Monday, April 30, 2007

Darfur and deaf ears

Protests have taken place around the world to demand an end to the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region. Organisers of the Global Day for Darfur said events were taking place in 35 capitals to mark the fourth anniversary of the conflict. But socialists know only too well that appeals to the compassion and good-will of governments seldom achieve any meaningful or lasting resolution . Prime ministers and presidents are motivated by what is in the best interests of their ruling class and rarely by any humanitarian reason .

Indeed , socialists recognise that the cause of wars can be traced back to economics rather than a racial or religious cause , although these are often cited as a motive for conflict and strife .

The war in Darfur that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions is no exception .

Darfur, which means land of the Fur, has faced many years of tension over land and grazing rights between the mostly nomadic Arabs, and farmers from the Fur, Massaleet and Zagawa communities. Desertification has increased tensions, between everybody, as tribes fight to gain control over precious water points.
According to The Independent what began as a rebellion by three non-Arab tribes against perceived marginalisation by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government has escalated into a complex multi-layered conflict. There are Arabs fighting alongside the rebels and Africans siding with the government. Arab tribes are fighting other Arab tribes - some are even fighting themselves. If it was ever as simple to describe the conflict as a "genocide" of black Africans by an Arab government - and few analysts in Sudan believe it was - it certainly is not now. Sudan's government is arming any group that is prepared to attack anyone connected with the rebels, be they African or Arab. In some cases they have even armed both sides of the same mini-conflict. It is less about ethnic cleansing and more about power. The Khartoum government , argue some analysts, may not even want the war to end. Dr Madawi Ibrahim, a Darfurian expert has said "You keep people busy with a crisis" .
President Omar al-Bashir's regime has more than one eye on winning the general elections due to be held in Sudan in 2009. The government hopes an election victory would give the dictatorship a seal of legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. It would also ensure that Sudan's booming oil revenues remain in the hands of the ruling elite.
Add to this confusion the international dimension .
The Chad governement accuses the Sudan government-backed Arab Janjaweed militia of attacking villagers in Chad and also accuses Khartoum of backing the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), which is a coalition of small armed groups and army deserters who have launched cross border attacks from Darfur.
Sudan accuses Chad of backing Darfur's National Redemption Front rebels as they carry out cross-border raids. There have also been allegations that many of these rebels have become assimilated into Chad's national army .
The Central African Republic (CAR) says Sudan backs Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) rebels who have seized towns in CAR and says the UFDR are operating from Darfur with the support of the Sudanese authorities. French forces have already deployed against CAR rebels in support of the government . Chad says it will send troops to help CAR fight rebels attacking northern CAR. It accuses Sudan of attempting to destabilise both Chad and CAR and has suggested an anti-Sudan alliance.
As stated in the Socialist Standard the Darfur crisis is a vicious resource war between organised armed groups and the consequent murder and displacement of local populations none of whom will benefit economically from any final outcome.

BBC Video - The German Genocide of the Hetero

Friday, April 27, 2007

America and Somalia - Why ?

The US has claimed that Somalia's Islamic Courts, which controlled much of the country until December, was run by an al-Qa'ida cell. Ethiopian troops, a proxy army fully backed by US intelligence and logistical support , overpowered the Islamic Courts within a few days of fighting at the end of last year . And of course the current conflict is now simply one of "opportunists — from squatter landlords to teenage gunmen for hire to vendors of out-of-date baby formula — have been feeding off the anarchy in Somalia for so long that they refuse to let go." as the New York Times put it. Smoke and mirrors for the American public's acquiescence to the direct and quite open American military involvement in the invasion: the U.S. training, arming and funding of the Ethiopian military, the deployment of U.S. Special Forces in the invasion, the airstrikes launched by U.S. planes on fleeing refugees, and the role of U.S. intelligence agents in arresting and "rendering" (kidnapping and abduction) Somali refugees to the torture chambers of the Ethiopian dictatorship .

A much more mercenary and much more commercial motive lies behind the American intervention in Somalia and its support for one side .

"Somalia has a lot of oil, and our ministers have just approved a key exploration law to regulate how concessions are given out.... But what we need now is international support to restore security and build our nation, and we will be noting who helps us and who doesn't when these decisions are taken." stated the Transitional Federal Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari

But where is the oil in Somalia ?

A 1993 article by Mark Fineman in the Los Angeles Times lays bare the rich pickings and rewards that may be available if peace and stability is restored to a Somalia sympathetic to the USA .

US oil companies, including Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips were positioned to exploit Somalia’s rich oil reserves during the reign of pro-US President Mohammed Siad Barre. These companies had secured billion-dollar concessions to explore and drill in large portions of the Somali countryside prior to the coup led by warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid that toppled Barre. Conoco’s Mogadishu office housed the US embassy and military headquarters. Diplomats and oilmen hand-in-hand once again .

"It's there. There's no doubt there's oil there," said Thomas E. O'Connor, the principal petroleum engineer for the World Bank, who headed an in-depth, three-year study of oil prospects in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's northern coast."You don't know until you study a lot further just how much is there," O'Connor said. "But it has commercial potential. It's got high potential . . . once the Somalis get their act together."

Although the above was written in 1993 , this more recent article confirms the continued interest of American oil companies in the Horn of Africa .

“A new US cleansing of Somalian ‘tyranny’ would open the door for these US oil companies to map and develop the possibly huge oil potential in Somalia..." F. William Engdahl , author of ‘A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order,’

And whats the price being paid now ??

The fighting continues . More people have been displaced in Somalia in the past two months than anywhere else in the world, the United Nations has said. Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for UN relief said at least 350,000 people had fled fighting in Mogadishu since February.
Some 300 people have been killed in the recent clashes, after 1,000 deaths last month .

Child Slavery and the Chocolate Factory

The BBC is reporting that child labour , in fact , near enough actual slavery , remains an unresolved problem in the Ivory Coast , the world's biggest cocoa producer.

A 2002 report by the industry body, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, put the number of children working in dangerous conditions in cocoa in West Africa at 284,000 in 2002, 200,000 of them in Ivory Coast. Many children on cocoa farms don't get to school, some exchange their childhood for work, a roof over their head and a meal a day. Others have been sent by their parents into virtual slavery, suffering beatings and abuse.
Progress in eradicating child labour has been slow.

Naturally not very particularly good news for the chocolate manufacturers in the more developed countries . There can be no worse PR for a chocolate company than news that children in West Africa - the source for the bulk of the world's cocoa - are being forced to pick beans used to make chocolate for the children in the West.

A voluntary industry initiative, called the Harkin-Engel protocol, in 2001. Its initial aim was to have a system in place to monitor labour conditions on cocoa farms by July 2005. That deadline shifted has now towards a 2008 deadline to monitor labour conditions in 50% of farms in Ghana, the world's number two producer, and neighbouring in Ivory Coast.

Mme. Amouan Acquah, the government official responsible for child labour issues in Ivory Coast makes the excuse that "We are in a state of war. We cannot make such guarantees."

Yet with or without war, Ivory Coast's cocoa has always made it to the world market . Critics say that if the cocoa can get to market even in times of conflict, then it should also be possible to monitor labour conditions on the farm.

Mme Acquah points out "The issue at the heart of this [child labour] is poverty."

In the words of cocoa farmer Eugene Djedje "No one is obliged to send a child to school. If you don't have money you don't go. "

Some major companies that knowingly use chocolate produced by slave labor:-

Ben & Jerry’s
Hauser Chocolates

Sharia in Nigeria: a class analysis

When, Bill Clinton visited Nigeria, he snubbed the predominantly Muslim north by dropping from his original itinerary a visit there where Sharia Law was in the process of being revived. But the Muslim leaders of the North, already apprehensive about Clinton's visit, had organized a massive protest demonstration, which took place on the very day the US President stepped on to Nigerian soil on 25 August 2000. Clinton visited Nigeria for purely economic reasons. If, therefore, he and the advocates of Sharia harboured a mutual distrust, then one may not be wrong to suggest that behind the Sharia façade lingers an economic motive. To understand this possibility better a brief history of Northern Nigeria is necessary.

Fulani theocracy
Islam was introduced into the area now occupied by Niger, Chad and Northern Nigeria by Arab traders from North Africa and, by the 11th century, many of the rulers there, who were mostly Hausa, had been converted to Islam though, their subjects still mostly adhered to their Africa traditional religions. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that a Fulani Muslim scholar decided to launch a jihad on the people, accusing them of being "pagans" or, in the case of the rulers, of not practicing Islam in the true sense of the word.

He succeeded in overthrowing the Hausa leaders and placed his tribesmen as leaders of the Hausa city-states. With Sokoto in present day North-Nigeria as headquarters, the Fulani Empire spread its tentacles southwards and by the close of the 19th century had touched Yorubaland down south. Having established themselves as the new rulers in the region, the top brass of the Muslim Fulani naturally controlled commerce, trade routes, agriculture and thus became not only the political leaders but more importantly they held economic power. As commerce and industry flourished, these sultans, emirs and sardaunas set up courts where they tried cases according to the Sharia.

Many writers refer to the action of Dan Fodio and his generals as more of a Fulani revolt against the Hausa rulers than an Islamic Jihad. Whatever the case, the ordinary Fulani, like the ordinary Hausa, still lived in poverty while the new ruling classes enjoyed the same privileges the old Hausa lords had.

Enter Britain
The political and economic dominance of the new Muslim Fulani was, however, interrupted by the coming on to the scene of the British colonialists. The mid-nineteenth century saw the gradual annexation of city-states, not only in the south but also in the north. Several Muslim states had been taken over by the British, partly through the signing of treaties and partly by force. Though the then governor of Nigeria, Lord Lugard, ran the country through the "indirect rule" system, the powers of the Fulani oligarchy were considerably eroded. The taxes and rent they hitherto monopolised were now to be passed on to the colonial administration in Lagos. Their authority also shrank as clerks and other administrative officials were appointed by the governor to assist in running the states. All important decisions were made by the British governor, leaving the sultans and emirs with the less rewarding duty of implementing them. They thus lost considerable authority over their subjects.

With the attainment of independence in 1960 and an increased influx of western lifestyles, ideas and secularism, the importance of these Muslim Leaders further plummeted. A new category of privileged groups emerged, in the form of top civil servants, lawyers and businessman. Some of them even attained, through their economic power, a higher social status than the traditional rulers. Thus, having lost almost all the authority and power vested in them by the Jihad, the Muslim Fulani rulers were getting frustrated at the new disadvantaged economic sidelines they were being relegated to.

Why ‘new’ sharia?
It must be made clear that sharia did exist in Northern Nigeria for a very long time in the "cadi" or "alkali" courts. However, they only handled cases relating to family matters like divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc. The current one has attracted a lot of attention because it seeks to go further to include flogging, stoning, amputation, beheading, etc. So the question now is: who is behind it and why. All reports coming from the ten states involved in the confusion claim that it is the Muslim masses who are clamouring for sharia. Nothing could be further from the truth. The decision-making process in place in Nigeria, and in fact all over the world today, effectively excludes the masses. All decisions are taken by the few in high positions. Every legislative body is peopled with the rich or their representatives who enact laws meant to control the poor.

In the case of sharia in Northern Nigeria, it is heavyweights like Alhaji Shehu Shageri (former president of the federal republic of Nigeria), Alhaji Ahmed Sani Yarima (governor of Zamfara state) Alhaji Ebrahim al Zakzaky (leader of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood) who make decisions and then call on the people to support them. In fact, when last year President Olusegun Obasanjo called a meeting of the Council of State to discuss sharia, Shagari not only refused to attend but also said the Council had no right to take any decision on sharia.. Alhaji Ahmed Sani Yarima, for his part, said Zamfara would not comply with the Council of State's decision that sharia be suspended. These examples show clearly that the masses do not make any decisions.

This Islamic revival sweeping across Northern Nigeria, in the form of sharia, is in reality the determined efforts of the Muslim Fulani overlords to regain their damagingly eroded power and authority and consequently their sources of wealth, coupled with the desire of the Muslim Hausa elite and businessmen to further their economic interests. This unholy alliance of the fendal Fulani and nouveau-rich Haus came to be known as the Muslim Hausa Fulani. Their imposition of the sharia on the people signifies the ongoing class war of the ruling class which, as is always the case, pits the unsuspecting masses against each other. It is, therefore, not surprising that in Zamfara state (the first to go sharia) whereas the two cinema palaces in Gusau (the capital) are closed down, the wealthy few are allowed to keep their satellite dishes and VCRs. Also, since the start of the sharia nonsense in those Northern states, only the poor have fallen victim to the penal code and the various clashes. The originators and their families remain safe whilst the poor masses are used as cannon fodder in a matter that they (the masses) have nothing to gain from—nay, in a matter that is very detrimental to them.

It is not by accident, therefore, that whereas the ordinary Muslims and Christians and Northerners and Easterners and Westerners are busy killing and maiming each other their Muslim, Christian, northern, eastern and western wealthy leaders are hidden away in cosy mansions, jointly forming and owning political parties for the ordinary Muslim Christians northerners, easterners and westerns to vote for come election day. This is real class war.

Another economic dimension which adds some weight to the desire to implement sharia relates to the oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Gulf region. These countries have set up numerous organizations that generously disburse funds to Muslim groups and states all over the poor world. So in order to have access to these cheap "petro-dollars" the leadership of the Northern Nigerian states only need to express their total commitment to Islam and Islamization and the hard cash will start to flow in to further enrich those leaders. It is in this light that one can understand the marathon trip undertaken by governor Ahmed Sani Yarima of Zamfara state to Pakistan, Egypt, Qatar, Sudan and Saudi Arabia at the peak of the international outcry, in 2001, over the poor Saffiatu Husein who is to be stoned to death for adultery, though the man who impregnated her is set free. It is also known that Ibrahim al Zakzaky, the leader of the fanatical Muslim Brotherhood, and a notorious trouble-shooter, is heavily funded by Iran.

Fighting sharia
A lot of noise has been made about the excesses of sharia but little has been put forth worthy of a solution to the anomaly. Nigeria is broadly divided into Hausa Fulani north, the Ibo east, and the Yoruba west. The privileged classes in all these three areas always come up with issues that keep the masses distracted from the exploitation visited upon them by the same privileged classes who consider themselves leaders of their people. In the North today it is Sharia, in the West it is Ooduwa People's Congress (OPC) which is demanding full control of the resources of "their land", and in the East there are the various secessionist movements. The whole aim of fomenting troubles is for the leaders to carve out spheres of economic influence for themselves among their various ethnic groups.

All these sectional and divisionist activities can never solve the real problems of the people—poverty, disease, hunger, illiteracy, insecurity, war, etc. In fact the leaders who instigate the masses to go sharia or to secede, and most of those who are seen to be taking issue with the excesses thereof, are merely seeking to enhance their economic interests. Religion, secessionist movements, nationalism and many so-called human right activists are generally tools used by the ruling classes to perpetrate the status quo. All those involved in the promotion of such ideas are birds of the same feather. They hypocritically shout about freedom of conscience and self-determination, unity of mankind, justice,etc. Such double-standards expose not only their bankruptcy and insincerity but also the reactionary role of religion, secession and nationalism.

The only solution to those issues is to uproot the real cause of the problems—the overthrow of the unjust economic system in operation in today's world. It is this system which makes it possible for the masses to be kept in a state of ignorance, allowing a few individuals to take advantage of this same ignorance. This injustice becomes possible since under the present economic arrangement it is a few who control the world's wealth, whilst the majority own nothing and so remain at the mercy of these few rich individuals. And that explains why religious patronage is a common phenomenon in Northern Nigeria, where the wealthy "alhajis" "own" mosques and the poor in the neighbourhood, who go there to pray and recognize the "owner" as bossman, get petty favours and so can easily be manipulated.

Suhuyini Nbang-ba

First published in Africa:A Marxian Analysis

State and class in pre-colonial West Africa

Was the state instituted for mutual protection or did it arise when society became divided into classes?

Long before Marx and Engels, political thinkers and philosophers had written extensively on the concept of the state. In the 1640s, Thomas Hobbes had argued that the state was essentially a contract between the individual and the government. The alternative, called by Hobbes the state of nature, was a thoroughly unpleasant life—solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

This, according to Hobbes, the state emerged to improve mankind's lot. However, Engels, summing up his historical analysis in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, argued that the State was a product of class society: "It is an admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel." As if to echo Engels, Marx pointed out that the state could not have arisen, let alone maintained itself, had it been possible to reconcile classes. According to Marx the state is an instrument of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another.

Marx revealed that a definite level of development of labour productivity is essential before there is real opportunity for humans to exploit other humans. If people produce only the minimum of products required to maintain their physical existence and reproduction, any systematic appropriation of someone else's labour is out of the question. The opportunity to appropriate someone else's labour appears only when the productive forces have developed to the level at which the quantity of goods produced somewhat exceeds the minimum required to maintain the direct producers' lives. The question then arises: Did Africa's labour productivity reach a level that provided the opportunity for humans to exploit their fellow human beings? The answer is both no and yes. The appropriate answer to this question would enable us to determine the original of the state in pre-colonial Africa.

But it would be absurd to think of only the level of productive forces without the relations of production. Productive forces cannot be developed in a vacuum. People produce them jointly—in groups rather than on their own. People's relationship to the means of production determine their position and place in the production and the mode of distribution of the products. Where one group of people makes its living by appropriating the labour of the other, then society is divided into the exploiter and exploited. The need to maintain this vampiric relationship of production leads to the rise of an apparatus of coercion and conditioning to systematically brainwash the exploited into accepting their exploitation as a normal condition of life or to crush their resistance.

Before private ownership

If this analysis of state and class is anything to go by then one cannot authentically talk of the state among some of the communities in Ghana before the 14th century. The predominant principle of social relations was that of the family and kinship associated with communalism. Among the Gur social groups in the Upper East Region of Ghana, for example, every member of the society had their position defined in terms of their relationship with their mother's or father's family. Leadership was based on religious ties to the Tindana, or custodian of the land, who ran the affairs of the people with a committee of elders chosen from all the families and clans of the territory. This committee administered land, the major means of production not as its personal property, but as the property of all the people in Gurum-Tinga (Gur land) who had the right to till it. Hunting, fishing and grazing grounds for animals were organised in a similar manner. No-one starved whilst others stuffed themselves with food and threw the excess away or sold it for profit. The basic economic law was that of providing the members of society with the necessary means of subsistence through communal ownership of the means of production.

The absence of private property in the means of production, of the division into classes and the exploitation of man by man excluded the need for a state. Production was essentially of use values; and there was no alienation of the producer from his means of production.
The fundamental flaw in the social organisation of the Gur however was that the position of the Tindana was supposedly sanctioned by the gods, and therefore permanent. This notion also applied to the elders of families and clans who served in the committee of elders. Only death could loosen their grip on authority. This meant that people occupying positions of trust could use their positions for personal gain, taking a significant share of communal property and becoming rich; indeed vestiges of private ownership of property began to rear its ugly head in the Gur community around the 16th century. However this development did not reach its fullest maturity before the violent intrusion of British colonial rule. To a very large extent, this explained why the British colonial government had to create chiefs in Gur land and use them as instruments of its policy of exploitation and dehumanisation.

It is also important to note that once African societies began to expand by internal evolution, and the instruments of labour were perfected, people obtained more means of subsistence than was essential for their survival. The restricted nature of communal property and the egalitarian distribution of products of labour that characterised people such as the Gur acted as a drag on the further development of the productive forces. The need for joint labour disappeared with the appearance of sickles, iron-tipped hoes, spears and arrows. What this meant was that the possibility of individual labour also emerged. But individual labour brought about private ownership, private ownership brought about inequality between the people; and rich and poor people emerged. In the Mali empire, for example, the dominant mode of production was feudalism even though the communal and slave modes of production had not completely died out. By the end of the 15th century there were both chattel and domestic slaves in Mali comparable to the feudal serfs in Europe. In Senegal Portuguese traders also found that there were elements in the population who worked most days for their masters and a few days per month for themselves—a budding feudalist tendency.

A cursory look at the socio-economic and political scene in Africa before colonisation does not reveal one dominant mode of production. Also it is not easy to compartmentalise the socio-economic formations and arrange them in a sequence as some writers do, because the social and economic terrain reveals considerable unevenness in development. There were social formations representing hunting bands, communalism, feudalism while other formations represented a mixture of these. It was upon these that colonialism was superimposed.

First published Socialist Standard May 1999

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Niger Delta Crisis

Nigeria's Niger Delta crisis goes back to 1920 and the treaties that the forefathers of the people of the region signed with the imperial masters in Bonny. The Niger Delta spreads out over several states in Nigeria and even before Nigeria's independence in October 1960, there had been serious tensions surrounding the arrangements for the government of the region.

Warri in Delta state is the second most important oil town in Nigeria after Port Harcourt, the capital of River state. Delta state produces approximately 40 percent of Nigeria's oil. It is the richest state in the Nigerian federation. Its capital is Asaba near Onitsha, the biggest commercial market in Africa.

But Warri town is claimed by three ethnic groups: the Itsekiri, the Urhobo and the Ijaw. The Itsekiri, a small ethnic group of a few hundred thousand people whose language is related to Yoruba (one of the Nigeria's largest ethnic groups), also live in villages spread out along the Benin and Escravos rivers into the mangrove forest riverside areas towards the Atlantic ocean.

The Urhobo, a much larger group numbering some millions related to the Edo speaking people of Benin-City live in Warri town and to the north, inland.

The Ijaw live in the south and east also in the swampy riverside areas, spread out over several states. They are part of ten million population, the largest of Niger Delta.

Port Harcourt, the capital of River state, has a mixture of small ethnic groups.

The Niger Delta people submitted their allegiance to the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) which held power in Nigeria for thirty-five years. They left their closest brothers, the Igbos, before and after the Biafran-Nigerian civil war in 1967-1970. They sabotaged the Biafrans from the beginning of the war till 1970 when Biafra officially surrendered to the hands of imperialism. All the Niger Delta’s expectations and promises failed to appear from the Northern oligarchy or the awaiting "Arewa Republic".

This struggle started was in the sixties when the late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, a renegade Ijaw soldier, declared an Ijaw secession in February 1966. After him came the writer Ken Saro Wiwa. He fought against environmental pollution in the Niger Delta under the junta of General Sanni Abacha. He was tried and condemned to death by hanging in the late 90's. Recently, Alhaji Dokubo Asari, leader of Niger Delta Peoples' Volunteer Force (NDPVF), started a rebellion against Nigeria. The NDPVF has been in existence since the late 1980's but not on as high a level as today.

When you look at the situation in the Niger Delta, you will see reasons why they took up arms to fight the Nigerian federation. The Niger Delta has been devastated by pollution from oil spillages. Shell has caused a lot of destruction on their land. Capitalism is only interested in making profit at the expense of the poor masses. The people have no shelter; no food, no electricity, no hospital, no school, no road, even no water for them to drink.

The Niger Delta oil is shared in the following ways by the political bandits: Shell owns 30 percent, Total 10 percent (formerly Elf), Agip 5 percent. The rest goes to Nigeria and the private partners in business. According to OPEC, Nigeria's total oil production is 2.018 million bpd per day. And a barrel of oil cost $30 to $35. Where is the money from oil since the sixties till today? According to Nigeria's 1999 constitution, 13 percent of federal revenue from national resources is returned to the state from which it came, on a "derivation" basis.

In early April 2003, President Obasanjo appointed a committee to try and find a lasting solution to the Warri crisis, chaired by the man who hates the south, General Theophilus Y. Danjuma (rtd), former minister of Defence. (General Danjuma was among the Northern fighters in the Nigerian army in the sixties who killed the first Nigerian general, General Ironsi, in July 1966 in a military coup d' Etat planned by the north, just because Ironsi was an Igboman from the southeast).

In June 2003, General Danjuma visited Warri and was reported as indicating that there was no possibility of any compensation from the federal government to any of those affected by the violence (Vanguard, June 13, 2003). In September 2003, President Obasanjo visited Warri and said that he was considering the final report from Danjuma which reportedly had "remained secret even from members of the committee".

Going for years

The Niger Delta crisis has been going on for years but no government in Nigeria has taken the problem seriously. The people have been appealing to the government to negotiate by a peaceful political process on how to increase the little percent of oil revenues that was given to them but the government never bothers to deal with the request or the suffering of the people. And that is capitalism for you.

On December 30 1998, some unarmed Ijaw youths went on a peaceful demonstration to express their grievances to the military administrator of Bayelsa state, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Edoor Obi, to tell the multinational oil corporations operating in Ijaw lands and territorial waters and indeed in the larger Niger Delta to pack and leave. Instead of calming the youths down and passing their message to his boss General Abdulsalam Abubakar, Lt. Col Obi ordered his military boys in the state house (which was built with oil money) to open gunfire to the protesters. And some protesters died and some were wounded from the gunfire. And that made the youths to go wild in their struggle.

President Abubakar and the governor who were being paid their salary from the tax collected from the poor people, moved in artillery pieces, tanks and armoured personnel carriers, as well as fast attack amphibious craft with 700 soldiers to kill their fellow compatriots whose gold and glass skyline rose out of the Delta's wealth of poverty.

Head of state from 1976-1979, General Olusegun Obasanjo involved himself in further controversy trying to make peace in Benin-City, Edo state, with a wing of the of the youths. During the meeting, he was criticised as being part of the problems of the Niger Delta. He was accused of enacting the 1979 land use decree which transferred ownership of all land to the state. Also, he was blamed for scrapping the derivation formula, approving instead a paltry one percent of oil revenues for oil and mineral producing states. Obasanjo promised the Niger Delta that if he was elected, he would introduce a comprehensive development plan for them. But, all those promises were false; after all what did he do when he was the head of state?

In 1979, President Shehu Shagari took over government and increased the share of the area from then oil revenues to a paltry 1.5 percent. This was after the governor of the old Bendel state, Professor Ambrose Folorunso Alli, waged a titanic battle that ended up in the Supreme Court over revenues accruing to oil producing areas of the country.

In 1985, when General Ibrahim Babangida took over power from General Mohamadou Buhari, he increased the allocation to all areas to three percent. Nigeria has reaped from crude oil sales in the last thirty years the sum of $300 billion, the staggering earnings from oil show neither in the Niger Delta nor in the larger nation, outside Abuja. As matter of fact, Abuja rose from money sourced entirely from the Niger Delta. So did the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, which twenty years later and $4.5 billion project is yet to produce a simple billet of steel. Where has all the money gone? Of course, it was stolen.

The Nigerian military regimes have stolen so much money from the country that they have impoverished it. Each time the Niger Delta people protest, the government refers them to the secretary to government or the minister of petroleum resources or some other officials who really have no capacity to take decisive steps to address the problems.

The head of the oil firm cautioned the government against the ongoing use of force to bring peace to the area. He said that they will not go into these areas under the cover of armed guards. The Eastern Nigeria/Delta Unity Association (ENDUA) in the UK condemned the Obasanjo way of sending troops into the Niger Delta. The government is taking what does not belong to them. They forget to ask themselves this question: "on whose lands are the oil installations situated?" Are these people not entitled to the minimum human rights? Are we about to see the repeat of the crushing of the Ogoni legitimate protest? Are we about to see a new Biafran experience? ENDUA declared that there must be no gunboat diplomacy in the Niger Delta. Fishing boats, not naval boats because Nigeria is not at war.

The stealing of the Nigerian mineral resources by few groups of political bandits in the helm of government has caused Nigerians to drench in misery and abject poverty. These politicians are happy to drive Lincoln navigator, Lamborghini, Limousine, Cadillac, Ferrari, helicopter and jets. Whereas millions go to bed on an empty stomach in this one world. And thousands of people squeeze themselves into dilapidated buses that have no roadworthiness again or technical control.

The oil in Niger Delta is enough to sustain born and unborn Nigerians happy till eternity if properly shared equally among the people. Not to mention other mineral resources like coal in Enugu, rubber in Benin, cocoa in the West, palm produce, precious stones, tin ore, bauxite and even groundnuts, etc.

Because of the government negligence to the masses, unemployment is massive. Master’s degree holders from reputable universities have devised their means of surviving by using motor-cycle to carry passengers for commercial purpose. Armed robbers are terrorising the poor masses. There is no security of life and property as a result of capitalism.

On January 11, 2006, four oil workers were kidnapped by the militias and were released after several weeks of negotiation between the local authority and the government. This is the danger in neglecting to solve the Niger Delta crisis caused by imperialism. If nothing is done by the capitalist masters, believe you me more blood of the poor masses and the bonded slave workers called the Joint Security Forces will be wasting everyday. While their masters are enjoying the beautiful creatures in the cosy presidential palace called Aso-Rock.

The solution to this immediate problem is for the government to deal directly with the people. And to denounce Capitalism in the Nigerian federation. Today our political juggernauts who were elected to improve on the standard of living of the people are now using the resources of the people to buy property overseas. The majority of the Nigerian politicians have not less than ten executive cars in their homes. Some even have helicopters and private jets, all at the expense of the poor masses. Without talking about their special suites in the Nicon-Noga hotel and Sheraton, all in Abuja for free at the expense of the masses from the Niger Delta oil.

The Nigeria finance minister, Dr. Mrs Ngozi Okonji Iwuala, is working tirelessly to retrieve the millions of money that was sent overseas by our political leaders, whereas millions of Naira are lying on her doorstep from these corrupt politicians. These politicians don’t pay taxes or rates. They are institutions and untouchable. Nigerian politicians drive their cars freely on the roads without police control because they all have police escorts that are always with them. But, for a poor Nigerian to travel from Lagos to Enugu or Owerri or Umuahia or Abakaliki or Uyo or Calabar is like trying to get into heaven. The Nigerian police and the tax collectors are everywhere in the Niger Delta to the Eastern Nigeria roads stopping commuter buses and taxis every hundred metres demanding for tax and rates from the people whose resources are taking overseas by the capitalist leaders.

It was because of the nonchalant attitude of the government, the marginalisation of the Igbos and other minorities in non power sharing, together with the interference of outside capitalists, that triggered the declaration of the federal republic of Biafra in 1967 by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. And today many ethnics are rising against the state, such as Niger Delta peoples’ volunteer force (NDPVF) and the Oduduwa Peoples’ Congress (OPC) for the Yorubas. Also, the Arewa republic (AR) for the northerners. Today, many Nigerians are no more thinking of one Nigeria but thinking of their own state secession: a shame to the government for lack of good governance and transparency.

The worst of all is that the oil that is produced in the Niger Delta costs more money to buy in Niger Delta than in Abuja or in Sokoto that is about 3500km away from Port Harcourt. Capitalism has no soul or respect for humanity in this one world. Capitalism in Nigeria should be totally eradicated from our society otherwise there will be more kidnapping, armed robbery, guerrilla attacks by militias, strikes, violent demonstrations and anarchy that can lead to total collapse of Nigerian federation like Yugoslavia. The cruelty of capitalism in Nigeria is so cumbersome that 70 percent of Nigerians live under one dollar per day. While a privileged minority of capitalists and corrupt politicians live more like Bill Gates.

Many Nigerians are running away from the country in search of white collar-jobs in the West because of abject poverty, political crisis and ethnic and religious inquisitions that the government cannot control. In the process, many have died on the desert or on the sea, trying to cross border to the West. Many are languishing in prisons in Europe and America, just on immigration offences. Nigerians in the diaspora and at home should rise against imperialism and take the challenge upon them to address the raging crisis in Nigeria for the interest of our people through a political and economic revolution.

Reports by: Comrade. Bamidele C. ILOANYA
For your comments, write. E-mail:

First published in the Socialist Standard March 2006

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Further to our previous posting , this is a follow up on-the-spot analysis of the Chinese effect on the Zambian working class by an African socialist .

The recent visit by the Chinese president Hu Jintao was hailed as a great economic milestone in the New Deal administration of MMD (Movement for Multiparty Democracy) president Levy Mwanawasa.

Toying with Marxist revolutionary political ideology is now a thing of the past in Africa—ever since the dawn of political pluralism and economic liberalism. Thus the phrase Chinese neo-colonialism may seem like a contradiction in terms in the sense that bilateral trade is feasible to Zambia’s economic development in the age of globalisation.

The People’s Republic of China has a long political and economic relationship with Zambia, dating back to 1964. The Chinese helped to train Zambia’s army officers and donated military armaments to the security forces. It was China that constructed the Tazara railway line from Zambia to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.

It is a fact that Chinese investment if various sectors of the domestic economy has not yielded positive results. More or less Chinese investors have brought the syndrome of labour casualisation in Zambia. Resentment against Chinese investors is very prominent on the Copperbelt and in Lusaka.

The Chinese president Hu Jintao held a press conference at which he said that China will open up a new economic zone in Kitwe (Chambishi copper mine) at an initial cost of $800,000,000 that will increase employment by 60,000. However the three-day visit to Zambia was cut short because of the planned demonstrations in Lusaka and Kitwe.

It is alleged that Chinese investors mistreat ordinary Zambian workers and that Chinese imported clothes, bicycles and electrical appliances are even substandard and poor quality. The ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions) has spoken out strongly against the New Economic Zone by pointing out that Chinese investors pay low salaries and the incidence of accidents at workplaces.

But working class political struggles can only take place in societies where basic political and human freedoms are respected—that is the case in Zambia today. Press freedom is very vital to the intensification of working class political struggles.

The dream of abolishing taxes and chasing away Chinese investors is not a method of abolishing capitalism. It is a surest indication of political frustration and moral bankruptcy. Workers of Zambia unite, under the banner of international working class solidarity—Socialism.


A Plea for Peace

Dear fellow Socialists of Great Britain:

I'm sure that you have heard of the ever-lasting civil war in Uganda, Africa and that you have heard of the program know as "The Invisible Children".

My closest friends and I are doing what we can to get our country's attention and to get the US gov't to spur peace-talks within the torn country.

The armies of this region have the audacity to bring young children into the conflict, hand them firearms, and command them to kill others. Children at times are even told to kill relatives of their own families. I have donated money to send some of these children to schools to keep them out of the conflict.

One of my best friends is going to a demonstration in Los Angeles, CA, USA on the 28th this month. As much as I denounce this current gov't in the US, it still is more than capable to initiate peace-talks in this nation.

I am asking for the World Socialist Party's assistance in pushing the gov'ts of the UN Security Council to plan peace-talks and treaties with this nation.

I have already contacted the WSP(US) and I plan to contact the Congress of the US gov't.

Please help me spread the word.

Thank you for your time.

Cheers to a better world,

Zavi Stilson

Vultures , indeed

Zambia is to pay $15.5 million (£7.7 million) to a British Virgin Isles-registered firm to settle a case at London's High Court. The two sides had agreed the sum after allowing for interest and payments already made - significantly lower than Donegal had wanted, but still a substantial profit for the firm.
Donegal International - described by critics as a "vulture fund" - had taken the country to court seeking payment of a debt, and late payment penalties.
The firm had been seeking $55 million in total - after buying a debt of $3.2 million that Zambia originally owed to Romania. The original debt arose from a $15m loan made by Romania in 1979, mainly for Zambia to buy farming equipment. However, Zambia's economy ran into trouble and the country fell behind with payments.
The outstanding debt was bought by Donegal in 1999 at a deeply discounted price and it later sued to recoup the full amount plus penalties.

“Vulture fund” companies buy up the debt of poor countries at cheap prices, and then demand payments much higher than the original amount of the debt, often taking poor countries to court when they cannot afford to repay . Vulture fund is a term that’s used for bond speculators who take the bonds, the cheap debt of the third world, that may sell ten cents on the dollar, because no one expects to ever collect on these debts, they buy up the debts really cheap, and then they use political muscle, bribery or lawsuits to try to squeeze til the pips squeak , as they say .
Anti-poverty campaigners say such companies are unethical; and divert resources away from badly needed spending on health and education in very poor countries. Some international finance officials have also voiced fears that recent official debt relief for the poorest countries might encourage more legal claims as countries that no longer have to repay the World Bank, for example, may be more able to pay private creditors who go to court.

Loan-sharking -grand scale , but that is capitalism for you .

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

AFRICOM and the Oil

A previous post discussed the Chinese expansionism in Africa . However , the United States remain a big-player on the continent .

Recently formed was the military command structure AFRICOM . Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper published for the U.S. military said :-

“AFRICOM’s purpose is to make Africa the primary concern of one combatant command instead of a ’secondary or tertiary’ concern for three other commands.”

Some analysts suggested that the formation of AFRICOM indicates that the Bush administration is planning to expand its “war on terror” into Africa. AFRICOM was formed shortly before the United States used the Ethiopian armed forces, backed by U.S. air power and small teams of special forces, to oust the Islamic Courts Union .

"U.S. Special Forces accompanied the Ethiopian Army when it stormed across the border in late December to support the besieged and isolated Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The United States also provided the Ethiopians with "up-to-date intelligence on the military positions of the Islamist fighters in Somalia," Pentagon and counterterrorism officials told The New York Times," wrote Conn Hallinan for Foreign Policy In Focus.

Why the concern of America with African politics ?

Simple .

Africa is expected to provide a quarter of all U.S. oil imports by 2015 .

And expect a lot more Washington meddling on the Gulf of Guinea. The gulf countries of Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Congo Republic all possess huge oil reserves.

We read that General James L. Jones, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supreme commander, says the U.S.-dominated military alliance is “talking” about using its forces to protect oil tankers off the west coast of Africa and to provide security, according to the Associated Press, for “storage and production facilities in areas such as the oil-rich Niger Delta.”

NATO is doing more than talking though . In June of last year, NATO troops stormed ashore at Vila Dos Espargos on the Cape Verde Islands in a war game that modelled intervening in a civil war over energy resources.

Raping and pillaging foreign nations has a long history. There was a time when grabbing what thy neighbour had was the thing to do for any empire builder. As nation states and international laws developed, the methods became less obvious. Now, it is called guarding strategic interests.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Size Zero and the Super Models

Latest edition of Scientific American focuses on fashion and the African perspective .

Just as Africa's youth find themselves choosing between Western music and clothes and those rooted in their own tradition, they are now faced with two opposing images of beauty -- the Western ideal of an ever thinner frame and the African one of a buxom and well-rounded figure.

Those who want to make it as a successful fashion model in the West ( and the rewards are appealing , Ghanaian models up to $200 a day. Those who make it to Europe get $1,360 per half day ) are well aware they need to conform to Western sizes. Skinny African girls may get to strut on Western catwalks but the fat ones have to stay at home.

"Those that come here who are skinny, they know they want to go international. The others, they know they are big, they want a job here in Ghana" said Exopa's Ibrahim.

Models on Western catwalks get thinner and thinner, their hungry look has sparked noisy debate about the pressure this places on girls and women to achieve perfection even if perfection means Size Zero, the smallest American dress size, the equivalent to a British size four.

In Africa, rolls of flesh are usually seen as a sign of wealth and status, not of ill health.
Few aspire to a skinny look, as those who look starved and ill too often are that way through misfortune, not choice.

Few Africans want to see a superskinny model, said Sylvia Owori, who runs Uganda's Ziper models,
"I think most Ugandans would be disgusted. They'd think she'd just come out of the village and she was malnourished"

Malawi musings

Malawi is much in the news . Not for any particular reason other than music icon Madonna is visiting and being rumoured to be planning another adoption of another Malawian youngster . Malawi's economy is said to be 1% of Scotland's - about half the size of Falkirk's .The country's population is 12.6 million people , one million of whom are orphans . More than half the population lives below the poverty line . Malawi is ranked as the 10th poorest country in the world by the United Nations . Life expectancy in Malawi is now as low as 36.5 years, five years lower than it was 50 years ago.

The Herald reports how business is sponsoring aspiring capitalists to learn their trade in Scotland . A small number of students have been brought to Scotland as part of a vanguard of gifted entrepreneurs who it is hoped will provide expertise, enthusiasm and business acumen to transform the economic fortunes of Malawi . They are spending 18 hours a week learning customer care skills, cooking and working as waiters at Brel and Ad Lib, both part of the Baby Grand Group in Glasgow. They will also be enrolled on four-year tourism undergraduate degrees at Glasgow Caledonian University. All very noble .

Yet activist George Monbiot writes of how international capitialism have failed to provide the necessary foreign aid and have imposed spending restrictions upon on the bill for public-sector pay in Malawi that ensure that even basic schooling cannot be improved . In Malawi the IMF sets the ceiling for public-sector wages directly . The pupil to teacher ratio in Malawi is 72:1 . The failure rate to complete primary education in Malawi is 70% .
In Malawi, the goods required for the most basic level of subsistence cost $107 a month. A trained teacher receives $55. ActionAid argues that Malawi has now achieved sufficient stability to start raising teachers’ pay. But in no case did the IMF consult either the public or the state’s own ministry of education before laying down the law. The amount of money a teacher in rural Malawi is paid is decided by the men in London and Washington.

Good deeds like Madonna airlifting some pitiful child out of deprivation , or philanthropic gestures from Scottish businessmen of assisting Malawi's budding capitalist class may hit the headlines . But it is who controls the economy and pulls the financial strings that decides the future of all Malawians and for the moment thats the IMF .

Madonna danced with Malawian children when she toured the $120,000 facility that is home to 4,000 orphans and which she helped to fund and during a visit to an orphanage urged them to "help themselves" instead of relying on her.

Wise words because the only solution to the poverty will be when the poor do join together and do begin to "help themselves" - by seeking the common ownershiop and control of the means of production and distribution - the establishment of Socialism .

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chinese Capitalism exploits Africa

Channel 4's Unreported World draws our attention to the inroads that Chinese capitalism is making throughout Africa .
China's economic boom is resulting in the biggest scramble for Africa since the end of European colonialism. Trade between Beijing and Africa has more than quadrupled since 2000 and hundreds of new companies, many of them partly owned by the Chinese State, have set up. Thousands of Chinese workers are now in Central Africa, buying up copper and cobalt. Vital for the manufacture 0f Chinese-made goods such as mobile phones, MP3 players and laptops .
And the result of this economic expansionism to acquire raw materials - many Zambians accuse the Chinese of being so focused on making money out of Africa that they do not care about the local people. The team are shown a cemetery where 46 victims of one of Zambia's worst industrial accidents - an explosion at a Chinese-owned factory - are buried. Local residents accuse the Chinese management of failing to uphold safety standards. Other locals claim that the factory is responsible for environmental damage .
In the Congo, which has been torn apart by a civil war between armed militias fighting for control of its resources , Katanga province is one of the world's richest areas for mineral reserves from where Chinese companies are exporting thousands of tonnes of heterogenite - ore rich in base metals.In the boom town of Lubumbashi are located vast open cast mines where countless thousands of impoverished Congolese toil to earn a survival income. A scene of an apocalyptic landscape, in which many of the miners appear to be drunk or high on drugs, with fights frequently breaking out.
The key aspect of the huge copper and cobalt mining industry is the exploitation of child labour. Many of the miners have to hand-dig tunnels into the hillsides, and because the shafts are small they use children to hack out the ore and shift sacks of rocks. When it rains, the tunnels are vulnerable to collapse and dozens of miners die every month. The children are also exposed to radioactivity, since this area is close to the uranium mines which supplied the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Around the mine, dozens of Chinese brokers exploiting this chaotic environment by buying up the ore extract. Local villagers say that although the Chinese are bringing enterprise, their business practices are making a profit at a tragic human cost. But, they say, they have no alternative but to trade with them.
Reuters report that Zimbabwe received farm machinery worth $25 million from China even though many Western powers have imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe for what they say are widescale rights abuses by Mugabe's administration . Zimbabwe's minister of Agricultural Engineering and Mechanisation, Joseph Made, said the farm implements were purchased under a $58 million loan from the Chinese government. Zimbabwe will deliver 30 million kg of tobacco to China, with as much as 80 million kg to be exported by the fifth year - A cash crop using land and labour that could be devoted to providing food .

Also reported elsewhere is a contract with China to farm 386 square miles of land while millions of Zimbabweans remain landless with rural sociologist John Karumbidza blasting it as nothing more than land renting and typical agri-business relations that turn the land holders and their workers into labor tenants and subject them to exploitation.
Nor is it purely economic benefit that China are looking for . In Ghana top Chinese political advisor Jia Qinglin at a meeting with Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuorhailed the sound growth of bilateral ties, saying Ghana has become China's important cooperation partner in western Africa , promoting economic and trade cooperation with China . Naturally for the expected Chinese aid it is most definitely quid pro quo , Ghana will reciprocate on the diplomatic front by supporting the one-China policy to politically isolate its Taiwan rival .
Following the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which took place November 4-5, 2006. , attended by 48 African delegations, most of them led by heads of state, the Forum was the largest international summit held in Beijing , the two sides agreed to raise the volume of trade from $40 billion in 2005 to $100 billion by 2010 and set up of a China-Africa Development Fund that would be capitalized to the tune of $5 billion to support Chinese companies investing in Africa.

China now accounts for 60% of oil exports from Sudan and 35% of those from Angola. Chinese firms mine copper in Zambia and Congo-Brazzaville, cobalt in the Congo, gold in South Africa, and uranium in Zimbabwe and consuming 46% of Gabon’s forest exports, 60% of timber exported from Equatorial Guinea, and 11% of timber exports from Cameroon.
In Nigeria , China National Offshore Corporation (CNOOC), has acquired a 45% working interest in an offshore enterprise, OML 130, for $2.3 billion; the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has invested in the Port Harcourt refinery; and a joint venture between the Chinese Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and the L.N. Mittal Group, plans to invest $6 billion in railways, oil refining, and power in exchange for rights to drill oil. The Nigerian government is increasingly turning to China for weapons to deal with the worsening insurgency in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The Nigerian Air Force purchased 14 Chinese-made versions of the upgraded MiG 21 jet fighter; the navy has ordered patrol boats to secure the swamps and creeks of the Niger Delta. Not surprisingly, the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta (MEND) has warned Chinese companies to keep out of the region or risk attack.
In Sudan , China has very substantial interests . China obtained oil exploration and production rights in 1995 when the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) bought a 40% stake in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, which is pumping over 300,000 barrels per day. Sinopec, another Chinese firm, is building a 1500-kilometer pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where China’s Petroleum Engineering Construction Company is constructing a tanker terminal. It is estimated Chinese investment in oil exploration to reach $8 billion.
Chinese interests go beyond oil. Its investment in textile mills is estimated at $100 million. It has emerged as one of Sudan’s top arms suppliers. In one particular barter arrangement, China supplied $400 million worth of weapons in return for cotton. It is active in infrastructure, with its firms building bridges near the Merowe Dam and two other sites on the River Nile.
It is involved in key hydropower projects, the most controversial being the Merowe Dam, which is expected to ultimately cost $1.8 billion. The construction of the Merowe Dam has involved forced resettlement of the Hambdan people living at or near the site and repression and an armed attack on the Amri people who have been organizing to prevent the Sudanese government’s plan to transfer them to the desert. Local police and private agencies now provide 24-hour security to Chinese engineering detachments, but civil society observers say the aim of these groups is less protection of the Chinese than repression of growing opposition.
As Ali Askari, director of the London-based Piankhi Research Group, puts it:-
"The sad truth is, both the Chinese and their elite partners in the Sudan government want to conceal some terrible facts about their partnership. They are joining hands to uproot poor people, expropriate their land, and appropriate their natural resources."
With their integrated political, military, economic, and diplomatic components, China’s strategic partnerships with governments such as those of Nigeria, Sudan, and Zimbabwe increasingly have the same feel of the old U.S. and Soviet relationships with their client states during the Cold War.

Chinese Capitalism at work - and they dare call it socialism !!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Nigerians choose new masters

From the BBC we hear that Aliko Dangote may be the richest man in Africa .

Mr Dangote has come along way from his early days of trading commodities in his home town of Kano in the north and now has listed two of his 13 companies on the Nigerian stock market. His stake in those two alone is worth more than $4 billion (£2 billion). His business empire spans the economy. He dominates the markets for sugar, cement, rice, pasta, textiles and salt, and he is big in transport, oil and gas.

In politics, as in business, he is also a powerful player. He is not ashamed to be financially supporting President Olusegun Obasanjo's ruling People's Democratic Party .

"I am close to people in government because I am one of the big businessmen in Nigeria," he explains. "If we don't have the right people there then [all the] money I have is useless..."

As Marx said the State is the executive committee of the capitalist class and Aliko Dangote fully recognises this . The Nigerian government is HIS government .

Whereas for the other 140 million Nigerians , the majority of who live under a poverty line of less than a dollar a day, in the words of Femi Kuti , son of legendary Afrobeat musician and political activist Fela Kuti:-

"People are poorer, things in the market are getting more expensive, life is getting more difficult by the day."

And his verdict on politicians vying for election :-

"...when these people get into power they never fulfil their promises. You see them with their big cars, they buy houses in England or America, they give their kids the best education, but the crop of the people, the masses themselves, they lose."

Since independence from Britain in 1960, an estimated $400 billion of oil revenues have gone missing, presumed stolen, by the military and political elite.

Nigerians are used to being let down by their governments and sooner they realise that the existing Nigerian political parties do not represent their interests but are bought and paid for by the likes of Aliko Dangote to protect and preserve his privilege and wealth .

It is time for a Nigerian Socialist Party , one that is a part of the World Socialist Movement . It is time for the Nigerian working class to act in their own interest .

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Climate change

It is not good news for the future of the continent of Africa from climate change according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) .

Greenhouse gases will later this century put up to 1.8 billion more people in Africa at risk of water stress. Even a modest temperature rise could lead to falls in water flows in some river systems equal in volume to one large dam being lost annually. Arid and semi-arid lands are likely to increase by up to eight per cent . Sea level rise, especially on the east African coast, will increase flooding .

The report also predicts that wheat may disappear from Africa by the 2080s; that the soya bean harvest in Egypt could drop by close to 30 per cent by 2050 under a worst case scenario and maize yields fall significantly in southern Africa.

"It [Africa] is the Continent with the least responsibility for the climate change and yet is perversely the Continent with the most at risk if greenhouse gases are not cut”. - Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme

"Unfortunately for us, the West pollutes and Africa suffers," Dorothy Kaggwa, a spokesperson from Environmental Alert