Vol IX, Issue 4 (Fall 2002): Human Rights, Apartheid and Reparations
Peter K. LeMaire
Bernice A. LeMaire
For more information
Human Rights, Apartheid and Reparations
On November 1, 2002, the Ninth Annual Conference of the African Studies Committee was held at CCSU on the theme "Reparations Truth and Reconciliation.'' It focused on the various sociological, psychological and economic dimensions of the enslavement of Africans in the Americas, on the burial remains and artifacts recently excavated by archeologists, and on the need for "reparations and renaissance.''
Another conference, held a week earlier at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, under the auspices of the Institute of Comparative Human Rights and the UNESCO Chair in Comparative Human Rights, considered the legal dimensions of the reparations movement.
This contrasted with the socio-economic, psychological and archeological orientations of the conference at CCSU. Furthermore, a major focus of the Storrs conference was human rights violations in Apartheid South Africa, which was in contrast to the CCSU conference focus on the United States.
In this issue of AfricaUpdate we include discussions and commentaries emanating from or related to the two conferences. We include the address of Ed Fagan, the legal luminary who litigated the Jewish holocaust cases between 1995 and 2000 and won compensation from 65 German corporations and several Swiss Banks. Mr Fagan is the lead attorney in the class action law suit against the various corporations in Europe and the United States that benefitted from South African Apartheid. He has also filed a class action law suit on behalf of the descendants of enslaved African-Americans and discussed issues related to that case and the double standards that we must fight against in our quest for truth and justice. In her commentary, Professor Walton Brown-Foster explains the socio-political context of white supremacist policy in both regions at the level of public policy and otherwise. We thank them for their contribution and express special thanks to the Institute of Human Rights for granting us access to these memorable discussions of Tuesday October 22, 2002.
Gloria Emeagwali, Chief Editor
Return to :Table of Contents
By Attorney Ed Fagan*
I litigated the holocaust case. Some people say I didn't litigate it. Some people say I litigated it in the media. It worked. You think they coughed up 10 billion dollars because people were just fighting in the court rooms. They coughed up ten billion dollars because we embarassed the s. . . out of them. If you are going to behave that way we are going to expose you to the public. We would show the world how you discriminate and we took thousands of people along. After the holocaust cases were over there was a young lady by the name of Deadria Farmer-Paellmann who came to me and said ``how come you don't sue the American corporations that profited from slavery.'' I thought of every reason in the book for not taking that case and you know what really ticked me off was that out of all those supposedly strong, brilliant, dedicated lawyers who were working for all those cases not a single one of them would touch that case. Were they scared? Maybe they were scared. Maybe because they could not make money. Maybe because they were embarrassed. Maybe because it was too personal. Maybe because it was too hard. Or just maybe they were not interested in that case.
Well that case is going. That gentleman sitting in the second row is named Dick Barber. Dick Barber is one of the lead plaintiffs in that lawsuit. That's the case that we have invited Judge Ntsebeza to join us in. That case is going to be probably the most divisive or probably the most unifying case in the annals of legal history in the United States. There are no two ways about it. Either the descendants of former enslaved African Americans, the descendants of African Americans get justice or we have to wonder what is justice. How come that crime--how come those companies don't have to pay. The last time I checked there was no statute of limitations on murder and on certain crimes against humanity. That case would be fought. We would fight it to the supreme court and you know what, those corporations cannot afford to lose those cases. Because what if I was a descendant of an enslaved African American and my people did not get reparations and everyone else did?
Then along comes the apartheid case. Apartheid is a perfect case. You know why? Well what are these cases about? Simply, you cannot allow corporations to get away with profiteering off acts they commit against individuals. It may be a corporation but there are people behind these corporations and they are making decisions and when they make decisions people die. People died in South Africa because of the corporations' decisions. People were enslaved in South Africa because of the corporations' decisions. The corporations must be held responsible. The reason why it is such a great case? When did apartheid end? 1994. The shortest statute of limitations is ten years under what is called The Torture Victims Compensation Act. Even that statute we're under.
In 15 years from today there is going to be another UNESCO conference and there is going to be another country highlighted. You have the chance to change the world. You have the power. The only thing that makes the difference is whether or not you make that decision. Do you just say, sitting right here, when you are not faced to make that choice, that it is something that you are going to do or are you going to wait for somebody to throw you in jail. I encourage all of you not to wait for someone to throw you in a jail. That is what the Jews did in Europe, the German Jews. They waited, and as they rounded up everybody sooner or later they got to them--and so too, the South Africans.
You really can stop it. If you don't stop it, and if you don't do something - we have another expression - if you sit by in silence, you are as guilty as the people who do it.
This address was given at the Third Annual Comparative Human Rights Conference, University of Connecticut, Storrs, October 22, 2002.
Return to : Table of Contents
Excerpts from a discussion with Ed Fagan and Panelists
Fagan: It is ironic that the only group that so far is being excluded when it comes to issues of reparations are Blacks---whether they are the descendants of enslaved African Americans or they are victims of apartheid violence---the largest group are Blacks. Always.
Panelist: Why is that Sir?
Fagan: Maybe old vestiges of guilt. Maybe white supremacy. I have no idea why.
When the definition for what constitutes an injustice or human rights violation for which reparations should be granted, once that definition started evolving, you can't stop it, now. Native Americans got reparations. Eskimos got not only reparations but they got land, and so did Native Americans. Korean ``Comfort Women,'' Japanese who were interned in American prisons during the Second World War, [and] victims from the Second World War not just of the Japanese---they are getting compensation now. The holocaust case was not just about Jews but all victims of Nazi-related human rights violations. Those included Jews as a large group. But you also had people from the Eastern European countries from Poland, from the Baltic States, the Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria. . .and now when we come to the issue of African Americans and Africans people are saying that we don't apply those same definitions.
The claim against the corporations that profited from and during slavery---most people are missing the point in the case. The point isn't just that you were slave owners. The point is that you profited from an illegal act. That illegal act was the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Panelist: How about those who say simply that the differentiation between the victims and those who were ``descendants of'' is a distinction.
Fagan: It is not a distinction. They don't know the holocaust cases. The holocaust case victims had direct payments to those who were alive, and who were the direct victims, and they had payments to their heirs.
Panelist: How much of the $10 billion would you guesstimate was paid to heirs of victims?
Fagan: Well you can't do it from the 10 billion dollars. German reparations over a period of the last 50 years were closer to $100 billion deutsch marks. That would be 50 or 60 billion dollars. The total number is let's say $60 billion. Of the 60 billion the lion's share were property type claims. Those claims had been recognized earlier on. We simply found loopholes in a bunch of these and we reapplied the old stuff.
Panelist: . . .so there was money given to the descendants of holocaust victims and you're saying that there is not a distinction. Most folks don't realize that, right?
Fagan: Most people choose not to write about it because if you write about it you open up this pandora's box which is--Oh my God, I thought there was a difference between the Jewish claims--or the holocaust claims--and the descendants of enslaved African Americans or the apartheid case. I thought there was a difference I thought there was a perfectly understandable difference. When people start looking more carefully and they see that there truly isn't a difference, then we come back to the question I started with which is that the only group that has not been given an opportunity for reparations has a skin color that is much darker than mine. Why is that?
Panelist: Where does that case stand now?
Fagan: Which case? The African American? The first cases were filed in March 21st in New York. Dick's case was filed May 1st. What we did was what you have to do. You consolidate all the cases. You sue where you find the defendants or where you have the plaintiffs we couldn't sue every body in New York. We couldn't sue everybody in New Jersey. Since then we have had filings in Texas, Louisiana, California and Illinois. So there are at least five to six cases. Those cases are now being consolidated by a panel of federal judges. The reason is you don't want to have all those cases out there and have inconsistent results. I am getting to your answer about the status of the case. The federal panel consolidates all the cases and sends them to a single judge. . . Then a supervisory panel of federal judges decides that all of the African American cases are being assigned to a judge so and so in such a district. On September 26 we argued the motion to consolidate and we are waiting for the consolidation---for the order to come---and then all cases whether filed already or filed in the future or not would then go to the judge. . .
Panelist: Have you received any death threats?
Fagan: Yes we have. . .in all of these cases.
Panelist: That young woman from NY--Deadria Farmer-Paellmann--are you part of that effort?
Fagan: You've got three groups of people who claim to be interested in reparations for African Americans. You have a group called N'Cobra; then the RCC an ad-hoc committee, formed about two years ago. That is, these ten guys that you are talking about. The third group is us. (To be continued)
*Ed Fagan is a Class Action Attorney who has filed against US and other corporations on behalf of victims of apartheid in South Africa and the descendants of enslaved African Americans. Mr. Fagan was the lead lawyer in the Jewish Reparations Holocaust class lawsuit filed on behalf of the victims of the Nazis and their descendants between 1996 and 2000. This address and interview were given at the Third Annual Comparative Human Rights Conference under the auspices of the UNESCO Chairholder in Comparative Human Rights, Professor Amii Omara-Otunnu, and the Institute of Comparative Human Rights, University of Connecticut, Storrs, October 22, 2002.
Return to :Table of Contents
Three Links on Reparations
AfricaUpdate Special issue on reparations:
The N'COBRA Web Site. National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America:
Reparations History. Ending Genocidal Legacy of Slavery (conference)
Former CCSU Student Returns to Campus
On November 14, Martin Burrows a former student of CCSU discussed his travels in Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Guinea between 1998 and 2002 to a full audience, in Marcus White Hall, CCSU.
Mr Burrows, a 1995 Graduate of International Studies and African Studies gave illuminating perspectives on music, cuisine, dress and literature in the region to a very attentive audience. He was particularly enthusiastic about his stay in Guinea and made special mention of the recently established center named after Kwame Touré, one of the stalwarts of the Black Power movement and former husband of the veteran South African singer Miriam Makeba.
Mr. Burrows recalled that his dissertation thesis was on pan-Africanism and that his visit to five African countries within the last decade was indeed a dream come true. Mr Burrows has plans to resume his travels within the continent at a future date. He concluded his talk by recommending a series of web sites, programs and job opportunities for those wishing to visit the region for an extended period.
Return to :Table of Contents
American Jim Crow and South African Apartheid
A Commentary by Walton Brown Foster,
Professor of Political Science, CCSU
Thirty-three years after the first English colony in North America was established, Jamestown (1619), European settlers forged their way into South Africa (1652). The subsequent creation and implementation of legal constructs and policies that served to underpin the systems of "White Supremacy,'' in the United States and South Africa, marked the bleakest era in the development of democracy in both nations and for that matter the world. Both systems are testimony to the sad reality that the constructs and institutions of democracy are nothing but hollow shells when the true ``spirit'' of democracy and the principles of human rights are absent.
The systems of Jim Crow and Apartheid the South African variety of Mr. Crow laid the foundations for the legal separation of the races and the legal and political constructs of a "White Supremacist'' order. In the United States, Jim Crow resulted in the re-establishment of the previous system of racial subjugation that was broken temporarily with the victory of the Union at the end of the Civil War. Jim Crow marked an end to the era of Reconstruction, the "twilight of democracy'' for Black Americans, at least in legal and constitutional terms, and the beginning of another long period of authoritarian rule and Black subjugation.
In a similar historical context, the emergence of the legal and constitutional foundations for the system of Apartheid in South Africa were codified and condensed after World War II. The defeat of Nazi Germany was tragically followed by the election of an Afrikaner Nationalist party government. The Nationalist party, not surprisingly, allied itself with political goals and ``spirit'' of Aryan supremacy of Nazi Germany. Although the system of racial subjugation had always existed in both legal and de facto terms prior to the election of the Nationalist Party government, in 1948, the pre-existing local and regional systems of racial domination were codified and standardized at the national level.
The creation of these two systems in two very different centuries and countries served to reunify Whites in both nations after a period of bitter conflict and division. In the United States, Jim Crow emerged as a result of a political compromise in which the future of Black Americans was traded for political power and the Presidency. Political power in the South was returned to the traditional Southern elite, all past crimes were forgiven bygones became bygones.
Similarly, in South Africa, the establishment of a national level system of Apartheid began with its independence from Great Britain. The power struggle between the British and the colonial Afrikaners was resolved and British withdrawal from the nation was completed at the expense of millions in the majority Black population. The formation of the independent country was conditioned upon the creation of white minority government and the creation of homelands for the majority Black population. By 1948, the ongoing division between Afrikaner whites and the British whites was bridged with the full and complete consolidation of the Apartheid and National Security State.
Whether one factors in the use of Race as a political organizing concept or uses a traditional class analysis, the end result in both nations was the same the emergence of a racial hierarchy in social, economic, political, and legal terms.
The legal instruments of racial separation and subjugation used in both nations are comparable. In the United States, the constitutional and legal end of Reconstruction era was marked by the systematic destruction of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. During the last two decades of the 19th century, US Supreme Court rulings not only politically and economically disenfranchised Black Americans, but also imperiled the very lives of millions of men women and children.
The parallels between the two systems of legal subjugation are too strikingly similar to be mere coincidence. It suggests the shared hubris of superiority that advanced the interests of one racial group at the expense of another using legal and institutional apparati in both nations.
Jim Crow laws were predicated upon the fantasy of the "separate but equal" legitimated by the 1898 US Supreme Court Plessy vs. Ferguson decision. Apartheid was justified by a fictional morality of separate development.
In the American system of Jim Crow more than 400 state laws, constitutional amendments, and city ordinances legalized segregation, discrimination, and subjugation. The laws were passed from 1865 until 1967. The legal environment encouraged another era of violence and lynching against Black Americans. The laws governed every aspect of daily life at the local, state, and national level. Although, the southern states passed the highest percentage of Jim Crow legislation, all states in every region of the country legislated some aspect of Jim Crow. In 1949 only 15 states had no segregation laws in effect, 20 prohibited segregated schools and 14 required separate railroad accommodations.1
Jim Crow laws included an obsessive attention to the prohibition of miscegenation. The bulk of Jim Crow laws were aimed at its prohibition. 127 anti-miscegenation laws were passed between 1865 and 1950. Other laws prohibited interracial adoption, the authorization and legalization of segregated schools, separate public accommodations and facilities, separate systems of taxation, poll taxes, literacy tests, white primaries, debt peonage, convict labor, prohibitions of property and business ownership. The laws varied from state to state.
The Apartheid state emerged using many of the very same legal elements involved in American Jim Crow thus given legal agency to the hubris of race superiority in both nations. The bulk of Apartheid legislation was passed in the 1950s. Ironically, just as the modern Civil Rights Movement in the United States was beginning to show force.
The first major legal construct of Apartheid was the 1950 Population Registration Act, which established the formal system of racial classification. This was followed and reinforced by the Group Areas Act, which assigned races to different geographic residential and business territories. In 1952 the Pass Law was legislated requiring non-whites to carry legal passes and papers. This was, no doubt, a legal construct borrowed from the Nazi regime. In 1953, the system of separate public facilities and accommodations was legally constructed. The Bantu self-government act was passed in 1959. New Apartheid laws regulations continued to be implemented well into the 1980s.2
It is ironic that inherent in the legal institutions and political processes that created of the apartheid systems were the seeds of systemic destruction. Whereas democratic processes were used to create anti-democratic institutions and legal constructs, democratic processes were used to effectively dismantle those institutions. In both systems, the structural violence of the systems was reinforced by the actual use of violence and force against all who resisted the systems. Both system generated continuous resistance and, indeed, radicalized the efforts of Blacks to challenge subjugation. Both systems catalyzed the creation of trans-racial, transnational and international coalitions and movements that would facilitate their collapse.
The internationalization of resistance to South African Apartheid was critical to its final demise. Without international involvement, American Jim Crow was defeated solely by the domestic forces of resistance, just as the remnants of the system continue to be fought. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the failure of South African Apartheid became inevitable with every effective blow to American Jim Crow.
The changed racial regime, at least in legal terms, in the United States made it possible for an effective international system of sanctions to be brought to bear against South Africa. Without US support sanctions proved to have limited success. Every blow against American Apartheid aided the monumental efforts of the ANC and Nelson Mandela. The newfound access to the US Congress by Black leadership and organizations such as TransAfrica facilitated a policy change by Congress. This would not have been possible without an end to American Apartheid brought about by the centuries long struggles and successes of Blacks in America.
The same institutional force that supported American Apartheid, the US Congress, overrode the Reagan presidential veto of US sanctions against Apartheid in 1985. Continued international pressure and ANC activity led to the dismantling of the apartheid in the 1990s and the creation of the present post-apartheid government.
Although, both systems were legally abolished in both nations, the legacy of each is testament to great human loss and suffering. The toll paid by millions of Africans and their descendants in the US remain fully untold. The legacies of Apartheid and Jim Crow have at least begun to be told. Unfortunately, similar legacies in Brazil and other parts of Latin America, for example, have not been fully and satisfactorily exposed.
Return to :Table of Contents
Extract from The Assassination of Lumumba
By Ludo de Witte (Verso, 2002, p.xiii ISBN 1 -85984 - 410 - 3)
In July 1960, after Belgium intervened in the Congo and after the rich copper state of Katanga seceded, the United States went into action. The Western superpower supported intervention by the United Nations to stop Lumumba, calling on friendly African armies or the Soviet union to help it combat Belgian---Katangese aggression. Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, deployed an impressive array of military force. The Blue berets protected Katanga and played a decisive role in overthrowing the Congolese government. Meanwhile, US President Dwight Eisenhower had instructed his aides to liquidate Lumumba and a top secret CIA unit was given the task of eliminating him. Brussels wholeheartedly agreed with this objective and also sent out a commando force.
While the US and Belgium were plotting murder, other Western powers were equally convinced that Lumumba represented a big danger to their colonial enterprise in Africa. On 19 September 1960, the American president and the British foreign minister, Lord Hume, discussed the Congo crisis. The minutes of that meeting suggest that London could have known of Washington's plan to assassinate Lumumba who had, in the meantime, been removed from office: ``The president expressed his wish that Lumumba would fall into a river full of crocodiles; Lord Home said regretfully that we have lost many of the techniques of old fashioned diplomacy.'' A week later, President Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan met, accompanied by their respective foreign ministers.
The record of this meeting leaves little to the imagination as far as London's intentions were concerned.
Return to :Table of Contents
Reparations: Anti-debt campaigners and pressure grou spearhead the New York case
By Rob Rose, Johannesburg, 13 November 2002
A LAWSUIT has been lodged in a US court against 21 global business giants alleged to have earned billions through propping up Apartheid.
The claim, lodged in the New York Eastern District Court, was brought by anti-debt campaigners Jubilee 2000 and reparations pressure group Khulumani.
The companies being sued include banks, oil giants, technology firms and arms suppliers from the US, UK, Switzerland, France, Holland and Germany.
The banks are Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Commerzbank, Dresdner Bank, UBS and JP Morgan Chase.
Oil companies include Shell, Caltex, British Petroleum, Total and Exxon, while automobile giants named include Ford, Daimler Chrysler and General Motors.
IBM and Fujitsu have also been named, while mining giant Rio Tinto was added to the list on Monday.
"These firms knowingly propped up the Apartheid state and made huge profits by doing so,'' said Jubilee SA spokesman Neville Gabriel.
These pressure groups said that as the United Nations advocated foreign companies to break off contact with Apartheid-era SA, these firms helped keep the Apartheid state running.
The two groups say they represent over 33,000 claimants, all of whom are members of Khulumani. One of the two lawyers representing the claimants, Charles Abrahams, said that no value has yet been placed on the claims.
This is the second claim lodged against companies alleged to have benefited from Apartheid.
US lawyer Edward Fagan launched legal action in the US in June claiming $50bn on behalf of Apartheid victims from many of the same companies. Fagan made his name by successfully claiming about R10bn from Swiss banks on behalf of victims of the Holocaust during the Second World War.
Jubilee 2000 and Khulumani distanced themselves from Fagan, saying there were "substantial differences between Fagan's broad class action and our specific claim.''
Abrahams said that there were three core elements to the legal action; individual reparations for those who suffered directly as a result of Apartheid, a class action for communities that were harmed, and a claim for the cancellation of Apartheid debt owed to these multinationals.
If successful, damages for community reparation are expected to be placed in an Apartheid debt fund from which these communities could claim.
As for debt cancellation, Jubilee 2000 estimated that debts inherited by the government in 1994 amounted to $26bn, which was owed by the public sector to multinational firms.
The two groups said the claims stem from the "material ways'' in which the companies named helped prop up Apartheid.
They claimed that banks provided funding which allowed SA to expand its police and security apparatus, car manufacturers provided armoured vehicles to security forces, while arms manufacturers and oil companies violated the embargoes on sales to partheid-era SA.
Abrahams said that if successful, the case would set an international precedent.
Shell SA and Barclays said that its parent in no way supported Apartheid, while Credit Suisse said in reports that there was no link between the actions of the apartheid state and the bank's business activities.
Lawyers for Jubilee SA and Khulumani said that the case is based on customary international law and international treaty law. University of the Witwatersrand academic Shadrack Gutto said that there was a "strong legal grounding'' for the suit.
Source: Business Day (Johannesburg)
Return to :Table of Contents
By Haines Brown, CCSU History Department, Emeritus
I here revisit the sending of computer (digital) information over radio links in Africa. While this approach has some disadvantages, its chief benefit is that it makes Internet links possible under conditions that would otherwise be prohibitive. I will describe a U.N. operation in the Republic of Guinea as an example.
In Guinea there are two serious handicaps: the lack of a reliable infrasture, and abject poverty. The usual method for computer-mediated communications is to use landlines, perhaps in conjunction with satellite. This requires both universal electrification and reliable telephone lines. Unfortunately, Guinea, otherwise so rich in resources, lacks either.
The U.N. International Rescue Committee (IRC) established a mission in Guinea to handle refugees fleeing the political turmoil in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Because of insufficient infrastructure, the IRC had to import diesel-electric generators to power two-way high frequency (HF) radios at its three field stations. At these frequencies it is possible to communicate with any point in Guinea with very little power, and power is the principle factor in the cost of transmitters. Amateur radio operators, using equipment that can cost as little as $100 to assemble, seek to work all 52 states using just 5 watts, which can be readily provided by small solar panels.
The linking of computers by radio represents what is called a HF radio-based Wide Area Network (WAN). The computers that are the nodes of this network run the Linux operating system so that there is low cost, excellent reliability, and ready support for the PPP protocol to exchange e-mail. Besides the transmission of medical data files and e-mail, radio offers the additional advantage of supporting voice communications as an alternative to telephone.
The big drawback of a HF-radio WAN is its lack of bandwidth. The radio modems (a device to convert digital computer language to the analog data transmitted by radio) support only 2400 baud, and for various reasons, the practical bandwidth is about 300 baud. While this suffices for e-mail and data transfer, it is not sufficient for the transfer of the graphical and sound data that we associate with Internet. However, it would work with the very useful non-graphical text-based browser, Lynx, which would offer a practical interface with web pages such as the google search engine.
The TCP/IP protocol (rather than unix-to-unix copy protocol---UUCP) was used because with Linux the former is quite easy to configure. Furthermore, it is compatible with other networks in Guinea. When the possibility for greater bandwidh emerges, computers using TCP/IP will be able to take immediate advantage of it.
The radios in Guinea, as is typical of other agencies in Africa, are made by Codan in Australia. The Codan 9002 modem sells for about $500. It uses an AT command set and so is readily driven by any Linux telecommunications application, such as Minicom or Kermit.
While the result is indeed slow, it works well. An alternative might to use be spread spectrum, but it is unreliable at HF because of inconsistant ionospheric bending throughout the spectrum. A 3 or 6-kHz wide system using MIL-STD-188-110A/B compatible modem, such as the Harris RF5710a, has only 3 kHz bandwidth, and its cost would be high. In theory the best signal/power solution at HF would be a M-ary-FSK mode. Various forms of it have been used in commercial RTTY-like communciations such as Piccolo, but you need special radios to go beyond a 3 kHz RF bandwidth.
Return to :Table of Contents