Sunday, December 30, 2018

Apartheid Persists

At one of Cape Town's most picturesque beaches after private security guards were accused of ordering black visitors to leave. The guards, hired by local residents, allegedly cleared the Clifton 4th beach of tourists last Sunday evening.
Demonstrators say black beachgoers were unfairly targeted, but the firm denies closing the beach and says it only acts to protect residents from crime.
Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato said that the security firm "had no authority to ask anyone to leave Clifton beach".
"We will not allow any private organisations to limit access to our public spaces," he said in a statement.
Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi vowed to "go hard on the security company".
"This is a property of the state, property of the people and therefore we don't need security companies here," he said.
"These private security guards... are actually briefed to not allow black people who appear to look like they are from the townships on to the beach," local activist Chumani Maxwele told the News 24 website.
Alwyn Landman, chief executive of the PPA security firm, whose job he said was to protect residents from criminal activity, denied that the company had closed the beach at all. He told News 24 that police had cleared the area after a crime had been committed.
However, the police said they had not received any reports of criminal activity on the beach on Sunday evening.

The Sudanese People Against the Dictatorship

The protest wave sweeping across Sudan was never about bread; it is a nation fed up with a decades-old military dictatorship, say human rights activists. Al Bashir has vowed to crush the "bread protests" he insists are being orchestrated by opposition "infiltrators," some of whom are supposedly backed by Israel and all of whom are intent on sabotaging his regime.   A group of Darfuri university students "confessed" on national televison to being a "sabotage cell." They are accused of an arson attack on the offices of Al Bashir's ruling National Congress in Atbara.

People took to the streets in the town of Atbara in the north-east on December 19 to voice their grievances, spawning similar protests in the streets of other towns and the capital Khartoum.  The protesters are calling for freedom, peace, justice and a change in leadership in the northeast African country. The government of President Omar Al Bashir is responding with live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades. Protesters who survive the deadly clashes simply regroup and return to the streets.
"In most of Sudan's almost 170 cities and big towns, someone has been shot. In some of them, more than 15 people have been shot. The shooting is happening through unofficial types of militia that the regime is using," says Khansaa Al Kaarib, a Sudanese human rights lawyer and activist. "For 30 years, this is what the Sudanese people have been getting from Bashir: Killing, killing, killing and more killing. People are simply fed up with this and they want to change this regime. They want to get out of the perception of a people lying under an ICC-wanted criminal, as soon as possible. "There is no one to blame. The whole of the country is out on the streets. Bashir has nothing else to say," says Al Kaarib.
Sudan expert Magdi El Gizouli agrees that the government's claim of infiltrators is "complete absolute nonsense." The protesters are young men and women who have been pulled into the political sphere over the failures of government policy, he notes.  "The wave of protests has nothing to do with the formal opposition. What the government cannot deal with is that these individuals, people, students who don't really have this political record that they're looking for in an opposition activist," says El Gizouli, a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute in Germany. "There is something novel and interesting about this wave of protests: The didn't start in Khartoum but in provincial towns because the price of bread tripled in these towns, as compared to the capital. One reason for them to be particularly angry is that this comes on the background of severe economic deterioration in the country."
"There's been a lot of talk in the media to say that these protests have been triggered by fuel prices and economic problems. The protesters have been repeating a call for freedom, peace and justice – and for the regime to go. Nobody was talking about bread since day one," says Al Kaarib. "These are Sudanese people moving in their own way, in the same style that they moved in 1964."

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Letting the Gini out of the bottle

 The Gini coefficient, the Gini Index is a statistical method used to measure economic distribution developed by an Italian mathematician known as Corrado Gini in 1912. It is used to estimate economic inequality between countries, income and wealth distribution.
It measures the extent of income distribution, and consumption in some cases, among households and individuals within an economic setup and how it deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. In the Gini index, a Lorenz curve is plotted. It comprises cumulative percentages of the total incomes received against the cumulative number of the recipient, starting with the poorest household or individual.
The index measures the resultant area between the curve and the proverbial line of absolute equality. The result is expressed as a percentage of the area under the line. In this perspective, a Gini index of 0 denotes perfect equality, whereas an index of 100 implies perfect inequality

1. South Africa

Data from the UNDP indicate South Africa has the highest level of income inequality in the world. Most of the inequalities witnessed are creations of the apartheid era.
Income inequality has worsened since the end of the apartheid but is somehow less associated with race. Furthermore, from 1991-1996, the white middle class in the country grew by 15% whilst the blacks’ grew by 78%.
The World Bank estimated that South Africa’s GINI index was 63.40 in 2011. In the last 18 years, this figure has increased to a maximum of 64.80 in 2006, and went down to a minimum of 57.80 in 2000. Currently, the GINI coefficient for South Africa is 63.4 according to Index Mundi, making it the number 1 unequal country in the world.

2. Namibia

Since independence, Namibia has embraced free-market option, meant to promote commercial growth and job creation to bring about economic empowerment. To realize this goal, successive governments continue courting donors and foreign investors.
Namibia is a middle-income country with an annual GDP per capita of US$ 5,828, but has unequal income distribution. In 2009, the World Bank estimated that Namibia's Gini ’index was 61.00.
In a span of ten years, this figure has fluctuated between 59.7 and 74.3, according to data obtained from the United Nations. Currently, Namibia stands at 61, according to Index Mundi, making it the number 2 unequal country in the world.

3. Botswana

According to the World Bank estimates, Botswana’s Gini index was reported to be 60.50 in December 2009. There was a decrease from a previous figure of 64.70 in December 2002.
This data is updated annually, and over the years it has averaged at 60.650 from December 1985 to 2009, where four observations were made. Currently, the index stands at 60.5 for Botswana, making it the fourth highest unequal country in the world.

4. Zambia

In 2015, the World Bank reported that Zambia’s GINI index value was 57.10. In the last twenty-four years, this figure reached a maximum point of 60.50 in 1991 and a minimum of 42.10 in 2002 respectively. Currently, the GINI coefficient for Zambia stands at 57.1, making it the sixth highest unequal country in the world.

5. The Central African Republic

CAR’s unemployment rate is 6% as reported by the Nations Encyclopedia. Many people live in rural areas, where there’s food but consumer goods and money are difficult to obtain.
In 1992, it was reported that CAR had a GINI index of 61.30. Over the years, this figure has dropped to 43.60 in 2003 and 56.20 in 2008. However, from 2010 this figure remains between 60 and 70. Currently, the GINI coefficient for CAR stands at 56.2, making it the seventh highest unequal country in the world.
Building on the data from the Gini index report, the five countries; South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, and central Africa republic, which are characterized by land and socio-economic assets at the hands of a few individuals, are leaders in the continent in income inequality. These countries make Africa’s Gini coefficient higher than other parts of the world.
On the other hand, although poor overall, countries like Mali (33.00 in 2009), Niger(34.00 in 2014), Guinea (33.70 in 2012), Burkina Faso (35.30 in 2014) , and Burundi (39.20 in 2013) appear to be performing well and rank highly among the most equal in terms of income inequality in Africa and the world. These nations are characterized by egalitarian access to land and communal land ownership; features that accelerate the proper use of land for productive engagements, especially in the agricultural sector.

Colonial “Freedom"! (1964)

The oppression in Ghana worsens almost daily. A judge there has been dismissed for bringing in a verdict which displeased President Nkrumah, and the acquitted prisoner has been re-arrested under the Preventive Detention Acts. He’ll be lucky to get out in ten years.

The president is not resting there, however. He is seeking by referendum to confirm his dismissal powers, and it’s a fair bet he will get his way because opposition to his wishes is a punishable offence. Then one more nail will have been driven into the coffin of whatever limited political democracy once existed.

We cannot help remembering at a time like this that we were urged to support the struggle for the establishment of Ghanaian independence, and it was the Movement for Colonial Freedom who assured us that it would hasten the removal of the old colonial yoke and the birth of democracy. The Socialist Party was not popular because we refused our support, but our arguments are the same now as then, and subsequent developments have proved the soundness of our stand.

So let us repeat that colonial freedom means freedom for the rising native ruling class. The workers in Ghana and elsewhere are becoming painfully aware that they have changed their white bosses for ones with darker skins, that is all. It is no part of our job to encourage the establishment of capitalism, whether democratic or dictatorial. Our aim is a world of Socialism, and then democracy in the fullest sense of the word will be a reality.

The Movement for Colonial Freedom is obviously not a Socialist body, but even the limited freedom which they hoped for in Ghana has not emerged. It is a time for them to eat their words. But more than that, it is a time for them to seriously consider the case for Socialism.

Eddie Critchfield

On Third World debt (1988)

From the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the Economic Summit held in Toronto in June this year, the seven leaders agreed, in principle, measures to ease the debt problems of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is mainly dependent on raw materials for its trading income, but because of the state of the world economy, and the introduction of substitute materials, the demand for Africa’s staple products has dropped, so that a typical 'basket' of exports buys nearly one third less imports than ten years ago. Debt service obligations for countries like Mozambique. Sudan and Somalia now pre-empt the whole of their export income.

The measures eventually worked out by the Paris Club, from the "menu of options" (sic) agreed at the Summit, will do little to relieve the conditions of the poor in those countries. The lucky beneficiaries of debt relief must first be undertaking internationally approved "adjustment" programmes. This means conditions laid down by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The aim of such conditions is to increase exports, and those most frequently imposed are devaluation of the currency, drastic reduction of government expenditure, price increases, wage cuts, and the reduction of domestic consumption. When added to the difficulties arising from the dependence on particular products, the concentration on growing cash crops, "unfair" competition and falling world prices, these policies spell disaster for people whose incomes are precarious at the best of times. Over forty countries are under IMF "guidance", while others practice Fund doctrine without formal agreement, in order to obtain loans from other sources.

Formed at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, the IMF is a financial institution, primarily concerned with promoting trade, which only slowly became involved in developing countries. It is governed by the Group of Ten leading members, and voting rights are related to the quotes put in by each member country, although the US has what amounts to veto power on important issues.

Although the deprivation endured by millions in Third world countries has intensified, their poverty did not begin with the debt crisis. It is a capitalist world. Every country is run in the interest of its owning class, following the dictates of a system geared to sale and profit. The Third World (or "The South' or "less developed countries") accounts for three-quarters of the world's population and includes countries at widely differing stages of development. Most of the high-interest debt has been incurred by the better-off developing countries, while the countries needing most help to "develop" are the least attractive from an investment/profit point of view. There has not been the same incentive to push loans to them. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for less than 9 percent of total Third World borrowing. In A Fate Worse Than Debt Susan George details the background, and the many implications, of debt for the less developed countries. She describes the dire consequences of IMF adjustment programmes for the poor — who do not benefit from the loans; how repressive ruling elites are assisted by IMF loans; how billions of dollars have been "squandered on current consumption or spent on sterile pursuits or has ended up Northern banks" (p59); and the way in which huge foreign loans have contributed to "environmental plunder, widespread impoverishment and ethnocide" (p161).

The International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, known as the World Bank, was also founded at Bretton Woods. The 134 member countries have to be members of the IMF. and subscriptions and voting power are on the same basis. The projects financed by the World Bank are supposed to follow guidelines with regard to migration, minorities and the environment. These guidelines have been flouted by internal migration programmes in Indonesia and Brazil. The Grande Carajas iron ore project in Brazil is receiving major funding from the World Bank, Carajas, the "several billion tons of iron and half a dozen other mineral-ore deposits", has been described by the Brazilian government as a "national export project", and as an answer to the country's crippling debt problem. It will cost $62 billion (with an EEC contribution of $600 million) and will mean an area the size of France and Britain together, being partially or totally deforested. To hasten the completion of the Tucurui Dam. forest was not cleared but sprayed instead with the defoliant Dioxin — agent orange. Landless peasants are sent to the deforested areas, where the soil is unsuitable for cropping. to grow soybeans — a major cash crop — for the foreign exchange needed to help pay between $12 and $14 billion in interest on loans each year. The price of soybeans is depressed because of “overproduction" in the US (the effect of the current drought in US remains to be seen), so more must be grown “to keep the revenues stable". However the motivation for extracting mineral wealth, and for the drive to export, is the pursuit of profit — regardless of the debt problem

Servicing the debt is seen as a major obstacle to development, with development itself adding to the debt burden. Under the influence of foreign experts, the western industrialised model has been followed in Third World countries regardless of whether it was appropriate, and the costly capital goods and energy requirement have been financed by borrowing. Some highly inappropriate and expensive projects have been debt financed. In the Philippines a nuclear power plant was sited in a zone of high seismic activity — it is not being made operational. Possibly up to $40 billion of Brazil’s debt is due to the purchase of nuclear reactors (also non-operational to date). Twenty per cent of Third World debt is down to military spending.

Over a quarter of the debt accumulated by the totality of Third World countries is accounted for by the increase in oil prices following the oil and energy crisis of 1973/4 and 1979/80. When the Reagan administration refused more resources to the IMF bank, lending, which had already expanded, was increased to the most heavily indebted countries. In the four years to the end of 1982 the amount loaned by US banks grew from $110 billion to $450 billion. The banks eagerly sold money to Third World countries, including those with oil (Mexico borrowed heavily to develop the oil industry), ignoring the usual constraints and safeguards. There was pressure to serve the interests of their domestic clients. Bank loans enabled countries to purchase the products of US and European corporations like Boeing and Westinghouse. Some of the money borrowed is invested outside of the debtor country. Banks accommodate this capital flight which accounts for billions of dollars in debt — possibly 70 per cent of the new loans to the big ten Latin American countries between 1983 and 1985. Money from corrupt government officials, or national companies whose government has guaranteed the debt, goes straight back to the banks — some of it actually carried back in suitcases taken there empty for this purpose — but has still been added to the burden of debt. Multinational corporations have taken over the role of direct investment. Apparently the banks do not consider development to be any of their business Bank strategy, based on the assumption that countries could not cease to exist, was (is) simply to make money. Even the debt crisis was looked on as "a true windfall" with Brazil, for example, paying back $69 billion in interest between 1979 and 1985. However, global recession brought home to the banks their over-exposure. Clearly, countries could have repayment problems, with further borrowing as the only way to service their debts.

Borrowing and lending are normal commercial and banking practices, and the usual answer when countries get into repayment difficulties is to reschedule the debt. There were 144 reschedulings of official debt alone in the ten years to 1985. Default is not in the interest of either side. All of the indebted Latin American countries defaulted in the 1920s and 1930s when most of their debts were in the form of government bonds held by individual investors. Today the situation is different. In 1982 Mexico came close to default when holding $80 billion of debt. The nine largest US banks had 44 per cent of the capital tied up in loans there. A deal was eventually agreed between assorted representatives from US government Departments and Agencies — including the White House, "top brass" from the commercial banks with their lawyers, the Mexican team led by their Finance Minister, and with the involvement of the IMF. The banks were saved from having their stock plummet, an international financial crisis was averted — and Mexico got $8.3 billion in fresh money. Dividends declared by the big nine banks increased by more than a third between 1982 and 1985. (the fate of more than 400 smaller banks was rather different.) A country which defaulted would have considerable difficulty getting new loans. When Argentina showed signs of stopping interest payments in 1984. coercion was applied by US bankers, and representatives from the IMF, commercial banks and officials from major industrial countries. The US Treasury compiled a list of items likely to become "scarce" — and raised questions of what would happen to a President of a country if, for example, "the government couldn’t get insulin for its diabetics? (George. p68).

Third World countries are expected to solve their problems by exporting, but their exports have to compete in world markets. They also provide markets for creditor countries. The Brazilian computer industry became so successful that in 1985 it managed to outsell the transnational competition, which brought threats of "trade reprisals" from the US if local (Brazilian) demand continued to be satisfied at the expense of IBM. Ironically IMF imposed conditions mean fewer imports. US exports to Latin America fell by 42 per cent between 1982 and 1984. and hundreds of thousands of US workers lost their jobs. The annual report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) calls for the writing off of at least $90 billion of Third World bank debts, and says that, if combined with the $5 billion of debt relief for sub-Saharan African countries, debtor countries could increase their "net demand for imports by $18 billion each year". A third of this would come from the US “helping its trade get out of the red" (The Guardian, 2 September 1988). The report also argues that debt relief on this scale (30 per cent of the $300 billion owed to banks by the 15 worst afflicted countries) would enable Third World economies to grow faster, and boost the world economy.

Since the Mexican rescue the banks have made their own provision against the effects of possible bad debts, by adding to their reserves. (Some debts have been sold at a discount, and some "debt for equity" swaps have also been made.) Together with the IMF. they are opposed to the UNCTAD proposal, preferring the present strategy whereby each near-defaulting country is dealt with "case by case".

Whatever deals over debt relief are agreed in order to facilitate trade, they will not end Third World poverty — that is not their purpose.

Pat Deutz

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Neglected Crises

 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was the most neglected crisis of 2018, according to an annual Thomson Reuters Foundation poll of aid agencies. Congo, where 13 million people in a population of 82 million need help, also topped the annual Thomson Reuters Foundation poll in 2017, but agencies said the situation had deteriorated.

This year's survey was unusual for the high number of "most forgotten crises", with experts also listing the Central African Republic, Lake Chad Basin, Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Burundi, Nigeria and, for the first time, Venezuela. But Congo's "mega-crisis" barely made headlines, they said.
"The brutality of the conflict is shocking, the national and international neglect outrageous," said Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council. "I visited Congo this year and have seldom witnessed such a gap between needs and assistance."
Six of 21 agencies polled named Congo as the most neglected crisis, including WFP, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, ActionAid, International Rescue Committee, and Christian Aid.
ActionAid's humanitarian advisor Rachid Boumnijel urged the international community to redouble efforts to end years of conflict characterised by sexual brutality. "It's been a catastrophe for the country, and for women and girls particularly," Boumnijel said.
Christian Aid's head of humanitarian programmes Maurice Onyango said the violence had caused "large-scale trauma", with children witnessing parents and siblings being murdered.
An upsurge of fighting in the east of the mineral-rich country has also exacerbated the spread of the world's second largest Ebola outbreak, agencies said.
The Central African Republic, where armed groups control much of the country and 60 percent of the population needs assistance, came a close second in the poll.
Listed as the most neglected by OCHA, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, Plan International, and Caritas, the country has been racked by violence since mainly Muslim rebels ousted the president in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian militias. Armed groups are increasingly targeting schools, hospitals, mosques and churches, while attacks on aid workers have impacted a "chronically underfunded" humanitarian response, they said. U.N. children's agency UNICEF said thousands of children had been trapped in armed groups or subjected to sexual violence.
"The crisis is growing increasingly desperate and resources are at breaking point," added UNICEF emergencies director Manuel Fontaine.
"Central African Republic is in a death spiral," said Caritas Secretary General Michel Roy. "While governments and the world's media have turned their backs, we must not. It's the only hope CAR has left."
Plan International said the media neglected complex crises like CAR and DRC because they lacked the shock factor of a sudden disaster like Indonesia's huge earthquake in September.
International Medical Corps warned the disaster in Lake Chad basin, where climate change and a prolonged insurgency by Boko Haram and Islamic State have left 11 million needing help, was also set to worsen next year.
Action Against Hunger said millions caught up in the "almost invisible" crisis - affecting Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon - faced poverty, hunger, sexual violence and child kidnapping.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the world's biggest relief network, said hunger and disease following major flooding across Nigeria threatened to create a second protracted crisis in the country.
"I'm shocked by how little attention (this) has received. The figures are staggering," said IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy, adding that nearly 2 million people were impacted, more than 200,000 uprooted and swathes of cropland destroyed. "This massive disaster has gone largely unnoticed by many donors and journalists," he added.
 South Sudan was ranked the most neglected crisis by Save the Children. The UNHCR named Burundi. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sudan Discontent

Protesters in Sudan have set fire to the ruling party's offices as part of a series of demonstrations against rising bread prices and shortages of fuel, both subsidised by the government.

The protests were triggered after bread prices increased from one Sudanese pound ($0.02) to three Sudanese pounds ($0.063).

The protests also broke out in the city of Port Sudan, the capital of Red Sea state, saw demonstrators call for the "overthrow of the regime", a slogan that was common during the Arab Spring uprisings that swept through the region in 2011.

Bread prices have more than tripled since the start of this year after the government decided to stop importing wheat from overseas. Officials had hoped the move would create competition between private companies importing wheat, and therefore act as a check on price rises - but a number of bakeries have since stopped production, citing a lack of flour. This forced the government to increase flour subsidies by 40 percent in November.
In October, Sudan sharply devalued its currency from 29 pounds to the dollar to 47.5 after a body of banks and money changers set the country's exchange rate. The move led to further price increases and a liquidity crunch, while the gap between the official and black market rates has continued to widen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Africa needs Irrigation

Although irrigation in Africa has the potential to boost agricultural productivities by at least 50 percent, food production on the continent is almost entirely rainfed. The area equipped for irrigation, currently slightly more than 13 million hectares, makes up just 6 percent of the total cultivated area, compared to 14% in Latin America and 37% in Asia.

Analysing best practices from Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Niger and South Africa, the report authors find yields from irrigated crops can be double or more of comparable rain-fed yields on the continent. Moreover, the economic benefits of expanding areas under irrigation are estimated to be double the costs under climate change.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Cain and Abel's War in Nigeria

At least 3,641 people have died over the last three years and thousands more have been displaced, according to Amnesty International, the human rights charity said in a report on the growing conflict between Muslim cattle herders and Christian farmers in Nigeria.

Deadly clashes between herders and farmers in central Nigeria have become an increasing concern in Africa’s most populous country, which is roughly split between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. Some fear the clashes have become deadlier than Boko Haram’s extremist insurgency.

Amnesty’s report, titled Harvest of Death: Three Years of Bloody Clashes Between Farmers and Herders, uncovers what the group described as “a pattern of appalling killings by both farmers and herders”. Based on more than 200 interviews, the report found at least 310 attacks were recorded between 5 January 2016 and 5 October 2018.

Amnesty said Nigerian security forces, which were often positioned close to the attacks, had been “slow to act” and in some cases “did nothing to prevent the killings, looting or burning of homes”. It said numerous communities reported they had alerted to security forces to impending attacks but no action was taken. 
“The Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population,” Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said. “Our research shows that these attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles. Yet little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available.”
He added: “The root cause of this conflict has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity; it is largely about land and access to grazing. But in some places, because of the failures of the security forces, competition over resources is used as a pretext to kill and maim along ethnic or religious lines.  The conflict has been dangerously politicised by some state government officials who have inflamed tensions by embarking on a blame game along political party lines.”  
For more background see:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Battlefield Africa

  1. Odyssey Lightning: With the primary objective of removing ISIS from Sirte, Libya in 2016, this operation needed a clever-sounding and what’s better at putting into words a strike against the enemy than lightning?
  2. Junction Serpent: Another in a series of operations in Libya, Junction Serpent was supposed to provide targeting information for DoD strikes carried out in the previously-mentioned Odyssey Lightning.
  3. Jukebox Lotus: The name for the crisis response to the Sept. 2012 terror attack against the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. 
  4. Octave Anchor: We’ll just have to assume that Anchor means Navy SEALs 
  5. Juniper Shield: This is the overall name for U.S. military ops against al Qaeda in northwest Africa and the training of partner forces. 
  6. Juniper Nimbus: This op seems to be centered around counter-Boko Haram efforts in Nigeria.
  7. Nimble Shield: No idea what this one is about. But I do know the name sounds similar to Nimble Archer, a 1987 operation in which the Navy struck Iranian oil platforms.
  8. Junction Rain: A Coast Guard-African partner operation involving the boarding of ships using Junction and Rain, likely to signify its amphibious nature.
  9. Octave Shield: The op mainly focused on terror groups in Somalia.
  10. Objective Voice: One of the ops that Africom has publicly flaunted, Objective Voice, previously called Assured Voice – Africa, had a mission to counter extremist propaganda. 
  11. Jupiter Garrett: This seems to be about drone operations in Somalia, according to 
  12. Observant Compass: The mission to kill or capture , Joseph Kony
  13. Echo Casemate: This name was used to describe an airlift of peacekeepers to the Central African Republic in 2013. 
  14. Juniper Micron: This was the U.S. military’s part in providing support to France in Mali. 
  15. Rainmaker
  16. Odyssey Resolve: The first of three phases, this op was for intelligence-gathering ahead of U.S. strikes in Libya. 
  17. Oaken Steel: A brief, rapid deployment of troops to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan
  18. Oblique Pillar
  19. Oaken Sonnet: Contingency operations in South Sudan
  20. Justified Seamount
  21. New Normal: “New Normal” operation is basically a quick-reaction force-type mission for whatever new incident might happen to go down on the continent, apparently.
A list of  U.S. military operations that have taken place or are still ongoing on the African continent,

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Urban Mogadishu

Some 2.6 million people live in Mogadishu, with more than 28,000 people per square kilometre, making the Indian Ocean city the second most densely populated in the world after Dhaka in Bangladesh. About 600,000 displaced people live across Mogadishu, with many families evicted multiple times as developers, buoyed by a construction boom, seek to build on land where informal settlements have sprung up. About a third of new displacements recorded in the Horn of Africa country from 2017 to mid-2018 were to, or within, the war-scarred city,

Erratic rainfall, prolonged drought, floods and difficulties accessing markets continue to drive rural Somalis into urban areas, following a 2011 famine which killed 260,000 people. 

"We are continuing to observe new internally displaced families arriving in Mogadishu," said Melaki Yirga, deputy regional director for the charity Mercy Corps. "These women, men and children have very little access to humanitarian support such as basic food."

Some 4.2 million Somalis - a third of the population - will need humanitarian aid and protection in 2019, one-third less than in 2018, largely due to good rainfall this year, the United Nations says. More than 60 percent of these people - 2.6 million - are internally displaced, with female-headed households, children and the elderly particularly at risk, it says.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Cutting down forests for chocolate

The cocoa industry is failing to meet a highly publicised pledge to stop deforestation in West Africa and eliminate tainted beans from supply chains, environmental campaigners say.
Big chocolate companies and the governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast continue to be responsible for the deforestation of tens of thousands of hectares of land over the past year in former rainforest-covered nations, despite their solemn promises to end the practice last November, the campaigning organisation Mighty Earth said. Farmers who continued to cut trees down said they could still sell their cocoa openly without any repercussions.
Cocoa is a mainstay of the Ivorian and Ghanaian economies but their rainforests have been devastated by it. With more chocolate being devoured each year – the average Briton ate 8.4kg of it in 2017 – the few remaining forests are being cut down to meet demand. Satellite mapping shows many new areas where there has been significant deforestation in the past year, particularly in Ivory Coast. In the south-west region alone, 13,748 hectares (34,000 acres) of forest have been lost in 2018 – equivalent to 15,000 football fields, more than the 13,000 lost there in 2016.
In Ghana deforestation continues inside Tonton, Tinte Bepo and Tano Ofin forest reserves, and unless the land is immediately restored, cocoa grown on it will probably find its way to the supply chains of big companies such as the Singapore-based agribusiness Olam. Cocoa is mostly grown on small plots of land by individual farmers, who sell it on to cooperatives and middlemen, who in turn sell it to big companies. This makes it more difficult to track cocoa beans down to the farm they were grown on and to monitor their practices.
Governments have failed to stop it, and companies are still buying cocoa from “dirty producers” who continue to cut down the few remaining patches of rainforest, according to Chocolate Greenwashing, a Mighty Earth report.
“Companies have talked the talk but not walked the walk,” said Etelle Higonnet, the report’s lead author. She warned that “peak deforestation danger season”, the time of year when most trees are cut down, will begin within weeks. “The time for shilly-shallying is over,” she said. “Government and industry need to commit manpower and resources to solve the problem right now.”
 Ivory Coast, in areas such as Goin Debe and Cavally, if nothing is done, Goin Debe’s forests will disappear entirely by 2071 and Cavally’s “protected” forest by 2061, Mighty Earth said. The country has lost 90% of its forest since independence in 1960.
Very little of the cocoa industry’s $100bn (£80bn) profit makes it into the pockets of cocoa farmers even now. They receive only 6% of a chocolate bar’s sale price to the manufacturers’ and retailers’ 80%. But activists warn the new plans could further benefit corporations at the expense of farmers.
“The state has a duty to help small producers and agricultural cooperatives to become professional and competitive, instead of adopting a strategy that will ultimately eliminate them,” said Youssouf Doumbia, the president of OI-REN, an environmental civil society organisation. “The result of such a measure would ultimately be to concentrate almost all the revenues of the sector in the hands of a small group of managers of large companies and to impoverish the population.”

Protecting the Displaced

Niger has adopted Africa's first national law for the protection and assistance of people fleeing violence, floods and droughts, the government and United Nations said..

The government says there are about 174,000 displaced people in the West African country, mostly in regions where Islamist violence has spilled over from Mali and Nigeria. That figure excludes others who were forced to leave their homes to search for grazing land or water, said Lawan Magagi, Niger's minister of humanitarian action and disaster management. 

The new law was approved unanimously by the national assembly on Monday. It is based on the Kampala Convention, a 2009 African Union treaty that establishes guiding principles for protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Other African countries have ratified the Kampala Convention, but not incorporated it into national law, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Starvation in Somalia (1992)

Editorial from the December 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nobody can fail to be moved by the pictures and accounts of people starving in Somalia. It really is an obscene crime against humanity that people should be dying of starvation in a world which is not only capable of producing enough to feed everybody but even has enough food stockpiled to stop it straightaway. As the Observer reported on 30 August:
Britain has enough wheat and barley lying unused in its grain stores to feed the entire Somalian nation for more than a year.
 At one single centre—on a disused RAF base near Kidderminster in Worcestershire—there are four huge warehouses stuffed with enough grain to supply the stricken war-torn nation for a month.
   One of these warehouses is said to be so full that it is virtually impossible to open its large steel doors. Yet in Somalia, hundreds of people—mostly children—are dying daily.
  The Kidderminster grain mountain is part of a total of 568,000 tonnes housed in Britain—in turn part of 19.6 million tonnes of wheat and barley kept in EC warehouses.
  This massive surplus could feed Somalia—which needs 40,000 tonnes of food aid per month for its starving people—for more than 40 years.
In a sane world, one geared to meeting human needs and serving human welfare, stopping people in Somalia dying of starvation would be a question purely of logistics. Organising to transport the food from where it is stockpiled to Somalia.

But of course we are not living in a sane world. We are living in a world dominated by market forces. And it is their inability to operate in the human interest that has caused the problem in the first place and is now preventing it being solved in the simplest, most direct way.

People are starving in Somalia not because there is not enough food in the world to feed them. They are starving because they lack the means to make their demand—or rather, their absolute need—for food effective. They lack either money to buy food or access to land to grow their own. Those in Somalia who do have these things are not starving.

Those with money in Somalia can, and do, have access to food—the television has shown pictures of well-stocked markets, sometimes with starving people lying on the other side of the street. We mention this not to belittle the extent of the obscene situation in Somalia but to underline the point that famines only affect those whose access to money or land has collapsed for some reason. Famines are a social not a natural phenomenon.

Protecting the market for food in Somalia is in fact a key factor shaping the so-called “food aid” policies of governments and the UN. They know that to make available for free distribution anything but minimal amounts of food per starving person would be to undermine local markets and local market-oriented production, leading to more people coming to lose their access rights to food. And of course they are right. Given the market system this is exactly what would happen. So, quite apart from financial cost considerations, they deliberately limit the amount of free food they supply.

This is what we mean when we say that it is market forces that are preventing the immediate starvation in Somalia being solved in the way that it would be, almost literally overnight, in a sane society, one that would have to be based on the common ownership of resources: transporting the food from the warehouses of Europe to the towns and villages of Somalia.

But what of the long term? Could starvation be averted after the warehouses of Europe and North America had been emptied to feed the starving in Somalia and other parts of the world? In other words, could the planet produce enough to adequately feed the whole world’s population on a permanent, continuing basis?

Professor Vulimiri Ramalingaswami, who is chairman of the World Health Organisation’s medical research committee, is in no doubt that it can. “We have the ability as a world to produce enough food for everyone”, he told a meeting in Geneva in August. “We need to devise mechanisms so these fruits can reach those in greatest need” (Guardian, 18 August).

Professor Ramalingaswami is to chair a conference in Rome this month that the WHO is organising jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The FAO and the WHO are apparently thinking in terms of a “world crusade to end famine deaths”. Something like this is indeed what is required: a crash programme to increase world food production and distribute it on a free, non-market basis to where it is needed. But it is not going to happen. For the same reason that the warehouses of Europe are not going to be emptied to immediately stop the starvation in Somalia. It would undermine the market.

Not this time the local markets in some famine-stricken part of the world, but the world markets for wheat, maize, rice and other world commodities. As long as all things are produced for sale on a market with a view to making a profit, food is never going to be produced to feed people who can’t pay for it. As long, in other words, as food remains a commodity people will starve and Somalias will continue to happen.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

COP24 - High Hopes, Low Expectations

 The African continent is already experiencing the effects of climate change. In many places drought, torrential rainfall or flooding are regular occurrences. The worst is still to come, the UN warns.

"We are the most vulnerable, we are the least responsible but we will suffer the most," Seyni Nafo, spokesman of the African delegation at the World Climate Conference summed up. "Climate change has the potential to destroy our development," Nafo warns. "Climate change is a common problem and we can only find a common solution."          

The damage done amounts to five and 10 percent of individual countries' Gross Domestic Product.(GDP) 

 "The person on the street does not see the impact of what is decided at the COP meetings. But people are seeing the real impact of global warming every day," said Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey.

 In 2020 up to 250 million people could be affected by serious water shortages as a result of rising temperatures. If the rise exceeds two degrees Celcius, half the population of Africa could be affected by malnutrition.

The hope is that the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland can be a launchpad for meaningful action. For James Murombedzi, a climate expert with the UN Economic Commission for Africa, this is the most important climate conference so far. 

The goal is to reach agreement on a detailed set of rules that would implement the decisions taken at the Paris conference of 2015. Global warming, it was agreed, should be limited to 1.5 degrees Celcius. This can only succeed if emissions of greenhouse gases cease entirely from 2050 onwards – and they must be drastically reduced in the years leading up to that deadline. However, experts agree that measures taken so far by the international community fall far short of that goal. Mandatory measures are needed, they say. 

High on the agenda of the African delegation is also a second pledge made in Paris, namely that poor countries would receive financial help to enable them to adapt to climate change. Starting in 2020 rich industrial nations are expected to pay an annual amount of 100 billion US dollars. Here, too, no concrete commitments have been made. For some experts, the sum of 100 billion dollars is not enough. Africa is dependent on agriculture and measures must be taken to ensure climate damage is kept to a minimum. More investment in irrigation systems is needed, says UN expert Murombedzi. 

For Nnimmo Bassey, this is not a question of charity or benevolence but of justice. 

There is no guarantee of success for COP24. 

Fighting climate change means changing the way economic systems function and changing the lifestyle of entire societies, particularly where consumer behavior and mobility are concerned, says Murombedzi. "Especially in the highly developed countries, there appears to be not enough political will to take on necessary costs."

Nnimmo Bassey is also skeptical about the chances of COP24 marking a new beginning. "I hope the delegates, both ministers and technocrats, will actually begin to talk from their hearts and not just from political considerations. If that is not done, it will be just another COP and it will be like fiddling while the planet burns."