Friday, November 30, 2007

Nigerian Poverty in the midst of wealth

Over 70 million Nigerians are living below poverty level disclosed Dr Otive Igbuzor, Country Director of ActionAid .

Nigeria, he added, remains one of the 20 countries with the widest disparity between the rich and the poor, stressing that most of the nation's wealth is in the hands of a few powerful individuals while the majority wallow in abject poverty.

Also reported is that about 529,000 women die annually globally, while Nigeria contributes 1.7 percent of the global population yet it accounts for 10 percent of maternal deaths annually. Nigeria is said to be the second highest, next to India, with an unimaginable rate of maternal and infant death in the whole world.

About 396 infants out of every 1000 live births in the north eastern Nigeria die by the age of five in the region comprising Borno, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe and Yobe States, a study has shown.

More than US$400 billion was stolen from the treasury by Nigeria's leaders between 1970 and 1999, according to the country's financial crimes agency. With reserves of 35 billion barrels, Nigeria accounts for 60 percent of proven oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea . Nigeria is one of the top five suppliers of U.S. oil imports and is emerging as an important liquefied natural gas supplier for Europe and North America. Rising Asian economies such as China and India are now seeking an interest in the region.

But strapped for cash to meet its joint venture obligations for deep water exploration in the Gulf of Guinea in the 1990s, Nigeria entered into special contracts that allowed the oil majors to invest their capital and recoup their own costs before sharing profits with the government.There has been massive finds such as Shell's Bonga field, Chevron's Agbami and Total's Amenan — each with the potential to yield more than 1 billion barrels.The Nigerian government has yet to see revenue from these offshore oil fields, and wants to review the agreements.

Will Nigeria end the paradox of the energy-rich country wracked by fuel and power shortages ?

Will Nigeria tackle the poverty of its citizens ?

Socialist Banner thinks not .

Thursday, November 29, 2007

From the Archives - Blast from the Past

A reprint of Socialist Standard article


Dr. Nkrumah Disappoints his Friends

COLONEL PEWTER is a cartoon-strip Edwardian pukka-sahib who daily amuses readers of the News Chronicle. In his latest adventure he uses an Injun stick, which magically compels its victims to tell the truth in order to upset the party propaganda in a by-election. The whole joke, of course, is that nobody ever expects a politician to describe himself as other than a selfless, devoted slave to the voters' interests.

Perhaps that is why so many eyebrows were raised when Mr. Krobo Edusei, Minister of the Interior in the new African State of Ghana, was reported as saying that he loved power. Had the man gone mad ? Or was he just telling the truth ? Worse, this outburst was only one of several newsworthy actions by the Ghanaian Government. Journalists and political opponents have been deported, opposition leaders have said that they are under threat of imprisonment and death, and it has been reported (and later denied) that ministers would in future carry revolvers. Mr. Fenner Brockway, the Labour M.P., who can usually be relied on to support nationalist movements in ex-colonial territories, has publicly expressed regret and protest at these actions. He put it all down to an evil genius at the ear of Ghana's Prime Minister, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. But that is too easy ; we must look a little more deeply into the history and the background of it.

The Modern Story
The first explorers of Africa named parts of the coast by the wealth they found there. There was the Grain Coast, the Slave Coast and, roughly bordering the area which is now Ghana, the Gold Coast. The modern story begins in the 15th century, when European traders, coming from countries which were desperately short of gold, found the precious stuff in common use among the Gold Coast natives. (Three hundred years later William Bosman, who worked for the Dutch West India Company, could still write of the natives of Dinkira, "They are possessed of vast Treasures of Gold, besides what their own mines supply them with "). At first the Portuguese dominated the trade, but soon the Danes, Dutch, French and Germans came, and in 1553 Thomas Windham led the first English party. None of the expeditions tried to penetrate the interior: they only wanted to establish trading forts along the coast. Gold was not the only attraction, for there were plenty of slaves to be branded and shipped to the Americas and to the Middle East. This last journey was terrible indeed, involving a trek across the Sahara desert. And there was every incentive to mutilate the slaves, to satisfy the great demand for eunuchs in the Middle Eastern palaces. The slave traders thought that Allah was being kind if ten out of a hundred survived the operation.

The English settlements date from 1651, when the English Trading Company built the first of several ports. In 1672 the Royal African Company commenced operations, building other trading stations, and later the African Company of Merchants carried on trade in gold and slaves until they were crippled by the abolition of slavery in 1807. Life in these settlements was a precarious business— Bosman has described the "excessive tippling and sorry feeding" among the Europeans, which made " most of the Garrison look as if they were hag-ridden", and the "odious Mixture of noisome Stenches" from the coastal villages.

Inter-Tribal Wars
As the mercantile adventurers of the 16th and 17th centuries grew bolder, sailing out to America and the Far East, European interest in Africa declined and most of the trading settlements along the Gold Coast were left to decay. It was not until the American War of Independence had been won and lost and Great Britain was established in India and Australia, that Africa, lying between England and her Far Eastern possessions, regained its importance. The 18th and 19th centuries were years of inter-tribal wars, mostly between the Fante and the Ashanti. Great Britain kept a traders' neutrality, which did not preclude the occasional double-cross. After one famous betrayal, which caused some native chiefs to be tortured and killed, the torturing chief remarked that he thenceforth took the English for his friends, "... because I saw their object was trade only, and they did not care for the people." The chaos of these wars almost caused the British Government to withdraw from the territory, but the commercial interests prevailed on them to stay put, to unify the command of the trading forts, stamp out the slave trade and develop the Gold Coast's mineral and agricultural possibilities. Thus, in 1821 the British Government took over the operations of the African Company of Merchants and in 1844 signed a Bond with several local chiefs, which recognised Queen Victoria's jurisdiction and laid it down that "... the first objects of law are the protection of individuals and property." In 1850 they winkled out the Danes and in 1871 the Dutch. Thus also, any missionary who undertook to spread the word of Christianity and British "law and order" among the natives of the interior was assured of the benevolent protection of English arms. They did not leave it all to the missionaries; right up to 1900 British soldiers were fighting against the natives in the interior in defence of the commercial and strategic interests along the coast.

Ghana Arise
The two world wars sharply emphasised the importance of Africa strategically and as a source of vital raw materials—in particular the last war saw a tremendous development of the Gold Coast's airfields, harbours and internal communications. The need for self-sufficiency caused independent local industries to be built up. This, with the war's expanded social intercourse, promoted the Gold Coast's political development and the inevitable demand for independence from British rule. In 1951 the Gold Coast legislature for the first time represented all the territory's inhabitants, voting in secret ballot. The elections of 1951 and 1954 were won by the Convention People's Party (CPP), whose leader, Dr. Nkrumah was brought from jail to fill the newly-created post of Prime Minister. The CPP stood on a programme of independence from British rule and when they won a third overwhelming victory in the 1956 elections, Whitehall agreed to the inevitable. At midnight on 5th March, 1957, the Gold Coast ceased to exist and the State of Ghana took its place. A new national anthem—Ghana Arise, by Hector Hughes, a British Labour M.P.—was substituted for God Save the Queen.

The country which Dr. Nkrumah took over has a population of 4½ millions, most of them Africans and pagans. The economy is heavily dependent on cocoa farming, which, said Finance Minister Gbedemah, dusting off a cliche, is "... the life-blood of this country." (Ghana turns out 30 per cent, of the world crop.) The Government are uneasy about this dependence on a primary produce industry, so vulnerable to world economic changes. There is a heavy tax on cocoa farming, which is invested in other fields; there is also a tax relief for those who finance "pioneer" industries. So far these measures have not had much effect and Ghana's prosperity still varies with the price which Cadbury and Fry, Ltd., the United Africa Company, and the like, have to pay for cocoa on the world market.

Betrayed Hopes
Ghana also has substantial deposits of gold, diamonds, manganese and bauxite. Most of the gold and diamonds, mined by companies incorporated in the United Kingdom, are sent to London. The manganese deposits, as an ingredient to steel production, are becoming increasingly important. Bauxite is mined by the British Aluminium Company, who are interested in the prospect of damming the Volta River to generate electricity for smelting the bauxite into aluminium. Although Great Britain takes nearly one-half of her exports, Ghana is anxious to attract any foreign investment. Because of this the Government will take no sides in current Great Power conflicts; Dr. Nkrumah had said, "... Ghana . . . should not be aligned with any group of Powers or political blocs."

The first signs that Ghana was going to betray the hopes of its friends came when Dr. Nkrumah appeared to be fostering his own little personality cult, by having his head stamped on the new coinage and going to live in Christiansborg Castle which, as the old residence of Danish and British governors, is heavy with unpleasant memories. Then came the expulsions and a Special Bill to allow Mr. Edusei to deport two men without the right of appeal. The municipal councils of Accra and Kumasi were suspended and so was the chief of the 300,000 Akim Abuakwa tribe. Several members of the opposition were kidnapped and from the other side, a plot to assassinate Dr. Nkrumah was alleged. In this hysterical atmosphere, it seemed. Africa's immaculate embryo democracy had been born a deformed dictatorship.

The truth of the matter is that last March saw the end of Nkrumah's days of agitation and faced him with the realities of power over a country which is trying to make its way in the capitalist world. The first reality was a staggering fall in the price of cocoa, so that the first budget was chillingly austere and the Ghanaian workers were told that it would be unpatriotic to ask for higher-wages. They had expected better than this from Nkrumah ; a national transport strike was called and rioting broke out in Accra. Another difficulty is that Nkrumah is struggling to establish government on modern capitalist lines and to stamp out the old system of tribal rule. These stresses have caused quarrelling within the government. To clean the matter up a strong-arm policy has been tried, with Mr. Edusei, known in Ghana as the Minister of Noise, to apply it.

Settling Down
It seems that things are now settling down. The cases against the journalists have been dropped and the Emergency Powers Bill, published at the beginning of November, was much easier than expected. The government was probably getting worried about reactions in the countries which would supply the necessary- development loans and of the old-established foreign firms, who have kept their interests in Ghana. The opposition groups, formerly diverse, have united and almost certainly will emerge as an alternative administration. These are all strong checks upon extreme government action. In any case, there is no good reason why Nkrumah's misdeeds should cause such a fuss in quarters which accepted, among other things, the deportations from Cyprus and Uganda and the deposing of the popularly elected government of British Guiana. Nor does it end in London. America has recently altered the constitution of the occupied island of Okinawa to get rid of a troublesome Mayor. Dr. Nkrumah's is only one of a number of distasteful policies and should be seen in its perspective. It will be forgotten long before the world stops remembering the French in Algeria and the Russians in Hungary.
(Socialist Standard., January 1958)

Bread...and Roses Too

The penalty imposed on Tiger Brands was too lenient, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said . On November 12, Tiger Brands was ordered to pay a R98,7-million fine by the Competition Commission after admitting to participating in bread and milling cartels.

"Bread in particular is a diet of the poorest and it is appalling that people should enrich themselves by robbing the poor," said Craven , Cosatu's national spokesperson .

Jody Kollapen of the SA Human Rights Commission said, "Bread is a basic commodity. The anti-competitive practices involving a basic commodity like bread disproportionately affects the poor. This illegal behaviour may violate the individual's right to sufficient food".

The fine imposed on Tiger amounted to 5.7 percent of its national turnover for bread operations for the 2006 financial year.

Bread producers and independent bakers had on several occasions between 1994 and 2006 agreed to and/or engaged in a concerted practice that they would increase bread prices by similar amounts at or about the same time. Also, the bread producers and independent bakeries colluded to close certain bakeries across the country between 1999 and 2001.
Another contravention involved milling of flour and maize both nationally and regionally, with produders and bakeries agreeing to raise regional and national prices of these commodities by similar amounts at or about the same.

Bread producers also colluded to reduce the discounts they would give independent distributors by similar amounts and on similar dates in December 2006. This amounted to price-fixing.

Rather than argue for fair prices , perhaps it may be a better idea to demand the abolition of prices . Not a struggle against excessive prices but a campaign for free access . Nor do we demand just a bigger slice of the cake , nor only the bakery but also the wheat-fields , too .

Monday, November 26, 2007

Poverty , Sex and the Tourist

From a Reuters report and from The Nation .

Bethan, 56, lives in southern England on the same street as best friend Allie, 64. They are on their first holiday to Kenya, a country they say is "just full of big young boys who like us older girls". Hard figures are difficult to come by, but local people on the coast estimate that as many as one in five single women visiting from rich countries are in search of sex.

As many as 15,000 girls in four coastal districts -- about a third of all 12-18 year-olds girls there -- are involved in casual sex for cash, a joint study by Kenya's government and U.N. children's charity UNICEF reported late last year. Up to 3,000 more girls and boys are in full-time sex work. It is estimated that in the coastal town of Mtwapa alone, between 10,000 and 20,000 children are trafficked for the purpose of sex tourism.
A recent Unicef report shows that while Italian, German and Swiss men form the bulk of the foreign tourists who sexually exploit children at the coast, a large proportion - 39 per cent - of the perpetrators are local Kenyan men.Many of the children being exploited are not from the coast region but are imported from rural areas from around the country. Many of the girls (and some boys) are the source of income to impoverished parents living in deprived rural areas. Others make a lot of money for middlemen and traffickers who supply children and women to tourists looking for sex while on holiday.
Locals tolerate this type of sexual exploitation because, "nothing gets a family out of poverty faster than a daughter who has a white boyfriend." In many cases, girls are encouraged by none other than their parents and relatives to look for older white men who will not only pay the girl for her services, but her family as well.

But now emerging alongside this black market trade -- and obvious in the bars and on the sand once the sun goes down -- are thousands of elderly white women hoping for romantic, and legal, encounters with much younger Kenyan men.

"Old white guys have always come for the younger girls and boys, preying on their poverty ... But these old women followed ... they never push the legal age limits, they seem happy just doing what is sneered at in their countries." - said one manager at a shorefront bar on Mombasa's Bamburi beach.

Experts say some thrive on the social status and financial power that comes from taking much poorer, younger lovers.
"This is what is sold to tourists by tourism companies -- a kind of return to a colonial past, where white women are served, serviced, and pampered by black minions," said Nottinghan University's Davidson.

China in Africa - The Dragon's Imperialism

We have posted before about Chinese imperialism here and here and also here so Socialist Banner cannot be accused of neglect on this issue . Once again a news item brings up the reality of Chinese expansionism and for those who wish to simply equate imperialism with the Western powers socialists know if it waddles like a duck , quacks likes a duck , it is a duck . By 2010, China will have overtaken the US and France as Africa's biggest trading partner. Africa hosts about 30 percent of the world's mineral resources But they were relatively under-explored and under-exploited except in South Africa. Reasons for this include political instability, the spread of Aids and a lack of infrastruture in many African nations.

"For China to become a major power it needs to continue its double-digit economic growth of recent years. For this it needs energy and markets," Prof M Venkataraman, of the University of Addis Ababa said . ,Those markets are worth $40bn in 2004, a tenfold increase in under a decade. Most African countries now have a growing trade deficit with China, in spite of favourable tax-free trading agreements. Ethiopian exports to China reached $132m (£63m) in 2006, a figure dwarfed by the value of Chinese imports of $432m (£206m).

Many Chinese firms use large numbers of local workers but wages remain low. Taking advantage of low labour costs, the Chinese are also building factories across Africa. Africa's need for new and better roads, school buildings, computer networks, telecoms systems and power generation has opened a lucrative window of opportunity for Chinese firms. Chinese companies seek profits in Africa as they bequeath the continent that new infrastructure.

"China is hungry for minerals and Africa has rich reserves of cobalt and copper," says Li Xiao Dong who runs a factory in Huayou , China company that processes the raw materials and then sells them on to other Chinese factories . Africa's minerals are vital for China.

China have bought 20% share in Africa's and South Africa's largest bank, Standard Bank Group Ltd. (SBK.JO) , the Beijing-based Industrial & Commercial Bank of China .

"...they [ICBC] have the strategic imperative and a commercial incentive - they have paid a premium."

The two banks have identified an initial list of 20 key customers in Africa that they will jointly market to, and Leith said a number of specific "major" transactions are being pursued across the continent in the power, petrochemicals and construction industries. Standard Bank has agreed to market to more than 800 Chinese clients already active in Africa.

In another business deal OIL giant Shell is considering selling stakes in two offshore Nigerian oil and gas projects to CNOOC, the Chinese state-controlled company

In Darfur , Sudan , a contingent of the Peoples Red Army has arrived to join United Nations / African Union troops , to which the rebel force Justice and Equality Movement said :-

"We oppose them coming because China is not interested in human rights. It is just interested in Sudan's resources. We are calling on them to quit Sudan, especially the petroleum areas... What I am saying is that they are taking our oil for blood .China has so far only offered $1 million for displaced Darfur people. Meanwhile they are sucking a million barrels of oil out of Sudan every day. We do not welcome them."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Class Struggle in Senegal

Police in Senegal's capital, Dakar, have fired teargas at hundreds of protesting street vendors . The clashes came in response to police enforcing a new government policy to remove the vendors. Thousands of people earn a living peddling goods on Dakar's streets. The violence broke out shortly after trades unions held their own demonstration against rising food and fuel prices. Both demonstrations came down to one thing: poverty. The World Bank considers that one in three Senegalese is poor. Unemployment rate estimates are as high as 40 percent, and the vast majority of jobs are in the informal sector.

Police began evicting the thousands of street vendors on Thursday, three days after President Abdoulaye Wade sought an end to informal trading in the city. He said uncontrolled street vending had cost the country some 125m Euros because traffic jams were putting off investors. annd the vendors were protesting a move by President Abdoulaye Wade to force them off Dakar’s busy streets in an effort to improve traffic flow. For months, the government has been giving Dakar a facelift, building new roads and hotels, as it prepares to host an international Islamic conference in March. The authorities in Senegal's capital, Dakar, have now offered concessions to street vendors after violent protests. Several officials moved swiftly to announce measures, including the provision of market areas and reopening some streets for roadside sales .

“Prices of basic commodities have reached incomprehensible levels,” Mademba Sock, coordinator of the United Front of Central Unions representing 14 of Senegal’s unions
Union representatives had been demanding a reduction in food and housing prices, an increase in salaries, and support for struggling businesses. Demonstrators included teachers complaining of empty government promises, public servants let go without pay and average citizens who simply cannot afford to feed their families.

“Senegalese people do not eat three meals a day,” said Fatou Samba, a former teacher. “The president spends millions of dollars here and there while his people are suffering and dying of hunger.”

“In my home, there are eight people,” said teacher Cissé Sow. “I pay the water, electricity, phone, medical care and food. It’s one salary…. And there are 30 or 40 other people who depend on me...Meanwhile, the people in power are all driving fancy American cars

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fished Out

The 2005 British Marine Resources Assessment Group, provided a conservative estimate that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Africa could be valued at approximately US$1 billion every year.
It was estimated that in Somalia the total annual value of illegal fishing in only the tuna and shrimp industries amounted to $94 million. In Angola illegal fishing was measured in the sardine and mackerel fisheries to be roughly $49 million annually, which equates to 21 percent of the total value of Angolan fish exports. In Mozambique, illegal fishing in the tuna and shrimp industry was set at approximately $38 million. In South Africa, for example, over a two-year period in the early 2000s some 320,000 tonnes of Patagonian Toothfish were harvested, whilst the annual Total Allowable Catch was set by the government at only 450 tonnes. Taiwan illegally entered Tanzania's Exclusive Economic Zone and took approximately $20 million worth of tuna.

The problem did not stem largely from rogue fishing companies who evade laws and break regulations with impunity, but "vested interests" that allowed this situation to occur, and that these vested interests span not only foreign governments and inter-governmental organisations, but also African elected leaders and public officials according to Andre Standing, author of a new Institute for Security Studies study . The overfishing and some forms of illegal fishing flourish due to corruption and expediency by those in public office or government .

Fish is a critical source of animal protein in poor countries; globally it provides more than 2.6 billion people with at least one-fifth of their average per capita animal protein intake. Fish accounts for 20 percent of animal-derived protein in Low-Income Food Deficit countries, compared to 13 percent in industrialised countries .

Exploitation of West Africa's fish resources by European Union , Russian and Asian fleets "increased sixfold" between the 1960s and 1990s, a United Nations report noted. "Much of the catch is exported or shipped directly to Europe, and compensation for access is often low compared to the value of the landed fish." Fisheries access agreements, which allow foreign vessels into local fishing grounds, adversely affect fish stocks, reduce domestic artisanal catches, and affect the food security and well-being of coastal West African communities. Many of these agreements came into effect after the countries were pressured to liberalise trade. It has had a negative impact on food consumption , poverty reduction and a long-term impact on livelihoods that has forced local fishers from coastal West Africa to migrate . Senegalese fishers emigrating to Spain claim the reason for leaving their homes is the lack of their traditional fisheries livelihood . Increased exports have lead to a lack of fish in local markets, particularly high-value fish, which has affected prices and led to the substitution of fish for poultry, which was now cheaper than fish. Traditional fish species were being replaced by new types of lower value species.

It would benefit marine ecosystems if our intervention in the seas was reduced, allowing species time to repopulate. With a transfer of emphasis away from marine fishing to fish farming, fish yields could potentially be maintained at sufficiently high levels. The mentality encouraged by capitalism is to strive for profits at the expense of long-term consequences. The warnings raised by the environmentalists and scientists are muffled by the demands of economic exploitation. Following a socialist revolution, the wealth of knowledge and skills held by those who work in the fisheries could be applied to a conservation-based use of sea marine resources. The expertise and technology provided could be acted on, without the constraints of the market.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

War in Somalia

One million people are now living rough in Somalia, the UN refugee agency says.
The figure includes 60% of Mogadishu residents who have fled their homes - 200,000 in the past two weeks . The refugee agency says 600,000 people have fled Mogadishu this year - on top of 400,000 displaced by earlier rounds of fighting

UNHCR says those who have fled to the Afgooye area, 30km from Mogadishu, are living in desperate conditions. They are using plastic bags and rags to patch up their flimsy mud and straw huts . Landowners are charging them $1.5 a month for a tiny plot of land to erect their shelters.

South Africa's UN ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said the situation in Somalia was "heart-breaking".

A Kenyan human rights group has strenuously condemned the deportation of 18 failed asylum-seekers back to Mogadishu. Alamin Kimanthi, who heads the Muslim Human Rights Forum, said police forced the women and children into a plane destined to Mogadishu, despite their protests. They are part of a group of 50, whose requests for refugee status were rejected in Uganda.

"We condemn the decision to deport these people to Somalia because it is clear that they are just being sent to die," Mr Kimanthi said

You need food for thought

The hunger of the seemingly healthy and well-groomed school students at Moruthane Secondary School, about 80km south of Lesotho's capital, Maseru, is at first not apparent, but as the morning progresses they become listless and their concentration lapses. Their teacher said "They are not bad students; they are bright, but they are hungry."

Lesotho's educators acknowledge that the greatest obstacle to learning is hunger.

"Drought has robbed the children's families of their crops this year. They come to school on empty stomachs. I honestly don't know where or when they are fed. These are the ones who nod off during class; they have no energy," the school's principal explained "...Our students are good students. They are hard workers; they are just hungry."

The school has have no feeding scheme for the children . The school allows a vendor to sell snacks. It's just sausage rolls, potato chips and hot cakes - some students pay up to R6 (US$0.95) a day, the ones who have money - but it's not nutritious.

An education department questionnaire sent to students at Moruthane Secondary School, asking them to list their needs, had food as the common denominator in their replies. "Food," wrote one girl, "Food and shoes," wrote another girl, who noted that both of her parents had died. "Food and transport," wrote one boy, "Food and clothing," answered another. In all, 60 percent of the students cited food as their greatest need.

More than half of the population live on US$2 or less day and poverty feeds into the society's sense of despair. The mothers are not working. The fathers aren't working. Most men, can be found drinking morning 'til night. The local brew is very cheap. The men are not drunkards, they are just lost as to what else to do .

In addition half the school's student body are double orphans - their parents died of AIDS. According to UNAIDS, 23.2 percent of Lesotho's people aged between 15 and 49 are infected with HIV, and about 100,000 children under the age of 17 have been orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. The orphans live with relatives, who don't give them food. Some of the children have been abandoned and they end up in foster care, and there, too, they are not given food. They come to school with empty stomachs, and they go home with empty stomachs .

The fundamental aim for the present system of production is to produce for the market with a view to making profit. The overriding interest in profit does not change, no matter in which economic sector production is carried out. In agriculture, production is not carried out because people need food.

An irrational and cruel system such as the market system is not a productive and distributive system concerned to ensure that bellies are full. Food is not produced because people need it to survive, but because the owners of land and other means of production need to make a profit. Also, no account is taken of whatever method is used to produce which crop. Fertile lands in the Third World are used to grow coffee and tobacco as cash crops, instead of millet or maize.

The prevalence of hunger does not come from any shortfall in agricultural potential but from the operation of economic factors which impede the full realization of this potential for the benefit of all. The objective of social production at present is not primarily to meet human needs. Instead, human needs are only met to the extent that these are backed up by purchasing power. That is why vast quantities of food are destroyed and why farmers are paid not to produce, while millions starve because they lack the means to buy or grow food.

The market, contrary to the claims of its supporters, is not an efficient way of allocating resources according to people needs. If it was, why then do people starve to death in Africa while food is dumped in the sea. Only the most insane social order imaginable can regard such a grotesque contradiction as "efficiency". The object of the market is to satisfy the capitalists ‘"needs for profit", not the worker’s need for goods and services. Hunger and famine can only be averted when all the world’s resources – land, and all other means of production and distribution of wealth – are collectively owned.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Seek Ye the Political Office

Every so often a journalist will hit the nail on the head and Socialist Banner will gladly re-print it to widen its audience . This is one such article . As Marxian socialists we maintain that it is through control of the State that capitalists protect and legitimise their power and it is the task of the working class to conquer political power and displace the ruling class .

Seek Ye the Political Office

'Seek ye the political office and everything else shall be added unto it.' Political office in Tanzania has become the fruit to fight and die for.

It is sought by all means, fair and foul. Not only politicians and business people but even medical doctors, professional economists, lawyers, academics, journalists and activists have all jumped on the groovy train towards the nirvana of political posts. What is the driving force? What is the objective?

Is it name and fame? Perhaps, but not quite, because both can be attained in a much more decent way in other fields of life.

Is it the urge to serve your fellow beings?

Definitely not.

In today's Tanzania only the naïve and the ignoramuses believe that politicians are there to serve people. Politicians are in the game of power, period.

Maybe they love the stature and respect that a political position brings with it, but it is respect borne of fear rather than admiration.

So, what is it?

I think to understand the scramble for political offices we have to understand our socio-economy in the context of world capitalism.

Our economy is a capitalist economy, albeit a caricature. The driving force of capitalism is accumulation. In simple terms, accumulation means you use capital to make profit part of which you invest to make more profit. And so it goes on.

Some make it; others don't, while the large majority of course provides the labour power, mental and muscle, to produce profits for the capitalist.

But you need capital in the first place and people without anything but their muscle power to sale in the second place. Nature did not ordain such groups.

The world did not start with capitalists on one hand and workers, on the other. In his original scheme of things God created Adam and Eve, not a capitalist and a worker.

Original capital was created through the historical process which involved grabbing land from producers, looting natural resources from other continents (recall the pirate expeditions of Columbus and Vasco da Gamas of this world), turning human beings into chattels (slavery) and colonial exploitation and neo-colonial appropriation.

The process was violent, beastly and inhuman. Capital came into the world dripping head to foot with sweat, blood and tears. The history of capitalism has been violent and continues to be so, whether violence is used to loot gold and silver (the Americas of yester centuries) or oil and gas (the Middle East and Africa of today).

In its search for profits, capital is ruthless. Popular images like 'big fish eating small fish' or ubepari ni unyama (capitalism is beastly) are a true description of the system.

Edward Heath, the British prime minister in the 70s, is credited with trying to give capitalism a human face. But throughout its history capitalism has never had a human face, if one looks at its whole face.

Capitalism is a world system and its ugly face has been most blatant on the continents of the third world, particularly Africa. Since Thatcher and Reagan, no one even cares about hiding capitalism's ugly face; rather they give it the false garb of globalisation where Africa is the backyard (uani) of the global village.

The white man's burden today is to eradicate poverty in Africa because in the words of Tony Blair, the warmonger of Iraq, 'poverty is a scar on the conscience of the developed world'.
So we all sing 'make poverty history' without understanding the history of poverty. Some of our leaders had to go to Harvard to understand 'why poverty'!

But let's not digress; back to the story of accumulation.

The process of original accumulation of capital is called primitive accumulation. Some political economists have argued that 'primitive accumulation' continues to this day.

In the industrial phase capital made profits by first producing commodities-industrial goods. In the present phase financial capital produces profits without producing any commodities; it makes profits simply by moving money from one place to another.

That is how the Soros of this world have made their billions. We have our own small examples, bordering on the farcical.

The other day newspapers reported that the Government had decided to withdraw its deposits of trillions of shillings from private banks.

The banks were using the money to buy treasury bonds from which they got secure interest. So you use the tax payer's money to get more money from the tax payer through 'their' government without ever going through the process of lending for production. In any case, we are told, Watanzania hawa kopesheki (Tanzanians are not credit-worthy.)

No doubt, the big time 'primitive accumulators'-mining and timber companies, banks and financial houses, etc.-are the multinational sharks. But they need local daggas to facilitate their grabbing enterprise.

And the local daggas then indulge in their own 'petty primitive accumulation' in the interstices of grand 'primitive accumulation'.

Public offices thus become the means of 'private accumulation'. Examples abound, whether this is in the mining or the financial sector.

I need not name names lest the publishers of the newspaper are dragged to court:you know, we are a country that follows rule of law.

Don't be insolent to ask whose law rules, you may be sued for defamation!

So now we know the story, or at least begin to understand the story of the scramble for public offices.

Public office today is the shortest cut to participate in the process of globalised 'primitive accumulation'. The historical process of 'primitive accumulation' centered in the North gave it the industrial revolution which in turn developed them and helped to beautify the ugly face of capitalism in those countries, leaving us with its ugly face.

The new form of globalised 'primitive accumulation' seems to beautify the faces of tiny elites in our midst while deepening its ugly face for the masses.

No wonder some of our historically perceptive young people are comparing our 'globalised leaders' with the localised chiefs and akidas of yester years.

Issa Shivji - The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)
10 November 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bushmen - the attempted genocide continues

We have posted before here about the harrassment and oppression of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa , the Bushmen . We sadly report that this is continuing .

The Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve have been forced from their ancestral lands in a wave of evictions by the Botswana government. In 2006 they won an historic legal victory when Botswana's High Court ruled that their eviction was 'unlawful and unconstitutional'. Yet , since then the government has arrested more than 50 Bushmen for hunting to feed their families, and banned the Bushmen from using their water borehole during one of the fiercest droughts in years. Hundreds still languish in resettlement camps, unable or scared to return home. Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, "The Botswana government has had nearly a year to implement the court’s ruling. It’s now clear it has no intention of doing so..."

There are 100,000 Bushmen in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Angola. They are the indigenous people of southern Africa, and have lived there for tens of thousands of years. In the middle of Botswana lies the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, a reserve created to protect the traditional territory of the 5,000 Gana, Gwi and Tsila Bushmen (and their neighbours the Bakgalagadi), and the game they depend on.
In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds. In three big clearances, in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forced out. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away. There is plans for a massive diamond mine worth $2.2 billion on the Bushmen’s land.

They now live in resettlement camps outside the reserve. Rarely able to hunt, and arrested and beaten when they do, they are dependent on government handouts. They are now gripped by alcoholism, boredom, depression, and illnesses such as TB and HIV/AIDS. Unless they can return to their ancestral lands, their unique societies and way of life will be destroyed, and many of them will die.

Details emerged of the torture and beating of a group of Bushmen in Kaudwane resettlement camp, Botswana. Fifteen men were arrested in late September for hunting, and at least ten of them were tortured. Police and wildlife guards took three of the men , made them run through the desert for several hours in high temperatures, following them in vehicles. They beat the three with sticks, kicked them, jumped on them and tightened car inner tubes around the necks . Another group of three were made to run through the desert in a separate incident. Other Bushmen were beaten with sticks, threatened, punched, slapped, held without food or water, and had handcuffs tightened around their wrists until they were forced to confess to hunting. A Bushman died in 2005 a few weeks after he was beaten and tortured by wildlife scouts.

Stephen Corry said , ‘Botswana’s police and wildlife guards have tortured or beaten at least 63 Bushmen for hunting over the past three years, and they’ve arrested 53 this year alone. Their policy couldn’t be clearer – to terrorise the Bushmen so that they’re too afraid to go home. It’s a policy that is both brutal, and doomed to failure.’

Friday, November 16, 2007

Market Madness

Even in a “good” year , around one million of the 12.8 million people who live in Burkina Faso do not get enough to eat every year, mostly due to poverty.
This year, grain prices are rising sharply, putting more at risk. Producers are accused of hoarding and merchants of price gouging. Despite government predictions of a national surplus overall, shortfalls are reported in key production areas – and internal markets and exports mean there may be shortages.

The price of millet, a staple product in Burkina, is up 5 percent, sorghum by 11 percent and maize by 23 percent compared to average prices for November. Traders at Sankariare market in Ouagadougou, one of the key cereal markets in the country, said prices are already up by 40 percent or more compared to the same time last year.

"Saying that there is a surplus does not mean in all villages and provinces of the country there will be food for every body," the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Fisheries, Salif Diallo said .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Namibia - New Ways of Living Needed

Namibia's land reform programme is a "zero sum game" that merely swaps one form of poverty for another . The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), a non-governmental human rights organisation based in the capital, Windhoek, said in a report reviewing the achievements so far of Namibia's land reform programme, No Resettlement Available, that "most resettlement farms are not doing very well; in fact, it is not apparent that any are."

Namibia, which won its independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990, inherited a colonial division of land in which about half the agricultural land is owned by 3,500 white farmers. Farms average about 5,000 hectares in the north of the country and 10,000 hectares in the south, while nearly 1 million black Namibians live on "heavily overgrazed" communal lands. Namibia is an arid country of about 825,400sq km, of which only about 100sq km are suitable for dry [non-irrigated] crop cultivation; it suffers drought in six out of every 10 years with a growing population of about 2 million people . While white commercial farmers were heavily subsidised with both capital and large numbers of livestock by past German and South African colonial governments, resettled farmers have neither, and are left to an impoverished lifestyle which is often as bad or worse than the one they had prior to joining the resettlement programme.

The size of the farms allocated and the agricultural methods practiced were among the problems identified. :-
"Black farmers get smaller units than white farmers held, but remain stuck with the same plan to be livestock farmers . Since even the larger white farms were not very profitable this apportionment is both setting black farmers up to fail, and failing to reconceptualise a new Namibian agricultural order that could both feed the growing populationand provide reasonable incomes to the new black commercial farmers."

The reports goes on to explain :-
"Dividing large farms into units of one-fifth to one-seventh the size of the original farm - being the typical resettlement farm size - not only applies the failed colonial model of cattle farming, but further weakens it, in that farms of such small sizes cannot succeed. The large commercial farm of the apartheid era, an old and inefficient structure of agriculture, is being reproduced in a diluted form."

The Namibian government, like those of neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe, has made land reform a central policy tenet, and the government's resettlement scheme has placed 800 farms in black hands in the 17 years since independence . This is about 12 percent of all farms, or less or than one percent a year, so the process will take over 100 years to complete . The report also cited numerous failures in the division and resettlement of commercial farms, from not granting land title and "leaving poor people in some kind of tenant relationship with the government which is not empowering them," to a lack of transparency, the absence of any support for resettled farmers and the overblown bureaucracy of the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement - and the government generally. For example, resettling 9,000 people in 12 years amounts to fewer than 800 a year, hardly more than 125-130 families. Yet it takes a staff of perhaps 1,000 government employees to do this work

The report recommends an overhaul of the agricultural sector, from the "apartheid era" cattle farming, to new farming methods such as "crop cultivation and tropical agriculture". Tropical agriculture is usually labour-intensive subsistence farming and cash-crop production, using techniques like moveable cages that confine animals to feeding on weeds, the use of crop residues as litter in the cages, disposal of human waste in deep pits that are later planted with trees, and the use of ashes as fertiliser and in soap production.

Even poorly paid farm workers (an estimated 222,000 people ) , have their basic needs met: they receive a regular salary, are allowed to have chicken , small stock and perhaps even cattle, and live in reasonably good housing. All of this disappears on a Namibian resettlement farm.

By only abolishing just the apartheid racist system it should be obvious to many that the capitalist economic system cannot solve the problems of poverty and production . With the struggle for acquiring political rights out of the way , it is now time for the struggle for a new society to begin .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NGOs - No Agents of Change

Shamelessly cut and pasted and plagiarised from here and from here

Colonial powers had no desire to finance state welfare programmes for Africans.Government social services for the indigenous population were minimal. Social policy was geared towards ensuring the integrity of the structures of colonial rule. It was designed to secure a sufficient quality of labour to guarantee a reasonably efficient exploitation of the colony. Policy formulation and implementation were usually decentralised, being delegated to the colonial
governor and administration. , colonial powers focused their attention on finding mechanisms for maintaining power through the manipulation and recasting of existing "customary" structures or dominant tribes that would defend or reinforce their own control. With "decentralised despotism" , as it has been described as , "customary" leaders that were compliant to the needs of the invading European State, be it for slavery, for Africa's rich mineral wealth, for agricultural production, or as an outlet for over-production of commodities and which involved the extensive use of Native Authorities to both define and enforce custom, backed up by the armed might of the central state, as the means for controlling, governing and exploiting rural peasantry. Europe, were nurtured and delegated power to maintain order on their behalf .

Social services were not, however, completely absent. In periods of serious outbreaks of epidemics in indigenous settlements, health services were provided principally to stave off the possibility of infections spreading into white society. Limited education also was provided when certain basic skills would be necessary for the administration of the colony or for the particular forms of exploitation. For the most part, the state's function in these sectors was to provide only for a minority. For the majority of the rural population, it was left to a clutch of charities and missionary groups to exchange their spiritual wares for material support in education, health
or other social services. In providing such services, they were also concerned with evangelising amongst the African population, discouraging what they perceived as ignorance, idleness and moral degeneracy, and promoting their own vision of civilisation.

If the welfare of Africans was not a primary concern of colonial administrators and missionaries, their control certainly was. Whites were universally agreed on the necessity for controlling the expectations and behaviour of blacks. African people did not always respond passively to colonial rule. The interwar years saw some of the first serious challenges to white authority in Africa, the emergence of significant, if nascent, nationalist and anti-colonial movements, of organised black labour and indeed of open revolt against the brute injustices of colonialism.

Missionary societies and voluntary organizations were key actors in the ideological war. They provided the administration not only with a cheap form of private welfare,but also with a subtle means of controlling the behaviour of blacks. While colonial philanthropy may have been motivated by religious conviction, status, compassion or guilt, it was also motivated by fear. In Britain and the colonies alike, politicians frequently alluded to the threat of revolution and actively encouraged greater interest in works of benevolence as a solution to social unrest. In short, charity was not only designed to help the poor, it also served to protect the rich.
Charitable organisations actively helped to suppress anti-colonial struggles. For example, in Kenya the Women’s Association, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake (MYWO) and the Christian Council of Kenya (CCK) were both involved in government funded schemes designed to subvert black resistance during the ‘Mau Mau’ uprising. The CCK established a “rehabilitation programme” in response to the emergency. It offered “pastoral care” to internees in the concentration camps, a euphemism for a process of interrogation during which “loyal Africans” were screened from potential “terrorists”. It also established community centres in Nairobi’s more troublesome slums and shantytowns to extend these “rehabilitation” services to urban communities affected by the ‘Mau Mau’ uprising.

There were two distinct groups of voluntary organizations. The first group consisted primarily of the above , overseas missionary societies and charitable bodies, like the CCK and the MYWO
in Kenya, that were present in the colonies before independence. Christian Aid evolved out of a network of such bodies. The second group is typified by organisations like Oxfam, Save the Children and Plan International, who had no direct involvement in the colonies. They were ‘war charities’, established to deal with the human consequences of conflict in Europe. Unlike their colonial counterparts, war charities had no undesirable associations with racist regimes. They had a popular base in Europe that was supportive of their goals of internationalist humanitarian relief. Colonial missionary societies and charitable organizations were clearly tainted in the eyes of the majority by their association with racist colonial oppression. Colonial rationales of ‘trusteeship’ were not longer acceptable. Faced with their potential demise, they transformed
themselves completely. Firstly, they ‘indigenised’ their administrations, gradually replacing white staff, clergy and secular managers with educated blacks.

Secondly, they changed their ideological outlook, replacing the overt racism of the past with a new discourse about ‘development’ that was just beginning to take shape in the international arena. They ‘discovered’ the appeal of expressing concerns about poverty, and they began to condemn the racial prejudice that had created this poverty with as much conviction as they had justified racial exclusion in the past. The exigencies of black resistance and international politics had forced them to reconstruct themselves as indigenous ‘development NGOs’. As the post-War reconstruction effort began in earnest in Europe with the implementation of the Marshall plan in 1948, mass suffering and starvation were no longer an imminent threat in Europe. The
war charities were faced with basic choices. They could either wind down their operations entirely, or they could expand into new areas of activity and new continents.
Oxfam, Plan International and Save the Children were amongst only a handful of organizations that decided to extend their existing humanitarian activities beyond Europe’s boundaries. They embraced the new discourse of development with as much enthusiasm as colonial missionary societies and voluntary organizations were doing locally. They were seduced by arguments about development as a more noble pursuit than humanitarian relief alone, since it was said the former addressed the long-term causes of poverty, whereas the latter merely dealt with short-term symptoms. Oxfam, War on Want and Christian Aid in particular were sympathetic to these views and supported the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s call for the relief of poverty through ‘self-generating agricultural development’. The role of NGOs in the early post
independence period remained marginal. While they carried out ‘projects’ providing services in peripheral areas that the state was disinclined to reach, the bulk of social services were provided by the state under its social contract with the people. The work of NGOs was limited to project work where, armed with their manuals and technical tricks, they focused the attention of ‘the poor’ on finding participatory means for coping with the present rather than seeking justice for past crimes against them. Like their missionary predecessors, they offered the poor blessings in the future (albeit on earth rather than in heaven). And in their local offices they established the same racial divisions of labour and low salaries for local staff as had been customary amongst their missionary predecessors.
The situation changed with the emergence of ‘neo-liberalism’ as the dominant political-economic ideology in the West, epitomised by the rise to power of Thatcher in UK and Reagan in USA. Central to this ideology was the concept of the minimalist state, a concept the realisation of which radically altered the landscape of development practice in Africa and throughout the post-colonial world. According to the neo-liberal consensus, the most important function of economic policy is to safeguard the ‘right’ of a minority to accumulate profits at the highest rate possible (euphemistically referred to as ‘growth’). Only when this freedom is unrestricted, it is said, will others in society benefit from any associated spin-offs (the trickle-down effect). The purpose of ‘development’ is, therefore, to guarantee ‘growth’ so that ultimately other freedoms can be enjoyed at some indeterminate time in the future. State expenditure, according to this dogma, should be directed towards creating an enabling environment for ‘growth’, and not be ‘wasted’ on the provision of public services that, in any case, can ultimately be provided ‘more efficiently’ by private enterprise. These are the mantras that came to be woven through almost every report on economic development since – whether from the World Bank, IMF, WTO, or from bilateral development agencies in the North. This makes socially useful members of society such as schoolteachers and health workers more threatened by conservative economic policies than do those employed as army generals.

Today, most commentators agree that the neo-liberal reforms the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank imposed under adjustment programmes in the 1980s actually caused much of the growth in poverty and inequality we have seen in Africa and Latin America over the past two decades. Externally imposed constraints on health, education and welfare measures and social programmes, tax concessions on profits, liberalisation of price controls, and dismantling of state owned enterprises – all have contributed to widening of internal disparities.
Several studies have linked adjustment programmes to deteriorating health conditions in Africa and Latin America, pointing to increases in the incidence of child malnutrition, in the growth of infectious disease and in infant and maternal mortality rates

Between 1976 and 1992 there were 146 protests against IMF supported austerity measures in 39 countries around the world. These took the form of political demonstrations, strikes and riots. They took place almost exclusively in cities and they reached a peak in the mid 1980s. In
many cases, the immediate response of governments was brute force. such widespread opposition also forced the multilateral and bilateral aid agencies to rethink their approach to development promotion, particularly, how to present the same neo-liberal economic and social programmes with a more "human face". The outcome of these deliberations was the ‘good governance’ agenda of the 1990s and the decision to co-opt NGOs and other civil society organisations to a repackaged programme of welfare provision, a social initiative that could be more accurately described as a programme of social control. And what of the welfare initiatives that accompanied the good governance agenda?

The bilaterals and multilaterals set aside significant volumes of funds aimed at ‘mitigating’ the ‘social dimensions of adjustment’. The purpose of such programmes was to act as palliatives that might minimise the more glaring inequalities that their policies had perpetuated. Funds were made available to ensure that a so-called ‘safety net’ of social services would be provided for the ‘vulnerable’ – but this time not by the state (which had after all been forced to ‘retrench’ away from the social sector) but by the ever-willing NGO sector. The availability of such funds for the NGO sector was to have a profound impact on the very nature of that sector. This was a period in which the involvement of Northern NGOs in Africa grew dramatically. The number of international NGOs operating in Kenya, for example, increased almost three-fold to 134 organisations during the period 1978 to 1988.

In the era of globalisation, and faced with the growing dominance of the multinational corporation in the domestic economy, there remain few legitimate ways for the indigenous capitalist class to accumulate. Their choices are limited either to becoming agents of the multinationals, or turning to crime, corruption, drug-trafficking, sex exploitation, illegal migration and illicit arms. Continued impoverishment, growing conflicts, the state reneging on its social responsibilities, it is into this arena that development NGOs have been plying their
trade. Africa’s decline contributes to the continued justification for their work. NGOs will do better the less stable the world becomes because] finance will become increasingly available to agencies who can deliver ‘stabilising’ social services.
As African governments increasingly become pushed into becoming caretakers of what might be described as the peripheral Bantustans of globalisation, are we seeing a return to the colonial paradigm in which social services are delivered on the basis of favour or charity and their power to placate? The gains of independence have all but been reversed. Development NGOs have become an integral, and necessary, part of a system that sacrifices respect for justice and rights. They have taken the ‘missionary position’ – service delivery, running projects that are motivated by charity, pity and doing things for people

Meanwhile the rich get richer, the poor poorer. While the average income of the top 20% of the world's population was 30 times that of the bottom 20% in 1960, by 1994 it was 78 times. Nearly one quarter of the world's people have an income that is less than $1 a day - a proportion that is rising. The UN Development Programme calculates each year the human poverty index based on a series of measures including the prevalence of illiteracy, life expectancy, degree of malnourishment, and access to health services and safe water. In 1996 over a billion people fell below this measure, the position worsening in 30 countries, the worst figures since UNDP began calculating the index in 1990. Development, it seems, is failing.

Just as the bourgeois revolution that brought the capitalist class into ascendancy in Europe led to the emergence of a particular construct of rights proclaimed against the ancien regime, so Africa's struggle against the colonial yoke gave birth to its own traditions of struggle and the construct of rights. Once thrown into power, the nationalist leadership (comprised usually of representatives of the newly emerging middle class) saw its task as one of preventing centrifugal forces" from competing for political power or seeking greater autonomy from the newly formed "nation". Having grasped political self-determination from colonial authority, it was reluctant to accord the same rights to others. The popular associations that had thrown the nationalist leadership into power gradually began to be seen as an obstacle to the new god of "development". No longer was there a need, it was argued, for popular participation in determining the future. The new governments would bring development to the people. The new government, they claimed, represented the nation and everyone in it. Now that political independence had been achieved, the priority was "development". For the present, said many African presidents, "our people are not ready" - mirroring, ironically, the same arguments used by the former colonial rulers against the nationalists' cries for independence a few years earlier. A transformation had taken place which led to a demobilisation of the popular movement that had given rise to independence. Popular organisations that had emerged out of the struggle for rights (social,political, economic or civil) were provided no further role in the process. Rights were no longer the flag around which the oppressed could rally.
A gradual shift took place where concerns about rights and justice were replaced by concerns about "development". It was about creating an infrastructure that advanced the capacity of the new ruling class to accumulate and smoothing those inefficiencies that hampered the capacity of international capital to continue its exploitation of the country. It was expected that, through trickle-down effects, poverty would gradually be eliminated. This was the agenda of "modernisation", the paradigm of development that was to hold sway until the end of the 1970s.

The victims of years of injustices, whose livelihoods had been destroyed by years of colonial rule, were now defined as "the problem. Structures of accountability and democracy that were inherent in some of the liberation movements were gradually marginalised and replaced by the ascendancy of the expert supported by bureaucratic and centralised decision making under the
guise of "national planning". Political associations were soon to be discouraged, if not actually banned, while trade unions were constrained, incorporated into the structures of the ruling party, or simply disbanded. The political hegemony of the new post-independence rulers had been asserted. Their "misuse" of the state was to become a critical factor in the distortions
brought to the development agenda. Patronage was used frequently to buy favours with different groups in the country. The purpose of development programmes was distorted to ensure progress was brought not to where there was the greatest social or economic need. Instead it was brought to where investment would serve the need to curry favour with particular social or "ethnic" groups whose political alliance was deemed useful at a particular time and where the possibilities for private accumulation by the elite were greatest. Under such conditions, it was hardly surprising that competition for access to resources increasingly manifested themselves along "ethnic" lines. With the demise or suppression of organisations
based on the struggle for rights, old social alliances based on perceived historical grievances against other "ethnic" groups re-emerged. The seeds of subsequent conflicts were already taking root.

Their capacity to attend to the "basic needs" of the population gave them some legitimacy
and allowed, in some instances, reasonable national cohesion. But the development of national consciousness, born fragile and imperfectly in the struggle for rights in the 1950s & 1960s, began to lose sustenance, its life-blood dissipating. The age of the development expert, the relief expert, and subsequently the conflict resolution expert, had arrived.

Despite much flag waving and pontificating about socialism (and in some cases about "Marxism-Leninism"), the social relations of production remained firmly within the framework of the capitalist world economy. Although those who commanded the state changed hands at independence, the structures of the state machinery were rarely transformed in any substantial or radical way. Already intimately integrated into the capitalist world economy before independence, there were to be no major shifts in the forms of production established within the country, nor changes to the terms of trade with the advanced capitalist countries. The economic framework of "underdevelopment" was left unchanged.

As repression of those who were seen to be political opponents became a feature of the new state centralising its control, many NGOs chose to remain silent about that creeping repression. Protest against repression of political opponents was largely left to (northern) human rights organisations. The dilemma faced by NGOs was that such protests could jeopardise the grants that they received from the official aid agencies (who, certainly until the mid1980s, rarely sought to comment on the excesses of African governments). NGOs, especially the Northern ones, also feared that protest could jeopardise their own relationship with the national government to whom they were beholden for a range of privileges (tax or duty exemptions etc.).There was little point, some argued, in making a fuss since "it would only be the poor
who would suffer as a result".

Development NGOs vehemently claim that their work in developing countries is neutral. This assumption of neutrality probably has its origins in the heroic work that NGOs have frequently performed in response to crises. Under such circumstances, NGOs have adopted the essential humanitarian principle that all those affected by disasters should be treated equally and receive assistance equally. Humanitarian responses should take no sides in conflicts. The problem arises when these same principles have been applied in non-crisis conditions such as those that prevail in "development" programmes or, in conditions of prolonged crises especially where, for example as in Somalia, the state itself has long ago collapsed. One of the most important roles that the state performs in any society is to guarantee the conditions for the reproduction of those social relations that enable the ruling class to continue to rule. If the state fails in that essential function, then the future of the ruling class itself is threatened. The new ruling classes of postcolonial Africa soon learned the importance of that - and those who were slow to
learn were quickly swept aside by coups d'etat or civil war.

"Development" (or the political economy, more precisely) as defined by the ruling class was the process that would be used to ensure the reproduction of the required social relations that reproduced impoverishment and injustice for the many, and rapid accumulation of wealth for the few. The fact is that many NGOs have, unwittingly or willingly, inserted themselves over the last few decades as part of the very infrastructure of the political economy that reproduces the unequal social relations of post-colonial Africa.


Widespread corruption and mismanagement are revealed in a confidential presidential audit in Sierra Leone obtained by the BBC. It catalogues grave inadequacies in key areas such as health care, tax collection and the security services.

One arm of government is alleged to have lent more than $1 million (£480,000) to an unspecified recipient in the few months before the recent handover of power.
At one ministry, a project worth almost $500,000 was apparently financed by an international donor - but the money never reached the intended recipients.
The Sierra Leonean Ministry of Agriculture is described as having "almost zero productivity" at the lower levels of employment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blood Diamonds - The Trade Continues

Problems are often swept under the carpet by supposed reforms and agreements and voluntary self-regulation . During the 1990s, diamonds were a significant factor in the civil wars that devastated Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nearly 4 billion dollars worth of diamonds are believed to have passed through the hands of the Angolan rebel group UNITA in the 1992-98 period. Since 2005 export of rough diamonds from Cote d'Ivoire has been banned by the United Nations due to violation of a ceasefire agreement between the Abidjan government and the New Forces guerrillas, which control the north of the country.

Yet the embargo does not appear to have prevented Ivorian diamonds from entering Europe. Last month it was reported that Belgian judicial authorities had confiscated 14 million euros (21 million dollars) worth of illegal diamonds of Ivorian origin. This was despite a screening system introduced by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre to block 'conflict diamonds' -- gemstones sold to fund a war effort.

"The borders of Cote d'Ivoire are porous," said Ian Smillie, research coordinator with Partnership Africa Canada, an independent group that works to build sustainable human development in Africa. "The borders of its neighbours are also porous. Diamonds don't stop in Burkina Faso, if that is where they are going. They all reach world markets in Europe, the U.S., Japan and India."

"..The diamond industry has failed to live up to its promise to create an auditable tracking system to ensure that diamonds are conflict-free." - Charmian Gooch, director of Global Witness

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Poverty of South Africa

Socialist Banner have often highlighted [ the last occasion being here ] the failure of the ending of apartheid to significantly improve the lives of the majority of South Africans and also the failure of the South African working people to use their newly acquired political rights to fundamentally change their society . We now read that the number of South Africans living on less than $1 a day has more than doubled in a decade since shortly after the end of apartheid.

The South African Institute of Race Relations survey said 4.2 million people were living on $1 a day in 2005. This is up from 1.9 million in 1996, two years after the first all-race elections. SAIRR says poverty is also increasing among the white population while inequality was growing among the black population.

"Poverty has increased both in absolute numbers and proportionally," SAIRR said in a statement .

"It is going to take a long time to get rid of the poverty," said SAIRR researcher Marius Roodt.

The author of the Accelerated & Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa , a government-backed report on unemployment released last month , put it: "Poverty is something that we are likely to see in South Africa for many generations."

Socialist Banner has said in the past that the ANC only ever promised to be a party that could run South African capitalism better than a white-controlled government, neglecting to tell the exploited masses, that it is the capitalist system that controls governments, not vice versa.
Whichever way the African working class voted one thing was certain, they were only ever acquiescing in their own future exploitation.

Gunboat Diplomacy

Further to earlier blogs on Africom here , here and the last one here , Socialist Banner came across this news item where the American gun-boat is showing the flag . The guided missile destroyer USS Porter docked in Mombasa the other weekend, only the third US naval vessel to do so since 1999. Rear Admiral Jim Hart, commander of the Combined Task Force for the Horn of Africa, flew down from Djibouti. The US Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Ranneberger, arrived from Nairobi in a convoy of black-windowed vehicles. The visit of the USS Porter was significant.

Rear Admiral Hart gave the mission statement, speaking about assisting African navies, training African armies and making Africa safer for "development" and "prosperity". And much other such hype and cant .

Bristling with electronics and packed with Tomahawk missiles, this single destroyer from the US Fifth Fleet could probably sink the entire Kenyan Navy on its own. The fact that the ship is named Porter after the American naval officer who helped suppress the Islamic Barbary corsairs of Algiers in the early 19th Century was according to its commander "just a coincidence".

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Market Madness

We said in our previous blog that capitalism because it is motivated by the market creates so many contradictions . Yet again , we read from the World Food Programme (WFP) that capitalist solutions to food scarcity can actually exasperate the shortage crises .

“We’re encouraging farmers to grow more and more,” he said. If the emergencies in the region end then WFP will stop buying and the farmers could get stuck with a lot of unwanted food that they cannot sell .

Even worse

If WFP were to buy up too much locally-produced food, prices for local consumers could rise and that could lead to food insecurity for the poor. “The worst thing that could happen is that in trying to stop a famine in one place we create a famine in another,”

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Market Madness

Food monitors are concerned that people in West African countries who rely on international imports of wheat and rice are going to struggle to buy enough to eat this year due to high commodity prices.

Poor global production of wheat means worldwide prices reached a record high in September 2007 and remained volatile in October. Rice prices have also risen steadily since January 2007 according to the FAO, and high fuel prices have added higher shipping costs .

“We’re concerned,” said Henri Josserand, head of the FAO’s early warning unit in Rome. “We see that prices are going to be quite high and that’s going to mean that there are big problems of access to food for people in some West African countries this year.”

Mauritania and Senegal are the two countries in the region which rely the most on international markets rather than domestic farming. Wheat is a staple food in both but all of it is imported. Mauritania grows just 30 percent of the food its 3 million people need and imported wheat prices have exploded by over 75 percent there this year, from US$200 for a ton to US$356, according to the food monitoring group FEWSNET. Wheat is used to feed humans and animals in Mauritania.
“The main reason people moved to eating wheat was because it was less expensive. It became very important in basic diets,” said Salif Sow, Sahel representative of FEWSNET.
In Senegal, the government has cut import tariffs on wheat yet there has still been a 12 percent increase in the cost of bread in the last month.
In Guinea Bissau, where imported rice is a staple, there is also a concern. The World Food Programme has warned that prices for rice have increased by 40 percent in 2007 compared to 2006.

“Good harvests in one country in West Africa does not necessarily mean food security for the people that live there as West Africa’s highly integrated markets mean food moves freely from one country to another.”

A large part of the grain grown in Niger will pass over the border to Nigeria , and Niger could be left with a shortage as happened in the major crisis in 2005. In that instance, much of the grain grown in Niger was found to have been used to feed chickens in some of Nigeria’s vast chicken farms, even as people starved in Niger.

Once again , experts confirm that the capitalist market of buying and selling does not satisfy the basic human needs of society .

South Africa - the Struggle Continues

The ending of apartheid brought political rights and political power to the black working class , something that should be wielded with political knowledge . But in post-apartheid South Africa that lesson is still to be learned .

"Many of the millions who are unemployed, or whose jobs have been casualised, are even worse off than under apartheid: about 20 million of our people are still mired in poverty, we still face many challenges, and the task of transformation is far from complete" said Zwelinzima Vavi, general-secretary of the country's largest trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

The major beneficiaries of the ANC's free market polices are those that accrued their wealth under apartheid.
"We are faced with the contradictory situation that at least 80 percent of the whites who were already rich in 1994 - thanks to apartheid - are now much richer, while 60 percent of the blacks who were already poor in 1994 - as a direct result of apartheid - are now poorer," economist Sampie Terreblanche commented.

About a third of South Africa's roughly 48 million people live on US$2 or less a day, yet , South Africa contributes about 25 percent of the African continent's gross domestic product . The growing disparity in income between rich and poor now ranks as one of the widest in the world.

"The ANC has failed dismally in its main task: to shift back the frontiers of poverty... ANC policies over the past 13 years have created a black elite, the so-called 'black diamonds', of around 2 million people, and a black middle class of about 6 million. The gap between the roughly 8 million rich blacks and the 20 to 25 million poor blacks has become dangerously big. other 10 to 15 million blacks are neither poor nor rich," Terreblanche said "The fact that about 20 percent of blacks have become rich, and even very rich, while 60 percent of blacks remain poor and have to live in deteriorating socio-economic conditions, is a deplorable and dangerous state of affairs." Terreblanche described the policy of black economic empowerment , which was designed to overcome the economic injustices of the past , had now "become derailed by corruption, nepotism and careerism ... and built a comprehensive network of patronage," he said

The working class of South Africa must free themselves fromthe power struggles within the ANC and jettison their loyalties to the ANC . To act in their own interests , and not serve the political connected elite's .

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Background on the largest U.S. military programs in Africa:

AFRICOM: Begun Oct. 1, it is expected to be fully operational within a year. Oversees U.S. military operations in 53 African nations — all the continent except Egypt. Previously, Africa was split among three U.S. commands. Staff of 200 due to grow to around 800. Expected to focus on training African militaries and providing logistic support to peacekeeping missions.

HORN OF AFRICA: Since 2002, about 1,800 U.S. military personnel have been at former French Foreign Legion base in eastern African nation of Djibouti. Mission has evolved from capturing and killing terrorists to training local military forces, providing aid to the needy and gathering intelligence. Program covers Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Yemen, Seychelles and Somalia, where al-Qaida-liked terrorists are believed active. U.S. Navy intervened in waters off Somalia twice last week to help ships seized by pirates.

TRANS-SAHARA INITIATIVE: U.S. troops training armies in northern and western Africa in this $100 million-a-year program. Covers Algeria, Chad, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia and Senegal, with focus on training local security forces to control borders and combat potential terror threats.

GULF OF GUINEA: Navy ships from Naples, Italy-based 6th Fleet patrol Gulf of Guinea, region on Africa's western coast that accounts for 17 percent of U.S. oil imports. Area stretches from Ivory Coast to Angola. U.S. naval presence rose from just a handful of days in 2004 to daily beginning this year. The U.S. naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea — measured by "ship days" — has increased more than 50 percent since last year, said Lt. Brian Badura, a spokesman for the 6th Fleet
A Navy cruiser, the USS Fort McHenry, self-sustaining, helicopter-equipped warship , arrived in Senegal's capital on Monday to begin a half-year training exercise for African naval forces around the Gulf of Guinea.
Africom's creation has provoked much skepticism on the continent that one of the most basic questions — where it will be located — remains unresolved. So far, only Liberia has publicly stated a willingness to host Africom . For now, Africom has just over 200 staff members, and is based in Stuttgart, Germany. Theresa Whelan, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, estimates 80 percent of the command's eventual staff of around 800 will be based outside Africa.
"Africans have a feeling Africom represents something more than what is being sold to them," said Wafula Okumu, an analyst at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies.
It is meant to protect America's competitive stake in African oil and other resources increasingly sought by rising powers like China and India. The continent has surpassed the Persian Gulf as the leading supplier of oil to the United States. U.S. officials concede America's strategic interests come first. Moeller said increasing security in the gulf is partly an issue of open markets. The U.S. wants to work with "African partners to make sure the resources that emanate from the continent are available to the global community," he said.
The U.S. military is already well-entrenched in Africa, spending around $250 million a year on military assistance programs, said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Proponents of Africom talk about its possible humanitarian role , that provides for a a deputy commander who is a civilian responsible for overseeing civil-military affairs and coordinating with other U.S. government agencies. Yet observers such as Okumu at the Institute for Security Studies point out "Why should they be using the military to promote development when they already have institutions within the U.S. government that are better capable and more acceptable?"
Some officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development worry their humanitarian programs could be "stigmatized" by direct links with the military, which has melded aid programs with combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — wars unpopular in most of Africa.
The strategic importance of Africa and its natural resources means that Africa will now remain on the radar screen of the United States .