Thursday, December 27, 2012

Congo and Cobalt

Many of the fastest-growing countries in the world are in Africa, the poorest continent on the planet. World Bank statistics indicate that the world's heaviest concentration of malnutrition remains in Africa, afflicting as many as 15 percent of all children under 5 in some countries in the southern and eastern regions. And in June, the U.N. Children's Fund reported that 1.5 million children were at imminent risk of starvation in the western half of the continent. Nevertheless, some African countries preparing to cash in on mineral wealth in East Africa include Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Ethiopia, based on recent discoveries of oil and gas.

"I don't believe that African nations are even close to understanding the enormous wealth that is their natural resource endowment,"
David Doepel, chair of the Africa Research Group at Australia's Murdoch University.

In 2010, Guinea alone represented over eight percent of total world bauxite production, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have a combined share of 6.7 percent of the total world copper production, and Ghana and Mali together account for 5.8 percent of the total world gold production, while Ethiopia also accounts for one-sixth of the world's tantalum production.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) holds two major distinctions. First, it is the richest country in the world in terms of mineral wealth, at an estimated $24 trillion, and it is the country in which the highest number of people – estimates go as high as ten million -  have died due to war since World War II. The wars in that country have claimed nearly the same number of lives as having a 9/11 every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- all combined and then doubled. The Congo’s staggering economic potential. The DRC contains 5% of the world’s copper and 50% of its cobalt.

Cobalt holds a critical role in the future green energy economy for its use in solar panels and in the blades and magnets for wind turbines and for its use in the rechargeable batteries used in electric vehicles and consumer electronics. Cobalt is also used in the high-speed, high-strength wear-resistant alloys that are used in aerospace and military technologies. Cobalt also has many industrial uses such as a catalyst in desulfurizing crude oil and in hydrogen generation oxidation. It is used in natural gas-to-liquid technology, orthopedics and life sciences. Even though cobalt is one of the thirty most abundant elements in the earth's crust, it has an extremely low concentration, just 0.002 percent so it is rare to find it in economical standalone deposits. Identified world cobalt resources are about 15 million tons. The vast majority of these resources are in nickel-bearing laterite deposits, with most of the rest occurring in nickel-copper sulfide deposits hosted in mafic and ultramafic rocks in Australia, Canada, and Russia, and in the sedimentary copper deposits of Congo (Kinshasa) and Zambia. 48% of the world's 2007 mined cobalt was a byproduct of nickel mining from sulfide and laterite deposits. An additional 37% was produced as a byproduct of copper operations, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia. The copper deposits in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the world’s top producers of cobalt and the political situation in the Congo influences the price of cobalt significantly.

Life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo is less than 48 years, one of five children will die before age five and almost 60% of the country’s 71 million people live on less than $1.25 per day. The DRC ranks as one of the least equitable countries in the 2011 Gender Inequality Index (GII), which shows rankings of gender equality based on a composite index of reproductive health, years of schooling, parliamentary representation, and participation in the labour market. Transparency International’s 2011 corruption perception index ranked the DRC 168th. The UN believes over 50% of the region’s 200 mines are controlled by armed forces which employ illegal taxation, extortion, forced labor, and violence to ensure the flow of mineral wealth. According to one CNN report eastern Congo’s armed groups generate some $180 million through the illicit trade of tin, coltan, tungsten, and gold which are easily traded across the porous eastern frontier and funneled into the international market.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Africom to expand

 US planned military expansion in Africa will see deployment of US soldiers and drones in as many as 35 nations dotted across the continent in the coming year under the familiar guise of 'fighting terrorism'. AFRICOM commander US General Carter Ham announced the US military would begin or expand operations in Mali, Sudan, Algeria, Somalia, and more than two dozen other countries.

 According to some, the US Africa Command has merely served to increase resource exploitation and imperial expansion, instigate more violence in Africa, and intensified regional conflicts.

South Africa's Inequality

10 percent of earners in South Africa take away 101 times the earnings of the bottom 10 percent of the population. The gap between the rich and poor people in South Africa is fast increasing and poor people are fed up that they live in deep poverty yet the bosses for whom they work live in luxury. Recent reports have shown that Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of most of these large mining firms like Anglo Platinum and Goldfields earn in the excess of R20million a year yet their workers receive meagre wages and the social conditions that they live in resemble a squatter camp.

 Unemployment rate is currently at 25 percent

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fact of the Day

A report indicates that more than 30 percent of Namibia's children live in poverty.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Time to bury the ghost of Nkrumah and abolish capitalism

The need for African Socialism and a Socialist Party of Ghana

Elections in Ghana- December 2012

'Ghana's election a close contest despite boom' -  Xan Rice writes in The Financial Times, 6th December 2012: “The presidential election in Ghana, west Africa's second-largest economy is fiercely contested; the prize is control over billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues expected to flow in the next four years, giving the victorious party the potential means not only to transform the economy but also to stay in power for a long time. With Ghana's economy booming – the International Monetary Fund predicts 8.2% growth this year, thanks to oil, cocoa and gold production and a strong building and service sector – the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) might appear to have a strong advantage.
But perhaps uniquely in Africa, Ghana has developed a recent tradition of tight elections, with power changing hands from the nominally centre-left NDC to the centre-right New Patriotic Party (NPP) and back again. The peaceful handovers have helped to attract foreign investment. “Ghanaians are divided around two main parties just like the Democrats and Republicans in the US” said Bossman Asare, a political science lecturer at the University of Ghana.
Oil production began in 2010, the fiscal deficit has been cut and the country achieved lower middle-income status last year. Incumbent president Mr Mahama is targeting 8% growth until 2016. The NPP is regarded as the more pro-business, pro-western party. The NPP presidential candidate Mr Akufo-Addo describes himself as “the man to trust with Ghana's money”

  'Ghana election: John Mahama declared winner' – BBC News Africa, 10th December 2012:
 “Ghana's presidential election has been won by incumbent John Mahama, the electoral commission has announced. It said Mr Mahama had secured 50.7% of votes, with opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo on 47.74%. However, the opposition NPP says it will contest the result, accusing the governing NDC party of conspiring with commission staff to fix Friday's poll. Ghana, one of the world's fastest-growing economies, is regarded as one of Africa's most stable democracies. Police in the capital Accra fired tear gas to disperse opposition protesters from outside the commission's offices on Sunday evening. Tanks guarded the electoral commission and roads around the offices were barricaded by police as the results were announced”.

The NDC can be seen as akin to the Labour Party, and the NPP is similar to the Tories but essentially their differences are wafer thin and both parties administer capitalism in Ghana on behalf of the capitalist class. Other political parties in Ghana are the Nkrumahist Convention People's Party (CPP) and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP). But the NDD and NPP have a stranglehold over the electoral process in the same way as the Republicans and Democrats in the USA.

Adongo Aidan Avugma wrote in the Socialist Standard in April 2000: “The interests of the Ghanaian ruling class since independence is just the same as those of the old colonial regime; and it works with the forces of neo-colonialism and international capital to negate the consciousness of the masses, using its unlimited access to the economic surplus to attain this objective”. Like the liberal democracies in the West, Ghana has adopted a neo-liberal approach to capitalism, and has moved away from the state capitalism of the Nkrumah period;  Avugma writes of Ghana; “The worship and devotion to free enterprise is therefore total. The impression that private investment of capital is essential for economic growth relegates labour to a secondary position in industry and prepares the minds of the people to accept the dominance of capital over labour in the process both of production and distribution. It also seeks to imprint in the minds of the recipients of education the idea that the profit motive is both essential and intrinsic to increased productivity; and the belief that free-for-all competition at the market place is the only way to realise the overall interest of society”.

The Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) is a political party splintered from the CPP,  founded by the late Daniel Lartey who was described as a “Nkrumahist adherent”. The party political philosophy is Pan-Africanist but also advocates autarky known as “domestication” which is “growing Ghana from Ghana rather than depending on foreign aid and investments”.

The Convention People's Party (CPP) candidate for Ghana president in December 2012 was agronomist Dr.  Michael Abu Sakara Foster who received only 0.18% of the vote. The CPP is described as a left wing party advocating “Nkrumaism, Pan-Africanism, Socialism”, and is chaired by Samia Yaba Nkrumah. 

This paltry vote does not reflect that this party governed Ghana from 1951 to 1966. The CPP website does not mention the word 'socialism' but talks of “Self-determination, Social Justice, Pan Africanism”. On Social Justice the CPP say “The state has a moral and constitutional duty to promote equal opportunities and equitable rewards for all Ghanaians”. The CPP believe that “fundamental reforms are needed” and Ghana “needs bold and visionary leadership”. The following statement is 'socialism' but omits the word:

“The principle of social justice is derived from the CPP’s understanding and acknowledgement of the obvious inequalities and imbalances inherent in the availability of natural and institutional resources and its distribution in Ghanaian society. To this end, the CPP is resolved to the application of social justice to reduce poverty through the fair distribution of the state’s natural resources, provide basic education, provide basic health care, and provide judicial service and other social facilities to enhance the stability and cohesion of the state without discrimination regarding gender, religion, social standing or tribal origins”.

Kwame Nkrumah (1909-72) spent 1935-45 in the USA where he became a socialist, he knew CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya.  Nkrumah's 'socialism'  is the state capitalist 'marxist-leninist' style that held sway in the USSR.  In 1963 the USSR awarded Nkrumah the Lenin Peace Prize.  The current CPP  is still in thrall to Leninist vanguardism:  “Democratic centralism:  The authority of the party is derived, sustained and emanates from the centre to all its organs, functionaries and structures”.

Nkrumah founded the CPP in 1949 and campaigned for the independence of the Gold Coast from British imperial rule. In 1951 Nkrumah became prime minister of the autonomous British colony of the Gold Coast, and from 1957-66 was prime minister/president of the independent Ghana.

In 1957 Ghana had $481 million in foreign reserves. Nkrumah wanted Ghana to escape the colonial trading system by reducing economic dependency on foreign capital, technology, and goods, and in this way Ghana could achieve real independence. The state capitalism of the Nkrumah period saw rapid industrialisation, large public investment in capital projects, a welfare system was established, and  free healthcare and education.  Production of cocoa, Ghana's chief export doubled, and bauxite and gold mining expanded.  The major achievements of Nkrumah's rule were the hydro-electric project of the Akosombo Dam on the Volta river in Eastern Ghana, and the Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO).

Nkrumah met with the US President John F. Kennedy in March 1961.  Following this meeting Ghana borrowed finance from the USA, UK, and the World Bank to fund the construction of the Akosombo Dam which was built by Kaiser Aluminium. The hydro-electric power plant would provide water for irrigation in Ghana's agricultural sector and power for the towns, and for the new Volta Aluminum Company plant. Later the aluminium exports from VALCO would be a major source of foreign exchange for Ghana. The Akosombo Dam was opened amid much publicity on 22nd January 1966.

Nkrumah and the CPP were not noted for their belief in pluralist bourgeois democracy. The 1958 Trade Union Act made industrial action (strikes) illegal, and 'preventive detention'  legislation imprisoned opposition politicians. A 1961 railway strike led to the imprisonment of strike leaders and opposition politicians. A 1964 plebiscite gave  99% approval to changing the Ghana constitution to make the CPP the only legal party in Ghana.

By 1966 with overspending on capital projects, cocoa prices falling, Ghana was in debt to the tune of $1 billion, the foreign reserves had gone, and repayments to the international capitalists were not being met. While Nkrumah was on a state visit to China and North Vietnam in February 1966, the Army and Police with CIA support  staged a bloody coup d'etat and overthrew the CPP. The CPP was banned and did not reform again until 1996.

Adongo Aidan Avugma on Ghana's state capitalism:

“The alternative to the free market policy is normally presented as the state ownership of the means of production. What is not discussed or is not known is that the state ownership of the means of production prescribed and fixed in law does not preclude the exploitation of labour by capital. Capitalism is not only characterised by the legal form that class possession of the means of production takes. That is the superficial aspect of it. The essential aspect is the social fact that those who "possess" the means of production exploit wage labour and accumulate surplus value thus obtained as capital. The immediate post-independent West African economics would suffice to illustrate this point. Workers sold their labour power to various state enterprises; and the products of their labour were sold in the market place with a view to profit. The difference between the wages of the producers and the value of what they produced was used for capital accumulation and the consumption of the privileged classes. Under the guise of socialism that state was employed by the ruling classes to appropriate economic surpluses from the masses. State ownership sought to hide the monstrosity of capitalist exploitation by confusing socialism with state property and presenting it to the producers of wealth as the best”.

Nkrumah wrote 'African Socialism Revisited' in 1967. Nkrumah's philosophical socialism has much to be recommended but its practical application in Ghana in the 1960's was Leninist political leadership, authoritarianism, and state capitalism.

Nkrumah's socialism:

“the recognition that the restoration of Africa’s humanist and egalitarian principles of society calls for socialism”.

“ We postulate each man to be an end in himself, not merely a means; and we accept the necessity of guaranteeing each man equal opportunities for his development”.

“Socialism in Africa introduces a new social synthesis in which modern technology is reconciled with human values, in which the advanced technical society is realised without the staggering social malefactions and deep schisms of capitalist industrial society. For true economic and social development cannot be promoted without the real socialisation of productive and distributive processes”.

“Socialism depends on dialectical and historical materialism, upon the view that there is only one nature, subject in all its manifestations to natural laws and that human society is, in this sense, part of nature and subject to its own laws of development”.

Ghana needs the establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.  The world is a "global village". Each region may have its own particular and distinct customs, but they are part of a greater system of society that is world-wide. This system of society is capitalism and every region and nation operates within this system of society in one way or another. Socialism is not a cooperative island in the middle of capitalism, but a global system of society that will replace capitalism.

There is an immediate need for the establishment of a  Socialist Party of Ghana  to enter the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of Ghana to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.

The World Socialist Movement of which a Socialist Party of Ghana would be part is a global socialist movement that believes capitalism cannot meet the needs of the majority of the people in the world. It does not today, and it never can.

Steve Clayton

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Game of Life

Nigeria became the first African country to launch its own version of Monopoly, which officials hope will teach "financial literacy."  Monopoly is a game that teaches the lessons of capitalism quite well: One person always becomes a super landlord and everyone else goes bankrupt and homeless. What does not reflect real world capitalism is that in Monopoly every capitalist can end up in jail every now-and-then.

The  capitalism-loving board game began life as a way to teach the radical philosophy of Henry George, a 19th-century writer who argued that "private property is robbery". It was originally called The Landlord's Game, with cards that said not "Go!" but “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages” alongside quotes from Thomas Jefferson and John Ruskin.

 As the United Labor's candidate for mayor of New York, George offered government-run social services, public-owned utilities, free transportation - supported by slogans like "Honest Labor Against Thieving Landlords" and "Hi! Ho! The leeches must go!" He lost.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Africa's anti-atheism


The constitution and other laws mandate a secular state and protect freedom of religion or belief. However, there are widespread state privileges for Christianity and routine bias against the nonreligious. Government meetings often begin with a Christian prayer. Even though the constitution prohibits forced religious instruction, forced participation in religious ceremonies, or taking oaths that run counter to an individual's religious beliefs, religious education is part of the curriculum in public schools. This public education emphasizes Christianity but also addresses other religious groups in the country, while excluding humanists and other non-theists. Additionally, the constitution provides that every religious community may establish places for religious instruction at the community's expense.


The constitution mandates a secular state, and the constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief. However, there are widespread government privileges for religion, especially Christianity and Islam, and routine bias against the nonreligious. The government gives an annual subsidy to all private primary and secondary education institutions, including those operated by religious denominations. State-sponsored television station and radio stations broadcast Christian and Islamic religious services on a regular basis, as well as religious ceremonies on national holidays and during national events.


The constitution provides that the country shall be a secular state. However, some policies favor Islam in practice. A committee composed of members of the High Council for Islamic Affairs (HCIA) and the Directorate of Religious and Traditional Affairs in the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) organized trips to Mecca for the Hajj (pilgrimage during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar) and Umrah (pilgrimage). The Director of Religious and Traditional Affairs oversees religious matters. The HCIA oversees Islamic religious activities, including the supervision of some Arabic-language schools and higher institutions of learning, and the representation of the country in international Islamic meetings. The HCIA, in coordination with the president, appoints the grand imam, a spiritual leader for Muslims, who oversees each region's high imam and serves as head of the council. In principle, although not consistently in practice, the grand imam has the authority to restrict proselytizing by Islamic groups, regulate the content of mosque sermons, and exert control over activities of Islamic charities. Religious leaders are involved in managing the country's wealth. A representative of the religious community sits on the Revenue Management College, the body that oversees use of Chad’s oil revenues. The seat rotates between Muslim and Christian leaders every four years. While the government is legally obligated to treat all religious groups or denominations equally, some non-Muslims allege that Muslims receive preferential status, particularly concerning use of public lands for building places of worship.


Although the constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief, Islam is the state religion and the president and other government employees, including magistrates, are required to take religious oaths. More than 99% of the population identifies as Sunni Muslim. Citizens officially are considered Muslims if they do not specifically identify with a faith; there are no figures available on the number of atheists in the country. Muslims are required to marry in an Islamic ceremony. Non-Muslims—who are known to include Roman Catholics, Protestants, Copts, and Bahá'ís—must marry in accordance with the rites of the religion with which they are registered. The government allows civil marriage only for non-Muslim foreign residents; so if there were atheist Djibouti who wanted to marry, they would not be able to do so (unless they hid their atheism and registered with a religion). A non-Muslim man may marry a Muslim woman only after converting to Islam. According to the family code, "impediment to a marriage occurs when a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim." The president is required to take a religious oath at inauguration; other government employees are also required to do so, such as magistrates, the presidents of Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Chamber of Accounts, and the inspector general of state. While there is no penalty established by law, it remains an official custom written in the Constitution for the president of the country and required by law for others. No legal provision exists for opposite practice.

Equatorial Guinea

While the constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief, a 1992 presidential decree regulates the exercise of freedom of religion or belief. This decree provides official preference for the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed Church of Equatorial Guinea. While the decree does not hinder the practice of other religions or beliefs, its preferential effects can be observed in some circumstances; for example, Catholic masses are a normal part of any major ceremonial function, such as the October 12 National Day and June 5 President’s Birthday. In addition, Catholic and Reform church officials are exempt from airport entry and exit taxes.


The 1997 constitution protects freedom of religion or belief. However, the government has yet to implement the constitution, and in practice it does not respect freedom of belief. In the past few years, there has been an increase in serious government violations of religious freedom, including mass arrests, torture and death for members of minority belief groups. In 2002 the government decreed that all religious groups must either register or cease all religious activities. Four religious groups are now registered: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Eritrea, Islam, and the Roman Catholic Church. Religious facilities that did not belong to the four officially recognized religious groups were forced to close. The government retains significant control over the four registered religious groups, in most cases controlling their leadership and finances. Many places of worship have closed because of government intimidation and the mass conscription of religious workers and parishioners. The government routinely harasses and detains members of registered and unregistered religious groups, some of whom reportedly died as a result of torture and lack of medical treatment while in detention. By the end of 2011, many estimated that the population of religious prisoners remained at 2,000 to 3,000. Some arrestees reported that they were only released after they signed statements recanting their religious beliefs and agreeing to join an officially registered religion as a condition of their release. The application for an exit visa requires a designation of religious affiliation, and members of unregistered religions or no religion require additional permission from the Office of Religious Affairs, which has been reported to grant permission, deny permission, or arrest applicants on the spot for practicing an unrecognized faith or being non-religious.

The constitution requires the separation of state and religion; however, under a 2008 law it is a crime to defame religious groups.

The Gambia

Article 25 of the Constitution protects the rights of citizens to follow any religion or belief that they choose. The government has not established a state religion, although the constitution establishes Qadi (Muslim judge trained in the Islamic legal tradition) courts in such places as the chief justice determines. Their jurisdiction applies only to marriage, divorce, and inheritance questions for Muslims where they apply traditional Islamic law. The Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) is an independent body that advises the government on religious issues. Although the government does not have representation on the council, it provided the council with substantial funding. The minister of religious affairs maintains a formal relationship with the council. Government meetings and events typically commenced with two prayers, one Islamic and one Christian. The government funds religious instruction in schools. Public and private schools throughout the country provide Biblical and Qur'anic studies with government support.


The constitution and other laws and policies restrict freedom of religion or belief and the 1991 constitution defines the country as an Islamic republic and recognizes Islam as the sole religion of its citizens and the state. Due to this stance, all non-Muslims are restricted from being citizens of the country, and Mauritanians who leave Islam for another religion or no religion lose their citizenship. In addition, Article 306 of the penal code outlaws apostasy: anyone found guilty of converting from Islam will be given the opportunity to repent within three days and if the person does not repent, the individual will be sentenced to death and the person’s property will be confiscated by the Treasury. Sharia (Islamic law) provides legal principles upon which the law and legal procedures are based. The government and citizenry consider Islam to be the essential cohesive element unifying the country's various ethnic groups. There is a cabinet-level Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education. The High Council of Islam, consisting of six imams, advised the government on conformance of legislation to Islamic precepts. The judiciary consists of a single system of courts that uses principles of Sharia in matters concerning the family and modern legal principles in all other matters. The government requires members of the Constitutional Council and the High Council of Magistrates to take an oath of office that includes a promise to God to uphold the law of the land in conformity with Islamic precepts. Both public schools and private Islamic schools include classes on Islam, and attendance at these religious classes is required.


The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief. The constitution mandates that local, state and federal government “shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.” However, some state governments have a record of abusing freedom of religion or belief. There is significant hostility and violence between religious communities, especially Christians and Muslims, in many parts of the country. Some outbreaks of communal violence have resulted in hundreds of deaths. Yet, a climate of impunity exists, as authorities rarely prosecute and punish those responsible for violent attacks. The constitution provides that states may establish courts based on the common law or customary law systems. Twelve northern states Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, Zamfara, and Gombe—maintained Sharia courts, which adjudicated both criminal and civil matters, along with common law and customary law courts. Non-Muslims had the option to try their cases in the Sharia courts if involved in disputes with Muslims. If non-Muslims did not agree to go to Sharia courts, common law courts would hear their cases. Although the constitution does not explicitly allow Sharia courts to hear criminal cases, they have done so in the past. In Zamfara State, the first state to adopt Sharia, a Sharia court must hear all criminal cases involving Muslims. No laws barred women or any groups from testifying in common law courts or gave less weight to their testimony; however, Sharia courts usually accorded less weight to the testimony of women and non-Muslims. Both federal and state governments regulate mandatory religious instruction in public schools; however, the constitution mandates that students do not receive religious instruction in any religion other than their own. In theory students can request a teacher of their own beliefs to provide alternative instruction, but in practice many schools lack teachers capable of doing so. Although the jurisdiction of Sharia technically does not apply to non-Muslims in civil and criminal proceedings, certain social mores inspired by Sharia, such as the separation of the sexes, affected non- Muslim minorities in the north. Many non-Muslims perceive that they lived under the rule of a Muslim government and often feared reprisals for their religious affiliation. The Hisbah—Sharia enforcement
groups funded by state governments in Bauchi, Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, and Kano—enforce, sometimes violently, some Sharia statutes.


The interim constitution and other laws and policies provide for some freedom of religion or belief. However, there are Islamic prohibitions against apostasy, blasphemy, and interfaith marriages. The Interim National Constitution enshrines Islamic law as a source of legislation in the country, and theofficial laws and policies of the government and the ruling National Congress Party favour Islam. Although there is no legal penalty for converting from another religion to Islam, converting from Islam to another religion or belief is punishable by imprisonment or death. Persons convicted of conversion are given the opportunity to recant their conversion before execution. A Muslim man may marry a Christian
or Jewish women, but a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim unless he converts to Islam. The penalty for blasphemy and “defamation” of Islam is up to six months in prison, whipping, and/or a fine.


The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief. However, the government requires Christian instruction in public schools. The classes are conducted in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions and are mandatory for all students through grade seven.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Traditional is not always the best

Malnutrition remains a key cause of numerous diseases that have led to death of children under the age of five in Rwanda and herbalists have been blamed for this. Most rural residents in Eastern Province, particularly in Kirehe and Ngoma districts, prefer herbs from traditional healers to drugs prescribed at health centres.

Alice Muhongerwa, the provincial coordinator National Women Council (CNF), the persistence of malnutrition in the area was mainly due to traditional healers. "In Kirehe, it is a sad reality...malnutrition has prevailed because of herbalists. Parents keep on feeding their children on herbs instead of recommended foods like beans and milk, which they do not lack by the way. A typical example is that of Gahara Sector which is the richest in food production and has the highest cases of malnutrition. Ignorance is still a problem,"


Monday, December 10, 2012

Gertler's Congo

Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler has been accused of making most of his $2.5bn fortune from "looting Congo at the expense of its people" which remains at the foot of the UN's development index. Most of Congo's 68m population do not have access to electricity or running water, and one in five children die before their fifth birthday. The nation's per capita income is $280 – below the level it was at when the country, formerly known as Zaire, gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Gertler, who normally avoids the public eye, declared in an interview "I should get a Nobel prize. They need people like us, who come and put billions in the ground. Without this, the resources are worth nothing."

Mining company Eurasian Natural Resources Company (ENRC) has spent $550m (£340m) buying itself out of a Congo copper-mining partnership with Gertler. ENRC ended its relationship with Gertler this weekend after mounting pressure from politicians, investors and campaign groups demanding that it clean up its reputation and be more transparent in demonstrating how local people benefit from its activities. Gertler used his close relationship with the government to secure preferential treatment, and the Serious Fraud Office has been called on to investigate. British MPs are also demanding that the UK slash aid spending to Congo because the country has failed to show that profits from its mines are benefiting local people. The International Monetary Fund froze loans to Congo because the government refused to publish details of a deal between a state-owned mining firm and companies said to be linked to Gertler.

The transparency campaign group Global Witness, which has criticised ENRC for using Congo partners that work with offshore companies which they claim could be benefiting corrupt local politicians, said: "Instead of the Congolese state benefiting from the sales of the country's most valuable mines, the bulk of the money is going to secretive companies in offshore countries, mainly in the British Virgin Islands. "Mr Gertler and the FTSE 100 companies partnering up with him should publish full details of their dealings in the Congo, including the names of the offshore companies' beneficiaries. The public should be assured that these beneficiaries do not include corrupt Congolese officials".

Gertler said it was the Congolese government's role to disclose the deals, not his. "We're a private company. Why should we announce?"

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Back to the Dark Ages

The American Family Research Council deserves its hate-group designation.

Many who have followed the human rights crisis for LGBT people in Uganda know that, in 2009, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced into the Ugandan Parliament to supplement laws that already banned homosexuality. The bill, quickly dubbed the “Kill the Gays” bill because of its provision of a death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” also includes severe penalties for other actions and non-actions, including the “failure to disclose the offense” by anyone who might be aware of another person’s same-sex sexuality. Although the bill has not been yet passed, it has attracted harsh international condemnation, and many attacks on LGBT people and activists have been attributed to the public debates surrounding it.

Last month Uganda’s pious President Museveni delivered a speech in which he dedicated his country to God and renounced “the Satanic influence” of “the last 50 years of history.” Museveni called upon the deity to forgive the nation. Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has taken up the challenge of national repentance by promising passage of the “Kill the Gays” legislation as a “Christmas gift” to the people of Uganda.

 Christian conservative leaders in the U.S. are thrilled with what FRC has called an “inspirational moment for the [Ugandan] nation.” FRC President Tony Perkins tweeted a big, warm hug to President Museveni for “leading his nation in repentance” and thus helping to create a “nation prospered by God.” The FRC lavishes praise on Museveni and his government for proclaiming the kind of “faithfulness...that will raise Uganda’s status as a new power in Africa.” Museveni, dictator of Uganda, and aspiring president-for-life, obviously is a favorite of U.S.-based Christian Right leaders. Rick Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback Church and the author of the bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life , who, in 2008, conferred on Uganda the label of  “purpose-driven nation.” In 2009, after first refusing to condemn the proposed anti-gay legislation, Warren capitulated, after initially saying that he didn’t want to interfere in Ugandan politics.

Apologists for the Christian Right often scold political opponents for misunderstanding the goals of Christian conservatives and especially for misrepresenting the movement as having theocratic ambitions in the U.S. However, messages such as the one sent by FRC, lauding Museveni as he dedicates his nation to their idea of God, illuminate Christian conservative leaders’ intense yearning for theocracy in America and, failing that, in states where American Christian conservatives wield some influence. It seems to clarify where America’s foremost Christian public policy and lobbying organization stands: firmly on the side of punishing lesbians, gay men, men who have sex with men, and women who have sex with women, even at the cost of their very lives.

This is certainly bad news for the people of Uganda. The Family Research Council are heaping approval on Museveni’s bid to defy “the West” on “traditional values,” eliminate “sexual immorality,” and rule Uganda according to biblical law.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Mining for Blood Mobile Phones

Mining for Blood Mobile Phones

Financial Times 22 November and 26 November 2012  Democratic Republic of Congo: “M23 Rebel Group capture Goma, the minerals and trading capital of Eastern Congo, “the mineral-rich East”  near the Rwandan border. The east of the country is home to vast mineral resources such as gold, tungsten and tantalum, the latter essential for computers and mobile phones. The DRC is Africa's largest producer of tin ore, the second largest copper producer after Zambia, and produces about half the world's cobalt. The east of the country is also an important source of columbite-tantalite, known as coltan, which is used in mobile phones and other electronic devices. Shares in Banro, which operates a gold mine south of Goma fell 3.6% on 21 November 2012 after sinking 13% the day before. Rwanda is allegedly backing the M23 rebels. Rwanda have extensive economic and security interests in Eastern Congo”.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, a major producer of copper and industrial diamonds. 30% of the world's diamond reserves are in the Congo. Tin was discovered in 2002 in Eastern Congo.  70% of the world's reserves of coltan is also in the Congo. Coltan is the major source of tantalum which is used in the fabrication of electronic components in computers and mobile phones.  Coltan smuggling is the “blood mobile phones” which is the leading cause of conflict in Eastern Congo.

African Business magazine February 2009: estimates the total mineral wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo as $24 trillion ! Potentially it is the richest country in the world.

In 2011, at least twenty-five international mining companies were active in the Congo. These include Anglo Gold Ashanti, BHP Billiton, Xstrata,  Anvil Mining, First Quantum Minerals, Katanga Mining (owned by Glencore) ,and Lundin Mining. In August 2012 the Chinese firm Changfa Mineral Resources acquired the Mokambo Copper mine project. Tony Blair was recently involved as a mediator in the proposed merger of Xstrata and Glencore.

The civil war in the Congo 1998-2003 is known as the Great War of Africa, it directly involved eight African nations as well as twenty five armed groups. An estimated 5.4 million people in the Congo died. Conflict in the DRC continues to this day.

The people of the Congo need world socialism now to halt the wars of capitalism over economic resources, minerals, strategic territories, and  populations. Socialism will be the establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community. Socialism will end the exploitation of the Congolese people, the killing, the disease, child labour, child soldiers, and the sexual violence to women inflicted in the Congo.

Steve Clayton

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Land grab once again

Major farmland investors such as banks and pension funds must stop facilitating and engaging in large-scale land grabs with extremely damaging consequences for local populations.

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty programme co-ordinator, said: "Unfortunately private investment in farmland may be seen by many as low risk and positive for developing countries. Yet they are often a disaster for local communities and the environment."

In Liberia, farmland investments have facilitated land grabbing. A quarter of the country - including vast swathes of fertile land- has been handed to palm oil, rubber and logging companies, preventing its use for food production. These large plantations are promoted as a means to create jobs, bring development, and increase the government's budget. In reality they are jeopardizing the land rights of local populations, threatening local livelihoods and putting the future of one of the world's most significant biodiversity hotspots into doubt. Between 2009 and 2010 the government of Liberia allocated more than a million acres of land to transnational palm oil producers Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum Liberia without consulting or securing the consent of those living on and using the land.

 Ethiopia has allocated huge areas of fertile arable farmland to foreign investors with little consultations with the affected communities. Since 2008 more than 3.6 million hectares of land has been allocated to foreign investors. For instance, in Gambela region, an Indian company -Karuturi Global- has been allocated staggering 300,000 hectares of land depriving indigenous people of access to water, fishing and grazing grounds, traditional construction materials, and food. Like in many other cases there has been a lack of prior consent and consultation with the local people and affected communities were not consulted and did not give their prior consent these farmland investments. "In Ethiopia and elsewhere farmland investments for instance in plantations are jeopardizing the land rights of local people, and threatening local livelihoods ," said Nyikaw Ochalla from Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO.

In Madagascar, landgrabbing is caused by foreign and domestic investors implementing agribusiness projects and setting up biodiversity conservation areas, but also developing tourism and extractive industry infrastructure. "We are currently supporting pastoralists communities' claims against the Italian company Tozzi Green which aims to lease 100 000 hectars in the Ihorombe region to mainly cultivate jatropha for agrofuel production"  says Mamy Rakotondrainibe, from the Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches -TANY

A report released earlier this year by Friends of the Earth Uganda revealed widespread violations of people's rights and environmental destruction from a land grab in Uganda.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Africom widens its grasp

The U.S AFRICOM command relies on Uganda and Rwanda for carrying out its missions in East and Central Africa. The US gives them arms, equipment and training. The UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, once Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, now defends the two with a passion at the UN. Jason Stearns of the International Crisis Group, who also has been a member of the UN Panel of Experts, said Susan Rice delayed the publication of UN Group of Experts' interim report, insisting that Rwanda be given a chance to see the report first and respond. Her latest step was to block the explicit naming of Rwanda and Uganda in the UN Security Council resolution, condemning the M23 occupation of Goma. As in previous statements, the body demanded that ‘any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately.’ Other Council members had wanted to name Rwanda explicitly, but Rice argued against  that this.

 Britain has been blocking European sanctions against Rwanda -- in fact shamelessly went back on its word. The former British Secretary for International Development Andrew Mitchell told MPs that he had decided to resume Britain’s £16m aid package to Rwanda after two out of three conditions set by the UK - a ceasefire in the Kivus region and an end to practical support from Rwanda to militias - were met. The Congolese people, in fact the whole world, aren’t aware of such a ceasefire. The biggest donors to both Rwanda and Uganda are Britain and America. Britain contributes over £30 million a year to Rwanda's budget. Tony Blair now acts as personal adviser to Mr Kagame, while one of his charities, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), employs about 10 people inside the Rwandan government, helping it to run more effectively

America has been fighting wars in Africa since the 1950s – in Angola, the DRC, Somalia, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Libya, Djibouti to name but a few counties. In some countries they used US troops, but in most cases the US financed, armed and supervised the support of indigenous forces. In its support of the anti- MPLA forces in Angola it sent arms and equipment to the UNITA opposition. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Larry Devlin of the CIA was an unofficial Minister of Mobutu’s government.

 The record shows the US armed forces intervened in Africa forty-seven times prior to the current Lord’s Resistance Army endeavour. The countries suffering one or more US military interventions include the Congo, Zaire, Libya, Chad, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda, Liberia, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea. Under the Clinton regime, US militarized intervention in Africa took off. Between 1992 and 2000, seventeen armed incursions took place, including a large scale invasion of Somalia and military backing for the Rwandan regime. Clinton intervened in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone to prop up a long standing troubled regimes. He bombed the Sudan and dispatched military personnel to Kenya and Ethiopia to back proxy clients assaulting Somalia. Under Bush Jr. fifteen US military interventions took place, mainly in Central and East Africa.  The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a ‘strategic priority in fighting terrorism’.

The Pentagon has military ties with fifty-three African countries. US foreign policy strategists moved to centralize and coordinate a military policy on a continent wide basis forming the African Command (AFRICOM). The latter organizes African armies, euphemistically called ‘co-operative partnerships,’ to conduct neo-colonial wars based on bilateral agreements (Uganda, Burundi, etc.) as well as ‘multi-lateral’ links with the Organization of African Unity.

 In the midst of a major drive to increase security in Africa’s Saharan and Sahel nations, American, African and European military forces combine to engage in a version of Operation Flintlock; a series of multinational military exercises designed to foster and development international security cooperation in North and West Africa. The latest exercises were part of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP).

1200 soldiers participated in the latest manoeuvres, including 600 US Marines and Special Forces, units from France and Britain and smaller European contingents from Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. African countries with military representation included Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, Tunisia and Morocco. The exercises were headquartered out of a Multinational Coordination Centre set up at Camp Baangre in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou. Malian Special Forces received training in responding to hostage-taking operations (as carried out by AQIM). Many of the Malian participants were veterans of fighting Tuareg rebels in northern Mali.

 These ‘Flintlocks’ are the model replicated in Central Africa.

Taken from here

Congo's pain

What is happening in eastern DR Congo is not a civil war, but continuation of a 16-year aggression by the country’s two neighbours. 

The African region which includes Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo has been in virtually a state of war since 1995; that is at war with each other. This has engaged the national armies, foreign armies, militias, ‘civil defence’ groups, looters, pillagers, child abductors and abusers, rapists, arsonists and murderers. One can add to this list of villains and plunderers the United Nations so-called Peacekeepers. 5 million Congolese have died. Many of these deaths were due to starvation or disease that resulted from the war, as well as from summary executions and capture by one or more of a group of irregular marauding bands. Millions more had become internally displaced or had sought asylum in neighbouring countries.These wars, centred mainly in eastern Congo (North and South Kivu and Maniema) have involved nine African nations and directly affected the lives of 50 million Congolese.

Initially these wars and the pillaging associated with them derived from the efforts to profit from the valuable mineral resources of the Eastern Congo, coltan and diamonds. Now the current targets of their looting – the oil and gas industries. In 2009 Heritage Oil discovered oil in Uganda. The oil and gas industries in East and Central Africa have been the world’s most important area of exploration in the last nine years. Africa is the main continent in the world with frequent and substantial new findings of oil and gas. A joint report by the African Development Bank, African Union and the African Development Fund observed that oil reserves in Africa grew by over 25 per cent, while gas has grown by over 100 per cent since the late 1980s. There have been major finds in Kenya and has become the latest African country to join the great African oil boom. In May 2012 Kenya announced its second profitable oil discovery in two months; and large oil deposit in the remote northern Turkana region.

Unfortunately the good fortune has only brought war and destruction in its wake. The Uganda finds in the Albert Graven were located in the seabed of Lake Albert. The border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’) runs down the middle of the lake. Uganda wants all the oil and has been funding the various insurgencies to control all the oil and gas of the lake. Perhaps the most contentious and conflicted result of the oil and gas finds in the region has been the Vanoil of Canada’s success in finding oil beneath Lake Kivu. Vanoil holds exclusive exploration rights to the 1,631 sq. km oil and gas concession in the north-western part of Rwanda better known as the East Kivu Graben. The Kivu Graben area is part of the great East African Rift System and is approximately 90 kilometres wide and 200 kilometres long. The Graben straddles both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is the Southern extension of the Albertine Graben in Uganda where major oil discoveries have been made by Tullow Oil and Heritage Oil.

In March 2007, when the governments of the DRC and Rwanda met with the assembled lake experts and developers at Gisenyi on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, an initiative commenced to define the rules and regulations of safe and environmentally sound exploitation of Lake Kivu's gas reserves. Rwanda seeks to alter this by taking control of the other side of the lake. It has recently taken over Goma through its M23 surrogates and plans to exploit the oil reserves with Vanoil and to seek a competent gas partner for the buried methane. The M23 rebels have announced that they were going to take over the entire DRC. The root of much of the difficulties lies with the fact that the current DRC President, Joseph Kabila is weak, vacillating and bereft of the support of a united nation. That weakness has alienated many in the national army. The countries which supported the DRC in its last war against the Ugandan and Rwandan invaders may well intervene again. The citizens of the DRC have suffered grievously. Their future looks no better.

From here

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Neglected Refugees

1. Sudanese refugees in Chad: Nearly a decade of conflict in Sudan‘s western Darfur region displaced some 1.8 million Sudanese. Of these, more than 264,000 fled into neighbouring Chad, where they continue to live in 12 camps along the country’s eastern border with Sudan. Chad is one of the world’s poorest countries and, according to UNHCR, the working environment is “extremely challenging” due to the region’s lack of infrastructure and natural resources. Women in the camps report they sometimes have to walk all day to find firewood, and lack of access to arable land has made the refugees almost entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Several peace accords between the rebels in Darfur and the Sudanese government have failed to calm the region’s volatility, leaving the refugees reluctant to return home. Meanwhile, humanitarian workers say the long-running nature of the crisis has led to donor fatigue.

2. Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan: Eritreans have been crossing into eastern Sudan since their country started to agitate for independence from Ethiopia in the 1960s and, more recently, to escape Eritrea’s policy of indefinite military conscription. Currently, about 66,000 Eritreans are living in refugee camps in Gedaref, Kassala and Red Sea states, which are among the poorest parts of Sudan, and a further 1,600 cross the border every month. Many of the newer arrivals view Sudan as a transit country, continuing north with the goal of reaching Europe or Israel. This has made them a target for abuse by smugglers and human traffickers. Those who remain in Sudan cannot legally own land or property and struggle to find jobs in the formal sector. In 2002, refugee status was revoked for those who had fled the independence war and subsequent conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, but repatriation was halted in 2004 after widespread international criticism of Eritrea’s human rights record.

3. Sudanese refugees in South Sudan: Over the past 18 months, an estimated 170,000 people have fled conflict between Sudanese government forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, pouring into South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Unity states. Humanitarian agencies are bracing for a further influx once the rainy season comes to an end and impassable roads reopen. Aid workers fear that swelling refugee numbers, flooding and disease outbreaks could aggravate the crisis, and UNHCR is urgently appealing for an additional US$20 million to manage basic needs in the camps. Poor infrastructure in South Sudan has made delivering emergency assistance both expensive and difficult.

4. Internally Displaced Personss in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Defections from the Congolese army, which gave rise to the M23 armed group, have led to a resumption of violence in the DRC’s North Kivu Province in the last six months. More than 260,000 people have been displaced so far, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. A further 68,000 have fled to neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. The IDPs are living in dozens of makeshift camps across the province, where aid agencies are providing shelter, protection, food and health services, despite a severe funding shortfall and recurrent attacks on aid workers. The new wave of IDPs adds to the 1.7 million already internally displaced in the country, according to UNHCR.

5. Horn of Africa refugees in Yemen: Yemen has long been a transit country for migrants trying to reach Saudi Arabia in search of work, but since 2006 it has also become home to increasing numbers of refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Despite conflict, poverty and a sometimes xenophobic environment in Yemen, a record 103,000 refugees and migrants arrived in 2011, bringing the total number of registered refugees to 230,000, in addition to an estimated 500,000 migrants. Their presence has been largely overshadowed by last year’s uprising and political crisis, which displaced hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and contributed to rising poverty in a country that was already the region’s poorest. Refugees living in mostly urban areas are forced to compete with locals for scarce jobs and resources, a situation that has aggravated tensions and increased the vulnerability of many refugees. A funding shortfall of about $30 million has forced UNHCR to limit its assistance.

6. Malian internally displaced and refugees in neighbouring countries: During and after the April takeover of northern Mali by Tuareg rebels, who were quickly supplanted by Islamist groups, some 34,977 Malians escaped to Burkina Faso, 108,942 fled to Mauritania and 58,312 went to Niger. Some 118,000 Malians have been internally displaced, 35,300 of them within the north itself, in the regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. UNHCR faces severe funding gaps in each of the host countries and in Mali, and increasing insecurity is shrinking humanitarian access to populations in need of protection. For host governments and aid agencies, the refugee influx has compounded the food and livelihoods crisis affecting the Sahel region. Should a planned intervention by the Economic Community of West African States be launched in northern Mali, refugee populations are likely to grow further.


Half of South Africa live in poverty

South Africa ranks 29 in the world in terms of gross domestic product. However, a study by the national agency Statistics South Africa shows 52.3 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. 26.3 percent of people in the country are not able to afford proper food.

The northern province of Limpopo is the most destitute in the country with almost three-quarters of its people living below the poverty line.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The State of Africa

Africa represents 15 percent of the world’s population, yet only 2.7 percent of its GDP, which is largely concentrated in only five of 49 sub-Saharan countries. Just two countries—South Africa and Nigeria—account for over 33 percent of the continent’s economic output. Life expectancy is 50 years, and considerably less in those countries ravaged by AIDS. Hunger and malnutrition are worse than they were a decade ago.

At the same time, Africa is wealthy in oil, gas, iron, aluminum and rare metals. By 2015, countries in the Gulf of Guinea will provide the US with 25 percent of its energy needs, and Africa has at least 10 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. South Africa alone has 40 percent of the earth’s gold supply.  The continent contains over one-third of the earth’s cobalt and supplies China—the world’s second largest economy—with 50 percent of that country’s copper, aluminum and iron ore.

The slave trade and colonialism inflicted deep and lasting wounds on the region, wounds that continue to bleed. Selling oil, cobalt, and gold brings in money for the governments and its elites, but not permanent jobs or prosperity for its workers. Africans cannot currently compete with the huge—and many times subsidized industries—of the First World. Nor can they build up an agricultural infrastructure when their local farmers cannot match the subsidized prices of American corn and wheat. Because of those subsidies, US wheat sells for 40 percent below production cost, and corn for 20 percent below.  But the West's adherence to “free trade” torpedoes countries from constructing their economies. The Carnegie Endowment and the European Commission found that “free trade” would end up destroying small scale agriculture in Africa, much as it did for corn farmers in Mexico. Since 50 percent of Africa’s GNP is in agriculture, the impact would be disastrous, driving small farmers off the land and into overcrowded cities where social services are already inadequate.

One disturbing development is a “land grab” by countries ranging from the US to Saudi Arabia to acquire agricultural land in Africa. With climate change and population growth, food, as Der Spiegel puts it, “is the new oil.” Land is plentiful in Africa, and at about one-tenth the cost in the US. Most production by foreign investors would be on an industrial scale, with its consequent depletion of the soil and degradation of the environment from pesticides and fertilizers.

Africom has anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 U.S. Marines and Special Forces in Djibouti, a former French colony bordering the Red Sea. It has 100 Special Forces soldiers deployed in Uganda, supposedly tracking down the Lord’s Resistance Army. It actively aided Ethiopia’s 2007 invasion of Somalia, including using its navy to shell a town in the country’s south. It is currently recruiting and training African forces to fight the extremist Islamic organization, the Shabab, in Somalia, and conducting “counter-terrorism” training in Mali, Chad, Niger, Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Gabon, Zambia, Malawi, Burkina Faso, and Mauretania. Since much of the US military activities involves Special Forces and the CIA, it is difficult to track how widespread the involvement is. “I think it is far larger than anyone imagines,” says John Pike of While America has put soldiers and weapons into Africa, it has  has either cut aid or used debt relief as a way of fulfilling its UN Millenium obligations. Through affordable access to AIDS medicines, aided by India’s cheap generic versions of drugs (decade ago, they cost $10,000 per person per year and a tiny fraction of desperate people received the medicines) more than 1.5 million South Africans – and millions more in the rest of Africa – get treatment, thus raising the SA collective life expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 60 today, according to reliable statistics released this month. However, in recent months, Obama has put an intense squeeze on India to cut back on generic medicine R&D and production, as well as making deep cuts in his own government’s aid commitment to funding African healthcare. In Durban, the city that is home to the most HIV+ people in the world, Obama’s move resulted in this year’s closure of AIDS public treatment centres at three crucial sites. Meanwhile America has increased military aid, including arms sales and one thing Africa does not need is any more guns and soldiers.

In March 2013 Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa - BRICS-  network are meeting in South Africa  and is expected to carve up Africa more efficiently, unburdened by what will be derided as ‘Western’ concerns about democracy and human rights. They will "talk left" but "walk right". Its resolutions will continue to favour corporations’ resource extraction and land-grab strategies. A new ‘BRICS Development Bank’ likely to be based just north of Johannesburg, will be following the existing agenda.

In July, BRICS  sent $100 billion in new capital to the IMF to bail-out the banks exposed in Europe. South Africa’s contribution was only $2 billion (R17.5 billion), a huge sum for Gordhan to muster against local trade union opposition. Explaining the SA contribution – initially he said it would be only one tenth as large – Gordhan told Moneyweb last year that it was on condition that the IMF became more ‘nasty’ (sic) to desperate European borrowers, as if the Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish poor and working people were not suffering enough!

The  BRICS are not "anti-imperialist" but instead the deputy-sheriffs for global corporations. Doesn’t the Brazilian expansionist policy in Latin America and Africa correspond, beyond the quest for new markets, to an attempt to gain control over sources of raw materials – such as ores and gas in Bolivia, oil in Ecuador and in the former Portuguese colonies of Africa, the hydroelectric potential in Paraguay – and to prevent potential competitors such as Argentina from having access to such resources? The definition of Brazil as an imperialist power may seem excessive because it is associated with an aggressive military policy. But this is a narrow perception of imperialism. It remains globalisation. Africa is a battleground for internecine conflicts between all imperialist powers, large and small. 

Adapted from here

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Capital's flight

The plunder of national resources is not new in African autocracies. Rich individuals and large companies hide income and assets from public scrutiny and from taxation by transferring them across borders.

A study published by the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars details how the illicit siphoning of billions of dollars abroad by foreign investors and African leaders has impoverished Africans for 40 years. Estimates of illicit capital outflows range from U.S. $854 billion to $1.8 trillion between 1970 and 2008. (This number happens to tally closely with industry estimates of the holdings of African High Net Worth Individuals at $800-1,000 billion.) From an average of $17.8 billion per year in the 1990s, illicit financial flows shot to $50.3 billion per year on average during the period from 2000 to 2008.  From 1970 to 2008, Nigeria lost a staggering $296 billion to capital flight. About $71 billion went 'missing' from Angola between 1985 and 2008 . Other oil-exporting countries also suffered substantial capital flight in the last four decades: Côte d'Ivoire ($45 billion), the DRC ($31 billion), Cameroon ($24 billion), the Republic of Congo ($24 billion), and Sudan ($18 billion).

The two main mechanisms are outright embezzlement of export revenues by government officials entrusted with the management of public resource exploitation and commercialization, and the under-invoicing of oil exports. In 2002, for example, the IMF reported that as much as $4 billion of Angolan oil sale proceeds had not been accounted for over a period of four years. This missing money finances private wealth accumulation by the political elite and their associates.

Out of the six countries with the highest average capital flight over the period 2000 to 2008, namely Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, four had poverty rates above the African average in 2008.

 On-going investigations in France and USA into fraudulent acquisition of assets by some African political elites have revealed that they have embezzled large sums of money used to buy mansions costing hundreds of millions of dollars apiece, luxury goods such as expensive cars, jewelry, paintings, memorabilia, private jets, yachts, etc., mostly in Western countries. French judges have been investigating illicit wealth accumulation by the presidents of the Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, all of whom are accused of embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, and plundering national wealth. In July 2012, Judge Roger Le Loire issued an arrest warrant against Teodoro Ngema Obiang, nicknamed Teodorin, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, on the basis of evidence of illicit wealth accumulation through embezzlement of public resources. The stylish president's son has amassed a portfolio that includes multi-million-dollar real estate in France, luxury cars, designer watches, and art objects. His personal financial transactions are handled through his forestry company, Somagui Forestal, and bank accounts in offshore centers.

The culprits in African capital flight include not only corrupt leaders but many others who gain from illicit financial flows. These include natural resource exploitation companies, trading partners who facilitate misinvoicing, banks in safe havens, and middlemen and "deal makers" who facilitate transactions. The corruption is perpetuated by the complicity of foreign special interests and a shadow international financial system that enables financial criminals to walk free thanks to banking secrecy. It is also facilitated by the willful blindness of Western financial institutions and governments that have tolerated this illicit accumulation of wealth over the years. Tax havens help wealthy individuals and large corporations escape from criminal laws, from financial regulation, from transparency and disclosure, from inheritance rules, from professional liability, and more. Private bankers from London, Geneva and New York. They have been ruthlessly 'efficient' in shifting the assets to Africa's wealthy elites and the liabilities to the African public.

Take your money to a tax haven, and your home rules no longer bind you. In other words, tax havens help wealth elites escape from the rules of civilized society, whether by illegal means or not. The secrecy facilities or tax loopholes provided by the 600,000-odd International Business Companies in the British Virgin Islands are not for the benefit of local islanders: they are for foreigners. The City of London financial center) runs a series of satellite tax havens, spread across the world in concentric rings. In the inner ring are Britain's Crown Dependencies: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. The next ring out are the 14 Overseas Territories: the last remnants of the British Empire, which include some of the world's most important small island tax havens: the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla and Gibraltar. These two offshore networks, which are essentially the last remnants of the British Empire, are partly British, and partly independent. Each has its own political system with its own independent politics, but each has a Governor (or Lieutenant Governor) appointed by the Queen. Britain is officially responsible for their foreign relations and defense, and for their good governance. The last court of appeal is the Privy Council in London.
Further out in the web are a number of other tax havens with ongoing strong historical or commercial ties to the UK: Hong Kong, Mauritius, the Bahamas, and others. From Britain's point of view, this network operates along the lines of a spider's web, with the City of London at the center. Each haven tends to have something of a geographical focus: the Caribbean havens focus most heavily on North, Central and South America, while the Crown Dependencies will focus most heavily on European business, as well as Africa and the Middle East. They capture huge amounts of money (and the business of handling money) up to the City of London. Just in the second quarter of 2009 the UK received net financing of US$332.billion just from its three Crown Dependencies.5 Martyn Scriven, secretary of the Jersey Bankers' Association, describes the relationship: "If I have money to spare, I pass it to the father. Great dollops of money go into London from here." Promotional literature for Jersey Finance, says it plainly: 'Jersey represents an extension of the City of London" .

 The biggest tax havens, it turns out, are not the small islands of the popular imagination, but the world's biggest economies.It may surprise some people to discover that the United States is also a gigantic tax haven  in its own right, thanks to state-level laws that allow the formation of anonymous corporations providing bullet-proof secrecy, and federal laws that for decades have deliberately turned a blind eye to dirty foreign money, often fed into Wall Street by foreign 'feeder' tax havens. The Tax Justice Network's Financial Secrecy Index or FSI which combines a jurisdiction's secrecy score with a weighting for the size of its offshore financial sector, reckoned in 2009 that the world's five most important providers of offshore financial secrecy were the United States, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and the United States, in that order. Another study gave Switzerland the top rank, followed by the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, and the USA. In both cases, however, Britain would have ranked head and shoulders above the others if included were the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies as part of Britain.

In 2008, 47.5% of Africa’s population were poor. This proportion is more than twice the average poverty level of all developing regions combined, which stood at 22.4% of the population. Africa’s poverty ratio was more than three times the figure in the East Asia and Pacific region where poor people represented 14.3% of the population in 2008. In absolute numbers, Africa had the second highest number of poor people with 386 million against 571 million in South Asia in 2008.

 Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo are among the richest countries in Africa with per capita incomes of $8,649 (second), $4,176 (5th), and $1,253 (15th), respectively. They have massive oil reserves, ranking 7th (Gabon), 8th (Congo), and 10th (Equatorial Guinea) in the continent. While their presidents and other members of the political elite are amassing fortunes abroad, the majority of their fellow citizens live in abject poverty, lacking access to basic social services such as decent sanitation, clean drinking water, elementary school, and health care. Despite Equatorial Guinea's large oil revenues, a baby born there has less chance of living to his or her fifth birthday than the average sub-Saharan African infant. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea rank second and third to last in their rate of immunization against measles, at 55% and 51%, respectively.

 In Nigeria, more than two-thirds of the population live below the national poverty line, meaning that they do not have enough income to meet basic daily needs . In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country plagued by both institutional decay and civil strife, more than seven out of ten citizens are classified as poor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Grapes of Wrath

Striking farm workers in South Africa's biggest table grape-growing region set fire to more than 30 hectares of vineyards to protest against what they call "hunger wages". They are demanding R150 per day. They claim the government only paid attention when the vineyards started to burn.

"The wages here are too small, R72 (£5) a day. You cannot buy anything with that money,"
strike organiser Shaun Janca said. "The money that they pay us is nothing. We work our whole lives but still we have nothing. We are working for what? For what?"

"The labourers are working for a minimum wage of R69.39 per day. Per week it is R346.95 a week and the workers can't work for that amount. They say it is a 'hunger wage' "
activist and local labour advisor Petrus Brink said. "The poor people and the workers are getting poorer. They can't support their families and can't take care of their children. That is why they are becoming so aggressive, because the R346.95 is not even enough for them to survive for a week,"

"People are hungry, they are frustrated and they are tired. They want to work but they want to see some improvement in their working conditions,"
said Braam Hanekom, chairman of People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (Passop)

Many of the workers come in to do seasonal work from areas such as the Eastern Cape, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and even Somalia. "This creates a condition where permanent workers feel that their employment is under threat - that they might lose their permanent jobs. The grapes and citrus farmed in the area are intended for the export market. "The farmers make large sums of profit, but then there is no return for the workers. The farm owners reason they don't have to bargain for farm labour because there is already a pool of cheap labour, and so if the permanent workers from the Western Cape don't want to work for that amount, the farmers do have access to another labour market," Brink said. With a cheaper migrant labour force prepared to live in squatter camps, farmers have been less inclined to offer housing, education or other social amenities.

 A report issued by Human Rights Watch in August 2011 Ripe with Abuse detailed a litany of rights abuses practiced by some local farmers.  It documented evidence of housing on farms unfit for living; labourers being exposed to fertilisers and pesticides without the proper safety equipment; a lack of access to water while working in dehydrating conditions; the lack of toilet facilities for workers; and the undue pressure put on workers to stop them from joining unions. It also detailed threats of evictions made against residents who had stayed on farms for long periods of time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Food for the rich

East Africa was hit by its worst drought in half a century last year, leaving millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia hungry and triggering an outpouring of emergency aid from the European Union and other major donors. Yet while relief workers fought to avert a drought-induced famine in Africa, packets of Kenyan green beans and avocados and buckets of decorative flowers from Ethiopia were available in European markets.

“It’s easier to know the demands of the market in Europe than we do in our own neighbourhood,”
said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, who heads the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, known as the ACP, which works with the EU to coordinate trade and development assistance. “In a particular [African] region you can have an acute shortage of goods, whereas next door you can have a bumper crop,” Chambas said.

The south-north food flow has created willing foreign markets for African farmers, while home-grown goods aren’t getting to other Africans who are surviving on international relief aid flown in during food shortages.

The EU imports 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural exports – including nuts, fresh-cut flowers, tea, coffee, citrus fruits and vegetables

“It is difficult to imagine the sense in the system, because when we import, say, green beans from Kenya, we’re taking imbedded water from a drought-prone country, and then we’re putting into our supermarkets, into our fridges and then we’re throwing it way uneaten...But equally, when you talk to governments down there they say, ‘we need the money’. ”
Tim Benton, a University of Leeds professor of population ecology said.

With nearly half of the more than 800 million Sub-Saharan Africans living below the UN’s poverty line of less than $1.25 per day, farming is seen as a way to providing lucrative exports of food and biofuel crops.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Corrupt Roots

Before independence, the small colonial elite often lived lives of conspicuous consumption: expensive mansions and shopping trips in the capital cities of colonial empires, and lavish parties. Many of the post-independence African elite took the colonial elite’s conspicuous consumption standard as a benchmark for ‘success’.

At African independence, instead of changing colonial era institutions, laws and values for the better, the colonial elite was often replaced by a similar narrow elite class. This time, however, it was the aristocracy of the independence and liberation movements; the dominant independence leader and dominant ‘struggle’ families, or the dominant ethnic group or political faction. African independence movements were often highly centralised or strongly dominated by one leader and his political, ethnic or regional faction. It has meant that they are very much like the old colonial administrations. The newly acquired state bureaucracy, military, judiciary, nationalized private industries were often seen as the ‘spoils’ of victory. A reward for the struggle of independence. The whole process often became opaque and unaccountable with ‘struggle aristocracies’ dishing out patronage – jobs, government tenders, and newly nationalized private companies - to their political allies, ethnic group(s) or regional interests.

By their very nature, many independence movements’ struggles were secretive. During the independence struggle, many African liberation movements discouraged dissent and criticism of the movements themselves lest they exposed divisions within the movements of the oppressed. By force or negotiation, many independence movements annex opposition parties making one large united party (albeit with ongoing tensions). During independence struggles, liberation movements often became corrupt themselves, as they were forced to adapt to the unaccountable and opaque strategies frequently employed by their oppressors. For example, while waging an armed struggle, it was not always possible for donor funding to be reconciled with receipts, or to properly supervise how money was spent during the course of underground operations. This process or lack thereof was often referred to as ‘struggle accounting’. Unfortunately, when eventually installed in government such ‘struggle accounting’ practices continued post independence.

Liberation movement governments embarked on a policy of creating a ‘capitalist class’ or new ‘indigenous’ business owners, black economic empowerment or indigenisation programs. Political leaders either get stakes in newly privatised public companies, get state tenders to supply services for government, or get slices of private companies owned by former colonials, minority ethnic groups or foreign companies. Liberation and independence leaders were often put on a pedestal by supporters and allowed leaders to get away with personalised rule, disguised by the rhetoric of ruling in ‘the service of our people’.

 Reforms were hardly ever going to have any impact, given the fact that unqualified cronies were managing key public institutions, and that scarce resources were being coarsely diverted to allies, family and friends. Almost all jobs available in the newly independent country were in government, or the newly nationalised media, banks, schools, universities, etc. , Decent employment very much depended on ‘clearance’ from the liberation movement leaders or the ruling group. In most cases, those critical of the dominant leaders or their policies were likely to be excluded from work in the public and private sectors. Very few African countries at independence had a significant private sector: those that had, more often than not saw it nationalised by the liberation or independence movement, turned government. Where significant private sectors remain, they often existed under the threat of possible nationalisation or not securing trading licenses if they failed to toe the line. Given this, such companies were unlikely to employ anyone out of favour with the ruling elite. Partially for these reasons, post-independence, the private sector in many African countries were usually docile and unlikely to demand accountability from national governments. The private sector was often under constant threat of having their businesses nationalised or ‘indigenised’ from the new rulers.

After independence, significant independent civil groups, such as trade unions and farmers associations, were often incorporated as ‘desks’ or ‘leagues’ of the new ruling parties (formerly independence/liberation movement). This meant that civil society groups that held the colonial governments to account and served as checks and balance mechanisms abdicated this role now. 

This provides fertile grounds for corruption leaving corruption to flourish. Corruption undermines the delivery of public services including public housing, healthcare, access to water and adequate sanitation, and access to reliable supplies of electricity. Corruption diverts resources that can be used for development.  For far too long, African ruling parties have gotten away with blaming the previous colonial administration - apartheid government or opposition movements for their own government failures. Most African ruling parties and leaders lack the political will needed to genuinely tackle corruption. Ordinary African citizens, community groups and civil society must become corruption fighters themselves. There needs to be grassroots campaigns across Africa against corruption. The masses must know the extent of corruption and what the impact it has.

African governments should not solely be in the dock. The developed countries essentially ‘buy’ the support of African leaders. This can be secured by forcing poor African countries, in global forums, to support policies that benefit developed countries, but disadvantage the very African countries supporting such policies. This is often achieved through bribery, the promise of more aid, or indeed threats to cut aid. However, this is almost never seen as corruption – yet it is. Western countries look the other way when corrupt African governments are their allies, this has in fact encouraged corruption. Western business organisations in return for investment opportunities collude and are accomplices in corrupt practices. Corruption in business is often not seen as serious by business leaders, either globally or locally. The global financial crisis was essentially caused by corrupt and greedy bankers. Yet, many of these business-men and their companies now flourish in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, as if they are blameless. The duplicity of capitalism must be stopped.

 Adapted from this article

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Diamonds are a dictator's best friend

This week, Partnership Africa Canada, a member of the Kimberley Process, the world regulatory body on the diamond trade, accused Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s ruling circle, international gem dealers and criminals of stealing at least $2 billion worth of diamonds.

Zimbabawe’s eastern Marange field, one of the world’s biggest diamond deposits, has been mined since 2006 and its vast earning could have turned around the nation’s economy, the Partnership Africa Canada contended. But the revenue from the sale of the diamonds have not made it to the state treasury. Millions have gone to Mugabe and his cronies.

Mugabe has been in power in the southern African nation for decades by silencing through violence his critics and intimidating the populace. Poverty is rampant in a country.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mozambique's Resource Curse

When Augusto Conselho Chachoka and his neighbors heard that the world's biggest coal mine was to be built on their land, a tantalizing new future floated before them. Instead of scraping by as subsistence farmers, they would earn wages as miners, they thought. The mining company would build them sturdy new houses, it seemed. Finally, a slice of the wealth that has propelled Mozambique from its war-addled past to its newfound status as one of the world's fastest-growing economies would be theirs. But to get to the coal, hundreds of villagers living atop it had to be moved. The company held a series of meetings with community members and government officials, laying out its plans to build tidy new bungalows for each family and upgrade public services. As the prospect of huge new investments in their rural corner of the world beckoned, villagers anticipated a whole new life: jobs, houses, education, and even free food.

Instead, they ended up being moved 25 miles away from the mine, living in crumbling, leaky houses, farming barren plots of land, far from any kind of jobs that the mine might create and farther than ever from Mozambique's growth miracle. The promised water taps and electricity never arrived. Earlier this year, the people of Cateme sent a letter to local government officials and Vale demanding that their complaints about the resettlement process be addressed, threatening to block the railway line that passes through their village carrying coal to the port. When they received no reply, they occupied the rail line. The police descended upon them, chasing them away and roughing up those who resisted removal. Eventually, contractors came to install electricity. The underlying lack of access to good land and water persist. Hopes that farmers would be able to sell their produce to feed the boom in this mining area have so far not been met: much of the food is flown in.

 Mozambique is one of the poorest nations in the world, broken by a brutal colonial legacy, a 16-year civil war and failed experiments with economic policy. But it is also one of the so-called African Lions: countries that are growing at well above 6 percent annually, even amid the global downturn.

Vale, the Brazilian mining company, is planning to invest $6 billion in its coal operation. The coal deposits in Moatize represent one of the biggest untapped reserves in the world, and the Brazilian mining company Vale has placed a big bet on it. Rio Tinto will soon begin producing coal in northern Mozambique. Gas projects could bring in far more, as much as $70 billion, according to World Bank estimates. Mozambique's location on Africa's southeastern coast means it is perfectly positioned to feed hungry markets in southern and eastern Asia.

Yet millions are stuck below the poverty line.  "You get these rich countries with poor people," said the economist Joseph Stiglitz, who recently visited Mozambique and has written on the struggle of resource-rich countries to develop. "You have all this money flowing in, but you don't have real job creation and you don't have sustained growth." 
 It is a problem in resource-rich countries across Africa. The World Bank said in October that rapidly growing economies powered by oil, gas and minerals have seen poverty levels fall more slowly than countries without those resources. In Gabon and Angola, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has even increased as growth has spiked. 

In Mozambique, according to an analysis by the United States Agency for International Development, "The effects of megaprojects on living standards were found to be very modest," the report said. "These projects, over all, have created few jobs. And linkages to the public budget via tax revenues have also been small because of tax exemptions."

Strong economic growth almost completely bypasses the rural poor, and in some ways can leave them even worse off. "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer," Mr. Chachoka said. "That is what is happening here."