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Thursday, 4 October 2007

The AFRICOM Initiative (Guest Blog)

Recently, the African Command (AFRICOM) initiative seems to have generated a great deal of serious debate; the following articles reflect some of the arguments for and against the initiative:

allAfrica.com: Africa: U.S. Command Reaches Initial Operating ...
U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, officially stood up today when the ... For its first year, AFRICOM will operate under U.S. European Command (EUCOM), ...allafrica.com/stories/200710011666.html -
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allAfrica.com: Africa: US Africa Command Will Enhance Local Skills ...
The new U.S. regional military command for Africa (AFRICOM) will have a distinctly ... AFRICOM also will help countries interested in improving government ...allafrica.com/stories/200709300038.html -
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allAfrica.com: Africa: Questioning Africom -1
With the nomination in July of General William E. Ward as the first chief of the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the long-discussed new command took ...allafrica.com/stories/200708010836.html -
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allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Stop Africom
When launched, AFRICOM will become a permanent military base in Africa, thus completing a long-desired strategic plan by the US. The stated reason was that ...allafrica.com/stories/200709280143.html -
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allAfrica.com: Africa: Questioning Africom - 2
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from an extensive critique of AFRICOM from the Center for International Policy, with particular emphasis on ...allafrica.com/stories/200708010835.html -
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allAfrica.com: Botswana: Botswana Discusses Africom
President Festus Mogae has said that Botswana is discussing the possibility of hosting the controversial U.S. African Command (US-AFRICOM). ...allafrica.com/stories/200709060965.html -
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allAfrica.com: Africa: Africom Can Help Governments Willing to ...
Since the announcement of the creation of Africom, a new unified American combatant command responsible for Africa, there has been much skepticism over its ...allafrica.com/stories/200706251196.html -
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allAfrica.com: Africa: Testimony of Dr. Wafula Okumu - U.S. House ...
Until the enunciation of Africom, the continent had been haphazardly divided into ... Africom is expected to stop terrorists being bred in Africa’s weak, ...allafrica.com/stories/200708031070.html -
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allAfrica.com: Africa: Africom - Wrong for Liberia, Disastrous for ...
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I have found it difficult, really difficult, to resist the temptation of getting involved in the debate. Let me tender my observations and misgivings concerning the AFRICOM initiative, without reciting those which are presented in existing articles on the subject.

1. In terms of peace and security, African countries do not, by and large, face external threats. Zambia, for instance, is sur­round­ed by civi­lized and friendly nations which do not apparently pose any threat to the country—that is, Angola, (Botswana), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. We expect the situation to remain that way in the long term.

In other words, the problems facing the African continent are generally NOT military in nature. The needs, expectations and aspirations of citizens on the continent are clear: greater access to education, vocational training and life-saving healthcare; greater and sustained food security; greater employment opportunities; improved socio-economic conditions in rural areas; greater access to clean water and electricity; greater care for the elderly, the handicapped and both orphaned and vulnerable children; sustained protection of the fragile natural environment; and, among other things, a sustained effort to address the scourge of corruption.

We need support in addressing these and other related needs of our people.

2. If AFRICOM is allowed to create military bases on the African continent, what arguments will be advanced to prevent other countries with the wherewithal to seek to establish military bases on the continent—such as China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, and so forth? We really do not need to foster another Scramble for Africa, a military-based one this time around!

3. AFRICOM is a potentially divisive initiative; it can very easily trigger acrimony and dissention among countries that have thus far worked hard to create the African Union (AU) and such economic blocs as COMESA, SADC, ECOWAS, and so forth. Once some member-countries decide to host AFRICOM against the wishes of other member-countries, it will be the beginning of disintegration and fragmentation of the continent.

4. Would the U.S. permit another sovereign nation-state to establish a military base on its soil?

USAID, AGOA and other American initiatives are commendable. Any new programs that are benign to the continent’s people that are not yet catered for through such initiatives, therefore, need to be channeled through the same existing non-military initiatives.

Finally, it will perhaps not be unwise for African countries to eventually do away with defence ministries or departments and the defence forces they serve. We are headed toward an era of greater understand­ing among countries—an era that will make it both safe and rational for nations to relegate the functions of their national defence forces to the UN peace-keeping forces, and/or regional forces established through arrange­ments like the African Crisis Response Ini­tiative (ACRI), which France, Britain and the United States have offered to support by providing training and equip­ment.

In such an era, the protection of each and every count­ry’s territorial integrity will not be a necessary func­tion of national governments.

Update: I wish to make a few additions to the contribution I made earlier.

1. Becoming a host to a foreign military base is a permanent, irreversible and very serious commitment, which a country’s leaders would do well NOT to assent to on behalf of present and future generations—perhaps not even through a referendum!

2. It is important to delineate the generic or regular roles of the civil police and the military. In Zambia, the functions of the Zambia Defence Forces, as stipulated in Article 101 of the Republican constitution, are to: (a) preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Zambia; (b) cooperate with the civilian authority in emergency situations and in cases of natural disasters; (c) foster harmony and understanding between the Zambia Defence Force and civilians; and (d) engage in productive activities for the development of Zambia.

On the other hand, the functions of the Zambia Police Force, as stipulated in Article 104 of the Republican constitution, are to: (a) to protect life and property; (b) to preserve law and order; (c) to detect and prevent crime; and (d) to cooperate with the civilian authority and other security organs established under the constitution and with the population generally.

These functions are fundamentally not dissimilar to those performed by the civil police and the military in the U.S., and of police and military forces in civilian government regimes worldwide as a matter of fact. In analyzing the stated and potential roles AFRICOM will play in Africa, it is, therefore, important not to overlook this delineation.

3. I have enjoyed reading three pieces of information about "Understanding AFRICOM" found on the following links:

www.moonofalabama.org/2007/02/understanding_a_1.html / Part I

www.moonofalabama.org/2007/02/understanding_a_2.html / Part II

www.moonofalabama.org/2007/02/understanding_a_3.html / Part III

Conclusion of Part III:

Africa has been through this (the scramble for the continent) before, caught in the middle of a global chessboard during the first Cold War as competing world powers sought to win friends and contain enemies at the expense of those in the way. Militaries were trained and armed to fight proxy battles or overthrow unsympathetic regimes. Rhetorical allusions to notions of human rights and democratic governments lost out to the more pragmatic ends of protecting economic ideologies. For the most part, the blood that spilled was largely that of Africa, again prevented from achieving true independence, self-identity, and prosperity. The old Cold War blew in primarily on the exaggerated vapors of ideology. This one is not so abstract.

Africa is now perceived as the final frontier for the world's energy supplies, crucial for the preservation of hi-tech global civilizations, and this new scramble will be much more serious. This is the context in which the new combatant command enters the history books, at the junction of the early 21st century and the pending flare out of the petroleum age. Expanding the military reach of the most powerful empire the planet has ever known, AFRICOM will be tasked with the responsibility of achieving full-spectrum dominance over mother Africa for fuel. Operating as both energy-protection service and strategic Cold War front, the unified command will concentrate whatever military forces are necessary to keep the furnaces of Empire lit.

Whether AFRICOM will succeed in this directive is beside the point, for, while ends may justify the means for the elite in power, their so-called "national interest" payoff, it is regular people who pay the full price at all times. And it does not require a crystal ball or great imagination to realize what the increased militarization of the continent through AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of Africa.


Henry Kyambalesa
(Guest Blogger)

20 comments:

  1. Kya,

    Very interesting issue indeed.
    I have also felt the same temptation to comment on this, been successful in resisting the urge..until now :)

    Before I get into your main thrust of your argument. I should point that Zambia does indeed face threats to its borders. Countless stories are repeated of rebel encroachments to the north and of course refugees crossing the borders possess challenges not just to the humanitarian groups residing in Zambia but to institutions keeping law and order. The point is that Zambia does not face "existential threats". The threats are certainly there but just not existential.

    Coming back to the central point of the USA activities. I think sometimes it puzzles me that we always tend to decouple economic leadership from military leadership.

    I agree with you when you say: "African continent are generally NOT military in nature. The needs, expectations and aspirations of citizens on the continent are clear: greater access to education, vocational training and life-saving healthcare; greater and sustained food security; greater employment opportunities; improved socio-economic conditions in rural areas; greater access to clean water and electricity; greater care for the elderly, the handicapped and both orphaned and vulnerable children; sustained protection of the fragile natural environment; and, among other things, a sustained effort to address the scourge of corruption." But when ask for solutions to these problems we must recognise that the solutions need to be multifaceted and YES some of these solutions would involve military solutions.

    Here are two examples where economics and military meet.

    The first example: Assume that a poor nation like DRC wants to tackle the problems you have highlighted. Can we really expect any nation in the West to go there and invest cash without guaranteeing that investment through force? Nations who invest billions of dollars in countries which are unstable like the DRC always will ensure that there are military guarantees on the ground to provide certainty.

    China is a prime example. We have seen a rapid growth in Chinese military influence in the region as its economic influnce has widened. As this quote from Asia Times illustrates:

    China will increasingly be challenged to respond to security threats to Chinese property and personnel in the region that may necessitate a re-evaluation of the role of China's military. The recent kidnappings and killings of Chinese workers in Ethiopia and Nigeria painfully demonstrated that China can no longer depend on local security forces to protect its oil interests (personnel and facilities) in areas such as Ethiopia and the Niger Delta. Potential attacks by local insurgents, criminals, and even terrorists, demand skilled defense practitioners. The PLA could provide this either directly and openly in tailored military units with or without Chinese police force participation, through quasi-military or "outsourced" rent-a-soldier security entities that would be manned by trained soldiers who may retain loose association with the PLA as demobilized soldiers, or through other mechanisms based on negotiations with the host African countries.

    So in short I believe that USA has now learnt that you can't simply pour money and aid into Africa and hope that leaders behave themselves. In an increasingly competitive world you need to guarantee that with force. To that extent the formation of AFRICOM is a rational approach to the facts on the ground. There's nothing sinister about it.

    The second example : AFRICOM may be useful to prevent failing states that are democratically elected. There's no doubt that African nations have weak armies. That the AU force was wiped out this week by a rug tag army of Darfur rebels is no surprise. I believe that having a permanent AFRICOM on the ground would send a strong message to despots. If you don't behave yourselves we are coming in.

    A small force on the ground would be useful in preventing states from drifting into chaos. Military interventions can be positive if the interventions are done in the correct way e.g. the British mission in Sierra Leone. So for example, if someone elections fairly and the other party rose to arms, having Africom on the ground to move in quickly and guarantee protection to the party which won fairly should be perfectly acceptable. It helps instill democracy and ensure rule of law.

    So to conclude my position on the AFRICOM initiative is that we should not look at it purely as a military issue. We need to recognise that economics and military might are connected. Also we need to realise that there are benefits of having a 'reasonable' big boy in the class who keeps other boys in check. The challenge for nations is to ensure that any future AFRICOM is working in close partnership with the AU.

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  2. cho -

    perhaps you overlooked the part about AFRICOM being defined in its very name as a military entity as that of a "unified combatant command". while the overall role of the u.s. military is indeed inseparable from the u.s. economic agenda -- serving as the enforcer of u.s.-style capitalism -- the personnel that provide that force could hardly care less about economics. they are used as the brute force that makes sure u.s. interests are protected, that markets are fully opened for exploitation, and that the locals who will allow this to happen are in positions to make it so. there are plenty of examples of this to point out on the continent of africa, but maybe a better idea of what should be anticipated can be gleaned from u.s. policy in central and south americas.

    AFRICOM is not some benign imperialist institution that is wanting african governments to invite it into their homes so it can 'help africans help themselves'. instead, it's about 'helping ourselves to africa's wealth.' i am disheartened by your attempts to justify a rationale that does not fit w/ reality, economist or not. it's a dangerous slope you are placing yourself upon.

    check out some of the backgrounders that the heritage foundation has put out there unequivocally calling for the complete privatization of all energy sectors on the continent.

    here's just one example -- Africa's Oil and Gas Sector: Implications for U.S. Policy

    it's all out there in the open. no need to attribute other idealistic aspirations to it.

    the first scramble was sold on the three c's. this time the u.s. is talking about bringing the three d's into africa -- i kid you not -- defense, diplomacy, democracy. things haven't changed that much & motives remain the same. remember that leopold was billed as the great philanthropist when you read the pentagon's marketing pitch about AFRICOM having humanitarian roots. (hint: basic training is about breaking down the individual into an indoctrination entirely antithetical to that of humanitarianism.)

    this idea of resisting the urge to comment on the issue of AFRICOM -- i don't get it. silence implies complicity. if this isn't the issue to speak out on, well, i'm not sure that you really comprehend the repercussions. why anyone would seriously want a foreign military presence on their lands, and the u.s. at that, given their track record, is beyond me. once you invite them into your house, it's no longer just yours.

    i have family all across zambia. it's one of the main reasons why i spoke up and wrote the article that kyambalesa links to. i am happy to hear mwanawasa state that he has rebuffed u.s. advances on this front. i am happy to hear kk & others speak out against allowing the u.s. military to plant its boot on african soil. outspoken voices like these lead me to believe that those who come after us will have a better future. why push today's problems onto them? AFRICOM is not a solution to the issues you cited in your examples. it will only compound your problems.

    kozo/mtendere/umutende

    ReplyDelete
  3. b real,

    I am not justifying Africom, I am simply pointing out two things:

    1. There are pros and cons to having AFRICOM. The cons you have stated, the pros I have mentioned. I don't really think the US needs AFRICOM to dominate any nation in Africa. If the USA wanted to dominate African states their subtler and more effective ways of doing it. Also you speak of the US as if they don't run our economies already. They are already on our soil.

    2. Those that criticise AFRICOM but WELCOME Chinese investment adopt an hypocritical position. The method might be different but economic dominance ultimately leads to military dominance.

    Of course in all this we must recognise the limitations of our power. Ultimately we have to do deals with big powers. The question is which power.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is a great and very level-headed post about the AFRICOM debate, one of the best that I have read so far. Yesterday I discovered the 3-part series on Understanding AFRICOM at the Moon Over Alabama blog. Unfortunately I have not yet had a chance to read b real's piece thoroughly but intend to do so over the weekend.

    I disagree with the author that Zambia does not face any military threats as we can see with the continued instability and violence in the eastern DRC (your neighbor). I also disagree with the idea that Zambia and other African nations can do away with defence ministries and standing armies, handing those duties over to a UN peacekeeping force.

    There are over 17,000 UN peackeepers in the DRC and this massive force at a financial cost of over $1 billion per year is not effective in protecting the lives and livelihoods of innocent people in the Kivus and throughout the region.

    There is an interesting debate on AFRICOM in progress at the African Loft "Open Debate on AFRICOM: Does Africa Need AFRICOM?". I thought that you and your readers may be interested in the comments posted to that debate. I will reference your post in my upcoming piece on the subject of AFRICOM. Thanks for your valuable inputs on this important subject.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Here are a few basic arguments against AFRICOM:

    1) It hands over sovereignty to a foreign power.

    Africa's problems may be of a civic nature, but without security, nothing happens. No rights, no commerce. This is the only excuse for having an army, which is to ensure security in the nation, beyond what the capacities of the police force are.

    2) Erratic behaviour in US policy.

    We have seen the craziest, most corrupt and incompetent American administration in US history. There are no guarantees that indivisuals like that will not rise to power in the US again. Zambia would potentially be at the whim of policy decisions made by religious fanatics, extreme libertarians (anarchists, really), corporate elitists and for all we know, Christian Identity neofascists.

    Sovereignty cannot be outsourced.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The article by Henry is so lovely I am posting it on www.AfricaAgainstAFRICOM.org, the main site that keeps up the crusade of free Africans now and will keep highlighting the devastation caused by this re-colonisation in the future if African leaders are foolish enough to accept Africom.

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  7. Thought you guys could use an update on the AFRICOM rollout:

    Nigeria's new democratically elected president Yar'Adua has seen the light about AFRICOM during his December 2007 visit to the White House. Here's the latest from Nigeria's This Day newspaper about Yar'Adua's about face on the new command:

    allAfrica.com - Dec 14, 2007
    Nigeria: Yar'Adua in White House, Ready to Partner U.S. on AFRICOM
    http://allafrica.com/stories/200712140108.html

    ReplyDelete
  8. President Yar'Adua has now denied accepting AFRICOM; see: http://allafrica.com/stories/200712150069.html

    ReplyDelete
  9. African,

    Good site. Not sure I share the objective, but its good for Africans to debate these issues :)
    Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I hope this drives a stake through the hart of the US AFRICAM concept, whether Barack Obama is the new president or not. No nation should give away it's sovereignty:


    Zambia hosts US secret prisons
    Written by Mwala Kalaluka
    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    ZAMBIA is one of the countries hosting secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prisons that newly elected United States President Barack Obama wants closed.

    According to an article and map published in a British newspaper The Guardian of Friday January 23, 2009, Zambia is one of the countries with one CIA secret prison facility, while nations like South Africa have two CIA ‘black sites’.

    A map showing the spread of CIA secret prisons in the publication, that broke the story of the CIA secret detention centres last year, is accompanied by the following caption: “The US keeps detainees in camps around the world, many of them shrouded in secrecy. These are the ones we know about.”

    The US government has acknowledged before that it was holding at least 26, 000 people without trial in secret prisons.

    The map in the Guardian highlights that apart from Zambia’s secret prison, Djibouti has three secret CIA detention facilities while Mauritania, Kosovo, Poland, Romania, Syria, Uzbekistan and the British-run Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia have one facility each.

    The other countries with more than one secret CIA prison were highlighted as Morocco (3), Egypt (6), Iraq (5 facilities with 15, 800 detainees), Afghanistan (15 facilities with 600 detainees) and Jordan (2 facilities).

    The Guardian also illustrates through the map that Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has 254 detainees.

    Just days into office, President Obama signed executive orders hinting at the fact that the secret CIA prisons dotted allover the world would be closed.

    “The orders that I signed today should send an unmistakable signal that our actions in the defence of liberty should be as just as our cause,” President Obama said in a speech at the State Department.

    The executive orders signed by President Obama will facilitate for the abolishing of the CIA’s secret detention centres, torture and rendition and the shutting of Guantanamo Bay prison.

    The CIA ‘black sites’, according to The Guardian, were authorized by a classified presidential directive six days after the September 11 attacks in 2001, and only acknowledged five years later in a speech in which former US president George W Bush declined to say where they were and insisted only that the techniques used there were “tough… safe, and lawful, and necessary.”

    The Guardian stated that the black sites first came to light in Afghanistan where an airbase was used for interrogation and as a clearing centre for captives from around the world before they were flown to Guantanamo.

    A cross section of Zambians opposed the establishment of a United States African Command Centre (AFRICOM) on Zambian soil during the late president Levy Mwanawasa’s administration.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Zambia has always lost out in matters like this. In the 1960s, Zambia cut ties with Israel over a remote political issue. Israel cut off its technical assistance such as the construction of the University of Zambia Lusaka Campus. We cut off ties with South Africa, everybody was trading with it. We listened to China and North Korea and isolated Taiwan and South Korea, all our neighbours were doing business with the latter. Won't be a shame if one of our neighbours hosts Africom and we will be left kicking ourselves once we see the benefits?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Gersh,

    I would probably add the amount of money wasted "liberating" our neighbours while "imprisoning" our people in poverty.

    ReplyDelete
  13. (Audio file):

    AFRICOM and the U.S. Resource Wars in Africa

    Interview with journalist and human rights and genocide investigator, Keith Harmon Snow.

    The new U.S. command, AFRICOM; the crisis in northern Uganda; the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa; military programs and covert operations; Somalia and Ethiopia; oil and mineral resources; the Darfur region of Sudan; NGOs.

    ReplyDelete
  14. MrK,

    I am so glad to find that you consider Keith Harmon Snow to be a credible source on African politics. I would also refer you to his writings on the subject of Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF, and Robert Mugabe:
    http://www.allthingspass.com/uploads/html-16Great%20Betrayal%20ZIMBABWE.htm

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yakima,

    Thanks for the link, I will post it on my blog.

    However, you will admit that any condemnation of what happened in Zimbabwe (even accepting the high estimates which the Catholic Commission back in early 1997 did not) - to condemn someone for what happened 20 years ago, but to remain silent on the atrocities that were committed since and continue to this day in the name of cheap copper and cobalt from the DRC, is rank hypocrisy.

    Furthermore, this criticism of what happened in Zimbabwe 20 years ago, only gained traction after western ownership of land and industries in Zimbabwe came in dispute, not before. Before, President Mugabe was elevated to Knight Commander in the Order of Bath, in 1994. Mainly dare I say it, because he left white landownership in Zimbabwe alone to that date (and was probably given his knighthood as an encouragement to keep doing so into the future).

    You can honestly dispute what happened in Matabeleland, based on the available evidence. However, to use that event as a weapon to keep land out of the hands of the Zimbabwean people as has been done is a degree of cynicism I cannot follow.

    And I am not accusing you of that Yakima, but the British and US governments, Hillary Clinton and her backers, etc.

    And just to add, the price of reconciliation in South Africa is land and gold - I hope they start to understand that now.

    ReplyDelete
  16. MrK,

    For the most part I agree with you, even the American Left is far to the right of center globally, and the American Right will justify anything that makes them money. There is no real doubt that the USA role in Zimbabwe has been predominantly that of villain, to say nothing of the UK's open exploitation of generations of Zimbabweans. The hard part is identifying people who aren't "behaving badly" in the country.

    I would very much like to believe in the current land reform programme and other indigenisation policies, but there are too many government officials who have amassed too much wealth and indulged in too many decadent extravagances for me to trust in their populist or leftist rhetoric. It certainly seems that anyone who could get a piece of the DRC has gone to inhuman lengths to do so, as well as those like the Interhamwe or LRA who have used the general instability to maintain their lines of retreat and sources of illicit funds. It therefore doesn't surprise me in the least that the use of Zimbabwean military assets on behalf of the Kinshasa government has resulted in substantial personal benefits for certain Zimbabwean nationals and their international partners.

    The reason that I like American progressives like Keith Harmon is that he can look at a mess like DRC and not assume that there must be "good guys" versus "bad guys", it is entirely possible that all primary actors are having negative effects. Even the UN forces have been implicated in crimes against humanity, and the only people "in uniform" that seem like "good guys" to me are the park rangers. I don't want to have to grade African leaders on a curve anymore. I want to be able to hold each one up to the light of scrutiny, allow them to promise what they will, deliver if they can, take their lumps and accolades from the press, and face collective judgment via free and fair polls.

    Harmon wrote that article about eight years ago, this is not some newly invented perspective on the dictatorial nature of the Zimbabwean government. No doubt there are others with more cynical motives who would now seek to use evidence of misdeeds gathered by various human rights activists over the past three decades against the ZANU-PF leadership, and use the resulting smoke-screen to hide their own objectionable exploits, but there is smoke there because there is fire beneath. Matebeland is merely the most spectacular and tragic of the crimes of power alleged to have occurred during ZANU-PF rule, and attempting to isolate it as anomalous is to ignore the larger pattern of violence and intimidation throughout the period. Of course the simple fact that ZANU-PF has more to answer for than they might wish to does not make MDC into instant angels, and frankly they all need to be held to a much higher standard of governance. The tragic history of African nations through colonialism and the cold war is all the more reason to insist on reliable democratic institutions and fully accountable leadership.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yakima,

    I would very much like to believe in the current land reform programme and other indigenisation policies, but there are too many government officials who have amassed too much wealth and indulged in too many decadent extravagances for me to trust in their populist or leftist rhetoric.

    I don't trust anyone's rhetoric, I go with the data.

    And the data says that by 2003, over 234,000 people had benefited from landreform.

    Table 2. Beneficiaries of the Land Reform Programme by Province, May 2003

    More recent versions speak of over 314,000 people having benefited. That is more than a few government officials. And if that happened, with a few sweeteners going to senior party or military officials - I really don't care. Is there a country in the region where at least some land does not end up in the hands of politically connected individuals?

    Would it be different under the MDC (if anyone has followed the saga of Morgan Tsvangirai's niece, dr. Arikana Chihombori - also here: Farmer 'set dog' on PM's niece).

    So land goes to a few politically connected individuals thoughout the continent. Why would this only be a problem in Zimbabwe? Because in Zimbabwe, land also goes to hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. Because in Zimbabwe, land reform is actually land redistribution, not just land tenure or title reform, which is what the IMF and World Bank want, so they can more securely exploit Africa's resources.

    The reason that I like American progressives like Keith Harmon is that he can look at a mess like DRC and not assume that there must be "good guys" versus "bad guys", it is entirely possible that all primary actors are having negative effects.

    But taken to an extreme, there is no one to back, and no way out or forward. There is always an option or player that is least bad, but you can't enthuse people about that - and again, nothing gets done.

    And in the case of Zimbabwe, getting the land back to the people - hundreds of thousands of them - does marcate who is on the right side, and who is not.

    ReplyDelete
  18. MrK,

    There is a lot of data in that FAO report, of which the only part that you seem to find relevant, and the only part that might even for a moment indicate that the means of redistribution was good for the majority of Zimbabweans, is Table 2. Otherwise it is an assessment of the economic and specifically food security situation as it existed in 2003, with a bleak but in hindsight overly optimistic prediction for future performance. Table 2 indicates 205,823 A1 smallholder households and 28,665 A2 commercial farmers benefiting from the land reform process (since inception?), yet this same document clearly states, "the situation of over 400 000 former farm workers and their families is desperate, as they have, in many cases, been displaced from their homes, have not benefited from the land reforms and have few employment opportunities." Taken as a whole, the report is a strong warning about the inadequacy of Zimbabwe's agriculture policy and a justification for the importation of over half the nation's grain needs for April 2003 through March 2004 (expected production was 980,000 tonnes, while importation was 1,287,000 tonnes).

    Paragraph 6.3 reads: "Over 67 percent of Zimbabwe’s nearly 12 million people live in rural areas2. Prior to 2000, 51 percent of the national population lived in the communal areas, 11 percent on commercial farms, 4.1 percent in resettlement areas and 1.6 on small-scale commercial land. Recent developments in land redistribution have shifted the number of people in these sectors, especially within the rural population. Approximately 74 percent of the rural population now resides in communal areas, 19 percent on commercial farms and A1 and A2 Resettled Areas, six percent in previously resettled areas and two percent in small-scale commercial farming areas."

    Very misleading at first glance, because the first set of numbers is out of the whole population and the second set is out of the 67.7% of the national population that lives in rural areas. Transposing these numbers into comparable metrics shows the following breakdown of rural population patterns before and after reform:

    51/67.7=75.3% living in communal areas before reform, vs. 74% after.

    11/67.7=16.2% living on commercial farms before reform, vs. 19% after.

    4.1/67.7=6.2% living in resettlement areas before reform, vs. 6% after.

    1.6/67.7=2.4% living on small commercial farms before reform, vs. 2% after.

    I guess I just read the data differently than you do, but I don't see a successful populist land reform programme in these numbers at all.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Yakima,

    The point is that land went to a lot more people than 'Mugabe's friends and cronies', and that is something you seemed to believe.

    To talk about any implications you draw about poverty or success of the policy is neither here nor there.

    For years, through the BBC, MDC, etc. we have been told (and you said it yourself) that land only went to the politically connected.

    This document from an independent source, proves that this simply is not the case, and that land went to hundreds of thousands of people.

    Point made.

    ReplyDelete
  20. MrK,

    Point made? I suppose if you misquote me and deliberately associate my position with that of the US/UK governments. I am perfectly aware of the source of the FAO document (btw some of their data comes from your hated Economist Intelligence Unit, some direct from the Zimbabwean Government, some from other sources (see footnote #1), but because one table says something you think makes your "point", suddenly it is an "independent source"?).

    How many times must I repeat this? I am not "pro-MDC"! I am simply also not "pro-ZANU-PF", which you clearly are. I am not the one saying "MDC is good because ZANU is bad," you are the one saying, "ZANU is good because MDC is bad". I find this reasoning to be flawed because rather than a struggle between the good and the bad, or the bad and the worse, it is simply two (primary) groups of bad actors competing over the spoils of a spoiled economy.

    I certainly never spouted any propaganda line about how "land went only to the politically connected," what I said was that the fact that politically connected people are taking advantage of a social programme supposedly to empower the poor is a clear sign of corruption and would be prosecutable or at least publishable in any country with decent democratic institutions (imagine the fallout if White House officials were collecting food stamps and cashing welfare checks).

    I certainly never said that corruption is only a problem in Zimbabwe. I frequently condemn corruption and hypocrisy in governments wherever I find evidence of it (US, Zambia, Iran, China, Cayman Islands, etc.). Although I don't comment on the subject much here due to the Zambian context, I have also extensively researched the tactics of modern genocide in a global context, and I am very used to hearing partisans claim that their opponents are clearly criminals while their own side's activities "can be honestly disputed". I find it troubling that you appear so willing to turn a blind eye towards corruption by certain governments and be especially hard on others, because I feel that it negatively impacts on the quality of your analysis. I would appreciate it if you would address the statements I am actually making, instead of simply trying to lump me in with statements made by the "BBC, MDC, etc."

    ReplyDelete

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