The five Sahel countries along with France held a “Sahel G5” summit to discuss the security situation in the region. The leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and France agreed to step up counterterrorism efforts. Yet again, the debate around how to reduce the continuing bloodshed in West Africa was framed militarily. The focus was on a possible French withdrawal and the need for replacement forces.
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
With a population of 1.9 million in west Africa, Guinea-Bissau its people face chronic instability and economic inequality.
Almost 70% of the population live on less than $1.90 a day and more than 10% are food insecure. The life expectancy is 58 years.
Healthcare experts say that there are many issues to medical attention that patients face such as fake medication, shortages of equipment and medical expertise, and frequent strikes by health workers.
Aissatu Forbs Djalo, a doctor at Simão Mendes and member of the national health workers’ union, says salaries are too low and often go unpaid. Doctors are paid on average £250 a month and nurses up to £130.
“The government budget does not allow the health system to pay the doctors what they need,” says Djalo. “A lot of people die from diseases that can be prevented,” says Djalo. “If someone has a cardiovascular illness, they may die due to lack of specialists, and we do not have diagnostic equipment.”
In 2016, Guinea-Bissau had one doctor for every 10,000 people.
Political instability has crippled public services. There have been 10 completed or attempted coups in the country since independence in 1974.
“Until we have a stable government, which can complete its tenure, we will not be able to stabilise the public sector,” says Dr Magda Robalo, high commissioner for Covid-19 and a former health minister. “For you to have money to pay workers, you need to be able to collect money." Robalo says, “We can build a bottom-up system that can take care of people far away from the hospitals.”
According to Unicef, 66% of the population live more than 3 miles from a health centre.
A working group of independent UN experts said it was “deeply disturbed” by the connections between Russian mercenaries and a series of violent attacks that have taken place in the Central African Republic since elections in December. Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, a private military contractor, have committed human rights abuses.
The elections were won by the incumbent president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who was sworn in on Tuesday, but led to intensified fighting earlier this year. Touadéra’s army – Forces armées centralafricaines (Faca) – has military support from Russia and Rwanda. The experts said they had received reports of “grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law” carried out by Russian private military personnel operating jointly with Faca. In some cases UN peacekeepers were involved, they added.
According to the UN experts group, the Wagner Group mercenaries work closely with the UN peacekeeping mission that has been based in CAR since 2014. There are regular meetings between UN staff and “Russian advisers”, visits by the Russians to MINUSCA bases and medical evacuations of wounded “Russian trainers” to MINUSCA facilities. UN sources told Agence France-Presse in January that the coordination on the ground between UN peacekeepers, the Russian “military instructors” and 300 Rwandan soldiers sent as reinforcements in December on a bilateral basis was “pretty good”. The experts group said it was disturbed.
“This blurring of the lines between civil, military and peacekeeping operations during the hostilities creates confusion about the legitimate targets and increases the risks for widespread human rights and humanitarian law abuses,” said Jelena Aparac, the chair-rapporteur of the UN working group on mercenaries.
The allegations include mass summary executions, arbitrary detention, torture during interrogation and the forced displacement of the civilian population, about 240,000 of whom have fled their homes because of fighting in recent weeks. There were increased attacks on humanitarian organisations, as well as forced disappearances, the UN expert group said. The UN high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) is investigating several incidents. In December Russian and Faca soldiers allegedly opened fire on a vehicle that failed to stop at a checkpoint in Ouaka prefecture, killing three and wounding 15. They were also implicated in an attack on a mosque in Bambari,
“Unacceptably, there seems to be no investigations and no accountability for these abuses,” said Aparac. “The close connections between the various actors further jeopardises chances to any impartial investigation and ensuring accountability. Greater clarity on the roles of ‘international partners’ is urgently needed.”
The Russians identified by the UN are linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch who is an ally of Putin. Prigozhin finances the Wagner Group. The UN working group lists three “interconnected” Prigozhin entities active in CAR: Wagner, Lobaye Invest, a CAR-based mining firm specialising in gold and diamonds that has been sanctioned by the US; and Sewa Security Services, which guards the president and other top CAR officials. Prigozhin’s operations in Africa is acting as a proxy for Moscow’s apparent ambition is to turn the region into a strategic hub. Prigozhin’s Wagner activities are closely coordinated with senior officials inside Russia’s foreign and defence ministries.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
On January 3, French warplanes struck near the remote village of Bounti in Mali. Residents said the air strike hit a wedding party and killed civilians.
The United Nations mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, subsequently launched an investigation into the affair. According to its report released Tuesday, the French did indeed kill 19 civilians.
France’s military rejects the findings and said it had killed jihadists. It also denied that a wedding had taken place in Bounti that day.
The UN said a wedding had in fact taken place and had “gathered about 100 civilians at the site of the strike” although it admitted about five armed people, who are thought to be members of the jihadist group Katiba Serma, were wedding guests.
In the Mozambique region, Cabo Delgado, in Palma – a town of 75,000 people plys large numbers of internally displaced due to the worsening violence in the province - scores of unarmed civilians were left dead and many executed by beheadings. The culprits were members of Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, known locally as al-Shabab although it has no links to the armed group of the same name in Somalia, which began launching banditry attacks in northern Mozambique back in 2017. It pledges allegiance to ISIL (ISIS). The escalating violence has killed more than 2,600 people, half of them civilians, forcing almost 700,000 people to flee and become refugees. The conflict entered a particularly gruesome phase last year, prompting United Nations chief Antonio Guterres to express shock at reports of massacres, including the beheading and kidnapping of women and children.
Locally based journalist, Fernando Lima, a political commentator, said there were “serious doubts if this is really a religious confrontation, or a cover” for social grievances in a region where poverty and unemployment are still rampant despite the promises of wealth linked to the development of the multibillion-dollar worth gas projects.
“I think that the main problem is in fact poverty and inequality,” he said.
Mozambique's government have hired foreign mercenaries via Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), a South African private military firm.
Amnesty International accused all factions, the guerrilla fighters, government security forces and private military companies of “war crimes”.
Jasmine Opperman, of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, explained that "...this is an area where there is simply no governance, where there is no ability to control anything.” She also pointed out a certain amount of international hypocrisy. "What is interesting about the Palma incident, and that is the tragedy of Cabo Delgado, is when expats get targeted, everyone goes crazy. What about the people that had to flee and find a home somewhere quite quickly, or safety quite quickly? I think it’s a sad case but we cannot neglect in terms of Cabo Delgado.”
Monday, March 29, 2021
An insightful essay upon the persecution of the San people so that the extractive industries can loot, pillage and plunder.
ReconAfrica has been given permission to drill for fossil fuels in the Kavango basin between Namibia and Botswana and the Kalahari Desert extending to the south eastern banks of the Okavango River and Delta. ReconAfrica is a Canadian-US corporation whose headquarters are based in Vancouver, Canada. ReconAfrica is an extension of the colonial project that began in Europe 500 years ago and has morphed today into local and global extractivism.
The area includes numerous areas of international ecological significance, but for the San indigenous people who live there this is their sacred and ancestral ‘homeland’. The San people are the rightful current inhabitants and have been the custodians of this land for thousands of years. They have never been consulted, nor have they given their consent to any entities to prospect for oil and gas in their lands. By pursuing oil and gas development in the are the governments of Botswana and Namibia. It contravene their commitments to various international declarations an agreements as well as their own national laws. The oil and gas drilling operations will ruin roads, damage Indigenous livelihoods, deplete water resources and negatively impact biodiversity.
Recon and economic elites have so dehumanized and othered the San people and their land that they do not count and therefore they can be removed or poisoned, or pillaged or destroyed. Who cares if the groundwater is contaminated through the drilling and mining operations? Who cares if this impacts the health and food security of the San people? Economic development and profit matter more than Indigenous peoples’ lives.
Full article can be read here
Rich countries must provide more finance to help the poor cope with the impact of global warming, residents of Kenya's biggest informal settlement told Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26 global climate talks.
In Kibera, a sprawling informal settlement housing more than 200,000 people living cheek-by-jowl in makeshift homes, the change in weather patterns - in particular increased rainfall over a shorter period of time - has had a devastating impact. Due to poor drainage and garbage collection, floods are a common occurrence - not only destroying homes and possessions, but also contaminating drinking water and even causing deaths through building collapses, electrocutions and drownings.
"The climate has changed a lot. We experience heavy rains more and this brings flooding which damages houses, brings diseases to our children and causes deaths," said Faith Ondiek, a weather forecast provider or 'Weather Mtaani' leader with the DARAJA project. DARAJA provides local forecasts from the Kenya Meteorological Department, which are translated into Kiswahili and local slang Sheng and sent out daily via SMS, WhatsApp and radio. The forecasts provide actionable information, telling residents to avoid a particular route as it may be flooded, or advising parents not let children play near the river as heavy rains are expected. The Mtaani leaders also organise clean-ups of the river and drainage areas, ensure electrical cables are out of harm's way, and advise residents to add waterproofing materials to their homes when heavy rains are forecast. "The message we want the president to take back to global leaders is that we are doing what we can to deal with climate change, but we need help. The rich nations must contribute some funds so we can improve our lives in the face of this threat."
"Globally as extreme weather events become more frequent and more severe we need to build resilience among the most vulnerable communities," Sharma said.
Developed countries agreed at the United Nations in 2009 to jointly contribute $100 billion each year from 2020 in climate finance to poorer countries, many of which are grappling with rising seas, storms and droughts made worse by climate change. But only a fifth of global contributions have so far gone towards adaptation, with most support focused on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. Adaptation action includes everything from expanding green space in cities to prevent floods and moving coastal communities to safer places to capturing rainwater, providing storm warnings and giving farmers weather and crop advice via mobile phones.
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Dominic Raab, the UK's foreign secretary, was in Sudan in January he offered £40m in aid to help its poorest people, who are facing unprecedented food scarcity in a debt-laden country where austerity is deepening.
Sudan, ruled by an unelected military-led transitional government after longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was deposed in 2019, owes the UK £861m. Almost 80% of that was accrued from interest - four-fifths of Sudan's £861m debt to UK is interest. Tim Jones, head of policy at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said that the debt western governments claimed from Sudan was “mostly made up”, as it was based on the addition of up to 12% interest every year for decades.
Sudan is under pressure from lenders to impose austerity measures, including reduced public spending and slashed subsidies. Sudan’s previous regime took up the suggestion of the International Monetary Fund to phase out wheat and fuel subsidies to balance its books, and there were protests over price rises and deteriorating living conditions. Last month Sudan devalued its currency, triggering price increases. Sudan’s government fears hyperinflation amid record inflation.
“We were already struggling to survive, but now life has become impossible.”
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said the UK was among those which had been “a force for more harm than good.”
“It’s really unconscionable that Britain continues to hold these loans as some form of leverage over Sudan’s government today,” he said. “Even worse, Dominic Raab is now offering support to Sudan conditional on the government’s unpopular austerity programme – which threatens to exacerbate poverty and undermine the country’s fragile path to democracy.”
Friday, March 26, 2021
Thursday, March 25, 2021
As long as Africa remains economically hobbled by these exploitative global financial flows and systems, it will not just be capital that flees from the continent but, increasingly, its desperate population too, hungry for basic opportunities to develop and dignify itself. However, more often than not, these economic evacuees find only a frosty reception on reaching foreign shores: described and dismissed as ‘migrants’, they end up at the bottom of yet another pile.
Africa was not colonised because it was poor, but because it was, and continues to be, very rich. Colonialism was fundamentally about extracting natural resources and labour power. But it was also about establishing an economic, political, legal, educational and cultural ecosystem that institutionalised its abusive power structure, presented that structure as the only model of economic development, and persuaded the natives to embrace and reproduce it long after the colonisers left. Colonial institutions were not just administrative, bureaucratic, organizational, and legal codes. They were also habits of thought and routines of behaviour that were deeply embedded within the social fabric.
African countries acquired territorial sovereignty after independence but they never developed a high degree of monetary sovereignty because of three structural deficiencies: the lack of food sovereignty, lack of energy sovereignty, and the low value-added content of exports relative to imports. A weak exchange rate means that imports of basic necessities such as food, fuel, and medicine will be more expensive. This type of inflation often leads to social and political instability, which governments typically avoid by subsidizing the price of basic necessities, and by artificially keeping their exchange rate strong via the accumulation of debt denominated n foreign currencies. This external debt accumulation is believed to be a solution when it’s in fact a quagmire. Prioritizing debt payments often means reducing budget allocations for education, health, and critical infrastructure investments. Furthermore, the policies that are designed to increase foreign currency earnings to pay off the debt end up deepening the quagmire.
Policies that encourage tourism end up increasing food and fuel imports to feed, transport, house, and entertain millions of tourists. Policies that encourage exports end up leading to more imports of fuel, capital equipment, and intermediate inputs. Policies that promote foreign direct investment (FDI) end up increasing imports of fuel for energy production and transportation. Policies that encourage outbound immigration in order to increase remittances of foreign currencies end up promoting brain drain. Policies that promote the liberalization of financial services end up hurting domestic investors and inviting speculative attacks from abroad. All of these policies masquerade as solutions when they make the problem worse. The damage these policies do is made worse by a global race to the bottom that forces most developing countries into lower labour and environmental standards, more regulatory and fiscal concessions to foreign investors, and ever more dependence on the Global North.
Africa’s industrial strategy cannot prioritise the needs of the Global North by continuing to serve as the source of cheap raw materials and assembly line for low-paid workers. The obsessive focus on economic growth for its own sake, and the myth of “catching up” and competing in the global economy are two of the most destructive habits of mind in the Global South.
Ensuring food sovereignty begins with sustainable agricultural strategies to restore soil health and to reallocate land and water use to enhance food security. You cannot have a prosperous economy without adequate energy production capabilities. Africa has tremendous potential for renewable energy production including solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal energy. The goal is to build a resilient and carbon-free electric grid to power the entire continent via a network of national and regional grids, supplemented by microgrids, and energy storage capabilities. The manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of this critical infrastructure will create millions of well-paid jobs and will improve access to electricity, reduce pollution, improve health outcomes, and boost overall quality of life across the continent.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Capital flight from Africa is a modern-day reincarnation of the colonial state-led plunder of the continent’s natural resources. In this new scramble for Africa, multinational corporations replay the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 and compete for a slice of the African cake. In a world with weak corporate sector regulation, multinational corporations capture Africa’s resources for cheap and repatriating profits, leaving behind an impoverished population and a devastated environment. The African continent loses more than US$50 billion per year through capital flight. Modern-day plunder of African resources operates along a sophisticated , from the predicate crime (origins of the illicit funds), to the illicit cross-border transfer of funds, all the way to the concealment of the proceeds in the poisoned paradises called tax havens. The plunder of Africa’s wealth is aided by an intricate that takes advantage of structural flaws in the international regulatory system.
Capital flees Africa in search of protection from prosecution about the origins of the money and to evade taxation. Thus, owners of illicitly acquired wealth are happy to accept negative rates of return on their money in safe havens, in exchange for protection from legal pursuit. The wealth of High Net Worth Individuals, corporations, and politicians is channelled through safe havens with the help of custodian banks and an industry of enablers comprising of law firms, accounting firms, audit firms, and other deal makers. Thus, the origins of the wealth are disguised, and the true beneficial owners are made ‘invisible’ with the stroke of a pen. Hence, financial crime is separated from the criminals; impunity prevails.
The problem of capital flight African governments may be forced to cut development expenditures, which undermines provision of vital public services and derails progress in poverty reduction. The haemorrhage of wealth through capital flight means more lives lost due to lack of healthcare, more children denied education, and stunted private sector development for lack of transport, power and telecommunication infrastructure.
The key channels of capital flight are leakages through the Balance of Payments (money that enters the country but cannot be traced in the recorded uses of funds) and trade mis-invoicing (under-invoicing of exports and over-invoicing of imports). Money borrowed by governments or raised through resource exports often goes missing; public infrastructure projects are executed at inflated costs, with the difference being pocketed by politicians and channelled abroad as capital flight.
African resource-rich countries are particularly exposed to capital flight through embezzlement of export proceeds and export mis-invoicing. Moreover, resource-rich countries lose large amounts of tax revenue through manipulation of transfer pricing by multinational corporations that take advantage of tax havens. Oil-rich African countries account for over 55 percent of total capital flight from the continent.
On the top of the list is Nigeria, which lost a staggering $467 billion through capital flight between 1970 and 2018.
As of end of 2018, Angola lost as much as $103 billion through capital flight. This is a country where 76 percent of the rural population lives in extreme poverty below $1.90 per day. The national poverty rate in Angola has risen from 34 percent to 52 percent in the past decade, and the number of poor people more than doubled from 7.5 to 16 million (World Bank). For the ordinary Angolan, capital flight means more hunger and more destitution.
A key mechanism of capital flight is embezzlement of the proceeds of oil extraction and tax evasion to the benefit of multinational corporations and the Angolan elite. For example, the former President’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos has amassed massive wealth and established a global business empire by exploiting her influence in state enterprises such as Sonangol. The January 2020 ‘Luanda Leaks’ report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) identified more than 400 companies in Isabel dos Santos’ business empire, including 94 in recognised tax havens. Thus, Angola’s wealth has served to lubricate financial systems in the West, not only in the usual offshore financial centres, but also in the ‘supposedly onshore countries’ like Portugal
Côte d’Ivoire is known for cocoa. As of end of 2018, the country had lost $55 billion through capital flight since 1970. Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s top cocoa producer, accounting for 40 percent of global supply. Yet the country receives only 5-7 percent of the profit generated globally by cocoa. Cocoa farmers get little reward for their hard labour. Most of the value of cocoa accrues to local intermediaries, international export and processing corporations, and powerful politicians. This system has been preserved by successive political regimes; for everyone that matters gets their cut; the Ivorian people lose, but they have no means to change the system. As the country’s wealth is expropriated through capital flight, the Ivorian people lack basic services. Less than 40 percent of the population have access to clean sanitation facilities.
South Africa has suffered from capital flight orchestrated by an intricate network of players and enablers connected to both the domestic political system and the international financial system. From 1970 to 2018, South Africa lost a staggering $329 billion through capital flight. The proceeds of massive misinvoicing of mineral exports, embezzlement of state resources in the context of ‘state capture’ by powerful and politically connected individuals and corporations, and corporate tax evasion have fuelled the accumulation of private wealth in offshore financial centres.
The inability to take full advantage of its own resources is a major reason for the slow progress in poverty reduction in ‘the most unequal country in the World’. The top 10 percent richest of the population own 51 percent of the country’s wealth; the bottom 10 percent hold less than 1 percent.
The worst culprits of banking secrecy are not necessarily remote islands in the tropics, but rather major financial centres in advanced economies notably the United Kingdom and its territories, the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands and others.
Monday, March 22, 2021
U.S. Army Special Forces are to train Mozambican troops.
The elite Green Berets have been deployed to help defeat Islamic State insurgents.
Africa has been politically backward and naïve throughout the last century with so many atrocities, anomalies and injustices. Its children thought that, one day, things will be better, but since the era of independence dawned the situation has remained the same or even got worse. Ills, evils and self-destructions of all kinds continue to plague the African continent. Africa has lost its natural, human and material resources to wars and massacres. Coups and counter-coups have continued to play havoc with African society. Should confidence have been reposed in the statements of the likes of Kwameh Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba, to the effect that Africa’s problems will turn to brightness? Is there any optimism for Africa? Will African children live to see this happen?
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Rwanda heavily reliant on international aid for almost two-thirds of its budget. The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is due to be held in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, this summer, an event that will put Paul Kagame at the centre of an international stage.
In a new biography far from the charismatic, driven and progressive leader he is perceived as by his international supporters, Kagame emerges from Wrong’s account as a murderously authoritarian figure. "Do Not Disturb" is written by Michela Wrong, the author who covered the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when more than 800,000 people – largely ethnic Tutsis as well as moderate Hutus – were killed by Hutu militias over 100 days. The book accuses Rwanda’s president Kagame – long feted as the model of visionary new African leadership – of being a serial human rights abuser, including for his role in a sustained campaign of assassinating his rivals in exile.
In Wrong’s account Kagame is shown to be a murderously authoritarian figure; a cold, petty and vindictive individual, comparable to Stalin’s notorious secret police chief Beria, always able “to find the crime to fit the man”. Wrong’s examination of Kagame and Rwanda’s role in destabilising its neighbours in the Great Lakes raises embarrassing questions for his prominent supporters who have included Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bill Gates and Clare Short – and for international aid donors including the UK accused of long turning a blind eye.
As a young reporter covering the genocide, when – like so many others – Wrong embraced the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) narrative.
“I was completely won over by them and completely willing to accept that their takeover was a very good thing because it spelled the end of the horror. That’s how I viewed the RPF for many years and that’s how the world saw it.” Wrong talks of an encounter with a French diplomat who described the later pursuit and murder of Hutus fleeing into the Democratic Republic of the Congo by RPF’s forces and remembers thinking: “This is nonsense! It was so at odds with what I believed the RPF stood for. Now I look back, that was a briefing we should have paid more attention to.”
It was the 1998 assassination in Kenya of Seth Sendashonga, a Hutu former interior minister in the government of national unity in Rwanda who had fallen out with the regime in Kigali, that was the first crack in her perception.
In 2014, in a South African hotel Kagame was deeply implicated in the murder of Patrick Karegey, a former intelligence chief. He delivered a prayer breakfast, saying: “Whoever betrays the country will pay the price, I assure you. Any person still alive who may be plotting against Rwanda, whoever they are, will pay the price,” Kagame said. “Whoever it is, it is a matter of time.”
Wrong points out that, “The people that Kagame really fears, the people he is reaching out across the globe to silence, intimidate, harass and kill are more often than not members of his own Tutsi elite,” who once belonged to Kagame’s most trusted inner circle.
There are also suspicions – thus far uncorroborated – of Rwandan involvement in the 2001 assassination of Congolese president Laurent Kabila.
"...There’s been a very tactful diplomatic cover-up by Rwanda’s allies abroad.... There’s a double standard because Rwanda is seen as the good guys. Our friends. And they’re people we give an awful lot of aid to...”
“It’s an old story. We always pick sides. Leaders are embraced and a blind eye turned to the atrocities. There’s a temptation to personalise and simplify, to choose good guys and bad guys. The other argument of Rwanda’s international supporters is that it’s a stabilising force, but the destabilising force in the Great Lakes for decades has been Rwanda, including the systematic pillaging of Congo’s minerals.”
“There’s a development paradigm playing out in Rwanda which goes quite deep and it’s sinister. It’s this idea that the west can deliver development irrespective of what the local government is like and that you can strip the politics out of the development agenda by focusing on education, health, mosquito nets, vaccination rates. But the local politics are the only thing that matters. There’s something profoundly uncomfortable about insisting that a government which has a deteriorating human rights record and has committed egregious war crimes is a worthy recipient of aid because it performs well on aid metrics yet is busy killing journalists and rounding up and disappearing critics.”
Saturday, March 20, 2021
After the unprecedented floods last summer, the people of Old Fangak, a small town in northern South Sudan, should be planting now. But the flood water has not receded, the people are still marooned and now they are facing severe hunger. The UN says that about 1.6 million people have been affected by the floods in a country where already at least 7.5 million people need assistance. A recent report by the Integrated food security Phase Classification, (IPC), an initiative by 15 organisations to tackle malnutrition, estimates that 6.4 million people, about half the population, will face acute food insecurity in 2021, and for half of them their lack of food will be an emergency.
Last July, and the White Nile burst its banks, destroyed all the crops and encroached on farms and villages, affecting Jonglei and other states, leaving people to scramble for a few strips of dry land. The floods were caused by the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), also known as the “Indian El Niño, a weather pattern discovered only in 1999. The strongest IOD to strike east Africa in 61 years happened in 2019. So when the rains arrived in 2020 in South Sudan, the water from the previous year had not yet receded, resulting in more devastating floods. This year’s rainfall could further worsen the situation, making the resultant hunger catastrophic.
Fields are still submerged, mud homes and stiff sticks of dead maize are slowly collapsing into the water, entire villages have been abandoned and large areas turned into swamps. Of the 62 villages served by Old Fangak’s central market, 45 are devastated by the flooded river. In Old Fangak people grew sorghum, a cereal that is easy to cultivate. Now they can eat only water lilies and fish. But not everyone has fishing nets and for those who do the catches are rarely enough to satisfy the appetite.
“There’s not enough sorghum, so we have to resort to the water lily,” explains Samuel Gai. The flowers have to be collected in great numbers to grind and make a small amount of cereal.
“People will die of hunger. Everyone in Old Fangak is lacking food and lost what they cultivated. Hunger is the one that will kill people,” says Peter Kak, a fisherman.
The July harvest would have fed the local people through to this spring but all the crops were lost. Families sleep in abandoned schools or in the open on scraps of higher land. There is no question of migrating to dry areas as the flood extends for miles and at least Old Fangak is secluded from the constant conflict that besets much of the rest of the country. Some people in South Sudan, such as those from Old Fangak, are partially or completely cut off from humanitarian aid. Access to the town is difficult in normal times, but the detritus of the floods has blocked the airstrip and boat access from the river.
The water sitting stagnant is compromising health too, leading to a spike in malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
“The climate has changed from the years when I was young because we have never experienced floods like this before. What we are experiencing now is horrible. We are suffering from hunger and we didn’t before. The climate has changed. For old people it’s horrible. It’s hard moving in this water; we don’t know where to sleep or what to eat. We are in God’s hands,” says 83-year-old Mary Nyamat.
“Flooding, conflict, Covid-19 and poverty make the situation here dire,” says Sulaiman Sesay, of Action Against Hunger, one of the few aid organisations active in this area of South Sudan. “The world needs to know that people are suffering in this way.”
Despite the severity of the floods, the people of Old Fangak refuse to give up. In the face of rising waters, hunger and isolation from the rest of the country, the community shows extraordinary resilience. “We cooperate,” says Joseph Martin, a villager helping to repair the constantly collapsing airstrip dyke. “The women take the water out with buckets and we put the mud on the dykes to prevent water leaking in. They do their part and we do our part. When there is work, men and women work together and they cooperate. Some of the people come and work even without us asking them … this is how we do it, if there is work to save the town, we work together.”
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Lesotho has sacked hundreds of its nurses over the past few days in a row over pay. The small southern African country’s main hospital in the capital, Maseru, fired 345 nurses and nursing assistants, who have been on strike for the past month, with immediate effect.
The nurses went on strike to press the government-owned Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) to give them the same salaries as their counterparts in other government and private institutions. Opened in 2011, QMMH is state-owned but run by the Tšepong Consortium, comprising five companies, namely Netcare Healthcare Group and Afri’nnai of South Africa, and Excel Health, Women Investment, and D10 Investments of Lesotho. QMMH is already known for consuming more than half of Lesotho’s total annual health budget
The Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) last month said QMMH nurses were paid about 9,000 South African rand (£435) a month, at least R4,000 a month less than their counterparts in other government-run hospitals, who were paid at least R13,000 (£630) a month.
The dismissals come after the nurses defied a 24 February interim labour court ruling that they must go back to work pending the finalisation of their dispute. But even before the court hearing, QMMH reportedly moved to axe the workers.
The expulsions would have a disastrous effect on the health system, given that Lesotho’s hospitals were already understaffed.
“The options are limited,” she said. “It’s either they hire experienced nurses from other hospitals or they hire foreign nurses whose contracts deter them from striking. If they hire inexperienced nurses, then this will surely affect the services offered. But whatever they do, the move is unsustainable.” said one doctor.
With a population of 2.1 million, Lesotho had recorded a cumulative total of 10,530 Covid-19 infections and 309 deaths as of 16 March, but with only a few new cases recorded since the start of the month. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Lesotho’s health system had struggled under high rates of tuberculosis, HIV and Aids-related illnesses.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
There now exists voluminous evidence demonstrating the various harms of the supposed green attributes of biofuel production or as it should be better known, agrofuel.
Large-scale land acquisitions are justified through assertions that only “marginal,” “idle,” or “unused” areas will be allocated to biofuel production. Yet, it has been exposed that land is flippantly deemed marginal if it is not utilized in a neoliberal sense (exploited for commercial profit).
In Mozambique, consistent with other African countries, most lands classified as idle actually are being used, but in more traditional ways. Further to this, it is often the most vulnerable of groups that rely on these lands to grow crops and graze cattle. The biofuels industry thus legitimizes and greenwashes acts of land-grabbing, to the detriment of some of the most marginalised in society. Massive tracts of land are handed to corporations, causing entire communities to be displaced, leading to food insecurity, resource deprivation, social polarization, and political instability.
The displacement process of ancestral agricultural land in many cultures has been labelled “accumulation by dispossession.” Biofuel projects are publicized as positively contributing to consumption of local goods and services, income, employment, productivity, and technological transfer. The extent that job creation is overestimated and/or overplayed, has been exemplified by one project in Mozambique which promised 2,600 jobs, yet created fewer than 40 full-time positions. The capital-intensity of corporate, mass-scale biofuel production means that many of Africa’s investor hotspots are unable to organically absorb labor expelled from the land’s original use, creating societies of so-called “surplus people.” Where job creation does materialize, it is often seasonal, unreliable, involves lower wages and poor conditions. The “lucky ones” will find themselves in, through their subjection to wage labor relations and production requirements, subordinate. Land tenure historically tells us that the likelihood of communities economically benefiting from these opportunities is limited.
Financial elites enhance their control over global resources, transforming socio-ecological elements with deep-seated cultural and symbolic value, into one-dimensional commodities defined by exchange value only.