Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Superstitous Ebola Fear

As the Ebola epidemic was advancing on Guinea’s capital Conakry in April 2014 a powerful rumour started to spread among the people living on the outskirts. Onions and coffee, so the saying went, could protect against the disease. Within hours, onions were completely sold out at the stalls of the city’s main market. Of course, the rumour was false. Despite the health authorities’ immediate efforts to discredit the rumour on social media and through radio, it spread rapidly, becoming one of many examples of misinformation.

False information took many forms during the epidemic. Some people did not believe in Ebola at all. Others believed it existed but had wrong ideas about how and why it was spreading.
“Even until now, part of the population still doesn’t believe in the existence of Ebola,” says Sakoba Keita, the national coordinator of the Guinean health ministry’s response team. “They believe it was invented by the authorities.” Other strategies to combat the virus, such as spraying houses to disinfect them, were sometimes perceived as doing exactly the opposite. Keita says many people believed that the spray, which was laced with chlorine for disinfection, also contained the Ebola virus. They believed “that the spray was a propagation factor”, Keita says. Similar rumours soon spread about the thermometers used to measure body temperatures. The health staff who took away the sick and gathered dead bodies had to work quickly, with little time to communicate what they were doing, or why. Often, their actions clashed with communities’ religious beliefs and traditions. Relatives were not allowed to touch the deceased and go through traditional funeral rites. This gave rise to conspiracy theories. Keita explains that many people began to strongly oppose the Guinean government’s strategy to manage corpses. “They thought we collected organs from the bodies for sale,” he says. Some people saw the disease as a plague sent by God only on atheists, so they came to treat the exercise as a religious purification ritual rather than a hygiene measure. Stressing the need for better communication, Keita adds that his response teams persuaded religious and community leaders to speak to the population “so they understand the ins and outs of the disease”.

At the height of the epidemic, when hundreds of people died every day, panic spread. In radio broadcasts and stories spread by word of mouth, Ebola was portrayed as an inescapable, apocalyptic threat. Jérôme Mouton, head of the Médecins Sans Frontières response team in Guinea, says Ebola was used as a source of horror in literature and movies across West Africa “The first messages that were broadcast portrayed Ebola as a disease that kills almost every time and one that has no cure,” he says. “With such messages, to obtain a rational and thoughtful response from the population was obviously not easy. Instead of appeasing, rescue teams, in some situations, reinforced fear.”

Misinformation was also spreading over the internet. From the onset of the crisis, health authorities tried to use social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to distribute information on Ebola and gather hints on where their response teams might be needed next. But although social networks reach many people, it soon became clear they were not always an appropriate forum in which to discuss complex issues. Information about Ebola’s spread and prevention got muddled, warped and hyped. Social media users spread half-truths and rumours in an environment already gripped by a general panic, propagating misinformation quickly. This was exacerbated by the lack of reliable conventional media channels to broadcast reliable information.

 In fact, in the rush for sensational news, some traditional media outlets repeated ridiculous rumours that Ebola was a ‘Zombie disease’ sent by God to punish atheists. One of the things that people clung to was witchcraft. Supernatural forces are still a reality in the minds of many African societies, even those with advanced education and social development. In West Africa, many people responded to mystical explanations of the disease by seeking out traditional healing, despite government efforts to discourage such practices. And sometimes, the witchcraft remedies would appear to work, potentially reinforcing such beliefs. The idea that Ebola was a supernatural evil also meant that those who got infected often doubted their ability to recover. SaaSabasse Tèmèsadouno, a health worker at Guéckédou hospital in Guinea, was infected with Ebola whilst caring for other victims. As a medical assistant, Tèmèsadouno had some basic knowledge about the virus. But he still doubted his own ability to recover due to persistent rumours that Ebola was caused by witchcraft.  “After I got infected many people kept saying I had no chance of surviving because there was no cure for Ebola,”

Some news channels blatantly harnessed misconceptions to further their own goals, for example by playing on existing political and ethnic rivalries in the country, says Charles Vieira Sanches, the senior programme manager for West Africa’s branch of Article 19, an NGO working to defend freedom of speech. For instance, in Guinea the leader of the opposition party claimed that the ruling party were selectively spreading Ebola to the forested regions of the nation. Sanches and his team initiated a number of awareness campaigns on social networks, and tried to limit the political damage and social unrest this rumour and others like it were doing.

It was not until the height of the epidemic, around July 2014, that response teams realised how the social constraints generated by misinformation prevented them from stopping the epidemic. “We therefore had to take these parameters into consideration,” adds Keita.

To address rumours, health authorities called in social anthropologists for advice, and used information relays such as radio and newspapers, artists, and religious and community leaders.

One essential part of the strategy, according to MSF’s Jérôme Mouton, was to make treatment centres and what goes on inside them more transparent to the general population. From the start, health workers had experienced problems related to these centres. Since Ebola patients need to be strictly isolated and will, for a time, only come in contact with people in strange-looking protection coats, the experience of being taken away to a centre is traumatising both for patients and their relatives. Mouton said that this “isolation aspect” of the disease fed the rumours. “When people do not know what's going on, they imagine all sorts of terrible things,” he says. “For instance, there were rumours that the centres were used for organ trafficking. No one, under such circumstances, would want to be treated in our centres.” MSF became more transparent “When we inaugurated new centres, we’d ask the population to visit them and understand what they were all about,” Mouton explains. “Once people are convinced of the value for their communities to temporarily suspend certain traditions in the interest of public health, communication with the population becomes much easier,” he says.

“Fear is an important part of all problems we had to face while dealing with the Ebola epidemic,” says Mouton, adding that the panic caused by the epidemic explains why even the most outlandish Ebola rumours were so easily believed. “Fear has never helped people to think in a sensible manner. When we are scared, we no longer act rationally.”

The War Against Migrants

It is easy to be cynical about the outpouring of grief from the European Union’s leaders on behalf of the roughly 800 migrants who drowned when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean last week. Those leaders pledged “determined action … to prevent the loss of lives at sea and to avoid that such human tragedies happen again”—but that pledge was first made in October 2013, the last time Europe saw a crisis of this kind. EU leaders hold meetings and give grand statements to the cameras, because these are easy ways to show they care. But in the more than 18 months since the last mass drowning hit the headlines, the Lampedusa disaster, little action has been taken.

“We have become accomplices to one of the biggest crimes to take place in European postwar history,”  Germany’s Spiegel magazine said.

Yet Europe will not open its doors to tens of thousands of immigrants, making any debate over the morality of such a policy irrelevant. Just about all of Europe’s major leaders know that in the coming months  this crisis will have blown over and been forgotten. Opening the doors to impoverished people will only cost them votes. So all the humanitarian talk signifies nothing but meaningless cant.

However, amid those hypocritical platitudes the EU is heading towards increasing its military presence in the Mediterranean that will gradually draw it deeper into Africa. Europe refuses to make it easier for Africans to migrate to Europe legally, so it will to prevent these deaths by stopping the boats. EU leaders are thinking—military involvement in Africa, not loosening immigration restrictions—is the way to solve this problem. EU leaders promise a mission “to identify, capture, and destroy” the ships used to ferry the immigrants over, “before they are used by traffickers.” Several EU members have pledged to contribute militarily. Britain will send its Navy’s flagship HMS Bulwark. Germany has promised 11 ships. This military mission requires either an invitation from Libya (which lacks a functioning government) or authorsation under a United Nations mandate. The  EU leaders has also promised to “increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes.” These are small steps, but they will surely be followed by bigger ones and what is described as “mission creep”. The presence of EU forces will most definitely attract the increased attention of the militant Islamists of ISIS, who are already active in the region

The main announcements since last week’s sinking all revolve around securing Europe. There is now a real possibility of European military strikes in Libyan waters, and even on Libyan territory. Europe’s surveillance operation is not aimed at rescuing immigrants. It operates only within 30 miles from the European coast—it is aimed at protecting Europe. That action would not be easy. Earlier military missions in Africa have shown that Europe struggles to put together the logistic capacity for larger Africa missions—for example, in the past it has had to rely on the United States for transportation and refuelling.

Northern Africa may well turn into a battleground with enormous implications.


According to a leaked report French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic have been accused of raping and sodomizing the same “starving and homeless young boys” they were supposed to have been protecting. Children described how they were sexually exploited in return for food and money.

Paula Donovan, of the Aids Free World advocacy group, explainedto The Guardian, “The regular sex abuse by peacekeeping personnel uncovered here and the United Nations’ appalling disregard for victims are stomach-turning, but the awful truth is that this isn’t uncommon. The UN’s instinctive response to sexual violence in its ranks – ignore, deny, cover up, dissemble – must be subjected to a truly independent commission of inquiry with total access, top to bottom, and full subpoena power.”

The UN has faced several scandals in the past relating to its failure to act over paedophile rings operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo and Bosnia. It has also faced allegations of sexual misconduct by its troops in Haiti, Burundi and Liberia.

Bea Edwards, of the Government Accountability Project, an international charity that supports whistleblowers, condemned the UN for its witch-hunt against the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, Anders Kompass, a whistleblower who had acted to stop the abuse of children. who passed the document to the French authorities because of the UN’s failure to take action to stop the abuse and now suspended from his job.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Who are the Foreigners?

Forget the commercial advertisment at the end of this video clip  but pay attention to the rest.

Education should be free...Everything should be free

Just one third of countries have achieved all of the measurable Education for All (EFA) goals set in 2000. None achieved them in sub-Saharan Africa; only seven countries in the region attained even the most watched goal of universal primary enrolment. Sixteen of the 20 lowest ranked countries in progress towards 'Education for All' are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR) found that the number of children enrolled in primary school in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 75 percent to 144 million in 2012. However, 30 million children remain out of school in the region. Corruption, conflict, climate change and poverty are factors that hampered progress in many countries.

Nigeria, for example, now has more children out of school than when the global goals were set. Inefficient public spending saw the loss of US$21 million of education funding leaving a shortfall of 220,000 primary school teachers.

Niger not only failed to reach any of the goals, but also has growing inequality, leaving the poorest far less likely to get free education than they were in 2000.

South Africa and Cape Verde had both achieved Universal Primary Education in 1999, but have since moved away from the goal. Chad ranks at the bottom of the Education Development Index with less than 70 percent of children enrolled in primary school.

Some countries have made remarkable progress since 2000. Progress is especially notable among those who focused on helping the poorest with initiatives, including abolishing school fees, providing school uniforms, meals and books. Burundi, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Tanzania more than halved the percentage of children who had never been to school. South Africa reduced its adult illiteracy rates by two-thirds. Equatorial Guinea had fewer than four girls to boys in primary school in 2000, but has now achieved gender parity. Ghana, for example, had pre-primary enrolment rates of only 47 percent in 1999, but now provides universal access at that level.

As long as education is something to be bought and sold, it can’t be as fulfilling as it should be. If society was owned and run by the community as a whole, then we could have free access to the kinds of education we want.

The World Socialist Movement aims for a world without national borders. Countries, as the boundaries of different states, represent the ruling class who own the land and resources there. This way of dividing up the world doesn’t benefit the vast majority of us, who have very little influence in how the country we happen to live in is run. In a socialist society, people could move freely anywhere, without being dictated to by economic and political pressures. The artificial divisions between us which come with our nationality would no longer apply. If the world was owned in common, then we would live and work co-operatively for the benefit of everyone.

The World Socialist Movement aims for a world where all work is voluntary and co-operative, without employers or employed. We would have the freedom to train and work in whichever career we wanted. If society’s infrastructure was owned in common, rather than by a minority, we could run it to benefit everyone. We could work sustainably with all the resources we need, without the market system holding us back. The reasons for the stress and frustration of being employed – and unemployed – won’t exist.

The World Socialist Movement  aims for a comprehensive health service which has all the trained staff and resources it needs. The only way this could happen is if it was part of a society where all resources are owned and democratically run by the community as a whole. Then, we could work directly to benefit ourselves and others. This health service, along with all other services and goods, would be free for anyone to access.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Africom Again

U.S. AFRICOM (Africa Command) reported that it had carried out 679 activities (missions, programs, and exercises) in 2014. This includes training, advising, intelligence gathering (via UAV, manned aircraft or people on the ground), logistical or technical assistance and so on. That was 23 percent more than in 2013 and four times as many as 2008 the first year AFRICOM was in charge of all American military activities in Africa. The number of activities (many of them classified SOCOM missions) is expected to be more than 20 percent higher in 2015.

So why is Africom HQ located in Stuttgart, Germany?

No country in Africa wanted to risk the political blowback from hosting a major American military headquarters. Locating a HQ in an African country is probably never going to happen.

There is one official U.S. military base in Africa, in Djibouti. France and the United States SOCOM (Special Operations Command) have had special operations forces (commandos and special aircraft) stationed in Djibouti, which is next to northern Somalia, for years. France has had commandos there for over a decade and the U.S. moved in after September 11, 2001. But you don’t hear much about this.

France has been building up their special operations capability in Djibouti since 2006 in anticipation of problems in Eritrea and Somalia, both of which are involved in disputes with Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)-Djibouti railroad is pretty lucrative for Djibouti and France (because it is Ethiopia’s main outlet to the sea), and fighting between Ethiopia and either of its neighbors could create problems there.

American Special Forces in Djibouti have a base near the main French one. It’s pretty easy to spot on Google Earth. Less easy to spot is the fact that France and SOCOM also have access to one or more Ethiopian air bases. American UAVs operate from Ethiopia and Djibouti. The UAVs are sometimes armed with missiles. Some of these armed UAVs are believed to have (until early 2015) also operated out of Yemen air bases. When not attacking al Qaeda targets in Yemen, these UAVs are sometimes seen across the water in Somalia. UAVs are now operating out of a new base in Niger, to cover Mali. By 2010 there was even a small, and unofficial, CIA base in Mogadishu, the traditional capital of Somalia. The CIA, and similar outfits from other nations, also work from Djibouti. But most of the effort is directed at monitoring what is going on in the region (mainly Somalia and Yemen but also Eritrea, Nigeria, Kenya, Mali and Ethiopia), not at interfering with the local terrorists. Not much, anyway. The Djibouti base also supports operations throughout the Sahel.

The U.S. also has a number of other airports in central and southern Africa where it has agreements to quietly allow its military and contractor aircraft to operate. American warplanes (especially the very-long range F-15E) operate out of Persian Gulf air bases and have apparently carried out smart bomb attacks in Yemen, Somalia, and perhaps elsewhere in Africa. Throughout the region there are often large explosions at night. If a smart bomb was dropped from a high enough altitude, there would just be the explosion and yet another mystery no one was keen to solve.

From here

Fact of the Day

Nigeria is set to be the first African country with an economy larger than $1 trillion, according to the latest projections.

$1 Trillion =  $1,000,000,000,000

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Socialist Party (GB) on the BBC News

Pension Age Raised: Die before You Retire

The life expectancy of Zambians is between 48 and 56 years. So it doesn't make sense to raise retirement age to 65. Importantly, a law should be passed to enable retirees to get their pensions fast and easily.

In November 2014, Acting President Guy L. Scott signed Statutory Instrument No. 63 of 2014 that raised the retirement age from 55 to 65 years, or 35 years of service.
In December 2014, the Minister of Labor and Social Security is quoted by Doreen Nawa of the Zambia Daily Mail as having defended the change in the country’s retirement age as follows:

“We adjusted the retirement age as a way of increasing people’s life span. Information has shown that most people that have retired at 55 have died earlier because of many factors.”

The Minister is also quoted as having said that retirement age in the southern African region and beyond is 60 years.

In March 2015, President Edgar C. Lungu directed that changes be effected through an amendment to Statutory Instrument No.63 of 2014 signed by Acting President Scott to introduce a graduated arrangement designed to provide for the following three retirement options:

(a) Early retirement – 55 years;
(b) Normal retirement – 60 years; and
(c) Late retirement – 65 years.

These changes to the retirement age are unacceptable for a number of reasons. Firstly, the changes needed to be made in sincere consultations with relevant non-governmental stakeholders—including the Zambia Federation of Employers and the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions and its affiliate labor unions—rather than by presidential decree.
Secondly, it is unrealistic to have retirement options that are above our people’s life expectancy that is currently between 48 and 56 years, depending on one’s source of information, which places the country in the 160th position out of 182 countries surveyed by CountryEconomy.Com.

According to the findings of an international health study published online in the Lancet (a medical journal) in May 2010, Zambia had the worst female death rate and the second-worst male death rate in the world.
So, there is no wisdom in mimicking countries whose citizens have higher life spans in setting the retirement age for employees in our country!
Therefore, realistic retirement options for Zambian employees should have been the following:

(a) 45 years old, or 25 years of service – early retirement;
(b) 50 years old, or 30 years of service – normal retirement; and
(c) 55 years old, or 35 years of service – late retirement.

There is also a need for Parliament to enact legislation designed to make retirement benefits payable within 60 or so days (Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays inclusive) from a retiree’s last date of work. Benefits (or any portion thereof) not paid within this period should fetch 5% interest per month.
Delayed payment of retirement benefits has made some retired citizens to re-enter the job market as part-time workers to earn a living while they await the disbursement of their benefits, while others have died before they are paid their benefits.
The high levels of unemployment in the country militate against the increase in the retirement age. There is no doubt that the higher retirement age is going to lead to unprecedented numbers of young job seekers roaming the streets due to inadequate job openings mainly resulting from older citizens’ delayed retirement.

Migrants they pay a fortune for

10. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), Borussia Dortmund: 3 million euros per year.

9. Salomon Kalou (Côte d’Ivoire), Hertha Berlin: 3.1 million euros per year.

8. John Mikel Obi (Nigeria), Chelsea: 4.4 million euros per year.

7. Kolo Touré (Côte d’Ivoire), Liverpool FC: 4.9 million euros per year.

6. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Everton and Sampdoria: 4.9 million euros per year.

5. Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire), Chelsea: 5.2 million euros per year.

4. Michael Essien (Ghana), AC Milan: 5.8 million euros per year.

3. Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo), Tottenham: 6.5 million euros per year.

2. Medhi Benatia (Morocco), Bayern Munich: 8 million euros per year.

1. Yaya Touré (Côte d’Ivoire), Manchester City: 13 million euros per year.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Theft of the Forests

In Kenya, the future of indigenous forest cover is under threat but has little to do with poverty and ignorance – experts say that it is greed which allows unsustainable practices, such as the lucrative production of charcoal and logging of wood. Armed with branches and placards, enraged residents from a semi-pastoral community 360 km north of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, protested this week against wanton destruction of indigenous forest – their alternative source of livelihood.

With climate change a new ordeal that has caused frequent droughts, leading to suffering and death in this part of Africa, the community from Lpartuk Ranch in Samburu County relies on livestock which is sometimes wiped out by severe drought leaving them with no other option other than the harvesting of wild products and honey. Samburu County, in Kenya’s semi-arid northern region, hosts Lerroghi, a 92,000 hectare forest reserve that is home to different indigenous plants and animal species. Lerroghi, also called Kirisia locally, is among the largest forest ecosystem in dry northern Kenya and was initially filled with olive and red cedar trees. Harvesting of cedar regardless of whether forest was privately or publicly owned was banned in 1999, and that over 30,000 hectares – yet one-third of the Lerroghi forest has been destroyed.

“People here are ready to take up spears and machetes to guard the forest. They have been provoked by outsiders who are out to wipe out our indigenous forest to the last bit,” Mark Loloolki, Lpartuk Ranch chairman, who led the protesting community members told IPS. They threatened to set alight any vehicle caught ferrying the timbers or logs suspected to be from their forests. Unscrupulous merchants smuggle the endangered red cedar products to the coastal port of Mombasa for shipping to Saudi Arabia where they are sold at high prices. “This is a business that involves a well-connected cartel of merchants operating in Nairobi and Mombasa,” said Loloolki. According to Samburu County’s Kenya Forest Service (KFS) Ecosystem Controverter Eric Chemitei, “as a government parastatal, we [KFS] do not issue permits for transportation or movement of cedar posts. However, we do not know how they get to Nairobi, Mombasa and eventually to Saudi Arabia as alleged.”

The protest came barely a week after counterparts from Seketet, a few kilometres away in Samburu Central, held a similar protest after over 12,000 red cedar posts were caught on transit to Maralal, Samburu’s main town. Last year, students walked for four kilometres during International Ozone Day to protest against the wanton destruction of the same endangered forest tree species.

A report titled Green Carbon, Black Trade, released by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol in 2012, which focuses on illegal logging and its impacts on the lives and livelihoods of often some of the poorest people in the world, underlines how criminals are combining old-fashioned methods such as bribes with high-tech methods such as computer hacking of government websites to obtain transportation and other permits. Reports from INTERPOL and the World Bank in 2009 and from UNEP in 2011 indicate that the trade in illegally harvested timber is highly lucrative for criminal elements and has been estimated at 11 billion dollars – comparable with the production value of drugs which is estimated at around 13 billion dollars. In a report on organised wildlife, gold and timber, released on Apr. 16, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “There is no room for doubt: wildlife and forest crime is serious and calls for an equally serious response. In addition to the breach of the international rule of law and the impact on peace and security, environmental crime robs countries of revenues that could have been spent on sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.”

Of the 3.4 million hectares (5.9 percent) of forest cover out of the Kenya’s total land area, 1.4 million are made up of indigenous closed canopy forests, mangroves and plantations, on both public and private lands. Kenya’s annual domestic demand for wood is 37 million cubic metres while sustainable wood supply is only around 30 million cubic metres, thus creating a deficit of seven million cubic metres which, according to analysts, means that any projected increase in forest cover can only be realised after this huge internal demand is met. The policy acknowledges that indigenous trees or forests are ecosystems that provide important economic, environmental, recreational, scientific, social, cultural and spiritual benefits. Nevertheless, illegal harvesting of forest products is pervasive and often involves unsustainable forest practices which cause serious damage to forests, the people who depend on them and the economies of producer countries. Forests have been subjected to land use changes such as conversion to farmland or urban settlements, thus reducing their ability to supply forest products and serve as water catchments, biodiversity conservation reservoirs and wildlife habitats.

No Election Fever in Togo

President Faure Gnassingbe is looking to continue his family's 48-year rule of Togo in elections held on Saturday. Turnout was low, close to 40 percent, according to local election observers. Faure Gnassingbe, 48, has been in power since his father Gnassingbe Eyadema died in office in 2005 after ruling Togo with an iron fist for 38 years. The election is a two-horse race between Faure Gnassingbe and Jean-Pierre Fabre who unsuccessfully stood against Faure Gnassingbe in 2010. Last year, opposition protests failed to bring about constitutional changes limiting the president to two terms in office - a move that would have prevented Mr Gnassingbe from standing.

Togo's GDP has more than doubled since 2005 and economic growth reached 5.6% in 2014. But critics say the benefits have mainly gone to a wealthy minority, while most ordinary Togolese still suffer from high poverty and unemployment rates. 2011 statistics show 58% of the population lived on less than a dollar a day, and while official figures put the jobless rate at 6%, many believe the actual figure is much higher. Unemployment disproportionately affects the young, who make up a rapidly growing percentage of Togo's population.

"I have lived nearly my whole life with this regime. The regime has to go," said Ama Yambila, a mother of seven. 

"There is no work!" said 55-year-old Martin Assouvi, a Fabre supporter. "We are suffering."

Tsomana Yovo Aki, a 57-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, said he was voting for an opposition candidate, though he declined to specify which one. He said he was worried about the high cost of living and poor public services, especially in the country's hospitals. "We need a change at the head of the government so that another can come to power and show us his style of governing," Aki said

Togo is the most unhappy country in the world, closely followed by Burundi, Benin and Rwanda, a study finds.

The Ethiopian Exodus

Almost two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians, the majority of those Orthodox Copts - who have been in the Horn of Africa nation since the first century AD.  In the widely-reported incident in Libya, IS militants executed 28 Ethiopian migrants of Christian who had planned to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of work in Europe. 16 Ethiopian migrants in one group on a beach were beheaded and shot 12 in the head in another group in a desert area. Eyasu Yikunoamilak and Balcha Belete, residents of the impoverished Cherkos neighbourhood in Addis Ababa, were among the victims, it was learnt, along with three other victims from Cherkos.

"Pervasive repression and denial of fundamental freedoms has led to frustration, alienation and disillusionment among most Ethiopian youth" - Yared Hailemariam, former senior researcher for the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (now Human Rights Council). These and other issues have prompted the exodus of Ethiopian migrants to Europe, according to several observers. "The idea that the majority of Ethiopian migrants relocate due to economic reasons appears flawed," contends Tom Rhodes, East Africa Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in an email interview with IPS. Rhodes also maintained that the violation of fundamental freedoms is closely tied with poverty and economic inequality. The main opposition parties say that the government has failed to create job opportunities, making migration inevitable. The regime, they charge, favours members of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front and creates economic inequality. "The regime allocates state resources and job opportunities to members of the ruling party who are organised in small-scale and micro enterprises," noted Felix Horne, East Africa researcher with Human Rights Watch. The CPJ representative agreed. "Ethiopian government authorities tend to reward their political supporters and ethnic relations with lucrative political and business positions"

Dubbed an "African tiger", Ethiopia is one of Africa's most populous nations with 94 million people (Nigeria has 173.6 million). It has been celebrated for its modest economic growth over the last years. But the average unemployment rate (the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force) was stuck at 20.26 percent from 1999 to 2014. In its 2015 report, the World Bank shared this discouraging view. Some 37 million Ethiopians - one-third of the country's population - are still "either poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty", the World Bank said, adding that the "very poorest in Ethiopia have become even poorer" over the last decade or so. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has estimated that about 29 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. This explains Ethiopia's rank at 174 out of 187 countries on the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index. The Oakland Institute, a U.S.-based non-governmental organisation that spotlights land grabs, was recently denounced by Ethiopian officials for its latest report 'We Say the Land is Not Yours'. The institute maintained that the government's development endeavours are "destroying the lives, culture, traditions, and livelihoods" of many indigenous and pastoralist populations, further warning that the strategy was "unsustainable and creating a fertile breeding ground for conflict."

More than half of Ethiopia's farmers are cultivating plots so small as to barely provide sustenance. These one hectare or less plots are further affected by drought, an ineffective and inefficient agricultural marketing system and underdeveloped production technologies, says FAO. Several studies indicate that this phenomenon has induced massive rural-urban migration. 

According to Yared Hailemariam, state ownership of land has contributed to poverty and inequality. "People don't have full rights over their properties so that they lack the motivation to invest," he stressed. The ruling regime insists that land will remain in the hands of the state, and selling and buying land is prohibited in Ethiopia. Yared also pointed out that the ruling party owns several huge businesses which has created unfair competition in the economy. "The party's huge conglomerates have weakened other public and private businesses" he told IPS. "Only the ruling party's political elites and their business cronies are benefitting at the expense of the majority of the people."

The tragic news of the massacre in Libya came amid news of xenophobic attacks against Ethiopian migrants in South Africa last week including looting and burning of properties. Unknown numbers of Ethiopian economic migrants are also trapped in the Yemeni conflict, according to state media.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Not in Our Name!"

 Thousands of people took to the streets of Johannesburg in The People's March Against Xenophobia – a solidarity march that was organised to condemn the xenophobic in South Africa. About 30,000 people participated in the march. The crowd was chanting "We want peace", as they walked down the streets.

Several NGO groups were present at the march, including the African Diaspora Forum, the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), SECTION27, the Right2Know campaign, the South African Human Rights Council and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) attended the march.

Meanwhile, at another earlier rally, King Goodwill Zwelithini of the 10 million strong Zulu community, insisted he was not behind a wave of violence against migrant workers he had compared a month before to head lice. “Let us pop our head lice,” he said. “We must remove ticks and place them outside in the sun.” His words had been twisted by the media, he said. If he had really given the order for his legions of followers to attack, “this country would be ashes.”

“This man is laying the basis for a serious contestation that South Africa is going to have,” said Nomboniso Gasa, an expert in traditional law at the University of Cape Town, “He is pushing the boundaries. He has started with the most vulnerable — those who always suffer prejudice — but he's also saying to government and everybody else who is opposed to his absolute authority as a Zulu king: 'You watch it.’”  

His declaration at the Durban soccer stadium that he has the power to unleash unrest on an even greater scale caused new alarm.

“For the ANC to control the province, whether they like it or not, they have to work with the king,” said Velaphi Mkhize, a Zulu culture expert at the University of KZN in Durban. “The ANC knows that the king's voice matters the most in this province.”

Africa - A Continent of Resources

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Fallible Pope

 Pope Francis described the Armenian massacre by the Turks as "the first genocide of the 20th century." This was simply factually incorrect. That grim distinction belongs to the genocide that imperial Germany unleashed a decade earlier against the Herero and Nama, two ethnic groups who lived in the former colony of South West Africa, modern Namibia.

The Namibian genocide, prefigured the later horrors. The systematic extermination of around 80 percent of the Herero people and 50 percent of the Nama was the work both of German soldiers and colonial administrators; "banal, desk-bound killers." As they have been portrayed. The most reliable figures estimate 90,000 people were killed.

In the case of the Herero, an official, written order - the extermination order - was issued by the German commander, explicitly condemning the entire people to annihilation. After military attempts to bring this about had been thwarted, the liquidation of the surviving Herero, along with the Nama people, was continued in concentration camps, a term that was used at the time for the archipelago of facilities the Germans built across Namibia. Some of the victims of the Namibian genocide were transported to those camps in cattle trucks and the bodies of some of the victims were subjected to pseudoscientific racial examinations and dissections.

All of this is now well known, fully documented and widely accepted and the Pope should have acknowledged this. Germany's “forgotten genocide”, it seems, still remains forgotten in the Vatican. Crimes such as the Namibian genocide can no longer be ignored, whether by accident or design.

Carte Blanche to Exploit

Nearly 79 percent of American companies surveyed by human rights groups failed to meet a U.S. rule requiring they monitor whether their products contain minerals from war-torn Africa. The human rights groups looked at how well the companies complied with 12 core requirements.

"The conflict minerals law is an opportunity to clean up global mineral supply chains. But our analysis shows that most companies seem to prefer business-as-usual," Carly Oboth of Global Witness said.

“Companies that shed light on their supply chains help prevent a harmful mineral trade that contributes to a conflict devastating Central Africa,” said James Lynch of Amnesty International.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform required manufacturers to determine whether any tin, tungsten, tantalum or gold in their products came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The region is known for using the proceeds from mining to fund rebel groups who kill and rape civilians. The SEC rule took effect in 2014 after a U.S. appeals court upheld most of its provisions following a legal challenge by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups. To comply, companies must conduct a country of origin inquiry, file a public report for investors and carry out due diligence on their supply chains. NGOs representatives came to a conclusion that only 15 per cent of the companies tried to contact the suppliers of minerals they use in production to find out their real origins. 

Stop the Deaths by Stopping the Thefts

Rarely has the word “war crime” been used in the context of the EU response to the refugee crisis. The mess that is EU foreign policy continues to make headlines across the globe. This especially as far as the issue of illegal immigrants are concerned. Where is the shame? EU bankers and land-grabbers should not be allowed to escape the blame for the ‘mass murder’ of these innocents. It must be clear that the reason why thousands of immigrants are perishing in the Mediterranean is because of a racist policy that does not consider non-Europeans as people.

For sure, we have some international civic organizations trying to fight the scourge of corruption on the continent and worldwide like Transparency International and Global Witness. But what can they do if the governments of Europe and elsewhere in the developed world are willing to fold their hands while African politicians rape their countries in front of their eyes. EU governments cannot pretend not know about this, they collect taxes and other benefits accruing from these vampire outfits. The EU are content to wine and dine with these robbing dictators. What does that make them in the face of the current immigration tragedy? Accomplices, that is what. We are informed that close on 10 000 people have perished in one year on the perilous journey to Europe. Now the EU is failing to wash its hands clean of this sick tragedy authored in Brussels. And with good reason too. Elsewhere on the continent in South Africa, thousands have been displaced and murdered in so-called xenophobic attacks. These innocent folk like their dead Mediterranean counterparts would be really happy at home but where is home when their presidents stole every home from them to bank same in Europe? Most African presidents are thieves, this is common knowledge. What is baffling is why is the EU looking the other way while the continent’s resources are being invested in their ‘squeaky clean’ banks. Why do they now pretend to shed crocodile tears over the mass murder of the immigrants in the Mediterranean when it is their people who are dipping into the coffers of the African people? What does this make those who cash in on this and watch gleefully while the continent’s children are being murdered by their EU bankers and investors? Why are we not seeing the same energy used to fight terrorism worldwide being employed to trace, expose and cease all the proceeds from corruption? 

Banks in the past such as the Libor interest frauds yet where are the punishments for assisting in funds being stolen from poor Africans. There would be no incentive for the presidents to steal as they will have nowhere to deposit their ill-gotten loot. Let us see the international media use the same energy it uses in exposing terrorism do the same on these banksters.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Farmers fight back

Farmers in Africa and Asia announced in a statement a string of protests over a holding company's "landgrab" in their areas.

"Farmers deprived of their lands are launching a series of occupations of Socfin's plantations in Cameroon, Liberia, Cambodia and Ivory Coast," the International Alliance of Residents of Socfin Bollore'sPlantations said. French company Bollore is a main shareholder in Luxembourg-based Socfin, which owns palm and rubber tree plantations in several African countries, Indonesia and Cambodia. The first protest is set to hit the Cameroonian plantation of Didombarri.

The farmers said they would occupy the lands until Socfin and Bollore hold their general assembly meetings on May 27 and June 4. The residents' alliance president Emmanuel Elong told AFP that protesters would "blockade the factory and administration offices, and stop the plantation from hiring". They would then repeat the action in six other Cameroonian plantations, Elong added.

The plantations have been expanding "continuously" since 2008, the protesters said, citing a 25 percent increase from 2011 to 2014 in land farmed by the company in Africa. "These expansions provoke serious conflicts with local populations, who are being deprived of their lands and who are seeing their living conditions deteriorate non-stop," said the alliance, which was set up in 2013. The organisation accused the holding company of staging a "blind grab without leaving residents any space to live in", while giving out meagre compensation. The protesters also accused the company of bribing police and using private guards to mistreat residents.

Eritrea - Land of Exodus

In 2012, the entire Eritrean national football team asked for asylum in Uganda after taking part in a regional tournament. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 300,000 Eritreans fled the nation of 6.5 million inhabitants last year.

Two of the 10 most censored countries in the world are African, says the Committee to Protect Journalists. Eritrea is the worst in the world, behind even North Korea and Saudi Arabia. Ethiopia is the fourth most censored country.

"Since 1993 when Eritrea gained independence, it has had only one president, only one party. And no opposition is allowed," says Clara Braungart, Eritrea researcher at Amnesty International. President Isaias Afewerki has been in power for 22 years. Afewerki is in effect the union head of state, head of government, commander in chief of the armed forces, parliament speaker and leader of the only authorized party, the PFDJ. All forms of civil society are prohibited. Media is not independent as there is only one state-run TV and radio outlet. "Against this background, no freedom is possible," says Braungart. "We have received many reports of people being tortured. For example, they are tied up, hung by their feet or are exposed to excessive heat," says Clara Braungart of Amnesty International. For these reasons, the people would not even dare to speak out against the government.

Mekonnen Mesghena, an Eritrean and expert on migration at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, agrees. He says a climate of fear reigns and people lack any political or economic perspective. "Many people feel trapped in a permanent conflict situation."

Human rights violations have also been condemned by the international community. In 2012, the United Nations named Sheila Keetharuth as Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea. Since then she has sought to travel to Eritrea with no success. Only state media is allowed to disseminate news; the last accredited international correspondent was expelled in 2007. Even those working for the heavily censored state press live in constant fear of arrest for any report perceived as critical to the ruling party, or on suspicion that they leaked information outside the country. The last privately owned media outlets were suspended and their journalists jailed in 2001. Many remain behind bars; Eritrea has the most jailed journalists in Africa. None of those arrested are taken to court, and the fear of arrest has forced dozens of journalists into exile. Those in exile try to provide access to independent online news websites and radio broadcasts, but the opportunity to do so is limited because of signal jamming and tight online control by the sole state-run telecommunications company, EriTel. All mobile communications must go through EriTel, and all Internet service providers must use the government-controlled gateway. Access to the Internet is extremely limited and available only through slow dial-up connections. Less than 1 percent of the population goes online, according to U.N. International Telecommunication Union figures.

In 1998, a simmering border dispute broke out with neighboring adversary Ethiopia. Since then, the government justifies any repression with the argument of a "threat to national security," Mesghena says. Each spark of protest is punished with arbitrary detention and torture.

Another reason why many young Eritreans flee the country is military conscription, says Braungart. All men and women from the age of 18 must serve in the armed service for 16 months. Even students are asked to complete their final year in a military camp. "People often have to serve the military for many years with very little pay," Braungart says. If they refuse, they face imprisonment and arbitrary military service could be extended indefinitely.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Black and White Unite

Scientifically, no one can be of one race. One’s DNA does not begin with Grandma and Grandpa; it begins, literally, from the very beginning of time, and that’s entirely too much DNA to categorize. That is the truth of humankind.

Race is a construct. The construct of race is evident when racist, European-based beauty ideals sustain the notion that minorities don’t count, or when racist emails from Ferguson emerge, or when people of the same skin tone are assumed to behave the same way, or when legacies of slavery and colonialism create an imbalance of power and privilege. This construct of race, especially vis-à-vis racism, very much exists.

Isaiah Washington said, “I’m not black, I’m human,” around the same time as Raven-Symoné said “I’m from every continent [country] in Africa, and I’m from every continent [country] in Europe.” They pounced on Washington via social media and demanded that he clarify. They wanted Washington to say he was black, unequivocally. He is saying that he just wants to be seen as a unique and complex human being first and foremost—rather than the Stepford-wife, group-think, box of blackness into which he must fit at all times. How dare anyone monitor and control his identity? Who granted anyone but him ownership of it? Trevor Noah, the South African, comedian bases much of his routine on perceptions of color.

When people watch the Walter Scott video, in which a black man is brutally killed, it is difficult for them to view race in nuanced, scientific, “kumbaya” terms. What they see is a white police officer desecrating and policing the body of a black victim, a practice that seemingly has occurred throughout “black” history. As a result, they view race in terms of war. To them, an unspoken racial war is happening on American soil, as the Walter Scott video proves, and it is difficult to watch such a video and not choose the victim’s side. “Whose side you are on,” then becomes a very serious issue in the black community. Saying “you’re not black,” when Walter Scott videos exist, is tantamount to defecting from your side, your team, your group. It even strays into the realm of your being “on the other side,” which could explain the aggressive policing of black identity to ensure that every member toes the line.

Of course, some members of the African Diaspora view blackness as a characteristic in which to take pride and celebrate. If anything, they may feel that “New Blacks” who dissociate with blackness are simply doing so because they see blackness as negative, rather than positive. But why in their minds would that be the only reason for the dissociation? Yes, some black people might dissociate from blackness because they see it as a negative, but some others might be dissociating from hard and fast labels; they want to live with more complexity—outside of others telling them what and whom they are. And some others might dissociate or even associate for millions of other reasons. Why does everyone have to experience identity in the same way? The lack of room for possibility in identity, the lack of room for people to be dynamic beings, is dangerous—even cultish. Ultimately, people have no right to shackled to labels, even if they feel that you will inevitably be shackled by racism.

Race, religion, nationality, culture... who cares? Why do we insist on separating ourselves from others? If we can have "global economy" then why not global citizenship? Humans do care about each other no matter what race, religion, nationality. But those in power don’t want us to live together peacefully. Media is always shoving hate down our throats. Political correctness and identity politics are detrimental to the socialist cause.

"There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs. There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don't want the patient to get well." - Booker T Washington

Blowback From Somalia: Kenya’s Sorrow

Blowback From Somalia

Kenya’s Sorrow: the US Connection


The systematic murder of 147 Kenyan university students by members of the Somalia-based Shabab organization on April 2 is raising an uncomfortable question: was the massacre an unintentional blowback from U.S. anti-terrorism strategy in the region? And were the killers forged by an ill-advised American supported Ethiopian invasion that transformed the radical Islamic organization from a marginal player into a major force?

As Kenyans were mourning their dead, opposition figures were openly opposing Kenya’s occupation of southern Somalia and bringing into question Washington’s blueprint for fighting terrorism: drones, Special Forces, and regional proxies.

Speaking in the port of Mombasa, former prime minister and opposition leader Raila Odinga called for the withdrawal of Kenyan troops, as did the Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi. Speaking at the funeral for one of the victims, Senator James Orengo said, “We know very well the consequences of a war of occupation. We must withdraw our troops from Somalia to end this.”

Absent from most of the mainstream American media was an examination of exactly what role the U.S. has played in Somalia over the past decade, and how Washington has helped create the current crisis.

A little history.

When military dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, Somalia fell into the chaos of clan warfare, sparking off a U.S. military intervention in 1992. While billed as a “humanitarian intervention,” the Americans aggressively sought to suppress the plague of warlords that had turned the nation’s capital, Mogadishu, into a shattered ruin. But the expedition derailed in 1993 after 18 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Somalis were killed in the infamous Black Hawk down incident. The U.S. withdrew the following year.

Which doesn’t mean the U.S. went away, or that it didn’t apply a new strategy for Africa, one designed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. The genesis of that plan came from James Carafano, a West Point graduate and head of Heritage’s foreign policy section, and Nile Gardiner, director of the think tank’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, who drew up a document entitled “U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution.”

The strategy called for the creation of a U.S. military command for Africa, a focus on terrorism, and direct military intervention using air power and naval forces. The authors argue against putting U.S. troops on the ground, instead enlisting those of allies. Those recommendations were adopted by the Bush administration—and later the Obama administration—lock, stock and barrel. African Command (Africom) was created, as along with the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative, to train troops in 16 nations that border the vast area embraced by world’s biggest desert.

While targeting “terrorism” is the strategy’s public face, Carafano and Gardiner argue that U.S. “vital interests” are involved on the continent, “With its vast natural and mineral resources,” Africa, say the two scholars, “remains important to the West, as it has been for hundreds of years, and its geostrategic significance is likely to rise in the 21st century.”

A major rationale behind the strategy is to checkmate Chinese influence in Africa and short circuit Beijing’s search for raw materials. China gets about one third of its oil from Africa, plus platinum, copper, timber and iron ore.

The new policy made its début in Somalia when the U.S. actively aided Ethiopia’s 2006 invasion to support the unpopular and isolated the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFGS). The invasion overthrew the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which had brought Somalia its first stable government in 15 years.

The ICU was a coalition of Islamic organizations that included a small group calling itself the “Shabab,” Arabic for “Youth.” While the ICU was Islamic in ideology, it was more moderate than the Shabab. The ICU also had more support than the TFGS, because it had routed the clan warlords who had dominated Somalia since 1991.

However, those warlords—united in an organization incongruously called the “Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-terrorism”—were strongly supported by the U.S. CIA. Claiming that the ICU was linked to Al-Qaeda, Washington leaned on Ethiopia to invade. When they did, U.S. Special Forces based in Djibouti accompanied them and gave them intelligence and equipment. The U.S. Navy shelled a town in Southern Somalia, killing, according to Oxfam and the United Nations, 70 civilians and wounding more than a 100. While the New York Times claims that U.S. support for the invasion was “covert,” it was anything but.

The powerful Ethiopian Army crushed the ICU, but the brutality of the occupation that followed fired up a resistance movement led by the Shabab. Given that Ethiopians and Somalians are traditional enemies, and that the former is largely Christian, the latter overwhelmingly Muslim, one wonders what Washington was thinking when it backed the invasion.

It was the 2006 Ethiopian-U.S. invasion that turned the Shabab into a major player, just as the invasion of Iraq fueled the creation of, first, Al-Qaeda and then the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria.

The Shabab quickly took over most of southern and central Somalia, although their brutality and strict interpretation of Islam eventually alienated them from much of the population. However, the one thing that Somalians could unite around was expelling the Ethiopians, and after two years of ambushes, roadside bombs and suicide vests, Addis Abba withdrew most its forces.

At the time, the Shabab was not affiliated with Al-Qaeda—it did not do so until 2012—and its concerns were mainly local. The organization was more like the Taliban in Afghanistan, albeit with a more extreme interpretation of Islam. But that distinction was lost on Washington, which pressed the African Union (AU) to send in troops. In 2007, the AU, with UN compliance, established the African Union Mission in Somalia (AUMIS) and deployed 9,000 troops to support the TFGS.

It is no coincidence that the bulk of AUMIS troops are from Uganda and Burundi, two countries that receive U.S. aid, as does Ethiopia. From 2009, U.S. military aid to Addis Abada jumped 256 percent.

The U.S. also footed the bill for private mercenary organizations, like Bancroft Global Development, to train Ugandan and Burundi troops in counter-insurgency warfare. The fact that Bancroft is a private company shields it from public scrutiny, including by the U.S. Congress.

While the initial AUMIS deployment was not very successful, it finally drove the Shabab out of the nation’s capital, Mogadishu, although that was, in part, a reflection of the Shabab’s loss of support among Somalians, alienated by the group’s brutality. Eventually the organization was driven out of all Somalia’s major cities. But even with numerous setbacks, a recent attack in the capital that killed 15 people and wounded 20 demonstrates the Shabab still has a bite.

Kenya—another recipient of U.S. aid whose soldiers are trained by U.S. Special Forces—invaded southern Somalia in 2011 and seized the Shabab-controlled port of Kismayo . While publically the reason for the invasion was Shabab kidnappings of Kenyans and tourists, apparently Nairobi has long had its eye on the port of Lamu as part of a development plan for the northeast part of the country.

Again, the Shabab was scattered rather easily, but only then to resort of guerilla war and attacks on civilian targets in Kenya and Uganda. In 2011, it set off two bombs in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 76 people. In 2013, it killed 67 people in a shopping mall in Nairobi and then topped that with the massacre at Garissa University.

The response of the Kenyan government has been targeting ethnic Somalians living on the Kenyan side of the border with Somalia, threatening to close down one of the largest refugee camps in the world, and squeezing the country’s Muslim. Those are actions liable to alienate Kenya’s large ethnic Somali population and its minority Muslim communities. “Shabab needs to create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion to gain a foothold,” security analyst Mohamed Mubarak told the Financial Times,” “And they may succeed if the Kenyan response is not thought out carefully.”

The blowback attacks have soured most Kenyans on the invasion. A poll taken last fall, six months before the Garissa University bloodbath, found that a majority of the country wants its troops out, and two in three Kenyans thought there would be more terrorist attacks.

What seems clear is that the Heritage Foundation’s blueprint for using military force in Africa has been a disaster. It has destabilized Somalia by overthrowing the ICU, spreading the war to Uganda and Kenya. It turned Libya into a failed state, which in turn unleashed a flood of arms that have helped fuel civil wars in Mali, Niger and the Central African Republic.

The widespread use of drones may kill some terrorist leaders, along with large numbers of civilians, and, rather than destroying organizations like Al-Qaeda and the Shabab, it ends up atomizing them into groups that are smaller and harder to track, but no less capable of committing mass murder. Indeed, for organizations like the Shabab and Al-Qaeda, drones have proved to be the 21st century’s most effective recruiting sergeants.

Military occupation sows the seeds of its own destruction, and, while using drones and proxies may keep the American death count down, that strategy ultimately creates more enemies than it eliminates.

The solution in Somalia (and Syria and Yemen) is political, not military. According to Bronwyn Bruton of the Council On Foreign Relations, the Shabab is “not a monolithic movement,” but includes leaders from the old Islamic Courts Union that the U.S. and it allies so disastrously overthrew. “Some of these leaders are extremists, and the idea of talking with them is unappetizing. But the United States can and should negotiate with them directly.”

In short, talking beats bombing and works better.

More of Conn Hallinan can be read at his website 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kenya's "Anti-Terror" Border Wall

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Kenya this week began building a barrier along its entire border with Somalia, in a purported effort to prevent incursions by fighters from al-Shabab, an insurgency based mainly in Somalia which has carried out numerous attacks in Kenya, including the 2 April shooting of 147 students in the Kenyan town of Garissa.
This massive project has generated heated debate. IRIN has gathered a range of views.
Deputy President William Ruto said the fence would stretch 700 kilometres. ‘‘Whatever it is going to cost us and whatever it will take, we are going to make sure that our country is safe,” he added in a televised speech.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Mwenda Njoka told IRIN that the barrier would be built by the National Youth Service under the supervision of the army.
He also said:
“The wall is basically meant to limit illegal crossing and monitor movement of people. People with legal documents will be allowed to cross as security agents capture their data. We want to know specifics of people, why they are moving from country to country and what their intentions are.
“It will involve a combination of putting up obstacles and digging trenches, especially in areas which are not navigable, to prevent people from crossing into and from the country. There will be CCTV cameras powered by solar and a control centre manned by border patrol units, where information on possible threats will be received, tabulated and action taken in real time. Some areas will have electric fences.
“There will be designated points for people to legally use while entering or leaving the country. 
‘‘Government security agents believe al-Shabab combatants do not live in the country [Kenya], but rely on Kenyan recruits to do logistics for them.”

George Morara, Vice Chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, said constructing the barrier was an “exercise in futility."
He added:
“It is a monumental waste of tax-payers' money. Where similar walls have been built or exist to keep out the so-called ‘undesirables’, they have not been successful. Case in point, Israel’s wall to keep out the Palestinians has not stopped the attacks against Israel. They have only led to more creative ways of circumventing the barrier, through for example, the building of underground tunnels by Palestinians as conduits of attack against Israelis. Also, the mighty American wall on the US-Mexico border has not stopped Mexicans who are determined to get to the US from scaling the seemingly impregnable wall.
“The building of the wall presupposes that al-Shabab is exclusively made up of ‘external enemies’ who are hell-bent on attacking Kenyans. The recent terror attack [in Garissa] only served to confirm what has always remained a known fact in the country: that the militant group is actively recruiting young and disenchanted Kenyans into its radical and extremist views.

“What we need to do as country is … create opportunities for gainful employment for the youth and… do all we can to eliminate corruption within our security agencies as this remains a big contributor to Kenya's vulnerability to terrorist attacks.”

Abdirashid Hashi, Executive Director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a Mogadishu-based think tank, said he understood Kenya’s “urge to do something, anything about the [al-Shabab] menace.”
He added:

“However, what Kenya needs is to pause and devise a long-term strategic plan to cope, deal and mitigate this clear and present danger - which is a decade old now and might take another decade to eradicate. Both Kenya's initial decision to send troops to Somalia and its current policies such as closing remittances or announcing mass deportation of legal refugees, or branding the loudest anti al-Shabab Islamic scholars , comes across as reactionary decisions made by panicky politicians.
“Kenya's best bet to overcome the serious threats posed by al Shabab lies with its ability to harness the ingenuity of its Somali and Muslim citizens and making them lead the battle against al Shabab and working closely with Somalia -- the source and the main theatre of the menace. Unfortunately Kenya now seems to have bypassed such a path and is engaged in sabre-rattling, refugee-chasing and lashing out at potential partners in its struggle to defeat al-Shabab.”

David Anderson, Professor of African History at the University of Warwick, described the barrier as "a crazy idea."
“Are we going to keep al-Shabab in [Kenya], or are we going to keep them out? The problem, at this stage is inside Kenya.
"The wall I assume, is more intended with dealing with refugees, but it’s a ridiculous idea.”

IRIN also spoke to a number of Somali refugees and ethnic Somali Kenyans:
Abdi Ahmed, Somali refugee from Baled Hawa
“I don’t think this wall will change the situation, it will only create division among neighbouring Somalis. Some of my family live in Baled Hawa [in Somalia] and their main trading partner was on the other side, in [the Kenyan town of] Mandera. They will suffer financially and end up refugees like me."
Dubad Mohamed, Somali refugee from from Kismaayo
“If the main reason why Kenya is building the wall alongside the border is security, then let it go on; we the refugees need peace, we suffered as Kenyans are suffering.”
Malyuun Koriyow, resident of Nairobi’s Eastleigh district
“I think the wall is a waste of money and resources. The government should invest in police and their equipment rather than a wall which will cost tax-payers huge sums of money.”
Mohamed Ahmed Farah, Eastleigh resident
“I think this wall Kenya wants to build is like that wall of Israel and Palestine: it is an apartheid wall. Kenya has the right to protect its citizens, but not [with] this wall. It is dividing ethnic Somalis.
“Al-Shabab is everywhere. Kenya should invest in intelligence and cooperating with the locals if it wants to defeat al-Shabab”

from here