Nigerian, Sierra Leone and South African anarchist and syndicalist links in the 1990s

The 1990s upsurge of anarchism found one expression in South Africa, where the anarchist and syndicalist tradition re-emerged after a break of decades. But this was not unique in English-using African countries. A substantial section of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was formed among diamond miners in Sierra Leone, but destroyed in the country’s ongoing civil war in 1997, leading members ending up displaced in Guinea to the north. In Nigeria, the anarcho-syndicalist Awareness League emerged in 1990, claiming over 1,000 members, and joined the syndicalist International Workers Association in 1996. Its roots were in Nigeria’s large (mainly Marxist) left, and its development is partly described in a book issued by two League members,  Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey, African Anarchism (published 1997, See Sharp Press in the USA: See Sharp version available here; also in an interview with Mbah in 2012, here).

Yet there was very little direct contact between the West African groups, and those of South Africa: news of one another was often second-hand, there was no direct contact by email (email use was a rarity for many African people at the time, even in South Africa), only the South Africans had a website (the Workers Solidarity Federation / WSF had a basic website from around 1995,  on the then-popular, now-dead Geocities system; the WSF’s sister group in Ireland, the Workers Solidarity Movement / WSM,  put the then-available materials on the Nigerians and Sierra Leoneans on a basic site, which is still online here); communication between the groups, such as it was, was by snail mail, which was very erratic.

The Awareness League gained global attention when a number of its members were jailed in 1992  on the eve of a short-lived transition from military rule. The anarcho-syndicalist Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA) in the United States of America built an international campaign, reliant on the then-key methods of spreading news in the anarchist and syndicalist milieu: snail mail. This meant mass mail-outs (of letters to groups), plus press statements that got picked up by anarchist and anarchist-friendly papers (these papers were also widely distributed by mail, the custom being that each group or paper would send free copies to a number of other groups).

So the South African Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) read about the campaign in American anarchist papers, got letters from the WSA (see scanned copy of a WSA package sent to the South Africans here: this includes material by the League) and both ARM and WSF wrote about the Awareness League (here, here, here). The Nigerians meanwhile wrote about the Anarchist Revolutionary Movement (ARM) in African Anarchism . ARM and WSF regularly sent materials and letters to the Awareness League, but only in 1999 did it get a direct letter from Sam Mbah. News about the IWW in Sierra Leone reached WSF through email contacts in the West. The South Africans sent letters and materials, but never heard back.

The Sierra Leone IWW did not survive the civil war; the Awareness League dissolved in the 2000s, and the stalwart Mbah passed away in 2014; and neither formation had obvious successors; while the WSF dissolved in 1999, it was replaced by projects like the Bikisha Media Collective, in turn absorbed into the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Fedeation (later, Front, the ZACF), in 2003.

A 1990s Durban-based group in South Africa, the Anarchist Awareness League, was obviously named after the Nigerian group: see here. This, too, ended up in ZACF.


Comrade Mkhululi Sijora Obituary (1982-2016)


Comrade Mkhululi Sijora Obituary (1982-2016)

Posted on July 28, 2016

by Lwazi Ngqingo

khustaCde Kusta’s untimely demise is a great loss. It will be felt by all those who were lucky to cross paths with him and all those who got to hear his music. He never questioned or withdrew his commitment to the struggle for freedom and justice, for a world with less political, economic, and gender based oppression.

Comrade Mkhululi Sijora Obituary

Mkhululi Sijora was born on the 1st August 1982 in Cape Town, Western Cape. He was the only child from his mother. Popularly known as ‘Khusta’ a name he got from his peers in the streets of Makhaza where he grew up and did most of his activism work. During his high school years in Chris Hani High School he became a peer educator and through that he did a lot of community work and at the same time he was writing and performing music as a rapper in a group he formed with friends, the groups’ name was Triple G’s.

After acquiring his matric he enrolled at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) for tertiary education studying Retail Marketing, this is where he was introduced to the world of politics. Khusta noted that before going to CPUT, he was not very interested in politics. After he was done with his studies he continued with making music performing at local hip hop sessions with his crew the Triple G’s and he continued working closely with Love Life: Ground Breakers.

Khusta was drawn in into SOS since 2010 first as a regular to the Struggle, hiphop and poetry in Lookout Hill, Khayelitsha. Quickly   he became one of the key members, he was then to join the inner circle meetings, and this is where his global politics were challenged, along with his perception of how much influence music has in changing the fabric of society. Cde Khusta gave all his time and life to defend the working class and all oppressed people. He was particularly critical of all bosses and political parties; he argued that the people themselves have the will and the power to rule themselves.

Within a space of a year he showed so much potential and became reliable comrade to take mandates from the organisation into other movements that we were interacting and building with.

Kusta didn’t separate his activism with his artistry. He was amongst the few artists that responded to the brutal murder of the Andries Tatane.

He didn’t hesitate to defend and demand justice for the Marikana mineworkers.

Kusekude engqinibeni

Sisese lucinizelweni

Ikude indle ebheka enkululekweni

Not yet Uhuru

Kodwa akuphethanga amabhulu

Umthetho esiphantsi kwawo ukhusela Oongxawankulu

Bavuka ngentseni bagoduke ngobusuku

Abasebenzi bezama ukwenza imali yoongxowa nkulu

Saqala uqhankqalaza  sadibana neembumbulu

45 people dead

Ezandleni zomthetho

I don’t care

Noba bafumene igani

Who gave them the right to take the people’s lives?

Bashayela umthetho

Babethane ngamaTender

Emva koko

Bavale umlomo

Ongathi ufna ukuthetha



Basibetha besibambile

Bafuna nje Amandla ethu

Basishiye silambile

Rest in peace to the Marikana Soldiers

We share the same struggle

Ukufa kwenu

Kuyoze kube nomvuzo nomvuka

Saxheleka imiphefumlo yophuka

Umvuzo wabasebenzi akenyuka

Inani lamaxhoba lenyuka

Kwanuka nje irhuluwa

– Kusta’s verse from the Bloodshed of the Innocent

He also put all his weight behind the #FeesMustFall.

Bagotywa besebatsha

is what we use to say

Apha baqotywa besebatsha

babotshelelwe ngechain

Ugutyungelwe ngomthetho

obaqweqwedisel’ ejele

Imfundo sisitixo

kodwa bona kumele bebhatele

Amatyala aqhekez’ ingqondo

ugqiba kwabo nje isgela

Ngamakhobok’ ebond

aphilel ubhatal’ ibank

The Fees must fall free education

Blade must go

As we March united in the struggle 

taking the streets

Like 76 we rise like they buried the seed

So raise up your fist and say it with me fees must fall

–Kusta’s verse from the fees must fall song

The comrade will be missed for his energy in protests as he was known for leading the struggle songs. He will be missed for his abilities in resolving conflicts with the movement, for he perpetually focused in building the unity of all people in struggle.

Cde Kusta’s untimely demise is a great loss. It will be felt by all those who were lucky to cross paths with him and all those who got to hear his music. He never questioned or withdrew his commitment to the struggle for freedom and justice, for a world with less political, economic, and gender based oppression.

WSF (1998): “Nigeria: Death of a tyrant, death of a democrat – but no freedom until capitalism is dead too!”

WSF (1998): “Nigeria: Death of a tyrant, death of a democrat – but no freedom until capitalism is dead too!”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

Ordinary Nigerian people took to the streets in celebration on June 8 after hearing that murderous dictator General Sani Abacha, 54, had died of a heart attack. Abacha’s death brought to an end a four-year iron-fisted reign that saw the hanging in 1995 of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others who had dared to speak out against the oppression of the workers and the poor by wealthy western oil drilling companies exploiting Nigeria.


But Abacha was swiftly replaced by Nigeria’s ninth military dictator, Abdusalam Abubakar, a career soldier trained in the United States and Britain like so many Third World strongmen, who immediately ordered seven days of national mourning for Abacha. Abubakar then appeased the regime’s critics by releasing several jailed unionists and activists. Then on July 7, Social Democratic Party leader Chief Moshood Abiola, 60, who was jailed after apparently winning the 1993 presidential election, conveniently died of a heart attack during a visit by American officials. Abiola was no angel: a multimillionaire shipping tycoon who used his military friends to try for the presidency, he boasted four wives and 19 girlfriends and was widely believed to have stolen millions intended to upgrade Nigeria’s telephone system. Supporters of the corrupt Nigerian state claimed that Abiola was the only leader able to unite a country deeply divided between the largely Christian Yoruba and the mostly Muslim Hausa. But Nigeria does not need more robber-baron leaders. It needs a strong workers movement to organise, rise up and throw off the yoke of capitalist-sponsored terrorist dictatorship.


At the Organisation for African Unity summit in Burkina Faso shortly after the dictator’s death, his cronies who oppress other African countries underlined exactly what they had in mind with their vision of an “African Renaissance” when they paid their respects to the man who ordered the detention without trial of pro-democracy activists, jailed newspaper editors for reporting the truth, and whose police shot dead at least 10 workers dead during May Day celebrations earlier this year.

The Nigerian regime earlier this year tried to whitewash its image by sending armed forces to Sierra Leone on the West Coast to oust another military junta and install United States- approved “democracy” (i.e. protection of western mining interests).


Abacha the Butcher was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by his sipporters, but the opposition United Action for Democracy – an umbrella of 26 human rights and pro-democracy groups in Nigeria – strongly opposed this stupid suggestion. The UAD listed Abacha’s crimes as:

1. The arrest and detention without trial of Abiola.
2. The arrest and secret military trials of pro-democracy activists.
3. The hangings of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni activists.
4. The closing of newspapers and secret military trials of journalists for “plotting to overthrow the state”.
5. The banning of some unions and the detention of union leaders following a strike in the oil industry to protest the political crisis.
6. The expulsion of student activists and the imposition of military- appointed administrators in the universities.
7. The death in prison of ousted General Shehu Musa Yar’adua and the sentencing to death of other opponents.
8. The overruling of the courts and the law by the army.
9. The promotion of conflict between tribes and between the Muslim north and Christian south.
10. The plundering of national resources and the collapse of social services due to officially tolerated corruption.

Amnesty International notes that there are “scores of prisoners held in life-threatening conditions in Nigeria’s jails” and has urged Abubaker to release Nigeria’s 250-plus prisoners of conscience – those jailed simply for their beliefs like so many South Africans were under apartheid.


Nigeria’s military dictatorships have all drawn strength from the international oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Mobil whose operations earn the country 80% of its national budget (about R51,5-billion a year). The wealth of the dictators and of the American, British and French oil companies is directly derived from the continued class inequality of the Nigerian social economy.

Despite all their rhetoric about democracy, the big capitalist powers like the USA are desperate to ensure that this oil exploitation does not falter, and so have never taken up the obvious weapon of sanctions to force the army to quit. It would be all so easy, but the profits are just too fat and the capitalists fear that the power vacuum created by the removal of a strongman will cause the country to split in half. The US, which imports half of Nigeria’s oil production, has not banned the sale of arms to Nigeria’s fascist military either: profits before people is their motto.

Abacha’s corrupt regime allowed Nigeria’s once vibrant agricultural sector to decay. What was once the world’s biggest palm oil industry has collapsed. Cocoa output halved since the 1960s, rubber production has fallen.

Abacha’s legacy has is a country pinched between demands by the capitalist overlord International Monetary Fund that Nigeria slash its already threadbare social services and public sector- which will lead to more popular unrest – and the threat of a coup by fat-cat army officers terrified of any challenge to their power and looting of the country.


This is the country that Abubakar takes control of. He has signalled his readiness to comply with the US’s and European Union’s insistence that there be “a genuine transition to civilian rule” by October 1.Of course, what the US and the EU really want is a civilian ruler installed in Nigeria to prevent the world’s seventh-largest oil export industry from being disrupted by those who want an end to oppression. They don’t care that the oil industry is the main exploiter of poor and working class Nigerians. The Western capitalist governments want democracy in name only: continued rule of the chiefs, military brass and company bosses – not real control of Nigeria’s assets by the Nigerian workers. And already, the local strongmen and robber barons have been scrambling to create new “democratic” political parties.

In August, Abubakar flew to South Africa where he was honoured at a state dinner. But his change from military uniform to a flowing white robe for the cameras should not fool anyone. He is no angel and his backers remain the brutish armed forces and the capitalist exploiters.

We support a move from military government to parliamentary rule. This will create better conditions for the working class and peasants to organise for further struggle.

In the end, however, only free socialism (anarcho-syndicalism) can redistribute wealth and power in Nigeria- and across the world. The solution is not a “good” government but workers power.


WORKERS OF SOUTH AFRICA! We cannot allow the tragedy befalling our fellow workers in Nigeria to continue! We cannot stand by and ignore our comrades’ pain, we cannot be silent.

IN YOUR COMMUNITIES: Support Nigerians who are genuine refugees of oppression against attacks by police. The cops are oppressing these visitors on behalf of the ruling class, falsely blaming all Nigerian immigrants for our country’s problems.

IN YOUR UNIONS: Tell your shop stewards, your leaders: “We demand justice for Nigeria. We boycotts of Shell and Mobil until Abubakar’s regime is toppled and democracy comes to Nigeria!”


Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, with 104 million people, has only had 10 years of civilian rule since independence from Britain in 1960. It is hardly surprising that here we find the biggest anarcho-syndicalist organisation in Africa: the Awareness League. From its roots as a radical student’s group, the League has become directly involved in the Nigerian workers’ struggle, and now has more than 1000 members across Nigeria.

Some members are rotting in Nigeria’s inhumane prisons. Others have written a book, African Anarchism- the history of a movement, that clearly shows a way out of Africa’s sad, battered love affair with brutal military dictatorships, cruel capitalism and so-called “socialist” exploitation: libertarian socialism. The League is an affiliate of the International Workers’ Association, an anarcho-syndicalist organisation formed to fight capitalism through revolutionary trade union activism worldwide.

WSF (1997): “Workers Fight Back Across The World”

WSF (1997): “Workers Fight Back Across The World”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 3, number 1, first quarter 1997. Complete PDF is here

The bosses are on the march against the workers and poor of the world, cutting jobs, wages and social services. But the workers and the poor are fighting back through their combat units, the trade unions. We draw inspiration from these struggles. It is our global resistance that will defeat the global enemy- capitalism and the State. But there can be no final victory until the union rank-and-file expel conservative and undemocratic union leaders and adopt a revolutionary programme of seizing and self-managing the land and factories through the trade unions.


During 1996 the South Korean government tried to pass a new labour law that attacked workers rights, and undermined job security. Already 10,000 public sector workers face dismissal.

Workers have said no to this law. On the 26 of December 1996 thousands auto and shipping workers took up strike action in protest. This action escalated into a general strike as workers of all jobs and unions came out. Led by the militant Confederation of Trade Unions, it is the biggest strike in South Korea’s history. And students have supported and joined the workers.

The government has tried to break the strike, raiding trade union offices, initiating legal actions against union militants and sending the riot police to break up demonstrations. But the strikes continue despite the repression. These workers show us the way forward: every attack on the working and poor people must be met with mass action and resistance.


Last year the German government planned to attack workers’ access to sick pay and pensions. The government also wanted to erode laws that protect workers, including unfair dismissal laws.

Workers did not take these bosses attacks lightly and took up action. On June 15 1996 350,000 workers gathered in Bonn (the main city) to protest. The protest was initiated by an umbrella group that included the Anarcho- Syndicalist group, the FAU- AIT.

The German Trade Union Federation (DGB) provided more than 300 busses to ferry workers. But the conservative bureaucratic DGB leaders tried to tone down the strike. They even managed to exclude the groups that initiated the protest from organising the rally. The DGB leaders want to build a “social partnership” with the class enemy- bosses.

Militant rank-and-file workers reject this. Many workers booed the speech of the DGB president. Workers from the metal union carried a banner stating “Social Partnership- there are other ways: general strike, occupy and expropriate.”

Phantsi ngeCapitalism! Phambili Basabenzi! (Away with Capitalism! Forward Workers!)

Socialist Revolution Through One Big Union!

WSF (1997): “International anarchist/syndicalist news: Spain/ Belorussia/ Poland/ Canada”

WSF (1997): “International anarchist/syndicalist news: Spain/ Belorussia/ Poland/ Canada”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 3, number 1, first quarter 1997. Complete PDF is here


SPAIN: Victory to the CNTIberia airlines got more than it bargained for when it suspended a delegate of the Anarcho-syndicalist CNT-AIT union in Madrid in April. The 21 day suspension was harassment inded to curtail union activity but the company was forced to back down when Anarchist-Syndicalists in at least 12 countries targeting local Iberia offices for occupations, pickets and leafleting.

BELORUSSIA: Protesters ArrestedAnarchists in BeloRussia have been targeted by the State. This is in the aftermath of protests in Minsk comemorating the Chernobyl nuclear disaster were attacked by police and “special forces”. Several have been arrested and all protests in the city banned.

POLAND: Massacre RememberedOn June 4th , the Polish Anarchist Federation organised a demonstration in Warsaw in remembrance of the massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in China in 1991. People marched to the Chinese embassy to protest against the regime and other world governments which are co-operating with them. The demonstration included a symbolic tank killing protesting students while diplomats from Poland, USA, Russia and other countries were signing trade deals with the Chinese government.

CANADA: Anarchists RaidedRaids have been carried out on Anarchists in Quebec following a riot in June in which the National assembly (government building) was attacked. Groups targeted have included Food Not Bombs (a radical anti-poverty group) and the collective producing the magazine Demanarchie. One member of Demanarchie group was even arrested for selling the magazine at a popular youth hangout.

Demnanarchie denied responsibility for the riot, stating that it was a spontaneous manifestation of anger provoked in part by the police. The statement by the group concluded: “You can gag the Anarchists, but you won’t be able to silence the cries of the excluded”.

The police also raided a house where members of Food Not Bombs lived, arresting three people on so-called “drug charges”. The State claimed that they were responsible for the riot, even though they had not been in town that night. The judge reused them bail, declaring that “It would make me feel ill to free anarchist philosophers”.

You are requested to send faxes, letters or phone calls to the Quebec Justice Minister, Paul Begin, demanding that the charges against the three, Stepahane Gugy, Chany Pilote and Stephane Roy, be dropped.

The address is PAUL BEGIN. 1200 route de l’Eglise, 9ieme etage, Ste-foy, PQ, Canada G1V 4M1

Tel: 418-643-4210 Fax: 418-646-0027

Letter from Sam Mbah to WSF, 1999

Letter from the late Sam Mbah, of the now-defunct Nigerian anarcho-syndicalist formation, the Awareness League, to the South African-based Workers Solidarity Federation (WSF). Dated 12 April 1999, the letter  arrived in South Africa around the time the WSF was heading for dissolution. In the letter, the WSF was granted the right to republish Sam Mbah and IE. Igariwey’s classic text, the 1997 African Anarchism: the history of a movement (See Sharp, Tucson, USA); the letter also mentions a planned speaking tour of South Africa by Mbah (which fell through), and a proposed Pan-African Anarchist Conference in South Africa (including Africans from the diaspora). The WSF and the Awareness League always sought to build close ties, but these were primarily by post and, given unreliable services and serious repression in Nigeria, somewhat sporadic; email was not used, mainly because this was extrenely rare in Nigeria at the time.The 1990s WSF actively pursued links with other African anarchists and syndicalists, mainly in (officially) English-speaking countries: it had a section in Zambia, shipped materials to Zimbabwe;  regarding West Africa, had contacts with the Awareness League and a short-lived Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union amongst diamond miners in Sierra Leone (also in contact via post);it had some erratic contacts with Egypt. Mbah, sadly, passed away from heart problems in late 2014. By all accounts, the Awareness League disappeared in the 2000s,

Mbah’s letter is here


WSF (1996): “International Anarchist/Syndicalist News”

WSF (1996): “International Anarchist/Syndicalist News”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 2, number 2, third quarter 1996. Complete PDF is here

Anarchist Students Jailed in Greece:

(From: Workers’ Solidarity Movement/ Ireland).

More than 100 Greek students, self- described Anarchists, have been given prison sentences ranging from 4- 40 months by the courts. This followed a three day occupation of the Athens Polytechnic in November 1995. More than 2000 protesters took refuge in the Polytechnic following clashes with the police on November 17, the anniversary of a bloody student uprising against the 1967- 1974 military dictatorship.

The media attempted to portray the occupation Continue reading