Friday, July 31, 2020

Divide and rule (1986)

From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The ruling South African National Party's attempts at reforming apartheid have arrived too late, and are too little, to permit an orderly transfer of political power to the limited democracy of majority rule. Anger, fear, hostility and resistance have now made that process almost impossible — sentiments that are a direct result of the entrenched attitudes of the Afrikaner ruling class, and their strategy of divide and rule. For apartheid — based as it is on division not unity — has exacerbated other divisions within South African society, divisions potentially even more explosive than those between racial groups.

As administrative structures have broken down in the townships a power vacuum has been created which black groups are now competing to fill. Firstly there is intra-black political conflict between three main groups jockeying for position. The largest of these consists of the exiled African National Congress (ANC) together with its internal partner the United Democratic Front (UDF) — a loose umbrella organisation of about 600 heterogeneous local and national groups and the main federation of black trade unions — Cosatu. The UDF was set up in 1983 to oppose the new tricameral constitution, but now increasingly acts as the domestic wing of the ANC. The ANC's strategy uses three tactics: armed struggle which, although it receives high priority has had very little impact; organisation within South Africa itself which has proved highly successful; and activities abroad to extend foreign recognition of the ANC.

This alliance is challenged by the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) together with its partner the National Forum — an organisation of black consciousness groups. Azapo and its allies differ from the ANC/UDF on the question of the role of whites in the struggle against apartheid, but share similar goals and tactics, although it is relatively weak on the ground.

The third black political group is Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha movement based in the Kwazulu homeland. Buthelezi is reviled by the ANC, UDF and black consciousness groups and regarded as a collaborator with apartheid. He commands the support of six million Zulus and is encouraged by white businessmen because he opposes disinvestment. But his power base is essentially regional and tribal, located mainly in the rural homelands rather than in the townships. A group of trades unions supporting Inkatha has recently been formed to rival Cosatu which is likely to lead to a still wider gulf between the Zulus and other blacks.

However these political, tactical and personal divisions between black groups have, in recent weeks, been over-shadowed by divisions between blacks within the townships. In an attempt to foster the illusion of a degree of black self-government, local councils were created on which blacks had representation and responsibility for certain aspects of local administration — an attempt, some argued, to shift the burden of running apartheid to blacks themselves. As a result a faction of blacks grew up — councillors, local officials, small businesspeople, police — who felt that they were getting something out of the apartheid system status, and relative material well-being. Not surprisingly they were regarded with suspicion and hostility by township residents because of their close identification with "the system". In the present state of turmoil most of these councils (33 out of 38) no longer function and by June last year 240 black councillors, officials and mayors had resigned. Some have been the victims of violent attacks as punishment for their collaboration. Others have tried to fight back in a futile and misguided attempt to defend what they think they have. As a result in many townships two loosely structured, but opposed, groups have developed popularly known as the "vigilantes" and the "comrades". Violent clashes between them have contributed to the death toll of 1,500 over the past 19 months (although the majority have died at the hands of the South African security forces).

The “vigilantes" tend to be older, more conservative — the black "establishment" who have organised to defend what little they have and who are fearful of more militant activists. Initially vigilante groups emerged in the homelands in response to popular resistance against authoritarian and corrupt local administrations. More recently they have developed in urban areas in response to similar opposition to township councils. Increasingly there is evidence that their activities are condoned and even assisted by the security forces. At the Crossroads squatter camp recently, 32 people died and over 20,000 were left homeless as a result of vigilante activities assisted by the security forces who, it is alleged, provided both weapons and protection so that the forced removal of the squatters could be achieved.

Opposing the vigilantes are the "comrades" — an even more loosely structured group of mostly young, more militant township residents who have closer links with the ANC and UDF. Their activities are often organised in open defiance of the black establishment and, as township councils have collapsed, they have stepped in to provide an alternative power structure through the setting up of street and area committees responsible for organising everything from rent collection to rubbish disposal. They also deal with what they see as the crimes of alleged informers and collaborators, meting out summary punishments as severe as those handed out by the vigilantes. The blazing "necklace" has become a hallmark of the comrades' treatment of alleged informers.

The tactic of divide and rule was consciously adopted by the white ruling class in the hope that a stable, conservative, black "middle class" would emerge in the townships to administer apartheid on their behalf and to deal with more militant elements. The present activities of the township vigilantes are still, in some senses, advantageous to the ruling class, since they justify the maintenance of the security forces in the townships and violent factionalism among blacks is also used as a justification for the continuation of apartheid itself. South Africa, it is argued, is too fragmented for a unitary, democratic system to be workable. Ultimately. however, the security forces and the government can't win — they have applied the divide-and-rule strategy for what it is worth and now it is beginning to work against them. They created the divisions within the townships; now that they are becoming violent and the townships become increasingly ungovernable they use more repressive tactics to control the situation; more repression only serves to add to grievances.

But if political tactics are failing Botha's government, so too is the ideology of apartheid turning on its own. For Botha's feeble attempts at cosmetic change, which have done nothing to satisfy the blacks, are viewed with alarm and a sense of betrayal by some Afrikaners. The ideology of white supremacy was used to divide South Africa's working class. That ideology ensured that white workers were relatively affluent, had a protected position in the labour market and constituted an "aristocracy of labour". Many accepted this ideology believing that their privileged position meant that they had no interests in common with black workers. But the apartheid ideology, now recognised by significant sections of the capitalist class as an anachronism, a fetter on the expansion of wealth production, created a group of white workers who not only felt no common class interest with black workers, but who hardly even regarded them as human. Botha's attempts at reform have, therefore, bolstered the fortunes of a number of even more extreme right-wing groups, while his own National Party is itself breaking up into factions.

There are two main parties on the far right: the Conservative Party, founded after the last general election in 1981, which has 17 seats in the South African legislature, and the Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) which has one. But this lack of seats disguises the level of support in certain areas of the country for extra parliamentary, neo-Nazi groups such as the Afrikaner Volkswag (the people s guard) headed by Carel Broshoff. former leader of the Broederbond — a secret society dedicated to Afrikaner supremacy, and the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) the Afrikaner Resistance Movement — led by Eugene Terre' Blanche. It was this group which was responsible for the breaking up of a National Party meeting in Pietersburg recently. The AWB has a swastika-like emblem and openly supports racist violence Terre' Blanche encourages his members to join the security forces and he wants an armed vigilante group to protect whites. Ultimately he seeks the re-establishment of the old Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State as a white "homeland".

Many business people, professionals and political liberals want apartheid to go. They want to replace the old racist ideology which is now causing so many problems but without basically changing the distribution of political power, hence the present attempts to introduce power-sharing without having to forfeit overall political control. Some liberals have given up and left South Africa, others, especially the young, have attended meetings supporting black political rights. Some young whites have refused to serve in South Africa's conscript army and risk six years' imprisonment. Some whites have even joined the ANC's military wing.

Clearly it is no longer possible to see the situation in South Africa simply in terms of a conflict between black and white. Class conflict, always present but to some extent disguised by the racial division, is becoming more obvious as workers and trade unionists exploit the weak position of South Africa's ruling class to press home demands for changes in working conditions and levels of pay. Within the capitalist class itself conflict is apparent between industrialists who need the more flexible labour force that an end to apartheid can provide, and the old. mainly Afrikaner, land owning class who fear the cost of such a change for the semi-feudal system by which they run their farms. These divisions are real, representing a true opposition of interests. Those created by the ideology of apartheid are not. They are illusory, representing artificial distinctions based on the ambiguous concept of racial difference, or mistaken beliefs about where your true interest lies.

Apartheid must collapse. The tactic of divide and rule has divided not only blacks but also whites and the white ruling class may well find that the absence of a single black political movement with whom it can do business is a greater threat to its existence than they had imagined. To head off black discontent the government has tried to win over blacks through a process of gradual reform to remove "petty apartheid". It has not only failed but in so doing it has now outraged its own supporters who believed the racist ideology of white supremacy. At the same time those reforms are seen by blacks as cracks in the facade of white rule, adding impetus to the pressure for change.

The white ruling class is also under pressure from capitalists who are threatening to withdraw investments from South Africa. Firstly because of the combined effects of the fall in value of assets and dividends caused by the collapse of the rand; secondly negative publicity because of their South African involvement from anti-apartheid organisations. which it is feared will affect their sales. The capitalist class as a whole is not concerned about the morality of apartheid, how humane or democratic the system is, but rather whether it is stable and can provide the environment necessary for the production of profit.

The extent to which Botha is losing his political grip is evident in the raid launched by South Africa on alleged ANC bases in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. No doubt the raid was intended to reassure the whites at home that the regime was not going soft on blacks, despite the reforms. And no doubt too Botha thought that since America had used a similar justification (rooting out terrorists) for the attack on Libya and got away with it there would not be international outrage if he conducted a similar exercise. But America is clearly recognising which way the wind is currently blowing in South Africa (some US politicians have already started calling ANC "terrorists" "freedom-fighters") and expressed hypocritical moral outrage at South Africa's attack, as did Britain. Botha clearly has few political friends either at home or abroad. He is in a classic "no win" situation as a result of the contradictions of an archaic political and social system in a modern capitalist state. A move in any direction is likely to bring the whole citadel of apartheid down around his ears. The more interesting question that we should now consider is what is likely to replace it?

Janie Percy-Smith

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Migrants' Misery

Land routes across Africa are among the most deadly for migrants, a new report from the UN has revealed. Much of the violence people face is at the hands of state and local officials. Thousands of migrants have died from "extreme" abuse experienced while crossing Africa. A report estimates that 72 people a month perish traversing the continent's land routes.

The report titled "On this journey, no one cares if you live or die" from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Danish Refugee Council's Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) presents the "unspeakable brutality and inhumanity" migrants crossing through African countries face at the hands of smugglers, traffickers, militias, and some state actors. 
At least 1,750 people died making journeys across Africa in 2018 and 2019, the report said, an average of more than two deaths a day. The real figure is likely much higher, the authors wrote. Crossing Africa by land is "one of the most deadly routes for refugees and migrants in the world," the report concluded.  Nearly a third of people who died had attempted to cross the Sahara desert, while others died in war-torn Libya or while crossing through conflicts in the Central African Republic or Mali. The report found that border guards, police, and soldiers were responsible for nearly half of all cases of physical violence against migrants. 
The report documents "killings and widespread violence of the most brutal nature, perpetrated against desperate people fleeing war, violence, and persecution," UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said.

A village of women in Senegal

In the arid, desolate landscape of northeast Senegal - marked by miles and miles of dust, Saharan sand and solitary Baobab trees - there is a miraculous patch of luscious green. Tall and luxuriant tomato plants sit beside thick, purple aubergines, rows of yellow corn, beds of blooming hibiscus flowers. This oasis on the banks of the River Senegal, along the border with Mauritania, is home to a community of small-scale farmers spread across a handful of villages who for centuries have been channelling the river's water to grow and consume local produce.

But in recent decades, the aridity of the area, which lies at the gateway to the Sahara Desert, has increased dramatically. Arable land has become tougher to find, food production has slowed, livelihoods have worsened, and the men have left in search of work and opportunities abroad.

"The desert is advancing on us," says Fama Sarr, gazing intensely. The elegant 63-year-old is one of the oldest inhabitants of Sinthiou Diam Dior, a village here in the Matam region. "The heat has become so extreme and the rainy season so short, that our agricultural activity has decreased year by year and food insecurity is gaining ground everywhere," she says. "When it's so hot, you can't live," says Sarr. "The kids look sick and they stop playing."

Temperatures now regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), and less rain means the river water is drying up. Now, more and more, the desert is encroaching. The change has been slow and gradual, yet constant over time. But what worries the community of Sinthiou Diam Dior the most, is the shortening of the rainy season - and its effect on their main sources of income: agriculture and farming. Overall, the UN desertification organisation says every year, 12 million hectares (nearly 30 million acres) of productive land around the world are transformed into deserts - an area greater than the size of Portugal. And the pace of land degradation is more than 30 times the speed recorded in the past. UN data also projects that there will be 200 million climate migrants by 2050; northern Senegal is one of the countries that will be affected most severely. In Matam, poverty affects as much as 75 percent of families, and more than a third does not have enough food to eat, making them even more vulnerable to the consequences of desertification - which is rapidly escalating in the area, according to the United Nations.

In Sinthiou Diam Dior, at least one person from every family has emigrated, most of them men. Across Matam, the women remain behind as the lifeblood that animates and nourishes the villages. Abandoned, they are at the core of family life but also the economy of the villages: They have a key role in managing resources, food production, animal husbandry, consumption choices and raising children. When husbands leave, life for women in Matam grows more challenging. Married, but alone, they wait for a visit that often does not happen for years, and for money that sometimes stops coming. They are left in limbo, unable to start a new life.

"It rains once in July and then it stops for a month, so families often lose their crops," Sarr says. "We became so poor that my husband had to emigrate to Gabon and my son to France."

For the men (and few women) who leave home, the conditions are notoriously complicated, with most facing treacherous journeys, racist abuse and violence, along the way. According to the UN, up to four million Senegalese nationals out of the domestic population of 15 million live abroad, ranking it as one of the countries with the highest number of emigres in West Africa.

For those who stay, life is not easy. Left alone by husbands, sons and brothers, women are often forced to leave their studies and take care of the land and children. Many also find themselves marrying younger.
"The women stay. The man marries you, then emigrates and leaves you there," says 35-year-old Dieynaba Niang. "And you, you have to take care of everything, his family, his mother and for this you have to leave school. Once you are married everything you will do is prepare food and take care of your family."

In Senegal, as is the case in many African countries, gender inequality is still very high. Although women represent 70 percent of the continent's agricultural force, produce 80 percent of food and manage 90 percent of its sale, according to the World Bank report on Women and Agriculture in Africa, their rights are not recognised and they have very little decision-making power. Patriarchal society in Senegal prevents most women from directly managing the land they work on, and in most cases there is a man who enjoys the fruits of the labour carried out by women.

"Here are the women who are strong and work in the fields," says Niang. "It is basically the women who do everything."

The women of the villages dedicated all their strength and energy to agriculture.
But their outdated, inefficient equipment and the rising cost of fuel, ratcheted up financial pressures.

"We have always had to pay for the fuel to drain water from the river and irrigate the fields," explains Sarr. "But in recent years, more and more of it was required and we ended up spending most of our money on gasoline."

Then, a beacon of hope appeared. New technologies have since been installed in the villages to draw water from the river and irrigate the fields.
Instead of using expensive gasoline to pump water, solar panels now power a water collection system. The new system also irrigates the fields using pipelines buried in the soil to gradually deliver the water over time, as opposed to the old method called "flooding", whereby the pump released water into channels dug in the ground. This change has led to a water-saving of 70 percent.

In each village, year after year, the solar irrigation system allows the cultivation of more than 60 hectares (148 acres) of land, in turn producing enough fruit and vegetables to feed more than 900 people.

The aim of the operation was to rehabilitate farmland in an environmentally sustainable manner, and in so doing ensure that the local population has a supply of fresh produce they can eat and sell to generate an income, says Alessandra Pierella, the manager of the Green Cross project. "Now the women have learned to use the machinery and manage the fields, becoming entirely independent," Pierella says. "We managed to eliminate the women's expenses and their carbon dioxide emissions are now zero."

Alongside the technology, more sophisticated farming techniques have been developed, such as crop rotation - which reduces waste and optimises production. To help formalise the structure of the operation, a women's association has been formed for the region and in each village, a president, a treasurer, and a secretary has been elected.

"This has been the best year of harvest thanks to solar power," says Diallo, looking at the fields along the river, where green shoots have sprouted in patches that had once turned brown. "This has allowed us to increase our income, thus reducing poverty and having quality vegetable consumption in families. We're doing well, we can feed our children and even save some money by selling at the market."

While there is a lack of female presence in the most important positions in the country, for the first time in this area women not only work, but also take part in decision-making processes and hold positions of responsibility. Within the last five years, in addition to selling agricultural products, travelling to regional markets and taking care of their own business, women have become owners of land parcels.

"The group is very well organised and women are so dynamic," explains Diallo, who is secretary in her village. "Every month members meet to contribute to emergencies, if there is a possible breakdown or if there is something to do."

"The land belongs to the group, but then it is distributed in plots and given to each woman according to the quota she has decided to pay," explains Diallo.

Diallo shares an eight-hectare (19-acre) field with two dozen other people, and works on her own parcel of land every day. She uses part of the harvest for cooking, part for stocks, but the majority she sells. From the money the women earn, each also puts in an amount to pay for expenses such as seeds, the caretaker and the pump. Diallo collects contributions from more than 200 women each month. In this way, year after year, hectare after hectare, the women of the Matam villages have slowly managed to reclaim the deserted lands, improve living conditions and create job opportunities, thus generating an alternative to migration. Improved living conditions and new job opportunities brought on by technology, as well as the hard work of Matam's women, are beginning to halt the climate migration.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Hunger and COVID-19 in Southern Africa

Nearly 45 million people in 13 countries in southern Africa are food-insecure as a result of drought, floods and the impact of coronavirus. The tally has risen almost 10 percent over last year, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said.
"Common climate-induced shocks ... economic challenges and poverty have been further exacerbated by the devastating impact of COVID-19 on communities," it said. Coronavirus restrictions have badly affected business activity, jobs and remittances. "This has been particularly evident in the urban poor, who rely heavily on livelihoods from the informal sector and local markets," it said. "It is likely that the projected number of the food insecure will rise further."
Some 8.4 million children are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition across the region in 2020, of whom 2.3 million will require life-saving treatment, it said. School closures since March have hit youngsters who depend on school meals for nutrition, it said.

Sudan and the Hunger

Almost a quarter of the population of Sudan are going hungry as conflict, rising food prices and the coronavirus take their toll. About 9.6 million people now face severe food shortages, the highest number recorded in the country’s recent history.

Many of those affected live in the conflict zones of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State, but almost all of Sudan’s 18 states have registered some level of hunger, including the capital, Khartoum. The UN has also warned that it is unable to reach some of the most vulnerable because of Covid-19 restrictions and instability. A source at the UN, who preferred to remain anonymous, said staff are finding it difficult to get visas or permission from the government to travel inside the country.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network said a large number of people would require emergency food assistance until at least September as “very high staple food prices and Covid-19 control measures significantly limit food access during the lean season”.
Woo Jung Kim, communications officer at the World Food Programme in Sudan, explained that “Currently, there is widespread food insecurity due to conflict, and economic decline and inflation are driving down the purchasing power of the population.”
Wisal Abu-Sham said she was struggling to get enough food to feed the 13 children who live with the family because of soaring food prices and lack of rain.
“We sometimes have two meals, but very often only one meal a day,” she said. “We prepared our land to plant sesame and sorghum but it hasn’t rained yet and we had to eat some of our seeds which were supposed to be planted.”

Burkina Faso - Misery Prevails

The Sahel region, an arid expanse below the Sahara Desert where Burkina Faso is located, is one of the hardest-hit areas in the world by climate change. About 80 percent of the Sahel's farmland is degraded with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average, according to the World Economic Forum. Years of climate change and violence have triggered a dire humanitarian crisis in the Sahel. In April, the World Food Programme warned that the situation was "spiralling out of control", with more than five million people facing severe food insecurity across the Central Sahel region.
Burkina Faso has been affected by an increase in the scale and intensity of droughts, rain, heat waves, strong winds and dust storms, according to a government report. The country is the 20th most vulnerable to climate change and the 35th least ready in the world, said Richard Munang, the Africa regional climate change coordinator for the United Nations Environmental Programme. More than one-third of Burkina Faso's land is degraded with degradation expanding at a rate of 360,000 hectares (889,579 acres) a year, he explained. In Burkina Faso there are more than two million severely food insecure people - from more than 680,000 at the same time last year - a greater number than in neighbouring Mali and Niger. 
Climate change has played a part in the "genesis of the crisis affecting the Central Sahel" according to the International Crisis Group. Droughts in the 1970s and 1980s changed agro-pastoral dynamics in favour of the grain and vegetable farmers who were less harshly affected than the marginalised herder communities.
Years of drought devastated the cattle of herdsmen, who depended on moving their livestock from one grazing ground to another. While farmers were also hit hard, they continued producing food and with the surplus money, they invested in livestock and employed the now impoverished herdsmen. According to the International Crisis Group, this period was the origin of the marginalisation of pastoral communities.
The climatic and economic devastation in Burkina Faso has been compounded by armed conflict in the region. Following the 2012 military coup in neighbouring Mali, armed groups capitalised on the instability and captured parts of that country's north. Since then, regional violence has reached unprecedented levels and sparked   a dire humanitarian crisis in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. More than one million people are internally displaced across  all three countries, according to the UN.
Attacks linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL have recently made Burkina Faso the epicentre of the crisis. For years, the once peaceful nation largely stayed out of the conflict inflicted on its neighbours. But in 2014, the overthrow of the country's longtime president, Blaise Compaore, which also saw the dismantling of the special forces unit, created a path for attacks. Violence that began in the Sahel and northern regions has since spread across the country to the east and west displacing almost one million people and killing almost 2,000 last year. Armed groups exacerbate existing grievances over land, resources and ethnicity, perpetrating violence and driving communities into desperation.
Growing up in a community of farmers in northern Burkina Faso, KI,  never wanted for much. His family ate what they sowed and bred enough cattle to feel financially secure. In the early 1960s, little effort on small plots yielded immense results, he recalled. One harvest could produce food for a year, even providing enough crops to give as gifts to less well-off neighbours.
"We didn't use any pesticides, no special techniques or even donkeys or oxen, we'd do it by hand," KI said.
Smiling nostalgically, he remembered the harvests, where 30 to 40 extra staff were needed to carry overflowing baskets of fruit and vegetables on their heads and into the house from the farm. There was so much yield that each person had to walk the approximately 5km (3 miles) several times in order to transport everything, he said. Back then, people rarely needed money, they just lived off the land. The farm produced more than enough for him and his 10 siblings to eat, and sufficient cotton for the women to sew clothes.  Even when money was needed, it did not exist like it does today. Until just after KI was born, people paid for goods in seashells rather than paper money, he said.
But spotting an old shell today is rare. Most have been bartered for goods, although some can still be found in store windows - a reminder of easier, simpler times.
"When I think about that period compared to now, people weren't suffering the way they are suffering now," KI said.
But now, for the first time in his life, the 65-year-old does not know how he is going to survive the months ahead.
Decades of climate change and years of increasing violence by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) armed group as well as local defence forces - a combination of community volunteers armed by the government and groups who have taken up arms on their own - have pushed KI's once comfortable family into poverty. Chased from his farm by armed men in November, he has been unable to cultivate. Meanwhile, his herd of 30 cows, most of which scattered and got lost during the attack, has been reduced to just two.
In Burkina Faso one in five young children is chronically malnourished. Food prices have spiked, and 12 million of the country’s 20 million residents don’t get enough to eat. Lanizou’s husband, Yakouaran Boue, used to sell onions to buy seeds and fertilizer, but then the markets closed. Even now, a 50-kilogram bag of onions sells for a dollar less, which means less seed to plant for next year.
“I’m worried that this year we won’t have enough food to feed her,” he said, staring down at his daughter over his wife’s shoulder. “I’m afraid she’s going to die.”
“Before the disease we didn’t have anything,” said Aminata Mande. “Now with the disease we don’t have anything also.”
Burkina Faso was already facing a growing food crisis, with rising violence linked to militants cutting families off from their farms. With the advent of the coronavirus, the government closed markets, restricted movement and shut down public transport, making it much harder for traders to buy and sell food. While malnutrition deaths routinely rise during the four-month wait for the next harvest in October, this year is worse than anyone can remember, according to physicians and aid workers. On the World Food Program’s hunger map, nearly all of Burkina Faso is a red zone of need. Even though the Tuy province produces the most corn in the country, food there is not reaching those who need it most. In Tuy between March and April, the number of underweight newborns increased by 40%, signifying that the mothers were most likely malnourished during pregnancy. Child deaths due to malnutrition are also escalating.
Mamoudou Ouedraogo, founder of the Association for Education and Environment, a local aid group has noticed a direct correlation between climate change and people being recruited into armed groups.
"When you have lost everything, even food, you are on the edge of despair and as a consequence people will be ready to find a solution wherever possible, including terrorists," he said.
Violence in the Sahel has been largely linked to competition over natural resources, yet international observers warn that when the government and aid groups provide communities with climate change solutions, they need to come at it from a different perspective.
"It is essential to fight climate change and its effects, which include increased land pressure, particularly in rural areas. But resource scarcity is neither the only nor the determining factor behind rising insecurity," said International Crisis Group in a report in April.
There are often plenty of resources but authorities lack the ability or the legitimacy to mediate conflicts over access to them, said the report. Climate policies should focus more on adaptation rather than on the premise that resources are not plentiful enough. In the past 10 years, pollution has had a devastating impact, particularly for cattle breeders. Thirty percent of cattle die from ingesting plastic.

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Between January and December of 1960, no fewer than 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa gained independence from European colonial powers.

Cameroon – January 1, 1960. A former German colony divided between France and the United Kingdom in 1918, Cameroon acquired its independence thanks to armed movements. Less than a year after the United Nations announced the end of French control, French Cameroon proclaimed its independence. A year later the southern part of the country, under British control, merged with the north. On May 5, 1960, Ahmadou Ahidjo was elected as the country’s first president.
Togo – April 27. A former German colony, Togo subsequently fell under French and British mandates in the aftermath of World War I. The part of the country administered by the French held the status of an “associated territory” of the French Union established in 1946. The country became an autonomous republic – albeit within the French Union – by referendum in 1956. In February 1958, victory for the Togolese Unity Committee, a nationalist movement, in legislative elections opened the way to full independence. Sylvanus Olympio, elected first president of the new republic, was later killed in a January 1963 coup d’état.
Madagascar – June 26. A French overseas territory as of 1946, the island was proclaimed an autonomous state within the French Community, an association of mainly African former French colonies, in 1958. In 1960, President Philibert Tsiranana succeeded in convincing General de Gaulle to grant Madagascar total sovereignty and, in doing so, became the first president of the republic.
Democratic Republic of the Congo – June 30. In January 1959, under the leadership of Patrice Lumumba, riots broke out in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) in what was then known as the Belgian Congo. Belgian authorities summoned Congolese leaders to Brussels and decided to withdraw from the country, fearing a war of independence similar to the one that was ravaging Algeria at the time. Renamed Zaire in 1971 under former leader Mobutu Sese Seko, the Democratic Republic of the Congo reverted to its former name when Mobutu was deposed by Laurent Kabila in 1997.
Somalia – July 1. A former Italian colony, Somalia merged with the former British protectorate of Somaliland on the day it became independent in 1960 to form the Somali Republic. Somaliland had itself gained its full sovereignty five days earlier. The objective was to reconstitute the pre-colonial era “Greater Somalia”, which had included Kenya, Ethiopia and the future nation of Djibouti, which was at that time under French control.
Benin – August 1. A referendum on September 28, 1958, proposing a plan for a French-African Community paved the way for the independence of what was then the Dahomey two years later, when power was transferred to President Hubert Maga. The country, renamed Benin in 1975, has had a tumultuous political history in recent years, with critics saying the current leadership is undermining the country’s democratic traditions.
Niger – August 3. Niger had been the subject of French colonial interest since 1899 despite fierce resistance from the local population. A 1958 referendum propelled the country's first president, Hamani Diori, to power and the Republic of Niger was first proclaimed on December 18 of that year. Independence was officially declared on August 3, 1960. Diori was subsequently overthrown by a coup d’état in 1974.
Burkina Faso – August 5. A French protectorate, the Republic of Upper Volta was proclaimed on December 11, 1958, but remained part of the French Community before gaining full independence on August 5, 1960. The country took the name Burkina Faso in 1984 during the presidency of Thomas Sankara, who was assassinated in 1987.
Ivory Coast – August 7. A 1958 referendum resulted in the Ivory Coast becoming an autonomous republic. Two years later, in June of 1960, the pro-French Félix Houphouët-Boigny proclaimed the country’s independence but maintained close ties between Abidjan and Paris. The Ivory Coast subsequently became one of the most prosperous West African nations. 
Chad – August 11. Two years after becoming a republic, Chad won independence on August 11, 1960. The prime minister at the time, François Tombalbaye, became the first president of a country that deteriorated rapidly into civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian-majority south.
Central African Republic – August 13. Under French control since 1905, Ubangi-Chari became the Central African Republic on December 1, 1958. Poised to become the nation’s first president was Barthélémy Boganda – a national hero, committed pan-Africanist and anti-colonialist who presided over French Equatorial Africa (a federation joining colonial territories Chad, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon) for two years, working for the emancipation of Africans. But Boganda died in a March 1959 plane crash and when independence was proclaimed in 1960, it was a relative, David Dacko, who became president.
The Republic of the Congo – August 15. Ninety-nine percent of the Congolese people voted to join the French Community in a 1958 referendum that also made the country an autonomous republic. The following year violence broke out in Brazzaville, triggering a French military intervention. On August 15, 1960, Congo gained full independence with Fulbert Youlou serving as president until 1963.
Gabon – August 17. Criticised by opposition parties for being anti-independence, Prime Minister Léon M’Ba nevertheless proclaimed Gabonese independence on August 17, 1960. He would have preferred that Gabon become a French department but had to back down when General de Gaulle refused.
Senegal and Mali – August 20 and September 22. The independent republics of Senegal and Mali were born from the ashes of the short-lived Federation of Mali – established on January 17, 1959 – made up of Senegal and what was then French Sudan. The two countries initially intended to form a union but after significant differences between Léopold Sédar Senghor, the Senegalese president of the Federal Assembly, and Modibo Keita, his Sudanese prime minister, the authorities in Dakar withdrew from the federation and declared independence on August 20. Authorities in Bamako followed suit a month later.
Nigeria – October 1. Divided into a federation of three regions – North, East and West – by the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954, Nigeria, with its population of 34 million, was already considered the giant of the African continent. As soon as independence was declared on October 1, the former British colony was forced to confront its deep ethnic and religious divisions, which quickly became the cause of political instability.
Mauritania – November 28. Mauritania proclaimed its independence despite opposition from Morocco and the Arab League. The country’s constitution, established in 1964, set up a presidential regime with Prime Minister Ould Daddah becoming president. He remained in power until 1978.

Sudan - Slavery and Racism

Sudan has always been dominated by a light-skinned, Arabic-speaking elite, while black Africans in the south and west of the country have faced discrimination and marginalisation. Racism is insidious in Sudan, historically and since independence when most senior positions have been filled by people from the north - the Arab and Nubian ethnic groups.
Almost all senior military officers are from these communities, which has also allowed them to use their influence to dominate the business sector. If you go into any government department or bank in Khartoum, you will rarely see a black person in an important role.  After independence, entrenched notions of Arab superiority in the new state reserved almost all jobs for Arabs while failing to develop areas inhabited by black people. The superiority complex of many members of the Arab elite lies at the heart of some of the worst conflicts to hit Sudan since independence, as black people either demand equality or their own homeland.

Many Sudanese who see themselves as Arabs, rather than Africans, routinely use the word "slave", and other derogatory words, to describe black people. It is common for newspapers to publish racial slurs, including the word "slave". Almost all media outlets describe petty criminals in the capital, Khartoum, as "negros" as they are perceived to be poor and not ethnically Arab.
As anti-racism protests swept through various parts of the world following African-American George Floyd's death in police custody in the US, there was little take-up in Sudan of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
Sudanese social media users hurled racial abuse at a famous black Sudanese footballer, Issam Abdulraheem, and a light-skinned Arab make-up artist, Reem Khougli, following their marriage.
The head of a women's rights group, No To Women Oppression, commented on a photo showing a young black man with his white European wife by saying that the woman, in choosing her husband, may have been looking for the creature missing on the evolutionary ladder between humans and monkeys. Following an outcry, Ihsan Fagiri announced her resignation, but No To Women Oppression refused to accept it, saying she did not mean it.

The racism goes back to the founding of Khartoum in 1821 as a marketplace for slaves. By the second half of the century about two-thirds of the city's population was enslaved. Sudan became one of the most active slave-raiding zones in Africa, with slaves transported from the south to the north, and to Egypt, the Middle East and the Mediterranean regions. The practice was only officially abolished in 1924, but the decision faced strong resistance from the main Arab and Islamic leaders of that era, among them Abdelrahman al-Mahdi and Ali al-Mirghani, who many believe had slaves working on the vast tracts of land they owned along the Nile River.
Slave traders are still glorified - a street in the heart of the capital is named after al-Zubair Pasha Rahma, whose 19th Century trading empire stretched to parts of what is now the Central African Republic and Chad. Another street is named after Osman Digna - a slave trader and military commander.
Two Sudanese academics, Sulimen Baldo and Ushari Mahoumd, publicly alleged in 1987 that they had uncovered evidence of some northern-based Arab groups enslaving black people from the south. They say these groups were armed by Sadiq al-Mahdi's military - and were the genesis of the Janjaweed militias, which were later accused of ethnic cleansing in Darfur.
The southern slave raids were widely reported to have continued until the end of the civil war in 2005, which led to the mainly black African South Sudan seceding from Arabic-speaking Sudan five years later.
The women and children abducted by Arab groups to work for a "master" for free often never saw their families again, though in some cases their freedom was controversially bought by aid groups such as Christian Solidarity International. And since the Darfur conflict started in the early 2000s, the pro-government Arab Janjaweed militias have repeatedly been accused of arriving on horseback in black African villages, killing the men and raping the women.
Little has changed there in the last year, with reports of rapes and village burnings continuing despite the peace talks organised by the power-sharing government, which is leading the three-year transition to civilian rule.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Nigerian Oil and Corruption

Italian authorities have accused the oil companies and their executives of knowingly paying bribes and kickbacks to secure part of an oilfield estimated to hold billions of barrels of oil in a 2011 deal worth $1.3bn.
Italian prosecutors have called for executives at Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s Eni to face jail time over alleged corruption in a $1.3bn (£1bn) oil deal in Nigeria.
Fabio De Pasquale, one of Italy’s top anti-corruption prosecutors said Eni’s chief executive officer, Claudio Descalzi, should face eight years in jail.
He also asked the court to consider a seven-year and four-month sentence for Malcolm Brinded, who ran Shell’s exploration and production division at the time.
In his closing arguments of the two-year trial, De Pasquale urged the Milan court to seize $1.09bn from the defendants, who also include a string of Nigerian businessmen.
The licence was originally awarded by the Nigerian government in 1998 to Malabu Oil and Gas, which was later found to be controlled by the country’s oil minister at the time, Dan Etete. The former minister was one of the parties alleged to have taken a kickback from the lump sum deposited by Shell and Eni into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government to secure an interest in the oilfield. Italian prosecutors are seeking a 10-year jail sentence for Etete.
Shell may face a separate legal battle over its record in Nigeria after lawyers representing the country’s farmers and fishermen brought an appeal to the UK’s supreme court, which could reopen claims against the company over oil spills in the Niger Delta.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

No Green Power for Mozambique

The UK government could face a legal battle after offering more than $1bn in financial support to help build a gas project in Mozambique despite its commitment to tackling the climate crisis.
Under the deal, UK funds will be used to help develop and export Mozambique’s gas reserves, in one of the largest single financing packages ever offered by a UK credit agency to a foreign fossil fuel project.
The government’s foreign credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), will offer loans worth $300m to British companies working on the gas project, and will also guarantee loans from commercial banks worth up to $850m.
The decision taken by UKEF, which has been accused of “rank hypocrisy” over its record on fossil fuel financing, has emerged just over a year after MPs on the environmental audit committee called for an end to government support for polluting projects overseas, saying it “undermines the UK’s climate commitments”.
Mozambique LNG is classed as a category-A project under OECD guidelines, which means it risks significant adverse environmental or social impacts that are irreversible or unprecedented, and requires prospective backers to undertake an impact assessment review.
 Friends of the Earth have accused the government of failing to take into account the project’s impact on efforts to tackle the climate crisis, and warned that they may call for a judicial review of the decision.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

To Be Like Singapore

Nearly 25 years ago, Jerry Rawlings, the president of Ghana at the time, presented a document to parliament. In it, he outlined an aggressive long-term plan that would improve his country's human and economic growth, rural and urban development, as well as overhaul its infrastructure. The aim was to follow Singapore's example. The document was called Vision 2020.
According to Rawling's vision, Singapore had transformed itself from a third-world country in the 1960s to a middle-income country in a short time.  However, whereas the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lists Singapore as the third-richest country per capita on the planet, Ghana is languishing down at number 126. The vision appears to have badly stalled.
"We are in 2020, the time that we wanted to achieve a level of growth that is comparable to Singapore, but we have worse figures," Ziblim Alhassan, a Ghanaian policy analyst, told DW.
While the west African nation has managed to reduce its poverty rate in the past decades, the increased standard of living is not evenly distributed. Ziblim Alhassan said the number of Ghanaians living in extreme poverty has increased. 
The 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance shows that although Ghana remains among the 10 top-scoring countries on the continent in terms of democracy and good governance, it is also among the 10 countries that have deteriorated the most economically over the last decade.
Rwanda is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa that has come close to emulating Singapore's rags-to-riches story, albeit not in the same spectacular style.
The small landlocked central African nation boasts years of strong economic growth, pristine streets in the capital Kigali and donor praise for fighting corruption. "Beating the odds is a challenge we Rwandans and Singaporeans share," Rwanda's President Paul Kagame told Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong, the son of Lee Kuan Yew, on a visit to the Asian state in 2008.  Kagame referred to Singapore as "an inspiration for us in Rwanda," Reuters reported then.  
Critics of Kagame's government argue that economic gains have come at the cost of political freedoms like a clampdown on dissenting views and media rights. Kagame has been president of Rwanda since 2000. By contrast, Ghana has peacefully exchanged power in four presidencies.