14 thought leaders Friday, December 15 2017| NEW ERA Swapo congress a lost opportunity for genocide talks When Swapo sneezes it is indeed not only its members who catch the cold but all within the geographical and political frontiers of Namibia. That is why the recently concluded Swapo congress was a matter of intense interest to all and sundry. As much congress could not have been anything but of devoted interest to the direct descendants of the victims of the 1904-1908 genocide against the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama, and thus victims themselves. That is why through the grapevine’s mill they took note that the congress may have deliberated on the issue of the 1904-1908 genocide, and as a corollary the equally important and attendant demand for reparations. It is not clear what may have been the content and nature of the deliberations on this vexed question, let alone the intensity of the attention devoted to it by congress. But that indeed it may have featured cannot but arouse undivided curiosity from the victims of genocide. Since the matter has become an issue on the national agenda, thanks to the likes of late Dr Kuaima Riruako, Honourable Ida Hoffmann, to mention but only two, it has never been clear what the national political agenda on this matter is. The Swapo congress could not have come at a more opportune time as far as the issue of genocide and reparations is concerned. Whether one would wish to admit it or not, the negotiations between the Namibian and German governments have been far from substantive and advanced as yet. While the Namibian government has been talking about genocide and reparations, on the contrary the German government is and has been talking about “atrocities” and “development assistance” if not “development fund”. The two positions are diametrically opposed and perhaps this explains the illusiveness of an agreement, and a conclusion. Not only this but to date, despite numerous shuttles, to and fro and vice versa between the two countries, six to date in toto, a middle ground has never been on the horizon. Same, one cannot but be conscious about the political uncertainty in the Federal Republic of Germany, following the September elections. a government. All these must have presented the Swapo Party congress with a golden opportunity This is more so given the internal dynamics in Namibia pertaining to the affected communities with a substantial section of these communities wilfully opting out of the current negotiation frameworks as a matter of principle. The principle being that as affected people, they are the ones the German government must be willing to engage. Their government indeed not only as a mediator, but as the backbone of the affected communities Often there’s has been the misunderstanding, coming of course from misguided and misleading signals from a section of the affected communities, that they have been excluded from the current ongoing negotiations. Ipso facto, none of the affected communities has been excluded by none, neither the Namibian nor German government. Rejecting the current negotiations framework as a matter of principle cannot by any stretch of the imagination be an exclusion. Affected communities never claim that the current framework is the framework they have ever wanted or advocated, but now in disguise be it in format or content. Theirs is and has been the affected communities on the one hand, and the German government on the other, with the Namibian government, their backbone, as the mediator and facilitator. If at all any section of the affected communities can be said to have been excluded from the current negotiations, this is only as far as the continued intransigence of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany to directly engage them. But not to include them in the current negotiation place cannot be and can never be the framework contemplated and shall ever be contemplated and envisaged by the affected communities, notably the one that has been adamant that it cannot be about them without them. With Swapo Party just emerging fresh from its congress, where the issue of genocide must have come under the microscope, can one really fault the direct descendants having high expectations from this congress? The Swapo Party of Namibia could not have been better poised than at the congress to have re-interrogated and reviewed the matter intensively, surgically and with the due attention it deserves. To address the oscillation, prevarication and ambiguity that has continued to fraught the party from within on the issue of genocide and reparations. Similarly, the affected communities as much have gigantic responsibilities, perhaps far more than either the Namibian or German governments. They need to begin to act more accountably and consequent to their legitimate ownership of the issue, showing true and dedicated leadership on this matter. Which is bigger than their respective leaderships’ egos or the egos and legitimacies of their respective traditional authorities. Remaining entrenched their respective traditional authorities, which have been seeming no more than tribal cocoons, do not seem to have been helping the noble cause of genocide and reparations in any way. In fact, such tribalism has become the nemesis of this noble cause. Thus the government, and the traditional authorities, and the leadership of the reparation movement, more than ever need a serious introspection and new approach to the issue. The anthem of lonely Namib I know who I am in my tribe and in my village, But I know not enough about my home, my nation and my extended family beyond my childhood memories. I am aware of what went on before this day, But I remain ignorant about the details that would transport me into my new world. I am grateful for the vast who make them on my behalf, But I do not possess sufficient grammar to express my gratitude at the most appropriate moments so that the relevant people can hear me. I know my politicians, good and bad, But I have yet to know my leaders. I have a language that takes me back to my childhood dreams, but the language to link me to my current challenges and to tomorrow is inadequate and elusive. I know who liberated me, But I honour not who is to take me into the future of my dreams. I am confident in the names of my leaders today, But I am very anxious about their individual strengths and spiritual fortitude to beckon me to the future and deliver me to the Promised Land. I have faith in the systems around me, But I see no champions of these systems to stand the test of time. I am proud to be called the Land of the Brave, But I am alarmed by the fear in the hearts of the inhabitants of this Land. I am happy with the past in so far as it has guided me and my sand to have come this far, But I am nervous about the narratives that shine the light on the road already travelled. I cherish having a peek into the past, But the lack of a lantern to illuminate the long road ahead gives me grief. I love history told truthfully, But I hate untruths told as history, Especially the story of wars that others waged. For wars occur because those who engage in them Instead of peace. That is their story. Not mine. I know that history is a more or less objective account by a more or less biased individual, about something which, with a greater or lesser degree of accuracy, occurred or did not occur at some point that did or did not happen in the past. history that causes me to choke in the life of others who created it for the good of themselves. I need, I want my own story. I understand politics and appreciate mature loyalty. But I do not appreciate sycophancy. I have regard for gender equality, But I have to disregard gerrymandering. I yearn to hear the perspective of the youth in and of the Land of the Brave, In their search for the truth and meaning, And their role in the New Afrika! But I shiver at the militancy of half ill-informed logics That seeks sweetness and light, wisdom from yesterday and yesteryear, As I cannot imagine the freedom to be and become, In the absence of the freedom that was given to me through sweat and blood of the older grains of sand that I shall never meet. I thirst for the voices of the youth with bodies that have spirit, And eyes with vision. And a lever to reach the souls that departed to make space for me to be. To have freedom: Freedom to think and freedom to act With discipline and honour for others who have similar or dissimilar freedom. Freedom comes from education that brings me closer to the people, Not detach me from them. For when I am in education, I must eat the forbidden fruit That I was once not permitted to come close to. I know that every generation speaks from a different vantage point. Its own angle. I am an angle: I am the Namib! I am ancient. You can ask the stars for proof Yet I am abandoned by all I am not orange I am not green I am the house of the Welwitschia-- That dwarf tree, in need of both colours to grow into maturity. Thus I say: I am here, hear me I am real, feel me I am for you need me I am with you, be me There is no real Afrika No New Afrika without me For my sand houses more of you than you care to know I shielded you over the centuries And will in perpetuity if you listen To my voice under the sun. I hide you from the past To which you do not belong I deliver you Into the future unknown to you. I am your yesterday and your tomorrow, Not you mine!
Friday, December 15 2017| NEW ERA thought leaders 15 One hundred years ago, on December 11 1917, the British army occupied Jerusalem. As General Allenby’s troops marched through Bab al-Khalil, launching a century of settler colonialism across Palestine, Prime Minister David Lloyd George heralded the city’s capture as “a Christmas present for the British people”. In a few months’ time, we mark another such anniversary: 70 years since the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, the catastrophic destruction of the Palestinian polity; the violent dispossession of most of its people with their forced conversion into disenfranchised refugees; the colonial occupation, annexation and control of their land; and the imposition of martial law over those who managed to remain. The current US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel bookends a century of such events: from the Balfour Declaration in November 1917 to the Partition Plan of 1947; from the Nakba of 1948 to the Naksa of 1967 – with its annexation of Jerusalem, the occupation of the rest of Palestine, further mass expulsions of Palestinians, including from East and West Jerusalem, and the invaders’ razing of entire ancient neighbourhoods in the city. Donald Trump’s declaration could easily be read as one more outrage in his growing collection of chaotic and destructive policies, this one perhaps designed to distract from his more prosaic, personal problems with the law. It is viewed as the act of a volatile superpower haplessly endorsing illegal military conquest and consolidating the “acquisition of territory by force” (a practice prohibited and rejected by the UN and the basic tenets of international law). And it is seen alongside a long list of domestic and international blunders. However, this analysis obscures what happens each day in occupied Palestine, and hides what will surely happen next – unless governments, parliaments, institutions, unions and, most of all, citizens take measures to actively resist it. Leaders across the world appear incapable of naming what is taking place in Palestine, so their received wisdom on the cause and nature “consensus solutions” they offer, prove futile. This century of events instead should be understood as a continuum, forming part of an active process that hasn’t yet stopped or achieved its ends. Palestinians understand it: we feel it in a thousand ways every day. How does this structure appear to those who endure it day in, day out? Patrick Wolfe, the late scholar, traced the history of settler colonial projects across continents, showing us that events in Palestine over the of (rather than a departure from) settler colonialism. He also established its two-sided nature, the Incas and Mayans to the native peoples of Africa, America, and the Middle East – as holding negative and positive dimensions. Negatively, settler colonialism strives for the dissolution of native societies; positively, it erects a new colonial society on the expropriated land: “Colonisers come to stay: invasion is a structure not an event.” After the British marched into Jerusalem in 1917 and declared martial law, they turned Palestine into an Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA). Declaring martial law over the city, Allenby promised: “Every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of whatsoever form of the three religions will be maintained and protected.” But what did he say of its people? Allenby divided the country into four districts: Jerusalem, Jaffa, Majdal and Beersheba, each under a military governor, and the accelerated process of settler colonialism began. At the time of the military takeover, Palestine was 90 percent Christian and Muslim, with 7-10 percent Palestinian Arab Jews and recent European settlers. By the time the British army left Palestine on May 14 1948, the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people was already under way. During their 30 years’ rule, the British army and police engineered a radical change to the population through the mass introduction of European settlers, against the express wishes of the indigenous population. They also suppressed Palestine’s Great Revolt of 1936- 39, destroying any possibility of resistance to what lay ahead. Once any individual episode is understood as part of a continuing structure of settler colonialism, the hitherto invisible daily evictions of Palestinians from their homes assume their devastating Invisible too has been the force driving the expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Without a framing of settler colonialism, the notion of the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, of “spiriting away” the native Arabs “gradually and circumspectly”, makes little sense. In Jerusalem, this is how gradual ethnic cleansing is being practised today. The new US policy on Jerusalem is not about occupation and annexation; the supremacy of one religion over another so “balance” must be restored; the two-state solution or the failures of the Oslo agreement; or the location of an embassy, or division of Jerusalem. Nor is it even about the soap operalevel conspiracy the Palestinian people have been abandoned to: where the son-in-law of the US president, who has actively funded the right wing settlement movement in Israel, has been granted absolute power to fabricate a “peace process” with a crown prince who has just locked up his relatives. In this dystopic vision, the village of Abu Dis outside Jerusalem is proposed as the capital of a future fragmented Palestinian “state” – one never created, given that (along with all US-led peace processes), its eventual appearance is entirely dependent on Israel’s permission. This is named, in “peace process” language, as any solution to be agreed “by the parties themselves”, via “a negotiated settlement by the two sides”. With colonialism always comes anti-colonial resistance. Against the active project to disappear the indigenous people, take their land, dispossess and disperse them so they cannot reunite to resist, the goals of the Palestinian people are those of all colonised peoples throughout history. Very simply, they are to unify for the struggle to liberate their land and return to it, and to restore their inalienable human rights taken by force — principles enshrined in centuries of international treaties, charters, and resolutions, and in natural justice. The US has been blocking Palestinian attempts to achieve this national unity for years, vetoing Palestinian parties in taking their legitimate role in sharing representation. Palestinians’ democratic right to determine their path ahead would allow our young generation – scattered far and wide, from refugee camps to the prisons inside Palestine – to take up their place in the national struggle for freedom. The US assists the coloniser and ties our hands. Former European colonial powers, including Britain, now claim they are aware of their colonial legacy, and condemn centuries of enslavement and the savage exploitation of Africa and Asia. So European leaders should they installed in our country, and stand with us so that we can unite to defeat it. – The Guardian * Karma Nabulsi is fellow in politics at St Edmund Hall, and teaches at Oxford University Change to EU-AU Summit more than just words African and European heads of government gathered recently in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for their time, the African Union (AU) rather the European Union’s partner. While plenty has been discussed about youth, migration, security and governance, less is being said about the shift from an EU-Africa to an AU-EU Summit. Is this just a case of semantics? After all, the AU has been the key organiser of these triennial summits since they started in 2000. Or are there larger implications? We think there are. The AU-EU summit coincided with the January 2017 report on the reform of the African Union prepared by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The report recommends rationalising “Africa’s” many international partnerships by having the continental body take the lead. This means that the previous, current and future AU chairpersons, plus the AU Commission chairperson and the chairperson of would represent the AU, rather than all its member states. Despite some misgivings at the July 2017 AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Kagame’s proposed reforms were well received. The AU and its member states have committed to a timetable of reform implementation, heralding a potential new era for the AU. The transformation of the EU-Africa Summit series into the EU-AU Summit in Abidjan is more than just a change of name. It reflects the increasing recognition of the AU as an international actor that is becoming difficult to circumvent when engaging Africa. But there’s still a risk that the recognition remains as long as key challenges such as funding and mandate are not resolved. The first summit in Cairo in 2000 was intended as a meeting of the EU and the AU’s forbearer, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). But, the EU insisted on the inclusion of Morocco – the only African country not a member of the OAU and the exclusion of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a full member of the OAU. Only after last minute shuttle diplomacy was the cancellation of the summit averted. The compromise solution was to call the event the “Africa-Europe Summit Under the Aegis of the OAU and the EU”. The idea of “Africa” as the EU’s interlocutor was set. This way of seeing Africa had repercussions for the relationship. Although the EU had targeted the AU as its principle partner by 2007, the AU’s organisational growing pains and less clear jurisdiction in external relations meant that it was exposed to the whims of its member states. This was the case before the second summit in Lisbon in 2007, when after months of AU-driven negotiation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, several AU member states voiced strong misgivings about it. Their objections on issues such as the restitution of stolen cultural artefacts, while crucial, were outside of the EU’s jurisdiction and threatened to scuttle the AU’s own good work. The 2010 summit in Tripoli was overshadowed by the outsized personality of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who stole headlines insisting that the EU pay him to limit migration to Europe. Lost was the fact that the AU was endeavouring to upturn decades of EU-driven agenda setting in the EU- Group of States) relationship. In theory the AU’s new status in EU- Africa summits has the potential to substantially contribute to the AU’s cohesion, recognition and identity. But whether this upgrade will actually materialise or whether the summit only offers a ceremonial appearance of the AU’s standing will depend on four crucial factors. Firstly, the AU still needs to mechanism. So far, it depends heavily on development aid for its activities. Secondly, member states need to provide the AU with an authoritative mandate to negotiate on their behalf. While it is becoming a stronger institution, it still heavily depends on compromises between heads of states. Thirdly, the AU has to compete for the EU’s attention with other existing partnerships with Africa. Plans are already underway for it to play a more prominent role in the ACP. This would underline the central role of the AU for all interregional arrangements. Fourthly, other international partners such as China will need to recognise AU’s central role in their summits with Africa. So far, China is focusing on bilateral relations and there are few signs of the direct relationship China-AU receiving a substantial upgrade. The transformation of the EU- Africa Summit series into the EU- AU Summit in Abidjan is more than the increasing recognition of the AU as an international actor that when engaging Africa. Yet, there is a risk that the recognition is confined to ceremonial purposes, as long as key challenges such as funding and mandate are not resolved. – Conversation Africa * Frank Mattheis is a senior researcher in Global Studies, University of Pretoria * John Kotsopoulos is research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, University of Pretoria