This Blog contains articles of interest to me.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Islam needs Radicals, Not Moderates (and So Do We): Mark A LeVine

Mark A. LeVine

Islam Needs Radicals, Not Moderates (and So Do We)
George W. Bush. Tony Blair. Sylvio Berlusconi. Jacques Chirac. Along with most every other Western leader and innumerable pundits and policy-makers, they are frantically searching for the "moderate Muslims" who can save Islam from itself and improve relations between Muslims and the West.

The problem is that there's no such thing as a moderate Muslim, at least the way most Americans define the term. Look at whom we call moderate: President Bush, joined by many leading commentators, consistently cites Jordan's King Abdullah and Morocco's King Muhammad as the epitome of modern, moderate Muslim leaders. But a glance at the Amnesty International reports on their countries, or those of Egypt, Pakistan and other so-called moderate regimes, reveals them to be anything but moderate in the way they treat their citizens. In fact, the level of repression and censorship of most "moderate" regimes is as great as at any time since 9/11.

What we really mean by "moderate" are leaders who play by our rules, don't challenge US/Western power and policies, and suppress any militant tendencies against us among their own peoples. Not surprisingly, the peoples of the region have a different view of these leaders: they are oppressive handmaidens of American empire.

Looking for something called moderate Islam is an equally problematic enterprise. President Bush famously argued that "Islam means peace" after 9/11 as a way of signaling support for moderate Islam. That's a nice sentiment, except that Islam doesn't mean peace; it means submission to the will of God, which as anyone familiar with the history of the last two millennia knows, has historically involved quite the opposite of peace. Similarly, commentators often celebrate the possibility of a moderate Islam by pointing to a hadith, or saying of the Prophet, that argues that the "greater jihad" of self-introspection and improvement is more fundamental for Muslims than the "lesser jihad" of war and violence. But as anyone familiar with Islamic law knows, most Muslim scholars consider it a "weak" hadith and not the Prophet's actual words. In fact, its use by reformers in during the last century has been met with scorn by conservatives, who see it as evidence that "moderates" have a poor grasp of their own theology and law.

In the last two decades a "moderate" school of Islamist jurisprudence has in fact emerged (known as the wasatiya movement in Arabic) that has tried to balance the body of Islamic law with the needs and norms of modern societies. But its leaders have been variously coopted or censored by their governments, or are quite immoderate when it comes to Jews, homosexuality or full equality for women. The ones that are truly moderate strongly oppose almost every facet of US foreign policy and our hyper consumerist culture, for which they are labeled "radicals" by their governments and ours.

What is interesting is that most so-called "radical" Islamic movement, such as al-Qa'eda, are in reality not that radical. Instead, they bear striking resemblances to utopian movements from the Jacobins of post-Revolutionary France to the fascists and Maoists of the last century. The tools used to wage their war--from the internet to the suicide vest--are new; but their desire violently to purify their societies is all too familiar.

What would a truly radical Muslim look like? Perhaps like a young Shi'i Sheikh named Anwar I met in Baghdad. He is known as the "Elastic Sheikh" because of his religious and secular university degrees and willingness to use "whatever works, wherever it comes from" to help the residents of his Sadr City neighborhood solve the myriad problems they face. Sadly, I have not heard from him in months, and fear he is among the victims of the increasing violence against the city's Shi'i population.

Or he might look like a friend of mine from Casablanca named Reda. One of the leaders of the Moroccan heavy metal scene, he's also a soon-to-be Ph.D. in Islamic studies at the Sorbonne. But he and his musical comrades were labeled as Satanists by moderate Islamists and arrested by the moderate Moroccan Government because they dared to write powerful--and really loud--songs that challenge the country's patriarchal politics and culture.

Or they might look like Nadia Yassine, the leader of Morocco's biggest political force, the religiously oriented Justice and Development movement. In our first meeting she explained that Islam was "hijacked by men" after the Prophet Muhammad's death and has suffered for it ever since. The next time I saw her she suggested that Morocco might be better off as a republic rather than a monarchy, a view that landed her in jail courtesy of the moderate government of Morocco.

It is she who first suggested to me that what Islam needs are radicals, not moderate--"but radicals in a good sense." Sitting next to her and nodding in agreement was the Swiss Muslim philosopher Tariq Ramadan. One of the leading progressive voices in Europe, his visa to teach at Notre Dame was revoked by the US government on trumped charges of being "tied to terrorists." This only months after senior CIA and State Department analysts asked me how they could find more Muslims "who are the real deal like him."

My radical friends are routinely oppressed by their governments, attacked by conservatives, obstructed by the US, and ignored by the media and peace groups who should be highlighting their activities and struggles. This suggests they're doing something right, and that we should be doing more to help them. Of course, that would be pretty radical; but how else to achieve the radical transformation that is necessary to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East, not to mention to America?

Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 at 8:58 AM

History News Network

History News Network

Mark LeVine: A Critical Voice of the New Generation

Mark LeVine: A Critical Voice of the New Generation

American Muslims and a Meaningful Human Rights Discourse in the Aftermath of Septemtber 11 by by Imam Zaid Shakir

American Muslims and a Meaningful Human Rights Discourse in the Aftermath of Septemtber 11 by by Imam Zaid Shakir


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pakistan's Dispensability Indispensable for War on Terror, Dispensable for Relief Aid by Junaid Ahmed

ZNet South Asia
Pakistan's DispensabilityIndispensable for War on Terror, Dispensable for Relief Aid
by Junaid Ahmad; October 10, 2005
Pakistan has just suffered its most horrific earthquake in nearly a century. At the time of writing the estimated number of dead and injured is 20,000 & 42,000, respectively. There is a high likelihood that these numbers will increase as more and more villages, towns, and buildings are discovered to have been razed to the ground. Stories of several schools with young children being wiped out by the sheer power of the earthquake make all of us following the situation tremble at the unthinkable thought.
President Musharraf of Pakistan has declared his country’s need for support at this hour. It was rather unusual hearing these pleas from a man who tends to mask himself as a knight-in-shinning-armor in no need of anyone’s help and more than willing to tell those who question or advise him to shove it. Of course, this is only a veneer that cloaks the reality of his hyper-machismoism against some – like women’s rights groups – and his meekness against others – Uncle Sam.
And so there are some initial pledges of aid to Pakistan: The European Union has pledged $3.6 million, Australia $380,000, and the UK $177,000 and a 60-strong team to help with on-the-ground work. What about the country for which Pakistan took a complete “U-turn” in its whole framework of foreign policy after 9/11, for which Pakistan was an indispensable ally in the “war on terror,” for which Musharraf had himself experienced at least two assassination attempts, and for which all types of ideologies – such as “enlightened moderation” – have been cooked up to serve the needs of the neo-liberal Empire? What about the United States and its generosity to its dear friend Pakistan? A paltry $100,000 is our answer.
This buying on the cheap of certain allies whose services are required by the Empire is nothing new. So-called allies that are more aptly described as client states or puppets needn’t be concerned about whether or not they’ll be compensated; rather, they should simply do as they’re told or look at the Vietnams or Cubas of the world to figure out what the penalty for disobedience will be. The US consistently pressures the Pakistani regime, like it has done and continues to do to other regimes, to take positions and actions contrary to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of its population. Musharraf’s attempt to help his friend Bush out in Iraq by sending troops was so scandalous and contemptible that he simple wasn’t able to pull it off. However, something as deeply unpopular – the “normalization” of ties with Israel – he does think that he just might be able to pull off if rendered support from well-placed power centers in Washington and at home.
It will also be interesting to see how some of the gulf Arab states respond to this enormous crisis of a fellow Muslim “brotherly” country. The outrage is still held in the hearts of many who noticed how the governments of Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar quickly pledged one hundred million dollars each (and Kuwait an additional $400 million in free oil) to the US in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but did not show the same alacrity or generosity in their response to the far greater Asian tsunami, and only forked the cash from their purses when their “honor” was put in question by many, including the majority of Muslims, who found their stingy reaction repugnant.
Whatever one may think of the politics of such cozy relationships between the US and unaccountable governments in the Third World, the story seems to be a simple but sad one. The regimes of these countries offered the friendship of the US outlived their real life expectancy in power by many years, thanks to US support. Washington’s assurance of adhering to the principle that stability and its geo-strategic interests requires keeping the Musharrafs and the “petrol station” monarchies of the Middle East in power, and the heavy weaponry and arming-to-the-teeth this necessitates, has allowed these illegitimate governments to fare quite well. But as this devastating earthquake in Pakistan has shown, even if their governments are close allies of the US, the peoples of these countries should be under no illusion of getting anything positive out of this “friendly” arrangement. In the majority of the cases, with neo-liberalism and militaristic Empire-building on the march, the results are in fact quite the opposite.

Perhaps embarrassing Washington and the Gulf Arab states is unfortunately what is once more required to get more crumbs from their massive treasuries and limitless personal bank accounts. Let us hope and pray, for those affected by this disaster and future ones.
Junaid S. Ahmad is a law student at the College of William and Mary. He can be reached at junaid.ahmad@cox.net

Global Warming "Past the Point of No Return" by Steve Connor, Science Editor

SANE Views

Vol 5, no 21, 10 October 2005



A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.
Satellites monitoring the Arctic have found that the extent of the sea ice this August has reached its lowest monthly point on record, dipping an unprecedented 18.2 per cent below the long-term average.

Experts believe that such a loss of Arctic sea ice in summer has not occurred in hundreds and possibly thousands of years. It is the fourth year in a row that the sea ice in August has fallen below the monthly downward trend - a clear sign that melting has accelerated.
Scientists are now preparing to report a record loss of Arctic sea ice for September, when the surface area covered by the ice traditionally reaches its minimum extent at the end of the summer melting period.
Sea ice naturally melts in summer and reforms in winter but for the first time on record this annual rebound did not occur last winter when the ice of the Arctic failed to recover significantly. Arctic specialists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University, who have documented the gradual loss of polar sea ice since 1978, believe that a more dramatic melt began about four years ago.

In September 2002 the sea ice coverage of the Arctic reached its lowest level in recorded history. Such lows have normally been followed the next year by a rebound to more normal levels, but this did not occur in the summers of either 2003 or 2004. This summer has been even worse. Thesurface area covered by sea ice was at a record monthly minimum for each of the summer months - June, July and now August. Scientists analysing the latest satellite data for September - the traditional minimum extent for each summer - are preparing to announce a significant shift in the stability of the Arctic sea ice, the northern hemisphere's major "heat sink" that moderates climatic extremes.

"The changes we've seen in the Arctic over the past few decades are nothing short of remarkable," said Mark Serreze, one of the scientists at the Snow and Ice Data Centre who monitor Arctic sea ice. Scientists at the data centre are bracing themselves for the 2005 annual minimum, which is expected to be reached in mid-September, when anotherrecord loss is forecast. A major announcement is scheduled for 20 September. "It looks like we're going to exceed it or be real close one way or the other. It is probably going to be at least as comparable to September 2002," Dr Serreze said. "This will be four Septembers in a row that we've seen a downward trend. The feeling is we are reaching a tipping point or threshold beyond which sea ice will not recover."
The extent of the sea ice in September is the most valuable indicator of its health. This year's record melt means that more of the long-term ice formed over many winters - so called multi-year ice - has disappeared than at any time in recorded history. Sea ice floats on the surface of the Arctic Ocean and its neighbouring seas and normally covers an area of some 7 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) during September - about the size of Australia.

However, in September 2002, this dwindled to about 2 million square miles - 16 per cent below average. Sea ice data for August closely mirrors that for September and last month's record low - 18.2 per cent below the monthly average - strongly suggests that this September will see the smallest coverage of Arctic sea ice ever recorded.
As more and more sea ice is lost during the summer, greater expanses of open ocean are exposed to the sun which increases the rate at which heat is absorbed in the Arctic region, Dr Serreze said. Sea ice reflects up to 80 per cent of sunlight hitting it but this "albedo effect" is mostly lost when the sea is uncovered.

"We've exposed all this dark ocean to the sun's heat so that the overall heat content increases," he explained.
Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University. "When the ice becomes so thin it breaks up mechanically rather than thermodynamically. So these predictions may well be on the over-optimistic side," he said.

As the sea ice melts, and more of the sun's energy is absorbed by the exposed ocean, a positive feedback is created leading to the loss of yet more ice, Professor Wadhams said. "If anything we may be underestimating the dangers. The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback," he said.
Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said. "You're essentially changing land into ocean andthe creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters," he said.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005


Professor Issa G. Shivji

Issa Shivji tackles the history of the development discourse in Africa, discussing its changing meanings from the colonial period to post-independence rule and the onset of structural adjustment programmes in the 1980s – Africa’s lost decade. The new development discourse of neo-liberalism (otherwise known as globalization) continues historical forms of dispossession, Shivji notes, but there is also hope in the fact that Africa’s history is not only of slavery,
exploitation and colonialism. It is also a story of struggle, as Julius Nyerere wrote, against these evils, and of battles won after many setbacks and much suffering.


‘From development to poverty reduction,’ sums up the trajectory of the development discourse in Africa over the last four decades since independence. This development marks significant shifts, not only in economic approaches and policies, but also in academic theories and political ideologies underpinning the discourse. In this article, my aim is to reflect on broad trends in the changing discourse unencumbered by details and empirical data.

I will organise my reflections around four aspects of the discourse: first the institutional and social agency of development; second, its ideological rationalization or justification; third, the theories underlying the discourse and, fourth, its politics.
The contextual theme running through the discourse is Africa’s place and role in the global political economy and its relationship with the developed North, or, more correctly, the imperial factor.

Although my subject is not really the history of the development discourse, some periodisation is necessary to highlight the breaks and continuities in the ideas on development. The first two decades after independence, roughly the 1960s and 1970s, may be called the ‘age of
developmentalism’. The next decade, that is the 1980s, has been characterised as Africa’s lost decade. This is the period which spawned various structural adjustment programmes or SAPs under the tutelage of the IMF and the World Bank. SAPs prepared the ground for and dovetailed into the next, or the current period, which may be characterised as the ‘age of globalisation’?

The Age of Developmentalism

The struggle for independence in Africa was first and foremost an assertion of the humanness of the African people after five centuries of domination and humiliation of the slave trade and colonialism. In the words of Tom Mboya, the struggle for independence was the ‘rediscovery of Africa by Africans’ while Amilcar Cabral described it as the ‘re-Africanisation of minds’ or ‘re-becoming Africans’. National development became the passion of politicians and the ‘great expectation’ of the people. In the vision of the more articulate nationalist leaders like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, the independent state had a double task, that of building the nation and developing the economy. The state in Africa, Nyerere argued, preceded the nation, rather than the other way round. Thus the national project was from the start, top-down, and statist.
The colonial economy and society were anything but national. In the scramble for Africa, the colonial powers had divided the continent into mini-countries where boundaries cut through cultural, ethnic and economic affinities. This was made worse by the policy of divide and rule, leaving behind uneven development in an extreme form. Some regions were more developed than others. Some ethnic groups were labelled martial, providing a recruiting ground for soldiers; others were turned into labour reservoirs; some were characterised as “intelligent” and moderately entrepreneurial as opposed to the rest who were inherently indolent and lazy. All were of course uncivilized, uncultured, undisciplined pagans whose souls needed to be saved and whose skins needed to be thrashed.

The colonial economy was typically disarticulated, almost tailor-made, for exploitation by colonial capital, linked to the metropolitan trade and capital circuits. Extractive industries like mining predominated. Plantation agriculture existed side by side with subsistence peasant cultivation, all concentrating on one or a couple of crops for export according to the needs of the metropolitan economy.

Different colonial powers left behind different forms and traditions of public administration, culture, cuisine, dance and education, elementary as it was, all concentrated in towns. The urban and the rural were literally two countries within one; one alien, modern, a metropolitan transplant barred to the native – while the other stagnating and frozen in the so-called tradition or custom. But neither the modern nor the traditional were organically so. Both were colonial constructs.

No other continent suffered as much destruction of its social fabric through foreign imperial domination as did Africa.

I have traced these initial conditions on the eve of independence for two reasons. Firstly, to underline the fact that the nationalist project faced a formidable task at independence. Secondly, to highlight an even more formidable reality; that the state that was supposed to carry out the twin tasks of nation-building and economic development was itself a colonial heritage. The colonial state was a despotic state, a metropolitan
police and military outpost, in which powers were concentrated and centralized and where law was an unmediated instrument of force and where administrative fiat was more a rule, than the rule of law.

The nationalist vision thus called for a revolutionary transformation not only of the economy and society but also the state. A few nationalist visionaries attempted, but none succeeded. The post-independence international context was no more propitious than the colonial. Independence found Africa in the midst of Cold War and the rising imperial power, the United States, for whom any assertion of national self-determination was “communism”, to be hounded and destroyed, by force if necessary, by manipulation and deception, if possible. The early story of the gruesome assassination of Patrice
Lumumba and the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, and the continuing story of military coups, assassinations, and resistance to national liberation wars and civil strife in Africa, in most of which imperialism had a hand, bear testimony to what the former colonial powers and the rising imperial power could do to retain their collective global hegemony.

These were then the initial conditions, so to speak, within which African nationalists had to realise their dream of nation-building and economic development and to answer their people’s ‘great expectations’. Invariably, the agency of change was the state since there was virtually no social class which could shoulder the task of national development.
Nor was foreign capital obliging in spite of various protective laws and incentive schemes put in place by the African governments.

Invariably, nationalist politicians turned to the state. African governments of all ideological hues – from capitalist Kenyans through socialist Tanzanians to Marxists of various inclinations– all resorted to the state for their economic programmes. The post-independence economic programmes, contrary to the current propaganda from the West, were designed by the erstwhile World Bank. In effect it involved intensification of the monoculture agriculture for export; some enclaves of import-substitution industrialization and throwing open of the extractive and resource based industries to trans-national corporations.

The state had to be manned. The colonial bureaucracy was almost exclusively White at the top and immigrant in the middle. The education and health infrastructure had to be expanded, both for pragmatic as well as political reasons. Africanisation of the civil service could not be resisted nor could the basic welfare demands of the population. Provision of basic services by the state as a matter of fact also served to legitimise the otherwise authoritarian rule of the political elite. The state bureaucracy grew by leaps and bounds.

Nationalism thus resolved itself into various ideologies of developmentalism. ‘We should run while others walk’, politicians declared. The academia was dominated from the North. Post-independence economies were typically dual economies. There was the traditional sector, rural, unproductive, backward, lacking entrepreneurial spirit and governed by ascription or the ‘economy of affection’.

Development consisted in modernizing the traditional society.

The dominance of modernization paradigm was challenged by young academics coming out of post-independence universities. Where there was relatively a freer space, as in Tanzania of the 60s and 70s, intense debates raged between modernizers and radical nationalists calling themselves African socialists or Ujamaaists or Marxists.

African progressives placed history of the development of underdevelopment and the role of imperialism as the process of worldwide accumulation, at the centre of their analysis and understanding. The traditional, they argued, was not quite traditional, nor the modern quite modern; rather both belonged to the system of international capitalism which reproduced development in the metropoles and underdevelopment in the peripheries.

Development therefore was not a process of changing ‘pattern variables’ or looking for modernizing elites but rather a process of class struggle.

Meanwhile, the state became both the site of power struggles as well as accumulation. Radical nationalists, who showed any vision of transforming their societies, were routed through military coups or assassinations. A few who survived compromised themselves and became compradors or tolerated imperial arrogance for pragmatic reasons.

Everywhere, politics became authoritarian, whether in the form of one-party states or outright military dictatorships. Liberal constitutional orders imposed by the departing colonial states did not survive as the underlying logic of the colonial despotic state reasserted itself.

State positions opened up opportunities for seeking rents. Conspicuous consumption at home, a little investment in unproductive activities to make quick profits and a lot of stashing of funds in foreign bank accounts was, and perhaps still is, the typical characteristic of this class. Thus very little serious domestic private accumulation took place. Whatever investment that did take place was public, by the state.

During the first one-and-half decades of independence the African economies showed modest growth rates; modest in comparison to other continents but impressive given the initial conditions at the time of independence.

Investment and savings ranged between 15 to 20 per cent of the GDP. Primary and secondary school enrolment was expanded. Tertiary education, which in many countries literally did not exist during colonial times, was introduced. Medical and health statistics also showed improvement. But this growth and development was unsustainable. It was predicated on the reinforcement of colonial foundations.

Growth in agriculture production was based on extensive cultivation rather than a rise in productivity through chemicalization, mechanization and irrigation. It depended heavily on exports of a few primary commodities traded on a hostile and adverse international market. The growth in the manufacturing industry was heavily of the import-substitution type with little internal linkages and dependent on import of intermediary inputs.

Investment was largely public while domestic private capital was stashed away in foreign countries. One estimate has it that by 1990, 37 per cent of Africa’s wealth had flown outside the continent. (Mkandawire & Soludo 1999:11) To top it all, foreign capital concentrated in extractive industries which simply haemorrhaged the economy rather than contribute to its development.

During this period, the developmental state also borrowed heavily whether for productive or prestigious projects. Petro-dollars accumulated by international banks during the 1973 oil crisis were off-loaded in the form of cheap loans to developing countries. By the end of 1970s, cheap loans turned into heavy debt burdens. By this time, the limits of the early growth were also reached and the economic shocks of the late seventies plunged African economies into deep crisis. Numbers fell, growth rates became negative, debt repayments became unsustainable, fiscal imbalances went out of control, and so did inflation. Social services declined, infrastructure deteriorated and one after another African governments found themselves at the door of IMF and the Paris Club pleading for mercy.

1980s, described by economists as Africa’s ‘lost decade’, was also the transition decade which marked the beginning of the decline of developmentalism and the rise of neo-liberalism, euphemistically called, globalisation.

The crisis, the lost decade and the spectre of marginalisation

In 1981 the World Bank published its notorious report, ‘Accelerated development for Africa: an Agenda for Africa’. It was certainly an agenda for Africa set by the erstwhile Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs) with the backing of Western countries but it had little to do with development, accelerated or otherwise. The report and the subsequent structural adjustment programmes concentrated on stabilization measures: getting rid of budget deficits, bringing down rates of inflation, getting prices right, unleashing the market and liberalising trade. According to the World Bank, the villain of the declining economic performance in Africa was the state, it was corrupt and dictatorial, it had no capacity to manage the economy and allocate resources rationally, it was bloated with bureaucracy, and nepotism was its mode of operation. The BWIs would not bail out the crisis ridden economies unless the governments adopted structural adjustment programmes to get stabilization fundamentals right.

Balancing budgets involved cutting out subsidies to agriculture and spending on social programmes, including education and health. Unleashing the market meant doing away with protection of infant industries and rolling back the state from economic activity. The results of SAPs were devastating as many studies by researchers have shown. Social indicators like education, medical care, health, nutrition, rates of literacy and life expectancy all declined. Deindustrialization set in. Redundancies followed. In short, even some of the modest achievements of the nationalist or developmentalist period were lost or undermined.

As the international situation changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western imperialist powers regained their ideological initiative. The neo-liberal package of marketisation, privatisation and liberalisation now became the policy for, but not of the African states. Good performers would be praised and rewarded with more aid while the insubordinate and recalcitrant would be parodied and left to its own wit. While aid had always come with strings, now there was no attempt to disguise it. Political conditionalities were added to economic conditionalities. Policy making slipped out of the hands of the African state as Western financed policy consultants in their thousands jetted all over the continent with blue prints of policy on Poverty Reduction Strategies and manuals on good governance on their computers, gobbling up some 4 billion dollars annually.

In 1985, to give just one example, foreign experts resident in Equatorial Guinea were paid an amount three times the total government wage bill of the public sector.[Mkandawire & Soludo ibid.:137]

National liberation ideologies have been rubbished and national self-determination itself has been declared passé. Africa is told, it has only one choice: either to get integrated fully into the globalised world or be marginalised.

African leaders are left with little options: ‘you are either with globalisation or doomed!’ They have fallen in line one after another even if it means disowning their own past. Blair’s Commission for Africa report, which consisted of prominent Africans including one president and one prime minister, castigates the whole of the last three decades, which virtually means the whole of post-independence period, as “lost decades”. The primary responsibility is placed on the African state for bad governance and lack of accountability, totally ignoring the role of imperialism in both the exploitation of African resources and supporting of non-democratic states when it suited their interests. Africans are told they have no capacity to think and African states are told they have no capacity to make correct policies.

The age of globalisation and the Pan-Africanist resistance

Globalisation expresses itself in Africa as neo-liberalism. These are a set of policies around stabilization of monetary and fiscal fundamentals on the one hand, and marketisation, liberalisation and privatisation of the economy, on the other. The failures of earlier SAPs and their unrelenting critique by African intellectuals saw some modification of the programmes in the 1990s.

In short, the underlying thrust of the neo-liberal and globalised development “discourse”, which centres on policy-making, is deeper integration of African economies into the global capital and market circuits without fundamental transformation. It is predicated on private capital, which in Africa translates into foreign private capital, as the ‘engine of growth’. It centres on economic growth without asking whether growth necessarily translates into development.

It banishes the issues of equality and equity to the realm of rights, not development. ‘Human-centered and people-driven’ development which were the kingpin of African alternatives, such as the Lagos Plan of
Action, are pooh-poohed into non-existence as the African people are reduced to ‘the chronically poor’ who are the subject matter of papers on strategies for poverty reduction rather than the authors and drivers of development. It villainises African states and demonizes African bureaucracies as corrupt, incapable and unable to learn. They need globalised foreign advisors and consultants, who are now termed development practitioners, to monitor and oversee them.

In this “discourse” the developmental role of the state is declared dead and buried. Instead, it is assigned the role of a “chief” to supervise the globalisation project under the tutelage of imperialism, now called, development partners. The irony of the recent Commission
for Africa was that it was convened, constituted and chaired by a British Prime Minister, while an African president and a prime minister sat on it as members. This symbolizes the nature of the so-called “new partnership”. The message is clear: African “co-partners” in African development are neither equal nor in the driver’s seat.

But the neo-liberal project in Africa has not been without resistance.

As Nyerere observed in his Preface to a book by African scholars significantly sub-titled, ‘Beyond Dispossession and dependence”: Africa’s history is not only one of slavery, exploitation and colonialism’ it is also a story of struggle against these evils, and of battles won after many setbacks and much suffering. (Adedeji ed. 1993:xv)

There have been struggles against SAPs and globalisation in the streets and in lecture halls of Africa. I will only confine myself to intellectual resistance. African scholars have severely critiqued structural adjustment programmes and indicated alternatives. Even African states and bureaucracies have not surrendered without some fight. There have been attempts to provide alternative frameworks and plans and programmes such as the Lagos Plan of Action, (1980); The African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programme for Socio-economic Recovery and Transformation (1989) and the African Charter for Popular Participation and Development (1990).

These alternative frameworks have underlined the need for a holistic approach to Africa’s development; called for a continental programme of regional integration and collective self-reliance; cajoled African states not to surrender their developmental role, and sovereignty in policy-making; and have attempted to develop a vision of a human-centered and people-driven development for the future of the continent. These African initiatives have been invariably dismissed by the erstwhile Bretton Woods institutions and the so-called “development partners”.

Wielding the threat of marginalisation and dangling the carrot of aid, the so-called development partners have, persistently and dogmatically, pushed through their own agendas, which invariably prioritize the geo-political and strategic needs of the global hegemony and the voracious appetites of corporate capital for resources and profits.

The African ‘state of art’ on development

I will quickly summarize the new development perspectives that are emerging in the debates of African scholars and intellectuals.

Firstly, African scholars are agreed that there is a clear need to go beyond stabilization fundamentals to developmental fundamentals. While stabilization policies and measures may be necessary, they are not sufficient. They have to be conceived within the larger context of building a self-sustaining economy rather than as short-term shock therapies.

Secondly, approaches and concerns of political economy on state and society have to be brought back in the discourse on development. A critical assessment and appreciation of the developmental discourses of the nationalist period is essential.

Thirdly, the state must reassert its developmental role, not so much as an executive or a regulatory agency, but as an organised force with a vision and an operational programme. It must protect nascent sources of domestic capital, as well as take account of, and provide for, the basic needs of the population as a whole. The role of the South-East Asian states in this regard, particularly in the development of human capital, is often cited in support.

In sum, the state must play a lead role in the long-term planning so as to place the economy on the developmental path towards an integrated economy.

But, fourthly, the state itself has to be reformed and restructured. The despotic colonial and the authoritarian post-colonial state cannot play a popular developmental role. Its limits have been reached. The reformed state must have its roots in the people and must seek legitimacy from the people. It must seek a new social consensus and build its legitimacy not only on the economic terrain – development – but also on the political and legal terrain of popular participation, freedoms, rights and stable constitutional orders.

Some African intellectuals, not without evidence, have questioned the suitability and viability of the liberal democratic model for Africa. They have forcefully argued that Africa has to go beyond liberal to social democracy which would address not only the question of formal equality but that of social justice and equity as well.

Formal democracy with multiparty and five-year elections too has come under scrutiny. The experience of the liberalisation of the state over the last couple of decades does not inspire confidence or hope. Popular democracy, grassroots democracy, local democracy, new democracy, etc. are the new concepts being discussed and debated.

Fifthly, African scholars are revisiting the nationalist period and the aborted national project. There is renewed interest in the Pan-Africanist vision. There is no way, it is argued, that Africa can truly develop in the face of the threat of marginalisation by the new imperialist assault called globalisation, unless it unites. This time around, Africa has to go beyond regional integration and free trade agreements and work towards political unity, a Federation of African States. The nationalism and national liberation of the globalisation age is Pan-Africanism, it is asserted.

In this respect African intellectuals have severely criticized and exposed the limits of the apparent “African” initiative, the New Economic Partnership for African Development or NEPAD. NEPAD is another form of donor-dependent program seeking more aid and assistance and predicated on further integration in the unequal global structures.

Calling it a ‘feudo-imperial partnership’ Adebayo Adedeji says, the objective of NEPAD is ‘for the African canoe to be firmly tied to the North’s neo-liberal ship on the waters of globalisation’ (Nyong’o et. al. eds, 2002:36).

Sixthly, the debate on the vexed question of agency continues unabated. Is there an African national bourgeoisie capable of leading a genuine capitalist development or do we just have comprador bourgeoisies serving the needs of foreign capital? Is state-centred socialist development, based on popular forces, the only alternative? In any case, is a socialist alternative feasible in the light of the unipolar hegemony of imperialism? Or is it even desirable in the light of the experience of the former Soviet-bloc countries? Or, shall we develop a transitional ‘model’, called ‘new democracy’, based on what Samir Amin calls ‘national popular forces’?

Whatever be the case, progressive and concerned African intellectuals seem to agree that a ‘national or a new democratic revolution’ on a Pan-African scale is on the agenda, both as a form of resistance and as an alternative framework for ‘reconstruction’.

All in all, the development discourse in Africa among African intellectuals is alive, kicking, mentally refreshing and intellectually formidable, notwithstanding declarations of World Bank technicians, called consultants, proclaiming ‘the end of development’. Africans are reclaiming their right to think for themselves.

Issa G. Shivji is Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (issashivji@cats-net.com)* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org

Selected references

Adedeji, A., ed. 1993, Africa within the World: Beyond Dispossession and Dependence, London: Zed books.

Amin, S. 1994, ‘The Issue of Democracy in the contemporary Third World, in Himmelstrand, U. et. al. eds. Op. cit.

Bond, P., ed. 2002, Fanon’s Warning: a Civil Society Reader on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, New Jersey: Africa World Press.

Cabral, A., 1980, Unity and Struggle: Speeches and Writings, London: Heinemann.

Chole, E. & Jibrin Ibrahim, eds. 1995, Democratisation Processes in Africa: Problems and Prospects, Dakar: CODESRIA.

Fanon, F., 1963, The Wretched of the Earth, London: Penguin.

Furedi, F., 1994, The New Ideology of Imperialism, London: Pluto.

Campbell, H., & H. Stein, eds., 1991, The IMF and Tanzania, Harare: SAPES.

Himmelstrand, U. et. al. eds., 1994, African Perspectives on Development, London: James Currey.

Hyden, G., 1980, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry, Berkely & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Landsberg, C. & F. Kornegey, 1998, ‘The African Renaissance: a quest for Pax Africana and Pan-Africanism’, in Foundation for Global Dialogue, South Africa and Africa: Reflections on the African Renaissance, FGD Occasional paper No. 17.

Legum, L., 1965, Pan-Africanism: A short political guide, (Revised edition) London: Pall Mall Press.

Luthuli, A. et. al, 1964, Africa’s Freedom, London: Unwin Books.

Mafeje, A., 2002, ‘Democratic governance and new democracy in Africa: Agenda for the Future, in Nyong’o, Ghirmazion & Lamba, eds.

Mahjoub, A. (ed.) 1990, Adjustment or De-linking? (London: Zed/UNU).

Mahmood, M., 1996, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, Pinceton: Princeton.

Mboya, T., Freedom and After, 1963, London: Andre Deutsch.

Mkandawire, T. & C. C. Soludo, eds., 1999, Our Continent, Our Future”: African perspectives on structural adjustment, Dakar: CODESRIA.

Nkrumah, K. 1965, Neo-colonialism: the last stage of Imperialism, London: Heinemann.

Nyerere, J. K. 1963b, ‘The Second Scramble’, reprinted in Nyerere op. cit. 1967.

Nyerere, J. K. 1968, Freedom and Socialism, London: OUP.

Nyerere, J. K., 1967, Freedom and Unity: a selection from writings and speeches, Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press.

Nyerere, J. K, 1963a, ‘A United States of Africa’, Journal of Modern African Studies, January 1963, Cambridge reprinted in Nyerere op. cit. 1967..

Nyerere, J.K. 1966, ‘’The Dilemma of the Pan-Africanist,’ in J. K. Nyerere, op. cit. 1968.

Nyerere, J.K. 1997, ‘Africa Must Unite’, edited excerpts from a public lecture delivered in Accra to mark Ghana’s fortieth Independence Day anniversary celebrations, United New Africa Global Network website: http://www.unitednewafrica.com/Africa%20Unite .htm
Nyongo, P.A. ed., 1989, La Politica Africana Y La Crisis del Desarrallo, Mexico: El Colegio de Mexico.

Nyong’o, Ghirmazion & Lamba, eds. 2002, New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD: A New Path? Nairobi: Heinrich Boll Foundation.

Rodney, W. 1972, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Dar es Salaam: Tanzania Publsihing House.

Semboja, J., Juma, Mwapachu & Eduard Jansen eds., 2002. Local Perspectives on Globalisation: The African Case, Dar es Salaam: REPOA &Mkuki na Nyota.

Shivji, I. G., ed. 1991 State and Constitutionalism: An African Debate on Democracy, Harare: SAPES.

Shivji, I. G. 2000, Critical Elements of a New Democratic Consensus in Africa" in Haroub Othman (ed.) Reflections on Leadership in Africa: Essays in Honour of Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, (Belgium: VUB University Press).

Shivji, I. G. 2005, ‘The Rise, the Fall and the insurrection of Nationalism in Africa’, in Felicia Arudo Yieke ed. op.cit.

South Commission, the, 1990, The Challenge to the South: The Report of the South Commission, London: Oxford University Press.

Tandon, Y., 1982, University of Dar es Salaam: debate on class, state & imperialism, Dar es Salaam: Tanzania Publishing House.

Toussaint, E. 1999, Your Money or Your Life!, the tyranny of global finance, London: Pluto Press.

Yieke, F. A. ed. 2005, East Africa: In Search of National and Regional Renewal, Dakar: CODESRIA

Reading Al QaedaThe jihadists export their rage to book pages and Web pages.

Reading Al QaedaThe jihadists export their rage to book pages and Web pages.
By Peter Bergen Schwartz Fellow
The Washington Post September 11, 2005
Al Qaeda, which means "the base" in Arabic, lost its physical base in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, so now its ideological base can be found not in the training camps of the Hindu Kush but on the Internet and in the books that leaders of the movement serialize in Arabic newspapers. These Web sites and publications are aimed at reaching a wide audience in the Muslim world. For instance, the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat is arguably the most influential newspaper in the Arabic-speaking world, while Abu Musab al Suri's 1,600-page history of jihad, The International Islamic Resistance Call, was posted to a jihadist Web site in Dec. 2004. Once it was posted, the book could then be copied to thousands of other such sites. It turns out that the first truly virtual books are being published not only by Silicon Valley whiz kids but also by jihadists.
All of the publications under discussion here deserve a wide audience in the West--simply because if we are interested in understanding our enemies, the best intelligence about what they are thinking can often be found in what they're saying publicly. That was true when Osama bin Laden first publicly declared war on the United States in an interview with al Quds al Arabi newspaper in 1996, and it's true today.
Perhaps because we constantly hear that Islamist terrorists are bound together by their common dislike of the United States, we tend to assume that they must also be united by common tactics, strategies and ideology. In fact, those militants often resent one another as much as they do the Bush administration; the global jihadist movement is riven by squabbles over personnel and grand strategy that make the disputes on The Jerry Springer Show seem tame.
Nothing better illustrates this than the career of al Qaeda's No. 2, the Egyptian terrorist Ayman Zawahiri. A self-serving version of Zawahiri's story can be found in his own book, Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet, extracts of which were published in Dec. 2001 by Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. A good deal of Zawahiri's apologia pro vita sua is an attack on those in Egypt's militant movement who have laid down their weapons and made an accommodation with the hated Egyptian government. Zawahiri's fury is particularly directed at one Egyptian lawyer, Montasser al-Zayyat, a recovering revolutionary who has made a career of defending jihadists on trial in Egypt. Zawahiri writes derisively, "Al-Zayyat has for a long time promoted the idea of halting jihad action against the government and its U.S. and Jewish allies inside and outside Egypt." In 2002, like rival rappers dissing each other on dueling mix tapes, Zayyat released his own riposte to Zawahiri's book in his novella-length The Road to Al-Qaeda: The Story of Bin Laden's Right-Hand Man (Pluto; paperback, $19), published last year in an excellent English translation by Ahmed Fekry.
One key theme that emerges from all of these publications is how fissured and split the jihadist movement has been historically--and how those fissures became more pronounced after Sept. 11. (Unfortunately, the U.S. occupation of Iraq has papered over many of those rifts). Emblematic of those fractures are the paths taken by the feuding Egyptian Islamists, Zawahiri and Zayyat. On one side are the former militants like Zayyat, who in 1997 entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Egyptian government after years of jihadist violence that killed more than a thousand Egyptians; on the other side are hardliners like Zawahiri, who has firmly rejected any thought of truce with the infidel Mubarak regime.
All of this would be a purely local Egyptian concern had Zawahiri not increasingly embedded the terrorist group he founded, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, within al Qaeda over the past decade. Indeed, to a large degree, al Qaeda is an Egyptian construct. Its ideology derives from the writings of the radical Egyptian thinker Sayyid Qutb, who laid out the key religio-political justifications for offensive wars against the "enemies of Islam" from his cell in an Egyptian prison in the 1960s--particularly in Milestones (Bilal; paperback, $7.95), the ur-text of the jihadist movement. The successive military commanders of al Qaeda--Abu Ubaidah al Banshiri, Muhammad Atef and Saif al-Adel--are former Egyptian police and army officers. Al Qaeda also adopted Egyptian Islamic Jihad's emphasis on attacking high-value targets and its secretive cell structure. But Zayyat points out--correctly--that the relationship between Zawahiri and al Qaeda has been a two-way street. "Osama bin Lade! n also had an appreciable impact on Zawahiri, although the conventional wisdom holds the opposite to be the case," Zayyat writes. "For example, bin Laden advised Zawahiri to stop armed operations in Egypt and to ally with him against their common enemies: the United States and Israel. His advice to Zawahiri came upon their return to Afghanistan [in 1996], when bin Laden ensured the safety of Zawahiri and the [Egyptian] Islamic Jihad members under the banner of the Taliban."
The most serious quarrel between Zawahiri and Zayyat revolves not around Zayyat's support for the 1997 ceasefire with the Egyptian government but around what is, to date, the crowning glory of al Qaeda's jihad, Sept. 11. Zayyat argues that the attacks had a disastrous boomerang effect on Islamists that will ultimately weaken the movement. "The point of disagreement...between Zawahiri and me, is how best to deal with the world's superpower," he writes. "Bin Laden's desire to take revenge [with the Sept. 11 attacks]...has given the Americans and other governments the power to destroy the Islamists before our eyes."
Of course, Zawahiri disagrees, counseling that the war with the United States is only in its early stages. Indeed, he thinks that time is on his side; the lessons of history, as Zawahiri sees them, suggest that a prolonged jihad holds the key to ending American influence and power in the Middle East. "The Crusaders in Palestine and Syria [in the Middle Ages] left after two centuries of continued jihad," he notes.
But Zayyat is not the only Islamist who is critical of al Qaeda's leaders. Abu Walid al Misri is an Egyptian who used to edit an Arabic magazine for the Taliban. After Sept. 11, he wrote The Story of the Arab Afghans from the Time of Arrival in Afghanistan Until Their Departure with the Taliban, a book serialized in the pages of Al-Sharq al-Awsat in Dec. 2004. The book mounts a blistering attack on bin Laden for destroying the Taliban. "Bin Laden's extremism reached the point where he believed that the United States was much weaker than some of those around him thought," Misri writes. "[A]s evidence he referred to what happened to the United States in Beirut when the bombing of the Marines headquarters led them to flee from Lebanon [in 1983]. Some young Saudi followers confirmed to bin Laden his delusions from the gist of the experiences they had gained from their visits to the United States, namely, that the country was falling and could bear only few strik! es...The last months in the life of al Qaeda were a tragic example of an Islamic movement managed in a significantly terrible way."
Implicit support for Misri's view also comes from an unlikely source, Abu Musab al Suri, a longtime associate of bin Laden's. In his massive The International Islamic Resistance Call, al Suri writes: "[After] September 11th, America destroyed the [Taliban] Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, which became the refuge for the mujahideen...The Jihad movement rose to glory in the '60s and continued through the '70s and '80s...but was destroyed after 9/11."
As we have learned to our cost in recent years, much "secret" information is simply wrong, while information that is public--for instance, bin Laden's repeated calls for attacks against the United States in the years before 2001--is too often discounted. One of the lessons of Sept. 11 is that we should pay careful attention to what the jihadists are actually saying. And what they are saying about Sept. 11, as we mark its fourth anniversary, is that the attacks may have been a tactical victory, but they were a strategic disaster because of the loss of Afghanistan as a base and the U.S.-led campaign to detain members of jihadist movements around the world. That's why so many jihadists are so happy that the Bush administration invaded Iraq. Without the Iraq war, their movement--under assault from without and riven from within--would have imploded a year or so after Sept. 11.Copyright: 2005 The Washing! ton Post Azam Nizamuddin, Esq.The Law Offices of Azam Nizamuddin, P.C.15 N. Lincoln St.Hinsdale, IL 60521630-230-0373630-230-0374 (fax)

Yahoo! Groups : ICOP-crescent Observation

Yahoo! Groups : ICOP

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Quran.org.uk : Holy Quran Resource Group

Quran.org.uk : Holy Quran Resource Group

Monday, October 03, 2005

ICOP: Visibility of Ramadan Crescent 1426 AH.

ICOP: Visibility of Ramadan Crescent 1426 AH.: "Prediction of the Start of the Holy Month of Ramadhan 1426 H
The Calculations are done for the Longitude and Latitude of Makkah AlMukarramah Area and the times are for Local Time of Saudi Arabia
Makkah Al-Mukarramah: Latitude = 21:39� N , Longitude = 39:46� E
Calculations show that the birth of the new moon occurs about 4.75 hours before the sunset on 3 October 2005 in Makkah AlMukkaramah area and the moon sets about three minutes after the Sunset. Therefore and according to calculations, the last day of month of Shaaban 1426 H will be on Monday 3 October 2005 where the moon sets after the sun as indicated in the table. Then, astronomically (solely based on calculations), the first day of Ramadhan 1426 H will be on Tuesday 4 October 2005. For crescent sighting, the Moon will be about 0.4 degree above the horizon and, horizontally, about one degree to the left (south) of the sun on Monday at the sunset moment and its luminosity is about five ten thousands (0.05 %) of the full moon which is much below the ability and sensitivity of normal human eyes detection, therefore it is not possible to sight that extremely faint crescent by a human. But it is possible to sight the crescent on the Tuesday evening since the age of the Moon will be about 29 hours and it will be about 7.4 degrees above the horizon and, horizontally, about ten degree to the left (south) of the sun at the sunset moment and its luminosity is about 1.5 % of the full moon which is in the range of the ability and sensitivity of normal human eyes. The shape of the crescent moon should look as shown in the figure. Taking all the previous points into account, the possibility is that according to calculation Tuesday 4th will be the first day of Ramadhan and according to actual sighting of the crescent Wednesday 5 October 2005 will be the fir"

ICOP: Visibility of Ramadan Crescent 1426 AH.

ICOP: Visibility of Ramadan Crescent 1426 AH.: "Prediction of the Start of the Holy Month of Ramadhan 1426 H
The Calculations are done for the Longitude and Latitude of Makkah AlMukarramah Area and the times are for Local Time of Saudi Arabia
Makkah Al-Mukarramah: Latitude = 21:39� N , Longitude = 39:46� E
Calculations show that the birth of the new moon occurs about 4.75 hours before the sunset on 3 October 2005 in Makkah AlMukkaramah area and the moon sets about three minutes after the Sunset. Therefore and according to calculations, the last day of month of Shaaban 1426 H will be on Monday 3 October 2005 where the moon sets after the sun as indicated in the table. Then, astronomically (solely based on calculations), the first day of Ramadhan 1426 H will be on Tuesday 4 October 2005. For crescent sighting, the Moon will be about 0.4 degree above the horizon and, horizontally, about one degree to the left (south) of the sun on Monday at the sunset moment and its luminosity is about five ten thousands (0.05 %) of the full moon which is much below the ability and sensitivity of normal human eyes detection, therefore it is not possible to sight that extremely faint crescent by a human. But it is possible to sight the crescent on the Tuesday evening since the age of the Moon will be about 29 hours and it will be about 7.4 degrees above the horizon and, horizontally, about ten degree to the left (south) of the sun at the sunset moment and its luminosity is about 1.5 % of the full moon which is in the range of the ability and sensitivity of normal human eyes. The shape of the crescent moon should look as shown in the figure. Taking all the previous points into account, the possibility is that according to calculation Tuesday 4th will be the first day of Ramadhan and according to actual sighting of the crescent Wednesday 5 October 2005 will be the fir"

Lessons Learned From The PMU Experiment - altmuslim.com

Lessons Learned From The PMU Experiment - altmuslim.com

Saturday, October 01, 2005

ANC-LETTER 30 September 2005

ANC Today
Volume 5, No. 39 . 30 September - 6 October 2005
* Letter from the President: African Peer Review for progressive change
* Human Settlement: Housing the poor requires innovative thinking, design and planning
African Peer Review for progressive change
On Wednesday 28 September, meeting at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, Gauteng, representatives of the people of South Africa began a two-day National Consultative Conference that is of the greatest importance to the future of our country.
Present were delegates from government, business, trade unions, academia and the entire spectrum of civil society, the latter represented by the South African chapter of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) of the African Union.
The conference marked the beginning of the African Peer Review process in our country, to which we acceded as soon as the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC) resolved formally to launch the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).
The decision to establish the APRM was taken at the founding conference of the African Union (AU) held in Durban in 2002. The fundamental guidelines governing the peer review process are contained in the Base Document of the APRM.
Among other things, this Base Document says:
"The mandate of the African Peer Review Mechanism is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating states conform to the agreed political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards contained in the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance. The APRM is the mutually agreed instrument for self-monitoring by the participating member governments.
"The primary purpose of the APRM is to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through sharing of experiences and reinforcement of successful and best practice, including identifying deficiencies and assessing the needs for capacity building.
"Every review exercise carried out under the authority of the Mechanism must be technically competent, credible and free of political manipulation. These stipulations together constitute the core guiding principles of the Mechanism."
In the context of the foregoing, we must understand that the APRM is itself firmly based on the Constitutive Act of the AU, which was formally legislated into force by the African parliaments, including our own.
Among others, the Objectives Section of the Constitutive Act prescribes that the AU and its Member States are legally obliged to:
* promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
* promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
* promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;
* promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies;
* promote cooperation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples;
* advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology; and,
* work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.
The "codes and standards contained in the Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance" to which the Base Document refers, relate to four areas which each country review must assess. These
* democracy and political governance;
* economic governance and management;
* corporate governance; and,
* socio-economic development.
The details spelling out what the African Peer Review process should investigate and assess in each of these areas is contained in another document adopted by the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Committee, entitled "Objectives, Standards, Criteria and Indicators for the African Peer Review Mechanism".
Yet another document that is central to the Peer Review process is the detailed Questionnaire that the APRM distributes to all countries that submit themselves to the review process. But as Dr Chris Stals, member of the Panel of Eminent Persons of the APRM, said at the Consultative Conference, countries are allowed to adapt the Questionnaire to take into account their national situation.
In this context, and with regard to the detailed benchmarks and guidelines it has provided for all participating countries, the APRM says, "this framework is enabling rather than prescriptive, specifying objectives and standards, providing indicative definitions of criteria and examples of indicators to ensure broad coherence in the country level work and uniformity at continental level."
When she spoke to the opening of the consultative conference, the representative of the South African ECOSOCC chapter, Laura Kganyago, said that all documents relating to the Peer Review process had to be made accessible to the people. She said these documents had to be simplified, as well as translated into all the official languages and Braille.
All these are correct demands, given that it is critically important that the Peer Review process should include as many of our people as possible.
This also means that we will have to take all necessary measures to popularise and explain the Peer Review process as much as possible, so that the masses of our people and their authentic organisations engage this process enthusiastically and in a meaningful manner.
The objectives we have set ourselves as a country are very much in keeping with those our continent has adopted, as represented by the AU Constitutive Act, NEPAD and the APRM. Among other things, and consistent with the fundamental outlook of our movement, this emphasises our commitment to the vision that the peoples of Africa share a common destiny and must therefore continue to act in partnership and solidarity.
The Peer Review process enables each of our countries to assess the progress it is making towards the achievement of the shared goals we have already mentioned. This is a country review rather than merely a review of government performance. This is simply because national development in any country is driven by a variety of social forces, and not just the government.
Consistent with our movement's commitment to a people-driven process of progressive change, we fully support the approach of the APRM to involve the masses of the people in the peer review process.
This is especially important given that the peer review should conclude with a Programme of Action to address whatever shortfalls would have been identified by the review. It is essential that the people themselves should own this Programme of Action as their own and work to implement it, so that they do indeed continue to act as their own liberators, determined to decide their future.
The APRM also gives the countries and peoples of Africa an opportunity further to strengthen the relations of solidarity among themselves. First of all, they open themselves to mutual critical assessment, departing from the previous African practice according to which everything was categorised as "internal affairs", in which no other country was allowed to "interfere".
This departure from past practice makes it possible for our countries to learn from one another, enabling each one of us to adopt the best successful practice that might have emerged in any one of our countries. This will help to speed up development in our countries, responding to the expectations of the African masses for a faster process of progressive change.
In addition to this, the peer review process will create the possibility for us to help one another in practical ways. Once the APRM has identified any shortfalls in the participating countries, it will be possible, through the APR Forum of Heads of State and Government, for each one of these countries to appeal to its peers, the other African countries, for the necessary assistance to address those shortfalls. NEPAD would also intervene to give the necessary support to enable each one of our countries to meet the benchmarks set by the APRM.
There are still some people in our country who think that the African Peer Review system will be ineffective because it is voluntary and does not include sanctions. Clearly, these sceptics have not understood the commitment of the masses of the African people to overcome the problems that have afflicted our continent for a number of decades. They believe that these masses and their leaders should be threatened with punishment to persuade them seriously to engage the challenge of the renaissance of Africa.
We know that the masses of our people need no compulsion to persist in the struggle for the achievement of the goal of a better life for all and the fundamental social transformation of our country. Neither do the masses of the people anywhere else in Africa.
As has already been demonstrated in two of the countries that have been reviewed, Ghana and Rwanda, the people of Africa have responded to the APRM with great enthusiasm, understanding the potentially powerful impact the African Peer Review system can make in helping to change their lives for the better.
In a paper published in January 2003, Fabrizio Pagani, Legal Adviser of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said:
"Best practice is a fashionable term in policymaking these days. Governments and agencies will say they do all they can to ensure their policies are not only in the best interests of their electorates, but that they follow the best tried and tested experience available. But how can we be sure that governments really make such best choices?
"One tried and tested instrument is the peer review. It is the assessment of the policies and performances of a country by other countries. The goal is to help participants to improve their policies and comply with established standards and principles. It is often through this process that best practices are identified.
"Peer reviews show that international organisations can indeed be creative, for it would not be an exaggeration to claim that the OECD "invented" the modern peer review process. Since it began in the 1960s, it has been adopted by other organisations such as the EU [European Union], IMF [International Monetary Fund] and WTO [World Trade Organisation]. Now it is in the process of being adapted to the needs of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
"Compared with some arguably harder edged private-sector country studies, there is a distinct prospect that (peer review) conclusions, however negotiated, will be acted upon. From an international perspective, this 'soft law' quality of peer review can prove more effective in encouraging compliance with recommendations than any traditional enforcement mechanism like a court or other judicial body.
"But a peer review can function properly only if there is a commitment to act by the participating countries - and that means not only supplying enough money to carry it out, but also being fully engaged at every stage in the process.
"Far from being excessively procedural and impotent, as some critics have argued, peer review can create a catalyst for policy enhancement and far-reaching change."
We too must ensure that the people and all the organisations, institutions and sectors that were represented at the consultative conference that launched our APR process on 28-29 September, remain fully engaged at every stage of the peer review process.
Through this engagement, in which our movement structures must involve themselves, we must ensure that our peer review process serves as a catalyst for policy enhancement and progressive change.
Thabo Mbeki
Housing the poor requires innovative thinking, design and planning
Three critical areas of housing policy currently form part of a national dialogue in South Africa. These concern the ways and means in which to address a housing backlog that is being impacted upon by the process of urbanisation and population growth; how to increase access to finance; and how to roll out an effective consumer education strategy. Being a middle income country with high levels of income inequality that are affected by high rates of unemployment these are matters that naturally are in the public domain for debate and the formulation of solutions. In other words, these are matters that are at the centre of the immense housing challenge presently confronting the country.
Having devised policies in these areas since 1994, which policies were enhanced through the adoption of a new strategy in September 2005 - namely, the Comprehensive Plan for Sustainable Human Settlements - government is now seeking partnerships domestically, continentally and internationally to help us address the challenges.
Last week, for example, we concluded a social contract with 46 of our country's large and influential institutions and companies, including trade unions and community organisations and civil society, to help us achieve the vision of eradicating all informal settlements by 2014. The contract provides for all of us a vehicle through which to collectively determine the challenges and solutions.
Apart from the 46 institutions that have signed the document we expect more institutions to indicate their readiness to sign. At national, provincial and local level, government has, as part of the contract, committed itself to removing obstacles that stand in the way of the rapid delivery of housing for the poor.
This moment in the history of our country is particularly exciting. For perhaps for the first time since we began the transition very clear signs are being given by all South Africans, black and white, rich and poor, that the burden to sustain and increase the political stability we have achieved collectively in the last ten years fully rests on all of us.
As South Africa, this is undoubtedly the best practice we would like to share with the world. It has given confidence that we all share equally the solutions to our housing challenge. At the same time, we hope to benefit more from international experiences.
When we, as African Ministers dealing with housing and urban development, met in February to form the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development we had been pinning our hopes on increased international and continental interactions and partnerships to help confront the prevailing housing challenge in Africa as a whole. A few weeks after the formation of this structure, the Commission for Africa (established by British Prime Minister Tony Blair) favourably looked at some of the proposals that we had given as African Ministers to solve the housing challenge within the continent. These related to increased financial resources and aid, including matters related to debt cancellation within the context of partnerships.
South Africa, as chair of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development, was given the opportunity to advance these positions to various international forums, including the 20th Session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the 13th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. The recently concluded workshop in New York that was convened by India, Brazil and ourselves on mobilising resources for human settlements in middle-income countries had these same intentions of mobilising partnerships and creating possibilities for effective cooperation within the international community in helping us better the lives of all our people.
The achievement of the creation of sustainable human settlements through innovative designs that make for rapid implementation is our priority.
These, however, must not sacrifice quality, for indeed it is this aspect that is key in the factors responsible for failures to achieve decent and secure human settlements.
The seriousness of this problem is indicated in research conducted in May
2003 on the reactions, attitudes, concerns and preferences of beneficiaries of subsidy housing. This revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of housing as we began the process of developing a new housing strategy for the next ten years.
According to the research report: "Numerous anecdotes signify shoddy and weak construction. This was raised as a major issue in 25 out of the 28 focus group discussions. Many respondents feel their structures will not last into the future. Key complaints pertain to flimsy roofs, cracks in walls, weak doors, as well as the generally 'unfinished' nature of the house - such as unplastered walls and no floors. The issue of weak and leaking roofs was highlighted in almost every settlement. People mentioned roofs being blown off by wind, leaking roofs, roofs being fastened inadequately, holes in roofs and poor quality sheeting. 'Thin walls' or walls through which damp and water seeps present problems of cold and weakening walls in many areas. In addition, foundations that do not withstand water seepage are frequent complaints. The anecdotes surrounding cracks in walls suggest that there are often extremely large cracks, causing wind to blow into houses."
"Doors coming off their frames or frames separating from the walls are mentioned in several settlements as are perceived poor quality doors that expand in wet weather. In some cases identical door locks are used throughout a settlement with the result that beneficiaries have identical sets of keys and can access each other's houses."
The report concludes: "There are a number of issues that can be grouped under the broad heading of 'dignity'. Firstly there is clear indignation where people have the perception that they have been fobbed off with poor quality products just because they are poor."
As government we are committed to enhancing the standard of living of our people by providing them with decent and secure living spaces. Thus, through our national regulator of norms and standards we have worked to improve on the specifications and the quality of housing we need. We believe this would also help us achieve one of the cornerstones of our policy of creating real assets in the hands of the people.
A further priority for us is to achieve integrated communities. One of the ways in which we would want to achieve integrated communities is to optimally utilise available resources and infrastructure and, where these do not exist, establish new ones. As the three key pilot projects we have implemented this year for the new strategy - the N2 Gateway, Cosmo City and Brickfields Housing Development - demonstrate we aim to achieve this through innovative planning and design that will densify our residential areas to ensure we are catering for the diverse housing needs that exist. We are contemplating higher density development interventions in partnership with the private sector and communities. Social or rental housing has been prioritised as well as programmes that will create opportunities for individual households to own higher density units that will enhance income-generating opportunities.
We recognise housing as a basic human right. Hence, against the background of redressing past practices we need innovative thinking, innovative design and planning, taking into account the diversity of needs. Also important are the needs of the disabled members of our communities and pensioners.
We continue to look to international experiences and achievements to enhance the current policy direction. Of critical importance in this regard would be policy proposals emerging from the experiences of countries, some of whom are found in East Asia and Europe, that fundamentally underwent reconstruction and needed to provide solutions for rapid housing delivery as a result. We would like to see how in these experiences massive resources were mobilised, and how technology was put to effective use to stem a housing backlog and prevent new slum formations by governments in collaboration with the private sector and the rest of society and how best practices were developed in the areas of planning and designing, including architecture and financing.
** Lindiwe Sisulu is an ANC National Executive Committee member and Minister of Housing. This is an edited version of a speech prepared for the opening of the IAHS World Congress on Housing, 27 September 2005.