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Africa’s Long Walk to Environmental Justice

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As a result of centuries of colonial oppression and exploitation, the fight for environmental justice in Africa has been stymied. The colonial exploitation of land in Africa has not only had a long-lasting impact on the African environment, but it has also had an impact on the environmental protection policies and practices in Africa. In light of this, international environmental law has failed to address and recognize the peculiar nature of environmental vulnerability in Africa, as indicated by its historical and normative development. The socioeconomic power of developed states has it impacts on the environmental vulnerability of countries, particularly the least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa. With their socioeconomic power, rich countries have transferred environmental hazards to developing countries, many of which are located in Africa. Many indigenous people in Africa’s had an early environmental philosophy which was ethnocentric. The spiritual connection to the land and its biological features prompted this. The contemporary anthropocentric exploitation of the African environment is developed from colonial environmental interactions and their depletive propensity to impoverish African societies.

The colonial arrangement, which had seen the environmental concerns of the West define the goals of the international environmental law regime, exacerbates environmental injustice in Africa through racial politics and values even today. Environmental impact assessment rules, on the other hand, have not been able to stop environmental degradation as they were intended to. Electronic waste trade has emerged as the most insidious kind of pollution, with disastrous long-term effects on Africa’s ecosystems. Environmental rule of law governing the allocation of environmental risks in Africa can help achieve environmental justice throughout the continent. To further help, Africa’s emerging economies need to engage heavily, the use of renewable energy sources for economic and environmental sustainability.

With regard to Africa’s environmental ties with developed countries, the racial privilege that deprives international environmental law of the ability to confront environmental racism and other forms of racism is inherited from colonialism. Colonialism eroded Africa’s commitment to defend its environment from former colonizers, leading to increased exploitation of the continent’s natural resources. Colonialism’s imperialist values created racial privilege.  The link between racial privilege and environmental justice can be seen in the many ways in which environmental objectives can be racialized.

Wealthy countries’ economic goals have often been known to lead to increased environmental vulnerability, in the developing world. Africa is particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation because of its poor socioeconomic conditions and weak regulatory institutions. The failure of international environmental law to safeguard Africa from the exploitation of its vulnerabilities ensured that international environmental law was complicit in Africa’s lack of environmental justice. International environmental law does not guarantee political action. Instead, political action would only be motivated by the promotion of an environmental rule of law.

The African Union has to do more to address environmental concerns in Africa. The organization might set up a commission to monitor and support environmental practices that benefit Africa’s most disadvantaged populations as part of its legal and policymaking efforts. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that monitor environmental pollution at the ground level could provide valuable information to this agency. The African Union may interact with the UN on climate and environmental concerns by sharing information and forming working partnerships with various UN agencies. The environmental crisis in Africa would only be exacerbated if the continent relied solely on fossil fuels to power its economies. In order to achieve sustainable economic development. Africa may encourage green industrialization by granting tax rebates and other economic incentives to enterprises that choose to power their operations with renewable energy.

This article was adapted from the findings of the author’s PhD research study at the Babcock University School of Law & Security Studies Nigeria.

Olalekan Moyosore Lalude is a Nigerian lawyer, thinker, essayist and short story writer. He is a currently a doctoral student at the School of Law and Security Studies, Babcock University. He has been published under the name Mark Lekan Lalude in the AfricanWriter, Kalahari Review, WTBP Anthology and Face2Face Africa.

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Africa

Time is short for Sudan to resolve political crisis

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Photo: Masarib/Ahmed Bahhar

Time is short for Sudan to reach a solution to its protracted political crisis, the Special Representative for the country told the Security Council on Tuesday, warning that if the impasse is not urgently overcome, the consequences will be felt beyond national borders, impacting a whole generation.

The crisis facing Sudan is entirely homegrown and can only be resolved by the Sudanese,” Volker Perthes, who is also Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), told Council members. 

Envoys of the trilateral mechanism facilitating intra-Sudan talks – the United Nations, the African Union and regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – have stressed that it is up to the Sudanese, particularly the authorities, to create an environment conducive to the success of any negotiations.

Detainees released

Outlining developments since March, he said authorities have released 86 detainees across the country, including high profile officials affiliated with the work of the Dismantling Committee and activists from the Resistance Committees.

Violence by security forces against protestors also appears to have decreased overall, although violations still occur.

At least 111 people reportedly remain in detention in Khartoum, Port Sudan and elsewhere.  On 21 May, another protestor was killed by security forces, bringing the number of those reportedly killed to 96.

To build trust, accountability needed

“If the authorities want to build trust, it is essential that those responsible for violence against protesters be held to account,” he stressed.

A growing number of Sudanese parties and eminent national figures have come forward with initiatives to solve the political crisis, he said, while several political coalitions have formed new alliances around common positions.

Against this backdrop, he said the trilateral mechanism held initial talks with key components of Sudanese society and politics throughout April, among them, political parties and coalitions, representatives from resistance committees, youth, the military, armed groups, Sufi religious leaders, women’s groups and academics. 

He said the aim was to canvass the views of the stakeholders on the substance and format of a Sudanese-led and owned process of talks.

While almost all have shown willingness to engage with facilitation efforts, some key stakeholders continue to reject face-to-face talks with other counterparts or prefer to participate indirectly.

Charting a way out

Forging shared understandings around these issues will help chart the way out of the crisis and address the institutional vacuum after the coup,” he said.

On the security front, he said recent events in West Darfur, including the destruction and displacement in Kerenik and violence in Geneina between 22 and 26 April, have again exposed deficits in the State’s ability to provide security and protection for civilians.

The Permanent Ceasefire Committee, chaired by UNITAMS, has launched an investigation into possible ceasefire violations, following the submission of formal complaints by the parties.

In Darfur, high risk of violence

The risk of a new outbreak of violence remains high,” he cautioned.  Ultimately, protection of civilians requires that the causes of conflict are addressed, including issues of decades-long marginalization, land issues and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

In the meantime, physical protection must be a priority for the Sudanese authorities and for the local/state governments in Darfur.

18 million face acute hunger

He said food prices in April jumped 15 per cent compared to March and remain 250 per cent higher than respective prices in 2021.  The combined effects of political instability, economic crisis, poor harvests and global supply shocks are having a “disastrous” impact on inflation. 

The number of Sudanese facing acute hunger is projected to double to 18 million by September.

Noting that most Sudanese stakeholders realize that the geopolitical environment is becoming more challenging, and the international gaze is deflected from Sudan, he said: “Too much is at stake, too many hopes and aspirations impacted”.  He urged the Sudanese to seize this opportunity to make progress.

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Russia Renews its Support to Mark Africa Day

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Russia has renewed its unique confidence that “it will be able to ensure the development and implementation of many useful and innovative projects and initiatives in various fields for the benefit of both countries and peoples, in the interests of strengthening security and stability in Africa and around the world.”

In a speech, on behalf of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, read by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on May 25 when the continent marks Africa Day, further noted the change marked the emergence of a multilateral pan-African platform on a qualitatively higher level of interaction in the political, socioeconomic and other spheres.

Putin, in addition, acknowledged that “African states have achieved a great deal together over the past two decades. They have developed mechanisms for a collective response to local conflicts and crises, and are consistently promoting regional integration processes in various formats. Africa enjoys growing prestige on the global stage and plays an increasingly important role in resolving important issues on the international agenda.”

Later talking about Russia-Africa relations, Lavrvo told the gathering that Russia would continue to provide comprehensive support and to expand mutually beneficial cooperation. Russian-African relations are traditionally friendly and are making good progress.

Russia has always been and will remain a reliable partner and friend to the countries of Africa. Today, we are confronted with certain Western countries’ unscrupulous attempts to constrain our engagement with Africa. 

Russia has played a leading role in decolonisation and in consolidating decolonisation processes, as well as drafting UN resolutions. Unfortunately, some of them have been sabotaged by former metropolises to this day. We stand in solidarity with your demands for the complete liberation of Africa from the last vestiges of colonial legacy.

This year marks 20 years since the Organisation of African Unity was transformed into the African Union. That change marked the emergence of a multilateral pan-African platform on a qualitatively higher level of interaction in the political, socioeconomic and other spheres.

“Russia has always been and will remain a reliable partner and friend to the countries of Africa. Today, we are confronted with certain Western countries’ unscrupulous attempts to constrain our engagement with Africa. I’m referring to the all-out hybrid war against Russia declared by Washington and its European satellites in connection with the special military operation in Ukraine,” he added.

According to him, it is not so much about Ukraine, which is used as a bargaining chip in the global anti-Russian game. The main problem is that a small group of US-led Western countries keeps trying to impose the concept of a rules-based world order on the international community.

Lavrov suggested that Africa must not succumb to Washington’s discriminatory pressure. There are attempts to reverse history and subjugate the peoples of the continent again grossly violate the sovereignty and independence of the states of the region, and jeopardize the entire system of international relations, which is based on the principle of respect for the sovereign equality of states in the Unted Nations’ Charter.

He called on the African Union (AU) to persistently demand that the West lift illegal unilateral sanctions that undermine the transport and logistics infrastructure necessary for world trade, which creates risks for vulnerable segments of the population. 

Russia and Africa will work together to maintain and expand mutually beneficial bilateral ties in the new conditions without external interference. It is important to facilitate the mutual access of Russian and African economic operators to each other’s markets, to encourage their participation in large-scale infrastructure projects. All these tasks are at the center of attention in the preparations for the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit. 

Reports show that the Russia-Ukraine crisis has twisted the global economy and many African countries are among the most vulnerable in terms of ensuring food security. Some states of the continent are critically dependent on the import of agricultural products from Russia, therefore will make some deliveries, including food, fertilizers, energy carriers and other goods, of great importance for maintaining social stability and achieving the milestones stipulated by the Sustainable Development Goals approved by the United Nations.

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South Africa on the right side of history or captured by Cold War allies?

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Authors: Professor Gerrit Olivier and Michèle Olivier* 

A seemingly non-negotiable principle of SA’s foreign policy, is to be on the side of autocrats and dictators and habitually anti-West, irrespective of the issues. Cosy relations with the likes of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile Mariam, Sudan‘s Omar al Bashir Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, characterised our foreign policy under all presidents since Nelson Mandela. With the present government being enamoured with a rabid war criminal like Vladimir Putin, we see a continuation of this policy.

Obsessed with a myopic partisan ideology and habitual hop-nobbing with dictators, of course, come at a high price, particularly degrading SA’S erstwhile high international prestige, role and status as well as stunting our all-important economic development. In short, this means that SA’s prevailing foreign policy is totally out of zinc with its intrinsic national interests. 

According to ANC declarations, SA would ’stick to its principles‘ and not take sides in this war in spite of blatantly illegal and murderous Russian war crimes. Hence, it abstained from voting against Russia together with a motley minority of 34 other UN members in the 2 March General Assembly resolution (only 5 states voted against whilst 141 voted in favour). 

The minister of the department of international relations and development (DIRCO), Naledi Pandor, issued a statement demanding Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. This clearly upset the Marxist, anti-West faction in the ANC policy establishment who subsequently prevailed upon president Ramaphosa, to denounce the statement, no doubt to assuage Russian and local communist’s displeasure. 

For many, both inside and outside the country, this was a controversial decision resulting in a rare local public debate about our wayward foreign policy. What emerged was a conflict of opinion between the ideologues and realists in the foreign policy establishment. A hopeful sign, but unfortunately of little consequence in our fossilised ANC foreign policy establishment. 

All along, the ideologues accepted that being in cahoots with war criminal Russia was in SA’s best interests notwithstanding the normative constitutional dictates and founding moral principles concerning respect for human rights, sovereignty, democracy, and territorial integrity. 

What followed was indeed a case study of expedient, if not downright ’Walter Mitty’ diplomacy.  First, president Ramaphosa rushed to telephone Putin, obviously to bask the reflected glory and honour of speaking to the ‘great man’. Afterwards, he subserviently thanked ‘’his excellency president Vladimir Putin‘’ for taking his call.  At the same time, our ’great negotiator’ refused official engagement with the local Ukrainian ambassador as well as with ambassadors of the European Union, our biggest trading partners.

In the latest General Assembly meeting on Ukraine, SA persisted with its pro-Russian pseudo-neutrality but got a humiliating bloody nose after presenting a draft resolution, excluding the country of all blame. No wonder as this resolution was strictly in line with Kremlin propaganda lies casting doubt as to where exactly SA’s UN diplomats got their instructions from. 

Ramaphosa’s aim, it seems, is to push himself forward as facilitator in the conflict, recalling at length in parliament his past experiences a negotiator.

‘Illusions of grandeur’, it may be called, as SA ’s international status and role during about 3 decades of uninterrupted misrule has declined close to being almost insignificant. While most of the world reached out to end the horrible and unthinkable human and material misery inflicted upon Ukrainian people, he offered them naught for their comfort, except portending to be a great negotiator reporting for service.  

Belatedly, after strong criticism he rejected war as an instrument of policy, and signalled his wish to also speak to Ukrainian pres Volodimyr Zelinskiy, impressed perhaps by the latter‘s sterling performances addressing the American senate and the British, Canadian, Israeli, Italian and Japanese parliaments and the  German Bundestag. The pièce de résistance of his kindergarten diplomacy, was to blame NATO for being deaf to earlier warnings against eastward expansion, ignoring the Russian brutal invasions, of inter alia, Finland, Latvia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, in the previous century not realising that NATO membership was their safeguard against future Ukrainian-type of invasions. Theirs was a wise decision.  Indeed, Mr President, ignorance is bliss….!    

Of course, good relations with countries like Russia are important provided they are based on pragmatism and national interest rather than sentimental ideological predilections. However, the ANC still acts as being a captive of the Cold War and, as if it still owes permanent a feudal fealty to Russia at a time when Soviet Union is passe and with communism on the ash heap of history. 

While the world must perforce deal with a totally different and dangerous Putinist Russia, the ANC obstinately refuse to accept that its subservient posture vis-a- vis that country is not in SA’s best interest. Lamentably, the global moral imperatives that saw them to power no longer guide its foreign policy. Like the apartheid regime, Putinist Russia today commits a crime against humanity in Ukraine with the support of the ANC government. 

The war in Ukraine may yet lead to unthinkable consequences for the world at large. What happens there is really a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. Putin does not want a democratic Ukraine at his doorstep exposing his bland authoritarianism and precipitating a ’colour revolution’.  Given the solidarity in the democratic West and the sluggish performance of the Russian forces in Ukraine, he will probably end up losing. SA policy makers are demonstrably  myopic not realising the consequences for being on the side of a war autocratic war criminal war criminal. Like apartheid SA it would probably end up as an isolated global pariah.

An independent SA foreign policy is called for rather than one subservient to the preferences and dictates of Moscow and Beijing. This is the best way in which SA can regain international respect. The way in which it has handled the Ukraine crisis once again laid bare its diplomatic deficiencies, particularly lack of clear headed leadership. This will not change unless foreign policy making is democratised and professionalised rather than being monopolised by a small clique of badly trained  and inexperienced ideologues with the help of a few advocating stand-patters. 

* Michèle Olivier is a consultant of international law

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