Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A culture of medals (1999)

 From the December 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is a serious debate doing the rounds along the length and breath of Africa. From the sidewalks to the living rooms, and now it is gaining stature along the corridors of European intellectual halls.
Suffice it to say, much lip service is being paid to this issue of reparation. Most of the time, those who advocate reparation for Africans have used as their platform the New African and West Africa magazines respectively . It is perhaps no accident that both magazines are based in London, England.
England holds a special place in the recollection of most pre-independence generation Africans. If not as a colonial giant, or for her naval superiority, then, as a sovereign that handed out medals to its subject. My late grandfather had one such medal. Before his death, he often recounted his services with the royal navy, especially during the second world war. After the war—in which his brother lost his life—and until his death, my grandfather religiously polished his medal which graced our living room, believing that his services were worthwhile.
If he and his brother and all other Africans who lost there lives in protecting the British Empire had lived today, like present-day Africans they would have confronted the realities by recognizing that these medals were nothing but a token of the British Empire in exchange of their person.
The medals do have a place in present-day capitalism. For availing its land and water facilities to the British during the Falkland war, England presented Sierra Leone with medals after her victory over Argentina. After the Gulf War, the then US Joint Chief of Staff, Colin Powell, went to Sierra Leone to present medals to soldiers who took part in operation Desert Storm. Modern day Africa is littered with forts erected by colonial masters. Each of these forts has a sad story to tell. Africa as a people and as a continent has nothing but medals to show for the scars of these forts.
Concerning the facets of history, whether you read it from the adjacent views of Christopher Columbus, the diagonal glimpses of Mongo Park, the parallel glance of Pedro De Centre or the opposite panorama of Basil Davidson, the conclusions are unanimous: colonialists are selfish. There is no line of history, not even the distorted version compiled by the colonialist, that found Africa was wanting in food or shelter, prior to their arrival.
The common ground agreed upon by history is that no sooner the Europeans arrived in Africa, out of weakness using firearms, they drew up a diabolic strategy that shifted Africa’s priorities from agriculture and self-reliance to that of mining and dependence. The arrival of the Europeans ushered in a new era. One of slave and master. One that saw an entire race being reduced to beggars. Like their government, Africans had to beg for the air they breathed. African Chiefs that were deemed helpful were presented medals as a token of their loyalty.
The argument put forward by reparationists hubs around the thesis presented by both the Germans and the Swiss. The Jews accepted reparation from institutions in both countries because sufficient and ample effort has been demonstrated by both countries to eradicate nazism. The question begs an answer, has slavery ended for Africa?
In the just-ended UN General Assembly World leaders, as have always, pretended to articulate the world’s problem, with a solution in sight. What continues to baffle the mental engineering of every sober being is that no other capitalist solution can shrive where the IMF and the World Bank with their contingent agencies like the Paris Club have failed. The ever-increasing problems of the world’s poor contrasts and contests capitalism’s much acclaimed successes this century.
The pictures beamed into our living rooms by TV stations of war across the face of the globe, coupled with the inhumane treatment meted out to blacks across Europe, plus the increasing cases of malnutrition in a world of plenty, lapped by the unfriendly conditions under which workers sell their trade, reflect a world gone amok.
The answer to our present predicament underlie that aspect of human endeavour where our capitalist masters have registered their greatest failure. Their inability to understand that we are all equal irrespective of race and that the resources of the world are to be equally apportioned for the benefit of all, has brought mankind to our present transfixed position of moral and social disequilibrum.
Never before has mankind been left so destitute, so as to be robbed of all its wit, thus failing to realize that the doctor is the angel of death in disguise. Capitalism kills, it doesn’t heal. Data speak for themselves. There are more hungry, poor, homeless and sick people in the world today than any other point in history.
Hope is not and should not be allowed to dim on us, socialism presents the only practical alternative to our present disorder. It ensures all a safe and peaceful environment. It does not operate on profit, goods are produced for the common good of all, including medical services. But , like capitalism, socialism has its drawback: there will be no medals given as a token, because they are no masters nor slaves, only companions.
Daniel Wah 
(Sierra Leone)

Zimbabwe and Hunger

Millions of Zimbabweans could go without enough to eat within weeks if the international community does not come up with adequate funding for food aid to the country. More than half of Zimbabwe's 14 million people are threatened by a desperate lack of food, the UN says. It says the aid it provides could run out by the end of February.

Nearly 8 million people — half the population — is now facing food insecurity, the global body's World Food Programme (WFP) said.

WFP's deputy country director in Zimbabwe, Niels Balzar, said the hunger crisis, the worst in 10 years, was a result both of drought and of long years of mismanagement under the country's late long-term ruler, Robert Mugabe.
He said the WFP needed more than $200 million (€178 million) to be able to help all those in need — a number almost double the 4.1 million it currently assists — in the first half of 2020 alone.
"As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season  — when needs are at the highest," Balzer said.
The WFP said the maize harvest in 2019 was half that of the year before, and that the overall production of cereal crops met less than half of needs nationwide. Rains had been "late and inadequate," and forecasts for the coming weeks predicted continuing hot and dry weather that is likely to cause another poor harvest in April, it said.
It also pointed to galloping inflation that was pushing prices of basic commodities far beyond the reach of normal citizens. For example, bread now cost 20 times what it cost just half a year ago, the WFP said.
Amid the wide-ranging economic crisis afflicting the countries, families were being forced to eat less, take children out of school and incur debts they could not pay off.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Turkish Troops in Libya

Libya is engaged in a civil war between the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar. Since regime-change and the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: One in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys international recognition.

Erdogan, the Turkey president, is expected to deploy Turkish troops to Libya to prop up the internationally recognised government in Tripoli. Never mind that these soldiers have no clue about Libya. And never mind that those fighters have nothing to do with what the Libyans are fighting each other for. Turkey is hundreds of miles away. They are mercenaries, not liberators. The “air, ground and sea” military support is part of a security agreement signed between the Tripoli government and Turkey. Turkey is also looking to establish a military base in Tunisia. In 2017, the two countries signed a military cooperation agreement with Turkey pledging to train Tunisian soldiers and invest in the Tunisian defence.

5,000 mercenaries from Sudan are battling alongside troops loyal to Khalifa Haftar. US media reported that hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group - owned by a close confidante of President Vladimir Putin - were also aiding Haftar's forces. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Nigeria and the rise in population

Our growing population is a success story. This growth is attributable, on the one hand, to improvement in human survival associated with the application of modern medical science to health matters, better sanitation and immunisation of children, which have caused the death rate to decrease. The rise of urbanisation has also had an effect. Less importance is based on the traditional beliefs about the value of children, particularly sons, as an asset to be relied upon by their parents in agricultural production and to support them during old age and when high child mortality and low levels of rural female education encouraged high fertility. The fall in the influence of religions, which teach that children are gifts from God has also lowered the birth rate

There are exceptions such as Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa.Nigeria has a population load factor that weighs too heavily on its meagre resources to guarantee the welfare of the citizens sincethe basic needs of the people are not adequately catered for, exacerbation of poverty is inevitable

Nigerias fundamental problem can be attributed to weak institutional framework, that is rule of law, weak governance, civil liberties etc, corruption, low investment in education and health, gender parity etc and not rapid population growth. It would be more appropriate for Nigeria to focus on policies that enhance living standards, rather than controlling population growth directly.


Leah Namugerwa - Uganda's Greta Thunberg

To mark the global climate strike on 29 NovemberLeah Namugerwa, the 15-year-old Ugandan activist, who co-runs Africa’s most prominent chapter of Fridays for Future, marches along the shores of Lake Victoria, leading a chant until her voice grows raw.

Namugerwa, who has been walking out of classes every Friday since February, has spearheaded a tree-planting campaign and a petition to enforce the country’s plastic bag ban. In her short time as a climate activist, she has met foreign ambassadors and Uganda’s speaker of parliament and attended conferences in Rwanda, Kenya, and Switzerland. 

“I want to raise a generation that cares about the environment,” she says. “At least if the leaders can’t make a difference, we can make a difference. We, as kids, we’re not too young to make a positive difference.”

East Africans stand to be among the worst affected by climate change, which can impact everything from crop production to malnutrition and the spread of disease. Uganda is increasingly experiencing prolonged droughts in the north, landslides in the east, and flooding caused in part by the loss of tree cover. In one recent week, 36 Ugandans reportedly died as a result of unusually heavy rainfall.

She was inspired to take action after watching news reports of mudslides and flooding in rural parts of the country. 

“This was not people being hit by gunshots – this was nature,” she says. “My fellow students losing schools, losing their parents, losing crops… It was really disturbing.”

She is not even demanding new environmental policies. Rather she is merely calling for existing legislation to be enforced.  She joined forces with co-founder Sadrach Nirere, Fridays for Future Uganda's co-founder Hilda Flavia Nakabuye and her cousin, Bob Motavu to form Fridays for Future Uganda, and they began planning larger events in addition to the weekly walkouts. 
The group has not received much institutional support.
“The first teacher I talked to about it told me that what I’m doing is useless,” says Nakabuye. “He thinks climate change is God’s plan and I cannot do anything about it since I’m human.”
Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations, with a median age of just 15. It’s a potentially important resource, though tapping it may be easier said than done. She admits she has a larger following abroad than at home, and winning over her young peers will be her next big challenge.

Sudan's Xenophobia

Politicians from the transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok are spending their days giving broadcast interviews in which they indulge in political subtleties, pleasant anecdotes, fiery condemnations of the old regime and promises of a better future for Sudan. 

On November 11, the transitional government's Minister of Trade and Industry Madani Abbas Madani issued a decree prohibiting foreigners from engaging in business activities in Sudan. The blanket order prohibits all foreigners from engaging in trade, but exempts foreign investors operating under the Investment Act or special agreements signed between their governments and Sudanese authorities. The decree is a haphazard effort by the transitional government to stabilise the country's struggling economy by "Sudanising" business and stopping the profits generated there from leaving the country. But in its current form, the decree not only fails to address the Sudanese economy's many problems, it also scapegoats migrants and refugees as the only ones responsible for the country's economic woes.
The ministerial campaign against "foreigners" fails to stop the voluminous profits of Gulf-owned agro-businesses, telecommunication firms and commercial enterprises from being funnelled out of the country. 

Instead, it targets refugees and migrants who are working in Sudan as petty traders, shopkeepers, food-sellers and peddlers. The security forces interpret the decree to be even broader in scope and use it as a carte blanche to target any foreigner who is trying to make a living in Sudan. As a result, now all refugees and migrants who work as labourers, handymen, barbers, rickshaw drivers and domestic workers are under attack in Sudan. It remains a mystery, however, how punishing Eritrean domestic workers and shopkeepers is supposed to help save the national economy.
Meanwhile, however, police squads are working with the force and animosity of the old to clear the city of alleged "polluters and elopers".

Since the first week of December, the police have been given license to round up the poorest and most vulnerable of Khartoum's refugee and migrant residents. Eritrean, Ethiopian and Syrian refugees and migrants are now open game for a demoralised and ill-reputed police force eager to reclaim its diminished authority following a popular uprising it failed to prevent. They are arrested and then forced to bail themselves out of detention by paying hefty fines ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 Sudanese pounds ($1,100-2,200) in what can only be described as an extortion campaign. 

Those who experience the most abuse are the ones who are at the very bottom of the pecking order: Eritreans who have nothing and are in constant search of work as day labourers and domestic workers.
The victimisation and abuse of migrants and refugees in Sudan is nothing new. It has happened in the past and was intensified after the EU concluded a migration agreement with al-Bashir. However, it is disappointing that it continues to happen today in Sudan.
Impoverished refugees and migrants from the Abyssinian Peninsula, many undocumented and effectively stateless, started arriving in urban Sudan in the second half of the 1960s, fleeing persecution, guerrilla warfare and military conscription. The number of refugees from the region soared yet again in the 1980s as the 1984-85 famine drove more than 300,000 herders and farmers from the Abyssinian Peninsula into eastern Sudan. Throughout the 1990s, thousands more sought refuge in Sudan to escape the armed conflict, forced military conscription and immiseration which followed Eritrea's declaration of independence.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, there are more than 123,000 Eritrean refugees currently residing in Sudan, the majority of whom confined to remote camps in Kassala State along Sudan's border with Eritrea. In Khartoum, most Eritreans are settled either in the neighbourhood of al-Deim, which was partially vacated after local skilled labourers left to seek employment in booming Gulf countries in the 1970s, or in the densely populated working-class areas such as al-Sahafa, Greif East and West and al-Kalakla. 
With or without documentation, they are generally subject to recurrent waves of harassment and violence from the Sudanese authorities and are at considerable risk of human trafficking. Women and girls, meanwhile, face the added threat of sexual exploitation. 
Short of options, many Eritreans in Sudan turn to smuggling networks in a desperate attempt to reach Europe and find safety there. Very few of them, however, actually make it into Europe. At the height of the migration push towards Europe in 2015 about 40,000 Eritreans managed to reach the shores of Greece, Italy and Spain. The UN estimates that approximately 400,000 Eritreans have fled the country in recent years at a rate of 4,000 a month - almost 9 percent of the country's total population.
With the 2014 "Khartoum Process", the EU outsourced the task of "managing" migrants seeking to reach Europe through the horn of Africa migration route to regional state and non-state actors in exchange for financial support. Al-Bashir's regime was eager, if not thrilled to provide its services to help the EU externalise its border well into Khartoum's al-Deim and al-Kalakla neighbourhoods. 
Implementation of the EU's border externalisation policy was entrusted to Sudan's security authorities and militias, including the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) controlled by Mohamed Hamdan Daglo "Himedti". While these arrangements were given benign-sounding labels such as the "High-Level Dialogue on Migration with Sudan" and the "Better Migration Management" (BMM) programme, they, in essence, marked the beginning of a militarised campaign to apprehend and punish migrants. 
In the summer of 2016, following the start the EU's so-called High-Level Dialogue on Migration with the Sudanese authorities, RSF units were deployed to northern Sudan to patrol the areas near the country's borders with Egypt and Libya. In early 2018, the RSF's migration control operation was extended to eastern Sudan along the country's border with Eritrea. Inevitably, RSF units turned the task of "managing" migrants into another lucrative trade, intercepting, taxing and releasing smugglers and migrants repeatedly along the desert route. It has widely been documented that RSF troops, among other atrocities, were responsible for the violent June 3 crackdown at a protest camp in Khartoum that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people and the wounding of nearly 400. 
The continuing campaign of harassment and abuse against refugees and migrants in greater Khartoum should be viewed within this greater context of militias and security forces wanting to continue their lucrative collaboration with western nations to stamp out Europe-bound migration. But, sadly, militias are not the only ones keen on Sudan's brutal and inhumane fight against irregular migration to continue. The new rulers of Sudan also seem happy to use and abuse migrants and refugees in the country for their own benefit.  
Sudan's protest movement is grounded in the agonies of the downtrodden and it benefitted from an Internationale of solidarity. Absent the solidarity that protects vulnerable refugees and migrants, the lofty patriotism of its heroes is at risk of being transcribed into a rhetoric of chauvinism and racial hierarchy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

2019 in Africa

The expanding Sahara desert is breaking up families and spreading conflict. The Sahel on the southern edge of the Sahara is the region where temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth. Projects such as the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification’s Land Degradation Neutrality project aimed at preventing and/or reversing land degradation are some of the interventions to stop the growing desert. 

Relief workers warned in November that more than 50 million people across southern, eastern and central Africa were facing hunger crises because of extreme weather conditions made worse by poverty and conflict.

While much of the Horn of Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe are being ravaged by drought, small island states, especially in the Pacific, are sinking beneath rising sea levels or becoming more vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons.

Irregular migration is on the rise, and has driven thousands to their deaths on hazardous journeys. The thousands drowned crossing the Mediterranean has led to projects like Migrants as Messengers in Guinea launched by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which recruits returnees to raise awareness of the dangers.
Nutrition is the best investment in developing Africa, experts say, with evident correlation between countries with high levels of children under five years of age who are stunted or wasted and the existence of political instability and/or frequent exposure to natural calamities. The nutritional situation is worrying in Africa, Busi Maziya-Dixon, a Senior Food and Nutrition Scientist at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), told IPS with research showing all forms of malnutrition, including stunting, wasting, and obesity, are growing. “We need to educate our governments to link nutrition to economic development and prioritize nutrition.”

Overall investment in Africa continued to gather pace in 2019, however. Amid IMF warnings of a “synchronised slowdown” in global economic growth, 19 sub-Saharan countries are among nearly 40 emerging markets and developing economies forecast to maintain GDP growth rates above 5 percent this year. Particularly encouraging for Africa is that its present growth leaders are richer in innovation than natural resources.