Intervention Française au Mali: une douche froide pour les Francophobes et opposants de la FrançAfrique? France’s Just War in Mali: Food for thought for Francophobes and opponents of the françAfrique?

•January 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Intervention Française au Mali: une douche froide pour les Francophobes et opposants de la FrançAfrique?

France’s Just War in Mali: Food for thought for Francophobes and opponents of the françAfrique?

 

I am admittedly a Francophobe. More than 2days’ transit through Paris is the maximum I could ever stomach of the “Country of Human Rights”, just long enough to enjoy fresh croissants at Paul’s, a pint of pineapple juice at Monoprix, and on a good day, a trip down to the 1st arrondissement to eat delicious “crêpes au citron” at the foot of the Eiffel tower. But by the end of the 2nd day, I start to literally feel choked, oppressed anew by the cultural arrogance of the french you feel like claws on your throat when you buy a train ticket or just sitting at a café, the deterioration you see on their train going from the 1er arrondissement to Sarcelles or any other of their “banlieues”, true human gutters where African immigrants amass like rats, and of course, that plaque on their Arc de Triomphe “a nos morts pour la patrie”, a very moving plaque for any tourist reading this, but for me, revolutionary daughter of the 21st Africa, in between the lines all I read are the words not spoken.. “and to the millions of other drafted men from our colonies of Africa and Indochina whom we never retributed decently, even bombarded them to silence when they dared make qualms in Thiaroye!). Yes, by day 2, I am always ready to run back to the airport to catch the first plane out of the land of such non-humble people.

But today, for the first time in my life, I am rethinking my francophobia…

Last week’s push of the jihadists towards the South of Mali, wrere lies the strategic capital city of Mali, Bamako, found me in Bamako. That fateful Thursday January 10th, we really thought we were dug in. This was it, the moment we were all dreading for months, the crazed islamists, set on installing strict Sharia law across entire the muslim West Africa, too liberal and laic for their taste, were going to march towards Bamako, met by no resistance from the unorganized, leaderless and disorganized Malian army. I was packed up, purchased a one-way ticket for Dakar, and was ready to fly out on the first flight out of the city.

Then that evening the Malian president addressed a letter to the French president François Hollande pleading for international support to push back the jihadists before it was too late. The French took this plea to the UN Security council for an international seal of approval. The next day, the first French planes were flying over Bamako on their way to the North, to seize back the city of Konna, first city of the South seized by the hijadists the day before. The rest is now history…

2,000 French troops are today in Mali, in a massive French effort to push back islamist terrorists and help Mali regain its territorial integrity, an operation named “Serval”, after a small animal of the desert.

“Le Mali Un et Indivisible, au côté des français” we can read today everywhere. Mali, one and indivisible. But not with our African brothers by our side, but with France by our side.

French flags are flying all over town, proudly displayed side-by-side with the Malian flag on two-wheelers, on car windows, in front porches of homes and businesses, as the pictures below display.

Photos 1-3: French flags side by side with the Malian flag in the streets and hearts of Bamako

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Photo 4: Café worker watching France24’s news update at a café in Bamako. Bamako residents are stuck to their TV screens these days, counting on French channels France24 or RFI for updates on the progress of French and Malian troops in the war ongoing 700Km (just about 8hours) North of the capital city.

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The tri-colored Mali flag side-by-side with that of the former French colonialist… Who would have ever thought this day possible, in the 21st century? Kwame Nkrumah is probably turning in his grave.

This moment is an important one in our history. And bodes to me of where we are heading in our globalized “one village” world, where citizen alliances and national sentiments will not go towards (as assumed) more pan-Africanism, but towards where concrete fellowship and benevolent partnership will be forthcoming, be it France, China or any other nation.

Serval is the savior of the day. Not Operation Misma that has been “under discussion” for almost a year now, at the innumerable CEDEAO and AU special summits held on the Mali impending crisis. Where is Misma today? It is the typical  chronicle of a predicted catastrophe.

10 days after the assault on Konna, when we escaped extinction here in Mali, it is shocking to see that the pledged 500 Senegalese troops are still not here. Senegal is the closest neighbor to the West, in geography an history- reminding that Senegal and Mali used to be one single nation between 1960-62, and cultural kinship could not be highest anywhere on the continent as between these 2 countries, which still share the same flag (least one star) and emblem (one People-one Nation-one Faith). Nigeria, Tchad, Togo and Niger began at least have begun sending in their men, battalions of one to two hundred men at a time, slow drops of water to a parched tongue. But the truth remains that it is the French troops that are holding the front, and manning the brunt of the war effort.

In these dire times of need, when a country, making the weightiest statement a sovereign country could ever make, calls for help to regain its territorial integrity and escape from extinction, finds a helping hand not its neighboring countries, but in France, what does this say about the progress of pan-Africanism? What message does it send to young generations of Africans looking for models?

What are we doing with ourselves, most of all, fellow Africans? More than half a century after Independence, we still are not able to agree to have a regional army able to protect our common borders and fight transnational threats? We are still incapable of coming to the rescue of a fellow country that is faced with a threat that could have happened to any of us? We are all Malians today, by the sheer fact that the Jihadists, had they been allowed to reach Bamako, could have been next at the doorsteps of Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Burkina Faso, in a heartbeat. The Malian problem is a regional problem, which should have been addressed through a regional solution and response. But the truth of the matter is: West Africa countries are not capable of bringing a regional response, not out of lack of desire to make Misma work, but out of limited means and national funds allocated to panafricanist efforts. We prefer to invest in national armies and national priorities, not understanding that our minute national armies and markets are not the “way out”. But Pan-Africanism is still not a priority. And here is the outcome…

Once again, the thunder was stolen. Once again, we Africans missed our moment of glory. And instead of entering Mali as saviors, applauded by local populations who could have seen in practice the heights we reach when united as Africans, we are diminished to pronouncing accolades for the French president (every president has made a speech thanking france, once again), even stating to be “in heaven” after France’s intervention in Mali (the very words of the head of the Africa Union, Yayi Bonni, Togolese president). What a shame…

Well I say kudos to François Hollande’s France. And shame on our African countries.

I am no less a skeptic of the French, but today one courageous act of a man, François Hollande, at the right time, saved my life and that of millions here in Mali, in the first act of a Just War I have seen in this new century. This I can attest to.

Every generation seeks models and heroes to inspire it and guide its actions, and catalyze its most productive energies. In 1968, it was the winds of independences that moved millions of university students to riot all across Europe and the world. Following our Independences, a generation of revolutionary African heroes, from Thomas Sankara (Burkina) to Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Frantz Fannon (Algeria) and later on Mandela inspired the generations of our parents to fight on, to secure substantive socio-economic rights for our antions. Their ideas are very much alive today, and held on to desperately like flames of lingering hope by today’s generation of youth, but no leader is presently on the front scene to catalyze them into action. Our leaders prefer to applaude François Hollande’s heroism, instead of being heroes themselves for all of us.

My tenacious Francophobe friends say to wait a few years to see what the REAL covert intentions of the French were in reality in engaging in this war. Qui vivra, verra. We shall see!

But what remains is that it is the French who saved the day. Not the Africans. Once again, African leaders were not able to stand as one to uphold the priorities/deliver on the needs of their people, opening the space for jihadist terrorists to have such an appeal – at least they offer concrete opportunities of power, fellowship and money-making that are appealing to the young Somalian who has no opportunities.

Will we be moving towards more sporadic terrorism and a turn towards hardliner Islamism in the region? Towards a new era of FrançAfrique relations, based on true partnership, respect and fellowship this time, doing good at long last on our Histories’ collisions, which thrust us into each other’s national destinies?

We shall see, indeed!

But for now, lots of food for thought…

Meet AfroOptimist of the Month: NEW DAWN AFRICA

•March 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment
Greetings Afro-Optimists!

NOW is the time for Africa

•March 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

NOW is the time for Africa

NOW is the time for Africa. Not tomorrow, not in 10 years. If you don’t believe it, this picture above is a good remider. You see here ordinary Senegalese citizens, young and old, women, men and youth, lining up for hours under the scorching sun to vote Abdoulaye Wade out, along with his nepotist regime, in Diourbel, Senegal.

Look also at the sun rising on Catembe Isld, across Maputo Bay, in Mozambique, where land is still dirt cheap, on the economic road to South Africa.

Finally, look at the rich lush green valleys, rolling hills, clean blue skies and winding rivers of Uganda, a country endowed by the One above with abundant rainfall and sunshine all year long, a fiest for the eyes and truly a tropical paradise.

If you’re smart, you’ll begin to plan your return to Africa now. If you’re smart, you’ll start planning your investments in Africa now. If you’re smart, you’ll begin to see ALL of the opportunities which our beautiful continent is replete with, at every corner your eye cares to catch.

NOW is the for Africa friends. World, get ready, here comes 21st century Africa!

Be blessed all Afro-optimists.
– afrooptimist

Today is a good day to be in Africa

•October 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today is a good day to be in Africa
October 22, 2011

Today is a good day to be in Africa. Sitting in a bus leaving Mbale district on my way to the small rural community of Bulambuli, in north eastern Uganda, it strikes me how really true it is that “Africa is richest continent in the world”.

Sun ripened banana trees in this God-endowed rain-abundant country of golden (cheap!) fruits and tall sunflowers greet me as the bus speeds by. Rolling hills, deep ripe river-studded valleys and green expanses as far as the eye can see meet my gaze wherever I turn. The surrounding Elgon Mountain range, circling the entire Mbale region, offers the perfect backdrop to this idyllic scene. Men coming out of round-shaped mud huts, women bent cultivating between cotton rows and youth cycling away go by as if this was the most natural scene in the world. The beauty of the green-tree lined imposing mountains, the green healthy fields, the green insides of happily fed goats and cows lazily chewing on greens pastures… the beauty of the green everywhere against the radiant clear blue of the sky is indescribable. A feast for the eyes.

A wide smile spreads over my face at seeing a child, half naked trotting on his two tiny feet to chase a duck at the daily market, under the watchful eyes of his mother.

Not long after, another heart-warming scene, a man meticulously pounding on a pile of rocks breaking one rock at a time into small pieces, sweat beginning to soak his brow. He sits beneath a sheet of cloth suspended using 4 long sticks pinned to the ground, but it hardly helps. There are about five more stone piles behind him. You can just tell he plans to be there until lunch, when his wife calls him in perhaps.

I close my eyes and can almost see the other invisible villages, off the road, nested at the foot of the beautiful mountains, their residents also carrying on with their daily lot, their children playing in the rich red sand, old men sitting under the large tree drinking tea, bearing any hardship faced in their stride.

News of Colonel Moamar Ghadaffi’s death just came in. On the local paper this morning, we saw pictures of the boy who shot the president for life or so he thought Ghaddafi. Pictures of his blood-soaked corpse are shocking, but that is the fate of men who thought themselves eternal. I hope his friend Museveni here, along with all the other tenacious dinosaur presidents across Africa (Wade, Biya, Mugabe and the Bongos), see the writing on the wall. And leave while the restlessness from within and impatience for change is still containable. The Arab spring is at Every African country’s door.

Right next to me on the bus, the hearty laugh and heart-felt smile of my Ugandan neighbor, fellow African child of this rich land, privy to its simple beauties and lived sorrows, brings me off my cloud and out of my reverie, inspired by the scenery around me. Every thing in him invites me to his world. A new friend awaits to be made.
Today is a good day to be in Africa.

A conversation with Patrice E. LUMUMBA, 60 years after his assasination: is the time for Africa now?

•October 13, 2011 • 1 Comment

I just re-watched Raul Peck’s LUMUMBA, hadn’t seen it again since high school, and am moved a-new. Afrooptimists have tried in the past , but forces of evil (former colonies reluctant to really let go as well as gain-smelling looting world powers at our borders with fawns outstretched) were too powerful. We wanted to build and prosper, they wanted us divided, subservient and at war, to be able to continue looting in peace. It was David against Goliath. We could not win then.

Tribute to Patrice Emery Lumumba, Thomas Isidore Sankara and all our courageous forefathers who still upheld their beautiful vision for what Africa could become, against all odds. They were 50 years too early. Is now the time for Africa?

This month’s AfroOptimism page is dedicated to the memory of this illustrious AfroOptimist, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his belief that Africa could be prosperous and free: his own life. His entire life was dedicated to this vision which he made his mission on Earth, at the expense of his family life and life as a regular man, husband and father to his only daughter Juliana.

I invite you to revisit Lumumba’s life, words and vision through the video links below, and be inspired anew to work for the advancement of Africa. Then please join in the discussion of this month: “60 years after Lumumba: is the time for Africa now?”

Let us make Lumumba’s vision a reality, so that he may be smiling down from heaven with the reassurance that his sacrifice was not in vain.. RIP Congo’s Afro-Optimist.

Videos

Lumumba proclamant l’indépendance du Congo libre, le 30 juin 1960, et apportant la rétorque historique aux belges (FRENCH)

More context & background on Lumumba’s June 30 1960 Independence speech (English):

Exclusive historical footage of Lumumba live before his assassination

I can’t believe this is really all on tape!! so far back, yet so very recent.. (courtesy of Raoul Peck)


Discussion

60 years after Lumumba: is the time for Africa now?

Perhaps Lumumba, Sankara and all the visionaries at Africa’s Independence, our first missed turn, were 50 years too early. Colonial interests (la Françafrique, Belgafrique, UKAfrik, whatever you wish to label it) were then too strong, too tenacious for our first revolutionaries to win their struggle for true freedom, social justice and prosperity for Africa.

Today though, one can assert that the continent, in many of its parts at least in its urban centers, today experiences more transparency. The CIA can no longer just abduct an acting elected . The true evil role of former colonialists is now an accepted fact. The new word of the day is Partnership à la américaine, and no longer Paternalism. One can purport that in this context of waning colonial grips on the continent, there are better chances today of Africa taking off its development project, and delivering on the vision of our independence day revolutionaries, making their dream then a reality now

Does Africa have better chances today?

What new odds, opportunities and constraints, different from those at Independance day, are we confronted with today? Relative to those of the 1960s, do these new odds augur of a brighter or a darker future possible for the continent?

Is the time for Africa ripe today? Or is the time not yet ripe? Why and why not?

This is the discussion theme of the month. Afro-Optimists: let the comments galore begin!

My 2 cents

The odds that Lumumba, Sankara and co. faced are starkly different from the ones our generation of Afro-optimists face. The evil. Globalization can be used as a force for good to generate income in our income-deprived rural areas, and open up opportunities

But still tenacious is the mental colonization of our people, evident in the psyche and choices our governors make, perpetuating former extractive illegitmate institutions (Aimé Césaire’s nightmare of “black imperialists replacing the white ones” has unfortunately become reality); evident in even the most minute yet alarming practices of our people, who bleach their skins off its melalin and straighten the beautiful kinks that God has endowed us with, dying them blonde even sometimes.

These deeply-entrenched self-hate practices, the fruit of a century of foreign domination preceded by 4 other centuries of slave trade, will take a while to uproot. But seeing young girls, the new generation, in Nairobi’s upbeat streets brandishing their Afros high, and a new wave women leaders such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , our newest Peace Nobel Laureate, taking center stage; then I lose my fears and have hope renewed that we will get there. We will be free, one day, soon.

I’ll end my 2 cents with the following thought:

Knowledge of your history is a burden. Once you know where you’ve come from, and all of the past sacrifices and lives laid down on the way to where we stand today, you can no longer remain passive. You have no option other than to take on the historic mission of making Africa’s advancement a priority, and carry on the struggle for a prosperous and bright future for the looted martyr continent.

-afrooptimist

Green Thursday in the Life of the Nation of Senegal: The Day everything Changed & Ticking bomb finally exploded

•June 24, 2011 • 1 Comment

Green Thursday in the Life of the Nation

Green Thursday in the Life of the Nation of Senegal: The Day everything Changed & Ticking bomb finally exploded

 

The Nation of Senegal came out in all of its flying colors today to defend the Republic and express its full sovereignty over its destiny

 

Green for the color of hope, green for the color of renewal, green in opposition to the oppressing claw with which the ruling party of PDS (the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais) had reigned over the country of Senegal for the past 11 years of rule–whose color of representation was blue, once the symbol of SOPI, or change, when PDS’ leader Abdoulaye Wade was elected to power in 2000 toppling a 40-year regime.

Today all across the country, flags and party houses of the PDS were burnt down in the streets, along with stoned cars, government buildings and houses of deputies known to be lieutenants in the ruling party.

 

Thursday June 23 was indeed a historic day in the life the Nation that we the youth of Senegal will never forget. The Nation came out, in all of its glory and fury, men and women, youth and old, poor and rich, swift politicians and lay common men/women, and took to the streets together as one to contest a law proposal orchestrated by the Presidency that was to change the rules of the electoral game to enable an easy reelection for Abdoulaye Wade for a third 7-year term in the upcoming February 2012 election –halving the minimum percentage of voters required to win at the 1st round from 50% +1 vote to 25% of all votes expressed, and furthermore instituting  a vice-presidency, without any consultations or consensus with the people, a logical pre-requisite to such a sweeping constitutional change.

However the people of Senegal today did not just come out to contest, legitimately, the nth makeover of their constitution. They came out because this was the act too much, the drop that made the full vase tip over.

 

This explosion that took the form of hundreds of thousands of Senegalese men, women and youth, marching to besiege the National Assembly and the main streets of Dakar, as well as those of all regional capitals across the country (Thies, Diourbel, Kaolack, Fatick, Saint-Louis, Ziguinchor), demanding that the law proposal under examination at the National Assembly be repealed and fighting armed policemen with their bare hands and stones screaming to the top of their lungs “Y’en a marre” (We have had enough!), was the explosion of a bomb that had been ticking in my sense for the past 5years. Indeed during the 5 years past since the contested political re-election of Abdoulaye Wade in 2007, the 80+ year old president of Senegal had been lining up politico-financial scandal after politico-financial scandal, which made his once soaring popularity scores plummet. To name but a few of these: the billions of the Muslim Summit Organization squandered and mismanaged by his own son; the millions of the partial privatization of the national Electricity company, Senelec, and more recently of the Telecommunication concession leased to a less competitive third party different from “Orange” the largest telecom provider but with whom the president had struck a back-table deal; the privatization of the National Port to a private Dubai company to whom Wade’s son was connected; the ransacking of an anti-government broadcasting company’s offices by one of Wade’s lieutenants who never went to trial for it; an unpopular gargantuan statue built using public funding but 35% of the proceeds of which went to Wade’s personal foundation; more recently the purchase of a multi-billion CFA home in the posh side of town by the president who paid for this in cash, destabilizing financial markets with such a dumping of CFAs onto the money market; multiple reported thefts of millions of CFAs in his ministers’ homes, making people raise eyebrows about how these public officials had so much money sitting in home vaults in the first place and not in public banks; the parceling and sale of the public utility lands of the National Fair which was a prime resettlement site for victims in the advent of a humanitarian crisis; the parade of brand new luxury cars in the brand new streets of the corniche linking the airport to the presidential palace while the majority of the population labored for hours in a defunct public transportation system to get to work from the cheaper housing neighborhoods of the banlieue to their workplaces in central Dakar; the housing bubble; the general air of impunity and witch hunt against anyone who dared make money outside of the president’s intimate circle; the repeated creation and dismantling of government ministries, institutions and national agencies as needed to give “a piece of the cake” to faithful followers and PDS militants, etc. The litany of scandals stretches endlessly.

 

The most insufferable scandal however to the Nation of Senegal –a country, it is important to note, that has had multiparty elections since 1974 when it was only 14 years of age as a country free of the colonial yoke –was the de facto grooming by Wade of his son to inherit the Republic, a rumor at first which the Senegalese people could not believe, having elected Wade through the ballot only a mere 7 years back, but which became increasingly corroborated by the series of acts posed by President and son over the past 5 years. Yet the Nation gave Wade and son a final warning still, clearly saying NO to the personalization of the State and Wade’s covert plan of a monarchic devolution of power during the 2009 legislative elections, when Abdoulaye Wade’s son, who does not speak even one of the national languages of Senegal as a descendent of French mother who lived all of his life in France, yet positioned as a headliner in PDS’ ballot list, was defeated even in his own voting center in Point E, a strong signal to the democratically-elected president to reform his ways. But Wade did not pick up on the signals and failed to read the writings on the wall. Also he could not fight off the increasing accusations of enriching himself and his family on the backs of Senegalese people and grooming his son to inherit him.

 

On Thursday June 23, after having suffered in relative silence months of intensive power outages in a country that had never know them, even under the most austere years of structural adjustement (Senegal after all is not Nigeria), 5 years of general gloom where Abdoulaye Wade and his parliamentary majority in the National Assembly reigned with an arrogant political fist (an error of the opposition that had boycotted the legislative rounds in 2007 over calls of electoral fraud by Wade to win his second mandate) throttling the country and brazenly appropriating all of its assets (lands, deeds, natural resources, inflowing aid) getting richer and richer, while the majority excluded from the “goody basket” of the State met only shrinking opportunities, rising prices, long nights without power and “no thank you”s to the limited number of jobs still available but to which hundreds of desperate job-seekers fresh out of Senegal’s first-rate universities and professional schools lined up for. That angry youth today mostly, jobless, broke, lost in its quest for values, with nowhere to turn to, and hungry for change, is the one that took to the streets to state loudly that they were fed up of a regime that no longer served their interests, but is own.

 

The People of Senegal took to the streets today to decry the hijacking of their country by a band of self-interested politicians –from all across the spectrum- and of their freewill by the same occasion.

 

What took place in Senegal today was most of all a reclaiming by a People of a voice they thought they had a lost, and a dignity even themselves had forgotten they had.

 

What was most touching to me today watching this day of uprising that shook the young Nation jolting it awake was the diversity of the people who took to the streets –it started yesterday with a handful of determined youth from the movement “Y’en a Marre” (urban rappers and disillusioned youth for the most part) and opposition leaders, of whom a few took dramatic steps to awaken the dignified spirit of the Senegalese people, such as Cheikh Bamba Dieye, mayor of Saint-Louis and minority deputy in the national assembly, who singled himself out by chaining himself to the gates of the National Assembly 2 days before the vote to symbolize how this new law, if passed in assembly on Thursday, would render the condition of the Senegalese man, chained forever to Wade’s dictatorial regime. However by yesterday, eve of the fateful National Assembly vote, men, women and youth from all walks of life were out on the streets.

 

This morning- the riots had reached their paroxysm. The rallying order was to all assemble at Place Soweto, in front of the gates of the National Assembly, and let the voice of the people be heard that the people of Senegal did not want this Law. It was anti-democratic and would give full powers to Wade to implement his foul scheme of devolving power to his son by naming him vice-president –before taking off on a golden retirement paid by our public dimes. Given that the National Assembly deputies, from the PDS ruling party by large measure, no longer represented us, it was time to let them hear us- and loud. In the wee hours of the day, the prior day rioters who had gone home to revive their forces posted out on Place Soweto forming a human barrier against the deputies trying to enter the National Assembly. By 10am, a thousand university students left the University Cheikh anta Diop on the corniche and ran in thirty minutes the ten kilometers separating them from Place Soweto, doubling in size on their way picking along anyone who could join the struggle. The national board examinations for 6th graders in progress were disrupted as marching students took the examiners out of the classrooms forcefully –encouraging them to join the Revolution. I was very touched to see what happened then: the well-to-do bankers, government officials, NGO workers, back office workers, private company bosses, established colleagues and heads of households all across Dakar who had all to lose, all left their offices all at once with the outcry “when the day of death has arrived those who continue to live are not men!” (translation of an old Wolof proverb sang in praise to warriors before the day of reckoning). What was most fantastic was that the women were the first on the streets. They had declared their intent the day before at a planning meeting led jointly by the opposition leaders and civil Forum where one woman took the microphone and stated” if you the men want to stick to meeting rooms and are too afraid to take to the streets, we will” and they formidably did, in all of their anger and determination. And we know that whatever women start will not end until they prevail. It literally gave me the goose bumps as I saw the image of a veiled young woman –symbol of obedience and passivity –who found a way through the middle of the agitated mob on Place Soweto brandishing a large stone in her hands and sent it crushing down back the head of a National Assembly Deputy who was trying to enter the Assembly to vote in favor of the law.

 

As the day of protest continued, people from everywhere –apparently buses on end sent in from Saint-Louis and Kaolack pouring in more people onto the streets of Dakar- joined in, filling the ranks of the fast thickening mob in front of the National assembly and all across the capital. In Medina, Sacré-Coeur, Niari Tali, Thiaroye, Pikine, Guédiawaye, all of the streets pulsed with thde anger of the citizens, with the heart of the mob at Place Soweto pulsating energy and volition through the city’s main arteries in an interlinked chain of anger and determination. Pandemonium broke loose with police forces being fast overwhelmed, not knowing what front to fight off as hundreds of foyers of dissent opened simultaneously all throughout the city, and the country.

 

But the people who did not come to Dakar also marched in their regions- in Diourbel the entire PDS party house was ransack and burnt down to ashes. Not a single bench was even left behind for future PDS members in that impoverished town in the center of Senegal to sit and orchestrate further lootings of the region’s resources.

 

Being in Senegal today was like seeing scenes from a movie one thought could have never been possible in this peaceful stable country of West Africa, once hailed as the beacon of democracy on the continent and a haven of stability amidst its warring despotic neighbors in the sub-region. All across the country, people marched on, unwavering, firing stones at the police and running back strategically when the policemen fired back with hot water hoses poured in from large towering tank onto the mob and tear gas to will. Blood of civil victims and police officers alike lined the streets, mixing with stone detritus and heavy tear gas fumes fogging the air. It was a guerilla fight- one led by ordinary citizens who turned into street fighters for the day with the war cry “We have had enough!”.

 

The people marched on through the day harangued by their conviction and knowledge that now that the bomb had finally erupted, there was no turning back. In unison all across the country people chanted and wore the slogan “Y’en a Marre”, and placards could be seen waved by many, written over makeshift cardboards with felt pen or quickly printed over A4 paper, stating “Touche pas à ma constitution!” (‘Don’t touch my Constitution!), “Wade dégage” (Wade Get out!), or again “La police ne tirez pas sur le people, nous défendons la meme cause” (Police officers, don’t shoot on us we defend the same cause). Spontaneous citizen volunteers went to buy megaphones to direct the flow of the mob, cooked food, provided shelter, water and support the retreating street fighters.

 

This was an unprecedented formidable demonstration of spontaneous popular freewill that nothing, no-one was able to hold back.

 

By the afternoon when the people’s mobilization was not decelerating but rather going crescendo, Wade, advised by all of the country’s religious, military, and diplomatic figures, even lieutenants in his own party sitting in the National Assembly defending the law proposal but fearful for their lives, finally commissioned one of his majority Deputies to announce in Assembly that he was repealing the Law proposal.

 

The country then exploded in one outcry of joy. We the people had won! Democracy had prevailed! The voice of the people in all of its supremacy had been asserted.

 

Many in the mob wanted to remain on, waiting to ambush the exiting “Deputies of the people”, others wanted to continue the march to depose the president at his palace, true to the proceedings of Tahrir Square in Tunisia. But discouraged by leaders and more concerned with freeing the arrested comrades whom the Police got to lay hands on, the mob marched on to the central Police Station of Dakar instead.

 

Green was the feeling in the air of the day as People celebrated.

 

Green for the color of hope, green for the color of renewal, green in opposition to the oppressing claw of the ruling party of PDS that that has reached its ending, through the will of the people, who had elected its leader to power in the first place 11 years ago, and today demonstrated its ability to depose him from power if it so willed.

 

The tragedy of the end of 11 years of PDS reign represents however a new beginning for a nation that FINALLY came out of its stupor to contest its endemic atmosphere of economic morbidity, injustice and impunity, and in the end prevailed. Green Thursday indeed in the life of the young West African Nation.

 

Today the People of Senegal enabled their transition to a new era for their country, and Africa’s democracy: it is the era of Civil Society. The small country of Senegal has demonstrated once more the grandeur of its democracy, and the maturity of its Nation.  I believe Senegal will never be the same after this historic day. 2 dead and 145 gravely injured was the bitter price to pay. But never again is the song sung by all the hearts as people go to bed in Senegal tonight.

Arame Tall

PS from the author: Today more than ever I
am proud to be Senegalese. We have won and prevailed over the antidemocratic
forces of Wade and his despotic regime. Congratulations to the People of
Senegal for your bravery! Congratulations on standing up as one man to fight
for your dignity throwing all fear away! All of you who took to the streets
yesterday, and all those of you who harbored and supported the street fighters
from your homes, I salute you! It is the victory of freedom over injustice
today, of democracy over oligopoly, as the voice of the People was re-asserted
today across all the towns, cities, and streets of the Republic through the
bare hands and sheer bravery of ordinary citizens who took to the streets to
express their self-determination.

Today Senegal is a different country. Gacce Ngalama to all the street fighters
of yesterday! You have my deepest respect, and I am today very proud to be a
citizen of Senegal, once again. I thank you for having reinstated the Dignity
of our Nation.

World Poverty Day 2010

•October 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Reporting from the West African country of Senegal on the International Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty edition 2010, I am pondering the meaning of this International Day– and the true essence of its purpose.

Worlwide bloggers are contributing their two cents and their optimism, as the UN dedicates a whole page to the event [http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/social/intldays/IntlDay/index.html], as it has every year since the inception of this commemorative day on October 17 1987, but as we acclaim and celebrate and infuse renewed hopes to “Make Poverty history” on the world stage, in countries such as Senegal where this change is supposed to take place no-one knows of World Poverty Day, and making Poverty History is certainly not on the agenda. At least, not as of yet.

Indeed the headlines of this day, a regular day in the life of the land are: “Abdoulaye Wade son’s, Karim Wade, secures inflow of significant funding for road investments”, “Minister X defends the achievements of Karim Wade”, “Abdoulaye Wade has achieved since his accession to power more than the previous regime ever did, purports the National Assembly head”, “In the holy city of Touba, the citizenry movement Yamale collects a few more hundred signatures from the Kalifr” “Fashion: A new trend has women hoisting their breasts to increase their sex appeal”…

“The gap between the smallness of our politics and the magnitude of our challenges is what troubles me” wrote Barack Obama in his Audacity of Hope.

When is Ending poverty ever going to be a priority in the countries concerned where poverty is seen as second nature, the norm? When is it ever going to get on national agendas as a priority issue, one vociferously pushed forward by citizens and diligently put to practice by their governors? Most of all: One felt urgently as the central moral challenge of our age as Koffi Annan simply described it?

WHEN?

These are the questions that are rattling through my brain on this World Poverty Day 2010 spent in Dakar, Senegal, one of the world hotspots for this poverty that the world seeks to eradicate.

Happy celebration nonetheless to all, A Happy World Poverty Day! May rescourse come, and come fast, so that Making Poverty History can become a real priority on the ground, put on the agenda by the governors and citizens .

Redefining Agricultural policy in the West African country of Senegal: stakes and challenges

•August 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Hi afrooptimists, check out this well-thought out analysis of the Agricultural sector in Senegal, and the way to reform. Enjoy! (In french only though! sorry anglophones)

Content courtesy of: Prof. Ibrahima Sene


L’agriculture au Sénégal
par Ibrahima Sène

Agro-économiste, responsable du département Economique et social du comité central du Parti de l’indépendance et du travail (PIT – Sénégal).

Ibrahima Sène est agro-economiste, secrétaire du Comité Central du Parti de l’Indépendance et du Travail du Sénégal (PIT-SENEGAL), responsable du Département Économique et Social du Comité Central.

En Afrique, la question de la promotion de l’Agrobusiness est présentée comme la voie royale pour l’avènement d’une agriculture moderne, productive et compétitive, tournée vers l’exportation, considérée un puissant stimulant pour les investisseurs.

L’exportation et l’investissement sont, dans ce cadre, considérés comme les deux vecteurs principaux d’une croissance forte et durable pour sortir nos pays de la pauvreté.

C’est dans cette optique que le Gouvernement du Président Wade avait élaboré un Projet de Loi d’orientation Agricole.

Ce projet de Loi se donnait comme un de ses objectifs majeurs, la mise en œuvre d’une réforme foncière, axée sur l’option d’octroi de titres privés sur les terres du Domaine National, pour promouvoir un marché foncier rural et développer le crédit hypothécaire destiné aux agriculteurs.

Ce marché foncier, assis sur la création des conditions d’une plus grande sécurité foncière, est présenté comme un cadre judiciaire indispensable à la promotion de l’investissement dans la production agricole, pour attirer le Privé dans le développement des bases de l’Agrobusiness dans notre pays.

Le Gouvernement, de concert avec les Institutions de Bretton Woods, a souvent déclaré qu’il existe au Sénégal un problème foncier causé par certaines dispositions de la Loi de 1964 du Domaine National qui bloquent l’investissement privé dans l’Agriculture et l’Industrie, par conséquent la promotion de l’Agrobusiness.

C’est dans ce cadre que l’Agence pour la Promotion des Investissements et des Exportations (APIX) avait soutenu, que « le problème de l’accès à la terre qui se pose risque d’hypothéquer 25 milliards d’investissement disponibles »

Ce cri d’alarme de l’APIX devait permettre de démarrer la phase de préparation psychologique nécessaire pour faire accepter par l’opinion, le projet de Loi d’Orientation Agricole comme la solution au blocage de la modernisation de l’agriculture sénégalaise, confondue par les tenants du Pouvoir avec la promotion de l’Agrobusiness.

Le climat de flou ainsi crée et entretenu, à propos de la question de la sécurité foncière, de la modernisation de l’agriculture et de la promotion de l’Agrobusiness, a été exploité par le Gouvernement pour publier son projet de Loi d’Orientation Agricole en 2003.

C’est ainsi que les Sénégalais ont appris que les meilleures terres du Domaine National seront recensées et gérées par une nouvelle Agence chargée de l’espace agricole qui va être créée, pour permettre au Chef de l’Etat de signer des contrats d’occupation des terres avec des exploitations commerciales et agroalimentaires, moyennant une redevance annuelle qu’elles devront verser à l’Etat, pour une période de 15 ans au moins et de 50 ans au plus.

Le Chef de l’Etat est aussi autorisé par le projet de Loi, à vendre aux investisseurs les terres gérées par l’Agence de l’espace agricole.

Ce projet de loi abolit ainsi les compétences de gestion et d’affectation qui étaient dévolues au Conseil rural sur ces terres, par la Loi sur le Domaine National et les textes de la Décentralisation et de la Régionalisation, tout en rendant encore plus difficile, l’accès à la terre aux exploitations commerciales et agroalimentaires, qui va perpétuer les freins à la promotion de l’Agrobusiness.

En effet, le versement de redevance annuelle auquel elles sont assujetties par le projet de Loi d’Orientation Agricole, rend plus onéreux leurs coûts d’installation et d’exploitation de ces terres par rapport aux dispositions actuelles de la loi sur le Domaine National qui ne prévoient aucun versement de redevance.

En outre, les terres qui n’intéressent pas l’Agence de l’espace agricole vont rester dans le domaine de compétence de Communautés rurales, qui vont disposer de dix ans de délai pour établir des plans d’occupation et d’affectation des terres, pour rendre payant le droit d’usage de celles ci par les exploitations agricoles familiales, qui peuvent par la suite, en payant à l’Etat, transformer le droit d’usage en titre foncier privé.

Mais le Projet de loi reste muet sur le fait que les exploitants agricoles, qui ne seront pas en mesure de payer la redevance à la Communauté rurale pour conserver leur Droit d’usage, ou pour rembourser le crédit hypothécaire, seront purement et simplement expropriés des terres qu’ils cultivaient de génération à génération.

Il traduit ainsi, sans équivoque, une volonté politique de liquidation de la petite exploitation agricole familiale, au profit des grandes exploitations, dont l’accroissement des superficies moyennes est explicitement visé dans le projet de Loi, pour leur créer les conditions foncières nécessaires à leur transformation en Agrobusiness.

De même, en fixant la durée minimale du contrat d’occupation des terres à 15 ans, et maximale à 50 ans, le Projet de loi restreint artificiellement le recours aux contrats d’occupation des terres, alors que la loi sur le Domaine National donne aux exploitations commerciales et agroalimentaires la flexibilité nécessaire pour ajuster leur investissement sur une période de 99 ans pour mieux rentabiliser leur coût.

Ainsi, avec ce Projet de loi, on exclut tous ceux qui veulent exploiter une opportunité sur cinq ans ou dix ans, ou qui veulent s’installer définitivement avec l’espoir de transmettre leurs affaires à leur descendance.

Cette restriction artificielle de la durée d’occupation des terres est contraire à l’option déclarée dans le Projet de Loi qui vise la création de conditions de plus grande sécurité foncière pour l’investissement privé par rapport à la loi sur le Domaine National.

Il met ainsi toutes les catégories d’exploitation agricole, quelles soient familiales, commerciales ou agroalimentaires, dans des conditions qui les obligent, pour utiliser la terre, à payer une rente foncière (les redevances) ou à l’acheter (titres privés).

Mais, à l’analyse, ces restrictions ne sont pas fortuites, car elles créent les conditions pour que l’investisseur privé opte pour l’achat des terres auprès du Chef de l’Etat, plutôt que de signer un contrat d’occupation des terres si restrictif avec les Collectivités locales, comme en dispose le projet de Loi sur le Domine National.

En outre, le Gouvernement compte sur la possibilité qu’offre ce Projet de Loi de transformer le Droit d’usage en titre foncier privé, pour faire croire à l’exploitation agricole familiale, qu’elle aura ainsi, dans dix ans, les moyens de recourir au crédit hypothécaire avec son titre foncier, pour satisfaire les besoins de financement de ses activités.

Ce sont certainement les perspectives de n’avoir droit à un titre foncier pour les exploitations familiales que dans dix ans, et le Droit réservé aux Chef de l’Etat de vendre des terres du domaine de l’Agence de l’espace agricole, qui ont dressé les organisations paysannes, les plus représentatives, pour rejeter le volet foncier de ce Projet de loi.

Elles veulent, au contraire, que le projet de Loi autorise, sans délai, que le Droit d’usage soit transformé en titre réel négociable dans des marchés fonciers locaux, pour, croient-elles, éviter la spéculation foncière, préserver l’exploitation agricole familiale contre les appétits fonciers de l’Agrobusiness, et pour promouvoir une plus grande équité entre les ruraux et les urbains en matière d’accès à la terre.

De cette manière, croient-elles naïvement, sera levée l’insécurité foncière comme obstacle à l’investissement et à la modernisation de l’exploitation agricole familiale.

Cependant, si cette option peut mettre fin à la spéculation foncière de la part des Pouvoirs Publics Locaux Décentralisés dans les collectivités locales, elle permet, par contre, aux exploitations agricoles les plus aisées et aux détenteurs de capitaux privés de devenir les nouveaux acteurs de la spéculation foncière en milieu rural.

Les victimes et les bénéficiaires potentiels de cette option de réforme foncière, dite « alternative » au projet de Loi, proposée par ces organisations paysannes, peuvent, d’ores et déjà, être identifiés, en analysant l’état actuel de l’occupation foncière en milieu rural, et les obstacles réellement rencontrés à l’investissement et à la modernisation de l’exploitation agricole familiale, qui freinent la promotion de la productivité et de la croissance dans nos pays.

Pour ce faire, le Recensement National de l’Agriculture de 1998-1999 a été analysé comme l’instrument le plus pertinent puisque le plus récent qui donne une vision complète de la situation des exploitations agricoles au Sénégal.
I. L’état actuel de l’occupation foncière.

En 1998-99, les surfaces totales emblavées ont été de 1.877.684 hectares (ha ) avec 437037 exploitations agricoles familiales, soit 4,3 ha en moyenne par exploitation.

Mais cette moyenne cache mal une répartition très inégalitaire entre les exploitations agricoles.

C’est ainsi que

* 21% des exploitations agricoles ont entre moins 0,5 ha et moins 1 ha et cultivent 2,4% des terres emblavées ;
* 30% des exploitations agricoles ont entre 1 et 3 ha et cultivent 13,3% des terres emblavées ;

Donc, 51% des exploitations agricoles ont moins de 3 ha et cultivent 15,7% des terres emblavées.

A ces exploitations agricoles se pose un véritable problème de terre pour réunir les conditions minimales de 3 ha, dans l’ancien comme dans le nouveau bassin arachidier, pour rentabiliser la culture attelée équipée de semoir et de houe ,qui est le premier stade de la modernisation de l’exploitation agricole familiale dans notre pays.

C’est cette technologie à traction asine (âne) ou équine (cheval) qui a permis à nos ruraux d’entrer dans la modernité avec le passage historique du travail manuel, pour les semis et le sarclage, à la mécanisation de ces travaux fastidieux .

En outre, le recensement a montré que 31% des exploitations agricoles ont entre 3 ha et 7 ha et cultivent 34% des terres emblavées.

A cela, s’ajoute aussi un véritable problème de terre pour réunir les conditions de surface minimales de 8 ha et accéder ainsi au second stade de la modernisation. Les conditions d’une intensification de la production agricole, avec la traction bovine équipée de Polyculteur ou d’Ariana, seraient alors réunies. L’utilisation de la charrue permettrait un travail plus profond du sol, l’enfouissement de paille, de fumier ou de compost pour améliorer les qualités productives des terres, avec une plus grande capacité de rétention de l’eau qui est capitale pour les cultures sous pluie en zone sahélienne.

Ainsi, pour des raisons de manque de terre, 51% des exploitations agricoles ne peuvent pas entrer dans le premier stade de modernisation de l’exploitation agricole, et 31% éprouvent les mêmes difficultés de terre pour accéder au second.

Pour ces 82% des exploitations agricoles, le Droit d’usage transformé en titre réel négociable ne leur ouvre pas la porte de la modernité pour insuffisance de terre, du simple fait que la modicité de leurs revenus agricoles ne leur permet pas de rentrer en compétition avec les grosses exploitations et autres détenteurs de capitaux dans un marché foncier devenu subitement spéculatif. Ce handicap foncier leur ferme toute évolution vers l’agrobusiness, qui ne peut prospérer sur ces terres qu’au prix de l’expropriation massive de ces exploitations agricoles familiales.

Par contre, pour les 18% des exploitations agricoles restantes, qui ont entre 7 ha et plus de 20 ha et qui cultivent 50,3 % des superficies emblavées, l’absence de Droit foncier est un réel frein à leur accès à la motorisation comme troisième stade de la modernisation de notre agriculture, ce qui crée les conditions de leur entrée dans l’Agrobusiness.
Le piège des titres réels négociables pour l’exploitation agricole familiale.

La réforme de la Loi sur le Domaine National, pour permettre à ces 18% des exploitations agricoles les plus grandes, de sécuriser les terres qui leur sont attribuées, est une nécessité pour qu’elles puissent accéder au crédit pour financer les investissements dont elles ont besoin pour la motorisation de leurs productions pour leur transformation en Agrobusiness.

Donc, ce sont les 18% des exploitations agricoles qui cultivent 50,3% des terres emblavées, qui vivent un véritable problème d’insécurité foncière, comme principal obstacle à l’investissement pour leur modernisation et leur transition vers l’Agrobusiness.

Mais, pour les 82% des exploitations agricoles qui cultivent 49,7% des terres emblavées ,le véritable obstacle à leur modernisation est le manque de terre ,compte tenu des exigences foncières des technologies les plus appropriées qui leur sont proposées, et n’ont aucune perspective à se transformer en Agrobusiness, dont la promotion suppose leur expropriation massive.

Il est donc illusoire de croire que l’octroi de Droit réel familial à 82% des exploitations agricoles, sans la résolution préalable de leur problème de terre, puisse leur ouvrir la voie à la modernisation de leurs productions agricoles et à leur transition vers l’Agrobusiness.

Cette illusion devient une véritable arnaque, dès que l’on associe ces Droits réels avec leur négociabilité dans des marchés fonciers locaux tels que proposé par ces organisations paysannes.

En effet, les acheteurs potentiels de ces titres réels négociables seront les agriculteurs les plus fortunés issus des 18% des exploitations agricoles qui cultivent déjà 50,3% des terres emblavées qui veulent agrandir leurs exploitations dans le cadre de la motorisation de leurs productions, et des investisseurs venant hors du secteur agricole qui cherchent à s’implanter en milieu rural.

Par contre, les vendeurs potentiels seront issus des 82% des exploitations agricoles que l’étroitesse de leur assise foncière tient en dehors de toute perspective d’investissement pour leur modernisation, et qui seront soumises par le projet de Loi à l’obligation de payer une redevance pour continuer à cultiver une terre qu’elles ont exploitée gratuitement depuis des générations.

Sous les effets conjugués de l’absence de perspectives et de la pression des besoins croissants, nombreuses seront les exploitations qui vont brader leur terre ,de la même manière qu’elles ont procédé durant les deux décennies d’Ajustement Structurel des années 80 et 90, avec le peu de matériel agricole qu’elles avaient acquis sous le Programme Agricole des années 60 et 70, sur la base d’un crédit agricole subventionné dans le cadre d’un système coopératif paysan de commercialisation des produits agricoles et d’acquisition des facteurs techniques de production .

La négociabilité de ces Droits réels va donc ouvrir la voie à la spéculation foncière et à l’expropriation massive des exploitations agricoles les plus pauvres ,et à leur prolétarisation, si l’on tient compte du fait que 44% des ménages ruraux étaient déjà en dessous du seuil de pauvreté en1994-95, et qu’ils sont 52% en 2002 au moment où le projet de Loi fut adopté en Conseil des Ministres.

Les organisations paysannes qui proposent donc une telle réforme ne remettent pas en cause l’option fondamentale du Gouvernement de transformer la terre en marchandise, vendable sur le marché, au même titre que les engrais ou le matériel agricole.

Ce qu’elles semblent remettre en cause véritablement, c’est le Droit de vendre les terres du Domaine National à des Investisseurs ,que le Projet de Loi d’Orientation Agricole veut octroyer au Chef de l’Etat, en lieu et place des Conseils Ruraux et des exploitations agricoles familiales elles-mêmes.

La non négociabilité des Droits réels fonciers du Domaine National est donc une condition incontournable pour enrayer toute spéculation foncière en milieu rural, mais aussi pour préserver les chances, pour le plus grand nombre des exploitations agricoles, de créer les conditions d’accès au second stade de la mécanisation et à la motorisation de leurs exploitations agricoles.

Une telle option n’est pas une discrimination des ruraux par rapport aux citadins, puisque dans le Domaine National en zone urbaine, les Droits réels sur la terre sont appelés « Droits de Superficie » qui ne sont pas négociables, mais permettent à l’attributaire d’une parcelle d’accéder à des conditions d’habitat assainies et modernes.

Donc, ces organisations paysannes sous le contrôle des couches moyennes, semblent oublier que ceux qui, en milieu urbain, détiennent des titres fonciers issus du Domaine National sont une minorité de privilégiés.

Ainsi, voir dans la non-négociabilité des Droits réels de l’exploitation agricole familiale un manque d’équité vis à vis des ruraux, c’est plaider, en fait, la cause des grosses exploitations qui constituent 18% du total, et celle de ceux qui rêvent d’étendre la spéculation foncière urbaine en milieu rural.
L’investissement privé et le Projet de loi d’orientation agricole

La rente foncière, que va instituer le Projet de Loi, a toujours joué un rôle de frein au développement de l’investissement privé dans l’agriculture, dans tous les pays du monde où elle a existé.

Elle a toujours aussi été considérée comme une entrave à la compétitivité de la production agricole.

C’est pour toutes ces raisons que la suppression de la rente foncière par la nationalisation de la terre a été historiquement une revendication de la classe des investisseurs privés appelés capitalistes, face au monopole féodal sur la terre.

Aujourd’hui, les conditions d’accès facile à la terre, qu’exigent les bailleurs de fonds dans les pays en développement, pour attirer l’investissement privé, sont une manière d’exonérer l’investisseur de toute redevance foncière.

Cette exigence des bailleurs de fonds est donc une traduction moderne de la revendication historique de la classe des investisseurs privés de suppression de la rente foncière.

De même, les entrepreneurs agricoles occidentaux, qui trouvent, aujourd’hui, dans la délocalisation de leurs activités en direction de nos pays, une réponse à l’exigence de plus en plus forte, de réduction, voire de suppression des subventions agricoles dans leurs pays, souhaiteraient un accès plus facile et souvent gratuit aux bonnes terres, avec une main d’œuvre peu coûteuse en terme de salaire et de sécurité sociale.

C’est dans ce cadre que la Compagnie Sucrière Sénégalaise (la CSS) et la SOCAS avaient obtenu, depuis des décennies, gratuitement les terres qu’elles exploitent dans la vallée du Fleuve Sénégal et la jouissance à perpétuité de leur droit d’usage sur ces terres, sans en avoir de titres fonciers privés.

Donc, le Projet de loi d’orientation agricole, en instaurant la rente foncière, rend le Sénégal moins compétitif pour attirer ces délocalisations, contrairement à la loi sur le Domaine National, qui rend gratuit le droit d’usage des terres pour les exploitations agricoles familiales, comme pour l’investissement privé.

Le Gouvernement compte sur l’expropriation massive de la petite exploitation agricole familiale, pour créer un immense marché de main d’oeuvre bon marché afin d’attirer l’investissement privé.

Mais la rente foncière et la précarisation des droits d’usage des terres sous contrats d’occupation, risquent d’obérer largement l’attrait qu’une masse de main d’oeuvre bon marché peut avoir chez l’investisseur privé.

Le Projet de loi d’orientation agricole conduit donc à des résultats contraires aux objectifs proclamés par le Gouvernement qui sont :

* l’attrait de l’investissement privé dans l’agriculture
* une plus grande compétitivité de l’agriculture sénégalaise
* la réduction de la pauvreté en milieu rural

Les problèmes de modernisation de l’exploitation agricole familiale

Le projet de loi d’orientation agricole est construit dans l’ignorance évidente, de ses concepteurs, des causes historiques du blocage de la modernisation de la petite exploitation familiale.

En effet, dans les années 60 et 70, la petite exploitation agricole familiale avait entamé un véritable processus de modernisation axé sur la traction animale, avec la substitution du travail manuel par l’équipement en matériel agricole (semoirs, houes) et l’utilisation de l’engrais dans le cadre d’un Programme Agricole.

Ce début de modernisation n’était pas subventionné par les autres secteurs de l’économie nationale. Au contraire, c’est bien l’agriculture qui s’auto subventionnait, à travers le Programme Agricole, et subventionnait, à travers la Caisse de Péréquation, les autres secteurs de l’économie nationale, tout en pourvoyant à l’Etat de recettes fiscales substantielles.

Pour financer l’accélération de la modernisation de la petite exploitation agricole familiale par l’intensification de la production, il fallait au moins que l’agriculture cesse de subventionner les autres secteurs de l’économie et de servir de recettes fiscales à l’Etat, afin d’utiliser tous ses excédents à cet effet.

D’où les revendications des agriculteurs pour obtenir la restitution à la production agricole de toutes ses péréquations positives et la défiscalisation de tous les facteurs techniques qui concourent à la production agricole et à la transformation de ses produits.

C’est ainsi que l’Union Nationale des Coopératives Agricoles du Sénégal (l’UNCAS) fut créée en 1978 pour porter ces revendications en faveur de la poursuite de la modernisation de la petite exploitation familiale par le biais de l’intensification de la production.

Ce sont les programmes d’ajustement structurel des années 80 et 90 qui ont brisé ce début de modernisation de la petite exploitation agricole familiale, en obligeant l’Etat à se détourner de la satisfaction de ces revendications, et à accentuer la ponction des revenus des ruraux par la confiscation même de la partie du revenu arachidier qui servait à financer le Programme Agricole, afin d’augmenter ses recettes pour mieux faire face à ses obligations de remboursement de la dette extérieure.

C’est dans ce but que l’UNCAS fut politiquement domestiquée par le Gouvernement de l’époque, et sa lutte émancipatrice et modernisatrice fut dévoyée par des politiciens affairistes imposés à sa direction par l’Etat.

Mais avec l’Alternance, suite à la ruine des filières arachidières et du riz local après trois ans seulement de règne, le Projet de Loi d’Orientation Agricole, que le Gouvernement a initié, va sonner le glas à la petite exploitation agricole familiale.

En effet, ce Projet de loi va parachever la liquidation de la petite exploitation agricole familiale, en s’attaquant à son dernier rempart que constitue le Droit d’usage gratuit à perpétuité de la terre, que devrait garantir une réforme de la loi sur le Domaine national mise en œuvre par le Conseil rural.
Conclusion

L’étroitesse foncière que connaît la grande majorité des exploitations agricoles n’est pas insoluble au Sénégal qui ,avec un potentiel de terres cultivables en zone pluviale de 3.800.000 ha n’ emblavent en moyenne par an que 2.500.000 ha ,soit une réserve foncière de 1.300.000 ha.

En zone irriguée ,le potentiel est de 228.000 ha dans la Vallée du Fleuve Sénégal, dont 75.000 ha aménagés et 45.000 ha seulement cultivés ;dans la Vallée du Fleuve Casamance, le potentiel est de 70.000 ha irrigables,dont15.000 ha aménagés et 9.000 ha seulement cultivés ; dans la Vallée de l’Anambé, le potentiel est de 8000 ha irrigables dont 600ha aménagés et 300 ha seulement cultivés.

Donc ,il n’est nullement nécessaire de créer des conditions d’expropriation massive des petites et moyennes exploitations agricoles familiales, pour réunir les conditions foncières par exploitation nécessaires pour la modernisation et l’intensification de l’ Agriculture au Sénégal, et pour qu’elle soit rentable pour l’exploitation familiale et compétitive sur le marché mondial.

Car il faut au maximum 668.667 ha pour doter de 3 ha minimum les 51% des exploitations agricoles concernées ;pour les autres 31 % qui ont entre 3 ha et 7 ha ,il faut un maximum de 524.444 ha pour les doter de 4 ha supplémentaires par exploitation pour réunir les conditions foncières de leur intensification. Il faudrait donc au total utiliser 1.200.000 ha sur les 1.300.000 ha de réserves foncières cultivables.

En zone irriguée ,la marge de manœuvre est encore plu grande pour mettre l’exploitation agricole dans des conditions de production intensive et rentable. Il suffit pour cela de doter chacune d’un minimum de 1.5 ha aménagés.

Ainsi, la transition vers l’Agrobusiness présentée comme la forme moderne d’une agriculture intensive, productive et compétitive, n’ »implique pas nécessairement la création de conditions d’expropriation massive des petites et moyennes exploitations familiales, particulièrement dans les pays sahéliens, pour laisser la place aux plus grosses et aux détenteurs de capitaux nationaux ou étrangers.

Il est possible d’opter pour une autre transition axée, d’une part :

* sur une réforme foncière appropriée qui permet de résoudre les contraintes foncières des petites et moyennes exploitations familiales vis-à-vis des exigences foncières des technologies à leur disposition, et d’autre part,
* sur la promotion d’un puissant mouvement coopératif paysan sur des bases démocratiques authentiques, qui lui permettent de renouer avec sa fonction historique d’émancipation des petits agriculteurs par une prise en charge adéquate de ses fonctions traditionnelles d’approvisionnement du monde rural en équipement, en matériel, en facteurs techniques modernes de production, en denrées et services de première nécessité, tout en assumant la commercialisation, l’exportation,voire la transformation industrielle de la production agricole en produits finis pour maximiser la Valeur Ajoutée Agricole du pays.

Dans ces conditions, l’exploitation agricole familiale peut massivement entamer sa transition vers l’Agrobusiness, qui est la forme moderne d’une exploitation agricole hautement compétitive.

Kenya approves new constitution in peace!

•August 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

THUMBS UP TO ALL KENYANS! Hopefully this is just the beginning of a new era of democratic expression and meaningful social change for your beautiful country.
Goes to prove that peaceful constitutional change IS possible in Africa.
Thanks for showing the way brothers & sisters from Kenya! I bow in to you today.

See and hear Kenya’s PM statement, Raila Odinga, on new Constitution by clicking: here (courtesy of Capital FM Kenya)

See NY Times story by clicking here: Kenyans Approve New Constitution

Kenyans approve New Constitution

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN (Courtesy of: NY Times)
Published: August 5, 2010

NAIROBI, Kenya — With a new constitution overwhelmingly approved by voters, Kenyan politicians are now talking excitedly about their country’s golden future.

“Kenya has been reborn,” declared Kiraitu Murungi, the energy minister, shortly before final results were announced on Thursday showing that the new constitution had passed, with 67 percent of Kenyans behind it.

No doubt, the new constitution and the remarkably peaceful way in which the referendum was conducted on Wednesday was a much-needed boost of self-confidence for the country.

It showed that Kenya can run a clean election without a violent aftermath, that the losers can graciously accept defeat, that their supporters can move on peacefully and that the police and security forces can be deployed to maintain stability throughout the country. It was a stark contrast to the last election, in 2007, which erupted in ethnically fueled tumult that claimed more than 1,000 lives.

On Thursday, President Obama called the vote “a significant step forward for Kenya’s democracy,” while the nation’s president, Mwai Kibaki, held a boisterous victory rally in Nairobi, telling a crowd of thousands that the new constitution would be “our shield and defender as we strive to conquer poverty, disease and ignorance.”

“I see a great people ready to build a new and prosperous future,” he said.

But the voting patterns from the referendum also show that even at this crucial turning point, Kenya is still dogged by its old political maxim: follow your leader.

“I’m really relieved that everything has been peaceful, but I have this little feeling in my stomach,” said Maina Kiai, a former human rights official in Kenya who now runs his own civic education organization. The results, he said, prove “that it’s still all about group-think and tribal affiliations.”

“Look at the figures from Nyanza,” he said, pointing to the lush province along Lake Victoria where Kenya’s pro-constitution prime minister, Raila Odinga, is from. “It was completely, overwhelmingly “yes.” I wonder how many of these people knew exactly what was in the constitution. It’s a bit worrying.”

Kenya has a long legacy of ethnic rivalries. It has more than 40 different ethnic groups and the British colonizers shamelessly type-cast them: the Maasai were the guards; the Kikuyu the farmhands; the Luo the teachers; the Kamba the bureaucrats; etc.

After independence in 1963, Kenya’s ethnic divides were exacerbated under a winner-take-all political system that vested enormous powers in the presidency — and led to staggering levels of corruption. Kenya’s new constitution aims to fix this by devolving more power to local governments; giving Kenyans a bill of rights; and paving the way for land reform.

Yash Pal Ghai, a constitutional scholar in Nairobi who has been working for years to help get a new constitution passed, said that this election showed ethnic identities held more sway than religious ones. One of the most divisive issues in the new constitution was a clause that says abortion is not permitted except in a few circumstances, including if “the life or health of the mother is in danger.”

There are millions of anti-abortion Catholics and evangelicals across Kenya, and Kenyan church leaders implored them to vote down the constitution, saying it would pave the way for “abortion on demand.”

But as Mr. Ghai observed, Catholics and evangelicals in the Luo and Kikuyu areas mostly ignored that call, while Catholics and evangelicals in the Kalenjin areas voted against the constitution. The reason: Most Luo and Kikuyu leaders were urging their people to vote “yes,” while the most influential Kalenjin leaders told their people to vote “no.”

“This was largely an ethnic vote, but not absolutely,” Mr. Ghai said of the referendum. “Kenyans are getting more conscious of these things.”

After the violence of 2007, many Kenyans strove to de-emphasize the importance of ethnic identity. Still, , Kenyan analysts say that voters are likely to continue voting in blocs, and that to win the presidency in 2012 a candidate must carry at least three of what many Kenyans call the “big five” ethnic groups — the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin and Kamba. That is now where the political focus is shifting.

“These guys are already putting their heads together and beginning to play their games,” Mr. Kiai said of the nation’s politicians.

The referendum feeds into this. No one benefits more from the constitution sailing through, analysts say, than Mr. Odinga, a loquacious, colorful, career politician, full of contradictions, including the fact that he comes from a Marxist-leaning family and named his son Fidel Castro but is also one of the richest men in western Kenya.

While other politicians equivocated for months, Mr. Odinga embraced the new constitution early — and passionately, leading rallies dressed head-to-toe in green (the color of the “yes” camp). In 2007, he ran against Mr. Kibaki and claimed he was cheated out of winning the presidency, which set off the fighting. But now the two are chummy, having worked together on the constitution. Mr. Kibaki, a Kikuyu, cannot run again for president because of term limits, and if he threw his support behind Mr. Odinga, many analysts believe the presidency would be Mr. Odinga’s to lose.

Another factor: Mr. Odinga’s top two rivals — William Ruto, a Kalenjin and the leader of the “no” campaign, and Uhuru Kenyatta, a Kikuyu and Kenya’s finance minister — are both widely believed to be top suspects in the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the previous election violence. Mr. Ruto is suspected of instigating the first wave of killings, Mr. Kenyatta of organizing reprisals. The International Criminal Court may issue indictments by year’s end, but supporters of the two men have vowed not to let anyone touch their leaders.

“If the I.C.C. asks us to hand them over, whoa, that’s going to be a critical moment,” said John Githongo, one of Kenya’s most prominent anti-corruption activists. “That’s when we’ll stare the beast in the eye.”

TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE STAKES OF THIS REFERENDUM, SEE BELOW:

Africa’s future belongs to its Young people: YES YOUTH CAN!

•August 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

Don’t miss this great forum put together by President Obama with 50African young leaders to celebrate Africa’s 50years of Independence. A wonderful initiative!

“The destiny of Africa is going to be determined by Africans… Africa’s future belongs to its Young people: Yes Youth Can!”