Fertile land the prize that could reignite ethnic conflict in DR Congo

By admin, August 26, 2010 5:06 pm

Fertile land the prize that could reignite ethnic conflict in DR Congo

Land remains the greatest prize in North Kivu as residents grow uneasy over the return of the Congolese Tutsis from Rwanda

Young CNDP soldiers in the town of Rugare, north of Goma Young CNDP soldiers in the town of Rugare, north of Goma. Photograph: Sean SmithLeaving behind the mass of humanity that is Goma, the dirt road climbs steadily as it switchbacks through the emerald hills. Clear streams run in the valleys, and on the slopes both cows and vegetables grow fat from the lush grass and fertile soil.

For more than a decade North Kivu has been at the centre of the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebel groups’ and foreign armies’ lust for mineral riches is usually cited as one of the main causes of the war.

But high up in the vast Masisi territory on the Rwandan border, 50 miles and several hours’ drive north-west of Goma, the riches are not under the ground. It is the land itself that is the greatest prize.

And now – after a reduction in open conflict, if not civilian suffering – tensions over land have again risen so high that local government officials and rebel groups say they could spark a new round of ethnic conflict.

The friction stems from the planned homecoming of 54,000 Congolese Tutsis, a minority group in eastern Congo, who have been living in camps across the border in Rwanda since the mid-1990s. The repatriation was agreed by the two countries and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) earlier this year.

Aid groups questioned the decision, since military operations against rebels are continuing in North Kivu, and nearly 800,000 people remain internally displaced there. But for many local residents, who have been deeply mistrustful of Rwanda’s Tutsi-led government since it first sent its army across the border in the late 1990s, the fears are not for the refugees’ welfare, but their own.

They believe the refugee numbers have been vastly – and deliberately – exaggerated by Rwanda in an attempt to grab their land and to consolidate the local rule of the CNDP, a powerful Tutsi-dominated rebel group turned political party that controls more of North Kivu than the government.

The fears among ethnic groups such as the Hunde, Nande, Hutu and Nyanga are so strong that some civilians and militias “are arming themselves for when the Tutsis return to try to take their land”, according to one senior government official in Masisi territory.

Meanwhile, the CNDP and Rwanda say the overall refugee figure is well over 100,000 when Congolese Tutsis living outside the camps are taken into account, adding to the confused – and highly combustible – situation.

“I can tell you for sure that if these returns happen now there will be catastrophe,” said Jason Luneno, president of the civil society of North Kivu. “People say they will protect their land until the last drop of blood is spilled.”

The Congolese Tutsis trace their history in North Kivu to before independence from Belgium in the 1960s, when their forebears crossed from Rwanda to escape famine and ethnic clashes, and adopted a new nationality.

But in 1994 the arrival in Congo of fleeing Hutu killers, who had tried to wipe out Rwanda’s Tutsi population, caused many Congolese Tutsis to seek sanctuary back across the border when Paul Kagame’s Tutsi rebel army had taken power and promised safety.

Since then, much of eastern Congo has been in crisis. The Hutu militiamen created a feared rebel group called the FDLR (Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda), which remains the major obstacle to stability in North Kivu.

In time, with backing from Rwanda, the CNDP emerged as a powerful – and wealthy – counterforce, with the stated aim of protecting local Tutsis.

Taxes and control of the illegal charcoal trade yielded – and continue to yield – millions of dollars a year, much of it channelled to powerful Rwandan political and army figures. The same elite also imported many of the cattle – or “vaches sans frontières” as locals describe them – that graze the pastures in Masisi.

Following a peace agreement with the Congolese government, CNDP forces were integrated into the Congolese national army last year. But they retained their command structures, and the party continues to run lucrative parallel administrations across much of North Kivu. Together with the Rwandan government, which claims there are tens of thousands more Congolese Tutsis living outside the camps in Rwanda, the party is leading the push for the refugees’ return.

“The CNDP is following this closely: nothing should prevent our brothers from coming home,” said Rutagarama Ntavutse, leader of the Tutsi community in North Kivu. “The refugees were cow farmers before they left, and had a lot of land. But now people have taken that land. That’s why they don’t want them back.”

But leaders of non-Rwandophone communities in North Kivu tell a different story. Alexis Tussi, chief of the Osso district in Masisi, said many of the refugees who left his area in the 1990s had sold their farms beforehand, so they had no right to the land on their return.

He also claimed that the 54,000 figure used by UNHCR was impossibly high, based on the number of people that fled at the time.

Biiri Ngulu, the king of the Biiri district, further up the road, said that unknown people had recently arrived in his district from Rwanda, claiming to be Congolese refugees, yet they could not speak the local language and did not know the geography. Separate reports from the US-based Refugees International and Enough group earlier this year also mentioned cases of Rwandans falsely claiming to be returning Congolese – a phenomenon that has further raised suspicions among local people.

“War in Masisi always runs around land,” Ngulu said. “So this can create another war.”

During a heated meeting in Goma in July, designed to ease tensions, Rwandan, Congolese and UNHCR officials agreed that traditional leaders from North Kivu would be allowed to travel to the Rwandan camps to verify the refugees’ claims of Congolese nationality.

Salif Kagni, the UNHCR’s co-ordinator in eastern Congo, said that when repatriation did occur, it would be voluntary, and would take place only in areas that were considered safe.

But many wonder where is safe. This week reports emerged of a mass rape and assault against 150 women and children in a town in Walikale, where the FDLR is strong. The ongoing Operation Amani Leo (meaning Peace Today) by the Congolese army, backed by the UN, has succeeded in driving the Hutu rebels away from some of the more populated areas in most other parts of North Kivu.

But in numerous villages in Masisi territory, displaced people said they are still too afraid to go back to their homes.

In her hilltop office in Masisi town, territory administrator Marie-Claire Bangwene Mwavita said the area was still far from secure. The FDLR rebels were less than five miles away. Mai Mai rebel groups – community-based militias – were also a threat, as their integration into the national army had failed, she said.

Indeed, Didier Bitaki, spokesman for all the Mai Mai groups in Congo, warned that a formal repatriation of people from Rwanda would be extremely provocative – and dangerous. “These people [the refugees in Rwanda] are not Congolese. When they lived here they claimed they were Rwandan. Now they want to come back. Repatriation is impossible.”

One area where the refugees might feel safe is the CNDP stronghold of Kitchanga, several hours’ drive from Masisi. Government soldiers – mainly former CNDP rebels – man a roadblock at the town entrance. Others stroll around town with AK-47s and grenade launchers. Many of the non-Tutsi residents look on warily. The soldiers take food from farmers’ fields, and force locals to carry heavy loads for them, according to residents. Now, many fear they will to lose their land if the refugees return with the CNDP’s blessing.

“The soldiers even broke my window to frighten me,” said Etienne Mabudnana, a district chief based in the town, pointing to a shattered pane. “If a chief can be frightened, what about the population?”

Leaked UN report accuses Rwanda of possible genocide in Congo

By admin, August 26, 2010 4:59 pm

Unprecedented investigation by human rights commissioner says Hutu deaths ‘cannot be put down to margins of war’

Hutu refugees at UN’s Goma camp The UN’s Goma camp in 1994. The Rwandan army attacked the camp, which was full of Hutu refugees, forcing hundreds of thousands deeper into Zaire. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/CorbisThe United Nations has accused Rwanda of wholesale war crimes, including possibly genocide, during years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An unprecedented 600-page investigation by the UN high commissioner for human rights catalogues years of murder, rape and looting in a conflict in which hundreds of thousands were slaughtered.

A draft version of the report, revealed by Le Monde and expected to be published next month, says the abuses, over a period of seven years and two invasions by Rwanda, amount to “crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even genocide” because the principal targets of the violence were Hutus, who were killed in their tens of thousands.

Among the accusations is that Rwandan forces and local allies rounded up hundreds of men, women and children at a time and butchered them with hoes and axes. On other occasions Hutu refugees were bayoneted, burned alive or killed with hammer blows in large numbers.

It is the first time the UN has published such forthright allegations against Rwanda, a close ally of Britain and the US.

The Rwandan government reacted angrily to the report today, dismissing it as “amateurish” and “outrageous” after reportedly attempting to pressure the UN not to publish it by threatening to pull out of international peacekeeping missions. Rwanda’s Tutsi leaders will be particularly discomforted by the accusation of genocide when they have long claimed the moral high ground for bringing to an end the 1994 genocide in their own country. But the report was welcomed by human rights groups, which called for the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes.

The report covers two periods: Rwanda’s 1996 invasion of the country then called Zaire in pursuit of Hutu soldiers and others who fled there after carrying out the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis, and a second invasion two years later that broadened into a regional war involving eight countries.

Rwanda’s attack on Zaire in 1996 was initially aimed at clearing the vast UN refugee camps around Goma and Bukavu, which were being used as cover by Hutu armed forces to continue the war against the new Tutsi-led government in Kigali.

Hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million Hutus in eastern Zaire were forced back to Rwanda. Many more, including men who carried out the genocide but also large numbers of women and children, fled deeper into Zaire. They were pursued and attacked by the Rwandan army and a Zairean rebel group sponsored by Kigali, the AFDL.

The UN report describes “the systematic, methodical and premeditated nature of the attacks on the Hutus [which] took place in all areas where the refugees had been tracked down”.

“The pursuit lasted months and, occasionally, humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, notably in the eastern province, thus depriving them of things essential to their survival,” the report said.

“The extent of the crimes and the large number of victims, probably in the several tens of thousands, are demonstrated by the numerous incidents detailed in the report. The extensive use of non-firearms, particularly hammers, and the systematic massacres of survivors after camps were taken prove that the number of deaths cannot be put down to the margins of war. Among the victims were mostly children, women, old and ill people.”

The report goes on to say that “the systematic and widespread attacks have a number of damning elements which, if proved before a competent court, could be described as crimes of genocide”.

The UN also adds that while Kigali has permitted Hutus to return to Rwanda in large numbers, that did not “rule out the intention of destroying part of an ethnic group as such and thus committing a crime of genocide”.

The Zairean army collapsed in the face of the invasion and Rwanda seized the opportunity to march across the country and overthrow the longstanding dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Laurent Kabila was installed as president. He promptly changed the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Rwanda invaded again in 1998 after accusing the new regime of continuing to support Hutu rebels. The following five years of war drew in armies from eight nations as well as 21 rebel groups in a conflict that quickly descended in to mass plunder of the DRC’s minerals as well as a new wave of war crimes.

The UN report accuses Angolan forces of using the cover of the war to attack refugees from Angola’s conflict-plagued Cabinda province who had fled to the DRC. Angola is accused of “executing all those they suspected of colluding with their enemies”. Angolan soldiers also raped and looted, the UN investigation said.

International human rights groups welcomed the UN report and said it should be used to bring the accused to trial. “This is a very important report,” said Human Rights Watch. “We hope that it can form the basis for ending the impunity that has protected the people responsible for some of these crimes.”

The UN’s damning conclusions will prove hugely embarrassing to Rwanda, which is attempting to project itself as a rapidly modernising state that has put its brutal recent history behind it.

President Paul Kagame’s office attempted to dismiss the report. “It’s an amateurish NGO job, and it’s outrageous,” said a spokeswoman, Yolande Makolo. “Nobody reasonable believes that it’s helpful to anybody. The countries mentioned in the draft report have rejected it and will continue to reject it.”

Makolo did not comment on reports that Kagame last month warned the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that Rwanda would pull its troops out of peacekeeping missions in Darfur and elsewhere if the report was made public. Le Monde said that threat was reiterated in a letter to Ban by Rwanda’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, said the leaked draft was not the final version and the report to be published next month had undergone revisions.

“It’s only a draft from about two months ago and the proper final version will come up very soon,” he said.

But if there are substantial differences, the UN is likely to stand accused of bowing to pressure from Rwanda.

Atrocities detailed in the UNHCR document seen by Le Monde

Kinigi, 7 December 1996 “Elements from the AFDL/APR killed nearly 310 civilians, many of them women and children. The troops had accused the local population, mostly Hutu, of sheltering Interahamwe [Hutu paramilitaries, who] had already left the village. At first the troops sought to reassure the civilians [whom they gathered together] in several buildings, including the adventist church and the primary school. In the afternoon, troops entered these buildings and killed the villagers with hoes or axes to the head.”

Luberizi, 29 October 1996 “Elements from the AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundi's armed forces] killed around 200 male refugees. The victims were part of a group of refugees told by the troops to regroup so that they could be repatriated to Rwanda. The troops separated the men from the rest of the group and killed them with bayonets or bullets. The bodies were then buried in mass graves [near to] the church.”

Bwegera, 3 November 1996 “They burned alive 72 Rwandan refugees in Cotonco (cotton company) headquarters, one kilometre from the village.”

Mutiko, December 1996 “Special units from the AFDL/APR started to hunt down refugees, killing several hundred. Once they had been intercepted at barriers put up by the troops, the victims were given food and told to get into UN lorries waiting at the exit of the village. The victims were then taken out on to the road, then killed with blows to the head with canes, hammers and axes. The troops encouraged the local population to take part in the killings.”

Labour needs to step up on employment equity

By admin, August 26, 2010 4:02 pm


Posted by Editor on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 in

Ajamu Nangwaya


There are two issues that are not really grounded in the current public discussion on the Conservative government’s proposed review of employment equity in the national civil service. The two matters are the question of race and structural racism and the role of labour unions and the collective bargaining process.

I hope that there will be no delusion that race and the privileging of Whiteness are at the heart of the federal Conservatives’ attack on employment equity. Minister Jason Kenney singled out “race and ethnicity” as the basis for his support of the re-examination of employment equity.

It is quite instructive that he would have taken this position given the fact that racialized workers are the only ones among the designated groups that are underrepresented in the federal public service. Isn’t this review a move to keep racialized workers at the back of the bus and place them in the unenviable position of looking up from the bottom of the well?

Statistics Canada has projected that racialized people will make up between 29 per cent and 32 per cent of the national population by 2031. The entrenching of discriminatory barriers in the labour market flies in the face of the increasing presence of racialized workers in the labour force.

The labour movement needs to step up and become a vocal, principled and willing advocate for employment equity throughout the workplaces of this country. Labour cannot claim that it is the voice of the working class, but demonstrate through action that it will not boldly and fearlessly work at eliminating racist and other employment barriers in the labour market.

Organized labour must do two things. It must ensure that its own workforce is representative of the society in which it operates. Labour unions should be ashamed of the job that they are doing in removing barriers for racialized workers within its staff.

Trade unions must negotiate full-fledged employment equity plans into the collective agreement with targets and timelines on hiring, training and development, promotion and retention rates. It is quite clear that a vague, progressive-sounding clause on employment equity is just a way for unions and the employers to not do anything once the contract has been signed. An employment equity plan in the legal document (employment contract) provides a mechanism to hold the union and the employer accountable. There should also be language on the commitment of resources and accountability measures with respect to the managers to ensure the success of the program.

Ajamu Nangwaya is a trade unionist with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto.

Basil Davidson’s soul cannot rest in peace

By admin, August 26, 2010 3:57 pm



Thursday, August 26, 2010

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After 95 years, the last of which were spent in the fog of unknowing, this great but simple man died in July. He trekked through the jungles with Mondlane, Machel, Cabral and Neto, and now he has joined them in that immortality of the spirit created for those who rebelled, who said no to tyranny and oppression. Before his African odyssey he had evaded Nazi storm troopers hunting Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia.

As a son of the privileged, a European whose forebears were members of the imperial navy, he could have become a member of the aggressors who benefited from the labour of masses oppressed by colonial Europeans. But in a rejection, later described by Cabral as “committing class suicide”, Davidson gave up a future assured him by his membership in the ruling class, and joined his fate to that of the oppressed.

In this he was following in a long line of “rebels’”who believed that the future belonged to those whose prospects had been blighted by the nihilism of their ancestors – Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, Chou, Gandhi, Nehru. Later Garvey, Du Bois, Castro, Guevara, Mandela, Nkrumah, Fanon, Mondlane, Neto, Cabral and Machel joined the ranks of those who preferred the terror, risks, uncertainties and loneliness of rebellion to the comforting illusions of the certainties of the predators.

Literature on freedom fighters was rare, and Basil Davidson’s works were a welcome contribution to understanding why it was the children of the oppressed, offered the opportunity to join the party of their parents’ oppressors, had turned to lead rebellions. In the Caribbean it had been slaves, given rare benefits in the system, such as Toussaint, Sharpe, Bogle and Nanny, who had sacrificed themselves for their comrades who remained in shackles.

In the mid-1970s when the Angolan war against Western imperialism was at its height, I received a warm letter from Davidson, congratulating me for an article I had written in The New Nigerian. Davidson was in Kano working on the great series on African civilisation he was making for British television. I was impressed because at the time he was someone who had been in the struggle for decades, and had acquired fame even among his enemies, and I was an obscure young lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University.

When I was abducted and expelled from Nigeria by Ibrahim Babangida in 1988, I received a sympathetic note from Davidson, while many of my “comrades” in Nigeria were oiling the nether regions of the “Maradona of the Niger” with fulsome praises. Davidson kept in touch, until he was struck down by Alzheimer’s, never afraid to stand up and be counted among those who defended principles and fought against corruption and barbarism.

As many of my former students who have remained faithful to these principles, and some who have not, will remember, Davidson’s books were required reading for those who wanted to understand the dynamics of neo-colonialism and decolonisation. If they had continued to follow the path of his thinking, they would not now preside over a country noted for poverty, disorder, kidnapping and advanced-fee fraud.

Without Davidson’s works it is unlikely that the world would have become acquainted with the lives and struggles of men in the obscure colonies of the most backward and dictatorial of European colonial powers. Western imperialism regarded these Portuguese colonies, Namibia, and apartheid South Africa as part of its “sphere of influence”, which had to be protected from communism by armies, air forces and navies. Portugal was a member of NATO, and its troops were equipped by factories in the USA, Britain, France and Belgium.

Apartheid and colonialism were sanctified as part of the West’s “civilising mission”, and freedom fighters were defined as “terrorists” , “dupes of communism”, and “rebels” against democracy, who deserved to be exterminated. Davidson’s works helped to transform this dominant perspective of imperialism, which glorified the assassination of Lumumba, Mondlane and Cabral as victories against communism, and would have justified the massacres of Sharpeville and Luanda as necessities for imposing order.

For those who still have copies of Davidson’s works, and the works of Fanon, Cabral, Guevara and others, it would be useful to look again on their analyses of why the people fought, and made the necessary sacrifices against an imperialism which condemned them and their children to perpetual slavery. The people fought not for ideas which existed in the heads of individuals, but to improve the conditions of their lives.

The people in the slums of “independent” countries did not fight to destroy British, French, or Portuguese oppression, to replace European masters with African ones. In a sense, Davidson was lucky to have spent the last years of his life unable to see what had become of the countries he helped to “liberate”. The slum dwellers of Luanda and the victims of narco-dictators in Guinea (Bissau) cannot appreciate the anti-colonial rhetoric which was used to mobilise them in the struggle. Basil Davidson’s soul cannot rest in peace when he surveys the mass suffering which persists amidst shameful, European-style excess.

Patrick Wilmot, who is based in London, is a writer and commentator on African affairs for the BBC, Sky News, Al-Jazeera and CNN. He’s a visiting professor at Ahmadu Bello and Jos universities in Nigeria.

Caribana, exploitation and disrespect of a cultural resource

By admin, August 9, 2010 2:00 am
Posted by Editor on Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 in


Ajamu NangwayaAjamu Nangwaya

While the April 2010 news of the $438 million economic impact of Caribana is worthy of celebration and all the media attention that it has generated, I hope that as Canadians we will open our eyes to the monumental failure of government funding of this phenomenal cultural festival. An Ipsos Reid Economic Impact Study clearly established that Caribana is the most lucrative festival in all of Canada. Yet the Calgary Stampede which attracts millions of dollars in annual government funding is touted as the largest “Canadian” festival with its $173 million economic impact over 10 days.
It is estimated that Ontario’s cultural institutions bring in a yearly income of $4.5 billion, while attracting 3 million patrons. About 1.2 million people participated in the 2009 edition of Caribana and over 300,000 of these revelers came from abroad. It ought to be clear that dollar-for-dollar, Caribana’s economic performance leaves its more favoured cultural competitors in the dust.
In April 2009, the Government of Ontario announced $43 million in funding to six cultural organizations that were reflective of Anglo-Canadian cultural dominance. The Arts Gallery of Ontario received a $10 million operational grant and an additional one-off gift of $8.6 million. The Royal Ontario Museum received an operational grant of $9 million and a one-time funding support of $7.2 million.

Yet, in April 2010, it was announced that the Ontario Liberal government will give its Cinderella of a cash cow, Caribana, an insulting grant of $484,000. In 2009, the provincial government in Alberta gave a $10 million operating grant to the Calgary Stampede, which sent a bold message of the festival’s status as a part of that province’s cultural infrastructure.

The City of Toronto will be offering a grant of about $500,000. Last year the federal government ponied up $415,000, but got back over $108 million in tax receipts from this cultural golden goose. Yet this same federal government gave $5 million to the Calgary Stampede from its Western Economic Diversification funds. This allotment of resources to this Western festival was in addition to $1,819,234 from the Marquee Tourism Events Program.
In my judgment, the miserly level of funding from the City of Toronto, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada and the business sector has much to do with the perception of Caribana as a cultural outsider – the multicultural ‘Other’. Further, the people who are the driving force behind the festival are themselves culturally peripheral to the Canadian cultural-cum-political project.
If the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Botanical Gardens and Ontario Heritage Trust could received grant funding of between $2.5 -$3 millions in April 2009, certainly Caribana with its huge cultural, social and economic footprint doesn’t merit being treated like the “black sheep” of the artistic family.
African and Caribbean peoples, the creators of the Caribana festival, are minor economic beneficiaries. But their countless volunteer hours are indispensable to the enormous income that goes into the Canadian economy. It is high time that Caribana be given millions of dollars in annual operational and project funding so as to enable it to operate as a year-round cultural institution.
Further, this festival should contribute to the economic and social vitality of the African and Caribbean community. It is high time for Caribana to not be treated as an economic resource that is exploited for the benefit of the corporate interests and the government. The three levels of government and large corporate sponsors have a neo-colonial relationship or a system of indirect rule with Caribana through the Festival Management Committee (smacks of British colonialism in Africa).

In 2006, the City of Toronto threatened to defund Caribana. It made this move, because of concerns about how the festival was being managed by the Caribbean Cultural Committee. This community-based group was pushed to the sidelines and the Festival Management Committee was elevated to the status of organizer-in-chief. The city’s action sent a clear message about who had de facto control and “ownership” of this summer cultural extravaganza. That act of brinksmanship by the city and other funders affirmed the notion that “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.
The state through its funding of the festival has an effective veto over the people from within the African and Caribbean community who are deemed fit to organize this festival. Yet, if we become better politically organized as a community and with Caribana’s economic impact, we have the ability to make this festival one that benefits its creators and be under our effective control.
The benefits should be largely channeled through community-controlled programs and institutions such as community centres, educational scholarships, museums, arts centres and initiatives that will generate employment and other opportunities. It is time for us to force the different levels of government in Canada to move beyond anti-racist and equity policy pronouncements and empty promises and live up to the ideals of equity for all. The inequitable funding of Caribana has effectively demonstrated that political hypocrisy is at work in the cultural policy of the political directorates.
Ajamu Nangwaya is a trade unionist with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). He is a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto.

This article first appeared in the publication basicsnews.ca

Haiti: Hanging with Rea Dol at the site of the future Sopudep School

By admin, August 2, 2010 12:58 pm
May 18, 2010

by Wanda Sabir


Building the wall of the new school – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Rea Dol and Dodo were at the airport with a sign with my name when I arrived. We then headed to the building site, where a wall is going up around the perimeter. [Rea is the principal of SOPUDEP School in Port au Prince, founded as part of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s National Literacy Project, and she’s building a new school to replace the one that was damaged in the earthquake.]When I left six days later, it was about a third completed. Students and family members, as well as employees, are up early at the site working. Occasionally volunteers and other important visitors like former mayors also drop by to speak to this wonderful, dynamic woman, Rea Dol.

If the last earthquake was 200 years ago, then it seems like it marked the end of slavery and the beginning of a Black nation. Does this earthquake signal something similar?

There’s no active government in Haiti. President René Préval is missing, and the people are on their own, literally, which could be a good thing, until one sees nude madmen walking down busy streets.

“What would happen if the person threatened someone’s safety?” my friend asked Thursday when we saw another nude man sauntering down the busy evening street. Just around the corner we saw a policeman. Would he have the training to handle such an incident? I can recall so many times in the San Francisco Bay Area where the mentally ill were beaten and sometimes killed because police used excessive force in responding to calls for help.

What systems are in place in Haiti to handle the obvious shock and post-traumatic behaviors victims have experienced now that family and friends are lost, homes and possessions destroyed in an earthquake of a magnitude not seen in 200 years?

The Association of Black Psychologists made a recent trip to Haiti to take emergency relief supplies, but what of the short and long term psychological assistance to help the country heal? Are such conversations taking place and who will implement the resolutions?

California has earthquakes. Japan has earthquakes, Mexico has earthquakes, but not Haiti. Not in a long time. People didn’t know what to do: run outside or stay inside? Many ran indoors, while othesr already outside and clear of any falling masonry ran indoors to their deaths.

The structural integrity of a house and the safety of those inside also depended on whether or not one’s neighbor’s house was also stable. Many people I spoke to lost family to apartment buildings or houses nearby collapsing on them.

As we drove along Delmas 33, a busy thoroughfare in heavy traffic, a man stood on a leaning building relaxed, his arms holding a collapsed roof, his legs spread, feet on the porch just below – the entire structure, caved roof and housing tumbling down the side of the hill. It looked really unstable, yet there he stood, casually observing the traffic below on the street.

Driving along, Yvon looked up and asked the rhetorical question: Doesn’t he realize what danger he’s in?

In Cap-Haïtien I met a man in a store, a friend of my new daughter, Monica, who spoke of arriving home and evacuating his wife and two daughters. Afterwards the children were afraid to be indoors. They wanted to leave the country, so when he was able, he put his family on a plane to New York. Now he is alone working and sending them money.

Abel spoke of not having any money to go anywhere, living in his car until he got money for gas to drive to Cap-Haïtien where he is now working. He gave his wife’s car to a NGO working on earthquake relief.

Yvon said he’d put his car in a shop and the garage collapsed and there went the car. Insurance?

I could see the anguish in Abel’s face as he relived those moments. He spoke of how loud noises made him jump and how he often woke up from nightmares. When asked if he’d gotten any psychotherapy, he didn’t know where he might get such help. I told him I would connect him with some people I know in New York who might be able to help.

OK, so maybe mental health is not an immediate priority, because if it was there would be systems in place with access. On the other hand, perhaps mental health is a priority, but in a situation as chaotic as a country without leadership can be, perhaps folks are just trying to stay afloat until immediate needs like housing and food and water are met.

Rea Dol at the site of the new SOPUDEP School – Photo: Wanda Sabir

My hostess, Rea Dol, has teachers who are living on the streets and in their cars since the earthquake. I was happy I could leave my tent and sleeping bag, Imodium and toilet tissue. It wasn’t a lot, my resources are limited, but every little bit certainly helps.Tuesday evening Rea and I went over to a collective consisting of nonprofit organizations like SOIL, which puts in toilets for people free of charge, and connected with Paul, a Haitian American, who brought her tents for those staff members who are homeless, along with shoes and a ball. He’d just arrived from Ft. Lauderdale that day. He spent the night with us.

I took some of the shoes the next day to Cap-Haïtien with BC or Junior, who lives with Rea’s family, Wednesday morning on the bus. BC’s from Cap-Haïtien and was excited to see his mother and brothers.

My daughter sent bubbles and Mardi Gras beads, necklaces and rings and crayons and coloring books and spinning tops and balls and tablets and pens and playing cards. The adults liked the party beads. We just wanted to take a little something to lift people’s spirits.

Considering the large amount of funds raised here in America, I expected people to have tents and support services three months after the earthquake, this Monday, April 12, 2010. How long does it take to put such systems in place?

In many neighborhoods, teams of people in yellow t-shirts sweep the streets, but to clear the debris one needs bulldozers, the kind that unconscionably are used to demolish houses in Gaza. In Haiti, though, the tractors and other heavy equipment would help people move on with their lives.

I have never lived in a place where the government supports random gunfire on citizens who do not support current leadership, but such happened in Cité Soleil in 1999 and again in 2004. It’s a community located on Haiti’s waterfront, what one might call prime property, yet there is no investment in the people before or since President Aristide. His government built a school and nearby started construction of apartment buildings which are standing. We didn’t know if they were occupied when we drove by, but they certainly did not suffer any damage.

The home of sugar plantations, the major factory was bought out a company which then closed it down and started importing the crash crop in the 1970s. At that time the company was a major anchor in the economy of the area. One can imagine the hit the community felt once it closed; also affected were the railways which transported the goods.

This reminds me of what happens throughout America when urban removal is the goal – urban removal a code word for Black removal – something that has been going on since 1865, the legal end of slavery. The only thing is, Haitians don’t leave their land or communities; they just hang on.

Cité Soleil, the infamous city – one of the largest ghettos in Haiti, with perhaps the country’s largest population in such a small geographical area – is also the place that has a love for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas movement, measurably so great, it makes the knees of the political machine quake. Target of raids where children, elderly and adults were killed, their bodies covering the sidewalks and hallways and staircases, bedrooms and homes.

The buildings looked like loofah sponges, bullet holes covering the entire surface, like pock marks. The holes were so distracting and distressing recent attempts to spruce up the neighborhood has had crews filling in the holes – I hear it looks better. Hm? But if one knows where to look, evidence of the war is still there.

It is here where infrastructure would be a good thing. However, if the political system is apathetic and ineffective, then complaining about the health and welfare of the economy and community would do nothing because the citizen’s review or complaint department is run by the very people committing the crimes.

For many Haitians it’s almost like, hm, I’ll do what I can without access to resources because I can’t wait for help, help is too unreliable, too costly – not just monetarily; it could be too time consuming – and too slow.

Rea Dol is rebuilding her school, Pastor Frank is rebuilding his school, one of 15, Regine Zamor is getting ready to open her center for street kids next week, Jean Yvon Kernizan is expanding his afterschool program from 86 to 300 served, So Anne prepares a meal for her community daily, people who are homeless and hungry.

Making do in the rubble – Photo: Wanda Sabir

I only saw one line for a food giveaway the entire week I was in Haiti. I saw a lot of people going for water at the spigot or creek a few times a day, young and old, with different size containers. Most folks didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity, but they were making do and doing very well at that.I saw huge blocks of ice, yes, for ice boxes. I’d heard of ice boxes, but hadn’t seen one before. The charcoal I’d heard about, its use for heating homes and for cooking food, and the soil erosion from cutting down the trees to make the charcoal came to mind.

There are things good government supports like public education, public safety and public health. The Haitian government is falling down on all of these things; is this the reason why former U.S. President Bill Clinton is in charge of rebuilding Haiti?

Why can’t the grassroots organizers get the funds so they can mobilize their communities and rebuild Haiti themselves? How would Clinton know what Haiti needs or wants? Give the people the money and leave them alone.

The money will create jobs and provide incentives to those without hope.

Many of the people I spoke to mentioned how President Aristide’s presence would do much to lift the spirits of his people. If people knew President Aristide were coming, Jean Ristil, Cité Soleil activist, journalist, said, they would start cleaning up the streets now.

In a large field in Cité Soleil, earthquake displaced residents are swatting on privately owned land. If there were an infrastructure in place, government could compensate the landowner, so that he wouldn’t make the temporary residents on his land feel unwelcome – dumping mounds of rocks in the middle of fields near people’s tents – aesthetically uninviting and humiliating.

Did I mention the tents? More correctly all the people donating money to “worthy causes” like the Red Cross etc. – do not think for a moment I believe the Red Cross is a worthy organization, certainly not the United Nations – should have been told that the tent is a piece of plastic held in place with sticks in all for corners. I have never seen a shanty town, but I think Cité Soleil (Kreyol: Site Solèy, English: Sun City) qualifies.

“The vast majority of residents of Cité Soleil remained loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas movement. Unlike Haiti’s unelected past governments, Lavalas governments invested money into parks, literacy programs and medical centers in Cité Soleil,” says Wikipedia.

This is a running commentary. I kept a daily journal and will post the day’s musings and photos here as well. The huge tent city is a potential disaster waiting to happen. Young girls might get accosted by predators, which has been documented by visitors.

I was heartbroken to see so many children trying to make a buck for a meal – washing cars as they waited at a traffic light. I am glad there are so many people, like Jean Ristil Jean Baptiste, 29, www.freewebs.com/koleZepol, and Rea Dol, www.sopudep.org, who care about these children, many in Cité Soleil, orphaned when the shootouts occurred and their parents were killed.

As I stood in line at Immigration once we’d landed in Ft. Lauderdale, I was talking to Sam, who was in Haiti to check on his family in Jacmel. He was telling me that he lost I think eight relatives in the quake and was looking at rebuilding the family home at minimally $40,000. I told him about Constantine Alatzas, Institute for Creative Evolution: Tools for Peace, who is working with Rea Dol in designing a sustainable structure for her new school. The key is AERBLOCK, a light weight material which is earthquake and flood or hurricane resistant used in the designs proposed by Alatzas.

As we speak, I happen to mention the people I visited this past week, one of them Jean Yvon, and Roselene in the line just ahead of me says, Jean Yvon is my cousin. I’m like wow. Well, Yvon is Rea’s friend. Both Sam and Roselene know Yvon, but not each other. I give both of them Yvon’s information as well as that of Constantine. Sam also knows Jen and the project she has with kids with cameras.

Talk about small world. As I travel the African Diaspora, I am finding my role as facilitator of collaborations clear. It happened in Haiti, it happened in Dakar and The Gambia to a lesser degree, and it always happens here. I see connections which might not be obvious and easily connect the dots between people, organizations and projects. Not everything is followed up on; the people I am joining are very busy and always short staffed. But sometimes they do … at least I hope they do. However, even if they don’t, the idea that they are not alone in the community building processes is I’m sure a boost to morale.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com for an expanded version of Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m. and archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network, at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks.

The betrayal of Haiti

By admin, August 2, 2010 11:07 am

: Ashley Smith

Conditions in Haiti are still appalling six months after the quake, reports Ashley Smith.

August 2, 2010

SIX MONTHS after Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, the promises of the world’s most powerful governments to provide billions in aid to one of the world’s poorest and weakest governments have been betrayed.

There was an immediate outpouring of solidarity after the quake struck Haiti on January 12–people from the U.S. to Palestine and beyond gave to NGOs and charities, even when they couldn’t afford much themselves.

At the end of March, the United Nations held an international conference for donors to fund the rebuilding of Haiti, where dozens of countries promised almost $10 billion over the next few years and more than $5 billion for the first 18 months of emergency reconstruction.

But the record of the world powers is a stark contrast to the generosity of their citizens. The U.S., France, Canada and the UN–not to mention a range of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with connections in high places–have done next to nothing to provide alternative shelter to refugees. They have failed to remove the rubble, let alone begin reconstruction, and they reneged on their pledges to deliver aid.

Instead, Haiti’s earthquake is being used as an excuse to ratchet up a neoliberal economic plan for the country and to bolster the now 6-year-old UN occupation to repress any resistance.

Meanwhile, the situation in Haiti remains dire. The earthquake killed some 300,000 people, including an estimated one-quarter of government workers. It destroyed countless houses, leaving 1.5 million people homeless, and it collapsed the National Palace and wrecked a majority of other government buildings. Overall, the Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the quake caused between $8 billion and $13 billion in damage.

Six months later, those 1.5 million people are still homeless, struggling to survive in 1,300 refugee camps. Astonishingly, 232,000 of these homeless are still without tents or tarps, according to reports. Only one-quarter of the camps are managed by the either the Haitian government or aid organizations.

According to the Montreal Gazette’s grim account [1], Port-au-Prince:

still looks like a war zone…The camps erected by hundreds of thousand of Haitians in the hours after their lives were shattered are becoming permanent slums.

Late afternoon torrential rains soak belongings and leave lake-size puddles in which mosquitoes breed, then spread malaria. Deep, raspy coughs can be heard everywhere. Scabies and other infections transform children’s soft skin into irritating red bumpy rashes. Bellies are swelling and hair turning orange from malnutrition. Vomiting and diarrhea are as common as flies.

While injuries from the quake have healed into scars, there are countless accidents from the chaotic living conditions–toddlers falling into vats of boiling rice or beans, people breaking limbs on chunks of concrete and wire, entire families poisoned by carbon monoxide as they cook in their tents. Around the city, the stench of rotting bodies has been replaced by the stench of rotting piles of garbage.

Neither governments, international institutions nor NGOs have made a dent in constructing alternatives to these camps. Indeed, the one major alternative camp that has been established exposes how the Haitian elite is exploiting the crisis for profit.

The Haitian government, in cooperation with the U.S. military, began construction in Corail Cesselesse, nearly 15 miles from Port-au-Prince with the aim of building a new city of 300,000. It appointed Gerard Emile “Aby” Brun, the president of Nabatec Development, to oversee the transfer of some 7,000 people from a squatter camp on the Petionville Golf Course to the new location.

According to the Associated Press’ Jonathan Katz, Brun “is also a lead negotiator with South Korean garment firms to build factories that Haitian officials say will likely go into Corail Cesselesse. The camp he set up is a potential source of workers for those factories, which can take advantage of generous U.S. import laws for Haitian-assembled textiles.”

However, the camp is located on a flood plain with no vegetation to provide shelter from the scorching sun or the torrential storms of hurricane season. An Oxfam worker told the New York Times that the plan for Corail Cesselesse “does not represent clear strategic thinking on the part of the government. It’s like Sudan. There’s not a tree in sight. And people feel marooned. They are having issues finding income-generating activities, and soon, they are going to have trouble feeding themselves.”

Meanwhile, in Port-au-Prince and its surrounding towns, despite the promises, ruined houses, hospitals and buildings remain as they were the day after the earthquake.

So far, only 5 percent of the estimated 26 million cubic yards of rubble from the earthquake has been removed. The New York Times reports that “experts say it would take a thousand trucks three to five years to clear away the wreckage, though fewer than 300 trucks are hauling now.” Donor countries, NGOs and the Haitian government have only managed to build 5,500 hurricane-proof shelters.

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LEADING FIGURES in the relief effort–like Bill Clinton, co-chair of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC)–claim that the failed promises of reconstruction are the result of the enormity of the disaster and the international economic crisis that depleted resources available for Haiti.

But these are excuses. If Haiti were a priority, the great powers would find the money. Since it isn’t, they have only promised the paltry sum of $10 billion. Compare that to the amount the U.S. spends on its real priorities–for example, the Pentagon, which is $663 billion for 2010. And the scale of the disaster, rather than being an excuse for inaction, should be the reason for a massive mobilization of resources for reconstruction.

Rather than step up the relief effort, donor countries–with the help of the Western media–are scapegoating the Haitian government to deflect attention for how little they’ve done.

For example, they blame Haitian President René Préval for failing to overcome problems with land tenure and to secure plots for new housing. But most of the big landowners are allies of the U.S. Thus, the U.S. government is in a better position than the powerless Préval administration to compel landowners to donate for new construction.

This isn’t to leave Préval off the hook. He has been a pathetic figure, disappearing in the wake of the earthquake and, despite grumblings about violations of sovereignty, providing Haitian cover for imperial betrayal.

For example, on the July 12 six-month anniversary of the quake, while the capital city sat in ruins–and its people in vast new tent slums–Préval gave out medals to honor representatives from countries and NGOs that have done so little to rebuild Port-au-Prince.

But to blame Préval as the primary reason for the dysfunctional condition of the Haitian state is absurd. The U.S., France and Canada as well as the UN are directly responsible for undermining the capacity of the Haitian state to coordinate reconstruction, let alone future development of the country.

The betrayal of Haiti began centuries ago. After Haiti’s successful slave revolution won independence from France in 1804, European powers undermined every attempt by the country to chart an independent course of development in the interests of its people. Famously, France demanded that Haiti pay–in today’s dollars–$21 billion in reparations for the French slavemasters’ loss of their property–that is, their slaves.

Since the 1980s, the U.S. has imposed neoliberal policies–what Haitians have called the “Plan of Death”–that compromised the state’s ability to run the economy. For example, the U.S. compelled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his then-ally Préval to privatize state-owned companies and cut tariffs on rice imports. These policies increased unemployment among urban workers and undercut Haitian rice production to the extent that the country today is dependent on subsidized American rice. As a result, per capita income has fallen by one-fifth–from $600 in 1980 to $480 today.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and its international allies collaborated in neutering every attempt to use the Haitian state to improve the conditions of impoverished peasants and the urban poor. For example, Aristide was forced out of his elected position as president twice by coups in 1991 and 2004–to prevent social reform in the interests of Haitian peasants, workers and the poor.

Since the second coup, the Haitian state has not been in control of the country in any way. The U.S., other imperial powers, and international financial institutions are running Haiti’s economy, and the UN, through its misnamed United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), has occupied the country since 2004, ruling it in traditional neocolonial fashion.

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NOW THESE powers need a scapegoat because, after all the fanfare that accompanied the donor conferences, they have failed to deliver.

Only Brazil, Norway, Estonia and Australia have submitted all their promised donations to the IHRC. The Washington Post reported that donors have only supplied 2 percent of the $5.3 billion promised for the critical first 18 months of emergency reconstruction. According to the UN Human Development Program, the IHRC itself has only dispensed $506 million–only 9 percent of the funds budgeted for 2010 through mid-2011.

The U.S. has played a central role in obstructing aid to Haiti. The Senate held up the U.S. contribution of $2.8 billion, with Republican Sen. Richard Lugar playing a key role in blocking this aid package. Lugar insists that until Préval can ensure free and fair elections–translation, ones that pro-U.S. candidates are sure to win–and reduce barriers to private investment, the U.S. should not release its full contribution to the IHRC.

As a result of such maneuvers, the IHRC has only $90 million in its coffers. No one should be holding their breath until more arrives. The world’s main governments have a dismal track record on fulfilling humanitarian promises for Haiti. A previous UN donor conference for Haiti in April 2009 got pledges of $400 million, but only 15 percent of the funds ever materialized.

What money has been spent by the IHRC shows that the world’s most powerful government care more about padding the pockets of their own corporations. Beverly Bell of the Institute for Policy Studies found that huge sums of money have:

gone right back to donor nations, as with the $0.40 on every U.S. government aid dollar that paid for the U.S. military presence in Haiti for, at least, the first two months after the quake. Untold dollars go to U.S. firms, like the agribusiness corporations, whose surplus rice is being purchased by USAID to deliver as aid…

There are the fees paid to a small army of consultants working for foreign governments and international agencies…Then there is graft, corruption and poor planning, all of which further redirects aid dollars away from desperate earthquake survivors.

The UN has also failed Haiti through the crisis. UN officials live apart from the Haitian masses in relative luxury. In a revealing public relations disaster, the UN spent $10 million to rent two cruise ships, the Ola Esmeralda and the Sea Voyager–dubbed the “Love Boat” by UN staff–to house officials from the World Food Program and MINUSTAH.

Edmond Mulet, the former Guatemalan diplomat who heads the UN mission, told reporters that the ships are a reward for the UN staff’s hard work. “It is the least we could do for them,” he said. “They are working 14, 16 hours a day. The place was pulverized. Living conditions are really appalling.”

Richard Morse, the Haitian American musician and owner of Port-au-Prince’s Hotel Oloffson, captured the message that the UN is sending in a statement to reporters:

If the UN is living on a cruise ship, it is a perfect metaphor for how they are viewed in the country. If they think that quake refugees should be living on cruise ships, then they should get cruise ships for the Haitian people, that’s all I’m saying. Unless, of course, I’m misinterpreting this, and they really are better than the Haitians.

MINUSTAH, meanwhile, has been occupying the country since 2004, with forces drawn from Brazil and several other countries, including Israel. Between them, Mulet, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Brazilian Gen. Luiz Guilherme Paul Cruz have increased the UN occupation force to 8,940 soldiers and 4,391 police officers.

The UN occupation costs more than $51 million per month. UN troops don’t speak Haitian Creole. In concert with the U.S.-trained Haitian police, they patrol poor neighborhoods, seizing political prisoners and repressing dissent.

Just as they did in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, foreign governments and the media have played up the threat of violent crime in the refugee camps to justify the increased troop presence. Instances of rape and sexual violence against women are undoubtedly a real problem. But neither the UN nor the Haitian police are capable of solving them.

In fact, a variety of human rights investigations have documented human rights violations by both the Haitian police and MINUSTAH forces. As recently as 2007, MINUSTAH expelled 114 Sri Lankan soldiers after allegations of rape and child abuse. In the current crisis, Haitian women have complained that UN soldiers and police have demanded sex in exchange for food and aid.

To really address the causes of violence and rape in the camps, the international powers would have to address the horrific living conditions in the camps–the very thing they have avoided. Spending $51 million a month on soldiers and cops will only increase violence–the violence of repressive forces used against desperate poor people, especially when they protest their deteriorating conditions.

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IN JUNE, protests swept Haiti in opposition to the MINUSTAH occupation and the Préval administration. Graffiti spray-painted on the ruins of Port-au-Prince denounces the UN, the U.S., NGOs and Préval.

Many of the protests and much of the graffiti calls for the return of Aristide. They also object to Preval’s handpicked electoral commission, which is expected to ban the most popular political party in the country, Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas, and thereby rig the election scheduled for November 28.

MINUSTAH officials have made it clear that their main worry is the growing resistance, and their soldiers have attacked demonstrations. For example, on May 23, UN soldiers went on a rampage in the massive refugee camp opposite National Palace, firing tear gas and rubber bullets for hours. On the same day, MINUSTAH soldiers stormed the University of Haiti, firing more tear gas and rubber bullets into a student protest.

The hope for Haiti lies in this renewed resistance to colonial occupation. Only resistance can compel international forces to deliver on promised aid–and make sure that aid serves the interests of the Haitian peasants, workers and urban poor. As Jacqueline Cherilus, a 22-year-old medical student at Université Lumière, told a reporter:

Americans and everyone who’ve sent tents: We’re tired of that stuff, those same tents and tarps. We need construction. You see how strong the rains are becoming? Tents can’t resist that rain. How long can we live in tents and tarps. You can’t live for two or three years under a tarp. We need houses. We’re going to have hurricanes soon and flooding.

The aid is poorly organized and poorly divided. There are lots of people who don’t receive anything. To have real aid, we need social change.”

Outside of Haiti, activists must stand in solidarity with the emerging protest movement against the occupation and for development in the interests of Haitian peasants, workers and urban poor.

We must make several demands. First of all, we should support Haiti’s right to self-determination. Haitians and their government should be in control of the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince and the rest of the country, not the imperial powers, their corporations, the UN and the NGOs.

We should call for the promised aid to be immediately released to the Haitian state so that it can improve its capacity to deliver housing, health care and education. We must also call for an end to the UN occupation of Haiti and for an end to its ban on the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Moreover, Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular political force in the country, must be allowed to participate in upcoming elections.

On top of the pittance of aid, they have promised, the U.S., France and Canada should pay reparations for the damage they have done to Haiti. France can begin with repaying $21 billion it extorted from the country when it won independence.

Only when Haitians are allowed to determine their own destinies in economics and politics will Haiti be able to develop in the interests of its people.

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  1. [1] http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/money/Haiti+camps+despair/3230461/story.html
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Solving Caribana’s funding crisis

By admin, August 1, 2010 1:44 am
Back to Solving Caribana’s funding crisis

Solving Caribana’s funding crisis

July 29, 2010

{{GA_Article.Images.Alttext$}}Caribana dancers downtown.


Re: Caribana a victim of cultural racism? Letter July 26

A letter last Friday suggested that security measures at Caribana are disrespectful to West Indians. On Monday someone suggested that reduced federal funding for Caribana is cultural racism.

We need a debate on multiculturalism and what it means. Canada stands for the equitable treatment of all citizens. But there is and has been a Canadian culture with a set of values that predates the entry of various waves of immigrants. One presumes that those values were part of the attraction of this great nation.

Multiculturalism was never intended to mean that all cultures are equable within Canada. If the values of the incoming culture are at odds with the Canadian culture, it seems to me that it is incumbent upon the newcomer to make some adjustments.

Caribana is a wonderful party but it has been a fiscal disaster. The parade has taken too long to complete because parade watchers wander into the fray and impede movement of the floats. This ties up the roads for far too long and disrupts the lives of other citizens.

We deal with this by putting up security fences. There is nothing evident in that that smacks of racism and I am tired of that card being played at every turn.

George Adams, Haliburton

Ajamu Nangwaya wrote a provocative letter about the discriminatory treatment in funding accorded to Caribana by the feds. It is outrageous how we have been marginalized despite contributing $440 million to the economy each year. Today the Star supported him in a large editorial. More power to HIM.

We should immediately organize a delegation — after the Caribana festivities end or when Parliament returns — to go to Ottawa as a group to confront officials responsible for dishing out funds. We should also request at meeting with the Prime Minister.

We should contemplate filing a simple civil claim against the feds for discrimination, using either the Canadian Human Rights Act or Ontario Human Rights Act or the Charter Section 15 in Superior Court. Victory may not be expected but a message will be sent and heard. A demonstration along Yonge St. or Parliament Hill could also send a message.

Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, Barrister and Solicitor, Toronto

My goodness, contributor Ajamu Nangwaya “cannot see any rational reason for the difference in funding” between Caribana and “white” festivals? Perhaps he should review the many reports dealing with financial irregularities, lack of oversight, unpaid bills, and shoddy accounting, which have tarnished the integrity of various Caribana organizers and groups over the years. I don’t recall reading of similar problems with the other committees and boards cited by your leader. Perhaps it isn’t always about race.

Randall Bell, Whitby

Caribana is not only the most colourful parade in Canada, but probably the most colourful in the world. Tourists pour into Toronto from all over Canada, the U.S. and even Europe to join in the fun and spend millions of dollars.

Here’s what they all come to see:

The streets ablaze with the

costumed throng

swaying like palm trees to and fro

sunny smiles from the sunny isles

bringing a tropical touch to old TO

the city explodes in music and song

when the carnival-of-joy

dons its sparkling crown

spreading joi-de-vivre far and wide

when Caribana comes to town.

William Bedford, Toronto

I have been in this country for 33 years and am aware of the continuous issues around funding for Caribana. Canada and Toronto give lip service to multiculturalism as long as we sing and dance on the cheap, but the politicians only echo the mindset of the masses who are still fearful when too many African people gather in one place. This is disrespectful to the notion of integrity, truth and honesty — something we smugly accuse the U.S. of doing.

Perhaps it would help if the Caribana group cut out the damn infighting, ensured that transparency, accountability and fairness are practiced and presented a unified front to the corporate/political people. Unless we get up off our collective asses and make them respect us, they have no incentive to do so. And the best incentive for capitalists is the lack of capital coming into their hands.

Tchaka Adofo, Toronto

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