2011 - African Migration, Global
Inequalities, and Human Rights: Connecting the Dots.
Current African Issues Paper for Nordic Africa Institute.
August 1, 2010 - Oped in Providence Journal U.S.-Africa 'reset' requires honesty about America's wrongs
President Obama has inspired hope in Africa and around the world.
Africans who heed his call to build the future, however, must still
reckon with the stubborn fact that the United States can be an
obstacle as well as a partner.
Spring, 2010 - Foreword to issue of Articulate -
End "Aid," Invest in Global Public Goods
Let us agree that the "aid paradigm" is fundamentally flawed, in that it is based on
a model of the rich "helping" the poor. But the paradigm advanced by free-market
fundamentalism, that poor countries and poor people can and should lift themselves
up by their bootstraps, without benefit of support from the wider society, is also
April, 2010 - Zimbabwe: Demystifying Sanctions and Strengthening Solidarity,
by Briggs Bomba and William Minter
In the case of Zimbabwe today, both supporters and opponents of
sanctions exaggerate their importance. The international community,
both global and regional, has other tools as well.
October, 2009 - Africa: Climate Change and Natural Resources,
by William Minter and Anita Wheeler
Africa will suffer consequences out of all
proportion to its contribution to global warming, which is
primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions from wealthy
countries. But Africa can also make significant contributions to
mitigating (i.e. limiting) climate change, by stopping tropical
deforestation and ending gas flaring from oil production.
March, 2009 - Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa,
by Daniel Volman and William Minter, for Foreign Policy in Focus
html | pdf (283K)
Will de facto U.S. security policy toward the continent focus
on anti-terrorism and access to natural resources and prioritize
bilateral military relations with African countries? Or will the
United States give priority to enhancing multilateral capacity to
respond to Africa's own urgent security needs? If the first option is
taken, it will undermine rather than advance both U.S. and African
February, 2009 - Inclusive Human Security: U. S. National Security Policy, Africa,
and the African Diaspora, edited for TransAfrica Forum html (150K) | pdf (2.8M)
Fundamentally, it is necessary not only to present a new foreign policy
face to the world, but to shape an international agenda that shows more
and more Americans how our own security depends on that of others. The
old civil rights adage that "none of us are free until all of us are free" has
its corollary in an inclusive human security framework: "None of us can
be secure until all of us are secure. "
April, 2008 - Migration and Global Justice, pamphlet written for American Friends
html | pdf (379K)
"As the global economy drives global inequality, movement across borders
inevitably increases. If legal ways are closed, people trying to survive and
to support their families will cross fences or set sail on dangerous seas
regardless of the risks. "
December, 2007 - "The Armored Bubble: Military Memoirs from Apartheid's
Warriors," pp. 147-152 in African Studies Review
html | pdf (70K)
"The books reviewed in this essay are a small sample of one genre of war
literature: detailed accounts of battle from the perspective of those among
South Africa's military veterans who have no question that they were fighting
a just cause in defense of their country. "
Jan 31, 2007 - Oped in Providence Journal
"Don't replay Iraq in Horn of Africa"
"Somalia is not Iraq, of course. ... But the similarities are nevertheless substantial. The United States and Ethiopia cut short efforts at reconciliation ... They disregarded Somali and wider African opinion in an effort to kill alleged terrorists. And while chalking up military "victories," they aggravated long-term problems."
Jul 8, 2005 -
"Invisible Hierarchies: Africa, Race, and Continuities in the World Order" (pdf)
"The failure to acknowledge race as a fundamental feature of today’s unequal world order remains a striking weakness of radical as well as conventional analyses of that order. Current global and national socioeconomic hierarchies are not mere residues of a bygone era of primitive accumulation. Just as it should be inconceivable to address the past, present, and future of American society without giving central attention to the role of African American struggles, so analyzing and addressing 21st-century structures of global inequality requires giving central attention to Africa."
In Science & Society, July, 2005
Jul 8, 2002 -
"Aid—Let's Get Real"
"There is an urgent need to pay for such global public needs as the battles against AIDS and poverty by increasing the flow of real resources from rich to poor. But the old rationales and the old aid system will not do. ... For a real partnership, the concept of "aid" should be replaced by a common obligation to finance international public investment for common needs."
In The Nation, July 8, 2002, with Salih Booker.
Nov 3, 1992 - Oped in Christian Science Monitor
"Savimbi Should Accept That Democracy Worked in Angola"
"Just one month after Angolans peacefully thronged polling stations in their first multiparty election
ever, the conflict-battered Southern African country is on the brink of all-out war. ... The international
community, including the US, has been unanimous, in urging Savimbi to accept the election results, but Savimbi and his close-knit group of top officers remain both unpredictable and militarily potent. The new conflict, which appears to the starting, will be hard to contain."
April, 1988 - "When Sanctions Worked: The Case of Rhodesia Reconsidered", with Elizabeth Schimdt, in
African Affairs html (97K) | pdf (3.4M)
"Sanctions, while not the only factor in bringing majority rule to Rhodesia, made a significant
long-term contribution to that result. ... Moreover, more strongly enforced sanctions could have
been even more effective. If Rhodesia's petroleum lifeline had been severed and if South Africa
had not served as a back door to international trade, ... the country could not have survived
for more than a matter of months."
"Action against Apartheid,"
in Bruce Douglas, ed., Reflections on Protest: Student Presence in
"But the government usually seems to be a very distant and unresponsive target
[for anti-apartheid protests]. Therefore exposure of U.S.A. business involvement in
Southern Africa - by demonstrations, withdrawal campaigns, etc. - is at least equally
Action Against Apartheid
by William Minter*
in Bruce Douglas, ed., Reflections on Protest: Student Presence in
Political Conflict. Richmod: John Knox Press, 1968, pp. 179-188.
* William Minter is a former chairman of the Southern Africa
Committee of NSCF, now  a Frontier Intern in Tanzania.
The Southern Africa Committee of the NSCF (1) emerged out of a
combination of events. Hank Crane, WSCF secretary for Africa, and
Ken Carstens, a white South African now in exile, were present at
several NSCF meetings and insisted that the issue should be given
priority. This led in the winter of 1964 to the establishment of a
committee, as well as to the passage of resolutions. The committee
was given a mandate to study and act. But it was national in
character, and finances made frequent meetings impossible.
Therefore members of the committee based in one area - metropolitan
New York - decided to create a really functioning local committee
and to recruit others in the area who were interested. During the
next two years this committee, together with a few scattered
individuals and groups in other parts of the country, acted on
behalf of the NSCF. Among other things, it studied, produced study
materials, held conferences, helped organize demonstrations and
other protests, and lobbied within the National Council of Churches
for action on this issue.
The Information Gap
On November 11, 1965, the Smith regime in Rhodesia declared its
independence, an independence designed to make possible continued
white rule in that British colony. Amid cries for decisive action
from African states and from Zimbabwe (Rhodesian) nationalists,
Great Britain slowly began to apply limited sanctions. London's
optimistic and deceptive prediction was that the Smith regime would
soon fall. In this policy it was supported at the United Nations,
although many felt it to be totally inadequate. The United States,
too, instituted limited sanctions.
The members of the NSCF Southern Africa Committee felt that the
response of the Western powers, and of the U.S.A. in particular,
was not sufficient, and that neither the American government nor
the American people were aware of the seriousness of the crisis. It
was featured in the headlines for a while, but soon it was
relegated to the back pages of even The New York Times. As one
aspect of its work, therefore, the committee began to publish a
bi-weekly news summary on Southern Africa, edited at first on a
volunteer basis and later by part-time staff. Information was
gathered not only from regular newspapers and magazines, hut also
from direct contact with such sources as the nationalist movements
Approaching the Banks
During the first part of 1965, Students for a Democratic Society,
a "New Left" political movement with full-time organizers paid on
a subsistence basis, selected as one of its two action priorities
the issue of U.S.A. economic involvement in the support of
apartheid in South Africa. SDS took as its prime target the Chase
Manhattan Bank, which functions as a leading member of a consortium
that provides a revolving loan fund to the South African government
and was instrumental in resolving the crisis of the South African
economy after the Sharpeville incident. The initial action was to
be a large protest demonstration in New York in March, and several
staff members were assigned to do preparatory organizational work.
The NSCF committee was one of a number of organizations invited to
support the project, and it agreed to do so. However, many of our
committee felt that the initial letter from SDS to the bank was not
very tactful, and that attempts at negotiation should be made
before a demonstration was held. Therefore, while plans were
continuing for the demonstration a number of conversations were
held with bank officials. These resulted only in making crystal
clear the attitude of the bank: namely, that it was impossible, if
not immoral, for bank officers to take into account anything other
than economic criteria in the management of bank business. The
argument that it would be in their long-range interest to support
a more just society in Southern Africa was clearly not very
convincing to them, in view of the more immediate profits available
in the present and the still weak military capacity of the
nationalist movements and the African states opposed to apartheid.
Chase Manhattan also argued that the economic development they were
promoting would benefit Africans as well as whites.
The NSCF committee then participated in the demonstration, helping
to mobilize part of the 3,000 demonstrators. Following the
demonstration, conversations with bank officials continued for some
time, but once summer came and most university terms ended, the
movement subsided. (2)
During the next academic year, several students at Union
Theological Seminary in New York conceived of another form of
protest directed at a similar target. First National City Bank was
at least as much involved in South Africa as Chase Manhattan, if
not more so, as Chase had recently sold its branches there to
Standard Bank. Many Union and Columbia students, as well as faculty
members and the institutions themselves, had accounts at First
National City Bank.
The new approach began with talks with bank officials, student
councils, the administrations and faculties of the seminary and
university, and with students themselves Students and faculty were
asked to sign a petition promising to withdraw their accounts
unless the bank met certain demands by April 20. The many
denominations and church agencies with offices at the Inter-Church
Center (3) were also asked to withdraw their accounts. The student
protest, which attracted some newspaper and radio-TV publicity,
culminated in a march and the simultaneous withdrawal of accounts
by seventy people. Others joined in the march, and still others
withdrew accounts at later dates. The student council of Barnard
College withdrew a $20,000 account. But the churches delayed: some
meetings were held; committees were appointed; but little action
was taken. The main result of the protest was to force a number of
people to confront an issue which otherwise they would have
When the university spring term ended, it was decided that the
protest should continue, that the committees established to study
the question should not be allowed to collapse, and that attempts
should be made to extend the protest to other parts of the city.
During the summer, the American Committee on Africa, together with
the NSCF, hired several staff to lay the groundwork for continuing
action in the fall. The person hired by NSCF, a student who was
active in the National Federation of Catholic College Students (now
a member of the new University Christian Movement), worked on a
subsistence basis, Influential sponsors were induced to lend their
names to the protest, and contacts with individuals and
organizations in other parts of the city were begun. The main
strategy was to persist in requesting individuals and organizations
to withdraw accounts from the banks involved, and thereby to
confront the public with the issue of American involvement in
Approaching the Churches
About the time of the Chase Manhattan demonstration the NSCF
committee had promoted a study-educational conference on Southern
Africa for NSCF. Following the conference, the National Council of
Churches received an angry letter from a conference leader. The
NSCF uses the accounting facilities of the NCC, and Gladstone
Ntlabati, a student at Yale Divinity School, a native South
African, and a member of the African National Congress, had
received a check for his expenses drawn on Chase Manhattan Bank. He
wrote to protest this hypocrisy. In turn, the NSCF was awakened to
the fact that it had a responsibility to arouse its own adult
associate, as well as to evaluate its own banking policies. A long
series of discussions followed, with the NSCF suggesting various
actions that the NCC should take: withdrawal of accounts, education
of church people concerning the issue, more support to the Defence
and Aid Fund for political prisoners, etc.
The NSCF committee has continued to press the churches on this
issue, but it is sad to report that few concrete results have been
achieved. A resolution an Southern Africa approved by the NCC was
much strong~r than it would have been without NSCF suggestions. But
for the most part, church leaders seem to use opposition to the
more radical actions advocated by the NSCF as an excuse for no
action at all.
From Conversion to Coercion
Of equal importance with the action taken by the NSCF Southern
Africa Committee is what was learned in the process. Over the past
two years there has been an evolution of thought which has
substantially changed the theoretical context and the assumptions
of the action.
Out of the initial study and research of the committee, there
emerged a statement of position quite moderate and reasonable which
(apparently) impressed some church leaders. Apartheid was
condemned; our responsibility in relation to it was affirmed; and
the rest was left open-ended. At that time, the committee was
dealing with the old questions of political liberalism: the tension
between persuasion (of the white South Africans) and pressure
(economic) exerted against them. The committee was aware of the
bankruptcy of the policy of persuasion, but was quite unwilling to
give it up. In this way of thinking, talk about Christian
reconciliation played a central role. Such thinking contributed to
greater empathy and sensitivity vis-…-vis the people in South
Africa, but made it difficult to formulate any meaningful political
strategy, particularly one which involved overt conflict. Gradually
a rather different set of assumptions about Southern Africa began
to emerge. The negotiations with Chase Manhattan Bank awakened the
committee to the stubbornness of U.S.A. economic interests there.
A deeper study of U.S.A. policy convinced it that the U.S.A.
government did not speak in good faith in its public position on
Southern Africa. The Rhodesian UDI and subsequent official British
and American hypocrisy about the effectiveness of sanctions added
to the pessimism about U.S.A. government action- and led to a
rejection of the view that armed revolutionary violence is always
worse than the invisible violence of existing injustice and
repression. Although the apparent weakness of the Organization of
African Unity and the African nationalist movements led to
pessimism about the effectiveness of organized violence in the
foreseeable future, the eventual organization of Africans there for
armed revolution was seen as the decisive factor, both on its own
and because only when faced with such a crisis would the Western
powers be likely to devote much attention to the repression in
Thus from a "liberal" condemnation of the injustice and a plea to
be "concerned," the committee moved to a pessimism about the
existing powers in both Southern Africa and the Western world. It
moved to an expectation and an acceptance of violent revolution as
the probable end result of the existing conditions.
From "Crisis-Response" to Long-Term Strategy
There was evolution also in the committee's thinking about U.S.A.
government policy and strategy for influencing that policy. At the
beginning a "resolution-passing" mentality prevailed, and strategy
questions as such received little attention. The strategy which
eventually did evolve was that the U.S.A. government must be the
primary target and that protests against economic involvement
should be aimed at government action. The reason was simple: the
chances of independent initiatives by private concerns for a more
just society in Southern Africa are negligible.
But the question still remained: what action to take? Much of what
the committee did can be seen as responses to crises isolated
actions with little relation to a broader strategy (e.g., the news
summary and the Chase Manhattan Bank demonstration).
When such "crisis-response" action seemed to have little effect,
the committee was forced to ask somewhat deeper questions, e.g.:
(a) What predictions can be made about future U.S.A. government
policy toward Southern Africa? (b) What are realistic goals for
those concerned to change this policy? (c) What priorities should
be set for action now?
To sum up briefly, the tentative answers were these:
(a) As tension increases in Southern Africa, the U.S.A. will be
forced to respond, and it will become more deeply and obviously
involved in the conflict. This is unlikely to be involvement
favoring in a clear-cut way either the whites or the Africans.
Rather, one may expect a search for "Tschomb‚s" to bring about a
semblance of majority rule with Western-style "law and order" (and
economic interests) safeguarded. We have come to assume, then, that
the U.S.A. role will be ambiguous, even in a crisis, and that
African movements will have to establish independent power to
safeguard their interests. The main task presently of those in the
U.S.A. who support a more just policy is to shape public opinion.
(b) The opportunities for mobilizing public influence on U.S.A.
foreign policy exist primarily during crises, for it is very easy
for those not directly concerned to avoid a foreign policy issue
when it is not in the headlines. This means that a realistic goal
is to prepare a constituency (e.g., a movement or a group of
persons especially concerned and informed about Southern Africa)
for the time when the issue will be in the public eye. It also
means demanding specific changes in policy now, but with the
expectation that even if small changes are made the basic issue
(c) How then does one act now in terms of the above goals? The
first priority is to get local groups to function. Their action
should consist of both education and direct political action.
Education may mean conferences, seminars, teach-ins, publications,
etc. Raising money for aid of political prisoners and liberation
movements is useful both as an educational method and a first step
in action. More overtly, political action focuses on immediate
specific goals, such as U.S.A. economic and political disengagement
from support of minority rule in Southern Africa and U.S.A.
adherence to United Nations General Assembly resolutions. Political
pressure should be brought to bear through letters, visits to
congressmen, petitions, canvassing, etc. But the government usually
seems to be a very distant and unresponsive target. Therefore
exposure of U.S.A. business involvement in Southern Africa - by
demonstrations, withdrawal campaigns, etc. - is at least equally
important. It should be kept in mind throughout that for long-range
results the key factor is making the constituency aware: not only
the students, but also potentially sympathetic sections of the
population Negroes, churches, liberal segments of the middle class,
Another trend of thought in the committee is connected with the
changes which the NSCF-UCM is undergoing right now. The NSCF was a
federation, distant from the grass roots, and therefore the
committee did not have a constituency that could act. Like many
other organizations, it was a prisoner of the "mailing-list"
mentality . the notion that once materials have been prepared and
mailed, action automatically results.
The importance of grass-roots movement-building cannot be too
strongly emphasized. The UCM as a whole must give priority to this,
and those concerned with Southern Africa must build up a special
constituency, a committed group within the UCM who will take this
issue as a priority. Such movement-building is difficult work, and
given present conditions, it is unlikely to make a great impact on
official U.S.A. policy. But without attention to this task,
political action is almost certainly doomed to ineffective, feeble
gestures. The usefulness of what we have learned for students in
other nations will vary from place to place. In some cases it will
be very small. It has most relevance in other developed or
industrialized countries that are linked to South Africa.
In other parts of Africa, the most helpful contribution which SCMs
can make to a solution in Southern Africa may perhaps he to
participate actively in nation-building, for until the member
nations of OAU are stronger internally, its resolutions are likely
to have little effect. African SCMs need to be well informed on the
technical dimensions of the problems of Southern Africa which means
study and research. There is also a need for honest encounter
between other Africans and those from the southern tip of their
continent. The African Movements can also play a very helpful role
by pressing the Movements in the developed nations - particularly
in the West - to deal with the problem of continuing external
support of the South African economy.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the general point that if
a student group begins to take political action seriously, it needs
to develop an over-all view of the problem with which it is dealing
(an ideology, a social scientific model, a systematic prediction
about the future course of events, etc.). It also needs to develop
a comprehensive, carefully planned, long-term strategy. Both must
be flexible, and there is always the danger that the group will
become the captive of its thought categories. Nonetheless, students
too easily fall prey to simplistic analyses and "crisis-response"
strategies, which are haphazard and superficial. This is the far
(1) Until September 1966, the national Student Christian Movement
in the U.S.A., which was a member of the WSCF, was the Student
Christian Federation. It has become the University Christian
(2) SDS, which had been the main force involved, did not know what
to do next; it turned to other, more immediately pressing issues,
such as community organization in urban ghettos and protest against
the war in Vietnam. The NSCF committee found it difficult to
continue the protest on its own. [Update 2008: The reference to 3 000 demonstrators
is probably a typographical error for 300. The New York Times (March 20, 1965) gave
the figure of 400.]
(3) The Inter-Church Center, located at 475 Riverside Drive, New
York, is the headquarters of the National Council of Churches and
many church boards and agencies.