Sunday, December 31, 2017

African Hothouse (1966)

From the January 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1957 Ghana became the first of many Colonies to achieve independence within the Commonwealth. Much has been said and written about these new Nations in the intervening period and those who were loudest in their support and praise have usually seen their hopes drowned in a welter of dictatorship and suppression.

Certain conditions must be fulfilled before the idea of Socialism can arise. Of paramount importance is a highly developed industrial society in which the propertyless mass of wage-slaves is increasingly forced into the consciousness that its interests are in conflict with those of the owning class. Some workers, hearing us say this, consider the backward areas throughout the world. They see those millions of primitives whose way of life has never changed in a thousand years and feel that all this renders Socialism, if not impossible, something for the distant future.

Is it really so hopeless? We think not. Therefore, a progress report is required to see whether things are as unchanging and permanent as they seem to be. A comprehensive survey of all the new States is beyond the space at our disposal and a skimped attempt would simply defeat our purpose. So we shall look at one country only, and the question now arises—which one? Ghana, with its 400 years of western influence, would be the easiest choice, but we are looking for something less obvious This presents itself in —the Federation of Nigeria.

Here, the barriers to Socialism seem insurmountable. The most densely populated African National—55 million according to hotly disputed Government figures—it was, if anything, even more backward than Ghana in the days of Empire and generally had little contact with the West until recent years.

In the more developed South (East and West Regions combined) the inhabitants are distinct from those of the Moslem-dominated North. The Southern City has many modern features, with the motor vehicle a common sight. The North, in contrast, is from the world of Arabian Nights with its Minarets and feudal Emirs. A Nation where, instead of one people sharing the same life, speech and background, there are over 250 different tribal groups with no common language and with vastly assorted stages of development.

As late as 1920, the Governor of the day, Sir Hugh Clifford, ridiculed the idea ‘That this collection of self-contained and mutually independent Native States separated from one another by distance, history and tradition, political, social and religious barriers, were capable of being welded into a single homogeneous Nation”. This was the picture up to Independence.

Independence was the culmination of half a century of demanding freedom from the shackles of Colonialism. The driving force was the urbanised African who had come to work in Lagos, the big trading centre. By 1896 he was protesting that most of his taxes were going towards improving European residential areas. Down the years he found himself debarred from real advancement because of his native origin and he resented serving under white men whom he considered his inferior. Strict segregation, plus the fact that everything luxurious was for Europeans only, heightened the desire to be rid of the British. The absence of a reactionary settler class—it really was the white man’s grave—prepared the ground for the inevitable. After the war the rising tide of Nationalism engulfed Nigeria just as it did almost everywhere and degrees of Self-Government were demanded and won until, in October 1960, British Rule came to an end.

In 1947, outside of textiles and palm-oil, only one factory existed in the whole of Nigeria. Between then and 1960 there was a dramatic increase in unbanisation, with an estimated half-million wage and salary earners. But the vast majority were, and to a lesser degree still are, subsistence Farmers. Some of them worked part of the year in the Towns or Mines, but living off the land was the main way of life. Unlike today, there was nothing else for it

In his increasing contact with the modern world it becomes clear to the native that there is more to life than the Village can offer. He may hear that the earnings for a few hours work in Town bring a return the equal of many hours of back-breaking toil in the fields. This, or the desire for education, among other reasons, send him into the City to begin the process of losing his backward past—that of “de-tribalisation”.

It starts the moment he parts from the controls of the Tribe and the ties of the Village. He must adapt himself to the new conditions in order to survive, and the changes are great. He walks on different ground and keeps different hours. The tools he uses have changed and with them his idea of himself. The traditional life of the Village with its protections and comforts are no longer his; instead, he is in a jungle where those things do not exist. New associations must be sought and these usually present themselves at work and are seldom from his particular background. Thus, new interests are created and when problems arise they may not be treated as personal or Tribal in nature but as social issues which demand new thinking. More, these new associates have different Gods from his own—or no God at all—so his acceptance of conventional superstition is challenged. To sum up, there is enormous pressure for re-examination of his beliefs, standards, values and aspirations. At the same time, the contradiction of a wage-worker’s life and the spectacle of immense wealth displayed in Stores, etc., leads to the development of the idea of crime. No longer can the Village expatriate simply pick up anything he wishes to make use of. Those things are now privately owned and must be paid for. He is living in a money economy.

What protection has he? The same as anyone else; he joins a Trade Union. Here again the story is one of a mushrooming under the conditions of emergent Capitalism. Pre-war, only Clerks and Administrative workers in Nigeria were organised. There was little compulsion to work for wages and jobs were only taken to supplement agricultural income while the depression reduced demand for labour in both Government and private sectors.

In 1940 only five Unions existed, claiming 3,500 members between them. By 1956 they numbered almost 200 with 170,000 members. Progress, if swift, was erratic with many Unions vanishing as quickly as they came. There were reasons for this.
(1) Poor communications between Branches separated by great distances.
(2) The small scale of industry—some Unions had only 50 members!
(3) Seasonal nature of many jobs.
(4) Large labour surplus.
Today, although still split by factional squabbles, the Movement continues to grow. In July 1964, a major strike involving a million workers took place over wage-rates and lasted two weeks despite everything the Government could throw at it. Threats to dismiss all strikers were ignored and with the country at a virtual standstill the Government was forced to accede to many of the strikers’ demands.

This growth in trade union strength has occurred in the face of Tribal loyalties and animosities. Does this mean Tribalism is a spent force? Far from it. In fact it has staged something of a come-back in recent times. Before I960, when Nationalist aspirations were rampant, differences of Tribe and Region were submerged in the unity of aim—independence. Nowadays, the political leaders, jockeying for position and power, are having to invoke all the old antagonisms—although the dangers of this are obvious and recognised. Also, as the demand for the more skilled type of labour—administration, education, etc.—slackens off, then those who have not yet landed a good position must exert pressure wherever they can.

In the long run the past will lose out to the demands of the new social order. Those who have spent much of their lives with the Tribe will remain under its influence to some extent, but the generations who know only City life and who receive a uniform education will have little interest in the ancient ties.

In any case, Tribalism is not confined to primitive peoples. It is present, although in modified form, throughout modern society and can be seen among Scots, Irish, Jews, etc. These groups who consider themselves different because of Nationality or Religion will still unite with outsiders for political or economic reasons.

And capitalist education is in Nigeria forging ahead. The Ashby Commission, set up at the time of independence to map-out the necessary rate of expansion, recognised that lack of skilled manpower was the biggest obstacle to development, and put forward “massive, expensive, and unconventional” recommendations which included four new Universities by 1980. Today, that target has been beaten. Four million children are already receiving Primary schooling and the plan is for an additional half million each year.

Everywhere the story is one of rapid “Westernisation''. The Lagos Sunday Times (19/9/65) provides the following sample. “The sleek Mercedes Benz saloon glides out of the corner. At the same time, august lady at the Bus stop flips out a miniature looking glass from the dazzling' bag slung over one arm and after applying another layer of lipstick. smoothens down her skirl. With a screech of brakes the car stops and a not-too-young face smiles at the lady . .. Want a lift madam , . . and so begins yet another etc., etc. . . " The article goes on to deplore faithless women in WIGS who leave “whimpering infants” and ‘‘good husbands" to indulge in affairs. True, this is more a picture of upper-crust life but the trend is unmistakably away from the old values and standards.

Ultimately, the greatest factor in the development of Nigeria's working-class is that it is part of a world economic system, the effects of which it cannot escape. The catastrophic fall in prices on the world market of its chief export. Cocoa, has meant a large and increasing balance of payments deficit. The result has been to cut imports drastically of manufactured goods from those countries mainly responsible for the adverse trade balance, such as Japan. Thus, favourable conditions are created for the expansion of home-grown industry and one Company exulted in a full-page ad. in the Daily Times(21/9/65), “With the recent decision of the Federal Government to restrict the 'importation of imitation jewellery from Hong-Kong and Japan, our factory has taken positive action to increase its capital investment by ordering more machinery, resulting in increased production capacity to cope with this restriction”.

The political upheavals which have been part of the Nigerian scene lately have brought forth suggestions that the Federation may be in the process of breaking-up into several smaller units. Even if this should happen the developments outlined above will continue to a greater or lesser degree, but the conclusion must be the same. That the part of Africa now known as Nigeria is advancing towards the image held out to it by the older, established Nations—that of an industrialised, class-divided. Capitalist society.

Vic Vanni

A happy new year for a few

South Africans planning to loosen their belts and purse strings to celebrate the arrival of 2018 in style while sipping Dom Perignon are spoilt for choice.
Those not shy to shell out R25‚000 on a VIP table for up to four guests to see in the New Year need look no further than the Vista Bar & Lounge at the One & Only in Cape Town. The evening includes a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut and a seafood platter.
Cape Town's Test Kitchen has a New Year’s Eve wine pairing menu at R4‚400 featuring duck breast‚ caviar‚ smoked sea trout and Springbok.
Prior to raising a glass to the arrival of 2018 with a glass of champagne at The Saxon Terrace in Johannesburg‚ guests will dine on a six-course dinner for R3‚500 at Luke Dale Roberts. The midnight entertainment on the terrace‚ which has in the past included acrobatics and light shows‚ is a closely guarded secret.
Those wanting to paint the town red will be at the top of Cape Town’s latest hot spot‚ the roof of the Radisson RED‚ where for R1‚800‚ guests can sip on a G&T and snack on street food. At midnight‚ expect a glass of bubbly and a fireworks display.
The Azure restaurant and Atlantic Terrace Marquee will bring the spirit of the Rio Carnival to Cape Town’s Twelve Apostles Hotel. The carnival-themed evening costs R3‚250‚ with guests encouraged to dress the part before sitting down to a six-course dining experience.
Durban’s Oyster Box Hotel will bid farewell to 2017 with an Out-of-Africa theme that will incorporate the hotel façade‚ the staff‚ the décor and the food. Dine on Karen Blixen’s oxtail casserole‚ organic lamb‚ Nairobi beef and Watamu Prawns. The R2‚500 per head event includes a welcome gin cocktail and a glass of French champagne at the after-party.

Stop “Agro-Imperialism,”

Professor Felix Dapare Dakora, President of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and also the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Award for Scientific Winner 2016, has proposed a cessation of what he described as “Agro-Imperialism,” where massive chunk of Africa’s arable lands are sold for pittance to foreign grabbers, if the continent was to feed its projected 2.5 billion population by 2050.

He appealed to the African Union Commission to curtail this emerging ‘cruelty’ by promulgating a continental legal framework to restrain the outright buyouts for short-to-medium term leases to forestall the unwarranted land resource grabbing phenomenon.

“Africa occupies 64 percent of global arable land and yet the hungriest,” he said that loss of such a vital resource of land could jeopardise the food security aspirations of the continent.

Prof Dakora,, said lands from Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Kenya and Zimbabwe were already suffering from the land grab phenomenon ostensibly from investors from China, Saudi Arabia and India.

“It is time to match Africa’s land with its population and activate scientific approaches to derive the optimum derivatives towards feeding the continental many mouths.”

He proposed a ‘Young Farmers Brigade’ policy practiced during President Kwame Nkrumah’s regime to attract the youth into agriculture as projections show Africa would possess the most youthful global population by 2050.

Joan Cuka Kagwanja, Coordinator of the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC) at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), said large-scale land acquisition by foreign investors which take the form of land grabbing have negative implications on the rights of the indigenous people especially women, who play critical role in agricultural production in developing countries.

Okay for some in South Africa

Sandton, Johannesburg's ultra-modern business hub, has been termed Africa's richest square mile. 
Located north of the city and stretching across 134 square kilometres, Sandton is one of the most well-known areas in Gauteng Province where some of the world's richest prefer to live, work and play.
The resulting capital flight from central Jozi made Sandton the preferred destination for multinationals. International hotel groups such as Radisson Blu, Hilton, and Holiday Inn also found a home along the town's most famous thoroughfare, Rivonia Road. Financial institutions such as Johannesburg Stock Exchange and Nedbank are headquartered here. The area is also home to Africa'a largest and most modern convention centre on Maude Street. With 220,000 square feet of functional space on four levels, the convention centre hosted the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 in addition to the 2008 Miss World beauty contest. International brands such as Prada, Gucchi and Calvin Klein jostle for space on the continent's largest shopping centre, Sandton City, next to the famous Nelson Mandela Square. Many buildings in Sandton are design masterpieces, having little semblance with their older cousins in the CBD. The iconic Michelangelo Towers that rises 143m into the sky belongs to this category.
Building top notch office space in the area costs anywhere between 24,000 Rands and 27,000 Rands (Sh260,000 and Sh300,000) per square metre. The new 37,000 square metre Alexander Forbes' offices in Sandton, for instance, cost 840 million Rands or Sh9.2 billion.
Residential homes, too, come at a price. While Nairobians will cringe at the thought of coughing up Sh150,000 for a three-bedroom flat in Westlands, a two-bedroom executive apartment in Michelangelo Towers goes for 36,000 Rands or Sh396,000.
The opulent neighbourhood is located just six kilometres from one of South Africa's poorest areas, the Alexandra townships, highlighting the continent's glaring inequalities.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Charcoal Capitalism

Charcoal from tropical forests has a terrible effect on the environment.  Nigeria is one of the world’s largest exporters — and some of it even ends up on Western countries barbecue grills.

Felling, transporting and piling up logs of wood is back-breaking work. "Sometimes we're in the bush for weeks before we've collected enough wood," explains Domingo Philip who heads the team of young men. They cover the two meter  high pile of wood with earth and start up a fire. The wood now needs to smoulder for about 11 days. Then the charcoal is ready.  Philip and his men live from this business. They sell the charcoal to local households, bakeries or traders that take it to the big cities. A 50-kilogram (110-pound) sack costs the equivalent of about €3 ($3.56). Traders in the city, however, get a lot more for the charcoal. They pack it in paper bags and sell it on to Europe and Asia. In Poland charcoal from around the world is repacked and then sold to neighboring countries.  A study found that 80 percent of the sacks they examined were labeled with incorrect information about the origin of the products. Some even contained wood from protected tree species.

The area where they cut the wood is Edumanom Forest Reserve. The 9,000-hectare tropical forest lies in the oil-rich Niger Delta in southern Nigeria. It's home to Nigeria's last chimpanzees. But the fragile ecosystem is in danger, not only from the oil industry but also from the woodcutting. The trees are cut down, and the burning process produces fumes that are harmful to the people and the environment. It poisons the groundwater and the surrounding soil. Moreover, immense carbon emissions are produced.  According to the UN, Nigeria exported 80,000 tons of charcoal for approximately €25 million ($29 million) in 2007, which makes it one of the biggest exporters of charcoal worldwide. Germany, on the other hand, is the biggest importer in Europe, taking in 250,000 tons (50 million pounds) of charcoal per year.

Loopholes in the European Timber Regulation makes such things possible. The regulation came into force in 2013 and was established to stop illegal wood and paper products from entering the EU. But while tropical woods are tightly regulated, charcoal does not even appear in the paper.

"Why certain wood products are not included in the regulation is a puzzle to me," Johannes Zahnen from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) told DW. "For several products it's basically up to the traders to ensure that their products are legal." "The marketing strategies are often sloppy or contain outright lies," says Zahnen. On closer examination, for instance, a sack that was labeled clearly as containing no tropical wood actually consisted entirely of tropical wood. "The consumer is practically left out in the cold and has no chance to do anything about it," Zahnen explains.

More than half of the world's felled wood is turned into firewood or charcoal, according to the UN. Three-quarters of the charcoal production takes place in Africa and about 98 percent of the charcoal stays on the continent. That is because while Europeans mainly use the charcoal for barbecues in the summer, African households use it for cooking every dayIn the Nigerian town of Bauchi, the business is booming. "Kerosene is so costly. That's the reason why people use charcoal," says charcoal trader Ibrahim. 

 Each year, Nigeria loses approximately 350,000 hectares of fertile land to desertification and soil erosion.According to Nigeria's National Council on Environment, the country's current forest cover is under 4 percent. In October 2017, the office recommended a ban on charcoal exports.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

South Sudan's Dead

"Death is so horribly common ... There has been a collective numbing of South Sudanese people."

About a third of South Sudan's 12 million population have fled their homes since the latest civil war erupted in 2013 between soldiers of President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer.
International organisations have documented numerous examples of mass killings, many of which were ethnically targeted, but there is no official death toll for the war. The United Nations  Mission in South Sudan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that it has been unable to provide a death toll because warring parties have denied access to areas where there has been violence. The country's vast size, poor infrastructure and weak civil society add to the difficulty, said Jehanne Henry, an expert on South Sudan with Human Rights Watch.
Estimates of the number of people killed in the ongoing civil war, which entered its fifth year last week, range from 50,000 to 300,000 deaths.
The U.N. has said the violence in South Sudan, which has been at war for all but a few years since 1955, amounts to ethnic cleansing and risks escalating into genocide.

The Forgotten Crises

Overshadowed by the Syrian war and Rohingya crisis, Congo barely made headlines. With millions of people on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe and children facing unspeakable violence, the Democratic Republic of Congo was the most neglected crisis in 2017, according to a survey of aid agencies. The Central African Republic, with its "off the charts" vulnerability, and Yemen - ravaged by war and hunger - ranked behind Congo

"A massive humanitarian crisis has been unfolding in the Congo almost unnoticed," said Mark Smith, World Vision's emergencies chief. "The scale and brutality of what is happening to children in hard to reach places is almost unimaginable."  World Vision said it believed years of repeated and overlapping conflicts in Congo meant it had "fallen off people's radar" 

An insurrection against the government in the Greater Kasai region has displaced more than 1 million people in what the Norwegian Refugee Council called a "mega-crisis". Food shortages have left millions hungry with hundreds of thousands of children at risk of dying.Agencies have received accounts of mass killings, rapes and beheadings. There have also been reports of horrendous attacks on babies and young children. Children as young as 10 have been recruited by armed groups, while others left orphaned are sleeping alone in forests. Provinces in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo also remain volatile. Across the country, 13.1 million people need assistance, nearly a third of whom are displaced.

Oxfam named Central African Republic (CAR) as "the most forgotten of forgotten crises" with 2.4 million people needing help "in a country that most people don't even know exists".
CAR has been racked by violence since mainly Muslim rebels ousted the president in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian militias.
The U.N. refugee agency said 1.1 million people - nearly a quarter of the population - had fallen through the cracks and warned the "calamitous situation" would worsen unless a massive funding shortfall was addressed.

Two agencies flagged the displacement crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, which was voted the most neglected emergency in last year's poll.An eight-year campaign by Boko Haram militants to create an Islamist caliphate has affected millions of people. With most coverage focused on Nigeria, Plan International singled out the impact on its forgotten neighbour Niger where more than 400,000 people need help. It said militants were killing and threatening teachers, forcing children to miss school and raising their vulnerability to sexual violence, abduction and enslavement.
"These children deserve the world's attention. The violence which is robbing a generation of an education and forcing them to grow up in a world of fear has got to stop," said Plan's humanitarian director Roger Yates.

With starvation threatening millions in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, one agency picked famine as the year's most neglected crisis. Mercy Corps' humanitarian chief Michael Bowers said food was increasingly being used as a "weapon of war" with little action taken by the international community. "Global hunger is on the rise for the first time this century," he said. "We fear 2018 will look much like 2017 without a massive drive to fight back hunger."

Poll results
DRC - WFP, Christian Aid, Norwegian Refugee Council, CARE, Save the Children, FAO, World Vision, UNICEF
Yemen - Action Against Hunger, Islamic Relief, International Medical Corps, Danish Refugee Council
Central African Republic - UNHCR, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee
Lake Chad Basin - ActionAid, Plan International
Famine - Mercy Corps
Migration crisis - IFRC
South Kordofan, Sudan - Caritas

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Nigerian Poverty

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, yet three in every five Nigerians live in poverty. Inequality has reached such extreme levels that the country’s five richest men – worth $29.9 billion – could lift 86 million Nigerians out of extreme poverty for one year. Worse still, poverty continues to rise, as recent reports suggest that Nigeria may become the country with the most poor people in the world by 2018.

In a country where over 60% of the population live in poverty, our lawmakers, a fraction of that population are some of the highest paid in the world earning as much as $118,000 a year. This high cost of governance comes at the expense of infrastructure and similar investments. Similarly, widespread bribery and corruption, whether in the form of withholding the salaries and pensions of civil servants, nepotism, or greasing the palms of police officers, continue to redistribute income away from the masses.
Regional inequality in Nigeria is striking. Three of the country’s thirty-six states – Kano, Lagos, and Rivers – are home to numerous industries and large markets with Lagos State alone accounting for over 25% of national economic output. Together these states are home to 17% of the country’s population and counting.  The states are victims of mass emigration; every hour, 86 people migrate into Lagos, that’s over 2,000 people in a day!
 The rural-urban divide is even more pronounced. According to the 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, for every wealthy man you find in a rural area, there are nine wealthy men in an urban area. Rural dwellers perform worse on education and health outcomes as fewer children attend schools in rural areas (52%) than urban areas (71%) at each level of schooling. And more infants die in rural areas (86 per 1,000 live births) than urban areas (60 per 1,000 live births). In line with the rural-urban dichotomy, poverty in Northern Nigeria (67%) is significantly higher than in the South (55%).
   In the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap report, Nigeria ranked 122 out of 144 countries in its efforts towards increasing participation and expanding opportunities for women. Although women make up 49% of the population, they are under-represented in almost all areas – economy, governancefinance, etc. – to society’s detriment.

We don't forget

Cyril Ramaphosa, the new ANC leader, is portrayed as a champion of the people, in contrast to his predecessor, the corrupt Zuma. How deserving is he of this reputation?

In his new book on Cyril Ramaphosa, j Ray Hartley examined Ramaphosa's role in the slaughter of striking mine workers at Marikana in August 2012.

 So prominent was the criticism of Ramaphosa that the Farlam commission devoted an entire chapter of its report to his role in the incident. The chapter began with an outline of the links between Ramaphosa and Marikana. Ramaphosa had exchanged emails with Lonmin personnel between 11 and 15 August 2012: “They recorded that Mr Ramaphosa had conversations relating to the events at Marikana which are being investigated by the commission with the then minister of police Mr Nathi Mthethwa and with the minister of mineral resources, Ms Susan Shabangu.”

Advocate Dali Mpofu, counsel for the injured and arrested persons, seized on a phrase used by Ramaphosa in an email encouraging a more effective security force response to the strike. Ramaphosa had described the strikers as criminals and had called for “concomitant action” to be taken. Mpofu argued that the emails were evidence of “concerted pressure that was being put, among others, on the police – well firstly on the government not to call the strike a strike or not to call it labour related but to call it so-called criminal action and that was a platform from which it would be easier to inflict violence on strikers”.
The essence of the argument was that there was a causal connection between Ramaphosa’s statements and the killing of strikers by police. Mpofu argued that Ramaphosa’s intervention “triggered a series of events which determined the timing of the massacre. He knew exactly what he was doing and he is the cause of the Marikana massacre, as we know it. It was demonstrated that he has a case to answer on 34 counts of murder and many counts of attempted murder as well as intent to do grievous bodily harm.”
Mthethwa testified that Ramaphosa had told him that he did not think that what was unfolding was “pure industrial action in the true sense of the word: it had criminality on it and violence”. In an email to Albert Jamieson on the eve of the shooting, Ramaphosa wrote that “all government officials need to understand that we are essentially dealing with a criminal act. I have said as much to the minister of safety and security.”

Monday, December 18, 2017

South Sudan Tragedy

Here are some facts about the conflict in South Sudan, the world's youngest country:
* About 4 million South Sudanese have been forced to flee their homes. Nearly 1.9 million are internally displaced and about 2.1 million have fled to neighbouring countries.
* Up to 85 percent of internally displaced are women and children.
* Nearly 5 million people are severely food insecure. Earlier this year, pockets of the country plunged briefly into famine.
* The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people since it started in late 2013.
* Only 22 percent of South Sudan health facilities are fully operational.
* Some 900,000 children suffer from psychological distress and 2 million are out of school.
* More than 19,000 children have been forcibly recruited by armed groups.
* The cost of living in South Sudan has increased sharply, with inflation in the capital Juba reaching 183 percent year-on-year.
* Some 28 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan this year. Nine were shot dead in November.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Kenya's Health Service

In Kenya, every day families are forced to sell their assets, rely on community support or see their modest life savings wiped out by medical bills. 
Every year, nearly one million Kenyans are pushed below the poverty line due to healthcare expenses.
Ill-health is a substantial burden on Kenyan families and on Kenya’s economy. Out-of-pocket expenses in Kenya make up a third of the country’s total health expenditure, far above the World Health Organization’s suggested 15 or 20%.
Approximately four out of every five Kenyans lack access to medical insurance, meaning that most are just an accident or illness away from destitution. Among the poorest, only 3% have health insurance, this provided by the government’s National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). This rises to 42% of the wealthiest fifth where private cover is also more common. Additionally, there are stark disparities between rural and urban populations, where rates of coverage are an average of 12% and 27% respectively.
 33.6% of Kenyans survive on less than US$1.90 per day, millions will still not access quality healthcare.

Nigeria's Health Service

Of Nigeria’s 190 million population, just 5% is covered by health insurance, with over 90% of healthcare paid for privately. 

Illness creates a huge burden on these people who the lack social protection to support them in times of need. The impact of absent universal care trickles down to all levels of society. Starting at an individual level, many forego treatment due to an inability to pay for it. Of the families that do pay for healthcare when in need, many are forced to sacrifice other basic necessities, such as food and education for their children, under the financial strain imposed by healthcare.

In Nigeria, for every 1 Nigerian Naira that the government spends on health, 2.5 Naira is spent on defence. 

In 2015 alone, malaria killed 182,284 people in Nigeria; diarrheal diseases killed 143,880; and 212,557 women and children died during pregnancy and childbirth. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Congo Crisis

Hunger has surged in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 400,000 children at risk of starving to death. Fighting has prevented farmers from tilling their land for three consecutive agricultural seasons, Oxfam said.

 Militia fighting that broke out in Congo's central Kasai region last year has led to an eight-fold increase in hunger, leaving 3.2 million people short of food, the United Nations (U.N.) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

"Vicious conflict has left millions of people in Kasai severely hungry and the world cannot continue to ignore this scale of human suffering," Jose Garcia Barahona, the British charity Oxfam's country director, said in a statement. "Governments and international donors need to urgently plug the funding gap," he said, adding that Oxfam and the U.N. have already halved emergency food rations for thousands of people.

More than 3,000 people have been killed and 1.7 million forced to flee their homes in Kasai since the start of the insurrection by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, which wants the withdrawal of military forces from the area.

U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) said in a statement, "Families have little to harvest from their own land and nothing to sell at the markets," it said, adding that conditions are not expected to improve before June. More than 200 health centres have been destroyed, looted or damaged, UNICEF said, increasing the risk of diseases like measles spreading.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An they dare call it justice

When it is people from low-income backgrounds that are dying, their lives don’t mean as much in the grand scheme of things. Their deaths often don’t make the news, flags don’t fly at half mast and important politicians don’t show up at their funerals. The same applies to the entire justice system, which is hopelessly stacked against them.

The rich can afford fancy lawyers with an army of assistants to make sure that a case goes on forever. When all else fails, and sometimes just because they can, they buy judges and their cases go away. The judges, prosecutors, policemen and the witnesses all know it is an unfair system designed to protect the rich but they still willingly take part in it.

The poor rot in detention while their matters are mentioned, repeatedly delayed on small procedural issues or prosecutorial errors and lose their livelihoods while waiting for their date with a judge. Their pleas are not heard and most don’t even dare speak up in front of the court, lest they say the wrong thing and offend the important people at the front. Whether you are accused of a crime or you are the plaintiff in a case, you need plenty of money and impeccable English to be even considered in today’s Kenya.

A chicken thief is jailed for several years while those who loot billions get elected to public office.  When a poor person takes what is not theirs, it is called theft but when a rich person helps themselves to other people’s money, it is called a perk of office.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Swaziland king cheats the old

More than 80 percent of women aged 60 and over and 70 percent of men in Swaziland live in poverty, according to a new report.
This comes at a time when the Swazi Government has run out of money and cannot pay elderly grants (pensions) to all people in that age group.

About seven in ten of Swaziland's 1.3 million population live in abject poverty defined as having incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. The report said poverty among people aged 60 or over was highest compared to other age groups.
The Swazi Observer newspaper quoted the report, 'Whilst the elderly are now receiving social grants, they continue to be subjected to other forms of abuse as they are neglected by family members, abused physically and emotionally within society.'
The findings come as the Swazi Government which is not elected by the people but handpicked by King Mswati III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch said it could not afford to pay elderly grants to people who reached the age of 60 this year. About 4,000 people are affected.
King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle, with at least 13 palaces, fleets of top-of-the-range Mercedes Benz and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce. He has a private jet airplane and is soon to get a second.

Mozambiques jet-setter president

Filipe Nyusi, the president of Mozambique, is reported to have spent £7million of public cash on a plane to fly around the world. The country has a GDP per person of just $1,200 (£900) – making it more impoverished than nearly any other nation in the world. The lavish purchase comes despite the fact his country is so poor it is reliant on aid money. But it recently bought a 14-seater Bombardier Challenger 850 jet for $9.2million (£7million). Nyusi used the aircraft to travel to the inauguration of neighboring Zimbabwe’s new president.

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Congo Crisis

The World Food Program (WFP) has halved rations for 500,000 people in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because of a shortage of funds.
The DRC is the site of one of the world’s most underfunded humanitarian emergencies, receiving less than half of the $812 million needed in 2017.
The WFP’s Claude Jibidar told Devex that donor fatigue was compounded by the country’s tenuous links to the big donors’ foreign policy priorities – curbing migration and stopping terrorism.
“Donor fatigue, geopolitical disinterest, and competing crises have pushed D.R.Congo far down the list of priorities for the international community,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s country director in the DRC, Ulrika Blom. “This deadly trend is at the expense of millions of Congolese. If we fail to step up now, mass hunger will spread and people will die.”
More people fled their homes in the DRC in the first half of 2017 than anywhere else in the world, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. More than 1.7 million people were displaced by fighting in Congo this year. Conflicts have forced 4 million people from their homes and left 3.2 million short of food.
“It’s a mega-crisis. The scale of people fleeing violence is off the charts, outpacing Syria, Yemen, and Iraq,” said Blom.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The forgotten Refugees

15,000 people displaced every day inside African countries, according to a new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) 

The world focuses its attention on preventing irregular migration and protecting refugees coming out of Africa, yet the displacement that happens within African nations own borders persists and is ignored.  Conflict caused 75 per cent of Africa's new displacement in the first half of 2017, and 70 per cent in 2016. DRC, Nigeria and South Sudan are regularly among the five countries worst affected. East Africa, where displacement is often driven by protracted and cyclical conflicts such as those in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, bears the brunt of the crisis in regional terms.

 Since the beginning of 2017, 2.7 million people have been displaced by conflict, violence or disasters, and have not crossed an international border. In the first half of the year, 997,000 new internal displacements due to conflict were reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), more than in the whole of 2016, and 206,000 in the Central African Republic, four times the figure for the previous year.

Behind the numbers lie the blighted lives of people forced to leave their homes, often at a moment's notice and in the most traumatic of circumstances, and receiving little protection and assistance from their governments. In countries with low coping capacity and weak governance, the majority of people internally displaced live in conditions of extreme vulnerability, and are often at risk of further upheaval and long-term impoverishment. This is the case for many of the 12.6 million Africans living in displacement as of the end of 2016.

These numbers does not include those who have fled across borders to seek refuge, with UN figures showing there were more than 5.6 million refugees in Africa by end of last year.

"This dire and clearly worsening situation demands a new approach that goes beyond humanitarian action to address the causes and long-term implications of internal displacement. Every case is much more than a personal tragedy; displacement threatens to undermine the achievement of Africa's broader development objectives," said IDMC's director, Alexandra Bilak.

Cameroon Discontent

People fleeing villages in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon accuse government troops of killings, rape and harassment. Thousands are on the run after President Paul Biya declared war on secessionists. President Paul Biya has not softened his intransigency towards aspirations for more autonomy and has refused to negotiate.

 32-year-old merchant Ethel Takem told DW that she and her peers had to suspend their trading when Cameroon President Paul Biya declared war on local separatist groups last weekend: "The number of check points is just unbearable," Takem said. She likened the president's soldiers to hungry lions let loose on a defenseless population. "Those who want to be killed can travel. I still have my life ahead, so I will not move," she said.

The situation is also tense in the towns of Mamfe and Eyumojock, where at least six soldiers and a policeman were killed last week. Mamfe is also the home town of Julius Ayuk Tabe, the man who calls himself the first president of Ambazonia. Ambazonia is the name separatists gave to the English-speaking regions which they hope to turn into an independent country.
The Yaounde government maintains that separatist fighters are being trained in the region and across the border in neighboring Nigeria. According to Mamfe resident Peter Ayuk, most young people have fled into the bush to escape the military. "The village of the present president is now is on fire. The military men are burning houses. All the young men are in the forests," he said.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Child in Poverty in SA

More than a third of children in South Africa have experienced some form of maltreatment including sexual, physical and emotional abuse, according to a latest survey.

The South African Child Gauge 2017 also indicated over half of children could not read fluently and with comprehension at the end of Grade 4.

The number of children still living below the poverty line remains high at 5.5 million

 3.4 million children who lived in overcrowded housing conditions, and a further six million who had no access to clean drinking water.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Fact of the Day

So far 512 people have been confirmed dead in last month's explosion on Oct. 14, after a truck bomb exploded outside a busy hotel at the K5 intersection lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks in Mogadishu. The impact of the truck bomb was worsened by it exploding next to a fuel tanker that increased its intensity and left many bodies being burnt or mutilated beyond recognition. A second blast struck Medina district two hours later.

Party Politics in Africa

It is nowadays believed that political opposition parties in most African countries are indispensable to the parliamentary system of democracy in the sense that opposition parties help to promote checks and balances in the way society is governed.
The supposition that opposition political parties when left unchecked may easily become agents of regime change is a fact, especially when we take into consideration the reality that opposition parties in most countries in Africa are fighting to win political power at all costs. Indeed every opposition political party seems to be working for a political revolution in the guise of championing working class political, social and economic interests by overcoming their political and economic marginalization.
But, once in power, opposition political parties easily shed their revolutionary clothes when confronted with the realities of political and economic problems. Opposition political parties in African countries are denied the freedom to pursue their political agendas and are more or less perceived as a threat to political stability.
After attaining their political independence some African countries adopted a one-party system of government on the premise that only the doctrine of ‘Marxism-Leninism’ could succeed in welding the diverse ethnic groups together.
After the end of the Second World War, and the division of the world into West and East, most African nationalist leaders looked to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba for political and logistical assistance in their political struggle against European colonialism. The military and economic development programmes achieved in Russia and China were a political marvel to African nationalists. Modibo Keïta in Mali was one of the first African political statesmen to adopt ‘Marxism-Leninism’ after achieving political independence. Then, in countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia movements fighting for political independence turned into guerrilla movements given the hostile political conditions existing at that time. FRELIMO, SWAPO, ZANU-PF and MPLA received military assistance and training from China and the Soviet Union. In Ethiopia and Somalia, Mengistu Haile Mariam and Siad Barre set up single party political dictatorships that attempted to apply a so-called ‘socialist’ doctrine that  was in most cases resisted by those ethnic clans who practised Islamic religion and cultural traditions instead.
Meanwhile, one-party rule was imposed in Zambia and Tanzania, even though neither country suffered from ethnic tensions.
The Marxist conception of the economic conditions giving rise to social classes was seemingly alien to African historic sociological perceptions in the sense that the entrenched dualistic pattern of urban and rural communities to be found existing in every African country posed a challenge to the otherwise authoritarian political programmes implemented by the one-party state.
The one-party state properly defined was the antithesis of parliamentary democracy given that political freedom of any kind was banned. The one-party state was effectively a police state. The rapid growth achieved under one-party political regimes in terms of economic and peasant empowerment remain largely unrepresented and it is fair to point out that creation of co-operatives both in Zambia and Tanzania (Ujaama) did happen to raise agricultural production (peasant farmers) in the respective countries. But because state capitalism – let alone socialism – cannot succeed for long in a single country, unforeseen and unanticipated political and economic misfortunes that began in the Soviet Union led to the vast political changes that contributed to the collapse of one-party states in Africa and beyond. In particular, the wind of change that swept across Eastern Europe and Africa originated from political and economic developments taking place within the Soviet Union after President Gorbachev came to power in 1985, when the old state capitalist regime there began to crumble under its own economic inefficiency.
Without any kind of ideological, military and economic support from the Soviet Union one-party political regimes could not withstand the ever increasing demands for political patriotism by the masses.
In Zambia Dr Kaunda had survived two military coups in 1979 and 1987, while the command economy set up in 1972 was visibly crumbling, characterized by food shortages and rampant smuggling of mealie meal, sugar, cooking oil and kerosene to the nearby Congo (Zaire). In 1985 President Nyerere of Tanzania resigned as head of state and was succeeded by Ali Hassan Mwinyi. Then in 1986 the whole Copperbelt erupted into simultaneous uprising against the UNIP government due to persistent mealie meal shortages and Dr Kaunda reacted swiftly by confiscating privately owned milling companies. Many prominent politicians and Zambia Congress of Trade Union leaders were arrested and detained. In South Africa President de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from 27 years’ imprisonment and it was now clear that the political values that Dr Kaunda  had strongly held and supported had come to an end. In 1991 the first ever multi-party elections were held and Dr Kaunda and his party UNIP were defeated by the MMD under President Chiluba.
Contested election results
From 1990 until today political patriotism in Africa has given rise to endless civil wars and ethnic crises that were largely absent under one-party political regimes. Political pluralism, defined as periodic change of government through parliamentary elections, has proved to be a delicate political experiment in Africa since African political statesmen have shown a reluctance to surrender political power through the medium of the ballot box. Fraudulent elections have been employed and many attempts made to apply corrupt methods by those in power.
Corruption and outright police intimidation sponsored by the ruling parties have seen the suppression of the press and political demonstrations in many African countries. Parliamentary democracy has stalled into a political conflict between the ruling parties and the political opposition.
Why has there been so much violence during and after elections in Africa?
Political elites in African countries show no restraint in manipulating the masses through feeding them lies in order to win their political support during elections. In certain cases the personal ambition of elites are showcased in ethnic animosities that tend to end in violence and even genocide.
African countries face economic crises that are in many cases a consequence of political instability. Civil wars arise from lack of democracy or a complete disregard of the political freedom of the masses. In a divided and conflict ridden country, conventional notions of justice – which encompasses political equity and fair play – are conspicuous by their absence.
The violation of human rights has been one of the lamentable issues highlighted by the opposition parties in African countries. Most governments in Africa are not only based on nepotism, but are corrupt and inept. Political and social insecurity takes the form of trampling upon the political freedoms of the opposition parties. The suppression, coercion and intolerance of opposition parties are significant factors giving rise to political conflicts in Africa. 
Woe to the vanquished
Although the international community continues to praise Zambia as a living example of political democracy and peaceful political transitions, the realities on the ground prove otherwise. In l994 the second President, Frederick Chiluba, amended the Zambian constitution to disqualify the former president Dr Kenneth Kaunda from standing as UNIP presidential candidate.
In 1996 Dr Kaunda was subjected to severe molestation and had also escaped a police-inspired assassination attempt during a political rally in Kabwe in 1994. Dr Kaunda was declared an immigrant and was immediately arrested and put in prison.
The culture of political vengeance is what defines African plural politics as those who are defeated during the election are treated as enemies of the political parties in power.
After winning the presidential elections in 2001 by defeating UPND leader Anderson Mazoka, President Mwanawasa slapped a corruption allegation on Frederick Chiluba in the name of stamping out corruption from the MMD.  Chiluba and his co-accused were only declared innocent by President Rupiah Banda in 2010 (after Mwanawasa had died). When President Sata defeated MMD President Rupiah Banda in 2011 he instructed the public prosecutor to withdraw Rupiah Banda’s presidential immunity in order to face corruption charges concerning the importation of oil from Nigeria in 2009. Rupiah Banda and his son Andrew were only declared free and innocent when President Lungu became president after the death of Sata in 2014.  The foregoing shows that previous leaders have been subjected to political vengeance by those who come to power.
The political longevity of the ZANU-PF under President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe was partly due to the charismatic status of Mugabe both within the African Union and Zimbabwe. The lack of a vibrant political opposition within Zimbabwe was betrayed by parochial ethnic and tribal allegiances to the ZANU-PF. Indeed both dictators Mobutu Sese Seko and Idi Amin were ousted from power through outside pressure (Rwanda and Tanzania). Political stability, defined as a cordial political relation between major political players in a given country, remain strained because opposition parties in Africa tend to dispute the results of presidential elections, notwithstanding any endorsement by overseas election monitors.
No way out under capitalism                                                   
The common perceptions held by eminent African politicians and intellectuals is the belief that Africa’s economic underdevelopment and political instability stems from the biased economic and political relations between Africa and European developed nations (neo-colonialism). Various reports published by the UN special agencies, the World Bank, the IMF and the Economic Commission of Africa reveal that parts of Africa often have the highest growth rates (and birth rates) while the rate of Africa’s social poverty remains higher than the rate of population growth. The continent is drought prone. Demography, drought and desertification are a triple threat to Africans’ continued existence and a triple source of political conflicts. The situation is exacerbated by a huge foreign debt, the depletion of natural resources, uneven regional economic development, and lack of physical capital as well as institutional decay.