Thursday, May 29, 2014

Senhuile CEO Arrested, Accused Of Embezzlement

Radio France Internationale | 24 May 2014

Update on status of land grab in rural Senegal by Senhuile SA

Last month, Oakland Institute released a report about the 37 villages in the rural Ndiael region of Senegal who had their land illegally confiscated by Senhuile, an Italian-Senegalese agribusiness project. We have an update on the issue. Benjamin Dummai, the CEO of Senhuile, was fired by the company's board of directors this past week and was arrested by Senegalese authorities. According to the local press, Dummai is accused of embezzling nearly 300,000 euros. Frédéric Mousseau, the Policy Director at the Oakland Institute, gives RFI's Laura Angela Bagnetto an update on the palm oil project that has occupied 20,000 hectares in northern Senegal:

Listen to the interview: 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The tentacles of US power

United States special operations forces are in Libya, Niger, Mauritania, and Mali  to train and install small teams of elite counter-terror commandos.

The US Department of Defense has spent almost $70 million to assist in training a counterterrorism battalion in Niger, as well as a similar team in Mauritania as well as $16 million spent on training and equipping two companies of Libyan troops and associated support elements. The Libyan venture ended in chaos when at a secret military base outside of Tripoli,  militiamen seized “hundreds of American-supplied automatic weapons, night-vision goggles, vehicles and other equipment” from the compound.

The US has also established a network of surveillance aircraft in Africa, including a facility in Niger that assists French forces combating militants in Mali. In addition, the US has installed an unmanned drone site in Chad.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Desperate For School


 Some 40,900 children and thousands more youths displaced by the violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) are stuck in transit camps in southern Chad with no formal school to attend, few to no training opportunities, and no jobs, leaving them with no sense of what the future will bring.

“There is nothing to do here - we do nothing all day,” said Ibrahim Oumar, 25, in Doyaba transit camp near Sarh, which houses mainly Chadian returnees from CAR, many of them born in CAR. Oumar studied finance at college. “I’d do anything I could work-wise. One day I’ll return [to Bangui] to finish.”

Abdou Aziz Tarik, 17, from the CAR capital Bangui, told IRIN: “With school you can do something. Without it you’ll achieve nothing.”

Displaced teachers have set up informal schools in some sites. For instance, in Doyaba transit camp, they set up a school in which 3,200 primary and pre-school children have enrolled. But none cater for the needs of secondary school students. Some 4,000 of the displaced children have been relocated to pre-existing schools but as yet no children are being formally educated in camps, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Some 97,000 refugees and returnees have fled CAR over 2013 and 2014 seeking safety in Chad, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

Read more about this here

Workers Against Mine-Owners

Astrike by platinum mining workers since January 23, 2014, demanding a basic monthly salary of R12 500, has shown the spotlight on the industry's racially skewed remuneration structure. The strike has reignited debate on glaring and continuously widening income inequality in the continent's economic powerhouse.

It has glaringly exposed the plight of mine workers, most of whom work underground, doing bone-breaking rock drilling jobs, yet they continue living in squalor, leading lives weighed down by debt, while in comparison, mines management take home hefty salaries. Communities surrounding mines around Marikana in the platinum belt, are equal to squatter camps, an enduring legacy of apartheid.

The four-month long strike has exposed the governing ANC cosy relationship with mining capital.

More than 70 000 Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) members have been on strike at the world's three largest platinum producers; Anglo American Platinum Ltd, Impala Platinum Holdings and Lonmin Plc, seeking a basic salary of R12 500 a month, from R4 500. AMCU is led by Joseph Mathunjwa, whom the South African media says is 'waging a class war against white capital'. Mathunjwa raised the tempo in the country's longest running labour dispute, saying that 20 years after South Africans attained self-rule, the workers are still wallowing in grinding poverty.

"Yes, 1994 was a breakthrough whereby we achieved democracy. But what matters most is minerals and money, you can have all this democracy, human democracy but if you cannot feed your family, it means nothing. After 20 years there is no South African who can show his hand and say I have benefitted from the minerals of this country," Mathunjwa argues. "Workers are on strike not because they like it, it's the reality they face every day (which forces them to strike). From 1652 to date, the pay structure of the workers is still the one that was designed by the British colonialists and was confirmed by the National Party. In 1994, we hoped the status quo would change."   Mathunjwa said, “So it took a black mineworker to get to R4 500 about 17 years. So we are 20 years in democracy and nothing has been done."

"The companies can afford it, we know they manipulate prices of commodities, dodge tax through tax havens. While our members are on strike (Amplats CEO Chris) Griffiths can earn a bonus, they have got the money, it's just that they are greed, arrogant and insensitive," Mathunjwa said.

Mining companies say they have lost more than R17.9 billion in revenue and workers almost R7.9b in income. AMCU maintains that companies can afford and should pay a basic salary of R12 500. Producers have offered to stagger the R12 500 over four years up to 2017, an offer flatly rejected by the incensed workers. Mathunjwa argues that while the lowest earning rock drill operator, who works underground, has a basic monthly income of R4 500, the amount pales into insignificance compared to basic pay in other resource countries such as Brazil (R25 000) and Australia (R80 000).
 But it's not the comparison with Brazil, nor Australia which irks miners, it's the salary drawn by senior management. Anglo American Platinum chief executive, Chris Griffiths, was paid R17.6 million in cash and payment in equity, including a basic salary of R6.7 million in 2013 who added salt to the wound by saying "Must I run this company and deal with all this nonsense for nothing? I am at work. I am not on strike. I am not demanding to be paid what I am not worth."

From Here

Corruption: It takes two to tango

The question that haunts every caring and concerned African is, “With all our vast resources, why are we poor?”

Africa is a resource-endowed continent but sadly the continent is reeling in poverty. With its vast resources that are finite in nature mostly in the mining sector, the continent is trailing other continents in terms of socio-economic development and as a result Africans are poor.

Professor Mthuli Ncube, chief economist and vice-president of the African Development Bank, agrees: “The African continent is resource-rich. With good resource husbandry, Africa could be in a position to finance much of its own development.”

It is estimated that Africa has lost over US$1.4trillion in illicit financial outflows in the last three decades, which is about US$50billion to US$80billion yearly. Illicit financial flows siphon revenue out of poor countries, robbing them of much-needed assets and forestalling economic development,” said Global Financial Integrity, a United States-based research and advocacy organisation, director Raymond Baker.

“It is clear that the principal source of this illicit outflow, are in fact the multinational companies. The estimate that we have is something like 60 percent of the outflows originate from the activities of large commercial companies that operate from Africa,” disclosed ex-President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, who is also the chairman of the panel on illicit financial outflows set up by ministers of finance in Africa.

Anne Versi, writing for the African Business Magazine, said: “... While the outside world has always been very quick to pin the corruption label on Africa, we have always argued that it takes two to make this deadly dance work. Now it is obvious that powerful multinationals are as complicit, in fact more so, in sucking Africa’s lifeblood as the worst local despot.”

According to estimates by Global Financial Integrity corrupt activities such as bribery and embezzlement make up only about 3 percent of illicit outflows; criminal activities such as drug trafficking and smuggling make up 30 to 35 percent and commercial transactions by multinational companies make up a whopping 60 to 65 percent.

Mbeki said there are “a whole number of ways” these multinationals cause illicit flows of funds which include trade mis-pricing, transfer pricing, mis-invoicing and others.

The media has kept silent and has not raised a middle finger against what its governments, intelligence services, corporations and businessmen are doing to Africans.

From here

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ethiopia -enough is enough

"We are living in extraordinary times, times of opportunity and change, times of great hope. With elections due next year now is the time for the various ethnic groups and factions inside and outside Ethiopia to unite, and speaking with one voice demand their rights, to freedom and justice and to live with hope in their hearts."
The above is  quote from an article by Graham Peebles. 

The whole article is worth a read.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Quote of the Day

“The reality is that foreign investors come to Africa to make money and not to be part of the solution to Africa’s economic problems." Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the annual meeting of the African Development Bank in Kigali 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Alliance For Food Security And Nutrition In Africa

Two weeks before the G7 Summit of June 4, 5 in Brussels, FIAN International raises grave human rights concerns about the G8 initiative "New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa" in a policy paper published today.
Titled "G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa: A Critical Analysis from a Human Rights Perspective", the policy paper argues that this initiative ignores general human rights principles and contradicts a human rights-based framework in key issues relevant for those most affected by hunger and malnutrition: small-scale food producers. FIAN calls on the G8 governments to stop this public-private partnership initiative that includes more than 150 companies - among them the biggest transnational corporations in the food and agriculture sector. Moreover, FIAN highlights the G8 initiative also ignores general human rights principles, like effective participation, and lacks human rights risk analyses and reference to adequate accountability mechanisms.

FIAN criticizes the G8 initiative as bluntly equating the opening of agriculture and food markets to foreign investors with combating hunger and malnutrition. An explicit expression of this erroneous understanding is the "success" indicators of the initiative: in most of the New Alliance Cooperation Frameworks for countries, the World Bank Doing Business Index and "increased private investments" are the key indicators. This alone shows the initiative is excessively biased towards the corporate sector.

FIAN's policy paper directly contrasts policy actions of the G8 initiative in four key areas: seeds, land, social protection/income, and nutrition with a human rights framework.
The results speak for themselves: For example, where the UN-Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food asks governments to implement farmers' rights (as defined in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources), the G8-led initiative pushes for the "implementation of national seed regulation" for greater private sector involvement.
Similarly, where the human right to adequate food and nutrition includes improved access to land for small-scale food producers "to feed oneself" and for those groups directly affected by land grabbing, the corporate-driven agenda of the G8 initiative is concerned about an easy and cheap process of land allocation for investors.

An increase of private sector involvement is furthermore evident in the area of social protection - an area which has traditionally been the sole responsibility of the state. The role of the state in relation to social protection is reduced through the creation of a climate beneficial to foreign investment by formulating corporate-friendly policy frameworks and opening up social protection-related areas to private investors. Also, the income-generating measures propagated by the G8 need to be assessed carefully due primarily to the fact that the strategy of the Alliance is geared toward land acquisition for private corporations focusing on large-scale, capital-intensive, and extensive agriculture which requires reduced labor input. Furthermore, the G8's simplistic understanding of the nutritional dimension of food production has resulted in the proposal of a limited economic model. It neglects the fact that food and nutrition security does not simply entail the increase of caloric intake, but rather a consistent access to diverse and nutritious diets (in terms of quantity and quality), culturally-adequate food, the recognition of the important role of protecting women's rights and their nutrition, as well as access to basic public services to ensure nutritional well-being and human dignity.

In conclusion, FIAN's policy paper fundamentally questions the legitimate role of the G8 in regards to food security and nutrition. It reiterates the demand that G8 countries implement the decisions by Committee on World Food Security (CFS), such as the Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, and do not sideline and weaken the CFS as the foremost legitimate and democratic multilateral governing body on food security and nutrition with such an initiative.

China and its African neo-colonialism

David Owiro, project officer at local think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), tells IPS that  “China’s interest in Africa is primarily based on Africa’s mineral wealth.” Angola is rich in diamonds and their longstanding relation with China is built on that natural wealth, adding that “Angola’s capital Luanda is home to nearly three million Chinese.”

 During the May 4 to 11 trip, Li attended the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja, Nigeria, and visited Ethiopia, Angola and Kenya.

During his visit to Kenya, Li and the government signed 15 deals — particularly relating to construction and agriculture. This included the controversial Standard Gauge Railway deal where China will fund and build a 3.8-billion-dollar railway from Kenya’s port of Mombasa to Nairobi in the project’s first phase. The railway will eventually connect Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. Under the terms of the agreement, Exim Bank of China will provide 90 percent of the cost and Kenya the remaining 10 percent.

“The project is too expensive and makes no economic sense. The period it will take Kenya to repay China for this loan has also not been made clear,” Owiro says.  Owiro also said, China is currently not transferring any technological knowledge “all the Chinese-driven construction in Africa is done by the Chinese themselves. It is only after an outcry during the building of Nairobi-Thika Superhighway that the Chinese brought in a few Kenyans to do a few manual jobs”.

Ken Ogwang, a Nairobi-based property developer and economic expert, says that there are about 2,500 Chinese firms in Africa, but the continent is still getting a raw deal.
“Studies have shown that Chinese firms in Africa create very minimal sub-economies. Where Chinese companies have been building roads, you expect locals to begin earning from feeding the constructors, housing them and so on,” he tells IPS. But, as Owiro explains, this does not happen. “The Chinese build their own campuses, and bring in what they need.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Saving Babies

In 2012, the world's worst death rate for newborns was in Sierra Leone, with 49.5 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

In Somalia and Guinea-Bissau, it was 45.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and only marginally better in the other African countries in the group: Angola, 45.4; Lesotho, 45.3; the Democratic Republic of Congo, 43.5; Mali, 41.5; the Central African Republic, 40.9; and Cote d'Ivoire, 39.9.

 Pakistan was the only non-African country in the world's worst 10.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the top five countries for newborn deaths, with 118,000 babies dying a year. Newborn deaths in Nigeria total 267,000 a year.

"If current trends continue," a press release accompanying the studies says, "it will be over a century before a baby born in Africa has the same chances of survival as a baby born in North America or Europe."

 Professor Joy Lawn, a Ugandan-born pediatrician at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told AllAfrica "There has been a fatalistic acceptance from both communities and governments" but 70 percent of newborn deaths are preventable with currently available techniques.  Low-cost medical therapies have been developed, such as a class of drugs known as antenatal corticosteroids that can be given to a mother before birth - for about 50 cents - to improve the maturity of babies lungs. "A single injection", Lawn says, "can halve the risk of a baby developing lung complications. It's very evidence based."

Nearly three million newly-born children die each year worldwide, and another 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Nearly half of these deaths occur during labour and almost all go unrecorded.

Dr. Gary Darmstadt at the Gates Foundation says that despite "considerable advances" in healthcare for newborn babies, "further progress has been hindered by disappointing levels of investment, poor coordination globally and with countries, and inadequate translation of attention into effective national policies, health care programmes, and evaluation and monitoring of newborn health...Despite the evidence showing that there are feasible and affordable solutions to this problem - which include political prioritisation, increased investment, and concerted country action - poor global leadership, and inadequate coordination, evaluation, and accountability, are hindering progress."

A weaker ANC

1) 26 million people in South Africa today face abject poverty, 25 million of these are African
2) In 2004, 48% of South Africans were living below R524 a month, in 2011 this increased to 52.3%
3) There are now more people in South Africa living in shacks as there were in 2009 (13.4% in 2009, 14.1% in 2012)
4) In May 2008 there were 5.1 million unemployed people in South Africa, today there are more than 7 million
5) South Africa remains the most unequal country on the planet, our Gini Coefficient, which is a measure of inequality, increased from 0.66 in 1993 to 0.7 in 2008.
6) Between 2009 and 2012, 271,000 jobs in manufacturing have been lost and between 2007 and 2010, manufacturing declined from 17% of GDP to 15%.

The ANC received 62.15% of the valid votes cast, but 64% of South Africans did not vote for the ANC. Combined, out of the total potential and actually registered voters in South Africa today, analysis of election statistics confirms that the ANC has been, this year, elected into government by a mere 36 per cent of all those who were eligible to vote. There is diminishing support for the ANC in the voting trends since 1994. From a high of 53.01% in 1994, the ANC has disastrously dropped to 36.39% of the share of votes in 2014. This is the true story that reflects the reality of the loss of confidence in the ANC.

From here 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Militarizing humanitarianism

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Africa is the U.S. military's next frontier.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the newest of the U.S. military's six regional commands, has rapidly expanded its presence on the African continent.

Emphasising a "3D" approach of "defence, diplomacy, and development," the White House describes AFRICOM's charge as coordinating "low-cost, small-footprint operations" throughout the African continent. Yet despite efforts to market AFRICOM as a small operation, recent reports have revealed that the command is "averaging more than a mission a day" on the continent, and has anywhere from "5,000 to 8,000 U.S. military personnel on the ground" at any given point. The US military has attempted to put a friendly face on its expedition to Africa.

New York Times, Eric Schmitt marveled at AFRICOM's Operation Flintlock, a multinational and multiagency training operation in Niger. Schmitt wrote glowingly about fighting terrorism with mosquito nets: "Instead of launching American airstrikes or commando raids on militants," he wrote, "the latest joint mission between the nations involves something else entirely: American boxes of donated vitamins, prenatal medicines, and mosquito netting to combat malaria."
Humanitarian and development missions like the ones outlined in Schmitt's article are at the forefront of AFRICOM's public relations campaign. But promoting AFRICOM as a humanitarian outfit is misleading at best. To put it simply, these projects are a Trojan Horse: dressed up as gifts, they establish points of entry on the continent when and where they may be needed.

Under the auspice of development and conflict prevention, AFRICOM regularly undertakes humanitarian projects in countries unmarked by permanent war or conflict. AFRICOM relies heavily on social media to showcase these projects and to portray itself as collaborative with African partners, dedicated to humanitarian aid, and trustworthy in the eyes of local peoples.
The command's Facebook and Twitter accounts are updated daily, and include postings on anything from participation in global humanitarian campaigns such as World Malaria Day to reports on medical missions, sound bites from local recipients of AFRICOM aid, and photos of troops distributing toys to children. Less is said about the expansive presence of American military personnel and technology on the ground and in the skies. AFRICOM conducts aerial and ground operations with U.S. troops, private military contractors, and proxy African military operatives trained and equipped by the United States.

Not surprisingly, given the ongoing U.S. interest in securing new fuel sources and growing concerns over China's influence in the region, many of AFRICOM's efforts are located in oil-rich regions – specifically Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and the Gulf of Guinea. The Gulf of Guinea, which hugs the Western coast of Africa, has received heightened interest of late given its proximity to the Sahel and Mali, an alleged increase in pirating, and notably, both on- and off-shore oil deposits. In Takoradi, Ghana, for example – a place affectionately nicknamed "Oil City" -AFRICOM trains Ghanaian troops, conducts humanitarian missions, and meets with local chiefs, NGOs, and fishing communities. Of course, U.S. spokesmen have attempted to distance the United States from any interest in the region's oil. A recent report from the Army War College dismissed claims that AFRICOM is protecting U.S. oil interests, but nonetheless argued that private American oil companies are the "best corporate citizens that African leaders and their publics could hope for." Its daily operations and talk of "sensitising" West African nations to the idea of a permanent Marines "crisis unit" in the region make clear that a more permanent U.S. presence on the continent is its true intention.

Humanitarian projects allow military personnel to train in new environments, gather local experience and tactical data, and build diplomatic relations with host countries and communities.
As activists with Women for Genuine Security have explained, this use of relief and humanitarian aid to "further larger geopolitical and military goals" – a practice they have dubbed "disaster militarism" – is a general strategy employed by the U.S. military worldwide.
For example, a 2010 report from the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University found that in Kenya, humanitarian projects by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a multi-branch military operation in East Africa, provided "an entry point" to "facilitate a military intervention, should the need arise."  The U.S. military's "lily pad strategy" of speckling the globe with tiny military installations small-scale troop build-ups allow the United States to establish "goodwill" with local communities, planting the seeds for larger concentrations of troops and activities later on. As Women for Genuine Security puts it, "co-mingling humanitarian relief and military operations" contributes to "civilian confusion, public distrust, and questions of transparency and accountability."

 AFRICOM's humanitarian undertakings are not gestures of goodwill or conflict-deterrence, but rather the militarised U.S. approach to foreign policy in Africa.

From here

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Somalia's Child Labour

War and famine in Somalia have forced Halima, and thousands of others like herself, to abandon the dream of education and become workers instead. UNICEF statistics from 2011, the last time such data was collected, show that half of all children between the ages of five and 14 hailing from the country’s central and southern regions are employed. In Puntland and Somaliland, which have been more stable than other parts of Somalia for the past two decades, more than a quarter of all children work for a living.

The grueling jobs for which they are hired – mostly manual and domestic labour – pay little but demand a lot. Twelve-year-old Halima Mohamed Ali says she works as a nanny for five children from “sunrise to sunrise”, cooking, ironing, washing floors, bathing the children, and finally putting them to bed before calling it a day.  Her 50-dollar monthly salary is a lifeline for her family of five, who have no other breadwinner.  Ali told IPS, “If I miss even a single day of work, my family will go to bed hungry.”

 According to Mohamed Abdi, programme manager of Somali Peace Line, an organisation that promotes and protects the rights of children, “Hundreds of girls are brought to Mogadishu from rural areas where there is extreme poverty and famine conditions … to work as domestic servants in middle-class homes. They work long hours for food, lodging and low wages, which they send back to their families.” The “Lucky ones” like Ali get paid on a regular basis many others have their meagre salaries withheld for months, are cut off from their families, abused and treated like slaves. “When we try to convince parents not to send their children to work, they ask us for alternative sources of income, which we cannot provide,” he admitted.

In addition to being vulnerable to informal labour conditions such as long hours, children like 11-year-old Hassan Abdullahi Duale also receive lower wages than their adult counterparts, even when they perform all the same functions. Duale – the only boy in the family – left school and took a job in a car-repair centre where he works 12-hour days to support his mother and two young sisters. “On a good day, when there are lots of cars to fix, I earn 50 Somali shillings (about 2.5 dollars) a day. On bad days, I am just given my lunch and sent home with nothing,” said Duale

 70 percent of the population of 10.2 million are classified as “low-income”, with 73 percent of all Somalis living on less than two dollars a day. The unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world, with 54 percent of all Somalis between the ages of 15 and 64 out of work. The director-general of Somalia’s ministry of human development and public services, Aweys Sheikh Haddad, said his country’s constitution bans child labour, adding that the government recently ratified an International Labour Organization (ILO) convention forbidding the worst forms of child labour. But challenges in law enforcement mean these commitments on paper have not amounted to much in practice. Various studies and reports have found children as young as five years old engaged in virtually every industry, from construction to agriculture. Only 710,860 youth out of 1.7 million primary school-aged children are enrolled in any kind of education.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The US's New Normal In Africa

Since 9/11, the U.S. military has been ramping up missions on the African continent, funneling money into projects to woo allies, supporting and training proxy forces, conducting humanitarian outreach, carrying out air strikes and commando raids, creating a sophisticated logistics network throughout the region, and building a string of camps, “cooperative security locations,” and bases-by-other-names.

All the while, AFRICOM downplayed the expansion and much of the media, with a few notable exceptions, played along.  With the end of the Iraq War and the drawdown of combat forces in Afghanistan, Washington has, however, visibly “pivoted” to Africa and, in recent weeks, many news organizations, especially those devoted to the military, have begun waking up to the new normal there.
While daily U.S. troop strength continent-wide hovers in the relatively modest range of 5,000 to 8,000 personnel, an under-the-radar expansion has been constant, with the U.S. military now conducting operations alongside almost every African military in almost every African country and averaging more than a mission a day.

This increased engagement has come at a continuing cost.  When the U.S. and other allies intervened in 2011 to aid in the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, for instance, it helped set off a chain reaction that led to a security vacuum destabilizing that country as well as neighboring Mali.  The latter saw its elected government overthrown by a U.S.-trained officer.  The former never recovered and has tottered toward failed-state status ever since.  Local militias have been carving out fiefdoms, while killing untold numbers of Libyans -- as well, of course, as U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in a September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the “cradle” of the Libyan revolution, whose forces the U.S. had aided with training, materiel, and military might.

Quickly politicized by Congressional Republicans and conservative news outlets, “Benghazi” has become a shorthand for many things, including Obama administration cover-ups and misconduct, as well as White House lies and malfeasance.  Missing, however, has been thoughtful analysis of the implications of American power-projection in Africa or the possibility that blowback might result from it.

Far from being chastened by the Benghazi deaths or chalking them up to a failure to imagine the consequences of armed interventions in situations whose local politics they barely grasp, the Pentagon and the Obama administration have used Benghazi as a growth opportunity, a means to take military efforts on the continent to the next level.  “Benghazi” has provided AFRICOM with a beefed-up mandate and new clout.  It birthed the new normal in Africa.

From Nick Turse, for more read on here


Land Of Dust - Post-Apartheid South Africa


"We're not celebrating anything" two decades after the end of apartheid, said Shawn Yanta. "Only the rich are celebrating. The  working class are still struggling to get on with living."

Yanta lives in Stofland in the Hex River Valley of South Africa's Western Cape. The dawn of democracy in 1994 delivered a boost to this region's table grape industry, as it brought an end to international boycotts of South African produce.

The Western Cape produces more than 80 percent of the country's table grapes and the Berg and Hex River Valleys are the country's primary production areas. Table grapes are among the world's most traded fruits and the prevailing climatic conditions in these valleys provide an unusually long eight-month window for production.

But that revenue does not translate into the betterment of the lives of the fruit pickers, who are trapped in poverty and neglected by the government and social services.

IRIN's latest film, Land of Dust, looks at the conditions of the workers in the Hex River Valley, where long hours, low wages, poor health and education opportunities, are the rewards of farm employment. Conditions which have changed little since the end of apartheid.

from here

Divine inspiration: Mere hallucination/infatuation!

I wish to debate the issue at any possible platform or through any available/affordable media. Perhaps there are other people like my neighbours, the Yirira: abandoned, ignored, neglected by evangelists, politicians and fortune hunters. Despite centuries of the spirit of the ‘saviour’ the Yirira are not even aware of their ‘inspired’ and miracle-performing kinsfolk who were caught in the imperialist net or submitted to the colonising authorities. Reasons why such people remained/remain isolated:

The first lot of venturers to the continent were Christian missionaries, empire and wealth hunters. The area around Chewore (and as most in the Zambezi Valley) is composed of mostly very rugged terrain, arid and non-arable, and with no prospects of minerals there was/is no prospect of Mighty Jesus realising the plight of those in such an area. Let there be found some diamonds, platinum etc in Mbire District – Jesus’ controlling disciples will say – ‘Let there be a super tarmac to Mbire yesterday’. In fact, even protesting EU, US will provide means to relocate the Mbire residents to a more habitable environ (as if there never was one before). And some preacher/prophet will propound that Jesus knew of the Mbire plight long before he was born, it is just that he was waiting for the inspired ‘Man of God’ (the preacher/prophet).

The current equally selfish ruling elite will as usual blame the plight of the Yirira on the ‘negligent racist colonial regime, as if they (current leadership) did not adopt the same cruel, selfish and self-glory-seeking mentality, exaggerating their role in the struggle to overthrow the exploitative colonial system. As if they did not instead adopt it and indeed worsened it; much worse than the colonial leaders: the colonialists had to prove to have some substantial wealth acquired before getting into the legislature; our self-proclaiming ‘messiahs’ from colonial exploiters are exploiting the followers much worse. They use just political clout/rhetoric (hollow promises) then abuse donor and public funds to enrich only the ruling elite and their relatives, loot and share spoils with even (former) colonial exploiters like the Sam Levis, Bill Irvines, Thomas Meikles, Rautenbachs etc, even allocating them diamond fields, platinum fields, gold fields etc.

The best people such as the Yirira can benefit (if minerals are found around their home) is the ‘generosity’ of leadership to relocate them, as if the leadership ‘moulded’ the relocation site. All in all what it now proves is that our leaders were only bitter because the colonialists denied them participating in the splendour (looting from the public and donor coffers, abuse of power) overall, in religion – politics – general system (socio-economic). What has changed is the complexion of leaders, the imperial system is further entrenched in the so-called opposition groups are for the same selfish imperial system socio-economic (just different sides of the same – worthless – Zimbabwe banknotes) vying to abuse the powers that the current are abusing, e.g. did we not have thousands of homeless people in Zim while our president and recent prime minister built/refurbished extra palaces/castles in Borrowdale, Highlands, Pleasure Mountains (Mount Pleasant) apart from already existing plush residencies (private/personal)? And that in 2008 many of us had our funds frozen by RBZ decree, courtesy of Governor Gono, endorsed by central government (during the period of limited withdrawals the elite were allowed to withdraw as much as they wanted), but no redress to the non-elite.

You will find that given the Zim population and the Zim bounty of nature, our poverty is not a result of scarcity of basic necessities. It is the direct result of downright selfishness: please note: despite claims by African leaders and claiming to be revolutionaries, they have all been won back by imperialism. Look at Zim in particular: the same Westminster-type parliament, with the same pomp and glory as king/queen when opening parly after of course the 5-yearly circus called poll (here it is just to endorse the leader to dictate for the next 5 years and be foiled again with campaign rhetoric). How does anyone claim to be a revolutionary when he/she adopts (and worsen) the imperial religion (during the colonial era struggle against Christianity was banned by the fighting cadres, leadership pretended to support the comrades perhaps to impress non-religious China, Russia, DPRK), socioeconomic and the imperial legal system anyway?

Well, back to the heap of bullshit called divine inspiration: the reality is that every parent or leader wants to groom his offspring/followers according to his ideals. The reasons I have given concerning the Yirira cover many people in similar situations (e.g. islands undiscovered by religionists/propagators. I do not know enough about the Koran, but the maker of the environment/universe can never be the selfish pompous, tribalistic, cruel (warmonger, ruthless in Deuteronomy 7:1) despot and erratic – at first the claims to have created a perfect man, later the man is found to be defective and needs circumcision etc, as depicted in the Bible. The story of the resurrection proves the lies: he Jews are not the most stupid people in the universe (perhaps my timid and gullible fellow Zezurus are), i.e. he was sent specifically to save the Jews. If indeed he had resurrected, even the most ardent critic/doubter would have been proved wrong. As it reads (apart from the gullible) we have the story of a king/queen who can be seen by all before death but, when he/she resurrects is seen by the co-called royal ones only! (Blessed are they who believe without seeing.) Gullible! Imaginative!

How effective, how powerful is divinity when a criminal selfish Jacob gets divine blessings which should have gone to honest diligent Esau, fair and infallible god? Should not Jacob have got the same result as Ananias and Saphira? Again, we get a selfish, cruel adulterous king David, instead of being pelted to death, he grandsires ‘The King of the Jews’. Wonderful, infallible divinity! Thus, in the name of primitive humanity, in the desire/wish (a prayer is a wish) for eternal life (Oh! How I wish there were!), people have created rival monsters (imaginary –God and Satan), always at each others throats, no winner but also imagined answers. Hence when primitive dreams/hallucinations are interpreted by Daniel: … primitive mathematicians (a) Seventh Day Adventists come up with 31-08-1844, (b) Jehovah’s Witnesses come up with 1914 as the return of Jesus Christ. We have many people who were teenagers by 1912 still around, among my associates no-one saw or heard of Jesus then. However, if he did not come then that means he is still coming yesterday. As usual, the divine answers are all imaginary (interpreted by chosen seers). In my personal perception/perspective, the reason many shun reality is the false grooming plus respecting wishes. Hence, by suspending logic I cite two orators:

(1) ‘… when you die you cease to exist like the beasts you kill often to feed yourselves, the maker (nature) loves everything it made, equally, no favours to any particular species…’
(2) ‘… if you obey me, because I often talk to the creator, who says I have domain over all other species, you will be resurrected after death and live for ever…’

Of course, orator 2 gets favour most. It is hope/wish versus fact/reality. Despite millions of years of human existence with continuity by offspring, there is no single person, despite highly propagated fables, who was ever resurrected. According to scientific (and reality) explanation of death only wishful thinking and the suspension of logic make people think there ever was/will be any resurrection. If the leading humans were not egoistic (selfish), the most selfish animals in fact, and primitive hallucinations/dreams and their propagation aside, who can confirm to you (humans) that the maker/creator loves you more than the lion, tiger (rats– pests), cattle, moths etc?

Face reality!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Path Towards The Destruction Of Peasant Agriculture In Mozambique

In 2009, the governments of Brazil, Japan and Mozambique signed an agreement to implement the so-called Cooperation for the Agricultural Development of the Tropical Savannah in Mozambique (Pro SAVANA). The Program has been promoted by the governments as a sustainable agriculture development project for the region. However, Mozambican organizations and movements, in addition to denouncing a “total lack of transparency, consultation and public participation”, are stating that the project threatens biodiversity, the lives of millions of peasants and consequently the production and food sovereignty of the country.

In an interview with Real World Radio, Anabela Lemos, chair of Justica Ambiental – Friends of the Earth Mozambique, sad that the goal of the program is to “implement large-scale agribusiness; bring in technologies, the experience and know-how of soy in Brazil and export the production to Japan: a path towards the destruction of peasant agriculture”. The movements that oppose to the implementation of this program had an even clearer view of their goals after having access to a draft of the program´s Master Plan, not due to a dialogue with governments, but after the document was leaked. In a letter signed by several organizations to denounce the Plan, they state that “it only considers how small farmers can support agribusiness”.

Two guidelines included in the plan aim to this, according to the letter: “Drive farmers away from shifting agriculture and the traditional land management techniques to make them adopt intensive farming techniques based on commercial seeds, chemical production factors and private property titles; and push farmers to a production regime by contracts with agricultural and transforming companies”. Lemos said that the government has not provided any answers to organizations about, for instance: the surface to be covered by the program or the number of people affected by it. Still, the agribusiness actors seem to be quite certain about ProSAVANA´s goals.

Brazilian agribusiness publication Dinheiro Rural published an article about the program called “Rumo a Africa”. In the article, the Nacala Corridor (where the project would take place) is described as “14 millions of hectares with potential to produce rice, soy, maize, cotton, sunflower and peanuts, which could benefit from privileged infrastructure: the Nacala port, the largest deep-water port in the east coast of Africa. “This is perhaps the largest area to develop agriculture in the continent, with profits estimated between 18 and 23 percent annually”, said the coordinator of the Getulio Vargas Projectos Foudation, Cleber Guarany”.

In Mozambique there is widespread concern, since approximately 4 million peasants live in this area: “I believe that half of them would be affected one way or the other”, said the environmental activist. Lemos concluded: “Peasants represent 80% of the work force in Mozambique and feed 90% of the country. They want to destroy all this, leaving it in the hands of multinational companies, which we already know how they act here in Mozambique”. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cote D'Ivoire - Homelessness For Returning Refugees

 Tens of thousands of western Côte d’Ivoire residents who fled deadly election turmoil three years ago have returned home, where survival is a daily struggle as more than half of them remain homeless.

Voluntary repatriation by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has brought home 33,702 people from neighbouring Liberia since 2011. Around 400 have also returned from Guinea and an unknown number have come back on their own. The 2010-2011 post-election conflict forced some 220,000 people to flee western Côte d’Ivoire to Liberia.

UNHCR’s deputy representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Serge Ruso, told IRIN that 52 percent of the former refugees have no houses. Violence ignited by the disputed outcome of the November 2010 presidential run-off first broke out in the country’s west, where armed gangs supporting then opposition candidate and now President Alassane Ouattara raided villages, killed and drove out people seen as supporters of then incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.

Many of the former refugees restarting life at home without a roof over their heads have sought shelter with friends or relatives. Those whose land has not been illegally seized by their ethnic or political foes are slowly rebuilding, while the loss of both homes and farms to rivals has deepened desperation and longstanding rancour for others.

The government’s Post-Crisis Assistance Programme (PAPC) says 2,243 houses need reconstruction or refurbishment in the crisis-riven west, and that it rebuilt or restored 687 houses in 2012 thanks to World Bank funding.

Land has been at the centre of conflict in the region, and with the looming 2015 elections, lingering tensions over access to land could trigger violence.

Nonzi, 66, and his family survived the July 2012 attack on a camp outside Duékoué housing some 5,000 people who had been displaced by the 2010-2011 poll violence. The attack was seen as ethnically driven, as it was blamed on armed Malinké men backed by traditional hunters known as dozo who support Ouattara. The camp was home to mainly Guéré people who are Gbagbo sympathizers.

Land tenure in Côte d’Ivoire is either customary or statutory. Ninety-eight percent of land in rural Côte d’Ivoire is owned through customary law. The statutory system is applicable only when land is registered. The government in 1998 passed a rural land law aiming to recognize and formalize customary land rights by setting out procedures and conditions for them to be transformed into title deeds. But land ownership agreements are still predominantly verbal, a matter that has contributed to the recurrent disputes.

The land disputes add to political rivalries that often take on an ethnic dimension. Observers have criticized the government for failing to carry out far-reaching reconciliation and fair justice in the aftermath of the violent 2010-2011 election crisis. Côte d’Ivoire’s west is seen as having borne the brunt of the country’s years of crisis since the 1999 toppling of President Henri Konan Bédié.

“Today problems about land, community rehabilitation, improving infrastructure, development and reintegration of former fighters are a low priority,” Kourouma, Ivorian political analyst.

Still, many Ivoirians in refuge want to return home. The UNHCR plans to repatriate 16,000 refugees from neighbouring Liberia this year. In March, the agency and the Liberian government closed down the third camp in southeastern Liberia as more Ivoirians returned home.

“Those who are returning have no houses to go to. Some have benefited from community projects by aid groups, but considering the losses during all these years of crisis, this assistance is very little,” said Albert Gbahou, head of Yrozon village in the country’s west.

“Everyone is looking at the government for solutions to the problems. The refugees, the displaced who were dispossessed of their land need to get it back in order to settle. Since the returns begun, we have been working with families to help out those returning, but this is quite insufficient,” Gbahou added.

Land dispossession has deprived families of livelihoods in the agriculturally rich western Côte d’Ivoire, Human Rights Watch found in an October 2013 study.

“The current pre-election atmosphere does not favour peaceful return of refugees. As long as the problems they are facing are not resolved, there’s always a risk of a crisis,” said Ivoirian lawyer and political analyst Julien Kouao.

“We know that since 2000 we have been repeating our political mistakes and our misfortunes too. This is what confirms the fears of renewed crisis.”

From here

Monday, May 12, 2014

G8 New Alliance To Re-Colonise Africa

Whenever we talk about the African continent, images of famine, ethnic cleansing and brutal corrupt dictatorships usually come first to mind. This clichéd association, which tends to blame Africans for all their ills is reinforced by a compliant Western mainstream media, which more than often plays a subservient role to structures of power and dominance. But it seems that the mood is changing as Africa is booming economically. We are now being told by politicians and others that Africa will be helped not by charity but by investment. For instance, the likes of Tjada Mckenna and Jonathan Shriver, representatives for Feed the Future, US Government food and hunger initiative are enthusiastic about the business potential that Africa can offer: ‘Africa is home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies and the rate of return on foreign investment is higher in Africa than in any other developing region. Doing business in Africa makes good business sense.’

Attracted by these high economic growth rates and propelled by a lack of new opportunities elsewhere, huge global food and agriculture companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and Unilever are rapidly increasing their presence in sub-Saharan Africa, seeking access to resources and new markets to expand their operations. In the same way that Europeans colonised much of the continent in the nineteenth century, large corporations are now looking for raw materials, land and labour and their attention is turning to Africa, which the World Bank has dubbed ‘the last frontier’ in global food markets.

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is supposedly committed to eradicating hunger in Africa, building on previous initiatives (such as the green revolution) that have failed so far to reach that goal. It is a partnership between the powerful G8, a number of African governments, transnational corporations and some domestic companies. Under its cooperation frameworks, African countries promise to reform their land laws and make other policy changes to facilitate private investment in agriculture. In exchange, they get hundreds of millions of dollars in donor assistance and promises from foreign companies and their local partners to invest considerably.

The G8 funds are supposed to be aligned with the country agriculture plans developed through the African Union's Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) that was carried out through national consultation. But almost all of the G8’s New Alliance policy measures that each African government commits to implement within clearly defined deadlines are exclusively aimed at increasing corporate investment in agricultural lands and input markets. This highlights how such initiatives are not really designed to serve the African people but rather to open up new markets for big corporations that are driven by maximum profits regardless of their devastating impact on local life. Instead of providing a solution to hunger, the pro-corporate approach of initiatives like the New Alliance is likely to exacerbate hunger and poverty through shifting control of the food system away from small-scale farmers and local communities into the hands of big business that will likely invest in lucrative projects such as exporting cash crops like coffee, tobacco and biofuel crops.

In 2012, Mamadou Cissokho, honorary president of the Network of Farmers' and Agricultural Producers' Organisations of West Africa (ROPPA), sent a letter to the president of the African Union on behalf of African civil society networks and farmers' organisations expressing his concerns over how the G8 was dictating agricultural policy in Africa:

‘….on the eve of the G8 meeting at Camp David, I address myself to you, the President of the African Union – and through you to all African Heads of State – to ask what leads you to believe that Africa's food security and food sovereignty could be achieved by international cooperation and outside the policy frameworks formulated in inclusive fashion with the peasants and producers of the continent…The G8 and G20 can in no way be considered appropriate places for such decisions.”

Along similar lines and in a compelling statement, African civil society networks and organisations dubbed the New Alliance as a ‘new wave of colonialism’ and emphasised the necessity of food sovereignty, on individual and household food security first, with trade arising from surpluses beyond this.

It is anticipated that these policy commitments from the African governments will reinforce land grabbing and destroy the livelihood of small farmers who will be robbed of their lands forced into using expensive and damaging agrochemicals and corporate-controlled seeds, and subjected to insecure and poorly paid jobs, increasing their poverty and debt.

As someone coming from the global south, from Africa in particular, the whole thing sounds like some IMF structural adjustment program that mortgaged our sovereignty and wreaked havoc on our countries’ economies in the 90s. For me, it is also another neo-colonial instrument advancing under the cloak of the “altruistic civilising progress”, in order to remove any barrier to greed and to keep us subordinated to a profoundly unjust global order. This is an order that is benefitting a tiny minority over the poor majority and is the cause of the poverty and hunger in Africa in the first place.
The G8’s New Alliance will neither eradicate hunger nor achieve food security for Africans and thus must be fought. Solidarity with African farmers is a duty of any person caring about global justice.

The World Development Movement (WDM) launched a new campaign in early April in order to challenge the corporate control of the African food system through the G8’s New Alliance.

WDM will contest this initiative as part of the global movement for food sovereignty, which demands the right to food to be fulfilled, and that food producers and consumers can determine their own food systems and have control over the skills and resources that form them.

What better way to send a strong message to the UK Department For International Development (DfID), the British establishment and the multinationals involved and to say loudly and clearly what the New Alliance initiative is all about, than the creative and humorous [url=]WDM stunt[/url] that was carried out on Monday 31st March. A bunch of smartly-dressed activists pretending to be representatives of several multinationals involved in the New Alliance paid a visit to DfID in order to thank them for their precious help in enabling them to carve up African markets and resources for their profits. To add to the celebratory mood, they took a big cake in the shape of Africa, a continent that they voraciously want to slice between themselves. King Leopold, responsible for the colonisation and the genocide in the Congo region and a key player in the Berlin conference where European powers formalised the African takeover, would have liked this gesture – for completely different reasons of course – as he once said: "I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.” Sadly, DfID representatives weren’t so keen to help the ‘executives’ in carving up the cake.

By Hamza Hamouchene from here

Saturday, May 10, 2014

We will not forget

On the day that the ANC were re-elected to government we remember its victims.

South Africa's Dirty Votes

In the West Rand, the township of Bekkersdal is a stark emblem of the broken dream of millions of South Africans who live in squalor across the country. There is no running water, electricity or sanitation, election posters urging residents to exercise their vote hang perilously from wire-mesh fences that surround donkey-drop outside toilets.

The premier OF the Gauteng province, Nomvula Mokonyane, having been jeered by residents during a visit in October 2013, said: "People can threaten us and say they won’t vote but the ANC doesn’t need their dirty votes."

The comments drew outrage and the residents made it known that the ANC was no longer welcome here. In February 2014, two voter registration stations were petrol-bombed as part of residents' demands that voting should not take place until the local municipality was dissolved. These residents cite corruption, nepotism in the ranks of the local government for the failure to address their grievances.  ANC activists going door to door to campaign in Bekkersdal were chased away with stones.

Elections, though, did take place. The African National Congress is claiming victory. The ruling party is set for another five-year term in office, continuing its unbroken tenure since the fall of apartheid. The ANC vote was down on 2009 figures but still more than 62 percent. Jackson Mthembu, spokesman of ANC, said the party's "well-oiled election campaign" proved to be effective.

Bekkersdal is just one township among many in a larger story of rising disenchantment. The results failed to mask an underlying dissatisfaction over high levels of unemployment, a lack of basic services and allegations of widespread corruption.

From here and here 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Liberia - When our land is free, we’re all free

On 6-8 May 2014 agribusiness corporations are courting African governments at the Grow Africa Investment Forum in Abuja, Nigeria to 'further accelerate sustainable agricultural growth in Africa'.
Corporations’ interest in agriculture in Africa has certainly accelerated corporate control of land and seeds but done little to support agriculture that will feed the continent. Rather than support family farming and smallholder agriculture private sector investment in agriculture has resulted in grabbing land from communities; the land which they farm sustainably and rely on for their survival.

Communities are resisting this corporate takeover of their land and they are winning. All over Africa people are sending a clear message to their governments; stop selling Africa to corporations. The Jogbahn Clan in Liberia is one such community and here is their story.

The Jogbahn Clan is celebrating a victory as the President of Liberia has now recognised their right to say no Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) a British palm oil company grabbing their land. This is no small feat in a country where over 50% of the land has been given to a corporation without the consent of the communities who customarily own the land. 
Despite the President's commitment EPO has still not recognised that the Clan has said no to their operations. They are operating as if things are business as usual and conducting studies of the Clan’s land in preparation for clearing. Land clearance and other preparatory activities would be unlawful, as they do not respect communities’ right to give or withhold their Free Prior and Informed Consent, which is a requirement provided for under both national law and international law.

But the Clan are not discouraged and they continue their resistance for the hope of a better future; “We want the government to support us to be self-sufficient on our land instead of giving it to a company who will just take the money and go home. Instead we can keep the money in Liberia and we can live better lives” said Garmondeh Benwon (R).

Every year, an area five times the land size of Liberia is grabbed from communities around the world. The Jogbahn Clan show that stopping it is possible when communities stand together, mobilise and resist. The government has recognised their right to say no now EPO and KLK, their majority shareholder, must do the same.

Fact of the Day

The looting of Africa

Billions of pounds a year is being plundered from Africa through illegal logging and fishing that is prolonging poverty in the world's poorest continent, Kofi Annan the former head of the United Nations said.

Losses from logging amount to $17bn (£10bn) a year, while fishing fleets flouting international conventions are costing West Africa at least $1.3bn a year.

Annan says that Africa imports $34bn of food but could feed itself within five years if agricultural productivity improved.

he said “The costs of filling Africa's massive infrastructure financing gap could be covered if the runaway plunder of Africa's natural resources is brought to a stop. Across the continent, this plunder is prolonging poverty amidst plenty. It has to stop, now.”

 Illicit financial flows, often connected to tax evasion in the extractives industry, cost Africa more than it receives in either international aid or foreign investment. He said “Resources that should be used for investment in Africa are being plundered through the activities of local elites and foreign investors. And in each case African governments and the wider international community are failing to put in place the multilateral rules to combat what is a global collective action problem."

 Unregistered industrial-scale fishing trawlers unloading illegal catches are the economic equivalent of mining companies evading taxes and offshore tax havens. "The underlying problems are widely recognised. Yet international action to solve those problems has relied on voluntary codes of conduct that are often widely ignored. The same is true of logging activity, with the forests of West and Central Africa established as hotspots for the plunder of timber resources."

Annan says "While personal fortunes are consolidated by a corrupt few, the vast majority of Africa's present and future generations are being deprived of the benefits of common resources that might otherwise deliver incomes, livelihoods and better nutrition. If these problems are not addressed, we are sowing the seeds of a bitter harvest."

From the Guardian

Lax Vax

Globally, rotavirus is the most usual cause of severe gastroenteritis in children, accounting for an estimated 2.4 million hospital admissions and 527,000 deaths each year. About 85 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, mainly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
According to GAVI, a public-private alliance to boost immunisation, rotavirus kills more than 600 children every day in Africa, and thousands more are hospitalised or require clinic visits.

“Diarrhoea is one of the top killers of children under five in Cameroon, responsible for more than 5,800 deaths in children under five yearly,” Desire Noulna of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) told IPS.

There is suspicion and mistrust of vaccines among different communities in Cameroon. A study by the EPI found that 33 percent of families are opposed to vaccination of children and pregnant women due to religious and traditional beliefs. Rumours have been circulated that public health officials were administering vaccines to sterilise women.

In June 2009, based in large part on clinical trials in Africa that demonstrated vaccine efficacy in impoverished, high-mortality settings, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that rotavirus vaccines be included in all countries’ national immunisation programmes. Cameroon introduced the rotavirus vaccine last month after ten other countries in Africa: Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Morocco, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, and Sudan.

According to WHO, South Africa, the first African country to introduce rotavirus vaccines into its national immunisation programme in 2009, experienced dramatic decreases of 54 to 69 percent in rotavirus hospitalisations in both rural and urban settings within two years.

In Ethiopia, the introduction of rotavirus vaccines is estimated to save 3,700 lives. In Ghana, rotavirus vaccines are predicted to save 1,554 lives annually.

Cameroon will hold a national immunisation campaign in the coming months. But some experts argue that the sanitation problem in Cameroon presents a major challenge to the effectiveness of this vaccine.  Only about 45 percent of the rural population has access to drinking water against 77 percent in urban areas. An estimated 13.5 percent of rural people have access to proper hygiene and sanitation compared to 17 percent in urban areas.

“There are some neighbourhoods in our major cities that for months go without potable water. Even when supplied, the quality is very doubtful,” says Obed Fung, health expert at the Foretia Foundation that supports development in Cameroon.

From here

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

South Africa's Disillusioned

South Africa’s May 7 elections mark the first time in democratic history that those born into Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid ‘Rainbow Nation’ can vote. Yet only a third (about 683,000) of eligible born-frees have registered to cast their ballot. It will take more than text messages, Youtube ads and social media campaigns to reach young voters — particularly when a recent survey by independent researchers at FutureFact revealed 64 percent of respondents had “little or no interest” in politics.

“People feel dislocated. They feel politicians do not speak to their interests. They feel voting doesn’t make a difference.” University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor and principal Prof Adam Habib explained. 

Twenty-year-old Xolisa Ngcwabe says the current political system has failed young people.
“I don’t really care about voting because I don’t think my vote makes a difference. The government has to deliver and it hasn’t been doing that,” Ngcwabe says of the ANC’s failure to provide basic necessities like running water, school textbooks and functioning toilets to impoverished informal settlements and townships.

“I feel like the government generally doesn’t know what it’s doing and blaming apartheid is a defence mechanism,” 20-year-old Alexandra Goldberg, a University of Cape Town student says.
“It’s very frustrating. Let’s move on from it and actually have a goal here.”

US will stay in Djibouti

Obama says American troops will stay at the military base of Camp Lemonnier in the East African nation of Djibouti permanently.

“This is a critical facility that we maintain in Djibouti,” Obama said during a meeting with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

The $63 million per year lease would allow the Pentagon to keep personnel and equipment at the camp for 10 more years. The "long term lease" includes an option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years without renegotiating the terms, as well as a provision to extend for an additional 10 years beyond that at a renegotiated rate.

Camp Lemonnier houses F-15 fighters and there are around 4,000 US troops, civilians and contractors, including 300 special operations personnel, at the military base. The base is also the biggest in a network of airfields in East Africa that the United States uses for drones and other surveillance planes.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

US has its eye on Africa

US Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the US is interested in Africa’s natural resources. Kerry said that the US and the continent of Africa are “Natural Partners” because of its abundant resources and their “know-how for economic development”.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Treating Mental Illness by Magic

At the Bouya Omar mausoleum in central Morocco followers claim the mentally ill are healed by the saint's supernatural powers.  Morocco's "possessed" -- from violent schizophrenics to hard drug users -- who are believed to be tormented by evil spirits are brought by relatives to await deliverance.

 But rights groups allege gross mistreatment of those taken there, with one former inmate describing months of "hell". Activists say hundreds of people have been kept in chains here, sometimes starved and beaten, making the place a byword for cruelty and highlighting the stigma attached to mental illness in Morocco.

Mohammed, a former drug addict from Tangiers, was taken to Bouya Omar by his brother in 2006 to be cured of his "demon".  He says he was shackled and beaten repeatedly, given barely enough food to survive and robbed of the little money he had. "I lived in hell for a year," Mohammed told AFP, adding that the experience had left him partially blind in one eye. He says his brother eventually returned and "saved" him.

A source at the ministry of religious affairs admitted "The patient is imprisoned in a way to protect him, and to restrain this force, which is a kind of blind force, to exorcise the spirit," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We leave people there because we can't look after them. But it's a traditional system and it has to change."

Reports about mistreatment, including one presented by a human rights organisation to the UN group on arbitrary detention visiting Morocco in December, prompted the health minister to announce that he would close Bouya Omar immediately -- if only he could. "I'm going to do everything I can to get this centre closed. Unfortunately the decision is not for the ministry of health," Hossein El Ouardi said.

"The health minister cannot close Bouya Omar because it serves a political purpose and exists for other social and cultural reasons that are deeply rooted in Moroccan society," says author and academic Zakaria Rhani.

Superstitious beliefs abound in Morocco, about good and bad genies ("jnun") capable of affecting one's daily life, and the power over them of marabouts, holy men like Bouya Omar, whose ubiquitous white tombs are credited with the same supernatural forces. Over the past decade, sociologists say, King Mohammed VI has encouraged such popular Islamic beliefs, commonly linked in Morocco to the world of healing, partly as a way of countering extremist ideology. The saint's modern-day followers, who embody his authority and profit handsomely from the money paid for healing, mediate between the "patients" and the jnun believed to have possessed them, in rituals focused around the tomb and aimed at casting out the evil spirits. Promoting the culture of sainthood strengthens the king's legitimacy, which is itself based on the mythology of sainthood and inherited religious authority, Rhani says, referring to the monarch's claim to be descended from the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

The difficulty of properly looking after the patients, by getting them treatment at psychiatric facilities run by qualified personnel, stems from the backward state of Morocco's mental health sector after decades of neglect, medical experts say. Jallal Toufiq, head doctor at the Arrazi mental hospital in Rabat's twin city Sale, says there are only 400 psychiatrists in a country of 33 million people, while some of the psychiatric institutions are in a "very advanced state of disrepair". The US-trained doctor describes the practises at Bouya Omar as a "crime against humanity," lamenting the "extremely negative attitude towards mental illness" in Morocco, which he mainly attributes to poor education.

"The level of awareness in the general population is so low that a lot of people tend to interpret their syndromes, their delusions and anxieties, as a curse, as something that has nothing to do with medicine. So they seek healings in marabouts, and the problem is that they come to see us long after, when they're in bad shape."

Mohammed Oubouli, an activists with the Moroccan Association of Human Rights in Attaouia, a town near Bouya Omar, which he has has campaigned for years to get closed, explained "We're not against what the people believe; they can believe what they like. What bothers us is the suffering of those brought here."


Thursday, May 01, 2014

When Capitalism is a Crime

At least $1.8 trillion illicitly flowed out of Africa between 1970 and 2009. This is far more than the external aid the continent received over the same period, and almost five times its current external debt. According to researchers, the continent also loses at least $100bn a year in this financial haemorrhage.

Illicit flows from Africa grew at an average rate of 12.1 percent per year since 1970, and that capital flight from West and Central African countries accounted for most of the illicit flows from sub-Saharan Africa.

Illicit financial flows consist of money earned illegally and then transferred for use elsewhere. The money is usually generated from criminal activities, corruption, tax evasion, bribes and smuggling.

Nigeria lost at least $250bn between 2000 and 2009. South Africa came second with a loss of at least $170bn over the same period.

Somalia loses between $800m and $1bn through illegal fishing every year.

May Day Greetings

War on the Nile?

When Egypt’s now deposed president Mohamed Morsi said in June 2013 that ‘all options’ including military intervention were on the table if Ethiopia continued to develop dams on the Nile River, many dismissed it as posturing. But some experts claim Cairo is deadly serious about defending its historic water allotment, and if Ethiopia proceeds with construction of what is set to become Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, a military strike is not out of the question.
Last May some Egyptian parliamentarians were calling for sending commandos or arming local insurgents to sabotage the dam project unless Ethiopia halts construction of its £2.9 billion ($4.2 bn) Grand Renaissance Dam in 2011. Former president Hosni Mubarak made plans for an air strike on any dam that Ethiopia built on the Nile, and in 2010 established an airbase in southeastern Sudan as a staging point for just such an operation, according to emails from Wikileaks. Sudan however now backs Ethiopia's plans so that military option is no longer available.
‘It is a matter of life or death, a national security issue that can never be compromised on,’ says foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty (
Egypt is totally dependent on the Nile. Without it, there effectively is no Egypt. To Ethiopia, the new dam is a source of national pride and the hydro-electric power it will produce is essential to its economic future.
‘Ethiopia’s move was unprecedented. Never before has an upstream state unilaterally built a dam without downstream approval,’ Ayman Shabaana of the Cairo-based Institute for Africa Studies had told IPS news agency last June. ‘If other upstream countries follow suit, Egypt will have a serious water emergency on its hands’ 
Egypt fears that the new dam, which will begin operation in 2017, will reduce the downstream flow of the Nile, on which 85 million Egyptians rely for almost all of their water needs. Citing a pair of colonial-era treaties, Egypt argues that it is entitled to no less than two-thirds of the Nile’s water and has veto power over any upstream water projects such as dams or irrigation networks. Accords drawn up by the British in 1929 and amended in 1959 divvied up the Nile’s waters between Egypt and Sudan without ever consulting the upstream states that were the source of those waters. The 1959 agreement awarded Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of the Nile’s 84 billion cubic metre average annual flow, while Sudan received 18.5 billion cubic metres. Another 10 billion cubic metres is lost to evaporation in Lake Nasser, which was created by Egypt’s Aswan High Dam in the 1970s, leaving barely a drop for the nine other states that share the Nile’s waters.
The desire for a more equitable distribution of Nile water rights resulted in the 2010 Entebbe Agreement, which replaces water quotas with a clause that permits all activities provided they do not ‘significantly’ impact the water security of other Nile Basin states. Five upstream countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda – signed the accord. Burundi signed a year later. Egypt rejected the new treaty outright. Cairo now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of watching its mastery over the Nile’s waters slip through its fingers.
While the treaty’s water allocations appear gravely unfair to upstream Nile states, analysts point out that unlike the mountainous equatorial countries, which have alternative sources of water, the desert countries of Egypt and Sudan rely almost entirely on the Nile for their water needs. But upstream African states have their own growing populations to feed, and the thought of tapping the Nile for their agriculture or drinking water needs is all too tempting.
As we said in an earlier article: ‘Scarcity of any resource that is vital for the production of profits could be, and has been, seen by states as a reason to go to war’ (Socialist Standard, December 2012). The waters of the Nile may well be the cause of another conflict.

Zambia: The Copper Elephant

From the May 2014 Socialist Standard 

Zambia has been mining copper for almost a century. In 1889 the British South African Company was granted a Royal Charter to exploit minerals in Southern Rhodesia. Cecil Rhodes, founder of the De Beers Mining Company, had a vision to build a Cape-to-Cairo railway line, allowing minerals to be transported from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt – en route to Europe. Massive copper ore deposits were only discovered in the Copperbelt in 1920. During the 1940s there was a tide of nationalism in the mining towns of the Copperbelt Province characterised by strikes that were organised by the Mine Workers’ Union, led by Lawrence Katilungu.
This prompted the British colonial government of the day to pass a Public Order Act to stem the tide of African political consciousness on the Copperbelt mining towns. The Public Order Act still remains in force today and the PF government is widely criticised for enforcing the act to prohibit political demonstrations of any kind.
Zambia became a member of the IMF and World Bank in 1964. The first republican president Kenneth Kaunda nationalised the privately-owned copper mines in 1968. This was followed by the forming of Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines in 1972 (ZCCM). In 1973 CIPEC was inaugurated in Lusaka with the major copper-producing countries, namely Chile, Zaire and Peru. But CIPEC the intergovernmental council of copper-exporting countries failed to contain the falling prices of copper on the international commodities markets. The Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) by Ian Smith in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) meant that Zambia had to find another trade route for the exports and imports. Kaunda invited the Chinese Peoples’ Republic to build a railway line from Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia to Tundunia in Tanzania. Tazara Railway Authority was created to manage the jointly-owned railway company. This was followed up by the construction of a pipeline to transport crude petroleum from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Indeni Oil Refinery in Ndola. This was the beginning of what has been dubbed a ‘Socialist Economy’ in Zambia.
In 1973 Kaunda declared Zambia a one-party state and passed the Emergency Powers Act that prohibited the formation of political parties. The ideology of Humanism was promulgated on the premise that it was going to unite the people of Zambia. But falling copper prices and increasing production costs in the state-owned mines posed economic and social problems – the breaking-apart of Soviet ‘Communism’ in eastern Europe led to incessant demands for political pluralism. In 1980 there was an attempted military coup-d’état against Kaunda. In 1983 he was forced to seek economic aid from the IMF. The official Economic Structural Adjustment Programme was imposed by the World Bank in 1983. These structural adjustment programmes gave rise to food shortages, a black market, work stoppages and student demonstrations which forced Kaunda to pull out of the IMF. This period was characterised by political detentions, and many dissidents disappeared under unexplained circumstances.
When the MMD came to power in 1991 Zambia was subjected to Economic Liberalisation Measures that have continued today.
The legacy of extractive colonialism and the recent far-reaching economic liberalisation reforms is what has come to characterise the Zambian state today.
The state remains corrupt and misinformed. Political consciousness grounded on regionalism alongside a concerted effort by mining companies to hide data – leaves the government with scanty information on the ownership and mining activities. Tax evasion, fraud, environmental damage and human rights abuse are rarely punished even if discovered by the government. The most striking example of this was when two Chinese managers at Collum Mine shot and wounded 13 Zambia workers during a strike in 2000.
Today, copper leaves Zambia loaded on trucks and trains bound for Dar es Salaam and ports in South Africa. The increased copper exports to China is attributed to the opening up of new copper mines owned by the Chinese government in the Copperbelt Province (Chambishi Metals, Non-Ferrous Copper Mines, Chambishi Copper Smelter). A detailed report into the operations of Mopan Copper Mines revealed that cobalt extraction rates were twice inferior to that of other producers of the same mineral.
A glance at the top shareholders of the largest copper mining companies is revealing. Prominent shareholders in Vedanta Resources, First Quantum Minerals and Glencore are Black Rock Asset Management, Standard Life, Capitol Group and the government of Singapore.
Black Rock, J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs currently buy around 80 percent of the available copper in Zambia. Zambia produces 16 percent of the world’s copper and it has the richest copper ore deposits in the world. However, copper mining only contributes 2 percent of government revenue. Koukola Copper Mines was first sold to Anglo-American Mining Corporation for a paltry $90 million in 2002. But in only a few months Anglo-American pulled out of KCM. The MMD president Levy Mwanawasa sold 5 percent of shares in KCM to Vedanta Resources in 2002. The deal was facilitated by Clifford Chance and Standard Chartered Bank.
When Vedanta bought KCM it inherited many of the concessions enjoyed by Anglo-American Mining Corporation – tax dividends, interest on royalties and management fees. But KCM’s reputation in Zambia sank to a new low in 2012 when it announced that it was going to mechanise its underground operations: this entailed retrenching 2000 workers. President Sata threatened KCM with revoking their mining licence if KCM retrenched the workers. But KCM’s chief executive Kishor Kumar went ahead and dismissed 54 workers. Sata was furious, so much so that Kishor Kumar was served with a deportation order and fled from Zambia in 2012.
It is common to hear conventional politicians often describe foreign companies as investors whose presence in the country helps create employment even at the cost of making profits. This misconception of capitalism could not be further from the truth.
To quote from Walter Rodney’s book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa:
‘The question as to who and what is responsible for the economic underdevelopment of Africa can be answered at two levels – firstly the answer is that the operation of the imperialist system bears responsibility for the economic underdevelopment of Africa by draining African wealth and making it impossible to develop more rapidly.
Secondly one had to deal with those who manipulated the system and those who are either agents or unwitting accomplices of the system. The capitalist nations of western Europe were the ones who actively extended the exploitation from inside Europe to cover the whole of Africa. In recent times they were joined by the government of the USA..’
 K. MULENGA, Kitwe, Zambia