Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is this South African Solidarity ?

Police in Johannesburg have raided the city's Central Methodist Church, arresting around 1,500 homeless people and Zimbabwean refugees. Dozens of police, some heavily armed, raided the church compound rounded up those there and took them away. This according to the BBC .

Paul Verryn, the church's bishop, described the raid as a violation of the sanctity of the church. He said, the way the police handled those they arrested during the raid was a clear violation of the rights of the Zimbabweans .

As South Africa's own economy starts to strain, the government has begun to stiffen its attitude to refugees. An estimated three million Zimbabweans are believed to be living in South Africa.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An extract from Religion Racism and Class :-

The effect on that section of the working class which does not share similar physical characteristics with the owning class is to deny itself as different from the dominant class. It identifies and shares the convictions, doctrines and other attitudes of the dominant class which oppresses it. Guilt and an inferiority complex promoted by the dominant class and imbibed by the oppressed become the result of this process. Consequently the attempt to escape this inferiority by denying and condemning oneself becomes a lifelong struggle.

Let's consider this for one moment. It is important to note that for many Christians, the traditional African religious individuals is superstitious and worships idols and several gods; there is only one God, though he has a son begotten by the Holy Spirit. This god is white, his angels are white; and when the saved finally go to heaven, they will wear white robes of purity. But the devil is black; his angels are black; sin itself is black and when the sinful finally go to hell, they will be burnt to black coal. It is surprising that the African converts sing in pleading terror: "Wash me Redeemer, and I shall be whiter than snow?" And is it any wonder that some Africans buy skin-bleaching creams to lighten their dark skins? Is it also surprising that so-called educated and enlightened women often buy red, blonde or brunette wigs to hide their black hair or spend hours on end in hair saloons trying to make their hair curly and long?

Christianity even denies the African the right to their name. A name is a simple symbol of identity. But the African convert would normally be required to discard his African name and give himself such good Christian names as Smith, Verwoerd, Robert, James, Julius, Ironmonger, Winterbotham, Elizabeth, Summer, Winter and sometimes Autumn. This business of getting new names has its roots in slave property relations, where the person of the slave was the property of the owner to be disposed of and used as the master deemed fit. So slaves were branded with the master's name.

The same story is true in art, dance, music, drama etc, but the ultimate objective in class society is one—to control the productive forces and appropriate economic surplus irrespective of the exploiter's race or tribe. Economic control however is much more difficult to attain without political control. Political control is therefore established through proxy governments. Even then the vampire system finds that economic and political control are incomplete without cultural and hence ideological control. So the system employs religion and bogus theories like racism to ensure the mental castration of the worker be he European, Asian or African.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Niger Delta Video

Fire in the Delta

I thought this may be of interest to some although it does not fully represent the views of Socialist Banner .

Friday, January 25, 2008

Nigeria, Biafra and Oil

Nigeria is a country that was created artificially by British colonialism. It has a complex ethnic mixture of groups, with a division between the North, inhabited by Muslim Fulani Hausas with a rigid feudal system, and the South where the a number of different ethnic groups co-existed loosely, the largest of these groups being the Christian Igbos and Yorubas. The trick of British colonialism was the divide and rule system. They knew the nature of Nigeria; it is a country that doesn’t have the same climate, not the same religion, not the same mentality, not the same food, not the same dress, not the same dialect, and not the same culture. They used their military might to force Nigeria to be one by the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates of Nigeria. They gave the Fulani emirs political prominence at the expense of the Southern population and left a time bomb with the fuse burning.

Prior to independence, and afterwards, many threats of a Northern secession were made by the Northern politicians because they did not want to be part of Nigeria. But in realty these Northern political kangaroos called leaders did not want to lose the benefit of Southern oil and industries. Nigeria was supposed to get her independence before the Gold Coast (now Ghana) did in 1957 but, because of the Northerners were not prepared to be part of the new country, Nigeria lost many years in debate and compromise until the North agreed to be part of it.

But the new Nigerian constitutional framework did not resolve everything, it being clear that Nigeria was sitting on a time bomb that would explode and cause real dangerous harm to all Nigerians.

The constitution did not change the relative cultural backwardness of the North compared to the South. What the Northern leaders wanted was a guarantee that they would retain their dominant political position after independence. If not, they would pull out and form an "Arewa Republic" for the interest of the Fulani – Hausa. British imperialists taught that the North were fools to be used and stole the resources from the South. But, the North got their way in political domination in Nigeria.

In the mid-60s, the South had more doctors, lawyers and engineers than most other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. There were 1.3m Igbos from the South East working in the northern region, many of them in skilled positions, particularly in the civil service. The Northern leaders were jealous of Igbos and other Southerners, accusing the Igbos of depriving northerners of good jobs due to their better education.

Military rule

In 1966, a group of young officers assassinated the Northern leader Bello, the federal Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and the Western leader Akintola who had become discredited in the eyes of the population. The coup leader, Major Kaduna Chukwuma Nzeogwu (now dead) broadcast the following reasons for the coup on radio:

"Our enemies are the political profiteers, swindlers, men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand ten percent, those that seek to keep the country permanently divided so that they can remain in office as Ministers and VIP’s of waste, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles".

In the North, jubilant masses ransacked the governor’s palace and cheered the coup leader, despite his Igbo origin.

The coup did not succeed. In Lagos, General Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi had restored peace and order in the name of the old government with British backing. He placed himself as the first army general at the head of the federation and declared Nigeria under military rule.

Despite opposition from Northern politicians, General Ironsi announced his "Unification Decree" which although it changed little but names – regions became provinces, the federation became a Republic – caused a series of the most violent massacres of Southerners yet seen in the North.

"Armed thugs moved across the space between the city walls of Kano and the Sabon Garis where the Easterners lived, broke into ghetto and started burning, raping looting and killing as many men, women and children from the East as the could lay their hands on".

It is without doubt that these massacres were deliberately planned by Northern politicians using their own armed gangs to whip up local feelings against the Igbos and other Southerners.

General Ironsi then went on a tour to Ibadan, Western region, to promote "One Nigeria" ideal. While he was on this tour another coup was staged, by Northern army officers. General Ironsi and two of his commanding officers were stripped, beaten, tortured and then shot. With taking over command, the coup leader, led by a young British trained officer, General Gowon, issued instructions for Igbos in the army – many off them formed the majority of the technical corps – to be rounded up and imprisoned. And Gowon declared himself the supreme commander of the Nigerian armed forces.

The British High Commission in Lagos after meeting with the coup leaders came out in their full support – including their demand for recognition of the dominance of the North in any political process. All the regions except the South Eastern region – where the former governor, colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, remained in command with his troops and refused to recognized the new dictatorship. This Ojukwu, son of a millionaire who had been knighted by the British, had been educated in Oxford Universty and Sandhurst college, saw the atrocities of Gowon and decided to lead the South-East to secession and war.

During September and October 1966, three months after Gowon’s takeover a large scale massacre of Southerners was reported again from the Northern region. To quote the Observer (17 October 1966):

"The Hausas in each town and village in the North know what happened in their own localities, only the Igbos know the whole terrible story from the 600,000 or so refugees who have fled to the safety of the Eastern Region – hacked, slashed, mangled, striped naked and robbed of their possessions; the orphan, the widows, and the traumatized. A woman, mute and dazed arrived back in her village after travelling for days with a bowl in her lap. She held her child’s head, which was killed before her eyes….after a fortnight the scene in the Eastern Region continues to be visible of the ingathering of exiles into Israel after the end of the last holocaust."

The killing of Igbos in the North was no more a joking matter.

General Gowon was an inexperienced army officer with no knowledge of leadership. Gowon was a school certificate holder and was power hungry. While, Colonel Ojukwu held a master’s degree holder in modern History. The difference between Ojukwu and Gowon was quite enormous in terms of reasoning on international politics.

Gowon taught that British imperialism liked him and that was why they would support him to fight a war against Ojukwu. But he failed to understand that Britain and America were only interested in stealing Nigerian oil.

There was a great negotiation between the different regional politicians and Gowon that ended up in a conference hosted in Aburi, Ghana, in order to bring Colonel Ojukwu to recognize the Gowon government.

Agreements were also made to pay salaries of displaced Southerners, to provide a subsidy for refugees, making total of £1.8 million, and to give a certain amount of autonomy to the region. Under pressure from the British and US governments, fearing at this point the loss of control of their oil concession, Gowon quickly agreed and signed these concessions.

But Gowon did not stick to the agreement. Because of his myopic ambition to remain in power, he took the resources of the Southerners and gave them to imperialism at no cost. The South-Eastern region felt that they were no longer protected under the umbrella of the Nigerian federation.

The Biafra War

On 30 May 1967, Colonel Ojukwu proclaimed the independent Republic of Biafra. The government and the economy of Biafra was among the best in the whole of Africa for three good months of peaceful existence.

Biafra fought a war against Britain, the United States of America, the Nigerian federal army and the River State militia. The actual fighting lasted for 24 months and took the form of an initial conquest of towns and a whole region to the west of Biafra by the Biafran Army and then the slow re-conquest of this region and Biafra itself, town by town, with the Nigerian Federal Army with its imperialist backers pushing the Biafran troops further back.

The Biafran army was never short of soldiers. There was a short supply of weaponry and the total blockade implemented after the first 16 months of heavy fighting. Biafrans are talented and creative people and Biafra was the only State in history to start a war without arms. The first weapons used to defend Biafraland are sticks, machetes, double-barrel guns for hunting. But, 40 percent of the Biafran soldiers came to be equipped with weapons captured from the Nigerian federal army. In addition, Biafra lacked air power, possessing a single B26 bomber dating back to World War Two and six old French Alouette helicopters.

The fact that it was the Igbos who developed the technical and engineering corps of the Nigeria Federal army, meant that they had a certain knowledge of expertise which the Federal troops lacked until their Western backers, finally realising that they were facing a severe resistance and a prolonged war, started providing direct heavy weapons to Gowon.

The first gunshots were fired on the 6 July, 1967 over the Northern Biafran town of Ogoja by Federal Nigerian troops. It was a diversionary attack and on the 8 July, 6,000 federal troops captured the town of Nsukka, the border town with the North. Another surprise attack was via the sea on the island Port Bonny, where the Shell and BP oil terminal was located. The Nigerian federal troops were unable to enter Port Harcourt, the main oil town of the region, as Ojukwu responded by putting a strong Biafran army and sending patrols to defend the coast at all cost.

While Nigerian federal troops were looking for a way to enter Port Harcourt, the Biafran army marched into the Midwest and took town after town without gunshots until they had enlarged the territory under Biafran control to encompass the whole of the oil producing area of the country. The Governor of the Mid-western region, Major General David Ejoor ran away by bicycle into hiding because the strength of Biafran army was beyond his control. This movement took Gowon and his imperialists backers by surprise.

Another system that Gowon and his crooks used was the food and supplies blockade of Biafra. Milk and meat, and other sources of protein had to be brought in from other regions and though chicken farming was started intensively once the war was under way it was not sufficient to feed the starving children of Biafra. The deficiency in dietary protein led to the slow death of almost a million civilians, most of them were children.

What the Nigeria and Biafra civil war did achieve was hatred, tribalism, nepotism, marginalization, ethnic inquisition, killings of 2 million innocent Nigerians who did not know anything about politics nor the oil in their region by Gowon and his capitalists backers, i.e. Britain and US. It also resulted in the reinforcement of the Gowon regime as the military dictatorship was to remain in power for a further six years before being kicked out of power by another brutal military dictator Major General Murtala Mohammed in 1976.

Rivalries for Oil

The BBC journalist Frederick Forsyth, who reported from Biafra during the war, later highlighted a major factor precipitating the war.

"It has been postulated that if the Biafrans had had their way as a republic of semi-desert and was allowed to separate from Nigeria, there would have cries of ‘Good Riddance’ in their ears. One foreign businessman said that ‘it’s an oil war’ and felt obliged to say no more."

Biafra was not a semi-desert. Beneath it lies an ocean oil. Approximately one tenth of this field lies in neighbouring Cameroon, three tenths in Nigeria. The remaining six tenths lies under Biafra.

Gowon and his ruling bandits and Ojukwu’s Eastern interest group had attempted to make an agreement over the terms of their relationship with the British and US oil companies in New York in June 1967. Ojukwu claimed the right to the royalties paid in Lagos by Shell/BP. Up until June 1967, £7 million due to Nigeria in oil royalties had not yet been paid. It was discussed that Biafra should receive 57.7 percent of the royalties and the rest be put aside until there was a political settlement. Gowon vehemently refused to pay and threatened to extend the anti-Biafra blockade to the Bonny Island oil terminal. Without respecting the agreement, Gowon’s troops launched their attack and captured the terminal at Port Bonny.

Biafra received nothing at all in promised royalties and all negotiations after this were done only with Gowon. By September 1967, the £7 million in oil royalties had been paid to Gowon because Britain fully expected that Ojukwu would be assassinated and a coup d’etat perpetrated in the next few weeks. This plot to kill Ojukwu failed, and the war became inconvenient for them but continued for another 18 months.

However, as soon as the Nigerian army took the oil terminal, the British and US oil companies arrived behind them building new oil installations as fast as they could while war was still raging a few kilometres away.

The Gowon regime represented by proxy the interests of Britain, the US and Muslim countries including Egypt whose pilots flew the Ilyushin jets provided by the USSR. The important imperialist interests at work were those of the oil companies owned by the British, Americans and French and backed by their respective governments in the way they lined up for and against Biafra.

The British Labour Prime Minister Wilson declared his support for Gowon against Biafra. Government spokesmen publicly announced in both Houses of Parliament that no military aid was going to Nigeria and that Britain’s stance was entirely neutral. Eventually, the truth came out – not only was Wilson totally supportive of Gowon’s regime, but Britain was totally up to its neck in supplying arms, personnel and support for the war against Biafra and had been in the forefront from the beginning.

Shell/BP was the biggest exploiter of Nigerian oil. This Anglo-Dutch consortium held the major concessions for oil in both the Biafran and Niger delta region where oil had more recently begun to be pumped. When Biafra was blockaded all oil ceased to flow – because the oil from outside of Biafra, from the Niger Delta’ was conveyed to Port Harcourt, now in Biafra, via a large pipeline. The US companies were also exploiting Nigerian oil but their interests were mainly in the Niger Delta region.

As to France, since all oil concessions in the Biafran region were not yet taken by super imperialists, they had been planning to expand their own concession already operating in Biafra in the name of the state-owned company ELF. Because of that they were in direct rivalry with Shell/BP and hope to gain something at their expense.

The President of France, General Charles De Gaulle kept his options open. Though he never formally recognized Biafra, he did support Biafra’s "right to self-determination" and gave aid through France’s colonized states like Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Gabon. Biafra also got support from South Africa, and Israel.

In 1970, after the genocide, a series of peace talks were held and a settlement was reached and Gowon made his famous speech that there were no victors, no vanquish in this war.
Of course, this was true. Both sides had suffered severe losses and part of the country had been devastated. But there was one victor not only in Biafraland but, also in the whole world. Imperialism had established a number of new oil terminals and ensured the stability of its oil profits thanks to Gowon.

The "unity" of Nigeria in reality disappeared because of the mistrust built up during the war and the atrocities perpetrated against Biafrans by Gowon and his imperialist backers.

Double standards

Forty-one years after Gowon committed war crimes against the children of Biafra, he is allowed to move freely both in Nigeria and overseas just because he worked for capitalists at the expense of the blood of his people. The world was happy watching the first genocide committed by Gowon and his allies, in Nsukka, Enugu, Onitsha, Asaba, Agbor, Okigwe, Owerri, Aba, Umuahia, Afikpo, Calabar, Ogoja, Awka, Abagana, Awgu,etc.

Augustus Pinochet of Chile, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Milosevic of former Yugoslavia,
Charles Taylor former President of Liberia, the warlords in the Rwandan genocide, former rebel leader of Sierra Leone, Foday Sonko, were arrested to face trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. A French court is even calling for the arrest of Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, to bring him to trial.

The world is getting legalized, so why is it that no court of law has bothered to call Gowon for questioning 41 years after the Biafran genocide? Is it because Gowon gave Nigerian resources to capitalism at the exchange of the Biafran Blood? Is Gowon above the law as an agent to the capitalist baboons? Were the lives of Biafran children massacred during the genocide of low quality compared to the life of Gowon and his capitalists backers? The money that was to pay Biafrans by the capitalists oil companies was paid to Gowon. And where is the money today ? No accountability from Gowon’s regime.

If 41 years of Biafran massacres, Gowon and his cronies have not faced trial, they should know that Ojukwu’s reason to defend Biafra was to fight against imperialism which he underestimated before declaring the republic of Biafra.

Capitalism is causing a hydra-headed menace in Biafraland and the Niger delta. Every ethnic leader in the southern Nigeria who has been arrested for their role in demanding their regional autonomy has been released by the Nigerian authorities except the MOSOB leader Chief Ralph Uwazuruike who is still languishing in prison. And he has been incarcerated for his believe in the actualization of Biafra.

I implore Biafrans, Nigerians, Africans and the world at large to learn how to use political dialogue in resolving conflicts and avoid war. Every war fought in the world is at the advantage of capitalism.

The Nigerian-Biafran war, Rwandan genocide, Liberia war, Sierra Leone war, Democratic Republic of Congo war, Ivory Coast war, Uganda war, Eritrea-Ethiopia war, Darfur conflict, Angola war, Iraqi war, Palestinian-Israeli war, Afghanistan war, India-Pakistan war, Somali war, Zimbabwe conflict, Senegal-Cassamace war, Guinea Bissau war, Chechnya- Russia war. All wars to the advantage of capitalism. Beware and be warn.

Do not say that you did not know or hear about socialism and what we do. The choice is yours. Enough is enough. We must work together irrespective of our tribe, race or religion and join hands and cast capitalism and imperialism to burn in the abyss of everlasting fire

Comrade Cebiloan HYACINT

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kenya - A view from the BBC reporter

Another reporter downplays the ethnic tribal violence in Kenya as the problem in Kenya and highlights the issue of poverty as the cause .

From this BBC article

Sadly the Western mind has been conditioned to accept a simplistic notion of what "tribal violence" really means: people driven to kill each other by irrational atavistic hatreds.
Now the expression is being used again to describe the crisis here in Kenya.
I wouldn't for a second try to deny that what happened in all the places described above involved some degree of ethnic motivation.
After witnessing at first hand the hatred of Hutu militiamen for Tutsi civilians in Rwanda I understand only too well how real or imagined ethnic difference can be whipped up by unscrupulous leaders...

...But the tribal issues are only the symptom. Go into the muddy, filthy lanes of Kibera and you find something approaching root causes.
I have spent the past few weeks warning people not to make facile comparisons with Rwanda, where up to a million people died in 100 days. That was a state-planned and executed genocide. What is happening in Kenya is nothing like that either in scale or intent.
But one thing did strike me as scarily familiar. This is a conflict in which the poor are set at one another's throats.

In Kibera it is a matter of degrees. Those who have nothing are looting those who have a little bit more.
More than 50% of the people who live in this slum are unemployed. It has a child mortality rate that is between five to seven times the national average. There are tens of thousands of AIDS orphans. And there is no proper water or sanitation or electricity. All this in a place with nearly a million people.......This population has seen successive governments rob billions from the public purse in well-documented scandal.
Add all this together and you get a sense of what might be driving the rage. It certainly isn't a simple issue of tribalism.

Ruth , a maid in Nairobi, was asked what her dream was. She didn't talk about a new president or democracy. Such things seemed abstract in her dark and claustrophobic home.
"I would love a water supply in my house," she said.
But you must know that is unlikely, I said.
Ruth laughed. "But I can pray," she replied.

The rebellion of the poor is something that's more pro-active than passively praying but still falls short of the political and class organising that is required to change prayers into social reality .

Another article from the BBC has this very telling quote abiut the clique around Kibake called the Mount Kenya Mafia [A circle of influential Kibaki friends include ex-Defence Minister Njenga Karume, Nairobi university chancellor Joe Wanjui, and big time investors Nat Kangethe, Joseph Kanyago and Nick Wanjohi. The multi-millionaires had vast business interests in commercial agriculture, real estate, tourism industry and transport industry.] :-
Political analyst Haroun Ndubi argues that their hardline political positions are intended to protect their economic gains.
"They have realised good profits during his rule and letting go to an individual they do not trust sends a chill down their spine,"

And from the streets comes this voice of resistance :-

" What frightens me is that I'll die of hunger...They have arms and are all dressed up in combat gear...All we have is stones. They have power. No-one even listens to us. My anger is really being driven by what the government is saying. They are ignoring the plight of us poor and unemployed. "

Forestry is for profits not people

Not only has the World Bank been ignoring the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo forests - the Pygmies - in its promotion of the logging industry , the World Bank has failed to demonstrate any benefits for the local inhabitants . Who says so ? The World Banks itself says so .

"Unless strong measures are taken to ensure that the benefits reach local people, the concession system will not make the expected contribution to poverty alleviation of the local people," it noted.

A report, compiled by the bank's inspection panel, followed complaints by indigenous pygmy groups that the reforms had disregarded the rights of millions of forest-dependent people and ignored the existence of between 250,000 and 600,000 pygmies whose lives depend on the forests. According to the World Bank report, the benefits from the industrial harvesting of trees, at the core of the policy and administrative reform, are not going to the people living in and around the forest. Promised benefits to the communities from the concessions such as schools, clinics and other facilities, have also not materialised. The bank's forest projects promoted the interests of asset-stripping logging companies over indigenous groups who are dependent on the forests .

"Bank forest economists admit that they cannot point to a single example of industrial logging in the tropics alleviating poverty or delivering durable economic benefit..." said Patrick Alley, Global Witness Director

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not so healthy Africa

Poverty and war are harming advances in infant mortality, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, a new Unicef report on global child health has said. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 28 of the 30 countries with the highest mortality rates.

Sierra Leone was the worst performer, with 270 deaths before the age of five per 1,000 live births, in 2006 figures. In Sierra Leone one in four children will die before their fifth birthday. In Sweden it is one in 350. In Sierra Leone one in eight mothers will die in childbirth. In Sweden 0ne in 17,400 mothers die in childbirth and one in 8,200 in the UK. Sweden has one of the best staffed health services in the world. It has 320 doctors per 100,000 people compared to two doctors per 100,000 people in Sierra Leone.

In Sub-Saharan Africa the annual average rate of reduction in the child mortality rate between 1990 and 2006 was only 1% per year - meaning the rate will have to increase to 10.5% per year between 2007 and 2015 if the region is to meet the fourth MDG.

26,000 infants under five die every day around the world. They mostly die from preventable causes such as diarrhoea, malaria, malnutrition, mother-to-child transmission of HIV, unsafe water, poor hygiene and neonatal problems.
The solutions to child deaths are well-known, says the report - "simple, reliable and affordable interventions with the potential to save two-thirds of the children currently at risk are readily available". Such interventions that have already been shown to be effective include promoting breast-feeding, immunisation, vitamin A supplementation and the use of mosquito nets.

Sierra Leone: 270
Angola: 260
Afghanistan: 257
Niger: 253
Liberia: 235

A Remarkable Doctor

Samuel Kargbo stayed in Sierra Leone throughout the horrendous civil war. He brought basic health services and vaccines to children who lived in the rebel areas. He had to negotiate his way across checkpoints and his life was frequently at risk. Now he is one of just two doctors in a region of nearly 300,000 people. Having trained in Russia, Germany and the UK, Dr Kargbo could easily get a job overseas. But he refuses to leave.
"A lot of doctors who qualify in Freetown, go abroad", he said. "Some forget that the greatest need is here".
He earns around $200 - £100 - a month.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador , the England international football player , David Beckham said: “We can’t turn a blind eye to the tens of thousands of young children who die every day in the developing world mostly from causes that are preventable...Saving these children’s lives is a top priority for UNICEF and as an Ambassador I hope I can help to draw attention to this issue across the world.”

Socialist Banner , however , knows it takes more than well-meaning words from a millionaire sports star to change things . It is socialist revolution , not press releases , that will change how people will live or die .

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Ball and Chains"

The BBC carries a report of a documentary called "Ball and Chains" on African football players in Europe and their particular exploitation .

Every year hundreds of young African players come to Europe in the hope of striking it rich, following in the footsteps of stars such as Chelsea's Didier Drogba or Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o. But for the handful who make it, far more fail. And yet they keep coming. The few successful examples are skewing the perceptions of young Africans, and in many cases encouraging them to abandon their education.

Raffaele Poli, a Swiss academic, has studied the career paths of African footballers in Europe.
He looked at 600 players who played in the top European leagues in 2002.
Four years later, only 13% had progressed upwards. A third had simply disappeared from professional football.

Many clubs have made a business out of importing cheap African talent and then selling it on to wealthier European clubs. In the global football business, though, the talent is at the mercy of unscrupulous agents and clubs. Dirk de Vos of the Belgian football players' union showed us a contract between a club and an African player.
Or rather, two contracts.
One, properly printed, gave the player the correct minimum wage and benefits, and was lodged with the football federation. The other, hand-written, showed the true salary - less than a quarter of the official figure.
"They have no choice but to sign the second contract," says de Vos.

Other players we met had simply been abandoned on the streets by their agents when they failed a trial, or had their contract terminated.

Scams and false paperwork are common. In Ghent a young Nigerian player was recruited at the age of 15. Too young to play officially, his agent had taken his passport to the Nigerian embassy in Brussels, where he had paid to have it "amended" to make him appear older.
A Cameroonian player for Bayern Munich turned out to be travelling on a passport that actually belonged to a French woman.
"You can bribe anyone," says Jean-Claude Mbvoumin a former Cameroonian international player, who now runs a support group for abandoned footballers in Paris.

"It's important to dream," says Jean-Claude Mbvoumin, "but the dreams about football now are not realistic."

The Guardian also reports soccers exploitaion of African football talent . In the slums of Jamestown, outside the Ghanaian capital, Accra , a weather-beaten billboard poster shows Michael Essien holding out a ball dotted with black stars, his country's national symbol, the Ghana and Chelsea midfielder beckons fans to 'Be Proud' . There are an estimated 500 illegal football academies operating in Accra alone. Thousands more are spread across Ghana. Many are run by the roadside; most have no proper training facilities . According to the Confederation of African Football, the sport's governing body in the continent, all such institutions must be registered with the local government or football association. The reality in Ghana and neighbouring Ivory Coast is that the greater the success of West African players in Europe, the more unaccredited academies spring up. Most demand fees from the children's parents and extended families, who often take them out of normal schooling to allow them to concentrate on football full-time. Since having a professional footballer in the family would be the financial equivalent of a lottery win, many reckon the risk to their child's education worth taking.

Coaches, as well as European and Arab middlemen, haggle over the best players, signing some as young as seven on tightly binding pre-contracts - effectively buying them from their families - with the hope of making thousands of dollars selling the boys on to clubs in Europe. In other cases, they extort the cost of passage from their families. Many take the deeds on houses and even family jewellery in return for their services. This process of exploitation is raising alarm among West Africa-based NGOs including Save the Children and Caritas.

Tony Baffoe, the former Ghana captain, now an ambassador for this year's African Nations Cup, admits that 'the trafficking of children to play football is a reality we must all face'

In West Africa serious money is being invested by European giants such as the Dutch clubs Ajax and Feyenoord, who both operate academies in Ghana. Just one top-class player every five years would cover the running costs of these accredited academies . French clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco also maintain scouting networks in the region. Manchester United have bought a controlling interest in Fortune FC, a South African second-division side.

The exploitation of young footballers has even been called a new 'slave trade' and is leaving a tragic legacy of homeless young footballing hopefuls across Europe.

'This football-related trafficking and the widespread creation of so-called schools of excellence is an area of huge growing concern for Save The Children,' says Heather Kerr, the charity's Ivory Coast country manager.

Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa, football's world governing body, accused Europe's richest clubs of 'despicable' behaviour and engaging in 'social and economic rape' as they scour the developing world for talent.

Marie-George Buffet, a former French Sports Minister, recently claimed that many French-run academies, both in France and in Africa, were corrupt and run by unlicensed agents who needed controlling.

Professor Pierre Lanfranchi, an expert in the development of football worldwide and a consultant to Fifa. He says corruption in Africa, with poorly run national governing bodies, makes it easy for European clubs to cherry-pick the best young players and that there are no foundations to the professional game in Africa

Culture Foot Solidaire is a charity set up to help African teenagers trafficked or sent to Europe for football trials, then abandoned. Jean-Claude Mbvoumin, the president of the charity said:-
"One-month visas are easy to get with bribes in Africa, but after they fail their trials they stay on. They have nothing to go back to. These kids are as young as 14, they end up on the streets, worse off and in more danger than they could ever be at home." There is now a huge business to be made from football, says Mbvoumin, and it feeds on people's dreams of a better life for their family. "...vulnerable people are lured into a kind of debt slavery in the expectation of a better life. These brokers are getting $3,000 per child and offering to smuggle them out on the promise that they will sign for a big club. So many boys have gone missing in this way... "

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Health Brain Drain

Many African countries now have more doctors and nurses working in richer countries abroad than they have at home . The study, carried out by the Center for Global Development in Washington, looked at census records collected between 1999 and 2001. It examined nine receiving countries: The UK, the US, France, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and South Africa.

Several countries, including Mozambique and Angola, have more doctors in one single foreign country than at home. And for every doctor in Liberia, there are two working abroad.

The loss of doctors often went hand-in-hand with civil strife, political instability and economic stagnation. Angola, Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda and Sierra Leone all experienced civil war in the 1990s and all had lost 40% of their doctors by 2000.
Countries such as Kenya which experienced economic stagnation in the late 20th Century and Zimbabwe, which saw political repression as well as economic problems, saw more than half of their doctors leave.

At the same time countries with greater stability and prosperity, such as Botswana managed to keep many of their doctors .

But so did very poor countries such as Niger .The researchers speculated this could be to do with destitute countries not producing large numbers of would-be doctors with the financial capital or connections to leave.

UK Home Office figures show that 17,620 African doctors and nurses joined the NHS last year.

The charity ActionAid said the brain drain was "a huge threat" to Africa.

"One of the best way to keep healthcare professionals in the countries that need them is to pay them properly - but currently health systems in many African countries are woefully underfunded," said Nick Corby, policy officer at the charity.

Mozambique - 75%
Angola - 70%
Ghana - 56%
Kenya - 51%
Rwanda - 43%
Sudan - 13%
Niger - 9%

Kenya - Poverty is the cause not tribalism

Much of the popular media when debating the present Kenyan crisis has been concentrating its focus on the issue of tribalism . But just as Socialist Banner has previously mentioned , this report claims analysts point to basic economics as the true cause of the unrest.

“In the urban areas, there was a lot of senseless burning and looting, which was people taking out their economic grievances during a leadership vacuum. They just let loose and attacked any targets, burning their neighbours’ houses, regardless of whether they are Party of National Unity, Kibaki’s party or Orange Democratic Movement, the opposition,” Macharia Gaitho, a political columnist, told IRIN.

The tensions that led to such clashes were not the result of ethnicity per se, but, according to an editorial in the Sunday Nation newspaper, an almost inevitable consequence of the country’s economic system:

“Kenya practises a brutal, inhuman brand of capitalism that encourages a fierce competition for survival, wealth and power. Those who can’t compete successfully are allowed to live like animals in slums.”

In Nairobi, more than 60 percent of the population live in slums, some of which lie a stone’s throw away from the city’s most luxurious houses. According to a report (Pulling Apart: Facts and Figures on Inequality in Kenya) by the Nairobi-based Society for International Development , Kenya is the 10th most unequal country in the world in terms of wealth disparities. Of Africa’s 54 states, it is the fifth most unequal. The 2004 report, using UN Development Programme figures, states that Kenya’s richest earn 56 times more than its poorest: the top 10 percent of the population controls 42 percent of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 10 percent own 0.76 percent.

Inequality pervades every aspect of Kenyans’ lives, according to the report, citing enormous disparities – both in the capital and at national level - in almost every sphere of life: income; access to education, water and health; life expectancy; and prevalence of HIV/AIDS. A person born in the western Nyanza province, the bedrock of ODM support, can expect to die 16 years younger than a fellow citizen in Central province, Kibaki’s home turf. Child immunisation rates in Nyanza are less than half those in Central. Another impoverished region is North Eastern province. While almost every child in Central attends primary school, only one in three does in North Eastern. More than nine out of very 10 women in North Eastern have no education at all. In Central, the proportion is less than 3 percent. In these two provinces, there is one doctor for 120,000 and 20,000 respectively.

In 2007, economic growth reached 5.5 percent and before the elections was predicted to hit 7 percent in 2008. This growth has been concentrated in the service sector, with banks, tourism and communications companies making big profits. Prices of shares and property have also soared. But rather than trickling down to the worst off, this boom appears to have been very selective in its beneficiaries while the poor have seen the purchasing power of their shilling shrink.
“we used to buy sugar for 45 shillings”, Agnes Naliaka, a long-term resident of Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, told IRIN. “Now it’s 65 shillings. A kilo of cooking fat was 50 shillings. Now it’s over 100 shillings,” she said, adding that rents in the slum had doubled over the past five years.

"When a poor economy starts to grow very fast like Kenya did, levels of inequality rise .You need assets and property rights to participate in economic production and exchange. Only a few have assets, are educated, able to save and invest, to take advantage of the high growth rates of the last few years. Those who have, get more. Those who do not, lose the little they have,” MJ Gitau, a Society for International Development programme officer and contributor to the inequality report, told IRIN.

Ethnicity came into play during the election violence because of the widespread perception that those who fared best under Kibaki were his own Kikuyu group, the country’s largest, which dominated politics and the economy both under his administration and that of founding president Jomo Kenyatta.
“People reacted like they did because they were hoping for change after the 2002 election. Kibaki came and promised many things which he didn’t do,” said Agnes of Kawangware slum.

Kenya’s youth in particular, who make up a majority of the population - and of those who rioted - feel the most let down. Improved education gave them hope of a better life than their parents’, hope that was dashed, according to Kwamchetsi Makokha of Nairobi-based communications consultancy Form and Content.
"... A lot of young people who got a bit of education could not see themselves working for pittances as farm labourers. They started drifting to the cities where the opportunities are not enough to accommodate all of them. You have this massive influx of people who just can’t find work,” he told IRIN and added , "The common Kenyan citizen who does not have money or property does not have a say in how Kenya is organised. They never have. It’s always been about what car you drive, where you live, and then you have more rights than other people.”

The explosion of anger and violence Kenya has witnessed over the past week will have served as a wake-up call to all Kenyans that the yawning gap between the middle class and the poor is a powder keg just waiting to explode .

“Under colonialism, it was almost a slave labour system which grew up in the early days of the coffee estates. After independence , the white master was simply replaced by the black master..."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mozambique , will the oil curse strike again ?

I read here

The rights to Mozambique's minerals, including heavy metals, coal, natural gas and possible oil reserves have been auctioned off to multinational companies at a rapid rate in recent years.
In the past five years alone, South African company Sasol has begun exporting natural gas from Inhambane Province; Kenmare, the Ireland-based firm and South African company Corridor Sands are mining titanium deposits in Gaza Province, about 200km north of the capital, Maputo, and an array of companies from the United States, Brazil, Canada, Norway, Italy and Malaysia are prospecting for oil reserves .
According to estimates by the government's Ministry of Planning and Development, even small reserves of oil would increase total annual exports from US$6.5 billion to more than US$10 billion by 2020; if the finds are more extensive, total export values of US$60 billion annually are being predicted.

A study, "Exploring Natural Resources in Mozambique: Will it be a blessing or a curse?", released in June 2007 by the planning and development ministry, summarised concerns using data from other countries rich in mineral resources. It found that, on average, the relationship between natural resource wealth and GDP growth was negative. It also determined that natural resource wealth has no demonstrable relationship to a population's overall wellbeing as measured by the United Nation's Human Development Index . Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan vast oil reserves have failed to improve the livelihoods of the majority of the inhabitants. Known as the "natural resource curse", the negative effects of mineral wealth on a country's population are legion: it can inflate the local currency, making other enterprises less competitive in the international market; fluctuations in the price of oil, gas and minerals create a volatile exchange rate that often discourages foreign direct investment; mineral revenue windfalls also have a tendency to encourage poor government policy and increase foreign debt.
Socialist Banner has previously reported the "Oil Curse" here and we are not surprised by this report's findings .

"Resource revenues may contribute to myopic behaviour and irrational expectations on the side of the government, leading to accumulation of debt with resource stocks as collateral," the study noted.

Academic NuSpeak for capitalist greed and corruption .

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Kenyans Suffer for Politician Power

As stated in the previous post it is the poor that are paying the price of the politicians power struggles .

In Kenya At least 250,000 people have been displaced by the violence that followed the presidential elections, and half a million are in desperate need of aid. The majority of the city’s inhabitants live in its sprawling slums and it is this impoverished population, together with tens of thousands of displaced people in western Kenya, that has borne the brunt of the violence and disruption unleashed in the wake of the 27 December presidential and parliamentary elections.

“The most immediate need is food. Even those with money can’t buy it because all the stalls are closed or burnt,” Ingrid Munro, the managing trustee of JamiiBora Trust said

Another aid worker with many years’ experience in Kenya who asked not to be named, estimated the number of “desperate” slum-dwellers in Nairobi at hundreds of thousands. “It’s not only food they need, but also shelter and clothes.” Before this crisis, “they got by thanks to casual work and social programmes. These are not operating now,” he said, warning that unless food was supplied very soon, a major law and order problem would arise. “When people get desperate, they’ll do anything. There are plenty of people ready to sell weapons,” he said.

And with so many people hungry in so many different parts of the city, taking a truckload of food into, say, Kibera, would very likely cause a riot. Simply delivering large quantities of food in the middle of slums such as Kibera, Mathare, Kangemi or Karangware was not an option. Access remains problematic because of insecurity. UN personnel are required to comply with security procedures which complicate and in some cases prevent their entering the slums.
“You can’t give people two months’ worth of food in such places. They will have nowhere to store it and it’s likely to get looted,” according to Michael Morrison, emergency relief coordinator and programme manager with Feed the Children (Before the current crisis, FTC fed some 120,000 children through schools, a programme that is now suspended.)

Most health centres in the slums are closed. As well as offering primary health care, such centres also distribute antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for people living with HIV as well as medication for those with tuberculosis. If health centres remain closed for much longer, some of these patients may default, or interrupt their treatment. Even if clinics reopen soon, there is concern for those who are displaced or belong to an ethnic group whose members are afraid to be seen moving around. Many of the doctors working in Nairobi’s main hospitals who left the city for Christmas holidays have been unable to return to the capital.

Horace Campbell , Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University , writes:-
At independence in December 1963, Britain handed over power to people who, in essence, agreed to act as junior partners with British capitalism in Eastern and Central Africa. This partnership included an acceptance by the ruling class in Kenya of the western European forms of land ownership that stated that Africans had to be modernized from their “tribal” and “backward” ways. For forty years, Kenya was presented as a success story where a parasitic middle class and a thriving Nairobi Stock Exchange (composed of foreign capital) sought to prove that capitalism could take root in Africa...
...A Revolutionary situation without revolutionary ideas and real revolutionaries...the poorer youths are being mobilized into counter-revolutionary violence where poor and oppressed people burn and kill each other...
...The prospect of real class warfare in Kenya frightens both the government and the opposition so there is a delicate effort to manage the crisis so that the forms of capital accumulation can return to the business pages rather than the front pages...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Zambian Polluters

At least 13 people in northern Zambia have been admitted to hospital after drinking water alleged to have been contaminated by a nearby mine . Those admitted to hospital in Mufulira were suffering from abdominal pains and vomiting .

Officials from Mufulira, who visited the site, claim acidic effluents from Mopani Copper Mines accidentally entered the water supply on Wednesday. Mufulira residents, who number about 800,000, are afraid to drink tap water. They are collecting water from shallow wells or nearby streams. Farmers fear their crops planted near the Kafue River will be affected. There was a near riot in Mufulira yesterday following water contamination , some people had mobilised themselves and attempted to march to the civic centre and Mulonga Water and Sewerage Company offices, but police were deployed in strategic areas .

This , of course is no isolated incident . Mr Mwandila , Mufulira Town Clerk , said this is the second incident experienced in Mufulira, with the first one having happened in 2005. A similar water contamination affected nearby Chingola in 2006. Also a US-based environmental charity , The Blacksmith Institute has stated that the Kabwe in Zambia, site for mining and smelting of metals was one of the most polluted regions in the world . The pressure group War on Want has also in the past accused the Konkola Copper Mines of negligence leading to toxic leaks.

As per usual , workers health is never a priority when it comes to prevention of pollution or profits .

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The problem is not sin


As we celebrate the festive season, we should remember that there are many people dying out there of curable diseases, starvation, in war, road accidents and just sheer poverty. Christmas is for those wishing to escape the rat race of capitalism for only a few days.

Our problems don’t originate from ‘original sin’ as Christians are taught. Today’s problems are rooted only in property relations and in the method of production and distribution of the earth’s wealth which at the moment is based on sale and profit.

Change this method to production and distribution for human satisfaction and the problem will disappear. We should work for a better world where each individual contributes to society according to their abilities and take from it according to their self-determined needs.

Justus Tukwasiibwe

Comments on Kenya

As usual , it is the workers that are being used as pawns in the political battle of the elites .

The wave of post-election violence in Kenya is hurting mainly the poor rather than the politicians who caused it but who are safe inside their gated compounds, an Italian slum priest said. Father Daniel Moschetti has worked for 15 years in Nairobi's Korogocho shanty-town.

"This is a war of the poor. The slum residents are suffering," he said. "We have no food, no water. We have no communication with the outside world, whilst politicians are creating the conditions for civil war."

"Kenyans have shown a much greater maturity than politicians, but it is the politicians living in their secure compounds who are inciting ethnic hatred," Moschetti said. "The future of this country is in the hands of people who have no wisdom. They are blinded by pride and cannot see their people dying."

The death toll from ethnic riots triggered by President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election approached 250 .

The Times explains that every election since multiparty politics was reintroduced in 1991 has involved rigging. So far the margin of victory has always been so great that Western diplomats - keen to maintain “stability” - could claim that the cheating would not have made a difference to the result. “Voting broadly reflected the will of the people” was their duplicitous phrase that allowed the ruling elite to play their quinquennial charade. Now the margin of victory is too thin. The cheating did make a difference and Raila Odinga, the leader of the main opposition party that has won the largest number of seats in parliament and six out of eight provinces, is not going to accept defeat.

Kenyan politics are more than a lucrative game of musical chairs for the elite. They are the most vicious and tribalised on the continent. Politicians often address their own people in coded language. “It is our turn to eat!” is a phrase they often use. It means that it is the turn of our ethnic group to rule — and loot as much as we can.

“This tribalism was started by Jomo Kenyatta, perfected by Moi and super-perfected by Kibaki,” said Elvis, a young accountant living in Kibera. He refused to give his surname as it would reveal his tribe , one of 42 different ethnic tribes

Intense internal and international pressure forced Mr Kibaki to appoint John Githongo, a former journalist and corruption campaigner, as anti-corruption czar. Mr Githongo commissioned Kroll, a private security firm, to trace, freeze and return the money lodged in accounts all over the world. but once these details became available to senior figures in Kibaki's Government, the second and third stages of the process, freezing and recovery, were abandoned. Mr Githongo fled for his life and, even in a British haven, was given an armed bodyguard. The Kenyan elite have a history of killing people who ask questions about corruption.

The Financial Times comments as western leaders scramble to prevent Kenya’s descent into chaos they should find time to consider their own failure to respond to a crisis that has been long in the making. For the first time in Africa’s post-independence history, an insider was ready to reveal how corruption worked – with evidence that included secretly taped conversations with cabinet ministers. Britain and other aid donors were given an opportunity to tackle corruption, using as leverage aid that exceeds $16billion since independence in 1963. Britain chose not to act on Mr Githongo’s evidence. Instead, it has been business as usual. They did not believe it was ultimately in their interests to have a showdown with the barons of corruption. They did not want to upset what they saw as a regional “island of stability” from which the UN and other international relief agencies, including hundreds of foreign non-governmental organisations, operate – a thriving business that accounts for a fifth of Kenya’s annual foreign exchange earnings.

If aid has worked in Kenya, how do development agencies explain the growing pauperisation of its people? In 1990 about 48 per cent of the population was living below the poverty line. Today, more than four decades after independence, nearly 55 per cent of Kenyans are subsisting on a couple of dollars a day. And for all the 6 per cent annual gross domestic product growth achieved in the past two years under Mr Kibaki, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening. To see the crisis only in terms of tribal allegiances and ethnic clashes is to miss a vital element in the Kenyan picture. The population has doubled in 25 years to 31million Unemployment is growing, and the number without land is growing.

For these people there is nothing to lose by taking to the streets, driven by frustration and fury that transcend their tribe.

Kenya is paying a terrible price for the tolerance of its corrupt government by its western partners.

If history is anything to go by the only ones who get to “eat” are the rich and well-connected. The poor, whether Kikuyu, Kalenjin or Luo, remain poor.