Monday, June 27, 2016

Trading in Death

In April this year, a Tel Aviv court rejected a petition from an Israeli lawyer to release documentation of arms exports to the Hutu government in Rwanda in the 1990s.

Over 100 days in 1994, members of the Hutu majority acting with the Rwandan government killed hundreds of thousands of the Tutsi minority. The killing was carried out with machetes and light weapons. Israeli-made 5.56mm bullets, grenades and rifles were involved, according to human rights groups and Israeli arms dealers.

In 2014, lawyer Eitay Mack filed a freedom of information request with the Israeli defence ministry for details of exports to Rwanda. The request eventually found its way to the Israeli high court, which has just rejected the petition citing risks to national security and Tel Aviv’s foreign relations.

According to the newspaper Haaretz, the motive of Israeli arms dealers in Rwanda was “pure greed" and some arms dealers have even argued that supplying light weapons to Hutu murderers was a good deed because it meant that the victims would die more quickly from a bullet wound than from being hacked apart with a machete.

Given the deep connection between the Israeli defence ministry and the defence industry, it would be nearly impossible that senior members of the Israeli government weren’t aware of the arms deals with Rwanda.

Israel’s relationship with Africa, whereby the country profits from the continent’s conflicts and refuses to accept asylum seekers, demonstrates that there is no morality in statecraft.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Good and Bad News

Andy Challinor, professor of climate impacts at the University of Leeds in the UK, has already warned that climate change could have a dramatic impact on African farmland.

In Africa, gradually rising temperatures and more droughts and heatwaves caused by climate change will have an impact on maize,” he warns. “We looked in particular at the effect of temperature on crop durations, which is the length of time between planting and harvesting. Higher temperatures mean shorter durations, and hence less time to accumulate biomass and yield.” In some cases, the researchers found that crop duration could become significantly shorter as early as 2018, and by 2031 in most of the maize-growing regions of Africa.

African farmers understood the principles of soil management long before the scientific revolution in agriculture, according to new research in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

James Fairhead, professor of social anthropology at the University of Sussex, UK, and colleagues report that they analysed a range of sites in West Africa – 150 in northwest Liberia and 27 in Ghana.

They found that leached and nutrient-starved tropical forest soils had been transformed, in some cases almost seven centuries ago, into enduringly fertile loams by the addition of black carbon and kitchen scrap. These cultivated patches contained two to three times as much organic carbon as other soils and were better suited to intensive farming.

Other researchers have identified similar techniques in Amazon soils that date from long before the European discovery of America.

“Mimicking this ancient method has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of people living in some of the most poverty-stricken and hunger-stricken regions of Africa,” Professor Fairhead says. “More work needs to be done, but this simple, effective farming practice could be an answer to major global challenges, such as developing ‘climate-smart’ agricultural systems that can feed growing populations and adapt to climate change.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ogaden: Ethiopia’s Hidden Shame.(video)

Ethiopia is regularly cited as an African success story; the economy is growing they cry, more children are attending school and health care is improving. Yet the development there depends on “state force and the denial of human and civil rights”, the Oakland Institute relate. The ruling party, the EPRDF, uses violence and fear to suppress the people and governs in a highly centralised manner. Human rights are ignored and a methodology of murder, false imprisonment, torture and rape is followed. The country remains 173rd out of 187 countries in the UN Human Development Index and around 40% of the population live below the extremely low poverty line of $1.25 a day, – the World Bank worldwide poverty line is $2 a day.

The ethnic Somali population of the Ogaden, in the southeast part of the country, has been the victim of extreme government brutality since 1992.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Blue Nile

In the southeastern corner of Sudan a little-known struggle has succeeded in depopulating an entire region. Blue Nile sits on the southern frontier of Sudan, where war has raged for more than 60 years. The fight is a continuation of the struggle that birthed the world's newest nation, an independent South Sudan, in 2011. Blue Nile holds great promise. It sits on a literal gold mine and the land is the most fertile in the country. But a lifetime of war has bought nothing but suffering. There is not yet a path to peace – all attempts have fizzled.

 It’s also a humanitarian crisis that has been compounded by the evacuation of all international aid organisations. A spluttering peace process, is denying people desperately needed food aid; and explains how the economic lifeline of locally mined gold and gum arabic is smuggled north, to profit a government trying to crush the rebellion.

The notorious Janjaweed militia are being redeployed to Blue Nile as a paramilitary wing of the regular army.

The unseen and unheard refugee crisis

MSF says "a catastrophic humanitarian emergency" is unfolding at a camp in Bama, where 24,000 people have taken refuge. Nearly 200 refugees, who fled Boko Haram attacks, have died of starvation and dehydration. The refugees "speak of children dying of hunger and digging new graves every day," according to a statement from the global medical charity group. One in five of the 15,000 children are suffering severe acute malnutrition, the group found.

Ongoing clashes between the rebels and government troops make travel unsafe and farmers have not planted crops for 18 months, Dr Christopher Mampula of MSF explained. Boko Haram fighters routinely burn down homes and destroy wells, leaving few water sources in an area where temperatures often soar above 40 degrees.

The refugees in Bama are among 1.8 million Nigerians forced from their homes and living inside the country, with another 155,000 in neighbouring countries, according to the UN.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

South Africa's Migrant Crisis

Fleeing war, drought and poverty , an increasing number of people from the Horn of Africa are heading south en route to South Africa. After arrival, many face xenophobia, arrest and deportation. Attempting to escape a dictatorial regime, many Ethiopians are fleeing the country in search of a better life. The country is suffering from severe drought and famine and has a border conflict with Eritrea. Eritreans are also seeking refuge away from a country that many experts rank as the least democratic in the world. Many head north toward Europe while others travel the southern route towards South Africa. Somalian refugees are also joining the trek south, fleeing atrocities and violence at the hands of al-Shabab militants in their country. Migration flows, which include refugees, asylum seekers, displaced persons and economic migrants, put a strain on governments in the region as they struggle to cope with the large number of migrants crossing their borders and moving through their countries. Many live as illegal aliens.

For most, the goal is South Africa, the only country in the region where refugees and asylum seekers enjoy freedom of movement and the right to work rather than being confined to camps. But as the number of migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking asylum in South Africa reached unprecedented levels, authorities began debating a shift away from the 1951 Refugee Convention that defined the term "refugee," outlined the rights of the displaced and set the legal obligations of states to protect them. In South Africa, three percent of the population are migrants. Due to high unemployment rates and poor economic growth, South Africans are frustrated and anti-foreigner sentiments are expressed more often and, as in Europe, have become more mainstream.

"South Africa for many years has had a very progressive law regarding migrants, particularly among refugees, and the country was in fact the number one recipient for asylum seekers in the world," said Loren Landau, a senior researcher at the African Center for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. According to Landau, many refugees are not able to exercise their rights and increasingly the South African government has hinted that there is a need to control migration. "They are taking the cue from Australia, Europe and North America, saying that we can't have any more," he said, adding that while they are still formally committed to protecting refugees and migrants, in practice protections are being eroded.

The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says South Africa has 120,000 recognized refugees and one million asylum seekers with pending cases. Tina Ghelli is the UNHCR's regional spokesperson for Southern Africa. "The biggest challenge in South Africa is the implementation of refugee's rights," she told DW. "Sometimes they face discrimination when they access social services and often become targets of xenophobia. Many of them make strong contributions to the community and economy - but that is not recognized."

There are currently amendments being discussed by the South African parliament to take away the rights to work for those people. Also the government is pushing neighboring countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania to keep the migrants so they do not travel further to South Africa. But also more and more people from Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Congo and Zimbabwe are fleeing their homes and arrive in South Africa, which many regard as an attractive economic giant.

The men, women and children making up these migrant flows towards southern Africa frequently resort to unsafe modes of transportation and smuggling networks. They expose themselves to injury, violence, detention, exploitation and abuse. Human trafficking has become a huge problem in the southern region. Desperate people are being trafficked from the Great Lakes region through many countries to South Africa. Recently, in Zambia police discovered a truck carrying more than 100 Ethiopians. 19 were dead. They were most likely victims of human trafficking.

Monday, June 20, 2016

South African miners have new hope

A South African judge said human rights lawyers could launch an unprecedented “class action” that, if successful, would force more than 30 mine companies to pay compensation to everyone they have employed since 1965 who has had silicosis. In a major breakthrough for campaigners, it would also mean payouts to relatives of former miners affected by the disease who have already died. The total sum could be billions. Former miners with silicosis and other diseases have long been entitled to limited compensation from a government-administered fund, to which some mining companies make a contribution. However, the sums are limited, there is a huge backlog of claims and relatives of miners who have already died receive nothing.

Lawyers acting for the miners say the dangers from silica-laden dust were raised a century ago as the great South African mining boom got under way. A solution – blowing vast quantities of chilled air through the mines and masks – was also known, but only began to be implemented recently.

Georgina Jephson of Richard Spoor Inc, one of the law firms behind the class action, said: “The apartheid government effectively facilitated the whole system through the provision of cheap and expendable black labour. There have always been very good and strict laws about health and safety underground, but these were not enforced, certainly not under apartheid and only haphazardly since. Mining is a very powerful industry and [it has been] in the government’s interest to allow it to prosper. Johannesburg would not be here if not for mining and our country was built on mining, but at massive expense in human life.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Democratic Capitalism or Colonialism (1960)

From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

A great obstacle to capitalism in Africa is Dr. Verwoerd and his Nationalist Party of South Africa. Others are Sir Roy Welensky and the white Rhodesian settlers.

The conflict in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland mirrors that in South Africa. In both the white land-owners have the power in their hands: they regard the Africans as a subordinate race, to be denied land-ownership except in the most barren areas, to be kept voteless and illiterate, and to be barred as far as possible from the towns—all these so that they may continue to provide a reservoir of cheap farm-labour for the landowners. But the capitalists in the Federation (as in the Union) have very different views. They want an educated mass proletariat, living in the towns, to work their factories: and only the natives can provide it. The Ford Motor Company, which is to build a £2 million motor assembly plant in Salisbury, and the British Motor Corporation, whose £1 million factory at Umtali starts production in September cannot risk wasting their capital because their workers cannot understand modern machinery. And the mineowners of the Northern Rhodesian copper belt cannot put in new machinery to increase their profits if the mineworkers are unable to read the books of instructions. Here is the root of the struggle in the Federation, between the landowners on the one side and the factory—and mine-owners on the other.

Just as South Africa lays claim to Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland, so the Southern Rhodesian settlers wanted to extend their reservoir of farm-labourers. This they did by federating with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, against the wishes of the vast majority of the inhabitants of those countries, where there are very few white settlers. Of course, the settlers do not support Federation unconditionally: they only want it if they are to be the governing aristocracy. So this leads to the contradiction—against the claims of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to secede, they say secession is impossible; and against the plans of the capitalist class to set up a capitalist democracy within the Federation, they threaten they will secede themselves. Within two days recently, Sir Roy Welensky, one settlers’ leader, said, “there could be no question of the (Monckton) commission recommending that any part of the Federation be allowed to secede” (The Guardian, 28/1/60); and Sir Edgar Whitehead, another settlers’ leader, said that “if the Governments of both Northern territories were operated on a nationalist basis by African nationalists,” then Southern Rhodesia itself would withdraw from the Federation (The Times, 30/1/60).

This is not to say that the capitalists do not want Federation: they do, for it has great economic advantages. But they are very dubious about a Federation run by Welensky and his settlers, who are indifferent or hostile to the development of capitalism. If they wish to establish a capitalist government, they will have to do it with the help of the votes of their black workers; for although in Southern Rhodesia “75 per cent. of the whites now live in towns, these towns have really grown out of the countryside and the new cities are only just acquiring a spirit of their own. It has been the white Southern Rhodesian farmer who has dictated the character of his country—and of the country’s politics”; the “white Rhodesians who live in the towns . . . still take their attitude from the farmer” (The Listener, 17/9/59). So the establishment of a democracy is essential if the capitalists are to take political power, to match their growing economic power. Hence what The Guardian (16/12/59) calls the “liberalism” of the large Rhodesian companies. The article goes on to say:
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance to Central Africa of the Big Four companies—Rhodesian Selection Trust, Rhodesian Anglo-American, Imperial Tobacco Company, and the British South Africa Company. They control the copper, coal, lead and zinc mining and tobacco processing industries; they own forests, ranches, citrus estates, merchant banks, and newspapers; they have made generous gifts to the new university college; they have provided large loans for the renovation of the railways, the building of Kariba hydro-electric dam, for large-scale agricultural research, and rural development.
Political development
“Of these four companies,” says the article, “Imperial Tobacco and the British South Africa Company are the less influential, and follow the lead of the other two." Of these other two, Rhodesian Anglo-American has as its chairman Harry Oppenheimer, who is one of the industrialists behind the new Progressive Party in South Africa; and the Rhodesian Selection Trust’s chairman is Sir Ronald Prain, who has just issued his annual statement, including his comments on the Federation:
I do not believe that the solution of Nyasaland’s problems,will depend entirely on economic aid . . . It is essential in the current environment of Africa that political development in all three territories should not lag too much behind economic development.
In other words—we capitalists have the economic power, so now we want the political power as well. This the capitalists can best get by giving the vote to the African workers, who (they trust) will vote for capitalism, just as workers do in democracies elsewhere. Sir Ronald significantly continues:
The Legislature is entirely European, a situation which appears inconsistent with Southern Rhodesia’s position as the leading territory of what is a multi-racial Federation. Some of the laws, too, such as the Land Apportionment Act. would appear to require urgent and drastic alteration.
This last sentence is a direct attack on the settlers. The Land Apportionment Act, which gives half the farmland to the Europeans, was called “the cornerstone of our society” by Dominion Party settler-M.P.s earlier last year. A blow aimed at this settlers' Magna Carta gives an unmistakable warning that the capitalists are not going to tolerate a settlers’ government for very much longer. This, indeed, has been increasingly obvious recently. In July the Rhodesian Selection Trust and Rhodesian Anglo-American “jointly announced that they would discontinue their annual contributions to Sir Roy Welensky’s Federal party funds”; last year, together with the British South Africa company, they contributed £5.000. And in November the Rhodesian Selection Trust decided to stop subsidising The Central African Examiner, a political fortnightly which started in 1957 “with the aim of giving ‘thoughtful support to liberal causes’ but which turned to comparing Sir Edgar Whitehead (another settlers' leader) with Abraham Lincoln at a time when Sir Edgar was promoting a harsh Preventive Detention Bill.”

Sir Ronald Prain went on to say:
The Europeans deceive themselves if they close their eyes to what is happening in the rest of Africa . . . (While) some African leaders are still held in custody, no country can feel it can he said to have yet solved the problems of a multiracial community.
Democratic Capitalism
As could be expected, the Rhodesian capitalists have plenty of friends in capitalist Britain. Like the great Rhodesian companies, the Labour Party (that old capitalists’ friend) wants the "political development” of the Federation, advocates the release of the African leaders, and attacks the settlers’ government. The Conservative Bow Group wants Dr. Banda (the African Nationalist leader) released, and the vote given to many more Africans (The Times, 4/1/60). An "Africa 1960” Committee has been formed, including two Conservative M.P.s, to support “a rapid and orderly advance towards self-government” in African territories (The Guardian, 12/1/60). The Conservative Mr. Justice Devlin and his Commission rejected the settler’s arguments on the necessity of jailing the Africans’ leaders in their report of July last year. The Nuffield Foundation has come down on the side of the big companies racial theories, and against the racial discrimination of the settlers, by offering £250,000 to the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland towards setting up a medical school at Salisbury providing there is no colour bar (The Observer, 31/1/60). Mr. Macleod (the Colonial Secretary) and Mr. Macmillan have both made it clear that the peoples of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland would not be handed over finally to the Southern Rhodesian settlers until they themselves decided that they wanted to remain within the Federation (The Guardian, 8/1/60).

These examples could be multiplied indefinitely. But enough has been said to show that the great industrialists of the Rhodesias can look forward with confidence to the establishment of a capitalist democracy in Central Africa, in line with parallel developments in nearly every other African country. Then the way will be open for the workers, both of this country and of Central Africa, to devote themselves to the only struggle which concerns them, the struggle for Socialism.


Mozambique's Resource Curse

The “resource curse” that has ruined many resource-rich African countries is steadily creeping onto Mozambique, a country which only a couple of years ago was on the threshold of economic powerhouse, but is now teetering on the brink of a major debt crisis that is having serious repercussions on the economy. Before its current problems, Mozambique was earmarked for an economic boom following the discoveries of natural gas. The commodity is anticipated to add $39 billion to the economy over the next 20 years. The country’s natural gas endowment, coupled with its massive coal deposits, were set to transform the previously impoverished nation, and the region. Alas, Mozambique now seems headed on the path taken by fellow African countries that despite endowment with vast natural resources wallow in poverty. Among these are Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Sudan. According to the 2015 African Report, instead of creating prosperity, resources have too often fostered corruption, undermined inclusive economic growth, armed conflict and indebtedness.

Barely two years after the discovery of vast natural gas explorations and a decade after international creditors wrote off over US$6 billion of loans to the country as part of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, the resources-endowed Southern African country is showing alarming signs of plunging back into unserviceable debt.

A disclosure by the government of President Filipe Nyusi previously hidden, government-guaranteed loans exceeding $1 billion (R14,8 billion) to state defence and security companies has precipitated the spectacular fall from economic prominence to a debt crisis. It is believed this is only a tip of the iceberg amid indications the debt could rise to around $2,35 billion with further revelations. It has emerged loans to state or parastatal companies were secretly guaranteed in 2013 and 2014 by the previous government of Armando Guebuza, who presided over the country for a decade until Nyusi assumed the reins in 2015. The country’s public debt has reached frightening levels of $11,64 billion, of which $9,89 billion dollars is foreign debt. Mozambique’s gross domestic product is put at $17 billion.

Among the beneficiaries were Mozambique Tuna Company, which secured $850 million, apparently from Credit Suisse for the purchase of patrol boats. It is said the prices of the vessels were inflated. Proindicus, which provides maritime security in the Rovuma basin, borrowed $622 million, also from Credit Suisse and the Russian bank VTB.Mozambique Asset Management (MAM), provide maritime repair and maintenance, borrowed $535 million also from VTB.

Servicing the debt is already proving insurmountable to the current administration. Nyusi’s government is contemplating defaulting on the loans completely on the basis they were arranged, in violation of legal debt limits, by an erstwhile administration. The International Monetary Fund is also wary of the economic prospects of Mozambique. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has been working with Mozambique to help it repay a previously disclosed debt of US$850 million, has suspended the second installment of a US$282 million loan to the country. Some 14 donors and financial agencies aside the IMF, who used to give direct support to the Mozambican state budget have also interrupted disbursements “until further notice.”

A decrease in foreign aid has worsened a large drop in the world market price of some of Mozambique’s key exports and of foreign direct investment. The result has been a severe shortage of foreign currency, which has seen the Meticals currency, lose double its worth to the South African Rand to 4M/R. According to Peter Fabricius, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) consultant, since most food is imported from South Africa, this will increase food inflation, while the security situation is not rosy either.

“The resource curse, which has ruined so many other African countries, is visiting Mozambique with a vengeance,” said Fabricus.