Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kenya's "Anti-Terror" Border Wall

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Kenya this week began building a barrier along its entire border with Somalia, in a purported effort to prevent incursions by fighters from al-Shabab, an insurgency based mainly in Somalia which has carried out numerous attacks in Kenya, including the 2 April shooting of 147 students in the Kenyan town of Garissa.
This massive project has generated heated debate. IRIN has gathered a range of views.
Deputy President William Ruto said the fence would stretch 700 kilometres. ‘‘Whatever it is going to cost us and whatever it will take, we are going to make sure that our country is safe,” he added in a televised speech.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Mwenda Njoka told IRIN that the barrier would be built by the National Youth Service under the supervision of the army.
He also said:
“The wall is basically meant to limit illegal crossing and monitor movement of people. People with legal documents will be allowed to cross as security agents capture their data. We want to know specifics of people, why they are moving from country to country and what their intentions are.
“It will involve a combination of putting up obstacles and digging trenches, especially in areas which are not navigable, to prevent people from crossing into and from the country. There will be CCTV cameras powered by solar and a control centre manned by border patrol units, where information on possible threats will be received, tabulated and action taken in real time. Some areas will have electric fences.
“There will be designated points for people to legally use while entering or leaving the country. 
‘‘Government security agents believe al-Shabab combatants do not live in the country [Kenya], but rely on Kenyan recruits to do logistics for them.”

George Morara, Vice Chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, said constructing the barrier was an “exercise in futility."
He added:
“It is a monumental waste of tax-payers' money. Where similar walls have been built or exist to keep out the so-called ‘undesirables’, they have not been successful. Case in point, Israel’s wall to keep out the Palestinians has not stopped the attacks against Israel. They have only led to more creative ways of circumventing the barrier, through for example, the building of underground tunnels by Palestinians as conduits of attack against Israelis. Also, the mighty American wall on the US-Mexico border has not stopped Mexicans who are determined to get to the US from scaling the seemingly impregnable wall.
“The building of the wall presupposes that al-Shabab is exclusively made up of ‘external enemies’ who are hell-bent on attacking Kenyans. The recent terror attack [in Garissa] only served to confirm what has always remained a known fact in the country: that the militant group is actively recruiting young and disenchanted Kenyans into its radical and extremist views.

“What we need to do as country is … create opportunities for gainful employment for the youth and… do all we can to eliminate corruption within our security agencies as this remains a big contributor to Kenya's vulnerability to terrorist attacks.”

Abdirashid Hashi, Executive Director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a Mogadishu-based think tank, said he understood Kenya’s “urge to do something, anything about the [al-Shabab] menace.”
He added:

“However, what Kenya needs is to pause and devise a long-term strategic plan to cope, deal and mitigate this clear and present danger - which is a decade old now and might take another decade to eradicate. Both Kenya's initial decision to send troops to Somalia and its current policies such as closing remittances or announcing mass deportation of legal refugees, or branding the loudest anti al-Shabab Islamic scholars , comes across as reactionary decisions made by panicky politicians.
“Kenya's best bet to overcome the serious threats posed by al Shabab lies with its ability to harness the ingenuity of its Somali and Muslim citizens and making them lead the battle against al Shabab and working closely with Somalia -- the source and the main theatre of the menace. Unfortunately Kenya now seems to have bypassed such a path and is engaged in sabre-rattling, refugee-chasing and lashing out at potential partners in its struggle to defeat al-Shabab.”

David Anderson, Professor of African History at the University of Warwick, described the barrier as "a crazy idea."
“Are we going to keep al-Shabab in [Kenya], or are we going to keep them out? The problem, at this stage is inside Kenya.
"The wall I assume, is more intended with dealing with refugees, but it’s a ridiculous idea.”

IRIN also spoke to a number of Somali refugees and ethnic Somali Kenyans:
Abdi Ahmed, Somali refugee from Baled Hawa
“I don’t think this wall will change the situation, it will only create division among neighbouring Somalis. Some of my family live in Baled Hawa [in Somalia] and their main trading partner was on the other side, in [the Kenyan town of] Mandera. They will suffer financially and end up refugees like me."
Dubad Mohamed, Somali refugee from from Kismaayo
“If the main reason why Kenya is building the wall alongside the border is security, then let it go on; we the refugees need peace, we suffered as Kenyans are suffering.”
Malyuun Koriyow, resident of Nairobi’s Eastleigh district
“I think the wall is a waste of money and resources. The government should invest in police and their equipment rather than a wall which will cost tax-payers huge sums of money.”
Mohamed Ahmed Farah, Eastleigh resident
“I think this wall Kenya wants to build is like that wall of Israel and Palestine: it is an apartheid wall. Kenya has the right to protect its citizens, but not [with] this wall. It is dividing ethnic Somalis.
“Al-Shabab is everywhere. Kenya should invest in intelligence and cooperating with the locals if it wants to defeat al-Shabab”

from here

Socialism - One World - One People

In terms of wealth distribution, South Africa is the second most unequal society in the world. The gap between those who have, and those who don’t is staggering, and it stands in the way of a widespread sense of unity. The small green identity document that signals South African citizenship is no guarantor of belonging when one out of four citizens are jobless.

With every outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa, the refrain is the same: ‘The kwerekwere are stealing our jobs’ The xenophobic populism was reflected in statements by the ruling party, the ANC. Nomvula Mokonyane, the Minister of Water and Sanitation, commented on Facebook that in Kagiso, Gauteng province “almost every second outlet (spaza) or even former general dealer shops are run by people of Somali or Pakistan origin… I am not xenophobic fellow comrades and friends but this is a recipe for disaster”.

Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has also said that “foreigners need to understand that they are here as a courtesy and our priority is to the people of this country first and foremost… They cannot barricade themselves in and not share their practices with local business owners”.

“The idea that people are here ‘stealing’ jobs and that they don’t have a right to be here needs to be corrected,” says Dr Zaheera Jinnah, an anthropologist and researcher at the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Wits University. Jinnah said that there were misconceptions about the size of the international migrant community in South Africa: “There is a disconnect between perception and reality largely because there hasn’t been data available until now. A lot of what has been said and reproduced is based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence or myths.”

The Migrating for Work Research Consortium (MiWORC), an organisation that examines migration and its impact on the South African labour market, released two studies last year. They found that 82% of the working population aged between 15 and 64 were “non-migrants”, 14% were “domestic migrants” who had moved between provinces in the past five years and just 4% could be classed as “international migrants”. With an official working population of 33,017,579 people, this means that around 1.2 million of them were international migrants. A racial breakdown of the statistics reveals that 79% of international migrants were African, 17% were white and around three percent were Indian or Asian.

The research consortium also found that Gauteng province, which contains Johannesburg, had the highest proportion of foreign-born workers, with around 8% of the working population having been born in another country. Limpopo and Mpumalanga had the next highest proportion of international migrants at 4%, followed by North West (3%), the Western Cape (3%), Free State (2%), Northern Cape (1%), Eastern Cape (1%) and KwaZulu-Natal (1%).

According to the MiWORC data , international migrants in South Africa have much lower unemployment rates than others. This is unusual. In most other countries, international migrants tend to have higher unemployment rates than locals.

South Africa’s unemployment data shows that 26.16% of “non-migrants” are unemployed and 32.51% of “domestic migrants” are unemployed. By comparison, only 14.68% of international migrants are unemployed. But while international migrants are less likely to be unemployed, most find themselves in positions of unstable, “precarious employment”, unable to access benefits or formal work contracts. International migrants in South Africa are more likely to take jobs that locals are not willing to do, or find work in the informal sector. According to the MiWORC research, 32.65% of international migrants are employed in the informal sector in South Africa compared to 16.57% of “non-migrants” and 17.97% of “domestic migrants”. The studies suggest this is because the informal sector offers the lowest entry cost into the labour market. The majority of international migrants also come from African countries which have large informal sectors. According to the research, international migrants are far more likely to run their own businesses. Eleven percent are “employers” and 21% are classed as “self-employed”. By comparison, only 5% of non-migrants and domestic migrants were employers, and only 9% of non-migrants and 7% of domestic migrants were self-employed.

Late last year, the Gauteng City-Region Observatory – a collaborative project between Wits University, the University of Johannesburg and the provincial government – conducted a limited survey of the informal sector in Johannesburg. Dr Sally Peberdy, a senior researcher at the Observatory – says that the belief that international migrants dominate the informal sector is false. “We found that less than two out of 10 people who owned a business in the informal sector in Johannesburg were cross-border migrants.” Peberdy argues that international migrants play a positive role in South Africa. “The evidence shows that they contribute to South Africa and South Africans by providing jobs, paying rent, paying VAT and providing affordable and convenient goods.” The Observatory’s study found that 31% of the 618 international migrant traders interviewed rented properties from South Africans. Collectively they also employed 1,223 people, of which 503 were South Africans.

Life in townships like Soweto is blighted by severe under-development. A World Bank survey last year found that about half of South Africa’s urban population live in townships and informal settlements, accounting for 38% of working-age citizens, but nearly 60% of its unemployed. Themba, a South African, said that people weren’t spending money the way they used to. “In one day I sell stuff worth 120, 150 rand [roughly 10-12 dollars],” he said, pointing to a table laden with cheap cosmetics and accessories. “Foreigners take business away from us,” he said. “I still have to eat from there. My profit is not big,” he said. “I have to walk to my house every day. I think the government could help us to make stalls here on the pavement and give us running water, and toilets.

Africans living in other countries which are not their countries of origin are grimly accustomed to invectives like "fucking foreigner"; "parasite"; "alien"; "refugee" making nonsense of the phrase "Africa for the Africans". In the past when Africa did not have artificial boundaries such as there are today, wars and hatred were not as rife. Therefore it appears that dismantling the boundaries, drawn up by non-Africans, would minimise violence. But will that abolish xenophobia? No. As it is the problem of "the haves and have-nots" which is central to war, violence and hatred. Thus the real solution will be to eliminate the present situation of a minority owning the means of production and distribution of wealth whilst the majority owning nothing, have to work for the few.

The reasons for the internecine violence are almost always the same. "Patriotic" citizens are quick to assert, nationalistically, that the "aliens" have come to take over their country, their resources, their jobs, their culture, and what have you. Though the grievances of the masses may be related to economic factors, it is unreasonable to blame it on their fellow poor. Xenophobia cannot be divorced from the economic life of the masses. But how the one influences the other is what most people fail to understand. This can be explained from a two-dimensional plane: official policy and mass reaction. A party in power is in reality the executive committee of the rich people behind it. Such a party therefore rules in the interests of the owners. All its policies are consequently aimed at the welfare of the rich. Now, since there will arise a conflict of interest between the rich owners and their poor followers, the ruling party or government will have to spend huge chunks of the country's money on arms, maintenance of the army, the police, prisons, etc to hold down the masses so that the rich can make their profits without hindrance. In the process basic necessities such as food, shelter, healthcare, education are underfunded. The little that is provided can only be afforded by the rich. The result, undoubtedly, is discontent, alienation and disobedience among the masses. In order to ward off unrest various tactics are employed by governments. One of them is creating divisions among the suffering masses by, for instance, blaming foreigners and whipping up nationalistic feelings. This diverts attention from misrule and mismanagement. The masses who are hungry, sick and illiterate are taken in by the government's ploy. Now, since a hungry man is an angry man and since anger is emotional and overpowers reason, the least provocation can result in violence-often misdirected.

We are all members of the world working class and have a common interest in working together to establish a world without frontiers in which the resources of the globe will have become the common heritage of all the people of the world and used for the benefit of all. In other words money, buying and selling, commodities and the like must be done away with. Humanity must commonly own the means of production and must have free and equal access to the produce. Under such circumstances there will be no want and consequently no war and hatred. But this type of system can only be possible when people make efforts to understand it. When they understand and want it, they can organise to usher it in.


Monday, April 20, 2015

IMF - Exploiter

Between June 1995 and October 2006 Ghana had three arrangements with IMF under various disguise phrases such as Enhance Structural Adjustment Facility and Poverty and Growth facility. It again recently agreed with the Ghana Government a programme worth $940 million said to aim at overcoming the country's economic challenges, supporting stronger economic growth and lower inflation.

It is worth mentioning that no singular institution in our time has facilitated the devastating spread of poverty in Ghana and for that matter in other African countries than the International Monetary Fund. IMF, other Western financial institutions and donor agencies have remain mere fronts for Western profiteers instead of being a genuine partner in our development agenda that aim at taking our people out of vicious cycle of poverty.

It has always been the IMF policy to perpetually keep its 'business partners' in debts. This is the only way, it believes the business it does, that is making money for its owners, can be sustained. Over the years the IMF has hook on unto its crooked system of compound interest which has made countries in developing world perpetually poor. Such policies and strategies should be a source of concern to our leaders and those conduct business with the IMF on our behalf. The conduct of IMF and other Western financial institution is becoming increasingly questionable.

It is important that as a country we do all that it takes to wean our country from the control of IMF, the World Bank and other Western financial institutions that continue exploit our country for their comfort and pleasure. The imperialist agenda is relentless and the system they put in place to subjugate developing countries and importantly Africa countries so many years ago is still on course.

Boycott G4S

Over 20 South African businesses have terminated their contracts with G4S Security over its involvement in human rights abuses.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fighting Sea Monsters

“Our waters are overfished,” said Ousman Bojang,  a veteran Gambian fisher.

West African waters are believed to have the highest levels of illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing in the world, representing up to 37 percent of the region’s catch. The theft of West Africa’s fish stocks has been denounced by various environmental groups for years. Forty-seven industrial-sized fishing vessels currently in The Gambia’s waters, thirty-five of which are from foreign fleets. Meanwhile, artisanal fishers, on whom the population depends for supply, say they are finding it hard to feed the market. Prices have risen phenomenally and shortages in the market are no longer a rarity.

In an historic ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea – the first of its kind by the full tribunal – the body affirmed that “flag States” have a duty of due diligence to ensure that fishing vessels flying their flag comply with relevant laws and regulations concerning marine resources to enable the conservation and management of these resources. Flag States, ruled the tribunal, must take necessary measures to ensure that these vessels are not engaged in IUU fishing activities in the waters of member countries of West Africa’s Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SFRC). Further, they can be held liable for breach of this duty. The ruling specifies that the European Union has the same duty as a state. The SRFC covers the West African countries of Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The need for an advisory opinion by the Tribunal emerged in 1993 when the SRFC reported an “over-exploitation of fisheries resources; and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing of an ever more alarming magnitude.” Such illegal catches were nearly equal to allowable ones, it said. Further, “the lost income to national economies caused by IUU fishing in Wet Africa is on the order of 500 million dollars per year.”

“This is a very welcome ruling that could be a real game changer,” World Wildlife Fund International Marine Programme Director John Tanzer was reported as saying. “No longer will we have to try to combat illegal fishing and the ransacking of coastal fisheries globally on a boat by boat basis.”

Greenpeace described “monster boats” trawling in African waters. “For decades,” Greenpeace wrote, “the European Union and its member states have allowed their industrial fishing fleet to swell to an unsustainable size… In 2008, the European Commission estimated that parts of the E.U. fishing fleet were able to harvest fish much faster than stocks were able to regenerate. The problem of oversized fleets using destructive fishing methods is a global one and the results are alarming and indisputable.”

The Africa Progress Panel, headed by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, said that illegal fishing is a priority that the continent must address. Another is the endorsement by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations of guidelines which seek to improve conditions for small-scale fishers.

Nicole Franz, fishery planning analyst at FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture department in Rome, told IPS that the small-scale fisheries guidelines provide a framework change in small-scale fisheries. “It is an instrument that looks not only into traditional fisheries rights, such as fisheries management and user rights, but it also takes more integrated approach,” she said. “It also looks into social conditions, decent employment conditions, climate change, disaster risks issues and a whole range of issues which go beyond what traditional fisheries institutions work with. Only if we have a human rights approach to small-scale fisheries, can we allow the sector to develop sustainably.”

Europe's Xenophobia

While world attention is focused upon the xenophobic riots against foreigners in South Africa that many claim was instigated by politicians such as the Zulu king, the United Nations draws attention to the shameful complicity of governments in the deaths of many hundreds of migrants and refugees in Europe. 

Anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians across Europe, including Britain, is blocking attempts to introduce large search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean that would save large numbers of migrant lives, Laurens Jolles, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Italy, has warned. Jolles said political expediency was preventing measures being taken to reduce migrant deaths. “In many countries in Europe at the moment, the [political] dialogue and the rhetoric is quite extreme and very irresponsible,” he said. Jolles said: “Because of elections and because of the economic crisis, it becomes difficult for those parties who traditionally would not follow on those same lines to counter the rhetoric with the strength that they should.

 “It’s a fear of foreigners, which is a logical fear, a natural fear, but it is being exploited for populist or political reasons, especially in election periods.” He continued, “The level of this dialogue compared to 20 years ago is just incredible. It wouldn’t have been possible in the past, the racist rhetoric, the rhetoric of intolerance. In the 60s, 70s and the 80s, we would never have accepted this,” said Jolles.

The UK Foreign Office says it will not support future search-and-rescue operations because they encourage migration. “The fact that the UK has made it clear that it does not wish to participate in contributing measures to a rescue operation, or putting in place a rescue operation in the Mediterranean, is very concerning,” said Jolles. 

In December, the UNHCR appealed to the EU to provide 130,000 resettlement places for Syrians displaced by the civil war. Germany has pledged to take 30,000 and Sweden 2,700. The remaining 26 EU states are taking 5,438 between them, with Britain taking just 143.

 “The UK should be participating and contributing in a European context to solidarity measures and trying to fulfil its part making it easier to deal with these [migration] flows,” said Jolles. “If one really wants to tackle the problem and ensure that there are less deaths, then the thing to do is to look at providing legal avenues to come to Europe. There is an obligation, both moral and legal, to try and do something. People will die.”

The UNHCR is concerned that rather than helping to create a safe passage for migrants, the European commission is more concerned with trying to stop people entering. “What we are hearing is that there is more dialogue on how to prevent people coming to Europe and how to stop them than how to manage the flows and what to do when these persons come into Europe,” said Jolles.

In order to ward off unrest various tactics are employed by governments. One of them is creating divisions among the suffering masses by, for instance, blaming foreigners and whipping up nationalistic feelings. This diverts attention from misrule and mismanagement. Secondly, and in response to the official lies, the masses who are hungry, sick and illiterate are taken in by the government's ploy. Now, since a hungry man is an angry man and since anger is emotional and overpowers reason, the least provocation can result in violence-often misdirected. Such violence can be vented against fellow citizens usually manifested in riots and civil wars. The violence is also invariably be turned loose on the "aliens". This is the real cause of xenophobia-the rich pitting the poor against the poor. In fact wealthy "foreigners" are rarely affected.

The real solution will be to eliminate the present situation of a minority owning the means of production and distribution of wealth whilst the majority owning nothing, have to work for the few. In other words money, buying and selling, commodities and the like must be done away with. Humanity must commonly own the means of production and must have free and equal access to the produce. Under such circumstances there will be no want and consequently no war and hatred. But this type of system can only be possible when people make efforts to understand it. When they understand and want it, they can organise to usher it in.

South Africa and the EU are not very much different in essence when their ruling class seek to divide and rule, even if both vehemently deny that charge. The facts and evidence says otherwise. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Prison or Poverty – The Choice of the Israel Deportees

For Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers facing deportation from Israel's Holot detention centre, the future is bleak. Those who have gone before describe a hand-to-mouth existence in Uganda or no freedom of movement in Rwanda.

"There was no difference with the life in Israel," Abush Mekonen, one of eight Eritrean asylum-seekers deported to Rwanda in July 2014, told IRIN. Mekonen said they had been promised jobs in Rwanda but instead were confined to a hotel. "We were not allowed to move or go out."

Israel has been encouraging asylum-seekers to leave the country for the past year by offering them one-off grants of $3,500 and one-way tickets home or to "safe" third countries in Africa. At the end of March, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan gave asylum-seekers 30 days to return to their own countries or accept "voluntary" deportation. Refusal to do either will result in a hearing followed by possible indefinite detention in a prison for irregular migrants called Sa'aronim. In the past year, about 7,000 have opted to return home, while 1,500 accepted so-called voluntary deportation to third countries, according to immigration figures. Although the government has not named the third countries being used for deportations, testimonies gathered from deportees suggest they are Uganda and Rwanda.

Returning to Eritrea was not on option, he added. "If I agreed to go back home, I would be heading straight away to prison. We had no choice; we opted to be deported to Rwanda." Miki Bereket, another Eritrean asylum-seeker deported last July, said the group was originally offered two options before being told it had to be Rwanda. "When we reached there, we realized we were not wanted in Rwanda either," he said.

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrant Workers spoke with asylum-seekers already sent to both Rwanda and Uganda. Reut Michaeli, the hotline's executive director, said their testimonies showed neither Uganda nor Rwanda should be considered "safe" countries. "Documents and money are taken from the asylum seekers when they arrive from Israel and they are not granted any legal status or given formal protection from deportation," he explained. "They are forced to keep searching for refuge in other places and are exposed to abuse and exploitation." He described the transfer of asylum-seekers to other countries without agreements and commitments to ensure they will be protected as "a blatant violation of international law."

"Uganda is a free country," said Bereket, speaking in the capital, Kampala. "But it's hard to cope with life and survive in Uganda without money."

We all belong

National-chauvinism is rearing its ugly head in almost every sector of South African society. The thing with national-chauvinism is that it is in permanent need of scapegoats. It starts with those who are not our kin. But, very quickly, it turns fratricidal. It does not stop with "these foreigners". No amount of national-chauvinism can erase the fact that no African is a foreigner in Africa; despite our foolish national boundaries, Africa is where we all belong.

It starts with the usual stereotypes - they steal our jobs; they do not respect us; they are darker than us; they are used by whites who prefer to exploit them rather than employing us.

The South African government has recently taken a harsh stance on immigration. New, draconian measures have been passed into law. Their effects are devastating for people already established here legally. Work permits not renewed. Visas refused to family members. Children in limbo in schools. A Kafka-esque situation that extends to "foreign" students who entered the country legally, had their visas renewed all this time, but who now find themselves in a legal uncertainty - unable to register, and unable to access the money they are entitled to and that had been allocated to them by foundations. Through its new anti-immigration measures, the government is busy turning previously legal migrants into illegal ones.

Instead of spilling black blood we should all be making sure that we rebuild this continent and bring to an end a long and painful history.

By Achille Mbembe, a research professor in history and politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser).

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Land-grab in Ethiopia

The human cost of Ethiopia’s “villagisation” programme is laid bare by damning report from the California-based thinktank the Oakland Institute. The victims of land grabbing and displacement are given a rare voice in We Say the Land is Not Yours: Breaking the Silence against Forced Displacement in Ethiopia

The east African country has long faced criticism for forcibly relocating tens of thousands of people from their ancestral homes to make way for large scale commercial agriculture, often benefiting foreign investors. Those moved to purpose-built communes are allegedly no longer able to farm or access education, healthcare and other basic services. Agriculture makes up nearly half the GDP of Ethiopia, where four in five people live in rural areas. But since the mid-2000s, the government has awarded millions of hectares of land to foreign investors. The commune development programme, which aims to move 1.5 million rural families from their land to new “model” villages across the country, has faced allegations of violent evictions, political coercion, intimidation, imprisonment, rapes, beatings and disappearances. Such accounts threaten to dent the image of Ethiopia, a darling of the development community that has enjoyed double digit economic growth for the best part of a decade. The government has been criticised for brooking little opposition, clamping down on civil society activism and jailing more journalists than any country in Africa, except its neighbour Eritrea.

Opposition to the scheme is not tolerated, according to the witness. “People are intimidated – we are forced to say positive things about villagisation, but really we refuse to accept the programme. If you challenge, the government calls you the mastermind of conflict. One of the government officials was opposed to the government. They wanted to put him in prison. He escaped and is now in Kenya, living as a political refugee.”

“My village refused to move,” says one, from the community of Gambella. “So they forced us with gunshots. Even though they intimidated us, we did not move – this is our land, how do we move? They wanted our land because our land is the most fertile and has access to water. So the land was promised to a national investor.
Last year, we had to move. The promises of food and other social services made by the government have not been fulfilled. The government gets money from donors but it is not transferred to the communities.
The land grab is not only for agriculture, the interviewee claims, but the community has also seen minerals and gold being mined and exported. “We have no power to resist. We need support. In the villages, they promised us tractors to help us cultivate. If money is given to the government for this purpose, we don’t know how it is used.
The government receives money from donors, but they fill their pockets and farmers die of hunger.”

A witness from Benishangul laments: “This is not development. Investors are destroying our lands and environment. There is no school, [no] food security, and they destroy wild fruits. Bamboo is the life of people. It is used for food, for cattle, for our beds, homes, firewood, everything. But the investors destroy it. They destroy our forests. This is not the way for development. They do not cultivate the land for the people. They grow sorghum, maize, sesame, but all is exported, leaving none for the people.”

Another interviewee, from South Omo, says mandatory resettlement has stoked conflict among different ethnic groups. “There was no open consultation between the community and the government. If there was a common agreement based on joint consultations, perhaps the community might accept. But, the government dictates. We are scared that the highlanders will come and destroy our way of life, culture, and pasture land. What will we do? The government says we can keep two to three cattle, but this is a challenge. Our life is based on cattle, and we cannot change overnight. I keep cows, oxen, sheep, goats – where do we go? The investors take land in the Omo Valley. They clear all land, choose the best place where trees are, leaving the area open. They say it is for development, but they are clearing the forests. I wonder how to reconcile development with forest destruction.”

A government employee told the researchers “There are three dynamics that linger in my mind that explain today’s Ethiopia: villagisation, violent conflict, and investment. They are intertwined and interrelated. It is hard for outsiders to know what leads to what. When people are free, they talk. When they are afraid of repercussion, they stop.”

Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute said: “The context in which we release this report is one of torture, oppression, and silencing. A development strategy without ensuring its citizens freedom of speech and expression is not a development strategy but a scheme to benefit the ruling elites. Those basic human rights are not being upheld in Ethiopia. It is therefore urgent to make voices of those impacted heard.”

World Farmers Mobilise Against Free Trade Agreements

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Today thousands of women and men farmers of the international peasant movement La Via Campesina mobilize worldwide against Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which affect peasant and small-scale agriculture and national food sovereignty. Since April 17, 1996[1] La Via Campesina celebrates this day as a global day of action with allies and friends.

Free Trade Agreements promote TNCs and a capitalist industrialised mode of production heavily reliant on agrochemicals. These have increased the displacement, expulsion, and disappearance of peasants. Free Trade Agreements put profit over all other rights and concerns. Currently, the most significant FTAs in history are being negotiated by the European Union, the United States, and Canada. These agreements, if finalised, will liberalize trade and investment markets in favour of transnational companies. 

With hundreds of actions at local and global level (see our regularly updated MAP) in all continents, La Via Campesina reasserts the importance of local struggles and at the same time underlines the need of a global resistance and organization between the cities and the rural areas. Actions such as land occupations, seed exchanges, street demonstrations, food sovereignty fairs, cultural events, lobby tours and debates will be carried out until the end of the month as part of these global days of action. 

This year in Europe, various actions are being organised against Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement (CETA), Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) in Germany, Switzerland and Belgium; in Asia, a mass rally to reject the negotiation of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) by Japanese government is being organised in Japan and South Korea; in South America, a big march (over 1,500 people from all continents) is being organised in Argentina during the CLOC-Via Campesina (Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations) congress in Buenos Aires.

La Via Campesina denounces laws and interests that affect the peasant way of life, an important heritage of the people at the service of humanity. The movement promotes food sovereignty to end hunger in the world and promote social justice.
Instead of a gloomy future based on free trade and big business, La Via Campesina believes the time has come for an economy based on equity that will restore the balance between humanity and nature. Agrarian reform and sustainable agriculture are at the heart of this way of living based on peoples' Food Sovereignty.

[1]On April 17, 1996 in Brazil, military police forces assassinated 19 peasants in Eldorado dos Carajás (Pará). The farmers were members of the Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST). On that day, 1500 men and women occupied and blocked the highway BR-150 in Eldorado dos Carajás with the goal of putting pressure on the state and federal government to carry out agrarian reform. Around 4PM 155 military police forces of the state surrounded the MST demonstrators, throwing tear gas and they fired guns at them. Therefore, in addition to the 19 massacred, three more died later and 69 were injured. State authorities, police, the army and landowners were responsible in the planning and execution of this massacre.

The Gravy Train

A storm is brewing over the acquisition of new VIP jets for President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet at a cost of R2 billion, just after Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene announced revised spending plans to reduce waste. Three new VIP jets - a Boeing Business Jet and two new Falcon 900 Business Jets - were being acquired for "international commitments" as the president's international obligations have increased dramatically. The Boeing Business Jet was expected to cost R600 million second-hand, which was reportedly seen as a bargain. However, the money to be spent on the new jets was originally earmarked to buy crucial freight carriers for aging military cargo planes.

The Zulu monarchy is set to issue six new Mercedes Benz E-Class sedans, collectively worth nearly R5 million, to the King’s six wives. A seventh luxury German sedan has reportedly been purchased and will be kept as a “back-up”. King Goodwill Zwelithini's household is supported by the provincial government, with an annual pay-in of nearly R60 million. The management of money by the Zulu Royal Household Trust raised concerns last year when the allotted R54.2 million was spent before the end of the financial year. This prompted a R5 million bailout in February. Former Zulu Royal Household Trust chair Jerome Ngwenya said the queens had chosen to travel in Mercedes Benzes for a number of reasons. “The cars befit the status of the Zulu royal family”

Hey, Big Spender...

Algeria and Angola are the biggest military spenders in Africa, according to a report on trends in global military expenditures released on April 13, 2015, by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The report indicates that rapid increases in military expenditures in both Algeria and Angola are due to the countries’ high oil revenues. Since 2005, Algeria and Angola are reported to have increased their expenditures by 12 percent and 6.7 percent respectively to $11.9 billion and $6.8 billion.

Since 2005, Algeria’s expenditure on military armament has tripled, according to the report, and it now spends more than 5 percent of its GDP on its military. In March 2014, SIPRI published a separate report  on arms, which found that Algeria was the leading importer of arms in Africa (accounting for 36 percent of total imports), with Morocco in second place (22 percent) from 2009 to 2013.

The United States still leads the world in military expenditures, to the tune of $610 billion in 2014, triple the amount spent by China, which occupies second position with $216 billion. Russia comes in third at $84.5 billion. Saudi Arabia, occupies the fourth position in the world with an estimated $84.5 billion in expenditures, a 112 percent increase since 2005.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Join Together

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko said during a briefing on the attacks, "It is African-on-African. It is not on other nationalities." The fact that foreign nationals from Pakistan and Bangladesh have been profiled in this wave of attacks, it will soon no longer be enough for South Africans to cry “Afrophobia.”

Africans, who supported the country's liberation, are being rewarded with beatings and burnings. A disappointing failure of the African solidarity. Immigrants are blamed for taking jobs and opprtunities from locals. Many of them have been forced to close their shops. Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini  said that foreigners should "pack their bags" and many of those rioting were heard chanting "the king has spoken". Migrants are being rounded up and some burnt alive - including a child. In another a man is dragged on the streets naked and then stoned. They are calling fellow Africans “kwerekwere”. Pejoratively, the term “foreigner” in South Africa usually refers to African and Asian non-nationals.

The press didn't help any. The country's largest weekly screamed that there were 8 million illegal immigrants. Statistics that have yet to be substantiated. Other papers, relieved that Black people were now being seen as bigots, become the champions of the poor downtrodden Africans. This narrow-mindedness, suffered by both black and white South Africans, is a by-product of apartheid. For black people, apartheid was an insidious tool used to induce self-hate and tribalize people of the same race. For white South Africans, apartheid was a false rubber-stamp of the white race as superior. It is these two conceptions that gave rise to the myth that South Africa is not part of the African continent, but a different place that just happens to be on the tip of the continent. Long after the scourge of apartheid, it is also clear that we’re fueling this prejudice in the present.

White expats in South Africa don't get accused of stealing jobs. Foreigners—particularly those from the Americas and Europe go unnoticed—they are often lumped up with “tourists,” or even better, referred to as “expats.” It is this reason why the South African government says its hesitant to call the recent attacks on foreign nationals as xenophobic

In the mining cities and towns the problem has been there for much longer. Workers have been imported from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Swaziland to work in mines for over 50 years. When workers came to the cities to work, they were segregated according to community. For a long time there weren't any problems. Then the layoffs started. Gold prices plummeted, recession hit. The riots and upheavals of the 80s encouraged the mining houses to invest more in foreign labour. South Africans were 'troublesome'. As workers across the country started to unionise, labour from nearby countries became more attractive. They didn't strike. They would accept less wages. They were docile. They could be deported.

South Africa’s xenophobia reflects the country’s history of isolation. As a country at the southern-most tip of Africa, South Africans are fond of referring to their continental counterparts as “Africans” or “people from Africa.” Many business ventures, news publications and events—aimed at local audiences—routinely speak about “going to Africa.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Burundians Flee, Fearing Pre-Election Violence

Thousands of Burundians have fled their country, fearing it might descend into violence ahead of a presidential election scheduled for June.

Burundi is sitting on a time-bomb and it’s sad that the outside world does not care,” Justin Rwasa, one of around 4,000 Burundians to have sought refuge in neighbouring Rwanda, told IRIN.
Burundi is wracked with uncertainty over whether President Pierre Nkurunziza will run for a third term, a move many say would violate the constitution as well as the terms of the peace accord that ended a brutal civil war which cost some 300,000 lives.

Nkurunziza met Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame on Monday and detailed the measures taken to ensure the pre-electoral period in Burundi would remain peaceful. Officials said they also discussed ways of returning the refugees to Burundi so that they could take part in the elections.
Refugees who spoke to IRIN in Rwanda’s eastern Bugesera district, where most of them are being housed in two transit centres, said they fled because they were afraid of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party.
Youth members are frequently accused of harassing, abducting and even killing opposition figures and supporters. Last weekend, Nkurunziza’s government denied reports that arms had been distributed to the Imbonerakure.

Burundian officials have visited refugees in Rwanda in a bid to persuade them it is safe to return home, but to no avail.
Internal Affairs Minister Edouard Nduwimana has tried to reassure the refugees, saying there is “no merit” to claims that the Imbonerakure have carried out extrajudicial killings.
He said Burundi’s government did not accommodate “mobs” and that whoever was harassing civilians was doing it individually with no army or police “blessing.”
But the refugees told IRIN there was no way they were going back now.

“Some of our relatives have disappeared, but the government has continued to deny this,” said Rwasa, 34.
Beata Mukamusoni alleged that hitlists had been drawn up and houses marked to identify those being targeted.
Mukamusoni, who hid close to the border for a week before slipping across into Rwanda, said some of her relatives had made a show of being Nkurunziza supporters so as to be safe “in case violence erupts.”
“We can’t go back now. Maybe after the elections,” Stan Rutskikiri, another refugee, told IRIN.

Human rights activists in Burundi have long reported that the Imbonerakure have more power and influence than the legitimate authorities in some rural areas.
Yvette Ndikuman, 25, said that in her village, in Kirundo province, policemen are afraid of reprimanding Imbonerakure members “since they are supported from above.” “We are not politicians. We dig [our fields] so that we feed our families,” she told IRIN.

Some refugees claimed they were being targeted because they were from the minority Tutsi community. One told IRIN the Imbonerakure are threatening them, saying: “You (Tutsis) survived in the past but you will see this time round.
Burundi’s civil war was fought along ethnic lines, and the essence of the 2000 peace and reconciliation accord was to ensure, through a quota system, a balance of power between the long dominant Tutsi and the Hutu majority, which makes up 85 percent of the population.

Recent years have delivered significant reconciliation and Burundi’s political fault lines are less defined in Hutu-Tutsi terms than they used to be, with the fulcrum of tension being whether Nkurunziza should be allowed to run again.
The president does have his supporters: around 20,000 of them took to the streets of the capital on Saturday to sing his praises and urge him to run again.
But tensions have already created major splits within the ruling party, with 140 senior members signing a petition demanding the president not run. Thirty have since been expelled from the party, while the country’s intelligence chief, Godefroid Niyombare, was sacked after advising Nkurunziza against seeking a third term.
Five opposition parties have called on all those opposed to Nkurunziza running to take part in a peaceful demonstration in the capital on Wednesday.