accountability

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ICJP director warns UK MPs ‘justice is coming’ over complicity in Israeli war crimes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 8:29am in

Senior lawyer says ‘ink is almost dry’ on the guilt of many MPs who have enabled and covered Israel’s atrocities

Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak and other UK MPs may be looking uneasily over their shoulder tonight after receiving a renewed warning from the lawyer leading a pro-Palestinian justice group about their own guilt regarding Israel’s war crimes, after International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced he has requested arrest warrants for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant.

Tayab Ali, a partner in Bindmans, one of the world’s leading human rights law firms, and a director of the International Centre for Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) published his stark warning on Twitter/X this evening, telling MPs who have supported and enabled Israel’s atrocities against the people of Gaza that it is now too late for them to do much to avoid their guilt and complicity, because ‘the ink of history on your potential complicity is almost dry and you already made your decision’ – and that ICJP will be demanding personal legal accountability for guilty MPs:

Scotland Yard has already called for evidence after the ICJP warned Tory PM Rishi Sunak and notionally-Labour leader Keir Starmer that it would prosecute them if they colluded in war crimes against the Palestinian people. Starmer has even gone as far as to tell a radio interviewer that Israel had a ‘right’ to cut off food, water and fuel from Gaza, with several of his front bench MPs publicly defending his statement until he later tried to pretend he hadn’t said it.

Israel has killed at least 40,000 civilians and potentially as many as 100,000, overwhelmingly women and children, with double that number maimed and wounded and many more set to be murdered as Israel continues its invasion of Rafah and its block on the entry of food, fuel and medicines for more than two million people.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Good Governance in Nigeria: Rethinking Accountability and Transparency in the Twenty-First Century – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/04/2024 - 8:00pm in

In Good Governance in Nigeria: Rethinking Accountability and Transparency in the Twenty-First Century, Portia Roelofs critiques conventional Western ideas of “good governance” imposed in Africa, and specifically Nigeria, through fieldwork and historical analysis. Stephanie Wanga finds the book a grounded and nuanced argument for alternative, locally shaped and socially embedded models of governance.

Good Governance in Nigeria: Rethinking Accountability and Transparency in the Twenty-First Century. Portia Roelofs. Cambridge University Press. 2023.

Good governance: a phrase laden with meaning and history. Good governance in Africa? Even more trouble at hand. Colonial and neocolonial projects in Africa have been justified in the name of good governance. However, to assume a sense of foreboding when one hears the phrase “good governance” is also to assume – and even to locate – its meaning in a particular provenance. This is exactly what Portia Roelofs, in her book Good Governance in Nigeria: Rethinking Accountability and Transparency in the Twenty-First Century, wants to trouble.

The author wants to draw out a re-conception of good governance: namely, as conceived of by everyday people rather than, say, the World Bank or other institutions whose projected definitions come with immense repercussions.

Roelofs, a lecturer in politics at King’s College London, has spent time in Nigeria, including undertaking research in the universities of Ibadan and Maiduguri. It is from her fieldwork in Nigeria that she wants to draw out a re-conception of good governance: namely, as conceived of by everyday people rather than, say, the World Bank or other institutions whose projected definitions come with immense repercussions. To do so, this work “places the voices of roadside traders and small-time market leaders alongside those of local government officials, political godfathers and technocrats…[theorising] ‘socially embedded’ good governance.” Using this method, she defends the argument that “power must be socially embedded for it to be accountable”, in opposition to those who cast social embeddedness as sullying politics and leaving room for all the varied forms of corruption that may hinder good governance.

If society and social demands might be seen as an enabler of corruption […] the necessary flip side is that it can also represent a constraint on the actions of those in power.

Indeed, Roelofs extends Peter Ekeh’s erudite analysis (in Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa) of a “third space” that defies the binaries of political science’s beloved public and private spheres. Ekeh presented a space from which Nigerian (and wider African) politics could be more fruitfully analysed, a space that was “neither absolutely rational-bureaucratic public authority [nor]…patrimonial authority conceived as the personal or individual authority of a Big Man’s private household”. Roelofs presents evidence that “points towards the existence of more social forms of governance which are neither personalistic […] nor ethnic, but speak to a more general sociality”, which provides the basis for the notion of governance that is “both public and yet includes some social elements and the further possibility that this may constitute good governance”. If society and social demands might be seen as an enabler of corruption (something that is not, the author reminds us, a uniquely African problem), the necessary flip side is that it can also represent a constraint on the actions of those in power. In fact, the insistence on detaching the state from its societal embeddedness increases the opacity and unaccountability of the state.

Roelofs’ methodology may be controversial to those devoted to hyper-abstraction, but for those of us who theorise as we live rather than save theory for the books, good governance must always be socially embedded. However, Roelofs is engaging with real biases that run deep in both political theory and development studies, and that have had immense consequences. As she writes, “While personal contact between voters and politicians is pathologized in scholarly analysis of Africa, it is celebrated by political scientists working in Western democracies.” Social-embeddedness has been a kind of dirty word in a lot of the mainstream writing on African politics – it is this entanglement of the political with the social that causes diagnoses such as “the cancer of corruption” and other terms that pathologise African politics every which way.

This is a book that is quite close to me in terms of method, as a person who roots herself primarily in political theory but believes ardently in the ways other methods and sources, including history and fieldwork, must educate political theory. Along with this, the book is supposed to demonstrate “the associated possibilities for decolonising the study of politics”. One might question the extent to which this book rigorously engages this latter goal, but it continues in the tradition of thinkers including Thandika Mkandawire (to whom the book is dedicated) and others like Ndongo Samba Sylla and Leonce Ndikumana.

Roelofs contests the dominant World Bank discourse on good governance that is projected as universally accepted and uncontroversial. She proposes an alternative mode of governance whereby the people decide for themselves the terms of engagement – something that the World Bank has in multiple, egregious ways denied the continent. This very act is noteworthy – the “problem” of African politics has been repeatedly deemed “too embedded in social and material relations”, leading to the oft-cited ills of neopatrimonialism, corruption, etc.

Roelofs is self-conscious of her position as a white woman trying to turn the tables on colonial, trope-filled discourse and asks for thoughts on how such a move might be more conscientiously made.

However, though this goal of challenging what good governance means is named explicitly at the outset, it would have been useful to see the precise ways in which the book operates as a (potentially) decolonial act. Roelofs is self-conscious of her position as a white woman trying to turn the tables on colonial, trope-filled discourse and asks for thoughts on how such a move might be more conscientiously made. Indeed, many have questioned how “Africanists” – often white, often working outside the continent – have positioned themselves at the centre of changing tides in African political discourse. The racial blindspots (or worse) underlying African Studies must be called out alongside those of the financial institutions; the neocolonial project is a concert of efforts.

The author hints at this issue, but often in diplomatic terms. As Robtel Neajai Pailey writes, one needs to “speak into existence the proverbial elephant in the room of development: race”. However, one must balance this move with the recognition that all of us, including white academics, are responsible for taking the decolonial bull by the horns – that one must not shirk responsibility via the false generosity of “making space” for “people of colour”. The hard work of taking responsibility and being responsible must be consciously and explicitly engaged.

Another danger the book sometimes falls into is to play up the narrative of what Africa can teach the world.

Another danger the book sometimes falls into is to play up the narrative of what Africa can teach the world. This viewpoint is problematic in that it may suggest a need to peg the meaningfulness of work done in Africa to its importance for the Big Bad West (and elsewhere). The greater purpose may instead be to unearth meanings that only have value locally, to study Africa for its own sake, and not for the West’s education. The question of where meaning should be focused relates to Toni Morrison’s observations on racism as a distraction. This burden leaves a person desperately trying to prove that they, too, are worthy; that they, too, have important things to show the world, unaware that by that very token they are upholding a particular standard of worthiness.

Despite this, Roelofs’ book serves as both rigorous, extended analysis of the good governance discourse and a worthwhile historical introduction to the troubles that have besieged state-making in Africa. Roelofs keenly dissects several key historical moments in Nigeria to tease out how they theoretically shape contemporary understandings of good governance.

 Roelofs’ book serves as both rigorous, extended analysis of the good governance discourse and a worthwhile historical introduction to the troubles that have besieged state-making in Africa.

To this end, she writes about how good governance in Nigeria is often tied to the person (and myth) of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who, to some, was the best President Nigeria never had. However, there is more to the picture than the “modernising, elite-led, progressive” elements that epitomise notions of good governance in Nigeria and that Awolowo represented. Working through the contested ideas that surround good governance, Roelofs comes up with what she calls the “Lagos model”. This is a homegrown approach, made of a shared set of reference points acting as a yardstick against which governance is evaluated. Roelofs names the reference points as “an epistemic claim to enlightened leadership, a social claim to being embedded in one’s constituency and a material claim about the sharing of resources”. Roelofs shows that the ideas of good governance grounded in epistemic superiority were in tension with more populist visions that emphasised the need for satisfying short-term economic desires and connecting with leaders. From this dialectic “a full and rounded picture of legitimate leadership as containing epistemic, social and material aspects” emerges. The struggle to balance each of these three aspects is what produces good governance, and the gaps in managing the give and take across the three is what gives various kinds of actors, nefarious and otherwise, entry to “fix” what appears broken.

Overall, the book is accessible and unpretentious, even while quite history-heavy. Though it may lack the poetry and passion of a Mudimbe or Mbembe, its appeal to democratise understandings of good governance demands the reader’s engagement reckon. It is a refreshingly democratic take on what it means to govern well, by rooting the definition in what everyday people in a specific context truly seek.

Note: This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image credit: Tolu Owoeye on Shutterstock.

TSSA rocked by #MeTU allegations of ‘new abuse’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/02/2024 - 3:36am in

Women’s group who exposed sexual harassment and toppled Cortes regime ‘summarily de-recognised’ by union, claims a ‘continuing culture of intimidation and bullying… and cronyism’ has led to dispute

The ‘MeTU’ group, which campaigns against harassment and bullying of women union members across the union movement, have alleged that the union is still riddled with abuse and is failing to follow the recommendations of the Kennedy Report that exposed widespread bullying and sexual harassment under the regime of now-former general secretary Manuel Cortes. The group also says that TSSA’s management has ‘summarily de-recognised’ the staff’s women’s group and replaced it with an ‘approved’ one, while sacking the firm of whistleblowing specialists that TSSA engaged, as one of its actions to follow Helena Kennedy’s recommendations, to investigate abuse and run a helpline for staff.

TSSA staff, who are represented by the GMB union, are in dispute with TSSA and their union reps have issued a scathing open letter criticising Cortes’s successor. However, the MeTU group also has sharp words of criticism for the union representing them, which has also been mired in its own sexual harassment and bullying scandal.

A MeTU statement released last night reads:

MeTU are horrified to see that following the Kennedy Inquiry and Conley Report (Feb 23) on the extreme abuse, sexual harassment, bullying, and corruption in TSSA trade union, which led to the dismissal of the former General Secretary, Manuel Cortes and most of the senior leadership, staff and members are now facing new abuse.

​Following an election, gerrymandered by an EC who were close to the old regime, the union workforce has been forced to declare a dispute with the new General Secretary barely 3 months in. They cite a continuing culture of intimidation and bullying and corner cutting and cronyism with hire and fire appointments without consultation or scrutiny. 

On top of this, the TSSA Self Organised women’s group – Women in Focus – who helped uncover the rot and bring about the reports leading to the change – yet were never invited to take part in the change process – have been summarily ‘de-recognised’ by the EC and new General Secretary on a flimsy pretext. 

​A near-secret meeting of a new ‘self-organised group’ or rather an EC-organised women’s group was barely attended and populated mainly by the President, an EC member and former EC members.  Some of whom are close to the former disgraced General Secretary, Manuel Cortes.

​The EC has voted to dismiss the independent whistle-blowing organisation, Howlett Brown – against the recommendation of Baroness Helena Kennedy. Staff have been told that they can instead take grievances and complaints to the President of the TSSA. 

We fully support TSSA staff in their dispute and are glad they now have the courage to contest undemocratic and bullying practices. This may be the first time union staff have gone into dispute following the exposure of structural sexual abuse and bullying to demand its genuine implementation. Solidarity.

GMB: new scandal following the Monaghan Inquiry

However, it is important to say that they are represented against their corrupt employer by another union, the GMB, who claim to be reformed when they are not. While we publish the body of the letter we cannot in conscience publish the names of the full time organisers who are themselves part of the problem. There are women being bullied out as we write.

The conclusion of the Monaghan report was that the GMB is institutionally sexist and therefore is an unsafe environment for women. We can see no evidence that the GMB has acted on the work done by KC Karon Monaghan during the investigation into their practices and has disbanded the task force that was set up to implement the 27 recommendations which were made. 

Now a second report by McColgan which came about following the KC’s investigation into the behaviour of GMB officials at one of Brighton’s bin depots, details the perpetration of shocking abuse and threats of physical violence against women, the discovery of a ‘cache of weapons’, and further reports of the homophobic bullying of staff. The report also describes GMB Reps “Publicly saying that women managers ‘don’t have a fucking clue. They’re female. They don’t know what they’re doing’ and describing a woman manager as ‘a fucking bitch pulling the strings’”

The GMB response was defensive and thuggish and referred to the 70 plus whistleblower testimonies given to a KC Barrister as ‘anonymous and unsupported statements’. This claim was roundly challenged by council Chief Executive, Will Tuckley, who pointed out that ‘“Some of those who spoke to the report did so anonymously for fear of potential retaliation.” 

​Furthermore it was suggested that ‘evidence’ would be required before the GMB would be willing to take any action, suggesting that the brave individuals who took part in the investigation had not already supplied evidence beyond reasonable doubt that terrible abuse had occurred in their workplace. Women across all layers of the union have been and continue to be damaged purposefully. 

Yesterday we saw a press ‘leaked’ letter sent by the current GMB General Secretary to their central executive council warning of a coup and a return to the bad old days. GMB sisters say that while there may have been piecemeal change in some areas, most of this assertion of change is mythical, with the reality that under the current leadership, things are much worse. 

The message here is clear, in certain elements of these unions misogyny is rife and they have demonstrated that they are determined to continue with the damaging and abusive behaviour which led to all of these  investigations. They are happy to allow one corrupt administration to inform the actions of the next and they continue to collectively gaslight us through their actions. 

Our campaign against those who seek to do harm is very far from over. We will not allow our movement to destroy itself because some men and their many enablers refuse to stop abusing us as women. We will continue to find, expose and remove from the trade union and labour movement, perpetrators of bullying, misogyny, sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia and ableism to ensure our movement is truly inclusive. 

We will continue to tell the truth and stand up for ourselves and each other at any cost. The world has changed and we are winning. Our movement needs to be fit for purpose, with true democracy and not the current structure of power hoarding we see. 

To perpetrators and misogynists throughout our movement, stop, and stop now, or be exposed.

The GMB’s open letter to TSSA general secretary Maryam Eslamdoust says that the dispute has arisen because of members’ “total lack of confidence in the implementation of the Kennedy Report (Feb 2023) and the Conley Report (Feb 2023)“. It alleges:

Staff morale has shifted from improving (during the tenure of Peter Pendle), back to a place of low psychological safety. Amongst the staff, there is now an atmosphere of anxiety, hyper vigilance, and worry. The trust in the leadership…has completely collapsed and in general, staff are once again feeling demoralised, ignored, distrusted, and exhausted from the pressures and strains of working in this – what can only be described as – a toxic environment.

Baroness Kennedy was contacted by over fifty people when compiling her report. She described: “beyond specific instances, I have found a culture that is stuck, it seems, in a morass of staff upset and grievance – on matters relating… to the bullying, silencing and marginalising of staff.”

Sadly, we feel that this culture has returned under the new governance of the union. Kennedy commended the staff in her report: “I want to emphasise that I was impressed by the commitment and decency of the staff …I met some truly good people, with good intentions… I have experienced staff as fearful, anxious, and distressed. I have not experienced staff as vengeful, political, unkind, or lacking in decency”.

Kennedy’s analysis did not blame the staff; she praised them.

It goes on:

In addition, amongst other things, there has been an abject failure to follow agreed procedure and protocols regarding staff complaints made about bullying. Kennedy reported in February 2023: “I also heard evidence of failings in due process, natural justice and governance…In any organisation, policies and procedures are trumped by values and culture. No policy can make a healthy, productive organisation if its implementation is limited by poor values or a dysfunctional culture.”

The policy on Dignity at Work states clearly and unequivocally the procedures to follow when complaints have been raised. These procedures have not been followed.

With regards to staffing appointments, such as the (Interim) Assistant General Secretary Role, and ‘hiring’ of an HR Manager, proper procedure, and collective bargaining, including the practice of having an independent staff observer, are not being followed.

Kennedy warned about opaque practices amongst the recruitment of Senior Management Team in her report, where she described how a member of staff was being ‘groomed’ for General Secretary. She strongly criticised it as ‘opportunity hoarding’. We see it as cronyism which undermines the reputation of the union.

We are further concerned that the General Secretary will not meet with the Staff Reps every week to discuss issues, as the previous Interim General Secretary had agreed to do. We feel that this is a vital part of ensuring full transparency in the process of implementing sweeping culture change and a way of dealing with any staffing issues rapidly.

Former TSSA assistant general secretary Steve Coe described GMB’s allegations as ‘worrying’:

Contacted for comment about the new MeTu statement, the TSSA press spokesman was dismissive about the press enquiry and claimed not to have seen it and that there are no links between current senior figures in the union and the disgraced former management, but declined to provide a formal comment and threatened legal action if its contents were related and the union was unhappy with what it said.

TSSA general secretary Maryam Eslamdoust has previously attacked Skwawkbox for scrutinising the claims about her record that she and her team made during last year’s election to choose the union’s new general secretary. Despite a lack of relevant experience in a senior union role and the candidacy of two experienced TSSA figures, the union’s executive opted to nominate her as its preferred candidate and pushed members hard to vote for her.

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A very happy Christmas to Skwawkbox readers. #CeasefireNow

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/12/2023 - 11:25am in

Skwawkbox wishes its readers a wonderful Christmas and festive season and a peaceful new year. May there be justice in the UK, in Gaza – and a ceasefire and lasting peace – an end to oppression and exploitation, and accountability for those responsible for them.

Thank you for your readership and support.