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  • Writer's pictureIrungu Houghton

Reflecting on campaigning in Africa: Some reflections from Africans Act for Africa (AA4A)

It is six months since we galvanised African Governments to view the unfolding famine in the horn of Africa as their collective responsibility to resolve. At the time, close to 100,000 had likely died, 12 million were affected by malnutrition, neglect and the most profound rights denial namely, the right to food. The AU Commission had invited African Governments to a pledging conference on 25 August. One billion US dollars is what we needed then, US$50 million is what we demanded of our Governments. US$48 million is what they pledged. The African Development Bank offered a further US300 million.

It is fair to say that we shifted the policy conversation from charity “what we can give” to what Governments should give with our policy brief and lobbying. We kept up the pressure by writing letters to Presidents. We tweeted them in droves on International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2011. In a rapidly short period of time, AA4A was recognised as having found an important niche in the eyes of some African Governments, UN and AU agencies most notably by the AU Envoy on Somalia. Progressive artists, NGO staff and activists had rallied voluntarily to raise the conscience of the public. In their voluntary efforts a solid foundation emerged to challenge those with good intentions and no action to act and save lives and livelihoods.

In January 2012, less of the US$5 million of the US$48 million promised by Governments has been received. The crisis in the Horn has subsided. Yet, 10 million Sahelian Africans are now affected and at risk in Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Niger. Not yet, can we say hunger is a thing of the past.

What can we learn as we move to the next strategy? • Our campaigns will have power, impact and sustainability if they; • Enable African voice and agency: (we can fix this!) • Deploy tools, tactics and spaces that create mass constituency and impact • Shift power, resources and investment and priorities of states and multi-lateral institutions • Situate the African state as primary duty-bearer for guaranteeing rights and freedoms • Seek to interrupt the almost predictable future of misery, neglect and inaction by states, public, you and me • Remain agile and exercise a constant capability to reinvent itself as the context shifts

The question is will we ever bring this vulnerability to an end? I tell you what it would take. You and me and everyone we have ever known, standing up and demanding justice for men and women neglected for years by both markets and states.

January 2012, Addis Ababa For more information


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