Africa: different but equal

In 1831, Friedrich Hegel, a German philosopher declared publicly that: “This is the land where man are children. A land lying beyond the daylight of self conscious history and enveloped in the black colour of night. At this point, let us forget Africa not to mention it again. For Africa is no historical part of the world.”

An English explorer, Richard Bruton, said: “The study of the Negro is the study of man’s rudimental (basic, lowest level) mind. He would appear rather a degeneracy (rot away) from the civilized man than a savage rising to the first step, were it not for his total incapacity (inability) for improvement. He has not the ring of the true mettle (strength). There is no rich nature for education to cultivate. He seems to belong to one of those childish races, never rising to man’s estate (level), who fall like worn-out links from the great chain of animated nature.”

The ‘ignoramus’ European perception that the ‘Black Continent’ was uncivilized, primitive and never had an history of their own, dominated Europeans for centuries. Even European brilliant minds, as Hegel’s, considered Africa as a continent submerged into a sea of darkness and ignorance. Were they right?

This documentary shows otherwise. An almost unprecedented attempt to enlighten the minds of the West, and that should be re-attempted.


Nigeria’s Federal Government should learn some lessons from the past

Willink Commission of 1957

The Willink Commission was set up in September 1957, by the British Colonial authorities, in order to look into the fears expressed by ethnic minorities regarding a possible future domination by the majority in the three regions of the Nigerian Federation, in a post-independence scenario. The commission was also tasked with alleviating such fears.

Minority fears about unequal treatment and domination in the three powerful regions of Nigeria were expressed at the 1953 constitutional conference, when considerable power were given to the regions. In 1957, during another conference, the British colonial secretary appointed Harry Willink, assisted by Phil Mason, director of the Race Relations Institute, Gordon Hadow, deputy governor of the Gold Coast, and Mr J.B. Shearer, to look into the fears of the minority groups. The following terms of reference guided the commission.

The commission reported on the imbalance in the three regions and also the situations creating the impetus for the creation of separate states by different groups. However, the commission was guided from its inception against making recommendations for state creation and, in its report, it stated that states-creation would in fact not be a solution to the fears of minorities, as additional states may only spur further demands by other minority groups within the newly created states. It was the Commission’s goal to allay the fears and promote Nigerian unity, in a way that the new nation would play an important role in the international scene. And this can be done by balancing power among the several different groups within a Nigerian State, not allowing for one group attain more power than the others.

The commission recommended areas of distinguishable cultures and concerns to have their cultures and territory preserved. With such end in sight, the Commission recommended the creation of an advisory council for the MidWest, special and minority areas – where the Federal and Regional administration would be responsible and liable for the region’s and the people’s’ social and economic development, along with the obligation to guarantee their well-being and cultural advancement. It also recommended the establishment of a unified and centralized police – so as to avoid the politicization of security forces -,  and the promotion of minorities to position of power in order to balance any inequity in power.


The commission stated that about 9-15 popular demands for state creation were expressed. In the West, a Yoruba Central state, the Ondo Central and MidWest State, should be created; in the Eastern Region there were demands for the creation of the Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers States; and in the North the creation of a Middle Belt State.

In political terms the situation was more complex. In the North, the powerful Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) opposed state creation while its counterpart in the East, the NCNC, called for the creation of 17 states. In the West, the Action Group supported the creation of the Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers States, and also the Middle Belt State. The AG also favoured the creation of a clause in the constitution that would leave an open window for further state creation.


Although more states were created since long after the Willinks Report was issued, there are still some situations in need to be assessed.Half a century later one can still see that Nigeria has failed to integrate its minorities in an efficient way. Ethnic groups in the Niger Delta continue demanding better conditions and more access to wealth; politicized ethnic movements insist on threatening bloodshed if the 2015 Presidential results are not favourable; and ethnic/religious clashes are recurrent in the Middle Belt Region. In sum, the situation is worse than fifty years ago.

Nigerian intellectuals and politicians need to go back to the country’s origins and start from the beginning. The Willinks Commission Report can work as a useful basis if Nigeria wants to remain united.  Sometimes the most useful and better books are the ones we neglect in favour of more enticing covers.

China in Angola: winning hearts and minds.

China is winning the hearts and minds of one of the fastest growing economies in the African Continent. As the country was destroyed by a long and deadly civil war, China was the only country which immediately offered financial support.

Recently, the deal terms have been the following: in exchange for access to Angolan natural resources, China develops the country’s infrastructures.

There is a positive and negative side to it:
Chinese investment employs Chinese people (it is estimated that around 50 thousand Chinese people are now based in Angola). In this way, wealth is transferred overseas, the common Angolan lacks access to jobs, and he/she does not entirely benefit from this chinese-sponsored development.

On the other hand, Angola is booming. It is on its way to become one of the world’s top 5 performers. Infrastructures are being rebuilt and a middle-class is rising (even if slowly).
One wonders if this economic growth will translate into a sustainable economic development in the medium-term.

One thing is certain, China has been playing a fundamental role in Angolan growth and, in pragmatic terms, it has been an ultra-positive relationship to China. By winning the hearts and minds of the Angolan government it is guaranteeing a safe supply of the much-needed natural resources. And who knows, Angola may become, in the near future, a main trading partner for china-manufactured goods.

Is Al-Shabaab going global?

The alliance between radical Islamist militant group al-Shabab and the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), poses a major threat to the country’s security, the army has said.

Army Spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda told a news conference at the army headquarters in Mbuya on Friday that the ADF threat was “real” and reports of al-Shabab fighters joining the DR Congo-based rebels makes the issue more complicated.

He said if the situation gets worse, there is a likelihood that Uganda, with the permission of DR Congo authorities, will move in to pursue the rebels.

“The ADF is real and it is linked to al-Shabab,” Ankunda said.

Explaining the dangers of this alliance, Ankunda told The Observer that “the link to Al-Shabaab could give ADF new skills and explosives might sneak into the country. They have been opening up new camps in Bundibugyo and they are training; this might cause insecurity,” he said.

Last Thursday, ADF launched fresh attacks in DR Congo, close to the town of Bundibugyo in Uganda, leading to an influx of refugees across the border.

Reports indicate that about 3,000 to 4,000 refugees have so far crossed into Uganda. Ankunda says the UPDF are screening these refugees in order to weed out possible ADF or al-Shabab fighters.

“We are sharing intelligence with DRC. We are monitoring the situation and I would like to assure Ugandans that other parts of Uganda are safe. We are working hard to ensure that occurrences that might destabilise the country are dealt with accordingly,” he said.

Mozambique’s Rising Tensions

Renamo’s road block could have deeply negative impacts on the country, but it remains to be seen how the political impasse will be broken.

Over 20 years since the end of Mozambique’s brutal civil war, tensions appear to be on the rise again between Renamo, the country’s main opposition party, and Frelimo, the ruling party. This antagonism has been brewing for some time but seems to have come to a head in the past few months.

In the latest chapter of hostilities between the two parties, Renamo, on 20 June, followed through on its threats to block road traffic between the Save river – which cuts across Mozambique, virtually dividing North and South – and the town of Muxúnguè. The next day, gunmen attacked vehicles along the targeted route, resulting in two fatalities, five injuries and two burned out trucks. Renamo’s Information Chief was arrested for inciting violence and civil disorder. And a few days later, Renamo members targeted a bus and a transportation truck which were part of a convoy under military escort.

Frelimo eventually responded by proposing negotiations, but these quickly fell apart after the two sides failed to agree on the demilitarisation of Renamo, one of Frelimo’s conditions for talks. Meanwhile, some of Renamo’s demands are also being discussed in parliament, though given that parliament is heavily dominated by Frelimo members – Frelimo holds 191 of the 250 seats – it remains to be seen if the political impasse will be broken.

Rising tensions

Tensions between Renamo and Frelimo have increased significantly over the past few months, especially since October 2012, when Renamo’s president, Afonso Dhlakama, along with 800 ex-guerrilla fighters decamped to their former civil war base in Gorongosa Game Park. Explaining his motives, Dhlakama cited the Mozambican government’s failure to meet Renamo’s demands, which ranged from electoral reform to the broader distribution of wealth from mineral resources.

Relations did not improve and on 4 April, government security authorities raided Renamo’s headquarters in the central town of Muxúnguè. This move was purportedly carried out in order to disperse 250 Renamo members allegedly doing military manoeuvres, and 15 people were arrested. Some hours later, Renamo gunmen attacked the police command where the 15 were being detained, resulting in 4 deaths and 8 injuries. Then, in May, further clashes between government forces and Renamo members erupted a few kilometres from Dhlakama’s base.

This June, things heated up even further with Renamo’s road blockade. In the words of Renamo’s Information Chief, Brigadier Jerónimo Malagueta, this move was aimed at “impeding any vehicle carrying people or goods, since the government uses those same vehicles to secretly transport weaponry and army men, and concentrate them near Satungira [close to Gorongosa Game Park] and attack Renamo’s president”.

However, while Renamo may see the road block as necessary to protect itself, the action could undermine the country’s domestic economy and have disastrous effects on its social and economic conditions. Cutting off North and South restricts the free movement of people and basic goods. Meanwhile, disruption of the railways carrying coal from the central Tete province to the port in Beira could seriously destabilise the 7% GDP growth that Mozambique has been reporting, and scare away investors.

Renamo’s grievances

With presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2014, one of the issues causing friction between Renamo and Frelimo is electoral reform. Since Mozambique’s first multi-party elections in 1994, two years after the end of the devastating civil war, Frelimo has won every single presidential and legislative ballot. And every time, Renamo has complained of electoral fraud.

With elections again on the horizon for 2014, one of Renamo’s main demands today is electoral reform. One particular point of contention is representation in the National Electoral Commission (CNE). According to Mozambican electoral law, political parties are awarded fewer representatives in the electoral watchdog than civil society, and parties with more seats in parliament are allocated more representatives.

Seeing this as unfair, Renamo has demanded that more power is given to political parties and that all three major political forces in the CNE are given equal say under the principle of parity. Renamo has threatened to boycott the two upcoming elections if these demands are not met.

The government has responded by saying that although the request may be “legitimate and urgent”, electoral law is parliament’s exclusive competence – i.e. it must go through a whole legislative process and cannot be amended unilaterally by the executive – and has insisted that the principle of parliamentary proportionality should be maintained. Renamo demands are now being discussed in parliament, though given Frelimo’s overwhelming majority of seats, whether electoral reform goes through depends almost solely on Frelimo’s political will.

Another Renamo grievance with the government regards natural resources and funding. According to some estimates, Mozambique could have the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas, and the opposition party has been calling for greater access to the benefits of this booming resource wealth. In a letter addressed to the Mozambican cabinet this April, the Renamo leadership said that “it does not understand why it remains excluded from enjoying the wealth which resulted from the peace it helped to achieve and maintain during the past 20 years”. The letter also states that Renamo needs access to more wealth if it is to peacefully complete the transition of its military branch into a political force.

The government replied to these demands in a somewhat evasive manner, stating that the equitable distribution of wealth – political parties included – is already part of the government’s programme. The government also denied that Renamo has officially requested more funds to complete its transition from a military to a political force.

Regarding funds, it is also worth noting that political parties are partly financed by the state, and that funding is allocated according to the number of seats in parliament a political party holds. In part due to the emergence of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) – a breakaway group from Renamo – Renamo went from holding 90 seats to just 51 in the 2009 legislative elections, dramatically reducing Renamo’s state income. This could be one reason behind Renamo’s current demands.

What next for Renamo?

Renamo’s recourse to undemocratic activities – such as the recent road blockade – to get its voice heard appears to stem from a realisation that, under this status quo, Renamo is increasingly unlikely to rise to power through democratic and peaceful means, whether due to a lack of finance, political strategy or popular support. But while Renamo’s political power may be dwindling – especially with the emergence of the MDM – the road and rail blockade demonstrates its ongoing ability to disrupt Mozambican affairs.

Frelimo is highly unlikely respond with a full-scale offensive – with the brutal civil war still in many Mozambicans’ living memories, few are willing to entertain a return to hostilities – and Frelimo has indeed attempted to appease Renamo by proposing talks. But with Frelimo in such a dominant political position, it remains to be seen if a political compromise will be reached. In the meantime, if Renamo continues to employ undemocratic methods, it seems that it will be ordinary Mozambicans that will suffer the most.


Published in Think Africa Press

The International Criminal Court (ICC) should act wisely regarding Kenyatta and Ruto



Kenya’s recent general election was remarkably peaceful when comparing to the previous one – resulted in the death of around 1200 Kenyans. Isolated inter-communal clashes were indeed reported, but nothing comparable to 2007. In sum, this shows that consent can be achieved if social order is promoted by the political establishment, if it is fomented by the civil society and if it is willingly assimilated by the populace.

The aftermath of the 2007 elections led the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the causes of the violence that occurred. According to its findings, both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto – recently elected President and Deputy president, respectively – were found guilty for playing a leading role in mobilizing and inciting the youths into violence. Before, during and after the elections, the ICC has been summoning both Kenyatta and Ruto to face trial, which they have repeatedely denied. The ICC has indeed humanely realized that such crimes should not go unpunished.

However, what the ICC does not realize is that the same accused political leaders did also play a major role in guaranteeing that the situation would not unravel into 2007 levels. What the ICC does not realize is that – in its own ideal vision – in the speculative case of Kenyatta and Ruto being prosecuted and arrested, the country will certainly fall into chaos. And if that happens, the ICC will be openly destabilizing the African Continent and promoting an attractive environment for an element which is expanding across the Horn of Africa – religious militancy. This is something which does not serve the interests of sub-Saharan Africa nor the World in general.

It is not only Africa and the World who can prove to be a major obstacle for the ICC. Kenyans themselves would not accept seeing their (fairly) elected leader being arrested by a foreign actor. In the same way, Kenyans themselves would not accept seeing the son of the person who is considered Kenya’s founding father being taken removed from power.

The ICC does not seem to understand the social and political dynamics that constitute the stability of one of the most developed (in both social and economic terms) countries in the African continent, and its implications for the regional geopolitics (Horn of Africa). There is a lesson which the ICC should learn, being it that sometimes one is given only two options to choose from: the bad and the even worst option. Which will one choose? Well, it is a matter of thinking wisely.

Cabinda’s independence fighters declare an end in hostilities. However, certain conditions must be observed.

Cabinda’s independence fighters declare an end in hostilities. However, certain conditions must be observed.

 The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda – Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, FLEC – has publicly declared its intention to cease its activities in return for autonomy. After more than thirty-five years of armed struggle, there is hope that the volatile region might stabilize.

The April 25, 1974, “Carnation Revolution” in Portugal, which resulted in the overthrow of the long-lasting authoritarian regime, had as its major impact the end of the colonial war and, consequentially, of the Portuguese colonial enterprise. In fact, every single colonial territory was granted independence.

Angola became a major Cold-War stage, where the two major factions – MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, or People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) was supported by the Soviet Bloc (Cuba, under Fidel Castro, had troops on the ground), and UNITA (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, or National Union for the Total independence of Angola, supported by the Western Bloc), fought each other between 1975 and 2002, having some interludes.

IN 1975 the MPLA army invaded the Cabinda enclave which, by then had formed a provisional government. The MPLA, supported by Cuban soldiers, overpowered the Cabinda-based movements and took control of the major cities, finally establishing full control after two months of fighting.

Since then, the FLEC – which was not always united under the same banner – has clashed with Angolan Armed Forces. Despite a cease-fire in 2006, conflict continued unabated.

The FLEC has now announced its intention to push for a definitive peace settlement. Antoine Kitembo, FLEC’s Vice-President has stated in a written document that it is “time to make concessions to yesterday’s enemies”. The document continues by saying that it is necessary to open a new page in which Cabinda’s identity and shared sovereignty with Angola, with the ultimate end of total sovereignty over local affairs.

Realizing that it will not be easy for Angola’s government to accept such conditions in a quick way, FLEC also proposes a debate to be started over Cabinda’s administrative status. The option are: Associate Sovereign State, Autonomous Territory, or Federal Autonomous State.

In what seems a move to grant legitimacy and a sense of ‘moral obligation’ to a possible acceptance of any of the options, FLEC demands that during the negotiations there should be present representatives not only part of the organization and the Angolan Government, but also representatives from Portugal (as both region’s former colonial power), Catholic Church, Cabinda’s traditional authorities, African Union, civil society, European Parliament and the enclave’s regional neighbours – The Congos.

Though it seems far-fetched that the Government of Angola will accept any of these terms, the fact that this news is being highly publicized in Angolan press – argued to be tightly censured and controlled -, there might be signs that José Eduardo dos Santos’ regime is somewhat willing to negotiate some, if not satisfying enough, terms.

After all, Cabinda is not just a piece of land detached from Angolan territory. It is a highly oil-rich area which cannot be easily given away, nor unconditionally given a ‘loose leash’.