8 October 2008

Africa: Celebrating the 400th Issue of Pambazuka News


This is the 400th issue of Pambazuka News. As if to mark this occasion, we received news today that, for the fourth year running, Pambazuka News has been voted amongst the top 10 websites "who are changing the world of Internet and Politics" by PoliticsOnline and eDemocracy Forum. But to make this really special, we learned that, thanks to you - our readers, contributors and supporters - we received the highest number of votes cast, more votes than Barack Obama's entry in the competition!

Pambazuka News was established to provide a platform for nurturing the (re)emergence of a progressive pan African movement. Over a period eight years, some 1,200 citizens - academics, social activists, women's organizations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators - have contributed to Pambazuka News to produce insightful and thoughtful analyses that make it the most innovative and influential sites for social justice in Africa. It is this community that have made Pambazuka News 'successful'.

But, as the contributors in this special celebratory issue point out, there remains much to be done. The growth of Pambazuka News has to be seen in the context of the struggles of the emerging movement in Africa. We are living in a period of an unprecedented upsurge of social movements across the continent. The last popular upsurge in the post second world war period swept the continent with cries of freedom from colonial oppression, bringing about political independence to every country on the continent. But one form of oppression has been replaced by another - the neo-colonial yoke. The leaders in whom we had such faith have sold our heritage in a manner predicted by Frantz Fanon at a time that few of us had any inkling of what the new post-colonial world would look like. In most countries, the majority of people are poorer today than they were 20 years ago. 'Development', that euphemism for the re(construction) of a modernised capitalist world, has brought untold impoverishment and misery to the many, and unprecedented wealth to the few, a feature exacerbated by the period of 'globalisation'. The record of the last fifty years provides ample evidence. The implosion of the financial markets today in the US and in Europe is an inevitable consequence of the free-market policies that have been touted as being the panacea for all the world's ills by the neo-liberals and neo-cons as well as by our own governments who have so willingly colluded in the implementation of these disastrous social and economic policies. So what is to be done?

As with every major significant transformation in history, the building of an alternative, another world, is not going to be achieved by empty declarations of dogmas, however attractive they may be to us and to those who propound them. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the collapse of credibility of alternative ideologies to the mantras of capital. At the same time, the vacuum created has forced many to think more deeply about the way forward, based on concrete analyses of the conditions facing our continent, based on connecting with our own histories, and based on the need to engage in dialogues that reflect the diversity of thinking, imagination and creativity with which this continent abounds.

Pambazuka News has, we believe, made a small - and we hope important - contribution towards nurturing analysis, creativity, debate and discussion in Africa and amongst the diaspora, that will help give birth to a strong progressive movement for equality, justice and freedoms. For us, the key to that has been to facilitate solidarity and joint actions in support of the oppressed and exploited, and providing a space through which their voices can be heard above the cacophony of the market. There are many voices that remain under-represented in the pages of Pambazuka News, especially those of peasants and workers movements, refugees and displaced people, and the mass of the disenfranchised. Our efforts in the coming period will be directed towards overcoming these shortcomings. Our role will continue to be to promote emancipatory politics.

But if Pambazuka News has 'done well', it is because of you, dear reader, and all you who have contributed. So join us in celebrating your 400th issue and for voting Pambazuka News as the top website that is changing the world of politics and the internet - the only African website to have been nominated in the competition.

* Firoze Manji is founding editor of Pambazuka News and executive director of Fahamu - Networks for social justice.

* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/

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