Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Abortion in Southern Africa

In Africa more than 4 million unsafe abortions are performed each year. One out of every 150 African women who have an unsafe abortion dies from complications, and countless others come away scarred physically or emotionally. 

The World Health Organization reports that “in developed regions, it is estimated that 30 women die for every 100,000 unsafe abortions. That number rises to 220 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions in developing regions and 520 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Changing the law is essential but isn’t a cure-all.

A United States government policy reinstated by Trump blocks federal funding worldwide to nongovernmental organizations that provide any kind of abortion service including advocacy, referral and counseling.  Known as the “Global Gag Rule,” this policy blocks U.S. aid to nongovernmental agencies that offer any services related to abortion. Among other consequences, women in developing countries face less access to information, contraception and legal abortion. Health practitioners in Lesotho who used to offer free contraceptives, family planning advice and abortion counseling no longer have the funding to continue. Since Trump’s expansion of the U.S. policy, family planning groups have had to radically downsize outreach efforts as well as services within their facilities.

In Lesotho, a predominantly Catholic country, women who get abortions face social ostracism as well as arrest. Leaving Lesotho to have the procedure isn’t an option for most women. Women know that safe, legal abortion is available in South Africa, but they can’t afford the private doctors’ fees in that country.

Lesotho’s Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi, announced that Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital, the country’s only referral hospital, is filled to capacity with women suffering from the effects of unsafe abortions.

Various methods are used in these unsafe procedures, with one of the most common involving “abortion pills” that induce labor. These pills, used “off label,” can cause incomplete abortion, which often leads to dangerous bleeding. Other illegal termination methods include ingesting dangerous substances such as brake fluid or bleach. Complications from unsafe abortions cause a shocking number of deaths among women in Africa compared with other parts of the world. Illegal abortions can result in a range of life-threatening complications, according to Matsebo Mpeta, a nurse-clinician at the referral hospital. Some women develop sepsis, a dangerous response to an infection often caused by the material used in the procedure or by an unclean clinical environment. Other women die from infection itself, loss of blood or harm to the organs or genital tract. Those who survive unsafe abortions often face serious and lasting health consequences. Women can become infertile if the uterus is damaged—or has to be removed—due to chemicals or instruments used to terminate the pregnancy. Urine or stool incontinence caused by injury to organs is another common lifelong consequence. Mpeta also reports mental health issues associated with unsafe abortion, including depression, anxiety attacks and suicidal tendencies. She has seen women and girls become severely traumatized, and she describes some as “mentally challenged” after their experiences.
In several cases, pregnant women have been too frightened to get illegal abortions so they have had their babies and then committed another crime of despair called concealment. The Lesotho Penal Code states: “A person who disposes of the dead body of a new-born child with intent to conceal the fact of its birth, whether the child died before, during, or after birth commits an offence.”
Although abortion has been legalized in neighboring South Africa, of the estimated 260,000 abortions performed there each year about half are illegal. Many qualified South African health care professionals refuse to perform abortions because it violates their cultural or religious beliefs. These practitioners can refuse to perform the procedure if they conscientiously object to it, but they are legally bound to refer patients to safe abortion providers. According to Amnesty International, this guideline isn’t well regulated and the result is lack of access to safe procedures. Economic and geographic factors also make it difficult for women to access safe abortions. Most South African health care professionals work in the private sector, leaving a dearth of available doctors in public health centers, which are the only affordable option for much of the population. Compounding the problem, women in rural areas have little access to safe terminations because they lack transportation to appropriate facilities.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Cameroon Crisis

Over the weekend, Cameroonians occupied the embassies of their country in Berlin and Paris, to support protests back home in the capital, Yaounde, outside a police station, after at least six people – including opposition municipal council member and lawyer Michele Ndoki – were wounded and 117 people were arrested over the weekend in anti-government demonstration. 

There has not been the same level of sympathy that has been offered to the Venezuelan oppostion. No country has  made  Maurice Kamto's, leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), interim president. The incumbent president Paul Biya, who has been in power for more than 36 years, won a seventh consecutive term in elections on October 7. But the poll was marred by fraud, low turnout, and violence. Biya's government has banned demonstrations and the security forces have been using force to disperse protesters. 

Meanwhile, United Nations Development & Humanitarian Coordinator Allegra Baiocchi recently said that the organization estimates that some 4.3 million Cameroonians, or one in six of the population, require lifesaving assistance.

 But where are the US and UK protests?

The Liberian Sea Shepherds

The largely ungoverned waters of west Africa are plagued on a daily basis by big industrial vessels from wealthier nations that plunder hundreds of tonnes of fish, at the expense of local fisherman. One 2017 study estimates the cost of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) to just six west African countries at $2.3bn (£1.8bn) a year. It is a cost that Liberia, one of the world’s poorest nations – and heavily dependent on foreign aid after decades of civil war – cannot afford. But neither has it funds to police its 370km of coastline. Major General Prince Johnson, chief of staff for the commander of the Liberian Army, says: “We are losing a huge amount – millions of dollars – to illegal fishing.
Two years ago, the defence ministry of Liberia, a tiny country of 4.7 million people,  took an unusual step to tackle multi-million dollar crimes: partnering with Sea Shepherd, self-styled “eco-vigilantes”, known for controversial tactics against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. 
A lot has changed since the partnership, known as Operation Sola Stella, began. “A lot of illegal things were going on before in the deep sea, but with our ships we could not get to them. Before, the fishermen didn’t want to get licences and they would just go to the deep sea and take anything they want. Now our water is safe.”
According to Sea Shepherd, news of policing at sea has “spread like wildfire” among vessel owners, creating a deterrent effect.
Ibrahim Turey, a newscaster at the local Radio Pisco station says: “Illegal fishing was rampant, in the war and afterwards. But they are no longer coming here with their boats. We see Sea Shepherd out there on patrol.”
“Since the coming in of Sea Shepherd, Liberia has benefitted a lot. Those who do illegal activities in our waters know they can no longer carry on.” explained Maj. Gen. Johnson.
Arrests have more than quadruped, the range of coastguard patrols have doubled, and the government has recovered at least a million dollars in fines. In the seven years prior to Sola Stella, the coastguard made only three arrests. One of the vessels, South Korea-flagged Nine Star, remains rusting in Monrovia’s port after its owners abandoned it, leaving $1.5m in unpaid fines, in 2013. But from February 2017 to January this year, arrests rose to 14. Among them were two internationally blacklisted vessels. The Hai Lung, an Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish vessel, was suspected of absconding from authorities in Nigerian waters, and found to have forged Indonesian documentation, while the Liberia-flagged Labiko 2 was blacklisted by three different organisations under its previous name, the Maine. The latter was using gill nets, instead of the long lines for which it had a licence, and was fishing for deep-water sharks. Five of the 14 vessels were found guilty of illegally fishing, the rest were found guilty of related crimes, including fraud, tax evasion and under-reporting catches. Two of the five, the Bonheur and the Starshrimper 25 trawlers, were found fishing inside the six-mile inshore exclusion zone, from which industrial ships are banned by the Liberian government so that the waters can be reserved for the country’s 33,000 small scale fishermen.
“The Europeans don’t like the fact the Liberian coastguard are inspecting their ships,” says Johnson. “They feel they are reporting their catch and are working with the fisheries authority. Sometimes, they even accuse us of acting illegally, even though we have a Liberian flag. They want us not to have weapons – they want us to go in with our hands shaking. I would never send my men to sea without a weapon."

Often, the real ownership of vessels acting illegally remains a mystery, hidden by layers of shell companies. 
Ernest Vaffe, deputy minister for operations, coastguard, says the truth frequently remains undiscovered. “You will get a local lawyer, who says: This is my client. They pay the fine.’ We have never had an international lawyer say: ‘This is our vessel.’” 
Vaffe argues that even legal fishing by foreign vessels in Liberia’s water is unfair, due to what he describes as a “flawed” system of cheap licences issued by the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority.
“These vessels don’t take the fish to bring them back to African ports, they take them to Europe and elsewhere,” says Vaffe. “They benefit a lot, influencing their economy. To the detriment of our economy. They are also creating unemployment among the local fishermen. The cost is huge.”
In Robertsport, one of Liberia’s main fishing communities, the fishermen there have another word for what foreign vessels are guilty of. They say the industrial foreign trawlers often cut through their nets, costing them between $150 and $1,500, depending on the size, and often capsizing their boats.
“They are stealing what is ours,” says town governor Kofu Weah. “They come into Liberia, take the fish and then they leave.” 
On the Sam Simon, captain Alistair Allan, 27, who has worked with Sea Shepherd since he was 19, says he believes the campaign against illegal and unregulated fishing is vital for the planet.
“Humankind has thought of the ocean as a never-ending resource. It’s so vast, how can we make a dent in it? But we’re not just making a dent in it, we are wrecking the whole thing. It is happening over the horizon, out of sight.” He gestures at the vast expanse of ocean. “Out there, you can see the over-reaching arm of the industrial fishing industry. The ocean cannot sustain that level of fishing. The scale is enormous. And then, there is a social justice element. There are 33,000 people in Liberia dependent on fish. And the Chinese and the EU steal it from under their noses. It is important to understand the battle that developing nations face.”

Friday, January 25, 2019

Zimbabwe's Return to Chaos

Across the Zimbabwe, 12 people have been shot dead, hundreds injured and more than 1,500 detained in the disorder and the subsequent crackdown, according to assessments by observers and diplomats in Harare. Every day brings reports of further beatings, assaults, abductions and arrests by the police and military.

The immediate trigger for the shutdown – a closure of all businesses and non-essential services to demonstrate anger – was a sharp rise in fuel prices ordered by the government. Overnight, petrol went from $1.50 a litre to well over three dollars. The rise came against a background of a deteriorating economic situation that has already hit people. Prices of all commodities have soared in recent weeks, and a single cabbage in Epworth’s market now costs a dollar. Locals describe teenage girls forced into sex work; boys addicted to homemade narcotics

Mugabe’s successor, 76-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa, a ruling party stalwart, pledged political and economic reform. Neither has come, or at least not rapidly enough to head off crisis. The early signs following Mugabe’s fall were relatively positive. Mnangagwa’s victory in an election held in July was contested but the campaign was considerably more free than any for decades. Senior ministers spoke of previous mistakes and how Zimbabwe was now returning to the right path. The former British colony was “open for business”, they repeated. There were signs that the foreign investment desperately needed to create jobs and growth might come.

The crackdown of the past fortnight has been the most extensive for a decade at least, and veteran campaigners in Harare worry that it is far from over. Significantly, the targeting of the opposition, union leaders and civil society activists has continued even after Mnangagwa cut short a foreign trip to pledge dialogue and punishment for security officials who committed excesses.
“It could be the start of a concerted effort to destroy any opposition of any type that could last weeks, even months,” said one old hand, recalling a campaign of regime violence in 2008 that led to 270 deaths. 
Diplomats admit it is almost impossible to work out where real power lies, among competing institutions, agencies, personalities and factions. The result is a sense of deep uncertainty, and fears that Zimbabwe is moving into uncharted waters where anything is possible.
“A hungry man is an angry man,” said Robert, 36, who has lived in Epworth all his life. “People wanted and expected a change but things are much tougher than under the previous president. The young people are not happy … There are no schools, no jobs.”

“Life is so difficult,” Marion Michasa, 40  said. “Right now we are so confused. We are still living with fear.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

France falls out with Italy on Africa Policies

Conveniently forgetting his own country's ignoble history, Luigi di Maio, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister, called on the European Union to impose sanctions on France for its policies in African accusing it of exploiting Africa and fueling migration. 

"The EU should sanction France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean," he said. "If people are leaving today it's because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries."
He said if it wasn't for Africa, France would rank 15th among world economies, not in the top six. He accused France of manipulating the economies of African countries that use the CFA franc, a colonial-era currency backed by the French treasury.
"France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts," he said. "If Europe wants to be brave, it must have the courage to confront the issue of decolonisation in Africa."

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Africa's Super-Rich

Wealth has been growing fastest in Africa, according to the report. It predicted the number of dollar millionaires in oil-rich Nigeria would increase by 16% over the next five years. 
There are currently 29,500 millionaires in Nigeria, and the country’s richest person, Aliko Dangote, controls a $10bn fortune that makes him the world’s 134th most wealthy person.
Egypt, where there are 22,000 millionaires, was expected to be the second-fastest growing at 12.5%.. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


The International Criminal Court (ICC) has acquitted former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo of crimes against humanity the first head of state to stand trial at the ICC, after at least 3,000 people were killed in post-election violence in 2010 when he refused to accept defeat.

Prosecutors had alleged he held onto power "by all means" after he lost the election to now-President Alassane Ouattara. Head judge Cuno Tarfusser said the ICC "by majority hereby declares that the prosecution has failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard."

This is a big blow to the prosecution's office which is there to prosecute the most senior persons who are allegedly involved in crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. It basically shows that it's incredibly difficult to secure reliable and convincing evidence in criminal cases against these people.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Independence, Kenya, too(1964)

 Everyone should now be accustomed to the nauseating acts which are played out whenever another country gets its independence. The celebrations among the people of the country, who appear to be happy in the delusion that they have gained something from the substitution of one set of rulers by another. The extreme nationalism of the new government — often imposed with a heavy hand. The back slapping and banqueting, between men who were only recently denounced as insatiable terrorists and the representatives of the government which so denounced them. All very familiar and all very sickening.

So it was when Kenya became independent, last December. An estimated £400,000 was spent on the celebrations, including a Miss Uhuru beauty contest which Mr. Jomo Kenyatta left in a huff because the band did not play the Kenya National Anthem when he arrived. Persuaded to return, the new Prime Minister warned that non-Africans must respect the African personality (wasn’t there a man, before the war, who used to say the same sort of thing about the Aryan personality, at big rallies in Nuremburg and other German cities?) and said that if the band had not been Africans they would have been deported.

The Duke of Edinburgh attended a garden party where four former Mau Mau generals also turned up, but the Duke did not leave because his job was to stay and be chummy. Mr. Kenyatta had his photograph taken dancing with the rather bewildered looking daughter of Commonwealth Secretary Duncan Sandys, who had presumably been briefed by daddy to do the honours to the ex Mau Mau leader. Mr. Kenyatta received a telegram from Sir Alex Douglas-Home which looked forward to welcoming him at the next Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference in London.

Now with all this mateyness flying about nobody would think that not so long ago Kenyatta and the other Mau Mau leaders were reviled by the British government as primitive savages, heads of a secret society with disgusting initiation rites, terrorists who delighted in orgies of violence. This is the sort of propaganda which was put out in the past about other nationalist movements —about EOKA in Cyprus and the IRA in Ireland, for example.

In each case it eventually suited the British ruling class to come to terms with the nationalists. The propaganda changed and the nationalist leaders were welcomed to the circle of international rulers; their past, no matter how bloody, was forgotten and they soon became respected men. Kenyatta is only the latest of yesterday’s enemies to receive this treatment.

The state of Kenya is beset with all the usual problems of a newly independent African country and the future of its people is not bright. Whatever hardships they may suffer, we may be sure that there will always be plenty of official hypocrisy for them to consume.