Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Limousine luxury in Africa

 Porsches, Range Rovers and even Maseratis are no strange sight weaving through the old bangers that rumble along Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, another indication of the wealthy class in Africa.

Each of the vehicles costs at least tens of thousands of euros, representing decades of work for an Ivorian earning the minimum wage, even after it was recently hiked 60 percent to 60,000 CFA francs a month. That’s around $125 a month or an annual salary of $1,500. In Ivory Coast, luxury cars make up only 3 percent of the 8,000 new cars sold each year, said one industry expert who asked to remain anonymous.

“However certain customers are looking for the top of the line — “bling-bling” cars — there are people with money like that in the market,” he added.

In Johannesburg, Lagos, or even Libreville wealthy Africans love the big, high, four-wheel drive SUV vehicles. Not only are they better adapted to the roads, regularly in a poor condition, they have also become something of a status symbol.

In Gabon, 70 percent of the 6,000 new vehicles sold each year are big 4x4s, mostly Japanese models, according to the Gabonese Federation of Car Importers. “Here, its a 4×4 or nothing,” said one car importer who declined to give his name. For the Gabonese, the SUV has become “the symbol of success, much more than a house”.

This brash display of luxury cars is an indication of the growing wealth in Africa despite increasing numbers living in extreme poverty. Porsche boasts a brand new showroom in Victoria Island, one of Lagos’ most chic neighborhoods. The German carmaker’s sales have jumped by nearly 40 percent the past two years in South Africa. It has recently set up shop in Angola and Ghana. Local partners are being sought for dealerships in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia.

Mercedes also views the potential of the African market as “enormous”. The German carmaker has an assembly line in South Africa, where it sells 20,000 vehicles per year.

BMW said it also intends to keep expanding across Africa, where it saw 15 percent sales growth in 2012 to 34,000 vehicles.

Audi expects further growth in certain parts of Africa, where its sales have doubled in three years to 22,000 vehicles.

Taken from here 

The Problems of the the Pygmies

 Essomba Dominique, a Baka man from Mindourou in Cameroon’s East Region, sits dulled-eyed in front of his hut, known in the Baka language as the ‘mongoulou’. A wood-transporting truck rumbles by, raising billows of dust in its wake. As he watches his seven children play in the courtyard, Essomba’s mind seems consumed with questions about their future.
“These passing trucks mean these children are going to suffer,” he tells IPS. In the distance, sawmills are busy, and bulldozers as well, opening up access roads to logging and mining sites.“Just look at the way they are destroying this forest,” Essomba says.

For the Baka, the forest represents the beginning and the end of life.

The chief of the Baka village of Mayos in the country’s East Region, Clement Nzito, tells IPS that “the forest is our pharmacy, our food market, our source of oxygen and the cradle of the one who guides us all, the Supreme God which we call ‘Jengi’.”

Samuel Nnah Ndobe, who directs Pygmy programmes for the Yaoundé-based non-governmental Centre for Environment and Development (CED), recalls that in 1994, Cameroon passed forestry laws “that had the effect of forcing the Baka from primary forests, and these were turned into national parks where they are not allowed to hunt.”

The Baka are allowed to hunt in secondary forests, “but that precisely is where timber companies are also allowed free rein to log, and that’s destroying the forests,” Ndobe says. He regrets that the fauna-rich parts of the forests where the Baka used to hunt game have now been protected and guarded. “Logging areas are also guarded, and the Pygmies are now found on the fringes,” he says.

Xenophobic tendencies among Bantu neighbours also keep the Bakas on the fringes.

“Bantu consider Baka as sub-human. They claim Baka kids stink in class,” Alexis Tadokem, head teacher of a government primary school in Ntam Carrefour, a village on Cameroon’s borders with Congo Brazzaville, tells IPS. “Baka are used as servants to Bantu. They are tortured and sometimes killed in the forest by the Bantu,” he says.

“When our children go to school, they are beaten by the Bantus,” confirms Yana Nicolas, a Baka man in Moloundou.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Nigerian Fact of the Day

5 per cent of the country's population, consume more than 40 per cent of the nation's total income.


A Green Zambia?

According to a December 2012 International Food Policy Research Institute report on climate change in Zambia, agriculture accounts for about 20 percent of this southern African nation’s GDP, with jobs in the sector accounting for 71.6 percent of employment here. Maize is the country’s staple crop.

Joseph K. Kanyanga, chief meteorologist at the Zambia Meteorological Department, tells IPS that weather patterns in Zambia have changed.
“Temperatures nowadays are higher than the 1950s; both maximum and minimum temperatures are showing a warming trend. As for rainfall, though there is uncertainty. There is an evident shift in the onset and end of the rainy season. The start of the rainy season shows the pronounced shift; at times starting as late as mid-December for most parts of Zambia,” Kanyanga says.

The Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU), which has over 15,000 members, is worried about the changing climate.
"Yes, we have received reports about the erratic rainfall from both commercial and small-scale farmers. Right now, farmers in Kabwe [the capital of Central Province and Zambia’s second-largest city] are still holding on to their seeds. They are scared of planting because of the [erratic] rains. This is alarming: it will cause food insecurity due to crop failure because we are talking about predominantly rain-fed agriculture practiced mostly by small-scale farmers who make up more than 80 percent of farmers in Zambia,” Sishekana Makweti, the ZNFU manager for gender, environment and forestry, tells IPS.

. Zambia, however, has no national climate change policy but there are currently parliamentary consultations for the formulation of one.

Robert Chimambo, an environmental advocate and a board member of the Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN), an umbrella body of environmental civil society organisations, feels that the government needs to do more to manage the country’s water resources.

“Forests play a critical role in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. Deforestation is contributing a lot to variability in rainfall patterns. You know trees help in seeping surface runoff water and recharging our underground water. Forests also help in rain formation through transpiration. Therefore, you can’t effectively manage your water resources without conserving your forests,” he tells IPS.

He was referring to the fact the site for the Lusaka South Multi Facility Economic Zone (MFEZ), a government-driven project to promote foreign and domestic investment, lies within a former forest reserve known as Forest 26, which is located southwest of Lusaka.

Chimambo says that in the past, the forests reserves around Lusaka were protected by law and industries had previously not been allowed to operate within them.

“Sadly, the proposed location of the Multi Facility Economic Zone in Forest Reserve 26 will mean the destruction and degradation of the forest, which is right on top of the Lusaka aquifer. This would also mean poisoning the rivers and the ground water. How do you adapt to climate change and manage your water resources when such things are taking place?” Chimambo says.

According to a joint Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and Zambian government report, the country’s forests cover 66 percent of the total landmass, though only 9.6 percent of these forests are protected.

“Currently, 65 percent of Zambia’s population is in rural areas, their livelihoods essentially tied to the land and forests. Increased demand for food, wood energy, and other environmental services [to cater for the growing population] has contributed to decrease in forest areas. Between 1990 and 2010, the Forestry Department lost 126,912 hectares through degazettions [legal reclassification], but not a single hectare was added to the protected forests as new reservations over the same period,” the report states.

Why does climate change occur? A small amount is due to ignorance or miscalculation. A small amount is unavoidable given present technology and population. But the greatest cause is due to the economic system. Global warming takes place  because it is in business economic interests to do so.

We live in a world which has the potential to adequately feed, house and provide clean water and decent medical care for every single man, woman and child on Earth. The resources exist to banish material want as a problem for members of the human race. Yet millions throughout the world are malnourished, live in squalor or are actually dying of starvation or starvation-related diseases. The big question that faces the human race is what can be done about it?

The things that are desperately needed –food, clean water, housing, sanitation, transport, medical services and so on, can only be provided by useful labour, of which there is an abundance throughout the world. Finance is part of a system which operates as a barrier to useful labour producing what people need. Useful production must be freed from the constraints of profit and class interest. Only useful labour applied through world cooperation once the Earth’s resources have become the common heritage of all can solve the problems of world poverty.

World socialism could stop the dying from hunger immediately, and provide the conditions for good health and material security for all people across the Earth within a short time. It would do this by producing goods and services directly for need.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


The following was written in 1935 by the noted humorist for The New Yorker S.J. Perelman (who also wrote scripts for the Marx Brothers, like "Horse Feathers" and "Monkey Business".) An almost forgotten gem of Perelman's is an appropriate way to mark the annual celebrations of the birth of the foot-fetishist from Nazareth. 

And a merry Bah! Humbug! to you all, with best wishes for the new year.

(With a Bow to Mr. Clifford Odets)

SCENE: The sweatshop of S. Claus, a manufacturer of children's toys,
on North Pole Street. Time: The night before Christmas. At rise, seven gnomes, Rankin, Panken, Rivkin, Riskin, Ruskin,Briskin, and Praskin, are discovered working furiously to fill orders piling up at stage right. The whir of lathes, the hum of motors,and the hiss of drying lacquer are so deafening that at times the dialogue cannot beheard, which is very vexing if you vex easily.

Note: the parts of Rankin, Panken, Rivkin, Riskin, Ruskin, Briskin, and Praskin are interchangeable, and may be secured directly from your dealer or the factory.

RISKIN (filing a Meccano girder, bitterly): A parasite, a leech, a blood-sucker--altogether a five-star nogoodnick!
Starvation wages we get so he can ride around in red team with reindeers!

RUSKIN (jeering): Hey, Karl Marx, whyn'tcha hire a hall?

RISKIN (sneering): Scab! Stool pigeon! Company spy!

(They tangle and rain blows on each other. While waiting for these to dry, each
returns to his respective task.)

BRISKIN (sadly, to Panken): All day long I'm painting "Snow Queen" on these Flexible Flyers and my little Irving lays in a cold tenement with the gout.

PANKEN: You said before it was the mumps.

BRISKIN (with a fatalistic shrug): The mumps--the gout--go argue with City Hall.

PANKEN (kindly, passing him a bowl): Here, take a piece fruit.

BRISKIN (chewing): It ain't bad, for wax fruit.

PANKEN (with pride): I painted it myself.

BRISKIN (rejecting the fruit): Ptoo! Slave psychology!

RIVKIN (suddenly, half to himself, half to the Party)
:I got a belly full of stars, baby. You make me feel like I swallowed a Roman candle.

PRASKIN (curiously): What's with the kid?

RISKIN: What's wrong with all of us? The system! Two years he and Claus's daughter's been making googoo eyes behind the old man's back.

PRASKIN: So what?

RISKIN (scornfully): So what? Economic determinism!
What do you think the kid's name is--J. Pierpont Rivkin? He ain't even got for a bottle Dr. Brown's Celery Tonic. I tell you, it's like gall in my mouth two young people shouldn't have a room where they could make great music.

RANKIN (warningly): Shhh! Here she comes now!

(Stella Claus enters,carrying a portable phonograph. She and Rivkin embrace, place a record on the turntable, and begin a very slow waltz,unmindful that the phonograph is playing "Cohen on the Telephone.")

STELLA (dreamily): Love me, sugar?

RIVKIN: I can't sleep, I can't eat, that's how I love you. You're a double malted with two scoops of whipped cream; you're the moon rising over Mosholu Parkway; you're a two weeks' vacation at Camp Nitgedaiget! I'd pull down the Chrysler Building to
make a bobbie pin for your hair!

STELLA: I've got a stomach full of anguish. Oh, Rivvy,what'll we do?

PANKEN (sympathetically): Here, try a piece fruit.

RIVKIN (fiercely): Wax fruit--that's been my whole life! Imitations! Substitutes! Well, I'm through! Stella, tonight I'm telling your old man. He can't play mumblety-peg with two human beings!

(The tinkle of sleigh bells is heard offstage, followed by a voice shouting Whoa,Dasher! Whoa, Dancer!" A moment later S. Claus enters in a gust of mock snow. He is a pompous bourgeois of sixty-five who affects a white beard and a false air of benevolence. But tonight the ruddy color is missing from his cheeks, his step falters, and he moves heavily. The gnomes hastily replace the marzipan they
have been filching.)

STELLA (anxiously): Papa! What did the specialist say to you?

CLAUS (brokenly): The biggest professor in the country... the best cardiac man that money could buy... I tell you I was like a wild man.

STELLA: Pull yourself together, Sam!

CLAUS: It's no use. Adhesions, diabetes, sleeping sickness,decalcomania--oh, my God! I got to cut out climbing in chimneys, he says--me, Sanford Claus, the biggest toy concern in the world!

STELLA (soothingly): After all, it's only one man's opinion.

CLAUS: No, no, he cooked my goose. I'm like a broken uke after a Yosian picnic. Rivkin!

RIVKIN: Yes, Sam.

CLAUS: My boy, I've had my eye on you for a long time.
You and Stella thought you were too foxy for an old man, didn't you?
Well, let bygones be bygones. Stella, do you love this gnome?

STELLA (simply): He's the whole stage show at the Music Hall, Papa; he's Toscanini conducting Beethoven's Fifth; he's--

CLAUS (curtly): Enough already. Take him. From now on he's a partner in the firm. (As all exclaim, Claus holds up his hand for silence.)

And tonight he can take my route and make the deliveries. It's the least I could do for my own flesh and blood. (As the happy couple kiss, Claus wipes away a suspicious moisture and turns to the other gnomes.) Boys, do you know what day tomorrow is?

GNOMES (crowding around expectantly) Christmas!

CLAUS: Correct. When you look in your envelopes tonight, you'll find a little present from me--a forty per cent pay cut.And the first one who opens his trap--gets this. (As he holds up a tear-gas bomb and beams at them, the gnomes utter cries of joy, join hands, and dance around him shouting exultantly. All except Riskin and Briskin, that is, who exchange a quick glance and go underground.)


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Oil - there are no jobs

Oxford University Professor Paul Collier has said those clamouring for jobs from the nascent oil and gas sector in Uganda should not get their hopes too high, and should start looking elsewhere.Collier, also co-director of Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), said oil could never be a solution to the bulging unemployment levels. Some estimates suggest that up to 62 per cent of the youths in Uganda are unemployed.

"Oil is an overly capital-intensive sector. There are no jobs," said Collier.

Fact of the Day

In 2008, Global Financial Integrity, a non-profit organisation based in Washington, D.C., United States, issued a report detailing the magnitude of the problem of illicit financial outflows from Africa. According to the report, an estimated 854 billion dollars was siphoned illegally out of the continent in the 39-year period from 1970 through 2008; that is, an average of 22 billion dollars annually. This was a conservative figure, because it did not include, according to the report, “the proceeds of smuggling.”

The lion’s share of such illicit flows comprised, not the proceeds of corruption, as might be expected, but “the proceeds of commercial tax evasion” by transnational corporations doing business in African countries.


Monday, December 23, 2013

The Dozos of Cote d'Ivorie

 In Cote d’Ivoire, traditional hunters known as dozos are accused of human rights abuses and extortion. But in several areas, they also remain the sole guarantor of local safety.

“They are there for our protection, they say. But they are mostly there to pick up the pennies we can spare them.” Marie Doh claims that she is not “that much” afraid of them, but still gives them 100 CFA (about 20 cents) “several times” a month.

Dozos are a traditional hunter brotherhood that has existed in several West African countries for centuries. They recruit beyond ethnic and religious lines, although most are Malinke and Muslim.

“It is a not a job we have chosen. It is a duty,” says Dembele Balla, Duékoué’s dozo chief. “I am a dozo since I was a little kid. I was initiated the traditional way.”

Each dozo must pass through a ritual initiation. They are believed to have mystic powers derived from amulets. Since the 2010-11 post-electoral crisis, dozos have informally contributed to military operations to secure the area. The chief says there are now 2,300 dozos in the Duékoué region.

Dozos are not a neutral self-defence group in this region plagued with ethnic tensions. Ivory Coast’s cocoa sector under President Felix Houphouet Boigny – who used to say the land belongs to whoever cultivates it – has attracted Ivoirians from other regions, known as allogenes, as well as foreign workers. This led to several clashes in the last decade with native Guerzes, who say they own the land, and migrants who often have paid for the land but have no clear property titles. In this context, dozos are perceived to protect foreigners and allogenes against disenfranchised, unemployed Guerze youth, who claim their ancestors’ land, and pro-Gbagbo militias who had terrorised the local population.

Farmer Yacouba Dosso warmly greets Fofana. “We are happy with dozos patrolling. They are our sole protectors,” says the cocoa grower. He explains that there are many robbers, especially during the cocoa harvests as planters come back home with huge sums of money that can reach one million CFAS (around 2,000 dollars). Police and military do not patrol the area.

Eugene Nindorera, head of the human rights division at ONUCI, explains. “There are true and fake dozos. There are people dressing up like dozos and taking up a rifle, with values that are not traditional dozo values.”

The government has adopted measures to demobilise and disarm dozos, as well as to redeploy security forces in the region. But the U.N. representative is sceptical.

“There is a gap between what is said and what is done. It is a question of political will. The government wants now to demobilise dozos, but it still not has enough policemen and military to do so,”

A report published by the U.N. mission in Cote d’Ivoire, UNOCI, claims that at least 228 people have been killed, 164 injured and 162 illegally arrested and detained by dozos in several regions of the country between March 2009 and May 2013. It says that 274 confirmed cases of looting, fire and extortion have been committed by dozos. On Jul. 20, 2012, an angry mob estimated at 1000-strong, allegedly led by dozos and members of the national army, attacked the camp. Among the 2,500 inhabitants, mostly ethnic Gueres and supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo, at least 14 were killed and hundreds more injured.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Return of the Migrants

 The return of 120,000 young undocumented migrant workers from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia has sparked fears that the influx will worsen the country’s high youth unemployment and put pressure on access to increasingly scarce land. As a result, a growing number of young Ethiopians are choosing to migrate to Sudan to circumvent an indefinite travel ban slapped by the Ethiopian government last month on Ethiopian workers traveling to Middle Eastern countries.

A large number of Ethiopians migrate every year in search of brighter economic prospects, with the Middle East being the dominant destination. Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on undocumented foreign workers began after a seven-month amnesty period expired on Nov. 3. Since then, 120,000 Ethiopian migrants have been repatriated to Ethiopia after being corralled in a deportation camp for two months, where conditions are reportedly abject. Many Ethiopians have reported human rights violations at the hands of their employers as well as while under the control of security forces inside the camps.

A 23-year-old woman who had just arrived in Ethiopia after working as a domestic in Riyadh for two years. Her account is similar to many other experiences narrated by returnees. “My employer would sexually abuse me and beat me. I was forced to work seven days a week, 20 hours a day. I was not allowed to leave the house. It was hell,” she said. “They did not pay me for one year even though I worked also for their relatives. I am so tired and so sad. But I am so happy to be back in Ethiopia,” she told IPS.

Despite the many terrible experiences recounted by Ethiopian returnees, poverty and limited economic prospects will continue to force Ethiopian workers to migrate to countries like Sudan and overseas, says the International Labour Organisation.

 “After the ban, people will try any means possible to work abroad due to a lack of employment opportunities in their home country,” George Okutho, director of the ILO Country Office for Ethiopia and Somalia, told IPS. “These returnees travelled to Saudi Arabia looking for economic opportunities with a greener pasture mindset in the hope that they could send their family remittances to raise living standards at home. However, most of the time migrant workers are acting on misinformation about the prospects and country of destination,” he said. A lack of education and skills make Ethiopian migrants especially vulnerable to working in dangerous and exploitative working conditions, both at home and abroad, said Okutho. “The problem is many of Ethiopia’s migrant workers are uneducated and ill-eqipped even for the domestic work they seek outside the country,” he said. “The result is that even if they go to the Middle East or Sudan, they can earn a little more than when at home, but because they are untrained they end up working in very extreme and difficult circumstances without knowing their rights. “

 Dina Mufti, foreign affairs spokesperson, told IPS, “The number of Ethiopians working illegally is much higher than we anticipated. The Ethiopian government recognises that these people will need employment and so we are trying to create opportunities to assist these people, many of them young, and rehabilitate them back into their communities,” she said.

Dwindling land access in Ethiopia is a critical issue for 80 percent of the population who make a living as small farmers. In the mountainous region of Tigray, the average land availability per household is 3.5 ha.

As life expectancy increases, the potential for subdividing farm plots reduces, leaving many of Ethiopia’s youth food insecure and unemployed. In the last year, a large number of young people have joined regular protests staged in the country’s main cities to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with high unemployment and inflation. The inundation of over 120,000 people has the potential to further disenfranchise youth in Ethiopia, where the majority of the population of 91 million earn less than two dollars a day.

Esther Negash, 28, is from a family of nine that lives on a four-hectare farm dedicated to growing maize in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. She has been out of work since leaving school 10 years ago. Negash’s family recently decided to use their savings to fund her migration to Khartoum in search of employment. “In the last two months, there have been many people returning from Saudi Arabia. This makes things worse for people like me who cannot find work,” she told IPS.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shame on Uganda

Uganda's parliament has adopted an anti-homosexuality bill that will see repeat offenders jailed for life. Barack Obama describing it as "odious" and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu comparing it to apartheid. The European Union's diplomatic chief, Catherine Ashton, said the bill violated international human-rights charters to which Uganda was party. Leslie Lefkow of Human Rights Watch said the law was "abhorrent", and Amnesty International said the "wildly discriminatory legislation" was "a grave assault on human rights".

"Now anybody found practising, recruiting for or publicising homosexuality commits a felony," said Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo. An early version of the bill would have introduced the death sentence for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for a second time but that clause was dropped. While homosexuality was already illegal, the new bill increases penalties and also criminalises the public promotion of homosexuality -- including discussions by rights groups.

In 2011, prominent Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading "Hang Them". The former head of Uganda’s national football team has reportedly been arrested for breaking the country’s laws against same-sex sexual activity with one of his team players in 2012. A British man, Bernard Randall, is currently facing trial in Uganda and a possible two-year sentence if convicted for "trafficking obscene publications" after police found pictures of him having gay sex.

The vote came a day after the Ugandan parliament passed a dress-code law banning anything deemed sexually suggestive. The anti-pornography bill will ban scantily dressed performers from Ugandan television and closely monitor what individuals watch on the Internet.

Rejected, the ANC and SACP !!

It is gratifying to Socialist Banner to witness at long last the ANC and the South African Communist Party being rejected by the workers, although it is not before time and need not have been as a result of the bloody slaughter of the miners’ union members by the ANC government.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which calls itself  “the biggest union in the history of the African continent,” with 338,000 members, announced after a special congress that it would seek to start a socialist party aimed at protecting the interests of the working class.

"It is clear that the working class cannot any longer see the ANC or the SACP as its class allies in any meaningful sense," said Numsa leader Irvin Jim. “”..the ANC does not have an agenda for the working class. Why must we support it? If the ANC is not willing to support the interest of the working class, what must we do? That's our challenge. That's why we are being hated. We say ANC must ban labour brokers, do away with the national development plan and stop privatising public roads. Why must we fear to say that when the ANC by its own nature is a multiclass organisation?" said Jim.

 It would now recruit openly in all the mining industry and welcome rival union National Union of Miners members who wanted to join Numsa. "We are no longer going to reject any worker who comes [from the NUM] to Numsa. If people want to take that as poaching, well, workers are not rhinos but human beings. The focus on Numsa membership must be rejected. [Cosatu] Public sector unions are recruiting among themselves. They [those opposed to the idea of Numsa recruiting in other sectors] can go to hell. We will recruit workers that come to us and want to belong to the organisation."

Hopefully, this will be the first step in the creation of one big industrial union for mining workers.

Socialist Banner, however, wonders just what is meant by the intended socialist party and sincerely hopes that it will not be yet another reformist organisation but truly revolutionary in its aspirations. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Zambia - The Nurses Strike

The nurses strike that had begun at University Teaching Hospital (UTH) went on for 10 days and later spread to the Livingstone General Hospital. The government had warned that striking nurses that they risked losing their jobs. Thus when Labour Minister, Fackson Shamenda, announced on 5th December that the striking nurses were dismissed it caught everyone unaware.

The ZCTU, UPND, MMD, and Medical Association of Zambia all protested. They called upon the PF government to re-instate the nurses (200 had been dismissed). The fact is that the strike action had not been sanctioned by the Medical Association, the nurses union. The primary interest of the professionals such as nurses, just like that of the government, should be the welfare of the patients. That is why there is an oath for this category of worker which you take when you graduate from college...

...the various grievances the health workers face across the country, among these are the problems faced by nurses working in the rural villages where accommodation is poor. But nurses remain essential workers and therfore  cannot go on strike.

Reacting to the UPND’s decision to mount a legal battle in defence of the dismissed nurses, the Labour minister Fackson Shamenda described it as inhuman the opposition party’s utter lack of regard of what patients went through when the nurses went on strike.

The government believes that the nurses were incited to go on strike by the opposition UPND led by Hakainde Ichilema.

The labour minister warned that the chances to be re-instated were very slim because the law in Zambia states that a worker cannot force the employer to re-instate anyone if they are dismissed. The labour minister re-iterated that by law it was an offence by anyone classified as an essential worker to go on strike. The PF, had in fact used its discretion to tolerate the strike for 10 days. I n 2012 (October) the health workers received the highest adjustments to their salaries that were unprecedented in the history of Zambia.

The labour minister believes the UPND had incited the nurses into an illegal strike. Indeed in September the politicians awarded themselves hefty salary adjustments that were above their daily needs.

Indeed in socialism where there won’t be leaders and workers classified as such tasks like nursing will be performed without being paid - everyone will be considered as essential.

Because under capitalism there is always a reserve labour (unemployed) - the PF went on to dismiss 200 striking nurses after which they recruited trainee nurses to supplement the shortage.

This clearly shows that capitlalism does not work in the interests of the workers.

K. Mulenga

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Quote of the Day

South Africa's largest trade union today said the ruling ANC, a traditional ally, should be brought down like the apartheid regime if it did not deliver on its promises. Speaking at a special congress, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) secretary general Irvin Jim said government policy was failing to address poverty, joblessness and inequality.

"If the ANC does not deliver the goods you must do to it what you did to the apartheid regime," he said, saying he was quoting Nelson Mandela's words to the labour movement 20 years ago. 

The missing trillions

Researchers working with the African Development Bank say that African countries have lost as much as $1.4 trillion in cash leakages over the last 30 years. Much of the lost money is a result of illicit cash flows and corruption. Global Financial Integrity (GFI) say West and Central Africa have lost the greatest amount of money. An estimated $494 billion left those two regions between 1980 and 2009 as illicit cash flows.

 Ibrahim Aidara, the economic governance program manager for the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), says the amount of money flowing out of the continent both legally and illegally is now nearly equal to Africa’s current total gross domestic product:
"The amount flowing out in Africa is, according to the estimation, more than all the foreign direct investment we are getting from the outside and more than the African debt by about four times, and even more than all the official aid Africa is receiving from the rest of the world," he said. "Any time you take that kind of money out of economies, certain things don’t happen," he said. "Investment in plant equipment doesn’t happen, job creation doesn’t happen, the tax revenue you would have had from those activities doesn’t exist.  Governments don’t have money to put into social programs, like health, education, and clean water programs.  So many things don’t happen.  It’s the opportunity cost of the loss of that money." He added that “There’s a push to have governments begin to require country-by-country reporting by multinationals so that taxes are paid when they are supposed to, in the amount they are supposed to be, and where they are supposed to be paid.  This is critically important for developing countries because many times… it’s companies not paying their fair share basically and putting the burden on the individual tax payers." .
 Aidara said nearly all of the loss stems from corrupt practices, such as trade mispricing, money laundering and tax evasion. The most affected countries are the ones rich in natural resources, such as oil producers Nigeria and Angola, or diamond producer Zimbabwe.

With vast new reserves of oil and gas discovered in the Sub-Saharan region, its poverty level is poised to increase to 50 percent of the world's poor by 2030.

Nigeria, for example, said last week it cannot account for $50 billion in revenue from the sale of crude oil between January 2012 and July 2013 - an amount that exceeds the total annual foreign development aid to the region.
In Angola, the IMF has estimated that $32 billion in oil revenues went missing between 2007 and 2010, equivalent to one quarter of its GDP.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Migrants protest in Israel

More than 100 African migrants have abandoned an "open" Israeli detention centre to try to march on Jerusalem in protest at a law allowing authorities to keep them in custody indefinitely, activists have said. The protest coincided with an appeal filed in Israel's Supreme Court by human rights groups against the new law, which also stipulated that new migrants caught entering the country illegally could be jailed in a standard prison for up to a year.

Cheska Katz, of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants rights group, said that 135 men, mostly from Sudan, decided not to return to the centre on Sunday night and instead set out for Jerusalem, about 75 kms away.

"They aren't trying to elude the authorities. Their aim is to reach the Knesset and ask for their freedom and to be recognised as refugees," the activist, who is taking part in the march, told the Reuters news agency.

The corrupters seek legal protection

Lawyers for a mining conglomerate run by one of the world's wealthiest men have launched legal action against the London-based campaign group Global Witness claiming damages for breaches of data protection rights.

The action takes a highly unusual legal approach, alleging that Global Witness has refused to comply with a decision of the UK information commissioner. The claim has been lodged on behalf of BSG Resources (BSGR), an international mining group run by the Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz. It complains that BSGR has been the subject of "a sustained, negative publicity campaign by Global Witness." Steinmetz's wealth is estimated to be worth more than $4bn (£2.6bn). The claim has been served in his name and those of three others associated with BSGR, which is based in St Peter Port, Guernsey. The claimants submitted subject access requests to Global Witness under the Data Protection Act during 2012 and 2013, seeking details of personal data about Steinmetz and his colleagues held by Global Witness.

Dag Cramer, CEO of Onyx Financial Advisers, an adviser to BSGR and one of the others who have brought the action, said:
"Global Witness's refusal to tell us what personal data it has on us is a breach of the law and is deeply discomfiting to me and my fellow claimants.”

Global Witness, which was founded in 1993, has dismissed the legal action as an attempt to stifle journalism and investigations carried out in the public interest.

Global Witness, which campaigns against abuses in the exploitation of natural resources around the world, said in response to the claim: "Global Witness intends to robustly defend its position and regards the claim as an attempt to stifle journalism in the public interest. Global Witness has been investigating and reporting for over a year on how BSGR obtained rights to one of the world's largest iron ore deposits, the Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea. We have highlighted serious corruption concerns surrounding the deal, explaining in detail the reasons for our findings and asking questions of the companies concerned at every stage. BSGR still has not explained important aspects of its Simandou deal, notably the ownership of secretive companies associated with it. Rather than seeking to bully those raising legitimate concerns, BSGR should address these matters directly."

Socialist Banner reported the background to the mining corruption here .

Monday, December 16, 2013

Zimbabwe diamonds for sale

A week-long sale of Zimbabwean diamonds in Antwerp is the first of many and is expected to raise between $7.5m (£4.6m) and $15m. Belgian officials estimate that the lifting of sanctions could mean an extra $400m a year in revenue for Zimbabwe.For the Belgian government and diamond industry officials who successfully lobbied the European Union to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe’s state-owned mining company this year, the sale marked the first step towards generating billions of dollars in revenue for Zimbabwe’s government, which they say will help lift its people out of poverty and encourage transparency.

Critics argue that the sale of stones mined in one of the world’s most corrupt countries, which has a dismal human rights record, is another example of how the Kimberley Process – launched a decade ago to keep unethical diamonds from the market – is hobbled by its  narrow remit.

The Kimberley Process came into effect in 2003 after groups such as PAC and UK-based Global Witness highlighted atrocities as rebel groups plundered African diamond mines to fund civil wars. The process in which diamond-producing nations are now monitored and certified has largely stemmed the involvement of rebel groups, with what are traditionally termed “blood diamonds” making up only about 1 per cent of all stones currently on the market. Rights groups and some governments are now lobbying for the narrow definition of conflict diamonds to be expanded, while groups such as PAC argue that transparency and accountability should also be more closely monitored.

Alan Martin, research director at the resources watchdog, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC). Today, he says, it is not only the rebel groups sanctioned by the Kimberley Process that stand accused of abuses, but state bodies and private security firms. There is also growing concern that diamond revenue is not ending up in the pockets of the people who need it most. “In the same way that the definition of violence and conflict diamonds has changed, the entire corporate social responsibility landscape has changed,” Mr Martin adds.

 A PAC report last year alleged that up to $2bn in diamond revenue had gone missing in four years, the result of smuggling, undervaluation of stones leaving the country and a “high level of collusion” by government officials.

Zimbabwean mining executives denied the claims but complaints have also come from within the government. The former Finance Minister Tendai Biti, of the opposition MDC party, complained that the promised $600m from diamond sales earmarked for development projects had not materialised, with only $41m making its way into government hands last year.

Emily Armistead, a campaigner for Global Witness, thinks the EU was premature in lifting the sanctions. The fields are run by joint ventures between private firms and the state-owned ZMDC, and opaque management structures have led to concerns that military and government-linked figures are still profiting from the gems. “We continue to be anxious that the military and other parts of the regime are bolstering their power through diamond revenues and potentially undermining democracy,” she said.

From Here

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The 5 Poorest African Countries

Using projected 2013 per capita GDP figures from the International Monetary Fund and adjusted for purchasing power parity, let's start off with No. 5 on the list of the world economies most in need.

5: Liberia, $710 GDP per capita
Liberia's been hit hard by instability and conflict in the past, but it's a nation that's clinging to hope for a better future. The West African country of only a little more than 4 million people suffered through years of civil war before a 2003 peace accord brought an end to the fighting and ushered in a new wave of cautious, but promising, democracy. Liberia's history of violence has left its scars on the country's fragile economy, as considerably morethan half of all Liberian citizens live below the poverty line. However, like other notable developing economies, Liberia's rising up behind a familiar sector: energy.
Energy exploration firm African Petroleum unearthed significant oil deposits off Liberia's coast in early 2012, and leading energy firms have been quick to move in. China's been a particularly active player in African economics in recent years, and state-owned oil firm PetroChina added to Beijing's moves by inking a deal in July of last year to invest in up to a 20% stake of one of African Petroleum's Liberian oil blocks. Despite PetroChina's precipitous stock fall this year, the company's been making major moves in West Africa.

American firms haven't been left behind in Liberia's oil rush, either: ExxonMobil acquired an 80% stake in a Liberian offshore oil block just this May through one of its subsidiaries. ExxonMobil's followed other international energy giants into the region, and its entrance into Liberia's energy market -- along with that of PetroChina and other top global players -- should only help this rebuilding economy take its early steps in rebuilding from years of conflict.

4: Eritrea, $705 GDP per capita
War-torn East African Eritrea has had its share of violence just like Liberia, but unlike the fifth-ranked member on our list, only rumors about Eritrea's natural resources have sprung up. Major energy and materials companies haven't moved into this country, which saw its economy slugged by war with neighboring Ethiopia to start the millennium. It hasn't gotten much better for the Eritrean people since, as allegations of government corruption and abuse have turned the country into a top global producer of fleeing refugees, according to United Nations investigations.

Unlike Liberia, the situation here isn't likely to get much better fast -- for either Eritreans or global companies with African ambitions, such as aforementioned ExxonMobil and PetroChina. With Eritrea's oil and energy situation a virtual unknown and little in the way of economic or political stability, this is a country stuck in a rut. The IMF estimates that Eritrea's per-capita GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity will grow only around 1.7% between 2013 and 2018, a mark that will lead to the nation being ranked as the second-poorest country in the world by that time.

3: Burundi, $640 GDP per capita
Landlocked Burundi in Central Africa is facing far more struggles than it can overcome quickly. According to the World Bank, this nation of nearly 9 billion people saw more than two-thirds of its population living below the poverty line as recently as 2006. While this middling economy's picking up steam -- the IMF estimates Burundi's economy will grow by 25% between 2013 and 2018 -- it's hardly an attractive target for major multinational corporations.

Burundi's attempting to make headway in that department by recently agreeing with several other neighboring nations on adopting a common currency in the near future, but it has plenty more challenges to overcome. Corruption and unskilled labor plague Burundi's attempts to improve its economic position, and foreign investment only now is starting to trickle into the economy's coffers. The country ranks as one of the worst business environments in the world, and until that improves meaningfully, major multinational firms -- and investors -- will see little attractiveness out of this struggling economy.

2: Zimbabwe, $571 GDP per capita
Zimbabwe's economy imploded thanks in part to the country's infamous collapse of its currency. Hyperinflation plagued Zimbabwe and reached insane annual growth heights in the sextillion percent range, forcing the nation to fall back to relying on the U.S. dollar in the past few years as its primary currency. Still, the nation suffers from numerous major social and economic troubles, including more than seven in 10 Zimbabwe citizens living beneath the poverty line as of 2011, according to the World Bank, and a 95% unemployment rate as recently as 2009.

Those aren't good conditions for top international corporations to take advantage of. Zimbabwe does have some advantages -- the population's highly literate, much more so than many other developing African countries, and the nation's home to sizable reserves of minerals such as platinum and gold -- but a poor political situation under the three-decade rule of President Robert Mugabe, along with other factors, has led to sanctions from leading Western nations. Zimbabwe's nowhere near an even tolerable business climate, and only China's investment has marked major international participation in this floundering economy.

1: Democratic Republic of the Congo, $386 GDP per capita
The world's poorest nation has one thing going for it: It's huge. Congo's among the 20 most populous nations in the world, but severe problems have prevented the country from realizing anything close to a stable economy. The M23 insurgent group has been the latest blow to the DRC's hopes, and the two sides only signed a peace agreement to end the rebellion formerly on Dec. 12 of this year. Further civil wars plagued the DRC from the end of last century into the early years of this one.

Until Congo realizes some semblance of stability, it won't be able to even see hope for its struggling economy. The IMF projects strong growth from the Congolese economy going forward, but the nation's per capita GDP figure is so bad that such growth would still make the IMF's projection of the DRC's 2018 per capita GDP rank as this year's poorest economy as well.

 Congo's ripe with raw materials. The country's a major producer of tungsten and gold, among other minerals, and the DRC's total resource wealth is estimated at up to $24 trillion. International corporations haven't shied away from this conflict zone: Major miner Freeport-McMoRanoperates both copper and cobalt projects in Congo, and it's only one of numerous multinational firms getting involved in the country's resource wealth. Freeport-McMoRan's dealt with its share of problems particular to such a weak economy, as the firm's pulled back on operating rates at its Congolese mines in past years due to power outages. However, while Congo's population might not be reaping the wealth of its natural resources just yet, this country's vast mineral wealth has the potential to make miners like Freeport-McMoRan and its rivals – as well as their investors – very happy indeed.

From Here

Friday, December 13, 2013

Climate Change Refugees

20-year-old Fizer Boa  migrated south to Ghana’s capital, Accra, to work in the local Abobloshie market as a porter or “Kayayei”, a trade often taken up by children and adults from the Northern Region who migrate to southern Ghana in search of a living.
“I agreed with my mother when she advised me to go join my friend who was working as a Kayayei in Accra. I did not object to the idea because … we hardly had three square meals a day,” she told IPS. Reduced rainfall in the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo district in Ghana’s Northern Region, where Boa comes from, has resulted in low yields for the past two years, leaving her family barely able to survive. Soon after she came here, her two sisters dropped out of school and left their home to follow her and also work as Kayayeis. “My other siblings dropped out of school to join me in Accra because my mother could no longer pay for additional school levies, such as Parent Teachers Association fees, and school materials,” Boa said. Schooling is usually free in this West African nation, though each school charges its own additional costs and administration fees. Combined, the sisters earn up to 30 dollars on a good day.

According to Dr. Wilson Dogbe, a research scientist at the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, one of the major causes of this migration is the changing environment in the north. "It is evident ... that land scarcity and soil infertility are one of the main elements pushing people off the land to seek a safe-haven in the south.” The Northern Region is a predominantly rural-based community, and farmers there have become vulnerable to the impact of climate change. “The problem is that the Northern Region currently is experiencing low rainfall, soil infertility, and increased temperatures as high as 47 degrees Celsius.”

Some of these climate refugees, who are mostly young girls between the ages of 18 and 30 sent by their families to earn an income, fetch water for people, work in chop-bars (local restaurants), and as hawkers and shop attendants. But their existence is a precarious one. Mohammed Awal, NORSAAC’s director, told IPS that the young girls were the most vulnerable of these climate refugees as they had no place to live and mostly slept in open-air truck stops at the mercy of the weather and other threats.

The director of the Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC), an NGO,  Mohammed Awal, A lot of these migrants, especially girls, return home to their families with sexually transmitted diseases,” he said, adding that many of the young women who fell pregnant were unable to trace the fathers, or experienced problems with illegal abortions. Boa said she sometimes faced “life-threating situations like sexual harassment from men” and said she too was forced to sleep in open-air truck stops.

Dogbe said the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), established in 2010 by the government to alleviate poverty in Ghana’s north and address the north-south youth migration, had not done much to reduce migration. “It was supposed to provide opportunities for poor peasants, especially women, to own assets … sustain their food crop production and protect the fragile eco-system of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone. But much has not been done,” he said. He said that 80 percent of the roads in Northern Region remained impassable and farmers still did not have the necessary machines like tractors and harvesters to make their jobs easier.

 Boa and her sisters will keep trying to find ways to earn a living far from home. “Hopefully, we will work hard to save money and send some to our parents,” she said. But she and her sisters dream of having a better life and being more than just porters. They hope to be able to enroll in vocational training “such as fashion design, hair dressing to be able to earn a decent as well as sustainable income.”

Aiding who?

Imagine. You're an international humanitarian aid worker in a war zone and faithful to the principle of the Red Cross, as any good humanitarian should be. In other words, you're impartial neutral and independent. it's your responsibility to relive human suffering , irrespective of the people involved and the situation on the ground. You do what you can for the victims, but soldiers exploit your efforts. The demand money for every well you dig and levy sky-high taxes, thought up on the sport, on all the sacks of rice and tents and medicine you arrange to have flown in. They consume a slice of your aid supplies and sell another slice.  Among the items they buy with the proceeds are weapons, which they use to drive yet more people into your refugee camp or even to their death. What do you do?

In Somalia al-Shabab, considered a "terrorist" group by the US, sought to control aid agencies through a system of regulation, taxation and surveillance. Aid groups were forced to pay as much as $10,000 to 'register' their work. They would then have to disclose project details, their budgets and even staff members' names. They were sometimes forced to pay so-called additional 'taxes', and in many cases al-Shabab insisted on distributing aid, and kept much of it for themselves. Aid agencies have to make deals and accept unpalatable conditions from all sides just to function, and at times simply to survive. That means they sometimes end up paying the ransom that armed groups demand. But the alternative is to do nothing, and see many more people suffer and die.

“The al-Shabab group had set up a government, they had policies around there. They had a humanitarian coordinating office. They are acting as a local authority. And we negotiate with them.” explained Marc Dubois, executive director, Doctors without Borders

"These famines, particularly war-caused famines, are amazingly good opportunities for fundraising. If you [as an aid agency] can get your logo there and say we are helping out, your funds will just go through the roof ...I am just very suspicious about aid agencies who make huge claims for what they are doing without mentioning this dark side, the difficult side, where they know may be 20 to 30 percent or 40 percent or more perhaps is actually being siphoned off - may be spent on guns, will be spent on war - and they have to accept that. I think the only option is to be completely open about it." said Richard Dowden, director at the Royal African Society

Nor is it only the terrorist groups that take advantage of aid organisations.  In the weeks before the al-Qaeda leader was killed, the CIA told a Pakistani doctor to set up a fake vaccination scheme in the town of Abbottabad so they could try to gain access to Bin Laden's house. When news got out it cast doubt on the integrity of aid workers in general, 200 US aid groups wrote to the CIA blaming the ploy for a polio crisis in Pakistan. Since then at least one aid group, Save the Children, has had to pull out their staff because of concerns over their safety.

From AlJazeera

Thursday, December 12, 2013

ANC - Gun runners

South Africa was quick to respond to a United Nations request last October for three attack helicopters and two utility helicopters to strengthen the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  The South African arms industry is considered one of the most advanced in the non-Western world today, and very much in the company of its IBSA partners, India and Brazil.

Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher, Arms Transfers Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told IPS the South African arms industry is advanced in a few niche areas such as certain light armoured vehicles and anti-tank missiles. “But overall, it has become increasingly a part of the global arms industry acting as sub-contractors and supplying military components for complete systems elsewhere.”

He said South Africa currently supplies weapons and other military equipment to many countries throughout the world, from the United States to China, and from Sweden to Zambia. The U.S. was a one-time major client because it urgently needed mine-protected armoured vehicles for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. South Africa was the world leader in the production of such vehicles, he added, including the Casspir. This dated back to the apartheid regime when the South African armed forces had to learn how to fight guerrilla forces in Zimbabwe and Namibia. The 1977 arms embargo provided the incentive for South African firms to research and develop its own weapons so that it could become self-sufficient.

“...the new ANC government quickly set out to support the industry for the same reason as other arms-producing states: as a source of income, a catalyst for technological development and even hoped it could be used as a foreign policy instrument, in particular in Africa,” said Wezeman.

South Africa was also on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power with its well-developed clandestine programme to produce weapons of mass destruction – even while it remained ostracised by the global community. South Africa’s nuclear weapon programme was successful in producing seven weapons which were eventually destroyed under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Jayantha Dhanapala, a former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, told IPS that South Africa has the unique distinction of being the only country to have abandoned its nuclear weapons programme voluntarily – setting an example for other nuclear-armed states. In 1991, South Africa joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state after destroying the weapons it had developed in a clandestine programme during 1974-1990, allegedly with Israeli collusion, he pointed out.

“President [F.W.] de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the late Nelson Mandela, told me he was kept in the dark about the nuclear weapons programme until he became president when he decided to halt the programme,” said Dhanapala, one of the world’s best-known authorities on nuclear disarmament. He said it was fitting the treaty declaring the whole continent of Africa a nuclear weapon free zone should be named the Treaty of Pelindaba, named after the place where the South African nuclear weapon programme was located.

From here 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More Food But More Hungry

 Around 16 million people are at risk of going hungry across Africa's Sahel belt next year due to conflicts and rapid population growth, even though the region expects good harvests and rainfall, a senior U.N. official said . Approximately 2 million have already crossed the emergency threshold and need immediate food assistance
Food insecurity in the Sahel next year will increase by 40 percent compared to this year when 11.3 million people had inadequate food and required around $1.7 billion in donor assistance, according to preliminary OCHA data.
"These are the first indicators that the Sahel crisis is getting away from us," said Robert Piper, OCHA coordinator for the Sahel."The numbers are getting bigger even though the harvest this year has been fractionally better than the average over the last five years. Rapid population growth has meant the same amount of food has to feed more mouths. So despite a small increase in overall food production, on average there is 13 percent less food per person," Piper explained. 
Nigeria and Senegal recorded the biggest jump in food insecurity numbers, reporting an increase from 44,000 to 2.4 million and 700,000 to 2.2 million, respectively, said Piper "Food insecurity in Nigeria is partly to do with the conflict in the north, which has been exacerbated since the government called the state of emergency in May,” He went on to say  "However, we need to better understand what went wrong in Senegal. Uneven rainfall patterns, high prices and a poor harvest are part of the explanation. But high food insecurity in the Casamance suggests that the conflict might still impacting,” said Piper.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Politics of Human Disposability.

The Mediterranean has been described by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as a "graveyard" as migrants from Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, seek to cross over to Europe to flee various hardships partly attributed to the legacies of Eurocentric colonial and neocolonial politics. It is estimated that over the last two decades, around 20,000 people drowned while being smuggled over. The European Union, through its "fortress" politics, centering around the notion of "security," has much to answer for in this continuous human tragedy.

We are witnessing the present rightist discourse of the "foreigners who will take our jobs" and parties that built their identity and electoral success on fear of foreigners. The criminalisation of immigrants serves to fan the flames of racism and xenophobia. The marginalization of immigrants with no access to citizenship rights and social benefits, especially rejected asylum seekers, leads them to eke out a living at the very margins of society, in the "underworld" if need be. This furthers the construction of irregular migrants as given to criminality, promiscuity etc. rather than being victims of a systemic oppressive and ultimately racist structure that encourages abuse of their vulnerability.

 If anything, the target of any anger, where vulnerable working-class employees are concerned, should be those unscrupulous employers who prey on a destitute "reserve army" to considerably cut down labor costs. If one goes by hearsay, they often completely do away with these costs, at best paying the migrant a pittance. But unless these aspects of the migration issue are tackled systematically and backed by robust research by those whose historical function was that of leading the working class through a sustained process of an inclusive workers' education program spanning different media and settings, we are more likely to see a swing toward the right. And by this, I mean not only the emergence of right-wing parties, but also former leftist parties veering towards right of centre.

The dominant discourse centers around "security" on the grounds of the threat of international terrorism rather than foregrounding a person's right to seek asylum and protection, especially in cases where her or his existence is very much in jeopardy. In the majority of cases, we have bona fide breathing human subjects being criminalized for sins not of their making - sins for which Europe itself has a lot to answer. All this attests to the legacies of colonialism in Africa and the Middle East and the Western powers' collusion in the creation of situations characterized by the presence of client tyrannical regimes, not least through the supply of arms by a western-driven arms industry, and, in one specific case, a direct colonial/apartheid regime.

Maria Pisani,  lecturer in Youth and community Studies and founding director of the Maltese NGO, Integra Foundation,   points out that "illegal immigrant" is a nonexistent term in international law. It is bandied about by politicians to justify "illegal legalities," that is to say, the trampling over human rights, basic ones at that. It has unfortunately become part of the popular doxa. She reminds us of the 1951 Geneva Convention that recognizes a person's right to asylum and which allows for possible instances of "irregularity" in recognition of situations that lead to "forced migration." Once again, these policies should be international since we are dealing with international, global phenomena and should therefore not be allowed to be guided by the selfish interest of political and economic powerhouses in Europe and beyond.

Lawyer and activist with regard to immigrant rights, Neil Falzon, said in a recent newspaper interview in Malta Today that there are no legal means that allow "bona fide asylum seekers" to make it to Europe without placing their lives in jeopardy. He points out that flying is out of the question since no visa would be made available by any European country.

Anybody with a modicum of human compassion and who values human life dearly should be outraged by the events occurring at Europe's doorstep. We should protest to highlight the continent's shameful past with regard to treatment of ethnic minorities and sensitize other Europeans to the danger of seeing complex global imperialist issues in myopic nationalistic and mono-cultural terms. Hopefully it would sensitize other Europeans to the complex set of factors that compel people to leave the contexts in which they are rooted, and possibly love dearly, to seek a different life abroad. The reasons for doing this are many, but I would mention some here: civil wars fueled by a Western-based arms industry and exacerbation of tribal conflicts often resulting in rape and being disowned by family; the attempt among women to avoid female genital mutilation; evading religious fundamentalism; the negative effects on African farming of subsidies provided to farmers in other continents; the negative effects of climate change; an impoverished environment (the ransacking of Africa); and a colonial ideology which presents the West as the Eldorado and a context for the "good life," structural adjustment programs, the quest for better employment opportunities . . . and one can go on, perhaps falling prey to western stereotypes and constructions of "Africa."

There is however one major global reason, namely the quest for low-cost labor by corporations and other businesses alike that serves as a "push-and-pull factor." As David Bacon argues (see Illegal People. How Globalization creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Beacon Press, 2008), hegemonic globalization necessitates migration, but it is the same victims of this process who are rendered "illegal" and criminalized as a result, often victims of the "carceral state." By carceral state, I mean the state that punishes as part of its function in dealing with the excesses of hegemonic globalization, that is neoliberal capitalist-driven globalization or "globalization from above." Detention centers such as those decried by international and local observers over here and Fabrizio Gatti in Lampedusa are institutions that reflect the presence of a carceral state, to borrow Henry A. Giroux's term.

Neoliberal politics with their structural adjustment programs in Africa and other parts of the "majority world" have exacerbated the disparities between South and North. Colonialism has not gone away, but has taken different forms. There is recent talk about providing the right conditions for "investment" (there's the magic word) in Africa not to compel people to move elsewhere.  First we ravage a continent and drain it of its resources and now we attempt to resuscitate it.  In fact, I detect racist overtones in this idea, namely that Africans are to remain in Africa and do not belong elsewhere.

Adapted from this interview of Maltese scholar Peter Mayo, author of, among many other books, The Politics of Indignation (Zero Books, 2012)

Monday, December 09, 2013

Who cares about CAR

The French planned operation in the Central African Republic is a part of the ongoing inner-imperialist rivalry between France and the United States for control of post-colonial Africa, Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire, told RT.

France doesn’t want to be left out of this new scramble for Africa. People have to keep in mind that the Central African Republic has very important strategic resources such as gold, diamonds and uranium, which are essential to the overall international economic system. So this is a part of the ongoing inner-imperialist rivalry between France and the United States for control of post-colonial Africa.

They are not interested in helping the former colonies out, they are interested in pursuing their own economic, political and strategic interests, and interests of the opposition in the Central African Republic, which has requested French intervention. But the Seleka government, which is there in power now, has a very small margin of support inside the country, and Seleka itself is not a uniform coalition. It is composed of four different former rebel organizations.

The Migrant's Dream

Libya continues to be a gateway for thousands of undocumented African migrants who are willing to risk its violent militias, harsh detention centres and often fatal rides on overloaded, rickety boats to set sail for Lampedusa – for them the closest point in Europe. Even Asians have been found to use Libya as a transit point.

As they dream desperately of greener pastures, the migrants do odd jobs to earn enough to pay for the boat ride. Work is scarce and the competition severe due to the growing number of migrants gathering. The charge for a seat on one of the many boats leaving the Libyan coast is around 1,000 dollars. Even if an exhausting day of work is fully paid for, it could take years to save a sum like that.

 A human trafficker admitted to IPS of to earning around 20,000 euros from each successful trip to Lampedusa.

 Local fishermen know only too well the risk of getting into a packed, fragile, raft-like boat. As Abdala Gheryani, who works at the tiny fishing port of Gargaresh, says, “Every now and then I find corpses trapped in my nets.”

 A detainee at the Libyan detention centre, explains “We were around 50 in the same cell, but at least the guards never hit me. For the black guys, though, it was completely different. They would be tortured and beaten in the most brutal way and on a daily basis.”
Women, he adds, were asked for sex in exchange for their release.

His testimony is corroborated by an Amnesty International (AI) report released last June, where the human rights NGO called on the Libyan government to end indefinite detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, including children, who had ended up there solely for immigration purposes. After visiting seven “holding centres”, AI also documented several cases where detainees, including women, were reportedly “subjected to brutal beatings with water pipes and electric cables.”