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Come to the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall Meeting! June 24, 2017

SRDC Pan Afrikan Town Hall June 24 2017aCome to the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall Meeting!

Join us as we discuss the issues that impact us in the State of Maryland, as we explore the connection between our local struggle and those of People of Afrikan Descent across the United States and around the world, as we build a Local Pan-Afrikan Agenda of important issues and ideas, and as we make plans to join with the Global Community of People of Afrikan Descent to take our message out of Uncle Sam’s courts to the World Stage.

Afrika Arch Social Club Montage 1

We will meet at the historic Arch Social Club, located on 2426 Pennsylvania Avenue in the Penn-North Community in Baltimore, Maryland.  Penn-North has a storied place in history as a cultural nerve center in the 1950’s and 1960’s, anchored by the committed members of the Arch Social Club, and the neighborhood also gained a degree of national notoriety two years ago, as the focus of the rebellion that followed the brutal death of Freddie Gray on April 19, 2015.  The committed members of Arch Social Club continue to hold social and community events at the Club to this day to help strengthen the Afrikan-American community in Baltimore, affectionately known as “Harriet Tubman City” to Pan-Afrikan activists.

The Community Town Hall Event will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2017 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

What is the Purpose of the Pan-Afrikan Town Hall?

We will work together to build a local Pan-Afrikan grassroots organization that will:

  1. Build a Local Pan-Afrikan Agenda: Issues that are of importance to Black People here in Baltimore and across the State of Maryland.  These could include concerns about economic development, police brutality, mass incarceration, environmental sacrifice zones, the lack of a true sense of community and Black love, and the need to build an education system that not only better educates our children in math, science and reading but also on our Afrikan roots and the real history of our struggle in the United States.  Any or all of the above concerns could be part of the Pan-Afrikan Agenda, and no doubt there are many more that should be considered.  But it’s important that the community determine what these issues will be, and not just someone in a position of electoral power or self-appointed leadership.
  2. Nominate and elect a local organizing leadership team: Afrikan tradition requires that a Community Council of Elders be established.  If we already have one, then let us meet them and acknowledge them, and let them take the position of Elder Leadership for which they are so desperately needed by our community.  If we do not have one, let us nominate people from our community who have the experience, the wisdom and the demonstrated body of work to show that they are prepared to guide us through the struggle that lies ahead.  We also must nominate and elect Representatives, energetic, knowledgeable and committed members of our community who can and will take the decisions that our community makes on this day and at future Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meetings and represent them at national and international gatherings, from the African Union (AU) to the United Nations (UN) to various Pan-Afrikan Conferences (PACs).
  3. Discuss how we will grow this effort and move forward: How we will ensure that more members of our community are informed about the effort we’re launching this day.  How we will take our Pan-Afrikan Agenda to the people who can best help us carry it out.  Some of the items of our Pan-Afrikan Agenda will be initiatives that we can build on ourselves, by finally bringing our various organizations, activists and service providers together in a Cooperative Coalition.  Some are issues that can be dealt with by combining our efforts with those of communities in other states, or even other countries, that are building their organizations the same way that we are.  Some items will be expressed as demands that must be made to local City officials, to State political leaders, to national bodies, or to international groups such as the African Union or the United Nations.  But none of the issues in our Pan-Afrikan Agenda will bear any fruit unless we are ready to formulate a plan to see that they are done.

We invite the members of the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora to finally join together in the spirit of Black Unity which we have been calling for over these many decades.

Background on the Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Process

There are many activists and organizations that have ideas and plans to propose to help people of Afrikan descent unify, organize and mobilize ourselves.  We would like to talk a bit about the organization we belong to, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus, or SRDC.  Put simply, our mission is to establish the voice of the grassroots
Pan-Afrikan Diaspora on the world stage, primarily through the African Union but also through other global organizations and avenues, such as the United Nations or independent Pan-Afrikan Congresses, that would be helpful in the development and uplift of Afrikan people.  We want to do this in a well-informed, diplomatic and helpful way, and we realize that this effort will only succeed if we all participate together.  No one organization can do this alone.

The African Union Initiative for the Diaspora

We were inspired to this mission by the African Union Initiative, which issued an invitation of sorts to the Diaspora in 2003 to become involved in the effort to build the African Union.  The AU proposal currently involves members of the grassroots Afrikan Diaspora establishing a small delegation (say, 20) of elected representatives who would join a much larger number of Afrikans from the Continent as voting members in its Economic, Social and Cultural Council, or ECOSOCC, which is a group of community activists, businesses, and regular citizens who would advise the Heads of State on how to best serve the people of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora.  This is the civil society advisory group within the African Union.  While ECOSOCC does not craft legislation or take an official hand in establishing the AU’s organizational priorities, it does provide important input into the affairs of state from the perspective of what is often referred to as “civil society”, that is, private citizens, non-governmental organizations, businesses and community groups.  This would be the first organization within the AU where the Diaspora would seek to establish a voting presence in the form of representatives.  The prospects here are that, if all goes well with the Diaspora’s contribution to ECOSOCC, the Diaspora could be granted an opportunity to seek membership in the Pan-African Parliament, which does assist in the crafting of legislation and participates in the decision-making processes of the AU on a more official level.

Just What Is The “Diaspora”?

One early step in advancing the Initiative was settling on a definition of the Diaspora, which was proposed by the African Union in 2006 and accepted at a Pan Afrikan Roundtable that was held in April 2006 in Los Angeles, California in the United States.  The key aspects of the definition are that one be of African descent, that one lives outside the Continent, regardless of their country of citizenship, and that they be “willing to contribute to the development of the Continent and the building of the African Union.”  At this time, the AU also began promoting the concept of the Diaspora as the Sixth Region of Afrika, to go along with the current five regions (North, South, East, West and Central Afrika).  It is from this designation of the Sixth Region that SRDC derives its name.

Perhaps the first thing that needs to be clarified is the fact that the Afrikan Diaspora does not just mean Afrikan-Americans, as some of us unfortunately seem to believe.  There are just over 40 million of us in the United States, but there are over 300 million Black people total between the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and the last thing we need is for these different communities engaging in a free-for-all to claim for themselves the presumed right to speak for all 300 million-plus people around the world of Afrikan descent.

Why are We Doing This?

Two questions which are often asked at this point are: Why did the AU invite the Diaspora? and Why should the Diaspora accept the invitation?  The African Union has several incentives to include the Diaspora as voting members.  One is the reversal of a trend of Africans leaving the Continent, gaining education in the West and never returning home.  This was called the “Brain Drain” or the “Exodus”.  Involving the Diaspora increases the likelihood of the return of many of Afrika’s brightest minds and the resources that they carry with them.  Another incentive is the enlist-
ment of members of the Diaspora, especially the descendants of Africans who were enslaved centuries ago, in the development and establishment of the United States of Africa, or Union of Afrikan States, from provision of material and technical assistance to influencing their countries of citizenship to support and endorse a Union Government for the Afrikan Continent.  Our incentives for accepting the invitation include the developing and strengthening of our cultural and ancestral ties with our Mother Continent and the opportunity to take our grievances with America and the West to the international arena, through the African Union.  This is, in fact, akin to what Ancestor Malcolm X told us to do back in 1964, to stop “taking our case from the wolf to the fox” by seeking redress from Uncle Sam’s crimes against us in Uncle Sam’s own courts.

One more point needs to be made here.  While our effort was inspired by the African Union and our primary goal is to establish a presence in the AU, we realize that the AU is a very bureaucratic institution that many Pan-Afrikan activists do not entirely trust.  The African Union was modeled after the European Union, and it does often depend on assistance from the outside international community to maintain its operations.  Sometimes, the snail’s pace of progress in pursuing our goals has been as a result of a lack of communication with the AU, and this has frustrated many of us.  Others in the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora look at the AU, rightly or wrongly, as a neoliberal puppet of the West.  Finally, there remains the possibility that the AU could decide that this “experiment” in Diaspora representation was not worth pursuing after all, and withdraw the invitation.  This does not mean we would pack up our work and go home.  In that case, the exact same plan of local, national and global Afrikan Diaspora organization will still work, only in this case the final goal would be the establishment of an international delegation of elected Diaspora representatives who would meet in the United Nations, the World Social Forum, the next Climate Change Conference, or an independent Pan-Afrikan Conference of our own design and planning.  Either way, we would be taking our argument and our collective voice outside the courts of the United States or the country in which we happen to reside, and we would go to the International Arena, where, if we do this right, we will achieve a level of organization and strength that international groups would have no choice but to listen to what we say.

The SRDC Plan to Organize and Mobilize the Diaspora

So, how does SRDC propose that 300 million African Descendants and Continental Africans living in the Diaspora will be able to effectively elect 20 Representatives to speak for us on the World Stage?  How would we determine an elected delegation that could take the people’s concerns to the African Union’s ECOSOCC, or the United Nations, or to Pan-Afrikan Conferences?

The general idea can be briefly summarized in the cliché, “Think Globally, Act Locally”, for that is exactly what our plan involves.  Everything starts with the establishment and development of local organizations that bring people together at the grassroots level.  These local organizations then come together in national caucuses (in the United States, for example), or in the case of areas of the world where there are many small countries (like the Caribbean or Central America), Sub-Regional caucuses.  These national or Sub-Regional groups then come together for a Global gathering to establish, from the work of the local and Sub-Regional groups,
a Pan-Afrikan Diaspora Delegation that would, pending approval from the AU, represent the combined voice of the Global Pan-Afrikan Diaspora in ECOSOCC for that term.  This Delegation would present and support a Combined and Comprehensive Pan-Afrikan Agenda at the following ECOSOCC Meeting, UN Conference or Pan-Afrikan Conference.

This would represent the first truly significant effort at not only repairing the fractured state of the global Afrikan Diaspora, but also initiate the process of bringing the Diaspora “back home” to our long-separated relatives in the Mother Continent.

As we stated, the process begins with the establishment of local grassroots organization.  This would be done by forming an Organizing Committee, or a “Chapter” as some would call it, at the local level.  In the United States, for example, this would mean at the state level, specifically, 50 states plus Washington, DC.  In other parts of the world, perhaps in Central America, South America, Europe and the Caribbean, where our population is more scattered across several relatively small countries, this organization would occur at the country level, while in Canada, organization might occur by province. 

Each local organization would begin when a committed volunteer hears of this plan and takes the initiative to begin such an organization where they live (if one does not already exist).  That person becomes the Facilitator of that local organization and now must assemble a team of volunteers who will assist in planning, scheduling, promoting and holding a public Community Town Hall Meeting, at which the Afrikan-Descendant public is given information about the SRDC Mission and Plan, and the further steps which must be taken to make that happen. 

The community begins to formulate a list of the issues that they feel need to be addressed that impact upon their community or Pan-Afrikan Agenda, and then they commence the process of nominating people who would become the leadership team that would help to take that Agenda to the national and international level.  That leadership team includes a Council of Elders, two Representatives and five Observers.  The community nominates people for these positions and then, at a later date, a Candidates’ Forum is held where the community votes to formally elect those who will fill these positions for a two-year term.

SRDC Plan At A Glance 1

Once a year, all of the local committees gather together in a National or Sub-Regional Summit.  In the United States, National Summits are used, so we will refer to them as such here.  At these Summits, the local groups share news, information and ideas, they encourage each other, they discuss issues that impact the community at the local and national level, and they discuss and vote on decisions that must be made between the local organizations, including deciding which of the
local Representatives would be best to include in the Delegation that would go to, for example, the next AU Summit and take a seat in ECOSOCC.  Information
sessions about the African Union and the process would be held, as well as training sessions in building organizations, diplomacy and conflict resolution.  Plans and projects for the upcoming year of local and national organizing would also be discussed and decided.  Similar local and national or Sub-Regional organizing work would be done in other parts of the world where Afrikans live in the Diaspora, usually through the efforts of one or more of our global organizational allies, such as the African Union-African Diaspora Sixth Region (AUADS) in The Netherlands or the Central American Black Organization (CABO/ONECA in Spanish) in Central America.

After the National and Sub-Regional Summits have been held, a Full Diaspora Summit would take place.  The AU has already sponsored several of these Summits, even though the local and Sub-Regional process has not been fully implemented yet.  These Summits bring together activists in the Afrikan Diaspora who are recognized by the AU as playing an important role in the process of “Building the
African Union”.  When the local and Sub-Regional process has been fully implemented, these Representatives who were chosen at their respective
National or Sub-Regional Summits will participate in that Full Diaspora Summit.  There, they would gather with other Representatives from throughout the Diaspora and they would also prepare to join the 130 Representatives from the African Countries at the ECOSOCC Meeting of the AU Summit.

SRDC Plan Flow Chart 1

As we mentioned earlier, this same process can be used to develop an international Diaspora delegation to take our combined voice to the United Nations, the World Social Forum, environmental summits such as the Climate Change Conventions, or independent Pan-Afrikan Conferences that we might organize ourselves.  The point here is really for the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora to take the responsibility, and with it the authority, to organize ourselves on the local, national and international level.  At this point our influence and voice on the World Stage will increase dramatically, and our power to control our own destiny will finally be placed within our grasp.

“No More Excuses” Rally Planned for May 25 in Baltimore’s Park Heights Neighborhood

No Excuses Rally FlyerThe No More Excuses Rally will be held Thursday, May 25 at 3939 Reisterstown Road, in the First Floor Community Room, in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Rally is an effort to reach out to our community, specifically to Black Men, to convince us to stop making excuses for the self-destructive behaviors we seem so addicted to.  Whether it’s drug abuse, abuse of our women and children, a lack of personal ambition, or simple willful ignorance of the need for us to stand up and be men, a number of committed veteran community activists have determined that they have had and seen enough.

Elder George Mitchell has dedicated much of his time, effort and resources to lifting up the Park Heights-Pimlico community.  The C.C. Jackson Recreation Center at Garrison and Park Heights Avenues sponsors local community job fairs, children’s softball leagues and adult basketball leagues, among other programs, and much of this comes as a result of his tireless dedication.

Veteran community activist Bill Goodin worked alongside East Baltimore community activist and now Honored Ancestor Eric Easton for years in the community organization Unity for Action.  Brother Bill also wrote a community newsletter, Fighting Back, for several years.  He was the initial driving force behind the Saturday morning breakfast meetings at Terra Café and Arch Social Club that gave birth to the organization BlackMen Unifying BlackMen, which seeks to bring Afrikan-American men together in a collegial atmosphere so we will not only cease doing harm to each other but will also start cooperating with each other instead of seeing each other as rivals.

Elder David Murphy was the publisher of the Informer newspapers in Baltimore and Washington, DC.  He is now the Chief Publisher of the National Black Unity News (, a cooperative venture with several Baltimore-area media personalities who have agreed to work together to bring information and healing to our community.

Rev. Glenn Smith is another veteran member of the group that is sponsoring the No More Excuses Rally.  Like the other members of the group, he has expressed his outrage at the level of violence that has engulfed the community.

The No More Excuses Rally will feature service providers for those seeking employment opportunities and those who seek a path towards a more positive role for themselves in life.

The group’s Facebook page is




FREE THE LAND FILES: Justice Initiative on NAFTA and Trump’s Hypocricy

This article comes courtesy of Ms. Heather Gray and the Atlanta-based Justice Initiative.

Trump’s Hypocrisy: An Understatement
Blaming Mexican Migrants Is Beyond the Pale

By Heather Gray
May 4, 2017
Justice Initiative International

For Mexicans, maize is not a crop but a deep cultural symbol intrinsic to daily life. Corn was domesticated from a grass called teocintle by the peoples of Meso-America approximately 10,000 years ago. (Cultural Survival)

Source: US Census Bureau, USDA (CNN


Yes, corn originated in Mexico some 10,000 years ago and it eventually moved into North America. And now, in a rather strange reversal of it all, those of us in North America are attempting to destroy this special Mexican crop and cultural symbolism. And it’s all for greed.

I have a radio program on WRFG-FM in Atlanta. In the mid-1990’s while NAFTA was being debated in Congress, I interviewed representatives of the Sierra Club about the likely disastrous consequences of NAFTA on Mexico’s small sustainable farmers. It had to do with U.S. corporate agribusiness that would dump millions of dollars of subsidized corn on the Mexican market. We appropriately could see the doom and gloom of this “unfair” trade agreement. After my show that day, someone from CNN called me and asked why I didn’t have a pro-NAFTA person on the show as well. My response was, “You want pro-NAFTA? Just listen to CNN!”

Our predictions were correct! The small farmers in Mexico simply could not compete with the American subsidized agriculture products that were dumped on the Mexican market.

The hypocrisy? Trump chooses to act against Canadian “subsidized” lumber without even considering America’s own devastating subsidy complicity in the NAFTA scenario against the Mexican people? Regarding the Canadian lumber issue, in April 2017 the following was reported in the New York Times:

The Commerce Department determined that Canada had been improperly subsidizing the sale of softwood lumber products to the United States, and after failed negotiations, Washington decided to retaliate with tariffs of 3 percent to 24 percent. The penalties will be collected retroactively on imports dating back 90 days. (New York Times)

Subsidized lumber? Again, what about U.S. subsidized agribusiness and its impact on Mexicans and actually American farmers as well? Herein lies the hypocrisy of it all. As was noted in a Huffington Post article by Susana G. Baumann in 2014, the impact of NAFTA on the farmers has been immense:

For all products, Mexican producers’ prices fell from 44 to 67 percent from early 1990’s levels, declining local production and increasing import dependency. Mexican crop production also fell except for corn and meats, which at lower prices, was rapidly adopted for consumption in the Mexican families’ diet.

“An estimated 2.3 million people have left agriculture in a country desperate for livelihoods,” said Wise (see note below). The study estimated that the cost to Mexican producers was around $12.8 billion in the nine-year period, more than 10 percent of the U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade value annually.

The other cost, the one that we, north of the border pay, is the constant migration of these displaced rural workers into the United States.

(Huffington Post)

Note: Timothy A. Wise referred to above is the Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.

So thanks to U.S. policy, 2.3 million Mexicans were forced off the land. And then Donald Trump rails against Mexicans coming across the border as if the consequences, devastation and loss of their livelihoods was their fault?

And, yes, Trump points his finger at migrants now in the U.S. as well and makes their lives all the more vulnerable and difficult.

And Trump wants to build a wall as if to again point his finger at these victims?

The immorality here is breathtaking.

And rather then building a wall, Trump needs to get rid of the real problem which is, for one, these huge agriculture subsidies that benefit his millionaire/billionaire buddies in corporate agribusiness who clearly care less about the “real” farmers of the world, or the well-being of those, such as, the Mexican farmers they’ve managed to destroy. Nor do they care about the important “diversity” of the corn production and respect for the long and important tradition of small and informed producers who we all should honor and support.

Regardless, also, of the role of the Mexican government might have played in early NAFTA negotiations in the 1990s vis-a-vis their powerful northern neighbors – Canada and the U.S. – it is likely the American government and its corporate supporters knew in advance that the exploitation of Mexico’s markets and cheap labor would satisfy their greed.

Thankfully, the Mexican government presently has a ban against Monsanto’s GMO corn crops and hopefully the Mexican court will continue to uphold this. As reported on February 9, 2017 by Natural News:

Just last week, a Mexican court chose to uphold a 2013 ruling that followed a legal challenge on the effects GMO crops have on the environment, which temporarily put a stop on GMO corn-growing, including pilot plots….

Opponents of GMO crops believe that these modified corn seeds could contaminate heirloom varieties, and that the pesticides used to protect GMO crops are harmful to beneficial insects like bees – which have been dying off in record numbers.  Community advocates state that Mexico’s 59 varieties of native corn will be at risk if Monsanto is allowed to take hold of the corn market. [RELATED: Learn more about the dangers of genetically modified food at




Again, when will Trump denigrate his own country for its outrageous policies and when will he and those in Congress understand how millions in Mexico have suffered through no fault of their own. This is best stated by Rick Relinger, in his 2010 article, where he notes in reference to research about the issue:

As the study’s results demonstrate, billions of dollars of federal subsidies for American-grown corn are largely responsible for the economic displacement of Mexico’s corn farmers. The impact of U.S. corn subsidies has severely transformed the lives of people who have no influence on U.S. policies. This economic vulnerability of Mexican farmers was initiated through the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The inclusion of the agricultural sector within the agreement’s broader agenda of trade liberalization exposed Mexicans employed in agriculture to U.S. domestic economic policies. (It is important to note that U.S.-Canada side of the agreement contrastingly maintains significant restrictions to protect the Canadian agricultural sector). Although these subsidies produced an increase in the corporate ownership of corn production, a decrease in corn prices, and dwindling numbers of employed corn farmers-not to mention the displacement and forced migration of Mexican corn farmers-Mexican voters have no voice in congressional deliberations regarding the approval of federal subsidies for American-grown corn. (Prospect)

Invariably, in this neoliberal economic world in which we live, corporations take precedence over individual well-being at virtually every juncture. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this!!!

I will end with this 2006 excellent article below about the importance of corn in Mexico by Christina Santini who recently worked at the “Food and Agriculture Organization” of the United Nations and at the time worked in urban planning and development at Harvard University. She is also a professional cook.


For Mexicans, maize is not a crop but a deep cultural symbol intrinsic to daily life. Corn was domesticated from a grass called teocintle by the peoples of Meso-America approximately 10,000 years ago. Often referred to as humanity’s greatest agronomic achievement, maize is now grown all over the world. The yellow corn commonly found in the United States pales in comparison to the shapes, sizes, and colors of the traditional maize varieties cultivated by the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The ears of corn may range from a couple of inches to a foot long, in colors that include white, red, yellow, blue, and black. Some varieties even have an assortment of colors on one ear.

Corn is inextricably tied to the quotidian lives of the peasants and indigenous peoples of Mexico. As the basic grain, it shapes daily meals, and it’s growing cycle influences the timing of festivals. The image and shape of maize is a ubiquitous component of architecture and crafts. Spiritually, physically, and economically, corn sustains indigenous peoples. In the words of one Indian woman, “Corn is so important because it allows us to live at peace. It’s our form of food security.” Corn is linked to survival: During rough economic times or in the face of natural disasters, families will produce more maize to feed themselves. A Tzotzil Maya elder recounts, “During the past five centuries, while our people have withstood suffering-enormous sufferings-our corn has allowed us to survive.”

Now the North American Free Trade Agreement threatens to change that history. NAFTA has allowed the Mexican market to be flooded with imported corn from the United States, the vast majority of which is genetically modified. Before NAFTA, more than a third of the corn produced by rural farmers was retained for consumption at home, and the rest was sold on local markets. Indigenous peoples and peasants were practicing true food sovereignty and protected themselves from natural disasters and price fluctuations. Most local maize is sold through DISCONSA, a network of rural food stores common in poor and remote regions. As multinationals entered the market, a few began to sell their corn through the DISCONSA network, a practice that artificially lowered prices, hurt local farmers’ income, and disrupted the usual pattern of retaining enough corn for contingencies. More importantly, some of the corn flowing into the network consisted of genetically modified organisms. Estimates of contamination vary according to locality, from 3 percent to 60 percent. Within the DISCONSA network, the Mexican government found 37 percent contamination.

“We have learned that agrochemical companies patented our maize,” said a Tzotzil statement published in 2002 in La Jornada. “They are putting in genes from other living beings and many chemicals to completely put an end to our natural maize, so we’ll have to buy nothing but transgenic maize. If these agrochemical companies try to do away with our maize, it will be like putting an end to part of the culture that our Mayan ancestors bequeathed to us. Our indigenous peasant grandparents gave their labor and their hearts; they cried as they asked protection from our Creator for their work to bear fruit.”

To address the threat to traditional corn, the Tzotzil people formed the Mother Seeds in Resistance project. Mother Seeds is based in an autonomous indigenous school in the Chiapas highlands. There the community is identifying seeds to be preserved and preparing them to be frozen (for preservation, the moisture content in the seeds must be below 6 percent; otherwise the water inside the seeds will freeze and then burst the cell membranes, destroying them).

Community members of all ages are involved in the identification process, and it has become a channel through which young are learning from their elders. “It’s good to talk about these things in Tzotzil,” said two teachers, “because it is our own language.” Aldo Gonzalez, an indigenous Zapotec who has been on the forefront of the campaign against genetically modified maize, says, “Native seeds are a very important part of our culture. The pyramids may have been destroyed, but a handful of maize seed is the legacy we can leave to our children and grandchildren.”

(Cultural Survival)

32 Years Later: The MOVE Bombing in Philadelphia

Move Philly Bombing 3Carlos [Africa] was expressing the hurt that all MOVE people felt, after the hurt, the slaughter of our family,” said Mama Ramona Africa, the lone adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE house on Osage Avenue, an assault that featured thousands of rounds of ammunition, the use of an incendiary device on the roof, and a blaze that consumes an entire city block and ultimately sealed the fate of six adults, five children, and an untold number of pets in the MOVE house.  “The point is, we are living beings.  We are alive.  So we have feelings.  And thanks to the understanding John Africa had given us, we’re not confused about strength and feelings.  Showing no feelings, feeling nothing, is not strength.  When you have feelings, that’s what makes you strong.  So what I’m telling you is, MOVE people are living beings that have feelings, thanks to John Africa.  We can be hurt, because we have feelings.  We can feel hurt.  But goddammit, we won’t be stopped.  We can be hurt, but we won’t be stopped, and that’s what’s important.”

The MOVE Conference was held on Friday, May 5, Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7 at the Universal Audenreid Charter High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The three-day event featured several panels of MOVE members and supporters who provided information to the attendees about the MOVE Organization, its founding by visionary leader John Africa (“The Coordinator”), its history of resistance to police intimidation during the regime of police commissioner and later mayor Frank Rizzo, repeated police brutality incidents including the death of baby Life Africa, the August 8, 1987 attack on the MOVE House in Powelton Village, the resurgence of MOVE at 6221 Osage Avenue in the Cobbs Creek area of the city, and the May 13, 1985 confrontation that left eleven people dead and 61 homes burned to the ground.

Carlos Africa, one of the organization’s strongest advocates at public events who regularly speaks in support of Mama Ramona and Mama Pam Africa, elaborated on Mama Ramona’s point about the organization, or “family” as it is commonly known, deriving their strength from the deep feelings they all share, especially the parents of children who died in the 1985 bombing.  “Also I want to point out that all the men, move men in state prison, the women were a big factor. … Delbert, Rhea, Janine, Phil [who sadly passed on to the Ancestors while imprisoned as part of the MOVE Nine in January 2015–Editor], Janet, they all had kids in that house. … MOVE women, they’re a foundation of our organization.  They’re a big part, and that’s why I’m still here, and the rest of our brothers and sisters are still here, and why all these young people … that were born in this organization, that’s why they’re here.  Because the wisdom and teachings from John Africa, that were passed on to our sisters by the ones who had babies in the early years, like Rhea, Janet, Consuela, Janine.  The majority of the kids you see up here, they were born in our house in southwest Philly.  And most of them don’t have birth certificates, just like Life Africa didn’t have a birth certificate when they claimed that Life Africa wasn’t murdered by the police when Janine had him in her arms back in 1976. …”  Janine Africa, now imprisoned for a term of 30 to 100 years as one of the MOVE Nine stemming from the August 8, 1978 attack in Powelton Village, was holding baby Life Africa in her arms during a 1976 police raid when she was jostled, the baby was knocked from her arms and hit the pavement, resulting in a fatal skull fracture that to this day is denied by the Philadelphia police department.

Abdul, Mike Jr, Levi, Ramona, Rhea Africa.  Hidden behind Ramona: Carlos Africa.

Abdul, Mike Jr, Levi, Ramona, Rhea Africa. Hidden behind Ramona: Carlos Africa.

Barbara Grant, Journalist, on the Osage Avenue Attack

Radio journalist Barbara Grant was working for radio station WDAS at the time of the Osage Avenue attack.  She spoke to the audience about her experience attempting to give fair coverage to MOVE and her recollections of the day of the bombing.

“It’s not something that I talk about a lot, and hearing Carlos just brought back some painful memories, (but) that we-won’t-ever-be-defeated kind of spirit, really kind of gives us all strength.  I was at WDAS at the time that the MOVE bombing happened as the news director. … What WDAS did, from ’78 onward, was to try to be a counterbalance between what was actually happening and what was being reported in the mainstream media, and we did that for a couple of reasons.  One, because Mumia [Abu-Jamal, perhaps the most famous Political Prisoner in the world and an unflinching supporter of MOVE from that time to the present day–Editor] was one of us.  Mumia was part of the WDAS news staff at one time.  And the other was because, as the voice of the Black community, and taking that really, really seriously, this idea of injustice was at the top of our agenda, in terms of making sure that people were reported on in a fair way, and so, what my news director said to me when I first showed up there, was ‘If we don’t show MOVE people to be people, they will never appear like that in the mainstream media.  No one else will do it.’  So we really tried to make sure that our connection to MOVE was a live one and a dynamic one.  And I remember using reels and reels of tape–at that time we had the tape on the big reels–to allow MOVE people to have their say, and to allow opportunities for people to speak in their own voices.  Because it just wasn’t being reported in  the mainstream press.  When there were so many misconceptions and purposeful instances of misinformation being put out there about the MOVE Organization.  Just one example, people wanted to describe MOVE children as being unkempt, and starved, and dirty, and all of these things, and when you really knew the truth, you knew that these were some of the healthiest children in the city, because of their diet and their lifestyle, and there were things like that that needed to come out, which allowed people to have 1985 happen, because they dehumanized MOVE and they isolated MOVE, and because it was easy for readers, listeners, viewers, to really think that ‘We’re not like them’.  That these are not even human beings, that these are not people.  And so, when [an audience member] asked the question before of what people think, what we say to folks when they say ‘well, why should I give a damn about it’, it’s because people don’t think that they’re sitting on the same square as folk from MOVE.  And yet, what we see in the federal government right now, is that we’re all on the same damn square.  It’s like, how do you deal with lies, when you believe in the truth?  How do you not get confused about that, when it’s coming out of the mouth of the orange person in the White House? 

“But, what I experienced in terms of 1985, I guess, started, on Mother’s Day.  We knew something was going on on Osage avenue, and we were watching for it, in the run-up to May 13, and the Sunday before that, it was Mother’s Day.  And I remember I was having dinner with my son and husband who took me out to dinner, and Vera Martin called me, and said ‘this is getting ready to go down.’  And so I said to my family. ‘I’ll be back in a little while’, and I went to go check on things and we didn’t get back foe three days.  It was just like that, bam-bam-bam, what was happening.

“And I remember the night that they were moving everybody out of their houses, and moving in the apparatus, the equipment, the crews that were disconnecting gas, disconnecting the water, and disconnecting the electricity, and saying to people, ‘well, you just have to go for a couple of hours, and we’ll let you back in the house’.  And at some point that evening, it got really, really clear that something really bad was getting ready to happen.  And so, I called the Mayor’s Office, and had a friend in there, and told that person that this was going to end up badly, and that there were real intentions on the part of public officials and the police specifically, because this was a police operation, and everyone else in the city, even the fire department, abdicated to the police.  I just talked to someone the other day about this, and they said the person that they held most responsible for what happened on Osage avenue was the fire commissioner [William Richmond, who was found responsible for the use of excessive force by a jury in a lawsuit eleven years later, along with police commissioner Gregore Sambor and the City of Philadelphia–Editor], because the fire commissioner should have said to the police commissioner [Sambor], ‘F you, I have to fight this fire.'” 

“I called the Mayor’s Office, and had a friend in there, and told that person that this was going to end up badly, and that there were real intentions on the part of public officials and the police specifically. … And after a little while, they came back and they said, ‘the Mayor said, and I quote, there’s nothing he can do.’  There’s nothing he can do.

Mama Ramona Africa pointed out, “One thing I’ve always been telling people, when they came out there, they [police] can label it a crime scene.  But at the point there is a fire, that is the jurisdiction of the fire department, and the police commissioner cannot tell the fire commissioner how to or not to fight a fire.”

Ms. Grant continued, “That’s absolutely the truth, and I don’t want to take up too much time, but at some point that night, that did happen.  And I did call the Mayor’s Office, and what was told to me was ‘okay, hold on, I’m going to go check with the Mayor.’  And after a little while, they came back and they said, ‘the Mayor said, and I quote, there’s nothing he can do.’  There’s nothing he can do.  The Mayor can always do something.  The Mayor can always do something, the Mayor is in charge, unless you abdicate to the police commissioner, which was what was done. 

“And so, as that evening went on, the other incident was that the MOVE folk in the house actually called for a contingent of reporters to negotiate.  they were ready to talk to people about how to resolve this in a way that wouldn’t result in a catastrophe.  I was one of those folk, and so I went to the cops at the barricades, and tried, on several occasions, in several different places, to tell them, I wanted to speak with them.  I’m not trying to be a hostage, but folk are calling for some avenue that will keep whatever it is you’re getting ready to do from happening.  And basically, I was just tossed off, as I’m sure Harvey Clark, and some of the other folk that were called for were as well.  So they had no intention of trying to negotiate, they had no intention of trying to resolve this, they had decided what they wanted to do.  And I don’t know if you’ve heard from the [at the time] photographer at channel 10, who holed up, he hid himself in a house across the street and was photographing some of this.  at some point, some of the tape that he collected had a statement in it that I will never, ever forget for the rest of my life, which was a couple of cops laughing back and forth with each other, saying, while the fire was burning, ‘this is the last time they’ll call the police commissioner a motherf***er.'”

“[T]he MOVE folk in the house actually called for a contingent of reporters to negotiate.  they were ready to talk to people about how to resolve this in a way that wouldn’t result in a catastrophe.  I was one of those folk, and so I went to the cops at the barricades … And basically, I was just tossed off … So they had no intention of trying to negotiate, they had no intention of trying to resolve this, they had decided what they wanted to do.”

Mama Ramona corroborated the videotape’s existence, pointing out: “And that’s on a police videotape, and when subpoenaed during my criminal trial [As the only adult survivor of the conflict, she was tried for incitement to riot and other offenses, and was sentenced to jail time, making her the only person prosecuted as a result of the MOVE bombing–Editor], the police said they only had 13 minutes of tape, when they taped from May 12 to May 13.  But the thing about it, they’re so stupid, that statement was on their tape that they gave them.”

Ms. Grant continued, “And it came out in evidence during the MOVE Commission [the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission, which issued a report on March 7, 1986 about the confrontation].  And so, a little bit of fast forwarding, we went through that night, and I remember being near the back alley, on I think this would have been 62nd and Pine, when, as it turned out, Birdie [Africa, also known as Michael Ward], as he testified during the MOVE Commission, said that people were coming out, and him saying ‘we’re coming out, we’re coming out!’  And you couldn’t hear anything, you couldn’t hear anything, that fire was raging, and there was all the noise.  It was everywhere.  And at the end of it, Ramona and Birdie came out, and that was it. 

“And then, when people began to investigate all that stuff, I ended up doing an investigation with, at that time I was with Channel 29, and did a joint investigation with the Legal Intelligencer, about what happened in the back alley, because promises were made about what was supposed to happen on that site.  And one of the promises that was made, were that cops that were involved in 1978 weren’t supposed to be anywhere near what was going on on Osage avenue.  And it turned out that some of those cops were actually in the back alley.

“The ones that beat Delbert,” said Mama Ramona.

Ms. Grant continued, “And so, as we looked at some of that stuff, and got hold of FBI files, photos, and things like that, we went to talk to a medical examiner who was at that time up in Pittsburgh.  And what we discovered, in the end, was that fragments of the bullets that were shot in that back alley ended up in the remains of the MOVE people.  [This backs up not only the account of Mama Ramona that MOVE members were shot at when they tried to exit the burning building, but also the account of a retired police officer who lived on Osage Avenue during an interview we conducted in April 2000 that bullet fragments were found in the bodies–Editor.]  And that’s kind of the bottom line right there.  There were cops in that back alley, that were not supposed to be there to begin with, who did some things that maybe will never, ever see the light of day in the proper way.  But I will say this, because I happen to be a believer in God, that some of those police officers ended up committing suicide, some of them ended up as substance abusers, and some of them ended up just not being very happy, peaceful people.  And what I believe is that karma is karma.”

MOVE 2017 Conference MOVE Nine PosterBro. Kareem Speaks About Learning of the MOVE Bombing

“I’m a MOVE supporter.  I’ve been one since 1979.  I met MOVE in Holmesburg Prison [in Philadelphia–Editor]–the five men who were awaiting trial for the August 8, 1978 raid on their headquarters.  I had come down from Western State Penitentiary.  I had gotten a new trial on the case that I had gone to jail for.  I had seven years in, and I had been following MOVE up to that point.  Like many of you all, I had read a smear campaign about MOVE, that they were dirty, that they ate garlic, like there’s something wrong with eating garlic, that they didn’t take baths, that they used profanity, that they had their children born at home, like there’s something wrong with the children born at home.  And I had heard all these things about MOVE, and I considered myself a revolutionary.  I was in jail for trying to break some brothers out of Holmesburg prison, and a policeman there got shot.  So, I was a political prisoner, I had looked at myself as a political prisoner, and I looked at MOVE as political prisoners.  so, on my seventh year while in solitary confinement for trying to escape, I had longed to meet MOVE.  I had wanted to meet these brothers and sisters for years.  So finally I got a new trial, I had been given an opportunity to go back down to Holmesburg prison, from Western State Penitentiary, which would allow me then to meet MOVE.  I went down there.  I met MOVE.  The first MOVE member I met was Phil Africa, who is now deceased.  And from that point on, I remained in MOVE.

But I wanted to speak on May the 13th, 1985.  You all might need to forgive me at some point, because I get really emotional about it.  On May the 13th of ’85, I was walking the yard, I was the only MOVE prisoner at Graterford Prison at the time.   and guys were running up to me telling me, ‘Hey, you heard what happened man?  they’re rolling on your family, they’re rolling on MOVE on Osage Avenue.’  So I went back to my cell, turned the TV on, watched until I couldn’t watch anymore.  Guys were still coming to my cell door, trying to let me know what was going on until I didn’t want to hear no more.  That night, 12 o’clock at night–the jail locks up at 9 o’clock at night in most state prisons–that night, I looked up, I’m laying in bed, I couldn’t sleep.  The cell door slams open, and there’s maybe ten guards coming into my cell, saying ‘Come on, you’re coming with us.’  And I’m like ‘Coming with you all where?’  And they say ‘Just come on, that’s all.’  So I said ‘I’m not going nowhere.’  So, I went off on them.  I said ‘f*** you motherf***ers, you killed my family, I ain’t hearing nothing you all got to say,’ and I started fighting.  They knocked me out, they took me down to the hole, solitary confinement, placed me in the hole, gave me an assault on four different guards, gave me a year in the hole.  I stayed in Graterford for six months.  And just out of nowhere they ship you in the state prisons, they don’t tell you where you’re going.  Just early in the morning, thrown into a van or whatever transportation it is, and they take you to another prison.  Well, it was a blessing in disguise for me, because they took me up to Huntington State Prison.  And that’s where Mumia was on death row at the time, which gave me the opportunity to communicate with him, as I went from one hole to the other, and Mike Africa was in population.  I didn’t know at the time, when they came to my cell door to get me, that they had rounded up all the MOVE members all across the state.  I didn’t know that.  Put them all in solitary confinement.  And for what?  For nothing.  We didn’t do anything.  The fact that we were in MOVE was enough for them.  That’s all they needed to know.  So I came out, went in population, stayed with Mike until I went home. … I stayed with Mike maybe six months, and then went home.  But like Ramona was telling you all, and I want to emphasize to all of you all, MOVE people got feelings. … I can’t say anymore.

Carlos Africa elaborated a bit.  “I want to point out that Kareem came home from prison in 1982.  He did after he did his 10 or 11 years.  And he lived around, not in the house but he lived up around the Osage family for them years right before May 13th, when he was arrested.  He was around the kids, he was around the women, and men that were in Osage Avenue.  And he got to be real close to them because he felt the same thing other MOVE members felt when we first came into the organization, the love and the concern for family that John Africa instilled in all MOVE people.  And any time Kareem talks about it, he does get emotional, because that’s the last time he got to see them, and it’s hard.  It’s hard.  Thank you.  Long Live John Africa.”

The Osage Avenue neighborhood after the MOVE Bombing.

The Osage Avenue neighborhood after the MOVE Bombing.

For more information on MOVE, check out other articles we’ve posted here on the Organization, specifically last year’s remembrance of the Osage Avenue bombing and the interview we did in April 2000 with a group of men who were neighbors of MOVE at the time of the Osage Avenue assault and who, despite their opposition to many of MOVE’s methods, had to agree that the family was subjected to a murderous, obscene assault on that day, and there was more to the misconduct and malfeasance of the city of Philadelphia than meets the eye.  Also, check out MOVE’s web site,

100 Dramas for 100 Days of Trump

Trump 2By the end of January 2017, newly-sworn-in US President Donald Trump had already hit the ground running in an attempt to establish a “productive” first 100 days. While his presidency may not have produced as many new laws or policy improvements as his supporters expected (or even think it did), it certainly has not failed to deliver in drama.  To commemorate the first 100 days of the Trump administration, we’ve compiled a list of 100 points of interest and controversy (We thought of calling them “Fun Facts”, but there’s actually little fun in any of this) that have become the focus of the media and Trump’s opposition in the first 100 days.

Excretive Orders 2

By the end of January 2017, Trump had already hit the ground running in an attempt to establish a “productive” first 100 days.  As he signed one Executive Order after another, it seemed that he would almost literally ramrod his “vision” for the country through the Republican control of all three branches of government.  These are just some of the Executive Orders Trump signed, which we see as primarily representing a threat to the livelihoods, the economic stability, the civil liberties, the environmental safety and the human rights of Americans and the world at large:

1.   An order instructing agencies that whenever they introduce a regulation, they must first abolish two others.

2.   An order to restructure the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council, which had initially placed adviser Steve Bannon in a position of primary influence on the Principals Committee of the Council and removed several military experts, including the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Intelligence Director.  Bannon would be removed from the Council weeks later.

3.   An executive order imposing a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. from citizens of seven alleged “terror hot spots”: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.  The executive order was loudly protested by massive crowds at courthouses, government buildings and airports across the country and derided as the “Muslim Ban”.

4.   After the first attempt at what had been derided and protested across the nation as a “Muslim Ban” failed, Trump welcomed the month of March by attempting another “Muslim Ban”, this time restricting travel from six nations: Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia  and Sudan, and sparing Iraq from the executive order.

5.   Multi-pronged orders on border security and immigration enforcement including: the authorization of a U.S.-Mexico border wall; hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents; ending “catch-and-release” policies for illegal immigrants; and reinstating local and state immigration enforcement partnerships.

6.   A related order for the stripping of federal grant money to sanctuary cities, local jurisdictions that refused to utilize their local police departments to root out undocumented immigrants instead of preventing and solving actual criminal acts.  This order was openly defied by several prominent “sanctuary cities” such as New York, which dared the Trump administration to attempt to strip them of federal funding.  It was also challenged at the Circuit Court level, resulting in the granting of a stay, essentially defeating the order.  Trump has vowed to fight it to the Supreme Court.

7.   Two orders reviving the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access pipeline, in spite of the then-ongoing protests in North Dakota, which argued the Dakota Access Pipeline would contaminate the water of the Standing Rock Sioux Indigenous Nation.

8.   Trump also signed three orders related to Keystone XL and Dakota Access that would expedite the environmental permitting process for infrastructure projects related to the pipelines, direct the Commerce Department to streamline the manufacturing permitting process, and give the Commerce Department 180 days to maximize the use of U.S. steel in the pipeline.

9.   An order to reinstate the so-called “Mexico City Policy” – a ban on federal funds to international groups that perform abortions or lobby to legalize or promote abortion. The policy was instituted in 1984 by President Reagan, but has gone into
and out of effect depending on the party in power in the White House.

10.  An order imposing a hiring freeze for some federal government workers as a way to shrink the size of government. This excludes the military, as Trump noted at the signing.

11.  An order that directs federal agencies to ease the “regulatory burdens” of ObamaCare.  It orders agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement” of ObamaCare that imposes a “fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”

12.  According to the March 27 edition of the New York Times, “President Trump, flanked by company executives and miners, signed a long-promised executive order on Tuesday to nullify President Barack Obama’s climate change efforts and revive the coal industry, effectively ceding American leadership in the international campaign to curb the dangerous heating of the planet.  Mr. Trump made clear that the United States had no intention of meeting the commitments that his predecessor had made to curb planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution, turning denials of climate change into national policy.  At a ceremony, Mr. Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to start the complex and lengthy legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, frozen construction of new plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms.”

13.  In a related action, Trump ordered the EPA to remove climate change language from its website and begin rolling back a slew of environmental regulations.  According to an article on CNN’s website (
climate-change/index.html), “The White House is also highlighting its EPA regulation roll-backs through use of the Congressional Review Act as one of the brightest moments so far. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short called the actions the ‘biggest legislative achievement’ of Trump’s first 100 days in office, next to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.  The GOP Congress used the law to nullify almost a dozen rules issued in the final months of Obama’s presidency, including the Stream Protection Rule and an Interior Department methane rule that requires oil and gas companies using public lands to control air pollution.”

14.  An Executive Order designating Inauguration Day, January 21, as a “National Day of Patriotism”.

15.  A March 15, 2017 budget proposal that would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which is a major funding source for National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), causing protesters to accuse
Trump of trying to destroy Sesame Street.

16.  As part of the same budget proposal, the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities was also directed.  This move, and the order to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, makes Trump’s reported May 1 order to discontinue former First Lady Michele Obama’s Let Girls Learn Initiative less surprising but no less outrageous.

17.  A March budget proposal called for massive cuts to State Department funding.  While the administration has yet to even nominate a deputy Secretary of State, its proposal would also cut the agency’s budget by 31%.  A group of 120 retired generals and admirals signed a February 27 letter urging Trump not to cut the State Department’s budget.  (

18.  Consistent with Trump’s stated opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency, and his decision to appoint the anti-EPA Scott Pruitt as the EPA’s Administrator, the Trump administration proposed a massive budget cut to that agency as well.  (


Tillerson 1

19.  Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, becomes Secretary of State.  His time at Exxon corresponds with the corporation’s efforts to sow uncertainty about the human impact on climate change.  ExxonMobil also was a major resource extractor in Equatorial Guinea, one of the most unstable countries in Afrika, with a long-standing ruling family that lives in luxury while the populace goes hungry.

20.  Sean Spicer is chosen as Trump’s official spokesperson.  Spicer would become known for occasionally-unhinged comments and factually questionable statements, and he would be famously parodied by comedian Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live.

21.  Kellyanne Conway, who had replaced Paul Manafort during the campaign as Trump’s campaign spokesperson, would continue in the role of “counselor” in the Trump administration.  It remains to be seen what type of “counseling” she provides.

22.  Omarosa Manigault is appointed as an aide to the president in charge of African American Outreach as well as the communications director for the White House Office of Public Liaison.  The occasionally controversial former Apprentice reality-television star had expressed surprise at the cold reception Trump has received from many Afrikan-American voters and personalities, having said that Blacks were “not working hard enough” to work with Trump: “We’re here waiting, willing to work with the community. … This president wants to engage. It’s not a one-way street.”  She also stated during the late stages of the presidential campaign that Trump’s opponents would “have to bow down” to him once he was elected president.  On Thursday, April 27, at an event sponsored by the National Action Network at which she was invited to speak, Rev. Al Sharpton asked her to tell Trump that “we as blacks and women are, in the first 100 days, seeing a disaster in Washington, D.C.”

23.  Scott Pruitt, who had filed 14 lawsuits against the /environmental Protection Agency in Oklahoma, is named EPA Administrator.  He would set out to roll back environmental regulations almost immediately upon assuming office.

24.  Rick Perry, former governor of Texas who, in the 2011 Republican presidential primaries, had famously vowed to abolish the Department of Energy, is named the Administrator of … the Department of Energy.  The fact that he has maintained a very low profile as the new Energy Department head may be an indicator that his opinion of the agency has not changed much since 2011.

25.  Betsy DeVos, with no experience whatsoever in public school administration and only a checkered record as a proponent of public-private charter schools in Chicago (most of which have under-performed), is named Secretary of Education.

26.  Dr. Ben Carson, famed neurosurgeon whose most recent claim to fame has been an anemic presidential campaign, a series of comments at speaking engagements against poor and low-income citizens in need of federal assistance and the admission that he does not consider himself qualified to run any agency, is named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

27.  Andy Puzder, the fast-food magnate who had opposed raising the minimum wage, is Trump’s choice as Labor Secretary.  Puzder’s nomination would be withdrawn after protests from workers’ unions and questions about his record.

28.  Mike Flynn, Trump’s choice as National Security Adviser, later is revealed as having made contact with Russian officials on several suspicious occasions.  Flynn is also revealed to have served as a paid foreign agent for Turkey during the transition, when he had been involved in national security briefings, without having notified anyone.

29.  Steve Bannon is named to a special strategic adviser post.  He and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus would differ regarding the administration’s proposed policies, and Bannon’s previous position as CEO of Breitbart would lead to accusations that he was using his position as “the voice of the Alt-Right” to infuse a White Nationalist, or even White Supremacist, viewpoint into the Trump administration.

30.  Former South Carolina Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is named Trump’s Attorney General.  He is approved by the Senate after a contentious battle that included a brief Democratic filibuster and a rather stunning rebuke of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).  Sessions was known to have prosecuted Afrikan-American civil rights workers in South Carolina during his time as that state’s Attorney General in 1985 (see the analysis by Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Jeff Sessions, The Marion Three, and Why We Need an Attorney General Who Will Fight Voter Suppression,
01/jeff-sessions-marion-three-need-attorney-general-will-fight-voter-suppression/) and has pushed several US cities to rescind the consent decrees they signed in the aftermath of incidents of police brutality since he became US Attorney General.

31.  Neil Gorsuch is nominated by Trump as the new Supreme Court Justice, filling the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia in 2016.  Democrats had opposed this nomination and had mounted a filibuster that prompted Republicans to use their majority to change the rules to break the filibuster.  Democrats resorted to this “obstructionist” tactic because of Gorsuch’s strict anti-abortion views, his rulings in favor of corporations even in situations such as the “freezing truck driver” case (a truck driver was fired for leaving his rig after it had broken down in freezing temperatures, even though promised aid never arrived), and the fact that Senate Republicans had refused to even consider Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee from over a year before.

32.  Sebastian Gorka, an English-born Hungarian right-wing former Breitbart columnist, is brought on as an assistant adviser.

33.  Ajit Pai, Trump’s pick to run the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), immediately set out to gut consumer-protection regulations.  According to a February 5, 2017 article in the “failing” New York Times (
technology/trumps-fcc-quickly-targets-net-neutrality-rules.html), “In his first days as President Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai has aggressively moved to roll back consumer protection regulations created
during the Obama presidency. … Mr. Pai took a first swipe at net neutrality rules designed to ensure equal access to content on the internet. He stopped nine companies from providing discounted high-speed internet service to low-income individuals.  He withdrew an effort to keep prison phone rates down, and he scrapped a proposal to break open the cable box market.”

34.  Sally Yates, an assistant Attorney General from the Obama administration, warns the Trump administration about Mike Flynn’s apparent failure to inform authorities that he had met with Russian officials during the campaign and transition, and that he had been a paid agent for Turkey.  Shortly thereafter, Trump fires Yates, allegedly because she disagreed with him about the constitutionality of his proposed “Muslim Ban”.

35.  As of Day 99 of the Trump presidency, a total of 71 nominations had been made to his Cabinet and high-level positions, the lowest number since this statistic has been counted.  Hundreds of positions in the Trump administration, including almost all of the Assistant Secretary positions, remain unfilled as of this writing.

36.  Meanwhile, the apparent turmoil within the Trump administration, often dubbed the “palace intrigue” in the White House, has led political adversaries, media commentators, and even late-night talk-show hosts to speculate as to who the “real president” is.  Is it Trump?  Is it Steve Bannon?  Is it Jared Kushner?  Or does it change with the (political) weather?


Ivanka Trump 137.  Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, would receive an unofficial role in the administration, though she would receive an office and would be present at many of Trump’s high-level meetings with other heads of state.  Her application for a top security clearance was not approved.

38.  Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, would be given a more official role as a senior adviser.  He would be charged with eliminating waste in government and attempting to broker Middle East peace, among other duties, despite his young age (36 at the time of his appointment).

39.  Trump has placed his many business ventures in what he calls a “blind trust”, though he placed it under the control of his sons, who no doubt consult him on a regular basis, thus negating any claims that this is a “blind trust”.  The Emoluments Clause, among other regulations, is supposed to prevent a sitting president from influencing policy that would benefit his or her business interests.  Trump seems to have disregarded these regulations entirely.


Mar A Lago 240.  The Secret Service is stretched thin by its responsibilities to protect Trump in the White House, while also protecting First Lady Melania Trump in Trump Tower in New York City, and also providing security at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.  Trump held a meeting there and took a phone call to discuss classified business, out in the open among guests, at the resort in March.

41.  Trump continues to reject concerns about the links between his campaign and Russian efforts to influence the November 8 election, despite the fact that Flynn and other members of the Trump team have been revealed to have had several contacts with Russian officials during the campaign and the transition.

42.  Trump’s sometimes-reckless tweets have raised concerns about the possibility of inadvertently revealing classified information and compromising national security.


Putin 143.  Trump had cultivated a relationship with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin since the campaign, comparing his “strong leadership” to the “weak leadership” of President Obama.  This relationship has since cooled.

44.  Before taking office, Trump accepted a congratulatory call from the President of Taiwan, apparently unaware that this would cause something close to an international incident with China, which does not recognize Taiwan.  The United States has had a long-standing policy of not officially recognizing Taiwan, even though the US is not considered an enemy of that country.

45.  By placing individuals such as Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka in close proximity in his administration, and paying close heed to the rants and antics of Alex Jones (a once self-styled political commentator who now calls himself a “performance artist” in the wake of accusations in a separation lawsuit), Trump seems to have been signaling his willingness to be influenced by the “Alt-Right”, a political philosophy that many commentators view as White Nationalist.

46.  Early in his presidency, Trump reportedly berated Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the phone over an Obama-era refugee deal in which the US was to take up to 1,250 refugees that Australia houses in detention camps on the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

47.  On March 6, in response to an illegal chemical attack on a Syrian town widely blamed on the Bashar al-Assad regime, Trump ordered a strike at the airbase that had launched the attack, sending 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles in a strike on the Al
Sharyat Airfield.

48.  On April 12, under orders from the Trump administration, the Massive Ordinance Air Bomb (MOAB), or as it was more informally called, the “Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB)”, was detonated at a remote Islamic State (IS) base in Afghanistan.  It was the largest non-nuclear device ever detonated.  The Bush and Obama administrations had resisted using it for the entirety of their eight-year presidencies.  Trump resorted to it in fewer than three months.

49.  On March 17, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House.  The visit was marked by what appeared to be Trump’s refusal to shake Merkel’s hand, even after prompting by photographers, which Trump apparently pretended not to notice.

50.  On April 28, Day 99 of the Trump presidency, he was quoted as having warned that a “major conflict” was looming with North Korea.  Political analysts and journalists considered this an extremely reckless statement, designed to escalate the tension between the US and North Korea’s young ruler, Kim Jung-Un.


The following are several assertions from either Trump himself or members of his administration that, in our opinion, strain the limits of common sense, forge new frontiers in naiveté and push the boundaries of conspiracy theory.  Most of these are not direct quotes, so we have placed them in italics when a direct quote was not available to us.



51.  Climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

52.  By singing Executive Orders to allow Arctic and Atlantic drilling and the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, thousands of good jobs will be created.  (This despite the fact that even energy experts have asserted that coal is a technology of the past, that the notion of “clean coal” is more speculative than real, and that the resulting rejection of solar and wind power development means the actual loss of jobs in those expanding clean-energy technologies.)

53.  The protesters at Congressional public meetings calling for the retention of the Affordable Care Act and the protection of Muslims and immigrants are “professionals … brought in from out of state on buses”.  (Meanwhile, many of the pro-Trump counter-protesters admitted they were the ones who often had come from other districts or other states when questioned.)

54.  The one-page Tax Plan released at the end of April is brilliant and beautiful, despite the fact that the only thing it says is that corporations and the well-to-do will see their income taxes cut in half.

55.  Frederick Douglass is “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.”  (Trump, in a February 2 breakfast meeting with Afrikan-American supporters to recognize Black History Month and the opening  of the National Museum of African American History and Culture) This remark has led to criticism that Trump was unaware of Douglass’ true historic significance, as well as several jokes that Trump believed Douglass was still alive.

56.  Mike Flynn was treated horribly.  He had been vetted by Obama, but the second he’s caught having dealt with Turkey and Russia (all of which, by the way, happened after he had been fired by the Obama administration), suddenly the Fake News Media says it’s Trump’s fault! (though the vetting process for National Security Adviser should have been much more thorough than it would have been before, which indicates that the Trump administration is the one that had failed to properly vet Flynn).

57.  NAFTA is horrible … Well, no, maybe it isn’t.  Okay, we’ll keep it for now until I can find a way to change it or eliminate it.  (Actually, in many ways NAFTA is horrible, but clearly Trump’s team has no clue as to why.)


Trump Crowd Drain The Swamp 158.  “Drain the swamp.”  Trump then proceeded to place oil industry cronies, right-wing ideologues and corporate apologists with no knowledge of, and little apparent concern for, the impact of governance on people’s lives, in key positions in his Cabinet and among his close advisers.

59.  “I want to give everybody great health care.”  He then proceeded with his “repeal and replace” plan for “ObamaCare” and attempted to replace it with what came to be derisively known as TrumpCare (“something much better and much cheaper”), which, according to health professionals from almost every corner, would have the immediate impact of stripping up to 24 million Americans of health insurance.

60.  “We are giving government back to you, the people.”  (Trump’s proclamation during his inauguration speech, which seemed to be comparing the Obama presidency, and perhaps others before that, to dictatorships.  Hardly a diplomatic statement with former presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter in attendance.)  He went on as president to sign a series of Executive Orders that would aim to take away people’s health care, roll back civil rights, destroy the water and air that the people need to live, and enrich the wealthy while further impoverishing the poor and working classes.  This led a few late-night comedians and commentators to compare Trump’s declarations to similar words spoken by the character Bane in the Batman move The Dark Knight Rises, in which Bane announced he was giving Gotham City “back to you, the people” and then prepared to detonate a nuclear bomb in the city.  Which “people” was Bane – I mean Trump –  “giving” government back to?

61.  As was discovered at the end of April and his first 100 days, the Trump Inauguration reportedly amassed a fund of over $107 million, double the amount of the 2009 Obama Inauguration, which had set the previous record (about $53 million).  Obama’s Inauguration, however, was the largest ever, in terms of attendance and invited guest performers, while Trump’s paled in comparison.  So, what happened to all that money?




62.  “The Blacks” (from several Trump campaign events and interviews)

63.  “Where’s my African American?”  (from a Trump campaign appearance)

64.  “They’re bringing drugs, they’re committing crimes … Some of them are good people” (Trump’s attack on Mexican immigrants from early in his campaign)

65.  “Pocahontas”  (Trump’s derisive attacks on Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who claims some Indigenous “Native American” ancestry)

66.  “Are the CBC [Congressional Black Caucus] friends of yours?  Will you set up a meeting with them for me?  Set up a meeting.”  (Trump to Afrikan-American White House Correspondent April Ryan)


Sean Spicer 167.  “This was the largest audience to witness an Inauguration, PERIOD.”  (Sean Spicer)

68.  “Stop shaking your head. … Stop shaking your head.”  (Sean Spicer, to April Ryan)

69.  “Sean gave alternative facts to that.”  (Kellyanne Conway invents a new buzzword)

70.  “You are Fake News.”  (Trump to an apparently overly-inquisitive journalist)

71.  “Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”  (Trump adviser Stephen Miller on NBC’s Meet The Press, Sunday, February 12, 2017)

72.  “Flynn is a good man. … He’s been treated unfairly.”  (Trump, on several occasions)

73.  Obama is tapping my phone in Trump Tower.  Repeated in statements as well as Tweets from Trump.  No evidence has ever been found that Obama wiretapped or otherwise conducted surveillance on Trump, aside from incidental surveillance of
Trump staff who may have engaged in questionable communications with Russian or other foreign officials.  Then, in an April 30 Face the Nation interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Dickerson, Trump abruptly ended the discussion when Dickerson asked him if he stood by his wiretap accusation.  “I don’t stand by anything.  You can take it the way you want.  I think our side’s been proven very strongly.  And everybody’s talking about it.  And frankly it should be discussed.  I think that is a very big surveillance of our citizens. … And we should find out what the hell is going on. … You don’t have to ask me. … Because I have my own opinions.  You can have your own opinions. … OK, it’s enough.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.”  (from

74.  “Bill O’Reilly shouldn’t have settled.  Bill O’Reilly did nothing wrong.”  (O’Reilly still was fired from Fox News, which had settled with plaintiffs for a combined $13 million in sex-harassment lawsuits involving O’Reilly and Roger Ailes in the past.)

75.  “China is manipulating its currency.”  (prior to meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping)

76.  “China is not manipulating its currency.”  (after meeting President Xi at Mar-A-Lago over dinner and the “best chocolate cake ever”)

77.  “China stopped [manipulating its currency] as soon as I was elected,” implying that China changed its behavior entirely because Trump was now on the scene.  Apparently, that chocolate cake he and Chinese President Xi shared at Mar-a-Lago was very good indeed.

78.  “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!” (a Trump tweet, February 17, 2017)

79.  Obama plays too much golf. … I won’t have time to play any golf; I’ll be too busy working.  (Obama has played less golf after leaving the White House than Trump has been seen playing in the first 100 days.)

80.  “Nobody knew health care reform was this hard.”  (The Clinton and Obama administrations knew it was much, much harder than this.)

81.  “How can some judge sitting on an island in the Pacific decide what’s best for America?”  (Attorney General Sessions, referring to a Federal judge in Hawaii – a state, not just an “island in the Pacific” -who had ruled against Trump’s second iteration of the “Muslim Ban”)

82.  I thought being president would be easier.  (Trump, toward the end of his first 100 days in the White House)  Trump would explain that remark in his April 30 Face the Nation interview with John Dickerson as his acknowledgement that the job of the president was a challenging one, but that he still “loved” it.


Trump 183.  We won by the largest margin ever (Trump, before being reminded he lost the popular vote)

84. I meant we won the Electoral College by the largest margin ever (before being reminded that both Obama Electoral College victories were considerably larger)

85.  I meant we had the largest Electoral College victory ever by a Republican (before being informed that George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan won by larger margins)

86.  I would have won the popular vote had millions of people not voted illegally (which not only makes a claim that has absolutely no data to back it up, but also sets the stage for further efforts by right-wingers to push for more draconian voter-intimidation policies in the future)

87.  “I’m the least racist person you will ever meet. … I’m the least anti-Semitic person you will ever meet.”  (No explanation needed here.)

88.  The people love me (despite the lowest start-of-term approval ratings of any president in polling history)

89.  “We’re going to build a wall, and Mexico will pay for it!” (a claim that is becoming more and more clearly out-of-touch with reality)

90.  “We’re going to do so much winning” (late in the campaign, obviously before a decidedly un-winning first 100 days)

91.  We’ve accomplished more in our first 100 days than any presidency before (actually, they’ve accomplished less than anyone since a count was taken, including ZERO legislative victories and a string of failed Executive Orders that were met by massive protests and struck down by Circuit Courts)

92.  “I think that Russia-Gate is Fake News” (as the evidence and allegations against Trump administration officials continues to mount)

93.  “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag … if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”  (one of Trump’s many tweets.  He has repeated this opinion several times, despite the fact that flag-burning is considered protected speech under the First Amendment and the “consequences” he suggests would be unconstitutional.

94.  “The Democrats are obstructionists.”  (from a Face the Nation interview, Sunday, April 30, to explain the lack of accomplishments by his administration.  This has been a regular refrain despite the fact that Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the White House)

95.  “ObamaCare is dead.”  (from the Face the Nation April 30 interview)  If you say it often enough (and the right-wing has been saying it for years with no supporting data), perhaps one day it will come true.

96.  “Wasn’t November 8th a great day?” (apparently refusing to move on from bragging about his electoral victory and get on with governing)




97.  On April 29, 2017, Day 100 of his presidency, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was held at the Washington Hilton.  While Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Trevor Noah correspondent Hasan Minhaj was bringing the house down with his roast of the news media and the 45th president, Trump was at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, paying tribute to his own administration with his “base” while the media and “Hollywood types”, as he put it, were “consoling themselves” over the November 8th election.

98. Trump’s crowd at the Harrisburg rally was predictable.  Nearly all-White (though the “failing news media” made a point of prominently interviewing a solitary African-American Trump supporter who spoke glowingly of the administration’s first 100 days), regularly chanting “Lock her up” (yes, still) and “Build that wall.”  Trump responded, “Don’t worry, we’re going to have the wall.  Don’t even worry about it. ... Rest assured.  Go home, go to sleep.”  (

99. The president did not completely avoid the “failing news media”, however.  Trump penned a commentary that was run in the Enemy of the People, specifically the Washington Post.  We will share a few of his remarks here, but to read the commentary in full, go to the Washington Post’s page,
i-kept-my-promise-to-americans/2017/04 /29/ad1c9574-2cfd-11e7-a616-d7c8a68c1a66_story.html?utm_term=.e9327e270f2b:  “Issue by issue, department by department, we are giving the people their country back. After decades of a shrinking middle class, open borders and the mass offshoring of American jobs and wealth, this government is working for the citizens of our country and no one else. … On energy … [w]e’ve canceled restrictions on the production of oil, natural gas and clean coal. … [O]n immigration and criminal enforcement … illegal border-crossings are down 73 percent. … Federal law enforcement has begun a crackdown on sanctuary cities that harbor criminal aliens … The Defense Department has begun to rebuild and restore our military readiness. … As we’ve made these changes — on the border, on our economy, on our security — confidence has soared. … Thousands of new jobs are being re-shored back to America … The White House is once again the People’s House. And I will do everything in my power to be the People’s President …”  Of course, the Washington Post published other
commentaries on Trump’s first 100 days, some supportive (Hugh Hewitt and Marc A. Thiessen), others in rebuttal (Jonathan Alter).

100. A number of stories have been published warning of a rise in hate crimes as a result of the rise to power of Trump and his “America First” platform.  Anti-Black, anti-Latino, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and even anti-Sikh harassment have been chronicled in cities such as Seattle, Washington (A Shooting in Seattle: Hate Crimes under Trump by Meredith McFadden, The Prindle Post, March 9, 2017,; Bayonne, New Jersey (Taking Stock of Hate Under Trump, by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, March 14, 2017, The New Yorker, http://; and Silver Spring, Maryland (Is America Racist? Under Donald Trump, Liberal Maryland Town Battles Hate Crimes, Prejudice Toward Immigrants, Blacks, by Tim Marcin, International Business Times, January 20, 2017,

No doubt, by the time this piece is read, the Trump administration will have forged new frontiers (such as the dismantling of Let Girls Learn) in its rightward, downward spiral for the US and the world at large.  Trump’s recent comment during the April 30 Face the Nation interview that the threat of war with North Korea and its potentially grievous casualties “trumps trade” may give some people hope that the long-expected “pivot” toward more presidential, more sensible behavior from him may be on the near horizon.

Well, one can dream.



A Compelling Case for Cooperatives


The following article was taken from an interview with Dr. Ray Marshall by Heather Gray for the Federation/LAF’s 25th Anniversary in 1992. Dr. Marshall served as the Secretary of Labor under President Jimmy Carter. As an economist Dr. Marshall shares his insight on the economic needs of individuals, communities and nations and, importantly, the different levels of democracy and how cooperatives can serve to strengthen democratic institutions.

by Heather Gray
from an Interview with Ray Marshall

Justice Initiative International

Heather Gray: How do you make it possible for low income Blacks and low income whites in the mountain areas to improve their income?

Ray Marshall: I can’t think of an institution better suited to that than a co-op. Co-ops are the best people development institutions you can have. With cooperatives you deal with all of it – you are involved in the leadership development, people have to learn to run co-ops, work with people, learn to make plans, meet and set goals, marshal resources.

I have always been interested in rural development in the South. It’s not well understood outside of the South that there’s a connection between economic independence and political independence – that people didn’t have economic independence if when they voted they lost their jobs or got kicked off the plantation. The whole reason for forming cooperatives is to give people economic independence so that they could have independence in political and other matters.

In our early organizing work in the South we learned a lot about how the economy works – particularly how the federal government works. We couldn’t get help from the federal government for low income farmers because they were biased toward large farmers. Most of our financial institutions were set up to help those who didn’t need help and to take money out of our rural areas and not to put it pack in. We need institutions like the Federation/LAF that understand the conditions of rural America and are controlled by the people there. Nobody, for example, can better understand the problems of the small farmers in Georgia and Mississippi than the farmers themselves.

Cooperatives are very important because if we’re going to make our political system work in this country we have do it from the bottom up. I’m an optimist about that. All over the world you see democratic institutions sprouting up and we need to strengthen our democratic institutions here. The basic evolution is that first you have political institutions that are controlled by the people and not special interest groups – that’s political democracy. After workers get the right to vote then you have industrial democracy which means worker participation in the work place. That’s collective bargaining. Most countries have taken that further than us. Then there’s social democracy where you have safety nets – a minimum level of welfare services. Every industrial country in the world is more developed in social democracy than us in, for example, health care and education. Finally, there’s economic democracy where individuals and not special interests control their economic institutions. Economic democracy strengthens all other forms of democracy. If you have economic democracy then people can’t intimidate you when you vote.

America would be better off with a strong cooperative movement. Most countries that are having trouble economically are those that are weak in economic democracy. The main economic developmental strategy in the United States is to keep people’s wages and income down. That’s a loser and you wouldn’t want to win it. Most other countries know that a much better approach is to try to compete by improving productivity and quality and that means more efficient institutions. A co-op can be one of the most efficient institutions you can put together because it’s controlled by its members who have a vested interest in achieving their own objectives.

“Our Victorious City”

Our Victorious City 1“If you see something, say something” has become a cliché, but unfortunately one to which we often feel we must resort to stem the tide of violence in the Pan-Afrikan Community.

The Family of Victorious Swift is seeking justice for their son and brother, who was killed in a robbery on March 26 near Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore City.  While it is believed that DNA evidence can find his killer (they fought before his assailant drew a weapon, and it is believed that the assailant’s skin and other DNA were found on Victorious’s hands as a result), the Swift Family is appealing to anyone who may have seen what happened to alert the authorities.

Despite the historic distrust that often has existed between Pan-Afrikan activists and the police because of such incidents as the killing of Freddie Gray in 2015, which activists are convinced occurred because of the actions of Baltimore City Police, the fact remains that, without a viable force in the community to investigate acts of violence and ensure community security, the police are often the only recourse available in cases such as this one.  Meanwhile, affected families and friends of the victims of senseless violence continue to struggle to find personal healing and to make sense of what has happened to their communities.

On Friday, April 14, a special meeting was held at the Union Mill in West Baltimore.  It was called and sponsored by the Afrikan Heritage Walk-A-Thon and its Founder, Mama Victory Swift, in memory of her son.  The meeting was called to bring together families who had lost loved ones to the violence that continues to plague our communities.

Our Victorious City 2The first meeting drew between 25 and 30 participants, including four families who had lost members to violence in the past.  Several of Mama Victory’s children attended the event as well, and gave voice to their personal pain as well as the resolve they feel to make the violence stop.

This was not just an opportunity for families to commiserate, however.  Ideas for healing the community were discussed, from supporting education to establishing neighborhood watch patrols.  Cameras need not be police cameras, either; several local properties apparently use cameras to monitor their immediate residences, and the possibility of improving community cohesiveness so monitoring efforts can be community-led were also discussed.  Ultimately, the community needs healing so that those who consider criminality may find an alternative that helps build the community instead of tearing it down.  Organizations such as the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement (PLM), to which Victorious was a regular contributor, operate not far from the neighborhood where the shooting took place, but other organizations must come together with PLM to coordinate a city-wide strategy and program to lift the community up.

The previous week, the memorial service for Victorious Swift, a much-loved and respected art student, boxer, musician and community activist, had drawn over 300 people and sparked a re-awakening of a sense of urgency among community organizers and Pan-Afrikan activists.

Mama Victory says that this was not the last such meeting that is planned.  More gatherings for families of the victims of violence will be planned, and a website has been established to continue the work that was started on this day.  The Website “Our Victorious City” ( makes the following Mission Statement:

Over the past few years, gun violence has risen to the forefront of public consciousness. Much of the debate has focused on gun regulation and keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of potential killers, particularly those with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, far less attention has been dedicated to the impact of gun violence on victims. While individuals killed and injured in atrocities such as the Sandy Hook and Aurora Theater shootings are publicly remembered and mourned, victims of these tragedies are not limited to those men, women, and children killed, injured, or present during these horrific events. The consequences of gun violence are more pervasive and affect entire communities, families, and children. With more than 25% of children witnessing an act of violence in their homes, schools, or community over the past year, and more than 5% witnessing a shooting, it becomes not just an issue of gun regulation, but also of addressing the impact on those who have been traumatized by such violence (Finkelhor et al., 2009). Outside of those traumatized, there are the ones who witness violent crimes occur and impede police investigations, making it nearly impossible to put an end to this spiraling epidemic. This organization’s manifestation arises from the violent death of Victorious Khan Aziz Swift. He was a 19 year old architectural student with an illuminated future and talent in droves.  He had no children, no wife, just 6 brothers and sisters and a mother who refuse to let him die in vain. Our mission is to end street/gun/violence once and for all. This is an epidemic that some of us believed to be an outside problem, until it rings our front doorbell.

The site includes news reports, videos of Victorious Swift and links to facilitate contact, donations and further organizing.

There are related efforts being developed to attempt to wake our people up, particularly in the Baltimore, Maryland area.  The organization BlackMen Unifying BlackMen (BMUBM) is planning a “No Excuses Rally” in the Pimlico area of Baltimore City on May 27.  An official announcement of that rally, including a flyer that is being created, will be shared by us before the end of April.  And there are organizations working to pull these many groups together into cooperative coalitions that may ultimately evolve into something akin to a Pan-Afrikan United Front so that different organizations can work together as they never have before to help bring an end to the systematic oppression but also the violence and self-loathing that so often makes life so hard for people of Afrikan descent around the world.



Self-Help News: Afrikans are part of poverty induced Nations

EDITOR’S NOTE: Self-Help News publishes regular commentary on issues of concern to the Pan-Afrikan Community.  We are pleased to be able to share occasional articles and analyses from Self-Help News.  Their commentaries, as well as those of Zulu Publications and others, can be found at

Afrikans are part of poverty induced Nations

Self Help News Logo 2Afrikans are not the only ones who are being manipulated and exploited, by a minority who bloated themselves with ill-gotten wealth and shown themselves as incapable of sharing with those in need.

In  their failures and continued wealth accumulations,  they contributed to poverty of nations. Afrikans are part of the cohorts of people who are being poverty induced. When we connect the human dots, this becomes apparent.

Many Afrikans, those at home and those abroad, are rightly angry against those who had done, and still doing, wrongs against US. WE must not forget those wrongs, as that state of mind should remind us of the rightness and act as driver to our developing collective strategies to change Our circumstances.

WE cannot, however, remain angry always. Unfocussed  anger often saps our energies and produces little and no positive returns.

Humanity must unite against those who threatened US.

It is the responsibility and duty of each to ensure that the other is free from bondage and harm, and that Our needs are fulfilled. And that WE retain free will and freedom of association for collective good.

That WE are fed, clothed, housed, properly informed, being able to engage in worthwhile occupations, have access to  institutions and services, in the interests of individual health and wellbeing. That WE are free from discriminations and that adequate opportunities are available for individuals and collective realisations of Our aspirations.

That Justice is up-held for all. And that the apparent simple SWEP Principles, based on Self-Help, are embraced as part of our way of life. That is, “to Share, to Warn, to Encourage and to Protect, in times of plenty and times of scarcity, rejecting mendacity, larceny and slothfulness.” WE should not complicate things, but remind Ourselves about these basic guidelines, in spite of Our justified anger.

That the concept, promotion and practice of supremacist ideologies, as advanced by individuals, collective and their surrogates, be rejected, rooted out and rid of from among Humanity. That this same approach applies to the interpretations of languages, theologies, metaphysics, mathematics, sciences, technologies, spirituality, cosmologies and others, which promote supremacist notions among Humanity.

This is not a call for Afrikans to be led by other members of Humanity. WE are ever mindful, and must continue to be mindful as required, of history which taught that WE are, and WE must, be Our own leaders. This knowledge must not be allowed to be barrier to our working positively and effectively with others of similar mind-set and willingness, irrespective of their personal circumstances.

WE are first and foremost members of the Human Family, having innate UBUNTU values. WE must equally guard against being robbed of these values, and become mere shell of modernity filled with material aspirations.

Afrikan must organise SELF within a wider campaign for the unity of Humanity. In this process, TRUST MUST BE TRANSPARENT ALWAYS.

The call for Afrikan Unity is compatible with a global campaign for unity of Our Human Family against those who threatened the Human Race, as WE are currently known.

The failure to achieve unity could present  potential risk of the destruction of Humanity. If we allow greed, arrogance, corruptions, human degradations and exploitations to hold sway over Our Global Leaderships, WE might be taken to a place where WE are driven to a point of no return, partly because of trust deficits among nations, as good sense relegated to the periphery of human construct.

Wrongs seemingly right, and WE are not capable of stopping what is destroying US, because WE become part of it.

Our Campaign for Change must be total. A way of life, like breathing, drinking, eating, reproducing, those things which  sustained US – totality of purpose.

Afrika and Afrikans must unite. It is right and good for Humanity. Let’s ensure that Good Sense prevail.


Editorial Collective
SELF-HELP NEWS “Giving Voice to the Voiceless”


SELF-HELP NEWS“Giving Voice to the Voiceless” shares information freely to readers across the world in the interest of freedom of information, justice, liberty and fraternity.

Views  expressed by individual contributors are their own and not necessarily those of the Editorial Collective, unless  expressly stated to be so. 

WE seek to be balanced, accurate, non-judgemental, without fear or favour in our approach and delivery. This includes working in partnership with others in protecting, empowering  and uniting the vulnerable, weak, exploited and down trodden. The thrust of our work is essentially “giving voice to the voiceless,” on the theme “the world is our home and nations our family,”  [quotation from Dr. Vince Hines] being occupants, and sharing  life sustaining properties, of the Earth.

Relevant research details, policy, strategic,  community development,  applications and commentaries, are provided to enable readers to make informed decisions in respect of their challenging contradictions  and attaining their just endeavours.

This is to enable the same to recognise, respect and appreciate  views and opinions of others, in the interest of enlightenment and avoidance of unnecessary conflicts, for the purpose of  containing and managing issues, impacting and likely to impact the individual and/or collective aspirations and well-being for poverty reduction, containment and eradication.

On that basis, the Collective is driven by  Five Self-Help SWEP Principles. That is, to Share, to Warn, to Encourage and to Protect, in times of plenty and times of scarcity, rejecting mendacity, larceny and slothfulness. This is underpinned by equalities retention,  based on the spirit of universal truth and natural justice, without discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, colour, spirituality, creed, sexual orientation, age, disability,  marital, social, refugee and immigration status, political belief and tribal association.

WE do not seek to build utopia, but secure individual rights, freedom of association, fair and proportional distributions of land, means of productions and wealth creations, to which able bodied contributed to the whole.

The choice of our individual GODS – and no choice at all, is for the individual and the individual  alone, on the basis of free will – freedom of choice. This choice should not cause the destabilisation of human societies, but enhance it for creative diversities and civilised values, as we inter-act with other living entities.

And yet, WE are always mindful and proud of our Afrikan DNA Spring, flowing through our veins.

Editorial Collective
SELF-HELP NEWS – “Giving Voice to the Voiceless”
Released 21 August 2016

The Africa Policy Forum on Famine

Africa Policy Forum on Famine
Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 8:30 AM
US Capitol Visitors Center
Washington, DC

Congress Member Karen Bass (Democrat from Southern California) holds regular Africa Policy Forum events during the Congressional Session.  At these events, experts in various fields important to the uplift of Afrika are assembled to discuss issues from war to famine to economic development.  Often, these events seem to reflect more of an “official Washington” viewpoint on US-Africa issues, but the access granted to regular citizens to these events creates opportunities for Pan-Afrikan activists to learn about the efforts to deal with crises on the Continent as well as the plans of business and governmental players to promote US, capitalist and other Western policies in Afrika that may or may not serve Afrikan interests.  At the very least, when one attends these events, an opportunity comes later in the discussion to participate in the question-and-answer session (the “Q & A”), which allows one to prepare and ask the occasional Impudent Question.  Often, the Impudent Question goes unanswered, but sometimes it gives the participants an opportunity to demonstrate their depth of understanding of the current and historical issues impacting upon Afrika and Afrikan People.

On Tuesday, April 4, forty-nine years to the day after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most prominent members of the Historical Afrikan Diaspora (descendants of Afrikans who had been captured from Afrika and kidnapped into slavery in the United States and around the world) in history, an Africa Policy Forum on Famine was held.  This was the second such Forum of the year; the Forum on Doing Business with the US for Africa, held February 28, may be the subject of a brief article in the near future.

The Forum Panelists

The Forum featured the following speakers [with information from the Africa Policy Forum Biographies of Participants]:

Dr. Monde Muyangwa
Director, Africa Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
At the Wilson Center, Dr. Muyangwa leads programs that analyze and offer practical, actionable policy options addressing some of Africa’s most critical issues.  Previously, she served as Academic Dean and Professor of Civil-Military Relations at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.  She served as Director of Research and Vice President for Research and Policy at the National Summit on Africa, and Director of International Education Programs at New Mexico Highlands University.  She serves on the Board of Trustees at Freedom House, and previously was an advisory Council member of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.  She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration and Economics from the University of Zambia.  She was a Rhodes Scholar, a Wingate Scholar, and the University of Zambia Valedictory Speaker for her class. 

General William E. “Kip” Ward
President, Sentel Corporation
Former Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)
A retired Army General Officer, General Ward was the inaugural Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), where he successfully established the nation’s newest and uniquely positioned interagency geographic command responsible for for all US defense and security activities on the African Continent and its Island Nations with staff representatives from State, Commerce, Treasury, Homeland Security and other US Cabinet Departments and Agencies.  Prior to commanding AFRICOM where his visionary leadership promoted the value of forging relationships, creating partnerships, enhancing regional cooperation and the importance of sustained security engagement in pursuing US national interests, he was the Deputy Commander, United States European Command, responsible for the Command’s day-to-day activities.

He is a decorated combat veteran and holds a B.A. Degree in Political Science from Morgan State University in Baltimore and a Master of Arts Degree in Political Science from the Pennsylvania State University.  A Master Paratrooper, he is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced courses, Fort Benning, Georgia, the US Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and the US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.  General Ward was an assistant professor, Department of Social Sciences, teaching political science and public policy at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Selected by then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to serve as the United States Security Coordinator, Israel-Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, General Ward was praised by Democrats and Republicans for bringing a degree of fairness and equity to his work.  He has held other Army, Joint and Combined command and staff assignments over a 40-plus year career including NATO Force Commander in Bosnia, Commander 25th Infantry Division and Vice Director for Operations, J-3, The Joint Staff, during the September 2001 terror attacks.  In the Pentagon, he was at the center of determining and carrying out the US government’s defense and interagency response actions to the attack.  He has commanded every level from platoon as a Lieutenant to geographic command as a General.

John Prendergast
Founding Director, the Enough Project and Co-Founder, The Sentry
Mr. Prendergast is a human rights activist and New York Times best-selling author who has focused on peace in Africa for over thirty years.  He is the Founding Director of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity.  With actor George Clooney, he also founded The Sentry, a new investigative initiative focused on dismantling the networks financing conflict and atrocities.  He has worked for the Clinton White House, the State Department, two Members of Congress, the National Intelligence Council, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and the US Institute of Peace.  He has been a Big Brother for three decades, as well as a youth counselor and a basketball coach.  He is the author or co-author of ten books.  He also co-founded the Satellite Sentinel Project, which used satellite imagery to spotlight mass atrocities.  With several NBA stars, he launched the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program to fund schools in Darfuri refugee camps.  He also created Enough’s Raise Hope for Congo Campaign, highlighting the issue of conflict minerals, and its student arm the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative.  He also runs Not On Our Watch, the organization founded by actor-activists Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt and George Clooney.  Mr. Prendergast has been awarded six honorary doctorates.  He has been a visiting professor at Yale Law School, Stanford University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, and others.  He has appeared in five episodes of 60 Minutes, for which the team won an Emmy award, and helped create African stories for two episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  He has also traveled to Africa with NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s Nightline, PBS’s NewsHour, CNN’s Inside Africa, and news outlets and magazines Newsweek and The Daily Beast.  He also appears in the motion picture “The Good Lie”, starring Reese Witherspoon and Emmanuel Jai, as well as documentaries including Merci Congo, When Elephants Fight, Blood in the Mobile, Sand and Sorrow, Darfur Now, 3 Points and War Child.

Jon C. Brause
Director, Washington Office, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
Jon Brause is the Director of the Washington Office of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).  In this role, he oversees WFP’s relationships with its major partners in the US government and represents WFP in dialog with US-based organizations interested in reducing hunger and poverty worldwide.  He came to WFP after  22-year career at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.  He has also served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Relief, Stabilization, and Development in the National Security Council, and as the Director of the Office of Program, Policy and Management at USAID.  As Senior Policy Advisor to USAID Administrator Andrew S. Natsios, Mr. Brause monitored humanitarian and developmental policy with a focus on Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.  During his tenure in the Office of Food for Peace, Mr. Brause managed all aspects of US government food aid programming for humanitarian activities worldwide.

The Africa Policy Forum on Famine

We include here most of the full transcript of the discussion (to the degree that we were able to successfully transcribe all of the comments), with some of the points of the speakers highlighted for emphasis.  The full comments of all the speakers will give an idea of their individual perspectives, however.  For example, General Ward, though he has had a distinguished career in military security, regularly spoke of the need for development as well as security based on his experience in northern Nigeria with AFRICOM.  Mr. Brause spoke much about the impact of the raw numbers of people at risk and seemed focused on ways to bring relief to suffering populations.  And Mr. Prendergast seemed keenly aware of how the legacy of colonialism and exploitation of Afrika, by corrupt leaders, neo-colonial interests and international opportunists such as weapons manufacturers and money-launderers, had escaped much-deserved culpability for the current state of affairs in Afrika’s crisis zones.  Meanwhile, Dr. Muyangwa was working the entire time to maintain control of the flow of conversation to ensure everyone had an opportunity to ask questions, and gave an in-depth summary of the discussion at the end of the event.  All of them acknowledged that it is the Afrikan people in the affected countries that are actually taking the lead in responding to the crisis, even as the international community seems to be often falling down on the job.

Good morning everyone.  I’m Congresswoman Karen Bass.  I want to welcome everyone here for the second Africa Policy Forum that we’ve had this year.  Normally when we have these Forums we’ve focused on looking at business and economic opportunities and how to promote US-Africa relations but this time we’re gathered for a topic that has become of increasing concern.  This is a critical topic in that it has been said in the United Nations that we have potentially the worst humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded.  The potential of 20 million people facing famine in four countries.  Today we’re going to talk about three of the countries, the countries on the Continent, which is not to ignore Karen Bass 1Yemen, but we are going to focus on the African Continent today.  And this is with the backdrop of a new Administration that is suggesting a 30% cut in foreign assistance.  I would think that, at this point in time, where we have the opportunity to prevent a horrible tragedy, we know that famine has already been declared in South Sudan, but it could obviously get far worse, but we have an opportunity for our country to step up like we did in the Ebola Crisis and rally the entire world, but unfortunately at this point in time, we seem to be going in the opposite direction.  I will tell you though, that from the point of view of Congress, last week we had a hearing in the House of Representatives of the full Foreign Affairs Committee, and Democrats and Republicans were both united in a concern that you can’t cut a foreign assistance budget by 30%.  Later today there will be a meeting amongst Democrats to discuss the famine, and it seems to me that the most critical thing that we could be doing at this point in time is to raise public awareness and public outcry at the beginning, before this crisis really expands.  So that is our topic today, and before I introduce our moderator, I would like to call up one of the leaders in the Democratic Caucus, one of the leaders in the House of Representatives, someone who everyone knows, who led the fight around HIV.  please welcome Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

Well, good morning.  First of all, let me thank our ranking member, Congresswoman Karen Bass, for doing such a phenomenal job, on so many issues, such as relates to the continent.  Whether it’s training, whether it’s foreign assistance, whether it’s health care, education, whether it’s the AU, whether it’s the United Nations, she has been on point on each and every issue, and so I want to thank her for continuing to beat the drum to make sure that Africa is a priority in our foreign policy.  We thank all of our panelists for being here, and thank you for your vigilance, for your expertise and for sharing with us what you know, but also what we need to do, and finally I’ll just say I’m on the Subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee which funds our foreign assistance, and Congresswoman Bass, and Meeks, myself, and also Republicans, we have forwarded a letter to the Appropriations Committee for emergency funding for the famine, and we’ll see where that goes, but believe you me, we are working right now to make sure that we target resources so that we can mitigate against so many people dying of starvation.  So thank you again and thanks so much for your continuing support for the Continent and for your expertise and for being here, for supporting Congresswoman Karen Bass because these forums are extremely important in terms of public awareness and in terms of giving us strategies on where we need to go as Members of Congress.  Thank you again.

We’re very lucky to have Barbara Lee sit on the Foreign Ops Committee, as she mentioned, that’s Appropriations.  She’s got the purse strings and knowing that somebody of that leadership has the purse strings, I think we’re in a good position.  We also are circulating a letter amongst Members of Congress, to emphasize the significance of the funding.  So we’re going to begin our program now, and I’d like to introduce our Moderator for the morning, Dr. Monde Muyangwa, the Director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and I might mention that, in that budget, the Wilson Center was actually zeroed out.  So, one of many issues that we will push back hard on to make sure that does not happen.

General Discussions of the Crisis

Good morning everyone.  I want to thank Congress Member Bass for focusing on this very important issue.  It’s been neglected for quite a while now, so it’s good to see that we’re finally paying some attention to this issue.  And as you mentioned, what we hope to get out of the discussion this morning is increased awareness of the crisis.  But also, a better understanding of the problem, its nature, its scope, the causes and drivers of the crisis, government and other measures in response to the crisis, and what can be done in the short term to address the famine and to save lives and in the long term to better ensure food security and avert recurring drought and famine. 

We have three excellent speakers for this morning.  I’ll introduce them very briefly.  Our first speaker will be Mr. Jon Brause, who is the director of the World Food Programme, the Washington Liaison Office.  He will be followed by General William “Kip” Ward, who is the C.O.O. and President of Sentel Corporation, who will speak to us about Northeast Nigeria.  And he will be followed by Jon Prendergast, who is the Founding Director of Enough, who will speak to us on South Sudan.  We have asked each of our speakers to offer initial remarks of about five to six minutes.  Our kickoff speaker will be Mr. Jon Brause, who we’ve asked to give an overview of the crisis and to touch a little bit on Somalia.  Mr. Brause, your five minutes start now.

“So how is it now, less than 2 years after the world ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, that we have, in fact, the largest crisis since World War II, and maybe the largest humanitarian crisis in the last hundred years?”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

Thank you.  Thanks to Congresswoman Bass and Congresswoman Lee for their welcome and it’s a great pleasure to be here and to have the World Food Programme be able to speak to you today.  Just a little bit of background; the World Food Programme was founded on the vision of presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.  And they had a vision after World War II that the world needed help to be stabilized in areas that were struggling through weather related problems or other crises.  They knew that the United States and other countries had the capacity to help out.  So just as my founding comment, think that that was the vision back just after World War II.  And then I’ll take you to 2015 in September when the international community got together and finalized and ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, and those were the goals that stated ‘we can end poverty, we can end hunger, we can educate every child’.  These were all things that the world said we could do in 2015; we have the capabilities, we just need the will to get it done.  And that was that we could do those things by 2030. 

So how is it now, less than 2 years after the world ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, that we have, in fact, the largest crisis since World War II, and maybe the largest humanitarian crisis in the last hundred years?  We have over a hundred million people who are going to need emergency food assistance this year.  We have 60 to 70 million people who are displaced, either internally or refugees in other countries.  And as the Congresswoman said, we have 20 million people in the world today who are facing famine.  In four countries.  Three in Africa, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, and then of course there’s Yemen.  But that 20 million people, you have to put it in perspective.  That is more than the number of people in the state of Virginia, and the state of Maryland, and the District of Columbia combined.  Plenty more than that.  So it’s a huge number of people who are at risk, and we need to start to take action to do something about it. 

So then the issue is, what is famine?  Why do we need a declaration of famine?  Well, famine is actually a very late statement.  It means that we’ve missed the boat to a certain extent.  People have already started dying.  And the criteria technicians use, if you will, to determine when a famine is taking place are three.  Two people out of every 10,000 are dying every day.  That’s one criterion.  More than 30% of the children under 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition.  And then the third is that 20% of the households in any region are extremely food insecure, short of food and at risk of starvation.  So just to put that two deaths in 10,000 every day into perspective, if your kids go to a high school in Maryland or Virginia, the average population or student body is about 2,500 kids.  So that means, in that school, if it were having a famine, that one child, one student, every two days, would be dying.  So your kid would be coming home and saying ‘Billy died today’.  And then two days later, another child would die.  It’s a massive number of people.  Don’t let two in 10,000 throw you that it’s some abstract, it’s a real tangible number of people dying every day.  And of course, it’s not just food.  We have to be very clear that food is very important but if you don’t have clean water, if you don’t have medical care, if you don’t have sanitation facilities, disease will actually overtake hunger.  The people will die not from hunger necessarily but from vulnerability to disease.  So it will take on many different faces and it’s not just one of food.

“So how did we get here?  Why are we now facing this crisis?  Well, I have to say, to some extent, we watched it happen.”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

So how did we get here?  Why are we now facing this crisis?  Well, I have to say, to some extent, we watched it happen.  Last year, and John will probably talk about this, South Sudan was on the brink of a famine, but it wasn’t declared.  But it was terrible.  The situation was horrific even last year.  In Somalia, they’ve had three consecutive years of bad rains, so even though their governance has improved — and it’s one of the points we want to make, where there is governance, you have a much better chance of addressing the root causes of famine — but Somalia’s had three consecutive years of bad rain, so in may of the cases, in all of the cases, weather is a factor.  But unfortunately, the big driver for all of these famines is conflict.  And the difference for conflict, a drought will disrupt productivity, everybody can understand that, but if you’re not suffering from conflict, if it’s just a drought, then there are means for the international community, for the governments to engage and to help the people who are in the drought affected areas.  In the case of conflict, everything is disrupted.  Markets are disrupted, agriculture is [disrupted], trade is interrupted, jobs and livelihoods are all interrupted.  So the whole system fails.  And in the case of three of the countries, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen in particular, less so in Somalia, we in the World Food Programme have a tremendously difficult time, as does the rest of the international humanitarian community, to access the people in need. 

So the big issue for us now is how can we get access, how can we improve security for these three countries?  We need massive amounts of resources.  I’m almost hesitant to say how much we need.  For the four countries, just for food, until the end of the year, we need about 2.6 billion dollars.  It’s a massive amount of money, and then our colleagues in UNICEF, in the NGO’s, all of the other organizations that are doing great work, need additional resources as well, but in fact it is something that the world can do, that the world can provide if it wants to. 

So let me just summarize; I just want to say why does it matter to the U.S.?  We know that in the press these days, there has been some question as to whether or not it’s worthwhile investing in these things.  Why have foreign assistance?  It’s just doing things over there.  It’s not helping the United States.  And I think that’s wrong.  First of all, the United States has always been the leader in the provision of humanitarian assistance around the world.  It’s something we’ve done not just since World War II but we’ve done it even before that.  The United States just has it ingrained: we help people.  But we also have to realize that helping people stabilizes countries.  That’s what it does.  It’s good for the world economy if countries are stable.  When we saw the world food crisis in 2008, the world reacted because countries were being destabilized by a shortage of food.  And then of course, and this is something the General will probably talk about, three of the four countries are home to global terrorism organizations.  When you have countries that are destabilized, they in fact are a great environment for radicalism.  So it’s something we need; there are a variety of reasons it’s important for the United States.  And I’ll close by saying, I just don’t think President Eisenhower and President Kennedy were wrong when they established the World Food Programme.  The reasons why they did it then are just as valid today.  Thank you very much.

Thank you Dr. Muyangwa.  And I’d also like to thank Congresswomen Bass and Lee for their support for these fora and for highlighting the importance of these issues to citizens of the United States.  I’m probably a strange bedfellow here with respect to being on this panel, talking about famine and food insecurity in my role as the first commander of the United States’ Africa Command.  But it is precisely that role that makes my being here, if not from an expert perspective, then from a perspective of what it means to the United States of America, what it means to our national interests, and what it means to local stability. 

“[W]e are in the scenario now, where on any given day, four out of six children malnourished, two out of 10 dying daily, those are examples of the inability to address such a devastating problem.”
–General William “Kip” Ward, former commander of AFRICOM

As Jon pointed out and as was mentioned in the opening remarks by Congresswoman Bass, famine, food insecurity, is probably the hugest driver to General William Kip Wardsecurity issues in most countries.  And, as we look at Nigeria, the northeastern part of that great, great nation, up until about seven years ago, Borno could feed Nigeria.  And now, we see the huge level of devastation, famine, death, caused because of what has gone on with respect to the fight against Boko Haram.  as Jon pointed out, the drivers of famine can be controlled if you have an environment that allows other things to occur.  The delivery of aid, infrastructure that allows the movement of persons, the ability of organizations to come in and do things that will contribute to providing a degree of stability that would otherwise not be the case.  For the last seven years, northeast Nigeria has not been able to see those things occur, because of the efforts by the Nigerian government that began towards the end of the Jonathan Administration and have continued now with the Buhari Administration to address and defeat the Boko Haram that has been so devastating to northeast Nigeria.  And because of the activity in that part of the nation, it not only impacts Nigeria, it impacts the entire region.  And when you have the displacement of — the numbers vary, low side 2 million, up to 8 million people in various stages that have migrated to 140-plus displacement centers, with varied means of addressing the crises of 1-food, 2-water, 3-sanitation, but other drivers of instability, lack of education, I call it the lack of any hope, who are constantly being threatened by what goes on as the eradication efforts occur, or the efforts to defeat the terrorism go on, it then bodes ill for any progress to be made.  So therefore, we are in the scenario now, where on any given day, and as Jon pointed out, four out of six children malnourished, two out of 10 dying daily, those are examples of the inability to address such a devastating problem.  When the Nigerian armed forces mounted their sustained effort to defeat Boko Haram, going into the Zambezi Forest, disrupting the sanctuary if you will, that caused the surrounding environs in the northeast of Nigeria to then become even more threatened by the threat of the fighters of Boko Haram.  You then have that coupled with the dynamic of a split within Boko Haram, where they then begin to compete with each other to see who could become the most ruthless, brutal, as they ravaged the land there in the northeast and in the surrounding areas.  And the victims in all of that are the people.  And so, even as there are attempts being made, and to a substantial degree, successful attempts, to stop terrorism by Boko Haram, it is creating these other effects that have absolutely devastating impacts on the people.  And therein [I am here] today to address this notion of malnutrition, famine.  The biggest drivers of famine — insecurity and the inability to work the land that was once theirs, and to raise crops and livestock which are the lifeblood.  There are currently estimated to be 8.5 million people in Nigeria, northeast Nigeria, that require some type of assistance, and there are categories, phases that the IPC [Integrated Food Security Phase Classification–Editor] has put there, but when you get to category 3 [crisis], 4 [emergency] and 5 [famine] — 3 is severe level, and that regards 5 million people, and again, these displacement camps that are now spread in major cities, if you look at Borno [State], Maiduguri, and Aba, the two major cities, part of the problem lies in the fact that the folks who have been displaced, the internally displaced persons, don’t just go to those camps.  Even with their limited mobility, they are also amongst the population, which has virtually no ability to assist in providing food and other necessary resources to help combat the conditions that exist.  Lack of economic activity, inability of relief organizations to provide relief aid, inability of other organizations to promote activities that will help address the impacts of lack of water, and other things.  These are the factors that have contributed to what goes on in northeast Nigeria.  The root of it all is the fight against Boko Haram.  And I’ll stop there.

Thanks to all the organizers, Congresswoman Bass, Congresswoman Lee, Congressman Meeks, for your continuing leadership on African issues.  Your voices and those of your colleagues in these days are more needed than ever.  What seems like the big discovery these days is that famines are man-made, as opposed to nature-driven.  But this description, I think, is far too vague.  It lays no accountability at the feet of which men are making these famines.  And in the case of South Sudan, the most immediate cause lies in the tactics used by the senior officials in the South Sudan military and amongst the principal rebel movement in the way that they’re carrying out the current civil war.  Government and rebel forces attack civilian targets much more frequently than they attack each other.  They target the means of survival of civilian populations who are deemed to be unsupportive of those forces.  In particular and most damaging, and this is the case in a number of places where food insecurity is raging today, they raid cattle, in areas where cows represent the inherited savings, basically the 401(k)’s, basically the means of exchange, locally.  Massive cattle raids result in almost complete and utter impoverishment of entire communities, and they unleash cycles of revenge attacks that poison relations between neighbors and entire ethnic groups.  The government of South Sudan has also concentrated recent attacks on areas where agricultural production traditionally fed large parts of South Sudan, not only resulting in massive human displacement, but also devastating local grain production which leads to hyper-inflation of food prices, making food inaccessible to vast swaths of the civilian population.

“What seems like the big discovery these days is that famines are man-made, as opposed to nature-driven.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

But destroying the means of food production is only one part of the equation that causes famine.  Look, if the South Sudan government allowed humanitarian John Prendergast Enough 2organizations unfettered access to the survivors of these attacks, which include at this point over 3 million people who have been rendered homeless by the kinds of war tactics that have occurred, then the aid agencies would be able to prevent a famine from occurring.  You wouldn’t see the 3, 4, 5 cycles hammering the people of South Sudan today.  But instead, the government has obstructed access by these organizations in a number of ways, by learning some of the tactics from the Sudan government who they fought for decades, as have the rebels, thus resulting in these huge pockets of populations, including tens of thousands of children today, who have received little to no assistance at the very height of their need.
And let’s be clear: if the only response to the images we’re going to be seeing with increased frequency is the humanitarian one, and the structural causes of this cycle of famine in South Sudan and other places are not addressed, then the cycle of famine will begin again next year, and the year after that.  Yes, the world must do, and will do, because of the efforts of people in this room, all that it can to treat these humanitarian symptoms of the emergency, but there’s also an opportunity when there’s this kind of attention that has drawn all of you into this room this morning, to finally begin to address the root causes of some of these crises.  Now in South Sudan today, the war crimes that are committed that help lead directly to famine, these war crimes actually pay.  There’s no accountability for the atrocities and the looting of state resources and even of humanitarian assistance, and there’s no accountability for the famine that results from it.  Billions in our taxpayer dollars have supported peacekeeping forces and humanitarian assistance already.  We’ve got to keep doing that, and double down on it, in this time of need for the people of South Sudan.  And one peace process after another has tried to break the cycle of violence.

“Nothing attempts to thwart the driving force of the mayhem, which in our view is the kleptocrats who have hijacked the government for their personal enrichment, and have carried out war tactics that have led directly to the famine.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

But nothing, unfortunately — and this is a bizarre aspect of international policy — nothing attempts to thwart the driving force of the mayhem, which in our view is the kleptocrats who have hijacked the government in Juba [Sudan’s capital city–Editor] for their personal enrichment, and have carried out war tactics that have led directly to the famine.  Our new initiative — it’s called the Sentry — has conducted an investigation into the wealth accumulated by leading officials in South Sudan, who oversaw the military offensives in 2015 in Unity State that contributed directly to the current famine.  We found that immediate family members of these officials are enjoying luxurious lifestyles abroad, live in lavish estates, with millions and millions of dollars moving through the international financial system in US dollars, while the situation of the civilian population in South Sudan continues to deteriorate.  Essentially, we’re working on a series of follow-up reports to the one we did last September that connect the state looting directly to the famine and the ongoing conflict, and the perverse incentives that exist for these governments to commit these kinds of atrocities in order to stay in power, and without any consequence whatsoever for their actions.  The looting machine, in fact, continues apace, not slowed down even by the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people starving to death.  There’s been no meaningful effort to counter the networks that benefit financially and politically from conflict, from instability, from the absence of the rule of law, and even from famine.  The international community needs to help make war costlier than peace, for government and rebel leaders and their international facilitators, because it isn’t just folks on the ground; there are many people in the international and financial system who are benefiting from South Sudan’s misery.  Those facilitators and enablers need to be the subject of investigations as well.  Choking the illicit financial flows of those folks that are responsible for this famine is the key point of leverage for giving peace an actual chance in South Sudan, because these stolen assets are the one point of vulnerability that the leading officials have.  Their stolen assets are off-shored and laundered through the international financial system in us dollars.  That gives the United States Treasury Department jurisdiction over crimes committed with US currency.  And you see houses, you see cars, you see stuffed bank accounts, all of these manifestations of this criminal activity that is being moved through the international financial system.  So I think the most promising policy approach for creating accountability in context of war and famine would combine creative Anti-Money-Laundering measures that we have honed since 9-11, combine those AML measures with targeted sanctions aimed at freezing those willing to commit mass atrocities, including those that undertook these offensives in 2015 and 2016 that led directly to famine, so you focus on freezing those leading officials out of the international financial system.  That should be the objective.  That would provide leverage to the international community’s efforts to bring folks to the negotiating table to create a real environment for a peace deal.  A steep price needs to be paid for creating famine, and for benefiting from war.

“It’s the South Sudanese that are leading the efforts to respond to the famine.  It’s the South Sudanese, courageously, who are responding to the human rights abuses.  It’s the South Sudanese struggling for independent freedom of the press, freedom of association, all of the basic fundamental rights that they fought and died for, for decades, to have the newest country in the world.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

Even while the world responds to the famine, it’s time for us to address root causes and make those responsible pay for those crimes.  And let’s be clear about this; thousands and thousands of South Sudanese — a trip we just took confirmed this to me yet again — it’s the South Sudanese that are leading the efforts to respond to the famine.  It’s the South Sudanese, courageously, who are responding to the human rights abuses.  It’s the South Sudanese struggling for independent freedom of the press, freedom of association, all of the basic fundamental rights that they fought and died for, for decades, to have the newest country in the world. … The US Congress can, and should, take the lead in supporting solidarity and getting resources to those folks on the ground who are struggling to turn their situation around, just as many have in other countries around Africa.  the South Africans led the anti-apartheid effort, the Mozambicans rebuilt their country, the Sierra Leoneans, the Liberians, all these different countries have demonstrated that it is possible to turn things around.  South Sudan is literally at its low point right now.  It has hit rock-bottom.  But it’s the South Sudanese who can bring it back, just like we’ve seen in other places.  But it’s our role to provide solidarity and support to those efforts to turn things around.  Thank you.

Jon, do you mind saying a few words about Somalia?

Sure.  I think Somalia is a really good country to look at because it had a famine back in 2011.  It was the last, actually, sort of documented famine the world faced.  And just looking over the reports, as many as 250,000 people died.  And if you look at the drivers at the time, which was, of course, conflict, but there was also an associated drought in the Horn of Africa, but it was a situation where really, the war and the lack of governance made it hard for the international community to respond, so we had a situation where most of the NGO’s, most of the UN agencies couldn’t be permanently present in the country, and yet they had to plan and mobilize resources to try to get assistance to the people who needed it.  Today it’s a Jon Brause USAID 1completely different story.  While there is still Al Shabab in parts of Somalia, the government — there is a government now, and the government has the capacity to represent its people.  It represents its people, it has a capital, it has security in parts of the country where there can now be a presence for the international community, so you have a situation where the government is leading the response to the crisis, and the government knows how it wants to respond and help its people.  And this is just a sea change from what it was in 2011.  Now I don’t want to take away from the fact that access is still hard to get in 25% of the country, or 25% of the population that need assistance, but it’s much, much different today than it was in 2011, and it’s all because, in contrast to what John was saying, when you have a government that really wants to help the people — and no government’s perfect, we all know that — but when you have a government that does want to help, and creates that environment, and leads — because it’s always the government that needs to lead — then the international community can step in behind, and provide the support that’s necessary.

How can we prevent more people from dying?

I think our three speakers touched on a number of issues, talking about the causes of the famine and the food insecurity in these countries, talking about root causes, talking about how conflict and insecurity have exacerbated the situation, but I think what we’re all left with from all three presentations is the sense of the scale and scope and the utter devastation that can result from this unless we come together, Africans and the international community, to address this challenge.  As I listened to the numbers, the need for urgent food assistance, 5.1 million in Nigeria, 5 million in South Sudan, and 2.9 million in Somalia.

Before I get to the causes, I’d like to ask each of our speakers to reflect on the current situations in their own countries.  Obviously, we need to begin the business of trying to save as many lives as possible.  I cannot even begin to imagine the millions of lives that are at stake.  So to each of you, as you look at South Sudan, as you look at Nigeria, and as you look at Somalia, what is the one intervention, that we could have right now, to stop the deaths from accumulating?  In the very immediate instance, what can we do to prevent more people from dying and prevent famine and the current insecurity from getting any worse than it is today?  So John, I’ll start with you first in South Sudan, and then I’ll come in to General Ward and then to Jon.

Well, I’m going to try to answer that question and pretend I’m only giving you one thing, but [that task is] too awesome.  Because you have to preface it by saying that [what is needed is] a total, full-court, 120-percent global effort to provide humanitarian assistance, to demand access in all three of these African countries, and press and push.  Shabab has openings now in Somalia, some would argue, to allow access that they didn’t before.  The reason why 250,000 people died in Somalia in 2011 was because Shabab didn’t provide access.  If there was access, they would have been able to receive assistance.  There is an uncertainty now, because they’ve lost a lot, internally within Somalia, Shabab did, because of how they dealt with populations under their control, and because a lot of their fighters now are from areas that are hardest hit, so there is a familial interest at some level, so we’ve got incredible opportunities on the humanitarian front that need to be pressed and pushed. 

In the context of counter-terrorism efforts in Somalia and Nigeria, one has to see that this humanitarian response is essential.  If our long-term counter-terrorism efforts are going to succeed, these basic human needs need to be first and foremost. … Even if you’re solely driven by national security interests, and you’re sitting somewhere in this town, let’s try 1600 Pennsylvania [Avenue], and you just are interested in national security, there is a national security argument for providing increased humanitarian assistance in Nigeria.

“Right now, the international peace efforts, region-led, internationally-supported peace efforts in South Sudan, are largely in shambles.”
–Jon Prendergast, Enough Project

Let’s get to South Sudan, then.  We’ve already said we’ve got to assert the humanitarian effort.  We support that, and I would refer to Jon on specifics about how to do it.  But I do believe, fundamentally, when we talk about conflict-driven famine, and then don’t have a credible international peace effort, then, what are we doing?  Because, right now, the international peace efforts, region-led, internationally-supported peace efforts in South Sudan, are largely in shambles.  There are all kind of competing possibilities that President [Salva] Kiir has announced, a national dialog that is completely inconclusive and controlled by the government — we’ve seen this in many places around Africa — it’s not a credible process, in the view of people who want to see an inclusive peace effort.  And the IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development–Editor] process, which has been driving peace efforts since 1993 in South Sudan, in [the] north-south [conflict] and to the present, that effort has really been compromised, including some countries within IGAD saying ‘I don’t know if we should even continue because we’re so divided’.  So, we need a coming-together, United Nations, African Union, IGAD, South Sudanese, on a revitalized peace effort.  The situation has changed dramatically since the war began in 2013; where it was basically a bi-polar, two-party war, we now have multiple entities who have joined the fray.  We don’t want to see it devolve into a Somalia-1991 sort of situation where you’ve got this internationally-resourced effort to save the elements of the peace effort that already exists that are very solid and address some of the things that are not dealt with in that peace deal. 

And then I would say, to give leverage to that.  Because it is meaningless to go and [try to influence] other people in the middle of a war when you have no leverage, when you cannot address their fundamental core interests.  We have spent far too much energy and time diplomatically in this country, going around the world, telling people what their interests are, but then not affecting [anything].  So I would say that, if you want to create some leverage from the United States and others who care about peace in South Sudan, then you’ve got to get at what the core vulnerabilities are of these leaders.  And as I’ve said, it is in the way that they are off-shoring the money that they’re looting from the fairly rich in natural resources state that South Sudan is, and then you start to go after that money, and then you start to get people’s attention.  So I’m sorry, that’s a multi-layered answer, but there are solutions, that’s what I really, really want to say, and it isn’t just sending food and medicine, no one would argue that; there are multiple aspects of a comprehensive approach that could, in fact, address the core problems in all three of the countries we’re dealing with here.

Thanks.  I probably won’t be as extensive as John was with respect to the ingredients.  To be sure, to say what single thing would cause an impact, positive impact on the scenario, is very difficult.  But there is something I think, and that is resources.  When I say ‘resources’, there’s a plethora of resources that I’m talking about.  To be sure, it includes the ‘stuff’ that the people need, and that’s an array of things, food, clean water, medicine, etc.  There is a requirement that the government takes its proper role to care for its people.  And in the case of Nigeria, to be sure, that’s happening today.  It’s happening the way it hadn’t happened [before].  For example, when you look at what’s going on in the northeast of Nigeria as this counter-insurgency, this fight, is now being waged, you see — it may not be at the level that will solve the problem — but it’s certainly addressing the problem, because you see military units, but also some civilian organizations, supported by international relief organizations, that are addressing the problem in ways that they had not before.  So, how to make the resources matter?  Well, you need more of them.  You talk about sovereignty.  Nations have to control their borders.  That’s done through security forces, some uniformed, [some] civilian, but nations have to control their borders.  So that’s a component of this.  And we see that being addressed in some pretty substantial ways in Nigeria. …

“There are over 180 displacement centers of various sorts, various categories, in northeast Nigeria.  Less than 10 percent of them have all they need to take care of the people that are in those locations.”
–General William “Kip” Ward

You will never erase all conflict.  But you have to cause conflict to be controlled such that other things can occur, other things have the ability to occur … the ability of local folks to do what makes sense for them where they live.  I mentioned there are Nigeria map with provinces and capital citiesover 180 displacement centers of various sorts, various categories, in northeast Nigeria.  Less than 10 percent of them have all they need to take care of the people that are in those locations.  And I talked about the fact that even many of the internally displaced persons aren’t in these centers; they are now mixed amongst the populations of the various towns, villages, etc., where they find some refuge.  There’s even one location, the Capital Road, the Chinese built this road in northern Nigeria, a road that was going someplace, and I’m not certain where the road was going but it just stopped in the middle of the desert, because of the conflict.  But that road had become like a rallying ground, where folks would come together.  That road at least provides access for relief to occur.  And so you build infrastructure, infrastructure that will allow those things that need to be delivered to be delivered, you provide an environment that is more rather than less secure, a government that is paying attention with respect to what it’s doing to care for its people.  And then resources that are provided, and we all have a role in that, the international community to be sure, assets that can then allow the delivery of those resources where they’re required.  And [when] all those things come together, it will help provide for a more secure environment.  We all have a stake in it, including the United States of America, to increase that stability.  When you look at Nigeria, you look at the most populous nation on the Continent, up until a few years ago the largest GDP on the Continent, currently, the largest population of displaced persons, so we have a stake in that, in making it happen.  And so, resources is the thing.  It really has multiple components.

Thanks.  I’ll take a slightly different tack.  I think, if you look at the three countries in Africa that are facing famine, and you unpack it a bit, there’s not one of those countries, absent conflict, that would ever be in this situation.  So if you have to say ‘what is the number one issue’, it’s the fact that conflict is holding the countries back.  South Sudan, ironically, probably of the three, it has the greatest potential, I mean, it’s just [got] unimaginable natural wealth, including agriculture. There’s no end to what could be produced in South Sudan.

“There’s not one of those countries, absent conflict, that would ever be in this situation. … the people of Africa, the people of these three countries, are already the leaders in the response.  They’re not waiting.”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

So, it’s just the fact that the governance and therefore the conflict in those three countries needs to be constantly improved, focusing on the people, because the people of Africa, the people of these three countries, are already, as John said, the leaders in the response.  They’re not waiting.  They’re incredibly entrepreneurial, they’re communal, they take care of each other, but with conflict, it’s all pushed out the window.   So I have to say we need to address the conflict, as John said again, the general ‘but’, I think the international community needs to stand ready to assist where and when it can.  And right now, to the resource point, we don’t have that capacity.  So even where we can get in, even where access is available, we are cutting rations, we are not able to fully support the people, therefore we’re not fully able to support stability.  Where that little pocket of stability is, we can’t support it.  So I would say let’s do work on the conflict, but the international community should try to step forward and make sure that we can help where help can take place.

Questions from the Audience (the “Q & A”)

Q: [from an Ambassador from Mali] What is expected to be done, in this time of budget cuts, for countries outside the ones discussed today but are in the Sahel region that are also enduring potential crises requiring humanitarian assistance as acknowledged by the World Food Programme as representing over 8 million people who are under threat of famine such as The Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Cameroon?  In Mali in particular [the questioner’s home country], conflict has displaced people inside and outside the country, and the north of Mali is generally difficult even in peacetime.

If I could address the Ambassador’s question, and thank you for asking because, as I mentioned at the beginning of my statement, there are 100 million people who are going to need emergency food assistance, not just 20 million in famine-stricken

Sahel Region Map from

Sahel Region Map from

countries, and we see a bit of donor distraction.  They focus on what’s burning brightest.  And of course, we have Syria in the background right now.  There’s great resource drag going in certain directions.  And yet, when you think about it, [there are] opportunities in places like Mali and Niger, where you have governance, where you have the opportunity to invest, and actually those donor dollars go so much farther there than they do in the famine countries.  If you’re going through a famine, you’re spending huge money just to save lives.  You’re not building that capacity for better development, for empowering the people, all the things you say you want, or the donor community says it wants, we’re not investing in that.  And so we’re seeing a double-whammy.  The resources are going to the places where they’re needed of course, to the famines, but they’re not going, there’s no significant amount of money being invested at a time when these other countries can just do such great work.  So we continue to advocate for Mali, for Niger, for other countries throughout Africa, so that they’re not forgotten, but it’s a very tough battle these days.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: At this point, we were able to pose our Impudent Question.  In this instance, we were somewhat pleasantly surprised that the respondents, particularly Mr. Prendergast, showed an understanding of the “root causes” he had mentioned earlier, and which had inspired the question we posed.]

Q: [from KUUMBAReport] Regarding root causes, are there enough people in positions of power who are willing to take a serious look at the real root causes from slavery, colonialism, imposition of language, religion, monetary systems and country boundaries that Africans did not choose, current resource extraction and Western-directed military incursions [such as the attack on Libya that led to the loss of the African Union’s main benefactor and freed up weapons now in the hands of Boko Haram] as causative factors in the current situation in these countries and in the Continent in general?  And will enough thought be given to current solutions [African-driven and -owned food sovereignty versus Western-imposed food security] to prevent situations such as the BT cotton crisis in India, that resulted from introduction by the US and the West of genetically-modified cotton in India and that led to thousands of Indian farmer suicides, so that agriculture ‘solutions’ for Africa do not lead to similarly-disastrous outcomes?

“In the midst of famine watch the scramble for the contracts and how the ugly underbelly, again, of international investing, how that fuels violence, and you see this replicated in a number of countries around Africa, still to this day.  And you see that the countries where conflict and violence is most endemic and most resistant to efforts to try to resolve those issues, at the core, I would argue, in most of those places, is unchecked greed.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

The historical context of the scramble for African resources — that we read in history books about the colonial era as if it all ended there — sort of like in this country, for some people, the perception is that, after slavery ended, what’s the problem?  Not understanding Jim Crow, lynching, all the rest of it that occurred as part of the legacy.  Similarly, there is a resounding legacy of that colonial era where violent, illegal extraction of Africa’s extraordinary wealth was a principal driver for the motivations of the European colonial powers.  Similarly today, in a number of African countries, South Sudan is a microcosm of that, that the scramble for resources — in the case of South Sudan it’s primarily oil but the next one is gold, watch this one unfold — in the midst of famine watch the scramble for the contracts and how the ugly underbelly, again, of international investing, how that fuels violence, and you see this replicated in a number of countries around Africa, still to this day.  And you see that the countries where conflict and violence is most endemic and most resistant to efforts, whether local or regional or international, efforts to try to resolve those issues, at the core, I would argue, in most of those places, is unchecked greed.  It’s that confluence of corruption and violence that is driving the emergencies, and I think we can make long, academic, well-sourced assessments of that statement for all three of our countries in Africa today, the underlying rot of corruption and the use of state violence to ensure the continuation of patterns of violent extraction of resources.  And the difficulty in addressing those patterns through peace processes and other approaches, counter-terrorism efforts and other things, if you’re not getting at the core issue of kleptocracy and the hijacking of state institutions so that the judicial systems are undermined, because having the rule of law would mean that the folks who are extracting those resources would actually be the ones being investigated and brought to justice.  Having proper security services that protect the borders, as General Ward said, and are responsible for human security, rather in some of these countries, those are the agents of this accord or policy of extraction of resources.  So, unless we address that fundamental issue, that root cause, we’re going to just keep seeing these emergencies in certain African countries.  Other African countries have figured it out.  They’ve worked through it.  It’s not impossible.  There’s good governance in many, many countries in Africa.  There are lots of extraordinary, positive success stories throughout Africa, of countries overcoming that colonial legacy and turning things around, politically, economically.  Works in progress all over, but dramatic, in my view.  But there are a subset of countries that are still in this cycle that is very similar to what that cycle was during the colonial period.  And it’s all about abject greed and the lack of any accountability for a small group of people in each of these countries who have hijacked the state institutions for their own personal benefit, with international collaborators — banks, lawyers, accountants, shipping companies, arms dealers — those are the kleptocratic networks that we’ve got to address if we want to stop these cycles from continuing.

I’ve been getting at the notion of those things that are sustainable, as well as those things that are done because you have a committed group of leaders that are looking at an overarching approach.  The landscape, I believe, is positive.  It’s not perfect but it’s positive.  If I go back ten years ago, as we stood up the United States Africa Command as an example, as an example, where it was very plain and apparent that decisions that were ever made, were made as they took into account a range of things that were important for taking care of people.  Including, to be sure, what was my primary focus, and I undertook that with the full understanding that that wasn’t enough in and of itself.  It also required a healthy dose of what I call development, across economic sectors, across agricultural sectors, that could lead to the things that the people needed for themselves that they participated in, from manufacturing to energy, that enabled a society to sustain itself, and a commitment to it as well as an investment in it.  And it also took what I used to term governance, good governance.  At least governance that was more effective as opposed to less effective, taking in all of the [issues] that we’ve talked about here.  From corruption to providing services in remote locations and those things.  And I say that the realization of the importance of that comingling of work, I think, is increasingly recognized by leaders.  People sure understand it.  And if the leaders are to remain in power, then they too have to do things that reflect their understanding of it so that they can demonstrate to their people that they are in fact working on their behalf.  And so, is it possible?  Is there a commitment?  Can it be sustainable?  Yes, but only when and if you have a secure environment, more or less — won’t be perfect but more or less — when you have things being developed in a way that the people who are living there see themselves as benefiting from what’s going on in their homeland, in their area, in their geography, and governance that’s more effective rather than less effective, representing the interests of its people.

“Is it possible?  Is there a commitment?  Can it be sustainable?  Yes, but only when and if you have a secure environment, more or less — won’t be perfect but more or less — when you have things being developed in a way that the people who are living there see themselves as benefiting from what’s going on in their homeland …”
–General William “Kip” Ward

Q: [from Dr. Malcolm Beech, president of the National Business League and the African Business League of America] How can the US encourage building capacity and capability in African businesses for in-country food processing, and how can the us HBCU’s [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] help?

I’m going to point you to the Feed the Future Initiative that the last Administration put so much effort into and it was really focused on doing just what you’re talking about.  It’s not the response, it’s not waiting until you have a problem, it’s how do you enhance the capacity of African nations to not only produce more food but to process more food, to develop their markets.  What are the key actions of each of those countries and regions where you tweak a little bit, with a little bit of resources, and actually have tremendous impact?  It’s a wonderful program, and I do hope it continues.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: We noticed here that Mr. Brause made reference to Feed the Future, a program sponsored in large part by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID.  While we liked the bulk of his analysis of famine in Afrika and the issues that needed to be considered, this was the one comment he made during the entire event with which we had some serious issues.  The fact that he worked for 22 years at USAID, in positions of increasing responsibility and policy influence, makes the comment unsurprising, especially as he demonstrates a real concern for the people on whose behalf he speaks, and he no doubt sees the programs promoted by USAID to be on the whole, if not in total, beneficial for struggling populations around the world.  Our research on the agency, while certainly leading to a similar conclusion that those working for USAID share a commitment to improving the lot of disadvantaged communities, has also, however, led us to conclude that several of its initiatives are flawed at best, and at worst, have led to disastrous consequences for a number of the communities it was designed to help, largely due to the influence of some of the same corporate opportunists Mr. Prendergast mentions in his comments.

Seeds of Suspicion 1Several years ago, when we first started attending the Africa Policy Forum events, we were introduced to the Feed the Future program and did some background research on the track record of USAID and its projects in different parts of the world.  Somewhat alarmingly for us, we found that USAID had assisted in the promotion of the very BT cotton that ultimately led to the Indian farmer suicides, and the agency had run into resistance from several Latin American countries who did not want genetically-modified crops from Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations introduced in their countries.  Feed the Future was reputed to be promoting Water Resistant Maize for Africa (WEMA), which was also connected to agribusiness corporations such as Cargill, Syngenta and Monsanto, as an answer to the problems of crop yields in northern Afrika, despite the assertions by food sovereignty activists that the real problem is not so much yields as it is access to the food that is available and is already being grown.  Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations’ insistence on selling farmers patented, genetically-modified seeds that cannot be recycled, either by science (so-called “terminator seed technology” which has not been verified) or by law (lawsuits by agribusiness against farmers who attempted to recycle their seeds instead of buying the next generation from them), helped lead to the inability of Indian farmers to raise their crops sustainably, and, combined with the unexpectedly-high amounts of water and pesticides needed (despite industry claims to the opposite), the Indian farmers largely went bankrupt and committed suicide because they could no longer pay their debts.

That these same corporations were again attempting to promote patented, genetically-modified seed, this time most notably maize (corn), in Afrika through USAID’s Feed the Future Program, has raised concerns that this same pattern would repeat itself as part of the age-old Scramble for Afrika’s Resources which many Pan-Afrikan and food activists have warned about for years and to which Mr. Prendergast referred in this very Forum.  Thus, we remain skeptical about the Feed the Future program and whether it will truly lead to sustainable agriculture in Afrika, controlled by Afrikans, or whether it will usher in another era of corporate control of food in the Mother Continent, which would sacrifice long-term food sovereignty with Afrikan farmer and grassroots control for short-term food security with Western and corporate control of Afrika’s food.  See the links in this comment to our other articles on this issue, which in turn will link you with source articles and documents, for more information.]

Q: [from Ms. Rosemary Segero, President of Segeros International Group, which focuses on agriculture]  Here we are talking about famine, the UN is talking about fighting poverty, World Bank is talking about end of poverty, and we are here talking about root of problems of famine.  Why is it that the conflicts are still in Africa, as much as people are fighting to eat, we have big companies there, doing mining, making money, there are big companies there, getting oil, selling oil.  Why can’t you tell these big companies, especially  to General Ward — happy to see you again — how can we work on this, to make sure there is no conflict in Africa … I’m into security like you, General, we go from head of state to head of state to fight the crime-fight, conflict, before we come to famine. … The head of states, they fight [and get into conflict], so, unless we fight that, we are going to be coming here every day, to the World Bank, the UN and the Sustainable Development Goals.  What can we do from here?  Don’t call us next year to talk about famine.  We want that answer now. 

Let me just briefly talk to the issue of minimizing vulnerability [to conflict] and how it could be addressed over time.  And what the long lasting guarantor of little conflict is.  And it comes with economic and social development.  And you may say that’s kind of strange, a general talking about the importance of development, but it’s exactly that.  When you have populations that are more or less satisfied where they are because they have the ability, mothers and fathers, can take care of their children, can feed them, can educate them, can house them, can be less afraid when they are out walking to the store and doing whatever … that society is less susceptible to conflict.  And so, when it comes to how we address that notion of international affairs, work, and, to the point of Congresswoman Lee, our international affairs budget, if you look at the programs administered by USAID, these are amounts of monies that aren’t a lot, but they produce huge returns on the investment over time.

“When you do things to invest in the well-being of a child, when you invest in the ability of a woman to raise her society, that has long lasting impacts in a positive way.  And it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. … But you need to create the environment for that to happen.  And that’s why the security aspect of that is also important. “
–General William “Kip” Ward

To get to the question regarding women and children, when you do things to invest in the well-being of a child, when you invest in the ability of a woman to raise her society, that has long lasting impacts in a positive way.  And it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference.  And so I would say that this notion of the long-term guarantor of reduced conflict is when you have developed societies, that is a big contributor for [reduction of the risk of] conflict.  And you do it in a way that has meaning for a people where they are, in their geography, by doing things that matter to them, advancing their ability to care for themselves where they are, and that’s why this notion of development in its varying forms, from health to education to food, is so important when it comes to long-term stability.  But you need to create the environment for that to happen.  And that’s why the security aspect of that is also important.  But the long-term guarantor is, indeed, that development component.

Q: [from Bread for the World’s Office of Pan African Engagement and Spiritual Outreach] Can you speak more to the issues of women’s empowerment, and particularly to this vulnerable community of women and children, especially regarding the root causes of the lack of women’s empowerment?  Also, how could the faith community be more effective on the ground in terms of dealing with the root causes, addressing the famine and beyond?

Just a quick cherry-picking of a few things to talk about building peace capacities.  We have a confluence of events in which two of the major multilateral organizations in the world that have focused on peace in Africa, are partially or fully focused on peace in Africa, have new leadership.  the United Nations has a new Secretary General, who has expressed a real commitment to investing UN resources into peacemaking, and mediation.  We have a new African Union leader who, as well, has said that peace is a fundamental priority, and can put a team together that makes that happen.  And then, the local level, so that’s the international and the continental level, then there’s the local level. … So, that question about the religious component, the faith component, of support for local peace efforts I think is really important. … In South Sudan today, and looking back at the legacy of conflict over the last 30 years, churches have played a fundamentally important role over time in reconciliation efforts between communities, sometimes very successfully, sometimes not successful at all.  But that effort to build local constituencies for peace should [include] a fundamental building block [which] ought to be the South Sudan Council of Churches and the church leaders at the grassroots level, who in John Prendergast Enough 1most cases have an interest in peace and not conflict and who have an interest in reconciliation.  And I think that is true certainly of the cross-line efforts of some of the leaders.  Islamic and Christian leaders in Nigeria have been some of the bright spots over the last ten years in  northern Nigeria, and in Somalia, you have a number of the imams who have at the local level played a role at the community level in mediation and peacemaking.  So, supporting, highlighting, giving resources to and acting in solidarity with those kinds of efforts, combined with resource and capacity-building for the AU and UN peace efforts, is I think, the kind of strategy that is needed today.

Q: [from Baba Tamiru, Little Ethiopia Magazine] How do we deal with corrupt and selfish leaders who insist on clinging to power, and how much are the leaders in the US Congress involving the Diasporas, which are not very powerful but which are sending remittances to their home countries, sometimes in large numbers?

Q: [from a self-professed ‘pacifist’] would you consider the kleptocrats in South Sudan to be a legitimate government?  If not, what is the military capability of the South Sudanese and rebel forces, and could the UN make a case for removing the government from power as perhaps the most direct way of solving the problem?

I guess I would start with the principle that probably is subscribed to by most of the folks in here, which is that people have to decide their own leadership, and it really isn’t the role of outsiders to be determining the direction of who, in fact, is running other countries.  Gambia is a fascinating model now, it has pretty unique circumstances.  It’s not remotely what we have in South Sudan today.  And there are different sets of interests involved in that effort by the region to see a democratic transition in the country.  A remarkable success story, a positive story … but hard to see the parallels to South Sudan.  In terms of the UN taking a more assertive or proactive role in some form of alteration of the current governing structure, I just think, kind of being rooted in the present moment, and the realpolitik of the present moment where the US is pulling back from peacekeeping operations, I mean, I can’t wait to see how these debates and discussions unfold as to how the United States pulls the chair of the Security Council here in New York, where they say they’re going to have some kind of a debate about human rights, and I’m frightened to hear that.  And real fundamental questions about



peacekeeping operations, which, of course, in the hands of a responsible discussion, is important.  You’ve got to keep trying to improve these peacekeeping operations so they can have some kind of relevance to the future of these countries but I think often, what we’re seeing now is questions that are designed to justify a massive pull-back.  So the idea that the UN is going to be the engine of what would be, in effect, an invasion, overthrowing the government, I just don’t think that’s in the realm of reality.  I think there are also a lot of ideas out there about building a trusteeship or other forms of that kind of an idea that there would be some kind of an internationalization of governance for some period of time in South Sudan.  I think those are completely unrealistic as well in this present moment.  Who’s going to shoot their way into that system?  And so, the real question, the responsible question, is, I think — reasonable people can differ — is how can you even the playing field in South Sudan a little more, so that guys with the biggest guns don’t dominate that place for the foreseeable future?  And I look at historical precedent, where in the South African situation, the apartheid situation, where international pressure, in the context of the anti-apartheid efforts and the extraordinary efforts on the ground that the South Africans waged was a critically important ingredient in the overall transformation, very similar to the blood diamonds wars in West Africa … [it] wasn’t the panacea in the early 2000’s, but it removed, or it dramatically reduced the gasoline.  International gasoline was being poured on those domestic fires, in three different countries within a couple of years in these places, those being Sierra Leone, Liberia and even in Angola you saw it, and led to these active wars.  And we were able to have some sort of active transformation in at least two of these countries.  Angola, lagging behind, is still an authoritarian state.  So, there are solutions that are short of some kind of international military response that is never going to come.  And I think, in this case, it’s addressing those economic roots of the problem which is one of the central parts of what outsiders can do to begin to create a situation where on the ground, negotiations between the relevant stakeholders in the future of countries like South Sudan can have a chance at determining their own future.

“The responsible question is … is how can you even the playing field in South Sudan a little more, so that guys with the biggest guns don’t dominate that place for the foreseeable future?”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

Q: [from Sis. N’deye Ba of Senegal, from Act 4 Accountability, on the web at] I pose this question not only to the panelists but also to anyone in the audience who is willing to have a larger conversation about it, perhaps after the event.  What can we as the Diaspora do?  What are some actionable items that we can do to assist in any way that we can, aside from just sending money back home as I’m sure a lot of us do?  There is a large population of recent college graduates who want to help but just don’t know how.  So I’d really appreciate any advice that you can share on that.

Q: [from Mr. Lawrence Friedman, economic development policy advocate for Africa over the last 25 years] I’d like to comment on economic development in providing long-term stability with mitigating enterprises.  And I don’t think we’ve done enough.  Maybe this humanitarian crisis that we’re in now will, maybe, lead to a change in policy.  If you look at where transformative pockets are active in Africa, you have to look at China, the Brits … they’re building railroads in Kenya, railroads in Ethiopia which I was on, railroads in Nigeria.  We’re not doing that.  This gives people jobs.  This gives people economic development.  This gives people hope for the future.  In northeast Nigeria, I remember the Lake Chop Basin Commission and I remember I’m advocating a program to refurbish the lake.  Bring water into the lake which would improve the economic development.  So I know everybody’s doing everything for the humanitarian crisis, but could this not be a period where we change the Western policy of the EU and the West and invest billions of dollars in infrastructure the way the Chinese are doing?  Long term loans, low interest.  The previous Administration didn’t want to have anything to do with that.  Maybe this Administration will change.  The president of our country and the president of China are meeting. … but I see this as an opportunity in the midst of a crisis to actually develop a positive, long-term policy which we have not done for many, many years.

I think without question, the activity that we’ve seen on the Continent of Africa by other nations, from China to Russia to Brazil to India, not classifying them one way or the other but the fact that they are there and involved in substantial ways with respect to infrastructure, major policies and programs that have implications for other things to occur, from energy to manufacturing, the involvement of our government in that is clearly not what we see by other governments.  Our models look different.  Our private enterprise, our private business sector has a role to play also.  And so I believe a part of that dynamic, and it is causing it such that our private business sector feels as if it too has a stake, a role, and, like any private business, it’s in their interest to be on the Continent to do these things as well.  And so, from my perspective, a policy and overarching long-term approach that is taken that promotes development, infrastructure, business, local entrepreneurship, investment are all things that would lead to an environment that would be less susceptible to conflict, and thus, obviously, I think in the best interests of the United States of America.  So, I agree, it makes sense, and we aren’t doing what other nations do, and not that we have to do exactly what other nations do.  It’s not my point.  But doing the things that America does do well, we grow business.  We know how to do that.  We have to have an environment on the Continent that is conducive to that.  And so, a degree of security is important.  So that has to be there as well.  But that’s not all that’s required, and so these other things, from infrastructure to empowering locals, business entrepreneurs, supporting those of various means, be it our various banking programs, be it our various programs that are traditionally sponsored by USAID.  We talk about the World Food Programme as an example.  There’s another program out there, I believe it’s called Markets Too, that’s operating in Nigeria, which is aligned with the 2010 Feed the Future program, about 60 million dollars.  Not a lot of money, but doing some fantastic work, that’s also potentially threatened.  And this is about protecting local Nigerian agricultural development, for themselves as well as export farming.  Those are things that will make a difference over the long term in my estimation.

Q: What can we do to support the widows in Africa?  reports from the UN are saying that in some areas of the Continent, 45-50% of the population are widows.

I’ll just quickly say that it’s not my area of expertise, but certainly I have seen over the course of 30 years including working in and visiting Africa, quite a progression in the international and local aid efforts, writ large, focusing more and more on vulnerable groups and, of course, women who have lost their spouses, children — unaccompanied minors they call them — children who have lost their parents, have been increasingly targeted in the responses, with not just humanitarian assistance but the kind of assistance that helps create potential livelihoods for their future, and so I think there’s been increasing investment, all of it, at least in the United States, put at risk by this new budget that’s been forwarded by the White House, but certainly, from where we were in the 80’s to where we are now, I think there’s been a great deal of better understanding, better targeting and more resources going to vulnerable communities in those local areas.  A very general comment, but I think it’s important to note that there has been some progress.

And I would certainly support that.  I don’t have the answer, but I know that whatever we do that supports widows and women in the society is a wise investment.  It’s something important to do.  We ought to be looking at ways that we can do more.  I’ve seen in too many places globally, from the Balkans to the middle east to the Continent of Africa, women who were empowered, either because they had been subject to some catastrophic event, loss of loved ones, their children, their spouses, who were then empowered to make a difference in their society, and they do it.

Summary of the Discussion

it really hits you in the face about the food insecurity situation that is unfolding globally and on the Continent: 20 million people impacted by famine, perhaps the largest crisis since the founding of the UN in 1945. 

One is also struck by the tepid response of the international community to the crisis, which is one of the reasons why I’m thankful to see all of you here. … We need to draw more attention to this issue.  As of today only 10% of the required 4.4 billion dollars has been raised to address this issue.  Now, one could say, maybe this is an awareness issue.  If it is let’s go on and keep raising that awareness.  One could argue that it’s a question of fatigue amongst those who provide the resources.  One could also argue that it is a continuing dialog, a debate that we’ve had for many, many years about just how important Africa is to all of us, and we see this playing out in the budget priorities that are being proposed. 

Dr Monde Muyangwa 1In terms of the immediate addressing of the situation to minimize the loss of lives, I heard the speakers address a number of issues, one of which was the issue of access, physical access to the people who need help the most.  That we need to do a better job of that.  But i think the second definition of that that was alluded to but not really addressed in depth has to do with the restrictions that some of these governments are placing on that access.  That issue needs to be addressed and we need to put more pressure on these governments to allow that access.  But also just to increase resources to allow us to reach the people who need the help the most.  I also heard from different quarters in the Q&A about tapping more and empowering more of the African respondents who are on the ground and actually working in their communities, identifying them, and seeing how we can give them a little bit more to be able to do more of the work they are already doing in their space. 

I thought that we really had a powerful discussion about the causes and drivers of this conflict, of the famine and the food insecurities in these countries.  And all of our speakers spoke to the fact that this crisis consists of man-made factors but also natural factors, a drought that’s overlaid with conflict, mostly a man-made problem, but also some of the choices that various African leaders have made that contributed to the crisis.  Amongst those, we’ve heard how governance and leadership matter.  And one of the things that I think we need to look squarely in the face, and for this I’ll look to my African Brothers and Sisters, is that … African governments and leaders have to take even more responsibilities for what their neighbors are doing on the governance front.  It’s the lack of inclusive governance as we’ve heard, the lack of government that’s accountable to its people, government that’s stealing resources blind from their people, even as these crises unfold.  That is something that, squarely, African leaders ought to address more, that’s part of the problem here.  Governance also matters, we’ve heard, in another way, in that, having a government in Somalia, the entry points for addressing the crisis in Somalia are very different than those that we have in South Sudan, than those that we had in Somalia in 2011 in part because we now have a government in place that’s trying to address the issues.  Unfortunately, the government in South Sudan, as we’ve heard, has not been very helpful in that space.

“Nine of 16 United Nations peacekeeping missions are in Africa.  that’s nine peacekeeping missions too many.”
–Dr. Monde Muyangwa, Wilson Center

On the long-term solutions on the governance front, I’m struck by the number of people who talked governance here and the number of times the governance issue came up in the audience.  From my perspective, I think that one of the issues that we need to look at from the Washington perspective has been the declining budgets for inclusive governance and democracy within the US budget.  And this is not to point the finger at any one Administration.  But this budget has been declining, starting in the Bush Administration years, coming through to the Obama years, and as I heard every single one of our speakers here touch on the issue of governance and why it’s important, and so investing in that space is clearly something that we’re going to have to look at, and directing more resources to that issue is something that we need to take a look at. 

We heard about all three African countries [discussed today], that the famine and food insecurity has been driven by conflict.  Nine of 16 United Nations peacekeeping missions are in Africa.  that’s nine peacekeeping missions too many.  And so, the point that was made earlier on, about [how] we need to figure out a way of minimizing Africa’s fragility, of minimizing Africa’s risk to conflict, that cannot be overstated.  Look at the three case studies that we have looked at today.  Underpinning those is the role that conflict has played in leading us to this situation that we are in today.  So that’s something else that we need to look at.

I was happy to hear the General talk about [how] security was important but we need to do more than just security.  We need to achieve a better balance between security and investment in development.  That’s what’s going to get us to the long-term picture that we’re looking at, of more food-secure African countries.

From a personal perspective, we haven’t yet articulated an Africa policy, the current Administration has not.  But what I hear from the speakers, and I hear from all of you, is that, even as we look at the budget of this country and our short-term or national interests, that we not lose sight of the long-term picture.  That we not let security dictate how we engage and invest and develop relationships with other parts of the world.  This is going to be an especially important thing to Africa, where we know that we have some serious security concerns, but as John said, security should not be the only lens through which we look at how we engage with Africa. … looking beyond security, and looking beyond the here-and-now, to focus on the long term of what we would like US-Africa relations to be like in another 20, 30 years or so, and how we get there.

There was a question that was raised about long-term food sustainability.  That has to be what we focus on.  Even as we address the famine here today, our long-term initiatives, our long-term objectives really ought to be about how do we engender long-term food security in Africa that’s African-owned and African-driven.  So, as we look at our programs, as we look at our policies, how are we embedding that into those policies to ensure that that’s exactly what we’re pushing for over the long term?

“[O]ur long-term objectives really ought to be about how do we engender long-term food security in Africa that’s African-owned and African-driven.”
–Dr. Monde Munyangwa, Wilson Center

And then, as I conclude my summary … two points.  One was made by our last question here on ensuring that vulnerable populations are accounted for, as we work on addressing the immediate famine and food insecurity by also trying to work on long-term food security and sustainability.  I think these are key issues that we need to interrogate as we build policies, as we build programs, as we build initiatives.  And then the final point was about the role of the African Diaspora.  Africa has one of the most active Diasporas in this country.  But I fear that we don’t take advantage of that Diaspora to the extent that we could, to actually do a whole lot more for and with the Continent.  I know a lot of organizations are already tapping into that Diaspora, but I think there is more that could be done, and so how do we put our heads together to figure out, how do we energize that Diaspora and include it and embed it even more in the work that we are doing, whether it’s at the policy level, whether it’s independent initiatives of their undertaking, or whether it’s engaging in official Africa here as represented in Washington?

So, some really, really good and powerful takeaways for all of us as we think more about how we can actually go from where we are today to more action that’s required to change and alleviate the situation in the countries that we’ve been talking about.

Please join me in thanking our speakers.

This was just very, very informative. … And I want everyone to know, this is not just a one time thing.  I don’t want anybody to think that we’re going to forget this and move on to another issue.  But I would like to ask the panel to continue to assist us as Congress to continue to figure out how to respond to this, and of course, most

Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA)

Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA)

notable for me is understanding the role that conflict plays.  You added a whole other dimension … in terms of talking about the money that is leaving the country, resources, and Monde, you mentioned one of the last questions about the Diaspora, I do think that one of our next moves should be to have another event similar to this that focuses on the Diaspora, and I was speaking in the back with a representative from the Somalian Embassy, because I think, in terms of raising public awareness within Congress, it’s also about raising public awareness within our country, the fact that African immigrants are some of the most educated immigrants and the role they play, not just with remittances, but also conducting business in their home countries, and the significant leadership role that they should play now, as we address this crisis.  And so, I want everyone to know that we will continue, this will not be our last event, and we look for all of your input as to how we should proceed.  We just can’t sit back and say that 20 million people are at risk for starvation, and our country is not going to play a role that we have played historically.  Again, I go back to a comment that I made in the beginning.  I think that the role we played around Ebola, in terms of galvanizing and mobilizing the entire world to address the crisis, that at one point, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] talked about a million people dying, and it was nowhere near that because … the world acted, the world responded, and stamped it out before it got completely out of control and I think that’s exactly what we need to do now.  But, again, one of the most significant points that each panelist made over and over again is that yes, we have to address the crisis today, but it would be extremely short-sighted if we didn’t have a more in-depth, long-term response, because, given our world, the level of technology, science, all of the advancement, we should not be sitting in the 21st Century, even talking about famine.  Thank you very much.

“We should not be sitting in the 21st Century, even talking about famine.”
–Congress Member Karen Bass