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The Africa Policy Forum on Famine in Africa

The Africa Policy Forum on Famine in Africa

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally posted on KUUMBAReport Online (http://kuumbareport.com).

Africa Policy Forum on Famine
Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 8:30 AM
US Capitol Visitors Center
Washington, DC

Congress Member Karen Bass (Democrat from Southern California) holds regular Africa Policy Forum events during the Congressional Session.  At these events, experts in various fields important to the uplift of Afrika are assembled to discuss issues from war to famine to economic development.  Often, these events seem to reflect more of an “official Washington” viewpoint on US-Africa issues, but the access granted to regular citizens to these events creates opportunities for Pan-Afrikan activists to learn about the efforts to deal with crises on the Continent as well as the plans of business and governmental players to promote US, capitalist and other Western policies in Afrika that may or may not serve Afrikan interests.  At the very least, when one attends these events, an opportunity comes later in the discussion to participate in the question-and-answer session (the “Q & A”), which allows one to prepare and ask the occasional Impudent Question.  Often, the Impudent Question goes unanswered, but sometimes it gives the participants an opportunity to demonstrate their depth of understanding of the current and historical issues impacting upon Afrika and Afrikan People.

On Tuesday, April 4, forty-nine years to the day after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most prominent members of the Historical Afrikan Diaspora (descendants of Afrikans who had been captured from Afrika and kidnapped into slavery in the United States and around the world) in history, an Africa Policy Forum on Famine was held.  This was the second such Forum of the year; the Forum on Doing Business with the US for Africa, held February 28, may be the subject of a brief article in the near future.

The Forum Panelists
The Forum featured the following speakers [with information from the Africa Policy Forum Biographies of Participants]:

Dr. Monde Muyangwa
Director, Africa Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
At the Wilson Center, Dr. Muyangwa leads programs that analyze and offer practical, actionable policy options addressing some of Africa’s most critical issues.  Previously, she served as Academic Dean and Professor of Civil-Military Relations at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.  She served as Director of Research and Vice President for Research and Policy at the National Summit on Africa, and Director of International Education Programs at New Mexico Highlands University.  She serves on the Board of Trustees at Freedom House, and previously was an advisory Council member of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.  She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration and Economics from the University of Zambia.  She was a Rhodes Scholar, a Wingate Scholar, and the University of Zambia Valedictory Speaker for her class. 

General William E. “Kip” Ward
President, Sentel Corporation
Former Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)
A retired Army General Officer, General Ward was the inaugural Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), where he successfully established the nation’s newest and uniquely positioned interagency geographic command responsible for for all US defense and security activities on the African Continent and its Island Nations with staff representatives from State, Commerce, Treasury, Homeland Security and other US Cabinet Departments and Agencies.  Prior to commanding AFRICOM where his visionary leadership promoted the value of forging relationships, creating partnerships, enhancing regional cooperation and the importance of sustained security engagement in pursuing US national interests, he was the Deputy Commander, United States European Command, responsible for the Command’s day-to-day activities.

He is a decorated combat veteran and holds a B.A. Degree in Political Science from Morgan State University in Baltimore and a Master of Arts Degree in Political Science from the Pennsylvania State University.  A Master Paratrooper, he is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced courses, Fort Benning, Georgia, the US Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and the US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.  General Ward was an assistant professor, Department of Social Sciences, teaching political science and public policy at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Selected by then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to serve as the United States Security Coordinator, Israel-Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, General Ward was praised by Democrats and Republicans for bringing a degree of fairness and equity to his work.  He has held other Army, Joint and Combined command and staff assignments over a 40-plus year career including NATO Force Commander in Bosnia, Commander 25th Infantry Division and Vice Director for Operations, J-3, The Joint Staff, during the September 2001 terror attacks.  In the Pentagon, he was at the center of determining and carrying out the US government’s defense and interagency response actions to the attack.  He has commanded every level from platoon as a Lieutenant to geographic command as a General.

John Prendergast
Founding Director, the Enough Project and Co-Founder, The Sentry
Mr. Prendergast is a human rights activist and New York Times best-selling author who has focused on peace in Africa for over thirty years.  He is the Founding Director of the Enough Project, an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity.  With actor George Clooney, he also founded The Sentry, a new investigative initiative focused on dismantling the networks financing conflict and atrocities.  He has worked for the Clinton White House, the State Department, two Members of Congress, the National Intelligence Council, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and the US Institute of Peace.  He has been a Big Brother for three decades, as well as a youth counselor and a basketball coach.  He is the author or co-author of ten books.  He also co-founded the Satellite Sentinel Project, which used satellite imagery to spotlight mass atrocities.  With several NBA stars, he launched the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program to fund schools in Darfuri refugee camps.  He also created Enough’s Raise Hope for Congo Campaign, highlighting the issue of conflict minerals, and its student arm the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative.  He also runs Not On Our Watch, the organization founded by actor-activists Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt and George Clooney.  Mr. Prendergast has been awarded six honorary doctorates.  He has been a visiting professor at Yale Law School, Stanford University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, and others.  He has appeared in five episodes of 60 Minutes, for which the team won an Emmy award, and helped create African stories for two episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  He has also traveled to Africa with NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s Nightline, PBS’s NewsHour, CNN’s Inside Africa, and news outlets and magazines Newsweek and The Daily Beast.  He also appears in the motion picture “The Good Lie”, starring Reese Witherspoon and Emmanuel Jai, as well as documentaries including Merci Congo, When Elephants Fight, Blood in the Mobile, Sand and Sorrow, Darfur Now, 3 Points and War Child.

Jon C. Brause
Director, Washington Office, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
Jon Brause is the Director of the Washington Office of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).  In this role, he oversees WFP’s relationships with its major partners in the US government and represents WFP in dialog with US-based organizations interested in reducing hunger and poverty worldwide.  He came to WFP after  22-year career at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.  He has also served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Relief, Stabilization, and Development in the National Security Council, and as the Director of the Office of Program, Policy and Management at USAID.  As Senior Policy Advisor to USAID Administrator Andrew S. Natsios, Mr. Brause monitored humanitarian and developmental policy with a focus on Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.  During his tenure in the Office of Food for Peace, Mr. Brause managed all aspects of US government food aid programming for humanitarian activities worldwide.

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The Africa Policy Forum on Famine

We include here most of the full transcript of the discussion (to the degree that we were able to successfully transcribe all of the comments), with some of the points of the speakers highlighted for emphasis.  The full comments of all the speakers will give an idea of their individual perspectives, however.  For example, General Ward, though he has had a distinguished career in military security, regularly spoke of the need for development as well as security based on his experience in northern Nigeria with AFRICOM.  Mr. Brause spoke much about the impact of the raw numbers of people at risk and seemed focused on ways to bring relief to suffering populations.  And Mr. Prendergast seemed keenly aware of how the legacy of colonialism and exploitation of Afrika, by corrupt leaders, neo-colonial interests and international opportunists such as weapons manufacturers and money-launderers, had escaped much-deserved culpability for the current state of affairs in Afrika’s crisis zones.  Meanwhile, Dr. Muyangwa was working the entire time to maintain control of the flow of conversation to ensure everyone had an opportunity to ask questions, and gave an in-depth summary of the discussion at the end of the event.  All of them acknowledged that it is the Afrikan people in the affected countries that are actually taking the lead in responding to the crisis, even as the international community seems to be often falling down on the job.

CONGRESS MEMBER KAREN BASS:
Karen Bass 2Good morning everyone.  I’m Congresswoman Karen Bass.  I want to welcome everyone here for the second Africa Policy Forum that we’ve had this year.  Normally when we have these Forums we’ve focused on looking at business and economic opportunities and how to promote US-Africa relations but this time we’re gathered for a topic that has become of increasing concern.  This is a critical topic in that it has been said in the United Nations that we have potentially the worst humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded.  The potential of 20 million people facing famine in four countries.  Today we’re going to talk about three of the countries, the countries on the Continent, which is not to ignore Yemen, but we are going to focus on the African Continent today.  And this is with the backdrop of a new Administration that is suggesting a 30% cut in foreign assistance.  I would think that, at this point in time, where we have the opportunity to prevent a horrible tragedy, we know that famine has already been declared in South Sudan, but it could obviously get far worse, but we have an opportunity for our country to step up like we did in the Ebola Crisis and rally the entire world, but unfortunately at this point in time, we seem to be going in the opposite direction.  I will tell you though, that from the point of view of Congress, last week we had a hearing in the House of Representatives of the full Foreign Affairs Committee, and Democrats and Republicans were both united in a concern that you can’t cut a foreign assistance budget by 30%.  Later today there will be a meeting amongst Democrats to discuss the famine, and it seems to me that the most critical thing that we could be doing at this point in time is to raise public awareness and public outcry at the beginning, before this crisis really expands.  So that is our topic today, and before I introduce our moderator, I would like to call up one of the leaders in the Democratic Caucus, one of the leaders in the House of Representatives, someone who everyone knows, who led the fight around HIV.  please welcome Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

CONGRESS MEMBER BARBARA LEE:
Well, good morning.  First of all, let me thank our ranking member, Congresswoman Karen Bass, for doing such a phenomenal job, on so many issues, such as relates to the continent.  Whether it’s training, whether it’s foreign assistance, whether it’s health care, education, whether it’s the AU, whether it’s the United Nations, she has been on point on each and every issue, and so I want to thank her for continuing to beat the drum to make sure that Africa is a priority in our foreign policy.  We thank all of our panelists for being here, and thank you for your vigilance, for your expertise and for sharing with us what you know, but also what we need to do, and finally I’ll just say I’m on the Subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee which funds our foreign assistance, and Congresswoman Bass, and Meeks, myself, and also Republicans, we have forwarded a letter to the Appropriations Committee for emergency funding for the famine, and we’ll see where that goes, but believe you me, we are working right now to make sure that we target resources so that we can mitigate against so many people dying of starvation.  So thank you again and thanks so much for your continuing support for the Continent and for your expertise and for being here, for supporting Congresswoman Karen Bass because these forums are extremely important in terms of public awareness and in terms of giving us strategies on where we need to go as Members of Congress.  Thank you again.

CONGRESS MEMBER KAREN BASS:
We’re very lucky to have Barbara Lee sit on the Foreign Ops Committee, as she mentioned, that’s Appropriations.  She’s got the purse strings and knowing that somebody of that leadership has the purse strings, I think we’re in a good position.  We also are circulating a letter amongst Members of Congress, to emphasize the significance of the funding.  So we’re going to begin our program now, and I’d like to introduce our Moderator for the morning, Dr. Monde Muyangwa, the Director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and I might mention that, in that budget, the Wilson Center was actually zeroed out.  So, one of many issues that we will push back hard on to make sure that does not happen.

General Discussions of the Crisis

DR. MONDE MUYANGWA:
Good morning everyone.  I want to thank Congress Member Bass for focusing on this very important issue.  It’s been neglected for quite a while now, so it’s good to see that we’re finally paying some attention to this issue.  And as you mentioned, what we hope to get out of the discussion this morning is increased awareness of the crisis.  But also, a better understanding of the problem, its nature, its scope, the causes and drivers of the crisis, government and other measures in response to the crisis, and what can be done in the short term to address the famine and to save lives and in the long term to better ensure food security and avert recurring drought and famine. 

We have three excellent speakers for this morning.  I’ll introduce them very briefly.  Our first speaker will be Mr. Jon Brause, who is the director of the World Food Programme, the Washington Liaison Office.  He will be followed by General William “Kip” Ward, who is the C.O.O. and President of Sentel Corporation, who will speak to us about Northeast Nigeria.  And he will be followed by Jon Prendergast, who is the Founding Director of Enough, who will speak to us on South Sudan.  We have asked each of our speakers to offer initial remarks of about five to six minutes.  Our kickoff speaker will be Mr. Jon Brause, who we’ve asked to give an overview of the crisis and to touch a little bit on Somalia.  Mr. Brause, your five minutes start now.

“So how is it now, less than 2 years after the world ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, that we have, in fact, the largest crisis since World War II, and maybe the largest humanitarian crisis in the last hundred years?”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

JON BRAUSE:
Thank you.  Thanks to Congresswoman Bass and Congresswoman Lee for their welcome and it’s a great pleasure to be here and to have the World Food Programme be able to speak to you today.  Just a little bit of background; the World Food Programme was founded on the vision of presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.  And they had a vision after World War II that the world needed help to be stabilized in areas that were struggling through weather related problems or other crises.  They knew that the United States and other countries had the capacity to help out.  So just as my founding comment, think that that was the vision back just after World War II.  And then I’ll take you to 2015 in September when the international community got together and finalized and ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, and those were the goals that stated ‘we can end poverty, we can end hunger, we can educate every child’.  These were all things that the world said we could do in 2015; we have the capabilities, we just need the will to get it done.  And that was that we could do those things by 2030. 

So how is it now, less than 2 years after the world ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, that we have, in fact, the largest crisis since World War II, and maybe the largest humanitarian crisis in the last hundred years?  We have over a hundred million people who are going to need emergency food assistance this year.  We have 60 to 70 million people who are displaced, either internally or refugees in other countries.  And as the Congresswoman said, we have 20 million people in the world today who are facing famine.  In four countries.  Three in Africa, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, and then of course there’s Yemen.  But that 20 million people, you have to put it in perspective.  That is more than the number of people in the state of Virginia, and the state of Maryland, and the District of Columbia combined.  Plenty more than that.  So it’s a huge number of people who are at risk, and we need to start to take action to do something about it. 

So then the issue is, what is famine?  Why do we need a declaration of famine?  Well, famine is actually a very late statement.  It means that we’ve missed the boat to a certain extent.  People have already started dying.  And the criteria technicians use, if you will, to determine when a famine is taking place are three.  Two people out of every 10,000 are dying every day.  That’s one criterion.  More than 30% of the children under 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition.  And then the third is that 20% of the households in any region are extremely food insecure, short of food and at risk of starvation.  So just to put that two deaths in 10,000 every day into perspective, if your kids go to a high school in Maryland or Virginia, the average population or student body is about 2,500 kids.  So that means, in that school, if it were having a famine, that one child, one student, every two days, would be dying.  So your kid would be coming home and saying ‘Billy died today’.  And then two days later, another child would die.  It’s a massive number of people.  Don’t let two in 10,000 throw you that it’s some abstract, it’s a real tangible number of people dying every day.  And of course, it’s not just food.  We have to be very clear that food is very important but if you don’t have clean water, if you don’t have medical care, if you don’t have sanitation facilities, disease will actually overtake hunger.  The people will die not from hunger necessarily but from vulnerability to disease.  So it will take on many different faces and it’s not just one of food.

“So how did we get here?  Why are we now facing this crisis?  Well, I have to say, to some extent, we watched it happen.”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

So how did we get here?  Why are we now facing this crisis?  Well, I have to say, to some extent, we watched it happen.  Last year, and John will probably talk about this, South Sudan was on the brink of a famine, but it wasn’t declared.  But it was terrible.  The situation was horrific even last year.  In Somalia, they’ve had three consecutive years of bad rains, so even though their governance has improved — and it’s one of the points we want to make, where there is governance, you have a much better chance of addressing the root causes of famine — but Somalia’s had three consecutive years of bad rain, so in may of the cases, in all of the cases, weather is a factor.  But unfortunately, the big driver for all of these famines is conflict.  And the difference for conflict, a drought will disrupt productivity, everybody can understand that, but if you’re not suffering from conflict, if it’s just a drought, then there are means for the international community, for the governments to engage and to help the people who are in the drought affected areas.  In the case of conflict, everything is disrupted.  Markets are disrupted, agriculture is [disrupted], trade is interrupted, jobs and livelihoods are all interrupted.  So the whole system fails.  And in the case of three of the countries, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen in particular, less so in Somalia, we in the World Food Programme have a tremendously difficult time, as does the rest of the international humanitarian community, to access the people in need. 

So the big issue for us now is how can we get access, how can we improve security for these three countries?  We need massive amounts of resources.  I’m almost hesitant to say how much we need.  For the four countries, just for food, until the end of the year, we need about 2.6 billion dollars.  It’s a massive amount of money, and then our colleagues in UNICEF, in the NGO’s, all of the other organizations that are doing great work, need additional resources as well, but in fact it is something that the world can do, that the world can provide if it wants to. 

So let me just summarize; I just want to say why does it matter to the U.S.?  We know that in the press these days, there has been some question as to whether or not it’s worthwhile investing in these things.  Why have foreign assistance?  It’s just doing things over there.  It’s not helping the United States.  And I think that’s wrong.  First of all, the United States has always been the leader in the provision of humanitarian assistance around the world.  It’s something we’ve done not just since World War II but we’ve done it even before that.  The United States just has it ingrained: we help people.  But we also have to realize that helping people stabilizes countries.  That’s what it does.  It’s good for the world economy if countries are stable.  When we saw the world food crisis in 2008, the world reacted because countries were being destabilized by a shortage of food.  And then of course, and this is something the General will probably talk about, three of the four countries are home to global terrorism organizations.  When you have countries that are destabilized, they in fact are a great environment for radicalism.  So it’s something we need; there are a variety of reasons it’s important for the United States.  And I’ll close by saying, I just don’t think President Eisenhower and President Kennedy were wrong when they established the World Food Programme.  The reasons why they did it then are just as valid today.  Thank you very much.

GENERAL WILLIAM “KIP” WARD:
Thank you Dr. Muyangwa.  And I’d also like to thank Congresswomen Bass and Lee for their support for these fora and for highlighting the importance of these issues to citizens of the United States.  I’m probably a strange bedfellow here with respect to being on this panel, talking about famine and food insecurity in my role as the first commander of the United States’ Africa Command.  But it is precisely that role that makes my being here, if not from an expert perspective, then from a perspective of what it means to the United States of America, what it means to our national interests, and what it means to local stability. 

“[W]e are in the scenario now, where on any given day, four out of six children malnourished, two out of 10 dying daily, those are examples of the inability to address such a devastating problem.”
–General William “Kip” Ward, former commander of AFRICOM

General William Kip WardAs Jon pointed out and as was mentioned in the opening remarks by Congresswoman Bass, famine, food insecurity, is probably the hugest driver to security issues in most countries.  And, as we look at Nigeria, the northeastern part of that great, great nation, up until about seven years ago, Borno could feed Nigeria.  And now, we see the huge level of devastation, famine, death, caused because of what has gone on with respect to the fight against Boko Haram.  as Jon pointed out, the drivers of famine can be controlled if you have an environment that allows other things to occur.  The delivery of aid, infrastructure that allows the movement of persons, the ability of organizations to come in and do things that will contribute to providing a degree of stability that would otherwise not be the case.  For the last seven years, northeast Nigeria has not been able to see those things occur, because of the efforts by the Nigerian government that began towards the end of the Jonathan Administration and have continued now with the Buhari Administration to address and defeat the Boko Haram that has been so devastating to northeast Nigeria.  And because of the activity in that part of the nation, it not only impacts Nigeria, it impacts the entire region.  And when you have the displacement of — the numbers vary, low side 2 million, up to 8 million people in various stages that have migrated to 140-plus displacement centers, with varied means of addressing the crises of 1-food, 2-water, 3-sanitation, but other drivers of instability, lack of education, I call it the lack of any hope, who are constantly being threatened by what goes on as the eradication efforts occur, or the efforts to defeat the terrorism go on, it then bodes ill for any progress to be made.  So therefore, we are in the scenario now, where on any given day, and as Jon pointed out, four out of six children malnourished, two out of 10 dying daily, those are examples of the inability to address such a devastating problem.  When the Nigerian armed forces mounted their sustained effort to defeat Boko Haram, going into the Zambezi Forest, disrupting the sanctuary if you will, that caused the surrounding environs in the northeast of Nigeria to then become even more threatened by the threat of the fighters of Boko Haram.  You then have that coupled with the dynamic of a split within Boko Haram, where they then begin to compete with each other to see who could become the most ruthless, brutal, as they ravaged the land there in the northeast and in the surrounding areas.  And the victims in all of that are the people.  And so, even as there are attempts being made, and to a substantial degree, successful attempts, to stop terrorism by Boko Haram, it is creating these other effects that have absolutely devastating impacts on the people.  And therein [I am here] today to address this notion of malnutrition, famine.  The biggest drivers of famine — insecurity and the inability to work the land that was once theirs, and to raise crops and livestock which are the lifeblood.  There are currently estimated to be 8.5 million people in Nigeria, northeast Nigeria, that require some type of assistance, and there are categories, phases that the IPC [Integrated Food Security Phase Classification–Editor] has put there, but when you get to category 3 [crisis], 4 [emergency] and 5 [famine] — 3 is severe level, and that regards 5 million people, and again, these displacement camps that are now spread in major cities, if you look at Borno [State], Maiduguri, and Aba, the two major cities, part of the problem lies in the fact that the folks who have been displaced, the internally displaced persons, don’t just go to those camps.  Even with their limited mobility, they are also amongst the population, which has virtually no ability to assist in providing food and other necessary resources to help combat the conditions that exist.  Lack of economic activity, inability of relief organizations to provide relief aid, inability of other organizations to promote activities that will help address the impacts of lack of water, and other things.  These are the factors that have contributed to what goes on in northeast Nigeria.  The root of it all is the fight against Boko Haram.  And I’ll stop there.

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
Thanks to all the organizers, Congresswoman Bass, Congresswoman Lee, Congressman Meeks, for your continuing leadership on African issues.  Your voices and those of your colleagues in these days are more needed than ever.  What seems like the big discovery these days is that famines are man-made, as opposed to nature-driven.  But this description, I think, is far too vague.  It lays no accountability at the feet of which men are making these famines.  And in the case of South Sudan, the most immediate cause lies in the tactics used by the senior officials in the South Sudan military and amongst the principal rebel movement in the way that they’re carrying out the current civil war.  Government and rebel forces attack civilian targets much more frequently than they attack each other.  They target the means of survival of civilian populations who are deemed to be unsupportive of those forces.  In particular and most damaging, and this is the case in a number of places where food insecurity is raging today, they raid cattle, in areas where cows represent the inherited savings, basically the 401(k)’s, basically the means of exchange, locally.  Massive cattle raids result in almost complete and utter impoverishment of entire communities, and they unleash cycles of revenge attacks that poison relations between neighbors and entire ethnic groups.  The government of South Sudan has also concentrated recent attacks on areas where agricultural production traditionally fed large parts of South Sudan, not only resulting in massive human displacement, but also devastating local grain production which leads to hyper-inflation of food prices, making food inaccessible to vast swaths of the civilian population.

“What seems like the big discovery these days is that famines are man-made, as opposed to nature-driven.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

But destroying the means of food production is only one part of the equation that causes famine.  Look, if the South Sudan government allowed humanitarian organizations unfettered access to the survivors of these attacks, which include at this point over 3 million people who have been rendered homeless by the kinds of war tactics that have occurred, then the aid agencies would be able to prevent a famine from occurring.  You wouldn’t see the 3, 4, 5 cycles John Prendergast Enough 2hammering the people of South Sudan today.  But instead, the government has obstructed access by these organizations in a number of ways, by learning some of the tactics from the Sudan government who they fought for decades, as have the rebels, thus resulting in these huge pockets of populations, including tens of thousands of children today, who have received little to no assistance at the very height of their need.
 
And let’s be clear: if the only response to the images we’re going to be seeing with increased frequency is the humanitarian one, and the structural causes of this cycle of famine in South Sudan and other places are not addressed, then the cycle of famine will begin again next year, and the year after that.  Yes, the world must do, and will do, because of the efforts of people in this room, all that it can to treat these humanitarian symptoms of the emergency, but there’s also an opportunity when there’s this kind of attention that has drawn all of you into this room this morning, to finally begin to address the root causes of some of these crises.  Now in South Sudan today, the war crimes that are committed that help lead directly to famine, these war crimes actually pay.  There’s no accountability for the atrocities and the looting of state resources and even of humanitarian assistance, and there’s no accountability for the famine that results from it.  Billions in our taxpayer dollars have supported peacekeeping forces and humanitarian assistance already.  We’ve got to keep doing that, and double down on it, in this time of need for the people of South Sudan.  And one peace process after another has tried to break the cycle of violence.

“Nothing attempts to thwart the driving force of the mayhem, which in our view is the kleptocrats who have hijacked the government for their personal enrichment, and have carried out war tactics that have led directly to the famine.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

But nothing, unfortunately — and this is a bizarre aspect of international policy — nothing attempts to thwart the driving force of the mayhem, which in our view is the kleptocrats who have hijacked the government in Juba [Sudan’s capital city–Editor] for their personal enrichment, and have carried out war tactics that have led directly to the famine.  Our new initiative — it’s called the Sentry — has conducted an investigation into the wealth accumulated by leading officials in South Sudan, who oversaw the military offensives in 2015 in Unity State that contributed directly to the current famine.  We found that immediate family members of these officials are enjoying luxurious lifestyles abroad, live in lavish estates, with millions and millions of dollars moving through the international financial system in US dollars, while the situation of the civilian population in South Sudan continues to deteriorate.  Essentially, we’re working on a series of follow-up reports to the one we did last September that connect the state looting directly to the famine and the ongoing conflict, and the perverse incentives that exist for these governments to commit these kinds of atrocities in order to stay in power, and without any consequence whatsoever for their actions.  The looting machine, in fact, continues apace, not slowed down even by the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people starving to death.  There’s been no meaningful effort to counter the networks that benefit financially and politically from conflict, from instability, from the absence of the rule of law, and even from famine.  The international community needs to help make war costlier than peace, for government and rebel leaders and their international facilitators, because it isn’t just folks on the ground; there are many people in the international and financial system who are benefiting from South Sudan’s misery.  Those facilitators and enablers need to be the subject of investigations as well.  Choking the illicit financial flows of those folks that are responsible for this famine is the key point of leverage for giving peace an actual chance in South Sudan, because these stolen assets are the one point of vulnerability that the leading officials have.  Their stolen assets are off-shored and laundered through the international financial system in us dollars.  That gives the United States Treasury Department jurisdiction over crimes committed with US currency.  And you see houses, you see cars, you see stuffed bank accounts, all of these manifestations of this criminal activity that is being moved through the international financial system.  So I think the most promising policy approach for creating accountability in context of war and famine would combine creative Anti-Money-Laundering measures that we have honed since 9-11, combine those AML measures with targeted sanctions aimed at freezing those willing to commit mass atrocities, including those that undertook these offensives in 2015 and 2016 that led directly to famine, so you focus on freezing those leading officials out of the international financial system.  That should be the objective.  That would provide leverage to the international community’s efforts to bring folks to the negotiating table to create a real environment for a peace deal.  A steep price needs to be paid for creating famine, and for benefiting from war.

“It’s the South Sudanese that are leading the efforts to respond to the famine.  It’s the South Sudanese, courageously, who are responding to the human rights abuses.  It’s the South Sudanese struggling for independent freedom of the press, freedom of association, all of the basic fundamental rights that they fought and died for, for decades, to have the newest country in the world.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

Even while the world responds to the famine, it’s time for us to address root causes and make those responsible pay for those crimes.  And let’s be clear about this; thousands and thousands of South Sudanese — a trip we just took confirmed this to me yet again — it’s the South Sudanese that are leading the efforts to respond to the famine.  It’s the South Sudanese, courageously, who are responding to the human rights abuses.  It’s the South Sudanese struggling for independent freedom of the press, freedom of association, all of the basic fundamental rights that they fought and died for, for decades, to have the newest country in the world. … The US Congress can, and should, take the lead in supporting solidarity and getting resources to those folks on the ground who are struggling to turn their situation around, just as many have in other countries around Africa.  the South Africans led the anti-apartheid effort, the Mozambicans rebuilt their country, the Sierra Leoneans, the Liberians, all these different countries have demonstrated that it is possible to turn things around.  South Sudan is literally at its low point right now.  It has hit rock-bottom.  But it’s the South Sudanese who can bring it back, just like we’ve seen in other places.  But it’s our role to provide solidarity and support to those efforts to turn things around.  Thank you.

DR. MUNYANGWA:
Jon, do you mind saying a few words about Somalia?

JON BRAUSE:
Sure.  I think Somalia is a really good country to look at because it had a famine back in 2011.  It was the last, actually, sort of documented famine the world faced.  And just looking over the reports, as many as 250,000 people died.  And if you look at the drivers at the time, which was, of course, conflict, but there was also an associated drought in the Horn of Africa, but it was a situation where really, the war and the lack of governance made it hard for the Jon Brause USAID 1international community to respond, so we had a situation where most of the NGO’s, most of the UN agencies couldn’t be permanently present in the country, and yet they had to plan and mobilize resources to try to get assistance to the people who needed it.  Today it’s a completely different story.  While there is still Al Shabab in parts of Somalia, the government — there is a government now, and the government has the capacity to represent its people.  It represents its people, it has a capital, it has security in parts of the country where there can now be a presence for the international community, so you have a situation where the government is leading the response to the crisis, and the government knows how it wants to respond and help its people.  And this is just a sea change from what it was in 2011.  Now I don’t want to take away from the fact that access is still hard to get in 25% of the country, or 25% of the population that need assistance, but it’s much, much different today than it was in 2011, and it’s all because, in contrast to what John was saying, when you have a government that really wants to help the people — and no government’s perfect, we all know that — but when you have a government that does want to help, and creates that environment, and leads — because it’s always the government that needs to lead — then the international community can step in behind, and provide the support that’s necessary.

How can we prevent more people from dying?

DR. MUYANGWA:
I think our three speakers touched on a number of issues, talking about the causes of the famine and the food insecurity in these countries, talking about root causes, talking about how conflict and insecurity have exacerbated the situation, but I think what we’re all left with from all three presentations is the sense of the scale and scope and the utter devastation that can result from this unless we come together, Africans and the international community, to address this challenge.  As I listened to the numbers, the need for urgent food assistance, 5.1 million in Nigeria, 5 million in South Sudan, and 2.9 million in Somalia.

Before I get to the causes, I’d like to ask each of our speakers to reflect on the current situations in their own countries.  Obviously, we need to begin the business of trying to save as many lives as possible.  I cannot even begin to imagine the millions of lives that are at stake.  So to each of you, as you look at South Sudan, as you look at Nigeria, and as you look at Somalia, what is the one intervention, that we could have right now, to stop the deaths from accumulating?  In the very immediate instance, what can we do to prevent more people from dying and prevent famine and the current insecurity from getting any worse than it is today?  So John, I’ll start with you first in South Sudan, and then I’ll come in to General Ward and then to Jon.

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
Well, I’m going to try to answer that question and pretend I’m only giving you one thing, but [that task is] too awesome.  Because you have to preface it by saying that [what is needed is] a total, full-court, 120-percent global effort to provide humanitarian assistance, to demand access in all three of these African countries, and press and push.  Shabab has openings now in Somalia, some would argue, to allow access that they didn’t before.  The reason why 250,000 people died in Somalia in 2011 was because Shabab didn’t provide access.  If there was access, they would have been able to receive assistance.  There is an uncertainty now, because they’ve lost a lot, internally within Somalia, Shabab did, because of how they dealt with populations under their control, and because a lot of their fighters now are from areas that are hardest hit, so there is a familial interest at some level, so we’ve got incredible opportunities on the humanitarian front that need to be pressed and pushed. 

In the context of counter-terrorism efforts in Somalia and Nigeria, one has to see that this humanitarian response is essential.  If our long-term counter-terrorism efforts are going to succeed, these basic human needs need to be first and foremost. … Even if you’re solely driven by national security interests, and you’re sitting somewhere in this town, let’s try 1600 Pennsylvania [Avenue], and you just are interested in national security, there is a national security argument for providing increased humanitarian assistance in Nigeria.

“Right now, the international peace efforts, region-led, internationally-supported peace efforts in South Sudan, are largely in shambles.”
–Jon Prendergast, Enough Project

Let’s get to South Sudan, then.  We’ve already said we’ve got to assert the humanitarian effort.  We support that, and I would refer to Jon on specifics about how to do it.  But I do believe, fundamentally, when we talk about conflict-driven famine, and then don’t have a credible international peace effort, then, what are we doing?  Because, right now, the international peace efforts, region-led, internationally-supported peace efforts in South Sudan, are largely in shambles.  There are all kind of competing possibilities that President [Salva] Kiir has announced, a national dialog that is completely inconclusive and controlled by the government — we’ve seen this in many places around Africa — it’s not a credible process, in the view of people who want to see an inclusive peace effort.  And the IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development–Editor] process, which has been driving peace efforts since 1993 in South Sudan, in [the] north-south [conflict] and to the present, that effort has really been compromised, including some countries within IGAD saying ‘I don’t know if we should even continue because we’re so divided’.  So, we need a coming-together, United Nations, African Union, IGAD, South Sudanese, on a revitalized peace effort.  The situation has changed dramatically since the war began in 2013; where it was basically a bi-polar, two-party war, we now have multiple entities who have joined the fray.  We don’t want to see it devolve into a Somalia-1991 sort of situation where you’ve got this internationally-resourced effort to save the elements of the peace effort that already exists that are very solid and address some of the things that are not dealt with in that peace deal. 

And then I would say, to give leverage to that.  Because it is meaningless to go and [try to influence] other people in the middle of a war when you have no leverage, when you cannot address their fundamental core interests.  We have spent far too much energy and time diplomatically in this country, going around the world, telling people what their interests are, but then not affecting [anything].  So I would say that, if you want to create some leverage from the United States and others who care about peace in South Sudan, then you’ve got to get at what the core vulnerabilities are of these leaders.  And as I’ve said, it is in the way that they are off-shoring the money that they’re looting from the fairly rich in natural resources state that South Sudan is, and then you start to go after that money, and then you start to get people’s attention.  So I’m sorry, that’s a multi-layered answer, but there are solutions, that’s what I really, really want to say, and it isn’t just sending food and medicine, no one would argue that; there are multiple aspects of a comprehensive approach that could, in fact, address the core problems in all three of the countries we’re dealing with here.

GENERAL WARD:
Thanks.  I probably won’t be as extensive as John was with respect to the ingredients.  To be sure, to say what single thing would cause an impact, positive impact on the scenario, is very difficult.  But there is something I think, and that is resources.  When I say ‘resources’, there’s a plethora of resources that I’m talking about.  To be sure, it includes the ‘stuff’ that the people need, and that’s an array of things, food, clean water, medicine, etc.  There is a requirement that the government takes its proper role to care for its people.  And in the case of Nigeria, to be sure, that’s happening today.  It’s happening the way it hadn’t happened [before].  For example, when you look at what’s going on in the northeast of Nigeria as this counter-insurgency, this fight, is now being waged, you see — it may not be at the level that will solve the problem — but it’s certainly addressing the problem, because you see military units, but also some civilian organizations, supported by international relief organizations, that are addressing the problem in ways that they had not before.  So, how to make the resources matter?  Well, you need more of them.  You talk about sovereignty.  Nations have to control their borders.  That’s done through security forces, some uniformed, [some] civilian, but nations have to control their borders.  So that’s a component of this.  And we see that being addressed in some pretty substantial ways in Nigeria. …

“There are over 180 displacement centers of various sorts, various categories, in northeast Nigeria.  Less than 10 percent of them have all they need to take care of the people that are in those locations.”
–General William “Kip” Ward

You will never erase all conflict.  But you have to cause conflict to be controlled such that other things can occur, other things have the ability to occur … the ability of local folks to do what makes sense for them where they live.  I mentioned there are over 180 displacement centers of various sorts, various categories, in northeast Nigeria.  Less than 10 percent of them have all they need to take care of the people that are in those locations.  And I talked about the fact that even many of the internally displaced persons aren’t in these centers; they are now mixed amongst the populations of the various towns, villages, etc., where they find some refuge.  There’s even one location, the Capital Nigeria map with provinces and capital citiesRoad, the Chinese built this road in northern Nigeria, a road that was going someplace, and I’m not certain where the road was going but it just stopped in the middle of the desert, because of the conflict.  But that road had become like a rallying ground, where folks would come together.  That road at least provides access for relief to occur.  And so you build infrastructure, infrastructure that will allow those things that need to be delivered to be delivered, you provide an environment that is more rather than less secure, a government that is paying attention with respect to what it’s doing to care for its people.  And then resources that are provided, and we all have a role in that, the international community to be sure, assets that can then allow the delivery of those resources where they’re required.  And [when] all those things come together, it will help provide for a more secure environment.  We all have a stake in it, including the United States of America, to increase that stability.  When you look at Nigeria, you look at the most populous nation on the Continent, up until a few years ago the largest GDP on the Continent, currently, the largest population of displaced persons, so we have a stake in that, in making it happen.  And so, resources is the thing.  It really has multiple components.

JON BRAUSE:
Thanks.  I’ll take a slightly different tack.  I think, if you look at the three countries in Africa that are facing famine, and you unpack it a bit, there’s not one of those countries, absent conflict, that would ever be in this situation.  So if you have to say ‘what is the number one issue’, it’s the fact that conflict is holding the countries back.  South Sudan, ironically, probably of the three, it has the greatest potential, I mean, it’s just [got] unimaginable natural wealth, including agriculture. There’s no end to what could be produced in South Sudan.

“There’s not one of those countries, absent conflict, that would ever be in this situation. … the people of Africa, the people of these three countries, are already the leaders in the response.  They’re not waiting.”
–Jon Brause, World Food Programme

So, it’s just the fact that the governance and therefore the conflict in those three countries needs to be constantly improved, focusing on the people, because the people of Africa, the people of these three countries, are already, as John said, the leaders in the response.  They’re not waiting.  They’re incredibly entrepreneurial, they’re communal, they take care of each other, but with conflict, it’s all pushed out the window.   So I have to say we need to address the conflict, as John said again, the general ‘but’, I think the international community needs to stand ready to assist where and when it can.  And right now, to the resource point, we don’t have that capacity.  So even where we can get in, even where access is available, we are cutting rations, we are not able to fully support the people, therefore we’re not fully able to support stability.  Where that little pocket of stability is, we can’t support it.  So I would say let’s do work on the conflict, but the international community should try to step forward and make sure that we can help where help can take place.

Questions from the Audience (the “Q & A”)

Q: [from an Ambassador from Mali] What is expected to be done, in this time of budget cuts, for countries outside the ones discussed today but are in the Sahel region that are also enduring potential crises requiring humanitarian assistance as acknowledged by the World Food Programme as representing over 8 million people who are under threat of famine such as The Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Cameroon?  In Mali in particular [the questioner’s home country], conflict has displaced people inside and outside the country, and the north of Mali is generally difficult even in peacetime.

JON BRAUSE:
If I could address the Ambassador’s question, and thank you for asking because, as I mentioned at the beginning of my statement, there are 100 million people who are going to need emergency food assistance, not just 20 million in famine-stricken countries, and we see a bit of donor distraction.  They focus on what’s burning brightest.  And of course, we have Syria in the background right now.  There’s great resource drag going in certain directions.  And yet, Sahel Region Map 2when you think about it, [there are] opportunities in places like Mali and Niger, where you have governance, where you have the opportunity to invest, and actually those donor dollars go so much farther there than they do in the famine countries.  If you’re going through a famine, you’re spending huge money just to save lives.  You’re not building that capacity for better development, for empowering the people, all the things you say you want, or the donor community says it wants, we’re not investing in that.  And so we’re seeing a double-whammy.  The resources are going to the places where they’re needed of course, to the famines, but they’re not going, there’s no significant amount of money being invested at a time when these other countries can just do such great work.  So we continue to advocate for Mali, for Niger, for other countries throughout Africa, so that they’re not forgotten, but it’s a very tough battle these days.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: At this point, we were able to pose our Impudent Question.  In this instance, we were somewhat pleasantly surprised that the respondents, particularly Mr. Prendergast, showed an understanding of the “root causes” he had mentioned earlier, and which had inspired the question we posed.]

Q: Regarding root causes, are there enough people in positions of power who are willing to take a serious look at the real root causes from slavery, colonialism, imposition of language, religion, monetary systems and country boundaries that Africans did not choose, current resource extraction and Western-directed military incursions [such as the attack on Libya that led to the loss of the African Union’s main benefactor and freed up weapons now in the hands of Boko Haram] as causative factors in the current situation in these countries and in the Continent in general?  And will enough thought be given to current solutions [African-driven and -owned food sovereignty versus Western-imposed food security] to prevent situations such as the BT cotton crisis in India, that resulted from introduction by the US and the West of genetically-modified cotton in India and that led to thousands of Indian farmer suicides, so that agriculture ‘solutions’ for Africa do not lead to similarly-disastrous outcomes?

“In the midst of famine watch the scramble for the contracts and how the ugly underbelly, again, of international investing, how that fuels violence, and you see this replicated in a number of countries around Africa, still to this day.  And you see that the countries where conflict and violence is most endemic and most resistant to efforts to try to resolve those issues, at the core, I would argue, in most of those places, is unchecked greed.”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
The historical context of the scramble for African resources — that we read in history books about the colonial era as if it all ended there — sort of like in this country, for some people, the perception is that, after slavery ended, what’s the problem?  Not understanding Jim Crow, lynching, all the rest of it that occurred as part of the legacy.  Similarly, there is a resounding legacy of that colonial era where violent, illegal extraction of Africa’s extraordinary wealth was a principal driver for the motivations of the European colonial powers.  Similarly today, in a number of African countries, South Sudan is a microcosm of that, that the scramble for resources — in the case of South Sudan it’s primarily oil but the next one is gold, watch this one unfold — in the midst of famine watch the scramble for the contracts and how the ugly underbelly, again, of international investing, how that fuels violence, and you see this replicated in a number of countries around Africa, still to this day.  And you see that the countries where conflict and violence is most endemic and most resistant to efforts, whether local or regional or international, efforts to try to resolve those issues, at the core, I would argue, in most of those places, is unchecked greed.  It’s that confluence of corruption and violence that is driving the emergencies, and I think we can make long, academic, well-sourced assessments of that statement for all three of our countries in Africa today, the underlying rot of corruption and the use of state violence to ensure the continuation of patterns of violent extraction of resources.  And the difficulty in addressing those patterns through peace processes and other approaches, counter-terrorism efforts and other things, if you’re not getting at the core issue of kleptocracy and the hijacking of state institutions so that the judicial systems are undermined, because having the rule of law would mean that the folks who are extracting those resources would actually be the ones being investigated and brought to justice.  Having proper security services that protect the borders, as General Ward said, and are responsible for human security, rather in some of these countries, those are the agents of this accord or policy of extraction of resources.  So, unless we address that fundamental issue, that root cause, we’re going to just keep seeing these emergencies in certain African countries.  Other African countries have figured it out.  They’ve worked through it.  It’s not impossible.  There’s good governance in many, many countries in Africa.  There are lots of extraordinary, positive success stories throughout Africa, of countries overcoming that colonial legacy and turning things around, politically, economically.  Works in progress all over, but dramatic, in my view.  But there are a subset of countries that are still in this cycle that is very similar to what that cycle was during the colonial period.  And it’s all about abject greed and the lack of any accountability for a small group of people in each of these countries who have hijacked the state institutions for their own personal benefit, with international collaborators — banks, lawyers, accountants, shipping companies, arms dealers — those are the kleptocratic networks that we’ve got to address if we want to stop these cycles from continuing.

GENERAL WARD:
I’ve been getting at the notion of those things that are sustainable, as well as those things that are done because you have a committed group of leaders that are looking at an overarching approach.  The landscape, I believe, is positive.  It’s not perfect but it’s positive.  If I go back ten years ago, as we stood up the United States Africa Command as an example, as an example, where it was very plain and apparent that decisions that were ever made, were made as they took into account a range of things that were important for taking care of people.  Including, to be sure, what was my primary focus, and I undertook that with the full understanding that that wasn’t enough in and of itself.  It also required a healthy dose of what I call development, across economic sectors, across agricultural sectors, that could lead to the things that the people needed for themselves that they participated in, from manufacturing to energy, that enabled a society to sustain itself, and a commitment to it as well as an investment in it.  And it also took what I used to term governance, good governance.  At least governance that was more effective as opposed to less effective, taking in all of the [issues] that we’ve talked about here.  From corruption to providing services in remote locations and those things.  And I say that the realization of the importance of that comingling of work, I think, is increasingly recognized by leaders.  People sure understand it.  And if the leaders are to remain in power, then they too have to do things that reflect their understanding of it so that they can demonstrate to their people that they are in fact working on their behalf.  And so, is it possible?  Is there a commitment?  Can it be sustainable?  Yes, but only when and if you have a secure environment, more or less — won’t be perfect but more or less — when you have things being developed in a way that the people who are living there see themselves as benefiting from what’s going on in their homeland, in their area, in their geography, and governance that’s more effective rather than less effective, representing the interests of its people.

“Is it possible?  Is there a commitment?  Can it be sustainable?  Yes, but only when and if you have a secure environment, more or less — won’t be perfect but more or less — when you have things being developed in a way that the people who are living there see themselves as benefiting from what’s going on in their homeland …”
–General William “Kip” Ward

Q: [from Dr. Malcolm Beech, president of the National Business League and the African Business League of America] How can the US encourage building capacity and capability in African businesses for in-country food processing, and how can the us HBCU’s [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] help?

JON BRAUSE:
I’m going to point you to the Feed the Future Initiative that the last Administration put so much effort into and it was really focused on doing just what you’re talking about.  It’s not the response, it’s not waiting until you have a problem, it’s how do you enhance the capacity of African nations to not only produce more food but to process more food, to develop their markets.  What are the key actions of each of those countries and regions where you tweak a little bit, with a little bit of resources, and actually have tremendous impact?  It’s a wonderful program, and I do hope it continues.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: We noticed here that Mr. Brause made reference to Feed the Future, a program sponsored in large part by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID.  While we liked the bulk of his analysis of famine in Afrika and the issues that needed to be considered, this was the one comment he made during the entire event with which we had some serious issues.  The fact that he worked for 22 years at USAID, in positions of increasing responsibility and policy influence, makes the comment unsurprising, especially as he demonstrates a real concern for the people on whose behalf he speaks, and he no doubt sees the programs promoted by USAID to be on the whole, if not in total, beneficial for struggling populations around the world.  Our research on the agency for KUUMBAReport Online, while certainly leading to a similar conclusion that those working for USAID share a commitment to improving the lot of disadvantaged communities, has also, however, led us to conclude that several of its initiatives are flawed at best, and at worst, have led to disastrous consequences for a number of the communities it was designed to help, largely due to the influence of some of the same corporate opportunists Mr. Prendergast refers to in his earlier comments.

Several years ago, when we first started attending the Africa Policy Forum events, we were introduced to the Feed the Future program and did some background research on the track record of USAID and its projects in different parts of the world.  Somewhat alarmingly for us, we found that USAID had assisted in the promotion of the very BT cotton that ultimately led to the Indian farmer suicides, and the agency had run into resistance from several Latin American countries who did not want genetically-modified crops from Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations introduced in their countries.  Feed the Future was reputed to be promoting Water Resistant Maize for Africa (WEMA), which was also connected to agribusiness corporations such as Cargill, Syngenta and Monsanto, as an answer to the problems of crop yields in northern Afrika, despite the assertions by food sovereignty activists that the real problem is not so much yields as it is access to the food that is available and is already being grown.  Monsanto and other agribusiness corporations’ insistence on selling farmers patented, genetically-modified seeds that cannot be recycled, either by science (so-called “terminator seed technology” which has not been verified) or by law (lawsuits by agribusiness against farmers who attempted to recycle their seeds instead of buying the next generation from them), helped lead to the inability of Indian farmers to raise their crops sustainably, and, combined with the unexpectedly-high amounts of water and pesticides needed (despite industry claims to the opposite), the Indian farmers largely went bankrupt and committed suicide because they could no longer pay their debts.

That these same corporations were again attempting to promote patented, genetically-modified seed, this time most notably maize (corn), in Afrika through USAID’s Feed the Future Program, has raised concerns that this same pattern would repeat itself as part of the age-old Scramble for Afrika’s Resources which many Pan-Afrikan and food activists have warned about for years and to which Mr. Prendergast referred in this very Forum.  Thus, we remain skeptical about the Feed the Future program and whether it will truly lead to sustainable agriculture in Afrika, controlled by Afrikans, or whether it will usher in another era of corporate control of food in the Mother Continent, which would sacrifice long-term food sovereignty with Afrikan farmer and grassroots control for short-term food security with Western and corporate control of Afrika’s food.  See the articles “USAID, According To USAID”, “Seeds of Suspicion”, “Is There A Plot To Take Over Afrika’s Food Supply?”, and related posts on the website KUUMBAReport Online, http://kuumbareport.com, which in turn will link you with source articles and documents, for more information.]

Q: [from Ms. Rosemary Segero, President of Segeros International Group, which focuses on agriculture]  Here we are talking about famine, the UN is talking about fighting poverty, World Bank is talking about end of poverty, and we are here talking about root of problems of famine.  Why is it that the conflicts are still in Africa, as much as people are fighting to eat, we have big companies there, doing mining, making money, there are big companies there, getting oil, selling oil.  Why can’t you tell these big companies, especially  to General Ward — happy to see you again — how can we work on this, to make sure there is no conflict in Africa … I’m into security like you, General, we go from head of state to head of state to fight the crime-fight, conflict, before we come to famine. … The head of states, they fight [and get into conflict], so, unless we fight that, we are going to be coming here every day, to the World Bank, the UN and the Sustainable Development Goals.  What can we do from here?  Don’t call us next year to talk about famine.  We want that answer now. 

GENERAL WARD:
Let me just briefly talk to the issue of minimizing vulnerability [to conflict] and how it could be addressed over time.  And what the long lasting guarantor of little conflict is.  And it comes with economic and social development.  And you may say that’s kind of strange, a general talking about the importance of development, but it’s exactly that.  When you have populations that are more or less satisfied where they are because they have the ability, mothers and fathers, can take care of their children, can feed them, can educate them, can house them, can be less afraid when they are out walking to the store and doing whatever … that society is less susceptible to conflict.  And so, when it comes to how we address that notion of international affairs, work, and, to the point of Congresswoman Lee, our international affairs budget, if you look at the programs administered by USAID, these are amounts of monies that aren’t a lot, but they produce huge returns on the investment over time.

“When you do things to invest in the well-being of a child, when you invest in the ability of a woman to raise her society, that has long lasting impacts in a positive way.  And it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. … But you need to create the environment for that to happen.  And that’s why the security aspect of that is also important. “
–General William “Kip” Ward

To get to the question regarding women and children, when you do things to invest in the well-being of a child, when you invest in the ability of a woman to raise her society, that has long lasting impacts in a positive way.  And it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference.  And so I would say that this notion of the long-term guarantor of reduced conflict is when you have developed societies, that is a big contributor for [reduction of the risk of] conflict.  And you do it in a way that has meaning for a people where they are, in their geography, by doing things that matter to them, advancing their ability to care for themselves where they are, and that’s why this notion of development in its varying forms, from health to education to food, is so important when it comes to long-term stability.  But you need to create the environment for that to happen.  And that’s why the security aspect of that is also important.  But the long-term guarantor is, indeed, that development component.

Q: [from Bread for the World’s Office of Pan African Engagement and Spiritual Outreach] Can you speak more to the issues of women’s empowerment, and particularly to this vulnerable community of women and children, especially regarding the root causes of the lack of women’s empowerment?  Also, how could the faith community be more effective on the ground in terms of dealing with the root causes, addressing the famine and beyond?

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
Just a quick cherry-picking of a few things to talk about building peace capacities.  We have a confluence of events in which two of the major multilateral organizations in the world that have focused on peace in Africa, are partially or John Prendergast Enough 1fully focused on peace in Africa, have new leadership.  the United Nations has a new Secretary General, who has expressed a real commitment to investing UN resources into peacemaking, and mediation.  We have a new African Union leader who, as well, has said that peace is a fundamental priority, and can put a team together that makes that happen.  And then, the local level, so that’s the international and the continental level, then there’s the local level. … So, that question about the religious component, the faith component, of support for local peace efforts I think is really important. … In South Sudan today, and looking back at the legacy of conflict over the last 30 years, churches have played a fundamentally important role over time in reconciliation efforts between communities, sometimes very successfully, sometimes not successful at all.  But that effort to build local constituencies for peace should [include] a fundamental building block [which] ought to be the South Sudan Council of Churches and the church leaders at the grassroots level, who in most cases have an interest in peace and not conflict and who have an interest in reconciliation.  And I think that is true certainly of the cross-line efforts of some of the leaders.  Islamic and Christian leaders in Nigeria have been some of the bright spots over the last ten years in  northern Nigeria, and in Somalia, you have a number of the imams who have at the local level played a role at the community level in mediation and peacemaking.  So, supporting, highlighting, giving resources to and acting in solidarity with those kinds of efforts, combined with resource and capacity-building for the AU and UN peace efforts, is I think, the kind of strategy that is needed today.

Q: [from Baba Tamiru, Little Ethiopia Magazine] How do we deal with corrupt and selfish leaders who insist on clinging to power, and how much are the leaders in the US Congress involving the Diasporas, which are not very powerful but which are sending remittances to their home countries, sometimes in large numbers?

Q: [from a self-professed ‘pacifist’] would you consider the kleptocrats in South Sudan to be a legitimate government?  If not, what is the military capability of the South Sudanese and rebel forces, and could the UN make a case for removing the government from power as perhaps the most direct way of solving the problem?

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
I guess I would start with the principle that probably is subscribed to by most of the folks in here, which is that people have to decide their own leadership, and it really isn’t the role of outsiders to be determining the direction of who, in fact, is running other countries.  Gambia is a fascinating model now, it has pretty unique circumstances.  It’s not remotely what we have in South Sudan today.  And there are different sets of interests involved in that effort by the region to see a democratic transition in the country.  A remarkable success story, a positive story … but hard to see the parallels to South Sudan.  In terms of the UN taking a more assertive or proactive role in some form of alteration of the current governing structure, I just think, kind of being rooted in the present moment, and the realpolitik of the South Sudan states 1present moment where the US is pulling back from peacekeeping operations, I mean, I can’t wait to see how these debates and discussions unfold as to how the United States pulls the chair of the Security Council here in New York, where they say they’re going to have some kind of a debate about human rights, and I’m frightened to hear that.  And real fundamental questions about peacekeeping operations, which, of course, in the hands of a responsible discussion, is important.  You’ve got to keep trying to improve these peacekeeping operations so they can have some kind of relevance to the future of these countries but I think often, what we’re seeing now is questions that are designed to justify a massive pull-back.  So the idea that the UN is going to be the engine of what would be, in effect, an invasion, overthrowing the government, I just don’t think that’s in the realm of reality.  I think there are also a lot of ideas out there about building a trusteeship or other forms of that kind of an idea that there would be some kind of an internationalization of governance for some period of time in South Sudan.  I think those are completely unrealistic as well in this present moment.  Who’s going to shoot their way into that system?  And so, the real question, the responsible question, is, I think — reasonable people can differ — is how can you even the playing field in South Sudan a little more, so that guys with the biggest guns don’t dominate that place for the foreseeable future?  And I look at historical precedent, where in the South African situation, the apartheid situation, where international pressure, in the context of the anti-apartheid efforts and the extraordinary efforts on the ground that the South Africans waged was a critically important ingredient in the overall transformation, very similar to the blood diamonds wars in West Africa … [it] wasn’t the panacea in the early 2000’s, but it removed, or it dramatically reduced the gasoline.  International gasoline was being poured on those domestic fires, in three different countries within a couple of years in these places, those being Sierra Leone, Liberia and even in Angola you saw it, and led to these active wars.  And we were able to have some sort of active transformation in at least two of these countries.  Angola, lagging behind, is still an authoritarian state.  So, there are solutions that are short of some kind of international military response that is never going to come.  And I think, in this case, it’s addressing those economic roots of the problem which is one of the central parts of what outsiders can do to begin to create a situation where on the ground, negotiations between the relevant stakeholders in the future of countries like South Sudan can have a chance at determining their own future.

“The responsible question is … is how can you even the playing field in South Sudan a little more, so that guys with the biggest guns don’t dominate that place for the foreseeable future?”
–John Prendergast, Enough Project

Q: [from Sis. N’deye Ba of Senegal, from Act 4 Accountability, on the web at www.act4accountability.com] I pose this question not only to the panelists but also to anyone in the audience who is willing to have a larger conversation about it, perhaps after the event.  What can we as the Diaspora do?  What are some actionable items that we can do to assist in any way that we can, aside from just sending money back home as I’m sure a lot of us do?  There is a large population of recent college graduates who want to help but just don’t know how.  So I’d really appreciate any advice that you can share on that.

Q: [from Mr. Lawrence Friedman, economic development policy advocate for Africa over the last 25 years] I’d like to comment on economic development in providing long-term stability with mitigating enterprises.  And I don’t think we’ve done enough.  Maybe this humanitarian crisis that we’re in now will, maybe, lead to a change in policy.  If you look at where transformative pockets are active in Africa, you have to look at China, the Brits … they’re building railroads in Kenya, railroads in Ethiopia which I was on, railroads in Nigeria.  We’re not doing that.  This gives people jobs.  This gives people economic development.  This gives people hope for the future.  In northeast Nigeria, I remember the Lake Chop Basin Commission and I remember I’m advocating a program to refurbish the lake.  Bring water into the lake which would improve the economic development.  So I know everybody’s doing everything for the humanitarian crisis, but could this not be a period where we change the Western policy of the EU and the West and invest billions of dollars in infrastructure the way the Chinese are doing?  Long term loans, low interest.  The previous Administration didn’t want to have anything to do with that.  Maybe this Administration will change.  The president of our country and the president of China are meeting. … but I see this as an opportunity in the midst of a crisis to actually develop a positive, long-term policy which we have not done for many, many years.

GENERAL WARD:
I think without question, the activity that we’ve seen on the Continent of Africa by other nations, from China to Russia to Brazil to India, not classifying them one way or the other but the fact that they are there and involved in substantial ways with respect to infrastructure, major policies and programs that have implications for other things to occur, from energy to manufacturing, the involvement of our government in that is clearly not what we see by other governments.  Our models look different.  Our private enterprise, our private business sector has a role to play also.  And so I believe a part of that dynamic, and it is causing it such that our private business sector feels as if it too has a stake, a role, and, like any private business, it’s in their interest to be on the Continent to do these things as well.  And so, from my perspective, a policy and overarching long-term approach that is taken that promotes development, infrastructure, business, local entrepreneurship, investment are all things that would lead to an environment that would be less susceptible to conflict, and thus, obviously, I think in the best interests of the United States of America.  So, I agree, it makes sense, and we aren’t doing what other nations do, and not that we have to do exactly what other nations do.  It’s not my point.  But doing the things that America does do well, we grow business.  We know how to do that.  We have to have an environment on the Continent that is conducive to that.  And so, a degree of security is important.  So that has to be there as well.  But that’s not all that’s required, and so these other things, from infrastructure to empowering locals, business entrepreneurs, supporting those of various means, be it our various banking programs, be it our various programs that are traditionally sponsored by USAID.  We talk about the World Food Programme as an example.  There’s another program out there, I believe it’s called Markets Too, that’s operating in Nigeria, which is aligned with the 2010 Feed the Future program, about 60 million dollars.  Not a lot of money, but doing some fantastic work, that’s also potentially threatened.  And this is about protecting local Nigerian agricultural development, for themselves as well as export farming.  Those are things that will make a difference over the long term in my estimation.

Q: What can we do to support the widows in Africa?  reports from the UN are saying that in some areas of the Continent, 45-50% of the population are widows.

JOHN PRENDERGAST:
I’ll just quickly say that it’s not my area of expertise, but certainly I have seen over the course of 30 years including working in and visiting Africa, quite a progression in the international and local aid efforts, writ large, focusing more and more on vulnerable groups and, of course, women who have lost their spouses, children — unaccompanied minors they call them — children who have lost their parents, have been increasingly targeted in the responses, with not just humanitarian assistance but the kind of assistance that helps create potential livelihoods for their future, and so I think there’s been increasing investment, all of it, at least in the United States, put at risk by this new budget that’s been forwarded by the White House, but certainly, from where we were in the 80’s to where we are now, I think there’s been a great deal of better understanding, better targeting and more resources going to vulnerable communities in those local areas.  A very general comment, but I think it’s important to note that there has been some progress.

GENERAL WARD:
And I would certainly support that.  I don’t have the answer, but I know that whatever we do that supports widows and women in the society is a wise investment.  It’s something important to do.  We ought to be looking at ways that we can do more.  I’ve seen in too many places globally, from the Balkans to the middle east to the Continent of Africa, women who were empowered, either because they had been subject to some catastrophic event, loss of loved ones, their children, their spouses, who were then empowered to make a difference in their society, and they do it.

Summary of the Discussion

DR. MUYANGWA:
it really hits you in the face about the food insecurity situation that is unfolding globally and on the Continent: 20 million people impacted by famine, perhaps the largest crisis since the founding of the UN in 1945. 

Dr Monde Muyangwa 1One is also struck by the tepid response of the international community to the crisis, which is one of the reasons why I’m thankful to see all of you here. … We need to draw more attention to this issue.  As of today only 10% of the required 4.4 billion dollars has been raised to address this issue.  Now, one could say, maybe this is an awareness issue.  If it is let’s go on and keep raising that awareness.  One could argue that it’s a question of fatigue amongst those who provide the resources.  One could also argue that it is a continuing dialog, a debate that we’ve had for many, many years about just how important Africa is to all of us, and we see this playing out in the budget priorities that are being proposed. 

In terms of the immediate addressing of the situation to minimize the loss of lives, I heard the speakers address a number of issues, one of which was the issue of access, physical access to the people who need help the most.  That we need to do a better job of that.  But i think the second definition of that that was alluded to but not really addressed in depth has to do with the restrictions that some of these governments are placing on that access.  That issue needs to be addressed and we need to put more pressure on these governments to allow that access.  But also just to increase resources to allow us to reach the people who need the help the most.  I also heard from different quarters in the Q&A about tapping more and empowering more of the African respondents who are on the ground and actually working in their communities, identifying them, and seeing how we can give them a little bit more to be able to do more of the work they are already doing in their space. 

I thought that we really had a powerful discussion about the causes and drivers of this conflict, of the famine and the food insecurities in these countries.  And all of our speakers spoke to the fact that this crisis consists of man-made factors but also natural factors, a drought that’s overlaid with conflict, mostly a man-made problem, but also some of the choices that various African leaders have made that contributed to the crisis.  Amongst those, we’ve heard how governance and leadership matter.  And one of the things that I think we need to look squarely in the face, and for this I’ll look to my African Brothers and Sisters, is that … African governments and leaders have to take even more responsibilities for what their neighbors are doing on the governance front.  It’s the lack of inclusive governance as we’ve heard, the lack of government that’s accountable to its people, government that’s stealing resources blind from their people, even as these crises unfold.  That is something that, squarely, African leaders ought to address more, that’s part of the problem here.  Governance also matters, we’ve heard, in another way, in that, having a government in Somalia, the entry points for addressing the crisis in Somalia are very different than those that we have in South Sudan, than those that we had in Somalia in 2011 in part because we now have a government in place that’s trying to address the issues.  Unfortunately, the government in South Sudan, as we’ve heard, has not been very helpful in that space.

“Nine of 16 United Nations peacekeeping missions are in Africa.  that’s nine peacekeeping missions too many.”
–Dr. Monde Muyangwa, Wilson Center

On the long-term solutions on the governance front, I’m struck by the number of people who talked governance here and the number of times the governance issue came up in the audience.  From my perspective, I think that one of the issues that we need to look at from the Washington perspective has been the declining budgets for inclusive governance and democracy within the US budget.  And this is not to point the finger at any one Administration.  But this budget has been declining, starting in the Bush Administration years, coming through to the Obama years, and as I heard every single one of our speakers here touch on the issue of governance and why it’s important, and so investing in that space is clearly something that we’re going to have to look at, and directing more resources to that issue is something that we need to take a look at. 

We heard about all three African countries [discussed today], that the famine and food insecurity has been driven by conflict.  Nine of 16 United Nations peacekeeping missions are in Africa.  that’s nine peacekeeping missions too many.  And so, the point that was made earlier on, about [how] we need to figure out a way of minimizing Africa’s fragility, of minimizing Africa’s risk to conflict, that cannot be overstated.  Look at the three case studies that we have looked at today.  Underpinning those is the role that conflict has played in leading us to this situation that we are in today.  So that’s something else that we need to look at.

I was happy to hear the General talk about [how] security was important but we need to do more than just security.  We need to achieve a better balance between security and investment in development.  That’s what’s going to get us to the long-term picture that we’re looking at, of more food-secure African countries.

From a personal perspective, we haven’t yet articulated an Africa policy, the current Administration has not.  But what I hear from the speakers, and I hear from all of you, is that, even as we look at the budget of this country and our short-term or national interests, that we not lose sight of the long-term picture.  That we not let security dictate how we engage and invest and develop relationships with other parts of the world.  This is going to be an especially important thing to Africa, where we know that we have some serious security concerns, but as John said, security should not be the only lens through which we look at how we engage with Africa. … looking beyond security, and looking beyond the here-and-now, to focus on the long term of what we would like US-Africa relations to be like in another 20, 30 years or so, and how we get there.

There was a question that was raised about long-term food sustainability.  That has to be what we focus on.  Even as we address the famine here today, our long-term initiatives, our long-term objectives really ought to be about how do we engender long-term food security in Africa that’s African-owned and African-driven.  So, as we look at our programs, as we look at our policies, how are we embedding that into those policies to ensure that that’s exactly what we’re pushing for over the long term?

“[O]ur long-term objectives really ought to be about how do we engender long-term food security in Africa that’s African-owned and African-driven.”
–Dr. Monde Munyangwa, Wilson Center

And then, as I conclude my summary … two points.  One was made by our last question here on ensuring that vulnerable populations are accounted for, as we work on addressing the immediate famine and food insecurity by also trying to work on long-term food security and sustainability.  I think these are key issues that we need to interrogate as we build policies, as we build programs, as we build initiatives.  And then the final point was about the role of the African Diaspora.  Africa has one of the most active Diasporas in this country.  But I fear that we don’t take advantage of that Diaspora to the extent that we could, to actually do a whole lot more for and with the Continent.  I know a lot of organizations are already tapping into that Diaspora, but I think there is more that could be done, and so how do we put our heads together to figure out, how do we energize that Diaspora and include it and embed it even more in the work that we are doing, whether it’s at the policy level, whether it’s independent initiatives of their undertaking, or whether it’s engaging in official Africa here as represented in Washington?

So, some really, really good and powerful takeaways for all of us as we think more about how we can actually go from where we are today to more action that’s required to change and alleviate the situation in the countries that we’ve been talking about.

Please join me in thanking our speakers.

CLOSING REMARKS BY CONGRESS MEMBER KAREN BASS:
This was just very, very informative. … And I want everyone to know, this is not just a one time thing.  I don’t want anybody to think that we’re going to forget this and move on to another issue.  But I would like to ask the panel to continue to assist us as Congress to continue to figure out how to respond to this, and of course, most notable for me is understanding the role that conflict plays.  You added a whole other dimension … in terms of talking about the money that is leaving the country, resources, and Monde, you mentioned one of the last questions about the Karen Bass 1Diaspora, I do think that one of our next moves should be to have another event similar to this that focuses on the Diaspora, and I was speaking in the back with a representative from the Somalian Embassy, because I think, in terms of raising public awareness within Congress, it’s also about raising public awareness within our country, the fact that African immigrants are some of the most educated immigrants and the role they play, not just with remittances, but also conducting business in their home countries, and the significant leadership role that they should play now, as we address this crisis.  And so, I want everyone to know that we will continue, this will not be our last event, and we look for all of your input as to how we should proceed.  We just can’t sit back and say that 20 million people are at risk for starvation, and our country is not going to play a role that we have played historically.  Again, I go back to a comment that I made in the beginning.  I think that the role we played around Ebola, in terms of galvanizing and mobilizing the entire world to address the crisis, that at one point, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] talked about a million people dying, and it was nowhere near that because … the world acted, the world responded, and stamped it out before it got completely out of control and I think that’s exactly what we need to do now.  But, again, one of the most significant points that each panelist made over and over again is that yes, we have to address the crisis today, but it would be extremely short-sighted if we didn’t have a more in-depth, long-term response, because, given our world, the level of technology, science, all of the advancement, we should not be sitting in the 21st Century, even talking about famine.  Thank you very much.

“We should not be sitting in the 21st Century, even talking about famine.”
–Congress Member Karen Bass

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The Rhythm People Coalition and Teaching Artist Institute Announce the NOMAD Tour 2017

The Rhythm People Coalition and Teaching Artist Institute Announce the NOMAD Tour 2017

TAI NOMAD 2017 Tour a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rhythm People Coalition of the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) is announcing its 2017 NOMAD Tour, in which the work of the Rhythm People Coalition and TAI to promote Art for Social Transformation is being spread throughout the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora.  The Tour includes dates in Charleston, South Carolina (May 28, 2017), Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (June 3-4, 2017), Portland, Jamaica (June 24, 2017), Los Angeles, California at Leimert Park (September 16-17, 2017), Santiago, Cuba (October 14-15, 2017) and Paris, France (October 28-29, 2017), as well as a visit to the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus National Summit in Nashville, Tennessee on October 20-21, 2017.

Just who are the Rhythm People?  Let the following Infograph, designed by TAI artists, explain the concept:

TAI Rhythm People Infograph March 2017

For more information or to inquire about joining the Teaching Artist Institute and the Rhythm People Coalition, contact them by phone or text at 443-739-0941, by email at kpoolepip@yahoo.com, or visit the TAI Tours Website, www.taitours.org.

 

 

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Victorious Swift Celebration of Life 1

Tubman (Baltimore) City and SRDC-Maryland Mourn the Loss of Young Bro. Victorious Khan Swift

Victorious Swift Celebration of Life 1In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 26, 2017 (6257 according to the Calendar of our Ancient Afrikan Ancestors), one of the young bright lights of the Harriet Tubman City/Baltimore Community was suddenly extinguished.  Brother Victorious Khan Swift, only 19 years of age, was shot near Reisterstown Road and Tioga Parkway as he was headed home from the recording studio where he often honed his craft as a local musician.  He was apparently the victim of a random robbery that suddenly turned violent.  The young artist, singer, actor, boxer and community activist, who was known for his engaging smile and his willingness to share with and support other young people in the Pan-Afrikan Community through the Baltimore Algebra Project, the Nu Generation Art Ensemble, the Umar Boxing Center, the Urban Youth Initiative Project (of which he was a graduate) and other community organizations, was preparing to graduate from the Baltimore Design School in the following weeks and will be sorely missed by those who came to know him.  This senseless murder has sparked calls for anyone with information on the shooting to notify authorities as well as for community groups to seek out ways to stop the scourge of violence that has claimed too many promising, young lives.

Special thoughts and our most sincere prayers go out to his six siblings and his Mother, Mama Victory Swift, who is the Founder of the Tubman City-based Afrikan Heritage Walk-A-Thon, has been a longtime member of the Tubman City Community, is a strong supporter of several local Pan-Afrikan organizations including the Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement, the Teaching Artist Institute and the Maryland Organization of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus.

His case has been reported by local news affiliates WJZ CBS Baltimore, WBFF Fox 45 and the Baltimore Sun, among others.

In lieu of flowers, a Victorious Khan Swift Scholarship Fund is being established, and a GoFundMe Campaign has also been launched to assist with expenses for his memorial service.

We invite members of the Conscious and Pan-Afrikan Community to come to the Celebration of Life of Bro. Victorious Khan Swift, to be held Tuesday, April 4 at Joseph H. Brown Funeral Home, located at 2140 North Fulton Avenue, with the Viewing at 4:00 PM and the Service at 5:00 PM.

Mama Victory Swift has posted remembrances of her youngest son, Bro. Victorious Khan Swift, on her Facebook Page.  We invite readers to visit her page, to check out photos, videos and tributes to him, and to share your condolences and prayers with Mama Victory and the Family.

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African Union Flag 4

From the African Union’s ECOSOCC: Summary of the 28th AU Summit Outcomes and Decision

African Union Flag 4EDITOR’S NOTE: This report was released from the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), Citizens Directorate (cido@africa-union.org) on February 2, 2017 to briefly describe several decisions made at the recently-held 28th African Union Summit.

Greeting to our dear African citizenry,

Many of you have been following the updates of 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union that took place from 30-31 January 2017. Some of the news of the AU summit has gained a lot of publicity, particularly that pertaining to the election of a new AU leadership and the re-admission of Morocco.

Nevertheless, there are many other decisions and updates that took place during both the Executive Council and Assembly sessions which you need to be apprised of.

Below is a summary of the 28th AU summit outcomes and decision that was put together to ensure that you’re informed until the official decisions are circulated.

On the Institutional Reform, the Summit:

  • Took note of the recommendations for the proposed reforms to further strengthen the African Union, in the following five areas: a) Focus on key priorities with continental scope; b) Realign African Union institutions in order to deliver against those priorities; c) Connect the African Union to its citizens; d) Manage the business of the African Union efficiently and effectively at both the political and operational levels; e) Finance the African Union sustainably and with the full ownership of the Member States.
  • Decided to adopt the recommendations in the Report as amended by Member States during the Retreat’s deliberations (see below)
  • Mandated President Paul Kagame, in his capacity as the lead on the institutional reform of the Union, in collaboration with President Idriss Deby Itno, of Chad in his capacity as the outgoing Chairperson and President Alpha Conde, of the Republic of Guinea in his capacity as the current Chairperson, to supervise the implementation process;
  • The Incoming Commission elected at the January 2017 Summit shall put in place a Reform Implementation Unit at the AU Commission, within the Bureau of the Chairperson, responsible for the day-to-day coordination and implementation of this decision;
  • The Incoming Commission shall also make recommendations on a mechanism to ensure that legally binding decisions and commitments are implemented by Member States;
  • President Paul Kagame shall report at each Ordinary Session of the Assembly on progress made with the implementation of this decision.

On Peace and Security, the Summit

  • Emphasized the need for all AU Member States, in particular the PSC, to give more focus on conflict prevention, early warning and early response, in order to prevent, for future, occurrence of full blown conflicts in the continent.
  • Endorsed the African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by year 2020, as a guideline for Africa’s efforts to this end.
  • Directed the PSC to establish a monitoring and evaluation mechanism on the basis of which the Assembly will periodically review progress in the implementation of the Master Roadmap;

On the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Summit:

  • Adopted the ICC Withdrawal Strategy and called on member states to consider implementing its recommendations
  • Requested the Group of African States Parties in New York in collaboration with AU Commission to actively participate in the deliberations of the Working Group on Amendments to ensure that African proposals are adequately considered and addressed;

On Western Sahara, the Summit

  • Notes with deep concerns the continued impasse in the search for a solution to the conflict in and underlined the urgent need for renewed international efforts to facilitate an early resolution of the conflict. In this respect, the Assembly called again to the UN General Assembly to determine a date for the holding of the self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara and protect the integrity of the Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory from any act which may undermine it.
  • Urged the UN Security Council to fully assume its responsibilities in restoring the full functionality of United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), as it is indispensable for overseeing the ceasefire and organizing the self-determination referendum in Western Sahara, as well as in addressing the issues of the respect of human rights and the illegal exploration and exploitation of the Territory’s natural resources, particularly in line with the important judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union issued on 21 December 2016, on the arrangement between the EU and Morocco signed in 2012, on the mutual liberalization of the trade in agricultural and fishing products.

DECISION ON THE OUTCOME OF THE RETREAT OF THE ASSEMBLY OF THE AFRICAN UNION ON INSTITUTIONAL REFORM OF THE AFRICAN UNION

On focus on key priorities with continental scope:

  1. The African Union should focus on a fewer number of priority areas, which are by nature continental in scope, such as political affairs, peace and security, economic integration (including the Continental Free Trade Area), and Africa’s global representation and voice;
  2. There should be a clear division of labour and effective collaboration between the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Regional Mechanisms (RMs), the Member States, and other continental institutions, in line with the principle of subsidiarity.

On realigning African Union institutions in order to deliver against those priorities

  1. The Commission should initiate, without delay, a professional audit of bureaucratic bottlenecks and inefficiencies that impede service delivery and the recommendations therein;
  2. The Commission’s structures should be re-evaluated to ensure that they have the right size and capabilities to deliver on the agreed priorities;
  3. The Commission’s senior leadership team should be lean and performance-oriented;
  4. NEPAD should be fully integrated into the Commission as the African Union’s development agency, aligned with the agreed priorities and underpinned by an enhanced results-monitoring framework;
  5. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) should be strengthened to track implementation and oversee monitoring and evaluation in key governance areas of the continent;
  6. The roles and functions of the African Union judicial organs and the Pan-African Parliament should be reviewed and clarified, and their progress to date assessed;
  7. The Peace and Security Council (PSC) should be reformed to ensure that it meets the ambition foreseen in its Protocol, by strengthening its working methods and its role in conflict prevention and crisis management;
  8. The Permanent Representatives Committee’s (PRC) Rules of Procedures should be reviewed and be in line with the mandate provided for in the Constitutive Act of the African Union. The PRC should facilitate communication between the African Union and national capitals, and act as an advisory body to the Executive Council, and not as a supervisory body of the Commission.

On connecting the African Union to its citizens

  1. The Commission should establish women and youth quotas across its institutions and identify appropriate ways and means to ensure the private sector’s participation;
  2. The Commission should establish an African Youth Corps, as well as develop programs to facilitate cultural and sports exchange among Member States;
  3. Member States should make the African passport available to all eligible citizens as quickly as possible, in line with the Assembly decision Assembly/AU/Dec.607 (XXVII) adopted in Kigali, Rwanda in July 2016
  4. The Commission should identify and provide a set of new capabilities or ‘assets’ in the form of common continent-wide public goods and services valued by Member States and citizens. Such services could include the provision of neutral arbitration and competition services, or a common technical platform for the data and analysis needed to assess Africa’s progress toward its development goals;
  5. Member States should engage their Parliaments and citizens, including civil society, on the African Union reform process.

On managing the business of the African Union efficiently and effectively, at both political and operational levels

On political management of the Union

  1. The African Union Assembly shall handle an agenda of no more than three (3) strategic items at each Summit, in line with the Me’kelle Ministerial Retreat recommendations. Other appropriate business should be delegated to the Executive Council
  2. The Assembly shall hold one Ordinary Summit per year, and shall hold extraordinary sessions as the need arise
  3. In place of the June/July Summit, the Bureau of the African Union Assembly should hold a coordination meeting with Regional Economic Communities, with the participation of the Chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities, the AU Commission and Regional Mechanisms. Ahead of this meeting, the AU Commission shall play a more active coordination and harmonisation role with the Regional Economic Communities, in line with the Abuja Treaty;
  4. External parties shall only be invited to Summits on an exceptional basis and for a specific purpose determined by in the interests of the African Union;
  5. Partnership Summits convened by external parties should be reviewed with a view to providing an effective framework for African Union Africa should be represented by the Troika, namely the current, incoming and outgoing Chairpersons of the African Union, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, and the Chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities;
  6. To ensure continuity and effective implementation of Assembly decisions, a troika arrangement between the outgoing, the current, and the incoming African Union Chairpersons should be established. In this regard, the incoming chairperson shall be selected one year in advance;
  7. Heads of State shall be represented at Summits by officials not lower than the level of Vice President, Prime Minister or equivalent;
  8. The current sanctions mechanism should be strengthened and enforced. This would include consideration of making participation in the African Union deliberations contingent on adherence to Summit decisions.

On operational management

  1. The election of the Chairperson of the AU Commission should be enhanced by a robust, merit-based, and transparent selection process;
  2. The Deputy Chairperson and Commissioners should be competitively recruited in line with best practice and appointed by the Chairperson of the Commission, to whom they should be directly accountable, taking into account gender and regional diversity, amongst other relevant considerations;
  3. The Deputy Chairperson role should be reframed to be responsible for the efficient and effective functioning of the Commission’s administration;
  4. The title of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson may also be reconsidered;
  5. A fundamental review of the structure and staffing needs of the organisation, as well as conditions of service, should be undertaken to ensure alignment with agreed priority areas.

On Financing the African Union sustainably and with the full ownership of the Member States

  1. The Committee of Ten Finance Ministers should assume responsibility for oversight of the African Union budget and Reserve Fund and develop a set of ‘golden rules’, establishing clear financial management and accountability principles;
  2. After funding of the budget of the African Union and the Peace Fund, the balance of the proceeds of the 0.2% AU levy on eligible imports, the Committee of Ten Finance Ministers should look into placing surplus in a Reserve Fund for continental priorities as decided by the Assembly;
  3. The current scale of contributions should be revised based on the principles of ability to pay, solidarity, and equitable burden-sharing, to avoid risk concentration.

Elections:

  • The remaining two portfolios of Commissioners (Human Resource, Science, Technology: Election & Economic Affairs) will be elected from either one male from Eastern Region or one female from the Central Region at the next Session of the Executive Council to be appointed during the Twenty-Ninth Ordinary Session of the Assembly in July 2017
  • The Chairperson of the Commission, in consultations with the Chairperson of the Executive Council to appoint one of the Commissioners to act until a new Commissioner has been appointed.

On the Admission of Morocco in the Union; the Assembly,

  • Welcomed the request from the Kingdom of Morocco as it provides the opportunity to reunite the African community of states around the Pan-African core values of the Founders of solidarity, unity, freedom and equality, in accordance with the Principles and Objectives of the Constitutive Act. This will strengthen the ability of the African Union to find African solutions to African problems;
  • Decided to admit the Kingdom of Morocco as a new Member State of the African Union in conformity with Article 9(c) and Article 29 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union;
  • Request the Morocco to deposit their instrument of accession to the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

New African Union Leadership Elected on 30 Jan 2017

AU Chairperson for 2017: President Alpha Conde – Guinea

1- AUC Chairperson: Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat – Chad (Central Africa, Male)

2- AUC Deputy Chairperson: Mr. Thomas Kwesi Quartey – Ghana (West Africa, Male)

COMMISSIONERS

3- Peace & Security: Mr. Chergi, Smail – Algeria (North Africa)

4-Political Affairs: Mrs. Samate, Cessouma – Burkina-Faso (West Africa, Female)

5- Infrastructure & Energy: Mrs. Abou-Zeid, Amani – Egypt (North Africa, Female)

6- Social Affairs: Mrs. Elfadil, Amira Elfadil Mohammed – Sudan (East Africa, Female)

7- Trade & Industry: Mr. Muchanga, Albert – Zambia (Southern Africa, Male)

8- Rural Economy & Agriculture: Mrs. Sacko, Josefa – Angola (Southern Africa, Female)

9- Human Resource, Science and Technology: Election Suspended

10- Economic Affairs: Election Suspended

Note: The last 2 commissioners must be from East Africa (Male) and Central Africa (Female) in order to respect the geographical and gender balance among the 10 positions of the AUC cross the 5 geographical regions of Africa. Because the current list of candidates does not have candidates to make this (for the 2 vacant posts: HRST and Economic Affairs), the AU will have to reopen the process for those 2 positions an election may happen during the next summit.

With Best Regards,

Ahmed El Basheer

Acting Director, CIDO

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SRDC 2017 National Summit Tennessee 2

SRDC 2017 National Summit Scheduled for Nashville, Tennessee Oct. 20-21

SRDC 2017 National Summit Tennessee 2

BRINGING AWARENESS THROUGH SOCIAL, CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY

The 2017 National Summit of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC) will be held at the Inn at Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee on October 20-21.  The theme for the 2017 Summit is “SRDC of Tennessee: Bringing Awareness Through Social, Cultural and Economic Development Within the Black Community”.

The annual Summit provides an opportunity for state SRDC organizations to come together to catch up on each other’s progress in organizing Afrikan Diasporans on a state-to-state level, share ideas, and collectively determine the organization’s plans and priorities toward establishing a global voice for the grassroots Pan-Afrikan Diaspora.

SRDC-Tennessee Facilitator Gloria Conley is preparing a rich weekend to include local educators, organizers and speakers from the Afrikan-Descendant community in Tennessee, as well as cultural events that will highlight the influence of people of Afrikan descent to the quality of life for Tennessee communities.  She has assembled a core team of Elders and local community activists and will hold several Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meetings, in accordance with SRDC’s core mission, to help organize the Afrikan-Descendant community in Tennessee as well as to prepare for the October Summit.  The Tennessee SRDC organization is working on several projects and proposals in coordination with local spiritual leaders as well as economic initiatives to improve cooperation among Black Tennesseans and our Brothers and Sisters in West Afrika and throughout the Diaspora.  We look forward to an exciting and enlightening Summit in Nashville in October, and we will announce important developments as preparations for the Summit continue.

For more information on the Tennessee SRDC organization, contact Ms. Gloria Conley at (615) 939-9759 or by email at estherinstitute!gmail.com.  To register for the Conference, visit https://form.jotform.com/42128382343148.  To reserve hotel rooms, visit https://form.jotform.com/60469203284152.

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37 African-Caribbean Diasporans Granted Ghanaian Citizenship

We share here an article that appeared in The Graphic in a piece initially written by Doreen Andoh on December 29, 2016, and was reposted on December 31 on http://www.theafricandream.net by Oral Ofori.

ghanaian-citizenship-granted-to-31-diasporans-december-2016At a ceremony in the capital city of Ghana – Accra – to formalize the process of granting of Ghanaian citizenship, 37 people were made to swear an oath of allegiance to the country by Ghana president John Mahama.

Presenting certificates of citizenship to them, Mr Mahama said their naturalization made them entitled to every privilege deserving and due any Ghanaian. The event happened in the last quarter of December 2016.

The president said he was optimistic that the skills and knowledge acquired by the naturalised Ghanaians would contribute immensely to the development of the country.

“You have expressed so much gratitude to me and other stakeholders for the opportunity given you today, but I do not think you have to thank me because I have only restored to you what rightfully belongs to you and was painfully taken away” he said.

Mr. Mahama said in giving them the opportunity to obtain Ghanaian citizenship, he was only following the footsteps of forebears, including  Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther king, who led and gave a foundation to Pan-Africanism.

He said Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain its independence, and had since become and would continue to be the headquarters for the fight for African liberation and the beacon of African emancipation.

He expressed the hope that the introduction of Africans applying for visa on arrival in Ghana would be extended to Africans in the diaspora to facilitate their visit and stay in Ghana to contribute to national development.

Oath of allegiance towards Ghanaian citizenship

In his remarks, the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Prosper Bani, said the naturalised Ghanaians were now free to acquire Ghanaian passports and any other national document that identified them as Ghanaians.

“I wish to assure you that the Ministry of the Interior will give you the needed assistance to acquire those documents,” he said.

Mr Bani expressed the hope that the naturalised Ghanaians would continue to owe allegiance to the country, particularly in their deeds and support the development of the country.

He, however, appealed to them to be law abiding because the acquisition of the Ghanaian citizenship has conditions, which included lawfully revoking the citizenship in accordance with section 18 of the citizenship act of 2000 (Act 591).

He said the President’s approval of the citizenship of these persons was a demonstration of the Pan-African spirit, following in the steps of Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore and Dr W.E. B Du Bois that Pan-Africanism remained an integral part of Ghana’s foreign policy.

Pacesetters praised

Mr. Bani applauded the efforts of all who had contributed to the successful emancipation and reintegration of Africans in the diaspora back to their roots, giving particular recognition to Mr. Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey.

Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey, in 2004, as the then Minister of Tourism of Ghana, organised an international conference on the theme, International Conference on the Transatlantic slave-trade, Legacies and Expectations; which provided the inspiration to  envision the return of Africans in the Diaspora,” he said.

Mr. Bani said Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey also initiated a project dubbed the “Joseph Project” in 2007 which sought to practicalise the act of healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and rapprochement between Africans in Africa and those in the diaspora.

He acknowledged that the efforts of Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey and other pan-Africanist were yielding the desired results.

On behalf of the persons who were granted Ghanaian citizenship, Ambassador Dr. Erieka Bennett expressed gratitude to the President, Mr. Mahama, for the honour done them, and pledged their commitment to remain responsible citizens of the country.

To show their appreciation, they presented a memento to president Mahama.

Source: Doreen Andoh/Graphic Online

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Statement for the Members of the Culture and Education for Black Survival and Development (CEBSD) Plenary Session

Statement for the Members of the Culture and Education for Black Survival and Development (CEBSD) Plenary Session

Kim Poole with Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Fellows.

Kim Poole with Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Fellows.

Greetings to the esteemed Cultural Curators, Teaching Artists, Connectors, Activists, Advocates and African-Centered Resource Developers of the “Culture & Education for Black Survival and Development” Plenary Session – Resource Focus; held during the State of the Black World Conference November 19th 2016 in Newark, Jersey.

As you know, we are currently in the process of summarizing what was discussed during our session and combing through our list serve to ensure that everyone that would like to build with us is aware of the steps we have taken toward developing the CEBDS Work Group. 

Below please find a list of attendees and those who responded to our request for introduction of their work in order to be acknowledged as members.

Please note that this “Get to know you” process is very important as we only spent a very short time being acquainted during the initial plenary session.

Though we are most appreciative of the space provided by IBW to convene with like-minds, the real work begins now!  No longer is the “meeting-about-the-meeting” fueled by emotion alone enough to nurture sustainable institutions in our communities.

As we decide what regions to focus our efforts and narrow the broad agenda into tangible action steps, understanding who we are and what we want is essential to our effectiveness.

A future article will discuss the summary of our brief time together and notice that these two questions set the tone for our discussions.

Attendees and confirmed members CEBSD Plenary Session Stakeholders:

Sis. Nabeelah – Yoga Instructor, Creator, Grant Writer – Based in Newark, NJ 

Bill Jones– PTA member, Community advocate, vested in Elementary schools, Planner of the International African American Festival in N.Y. – Based in Brooklyn, NY

Marion Pitts (Newark) – South Africa study abroad program participant, Scholar of Rutgers University, member of Peoples Organization for Progress (POP) affiliated with Larry Ham; Promoter, Based in Newark, NJ

Nadif Bracey – Junior Electrical Engineering major at Morgan State University, V.P. Student Government association, in search of 5,000 Baltimore based Black Owned businesses to hold accountable, willing to develop templates on behalf of the work group “Students Teachers, Freedom Schools…” – Based in Baltimore, MD

Bro. Louis (Pittsburgh) – Member of Colors Against Violent Police, focused on Accountability Law Corporate Equity – Based in Pittsburg, PA

Bro. Victor Gibson – Retired K-8 African Centered Teacher (23 years) Malcolm X Academy, BA…Sociology/Masters Education, Community Engager, Member of “Keep The Vote No TAKEOVER” resistance against State Control of DPS. (99′) Alliance with “Journey for Justice”, Former Social Worker, Former Mental Health Worker, interested in business reciprocity (Cash Mom Model) Connected to NBEA (National Black Educators Association– Based in Detroit, MI

Viva Now – Concerned Mother, Community Activist, Supporter of the Amistad Act – Based in Newark, NJ

Bro. William Payne – Philanthropist, Politician promoting the Amistad Act – Based in Newark, NJ

Bro. Kevin Baker – Appointed IBW Facilitator, Educator- Based in Virginia 

Dr. Patricia Newton – CEO & Medical Director of the Black Psychiatrists of America, Creator of the 7D’s of Development Model – Based in Baltimore, MD 

Emann Odufu – Arts Activist, Film Maker, Based in Newark NJ 

Nana Farika Berhane – Poet, Community activist, Nanny Town Jamaica Maroon, Teaching Artist, Vice President of the World Afrikan Diaspora Union (WADU) – Based in Washington D.C.

Sis. Kim Poole – Soul Fusion – Teaching Artist, Founding Fellow of Teaching Artist Institute Based in Washington D.C.

Plenary Discussion Points

Here are a few of the Plenary Discussion Points during the work group session.  More details will be shared in a future article.

Holding Public Institutions accountable while “Flying our plane and building it too”

sobwc-2016-qm-blakely-and-kim-poole

In order to begin addressing the need to both hold accountable parties that administer resources on behalf of our community as well as continually identify and address the needs of the Black Community, Family and Child from within (as a collective) we must answer to the following questions…

  1. Who Are We?

The Ethos of Black Community-

Cultural identity-

Universal standard for healthy family unit development

  1. What do we want and what do we need to define and protect the ethos of the Black Community?

Jobs, Business Loans, Grants, Safety, Identity, Food Security, Holistic Education, Communication outlets Etc (If I missed an important bullet point on this list please feel free to edit in your version of our notes)

  1. What are the first steps to regain control of our Power and Resources: Where do we begin?

Look for more updates from the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) on this site.

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Teaching Artist Institute at the State of the Black World Conference 2016

sobwc-2016-nana-farika-and-kim-poole

On November 16th-19th in New Jersey TAI was invited as a special guest of Nana Farika Berhane and Dr. Leonard Jeffries of Omega Media and the World African Diaspora Union-WADU to the State of the Black World Conference. 

During the conference, on behalf of TAI and our partners (Jah Kente International, The Institute of Financial Unity and the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus-SRDC), TAI Founding Fellow and Soul Fusion Teaching Artist Kim Poole led the Culture & Education for Black Survival and Development (CEBSD) Plenary Sessions-Resource Focus. 

“It was an amazing opportunity to not only share examples of the advocacy work TAI does for the Rhythm People Campaign with prospective TAI Fellows applicants in New Jersey, but It was also a time to learn from the likes of legendary Teaching Artists such as Louis Farrakhan, Susan Taylor, and Maulana Karenga. 

The CEBSD-Resource Focus quickly decided that the goal of the Plenary discussion should lead to an ongoing culture and education resource exchange, a support system across sectors and ultimately a formal work group dedicated to nurturing and implementing an agenda for African centered development. 

The group was joined by the likes of Legislators William D. Payne of New Jersey‘s Amistad Commission, and Edutainment Activists such as Bill Jones of New York‘s International African Arts Festival which takes place every 4th of July in Brooklyn N.Y. 

Stay tuned for more up dates from the CEBSD Resource Focus Work Group here on our site. 

The State of the Black World Conference is held on an annual basis and assembles a vast array of eminent Pan-Afrikan scholars to discuss the issues of the day and to work to build solutions to the ongoing struggle experienced by people of Afrikan Descent.  The SOBWC Declaration can be found at their website, http://sobwc.ibw21.org/declaration/, or by checking it out here. 

Dr. Ron Daniels and Sis. Kim Poole

Dr. Ron Daniels and Sis. Kim Poole

The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) is dedicated to establishing, nurturing and supporting an international cadre of Teaching Artists (musicians, poets, visual artists and other creative performers) to entertain, educate and bring healing to communities around the world, particularly those of Afrikan descent.  Among the international organizations that have partnered with TAI are the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), Jah Kente International, the Pan African Business and Trade Center (PABTC) and the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC).  Anyone who wishes to learn more about the Teaching Artist Institute or is interested in joining the State of the Black World CEBSD work group is encouraged to contact Sis. Kim Poole at kpoolepip@yahoo.com or Sis. Viva White at lavivanow@aim.com.

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State of the Black World Declaration of Intent and Call to Action

 

 

sobwc-2016-plenary-1from the State of the Black World website, http://sobwc.ibw21.org/declaration/

Print or download PDF version by clicking here

The Spirit, Power and Significance of an Historic Gathering 

They came by the hundreds, more than two thousand in all, from the greater Newark/New York region, Black America and the Pan African World, drawn by the urgent impulse to connect, network, bond, share and unite in the wake of one of the most hate-filled, demagogic and divisive presidential elections in decades; an election which produced a presidential regime, elected by less than a majority of the popular vote; a regime imbedded with racism, white nationalism and Islamophobia. It is one of the most threatening moments since the arrival of Africans on these hostile American shores. 

November 16-20, 2016, Africans from the far reaches of the U.S. and the Pan African World — South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, Canada and Europe converged on Newark, New Jersey, one of the great historical epicenters of Black Freedom Struggle, for State of the Black World Conference IV — responding to the Call. It’s Nation Time Again! 

In yet another hour of grave crisis, people of African descent, Black people, came seeking to be inspired, revitalized, informed and armed to intensify the essential, continuing struggle to defend and promote the dignity, survival, development, interests and aspirations of Africans, Black people, in America and the Pan African World.  As the words “it’s nation time” reverberated throughout the gathering, a spirit of Black love, sharing, bonding, healing, collaboration, resistance, self-determination and renewed commitment to build and strengthen Black institutions, to control the politics and economics of Black communities, territories and nations permeated the deliberations. 

While it is impossible to capture the full meaning of the words of the formidable array of more than one hundred Speakers, Panelists and Resources People who shared their insights, knowledge and wisdom with this remarkable gathering, these paraphrased expressions are illustrative of the powerful tenor of the deliberations and proceedings: 

  • Prior to one of the Empowerment Plenary Sessions, Atty. Faya Rose Toure came to the stage and led the assembly in a rousing rendition of the Freedom Song, “Ain’t Going Let Nobody Turn Us Around.”
  • Paramount Chief Dr.  Leonard Jeffries spoke on the significance of the gathering and recited a roll call of courageous African leaders to whom we should look for inspiration in this time of crisis.  As he has taught so often, Dr. Jeffries stressed the urgency of using a “systems analysis” to successfully confront and defeat a U.S. and global system of white supremacy.
  • An impassioned Danny Glover expressed the feelings of many Participants when he said, we needed this conference, we needed to be together at this moment. He encouraged a spirit of constant struggle by Black people, people of color and the oppressed to resist White supremacy and neo-liberal schemes of domination, propagated by the U.S.
  • Rev. Waltrina Middleton graphically illustrated the contradictions and moral bankruptcy of the U.S. presidential election by pointing out that the Rev. Dr.  Jeremiah Wright was viciously denounced for simply condemning the hypocrisy of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, while Donald Trump waged a campaign of flagrant and inflammatory insults to people of African descent/Blacks, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims and women and could be elected President of the United States.
  • In discussing the shocking results of the U.S. presidential elections and the rise of white nationalist and xenophobic movements in the U.S. and Europe, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles firmly declared that we are not going back to the days of white supremacist domination; that the determined quest for reparatory justice will be the dominant movement of the 21st Century.
  • George Fraser sternly reminded the gathering that White folks will not save us; they are too busy taking care of their own; they aren’t even thinking about us; no one will save us but us!
  • South African Counsel General Mathula Nkosi was so moved by the spirit of the discussions that she spoke passionately about the similarity of our struggles.  She recounted the role that Africans in America played in shattering apartheid and spoke to the urgent need to finish the struggle for genuine self-determination by achieving economic independence.
  • Susan L. Taylor reminded us of the resilience of African people as the survivors of the holocaust of enslavement and shared an inspiring illustration of how love, compassion and culturally-relevant education and mentoring can rescue/save thousands of our youth/young people who have been marginalized under an oppressive system.
  • The brilliant poet Lady Brion brought the gathering to its feet with an inspiring spoken word oration on the vital, indispensable role of women, of sisters, as leaders and partners in the struggle for the liberation of Black people!
  • The Conscious Ones of the Lola Louis Creative and Performing Arts Studio treated the assembly with an inspiring, dramatic presentation of Maya Angelou’s And Still I Rise!
  • Dowoti Desir opened the Closing Ndaba/Plenary with an inspiring traditional African religious Invocation in which she evoked the memory of Boukman, the Haitian spiritual leader whose prayer ignited the Haitian Revolution. That same spirit and power will arm this generation for the awesome battles ahead.
  • In an instructive and inspiring lecture Dr.  Maulana Karenga reaffirmed the value of the principles of the Nguzo Saba as a foundation and guide at this critical moment in our history and proclaimed that fundamental to the struggle for reparations is the repair and restoration of ourselves as African people, that when we repair ourselves, we repair the world!
  • Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan challenged and charged the assembled Participants to rededicate ourselves to building independent Black institutions to achieve social, economic and political control over the spaces and places where we live, to create national/international structures of self-governance and reach out to other people of color nationalities and ethnicities to build a new Nation, one so splendid in its humanity that people of all races will feel compelled to follow.

sobwc-2016-panel-1There was a spirit so strong, so pervasive among the Participants that you needed to be present as an eyewitness at this awesome assembly to feel the power of SOBWC IV.

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So … Are You Ready To Organize NOW?

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NOTE: This article first appeared on KUUMBAReport Online, http://kuumbareport.com.

Back in 2000, as Democrat Al Gore was facing off with Republican George W. Bush in the general election for the presidency of the United States, many in the African-American community were ambivalent.  Gore’s eight years as Bill Clinton’s vice president had been rather unremarkable, as vice presidents tend to be.  Earlier concerns regarding his perceived attitudes during the time of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s attempts at the presidency had been forgotten, and he was thus seen as a reasonable successor to the then-proclaimed “first Black president”.  Even Gore’s choice of conservative Democrat Joe Lieberman, while somewhat concerning, did not turn off African-American voters enough to consider George W. Bush, the Republican candidate and son of 41st president and Ronald Reagan successor George H. W. Bush.  “W”, or “Dubya”, as the son would soon be called, was the former Texas governor who had presided over more executions than any other governor in the country, many of them African-American men, yet he still called himself “the compassionate conservative”.

At a major march at the Lincoln Memorial shortly before the general election, Bishop George Stallings of the Imani Temple, an African-American Catholic church in Washington, DC, exhorted the crowd to oppose the Bush, pleading “Don’t let Texas become the United States!”  “We don’t need a miracle!  We’ll get our miracle when we elect Al Gore and Joe Lieberman,” he cried.

Others among us, unimpressed by the Democratic Party platform, dared America to elect Bush.  “Give us our worst fear,” they said.  “That will wake our people up and alert us that it’s time to organize.”

Of course, after a hotly contested election that came down to the last reporting state, Florida, the controversy erupted over the decision of the California Secretary of State, Catherine Harris, to throw out several ballots for reasons as varied as “hanging chads” and voters’ names having been deleted from the rolls due to (supposedly) criminal records and voter fraud, though these claims were later determined to be entirely baseless.  As a result, the presidency came down to a vote in the Supreme Court over whether or not to count these contested votes, a 5-4 decision in favor of throwing the votes out which won George W. Bush the state of Florida and its key electoral votes.  This directly led to the election of Bush as the 43rd US president.  This despite the fact that Gore had won the majority of the national popular vote.

Having been given “our worst fear”, what did many of our organizers do?  Did they mobilize in response as some of my good friends had expected?  No, many of our organizers chose to “lay low” because of fears that they might be targeted by the police state that was being mobilized in conjunction with the war machine of vice president Richard Cheney.  Unfettered by serious opposition, especially from organized Black groups, the US would walk out of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), terrorists would strike the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Bush would lead the US into one questionable war (Afghanistan) and one entirely improper and illegal one (Iraq) as the Geneva Conventions were being dismissed as “quaint” and unworthy of consideration.

Fast forward to today.  Donald Trump, a man even former  presidents George H. W  and George W. Bush would refuse to publicly endorse, has been elected president, again as a result of several states that decided the contest late in the night, giving Trump the key electoral votes he needed to clinch the presidency, and again in spite of the fact that his opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeking to become the first elected woman president in US history, earned more of the national popular vote. 

Hillary Clinyon 6There has been much hand-wringing, commiserating and outright sobbing over this result.  The lost opportunity to break the “glass ceiling” for women and Clinton’s long list of qualifications (US Senator and Secretary of State after serving as First Lady during her husband’s eight years as president) obscured, for her supporters, the weaknesses of her candidacy.  The disrespect she has endured since she was First Lady can be explained in large part by the rampant sexism that still exists in the country, especially in political circles, and a rather effective 30-year smear campaign by Republicans that has in part caused her to be viewed as an untrustworthy, and even sinister, candidate.   Still, some of her “trust issues” were self-made, which included her initial support of the war in Iraq, her support of the war in Libya (which killed President Muammar Gadaffi at a time when he was being cooperative with the West and which has led to the financial crippling of the African Union) and her questionable use of a personal email server for government business, some of which appeared to include classified emails.  Her support as First Lady for her husband’s policies regarding Ayiti (Haiti), for which Bill Clinton has apologized but not fully atoned, earned her the ire of Ayiti activists, most notably Marguerite Laurent (“Ezili Danto”) of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, and her cheerleading of Bill Clinton’s Omnibus Crime Bill by touting the myth of the young Black “super-predator” led to numerous protests at her rallies over the last year by, among others, Black Lives Matter activists.

Despite all this, she still won the large majority of the Black vote, primarily because of the fear of a Trump presidency more than any specific enthusiasm for Clinton or her platform, which had been forced to the left by the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  It was the White vote which won Trump the presidency.  Apparently, a flawed candidate like Clinton was considered worse than a man whose own recorded remarks branded him as a sexist, racist xenophobe with a checkered business record littered with bankruptcies and lawsuits and little knowledge of world affairs or diplomacy.

So, now many Black people are upset about the election results.  And apparently many Whites are as well, judging by the protests which erupted in cities across the country almost immediately after the election results became official.  The terms most commonly used to describe people’s feelings, especially those of African-American citizens, Muslims and immigrants, tend to be some combination of fear, grief and anger.

My friends had dared America to elect another hard-right president with ties (in Trump’s case) to White nationalist right-wing groups, predicting that such a result would shake us out of the complacency we had willfully enjoyed (failing to pressure the most recent administration to deliver on the great promise of the last eight years) during the presidency of Barrack Obama.

When a similar situation had arisen in 2000, many of our activists failed to rise up and organize in opposition to the Bush-Cheney agenda.  Whites did more on a national scale with Occupy Wall Street and the anti-WTO protests that had been named the “Battle in Seattle” than we did to mobilize our community.  Of late, only Black Lives Matter (launched during the Obama Administration as a result of police–and police wannabe–killings of Black youth such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown) has reached the level of serious grassroots organizing among the Black community, and many of us have questioned BLM’s orientation toward gay rights and its alleged connections with George Soros.  Still, those critics have yet to birth a serious national Black movement of their own.

Meanwhile, the organization I belong to, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC), a grassroots-oriented organization that seeks to galvanize and organize the aspirations as well as the needs and issues of people of Afrikan descent throughout the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora, has been struggling to light a spark in our community since 2006.  The effort has been going on in Maryland, where I live, since 2007.  SRDC and other organizations have been plugging away for years, searching for that spark that might ignite the fire of unity in our people.  Our search continues.  As of this writing, SRDC-Maryland is holding a Pan-Afrikan Town Hall on Saturday, November 12 at the Union Mill, 1500 Union Avenue in West Baltimore, and we hope to hold more such Town Hall Meetings to bring our community together, to craft a Pan-Afrikan Agenda that is developed by our grassroots community to champion at the national and international levels, and to build a Blackprint for us to follow to unite our many and varied “Pan-Afrikan Unity” organizations so we can help ourselves.

Will the ascendancy of Trump to the single most powerful political position on the planet serve as the spark for us to finally organize ourselves?  Or will many of our people once again retreat to the shadows, afraid of the repercussions of opposition to the latest Head of the Oppressor State?

Bro. Cliff
Editor, KUUMBAReport Online
http://kuumbareport.com

Maryland State Facilitator, Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC)
http://www.srdcinternational.org

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