Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fact of the Day

The Evangelical Church in Germany has asked descendants of the victims of the Herero genocide in Namibia for forgiveness. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kenya's Rural Neglect

War-torn South Sudan and Somalia are being badly hit by East Africa's hunger crisis. But in Kenya, which is at peace, millions also need food aid. Critics blame the ruling class.

Kakuma is the second largest refugee camp in Kenya after Dadaab which is on the border to Somalia. As in all large UN refugee camps, the UN assumes the role of the state providing inmates with basic necessities such food, water and medical supplies. But funding is running short. The aid the refugees receive ensures their survival but it is not enough to help them make a life for themselves outside the camp. Over time, the refugees become dependent on the aid from the international community. They live in limbo.  The Turkana people are the responsibility of the Kenyan government, not the United Nations. As pastoralists, they depend on their livestock in order to survive. If their animals perish, they lose their livelihoods.

Emathe Namwar is the official in the government of Turkana County responsible for water supplies. He is critical of the central government in far away Nairobi. "There is no attempt at coordination. The national government does not involve us in the search for a solution. It could be that financial relief will be forthcoming, but if there is no coordination, then we will just expend a lot energy without achieving very much."

In Nairobi, Andrew Tuimur, principal secretary at the agricultural ministry, passes the buck to the Turkana local government. 

Last week, the national government sent diesel generators to Turkana to supply electricity for water pumps driving bore holes.  But there is no diesel fuel for the generators because the local government says it cannot afford it. The local government is running a fleet of 18 water trucks to keep the population supplied with drinking water. These trucks have a large diesel consumption, which is already a heavy financial burden. Some of them are kept off the road because fuel is so short. Turkana's roads are also in a deplorable state.

Emanthe Namwar from the local government believes the blame lies solely with the national government in Nairobi. "Why don't they do something. The government of Turkana is suffering from 50 years of neglect at the hands of the government in Nairobi, " he said.

Both local and national government officials have yet to explain why so little money flows into rural development, even though the international community is supplying aid for this very purpose. Climate change and drought are the external factors that cause food insecurity. But ignorance and corruption among the political class has left the country vulnerable to the horrendous consequences of drought.  A very high price is being paid for the neglect of rural development by Africa's urban elites. In the Kenyan election campaign, government and opposition are accusing one another of incompetence and misuse of funds. They are not arguing over the ways or means by which sustainable development could be promoted in Turkana. The plight of a million Turkana pastoralists would appear far too insignificant politically to warrant any pledges of a better future. Kenya's political class is relying instead on the oil they hope will soon start flowing from the reserves which were discovered in Turkana in 2012. 

As an African country, Kenya is not unique in this regard. Of some 40 countries worldwide that are dependent on food aid, just under 30 are in Africa.

Saturday, April 22, 2017



The United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hichilema along with some five other party cadres have been formerly charged with Treason and disobedience to a lawful order. The Zambia Police Inspector General Kanganja labelled the opposition leader’s action in Mongu (Western Province) as unreasonable, reckless and criminal. Hichilema’s motorcade refused to give way to the presidential motorcade when president Lungu was on his way to attend the Lozi traditional ceremony (Kuomboka) on 8th April 2017.

The police charge came in the work of last weekend’s incident which to all purposes could have resulted in a fatal road accident. On Tuesday (11th April) the opposition leader’s residence in new Kasama (Lusaka) was stormed by Zambia Police Officers who it is alleged caused damage to his home and property. The wife of Mr. Hichilema, Mutinta fainted three times as a result of tear gas canisters – she is believed to be asthmatic. It is alleged that the police officers stole colossal sums of Kwacha, South African Rand and US dollars.

The facts of the matter is that the UPND leader waylaid president Lungu’s presidential motorcade enroute to Mongu and refused to give way to the presidential motorcade which was provocative and a show of disrespect to Head of State and a breach of Zambia Police traffic regulations. Western province is among the regions that strongly voted for UPND during the August 2016 Presidential elections and the UPND leader’s actions were meant to showcase the fact that president Lungu was unwelcome to attend the Kuomboka traditional ceremony. After being apprehended, Mr. Hichilema was said to have slovenly insulted the Zambia police officers – something that was unbecoming of a well-respected opposition leader.

The Inspector general of police has opposed the UPNDs application for HABEAS CORPUS stating that the application has been overtaken by events (Hichilema who has been charged will appear in court). Meanwhile, the Zambia police service has unearthed more evidence which proves that the UPND leader is being supported by the International community. There is a story circulating on social media (Lusaka Times) in an article written by Greg Mills entitled NOW OR NEVER addressed to the International community. In the said article, Greg Mills alleges that the arrest and incarceration of Mr. Hichilema could be a feint, to test the response of the International community. Indeed during 2011, Mills wrote an article entitled “Could Uprisings Spread from Northern Africa to Africa South of the Sahara”. This was in response to the Arabs spring uprisings which broke out in Tunisia in 2010 and later spread to Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. In his article Mr. Mills, who heads the Brenthurst Foundation based in Johannesburg, South Africa, concludes that the International community should immediately intervene to save the situation in Zambia: “If the International community cares about this, and Human rights and freedom of speech, it should apply pressure on Lungu to release Hichilema immediately .”

The Brenthurst foundation was established in 2005 by the Oppeinheimer family. Ernest Oppeinheimer’s wealth and power could be traced to the Anglo – American corporation formed in 1917. In 1927, he bought over the shares of Cecil Rhodes in De Beers who effectively owned the diamond industry in South Africa. From 1996 to 2005, Greg Mills served as the national director of the South African institute of international affairs. He has lectured at universities in Africa and abroad and he is among the visiting staff of the NATO higher defence college in Rome, Italy and he is also a fellow of the London-based Royal Society of Arts.

The Zambian government has reacted very angrily against Mr. Mill’s article and branded him an imperialist stooge bent on sponsoring regime change in African countries. Political pluralism to differentiate it from one party state is a litmus test for western-style parliamentary democracy – defined as a periodic change of government through open and transparent elections. It is true that in Africa presidential elections come to elicit frightening ethnic and tribal prejudices between ruling and opposition political parties. In Zambia, the political pluralism which started in Ernest in 1991 has slowly stalled into ethnic and tribal animosities that have left the country divided in terms of voting patterns.

Because the UPND leader Hichilema perceives politics in terms of ethnic and tribal animosities it may come to pass that the recent treason charges levelled against him has been interpreted as a political and ethnic marginalisation of the Tonga and Lozi who massively voted for the UPND during the 11th August 2016 presidential elections. The relationship between Hichilema and the International Community stems from his academic and professional background and many politically vested groups in Zambia believe that Hichilema’s private wealth originates from his connection with the Anglo – American corporation. All told opposition parties in Africa tend to base their arguments on the issues of Human Rights and press freedom and in the process of defending this human rights and freedom of the press instigates social and political unrest. This is what is happening in Zambia today.

Cephas Mulenga
Box 280168, Chimwemwe
Kitwe – Zambia.

13th April, 2017.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Solidarity with fellow workers

Prosecutors in the northern Nigeria state of Kaduna have charged a group of 53 people with conspiring to celebrate a gay wedding.

Homosexual acts are banned in socially conservative Nigeria and are punishable by up to 14 years in jail. Nigeria has an influential Christian evangelical movement in the south and strong support for Islamic law in the north, both of which oppose homosexuality.
The ban on homosexuality, brought into effect in 2014, is used by some police officers and members of the public to legitimise abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"Extortion, mob violence, arbitrary arrest, torture in detention, and physical and sexual violence" are common against people suspected of homosexual activities, HRW said in a 2016 report.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kenya's Woes

 "The image of Kenya as a middle income country doesn't do justice to the reality on the ground," Werner Schultink, country head for the UN children's agency UNICEF, told AFP. He was referring to the hunger which is plaguing the north of Turkana. In the Kibish region, squeezed between Ethiopia and South Sudan, more than half of children aged six months to five years are suffering from acute malnutrition.
In the early part of this decade, politicians made rash promises of rapid modernization that would consign to history decades of deliberate marginalization, first by British colonialists and then by Kenya's governing elite in Nairobi, who shared a disdain for the pastoralists and their way of life.
"Expectations were disproportionate," said John Nakara, a Turkana parliamentarian. "Those changes don't happen in five years, but in 20, at least."
That didn't stop the promises. An ambitious plan for roads, railways and oil pipelines crossing northern Kenya was launched with great fanfare in 2012, but it has been slow in coming.
Instead Turkana remains crisscrossed with dirt tracks that become impassable when it rains, and where the few sealed sections are so badly potholed that drivers prefer the dirt shoulders.
That same year, British company Tullow Oil announced the discovery of large crude reserves in Turkana. Production is expected to begin in June, but local and national officials are still arguing over the distribution of revenues and no pipeline has yet been built, meaning the oil will have to be trucked to the port of Mombasa, more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away.
In 2013, Kenya and the UN cultural body UNESCO announced the discovery of large reserves of groundwater beneath Turkana that promised irrigation and enough water for all. But the reality has proved rather different. The aquifer holding the groundwater is hard to exploit, the water is deeper underground and less pure than predicted.
"The announcement was very optimistic and based on very limited information," said Sean Avery, a Kenya-based consultant on water issues.
Tens of thousands of pastoralists fled from Turkana in Kenya to Uganda last week to escape the drought. A total of 60,000 Turkana pastoralists and 127,000 livestock have moved to Uganda's Karamjoa sub-region over the last seven days.  
The drought remains a country-wide problem. Kenya has declared it a "national disaster" and appealed for international aid.
Three million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, and, while the response has been more effective than the last time, in 2011, still more needs to be done, aid workers say.
"In the current situation, this is clearly not enough," said Schultink.
 As the drought bites, the road ahead looks longer than ever for Turkana where some 92 percent of its 1.4 million people live below the poverty line and only a fifth know how to read and write.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Urban Threats

The poor are relentlessly subjugated while the ruling class inhabits a world of privilege.

 Thousands of Nigerians have been rendered homeless after police stormed Otodo-Gbame, a riverbank community in the country’s commercial capital, Lagos, razing homes and chasing away residents with bullets and teargas. This comes after 4,700 people in the settlement had their homes demolished in March, and 30,000 were evicted last November, so altogether tens of thousands of people have been systematically chased off lands that they have inhabited, in many cases, since the colonial era.  Rights groups now suggest more than 300,000 people face similar eviction from waterfront communities across Lagos.

The events highlight wider class tensions and the unsustainable crony capitalist system in Africa’s most populous country, where two in three people live in poverty. On paper, all Nigerians have rights. In practice, state power is often brazenly deployed to subjugate the poorest and weakest citizens in the interests of the rich and powerful who usually operate above the law. Hence, Nigerians often say the only true crime in Nigeria is being poor. In a state where to be poor means to be utterly powerless and stripped of dignity, many see wealth as the only means of safeguarding themselves from such wanton oppression, a perception which helps propagate the corruption Nigeria has become notorious for, as many resolve to get rich by any means necessary. Surrounded by a seemingly endlessly expanding ocean of poverty, the instinct of Nigeria’s privileged classes, including those who themselves grew up poor, is to distance themselves from the majority as much as possible. After constructing a socioeconomic system that has mass-produced poverty, the privileged classes now seek nothing less than to escape into luxury enclaves and limit any interaction with their majority poor fellow citizens.
Few Nigerians doubt that the appropriated lands, located on choice waterfront property, will be used to build more luxury enclaves for Nigeria’s elite to isolate themselves from the mass poverty they helped create. This would not be the first time the state has evicted residents from desirable land, citing environmental concerns, only for swanky estates to be built there.
The truth is, while only the wealthiest can afford homes in the kind of luxury enclaves that will likely be built on land seized from the Otodo-Gbame settlement, much of the middle class, rather than kicking against the system, are resigned to the realities of Nigeria, observing the wealthy enviously and dreaming of one day affording such blissfully isolated luxury. They, too, want to escape the chaos and poverty of much of urban Lagos, where some 21 million people live crammed into an area barely two-thirds the size of London.
These luxury enclaves with their surrounding shopping malls, country clubs and swanky restaurants are hailed by the government as signs of Nigeria’s “development” and “progress”. The Lagos state government has said its evictions are all part of its plan to turn Lagos into a “mega-city”. As many Nigerians in the privileged classes dream of Nigeria having its own Dubai, a world-class, ultra-modern city that would be a source of national pride, more than a few view the mass slum evictions as a “cost of development” worth paying.
The only thing the Nigerian state guarantees its poorest citizens, including those of the Otodo-Gbame settlement, is oppression, subjugation, indignity and contempt. The poverty-producing and oppressive nature of the Nigerian system has already spawned revolts against the state, be it by Islamist Boko Haram terrorists, saboteur militants in the oil-producing Niger-Delta region, or Igbo secessionists demanding an independent state of Biafra in the country’s southeast.
Nigeria’s ruling class continues to smugly assume they can carry on oppressing the rest of the country and simply isolate themselves from the poverty they helped create, fenced away in their luxury enclaves where they and their families live privileged lives while the rest wallow in poverty and envy them from the sidelines. The army of poor and disenfranchised is growing, and with each Otodo-Gbame it only grows bigger. Nigeria’s elites ignore this at their peril.


A government official in a country once notorious for its restrictive work environment and responsible for coordinating all humanitarian activity in the country, so he had gained plenty of exposure to U.S. and international humanitarian groups over the years, explained, “I work for a government that has many issues. To many, we are the bad guys. No one expects anything good from me, or from my government.” He continued: “But you and all those other INGOs: you represent normal, everyday people who decided that they wanted to help others in need, and have crossed oceans to do it. You have freely chosen to come to places at war, to risk your lives not for your neighbor but in service to strangers. I thought you would represent the best of us, and all that was good about humanity.” He paused again, “But in truth you are all small, competitive and obsessed with your funding. You are not living up to your promise.”

In the mid-90s/early 2000s, humanitarian and development organizations grew in size, revenue and attention, getting better at their work. They were bullish and thought if they were doing “awesome” work at $100 million, it only made sense that they would do even “more awesome” work at $500 million. They believed that the rest of the humanitarian and development community could learn from them us, and that they really needed a “seat at the table,” so that we could exert our influence over the larger official donors – the U.N., USAID, World Bank etc.

First, it turns out financial growth is not a proxy for growth in impact – it’s just financial growth. The “more awesome” bit didn’t work out; at best, they just got bigger.
Second, influence works both ways. In trying to influence others, you can be influenced yourselves. You can unwittingly become part of the status quo, even become its very instrument.
 Thirdly, mediocrity at scale is worse than low-level or isolated mediocrity. Large organizations, well-intentioned or not, can become overconfident. And when compounded by immense financial pressures (bills to pay, and growth needs growth), they can move further and further away from the customer: refugees and people in need.

INGOs lost the desire to change the world, expressed through a singular and powerful mission animated by the volunteerism of everyday people. Instead we have become output-driven machines, funded by government and implemented by technocrats.  a very senior member of the USAID leadership team from the last administration visited our headquarters to speak about that agency’s challenges and desire to change. During the speech, he explained how his team thought about their approach to funding organizations like mine. He showed us the formula:
a) We (USAID) decide what we want.
b) You (INGO) bid to do it.
c) Then we (USAID) choose one of you (INGOs) to do it.
Are they nothing but contractors with better words (save, care, help etc.) in their  names?  All the same, but just with different pictures on the wall.

Friday, April 14, 2017

More Trouble in Africa (1959)

From the April 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was set up in 1953, it was known to be against the wishes of most of the African population in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. They did not want to be taken out of the control of the British Colonial Office to be handed over to domination by the white settlers, whose attitude, as shown particularly in Southern Rhodesia, is much like that of the South African Government. Opponents of Federation, including the British Labour Party, foresaw that tension would increase and were not surprised by the recent disturbances in which a number of Africans were killed by Government forces. Among the Africans the idea of early independence for Nyasaland has been given a powerful stimulus, associated by some of them with more ambitious ideas of a wider nationalism, taking in all Africa.

Are they right? Will “independence” make them better off and happier? Their African leaders tell them there is no doubt about the matter. And it is quite obvious that most Africans would prefer to put up with a lot of inconveniences, even hardship, to escape living under a government which operates or tolerates a colour bar against them. Africans are only behaving like other people, for history is full of examples of resentment of, and revolt against, the imposition on subject groups, of racial, national, religious and language barriers. And because it has happened so often we have plenty of information about its consequences: nobody need plead ignorance. What then has national independence done for the mass of the population, whether we take the European nationalist movements of last century, such as the Italian struggle against Austria or the Balkan countries’ struggles .against Turkey, or the quite recent new States set up in former Colonies? Without going into detail we can say that national independence is good for local politicians, lawyers, army officers, manufacturers and business men; it opens up careers and money-making opportunities for them, as also for local holders of government civilian posts who may have found their advancement hindered while a foreign administration had control! Sometimes the achievement of national independence helps to speed up industrial development where this has been deliberately limited by the governing Power and may make it rather easier for workers to form trade unions.

What has the winning of independence done for the progress of humanity? The accumulation of experience has served to fill many of those who once hoped much from it, with disappointment and doubt. Mr. Hannen Swaffer, who spent many years supporting Labour Party demands for “freedom" for the colonies, writes:—
“. . . at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, under my window, British people were gathering to offer thanks on the anniversary of Ghana’s obtaining freedom from British rule. Yet, in Ghana, its native rulers were oppressing the Opposition leaders—and its dictatorial Premier had boasted that he would work for a United Black Africa. Is full freedom for immature peoples really the remedy for economic injustice?”
- (People, 8th March. 1959.)
Mr. Swaffer might have added that on the political side we have recently seen military dictatorship set up in the Sudan and Pakistan, two areas formerly British-administered, and that from the standpoint of what he calls “ economic injustice,” independence has not brought anything worthwhile to the ex-colonial workers. The early beliefs of Swaffer and the Labour Party, that national independence for the colonies would solve the economic problems of the workers, were well meant, but quite unfounded. They did not understand what is the nature of nationalism and national independence. Nationalism is not just the friendly association of people who speak the same language, share the same culture and live in the same place. In the world in which we live, where military force dominates, national independence means setting up a “sovereign state”; a government which, with the use of armed force can impose its property laws on its nationals individually and on its workers as a class, while at the same time using its forces to strengthen its position against other nations. The creation of a new capitalist group able to hold its own in a competitive capitalist world is the real aim of those who profit by nationalist movements; the encouragement of national and linguistic sentiments is merely the means to an end.

This is little appreciated by those who think that what mankind needs is a set of “good” ideas and ideals, and that national independence is one of these. Holding such a conception they are shocked and puzzled when they see liberated countries falling to dictatorship, and see some Africans now preaching anti-white racialism.

So although the liberal-minded Capricorn African Society, looking at what has already happened, can say that “Nationalism is not enough,” their founder, Mr. David Stirling still believes that “ African nationalism is of itself a splendid and dynamic force to be encouraged ” (Manchester Guardian, March 5th, 1959). And Father Trevor Huddleston, who worked so hard for Africans against the policies of the South African government, still holds to his belief that nationalism “on the part of the great peoples of Africa” is “not only natural but entirely’ right.” (He does not notice that the nationalism of all groups, including the white South Africans, appears to to them to be equally “natural” and “ right”) He backs his belief with the distorting half-truth that “over much of Africa wealth was white and poverty was black.” (Manchester Guardian. March 9th, 1959.) This is the kind of misleading political slogan on which all nationalisms thrive; misleading because when independence has been achieved the African masses will still be poor, though the number of rich Africans, rich through the exploitation of the poor, will be somewhat larger. The subject economic position of the African workers will not have been removed.

It is here that we see the gulf between Socialists and the well-meaning reformers like Father Huddleston and the Capricorn Society. For us, it is a question of changing the basis of the social system as the only way to change the condition of the exploited masses, the only way to abolish riches and poverty. For the idealists, it is a matter of “changing men’s hearts,” as if that could prevail against the class structure of the capitalist social system. True to his misguided notions Father Huddleston calls upon white settlers and the British government and people to choose “the path of faith ” and reject “the path of fear.”

But these idealists are not the only people who have views on Africa. A Tory peer. Lord Brand, has recently revisited South Africa, and in an article in The Times (March 9th. 1959), foretells the inevitable failure of Apartheid. But he is not relying on good intentions, or sentiment or faith, but on something more substantial. He finds that it is an economic impossibility for the mining, industrial and commercial companies, farmers, employers of domestic service, etc., to survive if cut off from their African labour force. Though the supporters of the South African government will not face up to realities, the fact is that “white and black must live together for endless centuries. They must either in the end learn to live harmoniously and at peace, or they must physically destroy each other.” Lord Brand sees that far, but no farther.

As Socialists, we can say that his approach shows more understanding of the problem than does that of any of the good intentioned idealists already referred to. Lord Brand, though he never names it, is a supporter of capitalism: he believes it to be the only possible social system. He sees that capitalism has its own needs and economic laws and that, however obstinate the Apartheid supporters may be, they cannot put the clock back and make capitalism fit their out-of-date beliefs. But if the Afrikaners in South Africa cannot twist capitalism back to suit their prejudices, neither can Huddleston and the other would-be reformers make capitalism into the rational and benevolent social system of their dreams. “Liberated” Black Africa will be Black Capitalist Africa and the African workers will still be exploited, as are the white workers elsewhere. The only way out of this impasse is that the Black workers and all other workers join together for the Socialist objective of overthrowing capitalism and establishing Socialism, in Africa and all other lands. But this will involve the abolition of national frontiers and the disappearance of racial prejudices. The world will then be a place for all its inhabitants to live in and travel in, freely and without hindrance or prejudice. The Blacks will be emancipated because all workers will be emancipated from capitalism.

Edgar Hardcastle

Oxfam and Nigeria

Over 4.7 million people in northeast Nigeria are in dire need of basic amenities like food, water and shelter, says Oxfam. Thousands of people, mostly children, are believed to have died of hunger and malnutrition.

Thousands of people, mostly children, are believed to have died of hunger and malnutrition.

 Oxfam's executive director Winnie Byanyima said the region was on the brink of famine. "If action is not taken now, we could see millions of people move into the famine category. So I'm here to push decision-makers to avert a catastrophic loss of life," she said. "I'm not happy about the United Nations and the coordinating role it should play for all of us. We can do better than this. These people deserve better," 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fact of the Day

Illegal fishing and pollution near Ghana threaten both fish stocks and the people who depend on them. These practices off the coast of West Africa cost the affected countries around one billion dollars a year.

Rwanda land grabbing

Military and civilian authorities in western Rwanda have arrested, beaten, or threatened people who challenged recent government decisions to force residents off their land, Human Rights Watch said.

 “Threats, arrests or beatings are no way to handle a situation in which people are losing their land and livelihoods,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government’s goals to settle land disputes and modernize villages are legitimate, but trampling on the rights of those most affected who express their fears for their land and their livelihood is not.”

Many people who work their land for a living fear that the government-imposed solution would threaten their livelihoods. 
Rwanda is the most densely populated country in continental sub-Saharan Africa. Land is a scarce resource and has been a cause of tension throughout the country’s history. In 2001, Human Rights Watch published a report on a government policy to regroup Rwandans in government-created villages, employing coercion against those who resisted, resulting in many human rights abuses. Land was often expropriated without due compensation or consultation with the residents, and many Rwandans who spoke openly against the policy or refused to obey were punished by fines or arrest.
“The Rwandan government’s intolerance for dissent goes beyond political opposition leaders, journalists, or human rights activists who dare to report on government abuses,” Sawyer said. “The government can demonstrate its genuine commitment to the basic rights of its people, rights such as freedom of opinion and expression and fair process, by releasing Oscar Hakundimana immediately. It should stop harassing others who have spoken out against the government’s land decisions.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

Shell and Corruption in Nigeria

OPL 245 is an oilfield off the coast of Nigeria whose estimated nine billion barrels of oil are worth nearly half a trillion dollars at today's prices. Shell has been active in Nigeria for nearly 60 years and was keen to acquire the field. New evidence shows just how far Shell was prepared to go to get its hands on it.
Standing between Shell and its prize was Dan Etete, whose company acquired the rights to OPL 245 for a tiny sum while he was oil minister of Nigeria. He was later convicted of money laundering in a different case.
Shell and the Italian oil company ENI eventually acquired OPL 245 in 2011 - by paying $1.3bn to the Nigerian government. That's more than the entire health budget of Nigeria but it didn't get spent on public services. The government promptly passed on more than $1bn of the money to a company called Malabu, which was controlled by Dan Etete.

In an email from July, Shell says Etete's negotiating strategy is "clearly an attempt to deliver significant revenues to GLJ [Goodluck Jonathan] as part of any transaction."
Italian prosecutors allege that $466m were laundered through a network of Nigerian bureaux de change to facilitate payments to President Jonathan and other politicians.
It should be remembered that this deal was concluded just months after Shell had paid $30m to settle previous allegations of bribery in Nigeria and elsewhere.
As part of a deal to spare the company a damaging criminal conviction in that case, Shell agreed to what was, in effect, a probation order, by giving an undertaking to the US Department of Justice to tighten up its internal controls in order to stay in compliance with America's tough anti-corruption laws.The question for Shell is what on earth were they doing negotiating with a convicted money launderer, who they suspected might pass the money to the president, months after reaching a previous bribery settlement in the same country.Matthew Page worked for the US State Department in Nigeria for 15 years. He told the BBC: "At a time when Shell should have been cautious having just settled a previous case, rather than walk away from a deal with clear corruption risks, they doubled down."

The Wealthy of Africa

New World Wealth has released new data on Africa, and South Africa’s richest population group, showing how the wealthiest people invest their money.
According to NWW’s South Africa 2017 Wealth Report, the country has a total of 40,400 dollar millionaires, and has many as 2,130 individuals with more than R125 million in their account.
According to the wealth advisory firm, at the end of 2016:
  • The average African individual had net assets of approximately US$2,000 (wealth per capita).
  • Total individual wealth held on the continent amounted to US$2.2 trillion.
  • There were approximately 145,000 high net worth individuals (HNWIs) living in Africa, with combined wealth holdings of approximately US$800 billion.
  • There were 7,010 multi-millionaires living in Africa.

The consequences of colonialism

Today, natural resources from the entire continent of Africa create less revenue for African nations than for the Western multinationals extracting them. For example, Zambia is among the poorest countries in the world, and the Swiss company Glencore rakes in billions from copper mining inside the country. Even the International Monetary Fund and World Bank played a role in advising Zambia to implement policies that would benefit Glencore at Zambia's own expense. This tradition of Western powers exploiting African resources is long-established; the fact that it still happens today is clear evidence that colonialism is the root of modern-day socioeconomic issues across the entire continent.

Africa had a rich history of culture and prosperity. Civilizations based on commerce existed well before Europeans took over. The ancient Egyptians were pioneers in the fields of mathematics and astronomy. The Kingdom of Sheba was considered the first true African indigenous state. It was not established by foreign conquerors and was said to be the site of the enigmatic Ark of the Covenant. In present-day Mali, one of the wealthiest African empires thrived for more than 800 years. Valuable goods like gold and salt were mined and traded with merchants who hailed from faraway places including China and India. Although slavery was a product of intertribal warfare and existed before European settlers invaded, colonizers took an existing practice that was already immoral and dehumanizing and amplified it on a global scale to extract profit for themselves. The entire continent of Africa was drained of both its natural resources and its people.

Colonization didn't give countries in Africa a chance to progress on their own. Instead, colonizers intruded on their land and exploited the naturally abundant wealth in Africa. In essence, colonization stunted the growth of countries that were controlled, and now that nations have gained their independence, it is going to take time for them to catch up with the Western world. This is a travesty that cannot be overlooked. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Class law in Nigeria

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."  - Anatole France

Samuel Danjuma, 22; Yakubu Adamu, 18; Yakubu Bulus, 25, and Godwin Jacob, 20, of no fixed address were sentenced to 3 months prison after they pleaded guilty to the “joint act” of being a “public nuisance.” The prosecutor  told the court that a team of policemen arrested the convicts on March 17, at about 12am in front of a shop in Nyanya Market with the intention to commit an offence. He was clearly a clairvoyant who knew they had criminal intentions in their mind. His key argument was that as they were outside at night and had no fixed abode, they were vagrants wandering around and therefore criminal. 

When a member of the elite walks on the street, the person is not loitering, is not a vagrant, is not a criminal. 

The vagrancy law was introduced to Nigeria by the former British colonial regime for the sole purpose of harassing and humiliating poor people who were said to have had no means of livelihood. The idea was to deal with the poor by creating a law that made them permanently guilty as a control measure. The anti-people's law was retained for the same purpose by the indigenous ruling class who took over power from the alien administrators in 1960. Thus, in a display of class bias whenever rich people were found on the street taking a walk it was said that they were exercising their fundamental right to freedom of movement. But whenever the poor exercise such fundamental right to freedom of movement they were usually arrested by the police who accused them of wandering or loitering. 

In Abuja, women are regularly arrested for wandering and prostitution, detained and fined after summary judgement by a mobile court run by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board. The principle is that the poor must not be allowed to soil the Abuja environment. Many of these women who are arrested daily are not sex workers but are simply walking alone on the streets, sometimes returning from their places of work. No woman who is driving a car alone ever gets arrested. Again, what we are seeing is conflating poverty with criminality and the evidence is simply that the person is not rich enough to be driving a car or looks poor..

 A convicted former governor of Adamawa State was released from prison on bail. He was released because the conditions in prison made him feel sick. The poor however cannot complain of conditions in prison, which is assumed to conform to their lifestyles. 

Challenging Zuma

Tens of thousands of South Africans took to the streets nationwide, calling on embattled President Jacob Zuma to resign. The main protest marches took place in six major towns: Pretoria, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Durban. The African National Congress (ANC) party has rejected calls for him to quit.

"We are just trying to tell the people of South Africa that enough is enough and Zuma must go"  said Thembalani Gumede. "He has done a lot to destroy this country. It is time for him to go." 
Kim Roots took issue with the recent sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
"The South African rand has dropped and we have lost lots and lots of money, Roots said. "He  is not supporting housing, people have no money."
Bheka Ntuli from Durban said it was time South Africa sought a commited and passionate president who would listen to the masses.
A quarter of the country is unemployed and two ratings agencies have downgraded South African debt to "junk" status. South Africa as economic growth slowed to 0.3 percent last year.
Zuma is facing a no-confidence ballot on April 18
The World Socialist Movement counsels our fellow workers in South Africa that simply changing leaders, or even the political party, in power is no solution. People can be forgiven for thinking that political leadership is an integral part of political life and no society can function without it.  This is certainly the case under capitalism.  This is as just as true in a so-called ‘socialist state’. However, the interests of leaders and the led are diametrically opposed, insomuch that the knowledge which is essential to working-class emancipation must inevitably abolish leaders, and establish working-class effort on the faith and confidence in the intellect and ability of the working-class. The socialist, the true democrat, does not place faith in leaders. We know that the only hope lies in the intelligence and courage and energy of the working class as a class, and all our  hope, all our trust, rests in the working class.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Eating grubs

In Burkina Faso in West Africa, shea caterpillars are an important part of the local diet in a country where over 30% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and 2.7 million people are at risk for food insecurity.

At the moment the caterpillars are only available for a few weeks a year. But with their high levels of protein and micronutrients like iron and zinc, they have the potential to fend off "hidden hunger", as micronutrient deficiency is sometimes called, and change the situation of the poorest people in West Africa, especially women and children.

 Researchers are trying to crack the science behind shea caterpillars and make them available all year round. In the same way they keep chickens in their backyard, the women would be able to keep caterpillars too.

Border Control from Hell

According to a report published by the US-based Enough Project, Sudan’s infamous Janjaweed militia force is now being used to control Sudan's borders, with financial support from an EU migration management program. The European Union disburses millions of euros to the Khartoum government for technical equipment and training efforts geared towards stopping the flow to Europe of migrants from Sudan as well as from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa who come through Sudan.

Dr. Suliman Baldo, Senior Advisor to the Enough Project said" the European Union is legitimizing an abusive government which is on record for attacking its own populations in conflict areas and is relying on abusive militias, paramilitary forces, that are under the command of its security forces and the national army to enforce the border controls under the European Union partnership. In particular we are concerned about the designation by Sudan of Rapid Support Forces, which is a particularly vicious militia, for the control of its borders under this program."

The United Kingdom, of course, has exited the EU but has very much invested into this program and is developing its own bilateral normalization tag with the government of Sudan. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Understanding socialism

Africa's deforestation

Next time you bite into a chocolate bar, think of Africa. The continent produces nearly 70 percent of the world's cocoa, a growing output that requires carving more than 325,000 acres of new farmland from forests every year .

As international markets have swelled and integrated, production of in-demand crops such as soy and oil palm has moved away from areas where land is scarce and where natural resource regulations are robust. Production has instead moved to tropical regions such as Southeast Asia and South America. Brazil and Indonesia alone accounted for more than 60 percent of global tropical deforestation from 2000 to 2005, largely due to agricultural expansion.
Sub-Saharan Africa, with its abundant cheap land and labor, would seem an obvious next step for multinational companies looking to expand farther. Since 2015, agricultural production in the region has grown at the fastest rate globally, and cropland is predicted to expand more than 10 percent by 2025.
Although deforestation rates in Africa remain well below those in South America and Southeast Asia, the region has lost an area of intact forest about the size of Iceland since 2000.
These African forests, contained primarily in the Congo Basin, represent almost 30 percent of the world's total and are an important source of local income. In addition to regulating climate, safeguarding water quality and controlling disease, the forests feed and provide subsistence means to at least 100 million people living nearby. Forest products such as logs generate an average of 6 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's gross domestic product -- triple the world average.
Expansion of commodity crop production in sub-Saharan Africa has so far been driven primarily by small- and medium-scale local farmers who boost the regional economy and can expand with less disruption to forests. But big change is knocking at the door. In recent years, multinational companies have bought up a land area larger than Costa Rica in the heavily forested Congo Basin, mostly for crops such as oil palm and soy. As the multinationals move in, they are more likely to acquire land by clearing intact forest due to property conflicts resulting from the region's land tenure complexities. 

Refusing Climate Change Funds

The Green Climate Fund started out with $10 billion of pledges from governments to help poor countries meet their climate goals. Donald Trump is threatening to axe the US’ outstanding $2bn donation, leaving $8bn to play with. It is not a cash shortage but a lack of viable proposals that has proved the sticking point. In 2016, the Fund fell short of its goal to allocate $2.5bn, getting $1.3bn worth of projects through.

A bid for US$100 million to drought-proof Ethiopian communities has exposed a rich-poor divide in the UN’s flagship climate finance initiative.

Representatives of the US, Canada and other developed countries voiced their opposition to the funding proposal at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board meeting in Songdo, South Korea.

But delegates from the developing world defended it, accusing the panel of bias. The experts and donors may prefer infrastructure and tech interventions with easily measurable results, they argued. But this programme, which encourages social and behavioural change, was designed through extensive consultation.

Millions of Ethiopians are on emergency food aid after the country’s worst drought in 50 years hit crops and livestock herds. Global warming is set to bring more unpredictable rains and heatwaves.

The pitch to the GCF says the project would make farmers and pastoralists more resilient with improved water supplies and farming techniques. An estimated 2.5 million people would benefit, targeting women for more than half the support.

“This is the kind of thing the GCF needs to fund; it is part of the reason we advocated for the GCF to be created in the first place,” Annaka Peterson, climate finance expert at Oxfam US, told Climate Home. Regarding the board pushback, she said: “I think there is a clear bias against projects focused on people. They are okay with making bridges climate-proof, but not poor communities.”

Ethiopia’s proposal stands in contrast to plans to refurbish a Soviet-era hydropower dam in Tajikistan. This proposal gets a high rating from the expert panel, but is opposed by NGOs for not representing the “transformational change” the GCF is meant to support. While a number of board members were critical, they stopped short of saying they would reject it.

Saleemul Huq, a Bangladeshi researcher into climate adaptation, expressed frustration at the barriers to support for the world’s poorest. “[The board] are putting impediments in the path of the most vulnerable and they are passing stuff that’s just routine infrastructure,” he said. “For me, this is a highly unfair treatment for communities that deserve the funding the most.”

Money is slow to flow even for approved projects. An US$80 million grant for cyclone shelters in Bangladesh was rubber-stamped in November 2015, the GCF’s first tranche of approvals. Not a cent has been disbursed, according to the GCF website.