The arms industry: fuelling conflict
The world’s biggest arms fair, which turned 20 in 2019, is lauded as a ‘fantastic showcase’ by its British hosts, but critics strongly disagree
A vendor uses an Armtrac 20T robot to squash a 2015 Rugby World Cup branded rugby ball as
he demonstrates its capabilities during the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London in September, 2015.
Photo: LEON NEAL / AFP
The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), which boasts of being the world’s largest arms fair, celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. The biennial event, held in London, aims to bring together the global arms industry under one roof, showcasing more than 1,700 exhibitors and 36,000 attendants from more than 50 countries. It is supported by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence and Department for International Trade, as well as BAE Systems, the UK’s largest arms manufacturer. Political insiders defend the country’s role as an arms exporter and the DSEI’s role in generating arms sales as sources of high-tech research and jobs. “The UK defence industry is looking to recruit more engineers, scientists and developers into 200,000 jobs and up to 10,000 apprentices within UK defence companies,” according to James Gray MP, a member of the House of Commons Defence Committee, quoted in a DSEI statement. “DSEI is a fantastic showcase for defence companies where international buyers, sellers, developers, thinkers, educators and the trainers can all get together.”
Yet critics of Britain’s role in the global arms trade, and the industry as a whole, see DSEI less as a “fantastic showcase” and more as the shiny centrepiece of a globally destructive sector unrivalled by any other. The exhibition is met with protests and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called for it to end. Arms exports are estimated to contribute as much as £12 billion to the UK economy. Andrew Feinstein, a former South African MP for the ANC and author of The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, is one such critic. “In the 20 years of its existence DSEI has, probably more than any other trade show of any sort anywhere in the world, contributed to the death and suffering of Africans,” Feinstein told Africa in Fact. “Its legacy is one of bloodshed, corruption and Britain being at the forefront of undermining good governance across the African continent.” Countries with a recent history of conflict or military suppression sent delegations to DSEI 2019, officially invited by the UK government. From Africa, they included Algeria and Nigeria, while Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara did not preclude it from an official delegation invitation.
Algeria found itself on the UK government’s list of core markets for defence and security opportunities, along with Tunisia, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Angola. Egypt was also among them – and remains a core market for UK arms exports. A delegation was officially invited by the UK government to attend DSEI last year despite appearing in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 2018 “human rights priority countries” report. According to the UK government’s report, “the human rights situation in Egypt continued to give cause for concern”. It cited new restrictions on media and online freedoms, and a government campaign against civil society, cases of torture, enforced disappearances and extended pre-trial detention. At least 250 cases of enforced disappearances were documented by lawyers, with thousands of individuals estimated to be in pre-trial detention, often in solitary confinement for extended periods.” Andrew Smith, spokesperson for the NGO Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), explains the apparent contradiction within UK policy. “There’s always been a total hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy and UK arms exports,” he told Africa in Fact.
“The FCO might deem some of these countries a concern, but the government as a whole can still deem them very close allies.” Feinstein agrees. “By any measure, Britian sells arms to whoever it wants to. The bottom line is the UK puts sales of weapons way ahead of any consideration of human rights. It puts profits ahead of people,” he says. But the DSEI does not see this as a true characterisation of its exhibition or of how it and the UK government operate. “The presence of a delegate or visitor from any country should not be taken as a presumption that the export of equipment to that country would be permitted,” a spokesman for DSEI said. “That is a matter for the UK government and their export licensing process, which operates to the highest regulatory standards.” Feinstein dismisses these assertions: “Their [DSEI] first assumption is profoundly wrong. The second, that the UK has an ethical system that guides export arms policy, is frankly a nonsense,” he argues. That Egypt and South Africa, the respective powerhouses of north and southern Africa, have been identified as core markets is no surprise due to the relative size of their economies and the different roles they fulfil.
Egypt, due to its proximity to the Middle East, can serve as a political ally for the UK arms industry’s main market, Saudi Arabia, and the ongoing conflict in Yemen. Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has also called for the lifting of a UN arms embargo on neighbouring Libya. Under its former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was a key market for the UK government, especially after the former prime minister, Tony Blair, visited the country in 2004. Smith believes that the legitimacy conferred by the UK government is another driving factor behind the country’s large arms trade. “When a regime is buying weapons from the UK, they’re not just buying weapons; they’re also buying political support that goes with those weapons,” he argues. This applies equally to countries such as Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The UK gets money and the buying country gets both arms and tacit political support to maintain their position. Although both the UN and European Union (EU) can, and do, implement arms embargoes, these can ultimately prove ineffective due to previous deals, Smith explains.
In Egypt, for example, arms sold to former President Hosni Mubarak in the 1990s were used against civilians during the Arab Spring, despite an embargo now in place. “After the coup [in Egypt], an arms embargo was brought in by Europe, but it was probably the single worst embargo in the history of arms embargoes, because it was [so] momentary [that] absolutely nobody followed it,” Smith says. Embargoes can prove ineffective because arms generally have a longer lifespan than the period of an embargo. Any arms deal signed the day before an embargo is put in place can still be completed. At the other end of the continent, South Africa is seen as the gateway to the African market, making it an attractive country to set up business in and to build links to the rest of Africa to sell arms. Feinstein outlines why the UK and Europe target this market particularly, and what advantages they have over the world’s largest arms exporter, the US. “South Africa has been involved in a number of very corrupt arms transactions so [it makes it attractive] for British and European arms companies who can’t compete with the Americans because the Americans have massive economies of scale over Europeans, or the Chinese who practically give away their weapons, so Europeans [are willing to] pay enormous bribes.”
Yet, after 20 years of DSEI few people, if any, celebrate the anniversary – other than global arms dealers and people in the corridors of a couple of UK government departments in Whitehall. “The best thing we can do, if we are truly concerned about the socio-economic development of Africa, would be to shut it [DSEI] down and to properly regulate our arms trade,” concludes Feinstein. For the moment, though, the UK and Europe will continue to sell weapons. DSEI will continue to bring together the global arms trade. And African citizens will continue to suffer the consequences. “Nobody is forced to sell weapons to anyone,” says Smith. “Not every country in Europe is a major arms dealer. But those that are, are doing tremendous damage around the world.”
Rwanda: the genocide archives
Amid mounting calls for an honest investigation into the Rwandan genocide, the UN and certain governments appear to be opposing full disclosure
A group of Rwandan refugees walk past a pile of machetes and axes confiscated by the Zairean army on July 16, 1994 in the border city of Goma. (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT / AFP FILES / AFP)
“Everyday we learn to forgive,” President Paul Kagame told a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide in Kigali in April this year, “but we do not want to forget.” Yet, 25 years after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, full disclosure and recognition of responsibility for what happened, particularly as regards members of the international community, are still outstanding. The International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR), established in 1994 and dissolved 2015, dealt with the planners and the architects of the genocide. Almost two million people accused of helping to perpetrate the genocide were tried before the traditional Gacaca courts between 2001 and 2012. But questions of international responsibility remain unaddressed. Moreover, investigators, researchers and historians face obstacles in the way of establishing the truth. In June 2014, the Rwandan government established the Rwanda Archives and Library Services Authority (RALSA).
Yet despite pledges by international leaders to fully investigate what happened, members of the public elsewhere in the world still have only limited access to evidence about the genocide. UN Security Council deliberations on Rwanda, the Clinton White House papers and French and Belgian government documents remain classified. Apparently, this applies even to international court decisions. This year, the executive secretary of Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, Jean-Damascène Bizimana, asked for, but was not granted, access to the ICTR archives. Olivier Nduhungirehe, to everybody, including survivors of the genocide, students and researchers,” he told Africa in Fact. What is clear is that the UN and certain governments are opposing full disclosure. During his speech earlier this year, Kagame paid a special tribute to the Czech ambassador, Karel Kovanda, who, he said, “joined colleagues from New Zealand and Nigeria to call for action to stop the genocide despite the indifference of more powerful states.”
He was probably referring to some of the five permanent members of the Security Council. While the massacres were occurring, three of the Big Five – France, the UK and the US – resisted the use of the word “genocide”, says British journalist Linda Melvern, author of the book A People Betrayed: the Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide, first published in 2000 and updated in 2009. To be sure, the UN is in a delicate position. Its inability to deal effectively with the genocide is still very much resented, and not only by Rwandans. No UN flag was flown at an homage ceremony in Kigali on 8 April, 2019 for 10 Belgian peacekeepers who were brutally beaten and shot to death by Rwandan government soldiers on 7 April, 1994. This despite the fact that the Belgian soldiers were members of the UN mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). Their former comrades were outraged at their government’s order to the peacekeepers to surrender.
“Many of the Belgian soldiers had wanted to stay in Rwanda to prevent even greater slaughter and were humiliated by the government’s decision to withdraw them,” according to an OAU report of 7 July, 2000 by an international panel of eminent personalities. The former soldiers were also critical of the UN, which, they said, systematically underestimated the threats the Belgian blue helmets faced from Hutu extremists. “The withdrawal meant that they were viewed as cowards, and morally irresponsible ones as well,” reads the report. “It is not surprising that many of them threw down their blue berets in disgust upon their return to Belgium. Others, in full view of the television cameras, pulled out their knives and slashed the berets into ribbons.” According to Melvern, the New Zealand ambassador, Colin Keating, told her that “non-permanent members of the [Security] Council were kept in the dark about what was happening”. Cables sent to the UN secretary-general’s office by UNAMIR’s field commander, the Canadian general Roméo Dallaire, did not reach the council.
They stayed in the secretary-general’s office on the 38th floor of the UN building in New York, she says. For whatever reason, Boutros Boutros-Ghali kept those cables to himself. Yet these cables included essential information. One was a fax General Dallaire sent to his superior, General Maurice Baril, at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York, on 11 January, 1994. According to the OAU report, Dallaire warned that a militia commander who he had met “has been ordered to register all Tutsi in Kigali. He suspects it is for their extermination. Example he gave was that in 20 minutes his personnel could kill up to 1,000 Tutsis”. Despite this, Kofi Annan, then chief of peacekeeping operations, denied Dallaire permission to seize arms caches revealed by the informant. Moreover, Boutros-Ghali changed existing procedures regarding the transmission of information to the Security Council, determining that officials could brief the council only with his express permission, Linda Melvern discovered.
“All the information that went to the council came through Boutros-Ghali,” she says. In a report dated 21 April, the then secretary general did not mention mass killings, preferring to describe Rwanda as being in “a civil war”. Why did Boutros-Ghali restrict the information that went to the council? According to Melvern, it might have been because he was beholden to the French president, Francois Mitterrand, who had supported his election. To settle the question, she says that access to documents and the telephone records from Boutros- Ghali’s office will be necessary. According to Melvern, the permanent members of the UN Security Council refused for weeks to admit that a genocide was taking place. The British ambassador to the UN told the council that it would become “a laughing stock” if it described the events in Rwanda as a genocide, she says. And France also resisted the use of the word “genocide”. Some see France as bearing more responsibility for the international failure to act because of its direct involvement in the region.
Accordingly, access to the French archives has been a sensitive point for years. In 2015, the French president, François Hollande, declassified documents related to the genocide, including minutes from secret defence meetings and files of advisers to the president at the time, François Mitterrand. Researchers and historians would be granted access to the documents on request. Yet gaining access to those archives has proved extremely difficult. A former Belgian senator, Alain Destexhe, who published an essay on the genocide, told Africa in Fact that he was denied access to both Mitterrand’s archives and those of the defence ministry – supposedly because his “profile did not meet requirements”. Researchers also complain that only a fraction of the classified documents have surfaced so far. That might change. In April this year, President Emmanuel Macron appointed a commission of academics to carry out a two year investigation into the role of the French army in the genocide.
The commission will have access to presidential, diplomatic, military and intelligence archives. Kigali’s reaction was rather positive. But the problem, Alice Urusaro Karekezi, a researcher at the University of Rwanda’s Centre for Conflict Management, told the Kigali-based daily newspaper The New Times is that the commission does not include a single recognised expert on Rwanda. Moreover, access to Mitterrand’s archives was to be granted at the discretion of their custodian, Dominique Bertinotti, who told news agency Agence France-Presse in April this year that her approval is not “automatic”. Independent or inexperienced researchers will be confronted by staunch opposition from the French military establishment and officials who were in office in 1994, who deny that France holds any responsibility for the tragedy. The issue is so sensitive that it caused a controversy during the European elections campaign in May this year.
A claim by Raphaël Glucksmann – director of a documentary on the genocide and head of the Socialist Party list in the election – that Mitterrand had been an “accomplice” in the genocide triggered a letter of protest signed by 23 former ministers. Yet “the facts are stubborn”, as Kagame says. Prior to the genocide, France had been an important supporter of the Hutu regime in Kigali. According to a January 1994 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), France was one of the regime’s main arms suppliers, along with Egypt and South Africa, before and after the war began between the Hutu-dominated government and Kagame’s Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in October 1990. France’s contribution included mortars, artillery, armoured cars and helicopters – in addition to providing military advisors to the Rwandan Gendarmerie and armed forces, according to HRW. According to Melvern, French military training extended to the presidential guard, which is thought to have initiated the genocide.
Moreover, France did not suspend its supplies of arms to the government after the imposition of a UN embargo on 17 May, 1994. Five shipments of artillery, machine guns, assault rifles and ammunition provided by the French government were sent to government forces based in Goma (in then-Zaire) in May and June of that year, according to a May 1995 report by HRW. Meanwhile, a French military operation between June and August in 1994, codenamed “Turquoise”, nominally under the UN, is another controversial issue. France portrayed Turquoise as a humanitarian mission to hide its support of the genocidaires, claimed Captain Guillaume Ancel, a French army veteran who served in the operation, in a 2018 memoir. Any declassification of US documents would also likely result in embarrassing revelations – in particular, as regards responsibility for the downsizing of the UN force that General Dallaire outlined in his book on the genocide, Shake Hands With the Devil (2003), and its tragic consequences.
“The United States almost single-handedly blocked international action in Rwanda [for] six weeks prior to the genocide, which might have prevented the bloodbath altogether,” says the above-mentioned OAU report. The US State Department even refused to scramble the broadcast of RTLM Radio, a Hutu extremist media outlet that incited killing during the genocide, according to Melvern. Half a million lives could have been saved if UNAMIR had had sufficient air support and logistical and communication capabilities, concluded Scott Feil, a former US army career officer, in a 1998 report to the Carnegie Commission on preventing deadly conflict. In April this year, more than 300 French academics, historians and citizens signed an open letter questioning Macron’s refusal to appoint suitably qualified experts – including Hélène Dumas, the only French researcher who speaks Kinyarwanda, and Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, a prominent historian of the first world war and author of a book titled Une initiation Rwanda (2017) – to the commission that is to investigate France’s role in the genocide.
In April this year, lawyers representing relatives of victims killed at Biserero in Rwanda between 27 and 30 June, 1994 by Hutu militias after the French army abandoned them there, called for access to the French Ministry of Defence archives for the French judges who were to investigate this tragic event. During a meeting with President Macron, another group, the Ibuka association of survivors, whose name means “remember” in Kinyarwanda, also called for the declassification of official French archives concerning the genocide. Former French military members who served in Rwanda during the 1990- 1994 period are claiming that the French government of the time worked closely with the Rwandan Hutu regime. Ancel, the former French army officer mentioned earlier in this article, claims that Turquoise, a French-led UN operation supposedly aimed at ending the massacres, was in fact intended to prevent the RPF from capturing Kigali. The aim was to return control of the capital city to the government, the former officer claims in his recent book, Rwanda, la fin du silence (Rwanda: the end of silence).
In another book, General Jean Varret, who headed the French military mission in Rwanda between October 1990 and April 1993, says that both Rwanda’s president at the time, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the French embassy ignored his warnings that the Rwandan military was planning to massacre Tutsis. The commission of inquiry will find it difficult to ignore these claims. The quest for the truth about the Rwanda genocide has been long, but the pressure is mounting. Researchers of the Rwandan genocide – academics, journalists, survivors, and French activists fighting for the decolonisation of France’s relationship with Africa and with the Rwandan government – are calling for open access to the genocide archives. The full truth of what happened then has yet to be established, they say. This includes vital information concerning the accountability of members of the international community.
Reply from the Spokesman of the Secretary-General of the United Nations
The United Nations has tried to ensure that there is justice for the crimes committed in Rwanda during the genocide, and it has looked at its own actions during that period, mostly notably through the Carlsson Commission, which issued its own report on the UN’s responsibilities in 1999. The UN has followed up on those recommendations in our effort to ensure that what went wrong in Rwanda will never be repeated. The statement from the article that “investigators, researchers and historians face obstacles when attempting to establish the truth” with respect to access to the archives of the ICTR is not supported by the facts. The Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals manages the archives of the ICTR. Its access policy is guided by the basic principles of openness and transparency, balanced with the obligation to maintain the confidentiality of classified information, including classified judicial records. The International Residual Mechanism cannot provide members of the public with access to the confidential records of the ICTR. The Judicial Records and Archives Database is accessible through a website (https://jrad.irmct.org/search. htm) containing approximately 850,000 pages of judicial records and 22,000 hours of audiovisual recordings of judicial proceedings. The physical location of the archives therefore does not impose an impediment to accessibility with respect to users in Rwanda. On average, each month, over 3,600 records are accessed, 10.5 access requests are responded to, and approximately 80 visitors are accommodated by the Archives and Records Section in Arusha. The claim in the article that access to the ICTR archives was denied to Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide and to personnel of the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations is also unfounded. The International Residual Mechanism in Arusha has not received any request from Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide. One request was received from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Rwanda to the United Nations, and it was responded to on the same day that it was received.
Libya: turmoil and civil war
The tiny Libyan bourse faces an uphill battle to become a player
Tripoli: Spot the stock market © Bryn Jones
By Mary Fitzgerald
Like so much else in Libya, Tripoli’s fledgling stock exchange came to a standstill after the country plunged into civil war in the summer of 2014. But even before, the idea of investing in Libyan stocks was always a hard sell, given the turmoil that preceded and followed the ousting of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Libya had seen years of isolation following UN-imposed sanctions in 1992 for an attack on a Pan Am airliner that killed 259 people in the air and 11 on the ground in Lockerbie, a Scottish village. Sanctions were eased after Qaddafi offered to settle for the attack. By 2007 he was claiming to be liberalising the economy. But the country was—and remains—entirely reliant on oil revenues to power a heavily state-controlled economy burdened with one of the biggest public sector payrolls in the world. The Qaddafi regime, with its idiosyncratic laws and rampant cronyism and corruption, had in any case made foreign investors wary. That caution has only grown since 2011 as the ills of the Qaddafi era remain unfixed and successive transitional governments struggle to impose law and order over a vast desert nation where militias are the real power brokers.
Not surprisingly, these tumultuous events have rocked Libya’s stock exchange. It was closed in August 2011 when Qaddafi loyalists took over the building as the capital tipped into armed revolt against the 42-year-old regime. Staff and traders fled with whatever data they could. The bourse reopened in March 2012, but the country’s growing social chaos hit it again. By 2013 the market had lost 25% of its value; by last year, it had lost some 40%, compared to the level on its 2007 debut. Even its physical location can tell us much about its status in the post-revolutionary chaos. The exchange is housed in a building hidden away in a shopping strip in an affluent Tripoli suburb. Many local residents and taxi drivers are unaware of its existence. Inside, the tiny size of the trading floor reflects the bourse’s modest levels of trading. Libya has only 10 listings, mostly banks and insurance firms, according to the Libyan Stock Exchange website. Prior to the current conflict, its bourse had a market value of a mere $3 billion, compared to its Cairo counterpart’s $70 billion. In the Arabic-speaking world, only the bourses in Khartoum and Damascus are smaller.
And while Tripoli treats foreigners as equal to Libyan investors, they have accounted for little more than 1.5% of trades. The Tripoli bourse was modelled on the exchange in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. It had planned to attract oil, telecommunications and construction firms. It had also planned to open a branch in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. But then renewed fighting erupted last year. If Libya’s stock exchange is to grow, deep structural flaws in the country’s economy will have to be addressed. Public sector salaries and massive fuel and food subsidies take a huge toll on the national budget, while Qaddafi-era laws related to land and property ownership have hobbled investment. But if and when some stability returns to Libya, home of Africa’s largest proven oil reserves, the country is ripe for development. Housing, hospitals, public transport and other infrastructure are needed, while 6m Libyans crave consumer goods they were denied under Qaddafi’s regime. The most significant challenge will be to keep state finances afloat. Conditions for stable investment and economic growth are currently almost entirely absent.
The political power struggle fuelling the civil war has split the country’s institutions. The country’s oil production levels have plummeted while global energy prices have declined sharply. This means that Libya has had to eat into its foreign reserves. Some commentators estimate that Libya’s funds will last only another year. There is a real prospect that Libya will go broke before it is achieves peace. Before the outbreak of violence in July 2014, the bourse had been preparing for the launch of Islamic investment funds, which would have been a first for Libya. The post-Qaddafi parliament, elected in June 2012, had ruled that financial institutions would have to comply with sharia law, with interest payments banned by 2015. Two sharia-compliant real estate funds were in the pipeline last year, the first worth 165m Libyan dinars (about $119m), with a projected annual return of 20%, and the second worth 300m dinars (about $217m). But the continuing conflict means that the fates of both funds, and indeed the bourse itself, hang in the balance. “Everything depends on whether we see political stability return to the country,” says Ahmed Karoud, general manager of the Tripoli stock exchange. “Nevertheless we are using this time to develop strategy so we are ready.”
Making Libya attractive to risk-willing foreign investors will require drawing up a regulatory framework for an effective capital market, particularly after the tyrannical randomness and opacity of Qaddafi-era policies. But the process of drafting the country’s first post-revolutionary constitution is already well past deadline. The chances of seeing an overhaul of market regulations and commercial law any time soon are remote. Moreover, familiarising judges and lawyers with free market rules after decades of iron-fisted government will likely take years. Throughout its existence, the Qaddafi regime consistently demonised capitalism as a tool of Western imperialism; the country’s population, at best, is sceptical of the stock market, which has affected its liquidity or the willingness of investors to invest. These negative perceptions of the stock market will also take time to fix. Until Libya has a stable, representative government underpinned by a new constitutional framework that ends the insecurity that has plagued it since Qaddafi’s fall, the country’s bourse is destined to remain an insignificant bit-player in the region.
Sustainable stock exchanges
Markets around the world are adopting the environmental, social and good governance agenda, but “integrated reporting” faces problems in Africa
By Richard Jurgens
In August 2012, police fired on a crowd of striking miners in Marikana, in South Africa’s platinum mining belt, killing 34. The miners were demanding higher wages from their employer, Lonmin, a London-listed firm. Poverty, unemployment and a lack of basic amenities added to their militancy and sense of grievance. Shockingly reminiscent of apartheid-era crowd shootings, the incident made headline news around the world. The South African government came under scrutiny, while Lonmin was accused of bad corporate citizenship. A later commission of inquiry concluded that the company had failed to provide adequate protection for its workers during the strike and that it had not delivered housing for its workers despite previous commitments. The “Marikana massacre”, as it has become known, brought the question of companies’ responsibility for the broader context of their operations sharply into focus. A February 2015 study by Credit Suisse, a huge Swiss bank, lists it as a glaring example of “owner responsibility” for company caused disasters, along with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, both in 2010, among others.
At the time of the incident, the idea and practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR) were well established in South Africa. During the 1980s influential business figures in the country had introduced programmes to tackle urban development and education projects. They also lobbied against the “harshest elements of the apartheid state’s policies”, according to a study by Ralph Hamann of the University of Cape Town. In 1994 with the advent of democracy, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) adopted a code of corporate governance developed by Mervyn E. King, a retired Supreme Court judge. The code established guidelines for responsible investment and sustainable business practices for directors and company boards. A 2002 version of the King code included a section on sustainability. A further revision in 2009 integrated sustainability into business reporting. The latest version, due in early 2016, seeks to incorporate smaller businesses and not-for-profits, according to the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa, a Johannesburg- based NGO that promotes professional directorship.
The King code reflected ideas about CSR that had first gained currency in the 1950s with the emergence of studies in America on the social responsibilities of businesses. Some prominent figures, including the influential economist Milton Friedman, opposed it, claiming that businesses’ only role was to make money for their shareholders. But the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, in which millions of gallons of oil were spilt into an Alaskan bay after a tanker grounded, gave CSR new prominence. Responding to the Exxon slick, a group of American shareholders formed the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (Ceres). A few years later, Ceres and the Tellus Institute, based in Boston, Massachusetts, established the Global Reporting Initiative to promote business environmental reporting. Its scope was then broadened to include social, economic and governance issues. “Businesses are expected to report not just on profit but on their impact on the wider economy, society and the environment,” according to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, based in London.
The result, in a term coined by CSR authority John Pilkington, has been a growing convergence on so-called “triple bottom-line reporting”, which integrates a company’s performance related figures under three headings: social, environmental and financial (sometimes referred to as “people, planet and profit”). In recent years, business acceptance of integrated reporting has grown rapidly. According to a 2013 study by consulting firm KPMG, 71% of 9,100 companies surveyed in 41 countries were reporting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in their businesses in 2013, up from 64% of companies surveyed two years before. A 2014 report by consultancy Black Sun and the International Integrated Reporting Council, a coalition of regulators, investors, companies and NGOs, found that 92% of companies that had adopted integrated reporting said it had improved their understanding of value creation. In 2010 the JSE became the world’s first stock exchange to make ESG reporting mandatory for its listed companies.
Only the year before, the UN had established a Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) programme to foster greater corporate transparency. It required stock exchanges, investors, regulators and companies to adopt best practices on ESG issues. In 2012, the UN initiated an exchange programme to get bourses around the world to learn from each other’s sustainability experience. The JSE was among the first five members, with one other African bourse, the Egyptian Stock Exchange, as well as BM&FBovespa in Brazil, Borsa Istanbul in Turkey and Nasdaq in the US. The JSE continued to play a leadership role in advancing the sustainability agenda when it co-chaired the World Federation of Stock Exchanges’ sustainability working group, which was started in 2014. The Nigerian and Kenyan bourses have also joined the SSE. Four African countries were among the first SSE members to distribute a communiqué informing domestic and international investors of the sustainability measures in place at these exchanges.
Yet while the JSE has been at the forefront of CSR initiatives on the continent, much work remains to be done. “CSR in sub-Saharan Africa is still in its infancy,” according to a 2009 study by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development with funding by the British High Commission in South Africa. In 2014 the London-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants found that the JSE was “the only exchange [in sub-Saharan Africa] with any form of ESG reporting requirement”. Several barriers are still preventing the adoption of CSR practices throughout the continent, according to the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private-sector arm. These include “knowledge gaps, dominant investment practices that are hard to change…poorly applied regulations at both company and/ or investor levels and the incorrect perception of [sustainable investment] as only ‘ethical’ investment”. A critical obstacle to ESG reporting worldwide, and especially in Africa, is whether it offers business benefits to the companies that adopt it.
The SSE encourages stock exchanges to adopt voluntary initiatives and education programmes to help companies incorporate sustainability without imposing burdens of time and cost that would prevent them from doing so. “Some critics believe that sustainability reporting is a costly process that is impractical for companies in developing countries,” says Anthony Miller, a SSE coordinator. “But real-life experience from Brazil to Egypt to India to Vietnam, is proving that this is not the case. Where exchanges are introducing innovative voluntary initiatives, companies are responding with practical low-cost approaches that result in more and better ESG information for the market.” The main task for African bourses is to change the mindset of businesses, said Martyn Davies in 2010, then of the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg. “CSR should not be about charity,” he says. “CSR should create competitive communities who benefit from their natural resources.” So what went wrong in Marikana?
Lonmin was not the only actor implicated: the commission of inquiry questioned the actions of politicians and senior police officers. Other factors were to blame, too. While critical of Lonmin, Marikana residents were also scathing about the local council, according to the same report. They saw it as corrupt and unable to deliver essential services. Union officials were also implicated. “There seems to be no doubt that a turf war between two miners’ unions played a key role in setting up the context for the massacre,” said the Ethics Institute of South Africa in an undated comment on its website. Union leaders had “taken a very narrow view of [their] responsibilities”, the independent organisation said. The King code ought to be applied to other institutional role-players, including the unions, the comment noted. Meanwhile, Lonmin was facing financial constraints. “[Its] first-half profits had decreased nearly 90% compared to the same period the year before. Production and platinum prices were down, while the company’s net debt had increased by 20% since the year before [the massacre],” according to a November 2013 report by Global Research, a Canadian independent research and media association.
In addition, the company risked violating its bank loan covenants that depended on delivering good results. A November 2013 study by Ross Harvey for the South African Institute of International Affairs has also highlighted the role of the migrant labour system in the Marikana platinum belt. Mining houses, including Lonmin, attempted to ameliorate the situation by paying workers “living out” allowances rather than accommodating them in the hostels that were an apartheid legacy. But the Marikana mineworkers then found themselves maintaining a second household—a factor that contributed to their wage demands. Corporate social investment, he concludes, was not adequate to dealing with “the legacy effects of migrant labour”. If Marikana serves as an example, the effective implementation of CSR depends significantly on the context in which it is applied. Businesses may be held accountable to strict measures of their wider impact while other interested parties, including government, labour and the police are not. This raises the question of the effectiveness of CSR reporting requirements in Africa, even where they are in place.
Sudan: playing the anti-Western card
Omar al-Bashir uses the ICC indictment to boost his ratings at home and abroad
By James Copnall
The International Criminal Court (ICC) charges against Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, have shaped Sudanese domestic politics and the country’s external relations for more than half a decade—sometimes in very unexpected ways. On March 4th 2009, Mr Bashir became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC. He was charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes allegedly committed in the civil war in Darfur, in western Sudan. The following year, the ICC issued another indictment, this time three counts of genocide committed against the Zaghawa, Fur and Masalit ethnic groups. Mr Bashir was accused of overseeing murder, extermination, forcible transfer, rape, torture, directing attacks against civilians and pillaging. The indictments shocked Mr Bashir and his regime, but not the Darfuris, who have suffered through one of the worst conflicts of the 20th century, and blame the president for it. Even before the indictments, the UN had estimated that 300,000 people had died and around 3m people had been displaced in the Darfur war—a number the government disputes.
Mr Bashir has made it clear he does not intend to ever travel to The Hague to face the charges, which he claims are a Western-backed plot to overthrow him. As soon as the announcement was made, huge rallies were held—with participants bussed in from the capital and nearby areas—to denounce this “imperialistic” assault on Sudanese sovereignty. Indeed, to the surprise of many outsiders at least, Mr Bashir’s support grew visibly after the indictments. Giant posters of the president were stationed at major junctions in Khartoum, Omdurman and other large urban areas—a predictable response by the authorities. But ordinary people, especially in the Nile river valley area, Mr Bashir’s home and support base, began pasting pictures of the president on their cars’ rear bumpers and windscreens, a noticeable sign of affection. Songs were invented, blasting the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and comparing him to the devil. The attempt to bring Mr Bashir before an international court shored up his support with a slice of the Sudanese public who saw the indictments as an attack on Sudan.
Mr Bashir and those around him made great use of this alleged assault on Sudan’s sovereignty. In almost every speech, the president used his verbally creative, yet often offensive style to criticise “foreign powers” looking to overthrow “good” Muslims in Sudan. Mr Bashir is not the only Sudanese facing charges: key allies including the long-time defence minister, Abderahim Hussein, and Ahmed Haroun, who became the governor of another war-torn area, South Kordofan, are also wanted by the ICC. Rather than keeping quiet about the indictments in the run-up to the 2010 elections, Mr Bashir’s team mentioned them at every turn. The charges even benefited the president, his campaign director, Ibrahim Ghandour, said in an interview: “The ICC was the first thing we campaigned on.” By this point, two years after the first arrest warrant had been issued, Mr Bashir was obsessed with the ICC and its chief prosecutor. At the inauguration after Mr Bashir’s win in the 2010 polls (marred by serious flaws, and boycotted by many opposition parties), an entire page in the glossy brochure was dedicated to mocking Mr Moreno- Ocampo for his failure to bring down Mr Bashir.
None of this should suggest that the attempt to drag Mr Bashir before international justice was entirely positive for him. Although he received an initial boost to his support in certain circles, the ICC indictments have profoundly damaged Mr Bashir and Sudan. Since they were issued, Mr Bashir’s only concern has been regime security, rather than development or ending the multiple conflicts in the country, accentuating a political dynamic that was already present in the country.How could Mr Bashir act otherwise? If he were to leave power, willingly or not, and be replaced by someone hostile to him, the ICC would arrest him and he could face a life in prison. The regime’s growing nervousness became apparent in September 2013 when fuel subsidies were removed and prices soared: protesters seized control of parts of Khartoum, Omdurman, Wad Medani and other cities. The response, even in Mr Bashir’s heartland, was ruthless: human-rights groups say as many as 200 unarmed protesters were killed.
Such violence is unexceptional in the war zones on the country’s geographical periphery; but almost unheard of in the capital. The ICC’s indictment worsened Sudan’s long-running governance fiasco: a central government unwilling or unable to provide development and share power fairly in a diverse, multiethnic state. The president simply concentrated all power in his hands or those of his close allies, such as Mr Hussein, and, lately, Bakri Hassan Salih, an old military companion who was made first vice-president in December 2013. Just before the April 2015 polls, Mr Bashir had the law changed so he could appoint the previously elected governors. This concentrated power even more in Khartoum despite the vital need to amplify regional voices in government. Mr Bashir’s indictment has also profoundly affected Sudan’s foreign relations. In the years since the arrest warrant was issued, Sudan has searched desperately for viable allies around the world who have been defined by one question: will you let Mr Bashir travel to your country without arresting him and sending him to the ICC?
So far, the president has visited several African and Arab countries, as well as Iran and China, among others. There have been some near misses. In November 2011, a Kenyan court responding to a suit filed by the Kenya chapter of the International Commission of Jurists ordered the Sudanese president’s arrest should he set foot in the country in the future. However, when Sudan reacted by ordering the return of its ambassador to Nairobi and expelling the Kenyan ambassador from Khartoum, the Kenyan foreign minister flew to Sudan’s capital to apologise profusely. In July 2013 Mr Bashir left Nigeria in a hurry, fearing arrest. In June, while the Sudanese head of state was attending an African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg, a South African court ruled that he should be handed over to the ICC—only for him to leave precipitously, presumably with the support of his South African counterpart.
Just as Mr Bashir was able to boost his popularity in some Sudanese quarters by cleverly playing the anti neo-colonialist card, he has played this game with many African and Arab countries, which have rallied behind him. The Arab League condemned the charges. The AU complains that the ICC is biased because all of its present indictments are against Africans. The union went a step further and passed a resolution in 2013 saying the ICC should not prosecute sitting heads of state. This is self-interest at play: Mr Bashir is not the only African leader accused of committing atrocities at home. The ICC has also indicted Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta (although charges were withdrawn in December 2014 because of the government’s lack of cooperation) and vice-president, William Ruto. Yet despite African leaders’ hostility to the ICC, “continental sympathy and support for Bashir would not run deep” if he were arrested, says Alex de Waal, the Sudan expert at Tufts University near Boston. The ICC charges have also affected Sudan’s relations with Western countries.
Even before his indictment, most Western countries disliked Mr Bashir’s regime, in part because of decades of conflict, not just in Darfur, but in southern, eastern and central Sudan too. In turn, Mr Bashir and his supporters have blamed the West for backing rebel groups. The ICC indictments—and Mr Bashir’s refusal to face trial—solidified this mutual animosity. This goes far beyond feelings. There is little chance of the US removing economic sanctions as long as the ICC-indicted Bashir is president. Sudan has little hope of getting out from under its debt burden— more than $45 billion according to the IMF—as long as Mr Bashir remains in charge. The ICC indictments have forced Mr Bashir onto the defensive, cracking down on any perceived threat, while scanning the horizon for friendly foreign faces. What they have not brought, more than six years after the first arrest warrant was issued, is justice for Darfur’s countless victims.