Friday, September 30, 2016

Prophets and profits

Born-again churches in Africa are becoming ever more popular, politically powerful, and lucrative.

Pentecostalism has a long history in Uganda and Africa more broadly, but it was in the 1980s and 1990s that the religion started to grow particularly rapidly, often pushed by churches in the US. Preaching a strongly evangelical version of Protestantism that emphasises personal contact with God and the power of divine healing, Pentecostal churches popped up all across sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the World Christian Database, nearly half of all Nigerian and South African Christians were Pentecostal by 2010, while the movement accounted for the majority of Christians in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Estimations are difficult to make, but the organisation claims that there are now a colossal 400 million born-again Christians in Africa.

Many individual pastors have even become superstars. Some have started up television and radio stations that broadcast to large populations, and on the back of donations, have become enormously wealthy. Pastor David Oyedepo, for instance, is reportedly worth $150 million; Chris Oyakhilome is believed to be worth up to $50 million; and TB Joshua’s wealth is estimated at around $15 million.

“It is nothing new that some preachers in Africa are using the Bible through its scriptures to coerce their audiences to pay lots of money, saying whatever they give, will be given back to them,” says Margaret G. Gecaga, a Professor in Philosophy and Religious Studies at Kenyatta University. “For some preachers, the more money you sow in church, the more blessings you get, but this is done because many innocent church followers think God speaks through these pastors and they have to obey God’s voice.”

Many worshippers across the continent have lost large sums of money to Pentecostal churches, and many citizens blame governments for failing to better protect churchgoers against exploitation. However, it should be noted that another aspect of the rise of Pentecostalism has been the growing political power of these churches, which have used their popularity, wealth, and sometimes support from US churches to exert influence.

Ahead of Uganda’s elections this year, for example, many of the country’s pastors – under the umbrella body National Fellowship of Born-Again Churches – held massive prayer conferences and rallies in which they endorsed President Yoweri Museveni, calling him “God’s gift to Uganda”.

Furthermore, Pentecostal churches in Uganda have become powerful political actors in shaping debate and driving policy, with influential figures such as a First Lady Janet Museveni and Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga known to be close to leading churches. The passing of Uganda’s notorious anti-gay bill, for example, was widely seen as a “gift” to the churches.

A Nigerian food crisis

Famine-like conditions in the former stronghold of Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria could kill 75,000 children over the next year if they do not receive aid, the UN children’s agency said on Thursday. “The 75,000 is from the three states - Borno, Yobe and Adamawa,” said UNICEF spokesman Patrick Rose. The agency has said 400,000 children aged under five would suffer from severe acute malnutrition in those states, and more than four million people faced severe food shortages in the region. UNICEF also said it had increased the sum sought in its humanitarian appeal to help malnourished children in the region, to $115 million - more than double the previous amount of $55 million. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fact of the Day

In sub-Saharan Africa, where only 16 percent of roads are paved and 24 percent of people have access to electricity,

Containing the Cartels

Six of the world’s biggest container shipping companies were raided by South African on suspicion of colluding to inflate rates between Asia and South Africa, the country’s Competition Commission said. The companies under investigation are involved in the transportation of cargo for import and export purposes across the globe‚ including South Africa. They use large metal containers as packaging crates and in-transit warehouses to store and transport general cargo such as frozen foods‚ garments and footwear.

The development comes as global container lines struggle in the worst-ever market conditions, caused by a glut of ships and slowing global trade, which has battered earnings and forced at least one out of business. The six companies raided comprise local subsidiaries of Denmark’s Maersk, Swiss-headquartered Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), France’s CMA CGM Shipping, Germany’s Hamburg Sud, Singapore-based Pacific International Line and Maersk unit Safmarine, the commission said in a statement. It said the firms were suspected of engaging in collusive practices to fix incremental rates on the shipment of cargo from Asia to South Africa.

“Any cartel by shipping liners in this region results in inflated prices for cargo transportation,” Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said. 

In July, EU antitrust regulators accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines. 

United States of Africa

In July 2016, Idris Deby, the Chairperson of the African Union and President of the Republic of Chad, and Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, received the first AU passports. The full roll-out of the passport for ordinary citizens is slated for the end of 2018. The AU is, however, pushing for citizens of its member states to have the possibility of travelling and staying visa- free in member states for up to 30 days before the formal rollout of the AU passports in 2018.

Is the idea of a common passport a pathway to the United States of Africa

The idea behind a common passport is to make it possible for all African citizens to be able to travel throughout the continent without visas.  In fact, a report by African Development Bank on visa openness found that only 13 out of 55 African countries allow all Africans to enter their countries either without a visa or to get visa on arrival.

Proponents of a common African passport argue that it will foster regional integration in Africa. The argument is that free movement of people along the lines of what the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECWOAS.)

"Free" Trade ?

 Six African countries who had been threatened with losing access to the European single market have finally agreed to sign the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). But the continent may suffer as a result. In July, the EU had upped the pressure on six African governments, threatening to suspend their single market access if they had not ratified the new agreements by 1 October.

 Faced with a tax on their EU exports if they failed to cooperate, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Kenya all finally agreed to ratify their Economic Partnership Agreements.  

Kenya’s Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Adan Mohamed, said that if he had allowed the EU’s October ultimatum to pass, “Kenyan products would have become un-competitive on the European market, as they would have been taxed at 22%”.

The EPA, obliges it to progressively open its own market to European products.

Critics say the dice are weighted in favour of the EU. The loss of customs revenue, coupled with competition from European products arriving on less development markets, is a major cause for concern.

Wage Drop in South Africa

South African workers took home much smaller disposable salaries in August 2016 than they did in August 2015, as inflation accelerated but growth in wages slowed.

The BankservAfrica disposable salary index, released on Wednesday, shows employees took home 2.5% less in August than a year earlier — the third consecutive month of declines in real disposable salaries. "For the first eight months, real take-home salaries declined by 0.4%," it said.

"While workers received salary increases in nominal terms, the real value for these ended up being lower due to the higher rate of inflation," BankservAfrica head of knowledge and risk services Caroline Belrose said.

The Palm Oil Land-grab

Palm oil is the planet's new "super oil and  is present in about half of all products in supermarkets in Germany. It's in cakes, margarine, make-up and ice cream. It is also used as a bio-diesel in the European Union (EU). The global consumption of palm oil is growing and is forecasted to continue to grow.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that consumption will double by 2050. The oil is versatile and is cheaper to produce than other plant oils such as canola or sunflower. So it is not surprising that investment in palm oil is climbing. However, the oil is controversial. Sierra Leone possesses massive amounts of land where oil palm production could thrive and a government that is willing to hand over this land to investors for not that much money.

When a multinational palm oil company expanded into Sierra Leone, rainforests were leveled and local livelihoods disappeared. Some say that this is the price of development while others want their land back.

"People say that even our elders want to give the land away," said Crespo. "They also say that the company has also offered to buy our lands as well. But then we would be suffering just like the people from Sahn Malen." In Sahn Malen, oil palm plantations dominate the landscape with their low, uniform shape for as far as the eye can see. "All of this land was taken by the company," said Crespo, "all of it."

Socfin, which is registered in Switzerland but has its headquarters in Belgium, in the past four years has planted 12,432 hectacre (30,720 acres) of oil palms in Sierra Leone. The company came to Sahn Malen in 2012 and leased swaths of land. It planted oil palms and built an ultra-modern processing plant. Before Socfin arrived, farmers used to grow palm oil but also cocoa, cassava, potatoes, pineapples, beans and rice. Most were able to provide for their daily needs with their own harvests. But these times have passed since the local chief sided with the newcomers.

"The chief pressured us to sell our lands," said Fascia. "We did not have a choice. Even if we said no, he still handed it over." said Fascias in Kasseh, a village in Sahn Malen. When the bulldozers came, Fascia stood in front of her house and was able to save this small plot of fertile land that helped feed her family and send her children to school. She is the only one in the whole village who did so.

Mattia Limbe, one of the founders of the Malen Land Owners Association (MALOA) which formed after protests against Socfin in 2012 said there is another reason why the people are quiet. "My people are scared," he said. "The chief would not tolerate any opposition," said Mattia. Many people are scared of being arrested so they meet in secret. Mattia has already been arrested numerous times.

The spread of palm oil plantations is a threat to rainforests and the indigenous people who live there. Greenpeace has been warning for years against the clear-cutting of rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for palm oil. More recently they have expanded their warnings to Africa.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Somalia's Tragedy

The UN just announced that due to drought and famine over 300,000 Somali children are suffering from severe malnutrition. This means that over 100 children are already dying everyday from starvation. Soon the number will reach many hundreds a day, bringing back memories of the most recent Great Horn of Africa drought in 2011-12 when the UN admitted that 250,000, almost entirely children, died from starvation. And this drought and famine is worse.

The reason so many Somali children are starving to death is triggered by the latest climate disaster in the form of the El Nino drought. But the fact that Somalia itself, this meaning from the former capital Mogadishu south to the Kenyan border, is in a state of foreign occupation and war is exacerbating the situation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Protecting oil business not nature

The British government has offered support to a multi-billion pound plan to drill for oil in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. The UN has cautioned against drilling for oil in national parks due to the potential damage to ecosystems and the well-being of people living nearby.

The project, involving British company Tullow Oil; French firm Total and Chinese oil company CNOOC, could see dozens of wells drilled in Murchison Falls national park in Uganda. Tullow, together with its partners, would be investing $8 billion and drilling 500 wells in the three blocks, over the next 25 years. The park is home to one of the last remaining populations of the world’s most endangered species of giraffe, leading to warnings by experts that if the park is damaged the species could be at risk. Damage to the park has already occurred. The most intensive development lies within Exploration Area 1 (EA1), operated on behalf of the group by Total. Seventy percent of EA1 overlaps with the national park, including savannah habitat used by the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, lions and elephants.

Small scale but irreparable damage has already occurred to the park as a result of a geological survey. An ecological compliance study found 283 instances of damage, 159 of which were found to be “non-restorable”. This included oil leakage; damage to trees and riverbanks and the destruction of termite mounds.

British trade officials have classed Tullow’s operations in the park as an “opportunity” worth over £1bn to UK businesses and have been keen to offer the firm financial backing. The government has held talks with Tullow about providing UK taxpayer-backed loans and insurance for its operations in the country.

Uganda is not the only example of British firms wishing to drill in national parks and other protected areas. British companies hold the rights to explore for oil in national parks and protected areas all over sub-Saharan Africa. Six British companies hold exploration licences covering at least 29 protected sites in eight countries.

This trend is at odds with the position of international institutions.

 A UN Environment spokesperson warned that: “Highly protected areas are protected because of their ecological value or vulnerability. In common with all industrial activity, mineral activity in such areas has the potential to impact this value adversely and/or enhance vulnerability with serious consequences to both biodiversity and human well-being.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN has a strict “no-go” policy regarding mining activities in protected areas. Kathy MacKinnon, Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas said the organisation: “encourages responsible companies not to seek exploration and production concessions within protected areas.”

Irene Ssekyana of Kampala-based NGO Greenwatch Uganda, stated, “It is a very sensitive ecosystem. We’re talking about a globally important area of biodiversity that supports a vibrant tourism industry. The government says they are going to minimise the footprint of the activities, but it’s not very convincing… as long as issues of corruption and governance are not dealt with, I do not think that the ordinary Ugandan will benefit…”

Tullow has refused to rule out drilling in protected areas, although it said it does have a policy against drilling in world heritage sites. The firm holds oil licence blocks overlapping 15 protected areas in Africa, said: “We don’t rule out drilling in protected areas full stop.” According to Tullow 40% of Uganda’s oil lies beneath Murchison Falls national park.

Fact of the Day (Zimbabwe poverty)

More than 70 percent of Zimbabweans are living in poverty, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said.

Millions of Zimbabweans have fled the country to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, with others going abroad where they are doing menial jobs after industry collapsed, rendering millions jobless and hungry.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Food Power

As a young university student of agriculture, Edie Mukiibi believed the latest hybrid seeds which promised bumper crops were the answer to improving the lot of maize farmers in his part of Uganda. He persuaded many to buy the seeds, while working part-time promoting them in Kiboga district in central Uganda. But the consequences were "terrible", he said. It was 2007, a year of drought, and the new seeds turned out to be less resilient than traditional varieties. "The farmers lost almost everything - every bit of maize crop they had. When I went back to talk with the farmers I could feel their pain," Mukiibi said. Even worse, the new crops could not be grown with any other crops, so the farmers were left with nothing to fall back on except the bills they had run up for the pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers the maize required, he said. "This is when I started working with farmers ... to diversify their farming," said Mukiibi, now vice president of Slow Food International, a grassroots movement of farmers, chefs, activists and academics campaigning to improve the quality of food and the lives of producers.

Large companies are increasingly taking charge of food production in Africa and pushing for greater quantities of food - but these are not the answer to cutting hunger in Africa, he said. "We need to encourage small-scale producers that they are still important in the world of food," he said, adding that thousands in Uganda have lost access to land bought by foreign companies producing food for export.

“We need to think more about the real causes of malnutrition in developing countries, and we need to realise the problem is not production, the problem is how do we keep the food we have in circulation."

Traditionally, Ugandan farms grow different crops on the same piece of land. Five acres may be planted with coffee and in between the coffee plants, bananas and cocoa are grown, as well as yams and beans for the family to eat, he said. The crops support each other - in times of drought coffee plants extend their roots to banana plants which naturally hold more water, he added. "This is a very, very productive farming system in Africa." 

In Africa, food lost during or after harvest could feed 300 million people, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. People can go hungry in one part of Uganda while bananas are rotting in the fields and in stores in another part.

Population Projections

The world’s population of 7.4 billion is growing at 1.1 percent per year – about half the peak level of the late 1960s. The sizeable differences in rates of future population growth are primarily due to the level of fertility.
29 countries whose populations are expected to at least double by the middle of the 21st century.
38 countries whose populations are expected to be smaller by the middle of the 21st century.

The decliner’s proportion of the world’s population is projected to fall from close to 30 percent today to nearly 20 percent by the year 2050. The country with the most rapid decline among the decliners is Bulgaria (27 percent), followed by Romania (22 percent), Ukraine (21 percent) and Moldova (20 percent). China, is expected to decrease by more than 2 percent by 2050, with the Chinese population peaking in less than a decade. Other large populations projected to experience demographic declines by midcentury are Japan (15 percent), Russia (10 percent), Germany (8 percent) and Italy (5 percent). Moreover, some of the decliners have already experienced population decline for a number of years in the recent past, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. The population projections for the decliners assume some immigration in the future. For some decliner countries, such as Italy, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Spain and Russia, immigration lessens the expected declines in their future populations. For example, while Italy’s population with assumed immigration is projected to decline by 5 percent by mid-century, without immigration Italy’s projected population would fall to 13 percent.

The doublers are nearly all located in sub-Saharan Africa. The largest countries among the doublers are Nigeria (187 million), followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (80 million) and Tanzania (55 million). The largest doubler population, Nigeria, is expected to increase by 112 percent, reaching just under 400 million by 2050 and thereby displacing the United States as the world’s third largest country after India and China. The Democratic Republic of the Congo whose population of 80 million is projected to increase by 145 percent, or an additional 116 million people, bringing its total midcentury population to nearly 200 million.

Today the doublers together account for 10 percent of the world’s population.
By 2050, however, due to the doublers’ rapid rates of demographic growth that proportion is expected to increase to 18 percent of the world’s projected population of nearly 10 billion people.
Among the doublers the country with the most rapid increase is Niger, whose population of 21 million is expected to double by the year 2034 and to experience a 250 percent increase by mid-century, more than tripling its population to 72 million. Other countries with substantial increases of 150 percent or more are Zambia, Angola, Uganda and Mali.

Doublers are generally migrant-sending countries, while many of the decliners are migrant-receiving countries. Given the onerous living conditions for most of the populations in doubler countries, growing numbers of young adults are turning to both legal and illegal migration to wealthier developed countries, many of which are also decliner countries. Few of the decliners are prepared to accept large-scale immigration, particularly from doubler countries, to address labor force shortages and population aging concerns. As is being increasingly reported, some decliners are erecting barriers, fences and walls to deter unauthorized immigration, while others remain resolutely averse to a sizeable foreign population taking hold within their borders. However, as has been repeatedly demonstrated throughout world demographic history, rapidly growing populations are not easily confined to within borders, eventually traversing deserts, mountains, rivers and seas and spreading out across continents.

The median fertility rate among the 29 doubler countries is 5.3 births per woman, ranging from a low of 4.4 in Kenya to a high of 7.6 in Niger. In contrast, fertility levels among the 38 decliner countries all fall below the replacement level of about two children, with the median fertility rate being 1.5 births per woman. Countries that are approximately a half child below the replacement level include China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia and Spain. Many of the decliners have already passed through the historic reversal, or the demographic point where the number of elderly aged 65 and older exceeds the number of children below age 15 years. The median ages for half of the decliners are above 40 years, with the oldest being Japan, Germany and Italy at 46 years. With the proportion of elderly increasing and more of them living longer, often many years beyond retirement, governments of the decliner countries are particularly concerned about escalating costs for social security, pensions, health and care giving. Options to address those fiscal issues include raising official retirement ages, increasing taxes, redirecting government revenues and reducing benefits. Many decliner countries, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Spain, are attempting to alter their projected demographic futures by raising their low fertility levels in hopes of mitigating population decline and perhaps even achieving near population stabilization. Moving to replacement level fertility by encouraging women to have additional children, however, has proved to be difficult and generally not successful.

Doublers face serious development challenges in meeting the basic needs of their rapidly growing and very young populations. The median ages of the doubler countries are all below 20 years, with the youngest being Niger (15 years), Uganda (16), Chad (16), Angola (16), Mali (16) and Somali (16). Many doubler countries, such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger and Uganda, are now facing food shortages. Providing sufficient foods for their rapidly growing populations is expected to be considerably more difficult in the years ahead.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Capitalism kills

Economic hardship is leading to a rise in the suicide rate in Nigeria. The current economic crisis in Nigeria has forced businesses to close. This crisis has now trickled down to the ordinary man and woman. Many are now living below the poverty line which leads to anxiety, depression, and frustration.

Maru Godwin Worlu, an economist and lecturer at the Port Harcourt Polytechnic in Rivers State, said the difficulties are being felt in every corner of the country. He went on to recount the story of a woman with three children who was forced to beg for money to feed them. One day she had had enough and went and bought sleeping pills and gave them to the children. "All three children died in their sleep. They just died," he said.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Who polices the police?

Amnesty International said it had investigated facilities run by the Nigerian police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and found multiple cases where “confessions” were allegedly obtained through torture, where people who had not been charged with any crime were claimed to be beaten and starved, and where suspects were detained for months longer than the maximum 48 hours defined in Nigeria’s constitution.

A specialist police unit that was set up to tackle Nigeria’s alarming rise in violent crime has instead become a hotbed for alleged corruption, where suspects are claimed to be detained in horrific conditions and tortured until they or their relatives can pay for their freedom, according to their report.

The unit has become seen as a comfortable posting in the police force where officers allegedly know they can “earn a substantial amount of money in a short time”, in part through extortion and in part through the theft of valuables from suspects.

Somalia's food crisis

Nearly five million people in Somalia are suffering from a shortage of food due to poor rainfall, floods and displacement, the United Nations says.

More than 300,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished and require urgent assistance.

Malnutrition levels in Somalia have increased over the last six months with nearly half the population affected.

The number of people without enough food has increased by 300,000 since February.

Funding for the Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan has reached just 32% of its target.

The numbers could go higher if the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya is closed down and thousands are forced to return to Somalia where they have no homes or livelihoods.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Capitalism profits from the rag trade

Around the developed world many thousands altruistically donate their unwanted used clothing to charity. But a number of countries Africa are fed up with the onslaught of second-hand items they receive from Western non-profits and wholesalers, and want to ban such imports altogether. The global wholesale used clothing trade is valued at about $3.7 billion. Suppliers like Global Clothing Industries, for example, solely send and ship used clothing, shoes and other items overseas. GCI exports to 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America. Even nonprofits like Oxfam and Salvation Army aren’t giving away secondhand clothes for free. When supporters drop off unwanted goods, those organizations often deliver donated clothing to the developing world and sell them to traders. They, in turn, sell the items in their local markets

In 2014, a handful of East African countries imported more than $300 million worth of secondhand clothing from wealthy countries. The used items have created a robust market in East Africa and thereby a decent amount of jobs. But experts say the vast amount of these imports have devastated local clothing industries and led the region to rely far too heavily on the West. Uganda alone imported 1,261 tons of worn clothing and other items from the U.S. last year. And secondhand garments make up 81 percent of all clothing purchases there.

In March, the East African Community (EAC), which is made up of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, proposed banning all imported used clothing and shoes by 2019. The goal is to stop relying on imports from rich nations, boost local manufacturing and create new jobs. However, the law is unlikely to pass. There is resistance from the U.S., which unloads hordes of secondhand clothes all over the world, and from sellers in East Africa whose livelihood depends on these shipments, as well as from experts who think an outright ban won’t be enough for these countries to restore production at home. Deborah Malac, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda warned that enacting it would “negatively impact” the benefits Uganda gets from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which aims to expand U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa in order to stimulate economic growth in the region. That law also gives African countries duty-free access to the U.S. apparel market. To qualify and remain eligible, each country must make an effort to improve its rule of law, human rights and respect for core labor standards.

Once these discarded clothes hit East African shores, they sell for extremely low prices: For example, a pair of used jeans can be as little as $1.50 in the Gikomba Market, East Africa’s biggest secondhand clothing market, located in Nairobi, Kenya.  Rock-bottom prices make locally made clothes look too expensive by comparison, Joseph Nyagari of the African Cotton & Textiles Industries Federation told Think Progress last year. “The average cost of a secondhand garment is between five and 10 percent of a new garment made in Kenya, so local industries can’t compete,” he said.

In the early 1990s, Kenya had about 110 large-scale garment manufacturers. By 2006, that number dropped to 55, the study found. 10 years on, and East Africa is still limited in its production of clothing and textiles. Kenya currently has just 15 textile mills, according to Fashion Revolution, a U.K.-based group that promotes sustainable clothing manufacturing. The Uganda Manufacturers Associations has about 30 garment and footwear producers among its members.

A Malaise in Malawi

The World Atlas ranked Malawi as the poorest country in the world. Just last month, the Center for Strategic & International Studies reported that Malawi is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in its history as widespread maize harvest failures have created massive food shortages. Over half the nation’s population needs food relief to survive through the beginning of next year. In Malawi, poverty and hunger go hand in hand. In many ways, the nation is quite blessed — it has natural resources, a climate that isn’t extreme, a large and bountiful lake, and a peaceful history without threat of war. And still, Malawi forever clings to the top of the list of the world’s poorest countries.

The enemy is not poor maize harvests, poor healthcare, poor education, or even poor government. These are serious problems, but they aren’t the enemy. Thousands of Malawi villages are struggling with water sources that are close to disappearing and food supplies that have already run out. People are starving. Four decades of intervention, and look how far we haven’t come.

The real enemy is how the world tries to help. Specifically:
1. The system that demands foreign aid be funneled through the government or large NGOs
2. The system that creates a hierarchy of aid and government workers whose job security and quality of life depends not on their wanting what is good on the ground, but pleasing whoever is above them in rank
3. The system that discriminates against on-the-ground, local initiatives because of a lack academic credentials, English-speaking skills, and the ability to complete unwieldy applications and fulfill misguided metric targets

If Malawi is to win the war against poverty, it needs to face the truth and admit that the system has not not worked in Malawi.  In a country where local government clinics have no malaria medicines because it all gets siphoned off before it reaches the people on the ground, isn’t it crazy to stick to a system that hasn’t worked for decades? The world helps Malawi’s hungry population by distributing hundreds of thousands of bags of food. It’s a shame that the system is too unwieldy to accommodate a long-term, local, and low cost solution, no matter how well it has proven to work.

Who owns the ocean?

For years, Kenya and Somalia have argued over where their maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean runs. The International Court of Justice in The Hague could now decide who owns the sea, a decision that will only suit one. A narrow triangle off the coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, about 100,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles), is the bone of contention.

For Kenya, however, the boundary is quite clear. It lies line parallel to the line of latitude. That gives Kenya the larger share of the maritime area and it has already sold mining licenses to international companies. But Somalia disagrees. It wants the boundary to extend to the southeast as an extension of the land border.

In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The court represents one way of solving border conflicts in maritime areas if bilateral or regional attempts fail. Somalia wants the ICJ to define the boundary as laid down by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international sea laws. In disputed cases, a temporary boundary is drawn along a line that is at the same distance from both coastlines, if there are no physical obstacles to this. A test period is then implemented to see if this boundary is fair to both sides or if it benefits or disadvantages one or the other.

Kenya's government, however, is sticking to its preferred border demarcation. For nearly 100 years, it had considered this line to be its border.

Timothy Walter, a maritime border conflict researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa, explains, “Both countries could share the area and the mining of raw materials.. He said there is a good example in West Africa, where Nigeria and the archipelago of Sao Tome and Principe teamed up to produce oil. But for Somalia and Kenya, Walker does not see any chance. "Both countries do not want to make any compromise when it comes to their own sovereign rights. That can change, of course, but at the moment, it looks like an either-or decision."

Experts like Walker are observing a growing trend for states, especially in Africa, to take an interest in setting their maritime borders. Walker calls it the "end of the sea-blindness."
He says "Most African states lack a substantial navy or a coastguard and many conflicts have spilled over land boundaries or land borders. So historically, there has always been a focus on what is happening on land. Now, that's changing because what we can see more and more is the resources from the sea are more accessible now through better technological processes," Walker said. 

To the west of the continent, Ghana and Ivory Coast are engaged in a similar conflict about their boundary in the Atlantic Ocean. The two countries are currently awaiting a decision by the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea, an alternative to the International Court of Justice, which resolves border disputes between conflicting countries.

East African neighbors Malawi and Tanzania also have a boundary dispute, this time located in a lake. Lake Malawi borders Tanzania and holds huge amounts of oil deposits. But the colonial-era border for Tanzania ends on the bank of the lake.

End Xenophobia

Xenophobia doesn’t exist in isolation. It needs social problems and economic hardship to flourish. In many parts of Africa, xenophobia is not necessarily an immigration issue.

 Discrimination can stem from linguistic, ethnic, and religious differences among a state’s own citizens. For example, migrants from Zambia may be relatively welcome in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga Province, where they share ethno-linguistic connections with local people, while Congolese nationals from elsewhere in the country have been violently excluded.
 In South Africa, a country that has received some of the world’s highest numbers of asylum seekers, about a third of those killed in ‘xenophobic’ violence are citizens from elsewhere in the country. Xenophobia feeds on perceptions, and one of the most enduring is that South Africa is flooded with “foreigners” – code for non-white migrants, more specifically other Africans.

And in Kenya, citizens of Somali descent often bear the brunt of police discrimination along with refugees from Somalia. While immigration can certainly exacerbate tensions or bring its own dynamics, broader patterns of mobility and exclusion are an important part of the problem.

Whether aimed at addressing exclusion of ‘local’ minorities or international migrants, anti-xenophobia campaigns must account for the reality that the most violent and fraught displays of xenophobia are often rooted in local – state, municipal, or even neighbourhood – battles for land, jobs, or political office. For example, South Africa’s highly visible 2008 xenophobic attacks, which killed more than 60 people in the space of two weeks, were in part a response to state policy widely perceived as being too welcoming to Zimbabwean migrants. This response was not led by national political parties, but by local gang leaders, councillors, and shopkeepers who mobilised to further their own interests.

 Similarly, across Europe and the US, politicians often employ hateful talk in an effort to win elections.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Madness of the Market

Fifty years ago, President Jomo Kenyatta’s administration, with aid from donors, lured hundreds of thousands of farmers in western Kenya and Nyanza to grow sugar cane under contract. That smallholder cane farming is an experiment that went wrong is the untold story of western Kenya and Nyanza. The failure is something few technocrats and politicians want to admit. The government has continued to pour billions of shillings into the sector — trapping more farmers in a poverty cycle while still hoping that a solution will be found. It was hoped that this would give the regions’ peasant farmers a cash crop that could lift them out of poverty. The pioneer crop of farmers have since passed their farms on to the next generation. Sadly, however, the second generation farmers have nothing to show for their inheritance. Yet, merchants have grown wealthy from the proceeds of the crop.

Martin Wakhu’s life is anything but sweet — and all because he is a sugarcane farmer who has over the years invested his time and effort in the thankless, cashless cash-crop. Mr Wakhu’s mud-walled and grass-thatched hut is all he can show after growing sugarcane for over eight years. Like many of his age-mates, Mr Wakhu’s poverty exhibits the kind of economic havoc and helplessness that a new generation of cane growers is inheriting by growing a crop that has zero-returns for farmers, but which has nevertheless created multi-millionaires within the distribution chain. Farmers like Mr Wakhu are a sad reminder of a dream deferred and an experiment that went wrong. Farmers keep on grappling with low economic returns, high costs of inputs, poor roads and delayed payments. Mr Wakhu remain trapped in the sugar conundrum as factories are left with little or no cane to crush.

Mumias, so far the largest miller in Kenya with about 66,000 registered outgrowers, is only doing 20 per cent of its total capacity as it struggles with a biting cane shortage. Although the company produces about 50 per cent of the domestic sugar output, it continues to run up losses. It survives largely on government bailouts.

Smallholder plots were supposed to mimic large plantations in South Africa, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. Today, Kenya imports sugar from these four nations — thanks to its heavy reliance on smallholder production and ageing factories. Kenya produces sugar at Sh95,000 per tonne on average, meaning that sugar from its mills is more expensive than its equivalent from Sudan, Egypt, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. Malawi’s average production cost is Sh35,000 per tonne.

With the disorganisation in the fields, farmers lose either by oversupplying or undersupplying factories. The entry of sugar barons has not helped either. They lose either way because when there is undersupply, the factories don’t make much and can’t pay them and when there is an oversupply, harvesting is not done on time and cane is delivered when it has no value.

Never Again

When one Jewish person is attacked because of his or her identity, the entire Jewish community feels assaulted. They do not forget the holocaust. People of African origins have suffered far more than any ethnic or social group since the beginning of time. But they are yet to develop their version of “never again” frame of mind. Jewish people have absolutely zero tolerance for anti-semitism.

People of African origins have suffered far more than any ethnic or social group since the beginning of time. Centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, Apartheid, just to name a few. When it comes to slavery, the most widely quoted figure is the 10.5 million slaves who made it to the Americas. The nearly 5 million who perished during the slave raids in Africa and at sea on their way to America are often forgotten. According to a recent study by the Equal Justice Initiative, nearly 4000 Blacks were lynched by a mob and hanged from a tree in the US, years after the 13th amendment of the US Constitution abolished slavery.

Africans are yet to develop their version of “never again” frame of mind. Africans tolerate racial injustice.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Support Swaziland Strikers

Riot police in Swaziland are under fire for using rubber bullets and teargas against striking workers. A strike at Swaziland Plantation has entered its second month amid clashes between police and workers.

Swaziland Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union (SAPWU) Chairperson Sibusiso Masuku told the Swazi Observer newspaper the police had taken a violent stance against the workers. Masuku explained, 'The riot police are just pawns used by the Plantation Forest Company administration to fight against us, we feel safer when they are not present as we do not understand their way of thinking.' 

In June 2015, Swaziland was listed as one of the top ten worst countries in the world for workers' rights. It was grouped alongside some of the worst human rights violators on the planet, including Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tragedy in South Sudan

The number of people who have fled South Sudan because of the country's civil war has passed the one million mark.

More than 1.6 million people are also displaced within South Sudan

Which means about 20% of South Sudan’s population have been made homeless since December 2013.

Many children have lost one or both of their parents, the UNHCR says.

South Sudan refugees:
Uganda: 373,626 - more than a third of these have arrived since July; 20,000 over last week. New arrivals report fighting in south, attacks on civilians by armed groups, who loot, sexually assault women and girls and recruit boys
Ethiopia: 292,000 - 11,000 crossed into Gambella over the past week. New arrivals are from the Nuer group, including 500 children travelling alone, fearing renewed conflict after seeing troop movements
Sudan: 247,317 - 1,800 arriving each month in White Nile state, floods preventing others
Kenya: 90,000 - 300 a week fleeing insecurity, economic instability and drought

DR Congo: 40,000 - current influx is to Ituri province.

The Monsanto- Bayer Merger

Many experts say that Bayer's takeover of Monsanto may lead to a global monopoly in the production of agricultural supplies. Mariam Mayet, executive director of African Centre for Biodiversity, told DW that the merger could also have negative impact on both farmers and consumers in Africa.
“I think that it will result in one of the largest agribusinesses on the planet, because it will put together one company that will control almost 30 percent of the world's seeds and around quarter of the world's pesticide market. But we must also remember that this merger is part of a bigger consolidation and concentration in the global agriculture input market. As we speak, the deal between ChemChina and Syngenta is being finalized, as well as the merger between Dow and DuPont.

Monsanto already controls much of the high breed maize seed market in Southern Africa, and in parts of west Africa. So in terms of further expansion into the seed market, I think that we will see a greater push into the GM [Genetically Modified] seed market, particularly GM cotton in west Africa.
We will see a bigger push in Southern Africa, where Monsanto controls a higher breed maize market, probably a strengthened push towards GMOs [Genetically Modified Organisms) and also a further push for the GM soya beans market. We anticipate that these renewed economic force and power in Africa, bringing together the seed and agrochemicals industry, will result in a bigger push for African governments to deploy GM technology and the greater use of agrochemicals in African agriculture particularly with maize, soya bean and cotton.

If you look at what happened in Burkina Faso after the failure of BT Cotton, Monsanto's Cotton, cotton seeds companies were more open to doing business with Bayer. Monsanto has a very tainted record in Africa. It has a very bad public relations image because of the way they dismissed consumer concerns. They just have an appalling track record and they are very much hated by consumers and environmentalist across the world. I think that Bayer will want to distance itself from that image but not the product. It's possible that they may give the seed and agriculture chemical component of this conglomerate a new name and a new branding.

Greater consolidation means less choice for farmers and consumers. Less competition always mean greater control by cartels to control the price of seed, high breed seeds and GM seeds. Small-scale farmers are predominant in sub-Saharan Africa. These farmers operate in a very low profit margin. So, a significant change in input cost will have a huge impact on farmers' ability to survive. I think it will also have a greater impact on the downstream market. An increase in the maize seed market will increase the cost of food at the supermarket.

Looking outwards for external inputs will further impoverish Africa and marginalize small-scale farmers. It will also undermine Africa's raw genetic diversity and the strong systems that farmers have built to increase diversity and nutrition security.

Exploiting the Bambuti

The Bambuti people were the original inhabitants of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the oldest national park in Africa. Forbidden from living or hunting inside, the Bambuti now face repression from both park rangers and armed groups. Without access to the forest and to their ancestral lands to hunt and gather, the Bambuti have trouble surviving. Many depend on daily contractual labour from surrounding communities. Muhima Sebazungu, one of Mudja’s community leaders, said that they are starting to forget their traditional knowledge of plants and medicines.

One solution, Patrick Kipalu, of the NGO Forest People’s Program said, would be to recruit them as rangers in protecting the park but the ICCN’s (DRC’sNational Park Authority)  Jean Claude Kyungu said that there are “specific criteria” for recruiting rangers, which the Bambuti do not fulfill, including having a diploma from the state. Norbert Mushenzi, the ICCN’s deputy director of the Virunga National Park, said that the Bambuti have an “intellectual deficiency” and one way for them to benefit from the park is to “sell their cultural products and dances to tourists.” Although official policy under Mobutu’s regime aimed to ‘emancipate’ indigenous people and to consider them no different from other communities, in practice this meant promoting a sedentary lifestyle and agriculture.

A report by Survival International states that forcing “development” on indigenous people has “disastrous” impacts and that the most important factor to their well-being is whether or not their land rights are respected. According to Kipalu, the living conditions of the Bambuti are far worse now than when they were in the forest. “Being landless and living on the lands of other people means that they end up being treated almost as slaves,” he said.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Poisoning the air for profits

Trafigura, Vitol and BP exporting dirty diesel to Africa, says Swiss NGO, Public Eye. Traders blend cheap fuel with sulphur levels sometimes hundreds of times over European limits for sale in African countries.

Major European oil companies and commodity traders are exploiting weak fuel standards in African countries to export highly polluting fuels that they could never sell at the pumps in Europe. When the fuel is burned, the sulphur is released into the atmosphere as sulphur dioxide and other compounds that are major contributors to respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma. Vehicle emissions are a significant contributor to air pollution, which is why in Europe the maximum sulphur content of diesel has been set at 10 parts per million (ppm) since 2009. In parts of Africa, the legal limit on sulphur in diesel is 5,000 ppm.

The high-sulphur fuels also have a knock-on effect, rapidly destroying emission-reducing technologies in vehicles, according to Rob de Jong, the head of the UNEP transport programme. “So if you buy a vehicle that’s a couple of years old and import it into some of the African countries, the technology in there – sensors and filters – all gets spoilt, and these cars, which are potentially very clean, are destroyed in a couple of tanks, and for the next 20 years will be belching smoke,” he said. “It’s important to understand the tragedy of this,” he added. This in turn increases emissions of fine particulate matter, which can lodge deep in the lungs, causing cancers and other health problems.

Air pollution is estimated to have killed more than 17,500 people in Ghana alone in 2013, costing more than $542m in lost labour income, an estimate that doesn’t even include the cost of treating pollution-related disease.

De Jong said suppliers deliberately blended products towards the high end of the nationally imposed sulphur limit to increase their profits. “There’s not much market anymore for high-sulphur fuels. These are really specific batches made for those specific countries.

The companies involved all deny any wrongdoing and say they comply with the law in the countries in which they operate. Public Eye, however, says the result is “regulatory arbitrage” that allows traders and fuel companies to dump cheap, dirty fuels by blending them into other diesel before export, maximising profits at the expense of Africans’ health.

Trafigura made headlines when a ship it had chartered dumped toxic waste in the Ivory Coast a decade ago, and the company’s lawyers attempted to gag the press from reporting on a draft report into the incident. Vitol’s sales last year topped $270bn. Its chief executive, Ian Taylor, is a major Conservative donor.

The militarization of conservation

The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo dates back to 1925 when it was first created as Albert National Park by King Albert of Belgium. The oldest national park in Africa, it was later expanded to include over seven thousand square kilometres of land. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, it is now managed by a private-public partnership between the National Park Authority of the DRC (ICCN) and the EU-funded Virunga Foundation, and is home to about a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas. Congolese farmers living around the Virunga said that the park’s colonial history creates the impression that it was “created by the Mzungu (white man), for the Mzungu.”

After independence, other national parks were established, including Maiko National Park, and Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kivu.  According to the Global Forest Coalition, the creation of national parks led to the eviction of thousands of indigenous people who neither gave their consent nor received compensation for their loss of land. It was, they state, “in violation of international law” and the country’s 1977 law on expropriation for public purposes.

Armed paramilitary rangers from the Virunga National Park are tasked with protecting the park from poachers and trespassers. In Congolese law, human habitation and hunting within the park is forbidden, including for the Bambuti, its original inhabitants. Aggressive conservation activities are part of a widespread trend toward what some researchers call the militarization of conservation, an approach toward protecting nature that is repressive and possibly counterproductive.

“The old school of conservation in the colonial period was ‘people out of the forest’ and ‘it’s a protected area without anyone inside,'" said Patrick Kipalu, the DRC Country Manager for the Forest People’s Program, “When the colonialists left the country, the people who managed those protected areas were trained by the Belgians that conservation should be done without people, in the old-school way. They have kept the same strategies, though the ICCN (National Park Authority of the DRC) is thinking of a conservation strategy which is supposed to include and involve communities.”

The Bambuti living in Mudja said that at times they defy these laws to venture into the park for collecting wood, hunting small animals and gathering non-timber products, but recently it has become more difficult.

“A pygmy cannot live without the park. Before, they could enter secretly,” said Felix Maroy, an agronomist and livestock farmer who works with Bambuti communities. “Since January 2015, the guards are always patrolling the area. And there are other armed groups too, like the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).”

 A 2004 report by a consultant to the World Bank, Dr Kai Schmidt-Soltau, found that the ICCN, along with WWF, claimed to have resettled 35,000 people from an area south-east of Lake Edward through a voluntary process, but that in fact the resettlement was carried out “at gun-point.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

African Atlas (1962) - book review

Book Review from the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

An Atlas of African Affairs by Andrew Boyd and Patrick van Rensburg.

Maps are fascinating things and most of us enjoy browsing over them. Andrew Boyd, in this book and in his Atlas of World Affairs, exploits the technique of selectively drawing maps so that they reveal not only the geography but also the history, of a continent.

This atlas has about 50 maps backed up by a potted history of Africa. Here we can see where the European traders, uninterested in the continent's rich interior, set up their coastal colonies. Here, too, are shown the ancient states of Africa: where in 5.000 B.C. one of the world’s first agricultural systems was developed: where in 300 A.D. the Soninke created Ghana, which throve on the export of slaves and gold to Morocco. The great tribes of modern Ghana claim descent from the inhabitants of the ancient state -  hence the revival of the country's name.

The maps show up the growing European interest in the African hinterland and the scramble for colonies in the late nineteenth century. It is easy enough to appreciate the author’s contention that Africa’s map of frontiers was drawn by Europeans, whose rule lasted for a bare seventy years.

But Africa is more than a bloody history of slavers and colonisers. It is a dark, brooding continent with enormous wealth and great natural barriers of desert and jungle and disease. These are the physical conditions in which the natives and the colonisers must go about their business and which has such a definite effect on that business. The Atlas does not forget this.

A small book, but full of interest and information.


The Hearts of Darkness

The western media have for centuries distorted the image of Africans. And always for the same reasons: to enable the exploitation of Africa’s people, its natural resources, and its strategic location. This is from 'The Hearts of Darkness: How White Writers Created the Racist Image of Africa' by Milton Allimadi (Black Star Books Co., 2016)

“To claim that Africa was some sort of paradise before the arrival of Europeans is false and wishful thinking. There were conflicts and there were also despotic regimes: yet, these do not diminish Africans’ claim to humanity. There were spectacular achievements and there were great civilizations, in Ghana, in Songhay, in Buganda, in Zimbabwe, and in many other areas that predated contact with Europeans.

The portrayal of Africans as superstitious “savages” belied the fact that Europeans themselves were very experienced in some of the practices for which they denigrated Africans. In his book, African Kingdoms (1966), Basil Davidson, a prominent British historian, wrote:
“Africa, long thought of as breeding ground for the occult, was more than matched by Europe, with its own manias for alchemy, astrology and witch-burning. In the 15th century, superstitious parishioners often danced among the graves in churchyards in hopes of protecting themselves from the plague — while the skulls of plague victims peered quizzically at them. During the same period, Germany was burning an average of two witches a day. Europeans, moreover, were constantly duped by promises of miraculous transformations and cures. Elixirs of life, magnets to attract diseases from the body, magic potions and healing fragments of the ‘true cross’ were common. Even such prominent intellectuals as Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon searched relentlessly for the philosopher’s stone, the mystical charm of alchemy, which was supposed to transform dross into gold. Yet, despite all their delusions, Europeans thought of themselves as paragons of dignity and Sensibility — while regarding faraway Africans as frightened primitives and painted witchdoctors.”

The racist characterizations justified and sanitized the crimes committed against Africans, from slavery, through colonialism and through the new-colonialism, now maintained by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.”

Colonialism never went away

Africa’s natural resources are being appropriated by foreign private interests who are leaving a devastating trail of social, environmental and human rights abuses in their wake. Over the past few decades, there has been a new scramble for African resources as foreign governments and companies have sought to control the continent’s reserves of minerals, oil, and gas.

In ‘The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources‘, a War on Want report, 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) now have mining operations in Africa – and combined, they control resources worth in excess of $1 trillion.

The UK government has used its power and influence to ensure these British mining companies have access to Africa’s raw materials, though it is not alone. Much of the Global North takes advantage of a global economic system – made up of regional, bilateral and international trade agreements – that opens up countries in the Global South for exploitation.

Under the guise of helping Africa in its economic development – a mere continuation of the colonial paternal narrative – $134 billion reportedly flows into the continent each year in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid. But at the same time, an estimated $192 billion is extracted from Africa mainly in the form of profits by foreign companies, tax dodging, and the costs of adapting to climate change. In short, the continent is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of as much as $58 billion a year.

The current phase of the scramble for African resources is a clear continuation of British foreign policy goals since 1945. Then as now, access to raw materials is a major factor — often the major factor — in British foreign policy towards the continent. Today, Africa’s natural resource wealth is being appropriated by foreign, private interests whose operations are leaving a devastating trail of social, environmental and human rights abuses in their wake.

A key example can be found in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Morocco has occupied much of Western Sahara since 1975. Most of the population has been expelled by force, many to camps in the Algerian desert where 165,000 refugees still live. Morocco’s occupation is a blatant disregard for international law, which accords the Saharawi people the right to self-determination, which includes the way in which their resources are used.  The International Court of Justice has stated that there are no ties of sovereignty between Morocco and Western Sahara, and no state in the world recognises Morocco’s self-proclaimed sovereignty over the territory. Furthermore, over 100 UN resolutions call for this right to self-determination, though UN efforts to settle the conflict by means of a referendum have been continuously thwarted by Morocco.

Despite the Saharwi people’s right to self-determination, however, six British and/or LSE-listed companies have been handed permits by the Moroccan government to actively explore for oil and gas resources, making them complicit in the Western Sahara’s illegal and violent occupation. Cairn Energy, based in Edinburgh and listed on the LSE, is one such company. It is part of a consortium, led by US company Kosmos Energy, that in December 2014 became the first to drill for and later discover oil off the coast of Western Sahara. Saharawis have consistently protested against the exploration activities of oil companies, but by doing deals with the Moroccan government, oil companies such as Cairn have gained access to these reserves and are now directly undermining the Saharawis’ rights. Foreign oil investment boosts Morocco’s frail veneer of international legitimacy, finances the expensive occupation, and undermines the UN peace process. As oil is developed, the economic implications for Morocco are huge, further cementing its resolve to hold on to its lucrative colony.

Instead of reining in companies such as Cairn, the British government has actively championed them through trade, investment, and tax policies. Successive British governments have been fierce advocates of liberalised trade and investment regimes in Africa that provide access to markets for foreign companies. They have also consistently opposed African countries putting up regulatory or protective barriers and backed policies promoting low corporate taxes. British governments have continually promoted voluntary rather than legally binding mechanisms to address corporate human rights abuses committed abroad. Such voluntary mechanisms are effectively meaningless. And let’s not forget the revolving door between the UK’s public and private sector.  Many senior civil servants leave their posts for directorships on the boards of these mining companies, and Kosmos Energy is no exception. The former director of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, has been a member of the Kosmos Board of Directors since 2012.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Against apartheid (1990)

Book Review from the April 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Subverting Apartheid: Education, Information and Culture under Emergency Rule. By Jim Corrigall, Elaine Unterhalter and Gillian Slovo. International Defence & Aid Fund for Southern Africa, 1990.

In a world of objectionable regimes, South Africa is in the forefront of those states in which the blatant repression of the majority population is systematically pursued. Any publication that aims to present the facts about South Africa necessarily involves a catalogue of horror. Subverting Apartheid by a group of anti-apartheid militants is no exception to this rule.

It examines the effects on the media, education and culture of Emergency Rule introduced in June 1986 and only recently relaxed and provides detailed evidence of the extent to which the apartheid regime attempted to justify and maintain its position at whatever cost to the majority. The period of Emergency Rule magnified the measures that the state was prepared to undertake in an already repressive regime This study is largely descriptive in presenting information about repression in South Africa even if it was written before the release of Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC, but it also pinpoints the failure of the state apparatus to stifle unrest and resistance.

The other concern of the study is to draw attention to those groups and individuals pursuing what it calls "the goal of national liberation, creation of a united, non-racial and democratic South Africa". The attempt to suppress what the Pretoria government viewed as revolutionary movements by a counter-revolutionary strategy did not succeed:
In spite of inflicting thousands of deaths and detaining and arresting tens of thousands, it was clear that the forces of democratic resistance were not crushed or demobilised but adapted to the conditions of extreme repression.

It is this failure to subvert resistance that is a positive aspect of a period and place in history often associated with the purely negative. It enables the reader to find some relief from the evidence of over 5.000 deaths since 1984, of the 40,000 people who were detained without trial, and of the host of regulations restricting the activities of anyone who sought to oppose apartheid.

There is a tremendous resilience which adapts to such nightmare conditions and perpetuates the struggle against repression even in areas specifically targeted by the total might of the state apparatus. Given the restrictions imposed on information emerging from South Africa, this study provides valuable evidence of what actually took place. It also helps counter some of the propaganda of the South African Department of Information whose budget for 1988-89 was R31,600,000.

Questions can, and should, be raised about the nature of the society being pursued under the guise of "national liberation", particularly as it assumes that non-racial democracy in South Africa would eradicate exploitation and oppression. What cannot be underestimated, however, is the irrepressibility, organisational abilities and adaptability of individuals and groups surviving and putting forward ideas under the most horrendous conditions. South Africa may be a byword for repression but it should also be recognised as a symbol of the resilience and resistance of the repressed.

Philip Bentley

Monday, September 12, 2016

South Sudan's Kiir and Machar profited during war

South Sudan's political and military elite have made themselves rich while the country has struggled under a civil war of their making, a report says.
The document accuses President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar, and top generals of profiteering.It follows the trail of money with links to the families of both Kiir and  Machar.

Entitled "War Crimes Shouldn't Pay", the report has found that "top officials ultimately responsible for mass atrocities in South Sudan have at the same time managed to accumulate fortunes, despite modest government salaries. Some have been involved in questionable business deals while others have apparently received large payments from corporations doing business in South Sudan."

 A fall-out between President Kiir and former Vice-President Machar - the most powerful members of their respective Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups - led to the civil war which erupted in December 2013.
Terrible atrocities have been carried out by both sides - often along ethnic lines.
Mass rape has been used as a weapon of war and United Nations reports have detailed human rights abuses.We reported on this here.

Some 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes, and millions more need food aid.

 When a peace deal between the two men fell apart amid heavy fighting of the streets of the capital Juba in July, any chance of a quick resolution to the crisis crumbled.
"This war is about rival factions of a kleptocratic network trying to gain control of the state," said JR Mailey, the author of the report by The Sentry, which is a collaboration between The Enough Project, Not On Our Watch, and C4ADS.

 It says President Kiir's wife and at least seven of his children were linked to a whole range of businesses, and has evidence that Kiir's 12-year-old son had a 25% share in a holding company.
It says a company linked to his brother-in-law, Gen. Gregory Vasili Dimitry, supplied fuel to the military while he was a senior officer.

 It details business connections between Gen Vasili and the Kiirs, and says that the two families hold interests in almost two dozen companies.
"I was mostly struck by the breadth of sectors in which these top officials are involved," said JR Mailey, the author of the report."We're talking everything from airlines, to banks, oil companies, mining companies, casinos. It seems that a very small number of people control a large swathe of South Sudan's economy - and many of these people are also the people that are in power," he said.

 Machar is accused of dealing with a Ukrainian arms company through a Russian intermediary with multiple aliases.
"What we found on Vice-President Machar, he had been engaged in negotiations to sell the country's oil production for defence products - for weapons in order to fuel his rebellion," said Mailey. "We also found evidence that a nephew of his was involved in a violent and hostile takeover of a security company operating in South Sudan."

It says both President Kiir and  Machar have luxurious homes in the same upmarket neighbourhood of Nairobi.

Top generals are also implicated in business deals, with large amounts of money going through their bank accounts. Army chief of staff Gen. Paul Malong Awan is accused of having close business connections to President Kiir and his family and having luxury villas.

 The report says Deputy General Malek Reuben Riak, and a general sanctioned by the US, Gabriel Jok Riak, had millions of dollars passing through their foreign bank accounts, despite salaries of less than $50,000 (£37,730).

The Sentry recommends using a "new approach to countering mass atrocities...That involves using the tools of financial pressure that were developed to counter nuclear proliferation and organised crime and terrorism," said Mr Mailey. "We want those tools to be deployed aggressively in South Sudan. In the past these sanctions have only been applied in a piecemeal fashion and we think sanctions need to be accompanied by robust anti-money laundering measures," he said.

 An expanded international peacekeeping force for South Sudan is due to help bring a peace deal back on track, but there's little confidence the crisis - affecting so many millions of people - will be resolved any time soon.

"There are few people in the world who have suffered as much during the past half century as the South Sudanese who suffered three major wars and watched their leaders and international enablers profit from their misery," Don Cheadle, co-founder of Not On Our Watch said at the news conference.

Compiled from a BBC article here

More from this blog on South Sudan here