Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Bleeding of Africa

“We find that the countries of Africa are collectively net creditors to the rest of the world, to the tune of $41.3 billion in 2015,” explain authors of the report, titled How the World Profits from Africa’s Wealth.
“There’s such a powerful narrative in Western societies that Africa is poor and that it needs our help,” explained Aisha Dodwell, a campaigner with Global Justice Now, one of the organizations that authored the report. “This research shows that what African countries really need is for the rest of the world to stop systematically looting them,” Dodwell said. “While the form of colonial plunder may have changed over time, its basic nature remains unchanged.”
over half of the population of Africa lacks access to sufficient healthcare, with an average of only 14 health professionals for every 100,000 people.
However, Africa’s wealth underground is extensive. In 2015, African nations exported some $232 billion worth of minerals and oil to the rest of the world, South Africa contains an estimated $2.5 trillion in mineral wealth, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) holds an estimated $24 trillion in untapped mineral reserves.
Yet the poverty above ground persists, with 95% of the population in the DRC living on less than US $2 dollars per day.
The problem is that foreign companies profit the most from this resource extraction. “Money is leaving Africa partly because Africa’s wealth of natural resources is simply owned and exploited by foreign, private corporations,” the report explains.
When multinational companies extract and export raw commodities, they typically pay very little taxes to the government, or they use tax havens to avoid paying taxes.
“Many African tax policies are the result of long-standing policies of Western governments insisting on Africa lowering taxes to attract investment,” the report found.
The Guyanese scholar and activist Walter Rodney wrote in his classic 1972 book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, the root of the problem is global capitalism.
“African development,” Rodney wrote, “is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system, which has been the principal agency of underdevelopment of Africa over the last five centuries.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kenyan Poverty

Nearly half of Kenyans are poor and cannot afford a decent lifestyle, according to a new study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS)

The report titled ‘Spatial Dimension of Well-being in Kenya: Where are the Poor?’ says 45.2 per cent of Kenyans are simply chugging along and can barely afford the bare minimum – basic basket of food and non-food items.
The report paints a gloomy picture of inequality in different parts of the country, with the study having found out that while residents of some regions enjoy the good life, others are wallowing in abject poverty.
While only two in ten Nairobi residents live below the poverty line (or spend less than Sh2,913 in a month), nine out of 10 residents in Turkana spend less than Sh1,562 monthly. Turkana County, with a poverty incidence of 87.5 per cent, has the highest number of poor people followed by Wajir with a poverty incidence of 84.2 per cent.
 The report shows rural dwellers are poorer than their urban counterparts. Nearly one in two people in rural Kenya are poor compared to only three in 10 in urban Kenya. Given that close to 70 per cent of Kenyans still live in rural areas, poverty is still more of a rural phenomenon. Of the 25.8 million people living in rural areas, 13 million live below the poverty line. Although rural poverty reduced from 53.1 per cent in 1997 to 49.7 per cent in 2005/06, it marginally went up to 50.5 per cent in 2009, meaning efforts to contain poverty are not bearing fruit. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017


During a press conference held at katuwila house on 16 June, three church mother bodies (catholic center in Zambia, evangelical fellowship in Zambia and the Zambia council of Catholics) delivered a strong indictment of the PF government and called for the immediate release of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema. The three bishops said that Zambia was plunged into a political crisis and the PF has become a political dictatorship.
The Catholic Church has from time immemorial played an active role in Zambian domestic politics – it was the Catholic Church that vigorously campaigned for election of the late PF president Sata during the 2011 presidential election.
The statement issued by the three bishops has been received with mixed feelings across different sections of Zambian society. The former MMD president Rupiah Banda has expressed strong reservations against the statement and has cautioned the bishops from uttering alarming statements focused at inciting political animosities between the PF and UPND. Banda said that the results of the 11 August 2016 presidential elections was a closed chapter that must never be revisited in the sense that President Lungu was declared victorious and thereby recognised as the President of Zambia.
The Zambia police issued a statement warning the police from issuing careless statements surrounding the imprisonment of Hichilema and assured the government that it was going to intensity its patrols in the wake of planned UPND political demonstrations.
President Lungu scoffed at those people advocating for a political reconciliation between PF and UPND on the argument that his previous effort to enter a political compromise had proved fruitless and it was not feasible to set up a political reconciliation now that Hichilema was facing a treason charge before the court.
The UPND leader is incarcerated at Mukobeko maximum prison awaiting trial.
The constitutional court recently threw out Hichilema's bail application citing inconsistencies in procedures. On 14 April the UPND leader, in the company of five other people, tried to stop President Lungu's presidential motorcade en route to Mongu in Western Province in what the Zambia police described as a dangerous and unprecedented act of malicious intent to cause a fatal road accident. The police went on to raid Hichilema's residence and arrested him – the police Inspector General Kokoma Kanyanja slapped a formal charge of treason on Hichilema.
Indeed the constitutional court formed prior to last August's presidential election (through amending clauses in the constitution) has failed to accommodate the political expectations of the UPND in the sense that it failed to uphold Hichilema's petition to nullify the results of the election.
This prompted Hichilema refuse to recognize President l.ungu as the duely elected President of Zambia.
The Catholic Church in Zambia prides itself to be the voice of the politically and economically marginalized strata in society and advocates for political transparency social justice and a free press. The sensitive political statement issued by the three bishops has given rise to skirmishes among the catholic clergy, with some clergy disputing that Bishops Mpimdu's opinion reflected the views of Catholic Church in Zambia.
The recent suspension of 58 UPND members oI parliament for 30 days by the speaker of parliament for having refused to attend President Lungu's opening speech of parliament in February has only helped to inflame the volatile aspersion of a political crisis.

There are unsolicited rumours circulating on the social media that the Catholic Church is lobbying the IMF and European Union to cancel their respective economic and programmes with Zambia. It may become difficult to appreciate the limitations and sanctity of the justice system prevailing in Zambia today when it comes to contemplating upon the stand taken by the three church mother bodies: is the Catholic Church the last resort for everyone seeking political redress beyond and above the jurisdiction of the courts of law?
The Catholic Church is part of the social and political pressure groups and has always remained critical of the political and social-economic reforms pioneered the PF government. It does seem that the alarming valedictory issued by the three bishops is a wakeup call to President Lungu to dispense with the treason trial. given the fact that treason eases take a long time to be resolved. It is feared that Hichilema will languish in prison for a number of years. and thus the need for a more immediate political reconciliation. It is true that the political vested groups in Zambia are of the view that the arrest of Hichilema foreshadows the disintegration of the UPND as the second largest political party in Zambia , a situation which shall leave the PF as the sole political party. The social teaching of the Catholic church on social justice and political governance reflect the double standards taken by the church on issues of poverty, unemployment and economic backwardness in underdevelopment countries of Africa. It ignores the fact that social poverty and economic undevelopment are the offshoots of disparities in the allocation and distribution of income and wealth that cannot be resolved by the political parties in power.
The social and political antagonism between the working and ruling political elites portrays a class struggle within which the Catholic Church will remain to play its haloed verbosity.

Uganda and Welcoming Refugees

65.6 million people are displaced worldwide. Last September, members of the United Nations convened in New York for the Summit for Refugees and Migrants, at which 193 countries committed to developing a comprehensive approach to welcoming and helping refugees. There are more than 22 million refugees in the world, 84 per cent of them in low- or middle-income countries – not in Europe, the United States or Australia, but in places that, in many cases, already struggle to provide basic services for their own people. The system protecting refugees has collapsed.

Refugees are a truly global and heavily politicized phenomenon; Europe's handling of the Syrian refugee crisis being but the most obvious case. Even in countries where refugee populations are, relatively speaking, tiny -- as in most of Europe and the United States -- refugees almost automatically enter the minefield of political debates. Fact and fiction, often happily coexisting, produce ill-informed rhetoric aimed at maximum immediate political benefit. Scare-mongering and the linking of refugees with terrorism -- as well as careless equations of migrants and refugees -- are but some examples of this kind of instrumentalization of vulnerable populations. In other words: just throw in a mention of 'radical islam' and you have managed to politicize (or securitize) a large group of people fleeing for their lives. There is nothing new about people fleeing for their lives. Wars and persecution -- based on religious, political or ethnic grounds -- were hardly inventions of the 20th century. For millennia people have been forced to leave their homes in search of safety.  Prejudice and fear still tend to be the most widely shared reactions among native populations when faced with the arrival of large -- or even relatively small but heavily mediatised  (such as the Roma) groups of 'aliens' and they become  what is euphemistically called the 'refugee problem'.

 Refugees from South Sudan are simply out of sight and out of mind for the rest of the world. 

A refugee flees unspeakable violence and finds herself in a peaceful village where, not only is she welcomed, but the local farmer offers her half his land to farm. In a village in the far north of Uganda, 54-year-old farmer Lagu Samuel has given a new home to a group of South Sudanese women, refugees who fled the violence over the border. His generosity is rooted in compassion: “They have no land and I do.” Uganda still provides a safe haven for a large number of people forced to flee. No other country received more new refugees last year than this relatively poor country in East Africa. 

Years of war in South Sudan, and now drought and famine, have created the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. Of the 1.9 million South Sudanese who have fled the country, half have gone to Uganda. Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan. Since last July, an average of 40,000 people have arrived in Uganda from South Sudan every month. The numbers keep growing. Those arriving tell of indiscriminate killing, rape, destruction of property, arbitrary detention and a struggle to find food and access basic services. Many are living in areas out-of-reach for aid organizations. Parents are faced with the impossible choice of a long and dangerous flight to a safer country, or stay behind without knowing when or whether they will be able to feed their children.  Every day, more families are forced to make life and death decisions.  Displacement inside South Sudan is also widespread, with another 1.9 million uprooted within the country.  The world is leaving the country to face this crisis on its own. 

A miserly 17% of the humanitarian funding target has been met. Uganda’s Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, said “We continue to welcome our neighbours in their time of need, but we urgently need the international community to assist as the situation is becoming increasingly critical.”  Many African borders stay open and attitudes remain positive towards refugees. The village Bidibidi in the north of Uganda has fast become one of the world’s largest refugee settlements.  African nations, though, cannot be expected to shoulder the entire cost. To prevent Africa’s host countries from breaking under the pressure of an increasing number of refugees, other countries must fulfil their promise of support and scale up their assistance.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Zambian Politics

Zambia is the world's seventh largest copper producer. This metal is essential to economic development in the global North and BRICS. While Chinese investment is growing, the main player in the Zambian mining sector is white capital from South Africa and the West.
There are considerable reserves of uranium, a mineral in high demand with the increase of civilian nuclear energy projects around the world. Uranium is of strategic interest to global superpowers. Zambia has close trading links with Democratic Republic of Congo, especially the copper-rich Haut-Katanga Province in the southeast.
Zambian politicians operate as local agents of foreign capital. Big capital from the West and BRICS have coopted local politicians at the expense of the vast majority of citizens. They sold off national assets for a fraction of their value and brought taxation revenues and public spending to appalling lows. 
According to a 2015 report, the country is losing $3bn a year in tax dodging by multinational mining companies. Repeated attempts by successive governments to change this state of affairs have been neutralised by mining lobbies.
President Edgar Lungu could not have won the 2016 election without the support of former President Rupiah Banda, who led the exodus of powerful factions of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) into the PF ranks. The MMD was in power from 1991 to 2011. Banda has strong ties with big capital, and exerts considerable influence over government economic decisions.
Despite his recent anti-colonial rhetoric, Lungu himself has ordered the state's mining investment arm to drop a $2.3bn fraud court case against Canada-based mining company First Quantum Minerals. The dispute will be settled out of court.
The government is in negotiations with the IMF over a $1.3bn loan to avoid default on its public debt. The details of the deal have been kept outside public scrutiny, but the IMF's familiar rhetoric about fiscal discipline suggests hefty conditionalities. 
In recent years, Zambia and other African states borrowed heavily on the international bond markets. Since the commodity downturn in 2015, investors' confidence and state revenues have gone down, while interest on debt has gone up. Zambia risks losing the few strategic assets still under state control. The announced 75 percent electricity tariff rise will further aggravate the dire economic conditions of most people, who are struggling with mass unemployment caused by the contraction of the mining sector. Cuts to fuel subsidies are also in the cards.

The Prospect of a Uganda Refugee Crisis

UN funding appeals for refugees remain grossly underfunded, leaving millions of refugees in destitute conditions, and dismally few resettlement places are being offered, contrary to international obligations for responsibility-sharing among states.

With more than 900,000 South Sudanese refugees already on its territory, and with thousands more arriving each day, Uganda is facing one of the world's biggest refugee crisesUganda has kept its doors open to refugees against financial odds, but it is buckling under the pressure and needs global support.

Over 64 percent of the refugees from South Sudan in Uganda are children under the age of 18. Many are at risk and in need of urgent support

Known and praised for its progressive refugee policy,  refugees are given pieces of land to live on and farm, and have equal access to basic services as citizens, including healthcare and education. They also have the right to work and own businesses. The authorities aim for refugees to be self-sufficient within five years - and to no longer have to rely on aid agencies.
Yet the international community has still failed to provide Uganda and its refugees with adequate support. By May 2017, the South Sudan Refugee Response Plan for Uganda was only 15 percent funded. In 2016, it was funded up to 51.4 percent. Not only does this lack of funding risk the sustainability of Uganda's progressive refugee policy, it also has a direct and devastating impact on refugees' lives.
Now, instead of full support to live in dignity in Uganda, many South Sudanese have been left struggling to cope. Even the most vulnerable, such as trauma victims with urgent mental health needs, have been neglected. Despite appeals by the Ugandan government, the United Nations and aid agencies have fallen on deaf ears.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Aid as profit

Up to half the food aid meant for people who have fled Nigeria's Islamist insurgency has reportedly not been delivered, the government says.
It described it as a "diversion of relief materials", which correspondents say is a euphemism for theft. The statement from acting President Yemi Osinbajo said aid going missing had "dogged food delivery" and then cited reports saying that more than 50 lorries out of every 100 sent to the north-east never reach their destination. Last week 200 tonnes of dates were found on sale in local markets.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Africa: Drought and Jobless, Hopeless Youth, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" (Shakespeare)

 Ignoring the plight of jobless young people in sub-Saharan Africa is a recipe for political instability and global insecurity, warned a high-level symposium of Africa’s interior, environment and foreign affairs ministers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The high-level symposium, which was held ahead of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17, stressed that Africa’s heavy reliance on the natural resource base for livelihoods is a challenge, and its mismanagement increases household risks and amplifies the vulnerability of millions of people.

This was the first time high-ranking officials drawn from Africa’s foreign affairs, environment and interior ministries met jointly to find solutions to Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men.
“Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.” Monique Barbut

Participating ministers called for support to create land-based jobs in the rural areas to ward off the temptation for the most disillusioned to take up alternative but dangerous sources of income.

They called for the identification of sites where tenure or access to land rights can be secured and provided to vulnerable at-risk-groups.

The high-ranking officials also called for partnerships to create 2 million secure land-based jobs through rehabilitation of 10 million hectares of degraded land.

As well, they called for investment in rural infrastructure, rehabilitation tools and skills development and prioritisation of job creation in unstable and insecure areas.

The symposium examined the threats connected to sustainability, stability and security, namely, conflicts linked to access to degrading natural resources, instability due to unemployment of rural youth and insecurity and the risk of the radicalization triggered by social and economic marginalization and exposure to extremist groups.
Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

Drought, Unemployment and Hopelessness, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

Presidents Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali and Mahammadou Issoufou of Niger stressed that drought, food insecurity, water scarcity, unemployment, hopelessness about the future and poverty are fertile grounds for extremism, and a sign of insecurity, instability and unsustainability.

Two days earlier, more than 400 civil society representatives from African participated in their World Day observance, also in Ouagadougou, and organised by Spong, a local non-governmental organisation, to prepare for the International Summit of Non-State Actors titled, Desertif’actions 2017, to be held on 27 and 28 June 2017 in Strasbourg, France, which will be dedicated to land degradation and climate change, bringing together 300 stakeholders from 50 countries.

The outcomes of the Strasbourg Summit will be presented to the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to be held in Ordos, China, in September 2017, and the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention.

According to Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, more than 375 million young people will enter Africa’s job market over the next 15 years, of whom 200 million be living in the rural areas.
Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

“Millions of rural young people face an uncertain future due to the lack of decent rural jobs and continuous loss of livelihoods due to land degradation and falling yields…Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.”

The challenge is bigger than just a matter of a million young African’s attempting to make the move towards Europe over the course of a year, she said, adding that the UK Ministry of Defence estimates up to 60 million Africans are at risk of distressed migration as a result of land degradation and desertification pressures in the next two decades.
The 1st African Action Summit by Heads of State and Government held in Marrakesh in 2016 launched the Sustainability, Stability and Security initiative – the 3S Initiative – with a commitment to speed up the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands as a means to create jobs for rural youth.

According to Batio Bassiere, Minister of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, Burkina Faso, his country, on average, loses 360,000 hectares of land to degradation every year, with significant impacts on 85 per cent of the population that lives off agriculture and pastoral activities.

As stated in the theme of the World Day to Combat Desertification, Our Land, Our Home, Our Future must be preserved against all forms of degradation or desertification, said the minister.

Burkina Faso is now among the 110 countries that to-date have committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of land degradation neutrality by 2030, he said.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. It promotes good land stewardship, and its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to UNCCD, the end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy.

“By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.”

From IPS News

Friday, June 16, 2017

Empire and Poverty (1943 - Pages from South African History)

 From the July 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pages from South African History

A corner stone in the British Empire is the Dominion of South Africa, the Prime Minister of which. General Smuts was made a Field-Marshal of the British Army on his 71st birthday two years ago. The approval accorded to him in the British Press contrasts rather forcibly with the rather nasty epithets bestowed upon the politicians of other countries who have accepted office under their conquerors, during the past year or so.

While still in his twenties Smuts became State Attorney of the Transvaal Republic under Kruger, whose administration (according to most British accounts) was one of the most corrupt on earth. After the war of 1899—1902 the Boer politicians were out of the limelight, their territory being annexed and administered by a High Commissioner of the Crown. The grant of responsible government a few years later, however, gave them their chance once more. General Louis Botha (who had succeeded Joubert as commander during the war) formed Het Volk and secured a majority in the first elections 1907. From that time onwards Smuts was in close association with Botha, until the latter's death in 1919, occupying ministerial positions under him and eventually succeeding him as Premier of the Union. He held this office till 1924, when he gave way to General Hertzog and the National Party, triumphant at the polls with the aid of the Labourites. Some eight or nine years later, however, when the economic blizzard had affected the popularity of Hertzog's ministry, we find Smuts again in office as Minister of Justice in a Coalition with his late rival. Since then Smuts has reaped the reward of his pertinacity and occupied the supremacy so dear to him.

Smuts cannot be accused of neglecting his opportunities, a fact which can be appreciated best against the background of history.

His countrymen fought the war of 1899-1902 in the desperate attempt to preserve their political independence. This had been in a precarious state ever since the British occupied the Cape; and some three-quarters of a century earlier the Boers in large numbers had trekked northwards to avoid British control. Their primitive mode of life was gradually complicated by the discovery of minerals and the arrival in the country of prospectors and their hangers-on, and this led to a clamour for annexation. One attempt in 1877 lasted over three years. The Boers tolerated the position while the British were engaged in their struggles with the natives (chiefly the Zulus) and then revolted successfully, resuming' the status of a Republic in 1881. A few years later the discovery of gold on the Rand laid the foundations of the economic “fifth column," which led to its final downfall.

A description of some of the gentry the Boers were expected to tolerate is contained in a small volume, "South Africa" by J. I. A. Agar-Hamilton, lecturer in modern history at Pretoria University. ("South Africa" Modern States Series: Arrowsmith.)

      Pioneers are always pleasanter in retrospect than in close proximity in the flesh, and many of the earliest inhabitants of Barberton and Johannesburg were drunken rowdies and ne'er-do-wells, who were a pest to any law-abiding citizen. In the second wave came international crooks, swindlers and bullies, criminals of every sort who needed a respite from the attentions of the European police. (P. 36.)

More formidable were the large financiers such as Rhodes, who became Prime Minister of Cape Colony in 1890 with the support of Hofmeyr, the leader of the Cape Dutch. The Rand magnates backed the demand for the enfranchisement of the alien element in the Transvaal. .The answer of the Kruger Government was to raise the residential qualification to fourteen years (1890), and any prospect of a more moderate attitude was killed by Dr. Jameson (Rhodes' friend and Administrator of Rhodesia), who "invaded" the Transvaal in 1895 in the vain hope of bringing to a head a much talked of rising on the Rand. The Boers rounded him up with his 500 men and handed the captives over to the British High Commissioner. This magnanimity, however, did not indicate any weakening of their purpose. In October, 1899, the Transvaal and Orange Free State, making common cause, demanded the withdrawal of British troops and the war was on. The Boers could not maintain their initial success. In June, 1900, their capital, Pretoria, was in British hands and Kruger was in flight. None the less, the conflict dragged on, guerrilla fashion, for another two years. To bring it to a conclusion. Kitchener had to evacuate the rural population; concentrate them in camps, and supply them with rations.

    The farmhouses were then systematically destroyed and blockhouses and barbed wire sought to restrict the movement of the commandos. ("South Africa," p. 44.)

So great a havoc was wrought that no indemnity from the vanquished was possible. On the contrary, the victors had to advance considerable sums to restore agricultural production.

Although the Boers could hardly be suspected of aiming at world domination, the workers in Britain were fed the customary pap about their "enemies" being skulking cowards who hid behind rocks to snipe the manly British Tommy, who, as often as not, had to beg his bread in British streets when the war was over. The bioscope shows of the day depicted the ruthless Dutch farmers attacking the hospitals (plainly marked with red crosses) and molesting the helpless and attractive nurses. A large percentage of the wounds were supposed to be due to "dum-dum" bullets. Then of course the Boers were brutal to the niggers; but this did not prevent them being allowed to retain their rifles, when peace was signed, "for their protection" against these same niggers, and they were "secured against a native franchise." (South Africa, p. 44.)

    From the Orange to the Limpopo the countryside lay waste, without house or inhabitant, and its simplest agricultural needs were imported from elsewhere— Swiss milk, Australian butter and Irish eggs. The whole rural population had to be repatriated, the economic machinery of the country must be set going once more, and a new civil service and administration recreated. (p. 48.)

Under these circumstances it is hardly surprising that Botha and Smuts felt their dependence on their conquerors, and that their policy of conciliation received the support of the majority of their countrymen for a period of several years. In the Orange River Colony which had no large English-speaking population like the mining towns in the Transvaal, this policy was by no means so popular. Nevertheless the Union of the two ex-republics with the British colonies of the Cape and Natal was eventually effected in 1910.

Botha became the first premier. He expanded Het Volk into the South African National Party aiming to include British as well as Boer supporters. The mining interests of the Transvaal, however, combined with British elements in the Cape to form the Unionist Party, which retained its independent existence for ten years. The Labour Party, though strong in the Transvaal towns, was naturally weak in an agricultural country run on unenfranchised native labour, and "direct action" has, on more than one occasion, led to considerable violence on the Rand.

It was not long before the Government found itself in conflict with this element of the working-class. In July, 1913, a miners' strike brought out the whole Imperial garrison to restore order. Six months later an attempt at a general strike, including the State railwaymen, "was countered by the Proclamation of Martial Law. . . . Nine trade union leaders were summarily deported without trial" (South Africa, p. 58.)

A few months earlier, Hertzog (one of Botha's ministers who was dropped on account of his open hostility to the British elements) formed a new National Party. When the European War broke out in 1914, he advocated neutrality. The Botha Government, however, proceeded to send an expedition to invade German South-West Africa. A 'rebellion led, among others, by De Wet, gave them some trouble, but the leaders of the Nationalist Party had little confidence in its success and Botha kept control of the situation; his party lost ground, however, as the followers of Hertzog increased in number. Smuts held a place in the Imperial War Cabinet in 1917 along with Lord Milner, the High Commissioner of Boer War days.

Botha died "execrated among his own people" but "the hero of the Imperialists" (South Africa, pp. 62-3) and " Smuts inherited a peck of troubles. The elections (1920) returned the Nationalists as the biggest single party, while the Unionists lost heavily to the advantage of Labour in the towns" (p. 65). Smuts had only one course in order to retain office. He secured support from the Unionists who sank their identity in his party and allowed three of their members to join the Cabinet. Botha's dream of conciliation was realised—a Dominion of the British Empire in South Africa had been established.

March, 1922, saw a revival of the Rand trouble. Strikers drilled openly on the Reef, the defence commandos were called out and aeroplanes and field artillery were finally required to quell the rising.

At the next election in 1924 the Labour Party formed a pact with the party of Hertzog to avoid splitting the anti-Government vote. As a piece of tactics it was an immediate success. The Nationalist-cum-Labour coalition had a substantial majority and two Labour leaders entered the Ministry.

In order to secure the support of the Labour Party the Nationalists dropped the Republican clause from their constitution. Nevertheless General Hertzog spent some years trying to clarify the status of the Union. He wanted the right to secede recognised and it took two Imperial Conferences to satisfy him. In economic matters his government pursued a policy of Protection coupled with Factories Acts, Wages Boards and Industrial Conciliation.

In native affairs Hertzog stood for white supremacy and repressive legislation (such as the Colour Bar Bill, 1926, which limited natives in mines to unskilled labour, the Riotous Assemblies Act, 1930, and the Native Service Contract Act, 1932) found its way on to the Statute Book. As Mr. Agar Hamilton points out, he "could always rely on the support of ultra-British Natal for the more repressive side of his policy" (South Africa, p. 122). And, we may add, that of the more short-sighted white members of the working-class who fail to realise the necessity for organising irrespective of race or colour.

In 1929 the Labour Party split over the Question of continuing their pact with Hertzog. In the elections of that year the Coalition lost ground but the Government retained its majority. The following year the world depression made itself felt throughout the Union where the number of mortgaged farms is abnormally high. "Long established landowners were ruined and those small farmers and "bywoners" who normally lived dose to the poverty line suffered appalling privations" (South Africa, p. 80),

The diamond mines were closed as the price of their product collapsed and thousands of diggers in the Western Transvaal found themselves destitute. Relief works became the order of the day.

After a vain struggle to remain on the gold standard the Government finally abandoned it in December, 1932. During the following year negotiations were opened between the Nationalists and the South African Parties. The two Labour Ministers were dropped while Smuts and five of his supporters joined the Government. "Parliament was dissolved, but an adroit system of parcelling out the seats ensured the return of the two big parties very nearly as before " (South Africa, P. 84).

Thus the intrigues and trickery with which we are familiar in the case of the Mother of Parliaments, are very closely reflected in her youngest daughter. Those workers who believe that the British Empire is democratic in principle might reflect on these facts; and, further, ask themselves what is the lot of the workers in the latest addition to the Commonwealth of Nations. According to Mr. Agar Hamilton, "two major problems commonly exercise the minds of the people of South Africa, the Poor White and the Native" (p. 105).

The Carnegie Commission reckoned that in 1929-30, before the effects of the depression were felt, 17.5 per cent, of the white population were "very poor." After 1930 the position became more serious, i.e., 20 per cent. Poverty among white workers in Africa has its peculiar features due to local conditions yet Professor Macmillan says: "The poor whites are little more than the 'reservoir' of unemployed to be found wherever Western industrialism has dislocated the old agrarian system." (Complex South Africa, p. 16.)

The native population of five and a half million may be divided broadly into three groups. First some two and a half million have their homes in "Reserves," i.e., "the last vestiges of the land once occupied by independent tribes" (South Africa, p. 111). They are little more than a breeding ground; for the majority of the able-bodied males are away working in the mines or on farms for the greater part of the year. The Reserves are not capable of feeding their inhabitants and the shortage of production has to be made good by imports paid for largely by remittance from the absent wage-earners.

The second group of two million (the so-called "squatters") reside on the farms of the white invaders who annexed and divided up the land. They pay for the accommodation either in labour or produce according to the requirements of the owners. The remaining group work in the towns.

All alike suffer poverty. In the words of Professor Macmillan: "There is little room left for doubt that the natives of the Union as a whole are a community dragging along at the very lowest level of bare subsistence." (Complete South Africa, p. 221.)

From all of which it would appear that the Commonwealth of Nations is not incompatible with the poverty of its people.

Eric Boden

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Nigeria's child labour problem

More and more children are sent out to work in Nigeria. It is a matter of survival, families say. It is very common in Nigeria to see underage children engaged in manual labor in order to support their families. In northeastern Nigeria specially, many children are sent out by their families to earn some money through street hawking, begging and prostitution.

Sherif Muhammad, an internally displaced person from Bama town in Borno State now living in Maiduguri, told DW that putting his sons and daughters to work is simply a matter of survival. "It is true we send our children to go and work so that they will get some money for us to buy food. We send boys to go to streets and beg. We also send girls to houses to work as domestic servants."

Globally there are over 168 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 working when they should not. 15 million of them are in Nigeria, which has the highest rate of working children in West Africa. 

 Children's rights activist Zariyatu Abubakar told DW that the situation there is alarming. Children are not only being sent to work to help support their families, "some don't have parents and have to support themselves and their younger siblings," because their mothers and fathers have been killed, Abubakar said. He sees the government as responsible for the welfare of the country's children. She called on it to take action: "These are only children. They need to be supported, to go to school," Abubakar said, adding: "Somebody has to take responsibility. Either the government or nongovernmental organizations have to support and educate them, feed them and provide shelter for them." 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sudan has the shits

Journalist, Yousra Elbagir, has been criticising the Sudanese government's failure to get to grips with a cholera outbreak. After 10 months, Sudan's Ministry of Health finally confirmed that there have been 265 deaths and more than 16,000 infected cases of "acute watery diarrhoea" in 11 of the country's 18 states. Medical professionals have long diagnosed the cases as cholera, despite the euphemisms, the government has insisted on to downplay the severity of the crisis. But cholera by any other name is still cholera. In April, journalist Ammar El-Daw was detained for reporting on the outbreak and accused of defamation by the minister of his home state, Gaderef. The World Health Organization has been ominously silent in the face of the growing crisis. Many assume that pressure from the government - never shy to expel a UN official for saying the wrong thing - has left them at a loss for words.
The Federal Minister of Health, Bahar Abu Garda, told parliament that cases of "watery diarrhoea" were not his business - shifting blame to the Ministry of Water Resources and State Ministers. The private hospital of Khartoum's State Minister of Health, Mamoun Himeda, has a printed sign on the door, refusing the admission of any cases of watery diarrhea. While the country's politicians continue to shirk responsibility and avoid action, the number of cases continues to climb. The first infections were confirmed as early as August 2016, in the White Nile state where the cluster of South Sudanese refugee camps has been identified by the government as the source of the outbreak.
 Sudan's crumbling infrastructure and underfunded healthcare system made conditions rife for the disease to spread. Poor sanitation, meagre emergency services, and underpaid doctors, striking intermittently since October 2016, have left the nation extremely vulnerable. Medics have highlighted the lack of quarantine spaces and photos have been shared online of brackish water pouring out of taps across the country.

Ethiopia faces food shortages

Ethiopia will run out of emergency food aid for 7.8 million people affected by drought at the end of this month, the UN has warned. Ethiopia has been struggling following successive failed rains.
Aid groups and the government are calling for help, but fear donor fatigue with other crises worldwide. The government  allocated $381m (£300m) extra over the last two years, but is unable to sustain it for a third year.
It has left Ethiopia in a "dire situation", according to John Aylieff of the World Food Programme, a UN agency."We've got food running out nationally at the end of June," he told reporters on Friday. "That means the 7.8 million people who are in need of humanitarian food assistance in Ethiopia will see that distribution cut abruptly at the end of June."
John Graham, of Save the Children told AFP news agency: "After [the food runs out], we don't know what is going to happen. And without that basic food then you will have problem falling into severe malnutrition because people are not getting any food. These children become severely malnourished and that's where you have a very dangerous situation."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Keeping it in the Family

 The 25-year-old son of Angolan president José Eduardo Dos Santos, Danilo, spent 500,000 euros at a celebrity auction for a series of photographs by George Hurrell during a gala auction held at the Cannes Film Festival on May 25. 

 Meanwhile, roughly 70% of Angolans survive on less than $2 a day and 90% of Luanda's population lives in slums. Angolan society is divided between the have-nots and the have-a-whole-lots. 

At age 23, Danilo was put in charge of a project at Angola Telecom.

Friday, June 09, 2017

The French in Africa

France on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to authorize the deployment of a five-nation African military force to "use all necessary means" to "combat terrorism, drug trafficking and trafficking in persons." Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- which make up the G5 -- agreed in March to set up the special counter-terrorism operation of 5,000 troops for West Africa.  France has its own 4,000-strong military presence in the region. The force will have its headquarters in Mali, but will be under a separate command from the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA, which has been deployed in the country since 2013.

The United States is wary of a French push for the U.N. Security Council to authorize a West African force to combat terrorism and trafficking in the Sahel region because it does not believe it is warranted and does not want the world body to help fund it, diplomats said. The official said U.N. authorization was not needed because the force already had the approval of the countries where it would deploy, likening it to a joint task force in the Lake Chad Basin fighting Boko Haram, which has council political support but no official authorization. "Further, we find the mandate of the force way too broad, lacking precision; and would set a dangerous precedent by providing authorization for lethal force for a broad spectrum of activities including operations to 'eradicate' undefined criminal networks," the official said.

France launched the Serval Operation in 2013 to oust Jihadists affiliated to Al Qaeda from Northern Malian cities. The operation ended on 15 July 2014, and was replaced by Operation Barkhane, launched on 1 August 2014 to fight Islamist fighters in the Sahel.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Art and Albinos

Albinism is a genetic condition that causes a deficiency in the production of melanin, which affects a person’s pigment. People with albinism are also at high risk for skin cancer.  There is a particularly high rate of albinism amongst people from sub-Saharan Africa. According to some estimates, an estimated one out of every 4,000 people is affected. In comparison, only one out of every 20,000 people born in Europe and the United States have this genetic anomaly. 

People with albinism living in the Democratic Republic of Congo face daily discrimination that sometimes spirals into verbal abuse and even physical violence. In Tanzania, Malawi and Burundi, people with albinism often fall victim to ritual crimes because of the persistence of traditional beliefs that their body parts have magical powers. 

Josué Valentia Mbanga Iloko, age 20, is an art student living in Kinshasa. He explains why he started painting people with albinism.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Zambia's Land-Grab

 Zambia's smallholder farmers could be made squatters on their own land as the country opens up to farming multinationals in an effort to boost its economy, said Hilal Elver, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Zambia's ambition to develop its commercial farming sector to become "Southern Africa's food basket" risks worsening extreme rural poverty, as farmers face eviction to make way. Sixty percent of Zambians are small-scale farmers, who make up many of the nation's poorest people but produce 85 percent of its food
40 percent of Zambian under fives have stunted growth due to malnutrition, despite the country emerging from crisis to "impressive" levels of economic growth.
Around 85 percent of land is held under customary tenure, mostly in the hands of peasant farmers, with little legal protection from eviction, she said. After eviction, many peasant farmers are forced to work in poor conditions on large industrial farms or are obliged to sell their crops at knock-down prices for export by monopoly-type multinationals who buy produce for export, she said.
Intensive commercial farming has also led to increased use of agro chemicals proven to damage children's health and boosted rates of deforestation and environmental damage, she added.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Climate Change will Change Africa

At 3.8%, Africa accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions, in contrast to 23% in China, 19% in the US, and 13% in the European Union. Yet is particularly vulnerable to global warming and its effects. 

Climate change in Africa is manifest in rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, and changes in rainfall patterns leading to floods or severe droughts. Since 1970, Africa has experienced more than 2,000 natural disasters, with just under half taking place in the last decade. Africa also contains 7 out of the 10 countries that are considered the most threatened by climate change globally, according to the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings Institution. The extreme weather events are also taking a toll on African cities—which are growing rapidly—and is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people across the continent.

Global warming is a critical problem facing the Ivorian commercial capital, Abidjan. With its location on the coast of the Atlantic, experts have long warned that the city could be flooded over several decades from now. The Intergovernmental panel on climate change has also reported high erosion rates in the areas off the Abidjan harbor. The loss of mangrove forests has also increased the vulnerability of coastal areas to damages from coastal storm surges. As the world’s top cocoa grower, heavy rains are threatening the mid-crop marketing season on one end, while farmers in other parts of the country are reporting patchy rainfalls and sunny spells.

Cape Town & Durban are among Africa’s top tourist destinations, attracting millions of people from all over the world. Yet, rising sea levels, sand movement along the coast, increasing urbanization, and the significant loss and extinction of important biodiversity underscore the challenges of climate change.

In early March, Cape Town was declared a disaster area after officials noted that the city had barely 100 days of water left due to a biting drought. The risk of catastrophic fires has also increased, with more wildfires raging in the Western Cape province. Climate change is also affecting agricultural production and is contributing to food insecurity, environmental degradation, and unemployment.
Given its low-lying position next to the Atlantic Ocean, Africa’s most-populous city is susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change. Lagos consists of a mainland and a series of islands with an estimated population of 21 million—some of whom live on waterfront slums with no proper drainage or water systems. With heavy rainfalls and rising sea levels, these slum residents, and many middle to upper middle income neighborhoods, are vulnerable to flooding. The megacity has been trying to avert this, with innovators building a solar-powered, naturally ventilated, triangular-shaped school as a sustainable model. The Eko Atlantic Island is also being built as a new financial hub by dredging up millions of tons of sand from the Atlantic and filing it in 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) worth of land. The Great Wall of Lagos, an 8-kilometer wall is being built to protect the peninsula and its residents from the sea. Researchers have however noted that the wall could prove problematic for other waterfront dwellers, and are calling its exclusivity to certain elites as “climate apartheid.”
Tanzania is the most flood-affected country in east Africa, according to the World Bank. The country’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, is growing so fast—85% by 2025—that it cannot preserve the city’s natural environment at the same time. The coastal city’s flat nature also makes it prone to floods, which are expected to come with increased rainfalls and storm surges. The slums located along the floodplains of the Msimbazi river are also vulnerable to floods, with annual structure losses expected to be $47.3 million. Just last month, the country experienced heavy downpours that destroyed critical infrastructure, large swathes of rice farms, and led to the closure of schools. Dar es Salaam recorded 54 millimeters of rain in a day—nearly a third of the total average monthly May rainfall of 188mm.
Researchers have found that climate change could make sections of north Africa so warm as to be uninhabitable in the future. Today, major North African coastal cities like Alexandria, Casablanca, Tripoli and Tunis are all vulnerable to long term impacts of climate change.
One northern Africa country that is facing a disastrous prospect is Sudan, where average temperatures by 2060 are expected to rise between 1.5 and 3 degrees Celsius. Haphazard rains, increasing desertification, intense droughts, and erratic rains have also contributed to ruining harvests and livestock. Decades of deforestation have also led to increased dust storms that roll through the desert now and swallow entire villages and farmlands.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Famine Amid Plenty

Corn, or maize as it’s called locally, is a central part of life across much of sub-Saharan Africa, usually ground and mixed with water to form a porridge or stiff dough. It’s called pap in South Africa, sadza in Zimbabwe and ugali in Kenya.
Africa’s corn harvest this year is a tale of two extremes as worries about overflowing silos and rotting crops in the south contrast with the east where supermarkets are running short of the staple food.
Zambia and South Africa are both predicting record output of the grain, while Zimbabwe may meet its domestic needs for the first time since it began seizing land from white farmers in 2000. Yet in East Africa, 17 million people may be facing hunger, and concerns about food shortages are driving up prices as governments scramble to secure imports. In East Africa, countries including Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Ethiopia face a food-production deficit equivalent to about 30 percent of consumption, according to the Nairobi-based Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. The effects of the drought have been amplified by conflict -- about 5.5 million people are facing severe hunger in South Sudan while Somalia is on the brink of famine with 3.2 million people at risk, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program.
Kenya’s reserves of corn dropped to less than a day’s worth of consumption earlier this month, with annual food inflation reaching 21 percent in April, squeezing a country where almost half of the population live on less than $2 a day. The government is planning to import 450,000 tons of the grain to plug the deficit and is subsidizing supplies. Yet imports from South Africa, the continent’s top producer, are unlikely because Kenya, like most African countries, doesn’t allow genetically modified corn. About 85 percent of South Africa’s corn is GMO.
South Africa said Friday it expects to reap an unprecedented 15.63 million metric tons this year, after rains during the prime growing period helped farmers rebound from the worst drought in more than a century.  All indications point to “a crisis in terms of wastage,” he said. Zimbabwe is also facing a severe lack of storage.

The DRC Refugee Crisis

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has more internally displaced persons than any other country due to numerous violent conflicts, fuelled by political crises. 

The result: almost a million people were forced to flee their homes in 2016 alone – globally, the largest number of refugees fleeing armed conflict. According to the latest figures from the "Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre" (IDMC), which are based on UN data, the 922,000 new internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the DRC place the country ahead of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria. 

Ongoing violence in central DRC has left around 400,000 children at risk of life-threatening malnourishment. In the Kasai region, heath centers have been forced to closed due to looting, a lack of security for staff and a shortage of medical supplies, the UN's children's agency UNICEF has reported. 

Conflict in the area has already driven 9,000 children to flee across the border to the Angolan city of Dundo. The journey means a long and potentially dangerous walk through the bush, says Abubacar Sultan, who works for UNICEF in Angola. "Some of these children actually seem to have been direct victims of attacks," he says. "They come wounded, some of them with their limbs mutilated or parts of their bodies burned, some with bullets still in their bodies."
Two camps provide refuge for the children, but some arrive alone, having been separated from their parents either in their villages, during the journey or even at the moment of transportation to the camps, Sultan explains, adding that UNICEF tries to track down their relatives. 

Critics say the government is doing little to address the conflicts.