Author Archives: Brian Nawiri

About Brian Nawiri

Budding scholar/activist researcher.

After 2015, then what? Africa in a post-MDGs era




In view of the under-achievement record of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), global policy makers have set out on a search for a more veritable replacement ahead of its 2015 expiration date. Designed in 2000 by developed countries on behalf of developing countries, the MDGs were collectively promoted as a near-final solution to the development quagmire that drowns a section of the globe. With most African countries at the bottom of the development ranking, the region’s leaders were all too eager to sign on to the MDGs. Across Africa, government representatives were quick to utter the initially unfamiliar acronym, especially in the hearing of donors.  After all, the donors were the ones who set the MDGs, the ones who wanted to spend their money on accomplishing these goals, and the ones who sent their monitoring and implementation team to Africa for follow-up.  And in that mindset lay perhaps the greatest…

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Africa and the ‘War on Terror’: Back to the Future.


The epicentre of the US-led ‘war on terror’ could be shifting to Africa; what with the steady augmentation in counter-terrorism training and funding, US military presence predictably in a bid to bolster counter-terrorism operations, over and above an increase in US-designated terrorist organizations and their activities . France too apparently, has set out to ‘fight terrorism’ in the Sahel.A point is made, validly at that, of the transnational if not global nature of terrorism. Terrorism herein should be understood as ‘the use of violence by sub-state groups to inspire fear, by attacking civilians and/or symbolic targets, for purposes such as drawing widespread attention to a grievance, provoking a severe response, or wearing down their opponent’s moral resolve, to effect political change’. It should be noted that this post lays emphasis on terrorism as an existential threat. Terrorism as an imminent threat receives a mention en passant but would be addressed in depth  in a later post.

The continued terrorist attacks by the Shabaab in Nairobi and other parts of the country  since Kenya’s incursion into Somalia indisputably calls for some hard questions . Moreover, it proves the inefficiency of the bureaucratic model of  the delivery of intelligence information and supports the calls for the National Intelligence Service to be empowered to hit targets after the intelligence collection process. The  existential threat that the group poses  has had the UN Department of Safety and Security in Kenya for instance publish a booklet for its personnel in the country-a guide on ‘’How to Prepare for and Respond to a Terrorist Attack’. This goes to show the level of the threat that is terrorism, not just in Kenya but in a number of what pundits have labelled as ‘front line states’ in the so-called war on terror in Africa.

The continent’s supposed front line states war on terror, markedly bears the hallmarks of US Cold War epoch strategies. It would be vital to take into account that regardless of the remarkable differences between the Cold War and the ‘’War on Terror’’, certain parallels could be drawn. Just like the epicentre of the Cold War shifted from Southeast Asia to (southern) Africa, so is the war on terror, in light of the aforementioned developments, moving from the Middle East to Africa. After ISIS/ISIL happened,  this could be viewed in different  light. That said, it still is significant that the emergence of a number of African countries as “front line states” in the so-called war on terror  has arguably  underpinned the continent’s ”strategic relevance” . This was most recently underscored by Obama’s call on Congress to support a $5-billion Counter-terrorism Partnerships Fund  which will enable the US to ‘’facilitate partner countries on the front lines’’.

U.S. Marine Sergeant explains weapons handling tactics to a group of the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers during ongoing counter-terrorism combat engineering training, March 2012.

A U.S. Marine Sergeant explains weapons-handling tactics to a group of the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers during an ongoing counter-terrorism combat engineering training in March 2012. Photo Credit: US Africa Command (

The most conspicuous tactic in regard to back to the future point in the war on terror is the increasing use of proxies by the US. Kenya’s and Uganda’s  involvement  in Somalia, however much in the spirit of Pax Africana isn’t entirely the respective two countries’ war. The war on terror it seems is rapidly Americanizing Pax Africana. In his speech  to graduating cadets recently at West Point, Obama notes that “for the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.” That “we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat; one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stirs up local resentments.” “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us,” said he.

Kagwanja has it that America’s blanket definition of terrorism within Africa has led to counter-terrorism being one of the weakest links of Africa’s peace and security agenda. In reference to the definition problem, nowhere is this evident than the use of the terms ‘insurgency’ and ‘terrorism’ interchangeably knowingly or unknowingly to refer to the same situation within the discourse of terrorism. Noteworthy, is that terrorism differs from criminal violence in its level of political legitimacy. Of course the immediate victims of terrorism can hardly see any legitimacy of terror unleashed to send a message to a target audience beyond them. Nonetheless, the fundamental nature of war- the use of violence in the pursuit of political ends is unassailable, regardless of its changed subjective characteristics (tactics, means, and theatre).

Language let me say, is not a neutral transmitter of meaning and in this instance the language that is the ‘’war on terror’’ is clearly anything but.  This is why: with specific reference to politicians and other actors in world politics, language is critical because they have to legitimate their foreign policies to audiences at home and abroad. The choice of the term ‘’the war on terror’’ over ‘’counter-terrorism’’ it follows, would definitely have political implications. It is easier to delegitimize grievances, genuine or otherwise preposterous using the former simply because it is a ‘war’. The language that is the ‘’war on terror’’ erroneously presupposes that we can defeat terrorism per se through war.  If anything, observers reckon that ‘Americans are losing the war on terror’ .The military posture of the approach to counter-terrorism is bereft of the fact that terrorism is not a war situation but a tactic employed in times of (relative) peace instead.  This language clouds the real issues by delegitimizing grievances, from the onset. Moreover, the association of terrorism with war has its inadequacy in the sense that the former is asymmetric in nature and expressly constitutes a tactic.

It can hardly be belaboured that there is a hard-to-miss nexus (breeding ground) between terrorism and failed states-which Franklyne Ogbunwezeh describes as ‘’economic backwaters, social apologies and political ruins,’’ or those bearing failed states characteristics. The military option is a quick fix and inadequate response, some would say, to terrorism which in the case of a number of African states is compounded with the already existing instability. Furthermore, the unconventional nature of terrorism as a tactic makes it a ‘’multi-headed snake’’. A terrorist may be an extremist but an extremist is not a terrorist and neither are terrorists criminals to be flushed out from whatever hole/cave they’re in. Mamdani and Mbeki opine that ‘’unlike criminal violence, political violence has a constituency and is driven by issues, not just perpetrators.’’ Force is thus inadequate as a means to counter terrorism. Reportedly, since 2007, the ‘war on terror’ or the peace enforcement mission (as some would describe it) in Somalia for instance has of September 2013 incurred casualties almost equivalent to that of the UN peacekeeping missions since 1948-up to 3000. The statement by the UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson quoting these statistics was nevertheless retracted a day later. The figures on the number of troops sustained by AMISOM are conflicting. The long and short of it is that counter-terrorism has overly been militarized in a world in which states do not wield the monopoly of violence and therein, lies many an African state’s chance to redefine this ‘war’.

Instead, African states have taken to the established Bush narrative of  ‘waging war against terrorists’ as well as America’s  non-negotiation policy stance with terrorists. We have  got to ‘’politically address the issues in which terrorists “wrap themselves up,” without addressing the issues, there is no way of shifting the terrain of conflict from the military to the political, and drying up support for political terror,’’ contends  Mamdani.

Preventive measures have to be given attention as well. The emphasis ought to be on the eventual goal of development which is to eradicate what Amartya Sen calls the sources of development ‘unfreedom’ like poverty. For African states in the ‘front line’, the counter-terrorism strategies should underscore the non-military aspects. An unrelenting war should be waged on abject poverty- a bottom-top approach preferably, official corruption and de-radicalization programmes instituted. Moreover, the consequences of the US-led war on terrorism in many of these critical states should serve as a cue to redefine counter-terrorism strategies.  Not that a one-size-fits-all strategy is implausible. For the Horn of Africa in particular, Professor Kagwanja rightly proposes ‘’nothing short of a holistic and well-coordinated counter-terrorism policy that ties together poverty eradication, conflict resolution and peace-building strategies.’’

At the end of the day though, a pertinent question prompted by  Adekeye Adebajo  in John Davis’ 2007 Africa and the War on Terrorism remains: Will Washington be dismissive of its strategic partners when the war on terror ‘concludes’, à la Cold War?

Rwanda:Africa’s 21st century epitome of endogenous development


First published on Pambazuka News 

The 21st Century has been touted as Africa’s to claim. In fact, at the risk of sounding like an Afro-pessimist, there has been many an encomium such as ‘Africa Rising’, a narrative notably fostered by Western publications.[1] At the centre of this ‘Africa rising’ debate, is the subject of development.[2] In view of the subject that is development, it is vital to take into account that all conceptions of development reflect a particular set of social and political values.[3] The debate has been what constitutes the hallmark of development with a number of paradigmatic oppositions emerging: traditional versus modern; agrarian subsistence economies versus highly productive industrialized economies. On the continent, consideration of what ‘development’ is to a large extent is accorded to the evolution implied and promised by the passage from the former paradigms to the latter.[4]Rwanda’s (endogenous) development model has largely defied this. The concept of endogenous development refers to ‘’the process of economic, social, cultural, scientific and political transformation, based on the mobilization of internal social forces and resources and using the accumulated knowledge and experiences of the people of a country. It also allows citizens to be active agents in the transformation of their society instead of remaining spectators outside of a political system inspired by foreign models.’’[5] Dr. Christopher Kayumba contends[6] that post-genocide Rwanda is largely understood two-fold: An authoritarian state waiting to disintegrate yet again as posited by the likes of Filip Reyntjens who argue that “rather than liberation, inclusiveness and democracy, the RPF has brought oppression, exclusion and dictatorship…it has concentrated power and wealth in the hands of a very small minority, practiced ethnic discrimination, eliminated every form of dissent, destroyed civil society, and massively violated human rights at home and abroad…it pays little attention to the fate of the vast majority of its population made up of ever poorer peasants, and little awareness of the structural violence its ambitious engineering project engenders. That people’s widespread and deep-rooted feelings of frustration, anger and despair are a fertile breeding ground for structural violence, and they are likely to again lead to acute violence” [7] Notably, the State of East Africa Report 2013, ranks Rwanda as the most unequal country in the East African Community.[8] Kagame has since hinted at running for the 2017 elections. READ Authoritarian? Not Rwanda . Secondly, Rwanda is deemed as a post-conflict reconstruction model on a developmental course to be emulated argued by the likes of Booth & Golooba-Mutebi[9], former US president Bill Clinton as well as former British premier Tony Blair.

President Paul Kagame.

Can we talk about Rwanda without invoking Kagame’s name? Photo:


Gross National Product growth statistics might mean a good deal to an economist or to a maharajah, but they do not tell us a thing about the quality of life in a ‘developing’ country’s fishing village.[10] As opposed to the top-bottom approach of the orthodox neo-liberal prescription of development, Kigali has fashioned the alternative view of development which is participatory and reliant on local appropriate knowledge.[11] This underscores the role of politics in espousing an ideology that guides mobilization and allocation of development resources. Published in 1975 by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, What Now: Another Development asserts that the process of development should be need-oriented (material and non-material), endogenous (coming from within a society), self reliant (in terms of human, natural, and cultural resources), ecologically sound and based on structural transformations (of economy, society, gender, power relations). Rwanda’s endogenous development initiatives are as numerous as Rwandans’ venerable cultural practices. Umugunda– community work, has seen to it that every last Saturday of the month, Rwandans aged between eighteen and sixty five (it is mandatory for this age bracket) come together to do public works ranging from cleaning to building of schools and medical centres. Umugunda is estimated to have contributed more than US $ 60 million to the development of the country since its institutionalization in 2007.[12]  This is in no uncertain terms illustrative of what Nyerere once said of the African; he/she is ‘Communitary’ in his thinking. Girinka– One Cow per Poor Family, an initiative necessitated by the high rate of child hood malnutrition and the need to reduce poverty rates, has resulted in an increase in production of milk products in Rwanda, effectively reducing malnutrition besides augmenting incomes. 350,000 cows are expected to have been distributed by 2017. No less than 180,000 people have benefited from this programme since its 2006 introduction. Enshrined in Article 168 of the Rwandan Constitution, Umushyikirano– the National Dialogue Council- with thematic variations, annually affords the Rwandan hoi polloi the opportunity to directly ask their leaders questions concerning their plight. Noteworthy is that, the questions are recorded and a summary report and recommendations are produced and archived for future reference. Umushyikirano depicts democracy at its peak. Ubudehe, an age-old practice among the Rwandans seeks to enhance participatory development within the community. Ubudehe allows communities to define their development priorities for instance by determining their own conceptualisation of poverty. Thomas & Evans, 2011 note that the monetary-based conception of poverty has been almost universalized among governments and international organizations since 1945. This mainstream conceptualisation perceives poverty as a condition suffered by people who do not earn enough money to satisfy their basic material requirements in the market place.[13]Of significance in this instance is that Ubudehe additionally helps communities to determine ways of funding their development projects. At least 1.4 million people in Rwanda have been beneficiaries of Ubudehe since its re-introduction in 2001. The list doesn’t end with Ubudehe. Geared towards reconstructing the Rwandan identity, Ingando-solidarity camp[14] trainings are anchored on six pillars: the man and the universe, the history of Rwanda, human rights and conflict management, the Rwandan nation, good governance, the economy and social wellness. Somewhat related, Itorero serves to inculcate Rwandan cultural values into its young populace- half of which are under 20 and nearly three-quarters under 30[15] and rebuild the nation’s social fabric. That the year 1988-1997 was declared the World Decade for Cultural Development by UNESCO, lends credence to Kigali’s culturally-inspired development model. Underpinning this were the then prioritized objectives of acknowledging the cultural dimension of development, affirming and enriching cultural identities and broadening participation in cultural life. In his Kwibuka 20 speech, Kagame observes that Rwanda relies on universal human values, which include Rwanda’s culture and traditions, to find modern solutions to its unique challenges. Anti-globalists have argued that the values being globalized are conveniently those found in the West. The politics of donor aid has been and still is a pertinent issue on the continent. Africa’s foremost political organization- the African Union is sixty percent donor-funded. That Rwanda has been labeled a ‘donor darling’[16] shouldn’t be lost on us and that much it knows: We want you to know that we appreciate your contributions, precisely because we do not feel you owe us anything.’[17]In launching the Agaciro Development Fund on August 23rd 2012, an idea conceived during the 2011 Umushyikirano– the National Dialogue Council, Rwanda scored another first yet again as far as ‘African Solutions to African problems’ is concerned. The Agaciro Development Fund (a sovereign wealth fund) looks to secure Rwanda’s financial autonomy. The dignity of the AgDF (now standing at about 21 billion Rwandan Francs) is that it is entirely Rwanda-funded. Images of hunger stricken Africans have dotted if not entirely been spread across international news headlines for quite some time now, something that keeps rearing it’s not so beautiful head every often. Food insecurity certainly continues to be a developmental challenge to many countries on the continent. Rwanda, in its culturally-inspired development model has established a communal food store, to which each family contributes at least 20 per cent of their harvest during a good season. It is with initiatives like this that Rwanda has managed to reduce stunted growth among its children, according to a UNICEF report, from an estimated 52% in 2005 to 44% five years later.Gacaca (Traditional Courts), Imihigo (Performance Contracts), Umwiheroro (National Leadership Retreat) and Abunzi (Mediation Committees) constitute the country’s other culturally-underpinned programmes that are indeed the mark of endogenous development.[18]As Rwanda commemorates its 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, and moves towards a knowledge-based economy, the ingenuity with which the home-grown solutions come with, akin to Isidore Sankara’s Burkina Faso can only get better.

READ: Taking Sides in Rwanda and How Rwanda’s Paul Kagame Exploits U.S. Guilt

[1] See Time Magazine,9171,2129831,00.html & The Economist

[2] Charles Robertson and Michael Moran argue that ‘Africa’s Rise is Real’ . Rick Rowden says it’s nothing but a myth , the former underscores the concept of human development.

[3] Thomas, C. & Evans, T. Poverty, development, and hunger in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations.2011

[4] Mudimbe, V. Y. The Invention of Africa; Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge, 1988

[5] Demba Moussa Dembélé. Thomas Sankara: An Endogenous Approach to Development, available at

[6] In an Opinion Piece in The East African: It’s been 20 years of unimaginable success; more needs to be done available at

[7] Reyntjens, F. 2006, Politics in Rwanda: Problematising ‘Liberation’ and ‘Democratisation’, Third World Quarterly, 27 (6)

[8]The State of East Africa  Report 2013  by Society for International Development available at

[9] Booth, D. & Golooba-Mutebi, F.  Developmental Patrimonialism? The Case of Rwanda available at

[10] Roberts, R. Questioning Development, 1984.

[11] Thomas, C. & Evans, T. Poverty, development, and hunger in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations.2011

[12] Rwandapedia

[13] Thomas, C. & Evans, T. Poverty, development, and hunger in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations.2011

[14] Ingando. Rwandapedia available at

[15] Speech by President Paul Kagame at the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi available at

[16] Stefaan Marysse, An Ansoms, and Danny Cassimon, ‘The aid “darlings” and “orphans” of the Great Lakes Region in Africa’, European Journal of Development Research 19,3 (2007)

[17] Speech by President Paul Kagame at the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi available at

[18] For further discussion on Rwanda’s Home-Grown Solutions, see

Kwibuka 20: President Kagame’s Speech- the Sound Bites

  •  Excellencies Heads of State and Government;
  •  Excellency Secretary-General of the United Nations;
  •  Excellency Chairperson of the African Union Commission;
  •  Former Heads of State and Government;
  •  Distinguished Government Officials from around the world;
  •  Esteemed Guests;

My Fellow Rwandans:

”Your sacrifices are a gift to the nation. They are the seed from which the new Rwanda grows. Thank you for allowing your humanity and patriotism to prevail over your grief and loss. Thank you very much.

Historical clarity is a duty of memory that we cannot escape. Behind the words “Never Again”, there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable.

The people who planned and carried out the Genocide were Rwandans, but the history and root causes go beyond this country.

People cannot be bribed into changing their history. And no country is powerful enough, even when they think that they are, to change the facts. After all, les faits sont têtus (facts are stubborn)

The most devastating legacy of European control of Rwanda was the transformation of social distinctions into so-called “races”. We were classified and dissected, and whatever differences existed were magnified according to a framework invented elsewhere.

The purpose was neither scientific nor benign, but ideological: to justify colonial claims to rule over and “civilize” supposedly “lesser” peoples. We are not.

The colonial theory of Rwandan society claimed that hostility between something called “Hutu”, “Tutsi”, and “Twa” was permanent and necessary.

With the full participation of Belgian officials and Catholic institutions, this invented history was made the only basis of political organization, as if there was no other way to govern and develop society.

However, Africans are no longer resigned to being hostage to the world’s low expectations. We listen to and respect the views of others. But ultimately, we have got to be responsible for ourselves.

In Rwanda, we are relying on universal human values, which include our culture and traditions, to find modern solutions to our unique challenges. This is why I say to Rwandans, let’s not get diverted. Our approach is as radical and unprecedented as the situation we faced.

Managing the diversity in our society should not be seen as denying the uniqueness of every Rwandan. If we succeed in forging a new, more inclusive national identity, would it be a bad thing?

To our friends from abroad:
We ask that you engage Rwanda and Africa with an open mind.

We want you to know that we appreciate your contributions, precisely because we do not feel you owe us anything.

Rwanda was supposed to be a failed state. But we made three fundamental choices that guide us to this day. One- we chose to stay together. Two, we chose to be accountable to ourselves. Three, we chose to think big.”

The full speech can be found

The African Renaissance is a farce without de-westernizing ‘truths’.


Without de-westernizing ‘truths’, the African Renaissance would be nothing but farcical, to say the least. This rebirth should be alive to the fact that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But how do we remember this past if we cannot even authoritatively describe/define it? In the 16th century, Spanish missionaries judged and ranked human intelligence and civilization by whether the people practiced alphabetic writing. Towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the measuring stick for human intelligence and civilization was history and no longer alphabetic writing. That ‘people without history’ were located in a time ‘before’ the ‘present’. Thus people with history could write the history of those without.[1]This has fostered the notion of equating history, with writing about history as if before writing there was no history. [2] Wa Thiong’o notes that words name thought and the tongue voices the words. Words don’t come out of our mouths in written form; they come out as voice, spoken.[3]

That Africa didn’t have a written history is a stereotype that has been reinforced by the entrenched institutional ignorance and ‘epistemological oppression’ that to borrow Ngunyi’s words, bestrides the discourse in our institutions of higher learning like a colossus. However, nothing could be farther from the truth, as depicted by more or less one million manuscripts recently found in Timbuktu covering both physical and social sciences:

Explorers just brought new proofs which could explicate ‘’African inferiority.’’ Since Africans could produce nothing of value; the technique of Yoruba statuary must have come from Egyptians; Benin art must be a Portuguese creation; the architectural achievement of Zimbabwe was due to Arab technicians; and Hausa and Buganda statecraft were inventions of white invaders (Davidson 1959; Lugard, 1905; Randall-Maclaver, 1906; Sanders, 1969; Mallows, 1984) observes Mudimbe.[4] Azikiwe holds that the ‘’renascent African’’ must know that his ancestors made definite contributions to history. Undeniably, this ‘ahistorical’ view of science, technology and mathematics that deliberately leaves Africa and its peoples out of evolution of humanity’s science, technology and mathematics[5] has to be the starting point for this odyssey that is the African Renaissance. As Ki-Zerbo maintains, the curse of Africa is not the chronic ‘poverty’ of its countries but the ignorance of its children of the true history….of the continent. The renascent African, it follows, has to reclaim their history from the West.To quote Mwalimu Nyerere, ‘we, in Africa, have no more need of being ‘converted’ to socialism than we have of being ‘taught’ democracy. Both are rooted in our past- in the traditional society which produced us.’

The sources of knowledge are either science or philosophy. Discourses not only have socio-historical origins but also epistemological contexts, and the latter makes them possible.[6] To this extent, (Mudimbe,1983) poses pertinent questions: to what degree can one speak of an ‘’African knowledge’’ and in which sense? Who has the right and credentials to produce it, describe it….or at least present opinions about it? Is it only ‘’real’’ Africans or Westernized Africans as well? He thus posits, in a strict sense, ’the notion of African philosophy refers to contributions of Africans practicing philosophy within the definite framework of the discipline and its historical tradition.’ Critics however hold that with the globality of epistemology today, which they say is no longer Western, there can’t be such a thing as ‘’discourse authenticity’’.

‘Truths’ are today dominantly based on a Western episteme. European philosophy,concepts, identities and ‘truths’ have either been imposed by seduction or force. Statehood as the primary form of political organization among nations, or the conception of power as well as its management in today’s Africa as Ki-Zerbo puts it, has nothing African to it. [7] And Western-style democracy I’d add. Evan Mwangi reckons  that even the word ‘’Africa’’ is not African just as much as ‘’Kenya’’ is not a Kenyan word. ‘’Kenya’’ is a European mispronunciation of Kirinyaga, the pre-colonial Bantu name for Mount Kenya, adds he.[8] Every language has its way of organizing meaning and Ngugi challenges us to develop knowledge, philosophy, and other arts through African languages. The monetization of poverty is yet another conceptualized ‘truth’ we so gladly, and unquestionably at that, embrace. ‘’The so-called developed countries have regarded poverty as being something external to them and as such a defining feature of the quote-unquote, Third World. This view has provided justification for the former to help ‘develop’ the latter by promoting further integration into the capitalist market. A community that provides for itself outside monetized cash transactions and wage labour, such as a hunter-gatherer group, is thus regarded as poor’’…. and ‘primitive’.[9] This orthodox view of development promotes reliance on external ‘expert knowledge’, usually Western in lieu of participatory, appropriate often indigenous knowledge and technology.Is Westernization the hallmark of modernity? Objects which perhaps are not art at all in their ‘’native context’’ become ‘art’ by being given an aesthetic character by some odiero. In Half of a Yellow Sun– in cinemas this month, Odenigbo reiterates that the only authentic identity for the African is the tribe: “…my point is that the only authentic identity for the African is the tribe…I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.” Professor Ezeka counters: ‘’But you became aware that you were Igbo because of the white man. Tribe as it is today is as colonial a product as nation and race.’ Identity is undoubtedly of the essence when talking about the African Renaissance for without identity ‘’we are just a mere object of history, a prop in the play of globalization, an instrument used by the others. A utensil.’’ The African literary renaissance  will contribute greatly to the discourses that shape Africa’s rebirth in the political, economic and cultural spheres of African people’s lived experiences.[10] Sankara knew how important identity was when he renamed his ‘’fatherland’’  Burkina Faso- the land of the upright people from the colonial Upper Volta  and introduced le Faso dan Fani, the traditional  cotton-made Burkinabe cloth, later nicknamed by civil servants as ‘Sankara arrive’. This was underpinned by the policy that required that every civil servant had to consume local products. Today, to a large extent, Africa produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce.

Many an African analyst/academician has up to now been using conceptual systems supposing a non-African epistemological locus. Even in the most explicit ‘’Afro centric’’ descriptions, models of analysis explicitly or implicitly, knowingly or unknowingly, refer to the same order.[11] In what constitutes an unequivocal indictment on the African Renaissance, Okpanachi and Andrew reckon that a brief glance at course outlines in some African universities shows the course instructors in these schools rely on Western theories, sometimes even to teach domestic politics.[12] Few African scholars receive mention. The tragedy of our times, huh? READ @SiyandaWritesAcademia is Africa’s last hope

Our institutions of higher learning are no longer citadels of knowledge, an assertion disputed by some. ”Professors spend most of their time scavenging for wealth, lecturers are competing hawkers in the markets and students dread reading,” writes Kabaji in the Saturday Daily Nation. Africa contributes not more than two percent of knowledge generated worldwide, much of this produced in South Africa and Nigeria. In Kenya, ”how many new ideas have been patented from our various universities?”[13] Indeed, how many patents do we have continentally? Through bio-piracy, Africa’s genes, plants, and related traditional knowledge are being patented by Western Multinational Corporations. Consequently, Africa is losing in the region of not less than US $15 billion from its biodiversity annually. We have to design  curricula in institutions of higher education that reflect our needs. Education rooted in African realities; much of the social sciences are rooted in a Western episteme. They have to be alive to political, socio-economic and technological needs of our nations.SEE @ChikaforafricaEducation in Africa: Whose education, anyway?

Genealogy-the ‘history of the present’, prescribes that by looking into the past, we see alternative ways to conceptualize humans’ relationship with certain concepts and gain an understanding of the discursive and material structures that underpin the present.[14]

Illustrating the ‘epistemological oppression’ that has consigned ‘authentic’ African discourse to what I’ll call ethno ‘truths’- knowledge bereft of a universal quality,regardless of whether it is in colonially inherited European languages  or  mother tongues, Hamid Dabashi asks why European philosophy is “philosophy”, but African philosophy ethno philosophy, the way Indian music is ethno music. Mignolo rightly argues that African philosophy and European philosophy, ”are (potential) epistemological equals, the former has been subordinated by the coloniality of power.” The coloniality of knowledge has consequently led to an emergence of a dichotomizing system, and with it a great number of current paradigmatic oppositions have developed: traditional versus modern; oral versus written and printed; agrarian and customary communities versus urban and industrialized civilization; subsistence economies versus highly productive economies. On the continent, a great deal of attention is generally given to the evolution implied and promised by the passage from the former paradigms to the latter (Mudimbe, 1980). It should be noted too that ‘truths’ are not opposed to power- as in the classical phrase ‘speaking truth to power’- but is integral to power itself. ‘The way Western scholars have ‘gained knowledge’ about non-Western peoples by describing them as inferior, backward, underdeveloped, and sometimes threatening’[15], makes a good illustration of this. Knowledge is not immune from the workings of power. Instead, as Foucault argues, power in fact produces knowledge. All power requires knowledge and all knowledge relies on and reinforces existing power relations. From a publisher’s perspective, the control of knowledge will always be a political question that makes the arena for cultural production a site of struggle for dominance and struggle for the power to define, legitimize and consecrate ideas, producers and products.[16]

But if Confucianism offers the possibility of desubalternizing ‘truths’ and expanding the horizon of human knowledge beyond the academy and beyond the Western concept of knowledge and rationality, this possibility is also open to forms of knowledge that were hit harder by the colonial tempest.[17] African social scientists address African realities in borrowed languages and paradigms, conversing with each other through publications controlled by foreign academic communities, and producing prescriptive knowledge.[18] Bemoaning the fact that the continent has vast resources and ostensibly lacks  ‘intellectuals’, @cobbo3  points out that there no longer exists a single prestigious peer-reviewed pan-African journal. That, all the better journals are produced by Western institutions and universities

We’ve got to move beyond where colonial discourse assigned us. The question that the Africa Renaissance in effect should address as entails knowledge is how African philosophy  ”can reach self-consciousness and evident universality, not at the cost of whatever European philosophers may think of themselves for the world at large, but for the purpose of offering alternative (complementary or contradictory) visions of reality more rooted in the lived experiences of people in Africa.’’[19] Education thus ‘either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practices of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.’[20] The latter ought to be reflected in our education systems.


[1]  Mignolo D.W.  Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking.                                                                                                                                      

[2] Tongue and pen: a challenge to philosophers from Africa, a translation of ‘Rũrĩmĩ na karamu: ithoga harĩ athamaki a Abirika’ Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Journal of African Cultural Studies, 2013.



[4] V.Y Mudimbe. The Invention of Africa; Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge,1988.

[5] Biao, I & Dipholo B.K. Rethinking Education for Sustainable Development in Africa, The African Symposium, Volume 13, No.2, December 2013.

[6] V.Y Mudimbe. African Gnosis Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge: An Introduction. African Studies Review, Vol. 28, No.2/3 1985. .

[7]Amy Niang. Joseph Ki-Zerbo: The Historian and His Struggle,2006

[8] Evan Mwangi. Through New Writing, Africa is roaring again. Daily Nation, March 2nd 2014.

[9] Thomas, C. & Evans, T. Poverty, development, and hunger in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations.2011.

[10]Contributions of African literature to the African Renaissance; Maurice Taonezvi Vambe

[11] V.Y Mudimbe. African Gnosis Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge: An Introduction. African Studies Review, Vol. 28, No.2/3 1985. .

[12] Andrews N & Okpanachi E. Trends of Epistemic Oppression and Academic Dependency in Africa’s Development: The Need for a New Intellectual Path. The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.5, no.8, December 2012

[13] Egara Kabaji: How Scholars lost the plot: .Saturday Nation,18 2014.

[14] Hansen L. Postructuralism in Baylis, J. Owens P. and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics. an Introduction to International Relations.2011.

[15] Ibid

[16] Mbakwe T. Arise Nana Ayebia. New African, June 2011

[17] Mignolo D.W.  Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking.

[18] Zeleza, P. T. “The Politics of Historical and Social Science Research in Africa.” Journal of Southern African Studies 28, no. 1 2002

. [19] Dabashi, H. Can non-European think? Aljazeera, 2013.

[20] Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Sustainable Development Goals:Raising The Water Security Profile.


Human beings have for years consumed water as if it were an inexhaustible natural resource. Indeed, the vast oceans and rivers as well as recently discovered aquifers have led us to believe that water is inexhaustible. However,the fact is, 97% of all the water on the earth is salt water- unsuitable for drinking or growing crops and technologies to desalinize are expensive and beyond the reach of most of the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Of the freshwater resources, 70% is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover. Furthermore,available estimates,put freshwater lakes and rivers as constituting only 0.3% of the total freshwater useable for the entire human and animal population of the world (Vajpeyi, 2012:1).

Currently,Kenya and Hungary heads a group of 30 member states tasked with drafting the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals- a set of mid-term global objectives to succeed the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. More importantly however is that experts of water security are seeking  the adoption of ”universal water security” as one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Gledistch  defines water security as the availability of, and access to water in sufficient quantity and quality to meet the livelihood needs of all households throughout the year without prejudicing the needs of other users. The recommended international standard of water per person is  1,000 cubic metres  per year. UN-Water’s working definition, regards water security as ”the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.”Between 1991 and 2000 over 665,000 people died in 2,557 natural disasters of which 90% were water related (World Water Development Report 2012).Global demand for water is forecast to outstrip supply by 40% come 2030 due to factors such as population growth and climate change. About 340 million people on the continent lack access to safe drinking water (239 million ‘are hungry’), while almost 500 million lack access to improved sanitation facilities (AU at 50, 2013).One in 6 people worldwide – 783 million -don’t have access to improved drinking water sources.Globally,of the seven billion people, six billion have mobile phones. However, only 4.5 billion have access to toilets or latrines (UN News Centre). In other words, people have more access to mobile phones than to toilets or latrines.The result is that human stool in open sewers sometimes cross open water lines or empty into water sources such as rivers, lakes, and streams that people depend on for drinking water (Sinei, 2010). According to the AU, the sanitation and water crisis across the continent is costing countries up to five per cent of their gross domestic product each year.

It’s argued that the issue of food security is the most significant element of the non-physical threats in the context of climate change.The UNDP’s Human Development Report of 1994 defines food security as ensuring that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to basic food.The 1996 World Food Summit gives a more complex definition:“Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO. 1996).

An acquaintance observes that the water versus food security debate is akin to the egg and hen debate as illustrated particularly by the water-food-energy nexus. Water is needed to grow food;food transports (virtual) water. Water is needed to generate energy; energy is needed to supply water. Food can be used to produce energy; energy is needed to produce food.

The discussion that follows draws the nexus between water security and food security,effectively illustrating which one’s  the ‘first among equals’. (Energy security inevitably comes into play).In 2011, the UN Security Council recognized the serious implications of climate change, with water being the medium through which climate change will have the most effects. See United Nations University: “Water Security”: Experts Propose a UN Definition on Which Much Depend. Kent-Brown asserts that ”the most important natural resource on the planet, and certainly in Africa, is fresh water; and water  is perceived as the most vulnerable casualty of the impact of climate change.

The severity of the water crisis has prompted the United Nations (UNDP, 2007) in concluding that it is water scarcity, not a lack of arable land, that will be the major constraint to increased food production over the next few decades (Hanjira & Qureshi, 2010).

UN Water Fact Sheet on Water for Food.

Water is a key resource for sustaining life and society through agricultural production (Water for Food factsheet -PDF ),industry and hydro power, as well as health and human development at large. No community and economy will prevail without water of sufficient quality and quantity (Ndaruzaniye & Volkmann). Africa as a whole is considered to be among the most vulnerable regions to climate variability and change (New African June 2011). The continent is the world’s most populous after Asia and the figure is expected to double to nearly two billion in 2050. Subsequently, the demand for water will rise not just because of the population increase but also because of economic development, urbanization and changes in consumption rates. It is estimated that by 2025, 21 countries- nearly half the continent will experience stress (Bates et al: 2008), and two-thirds globally (Water and Agriculture in the Green Economy, Information Brief) ”Unless we increase our capacity to use water wisely in agriculture, we will fail to end hunger and we will open the door to a range of other ills, including drought, famine and political instability.”-UNSG World Water 2012 statement. The development prospects of Africa are intrinsically linked to the performance of the agricultural sector, writes Ankomah for the New African, May 2012. Agricultural labour comprises 59% of the total labour force in Africa (FAO, 2011) and 13% of value added to GDP in 2009 (World Bank Report 2009). Around the globe, 2.6 billion people work in the food and agriculture sector. This is 40% of today’s global population. It thus underscores the vital role of water as a prerequisite for food security. 95% of sub-Saharan Africa’s farmland relies on rain-fed agriculture and agriculture is the biggest user of water on the globe. Irrigation claims 70% of all freshwater appropriated for human use (Can Kenya Tap Its Water to Double Its Maize? ).Rain-fed agriculture is practiced on about 80% of world’s physical agricultural area and generates about 60% of the world’s staple food (FAO, 2008). Irrigated agriculture covers only 279 million hectares or 19% of cropland (Thenkabail et al., 2010).Worth noting too is that by 2050, food production will require twice as much water as it does today i.e an additional 3,300 cubic kilometres. In as much as in April 2012, there was  the revelation that at least 45 transboundary aquifers exist under Africa’s often-arid surface,underground aquifers are non-renewable (Invest in Africa 2013, AU Publication). Indeed, in the long run, climate change threatens to alter the rate of aquifer recharge, making availability even less predictable (World Bank). Over 64% of Africa’s population is rural, with much of that number living on small subsistence farming. Access to food in the rural areas of many developing countries depends heavily on access to water. Kaberuka,he of the AfDB writes thus:”We estimate that it will cost us another $50 billion a year for the next 20 years to meet Africa’s water needs, and – if that figure seems beyond our means – some perspective might help: it is less than the world spends on bottled water every year.” Unlike oil, there  is no substitute for water.In the longer term, other solutions to water shortage could be considered. For example, water tankers might well become more numerous than oil tankers as they traverse the southern oceans carrying water from Antarctica, natural reservoir of 70% of the world’s fresh water, to arid destinations in the north (Kent-Brown,2012).Conflicts around water can arise between and within countries.Inter-state water conflicts can occur between riparian groups—that is when water sources (rivers,lakes, ground water aquifers) cross borders. READWater wars that dog Africa.

Let’s take note of transboundary waters now, shall we? Stats from UN Water has it that approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population lives in river and lake basins that comprise two or more countries, and perhaps even more significantly, over 90 per cent lives in countries that share basins.The existing 276 transboundary lake and river basins cover nearly one half of the Earth’s land surface and account for an estimated 60 per cent of global freshwater flow (Transboundary Waters ).The Nile basin covers almost 10% of Africa’s landmass (3.1 million square kilometres) and supports over 200 million people, more than half living below the poverty line and dependent on rain-fed agriculture for their survival.The twin pressures of energy and food security—through hydroelectric generation and irrigation schemes—are placing ever-greater demands on the Nile.Climate change, population growth,economic growth amongst other factors therefore only serve to exacerbate water insecurity.

In an increasingly liberalizing (globalizing) world, Transnational Corporations (TNCs) have increased their control over the supply of water, especially in the South. In many cases, private sector participation in water services has been one of the “aid conditionalities” of the so-called “donor assistance” (ODAs) from donor countries and the IMF and the World Bank. Just three companies, Veolia Environnement (formerly Vivendi Environnement), Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux and Bechtel (USA), control a majority of private water concessions globally.(Tendon, 2008).The biofuels industry is inherently predatory on land and resources, especially if it is generated out of food such as maize and Soya beans. It is estimated that to produce 50 litres of biofuels to run a car for one day’s long trip or three days city-run, it would consume about 200 kg of maize -this is enough to feed one person for one year. This does not even take into account the cost of energy, water and other resources that go into biofuels production. In five years, rich countries have acquired about 80 million hectares of land in Africa and other continents with developing countries. Behind the land grabs lies the anticipated rise in consumption rates and market demand for food (projected to increase by 60% by 2050), water (19% increase of agricultural water consumption by 2050) and bio-fuels as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Water-Food-Energy Nexus

Water-Food-Energy Nexus

The EU for instance requires that 10% of all transport fuel should come from plant based bio-fuels.This ‘second scramble’ for Africa by top investment banks (Emergent Asset Management) as well as other American, Asian and Middle East companies which have leased millions of acres in developing  countries not only poses significant ramifications for food but also water security.At the same time, economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water.Water, energy and food are strategic resources sharing many comparable attributes: there are billions of people without access to them; there is rapidly growing global demand for each of them; each faces resource constraints; each depends upon healthy ecosystems; each is a global good with trade implications;each has different regional availability and variations in supply and demand; and each operates in heavily regulated markets (Bazilian et al., 2011).

Critics  holdthat a crisis for some is an opportunity for others and as such ”for decades it is has been the work of capitalist inspired international organizations to reveal a different narrative, that of water scarcity and water shortages in Africa. Whether it has been the World Bank project to sell the idea of ‘water shortage’ to promote the marketing of water in Africa or the United Nations Environmental Programs (UNEP) that produced the Africa Water Atlas, the fiction of water shortage in Africa has been a multi-million dollar business.” It’s argued that the pertinent question therefore is the accessibility and not the scarcity.

Statistically, Africa receives enough rainfall per year to feed 9 billion people (New African July 2012).However, only about 4% of Africa’s annual renewable water resources have been developed for irrigation, water supply and hydro-power use. Per capita water storage is less than 100 cubic metres, appallingly low compared to other regions. There is more than enough water in Africa and the immediate task is to source it, says Donald Kaberuka. Let’s not be in a haste to heave the collective sigh of relief though. This is why: 70% of freshwater resources is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover and these too are under threat. For instance more than 80% of the glaciers on East Africa’s highest peaks are no more, putting the lives hundreds of millions of people who rely on these natural reservoirs at risk.Glaciers are an important source of the planet’s fresh water; they store and release it seasonally, replenishing the rivers and ground waters that provide people and ecosystems with life-sustaining produce all year round (DN2, Tuesday, August 20, 2013).

According to UN Water,’there is enough water available for our global future needs, but this world picture hides large areas of absolute water scarcity which affects billions of people, many of whom are poor and disadvantaged. Major changes in policy and management, across the entire agricultural production chain, are needed to ensure best use of available water resources in meeting growing demands for food and other agricultural products.’ .(World Water Development Report 2012).

However much the continent has achieved with regards to access to water,opines Kaberuka, the water resources still face an existential threat, and an existential challenge.The existential threat is climate change.The existential challenge is the costly and complex task of unlocking the vast potential of Africa’s untapped water reserves,only a fraction of which are yet on stream.


Climate change in EA: Food scarcity, diseases floods within 30 years

Biggest GHGs Emitters;The Politics of Climate Change

Isidore Sankara Lives On.


”Fatherland or death,we will prevail!”

IDIS Forum for International Affairs.

By Nawiri Nerima

Fourth August 1983 saw the Marxist revolutionary army captain Thomas Isidore  Noël Sankara take over the reigns of power in Burkina through the last but one military coup to date.Until recently,aptly  argues Houngnikpo, military incursion into politics on the continent was the norm rather than the exception, a phenomenon with deep roots in Africa’s colonial history. The characteristic role of the armed forces was to repress the majority peoples while supporting the status quo as it were. According to the 2012 AfDB Chief Economist Complex, the continent has seen more than 200 military coups staged since the post-independence epoch of 1960s, 45% of which have been ‘successful’. The pertinent question is whether military coups are good or bad, generally they seem to be bad (From Cairo to Bangui). Sankara’s regime however proves otherwise,at least as far as socio-economic conditions were concerned:

”The more radical the person is,the more fully…

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The twin conceptions of Human Security.


speech_2004-04-01_1_1 (1)


(a)Freedom from want

Original proponents.

Development economists,Mahbub ul Haq, Amartya Sen.

Main stimulus.

Dissatisfaction over orthodox growth-oriented development models; guns versus butter concerns.

Types of threats addressed.

Non-military and non-traditional security concerns:poverty, environmental degradation,disease etc.

Main policy goal.

Promoting human development, defined as ‘building human capabilities- the range of things that people can do, and what they can be… The most basic capabilities for human development are leading a long and healthy life, being educated and having adequate resources for a decent standard of leaving…[and] social and political participation in society’. These capabilities are undermined by poverty, disease and ill-health,illiteracy, discrimination, threat of violent conflict, and denial of political and civil liberties.

(b)Freedom from fear.

Original proponents.

Western governments (Canada,Norway).

Main stimulus.

End of the cold war; rise of complex emergencies;ethnic strife, state failure, humanitarian intervention.

Types of threats addressed.

Armed conflicts, violence against individuals.

Main policy goal.

Protecting people in conflict zones; reducing the human costs of conflict through a ban on landmines and child soldiers etc;protecting human rights; developing peace building mechanisms.

(Amitav Acharya;Chapter 29 in Globalization of World Politics)

ICC-Africa: Beyond the ‘race hunting’.

Hailemariam Desalegn.

Ethiopia’s PM and AU chairman Hailemariam Desalegn reckoned at the end of the 21st AU Summit that the ‘ICC process has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.’

Often more than not cast as an expression of American and Anglo-European imperialism either rightly or in total ignorance, international law isn’t an ‘irrelevant curiosity’ per se. Africa has no doubt suffered a host of gross injustices for ages, from colonialism, possibly the worst political tragedy to ever befall the continent; to the demonized Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and decrying them here will be of little if no help at all to her. That the unfairness of the international justice system can be traced back to the Nuremberg and Tokyo International Military Tribunals for the reason that the allegations of war crimes committed by the Allied forces went unheard, means that  sentiments of the same as regards the ICC today is anything but novel. Nonetheless, the adoption of the ICC’s founding statute entitled the Hague-based court to embody the moral authority of the community of nations, at the very least undoubtedly.

Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression are committed by men, not by abstract entities, noted the Nuremberg IMT. The crime of aggression is however yet to be defined and until such a time that it has, the ICC will only exercise jurisdiction over it upon determination of that particular definition and its subsequent inclusion  through an amendment to the 1998 Rome Statute. In spite of the change of tune lately in its relationship with the International Criminal Court, it would be worthwhile to note that in 2010, Kampala (never mind Khartoum’s position) did host the review conference aimed at putting forward proposals for a direct definition of the crime of aggression. Furthermore, irrespective of how justifiable the criticisms on the basis of who pays the piper calls the tune are, it ought not to be lost on us that it is the duty of the Assembly of States Parties, to which every party to the Rome Statute is a member to determine and decide the expenses of the court.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

The overly non-independent nature of many a judiciary on the continent gives way to alternatives and as such, the only continental institution that *could* have probably stopped this ‘race hunting’ by the ICC, is the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. The court’s express jurisdiction, if I may so call it, is with regards to violations of the Banjul Charter’s provisions. It is thus laughable that as we criticize the ICC, only 26 African countries have ratified the protocol establishing the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Even more startling is the fact that only six countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda & Tanzania) as of March 2013, according to the court’s website, have made a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the court. The declaration is mandatory to allow an individual to bring complaints or make applications to the Arusha-based court. When all is said and done though, prosecution of international crimes is just but one of the remedies of getting justice. Truth and reconciliation commissions, amnesties, as well as local mechanisms a la Rwandese Gacaca Courts count as alternatives and complements to national and international prosecutions. Whilst shouting atop the roofs about the non-indictment of the likes of Bush and his English friend-Blair, maybe we should always keep in mind that ‘might, might not always be right, but unless confronted by equal might, it might as well be right’.


The African Union at Fifty: Peace and Security | Chatham House: Independent thinking on international affairs.

African Union Headquarters in Addis.

African Union Headquarters in Addis.

”Africa should no longer be the place where ideological battles between West and East or secular and radical forces are played out, but the place where Africans finally complete their decolonization – of the land and of the mind- and become full partners in the global political,economic and security environment.”