Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tribes or Nations ??

From The London Times

" Siphiwe Hlophe, founder of Swaziland for Positive Living (Swapol) led a 1,000-strong demonstration in the capital Mbabane to protest that eight of his 13 wives, plus their children and an entourage of bodyguards, maids and hangers-on, had chartered a plane to Dubai for a shopping spree. English public-school-educated King Mswati III, whose personal take of the national budget is half the health budget, is estimated to have spent £2.2m on the trip and is planning a huge 40th birthday party.

Swaziland has the worst HIV infection rate in the world; 31% for women.
It is also pathetically poor, with nearly 70% of its people living on less than 50 US cents (about 27p) a day.

In Swaziland the king and the ruling elite refer to the Swazi nation but pretend that Swazis are a traditional tribe, utterly obedient to the king and his chiefs. The king misuses tradition to appropriate the country’s meagre resources, prevent development and keep the people subservient.

What is the difference between a tribe and a nation anyway? Tribalism describes a frame of mind all human beings suffer from: a pig-headed “my group, right or wrong” attitude. In Africa people are always referred to as members of tribes, but how can 25 million Yoruba or 33 million Hausa people be called tribes? If they are, then surely the English, Welsh and Scots must be British tribes. Does the media refer to former Yugoslavia as tribal or the Israel-Palestine conflict as a land dispute between two semitic tribes. That’s how it would be described if they lived in Africa.

Africa’s problem is not tribalism as such, but the utterly incoherent nation states cohabited by different ethnic groups bequeathed to Africans half a century ago. Africans had no part in the creation of their nation states. At the end of the 19th century, Europeans drew lines on maps of places they had never been to. Fifty years ago the filled-in spaces became Ghana, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, countries that had never existed before. Suddenly pitched into independence, they had no sense of common nationhood. By contrast the ruling Europeans had always emphasised ethnic differences and suppressed any sense of nationalism.

Beneath the surface of Africa’s weak nation states lie old cultures, old communities, very different societies with their own laws and languages. Nigeria contains some 400 different ethnic groups. Uganda has more than 40. They lack what we take for granted: a common conception of nationhood and national citizenship. The unification of Africa remains a distant dream, and separatism is frowned on because it could lead to bloody disintegration..."

We also read that a meeting of more than 200 African kings and traditional rulers has bestowed the title "king of kings" on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The rulers, wearing gold crowns, sequined capes and colourful robes met in the Libyan town of Benghazi. Sheikh Abdilmajid from Tanzania told the BBC that the traditional rulers could play an important role. "The people believe in the chiefs and kings more than they believe in their governments,"
While Col Gaddafi told the assembled dignitaries "We want an African military to defend Africa, we want a single African currency, we want one African passport to travel within Africa,"

Socialist Banner declares that only through democratic de-centralised world socialism can the African peoples become united but also Africa will be unified with the rest of the world and enjoy common ownership of the worlds treasury.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Political whores

In Kenya there is a proposal to pay hefty salaries to the wives of the prime minister and vice-president. A leaked document says the head of civil service Francis Muthaura has directed that they each be paid $6,000 (£3,000) every month.

A government memo leaked to the local media directs that Ida Odinga and Pauline Musyoka, wives of the prime minister and vice-president respectively, will be rewarded for their roles as hostesses.
The pay is also supposed to recognise their role for upholding national family values.

Socialist Banner believes it is more the rich and powerful feathering their own nests at the expense of the poor and vulnerable . We can only agree with Transparency International's Gladwell Otieno who said the move is a confirmation that Kenyan politicians are just a greedy caste, looking after themselves at the expense of poor Kenyans recovering from the effects of post-election violence.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rich White Justice

A white farmer who threw the body of his fired black worker into a lions' pen has been freed on parole after less than three years in prison. Mark Scott-Crossley was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for assaulting Nelson Chisale, a former employee, and throwing his body to lions at his game farm who devoured him. The Supreme Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to five years, saying there was no proof Chisale had been alive when he was fed to the animals.

Chisale had been fired from Scott-Crossley's construction business at the game farm and returned two months later to collect his belongings. When he did, he was attacked with machetes and tied to a stake, where he was left bleeding for six or seven hours before being thrown into a lion enclosure. Only Chisale's skull and some gnawed bones and bloody clothing were found.
Another farm worker was sentenced to 15 years for carrying out the assault, but the trial judge said Scott-Crossley was the mastermind.

The Confederation of South African Trade Unions slammed his release. "It is clear that those who are rich and white will continue to be treated differently to those who are poor," it said.

Rich White Justice

A white farmer who threw the body of his fired black worker into a lions' pen has been freed on parole after less than three years in prison. Mark Scott-Crossley was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for assaulting Nelson Chisale, a former employee, and throwing his body to lions at his game farm who devoured him. The Supreme Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to five years, saying there was no proof Chisale had been alive when he was fed to the animals.

Chisale had been fired from Scott-Crossley's construction business at the game farm and returned two months later to collect his belongings. When he did, he was attacked with machetes and tied to a stake, where he was left bleeding for six or seven hours before being thrown into a lion enclosure. Only Chisale's skull and some gnawed bones and bloody clothing were found.
Another farm worker was sentenced to 15 years for carrying out the assault, but the trial judge said Scott-Crossley was the mastermind.

The Confederation of South African Trade Unions slammed his release. "It is clear that those who are rich and white will continue to be treated differently to those who are poor," it said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Poisoning Africa

In August 2006 a local company hastily fly-tipped truckload after truckload of chemical waste at around 15 locations around the city.

Trafigura had chartered the ship carrying the waste, which unloaded the waste in Ivory Coast, after a failure to agree deals to get it treated in the Netherlands and Nigeria.It said it had contracted a local firm, Tommy, to handle the waste in good faith.

In an out-of-court settlement, Trafigura agreed to pay the Ivorian government around $200m (£100m) in one of the largest ever payments of its kind.

Thousands of victims say they have yet to receive compensation - or say that what they have been given - around $500 (£250) in the main injury category - falls short of the amount they have lost in medical bills and earnings.

Trafigura also disputes whether the chemical slops were the cause of the large number of medical cases.

The United Nations says the dumping of the 500m tonnes of waste led to at least 16 deaths and more than 100,000 other victims needing medical treatment.

Two years on it is still here.

The UN special rapporteur on the dumping of toxic waste, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, recently spent four days in the country speaking to officials and victims.

"After almost two years, these sites have still not been decontaminated and continue to threaten the lives and health of tens of thousands of residents, across different social spectrums in Abidjan.The government has informed me that it does not have the technical capacity to clean up and decontaminate the dumpsites in a timelier manner," he said in a statement."This should be an absolute priority."

Congo horror

A new report based on polling data carried out in eastern Congo by an international human rights group and the research centers of two prominent American universities entitled "Living With Fear," makes interesting reading .

Though rich in diamonds, copper, gold and other minerals, most of Congo's people remain poor and desperate.

80 percent of respondents said they had been displaced at least three times in the last 15 years. 75 75 percent said their cattle or livestock had been stolen.
66 percent said their home had been destroyed or confiscated.
61 percent of those polled in the east said they witnessed the violent death of a family member or friend
60 percent said one more of their household members had disappeared
34 percent said they themselves had been abducted for more than a week.
53 percent reported being forced to work or being enslaved by armed groups,
31 percent said they had been wounded in fighting,
35 percent said they had been tortured.
46 percent had been threatened with death,
23 percent had witnessed sexual violence,
16 percent had been sexually violated —
12 percent raped multiple times.

"Peace, social reconstruction, justice and reconciliation remain distant dreams in Congo."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

islam and judaism

It hurts too much to lie on his back, so the 7-year-old has spent the past month stretched out on his stomach. His two grandmothers sit on the hospital bed beside him, fanning the pink flesh left exposed by his teacher's whip.

The Quranic teacher who did this to him is behind bars.

But what is most significant is that the boy's father — a poor farmer who sold part of his harvest to pay for the bus fare to the hospital — filed the charges against the teacher himself. In doing so, this man with cracked lips and bloodshot eyes braved the wrath of his entire village, including his own father, who considers all teachers in Senegal's Islamic schools to be holy .Even hospitals have become wary of treating beaten talibe, or Quranic students, for fear of retaliation from the religious community.

In hundreds of these schools in the mostly Muslim West African country, children are made to beg in the streets and are beaten if they don't bring back enough money. One 10-year-old was beaten to death with his hands tied behind his back and his mouth stuffed with rocks. Despite laws passed to protect children, the courts have convicted only a handful of Quranic teachers and quickly cave in the face of powerful clerics. The respect for Islamic schools comes from a centuries-old tradition of families sending their sons to study the Quran and till fields in exchange for food. In the 1970s, as drought devastated West Africa, schools moved to the cities and Islamic teachers sent children out to beg in the streets. These days, boys as young as 3 are beaten not for failing to master the Quran, but for failing to bring back enough money — a change families often are unaware of.

The boy also had to beg for food. Some days all he got was a discarded fish head, or a spoonful of rice.By the second week, he was hungry all the time. On July 2, he begged until dark and got the 50 cents, but spent part of it on biscuits. When the marabout found out, the boy says, he got whipped until the skin on his back fell off. Hospital officials believe the whip was laced with metal.With around 30 children in his care, the marabout was netting $430 a month, three times the salary of an average citizen and as much as a government official.

"Ask yourself, what is this money used for? The kids are not fed, so it's not for food. They wear rags, so it's not for clothes. They don't have mattresses, so it's not for their beds," says Paul Ndiaye, of the Swiss aid group Sentinelles, who has spent the last 10 years trying to get courts to take action against abusive marabouts. "This is a sham on a grand scale under the cover of religion."

In Senegal that the word for "to educate" — "yaar" is the same as the word for the stick to discipline students.

Meanwhile , Israel's Law of Return guarantees citizenship for any Jew in need, and these days the country is especially concerned about boosting its Jewish population to compete with the Arabs. But the Ethiopians have proved the hardest immigrant group to absorb, and the Falash Mura, some critics feel, is pushing the limits. As a whole they are poor, plagued by crime, violence and substance abuse, feeling shut out of a world very different from rural Africa. But despite all the preparations, most Ethiopian immigrants over age 35 go straight onto welfare after reaching Israel, according to the Jewish Agency.

That's no reason for shutting out the Falash Mura, says Mazor Bahyna, an Ethiopian in the 120-member Knesset, or parliament.

"I think Israel has an obligation to prove that it is not a racist state," he says. "If everyone was blond-haired and had blue eyes, they would bring them."

"There is no end to reunification," said the Jewish Agency's Konforti.

Israel has struggled for years to figure out which Ethiopians should be allowed in. Each time it has attempted to end the immigration by emptying the Gondar camps and airlifting their inhabitants to Israel, thousands more have flooded into the camps, scrambling to prove their Jewishness.The argument now seems to have come down to numbers: Israel says the last of the Falasha Mura who qualify for immigration arrived in Israel earlier this month, while the American groups say some 8,700 have been left behind.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has upheld the Israeli list, effectively marking the end

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Salving ones conscience

Paleontologists hunting fossils of early man in the Rift Valley of southern Ethiopia call the area the cradle of mankind. This year it's bursting with life, especially in the fields where local farmers grow barley, potatoes and teff, a cereal used to make the flat, spongy bread injera. As a warm July rain falls on a patchwork of smallholdings half a day's walk from the nearest road, the women harvest yams, the men plow behind sturdy oxen and fat chickens, goats and cows roam outside mud huts. And yet for all the apparent abundance, this area is so short of food that many are dying from starvation.
It is reported that in the six weeks to mid-July, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated 11,800 Ethiopian children for severe acute malnutrition. At a tented hospital in the town of Kuyera, 50 out of 1,000 died, double the rate MSF expects for a full-fledged famine.
"It's very bizarre," says Jean de Cambry, a Belgian MSF veteran of crises from Sudan to Afghanistan. "It's so green. But you have all these people dying of hunger."

Over time, sustained food aid creates dependence on handouts and shifts focus away from improving agricultural practices to increase local food supplies. Ethiopia exemplifies the consequences of giving a starving man a fish instead of teaching him to catch his own. This year the U.S. will give more than $800 million to Ethiopia: $460 million for food, $350 million for HIV/AIDS treatment — and just $7 million for agricultural development. Why bother with development when shortfalls are met by aid?
Ethiopian farmers can't compete with free food, so they stop trying. Over time, there's a loss of key skills, and a country that doesn't have to feed itself soon becomes a country that can't.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Silent Harvest of Death

Democratic Republic of Congo, a country the size of western Europe, there is an acute lack of medical care. Functioning public hospitals and clinics are rare - and those that do exist are in an appalling condition. Yet there are Congolese doctors who recall that in the 1960s the Kinshasa General Hospital was one of the best on the continent. Patients would be referred there from South Africa. Now , the current head of the accident and emergency department at the Kinshasa General, Dr Mbwembwe Kabamba, says he has no medical stocks at all.

"I don't have any bandages," Dr Kabamba said, "my cupboard is bare...I have all these people, poor people, and they are waiting for treatment. Some of them will die for lack of an operation. That is the reality...I am watching a lot of people dying and it hurts me. These are innocent people, and the government is there with its big villas and cars. I cannot accept that."

The International Rescue Committee which estimates that over the past decade an astonishing total of 5.4 million Congolese have died from easily preventable causes.

That is 5.4 million deaths over and above the "normal" mortality figure that would be expected in a poor African nation.

Only a tiny proportion - a fraction of 1% - died from violence. Most died for mundane reasons associated with malnutrition, simple diseases or childbirth.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The politics of markets

Socialist Banner is not innocent or naive enough to not suspect that the following story is one purposefully planted in the media by American propaganda psy-ops to discredit Sudan .

However, we know that many nations find that the world market for food-stuffs is more profitable than the the home domestic market and that the export of food while people starve is a well-documented phenomena and therefore feel that the essential elements of the story is more than probably true .

Even as it receives a billion pounds of free food from international donors, Sudan is growing and selling vast quantities of its own crops to other countries, capitalizing on high global food prices at a time when millions of people in its war-riddled region of Darfur barely have enough to eat.

Sudan is growing wheat for Saudi Arabia, sorghum for camels in the United Arab Emirates and vine-ripened tomatoes for the Jordanian Army.
Last year, the United States government, as part of its response to the emergency in Darfur, shipped in 283,000 tons of sorghum, and that is about the same amount that Sudan exported. This year, Sudanese companies are on track to ship out twice that amount, even as the United Nations is being forced to cut rations to Darfur. Many European countries which can buy relief food locally bought 117,000 tons of Sudanese sorghum last year but United Nations officials said they would like to buy more , however Sudanese suppliers could make more money with exports.

Professor Eric Reeves, an outspoken activist who has written frequently on the Darfur crisis, called this anomaly described Sudanese government’s strategy as one to manipulate “national wealth and power to further enrich itself and its cronies, while the marginalized regions of the country suffer from terrible poverty.”

Sudan has 208 million acres of arable land, with less than a quarter being cultivated.

“Sudan could be self-sufficient,” said Kenro Oshidari, the director of the United Nations World Food Program in Sudan. “It does have the potential to be the breadbasket of Africa.”

Saturday, August 09, 2008

French War Criminals

France played an active role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, a report unveiled Tuesday by the Rwandan government said, naming French political and military officials it says should be prosecuted. The 500-page report alleged that France was aware of preparations for the genocide, contributed to planning the massacres and actively took part in the killing.

It named former French prime minister Edouard Balladur, former foreign minister Alain Juppe and then-president Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, among 13 French politicians accused of playing a role in the massacres.Dominique de Villepin, who was then Juppe's top aide and later became prime minister, was also among those listed in the Rwandan report.The report names 20 military officials as being responsible.

"French forces directly assassinated Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis... French forces committed several rapes on Tutsi survivors," said a justice ministry statement

"The overwhelming nature of France's support to the Rwandan policy of massacres... shows the complicity of French political and military officials in the preparation and execution of the genocide," the statement said.

The military and humanitarian Operation Turquoise carried out by the French in Rwanda between June and August 1994 abetted the killings perpetrated by militia.

The 1994 genocide in the central African nation left around 800,000 people -- mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus -- dead, according to the United Nations.

Socialist Banner has previously reported on ther blood stained hands of Mitterand and more background to the actual events of the genocide here

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Poisoning the Poor

Greenpeace is calling for an end to what it calls "poisoning the poor". It wants electronics manufacturers to stop using hazardous materials and to take responsibility for the whole lifecycle of their products.

In Ghana the piles of old computers are increasing every week even though the trade is illegal.

As we upgrade at an ever faster rate, campaigners are calling for action to prevent toxic, electronic or "e" waste being dumped on poor countries.

The United Nations believes we generate between 20m and 50m tonnes of e-waste around the world each year. Agbobloshie dump site in Ghana's capital, Accra, is a computer graveyard. But PCs are not given a decent, safe burial - they are dumped on this expanding, toxic treasure trove. Many of the well-known brands are there: Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Philips, Canon, Hewlett Packard.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace took soil and water samples from the scrap market and found high concentrations of leads, phthalates or plastic softeners and dioxins that are known to promote cancer.

"Chemicals like lead are very dangerous especially for children. They affect the brain when it is developing and therefore cause a lower IQ when they grow up," Greenpeace's Kim Schoppink says."Other chemicals we found cause cancer or disrupt your hormone system."

There are international laws banning the export of computer waste but people are getting round this by labelling the shipments "usable second-hand goods".

"My research shows that about 90% of the computers are just junk. They just don't work. This is dumping."

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Zambia : Political Crisis

President Levy Mwanawasa suffered a head stroke on 29 June whilst attending the African Union Conference in Egypt. It was announced by the South African president Thabo Mbeki that Mwanawasa was dead (30 June). The following day Mbeki apologised to the Zambian High Commission to revoke the previous statement. But all the same the damage was done—there was an outcry among Zambian society that Mwanawasa was dead and the government was only hiding the real fact.

It is sad to note that Mwanawasa is hospitalised in a military hospital in Paris and his relatives and friends are refused permission to visit him. It is a fact that Mwanawasa is seriously sick and this has created a political crisis within the ruling MMD. Many prominent Zambians are waiting to know about what the ruling MMD has in store for the Zambian people in case Mwanawasa becomes physically incapacitated. Why is the MMD so discreet about Mwanawasa’s sickness?

The problem with African politics consists in the so-called political misconceptions people may have about leaders. Many ordinary people in Zambia believe that Mwanawasa is a charismatic political leader—just like his predecessors Chuluba and Kaunda. There is deep reverence mixed with fear concerning the sickness of President Mwanawasa. There is a feeling among many ignorant Zambians that there isn’t anyone within the MMD who can replace him.

Recent revelations by local government deputy minister Teta Mashimbo that there is a successor crisis within the ruling MMD has caused consternation across the entire political fraternity. Mashimbo gave a political speech in which he alleged that the senior officials were divided concerning the possible successor Mwa Nawasa. More or less his pronouncements have been strongly repudiated from within the MMD. There is a prayer mania and calls for reconciliation ever since Mwanawasa became sick.

However, the unrepentant PF president Michael Sata has come out in the light and told the MMD government to put matters straight. Basking in the honeymoon of his political reconciliation with President Mwanawasa—Sata has advised the MMD to convene a medical board that will tell the nation the facts about Mwanawasa’s medical proceedings. Sata said there is a clause within the Zambian constitution which allows the creation of a medical board whenever the president becomes physically incapacitated. There are calls for political reconciliation during the sickness of Mwanawasa and it is believed that to start talking about a successor is an act of witchcraft. It is an act of witchcraft in the sense that the MMD without Mwanawasa at the helm is doomed to destruction.

We in the WSM do not enter into political reconciliation nor participate in national prayers—we have remained convinced that capitalism will for ever create social, economic and political problems for the workers in every part of the world and we advocate the creation of a socialist and co-operative world in which poverty and fear will give way to plenty and happiness.

Kephas Mulenga