For so long developing countries, including African countries, have been told that stronger protection of intellectual property rights is required for economic progress. This hypothesis is rooted into neo-liberal economic thinking driven by familiar institutions such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the World Trade Organization among others. United States and its allies have over decades linked stronger intellectual property to market access. The ability of African countries and others to fully participate in the international trade is now tied to the extent they are able to have robust intellectual property laws. However, this approach has failed to recognized the nature of knowledge production that goes on in indigenous and local communities that constitute the majority of African States. Because of their close relationship with nature and biological resources, most knowledge production in these communities is linked to the uses and dealings with biological and natural resources through traditional knowledge, including African religions. Yet the global standard of intellectual property articulated under the WTO framework through the international agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) does not recognize traditional knowledge. Continue reading
The CIHA Blog is starting a new series called “Things People Who Want to Help Africa Should Know,” which we hope students, activists and scholars will use and contribute to. Here is the newest piece in this series, about the problematic programs of some advocacy groups to focus on minerals to end the conflict in the DRC. In “The Problem With Western Activists Trying to Do Good in Africa”, author Ben Radley discusses the negative impacts of the “conflict minerals” campaign, (which follows on the work of scholars like Severine Autesserre’s The Trouble With the Congo). Continue reading
In the following article, Gyaviira Kisitu grapples with the semantics and the complex-political nuances encapsulated by the notion of “free and fair” in the democratic discourse. He centers his analysis on the recently concluded presidential elections in Uganda. Kisitu argues that the mere pronouncing of an election as “free and fair” is often debated by opposing groups and is in fact much more complicated.
By Gyaviira Kisitu, Ph D Candidate – University of KwaZulu-Natal
A common assumption implied by a simplistic description of political elections as free and fair is that they have served justice. While the means and end of the principle of justice are to serve a common good, it remains contestable whether the so described ‘free and fair’ elections are always in the interest of the masses. The phrase itself appears ambiguously used, politicized, ritualized and at times merely uttered for the sake of it. It may not matter that an ‘independent’ electoral commission of a country can both admit that electoral violence occurred, and assert a free and fair outcome of the elections. On one hand some observers may declare a certain election as a true reflection of the peoples’ will while others see the same election far less of the sort. Atuobi (2008:15) rightly argues that “In most cases, elections declared as free and fair by some observer groups are called a sham by other observer groups”. One wonders then, who is fooling whom? What does it entail for an election to be free and fair? Is it just a perceived peaceful turnout or when a certain election is not challenged in the court of law of that particular state? Continue reading
We at The CIHA Blog are very eager to publicize the pan-African writers’ collective site, Jalada. In this issue, Jalada publishes 32 translations of a new story by our friend, supporter, and freedom fighter Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the founding director of the University of California Irvine Center for Translation. Jalada‘s multiple translations (and translations of translations) provides a terrifically innovative way to value the [the creative genius of the African continent and beyond. We encourage our readers to consult the site regularly. African writers, from the very beginning of modern african writing, have consistently provided a critical reading of humanitarian and religious interventions in the continent. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o entire oeuvre, in particular the Wizard of Crow, a novel. A translation from Gikuyu by the author (2006), provides a trenchant critique of humanitarianism, focusing on the genealogy of Western humanitarian interventions from the colonial age to the contemporary global humanitarian industry. Reading Ngugi is already engaging in the practice of critically investigating humanitarianism in Africa. And we hope our readers who intervene in the field would consider the teachings of Ngugi; as we, in the Blog, believe these teachings can improve both the understanding and the practice of humanitarianism.
Nous sommes très enthousiastes de partager sur le blog du CIHA le site du Collectif des Auteurs Panafricains Jadala (Lien du site), et la parution du nouveau roman de notre ami et supporter Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, traduit en 32 langues. Les multiples traductions de Jalada (et les traductions d’ouvres déjà traduites) offrent une façon extrêmement novatrice d’apprécier la richesse linguistique à travers le continent et au-delà. Nous invitons nos lecteurs à visiter régulièrement le site, puisque le travail des auteurs africains est capital pour la compréhension du paysage humanitaire et religieux du continent. Le travail de Ngugi en particulier, qu’il faut lire et dont il faut s’imprégner est décisif pour tout humanitaire potentiel, et tout critique, à l’intérieur comme à l’extérieur du continent
This piece presents a very strong articulation of some of the problems that plague the humanitarian system, and that we on The Blog have seen and experienced as well. It is not everyday that righteous anger about the humanitarian system is conveyed with such clarity and conviction. Highly recommended reading!