Saturday, July 04, 2015

Wildlife Before People

The international reputation of Boston-based Thomson Safaris, a sister company of the long-established Thomson Family Adventures, has soared. The outfitter and its trips have won almost a dozen recent awards and accolades, including a citation in the National Geographic Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth list, Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Award, Outside magazine's Active Travel Award, and for Wineland, Thomson Safaris' director, a lifetime-achievement award from the Adventure Travel Trade Association. The company is a three-time honoree of the Tanzania Tourist Board: 2001's Tour Operator of the Year, 2005's Humanitarian of the Year, and 2009's Tanzania Conservation Award.

The company's website includes a promotional video for a 12,000-acre tract called Enashiva, a Maasai word for "happiness"owned by an American couple named Rick Thomson and Judi Wineland, who paid $1.2 million for the property's lease under the name of their Tanzanian-registered company, Tanzania Conservation Ltd.—leasing it because Tanzania does not allow foreigners to own property, only extended land titles and where now at the property's luxury tent complex tourists pay $535 a night for an all-inclusive safari package, shows smiling Maasai dance and sing as they give thanks for the community projects—including building classrooms and a medical dispensary—that the company has enabled. It was set on the doorstep of Serengeti National Park, and human encroachment had driven away what had once been a rich wildlife population, including giraffe, wildebeest, and big cats. Thomson and Wineland were enticed by the challenge of bringing the animals back. Their first step was to put limits on grazing for the health of the environment, to control overgrazing and grazing was prohibited during much of the year, particularly during tourist high seasons—which happened to be when most grazing there occurred. Some local residents in the area obeyed. Many did not. Tourist development and droughts, made more intense by the effects of climate change, have left his villagers with few viable options for their herds. The Thomson land was the best, and only, reasonable option. For pastoralists, there is no need more fundamental than sufficient land to feed their animals—cows and, recently, sheep and goats—which function both as an economic foundation and as a social system (in crude terms, the Maasai with more cows have more power).

The wilful trespass drew consequences: frequent dispersal or temporary confiscation of herds by Thomson guards, beatings and arrests, prolonged detention in the local jail, and two shootings to date, according to locals' testimony. Residents speaking out against Thomson Safaris were routinely called in for police questioning. Journalists and aid workers who went to Loliondo to investigate started getting kicked out by local authorities. In 2009 and again in 2011, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ordered the Tanzanian government to look into human-rights-abuse allegations on the property, but the requests went nowhere. Rumors of a conspiracy between Thomson Safaris and the Tanzanian government began to circulate. In 2008, a New Zealand reporter was murdered under suspicious circumstances, shortly after investigating the company's operations in Loliondo.

Loliondo elder Tulito Olemguriem Lemgume’s boma was just inside the property newly titled to Thomson Safaris. According to Lemgume, local authorities told him and a handful of neighbors that "the land now belonged to an investor and we could no longer live there. We told them we have nowhere to go. We said, 'This is our place. This is our home.'" So the police arrived with gasoline, he said. The bomas went up in flames. Then "the police shot at us," Lemgume recalled. "It's like we were the animals and they were chasing us away."

Tourism was also touted as the best way for Maasai to benefit economically from the land without "harming" it any longer. They could sell handicrafts and charge for tours through their homes or for performing traditional dances. In Loliondo, tour companies arrived in the early 1990s with their own objective of luring zebras, rhinos, and lions back to the areas where pastoralists had once lived. The region had appeal for developers because by setting up just outside the Serengeti there was access to wildlife populations—which don't respect park boundaries—but with lower fees and fewer bureaucratic hassles than operating in the park would have entailed. The Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), an ostentatious Dubai-based outfitter that flies in Arab royalty to hunt and kill rare cats for pleasure, was apportioned vast "hunting blocks," giving the company the right to conduct its expeditions throughout virtually the entire Loliondo territory. OBC, the largest tour operator in the area, had been under fire for years for land grabbing and political corruption. Maasai resistance and foreign attention helped to thwart a bill that would have turned 40,000 square miles of Maasai land into a protected "wildlife migration corridor," with the company as its new lease holder.
A little while later, Wineland and Thomson read a newspaper ad for a plot of land with a title for sale. They were enticed not only by the possibility of reestablishing wildlife populations but also by the property's proximity to the Maasai themselves. Pioneers in the global-adventure-travel business, the couple had been specializing in "community-based tourism" for decades in more than a dozen countries. Rather than attracting business with exotic animals, Wineland said, they had always placed "pictures of people on the front cover of [our] brochures." They had done some charitable work in other Maasai areas of Tanzania and were excited to bring their business model to Loliondo. For Wineland and Thomson, making their business benefit the local Maasai was a prime objective. "We believe in a symbiotic relationship," Wineland has said. "Tourism has to benefit us, our guests, the wildlife, and the communities." They hoped this land would be the newest jewel in the company's emerging ecotourism empire, "a beautiful thing for us and our mission."

"The problem is not tourism," Ndekerei said "That can be OK. Sure, let women sell jewelry to foreigners. Build a school. The problem is when others make decisions without including us. If someone comes to your land and there is no conversation and they didn't get the land in the right way, that man cannot fit into your society. It's not right that they decide what is right for everyone."

In 2010, three villages adjacent to the Enashiva property filed a case arguing that the land's former titleholder, TBL, the state brewing company, abandoned the property so long ago that it legally reverted to village land long before the sale to the safari outfitter. Since Maasai villagers had not been consulted regarding the sale, this would make the 2006 transaction invalid under Tanzanian law. The case is based on a legal principle known as adverse possession. If an owner of a land does not prohibit someone coming in, doesn't do anything to dispute them using the land for a certain period of time—in Tanzania it's twelve years—then that piece of property reverts to that person. It's like squatter's rights, but much stronger. They  argue that the brewery that sold the title to Thomson Safaris' owners abandoned the property 16 years before Wineland and Thomson ever saw the ad in the newspaper. The sale was therefore illegal, they argue, and the land title should be returned to its rightful owners, the villages.

"We are victims of our own conservation," Maanda Ngoitiko explained. Ngoitiko is the founder of Pastoral Women's Council (PWC), a Maasai women's organization that provides scholarships for girls and organizes women's rights groups nationwide. But the arrival of tourist operators in Loliondo has pulled her into the land struggle.

An expert in Arusha on land issues. "There is no question the government is on the side of Thomson Safaris," he told me. "The government gives a kind of respect to investors so long as they pay taxes and bring in tourist dollars. For the public, the government uses the reasoning of putting the environment above all else. Investors can even violate human rights and the government is not going to look into it or punish them for it."

The court battle holds significance far greater than the fate of 12,000 square acres in the geographic center of Africa. "This is not an exceptional story of evil conservation," said Ben Gardner, an anthropologist who chairs the African studies program at the University of Washington. What's unique, he said, is that the plaintiffs are arguing in favor of the most controversial idea in conservation politics: giving the land back to its original owners. "If something is for sale and you buy it, how could you possibly be culpable of wrongdoing? Investors get a veil of moral cleanliness. You don't have to account for any history of dispossession or colonialism or the consequences of conservation work."

There are community-based tourism models in Tanzania and elsewhere in the world in which locals retain land rights so that they can negotiate whatever matters most to them, be it grazing rights or farming acreage or fishing access. ‘&Beyond’ leases acreage from a local community on which they operate tours. Members of the community limit their herding and police themselves. It's not a perfect arrangement, the company and villagers told us, but both sides benefit from a peaceful coexistence. There are also conservation models in which native groups administer their own business projects—touristic or otherwise—on protected land. Success of these projects will be essential for the health both of natural environments and indigenous communities in an era of climate change and growing populations.

Friday, July 03, 2015

A Tool For Foreign Takeover Of Ghana's Agriculture

By seizing intellectual property rights to Africa's seeds, western corporations are attempting one of the greatest thefts in human history: the theft of the entire agricultural base of all the countries of Africa. 

Ghanaian citizens have so far prevented the passage of the Plant Breeders Bill, a UPOV-91-compliant law that would strip Ghanaian farmers of their rights to their own seeds. But there is worse coming from the African Regional Intellectual Property Association (ARIPO). To Ghana’s great credit, and despite determination and pressure from the G7, USAID and its contractors, despite the willing and enthusiastic cooperation of Ghana’s ministers, Attorney General, and both major political parties, Ghana has refused to pass a farmer destroying, sovereignty busting, UPOV law.

Ghanaian farmers and citizens are not falling for the International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) con. The G7, USAID, Big Agribusiness, and Ghana's government and academic elites intend to go around the democratic process and force an end to Ghana's agricultural sovereignty.

If they can't pass a UPOV law within the country, they will impose it from outside. At the African Regional Intellectual Property Association (ARIPO) Diplomatic Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, this coming Monday, 29 June to 1 July 2015, ARIPO plans to adopt the highly contested draft ARIPO Plant Variety Protection Protocol (ARIPO PVP Protocol), based on UPOV 1991.

This is clearly an undemocratic attempt to smuggle the obnoxious UPOV-compliant Plant Breeders' Bill through the back door! Ghana’s farmers and citizens demand seed sovereignty, and clearly oppose GMOs and the deadly chemicals that are an integral part of commercial GMOs. The agribusiness corporations are chemical corporations. So they breed seeds that require you to buy and use their chemicals. This is unhealthy and piles debt on farmers. It takes money from the hands of poor farmers, takes it out of Ghana, and gives it to western corporate shareholders.

If the draft ARIPO PVP Protocol is to be adopted without changes, ARIPO and any ARIPO member that ratifies the Protocol can join UPOV 1991. This means that any member state of ARIPO can simply side-step national consultation processes and ratify the ARIPO Protocol, and in doing so, give up its national sovereignty to a centralized decision-making authority, and further, become a UPOV 1991 member, all in one foul undemocratic swoop. It is unconscionable that Ghana’s government should have any part in this despicable subversion of democracy.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, AFSA, is of the view that the whole process of developing the draft Protocol is fundamentally flawed, has been extremely un-transparent, and thus lacks credibility and legitimacy. Farmers and civil society groups have been cut out, and denied participation.
The principal aim of the ARIPO PVP Protocol is to create a harmonized regional plant variety protection system within the region in order to give prominence to breeders and place restrictions on seed/varieties protected under such a system. Such protected varieties are bred and sold to farmers through seed companies and other private entities and government/private led subsidy agricultural programmes. The main goal is to facilitate the capturing and control of all seed so that private companies can make profits by forcing farmers to buy seed and pay royalties.


By seizing intellectual property rights to Africa's seeds, taking African seed DNA, manipulating it in a laboratory, then claiming all rights to the seeds and their successive generations, western corporations are attempting one of the greatest thefts in human history, the theft of the entire agricultural base of all the countries of Africa.

read on here

Building Homes or Selling Property?

Known as Vision City and financed by the Rwanda Social Security Board, or RSSB, the country’s pension body, the project will begin with an initial phase of 504 units, due to be completed next year. It will eventually scale up to 4,500 homes. In line with Kigali’s ambitious master plan, which seeks to transform the city of 1.3 million into a “center of urban excellence,” the site’s developers promise a community “tempered with a tinge of elegance and subtle nobility” that will be a “reference point for contemporary Rwandan living.” In addition to the houses, there will be restaurants, hotels, offices, schools, a sports complex and a Wi-Fi-connected town center. It’s all part of a citywide mixed-use strategy meant to decentralize key business and recreational activities and minimize road congestion.

There’s just one nagging detail. According to RSSB, the most affordable Phase 1 Vision City units, two-bedroom apartments, will cost 124 million Rwandan francs ($172,000), more than 100 times the city’s median annual household income. The most expensive — five-bedroom luxury villas with exteriors of marble and granite — will run close to 320 million francs.

Vision City is only one of several forthcoming Kigali housing developments, some of which, officials say, will deliver more affordable units. But the project is emblematic of a conundrum facing cities across sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s most rapidly urbanizing region. Buoyed by a decade-and-a-half of robust economic growth, Africa’s cities are home today to unprecedented concentrations of wealth. They’re also seeing endless streams of impoverished rural migrants, typically young people in search of jobs who see no viable future in the small-scale farming of their parents’ generation. These dual phenomena have led to striking degrees of inequality. According to the United Nations Human Settlements Program, U.N. Habitat, Africa’s urban areas are now collectively the most unequal in the world, having surpassed the cities of Latin America sometime in the century’s first decade.

Nowhere is this widening gap more visible than in Africa’s radically divergent standards of housing. While upscale developments, which are more attractive to investors, have sprouted on all corners of the continent, governments across the region have largely failed to spur development of modern formal housing that’s accessible to ordinary urban residents. Today, according to U.N. figures, 62 percent of Africa’s urban population lives in slums. These are typically tightly packed, haphazardly planned settlements that do not adhere to basic building standards nor allow for proper sanitation. Cities with a high prevalence of informal, single-story houses generally face extensive public-health challenges and lack the population density needed to become cost-effective hubs of manufacturing, therefore hindering job creation.

Kigali, which only became Rwanda’s capital during the country’s 1962 independence, is at an earlier stage of development than many African cities. It’s also largely free of the extreme degrees of squalor present in many of the continent’s urban areas. An estimated 80 percent of Kigali’s population lives in informal settlements, most of which were erected as the city swelled in size in the years following the 1994 genocide. But Kigali’s slums tend to be far less densely populated, and better equipped with amenities, than those of Nairobi, Kenya; Kampala, Uganda; or other major cities in the region. Kigali’s formal built environment has also blossomed. Today, modern office buildings sprout from the hilltop city center, highlighted by the 20-story blue-glass-paneled Kigali City Tower. In quiet suburbs, connected to town by roads so impeccably manicured they feel sterile, local elites and expatriates dine on Neapolitan-style pizza, sushi or steak au poivre and conduct business over cappuccinos at one of some two dozen upmarket coffee shops. Save the occasional waft of unpleasant odors — a reminder that Kigali still lacks a central sewage system — much of city would be barely recognizable to someone who left in the midst of the 1994 carnage.

Kigali’s rapid development, however, has also ushered in a host of challenges. Chief among them is the shortage of adequate housing. With a population of just over 200,000 in 1990, the city has grown sixfold in the 25 years since. That rate is expected to slow only slightly in the coming years. Kigali’s master plan, prepared in 2013 by the Singapore-based firm Surbana, projects the city will be home to 4 million people by 2040, at which point Kigali’s planners intend it to be transformed into a regional hub of finance, education, logistics and other value-added services. The housing scale-up required to support this growth is difficult to overstate. According to a 2012 City of Kigali study, the projected population increase and inadequacy of much of the city’s current housing stock mean Kigali will require 344,000 new housing units by 2022. That’s an enormous number given that the supply of new houses in the formal market has historically been fewer than 1,000 units per year. Moreover, the majority of these new houses, like those soon to be on sale at Vision City, have catered to the city’s elites. Yet as outlined in the city’s study, two-thirds of all new housing demand will come from families earning less than 200,000 francs per month.

As in many African cities, Kigali land prices are highly inflated, the result of speculation by elites who lack the range of vehicles for investment that savers have in more advanced economies. An underdeveloped financial sector also means that mortgage rates are high, typically 17 or 18 percent, putting home ownership out of reach for many otherwise well-off families. Rwanda’s limited industrial capacity and location 1,000 miles from the coast also make the cost of construction, despite an abundance of low-wage labor, abnormally high. According to Wang, the Vision City site manager, his company is forced to import 70 percent of the materials used in the project’s construction. That includes cement sourced from Uganda and Tanzania and finishing products from Turkey, Dubai and China. “If we buy materials from China, the transport to Kigali from the port will be twice the cost of transport in the sea,” he says. “Materials are the No. 1 expense.”

Kigali officials say the city’s first affordable formal housing units are currently in the pipeline. According to Fidele Ndayisaba, Kigali’s mayor, construction on several new mass housing developments is due to begin in the next few years. Unlike high-end projects such as Vision City, which typically generate adequate returns without the need for state support, these developments will benefit from government subsidies for roads, water, electricity, sanitation and other basic infrastructure. The idea, Ndayisaba explained, is that this will attract reluctant investors. The first of these projects, a 600-unit “low-cost” development known as Batsinda Estate, to be financed by RSSB and built by the military-affiliated contractor Horizon, will soon be under construction on Kigali’s northern outskirts. According to Daniel Ufitikirezi, the pension body’s director general, Batsinda will be an “experimental project” meant to prove the viability of the concept and help lure private-sector interest in similar state-supported projects in the future. Units, most of them three-bedroom apartments, will cost approximately 20 million to 25 million francs. RSSB, Ufitikirezi said, will help connect buyers to sources of finance, which, in theory, will offer more-favorable lending terms than are currently available on the market. “We wanted something that would be affordable to the majority of our own employees,” he said.

Even if Batsinda proves to be a viable model, however, such prices are still far beyond the means of most Kigali residents. Despite economic growth that’s averaged 8 percent per year over the last decade, only a minority of Rwandans have income beyond what’s required for day-to-day survival. Today, in many informal settlements, rental units are available for as little as 15,000 francs per month — a segment of the market that is only expected to grow with continued migration from the countryside. One explicit goal of the master plan, however, is to move toward a slum-free city, eradicating these settlements over time though a mix of demolition, upgrading and the unfurling of the planned mass-housing strategy. To many critics, including Tomà Berlanda, director of the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics at the University of Cape Town and co-founder of the Kigali-based studio Active Social Architecture, these realities simply do not match up. Although slum life may be far from ideal, he argues, authorities’ insistence on a top-down push toward formal housing risks causing unnecessary hardship for the city’s-lower income residents while increasingly excluding them from much of the urban fabric. “My sense is that there is a kind of naïve optimism that what is affordable is actually way too expensive for the average population,” Berlanda said. “Kigali is still richer than other parts of the country, but by and large it’s poor. And that message is difficult to discuss with government, because it’s not something that Rwanda wants to portray.”

Past slum eradication efforts, including the razing of hundreds of homes near the city center to make room for yet-unrealized commercial development, have only made life more difficult for the majority of affected residents. According to a 2014 study by Vincent Manirakiza, a Rwandan researcher at Belgium’s Catholic University of Louvain, families removed from the city’s informal settlements have typically had “little chance to reclaim their former standards of living.” That’s mainly because compensation, which is guaranteed under Rwandan law, is “often too low, not fairly calculated, and only paid after lengthy delays,” he writes in the study. Manirakiza’s research, based on interviews with members of 360 Kigali households, found that only 20 percent of relocated families had managed to build “improved homesteads.” Sixty-five percent, meanwhile, had purchased houses in other informal settlements. Others were pushed to peripheral areas, in many cases far from employment opportunities. Residents seeking to construct new informal houses, his paper notes, also face daunting bureaucratic challenges due to strict regulations intended to limit informal development. Often, residents are compelled to undertake “illicit” building strategies. These include the construction of small rooms at night or during the weekend, when inspectors are absent, or the building of new homes based on permits for renovations. Such structures are often discovered — and demolished. “So many houses built like this are destroyed,” Manirakiza said. “It’s very risky.”

Transforming ‘beasts into men’: colonialism, forced labour and racism in Africa

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Transforming ‘beasts into men’: colonialism, forced labour and racism in Africa

European colonisers maintained their workforce with forced labour after slavery was abolished, claiming work would do Africans good. This opened up new dangers to an already vulnerable population.
The idea of the ‘white man’s burden’ dates from our grandfather’s time, or earlier. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was used to both justify and attack imperial endeavours. Today, the white man’s burden lives on in ideas of guilt or responsibility for inequalities made more visible in a globalising world. Activists exploit these feelings to mobilise support for their causes, one of the most visible being the drive to end ‘modern-day slavery’. In my effort to uncover the history of forced labour in colonial Africa, I searched out letters and reports written by observers and agents of empire to grasp how these practices affected African life and how these individuals viewed colonial labour. In tracing this history, it is the views of Africans themselves that reveal the depth of depravity and height of hypocrisy woven into the fabric of ‘modern slavery.’

And work shall set you free

Having taken much of the nineteenth century to abolish slavery and the slave trade, the rulers of Europe’s African ventures found themselves in need of a workforce at the dawn of the twentieth. Building empire—for gold, God and glory—was hard work, and few Europeans were willing to go to Africa and bend their backs under the tropical sun. At the same time, Europe had just justified wars of conquest and colonisation under the guise of eliminating slavery. European colonies could thus hardly return to the slaver’s whip. How, then, could Africans be made to work in the service of empire?
Colonial rulers across the continent came to the conclusion that Africans would be forced to work anyway. The specific laws authorising this varied, but they were all undergirded by a general agreement that Africans lacked the intellectual and moral capacity to appreciate the value of labour. According to this self-serving, racist ‘paternalism’, European colonisers were obliged to force Africans to work for their own good. Yet even as colonisers claimed Africans would be ‘saved’ by European civilisation, colonisers made them vulnerable to new forms of servitude.
Portugal’s laws expressed this move most explicitly. Africans had a “legal and moral obligation” to work and, if they did not, colonial authorities could and would force them to do so. The chief architect of the law made clear the role race played in his thinking. For him, Africans were “big children”. Work, meanwhile, was a form of education that could “transform beasts into men”. As such, the state would impose “up to the state of extermination, as many other obligations as might benefit” what he called, “those backward negroes of Africa, those ignorant outcasts of Asia, those half-savages of Oceana”.
Under Portuguese colonial rule, Africans were compelled to grow rice and cotton, among other crops, and forced to sell to state buyers at fixed prices. Others were taken to work on road-building and other infrastructure projects, for which they were paid little or nothing. Still others were forced to work for white settler-farmers or large gold and sugar companies, where their work was dirty, dangerous, and disagreeable. What all these types of labor shared was a tedious toil, frequent exposure to violence and premature death, and a level of pay that barely met the needs of existence.

Believed by many, but not by all

No less a figure than Frederick Lugard, who was knighted for his service to the British empire—‘service’ which included institutionalising forced labour in colonial governance—recognised that Africans might regard forced labor as a “white man’s slavery”. Indeed, the words that Africans used to condemn colonial labour made clear just how vile this labour was, and how little it differed from the slavery of the past. On encountering a group of seven Africans who had been taken for contract labor, an African man in central Mozambique warned that the man who had taken them would beat them, feed them less than their bodies required for sustenance, and ‘sold blacks as if they were chicken or goats’. To the great frustration of the agent who had contracted them, they then took to their heels, he reported.
While Africans had the clearest view of such practices, some settlers or visitors were skeptical of a ‘civilising mission’ that seemed more like a “veneered barbarism”. One such traveler, Henry Nevinson, visited Portugal’s colonies and saw the inhumane treatment African workers suffered while cultivating cocoa destined for Cadbury, the British chocolate maker. He reported in his book Modern Slavery that few of these workers received payment and even fewer managed to escape bondage, positing that forced labor in Portuguese-ruled Africa was no different from the “slavery of our grandfathers’ time.” He meant that colonial forced labour, regularly justified as part of the so-called civilising mission, was no different from the racially-justified chattel slavery of generations past.
Nevinson’s reference to slavery can be best understood as political rhetoric, since colonial forced labour was different from earlier forms of servitude in Africa. Slave masters at times treated slaves with great brutality but, having invested much capital in their purchase, regarded them as valuable property. In contrast, white settlers in Africa often treated forced labourers “much worse than any ass or ox they possess”, because if an African worker fell ill or even died, the settler suffered no loss. As one colonial governor in Mozambique put it in 1910, “with the death of an ox or an ass they are out the money it cost them”. Or, in the words of an elderly African in Angola, who in the early 1920s could recall a time when slavery was still legal, “the slaves were better fed then we forced labourers are for we are not property”.

Portugal’s colonies: unexceptional in their brutality

The plight of Africans in Portugal’s colonies received the most attention, both because the Portuguese did less to camouflage their coercion and also because poor Portuguese settlers depended more heavily on state-imposed labour. That said, by virtue of being born black all those living in colonial Africa were legally vulnerable for state-sanctioned bondage. Vulnerability was the rule to which tenuous exceptions existed: women, children, the elderly, soldiers, African chiefs, and the infirm were often exempt from forced labour. These categories offered some protection, but they were elastic. It was not always clear whether one qualified, and the exceptions were inconsistently applied according to the whim of European officials. Indeed, colonial officials and colonists routinely ignored these and other regulations, and Africans were quite normally left without the protection of the law. In the words of historian Gregory Mann, colonial practices could generate a ‘black hole’ that obscured their very nature. The colonial powers also took their time in abolishing forced labor in Africa, which saw no real demise until the years after world war two.
If Africans had long known that colonial forced labor was little more than a new form of servitude, it was ideas of sovereignty and rights new to the post-war world that made plain to all the contradictions inherent to the colonial system. African activists turned such ideas on the system itself, making it impossible to ignore its antiquated nature, and used them to advocate for a new and more just social order.

Latter-day abolitionism

Activists today again use the language of ‘modern slavery’ to inflame moral sensibilities, suggesting that we co-exist with the evil of slavery in both time and space. It permeates our electronics, clothing, and even our food. One challenge remains the same: how should those advocating change make their case without calling into question the capacities of those whose rights they champion?
From the website Open Democracy by Eric Allina who is Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Ottawa. His research examines histories of labor and the state in southern Africa, especially colonial and independence-era Mozambique. He is author of Slavery by Any Other Name: African Life under Company Rule in Colonial Mozambique.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Land Grabs In Liberia: The People Rise Up

The Liberian government’s refusal to recognize and respect rural people’s customary land rights is marginalizing and destabilizing local communities. The state has handed out millions of hectares to investors in recent years. Now emotions are flaring into full-scale conflict.
The recent violence by community members against the Malaysian oil palm company, Golden Veroleum, in the presence of state officials in Butaw, Sinoe County, has once again thrown the spotlight on the violence between communities and concessionaires. One interesting take-away from the incident is that tensions between communities on the one hand and government and concessionaires on the other hand are growing, creating what has the potential to become a ticking time bomb.

Since 2010, serious incidents of community-investor land-related violence necessitating armed state security force’s involvement have erupted in many concession areas. Maryland, Nimba, Cape Mount, Sinoe, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Rivercess, Monsterrado, Bong – ten of the fifteen counties – have all reported violent land related conflicts (destruction of properties worth millions of dollars, allegations of torture by community members against state security forces, false imprisonment and other human rights abuses, and death), between communities, investors and the state. To put it more bluntly: growing tension stemming from large-scale land concessions indicates that violence and community anger may become an increasing consequence of bad faith concession operations in host communities and murky land transactions.

One of the central causes of this community anger and violence is state denial of communities’ and families’ customary land rights. (The vast majority of Liberians rely on land held, managed and used according to customary norms and practices for their livelihood.) The state’s failure to protect and defend communities’ customary land rights stems from an age old practice, mixed with an appetite for quick, cheap land and resource rental fees, that the state – and by this I mean those in charge of administering affairs of the state – has an unaccountable control over the country’s resources, including its citizens.

Firestone’s land deals and the Fernando Po crisis are good historical examples to draw from. Importantly, in recent times, between 2005 and 2013 alone, the government has ratified or signed into agreement several land based concessions, ceding away to concessionaires almost half, about 4 million hectares of the country’s land, often without proper consultation with the people and communities living and making their livelihoods from the land being handed out. The Liberian government’s refusal to recognize and respect rural people’s customary land rights is marginalizing and destabilizing local communities. It has also contributed to poor working and living conditions and weak protection for workers and their families in concession enclaves, brewing distrust between communities and investors. Indeed, it is within these four million hectares that we are now seeing emotions flaring into full scale conflict and violence. .

Furthermore, over a century of elite privilege has built in the state a patronage system to support an elite welfare system that rewards friends and families of the powerful, thus personalizing the state. One area this can be easily seen is around state processed private land claims. Laws like the now suspended Public Land Sale Act and accompanying instruments like Tribal Certificates and Presidential Signature to personalize public land (into private deed) have favored a few elites with close proximity to state power. Most large-scale public-to-private land transfers have tended to favor government actors. The recent infamous Private Use Permits (PUPs), which claimed almost a third of the country’s land space, is an extreme example of what is already unfolding all over the country. It is quite common to see members of the executive (president(s), ministers, directors of state-owned enterprises, county superintendents), representatives and senators, and members of the judiciary, along with their friends and family members, laying claims to huge tracks of lands all over the country.

from here

Feeding Ourselves

Vegetables rich in protein and essential vitamins and minerals, perfectly adapted to Africa's soils and changing climate exist in Africa. They exist thanks not to the genius and beneficence of a foreign company, but rather through millennia of interactions between Africa's farmers and its landscape. And while their popularity waned in recent decades as urbanization has swept through the continent, they're gaining renewed interest from food-security experts. Unlike "exotic" (i.e., non-native to Africa) vegetables like kale and cabbage, these crops are adapted to Africa's soils and growing conditions. African vegetables like the leaves of amaranth, pumpkin, and cowpea (black-eyed pea) plants outshine rival western greens that have been introduced into African agriculture over the past century. Then there's the leaves of the moringa tree, native to Africa and parts of Asia, which deliver three times more vitamin A than carrots, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, and twice the protein of cow's milk, per 100 grams.

Of course, spiderplant and cowpea leaves are a long way from solving Africa's nutritional problems. As of 2013, indigenous vegetables accounted for just 6 percent of Kenya's total vegetable market. Despite growing demand production is constrained by the same factors that haunt African food security broadly: poor infrastructure (roads, rail, etc.) for bringing fresh food from farm to market, along with a dearth of investment in research and development. There are no simple answers, no silver bullets, to the problem of ensuring a robust food supply on a warming planet with a growing population. But it's important to remember that the best, cheapest solutions aren't necessarily the ones that emerge from patent-seeking laboratories.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Millenium Development Goals Missed For 2.4 Billion People

As most developing nations fall short of meeting their goals on sanitation, the world’s poorest countries have been lagging far behind, according to a new U.N. report released here.

The Joint Monitoring Programme report, ‘Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment’, authored by the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), says one in three people, or 2.4 billion worldwide, are still without sanitation facilities – including 946 million people who defecate in the open.

“What the data really show is the need to focus on inequalities as the only way to achieve sustainable progress,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes.
“The global model so far has been that the wealthiest move ahead first, and only when they have access do the poorest start catching up. If we are to reach universal access to sanitation by 2030, we need to ensure the poorest start making progress right away,” he said.

Pointing out the existing inequities, the report says progress on sanitation has been hampered by inadequate investments in behaviour change campaigns, lack of affordable products for the poor, and social norms which accept or even encourage open defecation.
Although some 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, the world has missed the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target by nearly 700 million people.
Today, only 68 per cent of the world’s population uses an improved sanitation facility – 9 percentage points below the MDG target of 77 per cent.
Still, the world has made “spectacular progress” in water, Jeffrey O’Malley, Director, Data, at UNICEF’s Research and Policy Division, told reporters Tuesday.

In 2015, 91 percent of the global population used an improved drinking water source, up from 76 percent in 1990, while 6.6 billion people have access to improved drinking water.
The total without access globally is now 663 million, almost a 100 million fewer than last year’s estimate, and the first time the number has fallen below 700 million.
As the MDGs expire this year, the goal on water has been met overall, but with wide gaps remaining, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The goal on sanitation, however, has failed dramatically. At present rates of progress it would take 300 years for everyone in Sub-Saharan Africa to get access to a sanitary toilet, said the report.

Tim Brewer, Policy Analyst on Monitoring and Accountability at the London-based WaterAid, told IPS the MDG goal on water was met largely because of those who were easiest to reach.
“The poorest are often still being left behind. What we need to do in the new U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), now under negotiation, is to make sure that progress for the poorest is made the headline figure.”
“We cannot have another situation where we appear to be succeeding because the situation of the comparatively wealthy has improved, even as millions of people are still falling ill from dirty water or from environments that are contaminated with faeces,” he noted.

Brewer said monitoring is key: “We need to measure basic access for the poor, as well as measuring other indicators such as whether water is safe and affordable, and whether wastewater is safely treated.”
“This is the only way to make sure we reach everyone, everywhere by 2030 and hold governments accountable to their promises,” he argued.

taken from here

Tanzania's Land-Grab

Tanzania is the poster boy in a push by Western donor agencies like the World Bank and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for what they call the "African Green Revolution". In 2012, Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (New Alliance) at the G8 Camp David Summit. It was to be a partnership of G8 (now G7) countries who would work along African governments and some of the biggest transnational companies in the world, including Monsanto and Cargill, with the stated aim of lifting 50 million people out of poverty in a decade. Tanzania was among the first 10 countries to sign up. The African governments involved made promises about how they would ensure a healthy business climate, while multinationals made commitments to start investing. The UK, which held the leadership of the G8 in 2013, and with it the New Alliance, committed at least £63m of British aid money to the initiative in Tanzania alone. As part of this push, the Tanzanian government has pushed for investments in what it calls the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot), an initiative unveiled by President Jakaya Kikwete at the World Economic Forum in 2011. It was meant to streamline investment into the most attractive agricultural regions in the country, stretching from the eastern coast near the capital Dar es Salaam to the western border with Zambia. But in the rush to attract investors, many say that local communities are having their lands grabbed and have not been properly compensated or consulted over mega-projects, as in Bagamoyo.

The Razaba Farm in north-eastern Tanzania is the site of a proposed 5,000-hectare industrial sugarcane project by Swedish-owned company EcoEnergy. The new project was announced in 2011, and there was excitement at the time within the community as the villagers were promised a long list of sweeteners, which never materialized.

Siasa Kasanura, the community chairperson, says "When the project came, we were told many things about how our lives would improve. But now it's like we are living on this land as refugees because we have been told we don't belong here." Four years after what is called the "Bagamoyo project" was announced, many of the 1,300 inhabitants who need to be resettled to make way for the plantation still do not know how much they will be compensated, where they will be resettled, or when the project will happen.

The Bagamoyo project is one of the flagship initiatives in Tanzania's drive to industrialise and commercialise its agricultural sector. The original 'Green Revolution' saw productivity gains across post-war Asia and Latin America by a huge process of industrialisation and new commercial inputs including seeds and fertiliser. But critics point out that increased yields did not always increase food security for the people of those regions. "It failed once and they're trying it again," said Michael Farrelly, who works for the Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement.

"Tanzania is an emblematic case," added Doug Hertzler, senior analyst on land rights issues at ActionAid. "All the aid agencies point to Tanzania as being a big case for them. I would say in this whole model, Tanzania and Ethiopia were really the starting points because there wasn't a lot of private sector there." Interest in the 'African Green Revolution' among multinational corporations picked up after the world food price crisis of 2007-08 when prices for agricultural commodities spiked. It is also backed by influential groups like the Gates Foundation.

One of the major problems is that land titling in Tanzania, as in much of east Africa, is rudimentary, so farmers often have no legal backing to hold on to land they may have lived on communally for generations. Smallholder farmers complain that the Tanzanian government in their rush to commercialise agriculture takes the sides of the investors instead of the people they are meant to represent. Timothy Paul, who works for Mviwata, a network of smallholder farmers in the country, put it simply: "The government is always on the side of the investor."

The Sagcot center, which is primarily funded by American aid agency USAID, has been called a de facto Chamber of Commerce which lobbies the government on the part of foreign investors. One company operating in the Sagcot region they often point to is Agrica, which is registered in tax haven Guernsey but run by London-based social entrepreneur Carter Coleman, and has a 6,000 hectare rice project in western Tanzania. "The most value Sagcot has been to date is advocacy to improve the business environment. When the government's done certain things that have been damaging to agricultural investors, Sagcot lobbied them to stop."

Western governments are complicit, too, say civil society groups, which complain that public funds are being filtered through aid agencies to help already-rich corporations penetrate new markets. "The unfortunate reality is that many aid agencies, whether it's USAID or DfiD, have become the handmaidens for the corporate sector," said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, a think-tank in the US. "They have become the handmaidens for privatising and the commodification of resources in the developing world. They come in cloaked in the language of development and poverty eradication but if you look at the impact of the projects that they are investing in, they are eradicating the poor themselves."

Another place this tension is obvious is the bustling city of Morogoro which sits in Tanzania's southern highlands. The farmers, many who have lived in the area for generations, are in the middle of a dispute with a local investor, Mgolole Agro, who bought the land in 2005. The government have given 600m Tanzanian shillings ($300,000) in loans from its development bank's "Special Window for Agriculture" to help the project along. But, since the new investor took over, there have been attempts, some successful, to evict the farmers who were residing there. "After this investor took this land, many things have happened," Saif Litei, head of the farmers group at Kidago Farm, told us. "Firstly, no one is now allowed to live inside this area, and no production is taking place by the farmers, because the investor has taken over all the land. And then the houses which were inside, he just burnt them."

Many of the farmers said, consequently, that they did not feel supported by their elected representatives, pointing to alleged corruption all the way up the chain, from the local councillors to the national administration, which meant that their concerns were not heard. They also claimed that a lack of literacy and legal knowhow among the community had been taken advantage of by investors, alongside their government, to trick them into signing disadvantageous agreements.

Feeding the World

One in every nine people on the planet - 795 million in all - still goes to sleep hungry yet a quarter of all the food in the world is lost each year, owing to inefficient harvesting, inadequate storage, and wastage in the kitchen. Halve that waste and the world could feed an extra billion people - and make hunger yesterday's problem.

In the rich world, the focus is on food wasted by the consumer. This makes sense: more than half of the rich world's losses take place in its kitchens (basically because we can afford it). By contrast, the world's hungry poor waste very little, simply because they cannot afford to. In Africa, daily food waste averages 500 calories per person - but consumers account for only 5% of this loss. More than three-quarters of the waste occurs well before the kitchen, in inefficient agriculture, because birds and rats eat crops during harvest, for example, or pests spoil grain stores.

There are many remedies for this kind of waste so why aren't these technologies - widely used in richer countries - adopted in the developing world? Economists from the International Food Policy Research Institute estimate that the overall cost of approximately halving post-harvest losses in the developing world would be US$239 billion over the next 15 years - and would generate benefits worth more than US$3 trillion, or US$13 of social benefits for every dollar spent. By 2050, better infrastructure could mean that 57 million people - more than the current population of South Africa - would no longer be at risk of hunger, and that about four million children would no longer suffer from malnutrition. Most of these gains would be in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the world's most deprived regions.

We can achieve three times the economic benefits, and even larger reductions in the number of people at risk of hunger, if we focus on improving food production rather than just on preventing food losses.

Today, only US$5 billion is spent annually on research to improve the seven major global food crops, and just one-tenth of that is targeted to help small farmers in Africa and Asia. Investing an extra US$88 billion in agricultural research and development over the next 15 years would increase yields by an additional 0.4% each year. That might not sound like very much, but the improvements in food security would help almost everyone. It would be worth nearly US$3 trillion in social good - yielding an enormous US$34 of benefits for every dollar spent.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mozambique decriminalises homosexuality and abortion

Mozambique decriminalised homosexuality on Monday when a new penal code came into force that swept away old Portuguese colonial laws, in a victory for campaigners for gay rights in Africa. The new penal code, which was announced last December by the then president, Armando Guebuza, also decriminalises abortion after lobbying by civil rights organisations.

As Burundi Goes To The Polls, Journalism Is A High Risk Job

For the families of journalists like me in Burundi, life has been hell these past few weeks, especially since street protests began in April against the president’s plans to run for a third term.
Children haven’t been to school since then. Every day my son asks me when he do will do his homework. He remembers that the demonstrations started as he come home one Friday with a homework assignment. One day I had to ask his headmaster to open the school gates for a few minutes just so he could go in and feel some relief. It didn’t work.

The official discourse is reassuring, but the economic, political and social decline continues. Our families don’t understand how we can choose this career. “This job is death,” my sister told me recently.
“Papa, did they shoot at your computer,” my son asked me once. My boy likes computers. Many journalists had their computers riddled with bullets after private media houses were attacked in the wake of a failed coup bid in May.
“Son, it’s time to do something else. I’m afraid for you,” said my mother in a tearful phone conversation recently.

For journalists working for private or foreign media, it’s as if our work has become a crime.
But think the whole community is under threat. Today it’s journalists; tomorrow it could be shopkeepers, or doctors.

As a journalist and citizen I had always hoped that what’s happening now would not come to pass in Burundi. Events seem to evoke the old demons of destruction and violence. (Civil war ravaged Burundi between 1993 and 2005.)  Even before today’s legislative polls, the elections had already claimed victims: tens of thousands of people have fled the country and many have also taken flight inside.

Ever since the coup bid, reporters have gone into hiding, including myself as well as colleagues from both private and state media.  I personally chose not to leave Burundi for a neighbouring country, but around 50 journalists have fled and some are living in refugee camps.
The closure of private media “is a major setback for freedom of expression, because there are no more voices that contradict those of the government, no more independent sources about what is happening now,” Jean Regis Nduwimana, a professor of communications, told me.
He added that he feared the country was at risk of falling prey to “a quasi-totalitarian regime which only wants to hear its own voice heard on state media.”

These days moving around with recording devices, laptops or smart phones is very risky. Staying at home all the time is impossible but travel has to be done with great caution. Many journalists say they are followed. Some have had their houses attacked. The most recent case of this was of Voice of America reporter Dianne Nininahazwe, who was also followed.
We journalists expected private media to be reopened before polling began. But it seems we are going to have to wait for that, nobody knows for how long.
Over the past week I saw men lying on the ground bleeding after grenades were thrown from car windows. Being a journalist now is to live the pain of others and to forget one’s own. We have all lost loved ones in the past but the wheels of history in Burundi are still turning and the same mistakes are being made. We continue to shed tears for our friends and family. People are still burying their loved ones.

Our country’s greatest curse is that people never try to walk in others’ shoes.
I’ve heard government officials describe those protesting as bringers of bad luck. This has gradually become a conflict although the government says 99.9 percent of the country is calm. But it’s not normal for people to flee a country when elections come around. Can you imagine more than 100,000 refugees? Children separated from their parents, not going to school, who can no longer sleep, who are in camps, at risk of cholera and malnutrition?

About 10 days after the failed coup, journalists working for foreign media and visiting correspondents were summoned by the National Communications Council. I arrived late. I had considered not showing up at all; I thought I might find myself behind bars. This place makes you paranoid. At the meeting, we were warned, accused of only covering the demonstrations when the ruling party was in full campaigning mode, of encouraging the protestors, of only talking to refugees when 10 million people had remained in Burundi.
Once when I tried to interview a witness to an attack he refused to talk to me, saying he didn’t want to die.

Gunfire and grenade blasts rang out in parts of Bujumbura on Saturday night, and again on Sunday night. For hours, we had no idea who was shooting or why. State radio announced three people had been killed on Saturday night. The police spokesman was mysteriously unreachable.
All this makes for a fearful climate. I can see no cause for calm. Burundi’s former partners have pulled out, as have election observers.
Gunfire in a country the government says is calm and the withdrawal of the opposition from the race, and widespread calls from the international community to delay the polls are signs that we are on a slippery slope and that that the return will be hard.

by Désiré Nimubona from here

Monday, June 29, 2015

Critique of De Leon's First Stage Socialism and Labour Time Vouchers

The Critique of the Gotha Programme remained an unfinished sketch which Karx Marx had not intended for publication. As a result this text remains fragmentary and inconsistent. What Marx was dealing with in the Gotha Programme was communist society not as it has developed on its own foundations but, on the contrary, just as it was emerging from capitalist society.

       Karl Marx's discussion of the future socialist society remained fragmentary and experimental. He never attempted to offer a blueprint for a future socialist society. He remained convinced that the success of Socialism depended in the last analysis on the historical circumstances that by nature vary from one country to another. Karl Marx was at most times uncertain concerning the course which Socialism was to pass through. However, he remained convinced that the workers had no ideals to realise apart from setting free the elements of the new society with which the old collapsing bourgeois society is pregnant.

          Trotskyism, Anarchism and Bolshevism are heavy-handed definitions with 19th century traditions. They remain what they are: violent versions of socialism and everyone using them stands to be ridiculed. The International Union of Socialists, the Industrial Workers of the World and the Independent Socialist Party are all leftist petty-bourgeois anarchical movements embroiled in the post-WWI socialist movements. They follow the traditions of Leninism and vanguard political socialism interested by usurping political power from the state through Trade Union labour militancy.

          Thus De Leon's interest in Market Socialism under labour-time vouchers. After the workers have usurped political power from the state, the bourgeois class would automatically abolish itself and become a part of the classless socialist society; the bourgeoisie cannot be conceived to remain as a distinct sect within socialist society.

          To believe in first stage Socialism is to discredit the vision of Socialism as a universal realisation of a classless, moneyless and stateless society. Socialism can only be propagated through a socialist party organically composed of working class members. Socialism must not be spear-headed by a vanguard of think-tank intellectuals. After Socialism has been universally realised the need for a specialised leadership would abolish itself-the Socialist parfies would be disbanded. The eradication of capitalism would denote the end of the market system and commodity exchange.

          The whole edifice of De Leon's infatuation with Socialism hinges upon belief in first-stage Socialism under a market system in which the allocation of individual needs would be evaluated upon an exchange mechanism. Labour time vouchers do not differ from money; they are all units of labour exchange. The critics of Karl Marx fail to appreciate the differences between the two stages of Socialism and thus confuse the first stage of Socialism with the second stage. They fail to appreciate the fact that during the first stage the production relations still remain dependent upon the exchange values between different individuals unpacified from the class divisions inherent under the division of labour.

          It is only during the second phase of Socialism that the market system finally abolishes itself, when human labour is freed from money and taxes and that we can inscribe on the banners of working class the slogan: To each according to his needs, and from each according to his capabilities. Needs and talents are freed from money and price restrictions and become mere activities taking place in a classless and non-market society. Needs are not reckoned under demand prices in a scarcity society, but as an individual claim. Thus Socialism will achieve a universal high standard of living and would solve the riddle of poverty.

          Trade unions are representatives of working class organised industrial militancy against private capital. They fight for wage increments, not for the eradication of private capital. Trade unions cannot be tumed into jumping boards to Socialism unless when these unions are under the influence of socialist agitators. Yet trade unions even under the influence of socialist agitators remain what they are: labour arbitration movements.

          Trade unions cannot exist under socialist society because there won't be a distinct class to defend.

          Trade unions are a phenomenon of antagonistic class interests and work to organise working class industrial resistance against private capitalism. Thus a vote for a trade union is a vote for a wage increment while a vote for a socialist party is a vote for unrestrained consumption.

          Under capitalism marriage, love and happiness become inhibited by income conventions. Free socialisation becomes restricted. Class barriers check and put limits upon labour mobility. The working class sanctify themselves under the protection of trade unions, the first expression of working class organised resistance against private capital.

          Thus trade union movements and labour associations cannot by themselves succeed in usurping political power from the state.

K. Mulenga, 
Chimwemwe. Kitwe,

Stateless in Sahel

Thousands of refugee children in western Mali are at risk of being stuck in the legal limbo of statelessness, which could mean little or no access to health care and higher education.

While the Malian government, along with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), has issuing birth certificates to almost 8,000 children born to Mauritanian parents who took refuge in Mali between 1989 and 2014, the majority still have no legal paperwork linking them to either their country of origin or their country of asylum.

“Because these children were born in exile, their births were never registered,” said Mamadou Keita, who works with the local NGO Stop Sahel in Kayes, where the majority of the Mauritanian refugees have settled.  “When a child is born in Mali, the birth needs to be declared within one month… After one month, it becomes complicated and has to go through the courts,” he explained. But because these children were born to refugee parents, many of whom live in remote communities, they never went through this legal process. “A birth certificate allows them to plan for a future,” Stop Sahel’s Keita said. “For example, it’s necessary to apply for higher education and receive study grants.”

Boubacar's parents fled inter-communal clashes in Mauritania more than 20 years earlier and never returned.
“I was born in Mali,” Boubacar told IRIN. “I call myself Malian. Mali is my home.”
But because his parents never registered his birth at the mayor’s office or local health clinic, the law considers him to be neither Malian nor Mauritanian.  This is despite the fact that both his parents and grandparents hold refugee status in Mali and are Mauritanian citizens. Without a birth certificate, Boubacar and the more than 7,800 other children like him in Mali are unable to receive state services, such as health care and other social protection services, or officially register for school after grade six.

For those refugee children wishing to stay in Mali permanently, unless they obtain a birth certificate they will never be able to register for a national ID card or passport, nor be they eligible to apply for citizenship in either Mali or Mauritania once they turn 18. It will also be difficult for them to officially marry or, one day, be issued a death certificate.

“These refugees have been living in communities in Kayes for years. They have their businesses…they are well integrated,” said Isabelle Michal, a public information officer with UNHCR in Bamako.  “Birth certificates are just the legal component of the integration process. They protect children who would otherwise risk statelessness and they open the door for possible citizenship, local integration and social cohesion.”

This issue of stateless refugee children isn’t unique to Mali.  Worldwide, more than 10 million people have no official nationality, according to UNHCR. Many of them were born to refugee parents. Others were left without a country after borders were redrawn or new states emerged.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beware Of New Alliance Land Grabs

Report for ActionAid International (June 2015)

 Ten African countries have signed up to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition – the G8 countries’ main strategy for supporting agriculture in Africa that was launched in 2012. As the New Alliance has been under way for three years, some of its likely impacts are becoming clearer. This briefing – covering Nigeria, Malawi, Tanzania and Senegal – shows that some large companies involved in the New Alliance are already accused of taking part in land grabs in some countries. It also presents new research to argue that the initiative is further increasing the risk of rural communities losing their access to and control over land to large investors, largely through policy commitments on land titling and land reform. Implicated in these reforms and risks of land grabs are the G8 donor countries bankrolling the New Alliance and the European Union. These governments must stop all engagement in and support for the New Alliance and replace it with genuine initiatives to support small-scale food producers and advance sustainable agriculture.

The essence of socialism

Socialism will solve the antagonism between civil society and the state. The political state as defender of sectional interests of the ruling class will disappear. The essence of socialism is to eradicate the existing production relations which are based on commodity exchange, the use of money, and trade. The hoax of a market mechanism will be abolished once and for good. Dialectical Marxism And Scientific Socialism aims at creating a stateless and equal society through self-realisation by the workers and toilers to free themselves from the yoke of capital.

The teachings of dialectical Marxism do not envisage that violent military insurrections are the first stage in the creation of Socialism. Sogialism will not start from above. Neither can it be imposed but will be the outcome of the existing antagonisms within capitalist society.

Inflation, unemployment and labour unrest are social vices predominant in every capitalist nation. Under capitalism the inherent antagonisms between capital and labour is truly exemplified in the perpetual existence of crises. Exploitation depicts a state of complete alienation: the negation of the workers from the fruits of their labour. Under capitalism the social institutions of producing and distributing goods are wholly owned by the wealthy capitalist class.

Under socialism these social institutions are vested in the whole population and are utilised for the purpose of meeting the needs of every individual member of society. The socialist premises of Karl Marx's dialectical materialism can only be realised when political and economic relations existing under capitalism have been abolished by the communal ownership of economic institutions.

After the working class have taken over the management and ownership of every form of economic and entrepreneur activity from the capitalist and ruling class and have dispensed with ownership and dissolved the bureaucratic methods of civil society, the vacuum of economies of scalewhich had been preserved under scarcity conditions by the capitalist producers will be instantaneously filled. There will occur a general improvement in people's living standards under socialism because goods will no longer be restricted by prices but shall be produced for targeted consumers relative to the demand or needs.

The establishment of a "communist" state in Russia by the Bolsheviks supposedly on the principles of Marxist dialectics brought Marxism into disrepute. Leninism posed a great threat to Marxism during the epoch of imperialism especially among those philosophical circles in which dialectical materialism was held in esteem.

The social and economic conditions under which the Russian revolution took place were not conducive to the realisation of a socialist revolution. That is to say that the historical conditions for socialism were non-existent in Russia at the time. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" as was then conceived by Lenin and the Bolsheviks was a far cry from what was propounded by Marx. Whereas to Karl Manes own interpretation the "dictatorship of the proletariat" entailed universal working class activity, to Lenin and the Bolsheviks it meant a totalitarian regime under a dictator. Lenin emphasised it very strongly that a state run on military precision was what Russia needed most.

We Socialists have long been advocating that what was established in Russia by Lenin was not socialism. We have postulated our assumptions on the fact that historical conditions which give rise to socialism did not obtain in Russia at the time. Russia was not ripe for socialism.