This is a wonderful, beautiful interview about West Africa’s first female astrophysicist, Marie Korsaga, from Burkina Faso. This young woman breaks all the stereotypes. Much of our western culture does not appreciate science. Science, discoveries by the human mind, the power of hypothesis, is the driver of civilization’s growth. Science, not money, is the underlying source of economic value. Science demonstrates, and celebrates our uniquely human powers, which no other living creature possesses, or could ever posses. We are truly in the image of the Creator when we are exercising the higher scientific powers of our creative mind. I strongly believe that the world would be better off if we had more of youth becoming scientists (and engineers).
Excerpted questions and answers:
Where does your passion for astrophysics stem from?
From an early age, I have always been interested in the phenomena of the universe, such as the appearance of life on earth and shooting stars. I also enjoyed watching documentary films on astronomy, especially on the Apollo missions. But at the time, I never imagined that I would become an astrophysicist, because astronomy was an unknown domain in Burkina Faso. Besides, I had never met — let alone talked to — an astronomer in real life before my doing my degree.
Growing up, I intended to become a civil engineer because I also like construction. When I did my degree, astronomy had just been integrated as an optional subject in physics in Burkina Faso, and I seized this opportunity. My interest in scientific subjects allowed me to excel more easily in the subject and to pursue my postgraduate studies in astrophysics.
In a continent where there is a lack of water, electricity and even food, does opting for astrophysics ignore the fundamental problems facing the region?
Since astronomy is a science that requires a vast field of knowledge, it enables skills to be developed at the local level. For example, if you take the telescope construction project in South Africa, which is one of the biggest projects in astronomy, it was established by engineers, computer scientists, technicians. So, in addition to strict astronomy, skills are developed that can be used effectively in other sectors.
An astrophysicist is someone who is almost a complete all-rounder in science — someone who has skills in physics, engineering, programming. All this is what makes people describe astronomy as the mother of all sciences. As well as being fascinating as a science, astronomy can be used as a development tool through, for example, education and tourism. The International Astronomical Union understands this and is trying hard to address the development component in developing countries, working to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The typical example in Africa is the case of South Africa where the installation of telescopes has not only popularised science and created jobs for young people, but also boosted the local economy and infrastructure. Burkina Faso could well draw inspiration from these success stories and position itself as a centre of excellence in West Africa.
In this interview, Lawrence Freeman exposes that the root cause of the present deadly crisis in Mali stems from the overthrow and assassination of of Muammar Gaddafi by the West in 2011, led by President Obama, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, and French President Sarkozy. .
Uganda is intending to build with ChinaPower, the Ayago Hydroelectric Power Station, located on a section of the Nile between lakes Kyoga and Albert. When completed, it will produce 840 megawatts of electricity at the cost $1.4 billion, and increase Uganda’s generating capacity by 40% to 2,800 megawatts. Together with the completion of Grand Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam GERD, East African nations are beginning to produce power necessary to develop their economies. Read: Uganda-China Build New Hydroelectric Dam on the Nile
Rwandan Minister of Infrastructure, Claver Gatete, outlines plans for Rwanda to reach 100% access to electricity for its population in 2024, by adding 2.4 million households to the electrical grid in the next four years. Watch:Minister of Infrastructure on 100% Electricity by 2024
During his visit to the US, Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, warned about forcing African nations to chose between the US and China. China has made major contributions to building infrastructure in Africa that cannot be denied. The US should change its policy from treating Africa as a “pawn” in its geo-political chessboard, and instead join China in developing the vast underdeveloped African continent. Read: Kenya President Kenyatta Warns Against US-China Rivalry in Africa
I concur with the statement below by Mrs LaRouche from the German based Schiller Institute. China is making an heroic effort to contain the Coronavirus, and I might add without international support. While President Trump supports President Xi Jinping, the US has given no assistance. Building a new hospital from scratch in 9 days is nothing short of stupendous! Racism against China, by many of US elected officials, fellow citizens, and some of my African friends, must end. China has emerged as a global power. A more thoughtful policy would be for the United States to collaborate with China and Russia to find solutions to various strategic crises endangering peace and security in the world.
CHINA DESERVES PRAISE AND COOPERATION IN THE FIGHT AGAINST THE CORONA VIRUS
By Helga Zepp-LaRouche
The name of the German weekly magazine “Der Spiegel” actually means in English, “The Mirror.” And indeed what you see this week on the cover page of the print version of Der Spiegel—a person with a gas mask, goggles, earphones and a hoody—is the mirror image of the ugly face of the racism of its editors. The caption “Corona-virus Made in China” should actually be “The ugly face of the racist monster Spiegel.”
This piece of yellow trash journalism was so bad that the Chinese embassy in Germany issued a formal complaint on their website. The notorious Jylllands-Posten of Denmark had an equally disgusting so-called cartoon putting the corona virus on the Chinese flag. Various American so-called mainstream media use the abdominal racist term “The Yellow Peril.” What all of these portrayals demonstrate is the ugly reality of an obviously deep-seated racism under a very thin varnish of “western values.”
The reality of the matter is, that the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has praised China repeatedly for the excellent handling of the epidemic, noting that China has set a new standard of dealing with such problems. That the Chinese government had published a full genome-mapping of the new variants within days of the outbreak made it easier for scientists in other countries to start working on possible vaccines, but also that China has made significant breakthroughs in the biological sciences over the past 15-20 years. Other health officials stated that the response of the Wuhan regional government and the dissemination of information was “state of the art“ and that an extremely impressive quantity of new information contained in their daily updates had been published since December 31st/January 1st.
To call any virus a “Chinese” virus is as silly as to say that it is someone’s fault if he catches the flu or gets sick in general. It can happen anywhere in the world and it can happen to every person on the planet. The lesson from this recent case of the reaction to the outbreak of the coronavirus is that it shows who in the international community is capable of responding to dangers that threaten all of humanity, and who is a troglodyte, and who is not.
If Europe and the US want to be credible in talking about “human rights” and “western values” then they should join hands with China and cooperate on the fight to defeat the coronavirus. The coronavirus and the fact that every year 100,000s of people get killed by the influenza shows how urgent it is to make new breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of living processes to overcome what are today, life threatening diseases. Europe and the US should also cooperate with the most future oriented vision on the international agenda, namely the extension of the BRI into south west Asia and Africa and the international cooperation in the Space Silk Road.
For sure we should reflect on the actuality of the judgment of Gottfried Leibniz who said:
“In any case it seems that the situation of our present conditions in light of the growing moral decadence is such that it almost seems necessary that Chinese missionaries are sent to us, who could teach us the application and practices of natural theology….I therefore believe, that if a wise man would be elected not to judge about the beauty of goddesses, but about the excellence of peoples, he would give the golden apple to the Chinese.”
I think Leibniz was a lot wiser than Der Spiegel, Jyllands-Posten and New York Times.
AFRICA: THE FIRST U.S. CASUALTY OF THE NEW INFORMATION WARFARE AGAINST CHINA
February 5, 2020
The article below by Caleb Slayton, director for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School, Africa course, unmasks the self feeding loop of US anti-China propaganda. “The U.S. narrative misjudges the full scope of China’s influence in Africa,” according to the author. The narrative attacking China’s relationship with African nations is blinding our elected officials, so called academics, and the general citizenry from understanding the contributions China is making to Africa. This false narrative, intense, widespread, and bi-partisan, has created a dangerous defect in US strategic policy toward China and Africa. As a result, President Trump only sees Africa as a pawn in a global game to stop China’s influence on the continent. To the dismay of many Africans, the US, unlike China, lacks any serious policy that would assist African nations in pursuit of developing their nations.
“According to the U.S. strategic narrative on China in Africa, Beijing intends to steal Africa’s resources, secure corrupt business transactions, and pursue low-quality infrastructure projects. American officials argue that China’s political and diplomatic maneuvers yield little good for Africa and ultimately intend to indebt the continent to China’s bidding. This narrative is misleading. It has served to develop a crippling ignorance of the changing nature of information warfare, China’s weapon of choice. The narrative has also masked the successful means by which China has become a partner of almost every country on the continent and garnered their support at the international level. Perhaps worst of all, the focus on China is inattentive to the needs and ambitions of African partners, the key stakeholders in U.S.-Africa partnerships…
As the director from 2012 to 2016 of the Africa Theater Course for Special Forces out of Hurlburt Field, Florida, I engaged with hundreds of military members, government employees, analysts, operators, and practitioners directly engaged on the African continent. Every sidebar conversation or most student interjections on the topic of China maintained a similar skewed perception of China in relation to Africa. China’s development projects were all “broken,” the projects hired mostly Chinese laborers, its merchandise was low-grade, China’s aim was to deplete Africa of its resources, the communications infrastructure was a tool of Chinese control, and all of China’s aid was a debt liability. Any mention of potentially beneficial partnership with China was laced with a political, social, or economic spoiler. This consistent negative narrative aligns to many Department of Defense and Department of State talking points….
“African countries draw inspiration from China’s rise. Beijing’s success is more profound than any criticism the United States levels against China’s internal social, religious, and political oppression…
“Africa Isn’t Buying Washington’s Message on China
In Africa, Beijing has demonstrated that it has a lot to offer. Washington, by contrast, appears to offer only criticism. The U.S. narrative against China-Africa activities misrepresents China’s strategy, underestimates its influence, and downplays what a majority of Africa’s population really thinks about China partnerships and great-power competition. The current facts on the ground already give China impressive influence and access to political, economic, and communication sectors across Africa.”
The excerpted portions below of President Trump’s address to the otherwise useless World Economic Forum in Davos, touch upon profound principles of culture, science, and political economy. The extremists in the mis-named environmentalist movement adhere to the Malthusian ideology; that an expanding human population would overwhelm the fixed resources of the planet. This false axiom of belief has been extended to the fraudulent notion that the growth of civilization itself will cause the destruction of our world. These extremists believe human beings are inherently evil, because of human nature’s inexorable devotion to progress.
President Trump’s reference to the construction of Brunelleschi’s Dome, that embodies the great Italian Renaissance, directly counters the pessimism that has infected large portions of Western culture. Our civilization has always progressed by realizing the fruits of creative labor. Through unique contributions by scientists and artists, society leaps forward and upward to new levels of evolution. The true underlying wellsprings of real-physical (non-monetary) economic growth are new scientific discoveries, and the capacity of society to apply them through advanced technologies. Our culture, if properly nurtured, should be a never ending font of discovery. Great creative artists stimulate our minds and souls, propelling society to new peaks of optimism and imagination.
One does not know, if President Trump is fully conscious of the implications of this exceptional portion of his presentation. However, we do know, that with his historical optimism, he challenged the prevailing anti-growth ideology espoused by the “green-billionaire” movement to halt the industrial development of our planet.
I will be writing more on this subject-follow my blog.
Excerpts from the concluding section of President Trump’s speech in Davos Switzerland, January 21, 2020
This is not a time for pessimism; this is a time for optimism. Fear and doubt is not a good thought process because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism and action.
But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers — and I have them and you have them, and we all have them, and they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives…
The great scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century — from penicillin, to high-yield wheat, to modern transportation, and breakthrough vaccines — have lifted living standards and saved billions of lives around the world. And we’re continuing to work on things that you’ll be hearing about in the near future that, even today, sitting here right now, you wouldn’t believe it’s possible that we have found the answers. You’ll be hearing about it. But we have found answers to things that people said would not be possible — certainly not in a very short period of time.
But the wonders of the last century will pale in comparison to what today’s young innovators will achieve because they are doing things that nobody thought even feasible to begin. We continue to embrace technology, not to shun it. When people are free to innovate, millions will live longer, happier, healthier lives.
For three years now, America has shown the world that the path to a prosperous future begins with putting workers first, choosing growth, and freeing entrepreneurs to bring their dreams to life.
For anyone who doubts what is possible in the future, we need only look at the towering achievements of the past. Only a few hundred miles from here are some of the great cities of Europe — teeming centers of commerce and culture. Each of them is full of reminders of what human drive and imagination can achieve.
Centuries ago, at the time of the Renaissance, skilled craftsmen and laborers looked upwards and built the structures that still touch the human heart. To this day, some of the greatest structures in the world have been built hundreds of years ago.
In Italy, the citizens once started construction on what would be a 140-year project, the Duomo of Florence. An incredible, incredible place. While the technology did not yet exist to complete their design, city fathers forged ahead anyway, certain that they would figure it out someday. These citizens of Florence did not accept limits to their high aspirations and so the Great Dome was finally built.
In France, another century-long project continues to hold such a grip on our hearts and our souls that, even 800 years after its construction, when the Cathedral of Notre Dame was engulfed in flames last year — such a sad sight to watch; unbelievable site, especially for those of us that considered it one of the great, great monuments and representing so many different things — the whole world grieved.
Though her sanctuary now stands scorched and charred — and a sight that’s hard to believe; when you got used to it, to look at it now, hard to believe. But we know that Notre Dame will be restored — will be restored magnificently. The great bells will once again ring out for all to hear, giving glory to God and filling millions with wonder and awe.
The Cathedrals of Europe teach us to pursue big dreams, daring adventures, and unbridled ambitions. They urge us to consider not only what we build today, but what we will endure long after we are gone. They testify to the power of ordinary people to realize extraordinary achievements when united by a grand and noble purpose. (emphasis added)
Progress was made by Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, who met in Washington DC for three days this week from January 13-15, supported by the administration of President Trump. They will meet again from 28-29, in Washington to finalize their agreement.
Ethiopian Ambassador, Fitsum Arega, wrote on Twitter:
“Meetings of Egypt, Ethiopia & Sudan in Washington mark major breakthrough & new chapter of their historic relations.
GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) will help bring economic integration among 3 countries: Egypt, Ethiopia & Sudan.
GERD will provide long term mechanism for their Common Destiny of Collective Prosperity, under the Guiding Principle : Cooperation for Mutual Benefit!”
I would add that cooperation on the GERD and Nile River system will benefit all the nations of the Nile Basin
The final paragraph of the joint communique reads: “The Ministers recognize the significant regional benefits that can result from concluding an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with respect to trans-boundary cooperation, regional development and economic integration that can result from the operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the importance of trans-boundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and their shared commitment to concluding an agreement.”
China Has Embraced Africa’s Development; The US Has Not.
By Lawrence Freeman
It is as clear as day and night, the difference between China’s approach to Africa and that of the United States. There is no equivalence. Historically, China has viewed African nations as part of the developing sector from which China emerged. This has contributed to China’s distinct attitude to partnering with African nations in promoting economic growth. Over the last two decades especially, the ties between China and Africa have grown stronger, with Africa’s East Coast materializing as an integral part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The US has not always dismissed the importance of contributing to Africa’s growth. President John Kennedy, following in the footsteps of President Franklin Roosevelt, was a strong opponent of colonial subjugation of Africa. President Kennedy, as US Senator advocated Africa’s liberation movement, and as US President supported President Kwame Nkrumah’s plans to construct the hydro-electric dam and bauxite smelting complex on Ghana’s Volta River. By the end of the 1960s the US had lost its optimism and vision for the world, adopting in its place, a British inspired cynical “geo-political” doctrine.
Geo-politics divides the world into two categories; winners and losers in a zero sum game. Today’s unfounded attacks against China’s involvement in Africa, alleging that China is deliberately entrapping nations into debt and stealing their natural resources flows from this perverted world view. Chinese President, Xi Jinping promotes a different philosophy; it’s called “win-win.”
Building, Not Extracting
Unlike British Imperialist Cecil Rhodes, and degenerates like King Leopold II, China is not raping Africa for its resources. Since Royal Dutch Shell discovered oil in southern Nigeria in 1956, the West has focused its investment chiefly in oil and gas-i.e. hydrocarbon extractive industries. China in recent decades has become the leading nation in financing and building infrastructure in Africa. It is well known that investment in extractive industries do not expand the economy nor provide a large amount of jobs. However, it does yield large streams of revenue. China has chosen a different business mode; one more beneficial to the African people.
According to McKinsey consulting company’s publication, Dance of the lions and the dragons, released in June 2017, China in 2015 financed $21 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Africa. That is three times the combined total of France, Japan, Germany, and India. US financing of infrastructure in Africa was too minimal to even mention. Detailed in the same document, China’s export and import trade with Africa is quantified as $188 billion in 2015, compared to the US at $53 billion. Deloitte’s 2017 Africa Construction Trends, further documents China’s role in expanding Africa’s infrastructure. As of June 2017, China was only second to African governments in funding large infrastructure projects, 15.5% and 27.1% respectively. The US was listed at 3%, the UK and France at 2%. When it comes to who actually builds these projects the figures are more shocking; China constructed over one quarter or 28.1% of these projects, the US 3.3%, and the UK 2.3%.
Infrastructure Is Essential
Infrastructure is critical for every economy to expand, grow and develop. Africa’s deplorable lack of infrastructure is literally killing its people. There is no more crucial single element of economy that must be addressed for African nations to develop. Infrastructure adds value to the entire economy by augmenting the productive capability of every farmer and worker. More capital intense economies will be affected by technologically advanced infrastructure platforms.
The history of humankind demonstrates that progress of civilizations emanates from the realization of scientific discoveries transmitted through more efficacious technologies. Infrastructure reflecting more advanced machinery is a primary means of transferring technology (science) to the economic production process.
There is nothing wrong with African nations using their resources for collateral or payment of loans for infrastructure. Wealth is not the monetary value of natural resources extracted from the earth. Economic wealth is understood to be that which contributes to the increase of the power of society to provide the material wellbeing of its citizens and their posterity. Infrastructure performs that function.
China’s contribution to building new railroads in Africa, replacing century old British and French antiquated rail lines, and constructing new hydro-electric dams, and ports, is precisely what African nations need to develop. China is providing indispensable assistance; the US and Europe are not. An experienced former US ambassador to Africa told me bluntly; the US stopped investing in infrastructure in Africa in the early 1970s. Sadly, today, the US continues to repeatedly proclaim, “we don’t build infrastructure.”
Debt-Trap or Claptrap?
In her latest paper, A critical look at Chinese ‘debt-trap’ diplomacy: the rise of a meme, Deborah Brautigam, China-Africa scholar and Director of the China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) at SAIS*, puts a nail in the coffin regarding false accusations of China deliberately entrapping African nations through debt.
She writes: “…for over a decade Western politicians and pundits have warned that China is a rogue donor with regard to its finance, is a new colonialist, and a predatory and pernicious lender that snares vulnerable states in a debt trap leveraging its loans in order to have its way with weak victims.”
Brautigam responds to these allegations by asking: “However, does evidence exist for this kind of debt leverage?” Then she answers: “It [SAIS database] has information on about more than 1000 loans and, so far, in Africa, we have not seen any examples where we would say the Chinese deliberatively entangled another country in debt, and then used that debt to extract unfair or strategic advantages of some kind in Africa, including ‘asset seizures’.” (emphasis added)
With the population of 55 African nations projected to reach 2.4 billion in the next three decades, the continent needs trillions of dollars in new infrastructure. Presently, the US is more concerned in countering China in Africa, than developing Africa. Many African leaders are hopeful the US will establish a more robust economic relationship with their nations. As has been the case with previous administrations, the lack of vision, and adherence to “geo-politics” is preventing the US from engaging with Africa in a win-win relationship. This can and should change.
*Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
The news reported below on the renewed commitment by the Italian government to fund a feasibility study for Transaqua, an inter-basin water project to reverse the shrinking of Lake chad, is good news for all of Africa. Italy has made available 1.5 million Euros ($1.8 million dollars) for the feasibility study. The Italian government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lake Chad Basin Commission-(LCBC) regarding this study. It is now up to the LCBC to formulate the contract procedure and award the contract to begin the long overdue analysis of the viability of Transaqua. It is in the interest of all African nation, especially those the Lake Chad Basin to encourage the LCBC to move forward. The failure to act on Transaqua decades ago, when it was first proposed, has been costly; more costly then than the multi-billion dollar price tag of the project itself. The destruction of North-East Nigeria and the tens of thousands of lives lost, could have been prevented if Transaqua had been built. We cannot afford to wait; the LCBC should take appropriate action.
According to E.I.R., the New Budget Law in Italy Provides Funding for Feasibility Study on Transaqua. Following an amendment introduced by Sen.Toni Iwobi of the Lega Party, the Italian government included in its 2021 budget bill, the funding of a feasibility study for the Transaqua water transfer project in Africa. The bill was passed in the Senate on Dec. 16, 2019. Although the allocation of €1.5 million had already been pledged by the Italian government in a 2018 joint memorandum with the Italy and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), procedures have been blocked under the current pro-malthusian Environment Minister.
The amendment, which was endorsed by the head of the Lega in the Senate, Massimiliano Romeo, states: “To implement Art. 6 of the Memorandum signed by the [Italian] Ministry for Environment, Sea and Territory Protection and by the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the feasibility study for the ‘Transaqua Project’ is co-financed with EU1.5 million for the year 2021 through the Fund for Extraordinary Interventions aimed at relaunching dialogue and cooperation with African countries and other countries of primary importance for migratory movements.”
Making the commitment to Transaqua a state law in Italy represents a definite qualitative improvement over the simple memorandum of understanding, even if the date of 2021 does not reflect the urgency of the matter.
Senator Iwobi has proudly publicized the development on his website and Facebook page, including a video in which he shows the location of Lake Chad and why the Transaqua project is so important. Shortly after his election in March 2018, EIR had contacted the senator, who is of Nigerian origin, to brief him on the project, which he immediately endorsed, saying “those who are against this project are against Africa.”
Transaqua is not merely a water-transfer scheme, but an integrated water, transport, hydroelectric and agro-industrial infrastructure project which, as African scholars have correctly judged, will provide the engine for the recovery of the entire economy of the Central African region. The Schiller Institute and EIR have campaigned internationally for its implementation, together with the Italian engineering company Bonifica which developed it in the 1970s under the leadership of Eng. Marcello Vichi.
Thanks to their efforts, combined with the impact of China’s Belt and Road policy in Africa, the LCBC member countries adopted it at a February 2018 International Conference on Lake Chad in Abuja, Nigeria. Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, enthusiastically supports Transaqua, and is campaigning for a donors’ conference to raise $50 billion to build the infrastructure.
For full background on Transaqua read my interview from June 2019, following he successful Abuja conference to Save Lake Chad.
Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity
By Lawrence Freeman
January 8, 2020
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has embarked on a bold effort to transform the political terrain of Ethiopia while simultaneously launching new economic reforms. The creation of the new Ethiopian Prosperity Party (PP) replaces the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front-(EPRDF), founded in 1988. Dissolving the reigning EPRDF and fashioning a new national party, or what some refer to as a Pan-Ethiopian party, is a courageous and daring move, essential for Ethiopia’s future. This emerging nation of over 105 million people, already a leader in economic development, is now embarking on a challenging path to create de novo a national party.
The EPRDF, which had governed Ethiopia since May 1991, was composed of four Regional States, plus the cities of Addis Ababa (the capital), and Dire Dawa. The four regional parties are: the Tigray People’s Liberation Front-(TPLF); the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization-(OPDO) (renamed early this year as Oromo Democratic Party-(ODP); the Amhara National Democratic Movement-(ANDM), (renamed early this year as Amhara Democratic Party-(ADP); and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement-(SEPDM), (a coalition of the 56 ethnic groups).
The EPRDF was fashioned to address Ethiopia’s earlier history of dictatorial and monarchical rule. The designers of the governing party believed that acknowledging ethnic identity, which was not recognized for centuries, would solve the tensions of that time. Recent conflicts in Ethiopia have shown this arrangement to be ineffective.
Of the four parties that comprised the EPRDF, only the TPLF has refused to join the new PP. Already the governing parties representing 5 regions, which were not members of the EPRDF, but were recognized as allies of the EPRDF have joined the PP in preparation for May 2020 elections. They are: 1) Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP); 2) Benishangul-Gumuz Democratic Party (BDP); 3) Somali Democratic Party (SDP); 4) Gambela People’s Democratic Movement (GPDM); and 5) Harari National League (HNL). The PP will be inclusive, intending to represent all communities, inviting Tigrayans, who live in and outside the region to join. The PP program will have Amharic as its working language as per the constitution. However, Afan Oromo, Tigrigna, Somali and Afar will also be the working languages of the new PP.
Prime Minister Abiy’s founding of the PP on December 1, just six months before Ethiopia’s national elections, is fraught with personal risks for the new Prime Minister. However, this endeavor is bursting with the potential to transform politics and social relations in Ethiopian society. Ethiopia has a splendid history thousands of years old, rich with a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds. The PP is intended to harmonize the diversity of the nation with a national non-ethnic based party.
Nationalism: Not Ethnic Nationalism
A sovereign nation-state is not a mosaic of diverse groups competing with each other for control of the government or pursuing administration posts to obtain economic and financial rewards. A sovereign nation should have a national identity and a mission orientation for its people; all its people, regardless of ethnic heritage. Contributing to the distinctive identity of Ethiopia was its military defeat of the Italian Empire in the battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896. Consequently, this victory, uniquely allowed Ethiopia to remain free from colonialism. Although this triumph occurred over one century ago, it is part of the psychological composition of the identity of all Ethiopians; whether they are conscious of its effects or not. Ethiopia’s decades’ long determination to develop from a disadvantaged nation to an aspiring lower middle-income nation with nascent light manufacturing industry is another feature of Ethiopia’s national identity.
Professed ethnonationalism errs in that it attempts to substitute the demands, often for legitimate needs, of one particular group above the interests of all the citizens. A nation-state cannot survive in a Hobbesian war of all against each other to obtain the most goodies for “my people.” Dare we forget the horrors of the ethnically driven tragic Biafran war in Nigeria from 1967-1970, and how geographic-ethnic distinctions have determined every unhealthy aspect of political and social life in Nigeria today?
Recriminations from the past are no excuse for actions today. Decisions concerning the best strategy for securing the future of Ethiopia must be based on how that policy will benefit the well-being of all citizens.
Medemer and Synergy
In his acceptance speech for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prime Minister Abiy spoke of the philosophy of the Medemer.
He said: “Medemer, an Amharic word, signifies synergy, convergence, and teamwork for a common destiny. Medemer is a homegrown idea that is reflected in our political, social, and economic life. I’d like to think of ‘Medemer’ as a social compact for Ethiopians to build a just, egalitarian, democratic, and humane society by pulling together our resources for our collective survival and prosperity…At its core, Medemer is a covenant of peace that seeks unity in our common humanity.” One could appropriately, add for the “common good” of humankind.
Our “common humanity” exists in all of us. We are all born in the image of the Creator. All human beings are universally related by our endowed powers of creative mentation, more commonly known as reason. What distinguishes all human beings from the animal species is our mental power to discover new scientific and cultural principles embedded in our universe. All of us homo sapiens, regardless of where we were born, or any physical characteristics, are substantially more alike than we are different. Therefore, our needs, desires, and aspirations in life are similar. All human beings not only share a common interest to enhance our lives, but we also share a desire for a better future for our posterity. There is no class of superior people, who have more rights than others due to privileges of birth, religion, or skin color. Each of us are placed here on earth to contribute to the common good of our common humanity using our individual talents.
If we accept synergy to mean cooperation and collaboration to achieve an enhanced effect, then let us act synergistically to ensure a prosperous Ethiopia that provides for all its citizens.
The Constitution and Sidama
Inherent problems of the 1995 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia are evident in the November 2019 referendum conferring autonomy to Sidama. Ethiopia’s constitution stipulates that with this lawful vote, the people of Sidama, the fifth largest ethnic group, will become the tenth ethnic regional state. Eight of the existing nine regional states are governed by the dominant ethnic group of that geographical region. However, the Sidama people reside in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region–(SNNPR), where many other small ethnic groups (around 56) also exist.
The Preamble of Ethiopia’s Constitution properly emphasizes the conception of a united nation with a common purpose and goal for all its people. It deliberates on “advancing our economic and social development,” “common interest….and the emergence of a common outlook,” and “to live as one economic community.” Article 14 resonates with the US Constitution, stating: “Every person has the inviolable right to life the security of person and liberty.” The same principle is echoed in Article 43 of the Constitution: The Right to Development. “The basic aim of development activities shall be to enhance the capacity of citizens for development and to meet their basic needs.”
The drawback to the Constitution begins in Article 8:Sovereignty of the People, where sovereign powers are divided up between “Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia.” This is an obvious compromise to ethnicity. In truth; there is only one Ethiopian people and only one Ethiopian nation. The divisions in Ethiopian society are made explicit in Article39: “Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right of secession……the right to a full measure of self-government…” This separation of Ethiopians into multiple groups, outlined in the Constitution, is the seed for the tensions gripping Ethiopia today.
In the aftermath of the Sidama referendum, Ethiopia potentially faces a conundrum. Will other ethnic minorities now choose to follow the same path as Sidama in calling for autonomy as delineated in the Constitution? It appears so. In addition to Sidama Zone*, which is now claiming to be the 10th state, there are other Zones in the Southern Region that want to follow the same route to statehood. To quote William Shakespeare, “there’s the rub.” Clearly the Ethiopian Constitution, despite the best intentions, has proven to be unsuccessful in governing this multi-ethnic nation.
The Challenging Course Ahead
The emergence of a national party such as the PP can commence the process of uniting the nation by moving away from a society where ethnic interests are placed above the welfare of the nation. Ultimately the problematic features of the Ethiopian Constitution will have to be revisited. Not to address this thorny issue will allow instigators to use ethnicity to disrupt what is most necessary for Ethiopia to move forward; a healthy process of dialogue and debate on the future of Ethiopia.
This discourse should include a discussion by the Ethiopian people on changing the structure of ethnic-based parties. For example, Ghana’s Constitution stipulates that “Every political party shall have a national character, and membership shall not be based on ethnic, religious, regional or other sectional divisions.” That no political party shall be formed “(a) on ethnic, gender, religion regional, professional or other sectional divisions; or (b) which uses words, slogans or symbols which could arouse ethnic, gender, religious, regional professional or other sectional divisions.”
The lack of vibrant Ethiopian nationalism creates a fertile environment for those who want to manipulate misplaced ethnic passions. The danger presents itself during times of social or economic stress, when the population’s frustrations can be channeled along ethnic fault lines, manipulating Ethiopians to act against their true self-interest: progress for the nation of Ethiopia. Opportunistic ringleaders will attempt to misdirect the population against each other via competing ethnicities, instead of uniting society behind a national policy. A policy of economic growth that includes a strategy to generate employment opportunities for the millions of youth preparing to enter the workforce is in the vital interests of all citizens.
Of course, it will take time for people to shed their desire to control policy making through ethnic-based parties. It is an existential moment for Ethiopia, and a national grounded PP is a needed first step. It should be understood, that a sovereign nation, whose national mission is to promote the general welfare of its people does not require the elimination of historical cultures. On the contrary, the uniqueness and beauty of each ethnic culture can be synergistically woven into an elevated national character that transcends ethnicity.
*Zone is the middle tire next to the regional state in the governing structure that is also formed under ethnic lines the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR).
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
In the article below you can read about China’s strategic investment in making Djibouti’s port a major port in Africa and the Middle East. The West can criticize as much as it likes, but China, not the US and Europe, is building vitally needed infrastructure in Africa. Without infrastructure Africa will not develop and progress. U.S policy known as “Prosper Africa” is cynical joke.
In strategic Djibouti, a microcosm of China’s growing foothold in Africa
By Max Bearak December 30, 2019
DJIBOUTI — Above ground in this tiny but strategically located country, signs of China’s presence are everywhere.
Chinese entities have financed and built Africa’s biggest port, a railway to Ethiopia and the country’s first overseas naval base here. Under the sea, they are building a cable that will transmit data across a region that spans from Kenya to Yemen. The cable will connect to an Internet hub housing servers mostly run by China’s state-owned telecom companies.
Beijing’s extensive investments in Djibouti are a microcosm of how China has rapidly gained a strategic foothold across the continent. Western countries, including Africa’s former colonizers, for decades have used hefty aid packages to leverage trade and security deals, but Chinese-financed projects have brought huge infrastructural development in less than a generation.
The construction is fueled mostly by lending from China’s state-run banks. Spindles of Chinese-paved roads have unfurled across the continent, along with huge bridges, new airports, dams and power plants as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 152-countryBelt and Road Initiative.
Overall, Chinese companies have invested twice as much money between 2014 and 2018 in African countries as American companies, spending $72.2 billion, according to ananalysis by Ernst & Young.
“The Chinese are thinking far into the long-term in Djibouti and Africa in general,” said David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia who was also the State Department’s desk officer for Djibouti as far back as the late 1960s. “Djibouti is one node in an economic chain that stretches across the northern rim of the Indian Ocean, from ports in Cambodia to Sri Lanka to Pakistan. They have a grand, strategic plan. We don’t.”
In Djibouti, that strategic plan is all the more evident because of the country’s location at the entrance to the Red Sea, where about 10 percent of oil exports and 20 percent of commercial goods pass through the narrow strait right off Djibouti’s coast on their way to and from the Suez Canal.
That location has made it a crucial way-point for undersea cables, which transmit data between continents. China’s investment in Internet infrastructure here comes as the region surrounding Djibouti is just starting to come online, including some places that are entirely reliant on Djibouti as a transit point for data transmission…
“Yes, our debt to China is 71% of our GDP, but we needed that infrastructure,” Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Djibouti’s foreign affairs minister, said in a phone interview on the sidelines of a meeting in New York earlier this month, where Djibouti was pushing to gain a non permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
“It was quite natural that we raise our partnership with China. Neither Europe nor America were ready to build the infrastructure we needed. We’re projecting our country into the future and looking after the well-being of our people. Even the United States has trillions of dollars in debt to China, you know,” Youssouf said.
The most significant investment China has made in Djibouti is Doraleh Port, Africa’s biggest and deepest. As with Internet through the data center, a full 90 percent of landlocked Ethiopia’s imports now transit Djibouti, giving the minuscule country, with a population of less than a million, leverage over its gigantic, 100-million-strong neighbor.