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Urbanization in Africa: Achille Mbembe audio

February 2, 2010 4 comments

Achille Mbembe

Achille Mbembe

Achille Mbembe, a professor of history and politics at the University of the Witwatersrand , briefly speaks to the discourse of urbanism in Africa, a continent which is facing a doubling of its urban population in only 15 years. There is a serious challenge, then, of urban transition, a process that is often too detached from political implications by reducing the process of urbanization to little more than a technical administrative dimension. What Mbembe suggests is that there is much more to urbanism than the management of cities, and that the exercise of voice is vital to collective social life.

He gave this 15 minute lecture at the Urban Age conference in Johannesburg (2006).

Asia’s Threesome: Roundup of Analysis

BOOK REVIEW : Asia’s awesome threesome – Rivals by Bill Emmott. Any friendship between China, India, and Japan is a facade, argues Bill Emmott in his new book on the inter-state rivalry and its consequences for the world. Asia’s “Big Three” are prone to suspicions and jealousies due to their highly competitive and strategic environment and this has led to a complex “new Asian drama”. Emmott’s yen for futurology yields interesting speculations but his premise of a is illogical and bypasses the impact of Russo-American tensions. (Sreeram Chaulia, Asia Times)

India’s perch ruffles China’s feathers. After 43 years, India has re-opened an airfield, the highest-altitude air base in the world, that overlooks China’s Xinjiang province and the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan. Delhi says the move is in response to Chinese incursions, and should be seen as a clear sign that it is fed up with being bullied on the Sino-Indian border. (Sudha Ramachandran, Asia Times)

Japan Seeks to Outbid China in Quest for African Support. Two reports follow on the vast, and vastly expensive, Tokyo International Conference on African Development designed to showcase Japan’s aid to Africa. The conference, held in Yokohama with the presence of 51 of 53 African nations, was attended by 40 Presidents of African nations. The first report by Ramesh Jaura concentrates on the proposed Japanese aid package, as Japan proposes to double both trade and investment in Africa within five years. The second report by the Yomiuri Shimbun’s Kawakami Osamu highlights the real stakes for Japan: the effort to outbid China whose burgeoning trade, investment and presence in Africa is a cause of Japanese, and the continued pursuit of the chimera of a Japanese UN security council seat. Neither report mentions either oil and energy or military strategic issues. (Ramesh Jaura and Kawakami Osamu, Japan Focus)

China’s Thirst for Oil. China’s need for energy is growing faster than any other country’s. Record economic growth results in demand that outstrips domestic supply, leading Beijing to look outward to ensure growth and stability. Concerns about the global oil market have led state firms to buy stakes around the world, often in countries shunned by Western firms. The investments are an important factor in Beijing’s foreign policy. They also drive concerns that China’s actions fuel or exacerbate conflict in the developing world and cause tensions with other major oil-importing countries as it locks up energy resources. (International Crisis Group)

Roundup of Analysis and Investigative Articles: Foreign aid, treason, enemy combatants, weapons and strategy

October 9, 2007 Leave a comment

Nuclear Weapons, Criminal States, and the US-India Deal. Nuclear-armed states are criminal states. They have a legal obligation, confirmed by the World Court, to live up to Article 6 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which calls on them to carry out good-faith negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely. None of the nuclear states has lived up to it. The United States is a leading violator, especially the Bush administration, which even has stated that it isn’t subject to Article 6. On July 27, Washington entered into an agreement with India that guts the central part of the NPT, though there remains substantial opposition in both countries. India, like Israel and Pakistan (but unlike Iran), is not an NPT signatory, and has developed nuclear weapons outside the treaty. With this new agreement, the Bush administration effectively endorses and facilitates this outlaw behaviour. (Noam Chomsky, Japan Focus)

‘Enemy Combatant’ or Enemy of the Government? By introducing the concept of war into national law, the latest U.S. anti- terrorist law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), produces a turning point in the legal and political organization of the Western world. It puts an end to a form of state that succeeded in “establishing peace internally and excluding hostility as a concept of law.”1 It is the constituent act of a new form of state that establishes war as a political relation between constituted authorities and national populations. (Jean-Claude Paye, Monthly Review)

Unable to Defeat Mahdi Army, U.S. Hopes to Divide It. Although the U.S. military command’s frequent assertions that the primary threat to U.S. forces in Iraq comes from Iranian meddling, its real problem is that Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi army is determined to end the occupation and is simply too big and too well entrenched to be weakened by military force. The U.S. command began trying to enter into a political dialogue with Sadr’s followers in early 2006 and now claims that such a dialogue has begun, according to a Sep. 12 article by Ned Parker of the Los Angeles Times. But the George W. Bush administration is not prepared to make peace with the Mahdi army. Instead it believes it can somehow divide it if it applies military pressure while wooing what it calls “moderates” in the Sadr camp. Parker quoted an anonymous administration official last month as suggesting that there were Sadrists “who we think we might be able to work with”. (Gareth Porter, IPS)

India holds key in NATO’s world view. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s agenda is centered on its further enlargement as well as lengthening its reach to undertake missions with new partners in every corner of the world. Many of its main challenges are in the Indian Ocean region, which makes a friendly India a priority. Washington fully backs a NATO-India partnership, while Delhi has some critical decisions to make. (M.K. Bhadrakumar, Asia Times)

At last, some good news from Iraq. Iraq’s two rival Shi’ite clerics, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, who with their powerful militias have long fought for control of the Shi’ite community, have decided to lay down their arms and unite their efforts to bring stability and security to the country. It’s the first genuinely good news from Iraq for a long time. (Sami Moubayed, Asia Times)

CIDA: foreign “aid” in name only? Recent stories about Canada’s foreign aid programs should make us ponder some important foreign policy questions. A Senlis Council report released in August detailed the failure of Canadian programs supposedly aimed at alleviating poverty in Kandahar province. The mainstream media criticized the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) inability/unwillingness to successfully distribute aid and even questioned Canada’s justification for a military presence in Afghanistan. Six months earlier, the media was abuzz over a report that called for the abolition of CIDA because of its failure to alleviate poverty in Africa. On the surface this criticism seems reasonable. All government spending should be effective. But what if this focus on the effectiveness of aid to alleviate poverty narrows the parameters of the debate and excludes the real questions that should be asked?
(Yves Engler, Rabble)

Pakistan at Sixty. Disillusionment and resentment are widespread. Cultivating anti-Indian/anti-Hindu feeling, in an attempt to encourage national cohesion, no longer works. The celebrations marking the anniversary of independence on 14 August are more artificial and irritating than ever. A cacophony of meaningless slogans that impress nobody, countless clichés in newspaper supplements competing for space with stale photographs of the Founder (Muhammad Ali Jinnah) and the Poet (Iqbal). Banal panel discussions remind us of what Jinnah said or didn’t say. The perfidious Lord Mountbatten and his ‘promiscuous’ wife, Edwina, are denounced for favouring India when it came to the division of the spoils. It’s true, but we can’t blame them for the wreck Pakistan has become. In private, of course, there is much soul-searching, and a surprising collection of people now feel the state should never have been founded. (Tariq Ali, London Review of Books)

Somalia’s President Yusuf Loses His Grip on Power. The failures of the two national conferences aimed at devising a political formula for Somalia — the National Reconciliation Conference (N.R.C.) sponsored by the country’s internationally-recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.), and the Somali Congress for Liberation and Reconstitution (S.C.L.R.) organized by the political opposition based in Eritrea — have led to a continuation of Somalia’s spiral into political fragmentation and conflict. (Michael A. Weinstein. Power and Interest News Report)

Egypt: Rumour and retribution. The trial of Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of the independent daily Al-Dostour, opened on Monday only to be adjourned until 24 October. More than a dozen armoured vehicles added to the daily congestion in Downtown Cairo’s Galaa Street while the scenes around the Galaa Court Complex, blockaded by state security personnel, plain clothes security men and high ranking police officers speaking loudly into walkie-talkies, resembled the trials of Muslim Brotherhood members or else of a high- profile spy rather than that of a journalist accused of spreading false rumours about the health of President Hosni Mubarak. (Shaden Shehab, Al-Ahram)

Roundup of Analysis and Investigative Articles: Assassins, Revolts, and Health Care

October 3, 2007 Leave a comment

‘A matter of life and death’. Egypt’s largest workers’ action in 20 years began on Sunday. On Sunday, workers at the state run textile and weaving company Ghazl Al-Mahala began one of the largest industrial protests of the past two decades, with 27,000 workers downing tools. The strike, say the workers, is a continuation of the action taken in December, when production at the plant was halted. On Saturday night, police forces had surrounded the factory only to withdraw, fearing direct confrontation with the workers. Meanwhile , Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel-Hady said that action can only be taken once the strike is ended. (Karim El-Khashab, Al-Ahram)

Burma More or Less Needs Help. Burma needs help, desperately, but with a “friend” like Bush trying to capitalize on his “freedom” agenda, they might do well to look elsewhere. ASEAN is a good place to start, Burma is a member country and informal personal, cultural and trade links provide intelligence and potential leverage. Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN’s new Secretary General is a veteran diplomat who as foreign minister under Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, chose not lend support to the dictators of Burma, in sharp contrast to the devil-may-care profiteering in Rangoon and elsewhere on the part of the successor government led by Thaksin Shinawatra. And Japan, the largest aid donor and home to a community of Burmese exiles has a modest role to play. But the real wild card in the Burma conundrum, with immense leverage for better or worse, is China. (Phillip J. Cunningham, re-published in Informed Comment: Global Affairs)

Pakistan’s plan is coming together. With President General Pervez Musharraf naming his successor as head of the army, the United States-backed stage is set for Musharraf to be re-elected as president on Saturday and for Pakistan to move towards a civilian-based consensus government. The army will not be left out, though. A select team of “war on terror” veterans will work closely with the US in its military and trade objectives in the region. (Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times)

Islamabad’s grip on tribal areas is slipping. Taliban forces and their sympathizers are becoming entrenched in the seven tribal agencies in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. A lethal combination of President General Pervez Musharraf’s declining public support, a significant rise in suicide attacks targeting the army, and the reluctance of soldiers in the area to engage tribal gangs militarily, further exacerbates the problem. (Hassan Abbas, Asia Times)

Gaza’s darkness. Gaza has been reoccupied. The world must know this and Israelis must know it, too. It is in its worst condition, ever. Since the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and more so since the outbreak of the Lebanon war, the Israel Defense Forces has been rampaging through Gaza – there’s no other word to describe it – killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately. (Gideon Levy, Haaretz)

Playing loose with law. Israel’s declaring Gaza “hostile” is but a way to justify its unwarrantable starvation of Palestinians under occupation. While some Palestinians are able to cope with temporary electricity outages, there is no dispute that Gaza’s residents will not be able to weather other means of collective punishment approved by the Israeli government. Israel provides the Gaza Strip with 150 megawatts of electricity per month, which constitutes 45 per cent of Gaza’s electricity needs. According to the first stage of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan, if locally manufactured missiles continue to be fired at Israeli settlements in the Negev, Israel will significantly cut back electricity supplies. The plan clearly states that supplies will only suffice hospitals and health facilities. (Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram)

Healthcare in Africa: Lesotho’s Youth Struggle to Survive. in the small African nation of Lesotho, there are only six pediatricians to care for the country’s 800,000 children. HIV/AIDS has been declared a national emergency in the country: one in four people have contracted the virus. Why are physicians in such short supply in a nation with such a dire need for healthcare? Lesotho is yet another victim of an expanding skills drain in Sub-Saharan Africa. Promising students often leave the country and once educated, flee to surrounding nations to work in a more stable, higher-paying environment. (Nash Riggins, Toward Freedom)

Lebanon and Syria: The Politics of Assassination. The assassination of Lebanese politician Antoine Ghanem on September 19 is likely to be used, predictably, to further US and Israeli interests in the region. Most Western and some Arab media have industriously argued that Syria is the greatest beneficiary from the death of Ghanem, a member of the Phalange party responsible for much of Lebanon’s bloodshed during the civil war years between 1975 and 1990. The reasoning provided is that Syria needs to maintain a measure of political control over Lebanon after being pressured to withdraw its troops. This political clout could only be maintained through the purging of anti-Syrian critics in Lebanon, and by ensuring a Lebanese parliament friendly to Syria. And indeed, with the elimination of Ghanem, the anti-Syrian coalition at the fractious Lebanese parliament is now left with an even slimmer majority – 68 MPs in a 128-member assembly. Case solved. Or is it? (Ramzy Baroud, ZNet)

Who shot Mohammed al Dura? It was a shooting that became a powerful rallying cry for Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation at the start of the second intifada. On Sept. 30, 2000, almost seven years ago to this day, Mohammed al Dura was shot and killed in Gaza while cowering behind his father during a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants. Israel immediately apologized for the shooting and said the bullets had “apparently” come from their soldiers. But, very quickly, Israel and its supporters began challenging the video and the story. The controversy has been resurrected because of a pending court case in France in which the French television journalist who aired the dramatic footage in 2000 sued a media watchdog who accused the reporter of staging the shooting. (Dion Nissenbaum, Checkpoint Jerusalem)

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