Africa and Europe are struggling to match dreams with reality,

Publié le par hort

Gamal Nkrumah

In the dying days of 2007, Europe, or rather the European Union, and Africa -- note not the African Union -- decided that it was time to brainstorm and debate head-on a number of pertinent questions pertaining to the precise nature of the relationship between the two continents.

It stands to reason that Africa and Europe, two continents that are bound with geographical proximity and historical entanglement, work closely together to cooperate and discuss several key pertinent issues of mutual concern. The Lisbon conference was replete with symbolic significance. First, the fact that the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attended the Lisbon summit and that the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declined to participate in the Africa- Europe summit to protest the presence of Mugabe undoubtedly had important implications. First and foremost, it demonstrated in no uncertain terms that African leaders were determined that Mugabe participates. It also showed that Europe was reluctant to oppose Africa's desire that Mugabe attends the summit meeting in the Portuguese capital, an exceptionally symbolic venue. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot on African soil and establish slave and trading forts. Extended the red carpet treatment by his contrite Portuguese hosts, Mugabe made the most of it.

All this is music to the ears of the leaders of Africa, most of whom are democratically elected according to the rules and regulations of Western-style democratic practice. Indeed, during the past decade, most African countries south of the Sahara had conducted free and fair elections approved by Western governments. There are notable exceptions -- a few countries in the African continent that are on record as having conducted fraudulent elections and having flagrantly violated human rights. But, who appointed Europe as judge of African affairs? This is the vital question that Africans are asking. Why should Europe assume the moral upper hand? There are historical sensitivities that Africans harbour against Europe that cannot be overlooked or ignored. European countries were, after all, the colonial masters of Africa, and before that, were involved in the slave trade that impoverished the African continent and created a deplorable situation of social chaos that directly led to Africa's underdevelopment.  Moreover, Europe's long shadow over Africa has not dissipated. After independence some 50 years ago, many African nations languished as neo-colonies of European nations. Small wonder then that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi called for reparations for the indignities, suffering and loss caused by the European slave trade and the atrocities of the colonial era. While his statements were received with derision by several European countries, African delegates noted that Gaddafi has a point.

There is a growing sense of injustice in Africa over several key issues, such as immigration and subsidies by the EU to the farmers of Europe, the consequences of which are suffered by African farmers. Instead of producing sugar from European beetroot, for instance, Europe can import African cane sugar. Europe can open up its markets to African produce. Indeed, the Lisbon summit focussed primarily on trade issues, but energy and migration also topped the agenda.

The Joint EU-Africa Strategy, the Action Plan and the Lisbon Declaration were adopted at Lisbon. Scrutiny and close reading of these three documents show that Africa did have a say at Lisbon.

In Lisbon, the deal Africa was offered seemed harmless enough. The point is that Africans are speaking out more vociferously about what precisely they want from Europe. African leaders are now more articulate and, more importantly, united in the presentation of their list of demands. Moreover, they do not ask for charity, but understand that their demands entail mutual benefit. If socio-economic conditions in Africa worsen, it will inevitably reflect negatively on Europe. There is no such thing as Fortress Europe, and there can never be.  

Meanwhile, the Europeans appeared to be more reconciliatory in spite of political differences onZimbabwe and Sudan. "If international leaders decided not to go to those countries which do not have reasonable human rights records, I am afraid we would not be attending any conferences at all," declared European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, himself a Portuguese national.

This change in mood comes not a moment too soon. It is worth recalling the circumstances of Mugabe's invitation to Lisbon. Under African insistence, he was invited against the wishes of Britain, in particular. Baroness Amos, Britain's secretary of state for international development, attended the Lisbon summit instead of Blair.

"We will not let ourselves be bullied or pressurised regarding who should attend the summit or not. That is why we as Africans had insisted that everyone should be present," African Union Commission Chairman and former Malian president Alpha Oumar Konare told reporters. Indeed, chief among the siren voices was that of Konare. He warned that Europe has no business interfering in the domestic affairs of African nations and that it cannot dictate which African leader is welcome in Lisbon and which is not.

In two decades, Europe will undoubtedly be competing with India and China, at least as much as with America, in Africa. But, Africans are obliged to see developments in their proper perspective. Seven years on from the Cairo EU-Africa summit, still not everything has gone Africa's way. Trade is still very much under European hegemony. Another prize to have eluded Africa is the European intransigent position on the prickly question of migration. Europe exacerbates the African brain drain by luring Africa's professionals, ruining in the process Africa's fragile health systems. Yet, Europe is most reluctant to admit Africa's underprivileged and jobless youth. But, it had better do so with more humane means than those the European slave traders of yesteryear had employed.

Africans united in rejecting European arrogance

By Sukant Chandan
Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The recent summit between African heads of states and the EU has shown that Europe has failed to move beyond their colonial-era past-times of economic and political bullying. The African delegates gave Europe an unmistakable cold shoulder on the two big issues of the conference: trade, especially the European proposed Economic Partnership Agreements, and European political interference in African affairs, centered on British arrogance towards Zimbabwe.

This African-EU Summit in Lisbon was possibly Portugal’s most important international meeting in its history. The intention of the summit was to discuss peace and security, human rights, international trade and climatic change. 40 presidents - 5 from Europe and 35 from Africa - and 27 prime ministers - 15 from Europe and 12 from Africa – took part in a summit which summed up the state of African-European relations today.

To give some background to the events in Lisbon, it is worth taking a short look at the history of these summits. The first African-EU Summit took place in Cairo in 2000 at the initiative of Egypt’s President Mubarak and the then President of the African Union Algeria’s President Bouteflika. Ever since then Britain has been unable to get over itself on the issue of Zimbabwe. From the first summit Blair refused to attend in protest at Mugabe’s presence. Already back in 2000 Britain’s puerile games on the issue of Mugabe was given a firm rebuttal by Africans when they insisted that Britain had no right to dictate who should or should not attend the summit. There should have been a second summit in 2003 but failed to materialise and was postponed indefinitely after the imposition of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe by the EU and due to Britain’s continued objection to the attendance of President Mugabe. So the Labour Government’s attitude towards Zimbabwe and the rejection of it has been an on-going issue in European-African relations ever since.

The British mainstream press likes to present the problems at the summit as the fault of the Africans, rather than the reality which is it is the behavior of former imperialists who, engaged in fruitless antics, results in them looking the fool on the international stage. Countries such as Britain and Germany seem to put more importance on dictating to Africa on how it should deal with its internal affairs than grappling with the critical issues of African development and progress. Britain has turned what is essentially a bilateral political rift between itself and Zimbabwe into an international issue in the face of opposition by Africa. Even the head of the Commonwealth, Mr Don McKinnon while being a critic of the Zimbabwean Government agreed that President Mugabe must be allowed to attend. José Manuel Barroso head of the EU commission expressed the Portuguese position which has consistently argued that the prospective rewards of closer ties between Africa and the EU are more important than the problems between Britain and Zimbabwe. Barroso made the headlines when he scolded the British apropos their pre-conditions: “If you are an international leader then you are going to have to be prepared to meet some people your mother would not like you to meet. That is what we have to do from time to time.”

Portugal’s position has been appreciated by Africa. This past weekend’s summit was in itself in question if it weren’t for Portugal’s insistence that it should go ahead. The Africans at the summit, the African Union, the Southern African Development Countries, and South Africa’s President Mbeki have held firm to the view that Zimbabwe must be represented by Mugabe despite the EU travel ban on him. Without Mugabe in attendance the whole of Africa would boycott the summit.

This stand of African unity in the face of what Mugabe rightly calls European ‘arrogance’ is a sign that Africa cannot be pushed around like it had been for centuries by countries from which they have gained their independence in the last five decades. As an indication of the strength of feeling on the issue, Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni told Brown last month “Mugabe is a revolutionary who fought to emancipate his people. When you are dealing with a revolutionary, you listen to his points, rather than give him orders.” Indeed Mugabe has a valid point when he reportedly said at the summit that it was Africans that taught the British about democracy when they won their fight for democracy against British-backed Apartheid colonial-settler states.

Whatever one’s view of Mugabe and the internal situation in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s stance and the defence of him by African leaders resulting in a row of British red faces, could not but be an inspiration to those who believe in the Pan-African strength of the continent in its struggle for independence and development. Western pressure on Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF government is unlikely to gain any popularity with African governments as the controversy centers around the emotive issue of land distribution to the indigenous peoples, land that was forcibly taken by European colonial settlers. There maybe problems in the details of the land distribution process in Zimbabwe, but the main problems are at root ones that can be traced back to the failure of the British to honour their commitments. This being the case, Africans are not going to back down from defending a fellow African state that is the main target for annihilation by the West. When the same interests who are supporting regime-change in Zimbabwe are behind all kinds of intrigue to grab more wealth from the land and people Africa, such as the plans for a coup against Equatorial-Guinea led by Mark Thatcher in 2004, it somewhat exposes the real meaning behind Western clamours about ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’. And Thatcher’s coup plans are merely the very tip of the ice-berg. It is in this context that closing of ranks by Africans at the summit can be understood.

When Africans show an effective united front against neo-colonialist behavior, there will always be a few Africans who, conveniently for the British, pop up to assure Western white society that these African upstarts are just being wholly irrational. While the British media occasionally and reluctantly admitted that all the Africans are behind Mugabe, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu attempted what must have been seen as a pathetic attempt to cover up the big issues at the summit by removing and cutting up his dog collar in protest at Mugabe on Andrew Marr’s politics program on BBC1.

There was one final humiliation for Britain at the summit after the British government decided to send Lord Amos as an ‘advocate’ of its interests. Former Labour Development Minister Clare Short stated on BBC Radio 4 that the only reason that this “pseudo-minister” was being sent was that she was black. Foreign Minister Milliband retorted on the same program that this was not fair; rather Lady Amos was being sent because “she has a lot of knowledge about Africa”. This highly amusing exchange must be highly embarrassing for Lady Amos and the British government, with Lady Amos perhaps thinking ‘is it because I is black?’

The debates around economic relations between the two continents also did little to create the impression that Europe is moving on from its colonial past. Europe wants to replace old trade agreements with EU-proposed Economic Partnership Agreements that have been widely criticised by African states and anti-poverty groups. Certain trade privileges exist between European countries and their former colonies but have been declared illegal by the WTO which is demanding that they be scrapped. These new EPAs would open up African markets to European competition which will have the effect of further devastating African economies. African Union commission president, Alpha Oumar Konaré denounced the EPAs and stated: “No one will make us believe we don't have the right to protect our economic fabric … It is time to bury definitively the colonial past. We can no longer be merely exporters of raw materials. We can no longer accept being solely an import market for finished products”, and if anyone was in any doubt about African attitudes to the EPAs Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade told reporters: “It's clear that Africa rejects the EPAs.” There was no agreement on this issue, however this did not stop Barroso from saying that the EU would go ahead with the imposition of tariffs on all but the poorest countries if they do not meet the deadline for accepting the EPAs. So much for Europe exorcising it’s colonial past.

Europe’s ulterior motive behind the summit was candidly admitted by the Financial Times which stated on Sunday 9th December that it was “meant to showcase a new partnership to counter China’s growing influence in Europe’s former colonies.” The BBC News website too has conceded that it is China which is one of the primary reasons for Africa’s new found confidence, which is ‘cause for worry in Europe’. The twin causes for worry in Europe being both an influential China and an increasingly assertive Africa.

Since China became independent and socialist in 1949, it has enjoyed especially close relations with Africa. Many newly liberated African states joined Chinese Premier Chou En Lai at the historic Afro-Asian Bandung Conference in 1955, which initiated the Non-Aligned Movement, and where Africans demanded that China be a member of the UN Security Council. This relationship of solidarity saw China directly assisting African states in their liberation struggles and also lending all manner of support in helping the development of the newly liberated African nations, as Chinese Premier Hu Jintao stated at the historic Forum on China-Africa Co-operation in Beijing November 2006: “China did what she needed to do to help ensure that Africa freed herself from the yoke of colonialism and apartheid.”

Ever since 1949 Chinese strategies of development and foreign policy have been controversial across the political spectrum in the West. China’s post-Mao era has been no exception, with many liberals, leftists and right-wingers all united in their opposition and criticisms of China’s development and meteoric economic rise. Notwithstanding the inevitable problems that a massive underdeveloped country like China faces in progressing by means of a mixed economy, it has achieved rates and levels of poverty reduction hitherto unseen in the history of mankind. Apart from winning UN awards for poverty alleviation in lifting over 200 million people out of abject poverty in the last two decades, China’s economic rise has also enabled Third World countries to develop political and economic strategies that many would not have perceived possible during the years of the Washington Consensus of the 1990s. There is another rather important advantage of favouring relations with China in comparison to the West: China will not criminalise you, starve your country with sanctions and possibly blitz and occupy your country, whereas the West might. China’s strict policy of non-interference and what it terms ‘win-win’ relations with other countries is winning it ever more friends.

The internal and external effect of China’s development is possibly the most important political question in the world today. It is a crucial issue for those who are confronting the challenges posed by aggressive Western unilateralism and hegemony and those of developing a multi-polar and peaceful world. As in Latin America, Africa’s relation with China is enabling it to develop a new-found confidence in lifting itself up in the world, and as China rises ever further it allows Africa to free itself from the negative relationship with its former colonial masters. In comparison to the West, China has an incomparably better deal to offer Africa leading President Wade to comment at the summit that “it is very clear that Europe is close to losing the battle of competition in Africa.” Therefore Africa is able to put into affect the non-aligned method of getting the best deal it can between bigger powers, although there is no indication that Europe is about to back-off from its unpopular policies towards Africa, although some observers like the BBC’s Mark Doyle know that Europe has to address its problematic relationship with Africa, especially in the face of China’s growing prestige: “African trade with China is forcing Europe to take Africa more seriously and not just as a collection of former colonial possessions.”

It is argued from left to right-wing circles in the West that China is merely a new neo-colonial power replacing the old ones in Africa. This is an issue that has been rigorously raised in the Western mainstream press. This media offensive is unsurprisingly having some success in affecting the attitudes of the political classes in the West, but the West is sadly mistaken if this is argument is going to turn Africans against China in appealing to their anti-imperialist sentiments. Chinese involvement in Africa is warmly and broadly welcomed. Nevertheless, the Chinese are keen to argue their case in response to what they see as hypocritical slurs. It was on this subject that Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai spoke at a news conference last year about China’s share of total oil exports in China the previous year of 9% compared to 36% for Europe and 33% for the US. The minister asked: “If an 8.7 percent share could be suspected as an act of plundering resources, then what about 36 percent and 33 percent?” In the chorus of attacks on China as a neo-colonial power, there are very few African voices to be heard, it is the West which is so vocal about losing its opportunities in Africa.

The African states at the summit showed great strength in standing up to Europe, with the latter so far unable to move away from its intransigent positions which are pushing the Africans away from the West in an eastwardly direction towards China. The way Britain and Germany treated Mugabe, and the unanimous defence of Mugabe by the Africans shows that Africans are in no mood to shift one inch from their positions of unity and respecting their sovereignty in African affairs. The consensus amongst Africa is that if there are any problems in any African state, it requires an African solution. The Mugabe issue should be seen in connection with the disagreements over the EPAs, as both these issues represent African demands for non-interference in their affairs so they can find their own ways of resolving and progressing from the problems which have been sown by colonialism in Africa. Maybe not in this writer’s lifetime, but perhaps a time will come when European countries can disengage from its colonial past and find new ways in developing a mutually respectful relationship with the Third World. In the meantime, while the US is tied up in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, Third World countries from Latin America to Africa are taking the opportunity to steam ahead with development and ‘South-South’ co-operation, of which China is arguably the most important component part. While Africa may not be seeing the type of social movements and struggles taking place in Latin America, the current rising confidence of Africa is surely a necessary precursor to further developments in the struggle for social and national liberation.

Sukant Chandan is a London-based freelance journalist, researcher and political analyst.

Germany: Racist, hypocritical

By Godwills Masimirembwa

OCTOBER 2, 1904, is a day the Herero people of Namibia will never forget, for on that day Lieutenant-General von Trotha, ordered the extermination of the Hereros for daring to resist German colonisation and exploitation.

Angela Merkel’s not too long distant relative thundered: "The Herero nation must leave the country. If it will not do so, I shall compel it by force. Inside Germany territory every Herero tribe’s man armed or unarmed with or without cattle will be shot. No women and children will be allowed in territory, they will be driven back to their people or forced on." These are the last words to the Herero nation from the great General of the Mighty Germany Emperor.

These words of a racist, colonial master and exploiter of the native people of Namibia sealed the fate of over 100 000 Hereros who heroically died resisting German colonisation and exploitation.

In Tanzania Angela Merkel’s forebearers, the Germans, faced the same resistance from the Maji Maji people. Germany, the colonial master, was forcing the Maji Maji people to grow cotton for export. The Maji Maji people were being exploited.

They rose, resisting German colonial policies. Over 75 000 perished fighting for their birthright.  It all started with the Scramble for Africa in the 1880s which culminated in the Berlin Conference in 1884. Germany’s share in the partitioning of Africa was Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, part of Mozambique, Namibia, Cameroon, part of Ghana and Togo.

Angela Merkel’s Germany, like the British in Australia and the Americans in America, believed in the extermination of the indigenous inhabitants of the countries they took at gunpoint. They were exterminators. Ask the Maji Maji people, the Hereros, the Aborigines and the Red Indians.

An encounter with the Germanic race (the British, the Germans, the Australian whites and the Americans (British descendants), was an encounter with death.

Ask the rest of Africa, ask the Zimbabweans in particular, about the price that had to be paid to attain freedom from the yoke of colonialism.

So it was not surprising when Angela Merkel was chosen to lead the attack on President Mugabe at the just-ended Lisbon EU-Africa Summit. The attack is consistent wit Germanic race’s belief that any non-white person or group of persons fighting for political and economic rights must be silenced.
Imperialists never change.
The attack on President Mugabe was and remains completely unjustified. Democracy thrives in Zimbabwe, thanks to President Mugabe’s leadership. True human rights, in particular economic rights, abound in Zimbabwe, thanks to the visionary leadership of President Mugabe.

Racism, hypocrisy and the exploitation of other people believed to be inferior is the nature of the beast called the Germanic race. Add Germany’s Hitler with his social Darwinism that Jews, Slavs, Blacks, Asians, Arabs and all non-white races are inferior to white people — the Aryan (pure white supremacists) theory, and you will understand why Angela Merkel does not understand Africans in the mould of President Mugabe who steadfastly stand for a just social, political and economic order not only in Zimbabwe, but in Africa and the entire world.

Racists believe that democracy applies to them and not to other races. To them other races are merely raw materials, a resource to be exploited in furtherance of their social, political and economic objectives.

Racists have a diseased mind fixated on exploiting those they classify as inferior. This diseased mindset is a common characteristic of the Germanic race. It has wrecked havoc to the establishment of win-win trade relations between Africa and Europe.

This explains why the proposed Economic Partnership Agreements are not in the interest of Africa, but promote the acquisitive and domineering habits of Europe. Europe wants to exterminate Africa’s resources, leaving it desolate, with no industries nor a commercial life. Once the forests, the mines and the oil are exhausted, Europe will move away, leaving Africa in mortal danger.
This writer does not subscribe to the submission that Angela Merkel only acted in a representative capacity when she attacked President Mugabe. It is a broad issue of seeking to eliminate those who cannot be fooled. Angela Merkel is a latter-day exterminator.

She is an economic exterminator using the human rights card in the hope of sidelining President Mugabe. Men and women of principle do not join the bandwagon in launching an unjustified attack on a man who defends universally defined and accepted human rights.

This explains why President Mugabe is so popular with the common man, with the people. He has refused to be polluted by the bandwagon mentality.

Amongst his peers he stands for the truth. He defends and promotes that which is right. This is why those of his peers who, yesterday hesitated to be openly on his side, are today championing his defence, steadfastly standing by him against the Germanic race’s attack. His peers now proudly realise that President Mugabe is a gifted son of the African continent, who desires nothing but that which is just and fair for the African people.

Angela Merkel, on the other hand, shares the same evil values with Gordon Brown and the rest of the Western world which still believes that Africa and its people are its resources for a better life.

Europe has to change its attitude towards Africa. Angela Merkel’s Germany is a powerhouse in Europe because it exploited and benefited from Africa’s resources either as direct imports or as imports through Britain.

Angela Merkel’s Germany therefore has to accept its obligation to compensate Africa or to establish trade relations that first address the economic disparities caused by colonisation and exploitation.

Africa refuses to be Europe’s supermarket. Africa refuses to be flooded with Europe’s finished goods  which kill its industry. Africa is entitled to real economic growth, growth that will see Africa adding value to its raw materials through rapid industrialisation.

The proposed Economic Partnership Agreements which seem to divide Africa, South Africa against Sadc, Nigeria against Ecowas, and Kenya against Comesa are totally unacceptable.

Europe’s hypocrisy is there for everyone to see. The economic relations between Europe and Africa need to be evened out, with Europe adopting an economic restorative approach to its plunder of Africa’s wealth. This means an aggressive and measurable transfer of technology and industrial wherewithal necessary for Africa’s economic revival.

When President Mugabe, now openly joined by the rest of formerly cowed African leaders, speaks about these issues of justice, fairness and equity, Europe responds by unjustified attacks on governance issues in Zimbabwe. Despite the unjustified attacks and isolation, Zimbabwe has proved its mettle and is soldiering on to sure economic recovery.

But surely it is an abuse of human rights for Europe to continue to seek to impoverish Africa through trade agreements that undermine Africa’s basic economic rights.

When President Mugabe, and now the rest of the African leaders, raise this pertinent issue, Angela

Merkel pelts them with false accusations of human rights abuses.

But Europe is obviously worried about the growing economic relations between Africa and China, Africa and India, Africa and Brazil, Africa and the rest of Asia.

Herein lies the hope for Europe’s survival instinct to be pricked. Europe will eventually relent and enter into mutually beneficial trade agreements with Africa, not because it is driven by a desire for a just trading order, but because its own interests are threatened by Africa’s new economic partners.

Africa should therefore continue to demonstrate to Europe that whilst it is desirable that the two continents establish Economic Partnership Agreements, such agreements are not the sine quo non to Africa’s economic existence. There are other players willing to enter into mutually beneficial Economic Partnership Agreements with Africa.

Angela Merkel’s Germany is racist and hypocritical. But it is not too late to change and be on the side of justice and fairness. Germany can play a meaningful role in changing the mindset of the gang of four and Britain.

The hope for this is the hesitancy in Angela Merkel’s attack on President Mugabe. She knew what she was doing was wrong.

She forewarned the President of the impending attack, lamely ascribing it to group solidarity. After the attack, she knew she had not won the battle. She knew President Mugabe’s reprisal was coming and that it would, as it did, surely bury her and her gang.

It is a good sign that she knows that her cause is unjust. It is sad she has yet to extricate herself from it. The onus is on her and her accomplices.

For Zimbabwe and Africa the future is bright for as long as we hold steadfast to the correct values as espoused by President Mugabe and other African leaders. The land is the economy and the economy is the land. With or without Angela Merkel we will make it. In fact, Europe, though incorrigible, now desperately needs Africa.

Africa has the raw materials. Europe does not have. Africa is now fully aware of Europe’s hypocrisy and is refusing to enter into trade agreements that primarily benefit Europe whilst impoverishing Africans.

With a vision and mission, championed by visionary leaders, tough times never last but tough people do.

Publié dans contemporary africa

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