Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Send in the Troops

The new US defence budget of US$534 billion is the largest ever. AFRICOM is to get 2% more after a 6.5% cut the year before. The US is expanding African operations. This includes new US military facilities in countries like Niger. It was announced in August that jet fuel is now available at Zinger Airport in Niger enabling American planes to make pit stops.
 This is in addition to the new US drone base in Niamey and another refurbished airstrip in the fringe of the Sahara Desert, all closely located to Boko Haram’s operating territory.

Expect more US-Nigerian military cooperation with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a US Army War College alumnus, in command.

Meanwhile, the UK is prepared to send troops to Somalia and possibly to South Sudan to boost security in the region. 70 British troops would go to Somalia and up to 300 would be deployed in South Sudan. The British government said the deployments "will support efforts by the United Nations and African Union”

Critics of this deployment argue that the problem bedeviling South Sudan today was created by the British over 60 years ago. Their presence there will not be welcomed because apart from South Sudan, there are also still problems in the west of Sudan, in Darfur and East Sudan. The presence of British soldiers there, advising the South Sudanese army or training them, will not be a welcome move to those who are still fighting for their freedom in South Sudan.
Secondly, the offer is coming before the establishment of the transitional government, with which it ought to be negotiated. So it will be seen as a sort of ploy to boost Salva Kiir's regime vis-à-vis the other part of the government headed by Riek Machar. That, too, will make it unwelcome. Why was this gesture not there when South Sudan became independent, when it needed this type of military mission to help it transform its army from a guerrilla force into a regular army? The British kept their distance. So many people are asking: Why now?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Readying US Marines For Africa

Exercise Trident Juncture, the largest multinational NATO exercise in more than a decade. The exercise, which will include about 36,000 participants, will run Oct. 3 through Nov. 6. One exercise is launching a ship-to-shore operation in Spain, pushing more than 300 miles inland using light armored vehicles during a mock raid. The purpose is to prepare for similar real military operations in Africa.

Marines with the Corps' crisis response force for Africa have traveled long distances from their home base in Europe to places like South Sudan to respond to embassy security threats and other emergencies. To bridge that distance, the unit is continuing to explore the use of cooperative security locations, which are temporary forward bases about the size of football fields in Gabon, Senegal and Ghana. The CSLs give Marines a place where Marines can base gear and sleep while training African forces. But if the sea basing tests are successful during Trident Juncture, it could open the door to efforts to put Marine afloat near Africa. It would be a huge advantage to have Marines based at sea in or near the Gulf of Guinea. 

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's commanding officer, Col. Robert Fulford shortly after he returned from a deployment leading Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response–Africa, (SPMAGTFCR-AF), said it would help resolve difficulties associated with being too far from targets.

Trident Juncture will also be used to revamp the Corps' post-war doctrine, Expeditionary Force 21, said Brig. Gen. Julian Alford who heads the Quantico-based Futures Directorate. Officials at Marine Corps Combat Development Command and Futures Directorate are working to update the document to include information on complex threats Marines could face in Africa.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Another Crisis Looming

In the remote village of Akuyam, Uganda, Ann Alinga, a mother of five is now plucking wild fruits in a desperate bid to keep her family alive.
“There is nothing to harvest,” the 35-year-old mother said as she surveyed her parched and failing 5-acre farm. “We won’t survive on the shrubs alone.”

In recent seasons, she harvested nearly a ton of grains, enough to her feed her children and raise extra cash for the family’s other needs. But the severity of this year’s drought has written off her sunflower crop and destroyed the harvest across this swath of agricultural land in northern Uganda. For Ann, this year’s drought is only her latest trial. She has only planted crops since her family’s cattle herd was stolen six years ago. She owes a local cooperative about $100 for the seeds that have failed her. She says she has no way to pay it back. After gathering edible leaves and fruits each day to sustain her family, she helps her husband cut and dry brush to sell as firewood, bringing in about 25 cents a day.
“We are so stressed,” Ann Alinga says. “My children may even starve.”

“This would be a harvesting period, but look at what’s there: nothing,” said John Lorot, a council leader near Akuyam. “People need relief food and the time to act is now, not later.”

The damage to food production is spreading across the continent: From Angola to Zimbabwe, officials say more than 30 million Africans will need help to survive the looming tropical dry season after the worst droughts since 1992 slashed this year’s harvest of such staples as corn, rice and beans by half. For many, the impact of this year’s drought has been the most devastating in living memory. The World Food Program agency said this month that two-thirds of households in the region have run out of the food meant to last them into 2016.

Global market turmoil in recent weeks has sent many African currencies down more than 20% against the U.S. dollar, making imports to the continent more costly than ever. That is creating liquidity crunches in Angola, Zimbabwe and South Sudan that are hurting official efforts to supplement poor harvests and driving the prices of staples foodstuffs higher. Staple grain prices have hit five-year highs, according to U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network.
“Exchange rates are blowing out. That’s pushing up prices,” said Ferdi Meyer, director of South Africa’s Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy at the University of Pretoria.

This year, foreign donors are focused on the refugee crisis emanating from Syria and Iraq, making it harder to find funding.
“There’s a lot of need out there,” said David Orr, the United Nations WFP’s spokesman for southern Africa. Since December, the WFP has cut food-aid rations in Africa three times.

“Reducing rations is a last resort to ensure we can continue providing lifesaving support,” said Alice Martin-Daihirou, the U.N. agency’s director for Uganda.

Friday, September 25, 2015

We are now all middle class, aren't we?

Some of those who are bullish on Africa say the continent has six of the 10 fastest growing economies, but often fail to mention it also has seven of the 10 most unequal countries. A decade of growth above five percent in sub-Saharan African economies has drawn a wave of interest in selling consumer goods and providing services to a rapidly urbanising population of one billion. Investors in Africa have been targeting the booming middle class. But a year of diving commodity prices has exposed how much the continent, and its consumers, still rely on exporting resources.

Millions of Africans have moved out of subsistence farming, but national economies have yet to make the transition from relying on commodity exports to mass manufacturing, the model which transformed living standards in much of Asia. Now the end of an upswing in global prices for energy, minerals and farm products has hammered economies across Africa and pushed their currencies sharply lower. This is raising doubts about whether the growth of the African middle class has been overplayed: has the wealth created by the decade of growth been widely distributed, or have only relatively small pools of urban consumers merely benefited from a transient commodity boom?

This spending power, however, seems closely linked to the price of resources. More than 87% of government expenditure across Africa is derived from commodity exports, according to consultancy DaMina Advisors. Foreign direct investment in resource-rich South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Mozambique totalled £15 billion in 2013, more than the rest of sub-Saharan Africa combined. Most of that was in commodities production.

“The fall in oil and metals prices has certainly shown that Africa remains too dependent on commodities,” David Rubenstein, co-CEO of US private equity firm Carlyle, told Reuters. “The ‘middle class’ theory may need a rethink.”

The African Development Bank said in 2011 that 34% of Africans were now middle class, in what it described as a bulging “middle of the pyramid”. Under its broad definition, anyone living on between $2 to $20 a day was middle class. Consultancy Mickinsey, however, defines the class as households spending $20,000 a year while the OECD’s range is $10-$100 a day. Depending on the calculation, the middle class therefore ranges from 16 million to 327 million.

“There have been numerous studies done on the size of Africa’s middle class, often at cross-purposes,” Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard Chartered, told Reuters. “There is now a question mark as to how important the concept of ‘middle class’ might be.”

Some observers say the middle class’s emergence proves Africa has achieved inclusive growth that lifts the masses out of poverty, and not just a commodity-fuelled boom which benefits only foreign investors and a local elite. Mickinsey said the middle class, which it reckons accounts for only one to two percent of African households, will contribute 40% of spending-power growth, suggesting many investors are really targeting the wealthy. Hotel groups such as Marriott and AccorHotels are going ahead with expansion plans in major African cities. These companies are all aiming for high-end consumers, not people living on $2 a day.

“What we are seeing is not a pyramid bulging in the middle but a society where the top spenders are getting richer,” said Morten Jerven, author of Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It" “This may be good news for some banks and investors, but it does not carry the same connotations for social scientists,” he said.

Continent-wide statistics can be misleading because they include economies growing from a very low base, such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Here investments beyond the commodities sector aren't attractive.
“Where I come from there are the very rich and very poor,” Serge Ramazani, a migrant from the DRC who lives in the rundown Johannesburg suburb of Yeoville, told Reuters. “People are saying Africa has a lot more ‘middle class’ but they are describing the big boys, the elite.”

Climate Change and African Farming

Figures estimate that 200 million Africans are chronically malnourished and five million people each year die as a result of hunger.

To ensure Africa's farmers can feed future generations in the face of climate change and avert food shortages, malnutrition and migration which will undo decades of development more funding must be made available, a report has warned. Failure to act could jeopardise UN global development goals.

The Montpellier Panel, a group of experts from Europe and Africa, in their report ‘The Farms of Change: African Smallholders Responding to an Uncertain Climate Future’ recommend that international donors and governments took action in a range of priority areas, including:
1) bringing climate change's threat to food and nutrition security to the top of UN and national governments' agenda,
2) investing in sustainable farming systems to help smallholders adapt to and mitigate climate change,
3) investing in research and local capacities to understand the responses of different crops and livestock breeds to drought, floods and heat stress,
4) scale-up proven community-based adaptation projects.

Montpellier Panel chairman Prof Sir Gordon Conway observed: "Progress made in the last two decades to combat hunger and poverty in Africa will be irrelevant if action is not taken on climate change. African smallholders cannot escape poverty unless they are equipped to adapt to a changing climate - and this requires serious, large-scale investments.” he added.

The concerns echoed the findings of a report last year that warned that many small-scale farmers across the continent faced the threat of "failed seasons". The 2014 African Agriculture Status Report says the vital food producers face a risk of being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change. It called for the adoption of "climate-smart agriculture" that will help make crops more resilient to future extreme weather events.

The Montpellier Panel warned that by the middle of this century, hunger and child malnutrition could increase by more than 20% as a result of changes to the climate, undoing the gains made by the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Africa director of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Dr Ousmane Badiane, said: "When given the right options and incentives, farmers can drive sustainable agricultural development that builds resilience to disasters and greenhouse gas emissions."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Corruption goes further than Africa

So often the misery of Africans are blamed on the corruption of local officials and often it cannt be denied. Other times though the corruption is wider than merely Africa.

Two former UN consultants have been jailed by a UK court for receiving bribes to rig contracts worth £66m to supply life-saving drugs to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Guido Bakker and Sijbrandus Scheffer took payments totalling £650,000 from a Danish pharmaceutical company called Missionpharma in return for helping them win lucrative contracts.  Scheffer joked they were making money by selling overpriced drugs “to dying and starving Africans”, London’s Southwark crown court heard. The pair hoped to make as much as £44m from the plot.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Michael Grieve said: “It is corruption in the context of a very large grant for the relief of disease in one of the most deprived countries on earth…I think you saw this as an opportunity to get something back for yourselves by way of a payout – a deserved pension – and you took it. It involved blatant dishonesty.” However, Scheffer,  was jailed for 15 months while Bakker was jailed for a year. The pair could be out of prison in months, as it is likely they will only have to serve half their sentence.

Their company, World Response Consulting, obtained contracts from the UN Development Programme to combat HIV and malaria in the war-ravaged African country. They used their inside knowledge to leak crucial details to Missionpharma to “stack the deck” in favour of the company in its UN bid. The men, both Dutch nationals, used their London-based solicitor Patrick Orr to set up a firm to receive these corrupt payments.

They disguised their cash through a network of offshore companies and splashed out on properties in some of London’s most exclusive districts. In an email in May 2006 to Bakker about how to “make loads of cash now”, Scheffer wrote: “Clearly supplying small amounts of grossly overpriced drugs to dying and starving Africans is a very good start.”

Friday, September 18, 2015

UN Peace-keeping

In Rwanda in 1994 hundreds of desperate Tutsis sought refuge on the first day of the genocide at a school where 90 UN troops. The UN flag flew over the school. The Belgian peacekeepers were armed with a machine gun, planted at the entrance. The peacekeepers were ordered to abandon the school in order to escort foreigners to the airport and out of Rwanda. As the soldiers left, Tutsis begged to be shot rather than left to the militia’s machetes. Within hours, the 2,000 people at the school were murdered by gun, grenade and blade.

A year later, Dutch peacekeepers failed to stop the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica, a supposedly UN “safe area”, the most notorious mass killing by the Serbs in Bosnia.

Around the same time-frame, there was the debacle in Somalia where a US-led UN humanitarian operation turned into a bloody conflict against a powerful warlord. Angola was at war after its UN peacekeeping mission collapsed amid accusations it contributed to the breakdown of peace.

Other disasters – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone –happened even as the UN peacekeeping department’s budget doubled and doubled again with growing numbers of missions. In 2000, British forces landed in Sierra Leone after UN peacekeepers stood aside or fled an advance on the country’s capital, Freetown, by a notoriously brutal rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Several hundred peacekeepers surrendered to the rebels.

Two decades down the line and peacekeeping has ballooned to become by far the most expensive of UN departments (in 2015 it will cost nearly $9bn to keep 120,000 blue helmet soldiers and policemen deployed in 16 countries from Mali to Cyprus and Haiti, compared with just $500m at the end of the cold war). Today, UN troop deployments in the DRC, Sudan and Darfur each cost more than $1bn a year, with Mali and Central African Republic not far behind. The most expensive outside Africa is Haiti, with a budget of $500m.

“We’ve got more troops, we’ve got a bigger budget, we deployed in all sorts of very very difficult places, much more difficult than we’ve ever been, and we’re stretched, we’re really stretched,” explained JackChristofides, who is on leave from the UN as director of peacekeeping operations for central and west Africa “If you think of the old deployments in places like Lebanon and Bosnia, there is a certain infrastructure you could use and work with. The troops coming were generally from countries that had the means to launch expeditions. Today, when you’re talking about northern Mali and central Africa, you have both extremely dangerous conditions and geostrategic locations which are very difficult to get to.”

Most western nations will not put boots on the ground as frontline peacekeepers and so the UN is dependent on the goodwill of those countries prepared to deploy troops such as India, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Nigeria, making it hard to assert its authority. Obama is jointly hosting a summit with Ban in New York later this month to seek commitments to strengthen peacekeeping with better trained troops, equipment and intelligence resources. Moreover, if other countries are sending their forces then the US does not have to risk the lives of American soldiers. Previously, the US mostly regarded peacekeeping in Africa, in particular, as a humanitarian issue. Now, given the nature of the conflicts in Mali, Nigeria and Central African Republic, Washington views it as strategic. But while the US wants more assertive peacekeeping, it does not want to send its soldiers to fight. Obama is pressing more developed countries, in Europe, Asia and Latin America, to make greater commitments. UN officials privately concede there is little chance of the US putting its forces under UN command. Congress would never stand for it. The UK currently has fewer than 300 soldiers deployed on peacekeeping missions, mostly in Cyprus. “We’ve been having goodness knows how many discussions with British officials with a view to getting them more involved,” said Christofides. “We’re still drawing too many troops from a few parts of the world and not enough from other parts of the world. And I don’t just mean Africa versus the west, but other countries in Asia and Latin America that could contribute a bit more.” Another senior UN official put it more bluntly: “Britain has a reputation for lecturing without contributing.” General David Richards, Britain’s chief of the defence staff, wants to see Britain make a greater contribution. “The Ministry of Defence and, I have to say sadly, the armed forces, don’t really see the UN as proper soldiering. This is a cultural ignorance that’s grown up over many years. The Americans share it writ large: UN ops is what second- and third-world nations do but proper armies, we pick and choose,” he said.

 India, which has sent more soldiers on UN missions than any other country – 180,000 on 49 missions – is openly challenging the move towards what some see as mostly rich and powerful countries on the security council sending the poor to fight and die. India’s ambassador to the UN, Asoke Kumar Mukerji said “The soldiers in the blue helmets, under the blue flag, are impartial. They are not supposed to be partisan. If somebody wants soldiers to go in and fight they should hire mercenaries, not take UN soldiers.”

In Sierra Leone the Indian UN force commander, Major General Vijay Jetley, interpreted his mandate as that of a neutral intermediary. India said its troops were sent to monitor the peace, not enforce it. The UN mission in Sierra Leone was further complicated by antipathy between some of the national forces, particularly Jetley and his Nigerian deputy, Brigadier General Mohammed Garba. In an internal UN report, Jetley accused Garba and other senior Nigerians of being more interested in smuggling diamonds than keeping the peace. Nigeria’s military responded by accusing the Indian general of “trying to justify his ineptitude, inaction and inefficiency in the leadership of a multinational force”.

12 years later in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as rebels advanced on the eastern town of Goma. The Indian commander of part of the largest peacekeeping force in the world ignored orders from UN officials to defend the town and called the Indian defence ministry in New Delhi to ask what he should do. He was told not to resist. The rebels seized Goma to the anger of Ban Ki-Moon, who regarded it as a “personal humiliation”, according to a senior UN official. The wider UN mission in the DRC had come to look like bystanders to mass killing, rape and terror. Richard Gowan, until recently research director at the Centre on International Cooperation, a thinktank in New York that works closely with the UN on peacekeeping, said Indian forces in Sierra Leone and the DRC were taking orders from the defence ministry in New Delhi, not the UN commanders on the ground. The UN lost confidence in Jetley in Sierra Leone but when the then secretary general, Kofi Annan, tried to remove him, the Indian government threatened to pull out all of its forces. Annan’s successor, Ban, ran into the same threats from New Delhi when he tried to remove the Indian UN commander after the Goma debacle.

The debacle in Goma prompted the UN to put together a fighting force of soldiers prepared to go into combat. South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi volunteered to send troops to join the Force Intervention Brigade in part because they were weary of the persistent instability in the region. Christofides doubts that the force intervention brigade provides a model for other peacekeeping missions. Senior UN officials, some of whom were strongly opposed to the creation of the brigade but now judge it a success, are deeply wary of the UN taking on a similar role in other conflicts. The DRC, they say, was a unique situation.  
“We were all embarrassed, humiliated at the end of 2012 when Goma fell,” said Christofides, who oversaw UN peacekeeping operations in the DRC from 2011 until earlier this year and was an architect of the intervention brigade. “Everybody has that image of peacekeepers sitting on top of an APC [armoured personnel carrier] and this group of ruffians walking into Goma. That was a low moment for everybody.”

Early successes in Cambodia, Namibia, Mozambique and El Salvador generated an overconfidence in the ability of UN soldiers to keep the peace. Each of those countries had an accord that former warring parties wanted to maintain. The UN learned the hard way in Angola, Rwanda and Bosnia that where the UN wants peace more than those in conflict, then the illusion of peacekeeping can perpetuate instability and cost lives.
The UN intervention in Darfur was a politically panicked response to public pressure over the mass killings by the government-allied Janjaweed militia. “For political reasons the US and the UK insisted on having the mission. I’ve spoken to UK officials since who’ve said: ‘We had no real idea what this mission was meant to do. We were just under such public pressure to come up with an answer and the answer was peacekeeping.’ That was definitely true for the Bush administration as well,” Gowan explained. “Darfur has been a quagmire from the beginning. The frank reality is no one believes that the mission is working but no one dares pull it out because they fear the moment it goes there will be an even greater spike in violence and the security council will be held responsible. It’s become a slow burning disaster.”

Philippe Bolopion , the UN director at Human Rights Watch, said the principal reason for the failure of the Darfur mission, a hybrid operation with African Union forces, was deadlock on the security council. “When permanent members of the Security Council can’t agree to stand up to an abusive government such as Sudan’s, and you have weak peacekeeping troops on the ground, it’s almost a perfect storm where peacekeepers are not going to protect civilians properly,” he said. “Permanent members of the security council routinely prioritise their national interest over the needs of the UN peacekeeping missions they have mandated, as a result often undermining them. Russia and China have done this by opposing more sanctions against the Sudanese government even when it pushes peacekeepers around in Darfur.”

The responsibility to protect has had a more positive impact elsewhere. Peacekeepers in South Sudan turned their bases into de facto refugee camps protecting tens of thousands of people. That would have been unlikely 20 years ago. But the ethos has been severely challenged by the fallout from the Security Council mandate for military intervention in the 2011 Libyan revolution to protect civilians in Benghazi. NATO was accused of abusing it to support the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. That complicated any potential UN action on Syria.

India strongly opposes a move towards more forceful peacekeeping. “When it has been used as a tool to ensure that a peace agreement is observed so that peace building can take place, or as a tool to facilitate a political resolution, it works,” said Mukerji, the Indian ambassador to the UN. “But if peacekeeping is to be seen as peace enforcement, then unfortunately we can’t see the UN charter allowing such a radical departure of the use of peacekeeping. Peacekeeping is not an end in itself. The end is political stability and peacekeeping is just a tool to bring about political stability. What’s happening now is the cart is being put before the horse. I think that’s a very unfortunate development.”

Gowan is sceptical for different reasons. “I think that we may be stumbling into an enormous strategic trap because if we have learned over the last decade that very highly capable Nato forces, US forces, actually can’t suppress Islamic extremist groups, why on earth do we think slightly strengthening UN missions is going to give us a tool that allows us to fight terrorists?” he said.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fleecing the Flock

The prosperity gospel maintains the redemption in Jesus is also redemption from financial poverty. The prosperity gospel says in order to receive from God; we first have to first give money to the church.

This so-called gospel appeals to the rich because it tells them they will become richer. It appeals to the poor because it promises them they will become rich. It appeals to pastors because it has proved to be an effective way to grease money out of Christians by making them believe if they give to their churches, God would give them a hundredfold return. Thus, Gloria Copeland says: “You give $1 for the gospel’s sake and $100 belongs to you. Give $10 and receive $1,000. Give $1,000 and receive $100,000. Give one house and receive one hundred houses or one house worth one hundred times as much. Give one airplane and receive one hundred times the value of the airplane. Give one car and the return would furnish you a lifetime of cars.”

The prosperity gospel is convenient for justifying the wealth of pastors who have become rich at the expense of their congregation. Thus, Marcus Bishop says unapologetically: “Financial prosperity is just as much a part of the Gospel as anything else… I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not ashamed of prosperity. I’m not ashamed that Jesus bought and paid for me to be wealthy. Let me just tell you from the heart of God, preachers are supposed to be rich.”

The prosperity gospel is also lucrative for selling books. The Christian book market is full of “get-rich-quick tipsters” and “one-minute-solution merchants.” For example, Joel Osteen’s “Your Best Life Now” sold millions of copies. It was number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Osteen tells Christians they can get their best life now; a far more marketable proposition than one saying: “Take up your cross and follow Jesus.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

More People - Less Food

A New Refugee Crisis?

More than 5.5 million people living in conflict areas in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, nearly half of whom have been displaced due to ongoing attacks by the Islamist militant group, don’t have enough to eat or else lack access to nutritious foods, according to the UN’s emergency aid coordination body OCHA.

“These are people who have seen guys with guns show up in their villages and kill their families, or have had their villages torched and then they’ve fled,” Toby Lanzer, OCHA’s regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, told IRIN. “The impact has been devastating. They have no food. They’ve lost their livelihoods. They’ve been thrust out of their villages… and can’t get back to harvest.”

234,000 people have returned to Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa State during the past four months, following the government‘s recent push for the displaced to go home. For many, there is nothing to return to. Houses have been destroyed, shops looted, schools burnt and fields lie barren. Humanitarians warn that the trail of destruction left by Boko Haram, marked pervasive fear and insecurity, are hampering the efforts of returnees to rebuild their lives. Main roads are the targets of frequent attacks, obstructing markets, and supply and trade routes. While small villages in the countryside are most affected by the conflict, a recent assessment by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network [FEWS NET] said people in towns and cities also had little or no access to land and are forced to buy their own food. For the most vulnerable, who cannot afford rising market prices, there are few options but to seek help from friends, the wider community, or beg.

Mohamed Ali, a 45-year-old farmer, recently returned to his village in northern Adamawa, only to find himself unemployed and doing menial jobs to survive. His field has been burnt to the ground and he has no access to seeds, tools or fertilisers to rebuild his life. Nor has he any money.  The loss of all these assets has had a severe impact on Mohamed’s self-esteem, especially as he can no longer provide for his family. “We cannot afford to buy food from the market and we now must depend on the kindness of strangers to survive,” he told IRIN. “I was the breadwinner. Now I have become a beggar.”

Oxfam’s country director in Nigeria, Jan Rogge: “Our assessments indicate that 90 percent of the displaced across all the three affected states have lost all assets they possessed before the insurgency. Currently, only 10 percent of the respondents have indicated they possess some assets such as motorcycles, mobile phones, radios and jewellery, and mainly depend on their relatives and friends.”

Nigeria has been the worst hit. Some 2.1 million people have been forced to flee their homes and 4.6 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to OCHA.
 “The ongoing insecurity in the northeast means that farmers cannot access their fields to plant and harvest crops,” Engborg said. “Food and productive assets have been lost due to attacks and displacement, and raids on farms for food by Boko Haram insurgents are still ongoing. This is a situation that is not just affecting the displaced people, but the whole population of northeast Nigeria. Host communities in particular are seeing their vulnerability to food insecurity increasing.”

Displaced families have already exhausted their own resources and with thousands of farmers not able to grow staple crops, the main harvest season that begins in October will be below average for the third consecutive year, FEWS NET says. As a result, much of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states could face a severe food crisis, while some areas, including Maiduguri, will experience emergency (Phase 4) acute food insecurity.
Cecile Barriere, deputy country director of Action Against Hunger, warned: “If we don’t do anything, the needs are going to be massive.”

n Cameroon’s Far North Region, for example, more than one in three people are food insecure and one in 10 are severely food insecure, according to the UN’s World Food Programme reports. This means they often have insufficient food and certainly lack nutrition in their daily diet. OCHA says an estimated 545,000 people overall are food insecure in the region, a number that is three times higher than in 2013.
“Crop failure is expected this year as a result of the widespread insecurity,” Elvira Pruscini, WFP’s deputy country director in Cameroon, told IRIN. “Many of these farmers have been pushed away from the border and no longer have access to their land and livelihood means.”

In Chad, where some 140,000 people are in need of food aid, according to the WFP, the price of millet, a key part of the staple diet, has risen by as much as 20 percent compared to the five-year average. This is attributed to cross-border trade disruptions with Nigeria due to Boko Haram.
“There are issues with border closures, which means no free movement,” said WFP’s programme advisor in Chad, Nitesh Patel. “Small-scale agriculture for host populations has been disturbed and now [farming] activities won’t be able to continue until the next harvest season.”
Additionally, for those displaced Chadians who normally depend on fishing, moving inland away from the lake has meant a loss of their traditional livelihoods.

In Niger’s Diffa Region, where the majority of the country’s Boko Haram refugees have settled, an estimated 340,000 people are now going hungry. The effect on malnutrition is already being seen across the region, with global acute malnutrition rates exceeding 12 percent in Cameroon, according to UNICEF, and 22 percent in Chad, according to the WFP.

“The situation is quite bleak, as whole populations have been affected,” Patel told IRIN. “The biggest challenge right now is having enough funds to respond to all those in desperate need and provide assistance.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The wealth of the past

Africa is rich in natural resources yet Africa’s share of global trade remains less than 3%.  Between 1990 and 2010 the number of people in poverty increased from 289 million to more than 413 million. It need not be.

When Portuguese explorers first arrived on the east African coast at the turn of the 16th century, an anonymous recorder on the voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral noted of Kilwa (off the coast of present-day Tanzania): “This island is small, near the mainland, and is a beautiful country. The houses are high like those of Spain. In this land there are rich merchants, and there is much gold and silver and amber and musks and pearls. Those of the land wear clothes of fine cotton and of silk and many fine things and they are black men.”

Two centuries earlier, the Muslim king of Mali, Mansa Musa, made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 with a stop in Cairo. The Arab historian Chihab al-Umari, who visited Cairo 12 years later, wrote that Mansa Musa “left no emir or holder of a royal office without a gift or load of gold, he and his company gave out so much gold that they depressed its value in Egypt and caused its price to fall”. This was at a time when two-thirds of the world’s supply of gold came from west Africa. Mansa Musa’s extravagance brought Mali to the attention of the world and Mali would appear on the map of the world drawn by Angelino Dulcert of Majorca in 1339 and on subsequent maps. There was a time when the economic actions of Africa’s rulers had worldwide consequences.

Africa’s knowledge base is expanding. Africa could still ultimately reclaim the position it occupied when the Portuguese explorers first arrived. The revolution in the worldwide web, social media, and the proliferation of mobile phones are accelerating the pace of Africa’s development. Ghana’s hiplife music, for example, represents the indigenisation of American hip-hop. Youth activism continues to play a key role in the democratisation process that is sweeping through Africa. Their embrace of social media signals a new energy that is finding expression in the creative arts and popular culture.

Adapted from here

Refusing Eritreans Asylum

Refusing asylum to Eritreans on back of discredited report. Danish researchers have condemned conclusions published by Denmark’s immigration service that conditions in east African country are safe for deportees. The researchers behind a report on Eritrea which the Home Office cited heavily when claiming it was now safe to send Eritrean asylum seekers back to the east African country have publicly distanced themselves from the findings, claiming the report was unsubstantiated and distorted. The only named source in the DIS report, Professor Gaim Kibreab, director of refugee studies at London South Bank University, has also distanced himself from its findings. “They distorted what I said, quoted me out of context,” he said. “One example: they quoted me saying that I knew people who had returned back to Eritrea without problem. What I told them was I know of a few who returned who are connected to the government, who are naturalised and have English passports and Danish passports – they didn’t mention that I was talking about a few who were connected. They left out so many things. The way they did it, there was an unnamed anonymous source and then they brought in my name to support their views. It was very disingenuous,” he said. Kibreab said: “Nothing has changed in Eritrea. The Home Office is rejecting most Eritrean asylum applications even though nothing has changed on the ground. The Home Office has disgraced itself doing that.”

 The Home Office updated its country advice on Eritrea in March, claiming that citizens who left the country without permission – many of them to escape its infamous indefinite military service – would not face persecution if they returned. in the Home Office guidance, the DIS report was cited 39 times, making it the most referenced source in the report by a significant margin. The next most-cited source was a proclamation by the Eritrean government outlining the national service programme, with 16 mentions. The advice resulted in the number of Eritreans granted protection in the UK plummeting from a 73% approval rate in the first quarter of 2015 to 34% in the second quarter.

But the two researchers behind the report, Jens Weise Olesen and Jan Olsen, who conducted the fact-finding mission in Eritrea for the Danish Immigration Service (DIS), have revealed that they are appalled by the report written by their department off the back of their research and have since resigned from the DIS. In an interview with the Amnesty International Denmark members magazine, the pair, who worked for DIS for more than 20 years, claim their superiors limited their questioning in Eritrea and tried to conclude the mission before they had conducted the necessary interviews. When they returned to Denmark, Olsen and Weise Olesen say there was a “showdown” and they both eventually resigned from the immigration service. They claim they have been branded “whistle-blowers and disloyal employees”. Olsen and Weise Olesen told Amnesty International that their superiors put pressure on them to deliver a specific result, saying their head of department, Jakob Dam Glynstrup, openly speculated to them several times on what kind of asylum result the government was hoping for.
“Jakob said that the last thing the government wanted in a future election campaign was a growing number of people seeking asylum and for refugees to become an [election] issue,” the men said in a written statement to the Danish ombudsman, which is investigating the issue. “I saw it as pressure to deliver a particular outcome,” Olsen said. “It was a dream scenario for bosses to present brand new information on the situation in Eritrea.”

Dr Lisa Doyle, head of advocacy at the Refugee Council, condemned the Home Office for including the Danish report as a source in its country guidance. “For it to be discredited by some of the researchers shows even more powerfully how the information cannot be relied on for making life and death decisions. If any part of that evidence is shown to be in doubt, it should be removed from the guidance immediately.”

Monday, September 07, 2015

G4S - Torture Incorporated

Documents concerning deaths of inmates in South Africa’s Mangaung prison, run by British security firm G4S, contain allegations that inmates were tortured before they died, while prison registered deaths as either natural causes or suicide.  Several inmates incarcerated in Mangaung prison, outside the city of Bloemfontein in South Africa’s central Free State province, have died under suspicious circumstances. South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has said it is aware that G4S’ record keeping of deaths in custody is not up to standard and that it might be covering up deaths through torture.

Two years ago the Wits Justice Project uncovered evidence that G4S was allegedly giving forced injections and electric shock treatment to subdue unruly inmates. Around the same time, the government took over the running of the prison from G4S, saying it had “lost effective control” in the wake of a series of stabbings, riots, strikes and a hostage taking. A year ago, the Department handed back the prison to G4S.

The EST (the Emergency Security Team also known as the Ninjas) are armed with electrically charged shields. The ‘dark room’ is a windowless cell with thick walls that ensured it was a sound proof. This is where an EST member, interviewed by BBC television on 28 October 2013, admitted to taking inmates to torture them.
“Yeah we stripped them naked and we throw with water so the electricity can work nicely,” he said. “I will shock him until he tells the truth that I want even if it’s a lie.”

A further 13 dismissed EST members confirmed to the WJP that the dark room was used for this purpose.

The Other Migrant Crisis (part 2)

In the middle of the mountains behind the border fence of Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco, and eight kilometres from the nearest Moroccan village of Fnideq, an uncertain number of migrants live in the woods. No one knows exactly how many they are but charity workers in Melilla, Spain’s other enclave in Morocco, say they could be in their thousands. In the past, those waiting in the mountains for their turn to try to reach Spain had been able to build something resembling a normal life. They put up tents and at least were able to sleep relatively peacefully at night. Today, the migrants are forced to remain mostly hidden in small groups among the trees or in small caverns, and they know that all attempts to pass the Spanish border are almost certain to fail and end up with arrest by the Moroccan authorities. That all ended after 2012, when the Moroccan police started to burn down the camps and periodically sweep the mountainside, arresting any migrants they found, charged with having illegally entered the country.

Ceuta is one of the main (and few) ‘doors’ leading from northern Africa to the territory of the European Union, and is a ’door’ that has been closed since the end of the 1990s, when the Spanish authorities started to build a triple six-metre fence topped with barbed wire that surrounds the whole enclave, as in Melilla. Spain asked Morocco to control migration flows.

The most tragic raid so far by the Moroccan police took place last year on Gurugu Mountain which looks down on Melilla. Five migrants were killed, 40 wounded and 400 removed to a desert area on the border with Algeria. According to the migrants, the wounded were not treated and were left to their fate. Today, the migrants are forced to remain mostly hidden in small groups among the trees or in small caverns, and they know that all attempts to pass the Spanish border are almost certain to fail and end up with arrest by the Moroccan authorities. They live, in their words, “like animals” and when speaking with outsiders are clearly ashamed by their condition, apologising for being dirty and badly-dressed.

The first thing many of them tell you in French is that they are students and that before having to leave their countries they were studying mathematics, economics or engineering at university. Many of them are from Guinea, one of the countries most seriously affected by the Ebola epidemic, others come from Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, all countries characterised by political turmoil of various types. All of them have been forced to live in these woods for months or even years, waiting for their chance to pass the border fence.\\

Some of them will certainly die in their attempts to reach Spain – either on the heavily fortified fences which encircle the enclaves or out at sea in a small boat or trying to swim to a Spanish beach. Some of them will finally make it to Spain, perhaps after five or six failed attempts. Some will still face the possibility of forced deportation, particularly if they come from countries with which Spain has a repatriation agreement. Many of them, however, will finally give up and decide to remain somewhere in Morocco, destined to a life of continuous uncertainty due to their irregular position in the country. You can meet them and listen to their stories in the main Moroccan cities, especially in the north. In most cases, they had escaped death in their attempts to reach Spain and do not want to risk their lives any longer.

The Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR) denounces how sub-Saharan migrants are dissuaded from seeking asylum in Spain, even if coming from countries in conflict such as Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo or Somalia, once they realise that they are likely to be forced to remain for months in a Centre for Temporary Residence of Immigrants (CETI) in Ceuta or Melilla. In Melilla, for example, those who apply for asylum cannot leave the enclave until a decision has been taken on their application. Unlike Syrian refugees whose application takes no more than two months, CEAR said the average time to reach a decision for sub-Saharan Africans is one and a half years.

The main criticism has been the Security Law (Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana) passed this year by the Spanish Parliament with only the votes of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party. The aim was to give legal cover to the so called devoluciones en caliente, the “push-back operations” against migrants carried out by the Spanish frontier authorities in Ceuta and Melilla in violation of international and European law. On the Spanish mainland, said the CEAR report, migrant’s right of asylum is seriously undermined by the bureaucratic lengths of application procedures and the political choices of the Spanish authorities. Calls from CEAR and other NGOs to end “push-back operations” seem very unlikely to be taken into consideration soon by the Spanish government and Parliament, in view of the general elections later this year.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Other Migrant Crisis (part 1)

Tens of thousands of refugees arrive in Europe. But many African refugees do not see the journey over the Mediterranean as their first choice: hundreds of thousands are hoping for a better life in South Africa. South Africa is a popular destination for economic migrants and asylum seekers throughout Africa. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 300,000 refugees live in the country, 11,000 of them are Ethiopians.

They travel thousands of kilometers in trucks, cooped up like animals in the small cargo area. The fear rises every time the truck stops or crosses a border. They have seen an increasing number of reports about refugees being apprehended on their road to a better future. Illegal migrants traveling along the East African coast are frequently arrested. They often share the same destination: the economic giant, South Africa. South Africa grants the refugees work permits and access to basic social services but many public institutions do not recognize refugee IDs, which means that refugees cannot benefit from these rights. In addition, it is hard to find a job and make a living in South Africa.

Last week, Zambian authorities noticed a suspicious-looking truck at a roadside inspection. The Zambian drivers had hidden more than 100 Ethiopians in the truck. None of the young men possessed valid personal documents, which is why Zambian media now speak of human trafficking. Smuggler chains have been forming along the East African coastline: they specialize in smuggling people from the Horn of Africa via Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana to South Africa. The journey is shorter, less dangerous and, above all, cheaper than traveling to Europe. "The human traffickers are making promises to come down to South Africa and that they will have good jobs, a good life and these people make them to migrate to South Africa," says Tamru Abebe, Chairman of the Ethiopian Community in South Africa. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks 173 of 187 countries in the UN Human Development Index. Nonetheless, the country accepts around 200,000 refugees per year from its crisis-ridden neighbors, South Sudan and Somalia, and provides them with humanitarian aid and protection. Around 650,000 people live in Ethiopian refugee camps.
However, the Ethiopian regime rules its own citizens with an iron hand: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International regularly report on human rights violations as well as the persecution and detainment of journalists, opposition members, government opponents. "In most scenarios, some of them are also selling their kettles and whatever belongs to them. They just pay for the human traffickers and they flee," says Abebe.

Richard Ots, Chief of Mission for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in South Africa, is critical of this term. "I think it is important to make this distinction," said Ots in aninterview with DW. "We find a lot of Ethiopians who voluntarily engage smugglers to facilitate the trip but it is always difficult to see to what extent it is truly voluntary or to what extent they've been deceived and actually will be subjected to exploitation upon arrival." He went on to explain "We've heard a lot of estimate numbers of how many migrants are actually in SA. And we've heard estimates ranging from two million up to five million," says Ots, and notes that most of the refugees are not registered. According to UNHCR reports, most of the asylum seekers have fled the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. But more and more people from Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe are trying to escape political persecution and poverty.

South Africa's economy has suffered great setbacks in recent years and the unemployment rate has gone up to 24 percent. This development has had a negative impact on the coexistence of the local population and immigrants. South Africans fear that foreigners are abusing the welfare system and residents complain about the newcomers not integrating into local culture. This situation sparks frequent conflicts between South Africans and immigrants. In the spring of this year, severe clashes between the groups broke out: immigrants' homes and businesses were set on fire and six people died in the violent attacks. Thousands of migrants have left the country but that hasn't discouraged others from coming.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Child Poverty and Child Slavery

“Poverty has become part of me,” says 13-year-old Aminata Kabangele from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I have learned to live with the reality that nobody cares for me.”
Aminata, who fled her war-torn country after the rest of her family was killed by armed rebels and now lives as a as a refugee in Zimbabwe’s Tongogara refugee camp in Chipinge on the country’s eastern border. She told IPS that she has had no option but to resign her fate to poverty. “I have descended into worse poverty since I came here in the company of other fleeing Congolese and, for many children like me here at the camp, poverty remains the order of the day.”

Despite the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, African children still stand as the number one victims of suffering and destitution across the continent.  “In every country you may turn to here in Africa, children are at the receiving end of poverty, with high numbers of them becoming orphans,” Melody Nhemachena, an independent social worker in Zimbabwe explained.

Based on a 2013 UNICEF report, the World Bank has estimated that up to 400 million children under the age of 17 worldwide live in extreme poverty, the majority of them in Africa and Asia. According to human rights activists, the growing poverty facing many African families is also directly responsible for the fate of 200,000 African children that the United Nations estimates are sold into slavery every year.

“Many families in Africa are living in abject poverty, forcing them to trade their children for a meal to persons purporting to employ or take care of them (the children), but it is often not the case as the children end up in forced labour, earning almost nothing at the end of the day,” Amukusana Kalenga, a child rights activist based in Zambia, told IPS. West Africa is one of the continent’s regions where modern-day slavery has not spared children.

According to Mike Sheil, from Anti-Slavery International, for many families in Benin – one of the world’s poorest countries – “if someone offers to take their child away … it is almost a relief.”

Global March Against Child Labour, a worldwide network of trade unions, teachers’ and civil society organisations working to eliminate and prevent all forms of child labour, has reported that a 2010 study showed that “a staggering 1.8 million children aged 5 to 17 years worked in cocoa farms of Ivory Coast and Ghana at the cost of their physical, emotional, cognitive and moral well-being.”

“Trafficking in children is real. Gabon, for example, is considered an Eldorado and draws a lot of West African immigrants who traffic children,” Gabon’s Social Affairs Director-General Mélanie Mbadinga Matsanga told a conference on preventing child trafficking held in Congo’s southern city of Pointe Noire in 2012. Gabon is primarily a destination and transit country for children and women who are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2011 human trafficking report.

In Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, a study of child poverty showed that over 70 percent of children are not registered at birth while more than 30 percent experience severe educational deprivation. According to UNICEF Nigeria, about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school. “These boys and girls, some as young as 13-years-old, serve in the ranks of terror groups like Boko Haram, often participating  in suicide operations, and act as spies,” Hillary Akingbade, a Nigerian independent conflict management expert, told IPS. “Girls here are often forced into sexual slavery while many other African children are abducted or recruited by force, with others joining out of desperation, believing that armed groups offer their best chance for survival,” she added.

Akingbade’s remarks echo the reality of poverty which also faces children in the Central African Republic, where an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 boys and girls became members of armed groups following an outbreak of a bloody civil war in the central African nation in December 2012, according to Save the Children. Violence plagued the Central African Republic when the country’s Muslim Seleka rebels seized control of the country’s capital Bangui in March 2013, prompting a backlash by the largely Christian militia. A 2013 report by Save the Children stated that in the Central African Republic, children as young as eight were being recruited by the country’s warring parties, with some of the children forcibly conscripted while others were impelled by poverty.

Last year, the United Nations reported that the recruitment of children in South Sudan’s on-going civil war was “rampant”, estimating that there were 11,000 children serving in both rebel and government armies, some of who had volunteered but others forced by their parents to join armed groups with the hopes of changing their economic fortunes for the better.

One Africa - One World - One People

The majority of Africans who emigrate remain within Africa but amid rising concerns over the spread of Islamist militant groups on the continent and several economies hit by a slump in commodities prices, some African nations are clamping down on those migration flows.
"The situation is changing. Some African countries are becoming less flexible in accepting migrants," said Michele Bombassei, the International Migration Organization's (IOM) Migrant Assistance Specialist for West Africa.

Gabon, whose oil reserves have given its 1.5 million people amongst the highest per-capita income in Africa, has long been a magnet for migrants from countries like Senegal, an arid West African state with a tradition of emigration dating back decades.

Papa Demba Sow left Senegal two years ago hoping to make a better life in the oil-rich central African country of Gabon but in July he was arrested by police, thrown in jail for a month and deported along with hundreds of other Africans. Sow, a 33-year-old welder, went to Gabon to join family members already living there but said it had become extremely hard to obtain residency. Police officers harassed African immigrants on the streets of the coastal capital Libreville until they were paid off, he said. In detention, more than 300 migrants were packed into a few rooms, with many forced to sleep on the floor. Breakfast was a slice of bread, with a plate of rice and fish for dinner. “They treated us really bad, like dogs or sheep,” said Sow.

Amnesty International has documented thousands of deportations by Republic of Congo. The foreigners, many of them from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, were often simply put on pirogues and shipped across the Congo River to Kinshasa.  An Amnesty report in May said the security operation, dubbed “Mbata ya Bakolo” or “slap of the elders” in Lingala, was ostensibly meant to target criminals but became an excuse for mass expulsions. Amnesty said police destroyed property, extorted money and raped women and girls. A second phase of the operation was launched in May, targeting West Africans in Pointe-Noire, Congo’s oil hub and second-largest city. Police said that month they had arrested 1,150 people, primarily from West Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo. Alain Roy, Amnesty's deputy regional campaigns director, said such deportations had shattered lives and exacerbated poverty, exposing the limits of pan-Africanism.
"We're certainly concerned to see the same kind of attitudes (in Africa) that we have seen around the world and in Europe -- where whole societies see migrants or refugees as 'others', as people who are not deserving humane treatment," he said. "You have Africans treating Africans poorly. We have seen... xenophobia, racism, discrimination."

Nearby oil-rich Equatorial Guinea deported hundreds of people in the wake of the African Nations Cup football tournament this year.
Even in South Africa, the continent's most developed economy, many economic migrants fled an outbreak of xenophobic attacks this year by residents afraid foreigners are taking their jobs. At least seven people were killed.
North African oil producer Algeria has deported more than 3,700 migrants to Niger this year, mostly women and children who came to beg on the streets, as part of a bilateral agreement between Algiers and Niamey intended to curb illegal immigration.
Cameroon, Niger and Chad have also deported thousands of people in the face of terrorist attacks within their borders by Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. Sory Kaba, who heads the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ department for Senegalese abroad, said the rise of militant groups such as Boko Haram had fed xenophobia and deportations.
“They are scared for their own nations,” said Kaba. “That’s why they make it more difficult to enter and they make it more difficult to stay.”

Mamadou Ka, a shopkeeper in Gabon who had been deported to Senegal, explained. “We are all Africans...It is necessary to have a policy of integration, of free circulation.”

Africans can save the world

European missionaries have preached love and fellowship to all men and women. Europe's pull factor is easily understood by a variety of reasons such as its human rights proclamations and its calls for universal moral values so should we be surprised when many actually take them at their word and put those worthy promises to an ethical test.  

Migration is part of the human journey since homo sapiens started moving out of the Rift Valley in Africa but many people have a selective reading of history. Have the Italians forgot how their emigrants practically created nations such as Argentina and Uruguay, the Spanish and Portuguese other parts of South and Central America. Have the British forget their export of people to Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Maybe the Dutch have slipped it from their memory of their migrations to South Africa and treks within it. The Chinese have settled all across Asia. The Japanese sought the West Coat of America. And the United States displaced both the original inhabitants of the land and then expanded into other colonist territory in what was once Mexican land.

And Africa?  Its migrations were enforced by violence, whips and chains and not at all voluntary and most definitely not profitable to them or the continent. 

Today, the bulk of Africans looking for opportunities outside their countries go to another African country.

It will be Africa's youth that will keep growing when the rest of the world will be ageing. Many in Europe and elsewhere have difficulty in admitting that the current state welfare in all ageing countries is unsustainable implies a vast overhaul of social and political choices to sustain the economy. A demographic equilibrium is still essential. Social security or pension need young people to be productive workers. That is why Europe will have to come to grips with its need for migrants, as acknowledged by the EU Commission, itelf. Between now and 2050, Africa will double its population. It is likely to generate a much bigger flow of young Africans looking for opportunities in an ageing Europe.

Africa's Rich

According to a study done by AfrAsia Bank and New World Wealth, 163,000 millionaires live on the continent of Africa with a combined wealth of $670 billion (£440bn). The study defines millionaires as persons with net assets worth at least $1m (£650,000).

Thirty per cent of Africa's millionaires reside in South Africa. The South African city of Johannesburg, known as "the city of gold" tops the list as 23, 400 millionaires reside there. South Africa beat all other African countries with three other cities in the top ten: Cape Town (8,900), Durban (2,700) and Pretoria (2,500, according to the report.

Cairo in Egypt had the second most millionaires (10,200), while Lagos, Nigeria had the third most (9,100). 

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Africa and Urban Farming

Inadequate wages have aggravated the situation of many, like Agness Samwenje who lives in Harare’s high density Mufakose suburb, and they have found that turning to urban farming is one way of supplementing their supply of food.

Like jobless 34-year-old Silveira Sinorita from Mozambique who now lives in the Zimbabwean town of Mutare, urban farming has become their job as they battle to feed their families.
“Without employment, I have found that farming here in town is an answer to my food woes at home because I grow my own potatoes, beans, vegetables and fresh maize cobs, whose surplus I then sell,” Sinorita told IPS. 

Pushed to the edge by mounting food deficits, urban farmers in other African countries have even gone beyond mere crop farming. In cities such as Kampala in Uganda and Yaoundé in Cameroon, many urban households are raising livestock, including poultry, dairy cattle and pigs. Urban farming is mushrooming in Africa’s towns and cities. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), more than 800 million people around the world practise urban agriculture and it has helped cushion them against rising food costs and insecurity.

However, urban farming in Africa is often met with opposition from the authorities where land is owned by local municipalities and agricultural experts say that opposing it makes no sense in the face of growing food insecurity.
“Poverty is not sparing even people living in the cities because jobs are getting scarce on the continent and as a result, farming in cities is fast becoming a common trend as people battle to supplement their foods, this despite urban farming being prohibited in towns and cities here,” government agricultural officer Norman Hwengwere told IPS. Zimbabwe’s local authority by-laws prohibit farming on vacant municipal land.

FAO has also reported that Africa’s market gardens are the most threatened by the continent’s growth spurt because they are typically not regulated or supported by governments, and a recent study has called for governments to become more involved. A 2011 research study titled ‘Growing Potential: Africa’s Urban Farmers’, Anna Plyushteva, a PhD student at University College London, argues that greater government involvement is needed for urban agriculture to emerge out of marginality and illegality and deliver greater environmental and social benefits.
“Without official regulation, urban farming can create some serious problems. At present, informal farmers and their produce are exposed to contamination with organic and non-organic pollutants, which is a serious threat to public health,” said Plyushteva.

Zambian development expert Mulubwa Nakalonga, the more people flock to cities, the more pressure they add to the limited resources there.
“There is increased rural-to-urban migration in Africa as people seek better employment opportunities which, however, they rarely find and subsequently turn to farming on open pieces of land in towns in order for them to survive because they have no money to buy foodstuffs,” Nakalonga told IPS. “Often when people migrate from rural areas anywhere here in Africa, they cling to their agricultural heritage of practices through urban agriculture which you see many practising in towns today to evade hunger,” Nakalonga added.

In the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam, for example, urban gardens in some communities resemble those found in the country’s rural areas from which people migrated. Despite the opposition elsewhere, some African cities are nevertheless supporting the urban farming trend. The Cape Town local authority in South Africa, for example, introduced its first urban agriculture policy document in 2007, focusing on the importance of urban agriculture for poverty alleviation and job creation.

FAO projects that there will be 35 million urban farmers in Africa by 2020, it is supporting programmes in some countries to capitalise on the benefits. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, FAO’s Urban Horticulture Programme is building on the skills of rural farmers who have come to the cities. The FAO programme in DRC started in response to the country’s massive rural-to-urban exodus following a five-year conflict and now helps local urban farmers to produce 330,000 tons of vegetables each year, while providing employment and income for 16,000 small-scale market gardeners in the country’s towns and cities. The country’s urban farmers sell 90 percent of what they produce in urban markets and supermarkets, according to FAO, helping to feed a swelling urban population as Congolese flee the countryside in search of security.

In the Kenyan capital Nairobi, various groups and agencies have helped popularise the “vertical farm in a bag” concept in which city dwellers create their own gardens using tall sacks filled with soil from which plant life grows. With hunger hitting both rural and urban African dwellers hard, an increasing number of them believe that urban farming is the way to go.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Political Power

On 16 August 2012, 34 striking miners were shot dead by police at the British-owned Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, north of Johannesburg. Rock drill operators earning 5,000 rand ($421) per month were demanding parity with workers earning 12,000 rand ($1,046) per month at the nearby Impala platinum mine. Less than a week after setting down their tools, the police opened fire.

The Right Reverend Rubin Phillip, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Natal, said: ‘And so again, the truth of our country is in dead black bodies littering the ground. The truth of our time is that people asserting their rights and dignity have been brought down in a hail of bullets… Has nothing changed in our place, when its truth remains that the armed might of the state acts for the elite of powerful and wealthy, and against our people?”

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Fighting Capitalism in Ghana

A study that used the Gini coefficient index in its measurement of the extent to which the distribution of income deviates from a perfect line of equality carried out in 2014 by the Ghana Mine Workers has revealed that 90 per cent of mine workers share of wage income is less than 10 per cent of the highest paid person. Such a wide disparity in wage inequality, according to Mr Prince William Ankrah, the General Secretary of the Union, had been a long held view in the mining industry of Ghana which the study had confirmed.

Mr Ankrah said:”The reward for labour in the mining industry in Ghana and for that matter Africa should not only be just wages but fair and equitable wages. “We have trumpeted this injustice and discrimination on many platforms but very little attention has been received. Responses from the industry’s stakeholders have been hypocritical or at best rhetoric,” he said adding on the international front comparing with their peers like South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and Namibia all in Africa, Ghanaian workers were short-changed in every aspects. The Union, he said, wanted stakeholders and the world to know that “the discrimination, the alienation and the injustice must stop…To us, the dawn of a new struggle is beckoning and the Union is prepared to heed the call to change the destinies of its members.”

Mr Kwarko Mensah Gyakari, the National Chairman of the Union, said the unacceptable level of income inequality and uneven remuneration system that had persisted for a long time was a dangerous threat to the stability and sustainability of the industry. He said another worrying phenomenon creeping into the industry at a faster pace, which needed urgent response, was the issue of massive outsourcing of work. “Today, employment in the industry is fast transforming from long and permanent status to a more precarious fixed term contract and casual work. Currently, some labour brokers whose only duty is to facilitate employment have turned themselves into employers and abusing workers’ rights. We want to caution such organisations to end the practice now or face the wrath of the Union.”

Confirming this, Mr Kofi Asamoah, the Secretary General of the Ghana Trades Union Congress, said in the last three decades despite a revamping of the mining industry, mining employment had declined and mining technology had become less labour intensive. He said however that given the current fiscal regime in the mining industry, one surest way for Ghana to retain significant amount of the mining rent would be through the wages and salaries that were paid to mine workers. “Rather, mine workers in Ghana are paid on the basis of so-called purchasing power parity in which compensation in the mines is pegged to the costs of living in Ghana. And the assumption is that Ghana has relatively low costs of living compared to other major mining countries.”

Socialist Banner applauds every effort by workers to resist employers and urges all to join and strengthen the trade union movement. But why stop at what Marx described “limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.”

“They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto: “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!” they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: “Abolition of the wages system!"