Sunday, September 28, 2014

Questions Re US Response To Ebola Outbreak In Liberia

On September 16, President Obama announced a multimillion-dollar U.S. response to the spreading contagion. Obama's announcement comes on the heels of growing international impatience with what critics have called the U.S. government's "infuriatingly" slow response to the outbreak.
Assistance efforts have already stoked controversy, with a noticeable privilege of care being afforded to foreign healthcare workers over Africans.

After two infected American missionaries were administered Zmapp, a life-saving experimental drug, controversy exploded when reports emerged that Doctors Without Borders had previously decided not to administer it to the Sierra Leonean doctor Sheik Umar Khan, who succumbed to Ebola after helping to lead the country's fight against the disease. The World Health Organization similarly refused to evacuate the prominent Sierra Leonean doctor Olivet Buck, who later died of the disease as well.

The Pentagon provoked its own controversy when it announced plans to deploy a $22 million, 25-bed U.S. military field hospital—reportedly for foreign health workers only.
One particular component of the latest assistance package promises to be controversial as well: namely, the deployment of 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia, where the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) will establish a joint command operations base to serve as a logistics and training center for medical responders. see earlier post here

Few would oppose a robust U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, but the militarized nature of the White House plan comes in the context of a broader U.S.-led militarization of the region. The soldiers in Liberia, after all, will not be the only American troops on the African continent. In the six years of AFRICOM's existence, the U.S. military has steadily and quietly been building its presence on the continent through drone bases and partnerships with local militaries.

The U.S. operation in Liberia warrants many questions. Will military contractors be used in the construction of facilities and execution of programs? Will the U.S.-built treatment centers be temporary or permanent? Will the treatment centers double as research labs? What is the timeline for exiting the country? And perhaps most significantly for the long term, will the Liberian operation base serve as a staging ground for non-Ebola related military operations?
The use of the U.S. military in this operation should raise red flags for the American public as well. After all, if the military truly is the governmental institution best equipped to handle this outbreak, it speaks worlds about the neglect of civilian programs at home as well as abroad.

whole article here

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Predatory Agricultural-Industrial Complex In Africa

Controlling seed means controlling food production. Africans must choose how they farm. They must not become perpetually indebted to a predatory, profit-driven agricultural-industrial complex.

In order to address Africa’s poor agricultural productivity international players are intent on criminalising traditional seed saving practices. This thrust is directed by a triumvirate of corporate interests, actively assisted by first world governments and front organisations parading as non-governmental organisations.

Africa lies at the frontier of international agricultural intervention for several reasons. Firstly the continent lags badly in agricultural productivity. This is largely due to poor investment and agricultural support.
Secondly, Africa has more unexploited arable land than any other continent. Africa’s vast area, inadequate historical investment or support into agricultural development makes it an attractive investment destination for speculators and development alike.
Thirdly Africa’s population is set increase from its present 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion by 2050. Because of endemic food insecurity, agricultural development is a moral and economic obligation for both the African and the international community.

These facts have resulted in a new rush to assist Africa to help itself. However this assistance is motivated by often conflicting aims and consequences. While speculators seek to cash in on opportunities, philanthropy and development are not neutral either.
Africa has a history of exploitation. It continues to haemorrhage money, losing tens of millions of dollars daily in illicit flows. Speculation, aid and assistance are seldom unconditional.
This is borne out by the recent drive to impose an unsuitable, first-world intellectual property regime on the sale and trade of seed. This will worsen this problem by firmly placing control of the agricultural supply chain into corporate hands, further disempowering the smallholder farmer community.

Western agencies have long portrayed subsistence farming as inefficient, not just in terms of productivity but primarily because of its failure to contribute to capital flows. This sector circulates very little money through the agricultural supply chain, even when farmers are food secure. This lack of financial clout renders the sector profoundly vulnerable.
It is incorrect to portray smallholder farming as inefficient and unsuitable. In fact it is more conducive to community and regional food security than large-scale industrialised agricultural production methods.
This was underlined by a World Bank and UN expert report which explained how food security relies on a “multifunctionary” approach to agricultural production. Farming is about more than only producing food; it is also about culture, medicinal plants, the maintenance of ecological integrity, self-sufficiency, governance, public participation and inclusion.

Several institutions have emerged to drive the improvement of African food production . . . .
  . . . The most obvious risk is the direct intervention of the world’s largest seed companies. While these powerful entities purportedly wish to assist, they have applied constant pressure to impose this restrictive intellectual property regime.
South Africa has been a springboard for this intervention into sub-Saharan Africa. Its own seed market is effectively controlled by the world’s two biggest seed companies, Monsanto and DuPont’s Pioneer. Because of their investment into seed research and genetic material – for instance Monsanto purchased Malawi’s national seed company, while Pioneer recently acquired South Africa’s last large seed company Pannar in 2011 – they maintain tight control of their investments through intellectual property regimes.
These companies also sell genetically modified (GM) seed and agricultural chemicals. While both AGRA and the Gates Foundation have supported GM technology as a real solution to food security, the IAASTD report downplayed any significant potential. Experts feel GM is a technical response to broader, more systemic problems like poor infrastructure and concentrated supply chains.

Grassroots opposition has emerged as it is felt that UPOV 91 will effectively outlaw traditional seed saving and sharing. A statement drafted by more than 75 representative national and regional agricultural organisations strongly objects to the ARIPO protocol and calls for its withdrawal.
Despite this, powerful vested interests remain fixated on securing control of African agricultural production through force, artifice and stealth. This is directly counter to the principle that equality of fair opportunity be afforded to both innovators and those who develop and rely on traditional seed exchange.

Using first world mechanisms to perpetuate the colonial model is by definition neo-colonial.
Controlling seed means controlling food production. Africans must choose how they farm. They cannot be allowed to become perpetually indebted to a predatory agricultural-industrial complex.

full article here

Friday, September 26, 2014

Public-Private Partnerships - Who Has The Upper hand?

A seat at the table? Ensuring smallholder farmers are heard in Public-private partnerships

(Note from the editors: The report contains land grab allegations in the Malawi section, involving African Development Bank and EU funding)

Governments and NGOs are increasingly partnering with the private sector to tackle global hunger and poverty. A seat at the table? Ensuring Smallholder farmers are heard in Public-private partnerships, a study of agricultural PPPs in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya, identifies examples of PPPs failing to engage effectively with smallholder farmers.  This can lead to partnerships that miss or ignore smallholder farmers’ priorities or in the worst case scenario, actually aggravate local social and economic disparities and exacerbate poverty

The report asks governments, donors and companies to go further to ensure that smallholder farmers are given the opportunity, space and information to play an active role in the design and development of agricultural PPPs – should they wish to participate in them.

Who Gains From 3,000 US Troops In Ebola Affected African Regions?

Demilitarising Epidemic Diseases In Africa

President Obama has responded to the Ebola crisis in Africa by sending 3,000 military personnel to the affected region. The real beneficiary of this militarised messianism is, in fact, the military-industrial complex back in the US.

The international system has long become inured to the relentless hiccup of African insecurity malaise. Major clichés and few strong allegories conjure up the spasms of this ongoing malaise to the point of oversimplifying the field of African security. A cascade of crises encapsulated by patterns of sociopolitical ‘fragility’, ‘failure’, and ‘vulnerabilities’ has been plying the continent’s security environment with regards to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Ebola outbreak in West and Central Africa, as well as the hydra of terrorism and bout of violent conflicts. To be sure, the continent as a surrogate ideological battleground between Western democracies and a soviet-centric security dilemma has been put to rest. Noticeably today, a post 9-11 terror-centric security messianism has been perking up on Washington’s foreign policy chariot wheels in Africa. This security messianism is characterized by an insulated minimalist engagement riding on a missionary rhetorical commitment to African security.

Not surprisingly, the continent is broadly painted under a missionary diplomatic utopia that promises to terminate the ills of Africa. Putting aside some headier geopolitical matters, President Bush in July 2005, with an evangelical tone, made the confession that the U.S. ‘seek[s] progress in Africa because conscience demands it.’ Binding tightly moral imperatives with security concerns, Bush exited the White House cementing his signature legacy as the AIDS president. He left behind a strong savoury trademark of his long-standing gig to defeating the tides of malaria and AIDS on the continent. By the time he left the world stage, President Bush had increased aid to the continent by more than 640 percent. In humanitarian aid, the continent was the beneficiary of more than $5 billion a year. The $46 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was instrumental for at least 2 million people who received antiretroviral drugs.

To be sure, the fine apostles of HIV/AIDS policy wonk have been battling out support for access to drugs and treatment for AIDS patients. As a result of this global battle, expensive treatment and drugs for AIDS had garnered public resources and attention as well. Ironically, expensive drugs and treatment have been raining down on environments without proper hospitals, qualified medical doctors, and poorly equipped clinics. While antiretroviral drugs are available to patients, the resources to training health workers and building schools of medicine have been drying up. Tellingly, American Ebola victims from the West and Central have to be flown home to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta for treatment. Though the much-hyped PEPFAR project christened President Bush as the healer- in- chief on African shores, the everlasting romance between militarized health foreign policy and security is hard to disconnect. As a shining jewel on President Bush’s chest, PEPFAR stands out as a corporate bonanza for US pharmaceutical corporations to harvest safe vouchers from financial manna. Oil corporations such as Mobil Oil and Chevron own a share of some HIV-medicine patents and medication. Not only had US foreign policy aid to HIV made vast profit for US firms, but it softly tied up HIV/AIDS’ industrial headquarters to oil corporations and the creation of the unified command for Africa to oversee security and conduct military operations as necessary.

Of course, the hotly touted Obama’s West African foreign policy pledged a major US military-led surge to stop the Ebola virus as a global health and national security threat. Far from throwing a monkey wrench on military expansion, such a foreign policy vision has not divorced from a militarized version of epidemic diseases. On September 16, 2014, President Obama made public his decision to establish a joint military command headquarters in Liberia by quickly dispatching 3,000 US troops to Monrovia and Senegal. The Ebola outbreak crafted its own response to the military footprint on the continent. The Obama administration pledged $ 1.26 billion to fighting against Ebola that has already claimed more than 2,800 lives in West Africa. The crisis has spurred the opportunity to hew a close look at some nichified source of security fixes in order to reinforce the post-9-11 security quandaries.

President Obama’s quick policy stand is not unprecedented. The root of the militarization of Washington foreign policy goes back to 1947 with the Cold War. The National Security Act of 1947 amends the US armed forces as intrinsically embedded with national security policy in peacetime. To be sure, demilitarizing epidemic diseases in West Africa will divert resources to building roads that lead to good hospitals and schools of medicine to train public health personnel for the continent.

  by Narcisse Jean Alcide Nana from here


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ebola Update - Inadequate Worldwide Response

The number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could reach as many as 1.4 million by January, according to new estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The agency describes the current outbreak of the virus sweeping West Africa as the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It has already infected over 5,800 people, with over 3,000 of them appearing in Liberia alone. Over 2800 deaths have occurred as a result of outbreak, as already weak public health systems have been strained amidst what health experts charge has been a "totally, and lethally, inadequate." international response.

Health workers and observers have stressed that the number of cases may be vastly under-reported.
The estimates revealed Tuesday by the CDC are based on a modeling tool to project hypothetical scenarios. It found that if additional interventions to stop the outbreak are not taken and communty practices like unsafe burials continue, Sierra Leone and Liberia could see between 550,000 and 1.4 million cases by January 20, 2015, with the higher figure accounting for under-reporting of the virus.

In a more optimistic scenario, which includes a higher percentage of infected people being treated in a proper health care facility and safe burial practices occurring by December, the modeling found that the epidemic in the country could be nearly stopped by the end of January.

Ending the epidemic there, the CDC found, requires getting 70 percent of affected persons to an Ebola-treating health care facility or community setting where the virus can be contained--a fact that puts into focus the as-of-yet inadequate worldwide response to step up to the needs of the epidemic.

In an article published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Doctors Jeremy Farrar and Peter Piot write that the epidemic "was an avoidable crisis."
"We are concerned that without a massive increase in the response, way beyond what is being planned in scale and urgency, alongside the complementary deployment of novel interventions (in particular the use of safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics), it will prove impossible to bring this epidemic under control," they write.

from here

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ebola Agony

The current Ebola outbreak is the worst the world has ever seen, with 4,963 reported cases thus far and 2,453 deaths as of 13 September, according to WHO.

Pierre Trbovic, an anthropologist from Belgium working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) at the ELWA Ebola Treatment Centre, one of two in the capital, Monrovia, was forced to turn patients away: He had no choice - the centre was full and could not safely admit more patients.
"The first person I had to turn away was a father who had brought in his sick daughter in the trunk of his car. He was an educated man, and he pleaded [with] me to take her, saying while he knew we couldn't save her life, we could save the rest of his family from her. At that point I had to go behind one of the tents to cry," says Trbovic.

MSF President Joanne Liu, in a speech to UN member states in Geneva on 16 September, blamed a lethargic international response for the spiralling crisis.
"Sick people are banging on the doors of MSF Ebola care centres because they do not want to infect their families and they are desperate for a safe place in which to be isolated. Tragically our teams must turn them away. All for a lack of international response," she said.

An MSF aid worker wrote  "I wake up each morning. wondering if this is really happening or if it is a horror movie. In decades of humanitarian work I have never witnessed such relentless suffering of fellow human beings or felt so completely paralyzed and utterly overwhelmed at our inability to provide anything but the most basic, and sometimes less than adequate, care."

From here

Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Ethiopian Billionaire’s Outrageous Land Grab

The man who stole the Nile: An Ethiopian billionaire’s outrageous land grab 
By Frederick Kaufman

Forget about diamond heists, bank robberies, and drilling into the golden intestines of fort Knox. In this precarious world-historic moment, food has become the most valuable asset of them all—and a billionaire from Ethiopia named Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi is getting his hands on as much of it as possible, flying it over the heads of his starving countrymen, and selling the treasure to Saudi Arabia. Last year, Al Amoudi, whom most Ethiopians call the Sheikh, exported a million tons of rice, about seventy pounds for every Saudi citizen, the scene of the great grain robbery was Gambella, a bog the size of Belgium in Ethiopia’s southwest whose rivers feed the Nile.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Israel's war against migrants

They are "a cancer in our body", and "a threat to the social fabric of society…national security [and the] identity and existence [of the] Jewish and democratic state". As "infiltrators", they should be "encouraged…to leave" and "locked…up to make their lives miserable". These are the words of Israeli Parliamentarian Miri Regev, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and of the current and former Israeli Interior Ministers Eli Yishai and Gideon Saar, described by the UN refugee agency as "xenophobic statements made by…public officials who…stigmatise asylum seekers."  Israeli authorities know that they can't deport Eritreans and Sudanese to their home countries because of serious human rights concerns in both countries, not to mention that Sudan's relations with Israel are so bad that it considers people who flee there to be criminals. Yet the authorities have done everything they can to make their lives so unbearable that they leave.

 Since January 2013 - six months after Israel introduced an unlawful policy of indefinitely detaining as many "infiltrators" as possible to coerce them into leaving - almost 7,000 people, mostly Sudanese, have buckled under the pressure and returned home. Another 44,000 Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel's cities live in constant fear of receiving orders to report to a remote desert detention centre near the Egyptian border where, the authorities say, they will be confined until they also agree to leave the country.

 Four out of every five Eritrean asylum seekers worldwide last year were recognised as refugees, while by the end of June, Israel had only recognised just two Eritreans as refugees. Israel has also rejected 100 percent of Sudanese asylum claims, though globally 67 percent of Sudanese asylum seekers are given some form of protection.

From here

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ethiopian Dictatorship

 Ethiopia’s ruling regime is following a nationwide policy of violent suppression and constitutional vandalism.

 Human Rights Watch state the government “regularly use abuse to gather information…. Ethiopian authorities have subjected political detainees to torture and other ill treatment at the main detention center [Maekelawi Police Station] in Addis Ababa.” Journalists who challenge the government are intimidated (so too their families) and silenced. Many have been arrested, and as the Committee to Protect Journalists reports, “are languishing in Ethiopia’s prisons on trumped-up terrorism charges for doing their jobs.” In their thorough report “They Want A Confession”. HRW documents “serious rights abuses, unlawful interrogation tactics, and poor detention conditions in Maekelawi since 2010. Those detained …include scores of opposition politicians, journalists, protest organizers, and alleged supporters of ethnic insurgencies.” Public assembly, whilst not being outwardly criminalized is effectively banned, despite the fact that it is a right enshrined like all such liberal freedoms in the legally binding constitution which has no influence over the ruling party, or indeed the judiciary, which functions as a docile enforcer of government criminality.

For a country beset with acute poverty, where it is conservatively estimated 30% of the population (World Bank figures) are living below the ‘official poverty line’ (that’s income of $2 a day), the government somehow manages to administer and fund (to the tune of $340 millions) the largest standing army in Sub-Saharan Africa. They boast 560 tanks, over 80 warplanes, and out of a population numbering 92 million, Global Fire Power reveals, 25 million are armed and ‘fit for service’, with a further 10 million standing by. The men in uniform are kept busy by their political masters – there is a whole nation to suppress and control, including the people of Oromia (who are calling for self-determination) and Amhara. There is the Ogaden region to occupy and forcibly govern, innocent men and women – who seek nothing more threatening than autonomy, their constitutional right – to murder, terrorise and rape. There is Gambella in the far south west and the Lower Omo Valley where women are raped by soldiers, men beaten, indigenous people (who have lived on ancestral land for generations) herded into government camps (the notorious Villagisation project – part funded by Britain and the World Bank) as vast tracts of lands are sold for pennies to international corporations. There is torture to be administered, assassinations to plan and execute, rapes to be performed and surveillance of dissenting voices to be carried out.

Graham Peebles' full article can be read here 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Africa an El Dorado for South Africa’s Agribusiness Giants

African Centre for Biosafety | 9 September 2014

The ACB has today, released its new report titled, "Africa an El Dorado for South Africa’s Agribusiness Giants," which shows the extent to which South African agribusinesses dominate the farm to fork agribusiness value chain in Africa-worth billions of dollars.

 Tiger Foods, Pioneer Foods Group, Tongaat Hulett, Astral Foods, AFGRI, Illovo Sugar, Anglovaal Industries (now AVI), Rainbow Chicken (RCL Foods), Clover Holdings and Oceana Group are among the top 20 African businesses operating on the continent. Shoprite, South Africa’s biggest supermarket retailer, already holds 34% of the continent’s supermarket sector. Seven of the ten leading agribusinesses (Tiger Foods, Premier Foods, AFGRI, Illovo Sugar, Astral Foods, Clover Group and Tongaat Hulett) are backed by the South Africa government-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which is responsible for managing the South African Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the Compensation Commissioner’s Fund.

 These agribusinesses benefit enormously from access to private capital, experience, established distribution chains and both direct and indirect subsidies and incentives offered to them. There are several implications stemming from South African agribusiness expansion onto the continent, including entrenching a culture of corporate consolidation, blocking the emergence of small operators and producers, depressing local innovation systems and negatively impacting on food security.

from here

Download full report here

Monday, September 08, 2014

US - Winning Hearts and Minds In Africa

The U.S. is trying to win a war for the hearts and minds of Africa.  But a Pentagon investigation suggests that those mystery projects somewhere out there in Djibouti or Ethiopia or Kenya or here in Tanzania may well be orphaned, ill-planned, and undocumented failures-in-the-making.  According to the Department of Defense’s watchdog agency, U.S. military officials in Africa “did not adequately plan or execute” missions designed to win over Africans deemed vulnerable to the lures of violent extremism.
This evidence of failure in the earliest stages of the U.S. military’s hearts-and-minds campaign should have an eerie resonance for anyone who has followed its previous efforts to use humanitarian aid and infrastructure projects to sway local populations in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan.  In each case, the operations failed in spectacular ways, but were only fully acknowledged after years of futility and billions of dollars in waste.

Today, the U.S. military increasingly confronts Africa as a "battlefield" or "battleground" or "war" in the words of the men running its operations.  To that end, it has built a sophisticated logistics network to service a growing number of small outposts, camps, and airfields, while carrying out, on average, more than one mission each day somewhere on the continent.  A significant number of these operations take the form of a textbook hearts-and-minds campaign that harkens back to failed U.S. efforts in Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 1970s and more recently in the Greater Middle East.

In Africa, the sums and scale are smaller, but the efforts are from the same counterinsurgency playbook.  In fact, to the U.S. military, humanitarian assistance -- from medical care to infrastructure projects -- is a form of “security cooperation.”  According to the latest edition of FM 3-24, published earlier this year: 
“When these activities are used to defeat an insurgency, they are part of a counterinsurgency operation. While not all security cooperation activities are in support of counterinsurgency, security cooperation can be an effective counterinsurgency tool.  These activities help the U.S. and the host nation gain credibility and help the host nation build legitimacy. These efforts can help prevent insurgencies...”

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and its subordinate command, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, have spent years engaged in such COIN-style humanitarian projects.  These have been touted in news releases at their websites in lieu of candid information on the true scale and scope of AFRICOM’s operations, the exponential growth of its activities, its spy operations, and shadowy base-building efforts.  Take a cursory glance at its official news releases and you’ll find them crammed with feel-good stories like an effort by CJTF-HOA personnel to tutor would-be Djiboutian hotel workers in English or a joint effort by the State Department, AFRICOM, and the Army Corps of Engineers to build six new schools in Togo.  Such acts are never framed in the context of counterinsurgency nor with an explicit link to U.S. efforts to win hearts and minds.  And never is there any mention of failings or fiascos. 
However, an investigation by the Department of Defense’s Inspector General (IG), completed last October but never publicly released, found failures in planning, executing, tracking, and documenting such projects.  The restricted report, obtained by TomDispatch, describes a flawed system plagued by a variety of deeply embedded problems.

Across Africa, the U.S. military is engaged in a panoply of aid projects with an eye toward winning a war of ideas in the minds of Africans and so beating back the lure of extremist ideologies -- from that of Boko Haram in Nigeria to Somalia’s al Shabab.  These so-called civil-military operations, or CMOs, include “humanitarian assistance” projects like the construction or repair of schools, water wells and waste treatment systems, and “humanitarian and civic assistance” (HCA) efforts, like offering dental and veterinary care.
Kindness may be its own reward, but in the case of the U.S. military, CMO benevolence is designed to influence foreign governments and civilian populations in order to “facilitate military operations and achieve U.S. objectives.”

 According to the Pentagon, humanitarian assistance efforts are engineered to improve “U.S. visibility, access, and influence with foreign military and civilian counterparts,” while HCA projects are designed to “promote the security and foreign policy interests of the United States.” 
In the bureaucratic world of the U.S. military, these small-scale efforts are further divided into “community relations activities,” like the distribution of sports equipment, and “low-cost activities” such as seminars on solar panel maintenance or English-language discussion groups.  Theoretically at least, add all these projects together and you’ve taken a major step toward winning Africans away from the influence of extremists.  But are these projects working at all?  Has anyone even bothered to check?
The IG did manage to review 49 of 137 identified humanitarian assistance and civic assistance projects, which cost U.S. taxpayers about $9 million, and found that the military officials overseeing CMO “did not adequately plan or execute” them in accordance with AFRICOM’s “objectives.” Examining 66 community relations and low cost activities, investigators found that CJTF-HOA had failed to accurately identify their strategic objectives for, or maintained limited documentation on, 62% of them.
Examining a sample of projects, the Pentagon’s investigators found that 73% of the time CJTF-HOA personnel failed to collect sufficient data 30 days after completion of projects, to assess whether it achieved the stated objectives. 

Winning Hearts and Minds or Losing Money and Influence?

Nearly a year has passed since the drafting of the Inspector General’s report.  During that time, neither AFRICOM nor CJTF-HOA has publicly addressed it or announced any changes based upon its recommendations.  In the meantime, the hearts and minds of allied African military leaders appear unswayed by AFRICOM’s efforts.  Over two days at the “Land Forces East Africa” conference here in Dar es Salaam, I listened to generals and defense analysts from around the region speak on security matters affecting Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania.  They touched on the key issues -- extremism, terrorism, and piracy -- that the American hearts-and-minds campaign is meant to counter, but the United States was hardly mentioned.  Tanzanian officers I talked with, for instance, were pleased to be receiving American funds, but less so with direct U.S. interventions of any type on the continent.  None I spoke with seemed aware of AFRICOM’S hearts-and-minds work like clean water projects or school construction in underdeveloped rural areas not so very far from where we’ve been sitting.
Even Egan O’Reilly, an Army officer attached to the U.S. Embassy here, whose job is to facilitate “security cooperation” activities, “We’ve done everything from helping bring down trainers for military intelligence courses to building their own schoolhouse for intelligence work,” he tells me.
What about the building of primary and secondary schools, the humanitarian assistance projects?  “I haven’t seen a whole lot of AFRICOM work myself,” replies the West Point graduate and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  "Logistics training and engineering instruction for African militaries, that’s “the important stuff.”  
TomDispatch also sought interviews with U.S. defense attachés in Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya for assessments of the humanitarian projects in those respective countries.  The latter two embassies failed to respond to the requests, while a spokesperson for the U.S. mission in Ethiopia thanked me for my interest but told me that the defense attaché “is not currently available for an interview.”  No one, it appears, is eager to talk about the textbook counterinsurgency campaign being carried out by the U.S. military in Africa, let alone the failures chronicled in an IG report that’s been withheld from the public for almost a year.
For the last decade, we’ve been inundated with disclosures about billions of U.S. tax dollars squandered on counterinsurgency failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, stories of ruined roads and busted buildings, shoddy schoolhouses and wasteful water parks, all in the name of winning hearts and minds.  Below the radar, similar -- if smaller scale -- efforts are well underway in Africa.  Already, the schools are being built, already the water projects are falling to pieces, already the Department of Defense’s Inspector General has identified a plethora of problems.  It’s just been kept under wraps.  But if history is any guide, humanitarian efforts by AFRICOM and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa will grow larger and ever more expensive, until they join the long list of projects that have become “monuments to U.S. failure” around the world.
Nick Turse from here with more and links

Friday, September 05, 2014

Resources Or People? No Competition

Botswana government lies exposed as diamond mine opens on Bushman land

Survival International

In 2004, a Botswana Minister said there was no mining nor any plans for future mining anywhere inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In 2014 a $4.9bn diamond mine opens A $4.9bn diamond mine will open on September 5 in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the ancestral land of Africa’s last hunting Bushmen, exactly ten years after the Botswana government claimed there were “no plans to mine anywhere inside the reserve.”

The Bushmen were told they had to leave the reserve soon after diamonds were discovered in the 1980s, but the Botswana government has repeatedly denied that the illegal and forced evictions of the Kalahari Bushmen – in 1997, 2002 and 2005 – were due to the rich diamond deposits. It justified the Bushmen’s evictions from the land in the name of “conservation”.

In 2000, however, Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy & Water Affairs told a Botswana newspaper, "the relocation of Basarwa (Bushmen) communities from [the Central Kalahari Game Reserve] is to pave way for a proposed Gope Diamond Mine”; and in 2002, the Bushmen told Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, "Foreign Minister General Merafhe went to the reserve and told us we had to be moved because of diamonds.”

The mine opening has also exposed Botswana’s commitment to conservation as window dressing. The government falsely claims that the Bushmen’s presence in the reserve is “incompatible with wildlife conservation,” while allowing a diamond mine and fracking exploration to go ahead on their land.

And while conservation organizations have heralded Botswana President Ian Khama’s conservation efforts, they have remained silent on the persecution of the Bushmen and the mining activities in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

A Bushman whose family was evicted told Survival, “This week President Khama will open a mine in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Do those organizations who have been awarding President Khama for his work with the flora and fauna still believe he is a good example to the world? The residents of the Reserve are not benefitting anything from the mine. The only benefits go to communities living outside the reserve, while our natural resources are being destroyed. We strongly oppose the opening of the mine until the government and Gem Diamonds sit down with us and tell us what we will benefit from the mine. ”

The government continues its relentless push to drive the Bushmen out of the reserve by accusing them of “poaching” because they hunt their food. The Bushmen face arrest, beatings and torture, while fee-paying big game hunters are encouraged. The government has also refused to reopen the Bushmen’s water wells, restricted their free movement into and out of the reserve, and barred their lawyer from entering the country.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, “When the Bushmen were illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of ‘conservation’, Survival cried foul play – both we and the Bushmen believed that, in fact, diamond mining was the real motivation for kicking the tribe off their territory. Government and its cronies vigorously denied these accusations, but finally we have been proven correct. Meanwhile, organizations such as Conservation International continue to laud President Khama for his environmental credentials and turns a blind eye to his human rights abuses.”

- Download a timeline of events leading to the opening of the Ghaghoo diamond mine (PDF, 639 kB)

from here

Medical Racism and the African Patient

How medical folklore demonises Africans all over the world

Mandisi Majavu

The current Ebola crisis reinforces the prevailing narrative that black Africans living in Western countries are the diseased ‘other’ who pose a threat to the health of whites

In his book, ‘Infections and Inequalities’, Paul Farmer writes that we live in a world where infections pass easily across borders, while resources, including cumulative scientific knowledge are blocked at customs. The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is a case in point. The World Health Organisation has warned that the number of Ebola cases could rise to 20,000 largely because the medical staff in these West African countries do not have the resources to deal with the rapid spread of the virus.

West Africa and Western medicine have a history that reaches back to the 19th century. By the early 19th century, the medical folklore, which went hand-in-hand with the European colonial project in Africa, considered the region “the white man’s grave”. The notion of the white man’s grave emerged due to the high death rate of Europeans in West Africa in the 19th century. Scholarly studies show that in quantitative terms the mortality rate during that period was usually between 300 and 700 per thousand per annum for any group of European newcomers to West Africa.

Modern science shows that Europeans died in large numbers in West Africa simply because they lacked immunity to yellow fever and malaria, an immunity that many Africans developed in childhood. However during the 19th century Europeans believed that Africans had something in their DNA, which equipped them to survive the climate in the region. The “Africanist discourse” shaped the thinking of the medical establishment of the time. According to the Africanist discourse, “Africa produces monsters”. Christopher Miller, an academic based at Yale University, explains that the Africanist discourse is a poor relation lexically and institutionally, to the prestigious and well-endowed study of the “Orient”.

In the 21st century, the discourse has changed slightly, so has medical folklore. Today’s medical folklore is characterized by its use of sophisticated codes to talk about diseases and disorders that are associated with black Africans. In his book, ‘The Origins and Consequences of Medical Racism’, John Hoberman argues that many diseases and disorders have been “effectively coded ‘white’ or ‘black’, depending on whether they are associated with modernity (white) or socially backward (black) ways of life.” The prevailing view is that black Africans living in Western countries are the diseased ‘other’ who pose a threat to the health of whites. Modern medical folklore essentially regards African immigrants living in Western countries as an infectious “reservoir of diseases” - to use Hoberman’s phrase. Another feature of this perspective is an overarching theme that often ties African diseases to sexuality. Hence, as American scholar Abby Ferber points out, “disease becomes a metaphor in this discourse, invoked again and again.”

Against this background, Australian politicians such as Pauline Hanson have in the past associated African refugees with the threat of diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, AIDS and other contagious afflictions. According to Heather Worth, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales, the first settlement of African refugees in New Zealand in 1993 led the public, politicians and government officials to call for mandatory HIV testing. In Israel, blood donated by Africans was, until 2007, discarded by Israeli hospitals because of the belief that Africans are diseased.

The foregoing partly explains the large research output, which focuses on African immigrants and infectious diseases in Western countries. According to Farmer, The history between Western medicine and West Africa teaches that “diseases that predominantly afflict the poor are unlikely to garner funding for research and drug development, unless they begin to ‘emerge’ into the consciousness and space of the non-poor.”

While Ebola explosions largely afflict African people living in poverty and health care workers who serve the poor, the recent Ebola outbreak has put Western Europe on alert. The Guardian reports, “from Austria to Ireland, Spain to Germany, there have been at least a dozen cases of West Africans with mild flu symptoms being isolated until it was established that they were not suffering from Ebola.”

The consensus among scientists is that the Ebola virus does not pose any risk to the general public in Western countries with well-resourced public health care systems. However, African refugees living in foreign countries are often impacted by disease outbreaks such as the recent Ebola eruption in more ways than one. Disease outbreaks pose a threat to the health of refugees directly, but also have a significant impact on the resettlement chances of African refugees to Western countries or any other country for that matter. In fact, research shows that outbreaks of diseases such as measles, rubella and hepatitis A have disrupted the resettlement of African refugees several times since 2004.

What comes to mind is an observation once made by microbiologists, husband and wife team, René and Jean Dubos that ‘‘tuberculosis was, in effect, the first penalty that capitalistic society had to pay for the ruthless exploitation of labour.’’ Medical literature is replete with evidence that the world’s burden of disease disproportionably affects black Africans, just as the husband and wife Dubos team argue, many Africans also know that the poor health situation in Africa exists largely due to colonialism, imperialism and global inequality.

from here

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Africa an El Dorado for South Africa’s Agribusiness Giants

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has Tuesday, released its new report titled, “Africa an El Dorado for South Africa’s Agribusiness Giants,” which shows the extent to which South African agribusinesses dominate the farm to fork agribusiness value chain in Africa-worth billions of dollars.
Tiger Foods, Pioneer Foods Group, Tongaat Hulett, Astral Foods, AFGRI, Illovo Sugar, Anglovaal Industries (now AVI), Rainbow Chicken (RCL Foods), Clover Holdings and Oceana Group are among the top 20 African businesses operating on the continent. Shoprite, South Africa’s biggest supermarket retailer, already holds 34% of the continent’s supermarket sector. Seven of the ten leading agribusinesses (Tiger Foods, Premier Foods, AFGRI, Illovo Sugar, Astral Foods, Clover Group and Tongaat Hulett) are backed by the South Africa government-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which is responsible for managing the South African Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the Compensation Commissioner’s Fund.
Find the Full Report Here:
These agribusinesses benefit enormously from access to private capital, experience, established distribution chains and both direct and indirect subsidies and incentives offered to them.
There are several implications stemming from South African agribusiness expansion onto the continent, including entrenching a culture of corporate consolidation, blocking the emergence of small operators and producers, depressing local innovation systems and negatively impacting on food security.

from here