Stuart Hodkinson. Tuesday, 11am. On the eve of discussions on Africa at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, a range of leading campaigners and activists from across Africa today gathered together in Edinburgh to launch their own highly critical response to Tony Blair's Commission for Africa (CfA). 'The Alternatives Commission on Africa' contains statements, analyses and perspectives from African civil society voices previously silenced by the Geldof-Government-Oxfam coalition that is running the Live8/Make Poverty History axis.
The collection of contributors, who include Yao Graham, Demba Dembele, Charles Abugre, Dot Keet, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Jubilee South Africa, Jubilee South, Korinna Horta and Trevor Ngwane, argue that the Blair Commission is not only too limited in its aspirations for Africa, but that the whole basis of its analysis and proposals are deeply flawed.
Speaking at today's launch, Trevor Ngwane of the Soweto Anti-Privatisation Forum, said that the CfA had made many promises on debt relief, aid and trade justice but no one in Africa really believed these would be delivered:
The Anti-Privatisation Forum rejects the CfA because all of its proposals are based on major conditionalities like privatisation and trade liberalisation. If you look at the 14 African countries who qualify for Brown's deal at the G7 under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country scheme, they have all either gone through or are currently pioneering neoliberal reforms beneficial to Western corporations.
Ngwane, who went straight to the Dungavel asylum detention centre protest after his appearance, spoke for all the alternative African commissioners when he stated that “Africa does not owe this debt – after the slave trade, colonialism and apartheid perpetrated by most of the G8 countries, we don't owe Bush, blair and the World Bank anything.” He also condemned the policing in Edinburgh on Monday as “a deliberate agenda of intimidation in order to scare people away from coming to Scotland to protest”.
Charity Musumba, a debt campaigner from Zambia, claimed that civil society in her country had attempted to contribute to the CfA's public meetings on the continent but found them to be simply PR exercises with participants “invited by the CfA secretariat to take part in highly superficial events”:
I believe this was part of a deliberate effort to underplay the problems of debt crisis. If you read the report, trade and aid dominate - there is no real plan for how to deal with debt.
MP Giyose from Jubilee South argued that the CfA and the G8 agenda were working together as part of a “well connected pincer movement” to impose a new settlement of conditionality in return for debt relief and aid in Africa.
If NEPAD was prefaced by bad history, then Blair's Commission is prefaced by no history whatsoever – the report glosses over colonialism, slavery and neoliberalism in Africa.
Also present was Marxist intellectual from Egypt, Samir Amin, who made four very clear criticisms of the CfA:
Firstly, this is not a Commission for Africa but Blair's Commission against Africa...Secondly, at 454 pages, the report is thick, but completely empty...Thirdly, the commission promises to raise aid – we've been waiting 50 years for this and it has never happened. We don't want this aid for imperialism, we want reparations for the people of Africa, Asia and Latin America....Fourthly, the only raeson they are talking about cancelling debt now is because the debt has served its purpose bu forcing through neoliberalism. The empire can now plunder and loot without the need for debt.
Amin ended by calling for a global campaign against the debt with three parts. First, an audit of where the debt came from and who is responsible – these people and companies should be tried as criminals. Secondly, a call for the total cancellation of the debt. And third, an international law for dealing with debt in contrast to the present system, which he argued was corrupt and illegal.