Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What or who has stolen my sleep?

I dream of men blown apart; I can't sleep any more and perhaps that is is out of guilt and a shame that should not be mine, and that only serves to crush my mind and soul, not liberate it. I'm not sure; I only know I will always be ignorant, but that is not an excuse to do or say nothing.
Two of the less personal reasons why I don't sleep:

1/ Blair's treachery
Cameron Duodu
A la veille de quitter ses fonctions à la tête du gouvernement britannique, Tony Blair s'est rendu en Afrique pour une tournée d'adieu (du 26 mai au 1er juin dernier). L'occasion pour le quotidien sud-africain City Press de Johanesburg de tirer un bilan, très sévère, de l'action de Blair envers le continent noir.
Tony Blair, Pretoria, 1er juin 2007

I AM SURE the question above was asked by many as they watched British Prime Minister Tony Blair strutting about last week. He was basking in the hospitality of South Africa and grinning from ear to ear, exuding insincerity from every pore.
It’s a pity he now has to be mocked. Next to the late Harold Macmillan – whose visit to Africa in 1960 affected the future direction of the continent, with his “winds of change” speech to the apartheid Parliament in Cape Town – Tony Blair should have been the British prime minister best remembered by Africans.
I can still recall seeing a boyish Blair in shirt sleeves, strutting about on a cocoa farm barely 16km from my birthplace in Ghana in February 2002.
He found a truth and uttered it, to my heart’s delight – Ghana should be selling chocolates, not cocoa beans.
I also remember wondering in March 2005 whether the report of Blair’s Commission for Africa would make Britain do anything concrete about the problems of the continent it had milked for centuries instead of conveniently passing the ball to that loose entity, the G8. On both occasions I – like the rest of the world – was deceived by razzmatazz.
Good soundbites from Blair were made particularly striking because the unshuttable mouth of Bob Geldof could be discerned in one instance: “The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world.”
But has there been any delivery? Very little. Only Britain’s action in helping to halt the slaughter in Sierra Leone stands as an unqualified success. The noises made on behalf of Africa at the G8 have not turned into reality. Ghanaian cocoa farmers are still wondering why Blair floated the idea of a chocolate industry in Ghana and forgot that their country would need an outlay of capital well beyond its means to create this industry.
Cocoa and coffee farmers are still being buffeted by the fluctuations in price that result from the activities of the commodity merchants and speculators in the “City” of London, whom Blair presumably admires. Even worse, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, who serves with Blair on his Commission for Africa, is contributing to the murderous chaos in Somalia. He invaded the country at the instigation of Blair’s principal paramour, George Bush. Blair could not summon enough humanity to warn two of his allies – Bush and Zenawi – that invading a failed state like Somalia would only lengthen that ugly “scar on the face of Africa”.
And, surprise, surprise – apparently Olusegun Obasanjo, who has just presided over the most fraudulent election in Nigeria, will be invited to place integrity at the service of the Blair commission. What sort of service has Blair done to the struggle against corruption in Africa with his inept halting of the British Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribes allegedly paid to a Saudi prince by British armaments firm BAE Systems? Add all that to the blow Blair has dealt to international lawby supporting the US’s illegal invasion of Iraq and you’ll see that the man’s place in history could be quite villainous.
International law is extremely important to Africans because we have fragile defence systems. So much so that the Mark Thatchers of this world can plot to capture for themselves the entire oil reserves of an African country.
The UN is Africa’s only shield against such machinations. Yet, in his collusion with Bush over the invasion of Iraq, Blair set an abominable precedent that tears up all the guarantees of safety the UN provides to weak countries.
Not since Suez in 1956 has Britain’s name been attached to such infamy. At Suez, US President Dwight Eisenhower held back Britain’s Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, and his French counterpart, Guy Mollet, and prevented them from turning Egypt into an Israeli province. Instead of returning the favour and restraining Bush, Blair held his hand and dipped it into the blood of countless Iraqis.
Africa mustn’t forget this act of treachery for, as John Donne said, “No man is an island, entire unto himself.”

Duodu si the former editor of the Ghana edition of Drum magazine. He is a playwright and commentator based in London

2/ The people of Palestine must finally be allowed to determine their own fate
Karma Nabulsi
Monday June 18, 2007
The Guardian

The drivers of violence in Gaza are clearly external. When all Palestinians can vote for sovereign rule, peace will be within reach
There is nothing uglier and more brutal to the human spirit, nothing more lethal to that universal hope for freedom, than to see a people struggling for liberty for such a long time begin to kill each other. How and why did we get here? Above all: how do we get out of here? These are the questions everyone watching events unfold in Gaza and the West Bank are asking themselves. But before answering them, it is essential to understand just what we are witnessing.

This is not at its heart a civil war, nor is it an example of the upsurge of regional Islamism. It is not reducible to an atavistic clan or fratricidal blood-letting, nor to a power struggle between warring factions. This violence cannot be characterised as a battle between secular moderates who seek a negotiated settlement and religious terrorist groups. And this is not, above all, a miserable situation that has simply slipped unnoticed into disaster.

The many complex steps that led us here today were largely the outcome of the deliberate policies of a belligerent occupying power backed by the US. As the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Alvaro de Soto, remarked in his confidential report leaked last week in this paper: "The US clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, so much so that, a week before Mecca, the US envoy declared twice in an envoys meeting in Washington how much 'I like this violence', referring to the near-civil war that was erupting in Gaza in which civilians were being regularly killed and injured."

How did we get here? The institutions created in occupied Palestine in the 1990s were shaped to bring us to this very point of collapse. The Palestinian Authority, created through negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993, was not meant to last more than five years - just until the institutions of an independent state were built. Instead, its capacities were frozen and it was co-opted into performing the role of a security agency for the Israelis, who were still occupying Palestine by military force, and serving as a disbursement agency for the US and EU's funding of that occupation. The PA had not attained a single one of the freedoms it was meant to provide, including the most important one, the political liberty of a self-determining sovereign body.

Why did we get here? Once the exact nature of its purpose emerged, the Palestinians began to resist this form of external control. Israel then invaded the West Bank cities again and put President Yasser Arafat's compound under a two-year siege, which ended with his death. Under those conditions of siege the international "reform" process created a new institution of a prime minister's office and attempted to unify the security apparatus under it, rather than that of the president, whom they could no longer control. Mahmoud Abbas was the first prime minister, and the Israeli- and US-backed Fatah strongman, Mohammed Dahlan, was appointed head of security. After the death of Arafat, Abbas was nominated to the leadership of the PLO, and directly elected as the president of the PA.

Arafat had followed the strategy of all successful liberation movements: a combination of resistance and negotiation until the conclusion of a comprehensive peace treaty. Abbas's strategy was of an entirely different order: no resistance in any form and a complete reliance on the good faith of the Israelis. After a year of achieving nothing - indeed Ariel Sharon refused to negotiate with him and Israeli colonisation was intensified - the Palestinian people's support for this humiliating policy of submission wore thin. Hamas, polling about 20% in previous years, suddenly won 43% of the vote in 2006.

This popular reaction was a response to the failure of Abbas's strategy as much as the failure of Fatah to present any plausible national programme whatsoever. The Palestinians thus sought representation that would at least reflect their condition of occupation and dispossession. Although the elections were recognised as free and fair, the US and Britain immediately took the lead in applying sanctions against the Hamas government, denying aid - which was only needed in the first place because the occupation had destroyed the economy - and refusing to deal with it until it accepted what had become, under these new circumstances, impossible "conditions".

The US administration continued to treat Fatah as if it had won the election rather than lost it - funding, arming, and directly encouraging agents within it to reverse the outcome of that democratic election by force. The Palestinian president brought pressure to bear on Hamas to change its position on recognition of Israel. Palestinians refused to participate in this externally driven coup - indeed, the vast majority of Fatah cadres rejected outright an enterprise so clearly directed at destroying the Palestinian body politic. Both the prisoners' document and the Mecca agreement signed in Saudi Arabia creating a national unity government took place because Palestinian society insisted on a national framework. Yet a small group has brought us to this point. The outcome is what we have before us today, similar to what the Americans were seeking to create in Iraq: the total exclusion of democratic practices and principles, the attempt to impose an oligarchy on a fragmented political society, a weakened and terrorised people, a foreign rule through warlords and strongmen.

How do we get out of here? For the west, the path is both obvious and simple. It needs to allow the Palestinians their own representation. It can look to the terms of the Mecca agreement to see the shape that would take, and to the 2006 prisoners' document for the political platform the Palestinians hold. It needs to urgently convene a real international peace conference, which no one has attempted since 1991, as recommended in the Baker commission's report on the Iraq war, de Soto's end of mission report, and as championed by President Jimmy Carter. And it needs only to look to the Beirut Arab peace initiative to find everything it has been seeking, if indeed it is seeking peace.

For the Palestinians, the path is also clear: we have come to the end of the challenging experiment of self-rule under military occupation. We now need to dissolve the PA, mobilise to convene direct elections to our only national parliament, the Palestine National Council, in order to enfranchise the entire political spectrum of Palestinians, and thereby recapture the PLO, transforming it into the popular and democratic institution it once had a chance of becoming. This is already a popular demand of all Palestinians. Palestinians in exile must take their turn again in lifting the siege inside Palestine, as the inside did for the outside after the almost total destruction of the PLO in 1982 in Lebanon and the siege of the refugee camps there in 1986: we are one people. The Palestinians have a long history of struggle in which each generation has had to break out of the coercive prison imposed by British colonial, Arab, Israeli, and now American rule, and we will do it again.

Karma Nabulsi is fellow in politics and international relations at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University.

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