Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Tigray Tragedy

 The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – himself an ethnic Tigrayan – described the crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as “the worst disaster on Earth”.

“I haven’t heard in the last few months any head of state talking about the Tigray situation anywhere in the developed world. Anywhere. Why?” Tedros asked. “Maybe the reason is the colour of the skin of the people in Tigray.”

He described the situation caused by the conflict in his home country as worse than any other humanitarian crisis in the world.

“Nowhere in the world you would see this level of cruelty, where it’s a government that punishes six million of its people for more than 21 months,” the WHO chief said. “The only thing we ask is, ‘Can the world come back to its senses and uphold humanity?’”

In a sign of just how cut-off Tigray has been, a Covid-19 vaccination campaign was finally launched at the region’s flagship hospital only in July, an improvement from a months-long period of deprivation in which hospital workers described running out of essential medicines and trying to treat wounds with warm salt water. It was the first Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Tigray.

‘Colour of the skin’: WHO chief hits out over Tigray crisis indifference | Ethiopia | The Guardian

Friday, August 12, 2022

Africa: left to rot (1993)

 From the August 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Africa has begun to look like an immense illustration of chaos theory. Much of the continent has turned into a battleground of contending dooms: poverty, starvation, illiteracy, corruption, social breakdown, war, and drought. It has become the basket case of the planet, the poorest of the third world, a vast continent in free fall.

In the face of political instability. disintegrating roads, airports and telephone networks, and other disincentives, investors from Europe, USA and Japan are withdrawing from Africa and looking elsewhere; why risk expropriation or failure in a continent with a weakness for one-party dictators, where drainage by corruption often equals the legitimate economic intake?

Expatriate businessmen estimate that wealthy Nigerians have enough money in personal deposits abroad to pay off the country’s entire foreign debt, more than £36 billion. Zaire’s President Mobuto Sese Seko has a personal fortune that has been estimated at from £4 billion to £6 billion, somewhere not far below the level of the country’s external debt. He has isolated himself from his subjects—and from gathering political unrest—aboard a luxury yacht that cruises the Zaire river, with a helicopter waiting on deck.

There are 160 countries on the United Nations Annual Development Index, a measure of comparative economic and political progress; 32 of the lowest 40 are in Africa.

For decades Africa could count on the Cold War as a kind of economic resource. The USA and the former Soviet Union struggled with each other through African proxies, poured in money (though mostly for strategic purposes rather than development) to prop up pro-Western or pro-Soviet surrogates. Now the Cold War is over and so is the geopolitical game, at least for the time being.

As the Berlin Wall tumbled, a Le Monde article was luridly dismissive of the continent:
our priorities are elsewhere, in Europe, in Asia. At a time when our brothers on the other side of the Iron Curtain (eastern Europeans), after having chased out the infamous, desperately need us, why continue favouring ghastly African regimes?
Africa’s inner rhythms of evolution and development were shattered many years ago by the intrusion of Europeans, who brought in alien controls, boundaries and forms of government. Colonialism was slowly introduced as a direct control of Africa. This colonization eventually developed into a direct and brazen exploitation of natural resources and peoples for the exclusive benefit of foreign imperialists.

The African states which exist today are an imposition from the West. The political map of Africa drawn up by the colonizers was dictated by a European cartography of power rather than by any internal dynamic of allegiances. Africa was in this manner brought to the threshold of capitalism with new social divisions, those of capitalists and wage-workers.

Despite the great enthusiasm for liberation and independence of African countries in the 1960s, the African continent is still dependent upon subservience to the highly developed capitalist powers. But the nature of dependency in these times is different from classical colonialism; in fact the so-called independent states have been aided by the colonial-imperialists to break down the old. outworn colonial set-ups which have become a hinderance to the latter’s effective control in Africa. For example, the abolishing of apartheid in South Africa is not an accident or an act of good will from De Klerk; it is being done under pressure from the Western capitalists, who believe that they will benefit more under a President Mandela.

There are immense advantages to be derived for the Western capitalist powers from the newer types of colonialism, such as the “commonwealth” form as exemplified by Britain and France. By such means the former colonies are transformed into economic satellites. Even more effective than this is foreign "aid’’ (at the highest rate of interest to pay back). This benevolent guise conceals the real purposes and serves the interests of the capitalists. Newly-independent countries must come under the yoke of the Western capitalist because of their dire need for aid. And aid without strings does not exist.

As a consequence of the low development of industry and agriculture, the newly-emerged government leaders are compelled to concentrate their efforts upon developing modern agriculture based on cash-crops, and new industries, new resources and new sources of energy. To do this they have to rely heavily on imports from the developed capitalist countries by diverting their limited home industrial and agricultural products for export.

Avoiding capitalism
The question arises: Can Africa’s problems be solved within the framework of capitalism? Is it in fact necessary for the African countries to go through capitalism before it could have socialism?The answer is no, it is not necessary for Africa to go through to highly developed capitalism. The world today is rotten-ripe for socialism. The development of communications to a split-second level means that, given a victorious Socialist majority in the industrialised world, the painful period of capitalist development could be avoided for the millions of people of the Third World countries.

The collapse after seventy-four years of Soviet-Russian “communist” rule was a bitter disillusionment to some African rulers attracted by Leninism. Things might have been different had the growing maturity of the working class crystallized into Socialist consciousness rather than into a defense of Russian state capitalism. Socialists in Africa and all over the world have a job to do working to spread the truth about real Socialism: a world society in which every man, woman and child has freedom of access to all the resources of the world.

Michael Ghebre

Somalia Suffering Mounts

 In Somalia, the one-millionth person displaced by the drought was registered this week.

"This one million milestone serves as a massive alarm bell for Somalia," said Mohamed Abdi,  Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Country Director in Somalia. "Starvation is now haunting the entire country. We are seeing more and more families forced to leave everything behind because there is literally no water or food left in their villages. Aid funding urgently needs to be ramped up before it is too late."

The number of people facing crisis hunger levels in Somalia is expected to rise from some 5 million to more than 7 million in the coming months, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, and rising food prices because of the conflict in Ukraine.

"Vulnerable communities are the hardest hit by the effects of the climate crisis, leaving many families unprotected and increasing displacement"," says UNHCR's Representative in Somalia, Magatte Guisse. "The Somalia situation was already one of the most underfunded before this latest crisis. While we and humanitarian partners are doing what we can to respond, we simply have insufficient resources. The international community must step up to save lives and support this humanitarian response."

One millionth person displaced by Somalia drought - Somalia | ReliefWeb

Zimbabwe - Power Outages Creates Poverty

 Zimbabwe has been reeling under crippling power shortages.  The country has the capacity to generate about 2,240 megawatts of power, but is producing just 1,300 megawatts. People in Mbare, in the south of the capital, Harare, regularly go without electricity for more than 17 hours a day.

Japhet Moyo, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), urged the government to act.

“People in the informal sector are hard hit. They have nothing to earn because their businesses rely heavily on electricity. Something needs to be done,” he says.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), more than 2.8 million people work in the informal sector in Zimbabwe, compared with 495,000 in formal employment.

‘Electricity can go anytime here’: how Zimbabwe’s iron men ran out of steam | Global development | The Guardian

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Uganda's Food Crisis

 Hundreds of people have died of famine in Uganda’s Karamoja region, and local leaders say that some people are now eating grass to survive.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) estimated that about 518,000 people from Karamoja’s poorest families face critical food insecurity resulting from two seasons of crop failure.

Of the 518,000 people with high levels of food insecurity, 428,000 are experiencing phase three (crisis levels of food insecurity), and 90,000 are at phase four (emergency levels of food insecurity).

For the first time in three years, all the nine districts of Karamoja: Kaabong, Moroto, Kotido, Napak, Nabilatuk, Amudat, Karenga, Abim and Nakapiripit are at crisis level or worse according to IPC classification. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) uses a scale of one to five to measure food insecurity. The situation in Karamoja has reached a crisis level close to catastrophe level.

High food prices have left many families unable to afford nutritious foods. 

“The situation in Karamoja is an example of how a perfect storm of climate change, conflict, rising food costs, the impact of Covid-19 and limited resources is increasing the number of hungry people,” said Abdirahman Meygag, WFP Uganda Representative.

Farmers from regions other than Karamoja have complained of poor or no harvests. Kaleb Ejioninga from the West Nile region along the border between Uganda and DRC is among those whose crops have withered before harvest.

“We planted maize and sorghum. They all wilted. The government should come to our rescue. If possible, they should find us quick-maturing seed varieties. Because even when the rain comes, if we plant the same seed, they may not grow,” Ejioninga appealed.

“The problem is known. Climate change is real." Uganda’s Minister for Agriculture, Frank Tumwebaze said.

 Tragic Irony of Hunger Deaths in Karamoja, Uganda | Inter Press Service (

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Ethiopian Hunger

 The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) appealed today for US$73m to provide food rations to over 750,000 refugees in Ethiopia, over the next six months. WFP will completely run out of food for refugees by October, leaving vulnerable families who are dependent on food assistance at risk of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, susceptibility to diseases/infection and increased protection risks. More resources must be mobilized urgently to meet immediate food and non-food needs of refugees to avert further suffering.

“Three quarters of a million refugees will be left with nothing to eat in just a matter of weeks unless we receive funding immediately,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative and Country Director for Ethiopia.

WFP has already been forced to cut rations for 750,000 registered refugees living in 22 camps and five sites in hosting communities in Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Somali and Tigray regions of Ethiopia.

more households continued to adopt negative coping strategies by reducing the number of meals eaten in a day, consuming less expensive or less preferred foods, or limiting the portion of the meals served. More households reported to have engaged in demeaning activities, including engaging children in income generation activities, the collection and sale of firewood, while several borrowed cash, relying on friends/relatives for food. This forces refugees to rely on the resources of the hosting community and environment they live in which also increases the likelihood of resource-based conflicts between refugees and host communities.

“The ongoing resource constraints create conflict and stress due to competition over the existing scarce local resources. The persistent budget cuts and the recent 50 percent deduction of the food and cash assistance to refugees from the minimum recommended standard seriously affect the lives of refugees, exposing them to chronic hunger, anaemia, sexual exploitation, and deaths, as more than 85 percent of refugees in Ethiopia are fully dependent on the monthly WFP food rations. This will drawback the positive development of Ethiopia towards ensuring the self-reliance and co-existence of refugees and host communities and above all make the entire life-saving efforts difficult,” explained the Ethiopian Government Refugees and Returnees Service Director General, Tesfahun Gobezay.

“We are very concerned about the lack of food for refugees. The continued lack of full rations for refugees, coupled with the impact of the most severe drought that the country has experienced in over 40 years, will greatly undermine the gains made in refugee protection and risk impacting the peaceful co-existence between refugees and their host communities,” said UNHCR’s Deputy Representative in Ethiopia, Margaret Atieno. “We are grateful for what donors have provided so far, but more funding is needed and quickly.”

WFP, UNHCR, RRS appeal for funding to continue feeding over 750,000 refugees in Ethiopia - Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

The Tragedy of Two Worlds

 "One person is dying every 48 seconds in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia alone," said Oxfam. "Against this backdrop, food billionaires have increased their collective wealth by $382 billion since 2020. Less than two weeks' worth of their wealth gains," the group calculated, "would be more than enough to fund the entirety of the U.N.'s $6.2 billion humanitarian appeal for East Africa. The appeal is currently woefully funded at merely 16%."

"Food inflation in East African countries where tens of millions of people are caught in an alarming hunger crisis has increased sharply, reaching a staggering 44% in Ethiopia—nearly five times the global average," Oxfam said.

"There have been 62 food billionaires created in the last two years," Oxfam found, pointing to the global food corporation Cargill—one of a handful of businesses that collectively control more than 70% of the worldwide market for agricultural commodities—as a striking case in point.

Cargill is "87% owned by the 11th richest family in the world," Oxfam observed. "The combined wealth of family members listed on the Forbes billionaire list is $42.9 billion—and their wealth has increased by $14.4 billion (65%) since 2020, growing by almost $20 million per day during the pandemic. This has been driven by rising food prices, especially for grains. Four more members of the extended Cargill family have recently joined the list of the richest 500 people in the world."

Hanna Saarinen, Oxfam's food policy lead, said Monday that "a monstrous amount of wealth is being captured at the top of our global food supply chains, meanwhile rising food prices contribute to a growing catastrophe which is leaving millions of people unable to feed themselves and their families."

"World leaders are sleepwalking into a humanitarian disaster," Saarinen warned. "This fundamentally broken global food system—one that is exploitative, extractive, poorly regulated, and largely in the hands of big agribusinesses—is becoming unsustainable for people and the planet and is pushing millions in East Africa and worldwide to starvation."

"We need to reimagine a new global food system to really end hunger; one that works for everyone," said Saarinen.

Just Two Weeks of Food Billionaire Wealth Gains Could Fund Anti-Hunger Effort in East Africa (

Monday, August 08, 2022

The "Green" Jihadists?

 As energy prices rise Somalis are turning to affordable sources, charcoal, driving unsustainable logging.

The situation is acute in the Lower Shabelle region’s Wanlaweyn district, the centre of the charcoal trade, about 55 miles (90km) north-west of the capital. Lower Shabelle is one of many parts of the country that is largely out of the control of the Somali government, and there are no structured, government-driven efforts to restrict logging.

“The levels of deforestation have gotten so severe that most of the trees along the banks of the Shabelle River have been cleared out,” says Abdilatif Hussein Omar, the executive director of Action for Environment, a conservation organisation that operates in the Horn of Africa.

In the south of the country, the lives of many pastoralists and farmers have been disrupted by extreme weather, so they have been looking for other ways to earn money.

Hussein says the environmental damage has caused a vicious cycle. “It rains less because people are cutting down more trees to meet the demand for charcoal, which means crops are not able to grow, which affects farmers and livestock who depend on the land for survival,” he says.

The jihadist group al-Shabaab, which exercises control in some regions, has been trying to grow its influence in recent years by playing a quasi-governmental role on issues such as environmental protection. In 2018, it imposed a ban on single-use plastic bags and is enforcing crackdowns on the cutting down of leafy trees. The Islamist group brutally enforces its policies.

“Some of the loggers have received threatening calls from al-Shabaab, while others have been physically harmed,” says Guled Warsame, a logger. Despite the dangers and environmental harm, Warsame says he needs the work. “Al-Shabaab has ordered us to stop cutting dry trees but we can’t. It’s our only way to make money.”

Dahir Abdalla, a lorry driver, says he was recently detained by al-Shabaab for a few days when transporting dry wood, but was eventually released. He believes that the group may be in the process of initiating a crackdown on logging and transportation of wood from dry trees, but says that, for now, the only clear ban is on the cutting and transporting of wood from leafy trees.

“We only pick up dry tree wood in our lorry and never leafy wood because al-Shabaab doesn’t allow that. If they catch us transporting trees that still have leaves, they will set our vehicle on fire,” he says.

Despite the crackdown, reports show that revenue from the trade is an important income stream for al-Shabaab, with a 2014 estimate suggesting that the group earned an annual total between £6.5m and £14.5m from imposing charges on charcoal traders at one road block alone.

Amina Mohamed and Saynab Hersi say they face double taxation – from the government when the lorries travel through major cities and districts, and from al-Shabaab when travelling through the countryside.

Even so, dealers say they make enough to keep them in the trade. Yasmin Salad, who has been in the business for eight years, says she makes a profit of 1.8m Somali shillings (£2,600) for every 510 bags of charcoal, which she sells at 11,700 shillings each, over a six-month period.

Inside Somalia’s vicious cycle of deforestation for charcoal | Global development | The Guardian

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Kenya's "Deep State"

  The phrase  "deep state" conveys the idea of a powerful shadowy cabal, not officially elected to the government but, nonetheless, directing the country. The so-called cabal is said to influence choice positions and lucrative contracts in government and business.

In Kenya, supporters of leading presidential candidate Raila Odinga have always claimed that there was a conspiracy at the highest levels of government to deny the former prime minister, who lost the 2002, 2007, 2013 and 2017 presidential elections, the role.

In December 2019, former Deputy President Kalonzo Musyoka made possibly the earliest local mention of the phrase, in an interview with local private broadcaster Citizen TV. 

“Kenyans must know that there is a ‘deep state’ government,” he said. “A country is never run by these politicians who shout the loudest.”

A year later, Musyoka, an influential member of the Azimio La Umoja coalition which backs Odinga, said, “I don’t know if there is a deep state, what I know is there are interest groups and some of them have an enabling capacity.”

In September 2021, Francis Kimemia, a former public service head and current governor for Nyandarua county in central Kenya said, “The state exists. I can assure you it is deeper than deep. If you have two candidates at the rate of 50-50, and the ‘deep state’ backs one, you can be sure which one will win. The international community plays a great role in who becomes elected.”

In Kenya's current election campaign, the phrase is assuming dangerous dimensions. The term has been popularised by the Kenya Kwanza (meaning Kenya First in Swahili, – over the elite) – a nationalist coalition movement headed by deputy president and the other main presidential candidate, William Ruto.  A skilled orator, he is now framing the election as one of “hustlers” versus “dynasties”. This is in reference to the Azimio la Umoja coalition which has in its fold President Uhuru – scion of the Kenyattas (beginning with inaugural President Jomo Kenyatta in 1964) – along with the other leading presidential challenger Odinga (whose father Jaramogi Odinga was Kenya’s first vice president in 1964) and their supporter Gideon Moi (son of former President Daniel arap Moi). Members of the "deep state" are believed to be in the presidency, the security agencies, the electoral commission and other parts of the civil service that supposedly work in tandem as an “All-Seeing Eye”.

Ruto said at an August 6 press conference, “Irrespective of where we come from, today we stand together as a people and we have overcome the so-called system, the so-called deep state,” alluding to there being higher powers at play wanting to rig the elections against him. Ruto alleges that there were threats against his family and several communities, arising from “meetings that are being organised in dark places to orchestrate disharmony” including one that the president had supposedly attended.

Rival politicians, including Jubilee Party vice chairman David Murathe, say Ruto, one of the country’s wealthiest and most influential politicians, would himself be embedded in a “deep state”, if it were to exist.

The ‘deep state’ conspiracy theory tainting Kenya’s elections | News | Al Jazeera

Mali Massacre by Mercenaries

 A 78-page report by the U.N. experts doesn’t name Wagner in connection with any incidents, but it describes several operations where Malian forces were joined by white soldiers, including one on March 5 in the town of Robinet El Ataye in the Segou region near the border with Mauritania. 

According to testimony the experts said, a group of “white-skinned soldiers” arrived in the town, which has a water well frequented by Mauritanians who cross the border in search of pasture for cattle, rounded up men and boys, tied their hands behind their backs and blindfolded them. Women and children were told to go home and the soldiers that reportedly stripped houses of “all possessions including bedding, cellular phones, jewelry, cooking utensils and clothing,” they said.

Later in the morning, the panel said, Malian soldiers arrived in the village started beating the bound and blindfolded men “with heavy sticks used by the herders on their flocks.” The women heard screams but were blocked by soldiers from leaving their homes, and the Malian forces then released some younger men and carried off at least 33 men, 29 Mauritanians and four Malians who were ethnic Tuaregs, it said. The women waited for the return of the men, but the panel said they were notified by relatives a day later that the men’s bodies had been found about 4 kilometers away, and they “had been shot and then burnt,” the experts said.

The panel said “a similar pattern of pillage and beatings” occurred at five other locations, but the only place civilians were killed was at Robinet El Ataye.

“In two other locations visited by the Malian Armed Forces, a helicopter carrying `white-skinned soldiers’ allegedly landed at the beginning of the operations” it said.

12 million people need humanitarian assistance, a sharp increase from 5.9 million last year, including 1.9 million people facing the threat of “acute malnutrition” during the current lean season which lasts through August.

UN experts: Malian military and 'white' soldiers killed 33 | AP News

Friday, August 05, 2022

Religious fanaticism kills in Uganda (2000)

 From the July 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

The tragedy that befell Uganda in the month of March this year is worth analysing and talking about. This was in South Western Uganda in the village of Kanungu. Over 500 religious believers, belonging to a sect (cult) called The Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, set themselves ablaze and all perished in the inferno. Worse still, as police continue to search, mass graves of believers of the same cult were found in different places in the homes of the followers’ leaders and elsewhere.

The impact of religion on people especially in Africa is that of doom. The principles of religion are all similar and only differ on the surface. First, there is a belief in supernatural power. Second, there are prayers and rituals. And third, there is a belief in life after death.

The belief in supernatural powers, a god and a spirit world arose out of people’s lack of understanding of the universe and their own particular limited environment. This was coupled with their own curiosity, desires and needs. Humans have been the creator and inventor of God in their own image. In fact, it’s not a case of God creating Man but of Man creating God. God and all gods exist in people’s minds only.

The Kanungu incident is a case of religious fanatics whose leaders had predicted the end of the world come December 31 1999; they believed that there was not to be a year 2000 with the old generation but a new generation with they, believers of this cult, going to heaven. So they made their heaven.

Their mass graves at Kangunu, like any other graves, are an indication that there is no life after death. There is only death after life. Their testimony was based on biblical extracts. However, as usual, false testimony always testifies against itself. It is an easy thing to tell a lie but it’s difficult to support a lie after it has been told.

By extracting verses from the bible and relying on them in addition to trying to put them into practice, some religious groups have gone as far as destroying fruit trees, having free sex and not accepting family planning methods, refusing medical treatment, and selling their possessions.

Christians marching ‘the way of the cross’ in Uganda

The bible, which claims to be a holy creation and the foundation for christianity and several other religions, was of course a human creation and there is still a minority today who would accept it word for word. Yet it is inconsistent and self-contradicting. In fact it would stand no favour had it to face a court of law. It’s a book of lies. Today numbers of “educated” and “artistic” people are employed to blend truth and lies in whatever proportion they calculate is most effective in misleading the public. The big lie being that people should be contented with the life which the market system imposes on us while waiting for “a paradise life” after this life.

From childhood people are mentally conditioned into religious beliefs, superstitions and the like. And as people sense a lack of control in an increasingly complex and alienating world, they are more susceptible to beliefs in the supernatural whether religion, magic, dreams, creatures from other planets or whatever. People who have religious beliefs replace faith for reason and logic.

We live in a harsh, competitive society where everyone’s hand is turned against everyone else. Yet human beings need social contact and companionship. The harsher the reality the more fantastic the solace offered by religion. It is no accident that early christianity spread amongst the slaves of the Roman empire, nor that in Africa and Asia where poverty is so harsh, we have the devout religious zealots.

The religious view sees workers as incapable of solving the problems that confront them. The consolation they offer is one beyond the grave. They believe that human beings should adapt a slavish attitude, be humble, be grateful and not attempt to abolish the ills that afflict them.

We socialists see humans as an animal species that has succeeded in adapting the natural world to meet its needs. We view with wonder and astonishment its magnificent accomplishments in the fields of science, medicine, agriculture and advanced technology. We place our faith not in gods and supernatural forces, but in the intelligence and knowledge of the working class.

The transformation of society will not be brought about by the action of gods, but by real men and women determined to end capitalism and establish socialism.

Weijagye Justus 

Capitalism rips us off, NGOs soothe the pain (2000)

 From the July 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

When governments and business have done with keeping us in line and exploiting us, NGOs step in to soothe us with left-overs

“Give us fish and you feed us for a day, Give us the fishing rod and you feed us for life”
Non-governmental organisations in general come in to assist where governments fail. Today however many of them claim they are now shifting their focus to the economic development of poor countries. But it is common knowledge, from the concrete situation on the ground, that the main thrust of NGO activity is still within the framework of alleviation and not eradication of poverty and want. And even in that regard, a cursory glance at their intervention reveals nothing but a catalogue of failures and deceit. But what else is expected of any organisation that tries to reform a system which is inherently evil and incorrigible? In this article three reasons are advanced to explain why NGOs are like the proverbial decorated donkey which is “still an ass”.

The unholy trinity
Even if NGOs were groups genuinely seeking, on humanitarian grounds, to reach out to the needy (as some may honestly do) they would still not escape being branded blind groups groping in the dark. But a closer scrutiny of the entire NGO set-up reveals almost a sinister plot against the wretched of the earth—those whose suffering they claim to be alleviating. This is easily understood when one considers the life and role of the NGO as being largely determined by a three-dimensional interplay of forces.

To begin with, it is evident that governments, big business and NGOs constitute the three sides of a triangle. The three are one and their efforts are complementary. Are we in the poor peripheral countries not constantly reminded, both in the print and electronic media, of some three “basic facts”?
(a) that government has no business doing business, that government only provides an “enabling environment” for free trade,
(b) that the business community, aka Foreign Direct Investment, aka private sector is the key to, and the engine of, our economic development,
(c) and that NGOs are partners in development, the third estate of African economic development.
In real terms what the three propositions mean is that whilst governments keep the people in check with their armies, police, prisons, the judiciary, etc, the capitalists rip us off through exploitation and retrenchment. The NGOs then intervene to soothe, console and cajole the victims with sweets and second-hand (discarded) materials.

Though this unholy collaboration is done in a discreetly Mafia-like style, it is not uncommon, once in a while, to see such back-scratching manifested openly. A case was seen in Ghana in the mid-1990s, when an NGO—The 31st December Women’s Movement—diverted huge sums of aid money to the ruling NDC government to foot its electioneering campaign bills. Another example of this government/NGO collaboration is the issue of World Vision International helping the Honduran government to track down and kill suspected dissidents (Graham Hancock, Lords of Poverty, London, 1989). Where NGOs fail, to fulfil their part of the unwritten connivance, governments do not hesitate to take firm measures against such NGOs. In 1989, for instance, when Oxfam advocated sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa, it (Oxfam) was censured by the England and Wales Charity Commission for contravening UK charity law. Then in 1995 the Ghanaian government was bitterly confronted by the opposition for trying to impose an NGO Act on the people. The law was meant to boot out all NGOs which were not subservient to the government. In a similar vein, NGOs are known to be promoters of big business through the purchase of (sometimes expired) drugs and food and also obsolete or faulty machinery. It is on record for instance that Bob Geldof’s Band Aid wasted $4 million in purchasing eighty unusable lorries from a Kuwaiti business group and dumped the junk as aid to Sudan (Independent, 25 November 1987).

Fund raising
The second dimension to the three-pronged characteristics of the NGO system relates to their source of funds. It is an undeniable fact that individuals filled with fellow feeling donate to NGOs to assist the needy. However, large sums do come from owners of capital, corporate bodies and governments. The donations of these latter, like “aid” in a profit-oriented society, are not without ulterior motives and strings. Who pays the piper calls the tune and even since one does not bite the finger that feeds one, whatever well-meaning intentions that motivated the setting up of the NGO is sooner or later compromised in favour of having more funds. They would henceforth dance to the tune of “major” donors and benefactors.

Such tendencies reduce many an NGO to a complete business enterprise where “profit” now their major concern. This is expressed in the methods employed to attract funding. Advertising is an expression of an unwholesome competition in the quest for profits. NGOs spend huge sums on adverts. Sometimes this is done using typical capitalist fraudulent methods. A clear example is the famous “wire fraud” of World Vision International, on the Los Angeles-based relief agency Operation California. The latter had organised a fundraising concert for Kampuchea refugees which was televised by CBS. Unknown to the organisers WVI had managed to have its toll-free number flashed at regular intervals during the concert for potential donors to pay into that account (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, 21-27 December 1982).

Another dishonest method of ensuring a bumper harvest is the raising of false alarms through a gross exaggeration of the plight of “vulnerable groups”. In the NGO business the commodity is the misery of the downtrodden. So intense is this hunt for super-profits that the bugbear of unhealthy rivalry (typical of big business) often raises its ugly head within the NGO community. Part of the causes of the Somali famine in the late 1980s , for instance, was a result of the refusal by relief groups to heed Oxfam’s fully substantiated warning of imminent hunger. These agencies rejected the warning just so that Oxfam would not take the credit (Lords of Poverty).

The result of this business-oriented voluntarism is the tendency to accumulate. The recent imprisonment of Allan Boesak in South Africa for embezzling NGO funds is only the tip of the iceberg. There is also the case of International Christian Aid (ICA) a US-based NGO, which was accused, in 1985, by the UN and the US State Department of failing to send anything to Ethiopia though it had raised $18 million for famine there (Daily Mail, 14 January 1985). Many more monstrous cases of this nature are either not discovered or hushed up in the interests of the dubious capitalist fraternity. Thus set up to help the needy NGOs often only help themselves.

Needless to say, the work and assistance programmes of NGOs cannot be anything but a red herring. Having been brought into existence by the exploitative money-oriented system and being completely dependent on the same underhand methods of this unfeeling system for their survival what else can the activities of NGOs be if not messing about in trivialities? The main problem confronting humanity revolves around ownership of the means and instruments for producing and distributing (social) wealth. How many NGOs mount platforms to explain this simple truth to their target groups? How many NGOs ever distribute tracts about working people replacing this profit-oriented system with a higher social system based on collective and democratic ownership of the means and instruments of production?

It is not by accident therefore that NGO activities in poor southern countries never approach education, shelter, food, clothing, healthcare, etc with a view to finding a lasting solution to them. These areas are the exclusive lucrative business of private capital. A good lot of NGO programmes involve organisation of seminars and talk-shops on such superstructural issues such as female circumcision, the empowerment of women, prostitution, drug abuse, etc. Most of the relatively few projects end up as white elephants or never even get complete. No wonder then that as the number of NGOs keeps rising, ignorance, homelessness, hunger, poverty, disease, etc are getting out of control (instead of the other way round).

Of course poverty and want are necessary offshoots of the capitalist socio-economic formation. Trying to get rid of the former whilst leaving the latter intact amounts to putting the cart before the horse. The only genuine assistance the NGO community could lead to the suffering people of this capitalist world is to stop collaborating with the owners of capital and instead, join forces with socialists to get rid of this system based on money. NGOs could use their resources to help usher in a system where production is not for profits’ sake but for the satisfaction of needs. Under such a system nobody will have to run around begging for funds in order to help the needy—in fact, there wouldn’t be any more needy people.

Suhuyini Nbang-Ba, 
The Gambia

Somalians still suffering

 More than 900 000 people in Somalia, mostly living in rural areas, have moved to internally displaced persons camps since January 2021 due to the drought and lack of livelihood support. There is a reasonable chance of famine in eight areas by September 2022 if crop and livestock production failure is widespread, key commodity prices continue to rise, and humanitarian assistance fails to reach the most vulnerable.

FAO Somalia urgently requires $131.4 million to assist 882 000 people across 55 districts with immediate lifesaving and livelihood support. These famine prevention efforts in Somalia are only 46 percent funded.

Somalia: “We cannot wait for famine to be declared; we must act now” - Somalia | ReliefWeb

Life Expectancy Grows

 Despite the customary bad news that usually emerges from Africa, this item is better news although there will be the eco-pessimists who will present it as a potential over-population problem.

Life expectancy is rising in Africa - with people living nearly 10 years longer, from 46 years to 56 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The rise is because of better access to health services in the continent although the numbers are "still well below the global average of 64 years", according to the health agency.

Healthy life expectancy in Africa rises by almost ten years - World | ReliefWeb