Tuesday, January 31, 2017

10-year-old girl used as human bomb in Nigeria New Year's Eve attack

From child soldiers to child suicide bombers, children are badly misused on parts of the continent of Africa.

 One person was seriously injured when a suicide bomber aged around 10 blew herself up in a New Year's Eve attack in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, witnesses and aid workers told AFP Sunday.

   The girl approached a crowd buying noodles from a food vendor in the Customs area of the city around 9:30 pm on Saturday and detonated her explosives, they said.   Although no one has claimed responsibility the attack bore the hallmark of Boko Haram Islamists who are notorious for using suicide bombers, mostly women and young girls, in attacking civilian targets.   "The girl walked towards the crowd but she blew up before she could reach her target," said witness Grema Usman who lives in the area.   "She died instantly, while one person was seriously hurt after after he was hit by shrapnel."   "(Judging) from her corpse the girl was around 10 years old," Usman said...In December two girls aged between seven and eight detonated explosives in suicide attacks on market in the city, injuring 19 people.

   Authorities blamed the attack on Boko Haram, whose seven-year insurgency has killed 20,000 people and displaced 2.6 million others. The conflict has spilled into Nigeria's northern neighbours.
Saturday's attack came a week after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the jihadist group had been routed from Sambisa forest, its last stronghold in Borno state:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Production for profit and its aftermath

  All wealth comes from labour applied to nature given raw materials. In order to access those , labour has to be expended and in order to utilise the materials, labour again adds value to the products. The workers commodity 'labour power'  produces a surplus which accrues to the capitalist class once the goods are sold on the market and  is the source of all profit.

 Once the well is milked and an economic downturn occurs, workers are abandoned until or if such times arrived where they can be exploited further and the capitalist class make off with the loot.

 This is true the whole world over as coal miners in Wales can testify and now workers in South Africa.

 The Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine used to be one of the world’s largest and most profitable mining concerns, purportedly yielding some one million kilograms of precious metals over its 70 years of operation

  The human toll of the abrupt closure of the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine in 2013 is devastating, according to a new FIDH and LHR report. The two human rights organisations documented a widespread and precipitous decline in both environmental and socio-economic standards, since the Mine's collapse. FIDH and LHR condemn, in their report, the role of corporate and state actors who did not comply with their obligations, abandoning the community of 6000 residents.

“The catastrophe at Blyvooruitzicht is the result of a toxic cocktail involving private sector abdication of responsibility, inadequate implementation of the existing legislative framework and lack of anticipation of the severity of the impacts of a sudden liquidation of a major mining operation,” affirmed Michael Clements, lawyer and head of the Environmental Rights Program at LHR.

  The Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine used to be one of the world’s largest and most profitable mining concerns, purportedly yielding some one million kilograms of precious metals over its 70 years of operation. The report reveals that today 75% of the community is unemployed. Close to 60% of them reported not having enough money to buy food, and a similar percentage reported being unable to support their children. All community members face problems of regular access to water and electricity.

We have been dumped by the government and the gold mine,” said a member of the community interviewed during the research process.

  The report calls upon current and former owners and operators of the mine to mitigate and provide redress for the violations faced by residents of the village. It encourages government authorities to sanction the corporate failures to implement social and environmental rehabilitation measures. The report also reviews the current legal and institutional framework of mining and insolvency law, in order to avoid this situation from being repeated elsewhere.

  The exploitation of gold has shaped South Africa’s natural landscape, its socio-political history, and its economic trajectory. As the gold mining industry enters its twilight years, this report alerts us all to the human toll from unforeseen closure and down-scaling of mines. If the experience of these individuals is a template for the scores of other mining communities which exist in South Africa, the next decade will produce similar crises on a much wider scale.

“Companies cannot show up, extract resources from the land, benefit from the labour of the people, and then just leave. They have responsibilities and legal obligations,” stated Alice Mogwe, FIDH Secretary General.

  The Blyvooruitzicht story is an urgent appeal to mining-based economies across the continent. To avoid companies abdicating their responsibilities, our organisations call on states to adopt strong legal frameworks and enforce human rights and environmental obligations. The authorities must also make mandatory the implementation of mitigation and environmental rehabilitation measures before the initiation of any liquidation process.

Socialists of course won't hold our breath awaiting such developments.

 Capitalism by its very nature is exploitative and came into the world 'oozing blood from every pore' and will continue to do as much as it can get away with until we make the earth the common heritage of all, in a post-capitalist, production for use socialist society of free access, common ownership and democratic control.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From civil war to the class war (business as usual)

 Now that the civil war has ended in Liberia it seems old hardline robber baron business models from early capital accumulation experience of the west have been utilised to deny payment to workers for their indispensible services in producing value.

Even yet, it seems, to organise resistance to encroachments upon labour, conditions or ability to bargain on wages can result in arrest ,imprisonment and general harassment.

 UNISON has lent its support to the campaign for the reinstatement of Joseph S. Tamba and George Poe Williams of the National Health Workers’ Association of Liberia (NAHWAL), and respect for trade union rights by the country’s government.

 In February 2014, Joseph S. Tamba and George Poe Williams were dismissed following a nationwide strike against poor working conditions in the health sector. The strike followed repeated attempts to seek change through negotiations and dialogue, which the government rebuffed.

 These deplorable working conditions had fatal consequences: the lack of protective equipment, long working hours and the lack of medication in the fight against Ebola caused hundreds of deaths amongst health workers.

 This situation led to the avoidable deaths of hundreds of health workers. For example, while 0.11% of the population as a whole died from Ebola infection, 8.07% of the health workforce lost their lives.

 Meanwhile, social dialogue is stifled in Liberia. Workers in the public service are prevented from forming or joining trade unions. NAHWAL and other combinations of workers are thus not legally recognised.

 In addition, the refusal by the government to engage in dialogue with healthcare workers’ representatives no doubt exacerbated the Ebola crisis and contributed to thousands of deaths and a global health crisis.

 Furthermore, workers who continued risking their lives did not always get their salaries and risk allowances and no consequent support system for Ebola survivor health workers or for the families of deceased workers was put in place.

 Following the national strike, 22 union leaders across the country were fired without any hearing by the Health Minister of Liberia. Following an intervention by nearly all stakeholders, twenty were reinstated, except for Joseph S. Tamba and George Poe Williams, respectively President and General Secretary of NAHWAL. Their accounts were put on hold as of May 2015.

 The cases of Tamba and Williams do not stand alone. They are an extreme example of the lack of respect for trade union rights and the right to organise in Liberia although ILO Conventions 87 and 98 are ratified.

  To date, it remains illegal for public service workers to organise and form or join a union that represents them. Although NAHWAL has followed all the required procedures, including paying Business Registry tax as a trade union for two years in a row, the union has been denied a union certificate. The Ministry of Labour has never officially replied to written requests for clarification. NAHWAL, together with PSI and ITUC has filed a complaint at the Committee on Freedom of Association of the ILO.

 Not only Liberian public service workers’ organisations but also other unions face the same struggle: various trade unions have been denied registration therefore excluding them from collective bargaining and union leaders and activists are regularly dismissed, displaced to faraway regions, denied their salary, and workers intimidated.

Capitalism has long since served its historic mission of introducing a socially necessary technological age.

We must organise to take the Earth back from those who currently own and exploit it, and must make it the common heritage of all.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Economic incompetence, chicanery or both in Mozambique

A report in the Guardian on 27 January 2017 tells us of a £1.6bn borrowing spree which has serious consequences for the wealth producing working class of that country.

 Nurses and teachers are among those bearing the brunt of a debt crisis rooted in the mistaken belief that major gas reserves would bring untold riches

 Mozambique’s £1.6bn borrowing spree has caused a fiscal crisis that means interest on loans, civil service new year bonuses and other government bills was not paid this month.

 Four years ago, with one of Africa’s largest natural gas reserves in development and visions of fabulous wealth before them, Mozambique’s leaders took secret loans worth $2bn. These were organised by the London offices of two major European banks, Credit Suisse and the Russian state-owned bank VTB, the conduct of whom was sufficiently questionable that they are now being investigated by financial authorities in the UK, Switzerland and the US.

 The money was for tuna fishing, maritime security and weapons to fight Renamo rebels; according to Christine Lagarde, director general of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), some if it was also used corruptly.

 But gas prices collapsed and the development of the gas fields was delayed. Last year, when it became obvious there was no money to pay, the loan package became public.

 In keeping the loans secret, the government lied to its own parliament, as well as to the IMF and donors (including Britain), who immediately reduced aid and lending. That exacerbated the economic crisis, forcing an austerity programme.

 There was a huge devaluation of the local currency, the metical, and two weeks ago it was announced that inflation last year was 25%. The austerity package means the government is delaying payments to its suppliers; last week, it announced it would not make any interest payments on the debt.

 Civil servants, including teachers and nurses, who normally receive a month’s salary as a new year bonus, found the extra money halved. The secret loans are now being investigated by forensic auditors Kroll, who are due to report in May. But the domestic fiscal crisis will continue for many months, and government has already said no payments will be made on the loans this year.

 Details of the loans remain secret, but a Mozambican parliamentary investigation reported last month. Combined with press leaks, a grim picture is painted.

 Feasibility studies used to justify the loans were ridiculous, assuming Mozambique could sell tuna for four times as much as nearby Seychelles, for example, or that huge multinational companies would hire an untried Mozambican security company to protect the offshore gas wells.

 The loans were made to three private companies, largely owned by the Mozambican security services, Sise. Finance minister Manuel Chang said the state would guarantee to repay the loans. But the parliamentary commission concluded that Chang’s guarantees were unconstitutional, illegal and invalid – and that this should have been obvious because only parliament can guarantee loans.

In Mozambique fingers are pointed at former President Armando Guebuza and a small group around him, as well as Chang and Sise.

 But in London questions are increasingly being asked about Credit Suisse and VTB. They did not lend the money themselves, but they sold bonds and pieces of the loans to investment funds and other lenders. What did they tell those lenders?

On large loans like this, banks normally do what is called a “due diligence” study, looking at the viability of the loan and the borrower. Even the most cursory study would have shown that the state guarantee signed by Chang was not valid, and that the feasibility studies and repayment plans were nonsense. Furthermore, by keeping the loans secret, the banks did not reveal to the bond and loan holders that the $2bn loan package pushed Mozambique’s debt to unsustainable levels, making repayment highly unlikely.

 Credit Suisse and VTB have passed on all the risk to other lenders and made their profits from commissions, so they do not care what happens now. But global banks have a fiduciary responsibility; in this case to the borrowing country, the bank must check that the loan is sensible and not excessively corrupt, and for the investment funds who take on the loans, the bank must check that the borrower is likely to repay. A due diligence study should have shown that neither was likely, and thus the loan was highly dubious.

This is like lending to a gambler who says, “I am broke but will surely win next time.” When a loan is made ignoring obvious evidence that it is unwise, the loan is called “illegitimate” and is the liability of the lender, not the borrower.

Mozambicans and lenders alike are angry. Complaints that the secret $2bn Mozambique loans are illegitimate are growing. The supposed government guarantees were obviously invalid from the start and Mozambique cannot and should not pay. Thus Credit Suisse and VTB may be forced to take responsibility for the loans.

Friday, January 27, 2017

No Comrade of ours

Muhammad Siyad Barre had been from 1969 until this day in 1991, when fhe was forced to flee, the dictator of the Somali Democratic [sic} Republic.  He came to power with the assassination of Abdirashad Ali Shermarke by one of his own bodyguards. Shermarke's death led to an unopposed, bloodless coup d'état by the Somali Army commanded by one Major General Barre, who liked to be known as Comrade Siyad.   No Comrade of our class, he sought to blend the immiscible: the Qur'an and Somali nationalism with Marxism.   In reality, this led Somalia to develop state capitalism under Russia's sphere of influence.   His achievements were recognised three years later when presented with a gong: the Order of National Flag, First Class, of the Democratic [sic} People's Republic of Korea.   The relationship with Russia soured in 1978 as a result of Barre's pursuit of  Greater Somalia and the invasion of Ethiopia. Given Somalia's strategic position at the Horn of Africa, the USA became the main supplier of economic and military aid.   Literacy and nutrition improved with the development of capitalism, but Barre's priorities were military, to the extent that in 1985 they ate 65 per cent of the budget.   War abroad was soon followed by civil war.  Barre fled, first to Kenya and then Nigeria.   He died there in 1995 at the age of 75.  

The average life expectancy for men in Somalia is 45.   The ongoing civil war has resulted in 500,000+ deaths and more than 1,100,000 people being displaced.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Equatorial Guinea

Gambia's former dictator Yahya Jammeh, who took power in a coup in 1994 and once said he would rule for a billion years, lost the latest election but refused to concede victory.   Last week, under pressure from West African nations, he decided to take as much loot as possible with him into exile in Equatorial Guinea.   There he will join the equally odious Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who having come to power in a coup on August 3, 1979 is the longest reigning dictator and in the top 20 of the world's richest leaders.

Equatorial Guinea is a brutal kleptocracy,  a one party state controlled by the Democratic [sic] Party of Equatorial Guinea.   Obiang usually wins elections time after time Mugabe style,   with more than 90% of votes in his favour.   Censorship is pervasive.   Equatorial Guinea’s oil  wealth does not benefit the 99%: the majority of the population exists on less than $1 a day, lacks access to clean drinking water and 20 percent of children die before the age of 5.   Yet, unlike Mugabe, Obiang has had a positive relationship with the US.   Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarded him as a "good friend," and in 2009, President Obama posed for an official photograph with Obiang at a New York reception.   John Bennett, US ambassador to Equatorial Guinea from 1991 to 1994, in a candid moment explained why Washington turned a blind eye to Obiangs’ corruption and repression: ''Of course, it's because of the oil''.     He added, ''..if Zimbabwe had Equatorial Guinea’s oil, Zimbabwean officials wouldn’t still be blocked from the U.S.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Meet the new boss

 It is fervently hoped that bloodshed will have been avoided in the Gambia with the departure of the rogue who has been facilitating the exploitation of its citizens for the past 20 years.
 The Gambia’s new president has declared that the “rule of fear” is over in the country, as it appeared that a deal had been reached for his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, to relinquish power and go into exile.

 After 12 hours of talks, Mauritania’s president, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, confirmed to the Guardian that an agreement had been reached. “There is a deal,” he said. Asked if Jammeh would be leaving the country, he said: “The outgoing president will travel very soon.”
“The outgoing president is going to leave as soon as the conditions are met – very soon, certainly.” Abdel Aziz did not say what these conditions were.
Later, Jammeh appeared on Gambian state TV. “I believe in the importance of dialogue … I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of this great nation,” he waffled.
“All the issues we currently face can be resolved peacefully. I believe in the capacity of Africans to decide for themselves all the issues on the way to democracy, social and economic development.
“My prayer and desire [is] that peace and security continue to reign in The Gambia.” The country “must jealously guard and defend” peace, he said.

 Addressing members of the Gambian diaspora in the capital of Senegal on Friday night, the new president Barrow said: “The rule of fear has been vanished from the Gambia for good.”

Time will tell if even a modicum of that aspiration will apply.

 It is clear that much needs to be done just to ensure normal bargaining activity can take place in a country where Sheriff Diba, of the Gambian National Transport Control Association (GNTCA), died at the notorious Mile 2 Prison in Banjul on 21 February 2016, after he and other GNTCA leaders were detained by authorities. The leaders had been calling for a reduction in the price of fuel after a fall in wholesale prices, and were protesting a breakdown in negotiations with the government.

But while the climate may improve a bit workers in The Gambia, as well as workers elsewhere in the world, require a much more fundamental change in ownership and control of resources and the means of producing and distributing wealth than that afforded by capitalist mechanisms.

 This will require an understanding which allows them to perceive the real possibility of dissolving all governments over themselves and electing themselves to administer a production for use, free access, post-capitalist society of social equals. This is not on the cards presently and any freedom will be seriously constrained by the compulsion of waged slavery for the majority to produce riches for the minority.

Friday, January 20, 2017


 ‘I Feel I am a Slave’

There are now 53 million domestic workers worldwide, 1.5 million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia alone, where recruitment agencies fly in 40,000 women a month to keep up with demand.

In the Gulf, the International Trade Union Confederation says that 2.4 million domestic workers are facing conditions of slavery. Rothna Begum of Human Rights Watch says that ‘in many houses these women have absolutely no status – they have been bought’. The International Domestic Workers Federation estimates that families save $8bn (£5.1bn) a year by withholding wages from their domestic workers. ‘With kafala and other legal systems around the world that give no labour rights to migrant women, you are giving almost total impunity to employers to treat these women however they like,’ Begum says. 'It’s startling what cruelty can emerge when one person has complete control over another'. ALJO  Read more >

God and the Price of Copper

A socialist in Zambia explains how politicians and governments in countries like Zambia that export one basic commodity are at the mercy of world market conditions. Zambia is not alone in this respect.

Zambia is currently gripped by an economic crisis, characterised by falling copper prices, the depreciating kwacha, and electricity blackouts. Prices of essential commodities have shot up due to the depreciation of the kwacha. Sensing danger, President Edgar Lungu of the ruling PF despatched his deputy secretary-general Mrs Mumbi Phiri to the ZNBC, where she gave an assessment of the significance of the economic problems facing the country
..... Kephas Mulenga Read more>

Zambia: The Copper Elephant

Zambia has been mining copper for almost a century. In 1889 the British South African Company was granted a Royal Charter to exploit minerals in Southern Rhodesia. Cecil Rhodes, founder of the De Beers Mining Company, had a vision to build a Cape-to-Cairo railway line, allowing minerals to be transported from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt – en route to Europe. Massive copper ore deposits were only discovered in the Copperbelt in 1920. During the 1940s there was a tide of nationalism in the mining towns of the Copperbelt Province characterised by strikes that were organised by the Mine Workers’ Union, led by Lawrence Katilungu.

This prompted the British colonial government of the day to pass a Public Order Act to stem the tide of African political consciousness on the Copperbelt mining towns. The Public Order Act still remains in force today and the PF government is widely criticised for enforcing the act to prohibit political demonstrations of any kind...... Kephas Mulenga   Read more >

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Flawed diamond regulations are fuelling child labour in Congo mines

".... capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt." Marx

 Many of the children said they worked in the mines to pay for food or to cover unofficial school fees in a country where education is nominally free.

 The failure of European jewellery firms to scrutinise their supply chains and a flawed diamond certification scheme are fuelling child labour and sexual abuse in artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a campaign group said.

 Thousands of children work illegally in diamond mines in Congo's diamond-rich Kasai region - mainly to pay for food and school fees and girls who live around the mines are prey to rape, forced marriage and prostitution, according to Swedwatch. Yet few jewellery firms have policies to assess the risk of child labour and abuses in their diamond supply chains, and many do not provide public information about efforts to operate responsibly, Swedwatch said in a report.

 Swedwatch also said the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), an initiative seeking to end trade in "blood diamonds" used to finance conflict, was obscuring rights abuses. The KPCS classifies less than 0.1% of the world's diamonds as untradeable for ethical reasons. Yet this figure only includes diamonds used by rebel groups to finance conflict, and does not account for diamond extraction involving rights violations across Africa, Swedwatch said.

"The KPCS is outdated and does not cover most human rights abuses linked to diamond extraction on Wednesday," Therese Sjöström, a researcher at Swedwatch, said from Stockholm. Andrey Polyakov, head of the World Diamond Council (WDC), said the success of the KPCS was based on its focus on conflict.

"However, as WDC, we are against any form of human rights violations," he said. "As the industry voice, we take it as our responsibility to continue the ongoing discussions within the KPCS to press to reform and further strengthen the process."

 Many of the children who spoke to Swedwatch said they worked in the mines to pay for food or to cover unofficial school fees in a country where education is nominally free. Others were orphans, or abandoned by their parents, and worked to survive.

 Sexual abuse and rape of girls and women around the mines is widespread, yet there is no access to professional support for victims, according to Swedwatch, which monitors the impact of Swedish companies on the environment and human rights.

 Swedwatch called on the Congolese government to protect children in artisanal mines from illegal child labour, and said jewellery companies should improve the regulation of their supply chains, and work together to demand reform of the KPCS. The KPCS is chaired by participating countries on rotation. Australia takes over from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2017, and will be followed by the European Union (EU) in 2018.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The causes of xenophobia

  Africans living in other countries which are not their countries of origin are grimly accustomed to invectives like "fucking foreigner"; "parasite"; "alien"; "refugee", etc. But it appears matters have been getting out of hand in recent years. Xenophobia is on the rise, making nonsense of the catchy phrase "Africa for the Africans".

  In sub-Saharan Africa this phenomenon raised its ugly head with the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president who was quite continental, nay internationalist in outlook. In 1969/70 the government of K.A. Busia (which replaced the Nkrumah regime after a short period of military rule) came up with the infamous and disgraceful Aliens Compliance Order which saw the brutal and compulsory expulsion of "aliens" mostly from Nigeria and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).

 In the early 1980s, Nigeria followed suit (and more brutally) by burning alive hundreds of Ghanaians in Nigeria in an attempt to flush them out as "aliens". Today it is the same story in the Republic of South Africa. And quite recently, Malians were given a similar treatment in the wake of the struggle for political leadership between Laurent Gbagbo and Alasan Watara in the Côte d'Ivoire. This prompted President Abdoulie Wade of Senegal to make the rather myopic remark that racism in the Côte d'Ivoire dwarfed that found in Europe.

  He obviously intentionally forgot to mention the deep hatred and inhuman treatment meted out by his stone-cold immigration officers to anglophone West Africans entering or passing through Senegal. A few months ago people in Gadhafi's Libya took up arms against African immigrants, exiling quite a large number to the "next world", all in the name of this issue of "fucking foreigners". And yet Gadhafi, after having accused his brothers in the Arab League of being sell-outs to America, is busy trying to organise a Union of African States to replace the toothless bulldog, that the Organisation of African Unity has become! Interesting, isn't it?

The unfounded truth
The reasons for these internecine expulsions and violence are almost always the same in each country. "Patriotic" citizens are quick to assert, nationalistically, that the "aliens" have come to take over their country, their resources, their jobs, their culture, and what have you.

In Ghana the raison d'être of the Aliens Compliance Order of the Progress Party was to have Ghanaians control business which the authorities claimed had been dominated by "aliens" (most of whom actually were farm labourers in the cocoa plantations). In the Côte d'Ivoire, though the xenophobic pogrom was purely political, Ivoriens attacked and looted the shops of "foreigners". In the Libyan case, and in Gambia where a few months ago bars and public houses belonging to "aliens" were vandalised, the reason was that the "aliens" were encouraging immoral and un-Islamic practices in their countries.

However the reality is that all over Africa the business, hotel and tourist industries which are the breeding grounds for alcoholism and prostitution (male and female) are mostly controlled by non-Africans. Big business is the exclusive domain of American, European and African businessmen who reap all the profits and repatriate them leaving Africa worse off. Yet they are never touched, nay, never seen.

Therefore, though the grievances of the masses may be related to economic factors, it is unreasonable to blame it on their fellow poor. This is especially so considering the fact that most "aliens" are engaged in lowly jobs which "citizens" may consider below their standard. Most non-citizens are engaged in such menial jobs as carpentry, masonry, shoe-repairing, cleaning drains and sweeping streets and markets. Those in what may be considered as decent jobs are the teachers, and no one has illusions as to the economic clout of a group who are consoled by the words that their reward is in heaven.
The real situation
  As already hinted above, xenophobia cannot be divorced from the economic life of the masses. But how the one influences the other is what most people fail to understand. This can be explained from a two-dimensional plane: official policy and mass reaction.

  In the first place it is important to understand that society today is divided into the rich and the poor. The rich, who are few, own the means of production and distribution of wealth whilst the poor, who are the majority, own nothing except their ability to work. Again, every political party is owned and controlled by the rich who contribute money to it which is used to canvass the support of the poor masses.

 Thus a party in power is in reality the executive committee of the rich people behind it. Such a party therefore rules in the interests of the owners. All its policies are consequently aimed at the welfare of the rich. Now, since there will arise a conflict of interest between the rich owners and their poor followers, the ruling party or government will have to spend huge chunks of the country's money on arms, maintenance of the army, the police, prisons, etc to hold down the masses so that the rich can make their profits without hindrance. In the process basic necessities such as food, shelter, healthcare, education are underfunded. The little that is provided can only be afforded by the rich. The result, undoubtedly, is discontent, alienation and disobedience among the masses.

  In order to ward off unrest various tactics are employed by governments. One of them is creating divisions among the suffering masses by, for instance, blaming foreigners and whipping up nationalistic feelings. This diverts attention from misrule and mismanagement. Secondly, and in response to the official lies, the masses who are hungry, sick and illiterate are taken in by the government's ploy.

 Now, since a hungry man is an angry man and since anger is emotional and overpowers reason, the least provocation can result in violence-often misdirected. Such violence can be vented against fellow citizens usually manifested in riots and civil wars. The violence is also invariably be turned loose on the "aliens". This is the real cause of xenophobia-the rich pitting the poor against the poor. In fact wealthy "aliens" are not usually affected.

What is to be done?
  In the past when Africa did not have artificial boundaries such as there are today, wars and hatred were not as rife. Therefore it appears that dismantling the boundaries, drawn up by non-Africans, would minimise violence. But will that abolish xenophobia? No. As has been noted above, it is the problem of "the haves and have-nots" which is central to war, violence and hatred. Thus the real solution will be to eliminate the present situation of a minority owning the means of production and distribution of wealth whilst the majority owning nothing, have to work for the few. In other words money, buying and selling, commodities and the like must be done away with. Humanity must commonly own the means of production and must have free and equal access to the produce. Under such circumstances there will be no want and consequently no war and hatred.

  But this type of system can only be possible when people make efforts to understand it. When they understand and want it, they can organise to usher it in.

(This leaflet on the phenomenon of xenophobia while dated in some named instances, is still a precise and topically current analysis of the causes of xenophobia.)

Unions in Burkina Faso and Senegal fight back against precarious work

 The lives of hundreds of precarious workers have been dramatically improved by unions after they were regularized and organized in a campaign against precarious work.

From a report in industriALL Here >

 IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from Burkina Faso and Senegal gathered on 30 November and 1 December in Ouagadougou to take stock of the progress achieved through their fight against precarious work. In both Senegal and Burkina Faso, affiliates have actively fought the abusive use of daily and fixed term contracts for years.

 Last September, after several months of labour conflict at the mining site of Bissa Gold, owned by Nord Gold in Burkina Faso, 750 temporary, fixed term contract, workers won permanent contracts. Two hundred temporary agency workers are expected to be directly employed as permanent workers by Bissa Gold.

 This was the result of an active campaign and media exposure led by IndustriALL affiliate the general union Fédération des Industries Diverses (FID) and their confederation the CNTB, with the support of IndustriALL.

 Nord Gold has announced that it will pay workers all unpaid overtime and holidays owed by its sub-contractor, Exterhum, as demanded by the workers.

 The case of 116 workers illegally retrenched in October 2015 is still at the labour court for a final decision.

 In Burkina Faso in 2015, FID and the textile, garment and leather union the Fédération Nationale des Travailleurs du Textile, de l'Habillement et du Cuir (FNTTHC) recruited 548 new members from the precarious workforce.  Affiliates will take joint action on 7 December to denounce and demand the revision of a labour law adopted in 2008 that allows for the unlimited renewal of fixed term contract. Since the adoption of this law, the number of fixed term contract workers has exploded.

 In 2016 in Senegal, the general union Syndicat Unique des Travailleurs des Industries Diverses du Sénégal (SUTIDS) successfully negotiated the regularization of 218 fixed term contract and daily workers out of 996 precarious workers working in 15 companies in the chemical sector.

 The chemical union Syndicat National des Travailleurs des Industries Chimiques et Activités Rattachées du Sénégal (SYNTICS) successfully recruited 316 precarious workers. The lives of the workers who have been regularized have changed completely. Not only have their salaries increased, and sometimes doubled, they now have access with their families to medical care and they benefit from proper protective equipment.

 In 2015, the unions launched a campaign to limit the use of day workers in their countries. As a result, in 2016, the unions are negotiating an amendment to the legislation on the use daily work at the national tripartite body.

 The amendment aims to ban the use of daily work in core activities and to provide day workers with medical coverage and social protection. Affiliates plan another day of action in December to put pressure on both employers and government. IndustriALL affiliates succeeded in mobilizing several confederations and unions from services and agriculture for this campaign.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Trade Union Movement Under Siege

 Botswana has moved some few steps forward in cultivating and nurturing for the existence of Trade Unions and the bargaining process,  and how she  has since moved, and is continuing to move many more steps backward, in the process reversing the gains.

This is not helped by  the power struggles between the unions themselves.

An African maxim counsels that, "when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers".

Botswana workers may be headed for a rude awakening that their trade unions are not protecting their welfare but instead engaged in power struggles that border on a clash of egos. That is if Monday’s interim ruling by Industrial Court President Judge Tebogo Maruping in the case between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU over admission of the latter into the Bargaining Council is anything to go by.

 More here >

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Black death

The civil war in Nigeria officially ended on this day in 1970 following two and a half years of conflict and the death of  millions.     Socialists did not support either side, holding that the workers and peasant farmers had no interest at stake in the capitalist rivalries within Nigeria or in the sordid intervention of Russia, France, Britain and other capitalist powers.   Recent reports, such as that from Amnesty International in November last year stating that government forces had killed at least 150 pro-Biafran activists,  indicate that these rivalries remain and divert workers from expressing their class solidarity.  

Further reading: Nigeria,Biafra and oil.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Heart of Darkness

Józef  Korzeniowski, better known as Joseph Conrad, returned to London 123 years ago today after many years working at sea and embarked on a writing career.  His first novel,  Almayer’s Folly, was published in 1895.   But it was Conrad's time as captain of a steamboat on the Congo River that would inspire his novella Heart of Darkness (1902).   This work is reviewed from a socialist perspective here as part of A Novel Approach to History series.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pawns in Abyssinia

The article below, which first appeared in the Socialist Standard of August 1935, has just recently been added to the Marxists Internet Archive.

It is evident that the Italian Government is determined, at whatever the cost in men and  money, to force big concessions from the independent State of Abyssinia, including, no doubt—if things go according to the Italian plans—the annexation of a large part of Abyssinian territory and the establishment of some form of close control over the remainder of the country. Why Mussolini's Government is prepared to go to war can be explained on the usual grounds. Notwithstanding the Fascist promise of a new economic system, Italian industry is carried on for profit in competition with the rest of the capitalist world, and Italy's lack of raw materials in her own territory or colonies places her capitalists at a disadvantage in the scramble for profit. Abyssinia is coveted because, among other attractions, it would provide a market for Italian goods and cheap supplies of raw cotton, which would free Italian capitalists from the need to import from America. The excuse is often used by the Great Powers when annexing the territories of native races that the backwardness of the latter is withholding from the civilised world much-needed sources of supply, without any advantage to the natives themselves. In the war to conquer Abyssinia that excuse cannot very well be used. Nobody can argue that the outside world is being hampered by scarcity of cotton. On the contrary, one of the outstanding features of the depression has been the vast over-production of cotton in many parts of the world, and the expensive official schemes for destroying and restricting cotton crops. In short, the motive which sends a gigantic military force into Abyssinia is not economic, in the sense of a genuine need of the human race, but is purely capitalistic, the lust for profit in a world divided into antagonistic capitalist-national groups. So, if Italy wins and further develops cotton-growing there, the next world economic crisis will very probably see the Italian Government restricting the production of that article, after sacrificing lives innumerable to make the development possible. Other attractions in Abyssinia are gold, rubber, copper, potash, and platinum.

Unrest in Italy

There are other reasons also. The early enthusiasm for Fascism began long ago to wear off, and there have recently been reports of strikes and demonstrations, including some against the threatened war. Poverty and unemployment for the workers are the order of the day under the Fascist flag, as under all others, and faced with discontent, Mussolini, like many a doomed dictator before him, is grasping at military glory as a means of regaining popular support. Naturally, he pretends otherwise, and claims that all but a tiny majority of the Italian population are behind him. Nevertheless, according to the Geneva correspondent of the Daily Telegraph (July 17th), he takes the precaution of imposing a much more drastic control of the frontier passes leading into Switzerland, with the two-fold object of preventing the escape of men who do not want to fight and of preventing the importation of anti-war and anti-Fascist propaganda leaflets and journals.

From a military point of view, while all the advantages of money and armaments are with the Italian forces, the deserts and mountainous country will be comparatively easy to defend, and the weather will be against the invaders. While opinion generally is that in time Abyssinia would be crushed, the task may prove so slow and costly that the Italian capitalists may well come to regard Mussolini as an expensive luxury. According to Mr. Vernon Bartlett (News-Chronicle, July 25th), "It is true—even though it be denied—that exactly a year ago important Army officers were alarmed to learn that Signor Mussolini contemplated an Abyssinian campaign .... They advised against it, a commission on the spot advised against it . . ."

The defeat of an Italian force by the Abyssinians at Adowa in 1896 led to the overthrow of the then Italian Premier, Crispi. Will history repeat itself ?

Something Rotten in the State of Abyssinia

Mussolini's appeals to the Italian workers to sacrifice their lives in a quarrel which does not concern them are paralleled by those of Emperor Haile Selassie. Although the country has made only small advances towards capitalist industrialism, and that only in limited areas, it has its evils no less than those of the capitalist Powers. Chattel slavery still exists, and is only slowly giving place to wage-slavery. There is desperate poverty on the one hand, face to face with the wealth and power of the ruling class on the other. It is true, as the Emperor says, that "throughout their history they have seldom met with foreigners who did not desire to possess themselves of Abyssinian territory, and to destroy their independence," but independence means no more to the subject class in Abyssinia than it does elsewhere. Moreover, much of the tribal territory held by Abyssinia was grabbed by the Emperor's predecessors, and is now held by force against the wishes of the local population. It is one of the ironies of the situation that just as Mussolini is afraid of discontented workers at his back, so the Emperor has to take extreme precautions that the arms he imports do not on the way fall into the hands of his own unwilling subjects, who would use them to revolt against him.

Haile Selassie's command over the kind of phrases to delude his subjects into fighting their masters' wars is hardly less than that of Mussolini himself: "He who dies for his country is a happy man"—" It is better to die free than live as slaves" (a little inappropriate perhaps in a country where there are many slaves)—"God will be your shield. United with God, our ramparts and our shields will face to-morrow's invader with confidence. . . . Your sovereign will be in your midst and will not hesitate to shed his blood for Ethiopia. If no peaceful solution is found, Ethiopia will struggle to the last man for existence."

The religious note will be better understood when it is remembered that the Abyssinian priesthood are said to own as much as one-third of the total land, and are immensely influential.

The Attitude of the Powers

Many of the other Governments have direct or indirect interest in the situation. The Abyssinian Government has for many years tried to insure itself against occupation by one Power by giving contracts and concessions to companies belonging to several different countries. America, France, Japan, England, Belgium, Germany and Egypt are among the countries with trading or other important interests. Owing, however, to the complications of the European situation—in particular, the aim of keeping Austria apart from Germany, for which Italy's aid is essential— England and France would no doubt not be much disturbed at the idea of an Italian conquest of part of Abyssinia, provided that their own interests were safeguarded, along with Egypt's interest in Lake Tana, from which the Nile flows. However, not only has America indicated hostility to any Italian conquest, but the Japanese Government has taken the same line, and is allowing influential Japanese organisations to work up an agitation against Italy for the proposed "violation of international law and justice." The Japanese Government, which used the same methods in Manchuria and is now using them in China proper, is horrified that Italy should do this in Abyssinia.

A factor which may cause misgivings in many capitals is that any Abyssinian success may cause increased unrest throughout all the colonies in Africa.

It is worth remembering that Sir Samuel Hoare, British Foreign Secretary, has laid it down that Italy has a right to "expand," i.e., to conquer the territory of other nations (Hansard, July 11th, col. 517).
It is also worth remembering that, in order to buy Italy off, the British Government offered to give away some British territory in Somaliland, without asking the local inhabitants or the population at home.

What the final outcome of the complex clash of interests in Abyssinia will be, it is impossible to foretell.

A Crusade to Stop Slavery

One argument which generally plays a prominent part in the wars of annexation waged by the European States against the coloured races— that the war is a Christianising war—cannot be urged here, because the Abyssinian ruling class are Christians and have, indeed, themselves played the game of Christianising the Mohammedans. Mussolini has had to content himself with another noble-sounding slogan. He is going to rid Abyssinia of slavery, and impose by force the very doubtful advantages of Italian capitalist civilisation. The Pecksniffian leader writer of The Times (July 15th), while chiding Mussolini for his "obstinacy," tells us of some of the evils existing in the ancient empire of Abyssinia, or Ethiopia: "It is known . . . that conditions of squalor and extreme crudeness exist among the greater part of their quarrelsome tribes, some of whom still retain the belief that a man is no man until he has killed his enemy." The Abyssinians might retort that if there were no squalor already, conquest by any of the Powers would soon introduce it in large measure. Are not the notorious slums of the Italian towns squalid? And has The Times never heard of Britain's army of paupers, and the shocking conditions of the depressed areas? As for the ferocity of the tribesmen, who is Mussolini to complain? Has he not for years bellowed of the glorious uplifting qualities of war?

The Labour-I.L.P. Attitude

With their incurable weakness for sentimental phrases, the I.L.P. and Labour Party have discovered here another "poor little Belgium" being attacked by a big Power, and want to take sides with the Abyssinian ruling class against the Italian. The I.L.P. New Leader (July 19th) wants the British workers to refuse to make or transport arms or munitions for Italy. Nothing is said of arms for Abyssinia, so, presumably, the I.L.P. has no objection to the making of war material for the ruling class of that country. The Labour Daily Herald is more explicit, and printed an article from their correspondent in Abyssinia (July 24th), containing the following : —

It seems as if all that remains for the Abyssinians to do now is to sharpen their spears, clean their rifles and hope that Europe will let them buy ammunition, so that it may be a fair fight (italics ours).
Could anything better illustrate the hopelessly non-Socialist attitude of the little gentlemen of the Daily Herald? Here is a war about to take place between the exploiting class in two countries, one of which is more developed industrially than the other, and the organ of the Labour Party hopes that the slaughter of workers about a question which is not worth the life of a single one of them, shall be conducted on a "fair" basis, the only possible result of which would be that the killing would be prolonged !

The Socialist attitude is quite unlike that taken up by the Labour Party and I.L.P. We do not take sides in ruling class quarrels. A story told of the Viennese during the battle of Sadowa is more in line with what should be the working class attitude. At that battle, which occurred in 1866, the Prussians and the Austrians were fighting out the issue which of the two ruling class groups should dominate the German States and Central Europe. It is said of the Viennese that, while the battle was in progress they went on dancing, "as if it did not matter which side won." They were right, and it would tax the ingenuity of all the assembled historians and apologists for war to show any tangible loss suffered by the mass of the Austrian population through the defeat.

The progress of the world, and the abolition of war can only come through Socialism. The duty of the working class is to press forward on that road, and not to be diverted by I.L.P.-Labour Party propaganda for this or that section of the ruling class.  
['H' - Edgar Hardcastle]

Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday titled Ethiopia: Year of Brutality, Restrictions which makes for grim reading.   Plus ça change

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Censorship and Corruption at South Africa’s Public Broadcaster?

Things aren’t going too well for South Africa’s public broadcaster.

The country’s parliament is holding an enquiry into the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) amid allegations of censorship, government interference and preferential treatment for a chief operating officer who seemingly lied about his qualifications but is in favor with President Jacob Zuma.
Why is the SABC in trouble?

For a variety of reasons, many of which relate to Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who took up the acting role of chief operating officer at the SABC in 2011. Motsoeneng introduced what became known as a “sunshine news” quota at the SABC, which required the majority of news coverage to be positive.

This policy came into sharp relief earlier in 2016, when the SABC refused to cover violent protests across the country. Protesters in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province torched more than 20 schools in a dispute over district boundaries in May, while people also took to the streets and clashed with security forces in Pretoria in June ahead of local government elections in August.

In a statement, the SABC said they were not going to “provide publicity to such actions that are destructive and regressive,” with Motsoeneng suggesting that broadcasting footage of protesters would encourage copycat acts.
How did people in South Africa react?

Lots of them reacted with indignation. The South African National Editors’ Forum said the policy smacked of apartheid, the political system of racial segregation that was abolished in South Africa in 1994, when “the apartheid regime blamed media...for spreading nationwide uprisings” and “a picture of false peace was being manufactured.” The acting chief executive of the SABC, Jimi Matthews, resigned in June, saying that the corporation’s policies had “compromised the values I hold dear.”

A group of journalists spoke out against the censorship policy and were sacked. In July, a labor court ruled that the group—who have become known as the SABC 8—were unlawfully dismissed and should be reinstated.
What has the parliamentary enquiry found so far?

While the enquiry is still in its early stages, there have already been some juicy allegations. One of the SABC 8, Vuyo Mvoko—who was formerly a contributing editor at the corporation—claimed that the network had directed money towards a rival network, ANN7, owned by the Guptas, a family with close links to Zuma. The motive behind this alleged transfer of funds is unclear, but other SABC journalists have claimed that Motsoeneng acted with impunity at the SABC, knowing that his role was protected by the highest echelons of South Africa’s government.
Edited from Here >

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Castro: Latin American Nationalist

On 26 November Fidel Castro, one of the oldest dictators in Latin America, died.

 The announcement of his death was made by his brother Raul Castro on state television. His death was celebrated by the opponents of the government of Cuba in Miami in Florida, and it was also taken as sad news by many of the Latin America Leftists and supporters of the Cuban regime.

 In 1959 Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara were part of an armed rebellion which provoked the overthrow of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, a government backed by the US for several years. Then, part of the ruling elite of Cuba shifted toward the support of the guerrillas who were fighting in the Sierra Maestra against the Cuban military forces.

 After their victory, Fidel Castro and the Communist Party of Cuba initiated the nationalization of all the US holdings and assets, and all private land was taken over by the state. The US declared an embargo on the island.

 Castro declared himself a ‘Marxist-Leninist’ and entered a relationship with the Soviet Union, and established a form of state capitalism like the one established by the Bolsheviks, and called it socialism. In a country where agriculture prevailed over industrial production, sugar was the main production that existed in the whole country, and most of the workers were peasants and did not have any socialist consciousness. The level of illiteracy was high in the rural areas of the country. The economic backwardness was as in most of the countries of Latin America

 After the defeat of the invasion of the Bay of Pigs which was financed by the US and backed by the CIA, and, at the peak of the Cold War period after the 1962 missile crisis during the government of John F Kennedy in the USA, and Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union, an accord of no intervention was signed between the US and the Soviet Union.

 Several social and economic reform programmes were implemented such as state-run medical services, public transportation, and public education. A large programme of education was initiated throughout the country,  

 A long period of stagnation, poverty, and scarcity began. While the government blamed this on the embargo imposed by the US, they never recognized that so-called socialism in one country was an impossibility and that despite collaboration with the Soviet Union, which also proclaimed itself a socialist country, the economic laws of capitalism prevailed in the country. Most of the followers of Cuban ‘socialism’ in Latin America blamed Cuba’s problems simply on the US embargo, and never recognized the class character of the ruling elite, and the economical exploitation of the Cuban workers.

 For many years, the Latin American left proclaimed Fidel Castro as the leader and commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, and a bastion of socialism in that region where many guerrilla groups were financed by Cuba on behalf of the Soviet Union during the period of the Cold War. Most of those groups were defeated by the military forces of several Latin American countries.

 The whole region of Latin America is a clear indication that socialism cannot be established by a small group of armed individuals. The great majority of the class-conscious-less workers never gave support to any of these groups, including the guerrillas of Manolo Tavarez Justo, and the invasion of Francisco Caamano in the Dominican Republic, who at the end did not obtain the support of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Government. In the same manner Che Guevara did not receive any support from the Communist Party of Bolivia

 Che Guevara was assassinated in Bolivia trying to obtain the support of the peasants to carry out the same revolt that took place in Cuba in 1959, and the guerrillas that accompanied him were killed or imprisoned. Within the Cuban leadership he was the only one who verbally advocated a moneyless society but after the Fidelista guerrillas took power he became the Minister of Commerce, and he was in charge of the Central Bank of Cuba, which contradicted his aspiration for a socialist society without money.

 Despite their socialist and Marxist rhetoric and phraseology none of the leaders of the Cuban revolution including Fidel Castro ever had a real conception of what a socialist society should be. Most of the speeches and writings of Fidel Castro show that he was an apologist of Latin American Nationalism and later representative of the struggle of the Latin American capitalist class to liberate themselves from the influence of the US capitalist, like Domingo Peron in Argentina, and Ernesto Cardenas in Mexico, and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela

 The case of Cuba is a living example of what the Socialist Party and the companion parties of the World Socialist Movement have indicated for many years, which is that socialism cannot be established in one single country, and that it must be established in a world scale by the vast socialistically conscious majority of the workers, and that socialism cannot be established in an economical backward society to be a free access society. That is the reason why the Cuban regime had to initiate a rationing programme with the excuse to create equality among the workers, while the ruling elite enjoyed all kinds of privileges and benefits.

This article is taken from the Socialist Standard Issue No. 1349  January 2017


Kenyan Clan Elders Continue to Push for FGM

  Kenya's clan elders profit from the practice of female genital mutilation, complicating activist efforts to eradicate the practice in the west of the country, where "cutting" season has just begun.

The Kuria are one of Kenya’s lesser-known ethnic groups. Some 250,000 people quietly attempt to eke out a living in this remote region tucked away near the Tanzanian border.

But one of the tribe’s most distinctive characteristics has attracted the attention of outsiders: 96 percent of Kuria women undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), one of the highest rates in the country. In Kuria, the cut is seen as an important ritual for a girl’s transition into womanhood, the notion behind it being that it will make her a faithful wife by reducing her sexual desire.

While the FGM rate among some ethnic groups in Kenya is declining, the Kuria people have staunchly resisted change. One reason for this, according to activists trying to reverse the FGM trend in Kenya, is money.

Parents pay between 500 and 1,000 Kenyan shillings ($5 to $10) for their daughters to be circumcised, a procedure performed by a female cutter. Half of the fee goes to a clan of elders, an exclusively male group that decides on cultural events and traditions. The elders choose if and when the cutting season for FGM goes ahead and, for them, the tradition has come to signify an opportunity to significantly boost their annual income.

Research by the Education Center for the Advancement of Women (ECAW) found that each clan member receives up to 25,000 shillings ($250) every cutting season, as well as gifts of alcohol and food from the families of girls being cut. For these men, who earn very little as farmers, especially following the departure of major cash crop companies in the last decade, there is little incentive to stop FGM.

“They complain they don’t have an alternative source of income. They get a lot of money during the season,” says ECAW program officer Cess Mugo. “One clan of elders said it was a way of appeasing ancestors; others didn’t want to be the ones who break with tradition. But money is a big issue.”
Female genital mutilation rates in many Kenyan ethnic groups are declining, but the Kuria community refuses to end the practice. And the reason is money, say activists.
Female genital mutilation rates in many Kenyan ethnic groups are declining, but the Kuria community refuses to end the practice. And the reason is money, say activists.

Several community elders told ECAW they would end FGM if the government compensated them for the loss of income. “The person who does the cut gets the money, but the elders are given a small amount each season, like 500 shillings ($5),” says David Mwita, an elder from the Nyabasi clan, one of four Kuria clans, each with around 30 members. “We have no problem with stopping cutting, but the government should give money to us old men each month.”

When asked earlier this year, Nyabasi clan elders said they would cancel the cutting season, because of government pressure to end the practice. “Before, we didn’t know about the dangers of FGM. We have been taught about the difficulty of giving birth and the pain that the girl [would be] in. It is coming to an end,” said Wilson Sika, another Nyabasi elder.

But more recently, others in the community have said elders were hiding the fact that girls would be cut this year because they are afraid of getting into trouble with authorities.

“The clan says the cutting season is going ahead,” said one woman, who asked not to be named. “I have sent my three daughters to Nairobi to be with their father. I don’t want them to be cut.”

According to Mugo, ECAW has had trouble with clan elders hiding the true extent of FGM in the past.

“It was the same the last cutting season,” she says. “They told us they would not cut the girls, but it was one of the worst years ever in this area for FGM.”

ECAW, funded by the U.K.-based education charity Feed the Minds, is one of the few organizations still working in Kuria on FGM projects. There used to be more, but many have left, likely due to frustration over a lack of results, says Mugo. “Cutting season is very unpredictable,” she says. “You feel you have done enough work, then comes the season and it is like you never stepped foot there.”

    “The law has made everything a bit more difficult. People are doing the cutting at night and in secret places.”

Although Kenya introduced robust anti-FGM legislation in 2011, with possible jail sentences for anyone aiding the practice, activists say FGM is just going underground. “The law has made everything a bit more difficult,” says Mugo. “People are doing the cutting at night and in secret places.”

Groups like ECAW run education programs for families, teaching them about the dangers of FGM and challenging the stigmas around uncut girls, who are traditionally ostracized from society and find it hard to marry. ECAW also works on confidence-building for parents and other family members who are against FGM, so they feel empowered to disobey orders from clan elders.

Clan elders intimidate people and are feared,” says Mugo. “We are trying to make the community understand they shouldn’t allow someone to dictate what they do with their children.”

Despite the reluctance among elders to end the practice, activists say they see positive signs that attitudes are gradually changing, especially among younger generations. Previously, most fathers felt compelled to get their daughters cut because they would fetch a higher dowry. But now, in the wake of various awareness campaigns, some opponents of FGM in Kuria say uncut girls are now getting a higher dowry than girls who have undergone FGM.

“My daughter has not been cut,” says Simon Maroa, a teacher and pastor. “When I was young I thought it was important. But with education, I learned it was wrong.”

From maternal and newborn health to family planning, and access to primary health services – the basic building blocks of well-being for women and girls around the world – we dissect the key issues surrounding women and girls’ health.
Edited from Here

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Jailed journalist Mohamed Tamalt dies in coma

 Mohamed Tamalt, convicted of insulting President Bouteflika, dies after three months in coma.

  Tamalt, 42, fell into a coma three months ago following his hunger strike in protest of his arrest .

  Mohamed Tamalt was convicted in an Algerian court of "defaming a public authority" and "offending" Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in a poem he posted on Facebook.

  "I can confirm the death of the journalist Mohamed Tamalt in Bab el-Oued hospital after a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma," Amine Sidhoum, Tamalt's lawyer, wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

  Tamalt, 42, died of a lung infection while in a coma. Before his arrest, he ran a blog and was a freelance journalist based in London.

  He was reportedly arrested near his parents' house in Algiers on June 27 and began his hunger strike the same day.

  On July 11, he was sentenced to two years in prison and given a $1,800 fine. An appellate court upheld the sentence a month later.

 Rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders had urged the Algerian government to drop the charges and release Tamalt, expressing particular concern over his health after he had fallen into a coma in August.

  Brahim Mahdid, spokesman for Amnesty International in Algeria, called for "a full, transparent, and independent investigation into Mohamed Tamalt's death.

  "So far, we can't say for sure what the cause of his death was," Mahdid told Al Jazeera. "Nor are we sure if Tamalt received the proper treatment during his hunger strike."

  According to Mahdid: "Tamalt's detention occurred while Algeria's media companies were facing increasing pressure. The situation has [since] not improved, as the country's independent media organisations still [operate in] a hostile environment."

  Speaking to Al Jazeera, Tamalt's lawyer Amine Sidhoum said that Tamalt's death was "the first time since Algeria gained its independence from France that a journalist died in jail because of what he wrote on the Internet.

"Mohamed's death is a shame for our country," Sidhoum added. "I am also really sad at the lack of support from his fellow Algerian journalists, who left him and abandoned him."

According to Sidhoum, Tamalt is set to be buried in Algiers on Monday.

"It is time to say a last goodbye and pray. We are in mourning, but we, his family and lawyers, will figure out in the following days what we can do to find out exactly what happened to him [while he was] in prison."

  Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch called the death of Tamalt "tragic".

“It is tragic that a journalist in Algeria died on a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment.” Sarah Leah Whitson, the rights group's Middle East and North Africa director said in a statement.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Discrimination, mutilation & poverty

The dawn of socialism and the end of pre-history will see the long overdue demise of such barbaric cultural practices as female genital mutilation, which, according to one recent estimate, has claimed 200 million victims in 30 different countries.   Breast ironing is largely confined to Cameroon, but affects as many as one in four pubescent girls.    Down's Syndrome is rarely diagnosed as such in Sierra Leone and boys and girls with the condition are seen as 'devil children' in need of black magic.   And in Kenya, '65% of women and girls (pdf) are unable to afford sanitary pads. “When people earn less than two bucks a day, is a family going to [get] bread, milk and food, or a girl’s sanitary pads?” says Angela Lagat, chief brand marketing officer at ZanaAfrica.    The situation is so dire that in a 2015 study of 3000 Kenyan women, Dr Penelope Phillips-Howard found 1 in 10 15-year-old girls were having sex to get money to pay for sanitary ware' (thrguardian.com, 5 January).

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Egyptian Trade Unions update

 With 2016, the situation of Egyptian political forces and Civil Society Organizations is deteriorating within an increasingly complex environment considerably shrinking the public space and preventing any opportunities of social mobility, combined with an unprecedented economic crisis.  When we examine the area of workers’ rights, it is easy to notice the difficulties faced by independent trade unions defied by the “official” General Federation of Trade Unions which is totally backed by the State agencies in an attempt to exert the State hegemony over the working class.

 Therefore, independent trade unions are confronted with a central power headed by a government that acknowledges only the hierarchical structures, relying for this on an entirely dependent Federation ready to comply with all the requisites of the governmental agenda, including that of humiliating workers, denying the legacy of their claims and even violating their basic rights.  On the other hand, the Egyptian Parliament is falling under the supremacy of a pro-governmental coalition endorsing all the decisions dictated by the State apparatus.

  Moreover, the parliamentarian commission of the labor force is under the control of men belonging to the formal Federation in order to counteract any attempts initiated by independent trade unions; the power of this commission is it has the authority to adopt the legislation proposed by the State, or even to shape more restrictive legislations against freedoms and workers’ rights.  In addition, we refer to the interventions of security and intelligence forces that are always super ready to enforce judgments related to firing workers, imprisonment, including the practice of threats and forced disappearance.

 The labor’s movement is also victim of the coercive attitudes of patrons towards their workers and the leadership of the labor’s movement.  All this happens within an obvious weakness of the parties responsible of monitoring the status of workers and that of the labor market, reaching sometimes the extent of connivance with other forms of repression.  This gives free hands to businessmen in practicing their power and even violating the terms of laws with no fear from punishment.

 Close to the end of 2016, it is clear that the policies adopted by the State are in favor of safeguarding the existence of the General Federation as a useful tool to break the resistance of workers.  This role is highly valued by the upper spheres and the representatives of the Federation are preciously kept in post regardless the many scandals of corruption they are involved in.  As an illustration, Law 35/1976 about trade unions and endorsed by the Parliament last June is granting an important immunity to these representatives and allows them to pursue their role safely.

 Furthermore, representatives of independent trade unions were removed from the Egyptian delegation participating in the World Conference of Workers held in Geneva during the month of June 2016.  This represented another attack against the movement of independent trade unions that is actually the real representative of workers suffering from the violation of their rights.

 The battle around the law of trade unions’ freedoms is still ongoing between a draft law presented by the government in the absence of any social debate including several contraventions of Egypt’s international commitments, and another draft law that was jointly developed and agreed upon by representatives of independent trade unions, thematic and geographic federations, as well as legal and economic experts.

 Freedom of expression and of organizing are being systematically prohibited and represent a major label of the ruling force policies; this dead end horizon is not promising whatsoever and does not allow for an effective dialogue at the social level enabling to enhance the productivity and to open the door for improved means of human development.  On the contrary, it looks rather like the last closed bastion, i.e. the corner where the player finds himself besieged.
Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS)
December 25, 2016
Read the full report here >

Friday, January 06, 2017

World Common Ownership

 By common ownership we don’t mean state property. We are not proposing the science-fiction nightmare of all the Earth’s resources being owned and controlled by a single World State. We mean the opposite: that there should be no private property or territorial rights over any part of the globe. The Earth and its natural and industrial resources should not belong to anybody – not to individuals, not to corporations, not to states. They should simply be there to be used by human beings to satisfy their needs.

 World Common Ownership is not a new concept. When in the 1970s they were discussing dividing up the seas amongst States and individuals in the same way that the land has been, the idea of ‘global commons’ was put forward. And you had, of all people, President Nixon talking about making the seas ‘the common heritage of all mankind’. The idea was that there should be no private property and territorial rights over them. The same has been proposed for Antarctica and the Moon.

 What we are proposing is that this should apply to the Earth as well – that private property rights and territorial rights over any part of the planet should be abolished. This is the only basis on which we as the human species can set about arranging our relationship with the rest of Nature in a rational and ecological way so that the planet becomes a habitable place for all of us.

 Due to the development of the world market economy, the relationship between humans and the rest of Nature has now become a relationship between the whole human species and the biosphere as a whole. Which is a point that some Greens overlook when they propose going back to local small-scale self-sufficient communities.

 Just look at the sort of problems that have been discussed at the various Earth Summits that used to be held: global warming, tropical deforestation, the thinning of the ozone layer, acid rain. All these are world problems – problems that ignore the artificial frontiers which crisscross the globe, problems which concern the whole human race.

 The calling of so-called Earth Summits and other meetings to deal with climate change are a recognition that there are no national or local solutions to these problems. But these meetings have been failures, and were bound to be, because solutions were sought within the framework of the present, profit-driven, capitalist world economic system. The leaders of states, driven by the system to engage in a competitive struggle for profits against each other, were expected to co-operate to solve ecological problems – problems caused by the competitive, profit-seeking system they support and uphold.

 While it is clear that a question which concerns the whole world such as the possible consequences of global warming can be effectively dealt with only by unified action at a world level, it is equally clear that this is not going to happen under the profit system. The different states into which the world is divided have different – and clashing – interests. At most, all that can happen under the profit system when a global problem arises is ‘much too little, much too late’.

 The profit system, the world market system, must go before we can tackle these problems in a constructive and permanent way. It must be replaced by a global system of common ownership and democratic control. We must organise to take the Earth back from those who currently own and exploit it, and must make it the common heritage of all.

From the Socialist Standard No. 1349 January 2017

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Eritrea an inconvenience to E.U.?

 As the European parliament hosted another Eritrean politician in the hope of reducing the number of refugees fleeing the small African state, the fact that the regime has been found guilty of “crimes against humanity” by the UN has once again been overlooked.

 The event, organised by Irish MEP Brian Hayes and attended by Eritrea’s minister of information, Yemane Gebremeskel, was the latest example of the EU’s attempts to tackle the refugee crisis by reaching out to repressive regimes.

 Since the small Red Sea nation gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Europe has made repeated attempts to build a relationship with the government, but to no avail. Which leaves open the question: what crime must Eritrea commit to be condemned by the international community?

 In 2001 when the president, Isaias Afwerki, cracked down on all political opposition and jailed more than 10 independent journalists, the Italian ambassador to Eritrea presented a letter of protest to the authorities. He was promptly expelled and other European ambassadors were withdrawn. The EU presidency said relations between the EU and Eritrea had been “seriously undermined”.

 At first Europe demanded that Eritrea improve its human rights record before normal relations could be resumed. But President Afwerki did nothing of the sort, assuming that he could outlast the EU’s anger. He was right: it was the Europeans who buckled.

  As time passed the EU reassessed its relations with Asmara. Although there had been no sign of movement on human rights it was decided to try to have a “new beginning” with Eritrea.

  In May 2007 the president was invited to visit Brussels and was warmly welcomed by the then EU development commissioner, Louis Michel.

 By August 2009 Michel was sufficiently encouraged that progress could be made that he visited Asmara, after receiving assurances from an Eritrean diplomat that Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist imprisoned in 2001, would be released into his care. Having booked a ticket for Isaak to return with him to

  But once he arrived it became apparent that the president had no intention of allowing the journalist to go free. Michel was not even permitted to visit the prisoner and returned home humiliated.

  Despite these setbacks, the EU remained wedded to attempting to improve its relationship with Eritrea.

  In 2009, European and American diplomats discussed whether to strengthen military sanctions against the country. A US diplomatic cable, released via WikiLeaks, revealed that EU representatives called for engagement with Eritrea rather than isolation.

  The Italians described Eritrea as governed by a “brutal dictator” and noted that it had “not gotten results from its efforts at engagement”, while at the same time cautioning against “creating another Afghanistan” by imposing sanctions. The French said that while engagement was “useless”, they would continue on this track as there was no other option.

  The then US deputy assistant secretary for African affairs, Karl Wycoff, pointed out that EU policy was contradictory. Wycoff described what he called “the inconsistency between the private acknowledgment that Asmara was not only playing a spoiler role” by supporting Islamist groups in Somalia, which contained “violent, anti-west elements”, and the continued provision of aid programmes to Eritrea. He also noted that strong actions, including sanctions, were needed to have a chance of changing Afwerki’s behaviour.

  Ignoring these concerns, the EU pressed ahead with its strategy of engagement.
Migrants, most from Eritrea, jump into the water during a rescue operation off Libya in August.

  Years on, human rights violations and indefinite conscription continue to drive 4,000-5,000 Eritreans beyond its borders every month. Many arrive on European shores: in 2015 a total of 38,791 crossed the Mediterranean, according to the European border agency Frontex, arriving mostly in Italy.

  The refugee question has become so toxic that a number of European states have been attempting again to establish a “new engagement” with Asmara. In 2014 the Danish government sent officials to the country. Their report, published by the Danish Immigration Service, concluded that “the human rights situation in Eritrea may not be as bad as rumoured”.

  The report was not well received. It was alleged to be inaccurate and misquoted its key academic source. Prof Gaim Kibreab, whose work featured heavily, said he felt betrayed by the way in which it was used. “I was shocked and very surprised …They have completely ignored facts and just hand-plucked certain information,” he said.

  Despite these allegations, the report was picked up by a number of European nations, including the UK. Britain sent its own officials to Asmara who returned with similar conclusions.

  In March 2015 the UK’s position dramatically changed after the Home Office published updated country guidance suggesting a marked improvement in Eritrea’s human rights. The acceptance rate for Eritrean refugees plummeted from 84% in 2014 to 44% in 2015. However, the courts reportedly overturned 92% of the cases they heard.

  The EU is now attempting to deal with Eritrea as part of a wider African initiative to end refugee flows. In 2015 EU leaders met their African counterparts in Malta. The action plan they adopted detailed how Europe would co-operate with African nations to fight “irregular migration, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings”.

( This is an edited extract from Martin Plaut’s new book, Understanding Eritrea: Inside Africa’s Most Repressive State, published by Hurst Publishers)

More on Eritrea here>

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

There is Only One Humanity

“No social or revolutionary movement succeeds without a core of people who will not betray their vision and their principles. They are the building blocks of social change. They are our only hope for a viable socialism. They are willing to spend their lives as political outcasts. They are willing to endure repression. They will not sell out the oppressed and the poor. They know that you stand with all of the oppressed.” - Chris Hedges, (political commentator).

 Rather than passively accept their poverty, many Bangladeshis endeavour to escape to India but frequently pay the price.  Brad Adams, Executive Director of the Asia Department of Human Right Watch reported in an article in the Guardian (23 January 2011) that India’s Border Security Force had killed more than 1,000 Bangladeshi civilians since 2000.  The problem had come to prominence in 2011 when 15 year old girl was shot dead as she climbed over a barbed-wire border fence.  2017 will be another year of more militarised borders.

 The United Nations Convention on Refugees defines a refugee as ‘owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.’ But why is a refugee fleeing political persecution more legitimate than a migrant fleeing a life in a dirty, over-crowded, disease-ridden, dangerous slum where work is the drudgery of a sweatshop for very low wages and little job security? And what about the victims of the politics and economics of climate-change. Droughts have uprooted farmers from their fields, eroding coastlines and floods have washed away homes and displaced many into the urban shanty-town slums.

 More than 240 million people worldwide are international migrants. Refugees account for fewer than 10 per cent of the total and, in theory, they are the least contentious group, because countries have signed an international commitment to admit them. When such people travel with refugees, they are often derided as ‘just’ economic migrants. The term ‘forced migrants’ is sometimes used, mainly by academics and rarely by the media, to acknowledge the many people who migrate unwillingly but don’t fall under the Refugee Convention’s technical definition of a refugee and are therefore not entitled to international protection. This would include people who have abandoned their homes and countries because of drought or economic destitution.

 Limiting our sympathy to only asylum-seekers and differentiating them from those others who are moving for economic or environmental reasons, fosters a view that they are undeserving of help or compassion even though they too are also genuine casualties of capitalism’s war – the class war. Whether or not they meet the official definition of a refugee, many desperate people are escaping dire conditions that pose a threat to their survival. Globalisation of the world’s economy has not been able to create enough jobs where there are people in need of work. ‘Free’ Trade and corporate land-grabbing has resulted in rural workers leaving their farms.

 The World Socialist Movement describe economic migrants, asylum seekers, climate refugees simply as fellow-workers, fully worthy of our solidarity and in the words of Eugene Debs:
‘If Socialism, international, revolutionary Socialism, does not stand staunchly, unflinchingly, and uncompromisingly for the working class and for the exploited and oppressed masses of all lands, then it stands for none and its claim is a false pretense and its profession a delusion and a snare. Let those desert us who will because we refuse to shut the international door in the faces of their own brethren; we will be none the weaker but all the stronger for their going, for they evidently have no clear conception of the international solidarity, are wholly lacking in the revolutionary spirit, and have no proper place in the Socialist movement while they entertain such aristocratic notions of their own assumed superiority.’

 People are social and our capacity for cooperation and adaptation allows us to envisage and build a world beyond the current economic and political system which many regard as unchangeable. Capitalism is beginning to become a dirty word again. People have begun to protest against the profit system and the effect it is having on the quality of life. An unorganised anti-capitalist rebellion can only end in disaster out of which, either the present elite reassert their control or a new ruling class would take advantage of the chaos to gain power. If we are going to get rid of capitalism, the people have to do it by a democratic structure.

 We need to organise ourselves collectively to create a state-free world society, one without passports and borders.  The solution to the immigration crisis lies not with raising fences and razing camps but with the creation of conditions that does not necessitate people leaving their homes, their family, their friends and their neighbours. The reality is that the solution is world socialism.  Make 2017 the year that you start doing something towards it.

(This article first appeared in the Material World column in the Socialist Standard Britain's oldest socialist journal.)