Monday, October 30, 2017

DRC - "We need help, and we need it right now.”

More than three million people are at risk of starvation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations (UN) food agency has warned.
Hundreds of thousands of children may die in the coming months if aid is not urgently delivered to the conflict-wracked central African nation, said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).  Beasley visited Kasai this week and described what he saw as a “disaster”. “We saw burned huts, burned homes, seriously malnourished children that had been stunted, obviously many children have died already,” he told the BBC. “We’re talking about several hundred thousand children there that will die in the next few months if we don’t get first funds, and then second food, and then third access in the right locations.”
Beasley said the WFP had only one per cent of the funding it needed to help people in Kasai, and warned the coming rainy season would soon make already difficult roads impassable. He added: “If we wait another few more weeks before we receive funds to pre-position food, I can’t imagine how horrible the situation is going to be. We need help, and we need it right now.”

Violence erupted between rebel militia and government forces in Congo’s Kasai province in August 2016 when the government refused to recognise a local hereditary chief, Kamuina Nsapu, who was considered hostile to the government. He set up a militia before being killed in clashes. Since his death several rebel factions have emerged, each fighting different causes but counting authorities as their common enemy. The conflict has worsened and spread to five provinces, reportedly killing thousands. Both sides have been accused of human rights violations, while investigators have uncovered mass graves and harrowing evidence of people being hacked to death with machetes and burned alive. The conflict has left 1.5 million people homeless, many of them children, in a country still recovering from a brutal civil war.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Lost Children

A four-year civil war in South Sudan has led to more than 1 million children fleeing the country, many on their own, according to the United Nations.
“These children lost touch with their families once fighting broke out,” said Gilbert Kamanga, the Uganda director of international charity World Vision. “Others saw their parents being killed, and they have walked for more than a week to get to Uganda, with nothing to eat.”
“The horrifying fact that nearly one in five children in South Sudan has been forced to flee their home illustrates how devastating this conflict has been for the country’s most vulnerable,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
At the Imvepi camp in the Arua district of northern Uganda, most of the 120,000 refugees are minors, and more of them continue to stream into the camp with horrifying stories.
“The best gift you can give to a separated child or parent is reunification, because they feel happy when they meet their family members,” said Robert Baryamwesiga, the Bidi Bidi settlement commander. “We are working hard to ensure these unaccompanied children get reunited with their families.”

Cameroon and the threat of a refugee exodus

 2,000 people have fled southern Cameroon and entered Nigeria over the past two weeks, fallout from renewed oppression of Angolophone Cameroonians in the predominantly French-speaking country, the  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. 
It is now preparing a “very conservative” contingency plan for as many as 40,000 people fleeing Cameroon, Antonio Jose Canhandula, the agency’s representative to Nigeria, told Reuters . “Our fear is that the 40,000 might actually be an understatement in a situation where the conflict might continue,” said Canhandula. Nigeria and Cameroon are already grappling with one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, in the Lake Chad region, with over 2 million people displaced after more than eight years of conflict with Islamist insurgency Boko Haram. “Can you imagine having another refugee situation in a country where we are hardly coping with IDPs (internally displaced persons)?” Canhandula said. “Every time you have a refugee situation you have it for several years... Cameroon really has to take the issues that create the feeling of exclusion very seriously,” he said.
A cycle of state repression fuelling separatism has raised concerns after soldiers shot dead at least eight people in the country’s two English-speaking regions on Oct 1. Demonstrations in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions began nearly a year ago when Anglophone lawyers Cameroon’s linguistic divide is a legacy of World War One, when the League of Nations divided the former German colony of Kamerun between allied French and British victors.and teachers protested against having to work in French, saying it showed the wider marginalisation of the English-speaking minority. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Black Masters For White (1957)

From the June 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Communists and half-baked “progressives” have hailed the inauguration (on March 6th) of the State of Ghana as a great step towards the freedom and independence of colonial peoples. We of the Socialist Party, however, have always maintained that changes in constitution such as have taken place in Ghana do not fundamentally alter the class basis of that society: in place of British masters, the Ghanian workers will be exploited by a rising, home-grown capitalist class. Indeed, within a matter of weeks of the showy inauguration of the State of Ghana, there are signs that its rulers are acting much as their well-established contemporaries do elsewhere.

Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah said (Life magazine, 15/4/57) that he is convinced that “his newly free citizens will prove that African people can build a state based on democracy . . .  and racial equality.” But the democratic base of the State of Ghana cannot be very secure, because, according to the Manchester Guardian (23/4/57), Dr. Nkrumah said that "His government would not tolerate the activities of certain religious bodies. He cited Jehovah’s Witnesses, who, he said, excluded themselves from voting and ignored activities pertaining to affairs of State.” Perhaps Dr. Nkrumah has learned the gentle art of suppressing inconvenient minority groups from rulers (past and present) of the "police states” such as Soviet Russia, that the Ghana government is prepared to use force against sections of its people is confirmed by Mr. Ako Adjei (the Minister of the Interior), who was to ask the Ghana Parliament to "approve steps taken by the Government to deal with a recent outbreak of lawlessness in parts of the Trans-volta Togoland region.” (Manchester Guardian, 23/4/57), which paper goes on to report: "The Opposition has sent a delegation into the troubled area to investigate allegations of brutality by the authorities.”

The spectre of the witch-hunt, which has in recent years haunted American political and academic circles under the direction of a notorious senator who has just died, has apparently found a welcome in the newly formed State of Ghana. Mr. D. M. Balme recently resigned as Principal of the Achimoto University College partly, according to the Observer (28/4/57), because of alleged political interference with the University College’s academic freedom. In a farewell speech, Mr. Balme declared that "many undergraduates had expressed deepening concern about their future careers in the new State of Ghana. He added that undergraduates had told him that they feared their political activities might bring them into conflict with the country’s leaders and jeopardise their opportunities to serve the country.”

Dr. Nkrumah boasted that racial equality would be built in Ghana. Maybe, but it’s pretty evident that some of his supporters do not believe in building economic equality. According to the Manchester Guardian (24/4/57), "The Loral Government Minister, Mr. Atta, told Parliament today (April 23) that Accra councillors owed £2,114 to the council at the time of the suspension. Mr. Edusei (the Minister Without Portfolio) pointed out that the majority of the councillors were members of the Convention People’s Party—the Government Party.” Apparently, the Accra Council was suspended "following allegations that it had not collected rates or submitted accounts and had advanced loans to councillors.” The rising Ghana politicians seem quick to learn one of the basic mottoes of capitalism, "Blow you, Jack, I’m all right ’’—sorry, we mean “ private enterprise,” of course.

The eve of "independence” for the states which have recently broken away from the influence of colonial powers has been the occasion for much celebration by the workers; the dawn has invariably brought the "hangover” of reality. Workers in Israel, India or Pakistan have no more freedom or less poverty under their own rulers than they had under their erstwhile Imperialist masters, and we can confidently prophesy the same about the workers in Ghana. A cartoon in a recent edition of Punch neatly sums up the situation. A large, prosperous Ghanian capitalist waves a banner denouncing the rule of the white capitalist; he is securely seated on the thin shoulders of a bemused Ghanian worker.
Michael La Touche

The Study of Africa (book review 1965)

Book Review from the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Study of Africa by Peter J. M. McEwan and Robert B. Sutcliffe (Methuen 42s.)

The vast continent of Africa—5,000 miles from the Mediterranean to the Cape, and 4,600 miles from Senegal to Somalia—is changing rapidly. More rapidly in fact than any other part of the world. It needs to move fast if it is going to catch up with the old-established Capitalist states; it has got a very long way to go.

Africa was the last great area to be conquered and exploited by the European powers. For centuries the settlements were largely coastal, trading posts for trade with the interior, victualling ports for ships bound for the Orient, and, of course, depots for that most profitable of commodities, slaves. Not until well into the 19th century did the Europeans really move in, so that the work of industrialising or exterminating tribal peoples has not progressed as far as in the Americas or Australasia.

Many areas of Africa have had only about sixty years of colonialism, and millions of people still live a tribal existence away from the industrial areas and modem communications. Non-European Capitalists are still rather small in number, but they are growing, and display all the vulgar ostentation associated with the newly rich. It is on them that the job of breaking tribal barriers, and producing an industrial proletariat, will fall.

With so much happening in so vast an area, Africa is somewhat baffling and poses a mass of questions. Why was the continent late in being exploited? Why have so many African States gone totalitarian? The Study of Africa is a useful textbook on this subject It describes the physical environment, the historical development, and the contemporary scene. Why, for example, has the southern part of the continent developed in a different way to the rest?
“The nationalism of East and Central Africa was handicapped in a way that the West was not: namely, by the presence of large numbers of white settlers. The climate and land of the area were more conducive to European farming and consequent settlement.”
It was these settlers, basically farmers rather than traders, or exploiters of mineral wealth, that built up a large white population, large enough to enable them to keep their grip on the State machine. This has been brought to the forefront again in the last few weeks by Rhodesia.

The book is well served with maps and appendices.

Les Dale

Changing the future

 Africa needs 11 million more doctors, nurses and teachers by 2030 to prevent a "social and economic disaster" that could propel millions to migrate, the United Nations said.

More than one in five Africans aged 6 to 11 are not in school. Girls, in particular, are more likely never to see a classroom, waylayed by child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
Six in ten Africans lack access to basic sanitation and on average there are only 1.7 medical professionals per 1,000 inhabitants - well below the minimum international standard of 4.45 set by the World Health Organization.
To bridge the gap, 5.6 million health workers and 5.8 million teachers have to be trained by 2030.
Nigeria, which currently accounts for 20 percent of all Africa's births, for example spends only 0.9 percent of its GDP on public health, one of the lowest rates in the world.

Africa's future population

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). According to the report "Generation 2030/Africa," four in 10 people on earth will be African by 2100, with over 1 billion children living on the continent by mid-century. 
"More than half the projected 2.2-billion rise in world population in 2015-2050 is expected to take place in Africa," read the report, although the continent's population growth will level off eventually. 
One cause is the rising number of women of reproductive age, who have on average of 4.7 children – well above the global average of 2.5. Child marriages also contribute to girls having kids very young, rather than receiving an education. In Niger, the number of children per woman is a staggering 7.5.
The report urges African nations to improve or provide the most rudimentary amenities as six in 10 Africans have no access to basic sanitation. On average, there are also only 1.7 medical professionals per 1,000 inhabitants - well below the minimum international standard of 4.45 set by the World Health Organization.
The world ought to pay particular attention to Nigeria, "the country with the largest increase in absolute numbers of both births and child population." Indeed, by 2015 one-fifth of Africa's births occurred in Nigeria alone, "accounting for 5 percent of all global births...In absolute terms, Nigeria is projected to add from 2031 to 2050 an additional 224 million babies (21 percent of the births in Africa and 8 percent of all births in the world)."
While many African children continue to live in poverty and conflict, child mortality is down and life expectancy has increased somewhat. However, there was still room for improvement, UNICEF noted, as Africa still accounts for half of all child deaths worldwide.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Quote of the Day

“It is sad that fifty-three years after independence, 54.5 % of citizens still live in abject poverty in Zambia” NGOCC Executive Director Ms. Engwase Mwale said. 

Charcoal Capitalism

More than 2.5 billion people worldwide depend on charcoal, wood and animal dung for cooking every day. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) an estimated 90 percent of people rely on fuelwood and charcoal. Why? Simply put, it’s the result of limited energy infrastructure. Only 9 percent of people in the country have electricity.

The DRC contains the bulk of the Earth’s second-largest intact tropical forest (after the Amazon). So far, deforestation here has been lower than rainforests in the Amazon or Indonesia; in 2000, 61 percent of the DRC was still covered in intact primary forest. However, between 2000 and 2010, more than 10,000 square kilometers (almost 4,000 square miles) of tree cover were lost.

The primary cause of forest clearing is for agriculture. After forest plots are cut and burned to make way for crops, logs are stacked in large ovens made of wood and clay, where high temperatures transform the wood into charcoal. Urban areas including the mega-city of Kinshasa, home to at least 11 million people and growing fast, are driving demand, as charcoal burns hotter than fuelwood and is easier to transport. As forests closest to Kinshasa disappear, the city’s residents must look further afield for the fuel to stoke their stoves.

Rising demands have turned the country’s charcoal trade into a multimillion dollar industry—and there are plenty of people looking to cash in.  Even considering transportation costs, charcoal producers can double their profit in the capital, compared with the local market. A recent field survey on charcoal production conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society in northeastern DRC found that selling charcoal provides substantial household income, allowing families to pay medical bills and school fees. 

The cutting and burning of tropical forests is estimated to account for 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And as forests disappear, so will the species (such as great apes and forest elephants) that inhabit them, as well as the natural resources that millions of people depend on.  The desire to open up more land to charcoal production even appears to have been a factor in the killing of mountain gorillas, a critically endangered species found nowhere else in the world.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Africa? Americans? Not a Clue

Top members of Congress are claiming this week they had no idea the U.S. military had a presence in Niger after four U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed there in an ambush on October 4. Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania told CNN Monday he was not aware of the U.S. military’s involvement in Niger. He’s not alone. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also said he didn’t know. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Sunday he was unaware U.S. troops were in Niger yet Graham was in attendance at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March when General Thomas D. Waldhauser, AFRICOM’s commander, specifically discussed the U.S. military’s presence in Niger. 
But the U.S. military has been in Niger since 2013 and this wasn’t a secret. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has been tweeting about U.S. involvement in Niger for years. And thousands of troops serve across Africa every day. 
Republican Representative Charlie Dent told CNN. “It’s not new, and lawmakers that seem to be aghast at these missions going on are simply not well-read.” 
The U.S. military has “5,000 to 6,000 [troops in Africa] on any given day—based on exercise, operational and support needs,” Robyn Mack, a spokesperson for AFRICOM. Mack was able to confirm the U.S. currently has 800 troops in Niger but would not offer specifics in terms of the military’s presence in other African nations, citing “operational, force protection and diplomatic sensitivities.”
The U.S. military is active in a number of countries in Africa, including Chad, Somalia, Libya and Cameroon. It has a permanent military base in Djibouti and is building a major drone base in the city of Agadez, in central Niger. 

Feeding the World

Africa is spending 35 billion US dollars in importing food; a figure that is projected to grow to 110 billion US dollars by 2025.

Why is a continent that has 65 per cent of the world’s arable land importing struggling to produce enough to feed its people?

There is water efficient, drought-resistant maize, types of cassava, and rice varieties that can improve yields, and there are biofortified beans and orange fleshy potatoes that can help tackle malnutrition.

Transforming African agriculture and finding ways to increase production to improve food security on the continent cannot be done without finding ways to make the savannahs more productive. Africa has about 400 million hectares of savannah lands that could be cultivated, though only about 10 percent is used for that purpose now. Other regions in the world, most notably South America, have found ways to make their savannah’s productive agricultural lands.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Return to tradition

In Kenya many farmers focus on raising kale, cabbage or spinach to sell locally – or higher earning broccoli and cauliflower – but traditional African vegetables have often been overlooked, not least because seed for them can now be hard to find. However, The Musiega Women Group, in Kenya’s Vihiga County, one of more than 1,200 such cooperatives in western Kenya there is a return to African indigenous vegetables and other crops to curb malnutrition and hunger.

"Many farmers have ignored African indigenous leafy vegetables and yet they are very nutrient-rich, and some of them have medicinal values,"  said Ruth Khasaya Oniang’o,  co-winner of the 2017 African Food PrizeOniang’o Rural Outreach Programme (ROP), founded in 1992, works to make sure small-scale farmers have access to quality indigenous plants, soil testing and other help they need to grow quality food.

 ROP Africa is now working to promote the planting of maize that is water-efficient, drought-tolerant and resistant to insects. Such maize, originally targeted for planting in arid and semi-arid parts of Africa, now is proving useful in normally rainy western Kenya as well as the climate grows more variable. “Our farmers have grown this variety for the past three seasons, and for sure, when other varieties succumb to tough conditions whenever it fails to rain, (it) has remained resilient, and this is a big hope for people in Western Kenya,” Oniang’o said.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The "Empire" in the Tropics. (Book Review - 1927)

British Imperialism in West Africa. by Elinor Burns - Labour Research Department,

The above pamphlet constitutes No. 4 of the Colonial Series of the L.R.D. It reviews, in brief, the various stages by which British capitalist interests have acquired a grip of the economic resources of West Africa, including the labour power of the natives. Broadly speaking, the process is similar to that in East Africa and other tropical countries illustrated from time to time in these columns. The main difference is that it commenced at an earlier date, and has reached a higher stage of development.

In East Africa, British influence had to contend from the first with the Arab slave-power. Its initial enterprises in that direction could conveniently assume the hypocritical guise of philanthropy, i.e., the suppression of the slave trade. In West Africa, however, British heroes from the time of Drake and Hawkins down to the latter end of the 18th century had indulged in the time-honoured practice of carrying off the comparatively defenceless inhabitants and selling them to the plantation-owners of the American colonies. This policy led to such a serious reduction in the population in these regions that the trading companies, which eventually sought profit there in other forms, actually had to bring back slaves liberated from America in order to provide themselves with a labour supply.

These companies extended their influence from the coast to the interior by intrigues with native chiefs (ready to sell even the land and persons of their tribesmen for whisky and trousers) until the inevitable revolts arose, which necessitated falling back upon the support of the Imperial Government. This led, as in India and elsewhere, to the companies selling out to the Government, which henceforth assumed control and responsibility for the administration of the areas concerned.

As a result of this change, the native chiefs became, in practice, unofficial agents of the Crown. Those who proved refractory and independent were forcibly removed and replaced by others more amenable to "civilised” influences, who have been used to "collect taxes, recruit labour, supervise the native courts, and generally, carry out British policy” (p. 12).

These political changes reacted inevitably upon the economic organisation of native society. Instead of producing foodstuffs for themselves the inhabitants had perforce to produce articles for sale, such as palm oil, cocoa, rubber, etc., in order to obtain the money wherewith to pay the taxes; and as they found that, even by these means, their income was insufficient, numbers of them had recourse to the labour market and sold their energies for wages.

Native chiefs and traders developed into small farmers, exploiting their own tribesmen. Tribal land became private property and the old communal organisation and customs fell into decay, and the population became simply a source of raw material for large-scale capitalist industry.

Being dependent upon the wholesale buying concerns, the native producers find their position growing steadily worse. They have to meet the competition of large-scale plantations in other countries, which results in a lowering of their prices, while, on the other hand, the destruction of their old mode of life increases their wants, which tend to become more "civilised.”

From this external and internal pressure, there appears to be no escape short of a complete economic change the world over.

In addition to the soap and cocoa trusts, other capitalist interests have a finger in the pie of colonial development. The heavy iron industry finds room for expansion in the construction of railways, harbours, docks, etc., while behind them the financiers scoop up interest on loans for these enterprises, most of which are State owned. In fact, State "Socialism” thrives to such an extent in the tropical Colonies that Mr. Ormsby-Gore (Under-Secretary for the Colonies) proposed in a recent Report that the Government itself should start plantations in order "to set an example ” to the natives in large-scale production. What effect this procedure would have on the already impoverished small-peasantry can readily be imagined. The State would conscript labour-power for its plantations as it does for its transport and other public works. The few native "large fish” would swallow up the "little fish” at a more rapid rate, and the outside trusts would gain the benefit of improved efficiency and organisation.

Eric Boden

Might be hope for Mali

In 2008, as food prices rose around the world, riots broke out in West Africa, and Mali’s government stepped in. It quickly launched an initiative to subsidise purchases of good-quality certified rice seed, as well as fertilisers, for farmers, in an effort to cut reliance on rice imports and grow more food of its own. 
In just two years, the country was producing enough grain for domestic consumption, and today is a rice exporter, said Bourema Dembele, who until July was director of research at Mali’s Institut d’Economie Rurale, a government institutionSuch policies need to be replicated around Africa if the continent is to cope with a burgeoning population and climate change while improving food security and economic growth, African experts say. According to the Africa Agriculture Status Report 2017, if most African governments moved as aggressively as Mali’s, the continent could not only feed itself but meet the growing demand from affluent city dwellers for high-value processed foods.
“Rice is going to be the biggest challenge for Africa because countries highly depend on imports from sources that are totally unsustainable,” William Asiko, the executive director of Grow Africa, a non-governmental organisation, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Agnes Kalibata, Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa's president, said, “If left to the private sector alone, growth in the agrifood system will not be as fast as it could, nor will it benefit as many smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs as it could.” She added, “Africa has the latent natural resources, skills, human and land capacity to tip the balance of payments and move from importer to exporter by eating food made in Africa.” Apart from Mali, African countries that have had significant success moving towards food self-sufficiency include Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burkina Faso, she said.
African nations spend $35 billion each year on food imports, a figure expected to rise to $110 billion by 2025 unless the continent can boost harvests.
In Mali, production of rice grew from just 900,000 tonnes in 2008 – below the domestic consumption of 1.1 million tonnes – to 2.7 million tonnes in 2016, thanks in part to government subsidies of 35 billion CFA francs ($64 million). Rice production is now double the country’s annual consumption. Overall food production – including cereal crops such as sorghum, millet, groundnuts, cowpeas and maize, as well as rice – also increased over the same period from 3.6 million tonnes to 8.7 million tonnes, making the country largely self-sufficient. Poorer or very small-scale farmers also are eligible to buy tractors if they group together to cultivate at least 50 hectares (124 acres) of land with the equipment.
Africa need not be a basket-case economy but could be the basket of a cornucopia. But it will be and is capitalism holing it back. As the article indicated Mali has a food surplus yet Mali Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, with over half the population living on less than US$ 1.25 a day. Mali’s food security has been rocked in recent years. Mali’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, which employs 90 percent of the country’s rural population. Most of them farm on a subsistence basis with little reinvestment in mechanization. Agriculture is increasingly being affected by climate change; already one of the hottest countries in the world, Mali is now experiencing even higher temperatures, less rainfall and creeping desertification. The northern part of the country, where poverty and food insecurity are widespread, is particularly vulnerable. Mali ranks 176th out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index for 2015
 The average life expectancy of adults in Mali is 55, due to malnutrition and the lack of access to clean water.  Two-thirds of Mali is desert, meaning that immediately, droughts become a serious issue. With poor soils, millions find it difficult to grow the crops they need and due to low wages, they are unable to buy what their family demands. As a result, malnutrition becomes a leading issue and is the main factor of poverty in Mali.

Nigeria's Oil Pollution Problem

Nigeria is home to Africa's largest petroleum industry, with crude oil making up a significant portion of the country's exports. But many residents in the Niger Delta region say that they have not benefited from the oil industry. Instead, oil spills have become an alarmingly common event, devastating swathes of forest and waterways.

Researchers from a Swiss university have found that neonatal mortality rises if a child's mother lives close to an oil spill before conception. The findings are worrying for residents of the oil-rich Niger Delta.

"I grew up drinking water from a well in my grandfather's house. We just used to take a clean bucket, lift water up and drink it," Annkio  Briggs, now an environmental campaigner, told DW. "Nowadays the water is polluted. I cannot drink it anymore, although it is a natural source meant for me and my people," the 65-year-old said. She has since resorted to buying bottled water. 
Persistent spills in Nigeria's oil-producing region have not just contaminated water resources. Residents are also exposed to harmful chemicals found in crude oil through direct skin contact or the consumption of polluted vegetables. Many also inhale the smoke released by burning oil. "Black spots recently covered the entire city and beyond," Delta resident Kie Oboe told DW. "This is a very serious issue, because it is affecting our health and the environment."
Research has already shown how harmful the petroleum industry can be for residents. But a new study by the University of Sankt Gallen in Switzerland has revealed that the chemicals can also be dangerous for unborn children in the Delta region if their mothers live too close to an oil spill before the pregnancy begins.
"Oil spills that occur within 10 kilometers [of the mother] prior to child conception strongly increase the risk of mortality during the first months of life," the study's author Roland Hodler explained.
According to the report, "The Effect of Oil Spills on Infant Mortality: Evidence from Nigeria," oil spills that occur within this 10 kilometer radius increase the neonatal mortality rate by 38 deaths per 100,000 live births. That corresponds to an increase of 100 percent on the sample mean. In contrast, spills that occur during pregnancy do not have an impact on infant or neonatal mortality, the study says. Holder and his colleague Anna Bruederle analyzed data from the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor, which provides information on neonatal and infant mortality. He compared the data to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, which provides the birth histories of more than 23,000 Nigerian mothers, as well as relevant health information about their children.
"Oil spills also increase infant mortality after the first months of life and continue to have negative effects on the health of surviving children," Hodler said. The study also claims that children who survive the neonatal period still have a high chance of suffering health problems during their first year of life, including a low weight-to-height ratio. 
Hodler and his colleagues based these findings on 2,744 mothers living in oil spill-affected areas. 
The Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor recorded some 5,296 oil spills between January 2005 and July 2014. It reports that up to 75 percent of the spills are caused by sabotage or theft. Militants and oil thieves have repeatedly attacked pipelines. Maintenance issues account for approximately 15 percent of all oil spills. Environmental campaigners have long accused companies in the area of neglecting to maintain pipes and other important installations properly. No causes have been listed for the remaining 10 percent of spills. 
In 2015, Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell agreed to pay 61 million euros ($71.89 million) in compensation to 15,600 fishermen and farmers after a Shell-owned pipeline burst twice in 2008 and destroyed thousands of hectares of mangroves, effectively bringing the region's once prosperous fishing industry to a halt. The out-of-court settlement was the culmination of a three-year legal battle in Britain. The company also agreed to begin the cleanup of two major spills; however, local civil-society campaigners claim that progress so far has been too slow.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

In search of gold

They have abandoned their previous economic activities, which include smallholder agriculture and livestock keeping and embraced gold mining in the hope of turning around their fortunes. Their hopes are still alive as they believe their efforts will finally meet a Good Samaritan who will buy their gold at a good price but unfortunately several years on, they have not recouped their investment. More than ten years, majority are still languishing in poverty. Most local miners are not able to support their children acquire education as well as feed and clothe decently. Women lead the group in the gold search. Armed with rudimentary items such as a pickaxe, spade and metal basins, they enter Kenya's River Muruny to mine the precious commodity. They are often accompanied by their children, mostly aged below ten, who carry for them food, often, a mixture of maize and beans. The children cannot be in school because they look after their younger siblings as their mothers bend their backs shaking the heavy basin metals searching for gold. Standing in the middle of River Muruny Chepurayi Nancy, 40, looks frustrated. The single mother of four scoops sand and stones from the bottom of the shallow waters with a basin and searches for gold in the container (basin) with her bare hands.

Chepurayi Nancy, 40, looks frustrated. The single mother of four scoops sand and stones from the bottom of the shallow waters with a basin and searches for gold in the container (basin) with her bare hands.
"This is a business of hope. You keep working hoping to find gold at some point. It is not an easy venture,” she says.

 “It is a business of luck for artisan’s world over. You can strike gold and become a billionaire in a minute. It is that hope that keeps us going every other day,” Henry Kolipus, 66, says. "We are roughed up in poverty despite us searching gold for years. The women also depend on gold to educate, feed and clothe their families,” He ventured into the gold searching business when he was a teenager, unfortunately he is still languishing in poverty. He is even struggling to keep his two children who are in secondary in school.

Dogs get better health care than Nigerians

According to the World Bank, Nigeria's population is just under 186 million. Once the fourth machine is completed, there will be a working radiotherapy machine for every 46.5 million people in Nigeria. Even if the eight machines Nigeria had in 2010 were all working - that would still be just one machine per 23.2 million people.
In Kenya, there's a machine for every 5.4 million people. Elsewhere, there's a machine for every 2.2 million people in India, every 188,000 in the UK and every 84,000 in the US.
 US pets have access to a larger number of radiotherapy machines than Nigerian people do - in 2010, research by Margaret McEntee and John Farrelly counted at least 76 linear accelerators serving animals across the US. In fact, a database held by the Veterinary Cancer Society suggests there might be an even higher number in use now. That means there's at least one radiotherapy machine for every 1.28 million cats and dogs in the US.
A dog in Miami with lymphoma has more chance of being treated than a person in Lagos with a brain tumour.
For both US pets and Nigerian people, cost is a barrier to radiotherapy even when there are functioning machines. Radiotherapy for a pet can cost up to $10,000.  A study at the University College Hospital in Ibadan suggested that eight in 10 Nigerian patients can't afford radiotherapy without assistance - and it's not usually covered by state insurance.

Africa for the Africans?

South Africa is arresting a growing number of asylum seekers when they attempt to renew their asylum permits. Zimbabweans are being sent home and the human rights groups are challenging these deportations.

More than a million people have sought asylum in South Africa since 2006, according to the country’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Most come from Zimbabwe, while others are from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mozambique and other African nations, as well as countries such as India and Pakistan.

An increasing number of asylum seekers have been deported in recent months, often without due process, say South African human rights groups. In many cases, asylum seekers do not receive written decisions of final rejection, but are merely advised verbally and given a notice to appear before the immigration inspectorate for deportation

Between 50 and 150 people are arrested each day when they attempt to renew their permits, according to estimates by rights groups. They are detained at Lindela and eventually deported to their home country. 

“We are concerned about the possibilities of abuse of process,” said Sharon Ekambaram, manager of Lawyers for Human Rights’ Refugee and Migrant Rights Project. 

Asylum seeker permits – also known as Section 22 permits – are valid for six months and make it legal for people to stay in South Africa pending a decision on their asylum application. The system calls for several rounds of reviews before an asylum seeker can be rejected and deported. Before the permit expires, the asylum seeker is interviewed by a refugee status determination officer, who makes a ruling – either granting asylum, rejecting the application or referring questions of law to the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs (SCRA). In case of rejection, an asylum seeker can appeal within 30 days. The Refugee Appeal Board then conducts another hearing before deciding whether to confirm, set aside or substitute the initial decision.

Observers claim, however, that this process is not being followed.

“We have instances where the SCRA had not made a decision, despite the contrary being communicated to the client,” Ekambaram said. “We have requested written decisions signed by the SCRA, and while we have noted a few receiving some, it appears not to be widely used.” Ekambaram said the DHA’s actions ignore South Africa’s international and domestic legal commitments. “South Africa’s Refugees Act established a parallel legal framework, separate from the Immigration Act, which sets up its own procedures for the detention of asylum seekers and refugees and prohibits their detention as illegal foreigners under the Immigration Act,” she said. “Yet, despite the existence of a separate legal regime for asylum seekers and refugees, the DHA has applied the Immigration Act, arresting asylum seekers as illegal foreigners and subjecting them to arbitrary, indefinite and unlawful detention pending deportation,” she said. “These activities fall outside of the DHA’s authority. The current asylum protection system is in crisis and is effectively nonfunctional.”

African Diaspora Forum Chairman Marc Gbaffou, an Ivorian refugee who lives in South Africa said many migrants are held for 120 days or more in Lindela, beyond the legal maximum of 90 days.

 “Most of these would have had their permits expired because they were denied a chance to renew them by the guards and officials wanting to deal with a certain number,” he said. 

The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, a nonprofit organization formed by political and economic refugees in South Africa, said it has received many reports of arrests and deportations in recent months. “We have visited Lindela and noted with serious concern that those arrested for deportation include those either attempting to apply for or renewing asylum and refugee status,” said Gabriel Shumba, executive director of Zimbabwe Exiles Forum. 

Sheila initially fled to South Africa from Lupane, Zimbabwe, to escape political persecution. She received death threats from state security agents, she claimed, because of her active role in the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party in Zimbabwe. “I want to be legal in South Africa because I cannot keep running away from the police,” she said. “But I am now afraid to go back and apply for new asylum because I might get arrested again. For now, I will have to keep running from the police or bribing them. I wish the 2018 elections will bring in a new government and make things normal in Zimbabwe again, so that I can return and live a normal life.”

Friday, October 20, 2017

Hunger in Africa

The number of people in Africa suffering from hunger is now on the rise again. 26 million Africans face starvation. 

Countries most affected by hunger such as Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia, are either embroiled in a civil war or they are fighting terrorists. In these countries, the state has failed to provide basic needs like providing health services, education or security. In lieu of which small elites are busy filling their own pockets in countries which often have considerable resources. 

White is right according to Nivea

Nivea has created “Natural Fairness”, a body care line promising to restore and enhance fair skin.
The West African television advertisement features Nigerian beauty queen Omowunmi Akinnifesi, who applies the lotion to “visibly lighten” and “care” for her skin—as if a lighter skin were a mark of health, youth and prosperity. In the ad, graphic effects show the model’s skin lightens as the lotion passes over it.
"I need a product that I can really trust to restore my skin's natural fairness," a black woman narrates in the television spot, with her skin literally transforming into a lighter shade as she applies the cream to her body. "Now, I have visibly fairer skin, making me feel younger."
The advert is just the latest in decades of mass-media messaging to people of color that their darker skin tones are unacceptable, and what they should be aspiring to is a superior white skin. This form of racism has so been internalized that even when most big brands have tried to embrace ethnic diversity, consumers in Africa and Asia spend billions of dollars on harmful skin bleaching products. ivea could have advertised for clearer skin, or an even skin tone, or just plain healthier skin, which would all be less racially charged. It appears that Nivea is cynically tapping into the same insecurity that boosts skin-bleaching sales in emerging markets.
This isn’t the first time Nivea’s ad campaigns have offended people of color. In 2011, Nivea was forced to apologize for advertisement that saw a black man discarding an Afro, with the tagline “re-civilize yourself.” The embarrassment from that incident seemed short-lived as Nivea once again released a racially insensitive advertisement. Earlier this year, Nivea directed a deodorant ad to its Middle East customers with the tagline “White is purity.”
 In the Philippines, Nivea’s Extra Whitening Cell Repair & Protect Body Milk offers “fair skin” even after exposure to sunlight. There is also a range of other Nivea products in the Philippines promising to whiten skin.

America's Africa Scramble

It is reckoned from US army data that there are thousands of special forces and other military personnel carrying out up to 100 missions at any given time in some 24 African states. That's nearly half of all the countries comprising the African continent.
US special forces and surveillance drone operations are deployed in Niger, Chad, Mali and Sudan which all run along the southern Sahara desert. Further south in sub-Saharan Africa, US military are operating in Nigeria, Central African Republic, Uganda, Ethiopia and, of course, Somalia, where they are involved in a state of war against Islamist al Shabab militants.
The deployment of US troops in Africa was first stepped up under President GW Bush when his administration formed AFRICOM in 2007, a whole US command dedicated to the continent. Subsequently, under President Barack Obama, the American deployments increased further. Now under President Trump, the US force presence is reckoned to be at its highest level yet.
There are several dangerous terror networks active in various African states, from al Shabaab in Somalia, to Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. The latter has affiliates in Algeria, Mali, Chad and Niger where the US troops were killed recently along with a number of  local forces they were supporting. But there is more than a suspicion that the US is using the cover of combating terrorism to conceal and project its real objective, which is to exert its influence over African nations. One observation for raising doubts is that the problem of these terror groups has actually grown more rapidly after the US troops started to be deployed in larger numbers under President Bush. Echoes of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria here.
When Trump hosted several African leaders last month in New York during the UN annual congress he told them that his American investor friends were hotfooting it to the continent "to make a lot of money". Typical of Trump, everything is reduced to filthy lucre. Trump speaks for American capitalism. Knowing the rich resources possessed in Africa's earth and its people, Trump salivates over the prospect of making big bucks. But the Americans aren't prepared to spend the investment money needed to harness the rewards. The Americans are stuck in an "extractive mentality" when it comes to Africa.That's where the US military muscle comes in. In place of proper economic investment, diplomacy and political partnership, Washington is using its military edge to encroach on Africa — under the guise of "fighting terrorism". The real purpose for increasing US military strength in Africa is about securing American strategic economic interests "on the cheap" by using military power as opposed to deploying financial commitment. American capitalism is not motivated by developing Africa for its people. It's about making profits for Wall Street and rich investors like Trump.
America's militarism in Africa will bring no benefit to the countries. As in other parts of the globe, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, the pattern clearly shows that terrorism burgeons where US military operations occur.

Canned Safari Hunting

Trophy hunting—the killing of big game for a set of horns or tusks, a skin, or a taxidermied body—has burgeoned into a billion-dollar, profit-driven industry, overseen in some cases by corrupt governments. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa allow trophy hunting, with varying degrees of transparency and control. The going rate for a 14-day, single elephant hunt is about $80,000.  The Tanzanian wildlife director, Alexander Songorwa, stated that hunters on 21-day lion safaris paid government fees of up to $10,000 and pumped $75 million into the economy from 2008 to 2011. As for what happens to the hunters’ fees, that is notoriously hard to pin down—and impossible in kleptocracies

But trophy hunting today, especially of the so-called big five in Africa (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and Cape buffalo), brings with it a larger set of moral and financial questions.  Roughly 18,000 trophy hunters who come to southern and eastern Africa each year contribute $436 million to the region’s GDP. The Humane Society International says the amount for that region is at most $132 million, or .03 percent of GDP.

The animals that roam Africa have become commodified, part of a new consumerism, marketed and sold, their brands pitted against each other, their continued existence now a question of human demand, whim, and calculation. Wild game is the continent’s version of crude oil—and it too will run out someday.

Africa once seemed to have “an inexhaustible supply of nature,” says American lion biologist Craig Packer, who has lived and worked on the continent for more than 40 years. But, he says, from 30,000 feet you would see that the habitats are shrinking. “Lions really are becoming more of an endangered species, and hunters should really not shoot these animals for sport unless they can provide positive evidence that they’re having a salutary effect on lion conservation.” The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which monitors animal populations, reports that the number of lions in five populations in Tanzania fell by two-thirds from 1993 to 2014.

Biologists make the same argument against the hunting of other big game, including elephants, whose numbers across the continent have fallen sharply in recent years.

Within the hunting community our hurry-up, have-it-all mentality—our ceaseless consumptive entitlement—has begun to manifest itself in troubling ways. Eschewing the time and cost of an African trophy hunt involving fair chase, some hunters have turned to canned hunting—the killing of often habituated animals in confined areas—baited hunting, herding animals with helicopters, or the shooting of their prey from the back of Land Cruisers. In Tanzania there have been reports of foreign hunters gunning down animals, including pregnant females, with AK-47s. In a hunting area called Loliondo that the government has leased long term to officials from the United Arab Emirates, local Maasai have reported transport jets leaving with game of all variety, dead and alive. Social scientists writing recently in the journal Biology Letters describe a kill-and-tell generation of hunters exhibiting “show-off behavior” by propagating their own kill shots on social media.  In South Africa, which has some 2,000 wild lions, canned lion hunting has grown into a more than $100 million industry, with in excess of 200 facilities raising about 6,000 of the big cats for easy killing. The young lion cubs are taken from their mothers and brought to petting zoos. When male lions grow into adulthood, many are shot and killed for “hunting” fees that are much lower than the cost for a wild lion on a standard 21-day hunt ($5,000 to $15,000, versus $50,000 and up). And the trophy is virtually guaranteed. 

Canned hunting has another deleterious effect. While hunters happily take the pelt and head, and the claws and teeth once were sold in the tourist shops of Nairobi and Zanzibar, today the bones are most in demand—shipped to Asia either to produce traditional medicines or to be repackaged as “tiger bone wine,” made from crushed bones and Chinese herbs and marketed to the upper class as a health tonic and aphrodisiac. This year South Africa authorized the export of up to 800 lion skeletons, and the worry among biologists, conservation groups, and animal-rights activists is that by legitimizing and allowing the trade, the country is spurring more demand for lion bones and more killing of the continent’s remaining 20,000 or so wild lions.

In the Selous Game Reserve ecosystem, a prized trophy hunting destination, aerial surveys estimate the elephant population at some 15,000, down from perhaps 50,000 as recently as 2009. “Why has the Selous been such a killing field?” says Katarzyna Nowak, a conservation scientist associated with the University of the Free State, Qwaqwa, in South Africa. “If hunters are coming in from all around the world, and you’re really pumping money earned from trophies back into the Selous for conservation and antipoaching, where have all the elephants gone?”

A promotional video that surfaced in 2014 shows a hunting company, Green Mile Safari, guiding hunters from the United Arab Emirates on a disturbing shooting party. The minister of tourism and natural resources said the party violated a host of laws by, among other things, firing automatic weapons, hunting female and young animals, and allowing a minor to hunt. The government banned Green Mile from conducting hunts in Tanzania in 2014 but reissued the company’s license last year, leading to accusations of corruption. No arrests were made

“If we are not able to convince the majority of people that hunting is morally in order,” says Kai-Uwe Denker, a renowned professional hunter in Namibia, “there is no future for us.” In the face of bad publicity and bad behavior, some hunters have fallen back on an economic argument—that their presence in Africa provides jobs, that it’s a viable strategy for poverty alleviation. But Denker disagrees. “I see a very big danger in promoting only the financial side. Livelihoods, income generation, job creation—this is an additional thing. You cannot justify immoral things with money.”

Critics say that no country should be in the business of selling and profiting from dead animals. When coffers run low and funds are needed, they say, hunting quotas get raised without regard for the animals’ population numbers. And in those hunting areas where funds aren’t reinvested, there’s no wildlife left to hunt. That could explain how 40 percent of Tanzania’s designated hunting areas have been emptied of game animals during recent decades. 

Craig Packer sees the conservation of African wildlife in practical terms: If hunters were shooting lions “for a million dollars and returning a million per lion directly into management, they would be on solid ground. But lions are shot for tens of thousands of dollars, and very little of that money goes back to conservation.” With two billion dollars a year we could save and protect the wildlife in Africa’s national parks, Packer says. But that would have to come from international partners such as the World Bank, eco-philanthropists, and nongovernmental organizations.