There are many happenings we don’t notice because of multiple and diverse reasons, some that we have control over and others that we don’t. But whatever our position towards those occurrences, they impact on us either directly or indirectly. Dispossession across Africa is one of them.
Firoze Manji, in the first article [The courage to invent the future] of the book – Africa Awakening The Emerging Revolutions –, explains the context and scale of that phenomenon of dispossession on the African continent. If you are African, relatively informed of what is happening in your own country, you will certainly be able to relate easily to what Manji is highlighting in the following extract of the mentioned book.
What we face across the continent is a process of massive dispossession: dispossession of land through land grabbing, dispossession of the value of our wages, dispossession of our ability to produce what we, rather than what international finance capital wants. The extent of land grabbing, that is occurring across the continent illustrates the scale of what is going on: a recent set of reports from the Oakland Institute shows that ‘land grabs encompassing the size of France, displacing thousands of families, building miles of irrigation canals without concern for the environmental impacts, allowing crops to be planted that do not improve food security for Africa – done with little consideration or no consultation with those directly impacted, and have no accountability or transparency’ (Oackland Institute 2011).
Our [African] governments are more accountable today to the international financial institutions, to the corporations that extract wealth without restriction, and to the international aid agencies that finance institutions such as the IMF, than to citizens.
But perhaps the most serious dispossession that we face is a political dispossession. Our governments are more accountable today to the international financial institutions, to the corporations that extract wealth without restriction, and to the international aid agencies that finance institutions such as the IMF, than to citizens. In this sense, our countries are increasingly becoming more akin to occupied territories than democracies.
It is this process of dispossessions that was behind the eruption of citizens of Tunisia and Egypt. In both cases it was not only the repressive nature of the Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes, but also the accumulated years of experience of ‘pauperisation’ or impoverishment of the majority, while a few enriched themselves. When Ben Ali and Mubarak were wept out of power by the popular uprisings, there was an immediate resonance across the continent. While the media sought to portray this as some form of contagious disease, the reality was that the dispossessed across the continent and beyond recognised in the anger and demands of the Tunisians and Egyptians their own demand to reclaim their own dignity, and the aspirations of their own desires. They recognised immediately the common experience of the decades of neo-liberalism that had impoverished them. It was no surprise that as far away as Wisconsin, Barcelona, Barhain, Syria and Yemen the call to establish ‘Tahir Squares’ has been on the lips of activists.