Friday, October 31, 2014

Burkina Faso Uprising

Protesters have stormed Burkina Faso’s parliament and set its main chamber ablaze in the most significant challenge ever to the President’s 27-year rule in one of the world’s poorest countries. A vast crowd tried to storm the home of the President’s brother and overran other state buildings. Earlier, police had pushed the crowds back with tear gas, but they regrouped in larger numbers, surged past police lines and broke into the parliament building. Crowds also attacked the homes of government ministers in the country’s second-largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso.State television and radio went off air.

The demonstrators had wanted to block a vote in parliament that would have allowed President Compaoré to seek a fifth term. Demonstrators shouted, “It is over for the regime” and “We do not want him again”.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ethnic Conflict In Ethiopia Fueled By Land Grab

More than 540 civilians killed in ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia 

The Voice of America (VOA) Amharic Service, on its October 21 special program, reports the killing of over 540 people, mostly from the Amhara ethnic group, in a conflict with the Mezenger people in the Gambella region of Western Ethiopia. The gruesome massacre that started in the town of Meti, Godere zone on September 10th was a direct consequence of the ill-fated land grab policy of the Ethiopian government. According to the VOA, the under reported massacre specifically started when government started to forcefully evict Mezenger people from their ancestral land in order to give it away to a recently retired TPLF Generals for “investment” purposes and the illegal campaign of selling lands that ensued following the arrival of hundreds of ‘Tirgrayans‘ as ‘workers‘ to the TPLF ‘investors‘. As expected, the main stream media and right groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch turned a deaf ear to the extraordinary massacre of Ethiopians by the regime.

Millions of Hectares of African Land ‘Grabbed’

Over 55 million hectares of land in Africa have been “grabbed” since 2000, according to research presented at a conference on Wednesday. 

More land had been “grabbed” in Africa between 2000 and 2012 than in the rest of the world combined, Dr Blessing Karumbidza, senior research associate at the Durban University of Technology, told the Africa land Grab conference in Midrand. He made a presentation on behalf of Prof Robert Home from Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom. 

Land grabs were broadly defined as large-scale land acquisitions which displaced vulnerable communities and farmers, with disregard for the rights of these people and social and environmental impacts. They took place without free prior and informed consent, within the context of poor institutional governance structures. Large multinational companies, with the consent of the state, and the state itself, were implicated in land grabs. 

A contributing factor to land grabs was the legacy of the colonial land ownership system which, following decolonisation, left the question of who owned what land unresolved. “Even in countries like South Africa, where they have the resources… the knowledge of who owns what specific land is not yet clear,” Karumbidza said. “The whole governance framework is not yet resolved within South Africa and across the continent. What is the best land system that would suit Africa?” he asked. 

The land system that would best suit Africa is the same land system that would best suit all regions of the world - that of common ownership, democratically 'controlled' for the benefit of all, not for profit - a novel idea in a global capitalist system?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Harvesting Hardship In Kenya

Dominion Farms arrived in Kenya's Yala Swamp basin in 2004 with big promises. The company claimed it would turn a defunct state demonstration farm into a modern rice plantation, provide locals with good jobs, and build hospitals and schools. The American owner of the company, Calvin Burgess, presented himself as a 'man of God', on a mission to bring US-style progress to Africa. The locals, sold on this grand vision, decided – with some hesitation and dissent – to allow Dominion to farm on 3,700 ha of their lands.
But a decade later, the communities have harvested nothing but hardship.

"When Burgess came, we did not object to him taking the lands that had already been allocated to the Government years before for the development of an experimental farm," says Erastus Odindo, a local farmer. "But Dominion Farms has put a fence around much more land than that. The company has taken over all of our community lands without our consent and blocked our access to water." Odindo and other local farmers lost nearly all of the lands that they use for grazing their cattle.
"Burgess mocked our farming methods and said we should abandon our traditional cattle breed because it was backwards," says Odindo. "But now he's put a fence around our grazing lands and is using the lands for his own local cattle. We are losing doubly because he then sells the cattle on the local market and undercuts us."

The agreements that Dominion Farms signed with local authorities were for a large scale rice farm. But the company has also gone into cattle, vegetables, bananas and fish.
"The company produces and sells the same foods we local farmers produce," says Odindo. "First Dominion took our lands and water away from us, and now it is taking our markets. And they are not doing agriculture in a more efficient way than us local farmers. All the machines they have are just for making noise."

Dominion's rice farm now extends right up to the edge of Odindo's village. "When the company sprays pesticides by plane, it comes directly into our homes, poisoning people and contaminating our water supply," he says. "Workers also face regular exposure to pesticides."
The local communities accuse Dominion of polluting their soil, water and air, and of badly damaging the area's biodiversity. They say that it is now difficult to access clean water because of the pollution by pesticides and chemical fertilisers, and that this is damaging the health of mothers and children.

Odindo says that the company's promises of good jobs have also proven to be a mirage. Most workers are employed on a casual basis, with only a few watchmen hired as permanent staff. Their pay is irregular and sometimes late. "The company hasn't been paying wages over the past two months and people have been wondering if it's in financial problems," says Odindo.
But Dominion still seems intent on grabbing more lands. Having already taken control of all the lands collectively managed by the communities, the company is now aggressively pursuing deals with private land holders. Odindo says that they believe that Dominion is working with Kenyan millionaires to secure land for large agriculture projects, such as a sugar cane plantation that the company is in the initial stages of implementing.

Meanwhile Dominion Farms is also pursuing a new project for a rice plantation in Taraba State, Nigeria, that would be several times the size of its Yala Swamp venture. Odindo hopes that the communities in Nigeria can learn from what his community has gone through and not be duped by Dominion's promises.

from here

The Rich Go West-end

A new wave of African oligarchs are following the trail blazed by Russian billionaires, buying up luxury properties in some of London’s most exclusive postcodes, according to new research.

Buyers from six African countries – Nigeria, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and Senegal – are estimated to have spent a total of £600m on luxury residential property in the capital over the past three years.

The purchases by the wealthy Africans are concentrated in the so-called “platinum triangle” of Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge. Most, around 80%, typically spend £15m-£25m on a property, with 10% spending over £30m and the balance paying less than £10m, according to Beauchamp’s figures. Some of the key addresses include Eaton Square, One Hyde Park, Grosvenor Square and Regent’s Park.

Buyers from Nigeria, for example, have been longstanding purchasers of property in the capital, but have previously favoured homes in the north London districts of Hampstead, St John’s Wood and Primrose Hill. With their enhanced wealth, they are now moving into the ultra-prime market.

 Behind every great fortune lies a great crime. Vast sums have been and continue to be siphoned out of Africa into tax havens. So this news should come as no surprise. The elites of Africa appear no different to elites elsewhere in their rapacious greed, extreme reluctance to pay tax and lack of concern for the wellbeing of their fellow citizens. This parasitical upper class have a greater ability to steal, hoard and squander their countries' wealth as people languish in poverty, because of government incompetence and corruption. Whilst millions live in shanty towns, lacking decent sanitation, their masters are allowed to spend appropriated wealth on flamboyant homes.

 The truth is, that the UK doesn’t care where the money comes from. Just that it keeps coming in. No questions asked about the chains of anonymous shell companies. The UK facilitate corruption whilst the African elites live the high life in London. Steal millions from the poor from anywhere in the world and the City of London bankers, lawyers, property specialists, and investment consultants will literally be queuing up to offer their services. Border control policy deliberately excludes the mega rich, swindlers and embezzlers from all corners of this planet.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Beyond Ebola

The current focus on ebola should not let the impact of malaria (as well as other illnesses) and the campaign to develop a vaccine for malaria be forgotten about. While endeavouring to contain the present ebola epidemic,  Liberia's Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan explains"As we and our many international partners struggle to douse the wildfire caused by Ebola, we have been left with inadequate resources, time and personnel to attend to other routine illnesses like malaria, typhoid fever and measles, thereby causing many more tangential deaths," he said. 

Malaria is associated with high mortality and morbidity especially among children under five and pregnant women.  Around 90 per cent of estimated deaths from malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa and 77 per cent of these are in children under the age of five.

Data from the phase III vaccine trial programme shows hope that a malaria vaccine is just a step away.

Plant-based therapies have held the ace in the treatment of malaria from chloroquine obtained from the Quinine bark also called Cinchona tree to the artemisin from the Chinese salad plant, Artemisia annua. Unfortunately, the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, has begun to develop resistance to the WHO-endorsed treatment ACT, made from Artemisia annua.

  Nigerian researchers have discovered and validated local plants that treat malaria like World Health Organisation (WHO)-endorsed drugs such as Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), amodiaquine, mefloquine and sulphadoxine/pyrimethamine. A recent study published in Malaria Journal has identified medicinal plants such as Momordica charantia (bitter melon), Momordica balsamina (balsam apple), Ageratum conyzoides (goat weed), and Diospyros monbuttensis (Yoruba ebony or walking stick ebony) to be very efficacious in the treatment of drug resistant malaria. The results of the study showed sensitivity of 100 Plasmodium falciparum (malaria parasite) isolates to chloroquine, quinine, amodiaquine, mefloquine, sulphadoxine/pyrimethamine, artemisinin, Momordica charantia, Diospyros monbuttensis and Morinda lucida. The researchers concluded: "Natural products isolated from plants used in traditional medicine, which have potent anti-plasmodial action in vitro, represent potential sources of new anti-malarial drugs." 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Swaziland bans trade unions

Swazi Minister of Labour and Social Security, Winnie Magagula, has announced a Cabinet resolution deciding that, pending legal reforms, all federations should stop operating immediately. All trade union and employer federations will be effectively banned, a clear violation of ILO Convention 87, ratified by Swaziland, guaranteeing freedom of association for workers and employers. Federations were called upon to submit reports of their operations to date, including their prepared audited financial statements to the Commissioner of Labour.

Tripartite bodies such as the Wages Council, Labour Advisory Board, Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission, Swaziland National Provident Fund, Training and Localization Committee and the Social Dialogue Committee will stop functioning as a result.
Article 5 of ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize recognizes the right of workers’ organizations to establish or to join federations and confederations of their own choosing.

The Swazi government has ignored repeated calls from the international trade union movement to respect rights guaranteed under international conventions ratified by Swaziland. Instead they have suspended workers’ right to freely associate and to carry out trade union activities completely.

In Ethiopia, Foreign Investment Is A Fancy Word For Stealing Land

It’s been called by some to be a new form of colonialism. Others say it is outright theft.
Since 2000, over 37 million hectares of land, mainly in the world’s poorest nations, have been acquired by foreign investors “without the free, prior, and informed consent of communities” in what, according to Oxfam and other organizations, constitutes a “land grab.” It’s a portion of land twice the size of Germany, according to researchers.
More than 60% of crops grown on land bought by foreign investors in developing countries are intended for export, instead of for feeding local communities. Worse still, two-thirds of these agricultural land deals are in countries with serious hunger problems. A report by the University of Virginia in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Milan says that a third to a fourth of the global malnourished population, or 300 to 550 million people, could be fed from the global share of land grabs.
Instead, the land is used to grow profitable crops—like sugarcane, palm oil, and soy. The benefits of this food production “go to the investors and to the countries that are receiving the exports, and not to the benefit of local communities,” says Paolo D’Odorico, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. He attributes the phenomenon to a global “commodification of land” and says the problem will only get worse in the coming years as food prices continue to rise globally.

Land grabs in the developing world create a system so unequal that resource-rich countries become resource dependent.
In Ethiopia, one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign aid, the problem is particularly acute. In a country where over 30% of the population is below the food poverty line, crops are exported abroad—primarily to India, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.
Multinationals buy up the land from the Ethiopian government for lease and bring in workers to farm it.
Favorable climate conditions and government relief have led Ethiopia to be chosen as a new production site by many flower growers present in Kenya. Bangalore-based Karuturi Global, the world’s largest rose exporter, has rose plantations in the country, and is planning the development of a 300,000-hectare lease in the Gambella area.
Alfredo Bini, an Italian photojournalist, examined Ethiopian land grabs in his recently released photo series, “Land Grabbing.” For the investors, Bini explains, the deals were not “land grabs” but opportunities to get huge returns on investments.
As Birinder Singh, the executive director of Karuturi in Ethiopia, plainly states in his interview with Bini: “When someone calls it ‘land grab,’ we call it ‘land development.'”
These companies—mostly Saudi and Indian—are signing deals with the Ethiopian government to lease this land… for 25, 30, sometimes 50 years, depriving local populations of the ability to harvest their crops and feed themselves,” Bini told Quartz. “The government says the lands are empty and not being harvested but from what I saw and documented in my reporting this is entirely not the case.”

from here with photographs and video

Ebola - a food crisis, too

The Ebola epidemic is not just a mounting health crisis but also a growing economic problem.

Asked whether the food shortages will also reach countries outside West Africa, Dr Fan, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, explained Ebola is triggering a food crisis through a series of interrelated factors, including farmer deaths, labour shortages, rising transportation costs, and rising food prices.

“Within these countries, where undernourishment has long been a problem, the food crisis may persist for decades,” Dr.Fan warned.

And because Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia are all net food-importing countries, the Ebola-triggered food crisis is unlikely to spread to other countries in the region or beyond, Dr. Fan added.

“In addition, the costs of staple foods including rice and cassava are rising precipitously in the affected areas as crops are abandoned and as labor shortages grow,” the statement added. As the harvest season is beginning, labour shortages are putting the food security of tens of thousands of people at risk in particularly affected areas.

Food that would be imported from these areas is not making its way to other regions, either.

“So, as we weigh the dangers of this dreaded disease, we must not forget the very real threats it poses to food security,” the  International Food Policy Research Institute warned. “The global community must come together to ensure that there are safety nets to protect not only those infected with the disease, but also those whose access to food is severely affected,” IFPRI added.

These safety nets, which could be in the form of cash or in-kind transfers, should be accompanied with nutrition and health interventions. “This is important, because investing in the nutrition and health of vulnerable populations could lower the mortality rate of diseases like Ebola, as nutritional status and infection are intricately linked.” Dr. Fan said

Schools in Sierra Leone have closed, shutting down critical feeding programmes for children. And restrictions on the consumption of bush meat, the suspected source of Ebola, have eliminated a traditional source of protein and nutrition from local diets.

Recent efforts by the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide food assistance to around 1.3 million people in these three countries indicate an idea of the scope of the current crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is also providing food assistance to nearly 90,000 farming households to abate the food security crisis.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dakar Declaration Against Water And Land Grabbing

Rights to water and land, a common struggle

We, civil society organizations engaged in the defense of the rights to land and water, we gathered in Dakar in the framework of the Africa Social Forum fighting and protesting against natural resources grabbing, namely water and land grabbing, and against the systematic violations of the human rights that accompany them. By sharing our ideas, we acknowledged the essential linkage between our struggles, given the inextricable nature of land and water grabbing.

Today, more than 200 million hectares of land have been supposedly grabbed globally. Thus the huge profits of an elite are built on the systematic violation of the rights of the majority of peasants, farmers, informal settlements' dwellers, fishermen, herders and nomads, who are dispossessed of their land and livelihoods by resort to violence, intimidation and torture. Land grabbing is always accompanied by water grabbing. Indeed, water grabbing occurs in all instances of unsustainable water-consuming farming, through the privatization of water utilities and management, the contamination of water brought about by uncontrolled mining, the eviction of communities for dams building, the militarization of access to water points, the dispossession of fishermen and shepherds of their livelihoods, and the penalization of water poverty. The criminalization of activists fighting for the protection of the commons has become widespread, albeit hidden by the authorities. Land and water resources are increasingly scarce, and therefore critical to the security of societies and the sovereignty of states. However, the scarcity underpinning the water crisis and the land crisis is not naturally given; instead, it is politically, geo-strategically and financially constructed.

Our solidarity is built upon the following principles and convictions that unify our struggles:
1. That, the human rights to water and land are fundamental, and crucial for life. Everyone, men and women, adults and children, rich and poor, is entitled to them.
2. That, water and land are not only vital natural resources, but are also part of our common heritage, whose security and governance must be preserved by each community for the common good of our societies and the environment, now and for future generations.
3. Water and Land are commons, and not commodities.
4. We recognize that the states are legally and constitutionally mandated to represent peoples' interest. States are therefore duty-bound to oppose every national policy and international treaty that contrast the human rights to water and land.
5. Management policies of land and water should promote the achievement of social justice, gender equality, public health and environmental justice.

That is why, together as civil societies in Africa and elsewhere,

we pledge ourselves to:
  • sensitize, educate and organize citizens and communities in order to build a strong and united movement struggling for the recognition and enforcement of our rights to land and water;
  • always defend before institutions the right of citizens and communities to free, prior and informed consent in the governance of natural resources;
  • build synergies among civil society actors struggling against land and water grabbing in order to implement national platforms for the governance of natural resources.

    Read here their demands of states and international government organisations.

Ethiopia's "Authoritarian Developmentalism"

Ethiopia is both a darling of the international development community but organisations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) describe it as “one of the most repressive media environments in the world”.  Ethiopia is seen as a reliable police officer in the region, hosting a US military base and sending troops to fight the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab in neighbouring Somalia. Of 547 MPs, only one belongs to an opposition party. Activists and journalists describe an Orwellian surveillance state, breathtaking in scale and scope, in which phone conversations are recorded and emails monitored by thousands of bureaucrats reminiscent of the Stasi in East Berlin. The few who dare to take to the streets in protest are crushed with deadly force. Amnesty International has called it an “onslaught on dissent” in the runup to elections next year. An investigation by HRW noted the government had complete control over the telecoms system and virtually unlimited access to the call records of all phone users. Journalists have described telephone conversations they had years ago being played back to them during interrogations.

The country has enjoyed close to double-digit growth for a decade. One study found it was creating millionaires faster than anywhere else on the continent. The architect of this model of development – or “authoritarian developmentalism” – in east Africa was the late prime minister Meles Zenawi. Among the winners of the Meles legacy is Tesfakiros, the head of the Muller Real Estate company with a business empire that includes logistics, transport, food manufacturing and the wine venture with Geldof, which last year made a profit of $5m (£3m). “We’re trying to put Ethiopia as a wine-producing country like California or South Africa,” he said. Ethiopia imports about 10m litres of wine a year to serve a growing ‘middle’ class. Tesfakiros reflected. “There has been amazing growth in the last 15 years. People have got the work ethic and are investing. The real estates market is booming and will boom for a time.”

While tycoons such as Tesfakiros are showered in money from the property boom, Bekele Nega, general secretary of the  Oromo Federalist Congress, which has more than 10,000 members, has a different perspective. “This we don’t consider ‘development’,” he said. “This we consider the uprooting of the indigenous people, who will lose their culture and identity. The government say they are expanding Addis Ababa but the reality is they are getting rid of the people who don’t support the EPRDF [the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front].”

The frenetic economic expansion has uprooted thousands of farmers while, critics say, those who speak out against it are rounded up and jailed. The Congress, representing Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, is resisting the government’s “masterplan” for expanding Addis Ababa, claiming it has forced 150,000 Oromo farmers off their land without compensation. Witnesses say police killed at least 17 protesters, including children and students, during demonstrations this year and hundreds more are being detained without charge.

Bekele Nega challenged the west’s perceptions of positive change in the country. “Foreigners who see these tall buildings will say Ethiopia is developing. The reality is we are not developing. We are not having three meals a day. People like Bob Geldof and others consider they have helped our people and of course they have. But they didn’t come to the kernel of the matter. The EPRDF used the money from that time to build the empire they are in control of. Somebody hijacked the money from that hunger. It’s written in black and white.”

Ethiopia is still one of the biggest recipients of UK development aid, getting about £300m a year. Money also pours in from the US. Nega believes it is misspent: “The west has left us, left the people. The US is aiding dictators and turning a blind eye to us. Why? The same with Britain, which has democratic values. They give the taxpayers money for buying weapons or for the police station to handcuff people.” Donor aid is also helping the government to spy on its citizens and even turn family members against each other, he alleged. “For any five family members, one will be reporting to the police. Your brother or your sister or your mother...”

One senior official said: “The most basic human right is food on the table. If we’re doing that, why would we violate other human rights? This is a safe, secure place and we want to keep it that way. We’ll do anything to keep it that way. We have 90 million people – you try to control them.”

Tesfakiros asks: “What’s democracy? The opposition needs support by the middle class. When we have a middle class, we will have a stronger democracy. Until then, we have a nanny for the democracy. Democracy is a matter of education and civilisation – 85% of our population is farmers; we don’t know how to read and write. When you have a middle class, you push for your rights.”

Nega replies. “The west wants us to be democrats and build a democracy. This question is not comfortable for our leaders. According to them, we need only food. They don’t understand that poor people need democracy. They fact we are poor does not mean we are not human beings. We cannot be uprooted and tormented. As human beings we deserve democracy, human rights, rule of law. ..”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The "Blessed" Nigerian Pastors

Exactly how much of Nigeria's $510bn GDP mega-churches make up is difficult to assess, since they are, like the oil sector, largely opaque entities. Hundreds of millions of dollars change hands each year in these popular Pentecostal houses of worship, which are modelled on their counterparts in the United States. Some of the churches can hold more than 200 000 worshippers and, with their attendant business empires, they constitute a significant section of the economy, employing tens of thousands of people and raking in tourist dollars, as well as exporting Christianity globally.

“They don’t submit accounts to anybody,” says Bismarck Rewane, economist and CEO of Lagos consultancy Financial Derivatives. “At least six church leaders have private jets, so they have money. How much? No one really knows.”

As the churches have charity status, they have no obligation to open their books, and certainly don’t have to fill in tax returns. The National Bureau of Statistics declined to comment on how churches fit into their GDP figures, but a source there said they were included as “non-profit”, which falls under “other services” in the latest figures. In 2013, the category contributed 2.5% of GDP, the same as the financial sector.

In 2011, Forbes magazine estimated the fortunes of Nigeria’s five richest pastors. Oyedepo topped the list, with an estimated net worth of $150-million. Oyedepo’s headquarters, “Canaanland”, is a 4 250-hectare campus in Ota, outside the commercial capital Lagos. It comprises a university, two halls of accommodation, restaurants and a church seating 50 000 people, with a total overflow capacity of five times that. A spokesperson said the church has 5 000 branches across Nigeria, and 1 000 more in 63 other countries across five continents. But Oyedepo’s empire also includes two fee-paying universities that he built from scratch, a publishing house for Christian self-help books, and an elite high school. Oyedepo other “blessings” include a Gulfstream V jet and several BMWs. The enterprises on the Canaanland campus, from the shops selling cold sodas and bread, to a woman boiling instant noodles and eggs for breakfast in a lodge, to pop-up book stalls hawking Oyedepo’s prolific literary output, are owned by the church’s estate, which employs their staff on its payroll. The church employed more than 18 000 people in Nigeria alone. Britain’s Charity Commission says it is reviewing potential conflicts of interest in his finances, and last month the Home Office barred him from Britain, though it declined to say why.

He was followed by “Pastor Chris” Oyakhilome of Believers’ LoveWorld Incorporated, also known as the Christ Embassy and popular with executives and politicians, on $30-million to $50-million. Oyakhilome owns magazines, newspapers and 24-hour TV station, and Joshua draws miracle-seekers from all over the world with claims that the holy water he has blessed cures otherwise incurable ailments such as HIV/Aids.

TB Joshua, pastor of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, at the centre of the recent diplomatic storm over the  collapse of its guesthouse last month, killing 115 mostly South African pilgrims, , was thought to have $10-million to $15-million. Before Joshua built his 10 000-seat headquarters at Ikotun-Egbe in outer Lagos, the area was part swamp, part abandoned industrial estate. Now, it is a boom town with shops, hotels, eateries and bars. Joshua also runs a TV station.

A former banker at Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa recalled being approached five years ago by a church that was bringing in $5-million a week from contributions at home or abroad. “They wanted to make some pretty big investments: real estate, shares,” he said. Nigerian churches do often invest large amounts of their congregations’ money in shares and property, at home and abroad, he and another banking source said.

One pastor bought three billion naira ($18-million) worth of shares in the defunct Finbank, which later merged with FCMB, after it was rescued in a bail-out in 2009, a fund manager who handled the deal told Reuters. The pastor used a nominee trust account to keep his name off the books. In 2011, Oyakhilome was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and charged with laundering $35-million of contributions to his church in foreign bank accounts.

Like US televangelists, these churches preaches the “prosperity gospel” that faith in Jesus Christ lifts people out of poverty, and that message partly explains the explosion of the Pentecostal movement in sub-Saharan Africa, where misfortune and poverty are often seen as having supernatural causes.

From here

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sahel - Victim of climate change

The Sahel, the arid belt of land that stretches from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and separates the Sahara desert from the African savanna, is no stranger to drought and famine. Now scientists in Sweden say the Sahel faces another humanitarian crisis even than in the recent past—with the changing climate partly responsible.  Researchers from Lund University say people in the Sahel need more food, animal feed and fuel every year. But demand, which has more than doubled over a recent 10-year period, is growing much faster than supply.

Data from 22 countries shows the result: fewer resources per capita and a continued risk of famine in areas with low primary production—that is, the availability of carbon in the form of plant material for consumption as food, fuel and feed. Human numbers are part of the reason. Between 2000 and 2010, the population of the Sahel grew from 367 million to 471 million people—an annual rise of 2.2% over the decade.

But crop production remained essentially unchanged, so the margin between supply and demand for primary production is shrinking every year, while the Sahel’s population is forecast to total nearly a billion people by 2050.

They were mainly concerned with the staple crops grown regionally—such as sorghum and millet, which are used as food for people, with the residues used as fodder for livestock ? and with the dry woodlands that provide fuel. They used remote analysis and satellite images to calculate annual crop production in the 22 countries they studied, and compared the figures with data on population growth and consumption of food, animal feed and fuel. This relationship helps to measure a region’s vulnerability. The study shows that 19% of the Sahel’s total primary production in 2000 was consumed. Ten years later, consumption had increased to 41%.

Forecasts suggest that harvests will be reduced as a result of the higher air temperatures the region is now experiencing, even though climate change is predicted to result in the Sahel receiving more rain in future. So, the researchers say, climate change can only increase the vulnerability of the Sahel.

Asked by the Climate News Network whether higher air temperatures alone were likely to cancel the gains from increased rainfall, one of the study’s authors, Hakim Abdi, a doctoral student in physical geography and ecosystem science at Lund, said:
“The short answer is yes. Studies indicate that higher temperatures offset both increased rainfall and CO2 fertilisation. Additionally, a recent study found that increase in future rainfall in the Sahel, a region where the soil generally receives little nutrient input and is over-exploited, causes nutrient leaching, and hence induces nitrogen stress. When we were in our study site in North Kordofan in Sudan, the most common complaint we received from the villages we visited was the lack of water. I think that if a drought occurs with an impact that matches or exceeds the ones in 1972/73 or 1982/83, we will see serious consequences—worse impacts than past ones.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lesotho Hospital - Public Money, Private Profits

This presentation looks at Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure through the lens of inequality, as wealth becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and as the gap between rich and poor widens globally, regionally and within countries.
PPPs are now used in more than 134 developing countries, are on the rise in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, and have moved from physical infrastructure into the provision of “social infrastructure,” such as schools, hospitals and health services. Much of the PPP growth has been in middle-income countries in Latin America, and the Caribbean, East Asia and Pacific region.

The example of a new public hospital in Lesotho illustrates that the public sector tends to carry all the financial risks of a project, providing cash subsidies or guarantees of payment or revenue – 99% of the money paid to build the new hospital was “public” money – while the financial profits extracted invariably go to the private sector and out of the country.

Raising the finance for infrastructure now involves multiple new institutional actors from private equity and venture capital funds to hedge funds, private banks and pension funds, each taking fees and profits along the way.
Indeed, for the private sector, “infrastructure” is not so much about bricks and mortar as stable, long-term, contracted cash flow.  A PPP project provides this: a stable, guaranteed income stream. Projects are devised to create multiple avenues for a flow of money that is transformed into private profit through loans, derivatives, shares, securitised income streams, and contract sales that anyone can buy and sell. A PPP project enables millions of dollars worth of ancillary trading, mainly for the purpose of hedging risks.

The choice of what infrastructure to build is thus heavily influenced by what serves the long-term profit-making interests of the private sector – and the state or public sector becomes more and more aligned with the interests of infrastructure investors and private companies.
PPPs are not about building and providing public services: they are about constructing the subsidies, fiscal incentives, capital markets, regulatory regimes and other support systems necessary to transform “infrastructure” into an asset class that yields above average returns of 13-25%.
In sum, PPPs are less about financing development (which is at best a sideshow) than about developing finance.

from here

Saturday, October 18, 2014

South African Land Question

According to Oxfam's land policy adviser, Robin Palmer, "Land is often all that people have as a bottom line for livelihood security."

"Land is a major resource in women's livelihood strategies. However, in general women are discriminated against in terms of the robustness of their rights in land, and this can create severe hardships for them and for those who depend on them. Generally their rights in land are secondary rights, derived through their membership in households and secured primarily through marriage," analyst Cherryl Walker said in a study on women's access to land.

Countries that were "settled" under colonialism - Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe - share a similar profile of racially skewed land distribution, dual tenure systems based on received law and customary law, and a dispossessed black rural population confined to degraded and overcrowded communal lands. Land is a highly charged issue. South African land expert Scott Drimie explained that, for Southern Africa, reform must be seen in the context of restitution. "The primary reason is about history. There are vast inequalities that have to be addressed for historical and economic reasons."

The reality has been that governments have failed to allocate the financial and human resources needed to address the land issue, said a think-tank of land experts who met earlier this year in South Africa. A common view is that governments in the region have been complicit in the preservation of land alienated by a powerful elite. Even liberation movements, once in power, are often accused of dropping their radicalism, preferring to join the privileged. Political commitment to land redistribution has been followed by a switch of emphasis to so-called economic goals, rather than the eradication of landlessness and/or poverty.

"Indeed, debates about land reform everywhere have seen a confrontation between those who believe that land reform must be centred on the redistribution of ownership (or land rights over) productive agricultural land in favour of the rural poor, and those opposed to extensive redistribution, who wish the reform to focus on measures to raise agricultural productivity and/or create a new class of (black) African commercial farmers," the think-tank noted. The received wisdom is that small is beautiful and small-scale farmers are invariably more productive than large estates. However, new comparative studies are beginning to suggest that in Southern Africa this might not always hold true, and small family farms may not be able to compete so well in increasingly liberalised and competitive markets. "Where rains are both unpredictable and unreliable, which is over much of the region, the mechanised farmer can readily take advantage of favourable soil moisture conditions... This flexibility is not available to small-scale farmers dependent on borrowed oxen or draught animals weakened by fodder shortages during the long dry season," the think-tank said. But Drimie believes the small-scale versus large-scale debate "may in many ways be a false dichotomy in terms of policy choices". Rather than a blanket model, a more nuanced blend based on location (climate, land suitability) and resources within a context of rural development would better achieve poverty alleviation.

From here

Friday, October 17, 2014

Africa needs socialism, not capitalism

Is capitalism really going to be the answer?

Sub-saharan Africa has one of the highest number of hungry people and has a growing youth population in need of jobs.

“Africa is not poor financially but it needs to get its house in order,” Stephen Karingi, director of regional integration, infrastructure and trade at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), told IPS during the commission’s Ninth African Development Forum, “For too long we have allowed the narrative of Africa to be one about raw materials and natural resources coming out of Africa, yet Africa can take advantage of its own comparative advantages, including these natural resources, and become the leader in the value chains that require these raw materials.”

The continent must embark on reforms to capture currently unexplored or poorly-managed resources,”Carlos Lopes, ECA executive secretary, said.

We need to get our policies right and allow for the kind of investments that people [can make] in Switzerland,” macroeconomic policy division head at ECA, Adama Elhiraika, told IPS.

“Given the size of Africa, there is need to promote free movement of capital, which is as important as the free movement of goods and services in boosting trade and investment.”

Research by the ECA shows that the total illicit financial outflows in Africa over the last 10 years, about 50 billion dollars a year, is equivalent to nearly all the official development assistance received by the continent.

This blog has often exposed the exploitation and poverty of workers in South Africa, the most developed country on the continent. Is that really the template other African workers wish to follow and not to be more ambitious and aspire towards a genuine social society?

The possibilities exist for the transformation of Africa. Northern Ethiopia suffered significant soil erosion and degradation — with farmers driven to cultivate the steepest slopes, suspending themselves by ropes — before attempts were made to counter ecological destruction. Since then approximately 250,000 hectares of degraded land in Ethiopia’s highland areas of Amhara, Oromia and Tigray — in which over 50 percent of Ethiopia’s 94 million people live — has been restored to productivity. This has been achieved through promoting sustainable land management practices such as the use of terracing, crop rotation systems, and improvement of pastureland and permanent green cover, benefiting more than 100,000 households.  Its holistic approach increases water availability for agriculture and agricultural productivity. The introduction of improved cooking stoves combined with newly established wood lots at farmers’ homesteads reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pressure on natural forests. Ethiopia’s abundance of waterways offer huge hydro-electric generation potential. By focusing on cities, land use and renewable and low-carbon energy sources, while increasing resource efficiency, infrastructure and stimulating innovation, it is claimed a wider economy and better environment are achievable for countries at all levels of development.

Getahun Moges, director general of the Ethiopian Energy Authority, tells IPS. “I believe every country has potential to build a green economy, the issue is whether there’s enough political appetite for this against short-term interests.”

Socialist Banner would describe this official as being overly optimistic. It is not merely short-term political governance that holds back Africa but the longer-term and deeper-rooted nefarious effects of world capitalism and global corporations.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fifty Years On The Colonised Kenyans' Struggles Continue

The 1200 acres of Twiga Farm lie in the heart of Kenya in Kiambu County, northeast of Nairobi. The area, with its green hills and fertile fields, first attracted land grabbers in the form of white settlers during the colonial regime. The Kikuyu, who had lived and cultivated these lands for centuries were forcibly reduced to being workers on the white farms. The British established a property registration system that individualized and commercialized land - contradictory to the Kikuyu tradition of sharing and valuing land. Most Africans had no access to or representation in this system, and so no means to protect their land. The legacy of this system is still being felt in many of the disputes over land seen since independence. 

In 1963, the year of independence, the Kenyan government took a loan from the British government to buy back their land from the colonialist. By then Kenya was well set on its capitalist path and the largest chunks of land went to the new Kenyan political elite, who had the resources and power to buy it. It is no coincidence that the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the first president Jomo Kenyatta - himself a Kikuyu - is believed to own the largest parcels Kenya's privately held land today. Other Kikuyu, who were the largest group that were dispossessed, were relocated to other areas of the country. This seemed to work until 1992, when the end of the Cold War prompted the spread of neo-liberal democracy through an influx of conditional aid money combined with national demand for democracy.

In the first multiparty election since 1964, the political elite fomented issues over land to rally support along ethnic lines. The results were instances of Post- Election Violence since 1992 with the worst happening in 2007/2008. The clashes, however, produced Internally Displaced People, who fled their lands and the mismanagement in resettling them or rather in addressing the malfunction and injustice of the land tenure system caused further tension. Lastly, the era of investment has fully set root in Kenya, causing legal and illegal evictions, as land becomes lucrative to national and international elites to extract resources and other investment projects. Yet, citizens have been convinced to believe that land issues are a matter of scarcity and rivalries between communities, rather than as a result of land grab by national and foreign elites, companies or as part of skewed 'development schemes'.

The case of Twiga Farm can be understood against this background. After Kenya got its independence, the British settler who 'owned' the land in the colonial system, gave it back to the people who had worked for him instead of paying out their retirement funds. The people of Twiga divided the land among them, built a school and a dispensary, and made a little town. The farm was even allocated a voting station since 1964- a sign that it was recognized as a legitimate community. However, Twiga Farm residents were never issued with modern title deeds. This was not unusual at the time and indeed is the case for many communities, especially those whose land was not seized under colonialism as it was a long way from the capital city, or not particularly fertile. 

It is especially these communities that are in danger of land grabs today, as new technology (e.g. in oil exploration) has made their lands lucrative for investment. The thousands of acres fertile land on Twiga Farm worth billions of Kenyan Shillings (millions of dollars) were bound to attract the interest of other forces. 

In 2004, the company Mboi Kamiti claimed ownership over the land. The police threatened residents with eviction, but they responded by taking the case to court and the chief magistrate ruled in their favour declaring the residents as legal owners by right of adverse occupation. The company, however, did not give up. They went back to court in 2012, ready to dispute the original ruling, but their connections in political ranks seemed to have spared them the bothersome process. On December 20 2012 residents of Kiambu were surprised by bullets flying over their heads and bulldozers demolishing their houses. Eyewitnesses report planes flying over the maize fields, spraying bullets. Four people were shot that day and close to 4000 families displaced. The Provincial Commissioner, the local mayor and police officials at scene accused the residents of having illegally built on the land to justify the evictions. Within 6 hours of the eviction, the police themselves built a police station out of trailers and iron tents on the property. Many of the displaced people were elderly; people who have been born on the land and cultivated it their whole lives. In the course of a single day, they and their families were ejected, and robbed of shelter and livelihood. Some were forced to set up camps by the roadside, and are still there today. 

In a global neo-liberal framework that demands pro-corporation, pro-profit development lead by investments, they are only one example of the massive land grabs and evictions taking place in Kenya and in Africa. The collusion of local, national and international money and power is more and more legalizing the disowning of people of their lands in the name of economic growth, development or investment. 

In a global neo-liberal framework that demands pro- corporation, pro- profit development lead by investments, they are only one example of the massive land grabs and evictions taking place in Kenya and in Africa. The collusion of local, national and international money and power is more and more legalizing the disowning of people of their lands in the name of economic growth, development or investment. It is a powerful partnership to stand up against. - See more at:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

South Africans Going Hungry

 One in four people in South Africa do not have enough to eat, and half the population is at risk of hunger, despite the country producing more than enough food. Despite the nations’ farms producing enough calories to feed every one of its 54-million citizens, half of South Africans either face hunger or are at risk of hunger.  To cope, people skip meals, eat smaller portions or make do with cheap, poor-quality food.

According to Oxfam, low incomes, rising costs, a lack of access to productive resources and climate change are amongst the reasons causing 13 million people to go to bed hungry. One family of four was found to live on just R6 (USD$0.54) a day.

 “The children wake up hungry in the middle of the night. At times we feel it would be better if someone adopted them to give them a chance in life,” says Elzetta Vooges, 23, from the Eastern Cape. Elzetta describes feeling she is “rated the cheapest of the cheapest”.

Women and girls face hunger more often than men. They earn less than men for the same work, cannot work as many hours and find it harder to get jobs.  Despite this, they are often responsible for providing food for the family.

In the nine municipalities the price of staple foods, like maize have increased. Electricity prices have escalated by over 200% cumulatively since 2010, forcing people to choose between food and fuel.  The inequality of access to food across South African households is stark - the poorest spend 50% of their incomes on food whilst the richest 10% of the population spend only 10% on food, meaning any increases in prices hits the poorest pockets the hardest.

Access to food is also limited by food retailers’ control over pricing and availability. Five retailers control 60% of the formal retail market, leaving small and informal traders finding it hard to compete.  The food industry has been plagued by collusion and price fixing scandals. Prices are inflated whilst farmworkers often struggle to survive in meager wages, or face losing their jobs completely. Without access to land, water and  tools many poor communities don’t even have the ability to produce their own food.

 Changes in the climate are now taking its toll and that means some cannot grow or store food as they once used to.  “We used to eat fresh food from our gardens, but now it’s impossible because of the high temperatures that make it impossible for us to work in our gardens” explained Community member from Eastern Cape.

Oxfam’s Rashmi Mistry said: “The right to sufficient food is enshrined in the constitution but government policies have failed for one in four South Africans.  October has been adopted by the government as food security month but just increasing production and creating one giant food mountain will not help the poorest and does not go far enough to address the root causes of hunger.  We need better implemented policies that are developed with those most affected by hunger and backed by legislation that holds everyone to account for people having enough to eat.”

From here

Corrupt ZANU-PF Linked Public Officials Behind Illegal Structures

Thousands of residents in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare and surrounding areas are facing eviction from their homes as local authorities embark on an operation to demolish all illegal structures. At the end of last month, city authorities turned 70 residential and business buildings into rubble overnight in the dormitory town of Chitungwiza, 25km north of Harare, and served 324 settlers in the high-density suburb of Glen Norah with 48-hour eviction notices. 
However, the demolitions in Glen Norah did not proceed, as residents armed with axes, knobkerries and other objects faced off with police who eventually retreated.  Last week, hundreds of houses in Epworth, a high-density settlement southeast of Harare, were also demolished before a high court ruling on 10 October granted residents a temporary reprieve.

A government audit of illegal structures made public in December 2013 found that more than 14,000 residential stands in and around Chitungwiza had been illegally sold by housing cooperatives, councillors and village heads, all of them with ties to Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU-PF. Much of the land where stands were illegally created for the building of homes and businesses, had been earmarked for other purposes such as for clinics, schools, cemeteries, roads and wetlands.
Following the release of the report, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Deputy Minister Biggie Matiza was quoted in the state-owned daily, The Herald, as committing to a “well organized, humane” process in demolishing the illegal structures that would ensure all affected families were offered alternative land.

However, residents like Eleanor Magaya, whose house in Chitungwiza faces demolition, have not been offered alternative land. “I will not leave my home,” she told IRIN. “I am living in fear that the demolishers can come and I can’t even sleep. They have served us with a seven-day ultimatum to vacate the area as it is reserved for recreational purposes and built on wetlands.”Magaya showed receipts of payment she made for the stand to former ZANU-PF Chitungwiza Councillor Frederick Mabamba, who was behind one of the housing cooperatives identified in the government audit as illegally selling stands in the area. “We were even given the go-ahead to start building and occupy the land before the general elections [in July] last year,” she said.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Africa: We Don’t Want Aid. Please Keep It For Your Local Poor!



Africa: We don’t Want Aid. Thanks.
Europe: No, No you don’t understand you need Aid.

The most fierce defendants of Aid to Africa are now mostly non-africans, while most africans are asking to stop it.
Take the example of one small east african nation Eritrea. They declared self-reliance and shut all NGOs and relief organization offices.
They refused to accept aid. Since then they’ve started building their country and have good results.

Keeping with its self-reliance policy, the government of Eritrea stopped requesting any financial assistance from the United States since 2005, and fully cut-off all third party NGOs that were financially sponsored by the United States after 2006. The Eritrean government believes that foreign assistance breeds a culture of dependency that shackles African countries into a cycle of poverty”.
One Eritrean official declared “Aid only postpones the basic solutions to crucial development problems by tentatively ameliorating their manifestations without tackling their root causes. The structural, political, economic, etc. damage that it inflicts upon recipient countries is also enormous.”  

But it doesn’t came without cost. The nation paid a big cost. The western countries started bulling and demonizing the government.
According to wikileaks, once in 2008, Hilary Clinton was found to say, “Eritrea is bad example of good governance”.
The BBC vested journalist Ed Harris warned “Self-reliance could cost Eritrea dear“.
The Economist ridiculed the country  “A myth of self-reliance: Eritrea’s people pay the price for their government’s pride“
What a bad example Eritrea is showing!
What if more African countries would follow their example!
Self-reliance ideology is a threat to the well proven exploitation scheme in place around the continent.

The country ended up in economic sanctions under the pretext that the country is helping alshebab in Somalia. But the truth is pretty clear Eritrea stands against all forms of neocolonialism, political, economical, etc.
In a previous post I’ve called on Africans to Kill The NGOs, Chase The Charlatan Experts, Be Wary Of IMF & World Bank, because the hard truth about aid is this:
The mission of the fisherman is not to feed the fish. If the Fish doesn’t Understand that, It’s the Fish problem. If it’s Free, you are the Product!
And, as Thomas Sankara put it “He who feeds you, controls you…”

Obviously, if foreign aid would develop any place, Africa will be the most developed continent in the world.
International AID is currently doing more harm to Africa than good. It became the main tool used by foreign governments and organizations to corrupt the African elite, and get them to behave so irrationally toward their own populations and the basic interest of their countries.
Aside corruption and the criminality, International Aid is the root of the 5 Stars colonization disease that cripple the African elite which dislikes the responsibility and the self sacrifice that comes with being in control of a nation destiny. As far as they enjoyed the status offered by their positions, they never liked the responsibilities demanded by the jobs, therefore they use international aid programs as substitute to their responsibilities.

If Africa needs any aid, the most urgent one is to get rid of the 40 billions corruption industry (called International Aid) that shackles its youth and elite, cultivates and maintains the beggar mentality.

Africans don’t want aid. Please keep it for your local poor! Help your neighbors in the West!

taken from here


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Eritrea's Mining Industry

The small east African country of Eritrea has started a mining industry and is doing it right. To start with Eritrea is receiving 40% of the profits generated by its first gold/copper mine.
Compare this to Tanzania where Anglo-American mining company operates one of the worlds largest gold mines and pays a whopping 4% royalty to the government.
Thanks to Wikileaks we know that the USA forced sanctions against Eritrea through the UN Security Council in 2009, not to punish Eritrea for allegedly supporting “terrorism” (i.e. Al Shabab in Somalia) but in an attempt to sabotage the start of Eritrea’s mining industry.
40% vs. 4%? Small wonder that Eritrea’s deal threatens western interests for if the rest of Africa takes note and begins to follow suit in the deals cut allowing exploitation of the continents resources Pax Americana and its vassals are facing a serious problem.

From Thomas C. Mountain who has been living and writing from Eritrea since 2006.

Mozambique's Peasant Union Vs The Great African Landgrab

Maputo -- With a shimmering coastline stretching for more than 1,500 miles along the Indian Ocean, heartland game parks rivaling the Serengeti and a cornucopia of natural resources -- located mostly in land used by humble farming communities -- Mozambique is getting quite a lot of attention these days as one of Africa's most upcoming investment hubs and in vogue destinations. Investors have not wasted any time in carving out their stake in the country two decades into the relative stability following a 16-year civil war on the heels of independence.

The cash-strapped Mozambican state technically owns all of the land within its borders, offering leases that are renewable up to 99 years to foreign governments and corporations for agribusiness or extractive industrial megaprojects. One such example is ProSavana, a Japanese and Brazilian-led development project with the blessing of the Mozambican government. ProSavana has earmarked land in the Nacala Corridor spanning three provinces and affecting 19 districts for monocrops such as soy for export.

ProSavana, not unlike related land deals for coal and gas extraction, comes with hefty promises of economic growth marked by mass job creation and export potential. But under the surface, investments all too often uproot lives and livelihoods for those who depend on small-scale farming, fishing and pastoralism -- more than 70 percent of the population in the case of Mozambique. Many point to these projects as undisputed resource grabs woven into the fabric of a greater neocolonial project in Mozambique and throughout Africa.

"The idea of mass job creation is a myth," said Vicente Adriano, staff researcher for the Mozambican Peasant's Union (UNAC), "The bottom line is that these projects create dependency within the class that has been historically, and continues to be, neglected by government policies and development plans." As a social movement, UNAC members pride themselves on being a revolutionary bunch. "Mobilization through resistance creates alternative forms of political sovereignty," Adriano offered.

It was in that spirit that UNAC brought both its lead organizers and vulnerable farmers from each of Mozambique's ten provinces together in Maputo on October 1st and 2nd for its third annual peasant-led international conference on land. The conference came as the culmination of a series of regional Mozambican gatherings, where delegates shared concerns and discussed crosscutting strategies as means of opposition to land and resource grabs.

"Our land is being occupied without our consultation," shared Helena Terra, a peasant from the central region, an area marked by small-scale vegetable and grain production that is now threatened by massive foreign-owned eucalyptus crops and coal exploration in residential areas. Terra explained that the once potable water in her village was now polluted by industrial activity, and unsafe for consumption. Water is not her only concern. In 2015, new coal projects seek to displace at least a hundred families -- but with the help of fellow UNAC organizers, Terra is undertaking legal measures to attempt to recover the land.

"United as farmers, we have to solve these problems ourselves, and not wait for outsiders," said Augusto Mafigo, UNAC's president. The agricultural group's tactics -- from agroecology for food sovereignty to agrarian reform -- are grounded in political education and horizontal learning exchanges among its members, as well as with other African and international movements. Last week's conference featured a presentation from the Venezuelan ambassador, representing a country that has been working to radically reorient its food system to serve its poor majority. Another example was an intervention on seed saving and agrarian transformation from neighboring Zimbabwe Small Holder Organic Forum (ZIMSOFF), which UNAC works closely with through their joint participation in Via Campesina.

Now the largest transnational agrarian movement in the world, Via Campesina has member organizations in 73 countries -- representing over 250 million peasants -- that fight for access to and control over land and its resources. "Via Campesina is a connection to what people want, as opposed to the very different reality of what is happening on the ground," said Renaldo Chingore, a leader in both UNAC and Via Campesina at the Africa regional level. Ten years ago, UNAC became Via Campesina's first African member. Today it plays a headlining role in supporting its regional and global growth, at a time when Africa is a priority for outreach and expansion -- due in large part to land and resource grabs such as those in Mozambique redefining the norm.

Against such policies and sizeable odds, peasants throughout Africa are determined to hold onto -- quite literally -- the roots of their ancestors. UNAC's experience in the Mozambican field may just provide a game plan for doing so.

from here

Monday, October 06, 2014

Control Grab

The Policy Coordinator on EU Agrofuels Policy Roman Herre argues that land grabs should be called “control grabs,” seeking not merely land, but “the power to control land and other associated resources such as water in order to derive benefit from such control.” It is increasingly true that without any sort of global accountability, speculation and land grabs in the Global South is becoming the insurance policy for anxiety over a pending European financial collapse. At the same time, both ecological crisis and human rights catastrophes have exposed the underbelly of the financial “great game.”

In Kenya, for example, the World Bank has funded the displacement of thousands of Indigenous Sengwer people in order to pursue a development regime that includes the environmental conservation of the Cherangany Hills, the Sengwer’s homeland, as a kind of indulgence for the sins of deforestation, industrial pollution, and other environmental problems. According to the World Bank, the conservation would build “institutional capacity to manage water and forest resources, reduce the incidence and severity of water shocks such as drought, floods, and water shortage in river catchments, and improve the livelihoods of communities participating in the co-management of water and forest resources.”

After restructuring the project in 2011, the World Bank acknowledged that they “would not be able to implement the land related commitments,” effectively shirking responsibility to the Sengwer, even in the extremely modest form of land-titling. The UN identified numerous issues with the dispossession, but according to the Forest Peoples Program, a management response from the World Bank leaked earlier this week is rife with denial, proposing a basic training for staff in Kenya rather than forwarding a rational response plan.

From here

South Sudan - The Man-made Famine

In South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar are seen by many as dragging the country towards the abyss. Thousands have been killed and nearly two million have fled their homes since their war broke out last December. Oxfam and other agencies have warned that an expected upsurge in violence could wipe out recent gains in food security and push the number of severely hungry people up by a million in the first three months of 2015. Describing it as a shift from crisis to catastrophe, they say parts of the country could slide into man-made famine early next year. Nearly 100,000 people are crammed into UN compounds across the country for their own protection, often in inhumane and unsanitary conditions. But the biggest crisis in Akobo, he says, is food security. Harvests, markets and trade routes have been disrupted. One in three children are acutely malnourished, with consequences including increased vulnerability to malaria and failure to attend school. A small paracetamol tablet has risen in price from 10 to 25 South Sudanese pounds (roughly $3 to $8). Food is also scarce.

Peace remains a distant prospect, with Kiir and Machar seemingly hellbent on a military solution. Kiir told the UN general assembly last month: “The conflict in South Sudan is purely a political struggle for power, not an ethnic conflict as reported.” Yet violence has broken out along ethnic lines in many parts of the country, pitting forces loyal to Kiir, a Dinka, against those of his former deputy Machar, a Nuer.

Koang Rambang, Akobo’s county commissioner, predicts famine and even genocide said  “People call us the rebels but this is the resistance movement to the onslaught, the killings by Salva Kiir. I have no interest in rebelling to go running in the bush for no reason. But if someone wants to kill me because I am Nuer, then I have no choice.”
While in predominantly Dinka areas of South Sudan there are similar accounts of brutal treatment at the hands of the Nuers.

 A report last month by the Enough Project noted: “The country’s competing privileged elites are sacrificing their own people’s lives to secure the political and economic benefits – including massive state-corroding corruption – derived from control of the state.” Political and military leaders maintain “lavish homes” in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa and Australia, the report continued. “Families of the leaders of South Sudan’s warring parties are living in neighbouring countries and their children are attending the finest schools available. Meanwhile, the education system back in South Sudan has collapsed.” The Enough Project has called for punitive measures including seizing the homes, bank accounts and shell companies of anyone undermining the peace process.

Tariq Reibl, head of Oxfam’s programme in South Sudan, said: “If famine comes to South Sudan it will come through the barrel of a gun. This is a man-made crisis, not one caused by the vagaries of the weather, and though humanitarian aid is vital it cannot fix a political problem.
“The international community is much better at saving lives than it is at helping solve the political problems that put lives in peril. Nine months of the softly-softly approach to peace negotiations has failed. If the international community really wants to avert a famine then it has to make bold diplomatic efforts to bring both sides to end the fighting.”

The failing aid

$250bn (£157bn) of financial assistance pledged to fight poverty between 2000 and 2012 never left western donor nations.  The advocacy group ONE said that one-sixth of the total money promised in aid was actually spent on debt relief, administrative costs or was spent hosting foreign students and refugees.

 Collectively donor countries were spending 0.29% of national income on aid, well below the UN target of 0.7%. The report said that western aid was not being targeted at the least developed countries (LDCs). Donors spent 0.09% of their aid budgets in LDCs in 2012, compared to the UN target of 0.15-0.2%.

“LDCs remain highly dependent on aid, which accounts for over 70% of their external flows and is equivalent, on average, to half of their tax revenues”, ONE reports. It called for 50% of donor financial assistance to go to the world’s poorest nations.

 African governments were not meeting their own commitments to allocate sufficient public spending to areas such as health, agriculture and education.

“Most countries still have a shockingly low level of per capita spending, owing to a limited tax base and the loss of potential government revenue through corruption and illicit financial flows,” the report said. Between 2010 and 2012, only six of 43 countries in sub-Saharan Africa met their pledges to devote 15% of their national budget to health. Only one of 33 countries met a commitment to spend 9% of public money on education.

From here 

Saturday, October 04, 2014


The Transitional Justice Tafakari Forum
Date: 6-10th October 2014
Venue: Kampala
Theme: Towards a self sustaining Transitional Justice in Africa

Fahamu in its efforts to create spaces for dialogue and debate to amplify Africa-centred voices, perspectives and solutions has partnered with Refugee Law Project, a Uganda based organisation to organise a dialogical space for conversation and reflection on the complexities of the current transitional justice policies and processes in addressing the concerns of post-conflict societies in Africa.

The forum brings together representatives from the Civil Society, legal scholars/practitioners, researchers, anthropologists, economists, sociologists and activists working with communities that have been victims of collective violence from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

The Tafakari Forum happening on the 6-7th October 2014, at At Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda followed by an Oral History Tour in Northern Uganda on the 8-9th, 2014.

It aims at realising the following:
* Advance on the ongoing critical analysis of Transitional Justice
mechanisms in Africa to unearth their complexities, contestations and
contradictions in promoting accountability for past atrocities, justice for victims of violence and reconciliation;
* Deriving of context-based action points in promoting self-sustaining Transitional Justice processes that are considerate of the African realities and contexts.

You can follow the conversations on Twitter #TransitionInAfrica and on live streaming at and engage in this crucial Pan Africa dialogue.

Pambazuka News invites articles on the question of Transitional Justice in Africa to help readers make sense of the debate in order to effectively play their roles as citizens of Africa.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Uncertain Future For South Sudan

The failure of peace talks and the end of South Sudan’s wet season could unleash fresh fighting between government forces and rebel factions, propelling millions of people in the world’s youngest nation back towards a man-made famine, analysts and humanitarian workers warn.

Nine months of bad-tempered negotiations have yet to produce a firm ceasefire, let alone a political deal to end a conflict punctuated by atrocities. Skirmishes have continued in areas close to where thousands of civilians are crammed into UN bases. There are fears that both sides have used the seasonal lull to re-arm.

Surging violence would roil plans by the UN and humanitarian partners to use the dry season to patch up roads and other infrastructure and pre-position critical supplies before the meagre returns from the current disrupted harvest run out in early 2015. The rains usually begin to ease by late October.

It is going to be a combination of a quieter environment for the people of this country, plus the continuation of a large aid operation, that will help people get through the dry season,” Toby Lanzer, the UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, told IRIN. “If either of those two are absent, disaster will occur.”

more here

Thursday, October 02, 2014

African Palm Oil: Peasants Pay The Price

Cultivation of oil palm is expanding rapidly around the world. These new monoculture plantations mean the destruction of rainforests, labour exploitation and brutal land grabbing.
Oil palms can only be cultivated profitably in an equatorial belt occupied by by peasants and indigenous peoples and the tropical forests they depend on. Thus the story of the expansion of oil palm plantations across Asia, Latin America and now Africa is also a story about the often violent displacement of these peoples and the destruction of their forests and farms.
Over the past fifteen years, foreign companies have signed over 60 deals covering nearly 4 million hectares in central and western Africa for the development of oil palm plantations.
Previous attempts at industrial cultivation of oil palm in Africa have largely failed and production has remained in the hands of small-scale producers, the majority of them women. The renewed interest in Africa is a reminder that the aggressive expansion of oil palm is not simply about land. It is about a larger struggle over food systems and models of development.
Will African palm oil be produced by African peasants or multinational corporations? Will palms be grown on mixed farms and semi-wild palm groves – or will peasants be driven out to make way for large scale, industrial plantations?

from here

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Ripping off the Patient

The president of the Zambia Medical Association Dr Munjajati recently revealed that the current health delivery system in the country cannot protect patients seeking private medical attention from flagrant overcharging. His remarks tend to highlight the fact that Zambia has a two-tier health system within public hospitals. Fee-paying hospital wards were introduced in 1980 by the UNIP government of Dr Kaunda. Those with enough money could be hospitalized in fee-paying wards in order to receive proper medical treatment .

The reluctance of the current Patriotic Front government to boldly check and regulate the operations of privately-owned hospitals and clinics is because to do so would be against the government’s policy of economic liberalization. Private health care is encouraged in the belief that an increased role for entrepreneurs and competition in the delivery of healthcare will result in a more efficient and effective healthcare system. Thus the search for financial gain determines the quality of healthcare systems. But the values of free enterprises and the economic benefits that may flow from a more efficient healthcare system can only be achieved at the cost of other and more important values – including a concern for fairness, the dignity of people and community-centred ethics that places people before profits.
Caring or looking after the sick is a calling of special dignity and importance. The striking nurses were dismissed by the Labour Minister in 2013 on the allegation that they had failed to uphold the oath of allegiance they swore when they graduated from Health College – to serve others out of compassion. To go on strike for reasons of salary increments was anathema to the values that guide governments and their civil servants. This is the oath to serve the people out of love and compassion, without regard to the standard of prevailing salaries and poor conditions of service. In that case, by the same standard, it would be the task of every government to make access to healthcare as free as possible. But they don’t.
There are relatively small amounts of legislation regulating the operations of health facilities compared to laws governing health personnel. The existing legislation regulating the operations of both private and public health hospitals was introduced by President Michael Sata when he was minister of health. In 2002 the MMD government went on to introduce consultation and medical fees in both public hospitals and clinics. Economic liberalisation entailed the acceptance of the lurid fact that free health care and education was a cost to the government. Hospitals, schools and colleges were de-centralised under health and education boards.
Under the system of private healthcare, the opportunities for ripping off patients seems endless. There is nothing in place to regulate the prices that are charged by service providers and hence the price differences in goods and services from one private health provider to another. Grading of private health facilities does not exist on the ground due to the salient professional ethic surrounding medicine. Due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and the mystery surrounding the disease and its causes, Zambia has seen a proliferation of traditional herbal therapies and traditional healers. It is not illegal in Zambia today to sell and advertise traditional herbal medicines that have not even undergone a laboratory scrutiny.
The introduction of free male circumcision in public hospitals emphasises that lack of a regulatory framework. The public health system exists in a state of corruption. Private surgeries are stocked with medicines siphoned from public hospitals. There is no treatment protocol and this results in over-servicing; a private doctor will prescribe ten supplementary drugs for the sake of advertising his business. Most private hospitals are under the control of lay managers whose primary interest is to make a profit. Thus under the system of private health care doctors promote profit-producing drugs, surgeries and tests. Medical treatments and counselling that lack profit potential are discouraged. The commercialization of private healthcare has led to the abandonment of human virtues that are essential for a community - caring for old people, compassion and charity, especially for the less privileged members of the community.
The zeal and altruism that is displayed by doctors and nurses in their primary concern for the alleviation of pain and sickness has been hijacked by the profit motive. Indeed the prevailing ideology says that political states or governments have a duty to protect the interests of the citizenry, through providing them with law, security and healthcare. But the provision of healthcare under capitalism is hamstrung by the principle of free enterprise with its competition and profit. The income and wealth disparities between the working and capitalist classes translate themselves into standardized economic, political and social programmes. The vision of free healthcare, and other services cannot obtain under a capitalist state. It is only in socialist society that health care will be characterized by its capacity to serve the good of every member of society. The sense of responsibility by those engaging in providing free medical care will demonstrate the individual and social virtues necessary for the wellbeing of a classless, moneyless and stateless society – socialism.