IMF and Zambia, Mission 2017, by Gabriel C Banda

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IMF and Zambia, Mission March 2017

by

Gabriel C Banda

WHILE many people have their attention focused on the Africa Under 20 soccer tournament taking place in Zambia, the IMF team has come back to Lusaka, seeking agreement over financing Zambia’s government.

As before, the arrival of the International Monetary Fund team will have great implication on Zambia’s economy and the current and future quality of life of Zambia’s people.

It will also enable us to understand how much has been learnt, or not learnt, or even unlearnt, from the experiences Zambia has had, over the decades, with IMF and its twin sister, or brother, the World Bank. It will show how much institutional and collective memories are utilised, or not utilised, in dealing with current issues. It will also reveal IMF and World Bank tactics.

                                                     World Bank, 1950s

Zambia’s relationship with the World Bank was already there in the 1950s, before independence, when Zambia was still Northern Rhodesia and neighbour Zimbabwe was Southern Rhodesia. There were some farming programmes supported.

But the big one, in 1955, was also one of the biggest in the world. This was the joint Southern Rhodesia-Northern Rhodesia Kariba Dam and hydro-electricity project, put on the Zambezi River bordering the two territories, and opened 1959. Kariba was then the biggest financing ever by the World Bank in the world.

There was a better site, at Kafue Gorge, in Zambia, yet a very costly and environmentally and socially damaging Kariba project was preferred. In 2017, close to sixty years after opening, Zambia and Zimbabwe began programmes, externally financed, to pay for the rehabilitation of the Kariba Dam wall.

(We have already written about the IMF and Zambia’s energy programme and how the World Bank, to support Zambia’s dependence on Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa, tried to prevent Zambia building the Kafue Gorge power station and, just after 2000, IMF and World Bank prevented Zesco from building some electricity generation projects, thus contributing to the vulnerability recently experienced, in 2015/2016, due to low rainfall.

IMF and World Bank are trying to promote and impose energy sector arrangements that are unstable and are costly for users. Throughout the region and beyond, IMF and World Bank have promoted, and are actually imposing, some invalid basis for the increase of household electricity tariffs).

                                                                Enter IMF

While the relationship with World Bank was earlier, Zambia’s membership of the IMF began in September 1965, shortly after Independence, October 1964.

For many years, the Zambian government did not borrow from IMF. From its own programmes following independence, Zambia had made advances in various basics, like education and training, health, and infrastructure. Quality of life increased. Life expectancy increased. Much of the resources were from Zambia’s own, with some support from partners in the West and the East.

While independent Zambia had some few helpful projects financed by World Bank on basics like shelter and schools, the first IMF lending to Zambia was linked to balance of payment pressures brought about by the Zambia-Rhodesia border closure of January 1973.

                                                                  Southern Africa struggles

Zambia, supporting independence and freedom movements in Southern Africa, was then implementing various international sanctions on neighbouring Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa. Zambia, with its big development programmes, had its economy greatly affected by the impact of the struggles for independence and freedom.

Apart from the effects of the freedom struggles in Southern Africa, Zambia was in the 1970s affected by increase in price of fuel imports. The Arab-Israeli war of October 1973 had effects on the worldwide price of petroleum. Zambia also had reduced income due to low copper prices. Zambia’s balance of payments was thus by the various factors affected.

Zambia then took its first IMF facility, of 19 million SDR (Special Drawing Rights) soft conditions loan. This was equivalent to K14.75 million Zambian currency or US $22.92 million. (The Kwacha was then stronger than the US dollar).

Then in the mid-1980s, an IMF Structural Adjustment Programme came into effect. It was meant to help pay external debt and harsh “austerity” conditions were put into place. President Kaunda pleaded for patience from the public, saying the sacrifice from austerity would lead to things getting better.

                                                                  Conditions

The IMF market forces and commercialisation programme came with particular conditions that restrained various activities. There were measures that liberalised the finance environment. Subsidies and public spending were reduced or removed. State firms were to be privatised.

Wages were frozen.  As a way of reducing costs in public service, retrenchments were done and retirement age brought forward to 55 years. Workers in government, councils, and parastatal enterprises were retrenched. Staffing establishments were reduced. These measures were to later affect institutional memory and capacities in many fields.

Schools and other institutions had maintenance staff laid off.  Councils had their staff reduced. Some important fabric components like Community Development and garbage collection were eventually reduced and even disbanded.

(The reduction of council capacities contributed to the 2017 situation were households are throwing garbage within their premises and residential areas because the commercialised and privatised garbage system is not working well for most.

Before commercialisation, garbage collection fees were added to the rent and councils, who provided the garbage service, were generally performing better in that than what is happening now. Garbage collection is a Common Good that cannot be easily carried out just by profit motivation).                             

                                                              Surgeons not Butchers

But by 1987, in Zambia, the IMF medicine, or surgery, was destroying the patient!  A true surgeon is not a butcher.  And a butcher is not a surgeon.

Thus, in May 1987, due to the worsening negative effects, President Kaunda, to prevent further destabilisation of the society, announced that Zambia was breaking away from the IMF programme while still remaining a member of the organisation.

Dr Kaunda said there was to be a home-grown alternative programme. The local “New Economic Recovery Programme” was in place in 1988. Some advances were made. But IMF, World Bank, and allied governments and institutions said there was no alternative to their killing medicine and surgery and imposed sanctions.

Through sanctions and pressures by IMF, World Bank, and allied governments, President Kaunda’s government was in 1989 forced back to some IMF programme relationship.

The hardship continued. In June 1990, with riots as a result of the IMF programme’s impact on food and basic needs, there was a coup attempt.

President Chiluba’s government that followed in November 1991 was more open and willing towards the IMF programme. In the 1990s, the programmes created much hardship in the general population.

The impacts of the 1980s and 1990s still live on in Zambia now and are in our lives in various sectors. Dubious “Health Reforms” led to the exclusion of many persons from health services and death and suffering of many persons. Maternal deaths increased. Malnutrition increased. Life expectancy declined.

                                                              HIV and IMF

The combination of IMF economic Structural Adjustment imposition with the emergence of HIV and AIDS had deadly impact.

                                                         De-industrialisation      

As in other places of the world where IMF imposed its measures, as a result of the programme, and by intention of the programme, employment in the “formal” sector reduced. The programmes led to some de-industrialisation of some societies and de-Africanisation of enterprise ownership.

                                                                Cohesion

Apart from many persons dying as a result of the measures, many persons and families went into material decline and poverty. Social stability was shaken. And social tension increased. Social cohesion was put under pressure and declined.

Many persons died as a result of the IMF measures. Protests and riots happened, with violent deaths arising. The combination of SAP measures nourished corruption.

The capacities of societies in various fields have declined. In various sectors, Zambia’s current capacities are lower than they would have been without the effects of IMF and World Bank programmes.

The IMF programmes, forcibly imposed, have been instruments of violence.  They fight the balance and integrity of life.

                                                                      Regime Change

In some places, IMF programmes have, through economic pressure and hardship, led to regime change. Governments have been voted out or removed in other ways. In Zambia, there was, in 1990, a coup attempt following riots over high food prices brought about by the IMF programme. The economic hardships experienced contributed to UNIP losing office in the elections of October 1991.

Some rulers agree to the dictatorial IMF and World Bank imposition because of fear of being removed from office.

IMF and World Bank have leaned towards politicians that can deliver economic policy and practice environments favourable to IMF and World Bank “market forces” and strong pro-business positions. Yet, we believe, both public and public sectors are needed in a healthy society.

                                                                Big Business

An extreme and strong pro-business direction may lead Zambia to the situation before 1924, when big business, the BSA Company, was government. Big business in control can decide who rules or controls a country.

                                                             Greece, Disastrous

But even when their programmes have created hardship, IMF and World Bank move away from responsibility and put blame onto the victim government and society. The IMF and World Bank enforcers have been unrepentant.

Overall, there have been bitter experiences with IMF programmes in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and even Europe, in places like Greece.

Greece Minister of Labour and Social Security told BBC Hard Talk in March 2016 that while other lenders have been considering better and more socially sustainable economic and debt measures for Greece, the IMF “insists on further measures. And it is now the IMF which is isolated, not us.”

Continues George Katrougalos: “I have the conclusion that the austerity policies applied last five years were really disastrous and we must change the mix of these policies…”

                                                              IMF in Zambia, Now

Over the recent two years, IMF and World Bank have tried to reach out to Zambia and hook a programme. There was time, especially before the August 2016 elections, those in authority, knowing the consequences experienced in Zambia and elsewhere, were cautious or even reluctant about getting involved with an IMF programme.

But IMF and World Bank are still reaching out, although they will turn things around and say the Zambian government is the one driving the interest to have assistance from them.

This will be helped by local officials calling an IMF programme “home-grown.” If an agreement is made, we do not know whether it will really be allowed to be locally visioned and driven. How far will it differ from IMF templates?

Will IMF sit back and allow Zambia’s government to drive the programme? We do not know to what extent IMF and World Bank will drive it, directly or working at the back as puppet masters. Why don’t IMF and World Bank let local persons, and whoever the local persons decide to work with, to drive their governments’ programmes?

The IMF and World Bank have taken advantage of some errors or inappropriate or inadequate decisions and actions made affecting finance and resource management after President Sata and the PF came into office in 2011.  But, we believe, the errors and their effects can be dealt with and society healed and balanced without going into some IMF programme.  An IMF programme is likely to destabilise the society.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Thirty Years Now

May 2017 marks some thirty years since Zambia’s abandonment of the harsh IMF programme.

We must accept that many persons now do not recollect the harsh mid 1980s experiences invoked by IMF and World Bank conditions. Some have forgotten, or let go, the pain and anguish. Some, a huge number, only hear stories from older persons.

Some of these persons currently are in some positions of authority and take lightly the idea of implementing IMF programmes. They do not realise or know that the measures have led to death, riots, social turmoil, and reduced capacity in many parts of the world.

Some members of staff of IMF and World Bank may not be aware of their employers’ role in bringing about great negative impact through imposed policies. Not knowing the results of the actions they are working for, a danger is that they will continue contributing to the same problems their institutions have been growing.

Ill advice from IMF and World Bank, perhaps by persons with, at best, poor understanding of local situations or incompetence when related to the situation, and, at worst, following negative interests, led to inappropriate IMF measures that greatly affected quality of life and capacities of societies.

                                              Organised Hold

The IMF and World Bank continue to have influence on governments through some very organised ways. They have cultivated some sympathisers and agents, in key positions, who will influence their governments and institutions to have relations with IMF and World Bank, even where it is not necessary and will lead to negative consequences.

The IMF and World Bank have put a foot hold into governments by continuing to provide small loans and grants that enable them to stay around and have presence in government policies and programmes.

In Zambia, and other places in Africa, IMF and World Bank have penetrated the energy sector, with its huge potential, and are trying to influence it, even by doing projects with energy generators and energy regulators.

IMF and World Bank are compromising energy regulators, to switch off their role dealing with fairness between energy providers and users, so that the desires of the IMF and World Bank machine are imposed, leading to control of the energy sector by those friendly to the spirit of IMF and World Bank.

                                                                         NGOs

And years before, NGO and Civil Society organisations, including churches, were active in issues of people’s quality of life and did much to campaign against debt conditions. This was done, and to some extent achieved, through activities like The Jubilee Campaign.

These days, civil society and NGO organisations are silent on the effects of IMF and World Bank programmes. Some civil society and NGO organisations receive funding for their activities and thus will not criticise IMF and World Bank for impact of their programmes. They are embedded with IMF and World Bank.

Some organisations do not only avoid criticising IMF and World Bank, but will actively support the imposition and implementation of IMF and World Bank programmes. They will side against governments and take IMF and World Bank as their kith and kin.

Sad is that IMF and World Bank come back and forth and many times do still manage to hook governments into activities that are destructive of economies and society. IMF and World Bank bondage techniques continue to work, leading to enslavement of governments and needless hardship in societies.

Sad that those who survived the shackles and sharp blade of Shylock the money lender will some years later go back to the same Shylock, who still insists on the pound of flesh that will also drain blood from the organism.

                                                               Alternatives

Actually, there ARE alternatives, if you open up your mind. There are alternatives to IMF and World Bank programmes. And there ARE alternatives to getting support, lending or grants, to move out of economic situations. The situation now is not that of the 1980s and 1990s IMF and World Bank monopoly and bullying.

But as IMF and World Bank fear that more and more persons and governments will be seeking assistance and links elsewhere, they are getting more active in reaching persons and institutions they can use to influence the direction of governments and societies.

And a question must continue to be asked: with all hardship from the IMF and World Bank programme self-evident over the decades, and knowing that implementation is even dangerous for their societies and governments, and added the fact that there are alternatives to the conditions and partner helpers or lenders, why do governments still, even in 2017, go to IMF and World Bank for borrowing?

As the Africa Under-20 soccer tournament progresses in Zambia, let us also keep our focus on the IMF-Zambia ball play.

ginfinite@yahoo.com

February, 2017, LUSAKA

 The author is involved in Writing and the Arts, Social Development Work, Social Research, and observation and analysis of Conflict and Peace issues. For over three decades, he has researched and written extensively on basic needs and economic policies, including economic adjustment programmes. This piece is some summary of the writer’s more detailed writing on the issue. 

Donald Trump and Olympics and Oscars, by Gabriel C Banda

Donald Trump and Olympics and Oscars**

by

Gabriel C Banda

DONALD Trump, newly in office as United States 45th President, signed orders to implement the human divisions he had promised in his campaign. He, by decree, restricted persons of seven countries from entering the USA.

As during the campaign for presidency, for days, we have continued to wonder about practical aspects and effects on the world, and the implementers themselves.

There was confusion as some aspects and effects seemed not to have been considered by Trump and company. But the Trump enterprise is determined to implement controversial things it had said it would.

Some aspects were happening as intended by the Trump spirit and were being defended while some things were bringing about critical questions about human relations.

There was confusion at airports, border points, and in the travel process. There was fear and apprehension. And there were protests in the United States and many other parts of the world.

One aspect that came to mind was sports and the international interaction that it involves within societies and during international events. I then wondered whether United States cities and government will bid for some international tournaments.

                                                                      Olympics

These include the Olympics. United States cities have since 1904 hosted many Olympic games, summer and winter. After the St Louis games in 1904, winter ones were held at Lake Placid in 1932, with the Los Angeles summer games taking place again in 1932.

Lake Placid again hosted the games, in 1980. Los Angeles hosted the summer ones in 1984. Atlanta, in Georgia, hosted in 1996. The 2002 winter games were held at Salt Lake City.

For now, Los Angeles is amongst cities bidding for the 2014 summer Olympics that will follow the 2020 games in Tokyo, which has previously hosted them, October 1964.  Los Angeles wants to go on to host for the third time.

There is expectation that some US cities may compete for future Olympics in collaboration with other USA cities and with some cities of Canada in the north. But a question right now is the effect of the Trump entry rules.

                                                                    Refugees

President Trump also signed the ban on some refugees coming to the USA. This ban has implications for Olympic games being held in the USA. In Rio de Janeiro in 2016, there was excitement as an international team of refugees was assembled and took part.

As Trump’s term in office is scheduled to be four years, the Olympic movement should be considering the effect of the Trump entry ban.

Olympics cannot take place with citizens of some seven member countries not allowed to enter a host country. The seven countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.

Of these, the US government military intervention, in team with other regimes, for regime change in Iraq, Libya, and Syria contributed to instability, displacement, and refugees in these societies.

                                                                 Trump Card

Sadly, the Trump factor may act as a card against the Los Angeles Olympics 2024 bid.

And the United States is expected to be among those that bid for World Cup soccer tournaments. There are also other sports events that involve international participation. Some will involve persons from the seven societies banned entry into the USA.

Sport is not the only field affected by the Trump spirit. Trump has sought isolation and exclusion in other fields, including trade and economy. For instance, we wonder if under the Trump spirit the USA will continue to be members of the World Trade Organisation.

                                                                          Reaction

Of course, actions against others will not always go without reaction from the others. Some governments and societies may react through counter-actions that will greatly affect the United States.

There will be prolonged reaction to the Trump isolationism and apartness. As in the times of apartheid, Afrikaans for “apartness,” in South Africa, some persons will protest international events taking place in the US in sport, film and arts, education, research, and various fields. Some persons, due to conscientious positions, will decline attendance.

                                                                       Oscars and Farhadi

Already, I hear that in reaction to the Trump entry decree, a film director from Iran, Asghar Farhadi, and whose film was being considered for the 2017 Academy Awards, has said he will not travel to the Oscars this weekend.

And reports have followed that Khaled Khateeb, filmmaker of Syria, has been denied entry to attend the Oscar Awards his documentary is contesting in.

                                                                               Basketball

While I was wondering about the Olympics in view of the Trump entry ban, I learnt of some great concern in the USA basketball fraternity.

“I do have concern on the travel ban,” Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, told the BBC. “We are a business based on global mobility,” he added. “25 per cent of our players were born outside the United States. We do a tremendous amount of business on a global basis…”

Adam Silver said the NBA stands for “…the best in the world all coming together to perform at the highest level.”

“So, government restrictions on travel, I am concerned about. It goes against the fundamental values, and the fundamental ingredients of what makes for a great NBA, and that is: the very best of the world coming here.”

                                                                                    Unpredictable

Yes, like other Trump decrees and measures, the entry ban will have some predictable and unpredictable reversed effects that will be unfavourable both to the USA and others in the world. Some measures are working against the development of healthy human relations.

With government policy contributing to an enabling environment seized by them, some vigilantes will take it upon themselves to search for migrants and even to punish and harm them.

                                                                         All inter-dependent

It appeared to me that through wholesome banning of entry into the United States of members of some whole nations, Trump was banning the United States from hosting major international sports tournaments, and events from other fields.

Citizens of the United States are not special isolated species but are also members of one humanity and one life, all interdependent for various things and for the continuity of the whole.

And it is known that some advances were made in the United States because of migrants, from other parts of the world, that contributed greatly in various fields. In past times, persons of Africa were forcibly taken to the United States to toil as enslaved persons.

Life continues on in the United States because of the contribution of others from other places and across all fields.

Now, courts have put aside the entry ban but Trump is trying other ways to achieve the intention.

If Los Angeles does not get the 2024 Olympics, it might be that the Trump card might be a factor.

(**The title has been slightly expanded to include the Oscars focus that this writing already includes. All content is exactly the same. Thank You).

ginfinite@yahoo.com

Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing, social development work, and observation of peace issues.

*                    *                  *

GCB, February 2017, LUSAKA.

 

Obama and a Syria Strike, by Gabriel C Banda

 

Obama and a Syria Strike

by

Gabriel C Banda

Yes, I believe, Obama’s 2013 position not to openly strike Syria with American forces was the appropriate one.

As outgoing President Barack Obama’s legacy assessment will continue for ever, we will consider one issue.

There are those who feel that if Barack Obama had in 2013 ordered an attack on Syria due to accusations around the Bashar al-Assad administration and chemical weapon use, the recent outcome in Aleppo and Syria would have been against Assad. The accusers almost blame Barack Obama’s non-striking as the cause of the situation they are unhappy with.

Their wish had been for a “swift” and “sharp” strike that would have disabled, and removed, the Assad administration.

Strike supporters included John McCain and, sadly, Hillary Clinton, and others such as “Professor” Bernard-Henri Levy, so-called “philosopher.”  Bernard-Henri Levy, consistent with his war-mongering, had been a strong supporter of the intervention in Libya and the removal of Muammar Gaddafi.

War Monger

Over abuse of force, Levy has been a war monger hiding, or excused, under the coats of academic freedom and free expression. Had it not been for the tags of “Professor,” “Philosopher,” and “intellectual” he is referred by others with, the unclothed position of Bernard-Henri Levy would be more clearly recognised as that of a thug.

Still unrepentant about the terrible and evil effects of his position, Bernard-Henri Levy greatly supported and continues to defend, when on BBC and other media, the 2011 invasion of Libya led by the war lord Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then France’s president.

Nicolas Sarkozy, with a guillotine trailed against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, used the machinery of the France government, and even twisting the United Nations system, to force a coalition of force that removed Libya’s Gaddafi and led to instability that has affected Libya, Africa, the Middle East, and the whole world, including innocent people in France and Britain, the USA, and ally nations assembled in the raid on Gaddafi and Libya.

Crossing Line

The proponents of a swift strike and knock-out of Assad and administration have used Barack Obama’s warning about not crossing some red line against him. They use it as an Obama weakness because Obama had given a warning and did not follow it up with action.

It does not seem to matter to them whether Obama’s action would be right or appropriate for the emerged situation but that he had said it and therefore should have proceeded to attack Syria. It seems not to matter to them that the issue of chemical weapons use was not easy to definitely assign.

It does not seem to matter to them that the reasons or excuses of Weapon of Mass Destruction or Crimes Against Humanity used by intervening governments have at sometimes come out false or snares.

It seemed not to matter that the position of a clean, swift, strike was an assumption that was based on a sense of supremacy of oneself over others considered easily conquerable. Why is there an assumption that military might will always defeat others?

In long gone times and recent times, some rulers have acted improperly and created long term difficulties for all of us. Many leaders and rulers, from George W Bush Jr to Tony Blair, have acted by poor egos and handled the arsenals of military and force with immaturity. Many leaders and rulers have not been mature enough to handle authority over force.

Angela  Merkel Maturity

However, not all rulers have the same immaturity over use of force. One who has been cautious about use of force has been German’s Angela Merkel, a person of greatness, and one of the most mature of rulers and leaders in modern times.

To some degree, especially for an American president, Barack Obama has on some critical times acted with great caution where others would have thrown in the military machine heavily. This, not acting to go in when one is not sure, has been faulted against him.

In my view, it is better to be cautious about the use and effect of force and violence than end up creating the results that George W Bush Jr did in Afghanistan and Iraq. Barack Obama’s caution is a more sustainable and just position than that of leaping and attacking first and then thinking later, with turmoil around you.

Some bully others because these bullies feel they have weapon arsenals and can always defeat others they consider lesser.  It has been said that some bully others because the bullies have weapons and want to try out the weapons or intimidate others. Without weapons, they will not bully others.

Duet

In 2013, there was pressure to have Barack Obama and Britain’s David Cameron to repeat a duet, as George W Bush Jr and Tony Blair did over Iraq, and attack Syria. What helped the situation was the British parliament, with much of the public behind them,  voting against the move to another open war.

To his credit, and democratic credentials, David Cameron readily and politely accepted not to proceed with the proposed open armed intervention. That helped Barack Obama’s position for, without ally Britain, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, America has been reluctant to attack alone.

What if Barack Obama had directly used America’s forces to intervene in Syria and remove Assad? The results might have included the following: If Assad had fallen, ISIS would have been stronger. If Assad had fallen, ISIS may have now been in control in Syria. ISIS may have become Syria or Syria would have become the ISIS state.

Then also, there would have been no guarantee that American strikes could have happened without injury on America and those intervening. In scriptures, the story of small David and big Goliath is a lesson for all times.

You should never underestimate your opponent. Already, without factual basis, many officials in the West had underestimated the resilience of the Assad administration and thought he would collapse in a short time, in months rather than years. The situation turned out differently.

Barack Obama had been reluctant to get in to support Nicolas Sarkozy in the removal of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Obama’s weakness was to yield to Sarkozy and reluctantly join in. It is not enough to say one did something wrong because another had insisted to be joined.

Within his administration, war monger Susan Rice pushed for the military intervention and even insulted Africa’s rulers for calling for caution because of the effects they feared would happen with intervention. The effects feared came to pass. Obama had allowed people like Susan Rice and Nicolas Sarkozy to work against his inner caution over Libya.

Spring

Another sin that Obama fell into was to agree to support the armed rebels fighting the Assad administration in the so-called “Arab Spring.”  Clearly, ISIS was, from the beginning, in the “Arab Spring.”

Yes, I believe, Obama’s position not to strike Syria was the appropriate one. Already, the position to support armed rebellion against Assad’s Syria in a conflict with religious undertones was not appropriate, with its consequences that led to the rise of ISIS as Syria government forces faced militias from many groups.

There have been times when rulers of America’s regimes, feeling and acting on the myth that their country is a superpower and can push around others to do what it wants, have gone on to take actions that have created immediate and long-term problems for others, the USA, and the world.

Over the decades, even just to take the decades following World War II, this has happened under various administrations, Republican and Democrats. There seems to be in the background a machinery that, with whatever party in office, tries to assert intervention in other parts of the world – even where the intervention will create difficulties for those intervened, others, and the United States itself.

In recent times, this has happened over the invasion of Afghanistan, occupation of Iraq, and, without lessons being learnt and applied, intervention in Libya. Another key burden of a US administration has been supporting the armed rebellion against Syria’s Assad administration. But Barack Obama’s avoiding of striking Syria in 2013 was, I believe, the appropriate one. That will be a pleasant memory of the Obama legacy.

ginfinite@yahoo.com

**Gabriel Banda has been on the MA Peace Studies Bradford University  programme.

FIFA Poppies and Us, by Gabriel C Banda

 

FIFA Poppies and Us,

By

Gabriel C Banda

THE current standoff involving FIFA on one side, and players and football associations of England and Scotland on the other, over pinning the Remembrance Day poppy at the November 11, 2016 World Cup qualifier gives us much thought.

Players of England and Scotland want to wear the Poppy as part of Remembrance. But FIFA, the earth’s soccer governing body, has banned wearing of the Poppy, declaring it a political symbol, in that match. Previously, in a friendly against Spain, FIFA allowed England players to wear the Poppy.

Now, surely, here there must be some misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about the history, purpose, spirit, and atmosphere of Remembrance Day.

The Poppy flower leads to Remembrance Day or Remembrance Sunday. In Zambia, as in other places, as each November starts, there is active thought and preparation towards Remembrance Day.

Worldwide Event

Remembrance Day is a worldwide event now publicly observed in Zambia, the Commonwealth, and other places on the Second Sunday of the Eleventh Month of the year.

Originally, this was timed for the Eleventh Hour, local time, of the Eleventh Day, of the Eleventh month. That, 11th November, was Armistice Day. Armistice Day was first observed in England in November 1919 to mark the ending of World War I hostilities.

In 2016, this is the day on which the England and Scotland soccer match is falling.

Now, worldwide, the practice is to observe Remembrance Day on the Second Sunday of the Eleventh Month, still at the Eleventh Hour of that Day.  This year, it is publicly observed on Sunday, November 13, 2016.

Various Persons

It is becoming common now that, as the month of November starts, persons, men and women, and even youths, in various roles of life, are seen with a red and black poppy flower on them. They are of various skin colour, cultures, and nationalities.

Some elders who served during the Second World War or at some point served afterwards wear them. Some family members of those who fought in World War II but are no longer alive have their surviving family members spot the Poppy.

Some persons currently serving in the armed forces will also have them on their military or civilian clothing.

Some government workers wear the Poppy. Some heads of state, such as Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, has it on during this time.

In some big stores, I have seen some young men and young women working on the check-out till with some poppy on their shirt or jacket.

In the towns of Zambia, November spots many persons with the poppies. We also see persons from various political parties spotting the Poppy. The Poppy flower is also sold to get donations toward the welfare of veterans.

Sacred, Uniting

Remembrance Day, and its symbols that include the Poppy, is a sacred and uniting event.

The main remembrance event takes place on the Second Sunday of November.  In Zambia, there is wreath laying at some Cenotaph monuments in various towns.

In Zambia, the head of state, the president, officiates. It is a solemn occasion, with solemn music by military bands. There are prayers of remembrance. Chaplains of the armed forces read prayers and verses. Silence by all, and a bugle is played at the 11th hour.

But the President does not address the gathering. The President will place a wreath, followed by heads of the armed forces, former World War II soldiers, diplomats accredited to the country, and boy Scouts and Girl Guides.

Stepping off the dais, the President will move over to where the World War veterans and their families are lined up and greet them individually. These days, slightly over seventy years after the ending of World War II in 1945, the veterans are getting less.

 Spirit

The atmosphere of the observance is not victory, but remembrance of those who passed away as a result of the World Wars. In fact, it is about loss in war, not only World War II, but other wars in times and places. The spirit of Remembrance Day is about the sadness of war, and about avoiding war. It is about humanity as one family.

In Zambia, when it is observed on that Sunday, one can see the diplomatic representatives of not only Britain, the Commonwealth, America, and France, but also those of Germany and Japan, who fought against the allies. The ambassadors of Germany and Japan do not protest the event as humiliating them.

At the Remembrance ceremony, there is appreciation and compassion. The Remembrance Ceremony is about humanity as a whole, about high values humanity must aspire to.

Each November, I have tried to attend Remembrance Day. There, on that Second Sunday, I can meet those who were in World War II. As with many other persons, some of my relatives and neighbours were in World War II. Many persons of Africa served in the World War, transforming the lives, history, and later generations of Africa and other places.

When I go to Remembrance Day, I also see others who served in the Zambia military or the militaries of other governments after World War II. Their experiences may have involved other wars besides World War II.

Being a conscript in the Zambia military in the1970s, Remembrance Day is also opportunity for some of us to remember our experiences in the military, and consider the broader picture of war and military action in humanity. Many who have served in the military do not like war.

I feel moved when World War II veteran, Mr Aaron Katongo, for decades an active organiser in Zambia’s veterans’ league, has pinned a Poppy on me.

When I have been to England around the time of Remembrance Day and the Poppies, I go to places of Remembrance. When I lived in Dublin, Ireland, I visited the Garden of Remembrance a few times.

In wearing the Poppy, and in Remembrance Day, there is no humiliation of other persons. There is no victor and vanquished. It is about appreciating humanity, wherever we are from. It is about appreciating Life Itself, and the Integrity of Life.

Remembrance Day is not an English, Scottish, or Commonwealth pride day. It is about humanity and humanity’s deep experiences.

At the plaque at the Lusaka Cenotaph where Remembrance Sunday takes place, there are these deep words, very useful for each member of humanity, wherever we are: “That we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries.”

FIFA and symbols

FIFA General Secretary, our Sister Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura, in discouraging the wearing of poppies at the November 11 2016 match, says that there are other wars elsewhere, in Syria and on her native African continent, that are not being observed as Remembrance Day is.

The comparison is not accurate or fair. Remembrance Day IS observed in Africa, and deeply too. Remembrance Day remembers Africa’s big deep role in World War. In my observation, Remembrance Day is not a victory pride rally of one nation against another.

In the case of the England and Scotland soccer match, there would be no animosity arising if members of both teams voluntarily wear the Poppy.

One can similarly note the recent FIFA ruling against Ireland’s team for wearing symbols dealing with the national observation of the 100th year, in 1916, after the Irish uprising against British rule.

The symbols might be sensitive when the teams playing each other are those of Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Thus, where there is no hostility amongst teams involved, FIFA should allow non-political symbols as Remembrance Day and its Poppy.

For many of us all over the world, Remembrance Day is about appreciation of Life and its eternal depth and marvel.

ginfinite@yahoo.com

GCB, November 2016, LUSAKA.

US Elections, Hillary and Trump final effects, by Gabriel C Banda

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US Elections, Hillary and Trump final effects,

by

Gabriel C Banda

AS 2016 election day finally cometh, the results will have deep and long-term effects on the stability of United States and the whole of humanity.

The current and future character, temperament, beliefs, and approaches of both the front candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, will affect how human relations and the world proceed.

 The Trump Spirit

The Donald Trump spirit is very active and unprecedented. It is a very difficult spirit. Donald Trump speaks, and behaves, rough. He insults, demeaning women, persons of other colours, migrants, persons of some religions, and persons and communities in various situations. He is defensive and proud of actions some may consider shameful.

The spirit in Trump is troubled and troublesome. It can very negatively affect the world. The Trump spirit comes forth showing some inner violence within it. It has bothered many persons in the world that such a spirit can actively roam amongst human beings and this beautiful creation. And that he actually does have significant numbers supporting him.

The Trump Doctrines

Donald Trump shows pride in having tricked the financial system and gained on things like taxes. By the way, we are now not hearing much about Trump’s promised release of his controversial taxes status!

Donald Trump believes in some Republican positions and more. Trump is for lowering taxes for the financially rich, whose efforts in enterprise are supposed to benefit others through trickling down.

Trump is strongly for removing Obamacare, which has been intended to help a huge uncovered part of the American society have some access to healthcare. America has had situations where some fifty million Americans when in need did not have access to health facilities.

About fifty million American have lived in poverty. By volume and ratios, these high ratios of want in society cannot be found in places like Britain, the Nordic countries, and China, whose welfare systems have provided social stability for decades.

Trump invokes against migrants, even though his current wife Melania migrated from Slovenia. Perhaps Trump is against migrants of some types, some colours, and some cultures. The anti-migrant fight is a fight against the natural intermingling that leads to growth of individuals and societies in the whole of humanity and life itself.

Trump wants to take America to an era of racism, as when there was a Constitution proclaiming freedom while there was slave trade and, even up to the 1960s, apartheid in America,

There are some things Donald Trump has that are strong Republican beliefs while other things currently defy existing classification. Donald Trump is for firearms with little regulation, even though firearms misuse and mistypes have led to much violence and deaths in America. Donald Trump also has a pro-life stance against abortion. Some Republicans and Democrats are pro-life and against abortion.

Externally, Trump has expressed reservations about the Syria, and USA seeking good relationships with Iran. Trump wants to build a rough Superpower, Superpower itself, I believe, being some unachievable concept based on myth.

Trump is for building an America that is strong militarily, politically, and economically – achieving this economic strength through protection from imports from places like China, having firms bring jobs from China and other places to the USA, and of course through exporting to others while restricting importing from countries growing and becoming economically strong.

Donald Trump wants an America that is a bully, not just a crucial part of humanity. In many parts of the world, Donald Trump is exhibiting characteristics, qualities, values, and policies not compatible with criteria of a good leader or ruler. Stock markets had been disturbed by Trump rising in polls and have been stabilising when Hillary Clinton appears in lead.

Though painting Hillary Clinton as a continuation of some bad establishment, Trump, reputed to have assets worth billions of dollars, is himself from the business establishment. It can be a mistake to think of him as “one of the people,” and, with his vile actions, a “people person.”

Evil’s Workshop

Donald Trump lies about some things he hears about. Some things he just creates, and keeps on repeating the lies and untruths. And insults. Some unproven things he has thrown, with hostility and hatred, at Hillary Clinton and current president Barack Obama. Trump speaks lies and sticks to them, even when the lies have been shown as untruths.

Trump has come with hate speech unfairly protected under the shield of election campaign. He has little limits to his insults and who he insults.

Some speech and actions of Trump are evil apparent, evil evident, exhibited, and manifested. Some of Trump’s utterances and intensions, like on migrants and Muslims, come directly from evil’s workshop, with the devil’s imprimatur. These are some of the things he wants to unleash upon the earth. The Donald Trump spirit is one that can make the world divided and unstable.

Unrealisable   

And although raising some emotions in some persons, Trump’s policies, stances, and hate-speech are in practice disjointed and not easily implementable. From building walls against other human beings, to blocking Muslims, insulting women, removing the benefits of Obamacare health system to millions, and fighting US businesses from establishing plants in China and other areas, blocking other countries exports to USA, and putting Hillary Clinton in jail for the mail servers, Trump’s evil speech can, when practiced, create difficulties for the USA and the world.

  Other Republican messengers

At the same time, it is possible that some other candidate with some position similar to Trump’s might have got a more respectable assessment from some in America and other parts of the world. The 2016 electoral contest might have even been more civilised.

A problem is more than about the content of Trump’s message and what he stands for. A problem is how Trump packages his positions and messages. He wraps them in insults and uncouth behaviour that insults and demeans other candidates and other members of society.

Would some people have listened to someone who is not Trump but raises some issues similar to Trump’s? Are there some messages and positions that persons who are anti-Trump would have tolerated in other Republican candidates? Are some anti-Trump persons reacting more to his character, which they find undesirable, than to his messages and positions?

Trump himself may be thought to be aggressively raising some issues, in some rough and populist ways, just in order to get into presidential office but it may not be known how he will practically stick to those issues if in White House.

There are some issues that would ordinarily have been more considered if they had not been raised by Trump, and in the ways he has raised them. For instance, the situation in Syria has been complicated by the role that the United States and allies in Middle East and the West have sponsored armed groups, of the so-called “Arab Spring,” to fight Syria’s Assad regime. The rebellion against Assad has provided some window for ISIS to flourish in the region and also to threaten the Western world.

There are also other issues like abortion, that would have given a non-Trump Republican candidate more understanding and attention from those who consider the complexities of this abortion and life issue.

.Hillary’s Issues

While there are concerns about Donald Trump because of his open projection of crudeness, there are concerns about what will be Hillary Clinton’s positions when she becomes president. Some concerns we have previously raised are around how she needs to avoid supporting the American military belligerent machine and its allies in interventions and regime change.

The USA government and allies created problems for the world and themselves when they invaded, with much opposition from many in the world, Iraq in 2003. They continued the error when, reluctantly for Obama, but that reluctance not a big excuse if they still went along, the USA joined France’s warlord Nicolas Sarkozy to intervene in Libya and remove ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

This became a regime change contributing to later disability of Libya and the nourishing of armed uprisings by extremists in Africa and the Middle East, right up to the current ISIS problems in Iraq and Syria.

On Syria, like war monger and rebel supporter John McCain, she has at times been for a more active intervention by the United States including the difficult to impose No Fly Zone.

Important on Syria is the fact that the US government and allies have contributed to problems and instability by supporting the armed rebels fighting the Assad administration. The western and allies supported armed rebels have kept the Assad administration fighting them, limiting Assad’s ability to fight ISIS.

If Assad had fallen, ISIS would have taken over Syria, with Syria becoming the ISIS state and government. The problems for the world would have been deeper had ISIS taken over Syria. It is important for a President Hillary Clinton to take the American machinery away from belligerence and regime changes that are creating instability and difficulties for the whole world, including the United States itself.

Hillary Clinton seems to have realised that Iraq and Libya interventions she and others tolerated or supported were inappropriate. But that lesson is still not being applied to Syria. If she is in control of government, Hillary Clinton must retrain herself and approach things differently.

Hillary’s Putin

Another thing Hillary Clinton must deal with is her fixation with Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Russia has a presence in Syria, supporting the Assad government being fought by American and allies supported armed rebels and ISIS. In some interesting way, Russia’s support for the Syria government has helped Syria not go to ISIS or get into some other deeper disintegration whose consequences would greatly affect the world, including America and the West.

Hillary’s fixation on Russia and Putin may enable some of her local opponents and schemers against her to go unnoticed. It may not be that the thins linked to Russia are from the Russian government and Putin. Some may be locally, American, grown, thriving under protection of a shield that has been formed by Clinton and her people diverted by looking away towards Russia. The recent work under the FBI on so-called new email issues worked against Clinton but was not Russia made.

Hillary and Health

Hillary Clinton was a pioneer in the USÁ’s recent drive for Health for All, as in welfare Europe. Although she does not mention it much in her debates and campaigns, when she was at White House as First Lady, she worked strongly for widening access to health services. She was forerunner to the revolutionary “Obamacare” health act Trump and others condemn.

America needs to work on things and find ways of effective health reach for all, as in much of welfare Europe. This theme Hillary already started on should enable her to do well through improving Obamacare in practice.

Hillary and Abortion

Hillary must also address the concerns of Pro-Life and anti-abortion believers. For too long, in America, abortion has become like a form of birth control. It may not be enough for Hillary to believe that the abortion issue should rest in the control of the women involved and family members. Of course, issues around abortion involve many things and are complex.

Without criminalising those involved, many times without much joy for it, in abortion, it is necessary for America to work on making things move more towards effective birth control practices that prevent women reaching the situation of abortion.  Hillary Clinton Vice President running mate, Tim Kaine, who comes across as a very mature, thoughtful, and mentally organised person, is personally pro-life and not for abortion, but treats the issue with other considerations.

It may be from Tim Kaine’s Catholic faith, but there are many persons from various faiths and no organised faith, who are critical of the current situation of abortion in America. Some Pro-abortion believers are for Hillary while others are not. Some Pro-Life persons are for Trump while others are not. While this is an important issue for many, other factors become more key than others.

Sadly, our other concern is that Hillary also seems to tolerate the vision of an American government in the world’s forefront and an American “superpower.” In President Barack Obama’s rule, the world has given America some respect because of less bullying and “superpower” myth action by Obama.

Hillary Clinton is a good person that has shown some imperfections. So, there are some things that a President Hillary Rodham Clinton will need to re-learn and re-train her mind on.

Hillary the Survivor and Victor

There are many lessons about US Elections 2016. One lesson is that where even Republican candidates in the primaries had been shaken and even humiliated by Trump, Hillary Clinton has managed to stay focussed and unruffled by rough Donald Trump. With dignity, in the discussions she has managed to rise about the Trump spirit.

Trump threw all sorts of mud at Hillary Clinton. Not many of us would have survived the onslaught of the Trump spirit. Many of us would have been broken where Hillary survived and even triumphed. In the world, not many persons, Democrats or Republicans, could have succeeded, as Hillary Clinton has, in not being unruffled by the Trump spirit’s attacks and acts during debates. During television debate, Hillary succeeded to tame the harsh Trump spirit. Yes, it is possible to rise above rough characters and be in control.

Trump and Rigging

Instead of letting the people of America make free electoral choices, Trump has tried to criminalise his opponent. He has recently, days just before election day, even tried to get through the elections some poisonous coup that disables the participation of his stronger opponent, Hillary Clinton. He does not want the public to choose but he wants to push to become the president

He has, without fair evidence, stigmatized and criminalised Hillary Clinton, using the unconvincing reason of email server, which issue in itself is no evidence of criminality. Without proper evidence, some Trump supporters have labelled Clinton criminal.

Trump has tried to discredit the elections by claiming unsubstantiated organised rigging. Trump himself wants to rig the elections by having opponent Hillary disqualified or throwing fears of later disqualification and removal from office if she gets in.

Timed in with the Trump attack, the late FBI actions also contributed to the unfairness against Hillary Clinton. The FBI unusually, without complete facts, threw in the “new emails” card that helped Trump against the Clinton rising wave. The emails were later, as expected by some who thought them unnecessary, proved not to have contained criminalities linked to Hillary Clinton. The FBI actions had done damage but it was not known how repairs would occur, save for hoping that some persons unhappy about the FBI action would turn up to vote in large numbers.

In other places of the world, the FBI head would be expected to resign if not now, just after the elections.

Matter for All

Nothing is ever an “internal matter” of a country for everyone is related to everyone else in the world. One thing has effects on others in the world. If a population, about five percent of the world, is going to be under a ruler that threatens the integrity of humanity and creation, that should concern everyone in the world. The USA elections of 2016 have effects on all of us, wherever we are domiciled.

The Hillary Clinton character effects or the Trump character effects will in presidency have great bearing on not only the United States, but the whole world, future generations and what the world has so far achieved.

The result of the 2016 US elections will not just be about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It is about ways of life and values. It is about life and living in American and beyond. It is about good, bad, and ugly. It is about creation itself. We trust that Conscience and long-term Goodwill should dominate and triumph.

ginfinite@yahoo.com

Gabriel C Banda, Lusaka, Zambia, based, is independently involved in writing and the arts, social development work, and observation on conflict and peace issues.

GCB, October 2016/November 07th, 2016, LUSAKA.

Zambia’s Independence and Our Elders Pensions, by Gabriel C Banda

Zambia’s Independence and Our Elders Pensions,

by Gabriel C Banda

OCTOBER is another opportunity to deeply express appreciation and reflect on Zambia’s Independence journey. Many persons, from various walks of life, and from various places, worked for the Independence of Zambia.

And since Independence, 24th October 1964, up to present times, many persons, from various backgrounds, have contributed much in nourishing the vision and achievements of our society.

October 2016, 52 years from Zambia’s independence, is another time to reflect on the current situation of Zambia’s Freedom Fighters. Our focus for now is on the situation of those who took up public office. As we remember to praise those that fought for Independence and are still around, let us consider how their situation is and how it has come about.

Yes, there are many persons, thousands and thousands, into millions, that got involved in the struggle, with some being leaders that helped to organise it. There was much suffering and contribution during the journey for Independence.

After Independence, some became officials in the ruling party and the government. Some persons had, for reasons like that of being young then, not been actively involved in the struggle but became workers and officials in the government and the ruling party.

Zambia started off as a multi-party system but, due to various factors, among them the solving of inter-party violence, in 1972 transformed into the “One Party Participatory Democracy.”  Many observers make the mistake of not distinguishing the reasons, type, structure, and systems involved in particular one party systems.The one party experiences were not the same.

In Zambia, the One Party state system, unlike in some other countries where there was banning of other parties, was actually some unified party system. Those from ANC and the ruling UNIP, many of who earlier before Independence had belonged to the same party ANC, were integrated. It was a form of Government of National Unity, a system recently more recommended, even temporarily, in various parts of the world, especially where there is great tension, conflict, and division.

There is no doubt that the merger helped deal with the problem of inter-party violence and tension. MPs and position holders concentrated on dealing with issues in their communities and the whole society.

-For persons of various backgrounds and places, the “One Zambia, One Nation” national motto was taking shape.The position of women became stronger in politics, society, and the economy, with women leading various directions.

-Also supporting this was the “Zambian Humanism,” a form of South Africa’s Ubuntu but much more practically and systematically organised. These were part of the foundation that has, through year 2016, made Zambia continue with relative cohesion and withstand big pressures where other nations have been shaken and destabilised.

This system unified the Party and Government structures. Officials, full time and voluntary, were greatly involved in public mobilisation and participation. Towards the end of the one party system, a leaders Pension and Benefit system was put into place to cover the public officials playing various roles.

There were advances made under Zambia’s One Party system. Of course, it had its challenges and limitations.

In December 1990, after calls for return to a multiparty system, President Kaunda signed away the One Party system, repealing Article 4 of the Constitution. He signed, putting aside the need for doing the planned Referendum.Going back to a multi-party system offered potential advancements in some aspects.

In some way, the One Party system experienced in Zambia had enabled some social cohesion that made it easier for persons of various backgrounds to go into political parties in relative unity. The system had enabled some level of togetherness available for respect for one another during a return to multiparty systems.

As preparations and campaigns for multiparty elections intensified, some officials in opposition said that when they took over government, they would make sure members of UNIP did not get any pensions. The opposition politicians in MMD openly pledged this at public rallies. They said they would push aside the benefits and pensions of UNIP officials who worked in the Party and the government.

Some who publicly pledged to ensure those from UNIP would not be paid pensions and benefits were even lawyers. The basis upon which they based their opposition to pensions of the targeted workers was not clear. The pledge not to pay benefits was openly repeated at rallies, such as the one at Woodlands Stadium, Lusaka.

As Zambia moved towards the elections, it was clear that some things had not been clearly settled. These included issues of distinguishing and apportioning assets of UNIP and Government. The leaders’ Pensions and Benefits were not discussed. It was assumed that, even with the words of MMD officials, the law would still continue and have the pensions administered.

Elections were held in October 1991, with Frederick Chiluba’s MMD taking over from President Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP. Over the 25 years, there are some things that have worked better than were things at the time of the One Party state. Yet there are also things that have declined.

Among the negative legacies of the Frederick Chiluba MMD rule was the violation of the basic rights of those officials who worked in UNIP and government. Immediately upon coming to office, the MMD administration, true to the pre-election vows of its officials, nullified the Leaders Benefits and Pensions law.  That action displaced into hardship many workers and officials. President Kaunda was for some time also affected.

Although, under international pressure, some adjustments were made for Dr Kaunda, and that after much suffering, the benefits of other positions were not re-instated or even settled through negotiation. Many officials who served government before 1991 have continued without pensions. 25 years later, in October 2016, this wrong, this violation of human rights in the name of politics, this evil against the elders, has not been corrected.

Presidential and other officials’ pensions are designed to make leaders concentrate on their jobs. They should not in future suffer because of their contribution to society. The presidency and government jobs should not just be for those who are already rich.

Also, giving Presidents and ministers and other officials good pensions helps prevent corruption and unfair practices for financial and resource benefit. Of course, there is need to put parameters and limits around Presidential benefits, such as the value of the house being built, but not to remove the benefits.

For now, as we remember October and Independence, let us consider the plight of those leaders and officials that were unfairly put into hardship because of the bias and hatred of those who came into office. It is time to settle the issue of pensions and benefits of Zambia’s government officials.

ginfinite@yahoo.com

G C B,    October 2016, LUSAKA.