Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Sudan's Army Strong-armed Tactics

A UN human rights expert has condemned reports of "excessive use of force" by Sudanese security forces against protesters demanding the country's military rulers cede power to a civilian-led administration.

Aristide Nononsi, the United Nations independent expert on human rights in Sudan, called on Friday for Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC) to "exercise the utmost restraint" to avoid further violence after at least four people were killed and several others wounded earlier this week at protest sites in the capital, Khartoum. 

"I strongly urge the Sudanese military and security forces to ... take immediate measures to protect the constitutional rights of the Sudanese people," Nononsi said in a UN statement.
At least four people were killed on Monday, according to protesters, when
 troops in military vehicles using the logo of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fired live ammunition as they tried to clear demonstrators from an avenue near Sudan's foreign ministry.
Two days later, at least 14 people were wounded, some from gunfire, when the RSF again tried to remove demonstrators from central Khartoum.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said last week that at least 90 people have been killed by government forces since the demonstrations began. Last month, the Human Rights Watch put the death toll at 70.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

When conservation is colonialism

In the name of "conservation," thousands of families, tribes and communities in Africa and Asia have had their land stolen and been forced into destitution and despair.

It is claimed, the local people don’t know how to look after their own land and care for its wildlife, so they should get off it and let “the real experts” manage it instead.

The reason outsiders are so keen to get their hands on this land is that these areas are very rich in biodiversity. Though indigenous territories make up only 22% of the world’s land, they hold 80% of Earth’s biodiversity. The fact that endangered species still survive on their land yet have been wiped out elsewhere should speak for itself: the truth is that tribal people are the best conservationists and understand their environment better than anyone else.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is working with the Congolese government to create a protected conservation zone in Congo, known as Messok Dja. This land is home to the Baka people, one of the "Pygmy" tribes of central Africa, who rely on these forests for survival. Already, even though the park is not yet established, rangers funded and supported by WWF have stolen the Baka’s possessions, burnt their camps and clothes, beaten and tortured them.

Survival International is campaigning with the Baka against the establishment of Messok Dja protected area. In December 2018, Survival released letters signed by over a hundred people from six villages outlining their objections to the Messok Dja project and the abuse they have suffered at the hands of WWF-supported eco-guards. These objections, and many others, have been largely ignored.

The WWF should actually be talking to these communities, because they know better than anyone else how their ecosystem works and how to protect this forest. Its reply was simple: no, you’re wrong, they don’t know better, an opinion  born of prejudice, not fact. WWF would never impugn the Baka’s knowledge like this publicly however, as global powers now have to at least pretend they respect indigenous peoples. International law says that the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of indigenous and tribal inhabitants must be obtained before such projects take place on their land. The fact that the Baka do not consent means that WWF forcing through the demarcation of Messok Dja is not only unjust, it is actually illegal. In the case of Messok Dja, WWF has outright lied about getting FPIC from the Baka, but produces a lot of warm-sounding words to justify their land grab.

Consultation is not consent. WWF has been working on this project since 2005, but only began the consultation process with local communities at the start of 2019  Consent means you have the right to say no and have that "no" respected, but the only thing conservationists are granting the Baka apparently have is "the opportunity to express their opinions to decision-makers and managers;" they can voice their objections, but, on their own land, the Baka are not the decision-makers. As long as communities associate WWF with violence and oppression, “free” consent is impossible.

The Baka and their neighbors have lived as hunter-gatherers for generations, which means that their day-to-day survival depends entirely on their profound understanding of their environment, and the ability to maintain healthy wildlife populations. The Baka play as vital a role in maintaining the ecosystem as any apex predator. For example, it is well known that elephants and other large mammals in these forests spread seeds, trample paths, and perform other roles which facilitate the growth and flourishing of other species. Likewise, Baka forest camps create clearings, which, well fertilized by ashes and organic material, result in more food and better habitats for gorillas.

"Conservation is actually worse than colonization. It’s about slavery." explained one Baka.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Neo-Colonialist Corporations

Though Ghana won its independence in 1957, the vestiges of colonialism and underdevelopment did not end. It has continued in neocolonialist forms, that deprive the Ghanaian people of the right to process, develop, and manage their natural wealth and to be the drivers of their own policies—in other words, their right to national sovereignty. It is transnational corporations, the stand-ins of yesterday’s British empire—often aided by an enthusiastic national bourgeoisie—that have robbed the Ghanaian people of sovereignty over their resources, their wealth, and their future

Every year, the vast majority of Ghana’s natural wealth is stolen. The country is among the largest exporters of gold in the world, yet—according to a study by the Bank of Ghana—less than 1.7 percent of global returns from its gold make their way back to the Ghanaian government. This means that the remaining 98.3 percent is managed by outside entities—mainly multinational corporations, who keep the lion’s share of the profits. In other words, of the US$5.2 billion of gold produced from 1990 to 2002, the government received only US$87.3 million in corporate income taxes and royalty payments.

Of the ten top multinational firms that operate on the African continent, only one (Vale, of Brazil) is located in the Global South. Of the remaining nine, three are United States corporations, three are Canadian, two are Australian, and one is British. All are private transnational corporations. In other words, the gold that is extracted from Ghanaian soil (like the natural wealth extracted from across the African continent and Global South) is immediately handed over to multinational corporations—almost entirely based in and controlled by the Global North (or, at best, by the national elite)—to be processed, refined, and distributed.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Cameroon Spiralling Out of Control

What started as protests against the growing dominance of the French language in anglophone regions in 2016 has turned into a conflict between the government and English-speaking separatists who demand a new independent state of “Ambazonia.” 
Since 2016, worsening violence in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions has killed almost 2,000 people and displaced over 430,000 people.In the past three years, at least 70 schools have been destroyed and over 80 percent of schools remain closed, leaving more than 600,000 children out of school in the country’s English-speaking regions.  The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased 30 percent since 2018 to 4.3 million people today. This means one in six Cameroonians need aid, more than half of whom are children. In the anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions alone, there are more than 1.3 million people that need aid, eight times as many as the year before. At the same time, Cameroon’s East and North regions are hosting refugees who fled violence from the neighbouring countries of Nigeria and Central African Republic.

Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Secretary-General Jan Egeland made similar comments to the Security Council, lamenting on the lack of attention and humanitarian response: “When brutal fighting displaces hundreds of thousands of civilians, it usually sets international alarm bells ringing. But, the shocking unmet needs of tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in South-West and North-West Cameroon has resulted in no systematic mediation efforts, no large relief programme, little media interest and too little pressure on the parties to stop attacking civilians. The collective silence surrounding the atrocities is as shocking as the untold stories are heart-breaking,” he added.
As Cameroon becomes one of the fastest-growing displacement and humanitarian crisis in Africa, the UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock noted that the level of the crisis is “more alarming than ever.”
“Both the humanitarian and the security situation continue to deteriorate and run the risk of spiralling out of control,” Lowcock told the UN Security Council. Among the biggest challenges is the lack of funding, Lowcock noted. In 2018, Cameroon’s humanitarian response plan was just 44 percent funded. This year, only 13 percent of its appeal is funded.
Egeland echoed the humanitarian chief’s sentiments, stating: “A group of displaced and disillusioned women I met told me that they felt abandoned by the international community, as well as by the conflict parties. They asked me, where is international solidarity? Where are the African organisations, the donor nations? Where is Europe? This conflict has roots in generations of interference from European powers.”
“The absence of a humanitarian response commensurate to the hundreds of thousands of people in great and unmet need is striking. We are too few humanitarian actors on the ground, and we are gravely underfunded,” he added, noting that the UN country team should be given the necessary financial and human resources.
Security Council members should call on the government of Cameroon and leaders of armed separatist groups to end abuses against civilians in the Anglophone regions and hold those responsible for abuse accountable,” said Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Central Africa director Lewis Mudge. “This is an opportunity to remind abusers that the world is watching,” he added. Mudge also pointed to the need for the country to allow access and cooperate with international human rights organisations. In April, the Cameroon government denied a HRW researcher entry into the country after documenting a deadly attack by security forces in the Northwest region.
“Cameroon’s move to block a human rights researcher and observers shows its determination to conceal its brutality…the UN Security Council should encourage the country to allow access to international human rights organisations and cooperate with them,” Mudge said.


Evicted from Eden

Further confirmation and evidence for this article


"We are being persecuted and threatened," a woman of the Baka ethnic group in the Congo Basin region of central Africa told the human rights organization Survival International. The organization has been collecting similar testimonies for years and compiles critical reports about human rights violations against indigenous peoples in nature reserves or national parks. In recent years, the complaints of the Baka people have become louder and louder. The area where they live, the forests of Messok Dja in the Congo Basin, is being transformed into a national park under the direction of the WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature. The project is financed by Europe.

The Baka feel harassed by the gamekeepers in the future national park. They have lived in the forests of Messok Dja for generations. "I am Baka, my father is Baka, my mother is Baka. Our ancestors entrusted this forest to us. Our food comes from the forest. When we are sick, we go there and collect our medicine," says a Baka woman. One day her children should also look for food in the forest. But now the forest is out of bounds, she says. The Baka people have been deprived of their habitat.

According to Survival International, more and more indigenous communities in Africa are becoming victims of an unscrupulous conservation industry. In recent years, the organization has repeatedly published photos, videos and testimonies of serious human rights violations by WWF-funded gamekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and the Central African Republic. The accusations range from arbitrary arrests to torture and even targeted killings.  One of the main accusations: gamekeepers or rangers receive a bonus for every poacher they arrest. This motivates the rangers to arrest as many people as possible - whether they are guilty or not.

 "With this system of premiums, more and more incentives are being created to arbitrarily arrest people and for violence to escalate further," Linda Poppe from the Berlin office of Survival International said in an interview with DW. 

The money for the premiums comes from the European Union, while the German government also finances so-called "performance-related payments" for rangers, which includes bonus payments, in the Salonga National Park in the Congo Basin, Poppe said. The WWF also pays bonuses to rangers there.

Linda Poppe says. "You should rely on the indigenous people who live in these areas and who are often driven out to make way for nature reserves but who are actually the best allies of conservationists," she said. They were the ones being punished.  In her view, the system contains the wrong incentives.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sweat-shop Ethiopia

Ethiopia has positioned itself to become one of the world's top exporters of textile and garments. It even plans to boost its clothing exports to a total of $30 billion a year from its current $145 million.
The East African country over the past years has opened doors for international apparel brands like H&M, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger to set up factories for producing low-cost garments in its industrial parks.
A report by the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights shows that despite the growth in the garment market, Ethiopian garment factory workers are, on average, the lowest paid in the world.
The country does not have a private sector minimum wage, and workers are paid $26 per month -- far from enough to cover basic needs like housing, shelter and food. Their counterparts in South Africa earn a higher wage: $244 per month; and those in Kenya, $207. 
Paul Barrett who is also the deputy director for the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, says the government's strategy from the beginning was to attract foreign investors by charging very low wages.
"They pointed to the $26 wage because that is the amount that employees of the government are paid. So, they used that as a benchmark for employees in the foreign apparel market too" he told CNN.
Hawassa industrial park, 140 miles south of Addis Ababa, the country's capital is one of five manufacturing hubs established by the government since 2014, and is part of a long-term vision to grow Ethiopia into a production hub. It houses factories including textile and agro-processing and has 25,000 employees producing garments. The workers, mostly women from rural areas, do not get enough training and struggle to understand industrial rules and regulations.
"For many young women, frustration over their pay, combined with homesickness and other aspects of factory life, has led to a sense of alienation and lack of commitment to working productively," says the report. "Unfamiliar with industrial custom, they don't understand why they would be disciplined for lateness, absenteeism, or chatting with workstation neighbours
Ethiopia, with a population of 105 million, has a weak trade union movement. So far, there hasn't been any recognized body advocating for better work conditions, training and pay for the garment workers at Hawassa industrial park.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

May Day is Still Our Day

When the workers' movement was young, the First of May was set aside as a day on which the workers of all countries would gather together in mass meetings to send to each other fraternal greetings and expressions of solidarity in the struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression. Sadly, in many places such unity has faded. May Day today has little of its original character left. It is not taken seriously by many workers. 

Unfortunately, wage-workers are not yet ready for the great demonstration which shall demonstrate their irresistible might and determination to cast off, once and for all, their chains. 

Nevertheless, the wage-slaves are working away at their shackles and the day of emancipation is getting nearer.

Convinced that the only hope for the world lies with international socialism and that May Day should be an occasion to express this, the World Socialist Movement is disheartened. May Day reminds one of the few occasions capable of enthusing workers politically. We should not regard it as just another May Day. On the contrary. It is a further opportunity to spread the message of socialism. Let us make the most of it.

In a world of sordid nationalism and political reformism, the cause we stand for is WORLD SOCIALISM. Let us then demonstrate for this, the only thing worth demonstrating for, more confidently and more effectively than ever before, this May Day, 2019.