Monday, 25 July 2016

EU: The 'Politics of Population'

Last May, the European Commission published its input. with the motivational title “An Open and Secure Europe: Making it Happen,” the document supposed to pave the way for a comprehensive strategy on fostering a shared commitment to a balance between long- and short-term priorities.

Then, in June of the same year, European Union leaders wrote a new five-year program for justice and home affairs. They planned a short, snappy vision focused on migration and asylum policy. Such intentions were welcome, not least in the European Union’s East. There, governments are acutely worried about migration from East to West—their own nationals to Western Europe, Ukrainians to Central Europe. A little clarity in European Union policy would go a long way.

Of course, one can snigger at these technocratic clichés. But the commission’s draft, with its blithe statements about “competing for high-skilled migrants” and “combating the demographic decline,” has been dangerously out of step with the mood both at home and abroad. The trouble is not so much the European Union’s diagnosis of the challenges. It is its language of technocratic complacence.

In Europe, immigration has begun irritating even the professional classes. A global rise in education and wage levels means that newcomers are creating competition for native workers even in the elastic high-skilled labor market. Middle-class Europeans with progressive views about immigrant cleaners, babysitters, and manual workers are now feeling the pinch.

If it were not for immigration, Britain would have not voted to leave the European Union, at first place. Even after voting leave, Britain's irritation on immigration, pushes for, as  a Brexit plan to secure the deal on European Union single market, a 7 years emergency brake on the free movement. Although the plan will prove highly controversial in many member states, including France, Poland and other central and eastern European nations, it does highlight the challenge on European Union migration policy.

Meanwhile, abroad, the EU is being painted as moribund and effete. The commission may chirpily refer to “demographic decline” as a technocratic problem to be overcome by immigration. For the rest of the world, however, it is further proof that the EU is in a nosedive that can’t be reversed: the EU needs your kids because it’s not producing its own.

In short, the EU must get used to making migration policy in a multipolar age—where the bloc’s relative attractiveness and prosperity are in decline, other migration destinations are popping up, and European values no longer hold their old certainties and attraction.

But the most worrying feature of this new world is that EU-led discussions in the United Nations or the International Organization for Migration about “mobility” are slowly being eclipsed by a more static and zero sum worldview, setting the tone for some kind of new politics of population. Two global developments explain this shift.

The first is the return of the state. A decade ago, in an age of Western supremacy, the EU was justified in treating migration as a post-national phenomenon—other states did not matter much, and non-state actors were in fashion. But now, new powers are on the rise, and they are worried about their demographic health. Scared of tipping into the middle-income trap, they are showing a real preoccupation with the size and health of their populations.

The second development has been a worldwide shift of focus away from immigration and toward questions of emigration, brain drain, and immobility. This marks the declining influence of Western “receiving” countries and the growing power of “sending” countries. Those in the second group are nervous about the effects of mobility on their otherwise static populations. So-called “trapped populations” are now in the limelight—the immobile majority angrily left behind to deal with domestic problems.

The shift of political influence to less genteel parts of the world has spawned a brutal political environment. Experts warn that international institutions like the UN’s refugee agency could regress to their original function of controlling people flows for their biggest sponsors. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s land grabs are a sign of the times. Rather than passively opening its borders to a mobile population, Russia is moving its borders to encompass a static population.

So when the European Commission talks about competing for workers, it needs to know just how bruising that competition might be, and how far some countries may go to dissuade their brightest from leaving for Europe. And when it broaches the subject of integrating immigrants, the commission needs to recognize that this may now be deemed not so much progressive as aggressive.

Still, if EU leaders want to adapt to this new politics of population, they can take heart. The clue is in the name: this is about politics. At present, it is Western Europeans’ fixed ideas of immigration that are leading to the artificial polarization between “sending” and “receiving” countries, even as the real distinctions between them blur.

To make this mental shift, Western nations like Britain or France must start listening to the EU’s own sending countries—Poland or Romania or Bulgaria. These Eastern states echo global concerns about population. And they are tired of Western European countries harping on about “benefit tourism” or the burdens of immigration. The EU’s new home affairs program needs to be written in its East.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert


Friday, 22 July 2016

ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe's struggles

In 2016, as President Robert Mugabe celebrates his 92nd birthday and 36th year in power, Zimbabwe stands on the brink of another meltdown. The country's current economic insecurity and political conflict are reminiscent of 2000-08, when hyperinflation and electoral violence were rife.This time, however, the staked are even higher as a floundering authoritarian regime faces a leadership succession with little clear guidance on how to navigate the transition.

In this month of July alone, we have seen two different kind of protests, taking place in Zimbabwe. First, on July, 6, 2016, national 'stay-away' protests, organized over the internet via 'WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook social messaging platforms, took place, following fears of an economic collapse amid calls for President Robert Mugabe's resignation. Dozens were arrested across the country. and protests forced the closure of banks and shops.

Then, on July, 12, 2016, Pastor Evan Mawarire handed himself in for questioning at the request of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to the Central Police Station in Harare. He was charged with section 36 for inciting public violence and disturbing the peace. 

Second, after President Mugabe denounced publicly the 'stay-away' protest and Pastor Evan Mawarire, alleging that he promoted violence and was sponsored by hostile Western governments, thousands of Mugabe's supporters marched across Zimbabwe, on July, 20, 2016 to express their support, blaming the West sanctions for Zimbabwe economic collapse. For this group of protesters (pro-Mugabe), Robert Mugabe, the most educated President in Africa with 18 degrees, 7 academic, 11 honorary, is  the hero who spits in the face of white supremacy, speaks out against Eurocentric hegemony, racialized inequality, neo-colonialism.

Analytical commentary on Zimbabwe's struggles has focused on the nature and causes of the protests and centred mainly on the question of presidential succession. There are no clear answers to who will succeed President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1987. Common to all analyses is the challenge of stabilising and democratising the state by dealing both with legacies of the colonial period and their new iterations in the post-colonial era.

Zimbabwe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has failed to develop sustainable institutions that could drive a more democratic vision of sovereignty and liberation. It has also been found lacking in creating a more consensual, hegemonic and much less coercive form of rule. This failure has been central to the demands of dissenting voices and political organizations in the southern African state. It has also brought about a different type of protest against the Zimbabwean government.

From its independence in 1980 to 2009, Zimbabwe was dominated by Mugabe's party the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). A strong showing by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the 2008 general election led to the country's first ever coalition government in 2009. But that government fell with the controversial 2013 elections, which were decided in favor of ZANU-PF by implausibly large margins. Now unrivaled once more, the ruling party has failed to offer anything in the way of economic or political reforms. But, if anything, recent electoral success has weakened the ZANU-PF by concentrating political competition within it.

Since the 2013 elections, convulsions within the ruling party have intensified to unprecedented levels. The recent protests in the public and informal sectors have exposed both the limits of ZANU-PF's politics and the failure of its economic policies. The delays in payment of civil servants in June led to a widespread strike of teachers, health workers and other civil servants. The ruling party has managed for the time being to maintain payment to its security sector.

As if struggles within the ZANU-PF over the succession to the presidency were not bad enough, Mugabe's advanced age and failing health have also left him increasingly unable to control events. And so the country is transfixed by a macabre death watch and an internecine power struggle, and the longer they go on, the more likely that any political transition will be unpredictable, disorderly, and perhaps even violent.

Thus while being deeply vigilant over imperialistic agendas, Mugabe ought to be weary of silencing the voice of people just because it does not neatly fit into his political narrative. For when he does, He is in danger of coming to value his political agendas over the lives it s meant to liberate.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Getty Images of: Zimbabwe's President: Robert Mugabe

Thursday, 21 July 2016

WORLD: How to manage ''Globalization''?

Across the world, populists are attracting voters with their promises to protect ordinary people from  the harsh realities of globalisation. The democratic establishment, they assert, cannot be trusted to fulfil this purpose, as it is too busy protecting the wealthy--a habit that globalization has only intensified.

For decades, globalization promised to bring benefits to all. On an international scale, it facilitated the rise of the Asian tigers and the BRICS countries ( Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), produced rapid growth across Africa, and facilitated the boom in developed countries through 2007. It also created new opportunities and augmented growth within countries. But since the 2008 financial crisis, many rich countries have been locked into austerity; the Asian economies have been slowing; the BRICS' progress has been stalling; and many African countries have fallen back into debt.

All of this has contributed to rising inequality, which is now fueling discontent. In the United States, the wealth gap is already wider than at any time since the 'Great Depression', with the richest 1% of households now holding almost half the country's wealth. In the United Kingdom, the Office of National Statistics reports that in the period from 2012 to 2014, the wealthiest 10% of households owned 54% of total aggregate household wealth. Since 2010, the top decile's wealth has increased three times faster than that of the bottom 50% of the population. In Nigeria, astonishing economic growth, averaging 7% per year since 2000, may well have reduced poverty in the southwest of the country, but in the northeast, (where the extremist group Boko Haran is most active), shocking levels of wealth inequality and poverty have emerged. Similar trends are apparent from China, Egypt and Greece.

Alongside inequality, declining public trust fuels the revolt against globalization and democracy. Across the developed countries and developing worlds, many suspect that the rich are getting richer because they are not held to the same rules as everyone else.

It is not hard to see why. As the global economy slows, breaches of trust by those at the top became more apparent. In the United Kingdom: Amazon, Starbucks and Google attract public outrage since 2013 for using loopholes to pay almost no tax, prompting Britain's new Prime Minster Theresa May to pledge a robust fight against tax avoidance, disparities within companies, companies pay and bonus. In Nigeria, an audit of the state-owned Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation revealed, in 2015, that about $20 billion in revenue was never remitted to the authorities under the previous administration.

The problem appears to be systematic. This year, 'the panama papers' exposed how the global rich create secretive offshore companies, permitting them to avoid financial scrutiny and taxation. And the worlds' largest banks have faced unprecedented fines in recent years for brazen violations of the law.

But, despite the negative publicity generated by such cases, the public has been virtually no one held to account. Almost a decade after the global financial crisis of 2008, only one bank executive has gone to prison. Many bankers instead followed a path similar to Fred Goodwin, the head of Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland, who racked up £24 billion ($34 billion) in losses, then resigned with a huge pension. Ordinary people (like the father of three who was imprisoned in the United Kingdom in September 2015 for accumulating £500,000 in gambling debts) do not enjoy such impunity.

All of this helps explain why anti-establishment movements are gaining momentum around the world. These movements share a sense of disenfranchisement, a sense that the 'establishment' is failing to give ordinary citizens a ''fair share''. They point to elections results 'bought' by special interests, and to arcane legal and regulatory frameworks that seem rigged to benefit the rich, such as banking regulations that only large institutions can navigate and investment treaties negotiated in secret.

Government have permitted globalization, and peripatetic wealth holders, to outpace them. Globalization required regulation and management. It requires responsible business leaders. And it requires deep and effective global cooperation. When governments failed to cooperate in the 1930's, globalization came to a crashing halt.

In took a series of careful, highly managed efforts after World War II to open up the world economy and permit globalization to take off again. Still, while many countries liberalized trade, capital controls ensured that 'hot money' could not race in and out of their economies. Meanwhile, governments invested the returns on growth in high-quality education, health care, and welfare systems that benefited the many. As the business of government  grew, so did the resources put into it.

By the 1970s, wealthy countries' leaders in both government and business had become complacent. They took on faith the promise of self-equilibrating, self-restraining markets that would deliver continued growth. By the time this new orthodoxy spread to the leveraged financial sector, the world was on a crash course. Unfortunately, many governments had already lost the capacity to manage the forces they had unleashed, and business leaders had lost their sense of responsibility for the welfare of the societies within which they were flourishing.

In 2016, we are re-learning that, politically, globalization needs to be managed not just to permit the winners to win, but also to ensure that they do not cheat or neglect their responsibilities to their societies. There is no place for corrupt politicians pandering to corrupt business leaders.

Restoring confidence will be difficult. Business leaders will need to secure a 'licence to operate' from society at large, and contribute visibly to sustaining the conditions that support their prosperity. They can start by paying their taxes, on the one hand.

Governments will need to distance themselves from the companies that fail to do their part. Moreover, they must overhaul their own operations, to prove their impartiality. Robust regulation will require significant investment in government capacity and the legal services that support it, on the other hand.

Finally, global cooperation will be crucial. Globalization cannot be undone. But with a strong, shared commitment, it can be managed.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

WORLD: How to fix the ''fragility'' within Countries?

In past decades, it used to be common parlance to refer to parts of our planet as different ''worlds''. There was the 'First World', the mostly capitalist, mostly Western countries of the developed world; there was the 'Second World', comprising mostly the industrialized communist nations; and there was the 'Third World', a term still heard occasionally in reference to poor countries.

These worlds appeared, and many ways were, analytically and culturally distinct. There were problems of developed countries and problems of developing countries--'their' problems and 'our' problems. To address these problems, the global development community needed people with completely separate types of expertise and experience.

That time is ending. Increasingly, societies worldwide face their own versions of the same problems, merely to different degrees. Developed and developing countries alike are struggling with disparities between the ''haves'' and ''have-nots'', job growth that cannot keep up with population growth and technological change, and challenges of political, social, and economic inclusion. 

Today different 'worlds' are as likely to be separated by city blocks or subway stops as by portions of the globe. It may be that the challenges of certain neighborhoods in Paris are more similar to those in Kinshasa and Rio de Janeiro than those only a few miles way.

This change is occurring for a largely positive reason.  According to a July 2015 Pew Research Center report on 111 countries, 783 million people were living on $10 to $ 20 per day in 2011, compared with 398 million in 2001--an increase that nearly doubled the world's middle-income population in just one decade. To be sure, too many people remain in poverty worldwide, and many of those who are now 'middle-income' are on the lower end of that spectrum, but the progress is significant, nonetheless.

As the world's 'middle-income' population rises, international development agencies are turning their attention to 'fragile-states'---an increasingly small number of societies wracked by lawlessness, intense violence, and extreme poverty. The challenges of these states are both real and, as the current global refugee crisis illustrates, immense. This focus on 'fragile states' and the human suffering they create is understandable. However, it risks diverting attention from another serious but less headline-grabbing problem: the fragility that exists within societies worldwide---the pockets of politically, socially, and economically marginalized groups that continue to fall further behind as other reap growth's rewards.

The Paris/Brussels/Nice attacks were horrific, but over the long term, the story may be as much about the alienation of Muslims living in Paris/Brussels/Nice outer suburbs as it is about the attack itself. Nigeria may have been one the world's fastest-growing major economies and may have captured media attention for the global success of its 'Nollywood films'--which account for almost 1.5% of Nigeria's economy..but the challenge of economic, political and social marginalization is intense even beyond the country's poorer and predominantly Muslim northern provinces. In the United States, the media and public consciousness have long since moved on from the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, Dallas and Baltimore, but the underlying economic and social conditions that produced those upheavals are still present.

The problems that arise from these pockets of fragility challenge citizens everywhere to find new ways of thinking. How should we, as members of a global community, think about international development when there as as many differences within countries, and even within cities, as across them? How should the approach of developed countries change when developed countries themselves are struggling with many of the same issues as the countries they are trying to help? This has always been true to some extent, of course, but the gap between the type of problems experienced by developed countries, on the one hand, and developing countries, on the other hand, is narrowing.

A first step is to knock down barriers between domestic organizations focused on issues of economic and social justice and those focused on international development. Despite the fact that many of these organizations increasingly focus on the same types of problems( job creation, substance abuse, access to justice, social exclusion, and the like), there is a staggering lack of contact--let alone learning--among them. The situation is only reinforced by funding streams, staffing, organizations networks, and university curricula.

A second step is to focus more on peer-to peer learning and partnerships across countries that are grappling with similar challenges of social inclusion, job creation, and injustice. Learning from peers is one of the most effective methods of enhancing the capabilities of those striving to advance social development.

A third step is to focus international development more on human development and less on infrastructure like dams and roads that will increasingly be financed by the private sector on countries focused on advancing economic interests rather than a development agenda. A focus on human development emphasizes the need to reduce disparities and build social cohesion, particularly through actions but both governments and civil society that reduce social violence and entrenched discrimination.

A fourth step is to focus on overcoming the economic, ethnic, racial, gender, geographic, and digital divides that drive marginalization. Doing so will require a much broader range of actors than traditional international development engages. These include private-sector employers, universities, technology companies, civil society organizations and municipal and provincial governments. The role of foreign governments and other outsiders seeking to advance international development will be to use their investments as catalyzing force to spur participation in ad hoc coalitions formed to address particular challenges. It will also require a renewed focus on civil society,which will be difficult given global crises and competing priorities. 

A fifth and forward-looking step is to focus on youth. International development spending tends to focus on young children rather the world's 1.2 billion youth ages 15 to 24, 87% of whom live in developing countries. However, youth who lack economic opportunities and feel socially and politically marginalized are both a threat to the future of societies across developing countries and developed countries and an under-tapped resource and opportunity. They, more than any other social group, are the determinants of fragility--or resilience.

Most importantly, countries like the Unites States can redouble their efforts to address their own inner fragility--unemployment, social marginalization, and injustice. This is the right thing to do for their own citizens, their own economies, and their own consciences. In the United States, it will also allow the country to lead by example and live up to the most positive visions of America as 'city' on a hill and the most positive interpretations of American exceptionalism.

The biggest change that must occur is a change of mindset. This new mindset will require boldness of vision and action coupled with a new emphasis on humility, a renewed spirit of partnership, and a new willingness to learn as well as teach. The potential is to learn effective global strategies and develop collaborative new ways to address common problems together.

This potential offers natural leadership roles for the United States--a nation that is among the most naturally self-critical, the most well-structured for self-correction and improvement, and the most ideologically suited for a focus on opportunity, inclusion, and human potential. The risk of not addressing the fragility within nations continuing to decay internally, in similar ways, apart. The risk is allowing the seeds of the next crises to take root.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

FRANCE: Secularism & Imams Training

When French President Francois Hollande met with Moroccan King Mohammed VI and signed an initiative to send French imams to Mohammed VI Institute's for Imams Training in Rabat, with the stated mission of promoting religious moderator and tolerance to combat radical Islam, Hollande formally started ''Imams Training Exchanges Initiative'', France's counter-radicalization program.

Although the France-Morocco initiative on imams is new, international religious training exchanges are part of an established phenomenon that some security experts call '' ''Embassy Islam'', because
the religious infrastructure of Muslim communities in Western Europe was, in a sense, decided in advance, not by the communities themselves, but by those who had the power to set the conditions: sending and receiving states and European governments were content to outsource the day to day management of Islamic religious observance, a practice that dovetailed with the interests of the country of origin.

''Laicité'' or state secularism---enshrined in 1905 law--is the cornerstone of French national and political identity, but created a hostile environment for the country's increasingly multi-ethnic citizenry and growing immigrant populations. The ongoing debate over a 2004 law that banned religious symbols in schools and 2010 law banning the full veil crystallizes the tension. And the rising number of terror attacks in France, highlighted the need for France to rethink its steadfast adherence to Laicité amid changing demographic landscape.

Mosques have long been the target of French counter-radicalization measures, and numerous imams have been deported since 2002. The Interior Ministry has renewed these deportation efforts in response to both Paris attack ( November, 13, 2015) and Nice Attack (July 14, 2016) and the rising number of French citizens that have joined the self proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq---over 1,400 or nearly half of the European jihadis known to have traveled to Middle- East.

At least 44 imams have been deported last year, and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged imams to take university-level courses in secularism as part of new anti radicalization measures. Although some imams have been expelled for being ''rogue'' or preaching what the French Interior Minister considers hate speech or radical ideology, many are deported because they are Islamist and have not affiliated with any government. The result is that France's expelling one kind of imam to import another.

Training imams is a catastrophe, linked to a national policy that mistreats French Muslims while alleging that they are part of the French community. This contradictory attitude informs a situation in which, through agreements with Middle East and North African governments, the state imports imams who do not speak French, know little of French culture and hold posts in corrupt networks.

The Strategy reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the plurality of French Muslims, in terms of religion, culture and generational differences. And although foreign imams have particularly little resonance among younger French Muslims, the 'Laicité' law prohibits state-run trainings of religious leaders, making an interlocutor necessary. The problem here is that the government body created to play that role--the French Council of the Muslim Faith--is completely dysfunctional, internally divided and holds little political weight.

As a result, the fate of mosques and imams are often in the hands of foreign governments--Morocco, Algeria and Turkey--that know little of France's Muslim communities and the French Interior Ministry ''modus operandi''.

France's policy on imams--illustrative of flawed approach to managing multiculturalism is a far cry from the counter-extremism strategy the country needs. Targeting imams as part of anti-extremism efforts is linked to a false amalgam that blames radicalism on too much Islam. Islam is not what drives French youths to Syria or Iraq: 70 percent of European jihadis have come from atheist, Catholic or non practicing Muslim families, like the Nice attacker, Mohamed L Bouhlel.

Research reveal that jihadis radicalizing youths hardly talk about Islam at all: the process uses tactics of sectarian movements and totalitarian political parties, but Islam is just the final polish. The majority of youths radicalized in France have never set foot in a mosque. The indoctrination process occurs online. What's more, it serves no purpose to teach good Islam to someone already under the grasp of jihadis.

That doesn't mean that increasing professional standards for imams is necessarily bad, but linking it to the fight against radicalism is to misunderstanding what is happening in France. Recruiters seek people who know nothing about Islam. Even if targeting places of Islamic preaching were a useful strategy against extremism, the efficacy of working with foreign government to that end is questionable: There is no reason to outsource this work to government that lack credibility and essentially bureaucratic, statist institutions.

The ambiguity around French policy toward imams is the result of a dated system unable to cope with changing social realities. Following the Paris attack/Nice attack killings, French Prime Minister declared the opening of a war against radical Islam, against everything that aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity. But France's reticence to adapt its attitude toward religion creates contradictions and inconsistencies that undermine these efforts.

Domestic terrorist attacks and the departure of French youths to Syria and Iraq are real threats to national security and the social fabric. But the problem is two-fold. On the one hand, France is pursuing a national policy that refuses to acknowledge that its insular understanding of French identity and the state's relationship with religion is losing steam.

And on the other hand, the assumed causality between Islam and youth radicalization misses the mark, misdirecting resources that could prevent thousands of citizens from joining terrorists networks abroad. Sending imams to be trained in Morocco, then, may be a  means to restore shaky relations, but is in continuity with a flawed approach to countering violent extremism.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

U.K.- E.U.: -Analysis-Theresa May's trip to Berlin & Paris

Incoming British prime ministers normally make early visit to establish personal links with key European leaders, but Britain's new Prime Minister, Theresa May's trip to Berlin and Paris, will be charged with the implementation of Brexit, external security, and the fight against terrorism discussions with the continent major leaders: German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

Pragmatic, childless pastors's daughters with killer instincts who were long underestimated by their blustering male peers, the parallels between Theresa May and Angela Merkel are striking at first glance, but that resemblance may mask more fundamental differences that will complicate talks on Britain's divorce from the European Union, pitting its newest leader against its longest serving. 

''Brexit means Brexit'' is May's first favorite phrase. It offers assurance to Tory Brexiters and voters who worry about her commitment to withdrawal, It says nothing, though, about the shape of post-Brexit relations. In fact, it confuses dream to reality. Theresa May has so far avoided showing her hand on where she wants to draw the balance between access to the single market and national control of immigration policy. This will be the subject of two sets of discussions ( with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande), in her first foreign policy battle between pragmatism and ideology.

Theresa May, a pragmatic technocrat, with Protestant work ethnic, must deal in facts and probabilities rather than dreams. The process of unravelling four decades of political and economic integration will be complex, costly and frequently bad-tempered. Britain that emerges will be weaker economically and have a smaller footprint internationally.

Although Theresa May is one of the 16 million Brits who voted to remain in the European Union on June 23, that won't make the British-European divorce talks any easier, but at least they will be more predictable than they would have been with a Brexit ideologue at the helm.

Theresa May cannot change the reality that it will be difficult to secure broad political consent for any of the many versions of ''Brexit''. On the other hand, it is also conceivable, she could secure a speedy and good-natured negotiation that could see Britain leave in relatively favorable terms.

If we have learnt anything these past few weeks is that politics can turn somersaults. On the one hand, with Theresa May's pragmatism, it is possible, of course, that Britain could decide in the end to remain in the European Union or to opt for something close to it such as associate membership. 

On the other hand, the European Union should seek to maintain the closest possible ties with Britain despite its decision to leave, as emotionally difficult as this may be after the Brexit vote. The continent would be well advised to approach negotiations pragmatically.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP-Getty Image: British Prime Minister, Theresa May and former British prime minister, David Cameron.

Monday, 18 July 2016

SOUTH-SUDAN: In-depth analysis of the crisis

The fighting in South Sudan, which began as a dispute over oil, power and ethnic rivalries, has now become personal. The latest clashes in a war that broke out mid-December when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup, claimed more than 300 lives and dominate an African Union summit, in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. 

A shaky ceasefire has held since last Monday, when Machar's men were forced to flee after government troops in tanks and helicopter gunships pounded their positions with overwhelming firepower. A string of peace deals signed since the start of the war failed to stop the fighting, and critics point out that placing two rival armies in the same city was a recipe for disaster. Building trust between rival forces, and reining militias appears tricky, while governance in the country remains in limbo until new political and military deals are struck. 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon wants the Security Council to take three key steps: impose an arms-embargo, place more targeted sanctions on leaders and bolster the 12,000 strong UN peacekeepers force. In the African Union summit, regional bloc IGAD has raised the possibility of deploying an ''intervention brigade'', with a more aggressive mandate, but South Sudan's President  Kiir is not having it.

The answers to a politically and ethnically motivated crisis in South Sudan, can only be found in the origins and causes of the crisis before and after the independence.

Causes & Prospects

The political crisis of 15 December 2013 was the tip of an iceberg that remains to be dealt with in the immediate future or over a relatively longer period of time. The causes of the crisis are rooted in historical legacies of the long civil war that seemed to have ended with the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005.

However, the cosmetic reconciliation between the SPLM/A leading to the signing of the CPA did not heal the wounds of the 1991 rift. Origins but not causes of the current crisis can be traced back to that event. But causes of the current crisis are associated with the past. What is significant is the indifference of third parties, both national and international, which contributed to the outbreak of untold violence in Juba that is spreading rapidly in the Greater Upper Nile region.

In the first place, the failure of institutionalization of the political system and disregard for the rules of the game are the immediate foundational causes of the crisis. The Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) was established on a weak foundation. The establishment of institutions was based on ethnic aggregation and personality cults.

The political system entrenched institutionalized mistrust where political leaders had more faith in ethnic protégées than in national institutions enshrined in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (TCRSS). Established institutions were highly politicized without taking due note of rules and regulations governing them. Conversely, where there were such rules and regulations they were relegated to the margins of the modus operandi. These structures were inherited by the government of South Sudan at independence on 9 July 2011.

Further, little attention was paid to national reconciliation. Political leaders missed the opportunity to promote post-conflict peace building among people and institutions after the unity of South Sudan demonstrated during the Referendum vote of January 2011.

Another element of discord in the process of state building is the impact of 2010 elections on relationship among SPLM political contenders in South Sudan. The aftermath of the elections witnessed cracks in the ranks of SPLM members. Less attention was paid to the problem of SPLM and independents even when some members of the party resorted to violence and mini-rebellions.

The logic of militarism dominated the attitudes of actors on the political stage such as “those who are not with us and have taken up weapons should be crushed militarily.” The logic of militarism dominated political discourses with strong support of political groups in the absence of active and effective civil society organizations (CSOs) in the country.

The weak nature of opposition has its role in the perpetuation of instability in the country. With exception of the numerically weak SPLM-DC, their voices were rarely heard. Many of the so-called opposition political parties engaged in unnecessary disputes that tore them apart. If they were in power they would have divided the country as what we are witnessing today. So, the absence of alternative views nurtured intolerance in the ranks of the government and the party. Therefore, the society adopted resignation and the attitude of “wait and see.” This situation of indifference did not the help the cause of state building and corrective measures in policies of the fragmented ruling party.

Structural problems in the formation of political institutions add another dimension to the current crisis. The end of long civil war witnessed integration of multiple strata of civil and military organizations into political units like the civil service, political parties and security sector institutions. These institutions were composed of blocks of war-time groups whose attitudes and behaviour structurally undermined nation-building processes.

This could clearly be seen in entourages of people holding top national executive positions. They recruited armies of body guards from their family members, clans, tribal or regional clusters. This fact demonstrates the composite of the fragile political system before and after independence of South Sudan.

The foundation of democracy consists of political parties. The Sudan People’s Liberation Party/Army (SPLM/A) was by far the most dominant political institution in the political system of South Sudan. Relations between the party and the army remained, nevertheless, blurred. The function of national defence was constitutionally conferred on the SPLA while the role of governance became the responsibility of SPLM as the majority party in the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and The Council of States (CoS).

The composition of the SPLA lacked an integrated structure for national defence. Allegiance of the army was divided between political factions of the SPLM and its leaders to the extent that neutral political observers regarded the army as instrument of individuals in the party. The policy of rewarding rebel groups with integration into the army created serious imbalances in the structure the SPLA at the expense of peaceful regions in other parts of South Sudan. Has this policy contributed to the current crisis? This question remains a researchable one. Hence, personal and structural disputes were developing into dangerous levels to the extent that people began to speculate the bitter end of squabbles within the SPLM/A.


The latest events of a war that broke out in December 2013 justify these assumptions. Schism began to develop within the SPLM since April 2013 when the Deputy Chairperson of the SPLM and Vice President of South Sudan declared his intention to run for the chairmanship of the SPLM. The declaration of Riek Machar, the Deputy Chairperson of the SPLM, sparked an aggressive power struggle within the party and spilled over into the government.

The dissolution of the entire cabinet was a landmark in the march towards political instability that the party, CSOs and faith-based organization (FBOs) ignored. Even the AU, IGAD, the UN remained unconcerned witnesses until violence flared out. This political development  culminated in the fragmentation of the national army along regional and ethnic lines emanating from political discourses during the National Liberation Council (NLC) deliberations.

Consequently, the political dispute within the SPLM has resulted in bloodshed and fragmentation of the nation along ethnic and regional lines. If there were to exist effective civil society organizations, a credible national army, and proactive regional and international communities, they would have prevented the destructive pattern of political discourses in the political party and take appropriate actions regarding the party’s political bigotry.

One could and many others could argue that the political crisis was not an abrupt phenomenon nor did it take people by surprise. It was preventable. The United NNation's  Security Council, the African Union  and IGAD shuttle diplomacy taking place now is just the traditional reaction of members of the international community to national and international crises threatening peace and security. They always wait until fire breaks out before they engage in a fire brigade approach to deal with flames instead of preventing them when smoke screen forms.


From here what is next? Do we continue to play ostrich after this unprecedented event? How do we engage the citizens (not only intellectuals) to enable them articulate their perceptions of political parties and governance of their nation? These questions relate to issues that call for debates in the short and medium term.

Everybody agrees that the immediate policy priority is to stop the senseless violence taking place now. Then, what is important is to learn lessons from the crisis. Learning lessons from the past alone may not be enough, but applying outcomes of such lessons to substantive national questions is of real significance.

Institutions of the state need serious reforms instead of transformations. National political institutions and structures should be put under the powered microscopes of political analysis. It is time for us to reflect on what is subject to reforms in the political system, how and when they should be pursued. 

More sanctions may be the way to go but they will never solve a politically and ethnically motivated crisis in South Sudan. Arms embargo is too little to late in a country awash with weapons;  And more peacekeepers may not make the United Nations mission any more effective. The only step forward to solve a politically and ethnically motivated crisis in South Sudan, would be a  ''power sharing''/reconciliation.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist/Author
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP-Photo

FRANCE: Bastille Day Attacker-a new breed of terrorists

The terror attacks in France have shaken the world. Conversations have shifted from disbelief to disgust and from mourning to uncertainty. In fact, France, a country with large Muslim communities, has become the ''ideological battlefield. The situation underscores the fact that France needs a new security, social, political debate. 

Despite being in high alert for terrorism attacks, France is the country most affected by terrorism with the majority of the attacks since 2012. These are terrorist incidents/attacks in France since 2012: 

On March 2012: a French Algerian killed three soldiers, a teacher and three young students at Jewish School in Toulouse. He was later shot dead;
In May 2013, a Muslim converted Alexandre Dhaussy stabbed a French soldier in the neck in Paris. The soldier survived the attack;
In December 2014: French-Burundi born attacked several police officers at a station in ''Joue les Tours'', while shouting: Allah- Wakbar'. He was later shot dead;
In 7 January 2015: Said and Chérif Kouachi shot dead 12 people at the office of satirical magazine: Charlie Hebdo in Paris;
On 8 January 2015: Amedy Coulibaly killed a policewoman before entering a Jewish supermarket in Paris where he shot dead 4 others. Both brothers were later shot dead by police;
In June 2015: in an chemical factory near Grenoble, one man was beheaded and several others were injured;
In August 2015: three off-duty American marines overpowered an armed gunman on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris. Three people including the suspect were injured. The Americans and several other passengers held the man down until police arrived. He was later arrested;
In November, 13, 2015, more than 130 people were dead as men armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades carried out a series of attacks at restaurants, in Bataclan Concert Hall and outside ''Stade de France'' in Paris;
In  June 2016, a police officer and his wife, a police secretary, were stabbed to death inside their home near Paris by a man who pledged allegiance to Islamic State;

Then last Friday, June 14 2016, on French National Day, commonly called: ''Bastille Day'', a recluse, a loner, a divorced father of three, French national, with Tunisian origins, Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, smashed a truck into a crowd of revelers enjoying a ' Bastille Day fireworks display, in French resort of Nice, killing at least 84 and scores of injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Saturday Attack.

When French are forced to live in fear, as they again had to do in these days of terror in Nice, they often comfort themselves with the notion that Syria and Iraq are the home of terrorists or of those who join the Islamic State(radicalized Muslims). But as the French learn more about the ''Bastille Day'' attacker, this line of argumentation starts falling apart, because Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was not one of these 1,400 French French citizens that have joined the self proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. He didn't wear a beard; He did not appear to have dreamed of virgins in paradise and reports even suggest that he shared his time between work, nightclubs, gym and salsa sessions. He was not interested in religion.  He was not radicalized, or pledged allegiance to the Islamist State online. He bought his 7.65mm automatic pistol( the one he shot the crown with) from Albanian couple.

Bouhlel, was born in Tunisia in 1985 and had a French residency permit. The neighbors describe him as an ordinary man, always very smart, with the same haircut, as George Clooney, depressed, unstable. They put this down to his marital and financial problems. Bouhlet's other neighbors claim that they did not even know that he was a Muslim until after the attack.

Although he had previous convictions for armed theft, conjugal violence and threatening behavior, he had no  known links with terrorism and was not under surveillance. Residents of Msaken, Bouhlel's native town in Tunisia claim that he was born in n non-practicing Muslim family. He did not go to the mosque, let alone pray. They describe him as sporty, shy, distant, a very normal guy.

From a guy next door to Bastille Day terror attacker, that kind of quick transformation is almost disturbing because French have long believed that they have been more successful at accepting/integrating Muslims than the rest of Europe. French were ( at leat until now) less afraid that integrated/westernized Muslims would suddenly start turning against the country. They remained faithful that the appeal of ''les valeurs républicaines''( France Republican values) would be enough -- why, they seemed to ask, the guy next door would want to plan the French nightmare? The French should register now that their faith in their ability to successfully integrate Muslims/immigrants is not as foolproof as they often believe

Having argued so, Bouhlel might have been motivated more by a desire to commit suicide than by an Islamist ideology, despite the Islamic State claim that it ordered the attack, describing him as a ''soldier of Islam''. It is plausible that Bouhlel may have been a suicide case who decided to make his suicide look like an Islamist attack.

The Nice terrorist attack paints a distinct picture of a new breed of terrorists who are disillusioned with they lives, suicidal, would kill to make it look like terrorism attack. In the Internet age/Information age we are living, extremist ideas can also influence French Muslims who on the surface appear to be perfectly integrated/westernized or non- radicalized. They are not immune from the radical thought.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Friday, 15 July 2016

AFRICA: ''Africa's answer'' to ''Brexit'

Despite wariness after ''Brexit'', the African Union ( a group of 54 countries ) moves towards Pan-Africanism. They are calling it ''Africa's answer'' to ''Brexit''. Even as Britain's decision to leave the European Union threatens the very fabric of the European project, African countries that were once carved up by European colonialists, are seeking to break down borders through closer integration.

Next week, the African Union will issue e-passports that would allow recipients visa-free travel between all member states. Beneficiaries will initially be limited to heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives of the African Union member states in Addis Ababa. The ideal is to eventually roll it out to all 1 billion Africans, although that might take years, or even decades.

A goal in the ''2063 agenda'', a document in which the African Union members have laid the proposal, includes the free movement of goods, services and people around a continent whose borders were drawn by colonial cartographers at the end of nineteenth century with little thought to geography or ethnicity.

In the beginning, the aim of the African Union was to  present a united front in international affairs and speed up the development of the continent, to help spur industrialization by facilitating deeper economic integration and building much needed infrastructure, including roads, railways and telecommunications systems.The  African Union hopes to finally achieve this aim, goal, with the help of China's investments in infrastructure and industrialization projects.

However, there is a lot skepticism in the West whether the African continent has the political and economic background to achieve its goal. this school of thinking is based on the African Union track record of failed promises. In fact, the African Union has achieved spectacularly little in its decade and half of existence; the body has yet to solve a single conflict diplomatically; the body cannot even seem to agree on a definition for democracy, certifying all elections as free and fair; the body has proved equally inept on the economic front;

In order to achieve this futuristic Pan-Africanism project of closer economic integration, the free movement of goods, services and people around the continent, the African Union must overcome many obstacles: the mindset that Africa cannot solve its own problems; Africa's dependence on the West; Transparency and accountability to fight corruption, poor infrastructure, political stability and security within Africa continent. In the first part of this article,( the second part will be published next week in this blog), I will concentrate my attention at the first set of obstacles: the mindset that Africa cannot solve its own problems, Africa's dependence on the West and poor infrastructure.

Africa's dependence on Imperialists 

Africa has had the bad luck to be over-run by European soldiers of fortune that had neither moral fibre nor humanity. Slavery played its shameful role in depopulating Africa. Capitalism denuded Africa of its wealth. Colonialism deprived Africa of its birthright, and Imperialism emasculated its will to live as human being and enjoy its share of bounties of the earth.

Imperialist countries have psychologically conditioned Africans to think that they cannot live without the crumbs from Europe or America or from any other imperialist country in this world. They have not only behaved as if Africa's riches belong to them, they have also made Africans believe that they cannot do anything for themselves unless they totally depend on Western countries, in particular their former enslavers and colonisers. Africa leaders must exorcise this demon of helplessness and inferiority complex in order to move forward.

Imperialist countries have made Africa their hunting and looting ground for many years through various forms such as slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. The West exploitative relationship to Africa has stripped Africa's people of their riches and continues to strip them. The West no longer needs standing armies in Africa to strip its resources because it can do so more effectively with multi-national companies.

Global Financial Integrity has researched and revealed that a cumulative sum of $814.9 billion was swindled from Africa between 2004 and 2013 by Western multi-national companies, through tax avoidance, corruption and bribes: South Africa $209 billion, Nigeria $178 billion, Tanzania $191.77 billion, Senegal $8.03 billion, Uganda $116.76 billion, Tunisia $154.5 billion, Egypt $39.83 billion, Lesotho $3.41 billion, Swaziland $5.82 billion, Botswana $13.68 billion, Ethiopia $25.83 billion, Mauritius $6,09 billion. Other research institutions on this illicit flow of money out of Africa such as Christian Aid and Tax Justice Network have quantified the illicit flow of money out of Africa as between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion. This is said to be four times the size of Africa foreign debt. The West economic exploitation of Africa goes on unabated.

Embarking in this futuristic Pan-Africanism project of closer economic integration, single market and political and economical emancipation, the Africa Union needs to re-assess Africa's relationship with the West. Pan-Africanism is an anti-injustice and continued stealing of Africa's resources by the West while Africa's children wallow in the quagmire of poverty, ignorance, short life expectancy, and high child mortality.

Poor Infrastructure

In many ways, Africa remains deeply fragmented. Poor roads, red tape and clogged borders are among the obstacles to closer economic integration in Africa. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind other developing regions on most standard indicators of infrastructure development, prompting African leaders to call for greater international support in this sphere.

Therefore a closer economic integration in Africa will not be feasible without regional integration,
because many African states are too small to stand in their own feet, particularly in manufacturing, or have poor infrastructure and that much closer co-operation is indispensable for industrial take off.

China is emerging as a major ''financier'' of infrastructure projects in Africa. This is very welcome development because Africa has an infrastructure deficit. The West abandons Africa in that respect because they thought the private sector could fill this void. However private sector met much of the demand in telecom, a sector that is very amenable to private delivery. However, in power, expressways and rail, it has proved harder to attract private finance. The result is the current hard infrastructure deficit in Africa.

Because of its size, (Africa is actually the size of Europe, America, China and India combined) and its immense wealth and resources ( almost every kind of mineral is found in Africa: Vanadium, chrome, uranium, cobalt, tantalum, platinum, gold, diamonds, iron, coal, oil, to name just a few), Africa can fulfil economic potential, particularly in the power, transport, and water and sanitation sectors with a very good infrastructure. It is therefore imperative for African leaders to seize the opportunity that China's investments bring to the continent.

In fact, China's infrastructure project is probably the factor behind Africa's growth. Chinese institutions are the largest single source of funds for African infrastructure, accounting for $13.4 billion in 2013. The Chinese investment has been weighed towards transport facilities such as railways, roads, airports ans seaport. The African Union ''2063 agenda'' is, could be, the best way, if not the only way, to make China's infrastructure very productive.

Pan-Africanism is imperative

One African country independence is meaningless unless it is linked to the total liberation of Africa. Political independence is only a prelude to a new and more involved struggle. African nationalism is meaningless, dangerous and anachronistic, if it is not at the same time Pan-Africanism. To advance victoriously to rebuilding the broken walls of Africa, Pan-Africanism is the key and the most powerful weapon.

The mammoth task of liberating Africa economically can be brought about only through Pan-African unity in a united Africa. Pan Africanism is not a wishful thinking. It is Africa's weapon to survive the onslaughts of Imperialism. Not a single African country can stand on its own without perishing. Pan-African unity is not a choice, It is an imperative.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Getty-Images

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

EUROPE: Understanding Post-Independence Europe

The last two years we have seen an independence referendum in Scotland and UK's EU membership referendum, ''Brexit'', a contested debate over a proposed independence consultation in Catalonia and growing momentum behind independence movements ( prospective independence referendum calls in Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Wales) elsewhere in Europe.

The debates taking place within countries like Spain and the UK offer an example of what can be termed as  ‘post-independence’: that political devolution, economic development and nation-state re-scaling processes have become intertwined, thereby establishing a new European regional order characterised by the presence of city-regional small nations as new key players beyond their referential nation-states.

The UK and Spain are not depicted as having the same nation-state DNA with regard to their respective histories and political-cultural traditions. A glance at the current European regional comparative context reveals that, while the UK Government legitimised the Scottish Government and supported the Scottish independence referendum as being a highly democratic exercise, (or might do again in the future for Northern Ireland, Gibraltar), Spain stands out as remaining normatively inflexible without, so far, even contemplating any dialogue with the presidents of the Catalan and Basque Autonomies.

Meanwhile, contemporary EU nation-states are accepting the implementation of the right of a population to decide how it is governed in relation to the UK’s inner national diverse context, which is embodied by the current position of Scotland. On the other hand, Spain has been avoiding the demands of the Catalan and Basque institutions and citizens on the basis of both historic and more recent episodes of political unrest. As a result, it seems impossible to open any discussion about the devolution claims of city-regional small nations, particularly in terms of devising an internal, alternative and re-scaled configuration of Spain as a nation-state, which would involve modifying the 1978 Constitution.

Moreover, in the case of the Basque Country, this is presented as the least likely outcome as political violence in the region has been both a major obstacle and also a source of inertia. Nevertheless, ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) announced a ‘definitive cessation’ of its campaign in 2011 and, therefore, should welcome any kind of democratic implementation that involves devolving powers to the Basque Country. Hence, can we find any remarkable differences between EU nation-states such as the UK and Spain? Indeed, I think there are plenty of them.

Within the broader global context, established nation-states are facing substantial changes, not only externally in terms of the global geostrategic game but also internally in their relations with their constituent ‘city-regions’. These ‘city-regions’ appear as dynamic, networked, territorial configurations embedded in their referential nation-states and driven by a wide range of diverse, transformative promotional policies that result in very uncertain consequences for both the ‘city-regions’ and the nation-states. However, clarification of the taxonomy and case-studies involved is required. ‘city-region’ is a term that creates confusion. “what is true of some city-regions is not true of all city-regions”.

Globalisation and European integration have led to a resurgence of post-nationalism, which goes beyond nation-states. It is specifically in this context that ‘city-regions’ are making advances and, each does so in it its own way. Put simply, some ‘city-regions’ are promoted by economic renewal policies, while others are driven by national identity demands.

In this global context, political devolution, economic development and nation-state re-scaling processes are merging and becoming intertwined, thereby establishing a new European regional order characterised by the presence of city-regional small nations as new key players beyond their referential nation-states. In this game, the hypothetical strategic scenarios are not clear and they remain uncertain considering, on the one hand, the heterogeneous tradition of the nation-states themselves and, on the other hand, the political histories of these city-regional small nations.

Nevertheless, it is clear that this new order must be taken seriously through close attention to its democratic dimension and to the clear territorial and political consequences for the city-regions, their related nation-states and the EU as a whole.

There are two groups of ‘city-regions’: those that are fuelled merely by economic renewal and those driven by national identity factors. In the first group, I include Dublin, Portland, Oresund and Liverpool/Manchester; in the second group are the Basque Country, Iceland, Scotland, Catalonia, Northern Ireland, Cardiff and Gibraltar. The unit of analysis is the ‘city-region’, in which a complex networked dimension could account for different currently established socio-territorial structures, such as small nations (the Basque Country, Scotland, Catalonia and Cardiff), metropolitan cities (Dublin, Portland, Liverpool, Manchester and Gibraltar), cross-border regions (Oresund) and small states (Iceland).

First, Scotland currently represents the first relevant case in which a hypothetical independence option was agreed to by both the regional Scottish government and institutions (Holyrood) and the British nation-state government and institutions (Westminster). As a consequence, due to its substantial citizen engagement and the way in which the independence referendum was managed democratically by both sides, this case demonstrated very good practices – efficient governance, social media usage and a rationalised dialectic.

Second, Catalonia is a case that should be understood in the context of the significant level of social support that has been gained (70 per cent) for independence, which prompted planning for a potential consultation and also pushed the Catalan Regional Government to accept this possibility, even against the will of the Spanish Central Government. However, it remains unclear what the socio-economic proposals of each side will be. The main debate has been focused on the real controversy regarding whether or not to honour the consultation without having any information on the content. It therefore seems that the confrontational and antagonistic dialectic adopted will not, in the short-term, help to achieve a democratic outcome.

Finally, the Basque Country presents a new and positive case, which has evolved very quickly and has created an environment in which a demand for a referendum is bound to occur sooner or later as a consequence of the overcoming of the political violence that dominated the previous era. The main issue for any such referendum is the continued lack of preparation for the democratic content of the debate. Furthermore the region may have the same difficulties as those face by Catalonia regarding Spain’s inflexible position.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Monday, 11 July 2016

E.U.: How to deal with ''Populism'' in Post-Politics Europe?

The post-political situation is at the origin of the growing success of right-wing populist parties all across Europe. There is really no longer a striking difference between the policies of center-left and center-right parties. 

Center-right and center-left-parties offer a variant of the same kind of politics. Center-left parties do not offer an alternative to the neoliberal globalization promoted by the Center-right. The only thing the Center-left can do is to manage it a bit more humanely. This creates a consensus of the center, which leaves the people without a real choice between different alternatives.

As a result, the people lose their interest in politics – that’s why there is so much abstention – or the people tend to vote for right-wing populist parties as we currently witness in a lot of countries. Those populist parties at least pretend to offer an alternative: they are against the establishment; they take the demands of the people into account and claim that they are speaking on their behalf. 

When they speak about “the people,” right wing populists refer to an entity that is restricted to a certain category of people from which immigrants are excluded. This is usually accompanied by a xenophobic discourse, which is of course very negative for democracy. But let’s not forget the possibility of a left-wing populism in which the notion of “the people” is constructed in a different way: it includes both immigrants and all the people who are working in a specific country. The adversaries of the people in this case are not the immigrants, but the big transnational corporations and all the forces of neoliberal globalization. The development of a left-wing populism is the only way to fight against the growing success of right-wing populism.

In many countries, right-wing populists are the ones who speak and appeal to the popular sector. What we increasingly see is that socialist, social-democratic, or labor parties abandon the popular classes. They are more concerned with representing the middle classes. The result is that there are many sectors that do not feel represented by the existing left-parties. This is why they tend to be attracted by right-wing populism. 

Both in France, with Marine Le Pen and the Front National, and in Austria, with Heinz-Christian Strache and the FPÖ, the right-wing populists have increasingly added to their discourse themes which they basically stole from the discourse of the Left. The defense of the welfare state and the public sector are just two examples of issue areas that socialist and social-democratic parties have abandoned over the years because they have opted for the neoliberal ideology.

Marine Le Pen’s political program would be a catastrophe for France! She wants to get out of the European Union, she wants to get out of the Euro and she wants to close the French frontiers – a complete return to purely national politics. Of course this isn’t realistic! Le Pen’s program is also completely unacceptable from a moral point. It’s deeply xenophobic. For Le Pen, the Muslims are the adversaries of the French people. She presents them as a threat to the secular principles of the French Republic. We see a similar phenomenon in the Netherlands with Geert Wilders. The assumption is: Muslims cannot be integrated because they do not accept our values concerning the equality of gays, women etc. Of course this kind of politics is not compatible with a pluralist conception of democracy.

In order to counter the growing success of Right wing populism, we need to create a ''Left wing populism''. That ''left-wing populism'' would have to take into account the concerns of the people by proposing other solutions and by trying to find ways to fight against the neoliberal globalization. Of course, the aim is not to reject globalization – that is simply not possible – but to fight for an alternative version of it. Right-wing populist parties simply reject globalization. They want to come back to the traditional nation state, which is impossible today. The tricky question for the Left is how to take account of the popular demands that call for an alternative to Neoliberalism and to envisage what could be a realistic alternative in the present circumstances.

Many will argue that it is a bit too easy to say that left-wing populism is the solution in the fight against right-wing populism. After all, even left-wing populism is a kind of populism. Although right wing populism is quite dangerous, it is still a necessary dimension of democratic politics. There is a necessity to take into account the demands of the people and to create a collective will. The crucial issue is how  “people” is constructed. This also requires us to acknowledge another dimension that I think is very important: the role of passion in politics.  
The passion in politics refers to everything that is related to the affective dimension that is mobilized in politics. The affective dimension is at the origin of collective forms of identification. To create a people you need to mobilize this affective dimension in order to create a collective will and to make people identify with a project. But in the post-political situation that we witness at the moment, both center-right and center-left believe that passion is something that can only be used by the Right end of the political spectrum. I think that’s a very dangerous appraisal: 
If you leave the affective dimension to right-wing populists, there is no way to fight against them. Not only has the affective dimension to be acknowledged, but it also has to be recognized that this affective dimension can be shaped in a much more progressive way. The two main passions in politics are fear and hope. 

The right-wing populists use fear – that is why they are fighting against immigrants. And it’s important for left-wing populists to mobilize the passion of hope: to show that there is an alternative to the current situation with the growing gap between rich and poor and the destruction of the welfare state. Right-wing populist are very much aware of the importance of using this affective dimension. It is crucial for the Left to acknowledge it and to intervene, to mobilize and to foster affect in order to create collective forms of identification that could deepen democracy.

I do not think that right wing populism – because of its use of passion – is a chance for the European Union and could help the latter in overcoming the consensus between center-right and center-left. I think that it is important to create some kind of left-wing European populism.
To create a Left wing populism Europe would have to rally the people around a project that will put forward a different kind of Europe. I am convinced that the lack of alternatives to the current neoliberal Europe is one of the reasons why there is so much rejection of the European Union – which is often presented as a crisis of the European project.  However, that it’s rather a crisis of the neoliberal incarnation of the European project. Because the European Union itself is not put into question, but merely its current state of affairs. 
Not so long ago, the European Union was something that people could identify with. But over the last ten years things have changed: we’ve seen a growing movement of Euroskepticism and Euro-rejection. The reason for that is clear: people today can’t identify with this neoliberal Europe. They experience that it does not take into account their concerns, especially when it comes to jobs. Quite the contrary: many European policies are destroying jobs. One way to reverse this, is to create a European project that people can identify with. The people have to know that if they don’t want a neoliberal Europe, they can always create a different one. 
The lack of debate at the European level is another reason why we witness a growing movement of Euroskepticism. What we need, is to politicize Europe and to abandon the view that Europe is some kind of neutral institutional arrangement. The struggle between a left-wing conception of Europe and a right-wing conception should be promoted and valued. Such a debate would certainly contribute to fostering interest among people. The disinterest in European elections results from a feeling that nothing important is at stake here.
This debate should not be a question of destroying the current order and to abandon the market. The problem is that the Anglo-American model has become increasingly dominant in Europe. We have to recover what is at the core of the European identity. It is nearly a given in a social democracy with its emphasis on equality, social rights, and the welfare state. It certainly needs to be adapted to the present situation and include the demands of the social movements, without going back to the welfare state we had thirty years ago. But those values – social rights and the ways in which they can be implemented and deepened – is something really important. If this were at the center of European politics, people would become interested again and would identify with the European project. 

Some experts prefer to use the term: “radical democracy.” In order to deepen and extend current democratic institutions, this project of radical democracy should be opposed to the notion that we need a revolution, that liberal democracy has to be destroyed in order to construct a real democracy. Liberal-democratic institutions can be radicalized; they can be made more democratic. To work within the system is about transforming its institutions, making them much more accountable, more representative – and this is an objective towards which parties and social movements need to work together.
This radical Reformism or radical social-democratic project is certainly something that can be envisaged through an immanent critique of liberal-democratic institutions if we accept that the ethical and political principles of liberal democracy are liberty and equality for all – one can’t find more radical principles. The project of radical democracy consists in pushing our societies to really put into practice the ideals that they profess.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Madame: Marine Le Pen, Leader of French right wing populist Party: Front National