Friday, December 10, 2004

All I want for Christmas is…spam

If Christmas is a time for giving then why am I doing so much receiving? Since the beginning of December my email has been under a seasonal spam siege and I know I am not alone.

It is estimated that at least 60% of all email traffic is unsolicited. Most email users are plagued by adverts for cheap medication, bargain jewellery, unwanted links to pornography and products guaranteed to enlarge our most intimate body parts.

Bill Gates, the most spammed person in the world, gets four-million spam messages a day. He has a department dedicated to sifting his email for legitimate messages. Gates is also worth $46-billion and the richest man in the world. Clearly there must be a correlation between the amount of spam you get and your wealth.

In fact, Gates gets as many spam messages a day as there are Internet users in the whole of South Africa. This is currently estimated at 3 523 000 or 7,4% of the population according to World Wide Worx. South Africa is relatively advanced compared to the rest of Africa, though. South African Internet users make up 36% of total users in Africa which is close to 13 million.

In Africa as a whole only 1,4% of the population have access to the Internet. Compare this to the 35 million users in the UK, where 60% of the population utilise the web.

So spam is among the many things most Africans will not be getting this Christmas.

But have we really grasped the full weight of the technological problem facing Africa?

In 1965 Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel, made his famous observation that the rate of technological development doubles every two years. This translates to an average performance improvement in the technology industry as a whole of 1% a week.

In real terms Moore's Law means that 'we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century…it will be more like 20 000 years of progress at today's rate,' says Ray Kurzweil CEO of

Access and use of information technologies in Africa is increasing but at the same time developed countries continue to outpace this growth. This means that as an African on this upward technological spiral you will always be playing catch-up. It is like being in an ever-accelerating car that continues to fall further behind because those ahead are accelerating even faster.

Africa has other problems. Infrastructural capacity, literacy and high-quality education and health care are prerequisites to technological advancement. There are only 14-million phone lines on the continent. And who needs a computer when you are starving?

But technology itself can be helpful in building effective infrastructure, governance and service provision. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) sees information and communication technology as central to reducing poverty, overcoming geographic isolation and promoting distance learning and health education.

Projects such as HealthNet use global communications in 150 countries to link up health professionals. Burn surgeons in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda now share information on reconstructive surgery techniques.

Microsoft South Africa has agreed to donate software to all 32 000 State schools in perpetuity (of course many will have to get computers first, with 19 000 schools still without sufficient facilities).

But despite these developments, as I sit bombarded by spam and taking my speedy broadband connection for granted, I am overwhelmed by the fear that Africa may never draw level with its developed counterparts.

I think we underestimate the gravity of this.

Do you know if you type the word 'poverty' into the Google Search Engine you get 20-million hits? If you type in the word 'spam' you get 45-million. Those of us who make up the information superhighway seem to be perturbed about the wrong thing.

The time has come to get the situation into perspective.

As for me and my little world, my personal commitment this Christmas is to only complain about things of real substance and get my own priorities straight.

I know spam is a real problem. It amounts to an amazing $1 934 per employee per year in terms of lost productivity according to Nucleus Research. But, frankly, I am only too happy to be suffering from such a 'First World' complaint as too much spam.

To celebrate I am going to buy my wife a genuine Rolex watch for £15, splash out on a bucket of Viagra for my granddad and wait for my Christmas millions to arrive from Idi Amin's second cousin who has promised they will be deposited as soon as I hand over my bank details. Remember, Christmas comes but once a year, but poverty, like spam, is for life.

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 10 December 2004 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Chile: Torture Was State Policy

A Chilean presidential commission has provided an overwhelming indictment of the military dictatorship’s systematic use of torture, Human Rights Watch said today. In a report released last night, the commission collected testimony from thousands of torture victims who had never previously reported the abuse they had suffered. "After years of denial, Chile has finally acknowledged its legacy of torture," said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "This presidential commission has upheld the right of thousands of victims to reparation and moral recognition." Among its dramatic findings, the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture appointed by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos found that 94 percent of the people detained in the aftermath of the coup reported having been tortured. One of the most common methods of torture, reported in more than a third of the cases, was the application of electrical shocks. To read the full statement, click here.

Friday, December 3, 2004

Mugabe bowls the world for a duck

England's November and December 2004 cricket tour to Zimbabwe has been receiving extensive coverage in the British press. Last week nearly 60 000 words were printed on it in the London-based tabloids alone.

The whole matter has been a fiasco to say the least with particularly the South African and British governments flailing about the issues with no clear direction being given.

The South African government is deathly quiet. The British government is prevaricating about taking firm action. The various cricket authorities seem to be ducking the issue and pointing the finger at each other.

But, given the desperate situation in Zimbabwe, the time has come for some leadership on this matter at the highest governmental level.

The British government say they are opposed to the tour, given Zimbabwe's track record on human rights. But they claim that they risk being sued if they forcibly prevent it. They also say in a democratic country they cannot tell sports bodies what to do. They divert attention from their own dithering by blaming the International Cricket Board for not taking a moral stance by calling a halt to the tour and for threatening to impose stiff penalties on England if they fail to appear.

The South African government allegedly continues its so-called backdoor diplomacy with Zimbabwe, a strategy which is tantamount to implicit support.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has continually looked for a way out of the moral dilemma of playing in Zimbabwe given its dodgy human rights record. But they are yet to confront the issue head on.

For the World Cup match between Zimbabwe and England in 2003 they conveniently used the issue of team security as a way of abandoning the game. The Zimbabwean government almost gave the ECB another pretext for withdrawal this time round by banning a number of British journalists from entering the country.

But Mugabe is sharper than that. His government quickly overturned the ruling. Mugabe is a master of this sort of manipulation and the cricket is merely a helpful distraction for him from the real crisis in Zimbabwe.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network estimates that 2,2-million rural Zimbabweans are in need of food aid. The security budget will increase from about US$16 million in 2004 to US$70-million in 2005. The economy is in freefall.

Human rights violations are undeniable. These are set to increase before the elections in 2005, especially because human rights groups will be prevented from monitoring such abuses under the Non-Government Organisation Bill. Given this and the general situation, cricket is a minor issue to most human rights organisations right now.

Mugabe is playing the world for a fool. He can get away with this because the South African and British governments who can do something decisive about the Zimbabwean situation both have their own reasons for not rocking the boat too much.

Mike Selvey, writing in the Guardian recently, noted that the inaction of the two governments at different moments in time is partly linked to other sporting events.

During the Cricket World Cup, South Africa, despite its power as host nation, did little to deal with the Zimbabwean question. This was because it feared losing Zimbabwe's and potentially other African nations' votes for its Soccer World Cup bid if it acted against Zimbabwe. With London's 2012 Olympic bid being launched recently, the British government is in a similar position.

Selvey concludes that for the South African and British governments the stakes attached to their various international sporting bids 'in financial and prestige terms' seems to be 'higher than a handful of morals'.

Given their colonial history in the region the British government also do not have a solid moral foundation to use as a platform for taking any resolute steps. They seem fearful of ongoing accusations by Mugabe of racism and of him dragging their exploits in Iraq into the mix.

The South African ANC government, on the other hand, seem to be wedded to the notion that they owe the Mugabe government something because of their support during the apartheid struggle. Who they really are indebted to, however, is not Mugabe but the Zimbabwean people who are better off without him.

But the reality is that the only way the British government is going to react decisively is if there is growing domestic and international pressure. This pressure should mount first from the Southern African region. Surely we would want to find a regional solution to the Zimbabwean situation, rather than relying on the British government to try and sort it out first?

The key to this is the ANC. If they begin to criticise Mugabe explicitly and robustly the floodgates could open. As a result, the domestic pressure on the British Government would become untenable, forcing them to get off the fence and take a firm stand supporting a boycott.

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 3 December 2004 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Judge dismisses the so-called “apartheid lawsuits”


December 1, 2004

Judge dismisses the so-called “apartheid lawsuits”

On 29 November, 2004, Judge Sprizzo dismissed the so-called “apartheid lawsuits” brought to the New York Court under the US Alien Tort Claims Act.

The Khulumani Support Group is not deterred by the judgment made by Judge Sprizzo in dismissing the Khulumani Lawsuit along with the other so-called “apartheid lawsuits”.

In contrast to the broader lawsuits of the other parties, the Khulumani Lawsuit has a legal focus which is much more clearly defined. The Khulumani Lawsuit must be considered independently of these other lawsuits, and notice to appeal the judgment dismissing the lawsuit has been filed in a higher court in the USA.

Khulumani Support Group will shortly be commencing a national awareness campaign – “Say Yes to Redress” – on the Day of Reconciliation, 16 December 2004.

“We will never give up. Securing justice will be a long and arduous journey, but we will undertake it. This is just the beginning of the struggle for real justice.”

Khulumani will continue to be the voice for those South Africans living marginal existences, for those still searching for the remains of their children murdered by apartheid security forces; and for those left incapacitated in multiple ways by human rights violations.

On World AIDS Day 2004, Khulumani acknowledges that poverty and undernutrition are risk factors for the development of AIDS in those infected with HIV. It is befitting that we remember that the root causes of poverty in South Africa were part of a deliberate strategy by the apartheid government to keep the majority of the people of this country from developing their own voice. Khulumani means “speak out” and is the voice of over 44000 members.

Notes to editor:

Khulumani Support Group’s membership are direct and indirect victims of gross human rights violations committed during the apartheid era. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated that for reconciliation to take place, reparations and rehabilitation were needed. In the fifth year after the TRC handed in its report to government, reparations began to be paid out in the amount of R30 000,00 per identified victim.

The unheard voices of countless other victims have been ignored and instead, the process of amnesty has not only let many perpetrators completely off the hook; some of them have received handsome pension payouts and, ten years later are receiving treatment, paid for by the State, for post-traumatic stress disorder. The post-traumatic stress of being a victim appears to have been completely overlooked.

Issued by: Campaign Coordinator Khulumani International Lawsuit Campaign c/o Khulumani Support Group National Office 3rd Floor Heerengracht Building 87 de Korte Street Braamfontein 2017 Johannesburg Tel: +27-11-403-4098 / 4396 Fax: +27-11-403-0878 E-mail: Website:

Friday, November 26, 2004

Time to stop permissible lies about the past

Last week I took part in a television talk show filmed in the Crumlin Road Jail. The Victorian jail, built in 1846, is dank, cold and crumbling to the ground. It is one of the bleakest places in Belfast.

In the last few decades it served as a holding centre for prisoners who were to be tried in the courthouse across the street. All political prisoners in Northern Ireland would have passed through there at some point. But on the night of the television broadcast the prison provided a dramatic and historic backdrop to a discussion on how Northern Ireland should deal with its troubled past.

The lead in to the programme focused on South Africa. Much was said of our attempts to deal with the past as images of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission flashed on the screen. I was asked to follow this by reflecting on whether the South African model was appropriate for Northern Ireland.

In a world of sound bites for television I could add little. My obvious starting point was to say that every context is different and a unique solution for Northern Ireland is needed. No matter what approach is taken, society will have to deal with the delicate question of the truth about past atrocities.

Some moves are afoot in this regard. The British Secretary of State visited South Africa recently to draw lessons. He has also announced a consultation process. Various grassroots projects are also exploring the issue. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster is also looking into it. It is fascinating to consider how South Africa is used in these discussions. The country has become symbolic of attempts to deal with the past. Irrespective of the successes and failures of the South African TRC, the country has become a metaphor for attempts to come clean about past violations.

By drawing on the South African experience you immediately signal the importance you are putting on acknowledging past political violations. The South African context has become a “surrogate” for discussion. That is to say people discuss the South African case, all the while making points about their own situation, which they are struggling to address directly.

But are such “surrogate” discussions helpful? Do they help address local issues or divert attention from them?

It is questionable at times whether some of those looking at the South African case are interested in detailed lesson-drawing or merely registering some sort of nominal interest for other purposes.

For example, the South African case has been used as a justification for similar truth commissions when little genuine commitment to dealing with the past is present. Nigeria had a truth commission and publicised widely that they were going the South African route. The government received some international kudos and legitimacy for this, but in the end the government buried the final report and this has meant little political change.

At the same time, the South African experience has been used positively. The Peruvians studied the South African case closely and used it to learn solid lessons for their truth commission. They drew “negative” lessons' taking careful note of the lack of follow-up to reparations in South Africa. They chose to use models from Chile and Argentina on reparations as they were more successful and they put steps in place not to repeat South Africa's mistakes.

Dealing with a legacy of political violence requires more than making the right noises concerning lesson-drawing. It is long-term commitment and an ongoing endeavour.

This year in Chile, those initially protected from justice, by a 1978 amnesty decree, are being prosecuted. The courts no longer apply the amnesty to forced disappearance cases. A new political will to enforce justice is now seemingly evident thirty years after the military coup that overthrew the Allende government in 1973.

In Chile, the previous amnesty laws have effectively been rubbished. Although the 1990 Chilean truth commission might have helped some victims tell their story and uncover some truth, many still want justice decades later. Society is finally obliging.

A truth commission does not draw a line in the sand. It can merely help shape future debate, hopefully more constructively.

Michael Ignatieff feels truth commissions do not find the complete truth but narrow the opportunity for permissible lies about the past. He is of the opinion that truth commissions can provide a frame for public discourse and memory. They create a new public space for an ongoing debate.

Addressing a legacy of political violence is a lengthy task. It is not just about a few minutes of good television. The South African approach of televised victim testimonies has, to some extent, contributed to an almost surreal take on how to deal with past violence. But mass violence is not theatre.

In Northern Ireland, it is time to move away from the stylised view of the past the Crumlin Road Jail television talk show embodied. We need to enquire into the shadowy and bitter reality such a setting actually represents.

The genuine lessons from other contexts must be explored in all their complexity. For South Africans this means we need to tell our story of the transition, warts and all. We all know the election of 1994 was no miracle. It was created through tough negotiation, consensus building and compromise. For Northern Ireland, it is time to get down to the business of genuinely addressing the past. The hard work is just about to begin.

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 26 November 2004 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Directory of Open Access Journals

The Directory of Open Access Journals service covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. They aim to cover all subjects and languages. There are now 1366 journals in the directory. Currently 334 journals are searchable on article level. As of today 61433 articles are included in the DOAJ service. Visit the site at:

Chaos in Ivory Coast: Roots and Consequences

Dan Chirot sent me through a piece he recently wrote on the Ivory Coast. Thought I would post it; it is interesting and an area that seems to get little attention. It begins: "Back in the fall of 2002, an attempted military coup had failed in Ivory Coast. But — instead of really giving up — the mostly northern army officers retreated and took control of the northern half of the country, while the government held on to the south. The south has most of the country’s wealth, including its lucrative cocoa and coffee plantations, as well as the port of Abidjan which — far beyond Ivory Coast — serves much of French-speaking West Africa. The French, with about 5,000 soldiers there, managed to stop the renewed government offensive in November 2004, which actually had no chance of succeeding. Unexpectedly, though, the Ivorian government ordered the French military base in Bouake — the rebel capital — to be bombed."

Friday, November 19, 2004

Forget the war on terror, it's morals that count

It was a strange time to be in Boston in the midst of the US election. The tension was palpable and the support for Kerry-a native son of the city-pervasive. Right up until counting started the mood was optimistic. Early exit polls suggested a Kerry victory. But very soon it all started to turn for the Democrats. By 5:30am on election day, as I sat glued to the television abandoning my plans to observe the downtown Kerry “victory” rally, it was all but over. Bush was going to win.

The following day the usually lively city seemed melancholic. Over breakfast, hotel patrons spoke openly about their disappointment. Some told me they were embarrassed to be an American. They felt isolated and that they were living in another universe to their Bush-supporting compatriots. That evening in a shop I greeted an attendant “Hi. How you doing?”

His response: “I'm looking for a new country to live in,” his words indicative of the deep ruptures that now exist within the US.

Sometime on Wednesday, President Thabo Mbeki officially congratulated George Bush. He wished him well and “fervently” hoped for “greater world stability and peace under his leadership”. No one noticed. The US is a country that is wrapped up in itself these days despite its military exploits abroad. Those of a liberal persuasion-or at least a sizeable proportion of the 56 million people or 48% of the electorate who voted for Kerry-are struggling to figure out what went wrong and what is going on. Much soul searching is being done.

When asked what issues mattered most in choosing a president, survey data in the New York Times revealed that “moral values” ranked top with economy and jobs, followed by terrorism and the Iraq war. Seemingly issues such as tax, education and health care were seen as less important. A swathe of Americans feel that the moral world is crumbling about them. A strong, principled leader that can oppose abortion, stem-cell research, and gay marriage is what they feel is needed. Just over half of voting Americans feel that Bush is such a person. To the remainder, Bush as a moral icon is laughable, given his warmongering overseas.

Meanwhile, Mbeki, in his message to Bush, appealed for “renewed support for, and interest in Africa and the developing world, reform of world institutions and an era of multilateralism marked by a concerted drive to deal decisively with the challenge of poverty and underdevelopment”. It is hard to imagine that this is even on the map for the US right now. A conservative revolution is on the march.

It is easy for those from a liberal perspective to write this off or treat Bush supporters as if they are misguided bible-bashers. But the problem is more complex than that. It is time to face the fact that the right-wing in the US is organised. They moved door-to-door securing their position. The Bush campaign utilised 1,2 million volunteers with four times as many workers in Ohio than 2000. They sold “Faith, Family and Flag” and the majority of the electorate bought it.

This suggests that many fear some sort of global moral vacuum that they think the Republicans can fill. Such views litter internet chat rooms across the US. As one Bush supporter put it: “I'm sorry but I don't lose sleep over Iraq. What I do lose sleep over is my children's future in the immoral cess pit that this country is becoming”.

We all want a safe and decent world; one that embodies good values. This is why Bush attracted the vote of some moderates as well as his traditional neo-conservative and Christian fundamentalist supporters. But their votes have endorsed, whether knowingly or not, an approach whereby the language of moral values will continue to be used to hide a value-free political and economic agenda.

The politics of morality is a new global battleground. The results can be disastrous. Estimates put the death toll in Iraq as anywhere between 20 000 and 100 000 civilians. These people were killed in the name of freedom, democracy and to allegedly make the world a safer place.

But who has really benefited from this “moral” campaign? Mostly those who sell weapons, reconstruction contractors and private security firms, many close to the Bush regime. The Bush administration has, in Iraq's most vulnerable moment, tendered it off to the lowest bidder with no discernible benefit to its indigenous economy. Defence contracts worth 76 billion dollars, for example, have been connected to nine out of thirty members of the US Defense Policy Group.

In South Africa we cannot ignore these developments. The influence of the Bush administration is going to be felt more than before in the coming years. Negotiating investment may soon not only be about crude economic negotiations alone. Is it possible that South African constitutional approaches to issues such as gay marriage could be on the table in future trade talks? As South Africans we must not simply beg for investment or bend over backwards to get it no matter the cost. We need to unmask what is going on and ask what the “real” price of investment might be.

This is particularly important given that the language of morality may also find resonance in conservative parts of Africa. Think of the views of some African churches on homosexuality. Will these confluences of interest be used to open more economic doors into Africa for Republican-aligned companies that give little back to local economies? We cannot simply dismiss the right-wing any more or get away with taunts of imperialism. Poking fun at Bush's gaffs on the podium is not enough. A serious analysis of the politics of morality and conservatism and its implications for the developing world is desperately needed. Supporting moral values sounds benign but we must ensure that the debate on morality is detached political projects.

It is time for a renewed interest in the US. We need to reach out to those who do not want morality used negatively. It is time for new alliances with liberals and progressives in the US, many of whom feel besieged in their own country right now. After all, there are only about 1 400 days to the next US election.

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 19 November 2004 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Chile Issues Report on Pinochet Torture

Chile took a key step Wednesday toward confronting the grim legacy of abuses under the 1973-90 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, completing a lengthy report on torture and political imprisonment with testimonies from some 35,000 victims. For more information, click here.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Mugabe compared to Adolf Hitler

Article in the Business Day today starts "The South African Communist Party (SACP) has backed the Congress of South African Trade Unions' (Cosatu's) stand against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's human rights violations. "It would be wrong for the South African government to act like a trade union, but it is equally wrong to expect Cosatu to act like government," SACP secretary-general Blade Nzimande said. The SACP's stance may widen the gap between the African National Congress (ANC) and its tripartite alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu, on how to deal with Zimbabwe. It signals an attempt by the alliance partners to assert each group's right to comment on and approach sensitive issues according to the directive of their constituencies, instead of towing the line of the ruling party. Zimbabwe last month deported 13 unionists aligned to Cosatu who were on a fact-finding mission after a call for help by their counterparts and civil society structures in that country. This prompted the union to launch a blistering attack on Mugabe, comparing his tactics to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in wartime Germany.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Monday, November 8, 2004

Lesotho Blog

Really like Rethabile Masilo's On Lesotho Blog. Nice to see something published about the country.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

OK, I was wrong...Bush wins

OK, I was wrong in some of my earlier postings...Kerry is not going to be the new US President. All the initial exit poles were wrong. My optimism was misplaced. I am still in Boston and the city is in mourning. Last night I was in a shop and simply greeted a shop attendant saying "Hi. How you doing?". His response, "I'm looking for a new country to live in!". Says a lot, and it is important to realise at this time that 49% of North Americans are deeply distressed by this result (not to mention most of the rest of the world!)...that said, it is small comfort for what is to happen over the next four someone else said to me this morning, "You ain't seen nothing yet...".

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Where is the South African TRC Report?

This is a quick response to a question I was recently asked: is the South African TRC Report is freely available. As far as I know, it is not. The publishers own it and a hard copy will cost you a good whack! This is RIDICULOUS considering that one of the TRC recommendations is that the report should be freely available. Bits are available on the web. But it is not, for example, on the TRC website, unless I just can't find it. (Not to mention that fact that the TRC website must be one of the most rubbish looking websites in the world). How crazy is all this! If it is there, hope someone can find it...either way, there is clearly not an easily accessible web link or dedicated site for this report as there should be. Aside from this, there are some people who have full electronic (illegal) copies of the report. These are freely available if such people are emailed...say no I am still in Boston and feeling good for a Kerry victory...hope I am not misguided.

Update 2012: The TRC report is now available in full on Official Website of the TRC.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bush is Kerry

I am currently in Boston and while walking the lovely autumn streets came across this. I took a picture and thought it rather an appropriate posting for Halloween...

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush website blocked outside US

Apparently if you are outside the US you cannot visit the campaign site of Bush (as if I was going to!). Wonder what that is about? The BBC reported "Surfers outside the US have been unable to visit the official re-election site of President George W Bush. The blocking of browsers sited outside the US began in the early hours of Monday morning. Since then people outside the US trying to browse the site get a message saying they are not authorised to view it. The blocking does not appear to be due to an attack by vandals or malicious hackers, but as a result of a policy decision by the Bush camp". To read the full article click here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Belfast, Ottawa and Belgrade

I have been failing in my duties to keep my blog up to date with a a very hectic schedule over the last while. I attended a meeting in Ottawa and then was off to Belgrade. The Ottawa meeting, hosted by the IDRC, focused on the International Handbook on Reconciliation produced by International IDEA. The book, in which I wrote a chapter on Healing (downloadable from online version of the Handbook), has really gone well and is used in a number of countries now. A French version is now available, and summaries of the book are available in English, French, Sinhala, Spanish and Tamil. The meeting focused on updating the current book. If any of you using it have suggestions feel free to email me. After this very fruitful meeting that will lead to further developments of the handbook I am sure, I headed for Belgrade. There I attended an event focusing on truth and reconciliation options for former-Yugoslavia. As many of you know there have been various attempts at dealing with these issues in the region (including a failed truth commission). This event, organised by the Victimology Society of Serbia, attempted to bring together a range of practitioners working on truth and reconciliation related work in the region. It was fascinating, although there is a long way to go. As soon as the report is out I'll post it.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Should business pay for apartheid?

Should business pay for apartheid?
Jon Robins wrote an interesting article in The Times recently, the article begins, "WHAT responsibility does IBM have for South Africans beaten and tortured under apartheid? A connection might not be apparent but Michael Hausfeld, an American lawyer, is arguing that there is one. The computer giant is one of 20 multinationals (including British ones such as Barclays Bank) being sued via the US courts under an arcane 18th-century statute for their role in supporting a racist regime. Last week Hausfeld, who was a leading lawyer in the legal action against the Swiss banks for Holocaust survivors, filed an amicus brief -or legal opinion -in a New York court on behalf of the Khulumani Support Group (the name means "speak out" in Zulu). "The decisions made by this court will shape the future of human rights litigation," he argues. "They will reverberate beyond the courthouse walls to the ears of officials and private (citizens) across the world." To read more of this article visit The Times Law Page, click on the link down the page and register. It is free and easy.

Should business pay for apartheid?

Jon Robins has recently written a good piece in The Times outlining the details of Apartheid reparations lawsuits and what separates out the difference cases. He also highlights the support of the Khulumani Victim Support Group case by Archbishop Tutu and a range of others. The article begins by asking "What responsibility does IBM have for South Africans beaten and tortured under apartheid? A connection might not be apparent but Michael Hausfeld, an American lawyer, is arguing that there is one. The computer giant is one of 20 multinationals (including British ones such as Barclays Bank) being sued via the US courts under an arcane 18th-century statute for their role in supporting a racist regime. Last week Hausfeld, who was a leading lawyer in the legal action against the Swiss banks for Holocaust survivors, filed an amicus brief -or legal opinion -in a New York court on behalf of the Khulumani Support Group (the name means "speak out" in Zulu). "The decisions made by this court will shape the future of human rights litigation," he argues. "They will reverberate beyond the courthouse walls to the ears of officials and private (citizens) across the world."

Job Robins goes on to note that "Certainly, the document will be hard to ignore, as much as the South African Government would like to. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, other members of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and dozens of international human rights groups are signatories. The reason for its timing is a ruling by the US Supreme Court (Sosa v Alvarez-Machain) on the Alien Tort Claims Act 1789. That controversial legislation allows companies to be sued in the American courts for human rights breaches committed anywhere in the world". If you would like to read more about this visit The Times site Law Page and link to the story on their home page. You will need to register with them to read it, but registration is free and if you are interested in this case the article is very enlightening.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Community Dialogue Northern Ireland

From time to time I get requests to add links to my site by interested organisations. Today I posted a link to Community Dialogue on my Links Page who made such a request. I think their work may be of interest to many of you. Community Dialogue was started in October 1998 by people working in different community groups from across the divide and is committed to a cross-community solution to our political, social and economic problems in Northern Ireland. Their aim is to encourage dialogue within the community sector about our political future.

* Note links page removed from the site in 2012, all Links now on this blog

Monday, October 4, 2004

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hausfeld files an Amicus Brief


September 29, 2004

Hausfeld files an Amicus Brief in support of Khulumani's lawsuit endorsed by many heavyweights in the international human rights movement

September 29, 2004 Tonight, Michael Hausfeld, the human rights lawyer representing the Khulumani Support Group, filed an amicus brief -or legal opinion -in a New York court in support of Khulumani's litigation against specific foreign corporations which aided and abetted the apartheid government. "The decisions (to be) made by the court charged with deciding on this lawsuit, will shape the future of human rights litigation and will reverberate beyond the courthouse walls to the ears of officials and private (citizens) across the world", says Hausfeld. The amicus brief has been endorsed by 207 signatories, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Joseph Stiglitz and Charles Ogletree.

Khulumani filed their lawsuit in New York in November 2002 using the Alien Tort Claims Act 1789 - a controversial legislation which allows companies to be sued in the American courts for human rights breaches committed anywhere in the world. The reason for the timing of the present filing is the June 29 ruling by the US Supreme Court on the applicability of the Alien Tort Claims Act 1789 (the Sosa v Alvarez-Machain ruling) which confirmed that companies could be sued in the American courts for human rights violations committed anywhere in the world. British human rights lawyer, Martyn Day says, "This 1789 Act is considered the most progressive and prohuman-rights law on the US statute books".

Khulumani's lawsuit seeks to hold 23 multinational corporations accountable for their role in supporting an environment in which Gross violations of human rights were made possible. The case represents the strongest case yet globally for advancing the extension of fundamental human rights to include the practices of governments and foreign multinationals anywhere in the world and to obligate adherence to behaviour that respects basic human dignity and provides redress for violations of these universally recognised norms and standards. "These are rights that should be litigated in every judicial system in the world", says Hausfeld.

The only obstacle standing in the way of "an automatic acceptance" of the case is seen as the opposition of the South African Government which called on the US courts in July last year to dismiss all apartheid-related cases in US courts on the grounds that these would have the effect of setting up a surrogate government (on account of the quantity of damages being requested) and that they would undermine the contributions that "corporate South Africa are already making to(wards) the broad national goal of rehabilitating the lives of those affected by apartheid".

But, these arguments do not apply to the Khulumani lawsuit which names as defendants only those foreign corporations that refused to participate in the TRC process and that failed to take responsibility for their involvement in the apartheid state's security apparatuses. The Khulumani lawsuit seeks to engage corporations in a dialogue in relation to what they might contribute towards repairing the damage done to individuals and communities in South Africa. The Khulumani action is likely to be the crucial test for the 1789 Act. It is certainly the most credible of the apartheid lawsuits claims and with the existing endorsements, it will be hard to ignore.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact:

Marjorie Jobson, Chairperson, Khulumani Support Group, Tel: +27-82-268-0223; or Charles Abrahams, Attorney, Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys, Tel +27-21-934-4842 or visit the website

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Visit to South Africa

I am just back from a 10 day visit to South Africa. I was out working on a project entitled Reimagining Women’s Security in Societies in Transition, an exciting new project I am working on with others from Northern Ireland, South Africa and Lebanon. I also took some time to attend a Board meeting of the Khulumani Support Group. One of the main issues, of course, was the apartheid lawsuits. It really was a full visit, and apologies to all those I did not get to this time.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Northern Ireland talks must address the past

Embargoed until 00.01 September 16th 2004

How we deal with the past must form part of the talks at Leeds Castle if we are serious about achieving long-term settlement.

This call comes from Healing Through Remembering (HTR), a diverse group of individuals who have spent three years developing a series of recommendations for how to come to terms with a conflictual past.

Speaking as the talks are set to begin, HTR’s Chairman Professor Roy McClelland said: “Achieving a political settlement is important and we welcome the start of today’s talks, but for any settlement to succeed we need to remember the past in a way that enables us to heal the wounds in our society. Without this, any long-term political settlement could be easily undermined.”

“There will be no ultimate peace until we have a clearer understanding of our shared past. Dealing with the past is a long-term process and there is certainly no quick solution that can be debated and agreed over four days of talks. This is a long, difficult and complex journey and there is a need for everyone sitting around the table to acknowledge the past in order to go forward”, added Professor McClelland.

By posing the question ‘How should we remember the events connected with the conflict in and about Northern Ireland’ the Healing Through Remembering project received a wide range of submissions from the general public, organisations and individuals. It has used these to develop a series of recommendations on how to move the process forward, which include

* Acknowledgement
* A Storytelling Process
* A Day of Reflection
* Permanent Living Memorial Museum
* A Network of Commemoration and Remembering Projects

A number of working groups are currently developing these recommendations into practical proposals.

“As a first step, we would call on those people representing our society within the talks at Leeds Castle to engage in a spirit of tolerance and respect and to be mindful that a failure to acknowledge the past will undermine any shared future. Everyone has a part to play in dealing with the memories of the past and there needs to be a willingness to take risks if we are to avoid further damage and move into a new future built on a shared acknowledgement of the past”, said Professor McClelland.

“Some will argue that drawing attention to the past will simply slow up the prospect of a political settlement”, added Professor McClelland, “however, we believe that coming to terms with the past is vital for moving forward and for any lasting peace”.


For further information please contact:
Nicky Petrie, Pagoda PR: 07960 586654/ 028 9092 3468
Kate Turner, Healing Through Remembering: 028 9023 8844/07786 263083

Notes to editors:

1. The key task of the Healing Through Remembering Project, formally launched in October 2001, was “to identify and document possible mechanisms and realisable options for healing through remembering for those affected by the conflict in and about Northern Ireland”.

2. Since the publication of Healing Through Remembering’s report the organisation has been engaged in discussions with groups and individuals about the report and the detailed recommendations. Encouraged by the feedback from these meetings Healing Through Remembering is now taking the recommendations further.

3. Copies of the Report are available on line at or by contacting the office, tel 02890238844; fax 02890239944, e-mail:

Thursday, September 9, 2004

The Impact of Trauma: A psychosocial approach

I have been meaning to put this up for a while, it is a copy of the keynote address I gave to the “A Shared Practice - Victims Work in Action Conference”, 7-8 April 2004, Radisson Roe Park Hotel, in Limavady, Northern Ireland. To read the paper online, click here.

Friday, September 3, 2004

Zim govt after 'mercenary' plane, cash and their boots

Today the Mail and Guardian reported, bringing a little smile to my face, that "the Zimbabwean government wants to keep the plane that flew the suspected mercenaries into Harare and the $200 000 the men had on them when they were arrested. It is also after their boots. The plane is valued at between $3-million and $5-million, but no valuation was immediately available for the mercenaries' boots".

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Apartheid-era graveyard found

News24 reported recently that an Apartheid-era graveyard has been found. The article
edited by Tisha Steyn read "The Scorpions confirmed reports that they had discovered a secret apartheid-era graveyard containing the remains of 18 members of Mkhonto We Sizwe (MK), SABC reported on Monday. The remains were believed to have been buried by security police in the former Bophuthatswana homeland in the mid 80s. Police investigators said some of the victims were believed to have been blown up while trying to set off land mines. Others appeared to have been burnt to death by means of "fake necklacing". Former Truth Reconciliation Commission commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza said some of the dead MK members could have been victims who were mentioned during amnesty applications".

Friday, August 27, 2004

Commemorating International Day of the Disappeared

On Monday August 30, 2004, International Day of the Disappeared will be commemorated for the first time in South Africa at a public gathering to be held in the Library Gardens, Johannesburg between 12:30 and 13:30 on Monday, August 30, 2004. This gathering will highlight the disappearances which occurred in our country during Apartheid. You are warmly invited to attend. The event is hosted by the Khulumani Support Group, the press statement is below:


Public Gathering to Commemorate International Day of the Disappeared on August 30th 2004 in the Johannesburg Library Gardens between 12:30 and 13:30

On Monday August 30, 2004, International Day of the Disappeared will be commemorated for the first time in South Africa at a public gathering to be held in the Library Gardens, Johannesburg between 12:30 and 13:30 on Monday, August 30, 2004. This gathering will highlight the disappearances which occurred in our country during Apartheid. You are warmly invited to attend.

Who is a disappeared person?

“A disappeared person is a person arrested, detained, abducted or otherwise deprived of his / her liberty by officials of different branches or levels of government or by organized groups or private individuals acting on their behalf, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fact or whereabouts of the person concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of his/her liberty, thereby placing such persons outside the protection of the law.” Draft International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Forced Disappearance

While the Draft Convention provides a legal definition of a ‘disappeared person’, it does not explain the impact that a case of disappearance has on the lives of family members of the disappeared.

“…living in a vacuum caused by the uncertainty about what happened to their family member is a daily torture. There can be no rest, no mourning, no closure as long as the truth has not emerged. This search for the truth is extremely frustrating and painful, and family members are often completely alone in their despair.” - Ewoud Plate, Coordinator of the Project Linking Solidarity

The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa states that the TRC received more than 1500 victim statements concerning persons who went missing or who disappeared after being forcibly abducted during the period between 1960 and 1994. Some of these cases were resolved as a result of various amnesty hearings for perpetrators. In 477 cases, some investigations have been conducted without determining the actual fate of the persons named. The remaining cases have not been investigated or resolved. These cases represent one aspect of the Unfinished Business of the TRC.

“The resolution of […] disappearance cases is perhaps the most significant piece of unfinished business for the commission. The commission is therefore of the view that these cases should not simply be abandoned, but that further mechanisms should be put in place to finalize them.” Volume Six, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report

The Project on Disappearances, ‘The Voiceless Silent’ launched by Khulumani Support Group (KSG) is one “mechanism” [1] towards securing some closure on these matters for family members. The project was established for the purpose of helping the families of disappeared South Africans to deal with the medical, legal, social and psychological effects of having a loved-one disappear and to support them in the process of trying to find out what really happened.

Khulumani Support Group is a membership organisation of people who were the direct or indirect victims of apartheid violence and gross human rights abuses. Its mission is the re-empowerment of these survivors and their reintegration into mainstream society. The organisation has a national database of information about disappeared South Africans, which is being used towards filling some of the gaps for family members.

Our partners in this work nationally are the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and the Task Force on Disappearances of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Khulumani Support Group is also a founding member of RADIF, Réseau Africain Contre les Disparitions Forcées (RADIF), an African-based co-ordinating body for the network of African NGOs working in the domain of enforced disappearances, which was established in June 2003. Work is underway to develop a Southern African Network on Disappearances (SANAD) to link relevant organisations in this region.

For further information please contact:

Marjorie Jobson 082 268 0223
Francois Giasson 072 971 7715 or the above mentioned Khulumani Support Group National Office.

[1] Volume Six. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Report. Cape Town, 2003, p. 532

Board Members

Shirley Gunn
Brandon Hamber (Northern Ireland)
Marjorie Jobson
Kabelo Lengane
Tlhoki Mofokeng
Musa Ndlovu
Alegria Nyoka
Sipho Phuwani
Ike Tlholwe

Friday, August 13, 2004

Bush launches controversial mental health plan

Jeane Lenzer writes in the British Medical Journal this week that "President Bush announced on 26 July that his administration has begun implementing the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to "improve mental health services and support for people of all ages with mental illness" through comprehensive screening. The plan states that schools are in a "key position" to screen the "52 million students and six million adults who work at the schools" and includes recommendations for screening preschool children. Mr Bush's announcement comes after new reports showing that increasing numbers of toddlers and children are being prescribed amphetamines, anti-depressants, and antipsychotic drugs. Concern that widespread screening will only increase the number of young people taking drugs has triggered criticism of the plan. Dr Daniel Fisher, one of the 22 commissioners responsible for writing the final report for the president, said that widespread screening—at a time when medical education was "geared to the biomedical model and teachers want to get kids fixed"—could result in greater numbers of children being given "a label, a diagnosis, and a medication. What troubles me a little bit," said Dr Fisher, "is that mental health will continue to be used as a substitute for addressing the social, cultural, and economic needs of children." More...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Endorse the Apartheid Lawsuit

Today the Khulumani group launched a campaign to get endorsements for their lawsuit against companies that supported apartheid. To read more about this, and consider whether you will endorse the campaign, click here.

Endorse the Khulumani lawsuit


Endorse the Khulumani lawsuit

On 11 November 2002, the Khulumani Support Group, an organisation of survivors of apartheid violence, instituted a lawsuit in the U S against 23 multinational corporations, for their role in human rights abuses committed in apartheid South Africa. The lawsuit is supported by Jubilee South Africa and a number of national and international organizations. Khulumani alleges that these corporations supplied financing, technology, transportation, oil and arms to the Apartheid government and in so doing, aided and abetted the Apartheid government to violate international law. With their support the apartheid government committed extra-judicial killing, torture, sexual assault, prolonged arbitrary detention, and crimes against humanity. Apartheid has been officially recognised as a crime against humanity by the United Nations

The Khulumani lawsuit provides a strong opportunity to develop and build upon a new global principle, which would be binding on nations, national leaders and multinational corporations. The principle is to hold corporations liable and to secure redress for universally recognised violations of customary international law.

The right of foreigners to institute lawsuits in the United States was upheld by the U S Supreme Court, on 29 June 2004, despite objections from corporations and the US, British, Swiss and other governments. This represents a victory for human rights globally.

But the victory is under threat because some governments, including our own, and some of the world’s largest multinationals are opposing the so-called “apartheid lawsuits”. The reasons advanced by our government for their opposition to the lawsuits, do not apply to the Khulumani lawsuit.

What are the facts of the Khulumani litigation?

The Khulumani lawsuit names as defendants foreign corporations that refused to participate in the TRC process and that failed to take responsibility for their involvement in the apartheid state’s security apparatuses.

The Khulumani lawsuit does not seek to undermine the sovereignty of democratic South Africa. It seeks rather to strengthen South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

The Khulumani lawsuit does not seek any action that is inconsistent with government’s approach to achieving its own long-term goals. It supports programmes of community reparation and rehabilitation. Please join us in making national judicial systems acknowledge the supremacy and universality of a rule of law, which obligates adherence to behaviour that respects basic human dignity.

For more information, you can contact:

Khulumani Support Group, c/o Marjorie Jobson or Tel: +27-82-268-0223

Jubilee South Africa, c/o Makoma Lekalakala or Tel: +27-11-403 7622

Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys, c/o Charles Abrahams or Tel +27-21-934-4842

or visit the website ENDORSE THE KHULUMANI LAWSUIT by sending a message of support to or by cutting out this advertisement, signing it and faxing it to +27 (011) 339 4560.

I / we endorse the Khulumani litigation and request the South African government to clearly distinguish the Khulumani litigation from the other so-called “apartheid lawsuits” by either withdrawing their affidavit to the New York court or by writing to the judge to clarify that their affidavit does not apply to the Khulumani lawsuit.

Signed: ______________________________

Date: ________________________________

Organisation: _______________________________________________________________

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Boeremag had breeding plans

The Mail and Guardian reports today that "The Boeremag dreamed of using a building like that of Armscor in Pretoria as a sort of breeding farm for "a new [Afrikaner] nation", the city's High Court heard on Tuesday.Free State potato farmer Henk van Zyl testified in the trial of 22 alleged Boeremag members -- facing charges ranging from high treason to terrorism and murder -- about a conversation with alleged Boeremag leader Tom Vorster.He said a Makopane herb farm owned by one of the accused, Dr Lets Pretorius, had at one stage been used as the headquarters to plan a violent coup. After one of their meetings at the farm, he and Vorster drove past Armscor's building in Pretoria".

Monday, August 9, 2004

Apartheid's final surrender

The Mail and Guardian reported recently that "the party that built apartheid and turned South Africa into a pariah state completed its march to oblivion on Saturday by deciding to merge with its one-time nemesis, the African National Congress. The New National Party, heir of a mighty movement that jailed Nelson Mandela and built nuclear bombs, said its shrunken membership would dissolve and fight future elections under the banner of the black ruling party. A meeting of the NNP's federal council proposed that members join the ANC, a bitterly ironic twist for a party founded almost a century ago to promote the interests of white Afrikaners and keep blacks from power.Officials are to retain their party membership and parliamentary and local government seats as a transitional arrangement until September 2005. 'Individual members of the NNP would be encouraged to join the ANC in their respective localities. The NNP will in future contest elections under the banner of the ANC,' the NNP said in a statement".

Friday, August 6, 2004

Shattered Voices: Language, Violence, and the Work of Truth Commissions

Teresa Godwin Phelps has written a new book entitled "Shattered Voices: Language, Violence, and the Work of Truth Commissions". I have not read it yet, but the blurb on the book reads as follows: "When grievous harm happens, a rebalancing is bound to occur, whether it is orderly and lawful or disorderly and unlawful. Shattered Voices contends that language is requisite to any adequate balancing, and that a solution is viable only if it provides an atmosphere in which storytelling and subsequent dialogue can flourish. In the developing culture of ubiquitous truth reports, Phelps argues that we must become attentive to the form these reports take--to the narrative structure, the use of victims' stories, and the way in which a political message is conveyed to the citizens of the emerging democracy. By looking concretely at the work and responsibilities of truth commissions, Shattered Voices offers an important and thoughtful analysis of the efficacy of the ways human rights abuses are addressed". To find out more details about this book click the relevant link depending on your location US UK CA.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Iraq wants South African-style TRC

The Mail and Guardian reports, "Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin said on Tuesday he wanted to create a truth and reconciliation commission for Iraq, modelled on the experiences of post-apartheid South Africa. Such a commission, 'based on confessions and pardons, would be a way to strengthen the feeling of national unity', said Amin, following his return from talks in Amman with United Nations agencies". Why does this worry me!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Wild Week with "Fahrenheit 9/11" by Michael Moore

Michael Moore has published a letter about his movie Farenheit 911, worth a little read. I have published it below:

6 July 2004


Where do I begin? This past week has knocked me for a loop. "Fahrenheit 9/11," the #1 movie in the country, the largest grossing documentary ever. My head is spinning. Didn't we just lose our distributor 8 weeks ago? Did Karl Rove really fail to stop this? Is Bush packing?

Each day this week I was given a new piece of information from the press that covers Hollywood, and I barely had time to recover from the last tidbit before the next one smacked me upside the head:
** More people saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" in one weekend than all the people who saw "Bowling for Columbine" in 9 months.
** "Fahrenheit 9/11" broke "Rocky III's" record for the biggest box office opening weekend ever for any film that opened in less than a thousand theaters.
** "Fahrenheit 9/11" beat the opening weekend of "Return of the Jedi."
** "Fahrenheit 9/11" instantly went to #2 on the all- time list for largest per-theater average ever for a film that opened in wide-release.
How can I ever thank all of you who went to see it? These records are mind-blowing. They have sent shock waves through Hollywood - and, more importantly, through the White House.

Montclair Film / CC BY
But it didn't just stop there. The response to the movie then went into the Twilight Zone. Surfing through the dial I landed on the Fox broadcasting network which was airing the NASCAR race live last Sunday to an audience of millions of Americans -- and suddenly the announcers were talking about how NASCAR champ Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took his crew to see 'Fahrenheit 9/11' the night before. FOX sportscaster Chris Myers delivered Earnhardt's review straight out of his mouth and into the heartland of America: 'He said hey, it'll be a good bonding experience no matter what your political belief. It's a good thing as an American to go see.' Whoa! NASCAR fans - you can't go deeper into George Bush territory than that! White House moving vans - START YOUR ENGINES!

Then there was Roger Friedman from the Fox News Channel giving our film an absolutely glowing review, calling it 'a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail.' Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice surmised that Bush is already considered a goner so Rupert Murdoch might be starting to curry favor with the new administration. I don't know about that, but I've never heard a decent word toward me from Fox. So, after I was revived, I wondered if a love note to me from Sean Hannity was next.

How about Letterman's Top Ten List: 'Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About "Fahrenheit 9/11":

10. That actor who played the President was totally unconvincing 9. It oversimplified the way I stole the election 8. Too many of them fancy college-boy words 7. If Michael Moore had waited a few months, he could have included the part where I get him deported 6. Didn't have one of them hilarious monkeys who smoke cigarettes and gives people the finger 5. Of all Michael Moore's accusations, only 97% are true 4. Not sure - - I passed out after a piece of popcorn lodged in my windpipe 3. Where the hell was Spider-man? 2. Couldn't hear most of the movie over Cheney's foul mouth 1. I thought this was supposed to be about dodgeball

But it was the reactions and reports we received from theaters around the country that really sent me over the edge. One theatre manager after another phoned in to say that the movie was getting standing ovations as the credits rolled - in places like Greensboro, NC and Oklahoma City -- and that they were having a hard time clearing the theater afterwards because people were either too stunned or they wanted to sit and talk to their neighbors about what they had just seen. In Trumbull, CT, one woman got up on her seat after the movie and shouted "Let's go have a meeting!" A man in San Francisco took his shoe off and threw it at the screen when Bush appeared at the end. Ladies' church groups in Tulsa were going to see it, and weeping afterwards.

It was this last group that gave lie to all the yakking pundits who, before the movie opened, declared that only the hard-core "choir" would go to see "Fahrenheit 9/11." They couldn't have been more wrong. Theaters in the Deep South and the Midwest set house records for any film they'd ever shown. Yes, it even sold out in Peoria. And Lubbock, Texas. And Anchorage, Alaska!

Newspaper after newspaper wrote stories in tones of breathless disbelief about people who called themselves 'Independents' and 'Republicans' walking out of the movie theater shaken and in tears, proclaiming that they could not, in good conscience, vote for George W. Bush. The New York Times wrote of a conservative Republican woman in her 20s in Pensacola, Florida who cried through the film, and told the reporter: 'It really makes me question what I feel about the president... it makes me question his motives'

Newsday reported on a self-described 'ardent Bush/Cheney supporter' who went to see the film on Long Island, and his quiet reaction afterwards. He said, "It's really given me pause to think about what's really going on. There was just too much - too much to discount." The man then bought three more tickets for another showing of the film.

The Los Angeles Times found a mother who had 'supported [Bush] fiercely' at a theater in Des Peres, Missouri:

'Emerging from Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11,' her eyes wet, Leslie Hanser said she at last understood. My emotions are just....' She trailed off, waving her hands to show confusion. I feel like we haven't seen the whole truth before.'"

All of this had to be the absolute worst news for the White House to wake up to on Monday morning. I guess they were in such a stupor, they "gave" Iraq back to, um, Iraq two days early!

News editors told us that they were being "bombarded" with e-mails and calls from the White House (read: Karl Rove), trying to spin their way out of this mess by attacking it and attacking me. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett had told the White House press corps that the movie was "outrageously false" -- even though he said he hadn't seen the movie. He later told CNN that "This is a film that doesn't require us to actually view it to know that it's filled with factual inaccuracies." At least they're consistent. They never needed to see a single weapon of mass destruction before sending our kids off to die.

Many news shows were more than eager to buy the White House spin. After all, that is a big part of what "Fahrenheit" is about -- how the lazy, compliant media bought all the lies from the Bush administration about the need to invade Iraq. They took the Kool-Aid offered by the White House and rarely, if ever, did our media ask the hard questions that needed to be asked before the war started.

Because the movie "outs" the mainstream media for their failures and their complicity with the Bush administration -- who can ever forget their incessant, embarrassing cheerleading as the troops went off to war, as though it was all just a game -- the media was not about to let me get away with anything now resembling a cultural phenomenon. On show after show, they went after me with the kind of viciousness you would have hoped they had had for those who were lying about the necessity for invading a sovereign nation that was no threat to us. I don't blame our well-paid celebrity journalists -- they look like a bunch of ass-kissing dopes in my movie, and I guess I'd be pretty mad at me, too. After all, once the NASCAR fans see "Fahrenheit 9/11," will they ever believe a single thing they see on ABC/NBC/CBS news again?

In the next week or so, I will recount my adventures through the media this past month (I will also be posting a full FAQ on my website soon so that you can have all the necessary backup and evidence from the film when you find yourself in heated debate with your conservative brother-in-law!). For now, please know the following: Every single fact I state in "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the absolute and irrefutable truth. This movie is perhaps the most thoroughly researched and vetted documentary of our time. No fewer than a dozen people, including three teams of lawyers and the venerable one- time fact-checkers from The New Yorker went through this movie with a fine-tooth comb so that we can make this guarantee to you. Do not let anyone say this or that isn't true. If they say that, they are lying. Let them know that the OPINIONS in the film are mine, and anyone certainly has a right to disagree with them. And the questions I pose in the movie, based on these irrefutable facts, are also mine. And I have a right to ask them. And I will continue to ask them until they are answered.

In closing, let me say that the most heartening response to the film has come from our soldiers and their families. Theaters in military towns across the country reported packed houses. Our troops know the truth. They have seen it first-hand. And many of them could not believe that here was a movie that was TRULY on their side -- the side of bringing them home alive and never sending them into harms way again unless it's the absolute last resort. Please take a moment to read this wonderful story from the daily paper in Fayetteville, NC, where Fort Bragg is located. It broke my heart to read this, the reactions of military families and the comments of an infantryman's wife publicly backing my movie -- and it gave me the resolve to make sure as many Americans as possible see this film in the coming weeks.

Thank you again, all of you, for your support. Together we did something for the history books. My apologies to "Return of the Jedi." We'll make it up by producing "Return of the Texan to Crawford" in November.

May the farce be with you, but not for long,

Michael Moore

P.S. You can read letters from people around the country recounting their own experiences at the theater, and their reactions to the film by going here.

P.P.S. Also, I'm going to start blogging! Tonight! Come on over and check it out.

Original Source.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum Report

The Mail and Guardian Online reported today that a "A coalition of independent human rights groups accused President Robert Mugabe's government on Tuesday of trying to suppress an African Union report on human rights violations in Zimbabwe.The report, resulting from a fact-finding mission by the 53-nation body, presents damning allegations of a clampdown on civil liberties surrounding Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential elections, including arrests and torture of government opponents, lawyers and pro-democracy activists".

Monday, July 5, 2004

No single solution for dealing with the past in Northern Ireland

Healing Through Remembering Northern Ireland
MEDIA RELEASE - Sunday 4 July 2004

The first step in any truth recovery process must be acknowledgement. Everyone who has engaged in the conflict – including Governments – should acknowledge responsibility for their actions. Only when all organisations and institutions acknowledge responsibility can Northern Ireland move towards a sustainable peace. This call is made by Professor Roy McClelland, Chairman of Healing Through Remembering, a diverse group of individuals who for three years have been investigating ways of dealing with the past.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence this morning Professor McClelland said: “We are heartened by the growing debate in this area but feel that a lot of work needs to be done and we are adamant that Acknowledgment — particularly by the governments — should be the starting point for any process of Truth recovery”. “Given the current Government initiatives to find a solution for dealing with the past it is important that the opinions of those affected by the conflict are taken into consideration”, continued Professor McClelland.

And as the current debate becomes focussed on story-telling and truth commissions, Healing Though Remembering points to the need for a number of parallel but separate methods for dealing with the past – as outlined in their report of 2002.Healing Through Remembering today said that there is no single treatment for the healing process in Northern Ireland – processes of remembering, reflecting, informing and educating must be sustained for another generation at least. Practical recommendations from Healing Through Remembering include:

* Acknowledgement
* A storytelling process
* Establishing a day of reflection
* Permanent Living Memorial Museum
* A network of commemoration and remembering projects

Professor McClelland explained the current work of the organisation: “Healing Through Remembering is now expanding its membership in order to arrange a number of events in the autumn which will address the recommendations in more detail. These will include conferences and seminars drawing on local and international experiences. The aim of these events will be to draw together the people working on each issue in order to define the most appropriate methods of implementation – including timescale, scope, and who should – or should not – be managing each process.”

Healing Through Remembering feel that these events are the best way to progress the issue of dealing with the past – through considered and informed discussion open to all. Speaking from his experience in South Africa, Brandon Hamber, consultant to the project explained: “Each country needs to create a solution that is appropriate in that place and at that time. What I find so exciting about Healing Through Remembering is that it gives the opportunity to find the resolution to all of the people involved and affected by the conflict, rather than one being imposed from above. In particular the unique aspects in this report are the holistic nature of the package of recommendations and the request for acknowledgement as a first step in the truth recovery process. In my view this approach would be breaking new international ground.”

For more information on the Healing Through Remembering project and to download the full report click here, or phone: +44 (0)28 9073 9601.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Repairing the Past: Reparations and Transition to Democracy

In March I attended a symposium entitled Repairing the Past: Reparations and Transition to Democracy that was jointly held by the IDRC and the ICTJ in Ottawa. The summary report on the event is now available.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Is commercialism killing Irish culture?

The Guardian this week began an article entitled "Bangers and machinations" with the words "From Riverdance to the Famine - the Disneyfication of Ireland's heritage continues apace. Now it's James Joyce's turn as the centenary of Bloomsday is marked by a mass fry-up in Dublin". The article then goes on to discuss the fact that the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, the fictional date when Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus embarked on their intertwining journeys through Dublin in Joyce's Ulysses, will be celebrated by Denny's (the sausage makers!) hosting a Joycean big breakfast on O'Connell Street, Dublin's main thoroughfare for 10,000 people. The article, in essence asks, "Is commercialism killing Irish culture?" All very interesting, read the article, although I doubt you will get a seat at this stage, and would you want one anyway?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Today at 10:30am the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) will be seated and its new commissioners sworn in during a public ceremony in Greensboro, North Carolina. The TRC was established to examine the events of November 3, 1979, when members of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party opened fire on a racially mixed gathering of political activists and labor organizers, killing five and wounding 10 others. Modeled in part on truth-seeking efforts in South Africa, Peru, and other countries, the Greensboro Commission hopes to become a model that other American communities can use to examine their own histories of human rights abuse. On May 27, 2004, an independent panel named the seven individuals chosen to serve as commissioners. Once seated, the commissioners will begin reviewing documents and hearing testimony to determine the causes and consequences of the November 3 events, produce a report, and suggest possible paths toward reconciliation and healing. The website is here.

Monday, June 7, 2004


For those interested I would strongly suggest reading Kim Sengupta article on Afghanistan that provides a snapshots of a continuing conflict in Afghanistan. As Kim Sengupta puts it "a war of attrition taking place largely in the shadows with the focus of the world's media firmly fixed on Iraq". Also questioning: "George Bush and Tony Blair made grand promises when they took on the Taliban. They sound hollow now. What does it all mean for Iraq?". Also includes some UNICEF figures like the fact that 1 million girls still need to get into education in the country! Have a read, more...

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Community based rehabilitation

Have not got to this yet, but it looks interesting: "Community based rehabilitation: a strategy for peace-building by William Boyce, Michael Koros and Jennifer Hodgson". The blurb on it reads: "Certain features of peace-building distinguish it from peacekeeping, and make it an appropriate strategy in dealing with vertical conflict and low intensity conflict. However, some theorists suggest that attempts, through peace-building, to impose liberal values upon non-democratic cultures are misguided and lack an ethical basis. We have been investigating the peace-building properties of community based approaches to disability in a number of countries. This paper describes the practice and impact of peace-building through Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) strategies in the context of armed conflict". Get the article from BMC International Health and Human Rights.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Consultation on Northern Ireland Truth Process

That said, in Northern Ireland it now looks like a consultation process is going to start as to how to deal with the past, and the Minister is off to South Africa. A see BBC article on the subject begins: "A visit by the Northern Ireland secretary to South Africa will coincide with the beginning of a consultation process on how best to deal with the province's violent past. Paul Murphy is to meet senior figures in Capetown and Pretoria to hear their views on the country's Truth and Reconciliation process. Victims Minister Angela Smith is also expected to be fully involved in the process which begins at the end of May. The steps to be taken over the next few weeks will be the first in a very long process. Mr Murphy is expected to tell parliament how the government intends to handle the consultation process shortly before he travels to South Africa. That statement is expected in the final week of this month".

So its all going to get interesting now...although I suspect it will drag on for some time.

Back from Onati: Justice in Transition - Northern Ireland

After a very busy two weeks I finally get to posting something. I am just back from a conference entitled Justice in Transition: Northern Ireland and Beyond held in Onati and hosted by the International Institute for the Sociology of Law. It was a very timely event as the discussion on how to deal with the past in Northern Ireland is really starting to take off again. I presented some of the analysis I wrote in the Fordham International Law Journal (26,4), see my publications. But also spoke to the ideas of how discourses and process are shaping current processes of how to deal with the past. I also made the point that the South African process has become more 'symbolic' in Northern Ireland, than a serious attempt to draw detailed lessons.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

South Africa to host 2010 Soccer World Cup

Thought I'd post this photo by Shayne Robinson (Sapa) taken from the Mail and Guardian Online (hope no one minds), to capture the celebrations in South Africa now that it has been decided that the 2010 Soccer World Cup will be held there. Great news!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Human Rights Institute papers

Human Rights Institute and the University of Connecticut has put up on the net a range of papers online and are hoping to develop this. A number of downloadable papers on human rights themes as diverse as land rights, cultural rights and multiculturalism, and truth recovery in South Africa and Northern Ireland are available. You can also send them others if you want.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service

Don't know if any of you have seen this, the Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service. This e-archive is an extensive online resource on Mohandas Karamchand (aka Mahatma) Gandhi in terms of quality and quantity. It provides over 1400 photographs, 17 hours audio online, 8800 books, a day-to-day chronology, Gandhi's life on video (60 min.), over 200 writings online, 44 min. of Gandhi's voice, and over 20 hours film footage. One for you Ghandi lovers out there...

Monday, May 10, 2004

Snapshot of South African Attitudes

The Washington Post with the Kaiser Foundation undertook a survey on South African attitudes recently. There is a short video on the web with some results, but also a link on that page to the summary document. Very interesting, and it is hopeful to note that most feel positive about the future...

Friday, May 7, 2004

Torture at Abu Ghraib

The stories have been all over the news for days now, so I am sure most have you have read about it extensively. However, I would recommend the various pieces by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker of late. Key question how far up does the responsibility go? Well worth the read.

The Gray Zone by Seymour Hersh.
Chain of Command by Seymour Hersh

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Inter-group Forgiveness in Settings of Ethnic Conflict

Inter-group Forgiveness in Settings of Ethnic Conflict: Empirical Research, Peace and Conflict is pleased to announce a future special issue on the theme of inter-group forgiveness in settings of ethnic conflict. Professor Micheal D. Roe of Seattle Pacific University and the University of Ulster is serving as Guest Editor. Manuscripts must present empirical research. Both qualitative and quantitative methodologies are welcome. Studies from a variety of national or cultural settings are encouraged. Inquiries should be directed to Micheal Roe. Phone: (206) 281-2252; email: Submission deadline: 1 October 2003.

Monday, May 3, 2004

Gito Baloi

Seems like some times things can travel slowly across the planet, or otherwise I was just not paying attention. Only this morning I was browsing through the Mail and Guardian and came across this sad story. Apparently, Gito Baloi, celebrated jazz bassist and one-time member of the group Tananas, was shot and killed on the streets of Johannesburg in the early hours of April 4. I know his music well and saw him many times at the Bass Line Jazz Club that used to be up the road from my house in Johannesburg. How sad. 

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Raytheon in Derry...out Derry

The Derry News recently reported on the arms manufacturer Raytheon and their role in Derry. I thought I'd publish an extract from it sent on by Angela Hegarty spokesperson for the Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign. The issue is important. Paddy McGuffin wrote in the Derry News, that the SDLP in Derry has "called on Raytheon to publicly declare the nature of the work they are conducting in the city, after former workers at the plant disclosed that they had developed military software at the firm’s Springtown plant. The workers have given signed statements to the Derry News acknowledging that they personally worked on technology for the MoD and the US Defence Department, and on guidance and monitoring technology for missile systems. They say that work was done here on Identification Friend or Foe (IFFs) systems ­ which are used to detect and destroy unrecognised missiles, and which were widely used in the recent war on Iraq. They admitted that they had worked on projects developing software for military spy-planes and claimed that the bulk of all Raytheon’s work in Derry was military-related. Widespread concern has been expressed over these allegations...Raytheon Systems Limited ­ one of the world’s leading defence companies came to Derry in 2000. But the company gave Foyle MP John Hume strict assurances that the only work to be conducted here would be on commercial projects - such as air-traffic control systems. Earlier this year Derry City Council pledged that, should it be revealed that Raytheon were doing defence work in the city, they would no longer be welcome. And anti-war campaigners said last night that it was now time for the Council to take action". Needless to say Raytheon has declined to comment, the article goes on. Hopefully the anti-Raytheon Campaigners who have fought this issue tirelessly will be rewarded. The Raytheon site is also worth looking at, it speaks volumes..."Customer success is our Mission" it states. Disturbing when your primary customer is the US military...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

New South African Cabinet

President Mbeki has released the list of the new more Buthelezi and an AZAPO appointment to Cabinet are the strange only ones, and needless to say Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang the Health Minister keep her job despite every attempt to lose it over the HIV/AIDS issue in the last while!

Freedom Day in South Africa...and Ireland

The 27th of April is Freedom Day in South Africa as this was the date of the first democratic election. It is now 10 years on, so a decade of democracy...time flies. The biggest party seemed to be held in Pretoria. The BBC site on South Africa offers a host of links, audio and video. On this side of the world I attended a big bash at the at the residence of the South African Ambassador in Dublin. It was a fantastic event with lots of music and outdoor festivities, including music from Buskaid and a big African styled performance from the Irish Community Arts Programme Macnas. All great...just trying to recover now.

Monday, April 26, 2004

ID Cards for Britain

Thought I'd quickly mention the issue of compulsory ID cards in Britain. Looks like Blunkett, in his true to form conservatism, is trying to get this rushed through. Apparently the conservative Labour government (not all to be fair) think this will help with migration issues. Although carrying the cards won't be compulsory (a fact which New Labour will change later or a Conservative government at some point no doubt), police will have access to the cards and can ask you for them at any time. The cards will carry biometric data. Now there is something the apartheid government could only have dreamed of....

Friday, April 23, 2004

America War Dead and Princess Diana

A friend, Dom, just dropped me an email to note the irony of the fact that the US is said to be furious over the publication of photos of the coffins of American Iraq war dead (see BBC article), in the same week as it is found OK to publish pictures of a dying Diana. Strange old world. The BBC article also highlights the following stats, 135,000 US troops in Iraq, tour of duty extended for 20,000, 91 US soldiers killed in April (and hundreds of Iraqis, unofficial sources say) and nearly 600 US troops killed since 1 May 2003. What a waste all round.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

More amnesties for South Africa?

Seems like the discussion of more amnesties in South Africa is back on the cards, surely not? Some say that Mbeki's inauguaration may be the place to announce pardons for prisoners. ThisDay newspaper suggested on Tuesday that former security policeman and assassin Eugene De Kock might qualify for a presidential pardon. The National Prosecuting Authority said today that it would not stop hunting apartheid-era criminals unless asked to do so by Parliament and that no new law was being considered. The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation released a press statement saying they were "deeply concerned" that ongoing negotiations might be going on with regards to amnesties, and that if so, it would undermine the achievements of the TRC. So what is going on? Doesn't sound good and further amnesties surely cannot be the answer. They would only further undermine the minimal respect for the law in South Africa and contribute further to impunity...

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

China: Discourse and Cultural Transformation Conference

Information on this rather interesting sounding conference was sent to me from Ian Parker on the Discourse Unit's listserv. The conference blurb says: "Cultural imperialism is one of the most fundamental and pressing problems in contemporary ordinary and disciplinary life. To initiate an international forum on how discourse research can help enhance cultural cohesion and common progress, we are organising an international conference at Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China) between 9th and 13th of October, 2004. Through this forum, we hope to bring together scholars in language and communication, cultural studies, literary criticism, anthropology, education, sociology, psychology and other social disciplines and from a diversity of cultural backgrounds." More information can be found on the Conference website, and ideas for papers have to be submitted by 30 April 2004.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Contextual Search Engines

Just came across some stuff on contextual web searches. It is really interesting, take a look. Look at the different ways search engines are developing using more visual and contextual ways of mapping the web. Try some of them out such as Kartoo. It is well worth the experience I must say...

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Overcoming Apartheid: Can Truth Reconcile a Divided Nation?

Overcoming Apartheid: Can Truth Reconcile a Divided Nation? This is the second entry in Gibson’s “Overcoming Trilogy” (the first was Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democratic Persuasion, Cambridge University Press). Russell Sage describes the book as follows: Overcoming Apartheid reports on the largest and most comprehensive study of post-apartheid attitudes in South Africa to date, involving a representative sample of all major racial, ethnic, and linguistic groups. Grounding his analysis of “truth” in theories of collective memory, Gibson discovers that the process has been most successful in creating a common understanding of the nature of apartheid, more...

Saturday, April 17, 2004

OK, final one on the election results...promise

African National Congress - 69.75%
Democratic Alliance - 12.32%
Inkatha Freedom Party - 6.9%
United Democratic Movement - 2.3%
Independant Democrats - 1.73%
New National Party - 1.67%
African Christian Democratic Party - 1.6%
Freedom Front Plus - 0.92%

OK, here are the final results, or close to it as I can find. This will also be my last post on the election for a while...