Monday, August 31, 2015

Keeping the Peace?

UN peacekeepers shot dead a 16-year old boy and his father and raped a 12-year-old girl in Central African Republic according to AmnestyInternational.

The next day, after armed clashes with residents had killed a soldier from Cameroon and injured several others, peacekeepers went to the area and “began shooting indiscriminately in the street where the killings had taken place,” Amnesty alleged. Joanne Mariner, its senior crisis response adviser, said: “These allegations of rape and indiscriminate killings committed by UN troops are supported by physical evidence and multiple witness accounts.

UN peacekeepers have been in CAR since September last year. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, was “personally dismayed and disappointed, not just by these latest reports, but by the series of allegations that have surfaced in the Central African Republic mission in recent months”, his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said. Earlier this year it emerged that French peacekeeping troops had been accused of abusing children in CAR.

Tribal Conflicts in Kenya

Four people have been killed and thousands left homeless in Elgeyo-Marakwet County in Kenya’s Rift Valley province since fighting erupted on Saturday -- apparently over land disputes -- between two rival clans.

According to Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Asman Warfa, the fighting -- between Kenya’s Pokot and Kalenjin clans -- is driven primarily by disputes over land. "They're fighting over land," Warfa told Anadolu agency. "And the violence is being fueled by the large number of illegal firearms in the region, which are in the wrong hands."

Socialist Banner would also hazard a guess that climate change may have had an effect upon local resources and upset the previous equilibrium.

Earlier this month, the UN released a report in which it said over 300 people had been killed this year alone in ethnic clashes in Kenya’s Northern Rift Valley region, while more than 215,000 had been rendered homeless.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Nigeria's Inequality

 Nigeria has revenues of over $80 billion from oil reserves alone, yet wealth inequality in the country is among one of the worst in the world.

Absolute poverty in Nigeria (earning less than a dollar a day) has increased from 55% in 2004 to 61% in 2014 and in contrast; there are almost 16,000 millionaires currently living in Nigeria, a 44% increase in the last 6 years. This is expected to grow to 23,000 by 2017, which represents a 47% increase. In Lagos, which is Africa’s most populous city, wealth inequality is most prominent and is home to 9,500 of these millionaires. These figures represent a huge issue with wealth distribution and are attributed to a number of factors embedded within the Nigerian culture, system and policies. Even with its abundant oil resources amounting to $80+ billion in annual revenue for the country, poverty is increasingly becoming a major issue for a vast amount of the population. Under these conditions, many inhabitants are forced to live in slums with limited access to food, education, electricity and clean water.

The main factors that contribute to wealth inequality in Nigeria are corruption and high governance costs. Corruption is a major issue that is contributing to the increasing wealth gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria. Corruption has been ever present since the country’s independence in the 1960’s and it now seems to be an issue that is embedded within the Nigerian system and culture. There is a need for transparency and accountability in the Nigerian system and until that is achieved, the wealth gap in the country will continue to get worse.

A report by the Sahara Reporters in 2012 found that it costs Nigerians $8.3 billion to pay the salaries of those in politics. In 2012, $7.4 was to be spent on developing infrastructure, but only half of this was spent towards its development. To put this into perspective, it meant that for every dollar spent on infrastructure development in Nigeria, two dollars are spent on salaries of those in politics. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

This mine is mine

Africa is home to a tenth of the planet’s oil, a third of its mineral reserves and produces two-thirds of its diamonds. Scholars have long suspected that its plentiful natural resources also breed instability and violence. Politicians and their cronies cannot resist skimming off some of the huge profits, the theory goes, which enrages those who are left out. Struggles over this wealth has played a part in many African troubles, from militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Sudanese civil wars. 

A new paper from four academics at Swiss universities gathered data for each year from 1997 to 2010, on the location of hundreds of mines and thousands of conflict events (including riots and violence against civilians) across Africa. Then they divided the continent into 10,000 cells measuring half a degree of latitude and half a degree of longitude (about 55 km squared at the equator). All of this allowed them to analyse the effect of changes in the world price of 15 minerals on the areas in which that commodity is produced. Over the period of the study, mineral prices more than doubled, thanks in particular to ravenous demand from China. Some commodities grew even more expensive: in 1997 an ounce of gold cost about $300, but by 2010 it was going for well over $1,000.

The research paper found that dearer minerals also led to fiercer competition over mines, with shockingly violent consequences. Had mineral prices remained at their levels from 1997, the paper calculates, over the subsequent 13 years the average African country would have seen 25% fewer violent events. Higher prices were responsible for 65% of the outbreaks that took place in South Africa. Even these results may be an underestimate, since the proceeds from mines in one area may have been used to fund conflicts in others.

In Limbo in Israel

As Europeans argue over whether to call new arrivals migrants or refugees, Israel’s government calls the Africans “infiltrators”, a word loaded with negative connotations.

“We are a country of refugees,” says Anat Ovadia, a spokesperson for the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, one of the non-governmental organisations that petitioned for the detainees’ release. “It is very shameful that Israel forgets its history.”

Israel has about 45,000 asylum-seekers, 34,000 of them from Eritrea and 9,000 from Sudan. Most entered via Egypt’s Sinai desert up to 2013, when Israel completed a formidable steel fence at the frontier. The Africans live in Israel in legal limbo. They have visas that allow them to stay but that bar them from working. The visas must be updated at least every three months. Holot is an “open” facility in Israel’s southern Negev desert, where detainees are required to report for regular roll-calls to prevent them from working in Israel, where many Africans have menial jobs.

Israel has granted only a tiny number of asylum requests, and offers cash incentives for Africans to leave.  Refugee experts say that Israel’s policies toward migrants reflect both political pressures to do something and demographic anxieties in its rightwing governing elite about maintaining a strong Jewish majority in the country.

“This week’s events reflect once again the lack of a policy of the Israeli government when it concerns non-Jewish immigration to Israel,” says Jean-Marc Liling, an Israeli lawyer specialising in refugee law. “There is a complete incapacity to deal with the fact that Israel has become a country of immigration and not only a country of Aliyah [Jewish immigration].”

Poisoned African Air

West Africa’s air pollution is reaching dangerously high levels—and we don’t know the worst of it. Air pollution in fast-growing West African cities is reaching dangerous levels. But the worst part, according to a new study published by Nature magazine this week, is that we know almost nothing about the pollutants emerging from these new urban centers and their impact on weather systems, crops, and public health at large. There’s little monitoring of pollution, no emissions inventories, or statistical information on things like fuel consumption. Researchers say that they struggle to find funding to study the issue. While air pollution in India, China, and other emerging economies has become a major area of focus for scientists and policymakers, it has gained little traction in Africa where it’s a growing problem across the continent.

In Lagos, smog has quickly become another aspect of city life. In the city of more than 21 million people—known to some as “Africa’s first city”—the majority of residents live near industrial plants, breathing in exhaust from thousands of cars and millions of generators providing power to the city. As much as 94% of Nigeria’s population is exposed to levels of air pollution that exceed what the World Health Organization deems as safe. Gaborone in Botswana was the seventh-most polluted city in the world, according to WHO data in 2013. And pollution within homes, often from fuel stoves and diesel generators, is believed to have contributed to as many as 600,000 deaths in Africa in 2012, the highest deaths per capita from indoor pollution of any region in the world.

“Not only is pollution in these cities killing local residents, we found these emissions may even be altering the climate along the coast of West Africa, leading to changes in the clouds and so potentially to rainfall with devastating effects,” wrote the study’s co-author, Matthew Evans, a professor atmospheric chemistry at the University of York. Evans and the study’s lead author, Peter Knippertz, from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, worry that these pollutants will change the West African monsoon, a sensitive atmospheric circulation system that controls everything from wind and temperature to rainfall across huge swathes of the region. (Scientists have previously linked aerosols to changing rainfall patterns in Asia and the Atlantic Ocean.) Population growth in West Africa, expected to reach 800 million by 2050, will exacerbate these effects, they say. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tales from Africa (1988)

From the October 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once upon a time (in August 1871 to be precise) the German Karl Mauch explored southern Africa and found what he thought were King Solomon's Mines and one of the homes of the Queen of Sheba. Having landed on the east coast in 1865, his original intention was to explore and map the territory. He did indeed produce the first complete map of the Transvaal and in 1866 was one of the first white men to discover gold. However he decided to forego prospecting to continute exploration "to add honour to the name of the German nation".

When, after many dangers and delays he reached the impressive walls and ruins of the ancient fort of Great Zimbabwe he was, based on old chronicles and knowledge at the time, entitled to think he had indeed found them. Later visitors to the site confirmed, admittedly with scant evidence to back them up, that although possibly not King Solomon's Mines or the home of the Queen of Sheba, the ruins had definitely not been been built by black people.

In 1902 R. M. Hall cleared the site of undergrowth and started digging. He found many items which, because, unlike previous explorers, he was a local resident, he recognised to be of African origin and similar to those still in regular use. Nevertheless he put the evidence aside also to claim non-African origins.

Shortly after Hall, David Randall-MacIver, a young archaeologist, one of the first to be properly so called, worked on the site. In the trenches he dug up he found many layers of artifacts of definite African origin and wrote: "It is impossible to resist the conclusion that the people who inhabited the 'Eliptical Temple' when it was being built belonged to tribes whose arts and manufactures were indistinguishable from those of the modern Makalanga (Shona) . . . These dwellings are unquestionably African in every detail". Digging in 1929, Gertrude Caton-Thompson found the layout and remains were so similar to those of still existing villages as to leave no doubt about the African origins of Great Zimbabwe.

These conclusions did not suit white settler politicians who had argued that the "proof" that white people had lived and traded there hundreds of years ago entitled them to their current superior colonial position. The myth continued to be taught as history in Rhodesian schools and Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines was required reading. Tourist posters featured the Queen of Sheba at Great Zimbabwe and films depicted white "superior" beings performing strange ceremonies in front of suitably prostrated blacks.

As late as the 1970s, shortly before a backward capitalist state changed from white to black rulers, broadcasts and television, while admitting that Great Zimbabwe had possibly not been built by whites, would not concede to the evidence that it had been built by indigenous blacks. It would not do to admit that supposedly inferior people had, so long ago, been able to build every bit as skilfully as those in "civilised" parts of the world.

Of course this is not an isolated example of the shading, if not total fabrication of history. Stories of Belgian babies impaled on German bayonets were concocted to encourage men to kill and be killed in the 1914-18 war; misinformation now admitted to have been given out daily in World War II; patriotic claptrap for the Falklands; biased history taught in almost every secondary school throughout Europe. Unemployment figures are massaged before being issued by the government. Those representing the ruling class will always try to bamboozle the rest of us into accepting conditions favourable to the rulers' minority interests. Forewarned is forearmed: it behoves us to regard with utmost scepticism information put about by those whose interest it is to maintain the status quo.

Eva Goodman 

Canada, Another Plunderer of Africa

This blog has already highlighted the role of Canada in the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources:

This article, ‘Harper’s Government Helping Canadian Mining Companies Plunder Africa’s Resources’, by the Canadian political commentator, Yves Engler, and it is well worth drawing attention to it.

The article begins:
 “Canadian policy in Africa can be summed up in nine words: Do what is good for Canadian-owned mining companies.
Despite rhetoric about aid to the poorest people in the world, the Harper Conservatives have worked assiduously to ensure that Canadian corporations profit from Africa’s vast mineral resources. Even widespread criticism of their operations has failed to dampen the Conservatives’ support for Canada’s many mining interests in Africa. Canadian mining companies have been accused of bribing officials, evading taxes, dispossessing farmers, displacing communities, employing forced labour, devastating eco-systems and spurring human rights violations.”

The articles ends:
“Canadian policy in Africa has become largely synonymous with the interests of Canadian mining companies. The Harper Conservatives have sought to ensure that the continent’s mining policy serves the interests of foreign corporations, the majority of Africans be damned.”

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fact of the Day

Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated that about 110 million Nigerians were still living below poverty line 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Going back memory lane, we recall how the Korean wife of Charles Ray, the then US Ambassador to Zimbabwe had been spitting venom as she terrorized desperate workers taking advantage of the employment crisis gripping Zimbabwe. We also recall how Morgan Tsvangirai left workers in the cold by dumping the ZCTU and ventured into politics by launching the MDC Party in 1999. That was after he attracted imperialism’s ever winking eye by staging successful food riots and mass workers demonstration - the harbinger that ruined the then country’s intact economy from 1998. Since then, Zimbabwean workers who chose not to be brain drained continue battling at their work places. Day by day, we continue noting how lives of the workers who most of them earn salaries below Poverty Datum Line and the unemployed are worsening while workers’ unions including the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) are taking no actions but political sides. 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 their empty actions that their effectiveness ought to be judged. However, to rub salt to the starving workers’ wounds, the Supreme Court echoed a landmark judgement on 17 July 2015 that left tongues wagging!

The Supreme Court unleashed this newly-discovered power of employers by allowing the termination of employment by employers on notice without benefits. This judgement triggered massive job cuts as big business politicians with companies with a bloated workforce and had been struggling to pay workers were the biggest beneficiaries as they took advantage in cutting jobs. Before, the Labour Act made it impossible for the employer to hire workers on contract basis because if the worker is continuously offered for up to 3 months, there were deemed to have been permanently engaged and any plans to terminate their services would force the employer to go through the complicated and often expensive retrenchment route. Thence, state enterprises and parastatals also joined in this madness of getting rid of workers namely the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Coporation, Grain Marketing Board, CMED, Air Zimbabwe et cetera. Profit making giants like ECONET were not left out! Within a month, about 10 000 workers have since lost their jobs. Also taking advantage of this was the local Buddhist Congregation that had been in labour dispute with its employees for over a year over underpayment of salaries. This emerged after the Management Committee of the Buddhist Congregation planted a class struggle within the workers. For this reason, those paid less had to file their grievances via the ZFTU that ended up stewing on the worker’s peanut buttered salaries. It was a surprise to see the representative from the ZFTU endorsing the forced retrenchment made by this Management Committee on the 30th of April 2015 and before the Supreme Court judgement was announced. It boggles my mind that how come the issue of outstanding back pay that has been subject to an Arbitral Award of about $100 000,00 had not been dealt with first. Why did this muscled man at the Buddhist Congregation unsympathetically chose to fire the workers first before the issue of underpayments was resolved? And following to this, it was a pity that towards end of July, the workers were given $30 000 to share as their Arbitral Award and they were urged to accept this by their ZFTU representative who fooled them that there were lucky while vexing the uneducated worker’s minds with the Supreme Court ruling. From this, the ZFTU representative took $8 000 from the workers just for efforts he made: leaving the workers jobless. On their retrenchment packages, he too deducted $500 from each forced to quit employee. To the ZFTU, is this fighting for the worker’s rights? According to law, these employees has a right to claim their Arbitral award grossly as they had been battling to make ends meet on underpayment for years and applying the Supreme Court ruling was totally unconstitutional.

Though these toothless workers representatives threatened the government to stage street protests and civil unrest unless it was to stop the ongoing massive job losses. These workers representatives fooled workers that they would not sit and watch while they were being fired. Over 200 workers representatives on protruding tummies staged a meeting at Stoddart Hall in the high density suburb of Mbare where they vociferously denounced the Supreme Court ruling pointing out that employees would embark on massive and crippling strikes to stop the job cuts that definitely would cause untold suffering to the sacked workers. Further, they reached at a resolution to on massive demonstrations as well to ensure that Cde Mugabe invoke Presidential Powers to restore order in the labour market as employers are willy-nilly firing workers cheaply without the provision of retrenchment packages. Amazingly, promises by these workers unions to stage nationwide went with a goose chase and up to now nothing has been put in place to save the workers from the calamity! 

It is apparent that the Supreme Court ruling was a declaration that permanent employment is no longer guaranteed as employees are destined to be engaged on contract. Even if one has worked for 30 years he/she can only get three month notice pay which is downright peanuts. Latter, it was then the government through the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare indicating that it would amend the Labour Act hastily so as a panacea to the working class plea. We are not aware if these to be made amendments would bring a smile to the let down worker’s face requiring job security, labour market security and a living wage… However, as workers are bound to the wages system the amendments to be made won’t rescue them from the very jaws of exploitation. Obviously, the workers would remain in chains within this wage system where they enter into contracts with employers whereby the value they create for their bosses is more than the value they receive in wages. Thus how the current system makes profit through exploitation!

It is open that the current insane system discards improving the conditions of the majority working class but simply oils the functions it was adapted to perform while enabling the pursuit of profit for private gain regardless of other external outcomes by a privileged minority. We can only get rid of this unfair sucking system by establishing a society which can be organized democratically in the interest of all the people regardless of race or creed. Such a society can only be organized on the basis of common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use – a moneyless stateless society where employment will be a thing of the past and where nobody would be bossed. Thus real socialism! Let us speed the day! 

  B. Musemwa 


Does the press care in CAR

Some media outlets believe that Muslims are only newsworthy when behind the gun, not in front of it. There has been systematic targeting of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR), a nation ravaged by strife since March of 2013, which has now developed into massive scale ethnic cleansing. In the past several weeks, armed militias have roved through the western part of the nation, intimidating and brutalising Muslims. Anti-Balaka, a fundamentalist group comprised of animists and Christians, is forcing Muslims to worship in private, remove religious garb, and convert at gunpoint. In addition to compelling Muslims to convert and decimating mosques, reports about Muslims paying anti-Balaka militants large sums of money to spare their lives are widespread. Anti-Balaka militants intensified their killing and forced-conversion spree during this past Ramadan, which proved dangerous, and even fatal, for CAR Muslims fasting, praying, and openly observing the holy month. Yet few are even minimally aware of the problem. Anti-Balaka's aim is as plain as it is gruesome: rid the nation of its Muslim population. At any cost. While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remains in the headlines, the mere mention of anti-Muslim terrorism in CAR - which has claimed at least 6,000 lives, pushed 30,000 Muslims to live in UN protected enclaves, and left scores of mosques destroyed - remains largely unknown. Would this be the case if Muslims were the villains of the human rights atrocities in CAR, instead of victims?

While the description “fundamentalist” seems reserved exclusively for Muslim groups, Christian and animist militias in CAR have brandished religious fervour to terrorise the nation's 750,000 Muslims - who make up 15 percent of the nation's population. The media quickly concentrtes attention towards Muslim villains, but it is consistently slow - or wholly absent - when the victims are Muslim. Mainstream media outlets have long neglected the humanitarian plight of black victims, particularly on the African continent. Unfortunately for the victims in CAR, they are both black and Muslim.

Media outlets may fashion themselves as objective bystanders, but they are functionally key actors in any unfolding crisis. Media coverage, particularly within the most prominent outlets, means far more than simply highlighting and sharing a story. Events like in CAR, coverage means generating global consciousness that would spur political mobilisation, fundraising, and pressure on governments to act, typically energised by the pressure headlines. Robust and active media intervention can check the actions of culprits and prompt humanitarian rescue, while neglect facilitates, and indeed emboldens, the aims of terrorists. The CAR case vividly illustrates the latter. Anti-Balaka forces have benefited immensely from the lack of coverage. Their numbers have grown, and their violence is ever increasing in severity.

Cameras and reporters flocked to Rwanda when it was far too late. When they arrived, the genocide had claimed virtually all of its targets. Since then, scores of scholars, human rights advocates, statesmen and stateswomen have argued that timely media attention could have created the pressure needed to spur more comprehensive humanitarian intervention. Thousands upon thousands of lives, and future generations of Tutsis, could have been saved. As highlighted in CAR, lessons from Rwanda have not been heeded, exposing its diminishing and imperiled Muslim population to unspeakable violence and arming its anti-Muslim militias with the green light to continue the killing spree.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fleeing Eritrea

Of those migrants who crossed the Mediterranean this year, Eritreans formed the third-largest national group, behind Syrians and Afghanis. The UNHCR says 5,000 leave every month. As many as 3% of the 6 million-strong population have migrated.

Eritrea is not at war, but its first and only president, Isaias Afwerki, plays up the possibility of a return to conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia. This threat is used to justify the absence of a constitution, the destruction of the judicial system. Until the early 2000s, Eritrea had the semblance of a judicial system but for the past decade, multiple reports suggest police are simply locking people up without trial. And there is the implementation of indefinite national service that allows the government to treat each civilian as a modern-day serf for their whole life. It is a totalitarian state where most citizens fear arrest at any moment and dare not speak to their neighbours, gather in groups or linger long outside their homes. Gathering in groups of more than two is effectively banned: an invitation for the police to stop and hassle you. Citizens cannot travel freely without written permission. The government has a wide web of informants, a network so extensive that some Eritreans claim they are wary even of speaking to their friends and family about politics. “The distrust between people is very high,” one told the UN’s Eritrea commission. “You do not even trust your own brother; he could be even part of the national security.” Phones are tapped, but most people aren’t allowed them anyway. Interviewees claimed people on active military service are barred from owning a mobile. Anyone else who wants one has to apply at a government office in the capital of their province. There is no private media. The only public meetings allowed are those of Afwerki’s political party.

There exists an indefinite national service and through this system, the government controls almost every aspect of a civilian’s life – male or female – from the age of 16 or 17. Where you live, your daily routine, and how often you see your family – all this is decided by the government, thanks to the national service system. The government takes away almost all prospect of personal choice. Conscripts are posted where the government orders them, and remain there for months and often years without being allowed home.

“We are just like slaves for them,” said Kibrom, 24, who spent the entirety of his adult life as a conscript until his escape a few months ago. “That’s why we’re leaving. It’s become one big prison for us.” Conscripts are technically paid. Different exiles report different monthly wages, but each fell between 500 and 750 nakfas (the local currency) – a negligible pay that equates to between £20 and £30. The amount is so low that it is virtually meaningless, former conscripts say. “It is only enough for three days – so for the other 27 days I would go hungry,” said Kibrom. “To buy a chicken, it’s 600 nakfa. And that tells you everything. If I want to have a family, to marry, to have children – that 600 isn’t going to be enough.”

To help people access food, the government gives out coupons, but even then this is essentially a system of control. If you’re not in good grace with the regime, you don’t get any coupons and if you don’t get any coupons, you don’t get anything to eat.

According to Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, the former head of the Eritrean central bank, ex-ambassador to the EU, and one-time president of Eritrea’s only university, when Eritrea won its freedom from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, after a decades-long liberation struggle led by, among others, President Afwerki, the period of service was meant to last for just 18 months. The aim was both to safeguard the fragile new nation’s security, and provide a temporary workforce to rebuild its war-shattered infrastructure and economy.

“It had a military aspect, a social aspect, an economic aspect, and also a cultural aspect,” said Welde Giorgis, a one-time ally of Afwerki who became an exile in 2006, and later wrote a history of his country. “But all of that was abused when it became indefinite. When it was proclaimed in 1994, people were in their late teens – and now they’re in their early 40s. How can they sustain families? The objective consequence is the destruction of the nuclear family. If you don’t have a nuclear family, you don’t have a community, and you don’t have a society. It’s modern-day servitude.” Welde Giorgis explained: “You’re not brought before a court of law. You’re not allowed to defend yourself. Your family has no rights of visitation, they don’t know where you are, they don’t know about the physical and mental condition you are in. Once you have disappeared you have one man acting as the accuser, the jailer, the judge and the executioner.”

Conscripts describe military service as a mixture of humiliation and tedium. “It’s not just about serving, it’s about being tortured,” said Sofia, who spent four years as a conscript before fleeing to Egypt. xiles often describe a torture position known as “the eight”, whereby a conscript lies on their front, has their hands and ankles tied together behind them, and is then hoisted into the air. One victim recalled hanging like this for days on end, as punishment for scuffling with a fellow conscript. When he was finally freed, it took weeks for him to regain control of his legs.
“Another [torture method] is when they spread tea powder mixed with sugar and some water – and then spread it on you, so that it attracts flies,” Sofia recalled.

The serving part of military service often involves providing cheap labour for the government. “Sometimes they say: ‘Go to the mountains to quarry the stone,’ sometimes they say ‘Go to the forest to cut wood,’ and sometimes: ‘Go and clean the streets,’” said Omar, 27. “Everything that the government might need doing, they use the conscripts as slaves.”

Unless they escape Eritrea, the unlucky majority of conscripts will stay in this limbo for their entire life. But a minority will play out their national service in a partly civilian context. After their first year, which is spent in a mixture of army training and classroom education, Eritreans take an exam. Those who do well are trained to fill a range of roles within the civil service – as teachers, nurses, or even newscasters within Eritrea’s amateurish state television network, Eri-TV. The pay is as low as it is in the army. Some conscripts within the civil workforce say they also had to fulfil military duties by night. Mehari, 22, who arrived in Italy this summer, was assigned to be a primary school teacher. “But when I say teacher, I mean that in the day I’d work as a teacher, but at night I would wait for orders from the army.” Most of the experienced teachers had already fled the country, so the staff were largely young conscripts, whom the students had little respect for. “They know that at the end of the day they will have to go to military service. So no one wants to learn. And the teachers know that. So the teachers don’t want to teach.”

Welde Giorgis left Eritrea in 2006 because he no longer believed internal reform was possible. The average Eritrean is now “a helpless victim”, he says. “And that’s why you see these large numbers of Eritreans leaving the country at great risk to their lives. Many die from dehydration in the Sahara. Many have drowned in the Mediterranean. Many have become victim to organ harvesters in the Sinai. But nobody cares. Eritrea has become an earthly hell, an earthly inferno for its people – and that’s why they are taking such huge risks to their personal lives to escape the situation. It’s become unliveable.”

An African Arms Race

Algeria, the number one arms purchaser on the African continent, has voiced concerns that the number two arms purchaser, Morocco, is purchasing too many arms.

Morocco had acquired Russian-made missile batteries. There are reports that Morocco and Russia are close to reaching a deal on the price tag of a Russian-made Amur 1650, which would be the kingdom’s first submarine. The deal is expected to be completed during King Mohammed VI’s trip to Moscow later this year. Morocco also plans to reinforce its four new frigate warships by acquiring helicopters with anti-submarine capabilities from Russia. Morocco purchased three U.S. Army CH-470 Chinook transport helicopters, which arrived in Tangier last weekend after seven months of refurbishment.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports that Morocco is the second largest importer of arms in Africa, accounting for 26 per cent of the continent’s overall imports between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014. Algeria is the largest arms importer with 30 percent of the continent’s imports. Sudan is third at 6 percent.

The False Ethiopian Miracle

Economic growth is simply an increase in the amount of goods and services produced in a country over a given period of time, it is commonly measured through Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Essentially, any activity that involves the transaction of values, however of no use or even harmful to human life, will have an increasing effect on the GDP. It is beyond argument that Ethiopia's GDP has been growing at a notable growth rate over the past decade. A recent report by IMF also ranks Ethiopia among the five fastest growing economies in the world.

Has the growth has been (or will be) translated into sustainable improvement in the well-being of citizens, the sustained improvement in living conditions and self-esteem as well as meeting his or her basic needs and enabling of a free and just society. A reason for maintaining skepticism is because history is replete with examples where economic growth was not followed by similar progress in human development. Instead growth was achieved at the cost of greater inequality, higher unemployment and weakened democracy.For example. a report by Save the Children has shown In Nigeria GDP per capita has increased by 51 per cent since 2000, but extreme income poverty has risen by 8 per cent, as has income inequality.

In fact when the double digit growth rate started in 2004, Ethiopia’s GDP was a comparatively meagre $10 billion, which was much lower than the $13.4 billion thirteen years before in 1991. Factors such as poor policy environment as the incumbents then sought to consolidate power in the post-civil war era, border conflicts with Eritrea and droughts have combined to cause a long term economic recession. Thus, the initial few years of fast GDP growth represents recovery from this long period of recession.

Secondly, Ethiopia's fast economic growth is owed to the unprecedented level of public investments in infrastructural schemes and public enterprises. According to the World Bank, Ethiopia's public investment rate is the third highest in the world, while private investment rate is the sixth lowest. So far, growth has been dominated by public investment driven by a combination of foreign aid, easy access to foreign borrowing particularly from China and non-tradable services in particular construction, transport, and hotels and retail stores. The public investment-led development has delivered high growth rates in the past and will continue as a key driver to maintain the trend. The federal government recently approved an $11.1 billion budget for the 20015/16 fiscal year, up by nearly 25 per cent from the previous year. Similarly the Addis Ababa city administration has approved $1.6 billion budget which is also 14 per cent higher than the year before. When combined, these total of $3 billion increase amount to about 6 per cent of the country's current GDP. Aided by more investments by State Owned Enterprises, the government can almost guarantee, with or without any increase in investment or productivity from other sectors, that the high growth rate will continue.

As impressive as Ethiopia's growth is, it has not been accompanied by transformations that can translate into sustained poverty reduction. The Ethiopian economy is still dominated by agriculture. Slight change in structure has emerged due to the growth in services, rather than the growth that was hoped for in industry, particularly manufacturing. Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of employment and 70 percent of export earnings. Even after twelve years of fast growth, manufacturing only accounts for 4.2 percent of the GDP and in 2011 only 8 percent of the labor force is employed in the industrial sector. The country's major export items are still its famous coffee and fresh cut flowers. A report by The World Bank shows, in 2011 only 1 in 12 households had at least one member engaged in the industrial sector.

The number of US-dollar millionaires in Ethiopia rose by 108 percent between 2007 and 2013 - faster than in any other country in African. Similarly, the Ethiopian customs and revenue department recently reported that nearly 65 percent of Ethiopia's tax revenue came from fewer than 1,000 individuals in 2014.

Despite a reported decline of the poverty headcount ratio at $1.25 a day (PPP), equivalent to $0.6, from 44 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2011, many continue to have incomes very close to the poverty line, leaving them vulnerable to poverty due to shocks from droughts, job losses, and illness. 72 percent of the population still lived on less than two dollars a day in 2010.

The dramatic rise in the price of major consumer products particularly in 2005/6 and 2010/11 has made the poor's life very difficult leading to struggles to keep their children in school. A report quoting The Ministry of Education has reported Grade Five to Grade Eight drop out of schools more than ever before. About 40 percent were dropping out because "they could not continue classes due to poverty-related reasons."

The Ethiopian government has been criticized for being increasingly autocratic and designing a systems that reward party members and affiliates to the exclusion of dissidents. These concerns are also shared by citizens. A poll published in 2008 by Gallup reveals, fewer than 3 in 10 Ethiopians express trust in the national government, and the judiciary fares as poorly, eliciting confidence from about one-quarter of respondents. But participatory politics prompt the lowest levels of trust, as only 13 percent of Ethiopians have confidence in the honesty of elections. There is no much evidence to suggest citizen's confidence and trust in their government and institutions have improved since. The former mayor-elect of Addis Ababa and now a rebel Professor Birhanu Nega once said "if you can't get your politics right, you can't get your economy right. A country may obtain short-term goals but without inclusive, broad-based Political structure, growth isn't sustainable".

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Too Expensive

Meningitis C can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in 50% of cases if untreated. There were 12,000 cases of meningitis in Niger and Nigeria and 800 deaths in the first six months of the year but with cases rising since 2013, the fear is that next year’s meningitis season, which begins in January, could see a much larger number of cases.

A shortage of meningitis C vaccine is threatening to jeopardise the ability to cope with a potential outbreak of the disease in Africa, international public health organisations, including the World Health Organisation, have warned. The International Coordinating Group for Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control, which also comprises the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) are appealing to pharmaceutical companies to help them by plugging the gap. They say pharmaceutical companies have told them they are unable to supply the newer, more effective conjugate vaccines, which provide longer lasting immunisation than the old polysaccharide vaccines.

“What we have told the manufacturers is we want the conjugate vaccine to be able to prevent epidemics for longer periods but they will not produce the vaccine in enough quantities at affordable prices,” explained Dr William Perea, coordinator of the control of epidemic diseases unit at WHO. “Either they help us have affordable conjugate vaccines or we’ll have to use an old vaccine that doesn’t provide us with the same quality,” said Perea.

MSF’s international medical coordinator, Dr Myriam Henkens, emphasised the importance of a multivalent vaccine – one that covers different strains of the disease: “We need vaccine manufacturers to plan production of a multivalent vaccine now to allow sufficient lead time and capacity to meet this demand.”

As well as the extra protection afforded by the conjugate vaccines, they are also suitable for children, unlike the polysaccharide version. However, according to WHO figures, they generally cost at least 10 times more than polysaccharide vaccines, which are priced at around $4 to $5. Even with the manufacturers offering the conjugate vaccines at $25 a dose, for the five million doses required that amounts to $125m as opposed to $25m for the polysaccharide vaccines.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sudan's ethnic cleansing

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) have forcibly relocated more than 25,000 Ingessana people from the Bao region in Blue Nile between April and July. The relocations to other parts of the state are part of a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing designed to weaken opposition to the SAF’s armed offensive in the region. Blue Nile in Sudan’s south, along with neighbouring state South Kordofan, has been subjected to a concerted SAF aerial and ground assault since 2011.

The latest campaign of forced relocations began when soldiers stormed Medyam Eljebel village on April 10, chasing residents from their huts. Soldiers looted homes and burned the village to the ground. The army then went from village to village, telling families to evacuate to areas where they have no links or support networks. Similar incidents took place throughout May and June. On July 2, SAF and NISS units forced residents of Banat village onto trucks before dumping them in Abu Ramad, in Damazin locality.

Anyone who refuses to leave their village is deemed to be a member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and faces arrest. SPLM-N chairperson Malik Agar originates from the Ingessana Hills and the entire Ingessana ethnic group are branded by the regime as rebel supporters. In 2011-12, the Ingessana community was subjected to a targeted campaign of bombing, scorched villages and large-scale arbitrary arrests. The Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) says the new offensive is being rolled out in stages to avoid scrutiny. It says the offensive reflects Sudan’s institutionalised military practice of “meting out different forms of collective punishment upon particular ethnic groups”.

The government is seeking to deny the SPLM-N public support in areas where the rebels have made military gains. The Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (the armed wing of the SPLM-N) has made big advances into government-held territory. This brings it closer to key areas containing mineral wealth, hydroelectric power and large-scale agricultural projects. The abundant resources in the region have long been a source of conflict. Khartoum controls the wealth generated by these resources while denying local investment in basic development and infrastructure. The SDFG says the whole state is in darkness at night aside from a few urban areas, despite the Roseris dam hydro power plant in Blue Nile contributing 20% of Sudan’s national electricity grid. The regime’s desperate need to maintain its grip on the resource-rich area amid deepening economic crisis was a key factor in launching its war on Blue Nile in 2011.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fighting for real freedom

Why can’t the ex-colonial powers be made to pay reparations to Africa for what they subjected people to even after the institution of slavery and the slave trade was formally abolished and particularly during the colonial era? As a glaring example of the sheer cruelty of the Europeans during that period, King Leopold 11, who ruled Belgium from 1865 to 1909, actually owned the Congo and all that was in it as part of his personal estate. By virtue of his supposedly blue blood, one man owned millions of Africans and all their land and chattels even though he resided thousands of miles away in a distant Europe.

Such was this man’s innate brutality and monstrous power that he orchestrated and directed the slaughter of no less than 15 million Congolese Africans whilst he ruled from Brussels. This was so even though he never set his foot in Africa throughout his long reign. Yet the world sat by silently and did nothing. As a matter of fact, many of his fellow Europeans actually applauded his actions and described him as a good example and indeed the epitome of all that was noble and all that ought to be expected from the very best of European royalty.

What about Cecil Rhodes, the Englishman man who, according to European historians, ‘’literally and lawfully bought’’ a large part of southern Africa and all that was in it and who named that new frontier after himself by calling it ‘’Rhodesia’’? He also sent millions of Africans to their early graves. This is the same Cecil Rhodes who established the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship for Oxford University and whose money has helped, and still helps, to educate some of the western world’s most distinguished and celebrated leaders by paying for their fees at Oxford. One of those leaders was a young man by the name of Bill Clinton. Little did Clinton and all those other ‘’great’’ future leaders of the western world know that the money that was used to pay for their ‘’Rhodes scholarship’’ at Oxford was in fact blood money which had its origins and roots in the suffering of the tormented souls, wasted lives and barbaric slaughter of millions of dispossessed and enslaved southern Africans that were bought, sold, maimed, enslaved and butchered in the diamond mines of Cecil Rhodes’ De Beers company.

Every black child in grade school is taught that Adolf Hitler killed 6 million Jews and is the worse human being that ever lived. On the other hand our children are taught that the ‘’Right Honorable’’ Cecil Rhodes, the founder of the De Beers diamond company in South Africa, who killed ten times that number of Africans is a hero and a statesman and if they study hard and do well in school they may win the Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship award in the world. They don’t mention that those scholarships are paid for by the blood of their ancestors. Such was the power of Rhodes’ sinister, evil, pervasive and malevolent legacy that it took over 100 years and a bitter and prolonged 15 year civil war (from 1964 to 1979) for the black Africans of that country to secure their rights, to be recognised and acknowledged as being human beings, to win the right to vote and to install democracy and majority rule.

It was only after all this was achieved in 1979 that the name ‘’Rhodesia’’ was dropped like a hot potato and was changed to ‘’Zimbabwe’’.

We need not go into the sufferings under apartheid South Africa at the hands of the white Boers from the day that the Dutchman, Van Riebek, arrived on the southern African coast in 1604 and saw what he graphically described as ‘’stinking black dogs’’. We need not talk about the humiliation and enslavement of our fellow black Africans at the hands of the Arabs of the Sudan, whether it be in Darfur or Southern Sudan for over 500 years. We need not go into the sheer barbarity and inhuman suffering that our brothers and sisters were subjected to in the sugar cane fields and the coffee and banana plantations of the West Indies and South America for many centuries. Everywhere we look throughout world history the story is the same: Africa and Africans have been pillaged, raped, tortured, humiliated, enslaved, butchered, wrenched from their families, scattered, bought and sold, considered as chattel and treated with the most explicit and extreme forms of brutality and violence by those who have a different skin color to us and those from outside our shores.

There have been no reparations and no formal apology. Instead what they have given us today is the ‘’second slavery’’ of foreign debt and humiliating servitude by every single African country to the western monetary agencies such as the IMF, the Paris Club, the Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Bank. They have turned successive African governments into little more than desperate pimps, shameless prostitutes and indebted and pliant little beggars. They have squeezed the very life out of our people, destroyed the future of our respective nations and blighted our collective destinies. This is neo-colonialism in its most primitive and raw form.

Africa should demand reparation not bailout.

The plight of African continent can be traced down time line; the slave era. Although slavery was one of the admixtures of productive labour relations practised in many nations in Africa long before the adventure of Arabs slave merchants and subsequently their European counterparts. The lust for black skin by these two slave merchants race signalled the precursor of what became the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that lasted over four centuries. More than four centuries of dehumanizing any human race was enough to truncate and stagnant its natural evolution in all ramification. As slave trade came under scathing castigation by the capitalist in the early stage of industrial revolution, they used the church to propagate its moral burden on nations trading in slaves. The frontier of dehumanization was systematically extended to encompass acquisition of colonial territories outside the mother countries. The unfair balance of economic, military and technology might was always in favour of the conquerors against the conquered people. As the conquering nations grow richer and more powerful due to their new mode of production, they seek foreign markets and also natural resources to feed their industries. The capitalist had to look no further than where their fore-bears looked (Africa) to get their needed resources. Their grandfathers came to buy or catch black skins; they too came to expropriate the riches in Africa’s soil. Pockets of resistance by angry, humiliated and dehumanized Africans were met by brute force made possible by the use of superior fire-arms.

According to Frantz Fanon colonialism hardly ever exploits the whole of the country. It contents itself with bringing to light the natural resources, which it extracts and exports to meet the need of the mother country’s industries. There by allowing certain sectors of the colony to become relatively rich while the rest of the colony follows its path of underdevelopment and poverty or sink into it more deeply. Immediately after independence, the people who live in the more prosperous regions realise their good luck and show a primary and profound reaction in refusing to feed the other people. As soon as the capitalists know that their government is getting ready to decolonize, they hasten to withdraw all their capital from the colony in question. The spectacular flight of capital is one of the most constant phenomena of decolonization. African unity, that vague formula, yet one to which the man and woman of Africa were passionately attached and whose operative value serve to bring immense pressure to bear on colonialism takes off the mask and crumbles into regionalism inside the hollow shell of nationality itself. The national bourgeoisie, since it is strung up to defend its immediate interests and sees no farther than the end of its nose, reveals itself incapable of simply bringing national unity into being or of building up the nation on a stable and productive basis.

The wealth of the colonizers is our wealth too. Europe has stuffed herself inordinately with the gold and raw materials of the colonial countries. The ports of Holland and docks of Bordeaux and Liverpool were specialised in Negro slave trade and owe their renown to millions of deported slaves. So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hands on his chest that he must come to the help of the poor underdeveloped peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude. Quite the contrary; we say to ourselves; it is our just reparation which will be paid to us. The realization by colonized peoples that it is their due, and the realization by the capitalist powers that in fact they must pay for it.  The capitalist powers in their Machiavellian control of world economy are adept in the use of blackmail, deception, intimidation, agent provocateur, conflict and crisis instigation and wars to maintain stranglehold on underdeveloped nations of the world. Today, carbon trading has crept into the socio-economic relations in international politics. As usual, African continent has been targeted to bear the burden of climate changed caused by industrial nations of Europe. Their corporations despoiled and degraded our rich eco system through oil and mineral explorations. They are buying our forest now in their bid to grab our lands in the name of a phoney carbon trading deals. Just like in the days of slavery, our greedy self-centred and unpatriotic leaders always connive with them as accomplice in all the dehumanizing trade relations.

Nationalists in Africa see the matter differently, painting idyllic pictures of the African past. Colonialism whether it was of the British, Belgian, French or German variety was not meant to be a benign enterprise. The motive behind its establishment was one: the exploitation of labour and the accumulation of economic surplus. Consequently, the driving force behind it, capitalism, did not spare the exploitation of labour in both the metropolis and other lands even if it meant spilling blood to fulfil this sordid agenda. The festering of tribalist, nationalist and racist sentiment are nurtured and sustained by the capitalist system of production which produces only for profits and not for needs. The abolition of the profit system and its replacement with socialism based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for production and distribution would put an end to discrimination and bigotry. But this cannot happen unless people understand and see the need for this kind of change. More than ever before, the formation of socialist parties in Africa to take up the task of spreading the socialist message has become urgent.

Eat well

The people of West Africa do not have enough food to eat. The percentage of the population that is malnourished is higher in Sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world. But when it comes to quality, a new study has found that the West African diet is healthier than the diets of many other places on the planet. And it's one point that the rest of the world should look at more closely.

Researchers ranked self-reported diet surveys from 187 countries on the basis of nutrition. They evaluated the surveys based on the consumption of healthy foods — fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish and milk — as well the prevalence of unhealthy foods such as red meats, processed meats, sugary beverages, saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.

The winner for the diet with the most healthy components and the least junk goes to the nations of West Africa, namely Chad, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. It turns out, the West African diet of lean meats, vegetables, beans, legumes and rice trumps the kale chips and asparagus water sold as "health foods" in many developed nations. The nations of West Africa ranked better on the survey than wealthier countries across North America and Europe.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ending Child Brides

"Child marriage is not an intractable tradition," lead researcher and Ethiopia country director Annabel Erulkar of the The Population Council said in a statement. "When families and communities recognize the harms of child marriage, and have economic alternatives, they will delay the age at which their daughters get married," she said in a statement. The Population Council, which carried out a recent study, found it doesn’t cost much to provide the educational support, economic incentives and community conversations necessary to delay marriage.

Research trials lasting three years in Tanzania and Ethiopia found girls between ages 12 and 17 were less likely to get married when offered schools supplies or economic incentives such as farm animals for every year they continued their education. The study found that community conversations about social norms can also help delay marriage. More than one-tenth of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married by age 15, and 4 in 10 are married by age 18. Girls who marry before their 18th birthday are more likely to become victims of domestic violence than those who marry later. Education has been a critical factor in preventing child marriage in a number of developing nations. Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry young.

The study found that girls aged 12 to 14 who received school supplies were 94 percent less likely to be married at the conclusion of the study than those who had not. Girls aged 15 to 17 in the Amhara region were 50 percent less likely to get married when given two chickens for every year they stayed in school, the research revealed. In Tanzania’s Tabora region, where the marriage rate for 12- to 17-year-old girls is 8 percent, the study found that offering two goats to girls aged 15 to 17 led to a two-thirds drop in early marriage. In both countries, the positive results stemmed from a combination of educational and economic incentives, as well as community discussions about the damaging effects of child marriage. The three interventions cost just $44 per girl per year in Ethiopia and $117 in Tanzania, the study said.

Fleeing Mauritanian Slavery

Slavery is a matter of hereditary caste in traditional Saharan and Sahelian cultures. Because his mother was an unpaid domestic laborer, Ahmet Falla was preordained for the same fate. There's a family in Mauritania that considers him their property.
"If I'd stayed in Mauritania, I'd have had to work without pay for my whole life," Falla said in French. "I have no rights down there." That's why Falla is in Germany as an asylum applicant. "If I returned to Mauritania, the family that thinks of me as their property might kill me as a punishment for my having fled," Falla said. "I'd rather kill himself than go back."

Falla's prospects for being granted asylum in Germany are slim. Slavery was officially abolished in Mauritania in 1981, and holding slaves was criminalized in 2007. Officially, slavery no longer exists. The German government classifies some countries - Syria and Eritrea, for example - as particularly dangerous or repressive places to which asylum applicants cannot be sent back home. It doesn't classify Mauritania that way.

De facto slavery remains widespread in Mauritania. Mauritanian society was traditionally organized into clans - large extended families - with the clans divided into various castes. Occupations were hereditary: Islamic scholars, musicians, artisans and workers of various kinds, domestic and agricultural slaves - everyone inherited their roles and their social status. In theory, the system no longer exists, but in practice it's still very much alive and quite difficult to escape.

The problem has three elements. First, though there are laws against slavery, they're scarcely enforced. Second, many Mauritanians are illiterate or live in remote rural settings, and have no knowledge of their legal rights. Third, and perhaps most difficult to overcome: People who leave their clans to escape their hereditary status have few real options. They often move to one of Mauritania's towns, where they're shunned. No one gives them work or lends them money to start a business. They live in poverty on the margins of society.

In that light, it isn't hard to understand why Ahmet Falla doesn't want to go back to Mauritania. It's something of a miracle that he managed to leave the country in the first place. If necessary, he'll go to ground in Europe, and live a life without a residency permit, without the right to find a job, without insurance, on the margins. "Better that," he said, "than slavery."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Renew Africa by Renewable Energy

Africa has huge renewable energy potential to cover the energy needs of the continent as it has six of the world’s sunniest countries on earth in its continent, the technology exists and the human resources are also in abundance but cannot tap it due to its cost. With the notable exception of South Africa, Morocco and a few others, progress in scaling up solar energy in Africa has been disappointingly slow.

The Norwegian Ambassador to Ghana, Hege Hertzberg said “Africa must exploit other sources of energy in order to drive its industrial expansion. Solar is the solution to so many challenges. The raw material is here, and it will last longer than oil and gas”.

According to IT power (1987), Government and ministries in Africa suffer from a shortage of qualified renewable energy personnel for example in Kenya, there is lack of general expertise in all aspects of wind pumps in the relevant ministries and NGO’s. In Zambia, only one engineer was responsible for coordinating all renewable energy activities of the government reported by Sampa and Sichone (1995).

Renewable energy can directly contribute to poverty alleviation by providing the energy needed for business and employment. It can also indirectly contribute to alleviating poverty by providing energy for cooking, space heating and lighting.

Forgotten conflicts – Our silence is a shame to humanity

As you read this, there are more than 40 conflicts unfolding in countries around the world. Many of them don’t get the media or policy attention. Tales of war from places like Syria and Iraq are never far from the headlines but the toll of decades-long conflicts – from Colombia to the Ogaden, from Kashmir to Western Sahara – is just as devastating for the people who live there.

In South Kordofan journalists are banned by the Sudanese government from entering the rebel-held region, where civilians have taken to living in caves to survive the endless bombing. South Kordofan's death toll of 4,500 may seem insignificant compared with many other conflicts, but the rebels and the people of the Nuba Mountains fear Khartoum won't stop until they are all driven out. There are almost a 200,000 refugees and almost half a million are in need of immediate humanitarian aid.

Nagwa Konda, director of the Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NRRDO) – a local NGO that struggles to cater for the desperate needs of the Nuba – said hope in her region was fading.  “There is a catastrophic humanitarian situation going on right now in the Nuba Mountains. Children in the Nuba Mountains are suffering from daily aerial bombardment, from hunger, dying from preventable diseases.” 

Omar al-Bashir and his Khartoum-based regime say they are fighting a rebellion in South Kordofan driven by vested interests and Western plotters that want to overthrow his government. The Nuba say they are fighting for their own survival. The Nuba, numbering between one and two million, are a collection of distinct peoples of black African origin who speak an array of different languages. Many are now Muslim, but there are Christian and animist Nuba too.  Along with a few Arab pastoralist tribes, they have the geographical misfortune of living on the fault line between Sudan’s largely Arab and Islamic north and its predominantly Christian, animist and black African south.  The origins of their oppression date back to the colonial era when the British segregated them, declaring the Nuba Mountains region a special “Closed District.” The Nuba were not allowed to stray northwards without a special permit and schooling was left up to missionaries. When Sudan emerged from British rule in 1956, the Nuba were already politically, economically and socially marginalised and lacked any educational system.

South Kordofan had been under the governorship since 2009 of Bashir’s trusted lieutenant Ahmed Haroun – like him indicted by the International Criminal Court for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Darfur. By 2013, Bashir had deployed between 40,000 and 70,000 troops to South Kordofan. Local Arab tribes, the Misseriya, were coopted by Khartoum to fight their black African rivals. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) pulled out of South Kordofan in January after its clinic was bombed for a second time, leaving Doctor Tom Catena at the Mother of Mercy Hospital as the last surgeon in the Nuba Mountains, performing around 1,000 surgeries a year.

"You  want to ask me why I fight?” Thayr Urwa Hamdan Said, a new rebel recruit, exclaimed.  “After the separation of the South, Omar al-Bashir  said that Sudan is now an Islamic Arab country that would be governed by Islamic sharia laws. They have to recognise and bear in mind that there are other people living with them in this geographical area called Sudan. That is why if we do not overthrow this government we would be second-class citizens in our own country.”

Atrocities in nearby Liberia and Sierra Leone have stolen the regional headlines over the years, but the separatist struggle in Casamance is West Africa’s longest-running civil conflict. Three decades of on-and-off separatist conflict in Senegal's southern region of Casamance have killed thousands of people, displaced tens of thousands more, crippled the rural-based economy and turned large tracts of territory into no-go zones due to landmines. A ceasefire was declared last year by an important rebel leader, but even if it holds, grievances and resentment linger and underlying socio-economic problems threaten to consign another generation of Casamançais to living like second-class citizens in one of Africa's supposed beacons of democracy. The rebellion was born out of the resentment of the southern Diola people for Senegal’s dominant Wolof group in the decades following independence from France in 1960. The Diola, who represent only 3.7 percent of the population but 60 percent of people in the Ziguinchor region, have traditional beliefs that set them apart from other Senegalese groups. According to the Association for the Development of the District of Nysassia (APRAN), a local NGO that has been working to help the displaced return home, 78 villages in Lower Casamance were completely destroyed during the fighting and more than 150,000 people lost their homes. Thousands of civilians remain internally displaced by the conflict, including some 6,000 in Ziguinchor, and at least another 10,000 refugees are split between The Gambia or Guinea-Bissau, many still harbouring deep resentment for Senegalese authority. Demba Keita, secretary general of APRAN, told IRIN that many people want to return home but feel conditions are not right to allow them to do so.

“Their villages were wiped out and now they have no means for reconstruction," he said. "The state of Senegal does nothing to help them. We cannot convince donors to engage in reconstruction, because they feel the peace process does not move forward.”

For the most part, the separatist struggle in Casamance has been fought in a media vacuum. International attention has focused on other, more immediately troubling conflicts with bigger bombs, larger death tolls, and more terrible atrocities. Amnesty International, however, did draw attention to the extrajudicial killings, disappearances and flagrant human rights abuses in an influential February 1998 report.

“Hundreds of NGOs have worked for the development of Casamance. But if you drive through Casamance, you don’t see any development,” said Abdou Elinkine Diatta, who fought with Atika in the 1980s and 1990s before becoming a rebel spokesman. “Maybe it has helped develop Dakar. But there has been no development in Casamance."

Robert Piper, then UN humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, admitted last year that the situation in Casamance presents a real “dilemma” for the international aid community.
“On the one hand, there are very real needs here, particularly food insecurity. On the other hand, we also need to recognise that this is a well-endowed part of Senegal that should not have a humanitarian operation.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Africans Fighting the Japanese

Nigerians made up more than half of the total force of 90,000 West African soldiers deployed to South-East Asia after 1943, as part of the British army’s 81st and 82nd (West Africa) Divisions.

Allied commander General William Slim did not mention the African soldiers in his speech thanking the 14th army and seventy years on, many remain bitter that their contribution was never recognised fully.

War-Crimes in South Sudan

"The oppressed love the oppressors and can't wait to be just like them..." - Joseph Michael Linsner

South Sudanese government forces are guilty of burning civilians alive, running them over with tanks, and carrying out rapes and abductions, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian property during the offensive carried out between April and June 2015 amount to war crimes, while the killings and rapes may also constitute crimes against humanity.

HRW said that they had documented the burning of homes and food stocks, and the theft of animals, food, clothes, and cooking utensils. The organization also recorded at least 60 unlawful killings of civilian women, men, and children, put to death by hanging, shooting, or being burned alive. At least 63 counts of rape were documented, though researchers suspect that this is a small fraction of the total number. Those that were reported included brutal gang rapes, public rapes, and rapes that occurred alongside the threat of murder.

Akshaya Kumar, South Sudan Policy Analyst for the Enough Project, told VICE News that recently "there's been a real escalation in the brutality and the nature of the killing and the targeting, with both sides really adopting a scorched earth kind of attitude." 

More than 2.25 million people have been displaced as a result of the civil war.