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This is the moment for a profoundly critical standpoint to take root, unhindered by ineffectual reformism associated with Corporate Social Responsibility gimmicks and the mining sector’s civilised-society watchdogging at the mainly uncritical Alternative Mining Indaba. That non-governmental organisations-dominated event occurs annually in Cape Town every February, at the same time and place where the extractive mega-corporations gather.
The Thematic Forum firmly opposes “extractivism.” Unlike the Indaba, it aims to connect the dots between oppressions, defining its target as extraction of “so-called natural resources” in a way that is “devastating and degrading,” since mining exacerbates “conditions of global warming and climate injustice. It subjects local economies to a logic of accumulation that privately benefits corporations,” and represses “traditional, indigenous and peasant communities by violations of human rights, affecting in particular the lives of women and children.”
The last point is not incidental, as two of the main organisers are the Southern Africa Rural Women’s Assembly and the WoMin network: “African Women Unite Against Destructive Resource Extraction.” Inspired by Amadiba Crisis Committee activists in the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, they have campaigned hard for the #Right2SayNo.
Last month, such rights language proved invaluable in the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, when the Itireleng community won a judgement against displacement from their farm, under attack by a local platinum mining house. (This was pleasantly surprising to many of us who are Court critics, given how much corporate power is hardwired into South Africa’s founding document.)
On the Wild Coast last month, South Africa’s Mining Minister Gwede Mantashe had shown how desperately he wants investment by the likes of aggressive Australian titanium mining firm MRC. But the Amadiba Crisis Committee and its allies have consistently shown their ability to say “No!”
No means no
The Forum’s opening morning features a demonstration at the nearby world headquarters of AngloGold Ashanti, the locally listed firm shamed in 2005 by Human Rights Watch for its alliances with warlords during the minerals-related murder of millions of people in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2011, AngloGold Ashanti won the title “world’s most irresponsible corporation” at the “Davos Public Eye” ceremony organised outside the World Economic Forum by Greenpeace and the Berne Declaration.
Since then the firm has attracted even more intense community, labour, feminist and environmental protests from Chile to Colombia to Ghana to Guinea to Tanzania, as well as in South Africa over mass retrenchments, inadequate pay and delay of silicosis-related compensation payments. It is a sick company, with its Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) price having fallen by more than half since a mid-2016 peak (and even further from its 2006-12 JSE valuations).
Criticised by investors who believe “AngloGold has not matched up to its global peers” in large part because of less profitable South African holdings, AngloGold Ashanti is rapidly exiting its home country. The firm made its fortune during the notorious 20th century era of extreme apartheid extractivism when it was run by the Oppenheimer family. Perhaps even worse is the new boss, Kelvin Dushnisky, who has presided over Toronto-based Barrick (the world’s largest gold producer, known in Africa as Acacia) during its recent reign of mining terrorism, including mass rape.
The mining corporations under fire at the Forum are not only the typical pinstriped, ethics-challenged cowboys from the London-Toronto-Melbourne-Johannesburg circuits. Next door in Mozambique, Rio-based Vale’s coal-mining operations at Moatize were disrupted last month, according to activist allies at the Associação de Apoio e Assistência Jurídica às Comunidades, due to “excessive pollution [and] acceleration of the decay of houses due to explosion of dynamites.”
Albeit trying to “mask brutal exploitation with the language of South-South solidarity,” as documented by Canadian researcher Judith Marshall, Vale is brutal in numerous jurisdictions, judged by the Berne Declaration and the Brazilian Movement of Landless Workers as the worst company in the world in 2012 due to “its labour relations, community impact and environmental record.”
In Mozambique, Vale as well as the Indian firms Coal of India, Vedanta and Jindal have been criticised for displacement and destruction. Community protests against foreign companies are prolific in coal-rich Tete Province. Further east, on the Mozambican coastline, beach sands in some communities have been destroyed by the voracious Chinese firm Haiyu. “They owe us because they have taken our beautiful sand from us and left nothing. We don’t know the quantity of the sand that they took over seven years, but we know that they profited from it and we want our dues. They have taken all the riches here and left us with nothing,” complains Nassire Omar, a local resident who can no longer carry out fishing subsistence.
But it may be that Vedanta and its boss Anil Agarwal – who is also Anglo American Corporation’s largest single investor with more than 20 percent of shares – has witnessed the most sustained protest, including a mass protest in May 2018 against the Thoothukudi Sterlite copper plant, which his officials responded to with a massacre of 13 Indians demanding an end to pollution.
Protest against Africa’s largest copper mine, Konkola, centres on 1,826 Zambian farmers poisoned by Vedanta. Just before the London Stock Exchange delisting of Vedanta last month, popular reggae musician Maiko Zulu protested (and was arrested) at the British High Commission in Lusaka, demanding that authorities deny Agarwal his escape from London prior to justice being served. Agarwal bought that mine for US $25 million in 2004 and a decade later bragged that ever since he had taken US $500 million to $US 1 billion home from Konkola annually.
These sorts of Western plus BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] modes of super-exploitation exemplify the mineral, oil and gas looting underway across Africa. The uncompensated extraction of non-renewable resources amounts to an estimated US $150 billion annually, far more even than the US $50-80 billion Illicit Financial Flows and US $50 billion in legal profit repatriation from Africa by mining and petroleum firms.
But increasingly, mining houses are pushing the people and environment too far, and resistance is rising. As Anglo American Corporation leader Mark Cutifani remarked in 2015, “There is something like US $25 billion worth of projects tied up or stopped” by mining critics across the world.
How activists can increase that figure is the topic of next week’s discussions, along with moving from these critiques to strategies for post-extractivist systems of political economy, political ecology and social reproduction.
* Professor Patrick Bond teaches political economy at the Wits University School of Governance in Johannesburg, South Africa. He can be contacted at a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org>
Russia and Africa mark nearly 30 years of bilateral relations after the Soviet collapse. What does this mean from African perspectives?
Russia has a long history of bilateral engagements with the Southern African countries, which constitute the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional economic community. Russia, as part of the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), supported the concerted efforts of the Frontline States and the Liberation Movements to fight against apartheid and the existential threats posed by it.
The USSR, in this regard, provided technical and military support to most of the countries that were part of the Frontline States in order to achieve total liberation in the region. Even after the break-up of the USSR, Russia has continued to play an important role in technical assistance, economics and military support to African countries, including SADC member states – our relationship with Russia is therefore not new, it is very valuable, and need to be sustained.
The most recent visit (2018) of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to the Republics of Angola, Ethiopia, Namibia and Zimbabwe, (as we understand it) was largely focused on signing of economic cooperation agreements to attract Russian investments in key areas such as mining, aviation and energy sectors, as well as fostering military technical cooperation.
Southern African leaders are looking for investment in infrastructure, industry and trade. How would you characterize Russia’s role in Southern Africa, comparing it among BRICS?
Investment in infrastructure, industry and trade is seen as a catalyst for regional integration, economic growth, and sustainable development. In this regard, SADC welcomes investors from all over the world. It is worth noting that one of the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] countries, South Africa, is a SADC member state. Any comparison will therefore be limited to the other BRICS countries – namely Brazil, India and China.
While Russia as part of the then USSR supported SADC Frontline States and the Liberation Movements, since a few years ago, it has not been that visible in the region compared to China, India or Brazil. It is encouraging that, of recent, Russia has positioned herself to be a major partner with Southern Africa and being part of the BRICS promotes her engagement with the region, particularly in investment in minerals, aviation, defence and energy sectors.
Russia has also launched an Africa business forum, aimed at improving direct trade with the continent/region beyond the traditional sectors like mining, seeking to invest in areas like agriculture, industrial production, high technology and transport. The recent Russia and SADC Investment Forum that took place on 23 October 2018 in Russia, also sought to provide an opportunity for businesses and partnerships.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reiterated during his last African tour that Russia’s preferred focus is on Russia-SADC in its diplomacy in Africa. Why is the SADC region considered a strategic partner for Russia?
We cannot obviously speak for Russia, but we could give you a general overview of why international partners and investors would consider SADC an attractive or strategic investment partner.
There are a number of inter-related factors for this, the first being peace and stability: The SADC region is peaceful and stable. A peaceful and stable environment is attractive to investors as it fosters confidence by assurance of longevity, property rights and fundamental freedoms, which underpin economic rights. Peace in SADC is sustained through cooperation between the 16 member states of the Community, as espoused in the SADC Treaty, and in particular, the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation whose general objective is to promote peace and security in the region.
The founders of SADC had long recognised that the region could remain stable by fostering common political values, building legitimate democratic institutions and mechanisms to sustain peace as a pre-requisite for regional integration and prosperity.
Second, the region has an integrated market resulting from a combined population of approximately 327 million people, and a collective gross domestic product of US $600 billion (2016), which is supported by generally favorable weather conditions in most parts of the region.
Third, the region has abundant natural resources ranging from vast energy resources, arable land and forestry; to precious minerals such as diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, oil, and natural gas to mention but a few. These are vital for the global economy and strategic partnerships.
Notwithstanding, the above-mentioned comparative advantages the region has relatively under-developed human capabilities and infrastructure, which are essential for bolstering the region’s efforts to exploit and maximise benefits from these natural resources. Hence, the need for the region to cooperate with external partners, such as Russia, which have advanced technologies and capacities that could be transferred to the region. A peaceful and stable environment surely presents a “strategic” imperative as well.
The Russian Federation’s priorities are also in line with SADC priorities as evidenced by the priorities of the Foreign Economic Strategy in the region as indicated below:
In your estimation, what is the level of Russia’s engagement with the SADC region?
Russia and SADC member states have had long-standing bilateral partnerships for development for decades, providing substantial results in the priority areas of cooperation. Through such significant historical ties, the peoples of SADC and of Russia have strengthened friendship and mutual understanding for developing comprehensive, equitable and fruitful cooperation.
The ten SADC member states represented in the Russian Federation, namely Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe provide an extensive representation for engagement.
At the regional level, SADC and Russia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Basic Principles of Relations and Cooperation on 23 October 2018, in the following areas, among others, Technical Cooperation and Assistance; Capacity Building; Peace, Security, Conflict Prevention and Resolution; Preventive Diplomacy; Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment; Infrastructure Development, and Energy; Information Communication Technology; Transport, Communications and Meteorology; Water, Agriculture, Ocean Economy, Food Security; Minerals, Natural Resources and Protection of the Environment; Education and Science; Healthcare; Technology and Innovation; and Culture, Tourism and Information Exchange. In addition, a MOU in the area of Military - Technical Cooperation, with the aim of promoting cooperation between the Parties in regional and international peace and security was signed in July 2018.
What are the outcomes of the Russian Foreign Minister’s March 2018 visit to some SADC member states?
In March 2018, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, visited the Southern Africa region where he held talks with the Presidents of Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In his statement, the Minister noted that Russia together with Africa wanted to elevate trade, economic and investment relations to a level that would meet political and trust-based relations.
It is our considered view that the bilateral engagements served to strengthen the already existing ties, coming up with a win–win bilateral cooperation between Russia and these member states. This will be augmented by the two Memorandum of Understanding: MOU in the area of Military–Technical Cooperation, that is to promote cooperation between the parties that was signed in July 2018, and the [five-year] MOU on Basic Principles of Relations and Cooperation that was signed on 23 October 2018.
What challenges and setbacks, in your view, still remain to get both parties (Russia and Southern Africa) towards result-oriented and effectively closer in their post-Soviet economic cooperation?
SADC works closely with the International Cooperating Partners (ICPs) in achieving its developmental results. As such, SADC’s cooperation with the ICPs is guided by the principles of partnership and commitments. Both SADC and Russia value their adherence to the aims and principles of the United Nations Charter, seeking to contribute to the establishment of a democratic and just world order and to strengthen regional and inter-regional ties to ensure peace, stability, socio-economic development, and mutual confidence.
In view of the above, the thrust for SADC-Russia cooperation shall be aligned with global, continental, regional, and national policies. By so doing, both sides will be able to contribute and create favourable conditions for socio-economic development, cooperation, and mutual confidence.
Soft power and public diplomacy are largely or significantly not in Russia’s engagement with Southern Africa. What are your objective views on these issues?
If you follow the history of Russia’s engagement with Africa, and Southern Africa in particular, from the days of the USSR to the present, one is likely to find that public diplomacy by Russia has encompassed many forms. These have included, educational programmes, cultural exchanges, scholarly visitor programmes, and of course, the use of the media to cover and project issues on Africa from a Russian perspective. These are all instruments and forms of public diplomacy, which would ordinarily have the effect of reaching audiences on our continent and beyond, and impacting positively on what Russia has to offer the world. In the same vein, this can be seen as a form of “soft power” as its aim is to appeal and attract partners rather than coerce them into a relationship of one form or the other.
Arguably, do you think intermediaries will be required, for example, the private equity and commodity trading communities to play a supportive role in forging business links between Russia and Southern Africa?
Like most of the developing countries, Southern African countries have, over the years, largely relied on multilateral and regional development financial institutions to fund their development projects. However, given the huge demand for resources, policy makers have realised that these cannot be met solely from these traditional sources, and therefore, the need to explore alternative and innovative sources of funding. Private equity and commodity trading exchanges can play a critical role in mobilising resources mostly from the private sector to fund projects in the Southern African countries.
For the region to realise its enormous potential, it needs the support of the next generation of financial instruments and intermediaries to capitalise on opportunities, navigate challenges, and build the businesses and economies, that will enable the continent to thrive. Private equity could become a major force for accelerating growth in African countries. While regional penetration is low, smaller markets and modest penetration create significant potential for high risk-adjusted returns. Major growth sectors are: natural resources, transportation, energy, real estate, fintech, healthcare and hospitality. Many private equity funds are nurturing the requisite skills and experience to invest, grow and add value to portfolio/innovative companies.
Similarly, the establishment of commodity trading exchanges can play a critical role in boosting the region’s economic development. Successful securities exchanges all over the world are key to the economic development, providing the most efficient channel for savers (domestic and foreign) to channel funds into long-term productive enterprises, creating growth and increased prosperity. Since the region has a comparative advantage in the vast natural resources sector, and in line with SADC objective of developing and adding value and beneficiation concept, the setting of the commodities trading exchanges present attractive growth opportunities.
In this context, SADC has already undertaken initiatives to develop the interconnectivity project whereby the aim is to link the SADC stock exchanges, and to encourage cross border trading of shares/stocks. Efforts are also being made to improve the operational, regulatory and technical requirement underpinnings and capabilities of the region’s exchanges to make the securities markets more attractive to both regional and international investors.
The region remains a top destination for investment as its attractiveness to investment has risen dramatically over the last several years, and this should continue to present attractive growth opportunities for private equity for the foreseeable future. Private equity represents a new source of capital, complementing traditional sources and project finance, with private equity investors offering more than just funds, but also the needed skills. All said, there are positive directions in the relationship; we look for a bright future.
*Kester Kenn Klomegah writes frequently about Russia, Africa and BRICS.
Sweden, an amazing economy to many utopians or to the naive about capitalism, is experiencing pains capitalist economies feel. The capitalist crisis has already torn down that façade of the utopia. Ordinary citizens in Sweden are seeing the dream demolished. It is being manifested into politics, into electoral processes in Sweden. At the same time, ordinary citizens are trying to stand against deceptions that all varieties of bourgeoisie politics practice.
The Occupy Movement, in many forms, illuminates areas in regions far away from the heart it originated. The Occupy Movement also shows that people initiate actions in areas and at times, the mainstream abandons them.
Farooque Showdhury: There is a movement going on. Please, tell us about it and its background.
Bosse Kramsjo: Sweden is organised in three levels: government with ministries taking care of national issues, regional level (20 landsting or regions) taking care of, among other issues, health, and municipality level (290 municipalities) responsible for compulsory education, care of the elderly and many local level issues. The three levels have democratic elections at the same time every fourth years. In the election held in September 2014, the Social Democratic Party, together with the minor Green Party, formed a majority leading the Region of Västernorrland (comprising the municipalities of Sundsvall, Ånge, Timrå, Härnösand, Kramfors, Sollefteå and Örnskoldsvik, about 500 km north of the capital).
The Social Democratic Party was having a stronghold in this part of Sweden (around 40-50 percent in most of these municipalities). There are three hospitals within the region; distances from each other are quite vast. The regional main hospital is in Sundsvall while smaller units are in Örnsköldsvik and Sollefteå. Before the 2014 election, the Social Democrats promised to keep all the three hospitals with their full capacity.
However, after the election, it was decided to shut down the maternity ward and the emergency surgery in Sollefteå. Without an emergency surgery facility, you cannot have a maternity ward. This was a betrayal to all the voters around the Sollefteå hospital, mainly voters from the municipalities of Sollefteå and Kramfors as they had cast their votes to safeguard the future of the nearby safe health care facility. Delivery cases were directed to the maternity ward in Sundsvall, 130-200 km away for the inhabitants of Sollefteå municipality. This deceit was the main cause of the process, leading to a movement by organising rallies, campaigning and a 24/7 occupation of the entrance of the hospital in Sollefteå since 30 January 2017.
The uninterrupted Occupation Movement plans to continue until the emergency and maternity wards are re-opened. There are four shifts of the Occupation Movement: 07.00-12.00, 12.00-16.00, 16.00-20.00 and the over-night shift 20.00-07.00. At least five participants join every shift at daytime; during the nightshifts, it is sometimes five participants, and sometimes it comes down to three to four participants.
During daytime, participants talk over cups of coffee while some female members carry with needlework, crocheting or knitting. Quite often friends or workmates join, and sit together. Sometimes it is colleagues having a meeting while occupying. Sometimes, people from clubs or societies join the occupy protesters. At times, a family brings their children; and if it is during the nightshifts, it turns out like a camping experience for the children.
During the nightshifts, it is some talks to start with, then, watching TV news, and then preparing the inflatable beds for the night. When a shift follows another, there is some talks/gossip among the participants of the two shifts.
According to Swedish law, every citizen irrespective of income level or place of residence has the right to equal health care. Those who defend the decision to close down the hospital in Sollefteå opine that the treatment in Sundsvall is superior and that distance is a minor problem. Those against the shutdown decision claim that three full-fledged hospitals were promised during the election campaign. Moreover, the long distance is a vital problem for childbirth; and it is against the law.
Another important part of the background is the on-going process of centralisation in the Swedish economy, which is going on for decades. Marginalised municipalities in the north are with meagre employment opportunities due to heavy mechanisation in forestry and mining. These municipalities have an ever-increasing elderly population pyramid, high costs for municipalities and low inflow of tax (around 27-34 percent of an ordinary employee’s income goes to municipality tax to cover the municipality service costs; the richer municipality has the lower tax, and the poorer municipality has the higher tax).
Big companies within hydropower, forestry and mining sectors do not pay taxes in the municipality although these companies in the area exploit the rivers, timber or ore. These companies pay tax in Stockholm or overseas. Therefore, it is natural resources being exploited in the marginalised parts of the country, but very little return from these companies to the local societies. The same goes for big scale investment in wind-power over the last few years. All these are in the marginalised parts of the country while income generated from the marginalised parts goes to the centre.
The same is the government presence in the marginalised parts as well. The centralisation of government presence has been going on for long; some municipalities have no government presence at all. That has been cut off. No Employment Service Office, no Social Insurance Office, no Tax Office. The feeling of being left behind by the government policies is prevalent in the marginalised parts, no matter which political party you sympathise with.
There is a government distribution system between rich municipalities and poor municipalities. A minor part of income of the rich municipalities is forwarded to marginalised ones. This had led to an urban view declaring the marginalised municipalities as dependent and draining, being looked down upon by the big city citizens. However, the marginalised parts would like to have their fair share of all that is produced in their localities, instead of small subsidies from the rich cousins. They ask the stiff-lipped urbanites: Where do you get electricity from (hydropower and wind power)? Your steel? Your paper and stationary? Your construction timber?
It is also very provoking, from a marginalised point of view, when the maternity ward in Sollefteå is closed due to budget cuts, some per mille of the total regional health budget (15.8 million SEK [US $ 1,7 million] a year as total cost for the Sollefteå maternity ward) although enormous investment are being made in the new Karolinska Institutet, a mega-hospital in Stockholm. There, through that hospital-investment, billions of SEK have been flowing into pockets of domestic and foreign construction firms; golden and extremely costly consultant contracts have been signed; and a flow of over-priced equipment have been supplied by entrepreneurs. All these were praised by new-liberal leaders in the Stockholm region, as they are serving their profit hunting supporters rather than the health needs of the citizens.
FS: How was the 24/7 Occupy Movement organised?
BK: It was organised not by any political party, but by concerned and deceived citizens. Leadership of the movement came often with vast professional experience from the health sector. Over time, national as well as regional level party leaders have visited the movement. The Leftist and feminist ones were promising to re-open the closed down parts of the hospital, and the neo-liberal ones were going for privatisation with the scope of the same kind of re-opening.
FS: Why this sort of movement?
BK: As the majority of the region, Social Democrats and Green Party, deceived their voters, ordinary people did this to safeguard their legal right to health care.
FS: What achievement has this movement made so far?
BK: As mentioned above, many party professionals have visited and made promises in favour of Sollefteå hospital. The Social Democratic Party in the nearby municipalities of Sollefeå and Kramfors is supporting the movement, against the will of the regional and national levels of the party. We had an election on 9 September 2018. In the regional election, the Social Democrats and the Green Party were heavily punished by the voters; decreasing their mandate a lot. The parties promising to re-open the Sollefteå hospital full-fledged increased their mandate. However, it will take time, before the new setting of the political leadership of the region is in action. It is visible that the movement definitely had an important influence.
FS: What is the strength of this movement?
BK: The engagement of ordinary people, which is not a traditional party-driven affair, is one of the strengths of the movement. The leadership of the movement is versed in health related economy and administration. The Occupy Movement is continuing; it will be two years by this January2019. This persistence is very important. There was lots of support from individuals, organisations, etc. from all over the country. The Occupy Movement, many identify it as sit-in, is well known. Television teams from a number of European countries including the British Broadcasting Corporation have visited the Occupy Movement. Their purpose was mainly to report about a Swedish welfare programme cracking as many praised the Swedish welfare system for decades. A Russian media team was there to report; their conclusion was that the welfare crumbled due to the immigration. Depending on ideology, you can find any kind of cause.
FS: And, weakness?
BK: Many of the occupants are senior (a majority of citizens in the northern inland municipalities). So far, some 2,800 different individuals have occupied the position. Many are doing it on regular basis (like Maria and myself, one night 20.00-07.00 every fortnight), some are occupying several times a week. Many supporting a full-fledged hospital do not take part in the Occupy Movement/sit-in. They might find it too “political”; they have never taken part in action-oriented stands. They probably feel shy and think that you have to be skilled at arguing, if you take active part. Thousands of cars in the region have stickers saying, “I support Sollefteå hospital”; in shops and in companies you see posters expressing the same support.
Another weakness is, of course, that none of the big political parties (neither at national nor at regional level) is supporting the re-opening of the full-fledged hospital. However, that itself is the main reason for the creation of the movement.
FS: How are you trying to overcome the weaknesses?
BK: Before the 9 September election this year, the movement had a number of seminars asking the political parties about their stands on this issue. Every party had to make their position on Sollefteå hospital clear. The outcome was up for those supporting the hospital issue, very much down for those sticking to the need of saving money and keep Sollefteå hospital capacity down.
FS: What is the movement’s implication in society, politics, culture and organisation?
BK: There is a lot of support at national level. The Occupy Movement/sit-in is known all over the country although many big city dwellers cannot put Sollefteå on a Sweden map. Local companies are supporting with fruit-baskets, coffee-machine, television-set, etc. An exhibition about giving birth in cars on way to far away maternity wards was held. Many radio and television programmes and debates about the issue have been broadcast/telecast.
I would like to present a perspective to the scene:
A lot of regional, as well as national and local (municipality), level politics is how to restrict tax-financed activities, how to save money, and how to stick to budget. It is widely propagated. To be “responsible” is to be very strictly sticking to budget. A “successful” leadership is managing to use less money than budgeted, all this in tax-financed activities. Tax income for all three administration-levels has decreased heavily after the eight years of neo-liberal rule. They “reformed” the taxation system five times, “more money in your purse”, leading to vast holes in the tax-financed sector. This is the main reason behind the lack of resources for the public sector.
The new-liberal era has introduced private actors in the health, elderly care and education sectors. It is called “freedom of choice”. This means that the big city can offer dozens of alternatives within each of the sectors while the only health clinic in rural centres is wiped out. Market has taken over from need and legal right.
The Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left try to minimise the profit level of private education companies (called Free Schools in Sweden, another example of new-liberal word washing, as a more accurate term would be profit-seeking schools) in the parliament. A maximum of annual 7 percent profit was their proposal. This was called communism in one of the big dailies (perhaps we have to find out what communism is actually about). They were voted down in the parliament.
Nowadays, private companies are well established within the health sector. Modern capitalism has very successfully entered the scene of tax-financed sectors, a fresh area to make profits. Private recruiting companies are buying doctors and nurses. When regional hospitals cannot recruit (as the doctors and nurses have already listed themselves with the private recruiting companies), they are forced to turn to the recruiting companies. It becomes expensive. There are examples of doctors cutting gold as rented professionals, rented nurses earning two-three times more than the regular staff with long experience. The main reason for the region having enormous budget deficit is their bills for rented professionals. It is part of the new-liberal success-story. However, it is expensive for the taxpayers.
Thank you for the interview.
* Bosse Kramsjo was a faculty member in a development studies related institute run by the Swedish government.
*Farooque Chowdhury is a freelancer from Dhaka, Bangladesh, who recently interviewed Bosse.
1) The distance between Sollefteå and Stockholm is some 500 km, the distance between Sollefteå municipality and the regional main hospital in Sundsvall is about 150 km. Maria, and Bosse live 30 km east of Sollefteå town.
2) www.adalen2017.seand similar searches carry information and photos of the Occupy Movement.
Last month, a front-page Globearticle added to an abundance of evidence suggesting Paul Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) shot down the plane carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana, which sparked the mass killings of the spring of 1994. “New informationsupports claims Kagame forces were involved in [the] assassination that sparked Rwandan genocide”, noted the headline. The Globe all but confirmed that the surface-to-air missiles used to assassinate the Rwandan and Burundian Hutu presidents came from Uganda, which backed the RPF’s bid to conquer its smaller neighbour. (A few thousand exiled Tutsi Ugandan troops, including the deputy ministerof defence, “deserted” to invade Rwanda in 1990.) The new revelations strengthen those who argue that the responsibility for the mass killings in spring 1994 largely rests with the Ugandan/RPF aggressors and their United States/British/Canadian backers.
Despite publishing multiple stories over the past two years questioning the dominant narrative, The Globehas largely ignored the Canadians that shaped this Kagame-friendly storyline. I have writtena number of articlesdetailing Roméo Dallaire’s important role in this sordid affair, but another widely regarded Canadian has offered significant ideological support to Kagame’s crimes in Rwanda and the Congo.
As Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF in the late 1990s, Stephen Lewis was appointed to a “Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and the Surrounding Events”. Reportedly instigated by United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and partly funded by Canada, the Organisation of African Unity’s 2000 report, “The Preventable Genocide”, was largely written by a Lewis recruit, Gerald Caplan, who was dubbed Lewis’ “close friendand alter ego of nearly 50 years.”
While paying lip service to the complex interplay of ethnic, class and regional politics, as well as international pressure, that spurred the “Rwandan Genocide”, the 300-page report is premised on the unsubstantiated claim that there was a high level plan by the Hutu government to kill all Tutsi. It ignores the overwhelming logic and evidence pointing to the RPF as the culprit in shooting down the plane carrying President Habyarimana and much of the army high command, which sparked the mass killings of spring 1994.
The report also rationalises Rwanda’s repeated invasions of the Congo, including a 1,500 km march to topple the Mobutu regime in Kinshasa and subsequent re-invasion after the government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. That led to millions of deaths during an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003.
In a Democracy Nowinterview concerning the 2000 Eminent Personalities report Lewis mentioned “evidence of majorhuman rights violations on the part of the present [Kagame] government of Rwanda, particularly post-genocide in the Kivus and in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” But, he immediately justified the slaughter, which surpassed Rwanda’s 1994 casualty toll. “Now, let me say that the [Eminent Personalities] panel understands that until Rwanda’s borders are secure, there will always be these depredations. And another terrible failure of the international community was the failure to disarm the refugee camps in the then-Zaire, because it was an invitation to the génocidairesto continue to attack Rwanda from the base within the now- Congo. So we know that has to be resolved. That’s still what’s plaguing the whole Great Lakes region.”
An alternative explanation of “what’s plaguing the whole Great Lakes region” is United States/United Kingdom/Canada backed Ugandan/RPF belligerence, which began with their invasion of Rwanda in 1990 and continued with their 1996, 1998 and subsequent invasions of the Congo. “An unprecedented600-page investigation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”, reported a 2010 Guardianstory, found Rwanda responsible for “crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even genocide” in the Congo.
Fifteen years after the mass killing in Rwanda in 1994 Lewis was still repeating Kagame’s rationale for unleashing mayhem in the Congo. In 2009 he told a Washington DC audience that, “just yesterdaymorning up to two thousand Rwandan troops crossed into the Eastern Region of the Congo to hunt down, it is said, the Hutu génocidaires.”
A year earlier Lewis blamed Rwandan Hutu militias for the violence in Eastern Congo. “What’s happening in eastern Congo is the continuation of the genocide in Rwanda ... The Hutu militias that sought refuge in Congo in 1994, attracted by its wealth, are perpetrating rape, mutilation, cannibalism with impunity from world opinion.”
In 2009 The Rwanda News Agencydescribed Lewis as “a very closefriend to President Paul Kagame.” And for good reason, Lewis has sought to muzzle any questioning of the “RPF and United States-United Kingdom-Canadian party line” on the tragedy of 1994. In 2014 he signed an open letter condemning the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary Rwanda: The Untold Story. The 1,266 word public letter refers to the BBC’s “genocide denial”, “genocide deniers” or “deniers” at least 13 times. Notwithstanding Lewis and his co-signers’ smears, which gave Kagame cover to ban the BBC’s Kinyarwanda station, Rwanda: The Untold Storyincludes interviews with a former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a former high-ranking member of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda and a number of former RPF associates of Kagame.
In “The Kagame-PowerLobby’s Dishonest Attack on the BBC 2’s Documentary on Rwanda”, Edward S. Herman and David Peterson write: “[Lewis, Gerald Caplan, Romeo Dallaire et al.’s] cry of the immorality of ‘genocide denial’ provides a dishonest cover for Paul Kagame’s crimes in 1994 and for his even larger crimes in Zaire-DRC [Congo]. ... [The letter signees are] apologists for Kagame Power, who now and in years past have served as intellectual enforcers of an RPF and US-UK-Canadian party line.”
Recipient of 37 honorary degrees from Canadian universities, Lewis has been dubbed a “spokesperson for Africa” and “one of the greatestCanadians ever”. On Africa no Canadian is more revered than Lewis. While he is widely viewed as a champion of the continent, Lewis has backed Africa’s most bloodstained ruler.
It is now time for The Globe and Mailto peel back another layer of the rotting onion of propaganda and investigate Canadian connections to crimes against humanity in Rwanda, Congo and the wider Great Lakes region of Africa.
* Yves Engler is the author of Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
For the past eight years, we have watched our birth country of Rwanda descend further into repression resulting from the political intolerance of its leaders. In 2010, when Victoire Ingibire Umuhoza tried to run for president, the first woman in the country to do so as a bona fide opponent, she was accused of political crimes and put in prison. Four years later, after performing a wonderfully inspiring and unifying song, beloved gospel artist Kizito Mihigo also was accused of political crimes and put in prison.
We watched as the ballooning tyrannyof the Rwandan government swallowed up any sense of independence, any dissent, opposition, defiance, or challenge in the public and private lives of Rwandans. Journalists were jailed, killed, or exiled; citizens disappeared without a trace; and neighbouring nations were torn and occupied. The message from the ruling government was clear: severe punishment for non-conformity and non-acquiescence to its prescribed mandate. A perceived challenge, even in the form of a compassionate song or an attempt to provide alternative leadership, was severely punished. Aggression against neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congoand extreme constriction and limits within the Rwandan political space became the standard function. In the face of such a terrifying reality, activist Ingabire and singer Mihigo displayed incredible courage.
On 14 September 2018, Rwandan people rejoiced at the news that the two political prisoners, Ingabire and Mihigo, had been “pardoned” by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. The next day, 2,400 other prisoners were released. Social media lit up with pictures and videos in celebration. Judging by the jubilations, the event was like Rwanda’s version of South Africa’s freeing of Nelson Mandela from prison. President Kagame’s allies quickly laid claim to victory and credited the political prisoners’ release to Kagame’s moral grandeur and benevolence.
Lost in the fray and celebratory noise was the fact that President Kagame should have never imprisoned either of the two and therefore should not claim moral victory for their pardon. Ingabire was imprisoned on the charges of genocide denial, a sweeping charge used against criticswho call for accountability for crimes committed by President Kagame’s ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and its military wing, the Rwandan Patriotic Army, before, during, and after the Rwandan Genocide. Her real “crime,” however, was daring to challenge President Kagame in the presidential election of 2010.
In fact, another woman, Diane Rwigara [she and her mother were later released from prison], spent a year in pre-trial detention for the same “crime,”after attempting to challenge President Kagame in the subsequent 2017 elections. Kizito Mihigo, the beloved and popular gospel musician, was imprisoned after singing a songthat boldly challenged President Kagame’s official version of the genocide that conveniently erases crimes committed by his party’s troops. Mihigo’s song squarely acknowledged the victims of Kagame’s RPF troops. That President Kagame would claim moral victory for the pardon is absurd.
Soon after her release, Ingabire gave a passionate interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in which she reaffirmed her commitment to her cause, and vowed to continue her previous activities, including advocating for other political prisoners such as Diane Rwigara and Deo Mushayidi. When pressed about whether she asked for pardon from President Kagame, she proudly proclaimed she had asked to be released according to Rwanda’s constitutional provision that gives the president the ability to release individuals from prison. She referred to the decision of the independent and international African Court of Human and People’s Rights, a court that had the jurisdiction to hear an appeal of the Rwandan courts’ judgment against her. Particularly, the court ruledthat her rights to a fair trial had been violated, vindicating her.
Ingabire in her BBC interview also reaffirmed her innocence, and defiantly reiterated that there was no crime for which she should have been imprisoned in the first place. Soon after her interview, President Kagame gave a speech of his own, in which he responded to her interview. He mockingly mimicked her assertion that she did not seek pardon, ridiculed her status as an international “star” politician, and threatened to throw her back in jail, should she fail to toe the line.
The reality shown by these releases is that President Kagame is crumbling under increasing pressure from the international community and needs positive press to rehabilitate his image. Rwandans and international allies have methodically applied constant pressure for the Rwandan government to release these innocent political prisoners, their supporters, and thousands of innocent Rwandans languishing in prison. Through social media, connections have been made with other ordinary Africans also pursuing democracy in their respective nations, and together, the combined voices grew into a mainstream chorus. These voices continue to reach many people who would otherwise not be exposed to nor know the extent of President Kagame’s brutality, repression, and dictatorial rule.
Outside of Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, most of Africa’s young population and the larger international community have been misled by President Kagame’s public relations mastery. In fact, lots of Africans treat President Kagame as a saviour—but millions of Rwandans and Congolese know he is not. In the late 1990s as he ascended into the global political stratosphere, President Kagame was proclaimed to be part of a “new breed of African leaders” that would usher in a new era in African leadership and politics, an era devoid of past shortcomings. Since then, social media and technology have served in spreading the word of his true actions, hidden from the world at large. More than at any time in the past, African youth and the larger international community are awakening to the brutality of President Kagame and his godfather, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The added attention from social media has helped highlight the plight of Rwanda’s political prisoners Ingabire and Mihigo, along with tortured Ugandan musician and politician Bobi Wine.
It is now evident that the hard work by global citizens against the dictatorial regimes continues. The release of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and Kizito Mihigo is evidence that pressure on dictators like Kagame does work and must be sustained and increased. The media has produced reports, leading to limited access in diplomatic circles. Many donor nations have reduced aid. Kagame is looking to bolster his image. The celebrations of Ingabire’s and Mihigo’s freedom should not forget those who are still behind bars or who are missing—Deo Mushayidi, Theoneste Niyitegeka, Jean D’Amour Ngirinshuti, Lionel Nishimwe, and many political opponents. Let the celebrations not allow Kagame to claim the giving of pardon when he should be asking for the pardon of Rwandans and Congolese people. Let the celebrations not allow Kagame to cynically use this as another public relations campaign to regain favour with donors and the international community.
* Claude Gatebuke is a Rwandan war and genocide survivor. He is the executive director and co-founder of the African Great Lakes Action Network. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. Twitter @AGLANglr. Alice Gatebuke is a Rwandan genocide and war survivor, and a human rights advocate. She serves as the communications Director for African Great Lakes Action Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @AGLANglr