is adhering to the “USAID Forward” reform agenda and what steps can be taken to ensure its more effective and transparent delivery.

“Billions in U.S. aid money are going to Haiti with little transparency to ensure that it is being used effectively,” paper co-author Jake Johnston said. “The situation for many people in post-quake Haiti is especially daunting, but for USAID it has been business as usual. No care has been taken to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being best utilized in Haiti.”

The report notes that the few audits and evaluations of USAID’s programs in Haiti since the earthquake present a “troubling picture of the manner in which U.S. relief and reconstruction efforts have been conducted so far.” Contractors have hired far fewer Haitians than promised, Haitian businesses were largely excluded, goals were not met, there was inadequate supervision of grantees, and USAID had not conducted internal financial reviews of contractors.

The paper shows that of the $1.15 billion in contracts and grants awarded since the 2010 earthquake, over half went to the top 10 recipients of global USAID awards, with the largest recipient being the for-profit company Chemonics International Inc., the single largest recipient of USAID funds worldwide aside from the World Bank and U.N. Meanwhile, just 0.7 percent of USAID awards have gone directly to Haitian businesses or organizations. …

The paper notes that despite USAID’s “Forward” reform agenda, the agency has blocked disclosure of additional information, including through Freedom of Information Act requests. …

“Without transparency, not only is it impossible for U.S. taxpayers to know what is being done with their money, but the Haitian government and the Haitian people have little opportunity to ensure that U.S.-funded projects actually assist Haiti in rebuilding and dealing with ongoing urgent humanitarian needs,” paper co-author Alex Main said.

So, there is evidence that USAID has acted, in the recent past, to undermine governments in Latin America, and that many of those governments have expelled USAID employees as a result.  There are also reports of a lack of transparency as to how funds are spent in countries, such as Ayiti (Haiti), where USAID has purportedly acted in a humanitarian capacity.  What has that to do with Feed the Future, and why should we assume that USAID will act in a similar fashion in Afrika?

What Food Activists Say: USAID’s Support of GMOs

Another troubling aspect of USAID’s practices over the years has been the agency’s consistent support of corporations that are engaged in the promotion of genetically modified (GM, or GMO for “genetically modified organism”) food, which goes back over a decade.  An October 2002 report by Greenpeace (http://greenpeace.co/uk) titled USAID and GM Food Aid, states, among other things:

In August 2002, Andrew Natsios of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) accused environmental groups of endangering the lives of millions of people in southern Africa by encouraging local governments to reject genetically modified (GM) food aid. Mr. Natsios said, “They can play these games with Europeans, who have full stomachs, but it is revolting and despicable to see them do so when the lives of Africans are at stake.” He added, “The Bush administration is not going to sit there and let these groups kill millions of poor people in southern Africa through their ideological campaign.”

In fact, the cynical manipulators of the famine in Africa are the US government, USAID and the GM industry. They are using the current situation to force the introduction of GM crops on countries desperate for food aid. There are numerous sources of non-GM aid available around the world, including the USA. Using these sources is the best way to both feed people and maintain their dignity, yet the US has made a clear policy decision to only supply GM contaminated aid from US suppliers. Aid agencies, the EU and UK Government all believe that best practice in emergency aid is to provide support to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in the form of cash, so that it can buy grain from the quickest and most cost effective sources. The only organisation that thinks otherwise is USAID. US policy thus impedes aid from generating maximum benefit.

It is clear that the current program of aid donation is the latest twist in a crude 10-year marketing campaign, led by USAID and designed to facilitate the introduction of US-developed GM crops into Africa. …

The simple fact is that USAID has chosen to supply GM maize as food aid, even though there are numerous grain companies in the USA from whom they could supply certified non-GM grain. …

During negotiations on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, part of a UN sponsored international agreement to control the movement of GM crops around the world, African countries made it clear that they did not want to become a test site or dumping ground for unwanted GM food. Yet this now seems to be the case. Indeed, in comments largely ignored at the time, the UK Chief Scientist Professor David King said that the Bush Administration’s efforts to force GM foods into Africa in the form of food aid is “a massive human experiment.  Professor King questioned the morality of the Administration’s desire to introduce GM into African countries, where people are facing starvation in the coming months. …

USAID has become increasingly frustrated over countries not taking GM contaminated aid – a US official was quoted as saying, “beggars can’t be choosers.” USAID clearly states, however, that among other things its role is to “integrate GM into local food systems” and “spread agricultural technology through regions of Africa.” US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Johannesburg, “In the face of famine, several governments in southern Africa have prevented critical US food assistance from being distributed to the hungry by rejecting GM corn which has been eaten safely around the world since 1995.” …

There is much more to this article, including an analysis of how the US’s specific means of delivering aid makes this result not only possible, but likely, as well as USAID’s connections with global agribusiness and biotech corporations and its efforts to further the opening of markets (“trade liberalization”) and the enforcement of patents, hardly an aid imperative.  The whole article can be found at the Web Site www.greenpeace.co.uk.

There is more still to this part of the story, which we will cover in more detail when our journey takes us to India.  But now, we wish to share with you the words of an executive of Monsanto, one of the largest biotech and agribusiness corporations in the world and a major corporate partner of USAID.  Monsanto is quite proud of its role in pushing GMO food on the world, primarily through its proprietary hybridized seeds.  These seeds have been marketed to farmers in the United States, India and other parts of the world.  While Monsanto claims these “magic seeds” have brought nothing but benefit to farmers around the world, many of the farmers themselves have quite a different tale to tell.  But first, the words of this Monsanto executive, which makes it clear that USAID has been an enthusiastic backer of GMO food and biotechnology for quite some time, and that they enjoy a rather cozy relationship with USAID.

What Monsanto Says: The Promise of GMO Foods

Monsanto Logo 1Following are excerpts from a statement of Mr. Gerald Steiner, Executive Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs, Monsanto Company, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, July 20, 2010, which was posted on Monsanto’s Web Site, http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/feed-the-future-initiative.aspx:

Thank you for inviting me to testify today on a vital new initiative, Feed the Future (www.feedthefuture.gov), which provides a framework for addressing one of our planet’s great needs, and great opportunities – the use of more productive and sustainable agricultural development to reduce hunger and poverty. 

Our company has made a three-pronged commitment to improve sustainable agriculture: We will do our part to help farmers double yields in our core crops of corn, cotton and soybeans between 2000 and 2030, while producing each bushel or bale with one-third fewer resources in aggregate (such as land, water and energy). And, just as importantly, in so doing we will help farmers to earn more and improve the lives of their families and rural communities. 

… Our cornerstone strategy is to actively engage and seek collaboration from a wide range of partners in the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society. 

… USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, when introducing Feed the Future to the Chicago Council Symposium on Agriculture and Security in May, asked for private-sector input. “Tell us what countries and donors can do to reduce constraints on business operations,” he said. “And please explore with us whether our tools to encourage investment . . . would help you make the commitment to invest greater resources in these specific value chains and countries.” …

… At Monsanto, we develop improved seed through advanced breeding as well as biotechnology. 

… Cutting-edge science and technology is built into the seed itself, which can be planted by an African farmer using a hoe, or an American farmer using sophisticated machinery. …

… These require systems approaches that begin with improved seeds, access to fertilizer and extension training, and end with functioning markets. What we need in order to effectively contribute – as noted in the Feed the Future Guide and implied in Dr. Shah’s question – are enabling business environments. 

That includes policies that provide predictability, such as reliable, science-based regulatory systems, as well as laws that protect the fruits of our research and development and the ability to fairly compete in the marketplace. … 

I am encouraged by Feed the Future’s endorsement of business- enabling policies, and by its support for public-private partnerships. … Monsanto is engaged in a variety of public- private partnerships in markets around the world. …

… we are equally focused on public- private partnerships that help farmers access and use agricultural technology to produce more abundant crops, while using fewer resources. One of these is Project Sunshine, a partnership with the government of the Indian state of Gujarat and local NGOs, which has helped thousands of subsistence farmers to increase corn yields and break the cycle of poverty. …

Farmers who planted hybrids doubled, or even tripled their corn yield – and, as a result, doubled or tripled their income. Those who accepted free seed and inputs in 2008 were able to purchase them at minimal cost the following year. By 2010, Project Sunshine generated additional farm income of $27 million, improving living standards and increasing spending power so that families can afford to educate their children. …

Again, these are Mr. Steiner’s own words.  Monsanto is clearly quite proud of its work in the development and promotion of GMO foods and its relationship with USAID.  Mr. Steiner’s mention of Project Sunshine is also important, for it is the subject of a case in the Gujarat State of India that we will examine in a few minutes.

What Food Activists Say: Monsanto’s Plans for Control of India’s Food and Farmer Suicides

Mr. Steiner’s statement above extols the benefits of GMO seeds for the farmers of India, but as we have already stated, numerous voices are saying something entirely different.  We will quote parts of some of the articles below and will simply refer to others, with their Web addresses included so you can read the articles in their entirety.

A Daily Mail article by Andrew Malone (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1082559/The-GM-genocide-Thousands-Indian-farmers-committing-suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html) helped tell the world about The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops with this opening statement:

When Prince Charles claimed thousands of Indian farmers were killing themselves after using GM crops, he was branded a scaremonger. In fact, as this chilling dispatch reveals, it’s even WORSE than he feared.

Sourcewatch (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Monsanto_in_India) released a report, Monsanto in India, which goes into more detail about the crisis of farmer suicides.  Here is part of that article:

Farmers in India are finding that the “biotechnology revolution” is having a devastating effect on their crop lands and personal debt levels. “In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved” says Vandana Shiva, leader of the movement to oust Monsanto from India in her 2004 article The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation. “As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. This increases poverty and leads to indebtedness. As debts increase and become unpayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide. …”

UPDATE: “Since 1997, 182,936 Indian farmers have taken their lives and the numbers continue to rise. According to a recent study by the National Crime Records Bureau, 46 Indian farmers kill themselves every day – that is roughly one suicide every 30 minutes – an alarming statistic in a country where agriculture is the economic mainstay“.

Yet even this number may be underestimated. According to P. Sainath, rural affairs editor of The Hindu, “the states where these [figures] are gathered leave out thousands from the definition of ‘farmer’ and, thus, massage the numbers downward. For instance, women farmers are not normally accepted as farmers (by custom, land is almost never in their names). They do the bulk of work in agriculture – but are just ‘farmers’ wives’.” This classification enables governments to exclude countless women farmer suicides. They will be recorded as suicide deaths – but not as ‘farmers’ suicides’. Likewise, many other groups, too, have been excluded from that list.”

This has been called a genocide. Says the Deccan Herald, “Bt cotton requiring more water than hybrid cotton, was knowingly promoted so as to allow the seed industry to make profits. What happens to the farmers as a result was nobody’s concern. And never was. … Strange, the country has already jumped into the second phase of green revolution without first drawing a balance sheet of the first phase of the technology era. Such an approach will only worsen the crisis, and force more farmers to commit suicide or abandon their farms. As a result, India is sure to witness the worst environmental displacement the world has known and this will be in the field of agriculture.”

Others have also written extensively on Monsanto’s GMO seeds and their implication in the wave of farmer suicides in India.  An article on Global Research (http://www.globalresearch.ca/killer-seeds-the-devastating-impacts-of-monsanto-s-genetically-modified-seeds-in-india/28629) titled KILLER SEEDS: The Devastating Impacts of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Seeds in India by Iqbal Ahmed, January 12, 2012, states:

Monsanto’s operation in India illustrates monopolization and manipulation of the market economy, tradition, technology, and misgovernance. The world’s largest producer of genetically engineered seeds has been selling genetically modified (GM) in India for the last decade to benefit the Indian farmers – or so the company claims.

Prominent physicist, food and farmers’ activist and 1993 Right Livelihood Award winner Dr. Vandana Shiva (founder of Navdanya http://www.navdanya.org/) has Vandana Shiva 1authored more than 20 books and 500 papers in leading scientific and technical journals.  One of them, available on http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-seeds-of-suicide-how-monsanto-destroys-farming/5329947, is The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming (Global Research, March 13, 2014 and Asian Age and Global Research, April 5, 2013), which goes into detail to allege that

Monsanto’s talk of ‘technology’ tries to hide its real objectives of control over seed where genetic engineering is a means to control seed.

Tony Cartalucci, a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”, wrote an article for Global Research on March 14, 2014 (http://www.globalresearch.ca/gmo-agribusiness-in-india-grassroots-action-against-monsanto-cargill-sygenta/5373420) titled GMO Agribusiness in India: Grassroots Action against Monsanto, Cargill, Sygenta, Grassroots Activism Builds Wall Against Western Imperialism.

Also from Global Research, Colin Todhunter wrote an article on June 20, 2014 titled Criminalising Dissent in India against GMOs and Monsanto (http://www.globalresearch.ca/criminalising-dissent-in-india-against-gmos-and-monsanto/5387779).

There have been some victories, however small, for farmers and food activists in Indian courts and government agencies.  The Project Sunshine seeds that Monsanto executive Steiner was touting in his statement above, for example, were withdrawn from the project in 2012, as the following article from DNA India, Sun no longer shines on GM maize seeds (http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-sun-no-longer-shines-on-gm-maize-seeds-1681371, April 27, 2012) explains:

Gujarat government on Thursday withdrew propriety seeds of multinational company (MNC) Monsanto from ongoing Project Sunshine of the government. Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and anti-GM lobby hailed the move.

“We cannot let our food security be compromised by giving unusual leverages to MNCs,” said Prabhakar Kelkar, national president – Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). Talking at a press meet in the city on Thursday, he said that the move is the first step towards ensuring food security in the country.

Popularly known after its brand name ‘Prabal’, Monsanto seeds are double-crossed hybrid of maize that was being distributed to tribal farmers of Gujarat under Project Sunshine. …

Speaking on the issue, agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani said that government was purchasing Monsanto seeds to be given to ‘Project Sunshine’ farmers, but it has now stopped doing so. …

Earlier, use of Prabal seeds by government in Project Sunshine invited criticism from BKS, scientists and NGOs. … It is also alleged that authorities selected the seeds despite adverse opinion of agriculture scientists.

Another article apparently sought to clarify the issue, however, by stating that the Gujarat government did not “ban” the seeds; it only ceased distributing them.  The article Gujarat says ‘no’ to ban on distribution of Monsanto hybrid maize seed (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/gujarat-says-no-to-ban-on-distribution-of-monsanto-hybrid-maize-seed/article3386089.ece) is excerpted below:

Despite opposition from various quarters, including the agricultural experts and the farmers’ organisations, the Gujarat government has refused to impose a total ban on distribution of the Monsanto hybrid maize seed named “Prabal” to the farmers in the State, particularly the tribal agriculturists. …

“The State government does not distribute seeds, it only certifies for distribution, and therefore there is no question of stopping the distribution,” the official said. He said the State government had not taken any decision to “ban” the distribution of Monsanto seeds, but it had only decided to allow distribution of other varieties of seeds also along with Prabal if farmers chose it.

The State government had been distributing Prabal, the hybrid maize seeds developed by the American multi-national company Monsanto, to the tribal farmers since 2008. The agricultural scientists and experts, however, maintain that Prabal, which required more water and fertilizers than other varieties and needed deep soil, was not suitable for the usually dry and rain-fed areas like Gujarat, and particularly for the poor tribal farmers.

Then, in July 2013, an appeals court and India’s Intellectual Property Appellate Board rejected two patent applications from Monsanto for varieties of their GMO seed, as reported in the July 15, 2013 Nation of Change article Monsanto’s Patent Appeal Rejected by Indian Government, Saving Farmers, Food and Lives by Christina Sarich (http://www.nationofchange.org/monsanto-s-patent-appeal-rejected-indian-government-saving-farmers-food-and-lives-1373891665):

Part of the reason Monsanto was not able to pass their patents is because the 1970 Patent Act excluded patents in agriculture and medicine. The act had to be amended when India signed the World Trade Agreement (including sections covering Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights). Strong sections of the Act, like ‘what are not inventions’ in clause 3 and the especially 3d, ‘excludes as inventions the mere discovery of any new property or new use for a known substance,’ were key in Monsanto’s refusal. It was this same clause that kept the Novartis pharmaceutical company from patenting a known cancer-curing drug. They tried to challenge this in the Supreme Court of India, but lost. Many are saying that what the Novartis case is to our global Right to Health, the new refusal of Monsanto’s patents are the same Right to Seed and Right to Livelihood for farmers.

There are supposedly 27,000 farmers who have committed acts similar to a farmer in Bhiwandi taluka, India, who consumed pesticide after his crops failed miserably due to draught and increased debts to companies like Monsanto. Farmers have been petitioning the Indian government to help lift them out of poverty. While not every farmer blames Monsanto directly, the majority of these farmer suicides happen in the cotton belt, where Monsanto controls 95% of the cotton seed supply with Bt cotton. The costs of the seeds jumped more than 8,000% with the introduction of Bt cotton. …

Monsanto’s attempts to patent further seeds and bankrupt entire generations of farmers and their families that have successfully farmed for centuries have been halted – at least in India – for now.

What Monsanto Says II: No Connection Between GMO and Indian Farmer Suicides

Monsanto, of course, denies any connection between their GMO seeds and the farmer suicides in India.  On the Monsanto Web Site (http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/india-farmer-suicides.aspx), a number of statements designed to give the corporation’s side of this and other controversies can be found.  In the piece titled Is Bt or GMO Cotton the Reason for Indian Farmer Suicides, Monsanto makes the following contentions (among others):

Farming in rural India brings with it a set of systemic and social issues that can lead to hopelessness among farmers and an unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides. Significant research has documented the problem is complex and disproved the claim that GMO crops are the leading cause. …

The international community has conducted several studies to identify the reasons for the unacceptably frequent occurrence of farmer suicides in India over the last three decades. For example:

A 2008 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found indebtedness among Indian farmers can be linked to numerous causes, including a lack of reliable credit, changes in government policies, cropping patterns, plant and insect resistance to pesticides, and even shifts in the crops planted on the farm.

The Council for Social Development’s (CSD) June 2012 study, Socio-Economic Impact assessment of Bt Cotton in India, identified the key reasons leading to farmer suicides as lack of irrigation facilities, unavailability of timely credit and fluctuating cotton prices over the years. …

Despite claims by those who oppose GMO crops, research also demonstrates there is no link between Indian farmer suicides and the planting of GMO cotton.

Farmer suicides in India have been a problem for nearly three decades – starting well before the first GM crop (biotech or Bt cotton) was introduced in 2002. …

One contention that is not answered is that the problems with irrigation and resistance to pests might have been triggered by the need for larger volumes of water for Monsanto’s GMO crops in areas where irrigation was not available as well as increasing resistance of pests when they adapted to the GMO varieties and the new pesticides that were required to ensure their cultivation.  Also not mentioned was the “shifts in the crops planted” from cycling through different crops, as farmers have done for centuries before the advent of industrial farming, to “monocropping” to conform with the demands of factory (industrial) farming, as is promoted and practiced in many corporate agricultural environments.

“Terminator” Seeds and “Terminator” Courts: Threatening the Right to Save Seeds?

There has also been discussion about the several-thousand-year-old practice of seed saving, and the degree to which this age-old agricultural tradition is being threatened by the patenting of seeds by corporations like Monsanto.  Allegations of the development of a “Terminator” seed that produces sterile or non-viable offspring (to require farmers to buy seed every year instead of recycling the seeds from a previous planting) have been categorically denied by Monsanto (despite their acquisition in 2006 of a company that was conducting experiments in this very same technology), but Monsanto jealously guards its seed by patenting it, and then threatening farmers who try to save their seed (instead of buying it again from Monsanto) with lawsuits.  An article on the Web Site http://thirdworldtraveler.com, Terminator Seeds Threaten an End to Farming by Hope Shand and Pat Mooney (rafiusa@rafi.org, www.rafi.ca), Earth Island Journal, Fall, 1998, noted that

In March 1998, Delta & Pine Land Co. and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced they had received a US patent on a new genetic technology designed to prevent unauthorized seed-saving by farmers.

The patented technology enables a seed company to genetically alter seed so that the plants that grow from it are sterile; farmers cannot use their seeds. The patent is broad applying to plants and seeds of all species including both transgenic (genetically engineered) and conventionally-bred seeds. The developers of the new technology say that their technique to prevent seed-saving is still in the product development stage, and is now being tested on cotton and tobacco. They hope to have a product on the market sometime after the year 2000.

Monsanto was implicated in this as well, based on its attempt to buy Delta & Pine Land in 1998 (which failed) and its ultimate success in acquiring that company around 2006.  Monsanto, however, has denied that it has any intentions to develop and market “Terminator” seed technology.  Again, from the Monsanto Web Site (http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/terminator-seeds.aspx), Myth: Monsanto Sells Terminator Seeds:

Fact: Monsanto has never commercialized a biotech trait that resulted in sterile – or “Terminator” – seeds. Sharing the concerns of small landholder farmers, Monsanto made a commitment in 1999 not to commercialize sterile seed technology in food crops. We stand firmly by this commitment, with no plans or research that would violate this commitment.

Perhaps this is true, and perhaps Monsanto has stood by the commitment it says it made to “smallholder farmers” in 1999 to not pursue “Terminator” technology in its seeds.  Monsanto does, however, publicly defend its practice of prosecuting farmers who attempt to save their seeds, again from their Web Site, http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/why-does-monsanto-sue-farmers-who-save-seeds.aspx, Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers Who Save Seeds?

When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they buy from us. More than 275,000 farmers a year buy seed under these agreements in the United States. Other seed companies sell their seed under similar provisions. They understand the basic simplicity of the agreement, which is that a business must be paid for its product. The vast majority of farmers understand and appreciate our research and are willing to pay for our inventions and the value they provide. They don’t think it’s fair that some farmers don’t pay.

A very small percentage of farmers do not honor this agreement. Monsanto does become aware, through our own actions or through third-parties, of individuals who are suspected of violating our patents and agreements. …

Whether the farmer settles right away, or the case settles during or through trial, the proceeds are donated to youth leadership initiatives including scholarship programs.

Also, from the Monsanto Web Site, http://www.monsanto.com/food-inc/pages/seed-saving-and-legal-activities.aspx, Seed Saving and Legal Activities:

In agriculture plants and seeds with enhanced traits or genetics may be patent protected. This is true in the U.S. for plant varieties as well as biotech innovations.  Monsanto is one of many seed companies that patent their innovations.  Growers who purchase our patented seeds sign a Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement — an agreement that specifically addresses the obligations of both the grower and Monsanto and governs the use of the harvested crop.  The agreement specifically states that the grower will not save or sell the seeds from their harvest for further planting, breeding or cultivation.

The United States Supreme Court seems to agree with Monsanto in this regard.  On the Web Site of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, GEN News Highlights, May 13, 2013 (http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/breaking-news-unanimous-supreme-court-upholds-monsanto-seed-rights/81248358/) appears the story Unanimous Supreme Court Upholds Monsanto Seed Rights.  It reports on a case between Monsanto and an Indiana farmer over the saving of soybean seed.

The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously sided with Monsanto’s right to enforce its patents for genetically modified soybean seed beyond their initial sale, over objections from a 75-year-old Indiana farmer who used multiple generations of the seed.

So, we have established USAID’s links with Monsanto and other biotech agribusiness corporations.  We have seen how this alliance has been used to promote the use of GMO seeds in India.  We have seen how farmers in India have in many instances suffered because of the imposition of GMO seeds.  We have also read the words of Monsanto’s executives as they explained their denial of any connection between their GMO seed and farmer suicides, as well as their stated willingness to take legal action against farmers, even poor farmers, who rely upon time-honored practices such as saving seeds.  We have also taken a look at USAID’s record in Latin America and Ayiti, one which has inspired distrust in many corners of South America and the Caribbean.  And we have read the words of both Dr. Shah of USAID and of Mr. Steiner of Monsanto regarding the plans for Feed the Future, especially in Afrika.  So, what are the implications of all this?  Should Pan-Afrikanists, Afrikan Internationalists, Black Nationalists, progressives of all races and nationalities and people who just plain like to engage in such revolutionary acts as the eating of food be concerned, and why?

Implications for Afrika

Land Grab NC Black Farmer 1Paula Crossfield wrote a piece on http://civileats.com/2009/08/06/will-obama-let-the-usaid-genetically-modified-trojan-horse-ride-again/ (August 6, 2009) titled Food Security in Africa: Will Obama let USAID’s Genetically Modified Trojan Horse Ride Again?, which began with an August 5, 2009 visit to Kenya by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Representatives Donald M. Payne (D-NJ) and Nita M. Lowey (D-NY):

While the group was there on a broad platform to discuss economic development in Africa, including food security issues, the delegation took the opportunity yesterday afternoon to visit the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) lab, which is best known for unsuccessfully trying to produce a genetically modified, virus-resistant sweet potato under a US-led program. The trip to KARI highlights the poor vision the United States currently holds on furthering food security in Africa.

Historically, the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the US and other countries has primarily profited patent-holding companies, while creating farmer dependence on the chemical fertilizers and pesticides produced by a few US corporations, used to the detriment of human health, soil quality and the environment. The failed sweet potato project at the KARI lab was a product of a public-private partnership between Monsanto, KARI and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the federal organization responsible for most US non-military foreign aid. USAID is not shy about their desire to promote biotechnology, and have been working towards furthering a GMO agenda abroad since 1991, when it launched the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP). According to this in-depth research article by the organization GRAIN, the ABSP sought to “identify suitable crops in various countries and use them as Trojan Horses to provide a solid platform for the introduction of other GM crops.”

In Kenya, that crop was the sweet potato — the focus of the USAID-funded Kenya Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program, which sought for fourteen years at KARI, at a cost of $6 million, to create and bring it to market before the partnering groups abandoned the project. …

The point … is to show how a tangled consortium (these are just some of the groups), funded by taxpayer dollars via USAID, seeks to further the aims of biotech abroad, especially in Africa, where Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia were singled out and have been the testing grounds for this strategy.

The obvious beneficiaries of such international development are the handful of corporations which own the patents and the technology, and which produce the herbicides and pesticides required by the use of such seeds. … Africans … have a right to be worried — they can look to India to see what a future relying solely on biotech seeds could look like, where a depleted water table, poisoned waterways and farmer suicides have been the result of the first Green Revolution. …

After painting the picture of a corporate-influenced, GMO-friendly food aid regime being promoted by USAID, Ms. Crossfield goes on to suggest a better alternative based on a major report that was researched, compiled and released in 2009 by a team made up of hundreds of scientists and policymakers and which strongly recommended a locally-based, more sustainable means of fighting world hunger and improving food security (physical and economic access to food, whether self-determined or imposed upon a community) while maintaining a nation’s food sovereignty (the right of a community to control their own access to food and the standards their food must meet – more on that later):

But instead of tired solutions that are not working, we need a paradigm shift, says Dr. Hans Herren, who has worked in Nairobi for 27 years and was co-chair of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report. The IAASTD report [pdf] was sponsored by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and represented four years of work by 400 scientists. …

Biotechnology is a reductionist pipe dream which is overly dependent on waning resources. By contrast, the IAASTD looked at agro-ecological solutions that focused on agricultural resilience. Agriculture according to the IAASTD requires multifaceted, local solutions. While biotechnology has been promising drought tolerance and higher yields for years without delivering, there are real answers available now — like drought tolerant varieties, suited to certain areas, which are naturally bred; science that focuses on building the quality of the soil and the capacity for that soil to hold more water; or push and pull solutions that deal with pests naturally by attracting beneficial insects or planting compatible species that act as decoys for those pests.

… In light of what we now know about USAID, and the fact that there are biotech friendly advisers like Technology and Science Advisor to [then-Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton Nina Fedoroff and Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rajiv Shah in the administration, it is not hard to assume how those monies might be used. But President Obama should significantly change our policy if he wants to truly help the continent he says he cares so much about.

Obama administration: Study the IAASTD. If there is any hope for a better food system in Africa and the U.S., we must first accept that what is being practiced now is not sustainable, and begin to start the process of making it so. – See more at: http://civileats.com/2009/08/06/will-obama-let-the-usaid-genetically-modified-trojan-horse-ride-again/#sthash.ZWCaX21q.dpuf

Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, ETH Zurich, Institute of Integrative Biology, Zurich, Switzerland, wrote The IAASTD report and some of its fallout – a personal note (http://www.inesglobal.com/_News/iaastd.html), to describe her experience as part of the group that had put together the IAASTD report:

The paradigm of industrial agriculture was maximizing profits from land by focusing on one factor only: productivity – the increase of yields literally at any costs. With the help of chemicals and cheap oil, cheap food was brought to many in the industrialized world and has brought unimaginable profits to the chemical and oil companies. This came at the expense of the health of humans and the environment, the costs of which were never factored into the economic equation in any meaningful way. The price was paid by all, including those who never profited from cheap food in the first place which for most humans constitutes fundamental injustice in itself. With today’s world population split deeply into a very affluent part in the industrialized world where many people eat themselves to death and an impoverished part where many people starve to death and live under the most appalling conditions ever, a shift in the obviously dysfunctional agricultural and food production paradigm has become paramount for global peace and justice. Exactly what went wrong and how we can improve on it was to be learned from the biggest ever review of global agricultural food production and the underlying causes for continued and growing hunger and starvation: the International Assessment of Knowledge, Science and Technology, or IAASTD for short.

The IAASTD was a multi-stakeholder process consisting of governmental and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, producers, consumers, the science community and multiple international agencies involved in the agricultural and rural development sectors. The expected outputs were critical, in-depth global and sub-global assessments of local and institutional knowledge and experiences. The participants had to create plausible scenarios for the future based on the past events and existing trends in population growth, climate change to mention just a few. ‘What if’ questions had to be developed and answered to the best of the current existing knowledge that would allow the implications of different technological options to be explored and understood. The aim was to inform processes of future planning and thinking as to what may happen as the world continues to develop over the next 30-50 years. The process lasted 3 years and involved over 400 experts and over 100 countries. The intergovernmental process ensured ownership by governments, while the Integrated Bureau allowed the full range of stakeholders to meet as a single body for constructive exchanges and consensus building. More information on the details of the process can be found on the IAASTD website (http://inesglobal.com/_News/iaastd.html).  Now, from the above said, it was clear right from the start that this process would be hard, very hard – tough truths would have to be faced and it was to be expected that those who profited and continue to profit from the existing situation would have to swallow some bitter pills. Well, as it turned out too bitter for some.

Thus, those with vested interests were able to exert influence over even the IAASTD report, though not enough to significantly blunt the report’s conclusions.

A few paragraphs above, we mentioned two terms that are often confused with each other: food security and food sovereignty.  “Food security” is often used by officials like Dr. Shah of USAID when describing a “foreign-aid” process in which the US or its corporate partners deliver food aid to a starving populace, akin to “giving a man a fish” on a massive scale.  Seeds that are “owned” by major agribusinesses are given, or sold, to poor farmers, who then plant the seeds, sometimes without question, based on the promises of greater crop yields and a resultant easier life.  But these farmers do not decide what seeds to plant; the corporations make that decision, often in their laboratories, a decision that becomes clear when the farmers try to “save” their seeds and find themselves prosecuted for it in local or international courts.  What these officials will not talk about is “food soverignty”, in which the people in the community take ownership in decifing what seed will be planted, how it will be done, and whether they will save their seed or not.  Farmers’ rights afvocates and food activists will usually speak of “food sovereignty”, which is much more self-determinative, akin to a community “learning to fish”.

Here is how a couple of Web sites define the terms and explain the difference between food security and food sovereignty.  The first is from http://globalfoodpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/food-security-vs-food-sovereignty/.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Food sovereignty is a broader concept. According to the 2007 Declaration of Nyéléni, food sovereignty encompasses “The right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labour, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies. Food sovereignty means the primacy of people’s and community’s rights to food and food production, over trade concerns.” Food sovereignty is thus embedded in larger questions of social justice and the rights of farmers and indigenous communities to control their own futures and make their own decisions.

From http://www.coffeekids.org/food-sovereignty-vs-food-security-is-there-a-difference/:

Food security and food sovereignty, although often used interchangeably, are considerably different concepts. Food security, a much more widely understood notion, refers to communities with access to food. NGOs that work with food security projects often work with a community to meet its food needs, denoting that it currently lacks the quantity and quality of food necessary to sustain community members. Food security does not necessarily stipulate what types of food are provided or whether or not that food is local or brought in from other regions, and it does not always require the direct involvement of the community to attain and administer that food (e.g., disaster-relief situations in which food arrives from outside sources). Food sovereignty, on the other hand, is slightly more specific and elicits certain guidelines that food security does not explicitly mention. Food sovereignty puts ownership of food systems into the hands of the communities themselves. It involves a sustainable, long-term process in which a community can establish its own food systems and produce its own local products without being subject to fluctuating international markets or dependent on external sources for the acquisition of seeds. Food sovereignty takes into account the cultural and social, political, geographical and environmental context of the community in order to develop an appropriate plan of action to address the community’s particular problems and needs.

So, what is at stake here is Afrika’s right to food sovereignty; whether it will be sacrificed so that corporations and superpowers can make the claim of having “saved the world” in the name of food security while fattening the pockets of the corporate CEO’s and shareholders.  What’s at stake is the ability of the farmers of Afrika to make decisions as to whether their food will be organic, conventional or GMO; whether they will control their own farming practices or whether they will be controlled by either foreign organizations like USAID or multinational corporations like Monsanto; whether traditional farming and agricultural practices that have sustained communities for centuries or millennia will be lost forever as corporations and their governmental allies work to bring into play yet another massive land grab based on the ruination of farmers through the economic pressures brought on by introduction of GMO food, that simple looking little “magic seed” which is really a Seed of Suspicion that might just raise the curtain on another disappearing act for the rights of the world’s peoples to feed themselves on their terms.  This battle has already played out in India, to disastrous effect for many poor farmers there.  Latin America and the Caribbean have perhaps avoided that Land Grab Ethiopia 4crisis but have suffered in other ways as their governments have been undermined and their leaders toppled.  Afrika suffered under a Scramble once before, at the time of the enslavement of millions of her Sons and Daughters in the Americas, Europe and Arabia.  Open your eyes and see the latest Scramble, this one for Afrika’s land and resources, one that has, in fact, already been going on for centuries through the extractive industries (gold, diamonds, coltan and other minerals) and more recently through the acquisition of farmers’ lands for the use by foreign and corporate interests for food export or for the growing of biofuels.  The latest theater is the Scramble for Control of Afrika’s Food, one that appears to be hiding behind initiatives like Feed the Future.

There is much more to look at here.  We won’t be able to do it in this article, which is already much longer than a “usual” blog piece.  We hope we have been able to keep your attention.  We hope we have been able to share some valuable information.  As stated above, the links to the articles should give you the opportunity to dig even deeper if you so choose.  One final link we’d like to share is to an article by Colkin Todhunter, GMO Agribusiness and the Destructive Nature of Global Capitalism (http://www.globalresearch.ca/gmo-agribusiness-and-the-destructive-nature-of-global-capitalism/5323232), which carries the discussion into a scathing critique of the entire capitalist system.  Perhaps that is a rabbit hole to be explored at a later time.
 

Commentary: US Global Justice & Restitution

PerAnkh House of Life Website Header 1
By Nb Ka Ra Christopher—A Concise Version Of An Extended Position Paper
October 1st, 2008

EDITOR’S NOTE: This commentary, originally written in 2008, remains relevant today.  Despite having entered a self-proclaimed “Post-Racial Society”, we still see all the ills that impacted upon people of Afrikan descent – poverty, crime, education, institutional racism, police brutality, disproportionate prosecution and punishment, political imprisonment, dispossession of Black Farmers and the increasing colonization of our Mother Continent by US-based multinational corporations.  Add to this the fact that the racial climate has suffered in the United States because of a social and political backlash against the Obama Administration (despite its own acquiescence to the right-wing political agenda), and we see evidence that, in many ways, life for Afrikan descendants is worse than before, and the need for both external and internal reparation is greater than ever.  Here, Baba Neb Ka Ra of Per Ankh Em Smai Tawi gives historical and spiritual perspective to the call for restitution and reparation from the world’s dominant superpower, one which became so largely by the unpaid labor of our Afrikan Ancestors. 

*****

This commentary is being shared from a collective voice of Indigenous Afrakan ascended people at a time when many states, corporations and entities of the mainland United States of America are making verbal apologies for slavery and its long-lasting institutions that still impacted our social & economic life in 2008 and continue to do so today.

We greet you all with great peace, justice, love and harmony in the Name of Our Great Mother-Father Neter-Awe-All Nature: I Am That I Am The All In All:

This commentary is a synopsis of an extended treatise being addressed to the Honorable Judges and US Attorneys, executive, legislative and other judiciary agents, branches and representatives of the United States of America et. al.  Its main purpose is to inform your relative institutions of our position as Indigenous Afrakan Survivors of the unjust and criminal captivity and enslavement of our Indigenous Afrakan Ancestors. This commentary serves as the ra-initiation of a pursuit for a legal complaint, on behalf of our Indigenous Afrakan Ancestors and we as their ascendants (descendants) to be filed charging the entity and institution known as the Sovereign Government and Nation of the United States of America and other nations to include yet not be limited to: Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Islamic Leaders of Mecca-Arabia, Israelite Leaders of Aretz-Israel, and other nations, institutions, organizations, families, and entities that have committed mass crimes, criminal activities, genocide, oppression and racism against Indigenous Afrakans, Ameridians and other indigenous peoples, families and nations of huemanity. These mass murders, crimes and acts of genocide have no statutes of limitations.

This commentary is being written on behalf of the indigenous Afrakan Ancestors and their ascendants (descendants) who have not yet been vindicated for the organized, conscious and planned inhuemane injustices and crimes committed against our ancestors during the Indigenous Afrakan Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Holocaust-Maangamizi, the conquest of the Americas, the colonization of the Americas and Caribbean, the development of the modern nations of the western hemisphere inclusive of the United States of America, the colonization and neocolonialization of Afraka, and the partitioning of Afraka into more than 50 countries at the Berlin Conference of 1884. This is the beginning of a process for justice to be administered, restored and atoned for the victims that have suffered from the criminal activities that were consciously and systematically incorporated and utilized to expand European imperialism, supremacy, globalization and dominance over non-Europeans, such as the Indigenous Afrakans and their ascendants (descendants) and other Indigenous Peoples. Just a mere gesture of apology is not going to vindicate and be enough atonement for the souls and spirits of our ancestors when we look at the existing conditions of our Indigenous Afrakan Peoples on our continental homeland, our social conditions as their ascendants (descendants) in the Diaspora, and the inhuemane life conditions of other Indigenous Peoples of the Earth. The “wicked king” of the biblical “Exodus Story” did not just give an apology for the “enslavement” of Israel, nor did Germany just give the Jews a verbal apology for their holocaust mass murder and enslavement against the Jews pre, during and post-World War II.

We need for justice, atonement, and amends to be made to rectify the injustices and abuses, and manifestation of restitution for the unjust and inhuemane crimes committed against our Indigenous Afrakan ancestors. This needs to begin with communications (educational symposia, summit, public policy meetings, counsel, mediation et. al.) with those in authority so that we can begin to initiate and establish a process for this matter to be brought to the table in a proactive and intervention-driven international forum through an established International Court of Justice of Indigenous Afrakan People, other Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations.

When we look at the existing conditions of the Indigenous Peoples of the countries and nations that have experienced the invasion, conquest, domination, illegal occupation of their homes and homeland, the exploitation and terrorism, as well as those that were unjustly torn from their indigenous homelands, one can see plainly the inhuemane conditions which they are still facing everyday for their survival. Our Indigenous homeland of Afraka, our Diasporic colonies and countries, the habitations of the indigenous peoples of the world are all experiencing a heavy unjust imbalance in economic poverty, healthcare, education, resource development, political unrest, housing shortages, environmental catastrophes, endemic human made plagues and diseases that are killing our populations in a genocidal and exterminating proportion. When we look at Europe, America and many of the so-called developed and industrial nations, we see the opposite. We see them thriving in material gains, education, health, economics, stable political structure, strong military powers etc. Simultaneously, we see them invading and oppressing other nations and distributing their wealth to others like themselves while depriving others that are not of their same hue and race. They need to “dig the log out of their own eyes before they can dig the speck out of others’ eyes.”

We have to do something and all things necessary to bring about a change for the betterment of our ascendants (descendants), ourselves and to vindicate our ancestors who did not have the right to seek justice and equality. We Indigenous Afrakans have to ra-spect that the purpose of the great amount of lives lost in the Indigenous Afrakan Transatlantic Slave Trade Holocaust-Maangamizi and the loss of lives during their resistance to their capture and enslavement does not go in vain. We have to utilize this experience to assist huemanity. Our sacrifices throughout the Maangamizi serve a greater purpose of saving us and our continental indigenous Afrakan homelands and Earth from genocide et. al.

Many of us are taught by our parents and elders of just and sound mind, that we should always strive to do the right thing. Now it is time for us to do the right and just thing for the Earth, the birthplace and cradle of Huemanity – Afraka, our ancestors, ourselves and most of all our children. We have been told that we must: “know the truth-(Maat)-so that the truth- (Maat)-can set us free.”

Though we may not have legions and battalions of visible warriors and troops, armed with the latest arsenal of military technology and weapons of mass destruction, we do have the faith in our Neter-Awe-the All Nature Supreme Mother Father Being, the I Am That I Am, the All In All and our sacred continental homeland, Afraka, our ancestral Wisdom and Guidance, our Present Selves and Elders and the hope of our youth and yet unborn. Dr. John Henrik Clarke taught:

“Africa is our center of gravity, our cultural and spiritual mother and father, our beating heart, no matter where we live on the face of this earth.”

We share with huemanity words of wisdom by two of our departed sages, scholars and orators, Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III:

In the United States, which is a nation composed of immigrants, the Africans have a special and tragic uniqueness. We are the only immigrants who came to America [Caribbean] against our will. We are the only immigrants who came with an invitation. The nature of this invitation, the chains, the filthy ships, the guns, and the vile sailors, who had no respect for our humanity, will not be discussed here. But the invitation was special just the same. When we arrived in America [Caribbean] we had no housing problem, no employment problem. There were plenty of jobs waiting for us, with no pay for nearly 300 years. Our contribution to the economy of the United States, the Caribbean Islands, and the world in general laid the basis for global capitalism in the modern scientific and technical world.”From Dr. Clarke’s Wisdom Teachings from Notes for an African World Revolution: Africans at the Crossroads (p171).

Mental bondage is invisible violence. Formal physical slavery has ended in the United States. Mental slavery continues to this present day. This slavery affects the minds of all people and, in one way, it is worse than physical slavery alone. That is, the person who is in mental bondage will be “self-contained.” Not only will that person fail to challenge beliefs and patterns of thought which control him, he will defend and protect those beliefs and patterns of thought virtually with his last dying effort.”—Dr. Asa Hilliard’s wisdom teachings from African Contributions to World Civilization by Tony Browder

Our Indigenous Afrakan Ancestors were brought to these western shores against their free will and by force to resolve a labor shortage problem of European capitalist nations and businesses. The decision to enslave the Afrakans as a captive labor force was a conscious business decision made by these nations, entities, systems, and individuals. The economic, political, social, health, educational, psychological, and spiritual problems that we the Indigenous Afrakans and other Indigenous Peoples are now experiencing are directly and indirectly related to the decisions made by these nations, entities, systems and individuals when they believed they were solving their immediate problem for a cheap labor source. However, their temporary resolution to that problem of several centuries ago has affected and caused a plethora of problems and injustices that need to be amended and reconciled. The nations, entities, corporations, and institutions that have benefited and are still benefiting need to become a part of the solution and not continue to be part of the problem. We must remember that in mathematics a problem is not resolved until both sides of the equation are equaled and balanced. The scales of justice need to be balanced so that justice is properly administered by those who claim to be “just” & democratic nations of freedom.

A final point for this commentary recommends that we heed the words of an Ancient wise one, the sage Kheti of Afraka-Khamet Nwt em Smai Tawi (NE Afraka/UAR/Egypt) from the book: Selections from The Husia by Dr. Maulana Karenga:

I. “Be skilled in speech so that you will succeed. The tongue of a man is his sword and effective speech is stronger than all fighting. None can overcome the skillful. A wise person is a school for the nobles and those who are aware of his knowledge do not attack him. No evil takes place when he is near. Truth comes to him in its essential form, shaped in the sayings of the ancestors.”

II. “Follow in the footsteps of your ancestors, for the mind is trained through knowledge. Behold, their words endure in books. Open and read them and follow their wise counsel. For one who is taught becomes skilled. Do not be evil for kindness is good. Make the memory of you last through love of you. Multiply the people whom the city shelters, then god will be praised for your donations. And people will … give thanks for your goodness and pray for your health.”—(p.50-53)

In the Name of Our Awe- Mother –Father Neter-Awe-All Nature the Supreme Being of Creation and its administering powers and principalities, and in the Name of Our Most Holy and Sa-Ankhtified Noble and Glorified Ancestors and Ancestoresses, and in the Name of Our Living and Guiding Elders, and In the Name of Our Present Selves, Our Children and Our Yet Unborn, I greet all those who read these words with Maat Mer Hotep Hena Ankh Udja Seneb –Balanced Measure; Truth, Unity, Care & Merging; Peace and Highest Satisfaction; Together with Life Eternal, Strength & Stability, Health & Wellness.

Ra-spectfully in Maat as Truth, Djehuty as Wisdom and Seshait as the Practice of Truth and Wisdom,

I Am Neb Ka Ra Kherishetapheru, Sa Aset-Asar, The Widowers Son,
Aka slave name CARL FERNANDO CHRISTOPHER
Tepi Her Sesh Em Per Ankh Em Smai Tawi Khamet Nwt
Head and Chief Scribe of the House of Life of the United Twin Lands (Smai Tawi) Sovereign Nation State of the Khametu Indigenous Black People Kountry-Afraka-Khamet Nwt

“Free men and women name themselves and their offspring with pride. Enslaved men and women carry their slave masters and slave mistresses identification tag (“name”) in shame though they don’t know it!” —Ancestral Elder C. K. Jochannan, the father of Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan

Per Ankh Em Smai Tawi can be contacted on the Web at http://perankhu.net/.

Africa: Claim No Easy Victories

The following commentary comes from the web site www.africafocus.orgWe have found AfricaFocus to be a valuable source of analysis of many of the issues that impact upon Afrika and Afrikan people today, from Cairo to Cape Town, from Senegal to Somalia, and across the Afrikan Diaspora.  The analyses, edited by William Minter, are sometimes controversial, but they are always thoroughly sourced and footnoted, and they examine today’s events in the context of Afrika’s historical and sociopolitical realities.  This commentary features William Minter’s reflection on the immortal words of Ancestor Amilcar Cabral, which have been paraphrased so often that they have practically become a mantra of Pan-Afrikan organizing: “Tell no lies … claim no easy victories.”

Africa: Claim No Easy Victories

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AfricaFocus Bulletin: June 19, 2013 (130619) (Reposted from sources cited below)

AfricaFocus Editor’s Note

“Don’t tell lies. Fight lies when they are told. Don’t disguise difficulties, errors, and failures. Do not trust in easy victories nor in appearances. … Practice and defend the truth, always the truth, to militants, leaders, and the people, whatever the difficulties the knowledge of the truth can create.” – Amilcar Cabral, 1965

These words from Amilcar Cabral, more familiar in the shortened version “Tell No Lies, Claim No Easy Victories,” have inspired many not only in Africa but also around the world. More than forty years after Cabral was assassinated and almost fifty years after he wrote these words, his counsel remains highly relevant to all seeking not only to analyze reality but to change it.

The brief essay below was written at the invitation of Firoze Manji and Bill Fletcher Jr. for their forthcoming book, with almost 40 contributors, due to be published later this year. I entitled my reflection “Telling No Lies is Not Easy.”

Coincidentally I am reading the new book by Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t. Silver is probably best known for his 538 blog in the New York Times ( http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/) which correctly predicted the electoral votes in the 2012 election [personal aside: my son, whose election blog (http://www.abulsme.com/tag/2012-electoral- college/) also correctly predicted the electoral votes with a similar methodology, gave me the Silver book for father’s day.)

In many respects, of course, Cabral and Silver have little in common. But Silver’s book, which deals with predictions in fields as widely dispersed as baseball, politics, economics, the weather, and climate change, clearly echoes several of Cabral’s central themes. Pay attention to reality, realize it is probably more complex than you think, and, above all, recognize that you may be wrong and be willing to correct course accordingly.

Silver cites a retrospective study of predictions by television pundits, showing that the most popular and self-confident pundits were also the least likely to make correct predictions. Few of us may aspire to be television pundits, but we should all regularly remind ourselves to pay attention to new data and new insights and to think again.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Telling No Lies is Not Easy: A Reflection on Following Cabral’s Watchwords
by William Minter
Editor, AfricaFocus Bulletin ( http://www.africafocus.org)

[Chapter to be published in the forthcoming book Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral, Edited by Firoze Manji and Bill Fletcher Jr. Dakar: CODESRIA/Daraja Press, 2013.  William Minter’s most recent book is No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000, coedited with Gail Hovey and Charles Cobb, Jr.]

Amilcar Cabral 6Although I was engaged with liberation struggles in Mozambique and Angola from the mid-1960s, I never had the opportunity to meet Amilcar Cabral. Nor have I ever visited the countries for whose freedom he lived and died. But like countless others in Africa and around the world, I have taken inspiration from the clear-minded guidance and analysis he provided while leading the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

For me the watchwords from Cabral that have meant the most are the call to “tell no lies, claim no easy victories.” There are many characteristics required for effective participation in struggles for social justice. But one is surely the determination to base one’s actions on an analysis of concrete realties, be honest with ourselves about difficulties we face, and, as Cabral noted in another context, “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward … to preserve the future of their children.” [Guinea-Bissau: Toward Final Victory!: Selected Speeches and Documents from PAIGC  (Richmond, Canada: Liberation Support Movement, 1974), 32. Although appearing in the collection in the same text as “tell no lies,” this is in fact from another document, the Portuguese original of which I have been unable to locate.]

While I have often cited these words, the request for this article prompted me to look a bit deeper into the context and to seek out the Portuguese-language original of the “General Watchwords” for the party from which they were taken. Both the Portuguese and my translation into English are included at the end of this article.  It is clear “tell no lies” was not an isolated slogan, but part of a complex reflection on the need for criticism and self-criticism among members of the movement.

In trying to apply those guidelines today, in a context almost fifty years removed, we must, as Cabral insisted, take concrete realities into account. We  are far from the era of disciplined and apparently unified liberation movements (with both their strengths and weaknesses). While the goal of national political freedom has been attained, the broader goals for which Cabral fought are far from achieved, not least in Guinea-Bissau, which was the terrain of his party’s armed struggle.

With globalized communications, his further admonitions, such as “Do not hide anything from the masses of the people” and “Practice and defend the truth, always the truth, to militants, leaders, and the people, whatever the difficulties the knowledge of the truth can create” are just as hard to implement as in his time, and perhaps even more so. While PAIGC militants may have been able to address “the people” in gatherings in the bush, the constituencies for today’s social justice movements are almost always dispersed and diverse enough that they can hardly be gathered in one place. Messages through multiple technologies to “militants” and “the people” are inevitably seen,  heard, and interpreted or misinterpreted by multiple other audiences as well.

That said, I am convinced that the fundamental principles of Cabral’s guidance on criticism and self-criticism still apply. And these watchwords fit within the broader context of his determination to base strategy and action on sober analysis of realities. [See also “Start out from the reality of our land – to be realists,” in Amilcar Cabral, Unity and Struggle (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979) 44-63).] It is an eminently “scientific” approach, where theory is used not as a lazy substitute for empirical investigation but as a guide to it. It is an approach which recognized that the same formula could not be applied to situations as different as GuineaBissau and Cape Verde, or even to different regions within Guinea-Bissau.

It is also one in which fighting against an “enemy” never obscured the recognition that enemy forces were composed of human beings, many of whom might become friends under other circumstances. In this, Cabral shared the conviction of leaders such as Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel of Mozambique, that distinguishing friends and enemies on the basis of race, nationality, institutional affiliation, or other generic characteristics was a fundamental mistake. And that assuming individuals and political structures could not change was a recipe for failure in the struggle. “Know well our own strength and the enemy strength” was also a mandate to know how to win new allies, including among the enemy forces themselves.

This short essay can hardly be adequate for an extensive discussion of the application of Cabral’s principles to specific situations facing us today. But it would be incomplete without at least some mention of areas in which, in my opinion, progressive forces have been particularly weak in recent years, evading Cabral’s imperatives to investigate concrete realities and to speak the truth.

Let me very briefly address two areas, as examples. One concerns the international debates about political conflicts in Africa, including recent or forthcoming military interventions. The second is the sensitive issue of whether progressive as well as mainstream nongovernmental organizations are willing to live up to Cabral’s directives about truth-telling; or, in other words, to practice for themselves the accountability and transparency they freely demand of African and Western governments.

Every internal conflict on the continent features different narratives from parties to the conflict, which are taken up and propagated by international allies. It would be presumptuous for anyone to assume that there is one easy “truth” in the conflicts in Zimbabwe, Libya, or Mali – to cite only a few prominent examples. The only country of the three I know enough about and have enough personal trusted contacts in to write about at any length is Zimbabwe (see, for example, my 2010 article with Briggs Bomba: http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/zim1004.php). But in reposting material from other sources in AfricaFocus Bulletin, and providing brief introductory editor’s notes, I have to distinguish between analyses I regard as worth reading and those which are so dubious they should rank as “lies”, or at least, using a term also cited by Cabral, as based on superficial “appearances.” [You can see what I decided I thought worth reading, among sources available to me, at http://www.africafocus.org/country/countries.php, and clicking on the relevant country name for the AfricaFocus Bulletins on the country.]

Perhaps I am remiss in not naming names falling among the latter. But they include those who, decades after ZANU-PF ceased to be a liberation movement to become the enforcer of a new repressive and oligarchical system, insist on supporting the incumbent regime in Zimbabwe simply because its critics include Western governments. It includes those who see developments in Libya as primarily the outcome of a Western plot and disregard the agency of Libyans themselves in his overthrow of Qaddafi, or dismiss his opponents as Western dupes. And it includes those who think there is any easy answer to the current question of whether to intervene and who should intervene against the Islamic extremists who have devastated Northern Mali.

Rejecting such interpretations as “lies”, or based on “appearances”, does not imply that there are not also real questions about the motives and strategies of other opposing forces, both internal and international. It is not a blanket endorsement of those who now oppose ZANU-PF or the Islamists in Northern Mali, or those who contributed to the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime. It is simply to say that in none of these situations, or in other conflicts on the continent, is simply opposing what the United States does or what the West does a substitute for analysis of the concrete realities of each country, its surrounding region, and changing international power balances.  Progressives may and will reach different conclusions about the best course of action after making such analyses. But the ideological shortcut of making judgments based on “ideas in people’s heads” rather than analysis of complex realities, is clearly one that Amilcar Cabral would have rejected.

Finally, a few incomplete and admittedly inadequate words about non-governmental organizations and the pressures that work against transparency and accountability to broader constituencies. A high proportion of such groups, both mainstream and progressive, are governed by selfperpetuating boards of directors. For funding they depend either on a small number of large institutional donors (foundations or indirect government support) or fundraising appeals to a large number of individual donors, most of whom have no role apart from sending in their donations. In most cases, membership dues from a engaged and active membership are only a small proportion of income at best, and the role of such stakeholders in governance is most often token at best and commonly none at all. The boards of directors therefore may have little sense of accountability to their activist supporters or feel any real obligation to keep them informed.

It would be a mistake to interpret accountability and transparency as a dogmatic mandate to never have private internal discussions or to “tell everything”, regardless of the consequences. Despite his call below to tell the truth, regardless of the difficulties it may cause, Cabral was well aware of the need for discretion in public discussion of sensitive issues, such as the difficulties his party faced from host countries such as Senegal and Guinea (Conakry), or the support the struggle received from Cuba. Nevertheless, I think many nongovernmental organizations, including progressive ones, most often err on the side of secrecy in speaking with their supporters about difficulties faced.

For much of the history of the organizations with which I have been most involved over my time as an activist, most notably the predecessor organizations of Africa Action (Africa Fund, American Committee on Africa, Washington Office on Africa, and the Africa Policy Information Center), this structural flaw was balanced by the fact that foundation income was minimal and government income non-existent. The bulk of individual donations, both large and small, came from engaged activists who expected and received accountability from those governing the organizations, including regular reports on program and financial status.

Yet all progressive activists are well aware of crises in multiple organizations run by progressive people whose good intentions we respect, in which the constituencies who have helped build the organization are kept in the dark about current developments reflecting weaknesses. It would not be appropriate to go into details, so as not to violate Cabral’s companion insistence in the text below that criticism should not edge over into “intrigues.” But it is surely no secret to anyone concerned, for example, that those who contributed their writing skills to Pambazuka News over more than a decade have had no report from the governing board of Fahamu on the crisis which led to the resignation of the founding editor.

Most painful to many of us involved in Africa solidarity work in the United States has been the prolonged crisis at Africa Action. In August 2010 staff unexpectedly failed to receive their salaries. It was subsequently discovered that a reserved endowment had been fully drained, in part by fraud by an office manager and in part by use of endowment funds for operating expenses. Since then, the organization’s board has managed to keep a shell of the organization in existence. Yet more than two years later there has still been no coherent accounting to the organization’s constituency of what happened nor a strategy for the future which could address the crisis of confidence among former staff, board, and supporters of the organization. Despite the good intentions of the board members, it is likely that the failure to follow Cabral’s advice by confronting hard realities and “telling the truth” will have done as much or more damage to the organization as did the original financial crisis.

I am well aware that these brief remarks fall far short of any “full truth” or even a comprehensive analysis of any of the issues raised. But hopefully they may serve at least as a call to follow Cabral’s example in analyzing concrete realities more deeply rather than relying on appearances, and in using criticism constructively to learn from our own and other’s mistakes.

William Minter, Editor, AfricaFocus


Excerpts from Chapter VIII, “Apply Party Principles in Practice,” in General Watchwords, November 1965.

Portuguese original is in “Palavras de Ordem Gerais,” in P.A.I.G.C.: unidade e luta / Amilcar Cabral (Lisbon: Nova Aurora, 1974), 9-66.

English translation below by William Minter

[Alternate English translation of full text of “General Watchwords” is available in Amilcar Cabral, Unity and Struggle (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979), pages 246-249.]

1. Develop the spirit of criticism among activists and officials.

Give everyone at each level, the opportunity to criticize, give their opinion about the work and the behavior or actions of others. Accept criticism, wherever it comes from, as a contribution to improving the work of the Party, as an expression of active interest in the internal life of our organization. Remember always that to criticize is not to speak ill or engage in intrigues. Criticism is and must be the act of expressing one’s frank opinion openly, in front of those concerned, based on the facts and in the spirit of justice, in order to evaluate the thought and action of others, with the aim of improving that thought and action. Criticism is to build, to help build, to show genuine interest in the work of others and the improvement of that work.

Combat severely evil tongues, intrigues, ‘so-and-so says,’ unfair and unfounded criticism. To evaluate the thought and action of a comrade does not necessarily mean to speak ill of them. To speak highly, praise, encourage, or stimulate is also part of a critique. Always be vigilant against personal vanity and pride, but don’t stint on praise for those who deserve it. Offer praise gladly and frankly to all those whose thought and action serves well the progress of the party. …

Learn from the mistakes we make or that others make, to avoid making new mistakes, to not fall into the traps that others have fallen in. Criticizing someone does not mean setting yourself against them or victimizing them. It is showing that we are all interested in their work, that we are part of one corporate body, that one person’s mistakes affect us all, and that we are vigilant, as friends and comrades, to help them overcome their shortcomings and increasingly contribute to the improvement of the Party.

But critique (proof of the willingness of others to help us or our willingness to help others) should be supplemented by self-criticism (proof of our own willingness to help ourselves improve our thinking and our action).

Develop in all militants, leaders, and combatants, the spirit of self-criticism: the ability of each to make a concrete analysis of their own work, to distinguish good from bad, to recognize their own mistakes and to discover the causes and consequences of these errors. Making a self-criticism is not just to say “yes, I admit my fault, my mistake, and I apologize,” while getting ready to commit new faults and new errors. It is not to pretend to repent, while still being convinced that the other person just doesn’t understand. Nor should self-criticism be performed as a ritual, while continuing to make mistakes.

Self-criticism is not doing penance. It is an act of honesty, courage, camaraderie, and awareness of our responsibilities, a proof of our willingness to do our duty and do it well, a manifestation of our determination to be better every day and give our best contribution to the advancement of our Party. An honest self-criticism does not require absolution: it is a commitment we make to our conscience not to commit more errors, to accept our responsibilities to others, and to mobilize all our capabilities to do more and better. Self-criticism is to rebuild oneself to better serve.

4. Practice revolutionary democracy in all aspects of the life of the party.

Everyone responsible for leadership must assume their responsibilities with courage, should demand the respect of others for their activity, and should respect the work of others. Do not hide anything from the masses of the people. Don’t tell lies. Fight lies when they are told. Don’t disguise difficulties, errors, and failures. Do not trust in easy victories nor in appearances.

Revolutionary democracy demands that we fight opportunism and not tolerate errors, baseless excuses, friendships and camaraderie based on interests contrary to the interests of the Party and the people, or the conviction that any leader is irreplaceable.

Practice and defend the truth, always the truth, to militants, leaders, and the people, whatever the difficulties the knowledge of the truth can create.


Portuguese original:

1. Desenvolver o espirito da crítica entre os militantes e responsáveis.

Dar a todos, em cada nivel, a oportunidade de críticar, de dar a sua opinião sobre o trabalho e o comportamento ou a acção dos outros. Aceitar a crítica, donde quer qua ela venha, como uma contribuição para melhorar o trabalho do Partido, como uma manifestação de interesse active pela vida interna da nossa organização. Lembrar-se sempre que críticar não é dizer mal nem fazer intrigas. Críticar é e deve ser o acto de exprimir uma. opinião franca, aberta, diante dos interessados, com base nos factos e com espírito de justiça, para apreciar o pensamento e a acção dos outros, com o objectivo de melhorar esse pensamento e essa acção. Críticar é construir, ajudar a construir, fazer prova de interesse sincero pelo trabalho dos outros, pela melhoria desse trabalho.

Combater severamente a má lingua, a mania das intrigas, o ‘diz-que-diz,’ as críticas injustas e sem fundamento. Apreciar o pensamento e a acção dum camarada não é necessariamente dizer mal. Dizer bem, elogiar, encorajar, estimuar—também é críticar. Sempre vigilantes contra as vaidades e orgulhos pessoais, devemos no entanto poupar elogios a quem os merece. Elogiar com alegria, com franqueza. diante dos outros, todo aquele cujo pensamento e acção servem bem o progresso do Partido. Devemos igualmente aplicar uma crítica justa, denunciar francamente, censurar, condenar e exigir a condenação de todos aqueles que praticam actos contrários ao progresso e aos interesses do Partido; combater cara a cara os erros e faltas, ajudar os outros a melhorar o seu trabalho. Tirar lição de cada erro que cometemos ou que os outros cometem, para evitar cometer novos erros, para cairmos nas asneiras em que os outros cairam. críticar um camarada não quer dizer pôr-se contra o camarada, fazer um sacrificio em que o camarada é a vïtima: é mostrar-lhe que estamos todos interessados no seu trabalho, que somos um e um só corpo, que os erros dele prejudicam a nós todos, e que estamos vigilantes, como amigos e camaradas, para ajudé-lo a vencer as suas deficiências e a contribuir cada vez mais para que o Partido seja cada vez melhor. …

Mas a crítica (prova da vontade dos outros de nos ajudar ou da nossa vontade de ajudar os outros) deve ser completada pela autocrítica (prova da. nossa própria vontade de nos ajudarmos a nós mesmos a melhorar o nosso pensamento e a nossa acção).

Desenvolver em todos os militantes, responséveis e combatentes, o espirito da autocrítica: a. capacidade de cada um fazer uma análise concreta do seu pr6prio trabalho, de distinguir nele o que está bem do que está mal, de reconhecer os seus próprios erros e de descobrir as causas e as consequências desses erros. Fazer uma autocrítica. néo é apenas dizer sim, reconheço a minha falta, o meu erro—e peço perdão, ficando logo pronto para cometer novas faltas, novos erros. Não é fingir-se arrependido do mal que fez, e ficar, no fundo, convencido de que os outros é que n~ao o compreendem. Nem tão-pouco fazer autocrítica e fazer uma cerimónia para depois poder ficar com a. consciéncia tranquila e continuar a cometer erros.

Autocríticar-se não é pagar um responso ou uma bula nem é fazer penitência. A autocrítica é um acto de franqueza, de coragem, de camaradagem e de consciência das nossas responsabilidades, uma. prova. da nossa vontade de cumprir e de cumprir bem, uma manifestação da nossa. determinação de ser cada dia melhor e dar uma. melhor contribuição para o progresso do nosso Partido. Uma autocrítica sincera não exige necessariamente uma absolvição: é um compromisso que fazemos com a nossa consciência. para não cometermos mais erros; é fazer aceitar as nossas responsabilidades diante dos outros e mobilizar todas as nossas capacidades para. fazer mais e melhor. Autocríticar-se é reconstruir-se a si mesmo, para melhor servir.

4. Praticar, em todos os aspectos da vida do Partido, a democracia revolucionária.

Cada responsável deve assumir com coragem as suas responsabilidades, deve exigir dos outros o respeito pela sua actividade e deve respeitar a actividade dos outros. Não esconder nada às massas populares, não mentir, combater a mentira, não disfarçar as dificuldades, os erros e insucessos, não acreditar em vitárias fáceis, nem nas aparêcias.

A democracia revolucionária exige que devemos combater o oportunismo, a. tolerância diante dos erros, as desculpas sem fundamento, as amizades e a camaradagem com base em interesses contrários aos do Partido e do povo, a mania de que um ou outro responszivel é insubstituivel no seu posto.

Praticar e defender a verdade, sempre a verdade, diante dos militantes, dos responséveis, do povo, sejam quais forem as dificuldades que o conhecimento da verdade possa criar.
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Wrestling the Octopus: One View from the Diaspora

The consensus of the group was sincere, definitive and straightforward.  There were at least five of us, all but myself being Afrikans who had immigrated to the United States from Nigeria.  I would be considered either as a member of the “Old Diaspora” (people of Afrikan descent due to the enslavement of our Ancestors during the Transatlantic Slave Trade or Maafa, with Afrikan immigrants being the “New Diaspora”), or simply as a member of the “Afrikan Diaspora”, with immigrants from Afrika being considered “Continental Afrikans”.  Everyone on the conference call was agreed, including myself, about one critical issue facing the Afrikan Continent, though my personal knowledge of the topic at hand was limited at best.

“We must do something to end corruption in Afrika.”

If you read the various reports from the international organizations that claim to care about Afrikan people, you will see this refrain repeated as if it were a sacred mantra: If Afrika is to raise herself out of the toxic soup of suffering in which her people are mired, her leaders must find a way to weed out the corruption that infests the Mother Continent like an epidemic.  When “corruption” is thought to be too strong a word, politicians, diplomats and writers reach for its warmer-sounding feel-good handy-dandy substitute: “good governance.”  Unfortunately, this term “good governance” too often is taken to imply a more Western style of governance, usually akin to the United States’ version of “democracy”, while rejecting outright systems such as Socialism and Communism or more indigenous Afrikan Consensus-based models of communal governing.

This analysis seems consistent throughout the continent of Afrika.  Heads of state, from Cote D’Ivoire’s Laurent Bagbo to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, “holding on to power” for three and four decades as though the presidency of their countries were their own personal property.  The “Arab Spring” that swept across North Afrika last year seemed partly motivated by the desire of such heads of state as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s “Brother Leader” Muammar Gaddafi to stay in office by all means possible, including, according to their detractors, the repression of political dissent.  It must be stated, however, that there seemed to be a primarily NATO-led incentive to eliminate President Gaddafi, just as the assault itself would not have succeeded had it not been for a great deal of NATO duplicity about “protecting civilians” and NATO bombing of Tripoli and Sirte.  Cote D’Ivoire’s Bagbo has since been unseated, and the warning bells are ringing for other long-entrenched Afrikan leaders.

Of course, the emergence of the so-called “Big Men” in Afrika became well-known immediately after Afrikan nations began to assert their independence in the 1960’s with the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor to the modern-day African Union (AU).  The primary colonial powers, France, Britain, Portugal and Belgium, found their grip on the Continent loosening, and as the OAU was working to break these colonial bonds, looking upon Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo as shining examples of Afrikan liberation, the colonial powers saw the need to destabilize and put out these shining lights as quickly as possible.

Pillage of the Mother Continent

Thus began the destabilization campaigns: the assassination of Lumumba, the encirclement of Nkrumah and the prosecution of Kenyatta (who was defended by The Honorable Dudley Thompson during the Mau Mau trials — see accompanying article).  In particular with Lumumba and the Congo, the destabilization campaign worked like a charm: Colonel Joseph Mobutu, who had taken Lumumba prisoner, tortured and murdered him, became the president of the new Zaire and, during a 30-year reign of terror, proceeded to rob the country of tens of millions of dollars while allowing US-based multinational corporations to strip the country first of its rich rubber, then its gold and other gems, leading to its current situation as the world’s primary source of coltan (for cell phones).  A similar military coup and dictatorship in Nigeria by General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha has helped bring us to the current state in the Niger River Delta: major oil companies such as Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell drill for oil while mobile units of “police thugs” known as the Kill-and-Go wreak havoc and spread terror among any who would resist the rapacious practices of Big Oil, even after the “democratically-elected”  regimes of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Imaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.  And while Ethiopia holds the distinction of never having been conquered and colonized as the other states had been, its current situation, long after H.I.M. Selassie’s transition to the Ancestors, is far from that nation’s glory days: President Meles Zenawi having been coerced by the US to launch an invasion of neighboring Somalia to stop the reputed spread of Islamist rule there, and disease and famine spreading throughout the region.

Meanwhile, all across the countries of Northern and even Central Afrika, the battle rages on between the Islamic, self-proclaimed “Arab” north and the mostly-Christian south, with those who still practice their indigenous spirituality (Akan, Yoruba, Vodou, etc.) are caught in the middle.

Certainly, the African Union and its member states are working to eliminate corruption through efforts to introduce political reforms, but what are their examples and who are their guides?  A string of Western monarchies and so-called “democracies” that have their own sordid histories of corruption and oppression, most notably directed against the very Afrikan nations they now seek to advise?  The same nations that currently face an economic disaster as well as a growing grassroots rebellion in the form of the Occupy movement?

But this issue is clearly not the only problem facing the Mother Continent.  Even though the popular image of Afrika as a backward “dark continent” is little more than a stereotype to the informed observer, the fact remains that there is much poverty there.  Our problem is often that we lack the proper information to see and understand the links between the poverty and instability on the Continent and their underlying causes.

The poverty on the Continent can be traced to a number of factors, including climate (desertification in North Afrika was considered one of the underlying causes of the Darfur conflict), the continuing influence of the “former” colonial powers in Afrika’s economy (such as the French government’s imposition of the CFA Franc on the Francophone countries, the use of the British Pound in Kenya and the prominence of the dollar in other Afrikan nations, all of which are used to siphon off Afrikan wealth to French, British and US banks) and the rapacious practices of the extractive industries on the Continent (such as gold, diamonds and other precious gems in Western and Southern Afrika, oil in the Niger River Delta and Libya, and coltan in DR Congo).

These rapacious practices bring us to another major issue impacting Afrika: environmental destruction.  The same extractive industries that are making a killing, figuratively and literally, on the Continent are also destroying its land, water and air.  Thus, the Nigerian military junta under Abacha arrested, tried, convicted and executed Ogoni environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others in 1995 while officials of Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and the United States simply stood by and watched.  Thus the continuing diamond mines in South Africa and the practice of sending children up into the mountains of DR Congo to dig for tantalum powder to produce the coltan we all use in our cell phones, DVD players and computers.

Central and South America

The country in the Western Hemisphere with the largest number of people of Afrikan descent is — no, not the United States — Brazil, with an estimated 85 to 115 million Afrodescendants.  But, as Professor Leonard Jeffries once stated, “they have been given 55 different ways to describe themselves other than Black.”  Thus, a major part of the problem there is one of identity.  It becomes difficult to speak to someone about Pan-Afrikanism, or even discrimination and racism, if they refuse, or fail, to realize their own heritage and the fact that there are those who will seek to exploit them for it.  As a result, they may not realize where the violence of military takeovers, the destruction of resource extraction or the scourge of drugs come from; only that a series of crooked rulers seem to come to power as multinational corporations make larger and larger fortunes at the expense of the people.

Fortunately, there are those who are working to reverse this situation.  Because the primary language in Brazil is Portuguese, the language barrier has made organizing difficult, but there are groups inside Brazil that are working to educate their people.  There has been somewhat more progress in Central America, where the Organización Negra Centroamericana (ONECA), or the Central American Black Organization (CABO) has established a means to speak on behalf of Afrodescendant populations in seven of the eight Central American countries.

South America has suffered, as a whole, from many of the same abuses that have been heaped upon Afrika, especially with the discovery of natural resources that can be exploited.  Chilean president Salvador Allende was assassinated on September 11, 1973 in large measure to open up Chile’s copper reserves for extraction by US-based multinational corporations.  Other countries, from Argentina to Brazil to Colombia to Venezuela, have been targeted for their resources, and where a non-compliant government prevented the multinational corporations from claiming their prize, that government had to be removed and those who supported it needed to be eliminated (at least two attempted coups d’etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have been traced to planners in the United States).  The tool of choice, invariably, was the reign of terror, and the bringers of this terror were right-wing death squads.  Tens of thousands across the continent were arrested, killed or “disappeared”.  Many of these were Indigenous descendants of the Maya, but this method was used to devastating effect, particularly against Afrodesdcendants, in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean: Independence Will Be Punished

The island nations of Jamaica and The Bahamas are very popular as tourist attractions, essentially treated as “America’s Caribbean playgrounds” by vacationers who focus on the crystal-clear water, the music and the parties without giving a second thought to the situations in the “poorer areas” of these countries, primarily because resort operators do not show these areas to visitors so as not to ruin their vacations or the companies’ bottom lines.  These island nations have managed to maintain a level of stability because they remain part of the British Empire, much like those that are considered possessions or territories of the United States and France.

The one island nation in the Caribbean that stands out in this regard is the one that earned its independence by force of arms in 1804.  Haiti (which, according to activists I’ve met, is actually an adulteration of the original Taino name Ayiti, which means “Land of Mountains”) established itself as the Western Hemisphere’s first independent Black nation after the revolution led by Dutty Baukman, Toussaint L’Overture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines ejected first the Spanish and then the French colonial regimes there.  However, the French, aided by the United States and Canada, instituted a blockade of the island and forced Ayiti’s young government to pay tens of millions of dollars to lift the blockade and earn world recognition.  Since then, a series of coups and dictatorships sponsored by the United States (specifically, those of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier from 1957 – 1971, his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier from 1971 – 1986, and Raoul Cedras after the 1991 overthrow of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide) and the imposition of “neoliberal” market-driven policies of privatization have taken the people of Ayiti to the brink of total collapse.  The continued presence of elements of the old Duvalier regimes, specifically the tonton macoute death squads, the mistreatment of Ayiti’s poor by a number of UN-led “security forces”, and the US’s refusal to tolerate the return of president Aristide after yet another US-sponsored coup in 2004, have worked to prevent Ayiti and its people from recovering.  Then, as though to bolster the opinion of some that Ayiti’s people “turned against God” when the revolution was launched with a Vodou ceremony, the massive earthquake in January 2010 and several hurricanes that followed have caused the nation to spiral to its most desperate state in recent memory.

The United States: Hardly One to Talk

Meanwhile, despite a higher average standard of living in the United States, there seems to be a much wider variety of ills that face Afrikan people.  Perhaps this is because in the West, there  is greater access to the mass media, which is always in search of the next scandal to help jump-start magazine sales or increase viewership.  Of course, the issues discussed in the major media bear little resemblance to those recognized by community activists and Pan-Afrikanists: while the major media concentrate on issues of poverty, education, drugs, crime and the “moral deficit” of specific underprivileged communities, the activists often point to their mirror-images: income inequality that leads to poverty, the “benign neglect” of the social safety net which impoverishes the public schools, desperate poverty which pushes communities toward criminality to survive and drug abuse to escape their misery, the targeting of communities of color (primarily Afrikan and Latino) for disproportionate harassment, brutality, arrest and prosecution, and the rampant hypocrisy of a regime that oppresses the poor and politically targets activists while giving financial “incentives” to the rich.

Specific examples bring these issues to life: bailouts for banks and other corporations which, in turn, foreclose on struggling homeowners who were misled into predatory housing loans.  Local and national budgets that de-fund schools, libraries and recreation centers for the youth while earmarking money for the building of ever more prisons, including “youth jails”, while militarizing police and increasing the US military arsenal.  The article in the San Jose-Mercury News by reporter Gary Webb in the 1980’s that showed the CIA had helped arrange the flooding of South Central Los Angeles with cocaine to fund right-wing military death squads in South America while criminalizing the nation’s youth and providing fodder for the infamous “war on drugs”.  The cases of Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and Adolph Grimes that highlight the continuing brutalization of Black (and Latino) males by police.  The disproportionate numbers of people of Afrikan descent incarcerated, despite conflicting national crime statistics.  The continuing cases of those who were targeted for their political beliefs, such as former Black Panthers Marshall “Eddie” Conway, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Jalil Muntaqim, Mutulu Shakur, Ed Poindexter, Veronza Bowers and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier and the MOVE Nine (see story elsewhere in this issue).  The executions of Shaka Sankofa in 2000 and Troy Davis in 2011, among others, whose guilt was not even supported by the evidence.  All of this occurring against a backdrop of historic and continuing racism from employment discrimination to policies leading to Black land loss (for example, with the Black Farmers in North Carolina and Black communities in nearby Nova Scotia, Canada) to the occasional, but glaring, wink-and-nod, look-the-other-way response to instances of White vigilante lynch-mob violence.  This situation is not made easier by the fact that many (though far from all) Afrodescendants in the United States see themselves purely as Americans and feel no connection whatsoever to the Continent of their Ancestors, and even some immigrants direct from Afrika seem detached from the events and issues back home, as though by immigrating to the United States they have somehow escaped from Global White Supremacy.  Not much different from our Brothers and Sisters in Brazil, we have much work to do in opening the minds of Afrikan people living in the United States.

Meanwhile, issues that endanger the entire populace, Black and White, range from political policing (such as the response to the recent “Occupy” protests) and the destruction of the environment in the form of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2009, the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, mountaintop removal in West Virginia, the continuing struggles of the people in the Gulf Region and the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is still being touted by right-wing interests in an effort to exploit the Canadian tar sands, perhaps the dirtiest energy project in the world today.  It is only a matter of time until the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is forgotten and the US sends the entire planet hurtling headlong, once again, toward potential nuclear catastrophe.  At the same time, the threat of war seems to be getting only worse, with saber-rattling toward Iran, the recent NATO-led war in Libya and the US’s constant search for a host country on the Mother Continent for AFRICOM, the latest attempt to militarize Afrika for the purposes of the West.  All the while, the bottom lines of the major corporations continue to spiral upward, the difference between the rich and the poor grows ever greater, and the populace in general grows more and more cynical and alienated from the entire “democratic” political process.

The Science of Alienation

At the 2009 National Conference of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (for which I am the Maryland State Facilitator), we had the honor of meeting a number of truly insightful people from across the Afrikan World.

Baba Prosper Ndabishuriye is from Burundi.  He told us about how Belgium and United States had successfully divided the people of Burundi and Rwanda by elevating the Tutsi above the Hutu in importance and then systematically mistreating the Hutu.  This helped set the stage for the 100-day Rwandan genocide of 1994.  The actual catalyst was the murder of Hutu Presidents Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi on April 6, 1994 when the airplane carrying them was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali, killing everyone on board.  Though the missile was later traced to Hutu rebels and not Tutsis, these divisions and the assassination of the President led to a rampage against Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutu political moderates on April 7, 1994.  Many of the rifts created before and during that horrific event in history remain today between the Hutu and the Tutsi, though many like Baba Prosper are working every day to bring healing to these countries.

We also heard from a Brother from Sudan, who had immigrated to the United States several years before.  He related to us his story of woe: he had arrived in the Seattle area and was immediately greeted as a new immigrant by US officials who told him to “stay away from the Afrikan-Americans; they hate Afrikans and will only hurt you.”  And he followed that advice faithfully, avoiding all contact with members of the “Old Diaspora”, until the day he was accosted, beaten and arrested by a policeman.  As he sat in a jail cell, with no one to come to his aid, his plight was related to an Afrikan-American Sister in Seattle who was also a member of SRDC.  She was the only one who came to help him, putting up his bail and arranging for his defense on the trumped-up charges against him.  As he told us this story, all of us in the room reached out to him and welcomed him into the fold of conscious Pan-Afrikan activists.  I have not heard from him since that day, but my hope is that he has been able to maintain his faith in Pan-Afrikan unity and has not been once again turned against his own people by those who truly would abuse him and all of us.

On a broader scale, we see Afrikans from the Continent, Afrikans in the Caribbean, Afrikans in South America, Afrikans in Europe and Afrikans in the United States all divided against each other by the propaganda machines set in place by their historic oppressors.  They have elevated the process of alienation to a science and applied it against Afrikan people around the globe.

So, What Does All This Tell Us?

Let’s back away from the picture for a minute.  One is reminded of the tale of the three blind men who are asked to identify an object through touch.  One feels a large, rough, rounded surface and concludes the object is a rock.  Another touches something thick, hard, vertical and cylindrical and pronounces the object to be a tree.  The third examines a long, leathery, undulating object and declares it is a snake.  It is not until they compare notes that they realize that they were all touching different parts of an elephant.

One can see a similar situation in the world today.  In one part of the world, we see poverty, drugs and crime.  In another, we see political corruption, military repression and mass starvation.  In yet another, it’s an impoverished population on the brink of environmental catastrophe.  The reason why we seem unable to effectively deal with these various crises is we insist that these situations are unrelated.

In the United States, when a police officer guns down yet another unarmed Black youth, the Fraternal Order of Police is quick to label such an occurrence an “isolated incident”.  The general public seems to accept this explanation and continues on in a condition of blissful ignorance, but veteran community activists are well aware that not only is police brutality a widespread problem within American society, but it is also indicative of a pervasive “us versus them” mentality that can be found in almost every urban police force.  We can learn from the tale of the blind men and the elephant, and the real-life example of police brutality gives us a real-world example of how we must see the problems of the world, especially as they impact upon people of Afrikan descent around the globe.

This analysis may seem to some to be the idle ravings of a madman, but this writer sees Afrikan communities around the world wrestling with what they believe are a bunch of snakes, each acting independently.  In Afrika, people are struggling with the vipers of “corruption”, “tribalism” and “militarism”.  In Central and South America, we are fighting the serpents of “drugs”, “militarism” and “inequality” with a dose of identity crisis thrown in.  In the Caribbean, we either accept the pythonic embrace of the colonial powers or we feel the poisonous fangs of “dictatorship”, “impoverishment” and exposure to catastrophe.  And in the United States, we are subjected to the lethal bites of “police brutality”, “political imprisonment”, “economic inequality”, “legal and illegal lynching” and “systemic institutional racism”.  Meanwhile, we are all told that we are superior to other Children of Afrika, we really have no connection whatsoever to them or to our ancestral home, that they are in many cases responsible for our predicament and that we must in fact join with our historic oppressors against our Brothers and Sisters in other parts of the world.

We are not dealing with “isolated incidents” here.  What we are wrestling with are not a variety of snakes, even though it may seem as though we are all caught in a pit of vipers.  What we are fighting is not several beasts but one.  Not multiple snakes, but in each case, one tentacle of a giant octopus, an octopus of Global White Supremacy, a doctrine that seeks to overrun Indigenous civilizations around the world, be they in Afrika, in Australia, in the Americas or even, when things become sufficiently desperate, the less-fortunate or more-aware White populations in the world.

We must realize that this is a single beast that is executing a single, coordinated plan of dominance around the world.  And we must fight against it in a coordinated, unified way.  We must learn to overcome the thinking that has separated us for so many decades, so many centuries.  Afrikans from the Americas, from Europe, from Asia, from the Island Nations and from the Mother Continent must unite if we are to throw off the chains of oppression and exploitation once and for all.