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Pambazuka News

Kenya elections from a theoretical and global perspective

Introduction

I limit my contribution to making some general observations of a theoretical nature. That, hopefully, would provide a broader historical and global perspective to the forthcoming elections in Kenya on issues of electoral politics and state policies.

The base and the superstructure

There are many things that Karl Marx had said with which I disagree (and I will not go into these here). However, there is one fundamental point he made that remains valid and important to keep in our mind whilst analysing elections in our time, not only in Kenya and Africa but the world over.

Marx divides society into essentially two parts: the base and the superstructure. To put it simply, the "base" comprises of the economy, the forces and relations of production (e.g. in agriculture, industry, etc.), and the science and technology applied in production, and the relationship between workers and the owners of capital. The "superstructure" comprises of the government, laws, religion, ideology, culture, education, etc.

 

                              SUPERSTRUCTURE

                                            

 Science & Technology of Production     BASE          Relations of Production

 

It is better to quote Marx directly, for it is one of his most his profound observations, and worth reading over until one understands its deep significance. 

In his preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), Marx explains:

"In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely [the] relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political, and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms - with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces, these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution".

I should add that this is a long view of history when the material forces of production – the economic structure of society – determine the superstructure - the social and political processes, and our “consciousness” about what is going around us.

Politics in command

 At the same time, however, as events develop from day to day, it is the social and political consciousness of the people that shapes the events.  People are poor. This is their material reality. Out of this arises, their political consciousness – the significance of self-empowerment.

As Mao Tse-tung said, in the short run it is politics that are in command.  He said: “You should put politics in command, go to the masses and be one with them ...” [1][1]

People want elections

Political independence is a significant stage in the fight against imperialism.  The “common man” is brought into the democratic process directly. Political parties are formed to vie for power. They have to reach out to the people for votes. The problem is that elections are regularly manipulated by political leaders. Nonetheless, people continue to demand “free and fair” elections. 

Above all, political independence exposes the internal class contradictions - class oppression and class struggle - more clearly.  The danger is that these are interpreted in ethnic, religious and other identities, which are then presented by the political elite to the people as “principal” contradictions. They are not. They are “secondary” contradictions among the people, and exploited by the empire for its own ends.  I will return to this point later.

Is Kenya a neocolonial state?

This is an important question, one that applies to all Africa and most of the countries of the so-called third world.  It is important to understand the phenomenon of neocolonialism. The best source of this is, of course, Kwame Nkrumah. In his Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965), he argued that Africa is not yet independent; it is still under the control of the empire. Neocolonialism is imperialism’s final stage. Nkrumah waged a fierce battle against it, but the empire manipulated the economic system (especially the global cocoa market) - and its neocolonial agents within Ghana - to stage a military coup and oust him.  Ghana to this day remains a neocolonial state.

In order to end imperial interference in our countries it is necessary to study, understand, expose and actively combat neocolonialism. Here I describe its three principal features:

  1. A neocolonial condition does not negate the rule of the international financial oligarchy. The petty bourgeoisie arising out of the colonial period is blocked from becoming a fully fledged national bourgeoisie, their interests locked up with monopoly finance capital. 
  2. However, political independence is a significant step towards liberation from the empire. It makes it more cumbersome for the empire to control the neocolonies compared to direct colonial rule. Why? … Because the empire has to work through its local agents. The Chinese, during their 1949 revolution, called them “comprador” agents that are engaged in trade, investments and politics in collusion with the empire.

How the political elite divide and rule

The compradors, in liaison with the empire, use all they have to divide the people – ethnic loyalties, religion, gender, class, and above all, money to “bribe” the people to vote for them.

In an excellent analytical piece on South Africa,[2][2] Oupa Lehulere argues: “Monopoly capitalists and their allies in the ANC … have corrupted the dream of a free and egalitarian nation. For over two decades, the ANC has presided over entrenched corruption, which must now be resisted.”

We might ask a similar question in relation to Kenya.

How can it be different?  Learning from Uganda

In January 1986, following a guerrilla war, Museveni took over power.  In his “Sowing the Mustard Seed” Museveni says:  “By 1966 ... the dominant economic interests in Uganda were imperialist … Obote was creating artificial divisions among the people. ... He thus actually served imperialism by emphasising internal differences … “ [3][3] Accordingly, the NRM set about a “correct” ideological orientation in the form of the "The Ten-Point Programme". 

That was in 1986. Thirty years down the road, on 12 May 2016, President Museveni was sworn in for a fifth term following an election that the opposition declared was not "free and fair".

In March 2017, an Oxfam report on Uganda [4][4] found that Uganda's resources are exploited largely by the dominant western finance capital. Museveni’s government has been obliged by the World Bank and the IMF (like in Kenya) to pursue liberalisation policies. These have led to the removal of protection from local industry and agriculture, and inequitable access to productive resources like land – leading to conflict and political dissension.

The question is: where did Museveni and the NRM go wrong?  What happened to Museveni’s revolutionary idealism? To understand this, some knowledge of Uganda’s history is necessary.

Immediately after Uganda’s independence in 1962, John Kakonge had led the left wing of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) - much like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga did in Kenya within the Kenya African Union (KAU). Kakonge had proposed a "socialist project" for Uganda. This was hijacked, and a right wing of the UPC took over the leadership.

At the March 1979, after the defeat of Amin by mainly Tanzanian forces, 21 organisations that were fighting Amin in their various ways sent their representative to the Moshi Unity Conference, which led to the creation of the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). Its principal ideological motive force was the late Dani Wadada Nabudere, who had taken over the leadership of the left of the UPC from John Kakonge.  After Amin was dislodged, the UNLF took over. However, the UNLF rule lasted only one year. In May 1980 there was another military coup masterminded by Obote. 

The UNLF leadership went into exile in Kenya from where they launched a guerrilla war. Within a year, the guerrilla force was disbanded.  I cannot go deeper into this here, but the principal reason was our discovery that the leadership was far ahead of the masses. Their material reality had not changed.  The common man was still poor.  But the people’s consciousness about the reasons behind their poverty was lagging. We were trying to emulate the Chinese and Cuban models, but discovered that there are no models to emulate.

 But one thing came out strongly.  There can be no revolution without a vanguard party.

That still remains our challenge.

This article previously appeared on Awaaz magazine. @Yash Tandon.

* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

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Issue Number: 
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ANDREW KASUKU

An anatomy of the Black South African “Middle Class”

According to figures recently presented by a research project at the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa’s population classified as middle class increased from 12.8 percent in 1993 to 16.6 percent in 2012. Two-thirds of these are categorized as ‘black’. In contrast, 55 percent of the population remain poor, 23 percent vulnerable and 5.2 percent can be considered as elite.

A black middle class in such a socially segregated society merits closer attention as to its definition and its further deconstruction. Which are the characteristics, the aspirations, the self-definition, but also the political orientations of such a group?

Realities in Soweto

Phakati – Soweto’s Middling Class is a documentary produced in 2008/2009 by a team headed by Peter Alexander from the University of Johannesburg (UJ). It illustrates mainly through interviews a research project initiated in 2006. A survey investigated class identity.

In total 2,284 respondents were initially classified. The biggest groups were 582 in formal (wage) employment and 535 unemployed, followed by 309 recipients of social grants or otherwise not in the labor force, 261 students, 251 partial workers and 225 fill-ins (the latter two categories were self-employed ‘survivalists’ or in very irregular unemployment). 129 were classified as petty bourgeoisie (self-employed professionals or small businesses not looking for work), 24 as employed middle class (salaried managerial positions) and four as bourgeoisie. In terms of occupational categories, two thirds of the persons were without occupation (being unemployed, pensioners, students etc.).

Respondents were offered a variety of class or status related options for multiple self-categorizations. The biggest group (20 percent of the respondents) opted only for the middle class label. Adding those who registered in multiple categories, a total of two-thirds (66 percent) of the respondents classified themselves as middle class, followed by 43 percent working class, 38 percent lower class and 13 percent upper or top class.

The explanations given by the “middle class” respondents (ranging from a woman being the owner of a company occupying a posh house to an unemployed woman in a shack) were almost stereotype. Those in the upper segment argued that others were better off, while those in the lower segments referred to others still worse off.

When at the end of the film the businesswoman was asked to visit the shack dweller, they both questioned each other’s categorization. The two women were hardly able to communicate, both convinced that the other one was out of her mind by calling herself middle class. But there is some logic and sense to what seems to be an anomaly. According to the study by UJ researchers Mosa Phadi and Claire Ceruti: ‘Sowetans who declare themselves middle class are thereby distinguishing themselves from mediocrity’.

The self-perception clearly had to do with a form of pride, of dignity, and of belonging. The middle class label, Peter Alexander summarizes in the book Class in Soweto, ‘was linked to self-respect, to upward mobility and aspirations’ and ‘regarded as normal, thus neither “above” nor “below” other people’. As he adds further, “class” can be seen as something positive, because unlike “race” it permits upwards mobility. Being “middle class”, therefore, is a desired self-categorization.

While the differences in the social status, lifestyle and (in)security of these Soweto residents are enormous, they all merrily classify themselves as being part of a rather arbitrarily defined “middle”. The self-classification suggests that “being middle class” is a kind of comfort zone despite the daily struggle for survival.

A contrasting analysis was almost in parallel undertaken by Ivor Chipkin of the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) in Johannesburg in 2012. In his essay Middle Classing in Roodepoort: Capitalism and Social Change in South Africa, he studies “middle classness” in the townhouse suburbia of Roodepoort. As a previously “white” residential area of the wider Johannesburg area, it now accommodates components of a black middle class.

Chipkin diagnoses the emergence of a ‘common world’, which ‘is not associated with new patterns of sociability that transcend race or ethnicity’. But assertions that different groups defined by ethnicity would ‘signify antagonistic social positions’ and survive especially among white middle class members, are put into doubt. Instead, such sentiments have been replaced by ‘an openness to black South Africans that may well be unprecedented outside liberal and/or leftist political circles’. Chipkin therefore concludes, that ‘ordinary life refers to the pursuit of identity, of structure, rather than revolt or resistance to it’.

He observes in the Roodepoort townhouse complexes a ‘paradoxical common world conjured into being through a new regime of property right and mediated by body corporates’. And he asserts that ‘spaces of order have been constituted through a regime of (private) property’, which is not necessarily in compliance with ‘a post-apartheid society tending towards socialism or participatory democracy or, at least, subject to the morality of the Constitution’. It is, in other words, the identity of haves, who consider their own possession as the only important point of reference.

This seems to confirm a survey of political attitudes conducted by Bob Mattes in the Afrobarometer project. It suggests that black South Africans enjoying a degree of security and with access to higher education are more likely to support higher-order needs of good governance and self-expression. They are less likely to prioritise the provision of basic goods and services than those worse-off.

Realities among the black South African middle class

The BBC’s “Africa Business Report” televised on 1 and 2 January 2016 a conversation with three South African observers. They were asked for their views on the African middle class. One (himself black middle class) attributed to them not much more than greed and their own individual aspirations to accumulate wealth and status as a generation seeking ‘instant gratifications’ with ‘no loyalties’ to any political or other ideological orientation.

For her Master thesis, Amuzweni Ngoma interviewed members of a black middle class (BMC) in higher professional positions. She concludes that ‘the high levels of intra-racial inequality bond the BMC to race-based alliances rather than class-based alliances’. Occupation and income as class markers do not automatically translate into class identities. But Ngoma also observes, ‘that the BMC is becoming increasingly confident in its class position, a development allowing it to begin critically assessing the wider political landscape’, which also ‘indicates a deeper commitment to the developmental needs of the class itself’.

In his book on The New Black Middle Class in South Africa, Roger Southall shows that historically the black middle class was a politically progressive force, while at the same time quite uneven: ‘at different times, in different situations, in different locations it was variously (and sometimes simultaneously) liberal, conservative, nationalist and radical. It might even be argued that the only consistent thing about the black middle class was its political inconsistency.’ He argues, ‘that the black elite and middle class now in positions of power, privilege and profit are not likely to bite the hand of the party-state that feeds them. The more dependent they are upon the ruling party for their welfare, the more they are likely to support it.’

However, as he also suggests: ‘while the most powerful segments of the black elite and middle class remain strongly aligned to the ANC’s party-state, the black middle class as a whole is becoming more heterogeneous. However much they come out of an ANC background, many younger black middle-class voters are becoming increasingly critical of the performance of the ruling party.’ One therefore should not take it for granted that black middle class loyalty to the ANC’s party-state remains cast in stone – as also the voter behavior of the municipal and local elections of mid-2016 documented: ‘A financial meltdown will bring major fractures … and the party will strain the loyalty of many within the black middle class. The political direction or directions in which the black middle class choses to go will prove an important factor in shaping the country’s future trajectory.’

One should, however, not take for granted that this would be a more democratic course. Middle class behaviour is not principled beyond acting in the own interest, but rather pragmatic and opportunistic. Southall therefore warns that, ‘the black middle class may back a drift towards “competitive authoritarianism”, a hybrid form of governance in which democratic forms belie a reality of authoritarian rule.’ – While we follow the ANC-internal battles over succession and the handling of state capture, the verdict on the role of a black middle class is pending.

* HENNING MELBER is a Senior Research Associate with the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala and Extraordinary Professor at the Department for Political Sciences, University of Pretoria and the Centre for Africa Studies, University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. This blog text is based in part on edited extracts from the Introduction and Conclusion of Henning Melber (ed.), The Rise of Africa’s Middle Class: Myths, Realities and Critical EngagementsJohannesburg: Wits University Press 2017 and London: Zed Books 2016.

* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

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Issue Number: 
Article Image Caption | Source: 
Getty

Reforming the UN? Here’s a great idea

Sub-Title: 
A review of Michael von der Schulenburg’s 'On Building Peace: Rescuing the Nation State and Saving the United Nations.' Amsterdam University Press, 2017; 276 pages.

Debates on reforming the United Nations almost always focus on the Security Council, whose permanent membership, it is generally agreed, no longer reflects global geopolitical realities, and should therefore be expanded to include more representation, including from Africa and Latin America. In this provocative book, Michael von der Schulenburg, a UN veteran, argues, somewhat counter-intuitively, that this approach should be abandoned, because it is unrealistic to expect that the Council’s unrepresentative members with their prized veto power will accept a dilution of their privilege, which would be the result of greater diversity. He instead advocates two deceptively simple but very thoughtful (and possibly controversial) approaches: expand the UN Charter to include an explicit mandate to intervene in intrastate conflicts; and transform the currently ineffective and sidelined UN Peacebuilding Commission, set up in 2005, to be the “governing council for all UN peace operations” involving intrastate conflicts. His reasoning, rooted in decades of experience leading or helping to manage complex UN missions in Afghanistan, Haiti, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Sierra Leone, is unassailable.

The UN, Schulenburg writes, remains vital for global peace and development, but it is currently marginalized by powerful nations to the detriment of smaller and weaker nations, whose very existence as sovereign states is under threat. Intrastate conflicts, which have spurned destructive non-state actors getting support from foreign states, have become the bane of nation-states around the globe, generating massive refugee flows and extremist violence that cause great global anxiety about security.

In fact, though the world may not have grown wiser over the decades, it has in many ways become decidedly gentler and kinder. This may not be obvious in an age of instant media, television, terrorist bombing and demagoguery, but it is demonstrably true. Wars between powerful nations have all but disappeared and smaller wars, though frequent and often atrocious, are less deadly. The Uppsala Conflict Data Program estimates the total death toll from all wars around the world from 2005-2015, a period of 10 years, at 567,000, far fewer than that from a single battle during the WWI (Battle of Verdun in 1916 killed 714,000 men), and a mere fraction of 1.3 to 1.7 million estimated to have been killed during the battle for Stalingrad in 1942/1943.

Indeed, as Steven Pinker has shown in The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011), there has been such decline in the incidence of violence over long stretches of time that today we live in the most peaceful era in human existence. Large wars between powerful nations that produce massive casualties have become rare. One can perhaps think of several markers towards this happy development, but where large casualty interstate wars are concerned, it might be useful to begin with the creation of the United Nations.

Since its famous charter came into effect on 24 October 1945, the occurrence of major wars and the absolute numbers of battle-related deaths have drastically declined. Today, the risk of getting killed in a war or armed conflict is only about 2 per cent compared to the years before the UN came into existence. Correlation should not be confused with cause, and there may be multiple reasons for this important development. However, the UN has surely been influential in the disappearance of wars between large powerful states, which, because of their imperial reach, tend to spread widely and produce far more casualties than intrastate wars. The organisation has had little impact on the occurrence of intrastate wars in smaller and weak states, however. These wars, which were not at all the focus of its founding Charter, have become more frequent. Though they produce fewer casualties, they create massive refugee flows, tend to invite mostly furtive (and therefore difficult-to-end) external interventions, and threaten the very existence states. In short, though often the result of local disputes or power struggles, such wars quickly become threats to international peace and security, warranting the intervention of the UN Security Council.

Over the past decades, weak African states have been particularly affected by such wars: seeming to be intrastate or local, they are often profoundly shaped by external actors, including foreign states. In What Rebels Want (2013), the academic Jennifer Hazen examined seven ‘rebel’ groups in three West African countries. Her research undermined the view among some policy makers that those conflicts were purely civil or intrastate wars. She demonstrates that, though those wars were started by poorly-organised groups, they nonetheless had immense impacts due largely to the support they got from outside, noting that such external supports alter the nature of civil wars and prolongs them “by changing the resources available to warring factions.”

The danger of such intrastate wars growing to threaten the existence of nation states become more acute in regions of great geopolitical interests to the major world powers, as is evident in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. In Ukraine, both Russia and the United States support what in truth amounts to rival factions, but covertly. Russia has sent thousands of ‘volunteers’ to help its allies in East Ukraine, and the US is funding about 20,000 “private security” personnel ostensibly to help train the Ukrainian army. These efforts cost billions of dollars, and have ensured that the crisis will probably not end without Ukraine breaking up. External intervention in Syria is even more blatant; ditto Yemen. It is important to note that these interventions violate the United Nations Charter – they are illegal under international law.

The UN, in other words, has been effectively marginalised with respect to some of the world’s most destructive conflicts today. How can the UN be made more relevant? What needs to be done?

The UN Charter, as noted above, envisaged threats to international peace to come primarily from powerful aggressive states, but for the past 30 years it has had to deal with situations where states become threats to international peace not because they are strong and capable of external aggression, but precisely because they are weak. Threats come from non-state actors, often with the support of foreign states. The UN has had to constantly improvise ways of dealing with the situation, and now almost all of its missions do not merit the term peacekeeping – which evoke the tidy deployment separating enemy state armies on the Sinai Peninsula in the 1950s called ‘Sheriff’s posse’ – and are now invariably called peace operations. They are interventions in messy situations where UN forces are prepared for aggressive action to defend themselves, and protect civilians and the recognised government against non-state actors; or – as in the case of the ‘intervention brigade’ deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013 – as a more or less aggression force sent to defeat violent non-state groups. This has become normative even though the UN Charter does not provide a legal framework for intervening in member states sucked into interstate wars.

Schulenburg deplores the undermining of the United Nations by powerful countries violating international law through interventions, overt and covert, to support client factions in weaker states, often leading to long drawn out conflicts in which the existence of such weak states could no longer be assured. Non-state actors in such situations become more and more powerful, in some cases taking the form of extremist groups (Schulenburg avoids the emotive term ‘terrorist’) that then pose a grave threat to innocent civilians around the world. The increasing activities of such groups in turn fuel such anxiety in powerful countries that they resort to further militarisation and more interventions: a vicious cycle.

Certainly, Schulenburg writes, in such a situation the UN Charter is no longer a guarantor of peace, for its core principles are being trampled upon by powerful states that drafted the Charter. An unapologetic internationalist and a true believer in the continuing relevance of the UN for global peace, security and development, Schulenburg suggests expansion of the Charter so that the UN can deal with these new threats more effectively. The immediate task is to “rescue the nation-state” and maintain its integrity, because in an age of globalization neutering the nation-state merely means giving lease of life to nihilistic non-state actors who cannot be held to any norm, and who do not recognise any borders.

This is obviously a threat to international peace and security, but absent an aggressive power that can be held to account. In this situation, Schulenburg says that the Security Council could remain as currently constituted but since a revised UN Charter would in effect involve making decisions over national and state sovereignties, a more representative body must be tasked with that grave decision. The Security Council in any case is often too paralysed, as in the case of Syria, by the geopolitical rivalries of its permanent members. Therefore, the Peace Building Commission (PBC) – which has 31 members, including the members of the Security Council, all of them elected because of their investments in UN peace missions, and none with a veto power – should be transformed into a new council that would help decide and entirely govern all UN operations involved with intrastate conflicts.

This is more than a formal transformation or iteration of the Group of Friends. The PBC was created by concurrent resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly to coordinate and reinforce the UN peace building architecture, and to advance peace, security, human rights, and development around the world. The Security Council has never felt entirely comfortable with the PBC, its own creation, and Schulenburg is aware of this. He therefore suggests redefining the mandate of the PBC so that it will not compete but “complement the work of the Security Council.”

The Security Council would continue to be the body with the responsibility of maintaining global peace and security, and mandating peace operations. But the PBC would be responsible for overseeing the missions as mandated by the Security Council, becoming active only after the Security Council has placed a member state with an intrastate conflict on its watch-list. The PBC would then review the case/s on the watch-list and recommend Security Council action. All such agreed interventions must be carefully planned and resourced to in effect rescue nation states and make them viable as sovereign authorities.

Will this arrangement rescue the Security Council from its proneness to paralysis in the face of conflicts like Syria, and the UN from being marginalised? For this to happen, the new Peace Building Council ought, one supposes, to be empowered to authorise such interventions by a majority vote in case of Security Council paralysis. This is not without precedent: major peace operations during the Cold War were authorised by the General Assembly canvassed, of course, by a major power. The new Peace Building Council could make such a decision and its implementation a lot more tidy and effective. It might be objected that such an arrangement would provide the framework and incentive for unnecessary interventions and place awkward regimes at risk. But the very diversity of the Peace Building Council guarantees that this risk will remain low.

Schulenburg has provided a blueprint that is both original and far more attractive and coherent than any of the recommendations of the many reviews of peacekeeping authorised by the UN Secretariat for the past 15 to 20 years.

* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

* Please send comments to [email=editor@pambazuka.org]editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org[/email] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

Issue Number: 
Article Image Caption | Source: 
JC McIlwaine

President Trump and climate change: Proof for even the most skeptical

The People's Climate March on Saturday, April 29, 2017 flooded Washington, D.C., with over 100,000 protesters. Organizers claimed 150,000, with marches in 330 other cities across the country and in three dozen solidarity events abroad.  Coinciding with President Trump's 100th day in office, the marchers also protested his anti-environmental actions.

The previous Saturday (April 22, 2017), thousands of scientists marched to protest the Trump administration's belittling of science.  The demonstrations were planned for Earth Day to signal a particular concern with the enormity of current climate policy.  Across the U.S. and in hundreds of cities across the globe, more than 600 marches on every continent except Antarctica, they excoriated the president with disparaging signs likening him to all kinds of toxins generally orange colored.  When have scientists marched like this?  They are clearly worried.

Contrary to the administration's cavalier attitude, climate change is not a belief; it is a determined fact, measurable, and rationally undeniable.  Just about every major international scientific academy endorses it [http://nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf] including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

The melting Arctic ice, the plight of polar bears, the pollution registered even in Arctic snow ... none of it has been enough to deter this President.  He asked the Environmental Protection Agency in January to remove the climate change page from its website, which also carried links to emission data and scientific research.  He wants to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, arrived at after great effort and now ratified by 144 countries out of the 197 participants.  In typical Trump fashion, he later added he might stay on if the U.S. got a better deal.

On March 28, he signed an executive order attempting to roll back the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and its restrictions on coal.  He said it would bring jobs back to the coal mining communities.
While of much concern, it may not be as easy as he thinks.  Not only is coal the most polluting of fossil fuels, it has a cleaner rival in natural gas of which there is an abundance.  One might also have noticed the power companies (the main users of coal) are not rushing in to support Mr. Trump.

There is a good reason.  The CPP generated discussion at all levels of society when it was proposed.  The initial draft produced more than 4.3 million comments because the Environmental Protection Agency made extraordinary efforts to inform, conduct public hearings, hold joint discussions between regulators and power producers, and encourage collaborations between federal energy bodies.  It was all designed to change the perspectives and motivations of stakeholders.  In this the EPA succeeded, so much so that even if the Trump administration prevails in its roll back, it is unlikely to find many takers.

At present a full 44 percent of the U.S. power supply is generated in coal-fired power plants.  As of 2012, there were 572 such operational stations generating an average of 547 megawatts.
The pollution from this coal burning comes in many forms:  toxic emissions, smog, soot, acid rain and global warming.  To those who deny man-made CO2 as a contributor to global warming, there is an irrefutable answer.  Carbon in CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels presents a unique signature through delta13C negation.  This is because plants have less of the 13C isotope of carbon than that in the atmosphere so that the burning of fossil fuels reduces the isotope in the atmosphere.  It is measured as negative delta13C.  The more negative the delta13C (as atmospheric CO2 increases) the higher the proportion of carbon from fossil fuels.  Since 1980, delta13C has been on a consistent negative slope from -7.5 per mil to a -8.3 per mil in 2012 imputing human hands.  Before the Industrial Revolution, it was -6.5 per mil.  Put another way, our fingerprints are all over this crime scene.

The current EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, has repeatedly expressed doubts about the issue.  Yet the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (2013) has enough detail to convince any rational skeptic.
For the Trump administration's climate change deniers, one can only present measurable, undeniable facts.  The latest Arctic Report Card released December 13, 2016 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does exactly that.  The peer-reviewed report brings together the work of 61 scientists from 11 nations, and is key to tracking changes in the Arctic. 
Even Indonesian farmers are responding to the effects of climate change.  Surely the American public has the right to expect public officials to be better informed than far less literate farmers, although the latter naturally observe the problems first hand.

What is happening in the Arctic is frightening.  The region has experienced record-setting surface temperatures for three years in a row accelerating the ice and snow melt.  In the past quarter-century it has lost two-thirds of the volume of sea ice as well as snow cover.  The result is increased exposure of water to sunlight and greater absorption of heat, which in turn melts more ice and snow in a vicious cycle (Martin Jeffries, James Overland and Don Perovich, Physics Today, October 2013).  Worth noting, of course, is that the Antarctic is not immune.

Antarctica is featured in the July 2017 National Geographic.  Dramatic satellite photos show how a 225 square mile chunk of ice breaks off from the Pine Island ice shelf, which supports a massive glacier.  A second rift is forming already.

There is a disturbing photograph of the Arctic showing a large green area in the middle.  Green in the middle of the Arctic you ask yourself!  The text explains what is happening.  Ice cover is now so thin sunlight is able to penetrate through enabling plankton to grow in the water below.

The effect of Arctic warming on weather in the mid-latitudes is another issue.  As yet the scientific community is ambivalent because mathematical computer simulations have not proved significant, at least not on a global scale.  Local effects are another matter:  Loss of sea ice in the Barents and Kara Seas in the Arctic have been linked to cold, stormy conditions in eastern Asia through both simulations and field observations.  It can of course be a harbinger of future global effects when the Arctic ice melts further.

Whether all the evidence and the logic will gather much traction among the climate change deniers of the Trump administration is another matter.  That is why the People's Climate March protesters were marching.  So were the scientists.  Their discipline, resilient yet based on fact, theoretical yet based on empirical evidence, bringing benefits to society as a whole, forces them to.

* Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a US-based former Professor.  Educated at King's College London and the University of Chicago, his multidisciplinary background  has frequently informed his research.  Khan headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway and his work on SMEs has been widely cited.  Over the years, his opinion pieces and comments have been published widely in print and online media.  His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

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CNN

Constitution amendment in Nigeria: A fatal blow to nation-building

Nigeria has a frightening history of precariously balancing herself on the cliff’s edge from time to time. And each moment usually comes with a fair amount of anxiety and numbing terror, such that it is only through the intervention of some supernatural force that the country has not gone the way of some chinaware smashed on a concrete floor.

By October 1, 2017, the country will roll out the drums to celebrate 57 years of independence from its British colonizers. It survived a civil war, six military coups and eight military heads of state who ruled for a total of 29 years until the will of the people forced the soldiers to return to the barracks in 1999, with a cautionary note never to return to the political arena. In the last seventeen years, the country has witnessed a succession of civilian governments produced from four general elections, the last being an unprecedented transfer of power from an incumbent government to an opposition party.

But despite these seeming achievements, the national question has remained unanswered. Post-independence Nigeria is contending with a fierce centrifugal pull by popular and fringe tendencies tearing away at the soul of the world’s most populous black country. It seems that the restive elements would hardly be blamed for their actions. Successive governments have not been able to muster the leadership vision and statesmanly discipline required to forge a nation from the diverse ethnic nationalities occupying the geographical space called Nigeria.

Rather than strive to construct a proper federal state based on social justice, equity and merit, as envisioned by the colonizers and their local inheritors, otherwise known as founding fathers, the new crop of leaders have stubbornly stuck to a retrograde unitary arrangement imposed by the military since 1966. Thus Nigeria has remained in the backwoods of underdevelopment, pitifully existing not even anywhere near the shadows of countries like South Korea and Brazil with which she rubbed shoulders in the early days of independence.

In this suffocating atmosphere of pathetic leadership, ethno-religious and regional anger is flaring, fuelling a renewed and more intense cry for a restructuring of the so-called federal republic, as well as strident agitations for a dismemberment of the country amid mutual sabrerattling and hate speech. Indeed, this moment is reminiscent of the eerie call in the mid-1960s for a return to the homestead. For sure, for a particular ethnic group down south, this is the kind of tense situation that warrants an exigent call on those who aren’t moving to get off the way (B’o lo oya).

This country has been in that frame of emergency for a long time. It has perpetually groped in the darkness it brought upon itself. Now, those who argue that we don’t have a country yet really have to be excused. At no time other than this moment does Nigeria need to heal herself of the pathologies that have held it down for decades.

That can only begin by reinventing the country through a total redesigning of its architecture. And the place to start is the constitution. What Nigeria needs today is a brand new, people-driven constitution, not an amendment of an anti-federal, military-imposed 1999 constitution which is currently being operated. In the first place, the idea of amendment is odious as it has been repeated again and again to the point of becoming a cliché that the extant constitution is Decree 24 handed down by the military. And it’s not only that its originators are not known believers of federalism, they are also the least qualified to give the country a constitution that will guide it through its democratic journey.

A democratic Nigeria cannot continue to rely on a military document, for the military cannot give what they do not have. That is why a constitution that originates from their regimented, command-and-obey mindset can only be nothing but a document full of useless unitary principles even for a multi-ethnic society.

Therefore, by embarking on an amendment of a constitution of such massively flawed origin, a dubious document which politicians swore to defend but which the military never allowed them to see before assuming office in 1999, the National Assembly is only carrying out a futile exercise. It is no surprise that the purported amendment turned out to be a jamboree of self-service. The legislators have proved once again that their interest is more important than that of other citizens and the country. That is why they can afford to fiddle when the country is forever tottering on the brink.  

But what is more of a surprise is that even very senior lawyers who ought to know better have weighed in on the side of a hopeless amendment when they should be beating the drums for a fresh people’s constitution. These lawyers, and indeed all those who genuinely love this country, should let the legislators know that the way to go is not amendment, but by putting in place a law for a Constituent Assembly whose duty it is to draw up a constitution that will be approved by a referendum of the people.

Anything short of that, such as the misguided exercise the National Assembly has taken upon itself, will escalate agitations and intensify the drums of war.

* Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist. He can be reached on gonyeacholem@gmail.com .

* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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Comment Wall

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You need to be a member of Who I am for Africa and Africans? to add comments!


NYMetro
Comment by Nefertari Ahmose on April 13, 2012 at 3:07am

The sure way out of the trickery is being presented with the truth, but we are a very brainwash people and so it is hard to digest. Firstly, I have to give credit to those who seek righteousness through religion. Applauded they must, but because there are so many different churches and denominations it is very hard to ferret out the truth. Also with the accomplishment of science we must give appaulse, but I am afraid that the foundation of science is not based on the truth neither is our religious base. I will tell you why. If we go back to the era before Christ we will see that our ancestors revered the creation much more than the Creator. The ancestors did not only revere one God. They revered many Gods. The ancestors did not only revere a son, but sons and daughters. The ancestors did not only revere the male divinity, the ancestors also revered the female divinity. They spoke of Gods and Goddesses. Therefore Akhenaten with his conviction towards one God led to monotheism which the Christians, Moslems and Jews made their foundation. King Tut'ankhamun, a boy king overthrew Akhenaten one God philosophy and restored the many God philosophy. But what happened to King Tut'ankhamun? He died young and became the Hero who a certain Lord and his wife in England for a better place sold to certain American entity the whole story of Tut'akhamun. We are in America so I think it is only appropriate for those who are the keepers of the life of King Tut would come forward and so instead of me telling the story I would reserve that for them to tell. I need for this bit of knowledge to surface so I can continue with the falsehood of both science and religion, though with good intentions.


NYMetro
Comment by Nefertari Ahmose on August 26, 2010 at 4:27pm
Freedom comes from the innermost control of oneself. Therefore it is what one does or involves oneself with that determines his freedom. Why are we not free? We are not free because we do not make day to day decisions that concern us as a people. We talk of providers, is it us that provide food for our table? Is it us who provide the curriculum for our children's education? Is it us who fund our own operations? Is it us in charge of our mental condition. We can go on and on with these questions and if in deed you answer yes, then in my mind you are a free human being with potentials to be great.

South
Comment by ms. gg owens aka QUEEN AKEBA on August 12, 2010 at 9:50am
HOTEP ...WE WILL HONOR THIS MOST ARTICULATE AFRIKAN KING THIS AUGUST 17, 2010 WITH A GLOBAL READ A THON....VISIT THIS SITE FOR MORE INFO....IT IS A GREAT FEELING TO BE AN AFRIKAN FOR ME !!!!!!!!

NYMetro
Comment by KWASI Akyeampong on February 22, 2010 at 12:50pm
Brother Ali Aminitu, I get that "Tricks are still, being played", so then, where do you we as a people go from here? What is the way out of the TRICKERY?

kwasi

Chicago-Midwest
Comment by Ali Aminifu on February 22, 2010 at 12:20pm
Hotep, words from one of our greatest ancestors. The concept of an African Union is the workings of The Illuminati. They are making it sound and look good, by uniting the countries in Africa, under The African Union. It's not what it seems...Tricks are still, being played.

South
Comment by Osiris Akkebala on December 21, 2009 at 7:24am
Hoteph Beloved Black Divine Beings:

I am humble to be invited to be a member of a wall that set upon the foundation of the Greatest Black advocate for the freedom of Black people and Afrika since our fall ever!!!

The Honorable Marcus Garvey I respect to be my Leader and Spiritual Father, a Father who demonstrated how much he loved Afrika and the Afrikan.

You have as they say, hit a Home Run by erecting this Wall and the members of this wall must serve to not allow it to be penetrated by traitors to Afrika and the Black Race.

To You Do I Bow, Beloved KWASI Akyeampong.

Divine Respect To The Honorable Marcus Garvey

Be Kind To Your Self, Beloved.

Hoteph

Osiris
Chief Elder
The First Way Institute Of Afrikan Mythicism/Reparation/Repatriation

South
Comment by ms. gg owens aka QUEEN AKEBA on July 19, 2009 at 10:09pm
MA'AT HOTEP....IT IS INDEED AN HONOR TO BE PART OF THIS PARTICULAR GROUP,,,MARCUS M. GARVEY IS HIGH ON MY LIST FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE INSPIRED ME TO WANT TO BECOME MORE CULTURALLY AWARE OF WHO I AM AND THOSE AROUND ME...THE RED/BLACK AND GREEN...WHICH GAVE ME THE DESIRE TO PURCHASE A FLAG OF THOSE COLORS AND HANG IT HIGH ON MY HOUSE...WEAR MY FIINGERNAILS IN THOSE COLORS NOW FOR 15 YEARS AND THE NOSE RING FOR 16 YEARS WITH THE CULTURAL COLORS ON MY HOOP..READING ABOUT HIM AND HIS INTELLIGENT WIFE HAVE LEFT AN IMPACT ON ME ABOUT LIBERATION THAT WILL NOT AND CANNOT BE DENIED...STAND UP YOU MIGHTY RACE..WE CAN ACCOMPLISH WHAT WE CAN AND WILL....ASANTE' SANA FOR HAVING THIS SITE TO SHARE ON AND KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURNING........QUEEN AKEBA.

NYMetro
Comment by Nefertari Ahmose on March 1, 2009 at 5:12pm
All honour and praise to Sister Agnes Johnson with let us get with reality. Our Black masses will not buy into this, meaning Merkhutu and the Queendom of Wafrakan. My dear sister the good part is that Merkhutu is not just for sale, but for a people to grow in the knowledge and understanding of self and when they do be rewarded the things that give honour, dignity, success, education, self-worth and excellence by just making the effort. One cannot be apart of something that is truly not inclusive of them. Hence, the Civil Rights Movement, Garveyism, the struggle to reach today's height. I leave you with the Jamaican saying, "What is for you cannot be not for you". Love, peace and blessings. Nefertari A. Ahmose.

South
Comment by Okpara Nosakhere on February 28, 2009 at 9:31pm
Greetings Everyone,

Educational Management Associates, www.educationalmanagementassociates.com, has been given the honor of arranging speaking engagements starting the month of May 2009, for Dr. Julius Garvey, the son of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association of 1914.

Dr. Julius Garvey will be available for lectures to discuss the life of one of our most revered and greatest freedom fighters in America, his father.

"Where did the name of the organization come from? It was while speaking to a West Indian Negro who was a passenger with me from Southampton, who was returning home to the West Indies from Basutoland with his Basuto wife, that I further learned of the horrors of native life in Africa. He related to me in conversation such horrible and pitiable tales that my heart bled within me. Retiring from the conversation to my cabin, all day and the following night I pondered over the subject matter of that conversation, and at midnight, lying flat on my back, the vision and thought came to me that I should name the organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League. Such a name I thought would embrace the purpose of all black humanity. Thus to the world a name was born, a movement created, and a man became known." Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

If you know of an organization that would like to have him share an important part of African American history contact: Okpara Nosakhere at okpara@aol.com. This would be an excellent opportunity to support your fund raising efforts. Peace!

West
Comment by Prophetees Leerma on February 28, 2009 at 4:24pm
Blessings to you and may you be richly blessed.
 
 
 

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