Saturday, 29 December 2007


Saadia Marciano: Founder of Israel's Black Panthers

The Independent
26 December 2007

Saadia Marciano, social activist and politician:
born Oujda, Morocco 1 May 1950; married Vicky Tarabulus (one son);
died Jerusalem 21 December 2007

Saadia Marciano was one of the founders of the Israeli Black Panthers, a band of young North African immigrants who thrust the grievances of their under-privileged community on to the national agenda in the early 1970s and forced successive governments to treat the Mizrachim (orientals) as subjects not objects.

The Zionist establishment was thrown by the challenge. Golda Meir, the Labour prime minister who briefly put some of them in prison, said after meeting a delegation that they were "not nice people". Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem, bellowed at them to "get off my lawn, you bastards" when they demonstrated outside the town hall. Marciano was hailed as the "face of the Black Panthers" after he was given a black eye by the police.

Although the movement fragmented and petered out after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, it marked the beginning of the end of deference on one side and patronising on the other. To the dismay of some of the Panthers, it paved the way for Menachem Begin's right-wing Likud to win the 1977 general election and for the emergence of Shas, a backward-looking religious party, as the voice of Sephardi emancipation.

The young rebels took the American Black Panthers as their model. Marciano said: "Either the cake will be shared by all or there will be no cake." But the Israeli Panthers were more Robin Hood than Eldridge Cleaver, more violent in their rhetoric than their deeds.

Early one morning in March 1972, they stole bottles of milk from the doorsteps of the middle-class Jerusalem suburb of Rehavia and delivered them to those of the poor with a label reading: "The children in the poverty stricken neighbourhoods do not find the milk they need on their doorstep every morning. In contrast, there are cats and dogs in rich neighborhoods that get plenty of milk, day in, day out."

Although the Panthers allied themselves with the radical left, their aim was to shock the Ashkenazi elite rather than overthrow it. Kochavi Shemesh, another Panther leader, said on the 30th anniversary: "Saadia came up with the name Black Panthers. The idea was to frighten Golda. She said that this name wouldn't let her sleep. That was what we wanted. With this name, we changed the discourse between the social movements and the establishment."

Saadia Marciano was born in the Moroccan town of Oujda in 1950. His family moved to Jerusalem later that year. He grew up in the impoverished Musrara neighbourhood on the border between the Jewish and Arab parts of the city.

After the collapse of the Black Panthers, he continued to campaign for social equality and ran a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts. In a brief, but unhappy, foray into electoral politics, he joined Sheli, a small left-wing party, and was elected to the Knesset in May 1980. He soon broke away to form his own Equality in Israel-Panthers, but resigned from parliament in June 1981.

Other activists lamented that he was stuck in his past, that he failed to acknowledge the revolution that he himself had helped bring about. Anat Hoffman, a former left-wing member of the Jerusalem city council, said: "He retained his bitterness and the rhetoric, but not the compassion. Every Ashkenazi was guilty, every Mizrachi was innocent. That made him less effective as a social activist."
Eric Silver

Sunday, 23 December 2007


SF conference Engaging Modern Ireland - Shaping our republicanism for Today's Ireland

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP delivered the keynote address to the Sinn Féin conference Engaging Modern Ireland, in Dublin last weekend. Here we reprint an edited version of that address.

2007 was a year packed with hard work, significant progress and some disappointment for Irish republicans. But as the year comes to an end Sinn Féin has emerged stronger and better prepared to make more advances in the time ahead.

Last January a special Ard Fheis overwhelmingly mandated this party to engage with the PSNI, and to hold that organisation to democratic account. And while there is still a lot of work to do, already the benefits of this engagement can be seen in many parts of the North.

Only a few months after that Ard Fheis, negotiations between Sinn Féin and the DUP opened the way for the re-establishment of the political institutions. In the Assembly election that followed, Sinn Féin won 28 seats and Martin McGuinness was asked to lead our Ministerial team in a power-sharing government with the DUP. Many observers, including elements of the Irish government thought such a development could never happen. But it did and it has and it was this party which made that possible.

There are huge challenges ahead. Just this week Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley led a joint delegation to the USA to secure much needed investment. Building the economy is a major priority for our party. We are also leading the way in bringing about fundamental change.
As part of this Caitríona Ruane has grasped the nettle of a failing education system, and especially of the 11+, and set out a vision for education in the North which will place children’s needs at the heart of that new system. These are major achievements. And none of it would have been possible without the support of tens of thousands of citizens who vote for this party; and the drive and energy, the negotiating skills, the commitment, and patience of party leaders, workers and supporters across this island.

It is not long since 2002 when five Sinn Féin TDs were elected to Leinster House. Then in 2004 Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin and Bairbre de Brún in the North won seats in the European Parliament, and we made major advances at Local Government level. These were all significant advances which made it clear to the establishment parties that Sinn Féin was a serious political and electoral threat. Our successes were a wake-up call to the conservative parties.

Most of us expected to see a continuation of that success in the 2007 General Election. We were disappointed when we failed to build on our Dáil representation and when we lost the seat held by Seán Crowe, one of our most hard working and dedicated representatives, in Tallaght and Dublin South West. Since then we have engaged in extensive consultation and critical analysis inside and outside the party. This process has been as intensive as the period during the run up to the Policing Ard Fheis and will be viewed as a critical juncture for Sinn Féin in the time ahead. These discussions produced some key conclusions which provide vital lessons for our future work:
• Our party is not strong enough on the ground in many constituencies.
• Our party leadership needs to be expanded to be seen to be truly national.
• We need to widen our political appeal by effectively setting out our alternative policies and solutions to the challenges facing modern Ireland.
• We also need to present our message in a better, more coherent way.

We have also undertaken a deeper analysis – exploring the more fundamental issues that influence and generate political change in this country, and re-assessing what contribution our party can make to that process of change.

The election result was a wake-up call for us. We now need to do things differently. But we can take succour from how well we did in many constituencies. Where we were properly organised our party avoided the squeeze which wiped out other parties. These are positives on which we can build. They include the success in Cavan/Monaghan, Louth, Kerry and Dublin South Central and the overall rise in our vote particularly in places like Donegal where we came close to taking seats.

We need a major re-organisation of our party structures, something which is already underway and which was planned before the last election. We need a well presented political programme, and a widening of our engagement across society. And we need to be as comfortable with words like ‘prosperity’ and ‘economic opportunity’ as we are with ‘equality’ and ‘independence’.
Republicans need to apply the same determination and commitment we brought to the peace process to the task of advancing our national objectives and delivering sustainable economic prosperity and equality.

Today, the frontline of the struggle is here in the South. That means adopting and developing new strategies and tactics to meet the challenges facing republicanism in this part of the island. These challenges are easily stated. They are:
• Irish re-unification;
• Building the economy to deliver strong public services;
• and tackling crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour which is devastating so many communities
• Promoting the Irish language.

Our first priority is achieving national unity and independence and an end to the partition of our country. This goal did not end with the formation of the Executive and Assembly and the all-Ireland Ministerial Council and other institutional arrangements.

While others pay lip service to their republicanism, Sinn Féin has a detailed strategy for ending partition, for the re-unification of Ireland, for political independence and national sovereignty.
In only a few short years Ireland and the Irish diaspora will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The Proclamation is our mission statement. It sets out the republican vision of a free and independent Ireland, a national republic, and a democratic and equal society.

I believe we should now establish a dedicated group to develop a programme of work to celebrate 1916 and properly mark all of the great events that led to the Rising – including the 100th anniversary of the Great Lock-Out here in Dublin in 1913.

The celebration of those actions, and the example set by the activists of that generation, can provide an opportunity to generate a national debate on the future direction of this island; as well as putting a spotlight on the Proclamation and its relevance in the Ireland of today.
Our task from this day onward is to broaden and deepen our roots in communities, in the colleges, the villages and towns, in every parish in every county on this island.

We can only do that through shaping our republican politics and policies to address the needs of people in their daily lives and by making republicanism relevant to these needs.

Sinn Féin activists should be engaging with local communities and working with them in seeking to achieve change.

We stand for a republic in which citizens have rights – a republic which is fashioned around people – citizens – and not political or economic elites.

To further this ambitious programme we will need to build alliances with like-minded people, and perhaps at times, with those who are not so like minded.

We need to develop a new working relationship between our party and those who are trying to build their businesses and economic projects; particularly in the indigenous small and medium sized business sector and the trade union movement.

We need to work together to deliver the next generation of jobs that will drive the economy forward and sustain economic prosperity.

At a time when the economy is facing so many challenges we will demand absolute accountability and value for money when it comes to the use of public funds. And we will insist that those in greatest need are the priority in fiscal and taxation policy.

During the General Election I said very clearly that Sinn Féin is not a high tax party. I also said that, given increasing economic uncertainty, it was irresponsible of the other parties to promise massive tax cuts as they could not be delivered. We were correct in this analysis.

The budget saw Fianna Fáil renege on many of the promises that saw them elected in the first place. This budget is particularly disappointing for ordinary families struggling on low and medium incomes. They are once again bearing the brunt of the inequity in our public services. This is particularly the case in health and education.

Stop anyone in the street and ask what the problems in the health service are, and they will tell you – inept planning and management; inflated wages for a minority – low wages for the majority; nursing and medical staff overworked and undervalued; and a Minister who is incapable of delivering any positive change.

The fact is this government is about privatising the health services. That is what is driving government policy. That is why there has been a systematic running down of the public health services, while countless private health clinics are opening up across the state.

The reality in the Ireland of 2007 is that there is a huge gulf in incomes and living standards between a small number of hugely influential people and the rest of Irish society.

There were no innovative budget proposals to help people to move from welfare to work, or to re-skill those who have lost jobs, or to give real support to those trying to start new businesses. There were no proposals to tackle the scourge of death through suicide.

The fact is that those at the top seem oblivious of the difficulties facing ordinary people.

A few weeks ago the Taoiseach took a yearly wage increase of €38,000 – that is 52 times what pensioners were awarded last week. And their basic income is only a fraction of that paid to the Taoiseach.

If this government or the other leaders had any principles whatsoever they would decline this latest wage increase. It is not fair, it is not money well spent and it is not compulsory.

As our economy has grown, many people from Europe and Africa and beyond have come to Ireland to make our country their home. We need to engage with these new communities, who now make up more than 10% of the population.

Many of these people are in danger of being marginalised and ghettoised in parts of our towns and cities. The danger of an imploding racism, particularly as many workers find themselves out of jobs or their wage levels under pressure by unscrupulous employers using cheap immigrant labour, is unfortunately real as the economy slows. Sinn Féin will continue to actively campaign against racism and for workers’ rights.

In a few months Sinn Féin will be the only significant party campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty referendum. But I believe that we will be standing with the majority of people on this island who share our concerns about the direction of the EU and the power of the larger states.
I believe that Ireland’s place is within the European Union. Many benefits have come as a result of our membership but moves towards greater integration are not in this country’s interest.
The Lisbon Treaty will involve the most substantial transfer of powers from member states to the European Council and Commission to date. The influence of smaller states will be reduced as the dominance of the larger states is consolidated. It significantly accelerates the militarisation of the EU, and advances an economic agenda based on a race to the bottom for wages and workers’ rights.

I want to call on everyone on this island who will have a vote to come out and oppose this Treaty. I want to make a particular appeal to supporters of the Labour Party and the Green Party to join with us in the coming months in opposing this treaty.

Republicans have always been internationalists. We have always taken a close interest in international matters and have spoken out in solidarity with oppressed peoples.We should especially seek to constructively share, if and when asked, our experience in conflict resolution to assist others. In this regard I believe we should encourage any settlement that guarantees a viable state and return of their lands to the Palestinian people. We also look forward to an early withdrawal of US and other foreign forces from Iraq.

Finally I would like to address the issue of community safety and policing. Communities the length and breadth of this country are being badly let down.

There are huge concerns at the failure to respond to rising crime and there is a renewed drugs epidemic which is having devastating consequences. It is time that this government took on the gangland bosses and put them out of business. The Gardaí need sufficient resources to do their job properly and people in the community need to actively support them. I encourage all of you to work with the relevant accountable policing authorities to ensure the public safety of all our citizens.

Today is a new starting point for this party. There is enormous goodwill for Sinn Féin in every part of this island. We have to build on that; build on our republican roots and policies; shape them to take account of the political realities of Ireland today, and move forward confidently. We have to grasp the major political opportunities which are now open to us. The fact is that we are now embarking on the most difficult but potentially most rewarding phase of our struggle.
Today marks the beginning of our campaigns for the European and Local Government elections which will take place in less than two years.

Two hundred years ago the founders of Irish republicanism had a vision of a new kind of Ireland – sovereign, free, in which the rights of citizens are paramount and with equality as the bedrock of society. That new Ireland is needed as much today as it was then. Genuine republicanism is as relevant today as it was then. Our mission is to engage with and to deliver for modern Ireland.
Déanfaidh muid sin. Bígí linn. Agus go raibh maith agaibh. Ádh mór agus Nollag shona daoibh. 2008 here we come.

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Friday, 21 December 2007


Another Scandal In Belgium:
One year in Jail for Abou Jahjah and Azzuz

[from Abou Jahjah's Blog]

Once more Belgium proved to be the example of a banana
republic in Europe and above all lacking an independent
judiciary something without which no democracy can be
properly functioning. Today, the judge in the correctional
court of Antwerp issued a political verdict sentencing
Myself and Ahmed Azzuz to one year in jail for our so
called involvement in the riots that took place 5 years ago
after the murder of Mohamed Achrak. We reject this sentence
and we will go in appeal.

An interesting detail in all this masquerade is that the
court reverted to a 19th century law that was used to clamp
down on the Belgian workers movement of that time lead by
the famous rebel priest Adolf Daens and used this law
against us almost two hundred years later. By doing this
Belgium has propelled itself back to the time of
dictatorship and repression.

If they believe that this will frighten us or keep us away
from Belgium, they will be disappointed, I will attend the
appeal session and will serve any sentence and will not be
a fugitive. But one thing is sure, I will also not let any
chance to expose this kind of repression for what it is
really: a flagrant act of dictatorship.

The fact that our role was the opposite of that claimed by
the court makes this verdict even more painful and more of
an illustration on how deep Belgium as a democracy have
sunk. This is nothing than a political retribution in
judicial dressing, and if this sentence is upheld by the
court of appeal and carried out, Belgium will have two
political prisoners who will be in jail only for having a
dissident opinion.

Nevertheless, We will go to appeal and will wait and see if
there is still some judicial independence in Belgium. Maybe
the court of appeal will be more difficult to manipulate
politically and will speak justice and not only annul this
verdict but even order us to be compensated for all the
defamation and hardship we have endured on the hands of the
Belgian establishment since 2002. As I hav already said,
this is a trial for the AEL as a movement and for the
emancipation movement of the Arab-Islamic communities in
Europe, it is also a blow for every voice that is critical
to the system.

The struggle continues.

In Solidarity,

Dyab Abou Jahjah

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


Analyzing Zimbabwe’s Crises

Things are undeniably not as they should be in Zimbabwe.
What's more, the difficulties entrenched on the continent
of Africa as a whole do not help the situation.

By Netfa Freeman
December 16th, 2007
Black Star News

If Kwame Nkrumah were still able, how would this
revolutionary Pan-Africanists classify Zimbabwe today?

According to Nkrumah’s very instructive Handbook of
Revolutionary Warfare Africa can be broken down into three
zones distinguished by certain political states of affairs.
This is commonly known as his Three Zone Theory or Three
Zone Analysis, with the three being “liberated zones”,
“contested zones”, and “enemy controlled zones”.

So, is Zimbabwe a contested or liberated zone?

This question arises regarding Zimbabwe because of the
assertion by some that it is a liberated area or zone and
because still others doubt this. So then, a critical
examination becomes necessary.

It should be apparent that Zimbabwe is not an enemy
controlled zone since that is defined as a state under
imperialist control through a foreign manned
administration, a puppet government, or a settler minority
government. Since such is what determines an enemy
controlled zone Zimbabwe cannot fit that de scri ption and
if it did it would not be under such heavy attack by the

Because the complexity of Africa's politico-economic
situation has changed considerably since the time Nkrumah
formulated these classifications it becomes necessary to
refine how we further apply the analysis. A closer
examination reveals the following:

A contested zone is defined as an area that starts under
enemy control then becomes contested when “the
revolutionary forces in activity there are either on the
verge of armed struggle or have reached an advanced stage
of revolutionary organization. In such a situation the
enemy is only in superficial command and relies exclusively
on support of the police, civil service and the army, where
it retains control only as long as the force of habit
remains unchallenged.”

Zimbabwe is clearly beyond this stage since the forces of
the liberation struggle have already rid the people of what
was settler minority rule and now the liberation forces
themselves have control over the police, civil service and
the army. The government of the liberation forces is
recognized internationally as a sovereign nation. To call
Zimbabwe contested is to legitimize as “revolutionary” the
forces of neo-colonialism who are openly and shamelessly
supported and encouraged by imperialism—that is, the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions (ZCTU), and a plague of NGO’s or
“non-governmental organizations”, etc. all of which work to
blur the lines between individual versus social/collective
rights through their opposition to the government and which
mirror the imperialist agenda against Zimbabwe.

Some would maintain however, that because Zimbabwe’s
economy is still dominated internally and externally by
capitalism this classifies it as contested at best. It is
true that major industries and enterprises, such as mining,
hotels, etc. are still predominantly capitalist owned and
controlled; a legacy of settler colonialism. Hopefully this
fact will be short lived and very recently we can see the
first concrete steps toward state seizer of mining since

Such things cannot happen over night but this past November
the Zimbabwe government did release a 60-page draft
proposal for amendments that strip foreign control of
mining and give control over key mines to the state.
Regardless, nowhere does Nkrumah’s analysis suggest that an
area must have completely rid itself of all vestiges of
capitalism and/or have in place a socialist economy in
order to graduate from contested to liberated status.
Furthermore, is such a scenario even possible today with
the global economy now more intricately integrated and with
neo-colonialism so firmly entrenched on the continent?

Nkrumahist-Tureist ideology—named in honor of the
theoretical and practical contributions of Presidents
Osageyfo Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sekou Ture—holds that
political independence is one of the preconditions for
socialist revolution and that by definition socialism is
still a class stratified- society, which will have varying
and particular manifestations of capitalism. As Nkrumah
once said, “Seek ye first the political kingdom.”

Politics means a disposition of power, which is what allows
a people to control their economy.

Some changes that have occurred in Africa's
politico-economic situation are relevant to understand
capitalism’s continued dominance over Zimbabwe. First, at
the time when Nkrumah formulated the three-zone analysis a
strong socialist block existed, offering an alternative
with which to trade and collaborate. In addition, the call
for socialism enjoyed a much greater and broader affinity
among the African masses and in the Diaspora. Neither of
these conditions exists today.

In addition, Africa as a whole has deviated from her
revolutionary path towards political and economic
integration or continental unity, which Nkrumah foresaw as
necessary to overcome her dependence on capitalism and the
West. Lastly, the West’s pressure on African nations to
subscribe to multi-party systems, so-calling them “greater
expressions of democracy”, is used to polarize the people,
as what it is really meant to do. Nkrumah warned us of this
phenomenon. In such parliamentary governments multiple
parties, including reactionary ones serving neo-colonial
interest, can hold seats and influence policy.
Unfortunately Zimbabwe has been no exception. Although
ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic
Front), Zimbabwe’s ruling party did not originally have the
objective of sharing power with other parties this was one
of the compromises of the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement
that brokered Zimbabwe’s independence and has been used to
preserve settler privilege and manufacture alternative
poles of attraction.

It may be unknown or disputed, but since its inception
there has always been the struggle internal to ZANU-PF to
further the cause of socialism. History reveals that the
2002 fast track land reclamation process was not the first
step in breaking capitalist control in Zimbabwe. Adopted at
the Second People’s Congress in August 1984 was the
Leadership Code, which was established to “impose on
(ZANU-PF) leaders a strict code of behavior with a view to
assuring the advent of socialism in Zimbabwe”. The preamble
of this code and the ZANU constitution declare ZANU-PF a
“Socialist Party”.

A detailed account and critical analysis of Zimbabwe’s
history has to be made to explain the set backs and
challenges along its revolutionary path and why capitalism
still dominates the economy today. What must also be taken
into consideration is the evolving complexity of the global
economy and imperialism, as it resists and adapts to
oppressed people’s struggle for justice. The question is;
should not Zimbabwe be defined by including the objectives
of its ruling party, ZANU-PF or merely by the situation in
which the current circumstances confine them and the rest
of world?

When compared with Nkrumah’s de scri ption of a liberated
area, we see that it is not a stretch to say Zimbabwe
stands the test of scrutiny. Liberated zones are defined
“as territories where: [a.] Independence was secured
through armed struggle, or through a positive action
movement representing the majority of the population under
the leadership of an anti-imperialist and well organized
mass party. [b.] A puppet regime was overthrown by a
people's movement (Zanzibar, Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt), and
[c.] A social revolution is taking place to consolidate
political independence by: 1. Prompting accelerated
economic development 2. Improving working conditions 3.
Establish complete freedom from dependence on foreign
economic interest.” While Zimbabwe clearly conforms to item
(a.) and item (b.) does not apply, item (c.) needs more
critical examination.

A social revolution has been taking place in Zimbabwe that
started with accelerated economic development during the
first decade of independence. According to Deborah Pott’s
Structural Adjustment and Poverty: Perceptions From
Zimbabwe, the economy enjoyed an average annual growth rate
of 4% with reputable achievements in public health and
education. This occurred while cutting its debt-service
ratio in half between 1985 and 1989.

Only the World Bank’s Economic Structural Adjustment
Programs (ESAP) taken on in 1991 that began Zimbabwe’s
plunge into its current economic challenges interrupted
these achievements. Surely the working conditions since
independence were a marked improvement over those of
Rhodesian settler colonial apartheid.

Zimbabwe has not, however, established complete freedom
from dependence on foreign economic interest. “Complete
freedom” from foreign economic interest is difficult to
determine and seems it may be impossible until a more
revolutionary unity exists in Africa as a whole. It can be
said that Zimbabwe is in the process toward this freedom
with its Land reclamation program, the 2000 abolition of
the ESAP (a fact for which the government rarely gets
credit, but is often condemned by so-called progressives
for the mistake of adopting the ESAP) and we should not
forget the aforementioned developments in the mining
industry. These are things for which all African people
should be proud of Zimbabwe and surely more such bold
measure against capitalism and imperialism are inevitable

Things are undeniably not as they should be in Zimbabwe.
What's more, the difficulties entrenched on the continent
of Africa as a whole do not help the situation.

However, all things considered Zimbabwe seems to have
earned Nkrumah’s designation of a Liberated Zone and as
such deserves the support and encouragement of all genuine
revolutionary Pan-Africanists.

Netfa Freeman is currently the director of the Social
Action & Leadership School for Activists at the Institute
for Policy Studies. Mr. Freeman is a longtime activist in
the Pan-African and international human rights movements.
Netfa is also a co-producer/co-host for Voices With Vision,
WPFW 89.3 FM, Washington DC. He can be reached at

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Venezuela and Brazil Move Forward as a Single Nation

A new step forward regarding bilateral relations was taken
by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Federative
Republic of Brazil as their presidents, Hugo Chávez and
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, endorsed 10 cooperation
agreements in the agricultural, technological and energy

The ceremony, attended by Venezuelan and Brazilian
governmental and business representatives, was held in
Miraflores, Venezuela’s presidential palace.

A Complementary Agreement to the Basic Technical
Cooperation Agreement for Training was endorsed in order to
implement inspection procedures as part of surveillance
activities and human consumption.

Also, they approved an Agreement for Training of Human
Resources of the Venezuelan Autonomous Service of Health in
order to strengthen surveillance and control of products
for use and human consumption.

Likewise, they signed the Complementary Agreement to the
Basic Agreement of Technical Cooperation for the
Development of the Institute of High Studies in Public
Health Dr. Arnoldo Gabaldón, and the Complementary
Agreement to the Basic Agreement of Technical Cooperation
for Support, which will contribute to the implementation of
Human Milk Banks in Venezuela.

Brazil and Venezuela endorsed the Complementary Agreement
to the Basic Agreement of Technical Cooperation to
implement the use of sprouts and the ecological benefit of
coffee aimed at the development of agroecological

In addition, they inked the Complementary Agreement to the
Basic Agreement of Technical Cooperation for the
Development of alternative Technologies to process citrus
fruits on a small scale. This agreement will contribute to
the organization of agricultural communities. They also
endorsed the Complementary Agreement to the Basic Agreement
of Technical Cooperation for the Production of Yucca in
Anzoátegui and Monagas state (Venezuela’s northeast).

Both countries established a program in the field of
industrial cooperation to develop strategic projects in the
long-term, as well as the promotion of initiatives of
training for industrial innovation and development.

Likewise, Venezuela’s CVG and Brazil’s Queiros Galvao
endorsed a letter of intention to develop the Uribante
Caparo Hydroelectric Complex.

Venezuela’s Pequiven and Brazil’s Braskem Europe approved
an agreement to create a company in charge of transforming
ethane, propylene, polypropylene and other plastic resins.

Venezuela and Brazil also reached an agreement to create a
Joint Venture that will be built the Abreu e Lima
Pernambuco refinery, which will process 200,000 oil barrels
per day. Venezuela will supply 100,000 oil barrels per day
from the Carabobo Field of the Orinoco Oil Belt.

A Joint Communiqué endorsed by the Venezuelan and Brazilian
heads of State provides for the creation of a joint fund.
They will start working on this project by early 2008.


“We are the same nation,” said President Chávez after they
signed the agreements. He proposed a triennial plan (until
2010) in order to move forward regarding their relations
and joint projects. He also said he was confident that
trade will increased in the coming years and imbalances
will be overcome when Venezuela becomes stronger.

The Venezuelan President estimated that binational trade
could reach USD 10 billion and stressed that the Venezuelan
economy will continue growing. He invited Venezuelan
businessmen and women to reach agreements with their
Brazilian counterparts, whom they urged to invest in

President Chávez said that the discovery of big oil and gas
deposits in Brazil represents a joy to Venezuela because it
will further strengthen South America and Latin America as
one of the regions with greatest potential in order to
create a power.

He also affirmed that the Caracas-Buenos Aires-Brasilia
axis is the core of the South American geopolitics in order
to build a development pole. He added that “Brazil is a
guarantee of equality.”

“We must be aware that we are not two nations, but one
nation united to the rest American countries. We are a big
homeland”. He addressed the Brazilian people and said they
should feel Venezuela as their homeland, just like
Venezuelans feel Brazil their “beloved homeland.”

On the other hand, President Lula da Silva said Brazil -
which has a great commercial potential in South America -
needs to contribute with its agricultural, technologic and
intellectual knowledge so that Venezuela takes advantage of
the “historical moment it is experiencing” to continue

The Brazilian President stressed the continent is
experiencing a particular moment since Venezuela, Brazil,
Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and
other nations are determined to fight against poverty.

Regarding Brazil’s contribution to Venezuela, he pointed
out that he requested his ministers to work with those
Brazilian businessmen and women to strengthen agreements
with Venezuelan businessmen and women in order to find
investment opportunities and create a commercial balance
between the two nations.

“In Venezuela, citizens enjoy a full democracy and the
have-nots have started improving their standard of living.
This situation is due to the establishment of the
Bolivarian Government, which implements policies aimed at
all the population. It is different from former times, when
they ruled just for 30% of the population,” da Silva

In order to fulfill the proposed goal, he reiterated that
Brazil and Venezuela agreed to meet four times a year. This
meeting is the first one, and it was deemed by the
Brazilian President as the consolidation of both
presidents’ “dream.”

Likewise, they appointed one Venezuelan commissioner and
one Brazilian commissioner, who will be in charge of making
sure that these agreements materialize.

Finally, President Chávez announced a Venezuela-Brazil
High-Level Meeting will be held in March 2008 in Brazil.

Guillermo Arias / Ministry of Popular Power for
Communication and Information (MinCI)

Wednesday, 12 December 2007


Words for Our Brother


Death Row, San Quentin

[Tookie pictured right with Louis Farrakhan]

In the sacred tradition of warriors it is said that the
source of courage is willingness to die, to lose everything
not because one doesn't value life, but because one has
entered so fully into his own center that he knows his
convictions will hold through death.

On December 13, 2007, we commemorate the second anniversary
of the stat-sanctioned killing of our brother and
colleague, Stanley Tookie Williams III, whose convictions
held through death and who lives on in our struggle and
unshakable determination.

Tookie's journey may have begun on the streets of Los
Angeles, but it would be on death row where he defined the
terms of his odyssey. His personal evolution started in the
early 1980s in the midst of the perennial violence that was
the hallmark of San Quentin prison. At that time, we began
to notice a monumental shift in how he approached prison
politics and how he began to put into context the
contradictions that had dominated his life. He came to
understand that our most dangerous enemy was ignorance, and
he resolved to vanquish it. Together, we would challenge
each other to move beyond our own blindness; to accomplish
this, we knew had to embrace education, and Tookie soon
wanted to master every subject he took up. We used to jest
with him about staying up until sunrise going over a single
chapter. He'd say, "Bro, we're playing catch up. We can't
afford to mess around." He was right.

The three of us felt a sense of urgency, as if the learning
process were a tangible, living thing, full of texture and
motion. Tookie wanted to wake up everybody, and he was a
natural teacher. His soft-spoken voice and patience made
people feel at ease, and he possessed the remarkable
ability to interact with all different kinds of
personalities and ethnic groups (which is not easy in
prison). This quality made many guys on the row seek him
out for advice. We teased him by telling him he'd make an
excellent priest or psychiatrist because of his capacity to
listen solemnly. Even back then we could see he was
preparing himself for something, whether he was conscious
of the scope or not. It was as if he'd had a dream or
premonition about the work he would ultimately commit his
life to. His sense of mission was evident. There were many
occasions when during conversations we were having, or in
the middle of exercising, Tookie would suddenly stop and
start talking about how the collective consciousness of
gang members needed to be transformed into a positive
dynamic, how a new paradigm had to be created to keep kids
out of gangs, and how gang members needed to be active
participants in resolving their conflicts. These ideas
pre-date his "Protocol for Peace" and children's books by
at least ten years.

Tookie was a visionary, his foresight uncanny. Whenever
elements within the prison administration plotted against
him to discredit his work, he was always prepared to
counter their propaganda proactively, constructively. The
French chemist Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors the
prepared mind." Tookie lived this axiom. It was at the
heart of everything he did. He didn't let death row hinder
him or prevent him from bringing to fruition things he
wanted to accomplish. One of the qualities we admired most
about him was that he never made excuses for himself. He
knew no one was infallible, so when he was wrong he'd be
the first to point out and correct his mistake. The
expectations and discipline he imposed on himself were
high, but he always let guys know that mistakes are
lessons, not the end of the world, or the sum of who we

Commitment for Tookie was never about his words alone, but
also about the impact his actions had. He met everyday with
the conscious intent of making a difference. It was this
level of sincerity and dedication that motivated others.
Even when he dealt with reconciling with his past and
reconnecting with his two sons, he did it with brutal
honesty. In 2002, he and his son, Stanley Tookie Williams
IV, would come face to face as men, as father and son, for
the first time in young Tookie's life. We know that for
Tookie it was an emotional meeting because he truly
regretted not being there when his son was growing up. He
told us that seeing and talking to little Tookie was the
first time he felt like a father. The proud smile on his
face said it all. Later, as we walked on the yard, Tookie
would wistfully remark, "Man, I still have so much to say
to li'l Took."

He understood he might never get another chance to talk to
his son, so in his own redemption he offered a powerful
example and lesson to him, and to gang members, of what
self-transformation and sincere individual effort can
achieve. He wanted to give his son and others tangible
proof that there were other options-that no matter how far
they had gone down the wrong road it was never too late to
turn back.

Tookie restored the sacred within himself, not in an
extraordinary way, but in a very ordinary way-one step
forward at a time. It was not his Herculean size, his sharp
intellect, or his fearlessness that defined him, but rather
his humility, his pragmatism and his profound connection to
what the ancient Khemetians called the "ka" (indwelling
spirit). The maturity of his spiritual mind allowed him to
live in the moment-to-moment experience. Thus he not only
discovered his purpose, and passionately pursued it, but in
the process found his authentic self. His connection to the
ka is reflected in his writing, his activism, and in the
relationships he forged with others.

Despite the concrete walls, armed guards, and constant
campaign against him, launched by people seeking their
two-minutes of fame by vilifying another, Tookie showed
that a caged man is not a defeated man, nor an animal. His
calm dignity illuminated the truth that the dehumanization
of prison cannot extinguish the light which exists within
all of us, nor beat back the inner revolutions that
silently ignite on their own.

His voice, his presence, emerged to articulate the feelings
and ideas of many, and with clarity he grasped the larger
meaning of his formidable responsibility. Often, and in a
fairly decent Muhammad Ali impression, he would humorously
say, "This is our rumble in the jungle." What he meant was,
not merely the fight for our lives, but more broadly, the
fight to help initiate a new consciousness among our peers.
Our co-authored book, The Sacred Eye of the Falcon: Lessons
in Life from Death Row, written by the two of us and
Tookie, is our collective contribution to this effort (the
book is available on

Long before Tookie gained a public presence he knew the
difference between symbolism and substance. So it was not
unusual to see him sitting at the table on the yard
personally answering letters he had received from young
people around the world who had been inspired by his books.
This accessibility was completely in concert with his
character and something he enjoyed giving. In our last
conversation with him, we talked about creating an
institute of learning, building a think tank, the Iraq war,
revitalizing the prison movement inside, and about our
families: not once did he focus on concern for himself.
This was Tookie.

On any given day he could be seen in his cell meditating or
kneeling in prayer. It was his daily ritual, one he
observed religiously. Thus, it didn't surprise us at all
that in his final hours he was described as "sitting on his
bed as if it were a throne." Yet, knowing Tookie, we know
this had nothing to do with projecting some regal demeanor,
but rather with the depth of his spiritual attitude and
consciousness. He had entered his center so completely that
such things as food and water were insignificant. From a
non-dualist perspective, Tookie was as close to his own
divinity as a human can come while still alive. It was this
aura that, in his final hours, radiated from him. In the
face of death he remained consistent with how he lived-with
great courage and great conviction.

We honor our fallen brother, Tookie, also known to us by
his African name, Ajamu Kamara. With eternal solidarity, we
remember his life. We are our brother's keeper.

You can write to either writer at the addresses below:

Anthony Ross C-58000
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin,
California 94974

Steve Champion C-58001
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin,
California 94974

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


Africans united in rejecting European arrogance

By Sukant Chandan

The recent summit between African heads of states and the EU has shown that Europe has failed to move beyond their colonial-era past-times of economic and political bullying. The African delegates gave Europe an unmistakable cold shoulder on the two big issues of the conference: trade, especially the European proposed Economic Partnership Agreements, and European political interference in African affairs, centered on British arrogance towards Zimbabwe.

This African-EU Summit in Lisbon was possibly Portugal’s most important international meeting in its history. The intention of the summit was to discuss peace and security, human rights, international trade and climatic change. 40 presidents - 5 from Europe and 35 from Africa - and 27 prime ministers - 15 from Europe and 12 from Africa – took part in a summit which summed up the state of African-European relations today.

To give some background to the events in Lisbon, it is worth taking a short look at the history of these summits. The first African-EU Summit took place in Cairo in 2000 at the initiative of Egypt’s President Mubarak and the then President of the African Union Algeria’s President Bouteflika. Ever since then Britain has been unable to get over itself on the issue of Zimbabwe. From the first summit Blair refused to attend in protest at Mugabe’s presence. Already back in 2000 Britain’s puerile games on the issue of Mugabe was given a firm rebuttal by Africans when they insisted that Britain had no right to dictate who should or should not attend the summit. There should have been a second summit in 2003 but failed to materialise and was postponed indefinitely after the imposition of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe by the EU and due to Britain’s continued objection to the attendance of President Mugabe. So the Labour Government’s attitude towards Zimbabwe and the rejection of it has been an on-going issue in European-African relations ever since.

The British mainstream press likes to present the problems at the summit as the fault of the Africans, rather than the reality which is it is the behavior of former imperialists who, engaged in fruitless antics, results in them looking the fool on the international stage. Countries such as Britain and Germany seem to put more importance on dictating to Africa on how it should deal with its internal affairs than grappling with the critical issues of African development and progress. Britain has turned what is essentially a bilateral political rift between itself and Zimbabwe into an international issue in the face of opposition by Africa. Even the head of the Commonwealth, Mr Don McKinnon while being a critic of the Zimbabwean Government agreed that President Mugabe must be allowed to attend. José Manuel Barroso head of the EU commission expressed the Portuguese position which has consistently argued that the prospective rewards of closer ties between Africa and the EU are more important than the problems between Britain and Zimbabwe. Barroso made the headlines when he scolded the British apropos their pre-conditions: “If you are an international leader then you are going to have to be prepared to meet some people your mother would not like you to meet. That is what we have to do from time to time.”

Portugal’s position has been appreciated by Africa. This past weekend’s summit was in itself in question if it weren’t for Portugal’s insistence that it should go ahead. The Africans at the summit, the African Union, the Southern African Development Countries, and South Africa’s President Mbeki have held firm to the view that Zimbabwe must be represented by Mugabe despite the EU travel ban on him. Without Mugabe in attendance the whole of Africa would boycott the summit.

This stand of African unity in the face of what Mugabe rightly calls European ‘arrogance’ is a sign that Africa cannot be pushed around like it had been for centuries by countries from which they have gained their independence in the last five decades. As an indication of the strength of feeling on the issue, Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni told Brown last month “Mugabe is a revolutionary who fought to emancipate his people. When you are dealing with a revolutionary, you listen to his points, rather than give him orders.” Indeed Mugabe has a valid point when he reportedly said at the summit that it was Africans that taught the British about democracy when they won their fight for democracy against British-backed Apartheid colonial-settler states.

Whatever one’s view of Mugabe and the internal situation in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s stance and the defence of him by African leaders resulting in a row of British red faces, could not but be an inspiration to those who believe in the Pan-African strength of the continent in its struggle for independence and development. Western pressure on Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF government is unlikely to gain any popularity with African governments as the controversy centers around the emotive issue of land distribution to the indigenous peoples, land that was forcibly taken by European colonial settlers. There maybe problems in the details of the land distribution process in Zimbabwe, but the main problems are at root ones that can be traced back to the failure of the British to honour their commitments. This being the case, Africans are not going to back down from defending a fellow African state that is the main target for annihilation by the West. When the same interests who are supporting regime-change in Zimbabwe are behind all kinds of intrigue to grab more wealth from the land and people Africa, such as the plans for a coup against Equatorial-Guinea led by Mark Thatcher in 2004, it somewhat exposes the real meaning behind Western clamours about ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’. And Thatcher’s coup plans are merely the very tip of the ice-berg. It is in this context that closing of ranks by Africans at the summit can be understood.

When Africans show an effective united front against neo-colonialist behavior, there will always be a few Africans who, conveniently for the British, pop up to assure Western white society that these African upstarts are just being wholly irrational. While the British media occasionally and reluctantly admitted that all the Africans are behind Mugabe, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu attempted what must have been seen as a pathetic attempt to cover up the big issues at the summit by removing and cutting up his dog collar in protest at Mugabe on Andrew Marr’s politics program on BBC1.

There was one final humiliation for Britain at the summit after the British government decided to send Lord Amos as an ‘advocate’ of its interests. Former Labour Development Minister Clare Short stated on BBC Radio 4 that the only reason that this “pseudo-minister” was being sent was that she was black. Foreign Minister Milliband retorted on the same program that this was not fair; rather Lady Amos was being sent because “she has a lot of knowledge about Africa”. This highly amusing exchange must be highly embarrassing for Lady Amos and the British government, with Lady Amos perhaps thinking ‘is it because I is black?’

The debates around economic relations between the two continents also did little to create the impression that Europe is moving on from its colonial past. Europe wants to replace old trade agreements with EU-proposed Economic Partnership Agreements that have been widely criticised by African states and anti-poverty groups. Certain trade privileges exist between European countries and their former colonies but have been declared illegal by the WTO which is demanding that they be scrapped. These new EPAs would open up African markets to European competition which will have the effect of further devastating African economies. African Union commission president, Alpha Oumar Konaré denounced the EPAs and stated: “No one will make us believe we don't have the right to protect our economic fabric … It is time to bury definitively the colonial past. We can no longer be merely exporters of raw materials. We can no longer accept being solely an import market for finished products”, and if anyone was in any doubt about African attitudes to the EPAs Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade told reporters: “It's clear that Africa rejects the EPAs.” There was no agreement on this issue, however this did not stop Barroso from saying that the EU would go ahead with the imposition of tariffs on all but the poorest countries if they do not meet the deadline for accepting the EPAs. So much for Europe exorcising it’s colonial past.

Europe’s ulterior motive behind the summit was candidly admitted by the Financial Times which stated on Sunday 9th December that it was “meant to showcase a new partnership to counter China’s growing influence in Europe’s former colonies.” The BBC News website too has conceded that it is China which is one of the primary reasons for Africa’s new found confidence, which is ‘cause for worry in Europe’. The twin causes for worry in Europe being both an influential China and an increasingly assertive Africa.

Since China became independent and socialist in 1949, it has enjoyed especially close relations with Africa. Many newly liberated African states joined Chinese Premier Chou En Lai at the historic Afro-Asian Bandung Conference in 1955, which initiated the Non-Aligned Movement, and where Africans demanded that China be a member of the UN Security Council. This relationship of solidarity saw China directly assisting African states in their liberation struggles and also lending all manner of support in helping the development of the newly liberated African nations, as Chinese Premier Hu Jintao stated at the historic Forum on China-Africa Co-operation in Beijing November 2006: “China did what she needed to do to help ensure that Africa freed herself from the yoke of colonialism and apartheid.”

Ever since 1949 Chinese strategies of development and foreign policy have been controversial across the political spectrum in the West. China’s post-Mao era has been no exception, with many liberals, leftists and right-wingers all united in their opposition and criticisms of China’s development and meteoric economic rise. Notwithstanding the inevitable problems that a massive underdeveloped country like China faces in progressing by means of a mixed economy, it has achieved rates and levels of poverty reduction hitherto unseen in the history of mankind. Apart from winning UN awards for poverty alleviation in lifting over 200 million people out of abject poverty in the last two decades, China’s economic rise has also enabled Third World countries to develop political and economic strategies that many would not have perceived possible during the years of the Washington Consensus of the 1990s. There is another rather important advantage of favouring relations with China in comparison to the West: China will not criminalise you, starve your country with sanctions and possibly blitz and occupy your country, whereas the West might. China’s strict policy of non-interference and what it terms ‘win-win’ relations with other countries is winning it ever more friends.

The internal and external effect of China’s development is possibly the most important political question in the world today. It is a crucial issue for those who are confronting the challenges posed by aggressive Western unilateralism and hegemony and those of developing a multi-polar and peaceful world. As in Latin America, Africa’s relation with China is enabling it to develop a new-found confidence in lifting itself up in the world, and as China rises ever further it allows Africa to free itself from the negative relationship with its former colonial masters. In comparison to the West, China has an incomparably better deal to offer Africa leading President Wade to comment at the summit that “it is very clear that Europe is close to losing the battle of competition in Africa.” Therefore Africa is able to put into affect the non-aligned method of getting the best deal it can between bigger powers, although there is no indication that Europe is about to back-off from its unpopular policies towards Africa, although some observers like the BBC’s Mark Doyle know that Europe has to address its problematic relationship with Africa, especially in the face of China’s growing prestige: “African trade with China is forcing Europe to take Africa more seriously and not just as a collection of former colonial possessions.”

It is argued from left to right-wing circles in the West that China is merely a new neo-colonial power replacing the old ones in Africa. This is an issue that has been rigorously raised in the Western mainstream press. This media offensive is unsurprisingly having some success in affecting the attitudes of the political classes in the West, but the West is sadly mistaken if this is argument is going to turn Africans against China in appealing to their anti-imperialist sentiments. Chinese involvement in Africa is warmly and broadly welcomed. Nevertheless, the Chinese are keen to argue their case in response to what they see as hypocritical slurs. It was on this subject that Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai spoke at a news conference last year about China’s share of total oil exports in China the previous year of 9% compared to 36% for Europe and 33% for the US. The minister asked: “If an 8.7 percent share could be suspected as an act of plundering resources, then what about 36 percent and 33 percent?” In the chorus of attacks on China as a neo-colonial power, there are very few African voices to be heard, it is the West which is so vocal about losing its opportunities in Africa.

The African states at the summit showed great strength in standing up to Europe, with the latter so far unable to move away from its intransigent positions which are pushing the Africans away from the West in an eastwardly direction towards China. The way Britain and Germany treated Mugabe, and the unanimous defence of Mugabe by the Africans shows that Africans are in no mood to shift one inch from their positions of unity and respecting their sovereignty in African affairs. The consensus amongst Africa is that if there are any problems in any African state, it requires an African solution. The Mugabe issue should be seen in connection with the disagreements over the EPAs, as both these issues represent African demands for non-interference in their affairs so they can find their own ways of resolving and progressing from the problems which have been sown by colonialism in Africa. Maybe not in this writer’s lifetime, but perhaps a time will come when European countries can disengage from its colonial past and find new ways in developing a mutually respectful relationship with the Third World. In the meantime, while the US is tied up in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, Third World countries from Latin America to Africa are taking the opportunity to steam ahead with development and ‘South-South’ co-operation, of which China is arguably the most important component part. While Africa may not be seeing the type of social movements and struggles taking place in Latin America, the current rising confidence of Africa is surely a necessary precursor to further developments in the struggle for social and national liberation.

Sukant Chandan is a London-based freelance journalist, researcher and political analyst. He runs two websites: and and can be contacted at

Monday, 10 December 2007


The Rastafari Movement & Ethiopia's Third Millennium
David González López
December 2007

Translated by the author.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
To be published 2008 in the journal Del Caribe,
published in Santiago de Cuba.
Spanish original here

David González López recently retired from the Center for the
Study of Africa and the Middle East (CEAMO) in Havana, Cuba
where he worked for twenty-five years. He continues as a
consultant at CEAMO. He is the also author of numerous
articles and of the books Etiopía, la oposición
contrarrevolucionaria, La Habana, Ed. Ciencias Sociales,
1987, and La memoria en las cultras del habla: problemas,
metodos, y tecnicas del trabajo historico con la fuentes
orales (Ed. Santiago, Santiago de Cuba, 2000.)

On September 17, 2007, Ethiopia hosted the world premiere
of Africa Unite, a full-length documentary about the
celebration of the 60th anniversary of the birth of
Jamaican musician Bob Marley that had also taken place in
Ethiopia two years before. The screening at the National
Palace, with the presence of President Girma W. Giorgis,
highlighted the importance that the government of the
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia attributed to this
event, in the framework of the Africa Unite celebrations
organized by the Bob and Rita Marley Foundation.[1]

Six days before the screening, on September 11, the
Ethiopian nation celebrated the beginning of its third
millennium, almost eight years after most of the rest of
the world, because this country continues to follow an
ancient national calendar. Treasured by its indigenous
Ethiopian Orthodox Church, this calendar is the product of
old Egyptian astronomic calculations together with the
Hebrew and Julian calendars, adopted ages ago.
Nevertheless, since 1582 Europe chose the Gregorian
calendar, gradually accepted after by most of the world and
continuing in force today.

In this article we will address, on the one hand, the
peculiar and sometimes surprising Ethiopian history and
culture and, on the other, the way that these influenced
the appearance of the Rastafari in our region of the world.
But we must caution that, as the Rastafari movement lacks a
center and ruling scriptures, and, furthermore, its
practices are not identical in every house or group, except
the most general ones, each individual enjoys a great deal
of autonomy, and thus, whatever might be said of them will
not necessarily be applicable to all.

The attraction exerted by Ethiopia

We have seen that Ethiopia, as so many times in history,
refused to forego its tradition, took a course contrary to
world developments and opted for keeping its thirteen-month
calendar (twelve 30-days months plus a five or six-day
final month depending on whether it is a leap year or not).
The calculations that led to this calendar are intertwined
with the beliefs of its Orthodox Church, according to which
God created the earth 5 500 years prior to the birth of
Jesus Christ, so the world would now be about 7 500 years
old. But the solar Coptic calendar –the oldest in force
today— would have originated at an unknown date some 3000
years before Jesus Christ, because its New Year supposedly
marked the end of the great flood for which Noah built his

Adding to the almost magical attraction that Ethiopia
exercises on whoever approaches its history or culture,
some of the oldest fossils of our pre-human and human
ancestors have been found in its soil, together with their
oldest stone tools. It was there, furthermore, that the
first homo sapiens evolved and perfected their early
subsistence –including agricultural— techniques; from its
territory, crossing the Red Sea, primitive men started out
on their long quest to reproduce humankind elsewhere in the
world and, millenia afterwards, the first big civilizations
extended to portions of its territory. Land of trade and
passage, Ethiopia appears, millenia ago, in stories and
accounts of European and Asian travellers.

Ethiopia also appears and reappears in the sacred texts of
Judaism, Christianity and Islam, because it offered safe
haven to the followers of those three major religions since
their very inceptions. Menelik I, born from a romance
between the Sabean pagan Queen of Sheba and Hebrew King
Solomon, was the first Ethiopian emperor, who, after a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is said to have returned home with
the Arc of the Covenant and the slabs of the Ten
Commandments received by Moses on Mount Sinai. Today they
are supposedly hidden at the Cathedral of Our Lady Saint
Mary of Sion, constantly guarded by a monk, the only one
authorised, until his death, to access them.

This catedral is in Axum, the two-thousand-year-old capital
of one of the great ancient states, founded around the time
of the birth of Christ and first well-documented link in
the long chain of Ethiopian culture until today. Following
Armenia, Ethiopia was the second country in the world to
adopt Christianity,[3] when Axum’s King Ezana, proclaimed
it as state religion around 330-350 a.c.

It is precisely due to the antiquity of Ethiopia’s
irruption in history that it becomes more difficult than
elsewhere to separate myths, legends, religion and history.
Ethiopia’s own history is hard to explain because it not
always responds to the “logics” of historians. Instead of
inciting study, this has tended to foment a comparative
lack of interest of the academia, that already attributed
scant attention to African history in general. This
“difference” of Ethiopian history has been conceptualized
by David Phillipson as “the proverbial autonomy of
Ethiopian events with respect to those of the rest of the
world.”[4] In other words, few things would happen there as
would be expected from a comparison with events elsewhere,
and this is so because everything is mediated and
re-processed by its very peculiar culture. For instance, it
has been said of the very rich Ethiopian religious art that
it underlines a characteristic that the Ethiopian nation
has preserved during the centuries of its existence: its
capacity to re-fuse old traditions and outside influences,
not by copying, but by always endowing them with an
original expression, adapted to its national conditions.[5]

All this goes to explain why many Ethiopian developments,
until recent times, tend to surprise and fill people with
admiration in many parts of the world. The paradigm of
those moments was the one that occurred in the second half
of the 19th Century and that, in the end, allowed Ethiopia
to become, against every calculation from abroad, in the
sole African country capable of resisting the otherwise
unstoppable European push to subject and submit the entire
Afro-Asian universe.[6] In the course of the first decades
of the 20th Century, therefore, Ethiopia appeared as a
singular, almost unexplainable case, of an African nation
that remained unconquered by European colonialism.

Marcus Garvey: unwilling promoter of the Ethiopian myth

Three factors converged to foment the emergence of the
Rastafari towards the third decade of the 20th Century.
Firstly, the tense racial relations existing in Jamaica due
to its colour bar, further tensed by the declining economic
situation of the poor majority. Secondly, the ideas of
Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940), elaborated either in
Jamaica or in New York City. Thirdly, an absolutely random
development, disconnected from the two previous ones: the
coronation of a new sovereign in Ethiopia on November 2,
1930. This last element provided a crucial ingredient to
the whole articulation of the Rastafari imaginary.

In the 1920s, Garvey had been elaborating his
Pan-Africanist ideas, marked by what has been labeled his
separatism. Contrary to the criteria of other Black leaders
of his time, Garvey believed that the Black of the diaspora
could never prosper in countries governed by whites and
therefore must migrate to Africa, in order to contribute to
the creation of a strong nation, governed by Blacks and
capable, in turn, of defending the well-being of Blacks
anywhere in the world. However, between the only two
independent African nations, led by Black governments at
the time, Ethiopia and Liberia, Garvey chose the second for
his projects of migration and colonization, because, due to
negative historic experiences, Ethiopia tended to reject
foreign presence, whereas Liberia’s government elite was
itself a product of migration from the Americas.
Nevertheless, in his speeches, full of mysterious
prophecies sprinkled with biblical passages, Garvey stated
things that later seemed to point to Ethiopia. He warned
that Blacks, oppressed at the time, would “surprise the
world”[7] and said: “Look to Africa, to the crowning of a
Black King that will be the Redemptor.”[8] And, turning
their eyes in that direction, many thought the prophecy
fulfilled when, on November 2, 1930, an emperor was crowned
in Addis Ababa and named Haile Selassie I.

Garvey provided a sizeable portion of the Rastafari
ideological corpus, and many see the movement itself as an
extension of garveyism. Also, many Rastafari relieve that
Garvey was “a new Saint John the Baptist, and in the
movement’s esteem he is only surpassed by Selassie”:[9] the
Rastafari celebrate both their birthdays. There is no
documentary proof, however, of Garvey’s identification with
the Rastafari, and indirectly he rather marked his
differences with them around the figure of Selassie: the
organization that he founded, the Universal Negro
Improvement Association (UNIA), opposed the tendency of the
so-called first rasta preacher, Jamaican Leonard P. Howell,
to divinize Selassie.[10] In his writings, Garvey also
criticized Selassie for fleeing Ethiopia during the fascist
Italian invasion, and even Ethiopians, who he went as far
as to accuse of “fanaticism”.[11] But the few leaders of
independent African countries at the times would not have
been thrilled to hear of Garvey’s self-proclamation
–symbolic rather than anything else— as President of

Haile Selassie and Ethiopia in the Rastafari imaginary

In its first years of existence, the Rastafari seemed in
fact to concentrate on the “back to Africa” initiative and
on the adoration of Selassie: even the name of the movement
comes from the Negus’ title and pre-coronation name: Ras
Tafari Makonen. Furthermore, deifying the Ethiopian emperor
is among the basic factors of the movement and one of the
few common aspects among all its affiliates. One of the six
basic principles enonciated by Howell at the time of its
emergence (the other five, by the way, have already lost
all validity) were to acknowledge Selassie “as Supreme
Being and only ruler of Blacks.”[12]

It has been observed that the four Rastafari groups that
were recognizable in Jamaica in the 1930s differed in the
styles of their cults and on the emphasis placed on one or
the other aspect of their doctrines, and only had in common
four points: they condemned Jamaican colonial society,
called for a return to Africa, spoke in favor of
non-violence and –again— worshiped Selassie’s divinity.[13]

The Rastafari movement has been classified as a very
syncretic religion that traces its origins back to Prophet
Abraham and seeks explanations in the Bible. Precisely, its
followers interpret passages such as Psalms 87:4-6 and 5:5
from the Book of Revelation of the New Testament as a
prophecy of Selassie’s coronation and the substantiation of
his divine nature.[14] The Negus is frequently called Jah,
Selassie Jah or Jah Rastafari, names to which a great power
is attibuted.[15] It is, however, difficult to establish
the exact essence that the Rastafari attribute to Selassie,
because ideas differ from group to group and even among
individuals. Some see and venerate him as an all-powerful
living, God of flesh and blood or –according to their
interpretations of the Bible— a divine spirit manifest and
represented in Selassie; for others, he is the Mesias, the
Son of Psalm Two, or a reencarnation of Jesus (in his
second coming to earth prophesized in the Bible), or at
least akin to Him, from his same lineage, whose arrival the
first Jesus Christ had announced.[16] Others still consider
that he is at the same time God the Father and God the Son
from the Holy Trinity, to which every human being would be
potentially linked in the form of the Holy Spirit, to
complete the Holy Trinity:[17] by considering themselves in
communion with Selassie, and because the latter would live
inside them, they would also be kings and princes.[18] Some
Rastafari take Selassie for “the fourth avatar” and the
“climax of God’s revelation”, following Moses, Elijah and
Jesus Christ.[19] More generally, the Rastafari saw in
Selassie “the Black Mesias appeared in flesh and blood to
redeem all Blacks that are exhiled in the world of white
oppressors,”[20] taking them to Africa, the promised land.
Many believed that Selassie would fix the date of the Final
Judgement, when the righteous would return to their home on
Mount Zion and forever live in peace, love and harmony.[21]

Beyond the coincidences with biblical enonciations and the
effects of the unusual access to power of a Black sovereign
in an independent African territory, certain circumstances
surrounding Selassie’s crowning contributed to foment his
deification. The document conventionally considered the
first of true Rastafari inspiration, The Promised Key,
published by Howell under a pseudonym in the early 1930s,
offers us a glimpse of the impact that Selassie’s crowning
had among Caribbean Blacks. Howell assures that he
witnessed the coronation on November 2, 1930 in Addis
Ababa, and since them proclaimed a doctrine that places
Selassie as “true leader of Creation”.[22] To understand
the commotion experienced in the minds of many one must
bear in mind –on the one hand— the effects of the splendour
of the ceremony, abundantly reported by the world media,
that excited the imagination of readers in various
countries.[23] On the other hand, the information that
Selassie was a direct descendant of King David and 225th
sovereign in an uninterrupted list of kings since Menelik
I, son of Solomon, had a special impact in the minds of
Blacks in search for a Mesias. The racial pride evident in
the monarch’s beraring, the meaning of his name (Haile
Selassie meant “Power of the Trinity” in ancient Geez) and
his titles of “Chosen by God,” “Conquering Lion of the
Tribe of Judeah” [24], also captured Caribbean minds,
although they were the normal titles of Ethiopian monarchs.
That is why, in the Rastafari imaginary, his throne should
represent that of God on Earth, established through the
Alliance sealed between God and King David, mentioned in
the Old Testament (2 Samuel 7).[25]

Even if searching mainly in the New Testament the
prophecies that would justify Selassie’s divinity, the
Rastafari –as does the Orthodox Ethiopian Church— emphasize
the Old Testament much more than other Christian churches.
This would explain the association, on the one hand, of
Zion and Ethiopia, Africa, the Promised Land, Paradise
stolen from them and to be restored, and, on the other,
Babylon and suffering on earth in the midst of white
Western culture, and that is why they willingly embraced
Garvey’s proposals about migrating to Africa.[26] Four of
the eight dates that the Rastafari usually celebrate have
to do with Selassie (his royal and ceremonial birthdays and
the anniversaries of his coronation and his visit to
Jamaica), and a fifth, with Ethiopia: the Ethiopian
Orthodox Christmas.[27]

At the inception of Ethiopian culture we find the Sabean
peoples of Semitic origin, who brought their Geez lenguage
and writing from Arabia around the last millennium b.c.,
and mixed with Kushitic Black Africans. In Ethiopia we also
find falasha or “Black Jews”, whose practices must have
entered the country in remote times, considering the
ancient type of Judaism that they practice and their use of
vernacular Ethiopian languages –and not Hebrew— in their
liturgy.[28] On the other hand, many Rastafari consider
themselves the legitimate Israeli, descendants of one of
the twelve tribes of Israel, enslaved later on. Therefore,
they tend to follow an ital diet according to the norms of
the Old Testament (as Orthodox Ethiopians), excluding pork.
Furthermore, some Rastafari highly appraise (besides the
Bible) the Kebra Negast, “Book of the Glory of Kings,”
written in the late 13th Century to substantiate the
Solomonic origin of ruling dynasties.[29] It was precisely
this work that allowed Selassie to present himself –in an
exaggerated way, as far as history has proven— as king
number 225 in an uninterrupted list begun, according to
tradition, with Menelik I in 980 b.c.[30]

Repercussions in Africa and the Caribbean

Haile Selassie’s popularity –and even more: his
deification— among the Blacks of Jamaica and other parts of
the diaspora exploded at the very instant of his crowning
and must have surprised the monarch: in fact, during the
more than four decades of Selassie’s rule –as a distant
God— we cannot find any testimony whatsoever of his
opinions on the Rastafari movement.[31]

As in Medieval European countries, the Negus was invested
with a supreme religious authority at the head of the
Ethiopian Orthodox Church, even over the Abuna, its major
national hierarchy, underlining the fusion of religious and
political powers in one and the same individual. But at the
time of his crowning, as from the inception of Ethiopia’s
Christianization in mid-4th Century a.c., Ethiopian
Orthodoxy was ruled by the Coptic Orthodox Pope in
Alexandria, Patriarch of All Africa, a situation that ended
in 1959. From this year on, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
became independent, and then Selassie’s religious authority
was unlimited. Nevertheless, the Patriarch of that church
cautioned, at a given moment, against an excessive
“deification” of Selassie, and there are reports that this
church has baptized and converted many Rastafari to
Orthodox Christianity.

In Jamaica, the loyalty extended by the Rastafari to
someone who was also the head of state of a foreign nation
had its repercussions. By pinning all their faith on
Selassie at the begining of the movement, the Rastafari
proclaimed themselves free citizens of Ethiopia,
subordinated to its Emperor and devoted to its flag: even
the colors adopted by the Rastafari are the Ethiopian
national hue –red, yellow or gold and green—, to which
Garvey had added Black. All this led to a ferocious
repression by British colonialism in Jamaica that caused
deaths and Leonard Howell’s incarceration in 1934, accused
of sedition[32] for having called the King of England an
impostor in The Promised Key.[33] In the following decades
the movement grew and political unrest increased, also due
to agitation for independence. Although in the 1950s
Selassie had received several Rastafari elders and even
allowed some Blacks from the diaspora to establish
themselves on lands that he owned, in 1960 a Rastafari
delegation returned from Ethiopia seemingly convinced of
the impossibility of large-scale migrations of Caribbean
Blacks to that country.[34] In 1963, shortly after the
creation of the Organization of African Unity, that fixed
its secretariat in Addis Ababa –a step that enhanced
Ethiopia’s world prestige— Haile Selassie pronounced a
memorable address at the United Nations headquarters that
had repercussions among the Rastafari due to his calls to
peace, and also inspired a song by Bob Marley. Afterwards,
in April 1966, Selassie visited Jamaica and enjoyed a
grandiose popular welcome: many Jamaicans –as did Rita, who
would later marry Bob Marley— thought they saw signs of
Selassie’s divinity (it is true that a long drought
concluded upon his very arrival) that induced them to join
the Rastafari. Nevertheless, Selassie also advised that,
before attempting to migrate to Ethiopia, Jamaicans should
seek to free themselves.[35] Selassie continued, however,
to be a central icon in Rastafari ideology and frequently
came up in Jamaican national politics, as evidenced by
Michael Manley’s (leader of the National People’s Party)
appearance, in the course of the 1972 electoral campaign,
with a cane –a present from the Negus— appealing to
Rastafari support.[36]

Haile Selassie’s demise in 1974, and above all his death on
the following year, shook the Rastafari faith. Many
followers refused to accept the death of a “God”; others,
again, searched for biblical explanations and thought they
found them in the prophecies of Apocalipse 2 Esdras 7:28;
others took it as a normal development and argued that his
spirit would remain omnipresent[37] and his divinity would
not perish, for it would reincarnate and continue to live,
furthermore, within each Rastafari.[38] Nevertheless,
Selassie’s physical disappearance did affect the movement.

In spite of this, the Rastafari continued to operate in
various directions. Many approached the Ethiopian Orthodox
Church and nowadays some associate the movement to this
faith. Some of the converts argue that there are deliberate
mistranslations of the Bible to European languages and
therefore seek the Ahmaric version that Haile Selassie
authorized in the 1950s, for until then all copies
circulating in Ethiopia were written in Geez. As a
consequence of this, and of the wish to approach Ethiopian
culture, it is now frequent to find Rastafari who study

Lastly (and although some Rastafari criticize reggae as a
commercial product akin to Babylon), music, and more
particularly that of Bob Marley, have had an enormous
importance in the dissemination of Rastafari ideas.
Inspired by Selassie’s above-mentioned speech, Marley
composed the following text of a song:

WAR Until the philosophy which hold one race Superior and
another inferior Is finally and permanently discredited and
abandoned Everywhere is war, me say war

That until there are no longer first class And second class
citizens of any nation Until the colour of a man's skin Is
of no more significance than the colour of his eyes Me say

That until the basic human rights are equally Guaranteed to
all, without regard to race Dis a war

That until that day The dream of lasting peace, world
citizenship Rule of international morality Will remain in
but a fleeting illusion To be persued, but never attained
Now everywhere is war, war

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our
brothers in Angola, in Mozambique, South Africa sub-human
bondage Have been toppled, utterly destroyed Well,
everywhere is war, me say war

War in the east, war in the west War up north, war down
south War, war, rumours of war

And until that day, the African continent Will not know
peace, we Africans will fight We find it necessary and we
know we shall win As we are confident in the victory

Of good over evil, good over evil, good over evil Good over
evil, good over evil, good over evil [39]

In February 2005, tens of thousands of peoples converged on
Addis Ababa, venue cosen by his widow and sons to
commemorate the 60th anniversary of the birth of Bob
Marley, who had died in 1981, and this celebration provided
the material for the documentary Africa Unite. With his
work of humanity and peace, Marley incarnates the best of
the Rastafari movement and its genetical link with
Ethiopian culture, that continues to re-fashion itself and
to disseminate, vigorously still, on its third millennium.

[1] Daily Monitor (Addis Ababa): “Ethiopia: Marley Documentary Film
Premiered at National Palace”, 17 September 2007. Celebrations counted on
the collaboration of the African Union, the Ethiopian government, the UN
Commission for Africa, the World Bank and UNICEF. (Id.)
[2] Molla, Dr. A.: “Ethiopian Millennium Project”, in
[3] Phillipson, D. W.: Ancient Ethiopia: Aksum: Its Antecedents and
Successors, Frome & London, The British Museum Press , 1998, p. 145
[4] Phillipson, o.c., p. 9
[5] Pager, O.: Éthiopie: Manuscrits à peintures, Collection UNESCO de l’Art
mondial, Paris, 1961, p. 15
[6] For a detailed explanation of the causes that allowed Ethiopia to
safeguard its independence at this crucial juncture, see Rubenson, S.: The
Survival of Ethiopian Independence, London, Heinemann, 1976, or its summary
in González López, D.: Etiopía, la oposición contrarrevolucionaria, La
Habana, Ed. Ciencias Sociales, 1987, p. 21-59.
[7] Address by Garvey on 6 June, 1928, at the Royal Albert Hall, in London.
[8] Address of 1927, quoted by Barret, L. E.: The Rastafarians: Sounds of
Cultural Dissonance, 1998, Library of Congress Cataloging in Publications
Data, p. 67; also in “Rastafarians”, , p. 2
[9] Ibid., p. 67
[10] By the way, although Howell is conventionally considered the “first
rasta”, it has been observed that various other street preachers in Jamaica
and elsewhere in the Caribbean had already arrived on their own, towards
1930, to the same conclusion of seeing in the newly crowned sovereign in
Ethiopia the cherished saviour of Blacks –others would be Joseph Hibbert,
Archibald Dunkley, Leonard Howell and Robert Hind—, so it has been
recommended not to give Howell all the credit for founding the movement.
See “Rastafari movement”, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia in
[11] King, S.: “International Reggae, Democratic Socialism, and the
Secularization of the Rastafarian Movement, 1972-1980”, Popular Music and
Society, 22 (3), 1998, p. 51-52
[12] Patterson, O. "Ras Tafari: The Cult of Outcasts." New Society(1), 1964,
p. 16. The other five principles were “hatred towards the white race, the
total superiority of the Black race, revenge from whites because of their
wickedness and the negation, persecution and humiliation at the hands of the
Jamaican government and its legal entities”. (Id.)
[13] Id., p. 16
[14] “Rastafari movement”, Wikipedia, o.c.
[15] Id.
[16] Branch, R.: “Rastafarianism”, in The Watchman Expositor: Rastafarianism
Profile, in
[17] Id.
[18] “Rastafari movement”, Wikipedia, o.c.
[19] Branch, o.c.
[20] Pettiford, E. T.: “Rastafarianism”, in
[21] “Rastafari movement”, Wikipedia, o.c.
[22] Id.
[23] Between the dates of the coronation (1930) and the Italian invasion
(1935), that Selassie exerted extraordinary but useless diplomatic efforts
to avoid, his photos appeared frequently in the world press: in fact, his
was the first Black face to appear on the cover of Time Magazine (on 3
November 1935), that chose him “personality of the year” in 1935 and had
already published, as well as the National Geographic, two articles on
successive issues on the coronation. But also in Caribbean countries the
local press closely followed the steps of the young monarch. See “Rastafari
movement”, Wikipedia, o.c.
[24] The Rastafari dreadlocks, inspired on Kenya’s Kikuyu fighters of the
early 1950s, also imitated the lion’s mane.
[25] Pettiford, o.c.
[26] Id..
[27] The three others are Marcus Garvey’s and Bob Marley’s birthdays, and
the anniversary of the abolition of slavery.
[28] Phillipson, o.c., p. 20, observes that, consequently, “they are not
Jews in the sense usually attributed to the term nowadays,” although “they
share a common ancestry with modern Judaism”.
[29] Id., p. 140
[30] “Rastafari movement”, in Wikipedia, o.c.
[31] “A Sketch of Rastafari History” in , p. 2
[32] “Rastafari movement”, in Wikipedia, o.c.
[33] Id.
[34] Barret, o.c., p. 100-101
[35] Barret, o.c., p. 158-160
[36] “Rastafari movement”, in Wikipedia, o.c.
[37] Cashmore, E.: “Rastaman: The Rastafarian Movement in England”, London,
1979, G. Allen and Unwin, p. 59-60
[38] Branch, o.c.
[39] Pettiford, o.c.