Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Who is caring about CAR?

Central African Republic has been plagued by conflict since March 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, triggering reprisals by Christian "anti-balaka" militias. The Seleka and other groups have since splintered, prompting further violence despite the election in March 2016 of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, which raised hopes of reconciliation.
Violence between armed factions in Central African Republic could plunge the country back into a large-scale humanitarian crisis four years after conflict first erupted, the United Nations' aid chief and agencies said on Tuesday. Thirteen of the 14 armed groups along with representatives from the government signed a peace deal last month, yet as many as 100 people were killed in the town of Bria, northeast of the capital Bangui, in fighting between factions the very next day. Fighting has since continued and intensified in towns such as Bangassou and Zemio, where militants last week shot and killed a baby in a hospital, forcing aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to temporarily suspend its operations there.
A surge in fighting between militias in several hotspots has uprooted more than 100,000 people since April, in the worst spell of displacement since the peak of the conflict in 2014, say aid groups including the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Children are being increasingly targeted in the violence - ending up victims of murder, abduction, rape and recruitment into armed groups, said the U.N. children's agency (UNICEF).
More than 1 million people are displaced - about half are living as refugees in neighbouring countries - and nearly one in two people - at least 2.2 million - need aid, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
"It is tragic to see so many people displaced by mindless conflict and brutal atrocities ... the country is experiencing a deteriorating cycle of violence," the U.N. humanitarian chief, Stephen O'Brien, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "It has the worst level of humanitarian needs per capita," O'Brien added by phone from Bangui, calling on donors to boost support to avert the risk of a repeat of the "devastating large-scale crisis that gripped the country only four years ago".
The country's humanitarian response plan for 2017 has been less than quarter funded - $118 million of a requested $497 million.
"The peace agreement brought hope, but this hope has been shattered by the increase in violence and new displacement during the last weeks," said Eric Batonon, NRC country head. "We need to wake up to the fact that the Central African Republic is again spiralling towards a devastating crisis."

Hungry Times

 108 million people living in 48 food-crisis countries were at high risk of or already facing severe acute food insecurity in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises.

“The numbers tell a deeply worrying story with more than 100 million people severely food-insecure, a level of suffering which is driven by conflict and climate change. Hunger exacerbates crisis, creating ever -greater instability and insecurity. What is a food security challenge today becomes tomorrow’s security challenge,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme. “It is a race against time – the world must act now to save the lives and livelihoods of the millions at the brink of starvation. Without robust and sustained action, people struggling with severe food insecurity risk slipping into an even worse situation and eventual starvation.”

Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned. The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, South-Eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, northern Tanzania and north-eastern and South-Western Uganda. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the five aforementioned countries, currently estimated at about 16 million, has increased by about 30 per cent since late 2016. In Somalia, almost half of the total population is food insecure, the UN specialised body reported.

The third consecutive failed rainy season has seriously eroded families’ resilience, and urgent and effective livelihood support is required. Timely humanitarian assistance has averted famine so far but must be sustained. Conditions across the region are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months with the onset of the dry season and an anticipated early start of the lean season, it added.

FAO’s Director of Emergencies Dominique Burgeon said, “Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further.” In Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where animal mortality rates are high and milk production from the surviving animals has declined sharply with negative consequences on food security and nutrition. “When we know how critical milk is for the healthy development of children aged under five, and the irreversible damage its lack can create, it is evident that supporting pastoralists going through this drought is essential,” said Burgeon.

Fall armyworm, which has caused extensive damage to maize crops in southern Africa, has spread to the east and has worsened the situation. In Kenya, the pest has so far affected about 200 000 hectares of crops, and in Uganda more than half the country’s 111 districts are affected.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said,  “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Direct Action in South Africa. (1922)

From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent attempts on the part of the Rand miners at Johannesburg to gain their ends by force of arms affords another striking instance of the futility of adopting such methods in the face of the organised, well-disciplined force of the governing class. Into the pros and cons of this particular case we do not propose to go. The broad facts of the case are sufficient for our purpose. In the mining districts of South Africa we find the masters organising for wage reductions; in fact, throughout the Capitalist world the same thing is going on all round. In England we had the coal mine owners making the first grand onslaught towards wage reductions. The Engineering industry at the present moment witnesses another great move on the part of the masters to force a reduction of wages.

In both instances the workers have been locked out. In all these contests we have the advocates of direct action on the industrial field proclaiming that this is the appointed time for the workers to use their “industrial power.” These people do not explain what this industrial power of the workers is. The reason is simple—there is no such thing as this so-called “industrial power” or “economic power,” as some prefer to call it; it is just a phrase, mouthed about by “revolutionary” Labour leaders, to impress their sheep-like followers with their “revolutionary heroism.” “Industrial power,” “ the power of industry,” “economic power,” are meaningless terms so far as advantage to the workers’ cause is concerned.

The fact that has to be solidly grasped is that, a ruling class exists to-day—the owners and controllers of the means of life. It matters not under what national banner or flag these captains of industry — the Capitalist class—are domiciled, whether it be in South Africa, Australia, America, the same force is used—the army, navy, and aerial contingents—to impose the masters’ will over the subject class, the working class. Therefore, while the workers of the world remain politically ignorant—i.e., vote their enemies into the seat of power—then it logically follows that that power, which gives them control of the forces of the State, be used whenever occasion demands, as witness on the Rand in South Africa.

As a writer in the Manchester Guardian, 17/3/22, says, commenting on the matter—
   “There certainly has been no indecision about General Smuts' way of taking up a clear challenge; not, of course, that the challenge from the rioters on the Rand was personal to him. He received it as the chosen head man of the European .Democracy in South Africa. It was no individual will, but the will of the majority—evidently a vast majority—of South African voters."
In this case the "vast majority” in their political ignorance voted for the return to the seat of power—the State Assembly—representatives of the owners of property in land, mines, railways, etc. Therefore, when this property is attacked by bands of rebel workers, it is naturally defended by the forces of the State.

Now listen to the champions of "industrial action"—"Workers' Dreadnought" (18/3/22) —commenting on the South African trouble :—
   “Labour will not be victorious whilst it merely strikes and starves. It must take control of production and distribution before it can achieve anything.”
We agree, but we are not told how the workers are to get control. Also same authority commenting on the Engineers' lock-out: -
  “They must show themselves able and ready to supply their own needs and those of the proletarian community as a whole.”
We agree, but how? And further same authority :—
   “The questions the locked-out workers have to ask themselves are just these :—
1. 'Why should we suffer want in a land of plenty? ’
2. 'How can we avoid doing so? ”
The answer to No. 1 is that the workers will continue to suffer want, so long as the means of life are owned by a few—the ruling Capitalist class.

The question as to how this state of things may be avoided is readily answered by the Socialist, who claims that the means of life must be made the common property of the people—i.e., by the establishment of Socialism, viz., "a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interests of the whole community." The Declaration of Principles on the back page of this issue sets out concisely but clearly how that object may be attained.

Revolutionary wind may be very relieving to people like the writer in the “Workers’ Dreadnought," quoted above; there’s been an epidemic of it since Bolshevism was discovered in Russia. What the workers need is Revolutionary knowledge. Study our position and then act.

B. I.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Fact of the Day

The difference between the birth rate of educated and non-educated girls in some African countries is astonishing.
In Ethiopia, for instance, women who manage to finish a secondary-level education have an average of 1.3 children - and 5 if they lack schooling. In Nigeria, the difference is from 3.9 versus 6.7.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fact of the Day

Less than a fifth of Americans are aware that extreme hunger threatens the lives of 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, yet the overwhelming majority regard it as the most pressing global issue once they have been told.

Public awareness of the situation is low, with only 15% of Americans apprised of the facts.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Selling Bad Health and Death in Africa

At its annual meeting in March, chairman Richard Burrows toasted a “vintage year” for British American Tobacco (BAT), as profits rose 4% to £5.2bn after investors took their cut – their dividend had increased by 10%. There are an estimated 77 million smokers in Africa and those numbers are predicted to rise by nearly 40% from 2010 levels by 2030, which is the largest projected such increase in the world. “The tobacco industry is now turning its focus toward emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to exploit the continent’s patchwork tobacco control regulations and limited resources to combat industry marketing advances,” said Dr Emmanuela Gakidou and colleagues at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, publishing an analysis of smoking prevalence around the world in the Lancet in April.
BAT, one of the world’s leading cigarette manufacturers, and other multinational tobacco firms have threatened governments in at least eight countries in Africa demanding they axe or dilute the kind of protections that have saved millions of lives in the west. 
BAT is fighting through the courts to try to block the Kenyan and Ugandan governments’ attempts to bring in regulations to limit the harm caused by smoking. The giant tobacco firms hope to boost their markets in Africa, which has a fast-growing young and increasingly prosperous population.
In Kenya BAT’s lawyers demand the country’s high court “quash in its entirety” a package of anti-smoking regulations and rails against what it calls a “capricious” tax plan. The case is now before the supreme court after BAT Kenya lost in the high court and the appeal court. A ruling is expected as early as next month. Professor Peter Odhiambo, a former heart surgeon who is head of the government’s Tobacco Control Board in Kenya, told the Guardian: “BAT has done as much as they can to block us.” In Kenya, BAT has succeeded in delaying regulations to restrict the promotion and sale of cigarettes for 15 years, fighting through every level of the legal system. In February it launched a case in the supreme court that has already halted the imposition of tobacco controls until probably after the country’s general election in August, which is being contested by parliamentarians who have been linked to payments by the multinational company.
BAT whistleblower Paul Hopkins, who worked in Africa for BAT for 13 years, told a British newspaper he paid bribes on the company’s behalf to the Kenya Revenue Authority for access to information BAT could use against its Kenyan competitor, Mastermind. Hopkins has also alleged links between certain prominent opposition Kenyan politicians and two tobacco companies, BAT Kenya and Mastermind. Hopkins, who says he alerted BAT to the documents before the company made him redundant, claimed BAT Kenya paid bribes to government officials in Burundi, Rwanda and the Comoros Islands to undermine tobacco control regulations. Gitali is concerned about the outcome of the election: “If the opposition takes over government we shall be deeply in the hands of the tobacco companies.”
Cloe Franko, senior international organizer at Corporate Accountability International, said: “In Kenya, as in other parts of the world, the industry has resorted to frivolous litigation, aggressive interference ... to thwart, block, and delay lifesaving policies. BAT’s actions are emblematic of a desperate industry grasping to maintain its hold over countries and continue to peddle its deadly product.”
In Uganda, BAT asserts that the government’s Tobacco Control Act is “inconsistent with and in contravention of the constitution”. In Uganda, BAT launched legal action against the government in November, arguing that the Tobacco Control Act, which became law in 2015, contravenes the constitution. It is fighting restrictions that are now commonplace in richer countries, including the expansion of health warnings on packets and point-of-sale displays, arguing that they unfairly restrict its trade.
The Guardian has also seen letters, including three by BAT, sent to the governments of Uganda, Namibia, Togo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso revealing the intimidatory tactics that tobacco companies are using, accusing governments of breaching their own laws and international trade agreements and warning of damage to the economy.
BAT is expected to become the world’s biggest listed tobacco firm as it completes its acquisition of the large US tobacco company Reynolds in a $49bn deal, and there are fears over the extent to which big tobacco can financially outmuscle health ministries in poorer nations. Experts say Africa and southern Asia are urgent new battlegrounds in the global fight against smoking because of demographics and rising prosperity. Despite declining smoking and more controls in some richer countries, it still kills more than seven million people globally every year, according to the WHO, and there are fears the tactics of big tobacco will effectively succeed in “exporting the death and harm” to poorer nations.
Although most countries in Africa have signed the World Health Organisation (WHO) treaty on tobacco control, none has yet fully implemented the smoking restrictions it endorses.
The WHO predicts that by 2025, smoking rates will go up in 17 of the 30 Africa-region countries from their 2010 level. In some countries a massive hike is expected – in Congo-Brazzaville, from 13.9% to nearly half the population (47.1%) and in Cameroon from 13.7% to 42.7%. In Sierra Leone it will be 41.2% (74% among men) and in Lesotho 36.9%.
Tih Ntiabang, regional coordinator for Africa of the Framework Convention Alliance – NGOs that support the WHO treaty – said the tobacco companies had become bolder. “In the past it used to be invisible interference, but today it is so shameful that it is so visible and they are openly opposing public health treaties like the case in Kenya at the moment … Today they boldly go to court to oppose public health policy. Every single government is highly interested in economic growth. They [the tobacco companies] know they have this economic power. The budget of tobacco companies like BAT could be as much as the whole budget of the Africa region.
“Our health systems are not really well organised. Our policy makers can’t see clearly what are the health costs of inaction on tobacco control because our health system is not very good. It puts the tobacco industry at an advantage on public health.”
Bintou Camara, director of Africa programs at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said: “British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and other multinational tobacco companies have set their sights on Africa as a ‘growth market’ for their deadly products”. Throughout Africa, tobacco companies have tried to intimidate countries from taking effective action to reduce tobacco use, the world’s leading cause of preventable death, he added.
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Letter to the president sent in April 2017 by the Fédération des Entreprises du Congo (chamber of commerce) on behalf of the tobacco industry, listing 29 concerns with the proposed tobacco control regulations, which they claim violate the constitution, international agreements and domestic law.
  • Burkina Faso: Letter sent in January 2016 to the minister of health from Imperial Tobacco, warning that restrictions on labeling and packaging cigarettes risks economic and social damage to the country. Previous letter sent to the prime minister from the US Chambers of Commerce in December 2013 warning that large health warnings and plain packaging could put Burkina Faso in breach of its obligations to the World Trade Organisation.
  • Ethiopia: Letter sent in February 2015 to the ministers of health and science and technology by Philip Morris International, claiming that the government’s tobacco directive banning trademarks, brands and added ingredients to tobacco breached existing laws and would penalise all consumer retailers.
  • Togo: Letter to the minister of commerce in June 2012 from Philip Morris International opposing plain packaging, which “risks having damaging consequences on Togo’s economy and business environment”.
  • Gabon: Letter from BAT arguing that there is no evidence that plain packaging reduces smoking, citing the Deloitte report of 2011, alleging its introduction would put Gabon in breach of trade agreements and promote smuggling.
  • Namibia: Letter to the minister of health from BAT, warning that planned tobacco controls will have “a massive impact … on the Namibian economy at large”.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Kenyan churches wealth

The Coptic Orthodox Church, Nairobi Pentecostal Church (NPC) and the Seventh-day Adventist Church are among the organisations in the Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) latest listing of taxpayers in that income bracket. The listing places them in the same income league as Kirinyaga Construction, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Google Kenya, among others.
Churches are required to file annual returns but are exempt from most taxes as provided for by the Non-Governmental Organisations and Co-ordination Act. These three Kenyan churches are doing business with annual turnovers of between Sh350 million and Sh1 billion, signalling greater involvement of religious institutions in taxable commercial activities to boost their incomes. The religious institutions have increased their investment in education, healthcare, financial services, hospitality and real estate to reduce their reliance on tithes and offerings from members. Despite higher earnings from businesses, the government has maintained the churches’ tax-exempt status. A charitable organisation must provide evidence of its benevolent activities before it can be exempted from taxes.
However, battles for control of the businesses run by churches have raised suspicions that some of the investments are initiated with self-enrichment as the primary objective. The NPC, the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) and the Catholic Church are some of the institutions that have been rocked by major property disputes, with some of their clergy accused in court of fraud and embezzlement. Leaders of the NPC, also known as Christ is The Answer Ministries (CITAM), have, for instance, been sued for breach of trust by church members and a contractor in relation to a controversial housing project in Nairobi’s Karen section.
The Catholic Church, which owns one of the largest real estate portfolios in Kenya, including undeveloped land, is surprisingly not on the list.

Uganda's inequality

Uganda is now ranked 17th among the countries with the highest level of income inequality in Africa, in a report published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The report titled 'Urbanization and industrialization for Africa’s transformation' points out that Uganda’s gini coefficient for income inequality is at 0.45. 

Uganda’s situation is worse than Tanzania (0.36), and Burundi (0.33), but better than Kenya (0.48) and Rwanda (0.51). 

The report notes that income inequality has risen due to an absence of programs to bolster incomes of the poor and the absolute poor while the rich continue to break further away, amassing more wealth from their investments.

Congo Conflicts

 Conflict has forced more than 1.5 million Congolese to flee their homes this year, far more than in Iraq or Syria. More than 3,000 have died since last October in an insurrection against the government in central Congo's Kasai region. Altogether, 3.8 million Congolese are internally displaced, more than in any other African country, according to OCHA. Some 7.3 million need humanitarian assistance.

About 80,000 people have fled fighting between the Democratic Republic of Congo army and a new rebel coalition, the United Nations said on Tuesday, joining the millions already uprooted in Africa's worst displacement crisis.

Militia violence has intensified across Congo since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate in December, raising fears the country will slide back into the wars at the turn of the century that killed millions. The latest fighting broke out in South Kivu province's Fizi territory, in the eastern part of the country. Government troops clashed with the National Coalition of the People for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNPSC), a new alliance of local self-defence militias, the U.N. Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a new report. The rebels seized several towns last month before being beaten back by government troops, according to the army, which said at least a dozen people were killed in the clashes.  OCHA warned that tit-for-tat attacks between competing communities in South Kivu risked reviving inter-ethnic tensions that have fuelled repeated conflicts.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Fact of the Day

Over the next generation, in the next 35 years, 1 in every 4 people in the world will be African. Right now, and in contrast to China, half of the African population is under 20, and the working-age population will expand by 20-30 million people per year over the next generation, going from 530 million people in 2015 to 920 million in 2035, and on to 1.4 billion by 2055. 

Meanwhile, the UN projects that the working age population of China will shrink from around 920 million in 2015 to 667 million by 2055. By this time, most of the net growth on the world’s labor force will occur in Africa and by 2050, Africa will make up 25 percent over the world’s workforce.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

South Sudan's Atrocities

South Sudan, but it is a very under-reported conflict. Very few people around the world even know that Sudan is the biggest refugee crisis in the world in terms of how fast it grows. Why it is so difficult to solve is because both parties, government and opposition forces, are not being put under the kind of pressure that they should be put under by the international community. There are certainly more measures that the international community should take such as an arms embargo, targeted sanctions on specific individuals. None of that has been done until now. Nobody has been held accountable. So, those who are responsible for these unspeakable atrocities against civilians, until now have been able to enjoy impunity. Impunity is in large part what is fueling this conflict.

According to Amnesty International, South Sudan's ongoing atrocities have turned the country’s breadbasket into a killing field. Both government and opposition forces use food as a weapon of war. 

In South Sudan's Equatoria region, government and opposition forces have committed war crimes and widespread human rights abuses against civilians.  Amnesty International reveals that men, women and children have been shot, hacked to death with machetes and burned alive in their homes. Women and girls have been gang-raped, some after having been abducted. Homes, schools, medical facilities and humanitarian organizations' compounds have been looted, vandalized and burned down. Both government and opposition forces use food as a weapon of war. Such atrocities have already forcibly displaced close to a million people from their homes in a food-rich region which could feed millions but it has become a place where even the small percentage of inhabitants who remain are facing acute hunger and malnutrition. 

 Basically those who are involved in the conflict, especially the government of President Salva Kiir on one hand and the rebel forces led by Riek Machar on the other hand, but also local armed opposition groups which are not necessarily operating exactly under the main SPLA opposition has resulted in a situation where at the moment neither side can win and neither side is losing. And so they are continuing to fight and couldn't care less about the fate of civilians. If men are caught, they are killed; if women are caught they are raped.

The bulk of the abuses are being committed by government forces and their allied militias - the Mathiang Anyor militia. However, the rebel fighters are also committing the same kind of abuses, although on a much smaller scale. Why are they targeting civilians? They are targeting civilians because they can. Because civilians have no way of defending themselves and each side is accusing civilians of being supportive of the other side. That's why men are rounded up, massacred, shot dead, hacked to death, locked up in huts and set on fire and women are very often gang raped, whether in their homes or when they go out to the rural areas trying to look for food.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Inequality in South Africa

South Africa is in a technical recession, unemployment figures are at record highs and the inequality gap is far from closing.

Yet a recent report by Deloitte shows executives of the Top 100 companies listed on the JSE earn on average R69,000 a day. 

It is no secret that South Africa's top executives lead lavish lives, often residing in some of the most pristine neighbourhoods our cities have to offer. At the same time, their employees tend to live in shacks, lacking basic services, hundreds of kilometres from home, often to be closer to work.

Capitalists, those who own the means of production, as Karl Marx would say, have been thriving all over the world. And despite increasing criticism of a system that depends on inequality, the rich continue to get richer while the poor are headed the other way. Populist rhetoric is aimed at convincing the electorate that political decisions will result in equal distribution of wealth when in fact the true goal is to replace the current economic elite with another group, most likely those who have close ties to political leaders.  Throughout history, wars between 'kings' have never been for the well-being of their subjects and the so-called 'noblemen' need to be exposed.  The current notion that the majority should be grateful for the wealth that 'trickles' down – like breadcrumbs and bones from a dinner table to a dog – is nothing short of insulting.

The true remedy requires pro-active steps to achieve socialism.

Restricted Africa

By 2063, according to the African Union’s (AU) long-range prediction, Africa will be “a continent of seamless borders”. People, capital, goods, and services will flow freely from South Africa to Tunisia and from Senegal to Somalia. Last year, with that goal in mind, the AU boldly introduced a single African passport.  So far, the AU has issued its single African passport only to heads of state and senior AU officials. 

For now, however, crossing borders remains a painful experience for most Africans. The World Bank estimates that intra-African trade is more expensive, all things considered, than trade in any other region. 

On average, Africans need a visa to travel to 54% of the continent’s countries; it’s easier for Americans to travel around Africa than it is for Africans themselves.  Less than a quarter of African countries provide “liberal access”—meaning visa-free travel or at least visas on arrival—to all African citizens, and most of the continent’s richest countries tend to be more restrictive. 

According to Anabel Gonzalez, senior director of a World Bank group on trade and competitiveness, one African supermarket chain reports that it spends $20,000 every week to get import permits for meat, milk and other goods in one country alone; every day one of its lorries is held up at a border, costs it $500. 

But in the past year things have improved a little, according to a new report from the African Development Bank. Africans now need visas to travel to slightly fewer countries than they did in 2015, and 13 African countries now offer electronic visas, up from 9 the previous year. 
Ghana made the most progress: in 2016 the government announced that it would provide visas on arrival for citizens of every AU member state, while offering entirely visa-free travel to 17 African countries, including the 14 other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 
The Seychelles is still the only country on the continent to offer visa-free access to all Africans.  In the middle of the Indian Ocean, it is a haven for well-heeled tourists but hard to get to if you are poor. 

Children in Need

A new UNICEF report says more than seven million children are on the move in West and Central Africa because of violence, poverty and climate change.
Lack of economic opportunities, wars and climate change have forced over 12 million people in West and Central Africa to migrate, UNICEF said. The United Nations children's agency says children account for over half of all migrants in the region.
Most of the children seek refuge in other African nations, and only one in five attempt the perilous journey to Europe.
"Children in West and Central Africa are moving in greater numbers than ever before, many in search of safety or a better life," said UNICEF regional director Marie-Pierre Poirier."Yet the majority of these children are moving within Africa, not to Europe or elsewhere. We must broaden the discussion on migration to encompass the vulnerabilities of all children on the move and expand systems to protect them, in all their intended destinations," she said.
Globally, 65.6 million people are uprooted and nearly half of them are children, according to the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Changng attitudes

In Nigeria, Mubi is known as the city of peace; half of the population is Christian, the other half Muslim. It has now become home to 100,000 Boko Haram refugees. "We celebrated the end of Ramadan, we celebrated Christmas, and even at midnight we received guests of all religions," Pastor Harris said.

Most of the registered refugees have found work in Mubi. They live with relatives or families who have willingly opened their doors. In the villages surrounding Mubi, land belonging to the chiefs has been given to the refugees so they can begin to rebuild their lives. Many businessmen have also given land to the refugees.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Growing Forests

 Malawi plans by 2030 to plant trees and restore other degraded land, in an effort to reverse rampant forest losses in the country, forestry officials said this week.
The area set to be rehabilitated covers 4.5 million hectares – nearly half of the country’s total land area, according to Tangu Isabel Tumeo, the principal forestry officer in the country’s Department of Forestry.
Altogether the country has lost 7.8 million hectares of trees since the 1980s, according to government figures.
The ambitious forest restoration initiative is part of the country’s commitment to the Bonn Challenge, agreed by nations in Germany in 2011. That effort calls for the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded land worldwide by 2030. African nations have pledged to provide 100 million hectares of reforestation toward that target.
In Malawi, the government aims to improve the protection and management of 1 million hectares of natural forests and plantations by 2020 and 2 million hectares by 2030 and restore 500,000 hectares of deforested or degraded forest by 2030. It also aims to plant 20 million trees along rivers and streams by 2020.
The government also wants to see 50 percent of the country’s crop land planted to at least 10 percent trees by 2020, with 80 percent planted in that way by 2030. Malawi also aims to increase the size of community forests and woodlots and improve or expand commercial forest plantations

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Facts on Race

FACT ONE: Although there is any number of racial theories, and of racialists, nobody has yet been able to fix conclusively the dividing line between races, nor indeed the number of races that exist 

FACT TWO: There is absolutely no evidence, despite exhaustive and persistent attempts to get some, that human beings whose skin is of one colour are superior or inferior to those whose skin is of another colour.

FACT THREE: We live in a capitalist society which is worldwide and which divides its people into two classes — capitalists and workers.

FACT FOUR: These two classes are also worldwide and cut across any other divisions of race, sex or religion. Thus there are “coloured” capitalists as well as “coloured” workers, “white” workers as well as “white” capitalists.

FACT FIVE: The interests of workers are opposed to those of the capitalists.

FACT SIX: All capitalists have a common interest and so have all workers. The workers’ is in unity — as long as capitalism lasts to improve their conditions and, more important, to organise for the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by Socialism.

FACT SEVEN: Racial theories and prejudices, because they are false and because they operate against working class unity, are a barrier to the understanding of Socialism. They are, therefore, against the interests of the workers and should be rejected by them.

FACT EIGHT: Only when we have Socialism will all human beings be able to cooperate freely for the benefit of society. Only Socialism will end the pernicious scourge of racism.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Bleeding of Africa

“We find that the countries of Africa are collectively net creditors to the rest of the world, to the tune of $41.3 billion in 2015,” explain authors of the report, titled How the World Profits from Africa’s Wealth.
“There’s such a powerful narrative in Western societies that Africa is poor and that it needs our help,” explained Aisha Dodwell, a campaigner with Global Justice Now, one of the organizations that authored the report. “This research shows that what African countries really need is for the rest of the world to stop systematically looting them,” Dodwell said. “While the form of colonial plunder may have changed over time, its basic nature remains unchanged.”
over half of the population of Africa lacks access to sufficient healthcare, with an average of only 14 health professionals for every 100,000 people.
However, Africa’s wealth underground is extensive. In 2015, African nations exported some $232 billion worth of minerals and oil to the rest of the world, South Africa contains an estimated $2.5 trillion in mineral wealth, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) holds an estimated $24 trillion in untapped mineral reserves.
Yet the poverty above ground persists, with 95% of the population in the DRC living on less than US $2 dollars per day.
The problem is that foreign companies profit the most from this resource extraction. “Money is leaving Africa partly because Africa’s wealth of natural resources is simply owned and exploited by foreign, private corporations,” the report explains.
When multinational companies extract and export raw commodities, they typically pay very little taxes to the government, or they use tax havens to avoid paying taxes.
“Many African tax policies are the result of long-standing policies of Western governments insisting on Africa lowering taxes to attract investment,” the report found.
The Guyanese scholar and activist Walter Rodney wrote in his classic 1972 book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, the root of the problem is global capitalism.
“African development,” Rodney wrote, “is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system, which has been the principal agency of underdevelopment of Africa over the last five centuries.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kenyan Poverty

Nearly half of Kenyans are poor and cannot afford a decent lifestyle, according to a new study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS)

The report titled ‘Spatial Dimension of Well-being in Kenya: Where are the Poor?’ says 45.2 per cent of Kenyans are simply chugging along and can barely afford the bare minimum – basic basket of food and non-food items.
The report paints a gloomy picture of inequality in different parts of the country, with the study having found out that while residents of some regions enjoy the good life, others are wallowing in abject poverty.
While only two in ten Nairobi residents live below the poverty line (or spend less than Sh2,913 in a month), nine out of 10 residents in Turkana spend less than Sh1,562 monthly. Turkana County, with a poverty incidence of 87.5 per cent, has the highest number of poor people followed by Wajir with a poverty incidence of 84.2 per cent.
 The report shows rural dwellers are poorer than their urban counterparts. Nearly one in two people in rural Kenya are poor compared to only three in 10 in urban Kenya. Given that close to 70 per cent of Kenyans still live in rural areas, poverty is still more of a rural phenomenon. Of the 25.8 million people living in rural areas, 13 million live below the poverty line. Although rural poverty reduced from 53.1 per cent in 1997 to 49.7 per cent in 2005/06, it marginally went up to 50.5 per cent in 2009, meaning efforts to contain poverty are not bearing fruit. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017


During a press conference held at katuwila house on 16 June, three church mother bodies (catholic center in Zambia, evangelical fellowship in Zambia and the Zambia council of Catholics) delivered a strong indictment of the PF government and called for the immediate release of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema. The three bishops said that Zambia was plunged into a political crisis and the PF has become a political dictatorship.
The Catholic Church has from time immemorial played an active role in Zambian domestic politics – it was the Catholic Church that vigorously campaigned for election of the late PF president Sata during the 2011 presidential election.
The statement issued by the three bishops has been received with mixed feelings across different sections of Zambian society. The former MMD president Rupiah Banda has expressed strong reservations against the statement and has cautioned the bishops from uttering alarming statements focused at inciting political animosities between the PF and UPND. Banda said that the results of the 11 August 2016 presidential elections was a closed chapter that must never be revisited in the sense that President Lungu was declared victorious and thereby recognised as the President of Zambia.
The Zambia police issued a statement warning the police from issuing careless statements surrounding the imprisonment of Hichilema and assured the government that it was going to intensity its patrols in the wake of planned UPND political demonstrations.
President Lungu scoffed at those people advocating for a political reconciliation between PF and UPND on the argument that his previous effort to enter a political compromise had proved fruitless and it was not feasible to set up a political reconciliation now that Hichilema was facing a treason charge before the court.
The UPND leader is incarcerated at Mukobeko maximum prison awaiting trial.
The constitutional court recently threw out Hichilema's bail application citing inconsistencies in procedures. On 14 April the UPND leader, in the company of five other people, tried to stop President Lungu's presidential motorcade en route to Mongu in Western Province in what the Zambia police described as a dangerous and unprecedented act of malicious intent to cause a fatal road accident. The police went on to raid Hichilema's residence and arrested him – the police Inspector General Kokoma Kanyanja slapped a formal charge of treason on Hichilema.
Indeed the constitutional court formed prior to last August's presidential election (through amending clauses in the constitution) has failed to accommodate the political expectations of the UPND in the sense that it failed to uphold Hichilema's petition to nullify the results of the election.
This prompted Hichilema refuse to recognize President l.ungu as the duely elected President of Zambia.
The Catholic Church in Zambia prides itself to be the voice of the politically and economically marginalized strata in society and advocates for political transparency social justice and a free press. The sensitive political statement issued by the three bishops has given rise to skirmishes among the catholic clergy, with some clergy disputing that Bishops Mpimdu's opinion reflected the views of Catholic Church in Zambia.
The recent suspension of 58 UPND members oI parliament for 30 days by the speaker of parliament for having refused to attend President Lungu's opening speech of parliament in February has only helped to inflame the volatile aspersion of a political crisis.

There are unsolicited rumours circulating on the social media that the Catholic Church is lobbying the IMF and European Union to cancel their respective economic and programmes with Zambia. It may become difficult to appreciate the limitations and sanctity of the justice system prevailing in Zambia today when it comes to contemplating upon the stand taken by the three church mother bodies: is the Catholic Church the last resort for everyone seeking political redress beyond and above the jurisdiction of the courts of law?
The Catholic Church is part of the social and political pressure groups and has always remained critical of the political and social-economic reforms pioneered the PF government. It does seem that the alarming valedictory issued by the three bishops is a wakeup call to President Lungu to dispense with the treason trial. given the fact that treason eases take a long time to be resolved. It is feared that Hichilema will languish in prison for a number of years. and thus the need for a more immediate political reconciliation. It is true that the political vested groups in Zambia are of the view that the arrest of Hichilema foreshadows the disintegration of the UPND as the second largest political party in Zambia , a situation which shall leave the PF as the sole political party. The social teaching of the Catholic church on social justice and political governance reflect the double standards taken by the church on issues of poverty, unemployment and economic backwardness in underdevelopment countries of Africa. It ignores the fact that social poverty and economic undevelopment are the offshoots of disparities in the allocation and distribution of income and wealth that cannot be resolved by the political parties in power.
The social and political antagonism between the working and ruling political elites portrays a class struggle within which the Catholic Church will remain to play its haloed verbosity.

Uganda and Welcoming Refugees

65.6 million people are displaced worldwide. Last September, members of the United Nations convened in New York for the Summit for Refugees and Migrants, at which 193 countries committed to developing a comprehensive approach to welcoming and helping refugees. There are more than 22 million refugees in the world, 84 per cent of them in low- or middle-income countries – not in Europe, the United States or Australia, but in places that, in many cases, already struggle to provide basic services for their own people. The system protecting refugees has collapsed.

Refugees are a truly global and heavily politicized phenomenon; Europe's handling of the Syrian refugee crisis being but the most obvious case. Even in countries where refugee populations are, relatively speaking, tiny -- as in most of Europe and the United States -- refugees almost automatically enter the minefield of political debates. Fact and fiction, often happily coexisting, produce ill-informed rhetoric aimed at maximum immediate political benefit. Scare-mongering and the linking of refugees with terrorism -- as well as careless equations of migrants and refugees -- are but some examples of this kind of instrumentalization of vulnerable populations. In other words: just throw in a mention of 'radical islam' and you have managed to politicize (or securitize) a large group of people fleeing for their lives. There is nothing new about people fleeing for their lives. Wars and persecution -- based on religious, political or ethnic grounds -- were hardly inventions of the 20th century. For millennia people have been forced to leave their homes in search of safety.  Prejudice and fear still tend to be the most widely shared reactions among native populations when faced with the arrival of large -- or even relatively small but heavily mediatised  (such as the Roma) groups of 'aliens' and they become  what is euphemistically called the 'refugee problem'.

 Refugees from South Sudan are simply out of sight and out of mind for the rest of the world. 

A refugee flees unspeakable violence and finds herself in a peaceful village where, not only is she welcomed, but the local farmer offers her half his land to farm. In a village in the far north of Uganda, 54-year-old farmer Lagu Samuel has given a new home to a group of South Sudanese women, refugees who fled the violence over the border. His generosity is rooted in compassion: “They have no land and I do.” Uganda still provides a safe haven for a large number of people forced to flee. No other country received more new refugees last year than this relatively poor country in East Africa. 

Years of war in South Sudan, and now drought and famine, have created the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. Of the 1.9 million South Sudanese who have fled the country, half have gone to Uganda. Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan. Since last July, an average of 40,000 people have arrived in Uganda from South Sudan every month. The numbers keep growing. Those arriving tell of indiscriminate killing, rape, destruction of property, arbitrary detention and a struggle to find food and access basic services. Many are living in areas out-of-reach for aid organizations. Parents are faced with the impossible choice of a long and dangerous flight to a safer country, or stay behind without knowing when or whether they will be able to feed their children.  Every day, more families are forced to make life and death decisions.  Displacement inside South Sudan is also widespread, with another 1.9 million uprooted within the country.  The world is leaving the country to face this crisis on its own. 

A miserly 17% of the humanitarian funding target has been met. Uganda’s Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, said “We continue to welcome our neighbours in their time of need, but we urgently need the international community to assist as the situation is becoming increasingly critical.”  Many African borders stay open and attitudes remain positive towards refugees. The village Bidibidi in the north of Uganda has fast become one of the world’s largest refugee settlements.  African nations, though, cannot be expected to shoulder the entire cost. To prevent Africa’s host countries from breaking under the pressure of an increasing number of refugees, other countries must fulfil their promise of support and scale up their assistance.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Zambian Politics

Zambia is the world's seventh largest copper producer. This metal is essential to economic development in the global North and BRICS. While Chinese investment is growing, the main player in the Zambian mining sector is white capital from South Africa and the West.
There are considerable reserves of uranium, a mineral in high demand with the increase of civilian nuclear energy projects around the world. Uranium is of strategic interest to global superpowers. Zambia has close trading links with Democratic Republic of Congo, especially the copper-rich Haut-Katanga Province in the southeast.
Zambian politicians operate as local agents of foreign capital. Big capital from the West and BRICS have coopted local politicians at the expense of the vast majority of citizens. They sold off national assets for a fraction of their value and brought taxation revenues and public spending to appalling lows. 
According to a 2015 report, the country is losing $3bn a year in tax dodging by multinational mining companies. Repeated attempts by successive governments to change this state of affairs have been neutralised by mining lobbies.
President Edgar Lungu could not have won the 2016 election without the support of former President Rupiah Banda, who led the exodus of powerful factions of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) into the PF ranks. The MMD was in power from 1991 to 2011. Banda has strong ties with big capital, and exerts considerable influence over government economic decisions.
Despite his recent anti-colonial rhetoric, Lungu himself has ordered the state's mining investment arm to drop a $2.3bn fraud court case against Canada-based mining company First Quantum Minerals. The dispute will be settled out of court.
The government is in negotiations with the IMF over a $1.3bn loan to avoid default on its public debt. The details of the deal have been kept outside public scrutiny, but the IMF's familiar rhetoric about fiscal discipline suggests hefty conditionalities. 
In recent years, Zambia and other African states borrowed heavily on the international bond markets. Since the commodity downturn in 2015, investors' confidence and state revenues have gone down, while interest on debt has gone up. Zambia risks losing the few strategic assets still under state control. The announced 75 percent electricity tariff rise will further aggravate the dire economic conditions of most people, who are struggling with mass unemployment caused by the contraction of the mining sector. Cuts to fuel subsidies are also in the cards.