Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Instability Spreading

More than 100,000 people have been displaced by factional fighting and lawlessness in Burkina Faso, most within the past two months, according to a U.N. report published on Tuesday.

"Burkina Faso is, for the first time in its history, facing massive internal displacement," the report said.

"Repeated raids by armed groups and insecurity in the regions of Centre-Nord, Nord and Sahel have also triggered an unprecedented humanitarian emergency."

The government and humanitarian groups had begun a $100 million aid plan to help 900,000 people, it said.
http://news.trust.org/item/20190219133929-jh6cs/

The International Socialist League

An article on the history of the International Socialist League.
 Influenced by the SLP and the IWW they set up the first ever Blach African union, the Industrial Workers of Africa and one for the Indian workers in South Africa, too, the Indian Workers Industrial Union. 
Makes a very interesting read.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Apartheid Must Go (1966)


The Socialist Party is opposed to Apartheid, just as to any other policy or movement based on colour prejudice. We think racism is foolish, unscientific and against the interests of the working class. We can see that the South African government’s slogan of Apartheid (‘separation’) is really a hypocritical screen for baasskap (white domination), and that all manner of atrocities and hatreds flourish under the Verwoerd tyranny.
Our attack on apartheid is quite distinct from the attacks made on it by other organisations such as the Labour Party, Communist Party, Christian Action, etc. We do not support the “anti-apartheid” movement.
Socialism will be a world wide democratic community without private or government ownership of the means of production and will mean the end of Apartheid, together with a lot of other major human problems like wars, slumps and poverty.
To detach ourselves from other organisations who attack apartheid is no sectarian quibble: the most that members of the anti-Apartheid Movement can suggest to replace Apartheid is something rather like we have in Britain today. In other words, they want to swap one system of oppression for another. The only ‘equality’ they want for the races of South Africa consists of the equal ‘privileges’ of wage-slavery.
The best interests of industrial capitalism in South Africa call for the abandonment of Apartheid policies and the putting into effect of social reforms aimed at integrating Africans into the labour force as better trained exploitable wage workers. However, in view of the historical background of South Africa, capitalism has to adjust itself to a political situation that expresses the deeply entrenched prejudice that exists. (….)
The Socialist Party of Great Britain is with the working class of South Africa in their struggle for democracy, for the vote and for the right to strike. But more than that, we work for the day when black, white, coloured and Indian workers in South Africa will unite with workers all over the world to remove wage-slavery and establish Socialism.

(from article by Steele, Socialist Standard, September 1966)

Madagascar and a measles outbreak

At least 922 children and young adults have died of measles in Madagascar since October, despite a huge emergency vaccination programme, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The number of deaths is based on official numbers, but these are likely to be very incomplete, as is the current total of infections, at 66,000.

In 2017 only 58 percent of the population had been vaccinated against measles. The lack of a big outbreak since 2003 also means many have had no chance to develop immunity.

An emergency response has vaccinated 2.2 million of the 26 million population so far. Some of those had previously been vaccinated but had only received one shot, and so were given the more standard second, "booster" jab.

Madagascar has Africa's highest children's malnutrition rate, at 47 percent. The condition can increase the risk of serious complications and death from measles infection, the WHO says.

The disease can also leave children vulnerable to potentially fatal pneumonia or diarrhoeal diseases months later, said Katherine O'Brien, WHO director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Africa's IDPs

With 40 million displaced around the world, the global financial impact of displacement reaches 13 billion  dollars annually.
The report also notes that the impacts of internal displacement are far higher in low-income countries, partially due the lack of capacity to minimise impacts of crises.
The Central African Republic (CAR) is one such low-income country, with over 70 percent of the country estimated to be living in poverty.
CAR has seen decades of instability and violence, and its most recently conflict has resulted in an ongoing, dire humanitarian crisis and the displacement of over 1 million people, more than half of whom have stayed within the country’s borders.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in four children is either displaced or a refugee.
IDMC calculated that the economic impacts of internal displacement in the central African country between 2013 and 2017 total 950 million dollars. This represents 230 million dollars annually, equivalent to 11 percent of the country’s pre-crisis gross domestic product (GDP).
Almost 40 percent of the total cost comes from the impacts of displacement on nutrition and food security.
Approximately two million people are severely food insecure in the country, while UNICEF projects that over 43,000 children under the age of five will face severe acute malnutrition which, if left untreated, is fatal.
Combined with the additional costs associated with providing healthcare to IDPs in emergency settings, health accounts for half of the economic impact of the Central African Republic displacement crisis.
In Somalia, drought alone cost the country 500 million dollars annually between 2017 and 2018, representing almost five percent of the country’s pre-crisis GDP. The country-wide drought lead to 892,000 new displacements in the country in 2017.
As the drought left rural communities unable to cultivate and live off their lands, the highest economic impact is associated to the provision of food assistance to IDPs.
IDMC also found high impacts on housing and infrastructure as the drought drove many Somalis to urban and peri-urban areas in search of new sources of income. However, this further stretched the already limited capacity of municipalities to provide basic services such as water and sanitation.
The city of Mogadishu now hosts more than 600,000 IDPs—one-third of the total figure of IDPs in the East African nation.
“This new research clearly shows the risk internal displacement represents, not only for human rights and security but also for national development,” said Bilak.
http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/hidden-economic-costs-displacement/

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Refugees in Africa

African nations host more than 20 million people forced to flee their homes. Over a third of the world's forcibly displaced people are found in Africa, including some 6.3 million refugees and 14.5 million internally displaced persons. Many have been uprooted due to armed conflict in countries such as the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan. Others have had their lives disrupted due to disasters linked to climate change such as floods or droughts.

 African nations have been lauded for adopting a more liberal "open door" policy towards refugees than Western nations, despite being low-income economies. With aid agencies struggling to raise funds, countries such as Uganda - which hosts over 1 million refugees and allows them freedom of movement and the right to work - have been praised for progressive policies aimed at integration and empowerment. Last month, Ethiopia passed legislation allowing for similar provisions for the over 900,000 refugees it hosts. Compared to other regions, Africa has a well-developed legal framework, with treaties protecting and providing rights to displaced people and refugees, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' (IFRC) Jagan Chapagain.

"Some African countries are doing a tremendous job in providing safety for neighbours fleeing wars and persecution," said Yemisrach Kebede, the Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) representative to the AU. "But currently, many displaced people are left without necessary protection and support, both in their home country and in the countries where they seek protection as refugees."
Many refugees are confined to camps in Africa. They cannot access basic public services like health and education and are not allowed to work. Those fleeing within their own country are vulnerable to attacks by armed factions.
Chapagain, the IFRC's Under Secretary General for Programmes and Operations, said, "All of those on the move should have access not only to basic services to meet needs like water, food, medical care – but also to protection and to measures that seek to restore their hope and safeguard their dignity."

Stateless in Africa

Africa has one of the largest stateless populations in the world.  Across the continent, thousands of people are considered stateless and there are growing calls for international organizations and governments to do something about it. Statelessness is increasingly being recognized as a major problem in Africa. However, it remains poorly documented — partly because the official stateless population significantly overlaps with a much larger population of undocumented people who are unaware of their official nationality status. There is also a common misconception that all refugees are stateless.

In international law, a stateless person is defined as someone who is "not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law." The exact number of stateless people around the world is unknown; however the UNHCR estimates there are approximately 12 million, with over 715,000 in Africa alone — though the actual number is likely to be far higher. A person may find themselves stateless as a result of discrimination based on ethnicity, religion or gender, the transfer of territory between existing states, or conflicting nationality laws.

When you do not exist by law, you are extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation," UNHCR Assistant Representative Catherine Hamon Sharpe told DW. "Vulnerable people can be easily manipulated, they can be trafficked…so they suffer a whole lot of human rights violations. Every person should be entitled to a nationality."

The problem is particularly acute in Africa for a number of reasons, including the history of partition and migration as a result of ongoing conflict.  Many states currently lack the capacity to properly respond to waves of migration, which contribute to the stateless population. There have also been cases of statelessness being used deliberately as a tool of political persecution and exclusion.

In most African states, nationality laws are based on the concepts of jus soli, or 'right of soil,' and jus sanguinis, or 'right of blood.' Under the former, the person can obtain citizenship if they are born in that particular country, while the latter bases a person's nationality on the origin of their parents. In many cases, states which primarily base their nationality laws on the principle of jus soli prevent populations who are away from their 'historic' homeland to apply for citizenship of that country, while at the same time being denied nationality of their country of residence due to laws based on jus sanguinis.

"They are in limbo, because they are not protected by the citizenship of their new country and at the same time they are not protected by their country of origin because they are no longer citizens," Cristiano d'Orsi, a research fellow and lecturer in Refugee and Migration Law at the Univerisity of Johannesburg told DW.
Perhaps the best known example of an ongoing stateless crisis in Africa due in part to complicated citizenship laws is in Ivory Coast. The estimated stateless population is currently 700,000. The majority of these people are migrants of Burkinabe descent and were not considered eligible for Ivorian nationality following the country's independence in 1960. A further constitutional amendment in 1972, which prohibited foreigners who had not already registered from becoming citizens, effectively left thousands of families and future generations stateless.  
4,500 Shona people; many of whom are first or second generation Zimbabweans whose grandparents trekked to Kenya in the 1960s to establish the Gospel of God Church. But although they were born and raised in this country, thanks to dated citizenship laws they are not recognized as Kenyan nationals, nor do they have any official connection with Zimbabwe. They are, in effect, stateless. Most Shona people living in Kenya would be happy to be recognized as citizens of any country. Without identity cards, they are barred from accessing good jobs, opening a bank account, buying a house and even getting married. Almost everyone here has a story of how they were held back from life-changing opportunities because of their statelessness. 
For further background reading on statelessness

Ogoni, justice at last?

Four Nigerian women at the centre of a long-running legal battle against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell saw their historic case reach the Hague on Tuesday.

The company is accused of complicity in the state execution of nine Ogoni protesters and human right abuses dating back to 1993. The allegations concern the 1990s violent government crackdown in Ogoniland, in the oil-rich Niger delta region, where oil spills inflicted environmental damage on a huge scale.
The landmark case, brought by the widows of four of the Ogoni nine – Esther Kiobel, Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula – allege Shell was complicit in the Nigerian government’s policy of brutally quelling protests, and with human rights abuses that were aimed at protecting the company’s staff and infrastructure, actions that ultimately led to the death of their husbands. 

Peaceful demonstrations by Ogoni people against Shell’s widespread, devastating pollution ended in a brutal backlash by Nigerian security forces, who allegedly killed, maimed, raped and tortured hundreds of people who lived in the area.

Nine members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), including its leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed in 1995 by the Nigerian authorities, following a trial that was widely discredited. Esther Kiobel’s husband, Dr Barinem Kiobel, was one of those executed.

“Over the years, Shell has continually fought to make sure this case is not heard in court. They have the resources to fight me instead of doing justice for my husband,” said Esther Kiobel.
The 1993 military coup in Nigeria, led by General Sani Abacha, brought a clampdown on political activity, with opponents jailed or executed. A new security task force (ISTF) focused on Ogoniland, applying brute force in an effort to end the protest. During its first deployment they shot five people outside Shell’s compound at Rumuobiokani.

Amnesty International has reported that ISTF carried out up to 50 extrajudicial executions, alongside torture and rape. The government’s forces left hundreds more dead and many more homeless when villages were destroyed.
In May 1994, four Ogoni leaders – Edward N Kobani, Albert T Badey, Samuel N Orage and Theophilus B Orage – were attacked and beaten by an angry mob, who then set their corpses on fire.

Blaming the deaths on internal Mosop wrangling, ISTF arrested Saro-Wiwa, Kiobel and 12 others and charged them with incitement to murder, and murder. Nine were found guilty – Barinem Kiobel, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbokoo, John Kpuinen, Paul Levula and Felix Nuate – and were hanged in November 1995.

Unable to seek recourse in Nigerian courts, Esther Kiobel first filed a case against Shell in the US in 2002. The company deny allegations of complicity in the death of the Ogoni nine or in the widespread human rights abuses, although it acknowledged an awareness of Nigeria’s military action to protect its infrastructure. In 2009, Shell agreed a $15.5m out-of-court settlement with the families of the dead men, stating that it was to cover their legal costs and recognition of events that took place in Ogoniland. The US court declined jurisdiction and in 2017, with the assistance of Amnesty International, the case was re-filed in the Netherlands.
Mark Dummett, researcher at Amnesty International, said: “These women believe that their husbands would still be alive today were it not for the brazen self-interest of Shell. This is an historic moment which has huge significance for people everywhere who have been harmed by the greed and recklessness of global corporations.”

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/feb/12/ogoni-widows-testify-the-hague-shell-alleged-complicity-killings

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Heineken in Africa

In 2013, Heineken CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer described Africa as “the international business world’s best kept secret”. Heineken faces so little competition that in some African countries one small bottle of beer is no cheaper – or sometimes even more expensive – than in Europe, while production costs are lower. According to Heineken’s most recent available figures (2014), beer in Africa is almost 50% more profitable than anywhere else. Some markets, such as Nigeria, are among the most lucrative in the world. Freddy Heineken, the company’s  CEO, who died in 2002, used to say: “People don’t drink beer. They drink marketing.” He understood that selling beer successfully is a matter of psychology. It’s about image and an emotion. For many years, Heineken’s image has remained largely untroubled by the reality of its operations in Africa.

In the early 1960s Heineken was an ardent supporter of a “white bloc” of southern African countries, including Rhodesia, South Africa and the two Portuguese colonies Angola and Mozambique. I learned that in South Africa a senior manager urged his colleagues not to act “in opposition to the letter/spirit of apartheid”

 Heineken channeled enormous amounts of money from Africa into a subsidiary in Switzerland, taking away an important source of fiscal revenue from the governments of newly formed independent states.

"Lawlessness in many countries enables Heineken to sell and advertise its drinks without the hassle of regulation. Levels of education are often low, which can be a hindrance when looking for qualified personnel – but also a blessing in disguise when there is information to be spread about the supposed “positive” properties of beer."

"Free crates of beer given to elites in Burundi, I saw little schools in Nigeria with beer logos painted on the walls, and I witnessed the misery of the drinking dens in the South African township of Soweto. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), I saw the worryingly cosy relationship between the brewery’s PR department and local journalists. These issues turned out not to be incidental, but formed part of a pattern"

Most of Heineken’s staff members in Africa are on relatively low salaries by local standards. For most of Heineken’s staff in Africa, there is no pension scheme, but at the end of their careers they are often entitled to a good severance package. Some use the money to start their own company.

One group of employees gets fussed over more than most: expats. Very often, the company maintains rent-free luxury villas on or near local Heineken premises, for expatriate staff. The number of African managers has risen across the continent as a whole, but in most countries white staff remain at the top of the pecking order. (At the time of writing, nine out of 13 African subsidiaries are headed by Europeans, and four by Africans.) According to Heineken’s 2014 annual report, entry-level employees at Nigerian Breweries got a little over $2,000 per year (£1,500), while the company spent the same amount every day on a Dutch director in Nigeria – not counting the bonuses.

“As a simple operator, you don’t earn much,” says a former Rwandan manager whose first job was as a maintenance engineer. “But supervisors and higher staff are well paid, and when I started out there were many more managerial roles available, compared to other companies. If you do your work well, you get recognised and promoted.” For successful employees, there are also status-enhancing perks such as company cars or tablet devices. 

In its operations across Africa, Heineken uses subcontractors and zero-hour workers increasingly often. In many countries, the income of a day labourer or a temporary worker does not amount to the “decent standard of living” that the company says is its goal. A cleaner in DRC cannot survive on a monthly salary of $40-50, and even a security guard who makes three times as much will find it hard to make ends meet. Moreover, external workers have no rights to healthcare or other services. In theory, it is the agencies that hire them that must provide these, but failure to do so does not tend to stop Heineken from working with them.

In Lubumbashi, a city in DRC, a temporary worker said, "They don’t have the whip like they used to in colonial times, but the pressure of work is too much and bears no relation to our salaries.”

Wesseling, who worked at Heineken from 1991 until 2005, says: “We had promotion girls in Africa. We knew this, in spite of internal denials. It was extra problematic because we had been running a very successful Aids policy in Africa.” From 2001, HIV-positive Heineken workers in Africa and their immediate families had been offered free therapy for life, which would continue after retirement or redundancy. Therapy always came with counselling, free condoms and HIV tests – and Heineken’s treatment of its workers won praise and admiration across the world, including among US politicians. “It gave our people in the US a great story,” said Wesseling. “So nobody was going to kill that image with African promotion girls having to sell our beer under the direst of circumstances. Better to frame that as a local custom: ‘That’s how they do things over there.’” 

In 2007, an internal inquiry showed that Heineken was using about 15,000 promotion women globally, mostly in non-western countries. No fewer than 70 markets were considered risky for the promotion women because the work involved or could lead to sexual abuse, low pay or being forced to wear provocative uniforms. Sixteen of those markets were in Africa: circumstances were least favourable there, and Heineken was said to use almost 2,000 promotion women. According to internal documentation, only one African market was problem-free.  In DRC, the country where the most abuse was reported, revealed that unwanted advances came not only from customers but also from Heineken staff. “The enormous uncertainty of keeping a job combined with the absence of employee rights of legal status makes PW [promotion women] vulnerable for misuse from several stakeholders,” the internal report notes. Often, the women, who earned very little, had to sleep with managers if they wanted to keep their job. But if they needed to see a gynaecologist or get an abortion, which was often illegal and dangerous, they had to sort everything themselves, and pay for it. They also had to drink five to 10 large bottles of beer every working day, in order to persuade customers to consume more. 

Says a former director in DRC. “It was a mess. When this thing was going on in Cambodia, we also got rules, but they did not change a great deal. For a while, management hired taxis to get the girls home at night, but eventually they decided this was too expensive. Those girls were getting less than the minimum wage, and they were used by Bralima (subsidiary) personnel. Very often these were girls with problems, very vulnerable. Given that we paid them so very little, they were virtually forced to go home with a man.”

The women’s incomes differ from one agency to another, and on average, at the time of this research, they earn about $8 per day. In an expensive city like Lagos, this is not much, but it tallies with other forms of unskilled work.

Promotion women in DRC and Nigeria continue to work under the most dreadful conditions. “Every evening I am touched against my will. It doesn’t matter whether I work in an expensive cafe or a popular bar,” says Peace, a promotion girl in Lagos.

Wesseling, the former HR manager, says: “We knew that during the 1990s, things were happening in Congo that were beyond the pale. We had a very powerful HR manager who maintained a selection procedure that would not be accepted here. Women had to provide sexual services to get a job.” Heineken’s current CEO, Van Boxmeer, was general manager of Bralima from 1993 to 1996. But according to Wesseling, “he did not act when he was general manager there”.

Heineken revised an earlier declaration in which it had claimed that the company employed just 200 promotion women in two countries in Africa. An internal inquiry now revealed an estimated 4,000 women in 13 countries. The company announced a series of measures: clear and unambiguous rules, training, dress codes, no alcohol on the job and transport home after work. These are, almost word-for-word, the same measures that were put in a policy paper in 2004, which remained an empty promise. But this time, Heineken said, things really would be different. So, in March 2018, the company made a firm promise that reassured some politicians and stakeholders. “If we can’t guarantee good working conditions for our promoters in certain markets by the end of June, we’ll stop employing them there.”
They still had to accept sexual harassment as part of the job, their uniforms were so short it made them feel like prostitutes, and some of them were forced to sleep with their bosses.
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/12/heineken-claims-its-business-helps-africa-is-that-too-good-to-be-true

Monday, February 11, 2019

Gay Africa

Angola has decriminalized homosexuality — 133 years after the passage banning same-sex relations was included in the country's penal code when the southwest African nation was still a Portuguese colony. The so-called "vices against nature" provision in its law could send same-sex couples to prison.

Parliamentarians who voted to overhaul Angola's criminal statue books didn't just remove the passage. They also banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Mozambique decriminalized homosexuality in 2015. Mozambique is also a former Portuguese colony and scrapped the same provision back then.

South Africa's approach towards homosexuality is far more liberal — after apartheid, the country was the first nation in the world to change its constitution to ban discrimination against sexual orientation. In 2006, South Africa became the first African country (and the fifth country in the world) to allow same-sex marriage. Even so, members of the LGBT community in South Africa often experience violence and some have even been killed, according to HRW

Human rights organizations in other African nations such as Kenya and Botswana are currently fighting against the legal discrimination of homosexuals in court. In Zimbabwe the situation has gotten a bit less tense since long-term leader Robert Mugabe lost power — he was one of the driving forces in stirring up hate against homosexuals. HRW says the new government has already met with LGBT groups.

But the LGBT community still faces rampant discrimination in Uganda, Goshal said. "Many politicians have gotten support from voters because of their negative stance towards homosexuals," she told DW, adding she doesn't believe the government is going to change their attitude anytime soon. Uganda is known to rigorously persecute homosexuals and often hands down harsh prison sentences.
Namibia still punishes homosexuality. And the LGBT community in Namibia is growing. The first pride parade was held some three years ago.