Thursday, October 27, 2016

The rich continent

Africa is full of promise and untapped riches - from oil and minerals and land to vast amounts of people capital - yet, it has struggled since colonial times to truly realise its potential.Africa is home to more than 40 different nations, and around 2,000 languages. It is rich in oil and natural resources and it has approximately 30 percent of the earth's remaining mineral resources. North Africa counts with vast oil and natural gas deposits; the Sahara holds the most strategic nuclear ore; and resources such as coltan, gold, and copper, among many others, are abundant on the continent. It is the world's fastest-growing region for foreign direct investment.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Tragedy of Refugees the past seven years, the militant group Boko Haram has set about destroying communities, schools and health facilities in northeast Nigeria and has used sexual violence and the kidnapping of women and girls to terrorize the population. At least 20,000 people have been killed, and an estimated 2.5 million people have been displaced.

Amid the carnage, communities have been unable to tend to their land and multiple harvests have failed. Hunger has taken over. Children and adults have wasted to death. The United Nations’ children’s agency UNICEF warned that 75,000 children could die this year without a major aid effort in northeast Nigeria. Aid has been slow to reach people in the region. Some Nigerians fear corrupt local officials are diverting resources from people in need. The international aid system was slow to recognize the scale of the crisis and has not yet cranked into full gear. Ongoing fighting has complicated the effort – the U.N. estimates that 2 million people remain inaccessible to aid agencies.

In Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, families continue to pour out of their destroyed homes and villages, seeking sanctuary, food and medical care. Maiduguri’s population has almost doubled in size to more than 2 million people in recent years. There are 11 official and unofficial camps for people who have been displaced across Maiduguri.  Even after they escaped fighting for the relative safety of the camps, the threat of violence and sexual assault continues to cast a long shadow over women’s lives. Most of the displacement camps are surrounded by the Nigerian military. Men carrying weapons are visible inside the camps, likely members of a civilian militia that is armed by authorities. People displaced from areas taken by Boko Haram have been met with suspicion in Maiduguri. Local authorities have openly fanned fears that the displaced population may have radicalized Boko Haram sympathizers in their midst. The militant group’s repeated use of women and girls as suicide bombers has roused the fears of the local population. Local officials describe women freed from Boko Haram control as a security risk, some claiming that is impossible to ensure that the camps for the displaced have not been “infiltrated” by “the wives of Boko Haram.” When people in Borno refer to “wives,” it is a euphemism for rape and sexual slavery. While it is possible that some women have voluntarily joined or married fighters, most survivors describe forced marriage and horrific sexual violence, including rapes by multiple men.

“Unspeakable things start happening to girls from the age of 12,” Amina, a 15-year-old girl from Bama who recently gave birth to her first child, said in a maternity clinic on the outskirts of Maiduguri. Women who became pregnant while in Boko Haram captivity have been particularly shunned by local communities.

Aisha, a mother of five, described fleeing her home in Mafa when Boko Haram militants attacked two years ago.
 “They came like wildfire to burn and loot our homes – they showed us no mercy, no mercy at all,” she says. “I picked up my children and ran and have been running since then.”

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Congo Slavery

In a study of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, by Kevin Bales, a professor of Contemporary Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in the UK, writes, arguing that in the wake of armed conflict,“Slavery never happens in isolation. A perfect storm of lawlessness, slavery, and environmental destruction can occur—driving the vulnerable into slave-based work that feeds into global supply chains and the things we buy and use in our daily lives."

Bales explains:
In the past twenty years, this perfect storm has hit the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A war that erupted in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide spread across the region, bringing collapse to the Congo’s ruling dictatorship, invasion by surrounding nations, and a sharp rise in slavery and sexual violence. The armed groups that grabbed parts of the eastern provinces were not there for political or religious reasons, but to steal and sell valuable minerals and other natural resources. Lacking mining technology, but heavily armed, these criminal groups enslaved thousands of local people.

These slaves were forced to cut protected virgin forests, level mountains, spoil streams and rivers with great open-strip mines, and massacre rare and endangered species like gorillas. The minerals these slaves dug, processed and then carried on their backs to smuggle them out of the country flowed into our lives. For these slave-based, environmentally-destructive minerals are essential to making cell phones, computers, and the thousands of other electronic devices that surround us every day.

Closing down slave-based logging, brick-making, mining, or charcoal production will not hurt our lifestyles or the global economy," he concludes. "What it will do is get people out of slavery and slow global warming and climate change—a classic win-win situation."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Changing the land...not changing lands

 nabadiyocaano - ‘peace and milk’
col iyoabaar - ‘conflict and drought’
Somali proverbs

The world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees. With as many as 170 countries affected by drought or desertification, up to 135 million people are at risk of distressed migration as a result of land degradation in the next 30 years, says the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Droughts are natural phenomena, they are not fated to lead to forced migration and conflict. But neither desertification nor drought on its own causes conflict or forced migration. Severe droughts occur in countries like Australia and the United States, but government intervention has made these experiences bearable. For poor countries where safety nets do not exist.

In Mali, for example, unpredictable and decreasing rainfall seasons have led to a decline in harvests. More and more herders and farmers’ are moving into cities searching for employment. In Bamako, Mali’s capital, population in just over 20 years has grown from 600,000 to roughly   2 million with living conditions becoming more precarious and insecure. As Lagos fills up with those fleeing desertification in rural northern Nigeria, its population now 10 million. Disillusioned, unemployed youth are easy prey for smugglers, organised drug and crime cartels, even for Boko Haram.

Pastoralists face similar challenges when they are compelled to move beyond their accepted boundaries in search of water and pasture and risk clashing with other populations unwilling to share resources. Clashes between pastoralists and farmer are a serious challenge for governments in Somalia, Chad and Niger.

The Great Green Wall of the Sahara  seeks to restore degraded lands and create green jobs in the land-based sectors. The Great Man-Made River project was also a promising initiative. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The robber barons

According to World Bank estimates from household surveys, the share of people in Africa living on less than $1.90 a day fell from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012.
However, there were many more poor people in Africa in 2012 than in 1990 (more than 330m, up from about 280m), as a result of rapid population growth.

Africa will not meet the Millennium Development Goal target of halving poverty by 2015 and projections are that the world’s poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa. Of the 10 most unequal countries in the world today, seven are in Africa.

Despite the increase in school enrollment, more than two out of five adults are still unable to read or write, and the quality of education is very low. About three-quarters of sixth graders in Malawi and Zambia cannot read for meaning, providing just one example of the school quality challenge.
But almost half of the 10 million graduates churned out of the over 668 universities in Africa yearly end up unemployed.

Africa is not poor. Africa is a rich continent. She is the world's most resource-rich continent with 50 percent of gold, 55 percent of diamonds, 96 percent of oil, 40 percent of hydroelectric power potential and millions of hectares of arable lands. Africa is not only rich in natural resources but also in human capacity, which are its true riches in this twenty-first century. Across the length and breadth of the continent are vast potentials and budding talents of young people which when effectively harnesses and developed, would give impetus to Africa's social, economic and political efforts. The youth of Africa forms the generation of hope for Africa's development.

Africa is a rich continent led by greedy and covetous leaders. They grab all that there is but are not satisfied; they come to power broke but by the time they leave office they have amassed immeasurable wealth for themselves. Billions of dollars of public funds continue to be stashed away by some African leaders while schoolchildren have neither books nor desks nor teachers. Our people live in poverty, our hospitals are very poorly equipped and staffed, our teeming youths have no jobs and our roads are crumbling. Our greedy leaders have no care for the common people. They misuse funds, hide more in Swiss and other banks leaving the masses to suffer in absolute poverty. It is only greed that will make African politicians divert public funds meant for development into their personal bank accounts to build mansions and buy luxury cars.

X-cluded from X-Rays

The World Health Organization estimates that two-thirds of the planet does not have access to basic radiology services: simple x-rays, which can show a cracked bone or lung infection, and ultrasounds, which use sound waves to picture a growing fetus, track blood flow, or guide a biopsy.

 In a country of 43 million, Kenya only has 200 radiologists; Massachusetts General, in Boston, has 126. 

Liberia currently has two radiologists.

There are more radiologists working in the four teaching hospitals on Longwood Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts, than there are in all of West Africa.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stop the Rape

The United Nations is calling for the end of "widespread impunity" for sex attackers in Liberia where up to three quarters of all women and girls have been raped. Investigators said the high rates of sexual assault in Liberia were part of the legacy of the West African nation’s two civil wars, which ran from 1989 to 2003. Between 61 per cent and 77 per cent of all woman and girls in the country were raped during the conflict, according to previous research by the World Health Organisation.

A new report found that children under the age of five were among those sexually attacked last year in Liberia, where the vast majority of documented rape victims are minors. Of rapes documented by the UN in Liberia in 2015, almost 80 per cent of victims were under the age of 18, including at least five girls under the age of five. Despite more than 800 reported rapes, only 34 convictions were made for the crime in 2015, with officials warning that the assaults are vastly underreported due to widespread stigma and discrimination against victims. A report by the UN Mission in Liberia and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said rape has become the second-most reported serious crime in the country.

Victims face challenges at every step of the process if they attempt to hold their assailants criminally accountable. Families are frequently put under pressure to settle cases out of court, while most perpetrators are men known to victims as either community members or relatives, meaning women fear reporting rape over the fear of reprisals or social “shame”.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The need for union unity

Namibia has more than 40 registered unions and three union federations - the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) and the recently formed Namibian National Labour Organization (Nanlo).

Of these three, only one - the NUNW has bargaining powers - while the other two can only endorse whatever would have been agreed on, although this does not happen quite often.

Nantu is affiliated to NUNW but there is another - the Teachers Union of Namibia - that is affiliated to Tucna. The two do not sit together to plan on how best they can represent teachers. Likewise, public servants are represented by Namibia Public Workers’ Union that is affiliated to NUNW and the Public Service Union of Namibia that is under Tucna.

The division in the labor movement is largely political. The NUNW is linked the ruling party Swapo. It was formed in 1970 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania during the liberation war. NUNW is affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Union (WTFU). Some of its affiliates are the Namibian Food and Allied Workers union (Nafawu), the Namibian Transport and Allied Workers Union (Natawu), the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu), and the Mineworkers Union of Namibian (MUN).

Tucna was formed as a merger between two major legislative organizations namely the Namibia Federation of Trade Unions (NAFTU) and Namibia People’s Social Movement (NPSM) in May 2002. Tucna is a member of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Nanlo was formed about two years ago by the former NUNW general secretary Evilastus Kaaronda. Just like the other two, Nanlo also has affiliates have members drawn from the same constituencies.

Already these powerful affiliates, despite representing same constituencies and harboring same demands, do not agree on many occasions. The division became clear Tuesday after the Namibia Public Workers’ Union leaders accepted the government’s 5 percent salary increase, which the teachers’ union that is demanding an 8 percent salary increase has refused to accept. Although teachers have their own union, they are considered as civil servants together with other government workers represented by the public workers’ union.

Practically, it means that the two unions have to agree on their demands since they both belong to the National Union of Namibian Workers. This is not happening since the public workers’ union leadership accepted the offer, with their general secretary Peter Nevonga saying that they understand the country’s economic situation.

Nevonga met President Hage Geingob Tuesday in Windhoek where he told the head of state that their members have accepted the 5 percent offer. The teachers’ union leaders also met Geingob Tuesday in a closed door meeting that lasted more than two hours but came out with no agreement.

Labor experts Herbert Jauch said the dividing line between the NUNW and Tucna is the question of political affiliation that causes the two federations to operate as rivals and competitors to each other with little prospects of co-operation around common workers’ interests. Workers, Jauch also said, need to assess if the old divisions between unions are still relevant today or if there are possibilities for co-operation, while the labour movement needs to ask itself how it can reach those tens of thousands of vulnerable workers who are still not unionized.
“Failure to address these key challenges might see trade unions losing their relevance as a uniting force to spearhead workers’ interests in Namibia,” Jauch concluded.


Japan in Africa

Japan is seeking to expand its military base in Djibouti, east Africa, in response to Chinese influence in the region.

Speaking to Reuters, government sources have confirmed that they are asking permission from the local authorities to expand the territory of a base used by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

In addition to the land Japan has borrowed, it is considering leasing the neighboring land to its east,” an official told Reuters. “Japan is now in negotiations with Djibouti government.”

The 30-acre facility, located next to the US Camp Lemonnier base, is the SDF’s first outside of Japan and was established in 2011 to help monitor piracy in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia. Manned by a force of 180 troops, the base has also played host to a number of exercises, including joint drills with the Americans. The expansion of the base will be justified by the need to have takeoff and landing sites for aircraft in order to evacuate Japanese citizens in case of a regional emergency.

Sources also told Reuters the proposed expansion is driven by a need to counter the growing influence of China, which has been investing heavily in Africa. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion to help fund infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture and development on the continent. In turn, Japan has pledged $30 billion for similar projects in August.

“China is putting money into new infrastructure and raising its presence in Djibouti, and it is necessary for Japan gain more influence,” another Japanese official told to Reuters.