Monday, March 31, 2014

African Migrants

They’re leaving home 

Every year, millions of Africans pack their belongings and leave behind families and friends. A hostile environment—war, persecution, insecurity—pushes some to seek refuge. Others leave searching for a job, better education or adventure.Wherever the “push-pull” balance lies, migrations help and harm societies.
Receiving countries may be saddled with having to care for legions of destitute and desperate refugees. But they also benefit from immigrants’ skills and labour. Similarly, the countries being left behind may lose productive workers, but they also profit from the remittances sent home by successful emigrants—and from the return of citizens equipped with more money and know-how.
Estimates of the diaspora’s size range from 30m to 168m, according to theWorld Bank. Their economic impact is considerable: 30m migrants sent $60 billion to 120m recipients in 2012. This amount is understated because not all transfers are tracked. Still, it outstrips official development assistance and aid, $51 billion in 2011, the latest year available.
Large numbers of refugees are hiding or stuck in camps, a result of conflict and poor government performance. In 2012 the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counted 10.5m refugees worldwide. Of these, 2.7m or 25% were in sub-Saharan Africa.
African governments are confronted with trying to extract the maximum economic benefits from migration, while reducing the factors that force people from their homes. Steps can be taken to achieve both goals.
Successful diaspora communities, such as Somalis in the United States, represent a potent economic opportunity. Ethiopia has shown how establishing networks with expatriate communities and fostering regular dialogue is crucial to tapping capital, skills and experience. Bringing down the cost of sending remittances, which at an average of over 12% is currently the highest in the world, could also increase the benefits.
Finally, even long-time emigrants can be induced to return by improving education, protecting civil and property rights, and promoting economic growth at home.
Urgent action is needed for exiles hiding or trapped in refugee camps. The world’s two most populated camps are in Kenya. Despite the efforts of international organisations and host countries, these refugees live under catastrophic conditions.
Making their countries of origin more peaceful and prosperous would go a long way to creating conditions that would encourage their return.
Government performance underlies most migration stories. Improving it promotes voluntary, desirable migration: it matches skills and capital with opportunities in other places. And it also reduces forced migration, allowing people to remain with their families and friends rather than fleeing from war or persecution.
John Endres
CEO of Good Governance Africa- Introduction to the April edition here

Sunday, March 30, 2014

We can solve hunger

Feeding chronically hungry people in the Sahel has been compromised by regional conflict that has created approximately 724,000 refugees and 495,000 internally displaced persons.

According to the latest data from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Chad’s open-door policy has resulted in it receiving 419, 000 refugees (86,000 from CAR, and 333,000 from Darfur, Sudan).

Out of the 103,000 refugees residing in Mauritania, a majority are from Mali and Western Sahara, while Burkina Faso has received 43,000 refugees from Mali since the crisis there began in 2012.

Countries in the Sahel currently facing food shortages are Mali, Mauritania, the Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic (CAR), Niger, Chad and Nigeria.

Last month, the U.N. appealed for more than two billion dollars to address the needs of 20 million “food insecure” people across Africa’s Sahel, a semi-arid area beset by persistent drought and chronic food insecurity stretching from the Sahara desert in North Africa and Sudan’s Savannas in the south. It is described by the U.N. as “one of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable regions.”

Food insecurity in the Sahel is set to increase in 2014 by 40 percent compared to 2013 when 11.3 million people had inadequate food

Mali maintains it has the capacity to feed its people but is restricted by poor infrastructure and instability in the north. Last year, it produced two million tonnes of cereal in addition to one million tonnes of rice.
“Mali’s problem is not agricultural, it is a logistical problem about transporting the food to people. The crisis and the instability in the north is not permitting us to use the roads safely. Therefore the food that farmers produce is restricted in its movement because of insecurity,” Issa Konda, head of Mali’s agricultural delegation attending the FAO conference, told IPS.

 Gerda Verburg, chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security said “In the Sahel we have the solutions. We have the capacity. We have the willingness.  However, as long there is insecurity then food production and access to food is at risk.  There is not enough reliability and stability for us to adequately address food insecurity in the Sahel,”

Niger’s severe food shortages due to recurrent drought have also been compounded by conflict in neighbouring countries. Half of the country’s 17 million people are without adequate food all year round, while one in 10 is unable to feed themselves for three months of the year. Conflict in northern Mali, southern Libya, northern Nigeria and CAR has put pressure on Niger’s resources to deal with its food crisis as thousands of displaced civilians take refuge in the country due to its porous borders. Since 2012, Malian refugees have regarded neighbouring Niger as a safe haven. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, over 51,000 refugees (47,000 from Mali and 4,000 from Nigeria) have entered the country as a result of regional conflict. Niger’s refugee crisis escalated last year after neighbouring Nigeria launched a military offensive against Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, causing 10,000 people to flee northern Nigeria into south-eastern Niger and Cameroon.

No crock of gold at the end of the rainbow nation

April 27 marked the 20th anniversary of South Africa's first democratic elections. Many things have improved in South Africa since 1994, to be sure. State racism has ended. People have rights. Yet, everyday life for most South Africans remains a struggle and with it the sense of disappointment that accompanies it, given the gap between the expectations of liberation and the state of abjection that the majority continues to inhabit.

South Africa's unemployment rate in 1994 was 13 percent - so bad that most were convinced it could only get better. Yet today it is double that, at about 25 percent. And that's according to official statistics; a more reasonable figure, according to most analysts, is probably closer to 37 percent. The situation is particularly bad for young people. The Economist recently reported that "half of South Africans under 24 looking for work have none. Of those who have jobs, a third earn less than $2 a day."

 South Africa also boasts a reputation for being one of the most unequal countries in the world. Not only has aggregate income inequality worsened since the end of apartheid, income inequality between racial groups has worsened as well. According to the 2011 census, black households earn only 16 percent of that which white households earn. About 62 percent of all black people live below the poverty line, while in the rural areas of the former homelands this figure rises to a shocking 79 percent.

In 2006, still 70 percent of South Africa's land was under the control of whites, who constitute a mere 10 percent of the population. The ANC's Black Economic Empowerment programme has succeeded in minting new black millionaires (South Africa has 7,800 of them now), but can't seem to manage the much more basic goal of eliminating poverty.

 South Africa's mineral wealth, including some of the richest seams of gold, platinum, and coal in the world, remain in the hands of corporations such as British-owned Anglo American. The finance sector, which has ballooned to a dangerously large 21 percent of the country’s GDP, remains mostly monopolised by four white-owned conglomerates.

The World Bank and the IMF have long praised South Africa for its accomplishments since 1994, and friendliness toward foreign direct investment. The apartheid National Party was determined that the transition would not undermine key corporate interests in South Africa, specifically finance and mining. They were willing to bargain away political power so long as they could retain control over the economy. And so they did. The ANC retreated from its position on nationalisation and an IMF deal signed just before the transition deregulated the financial sector and clamped down on wage increases. The central bank, left in the hands of the old apartheid bosses, was insulated from democratic politics and its mandate limited to targeting inflation instead of employment or growth.

The National Party only managed to extract these concessions because they had successfully divided the resistance movement between moderate elites, such as Thabo Mbeki, who had spent many years in exile, and the more radical activists who were at the forefront of the struggle within South Africa itself. The latter were largely unrepresented in the economic negotiations, while the former enjoyed a sort of royal treatment, including a now infamous series of secret meetings in the United Kingdom with major figures in mining and finance. Mbeki, a self-proclaimed Thatcherite, was easy to convince. He already believed in the basic neoliberal principles that the National Party were hoping to institute.  For him, the route to prosperity for the new nation depended not on nationalisation and redistribution, but on global market integration and foreign investment, which would supposedly grow the economy and trickle down to the poor.

Still, when the ANC assumed power in 1994 it implemented a progressive policy initiative known as the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). The RDP was designed to promote equitable development and poverty reduction, mostly through public investment and the mass rollout of social services to connect millions of people to housing, electricity, water, and clinics. This was abandoned a mere two years later.  Mbeki and then Finance Minister Trevor Manuel held clandestine discussions with World Bank advisors toward drafting a new economic policy known as GEAR (Growth, Employment, and Redistribution, even though it accomplished precious little of the latter). It was implemented in 1996 despite significant resistance from within the unions. GEAR amounted to neoliberalism: more privatisation, lower trade barriers, and looser financial controls.

When the ANC came to power with a landslide vote in 1994, they did so on the promises of the Freedom Charter. Penned in 1955, the Freedom Charter expressed South Africans' demands for the right to work, housing, freedom of movement, and - most radically - economic justice. "The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people," the Charter reads. "The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole, [and] all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people." Most South Africans agree that these promises have been betrayed.

South Africa is ablaze with discontent, earning it the title of "protest capital of the world". Early this year some 3,000 protests occurred over a 90-day period, involving more than a million people. South Africans are taking to the streets, as they give up on electoral politics. This is particularly true for the young: Nearly 75 percent of voters aged 20-29 did not participate in the 2011 local elections. So far the protests have been focused on issues like access to housing, water, electricity, and other basic services, but it won't be long before they coalesce into something much more powerful, as they did during the last decade of apartheid. There are already signs that this is beginning to happen. The Economic Freedom Fighters, founded by Julius Malema, the corrupt former leader of the ANC Youth League, is successfully mobilising discontented youth and making a strong push to nationalise the mines and the banks. NUMSA, the metal workers union, recently broke ranks with the ANC in a historic turn that could open the way for a labour-based opposition to the ruling party for the first time since 1994.

The government's response has been a mix of police repression - including the recent massacre of 44 striking miners at Marikana - and the continued rollout of welfare grants, which now provide a vital lifeline to some 15 million people. The grants are a stop-gap solution to the failure of trickle-down economics, a way of papering over the contradictions of South African capitalism; everyone is aware that without them poverty and inequality would be so unbearable that the country's already tenuous sense of social stability would come crashing to an end. The ANC's legitimacy is beginning to unravel and consent among the governed has begun to thin as the ANC scrambles to shore up its symbolic connection to the liberation struggle.

 The revolution that brought us the end of apartheid has accomplished a great deal, to be sure, but it has not yet reached its goal. Liberation is not yet at hand. What is democracy if it doesn't allow people to determine their own economic destiny or benefit from the vast wealth of the commons? What is freedom if it serves only the capital interests of the country's elite?

Adapted from AlJazeera article by Jason Hickel, lecturer at the London School of Economics

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Capitalist State

The capitalist class will not shrink from the use of force to protect their wealth.

Africa’s richest man, Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote, and Lagos state Governor Babatunde Fashola are reportedly employing Nigerian police officers to forcefully evacuate residents of a rural community in Lagos in order to facilitate Dangote’s acquisition of a large parcel of land.  Dangote, who has a fortune worth $24.5 billion, intends to build a $9 billion oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the area.

On Thursday more than a hundred Nigerian police officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) invaded the Okun-Idasho rural community in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, and forced residents to evacuate from their homes. According to the report, the policemen arrived at noon and went from house to house throwing out occupants. Individuals who protested the invasion were arrested and manhandled. The police officers also shot in the air sporadically and threw tear gas to disperse protesting residents.

DRC: Inga 3 Dam 'High Risk Project'

Even though only 9 percent of the DRC population has access to electricity, the power generated by Inga 3 will primarily benefit mining companies and export markets

Today, the World Bank Group's Board of Directors approved a grant of US$73.1 million for the Inga 3 Dam on the Congo River – the biggest hydropower project the World Bank has ever funded. International Rivers denounces the decision as support for a risky mega-project that will not benefit the local population.

The 4,800-megawatt Inga 3 Dam is the first phase of the giant Grand Inga scheme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Including the financing costs, Inga 3 will cost $14 billion. The Bank’s $73 million grant will finance technical studies and legal work to prepare for the construction of the dam, which is expected to start in 2016 and take seven years. Even though only 9% of the DRC population has access to electricity, the power generated by Inga 3 will primarily benefit mining companies and export markets.

Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Director of International Rivers, said: “By approving Inga 3, the World Bank shows it has not learnt lessons from the bad experience of previous dams on the Congo River despite its claims to the contrary. The Bank is turning a blind eye to the DRC’s poor governance and is taking short-cuts to the environmental assessment of the project.”

Peter Bosshard, Policy Director of International Rivers, said: “Solar, wind and micro-hydropower are more effective at reducing energy poverty in Africa, and don’t suffer the cost and time overruns that are typical for large dams. We will continue to push the World Bank and the DRC government to support clean local energy solutions rather than Africa’s next white elephant.”

On March 10, four researchers from Oxford University published a study which found that the large dams built since 1934 suffered average cost overruns of 96% and delays of 44%. In a conversation with International Rivers, the Oxford study's co-author, Atif Ansar, cautioned against Inga 3. "It is a very high-risk project typical of dam disasters," he said. Using the findings of the Oxford study to forecast cost overruns, he suggested that Bank's $14 billion estimated cost of Inga 3 should be uplifted to $28 billion to obtain 80% certainty that the budget is not exceeded. Given the cost risks, the dam is a non-starter in terms of economic viability. Congo is at risk of drowning its fragile economy in debt.

From here

Friday, March 28, 2014

Kenya's Former Legal Advisor To The Prime Minister Speaks Out On Wastage And Abuse

Kenya is struggling with a huge public wage bill. Much of the money goes into the pockets of ghost workers and greedy government officials. At all levels, there is breathtaking wastage of taxpayers’ money

This article is by Paul Mwangi who is a former legal advisor to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya. It was first published by Kenya’s Nation newspaper.

For slightly over 12 months since January 2012, I served as the Legal Advisor to the Prime Minister. It was a position that placed me at the highest levels of the Civil Service, with a pay grade of Job Group ‘U’, otherwise known as ‘PS level’.

What I learnt and observed about government in that short period of time makes me conclude that the President’s attempt at bringing down the wage bill by taking a 20 per cent pay cut, and enforcing the same across the board, is incredibly naive.

The problem with the exorbitant public wage bill is not the salaries. In fact, I think it is a good thing that the government is now able to attract competent staff and Kenyans will benefit from good public service, less corruption and thus a more productive private sector.

The problem with Kenya’s wage bill is wastage and abuse. All the way from State House to the tea room at the ministries, tax payers’ money is lost through wasteful use of resources and abuse of authority.

The first encounter I had with waste was when a requisition was made for furniture to my office. As a senior government officer, I was entitled to my own colour printer, computer, laptop, ipad, television, document shredder and water dispenser.

I have never seen such wasteful use of resources in the private sector in Kenya. In the commercial sector, printers are shared by many offices, as are water dispensers, shredders and televisions. And laptops are only issued to persons engaged in field work.


At the end of the month, I received my airtime allowance in the form of cards from various service providers. The total amount was Sh27,000 [about $310].

If there is one thing my relatives, friends and subordinates miss from my service in government it is free airtime. Because try as I did, I couldn’t spend more than Sh7,000 [about $80] of the allocation. And I got new cards every month.

And though I took only about three to five cups of tea in the office, I learnt that my secretary was entitled to pick Sh20,000 [$230]to Sh40,000 [$460] to make my tea every month.

I was entitled to tea, coffee or hot chocolate as I desired and to a choice of sugar or honey for my sweetener.

There were no less than ten senior offices to whom this allocation was made and many of us never got to know how much was picked or spent on our office accounts.

The fault, I came to learn, was not with the senior officers. The rules of service set these entitlements and they accrue as a matter of course.

This account is just a tip of the iceberg.

I was also entitled to an official car, armed driver, armed bodyguard and two police guards at the house.

Personally I did not think anyone was looking out to harm me so I only took an official car and an armed driver which I used during working hours. But I have observed that since the NARC [National Rainbow Coalition] government of 2003, the use of police security has become increasingly abused.

It is surprising that in the Moi government, with all its excesses, one never witnessed the almost comical spectacle we are being treated to everyday on our street where every minister, senator and governor is running around with several chase cars blaring sirens and a security detail at the expense of the taxpayer.

Without doubt our Cabinet Secretary in charge of internal security and his Permanent Secretary need to be accorded some serious security but who wants to harm the cabinet secretaries in charge of such mundane responsibilities like fisheries, sports or economic planning?

Sometimes in the process of work, it requires ad hoc committees to be formed by members of the same department or ministry, or sometimes members from various ministries, to see through a process or discuss an issue.

When this happens, tea must be served at 10a.m. and at 4p.m. together with snacks. The snacks will be a samosa, a sausage and a ndazi per person. And lunch too. Standard lunch order in most of the meetings I attended was Chinese.

I think it is sad that for the level of service the civil service gives Kenyans, it would be having Chinese lunches at the tax payers’ expense.


And when the work is done, the committee members would be paid an allowance for serving in that committee. This goes anywhere from Sh10,000 [$115] to Sh50,000 [$575] per person. If it is a gazetted task force, the sum would be a few hundred thousand shillings. Never mind that these allowances are being paid for work that everyone was employed to do in the first place, and will be paid for with a salary at the end of the month.

But to make this bad situation worse, there are kingpins in the accounts offices of almost every government department that control all payments with absolute discretion to pay or deny.

These big wigs’ names must be put in every payment list for money to be approved. So for every committee or task force requisitions, these kingpins earn sitting allowances as a matter of course.

Their names must also appear in every list of per diem payments for people travelling out of station.

I heard of accountants who make at least Sh500,000 [$5700] in a dry month through these illegal payments.

But it is not just the lower cadre bigwigs who exercise these abuses. I learnt that all senior government Ministers have confidential accounts that run into millions of shillings from which they are authorised to spend money without the scrutiny of the Auditor General, or the Controller of Budget, or Parliament.

These monies are allocated directly from the Treasury and are replenished as they are spent at the direction of the Minister of Finance.

The worst abuser of this confidential spending was the Office of the Head of the Civil Service and the Presidency at State House.

I don’t know but I have heard that the President’s confidential account often runs into billions of shillings and in the last regime was the cause of the short and tumultuous tenures of many a Comptroller of State House under whose office the account is operated.

In this day and age, it is unbelievable that any office in the public service can spend millions of shillings at its discretion without any budgetary approvals and with immunity from any form of scrutiny, even from Parliament.

This picture of abandon, waste and abuse would not be complete without mentioning two other practices.

One is foreign travel. We have too many Cabinet secretaries, permanent secretaries and other senior government officers are flying out to attend meetings that are not critically necessary to the tax payer or that can be attended by diplomatic mission representatives.

In many instances, the President, Deputy President and Cabinet Secretaries are accompanied by staff and other people whose presence and services are totally irrelevant to the taxpayer who pays for their travel.

There is no guideline in government regarding what is essential travel or who are essential personnel. In many instances, the work being done during these travels can be completed by foreign missions and the knowledge being sought can be learnt from the internet.


A similar wasteful practice is the going for retreats to do work that can be easily done at the office. In these retreats, all manner of staff members jump into the bus for the free tours. They collect allowances for these attendances while others, who never left the office, are also on the allowances list. But let’s not go there.

The second practice that I must mention in closing is training at the East and Southern Africa Management Institute at Arusha, Tanzania. Popularly known as ESAMI, this institute is a regional training centre owned by ten member governments to train senior government officers in critical areas of management.

However, this Institute has become the place where some Permanent Secretaries sent their sycophants at the ministry and their girlfriends to while away their time and earn allowances. Many senior officers who qualify and deserve to go don’t get a chance.

Some people are known to have attended many times over while others wait for a single chance. And when they attend, they are not only paid full salary but are paid allowances that run into hundreds of thousands of shillings for being out of station.

These are just some of the wasteful practices that are a culture in Kenya’s civil service which the President should be addressing. I want to believe that he is not being briefed on the full picture but I remember that he has served for more than a decade as a Cabinet Minister and five years as a deputy Prime Minister.

 From here

African Writers, What Is Your Vision?

What kind of Africa do women, youth, trade union activists, environmentalists, human rights, LBGTI and sex worker activists envision? What are the dreams of African writers, poets, scientists, engineers, agronomists, musicians for the continent in 50 years time? Pambazuka would like to hear from you.

On 25 May 2014 the African Union (AU) will be 12 years old, having been set up in Addis Ababa on 9 July 2002 to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The OAU waged a struggle for the decolonisation of the African continent from 1963 until it was supplanted by the AU.

In May 2014 Pambazuka News seeks to have a special issue on projecting into the future what Africa will look like in 50 years time. What kind of Africa do women, youth, trade union activists, environmentalists, human rights, LBGTI and sex worker activists envision? What are the dreams of African writers, poets, scientists, engineers, agronomists, musicians for the continent in 50 years time?

The revolutionary Thomas Sankara heeded that: “we must dare to invent the future.” What future will Africans create in 50 years time? Will we continue to ape the intellectual paradigms of the West, in terms of economic models, fashion and style? Is this imitation an inevitable aspect of “globalisation”?

Edward Blyden and Kwame Nkrumah spoke of an “African Personality” in the nineteenth and twentieth century. In the 21st century how should this reconfigured “African Personality” be defined and project itself on the world stage? The AU uses the language of Pan-Africanism and the “African Renaissance” and it is necessary to ask if they are one and the same thing? More importantly, what are the goals of Pan-Africanism in 50 years time? What does a Pan-Africanist Africa look and feel like?

What institutional challenges face the AU in the next 50 years?

These are the issues and questions we hope the special issue will grapple with and address in articles. Poems, short stories and personal opinion pieces are welcome.

Please send us your contribution.


LENGTH OF ARTICLES: Articles are to be written in Microsoft Word, Font: Times, size 12, and between 1000-3000 words

Please submit a two-line biography at the end of your article and send to:

from here

And if your submission relates in anyway to SOCIALISM we would love to receive it too. Contact us at


Middle class?

Defining the African “middle class” is a challenge. For the World Bank, it comprises everyone who earns between $2 and $20 per day. It’s a range that is far too broad and while the African Development Bank uses the same income range, it emphasises the need to subdivide the middle class into two. The upper middle class, by this definition, earns between $10 and $20 a day, and a vulnerable lower class is one that earns between $2 and $4 dollars a day. The latter are just marginally above the poverty line of $1.50 a day and can easily slip back into it.

According to the Moscow-based Institute for Emerging Market Studies, the African middle class will rise three times from 32 million in 2009 to 107 million by 2030 — the largest increase in the world.

Professor Marcel Benie Kouadio, economist and dean at the  Cote d’Ivoire’s Abidjan Private University Faculty tells IPS “The middle class has shrunk. Twenty years ago, teachers and doctors were middle class. Now, they can’t afford a new car. The Ivorian middle class lost its purchase power.”

Purchase power is a key word. Accountants differ with economists in their understanding of the middle class; rather than analysing income, they look at disposable revenue. Being middle class is about hitting a “sweet spot”, where people are able to spend money for things other than survival, says a report from accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

US Military - More Than One Mission A Day In Africa

U.S. Military Averaging More Than A Mission A Day In Africa
By Nick Turse
Read full article at

The numbers tell the story: 10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security cooperation activities.

Since its inception, U.S. Africa Command has consistently downplayed its role on the continent. Meanwhile, far from the press or the public, the officers running its secret operations have privately been calling Africa “the battlefield of tomorrow, today.”
After years in the dark, we now know just how “extremely active” -- to use General David Rodriguez’s phrase -- AFRICOM has been and how rapidly the tempo of its missions has increased. It remains to be seen just what else we don't know about U.S. Africa Command’s exponentially expanding operations.

Homophobia increasing

Kenya's penal code says any person "who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" is guilty of a felony and can be jailed for 14 years.

Aden Duale, the majority leader from President Uhuru Kenyatta's ruling Jubilee coalition said 595 cases of homosexuality had been investigated in Kenya since 2010.

He stated homodexuality is ”... as serious as terrorism. It's as serious as any other social evil," referring to a spate of attacks by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab carried out in retaliation for Kenya's intervention in neighbouring Somalia.

"Can't we just be brave enough, seeing that we are a sovereign state, and outlaw gayism and lesbianism, the way Uganda has done?" another legislator Alois Lentoimaga said.

Anti-gay groups have emerged in Kenya after Nigeria and Uganda toughened up laws against homosexuals. Nigeria has outlawed same-sex relationships. Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh has said homosexuals are "vermin" and must be fought like malaria-causing mosquitoes.

One of these groups, The Save Our Men Initiative, has said it is launching a "Zuia Sodom Kabisa" campaign, meaning "prevent Sodom completely" in Swahili, to "save the family, save youth, save Kenya".

Homosexuality in Africa is illegal in 37 countries there.

From here

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

IMF, Neoliberal Powerhouse, Ransacks Sudan

Many in the international community see the International Monetary Fund as a necessary entity that provides countries with much-needed aid. However, for many activists within Sudan and its diaspora, the IMF is a neoliberal powerhouse, implementing exploitative policies that extract land, resources and wealth from developing countries in exchange for money that goes to the governing elite.
 On February 15, 2014, a week of talks between the International Monetary Fund's deputy director of Middle East and Africa and government officials in Sudan ended. The finance minister, petroleum minister and governor of Central Bank discussed debt relief and economic reforms. The IMF promised "to provide the requested technical assistance and support to the productive sectors" to encourage investment, declaring that the success of the program would directly "tackle Sudan's external debt issue."
Sudanese activist Muzan Alneel describes the IMF policies as a "systematic and well-studied approach to keep Sudan as well as other developing countries from rising to their potentials." For the past few years, the IMF has been pushing Sudan to discontinue its fuel subsidies. When the Sudan government did that last September, protests that left over 200 civilians dead spread exponentially. Muhammad Osman, who participated in those protests, says, "the more the IMF and Sudan treat democratic and economic reforms as separate agendas, the more we are likely to witness a greater civil unrest in the near future."

Full article here

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monsanto's Claims Found To Be Unsubstantiated

African Centre for Biodiversity, 17 March, 2014

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of South Africa has today ordered Monsanto to withdraw its advertisement on Radio 702 with immediate effect, wherein Monsanto claims the benefits of GM crops. According to ASA, Monsanto’s claims were found to be unsubstantiated.

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) lodged a complaint to the ASA following an advertisement on Radio 702 by Monsanto wherein Monsanto claims that GM crops “enable us to produce more food sustainably whilst using fewer resources; provide a healthier environment by saving on pesticides; decrease greenhouse gas emissions and increase crop yields substantially.” The ACB was supported in its complaint by Ms Judith Taylor from Earthlife Africa.

Monsanto was given an opportunity by ASA to respond to the ACB’s complaint. According to the ASA, they were only able to provide the ASA with links to documents on its website, but were unable to provide, (as it is required to in terms of South African law governing advertising) inputs from an independent and credible expert confirming the various studies that Monsanto relied upon showing the ostensible benefits of GM crops.

“We are elated with this decision. Monsanto has already been warned by the ASA as far back as 2007, that it needs to substantiate its claims from an independent and credible expert in the matter of GM Food/M Wells/ 8739 (18 June 2007) regarding its claims of the so called benefits of GM crops. However, it appears Monsanto does not have much regard for South African law as it is hell bent on disseminating false information to the South African public,” said Mariam Mayet, Executive Director of the ACB.

The ASA has warned Monsanto that “it should ensure that it holds proper substantiation for its advertising claims” or risk attracting further sanctions.
Link to Ruling:

Unwanted Pregnancy And Abortion In Burkino Faso

One-third of all pregnancies in Burkina Faso are unintended and a third of them end in abortion, according to a study published this month by the University of Ouagadougou and the reproductive health think tank Guttmacher Institute, which also found that more than 100,000 abortions were carried out in the country in 2012, most of them performed in unsafe conditions or by untrained health workers.

Abortion is illegal in most circumstances, but the practice continues in secrecy. In 2008, 25 out of 1,000 women between 15 and 49 years old terminated a pregnancy, the study says. The rate of abortion in rural Burkina Faso is 22 per 1,000 women, and 28 for 1,000 in urban areas. The rate in the capital, Ouagadougou, is 42 out of 1,000.

Almost four in 10 of women who have an unsafe abortion suffer complications and do not receive proper health care.

“It’s alarming, and these are situations that could have been avoided by adopting preventive measures,” said Angele Sourabie, programme director at Burkina Faso Association for Family Welfare (ABBEF).

“In the field we conduct sensitization campaigns for 18-to-24 year olds. Since we cannot prevent them from having sex, we make sure they have safer sex by using contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancies,” Sourabie added.

The study, Unwanted Pregnancy and Abortion in Burkina Faso, recommends the expansion of family planning programmes throughout the country’s primary health services and the provision of family planning counselling and methods, which should be made a routine part of post abortion care.

Georges Guiella, a researcher in demographics and health at the University of Ouagadougou, said that teenagers are the most affected by clandestine abortions because of their low access to family planning methods.

“It is very important to rethink the services of family planning so as to improve the access to contraceptives by this category of teenagers, who are the most vulnerable,” Guiella explained.

 Even though the report calls for easing the legal restrictions on abortion, the health ministry says no amendments are being considered at the moment. Under the law, abortion in permitted only when the woman’s life is in danger, in cases of incest, rape and foetal impairment.

Many women’s organizations and NGOs point out that requirements, such as certification by two doctors to prove a pregnancy resulted from incest or rape, are an obstacle. “Most of the time, the victims will hide and try to clean themselves up because of stigma behind rape or incest,” said Sourabie.

 Full article here

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fact of the Day

In Liberia, there are seven dentists, one to seven hundred thousand people. Twelve out of  fifteen counties do not have dentists

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sexist Marriage

Female MPs in Kenya stormed out of parliament when male MPs voted to amend the new marriage bill to allow men to take as many wives as they like without consulting existing spouses. 30 of Kenya's 69 female MPs (many of the other female MPs were at a New York conference) were in the 349-member chamber for the debate and all walked out in disgust over the matter.

MP Samuel Chepkong'a, who proposed the amendment, said that when a woman got married under customary law, she understood that the marriage was open to polygamy, so no consultation was necessary. "Any time a man comes home with a woman, that would be assumed to be a second or third wife," said Chepkong'a, who is the chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, said, and adding, "Under customary law, women or wives you have married do not need to be told when you're coming home with a second or third wife. Any lady you bring home is your wife,"

MP Mohammed Junet agreed. "When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife… this is Africa."

  Parliamentary majority leader Aden Duale argued that polygamy is justified for Muslim and Christians alike,“I want my Christian brothers to read the Old Testament -- King David and King Solomon never consulted anybody to marry a second wife,”

But female MPs argued that such a decision would affect the whole family, including the financial position of other spouses.

"It behoves you to be man enough to agree that your wife and family should know,"
Soipan Tuya, the women's representative explained.

They also argued that marriage should be based on love, and not have a financial cost placed upon it. Women are not allowed to marry more than one man in Kenya.

What is the motivation among male MPs to push amendments to the family law and give men the liberty to marry as many wives as they wish? What exactly is the value of taking up extra wives without regard to the feelings of the first spouse? What would the male MPs have to say if their own wives suggested a situation where they would also wish to bring in an extra husband or two? Why adopt such archaic laws in this day and age?

  Plans to ban the payment of bride prices were dropped. Proposals to ensure equal property and inheritance rights were also watered down - a woman will be entitled to 30% of matrimonial property after death or divorce. A proposal to recognise co-habiting couples, known in Kenya as "come-we-stay" relationships, after six months, but this too was dropped. It would have allowed a woman to seek maintenance for herself and any children of the union had the man left. A breach-of-promise clause in which a partner who had promised marriage but then backed out of the wedding could face financial damages was also dropped, as male MPs argued it could have been used to extort cash.

George Nyakundi, a legal officer at the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness says that the Bill will have a negative ripple effect on the family set up and is a recipe to domestic squabbles.

 "This Bill allows men to marry any number of women without consent yet they will still receive the same income as they did with one wife so then how will he provide for the whole family?" Wambui questioned. 

Three MPs have termed amendments to the Marriage Bill as a sign that the Legislature is insensitive and ignorant to the plight of women and marginalized groups in the country.

Nominated MP Isaac Mwaura and nominated Senator Godlive Mboke criticised their fellow parliamentarians for failing to understand the impact of the laws they were passing particularly on the life of the people living with disability. Mwaura cited an amendment to Clause 12 of the Bill which MPs voted to take away the freedom of a person with a mental condition to consent to marriage but failed to define how a state of mental condition can be determined. According to Mwaura, who was nominated to the National Assembly to champion the welfare of persons with special interests; MPs failed to comprehend the difference between mental illness (as defined under the Mental Health Act) and mental and psycho-social disability (this includes people who are the users and survivors of psychiatry, people who have bi-polar among others).

He said of his fellow politicians, "There are some people in this Parliament who call themselves gate-keepers that you can't tell them anything, they are know-it-all yet they are the most ignorant people I have ever met."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A War for the Nile?

 Egypt’s then-president Mohamed Morsi said in June 2013 that “all options” including military intervention, were on the table if Ethiopia continued to develop dams on the Nile River, many dismissed it as posturing. But experts claim Cairo is deadly serious about defending its historic water allotment, and if Ethiopia proceeds with construction of what is set to become Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, a military strike is not out of the question. Last May  some Egyptian parliamentarians were calling for sending commandos or arming local insurgents to sabotage the dam project unless Ethiopia halts construction. Former president Hosni Mubarak floated plans for an air strike on any dam that Ethiopia built on the Nile, and in 2010 established an airbase in southeastern Sudan as a staging point for just such an operation, according to leaked emails from the global intelligence company Stratfor posted on Wikileaks.

“Ethiopia’s move was unprecedented. Never before has an upstream state unilaterally built a dam without downstream approval,” Ayman Shabaana of the Cairo-based Institute for Africa Studies had told IPS last June. “If other upstream countries follow suit, Egypt will have a serious water emergency on its hands.”  The dam is part of a broader scheme that would see at least three more dams on the Nile.

Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia have soured since Ethiopia began construction on the 4.2 billion dollar Grand Renaissance Dam in 2011. “Egypt sees its Nile water share as a matter of national security,” strategic analyst Ahmed Abdel Halim tells IPS. “To Ethiopia, the new dam is a source of national pride, and essential to its economic future.”

Egypt fears the new dam, slated to begin operation in 2017, will reduce the downstream flow of the Nile, which 85 million Egyptians rely on for almost all of their water needs. Officials in the Ministry of Irrigation claim Egypt will lose 20 to 30 percent of its share of Nile water and nearly a third of the electricity generated by its Aswan High Dam.

Citing a pair of colonial-era treaties, Egypt argues that it is entitled to no less than two-thirds of the Nile’s water and has veto power over any upstream water projects such as dams or irrigation networks. Accords drawn up by the British in 1929 and amended in 1959 divvied up the Nile’s waters between Egypt and Sudan without ever consulting the upstream states that were the source of those waters. The 1959 agreement awarded Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of the Nile’s 84 billion cubic metre average annual flow, while Sudan received 18.5 billion cubic metres. Another 10 billion cubic metres is lost to evaporation in Lake Nasser, which was created by Egypt’s Aswan High Dam in the 1970s, leaving barely a drop for the nine other states that share the Nile’s waters.

The desire for a more equitable distribution of Nile water rights resulted in the 2010 Entebbe Agreement, which replaces water quotas with a clause that permits all activities provided they do not “significantly” impact the water security of other Nile Basin states. Five upstream countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda – signed the accord. Burundi signed a year later. Egypt rejected the new treaty outright. Cairo now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of watching its mastery over the Nile’s waters slip through its fingers.

While the treaty’s water allocations appear gravely unfair to upstream Nile states, analysts point out that unlike the mountainous equatorial nations, which have alternative sources of water, the desert countries of Egypt and Sudan rely almost entirely on the Nile for their water needs.

“One reason for the high level of anxiety is that nobody really knows how this dam is going to affect Egypt’s water share,” Richard Tutwiler, a specialist in water resource management at the American University in Cairo (AUC), tells IPS. “Egypt is totally dependent on the Nile. Without it, there is no Egypt.” But upstream African nations have their own growing populations to feed, and the thought of tapping the Nile for their agriculture or drinking water needs is all too tempting.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Total Marginalisation Of Small Farmers By Multinationals

cc BGG
Food Sovereignty Ghana organized a capacity building and skills sharing workshop on 27-28 February to discuss the Biosafety Law, the Plant Breeders Bill and the Plant and Fertilizer Act (seed law). Civil society organizations, smallholder farmers, the media, scientists and concerned members of the public attended the meeting. Here are the thoughts that came out of the meeting

The workshop discussed the key features of the Bill, noting that the Bill is modeled on the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). It was noted that few developing countries are members of UPOV and of these most are members of UPOV 1978 and not UPOV 1991. It also emerged that the 1991 Convention is a restrictive and an inflexible regime that does not allow Ghana to develop a legal framework for plant variety protection that suits the agricultural conditions prevailing in Ghana.

The intellectual property agreement in the World Trade Organization (known as the TRIPS Agreement) allows Ghana to develop a ‘sui generis’ (of its own kind) system for plant variety protection. Ghana should use this flexibility to develop a plant variety protection/plant breeders’ regime that suits its national conditions as many developing countries have done. The bill pending in the Parliament fails to do that.

The Bill is unbalanced and inequitable. It strengthens breeders’ rights and does not reflect the interests and needs of the smallholder farmers that are the backbone of Ghana’s agricultural system. Breeders of new, distinct, uniform and stable varieties are given extensive rights under the Bill. On the other hand, the Bill does not accommodate the specific characteristics of farmer varieties and nor does it contain specific provisions that safeguards the interests of smallholder farmers such as their right to freely use, save, sell and exchange farm saved seeds.

The Bill only states that the minister shall in making regulations take into account the need to safeguard the legitimate interests of breeders and to permit farmers to make ‘personal use on their own holdings’ of farm saved seed. This is a very limited provision and it is simply unacceptable that it does not safeguard the interests of millions of smallholder farmers in Ghana.

It is also equally unacceptable that the Bill places the burden of enforcing the private rights of breeder on the state and taxpayer by criminalizing infringement of breeders’ rights.

The Bill also lacks safeguards that are important to protect public interest and to prevent misappropriation of Ghana’s genetic resources as well as to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of local germplasm.

The workshop also noted that the Bill has been developed without consultations with the wider civil society and smallholder farmer community.

The workshop noted that the Bill is inconsistent with Ghana’s obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.


Ghana’s Biosafety Act is often referred to as the worst such law on the continent as it contravenes several provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international environmental agreement to which Ghana is Party. This Protocol was negotiated by the international community to regulate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in recognition that this technology is new and poses risks to the environment, human health and society.

The Ghana Biosafety Act allows the regulatory agency to grant exemptions that undermine the risk assessment and public consultation processes of the Biosafety Protocol. It also ensures that independent oversight of GMOs is near impossible by seriously limiting public access to information and participation in decision-making. The Ghanaian Act represents a permitting system to allow foreign corporations to sell their product rather than a Biosafety System designed to protect the health, environment and socio-economic well-being of Ghanaians. GMOs are designed for large-scale industrial farmers and have no place in Ghana’s agricultural system, which is based on small-holder farmers.


Ghana’s Plants and Fertilizer Act, 2010, Act 83 in Part Two deals with seed regulation. It promotes/supports only industrial plant breeding and does not deal with smallholder farmer managed seed systems, the need for the conservation of land races and traditional varieties and ignores farmers’ rights. The entire orientation of the law is towards genetically uniform, commercially bred varieties in terms of seed quality control and variety registration. It creates an exclusive seed market for certified improved, commercial varieties of seed and excludes farmer varieties from this marketing system. The market for registered seed is not for African farmer breeders but for multinational companies. The implementation of this Act will result in the total marginalization of small farmers and their needs and is also setting the stage for thousands of small elite farmers who will be drawn into seed certification systems, which can later also be used for GM seed production in the near future.

From here

Monday, March 17, 2014

Capitalism is the silent crisis

Tegegnework Gettu, director of the United Nations Development  Programme’s Africa bureau, writes in the preface of the Human Development Report. “Africa is not fated to starve. That is an affront to both its dignity and its potential… Africa must stop begging for food… Had the African governments over the last 30 years met their people’s aspirations, the report would not be necessary. One quarter of the people in sub-Saharan Africa would not be undernourished, and one third of African children would not be stunted.” He went on to say “Hunger and malnutrition remain pervasive on a continent with ample agricultural endowments. Africa has the knowledge, the technology, and the means to end hunger and insecurity.”

Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo echoed Mr Gettu’s words, saying that African leadership should be indicted in the area of food production. “It tells us what we know: that the poverty of Africa is the making of African leaders over the years.”

During Asia’s green revolution, for example, many Asian countries spent up to 20% of their budgets on agriculture, while African countries currently spend between 5 to 10% on the sector. This is despite African leaders’ commitment in 2003 to allocate at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture. At the moment, Africa spends more on the military than on agriculture.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most food-insecure region and where poverty is particularly alarming, according to UNDP. Up to 25% of sub-Saharan Africa’s 856 million people are undernourished, with 15 million people facing serious risks in the Sahel and an equal number in the Horn of Africa. The worsening food situation dampens glowing reports on Africa’s fast-growing economies, which have expanded by an annual average of 5% to 6% during the past decade.

However, notes  Helen Clark, UNDP administrator “Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition.”

In addition to the impact of drought on food security, famines often also get the headlines, even though uneven access to food due to low incomes is as much a problem. “The silent crises of chronic malnourishment and seasonal hunger do not receive nearly enough attention,” notes the report. Increased agricultural production does not necessarily guarantee food security.

Dying for a job

At least 16 people were killed in stampedes for government jobs in Nigeria when hundreds of thousands were invited to apply for fewer than 5,000 positions at the Immigration Service, officials and activists said Sunday.

Nigerians are desperate for work, with official statistics putting the number of unemployed at nearly 41 million of the 170 million population. Unemployment among young people aged under-24 is even higher — 38 percent according to official statistics and nearer 80 percent, according to the World Bank.

The Education Rights Campaign blamed inviting more applicants than centers could accommodate and not providing enough security. The campaign, which called for Moro to be fired, gave the example of Abuja National Stadium, which has a capacity for 60,000. It said 65,000 applicants were invited and seven people died. The other deaths took place in Minna, Port Harcourt, Dutse and Benin City.

Applicants said they each paid 1,000 naira (about $6) — apparently for the right to write tests on Saturday at the application centers. The Education Rights Campaign said it was scandalous that the government had collected about $3 million from applicants. It said it was unconscionable that the government was ‘‘preying on the misery of hapless Nigerian youths, especially graduates who suffer years without gainful employment.’’

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Equal Rights Boosts Food Security

Eliminating the gender gap in agriculture is widely seen as crucial to alleviating poverty and improving food security, and the effects of inequality are likely to be further compounded by climate change.

“For global development to be sustainable, the issues of climate change, gender equality and food security must all go hand-in-hand,” said Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and head of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, told a recent meeting of experts in Rome convened to mark International Women’s day.

“Family farmers are the dominant force in global food production. And, at the same time, they are among the world’s most vulnerable people,” Food and Agriculture Director-General José Graziano Da Silva said at the gathering.

“Much of the future of global food security depends on their realizing their untapped potential. Rural women are an important part of this, not just as famers but also in processing and preparing food, and local markets,” he added.

But, in many countries such as Tanzania, an outmoded system of land tenure continues to shut women out of land ownership. Despites strong laws prohibiting the practice, women farmers still face discrimination.

Asha Ramadhani, a farmer in Tanzania’s Mwanga District, has been trying to access a piece of land she desperately needs to boost her meagre crop output. “It’s a tricky and frustrating process because I am a woman my issue is treated as a favour rather than a right,” she complained.

Local attitudes to land ownership make it difficult for them to access the best land.

The 44-year-old divorcee has in the past three years been leasing a two-acre farm near Mangio village where she grows maize, beans, vegetables and sweet potatoes.

While farming in this village is based on tenancy through exchange of crops, drier weather is making it harder for Ramadhani to pay her lease due to dismal yields.

“My landlord wants a quarter of my crop yield every season as lease payment, but the drought makes it harder to come by,” she told IRIN.

Women own only 20 percent of registered land in Tanzania, according to a US Agency for International development (USAID) property rights and resource governance country profile for Tanzania, and land held by women under customary law is likely to be much lower.

The Land Act and the Village Land Act of 1999 govern women’s land rights. The constitution of Tanzania also enshrines the equality of all persons.

The law gives women the right to access, own, and control land on an equal footing with men and allows them to participate in decision-making on land matters.

Section 3(2) of both the Land Act and the Village Land Act states: “The right of every woman to acquire, hold, use and deal with land shall, to the same extent and subject to the same restrictions, be treated as the right of any man."

Women are also allowed to own or occupy land jointly with other persons, while protecting them against unlawful transfer of land tittles under joint occupancy.

But legislation is insufficiently enforced.

All over Mwanga district, women are finding it increasingly difficult to access land and water sources in the face of ever drier weather.

“Most people with large tracts of land are men; there are hardly [any] women who own land, especially close to the water sources,” Ramadhani told IRIN.

The village land ownership procedure gives men the upper hand, she said. “Many of my friends have lost hope because whenever they lodge their request for land they don’t succeed,” she added.

The few women who manage to navigate the bureaucracy end up getting small plots - and far from water sources.

Anna Tibaijuka, Tanzania’s minister for land and human settlement development, told IRIN men and women should be treated equally in terms of land ownership, but said that, “Importantly, the people must know their rights and not let anyone trample on them.”

“Discriminatory attitudes”

Yefred Mnyenzi of Haki Ardhi, a Lands Rights NGO in Tanzania, told IRIN that most women have access to land through male relatives, adding that unmarried daughters, widows and divorced women are often “bullied” by their male relatives.

“In some cases husbands have been using title deeds to secure loans without the knowledge of their wives, causing evictions or loss of their property,” he said.

Lack of awareness, a male dominated system, social stereotypes and outdated traditions are some of the challenges undermining women’s land rights in Tanzania. “The general population must be sufficiently educated to understand these issues,” Mnyenzi said.

“Women are typically given few or no rights to land during their marriages - never being permitted, for example, to add their names to documents indicating ownership of property - and even fewer upon the death of a husband,” noted the USAID report.

“Customary law focuses property rights on men or kinship groups dominated by men, and thus the ability of women to claim or inherit land is extremely limited,” it said.

According to Mnyenzi, the government needs to decentralize land administration to allow grassroots communities to participate in decision-making and economic empowerment and fight discriminatory customs, beliefs and attitudes.

“In situations where women are degraded to an inferior position in the society due to cultural norms, we need to have support systems that enable them to own and use land without problems,” Mary Lusibi, a women’s rights activist with Tanzania Gender Networking Programme, told IRIN.

Continent-wide problem

Such discriminatory practices aren’t just limited to Tanzania. Women own less than 1 percent of land in the African continent, notes William Garvelink, [ http:// ] senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“While statutory law may be gender neutral, customary law prevails and is based on a patriarchal system. Securing property rights for women is crucial to the economic development of Africa,” he said.

Experts are calling for equitable land rights to be included in the post-Millennium Development Goals (MDG) agenda.

“The post-2015 agenda should include targets and related indicators on secure rights to land, natural resources and other productive assets that explicitly include women’s rights,” said a statement by 38 international organizations.

“Securing women’s land and property rights is a necessary strategy for ensuring gender inequality and advancing women’s empowerment worldwide,” said a background paper for the UN global thematic consultations on the post-2015 development agenda.

“There is an evident correlation between gender inequality, societal poverty, and the failure to respect, protect and fulfill these rights for women,” further noted the report, authored by Mayra Gomez of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and D. Hein Tran of the Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights.

from here

Friday, March 14, 2014

US Pastor Behind Uganda's Anti-Gay Law

In late February, when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the nation’s harsh new anti-gay bill into law, he claimed the measure had been “provoked by arrogant and careless western groups that are fond of coming into our schools and recruiting young children into homosexuality.” What he failed to mention is that the legislation—which makes homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison in some cases—was itself largely due to Western interlopers, chief among them a radical American pastor named Scott Lively.

Lively, a 56-year-old Massachusetts native, specializes in stirring up anti-gay feeling around the globe. In Uganda, which he first visited in 2002, he has cultivated ties to influential politicians and religious leaders at the forefront of the nation’s anti-gay crusade. Just before the first draft of Uganda’s anti-gay bill began circulating in April 2009, Lively traveled to Kampala and gave lengthy presentations to members of Uganda’s parliament and cabinet, which laid out the argument that the nation’s president and lawmakers would later use to justify Uganda’s draconian anti-gay crackdown—namely that Western agitators were trying to unravel Uganda’s social fabric by spreading “the disease” of homosexuality to children.
“They’re looking for other people to be able to prey upon,” Lively said, according to video footage. “When they see a child that’s from a broken home it’s like they have a flashing neon sign over their head.”

Lively is not the only US evangelical who has fanned the flames of anti-gay sentiment in Uganda. As they lose ground at home, where public opinion and law are rapidly shifting in favor of gay equality, religious conservatives have increasingly turned their attention to Africa. And Uganda, with its large Christian population, has been particularly fertile ground for their crusade. Journalist (and past Mother Jones contributor) Jeff Sharlet has reported at length on the Family, a politically connected US-based ministry, which promotes hard-line social policies in the East African nation.

 But, according to Ugandan gay rights activists, Lively has played an unparalleled role in fostering the climate of hate that gave rise to Uganda’s anti-gay law. “The bill is essentially his creation,” says Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a coalition of gay rights organizations. Mugisha’s group has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in US federal court, accusing Lively of international crimes against humanity on the grounds that he and his Ugandan allies allegedly conspired to deprive gay Ugandans of basic human rights.

 “These people had never heard of anything called the gay agenda,” recalls Anglican priest Kapya Kaoma. “But Lively told them that these predators were coming for their children. As Africans hearing it for the first time, they believed it was true—and they were burning with rage.”

 Lively, who is currently running for governor of Massachusetts as an independent, calls the allegations “ridiculous.” “Basically, a Marxist law firm in New York City is trying to shut me up because I speak very articulately about the pro-family issues,” he says. But video obtained by Mother Jones—including footage of Lively’s 2009 presentation and a little-known follow-up meeting where influential Ugandans resolved to petition parliament for a harsh new law against homosexuality—lends credence to the allegations that Lively’s fierce message paved the way for the nation’s anti-gay crackdown.

Taken from a lengthy article here plus several video clips

Conflict In CAR and Bangui's Ghettoes

BANGUI, 13 March 2014 (IRIN) - The capital of the Central African Republic is usually home to more than 130,000 Muslims, integrated with the rest of the population. Now, fewer than 1,000 remain in the city, the rest having fled amid a veritable pogrom carried out in reprisal for atrocities committed by an alliance of mainly Muslim rebels who had seized power in March 2013.

Those left behind are stuck in ghettos or makeshift camps, protected by African Union troops but still surrounded by units of hostile anti-balaka militiamen.

Their life of fear and deprivation is captured in IRIN’s latest multimedia production: Bangui’s ghettos.

[see 6 minute video at link below]

"We can't stay here," says Nass, a community leader taking refuge in the PK-12 neighbourhood on the northern edge of the city, one of the three sites featured in our film.

Nass fled his home in neighbouring PK-13 as violence broke out in December 2013 when anti-balaka forces stormed the capital. "What we really need is to leave here. It's our biggest concern."

“We would rather be killed on the road than here,” Ibrahim Awad, a trader, told visiting Senior Humanitarian Coordinator Abdou Dieng. Nearby, troops from Rwanda and France formed a cordon between the ghetto and an area dense with anti-balaka.

In Kilometre 5 District, a few hundred Muslims live trapped between a roundabout and an intersection. According to the local imam, whose mosque is one of the few in the whole city that is still intact, those venturing outside the area risk being lynched. As a proud Central African citizen, he is outraged that all Muslims are being made to pay for the crimes of the Seleka.

One the most distressing consequences of this isolation is that cemeteries are unreachable. So the dead are buried in backyards or, if unclaimed, collected by the Red Cross.

As Mamadou Lamine prays over the corpses of a friend’s two sons, despair takes hold. “The hatred has become murderous. We no longer have a nation,” he said.

A few hundred Muslims are camped out at the military sector of M’Poko airport (which lies adjacent to the international, civilian sector, itself teeming with thousands of displaced people) hoping against hope for a resumption of evacuation flights.

from here

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

South African President Jacob Zuma has said that " China has never engaged in any colonialist activities in Africa. The relationship between Africa and China is by no means a colonialist one"

Perhaps because it did not have an opportunity.

He Yafei is vice-minister of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council said “China's activities are based on the needs of Africa and the principle of sovereign and business equality.” Very altruistic but we never expect a confidence trickster to confess to being a con-man while cheating you.

More than 2,000 Chinese companies have invested in over 50 African countries in areas ranging from finance, aerospace and manufacturing, to logistics and real estate, in addition to traditional sectors like agriculture, mining and infrastructure construction. Annual bilateral trade in 2012 topped US$200 billion while China's investment stood at US$21.23 billion. Meanwhile, African investment in China - from sovereign funds in South Africa, Nigeria, Gabon, Angola and others - has surpassed US$10 billion. Africa is one of the key suppliers of energy resources to China and investment in its energy resources is rising. China now imports over one third of its petroleum from Africa.

Indian companies have often lost out to Chinese firms in Africa. But they may have found a new ally to counter the Chinese in the continent - Japan. Indian firms sense that an alliance with Japan would allow them to access capital at a lower cost.

 Noel Tata, Managing Director at Tata International and Chairman of the Africa committee at the lobby group Confederation of Indian Industry, said that Indian companies need funds at a cheaper rate to grow big in Africa and that this can come from a third country such as Japan.  Indian companies aspire to capture almost seven per cent of Africa's IT services market, five per cent of fast-moving consumer goods market, 10 per cent of the power sector and two to five per cent of agriculture and allied services.

The new scramble for Africa- just different players.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mapping Africa

The World Bank announced an ambitious plan to initiate a $1 billion fund to finance an effort to map the mineral resources of the African continent. Their plan is to use advanced satellite and surveillance technology to, in the words of a World Bank senior manager, “identify the areas with more profitability.”

We are to believe that the World Bank’s efforts are designed to benefit Africa by enlighten African leaders to the extent of the mineral wealth that lies beneath the surface in their perspective countries. Given the record of the World Bank and its twin the International Monetary Fund’s dealings on the continent a degree of doubt about their true motives is expected. The hope for this endeavor is to unearth $1 trillion worth of new mineral resources that will be for the benefit of… Africans? An examination of African history over the last 150 years will quickly reveal that this is a story we’ve heard before.

In the latter years of the nineteenth century three organizations were founded by Leopold II, King of Belgium. The Association Internationale Africaine (AIA, African International Association), the Comité d’ Etudes du Haut-Congo (CEHC, Study Committee of the Upper Congo), and the Association Internationale du Congo (AIC, International Congo Society) were proposed as benevolent organizations dedicated to the “civilization” of central African peoples.2

The reality, of course, was that these were tools used by Leopold to exploit the resources and control the population of the Congo Basin. The result of Leopold’s political maneuvering was the Congo Free State was formed in 1885. The term “Free” of course had little meaning to the African citizens who became literal serfs in what was actually a private fiefdom of Leopold II. The Congolese lost their sovereignty to all lands outside their villages as all land and resources became the property of the “state” which, in reality meant, personal property of King Leopold II. Congolese men labored in slave-like conditions on rubber plantations while their wives and families were held hostage to guarantee that they met their production quotas. When these conditions stoked rebellion the offending rebels and their families were hunted down and killed, their villages burned to the ground.

Not to be outdone by the Belgian monarch France, Germany, and England began to scramble for a foothold on the continent. To prevent a war over territory and resources the Berlin Conference was convened in 1884. The participants, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, the United States, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire had come together like gentlemen to divide a continent and its spoils. As they drew up the map of Africa, that to a great extent still exist today, there was not a single African present to participate in the process.

Colonialism would go on to guide Africa into the 20th century, what was of benefit to the peoples of Africa had to be what was of benefit to the colonial powers and the corporations that grew with them....

....This is the reality of Africa today as the World Bank initiates its search for the mineral wealth that has so far eluded the neo-colonial powers and the multi-national corporations that now direct their policies and procedures. Today in the Congo Joseph Kabila resides over the rape and pillage that continues to envelop the Congolese people 54 years after Patrice Lumumba was sacrificed on the altar of western capitalism....

....So it is in the context of this neo-colonial reality that the efforts of the World Bank must be evaluated. As to this new generation of African “leaders” that will supposedly be the recipients of the largesse of western technology, one need look no further than Uganda whose legislature, instead of tackling the substantial issues that face their region and their people, have surrendered their souls to the dictates of American evangelicals and have embarked on a homophobic crusade or the South African authorities who massacred striking miners at Marikana in 2012. It is not the voice of the African people that are being heard but the voices of neo-colonial interest from mining corporations to religious radicals.

With French forces reengaged in West Africa, the U.S. military entrenched on the continent under the auspices of AFRICOM, and Chinese economic interest spreading rapidly there is little reason to doubt that the World Bank’s interest align not with the peoples of Africa but rather with the neo-colonial powers and the multi-national corporations that direct them. Chances are that this new map of Africa will have a great deal in common with the one produced in Berlin in 1885.

Lifted from this article by T. Mayheart Dardar at the Dissident Voice website 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Post-Colonial Africa - The Legacy

Southern Sudanese swapped the battlefield for the ballot box two-and-a-half years ago, when they voted overwhelmingly to sever their ties with Sudan. On July 9th 2011, jubilant street parties in the capital city of Juba marked the creation of the world’s newest sovereign state. But beyond South Sudan’s freshly drawn borders, some members of the international community were worried. The secession, they said, could spur on the dozens of other separatist movements in Africa. They feared that it set a precedent that would threaten the integrity of territorial borders across the continent.

Post-colonial Africa has a long history of separatist movements: a predicament that dates back to 19th-century Europe. When colonial leaders met in Berlin in 1884 to parcel out the “dark continent” among themselves, they did so with scant consideration for divisions of language, religion or ethnicity that already existed here.
Then when independence came to most African countries in the 1960s, the continent’s new leaders agreed to stick to these borders. Maintaining the status quo would have been in their interest for many reasons but mostly because it provided a way to prevent potentially damaging conflicts from erupting among themselves.
Since then, Africa’s borders have remained largely unchanged. Aside from Namibia and South Sudan, the only other country in Africa that has won legal autonomy since colonial independence is Eritrea, which after a long and bloody war seceded from Ethiopia in 1993.

During the same period, in other parts of the world, many apparently immutable boundaries have been challenged and changed. Since 1990 especially, more than 30 new countries have been created around the world, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Balkan conflict led to the formation of new states that reflect ethnic, linguistic and nationalist divisions. Yet the map of Africa remains one drawn up by foreigners, ignorant of extant ethnic and religious realities.
As democracy becomes more widespread in Africa and a new mood of self-determination swells, the insistence on sticking to colonial borders is facing growing popular challenge. Across the continent, dozens of governments are struggling against rebel groups demanding either greater autonomy or full independence.

“The old understanding of ‘Do not change the colonial boundaries’ is over, in terms of people trying to find ways to govern their countries,” says Annette Weber, head of Middle East and Africa research at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). “And some of the countries, in their current boundaries, just don’t make sense.” She points as one example to Nigeria, a nation that is divided between religiously distinct Muslim and Christian populations along a clear north-south fault line.
Continued dissatisfaction with government leadership exacerbates the problem, she says. “What we have seen in Africa is a lot of centralised states where the leader is running the capital but not really reaching out to the periphery. The state is so distant that it doesn’t feature in the life of those populations.” These marginalised people, she explains, often feel that they would be better off with “one identity-based territory that binds them. Independence becomes a hope or an expectation for them.”

The Guardian newspaper in 2012 drew up a map of separatist factions in Africa showing their various aims and claims. The map was strewn with movements, which span the continent from the Casamance region in southern Senegal to the Uamsho Islamists (the Association for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation) fighting for independence on the already semi-autonomous Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.
The deteriorating political situation in Zanzibar is of growing concern to the Tanzanian government for several reasons. Since 2012, the tactics employed by Uamsho have become increasingly violent, causing fatal clashes with local police and simultaneously jeopardising Tanzania’s reputation for political stability. This is portentous economically since the Indian Ocean island relies heavily on revenue from tourists, who flock to its pristine beaches.
Kenya’s coastal region, similarly reliant on tourists for revenue streams, has also been the target of attacks allegedly committed by a separatist group—the Mombasa Republican Council, which demands independence from the country’s mainland.

The case of the Bakassi peninsula in the Atlantic Gulf of Guinea illustrates the power colonial boundaries still hold. Nigeria had been administering the tiny oil-rich province since independence in 1960. In 2002, the UN’s International Court of Justice ruled that, according to the ageing European colonial maps supplied by both nations in their bid for ownership of the territory, Bakassi should belong to Cameroon. Four years later Nigeria formally handed over the disputed peninsula to neighbouring Cameroon.
The government in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, said that by following the ruling it was respecting international law, but many people in the Bakassi region were outraged, making it clear that they considered Nigeria their home. Last year, a decade after the ruling, a declaration of independence (made from a radio-station tower on a tiny island off the peninsula’s coast) by the Bakassi Movement for Self-Determination, drew brutal reprisals from the Cameroonian military.

These conflicts are by no means restricted to sub-Saharan states. Algeria, for example, faces similar issues. Berber tribes in the northern region of Kabylie have long agitated for greater autonomy from the mainland. This is an underdeveloped territory, where water and power supplies are dire, dissatisfaction is high, and insecurity rife. In January 2013, two security guards were killed in an al-Qaeda-linked attack on a gas pipeline 120km southwest of Algiers.
Many of the ethnic Kabylie have boycotted Algerian politics in recent years and advocate for greater autonomy under a system that would recognise their identity and allow them greater control over oil and gas revenues, while remaining part of Algeria.

The list of these conflicts goes on and on: from Sudan to Western Sahara, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Mali. Unsurprisingly, this is not a situation that African governments are taking lightly. In Zambia, for example, more than 70 separatists demanding independence for Barotseland state in the impoverished Western Province were recently arrested and are currently on trial for treason.
When Zambia’s vice-president, Guy Scott, spoke to Africa in Fact about the arrests and trial, he echoed the sentiments of officials across the continent. “When the Tamil Tigers first started in Sri Lanka, we all thought they were just a bunch of second-rate intellectuals, and look how much damage resulted,” he says, referring to the independence movement that took Sri Lanka into a civil war in the early 1980s. “I think it is dangerous to underestimate these things. We’ve been taking it quite seriously.”
While the dissatisfaction stems from lack of economic opportunity among populations seeking greater control over their natural resources, the government’s patience is limited.
“You can have sympathy, but I don’t think it’s helpful at this point,” he says. “They set up the Barotseland Liberation Army, for example, and that’s not helpful, even if it is only five guys with a penknife between them. There is certainly no majority of people who want to separate from Zambia. The rebels are young men mostly and what they want is a job and money and education and food.”
In a bid to quell the movement, Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front party announced a revenue-sharing plan in 2012 that will use copper incomes to try to foster development and reduce poverty in the region. But, where necessary, the police will continue to make arrests. “I think the crackdown continues,” Mr Scott says, “and it will until there are no issues to be attended to.”

Whether any of these movements, even if successful, is likely win legal independence is another question altogether. The experience of Somaliland, a tiny breakaway state in the Horn of Africa, shows that neither local governments nor the AU are keen to see the continent further divided. “The AU is overwhelmed by fear that all the other small separatist entities might try to become independent,” argues Ms Weber. “They are worried [that recognising Somaliland] could set off a wave where we would not see an end or a viable solution, so they are quite cautious in taking the next step after South Sudan. I don’t see the reality of the separation going through in the near future,” she says.

This is a warning that could apply to any other independence movement across the continent.
And even if Somaliland wins legal recognition, the experiences of Eritrea and South Sudan are proof enough that secession does not necessarily equal political or economic success.
Since its independence, Eritrea has disputed its borders, fought another war with Ethiopia and clashed with troops from Djibouti. Its tiny economy is growing at a fair pace. But the UN and NGOs accuse the single-party state of brutal repression, including extra-judicial killings and political detentions.

In its two-and-a-half years of independence, South Sudan has bickered with Sudan over its rights to oil-export infrastructure, crippled its economy by closing crude production, and warred over disputed borders in the oil-rich Abyei region. Neither looks much like a developmental success story.
The experience of these governments, born of failed leadership in mother states, provides a valuable lesson. “What is often overlooked is where these states come from,” Ms Weber explains. “Where did South Sudan’s new government learn the business of statehood? They learned it from Khartoum. And many systemic problems of neglect and exclusion that we see from the government of Khartoum are now replicated in South Sudan.

“Often separation results in a duplication of another failed elite, without [an] understanding of what it is to be a government and to be responsible and to represent the interests of the population. That’s not a viable option,” she adds.
In Ethiopia, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an independence movement established in 1973, appears to have come to terms with those constraints. In 2012, it surprised observers by dropping its long-held demands for secession, with spokesmen saying they would now work within the political system “to struggle for freedom in consort with all democratic forces”.

Thus fears of a domino effect emanating from South Sudan’s messy transition were probably overblown. But the persistence of independence groups reflects a bigger and more concerning trend: the failure of leaders to deliver change. “I think there will be more separatist groups calling for separation because they believe it could solve their problem of neglect, but not necessarily because South Sudan set a precedent,” Ms Weber argues.

If governments on the continent fail to address the root causes of discontent—by providing more and better services, and helping to pull people out of poverty—they can expect separatist movements to stir up unrest for years to come.

 From here

 Separation anxiety