Saturday, April 29, 2017

Stopping Dirty Diesel

 Despite having significant oil reserves, West Africa lacks sufficient refinery resource to process its own higher quality oil and has therefore welcomed cheaper imports from abroad. European standards prohibit the use of diesel with a sulfur content higher than 10 parts per million (ppm), diesel with as much as 3,000 ppm is regularly exported to Africa. From July 1, diesel being sold at the pumps in Ghana and Nigeria will have to meet a maximum 50 ppm standard. Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice President of Ghana, said that the introduction of the new regulations would see Ghana "moving to be at the same level as the western countries or the East African countries."
He added that the changes "will reduce respiratory diseases triggered by fuel toxins with higher sulfur content."

Africa's cities are growing quickly. Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, has a population of 21 million, and estimates suggest this number could almost double by the year 2050. Bigger cities mean a much greater risk from air pollution. While rapid urbanization and the poor quality of the largely second-hand car fleet in the region are partly responsible for the high levels of air pollution, low quality diesel also has a significant impact. Fuel pollutants have been linked to the development of asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.  Switching to low sulfur fuel in Africa, as well as introducing cars with modern emissions control technologies, could prevent 25,000 premature deaths in 2030 and 100,000 in 2050.

Diesels trading companies are using a process known as "blending" to combine low and high specification fuel, creating a mixture that complies with weak African regulations. The closer to the specification boundary the product lies, the larger the potential margin for the trader. This sub-standard product, known in the industry as "African Quality," could not be sold in Europe, but it is not illegal for it to be sold elsewhere. The blending process - which takes place either in European ports or en route to Africa, via a "ship-to-ship" transfer.  The two main commodities companies implicated were Trafigura and Vitol. Both told DW that, while they accepted that the problem of high sulfur fuel needed to be dealt with, the onus was on the governments in Africa to ensure the quality of diesel being sold at the pumps.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Gentrification in Lagos

Thousands of Nigerians have been rendered homeless after police stormed Otodo-Gbame, a riverbank community in the country’s commercial capital, Lagos, razing homes and chasing away residents with bullets and teargas. 

On paper, all Nigerians have rights. In practice, state power is often brazenly deployed to subjugate the poorest and weakest citizens in the interests of the rich and powerful who usually operate above the law. Hence, Nigerians often say the only true crime in Nigeria is being poor. In a state where to be poor means to be utterly powerless and stripped of dignity.

The truth is, while only the wealthiest can afford homes in the kind of luxury enclaves that will likely be built on land seized from the Otodo-Gbame settlement.

Uganda and Farming Reform

Food production has become a critical issue for Uganda. According to the UN, Uganda has the third fastest-growing population in Africa with about six children born to every mother. The University of Denver estimates that Uganda’s population of 39m will double within 15 years. Almost half the population is under 15 while a fifth is under five. “It’s a demographic time bomb,” says a diplomat in Kampala. “Uganda exports food but it needs to start making reforms now.” 

The Uganda president’s brother General Salim Saleh is spearheading Operation Wealth Creation, a nationwide programme to promote commercial farming. But aid agencies say the initiative has been beset by problems and that Gen Saleh has failed to deliver the results that were expected.

Against the clamour for more land to be handed to commercial farmers to feed Uganda’s exploding population, Bruce Robertson strikes a cautionary note. The Cambridge-educated Mr Robertson has been working in agriculture in Uganda since 1995 and warns that the rush to create big farms could backfire. Robertson, a South African whose Gulu Agricultural Development Company works with 90,000 small farmers in northern and eastern Uganda explained “ The large agriculture schemes that I have seen have not been successful. It is best to invest in smallholder farmers’ production.”

The primary reason commercial farming will have only a limited effect is that there simply is not enough arable land available, he says. Only 20 per cent of Ugandans live in towns and cities, meaning the rural areas are relatively well populated. “Where are all these large tracts of fertile land?” Mr Robertson asks. “If you do find some open land there’s probably a good reason nobody’s living there.” This is partly because much of the land is owned by communities and families, which means it is often unclear who has the right to sell property. Land claims and disputes have grown even more complicated after the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army rampaged through the region in the 1990s and early 2000s, killing 100,000 people and displacing 2.5m more, according to the UN. “If you work with these subsistence farmers and help them introduce better seeds and provide training, you will double food production,” says Mr Robertson. “That way you will create jobs rather than lose jobs, which happens with big commercial ventures.”

But agriculture is not held back by just a lack of available land. Uganda has a chronic lack of electrical power infrastructure, while inadequate transportation links also restrict efforts to increase crop yields and earn foreign currency.

Africom Again

Without its wide-ranging constellation of bases, it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. to carry out ceaseless low-profile military activities across the continent. For years, AFRICOM has peddled the fiction that Djibouti is the site of its only “base” in Africa. While the U.S. maintains a vast empire of military installations around the world, with huge—and hard to miss—complexes throughout Europe and Asia, bases in Africa have been far better hidden.  The US claims other U.S. outposts are few and transitory—“expeditionary” in military parlance. But official plans for operations in 2015 that were drafted and issued the year before, Africa Command lists 36 U.S. outposts scattered across 24 African countries.  These include low-profile locations—from Kenya to South Sudan to a shadowy Libyan airfield—that have never previously been mentioned in published reports.  Today, according to an AFRICOM spokesperson, the number of these sites has actually swelled to 46, including “15 enduring locations.” 

Those documents divide U.S. bases into three categories: forward operating sites (FOSes), cooperative security locations (CSLs), and contingency locations (CLs).  “In total, [the fiscal year 20]15 proposed posture will be 2 FOSes, 10 CSLs, and 22 CLs” state the documents.  By spring 2015, the number of CSLs had already increased to 11, according to then-AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez, in order to allow U.S. crisis-response forces to reach potential hot spots in West Africa.  An appendix to the plan, also obtained by TomDispatch, actually lists 23 CLs, not 22.  Another appendix mentions one additional contingency location. These outposts—of which forward operating sites are the most permanent and contingency locations the least so—form the backbone of U.S. military operations on the continent and have been expanding at a rapid rate. The plans also indicate that the U.S. military regularly juggles locations, shuttering sites and opening others, while upgrading contingency locations to cooperative security locations in response to changing conditions like, according to the documents, “increased threats emanating from the East, North-West, and Central regions” of the continent. Today, according to AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard, the total number of sites has jumped from the 36 cited in the 2015 plans to 46—a network now consisting of two forward operating sites, 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations.

Nevertheless, Lemonnier remains the crown jewel of America’s African bases, and has expanded from 88 acres to about 600 acres since 2002, and in those years, the number of personnel there has increased exponentially as well. “Camp Lemonnier serves as a hub for multiple operations and security cooperation activities,” reads AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement.  “This base is essential to U.S. efforts in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.”  

“Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same,” laments AFRICOM in its 2017 posture statement. “We continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency.” 

General Thomas Waldhauser sounded a little uneasy.  “I would just say, they are on the ground.  They are trying to influence the action,” commented the chief of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) at a Pentagon press briefing in March, when asked about Russian military personnel operating in North Africa.  “We watch what they do with great concern.”
And Russians aren’t the only foreigners on Waldhauser’s mind.  He’s also wary of a Chinese “military base” being built not far from Camp Lemonnier, a large U.S. facility in the tiny, sun-blasted nation of Djibouti.  “They’ve never had an overseas base, and we’ve never had a base of… a peer competitor as close as this one happens to be,” he said.  “There are some very significant… operational security concerns.”

Full article here

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Africa's Famine - Little Interest

A famine in Africa is occurring on a much larger scale than in 1980 across the Horn of Africa, in the Central African Republic and in Nigeria where an estimated 40 million people are at risk.

Today the causes of famine are largely man made even though below average rain fall has exacerbated local food production in the Horn of Africa over the past 18 to 24 months. However, in Sudan, Niger, the Central African Republic and Nigeria military conflict over the past three to four years has disrupted food production, displaced millions and created conditions which prevent the delivery of humanitarian assistance (assuming it was available).

The factors responsible for famine are complex. But, following the work of Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winning economist, they are well known and should be the focus of western development policy and humanitarian assistance. They include poor governance, inadequate planning, limited investment in development, ongoing violence and large-scale population displacement. Unfortunately, such factors don’t appear on the agendas of western governments.
At the same time, development assistance to Africa has declined since 1990. The continent receives approximately 33% of total Overseas Development Assistance, down from 45% in 1990. And while humanitarian aid has stabilised at 7% to 8 %, funding for economic projects has increased from 17% to 21%.
 Western governments and public are no longer interested in Africa. Their interests are far more insular, a situation reflected in the domestic issues that dominated the US election and the UK Brexit referendum.
The extent of western interest in Africa, indeed with the global South, is focused on securing the flow of oil and other commodities which underpins their consumption. Coupled with this are determined efforts at stopping illegal migrants and refugees from entering the west. This fact is reflected in the $21 billion cost of Trump’s proposed wall between the US and Mexico and the European Union’s €2.5 billion projects to bottle up migrants in Africa to prevent them from reaching Europe. The current cost of humanitarian assistance for Africa pales into insignificance against such sums.
Humanitarian assistance has come very late. What’s on offer is too little and it will be delivered too late to prevent large scale death. For instance the European Union’s pledge of €760 million to the Horn of Africa was only announced in November 2016 while European states made belated and quite small pledges in February this year. The US, for its part, remains the largest provider of food aid but has yet to state what it will pledge to alleviate famine in Africa.

Fact of the Day

The Evangelical Church in Germany has asked descendants of the victims of the Herero genocide in Namibia for forgiveness. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kenya's Rural Neglect

War-torn South Sudan and Somalia are being badly hit by East Africa's hunger crisis. But in Kenya, which is at peace, millions also need food aid. Critics blame the ruling class.

Kakuma is the second largest refugee camp in Kenya after Dadaab which is on the border to Somalia. As in all large UN refugee camps, the UN assumes the role of the state providing inmates with basic necessities such food, water and medical supplies. But funding is running short. The aid the refugees receive ensures their survival but it is not enough to help them make a life for themselves outside the camp. Over time, the refugees become dependent on the aid from the international community. They live in limbo.  The Turkana people are the responsibility of the Kenyan government, not the United Nations. As pastoralists, they depend on their livestock in order to survive. If their animals perish, they lose their livelihoods.

Emathe Namwar is the official in the government of Turkana County responsible for water supplies. He is critical of the central government in far away Nairobi. "There is no attempt at coordination. The national government does not involve us in the search for a solution. It could be that financial relief will be forthcoming, but if there is no coordination, then we will just expend a lot energy without achieving very much."

In Nairobi, Andrew Tuimur, principal secretary at the agricultural ministry, passes the buck to the Turkana local government. 

Last week, the national government sent diesel generators to Turkana to supply electricity for water pumps driving bore holes.  But there is no diesel fuel for the generators because the local government says it cannot afford it. The local government is running a fleet of 18 water trucks to keep the population supplied with drinking water. These trucks have a large diesel consumption, which is already a heavy financial burden. Some of them are kept off the road because fuel is so short. Turkana's roads are also in a deplorable state.

Emanthe Namwar from the local government believes the blame lies solely with the national government in Nairobi. "Why don't they do something. The government of Turkana is suffering from 50 years of neglect at the hands of the government in Nairobi, " he said.

Both local and national government officials have yet to explain why so little money flows into rural development, even though the international community is supplying aid for this very purpose. Climate change and drought are the external factors that cause food insecurity. But ignorance and corruption among the political class has left the country vulnerable to the horrendous consequences of drought.  A very high price is being paid for the neglect of rural development by Africa's urban elites. In the Kenyan election campaign, government and opposition are accusing one another of incompetence and misuse of funds. They are not arguing over the ways or means by which sustainable development could be promoted in Turkana. The plight of a million Turkana pastoralists would appear far too insignificant politically to warrant any pledges of a better future. Kenya's political class is relying instead on the oil they hope will soon start flowing from the reserves which were discovered in Turkana in 2012. 

As an African country, Kenya is not unique in this regard. Of some 40 countries worldwide that are dependent on food aid, just under 30 are in Africa.

Saturday, April 22, 2017



The United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hichilema along with some five other party cadres have been formerly charged with Treason and disobedience to a lawful order. The Zambia Police Inspector General Kanganja labelled the opposition leader’s action in Mongu (Western Province) as unreasonable, reckless and criminal. Hichilema’s motorcade refused to give way to the presidential motorcade when president Lungu was on his way to attend the Lozi traditional ceremony (Kuomboka) on 8th April 2017.

The police charge came in the work of last weekend’s incident which to all purposes could have resulted in a fatal road accident. On Tuesday (11th April) the opposition leader’s residence in new Kasama (Lusaka) was stormed by Zambia Police Officers who it is alleged caused damage to his home and property. The wife of Mr. Hichilema, Mutinta fainted three times as a result of tear gas canisters – she is believed to be asthmatic. It is alleged that the police officers stole colossal sums of Kwacha, South African Rand and US dollars.

The facts of the matter is that the UPND leader waylaid president Lungu’s presidential motorcade enroute to Mongu and refused to give way to the presidential motorcade which was provocative and a show of disrespect to Head of State and a breach of Zambia Police traffic regulations. Western province is among the regions that strongly voted for UPND during the August 2016 Presidential elections and the UPND leader’s actions were meant to showcase the fact that president Lungu was unwelcome to attend the Kuomboka traditional ceremony. After being apprehended, Mr. Hichilema was said to have slovenly insulted the Zambia police officers – something that was unbecoming of a well-respected opposition leader.

The Inspector general of police has opposed the UPNDs application for HABEAS CORPUS stating that the application has been overtaken by events (Hichilema who has been charged will appear in court). Meanwhile, the Zambia police service has unearthed more evidence which proves that the UPND leader is being supported by the International community. There is a story circulating on social media (Lusaka Times) in an article written by Greg Mills entitled NOW OR NEVER addressed to the International community. In the said article, Greg Mills alleges that the arrest and incarceration of Mr. Hichilema could be a feint, to test the response of the International community. Indeed during 2011, Mills wrote an article entitled “Could Uprisings Spread from Northern Africa to Africa South of the Sahara”. This was in response to the Arabs spring uprisings which broke out in Tunisia in 2010 and later spread to Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. In his article Mr. Mills, who heads the Brenthurst Foundation based in Johannesburg, South Africa, concludes that the International community should immediately intervene to save the situation in Zambia: “If the International community cares about this, and Human rights and freedom of speech, it should apply pressure on Lungu to release Hichilema immediately .”

The Brenthurst foundation was established in 2005 by the Oppeinheimer family. Ernest Oppeinheimer’s wealth and power could be traced to the Anglo – American corporation formed in 1917. In 1927, he bought over the shares of Cecil Rhodes in De Beers who effectively owned the diamond industry in South Africa. From 1996 to 2005, Greg Mills served as the national director of the South African institute of international affairs. He has lectured at universities in Africa and abroad and he is among the visiting staff of the NATO higher defence college in Rome, Italy and he is also a fellow of the London-based Royal Society of Arts.

The Zambian government has reacted very angrily against Mr. Mill’s article and branded him an imperialist stooge bent on sponsoring regime change in African countries. Political pluralism to differentiate it from one party state is a litmus test for western-style parliamentary democracy – defined as a periodic change of government through open and transparent elections. It is true that in Africa presidential elections come to elicit frightening ethnic and tribal prejudices between ruling and opposition political parties. In Zambia, the political pluralism which started in Ernest in 1991 has slowly stalled into ethnic and tribal animosities that have left the country divided in terms of voting patterns.

Because the UPND leader Hichilema perceives politics in terms of ethnic and tribal animosities it may come to pass that the recent treason charges levelled against him has been interpreted as a political and ethnic marginalisation of the Tonga and Lozi who massively voted for the UPND during the 11th August 2016 presidential elections. The relationship between Hichilema and the International Community stems from his academic and professional background and many politically vested groups in Zambia believe that Hichilema’s private wealth originates from his connection with the Anglo – American corporation. All told opposition parties in Africa tend to base their arguments on the issues of Human Rights and press freedom and in the process of defending this human rights and freedom of the press instigates social and political unrest. This is what is happening in Zambia today.

Cephas Mulenga
Box 280168, Chimwemwe
Kitwe – Zambia.

13th April, 2017.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Solidarity with fellow workers

Prosecutors in the northern Nigeria state of Kaduna have charged a group of 53 people with conspiring to celebrate a gay wedding.

Homosexual acts are banned in socially conservative Nigeria and are punishable by up to 14 years in jail. Nigeria has an influential Christian evangelical movement in the south and strong support for Islamic law in the north, both of which oppose homosexuality.
The ban on homosexuality, brought into effect in 2014, is used by some police officers and members of the public to legitimise abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"Extortion, mob violence, arbitrary arrest, torture in detention, and physical and sexual violence" are common against people suspected of homosexual activities, HRW said in a 2016 report.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kenya's Woes

 "The image of Kenya as a middle income country doesn't do justice to the reality on the ground," Werner Schultink, country head for the UN children's agency UNICEF, told AFP. He was referring to the hunger which is plaguing the north of Turkana. In the Kibish region, squeezed between Ethiopia and South Sudan, more than half of children aged six months to five years are suffering from acute malnutrition.
In the early part of this decade, politicians made rash promises of rapid modernization that would consign to history decades of deliberate marginalization, first by British colonialists and then by Kenya's governing elite in Nairobi, who shared a disdain for the pastoralists and their way of life.
"Expectations were disproportionate," said John Nakara, a Turkana parliamentarian. "Those changes don't happen in five years, but in 20, at least."
That didn't stop the promises. An ambitious plan for roads, railways and oil pipelines crossing northern Kenya was launched with great fanfare in 2012, but it has been slow in coming.
Instead Turkana remains crisscrossed with dirt tracks that become impassable when it rains, and where the few sealed sections are so badly potholed that drivers prefer the dirt shoulders.
That same year, British company Tullow Oil announced the discovery of large crude reserves in Turkana. Production is expected to begin in June, but local and national officials are still arguing over the distribution of revenues and no pipeline has yet been built, meaning the oil will have to be trucked to the port of Mombasa, more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away.
In 2013, Kenya and the UN cultural body UNESCO announced the discovery of large reserves of groundwater beneath Turkana that promised irrigation and enough water for all. But the reality has proved rather different. The aquifer holding the groundwater is hard to exploit, the water is deeper underground and less pure than predicted.
"The announcement was very optimistic and based on very limited information," said Sean Avery, a Kenya-based consultant on water issues.
Tens of thousands of pastoralists fled from Turkana in Kenya to Uganda last week to escape the drought. A total of 60,000 Turkana pastoralists and 127,000 livestock have moved to Uganda's Karamjoa sub-region over the last seven days.  
The drought remains a country-wide problem. Kenya has declared it a "national disaster" and appealed for international aid.
Three million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, and, while the response has been more effective than the last time, in 2011, still more needs to be done, aid workers say.
"In the current situation, this is clearly not enough," said Schultink.
 As the drought bites, the road ahead looks longer than ever for Turkana where some 92 percent of its 1.4 million people live below the poverty line and only a fifth know how to read and write.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Urban Threats

The poor are relentlessly subjugated while the ruling class inhabits a world of privilege.

 Thousands of Nigerians have been rendered homeless after police stormed Otodo-Gbame, a riverbank community in the country’s commercial capital, Lagos, razing homes and chasing away residents with bullets and teargas. This comes after 4,700 people in the settlement had their homes demolished in March, and 30,000 were evicted last November, so altogether tens of thousands of people have been systematically chased off lands that they have inhabited, in many cases, since the colonial era.  Rights groups now suggest more than 300,000 people face similar eviction from waterfront communities across Lagos.

The events highlight wider class tensions and the unsustainable crony capitalist system in Africa’s most populous country, where two in three people live in poverty. On paper, all Nigerians have rights. In practice, state power is often brazenly deployed to subjugate the poorest and weakest citizens in the interests of the rich and powerful who usually operate above the law. Hence, Nigerians often say the only true crime in Nigeria is being poor. In a state where to be poor means to be utterly powerless and stripped of dignity, many see wealth as the only means of safeguarding themselves from such wanton oppression, a perception which helps propagate the corruption Nigeria has become notorious for, as many resolve to get rich by any means necessary. Surrounded by a seemingly endlessly expanding ocean of poverty, the instinct of Nigeria’s privileged classes, including those who themselves grew up poor, is to distance themselves from the majority as much as possible. After constructing a socioeconomic system that has mass-produced poverty, the privileged classes now seek nothing less than to escape into luxury enclaves and limit any interaction with their majority poor fellow citizens.
Few Nigerians doubt that the appropriated lands, located on choice waterfront property, will be used to build more luxury enclaves for Nigeria’s elite to isolate themselves from the mass poverty they helped create. This would not be the first time the state has evicted residents from desirable land, citing environmental concerns, only for swanky estates to be built there.
The truth is, while only the wealthiest can afford homes in the kind of luxury enclaves that will likely be built on land seized from the Otodo-Gbame settlement, much of the middle class, rather than kicking against the system, are resigned to the realities of Nigeria, observing the wealthy enviously and dreaming of one day affording such blissfully isolated luxury. They, too, want to escape the chaos and poverty of much of urban Lagos, where some 21 million people live crammed into an area barely two-thirds the size of London.
These luxury enclaves with their surrounding shopping malls, country clubs and swanky restaurants are hailed by the government as signs of Nigeria’s “development” and “progress”. The Lagos state government has said its evictions are all part of its plan to turn Lagos into a “mega-city”. As many Nigerians in the privileged classes dream of Nigeria having its own Dubai, a world-class, ultra-modern city that would be a source of national pride, more than a few view the mass slum evictions as a “cost of development” worth paying.
The only thing the Nigerian state guarantees its poorest citizens, including those of the Otodo-Gbame settlement, is oppression, subjugation, indignity and contempt. The poverty-producing and oppressive nature of the Nigerian system has already spawned revolts against the state, be it by Islamist Boko Haram terrorists, saboteur militants in the oil-producing Niger-Delta region, or Igbo secessionists demanding an independent state of Biafra in the country’s southeast.
Nigeria’s ruling class continues to smugly assume they can carry on oppressing the rest of the country and simply isolate themselves from the poverty they helped create, fenced away in their luxury enclaves where they and their families live privileged lives while the rest wallow in poverty and envy them from the sidelines. The army of poor and disenfranchised is growing, and with each Otodo-Gbame it only grows bigger. Nigeria’s elites ignore this at their peril.


A government official in a country once notorious for its restrictive work environment and responsible for coordinating all humanitarian activity in the country, so he had gained plenty of exposure to U.S. and international humanitarian groups over the years, explained, “I work for a government that has many issues. To many, we are the bad guys. No one expects anything good from me, or from my government.” He continued: “But you and all those other INGOs: you represent normal, everyday people who decided that they wanted to help others in need, and have crossed oceans to do it. You have freely chosen to come to places at war, to risk your lives not for your neighbor but in service to strangers. I thought you would represent the best of us, and all that was good about humanity.” He paused again, “But in truth you are all small, competitive and obsessed with your funding. You are not living up to your promise.”

In the mid-90s/early 2000s, humanitarian and development organizations grew in size, revenue and attention, getting better at their work. They were bullish and thought if they were doing “awesome” work at $100 million, it only made sense that they would do even “more awesome” work at $500 million. They believed that the rest of the humanitarian and development community could learn from them us, and that they really needed a “seat at the table,” so that we could exert our influence over the larger official donors – the U.N., USAID, World Bank etc.

First, it turns out financial growth is not a proxy for growth in impact – it’s just financial growth. The “more awesome” bit didn’t work out; at best, they just got bigger.
Second, influence works both ways. In trying to influence others, you can be influenced yourselves. You can unwittingly become part of the status quo, even become its very instrument.
 Thirdly, mediocrity at scale is worse than low-level or isolated mediocrity. Large organizations, well-intentioned or not, can become overconfident. And when compounded by immense financial pressures (bills to pay, and growth needs growth), they can move further and further away from the customer: refugees and people in need.

INGOs lost the desire to change the world, expressed through a singular and powerful mission animated by the volunteerism of everyday people. Instead we have become output-driven machines, funded by government and implemented by technocrats.  a very senior member of the USAID leadership team from the last administration visited our headquarters to speak about that agency’s challenges and desire to change. During the speech, he explained how his team thought about their approach to funding organizations like mine. He showed us the formula:
a) We (USAID) decide what we want.
b) You (INGO) bid to do it.
c) Then we (USAID) choose one of you (INGOs) to do it.
Are they nothing but contractors with better words (save, care, help etc.) in their  names?  All the same, but just with different pictures on the wall.

Friday, April 14, 2017

More Trouble in Africa (1959)

From the April 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was set up in 1953, it was known to be against the wishes of most of the African population in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. They did not want to be taken out of the control of the British Colonial Office to be handed over to domination by the white settlers, whose attitude, as shown particularly in Southern Rhodesia, is much like that of the South African Government. Opponents of Federation, including the British Labour Party, foresaw that tension would increase and were not surprised by the recent disturbances in which a number of Africans were killed by Government forces. Among the Africans the idea of early independence for Nyasaland has been given a powerful stimulus, associated by some of them with more ambitious ideas of a wider nationalism, taking in all Africa.

Are they right? Will “independence” make them better off and happier? Their African leaders tell them there is no doubt about the matter. And it is quite obvious that most Africans would prefer to put up with a lot of inconveniences, even hardship, to escape living under a government which operates or tolerates a colour bar against them. Africans are only behaving like other people, for history is full of examples of resentment of, and revolt against, the imposition on subject groups, of racial, national, religious and language barriers. And because it has happened so often we have plenty of information about its consequences: nobody need plead ignorance. What then has national independence done for the mass of the population, whether we take the European nationalist movements of last century, such as the Italian struggle against Austria or the Balkan countries’ struggles .against Turkey, or the quite recent new States set up in former Colonies? Without going into detail we can say that national independence is good for local politicians, lawyers, army officers, manufacturers and business men; it opens up careers and money-making opportunities for them, as also for local holders of government civilian posts who may have found their advancement hindered while a foreign administration had control! Sometimes the achievement of national independence helps to speed up industrial development where this has been deliberately limited by the governing Power and may make it rather easier for workers to form trade unions.

What has the winning of independence done for the progress of humanity? The accumulation of experience has served to fill many of those who once hoped much from it, with disappointment and doubt. Mr. Hannen Swaffer, who spent many years supporting Labour Party demands for “freedom" for the colonies, writes:—
“. . . at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, under my window, British people were gathering to offer thanks on the anniversary of Ghana’s obtaining freedom from British rule. Yet, in Ghana, its native rulers were oppressing the Opposition leaders—and its dictatorial Premier had boasted that he would work for a United Black Africa. Is full freedom for immature peoples really the remedy for economic injustice?”
- (People, 8th March. 1959.)
Mr. Swaffer might have added that on the political side we have recently seen military dictatorship set up in the Sudan and Pakistan, two areas formerly British-administered, and that from the standpoint of what he calls “ economic injustice,” independence has not brought anything worthwhile to the ex-colonial workers. The early beliefs of Swaffer and the Labour Party, that national independence for the colonies would solve the economic problems of the workers, were well meant, but quite unfounded. They did not understand what is the nature of nationalism and national independence. Nationalism is not just the friendly association of people who speak the same language, share the same culture and live in the same place. In the world in which we live, where military force dominates, national independence means setting up a “sovereign state”; a government which, with the use of armed force can impose its property laws on its nationals individually and on its workers as a class, while at the same time using its forces to strengthen its position against other nations. The creation of a new capitalist group able to hold its own in a competitive capitalist world is the real aim of those who profit by nationalist movements; the encouragement of national and linguistic sentiments is merely the means to an end.

This is little appreciated by those who think that what mankind needs is a set of “good” ideas and ideals, and that national independence is one of these. Holding such a conception they are shocked and puzzled when they see liberated countries falling to dictatorship, and see some Africans now preaching anti-white racialism.

So although the liberal-minded Capricorn African Society, looking at what has already happened, can say that “Nationalism is not enough,” their founder, Mr. David Stirling still believes that “ African nationalism is of itself a splendid and dynamic force to be encouraged ” (Manchester Guardian, March 5th, 1959). And Father Trevor Huddleston, who worked so hard for Africans against the policies of the South African government, still holds to his belief that nationalism “on the part of the great peoples of Africa” is “not only natural but entirely’ right.” (He does not notice that the nationalism of all groups, including the white South Africans, appears to to them to be equally “natural” and “ right”) He backs his belief with the distorting half-truth that “over much of Africa wealth was white and poverty was black.” (Manchester Guardian. March 9th, 1959.) This is the kind of misleading political slogan on which all nationalisms thrive; misleading because when independence has been achieved the African masses will still be poor, though the number of rich Africans, rich through the exploitation of the poor, will be somewhat larger. The subject economic position of the African workers will not have been removed.

It is here that we see the gulf between Socialists and the well-meaning reformers like Father Huddleston and the Capricorn Society. For us, it is a question of changing the basis of the social system as the only way to change the condition of the exploited masses, the only way to abolish riches and poverty. For the idealists, it is a matter of “changing men’s hearts,” as if that could prevail against the class structure of the capitalist social system. True to his misguided notions Father Huddleston calls upon white settlers and the British government and people to choose “the path of faith ” and reject “the path of fear.”

But these idealists are not the only people who have views on Africa. A Tory peer. Lord Brand, has recently revisited South Africa, and in an article in The Times (March 9th. 1959), foretells the inevitable failure of Apartheid. But he is not relying on good intentions, or sentiment or faith, but on something more substantial. He finds that it is an economic impossibility for the mining, industrial and commercial companies, farmers, employers of domestic service, etc., to survive if cut off from their African labour force. Though the supporters of the South African government will not face up to realities, the fact is that “white and black must live together for endless centuries. They must either in the end learn to live harmoniously and at peace, or they must physically destroy each other.” Lord Brand sees that far, but no farther.

As Socialists, we can say that his approach shows more understanding of the problem than does that of any of the good intentioned idealists already referred to. Lord Brand, though he never names it, is a supporter of capitalism: he believes it to be the only possible social system. He sees that capitalism has its own needs and economic laws and that, however obstinate the Apartheid supporters may be, they cannot put the clock back and make capitalism fit their out-of-date beliefs. But if the Afrikaners in South Africa cannot twist capitalism back to suit their prejudices, neither can Huddleston and the other would-be reformers make capitalism into the rational and benevolent social system of their dreams. “Liberated” Black Africa will be Black Capitalist Africa and the African workers will still be exploited, as are the white workers elsewhere. The only way out of this impasse is that the Black workers and all other workers join together for the Socialist objective of overthrowing capitalism and establishing Socialism, in Africa and all other lands. But this will involve the abolition of national frontiers and the disappearance of racial prejudices. The world will then be a place for all its inhabitants to live in and travel in, freely and without hindrance or prejudice. The Blacks will be emancipated because all workers will be emancipated from capitalism.

Edgar Hardcastle

Oxfam and Nigeria

Over 4.7 million people in northeast Nigeria are in dire need of basic amenities like food, water and shelter, says Oxfam. Thousands of people, mostly children, are believed to have died of hunger and malnutrition.

Thousands of people, mostly children, are believed to have died of hunger and malnutrition.

 Oxfam's executive director Winnie Byanyima said the region was on the brink of famine. "If action is not taken now, we could see millions of people move into the famine category. So I'm here to push decision-makers to avert a catastrophic loss of life," she said. "I'm not happy about the United Nations and the coordinating role it should play for all of us. We can do better than this. These people deserve better," 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fact of the Day

Illegal fishing and pollution near Ghana threaten both fish stocks and the people who depend on them. These practices off the coast of West Africa cost the affected countries around one billion dollars a year.

Rwanda land grabbing

Military and civilian authorities in western Rwanda have arrested, beaten, or threatened people who challenged recent government decisions to force residents off their land, Human Rights Watch said.

 “Threats, arrests or beatings are no way to handle a situation in which people are losing their land and livelihoods,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government’s goals to settle land disputes and modernize villages are legitimate, but trampling on the rights of those most affected who express their fears for their land and their livelihood is not.”

Many people who work their land for a living fear that the government-imposed solution would threaten their livelihoods. 
Rwanda is the most densely populated country in continental sub-Saharan Africa. Land is a scarce resource and has been a cause of tension throughout the country’s history. In 2001, Human Rights Watch published a report on a government policy to regroup Rwandans in government-created villages, employing coercion against those who resisted, resulting in many human rights abuses. Land was often expropriated without due compensation or consultation with the residents, and many Rwandans who spoke openly against the policy or refused to obey were punished by fines or arrest.
“The Rwandan government’s intolerance for dissent goes beyond political opposition leaders, journalists, or human rights activists who dare to report on government abuses,” Sawyer said. “The government can demonstrate its genuine commitment to the basic rights of its people, rights such as freedom of opinion and expression and fair process, by releasing Oscar Hakundimana immediately. It should stop harassing others who have spoken out against the government’s land decisions.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

Shell and Corruption in Nigeria

OPL 245 is an oilfield off the coast of Nigeria whose estimated nine billion barrels of oil are worth nearly half a trillion dollars at today's prices. Shell has been active in Nigeria for nearly 60 years and was keen to acquire the field. New evidence shows just how far Shell was prepared to go to get its hands on it.
Standing between Shell and its prize was Dan Etete, whose company acquired the rights to OPL 245 for a tiny sum while he was oil minister of Nigeria. He was later convicted of money laundering in a different case.
Shell and the Italian oil company ENI eventually acquired OPL 245 in 2011 - by paying $1.3bn to the Nigerian government. That's more than the entire health budget of Nigeria but it didn't get spent on public services. The government promptly passed on more than $1bn of the money to a company called Malabu, which was controlled by Dan Etete.

In an email from July, Shell says Etete's negotiating strategy is "clearly an attempt to deliver significant revenues to GLJ [Goodluck Jonathan] as part of any transaction."
Italian prosecutors allege that $466m were laundered through a network of Nigerian bureaux de change to facilitate payments to President Jonathan and other politicians.
It should be remembered that this deal was concluded just months after Shell had paid $30m to settle previous allegations of bribery in Nigeria and elsewhere.
As part of a deal to spare the company a damaging criminal conviction in that case, Shell agreed to what was, in effect, a probation order, by giving an undertaking to the US Department of Justice to tighten up its internal controls in order to stay in compliance with America's tough anti-corruption laws.The question for Shell is what on earth were they doing negotiating with a convicted money launderer, who they suspected might pass the money to the president, months after reaching a previous bribery settlement in the same country.Matthew Page worked for the US State Department in Nigeria for 15 years. He told the BBC: "At a time when Shell should have been cautious having just settled a previous case, rather than walk away from a deal with clear corruption risks, they doubled down."

The Wealthy of Africa

New World Wealth has released new data on Africa, and South Africa’s richest population group, showing how the wealthiest people invest their money.
According to NWW’s South Africa 2017 Wealth Report, the country has a total of 40,400 dollar millionaires, and has many as 2,130 individuals with more than R125 million in their account.
According to the wealth advisory firm, at the end of 2016:
  • The average African individual had net assets of approximately US$2,000 (wealth per capita).
  • Total individual wealth held on the continent amounted to US$2.2 trillion.
  • There were approximately 145,000 high net worth individuals (HNWIs) living in Africa, with combined wealth holdings of approximately US$800 billion.
  • There were 7,010 multi-millionaires living in Africa.

The consequences of colonialism

Today, natural resources from the entire continent of Africa create less revenue for African nations than for the Western multinationals extracting them. For example, Zambia is among the poorest countries in the world, and the Swiss company Glencore rakes in billions from copper mining inside the country. Even the International Monetary Fund and World Bank played a role in advising Zambia to implement policies that would benefit Glencore at Zambia's own expense. This tradition of Western powers exploiting African resources is long-established; the fact that it still happens today is clear evidence that colonialism is the root of modern-day socioeconomic issues across the entire continent.

Africa had a rich history of culture and prosperity. Civilizations based on commerce existed well before Europeans took over. The ancient Egyptians were pioneers in the fields of mathematics and astronomy. The Kingdom of Sheba was considered the first true African indigenous state. It was not established by foreign conquerors and was said to be the site of the enigmatic Ark of the Covenant. In present-day Mali, one of the wealthiest African empires thrived for more than 800 years. Valuable goods like gold and salt were mined and traded with merchants who hailed from faraway places including China and India. Although slavery was a product of intertribal warfare and existed before European settlers invaded, colonizers took an existing practice that was already immoral and dehumanizing and amplified it on a global scale to extract profit for themselves. The entire continent of Africa was drained of both its natural resources and its people.

Colonization didn't give countries in Africa a chance to progress on their own. Instead, colonizers intruded on their land and exploited the naturally abundant wealth in Africa. In essence, colonization stunted the growth of countries that were controlled, and now that nations have gained their independence, it is going to take time for them to catch up with the Western world. This is a travesty that cannot be overlooked. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Class law in Nigeria

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."  - Anatole France

Samuel Danjuma, 22; Yakubu Adamu, 18; Yakubu Bulus, 25, and Godwin Jacob, 20, of no fixed address were sentenced to 3 months prison after they pleaded guilty to the “joint act” of being a “public nuisance.” The prosecutor  told the court that a team of policemen arrested the convicts on March 17, at about 12am in front of a shop in Nyanya Market with the intention to commit an offence. He was clearly a clairvoyant who knew they had criminal intentions in their mind. His key argument was that as they were outside at night and had no fixed abode, they were vagrants wandering around and therefore criminal. 

When a member of the elite walks on the street, the person is not loitering, is not a vagrant, is not a criminal. 

The vagrancy law was introduced to Nigeria by the former British colonial regime for the sole purpose of harassing and humiliating poor people who were said to have had no means of livelihood. The idea was to deal with the poor by creating a law that made them permanently guilty as a control measure. The anti-people's law was retained for the same purpose by the indigenous ruling class who took over power from the alien administrators in 1960. Thus, in a display of class bias whenever rich people were found on the street taking a walk it was said that they were exercising their fundamental right to freedom of movement. But whenever the poor exercise such fundamental right to freedom of movement they were usually arrested by the police who accused them of wandering or loitering. 

In Abuja, women are regularly arrested for wandering and prostitution, detained and fined after summary judgement by a mobile court run by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board. The principle is that the poor must not be allowed to soil the Abuja environment. Many of these women who are arrested daily are not sex workers but are simply walking alone on the streets, sometimes returning from their places of work. No woman who is driving a car alone ever gets arrested. Again, what we are seeing is conflating poverty with criminality and the evidence is simply that the person is not rich enough to be driving a car or looks poor..

 A convicted former governor of Adamawa State was released from prison on bail. He was released because the conditions in prison made him feel sick. The poor however cannot complain of conditions in prison, which is assumed to conform to their lifestyles. 

Challenging Zuma

Tens of thousands of South Africans took to the streets nationwide, calling on embattled President Jacob Zuma to resign. The main protest marches took place in six major towns: Pretoria, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Durban. The African National Congress (ANC) party has rejected calls for him to quit.

"We are just trying to tell the people of South Africa that enough is enough and Zuma must go"  said Thembalani Gumede. "He has done a lot to destroy this country. It is time for him to go." 
Kim Roots took issue with the recent sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
"The South African rand has dropped and we have lost lots and lots of money, Roots said. "He  is not supporting housing, people have no money."
Bheka Ntuli from Durban said it was time South Africa sought a commited and passionate president who would listen to the masses.
A quarter of the country is unemployed and two ratings agencies have downgraded South African debt to "junk" status. South Africa as economic growth slowed to 0.3 percent last year.
Zuma is facing a no-confidence ballot on April 18
The World Socialist Movement counsels our fellow workers in South Africa that simply changing leaders, or even the political party, in power is no solution. People can be forgiven for thinking that political leadership is an integral part of political life and no society can function without it.  This is certainly the case under capitalism.  This is as just as true in a so-called ‘socialist state’. However, the interests of leaders and the led are diametrically opposed, insomuch that the knowledge which is essential to working-class emancipation must inevitably abolish leaders, and establish working-class effort on the faith and confidence in the intellect and ability of the working-class. The socialist, the true democrat, does not place faith in leaders. We know that the only hope lies in the intelligence and courage and energy of the working class as a class, and all our  hope, all our trust, rests in the working class.