Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mozambicans Need This Land To Produce And Live

Evidence of the effects of land grabbing in the region, where ProSavana is being implemented, on the peasants particularly women is beginning to show. In Nampula province, women are being prevented from passing in the areas where the foreign companies operate. They cannot access the firewood or gather wild foods. 
This reality was reported during a discussion panel on “Structural challenges to development of peasant agriculture in Mozambique: peoples’ demands in regard to ProSavana”, at the Second Triangular Conference of the Peoples, held on 24 July 2014, in Maputo. 

In this panel, many reports were made on the violation of the access rights to land of women in particular. In rural areas, women are the ones who work the land to provide for their families and fetch firewood to cook. Ana Paula, a peasant from the peasant movement UNAC based in Nampula, said that in that region women are forbidden to exercise their right to use and exploit the land, which, in itself is a clear violation of the Law of the Land. 

This Law requires that community be consulted to grant lands to companies, thus giving communities the right to refuse, as in cases where such land granting implies the abuse of their rights.
 “We women are suffering from grabbing of the land. As women, we can’t even pass through the lands where the project is based to fetch firewood, or to take roots from the soil to use for medicines for our families. As a result, we are going through really hard times because of these companies that are using the land in Nampula and in other areas” said Ana Paula, peasant and leader of UNAC.
 She called on the government to cease the production of soy and other crops for export as they cause health problems due to the use of agro-toxins, as it happened in Brazil in the Cerado brasileiro region. 

“We ask the government to hear the peasants and not allow the production of crops that bring agro-toxins, for they cause diseases. And I want to call on the governments of Japan and Brazil to stop thinking that we have large portions of available and abandoned land in Mozambique. The Mozambican population is growing and needs this land to produce and to live” said Ana. 
According to her, the peasants need technical support, an increase in quality of local seeds and access to markets to sell their products at a fair price.

from here

Friday, July 25, 2014

Communities' Resistance To Palm Oil At Odds With President's Stance

Liberia's Jogbahn Clan is at the forefront of efforts to resist the grab of Indigenous Peoples' land and forests for palm oil plantations. But according to the country's President, they are only 'harrassing and extorting' international investors.
"If we lose our land how will we live? We are in Africa, we live by our crops. Palm plantations can't help us!"
"They refuse to talk to us about our land business. Because we are standing here, are we not people? We are somebody."
So spoke Elder Chio Johnson defiantly looking through the tall iron gates of Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) / Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK's) office in Grand Bassa County, Liberia.
His Jogbahn Clan had come to deliver a petition signed in solidarity by over 90,000 people to tell the UK and Malaysian palm oil companies that they must stop grabbing the Clan's land. However the companies refused to speak with the community.
EPO also thwarted efforts to present the petition in London, when they refused a meeting. Attempts to doorstop their London premises proved futile - the office appears to exist only in the form of a brass plate.

Even though the companies refused to speak with the communities the story of their struggle is now known all over the world with signatories for the petition coming from across the globe.
Their story has also been a source of inspiration for communities all over Liberia who like the Clan are facing dispossession from their land by agribusiness corporations that will replace their sustainable communities with monocultural plantations to produce certified 'sustainable' palm oil for the global market.
The fight many communities are facing in protecting their land is a fight for their very survival.
Last month Liberian communities affected by all four major palm oil companies; Equatorial Palm Oil / Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, Golden Veroleum Liberia (Golden Agri-Resources), SIFCA / Maryland Oil Palm Plantation (Wilmar / Olam) and Sime Darby came together for the first time to discuss agriculture concessions as a national issue.

These companies are European (UK), Asian (Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean) and African (Côte d'Ivoire) with considerable European financing. The focus was on creating a space for these diverse communities to share their experiences.
The same narrative of exploitation is playing out all over the country; the companies' names were interchangeable. Bringing the communities together in this way laid the foundations for connecting their separate struggles.
Chio Johnson offered advice to the other communities, urging them to stay united in the face of the companies' divide and rule tactics. "Land is life, it is too valuable to lose", he warned.
Solomon Gbargee, a youth representative gave a stirring speech recounting the Clan's struggle so far and urged all the communities to stand together in their resistance of the companies:
 "If we lose our land how will we live? We are in Africa, we live by our crops. Palm plantations can't help us!"

Communities impacted by Wilmar's operations described resisting land clearances and the destruction of their property. When they objected to paltry compensation for destroyed crops they were told by their politicians: "If you want to get nothing, take to the streets" - where communities who continue to protest face assault and arrest.
Deyeatee Kardor, Jogbahn Clan's chairlady called on women to lead the struggle. "Because I stood up to the company people accused me of being a man but I carry the spirit of a thousand women", she proclaimed.
"For those of us under struggle with a palm company we must remain strong. My land is my land, your land is your land, your forest and bushes are your bank. Don't get tired. We cannot agree to leave our land."
Communities shared advice and support and these exchanges led to the development of a community solidarity network to provide a platform to work together.

In her ninth Address to the Nation in January 2014 the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, characterised community resistance to large scale concessions on their land as "harassment and extortion of investors".
"Agriculture remains the key sector of the economy for local employment creation, poverty reduction, food security and income generation, as over 60 percent of the population depends on this sector for livelihood.
"Food security is listed as a national priority, but we must admit that there has been under-investment by both the public and private sectors. Only massive investment can fix this under-performing sector so that it can play the vital role of delivering inclusive economic growth, environmental sustainability and long-term poverty reduction.
"Our scarce budget resources cannot do this, given the many other priorities, so we will need to attract investment from the private sector. At the same time, the private sector will not respond if there is continued harassment, extortion and unreasonable community demands."
Her statement somehow failed to recognise that investors are primarily interested in the production of export cash crops - which does nothing to increase food security in Liberia. Indeed it achieves the very reverse, as land used for local food production is comandeered to produce commodities for global markets.
The result of community resistance, she later claimed, is to undermine Liberia's economic growth and harm "the renewed confidence that Liberia is still a good destination for investment".
Earlier this year she voiced support for the Jogbahn Clan's struggle against EPO - as reported by The Ecologist. But her promises have come to nothing.
Read more here

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Boko Haram and Capitalism

According to Human Rights Watch, in Nigeria, Boko Haram, the groups most people regard as a terrorist group, have killed in the last six months more than 2,053 civilians. Some people suggest that number has also been reached by the government of Goodluck Jonathan, who some say has killed as many people over the same period. Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa. It's the sixth-largest oil exporting country in the world. Why such chaos?

This video is well worth a watch

Baba Aye is a trade union educator and Deputy National Secretary of the Labour Party, is the National Convener of United Action for Democracy, the largest rights-based CSOs coalition in Nigeria. He has been very active over the past three decades in the various trenches of struggle for democratic rights and is the author of the book Era of Crises and Revolts: Perspectives for Workers and Youth.

Baba Aye: Boko Haram represents two contradictory developments, two contradictory phenomena. One is a reflection of the level of poverty, the level of disillusionment and discontent in the part of the country where you have--Boko Haram have their base. That is the northeast. The northeastern part of the country has the highest poverty rate in the country, the highest level of unemployment in the country, and you have the highest proportion of children of school age out of school, elementary school, in the world in the northeast. And that is one aspect of it. And Boko Haram feeds on this discontent. It taps into this disillusionment with the system.
The second part is this: it's also a reflection of elite politics played with the mask of ethnicity and religion, I mean, primordial sentiments, because while Boko Haram presented itself as some organization fighting against ostentatiousness, fighting against, I mean, Western civilization, in the sense of this being oppressive, so to speak, it also has close ties with ruling members of the state. And it's rather unfortunate, but it is understandable, because this is part of a pattern that goes back to the decolonization process in the country, where you found different sections of the elites playing up primordial cards so as to be able to win sections of the masses to their side as they battled amongst themselves for who gets the lion's share of access to the state treasury through access to state power....
...Were Boko Haram to be smashed today, a dozen Boko Harams would arise. As it is presently, you have three well-known splinter groups from Boko Haram, of which the larger of the other two smaller groups is Ansaru, which has targeted foreign nationals specifically, and with particular reference to French nationals. You have these. But in May you also had a totally unknown group in Niger state, which is in the northern region. So you have to situate Boko Haram within a bigger problem, and that problem as part of the dynamics of interclass power play based on interests, economic and political interest of the elites in the country feeding into mass poverty, disillusionment, and anger that is quite palpable not only in the northeastern part of the country but across the country as a whole....

....You have had an infinitesimal few, few, getting stupendously rich while poverty has has stalked the land, while poverty has become the lived realities of the bulk, the immense majority of the population. The percentage of people living below the poverty line as at last year, from the less statistics, official statistics, is 69.5, roughly 70 percent. This is up from 54 percent barely ten years back. So you have poverty increasing while a few, a few people, a few people--. In Nigeria you have, I mean, show rooms of Ferrari, of Lamborghinis. You have a few people that--. And that's the problem, that is the problem with the country, inequality.

The full interview and transcript can be accessed here 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Statelessness = Invisibility

At least 750,000 people are stateless in West Africa, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which is calling for governments to do more to give or restore the nationality of stateless individuals, and improve national laws to prevent statelessness.

Many in the region are both stateless and refugees, said Emmanuelle Mitte, senior protection officer on statelessness with UNHCR in Dakar, but the overwhelming majority of stateless persons in West Africa are stateless within their own country, lacking proof of the criteria required to guarantee their nationality.

Statelessness can block people’s ability to access health care, education or any form of social security. In the case of children who are separated from their families during emergencies, the lack of official documentation makes it much harder to reunite them, says the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Lack of official identification documents can mean a child enters into marriage, the labour market, or is conscripted into the armed forces, before the legal age.

Statelessness can also render people void of protection from abuse. Denied the right to work or move, they risk moving into the invisible underclass, said UNHCR’s West Africa protection officer, Kavita Brahmbhatt, who gave the example of a group of stranded non-documented Sierra Leonean migrants living in the slums of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, selling charcoal as they were too poor to do anything else, and too scared to return home for fear of being punished. “They became a member of Monrovia’s underclass,” she said.

Fact Box
The 1954 Convention relating to the status of Stateless Persons aims to regulate their status and protect their human rights. The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness outlines tools to avoid and resolve stateless cases.
Statelessness not only stops people travelling across borders but restricts movement within countries such as Côte d’Ivoire or Mauritania, which are heavily check-pointed.

“Nationality is not just a document; it affects all of your rights as a citizen. Without a nationality you’re invisible, you don’t exist,” said Mitte. According to her, the 750,000 figure is “just the tip of the iceberg” - no studies have been undertaken to document the number officially. But UNHCR estimates at least 10 million people are stateless worldwide.

read more here

Comment on South African unions

The role of a union is to convert perceptions of individual injustice into collective action by promoting group cohesion.

 While unions are facing a decline on a global scale, in South Africa, however, those unions that are able to successfully connect wider social injustices to their members’ cause and mobilise people around this are increasing their membership numbers. Workers do not necessarily see their work and living environments in isolation, so any protest over wages can easily be further inflamed by issues outside the workplace. As a result, they are increasing their political influence.

In South Africa high unemployment, wage inequality, low education levels, low service delivery and social unrest has provided fertile ground for unions to blur the boundaries between workplace issues and social injustices.

In South Africa, an abundance of breakaway splinter unions such as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has revealed growing dissatisfaction among rank-and-file members with leaders who appear closer to the political elite than the concerns of the workers.

The close relationships between trade unions and political parties have shown that union leaders lose the focus on servicing their members’ needs. This dissatisfaction is more acute when the unions are institutional players in the establishment.  The metalworkers’ union Numsa is trying to escape this.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Slavery In Mauritania

Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery in the world. According to one NGO in Mauritania, up to 20 percent of the Mauritanian population is enslaved.5 While not identical to the Global Slavery Index estimated of prevalence, these two figures, in the absence of more precise measurement, point to a growing consensus of high levels of enslavement in Mauritania.

Slavery in Mauritania primarily takes the form of chattel slavery, meaning that adults and children in slavery are the full property of their masters who exercise total ownership over them and their descendants. Slave status has been passed down through the generations from people originally captured during historical raids by the slave-owning groups.6

People in slavery may be bought and sold, rented out and given away as gifts. Slavery is prevalent in both rural and urban areas. It is reported that women are disproportionately affected by slavery; for example, they usually work within the domestic sphere, and a high level of control is exercised over their movements and social interactions. They are subject to sexual assault by their masters. Women’s roles include childcare and domestic chores, but they may also herd animals and farm, as men in slavery do.7

Beyond the context of private homes, it is reported that some boys, who have been sent to attend Koranic schools to become talibes (students), have been forced into begging. Although the scale of this problem is not known, it is thought to be quite significant; affecting local boys as well as boys trafficked into Mauritania from the surrounding regions.8

It is also reported that women have been subjected to forced marriage and sexual exploitation, both within Mauritania but also in the Middle East.9 Slaves are not permitted to have any possessions, as they are considered to be possessions themselves. As such they are denied inheritance rights and ownership of land and other resources. When an enslaved person marries, the dowry is taken by the ‘master’ and if they die their property can be claimed by the ‘master’.10

read more here

Thursday, July 17, 2014

South Sudan's Plight

As South Sudan’s malnutrition epidemic intensifies, seven major international aid agencies, all of which prioritise food security in South Sudanese villages, may have to shut down their projects due to severe funding gaps.

CARE International, a U.S.-based relief agency, naming South Sudan to be “the most pressing humanitarian crisis in Africa, stated that the United Nations’ most recent appeal for South Sudan is less than half funded.  Some 1.5 million South Sudanese residents are now estimated to be displaced within the country, thereby decreasing their access to reliable food sources and requiring them to share already-limited supplies.

“We will be staring into the abyss and failing to avert a famine if funds do not start arriving soon,” Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam, said. “This is a not a crisis caused by drought or flood. It is a political crisis turned violent. The people of South Sudan can only put their lives back together once the fighting ends.”

While solving the political problem at the root of South Sudan’s current violence is a significant priority, aid workers say the international community’s most dire concern should be for the nutritional needs of South Sudanese children.

Dr. Jenny Bell, a medical worker and expert on South Sudan with the University of Calgary in Canada, acknowledges that “the nation’s health situation wasn’t brilliant before December,” but warns that the civil conflict has “compounded” the country’s medical issues. South Sudan “already had the world’s highest maternal mortality rate, and it had been estimated that one in five South Sudanese children die before they reach age five,” she told IPS.

“But even though there had barely been enough food before, now there really won’t be enough, as internally displaced farmers were unable to grow crops due to the violence, and cannot do so now because South Sudan is well into its rainy season.”  she adds that despite the “amazing agricultural potential” of South Sudan, funding for this purpose has been weak.

Sandra Bulling, media coordinator for CARE International explained “We need to have photos of children starving and dying before the world reacts to such a disaster. This is what has worked for Somalia … you need these pictures to talk. For South Sudan we do all these press releases and calls to action, but as long as there is no big report with photos to show how bad the situation is, there is no response.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


The other side of nationalism

At least 750,000 people are stateless in West Africa, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR),

According to the UNHCR estimates at least 10 million people are stateless worldwide. Lack of birth registration is the first step to statelessness for many children: some 230 million under-fives globally have never been registered, according to UNICEF.  “It’s how societies first recognize and acknowledge a child’s identity and existence,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF deputy executive director. West Africa suffers very low rates of birth registration: just 4 percent of infants are registered in Liberia; 16 percent in Chad, and 24 percent in Guinea-Bissau, making them among the world’s worst 10 performers.  A significant proportion of West Africa’s three million double orphans (children with no living parent) are stateless, as are almost all of the region’s street children, known as talibés.

 The overwhelming majority of stateless persons in West Africa are stateless within their own country, lacking proof of the criteria required to guarantee their nationality.

Statelessness can block people’s ability to access health care, education or any form of social security. Lack of official identification documents can mean a child enters into marriage, the labour market, or is conscripted into the armed forces, before the legal age. Statelessness can also render people void of protection from abuse. Denied the right to work or move, they risk moving into the invisible underclass.  UNHCR’s West Africa protection officer, Kavita Brahmbhatt, gave the example of a group of stranded non-documented Sierra Leonean migrants living in the slums of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, selling charcoal as they were too poor to do anything else, and too scared to return home for fear of being punished. “They became a member of Monrovia’s underclass,” she said. Statelessness not only stops people travelling across borders but restricts movement within countries such as Côte d’Ivoire or Mauritania, which are heavily check-pointed. Statelessness usually occurs because people cannot provide the necessary documentation to prove their identity when state laws exist. But in some cases the laws are simply too weak to impose or do not sufficiently help protect citizens’ rights.

“Nationality is not just a document; it affects all of your rights as a citizen. Without a nationality you’re invisible, you don’t exist...many people living in transit camps are from Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, but have no papers. “You can’t send them to a country where they will have no status,”

From here

Monday, July 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

 Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian poet, playwright, Nobel Prize for literature winner and activist explained:

 "Those who unleashed Boko Haram on the nation are not poverty stricken. They are politicians .... desperate for power, intelligent enough or perceptive enough to recognise that the cocktail of politics and religious fundamentalism can only yield them dividends. They think they have nothing to lose. But the foot soldiers have been indoctrinated for years, from childhood. And they believe that their religion [Islam] is in danger ... But Islam is not in danger. It is the pervert followers who are being used and who use others and proclaim that they are fighting for Islam ....Look at the histories of the world: Boko Haram, if not contained and eradicated, will be found in the heart of Lagos before you know it.".

Sunday, July 13, 2014

French Flex Military Muscle

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday that about 3,000 soldiers will participate in an upcoming military operation in Africa. The action will begin this summer, in conjunction with five regional countries. Its objective is to fight terrorist groups, Le Drian said.

The majority of the troops will be stationed in Chad and Mali, with 1,250 and 1,000 soldiers, respectively. France also expects to activate its military bases in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. France also maintains nearly 2,000 soldiers in the Central African Republic, as part of Operation Sangaris, initiated in December 2013.


At this years annual meeting of the African Union, 54 African heads of state quietly voted to grant themselves and their senior officials immunity from prosecution for genocide and crimes against humanity at the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

Amnesty International blasted the decision as “a backward step in the fight against impunity and a betrayal of victims of serious violations of human rights.”

 Between 1960 and 2004, sub-Saharan Africa witnessed 26 wars, nearly 200 attempted coups, 80 violent or unconstitutional changes of government, half of all presidents overthrown, 25 heads of government killed. Are today’s leaders so clean they can grant themselves immunity from prosecution? Al-Bashir, the genocidalist Sudanese president, who still reigns after 25 years. Mugabe, still a menace to Zimbabweans after 34. Kenya’s Kenyatta, wanted by the International Criminal Court. The leaders of the world’s newest state, South Sudan, fomenting ethnic violence. The men responsible for the conflicts in Congo, Nigeria, Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia. The men who unforgivably denied the reality of HIV and AIDS.

Such men are, no doubt, righteously outraged that the International Criminal Court feels more like the African Criminal Court, that the likes of George W. Bush and Tony Blair are forever immune from punishment for their palpable crimes. But should Africa’s leaders then seek their own immunity?

From here 

Fact of the Day

A half-dozen African cities have some of the highest costs of living worldwide for expatriots.

Luanda, Angola topped the list. N’Djamena, Chad, is second in the list, and other African cities that are heavy on a foreigner’s pocket include Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libreville, Gabon and Lagos, Nigeria. All are in the top 25 most expensive expat cities out of the 211 cities researched. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Carbon Offsetting: Who Wins? Who Loses?

World Bank and UN REDD programme behind genocidal land grabs
Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 500 million acres of land in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean was acquired or negotiated under deals brokered on behalf of foreign governments or transnational corporations.
Many such deals are geared toward growing crops or biofuels for export to richer, developed countries – with the consequence that small-holder farmers are displaced from their land and lose their livelihood while local communities go hungry.
The concentration of ownership of the world's farmland in the hands of powerful investors and corporations is rapidly accelerating, driven by resource scarcity and, thus, rising prices. According to a new report by the US land rights organisation Grain: "The powerful demands of food and energy industries are shifting farmland and water away from direct local food production to the production of commodities for industrial processing."
Less known factors, however, include 'conservation' and 'carbon offsetting.'

A damning new report from the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) based in Washington DC warns that the UN and World Bank approach to REDD is paving the way for large-scale "carbon grabs" by foreign governments and investors, putting at risk the land rights, livelihoods and lives of indigenous communities.
The report surveyed 23 low and middle income countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, covering 66 percent of the developing world's forests, concluding that REDD had not established laws or mechanisms by which indigenous peoples and local communities could profit from the carbon in the forests they inhabited.
"Their rights to their forests may be few and far between, but their rights to the carbon in the forests are non-existent", said Arvind Khare, RRI executive director.
At the United Nations climate negotiations in Warsaw in November 2013, delegates reached an agreement that would allow REDD to move forward which, however, excluded questions around who should control and benefit from the new carbon value found in standing forests.
Instead, the World Bank Carbon Fund's approach to defining carbon rights has been widely criticised by civil society groups for creating conflict between new property rights to carbon, and existing statutory and customarily held rights of local communities. The lack of clear safeguards and measures opens up an unprecedented opportunity for corporate and government land grabbing.

Read more here and specifically about Kenya's experiences of land grab.

"No Better Future For Workers Than Solidarity And Unity"

Victory for sugar workers at Swaziland's Tambankulu Estates but Illovo refuses to settle!

Note from the editors: Illovo is the largest sugar plantation owner in Africa, with plantations in six African countries. The company is at the centre of numerous land conflicts.

Last week we asked you to support the strikes by Swaziland's Agricultural & Plantation Workers' Union (SAPWU) at two major subsidiaries of South African sugar TNCs. Thousands of you responded, and the union won its demands at Tambankulu Estates - a significant victory for rural workers in the country. But management at Illovo's Ubombo is refusing to concede similar demands.

South African-based Illovo, Africa's largest sugar company which boasts of being "one of the world's lowest cost sugar producers", is 51% owned by the UK's Associated British Foods. In Swaziland they are in partnership with the despotic King Mswati III, who has banned political parties and de-registered the country's national trade union center.

Southern Africa's impoverished sugar workers have been rising up for improved living and working conditions. In late May/early June this year, an 11-day strike by the South African Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and two other unions won important wage and non-wage improvements from the country's sugar employers, including Illovo.

The Swazi sugar strike actions have now spread to another company, the citrus and sugar producer United Plantations, which supplies cane to Ubombo/Ilovo. SAPWU is leading the fight against rural poverty in Swaziland.

Illovo, whose Swazi plantation and refining operations are many times greater than Tambankulu Estates, is a hugely profitable company which can at least meet the terms negotiated by the union at a major competitor.


Settlement in Swazi sugar strike brings important gains for workers The three-week strike by the Swaziland Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (SAPWU) has ended with a settlement bringing workers a 10% wage increase and satisfying the union's non-wage demands, including improved benefits for seasonal workers. Over the course of the strike involving some 3,000 workers, union members stood up to intimidation by military and security forces and legal action by the company intended to hamper picketing. Ubombo Sugar, the Swazi subsidiary of South African sugar giant Illovo, is 40% owned by Swaziland's despotic monarch Mswati III. Illovo in turn is 51% controlled by the UK's Associated British Foods (ABF). The union's general secretary Archie Sayed has written that "The workers of Ubombo send their gratitude to all who contributed to their struggle and appreciate the spirit of solidarity which has also come as a lesson to them that there no better future for the workers as solidarity and unity."

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Refugees In Need Of More Food Aid

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have launched an urgent appeal to address a funding shortfall that has already resulted in food ration cuts for a third of all African refugees. As of mid-June, nearly 800,000 refugees in 22 African countries have seen their monthly food allocations reduced, most of them by more than half.

WFP is appealing for US$186 million to maintain its food assistance to refugees in Africa through the end of the year, while UNHCR is asking for $39 million to fund nutritional support and food security activities to refugees in the affected countries. A joint report by WFP and UNHCR released last week warns that failure to prevent continued ration cuts will lead to high levels of malnutrition, particularly among children and the most vulnerable.

Worst hit have been refugees in Chad, Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan where a total of nearly half a million refugees are experiencing ration cuts of 50 to 60 percent.

The funding shortfall is not the result of shrinking budgets for either WFP or UNHCR, but a substantial increase in the need for food assistance generated by an unprecedented number of refugee emergencies in 2014. “The amount of large-scale, simultaneous emergencies has never been so high to the best of my memory,” said Paul Spiegel, UNHCR’s deputy director of programme support and management, speaking to IRIN from Geneva.

Out of a global figure of 11.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s protection at the end of 2013, the highest number since 2001, 3.3 million live in Africa.

“There has also been a lot of earmarking [by donors] for certain situations, particularly the Syrian situation,” he added. “Some situations, particularly CAR, have been severely under-funded so there is an equity issue here that needs to be dealt with. Protracted refugee situations have also not had the same level of funding.”

Only about a quarter of those affected by the ration cuts are new arrivals, according to Spiegel. The rest are long-term refugees who have been unable to wean themselves off food aid, usually because they are confined to remote camps where there are little or no possibilities for them to generate an income.

read more here

Facts of the Day - Poverty

More sub-Saharan Africans are living in extreme poverty now than in 1990, said a major United Nations report, warning the region will miss most of its development goals. 

The number of people living in extreme poverty rose from 290 million in 1990 to 414 million in 2010. 

The number of undernourished children increased from an estimated 27 million in 1990 to 32 million in 2012.

The number of stunted children increase from 44 million to 58 million between 1990 and 2012. 

Quote of the Day - Kenya "democracy"

"Like they have done over the past 50 years, our ruling elite is rather determined to hype ethnic differences as a cover for its thieving ways. It is creating tribal animosity and fear to circumvent real and meaningful discussion over the causes of our penury, ...They do not want us to see the systems of oppression of privilege and oppression that have been maintained since colonial times, to understand how these constantly work to extract dignity, rights and resources from the majority and bestow them upon a minority at the top." - Patrick Gathara 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Aid Subsidising Land-Grabs

"Life was good because the land was the land of our ancestors. The village was along the riverside, where you could get drinking water, go fishing and plant mango, banana and papaya. The temperature there was good and we could feed ourselves."

This is how Mr O remembers the home he shared with his family in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. The fertile land had been farmed for generations, relatively safe from wars, revolutions and famines. Then, one day, near the end of 2011, everything changed. Ethiopian troops arrived at the village and ordered everyone to leave. The harvest was ripe, but there was no time to gather it. When Mr O showed defiance, he says, he was jailed, beaten and tortured. Women were raped and some of his neighbours murdered during the forced relocation.  Tens of thousands of people in Ethiopia have been moved against their will to purpose-built communes that have inadequate food and lack health and education facilities, according to human rights watchdogs, to make way for commercial agriculture. With Orwellian clinicalness, the Ethiopian government calls this programme "villagisation". The  villagers, including Mr O and his family, found themselves in a new location in Gambella. He says there was no food and water, no farmland, no schools and no healthcare facility. Jobs, and hope, were scarce.

This mass purge was part bankrolled, it is claimed, by the UK. Ethiopia is one of the biggest recipients of UK development aid, receiving around £300m a year.  Of all the donors to Ethiopia, the British government has been sending the most funds to the villagisation programme.  British aid is provided on condition that the recipient government is not "in significant violation of human rights". It asserted that the UK has failed to put in place any sufficient process to assess Ethiopia's compliance with the conditions and has refused to make its assessment public, in breach of its stated policy. "The British government is supporting a dictatorship in Ethiopia," says Mr O who  offered to meet British officials but they decided his refugee camp was too dangerous. He offered to meet them in a major city, but still they refused. Human Rights Watch explained, "While they have conducted several 'on the ground' assessments in Gambella to ascertain the extent of the abuses, they have refused to visit the refugee camps where many of the victims are housed. The camps are safe, easy to access, and the victims of this abusive programme are eager to speak with DfID, and yet DfID and other donors have refused to speak with them, raising the suspicion that they aren't interested in hearing about abuses that have been facilitated with their funding."

Ethiopia is hailed by pundits as an "African lion" because of stellar economic growth and a burgeoning middle class. One study found it is creating millionaires at a faster rate than any other country on the continent. Construction is booming in the capital, Addis Ababa, home of the Chinese-built African Union headquarters. Yet the national parliament has only one opposition MP. Last month the government was criticised for violently crushing student demonstrations. Ethiopia is also regarded as one of the most repressive media environments in the world. Numerous journalists are in prison or have gone into exile, while independent media outlets are regularly closed down.

Gambella, which is the size of Belgium, has a population of more than 300,000, mainly indigenous Anuak and Nuer. Its fertile soil has attracted foreign and domestic investors who have leased large tracts of land at favourable prices. The three-year villagisation programme in Gambella is now complete. A 2012 investigation by Human Rights Watch, entitled Waiting Here for Death, highlighted the plight of thousands like Mr O robbed of their ancestral lands, wiping out their livelihoods.

 Human Rights Watch. Felix Horne, its Ethiopia and Eritrea researcher, says: "Given that aid is fungible, DfID does not have any mechanism to determine how their well-meaning support to local government officials is being used in Ethiopia. They have no idea how their money is being spent. And when they are provided with evidence of how that money is in fact being used, they conduct seriously flawed assessments to dismiss the allegations, and it's business as usual."

From here

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Malawi - 50 years of independence

 Malawi gained its independence from Britain on July 6, 50 years ago. Malawi still relies on donor aid to finance about 40 percent of its budget.

 Eighty-two-year-old Harry Maseko remembers vividly how Malawi gained its independence
 "To tell you the truth, I cannot point out the benefit of being independent for 50 years, with the exception of 20 years ago, when we were able to fight for and won the freedom of expression, which was suppressed by Banda's autocratic rule. But freedom without food on the table is nothing." (our emphasis)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Africa, Climate Change and Migration

Climate crisis is forcing people to migrate, leave their homes and occupation. Climate change threatens to cause one of the biggest refugee crises of all time and climate change experts have warned that up to 200 million people would be forced to abandon their homes over the course of the next century. It's being observed in Africa. Migration as a result of climate change is not isolated to the southern parts of Africa. The Horn of Africa and Sahel regions have experienced among the worst climate change induced famines, forcing people to seek refuge in other countries. Millions have been affected.

The Zimbabwean reported on July 2, 2014 :

“Makuleke village is a melting pot for illegal migrants from Zimbabwe and Mozambique searching for greener pastures in their wealthy southern neighbor. It is located on South Africa 's eastern border area with Mozambique on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park.

Timothy Murombedzi, 30, from Buhera district in Zimbabwe , is one of many people living in South Africa illegally. “I was a farmer in Zimbabwe but the climate conditions have become unpredictable. It is now difficult to have a good rain-fed cropping season. I used to have more than 20 head of cattle but lost 15 beasts due to drought. I came here in 2010 and am doing menial jobs on the local farms. It is better than watching my cattle dying back home. Yes some people are running away from Mugabe's iron-fist rule but I am not one of those people. I am running away from drought and hunger,” Murombedzi said.

Murombedzi is one of the millions of climate change refugees from Zimbabwe searching for sustenance in various countries in and outside Africa . Although there are many reasons that force people to migrate, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is increasingly recognising that environmental degradation and climate change are among major drivers in both forced and voluntary migration.

The accepted line of argument has been that most of the migrants in South Africa are political and economic refugees, the truth however is that some are climate change refugees. And some people are migrating from as far as the Sahel Region and Horn of Africa in search of jobs. Crops are failing, livestock is dying and clean water is becoming scarce, forcing many people to abandon their traditional homes.

USA climate change activist, journalist and author, Ross Gelbspan warned that: ‘…. as we experience more crop failures, water shortages, and uncontrolled migrations by people whose lands become less able to support them, governments will become more totalitarian in their efforts to keep order in the face chaos. So it's really the political and economic aspects that I've been thinking about.'

Zimbabwean climate change journalist based in South Africa , Fidelis Zvomuya, says farmers in Zimbabwe no longer employ as many workers as before due to persistent drought. This forces people to cross borders in search of employment in neighboring countries. The lack of food in areas like Matabeleland provinces in Zimbabwe where droughts are now an annual event is forcing people to cross to South Africa for jobs.

An expert on climate change migration, Mukundi Mutasa, recently opined that discussing migration was particularly important to southern Africa , a region that had suffered a number of climate-induced disasters in recent history. These include the flooding in the Zambezi Valley in Mozambique and Zimbabwe and in the Namibia 's Caprivi region, and droughts across the entire region. Mutasa warned that the mass movements have resulted in conflict among people as they fight over resources. Conflicts as a result of climate change migration have been evident in some parts of Zimbabwe where people are moving in large numbers to regions which are still receiving good rainfall. ‘And the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in the recent years are just a dress rehearsal of impending fights over resources', he warned.

Experts say poverty, failing ecosystems, vulnerability to natural hazards and gradual environmental changes have always been linked to migration. The effects of warming and drying in some regions will reduce agricultural potential and undermine the provision of clean water and availability of fertile soil. The increase in extreme weather events such as heavy rains and resulting flash or river floods in tropical regions will affect even more people and generate mass displacement.  A sea-level rise will permanently destroy extensive and highly productive low-lying coastal areas that are home to millions of people who will have to relocate permanently. Its main impacts are escalating humanitarian crises, rapid urbanization and associated slum growth, and stalled development.

From the Countercurrents website here

Friday, July 04, 2014

South Africa - Will Law Be Influenced By Religion?

As captured in the equality clause of South Africa’s Bill of Rights, “everyone is equal before the law”, wherein “equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms”.

Those rights and freedoms encompass the political, civil, legal, environmental, social, economic and cultural. Simply put, all of our democratic rights and associated freedoms are indivisible.

Unfortunately, it would appear as though Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, alongside many of our politicians and citizens need to be reminded of this basic democratic principle.

Much of the furore and debate that has surfaced over the recent public comments made by the Chief Justice have revolved around his argument that South Africa “can only become a better people if religion could be allowed to influence the laws that govern our daily lives starting with the Constitution …”

More specifically Mogoeng’s contention that a wide range of societal problems such as “maladministration, crime, corruption [and] dishonesty” along with (religiously-infused and defined) personal behaviour/action such as “adultery, fornication [and] divorce” would, “be effectively turned around significantly, if religion were to be factored into the law-making process”, really stirred the pot.

While there are certainly many reasons to be seriously concerned about the Chief Justice’s views, whether from a legal, moral or political perspective, much of the ensuing commentary has unfortunately revolved around whether he should have even made his views public. This is a false debate. We cannot pick and choose which rights and freedoms can or cannot be enjoyed and by whom simply because we don’t like them or because of the individual’s institutional standing.

However, there is a more fundamentally worrying aspect of Mogoeng’s utterances that has been largely ignored. As opposed to merely conveying the hope that religion (in particular his own variant) might, at some point, play a more prominent role in shaping the law, Mogoeng explicitly stated that “laws must be enacted to advance and not to narrow the operation of, the right to freedom of religion”.

While a strong case can certainly be made for appropriate laws in countries that presently have little or no constitutional or other legal protection when it comes to the “right of freedom of religion”, the immediate question that arises for those who live in South Africa is why on earth would we need such additional laws?

The right to freedom of religion is already constitutionally protected and unlike a host of other rights and freedoms, such as the right to a range of basic needs/services as well as the right to freedom of expression and access to information, there are no discernable contemporary threats or politically-motivated attempts to undermine this particular right.

Given the lack of an objective basis for Mogoeng’s call - as specifically applied to South Africa - it is then to the subjective that we must turn. In this respect, the only rational explanation is that the Chief Justice desires to see the right to freedom of religion given special legal and political treatment and protection above and beyond that accorded to all other rights and freedoms contained in the Constitution.

On the juridical front such a desire, if practically realised, would clearly be unconstitutional. We live in a democracy in which our constitution clearly delineates that there is no hierarchy of rights and where every right/freedom contained therein may be limited by a law of general application. As the Bill of Rights avers and which Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke specifically reminded us of not long ago, the right to religious freedom is not absolute and its scope may be limited by other rights.

Further though, in his recent comments Mogoeng painted a picture of imminent and dark threats to freedom of religion (in all “pluralistic societies” in Africa), imbuing the associated right with an almost super-natural character. He stated: “Religious freedom is … a bulwark against violent extremism [and] failure to respect and entrench the culture of religious freedom could result in a climate of intolerance and impunity that emboldens those who ferment hatred and violence in our societies.”

Leaving aside the hyperbole and ahistorical bent, such claims, when placed in the context of Mogoeng’s well-publicised views on religion, social relations and his political pedigree, surface a decidedly negative interpretation. In this reading, Mogoeng’s comments are much closer to the discourse of the religious right in the USA.

In the ‘land of the free’, the (Christian) religious right have successfully used the call for expanded freedom of religion, always making sure to accentuate its positive societal attributes, to cover for the championing of laws, social attitudes and political practices that practically encourage and entrench a climate of intolerance, impunity and hatred. Under this cover, there is now an ever-expanding campaign to effectively by-pass whatever jurisprudence that clashes with the values and practices of such self-constructed ‘freedom of religion’.

Anyone, and in the USA there are many, who has tried to remind the religious right that freedom of religion does not trump all the other rights and freedoms in that country’s Bill of Rights, have themselves been accused of intolerance, of attempting to impose ‘a dictatorship of secularism’ and yes, of directly opposing the word and will of God (in this case, the Christian variety). You get the picture.

Back in 2000 the Constitutional Court ruled, in the case of Christian Education South Africa v Minister of Education that the right to freedom of religion did not entitle Christian private schools to carry out their biblically-sourced belief in corporal punishment. It was a simple case of applying South Africa’s general law which prohibits corporal punishment in schools on an equal basis. In other words, there are no exceptions on the basis of ‘the right to freedom of religion’.
Mogoeng has publicly stated that he would not allow his religiously-sanctioned homophobia to supersede the constitutional protection of same-sex relationships. However, the point here is not so much about the direct imposition of specific religious beliefs in law but about using freedom of religion to sanction and rationalise a parallel legal and social world that stands above and beyond other rights and freedoms.

Will the present Chief Justice allow his religious fervour, under the cover of advancing the “right to freedom of religion”, to muddy our constitutional and societal waters? We should know soon enough.

By Dr. McKinley, an independent writer, researcher and lecturer as well as political activist.

 from here

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Join The Club - Football, Like Politics, Is Corrupt

Nigeria and Algeria both fell out of the World Cup at the last 16 stage, competing heroically against France and Germany and showing amazing discipline and shape for 70 of the 90 minutes. Then tiredness clearly began setting in. Brief lapses in concentration allowed the European teams to win.
Few African teams, especially sub-Saharan ones, ever progress beyond the last 16, and so it went this year. Before Algeria and Nigeria were knocked out, The Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon had already left the tournament. Surprise upstarts have come not from Africa, but from Latin America.
Costa Rica, a small country with only 5m inhabitants, played with admirable style and effort. Chile gave Brazil a huge extra-time fright. Colombia delighted everyone by being even more stylish than the Brazilians. Whether Costa Rica or Colombia progress beyond the quarter-finals remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the African teams were once again wracked by controversy. Seven Cameroonian players were accused of match-fixing. The Nigerian and Ghanaian teams threatened “industrial action” to ensure they received their bonuses. The tournament was treated to the spectacle of an aeroplane flown from Ghana with a shipment of banknotes to pay the players in cash, since no-one seemed to trust the Ghanaian football authorities to honour their undertakings in any other way. Then, when Ghana went out, the country’s president mooted an official inquiry into the team’s poor performance.

Throughout Africa, high hopes and huge expectations are counterweighted by meagre national resources, which are widely subject to corrupt pilfering. National football associations become sources of personal income, and people fight to become association presidents – not because they are experts in football development, but simply to have leverage over money.
And so organised football, like organised civil society with foreign links, becomes an alternative to a corrupt political life lived for personal enrichment. In this sense, at least, corruption is diversifying. But it does no good for the sport, especially at the prestigious international level.

The African teams of today are very different from those of even recent World Cups. Nearly every player is now a professional employed by a “big” team. They work at Chelsea, at AC Milan, Galatasary, and, even when playing with minor European teams, they are participating in aspirational set-ups. These players know what goes into a successful team.
But as soon as they get to national level, their coaches (Stephen Keshi aside) tend to be a step down; their national associations are inept, as well as corrupt. At a certain point, and this point was clearly avoided by both Nigeria and Algeria, teams think they are destined not to win, wonder why they should try, and think instead of maximising their compensation for the inconvenience the World Cup has caused them.

The president of Ghana can order as many enquiries as he likes, but football today is a big business and should be treated like one. That means African football associations need to have the efficiency and dynamism of international corporations. It might take some of the glamour and romance out of the game – but it also might do something to cut down on the embarrassments.
It’s not just football, of course. Earlier this year, Kenyan athletes threatened to stop competing if their international prize money was subject to taxation. The athletes were wrong to think they should be exempt from what should be a widened tax base designed to boost the country’s revenue; all countries simply have to do this. But even if in some cases they themselves were the nation’s emerging sporting oligarchs, they still refused to pay money into a system used by political figures to steal money for personal gain.
To that extent, the president of Ghana’s enquiry might come to a simple solution: football gets better as the nation gets better. Football wins if the nation’s government wants to win as a nation – not as a grouping of sectional, personal, and often very petty interests.

from here

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Uganda's Demographic Time-Bomb

Ugandan politicians are playing a dangerous game with the country’s legions of unemployed youth. Instead of tackling the problem, leaders on both sides of the political equation are exploiting jobless youngsters for their own ends. In doing so they risk sending the east African nation into a spiral of political and social upheaval.
Uganda has the world’s youngest population, with 78% of its 34m citizens below the age of 30, according to a 2011 report by the International Youth Foundation, an international charity based in Baltimore. 
It also has one of sub-Saharan Africa’s highest rates of youth unemployment, according to a 2012 study by ActionAid International Uganda (AAIU), an NGO. The study sampled both rural and urban youth and found that 61.6% of Uganda’s youths (those between 12 and 30 and not enrolled in primary, secondary or tertiary education) were jobless.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) puts the figure far lower, at 7.3%, but the ILO’s definition of youth unemployment is “unrealistic”, according to AAIU project co-ordinator Rebecca Kukundakwe. The ILO’s definition excludes anyone who has worked for “even one hour in any economic activity…during a specified recent period (usually the past four weeks)”, according to the ILO website. “Our perspective is that if someone is not in continuous and meaningful employment, he or she is not employed, especially when it comes to the youth,” Ms Kukundakwe said.
Like most sub-Saharan African countries, Uganda has enjoyed healthy economic growth. Its GDP, fuelled by copious flows of foreign direct investment and a boom in the retail and construction sectors, has grown by about 5% per year over the last decade, according to the World Bank. But this progress has still not been fast enough to create the economic opportunities needed to absorb the large pool of young people joining the labour force every year. Uganda’s 3.2% annual population growth is one of the world’s highest, according to a 2013 report by Uganda’s official population policy department. 
“Youth unemployment in Uganda is a time bomb,” Ms Kukundakwe told Africa in Fact. “We have a category of young people who are energetic [and] mobile, but who are not being utilised. Like the saying goes, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’”
Ms Kukundakwe pointed specifically to an “ominous” development: the growing tendency of politicians—both in government and among the opposition—to use unemployed youths to advance their own agendas. Politicians pay cheap bribes to idle youths to stage violent demonstrations, she said.
“There’s patronage. We have a lot of young people who are not concerned about their own country but are only interested in how much they can get from politics, and politicians are exploiting this.” 
Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, faces growing opposition as failed government policies and runaway corruption fuel popular anger.   Uganda’s poor urban youth, in particular, are enraged by politicians who they see as privileged and self-serving, and whose affluence has come at their expense.  
The majority of Uganda’s jobless youths live in cities and towns, according to Ms Kukundakwe. It is in these urban centres that political violence has flared repeatedly since the 2011 presidential elections. 
In the wake of those elections, a wave of civil unrest swept the capital Kampala, the capital, and several other large towns, including Jinja and Mbale in the east, as well as Mbarara and Kabale in the south-west, championed by Kizza Besigye, then the leader of the country’s largest opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change.
Stone-throwing young mobs took centre stage in these riots. The government responded with a deadly crackdown that left at least nine dead and scores wounded, according to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group.
Although government action stemmed the unrest, violent confrontations between opposition youth and security forces have since become routine events in major towns. Markets and public bus terminals in downtown Kampala, crowded with idle youngsters, attract opposition politicians eager to rouse popular anger against the government. Images of the resulting violent clashes have become regular features on the country’s news pages. 
Last January 9th and March 6th, youngsters gathered in downtown Kampala to hear Mr Besigye and four MPs expelled last year from the ruling National Resistance Movement. Police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the youthful crowd.
President Museveni’s government has long admitted that Uganda’s high youth unemployment is a problem, but has done little to combat it. However some officials in his government, unnerved by the recent spate of youth-led clashes, are starting to propose solutions.
Pius Bigirimana, the permanent secretary in the gender, labour and social development ministry and whose portfolio is responsible for youth welfare, oversees a $106m programme launched last January, which hopes to provide job-training skills or start-up capital to 1.4m people under 30.  
Critics of the project, however, question the government’s intentions. Gerald Karuhanga, an independent MP, claims this programme is a politically expedient way to win youth loyalty ahead of the 2016 elections. 
“The timing, and the way it’s being implemented, already shows the intention has more to do with political mobilisation than [a desire] to create employment and eliminate poverty among the youth,” he said.
Mr Karuhanga is concerned that Mr Museveni’s government intends to hand out the money directly to young people—as it has done before, with predictably dismal results. The government launched a programme in the late 1990s called Entadikwa (Luganda for “seed capital”), which provided young people with small, unsecured loans, ostensibly to help them start small businesses. 
The programme failed, however, as Mr Bigirimana admitted to Africa in Fact. Recipients used many of these handouts to buy alcohol and pay bride price, according to news reports. A similar programme, dubbed Bonabagagawale (Luganda for “prosperity for all”) was rolled out in early 2000s and suffered the same fate. 
When the government hands out the money directly, it creates the sense that these are simply contributions made in return for political support, Mr Karuhanga said. 
Instead, the money should be transferred to microfinance institutions, which could vet potential beneficiaries and provide and collect the loans, he argued. Uganda has a healthy network of more than 100 separate credit providers that could support such a scheme, according to the finance ministry.
Mr Bigirimana has also proposed a more radical measure to reduce youth unemployment: limit the number of children a woman is legally allowed to bear.
Uganda has the world’s seventh-highest fertility rate, with an average of 6.2 children per woman, according to 2013 figures from the United States-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB). Uganda is poised to see its population of 34m leap to 55.4m by 2025 and 113.9m by mid-century, according to PRB projections.
“We should come up with a policy that limits the number of children someone should produce to four,” Mr Bigirimana said. “If you produce five, you should go to jail.”
His suggestion, however, might find stiff resistance from his own government. President Museveni has argued that Uganda’s high population growth is not a problem. Instead, the solution is to expand the industrial and services sectors. 
“The problem is not population per se,” Mr Museveni told a July 2012 summit on family planning in London. “Africa, or in this particular case Uganda, needs to metamorphose from a pre-capitalist, quasi-feudal society to a middle-class, skilled working-class society. That social metamorphosis will inevitably bring down the population growth.”
There is some truth in Mr Museveni’s stance, argued Deepali Khanna, director of youth learning at the MasterCard Foundation, the Toronto-based philanthropic arm of the payments services company. High population growth rates are partly responsible for soaring unemployment among Ugandan and African youth, she said. But insufficient economic growth, small formal labour markets, and insufficient experience and skills also play a role.
Ms Khanna also blames “skills mismatches” in the Ugandan economy—when job seekers do not have the skills demanded by the labour market—and low economic activity in the countryside.
“In rural areas, young people largely work in the agriculture sector, where the lack of agricultural productivity, enterprise opportunities, financial services and stable work inhibits their ability to move out of poverty,” she added.
Youth unemployment in Uganda is rooted in demographic growth and economic breakdown. It will require more than politically expedient solutions. As long as cynical politicians use jobless youth to further their own ambitions, instead of searching for a solution, the situation will only get worse.

See here for more on youth unemployment and imminent problems in Algeria

Nigerian Slavery

Despite massive oil reserves and recent plans for rapid socio-economic development5, about 60% of the Nigerian population lives at, or below the poverty line with the average income at US$1 per day. This widespread poverty, rabid urbanization, exponential population growth coupled with the lack of enforcement of legal instruments and high levels of crime and corruption increases the vulnerability of Nigerians – particularly children – to various forms of modern slavery, both within and outside the borders of Nigeria. Child labour is also an issue, where high levels of poverty and unemployment means children are more likely to be forced to work to outside their family network to support themselves and their family.

Nigerian women and girls represent a large proportion of women enslaved in Europe for commercial sexual exploitation, with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimating that in Italy alone, between 10,000 and 12,000 Nigerian women have been enslaved in the sex industry. Due to high levels of unemployment, there is widespread migration for overseas sex work, with reports indicating that some women migrating to Italy for work from Edo State have been exploited, abused and subjected to extreme violence upon their arrival. Often with the support of their families, these women are lured by the promise of employment and education opportunities offered by unscrupulous recruiters, who are often linked to members of international trafficking gangs. In addition to sexual exploitation, many Nigerians – particularly men and boys – are in forced labour and exploited in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture or begging.

 Nigeria has high numbers of child labourers, with an estimated 47% of children aged 4- 15 in child labour. Children are also vulnerable to domestic servitude through the traditional practice of child-fosterage. Evidence suggests that families in rural areas send their children to work as domestic helpers in homes of wealthier families in cities, in exchange for board and education. In recent times, traffickers (“agents”) have taken advantage of this practice to recruit children and “farm” them to employers for wages that are meant for the children, and remit a small percentage of the wages either to the parents or teenagers among them. Many of these children are physically, mentally and sexually abused and denied access to any education. Similar to the child-fosterage system, the koranic education system promotes the sending of children by their families from rural to urban areas to live with and receive a Koranic education from Islamic teachers. This has given rise to the emergence of almajiris (child beggars) exploited by their teachers to beg for alms and food.  Estimates suggest up to 10 million children are almajirais There have also been reports of almajirai being deliberately scarred or injured to arouse sympathy and encourage donations. In northern Nigeria, cases of forced marriages are particularly high. Boko Haram is using forced marriage and sexual slavery as a weapon of fear and social control.

A deep-rooted fear of witchcraft persists in both urban and rural Nigeria that results in significant abuse of and violence towards children stigmatized as witches in some states in Nigeria. Many of these stigmatized children suffer imprisonment and torture through ‘exorcism’ ceremonies; are abandoned in forests or on the streets where they are vulnerable to trafficking; or are raped and sold for purposes of sexual exploitation.Nigerian women are also disproportionately exposed to modern slavery and sexual exploitation. Enslaved women and girls are often forced to undergo a ‘Juju’ oath-swearing ritual – a ritual based on swearing an oath over an item of special significance – that commits them to repaying the debt attributed to their enslavement. Research suggests that once women have paid off debts they were bound to by voodoo based rituals, it was not uncommon for them to recruit more women for exploitation.

An emerging trend in Nigeria is the recruitment of teenage girls and young women with unwanted pregnancies by dubious medical practitioners with promises of safe abortions and later detained against their will to give birth to their babies who are then forcefully taken away and sold to interested clients. This practice has metamorphosed into “baby factories” run by trafficking rings, which promise jobs or safe abortions to pregnant teenagers and young women, and later force them to give birth and surrender their babies for paltry sums of money.   The babies are then sold to buyers for international or domestic adoption, rituals, slave labour or sexual exploitation. In some cases the girls are detained and subjected to forced sex by men specially hired to impregnate them to produce more babies.

The Government of Nigeria has signed most relevant conventions relating to modern slavery, including the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182, the Palermo Protocol and the Forced Labour Convention No 29. 37 In 2003, the Trafficking in Persons (Law Enforcement and Administration) Act (TIP Act) was introduced and amended in 2005 to increase the penalties for perpetrators. Also in 2003, Nigeria introduced the Child Rights Act which criminalizes child trafficking. Despite the introduction of these laws, some states still apply Sharia law that treats victims as offenders. For example, the Shari’ah Penal Code Law, 2000 of the Zamfara State defines an offender as anyone who “does any obscene or indecent act(s) in a private or public place”. Such laws that treat victims of commercial sexual exploitation as offenders, conflicts with Nigeria’s national laws and the international conventions to which they are a party.

From here 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Bashing the Bushmen

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently warned ‘Preventing people’s access to safe water is a denial of a fundamental human right...deliberate targeting of civilians and depriving them of essential supplies is a clear breach of international humanitarian and human-rights law.’
Botswana uses water as a weapon against the Kalahari bushmen in an attempt to force them from their land. The government smashed their only major water borehole, a terrible act that was only overturned in court years later. It has continued to forbid them access to wild-life water-holes and mining water supplies.
The indigenous Bushmen people (or the San or Baswara, all names having pejorative roots) have been in conflict with the Botswana government for several years. Many live in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve where they have continued to be persecuted to drive them from their land. Banned from hunting, and forced to apply for permits to enter the reserve, they are now being pushed to the brink of extinction. The government policy is clearly to intimidate and frighten the Bushmen into staying in the resettlement camps, and making the lives of those who have gone back to their ancestral land impossible. The government boasts that all San in Botswana get free schooling, free medical help and if they register they receive free food. Despite government promises of a better life outside the Reserve many are now gripped by alcoholism and HIV/AIDS, previously unknown.
‘We are used to feeding ourselves – now dependant on government hand-outs, we are being made lazy and stupid,’ says Sesana. ‘Now we are being treated like dogs. The dog is the only thing that can't bring its own food home. It has to wait for its owner to give it some food.’
Goiotseone Lobelo speaks fondly of life in the reserve, where she would wake up every morning and join the women in the village in collecting berries, nuts and roots to eat. ‘I miss my home and the way we lived. Life was easy, there were lots of fruits, animals and there were no bars and no beer. Now we are lost,’ says Goiotseone. She remembers the day they were forced to leave ‘The police came, destroyed our homes and dumped us in the back of trucks with our belongings and brought us here. They dumped us here like we are nothing.’
In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds. Gem Diamonds has stated publicly that its Gope mine contains a diamond deposit worth an estimated $3.3 billion.
At the same time as preventing the Bushmen from accessing water, the government allows a safari company to operate a tourist camp in the reserve that made no provisions for the rights of the Bushmen on whose ancestral lands the camp sits. While Bushmen  struggle to find enough water to survive on their lands, tourists sip iced cocktails by the swimming pool.
Desmond Tutu has condemned the eviction of the Kalahari Bushmen. ‘The San Bushmen represent a 100,000 year-old culture that we should consider one of the world’s treasures. And while progress is necessary, it cannot be that the only way to achieve progress is to remove the San from their ancestral lands and drive their traditions away. We’ve already seen this with the American Indians, the Aborigines, and it is also happening with the Tibetans. When a culture is destroyed in the name of progress, it is not progress, it is a loss for our world. Hundreds of thousands of years of wisdom, knowledge of nature, medicines, and ways of living together, go with them’ (a plant used by the San was patented and licensed by a pharmaceutical company to produce an appetite suppressant drug for dieting).
In February this year Botswana’s President Khama was a guest at a conservationist conference, alongside Prince Charles and Prince William. Khama has banned all hunting nationwide under the pretext of clamping down on poaching. However, it emerged that trophy hunters who pay up to $8,000 to hunt giraffes and zebras are still being allowed to hunt on private ranches that have been exempted from the ban. Yet Bushmen who hunt with spears, bows and arrows are being arrested, beaten and jailed for subsistence hunting.
Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said ‘Banning hunting in order to feed your family, but allowing the wealthy to hunt for trophies, plays to a lobby still rooted in racist beliefs about tribal peoples’ inferiority. The national park movement entailed the enforced eviction, often the complete destruction, of the tribes who lived off the land. Satellite imagery now proves that many tribal peoples are the world’s best conservationists, yet they’re still being destroyed. It’s not ‘conservation’; it’s just an old colonial crime, and it’s time the responsible organizations opposed it. Instead, they hide behind hollow policies, while continuing to support governments guilty of such inhuman behaviour.’

Letter from Zimbabwe 2

The first lot of venturers to the continent were Christian missionaries, empire and wealth hunters.  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 (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 that 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 from 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 and 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 crop are abusing. For instance, 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? And that in 2008 many of us had our funds frozen by RBZ decree, courtesy of Governor Gono, and endorsed by central government (during the period of limited withdrawals the elite were allowed to withdraw as much as they wanted), but with 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.


From here 

Letter from Zimbabwe 1

Workers of Zimbabwe are sheep without a shepherd as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has been hijacked by politicians. The majority of workers have no meaningful salaries but the ZCTU is paralysed. Most employers including the Chinese continue unleashing unfair labour practices but the ZCTU is taking no action in bringing this unfairness to an end. In 2013, the government announced that it was not going to offer its workers any salary increment due to an allegedly unsustainable wage bill and the ZCTU never even raised a finger. It is alleged that diamond companies were not remitting part of their proceeds to the Treasury as required by the law of the land and the ZCTU is derisive yet workers who are hard-hit by the imposed sanctions expect better leadership. Sadly most workers earn meagre salaries below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL). In a nutshell, it is clear that these trade unions are simply defensive organizations of the working class with the limited role of protecting wages and working conditions and it is by the ZCTU’s empty actions that its effectiveness ought to be judged.

On another note, President Mugabe was shocked to note that there is a clique of fat cats gobbling hefty salaries and earning more than him in the economically troubled Zimbabwe at the expense of the majority workers. Following this, media revelations triggered public outrage and revealed that some top bosses were earning obscene salaries and allowances while the economy remains stuck in the doldrums. Imagine during these hard times in Zimbabwe, there is a top executive – now forced to quit – who was earning a whopping US$535,000 gross salary per month, comprising US$230,000 basic salary and US$305,499 in benefits. Imagine during these hard times in Zimbabwe there is a top executive – now suspended – who was earning a basic salary of US$27,000, which ballooned to US$44,000 with perks that included a monthly allowance of US$3,000 and an additional US$2,500 for his personal staff. Imagine that during these hard times in Zimbabwe there is a top executive fetching home about US$147,000 in house repairs and maintenance allowances with total benefits gobbling about US$210,000 excluding salary. That’s US$147,000 in house and maintenance allowance while most workers earns below the Poverty Data Line! It boggles the mind that most struggling parastatals and local authorities are awarding their managers fat salaries while unable to pay their workers for months.

Despite the fact most parastatals used to contribute 40 percent to the local GDP, they now have turned into loss-making entities. For this reason, the cabinet some time ago moved to impose a limit to salaries for chief executive officers and top managers of parastatals, public enterprises and local authorities at an interim maximum total pay package of about US$6000 per month. This move has also raised the issue of the need for a comprehensive framework to govern the remuneration of public office bearers and managers of state owned enterprises as done in other countries. The gluttonous act by top bosses of raking in huge salaries at a time when public entities are operating in serious debt resulting in their failure to pay workers and meet their service delivery mandates is socially and economically indefensible.

However, after a number of months and in vain, cabinet has not implemented the move to trim excessive salaries earned by chief executive officers (CEOs) of state owned enterprises. A bruising bout appears to be in the offing with some local authorities having already indicated that they would ignore the government’s directive saying the order was against the country’s labour laws. They insist they won’t agree with cabinet’s move to cap salaries as they stand guided by the country’s constitution and labour laws.

Concurrently, there is dilapidated service delivery in most urban and rural authorities for the bulk of the revenue being collected from residents is being exhausted on salaries. These fat cat salaries have raised eye brows and have created a deepened divide between rich and poor. Although government has endeavoured to put in place a corporate governance and remuneration policy framework to give guidelines on how parastatals and local authorities should remunerate their executives it is a vain attempt as the top bosses are still raking fat salaries into their coffers. That proposed framework would give birth to a body that would democratically and transparently provide independent assessment and recommendations on the remunerations and conditions of service for public office bearers including top managers of state enterprises.

Up to now, cabinet has gone quiet on implementing this issue of making sure that salaries for top bosses of state run parastatals and local authorities should not exceed US$6000 per month. As capitalism is on the side of the minority top bosses, government will simply find the easy way out by shelving the issue. This is because the fat cats concerned, who are not even providing meaningful services to the public or economic benefits to the country, are aware that once this remuneration policy is put in place, their chance to sit back and milk public enterprises through mismanagement and corruption will be over. Despite President Mugabe’s recent reiteration on the stance on corruption and hefty salaries it has become an uphill task for the government to effect the proposed salary framework which would see about US$2 million being saved annually if implemented. Despite all these efforts, workers still remain in the cold.

In fact, capitalism cannot be moulded to operate in the interests of the working class as is very evident by the events in Zimbabwe.


From here, the Socialist Standard