ECOWAS Pays Final Tribute To President Sirleaf At Her Last Summit

Amidst a sustained applaud and standing ovation, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) paid homage to Her Excellency, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the Liberian Leader attended her last summit of the regional body as President of Liberia.

A release from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says the Liberian Leader’s special recognition took place during the 52nd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS held on Saturday, December 16, 2017 in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Chairperson of ECOWAS and President of the Republic of Togo, His Excellency Faure Essonzimna Gnassingbe, devoted a significant portion of his opening remarksto the honor of President Sirleaf.

“I would like to take the opportunity, ladies and gentlemen, to seize this exceptional opportunity to pay a final tribute to the one we all know as the ‘Iron Lady’,Madam EllenJohnsonSirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia”, the release quotes the Chairperson of ECOWAS as saying.

President Gnassingbe, in his opening remarks, continued,“Your Excellency Madam President, at the moment when you are about to pass the witness in your capacity as President of the Republic of Liberia, allow me to address you our warm felicitations and to pay you a deserving homage for your determination to the cause of the economic integration and peace, and for the leadership you have shown during your tenure as the first woman president of Africa, the first female Chair of ECOWAS and the Nobel Peace Prize winner.Youhave worthily represented West Africa and displayed exceptional strength and courage to lead the Liberian people in peace and cohesion throughout your tenure.You have represented West Africa with dignity and exceptional strength and courage to keep the Liberian people in peace and harmony throughout your tenure.”

According to the release, the Togolese Leader said his Liberian counterpart has guided the West African Region and that her influence has spread across their space, through social, political and economic challenges, including the end of the Ebola virus epidemic, recognized as a world threat.

“To render this homage to her, I would like, very respectfully, to proffer if you agree, Your Excellencies, the Heads of State of Government, that we should rise to offer you an ovation which she deserves in more than one way for her greatnessand recognize all her achievements, sources of our pride”, he added, as the rest of the West African leaders and the entire audience rose in applause.

Meanwhile, regional leaders and guests have congratulated President Sirleaf and the Liberian people for respecting the rule of law throughout the country’s electoral process.

The Chairperson of ECOWAS, Togolese President Gnassingbe, in his opening remarks at the Summit, added, “Allow me to address here my congratulations to Her Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and to all the political actors for the salutary decision of the Supreme Court of December 7, 2017 to proceed to the second round of the presidential elections, after having managed to smooth out the protest of the first round”.

For his part, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, in his welcome remarks, said, “I salute the people of Liberia for the manner in which they conducted themselves during and in the aftermath of the just concluded general elections.”

The release further quotes the Nigerian Leader who was the host of the Summit, as adding that it is his fervent hope that the same attitude prevails in the coming run-off election scheduled to hold on 26December.

President Buhari hopes that a new president is inaugurated in January, 2018, as per the provision of the country’s Constitution, according to the release:“My dear sister, Your Excellency Sirleaf-Johnson, we appreciate the leadership you demonstrated in this electoral process.”

According to the Nigerian Leader, Liberia’s peaceful conduct of the elections was in accordance with the “ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance”, adopted in 2001 by the Authority of the Heads of State and Government.

The release also quotes the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Marcel de Souza, as saying in his opening remarks: “In Liberia, following attempts to contest the validity of the results of the first round of the presidential election of 10, October 2017, the decision of the Supreme Court delivered on 7 December 2017, to proceed with the second round of the presidential election was commended by all key persons involved, as well as the general populace. After consultations with all political parties, 26 December 2017 has been decided as the date for the second round of the presidential election in Liberia”.

President Sirleaf who headed a high-power Liberian delegation returned home on Sunday, December 17, 2017, the release continues. Members of the President’s delegation included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Marjon V. Kamara, Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Boima S. Kamara, Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe and Transport, Mr. Samuel A. Wlue respectively.

Others were the Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, Professor Al-Hassan Conteh and Montserrado County Representative Honorable Josephine Francis, the release concludes.



War Victims Hold Memorial Service December 24 .

Liberia Massacre Survivors Association Inc (LIMASA), in collaboration with the Coalition for Justice in Liberia, Hold Memorial Service Program On December 24, 2017.

LIMASA is comprised of the living victims of Liberia’s brutal civil war which claimed the lives of more than 250,000 innocent, mainly women and children.

It has been more than 27 years with no justice or social services for war victims who are still suffering from the negative effects of war while living in impoverished conditions in Liberia: for instance, trauma from raped, tortured and living with other scars of war while the perpetrators are roaming freely across Liberia tormenting their helpless victims.

The memorial service program is being held under the theme, “Commemorating the past to seek Justice,” purposely to keep up with the memories of those who were senselessly murdered by rebels of various warring factions during the fourteen years Liberian violence.

Meanwhile, the group is seeking financial assistance, saying “Your financial donation is extremely important to have such a program to remember friends and families, who were murdered to not be forgotten.”

According to LIMASA, a minimum of $5 dollars donation will be highly appreciated.


Chinese Language In South African Schools and Universities; Soft Power Or Imperialism?

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye


It is becoming contentious if Chinese Language in African universities and schools is a tool for soft power of imperialism.

Forty-four schools across South Africa introduced the teaching of Mandarin in 2016.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said at the time that 27 schools in the Western Cape Province introduced Mandarin, the highest number in the country, followed by Gauteng (11), the Eastern Cape (three) and KwaZulu-Natal (three). She also disclosed that schools in other provinces will follow (Mail & Guardian).

The introduction of Mandarin in the public school curriculum is in addition to the establishment of Confucius Institutes (CIs) in the country. So far, there are five  CIs in South Africa, with the latest being the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute (UJCI). Furthermore, the Pretoria Chinese School, established in the 1930s by the Chinese Community, teaches Mandarin from pre-school to grade 12. It is independent of Hanban, a Chinese state agency that manages CIs across the world

Why Mandarin?

China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner. “The trade volume between South and China has grown from 15 billion to about 300 billion United States dollar,” said David Monyae, co-director of the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute (UJCI).

Speaking with a team of Africa-China Reporting Project journalists on November 13, 2017, at his office in Johannesburg, Monyae said that claims of imperialism undermine the growing cooperation between Africa and China. According to Monyae, China grows as the world’s second-largest economy. With this, he said people in countries, including the United States, are eager to learn  Chinese. “I can tell you that the highest number of Confucius Institutes is found in the US,” the UJCI’s co-director said.

Monyae dismissed as ill-informed insinuation that Mandarin will overtake other local languages, saying “it is not based on facts”. He said there are other languages by colonisers, like English, German and French that are not the mother tongues of Africans.

The UJCI, Monyae said, is not only established to teach Mandarin, but also to research on how China relates to the world, its peace missions, and people-to-people diplomacy, among others. With such a huge trade volume and still counting, Monyae stressed the need for SA and China to have a common understanding, also based on language and culture between them. “Africa-China relations is nothing new. But our argument remains strong, that you cannot deepen these relations without understanding each other,” he added.

Like its sister institutions, UJCI promotes the study of Chinese and an interest in Chinese culture. To this end, it  offers Mandarin courses for university staff and students, members of other organisations as well as members of the public; administers international proficiency tests in Chinese; and organises events and exchanges aimed at promoting an understanding of Chinese language and culture.

Ntombizondira Mathebula (Maureen) is a senior teacher, Gwala Nondumisa and Ngwenga Londiwe are young teachers at the Winnie Mandela Secondary School.

Winnie Mandela Secondary School is a state secondary school located at 9043 Mandela Drive, Tembisa Ext 24, Tembisa, Gauteng Province, South Africa. Besides English that is the major Language, three local languages include Sepedi, Tsonga and isiZulu are also optionally taught at the school.

The teachers spoke of the importance of introducing Mandarin in schools, which they say is an opportunity for many South Africans who travel to China. According to them, it will also increase the chance of South Africans getting jobs at Chinese firms as well as understanding the culture of the Asian country.

“People are concerned about Mandarin because South Africa hasn’t introduced any local language as a national language. It’s just that concern, but some think it necessary to know Mandarin as a language because, as South Africans, we travel a lot. And it is easy…and one feels comfortable knowing the language whenever he’s among those who speak the language,” Maureen said.

Among other things, Maureen said teachers or government cannot choose and so parents have greater roles to play in the introduction of Mandarin. “Let our Department of Education allow for parents to make the choice because it is their kids that are going to the face the world outside there,” she urges. Gwala Nondumisa and Ngwenga Londiwe expressed a similar view.

Mr. Eddie Kekana, principal of the school, said they are yet to introduce Mandarin in the school. He explained that the plan is good. He supports the SA Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) position that Mandarin should be optional and that local languages be treated equally.

Anton Harber, a journalism professor at Wits University, told Africa-China Reporting Project fellows that there is no evidence of imperialism as others claim. “The agreement to teach Chinese in South African schools is driven by investment and trade. Confucius Institutes were established in South Africa based on agreement of the two sides.” Harber also revealed that South Africa’s trade with China has grown and so teaching Chinese in the country is welcomed.

Erwin Pon, chairman of the Chinese Association of Gauteng, South Africa, in conversation of with journalists on Africa-China Reporting Project in Johannesburg on November 9, 2017, said that the teaching of Chinese Language in South Africa is in good faith, for Chinese and South Africans to understand each other’s language and and culture as well.

It was also gathered that Chinese teaching had started years back with Chinese migrants learning their language in South Africa.

South African-born Chinese, Mr. W. K. Wai Pon, told Africa-China Reporting Project journalists in Johannesburg that he went to Chinese school.

Angela Liu, Deputy Principal of the Pretoria Chinese School, said the school started as exclusive institution to teach Chinese children, but later opened to the general public.


Mandarin, colonialism?

Mugwena Maluleke, secretary general of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), told the Africa-China Reporting Project in Johannesburg on November 13, that the union stands by its early decision to oppose the prioritisation of Mandarin over local languages. He said the introduction of Mandarin in the curriculum is another form of colonialism.

South Africa has 11 official languages but English dominates politics, business and the media.

“The Chinese will continue to maintain their languages and culture, they are not going to be taught isiZulu, Tsonga and other South African languages,” the SADTU secretary general said.

Maluleke said the government is placing serious importance on Mandarin and it could downplay local languages and thus erode the local culture which is central to the identity of the people. According to him, South Africa is facing language problems caused by apartheid and colonisation and so introducing new language at this time without solving the situation would cause future problems for South Africa.

The Department of Education has made amendments “to the regulations pertaining to the National Curriculum Statement Grades R–12 to provide for the listing of Mandarin as a second additional language” (Government Gazette, 2015: 3).

“We will continue to campaign for education freedom, parents can choose any foreign languages for their children,” Maluleke added.

“…as an organization, we have taken an early decision, that look…for all of the foreign Languages, parents have the right to choose. We did not like this and did not agree upon it, when we saw our Education Department only prioritising the Mandarin Language,” Maluleke said.

Maluleke sees it as re-colonialism for a particular foreign language to be prioritised over local and other foreign languages in South Africa. He said South Africa is also trading with France and other countries and so there was no need to give preference to the Chinese Language alone. He also wondered why the Chinese are introducing their Language in Africa and they are not learning African language.

The Teachers Union’s SG was quick to note that they are not opposing any foreign language in South Africa as being understood in some quarters. Maluleke said: “They are not understanding our point. We are saying that, also introduce Mandarin in Zulu and other local languages. For example, Language is taught based on symbols and students can solve Mathematics in Zulu, once they don’t understand it well in English and other foreign Languages.”.

According to him, the problem is not with China, but individuals he referred to as the “elite” who want to enrich themselves at the expense of South Africa, adding that the policy was introduced ‘without our inputs’.

He said the Chinese have the resources and are going to invest, thus enticing government officials and school administrators; something he considers imperialism.

“While we do not oppose anybody learning foreign languages, we also do not want them to impose any language on our people. They should not use our policy, they should not use our platform to impose a particular language on our people. Let them also prioritise indigenous languages. We should be treated like any other human beings in the world,” he noted.

He said Africa is endowed with natural resources, thus becoming an investment destination for many countries and so this time, “it is about time to maintain our dignity”.

As reported by the Mail & Guardian, SADTU had announced its campaign against the introduction of Mandarin in schools immediately after government revealed the plan in 2014.

Starting from the decision to establish a CI, the Confucius Institute’s By-Laws state that there must be “a demand for learning the Chinese language and culture at the applicant’s location” (Chinese Language Council International, Constitution and By-Laws).

According to The Conversation Africa, British missionaries wanted to convert Africa’s indigenous “heathens” to Christianity; to clone little English people on the continent through the medium of English. Next came the Afrikaners, descended from the Dutch. Their slaves created a “kitchen” language out of Dutch and called it Afrikaans. White Afrikaners appropriated it as their own and it became the language of apartheid.

One of the tipping points of white rule was the 1976 Soweto uprising – a furious, powerful response to the news that Afrikaans would become a compulsory medium of instruction.

Mandarin will strengthen ties, create opportunities

Paddy Attwell, Director of Communication at the Western Cape Education Department, responds: “We support the introduction of Mandarin in Western Cape schools, if schools choose to do so, and so long as it does not compromise the teaching of local languages.”

Attwell says the main benefit of learning a foreign language such as Mandarin is that it expands the world view of learners and empowers learners as global citizens.

He mentions that the Western Cape is experiencing a rapid increase in trade with China, and it therefore makes sense economically to empower young people to develop this relationship by learning more about Chinese language and culture.

“We have found that learning a foreign language such as Mandarin has helped learners to discover the joy of learning, which is central to successful education,” Attwell adds.

The Western Cape Town Education spokesman avers that it is in the interests of the Western Cape and the country generally to build positive relations with China, given the role the country is playing in international affairs. One way of doing this is to acquire a good understanding of Chinese language and culture, Attwell maintains.

So far, four schools in the Western Cape have registered Mandarin as a second additional language subject with the Western Cape Education Department.

According to Attwell, “Confucius Institutes at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town support Mandarin classes at about 28 sites, mostly schools, as far as we are aware. We do not have information on how many teachers may be involved.”

Attwell clarifies that South Africa has not yet included Mandarin as a subject for the National Senior Certificate, our Grade 12 qualification. Foreign languages registered for NSC examinations so far include Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telegu, Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish, Modern Greek, Portuguese, German, Hebrew, Urdu and Serbian, he explains.

Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, rejected the union’s criticism of Mandarin teaching. “We find it strange that there’s no opposition to the teaching of French, Portuguese, Latin, Greek, Arabic etc. Why is Mandarin targeted for criticism?”, he told  The Guardian in 2015.

Mhlanga added: “Why don’t you check how many South Africans go to China daily? What happens when they get there? They can’t speak the language and they struggle. Is it not an advantage to learn the language of the people you are doing business with? If there’s opposition, why do we have teachers taking up the opportunity of going to China to learn?”


Soft Power

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said in 2014, “We should increase China’s soft power, give a good Chinese narrative, and better communicate China’s message to the world.”

Soft power, a term coined by Harvard University scholar Joseph S. Nye Jr. in 1990s, is the means by which a country gets other countries to “want what it wants.” Soft power is being interpreted from different perspectives.

China’s Confucius Institutes (CI) – government-funded centers for research and language teaching run by state agency Hanban – are leading China’s cultural diplomacy in dozens of African countries through Chinese language and cultural studies programs aimed at shaping public opinion and strengthening South-South cooperation. The actual impact of these efforts on some Africans’ views of China is being questioned.

Generally, South Africans are eager to learn  Mandarin. They believe that it is a contribution to globalisation. And so it will also deepen their country’s relations with China.

On the other hand, they are skeptical about the manner and form it is being introduced. Like the teachers’ union, views gathered suggest that parents should make the choice. There is a fear that prioritizing Mandarin over other languages could amount to another round of colonialism and imperialism in South Africa.

Views of South Africans suggest the need for the government to place more emphasis on people-to-people contacts in order to generate more inputs from all stakeholders. South Africa is already plagued by language and cultural differences in the aftermath of apartheid and colonialism.

John Bailey, an experienced and senior journalist at eNCA in South Africa, says the introduction of Mandarin is a fine idea because it will enable South Africans to interface with nearly 1.4 billion Chinese people. But Bailey contends that government’s failure to consult relevant stakeholders in the process appears as if it is China that is imposing things on them.

“The problem is not China. It is our leaders’ way of doing things. They fight for their own interest and whatsoever is discussed, they run with the implementation. So it is difficult to rule out the communication gap between the government and the people,” Bailey observes.

He sees China’s soft power working, using various platforms such as BRICS, G20 and One Belt One Road as well as increasing its trade with South Africa. What needs to be done is for South Africa and other African countries to demonstrate patriotism, he says.

On the matter of making Mandarin compulsory in schools, Bailey rules out the possibility. He says doing so would put other students at a disadvantage. “While many South Africans support Mandarin in schools, it will remain optional.”

This article was based on fieldwork in South Africa, supported by the Africa-China Reporting Project at the Journalism Department of the University of the Witwatersrand. Phillip de Wet, an associate editor of the Mail & Guardian newspaper in Johannesburg, mentored this fieldwork.