Samia Nkrumah: the ongoing need for true African unity

Source: Daily Maverick
November 29  2018

The notion of real, undiluted Pan-Africanism — all of Africa united into one nation — seems like a throwback to a bygone era, in a world increasingly obsessed with borders. But to Ghanaian politician and activist Samia Nkrumah, the dream is very much alive. It was her father, the towering African icon Kwame Nkrumah, who first articulated the vision of a unified continent. His daughter is adamant that it remains the best way to lift Africans out of poverty.

Rebecca samia nkrumah.jpg

When last did you hear an African leader speak earnestly about the project of unifying all African countries into one vast nation?

In South Africa, Pan-Africanism has slipped from a once-cherished ideal of the liberation movement into ideological obscurity. The EFF claimed, upon launching, to be espousing what they called “radical Pan-Africanism” — but their leaders have been accused of making xenophobic utterances in public, including Floyd Shivambu’s questioning of former minister Malusi Gigaba’s citizenship and Julius Malema’s suggestion that former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane was “not a proper South African”.

As the 2019 elections approach, South African politicians of all stripes look to be exploiting an apparently widely felt hostility to nationals of other African countries encroaching on local borders.

On Thursday afternoon, as Daily Maverick sat down with Samia Nkrumah, the DA released a statement containing a number of poorly substantiated alarmist claims about South Africa’s border insecurity, including that “there are people coming across the border to collect social grants and shop in South Africa before returning across the border”.

Kwame nkrumah 2.jpgIt’s a far cry from the situation Samia’s father Kwame Nkrumah envisaged when he laid out his vision of Pan-Africanism as the continent’s first post-independence black head of state.

“He would be very, very disappointed,” Nkrumah says.

But for Nkrumah, Pan-Africanism remains not just a romantic ideal but an increasingly urgent necessity.

The 58-year old Ghanaian needs less than a minute of discussion to launch into an impassioned argument for the ongoing need for true African unity. Not the version half-heartedly championed by the African Union, which she describes as “paying lip service” to the concept — but a mighty African nation, bringing together the continent’s countries in a political arrangement somewhat akin to that of the United States.

“One government, 55 states,” Nkrumah summarises.

“States cede a little sovereignty to the union government on essential matters, such as the economy, foreign diplomacy, and defence. They submit to collective decision-making.”

She says that African countries which are hesitant to embrace diluted sovereignty should consider one simple question.

Better to cede to a union than to foreign powers

“To what extent are we fully sovereign nations now? Our economies are dictated from the outside. Better to cede to a union than to foreign powers.”

Nkrumah is under no illusions: xenophobia is rife all over the continent, she says, not just in South Africa, and is consciously fomented by African politicians as a way of diverting attention from domestic issues.

“But what matters to people is unemployment; poverty,” she says. “You don’t solve those problems by blocking people from coming in. Proper economic integration could address these problems of unemployment and deindustrialisation. We will definitely be in a stronger position economically; able to borrow on better terms.”

To Nkrumah, Pan-Africanism is only partly an ideological vision.

“It’s a political decision for our economic survival,” she says.

Nkrumah is in Cape Town to deliver the keynote speech at the Open Society Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration of its work in South Africa. She hasn’t visited South Africa much before, and says that one reason why she accepted the invitation to speak is that she admires the country’s ability to reach a political consensus after apartheid.

From this perspective, she sees South Africa as a microcosm of what would need to be achieved in order to bring about one Pan-African nation:

“Having people who look differently, think differently, but manage to live together for the country’s development”.

Nkrumah is a successful politician in her own right, having become the first woman in Ghana to lead a political party. It is clear, however, that she sees her political identity as inextricably bound up with that of her much-admired father. It is an association she wears as a badge of honour rather than a burden.

She refers to her father mostly by his full name, and always with a kind of understated reverence.

“For me, Kwame Nkrumah is also my leader. I’ve studied his books. When it comes to political activity and Pan-Africanism, he is my mentor,” she says.

Laughing, she adds: “I’m a Nkrumah-ist by conviction, not just by birth.”

Although Nkrumah has stepped away from party politics in Ghana for the time being, she intends to stand for a parliamentary seat in 2020 — though hints she will do so under the umbrella of a new political formation rather than the party she has previously served, the Convention People’s Party.

Africa needs more women in political office

She is adamant in her belief that Africa needs more women in political office. One political party that she thinks could benefit from the impact of greater numbers of female leaders is the EFF, whose development she has watched with interest from Ghana.

“By and large I am positive that the influence of more women could change this style of political representation,” she says. “What we need is more consensus.”

Referring specifically to EFF leader Julius Malema, she says:

“Some of us are also radical in our thinking, but don’t come across like that — not because we are afraid, but because we want people to understand why we are fighting. We need a big chunk of the population to agree to do things differently. We reached that consensus to end colonialism, and to end apartheid.”

Pan-Africanism for a new generation

When she leaves Cape Town, it is to head back to Accra to convene a gathering of Pan-African federalist movements. There, she says participants intend to strategise on ways to popularise the concept of Pan-Africanism for a new generation.

Asked to deliver a pitch to the people of South Africa as to why they should embrace the idea of relinquishing sovereignty to a unified African nation, Nkrumah pauses for a minute to gather her thoughts, and then leans forward.

“If you look at the past few decades, you will find that the good things that happened on the continent happened when we stood together. One is the end of colonialism. It came to an end because African states stood together and supported each other,” she says.

“Today we can identify our challenges as marginalisation, poverty, the inability to reach our potential. The quickest and most effective way of beating those challenges is in political and economic unification. There is a big chunk of the population in South Africa that needs a stronger, wealthier, more industrialised African nation to deliver basic needs.”

Nkrumah spreads her hands and shrugs.

“If I were a leader, I would be happy to be part of a bigger nation, and cede some sovereignty, rather than come and tell my people: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you’.” DM2

 

Argentina’s Poverty Rate Increasing Dramatically Under Macri

Source:  TeleSUR
September 29 2016

macri 12.jpg

Argentine President Mauricio Macri speaks during news conference at the Olivos presidential residence in Buenos Aires in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 28, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

The release of the figures prompted Macri to hold a press conference, in which he acknowledged that INDEC had now “put the real numbers on the table”.

RELATED: Argentina Records Its Worst Economic Growth Since 2009

Now one in three Argentines is poor

According to the country’s statistics bureau, the Instituto Nacional de Estadistic y Censos (INDEC), nearly one in three Argentines is poor, or don’t earn enough to buy a basket of goods and services.

The figure, released Wednesday, showed that 32.2 percent of Argentines live in poverty, up from 22 percent in 2007, the last INDEC report before the report was cancelled because there were concerns about reliability.

Following his inauguration in December of 2015, President Mauricio Macri reinstated the poverty reports, and Wednesday’s release was the first of his administration.

The news, as he conceded, was not good.

Loss of more than 150,000 jobs

The INDEC report, Macri said Wednesday, “put the truth on the table.” Since coming to office, Macri has faced near constant protests in response to the loss of more than 150,000 jobs, cuts to education, and revisions to the country’s tax and tariff rates, that privilege large, commercial exporters at the expense of smallholder farmers.

The result is a shrinking economy. Unemployment is nearly 10 percent, according to August figures. And in addition to the 14 million Argentines who live in poverty, the INDEC report found that 6.3 percent of all citizens, do not even have enough to buy enough food to meet the minimum monthly nutritional requirements for their diets.

Poverty level at 47.4 percent for the youngest segment of the population

Most shocking is that the poverty level climbs to 47.4 percent for the youngest segment of the population, Argentines younger than 14. Only adults between the ages of 30 and 64 years old (27.5 percent) and senior citizens above 65 years old (8.1 percent) are less impoverished than the national average.

RELATED: Argentina Faces 17% Inflation in 2017: Government

With its broad manufacturing base and Keynesian macroeconomic approach, Argentina was, by most indicators, the most prosperous economy in South America for most of the 20th century.

Neoliberal reforms

That changed abruptly following the 1989 election of Carlos Saul Menem, who introduced a raft of neoliberal reforms similar to Macri’s.

The result was an implosion. Within a decade of Menem’s election, unemployment, which had never eclipsed 5 percent in the post-war era, climbed as high as 22 percent.

And the poverty rate, which had not climbed higher than 6 percent over that span, had encompassed 56 ´percent of the population by 2001.

When poverty was as low as 4.7 per cent

The election of Nestor Kirchner as president in 2003, followed by his wife, Christina Fernandez Kirchner, began to reverse the trend, though not entirely.

The release of INDEC’s economic date was suspended when under the Kirchners, poverty estimates fell as low as 4.7 percent, a figure that was widely believed to be incredible

Argentine State Workers Join National Strike Against Macri

Source:  TeleSUR
February 23 2016
argentine state workers join strike.jpgState workers gather outside the Labor Ministry demanding a halt in job cuts as
part of a protest in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 29, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

An ideological purge

Thousands of public sector have been fired as part of an ideological purge since President Mauricio Macri took office last December.

Argentine public sector workers will converge in front of the presidential palace Wednesday as part of a national strike to protest the policies of President Mauricio Macri.

Macri has fired approximately 10,000 state workers since the beginning of 2016

Macri has fired approximately 10,000 state workers since the beginning of 2016, with even more layoffs expected in the coming months as government ministries continue to review contracts.

Wednesday’s national strike is being organized by the Association of State Workers, known as ATE, together with the Argentine Workers Union.

ATE President Hugo Godoy added that there would be marches and demonstrations in provincial capitals as well.

President Macri is ideologically disposed to reducing the public sector, arguing that private investment should be the source of new employment.

RELATED: Macri Fires 10,000 Government State Employees in 7 Days

During an event where he announced the elimination of retention taxes on mining, Macri said the public sector employment generated during the previous five years, under the administration of his predecessor, was “unnecessary” and a product of “clientelism.”

Vice-President Gabriela Michetti has accused public sector workers of being “Kirchner militants,” referring to the supporters of the governments of the late Nestor Kirchner and his successor and wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Wednesday’s demonstrations will be an opportunity to observe the reaction of state security forces in light of a new security protocol implemented by the Macri government, which now allows police to break up protests.

Critics have said the security protocol opens the door to criminalization and repression of protest.

Unemployment Drops Again in Ecuador

Source:  TeleSUR

Unemployment has dropped one percent since March 2014. 

Ecuadorean minister of labour congratulates trainees

Ecuadorean Minister of Labor Carlos Marx Carrasco congratulates those trained to install induction cooktops- teleSUR photo

Ecuadorean unemployment has continued to fall over the last year, latest figures show and now stands at 3.48 percent. The figures, show a one percent fall since March 2014.

Lowest unemployment rate in Latin America

Ecuador has one of the lowest unemployment rate in Latin America, which is just under 4 percent.

The government of the Citizen’s Revolution has focused on job creation and training for workers by putting humans over capital.

The role of the state

Minister of Labor Carlos Marx Carrasco said that state has been “designing public policies…to generate businesses, and quality work,” as well as “permanently working on training” to create a more skilled workforce.

The training of workers

The Ministry of Labor has also prioritized the training of workers to further stimulate national production. It has also worked to create jobs through agreements with national companies and investment in the private sector. In one such example, 8,000 workers of 13 provinces have received their certificates for the training they have undergone to install induction cooktops throughout the country.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Work, the national Electric Company and the Ecuadorean Service of Professional Training, these workers will now have steady employment.

Having recently been recognized as a certified technician of induction cooktops, Jose Urbano told teleSUR English, “Today the government is creating jobs through these efforts. They are teaching us how to perform this work to benefit the population and citizens. The Electric Company is valuing us by giving us stable jobs. We do not have to go out to find work. The only thing we need is to have all our documents complete, validated by the government, and then we can begin working with the Electric Company.”

Agriculture remains largest employer in Ecuador

Agriculture remains largest employer in Ecuador, with 28 percent of all workers employed in this sector. In rural areas, unemployment has dropped in the past year from 3.4 percent to about 1.9 percent.

Jose Agualsaca, the President of the Confederation of Indigenous-Campesino Organizations and Peoples of Ecuador told teleSUR that by providing support to agricultural workers and investing in the sector, the state is increasing production and enabling certain products for export. “There are important programs, for example to (support the production of) quinoa in the Ecuadorean highlands. This allows the state to really strengthen the sector, construct production centers, buy quinoa, and also facilitate production so that this product can be exported.”

Source:  Unemployment Drops Again in Ecuador  TeleSUR

China issues report on U.S. human rights

BEIJING, Feb. 28 2014

china's flagChina published a report on the United States’ human rights record on Friday, in response to U.S. criticism and “irresponsible remarks” about China.

“The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2013” was released by the Information Office of the State Council, China’s cabinet, in response to “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013” made public by the U.S. State Department on Thursday.

China’s report states that there were serious human rights problems in the U.S in 2013,
with the situation deteriorating in many fields. Once again posing as “the world judge of human rights”, the U.S. government “made arbitrary attacks and irresponsible remarks on almost 200 countries and regions, the report says.

The United States carefully concealed and avoided mentioning its own human rights  problems, according to the report.

THE WORLD THROUGH PRISM

The U.S. government spies on its own citizens to a “massive and unrestrained” degree, the report says.

The report calls the U.S. PRISM surveillance program, a vast, long-term mechanism for spying on private citizens both at home and abroad, “a blatant violation of international law” and says it “seriously infringes human rights.”

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US Polls: Obama now among the least popular presidents of the century

Source:  The Incredible, Shrinking Presidency of Barack Obama  (counterpunch.org)

obama321According to a new Washington Post-ABC poll, Barack Obama now ranks among the least popular presidents in the last century. In fact, his approval rating is lower than Bush’s was in his fifth year in office. Obama’s overall approval rating stands at a dismal 43 percent, with a full 55 percent of the public “disapproving of the way he is handling the economy”. The same percentage  of people “disapprove of the way he is handling his job as president”.  Thus, on the two main issues, leadership and the economy, Obama gets failing grades.

An even higher percentage of people are upset at the way the president is implementing his signature health care system dubbed “Obamacare”.  When asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Obama is handling “implementation of the new health care law?” A full 62% said they disapprove, although I suspect that the anger has less to do with the plan’s “implementation” than it does with the fact that Obamacare is widely seen as a profit-delivery system for the voracious insurance industry.  Notwithstanding the administration’s impressive public relations campaign, a clear majority of people have seen through Obama’s health care ruse and given the program a big thumb’s down.

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Pope: The tragedy of an economic system which has at its centre an idol called money

Pope Francis in Cagliari

Source: theguardian.com

Pope Francis has called for a global economic system that puts people and not “an idol called money” at its heart, drawing on the hardship of his immigrant family as he sympathised with unemployed workers in a part ofItaly that has suffered greatly from the recession.

Addressing about 20,000 people in the Sardinian capital of Cagliari, the Argentinian pontiff said that his parents had “lost everything” after they emigrated from Italy and that he understood the suffering that came from joblessness.

“Where there is no work, there is no dignity,” he said, in ad-libbed remarks after listening to three locals, including an unemployed worker who spoke of how joblessness “weakens the spirit”. But the problem went far beyond the Italian island, said Francis, who has called for wholesale reform of the financial system.

Read more at:  Pope condemns idolatry of cash in capitalism