Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Glencore Corruption


The commodities trading giant Glencore will pay a $1bn (£800m) US settlement and has indicated it will plead guilty to seven counts of bribery in the UK related to its oil operations in Africa. Dutch and Swiss authorities are also investigating alleged wrongdoing, some of which is thought to be related to operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In February, the company said it had set aside $1.5bn to cover potential fines and costs related to bribery and corruption investigations in the UK, US and Brazil. Although the settlement is significant, it is still smaller than the $4bn Glencore announced – on the same day – would be returned to shareholders after record profits.

Glencore, one of Britain’s biggest public companies, said it would pay penalties of $700m to resolve US bribery investigations and $485m to resolve market manipulation investigations, with some reductions in anticipation of settlements in other countries.

The company also indicated a UK subsidiary would plead guilty to charges heard at Westminster magistrates court in London, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office said in a statement. The SFO alleged that it had found “profit-driven bribery and corruption across the company’s oil operations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and South Sudan”.

“Glencore agents and employees paid bribes worth over $25m for preferential access to oil, with approval by the company,” the SFO stated.

Glencore to pay $1bn settlement amid US bribery and market abuse allegations | Glencore | The Guardian

Monday, May 23, 2022

The Great Green Wall Stalls

  A lack of funding and political will as well as rising insecurity linked to extremist groups al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Burkina Faso, are obstructing progress on Africa’s Great Green Wall, according to experts involved in the initiative.

The plan was to build an 8000-kilometer (4970-mile) long forest through 11 nations across the width of Africa to hold back the ever-growing Sahara Desert and fend off climate change impact. Just 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of land has been afforested since work on the Green Wall began 15 years ago — a mere 4% of the program’s ultimate goal. 

First proposed in 2005, the program aims to plant a forest all the way from Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti in the east. It’s hoped the initiative will create millions of green jobs in rural Africa, reduce levels of climate-related migration in the region and capture hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Several countries have struggled to keep up with the demands of the project, with Mali, Nigeria, Djibouti and Mauritania in particular lagging behind.

The U.N. desertification agency says up to 45% of Africa’s land is impacted by desertification, making it more vulnerable than any other continent.

“By restoring land, you reduce conflicts and irregular migration. There is a link between land restoration and irregular migration,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, head of the U.N. desertification agency. “Land restoration is a no-regrets option in that any effort to recover soil health, replenish natural capital and restore land health will deliver benefits that far exceed the costs.”

Security concerns, lack of support stall Africa's Green Wall | AP News

Mozambique's Civil War

 The Carta de Moçambique daily newspaper discovered 7,000 "ghost soldiers" in the ranks of a poorly paid and badly trained army with many of the salaries of fake soldiers were paid to senior defence officials, and that there are a growing number of children of former officers and politicians who receive salaries without ever having been in military training, let alone setting foot in a military unit.

At least 24 foreign nations have sent soldiers to support Mozambique in its fight against insurgents in northern Cabo Delgado province. Cabo Delgado is Mozambique's resource-curse province, with gas, rubies, graphite, gold and other natural resources. 2,000 well trained Rwandan troops were sufficient to largely take control of the two coastal districts, Palma and Mocimboa da Praia, near giant gas fields. Despite their successes, Mozambique's civil war rumbles on. The big struggles now are political - about money, the causes of the war, who can fight, and if the gas project can resume. Civil wars always attract outsiders, and there has been some involvement from Islamic State (IS) and jihadists from other wars, as well as finance from some Middle Eastern states.

Protests were growing that the profits were all going to an elite in the ruling party, Frelimo, and that few local jobs were being created. The coastal zone is historically Muslim. Local fundamentalist preachers said Sharia, or Islamic law, would bring equality and a fair sharing of wealth. The war started in 2017 when young people in Mocimboa da Praia attacked the local police station and army post, capturing weapons. Since then, more than 4,000 people have been killed and 800,000 forced from their homes.

Most Mozambican researchers say local issues remain dominant. But both the US and IS want this to be seen not as a local civil war, but as a clash between two global powers. In March 2021, the US labelled the insurgents as Isis-Mozambique and "global terrorists". This was widely rejected by those researching the war, and the US refused to release its evidence. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 14 July 2021 stressed that the main US interest in Mozambique was "countering Isis". And on 4 April 2022 the US named Mozambique as one of five countries under the Global Fragility Act, which would involve substantially increased US involvement in Mozambique.

Meanwhile, apparently pleased with the growing publicity for such a small investment, IS began to call the insurgents IS Mozambique.

The fear is that IS and the US seem to be aiming for a proxy war in Mozambique. This stirs unhappy memories because in the 1980s, before the end of the Cold War, the US waged a proxy war against the then Soviet Union that killed one million Mozambicans.

Mozambique insurgency: Why 24 countries have sent troops - BBC News

Sunday, May 22, 2022

New States—old story (1964)

 From the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

We live in an age of newly rising capitalist states. The years since the end of the second world war have seen the emergence of Ghana, and many others in Africa. Often after a bitter struggle, the older powers have had to give way to the rising nationalists and hand over control of their former colonies. The winning of political freedom has been the green light for the development of native ruling classes, who have not been slow to consolidate their power, at times with an urgent ruthlessness which would have won the admiration of a Hitler or a Stalin. And in this, they have, of course, applied some of the lessons which they learned from their erstwhile oppressors.

So the British and French empires are no more, and as the new states gain influence, this will have some effect at least on the balance of power in the world of capitalism. Ghana, for instance, has made approaches to other West African states, and it is said that Nkrumah is aiming at a federation with himself as its political leader, it goes without saying. All the same, it would be unwise to assume that the influence of the old powers has come to an end, because whatever abuse may be hurled occasionally from the petulent Nkrumah, Tshombe and others, they have to face the fact that they cannot exist in isolation from the outside world. That world is already the market in which they sell their exports, comparatively small though they are at present. It will become more and more important to them as time goes by.

But until then, and in preparation for that day, a great deal of development will be going on, for which capital investment will be needed in large measure, and it is here that the business men of the old world will see their chance. There is a sort of mutual wooing between them and the new states anxious to attract capital which their own ruling class are not yet rich enough to provide. So this is the sort of background against which we must set the Ghanaian president’s statement to his parliament on March 10th, that £540 millions of the £1,016 millions for the seven years development plan will be from private investors:—
He stressed that his government had no desire to limit private investment in Ghana. Foreign investors were welcome and could earn their profits here, “provided they leave us an agreed portion for promoting the welfare and happiness of our people as a whole as against the greedy ambitions of the few ”. (Guardian, 11.3.64.)
He went on to mention the part played by the American Kaiser group of companies in the Volta hydro-electric scheme and by loans from Britain, America and the World Bank. So we can confidently ignore the president’s lying claims, "made almost in the same breath, that Ghana is a Socialist country.

Now take a look elsewhere in Africa. In the Autumn, Northern Rhodesia will become independent, and one British textile firm at least must be very pleased about it, having secured an order from Mr. Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party for 1½ million yards of gaily coloured cloth for the national dress. The printed cloth will bear the inscription “Freedom and Labour,” which shows the ideas that the nationalists have in mind for their native workers.

And in Kenya, too, the British government is busy negotiating financial deals which, in the words of Mr. Kenyatta, will provide the capital for diversifying Kenya's economy and reducing its dependence on agriculture as a source of income. There is also the question of military aid here, which goes to show that the area is still of strategic importance to the British capitalist class. Quite clearly in the modern world, there are other means of keeping fingers in the old colonial pies besides direct political control. It is not just a coincidence, after all, that there is a large amount of foreign capital invested in India; for example, the bulk of it British.

Out of Africa? (1998)

 From the July 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received a long contribution from journalist Chido Onumah who is the co-ordinator for Nigeria of the West African Human Rights Committee. We publish below the key points together with our comments.
“Washington has been too willing to downplay democracy and human rights for the sake of natural resources or diplomatic alliances”, the New York Times wrote in its editorial of 20 March 1998. Clearly, nobody is better placed to serve this purpose of giving access to Africa’s natural resources and providing a base in support of US diplomatic alliances than the various mad men who have sprung up (often with the help of Washington) within Africa and much of the developing world.

The US supported Mobutu after killing Lumumba and scuttling Congo’s burgeoning democracy; and Mobutu provided a buffer against Washington’s longest standing bogeyman, the USSR. Today, the US has found it convenient to recant and is calling for democracy in the new Democratic Republic of Congo. On February 4 1966, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in a CIA-sponsored coup. The result was the abortion of Ghana’s fledgling democracy. More than three decades after, the country is still grappling with the rudiments of democracy under a military dictator that is making a travesty of democracy, yet Washington is contented and applauding that “democracy is spreading”.

Just name it! Where has Washington stepped into that she has not messed up? The US-supported Marcos and his murderous gang; provided a slaughter slab for the butcher of Uganda, Idi Amin; aborted democracy in Chile and installed the hydra-headed monster, Pinochet; wrecked Haiti, courtesy of the Duvalier clan. In all these places, the US was looking for a mad man who would preside over the wholesale transfer of natural resources to America’s multinationals and do her dirty job in its so-called war with communism. Nothing mattered beyond the immediate economic and political gains of Washington. Not even the sight of mutilated bodies of defenceless and innocent kids who were victims of the dastardly actions of such scum as Jonas Savimbi and his cohorts who were armed and financed by the US could move her to change her position.

The American society is a predatory society and it can survive only by aggressively expanding and conquering new markets from which to extract profit. What Washington aims at creating in West Africa, as in other areas that are under its sphere of influence, is a club of IMF/World Bank puppets. The reason is simple. West African despots—as always quislings of America and her Western accomplices—who mutate into civilian presidents make all the difference between the acceptance or rejection of the West’s obnoxious economic policies and by extension, the survival or collapse of their businesses. The examples of Ghana, Burkina Faso and The Gambia are indicative of this trend. The IMF/World Bank and their host governments cannot be too sure what the “new man” would do (a case of the devil you know); so why not support a Jerry Rawlings, Blaise Campaore or Yahya Jammeh even where their transition to civil rule succeeds only in furthering neo-patrimonialism. As one of the puppets of international monopoly capital, Washington is sure Abacha will execute structural adjustment, devaluation, privatisation and such other infernal policies the IMF/World Bank may deem necessary to recommend for Nigeria’s underdevelopment. This support and manipulation of Abacha is necessary to prevent the toiling masses from uniting in a revolution that would threaten international monopoly capital.

The basic fallout of Mr Clinton’s visit to Africa is that the world would move into the new century with all the prejudices, including the onslaught of imperialism (courtesy of America) which have made the 20th century a nightmare. It is difficult to imagine what could be a greater threat to world peace in the new millennium than the American establishment which is nothing but a scourge. Fanon wrote that every generation must discover its mission. Africa’s emergent activists, from Cape Coast to Cairo, must enter the new millennium boldly determined to confront the monster of imperialism. Those who are ready to liberate Africa from the clutches of poverty, illiteracy and general underdevelopment and expand the frontiers of democracy cannot look up to the West, America particularly. They must be ready to struggle for these rights. Apologies from the great-grand-children of slave traders would not serve any purpose. In fact, the US has committed too many grave crimes against the African continent that apologies would only serve to obfuscate these crimes.

Imperialism is like the common cold; you either fight it or go to bed with it. There cannot be half measures or a middle course. This is a new era in which people, particularly exploited people, do not look up to any godfather. Certainly, the US will fail in Nigeria as she failed in Vietnam, Cuba and everywhere else she has sought to extend her bloody fang.
Chido Onumah, 

We fully accept that American foreign policy is determined by economic (trade, investments, raw materials) and strategic considerations, but so is that of every other capitalist country. To single out America for special opposition is to play the game either of other capitalist powers (such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan, China, etc) or of some would-be African ruling class.

We have to say too that we cannot accept that Ghana under Nkrumah or the Congo under Lumumba were examples of “burgeoning democracy”. Certainly, both Nkrumah and Lumumba were anti-US imperialism but they were not democrats either in practice or in theory. They favoured and tried to establish one-party regimes, on the model that then existed in Russia. In fact, they perfectly illustrate our point above about opposition to one particular “imperialist” power playing the game of its rivals—in their time, “anti-imperialism” was the ideology under which state-capitalist Russia sought to further its economic and strategic interests.

If we have put the word “imperialism” in the previous paragraph in inverted commas this is because we don’t accept Lenin’s theory of imperialism (which sees the struggle at world level as being between imperialist and anti-imperialist forces) with its implication that “imperialism” is something different and worse than capitalism. World capitalism, not the “imperialism” of particular capitalist powers, is the cause of the problems workers all over the world suffer from, and the solution to the problems of workers in Africa lies not in kicking American imperialism out of Africa but in uniting with workers in the rest of the world to replace the world capitalist system by world socialism. This is the aim of the World Socialist Movement. 

The Suffering Sahel

 “We live in one of the poorest places on earth,” explained former Malian President, the late Amadou Toumani Touré.

 About 80 percent of the people of the Sahel live on less than $1.90 a day, and the population growth in this region is expected to rise from 90 million in 2017 to 240 million by 2050. 

The Sahel belt owes a vast debt to the wealthy bondholders in the North Atlantic states, who are not prepared for debt forgiveness. 

The arms trade is crippling the region. 

The G5 Sahel countries spend between 17 percent and 30 percent of their budgets on their militaries. 

Three of the five Sahel countries have increased their military spending astronomically over the past decade, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Burkina Faso by 238 percent, Mali by 339 percent, and Niger by 288 percent. 

Is This the End of the French Project in Africa’s Sahel? -

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Hunger Looms for Millions

 18 million people in Africa’s Sahel region face severe hunger in the next three months.

The hunger crisis may also press increased numbers of people to migrate out of the affected areas, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

“A combination of violence, insecurity, deep poverty and record-high food prices is exacerbating malnutrition and driving millions to the fringes of survival,” Martin Griffiths, the head of OCHA, said. “The recent spike in food prices driven by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is threatening to turn a food security crisis into a humanitarian disaster.”

Four countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger — are facing “alarming levels”, with nearly 1.7 million people facing emergency levels of food shortages there.

Tomson Phiri, spokesman for the UN’s World Food Programme, said “The situation is definitely going to get worse before it gets better.”

UN: 18 million people facing severe hunger in Sahel region | News | Al Jazeera

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Is history about to repeat itself?

 African civil society groups have accused the United Nations of inaction over atrocities in Ethiopia, warning that it had not learned the lessons of the 1994 Rwanda genocide and that the “situation risks repeating itself in Ethiopia today”.

Tens of thousands of people are thought to have been killed and millions more displaced since war broke out between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party of the country’s northern region, in November 2020. All of the parties in the war have been accused of crimes including arbitrary killings, mass rape and torture, while ethnic Tigrayans across the country have been subject to mass arrests amid a spike in hate speech, which has seen the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, refer to the Tigrayan rebels as “weeds” and “cancer”.

Tigray has been largely cut off from the rest of Ethiopia since the fighting began, with transport and communications links cut. About 90% of the region’s 5.75 million population are in need of aid, and the region’s health bureau estimates that at least 1,900 children under the age of five died of starvation in the past year.

In the letter to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, 12 African civil society groups including the Kampala-based Atrocities Watch Africa, the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and Nigeria’s Centre for Democracy and Development called on him to “provide leadership in ending the ongoing war in Ethiopia”.

“Twenty-eight years ago, the security council similarly failed to recognise the warning signs of genocide in Rwanda or act to stop it,” the signatories said, adding: “We are concerned that the situation is repeating itself in Ethiopia today. We call on you to learn the lessons from Rwanda and act now.”

Last month, a report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused forces from the Amhara region of waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans “with the acquiescence and possible participation of Ethiopian federal forces”.

Dismas Nkunda, head of Atrocities Watch Africa, said: “With reports of ethnic cleansing coming out of western Tigray, there is real reason for concern that some of these crimes reach the level of genocide, and it’s essential that the United Nations grasp the seriousness of the current situation and respond accordingly.”

The letter urges the UN security council to press for “immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to Tigray” and “impose an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict”.  The signatories also call for deployment of an international peacekeeping force led by the African Union, which has its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“Such action will be vital to assisting the Ethiopian men, women and children who have been suffering both direct hostilities, associated human rights violations and obstructed humanitarian aid,” they said.

Learn lessons of Rwandan genocide and act now to stop Ethiopian war, UN urged | Global development | The Guardian

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

An Imminent African Food Crisis

  The war in Ukraine is having a drastic impact on Africa. Prices for wheat, gas and gasoline are at record highs. Crisis regions could see things get worse than they already are.

In Kenya, about one-third of imported wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine. The price increase on the world market is also being felt by the Kenafric wholesale bakery in Nairobi, which produces bread for supermarkets.

"The situation is worrying, not only because of the price, but also because of availability," said Kenafric's manager, Keval Shah. 

Most Kenyans are increasingly turning to their savings and loans to meet the rising cost of living.

Teresa Anderson, the international climate policy coordinator at the nongovernmental organization Actionaid, told DW that many African economies are still reeling from the pandemic, climate change, humanitarian emergencies, or political and economic unrest. The effects of the Ukraine war have exacerbated the situation, she said.

"In Zimbabwe, the price of gasoline has more than tripled, as has the price of cooking gas," Anderson said. "The price of noodles has more than doubled." Anderson said many countries were already in a supply crisis. "But, if nothing changes, we could be facing a famine of unimagined proportions," she said. "The situation is particularly extreme in the Horn of Africa, where 20 million people are already suffering severe hunger because of the ongoing drought," Anderson said.

In East Africa, prices have skyrocketed because of livestock deaths and crop yields far below the long-term average, said Petroc Wilton, the WFP's spokesman in Somalia.

Wilton said the lack of wheat supplies from Ukraine had aggravated the food crisis.

A humanitarian disaster is brewing in Somalia, according to the WFP. About 6 million people are affected by acute food insecurity, including 1.4 million children. If aid agencies do not receive additional funding, there could be a famine within months.

In West Africa, the security situation is also hampering food supplies. For example, farmers could not cultivate their fields because of attacks by the terrorist organization Boko Haram.

Assalama Dawalack Sidi, regional director of the international charity organization Oxfam in Niger, explained action is urgently needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

"This is an alarm signal for the world," Sidi said. "We are witnessing 27 million people in West Africa being affected by the worst food crisis in the past decade," he said, adding that the number could rise to 38 million people if nothing is done.

Yet wheat shouldn't have to be in short supply as there are significant reserves.

 "China has enough reserves to support poorer countries in Africa with food supplies," Hendrik Mahlkow, of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, told DW.

African food prices soaring amid Ukraine war | Africa | DW | 16.05.2022

Child Labour in Africa

 According to UNICEF, population growth, recurring crises, extreme poverty and inadequate social protection measures have led to an additional 17 million girls and boys engaging in child labor in sub-Saharan Africa over the past four years.

African countries are home to most of the world's 160 million working children. The International Labor Organization estimates that more than 72 million children in sub-Saharan Africa — nearly one in five — are affected by child labor. This marks the first time in 20 years that progress toward ending child labor has stalled.

According to the International Labor Organization, 43% of Nigerian children aged between 5 and 11 are child laborers, although international conventions prohibit this.

Economic hardship has forced many children to toil in the gold mines of Tanzania and neighboring Congo. Others in countries such as South Sudan endanger their lives as child soldiers. The International Labor Organization estimates that 2.1 million children work in cocoa production in Ivory Coast and Ghana. Around two-thirds of the cocoa produced worldwide comes from Africa. On the streets of Maiduguri in Nigeria's Borno State, many children work at the request of their parents.

Child labor on the rise in Africa | Africa | DW | 16.05.2022

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Deforestation of the Congo

The Congo Basin rainforest, larger than the US state of Alaska, refers to six Central African countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Central African Republic) and is the world’s second largest tropical rainforest after the Amazon.

The mounting tension between economic growth and healthy forest life over years has led to the destruction of some of the world’s oldest forests and the resulting poverty of its communities. This massive deforestation has led to the expropriation of indigenous and local communities from their ancestral land without their consent, increased carbon emissions, migration and the disappearance of Indigenous communities’ culture and languages. The changes are impoverishing forest communities and leaving the entire region more vulnerable to climate change and diseases.

The current economic development model in Congo Basin is rooted in massive deforestation: more and more concessions are being granted with large scale land set aside for industrial agriculture such as palm oil and rubber. The loss of the forest ecosystem – and therefore the spiritual and cultural heritage of the community – is irreversible. The tropical rainforests of the Congo Basin are being eliminated.

According to the recent Global Forest Watch data, in 2021, 3.75 million hectares of pristine rainforest (an area critical to carbon storage and biodiversity) was lost at a rate of 10 football fields per minute. Cameroon, for instance, has lost more than 80 thousand hectares of its primary forests in 2021, almost twice area of the primary forest destroyed in 2019. The Democratic Republic of Congo has lost nearly half a million hectares of primary forest in 2021 (Increase of almost 29% compared to 2020). Only to enrich a small portion of selfish elites. At this rate, there is no way to reverse forest loss by 2030, as pledged by leaders from 141 countries at last year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Despite that, Cameroon is still granting a company, like Camvert SA, tax exemptions to implement an almost 60,000 hectares palm plantation project. This will result not only in deforestation but also in biodiversity destruction alongside the loss of communities’ livelihoods but also lead communities in the areas in extreme poverty. The benefits of these deals, however, do not reach local residents. They are seldom hired when these concessions are developed. While companies often brag that they are promoting development by opening up roads, it’s important to note that these roads are used mainly to deliver timber to the market and are not open for communities.

The 2022 World Bank report show the country is a long way away from achieving substantial poverty reduction, with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people below the poverty line and remaining stubbornly constant.

In DRC, a recent IGF report showed that more than USD 10 million in forest royalties were not paid to the public treasury between 2014 and 2020.

What’s worse, the climate change that this deforestation is making worse will only deepen poverty. The latest IPCC report  estimates that in the next decade alone, climate change will drive 32-132 million more people into extreme poverty.

The 2022 World Bank report show the country is a long way away from achieving substantial poverty reduction, with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people below the poverty line and remaining stubbornly constant.

In DRC, a recent IGF report showed that more than USD 10 million in forest royalties were not paid to the public treasury between 2014 and 2020.

Massive Deforestation in the Congo Basin Will Lead to Poverty | Inter Press Service (

Slavery in Mauritania Continues

 Following a visit to the West African country, Tomoya Obokata - the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery has called on the authorities in Mauritania to take urgent measures to implement an anti-slavery law which was passed in 2015. He said people were still being born into slavery.

Caste-based slavery and chattel slavery – where one person owns another – were still happening. He said enslaved people in Mauritania - particularly women and children - were subject to violence and sexual abuse.

 Even though laws had been passed, they were not being implemented.

Africa Live this week: 9-15 May 2022 - BBC News