Thursday, May 06, 2021

Quote of the Day

"My approach to Africa is in some ways like the Japanese approach to Asia, and my approach is not necessarily humanitarian. It is in the long range interest of access to resources and the creation of markets for American goods and services." - United Nations US Ambassador Andrew Young  in 1977 

Nothing changes.

Uganda's New Anti-Gay Laws

 Uganda's parliament passed a controversial sexual offences bill which further criminalises same-sex relationships and sex work.

They condemn same-sex couples who perform acts deemed against the “order of nature” to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Monicah Amoding, the MP who proposed the bill, said, “We are not yet ready for those [homosexual] rights. Maybe in future, as of now our society still views relationships, sex and marriage … as between a man and woman.”

 Frank Mugisha, director at Sexual Minorities Uganda said: “It is unfortunate that the parliament of Uganda is obsessed with legislating around people’s private lives. Such legislation is very hard to enforce. This will only increase the vulnerability of LGBT persons,” he said. “This is yet another law that will be used by law enforcers to harass, blackmail and arrest LGBT persons. I also do not see the need, since same-sex relations are already criminalised in our penal code.”

Uganda passes bill criminalising same-sex relationships and sex work | Global development | The Guardian

Monday, May 03, 2021

Gay in Africa


South Africa’s constitution prohibits unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and guarantees equality for gay and lesbian people. Same-sex marriages are legal and transgender people can change their sex description and gender marker in the national birth register. Nevertheless, the LGBTQ community has long been subjected to hate speech, discrimination, and grotesque violence in the country.

Moreover, many South Africans still perceive LGBTQ individuals as inherently immoral and “un-African”, and thus pay little attention to the abuse they endure on a daily basis in the country. It is time for South Africa to respond decisively to this growing problem by adopting preventive measures against homophobic hate speech and hate crimes.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance of South Africa has urged the parliament to pass a proposed hate crimes law. The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill 2018 aims to outlaw hate crimes and hate speech on grounds of race, gender identity and sexual orientation, among others. The bill’s ratification has been delayed due to concerns that it may inhibit freedom of speech.

In South Africa, for instance, the monthly earnings of gender nonconforming, gay or bisexual men are, on average, 30 percent lower than that of gender conforming heterosexual men. Worse still, LGBTQ people also suffer from higher rates of suicide, rape and violence.

In many African countries, colonial anti-LGBTQ laws and attitudes are still in full force, and LGBTQ individuals continue to be routinely targeted by government authorities, religious groups and those who claim to be fighting to preserve “traditional values”.

In Uganda, where LGBTQ people face widespread persecution, President Yoweri Museveni claimed that the protests against his 35-year rule were funded by “foreign homosexuals” in January.

In Cameroon, security forces have arbitrarily arrested, beaten, or threatened at least 24 people for alleged consensual same-sex conduct or gender nonconformity since February 2021.

In Ghana, church groups, politicians and anti-gay rights organisations held demonstrations against the opening of Ghana’s first LGBTQ community centre in February. Predictably the protests and condemnation led to the abrupt closure of the community centre founded by LGBT+ Rights Ghana.

The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the persecution of LGBTQ communities. The Ghana Muslim Mission, for example, attributed the COVID-19 pandemic to “homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism” in a communique it issued in March 2020.

The endless stigmatisation of homosexuals and the presentation of unfounded links between LGBTQ communities and public health or socioeconomic crises are deplorable and inhumane.

LGBTQ people, especially HIV-positive men, struggle to access adequate healthcare in, among others, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Cameroon and Uganda. This unfair and unethical restriction not only puts LGBTQ lives at risk, but also hinders the global fight against HIV.

Moreover, the continent-wide discrimination prevents most LGBTQ individuals from obtaining gainful employment, leaving them struggling to make ends meet.

Africa’s LGBTQ communities need more protection and support | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Madagascar - Nothing like the movie

Madagascar is one of Africa’s poorest countries. A lack of basic services – from health and education to employment opportunities – as well as poverty and climate change have exposed many of its 26 million people to natural disasters.

 People in southern Madagascar have been reduced to eating wild leaves and locusts to stave off starvation after consecutive drought and sandstorms ruined harvests, leaving hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The harvest was expected to be nearly 40 percent below the five-year average.

Amer Daoudi, senior director of global WFP operations, warned on Friday the lives of Malagasy children are in danger, especially those under five years old whose malnutrition rates have reached “alarming levels”.

Daoudi told a UN briefing in Geneva he had visited villages where “people have had to resort to desperate survival measures, such as eating locusts, raw red cactus fruits or wild leaves”.

“Famine looms in southern Madagascar as communities witness an almost total disappearance of food sources which has created a full-blown nutrition emergency,” Daoudi said. “I witnessed … horrific images of starving children, malnourished, and not only the children – mothers, parents and the population in villages we visited,” said Daoudi, a veteran aid worker. They are on the periphery of famine; these are images I haven’t seen for quite some time across the globe.”

Malnutrition among children under five has almost doubled to 16 percent from nine percent in the four months to March 2021 following five consecutive years of drought, exacerbated this year by sandstorms and late rains. A rate of 15 percent is deemed emergency level and some districts are reporting 27 percent – or one in four children under five – are suffering from acute malnutrition that causes wasting.

At least 1.35 million people need food assistance in the region, but the WFP is only reaching 750,000 with “half-rations” due to financial constraints, according to WFP, which seeks $75m to cover emergency needs through September.

“We need resources, yesterday; we need to turn resources into food,” Shelley Thakral, spokesperson for the WFP, told Al Jazeera. “We have seen images of skin-to-bone, protruding ribs of small children – children who, if you looked at them you’d think that they were perhaps two, three years old and not perhaps 10 years old … It’s really worrying,” Thakral said, warning that “people are on the edge”.

“They’re foraging, eating … just whatever they can find,” she added. “The situation is incredibly desperate.”

Starving Malagasy forced to eat leaves, locusts for survival | Food News | Al Jazeera

May Day's Spirit of Revolution


Everywhere the working class is confronted by hostile attacks from the ruling class. But this is the day when workers all over the world celebrate. This is the day when we show our strength. This is the day when we demonstrate our global solidarity with fellow-workers. This is the day when workers line up in one body and challenge the ruling class.

Workers of all countries have shed rivers of blood for a better life and real freedom. Those who fight for the workers’ cause are subjected by the governments to untold persecution. But in spite of repression, the solidarity of the workers of the world is growing and gaining in strength. Gone are the days when our fellow-workers slaved submissively, seeing no escape from the state of bondage, no glimmer of light. Socialism has shown the way out. There is no force on Earth that could break the strength of millions of workers united. When the workers' socialist organizations attract an ever greater part of the working class, it will become an even stronger force and will go from victory to victory, ever closer to the great goal — the emancipation of mankind from the present economic and political oppression. 

There cannot be a true socialist movement without the presence of sound political principles, completely absent today on the Left.

The control over the population the ruling class has is first of all a psychological one, built on the Orwellian-style hijacking of language which has corrupted the meaning of socialism or communism or anarchism.

On May Day we have to reflect on mental chains around our minds that enslave us and makes us accept the capitalist system's brutality, pillaging and theft.

The ruling class is incapable of dealing with our unalienable rights to live in social peace and harmony via self-governance without classes and we should celebrate together with fellow-workers all over the world.

May Day is the day of awaking against small or big, local or global ruling elites, not matter where the class war battle front-lines are located, in your neighborhood, at school or college, at work, the office or the store.

Let May Day be a day of conscientious objection, resistance, and rejection of a mental and physical wage-slavery and acquiescence to the exploitation we endure under capitalism.
Let May Day be a day of rejection of a political deceit of the fake opposition.
Let May Day be a day of declaration of our most sacred values of family, community, and hard work; unalienable rights to life and subsistence of all humanity as well as our unwavering commitment to political action against systemic institutions of the Establishment.
Let May Day be a day of unity of all humanity and rejection of hatred and all divisions that ruling elites incessantly continue to instil within human society in order to enslave and destroy it.
Let May Day be a day of warning to all those who sold their souls to the master class for 30 pieces of silver and some creature comforts that the day of reckoning is approaching.
Let May Day be a day of the beginning of an honest debate about the completely new system of societal organization devoid of class or caste or coercion and conspiracy of the ruling class against the people.
Let May Day be OUR day

The World Socialist Movement celebrates May Day in the spirit of international fraternity. We know that the more the workers are organized politically and industrially on a revolutionary basis, the faster and the thicker will the evolution of society will proceed. 

The bosses are united and the government stands with the bosses against the workers. Let them know that the workers are united; that the workers will stand by one another; that the workers’ solidarity is international solidarity and that the working class will fight for its emancipation!

We are confident of tomorrow because we trust that the workers throughout the world, will prove wholly capable of building a revolutionary movement. 

May Day is the symbol of a new era. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Dadaab and Kakuma to Close

 Kenya  has told the United Nations it will shut by June 2022 two camps,  Dadaab and Kakuma,  holding over 410,000 refugees who fled from wars in the east and Horn of Africa, adding it planned to repatriate some and give others residency.

Kenya tells U.N. it will shut two camps with 410,000 refugees by June 2022 | Reuters

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Cain V. Abel Again

 France 24 cable news outlet carries a report on the farmer-herder conflicts in Nigeria. 

Clashes between farmers and herders have killed more than 10,000 people in the last decade and forced the displacement of 300,000 people, according to the International Crisis Group. Nigeria’s Middle Belt has been struck this year by a spike in farmer-herder violence, which in 2018 was six times deadlier than the Boko Haram insurgency, killing more than 2,000 people according to the International Crisis Group.

Salihu Musa Umar, a member of one of the biggest pastoralists’ associations in Africa and the founder of The Farmers and Herders Initiative for Peace and Development, explains:

"The herdsmen are often portrayed by farmers as evil. This gives rise to suspicion and anger when they arrive but actually, they are just as often victims in this conflict. Pastoralists are being killed by farming communities on a daily basis. The herders have to move from point A to point B in search of greener pasture. But their cattle route is often blocked by farmers, who get angry and attack the herders. When these attacks take place, there is no justice, and so the herders feel cheated and begin reprisal attacks. It is an endless spiral. The nature of the pastoralists’ livelihoods makes them very vulnerable. The majority of them are poor, uneducated, and they are very rarely given a voice in public discourse. It is easy to scapegoat them."

Many farmers are losing their source of income as their crops are being burned by herders. 

Finding a resolution to Nigeria’s cattle-grazing crisis is also essential for the country’s economy and food security. Almost sixty percent of Nigeria’s protein originates from Fulani herders, according to Salihu Musa Umar. Meanwhile, about 90 percent of farmers are smallholders that produce most of the country’s farm output, which accounts for almost 27 percent of gross domestic product. 

“Food is becoming very expensive because farmers no longer have access to their farms,” Isaac Olawale Albert, Director of the Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies at the University of Ibadan told the Observers team told the reporters.  “If we don’t achieve peace in rural areas, we won’t be able to grow food anymore. So the conflict has become an existential problem for Nigeria. Either we find a solution to the conflict, or we will no longer have enough food to feed ourselves.”

Climate-induced desertification in recent years has escalated tensions, forcing the northern herders further south into the farmers' territory, creating one of the conflicts, as both sides compete for scarce resources. Farmers and herders have crossed paths for decades, as pastoralist Fulanis from the north have a long tradition of migrating south during the dry season in search of water and grazing land for their cattle. The two groups usually managed to reach a mutual accommodation and overall, they coexisted peacefully. However, in recent years, climate change has altered that order. Increased drought and desertification have forced herders even further south and into conflict with farmers, whose numbers have increased in line with Nigeria’s booming population. 

“Climate change is the most important variable in the analysis,” Isaac Olawale Albert, explained. “Droughts and desertification are the root cause of the herders’ increased movement. It has become more difficult to find fertile land, so competition has increased. The Middle Belt is often referred to as the country’s ‘food basket’ – it is very fertile land and so farmers want it for their crops and herdsmen for their cattle.” 

 As killings persist, the clashes have increasingly been framed as a religious problem, since the majority of Fulaniherders are Muslim and most of the farmers are Christian. Charges and counter-charges of ethnic cleansing have gained momentum.

This situation was depicted by a 2018 article in the Socialist Standard, using the biblical analogy of the Cain versus Abel story 

The Suffering in the Sahel

 A record 29 million people in six countries of the unrest-hit Sahel region are in need of humanitarian assistance in the face of “unparalleled” insecurity and growing hunger, the United Nations and NGOs have warned. In a statement the signatories said another five million people were now in need of assistance in Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and northeastern Nigeria compared with last year. The violence has led to the closure of thousands of schools across the region, while 1.6 million children are projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

“The conflict in Sahel is growing wider, more complex and involving more armed actors,” said Xavier Creach, Sahel coordinator for the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) and deputy director for West and Central Africa. “Civilians end up paying the price as they face an increasing number of deadly attacks, gender-based violence, extortion or intimidation, and are forced to flee, often multiple times.”

The region was plunged into conflict in 2012 when armed groups overtook a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg separatists in northern Mali. France led an intervention the next year to beat back the armed groups, which scattered and regrouped before taking their campaign into central Mali in 2015 and then into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso. Chad and the Sahel regions in the north of Cameroon and Nigeria are also gripped by conflicts with armed groups.

“We’ve seen hunger jump by almost a third in West Africa – to the highest levels in the best part of a decade,” the statement quoted Chris Nikoi, a regional director of UN’s World Food Programme, as saying. He added that soaring food prices linked to the violence were driving hunger and malnutrition.

“Behind the numbers and data, there are stories of human suffering,” the statement quoted Julie Belanger, a regional director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as saying. “Without sufficient resources, the crisis will further escalate, eroding communities’ resilience and putting millions more children, women and men at risk,” she added.

Record 29 million in the Sahel in need of humanitarian assistance | Humanitarian Crises News | Al Jazeera

Africom for Africa?

 Isn't it ironic that having achieved independence from colonial rule, Nigeria is inviting the military of  a colonial power to return?

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the US to move its Africom military headquarters to the continent from Germany.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking to young Africans studying in the US,  cautioned against China's growing presence on the African continent.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Quote of the Day

 “Look at what the collapse of Syria and the chaos of civil war has meant...Ethiopia has 110 million people. If the tensions in Ethiopia would result in a widespread civil conflict that goes beyond Tigray, Syria will look like child’s play by comparison.” Jeffrey Feltman, US special envoy for the Horn of Africa

New Biden Envoy for Horn of Africa Warns Tigray Conflict Could Worsen (

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Africa's Sweatshops

 Economists have promoted low-wage textile industry as the best way for poor countries to build a manufacturing base. In East Africa, the promised trickle-down effects of foreign investment have not materialized. The dream of industrial growth comes at a high price.

 A number of East African countries, including Ethiopia and Kenya, are attempting to follow that path. Images of industrial progress and of politicians visiting work-shops, with rows of workers hunched over textile manufacturing equipment suggest that the development that has long eluded the continent is not too far off.

The Ethiopian government sees itself competing with Bangladesh for a place in the global clothing supply chain. And Bangladesh isn’t a floor to build on—it’s a ceiling. 

The Ethiopian Investment Commission markets the country’s wages as “1/7 of China and 1/2 of Bangladesh,” the lowest garment worker pay in the world. From these paltry wages, Ethiopian industry has grown from 11 percent of the country’s GDP in 2013 to 25 percent today. That growth is held up as a local success story. Applauding the country for “building Africa’s manufacturing strength,” the African Development Bank highlighted Ethiopia’s goal of generating $30 billion in exports from the textile and apparel sector between now and 2030.

All this development is sold on creating jobs that will reduce poverty. So how are Ethiopian workers faring?

Studies have shown that an Ethiopian garment worker needs about $146 a month to survive. Only 7.5 percent of garment workers make that much. Ethiopia’s garment sector has no statutory minimum wage; instead, the working minimum is tied to the lowest wages for government employees. As a report from NYU’s Center for Business and Human Rights notes, “The fact that government-paid floor sweepers earn so little doesn’t make $26 a fair base wage for sewing-machine operators employed by foreign manufacturers.” The Worker Rights Consortium found that in addition to being paid the lowest wages in the world (as low as 12 cents an hour), workers were facing the same abuses that plague sweatshops in Asian countries, including harassment, unsafe conditions, forced overtime, and pay deductions for lateness or missing work (on top of wages missed), “despite such practice being barred by international and domestic law, as well as applicable codes of conduct.” 

Colonial-era governments in Africa focused on producing raw materials, which were exported to the metropole and re-imported as finished goods. Shortages during the world wars, and volatility in commodity prices that made it more expensive to import manufactured goods, forced colonial managers to invest in domestic industries. With the decolonization wave beginning in the 1950s came an even greater effort to develop light industry, producing electrical machines and goods like clothing, shoes, paper, and leather. Part of the plan, then as now, was to attract foreign firms that had both the capital and technological know-how to develop industrial capacity.

 To secure these investments, governments implemented policies like tax exemptions, low customs duties, favorable exchange rates for investors, and duty-free import of capital goods. But global competition was steep, and without railroads and other transportation infrastructure, it was difficult to export goods. Neither was there enough domestic demand to support factory production, in part because workers were paid so poorly. Faced with these challenges, many postcolonial experiments in industrialization in Africa ended in failure.

The current development efforts in East Africa have been shaped with knowledge of this checkered history. 

Kenya’s government plans to develop horizontal industrial clusters that build on local strengths, with investments in tanneries and meat, dairy, and leather processing plants. The country is also undertaking efforts to train more engineers to raise the ratio of skilled workers to unskilled ones.

The Ethiopian government, meanwhile, has embraced state intervention to protect infant industries, prioritizing sectors that will “maximize linkage effects” and lead to investments in connected industries, as Arkebe Oqubay, a special adviser to the prime minister, puts it in Made in Africa: Industrial Policy in Ethiopia. In his study of experiments in the cement, floriculture, and leather industries from 1991 to 2013, Oqubay argues that low-income African countries such as Ethiopia cannot develop their natural advantages without the strong hand of the state. This doesn’t mean creating an inflexible command economy, but instead “reserving the right to make mistakes and, in the process, to learn from them.” 

Earlier growth strategies in Africa have been handicapped by a relatively underdeveloped workforce skill base. Training has to be a cornerstone of development policies, and the best bet is to build off where workers currently are. In East Africa, that means farming. Despite its much-touted manufacturing growth, more than 70 percent of Ethiopia’s workforce is still in agriculture.

The African Union’s African Continental Free Trade Area, which went into effect at the beginning of 2021, removes trade barriers for goods and services among countries on the continent, giving infant industries more access to friendly export markets. The additional income from opening trade, plus savings from eliminating tariffs, is estimated to reach $450 billion by 2035.

 The bulk of development efforts are still devoted to attracting foreign business investment, creating an all too familiar race to the bottom. The Tax Justice Network-Africa estimates that Kenya loses a billion dollars a year in tax incentives and exemptions. Export processing zones, a key part of the country’s industrial policy, give companies a ten-year corporate income tax holiday and exemptions from import duties on machinery, raw materials, and inputs. What reason do foreign companies have to invest in linkages with domestic ones, or to train workers, if they are planning to leave the moment the tax holiday is up?

Jacob Omolo, a labor economist at Kenyatta University in Kenya, describes the Kenyan state as caught between standing by the “principles and rights” of Kenyan citizens “versus their desire for investments.”

 As part of its charm offensive to attract foreign capital, the state has been reluctant to enforce labor and union regulations. Pervasive high unemployment, particularly among those under age thirty-five, also leaves workers in a vulnerable position, while the minimum wage—by some estimates, $123 per month—is half a living wage of roughly $240 per month. The promised trickle-down effects of foreign investment have not materialized.

To Omolo, the decision to neglect labor protections has been the “weakest link” in state development blueprints. African governments that fail to support workers, build on existing skills and improve them, and support sectors that create local wealth and diminish the power of foreign capital will have little hope of growing past the sweatshop floor.

Up From Sweatshops | Dissent Magazine