Saturday, June 29, 2013

Where is the light

The continent of Africa is NOT devoid of people. The darkness is because energy services hasn’t reached many of the billion-plus residents.

In addition to countries in Africa, all developing countries – 1.3 billion people – lack adequate access to electricity services. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

False Friends

Obama in on his African tour, a safari to promote America's interests.

There are three types of African leaders: those who want to be on the "right" side of Washington in order to have US support for their particularistic (and often non-developmental or non-democratic) agenda; those who engage with Washington but who part company with the US when fundamental interests are at stake; and those who refuse to deal with Washington either because their national interests are at loggerheads with the US agenda or because their country has been unduly targeted with sanctions by the US

The need for imported oil in the US, along with China's determination to secure energy sources for its super-hot economy, has elevated interest in Africa. China appears to be winning this game because of its "pragmatic" approach of not "interfering" in the domestic affairs of countries. Although the US still gets a significant amount of its oil imports from Africa, China has gained a substantial foothold with new oil producers such as Ghana, Uganda, and Sudan , and has made some headway with older ones. In spite of these setbacks for the US in Africa, the guardians of US policy in this regard are the big oil companies, whose position and influence on African policy have not gone through any transformation simply because a person of African origin occupies the White House.

The prospect of America's becoming more energy independent should not suggest that its interest in African resources, or Africa's geopolitical importance to the US, will fade any time soon. China's strategic growth in Africa will remain a key factor for the US government, and that is why the American military presence in Africa since Obama came to power has increased.

From the Clinton years to the present, a new breed of African Americans has occupied senior positions in Africa policymaking; the Department of State's Africa team has included Susan Rice, Jendayi Fraser, and Johnnie Carson. It appears that these individuals are driven by mundane career aspirations rather than political ideals of serving America and Africa in mutually beneficial ways. Many of them see their African heritage not as a moral and ethical signifier that carries with it great responsibility to right injustice, but rather as a resume entry that makes them more attractive than other members of the establishment. This new breed of African American diplomats is joined at the hip with the established order and may in fact not be more favourably predisposed toward Africa than their predecessors. Their worldview is no different from that of their white counterparts and that Africans must be aware of the meaninglessness of race or ethnic politics.

From here 

New Alliance - Old Colonialism

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa (NAFSNA), designed by the governments of the eight richest economies, for some of the poorest countries in the world. The New Alliance was born out of the G8 summit in May 2012 at Camp David and, according to, WoW, “has been modelled on the ‘new vision’ of private investment in agriculture developed by management consultants McKinsey in conjunction with the ABCD group of leading grain traders (ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus) and other multinational agribusiness companies.”(Ibid) It has been written in honourable terms to sit comfortably within the Africa Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), bestowing an aura of international credibility.

At first glance, The New Alliance, with its altruistically-gilded aims, appears to be a worthy development.  Who could argue with the intention to “achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth and raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years”.

 Alliance contracts and deals-done favour wealthy investors, revealing the underlying, unjust G8 initiatives objective, to “open up African agriculture to multinational agribusiness companies by means of national ‘cooperation frameworks’ between African governments, donors and private sector investors” according to War on Want. With African governments anxious to eat at the head table, or at least be invited into the cocktail chamber they have little choice but to sign up to such unbalanced plans and policies.

African countries are required to change their trade and agriculture laws to include ending the free distribution of seeds, relax the tax system and national export controls and open the doors wide for profit repatriation (allowing the money as well as the crops to be exported). In Mozambique, as elsewhere across the continent, local farmers have been evicted from their land under land sales agreements.

Britain has pledged £395 million of foreign aid whilst, according to the UN “over 45 local and multinational companies have expressed their intent to invest over $3 billion across the agricultural value chain in Grow Africa countries [a Programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) established by the African Union in 2003.].” In order to get their hands on some of the corporations billions however, African nations are required to “change their seed laws, trade laws and land ownership in order to prioritise corporate profits over local food needs”, Mozambique e.g. is contracted to “systematically cease distribution of free and unimproved seeds”, and is drawing up new laws granting intellectual property rights (IPR) of seeds, that will “promote private sector investment”. In other words, laws are being written that allow foreign companies – ‘investors’ to grab the land of their African ‘partners’, patent their seeds and monopolise their food markets.

 In Ghana, Tanzania and Ivory Coast, similar regulations sit on the table waiting to be rubber-stamped.

The New Alliance is “a pro-corporate assault on African nations”, the ‘investment and support‘  to further expand their corporate assets and with the support of participating governments, obliged to provide a selection box of state incentives.

African farmers, along with 25 British campaign groups including War on Want, Friends of the Earth, The Gaia Foundation and the World Development Movement see clearly that “opening markets and creating space for multinationals to secure profits lie at the heart of the G8 intervention”. The New Alliance is a poisoned chalice.

From here 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Growing GM crops to sell is currently legal in only four countries in the region: Egypt, Sudan, Burkina Faso and South Africa. Uganda is the latest country to consider a bill to allow GM crops.

Scientists, farmers and international organizations are pressuring governments to relax restrictions on the technology. They argue that engineered crops have the potential to alleviate some of the grave threats to food production, from plant diseases to climate change.

80 percent of Ugandans grow at least some of their own food, and depend on their own harvests for their livelihood. And so more people are vulnerable to the weather and pests. GM crops might be more reliable than what Ugandans currently plant.

Each Ugandan eats about 1 pound of the fruit per day, on average. Bananas are the main source of starch in Uganda and many homes have banana trees. They are more important than wheat. But in the past decade, bacterial wilt disease has been cutting banana yields by 30 to 50 percent in some regions of Uganda. There are no pesticides or chemicals to stop the banana disease. But scientists at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization have engineered a bacteria-resistant version of the banana by putting a pepper gene into the plant. The scientists want to give away the GM banana for free to millions of Ugandan families.

The same with a transgenic virus-resistant cassava, a crop that may be more important for protecting families against famine than bananas.  The starchy cassava tuber is the go-to crop  when the cupboard is bare. It's resistant to drought, poor soils and climate change.

Cassava and bananas can both grow from clippings. So there's little risk of private corporations controlling the seed supplies for GM cassava or banana, like they do for corn and soybeans in the U.S.

Farmers are worried about the power to control the seeds. Farmers have been told that the GMOs are almost the same as non-GMOs. But they would have to go to a company to buy the seeds. Many farmers can't afford expensive seeds. They would have no rights. Many farm organically, without pesticides and fertilizers. But some GMOs encourage the use of extensive pesticides. These can damage other organisms, such as bees and could affect the fish population.

 Most of the people promoting the GMOs have a conflict of interest. Many foreign companies, like Monsanto, have funded the research on GMOs. They are not in a position to give an unbiased opinion on whether GMOs are good or not. Monsanto et al are unhappy with that closed market.

FAO research has identified approximately 250,000 plant species out of an estimated 300,000-500,000 in existence. Of that, about 30,000 are edible, and of these about 7000 plants and an additional 700 animal species have been used throughout the world’s history as food. Today, however, only 3 plants (wheat, rice, and maize) provide more than half of the global plant-derived energy. If we add six more crops (sorghum, millet, potatoes, sweet potatoes, soya beans, and sugar (cane or beet)) we cover 75% of the world’s energy. And, if we go a bit further, it is estimated that 95% of the world’s energy now comes from only 30 crops.

Will GMOs protect against empty bellies? Socialist Banner has no confidence in that claim. Hunger is caused by empty wallets and purses.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Damn Dam

Fall of the dictatorial military regime in 1991 brought little relief to the Ethiopians. Gross human rights violation, underdevelopment, poverty and starvation still remain. Famines still continue to strike and unemployment continues to soar. There is no freedom of expression in Ethiopia and media in this African nation is tightly regulated.

Ethiopians want to know how would the mega Grand Renaissance Dam help them apart from generating 6,000 MW of hydro electricity.  They want to know what benefit will the mega dam bring to the country which is one of the poorest in the world and when the nation is in absolute need of small “micro-dams” for "irrigation to ensure food security for its hunger-stricken population."

Over seventy per cent of the power the project will generate will be sold to Djibouti, Sudan and Kenya which is expected to generate a net profit of over 300 million euros every year while Ethiopians will continue to starve, die of hunger, struck intermittently by famines and slide deeper into  poverty.

The price to be paid by the Mursi, Suri and Bodi agro-pastoralists and others — those damned by the dam — is dislocation, displacement, destruction of traditional ways of life, persecution, loss of ancestral lands, starvation, conflict and potential extinction.

The Grand Renaissance Dam is also exacerbating the deterioration of the geo-political situation in the Nile basin, especially between Egypt and Ethiopia, and may possibly lead to a war over the Nile and bring devastating consequences in Ethiopia.

 The Grand Renaissance Dam will benefit only a handful — the Ethiopian elite -  who, according to a report of the Global Financial Integrity, siphoned 11.7 billion euros out of the country between 2000 and 2009. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

The San Win in Court

Socialist Banner has carried a number of posts about the victimisation of the San in Botswana.

The latest development is for the moment good news for Botswana’s first peoples. Dozens of Botswana Bushmen threatened with eviction, reportedly because they live in an area proposed as a 'wildlife corridor', have won a significant court victory in their struggle to stay on their land. The Bushmen in fact pose no threat to wildlife, alongside which they have lived sustainably for centuries, and many believe the eviction is in fact to benefit local cattle ranchers. The corridor project was promoted by the US organization Conservation International (CI) - Botswana's President Khama sits on Conservation International's board.

Government officials and police set up camp at Ranyane to pressurize residents into relocating. Last month the local council told residents that they would be evicted in just four days, and sent trucks and police to the settlement to intimidate them. The Bushmen went to court, and obtained a temporary injunction against their eviction.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

elections and democracy

Traditionally in Africa’s villages decisions and conflict resolution takes place using a consensus system with no absolute winners and losers, with all parties agreeing to the final decision and honor bound to carry it out. Just the opposite of what happens after “elections” in “democratic Africa”.

 In Ethiopia, where the ethnic minority regime declared themselves victors 12 hours after the polls closed with 99.6% of the seats in parliament.

 In Liberia, where the capital Monrovia has not had running water or electricity for the entire term of Eleanor Johnson’s Presidency, she who ran unopposed the last “election”, and won a Nobel Prize to boot.

 In Somalia, where there simply was no voting done by the Somali people, the entire parliament which “elected” the President was hand picked by the previous President.

In Libya where Al Queda militias run rampant and it doesn’t really matter who won the latest “election”, it is all about tribe and family and ties to the local warlords, sort of like Somalia really.

In Mali  the “victor” of the  “election”, is scheduled to be held in the midst of an ongoing counterinsurgency with thousands of French troops still occupying the country.

In Cote D’Ivoire where under the international communities supervision hundreds of thousands of non-Ivorians were allowed to vote (never mind the Ivorian Constitution) and then declared the World Banks local rep as the winner (again, never mind the Ivorian Constitutional Court who declared the incumbent President the winner). And when the incumbent wouldn’t cede power as demanded, rocket his Presidential residence courtesy of the French military and UN “peacekeepers” until shellshocked into surrender.

Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burundi, Congo, Central African Republic…insurgencies and rebellions everywhere.

In Eritrea, 22 years independent and no elections.

Most Africans will tell you what we most want is food, water, shelter, medical care and education for our children. If a country’s leaders are providing these basic human rights to their people they are doing what their people want and practicing democracy. If they are not, if their people are hungry, cold, sick and illiterate then these leaders are not democratic no matter how many times they hold “elections”.

Adapted from here 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sam Mbah interview

This interview by Sam Mbah, Nigerian author and anarchist activist, will be of interest to some.

Tanzania's Oil Curse

In the southern village of Mikindani in Kilwa district, Tanzania , the Songo Songo gas discovery resulted in electrification in this village - but only for the lucky, wealthy few.

Ishmail, a resident of Mikindani, a neighbouring port 10km south of Mtwara, wishes he could benefit from the gas discoveries. "We are mostly sesame and cashew farmers, or at least most of us would be if we had work. Unemployment here in Mikindani is a massive problem. Only eight to 10 percent of us work, and we are desperate," says Ishmail. "What does a person need? Health, a happy family, a home, food, and work. We don't have that, or clean water. Our problem is that the government, over 650km away in Dar es Salaam, has abandoned us … The gas will be exported to other areas, and here we will still be left without the basics."

Bono, The Apologist for Capitalism

Socialist Banner has often used the articles of George Monbiot as sources of information. His latest exposure of  the hypocrisy of Bono is well worth quoting extensively from.

 In 2005, at the G8 summit in Scotland, Bono and Bob Geldof heaped praise on Tony Blair and George Bush, who were still mired in the butchery they had initiated in Iraq. But this is worse. As the UK chairs the G8 summit again, a campaign that Bono founded, with which Geldof works closely, appears to be whitewashing the G8's policies in Africa.

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in the US when it chaired the G8 meeting last year. The alliance is pushing African countries into agreements that allow foreign companies to grab their land, patent their seeds and monopolise their food markets. Ignoring the voices of their own people, six African governments have struck deals with companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont, Syngenta, Nestlé and Unilever, in return for promises of aid by the UK and other G8 nations. A wide range of activists, both African and European, is furious about the New Alliance. But  Bono’s organisation stepped up to defend it. The article it wrote last week was remarkable in several respects: in its elision of the interests of African leaders and those of their people, in its exaggeration of the role of small African companies, but above all in failing even to mention the injustice at the heart of the New Alliance.

The Irish scholar Harry Browne maintains that "for nearly three decades as a public figure, Bono has been … amplifying elite discourses, advocating ineffective solutions, patronising the poor and kissing the arses of the rich and powerful". His approach to Africa is "a slick mix of traditional missionary and commercial colonialism, in which the poor world exists as a task for the rich world to complete". Bono, Browne charges, has become "the caring face of global technocracy".

Bono claims to be "representing the poorest and most vulnerable people". But  Bono and others like him have seized the political space which might otherwise have been occupied by the Africans about whom they are talking. Because Bono is seen by world leaders as the representative of the poor, the poor are not invited to speak. This works very well for everyone – except them.

Bono’s ONE campaign claims to work on behalf of the extremely poor. But its board is largely composed of multimillionaires, corporate aristocrats and US enforcers. Here you will find Condoleezza Rice, George W Bush's national security adviser and secretary of state, who aggressively promoted the Iraq war, instructed the CIA that it was authorised to use torture techniques and browbeat lesser nations into supporting a wide range of US aims. Here too is Larry Summers, who was chief economist at the World Bank during the darkest days of structural adjustment and who, as US Treasury secretary, helped to deregulate Wall Street, with such happy consequences for the rest of us. Here's Howard Buffett, who has served on the boards of the global grain giant Archer Daniels Midland as well as Coca-Cola and the food corporations ConAgra and Agro Tech. Though the main focus of ONE is Africa, there are only two African members. One is a mobile phone baron, the other is the finance minister of Nigeria, who was formerly managing director of the World Bank. What better representatives of the extremely poor could there be? Yet ONE  keeps telling you that it's a "grassroots campaign."

His positioning of the West as the saviour of Africa while failing to discuss the harm the G8 nations are doing has undermined campaigns for justice and accountability, while lending legitimacy to the neo-liberal project. This collaboration of multimillionaires and technocrats looks more like a projection of US and corporate power. U2's complex web of companies, the financial arrangements of Bono's Product RED campaign and his investments through the private equity company he co-founded are all famously opaque. And it's not an overwhelming shock to discover that tax justice is absent from the global issues identified by ONE.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gambia - an open prison

Ten of thousands of winter tourists flock to Gambia, mainland Africa's smallest country, each year. Tourism has become an economic lifeline under the regime of a president who urges "every Gambian to be a policeman". The Gambia has one of the continent's worst human rights records.

"Gambia is not a military dictatorship but nobody likes to mention the president's name," said a tour guide.

Since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1994, President Yahya Jammeh has swapped army fatigues for a white gown and sceptre, and rules through a potent mix of state brutality and mysticism, claiming to cure a long list of maladies from Aids to erectile dysfunction. His secret police, disguised as everything from gigolos to street hawkers, have arrested people for reacting "indifferently" when his presidential convoy passes.

Activist and former minister Amadou Scattred Janneh was sentenced to life imprisonment for distributing T-shirts at a rally. He shares a cell with a 24-year-old jailed for creating an online social media profile using the president's name. Janneh said that in August last year he saw nine prisoners apparently randomly dragged out of their cells and executed by firing squad. "It was very traumatic. No-one knew what criteria they used," he said. "One person had already served their term, another had been in jail for eight months, another for 27 years."

Gambia has some historical repute on account of the Kunta Kinte story from the novel Roots--which highlights the period of West African history characterised by the inhumane ravages of the Atlantic slave trade. The Gambia river is the silent container of James Island and Georgetown Island both river isolates on which the unfortunate African captives were kept shackled until some ship with dank holds arrived to convey them over the vast Atlantic for the purposes of captive labour in the service of a burgeoning capitalism. Multitudes died in this ultimate sacrifice for capitalism. Recently there was a repeat of history when along the Senegambian coast droves of young men risked their lives--many died in the process-- in rickety boats to sail over to Europe as willing slaves of industrial capitalism.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Wealth Divide in Mozambique

Mozambique has one of the highest real GDP growth rates in the world, at 7.5 per cent.

 “It certainly is boom time for the Mozambican economy,” Markus Weimer, a senior analyst at Control Risks, an independent global risk consultancy based in London and Maputo. “The country is performing strongly in a gloomy global context, and GDP growth rates are predicted to be high (above seven per cent) for the coming years.”

Yet it ranks 185th out of 187 countries on the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index by the UN Development Programme. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 55 per cent of its 23.9 million people officially living below the poverty line. Analysts say Mozambique is a glaring illustration that the “trickle down” effect of development capitalism does not work.

The Mozambican civil war began in 1977 and ended 15 years later in 1992.  In 2011 Mozambique discovered offshore gas fields.

 “There is a growing divide here: between old and young, between rich and poor. We are the new generation, born in the war. We are educated, we want jobs, but we can’t get them. We live in areas where the roads are awful and there is no public lighting, no sewage system,” Feling Capella, a journalist and poet tells IPS.

Lined up along the streets of central Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city, are expensive European-style bars and restaurants with sophisticated names like Café Continental, Nautilus and Mundos. And the residential houses and flats in the capital of this southern African nation are a flabbergasting and bewildering array of 1960s modernist and Art Deco icons, mixed with new-money skyscrapers. Further away in the new Chinese-built airport that was completed in February 2013, aftershaves sell for $230 and bottles of Dom Pérignon, a vintage champagne, cost $320. That is literally three months’ salary for the average worker, who lives on 3,000 metacals ($100) a month.

Who are these new super-rich? A variety of answers emerge: They are government ministers; they are friends and relatives of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), the ruling party; they are people working with and for the UN; and a small handful are oil and gas investors and associated traders. Dentists and doctors here do not own the newest cars and their sunglasses are not international brands such as Gucci or Prada.

Sebastien Marlier, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit who tracks developments in Mozambique, explained: “Corruption has become a major concern in Mozambique. A small elite associated with the ruling party and with strong business interests dominates the economy.”

The director of Mozambique Human Rights League and Mozambique’s national winner of the Secretary’s International Women of Courage Award for 2010, Dr Alice Mabota, is candid about corruption. “People are very angry about corruption. They want the right decisions taken by the right people. Frelimo knows they have a problem. I hope the next generation is able to address these problems,”

The $100 million jaunt

Barack Obama and his family will be going to Africa later this month. But the trip won't be cheap; it's expected to cost $60 to $100 million.

Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of emergency. Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bullet-proof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where Obama will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.

Money well spent, resources well deployed ? Socialist Banner does not believe so

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Britain and the Mau Mau

June 12, 2013 – The New York Times 

THE British do not torture. At least, that is what we in Britain have always liked to think. But not anymore. In a historic decision last week, the British government agreed to compensate 5,228 Kenyans who were tortured and abused while detained during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s. Each claimant will receive around £2,670 (about $4,000). 

¶ The money is paltry. But the principle it establishes, and the history it rewrites, are both profound. This is the first historical claim for compensation that the British government has accepted. It has never before admitted to committing torture in any part of its former empire. 

¶ The Kenyan case has been in process for a decade in London’s High Court. The British fought to avoid paying reparations, so the decision to settle is a significant change of direction. The decision comes months ahead of the 50th anniversary of the British departure from Kenya — once thought of as the “white man’s country” in East Africa. 

¶ The Kenya case turned on the evidence of historians, including my own role as an expert witness. I identified a large tranche of documents that the British government smuggled out of Kenya in 1963 and brought back to London. The judge ordered the release of this long-hidden “secret” cache, some 1,500 files. 

¶ The evidence of torture revealed in these documents was devastating. In the detention camps of colonial Kenya, a tough regime of physical and mental abuse of suspects was implemented from 1957 onward, as part of a government policy to induce detainees to obey orders or to make confessions. 

¶ The documents showed that responsibility for torture went right to the top — sanctioned by Kenya’s governor, Evelyn Baring, and authorized at cabinet level in London by Alan Lennox-Boyd, then secretary of state for the colonies in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government. 

¶ When told that torture and abuse were routine in colonial prisons, Mr. Lennox-Boyd did not order that such practices be stopped, but instead took steps to place them beyond legal sanction. “Compelling force” was allowed, but defined so loosely as to permit virtually any kind of physical abuse. 

¶ Why did the British keep these documents, instead of destroying them? Plenty else was burned, or dumped at sea, as the British left Kenya. 

¶ The answer lay in the unease of some British colonial officers. Many did not like what they saw. When the orders to torture came down, some realized the jeopardy they were in. These men worried that it was they, not their commanders, who would carry the can.

¶ They were right to worry. Official reports from the 1950s always blamed individual officers — the “bad apples in the barrel” — for acts of abuse. But the blame lay not with junior officers forced to implement a bad policy but with the senior echelons of a colonial government that was rotten to the core. 

¶ Kenya’s will not be the last historical claims case. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office faces others, some of which have been in progress for years. 

¶ A case already before the courts concerns the 1948 Batang Kali massacre in colonial Malaya, now Malaysia. There, the relatives of innocent villagers — who were murdered by young conscript soldiers ordered to shoot by an older, psychopathic sergeant major — have asked for compensation. For Americans, the case has eerie echoes of Vietnam. 

¶ Though Britain is the first former European colonial power to pay individual compensation to victims, other countries have been confronted by similar accusations. In 2006, Germany offered to pay millions of euros to the Namibian government to compensate for the German Army’s genocide against the Herero tribe in the early 20th century. It also issued a public apology in the capital, Windhoek. In 2011, the Dutch government was ordered by the International Court of Justice to compensate survivors of a 1947 massacre in colonial Indonesia; it has not yet paid. 

¶ Historical research has played its part in all these cases, but not all historians are happy with the way things are turning out. Leading historians of British colonialism have long tended to rejoice in a benevolent, liberal view of imperialism. 

¶ The British historians Andrew Roberts, Niall Ferguson and Max Hastings have all nailed their colors to the mast of the good ship Britannia as she sailed the ocean blue bringing civilization and prosperity to the world. This view seems unlikely to be credible for much longer. 

¶ Empire was built by conquest. It was violent. And decolonization was sometimes a bloody, brutal business. No American should need reminding of that. And Britain, along with other imperial powers of the 19th and 20th centuries, may yet have to pay for this. 

¶ Torture is torture, whoever the perpetrator, whoever the victim. Wrongs should be put right. Whatever wrongs were done in the name of Britain in Kenya in the 1950s, the British government has now delivered modest reparations to some victims. And maybe we in Britain have also finally begun to come to terms with our imperial past. 

¶ Would the United States be so accommodating to a similar claim? In the current political climate, probably not. But times change. Fifty years from now, will Americans face claims from Guantánamo survivors? You might, and perhaps you should. 

 David M. Anderson
Professor of African history at the University of Warwick, 
Author of “Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire.” 

Chinese Imperialism

“China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism,” -  Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

In Zambia Chinese investors made deals with the government to mine its natural resources, filling federal coffers with billions of dollars. Chinese immigrants moved into cities and rural towns. They started construction companies; opened copper, coal, and gem mines; and built hotels and restaurants, all providing new jobs. They set up schools and hospitals. But then instances of corruption, labor abuse, and criminal cove-rups began to set the relationship between the Chinese and the Africans aflame. In Zambia, a copper-rich country in southern Africa and the beneficiary of the continent’s third-highest level of Chinese investment, persistent unemployment and poverty have left Zambians wondering where exactly the fruits of their government’s lucrative deals with the Chinese have gone. Tax avoidance by foreign investors is reportedly costing Zambia close to two billion dollars a year. President Michael Sata won election in 2011 partly thanks to anti-Chinese sentiment (he likened work at Chinese mines to slave labor and said he would deport any abusive investors), but immediately forged close ties with Chinese leaders. Chinese owners of copper mines in Zambia regularly violate the rights of their employees by not providing adequate protective gear and insuring safe working conditions, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

The share of Africa’s exports that China receives has shot from one to fifteen per cent over the past decade, while the European Union’s share fell from thirty-six to twenty-three per cent. China is now Africa’s largest trading partner. Trade between Africa and China has doubled since 2007 to more than $200 billion . In 2012 alone, more than 2,000 Chinese companies have invested a total of US $20 billion.  China has taken proprietorship of African natural resources using Chinese labor and equipment without transferring skills and technology.

Ghana arrested and are expelling 166 Chinese who were detained  in the country’s gold-producing regions. “If you have gold, then Chinese want to go there to mine it – it’s like the American gold rush,” He Wenping, the director of the African Research Section at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said from Beijing. The influx of illegal Chinese miners has angered Ghanaian farming communities who say their land and sources of drinking water are threatened by their activities. The Chinese use high-end industrial machinery including excavators to dig, while Ghanaian small-scale miners mostly use shovels and pickaxes.

China is also facing competition in Africa from other nations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged 3.2 trillion yen  in public and private support to Africa during a recent conference in Tokyo.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kenya and inequality

Kenya's poorest 20 percent earn about five percent of the country's total income, whereas the wealthiest 20 percent earn 53 percent.

The government's own estimates claim that the country loses more than $1.1bn a year to unnecessary tax breaks and tax holidays for big businesses. The International Monetary Fund itself has disproved the claim that these tax holidays increase investment - they only pull resources created by the people away from the people.

Kenyan members of parliament unanimously voted to overturn a directive by the newly established Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), constitutionally established to remove parliamentarians' powers to decide their own pay, which had reduced their pay from $126,000 to $78,000 earlier this year.  Kenyan MPs are among the highest-paid in the world.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Class Divide in Death

An accident occurred on Friday, April 5, 2013 at Ugbogui along the Benin -Ore Expressway that involved a haulage truck belonging to Dangote Industries Limited, a petrol tanker and a double-decked  bus.  It  claimed over 100 lives of innocent Nigerians but did not attract any official reaction from the Ogas at the top nor attract any sympathetic response from them to the victims or their relatives. The business mogul, whose truck hit the petrol tanker that ignited the inferno that eventually consumed the victims, never said anything as regards the accident nor the lives of those wasted. No condolence message from the industries’ management. Neither the Presidency nor the National assembly declared any mourning period or observed a moment of silence on the floor to mourn the dead victims.

On June 3,2012 at Iju-Ishaga Lagos-State an air-crash claimed the lives of over 160 occupants of  the aircraft. The government declared 3 days of national mourning, lowered  the nation’s flag to half mast. Many visits were paid to the homes of the bereaved and paid adverts were sponsored by some past heads of state to show their grief. The Senate President, David Mark and Speaker Tambuwal where emotionally affected during the calamitous period. The families of the victims were allowed to claim the bodies of their loved ones, after DNA tests were carried out by the airlines management, to allow the victims to be accorded befitting burials with the compensation and little ameliorative measures given to the victims’ families or relatives, even though the ground victims are yet to be compensated.

In the case of unfortunate victims of Ore-Benin accident was not like that. They were not accorded any befitting burials,  packed  inside a dingy truck that carried them to the mass burial site. It only took a vigorous and sustained demonstrations on the part of the widows of the slain police officers of Atakpo Village, Nasarawa State before the dead bodies of their husbands were not giving mass burial but latter released to their wives and relatives for decent burial.

The embarrassing thing was the action of officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) which denied relatives the release of the corpses, claiming that they were burnt beyond recognition as if those that were burnt at Dana crash were all recognisable, and if so, why carrying out DNA test on them and why not the same treatment given to the victims of the Benin accidents. Are the Dana air mishap victims more Nigerian than the Benin--Ore victims? No, but because the majority of the dead victims in the air disaster were either VIPs or related to any of the ‘Ogas at the top’.

This is the scenario that plays itself out in Nigeria on daily basis and it has been affecting the unity, progress and development of the nation’s infrastructure.The situation of the nation’s health sector gives little concerns to the people at the top. A situation where any poor Nigerian who needs medical attention and cannot get it due to poverty or non availability of the medical equipment needed in the treatment of their cases and will be referred to overseas for treatment and no money to undergo such medical tourism will now result to begging on the pages of newspaper for funds, never  pricked the consciences of those ‘Ogas at the top’ is condemnable.

In the justice system is another area where class distinction is very obvious. Kelvin IghaIgbodaho that stole a phone that worth N50,000 was awarded 10 years jail term recently without option of fine.  John YakubuYesufu that confessed to the stealing of N32.9 billion  police pension fund was jailed 2 years OR pay the fine option of N750,000 . In Nigeria, the rich get their bails while the poor get their jails.

The land grabs go on

 Herakles Farms (HF), is a subsidiary of the venture investment firm Herakles Capital which uses on its website such  phrases as "sustainable", "poverty reduction" and "environmentally benign". Its CEO,  Bruce Wrobel, declares: "Throughout my entire life I have considered myself to be an environmentalist and an activist for the poor."

Yet the company is constructing what it claims will be among "the largest palm-oil plantations in all of Africa" - an area roughly 12 times the size of Manhattan - in a fragile biodiverse region in Cameroon. Last year, after complaints about Herakles to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) highlighted the company's alleged environmental violations, Wrobel made no attempts to set the record straight. Instead, Herakles resigned from the Roundtable before the claims were to be investigated, spuriously stating that they "remain committed" to RSPO's standards.

 In communications with investors, Herakles assures that it has "secured a 99-year lease... and also received all required permits and approvals to commence field operations". But in an internal communication, a senior Herakles official states unequivocally: "We do not have the required government approvals for field planting." Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has on numerous occasions - the most recent, just last month - formally warned the company to stop felling trees until it receives the necessary approvals. Among these missing approvals is a signed presidential decree required to validate the leases of all land concessions of more than 50 hectares on public lands in Cameroon. Yet despite its many reproaches, Herakles proceeds with impunity.

The company  dangled the promise of hospitals, jobs, food security and "tremendous long-term benefits", and managed to gain pockets of consent in the area, to which it now clings as proof of its right to operate. Their dreams of local people stronger infrastructure began to evaporate at the moment when, instead of hospitals and jobs, the only new features to materialise in the area were  perimeters and warning signs, flaunting the fact that their land rights had been forfeited.

 Herakles Farms have exploited images of poverty and hunger, and couched their efforts in the language of sustainability, allowing them to handily reap profits from Africa's resources while undermining national laws, local communities and the environment.

From here

South Africa's Xenophobia

As the largest economy on the continent, South Africa has attracted foreign Africans from as far afield as Nigeria, Ethiopia, the DR Congo and as close as neighbouring Botswana. They come as political refugees or economic migrants, with one goal: a better life. Following the end of apartheid in 1994, thousands of Chinese and South Asian foreign nationals have been living and conducting business across the country. Despite attracting the biggest number of asylum seekers in the world, The Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) found that South Africans receive foreigners with a jaundiced eye.

Instead of South Africans thriving on its much-vaunted multicultural identity, foreigners have been painted in the popular imagination as criminals, job snatchers, and parasites arriving in throngs to eat at an economy battling to feed its own people. In 2011, around 120 foreign nationals were killed, of whom five were burnt alive. In 2012, 140 foreigners were killed and 250 others injured in violent attacks across the country, reported the African Centre for Migration & Society  in Johannesburg. In 2013, the Centre estimates that at least three attacks on foreigners take place weekly. With just one perpetuator brought to justice for the 2008 violence, the South African judiciary is allowing for a culture of impunity to settle, as the foreigner is institutionalised as a soft target, unlikely to enjoy state protection on any level. Foreign nationals entering the country and trying to integrate into society narrate tales of daily strife with authorities. They report harassment at police stations, neglect at hospitals and abuse at immigration offices. The way the state treats foreign nationals essentially represents the way ordinary people treat foreign nationals.

Biniam Misgun, lecturer in the School of Sociology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in Durban explained "If people were not fighting over a bag of corn or sugar, it [the situation] might be a little different."

 SAMP  found that more than 50 percent of South Africans believed foreigners constituted a majority of the country's population while 63 percent of South Africans wanted electrified fences on the country’s borders. In reality, foreign nationals amount to less than five percent, or 2.2 million people out of a population of around 50 million. The study found that xenophobia is firmly embedded across all economic and social strata of South African society but with incidents of violence are more likely in impoverished areas where a riot can sometimes be the only way to the draw government attention. In the  township of Diepsloot in Johannesburg was a scene of chaos after a Somali shopkeeper killed two Zimbabweans he suspected to be thieves on the evening of Sunday, May 26. Angered by the shootings, Diepsloot residents turned their attention on the Somalis, Pakistanis and other foreign nationals doing business in the township. Nineteen foreign-owned stores were attacked in a frenzy of xenophobic violence and looting over the next two days. In Port Elizabeth a Somali man, was stripped naked, his genitals pelted with rocks, stones smashed over his head all the while receiving kicks to the face, became the latest victim of xenophobic violence in the country.  Abdi Nasir Mahmoud Good, died of his injuries. Good is just one of the victims of the xenophobic violence that flared through northern Port Elizabeth and up to four other towns and cities across the country last week. Five other Somalis were injured in the violence and almost every Somali-owned business in Port Elizabeth’s Booysen Park was burned or looted.

“ South Africa wants to promote solidarity and unity on the African continent and yet there is move towards a more restrictive asylum regime," Sicel'mpilo Shange-Buthane, executive director of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants , in Johannesburg, told Al Jazeera.

Friday, June 07, 2013

We can feed the world

It is so ingrained that many people cling to the idea that Africa can’t feed itself—and maybe never will. That conclusion, however common, is wrong.  In Uganda in East Africa and in the 15 countries of West Africa, food production now outpaces population growth.  10 African countries are posting annual output increases of 6 percent, more than twice the rate of population growth.  Even infamously food-insecure Malawi and Ethiopia are growing record amounts of crops and even export surpluses to their neighbors. Long ignored, Africa’s “forgotten” crops, including cassava, sunflower seeds, and cowpeas, are being re-discovered and have in the last two decades rapidly expanded in production.

This in spite of use of high-quality seeds and fertilizer is minimal.  Africa has the greatest amount of idle arable land on the planet. For example, the Guinea Savannah zone covers around 600 million hectares in West Africa—through Uganda and Tanzania and encompassing Malawi, Zambia, Angola, and Mozambique—which is around one-third of the total area of sub-Saharan Africa. Of this, 400 million hectares can be used for agriculture. However, less than 10 percent of this area is being cultivated today. Less than 5 percent of land in the sub-Sahara being  irrigated.

 African farmers in the early 1960s supplied 8 percent of the world’s tradable food. That figure stands at less than 2 percent today. Sub-Saharan Africa can produce enough food to feed its peopleand can feed some of the rest of the world too.