Sunday, August 31, 2014

Black, White - What Does It Matter?


Beloved white brother:
When I was born, I was black.
When I grew up, I was black.
When I am in the sun, I am black.
When I fall ill, I am black.
When I die, I will be black.

And meanwhile you:
When you were born, you were pink.
When you grew up, you were white.
When you're in the sun, you turn red.
When you feel cold, you turn blue.
When you feel fear, you turn green.
When you fall ill, you turn yellow.
When you die, you will be grey.
So, which of us is the coloured man?

Leopold Senghor, poet of Senegal

What is socialism?
No nations,
No borders,
No races,
No colours.

One world of diversity where each respects the other. A world of common inheritance where everything belongs to everyone, and to no one.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Severe Risk Of Acute Food Insecurity In East And Central Africa

Some 20 million people are facing acute food insecurity in eastern and central Africa, with most of them being at “crisis” and “emergency” levels, according to aid agencies. This figure compares unfavorably with 15.8 million people in July 2013.
The affected countries include Somalia, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic (CAR), Sudan, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania.

“The overall nutrition situation in the region has deteriorated precipitously and, according to survey results, the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) levels are higher than 20 percent, exceeding the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold of 15 percent, especially in parts of South Sudan, CAR, Somalia and northern Kenya,” said the East and Central Africa Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG), a multi-stakeholder regional forum chaired by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

FSNWG warned that the situation could deteriorate further in the absence of quick action.
“FSNWG strongly believes that in the absence of an increased and immediate multi-sectoral response, the food and nutrition status of affected populations is likely to deteriorate further.”
It added that “the countries of major concern with regard to food and nutrition insecurity are the conflict-affected South Sudan, CAR, DRC and Somalia.”
These four countries, all grappling with conflict, account for over 10 million people facing food insecurity.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Categorization (IPC) scale, at least 20 percent of people must have significant food shortages and there must be above normal acute levels of malnutrition for a situation to be declared an “acute crisis”. For “emergency” levels, there must be high levels of acute malnutrition and at least 20 percent of people must have extreme food shortages.

For more detail regarding each of the affected countries read on here

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Pay Back The Money President Zuma!'

 South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) reacted angrily to the conduct of legislators of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) conduct in Parliament.
The EFF members disrupted proceedings while President Jacob Zuma was answering questions and refused to leave the National Assembly after ordered to do so by Speaker Baleka Mbethe on Thursday.

“This is an act of rebels masked as parliamentarians who are committed to hijack our democracy, parliament and legislatures.
"EFF is not in parliament to resolve or to engage robustly to solve any problem, but there to cause destruction and anarchy. They use and hijack parliament and legislatures as laboratory's for political adventurism, we call on parliament to wake up to this reality and defend its integrity,” Zizi Kodwa, ANC spokesperson, stated.
He said millions of South Africans who voted for political parties to represent them in parliament, have their hopes and aspirations in parliament and MPs.
"Parliament therefore, must not allow itself to descend to a kindergarten and betray the hopes of our people. The violent nature of EFF engagement provokes emotions and this may lead to political intolerance which its consequences are dire for our democracy," Kodwa said.

However, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) national party spokesman, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, said the actions by EFF in parliament on Thursday were justifiable.
"President Jacob Zuma did not respond to the public protector's report and directive that public money was spent in his private home security upgrade and to that extent he must pay back.
"President Zuma was asked by the EFF leader, Julius Malema in parliament as to when is he paying back the money as per the Public Protector's directive, but Zuma did not respond and chose to stick to the nonsense that the minister of the police must determine who is going to pay," Ndlozi said.

Ndlozi accused Zuma of "insulting" the intelligence of parliament" and that of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela by saying the police minister must indicate who should pay the money.
"The EFF cannot join the toothless tactics of parliamentary procedure when the very foundation of the rule of law is undermined by the executive," Ndlozi said.
Julius Malema, a former ANC Youth League President, leads the EFF, which was formed last year.
They have an uncharacteristic dress code in Parliament - red overalls or aprons and matching berets.

by Mthulisi Sibanda from here

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The System That benefits A Few

“NO to ProSavana Campaign”: 
Mozambicans seek regional solidarity (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) 

UNAC, the Mozambique Union of Farmers, a member of La Via Campesina regionalises its “NO To ProSavana” campaign. The ProSavana, a mega agri-business project, is located in Mozambique and involves Brazil and Japan. The project, if developed, aims to turn 14.5 million hectares of agricultural land in the Nacala Corridor in Northern Mozambique, currently being used by small-scale farmers, into industrial monoculture agriculture driven by corporations for export production. UNAC participated in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) People’s Summit in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

 It saw the regional gathering as an opportunity to promote and expand its campaign, and to seek and build support from other regional movements against the Prosavana project. UNAC, during the agricultural and land policies plenary, shared experiences on the project and how some of its farmer members have been affected. Many participants during the plenary discussions pointed out that the land-grabbing is a phenomenon affecting all Southern Africa. They went further to say that the struggle against ProSavana ‘is not only a national campaign, it is a regional one. We need support from Southern African and other international movements’.

Such sentiments resonated with those of Agostinho Bento, UNAC advocacy officer who called for solidarity in campaigning against the program, which could affect the farmers’ livelihood. Agostinho Bento argued that despite denial by the Mozambican government, ProSavana ‘is not about development, it will destroy the local system of food productions and small-scale farmers’ livelihood. We don’t want a development that benefits a few, but rather an inclusive process’.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Obama's African Cant

 Obama said : "We don't look to Africa simply for its natural resources. We recognise Africa for its greatest resource which is its people and its talents and its potential".

Many Africans know that this was empty rhetoric. Obama's claim that the U.S. looks beyond oil and mineral resources should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

The US are genuinely frightened of the rate at which China is making concrete investment and control over Africa's crude oil and mineral resources. By 2009, China was already Africa's main trading partner, surpassing USA. In 2012, China's trade volume with Africa hit US$ 198.5 billion mark while the U.S. was at only US$99.8 billion. That is twice as much trading already and yet China's trade with Africa is only 5% of its total globe trade. It is estimated that more than 80% of China's US$98.3 billion of import from Africa in 2011 were in minerals, raw resources, and crude oil.

USA has been meddling in Africa for centuries. Why then is Obama misinforming the world about U.S. interests and presence in Africa as if U.S. is a new entrant in exploiting the continent?  The current predicament of Africa and its lagged economic progress is mainly attributable to these centuries of exploitative bullying from the U.S., UK, France and most of their colonial apparatuses that continue to meddle in Africa's internal affairs.  Africa would not have been as poor and deficient in all internal aspects to compete favourably in the international markets.

The U.S. has footprints in each and every country in Africa, stable or unstable. They are there primarily and precisely for economic benefit, not to develop human resources or African infrastructure.

Obama offers of $33 billion in new trade partnerships are to ensure that U.S. goods and services gain access to African markets. One only needs to read John Perkins' 2004 book: "Confession of an economic hit man" Perkins is unequivocal in his narration of how the US has always used underhand methods such as assassinations, cultivating civil unrest leading to regime change, paying bribe to influential leaders and where possible, supplying arms and protection of crooked leaders to manipulate co-operations of all kinds from any country in the world. Perkins provides numerous examples around the world where the US is still involved or where it left tragic footprints in pursuit of its interests.

According to Jeffrey Sach's 2005 "End of Poverty: economic possibilities for our times" The true story of African billion dollars losses", to unpack the worthlessness of this Obama US-Africa trade package. the true value of American foreign aid that reached the person in Africa in 2002 was only 6 cents after all deductions. Both Perkins and Sachs show that most of the money that the U.S. offers to Africa, either as aid for cooperation or grants go directly to U.S. agencies, paying off "expatriates", deduction for debts owed and financing infrastructure that serves American interests in those countries.

 Health Poverty Action's 2014 report, "Honest Account?" shows that for every US$ 30 billion in foreign aid that Africa receives annually, it losses US$192 billion. The money is lost through loan and debt repaying of US$46.5 billion. Other losses include US$35.3 Billion in tax evasion and other illicit financial flows facilitated through tax havens; US$17 billion in illegal logging; US$3 billion in remittances; US$46.3 billion repatriation of profits made by multinational companies; US$1.3 billion in illegal fishing and Africa incurs a loss of US$36.6 billion as a result of climate change and US$6 billion as a result of brain drain.

From here

Friday, August 15, 2014

US Foreign Policy In Africa

The US-Africa Leaders Summit currently taking place in Washington points to Africa’s growing strategic importance to US interests. The theme of the Summit is “Investing in the Next Generation” and aims to advance the US’s focus on trade and investment in Africa. Historically, the US has always adopted a militarised foreign policy towards Africa. When the Bush administration launched the Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa (AFRICOM) in 2007, that move was consistent with the US history in Africa.

It was a move that was contested by the Pan-African Parliament. In 2007, the members of the Parliament voted in favour of a motion “not to accede to the request of the Government of the United States of America to host AFRICOM anywhere on the African Continent.” The Parliament highlighted the “far reaching negative implications that this Africa Command will have on the political stability of Africa.”

In response, the US and the AFRICOM staff rolled out a public relations campaign to make the idea of AFRICOM palatable to African leaders. Senior US government officials visited several African countries to explain the project. In September 2007, the US Department of Defense hosted over 35 African governments in Virginia “to further explain its plans for the command and to solicit input from attendees,” according to Lauren Ploch, a researcher with the US Congressional Research Services.

In my view the US-Africa Leaders Summit, which the Obama administration dubs the largest event any US president has held with African heads of state, is a public relations exercise in pomp, ceremony and ritual meant to disguise the militarised foreign policy represented by AFRICOM. It has been shown that ever since the 1998 bombing of US embassies in East Africa, which was followed by the US retaliatory strike against Sudan, the US has regarded Africa as the next front in the war on terrorism. According to Ploch, US Department of Defense officials claim that “Africa has been, is now and will be into the foreseeable future ripe for terrorists and acts of terrorism.”

As far as the US is concerned, civil wars in Africa have created “ungoverned spaces” and “failed states” which terrorists groups may use to operate from. Half century a ago, the US was concerned about “dangerous, pro-Communist” African radicals who were supposedly going to turn to the Soviet Union for political support and military assistance. In 1960, when 16 European colonies in Africa became independent, the US Secretary of State, Christian Herter, told the US National Security Council that Africa had become “a battleground of the first order”, according to Piero Gleijeses, a professor of US foreign policy. Gleijeses shows how the ideological struggle for global dominance during the Cold War expanded to include proxy wars in Africa.

For instance, recently declassified US documents show that from 1960 the US launched a covert operation in the Congo lasting almost seven years, which was initially aimed at eliminating Patrice Lumumba. It was that covert operation that gave political birth to the colonial creature Joseph Mobutu more commonly known as Mobutu Sese Seko. The ripple effects of that covert operation have been devastating for the Congo and the Great Lakes.

The US rationalised its covert operations in African countries such as the Congo, Angola and Mozambique as a legitimate fight against communists. In the words of Henry Kissinger, “I don’t see how we can be faulted on what we are doing. We are not overthrowing any government; we are not subverting anyone. We are helping moderates combat Communist domination.”

That was in the 20th century. The point I am making however is that in this century the US is back in Africa to carry out its Global War on Terror. The US-Africa Leaders Summit signals a slight variation of political tactics on the part of the US. However, the mess in the Horn of Country shows that the US has not totally abandoned its Cold War tactics. US air strikes in Somalia in 2007 and America’s support for the Ethiopian invasion of that country partly led to the creation of al-Shabaab, a fundamentalist religious group which has wreaked havoc in neighbouring countries like Uganda and Kenya.

Naturally, al-Shabaab has become a major security concern in the region. The US has funnelled counter-terrorism funds into East Africa and underwritten a stronger Kenyan military, according to Foreign Affairs Journal. The Journal further points out that “the rise of Islamism in the Horn of Africa put Kenya on the frontlines in the global fight against terrorism.”

The US-Africa Leaders Summit is part and parcel of US counter-terrorism efforts in Africa. The business theme which dominates the Summit is partly meant to counter the Chinese economic presence on the continent. The Chinese presence unsettles the balance of economic power between the US and African countries. Hence, the goal behind the Summit is to counter the Chinese business influence, while simultaneously, cultivating “moderate, pro-Western leaders” who will adopt “a generally pro-Western posture” in their dealings with US administrations. 

by Mandisi Majavu  from here

Thursday, August 14, 2014

War on Aids v War

 The 2001 Abuja Declaration, whose signatories committed to allocating at least 15 percent of gross domestic product to health, has “barely become a reality”, Vuyiseka Dubula, general-secretary of the South Africa-based Treatment Action Campaign. Between 2000-2005, she added, “almost 400,000 people died from AIDS in South Africa; during that same period we spent so much money on arms we don’t need, and one wonders whether that was a responsible use of public resources.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, seven out of 10 HIV positive persons in the world live – 24.7 million in 2013. The region suffered up to 1.3 million AIDS-related deaths in the same year, according to the United Nations. New funding for AIDS in low- and middle-incoming countries fell three percent from 2012 to 8.1 billion dollars in 2013. Five of the 14 major donor governments – the U.S., Canada, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands – decreased AIDS spending last year. Africa will need to do more with less to manage AIDS, concludes a 2013 UNAIDS report. In Kenya, a funding shortfall is expected soon, since the World Bank’s 115 million-dollar ‘Total War on HIV/AIDS’ project expired last month. Five out of 10 pregnant Kenyan women living with HIV do not get ARVs to protect their babies.

Yet, while governments claim to be too cash-strapped to fight the AIDS war, funding for wars seems much more forthcoming. Meanwhile, the Kenya’s defence budget is expected to grow from 4.3 billion dollars in 2012-2014 to 5.5 billion dollars by 2018, as the country stocks up on helicopters, drones and border surveillance equipment, according to the news portal DefenceWeb.

Daniel Kertesz, the World Health Organization representative in Mozambique, told IPS the country’s six-year health program has a 200 million dollar finance gap per year. Mozambique being very poor, it is difficult to see how the country – with 1.6 million infected people, the world’s eighth burden – will meet its domestic commitments. “Today, Mozambique spends between 30 and 35 dollars per person per year on health. WHO recommends a minimum of 55-60 per person per year,” Kertesz said.

 The Mozambique government announced it had fixed eight military fighter jets, which it had discarded 15 years ago, in Romania, and is receiving three Embraer Tucano military aircraft from Brazil for free, with the understanding that purchase of three  fighter jets will follow. According to a 2014 report by the Economic Intelligence Unit, Mozambique’s spending on state security is expected to rise sharply, partly owing to the acquisition, by the ministry of defence, of 24 fishing trawlers and six patrol and interceptor ships at the cost of 300 million dollars – equal to half the 2014 national health budget of 635.8 million dollars. The same week the refurbished fighter jets landed at Maputo airport, the press reported that the main hospital in Mozambique’s north-western and coal-rich Tete province went for five days without water. Indeed, the country’s public health system is in such dire straits that the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) meets 90 percent of the health ministry’s annual AIDS budget.
The state budget for social programmes is not increasing at the same level as military, defence and security spending,” Jorge Matine, a researcher at Mozambique’s Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), told IPS. “We have been pushing for accountability around the acquisition of commercial and military ships for millions of dollars,” he said.  Back in 2001, Mozambique’s health budget represented 14 percent of the total state budget. It declined to a low of seven percent in 2011 and clawed to eight percent since. If defence spending remained as it was in 2011, the country would save 70 million dollars, which could buy 1,400 ambulances (11 per district, when many districts have only one or two) or import 21 percent more medicines.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), military spending in Africa reached an estimated 44.4 billion dollars in 2013, an 8.3 percent increase from the previous year. In Angola and Algeria, high oil revenues fuel the buying spree. The South Africa-based Ceasefire Campaign reported recently that arms deals with private companies are also on the rise in Africa, with governments expected to sign deals with global defence companies totalling roughly 20 billion dollars over the next decade.

“Financing mirrors the priorities of the government,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s minister of foreign affairs and former minister of health, told IPS.