elections alone are not the end of the story. A democratic regime must act democratically in
the country and in relations with its neighbours otherwise the mandate becomes suspect
Deposing Charles Taylor
A Thursday Postcard
By Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem
Former President Charles was forced by a combination of local, regional and international pressure to resign his office two weeks ago. In a surreal performance he made his valedictory national broadcast witnessed by three African Presidents: Mbeki (South Africa), Chissano (Mozambique and current chair of the AU) and Kufour (Ghana and current chair of the ECOWAS).
Affecting a patriotism and “love for my people” that was neither characteristic of his brutal war for the presidential mansion nor his ransom presidency for six years or his various regional misadventures he compared himself to Jesus Christ and felt himself “the sacrificial lamb.”
It was distasteful and I am sure very offensive to committed practising Christians that a scoundrel like “‘Charlie Boy” can misappropriate such potent religious symbolism that is at the centre of their faith for his ignoble purposes. That said it does not mean that there is no iota of legitimate concern in it even if liberally embroidered on a canvass of political opportunism.
It is like the Man who was accused of being paranoid and he said: “the fact that I may be paranoid does not mean that there is nobody conspiring against me.” The fact that Charles Taylor said something does not mean that there may not be element of truth in it though not for the delusionary and emotive reasons that Taylor had in mind in forcing the parallel.
He has indeed been sacrificed but unlike Christ his second coming is neither heralded nor desirable and hopefully he is gone and gone forever. He has been sacrificed as a symbol of emerging higher standards expected of African leaders and growing consensus that African leaders cannot just rule as they please, how they please, and for as long as they desire.
The Taylor experience has far wider implication in many ways.
One, it is a precedent that sets a higher threshold for other sitting dictators that they can be dealt with. African leaders now have to show why they can act on Taylor and not on others. They will be hard put to justify “softly softly” diplomacy in confronting similar situations from now on. This expands the space for public discourse on dealing with these issues. Some of the positive aspects of the Constitutive Act of the African Union and worthy aspirations of the African Peer Review Mechanism in the unpopular NEPAD may be gathering their own momentum precluding inaction by the leaders.
Two, the hand-me-down, Donor-driven, Aid-addicted limited democratic dispensations across the continent is being given its African imprint that demands more than just merely winning elections in order to legitimise yourself. Here was Charles Taylor, “elected” in elections judged by the ubiquitous international community and its allied election tourists, as “generally free and fair” being forced out of office before the expiration of his “legitimate” mandate. It means that elections alone are not the end of the story. A democratic regime must act democratically in the country and in relations with its neighbours otherwise the mandate becomes suspect and can be overrun by wider needs of the country and the region.
Three, it operationalises notions of collective sovereignty and security. Your neighbours have as much legitimate stake in your internal activities as you do in theirs which may give force to emerging regional citizenship and governance. For instance, Charles Taylor is not indicted because of what he has done in Liberia and to fellow Liberians (even though gruesome evidence abound) but for his support for banditry and predatory Rebels in a neighbouring country. The Presidents and Commanders of Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola and others militarily involved in the DRC must worry because maybe not now but in the future they could be indicted for their actions or inactions in the tragedy of that country.
There are also a number of problems with the Taylor experience. Who decides when a government has forfeited its electoral mandate? Is it the level of armed rebellions and other military campaigns, regardless of their motivation, support base, and political programme?
Is it a decision that is subject to the whims and caprices of the regional hegemonic power that is able to use its good and not so good offices, to ensure that its will prevails?
If this option triumphs it will only be an African version of the Bush school of diplomacy whose doctrine is: BE REASONABLE, DO IT MY WAY! If the region decides what are the institutional mechanisms that are in place to ensure that these decisions are made fairly and consistently? President Compaore of Burkina-Faso is probably as guilty as Charles Taylor in fostering senseless wars but he appears to be more sophisticated than his former buddy. If regional concern for security alone will necessitate action why are they not more robust in dealing with Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast who is using Xenophobia and genocidal ideology to retain power?
The big question of all is what can the region do if it is the regional power itself that is in breach of the emerging consensus around collective security and sovereignty? If Nigeria can save the region who will save Nigerians and Nigeria? That one can raise these questions today is in itself a measure of the relative space open for Africans to engage and build consensus on resolving these issues. In the past these debates were stifled by dubious claims of ‘internal affairs’, ‘sovereignty’, or ‘territorial integrity’.
There is great scope for African governments, regional and continental institutions, parliamentarians, civil Society groups, NGOs and all stake holders to engage on these issues in order to give concrete expression to our desire for ‘African solutions to African problems’.
“Forward ever , backward never”…..Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972)
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem has been General Secretary of the global Pan African Movement since 1994 and is resident in Uganda and London. Tajudeen is Nigerian by origin. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford where he gained his D.Phil in political science. He was a founder member of the Africa Resource and Information Bureau, London, and has been at the centre of numerous initiatives to promote peace and democracy in Africa. Tajudeen writes and lectures on Africa for several journals and universities. He is Chairperson of the Centre for Democratic Development and the Pan African Development Education and Advocacy Programme.
posted 22 August 2003
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (video)
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By Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem (Author)
Salim Ahmed Salim (Preface), Horace Campbell (Foreword)
Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem’s untimely death on African Liberation Day 2009 stunned the Pan-African world. This selection of his Pan-African postcards, written between 2003 and 2009, demonstrates the brilliant wordsmith he was, his steadfast commitment to Pan-Africanism, and his determination to speak truth to power. He was a discerning analyst of developments in the global and Pan-African world and a vociferous believer in the potential of Africa and African people; he wrote his weekly postcards for over a decade. This book demonstrates Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem’s ability to express complex ideas in an engaging manner. The Pan-African philosophy on diverse but intersecting themes presented in this book offers a legacy of his political, social, and cultural thought.
Represented here are his fundamental respect for the capabilities, potential and contribution of women in transforming Africa; penetrating truths directed at African politicians and their conduct; and deliberations on the institutional progress towards African union. He reflects on culture and emphasises the commonalities of African people.
Also represented are his denunciations of international financial institutions, the G8 and NGOs in Africa, with incisive analysis of imperialism’s manifestations and impact on the lives of African people, and his passion for eliminating poverty in Africa. His personality bounces off the pageone can almost hear the passion of his voice, ‘Don’t Agonise! Organise!’
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem (1961-2009) was a Rhodes scholar and obtained his D. Phil in Politics from Oxford University. In 1990 he became Coordinator of the Africa Research and Information Bureau and the founding editor of Africa World Review. He co-founded and led Justice Africa’s work, becoming its Executive Director in 2004, and combined this with his role as General Secretary of the Pan-African Movement. He was chair of the Centre for Democracy and Development and of the Pan-African Development Education and Advocacy Programme in Uganda and became the UN Millennium Development Campaign’s Deputy Director in 2006.
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Nobel Peace Prize Winners are Subjects of Prominent PBS BroadcastsThree womenLiberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her compatriot Leymah Gbowee, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen have been named co-recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their nonviolent role in promoting peace, democracy, and gender equality. Their remarkable stories are part of public medias Women and Girls Lead pipeline of documentaries. Public media leaders from ITVS, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting joined the rising chorus of voices congratulating Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her co-patriot Leymah Gbowee, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen, the three women named co-recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for womens rights to full participation in peace-building work. Pray the Devil Back to Hell / Leymah Gbowee Wins 2011 Nobel Peace Prize
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By Marcus Rediker
In this groundbreaking work, historian and scholar Rediker considers the relationships between the slave ship captain and his crew, between the sailors and the slaves, and among the captives themselves as they endured the violent, terror-filled and often deadly journey between the coasts of Africa and America. While he makes fresh use of those who left their mark in written records (Olaudah Equiano, James Field Stanfield, John Newton), Rediker is remarkably attentive to the experiences of the enslaved women, from whom we have no written accounts, and of the common seaman, who he says was a victim of the slave trade . . . and a victimizer. Regarding these vessels as a strange and potent combination of war machine, mobile prison, and factory, Rediker expands the scholarship on how the ships not only delivered millions of people to slavery, [but] prepared them for it. He engages readers in maritime detail (how ships were made, how crews were fed) and renders the archival (letters, logs and legal hearings) accessible. Painful as this powerful book often is, Rediker does not lose sight of the humanity of even the most egregious participants, from African traders to English merchants. Publishers Weekly
Marcus Rediker is professor of maritime history at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1987), The Many-Headed Hydra (2000), and Villains of All Nations (2005), books that explore seafaring, piracy, and the origins of globalization. In The Slave Ship, Rediker combines exhaustive research with an astute and highly readable synthesis of the material, balancing documentary snapshots with an ear for gripping narrative. Critics compare the impact of Redikers history, unique for its ship-deck perspective, to similarly compelling fictional accounts of slavery in Toni Morrisons Beloved and Charles Johnsons Middle Passage. Even scholars who have written on the subject defer to Redikers vast knowledge of the subject. Bottom line: The Slave Ship is sure to become a classic of its subject.Bookmarks Magazine
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The State of African Education (April 200)
Dr Asa Hilliard III speaks on the assault of academia on Africans writing and accounting for their own history.
Dr Hilliard is A teacher, psychologist, and historian.
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Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (video)
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A film directed by Gini Reticker
Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a captivating new film by director Gini Reticker. It exposes a different story angle for the largely forgotten recent events of the women of Liberia uniting to bring the end to their nation’s civil war. This film is amazing in the way it captivates your attention from the earliest frames. It doesn’t shy away from showing footage of the violent events that took place during the Liberian civil war. But the main story of the film is that of Leymah Gbowee and the other women uniting, despite their religious differences, to force action on the stalled peace talks in their country. Using entirely nonviolent methods, not only are the peace talks successful, but Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia, is forced into exile leading to the first election of a female head of state in Africa. The women of this film are truly an inspiration and no one can fail to be moved by the message of hope that comes through clearly in this film. These are heroes that deserve to be remembered and with Pray the Devil we are able to do that, gaining both a knowledge of the history we are ignorant of through archival footage and an understanding of the leaders of this movement through close-up interviews with the many women who lead it. The film also offers a great soundtrack & inspirational song- “Djoyigbe” by Angelique Kidjo & Blake Leyh.Amazon Reviewer
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As a young woman, Leymah Gbowee was broken by the Liberian civil war, a brutal conflict that tore apart her life and claimed the lives of countless relatives and friends. Years of fighting destroyed her countryand shattered Gbowees girlhood hopes and dreams. As a young mother trapped in a nightmare of domestic abuse, she found the courage to turn her bitterness into action, propelled by her realization that it is women who suffer most during conflictsand that the power of women working together can create an unstoppable force. In 2003, the passionate and charismatic Gbowee helped organize and then led the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Liberias ruthless president and rebel warlords, and even held a sex strike. With an army of women, Gbowee helped lead her nation to peacein the process emerging as an international leader who changed history. Mighty Be Our Powers is the gripping chronicle of a journey from hopelessness to empowerment that will touch all who dream of a better world.Beast Books / Pray the Devil Back to Hell
update 4 October 2008